Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year! (Sydney)

Ringing in 2009 with a $12 million fireworks show:

Better than sex?

Seven and a half pounds of joy

Congratulations to James Joyner on the birth of his daughter, Katharine Webb Joyner. (Rumors that Mrs. Joyner might have had something to do with this event could not be immediately confirmed.)

Very clever of James to name the baby after Mary Katharine Ham, in a traffic-baiting stunt so transparent that even I am shocked.

UPDATE: Wizbang notes that, in true Republican fashion, young Miss Joyner arrived just in time to qualify her dad for an extra tax deduction this year.

Sex or fireworks?

Italian women threaten a "sex strike" if their menfolk don't cancel their fireworks. Le mie scuse, donna, but I can't do without my fireworks.

AFTERTHOUGHT: However, if you guys do go ahead and shoot fireworks, be careful. You'll be all right, so long as you don't blow off both hands . . . .

UPDATE: A professional show from Switzerland -- 14 minutes, and wait until you see the pyrogasmic finale:

Genf Teil 3 from 3PYRO8 on Vimeo.


Just when you think you've seen the nadir of liberal idiocy, they manage to surprise you:
Over the past century, of course, the conflict between North and South has been between union and non-union labor. . . .
But, just as Lincoln predicted, the United States was bound to have one labor system prevail, and the debate over the General Motors and Chrysler bailout was really a debate over which system -- the United Auto Workers' or the foreign transplant factories' -- that would be. Where the parallel between periods breaks down, of course, is in partisan alignment. Today's congressional Republicans are hardly Lincoln's heirs. If anything, they are descendants of Jefferson Davis's Confederates.
(H/T: Irons in the Fire.) Where to begin? How about this: During the Civil War, the nascent labor movement in the North was vehemently anti-war. Among other things, the coal miners of Schuykill County rioted against the draft. Indeed, the deadliest race riots in American history -- the New York Draft Riots of 1863 -- were chiefly motivated by Irish immigrant laborers' opposition to economic competition from free blacks.

Harold Meyerson's ugly appeal to sectional prejudice is tolerated only because he chooses as the object of his bigotry the South, a convenient scapegoat, ignoring altogether that opposition to the UAW bailout is just as widespread in Western states with the same right-to-work laws as the South. Never mind the fact that the South and the West have prospered by their pro-business policies and opposition to union goonery, while the industrial Rust Belt has declined by clinging to obsolete economic policies. And never mind that free labor -- which is, after all, what Lincoln advocated -- is incompatible with the closed-shop slavery that Meyerson endorses.

How we got here

In politics, few things are more important to sound strategy than an accurate understanding of history. The widespread notion of Barack Obama as destined for triumphant success is an idea rooted in his supposedly brilliant upset of Hillary Clinton. But as Peter Brown notes, Hillary's defeat was self-inflicted:
The Clinton strategy had been to clinch the nomination on Feb. 5, when 22 states held Democratic primaries and caucuses. And that day, like most of the other Tuesdays during the winter and spring, they basically wrote off the caucus states.
Sen. Clinton - and basically everyone else - expected her strong name identification and favorable image among Democratic activists, combined with a presumed (incorrectly it turned out) money advantage would deliver her the nomination that day. But Mr. Obama fought her to a virtual draw on Feb. 5, when almost 40% of the delegates were decided. He took the more numerous smaller primaries and caucus states, while she was winning the handful of big prizes — New York, New Jersey and California.
He, however, had planned and budgeted for the 11 contests during the rest of February. She had not - a victim of her campaign believing its own hype about inevitability.
I made a similar point in a recent Pajamas Media column:
Hindsight shows how foolish were the expectations that prevailed as 2007 came to a close. Conservatives shared the Clinton campaign’s belief that the former first lady would score an early knockout in the Democratic primaries, essentially locking up the nomination on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5. As Joshua Green of the Atlantic Monthly has since reported, that mistaken belief was a key factor in the failure of Team Hillary to organize effectively for a long nomination battle.
It is important to understand, also, how Obama benefitted from Republicans' relentless four-year anti-Hillary campaign. The GOP assumed that Hillary would be the nominee in 2004, and devoted immense resources to demonizing her, thus making her a softer target for her Democratic rivals. One of the reasons Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos" did not prevent Obama from locking up the nomination was that many of Limbaugh's listeners had been so brainwashed by years of anti-Clinton propaganda that they couldn't bring themselves to vote for Hillary even when Limbaugh told them to.

Too many conservatives seem demoralized by Obama's election, and part of that demoralization is caused by the "Triumph of Hope" narrative, which omits the important facts of how Obama's victory was made possible by the failures of others.

2009 Prediction Number One

Feminists will continue to provide a target-rich environment in the coming year. This fearless prognostication for 2009 is prompted by blogger Sylvia M.'s demonstration of the magical feminist ability to detect evidence of patriarchal oppression everywhere.

The New York Times: "After a lifetime of being wooed by others, Caroline Kennedy is still learning how to sell herself."

Sylvia M. "They're calling her a whore!"

No reasonable person could find sexism in such a commonplace phrase -- "selling yourself," i.e., self-promotion -- but a feminist is, by definition, not a reasonable person. Rush Limbaugh gets a lot of grief for coining the term "feminazi," but that expression captures the fundamental similarity between theories of Aryan supremacy and the feminist worldview of gynocentric biological determinism. And just as the Nazis relentlessly inveighed against "Jewish art" and "Jewish science," so does the feminist use "sexism" as a synonym for "anything I don't like."

Like Nazism, feminism is about fostering a sense of grievance based on evil attributed to a scapegoat. Both ideologies are based on a classic paranoid delusion:
Your failures are not due to any negligence or shortcomings of your own. You are a such a superior person that you are blameless for any misfortune that befalls you. Therefore, your failures are caused by the treachery of your enemies, who so envy your superiority that they conspire to undermine you. You have been betrayed and sabotaged.
This madness is self-contradictory -- the scapegoated enemy is both inherently inferior and yet so clever as to thwart the supposedly superior paranoiac. So, just as Nazis believed that the feeble and decadent Jew was able to sabotage the mighty Aryan civilization, the feminist believes that reactionary male troglydytes are capable of oppressing advanced, enlightened womanhood.

Like Nazism, feminism offers to comfort the isolated and fearful individual with the warm security of collective identity. To reject this collectivism is to betray The Cause and give tacit aid to the scapegoated enemy. The German who rejected Nazism was accused of being something other than a True German, and a woman who rejects feminism is not a True Woman.

Of course, a German of the 1920s and '30s might have been a genuine patriot -- sharing the common grievance over the degradingly unfair terms of Versailles, and eager to see his nation restored to strength and health -- and yet rejected the Nazis. Similarly, a woman might sincerely believe in the importance of educational and career opportunities for women without embracing the rigid ideology of femisism. Like Nazism, feminism demands that its followers either toe the party line or else be demonized as betrayers.

Tammy Bruce was a feminist in good standing, president of the Los Angeles chapter of NOW, until she refused to go along with NOW's national leadership in insisting on solidarity with O.J. Simpson. Although she continues to cherish the same ideals of fairness and justice that motivated her as a NOW activist, Bruce is now despised as a turncoat by her former comrades.

The feminist movement -- as a movement -- is totalitarian. It is one thing to seek to remedy specific and well-defined wrongs against women. It is something very different to portray all men as scapegoats complicit in universal oppression, and to advocate social revolution "by any means necessary" as the only acceptable response.
So it is that with supreme confidence I predict that, in 2009, feminists will continue to make idiots of themselves. Always remember: Equality Is For Ugly Losers.

Sound and fury, signifying nothing

Roseanne Barr's idiot tale:
Israel is a NAZI state. The Jewish Soul is being tortured in Israel. The destruction of the jews in Israel has been assured with this inhuman attack on civilians in gaza. Hamas is the street gangs---this is equivilent [sic] to los angeles attacking and launching war on the people of watts to attempt to kill the bloods and the crips.
Call me old-fashioned, but if someone wishes to put their thoughts into writing, I don't think it is too much to ask that they pay attention to spelling, capitalization and punctuation. Coherent logic is optional; grammar and orthography are not.

