Saturday, April 5, 2008

Death by blogging

Hysterical (in both senses of the word):
Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December.
Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet.
Oh, the horrible stress of it all! Forget about global warming. Forget about famine in Africa. We must find a solution to . . . The Blog Crisis!

Leave it to the New York Times to find eeevvilll capitalist exploitation wherever people work for a living:
Blogging has been lucrative for some, but those on the lower rungs of the business can earn as little as $10 a post, and in some cases are paid on a sliding bonus scale that rewards success with a demand for even more work. . . .
Some write for fun, but thousands write for Web publishers — as employees or as contractors — or have started their own online media outlets with profit in mind.
Bloggers for such sites are often paid for each post, though some are paid based on how many people read their material. They build that audience through scoops or volume or both.
Some sites, like those owned by Gawker Media, give bloggers retainers and then bonuses for hitting benchmarks, like if the pages they write are viewed 100,000 times a month. Then the goal is raised, like a sales commission: write more, earn more.
Let's see, Wal-Mart is evil because it sells stuff cheap and isn't unionized, and Starbucks is evil because it sells expensive coffee and isn't unionized. The pattern of New York Times-disapproved capitalist exploitation is clear. Obviously, there can be only one solution to The Blog Crisis:
You have nothing to lose
. . . but your pajamas!
This message paid for by the International Amalgamated Blogworkers Guild, Local 374.

UPDATE: See-Dubya guestslaveblogging for Malkin:
Actually, blogging is kind of therapeutic. . . . Some people do yoga; I pound the keyboard. The blood pressure goes down either way.
"Some people do yoga"? Right-wing homophobic code words, obviously. Once you understand his repressive theocratic agenda, you know that what See-Dubya really means is: "Pinko faggots who should be be deprived of their civil rights do yoga."

UPDATE II: James Joyner links, and notes the observation of Swaraaj Chauhan:
To me blogging is a pure joy. I have been a working journalist for most of my life but now find that the mainstream media has undergone a sea change, and those who learnt the professional nuances in the pre-1980 era have little opportunity to contribute. . . .
I had almost begun to feel left out three years ago in the absence of a platform to write. . . . So in this way blogs can get people out of stress and listlessness.
Two great points there:
  • Blogging can be a stress-relieving outlet for people who feel a desire to share their views in writing.
  • Compared to life in a newsroom, blogging is a walk in the park.
I disagree, however, with Chauhan's assertion that older journalists "have little opportunity to contribute." This is a misunderstanding of the actual situation: The print journalism industry is shrinking, and has been shrinking for 20 years, which makes upward mobility problematic. Older journalists can still work, but they're expected to work with the intensity and enthusiasm of 25-year-olds -- and for the same crappy pay that 25-year-olds get.

Speaking of which, an editor called me this morning with an assignment, one that requires real research and real writing. Oh, the horrible stress of it all . . .

UPDATE III: OK, I completed the first five paragraphs of my "real writing" assignment, so now it's time to goof off some more by reading Little Miss Atilla's suggestion to stressed-out, overweight bloggers:
Hint: have your readers send you gin, instead of snacks. That'll help.
Easy on the gin, sweetheart. We know what happens when you get into the gin. If only we had pictures . . .

Speaking of pictures, Fausta has pictures of stressed-out bloggers living it up at a blog conference in New Jersey. OK, maybe they weren't "living it up." It's New Jersey, after all.

Like that 'Hee-Haw' song

Gloom, despair and agony on me!
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery!
If it weren't for bad luck,
I'd have no luck at all!
Gloom, despair and agony on me!

That seems to have been Saturday's theme at The American Spectator Online, in response to Jeffrey Hart's piece at The American Conservative.

Christopher Orlet began by asking if " 'young conservative intellectuals' . . . are as gloomy about the movement's future as is the old guard?" J.P. Freire responded by noting Hart's surprisingly savage attack on Rush Limbaugh, and remarked:
"[I]t's curious that the older conservatives are gloomy. The ideas are still salient -- so who cares about political power? Us young folk got all the time in the world."
James Antle weighed in by naming Ann Coulter as an example of "cookie-cutter Republican cheerleaders"(!) and said:
I see leftward trends in American politics, an overidentification of conservatism with the electoral interests of the Republican Party, and so many conservatives seemingly resigned to government growth, it's hard not to feel a little gloomy.
Being neither young nor an intellectual, I suppose I'm imposing myself on the discussion, but what the heck?
  • Antle is correct in seeing the current trends as hostile to conservatism. I would amend his first clause to read "leftward trends in American culture," because I believe culture dominates politics rather than the other way around.
  • Friere is correct that young conservatives like himself -- he's about 25 years old -- are very optimistic. Anyone who thinks that the cause of conservatism is hopelessly lost should spend time around college conservatives, who tend to be gleefully combative.
  • The post-9/11 security debate and the war in Iraq have highlighted the divisions in the conservative movement, while uniting liberals. Paleos and neos had been uneasy allies for years, but this internecine feud went spectacularly public after David Frum published his "Unpatriotic Conservatives" attack. (Did any paleo think of "Unconservative Patriots" as a title for a rejoinder to Frum?) It is possible for conservatives to hope that (a) the neos have learned a lesson from the disappointment of their more sanguine predictions for Iraq, and (b) the paleos have gained ground in the process, so that the postwar internecine feud might be somewhat more balanced.
  • The Bush administration has been bad for conservatism. Almost from Inauguration Day, Dubya has done things that have gone 180 degrees against the sentiments of grassroots conservatives (e.g., No Child Left Behind). Many times I've found myself in arguments with liberals who would cite some specific Bush policy and taunt me, "How can you be in favor of that?" To which I'd answer, "But I'm not in favor of that. And neither is Phyllis Schlafly, or Pat Buchanan, or Paul Weyrich, or . . . ." Conservatives can therefore be grateful that the Bush years are near an end.
The causes of conservative gloom are easy enough to see, but despair is not warranted. Things are looking bad just now, but things were also looking bad in 1959, 1965, 1974, 1993, etc. There is every reason to hope for improvement. As a great man once said, "It is history that teaches us to hope."

Barr Campaign HQ

Reason magazine's David Weigel offers "four ways [Bob] Barr can avoid Ron Paul's mistakes," and you can click over to read for yourself.

The trend of political journalists offering unsolicited advice to politicians is nothing new. I've said before that I "dislike it when journalists do the armchair-strategist routine with campaigns," and criticized Jim Antle when he seemed to be "acting as an unpaid advisor to the McCain campaign." But since everybody with a press pass seems to be getting in on this game . . .

Top 5 Campaign Strategies
Rejected by Bob Barr

5. Pro-Skinny-Dipping -- An unnamed Barr adviser, eager to solicit the "youth vote" and emphasize that Barr has made a clean break with his Republican past, suggested that the congressman go skinny-dipping at Daytona Beach during Spring Break. Idea rejected after polling showed the "youth vote" was strongly opposed to seeing a 59-year-old man naked.
4. Barr Cigars -- Seeking to capitalize on Barr's role in the 1998 impeachment of Bill Clinton, a New York tobacco merchant suggested the idea of distributing "100% Lewinsky-free" cigars endorsed by Barr. Nixed because Kerry Howley complained of the gimmick's "misogynistic overtones."
3. "Campaign Shoot-Out" -- Highlighting the NRA board member's pro-Second Amendment stance, this projected reality show would have pitted Barr in a series of target-shooting matches against rival candidates, using a variety of firearms, including .50-caliber machine guns. Other campaigns inexplicably refused to participate. "No comment," said an Obama adviser. "Figure it out for yourself."
2. Karaoke Fund-Raiser Party -- Hoping to cash in on the "American Idol" craze, Libertarian strategists planned a $50-a-ticket "Karaoke Barr" night in Northern Virginia with Barr as the featurer performer. Event canceled after a campaign aide heard Barr practicing "The Surrey With The Fringe On Top."
1. Ulitimate Fighting Debate -- This was Barr's own idea -- a "No-Holds-Barr-ed" grudge match against Hillary Clinton. Advisers talked the candidate out of it by pointing out that (a) Hillary outweighs him by at least 20 pounds, and (b) Hillary might actually look better in spandex shorts.

