Saturday, March 8, 2008

An offer to mediate

Little Miss Attila is at war with Ace and Rusty (actually Rusty's guest-blogger Ragnar) because they were dissing middle-aged celebrity women who evidently have decided that anabolic steroids are the best treatment for aging.

Here's part of Miss Attilla's rant:
What is it with some male bloggers?—"Too fat, too thin. Too out-of-shape. Too fat. Too buff. Too old. Too young." (Oops! That last one never happens. Just trying to see if you're paying attention.)
I mean, I like Ace and his crew. I even like Rusty and (most of) his crew (at least, when they aren't waxing anti-gay). But, WTF? Maybe their fans should be required to post pictures next to their comments—these fine gourmands of female flesh. I'm sure they are all prime beef. Uh-huh.
Bonus question: Which set of commenters is more hostile to women?—Rusty's, or Ace's?
That's the gist of it. And although Miss Attila says she's being hated for saying it, I think here comments are not entirely unreasonable. Something about the online environment causes some guys to display harsh judgmentalism toward women, so harsh at times as to qualify as genuine misogyny. This judgmentalism is by no means limited to aging celebrity chicks who are injecting testosterone and HGH.

I cite the example of Becky Banks, program coordinator of Students For Life (SFL). In January, SFL held its annual national conference of pro-life college students at Catholic University, and Becky appeared in a video at Hot Air. Being that Becky is a 20-something blonde, there was a good bit of "hubba-hubba" from the commenters, until a certain commenter named "Funky Chicken" weighed in with this remark:
You guys think she is attractive? I was thinking trout pout and kinda fugly.
Whoa! Where did that bit of venom come from?

OK, grant that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and de gustibus non est disputandum. Still ... "trout pout and kinda fugly"? Even if the full-lipped look isn't that fellow's cup of tea, the putdown seems unduly harsh. What could inspire such a hateful expression?

Let's start with peer pressure. Anybody who's ever hung out with a pack of guys knows that, in the pack environment, guys always strive to appear tough, cool and superior. Vulnerability and sensitivity are not exactly high on the list of personal traits valued in a scrum of guys who are trying to impress each other as "real men."

So if you want to know where "Funky Chicken" got the idea that it was tough and cool to put down chicks in such viciously derogatory language, it's that guy-pack mentality that is to blame. Trust me, that's hardly the worst put-down guys use in such environments. (Oh, what guys say about fat chicks ...)

The macho peer-pressure thing is one obvious factor behind "Funky Chicken's" derogation of Miss Banks. But wait -- remember, before that idiot added his two cents, the other guys commenting at Hot Air were all doing the hubba-hubba routine. So, if all the peer pressure at that point was positive toward Miss Banks, why did "Funky Chicken" go negative?

Here's your second factor: Rejection. Women, for all their claims to superior sensitivity, have no conception of the harm inflicted on the male ego by female rejection. Learning to deal with rejection is, I think, the essential sexual challenge of male adolescence.

I suppose there are exceptions to this rule -- guys so cool and sexy at age 14 or 15 that they never have to cope with rejection from some chick they really like. But for the other 99% of us, dealing with female rejection is a constant struggle from puberty onwards. And chicks are completely brutal and heartless when it comes to rejecting advances by poor lovestruck (or, at least, hormone-driven) teenage boys.

Different guys find different ways of coping with rejection. By the time I was 16, I was so emotionally traumatized, I had to learn how to play guitar. Chicks can't resist a guy strumming a guitar and singing a love song, you see. So over the course of the next decade, I kind of avenged myself on womankind. It didn't matter that the chicks whose hearts I was breaking weren't the same chicks who'd rejected me. It was symbolic vengeance, psychic payback.

Twisted? Sadistic? Evil? Yeah. But at least I got it out of my system. Some guys never do. And I'm serious about this. I know a guy who met his first really serious girlfriend at 18, dated her for three or four years, and then she broke up with him. Drugs, depression, suicide -- he died at age 30. She came to his funeral, and she cried, but those tears were a bit too late.

Rejection is a serious thing for guys to deal with, and they deal with it in different ways. I reckon "Funky Chicken" has been rejected a few times, too, so when the guys at Hot Air started making a big deal over Miss Banks, our friend Funky's response was: "I'll reject her before she can reject me."

It's a sour-grapes rationalization, and you see it all the time, especially within groups of young guys. If you get a bunch of frat boys sitting in the stands at a college football game, and they start "rating" the cheerleaders (all of whom are reasonably attractive, from an objective viewpoint), there's always one guy who will pronounce that the very prettiest cheerleader is a "whore," or a "skank," usually offering extensive graphic details of what a terrible slut she is. "Oh, she did such-and-so with this guy and that guy, and got drunk at a party and took on the entire starting offensive backfield," etc.

It's a defense mechanism, a reaction, OK? And something very similar takes place when anonymous guys on a blog are confronted with photos of 40-something celebrities like Madonna and Sarah Jessica Parker.

