"Guernica": a piece of shit, or what?

Over at Butt Propulsion Laboratories, John and the boys, who fancy themselves quite the cultural gadflies, contemplate the question: "Depressing Art: Is It Any Good?" The theory is floated, not unlike a too-large turd in an overflowing toilet bowl, that bitter, depressing art is only made by overpriveleged leftist creeps whose lives are so perfect that they can afford to contemplate misery, while the simple-minded happy people at the bottom, who truly do suffer, only want a song and dance and a nice chuckle. It's a strangely familiar argument...oh, that's right! I remember where I've seen it before: it's the same argument that they used to illustrate how blacks were happy with their lot, because look at how they sang and danced and smiled. Anyway, we are assured, all the depressing movies of yesteryear will soon be forgotten, and only It's a Wonderful Life and Tarzan movies will ultimately be remembered by critics of the future.

For a real laff, go to this post at Libertas that kickstarted the whole conversation and watch Jason Apuzzo claim that "bleak, dark, angry, bitter" films are doomed to eternal failure. When someone, in the very first comment, notes the obvious -- that our legacy of noir would suggest that his eyes are brown -- it kick-starts a high-larious conversation where some of the conserva-critics make the argument that postwar noir , certainly the single most cynical genre American cinema has ever produced on every level, is actually about "justice" and "bad guys trying to do good" and "faith in the human condition". One poster even attempts to argue that Night and the City is the definitive noir because of the protagonist's search for redemption through self-sacrifice, or at least that's what I think it said, but it was hard to tell because big chunks of my brain were exploding. The comments thread ends thusly:

This whole rejection of beauty for bleakness has been the hallmark of all the fine arts during the post War era. Thats why I do not give a damn about art after 1945. When I went to the reopened MOMA in NYC two years ago I only cared about the top floor with works before 1945 and Monet’s Water Lilies. Thats why I have never read a novel published after 1945 except when I was forced to in “English Lit” class like that atrocious Toni Morrison. Thats why I do not care for any classical music since 1945 with atonality being dominant. Call me a reactionary. I am proud to wear the label.

The little scandal that couldn't

Lately with all the people dying and the whole region falling apart and everything, it's been easy to forget that Iraq is also home to the biggest financial scandal in American history. But, despite ongoing efforts to make people care, the fact that Mr. President Man is being outfitted for Warren G. Harding's old suit doesn't raise a lot of hackles.

It's even less likely to do so with the release of the latest report by the Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, who just barely escaped having his job eliminated by the White House. (Maybe they can still saddle him with a government snitch.) Mr. President Man wants some more money, even though Henry Waxman and no one else would like to know where the last $300 billion we gave him went; the new audit reports genteely that "U.S. officials spent another $36.4 million for weapons such as armored vehicles, body armor and communications equipment that can't be accounted for". This is a nice way of saying that they can't find them, just as "DynCorp also may have prematurely billed $18 million in other potentially unjustified costs" is a polite way of saying they tried to steal it.

Curiously, though 27 new criminal probes have been opened in the last 3 months (bringing the total number of Iraq financial mismanagement cases referred for prosecution to 78), Bowen, perhaps fearing for his job, claims that "fraud has not been a significant component of the U.S. experience in Iraq". I guess that's true, unless you consider getting hundreds of millions of dollars in no-bid contracts and then farming the work out to subcontractors who don't actually do it to be fraud. Some people are really hung up on definitions like that.

"Overall," the AP report says, "the largest single expense was security. The total was spent in the following way: 34 percent for security and justice. 23 percent to try* to generate and distribute electricity. Still, the report noted, output in the last quarter averaged below pre-war levels. 12 percent for water. 12 percent for economic and societal development. 9 percent for oil and gas. 4 percent for transportation and communications. 4 percent for health care." So, essentially, they're spending nearly 3 times as much on "security and justice" (that is, soldiers, cops and jails) than they are on "economic and societal development" (that is, things that might alleviate the need to spend so much on soldiers, cops and jails).

*: Gotta love that "try". If we just have faith, try hard, and give Mr. President Man's new plan time to work, maybe -- just maybe -- we can the the electrical supply working at an equal level to what it was when the country was led by a dictator who had plunged them into two losing wars and a decade of sanctions.


World War IV?

Interesting, even-handed article in the LA Times by historian David Bell:

Imagine that on 9/11, six hours after the assault on the twin towers and the Pentagon, terrorists had carried out a second wave of attacks on the United States, taking an additional 3,000 lives. Imagine that six hours after that, there had been yet another wave. Now imagine that the attacks had continued, every six hours, for another four years, until nearly 20 million Americans were dead. This is roughly what the Soviet Union suffered during World War II, and contemplating these numbers may help put in perspective what the United States has so far experienced during the war against terrorism...

The people who attacked us in 2001 are indeed hate-filled fanatics who would like nothing better than to destroy this country. But desire is not the same thing as capacity, and although Islamist extremists can certainly do huge amounts of harm around the world, it is quite different to suggest that they can threaten the existence of the United States. Yet a great many Americans, particularly on the right, have failed to make this distinction. For them, the "Islamo-fascist" enemy has inherited not just Adolf Hitler's implacable hatreds but his capacity to destroy...

Seeing international conflict in apocalyptic terms — viewing every threat as existential — is hardly a uniquely American habit. To a certain degree, it is a universal human one. But it is also, more specifically, a Western one, which paradoxically has its origins in one of the most optimistic periods of human history: the 18th century Enlightenment...(t)he unexpected consequence of this change was that those who considered themselves "enlightened," but who still thought they needed to go to war, found it hard to justify war as anything other than an apocalyptic struggle for survival against an irredeemably evil enemy. In such struggles, of course, there could be no reason to practice restraint or to treat the enemy as an honorable opponent...

The war against terrorism has not yet been much of a war at all, let alone a war to end all wars. It is a messy, difficult, long-term struggle against exceptionally dangerous criminals who actually like nothing better than being put on the same level of historical importance as Hitler — can you imagine a better recruiting tool? To fight them effectively, we need coolness, resolve and stamina. But we also need to overcome long habit and remind ourselves that not every enemy is in fact a threat to our existence.