Bob Barr IS runnning

UPDATE 4:55: Associated Press picks up the news, and Barr posts a video message:

Strong rhetoric, calling John McCain "part of the problem, part of the status quo, more of the same." He calls Obama "an empty suit" and says Hillary is "no leader."

The Hill's Walter Alarkon also has a news report.

UPDATE 3:58: Barr announces formation of his presidential exploratory committee, after quoting Dante on the perils of remaining neutral in "times of great moral crisis." The streaming video was kind of crappy. Will update momentarily with the press release.

UPDATE 4:25: Finally, the long-promised press release:

Barr Announces Presidential Exploratory Committee

Kansas City, MO – Addressing Midwestern activists at the Heartland Libertarian Conference today, former Congressman Bob Barr announced the launch of the Bob Barr 2008 Presidential Exploratory Committee (

In his speech, Barr noted that, "America today faces a grave moral and leadership crisis, and those of us who care about our country's future can no longer sit on the sidelines and remain neutral."
"As Dante Alighieri said many centuries ago,” Barr observed, "the hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality." Continuing, Barr stated that, "some say it is not now expedient or politically pragmatic to do the right thing, for the right reason."
But, he then asked his audience, "When has there been a better time? When has the risk of inaction carried more serious consequences? When will it be appropriate to take extraordinary steps? What must happen to our Constitution before we set aside our complacency and expediency in favor of principle?"
Barr represented the 7th District of Georgia in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003, where he served as a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, as Vice-Chairman of the Government Reform Committee, and as a member of the Committee on Financial Services. Prior to his congressional career, Barr was appointed by President Reagan to serve as the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, and also served as an official with the CIA for nearly eight years.
Since leaving Congress, Barr has been practicing law and actively advocating American citizens' right to privacy and other civil liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. He serves also as a board member for the National Rifle Association, and works with the American Conservative Union and other groups.
Barr's speech to the Heartland audience touched on the issues the candidates for the two major status quo parties have not addressed sufficiently, namely: the urgent need for truly cutting the size of the federal government, protecting our civil liberties, securing our borders, and fundamentally reforming our tax code.
"Removing 'earmarks' but not cutting the underlying spending is simply government as usual and is nothing more than a cynical shell game," Barr stated; adding, "and that's the high water mark in the debate thus far." Barr said this is not adequate, and that America’s voters deserve better than a choice between "the lesser of two evils."
The Libertarian Party, America's oldest and largest third party, formed in 1971, is on track to achieve ballot access in at least 48 states. Its nominee will be chosen at the Libertarian National Convention which will be held in Denver, CO May 22 through 26.

UPDATE 3:52: Barr is now speaking live in Kansas City.

UPDATE 3:45: Barr's presidential Web site just went live with this message:
Thank you for visiting the official web site of the Barr 2008 President Exploratory Committee!
Our staff is working tirelessly to establish a strong foundation of support for authentic Liberty in America, which has been too long absent from our Nation’s Capitol. We truly need the support of patriotic Americans who want to restore our government to its proper size and role.
To this end, I ask that you help me take our message of abundant freedom, true hope and government restraint to Washington with your most generous contribution.
Together, with your help, we will send the two-party system a message.
A member of the Barr entourage in Kansas City just promised me (again) I'd get the press release soon.

UPDATE 4:10 p.m.: Weigel links me and observes of the Barr Web site:
It looks a whole lot like Ron Paul's site. Liked "Hope for America?" Hey, try some "Liberty for America."
(Yeah, I know, my updates aren't in any time sequence. They are, however, in logical sequence.)

UPDATE 2:30 p.m. (and bumped): Reason magazine says the announcement will be streaming on live video 3:50 p.m. EDT. A source in Kansas City says that a press release will be e-mailed to me momentarily.

While awaiting the announcement, feel free to peruse my insightful analysis, "Bob Barr: Threat or Menace?"

UPDATE 2:50 p.m.: The Atlantic Monthly has a reflection on Bob Barr's candidacy by Reihan Salam, a contributor to America's Future Foundation's magazine Doublethink.

UPDATE 1:20 p.m.: Barr is scheduled to make his announcement speech in Kansas City at 3:30 p.m. Eastern (2:30 p.m. Central). More updates below.
* * * * *
Maybe Dave Weigel didn't make it clear enough in his Thursday post at Reason, but Bob Barr will be a candidate for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination.

Today (Saturday), the Barr campaign plans to announce the formation of an exploratory committee and Barr's people have alerted TV networks that his speech in Kansas City will be newsworthy.

It seems necessary to state this clearly because -- more than 24 hours after Weigel got the scoop -- I'm still reading tentative headlines like:

Bob Barr for president? Maybe
(Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Ex-Congressman Weighs Presidential Bid
(Associated Press)

Bob Barr to enter presidential race?
(CBS News)

Suggestion to the MSM: Stop with all the question marks, and try contacting some Libertarian Party sources -- you know, what used to be called reporting. You might find out, for instance, that there has actually been a poll of Libertarian Party activists (including LP national convention delegates):
Barr received 29.7 percent of the vote, followed by Root with 21.7 percent. Ruwart trailed a little bit behind Root, with 17.1 percent. She was followed by Phillies at 8.6 percent. Kubby and Gravel tied at 4 percent. They were followed by Jingozian, Smith and then Hess.
In head-to-head matchups, Barr clearly outperformed both Root and Ruwart. Barr received 48 percent of the vote, defeating Root with 30.9 percent. Barr received 48 percent, defeating Ruwart with 37.7 percent of the vote.
Barr has not officially announced his plans, because he's saving that announcement until the time and place of his choosing (i.e., today in Kansas City), but he's definitely running. I expect to be e-mailed a press release in a few hours, but I don't need a press release to report the facts.

For the record, the first news article about efforts to draft Barr for the LP presidential race was published Feb. 11. I wrote that article three days after I got the first tip while walking along the 1300 block of F Street NW. Shoe-leather reporting, Old School, that's me.

UPDATE 3:20 p.m. 4/5: Daniel Larison at The American Conservative is worried:
The fear of “irrelevance” or playing a “spoiler” role may overwhelm the desire for real representation, but that fear needs to be resisted. The way to make the antiwar right irrelevant is if we back a candidate that is either pro-war or not on the right. . . .
[W]hat worries me is the perception and the spin of the outcome that will blame any McCain defeat on Barr rather than on the appalling policies of this administration and McCain’s embrace of them.
Fear and loathing is not an unfamiliar phenomenon in election years. The problem with Larison, and other political worrywarts, is that they take this stuff far too seriously. Politics is far more enjoyable if you simply focus on the spectacle of the campaign, the carnival aspect of elections. If you want to put this stuff in proper perspective, a bit of small-stakes gambling always helps. Stop worrying about the fate of humanity and start worrying about whether you'll lose $10 in the office pool.

4/4: Bob Barr: Threat or menace?
4/3: 'Send 'em a message'?
4/3: Barr to announce?
3/27: Barr bandwagon rolling?
3/26: What about Bob?
2/11: Paulistas say, 'Why not Bob?'

MLK's 'awesome radicalism'?

Rick Perlstein wants to "push back against the conservatives' excrescent Santa Clausification of Martin Luther King," so he quotes from his own forthcoming Nixon book, describing the 1968 crisis in Memphis brought about by the sanitation workers strke. Perlstein ends by saying:
I'm so, so proud to be a historian today, and to be able to do my own little part to wrench Martin Luther King's awesome radicalism out of the the blood-crusted arms of grubby clowns like David Brooks who dare try to embrace him.
(Via Memeorandum.) Being no great admirer of Brooks, the prophet of "National Greatness," far be it from me to leap to his defense, but I think Perlstein's criticism of Brooks highlights the inherent tension over MLK's historic legacy.

