Saturday, May 16, 2009

Revenge of the Clonebots, or How to Do Full Metal Jacket Saturday By Hand

Smitty is out of town again this weekend, and e-mailed me before he left town that it was "tits up" for the Technorati clonebot army with which he usually compiles the Rule 2 Reach-Around weekly round-up.

However, rather than break the Saturday link-back tradition, I'm going to attempt to compile the round-up manually, like I did back in the Dark Ages before we had Smitty's high-tech assistance. We're rockin' it Old School, homies. This will take hours to complete, with repeated updates. But be patient and check back, and we'll try get to everyone eventually, in a more-or-less random fashion: OK, that is a mere beginning of the sprawling, comprehensive roundup that will be compiled through successive updates, as I laboriously do this reach-around by hand. (Heh.)


Republicans 'begging' Erick Erickson to shut down Facebook protest of NRSC

You may remember my reaction when the "treacherous bastards" at the National Republican Senatorial Committee endorsed Charlie Crist in the Florida Senate race -- 15 months before the primary!

Erick Erickson of Red State started a Facebook group to protest the NRSC's endorsement of Crist, and Erick just sent this message to group members:
Subject: They are listening
I've been getting all sorts of emails begging me to shut this group down.
Instead, please consider inviting ten friends each.
The NRSC will not listen to us unless we help shut down their fundraising. You can help.

Meanwhile, there is a new blog HQ for the grassroots anti-NRSC protest: NOT ONE RED CENT.

UPDATE: John Hawkins of Right Wing News is circulating this petition:
Dear Senator Cornyn,
We the undersigned believe that the National Republican Senatorial Committee should be committed to serving ALL the members of the Republican Party.
Additionally, the NRSC should be focused on defeating Democrats, not Republicans. Towards that end, we believe it was completely inappropriate for the NRSC to endorse a candidate in the Florida primary race.
Therefore, we request that both you and the NRSC alter your position on the Florida Senate race, maintain neutrality, and promise to spend no money directly or indirectly in that race.
Things are getting hot for Cornyn and the NRSC.

UPDATE II: Welcome, Instapundit readers! Please also see my post at Hot Air Green Room: "Behind the ‘Not One Red Cent’ Rebellion."

UPDATE III: Red Hot at Red State. And a Memeorandum thread. Certain left-wing bloggers are laughing, failing to understand what this is about. It is good that they don't understand.

UPDATE IV: Welcome, Ann Coulter readers!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Demand-Side Dementia: Symptoms and Prognosis of the Keynesian Madness

I've written before about the Keynesian obsession with consumer "mood." Keynesian economics focuses on consumer spending as the key factor in economics -- consumption being the "demand side," as opposed to the "supply side" of capital investment.

In a recession, the Keynesian naturally wants to put the consumer on the couch, shrink his head and figure out how to get him spending money again. Hence, Conor Clarke's dispute with Martin Feldstein:
This is an argument based on Ricardian Equivalence -- the theory that it doesn't matter whether the government uses debt or taxation to finance its spending, since, if the government uses debt, the perfectly rational robot-people will lower their present spending in anticipation of higher future taxes. . . . That households "will recognize" the budget constraint and "will reduce" their present spending accordingly suggests a mechanism as predictable as night following day.
What's going on here is Clarke's criticism of Feldstein's argument that Obama's proposed tax increases, which wouldn't become effective until 2011, will discourage consumer spending in the near term.

If what you're doing is try to figure out the impact of policy on consumer decision-making, then Feldstein's speculation -- about the consumer reducing spending now because he comprehends that government deficits will require higher taxes in the future -- is worthy of Clarke's mockery of "rational robot-people."

The problem with both Feldstein and Clarke's approach, however, is the assumption that consumer behavior is:
  • (a) controlled by a "mood" independent of underlying economic reality; and
  • (b) more important than the behavior of investors.
In truth, it doesn't matter whether consumers are rational or irrational. The consumer's ability to spend money is limited by how much money he has to spend. He may have money saved, he may be earning money as wages, he may borrow money, and/or he may liquidate some of his assets. But one way or another, he must have money before he can spend money.

Surveys of consumer confidence are useful in near-term economic forecasting -- for example, if what you're trying to do is predict retail sales during the Christmas shopping season. Yet no matter how irrational consumers may be, their "confidence" is not entirely independent of their means.

