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?

Take that, Teddy!

Mussing up the neocon icon:
The fact that conservative politicians such as John McCain and writers like William Kristol and Karl Rove are attracted to our 26th president [Teddy Roosevelt] is strange because, if we want to understand where in the American political tradition the idea of unlimited, redistributive government came from, we need look no further than to Roosevelt and others who shared his outlook.
Read the whole thing. There is significance in the mere fact that the Wall Street Journal would rebuke the "national greatness" crowd by publishing this critique of their hero.

Hey, big spender

Oh, the evil of big money in politics:
In capturing the presidency, Obama, 47, became the first major-party nominee to reject federal funding for the general election. He spent $740.6 million . . .
McCain spent $227.7 million. . . .
Arizona Senator McCain, unlike Obama, accepted $84.1 million in public financing for the general election, a decision that barred him from raising money privately. Obama outspent him by a 4-to-1 margin from Sept. 1 through Nov. 24, FEC records show.
All the liberals who complained for years about the GOP's historical fund-raising advantage will now be silent.

It's come to this

An armed society is a polite society:
A South Philadelphia man enraged because a father and son were talking during a Christmas showing of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button took care of the situation when he pulled a .380-caliber gun and shot the father, police said.
James Joseph Cialella Jr., 29, of the 1900 block of Hollywood Street is charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, and weapons violations.
They ought to pin a medal on the guy.

Summers: Bigger is better

Larry Summers, who will head Obama's National Economic Council, spills the neo-Keynesian beans:
In this crisis, doing too little poses a greater threat than doing too much. Any sound economic strategy in the current context must be directed at both creating the jobs that Americans need and doing the work that our economy requires. Any plan geared toward only one of these objectives would be dangerously deficient. Failure to create enough jobs in the short term would put the prospect of recovery at risk. Failure to start undertaking necessary long-term investments would endanger the foundation of our recovery and, ultimately, our children's prosperity.
That is why his economic team is crafting a broad proposal, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, to support the jobs and incomes essential for recovery while also making a down payment on our nation's long-term financial health.
It won't work. But the big question, I suppose, is whether nationalizing health care will be among those "investments" Team Obama has in mind. What he does say is:
Investments to modernize our health-care system, which is necessary to improve care in the short term and key to driving down costs across the board.
Never mind the subject-verb disagreement ("Investments . . . is"), Americans already have the best health-care system in the world. How does Summers propose to drive down costs? He doesn't say. The lack of specificity is strategic -- opponents can't criticize a plan that exists only as a collection of vague bromides about "investment," without any details or dollar amounts attached.

Summers is an actual economist. He must know better than this. Why do I suspect that this op-ed was ginned up by Jon Favreau and the Obama speechwriting shop and issued under Summers' name with minimal participation by the putative author?

UPDATE: A liberal blogger credits the Summers op-ed with "some precision." But there's not a single specific in the whole thing!

Princess Caroline on J-Lo

Caroline Kennedy:
I admire the journey J. Lo has traveled. I've been to a school in the Bronx near the house she grew up in and so I actually have a lot of admiration for her and she looks pretty good but in terms of public policy and as we spend our adults lives and I don’t think there is really much we have in common.
"I've been to a school in the Bronx . . ." Yeah, and I've been to a bar in the East Village. So what?

That's from an interview Caroline did with a New York TV station. Allahpundit has more.

UPDATE: Associated Press:
Since Kennedy's name first surfaced as a possible replacement for Clinton, her advisers have shielded her from the media, with the exception of a few brief interviews on a swing through upstate New York and a visit to Harlem with the Rev. Al Sharpton. Some commentators likened her to Sarah Palin in the way her dealings with the media were being carefully managed.
Except, as Allah notes, when she finally talks to the press, Kennedy doesn't get a pop quiz about the Bush doctrine. Still, there is a valid point here about media relations: The "avoidance" strategy is always a bad idea in politics. If you can't handle an impromptu 20-minute press conference, why should voters believe you can handle the responsibilities of high office?

Israel strikes Gaza

Wiping out Hamas strongholds:
Israeli aircraft struck Hamas security compounds across Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of simultaneous attacks, and Hamas and medics reported dozens of people were killed. . . .
Health Ministry official Moawiya Hassanain said at least 120 people were killed and more than 250 wounded. Officials said others were still buried under the rubble.
In one of the Hamas compounds, the bodies of more than a dozen uniformed security officers were seen lying on the ground. . . . Among the dead was the Gaza police chief, Maj. Gen. Tawfiq Jaber, witnesses said.
Hamas officials said all of Gaza's security compounds were destroyed. Hamas said it would seek revenge, including launching new rocket attacks on Israel and sending suicide bombers to Israel.
Of course, this kind of "revenge" -- Hamas bombarding Israeli towns -- is what necessitated the IDF attacks. The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Kony on the run

African terrorist Joseph Kony and his "Lord's Resistance Army" flee their pursuers:
Ugandan rebels fleeing a multinational offensive have raided a Congolese village and killed at least 15 people, U.N. peacekeepers said on Friday.
Uganda, Congo and South Sudan launched a joint assault on December 14 against bases of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group, in Democratic Republic of Congo. But they have so far failed to corner its reclusive leader, Joseph Kony.
The United Nations mission in Congo (MONUC) said fleeing LRA fighters attacked the village of Faradje, near Congo's porous border with Sudan, on December 24 and 25.
Looking at a map, Faradje is a crossroads town east-southeast of the Garamba National Park, where the LRA hideout was raided two weeks ago. Faradje is about 30 miles west of the border of South Sudan, but Kony's gang can't expect to gain safety by crossing that border toward Yei. More likely they'll head south.

UPDATE: The Uganda New Vision has a better account, with a map that indicates the LRA has scattered three ways from Garamba:
On Christmas day, the rebels pounced on Bitima village on the Congolese side of the border with south Sudan, killing 13 people. The same day, another group hit Doroma near the Central Africa Republic (CAR), where they killed 12, ransacked homes and looted food and property. Simultaneously, other rebels attacked Faradge village, 150km from the allied forces’ base in Dungu, killing three people and abducting an unspecified number. Uganda, Congo and southern Sudan have a joint base in Dungu. On Christmas Eve, the rebels had ambushed a pick-up truck between Laforo and Mambe roads in South Sudan, along the border with the DRC. The allied forces found five civilians killed Southwest of Sekuru along the DRC-Sudan border.
From this, it appears that part of the LRA left Garama headed west and hit Doroma; another fragment went north and hit Bitima; and the third part went east toward South Sudan, hitting Faradje.