(H/T: Omri Ceren via Hot Air Headlines.)

By the way . . .

I have never had sex with any lobbyists, no matter what the New York Times tries to tell you.

I can't swear that I've never had sex in a lobby, but if so, I probably would have been in such a condition that I wouldn't remember it anyway.

Technology vs. enthusiasm

John Hawkins makes a good point: Republicans fascinated by the Obama campaign's technological sophistication are looking at the wrong variable. The high-tech stuff didn't drive the enthusiasm, the enthusiasm drove the high-tech stuff.

Which Republican has an online army of 60,000-plus?

The people at Team Sarah aren't necessarily the most tech-savvy Republicans on the planet. What they have, however, is a candidate who generates real grassroots enthusiasm. You can't fake that.

Ahmadinejad's oil crisis

The collapse of oil prices has created trouble for Iran's petroleum-dependent economy:
Iran's president presented parliament with a sweeping economic package Tuesday that calls for scrapping costly state subsidies for fuel, water and electricity and raising taxes to make up for the steep slide in world oil prices.
The move is a risky one for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who already is facing public disenchantment over Iran's economic problems as he heads into June elections. . . .
The government budget is largely financed by foreign oil sales and his spending plans have been undercut by the plunge in price from $147 a barrel in July to under $40.
Ahmadinejad says Iran has no alternative but to end government subsidies that keep prices for gasoline, water and electricity artificially low.
(Hat-tip: Meryl Yourish.) The same problem is also impacting Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

Hey, am I the only one who remembers how liberals kept telling us that no amount of drilling could have an effect on oil prices for 10 years? But even the suggestion of new drilling was enough to knock the bottom out of the market. Oil went over $145 a barrel in July, then Bush announced he was lifting the executive ban on offshore drilling. Within a month, the price fell to $112 a barrel. In September, Congress decided not to renew its own offshore drilling ban, which expired Oct. 1, and now world oil prices are barely a quarter of their July peak and expected to continue falling.

The only reason OPEC has been able to hold America hostage is because of their environmentalist allies, who put America's resources off-limits and thereby shovel money into the pockets of people like Chavez and Ahmadinejad.

Israel: It's not about Obama

The current Israeli air campaign against Hamas positions in Gaza was undertaken without reference to U.S. politics, an Israeli diplomat said yesterday.

"We took this initiative out of our own concerns and the situation we faced and not because of events elsewhere," Jeremy Issacharoff, Deputy Chief of Mission for the Embassy of Israel, told bloggers in a conference call reported by Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit.

Some pundits have pondered the war in terms of what it means for the incoming Obama administration, but Issacharoff indicated that political changes in the United States will not influence Israeli policy.

Near the end of the conference call, which also included Israeli Gen. Relik Shafir, Hoft asked: "The Bush Administration has been supportive of Israel. Are there any concerns about the support of the incoming Obama Administration?"

Issachar answered by noting Obama's own words during a visit to Israel, when the Democrat said, "If someone was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that." Isaachar continued: "We see a large level of understanding with the Obama team. We have to keep a focus. The contacts before the election with the Obama Team were good. We took this initiative out of our own concerns and the situation we faced and not because of events elsewhere."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Anti-suburban snobbery

Lee Siegel, pondering the theme of "Revolutionary Road," seeks the root of the elite intellectual's anti-suburban bias:
In the '50s and early '60s, the postwar exodus from the cities to the suburbs was just beginning. . . .
It's easy to see why artists and intellectuals felt that they had to alert the general public to the emergency of these sudden new places' peaceful, leafy streets. . . . The suburbs were the embodiment of that period's fashionable existential fear: "inauthenticity." . . .
Most of the people leaving the cities for the suburbs in the 1950s were tradespeople, modest businessmen, teachers and the like. They were, in other words, members of the middle-class, the impassioned rejection of which has been the chief rite de passage of the modern American artist and intellectual. With the growth of suburban towns, the liberal American intellectual now had a concrete geography to house his acute sense of outrage.
Among other things, Siegel points out that "Revolutionary Road" is basically Sam Mendes' remake of Sam Mendes' "American Beauty." Mendes is a talented filmmaker devoting his craftsmanship to an obsession with a perverse theme, namely that there is something wrong with ordinary people living ordinary lives. The Evil of Banality, as it were.

As Siegel says, this theme is puerile. Children dream of distant, exciting places, adolescents rebel against their parents, Bright Young Men think they'll invent the world anew -- well, most of us grow up. We acquire the mature perspective that the ordinary sort of life (job, marriage, mortgage, kids) is actually a very good thing, well worth the having, and in fact a more difficult achievement than we'd imagined back when we were smart-aleck kids bored by our own ordinary upbringing. The elite intellectual, however, succumbs to a Peter Pan fantasy, refusing to let go of the flattering childhood conceit that he is an extraordinary and superior being.

Remember being 19 and thinking you already knew everything? The elitist becomes fixated in that stage, a narcissist trapped in admiration of his own wonderfulness, and therefore sneers at the ordinary existence and ordinary attitudes of ordinary people in ordinary places. This arrested development accounts for the urban elitist's disdain for the suburbanite.

Siegel's essay is very good, more than 2,000 words, and the brief excerpts I've quoted hardly do it justice, so read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Excellent point by commenter Ronsonic:
Interestingly, this is not so different from the attitude of career criminals, not understanding the accomplishment of the ordinary, they think it beneath them. Incapable of the persistence and occasional tedium of life they insist on attempting to bypass it somehow. Thinking themselves superior to those around them, who they see as lacking vision and enterprise they justify themselves.
So we have the strange bedfellows of the counter-culture - upper middle class intellectuals and common street thugs.
This point, I'm sure, would be endorsed by Thomas Sowell.

There goes the (upscale, liberal) neighborhood

Liberals love diversity as a concept. The reality? Not so much:
ANTIOCH, Calif. (AP) - As more and more black renters began moving into this mostly white San Francisco Bay Area suburb a few years ago, neighbors started complaining about loud parties, mean pit bulls, blaring car radios, prostitution, drug dealing and muggings of schoolchildren.
In 2006, as the influx reached its peak, the police department formed a special crime-fighting unit to deal with the complaints, and authorities began cracking down on tenants in federally subsidized housing.
Now that police unit is the focus of lawsuits by black families who allege the city of 100,000 is orchestrating a campaign to drive them out.
How liberal is Antioch? It's in Contra Costa County, which went 68% for Obama. Via Sister Toldjah, who calls this a "case study" about "the perils of believing liberal do-gooders."

Shorter Melissa Clouthier

Foreigners stink:
I’m glad for my Puritanical heritage. Puritans and their whole “cleanliness is next to godliness” obsession were sooooo right. One great thing about Americans is their nearly universal compulsion to be clean. Personal hygiene is imperative. Most days, while walking through my American life, I take clean people for granted. Not anymore. Sharing public transportation–like say tour buses and say, plane cabins–with people from Europe, Asia, and Australia has taught me to have an attitude of gratitude for my American compatriots. It is a problem, fellow world travelers, when you stink at 9:00 a.m. while getting ON the bus before hiking the jungle. If you’re not going to shower, at least wear some deodorant.
Nothing like traveling abroad to make you realize that the rest of the world is full of smelly foreigners who talk funny.

Stupid 2.0

Via Volokh Conspiracy, the perfect argument against online dating, from the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals:
Pseudonymous plaintiff John Doe appeals the dismissal of his complaint against defendant, (“SexSearch”), an online adult dating service that facilitates sexual encounters between its members. Doe used SexSearch to meet Jane Roe, who described herself as an eighteen-year-old female. The two met and had sexual relations. Roe, it turned out, was actually fourteen years old, and Doe was consequently arrested and charged with three counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. . . . Doe then filed suit against SexSearch, alleging an array of violations under Ohio law, most of which are variations on the claim that SexSearch is at fault for Doe’s sexual relationship with a minor and the harm that resulted from his arrest.
Sorry, "John Doe," the court ain't buying your argument. So let that be a warning to the rest of you guys out there. If you score a connection via an "online adult dating service," and your date asks you to pick her up about 3:30 p.m. in front of the local middle school, expect no mercy from the Sixth Circuit.