Foot Foot don't live here no more

We've waited a long time, but finally, the 2006 Golden Wingnut Awards for excellence in right-wing blowhardery have been awarded by the Poor Man Institute, at a special ceremony hosted by congressional ejaculator Mark Foley. I urge you to investigate immediately, and for God's sake, whatever you do, do not miss the amazing remix of some of the year's top dipshits, spliced to the tune of the Shaggs' "My Pal Foot Foot". Essential viewing for a scary age.

In other kooky nut news, Cal Thomas still hates hippies (or, the sen has set on the peace movement); James Lileks also still hates hippies (check out the end, where he tells a story about an episode of Dragnet where two gopped-up stoners drown their baby, and is clearly on the side of Joe Friday) and engages in a form of mash-up that the rest of the country stopped doing around the time George W. Bush's father was elected; and Dennis "My Son Willingly Speaks to Coloreds" Prager notes that cheerleaders are dumb, but even they know that dictatorships are products of liberalism. "That is why, with the exception of Nazism...nearly all totalitarianism of the 20th century was on the Left."

When they came for the cheerleaders, I said nothing, because I was not a cheerleader. When they came for the glee club, I said nothing, because I was not in the glee club. When they came for the A/V squad, I said nothing, because I was not on the A/V squad. Then, when they came for the yearbook staff, there was no one left to speak for me...


Too much for one day, but...

...I couldn't let this steaming pile go unsmelt.

The New York Times magazine, following its longtime commitment to 'discovering' completely meaningless social trends 10 years behind everyone else and then assigning them ridiculous names to inflate their bogue importance (remember "hipublicans"? "man-dates"?), has discovered -- gasp! -- that there are certain negroes who enjoy rock music! They are, henceforth, to be known as "blipsters".



Profiles in Bullshit, Vol. 6


THE POOP: If anyone in the modern conservative moment places above all others on the Stinkometer that measures the fetid funk of the True Believer, it's David Joel Horowitz. The trouble is, he's never quite known what he's a True Believer of. One of the most cartoonish distortions of the New Right, it's not really that surprising that he was once one of the most cartoonish distortions of the New Left. Following the depressing arc of a man who turns to money because he can't find love, Horowitz's youthful flirtations with revolutionary Marxism turned sour when he realized that all the violent rhetoric he'd had so much fun shouting alongside the other campus radicals had a deadly serious side; the Black Panthers turned out to really mean it when they said they were at war with the American system, and the Viet Cong weren't just killing time between weed re-ups when they vowed to drive out the imperialists. When one of his radical friends turned up dead and his comrades in black pajamas turned out to be just as adept at violence as his fellow Americans, he got spooked and began a craven withdrawal from politcal life. Too bad for the rest of us, he -- like so many others of the chattering classes -- never mastered a marketable skill other than letting loose flatulent blasts of ideological windbaggery. By the mid-'80s, like a lot of curdled yuppies, he'd repudiated his wild-eyed hippie past as insufficiently profitable, and was looking for a chance to cash in. All he'd ever been good at was bloviating, but fortunately, in the Reagan era, bloviation was in a seller's market, as long as your bile was spewed in the right direction -- which is to say, towards the Left. Horowitz did an about-face and aimed his brand of academic hustling at a brand-new target, and he's never looked back.

It's amazing how little his M.O. has changed; back in the '60s, his stock in trade was hollow, windy Marxist rhetoric of the sort only encountered in the halls of academia. Horowitz was, astoundingly, once an aide to the incredibly brilliant author, philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell; but his own writing of the era (best embodied in the unreadable The Free World Colossus: A Critique of American Foreign Policy in the Cold War) was weightless lefty propaganda, anchored only by his tendency to crib arguments from people smarter than himself. It's interesting that no one on the left calls Horowitz a traitor; that would imply that by losing him to the right, they'd lost something of value. As a reading of his works, liberal or conservative, makes clear, this is not the case; had he stayed pink, he'd have been a decades-long embarrassment to the left. As to the reasons for his apostasy, Horowitz has always been crystal clear: he was awoken to the lies and cruelty of the left, first by the corruption and violence of the Black Panthers (who he'd once idolized so thoroughly that one wonders if his real disillusionment came after confessing a schoolboy crush on Huey Newton), then by the brutality and aggression of the Viet Cong. It's not hard to see what really happened: Horowitz, more than comfortable spieling his anti-capitalist down-with-the-Man rhetoric from the comfort of a dorm room or a wood-paneled office with tenure-seekers and book-deal-wranglers, got the fear when he heard it coming from people who really meant it. His master's degree fom Columbia made it easy to play arond with revolution, but he freaked out when presented with the possibility of real revolution, advocated by people who actually had something to lose.

At any rate, by the late '80s, despite all the Scaife money floating around, you couldn't just wander in off the streets, declare yourself a right-wing apostle, and start collecting a paycheck, even if you were a former editor of Ramparts who used to say things about how the rule of capitalism was a permanent threat to the democratic order. Even for a guy who sat in a luxury hotel in downtown Managua in 1987 and wished for the brutal, nun-slaying Contras to overthrow and execute the Sandinista government (for the good of the poorest citizens, no less!), just being a ridiculously extremist neoconservative crank was no longer enough. He needed a hook, and boy, did he find one! After dicking around with a few hilariously titled books like Hating Whitey and Other Progressive Causes and The Anti-Chomsky Reader, he started pulling in the Regnery paychecks by inventing a whole new subgenre of right-wing lunacy: the battle against leftist academic McCarthyism. David Horowitz fully embraced the notion that our nation's colleges, despite turning out economy-choking numbers of MBAs and lawyers, were actually hotbeds of unreconstructed Stalinism, dedicated to warping our children into neo-Marxist tools -- and who would know that better than he, a former neo-Marxist tool? But then, showing a spark of originality no one who'd followed his career up to that point could possibly have suspected he possessed, he went the movement one better and added a twist: not only were the universities leftist rat-traps, but they were actually practicing employment discrimination against conservatives!