A lot of those guys, you see, are 40-something themselves. And when they look at those aging celebrity chicks -- artificially pumped-up and striated like triathletes -- those guys have got to say to themselves, "Is this what's left to me now? Is this the best I can hope my future sexual conquests will look like? These spindly, leathery old hags?"

Consider the alternatives for these guys:
  • Buy a red convertible, get a hair-weave, and start dating a 24-year-old cocktail waitress.
  • Buy a home in the suburbs, get a minivan, and marry a 34-year-old English teacher.
  • Buy a loft in a trendy intown neighborhood, go to gay bars, and try to forget about women altogether.
You see, Miss Attila, these guys who make such brutally misogynistic remarks aren't to be scorned and hated. They are to be pitied, and nutured . . . with that special kind of nuturing that only a mature lady like yourself knows how to give.

I hope my mediation has been helpful. I feel that my work here is done. And now, if you'll excuse me, I must return to duty, mentoring the careers of promising young conservative activists in Washington.

UPDATE: Ace obviates the need for mediation by delivering a lecture to the morons, featuring several lines that only Ace could get away with, including:
I also don't think plainly over-the-top sexual language is off limits. "She's so hot I'd like to duct-tape her and stick her in my trunk" isn't offensive, or shouldn't be, because, I mean, come on. What are the odds any of the guys here could actually afford duct-tape? It's plainly a sexual fantasy, and a very, very hot one, but just a fantasy.
Unless I get my hands on some f---ing duct-tape. But I think that's obvious.
He's CPAC Blogger of the Year, and who can argue with that? OK, his parole officer, maybe ...

Busting the Chavezistas

Over at NewsBusters, Matthew Vadum does a number on the Friends of Hugo:
QUESTION: What do you get when you help terrorists seek dirty bombs, give sanctuary to Hezbollah and Hamas, taunt America, and threaten war on U.S. ally Colombia?
ANSWER: Hugs and kisses from members of Congress like Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Dennis Kucinich, academics like Cornel West, and Hollywood celebrities like Danny Glover – and a pass from the press.
And what’s there not to love about Venezuela’s Marxist strongman Hugo Chavez, who crushes dissenters, muzzles the media, and takes from “the rich” to give to “the poor”? With a Kennedy clan member as his spokesman, he even gives discounted home heating oil to the shivering masses of the U.S. oppressed by the capitalist system. ¡Viva la Revolucion!
Definitely read the whole thing. As disgusting as Chavez is, his American supporters are even more disgusting.

Notes on Gonzo

Having been a Hunter S. Thompson fan for nearly 30 years, I recently decided to spend some leisure hours reading (or re-reading) Thompson's early work, including his breakthrough book, Hell's Angels, first published in 1967, when Thompson was 29.

Thompson's widow, Anita Thompson, has explained that many young HST admirers draw the wrong lesson from his work:
"A lot of young people are under the assumption that if you do a lot of cocaine and drink a lot of Wild Turkey, you, too, can write like Hunter S. Thompson," she told the audience ...
Alas, too true. So anyway, today, I was re-reading The Proud Highway, a collection of Thompson's early letters edited by Douglas Brinkley, and came across HST's Dec. 5, 1957, letter to his friend Joe Bell.

During a stint in the Air Force, Thompson had discovered a knack for sports writing while working for the Command Courier at Eglin AFB in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Given that his burning desire was to be a novelist, the 19-year-old Thompson's attitude toward sports writing was ambivalent: He felt it was beneath his precocious literary talents, and yet (as he later explained in Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72) it was the only thing he knew how to do that anybody was willing to pay him to do.

'Not a fit place to live'

Upon leaving the Air Force, Thompson had arranged a job as a sports editor at a small daily paper in Jersey Shore, Pa., a Susquehanna River town about 15 miles west of Williamsport, Pa. My wife and I drove through that area a few months ago and found it charming and scenic at points, though it's hardly a bustling urban scene. And considering that Thompson was a native Southerner (from Louisville, Ky.) who had spent the past two years in sunny Florida, it's not hard to understand his reaction when he arrived in Jersey Shore in December. From his 1957 letter to Joe Bell:

It upsets me to have to go into detail about this fiasco. It is enough to say that a place which combines all the climactical advantages of Iceland and all the entertainment and cultural advantages of Harlan, Kentucky, is certainly not a fit place to live. I very seriously doubt that I shall be able to stand it for more than a month -- if that long.
Here, you see, we get a glimpse into the root and essence of Gonzo: The plight of the writer in a world that is profoundly indifferent to the writer and his craft.

Critics often describe HST's Gonzo journalism as "subjective" or fictionalized, even though some of his writings -- most notably Fear and Loathing: On The Campaign Trail '72 -- have stood the test of time as factual accounts of historic events.

Gonzo as self-awareness

To the extent that there is something "subjective" about what Thompson did, however, it lies in the ever-present subtext, the self-conscious recognition of himself as a writer on assignment. It is this self-awareness that distinguishes Gonzo from anything else in the field of journalism.