If America is to celebrate MLK as a universal hero, the celebration will inevitably revolve around King's 1963 "I Have A Dream" speech, and its vision of a color-blind America. Since liberals today are advocates of racial quotas and identity politics, then MLK of 1963 is hard to reconcile with the current liberal agenda.

On the other hand, in the context of his own time, King was an extremely controversial figure, widely suspected of communist sympathies. It was not until 1963, under pressure from the Kennedy administration, that MLK purged his staff of Communist Party members, including Jack O'Dell, who was identified as the fifth-ranking member of CPUSA.

Furthermore, Perlstein is correct in saying that the MLK of 1968 represented a "radicalism" that most conservative would not embrace. After all, the Memphis sanitation workers strike was a labor dispute involving municipal employees (the kind of stuff AFSCME does today) and as such was characterized by the sort of leftistclass-warfare rhetoric one might expect in such a situation.

MLK's legacy is thus a complex thing, and Perlstein's complaint raises an obvious question: If conservatives who "dare to try to embrace" King without endorsing King's "radicalism" are to be excoriated as "grubby clowns" engaged in "Santa Clausification," then why is John McCain apologizing for voting against the federal MLK holiday?

(BTW, in the book excerpts Perlstein quotes, he doesn't seem to put much emphasis on the fact that Lyndon Baines Johnson, who was president in 1968, was a liberal Democrat. Just thought I'd point that out. Anti-war protesters used to chant: "Hey, hey, LBJ! How many kids did you kill today?")

UPDATE: Hillary is moved to tears:
"Like many of you here who are of a certain age, I will never forget where I was when I heard Dr. King had been killed. I was a junior in college and I remember hearing about it and just feeling such despair,” Clinton said, pausing, her voice quivering. “I walked into my dorm room and took my book bag and hurled it across the room. It felt like everything had been shattered, like we would never be able to put the pieces together again."
She threw a bookbag! What "awesome radicalism"!

I was only a third-grader in April 1968, so I don't know if I was one of those "of a certain age" that Hillary meant. I remember seeing the news on TV that afternoon, then going outside to tell a neighbor kid, who replied by using a crude slur to refer to King and saying it was "about time" somebody shot him.

The neighbor kid's reaction shocked me then, and jt still shocks me to remember. My parents were reasonably liberal, considering the time and place -- this was Douglas County, Ga., in the 1960s -- but I don't imagine they were big fans of "awesome radicalism." However, my parents never tolerated the use of racial slurs; such language was considered low-class and uncouth.

After hearing the neighbor say what he said, I realized that he must have heard that kind of talk from his parents. It was shocking, as I said.

UPDATE II: Donald Douglas notes that the Left has used the 40th anniversary of King's assassination to portray America as "as an unmitigated evil, an irredeemable enormity, the greatest stain on human progress in world history."

Douglas also points out that Perlstein is a journalist, not an "academic historian," but I certainly don't hold think that Perlstein suffers by that distinction. Some of the greatest historians of the 20th century -- including William Shirer, Bruce Catton and Cornelius Ryan --were journalists and not academics. In my experience, academic historians are good researchers, but bad writers. There is a tendency of academic historians to get bogged down in details or distracted by historical "themes."

Friday, April 4, 2008

News update

Quick hits on Web news:

Raid on polygamist compound
ELDORADO, Texas (AP) — Child welfare officials following up on an abuse complaint took custody of 18 girls Friday who lived at a secretive West Texas religious retreat built by polygamist leader Warren Jeffs.
A total of 52 girls, ages 6 months to 17 years, were bused away on Friday to be interviewed, but only 18 were immediately taken into state custody . . .
How do you interview a 6-month-old? And have these polygamists sunk so low that they're now marrying 6-month-old girls? What does a 6-month-old wear to her wedding, bridal Pampers?

Clintons earned $109 since 2000
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and former President Clinton made nearly $109 million since they left the White House, capitalizing on the world's interest in the former first couple and lucrative business ventures. . . .
According to a summary of the seven years provided by the campaign, the former president's speech income since he left the White House totals $51.85 million and his income from his two books — "My Life " and "Giving" — totals $29.6 million, including a $15 million advance for "My Life." Bill Clinton has traveled the world, giving paid speeches to multinational corporations, investment banks and motivational groups.
Executives around the world pay big money to attend Bill's most popular motivational seminar: "How to Get Oral Sex From 20-Year-Olds in Your Office -- And Get Away With It."

Maliki halts raids of Shi'ite militias
Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki sought to defuse recent tensions among Iraq’s Shiites on Friday by suspending raids by government forces on militias, less than 24 hours after he threatened further raids.
In softening his tone, Mr. Maliki said in a statement that he was suspending raids “in order to give a chance to those who have repented and want to lay down their weapons.”
In related news, police in Los Angeles announced they had stopped arresting Crips and Bloods, to give them a chance to lay down their 9mms.

Bob Barr: Threat or menace?

An interesting exchange at The American Spectator blog over whether a Bob Barr presidential run on the Libertarian ticket would hurt John McCain.

Philip Klein:
The more I think about it, Bob Barr's apparent decision to enter the presidential race may be the worst news John McCain has gotten all year. . . .
If Barr enters the race and captures the Libertarian Party nomination, he will bring a 98 lifetime ACU rating to the table; he has served as a National Rifle Association board member; he sponsored the Defense of Marriage Act; Numbers USA notes that he, "usually supports less immigration, less population growth, less foreign labor" and has been a strong opponent of chain migration; and as far as I can tell, he has a solid pro-life voting record.
James Antle:
Bob Barr certainly could be a threat to John McCain, but it's worth noting that third-party candidates on the right have not done well in previous elections. Pat Buchanan, who is better known than Barr and did much better in the Republican primaries than Ron Paul, got 0.42 percent of the vote as the Reform Party nominee in 2000. . . .
The Libertarians' best showing in history, with Ed Clark in 1980, similarly failed to put a dent into Ronald Reagan. Even if you go back to George Wallace's 13.5 percent and 46 electoral votes in 1968, Nixon still won the presidency.
In the complete post, James offers an extensive history lesson on third-party candidates, but the problem with citing precedent in politics is that every election is different, so no historical analogy is perfect.

That may be especially true in this unprecedented year, when the Democrats will nominate either a woman or a black man, and when there is neither an incumbent president nor vice-president in the race. It's what George Carlin once called "vuja de": The peculiar feeling that this has never happened before.

Simply by being the Republican standard-bearer, John McCain faces three major disadvantages in 2008:
  • There's a war on. It's unpopular with Democrats, with independents, and with a minority of Republicans. (Ron Paul's best result was 14% in the Nevada caucuses.) John McCain is the pro-war candidate, and that puts him in a tough position from the start.
  • In the final year of a two-term Republican administration, the economy is on life-support, being propped up by unprecedented interventions from the Fed. (You should have heard how the crowd in Greensburg, Pa., cheered Hillary's class-warfare applause lines last week.) McCain faces a huge challenge to escape the political fallout of the mortgage crisis and economic slump.
  • The Democrats are hungry. Democrats have suffered a long streak of tough breaks, including the 2000 Florida recount, the 2002 midterm setback and Bush's re-election in 2004. Democrats' midterm victory in 2006 helped even the score, but the Dems still have an edge in what might be called emotional momentum. They're fired up; Republicans are not.
Regardless of who the GOP nominee is, this looks like a bad year for Republicans. But McCain has the additional disadvantage of having spent the past 10 years attacking the GOP's conservative base. He sponsored McCain-Feingold, he trashed religious conservatives as "agents of intolerance," he voted against tax cuts, he twice sponsored bills granting amnesty to illegals -- his ACU rating for 2006 was a meager 65, and his average ACU rating since 1998 was only 74.