Yes, in the Witziverse, there is no such thing as a campus conservative; as he puts it, "it is virtually impossible for a vocal conservative to be hired for a tenure-track position on a faculty anywhere, or to receive tenure if so hired". Curiously, Horowitz tends to focus his attention on the liberal arts, where one would expect to find a lot of liberals; his search for conservative professors might be more fruitful if he were to look for them in the sciences, law schools, business schools, engineering departments, or even schools of government, but it's a lot more fun to point out how j-schools or literature departments are run by self-described leftists, then cross his arms and say "see?". Upping the irony ante to the point where the table is beginning to groan, Horowitz -- who makes his living bitching about the fact that people like Ward Churchill and Noam Chomsky are permitted to have opinions -- claims that his anti-liberal witch hunts are conducted in the name of "academic diversity". This asinine claim doesn't stand up to even a second's worth of scrutiny, and people like Juan Coles and Stanley Fish have spent a lot of time meticulously demonstrating what any ten-year-old can plainly see (that David Horowitz is a low-rent two-bit hustler with his head so far up his ass that when he talks his eyeballs vibrate), but he's still managed to become one of the leading lights of neo-conservativism on the strength of his highly original and appealing notion of collegiate Communism, which people just eat up even though there's not a scrap of merit to it. His latest project, Discover the Network, is a conspiracy-mongering aggregation of nutjobs dedicated to "outing" campus liberals a la Joe McCarthy reincarnated as Fox Mulder.

Curiously, Horowitz has made lots of money and quite a name for himself, but one thing he hasn't made is friends. Unlike Norman Podhoretz, who people seem to like until they discover that he's a walking fart, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone in contemporary punditry, on the right or the left, who has anything good to say about David Horowitz. The left naturally regards him as a penny-arcade snitch who's parlayed a lucky hustle into a reekingly harmful career, but surprisingly, people on the right don't seem to care much for him either. They peddle his arguments when it suits them, and they defend him as much as possible against the supremely ironic charge of censorship from the left, but they don't ask him to all the good parties, and a number of prominent conservatives seem to flat-out despise him. Perhaps it's because of his cheap racket, or his snitch's demeanor, or their own memories of how quickly he turned against his own when the tide shifted; or perhaps it's that he's just a dissimulating little shitstain who it's impossible to like.

WHAT’S THE ONE THING HE KNOWS FOR SURE? Affirmative action is A-OK, as long as it's only applied to conservatives.

DEFINING MOMENT: Horowitz (who shouldn't be confused with the consumer advocate and Fight Back! host of the same name) doesn't really have one defining moment where his stench wafted out of the folds of his forehead for all to smell, but he does tend to lie a lot. At least three times, he has reported incidents of students receiving failing grades because they turned in papers that were pro-American or anti-liberal, but each time he's been shown to have hyped, exaggerated, misinterpreted or invented the cases. His most recent book, The Professors, claimed to show the liberal biases of over a hundred "dangerous academics", but only six profiled professors were included because of anything they'd ever said or done in class. Also, despite being subtitled The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, the book featured only 100 profiles. To no one's surprise, Horowitz blamed the gaffe on someone else. He was, of course, lying.


And yet, it gets worse!

I dare you, DARE YOU to read the Comments section of that Burt Prelusky post I just linked.

Here, I'll get you started.


A Black friend once asked if I would apologize for slavery. I said no, not only no- but he11 NO. My people never had slaves, never knew of slavery. They came here in the 1880s after it was all over. So why SHOULD I apologize?

Said it was a stain on American History. I said, SO WHAT! Did it happen to you? (No.) Your parents? (No.) So WHAT is your problem? Well, it happened. SO WHAT! End of discussion.


Blacks haven't been slaves on the North American continent since 1865... white people owe you nothing. In fact, it was white people--in Western culture--who ended slavery in the Western world, many of them dying in battle.


I'm sure you've all noticed the coverage being given to the fact that two black head coaches have led their team to the Super Bowl. In fact according to cnn.com history was made. How nice that these two men took the charitable opportunity that was handed to them on a silver platter by the well meaning white team owners and managed not to screw it up. Truly a credit to their race.


I'd encourage them to learn to speak well, and to have job skills, and to marry before they reproduce, and to avoid getting on welfare at any time. I'd also encourage them to either lose the gum altogether (preferable) or learn how to chew it with their mouths closed.


We need to call out the people who think blacks being racist against anyone who isn't black isn't racism.


None of what happened in the past affects us now.


I wondered when I wrote the piece how blacks would respond. It seems that the intelligent ones read it as I intended. Namely, with an open mind and an open heart, whereas others merely took umbrage that a white person would dare to write the truth.


Whites are in a no win situation regarding anything Black.


if the Black's had not been brought over as slaves, they would still be in Africa and subsequently have a much lower standard of living and wanting to come here anyways.


Though by definition many of us are slaves as well through increased government control and higher taxes.


Blacks owe ME, PERSONALLY.... The blacks were slaves and deserve special handouts a century later. Well, slavery ended because a lot of white guys DIED to end it. One of my great-great-grandfathers came back from the Civil War without a foot and another didn't come back at all.


The very people that always responds to white people with the same ole come back; "You are a racist" are in fact the biggest racist of all. Nothing is 100%, but the average black person has a deep hatred for most or all white people. And only because of the color of their skin. The average black person cannot talk very long before race is part of their message. I do not notice that when the average white person talks. Maybe I'm wrong.


I think your "role models are too often basketball players who make more babies than baskets; whose language skills are embarrassingly abysmal" line is a bit over the top. I have been favorably impressed during some recent post-game interview by how well-spoken the athlete was --- in a couple of cases the black athlete made more sense than the white interviewer.


Burt, I'm offended, I'm deeply, deeeeeply offended Burt- You said the N-word, I know it was in context to a Chris Rock monologue, but he is a black guy, you're a white guy you can't say that man, I'm hoit(ebonics for hurt) and scarred by you saying that (sniffle!) because after some 800 years of oppression at the hands of your ancestors Burt (boo hoo) you saying that word just (sniffle!) makes really, really sad man. Burt don't you know (Waaaa! Waaaa!)(crying uncontrollably now) I'm a human being Burt-I hoit(ebonics for hurt) Boit (ebonics for Burt). I really, really hoit Boit


Several years ago I attended a seminar where someone professed that the early Egyptians themselves were Negro. During the Q&A afterwards I asked "If that is so, who were Pharoah's slaves.?" The presenters only reply was...."Next question..."


The Ni**ers don't want a conversation, and they don't want responsibility. Hence their treatme*t of such people as Cosby, Condi Rice, Clarence Thomas, Sowell, etc. To the Publicity Wh*re and those that buy into his crud, they are worse than racists: they are traitors...