That's why Thompson's reaction to Jersey Shore, Pa., struck me so forcefully. Most people never think about the sort of humiliations inevitably experienced by a young writer. Here is the 20-year-old Hunter S. Thompson, recognized as a literary prodigy since he was a teenager writing for the Athenaeum Literary Association Spectator. And here is the Susquehanna Valley coal-mining town where the newspaper editor -- after evidently giving HST some Chamber of Commerce boosterism about the local scene -- has secured Thompson's services for $75 a week.

Maybe if Thompson had arrived in Jersey Shore in late May, the story would have been different. But for a Southern boy to encounter a small Pennsylvania town in the gray gloom of December? Egad. His stint at the Jersey Shore Herald lasted less than the month he predicted, and soon Thompson was in New York City, where he eventually hired on as a copyboy at Time magazine for $50 a week.

'Slumming' in journalism

You have to see the Gonzo essence here. Thompson had incredible talent. His letters at age 19 or 20 are brimming with evidence of his genius. But for a young writer to gain recognition for his talent is extremely difficult -- even today, when any kid can put up a blog or a Web site and publish his writing for a worldwide readership. It was much more difficult back in the day, when writing had to be done on a typewriter, and when applications, resumes, queries and manuscripts had to be sent to editors by snail-mail.

In order to keep body and soul together, then, Thompson had to hire himself out as a journalist. This meant either putting up with the limitations of a staff gig, like the job in Jersey Shore, or else trying to hustle assignments as a freelancer, as he eventually did with such remarkable success -- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas began as a freelance assignment for Sports Illustrated that HST turned into an assignment for Rolling Stone.

Through all of that, while Thompson was re-inventing journalism on his own terms, he never lost sight of the famous novelist he'd once dreamed of becoming. He felt as if he'd been ripped off, deprived of his proper place in the literary pantheon, and forced to "slum it" as a mere reporter.

'Fear and Loathing' -- and payback

This is what I think most people don't get about Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. At some level, that was a story of HST's brutal payback against the publishing establishment.

Remember, in 1958, would-be novelist Hunter S. Thompson had worked as a $50-a-week copyboy for Time magazine. Time was part of the same Time-Life publishing empire that published Sport Illustrated. At the time of his 1971 Vegas escapade, Thompson also had an unfulfilled book contract (originally to have been coverage of the 1968 election) with Random House, which had published Thompson's first book, Hell's Angels.

So in 1971, there was this desert race with dune buggies and motorcycles called The Mint 400, sponsored by a Las Vegas casino. Some genius at Sports Illustrated apparently got the clever idea, "Hey, motorcycles! Hell's Angels is about motorcycles! Let's get that guy to cover the race!" (This is a reverse-engineered surmise of how HST got the assignment; I defy anyone to come up with a more plausible explanation.)

All right, so this is an expense-paid trip, a first-class press junket including a free room at the Mint Hotel. So then Thompson goes to the L.A. offices of Time-Life and talks them into giving him a $300 cash advance for the expenses. (If you've read The Proud Highway, you know how often, as a young freelancer, HST fought with his editors over expenses.) Then he rents the Chevy convertible that Thompson dubs "The Red Shark," and he and his radical Chicano lawyer buddy then spend the next several hours accumulating an unimaginable stash of drugs.

'Weasels closing in'

For some reason, most readers don't get it, but HST explains exactly what he's doing:
Free Enterprise. The American Dream. Horatio Alger gone mad on drugs in Las Vegas. ...
Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only real cure is to load up on heinous chemicals and then drive like a bastard from Hollywood to Las Vegas. ... Just roll the roof back and screw it on, grease the face with white tanning butter and move out with the music at top volume, and at least a pint of ether.
The key phrase here is "life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in" -- Thompson had a contractual obligation to Random House, at least two years overdue, and he hadn't published a new book since 1967. But there was no way in the world the uptight corporate people at Random House were going to give him the green-light for a book on the stuff he wanted to write, about radical politics and the drug culture.

Here he was, an acclaimed author, with no real prospect of being published again anytime soon, and "the weasels" were indeed "closing in": He had to pay the bills, and even with a bestseller like Hell's' Angels, the book royalties tend to dwindle a good bit after three or four years.

I would argue that this, at least at a subconscious level, was how HST's scheme of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas began. Thompson conceived of this as an opportunity to defraud Sport Illustrated -- to "stick it to The Man" as represented by the Time-Life publishing empire -- by using this expense-paid assignment as an excuse for a daredevil drug adventure.

Triple payback

As he subsequently explained, Thompson's actual assignment for SI amounted to nothing more than providing a few hundred words of copy to accompany a photo spread, but he turned in 2,500 words that he later said were "aggressively rejected" by the editors. Which was just fine with HST -- the expense money was non-refundable. Payback, you see? ($300 was not a small sum in 1971, to say nothing of Thompson's stay at the Mint Hotel.)

The payback continued when the adventure begun at Sports Illustrated's expense was continued -- covering a drug-policy conference of district attorneys -- under the aegis of Rolling Stone.

It's kind of hard for young people today, who know Rolling Stone as a pop-culture magazine about as subversive as US Weekly, to understand how radically dangerous Rolling Stone was in 1971. At that time, merely to have a copy of Rolling Stone lying on your coffee table would have been considered "probable cause."