Pakistan threatens India

Very disturbing news:
Pakistan began moving thousands of troops from the Afghan border toward India, officials and witnesses said Friday, raising tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors and possibly undermining the U.S.-backed campaign against al-Qaida and the Taliban.
The country also announced that it was canceling all military leave in the aftermath of last month's terror attack on the Indian financial capital of Mumbai.
India has blamed Pakistani militants for the terrifying three-day siege; Pakistan has demanded that India back this up with better evidence.
Pakistan's latest moves were seen as a warning that it would retaliate if India launches air or missile strikes against militant targets on Pakistani soil - rather than as an indication that a fourth war was imminent between the two countries.
Pakistan sponsors terrorism against India. When India becomes angry, Pakistan threatens war. Like Joe Biden said, Obama will be tested.

Friday, December 26, 2008

PC insanity

Via Michelle Malkin, Andrew Marcus tells the story of a student found guilty of "racial harassment" at a university because of his co-worker's illiteracy.

How much worse can it get?

Perversity and popular culture

Kate Winslett defends her new movie, The Reader -- in which her character has an affair with a teenage boy -- against the accusation that the action depicted is statutory rape. Winslett's defense prompts questions from lawyerly Ann Althouse, which elicits additonal legal clarification from Eugene Volokh.

The controversy over all this is rounded up by Instapundit, with a link to Robert Franklin discussing a Texas case in which a 26-year-old woman gets a mere 90 days in jail for having sex with her 13-year-old foster son.

Wait a minute -- Texas? Did you say Texas? Remember that Texas child-welfare officials instigated a SWAT raid at the El Dorado FLDS cult compound and seized 436 children because of the suspicion that underage girls were being sexually exploited. This week, Texas released a report finding that just 12 girls at the compound has been "spiritually married" before age 16:
Two girls were 12 when married; three were 13; two were 14; and five girls were 15 when married. Seven of these girls have had one or more children after marriage.
As I have repeatedly said, if Texas is going to launch a paramilitary raid every time a teenager has sex or gets pregnant, they'll need to hire a lot more SWAT officers, because Texas leads the nation in teen pregnancy. This is not to minimize or excuse the bizarre polygamous practices of the FLDS cult, but rather to put into perspective the overkill instincts of child-welfare officials in the El Dorado case -- and also to point out how cultural forces shape popular perception about sexual deviance.

In the immediate aftermath of the El Dorado raid, lurid headlines about the "underage sex cult" fed the atmosphere of moral panic reminiscent of the notorious McMartin preschool case. Why? According to the Guttmacher Institute, there were 1,750 pregnancies among girls under age 15 in Texas in 2000 (and another 28,000 pregnancies for girls 15-17). Yet we hear nothing about prosecution of those men who routinely impregnate Texas teens, while the existence of a dozen underage brides within this renegade cult creates a worldwide firestorm of publicity.

Which brings us back around to Kate Winslett and her defense of the cinematic depiction of a 30-something woman's affair with a 15-year-old boy:

That boy knows exactly what he's doing. For a start, Hanna Schmitz [Winslett's character in the movie] thinks that he's seventeen, not fifteen, you know? She's not doing anything wrong. . . . They enter that relationship on absolutely equal footing. Statutory rape -- really please, don't use that phrase. I do genuinely find it offensive actually. This is a beautiful and very genuine love story and that is always how I saw it. . . . She wasn't cruel to him. She didn't force him into anything at all.
Althouse replies:
Don't all statutory rapists say this sort of thing? . . . Do you think 36-year-old women should be free to seduce 15-year-old boys?
This is really the issue. Either the act is a crime or it is not, and the law can't excuse crime because the criminal considers it "a beautiful and very genuine love story." Such acts are either legal or they are not. You cannot on the one hand excuse the Hanna Schmitzes (or Mary Kay Letourneaus) of the world and then, on the other hand, send SWAT teams to round up every child at the El Dorado compound.

To such an extent as The Reader glamourizes and justifies the actions of Hanna Schmitz, it undermines the law by establishing in the mind of the audience the self-exculpatory perspective of the criminal. Perhaps you'll understand the allegory when I spoil The Reader by telling you that Hanna Schmitz was a Nazi concentration camp guard whom her erstwhile boyfriend must eventually prosecute for war crimes.

Only in Texas

A Lone Star Christmas:
A naked man who was banging on doors and windows at a northside [Houston] apartment complex died Wednesday after being shocked by Tasers at least three times during a confrontation with Harris County sheriff's deputies, authorities said.
About 4 a.m., deputies received calls from residents at the apartments in the 200 block of Dominion Park near Kuykendahl.
Investigators said the 46-year-old man was randomly knocking on doors and windows and yelling while walking around the complex. At one point, he kicked open a front door and briefly went inside an occupied apartment, officials said.
The resident "did not know who he was," said Lt. John Legg of the Sheriff's Office.
When you get so high you don't know who you are, you must be in Texas -- where the sheriff's department is authorized to Taser you out of existence.

This gives new meaning . . .

. . . to the phrase "drug wars":
The Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIA officer, saw an opportunity, and reached into his bag for a small gift.
Four blue pills. Viagra.
"Take one of these. You'll love it," the officer said. Compliments of Uncle Sam.
The enticement worked. The officer, who described the encounter, returned four days later to an enthusiastic reception. The grinning chief offered up a bonanza of information about Taliban movements and supply routes -- followed by a request for more pills.
For U.S. intelligence officials, this is how some crucial battles in Afghanistan are fought and won.
Winning their hearts and minds -- one erection at a time.

Against motherhood?

John Mallon recalls that what was once a figure of speech for an extremely unpopular position -- "That's like being against motherhood and apple pie!" -- is much more commonplace nowadays. That is to say, hostility to motherhood has become quite fashionable in some quarters.


Shirtless Obama sends a thrill up the leg of ABC News, causing Ace to comment:
Bush was never slobbered over by the media for having an extraordinarily low resting heartbeat, nor for being in what appears to be near-peak physical condition for his age. On the other hand, the smoker Obama is hailed as a deity for having moobs.
Note also the differing reactions to physical attractiveness -- Sarah Palin was derided as a beauty-queen chillbilly Caribou Barbie for being kinda awfully hot. But the media indulges its id when it comes to Obama.
Trust me, Obama won't get this kind of coverage forever. Nobody does. If nothing else, other reporters who are less enamored with The One will become embarassed by the sycophancy and go negative on him just to maintain their own self-respect as journalists.

In fact, with so many in the press corps providing hagiographic coverage, there might be an extra premium on hard-hitting investigative reporting of the new administration. A scoop is a scoop is a scoop, and with so many reporters trying to cover Obama the way Tiger Beat covered the Bay City Rollers in 1976, the big opportunity for scoops will be in terms of negative coverage.

UPDATE: Noting that Obama can't be bothered to attend church at Christmas, Jammie Wearing Fool says:
In fact, ever since he dispatched Jeremiah Wright back in May, it doesn't seem as if anyone in his sycophantic press corps has bothered to ask The Messiah how that search for a new church is going. Apparently there's a shortage of psychotic spiritual mentors out there.
See? If this absence of serious reporting is evident to bloggers, don't think reporters will ignore it forever. Sooner or later some clever reporter will start asking those kinds of questions. Jake Tapper, at least, doesn't seem intimidated.