I have lived in the south for over 10 years and I have yet to meet a white bigot, but the black bigots are a dime a dozen.


I (and many other people) hate it that, whenever people are sardined in together and can't escape, they pull out the gum and pass it around. I can't stand the look, the sound, or the stench of gum chewing... and I've noticed that if I ask a black person to tone it down, they often seem to assume that it's racial, and that I can't stand it because it's a black person doing it--when nothing could be further from the truth.


The key point: I once read that the race problem in this country is not that a black man can't get a seat in a restaurant, it's that a black man can't get thrown out of one.

Town Hall is WHITES ONLY!

I have listened to you, the American people. I have listened as you've told me what you want from my Town Hall recaps, and you have told me: "MORE RACISM". So allow me to re-introduce you to...Burt Prelutsky.

You may remember Burt from his days writing scripts for shows like M*A*S*H or Branded. Or you may remember him from his liberal apostasy, after which he became Town Hall's Hollywood correspondent and the journalistic equivalent of a cranky old man yelling at the damn kids to get off his lawn. But in yesterday's column, he finally woke up to the reality that the site that hosts him is a haven for politically incorrect rebels who would never dream of condemning him no matter what crazy bullshit spills out of his gob, so he decided to write a whole column about how he doesn't like the coloreds. Let's watch!

The whole question of race is a dicey one. Pity the poor fool who wades into those troubled waters. Well, here goes.

Oh, hooray! An elderly, wealth white man from Hollywood is finally going to tell us truth about black people. Have your blood pressure medicine handy!

If a black person tells the truth -- namely, that in 2007, 99% of black problems are self-inflicted -- he is, like Bill Cosby and Thomas Sowell, dismissed as an Uncle Tom.

Well, there you have it, folks: after 400 years of slavery, kidnapping, torture and murder, a disastrous war, 100 more years of institutional racism and discrimination, and a mere 40 years of actually being able to vote, blacks -- who no doubt are completely free nowadays of the problems caused by racism and discrimination, and whose massive inequality of resources, education, opportunity and income is not a factor because BOOTSTRAPS! -- have managed to take charge of 99% of their problems. Now that's showing initiative!

If a white person tells the truth -- namely, that with a 70% illegitimacy rate, no amount of government hand-outs will do anything but provide the cancer victim with a very expensive band-aid -- he’s condemned as a racist.

Actually, white people are condemned as racists if they come up with a bogus, grossly inflated, context-free statistic and present it as "the truth".

When blacks say they wish to have a dialogue with whites, it only means that they want a forum at which to bash whites, while their victims provide a Greek chorus of mea culpas, provide the coffee and Danish, and drop a little something in the collection plate on their way out.

Just like the Jews, with their fake-ass "Holycost". Whatever, Hebes! We're through feeling guilty for your weak shit!

There is such a thing as white prejudice. No doubt about it. But it has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with character, culture and values.

Okay, everyone, I beg of you: read that again. What Burt is saying here is that when white people are prejudiced, it's not because they're racists, but because other races have insufficient character, inferior culture and bad values. That's what white prejudice is. Why, it seems like something you should almost be proud of!

What blacks refuse to acknowledge is that whites are intolerant of crime and the creeps who commit it, be they black thugs or white trash.

Whereas black people, they just love gangbangers and drug dealers! Ask any mother who's terrified to let her kids out the door: she has nothing but positive things to say about the Gangsta Disciples, and if you say a word against them, she'll throw a hissy fit.

The real shame should be that millions of black kids are fatherless

No white kids are fatherless!

that their taste in music is for anything that’s crude, lewd and loud

That horrible crazy rap music!

that their role models are too often basketball players who make more babies than baskets

Not like our fine upstanding white quarterbacks!

whose language skills are embarrassingly abysmal

Niggers are dumb!

and that, although most of the street punks are peddling drugs for roughly the minimum wage, they regard it as a worthier, more manly pursuit than working at a 7/11 or, God forbid, going to church, school or a library.

Uh, going to church doesn't pay anything, Burt.

Most whites in this country are not racist. In their heart, they agree with black comedian Chris Rock when he says, “I love black people, but I hate niggers,” even if they themselves are not allowed to make such an honest declaration.

God damn you blacks! Why won't you allow us to be honest, and say that we hate niggers?

Actually, what most whites are is cowardly. When we see black kids with the top of their baggy pants drooping somewhere south of their butts

White people never sport crazy fashions!

annoying people with their ear-splitting boom boxes

Okay, honestly: when was the last time you actually saw someone with a boom box? What is this, 1985?

saying “they be” when they mean “they are,”

Of course, Burt, who does not know what dialect is, is wrong: blacks mean "they be" when they say "they be". It's not like they're saying "banana" when they mean "apple"; they're just communicating -- in a way that is perfectly clear to the people who comprise their audience, which, after all, is the goal of communication -- using different language than is preferred by Burt Prelutsky. But, on the other hand, he makes a good point: niggers are dumb!

and we pretend that theirs is a different, but equally fine culture as our own

There you have it: we KNOW that black culture is inferior to white culture (which I guess is what he means by "our own", though I'm hesitant to be included in any culture Burt Prelutsky thinks of as his), but cowards that we are, we go on letting these barely-human apes think that it's not.

we’re no better than those enablers who give money to drug addicts or booze to alcoholics.

Burt here claims that by "letting" blacks have their own art forms, dress styles, and modes of speech, we are enabling their destruction. He's learned his lesson well from his hero Ronald Reagan, who said that "letting" Indians live on reservations and keep their own language and laws was "indulging" them.

When we finally stop patronizing loafers, louts and criminals, stop encouraging people who were born 120 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, 20 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act

Wow, twenty whole years after the forced legal abolition of institutional racism! It's a wonder they haven't put a man on the moon yet!

to pretend that their sloth and ignorance are the fault of whites, only then will blacks come one step closer to having that colorblind society they claim they want.

Uh, Burt? It's conservatives who say they want a colorblind society. Blacks don't want people to stop seeing them as black; they just want to not be discriminated against because they're black. It's not quite the same thing, you fucking racist old cracker.