I mean, you know, look for clues. Like, suppose you're about to hook up with a chick you met through an "online adult dating service," and when she starts getting undressed you notice she's wearing Dora the Explorer underwear . . . clues.

Hurray for Ruth and Orit!

Ruth Malhotra and Orit Sklar have won their First Amendment lawsuit against the PC speech codes at Georgia Tech, with the university ordered to pay more than $200,000 in legal expenses.

UPDATE: Orit got video today of a pro-Hamas rally in front of the Israeli consulate in Atlanta:

Hamas in Atlanta, Ga. That just seems so wrong.

Michelle Cottle's nonsense

Fretting about the presidential "bubble" of security and scrutiny that is steadily enveloping Barack Obama, Michelle Cottle conjures up nightmare visions:
Not to focus on the macabre--or to disparage Obama's post-racial sense of self--but there are still enough unreconstructed racists running around with screws loose and guns loaded . . . to merit extra precautions. I mean, sweet Jesus, can you imagine the fallout if anything untoward were to happen to our historic new leader? The outpouring of outrage in the nation’s major cities could make the 1968 riots look like a collection of block parties.
Right. So while the economic meltdown continues and the Middle East incinerates, why bother worrying about the problems we already have? Much more fun to speculate on hypotheticals, fretfully imagining a crackpot neo-Nazi assassination scenario rather than, say, an attack by the Islamicist terrorist organization that killed 3,000 Americans in one day and would have flown a jetliner into the White House or the Capitol if the passengers on Flight 93 hadn't stopped them.

"Senior editor" -- dimwit.

'An aesthetic of naturalism'

"The commitment to realism and an aesthetic of naturalism is shown by the fact that all the women in this commercial are wearing red high-heeled shoes."
-- Little Miss Attila
She apparently is one of the few women on the planet not offended by the notorious partiarchal misogyny of the naked Danish skydiving commercial. My wife reports that the video inspired this conversation between my sister-in-law, Erica, and her husband, Donovan:
Donovan: I'm disgusted.
Erica: Stop grinning, or I'll knock your teeth out.

Or course, it is disgusting -- think of the safety risk involved with all those poor girls jumping out of that airplane, and for what? To sell washing machines! Such disgusting capitalist greed . . .

UPDATE: OK, since we're going all PG-13 and everything, might as well get our money's worth. Thanks to the Right Guy for tipping us to this commercial for a German optical company. The tagline, "Brille notig?" translates as, "Need glasses?"

UPDATE II: Gabriel Malor confirms that he is evil incarnate, by linking this new ad campaign. Before you click that link, I warn you: You can't un-watch it.

Kony's slaughter in Congo

The Washington Post reports:
A Ugandan rebel group known for its horrific cruelties has massacred 189 people and kidnapped at least 20 children over three days in northeastern Congo, U.N. officials reported Monday.
The cultlike Lord's Resistance Army carried out the attacks on three villages between Thursday and Saturday, according to Ivo Brandau, a spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa.
The group killed 40 people in the small town of Faradje on Thursday, and over the next two days, it attacked the villages of Doruma, where rebels massacred 89 people, and neighboring Gurba, where 60 were killed, Brandau said, citing reports that the United Nations received from local authorities.
This report by Stephanie Crummen deserves especial praise for these two paragraphs:
Although the Lord's Resistance Army is associated with the political grievances of the Acholi people of northern Uganda, the group has mostly terrorized the Acholis over the past 20 years, proving to be more of a psychotic cult than a true rebellion. Its reclusive, messianic leader, Joseph Kony, claims to consult spirits and says he aims to establish a theocracy based on the Ten Commandments.
Over the years, however, his movement has earned a reputation as one of the most brutal groups on the continent, sexually enslaving young girls, abducting children and forcing new recruits to machete friends to death during induction ceremonies. The group has killed or disfigured more than 10,000 people -- cutting off victims' lips was a trademark -- and abducted more than 20,000 children, as well as forced more than 2 million people to flee their homes, rights groups say.
Press accounts routinely refer to the LRA as "rebels," which is sort of like calling Charles Manson a "youth adviser." The LRA is, and always has been, a terrorist organization. The Post and Crummen deserve praise for pointing this out.

UPDATE: A report in Uganda's New Vision indicates some of the fleeing LRA have already made it into South Sudan. Doruma is very close to the three-way junction of the borders of Congro, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. It seems obvious that the Dec. 14 joint attack on Kony's base in the Garamba National Park caused the LRA to split up, fleeing in different directions, some heading north and west toward Doruma, others heading east toward Faradje and the Sudanese border.

UPDATE II: Meryl Yourish invokes a comparison between the slaughter in Congo and the situation in Gaza:
I have yet to hear of a special UN Security Council meeting being convened to discuss the crisis in the Congo, where innocent men, women, and children are being murdered for no apparent reason.
Well, yeah. But I don't know if this is an appropriate analogy. Compared to Kony and the LRA, Hamas looks like a Boy Scout troop. (I've actually met two young survivors of an LRA raid.) If anything, the world's willingness to ignore the LRA's horrific savagery bespeaks . . . racism.

Gaza should thank Israel

They've been spared a menace:
A boat carrying international peace activists, including former Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, and medical supplies to the embattled Gaza Strip sailed back into a Lebanese port on Tuesday after being turned back and damaged by the Israeli navy, organizers of the trip said.
Air strikes are nothing compared to the kind of havoc that Cynthia McKinney can wreak.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin dubs McKinney's vessel the S.S. Moonbat. And let's take a trip down memory lane and remember that moonbattery is hereditary in the McKinney family:
Her father, Georgia state legislator Billy McKinney, shared his [explanation of Cynthia's 2002 Democratic primary defeat] with an Atlanta television reporter on August 19, 2002, the night before she lost. The reporter had asked Billy McKinney about his daughter's use of a years-old, moth-balled endorsement from former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young. Such endorsements were worthless, the elder McKinney replied, because "Jews have bought everybody. Jews." In case the reporter didn't understand, he spelled the word: "J-E-W-S."
The McKinneys are C-R-A-Z-Y.

Good-bye, books

Your lifelong ambition was to become a published author? Better kiss that dream good-bye:
The specter of commercial death has been haunting the whole book business lately. It wasn't exactly the best of times for publishers and booksellers before the economy melted down. Afterward, the headlines got truly grim: There was "Barnes & Noble Braces for 'Terrible' Season" and "Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Places 'Temporary' Halt on Acquisitions." (Translation: Publisher with scary debt issues can't afford to pay authors for books.) Then came "Layoffs at Random House, Simon & Schuster," followed quickly by "Publishing Death Watch."
On Dec. 1, Publishers Weekly posed what could be construed as a hopeful question: "As Bad As It Gets?"
Not likely. After the holidays, most observers believe, things will only get worse.

Just posting this for future reference, the next time somebody tries to tell me that the death-spiral of the newspaper industry is a function of liberal bias. On the contrary, the decline of publishing -- not just newspapers, but magazines and books, too -- is a consequence of the coming-of-age of the post-literate generation.

Remember, next time you board an airplane, to observe your fellow passengers to see if any of those under 30 brought a book, magazine or newspaper to read. Instead, in nearly every case, you'll see them zone out to the iPod. Reading for pleasure, or for edification, is a habit that almost no one under 30 ever acquired. Or ever will.

Whatever their ability to read, reading's function for the under-30s is almost entirely utilitarian or job-driven. The idea of browsing a bookstore to purchase an anthology of short stories, a history of colonial New England, or a new volume by their favorite columnist -- dude, they don't read newspapers, how are they supposed to have a "favorite columnist"?

What we have been watching over the past few decades is the slow but relentless decline of reading as a mass phenomenon. Without a mass market to pay the bills, publishers are trying to find a business model that will permit them to survive in a world where reading is the province of a dwindling elite.