UPDATE II: Welcome, Instapundit readers. And, indeed, the professor did invoke the tartan-clad boy band in July.

Maybe you have to be a certain age to remember the pre-MTV era when Tiger Beat was the main vehicle for marketing teen idols to middle-school girls. A couple of examples of Tiger Beat covers featuring the Bay City Rollers:

BONUS: BAY CITY ROLLERS PINUP! (Totally gay, or what?)

The deciders decide

Purple Avenger at AOSHQ took notice of a snarky column by Hugh Bailey in the Connecticut Post, apparently indicating that the newspaper would no longer publish letters calling attention to the role of Democrats like Barney Frank and Chris Dodd in the mortgage meltdown. What caught my eye was a later paragraph in the column:
The notion that the tens of billions of dollars we spend killing people in Iraq could be better spent on schools and hospitals in this country is not radical. Huge majorities in this country support a robust social safety net, so that people who experience a run of misfortune don't lose everything. All other industrialized nations on the planet have some form of universal health care. None of this is controversial.
Now, first of all, P.J. O'Rourke once pointed out the fallacy of thinking that there is some kind of exchange center where we can go trade in fighter jets for social services. Whatever one's feelings about the Iraq war, it is not self-evident that deploying troops abroad automatically drains money from "schools and hospitals." Maybe it drains money from the federal departments of Education and HHS, but that's another proposition.

Yet since we're on the subject, how many of those "other industrialized nations" with universal health care can deploy so much as a single carrier task force or an infantry division? The Canadians and Swedes and Japanese have no effective military. We still have U.S. troops in Bosnia. Why? Because none of those European social democracies has enough firepower (or enough balls) to police their own backyard. If you expect the Belgians and Italians and Dutch to contribute meaningful military manpower to deterring dictators and preventing genocide, you're going to be bitterly disappointed.

As to the "huge majorities" who support the social safety net, one wonders if Mr. Bailey was whistling that majoritarian tune in 2002, when Republicans were riding high. And he closes with this:
Finally, about the penchant for using the word "liberal" as an epithet -- despite what your radio tells you, it's not an insult.
Mr. Bailey thus depicts his critics as mindless followers of talk-radio whereas he, Mr. Bailey, is entirely an independent thinker. Who is insulting who here?

The Santa Killer

A semi-automatic Christmas:
A distraught man dressed as Santa Claus opened fire at a Christmas Eve party and then set the house ablaze, killing at least eight people, authorities said.
Several hours later, the shooter killed himself.
Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, 45, who had recently been divorced and is believed to have lost his job, knocked on the front door of a home owned by the parents of his ex-wife in Covina around 11:30 Wednesday night, said Police Chief Kim Raney.
An 8-year-old girl ran to the door to answer Pardo's knock, police said. He shot her in the face, stepped into the house and began to fire indiscriminately with a semiautomatic handgun. . . .
Pardo is thought to have worked in the aerospace industry as an engineer, police and acquaintances said.
I am reminded of another laid-off, divorced aerospace engineer, Michael Douglas's character in the 1993 movie, Falling Down.

UPDATE: Associated Press adds details:
Pardo, 45, had no criminal record and no history of violence, according to police, but he was angry following last week's settlement of his divorce after a marriage that lasted barely a year.
"It was not an amicable divorce," police Lt. Pat Buchanan said. . . .
Pardo's next-door neighbor . . . said he moved in more than a year ago with a woman and a child. She said they kept mostly to themselves and the woman later moved out with the child. . . .
He also served regularly as an usher at evening Mass at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Montrose, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Jan Detanna, the head usher at the church, was stunned when told about the violence.
"I'm just — this is shocking," Detanna told the Times. "He was the nicest guy you could imagine. Always a pleasure to talk to, always a big smile."
Nice guy. Big smile. Eight dead.

Eartha Kitt, R.I.P.

Dead at 81 -- amazing that the singer of "Santa Baby" should have died on Christmas Day:

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Video: Christmas, 6:30 a.m.

With six kids, ages 6 to 19, Christmas morning is an exciting occasion, especially when the boys get Nerf Blasters.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

(BTW, I'll be continually bumping this to the top through Christmas.)

UPDATE: Environmentalists say Christmas lights are bad for the planet? Peace on Earth -- and to hell with environmentalists! Muslims erect anti-Christmas banners in Nazareth? Peace on Earth, etc.!

We seem to be aswarm with Grinches this year . . .

UPDATE II: Some holiday cheer:

(H/T: Astute Bloggers.)

UPDATE III: Silent Kwaanza?

UPDATE IV: Merry Jewish Christmas!

UPDATE V: Kwaanza greetings from . . . Ann Coulter?

Dept. of It Won't Work

Obama's job-creation scheme doesn't function as basic arithmetic:

There are currently about 10 million unemployed workers in the U.S. . . . "If we write a check for $75,000 to each of the unemployed, we won't have anyone 'unemployed,'" said former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. . . . The Obama administration’s goal of creating 3 million new jobs by January 2011 will run smack into "the natural demographic flow, which will add 3.2 million people to the workforce" in the same time period, O'Neill said. In effect, "we are going to spend $750 billion, the number of unemployed will rise and the (unemployment) rate will go down slightly." O'Neill did the math so you don't have to. Each job "will cost $250,000, which doesn't suggest much labor intensity for the dollars spent," he said. "It makes me wonder if any of the planners or commentators are good at arithmetic."

Repeat after me: It won't work.

(Cross-posted at AmSpecBlog.)

More on Madoff

A very painful experience:
Here is a Jew accused of cheating Jewish organizations trying to help other Jews, they say, and of betraying the trust of Jews and violating the basic tenets of Jewish law. A Jew, they say, who seemed to exemplify the worst anti-Semitic stereotypes of the thieving Jewish banker.
So in synagogues and community centers, on blogs and in countless conversations, many Jews are beating their chests -- not out of contrition, as they do on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, but because they say Mr. Madoff has brought shame on their people in addition to financial ruin and shaken the bonds of trust that bind
Jewish communities.
Perhaps a feeling akin to the embarassment we Southerners felt about the presidencies of Carter and Clinton, two Democrats who did more to drive decent Southerners into the GOP than anything conceived by GOP strategists.

In related news, a French hedge fund manager has committed suicide after reportedly losing $1 billion to Madoff's swindle.

A mystery indeed

Let's see: Greek socialite immigrates to America, marries gay Republican heir to oil fortune, convinces him to blow $25 million on a doomed Senate campaign, scores sweet divorce settlement, becomes a Democrat, pours millions into developing the world's largest liberal blog . . . And we are surprised that Ariana Huffington doesn't understand capitalism?