As I mentioned earlier, the conservative talking heads are coming all over themselves at the fictional nuking of Valencia, CA on 24. Now, the big caveat here is that I've never seen the show, and don't intend to, so I'm not sure who's responsible for the fictional attack, how it's being portrayed, and so forth -- and, frankly, I don't care. What interests me is the reaction to it among right-wingers; while they're trying desperately to convince us that it represents a dire warning of what our sinister enemies among the Islamist horde have in store for us, it's pretty obvious that what it really represents for them is a masturbation fantasy.

Remember, these people essentially make their living by fearmongering. With social policies that center around frowny prohibition and economic policies that serve only to fatten the fat, the only way they have to get the majority of Americans to vote for the GOP is to terrify them into thinking that only the candidates of the Republican Party have the requisite stones to stand up to the dusky blood-drinkers who even now are trying to find a way to stuff a thermonuclear warhead into a briefcase. Their leaders invoke "the smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud", while they themselves spin endless fantasies about nuke-blasted American urban centers (which James Lileks always and inexplicably places in Seattle) to explain why we can't elect someone who would give us health insurance. They conjure images of a major MSA being reduced to radioactive Ho Ho wrappers as a vision of the unimaginable horror our enemies have in store for us (cut to Onion editorial cartoon of a bearded mullah preparing to rape Lady Liberty), but for them, 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished: have no doubt that in an abstract sense, if not a real one, they would be immensely satisfied if some jihadi took out a nonessential flyover so that all their raving and panicky predictions would be justified.

Thus we come to this column by Lileks' buddy, Hugh "Paint the Map Red" Hewitt, who answers the unmade charge that 24 has 'gone too far' by noting the allegedly low Valencia bodycount and saying that if anything, it hasn't gone far enough. "Eventually another nuke will go off," he assures us, referring to the real world and not the one of 24, "and it is not likely to be the obvious action of a state actor." This is a curious assertion to make, given that there are tens of thousands of nuclear weapons in the hands of state actors and, as far as anyone knows, none in the hands of individuals. Also, the only times nukes have ever been used is by states, and many states -- including the U.S. -- are continuing to produce them. Our current strategy for fighting terrorism in the middle east includes as a key component the possible use of low-yield tactical nukes. But, hey, whatever, reality: Hugh says it'll be raghead rebels and the teevee proves him right, unless it doesn't.

"Would the BBC have been going 'too far'," asks Hugh, "if in 1937 it had broadcast a radio drama depicting life in a Hitler-authorized death camp where hundreds of thousands of Jews were being executed in gas chambers, one of a string of such camps springing up across Europe?" Not really. But how about if Winston Churchill wanked himself to sleep at night by thinking about the Nazi death camps? Maybe that would have been going too far. Or how about if it turned out there weren't any Nazi death camps? Or that the death camps in the drama were portrayed as being authorized by Canada rather than Germany? Too far? I dunno, I don't have my own talk show.

"An event much more likely to occur in our lifetime than any catastrophe unleashed by global warming has been put on the table," says Hugh, no doubt giving all the starving people in Africa a good chuckle, "and suddenly tongues are wagging about responsibility." Whose tongues? I haven't heard anyone reading 24 the riot act, and even if someone is, who cares? It's one of the most popular shows on TV. "Americans don't like to think of such an attack upon America," bloviates punditry's own Triple H, "but prior to 9/11, they didn't like to think of airplanes crashing into skyscrapers". Man, true! I mean, before 9/11, I can hardly think of any movies that depicted a planned terror attack on or invasion of America. Except for a few hundred.

"A shock to many, an upsetting nightmare for others," he concludes, "a depiction of a happy ending for our enemies." And for some? A propagandist wet dream.

Also, be sure to check out some of the delightful comments made by Town Hall readers:

"If this sort of event happened in the US, Muslims, rightly or wrongly (although it's inconceivable to me that any other group would muster the will to try to detonate a nuclear weapon on US soil), the Muslims would be held responsible by an incredibly vindictive faction of our nation. There would be a pogrom against Muslims, and quite honestly I as a citizen and as a member of the military would do nothing to stop it. Actually, if the bomb destroyed ACLU Hq, we'd kill two birds with one stone."

"Back when I was in high school, there was the scaremongering 'The Day After.' Realistic in its portrayal, perhaps, but if only we had listened to its producers and the rest of the Left, and not Ronald Reagan. Why, the good ol' Soviet Union would still be here! No, the Socialists are mad because '24' is calling a spade a spade, and the terrorists this season are much more realistic: Islamic fanatics who hate the West, more specifically, the US, and have no compunction about killing anyone and everyone whom they hate."

"Now, for retaliation, if I could just see Iran turned into a parking lot on the show, I'd be the MOST loyal viewer they have."

"If a nuke were detonated in Los Angeles Mexico would be really angry that an atomic bomb had gone off in their country."

"I fully expect several suitcase nukes to be exploded in 4 or 5 of our major cities before 2015. With the Congress of the United States, both Democrat and Republican advocating surrender, the Bush admistration is just about all that stands in their way."

"Destroying Hollywood is in the world's best interest, and that is why we must praise Islamists. They would rid us of the intestinal aesthetic pests that are destroying the US."

"Would it not be grand (if not wishful thinking) to have President Palmer enact draconian measures to counteract terrorism....and have it work out well? Just a dream on my part, much like the obliteration of Hollywood."



You CAN bullshit a bullshitter

I've been trying to enjoy the first few seasons of Penn & Teller's Bullshit lately. I say 'trying' because it's not easy. At times, the show is delightful, and I still revel in debunking on general principles, but there's two things that really bug me about the show.

First of all, there's Penn Jillette's relentless libertarianism. Now, it's pretty safe to say that I used to fairly idolize Penn Jillette. He was a big goofy-looking dude (he's far and away the winner in the 'celebrity I most resemble' sweepstakes, if other people are any guide) who knew a bunch of cool tricks, was fearless and outspoken about his political and philosophical views, he had a low tolerance for obvious nonsense, and he was obsessed with Uma Thurman; what's not to love? Unfortunately, as time has gone on, he's displayed some tendencies that are less lovable. He's a bit of a blowhard, as are all really opinionated people, but with a nasty edge of self-righteousness; he's polyamorous, which is fine, but always brings me down when people talk about it a lot, which he does; and he's a die-hard ultra-libertarian, a devotee of Ayn Rand, and (!) a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. This comes through way too often in the show; he's quick to talk up the lack of peer review when he's debunking intelligent design (as well he should), but he's equally quick to ignore the presence of peer review when he's debunking global warming. He's also constantly critical of people who cynically peddle nonsense in order to make a buck, but it seems not to have occurred to him that as much money can be made off of environmentalism, recycling, and alternative fuels, there's a lot more to be made off of the industries they're meant to correct, and that just maybe all the people who are saying global warming is a myth have something to gain from their stance as well. (To his credit, he's owned up to having his head up his ass on second-hand smoke.) I know his standard disclaimer -- "We're as biased as anyone, but at least we admit it" -- but I don't see that as any less of a cop-out than if an evangelical said it.