So HST takes a trip to Vegas at the expense of the Time-Life empire, and then sells the resulting story to Rolling Stone, where it is met with rave reviews. Such is the acclaim for HST's story that he is able to sell it to Random House as the book that fulfills his long-overdue contract, and the rest is Gonzo history.

A triple-burn, you see: HST essentially forced staid, respectable Random House to publish what amounted to a counter-cultural manifesto.

But of course, it wasn't really about the drugs. It was about one writer's revenge on the idiotic editors and clueless publishers who had failed to see his talent back in the days when his career choices amounted to either $75 a week at the Jersey Shore Herald or $50 a week as a copyboy at Time.

HST's appeal to youth

I think this factor goes a long way toward explaining HST's enduring appeal to young writers, or young would-be writers. Let's face it, a writer's life can be a desperate thing, especially for a young unknown. An honest career counselor would tell any student with a top-notch verbal SAT score, "Look, kid, trust me -- you don't really want to be a writer. Law school, that's the way to go."

I've never been one to indulge any romantic nonsense about "suffering for your art" -- c'mon, I'm talking about the newspaper business, not the Sistine Chapel -- but anybody who wants to get ahead as a writer ultimately will have to pay their dues somewhere along the way. Maybe there's some easy way to success that I've overlooked, but every time a young wunderkind comes along, I reflexively expect a crash-and-burn to follow.

Somehow, though, it seems the "American Idol syndrome" -- that Warholian world of reality TV where 22-year-olds explode into overnight celebrities on a weekly basis -- has affected everyone. Nowadays, Washington, DC, is full of kids fresh out of college who think they'll be condemned as failures if they don't have a book deal, a syndicated column and a regular cable-news spot by the time they're 25. And I suppose similar conditions prevail in New York and Los Angeles and every other place where lots of young, talented people gather. Instant fame and instant success are the expected rewards.

OK, kids: Screw you. You're not better than Hunter S. Thompson and, therefore, whatever career hell you have to go through -- whatever obscure, underpaid, beneath-your-dignity gigs you have to work to pay the bills -- is not an injustice.

You are not being oppressed or ripped off. You are not a victim. You're just suffering the fate of young talent in every age. And if you're thinking in terms of payback and revenge, don't worry: Hunter S. Thompson already took care of that.

Just read and enjoy, kids. You'll get your turn one day.

Natalie Portman on a slim pretext

Donald Douglas of American Power is a blogger after my own heart:
This post is mainly just a chance to write about Natalie Portman. I mean she personifies eye candy!
Totally, dude! And I've got to admire a man who will seize on the flimsiest excuse to blog about a Hollywood hottie. In this case, it seems Miss Portman was featured in a New York Times story about celebrity activists:
In 2004, Natalie Portman, then a 22-year-old fresh from college, went to Capitol Hill to talk to Congress on behalf of the Foundation for International Community Assistance, or Finca, a microfinance organization for which she served as “ambassador.” She found herself wondering what she was doing there, but her colleagues assured her: “We got the meetings because of you.” For lawmakers, Natalie Portman was not simply a young woman — she was the beautiful Padmé from “Star Wars.” “And I was like, ‘That seems totally nuts to me,’ ” Portman told me recently. It’s the way it works, I guess. I’m not particularly proud that in our country I can get a meeting with a representative more easily than the head of a nonprofit can.”
Microfinancing? Cool. Princess Amidala talking about microfinancing? Awesome.

What we need is a free-market think tank in Hollwyood that sponsors celebrity parties and introduces movie stars to the ideas of people like Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell. I mean, just imagine Scarlett Johansen testifying before Congress about the importance of de-regulation and eliminating the corporate tax.

Yeah, it's a fantasy. But isn't that what show business is all about?

UPDATE: If you're going to do babe-blogging, you might as well do it right, so I'm going to make some important points here:
  • First, what is it with the pouty look? Don't get me wrong, Natalie Portman can do the smoldering pouty look with the best of them. But she's also got a beautiful smile. So why do the photographers and magazine editors always prefer to show her pouting.
  • Second, the gossip site Egotastic does an invidious cleavage comparison between Natalie Portman and her Boleyn co-star Scarlett Johansen. What's up with that? Is Egotastic trying to suggest that every woman in Hollywood must be a silicon queen? Is a B-cup not enough, even for a world-class beauty like Natalie Portman? (C'mon, guys: What's to complain about?)
  • Third, am I the only one offended by the ahistorical Women's Studies lecture that intrudes into this Boleyn trailer?

UPDATE II: Here I was, merely indulging in gratuitous babe-blogging when, by force of habit, I decided to do some actual research and discovered that Miss Portman’s status as the favorite Hollywood hottie of right-wing neocons (like Donald Douglas) is no accident.