McCain is clearly vulnerable to a challenger on his right, and the prospect that 2008 will be a bad year for Republicans only heightens his vulnerability. Here's why: If polls in October show McCain lagging substantially behind the Democratic candidate, many disgruntled conservatives will figure there's no hope for McCain anyway, so why not vote for Barr to show their dissatisfaction with the GOP?

If the October polls show a neck-and-neck race, conservatives who might not be huge John McCain fans will rally to his cause anyway, just to prevent the election of a Democrat. But if McCain is trailing badly, then a vote for Barr has no real consequence.

This was a big factor in what happened to Bob Dole in 1996. If the October polls had shown that Dole had a chance to defeat Clinton, Dole might have benefitted from the "rally effect." Instead, Clinton got 49%, Dole got 41% and third-party candidates (Ross Perot, Ralph Nader, Harry Browne, Howard Phillips, etc.) divvied up the other 10%.

In other words, a third-party challenge tends to hurt a major-party candidate mainly when the major-party candidate already looks like a loser. It's the opposite of a bandwagon effect (in which undecided voters trend toward the candidate who looks like a winner). There are many voters who wouldn't vote for any Democrat, but who also won't vote for a Republican who looks like a loser.

It is an ill omen for McCain that, having secured the GOP nomination while the Democrats are still badly divided, as of April 3 he is only polling even with Obama, and barely ahead of Hillary. His best hope is that the Democrats disintegrate in Denver, a la Chicago '68.

Speaking of 1968, Antle's analogy is misapplied. Humphrey was the candidate who represented the incumbent party and was defending the outgoing president's war. Nixon represented the party that hadn't had the White House in eight years and promised "change." Wallace's third-party challenge largely appealed to disgruntled Democrats.

If precedent is prediction, then, Nixon's election in '68 is actually evidence that Barr (appealing to the incumbent party's disgruntled voters) will hurt John McCain in November.

UPDATE: Leslie Carbone adds a pithy comment:
It's time for the GOP to get over the notion that it "owns" conservative votes, and that our voting for a third-party candidate constitutes giving away something that belongs to them.
I met Ms. Carbone at a memorial for John Berthoud.

Liberal mythology

E.J. Dionne says that the assassination of MLK marked the death of liberalism. Ed Morrisey argues that it was the Iran hostage crisis that did the trick.

Dionne's column is nothing but a rehash of a well-worn liberal myth: "Oh, those eeeevilll conservatives only succeed by appealing to the innate bigotry of the American people." The possibility that Dionne actually believes this is even more disturbing than the possibility that he's just another cynical and dishonest Democratic Party hack. After 10 years in Washington, I've become accustomed to cynicism and dishonesty; gross naivete is frightening. (He went to Harvard. You figure it out.)

The myth that Dionne is propagating (whether cynically or naively) is based on moral narcissism: The desire of liberals to believe that they are morally superior to ordinary people. Support for the liberal agenda -- from welfare to gay rights to "peace" -- is conflated with moral virtue, so that merely voting in favor of various programs and policies is to "do good."

Programmatic virtue, as we might call it, relieves the liberal of the burden of actually doing anything to help people. They don't have to give food to the poor or take care of their aging grandparents; they merely need to vote for politicians who promise to do such things. Whether or not the politicians accomplish these goals -- whether grandma gets the help she needs or not -- is irrelevant to the feeling of superiority experienced by the liberal voter. It's the (political) thought that counts, you see.

Helping people understand this psychological aspect of liberalism is why I so enthusiastically recommend Thomas Sowell's book, The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy. Once you figure out that liberal policies don't work, the next logical question is why liberals support such policies. That's what Sowell explains.

Now, as to when liberalism reached its sell-by date, I would call attention to another book, Upstream: The Ascendance of American Conservatism, by Alfred S. Regnery. Regnery notes a key turning point in liberalism, namely the appointment of Earl Warren to the Supreme Court in 1953. This marked the beginning of the era of liberal judicial activism.

Under Wilson, FDR and Truman, liberalism had advanced via the political process. People voted to elect politicians who promised to enact liberal policies. The politicians debated and compromised and the policies were enacted. Even if the policies didn't work as planned (and they usually didn't), the process was still consistent with the American political tradition.

Beginning with the Warren Court, however, the federal judiciary began to make law outside the democratic process. It was this hijacking of the legislative function by the federal courts that was gave the vital spark to the grassroots resentment that fueled the conservative ascendancy.

Yes, as Ed Morrisey points out, liberal foreign policy (exemplified by the Iran hostage crisis) was utterly inept. But there is no reason why a rejection of the Carter administration should have necessarily led to a more thoroughgoing rejection of liberalism. What provided the broader base for the conservative movement -- and what fatally weakened liberalism -- was the anti-democratic nature of judicial activism that the Warren Court inaugurated.

Ordinary Americans began to feel as if policies were being "shoved down their throats" by imperious judges with lifetime sinecures. Liberals grew intellectually lazy, being accustomed to having the federal courts impose liberal policies without regard for public opinion. Conservatives, meanwhile, honed their arguments, organized opposition groups, and solicited support among those who resented the elitist oligarchy of the "nine old men" on the Supreme Court.

Liberalism's decline began many years before Dionne's 1968 myth would have you believe. Dionne doesn't want to acknowledge how Miranda v. Arizona or Murray v. Curlett -- the first empowering criminals, the second banning prayer in public schools -- enraged ordinary Americans and turned them against liberalism. It's easier (and much more flattering) for liberals like Dionne to look at the tens of millions who voted for Reagan and shout: "Bigots!"

UPDATE: Readers are invited to enjoy the eloquent logic offered by the first anonymous commenter on this post.

The wrong analogy

Matthew Yglesias on the Bob Barr candidacy:
In theory, at least, there's room for a sort of John Anderson figure and you could see Barr playing that role.
Eh? Anderson was a bland technocratic geek, a moderate Republican who appealed to voters who were sick of Carter but feared Reagan's Radical Right reputation.

Barr has impeccable conservative credentials. He served in the CIA when the agency was run by the elder Bush, and served as a U.S. attorney in the Reagan administration.

Barr's publicly-stated reason for leaving the GOP was the Bush administration's internal-security measures. Barr's Fourth Amendment critique of the USA-PATRIOT Act has been echoed by such stalwarts of the Right as Phyllis Schlafly and the John Birch Society.

What a Barr presidential candidacy represents -- and he has said this in nearly so many words -- is a conservative dissent against the drift of the Republican Party toward statism. Barr is trying to resurrect the "Spirit of '94," the anti-Beltway agenda on which he and the rest of the "Contract With America" Republicans were first elected to Congress.

The anti-statist flavor of Barr's conservatism is what made him simpatico with the Libertarian Party, although it remains to be seen whether the LP's convention delegates will be simpatico toward Barr as their presidential candidate. Some LP members are purists to the point of fanaticism and will oppose Barr on ideological grounds; some longtime LP members are likely to resent Barr as a newcomer.

But whatever Barr is, he's not John Anderson.

Philly phlop?

Even as Philadelphia pundits were starting to suggest Obama had a chance to win the Pennsylvania primary, Philly native Michelle Malkin says the Messiah has dissed the cheesesteak:
Obama out-dorked Kerry by completely passing up a cheesesteak at the Italian Market and instead sampling some fancy foreign ham.
Lest the Messiah's disciples accuse Malkin of distorting his deli record, here's the Philadelphia Daily News:
Sen. Barack Obama sampled $100 ham, but didn’t chow down on a cheesesteak during a visit to the Italian Market yesterday.
During a half-hour tour of the market, Obama sampled wares at Claudio Specialty Food and DiBruno Brothers -- where he noshed on a Spanish ham that retails for $99.99 a pound. . . .
In fact, neither Obama nor Sen. Hillary Clinton, his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, has made the traditional stop at South Philly cheesesteak establishments Pat’s or Geno’s.
But Obama last night told a crowd of supporters gathered at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, “I’m going to get a cheesesteak the next time I come.”
The Messiah promises to return ... for a cheesesteak.