Beyond that, though, it can be an enjoyable show -- depending on who's writing it. BS's writing staff is wildly inconsistent, coming up with hilarious and insightful lines and cutting jokes one episode and wheezing out hoary gags, puns, and one-liners that seem like they belong on Animal Planet home video shows the next. I want to like the show -- I mean, I really want to, not just because I like Penn & Teller, but also because it's one of the few skeptical voices in mass media -- but in the end, I really don't.

I hesitate to use the "Only In America" formulation, but...

Rich Madison Avenue shopkeeper sues penniless vagrants for a million dollars.

You know, I don't wake up hoping for these worst-case scenarios. They just seem to present themselves to me.


The latest from Fuddle, MN

Lileks today can be broken down, more or less, into sections.

SECTION 1 involves the narrative of a trip to Chuck E. Cheese. He always likes to complain about these trips (and adds a delightful bit of misogyny, because when he explains that they are necessitated by his wife playing cards with her female friends, he always calls the card games "hen parties" or something else you'd expect to hear issuing from a 1950s cartoon dad with a rolling-pin lump coming out of his head as he sits at a cocktail bar commiserating over a Harvey Wallbanger), today's entry makes it crystal-clear that the trips are really more for him than they are for his six-year-old daughter. It's almost charming, in a sad, egomaniacal way.

SECTION 2 involves him scolding people for not buying his book. Hey, I'd do the same thing, if I had a book. Or anything else people might want to buy.

SECTION 3 involves the story of his daughter playing the piano, and is pretty cute, and thus contains no grist for my Lileks hatemill.

SECTION 4 involves a rare appearance by Mrs. Lileks, who has left Jimbo a note to gather together some stuff for a "drive for the troops" her office is holding. Lileks notes, properly, that "it galls you, really; they shouldn't need anything". True enough, although he stops rather a few steps short of placing the blame where it belongs, with Mr. President Man and his military short-shrifting so he can pay for the upper-class tax cuts the Lileks family enjoys. But they're happy to spread the wealth! The #2 item on the 'wanted' list is "Slim-Jims", which seems like a pretty frivolous thing for a 'drive for the troops', especially considering that our soldiers are, like me, fatter than ever. Also in the top ten list is "sports, hot rods, news and celebrity-type magazines", so Jimbo provides copies of -- get this -- Stuff (which he claims "for some reason...I get for free", ho ho) and the Weekly Standard. So, thanks to his self-sacrificing actions, our brave boys now have the inedible junk food, softcore porn, and right-wing propaganda they need to win the war! Well done, Mr. Lileks!

SECTION 5 involves Lileks telling a story about a dead Marine who got lots of attention at his funeral, which, he claims, makes hash of the criticism that the government has banned filming the returning coffins of dead soldiers. Aside from making no fucking sense (the images of coffins are meant to make the cost of the war a reality for people who might live in communities where they don't have a lot of war casualties, you jackass), this seems to suggest that Lileks believes that symbols have power, but only if they're symbols that he personally endorses.

SECTION 6, the Lileksiest section of them all, involves him deciding that, for reasons somehow connected to this dead Marine and the liberal media or something, he is going to censor his daughter's letter to the soldiers he's sending smut and extruded beef lips to. Make sense of that in your spare time, if you dare.


How to kill a media consultant

Let us say that you would like to be the head of a new-media company. Let us say that you are a minor mystery novelist with no particular experience in journalism, but with a big ego and a massive axe to grind against the mainstream media, so you have wheezy visions of totally transforming the way news is collected. This is called "hubris".

The first thing you'll want to do is to find a bunch of like-minded partners with whom you can trade quips about how corrupt, incompetent and liberally biased the mainstream media is. As time progresses and you become more entranced with your own cleverness, you should move as far to the right ideologically as you can, all the while claiming that it was the press that betrayed you instead of the other way around.

Once you've gathered a flotilla of self-absorbed dimwits (get as many as you can; it'll increase your chances of stumbling across a golden angel willing to invest those all-important $$$ in your new media venture!), it's time for your first big move. Since your key demographic is basement-dwelling cranks with nothing but time on their hands, see if you can get them to pick apart an innocuous story by a respected legitimate journalist. It shouldn't be hard; the trade isn't what it used to be thanks to decades of pandering to low-grade ideologues like yourself. Just raise a big enough stink and squawk the words "liberal media bias" over and over again, and eventually the journalist's employers will cave. He'll get fired, even though you're never actually able to prove that he did anything wrong. Congratulations! You've toppled an old-media giant.

Now it's time to take one giant leap forward. Announce that you are forming a for-profit company out of your loose aggregation of pissed-off conservative quasi-pundits. Use lots of terms like "new media" and "revolution in journalism" and "a new method of fact-checking" and "a professional news service for citizen journalists". Go public so that dopey right-wingers will toss money at you even though you don't really have any kind of business plan or apparent means for making money. Hey, you're part of the new media! You don't have to make plans or come up with revenue streams or any of that second-wave horseshit! You're on the cutting edge. When it comes time to pick a keynote speaker for the big event, go with a big name from the old-media world. Some people will criticize your choice as being a journalist even more fraudulent and disgraced than the old-media giant whose demise made your reputation. Do not listen to those people. They are just jealous of your forward-looking new-media ways.

With that out of the way, it's time to get to work. You're a publicly traded new-media dynamo now, not some shifty concatenation of hack bloggers! Still, there's no reason to actually do anything like train your shifty concatenation of hack bloggers in journalistic techniques. Simply write them a big check and have them go on as usual, writing a bunch of bullshit about whatever crosses their candy-colored little minds. You can even have one token liberal, but get rid of him quick lest he point out that you're not actually doing anything different than you were before the new-media revolution. Oh, yeah: you forgot to figure out where you're going to get your actual reportage from! Ah, fuck it, just pull that shit off the wire services like every other old-media outlet in the world does.