Yeah, that’s right: She’s Israeli-American. She told Rolling Stone she considers Jerusalem her true home. And, although she tries to be politically correct about it, she’s definitely a Zionist:

Recent events in Israel have troubled Portman deeply. "Anytime anything happens to anyone there, it's like a limb's been ripped off," she says. She adds, perhaps concerned that her entire political position should be assumed from this: "I'm very protective of Israel, obviously, but I'm more protective of humanity than of any of my own personal desires."
Her Wikipedia entry states Miss Portman’s name in Hebrew. Even though my Hebrew’s a little rusty, I’m pretty sure her Hebrew name translates to Super-Hot Sabra.

Obviously, Miss Portman is part of a Mossad/Hollywood conspiracy to undermine worldwide anti-Semitism. Little kids in Egypt and Iran even now are watching “Star Wars” and saying to themselves, “Wow, that Princess Amidala is so beautiful.” They internalize her as an ideal, and then they get a little older and find out she’s Israeli -- completely sabotages that genocidal jihadist mentality, you see.

So, by the most providential accident, I’ve stumbled onto a new argument in my “Hotties For Peace” campaign. The first argument being the original “gee hottie,” Fawzia Mohamed, Miss Egypt 2006. How can you hate people, when their women are so incredibly hot?

Obama: No VP

This is big news:
While in Casper, Wyo., today Sen. Barack Obama ruled out the possibility being a vice presidential candidate during an interview with CBS' Montana affiliate KTVQ. . . .
Q: Could you ever see yourself on the same ticket as Senator Clinton?
A: Well, you know, I think it’s premature. You won’t see me as a vice presidential candidate -- you know, I’m running for president. We have won twice as many states as Senator Clinton, and have a higher popular vote, and I think we can maintain our delegate count -- but you know, what I’m really focused on right now, because all that stuff is premature, is winning this nomination and changing the country. . . .
OK, candidates often say things they don't really mean. So there's the possibility that, if Hillary manages to win the nomination, Obama will change his mind about the No. 2 spot on the ticket.

However, consider the possibilities if Obama is serious about refusing the running-mate role. This is a Democrat who got 87 percent of the black vote in Ohio. So if Hillary wangles enough super-delegates and wins do-overs in Michigan and Florida, won't Obama's supporters -- and especially his black supporters -- feel that he's been cheated out of the nomination? And then, for him to refuse to run on the same ticket with her . . .

If ever there was a time for the GOP to call on The Man of Steele, that would be it.

Off the bus, Bumiller!

How to fumble a "gotcha" question:

(Hat tip: Hot Air) What Elizabeth Bumiller of the New York Times was trying to do was to point out that, in May 2004, McCain had denied meeting with John Kerry to discuss the VP slot -- something that McCain has since admitted. That initial denial is the kind of inside-baseball thing that no one outside the press corps really cares about, and McCain -- who knows the cameras are rolling -- refuses to play along.

Good for him. And bad for Bumiller, who clearly becomes flustered and can't seem to remember the point of her question.

Fired Obama aide a 'rock star'?

The Los Angeles Times describes fired campaign aide Samantha Power:
If Obama has been dubbed the "rock star" candidate, Power might have been his rock star advisor. Born in Ireland and schooled at Yale and Harvard Law, she was founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard. The Times of London said she would have fit right in with the Kennedy clan. She once played basketball with actor George Clooney, a fellow Darfur activist.
Well, whoop-de-do! That just cinches it for me, folks. Yale, Harvard, blah, blah, blah. But when somebody's playing basketball with George Clooney -- ooh, superstar!

Frankly, what Power said -- calling Hillary a "monster" -- was a minor gaffe, and Obama should have stood behind her, rather than throwing her under the bus. But after losing Ohio and Texas, the Obama camp's a mite flinchy now.

It was interesting to read Power's bio. She believes "the United States should have done more to stop the devastating killing in Darfur and other places." Ah, so our foreign policy is not aggressive enough? You got to love the way liberals think.

Josh Marshall sees Power's exit as evidence that Hillary's got the decisive edge on Obama:
If boxing is our metaphor she's got him cornered on the ropes on one side of the ring and she's just landing punch after punch. And all he can manage are the defensive moves that her constant attacks dictate.

Hang on, Josh -- just a few days ago, Hillary was on the canvas and the ref was counting to 10. Now, she's the unbeatable world champ? Get grip, son.

New blog on the block

My friend John Vaught LaBeaume blogs with C.B. Murray at Election Dissection. It's pretty cool -- analyzing voter trends down to the district level.

The blog apparently dates back to 2006, but John just recently told me he was blogging, so it's new to me.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Burying the lede

Ralph Z. Hallow reports on Crazy Cousin John's appearance before the Council for National Policy, but readers have to wait for the 11th paragraph before reading this:

The depth of disaffection from Mr. McCain among prominent members of CNP is so strong that some are already questioning the group's bona fides.

"It will say more about the state of the conservative movement than it does McCain," a veteran CNP member said. "If he is accepted at CNP, this will mark the official end of the conservative movement as we knew it."

Perhaps a little overdramatic, but that's the dilemma the McCain campaign presents to conservatives. If they endorse him, it undermines their credibility as conservatives. If they don't endorse him, they'll be accused of being spoilsports, "not a team player."