I know Hillary's short on cash, but you'd think she could at least afford a cheesesteak at this crucial juncture.

Pray for Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe has violated property rights, trashed the rule of law, destroyed civil society and wrecked the economy in Zimbabwe. Now he declares war on the people:
The ebbing regime of Robert Mugabe began its fightback in earnest last night, launching raids against opposition offices and foreign journalists in what many feared was the start of a campaign of intimidation.
Paramilitary police raided opposition offices at a hotel in central Harare, ransacking rooms as riot police moved in to arrest foreign journalists at a guest house in the capital. George Sibotshiwe, spokesman of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said that the party’s headquarters in the centre of Harare and offices in Meikles hotel in the capital had been raided. “They took nothing. They simply ransacked the place,” he said.
As many as four journalists were arrested, including a reporter from the New York Times, in a separate raid on Harare’s York Lodge hotel, where many correspondents were staying.
Naturally, the Mugabe regime wants to eliminate foreign witnesses to the anti-democratic bloodbath that's in store:

Leaders of the Movement for Democratic Change said the raids heralded a campaign of political repression to safeguard President Robert Mugabe, one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders. His party, known as ZANU-PF, has already lost control of the lower house of Parliament, according to official results from Saturday’s elections, a huge turnabout in a nation where Mr. Mugabe has long controlled virtually all levers of power.
But the government has still not released a tally of the presidential race, prompting international criticism of the delay and concern that attempts were under way to manipulate the count. The government has said the count has been slow because the election was the first one for all national offices at once.
The opposition says that tallies posted at each polling place show that its candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, won 50.3 percent of the vote, barely enough to gain the majority needed to avert a runoff election against Mr. Mugabe.
Mugabe wants immunity from prosecution. Ed Morrisey says:
Clearly, Mugabe has no intention of putting himself in jeopardy of prosecution -- a tacit admission of his crimes as de facto dictator of Zimbabwe. After 28 year of disastrous rule as Prime Minister and then President, Mugabe has destroyed the national economy, rigged elections, abused his power to maintain his regime, and perhaps committed even worse crimes about which only his victims know.
The damage Mugabe has done to his nation's economy may be irreparable. By persecuting white farmers and forcing them off their farms, he turned Zimbabwe from the breadbasket of Africa into a basket case. Now, he is fighting to escape justice -- at the hands of his fellow Zimbabweans who've seen through his demagoguery.

In contemplating Mugabe's career, one is reminded of Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom and its chapter entitled "Why The Worst Get On Top."

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Hillary's hanging on

Down, but not out, she manages to stay afloat:
A Clinton campaign source just confirmed to The Fix that the New York Senator collected $20 million in the month of March, roughly half the total amount collected by Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) over the same time frame. . . .
The Clinton source pointed out that the $20 million haul in March represented Clinton's second best fundraising month in the campaign. While Clinton's numbers mean she will likely be at a cash disadvantage over the final two months of the nomination fight, the $20 million shows that rumors of her financial demise are somewhat overblown.
She's ahead in Pennsylvania, neck-and-neck in Indiana and holding close nationally in the Gallup Poll of Democrats. If she's financially viable, she might still win this thing somehow. As I wrote last week for The American Spectator:
While reporters, pundits, and bloggers are pronouncing doom for her campaign, however, Mrs. Clinton seems undaunted by the odds against her. . . .
Trailing badly in the fourth quarter of her campaign for the Democratic nomination, Hillary may yet lose, but she seems determined not to quit until the final whistle.
Of course, I'm like every conservative in hoping for a titanic death-struggle between Hillary and Obama that goes all the way to the convention floor in Denver. But not every conservative has been close enough to look Hillary in the eye. She's a feisty one, I tell ya . . .

Oh, no she didn't!

Trash-talking my girl? Air America host Randi Rhodes did it in San Francisco:
Rhodes repeatedly called Hillary a "big f***ing whore", to both cheers and jeers from the audience. The afternoon drive talker was there on behalf of Air America at an event sponsored by the local affiliate.
In addition, Rhodes referred to former Democrat vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro as "David Duke in drag."
I've actually met David Duke. He's much prettier than Ferraro, and probably has better legs.

What I can't believe is that Randi Rhodes, who never complained once about Bill Clinton's lecherous ways, would use such language about Hillary -- whose legs are better than either Duke's or Ferraro's. Maybe Hillary's fundraising would be better if she'd get rid of the pantsuits and show off her legs.

UPDATE: Linked by Dr. James Joyner, who provides the unexpurgated video:

You know what's weird? Is that the audience actually laughs at those "jokes."

A trivial aside: So far as I know, Dr. Joyner and I are the only two Jacksonville (Ala.) State University alumni in the blogosphere. They should honor us at halftime of the next homecoming game, don't you agree?

Anti-Mitt VP ad

Several major social conservative leaders -- including Paul Weyrich, Ted Baehr, Janet Folger, Sandy Rios and Peter LaBarbera -- have signed an ad opposing Mitt Romney as the Republican vice presidential candidate.
I could go on in an almost endless rant about why these guys have it wrong about Romney. . . .
Probably the saddest part of this was seeing Paul Weyrich’s name attached to the ad. Et tu Paul?
With McCain at the top of the ticket, it's going to be tough to get Christian conservatives excited about voting Republican, no matter who the running-mate is.

Exit question: If social conservatives say Mitt is unacceptable as VP, who will they accept? Rudy Giuliani? Ron Paul? Anybody with name recognition in a toss-up state?

UPDATE: Jeremy Lott makes the case for Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, a solid all-around conservative. Dr. Tom's STD slide shows for Capitol Hill interns were always a shocker. Having Coburn on the ticket would boost the GOP's chances with both fiscal and social conservatives. The fact that he's from a deep-Red state means he wouldn't help in the geography department, but that's the only drawback.

UPDATE 4/4: Allahpundit weighs in:

The curious part is why any of this should be troubling to Paul Weyrich, who endorsed Romney for president as recently as four months ago, long after his positions on these issues had shaken out. . . .
After 18 months of Romney running for president, suddenly these guys have a problem with his record?
Not supporting Gov. Romney because he didn't fight gay "marriage" enough is like not supporting Elvis because he wouldn't dance.
My hunch is that Weyrich & Co. have another favorite for the VP slot and that this attack on Romney is a sort of pre-emptive attack on a rival.

Refreshing honesty

Got to give Matthew Yglesias credit for this:
Desperately out of touch with the American mainstream, Yglesias was born and raised in Manhattan and studied philosophy at Harvard where he was editor in chief of The Harvard Independent, a campus alternative weekly.
I suppose that explains this, about which, the less said, the better.

The Manhattan/Harvard perspective is so underrepresented in the media, and it's nice that the populist journal Atlantic Monthy has finally given them a voice in the blogosphere.

He misspelled 'Jamie'

Some person calling himself "Jaime Sneider" at The Weekly Standard makes fun of chastity advocate Dawn Eden:
I have no doubt that a date with the author of The Thrill of the Chaste would be exhilarating--wait, actually, I do doubt it. Hence the conservative proverb, "Be right, live left."
(Hat-tip: Craig Henry.) If there is such a proverb, it's not conservative. Not everyone is virtuous -- I make no such claim for myself -- but it's very unconservative to scoff at virtue.

While I joined Ace in mocking the blogger girls in the John Hawkins survey, I didn't mock them for their virtue. And this alleged "Jaime Sneider" person doesn't link to Hawkins' site, and instead links a liberal site that ripped off Hawkins.

So I guess "Sneider" is conservative in the same sense that "National Greatness" is conservative, which is to say, he's not.

'Send 'em a message'?

Bob Barr on Sean Hannity's radio show just now repeatedly emphasized that his prospective presidential run on the Libertarian Party ticket would "get a message out there" to a Republican Party that has "completely lost its philosophical moorings."