UPDATE: One of the commenters has accused me of hyperbole. Here are just a couple of data from this year's Pew survey of American news consumption habits:

  • "Since the early 1990s, the proportion of Americans saying they read a newspaper on a typical day has declined by about 40%; the proportion that regularly watches nightly network news has fallen by half." And online news readership has not made up the loss.
  • "In spite of the increasing variety of ways to get the news, the proportion of young people getting no news on a typical day has increased substantially over the past decade. About a third of those younger than 25 (34%) say they get no news on a typical day, up from 25% in 1998." Note that these figures for the "newsless" include news from all sources, including TV and online.

There is a net decline in readership, and the driving force behind this overall decline is the relatively low rate of readership among the younger generation. Of course, the Pew survey's focus was specifically on news consumers (including people who watch TV news), rather than on literacy or general reading. But the data are consistent with my argument.

We are living in the Age of the Image, where the picture on the video screen is utterly dominant over any truth that can be conveyed by the written word. Children who are immersed from infancy into an all-pervasive media bath of images in motion -- 24/7 cable TV, DVDs, video games, etc. -- are permanently stunted in their mental habits, glued to the floor, as it were. A child raised on a diet of nonstop image-action will never develop the reading habit, and without habitual readers, there is a dwindling market for the written word.

FACT: In 2000, the two magazines with the largest paid circulation were the AARP Bulletin and Modern Maturity (about 20 million each). The leading news magazine, Time, had a circulation of about 4 million in 2000, which fell to 3.3 million in 2007, while AARP Bulletin/Modern Maturity subscriptions increased to 24 million each. Do you get the point?

The problem faced by the publishing industry is a problem of diminishing demand. It is not an issue of content or marketing, and technological innovation (e.g., Kindle) will not fix the problem. The decline of habitual reading has passed a tipping point, so that it is no longer possible to speak of a "mass market" book or a "mass market" magazine, especially for the younger generation.

Now, it may be that you are under 30 and object to this broad generalization -- after all, you are reading, aren't you? But aren't you conscious of what a relative rarity you are amid your generation?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Postmodern nuptial customs

To begin with, congratulations to Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin on the arrival of their son, Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnson, who was a healthy 7 pounds, 7 ounces, when born Saturday morning. May God bless you all.

And now the cultural criticism: What's up with this "baby first, marriage later" thing?
Johnston . . . told the Associated Press in October that he and fiancée Bristol plan to wed in 2009 and raise the child together.
What's wrong with a private hurry-up wedding before the baby comes, so that a few years from now young Tripp isn't staring at his birth certificate wondering why his parents are listed with different surnames?

Conservative ought to support real traditional values: "Paint the shotgun white, Pa -- it's going to be a formal wedding!"

UPDATE: Linked at . . . the Village Voice?

Worth a thousand words

Beyond the comic orthography of hate, we have reached a seminal moment in the development of the blogosphere, I would suggest, when Marty Peretz of the New Republic links Pam Geller of Atlas Shrugs. Apparently, however, this photo of a protest on New York's Fifth Avenue derives from another blog, The Silent Majority, which has a whole album of photos, plus videos including this one:

(Cross-posted at AmSpecBlog.)

UPDATE: Ace of Spades:
But it's worth the speculation just to note that in addition to dancing, homosexuality, rock music and the clitoris, the would-be global caliphate has also declared war on juice.
Not that it affects me. Atkins and all. But I don't want to live in a world where I can't drink a nice cool glass of Cran-Grape.
Madcap hijinks ensue.

Ace the Magic Ewok

Amid all the "Magic Negro" uproar, Ace the Magic Ewok offers a genuinely thoughtful reflection on the subject. Among other things, he points out octaroon as "a word people aren't quite sure they're allowed to say."

BTW, when he's not blogging, Ace is a screenwriter and so is thoroughly familiar with the origin of the term "Magic Negro" to describe a cinematic archetype, a role that black cultural critics see as insultingly servile. This goes to the intent and purpose of the Paul Shanklin parody, and is not intended as a defense of Chip Saltsman from the charge of stupidity.

UPDATE: Ewoks are notorious misogynists, but that's just part of their authentic culture and only Western hegemonic imperialists would judge them for it.

Short answer: No

A "liberal beta male" -- to use Allah's tag -- ponders his reproductive fitness:
Can it really be right to have children when they’ll grow up in a world dominated by narratives of social and environmental catastrophe the worst aspect of which, following the likely failure of my own generation to act, is that the ability to alter the course of events may well have disappeared?
As the father of six happy, confident children, I can happily and confidently tell Guy Damman: No, you are not "fit to breed."

The exquisite sensibilities of the effete intellectual are antithetical to good parenting. If you're the kind of neurasthenic wuss who sits around fretting about "environmental catastrophe," the world can do without your progeny who, by both nature and nuture, will be bent toward your own self-doubting pathology.

What the world needs is cheerful courage, undeceived and undeterred by the propaganda of secularist gloom which tells people, on the one hand, that man has no need for God, and on the other hand, that only all-powerful government can save us from man-made catastrophe. I have recently been re-reading William F. Buckley's 1951 classic God And Man At Yale, in which the first seedlings of this poisonous harvest of liberalism were discerned. One sees in retrospect that the spiritual bankruptcy of the old liberal elite was manifested a full generation before our campuses erupted in radical madness, that the hand-wringing over "the superstition of academic freedom" displayed the weakness of a regime that would crumble at first contact with any real challenge. This weakness is now manifested as exaggerated concern about "environmental catastrophe," et cetera. Will liberals never learn that what they think of as a political philosophy is in fact but the symptom of a fatal disease of the soul?

Please, gloom-and-doomers, do not feel compelled to inflict upon the world your feeble offspring, genetically predisposed toward your own suicidal perspective. We don't need more whiners.

UPDATE: Linked by CrankyCon. Thanks!

The problem with crystal balls

If we pause for a minute to think about what we expected a year ago, we realize that we don't have the ability to predict the future, a point I make in my latest column for Pajamas Media:
In light of how things turned out, it is an amusing irony that in late 2007 it was Republicans who worried about a long, ugly struggle for their party's nomination. "I fear our intraparty fury will destroy all leaders and send us off to a brokered convention -- and from thence, probably to defeat," Tony Blankley wrote in his column on Dec. 19, 2007. "If the Democrats have their candidate by February and we are campaigning harshly until August, we surely would start in a deep hole."
Instead, Romney surprised Republicans by announcing on Feb. 7 that he was suspending his campaign, effectively ceding the nomination to McCain. And while the Democrats struggled on until June — with Obama finally defeating Hillary only because of a shift in support among the party's superdelegates -- that long, bruising campaign seemed to enhance, rather than diminish, the Democratic advantage in the general election.
Please read the whole thing.


Mark Steyn:
Forty years ago, the mills of northern England needed workers so Britain imported them from Pakistan. The mills closed, but the workers stayed, and now Yorkshire has adopted Mirpuri customs of arranged cousin marriage: in Bradford, 75 per cent of Pakistani Britons are married to their first cousins.
Mill workers married to their first cousins? Man, those Pakistanis would feel right at home in Alabama.

Of course, they'd have to get nicknames. Everybody in Alabama has a nickname, and especially if you've got a foreign-sounding name that folks in Alabama can't pronounce, you'll need a nickname. Suppose your name is Khawaja Nazimuddin. In Wetumpka, you automatically become "Mudcat." Or suppose your name is Shahid Masood. In Heflin, everybody will call you "Moose."

This is how we know Barack Obama wasn't raised in Alabama. If he'd grown up in Opelika, he'd be "Bubba." Roughly half the population of the state is nicknamed "Bubba." The other half answers to Betty Mae or Mandy Sue.

Of course, Mr. Steyn didn't really mean to compare Pakistani immigrants in England to Southern rednecks. He meant to say that they are clannish religious extremists prone to violence.

Hey, wait a minute . . .