Unions vs. reality

New slogan: "California, the Absurd State":
Two public employee unions on Monday sued Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to block his effort to furlough state workers in a cost-cutting measure as California's treasury runs out of money.
Last week, Schwarzenegger issued an executive order to require that all state employees take two unpaid days off each month starting in February. The governor said the measure is needed to conserve cash, with the state budget gap estimated to reach $42 billion a year and a half from now.
First, unions organized against capitalism. Next, they organized against taxpayers. Now? They're organizing against reality!

Really, what part of "we're running out of money" is so hard to understand? Where do these parasitical bureaucrats get the idea that they're entitled to employment at taxpayer expense?

Real hope

One of the ironies of Obama's invocation of "Hope" is that the soi-dissant "progressive" agenda is actually based on a pessimistic view of humanity: Everything is getting worse, individuals are either greedy exploiters or helpless victims, and therefore massive government intervention is necessary to save mankind from itself.

If you want real hope, you need to look to the optimistic free-market vision of the late Julian Simon. John Tierney has doubled down on real hope:
In 2005, I found a more adventurous prophet willing to bet on resource scarcity. Matthew Simmons, an expert on the oil industry and the author of "Twilight in the Desert," bet $5,000 against me and Rita Simon, Julian’s widow, that the average price of oil, in 2005 dollars, would exceed $200 per barrel in 2010. . . .
Last week, the price of oil hit a four-year low, dropping below $35 per barrel, but Mr. Simmons remained optimistic of winning our bet. He told Jay Hancock of the Baltimore Sun that 2010 is "an eternity" away and predicted the price of oil would shoot back up. Well, anything’s possible. But I’m glad I followed Julian Simon’s advice to bet low. (Emphasis added.)
(Via Instapundit.) Obama has picked gloom-and-doom prophet John Holdren as his science adviser, yet another omen of the new administration's inevitable failure: It won't work.

Those darned 'militants'!

Pesky little devils, aren't they?
Palestinian militants from Gaza increased the range and intensity of their rocket fire against Israel on Wednesday as the Israeli security cabinet met here and weighed options including broader military action or efforts for a renewed truce.
About 40 rockets and mortars had slammed into southern Israel by midday, the Israeli military said. The rockets hit the courtyard of a house and a water park in the coastal city of Ashkelon, a factory in an Israeli industrial zone at Nir Oz, near the Gaza border, and a house outside the Western Negev town of Netivot. The strikes caused extensive damage and widespread panic among the residents, but no serious injury.
The military wing of Hamas, the Islamic group that controls Gaza, said in a statement that the rocket fire was "a response to Zionist aggression" and to the economic embargo Israel has imposed on Gaza.
Ah, the ever-popular "Zionist agression" excuse! If only O.J. Simpson had thought of blaming "Zionist aggression" by the Goldman family . . .

UAW: No concessions

Michelle Malkin is not surprised to discover that, after shaking down the Bush administration for $17 billion, the union goons who control Detroit now expect the Obama administration to bail them out without concessions:
Ron Gettelfinger, president of the United Auto Workers, said earlier this week that he would seek to remove the wage-reduction provision of the loan, calling it "an undue tax on the workers" who have already made "major" sacrifices for the benefit of the auto industry.
Gettelfinger said that what is being asked of the autoworkers -- who agreed to concessions in 2003, 2005 and 2007 -- is "unrealistic." He has said he wants to work with President-elect Barack Obama to remove the wage provision.
Some "negotiation": The unions negotiating with the president who is their wholly-owned tool.

Khartoum still aiding Kony?

The end may be near for Joseph Kony, the African terrorist who has wrought horrible carnage in Uganda and Sudan. Ten days ago, Uganda, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo united in a military raid that destroyed the Congo hideout camp of Kony's "Lord's Resistance Army," which has terrorized the region for 20 years.

Experts on the LRA have long suspected that the Sudan government in Kharthoum had armed and supported Kony's killers in order to destabilize Uganda and undermine the efforts of South Sudan (predominantly Christian) to gain autonomy from the Muslim govenrment in Kharthoum.

In an interview with Uganda's New Vision newspaper, Ugandan Gen. Aronda Nyakairima discussed the LRA raid and suggested that Khartoum may still be aiding Kony:
Of course, it was Khartoum that continued supporting LRA, otherwise we would have defeated them long ago.
When they stopped because of Juba being under the South Sudan government, they were no more.
In other words, once South Sudan (with their capital in the key transportation center of Juba) gained autonomy in 2005, this cut off Kony's supply line to Khartoum. But when asked who is now arming Kony, Nyakairma says:
We don't have intelligence to point at a country X or Y. But one wonders whether the old friends washed their hands clean. I can't prove that. But studying what we captured will tell it all. It is also possible he was disarming people in the CAR. He also raided South Sudanese soldiers and there are hunters in Garamba. He could have picked guns here and there. But we can't rule out supplies from his old friends.
"His old friends" = Khartoum. Fortunately, after two years of fruitless peace negotiations with the LRA, the United Nations Security Council is now fully supporting the military effort to hunt down Kony, who is charged with crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.

Texas release El Dorado report

What a day to dump the news: Texas Child Protect Services officials release a report justifying the raid on the El Dorado FLDS compound -- which resulted in the forcible seizure of more than 400 children -- because 12 girls in the cult had been "spiritually married" before age 16:
As a result of this investigation, CPS found that 12 girls who ranged in age from 12 to 15 were victims of sexual abuse at the YFZ Ranch with the knowledge of their parents. Sexual abuse occurred in the case of the 12 girls, who now range in age from 14 to 18, because they were "spiritually" married under age. The earliest marriage was in 2004 and the most recent known marriage took place in July 2006. Two girls were 12 when married; three were 13; two were 14; and five girls were 15 when married. Seven of these girls have had one or more children after marriage.
Now, as I said months ago, if Texas officials are going to launch a paramilitary raid every time a 15-year-old girl gets pregnant, they're going to need to hire some more SWAT police. In point of fact, Texas leads the nation in teenage pregnancy. The crime that justified this raid in the minds of CPS officials obviously wasn't that teenage girls were having sex or having babies -- that happens every day in Texas -- but that they were "married."

The cost to taxpayers of the raid and investigation was more than $12 million -- a million per underage marriage. Twenty-six mothers originally suspected of being underage were eventually determined to be adults. Note well that, although the officials have apparently done DNA testing to determine the paternity of every child in the cult compound, they are still "investigating" the hoax call that led to the raid:
All the children from the ranch were placed in foster care in April after authorities raided it in response to calls to a domestic abuse hot line. Those calls are being investigated as a hoax, though a dozen FLDS men now face charges including sexual abuse and bigamy based on documents and evidence seized at the ranch.
The children were returned to their parents in June after the Texas Supreme Court ruled the state had overstepped in removing all the children when it only had evidence of abuse or neglect involving about a half-dozen girls. Many of the children were boys or younger than 5.
As weird as this FLDS cult is, and as serious as the actual charges are, a $12-million SWAT raid that put more than 400 children into foster care was not the right solution.