Hey, wait! You forgot to pick a name! That's the most important part. At first, you might want to select a name that implies a dynamic, user-friendly media organization that's free for all -- a true beacon that's open to all users, not just a self-congratulatory clique of half-baked ideologues talking to themselves. But don't get too snooty -- you don't want to sound too new-media, especially if you run the risk of getting sued by someone else who's already using that name. Hey, I know: why not name yourself after what you wore to bed last night? Then design a really crappy logo, and constantly remind your readers that unlike them, you don't even have to get dressed to go to work! That's super-duper-professional, and they'll be bound to respect you.

Now that you've fully established yourself, you'd better buckle down and get busy. Forget about any high-level defections you might encounter early on, or the petty distractions of your investors and business partners constantly asking how this thing is ever going to turn a buck. You have no time for that stuff! You're a citizen journalist! Besides, if they pull out, you can always find new investors and advertisers, especially if you soft-pedal the fact that your co-founder runs a racist hate site populated by
bloodcrazy loons. Spend the next two years being the best darn new media venture you can be, and try not to make a seemingly endless series of gaffes, boners and comically ridiculous missteps that make your company seem less like a revolution in journalism and more like a get-rich-quick scheme cooked up by Fred Flintstone.

At this point, your venture should be as highly respected as the old-media giant you single-handedly brought down. Your name should be on the lips of every American as their most trusted source of citizen journalism, and your leading reporters should be a classy bunch who bring only the finest reportage to a trusting public. Still, you're missing one thing: a big scoop. A stunning revelation about world affairs, an important breaking story where you get there first and prove that you're better than all the big boys after all.

Put your finest mind on the case, and the odds are he'll come through like gangbusters. Unfortunately, the old media being what they are, his story may be held to antiquated notions of truth, despite all the trouble you went to establish all those swell new methods of fact-checking. A bunch of snobby elitists lacking the wherewithal to establish their own new-media companies, and who therefore have no right to criticize yours, are going to demand a slightly higher standard of proof than 'this one guy I know says it's totally true', and, despite your ongoing efforts to paint them as part of a global conspiracy to make you look foolish, they may just manage to convince the whole world that your one big scoop was just a bunch of bullshit.

This is called "what comes around goes around, kid".


Conservatives? On network TV? It's true!

Thanks, USA Today! Without you, I'd have never known that finally, after only about five decades of sitcoms and dramas featuring white, straight, Christian, heterosexual, American, upper-middle-class, suburban nuclear families, conservative voices can at last be heard on network TV!


Intellectual cosplay

Guilt by association is the fun party game for right-wing conservatives of all ages. Anyone can play: if you express any reservations over the rightness of the Iraq War, you are as unserious a thinker as the guys who waggle around giant Bush puppets at anti-globalization rallies, stink of patchouli and spell America with three Ks. If you think the government should help poor people with education or health care, you have the blood of Stalin's slaughtered millions on your hands. If you chance to express some sympathy for the viewpoints of exploited and beleaguered Arabs, you are the moral equivalent of Jew-beheading terrorists. If you are now or have ever been a social liberal, you might as well have brought down the Twin Towers with your own hand and eye. And if you notice disturbing parallels between the treatment of Palestinians today and the treatment of blacks under apartheid, you are a virulent anti-Semite, even if you are a former President of the United States.

Happily, this cuts both ways, and we of the loony left get to while away the lonely hours before our beloved jihadi brethren arrive to decapitate us in front of their cell-phone cameras by playing the guilt-by-association game ourselves. And, since conservatives tend to be bigger joiners than liberals do (something about phony titles, uniforms and chanting slogans really appeals to them, I dunno), they conveniently congregate in quivering, darkie-spooked lumps at places like Town Hall and Pajamas Media, where it's easy for us to tar them with our wide brushes. Thus, by the rules defined for us by the pundit elite, the presence of even the most reasonable, thoughful conservatives on the latter site puts them in league with delusional martyr wannabes, incoherent drunks, egomaniacal blowhards, hatemongering racists, and whatever the hell Michelle Malkin is.

Still, nothing -- not Ben Shapiro, not John Podhoretz, not the Star Wars fantasia of James Lileks, not even ├╝bergeek Jonah Goldberg, prepared me for the depths of lameitude which now and forever taints Pajamas Media simply by existing. While I was researching Pajamas Media member sites for a piece I'm writing tonight for the Ludic Log, I came across Gates of Vienna, an "Islamophobic and proud" warblog that, like many of its sort, ceaselessly advocates unquartered war with the vile Mahometan horde, but unlike many of its sort, seems to be owned and operated by a couple who write the thing while on leave from portraying minor nobles at an Old Dominion Ren Faire. Going by the SCA-inspired monikers of "Baron Bodissey" and his goodly wyfe "Dymphna", these two pips exhibit a thrilling blend of virulent anti-Arabism common to these quarters, combined with a woozy neo-white-supremacist Nordic nostalgia rarely seen outside of Scandinavian black metal.

Let's take a look at a recent entry, typical and yet somehow exceptional, entitled The Twelfth Viking. After some gimlet-eyed Euro-history about how the brave Charles Martel "contained" the "Islamic virus" in Spain (keeping it "out of the heart of Western Europe", where it might cause palpitations in the hearts of fair-skinned maidens of virtue true), der Baron schools us all in the mysterious Saracen-killin' power of "Holger the Dane", a phantasmal Viking who let the blood of many a dusky Turk in those brave and lofty days. He does this by the highly informative method of personally translating a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale from the original Danish (pardon me, "the tongue of the Vikings"), so that we can all be morally improved by seeing ligatured dipthongs on our computer screens. This section of the mid-level D&D module concludes with the following high-larious conjuration:

"Now, if even a trace of the blood of the Men of the North runs in your veins, or if you have lived long enough among them to have acquired some of their spirit, the hair on the back of your neck will rise when you read these words, and you will say, 'Yes! This is the hero, the man who will defend us during the troubles that are surely coming.'"