This is all McCain's fault. He took those non-conservative positions -- supporting campaign-finance "reform," voting against tax cuts, sponsoring amnesty for illegals, etc. -- with the full knowledge that those moves would make him anathema to major segments of the GOP base. He then sought the GOP presidential nomination, counting on crossover votes to win Republican primaries in New Hampshire and elsewhere.

He is responsible for what he's done, and no conservative should allow themselves to be guilt-tripped about it.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

'Idol' gay gossip

Lisa De Moraes, writing in The Other Paper, has fun today mocking the Asssociated Press's breathless coverage of the "scandalous" discovery that "American Idol" contestant David Hernandez once worked as a stripper in an Arizona nightclub with "mostly male" clientele.

The real story the AP is pushing, of course, is not what Hernandez did to pay the bills in Phoenix. What they're trying to do -- and their reporter Derrik Lang is not being even slightly subtle about it -- is to turn "American Idol" into yet another venue for gay identity politics.

I think I speak for the overwhelming majority of Americans when I say that I don't care what or who David Hernandez does in his private life. He is a singer, and all that really matters (or what should really matter, from the perspective of the listener) is how well he sings. And I suppose Hernandez feels the same way.

The Gay Gestapo, however, won't let Hernandez have his privacy, because in their totalitarian worldview, privacy is not allowed. The Gay Gestapo demands that every homosexual in public life must declare his sexual preference, in order to serve as a "role model" for others. Those who wish to be discreet (or noncommital) about their private lives are condemned as cowards "in the closet," and thus traitors to the Great Gay Cause.

This ethos of identity and "outing" is totalitarian, as I say, because it demands conformity, tolerates no dissent, and relentlessly propagandizes. Notice that it wasn't some Christian fundamentalist morality squad that "outed" Hernandez as an ex-stripper. No, it was a Hollywood bureau reporter for the AP, that famous bastion of liberal media enlightenment.

I'm very much reminded of the "Is Kevin Spacey gay?" rumors of a few years ago. Kevin Spacey is a great actor, and it never occurred to me even to wonder whether he was gay until the Hollywood rumor mill started cranking about it. But the Gay Gestapo and its "outing" ethos insists that we all must know these things.

If some celebrity voluntarily decides to go public with their sex life, they're free to do so. Melissa Etheridge, Elton John, Boy George, Ellen DeGeneres -- hey, it's a free country. But this business of trying to force people to "come out" is absurd, and if the AP and Derrik Lang think they're fooling anybody about what they're doing, they'd better think again.

As for my own personal preferences ... well, Egotastic has some nice pics today of Kim Kardashian. So I'll "out" myself as being in agreement with Sir Mix-a-Lot about the aesthetic virtues of the ladies who've "got back."

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Eyewitness testimony

My friend Sean Higgins of Investors Business Daily, guest-blogging at, offers this testimonial to the vocal prowess of the DC Karaoke King:
If you ever have a chance to watch Robert Stacy McCain perform Karaoke, you must take it. I don’t care if you are rescuing drowning puppies; go, just go.
Sean was in the house last week at Rockit Grill in Old Town Alexandria for my "Return From Africa" performance, which I opened with an all-out rendition of my signature tune.

With all due modesty, it wasn't bad. Peter Redpath of the Federalist Society and Richard Miniter also praised my initial performance. Later in the evening, however, exhaustion set in and my voice became so hoarse I sounded like Joe Cocker when I tried to sing Van Morrison's "Brown-Eyed Girl." I should have taken a nap that afternoon.

Race, Rush, Hillary & Hugh

Jonathan Chait, Matthew Yglesias and Maureen Dowd all depict the Democratic primary battle between Hillary and Obama in terms of race and gender.

Yglesias takes the cake with his assertion that Hillary won because of "the crucial racist vote." This is based wholly on an MSNBC exit poll that showed 20 percent of Ohio Democratic primary voters Tuesday said the race of the candidate was important, and of those, Clinton topped Obama by a 14-point margin, 57-43.

Question: Has Matthew Yglesias ever studied statistics? Because if my math is correct, 14 percent of 20 percent is 2.8 percent, which is surely less than the margin of error in that exit poll.
Given the inherent sampling problems, exit polls are very hard to read, and you certainly can't put a lot of faith in a 14-point gap on the 35th question in a survey. If you get a 2-to-1 margin on a question like that, OK, then maybe it's fair to declare that a "crucial" factor. But 14 percent? No way.

Besides which, you can't say those are "racist" voters, because there's no demographic breakdown of the respondents on that question. It's well known that many black Democrats are supporting Hillary because they don't think America will elect a black candidate. So it may well have been black voters (and Hillary got 12% of the black vote in Ohio, according to that poll) who gave Hillary her edge on that question. Either way, it's still just an exit poll, and as such, it's too flimsy evidence to justify hurling the word "racist" around (even if it's amusing to see Democrats called "racist" for supporting the wife of Our First Black President).

Meanwhile, Hugh Hewitt appears shocked at the thought that Rush Limbaugh's radio campaign to encourage Republicans to vote for Hillary in the Democratic primaries may have actually saved her hopes for the nomination.