The murder gap

New York Times:
The murder rate among black teenagers has climbed since 2000 even as murders by young whites have scarcely grown or declined in some places, according to a new report.
The celebrated reduction in murder rates nationally has concealed a "worrisome divergence," said James Alan Fox, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University who wrote the report, to be released Monday, with Marc L. Swatt. . . .
The main racial difference involves juveniles ages 14 to 17. In 2000, 539 white and 851 black juveniles committed murder, according to an analysis of federal data by the authors. In 2007, the number for whites, 547, had barely changed, while that for blacks was 1,142, up 34 percent. . . .
The report primarily blames cutbacks in federal support for community policing and juvenile crime prevention, reduced support for after-school and other social programs, and a weakening of gun laws.
Well, isn't that just peachy? Conservative policies are to blame for murders committed by black teenagers (very few of whom vote Republican, by the way). If whites commit more murders during the Obama administration, do we get to blame that on liberalism?

I didn't think so.

True story

At the party I went to Saturday night, I was talking to a guy (a Democrat) and said something deprecatory about the Obama administration's fondness for Keynesianism. The guy says, "You sound like [Cato Institute economist] Dan Mitchell. He plays left field on my softball team and he's always talking about the Keynesians, the stimulus and the bailouts."

To which I replied: "Dan Mitchell in left field? Are you crazy? He belongs in right field -- no, better yet, far-right field."

Failure of imagination

Whatever else Niall Ferguson imagines for 2009, he can't envision a scenario in which the Obama administration fails.

Israel ready for long fight

Washington Post:
Israeli officials said that they were prepared for an extended campaign in Gaza, possibly including ground forces, and that the goal is to break Hamas's military capacity. "We will continue to attack as long as they fire," said a senior Israeli military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Israel's military, he said, intends to pressure Hamas to the point where the Islamist movement either "runs out of will or runs out of capability to launch more attacks."
Israeli officials said they were choosing targets that they believed were being used for weapons manufacturing or storage. The Israeli cabinet called up 6,500 reserve forces Sunday, and troops stationed along the border with Gaza were on "the highest level of alert," according to Israeli military spokesman Capt. Benjamin Rutland.
So, they'll just keep pounding as long as necessary. This attack was planned for six months.

UPDATE: Naturally, Washington's provincial elitists think it's all about Obama:
Part of what is going on today with Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak's unleashing of massive Israeli airpower against Hamas offices in Gaza is a test of Obama's America. Hamas's decision to end its "lull", or temporary ceasefire with Israel, also has a lot to do with testing the U.S. and seeing what the outlines of Obama's policy will be.
Barack Obama cannot afford to allow his presidency and its foreign policy course to be hijacked by either side in this increasingly blurry dispute.
Right. The world teeters on the brink of Armageddon and what's important is the political impact on Obama's policy. And people accuse me of being un-serious . . .

UPDATE II: Dave at Israelly Cool is all over it. The revolution will not be televised, but the Apocalypse will be blogged.

UPDATE III: Just in case you were worried about oil prices getting too low, don't worry.

UPDATE IV: Video via Hot Air:

UPDATE V: Noah Pollak on "The Juicebox Mafia":
The only time its members write about Israel is when they can condemn it. The truth of the matter is that they have nothing invested in Israel other than their American liberalism and their Jewish surnames. Being a Jewish critic of Israel is ever so much more compelling and melodramatic than being just another leftist critic of Israel: Instead of trafficking in banalities, one can claim disillusionment, embarrassment, and betrayal. Pardon me if I call this out for what it is -- moral preening and pure cynicism.
Sort of like guilt-ridden white Southerners who specialize in moralistic hand-wringing over the backward ways of their homeland. Someone once defined a liberal as a man who's afraid to take his own side in an argument. When your neighbors are attacking you with mortars and rockets, and your biggest concern is that retaliatory action might be too drastic . . . Well, as Jeff Foxworthy would say, "You might be a liberal if . . ."

UPDATE VI: David Bernstein, while mining the rich motherlode of idiocy that is Glenn Greenwald, pauses to observe:
Hamas . . . is perfectly willing to fight Israel to the last Palestinian civilian.

Unions strangling industry

It's not just pay and benefits:
Union rules have been a joke for as long as I can remember but now they are no laughing matter. . . . Those rules have been slowly bleeding our auto companies to death and the very best the UAW can offer now is a defiant demand that we taxpayers pick up the tab for its greed.
The UAW gained control of the American auto industry at a time when foreign imports were non-competitive. By making demands that artificially drove up the price of domestic-made cars and drained from U.S. automakers the capital necessary for innovation, the UAW was a major cause of Detroit's competitive decline. And now that they've driven their employers to the verge of bankruptcy, the UAW refuses to acknowledge their own role in this destructive process.

'Why are only skinny white women with fake boobs naked?'

So asks a feminist at Feministing in regard to this Danish TV commercial, which is extremely NSFW:

Link: Fleg Master Tlpizza

The ad is for a Siemens washing machine that costs 4,999.00 DKK (or about $900), according to TechCrunch, which calls it "the best commercial ever made." Via Eratosthenes, who seems to share my joyous contempt for feminism. Anything that annoys feminists is a good thing, although in point of fact, I share the quoted feminista's dislike for fake boobs. To my taste, natural A-cups are better than fake C-cups.

Oh, also notice that the annoyed feminist commenter seems to find something vaguely wrong in the fact that this Danish commercial features only white women. Hello? It's Denmark -- 91 percent of the population are native Danes. Actually, however, a careful viewing of the video reveals that there is at least one Asian model (at the right of the screen at the :05 mark). The largest immigrant group in Denmark is Turks and the model at the right of the screen at the :15 mark could definitely be Turkish. Nor do all of the women have fake boobs. A careful viewing, I said . . .

UPDATE: Linked at Conservative Grapevine.

UPDATE II: Matthew Archbold:
Walking by Abercrombie or Victoria's Secret is essentially a walking tour of porn for children. . . .
They see it. They internalize it. They think that window display represents the realm of adulthood. They intuit that adults desire 8-pack abs and 38 D breasts. And kids want to be adults.
Via Free Republic. Believe it or not, I'm actually a social conservative, it's just that I'm not a prude -- the two things are not synonymous -- and understand that kids don't need to log onto political blogs to find naked women on the Internet. As for adult readers, I think your morals are unlikely to be corrupted by that silly Danish commercial. I'm far more bothered by all these TV ads for Cialis, Viagra and contraceptives. You can't watch a football game with your kids nowadays without being subjected to warnings about four-hour erections.

UPDATE III: Ace says, "There is, of course, a political angle here of great import." Exactly. And not just because the Conservative Blogger of the Year said so, but because Jessica Valenti can never be mocked too much.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hayek on MTP, 1975

MP3 audio from "Meet the Press," June 22, 1975, courtesy of the Mises Institute via NewsAlert, with the Nobel laureate Friedrich Von Hayek talking about inflation.

Notice how Hobart Rowan (1:45) attacks Hayek's "theories" as "unrealistic," and pushes the Keynesian nostrum of a necessary tradeoff between inflation and unemployment -- despite the fact that the U.S. economy was then staggering into the morass of "stagflation," which rather emphatically invalidated the Keynesian theory.

Oprah falls for another hoax

She's a sucker for too-good-to-be-true stories:
On Saturday, Berkley Books canceled [Herman] Rosenblat's memoir, "Angel at the Fence." Rosenblat acknowledged that he and his wife did not meet, as they had said for years, at a sub-camp of Buchenwald, where she allegedly sneaked him apples and bread. The book was supposed to come out in February. . . .
Rosenblat's believers included not only his agent and his publisher, but Oprah Winfrey, film producers, journalists, family members and strangers who ignored, or didn't know about, the warnings from scholars that his story didn't make sense. . . .
Winfrey fell, as she did with James Frey, for a narrative of suffering and redemption better suited for television than for history.
More background from the New Republic:
Professor Kenneth Waltzer, the director of the Jewish Studies program at Michigan State University, first began to doubt the truthfulness of Herman's tale a couple of years ago. . . . Waltzer's main critique is that the book's central premise--that Roma threw Herman apples over the fence outside the Schlieben camp in the winter of 1945--is an impossibility. . . . Waltzer concluded from studying maps of Schlieben that it was impossible for either a prisoner or civilian to approach the fence; the only spot where one could access the perimeter at all was right next to the SS barracks.
I wonder if this makes anyone rethink the significance of Oprah's support for Obama.