UPDATE 4:30 p.m.: Liberals will surely howl about the resemblance between Barr's language and George Wallace's 1968 "Send 'em a message" slogan, but a message of dissatisfaction with the GOP status quo will surely resonate with many in Hannity's audience.

UPDATE 4:35: More from the Hannity interview: Barr said 2008 is a "very unusual year" and that "several things are coming together" to allow the Libertarian Party to have a "legitimate, positive impact" in November.

As to his own presidential hopes, Barr said he is "very, very seriously considering it," that he will make "a final decision shortly," and that he is getting "very strong support."

UPDATE 4:45: "Sooner or later, we have to put principle ahead of expediency," Barr said, responding to Hannity's complaint that "splitting the vote" would help elect a Democrat. He said he is "tired of hearing all the whining" from Republicans.

"If [Republican John] McCain is not able to pull enough votes to win outright, then shame on him," Barr said.

At the end of the interview, Hannity repeatedly played "gotcha," asking Barr about Libertarian stances on abortion and drugs, and also asking Barr about his work with the ACLU on privacy issues.

UPDATE 5 p.m.: Allahpundit scoffs at Barr's potential impact. But he scoffs at everything. I'm pretty sure he's contractually obligated as a professional scoffer.

UPDATE 8:40 p.m.: Barr spoke today in Rome, Ga.:

Former congressman Bob Barr told the Rotary Club of Rome Thursday he sees a disquieting trend of fear being the primary force driving public policy decisions in America today.
Quoting the 18th century philosopher Edmund Burke, Barr stated: “No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.”
Barr said he sees the trend increasing after 9/11 and that in discussions in Congress there is an attempt to “link (policy issues) to acts of terror or fear of acts of terrorism.”
“Fear does not lend itself well to rational thinking,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dave Weigel says Barr's going to make his announcement Saturday:
When former Rep. Bob Barr arrives in Kansas City on Saturday for the Heartland Libertarian Conference, organizers expect him to launch an exploratory committee for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination. Barr is meeting with his political team on Friday to firm up plans. Right now, he's expected to fly into the city at about noon Saturday and address the conference in the early afternoon.

Weigel notes that Barr and Ron Paul are both scheduled to appear at an April 15 "Take Back America" rally in D.C. Weigel also has Barr campaign's Web site -- the site's not up yet, but Barr's consulting firm has reserved the domain -- and reports that there will be a meeting of key staffers tomorrow (Friday) in Atlanta.

Stephen Gordon has a media wrapup here.

UPDATE 10:40 p.m.: Georgia blogger Jason Pye heard the Hannity interview:

The longer the interview got, the less friendly Hannity was (I know...big surprise there). Hannity implied that if Barr cost McCain the election that everything that happened after it would be on Bob Barr.
If you were listening in then you know that Barr sounded like a candidate. I thought he came off really well.

Barr to announce?
3/27: Barr bandwagon rolling?
3/26: What about Bob?
2/11: Paulistas say, 'Why not Bob?'

Presidential smokers

Like a chaperone on a high-school field trip, Jake Tapper's sniffing around for the odor of tobacco:
I have an unusually keen sense of smell and immediately I smelled cigarette smoke on Obama. Frankly, he reeked of cigarettes.
Obama ran off before I could ask him if he'd just snuck a smoke, so I called his campaign. . . . I knew what I'd smelled and I asked his campaign to double-check and to ask him if he'd had a cigarette. . . .
Maybe I imagined the cigarette smoke. . . .
[L]ast night on MSNBC's Hardball, Obama admitted that his attempt to wean himself from the vile tobacco weed had not been entirely successful.
"I fell off the wagon a couple times during the course of it, and then was able to get back on," he said. "But it is a struggle like everything else."
Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower were both smokers. Reagan smoked for years, but quit in the '60s.

I don't know why people get so prudish about these things. Do they suppose Obama would set a bad example for kids by firing up a Marlboro in the middle of the State of the Union Address?

One politician who's not hypocritical about his taste for tobacco is Bob Barr, currently rumored as a Libertarian Party presidential candidate. Barr would no more deny his enjoyment of a good cigar than he'd disavow a fine single-malt whiskey. Here he is at CPAC in February, relaxing with both:

At the left in the photo is Stephen Gordon of Third Party Watch; Stephen's wife is trying to hide behind Barr; to the right are two College Republicans from California.

Gordo just passed along the word that Barr will appear at 4 o'clock today on Sean Hannity's radio show. That should be interesting . . . .

UPDATE: Allahpundit on Jake Tapper and Obama:

What right does a presidential candidate have to lie to a nosy reporter about something that’s totally irrelevant to the election and therefore none of his business?

Sarcasm: Breakfast of champions!

UPDATE II: Kelley Vlahos of The American Conservative:

I have a favorite t-shirt and it says simply, “Smoking is Healthier than Fascism.”

Very interesting: I didn't know TAC had a blog, and didn't know they'd hired Kelley Vlahos.

Reply to Pandagon

The liberal blogger Pandagon links my post about Obama's "punished with a baby" remark, and then says:
Sean Hannity, for one, describes unplanned pregnancies that result in babies as a punishment for sex he doesn’t approve of.
Here's the quote from Hannity that Pandagon uses:
We live in an age characterized by the maxim “If it feels good do it, regardless of the consequences.” It’s a sex-drenched culture -- from movies, music, and magazines to TV, radio and the Internet -- that glorifies premarital sex, promiscuous sex, extramarital sex, kinky sex, rough sex, and gay sex. You name it, you can find it, and without looking too hard.
Notice what's missing? The words "punishment" and "pregnancy."

Even if you disagree with Hannity's critique of cultural hedonism, it cannot be construed as describing "babies as punishment."

Pandagon highlights the word "consequences" in Hannity's quote and then says:
Right wingers who wish to deprive women of the right to choose abortion, of contraception access, and of sex education believe babies are a punishment for sex.
This has nothing to do with what Hannity wrote. He was asserting as a fact that contemporary culture promotes and encourages the pursuit of sexual gratification "regardless of consequences." That is to say, "Never mind the ultimate result of your actions. Never mind who gets hurt in the process."

Hedonism is anti-social and selfish. There are many possible consequences of our actions that a hedonistic culture urges us to ignore. Among those is the possibility that we will become so callous and hard-hearted that we'll describe babies as "punishment," analogous to a sexually-transmitted disease -- something Obama did, and Hannity did not.

More madness in Argentina

Having nearly caused a famine by raising taxes, now Argentina's President Christina Kirchner wants war:
Argentina's claim to the Falkland Islands, which remain in British hands after the 1982 war between the two countries, is "inalienable," President Cristina Kirchner said Wednesday.
"The sovereign claim to the Malvinas Islands is inalienable," she said in a speech marking the 26th anniversary of Argentina's ill-fated invasion of the islands, located 480 kilometers (300 miles) off shore.
The April 2, 1982 invasion prompted then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher to deploy naval forces to retake the Falklands, known as the Malvinas in Spanish.
The short, bloody conflict led to Argentina's surrender on June 14, 1982 after the death of 649 Argentines and 255 Britons. . . .
In her speech Kirchner called for Argentina to strengthen its representation in international bodies to denounce "this shameful colonial enclave in the 21st century."
Such bellicose rhetoric is transparent demagoguery, an attempt to rally a nation suffering under the effects of Kirchner's bungling policies. The British magazine Prospect opines:
Cristina Kirchner exemplifies a figure familiar in the northern hemisphere because of Hillary Clinton (and to a lesser degree Cherie Blair): the intelligent, educated wife of a leader with ambitions of her own.
No, I think Christina Kirchner exemplifies a different sort of familiar figure: The good-looking woman who, unfortunately, is crazy as a loon.

Barr to announce?