UPDATE: In case you are one of the Mahablog readers who has been misdirected here by a link intended to send you to Dennis Prager, I apologize. As to my own argument -- that Texas child-welfare officials overreacted by seizing all 432 children at the El Dorado compound -- this gets twisted by Mahablog into "an apology for sexual exploitation and forced marriage of girls as young as 12." Of course, there is no such apology intended, and only a willful misreading could lead to such a conclusion.

Mahablog then goes on to argue that "movement conservatism is, at base, a kind of psychological-sexual dysfunction" -- the old Adorno/Marcuse/Frankfurt School theory. It is as wrong today as when it was first promulgated in 1950. To disagree with liberals about the proper scope of government power is not evidence of a mental disorder, and repetition of the libel does not make it so.

Bad stimulus

Welcome to Pork City:
Amid a drumbeat of grim economic reports, President-elect Barack Obama's top economic advisors met Tuesday to refine plans for a massive stimulus proposal, promising the money would not go toward dubious pork-barrel projects.
Vice President-elect Joe Biden met with seven advisors for an hour [in Washington] as Obama vacationed in Hawaii. With the incoming administration acknowledging the stimulus plan could cost as much as $775 billion over two years, Biden seemed intent on reassuring Americans the money would not be wasted. . . .
"It's important for the American taxpayer to know that . . . this is not going to be politics as usual," Biden told reporters. "And we will not tolerate business as usual in Washington."
Biden singled out special-interest projects. "There will be -- I will say it again -- there will be no earmarks in this economic recovery plan," he said. "I know it's Christmas. I know it's the Christmas season. But President-elect Obama and I are absolutely determined that this economic recovery package will not become a Christmas tree."
Right. Can we get a show of hands of everyone who believes that the federal government is going to spend $775 billion on "stimulus" without a dime of pork? Anybody?

Pork as usual, however, is not nearly as worrisome as the evident delusion that the government can, by neo-Keynesian methods, create jobs arbitrarily:
Biden reiterated that the incoming administration had revised its early goal of creating or saving 2.5 million jobs in the next two years. With economists projecting a grim year ahead, Obama recently raised the number to 3 million.
Hey -- 2.5 million, 3 million -- why stop there? Why not 200 million jobs? Jobs for everyone!
"Economists rarely agree, but on this score, there is overwhelming agreement that we need a robust and sustained economic recovery package," Biden said. "There's virtually no disagreement on that point with economists from left to right. The greater threat to the economy lies with doing too little."
So, whatever they do, the Obama administration will not be "doing too little." Massive interventions in the economy will be the order of the day. And there is one thing we know about such a plan: It won't work.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

'A discontented lazy rabble'

Liz Gunnison figures that old man Potter was the real hero of "It's a Wonderful Life."

Team Obama: 'We're clean!'

The Obama transition team's absurd self-investigation of BlagoGate has concluded they did nothing wrong. I'm shocked into astonished silence. Allow me to recover my composure, and I'll update.

UPDATE: Allahpundit summarizes:
Obama talked to Emanuel and Axelrod about his preferences for the seat, then Emanuel talked to Blago once or twice and to Blago’s chief of staff (who’s also been indicted) four times to relay those preferences.
Mary Katharine Ham suggests Obama is "approaching a fight with the hubris of Apollo Creed," which is just such a damned fine metaphor I had to quote it, even if it might be condemned as racist. (You can compare Obama to any famous personality in history -- Lincoln, JFK or Jesus -- but if you compare him to a black man, that's "racism.")

Racist or not, MK's metaphor suggests Obama's greatest liability at this point: He's enjoyed such a free ride from the media as a candidate that he might imagine he's automatically entitled to fawning coverage as president. Two words: Jimmy Carter.

UPDATE II: If we're going to do "racist" metaphors, however, this is like O.J. Simpson's lawyers releasing a report about their own internal investigation "proving" that, the last time O.J. saw Nichole, her head was still attached to her body.

John Hinderaker at Powerline says, "Bernie Madoff can only envy the press relations that allow Obama's self-exoneration to be reported straight."

The Smoking Gun reports that the feds have already interviewed Obama. Ace has questions about the role of SEIU, particular union goon Patrick Gaspard, who's been appointed to a key role in the Obama administration.

Team Obama may think themselves very clever for this little self-absolution stunt, but they've just kicked the can down the road. Not many Washington reporters are even in Washington this week, and the White House press corps won't just quietly accept this flimsy explanation. Expect to see a lot more scratching around on this story next week, and especially after New Year's.

The real danger, BTW, is not really to Obama himself. It's Emanuel who's in trouble, because he's got to start his job as White House chief of staff with this dirty Chicago business hanging around his neck. Not good image-wise for the"Hope 'n' Change" franchise, and a serious distraction to somebody trying to do the hardest job in Washington. WHCOS is big, big, big responhsibility, and the last thing you need is a COS who's distracted by his own corruption scandal.

UPDATE III: Headline of the Day:
Obama team probe of Obama team
finds no Obama team impropriety
Amazing how that works, isn't it?

Hotties? Si se puede!

Jules Crittenden reports that Mexican beauty queen Laura Elena Zuñiga Huizar has been arrested near Guadalajara. There's only one thing for Mexico to do: Deport her to us!

This is my one disagreement with the hardliners on immigration. My policy would be to admit all hotties. Sorry, Tom Tancredo, but this is a loophole worth fighting for.

UPDATE: Jules suggests that this loophole should be called the "1HB" (One Hot Babe) visa program. Let's pass it along to our friends in the Obama administration. This is the kind of "stimulus" we need.

Reuters misquotes the Pope!

So much for those layers and layers of fact-checkers, eh? (H/T: Kathy Shaidle.)

Merry Christmas, Marty Beckerman

My favorite Jew has a holiday column entitled "WHY CHRISTMAS KICKS THE LIVING S--- OUT OF HANUKKAH":
Not to sound like arch-conservative television host Bill O’Reilly . . . but when hysterical Jewish parents (are there any other kind?) protest secular mentions of Christmas in the public square, I want to shove mistletoe down their Grinchy throats. For example, earlier this month a Jewish mother temporarily convinced a North Carolina elementary school to ban "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" from its kindergarten concert . . . .
By the way, this hysterical Jewish mother is probably unaware that a Jew wrote "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." In fact, Jews are behind such secular holiday classics as "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)," "Holly Jolly Christmas," "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," "Silver Bells," "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," "Sleigh Ride," "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," "Let It Snow! Let it Snow! Let It Snow!" and "White Christmas," the perennial favorite of neo-Nazis around the world.
Marty's got a point: Jews trying to ban Christmas music are self-haters trying to cheat their fellow MOTs out of ASCAP royalties. (BTW, a friend just informed me that Kohl's -- one of the few department-store chains to use "Christmas" in their sales ads -- was started by a family of Russian Jewish immigrants.)