The difference between Hugh and Rush, I think, boils down to this: Hewitt is a linear thinker, whose natural tendency is to plot the most direct and efficient path from Point A to Point B. Limbaugh, on the other hand, is an improvisational thinker, always considering contingencies and alternatives, trying to keep his options open as he looks forward to a future of unanticipated outcomes.

If you're a football fan, you could compare Hewitt to a classic dropback quarterback (Johnny Unitas) who stays in the pocket, counts on his blockers to contain the pressure and looks for the assigned receiver, whereas Limbaugh is like Fran Tarkenton or Ken Stabler, calling audibles, scrambling out toward the sidelines, changing the play even after the ball is snapped.

If you're a real football fan, you know that most Super Bowls are won by classic-type quarterbacks, who also account for most quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame. But there are exceptions to the rule, and in 1977 Stabler -- the left-handed wild man from Foley, Alabama, they called the "Snake" -- led the Oakland Raiders to victory in Super Bowl XI over Fran Tarkenton's Minnesota Vikings. (Tarkenton's in the NFL Hall of Fame; why Stabler has been snubbed three times by Canton is puzzling.)

So while Limbaugh's (tactical) endorsement of Hillary may seem mysterious to some people -- including a Johnny U. kind of guy like Hugh Hewitt -- I remain confident in Rush. His latest move make look as crazy as Stabler or Tarkenton scrambling on a broken play, but Limbaugh knows exactly what he's doing.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

President? No, he wants to blog

Peach Pundit is the go-to source for all things political in my native Georgia, and it's from Peach Pundit's Jason Pye that I just learned Bob Barr is now blogging for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Stephen Gordon of Third Party watch had this last week, but somehow I missed it.)

This is bad news for the "Draft Barr" movement in the Libertarian Party. I mean, what kind of libertarian would have anything to do with the Atlanta papers? It's like blogging for Pravda.

The AJC (known to locals as the "Atlanta Urinal-Constipation") used to be a great newspaper, before control of the operation fell into the hands of Anne Cox Chambers, a billionaire socialite who apparently hates everything about Georgia, right down to the kudzu and red clay.

That things had gone hopelessly wrong at 72 Marietta Street became obvious in 1994, following the death of Lewis Grizzard. (If you don't know who Lewis Grizzard was, I'll just explain that the most famous son of Moreland, Ga., was a hugely popular columnist and author, as funny as Dave Barry and as Southern as grits.)

At the time of Grizzard's death in March 1994, I was working at the Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune. The speculation was rampant: How will the AJC replace Grizzard? Who will get the call to try to fill the gigantic shoes of the most popular journalist in the South? I figured the odds were they'd at least try to hire Dave Barry away from the Miami Herald. Yeah, Barry's from New York, but he is definitely funny.

My darkhorse pick to fill the Grizzard slot at the AJC was Rick Bragg, who at that point was an Associated Press regional reporter. I'd been slightly acquainted with Rick when we both attended Jacksonville (Ala.) State University. Even then, he had been a working journalist for years, stringing high school sports for the local papers as a teenager before becoming a staffer for the Anniston Star.

Bragg eventually won a Pulitzer Prize (1996) and published a best-selling memoir, All Over But the Shoutin'. I don't know if Bragg had ever done humor, but he shared Grizzard's (generally underrated) genius for narrative writing. Also like Grizzard, Bragg was, and is, a newspaperman to his fingertips. The raw deal he got from the New York Times in 2003 -- over what's called a "toe-touch dateline" -- was a screaming injustice, and Bragg's decision to resign was fully justified.

Anyway, in 1994, after Grizzard's shocking death at age 47, I was kind of hoping maybe the AJC would offer that columnist gig to Rick Bragg. What happened next ... oh. Words can't express my mortification.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson. When that name was announced, my reaction was the same as thousands of other Georgians: "Who the ---- is Rheta Grimsley Johnson?"

Don't get me wrong. I'm sure Ms. Johnson is a nice woman. She's won awards for her writing, and occasionally she'll even write something funny. But no way could she ever be acceptable as a substitute for Grizzard. She's not even close. She's not even in the same journalistic universe.

Except for those rare times when he'd write a tear-jerker, Grizzard reliably supplied at least three laugh-out-loud lines per column. Sometimes, he'd get five good laugh lines into a 700-word column. Anybody who thinks that's easy has never tried to do it. I used to do occasional humor columns for the Rome paper, and getting three good laughs in 700 words is almost a miracle. Grizzard accomplished that feat column after column, three columns a week. He did this for more than 15 years, during which time he also published more than 20 books, did hundreds of speaking engagements, and appeared on numerous TV shows.

To replace someone like Grizzard with someone like Rheta Grimsley Johnson -- it was simply unthinkable, an insult, an expression of the AJC management's profound contempt for its readership.