More importantly, the demand-side obsession gets causality backward. Economic growth boosts consumer confidence, not the other way around. Discussion of the consumer "mood" is therefore irrelevant to the project at hand: Developing government policy to promote recovery in the wake of a massive market collapse.

In this situation Keynesian policy prescriptions are like sending a gunshot victim to group therapy where he can discuss his feelings about his sucking chest wound.

The Keynesians seem to believe that the economy is suffering from a self-esteem problem. This isn't that kind of recession. We have sustained a traumatic wipeout of asset value, the result of which is a capital shortage, and you can't make capitalism work without capital.

The policies of the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress are the exact opposite of what should be done to address this situation. Rather than enacting policies that would encourage capital formation and productive investment, they are siphoning capital out of the market via unprecedented levels of deficit spending.

Martin Feldstein and Conor Clarke are both wrong. The near-term impact of deficit spending and higher taxation on consumer "mood" is irrelevant to why the Keynesian formula won't work. It won't work because this huge increase in government spending -- whether paid for by taxation, borrowing, or inflation -- sucks money out of the private sector at a time when the private sector desperately needs an infusion of capital.

It Won't Work. The Fundamentals Still Suck. Economics Is Not a Popularity Contest.

Profit = 'corporate greed'

AT&T actually made a profit last year, which means they're guilty of "corporate greed," according to the Communications Workers of America union:
Thursday, union leaders delivered a petition with 3,500 names on it declaring "corporate greed" and calling on the company to settle on a fair labor agreement.
The very fact that AT&T is profitable is cited by CWA as evidence of the company's evil. As I wrote at The American Spectator:
CWA's political action committee collected $7.6 million in the 2008 election cycle, and 98% of its contributions went to Democrats. But only profitable corporations -- not unions or Democrats -- are ever guilty of "greed."
Read the whole thing.

Patriarchal misogyny triumphant!

More Americans "Pro-Life” Than
"Pro-Choice" for First Time
And why? Because they hate women! Because abortion is the most important part of a woman's existence, anyone who opposes abortion is an oppressive hater. (You tell 'em, Amanda Marcotte!)

Too bad Gallup couldn't have announced this poll during National Offend A Feminist Week.

(H/T: Memeorandum.)

But why did Obama say that?

Everybody is quoting the remarks President Obama made yesterday in New Mexico, in which he called deficit spending "unsustainable":
"We can't keep on just borrowing from China . . We have to pay interest on that debt, and that means we are mortgaging our children’s future with more and more debt. . . . It will have a dampening effect on our economy."
Which sounds like he read my blog yesterday. Given the $789 billion stimulus that Obama pushed through Congress in February, and given that his first annual budget plan is $1.8 trillion in the red, this "debt is bad" speech provokes a lot of eye-rolling from conservatives. Instapundit is flabbergasted, for example, and Professor Jacobson sees this as an expedition into "economic bizarro land."

The question that intrigues me, however, is why Obama suddenly decided to start talking like a fiscal hawk. Did his speechwriters just decide to recycle phrases from last year's campaign speeches, when Obama routinely excoriated the Bush administration for its deficit spending? Or is this some new rhetorical gambit?

Jules Crittenden says he's actually "encouraged" to hear Obama acknowledge the negative economic impact of deficit spending. Don't get encouraged too fast, Jules.

My guess is that this "debt is bad" line is not about cutting spending. It's about raising taxes.

That is to say, if we assume that this speech about "unsustainable" debt signals a new theme that will become part of the administration's economic policy, Obama can only be laying the groundwork for massive tax hikes:
  • A. We can't keep borrowing money, because that will "have a dampening effect on our economy";
  • B. However, we can't cut entitlement spending, because that would hurt poor people and old people who are dependent on federal aid;
  • Ergo . . .
  • C. We must raise taxes on "the rich," who "aren't paying their fair share."
And if any critic dares to point out that raising taxes will also "have a dampening effect," Obama will be prepared to accuse them of fiscal irresponsibility. This is essentially a repeat of what Walter Mondale did in his 1984 presidential campaign, when he promised to raise taxes, trying to cast the tax-cutting Reagan as a reckless spendthrift.