While we're waiting for Conan to arrive, Baron Blitzkrieg treats us to some poetry by Ted Hughes, who he admires for his Yorkshire origins. Yorkshiremen, you see, are possessed of "the blood of the Danes" which runs "thick in the veins" (hey, that rhymes! and Ted Hughes was a poet! just like Baron Zemo!), and are possessed of that unfailing signifier of moral purity, "natural blond hair". (Hughes himself was a brunet, but why quibble?) Channeling Dave Sim, Baron Blood interprets Hughes' "Gog" poem as some sort of antifeminist tirade about "the lifelong and ultimately futile efforts of Everyman to escape from the softness and weakness of his mother and establish his own manhood without being sucked in and corrupted by the softness and weakness of his wife". Will those uncreative female voids ever stop destroying us?

Finally, Baron Mordo winds up with the real meat of his article: someday, an imaginary Viking -- presumably a Barbarian of at least 12th level with maximum hit points and a +4 vorpal blade -- will be conjured forth by the collective will of white people, and he will behead the seemingly unstoppable tarrasque of radical Islamism.

Forget the Twelfth Imam. We’ve got our own dude sitting on the bench. Call him the Twelfth Viking. He’s suited up, ready to join the contest as soon as he’s required. The Men of the North form the core of the Counterjihad. They are already in action, clearing the back alleys of Anbar Province, riding point in Kabul, and forming up in self-organized groups to defend our borders with Mexico.

Yikes! Nothing in there, surprisingly, about wizards or elves or goblins, but one might be forgiven for thinking that this gaming table is whites only. But, as inevitably happens when a crazy right-winger (even one who seems like he makes a lot of dragon fan art) says something scarily racist, there's the "it's not about race" qualifier:

As I’ve said before, it’s not race that’s the issue here, it’s culture. The culture of the Danes, the Norsemen, the English, and the Celts. The culture of the hardy and self-reliant Men of the North, always ready to defend their ancient liberties with a ferocity that their enemies can scarcely imagine.

See, it's not about race! It's about culture! Specifically, the culture of a bunch of northlanders who all happen to be white! And are ready to lop the limbs off of savage hordes of filthy invaders from the southlands, who all happen to be not so white!

To wrap up this delightful crazy Warbloggers of Gor item, Baron von Raschke concludes with a wet little mash note to the character he stayed up all night rolling:

Holger Danske is the man who best represents us. He’ll be there in the hour of our greatest need. The Twelfth Viking — I can see his eyelids fluttering even now…


The Richening

Over at the clown repository, Michael Medved has deigned to inform the mass of Americans why they, who do are not rich, should oppose tax hikes for the rich.

Disingenuously claiming that he himself does not benefit from upper-class tax cuts*, he trots out three reasons that we should give a shit if Congress enacts a soak-the-rich tax program, as if that's ever a threat.

#1: "Tax hikes hurt the economy". This is the same old trickle-down bullshit we've been hearing for 30 years, claiming that rich people create jobs and stimulate development, while all stupid poor people do with their money is spend it. I'm not even gonna address this, so thoroughly tired an argument it is.

#2: "Higher rates are ineffective in producing higher revenues, and encourage both laziness and sleazy strategies of tax avoidance." Here's a combination of two currently popular notions among libertarian types: first, if you tax people too highly, it provides a disincentive to produce. This is obvious nonsense. Can you recall even one single rich person who stopped doing the thing that made them rich because they paid too many taxes? When George Harrison wrote "Taxman" to protest his 90% (!) tax rate, he had what most people would call a legitimate beef, but curiously, he didn't stop making records and become a garbageman, possibly because the 10% he kept was still enough to make him a multimillionaire. Guys like Bill Gates, Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch are presumably taxed at a very high rate, but you don't see them throwing in the towel and going to work at 7-11; instead, they seem to spend their time trying to make even more money for the taxman to raid. Funny, eh?

As for the second part, the essential argument -- very popular in recent years, so much so that the president himself has advanced it -- is that if you raise taxes for rich people, they're only going to find ways to not pay it. This is the lamest possible argument, amounting to "Hey, people aren't going to obey this law, so we might as well not even pass it." What are we, fucking helpless against the wiles of clever rich people? 30 million law enforcement personnel in the country, and there's not a goddamn thing we can do if a rich fuck decides not to pay his income tax. Sad, isn't it? I guess we're using all those resources to lock up Tommy Chong for selling bongs over the internet. Speaking of which, the "we can't stop people from breaking these laws so we might as well not pass them" argument doesn't seem quite as popular amongst conservatives when the laws in question have to do with theft, or violence, or drugs, or terrorism. I'm pretty sure that neither Michael Medved nor George W. Bush are going to give a speech where they say "Hey, if we pass laws against dealing crack, people are just going to find clever ways to do it anyway, so we might as well just make drugs legal", but it's essentially the same argument.

#3: "High tax rates are wrong and unfair – and only lead to the growth of government." This argument makes a certain level of sense, if you believe that people who have been hugely rewarded by the American system should have no obligation to make a proportional contribution to that system. And, if you believe that, you're likely to accept the idea that government shouldn't grow, because after all, why should government grow? All it's going to do is help people, and since you don't need any government help, why should other people? The big flaw in it, though, is that it contradicts point #2. If higher taxes do not, in fact, create more revenue, then how can they possibly lead to the growth of government? That seems pretty elementary to me, but Medved, who calls these points "the very core of conservative thinking", doesn't seem to mind that there's a big fat contradition right in the middle of his argument.

He concludes, showing his serious side, by reviving the argument -- pioneered by Paul Craig Roberts and not likely to endear him to working people of a particular color -- that taxation of rich people is worse than slavery. Hooray for liberty! Hooray for Town Hall! And hooray for you, Michael Medved; without you, I would never known that the very core of conservative thinking is so deeply stupid.

*: The reason I'm not buying Medved's claim that he doesn't pull down half a mil a year and would therefore not benefit from the upper-class tax cut is that in another column in Town Hall today, Maggie Gallagher cops to a personal income -- just for her, not for her whole family -- in the "low six figures". If Maggie Gallagher, a relative nobody, is pulling down $100k a year for writing her columns, there's no way that Medved, a conservative superstar with a daily radio show, three weekly columns, personal appearances, multiple book deals, and, up until recently, his own TV show, isn't making half a mil.