It was that blunderheaded decision, in 1994, that made me realize that whatever future I had in journalism, it wouldn't be in Georgia. The state's largest and most prestigious paper had just pimp-slapped every literate person in Georgia, effectively announcing that the AJC had ceased to care about providing its readers with a newspaper that respected their interests and values. Yeah, there had been ill omens before then -- i.e., the absurd tenure of the pretentious Bill Kovach -- but the Rheta Grimsley Johnson hire was like a Vegas-style neon sign, 100 feet tall and bright enough to be seen from space.

The subsequent decline of the Atlanta papers was foreshadowed the day they announced that move in 1994. Perhaps other papers in the U.S. have lost more circulation or ad revenue, or laid off more of their staff. But all this has happened at the AJC during two decades when the Atlanta metropolitan area has experienced astronomical growth in population and wealth. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has declined for one reason and one reason only: It's a lousy newspaper that gets worse every day.

Why Bob Barr would associate himself with such a third-rate publication is hard to understand. Maybe he should try to pitch his blog to the Marietta Daily Journal. Yeah, Otis Brumby is a tight-fisted tyrant, but at least he never foisted Rheta Grimsley Johnson on his readers.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


What is 37.4%? That's the share of the popular vote that the first President Bush got in 1992 during his doomed re-election bid. The final results in 1992 were:
  • Bill Clinton.........43.0%
  • George Bush.....37.4%
  • Ross Perot.........18.9%
That was the low ebb of the Republican Party in the modern era. While the 1964 Goldwater campaign was considered a disaster, good old AuH2O got 38.5% -- demonstrating, I would argue, that even an "extreme right-winger" (as Goldwater was depicted by the media in '64) is more popular than a clueless "centrist."

Back when Crazy Cousin John was still only one of five main candidates for the GOP nomination, this bit of history was in the back of my mind while I was trying to warn Republicans against the dangers of a McCain candidacy.

Another bit of political history -- Bob Dole's 40.7% in 1996 -- was even more in my mind, since there are so many similarities between the Dole and McCain candidacies. Both are war heroes, both were "Establishment" choices in overcrowded primary fields, neither was exactly a darling of the conservative grassroots, et cetera.

Some readers are now saying, "Wait a minute! The pitiful numbers posted by Bush 41 in 1992 and by Dole in 1996 both occurred in three-way races with Ross Perot getting more than 10% of the vote. Where's the third-party threat that could hurt McCain that way in 2008?"

Apparently you weren't paying attention when I posted this story Feb. 11:
Bob Barr, who helped lead the 1998 impeachment of President Clinton, is the object of an alliance of conservative and libertarians seeking to recruit the former Georgia Republican congressman as a third-party presidential candidate.
Now an Atlanta-based activist with the Libertarian Party, Barr has repeatedly disavowed any intention of seeking the LP's 2008 presidential nomination. . . .
However, efforts to push a Barr candidacy were given new impetus last week when Rep. Ron Paul sent a letter to his supporters announcing plans to scale back his Republican presidential campaign and concentrate on his congressional re-election fight in Texas.
Several organizers behind the draft-Barr movement were supporters of the Paul presidential campaign. Last week, Barr introduced Paul at the 35th annual Conservative Political Action Conference, calling the Texas congressman "the Constitution's best friend" and "the gold standard of conservatism" in the GOP presidential campaign. ... (READ MORE)
An activist with the draft-Barr movement said last week the question now boils down to how much money they can raise, and how fast they can raise it. Given that they're tapping into some of the same online fundraising machinery that helped make Ron Paul's GOP candidacy so newsworthy, I'd be willing to wager that they'll clear that hurdle easily.

So think about that 37.4% number for Bush 41. Ross Perot was a pseudo-populist eccentric running on a vanity-party slate, yet in 1992 he got more than 18% of the vote. Now imagine Bob Barr -- a former member of the House Judiciary Committee, former federal prosecutor and one-time CIA employee -- running on the ticket of the Libertarians, the largest and most enduring third party in America.

The Libertarian Party holds its convention May 22-26 in Denver. The draft-Barr people know that if they want Barr to make a serious effort for the LP nomination, they've got to work fast. If the McCainiacs and the big-money GOP Establishment are not sleeping easily, it's not just indigestion from all that barbecue they ate Sunday.

There is an online Barr For President petition here.

Previous coverage at Peach Pundit and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Here is video of Bob Barr introducing Ron Paul at CPAC:

UPDATE 8:15 a.m.: Headline of the day (via Memeorandum):

Of media and 'experts'

The headline on this Associated Press item (via Memeorandum) is "Media Expert Decries Campaign Coverage," but whatever you say about Walter Shorenstein, his expertise is in real-estate development, not media.

The AP describes him as "founder of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University." More importantly, and far more relevant to the story, Shorenstein is a bigtime Democratic donor (to Hillary Clinton, among others), ranked among the top 20 political donors by Mother Jones in 2001.

Don Surber mocks the AP story:
Democratic fund-raiser complains about media bias.
A complaint about the media’s bias came from one of the Hill-raisers — Walter Shorenstein, “a prominent San Francisco-based real estate developer,” as the AP described him. . . .
Until Shorenstein is willing to take on the media for its bias against conservatives, this is more whining from a Hillary camp that underestimated the power of Barack Obama.
This story well deserves mocking.