Former Rep. Bob Barr could announce his Libertarian Party presidential bid as early as this weekend, The Washington Times reports:
A source familiar with Mr. Barr's thinking says he likely will announce his bid this weekend, at the Heartland Libertarian Conference in Kansas City, Mo., where he is scheduled to speak.
Mr. Barr declined to say whether he would make an announcement, but told The Washington Times, "I will be there certainly, and will be addressing the convention."
He said he has detected "significantly deep dissatisfaction with particularly the Republican Party and the Republican likely nominee," and that leaves an opening for someone with his views. . . .
Mr. Barr said he could appeal particularly to voters in libertarian-minded places such as Vermont, New Hampshire and the Rocky Mountain states, and said he would have a broader appeal than Mr. Nader's candidacy -- partly because the Libertarian Party is already qualified for the ballot in 48 states, and partly because of the principles he would espouse. "The message that I would bring is definitely not a fringe or an extremist message, it's a basic, mainstream message that will have a very broad appeal," he said.
The interesting thing about this is how some conservatives Republicans are reacting:
[A] third-party candidate on the right who did well enough to tip the election to the Democrats wouldn't do much for his reputation among conservative Republicans.
Why should Bob Barr, who left the GOP and joined the LP three years ago, care about his reputation among Republicans? More importantly, why should conservatives support John McCain? Why is electing a liberal Republican better than electing a liberal Democrat?

UPDATE: The New Republic's Jamie Kirchick has Barr running not as a Libertarian but as an independent, provoking much mirth from my Libertarian friend Stephen Gordon. Jamie, trust me: Gordo knows what he's talking about.

Look on the bright side

"Saturday Night Live" comedian Chris Farley was 33 when he died over an overdose in 1997. His friend David Spade says:
"I got a lot of s - - - at the end about 'Why weren't you there for him?' But being that close, I dealt with it all the time. And in that situation, before the guy's dead, he's just kind of an a - -hole. Truth is, you get a junkie who's wasted all the time and moody and angry and trying to knock you around, you say, 'OK, you go do that, and I'll be over here.' "
The bright side of Farley's death? I get to congratulate myself that I've already outlived that junkie by 15 years. Also, I'm a father of six, whereas Farley was a Darwinian dead-end.

Just want to put that idea out there for the benefit of any young idiots who might think it's "glamorous" to be a junkie loser.

'A good deal of rumbling'

Al Regnery, author of Upstream, and publisher of The American Spectator, talks to The Wall Street Journal about John McCain:
"I hear a good deal of rumbling from conservatives," said Alfred Regnery, publisher of the conservative American Spectator magazine. Mr. Regnery said Sen. McCain is doing "some" courting but "probably not enough."
A judicious understatement, Mr. Regnery.

This whole WSJ article is premised on the false notion that there is something that Crazy Cousin John can say or do between now and November that will make conservatives vote for him. But the problem is what McCain has already done -- namely, his Senate record for about the past 10 years. No amount of campaign rhetoric over the next seven months can change that. McCain will never get my vote, and I'm sure there are many thousands of conservatives who share that view.

The best hope for the Republicans lies not in what McCain does, but in what the Democrats do. Say, for example, if they nominate a candidate extreme enough to be publicly endorsed by "Hanoi Jane" Fonda . . . But they wouldn't be that stupid, would they?

This is why I have no problem voting Libertarian in November. If the Democrats keep doing stupid crap like this, it won't be close enough for my vote to matter. Besides, I live in Maryland. Not like any Republican is ever going to win this state.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Wingnut to Moonbat: WTF?

Blog Rule #1: Never complain about bloggers who bash you, as long as they link you.

Blog Rule #2: Never complain, but never hesitate to bash 'em right back.

Here in its entirety, except for a little bit of free-speech-chilling censorship, is a post by the (appropriately named) Jabbering Stooge:

Robert Stacy McCain, lovingly linked by Stalkin' Malkin, asks this of Obama's comments that pregnancy shouldn't be used as punishment of uppity sluts who dare think themselves worthy of being more than ninth-class citizens:

Huh? Who thinks of babies as "punishment"?

You and all the other anti-choice, misogynist nutters who keep carping about "consequences" for women "not keeping their legs shut."
This has been Snappy Comebacks to Stupid Wingnut Questions.
Sidebar: You wouldn't believe how many times I saw some variation of the utterly inane “Well, if you didn't want to become pregnant you'd keep your slutty [vulgarity] shut, you [string of degrading vulgarities]!" during my time in various web forums. Quite frankly, it made me ashamed to have a Y chromosome.

Leaving aside his limited vocabulary, I am struck by the assumptions implicit in Stooge's rant:
  • Pro-lifers are "anti-choice" -- Given the slim likelihood that Roe v. Wade will be overturned in my lifetime, and the even slimmer likelihood of a nationwide ban on abortion, I consider the contemporary debate less about "choice" per se, and more a matter of persuading people to choose life. Given my extensive familiarity with the pro-life community, I think my own perspective is widely shared among pro-lifers. Yes, there is a lot of legal and legislative activism, but the overwhelming majority of the activism is about education and advocacy.
  • Pro-lifers are "misogynists" -- The Stooge expresses this in several ways, including putting slurs into the mouths of his "anti-choice" strawmen. This accusation is a non sequitur, unless you buy into Stooge's implicit assumption that women enjoy getting abortions. But even women who are politically pro-choice will tell you that having an abortion is a dreadful experience that they would rather avoid. Anybody who's ever been in an abortion clinic lobby knows that it's not a happy place -- certainly not as happy as the maternity wing of a hospital. I would further point out that most pro-life activists I know are women. Would the Stooge say these are "self-hating" women? Automisogynists?
  • All consequences are punishment -- If action A leads to consequence B, is B automatically a "punishment" for A? The original object of my criticism was the harshly negative attitude toward babies suggested by Obama's word "punishment." Sex leads to pregnancy and pregnancy leads to childbirth; that much is basic biology. But why introduce the concept of "punishment" to this unremarkable chain of causality? This was the cause of my puzzled "huh"?
More argument (not ranting) to come, after I tuck our "punishments" into bed . . .

OK, now that the "punishments" have gone nighty-night, let me return to the subject of Obama and his defender, the Stooge.

I was listening to a talk radio program Tuesday afternoon and heard a caller who pointed out that Obama wasn't necessarily talking about abortion when he made the remark in question. He was talking about sex education and whether schools should be instruct young people in the use of contraceptives, condoms, etc.:
"Look, I got two daughters — 9 years old and 6 years old," he said. "I am going to teach them first about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby. I don't want them punished with an STD at age 16, so it doesn't make sense to not give them information."
Along with many other bloggers, I got the issue of abortion got mixed up in there because the original item in the Politico had the word "abortion" in the headline and the article began by describing an exchange between Obama and a pro-life Pennsylvania woman. But a careful reading of the Politico item makes clear that the "punishment" quote came before the subject of abortion was raised.

Nevertheless, Obama did explicitly describe babies as "punishment." Reading the quote again, and understanding the context, this phrase is still disturbing. Notice:
  • A baby and a sexually transmitted disease are both "punishment." Is a baby like herpes? Is a baby like syphilis? Obama made this analogy as if nothing was remarkable or offensive about it -- and no one in his Pennsylvania audience seemed to notice.
  • To have sex is to "make a mistake." Oops! An accident! "Well, Dad, you see, I was sitting there talking to Suzy, and she asked for a piece of chewing gum. I meant to reach into my pocket and hand her a piece of sugar-free Trident, but instead I made a mistake and unzipped my pants and . . ." As a rule, sexual intercourse takes plenty of cooperative effort. The participants might later regret their actions, but the word "mistake" isn't really right.
  • "Information" is the solution. This is my pet peeve with sex-ed advocates, who seem to assume that teenagers get pregnant or contract STDs because teenagers are ignorant of what used to be called The Facts of Life or "the birds and bees." Not only is that absurd -- given that "information" is now more widely available than ever -- but it is insulting to teenagers. Does Obama think his kids are too stupid to figure out how to use a condom? Has he ever Googled the topic? How about reading the instructions printed on the condom package -- does Obama think his daughters will be too stupid to do that when they're 16?
  • "Safe sex" is 100% effective. This is the Big Lie of Sex Ed, and one that Obama apparently has never bothered to question. Try this mental exercise: You meet someone and decide to have sex with them. Then the person tells you that he or she is infected with herpes, chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea and AIDS. However, he or she offers to use a condom. Are you still going to have sex? No, because of your common-sense hunch that condoms are not 100% effective in disease prevention. It is only when there is no reason to suspect a prospective partner of being infected with any disease that most people are willing to trust a condom to protect their health. If they know someone is infected, it's a different story.
What is true of condoms is equally true of contraceptives. Suppose I told you that a given method of contraception was 99% effective. Sounds pretty safe, right? So you use it, and there is a 1-in-100 chance you'll get pregnant anyway. Use the same method again, and your cumulative chances are 1-in-50. Use the same method 20 times, and you're down to a 1-in-5 chance.