UPDATE: Note how the guy who bought the movie rights to Rosenblat's hoax scapegoats the Holocaust historian who pointed out the factual problems with the story:
"Deborah Lipstadt has never read the book. . . . She has never spoken to Herman Rosenblat. I find that to be pretty disgusting."
Right. You paid good money for bogus a story, and instead of blaming the con man who hustled you, you instead attack the person who is exposing the fraud perpetrated against you.

This is a fundamental problems with the Oprahfication of culture. There are a lot of people who love a great story more than they love the truth. And so when you tell someone like that a too-good-to-be-true story as memoir or history, the aesthetic of the story gives it a certain credibility in their mind. People like that are cursed with a defective bullshit detector, and can't seem to comprehend that the very perfection of the story as a story argues against its veracity.

From such beautiful fictions are myths made. Much of the popular myth of "McCarthyism" -- the idea that efforts to prevent and expose Soviet subversion during the Cold War was a paranoid "witch hunt" -- is based on bogus anecdotes with no more historical credibility than Rosenblat's fiction. But because the alleged heroism of Edward R. Murrow or the alleged victimhood of the "Hollywood 10" makes such a great story, the ugly truth can't get a fair hearing.

Camelot: 'Gaelic for chutzpah'

Time for Caroline Kennedy to get the hook:
Her handlers and family enablers insist she feels no entitlement to the Senate job, yet there is no other possible reason to give it to her. Her name is the sole reason she even dares go for it. Camelot must be Gaelic for chutzpah. . . .
Kennedy apparently decided to go public to build support and scare off others, including Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, whose nasty divorce from her cousin still roils both clans. Kennedy also had to introduce herself to Democratic party leaders because, other than endorsing Obama, her politics were a mystery.
But the minute she faced the routine questions that help define a candidate for virtually any office, she had nothing to say. There was no "there" there.
Caroline: The Oakland of the Kennedy clan. (Via: Instapundit.)

UPDATE: Via Hot Air, the obligatory Cuffy Meigs video where Caroline says "you know" 30 times in a little over 2 minutes:

'Appeal against the thunderstorm'

"You might as well appeal against the thunderstorm as against these terrible hardships of war."
-- Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, Sept. 12, 1864

Marty Peretz describes the Israeli attack on Hamas in blunt terms:
So at 11:30 on Saturday morning, according to both the Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz, as well as the New York Times, 50 fighter jets and attack helicopters demolished some 40 to 50 sites in just about three minutes, maybe five. Message: do not fuck with the Jews.
This, says Glenn Greenwald, is a "uniquely despicable view" and Peretz is a "psychopath" for expressing it, because the Israeli attack will result in "the slaughter of scores of innocent Palestinians" and "several hundred Palestinian dead -- including numerous children."

Greenwald correctly asserts: "Opinions about the Israeli-Palestinian dispute are so entrenched that any single outbreak of violence is automatically evaluated through a pre-existing lens, shaped by one's typically immovable beliefs about which side bears most of the blame for the conflict." And he is certainly not exempted from the effects of entrenched opinion and immovable belief, unequivocally placing himself in the Blame Israel First camp.

Are there no innocent Israelis, no "numerous children" imperiled by the haphazard Hamas rocket and mortar attacks of recent days? Did not Israel warn Hamas that a continuation of the attacks would not be tolerated? It seems to me that one must either justify the Hamas attacks or else admit Israel's right to act in self-defense. Greenwald and other critics might argue that Israel had a right to act, but has overreacted. However, in doing so they seek to make themselves arbiters of Israeli defense policy.

Sherman's sober words about the "terrible hardships of war" were written to the mayor of Atlanta, who had complained about the cruelty of the Union commander's order for the evacuation of the civilian population of the city. Sherman's merciless attitude was motivated by his belief that the South bore responsibility for starting the war, and thus had no legitimate grounds to complain about the consequences of war. Sherman furthermore believed that by devastating the interior of the Confederacy, destroying its infrastructure and resources, he would hasten the end of the war and thereby end its attendant misery:
We must have peace , not only at Atlanta, but in all America. To secure this, we must stop the war that now desolates our once happy and favored country. To stop war, we must defeat the rebel armies . . .
Understand that I am a native of Atlanta, taught from the cradle to hate Sherman as a wicked instrument of the War of Northern Aggression. Nevertheless, he had a point: Those who inaugurate war must be prepared to accept the consequences. Hamas decided to begin bombarding Israel, and continued that bombardment despite warnings. Surely Hamas has no right to complain of the predictable consequences.

Beyond that, it is rather odd of Greenwald to speak of "innocent" Palestinians. Did not the Palestinian people themselves elect Hamas by a landslide majority? And haven't the Palestinians overwhelmingly supported every atrocity of this Islamicist fanatic group?

I would remind Glenn Greenwald of the words of Barack Obama's spiritual mentor, who declared that the 9/11 attacks represented "chickens coming home to roost" for America. Is it not possible, by the same standard, to see the Israeli attacks on Gaza as "chickens coming home to roost" for the Palestinians? Or how about we apply the standard of progressive hero Ward Churchill and view the allegedly innocent Palestinians as "little Eichmanns"?

Instead of imprecating Israel for its "brutal" and "grotesquely inhumane" policies, perhaps Greenwald and the rest of the Blame Israel First crowd ought to be grateful for the relative restraint Israel has shown in its response to the Hamas attacks. If the IDF had a Sherman in command, he would no doubt vow to "make Gaza howl" with a March to the Sea.

(BTW, it's worth noting that Sherman's attitude toward the media was ahead of its time: "I hate newspapermen. . . . I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are. If I killed them all there would be news from Hell before breakfast.")

UPDATE: Donald Douglas has a roundup of reaction to the IDF attacks.

UPDATE II: A fatwa against Israel:
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a religious decree to Muslims around the world on Sunday, ordering them to defend Palestinians against Israel's attacks on Gaza, state television said.
"All Palestinian combatants and all the Islamic world's pious people are obliged to defend the defenseless women, children and people in Gaza in any way possible. Whoever is killed in this legitimate defense is considered a martyr," state television quoted Khamenei as saying in a statement outlining the fatwa.
Khamenei also criticized some Arab governments for their "encouraging silence" towards the Israel's raids on Gaza. "The Zionist regime must by held accountable by Islamic governments. The heads of this regime must be held personally accountable for these crimes and the ongoing siege," the religious leader said.
The familiar denunciations of the "Zionist regime," the rote call for "martyrs" -- old times there are not forgotten, eh? Minor quibble: Do Palestinians qualify for "martyrdom" when they're gunned down by Egyptian border guards?

UPDATE III: Ed Morrissey:
Hamas insists on a war of annihilation and won't accept any other solution. Let them have it.
Guess the "uniquely despicable" views of Marty Peretz aren't quite so unique after all. We await Greenwald's denunciation of Ed Morrissey.

UPDATE IV: A very thoughtful analysis of the motivations of Hamas at HuffPo, which is not where one usually goes in search of thoughtful analysis.

UPDATE V: Welcome, Instapundit readers.

UPDATE VI: Oh, classic. Greenwald accuses Reynolds and myself of "swaggering around," because we recognize that . . . well, war is a terrible thing, and Hamas bears the onus of provoking it. Note well the double standard: Greenwald believes that the Iraq war is a terrible thing, and does not hesitate to condemn Bush for the invasion, but Hamas can shell Israeli civilians without deserving criticism.

Furthermore, hypothetically suppose that Israel's attacks on Gaza result in negative consequences for Israel. Suppose, for example, that Hamas succeeds in a major suicide-bomb attack. Greenwald would "swagger around" and say Israel has sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind. So whatever happens, Greenwald's response is the same: Blame Israel First. It's formulaic.

Here is the thing: The leaders of Israel must surely be aware that this attack on Hamas will incite a violent response, and have taken that fact into consideration in the cost-benefit analysis of their military offensive in Gaza. But is there any better alternative? Hamas was already doing everything in its power to kill Israelis.