We'll see if Obama has any more luck with this argument than Mondale did.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wicked Witch of the West Roundup

by Smitty

The Pelosi schadenfreude is something to behold. Here is a roundup of reactions and highlights:
  • Common Cents:
    Not since Bill Clinton has a politician been more blatantly caught in a lie that Nancy Pelosi in the last weeks. Her ongoing story explaining what she knew about CIA enhanced terrorism techniques have at least five different endings. Her Thursday press conference was painful to watch but we have it here for you.
  • Monique Stewart seems to crave a thing rarely seen inside the beltway:
    I’m not trying to help the Democrats. It just seems to me, they would gain a lot more respect, and a lot more support, if they would just admit that they knew what was going on, and in light of what had happened (that being the greatest terrorist attack on American soil) they supported it. They did, or supported, what most of us would have done, or supported.
  • Gary Graham at Big Hollywood Big Irony: Waterboard Pelosi — Let’s Get to the Truth!. Gary offers a less than impressed review of the today's press conference. I would come up with some rejoinder using the words "wench" and "quench", but that would hardly be respectful of the Office of the Speaker of the House.
  • Larry Johnson at No Quarter: Nancy Pelosi, A Lying C******n:
    That’s right. She’s a lying Congresswoman. Good God! How brazen and how stupid can the leader of congressional Democrats be? Are they going to tolerate this kind of smear of the CIA?
  • John at PowerLine inquires Can Pelosi Survive?. Following some choice quotes concerning the press conference, we get:
    As the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza notes, Pelosi "would not have held this sort of press conference unless she and her inner circle believed that she was losing altitude -- politically -- on the issue." But it seems clear that she has now gone too far. The matter cannot be left to rest with her assertion that the CIA "lied" to her and "misled the Congress of the United States." The Agency will have to respond. And already, Republicans Pete Hoekstra and John Boehner have called on the CIA to release the Agency's detailed notes on its briefings of Congress to Hoekstra as ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.

    I don't suppose anyone imagines that the CIA was foolish enough to lie to Pelosi and others about the use of waterboarding. On the contrary, it seems obvious that everyone in the chain of command was covering himself or herself by disseminating information about the harsh interrogations of three al Qaeda leaders. Pelosi has now opened the lid on a box that she will not be able to close. The CIA has no choice but to defend itself by demonstrating that she, not the Agency, is lying. Possibly Leon Panetta can save her, but at the moment, it is hard to see how this affair can end with Pelosi remaining as Speaker of the House.
  • Moving leftward, we have Alan Colmes:
    And, not surprisingly, the right wing has taken the blame for torture and placed it squarely on Nancy Pelosi, removing themselves from the equation.
No, Alan. No one is coming out in favor of torture, or denying events. The attack on Pelosi has everything to do with her non-command of basic things like facts and integrity with respect to her involvment. Stephen Green, he of the Stoli glass and steely nerve, managed to diagram the trajectory of Pelosi's prevarications as only a professional blogger can:

Oh, the Huffington Post offers the same aplogies: "I wasn't briefed, I was informed that somebody else had been briefed about it," she said.
Yeah, yeah.
Recalls a movie line: "My best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with the girl who saw Ferris get briefed at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it's pretty serious."

Related to Madame Speaker's gyrations is the disintegration of the Rule of Law:
It is bad enough that the administration is selectively mining the Freedom of Information Act, the procedures for declassifying national-defense information (Mandatory Declassification Review, or “MDR”), and the rule of law. What is worse is the objective of this sleight of hand: to present the American people with a skewed perspective of a CIA interrogation program that saved lives and helped keep our citizens safe from additional terrorist attacks after 9/11 — a fact attested to by top intelligence officials from administrations of both parties. President Obama is manipulating the law in a way that reveals — to our enemies and everyone else — sensitive details of the interrogation tactics that were used by the CIA, while at the same time denying the American people a chance to assess the vital information produced by those tactics.

Hm. No *cough*Chrysler*cough* pattern at work here...
Sad state of affairs. Listen, CA-8: please, as a personal favor, vote for any other legal candidate besides the Wicked Witch

Have some decency and regard for the rest of the country. Cindy Sheehan is relatively palatable. While I might not agree with Cindy on much of anything, her integrity is relatively stellar compared to this piece of work Pelosi.