This is what is known as The Law of Large Numbers. In a nation of 300 million people, there are tens of millions of sexually active people of reproductive age. Many millions of those will use contraception to avoid pregnancy, and a certain percentage of those will become pregnant anyway.

These kinds of "mistakes," to use Obama's phrase, do a lot to help keep the abortion clinics in business. The woman in such a situation will often say: "Pregnant? How can I be pregnant? We used a contraceptive!" The guy will often cast the contraceptive burden on the woman: "Pregnant? But I thought you said you were safe?"

Pregnancy is the normal, natural and ordinary consequence of sexual intercourse. It should never surprise anyone when sex leads to pregnancy.

Contraception is an attempt to separate the cause (sex) from the consequence (pregnancy). The prevalence of contraception in our society, especially since the invention of the birth-control pill, has led many people to internalize a mental or emotional separation between cause and consequence.

When the psychological separation is proven false -- when the natural consequence overcomes the artificial barrier -- a sort of cognitive dissonance occurs, and the unexpectedly pregnant woman (or her partner) asks: "How could this happen?"

The answer is also a question: "How could you expect that it wouldn't happen?"

This is one reason why the really hard-core pro-lifers are critical of artificial contraceptives. They understand that, to some degree, contraceptives cause abortion.

I'm not advocating laws against contraceptives. But the contraceptive industry is not merely content with legal sales; they want the public schools to promote their products to children at taxpayer expense. (Big Condom and Big Pill have lobbyists, too, you know.) And the promotion of condoms and contraceptives is based on a false premise, namely that their products provide 100% prevention.

Honing the ax

John Solomon employs every possible euphemism to avoid using the words "layoffs" and "early retirements," but it's very clear what's coming at The Washington Times:
As we discussed in our private coffees a few weeks ago, reshaping the newsroom for the challenges of the 21st century and moving the entire company toward profitability were going to require many tough decisions. This is especially true in the current marketplace where traditional revenues are down across the industry. With the arrival of our new budget year, the first round of those tough decisions has arrived: we must determine the appropriate size of the newsroom for its new mission and current resources.
Hint, hint, hint. Solomon continues:
But we still need to find additional savings under our 2008 budget that takes effect today. And just as important, we need to inject new skill sets into the newsroom to ensure we can compete in the news marketplace of tomorrow.
Over the next few weeks, we will make a difficult journey. The effort will be expeditious and fair, even-handed and humane. It will require us to say goodbye to some colleagues we have known for many years and to celebrate their many accomplishments as they leave us. It will also allow us to welcome some new colleagues whose skills will improve our capabilities, particularly in the digital arena.
I've only met Solomon once, and have no real inside information about what he plans. But what he is saying, pretty clearly, is that he's going to ditch a lot of the current staff -- including people who've been there many years -- and replace them with a bunch of new people whom he's pretty much going to handpick himself.

If this is like what has happened at other publications (and the entire newspaper industry has been shrinking for more than a decade), then certain senior staffers -- those over a certain age, who've been there a certain number of years -- will be offered buyouts or early retirement packages. Certain junior staffers, who don't meet the minimums, will simply be laid off.

Again, based on what has happened at other papers, what Solomon will do is to attempt to replace high-salaried experienced staffers with new hires with less experience who will work for smaller salaries.

Special attention must be paid to Solomon's phrase "new colleagues whose skills will improve our capabilities, particularly in the digital arena."

Having spent 10 years at The Washington Times, I know exactly what he's talking about. Some older journalists simply refuse to learn anything about the Internet. Hell, some journalists have never even learned the most basic keyboard functions on a PC. They have thus allowed their technophobia (or sheer laziness) to render them effectively obsolete.

I feel sorry for any of my former colleagues who will suffer from the "restructuring" that Solomon's warning about, but some of them will be victims of their own indifference to changes in the newspaper industry.

Anybody in the newspaper business who's earning over $50,000 a year and has accumulated four weeks' annual vacation is a fat target for any publisher who's looking to cut costs. Ditto anybody with health issues that require lots of medical treatment. If, in addition to those deficits, you also don't bother to stay on top of the technology required to keep pace with your competition ... Hey, welcome to Layoff City, pal.

I left The Washington Times in January because I had a contract to research a book, and couldn't make that fit into my work schedule. (Not long ago, I saw where a New York Times columnist was listed as being "on book sabbatical." No such thing at small papers.)

However, the timing of my departure -- immediately after Solomon's hiring was announced -- was not purely accidental. I knew Solomon would come into the newsroom with a mission to cut staff, and I didn't relish the idea of going into the office every day wondering if I had a target on my back. Now, some of the people at work who told me I was crazy to quit can enjoy the piranha-pool paranoia of an office environment where downsizing has been announced, but the names haven't yet been named.

Look: I was under 50, earning over $50K, with seven dependents enrolled on the company health plan, four weeks' annual vacation, and tons of accumulated sick leave (since I probably took no more than 10 sick days in 10 years). Even without the additional burden of a right-wing reputation, I would have been an obvious target for any new editor looking to cut costs.

People under 50 don't get buyouts or early retirements, they just get laid off.

You can do some research and see how many people laid off in these recent newspaper downsizings ever work at another newspaper again. Other editors will interpret that layoff as a signal that you were relatively unproductive, and who wants to hire a relatively unproductive journalist?

In a downsizing industry, it's better to quit -- or even to be "fired for cause" -- than to be laid off. If they really want to keep you, they'll ask you to stay. And nobody asked me. I was born at night, but it wasn't last night.

If she wasn't LOTUS . . .

. . . I'd be angry that Lisa De Pasquale linked me in this blogger chainmail. But who can be angry at Lisa Of The United States? Therefore, I'll oblige:

1. Link back to the person who tagged you. [Check]
2. Post these rules on your blog. [Check]
3. Share six unimportant things about yourself.

  • My favorite TV show is "America's Most Wanted."
  • I always thought Monica Lewinsky was beautiful.
  • I hate nearly all sweets except chocolate.
  • In the mid-1980s, I was lead singer and rhythm guitarist in a rock band called Strange Talk.
  • My favorite dictionary is a two-volume Thorndike-Barnhart (1967 edition).
  • I was born and raised in Georgia, but always cheered for the University of Alabama, because my Dad graduated there.
4. Tag six random people at the end of your entry.
Now that CPAC's over, Lisa's got waaaaay too much time on her hands.

UPDATE: My apologies to Toni Woods, a/k/a The Coultress, who also tagged me in her chain-blog response.

I most recently saw Miss Woods at George Washington University for Karl Rove's speech. She was onhand for the post-event celebration with GW's YAF chapter, and I was very impressed with how well Miss Woods acquitted herself in the conversation -- considering that she's still only in high school. Here was a high school senior, surrounded by politically aware juniors and seniors at a prestigious university, and Miss Woods was not at all out of place or over her head.

Warning to liberals: Be afraid. Be very afraid.