Marty's also got a larger point, namely that Jewish attacks on public expressions of Christian faith are ultimately self-defeating. This is especially true because evangelical Christians are some of the most enthusiastic Zionists on the planet. Your typical Southern Baptist views the Middle East from a perspective that makes the Likkudniks look like pacifist sellouts.

The myth that Christian fundamentalists are anti-Semitic is absurd. Christians love Jews so much that genocide-by-assimilation is the only threat (ask Marty's goy girlfriend!) and if it weren't for the high birth rates of ultra-Orthodox Jews (who are more pro-life than some Catholics I know) we'd probably have already run out of Jews to intermarry with.

UPDATE: Wait a minute. By calling Marty "my favorite Jew," I didn't mean to insult my Jewish cousins in Alabama. Yes, I said, "Jewish cousins in Alabama." Everybody makes fun of Southerners and their cousins, but . . . hey, you ought to see my cousins! Here's Mandy:

And here's Elizabeth:

Zaftig, y'all!

Ross Douthat on film

It's good when he writes about things he actually knows something about. His point is that you're more likely to get across a political point in a movie if the point is somewhat ambiguous, if the audience leaves the theater arguing over exactly what the story implies.

Douthat cites the examples of The Dark Knight (either an endorsement or an indictment of the Bush administration's anti-terror policies) and WALL-E (a sweet love story with an anti-consumerist message tucked into the conclusion). I would cite The Terminator (the original, not the crappy sequels) which at one level is an ultra-violent apocalypse, but at another level is one of the most effective pieces of pro-life propaganda ever produced, since the whole point of the movie is that John Connor must be born, if he is to save mankind.

And Douthat is exactly right about the failure of most political movies: They hammer you over the head with their point, attempting to substitute ideological certainty for dramatic interest. Frost/Nixon is a sermon, not a movie, and even most liberals aren't so stupid as to pay $10 to sit through a two-hour sermon about the evils of Richard Nixon.

Nuke Fiji!

A couple of days ago, I joked about prejudice against Fijians. Today, the morons at AOSHQ demand "nuking the place into a glazed parking lot" to eradicate the "Fiji Menace." It's hard work, staying ahead of the hate curve.

UPDATE: Smitty asks, what about San Marino? Face it, Smitty. If the San Marinese can't get past the Italian army, they don't pose much of a threat to us. And if they do get past the Italian army, they only way they could threaten us is by hijacking the Italian navy, which would never make it across the ocean. I'd make a joke about the Italian air force, but it's already a joke.

Palin confirmed for CPAC?

The Anchorage Daily News reports that a spokesman for Gov. Sarah Palin isn't sure she will be at CPAC:
Bill McAllister said Palin has merely been invited and that she has not confirmed. "It's not scheduled, she's not told them yes."
Solution? Fire your spokesman, governor! You absolutely don't want to miss CPAC this year. (H/T: SarahPalinBlog.)

Who's afraid of the C-word?

Washington Times columnist Pete Parisi examines The Holiday That Dare Not Speak Its Name:
Beginning with Black Friday, so named because it's supposedly the day on which retailers finally make it into the black for the year, retailers' sales brochures have been bedecked with Christmas iconography - red ribbons and bows, tree ornaments, strings of lights, mistletoe and holly, Santas and the like - but with few exceptions (given due credit below), none have had banner headlines proclaiming Christmas as the reason for the buying season they were so desperately encouraging.
At J.C. Penney, it was an "After Thanksgiving furniture and mattress sale," Sears touted a catchall "Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving sale," and at Lowe's, the home-repair and hardware chain, it was "Let's Holiday" - as if holiday were a verb. Office Depot similarly turned "gift" into a verb: "Gift smarter. The holiday gifts they really want." Not to be outdone, Old Navy proclaimed an "Extravaganza humongous honkin' 3-day BIG weekend sale."
It's not totally Grinchy out there. Pete finds that two chains -- Kohl's and Rite-Aid -- consistently use "Christmas" in their ads. Read the whole thing.

(Cross-posted at AmSpecBlog.)

Blaming Sarah

A HuffPoster's screed blaming Sarah Palin for an alleged "brewing cauldron of racist anger" inspired my latest American Spectator column:
The tactic of blaming Palin for "racist anger" toward Obama developed as a theme during the fall campaign, evidently based on post hoc ergo propter hoc thinking within Team Obama. Threats against Obama increased as the campaign heated up after Labor Day, and since this followed the Aug. 29 announcement of the Alaska governor as Republican running mate, Palin herself was scapegoated.
That claim was distilled in a November article in the London Daily Telegraph with the misleading headline, "Sarah Palin blamed by the US Secret Service over death threats against Barack Obama."
The Secret Service never said any such thing . . .
Please read the whole thing. I actually spoke to a Secret Service spokesman about this yesterday (after I'd already filed the column) and he said there's no way they would have ever made any claim like that.

Babysit my kids, Matthew!

Listen, Matthew Yglesias, since you're so committed to child care, would you mind if I dropped my six kids at your place this evening? My wife and I have some Christmas shopping to do.

MRC's Notable Quotables

The Media Research Center has announced its 2008 Notable Quotable Awards, with Quote of the Year going to -- who else? -- Chris Matthews:

The competition was probably toughest for the Obamagasm Award, won by Nancy Gibbs of Time magazine for this foray into disinterested objectivity:
Some princes are born in palaces. Some are born in mangers. But a few are born in the imagination, out of scraps of history and hope....
Gibbs beat out David Gergen -- CNN's idea of a Republican -- who said of Obama's Denver convention speech that "it was less a speech than a symphony. . . . a masterpiece."

There's much, much more, including:

. . . and don't miss this hard-hitting interview by Brian Williams, which rated only runner-up for the "Let Us Fluff Your Pillow Award":

Brian should demand a recount!

(Cross-posted at AmSpecBlog.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Yglesias shuffle

If Matthew Yglesias were any part of a man, he'd quit ThinkProgress immediately, after Jennifer Palmieri embarrassed him on his own blog.

Yglesias had criticized a liberal group, Third Way, as offering "hyper-timid incrementalist bullshit," and then Palmieri (of ThinkProgress's parent organization) puts up a post at Yglesias' blog saying they have"partnered with Third Way on a number of important projects" and calling them "key leaders in the progressive movement."

I've quit better jobs than a non-profit think-tank gig over less provocation than that, and the fact that Yglesia accepts such a rebuke without protest -- well, it's kind of "hyper-timid," if not indeed "incrementalist bullshit."