Sooner than 2010? We should be so fortunate.

ObamaCare: Your Future?

Victims of government health-care speak out in this video from Conservatives for Patients Rights:

Democrats are trying to stifle debate.

Conor Friedersdorf vs. Rush Limbaugh

"At his core [Rush Limbaugh] is an opportunistic rhetorician: if an opportunity to skewer a liberal arises he'll take it, never mind the underlying principles, or even whether he defended a conservative for a similar sin two months prior; when loyalty to the GOP conflicts with adherence to conservative principles (e.g., 2000 to 2008) he generally sides with his party; he prefers capitalistic 'creative destruction' to community preservation, which is fine and defensible but isn't particularly conservative; often when he flouts political correctness, his purpose isn't to speak unpopular truths . . . but to rile his critics and make himself seem daring to an adolescent segment of his listeners."
-- Conor Friedersdorf

Rush Limbaugh has an audience of 20 million. He has been the No. 1 national talk radio host for 20 years and, for his efforts, was recognized as an honorary member of the freshman class of the 104th Congress.

Friedersdorf's biggest contribution to the conservative cause? "A Case for Gay Marriage."

Sorry, Conor: I'm with Rush, and Carrie Prejean, and Sarah Palin, and Ann Coulter . . . Nothing personal, but good luck with that Perez Hilton Coalition idea.

(H/T: Hot Air Headlines.)

The Road to Weimar America

Saw this yesterday and didn't blog about it, but what if Treasury notes become junk bonds?
The US government has had a triple A credit rating since 1917, but it is unclear how long this will continue to be the case.
Hat tip to Ed Morrissey via Ace of Spades, who has a very good round-up of the harbingers of a fiscal/monetary apocalypse. I've been warning about this for months, as in February:
Go talk to some people who know a bit about the bond market, and see how they think the global investor class -- U.S. debt is a commodity traded globally -- will react to the prospect of still more deficit spending piled on top of all the deficit spending for the $152 billion "stimulus" in May, $350 billion for TARP I, and now $789 billion for more "stimulus." Another $350 billion for TARP II? Oh, they're going to love that.
If the world's investor class believes that your Keynesian pump-priming will work, they'll be happy to buy up all those Treasury notes, just like they'll be happy to buy stock in U.S.-based corporations. Do you think those people are stupid, sir?
It Won't Work, The Fundamentals Still Suck, and Economics Is Not a Popularity Contest.

Back in 2007, I was talking to economists who were worried about the impact that the housing bubble collapse (which began in 2006) would have on the economy. And the same economists are now muttering dark forebodings about the impact of this multi-trillion-dollar deficit spending spree.

Well, when the Dow Jones bounced up above 8,000 -- after falling below 6,700 in March -- some people were saying the worst was over. We had hit the bottom, and now the recovery would begin. Two words: "Sucker's rally." The Dow hit 8,575 on Friday and, though I'm no financial guru. my hunch is we're now beginning another slide downward. Pessimists tell me they don't think we'll hit bottom above 4,000.

Why? Well, how about the idiotic noises about health care emerging from Washington? The liberal suggestion that we will actually save money by implementing universal health care is, as Megan McArdle says, "gibberish in a prom dress."

Unemployment is surging. The Obama administration is meddling with mortage rates and Treasury wants to take over the derivatives market. Liberals are pushing for a "global warming tax." Government is ripping off investors. The rule of law is trampled underfoot. All the signals from government now point toward more deficits, more taxes, more inflation, more regulatory restrictions to impede the private sector.

Hello, Weimar America.

(Cross-posted at Hot Air Green Room.)

UPDATE: Linked at Kuru Lounge and Creative Minority Report. Meanwhile, Mary Katharine Ham observes:
With utterly unprecedented spending and build-ups in deficits with utterly no attempt to control either, despite promises to do so from Obama on the trail, the American people may be looking for anti-establishment comfort in 2010. By then, it won't be about being Republican, but about being responsible. Democrats have been so deliberately, demonstrably irresponsible in just four months, that making the argument for Republicans (fiscally conservative ones) becomes easier and easier by the day.
"Fiscally responsible Republicans" = Not Charlie Crist. More like Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn.