You cannot negotiate with a shark. To the extent that Hamas represents any coherent political philosophy, that philosophy can be summed up in two words: Kill Jews. So long as there remains a single Jew alive in the Middle East, Hamas will call for that Jew's violent death, and once they've slaughtered or driven out all the Jews in the Middle East, Hamas will then go abroad in search of Jews to kill elsewhere.

It is only because Hamas believes they can find useful-idiot sympathizers in the West, to intervene and compel Israel to engage in suicidal negotiations, that their murderous fanaticism has any hope of success. And how does Hamas define success? Kill Jews.

If American Jews like Greenwald are willing to serve as apologists for Hamas, they've got much worse problems than the "swaggering" of a few conservative critics. Problem Number One: How do you sleep?

First, do no harm

Jennifer Rubin on Obama's New New Deal:
The Obama transition team, soon to be the Obama administration, is concocting a reenactment of the New Deal.
A trillion dollar stimulus is going to "create" jobs, and the government will "bailout" failing industries (with additional debt funded by the Chinese, so long as they have an appetite for quickly depreciating dollars). If you think this sounds half-baked and suffers from historical amnesia, you are right.
Despite the obvious shortcomings with this approach (e.g., it's never worked before), the Republican Party so far isn't doing a very good job of coming up with alternatives. Plainly, they don't like the mounds of debt. And they are skeptical of a gigantic public works projects. But what could be done instead?
What about doing nothing? It seems to me that the "do something" demand for economic intervention is fundamentally misguided. We are experiencing the downside of the business cycle which, however painful, is certainly temporary. In its stimulus-and-buyout frenzy over the past several months, the federal government has already made extraordinary interventions. What Obama proposes is essentially more (much more) of the same.

Isn't the true conservative response to say that the federal government has already done too much, and that doing more will only compound the problem? If the problem is too much intervention -- and cutting the prime rate from 6.5 percent in July 2000 to 1 percent in October 2003 can be characterized as an intervention deeply implicated in our current woes -- then less intervention would seem a plausible solution.

The compelling urge to "do something" about the economy may be a political necessity for the incoming administration and the Democrats in Congress, but it does not follow that Republicans, a powerless minority in Congress with no meaningful influence in the Obama administration, must offer "do something" counter-proposals. Republicans could without political peril respond to Obama's New New Deal with a simple three-word message: "It won't work."

(Cross-posted at AmSpecBlog.)

Disorienting news

I went to a holiday party Saturday night -- actually sat in with the band for two numbers -- and you'll forgive me for being a bit discombobulated today. I freaked out when I saw this headline at Hot Air:
Iran hangs ten on Christmas Eve
The phrase "hangs ten" struck my cerebral cortex at an odd angle. Surfing? In Iran? This must be a feature about Iranian youth succumbing to yet another decadent aspect of Western cultural imperialism, perhaps inspired by bootleg DVDs of old Frankie Avalon movies. And then I read the story:
Norway deplores the executions of 10 persons in Iran on Christmas Eve. Prior to the executions Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere appealed to Iran to stop in time and not go ahead with the executions. …
Ah, so the Iranians didn't actually "hang ten" on some gnarly curls in the Persian Gulf. I feel better already. I was afraid something weird was happening.

'Devotees of Kwanzaa'

That peculiar phrase makes its appearance in a column by intellectual race hustler Michael Eric Dyson:
But the holiday's most faithful practitioners proclaim its original intent: bridging black folk across the chasms of land, language, water and religion as they forge solidarity in resisting obstacles and embracing opportunities to their common destiny. As the devotees of Kwanzaa understand, those aspirations have never been of much interest to the mainstream during any period of the nation's history. And the increased fortunes of black folk cause many of them to focus their energy and attention elsewhere. But for its true believers, Kwanzaa is as relevant and necessary now as it's ever been.
Are your eyes rolling out of your head yet?

Anybody want to send me to Iraq?

Pay me, I'd love to go. I'd also love to cover Capitol Hill or the White House on a regular basis. But first, pay me.

This, in reference to the punditry/reporting argument being kicked around by, inter alia, Ed Driscoll, Glenn Reynolds and Jules Crittenden. The problem with demanding more reporting is that somebody's got to pay for that reporting.

Just last night, I was at a party talking to a lawyer who's done work at Guantanamo, and who suggested I should go down and do some reporting there. Well, OK, fine -- love to do it. But who's going to pay to send me down there?

You send a reporter to cover Capitol Hill full-time, and he's got to grind out a lot of story-of-the-day coverage on his way to developing the sources necessary to get the Big Scoop that (maybe) justifies his salary. It's an expensive proposition. The Politico started out with the two top political reporters from the WaPo and got more Drudge links than you could shake a stick at, and yet they're still in the red.

Meanwhile, the journalistic "farm system" is drying up. I talk to my old newspaper buddies in Georgia and the horror stories they tell! A 5% across-the-board pay cut, on salaries that were already pathetically low. The alternative was company-wide layoffs, even though they've already cut their news staffs to the bone. Similar stories abound throughout the news industry, and are much, much worse at community newspapers in small-to-medium markets where "liberal bias" isn't even possible as an explanation.

The Internet has not (yet) generated the kind of revenue stream necessary to fund (many) full-time reporters. Paul Mulshine has a point, even if he shouldn't have attacked Insty to make it. With every passing week, there are fewer and fewer reporters to cover the basics of the news -- school boards, county commission meetings, cops-and-courts, etc. The result is a less-informed citizenry, and this is a real loss.

UPDATE: Don Surber has more thoughts. I think I'm about as blogger-friendly as any journalist on the planet, and hostility between bloggers and reporters strikes me as atavistic. There is a lot of misunderstanding on both sides.

What do bloggers do? Well, they do a lot of different things, but the most important thing the news/politics blogger does is aggregate -- they sift through news to find what interests him, links it and comments on it. In this, the blogger functions somewhat like a newspaper editor, except that (a) he doesn't assign stories to reporters, and (b) generally, he doesn't feel the need to provide comprehensive coverage.

On point (b): Bloggers take for granted that the reader is surfing around through multiple information sources and, if he wants the latest news on the Caylee Anthony murder or the coup in Guinea, he'll find that somewhere. No blog is or aspires to be a one-stop news outlet, which leaves the blogger free to aggregate and comment on the news that seems to him most interesting or where he thinks he can gain more readers. (I blog about politics, but I also blog about Christina Hendricks, because somebody has to.)

Which leaves us with point (a): While there are bloggers who do reporting, and other bloggers who do online research that substantially enhances the news content they provide, there is no blog that can deploy people to do first-source reporting in the way that newspapers, wire services and other Old Media news organizations do.

This is where a lot of bloggers go off track in criticizing Old Media. The cult of "professionalism" in journalism produces a backlash, so that intelligent people outside the news business look with resentment toward industry insiders as some sort of privileged caste. Too many journalists emit messages of elitism: "We know what we're doing because we're professionals -- and since you're not a professional journalist, your criticisms of us have no credibility." There is a circular logic here that is infuriating.

As infuriating as this kind of media snobbery may be, it does not negate the fact that somebody has to do the first-source reporting, and it is that kind of reporting that is being jeopardized by the deep cuts in newsroom staffs. I love the blogosphere, but certainly in the near term, blogs are not going to fill the void created by the evisceration of American newsrooms.

Do a thought experiment: Suppose that Pajamas Media wanted to establish a Washington bureau. At the very minimum, you'd need three full-time staffers: One for the White House, one for Congress, and a "swing" reporter who'd cover the departments and agencies (Justice, State, Pentagon, etc.) while backstopping the other two. Even lowballing the salaries, you'd be looking at something like $120,000-$150,000 a year for that three-man bureau, not including benefits, payroll taxes, etc. (This assumes the bureau would have no actual brick-and-mortar office. It also assumes no travel budget, so when the president flies off to Brussels for a G8 summit, you don't get on-the-spot reporting.)

Would the reporting produced by a three-man shoestring D.C. bureau justify such an investment for an online operation like PJM? Consider that Cox Enterprises -- which owns 17 papers and generates annual revenue of $15 billion -- recently closed its D.C. bureau. If having a Washington bureau doesn't make sense for a giant media conglomerate like Cox, how does it make sense for PJM?