Pope Homophobe XVI

If the gay left is having conniptions over Rick Warren -- and, indeed, they are -- maybe Obama can soothe their anger by inviting this other religious dude to speak at the inauguration:
Pope Benedict said on Monday that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behavior was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.
"(The Church) should also protect man from the destruction of himself. A sort of ecology of man is needed," the pontiff said in a holiday address to the Curia, the Vatican's central administration.
"The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less."
The pope said humanity needed to "listen to the language of creation" to understand the intended roles of man and woman. He compared behavior beyond traditional heterosexual relations as "a destruction of God's work."
He also defended the Church's right to "speak of human nature as man and woman, and ask that this order of creation be respected."
OK, try this: Joe Biden is a Catholic, right? Caroline Kennedy, Catholic, too. So, how about some reporter ask these two Democratic Catholics what they think about the Pope's statements about homosexuality and "the language of creation"?

Never gonna happen. Nobody in the press corps ever thinks to ask these questions of Democrats, so Biden and Kennedy get to parade around as if they're pious Catholics without ever having to discuss the church's actual doctrine or theology. But let a Republican evangelical like Sarah Palin speak of "God's will" and it's "ooged-boogedy" time!

Ace, on media arrogance

He has a point:
I think this is 90% of the press corps' problem -- they're overly taken with themselves for, um, having a job.
Mechanics don't assume they're all-purpose experts without portfolio on every subject in the universe simply because they're fixing cars.
Reporters shouldn't assume that merely because they are capable of asking questions, writing down the answers, and cranking out pedestrian copy they've somehow become Einstein.
As a journalist with more than two decades in the business, I am familiar with and resentful of the attitude described -- despite my own pride in being a journalist.

Here's the problem: Ace is talking about TV news people. He's particularly talking about Andrea Mitchell of NBC News. TV news people are an entirely different (and fantastically overpaid) breed from us ink-stained wretches of the press corps, and a lot of what drives public resentment of "the media" is the attitudes and behavior of TV news people. I will not argue that there are no arrogant print journalists -- I'm pretty damned arrogant myself -- but a lot of what makes you hate "the media"isn't our fault.

This is why, for example, I get mad at Republicans who blame all their problems on "media bias." Look, I was out there on the campaign trail with all those people. Do you suppose if Sarah Palin had popped over to the press section for a few minutes of questions after a rally Pennsylvania, that reporters would have been playing "gotcha" like Katie Couric? Here's the headline on the Harrisburg Patriot-News story: Palin wows crowd at Shippensburg rally. Wow, that liberal bias hurts, huh?

So why, oh, why, couldn't the McCain campaign allow Palin to do a press conference? And why, oh, why, do the GOP assholes who run these campaigns -- and yes, I mean you, Tucker Bounds -- go out of their way to treat the working press like crap? You can blame the media for their bias all you want, but as long as the Republican Party considers clueless assholes like Tucker Bounds fit to be "media strategists," you're missing the point. Focus on what it is within your power to change.

Holiday traffic slump

It's hard out here for a blogger at Christmas. Hot Air's traffic over the past three Mondays has averaged about 420,000 hits. Today, as of 6 p.m., they were at 250,000. So it ain't just me who's hurting for traffic this time of year.

Comparing monthly totals also confirms that Hot Air's had the same pattern I've had here -- an amazing traffic spike in September and October, trailing off in November. Ah, well. Anybody up for some more Christina Hendricks?

Video: Palin speaks

From Anchorage Daily News:

She's having a staff potluck! There must be some scandal to that, right? Surely Andrew Sullivan or the folks at HuffPo can detect something evil about a gubernatorial staff potluck.

Santa begs for a bailout

Iowahawk, of course:
WASHINGTON - Flanked by officials from the United Elf Toytinkerers union, SantaCorp CEO Kris Kringle today told the House Ways and Means Committee that without immediate government financial help, his firm would be forced to declare bankruptcy, lay off thousands of elves and reindeer, and potentially cancel its annual worldwide Christmas Eve toy delivery.
"These are grim economic times for everyone, but even more so for non-profit toy manufacturers in the Snow Belt," said Kringle. "Our accountants have indicated that we are on track to exhaust our reserves of cash and magical pixie fairydust by December 23. Oh deary me."
Kringle and UET union president Binky McGiggles presented a draft emergency bailout plan to the committee calling for US $18 trillion in federal grants, loan guarantees, and sugarplum gumdrops that they said would keep the company solvent through December 26. . . .
Read the whole thing.

Sarah Palin agrees with me

Throughout the fall, I repeatedly criticized the John McCain campaign for sequestering Sarah Palin from reporters. Palin -- named "Conservative of the Year" by Human Events -- agrees in an interview with John Gizzi:

'The biggest mistake made was that I could have called more shots on this: the opportunities that were not seized to speak to more Americans via media. I was not allowed to do very many interviews, and the interviews that I did were not necessarily those I would have chosen. But I was so thankful to have the opportunity to run with John McCain that I was not going to argue with the strategy decisions that some of his people were making regarding the media contacts?
But if I would have been in charge, I would have wanted to speak to more reporters because that's how you get your message out to the electorate. (Emphasis added.)

If Palin had been allowed to hold press conferences with the reporters covering her on the campaign trail, rather than thrown into high-stakes one-on-one interviews with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric, it might have made a world of difference in how she was perceived. Palin, a former journalist, knows more about media than most of the Republican "media experts."

(Cross-posted at AmSpecBlog.)

UPDATE: Allah admits he's traffic baiting with his post on this subject, so I'll play along. Allah points out Palin's initial support for the TARP bailout as a stumbling block. But remember, she was McCain's running mate and he was all about the bailout, so naturally she would have thought it was a good idea "originally," as she now says. And as for Allah's "wait until 2016" suggestion -- nope. That won't work. If it comes to late 2010 (which will be fish-or-cut-bait time for 2012) and it looks like Palin's got a shot, she takes the shot. Don't want to miss that "open door," as she's said.

UPDATE II: Linked at The Week.

Team Obama discovers a loophole

The Audacity of Opacity:
Barack Obama is promising . . . he’ll disclose contacts between his staff and disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s office, but he's stopped short of pledging to release e-mails or other records that could be key to understanding those contacts.
Whatever such records exist may never see the light of day, thanks to a gap in government records disclosure laws that allows presidential transition teams to keep their documents — even those prepared using taxpayer dollars — out of the public record.
The exemption from disclosure rules surprised some records law experts, and may prompt legislation from a leading Republican transparency advocate to apply the laws to presidential transition teams, which could compel Team Obama to preserve Blagojevich-related records for inspection, if only in the distant future.
But for now, a spokeswoman for President-elect Barack Obama said the transition team was not covered by a public information law that Politico cited in requesting copies of Obama staffers’ emails and notes about Blagojevich’s efforts to fill the Senate seat Obama vacated after winning the presidency.
Of course, attempting to hide information about the Blago case from a federal prosecutor would still be obstruction of justice. But unless Fitzpatrick brings such charges, those records will never see the light of day.