Tigerhawk wonders if Team Obama believes they'll be able to blame Bush forever. But how will they blame Bush for Obama's job-killing tax plans?

(Graphic by Heritage Foundation.) More commentary at Memeorandum.

The New York Times is trying to cover up Democrats' blame for the mortgage crisis.

UPDATE II: Obama demagogues credit cards:
People are "getting ripped off by anytime, any reason rate hikes... all kinds of harsh penalties and fees that you never knew about,'' Obama said. "Enough is enough, it's time for strong protections for our consumers.''
And his audience cheered.
Good God. If you don't like the rate, don't use the card. How simple is that? Caveat emptor. But by limiting rates, you would necessarily limit the availability of credit, since banks have to calculate the likelihood of default into their rates.

Ergo, limiting rates means less credit for the poor, which is certainly going to hinder economic recovery. And yet Obama's audience cheered his nonsense!

Sarah Palin on Carrie Prejean: 'I can relate'

Say hello to the Hotness Coalition:
I can relate as a liberal target myself. What I find so remarkable is that these politically-motivated attacks fail to show that what Carrie and I believe is also what President Obama and Secretary Clinton believe - marriage is between a man and a woman.I applaud Donald Trump for standing with Carrie during this time. And I respect Carrie for standing strong and staying true to herself, and for not letting those who disagree with her deny her protection under the nation's First Amendment Rights.Our Constitution protects us all - not just those who agree with the far left.
(H/T: Hot Air Headlines.) We've got Sarah Palin, Carrie Prejean and Ann Coulter. They've got Perez Hilton, Keith Olbermann and Barney Frank. Game. Set. Match.

As with the accusation of "racism" against Rush Limbaugh, the accusation of "homophobia" against opponents of same-sex marriage is an attempt to prohibit opposition to the Left's policy agenda by accusations of mala fides (bad faith).

It's like Jeff Goldstein says, if you allow your opponent to dictate the terms of discourse, you can be sure that the rules will be established to favor your opponent. You'll spend all your time defending yourself against idiotic accusations -- being "mean-spirited" and "divisive," at a minimum -- and the Left will never be compelled to defend their policy agenda on its merits.

Notice, BTW, how ABC News portrays Palin as "ginning up conservatives." A favorite tactic of the MSM is to imply that only right-wing Republicans support a particular policy position -- e.g., low taxes, gun ownership, prayer in school -- so as to set up the debate as a conflict between these alleged "extremists" and everyone else.

The media politicizes the issue in this way so as to isolate opposition to the liberal agenda, and to rally Democrats in support of that agenda. It's a species of bandwagon psychology, to depict the conservative side of any argument as a partisan minority, no matter what the actual election results or poll numbers show.

There are plenty of Democrats who oppose same-sex marriage, and if Democratic leaders wish to establish themselves as The Gay Party, they ought to do so openly and stop this closet-case passive-aggressive game.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

VIDEO: Stop the Global Warming Tax!


Best Read of the Day

by Smitty

The Dead Hand has a link to Mark Steyn's "Live Free or Die" essay.
TDH says:
Steyn has hit the nail squarely on the thumb: Citizenship is what we DO, not a stamp on our birth certificates. And the larger Government grows, the fewer Citizens there are in any meaningful sense, as those who remain are transformed into wrinkly, post-adolescent wards of the State.
This is not 1789 or 1917. There is no La Fayette or Lenin storming the gates of our civil society. Rather, the destruction of our liberty and national character is proceeding one tiny step at a time, and it MUST be opposed as such. Otherwise, the BIG steps--like the nationalizations of giant swathes of the automotive and banking industries (in the past three months) or the health care industry (later this year) will have far too much momentum to stop.

Steyn has a immigrant's passion for his adopted land. Avail yourself of a motivational read.

DNA-Based Decision Making is Racism

by Smitty (h/t Insty)

Yes, Advice Goddess, the "Empowerment Experiment" people are behaving in a racist fashion. However, they are certainly within their rights to express themselves in this fashion, for all it is boorish.
Affirmative Action, too, is racist. The argument on the table is that there was sufficient historical unfairness that government intervention was justified. Two wrongs don't make a right, for all two (w)rights did make an airplane. It's done.
That said, the time for anything besides pure meritocracy is long past.
Perpetuating racism in any form, whether it's tossing the term around liberally at political opponents, or crassly choosing for/against vendors based upon race, has got to be booed in public.