However much you loathe Old Media, then, the shriveling of the press corps must inevitably result in less reporting, and it is very difficult to see how New Media can ameliorate that loss.

UPDATE: Linked at Political Byline and Pirate's Cove (with bonus pinup).

Saturday, December 27, 2008

'Negroes,' magic and otherwise

A candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee has gotten himself in hot water by sending out a 22-song gift CD that includes the Paul Shanklin parody, "Barack, the Magic Negro." This act has "appalled" the current RNC chairman and provoked widespread commentary from the blogosphere.

While the mob descends to feast upon the bones of Chip Saltsman, can we pause long enough to ask ourselves exactly why his action was offensive?

Let us begin with the expression "Magic Negro" -- a term of cultural criticism applied to a certain type of character in fiction, especially in movies, who serves a symbolic function as a helper to the white protagonist. (Richard Brookhiser has used the phrase "Numinous Negro" with a similar meaning.)

The evocative phrase "Magic Negro" was first applied to Barack Obama by Hollywood writer David Ehrenstein in a March 2007 op-ed in the Los Angeles Times that concluded:
Like a comic-book superhero, Obama is there to help, out of the sheer goodness of a heart we need not know or understand. For as with all Magic Negroes, the less real he seems, the more desirable he becomes. If he were real, white America couldn't project all its fantasies of curative black benevolence on him.
Ehrenstein's column provoked a lot of discussion at the time of its publication, and among those discussing it was Rush Limbaugh who -- if memory serves -- related Ehrenstein's analysis to the theme developed by Shelby Steele in his recent book, White Guilt.

At some point afterward, Shanklin adapted the phrase to the tune of "Puff, the Magic Dragon" for a parody that featured Al Sharpton grousing about Obama's political success:
Barack the Magic Negro lives in D.C.
The L.A. Times, they called him that
'Cause he's not authentic like me.
Yeah, the guy from the L.A. paper
Said he makes guilty whites feel good
They'll vote for him, and not for me
'Cause he's not from the hood.
Whatever its value as political analysis, Shanklin's song aptly summarizes a point made by Ehrenstein about the "is-he-black-enough" criticism that was being made of the Harvard-educated Obama in early 2007:
The only mud that momentarily stuck was criticism (white and black alike) concerning Obama's alleged "inauthenticity," as compared to such sterling examples of "genuine" blackness as Al Sharpton and Snoop Dogg. Speaking as an African American whose last name has led to his racial "credentials" being challenged -- often several times a day -- I know how pesky this sort of thing can be.
Note the phrase, "Speaking as an African American" -- the author of the column that inspired the Shanklin parody is a black man himself! And, in case you didn't notice, the main point of the Shanklin parody was not to attack Obama, but to lampoon the envious reaction of Sharpton, as you can see from this one-minute video version:

These facts would seem relevant to the question of whether the Shanklin song is objectively "racist." Of course, facts are not in the least relevant to the ritual denunciation of Chip Saltsman -- no Republican ever gets the benefit of the doubt in these sorts of controversies, so Saltsman's bones will be added to the same pile with the skeletal remains of Trent Lott and George Allen.

UPDATE: My memory of Limbaugh's monologue invoking Shelby Steele's book was accurate:
He's just there to assuage white guilt. In other words, the only reason Obama's anywhere is because whites are willing to support him because they feel so guilty over slavery. Now, before you reject this, Shelby Steele has written a great book about the whole concept of white guilt and how it is allowing our society to become more and more passive about any number of transgressions that the country has made from its inception.
Limbaugh perhaps exaggerates Ehrenstein's argument (and Steele's) but not by much.

UPDATE II: A commenter anonymously asserts that Saltsman used the Obama song as a coded attack on two of his rivals for the RNC chair, Ken Blackwell and Michael Steele. If so, this attributes to RNC members a level of cryptogrammatic expertise I lack, as the possibility of such a motive never occurred to me. Saltsman himself says he and Shanklin are longtime friends, which seems a better explanation.

UPDATE III: Linked by Michelle Malkin, who references Peter Yarrow's outrage and comments:
All of sudden — after eight years of "F**k Bush" bumper stickers and "Kill Bush" assassination chic and Bush-or-Chimp parodies — the left is concerned about insulting the office of the Presidency?
And it's not like Malkin's unfamiliar with how liberals use racial slurs when it suits their purpose.

UPDATE IV: Hmmmm. Allah does an "obligatory" post about the controversy . . . and doesn't link The Boss? As to Allah's point, yes, of course it is ridiculous for the Republican Party to invest resources in defending the use of "an archaic term." And as such, it was stupid of Saltsman to include the parody in his gift to RNC members. But how is it that Obama suffers no political consequence for spending 20 years in the pews of Rev. Jeremiah "God Damn America" Wright's church, while the entire GOP is irredeemably tainted because of one satirical tune by Paul Shanklin? Does this mean that Rush Limbaugh's 20 million listeners are also hatemongering bigots?

You've got to pick your fights, and I don't think this is a hill worth dying for -- I'd never even heard of Saltsman until this brouhaha erupted -- but if you never fight, you never win.

UPDATE V: Jammie Wearing Fool has some interesting observations on the Complete Moral Authority of Peter Yarrow, who was pardoned for his crime by President Carter. Hey, it's for the children.

On education

Oglethorpe University Professor Joseph Knippenberg laments the "technologically-induced short attention span" of his students:
Exaggerating for the sake of clarity, the relative incapacity to read, write, and think that I deprecate is surely superior to illiteracy or semi-literacy. Stated more soberly, when more people read -- or rather are assigned -- Homer and Aristotle, we might lose some depth of exposure, but we surely gain breadth, don't we?
What troubles me is Professor Knippenberg's assumption that none of his students would read Homer or Aristotle unless it were assigned to them. This assumption is no doubt correct -- if left to his own devices, the typical college student today would never put down his Wii -- but it is still troubling.

Professor Knippenberg's assumption is all the more troubling when you consider that Oglethorpe isn't some second-tier state school, but a private liberal arts college where the annual tuition is more than $25,000. If the professor is to be believed, then, the relatively bright students at this relatively prestigious school lack any personal curiosity about the classics, and will read the ancient Greeks (in translation, I'm sure) only if these texts are mandated as part of the curriculum.

When I was in college, I went to the library in my spare time and read through most of Plutarch's Lives of the Great merely to satisfy my own curiosity, after seeing the mention of Plutarch in Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography (a selection of which was included in my sophomore American literature anthology). If Franklin thought it "time spent to great advantage" to read Plutarch, it seemed to me I should try it myself.

The autodidactic impulse was perhaps always unusual, but if Professor Knippenberg is correct, it has been utterly extinguished in the current generation of youth. Why? I would suggest it is because of the waning of what might be called the "adversarial Socratic" method in education.

When I was a kid, it seemed that our best teachers didn't shrink from asking questions in such a way as to expose their students' yawning ignorance. The student who gave the wrong answer was made to feel embarassed. If you've seen The Paper Chase, you know what I mean in describing this as an "adversarial" method, and the best of my teachers used an approximation of this method as early as fifth or sixth grade.

In recent decades, however, teachers have become so concerned for the self-esteem of children that it is no longer permissible to call the student's attention to his own ignorance, to shame him when he fails to identify a comma splice or when his pronouns disagree with his antecedents. Similarly, the red pen of correction has been abandoned and, if reports are to be believed, no one ever gets an "F" anymore. As to corporal punishment as a means of enforcing discipline, it appears that my generation was the last to be subjected to that regime.

Professor Knippenberg's column has inspired my American Spectator colleague Hunter Baker, who teaches at Houston Baptist University, to attempt an experiment:
I'll be teaching an intro to political science survey where I intend to have the students leave the laptops shut and to read through Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Machiavelli, Mill, Locke, and many others with me.
Grill them, Professor Baker. Assign the readings, and then grill them good. Employ sarcasm freely and if, in the process, you should bring some young ignoramus to tears of shame, you'll know you've made a start in the right direction.

But . . . no Burke, sir?