Gays still grumpy

Democrat Lanny Davis:
Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., has views on gays and gay marriage that are the extreme opposite from mine. Even more uncomfortable for me, Pastor Warren would impose his views on others - for example, by supporting Proposition 8 in California, passed by a small majority of Californians last November, which would ban gay marriage in California.
Recently, he seemed to go further - in the same sentence, he mentioned his opposition to gay marriage as well as "having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage ... [and] an older guy marrying a child."
That sentence was insensitive, hurtful and unfortunate.
I've hitherto refrained from commenting on the uproar over Obama choosing Warren to give his inaugural invocation, simply because everyone else was already saying so much. What is interesting in the uproar is what it reveals about the gay rights movement -- and especially the push for gay marriage -- namely that it is about acceptance.

Some progressive said about the choice of Warren, "It's a prayer, not a policy." All of Obama's appointments to policy positions indicate that he is enthusiastically sympathetic to the gay-rights cause. The symbolic pick of one of the nation's most popular pastors to give the invocation does not in the least disguise the fact that this will be the most pro-gay administration in history. And yet we have this continual uproar: The usual suspects are screaming "bigot," and Barney Frank is boycotting the inaugural.

None of this involves policy. What the gay community is saying is that Warren's mere disapproval of homosexual behavior puts him outside polite society. Disagreement with the gay agenda is not permissible -- the same attitude expressed by the protests at El Coyote. Is it any wonder, then, that this agenda cannot gain majority assent even in liberal California?

The California "enemies list" and other expressions of intolerance by the gay rights movement bespeak a totalitarian ambition, one that extends to punishing dissent, so that disagreement -- even by a minister of the gospel -- becomes a sort of thoughtcrime.

Gay heartbreak over Obama's evident refusal to play along with this totalitarianism ought to lead to a reassessment. Is social approval of your lifestyle so important that you must gain it by coercion? And if so, why?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sully don't pay?

My old friend Michael Petrelis exposes Andrew Sullivan as having failed to contribute to the campaign to preserve gay marriage in California. (H/T: Insty.) Perhaps Sully was too busy exposing the truth about Trig Palin.

Thoughts on music and silence

Ann Althouse:
Meanwhile, just yesterday, I was going on and on about how there's way too much music. It's playing everywhere, people are listening on iPods everywhere, and that I hardly ever want to listen to music. There is a lot of music that I acknowledge is good and that I even know I like, but that doesn't mean I want to listen to it. I specifically enjoy the absence of music, and I seek it out. If silence were a track I could have on my iPod, it would be on my most-played list.
It is perhaps underappreciated the extent to which recorded music now permeates our lives. The convenience store where I fill up my car now pipes music outdoors, at the pumps. Many popular TV shows now seems to have a rock soundtrack like an '80s teen movie. (I notice this because my kids watch TV more than I do.)

About 15 years ago, I encountered a young journalist who actually wrote while listening to music on headphones. That struck me as impossible. I have written in many noisy and chaotic environments, but who could enjoy listening to music during the writing process?

That's me, though. When I listen to music, I really want to listen. I don't like "background" music. And I don't enjoy listening to just any music, either. If I'm driving in my car and a crappy song comes on (e.g., anything by Supertramp, or "Suzy Q," the worst thing ever recorded by CCR), I change the channel or turn the radio off. If music doesn't actually add pleasure to the driving experience, I'd rather listen to a talk show or just have the silence for thinking.

Reason magazine hosts monthly happy hours in DC, but they have a bad habit of choosing bars that play that crappy Euro/techno-disco. You know the stuff I'm talking about? It's like dance music for people who don't dance. It's not like some kind of kick-out-the-jams funk that makes you want to jump out on the floor and bust a move, just a bunch of thump-and-bump repetition. Maybe there is some drug you have to take to enjoy that kind of crap. Silence is eminently preferable.

Passengers survive Denver crash

Always pray during takeoff. Always:
Thirty-eight passengers were injured when a Boeing 737 airliner went off a runway and caught fire at Denver International Airport on Saturday night, Denver Aviation Manager Kim Day said.
None of the injuries were life-threatening. . . .
There were 112 passengers and crew members on the Boeing 737, Continental Airlines flight 1404, which was taking off en route to Houston, Day said. . . .
The fire chief said he did not believe the plane had become fully airborne because if it had, "you would have seen a lot more damage."
And if you were praying for a miracle, you got it.

Blagojevich & Kipling

At his press conference, Rod Blagojevich invoked Rudyard Kipling's poem "If." This has resulted in one very wicked f---ing satire.

UPDATE: Another satire, without f-bombs.

Neocon 'purge' at AEI?

This is probably a misinterpretation of events, so take it with a grain of salt:
Numerous neocons told me that a vicious purge is being carried out at [the American Enterprise Institute], spearheaded by vice-president for foreign and defense policy studies, Danielle Pletka.
There can be no doubting that change is afoot at AEI. Recently, Michael Ledeen and Reuel Marc Gerecht have departed AEI. Joshua Muravchik is on the way out as well. . . .
Gerecht is currently at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which, along with the Hudson Institute, where Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, “Scooter” Libby and Douglas J. Feith are fellows, seems to functioning as something of a safe haven for neocons. . . .
Pletka has been closely identified with neocon positions on Iraq and Iran. But now there is tremendous hostility toward her among neocons, who allege that, as a former staffer for Jesse Helms, who embodied more traditional Republican foreign-policy precepts, she is out to extirpate neocon influence at AEI.
(Via American Power.) Like I said, probably a misinterpretation. The economic meltdown has hurt many non-profits, and everybody seems to be cutting back. (Just Friday, for example, I learned that the Media Research Center has slashed its staff.) Furthermore, given the current political landscape, I can understand why AEI might want to reduce its foreign-policy staff.

On the other hand, I would entertain the possibility that some deep-pocket conservative donors might have told AEI, "Hey, before I sign you another fat check, how about you get rid of some of the hawks who've been cheerleading this disaster?" So it may be more a function of fund-raising realities than of any vengeance on the part of Pletka.

Yet, given the history of the conservative movement, if there really is a "purge" of neocons, it's not like they haven't done their own share of purging over the years. Some of my friends were among the "Unpatriotic Conservatives" whom David Frum tried to read out of the movement in 2003.

Just as an aside, it would be very bad if Muravchik has fallen victim to any such purge. His 2002 book, Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism, is excellent. As an erstwhile socialist, Muravchik certainly could be called a neocon, but I'm not aware that he was particularly culpable in the misadventures of the Bush administration.