HotMES has related thoughts.

Miss December 2001 decides she can no longer associate with Miss USA pageant

Shanna Moakler, whose erstwhile career as a Playboy centerfold has been previously noted here, considers Carrie Prejean a disgrace:
"I cannot with a clear conscious move forward supporting and promoting the Miss Universe Organization when I no longer believe in it, or the contracts I signed committing myself as a youth," she continues. "I want to be a role model for young women with high hopes of pageantry, but now feel it more important to be a role model for my children."
Thank you, Miss December 2001 and divorced mom. As "a role model for young women," your quest for another reality-TV contract and friendship with Perez Hilton will surely be an inspiration to millions.

P.S.: You misspelled "conscience."

(H/T: Memeorandum.)

UPDATE: Let's hear from someone who has never appeared nude in Playboy:
Christians are supposed to be fat, balding sweaty little men with bad complexions. It's liberals who are supposed to be the sexy ones. (I know that from watching "The West Wing" and all movies starring Julia Roberts.) But sadly for liberals, in real life, the fat, balding sweaty little guy with the bad complexion is Perez Hilton and the smoking-hot babe is Carrie Prejean.
Yes, it's our own adorable Ann Coulter, and you should read the whole thing.

BTW, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the hateful opportunists who attempted to destroy Miss California by leaking those Carrie Prejean nude photos, and thereby drove this blog to previously unimaginable peaks of traffic. Of course, I was the only conservative blogger with the capitalistic foresight to lock down both "Carrie Prejean jailbait" and "Carrie Prejean sideboob" with a single post, but I couldn't have done it without the assistance of unscrupulous photographers and gay gossip bloggers.

Speaking of naked gay video, Keith Olbermann:

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

(H/T: Hot Air.)

UPDATE II: Welcome Instapundit readers! Remember Professor Reynold's famous words:
"Personally, I think the more topless photos, the better. But as a straight male, what do I know about beauty pageants?"
More commentary at Jules Crittenden, Pundit & Pundette, Sister Toldjah, and Right View from the Left Coast.

UPDATE III: Perez Hilton plays the "homophobia" card:

(H/T: Townhall) No Perez, Miss Prejean doesn't hate all gay people. She only hates you.


Dear Associated Press: Let's talk about political celebrities and their ghost writers

Y'know, it was nice of you guys to assign Hilel Italie to write that story suggesting Sarah Palin doesn't have the brains to write her own book.

Shall we discuss the editorial process behind, say, Bill Clinton's My Life or Hillary Clinton's Living History? Between them, the Clintons employed enough ghosts to staff the day shift at Disney World's "Haunted Mansion" ride.

Having been a Washington, D.C., journalist since 1997, I can assure you that we "talk shop" often enough so that every writer inside the Beltway knows who's ghosting whom. No need to name names, but suffice it to say that once somebody has served in the Cabinet or been elected Senator, any book published under his name can be assumed to be, at best, a team effort in which the named author was the quarterback. (Or sometimes, as one hears in regard to the Clintons, the meddlesome team owner who insists on second-guessing the editorial quarterback.)

However, since the Associated Press has taken this sudden and keen interest in the subject of potential future presidents and their ghostwriters, perhaps you could be bothered to run down a disturbing theory that has troubled me for several months.

After I founded Authors Against Obama, a reader called to my attention Jack Cashill's theory that Dreams of My Father was ghost-written. Cashill offered abundant circumstantial evidence to support his theory, and perhaps the mighty AP could assign Hilel Italie to investigate this.

Or, as seems likely, perhaps not.

(Cross-posted at Hot Air Green Room.)

UPDATE: Allahpundit loves me! And Chris Matthews still hates Sarah Palin:

Lee Pefley goes to Hell

Fans of novelist Tito Perdue are intimately familiar with the eccentric protagonist of his books, Lee Pefley. In his most recent work, Fields of Asphodel, the reader sees the afterlife through Pefley's eyes. It seems Pefley must atone for his sins -- or rather, for his virtues -- and Fields of Asphodel is sort of like Dante's Inferno updated to account for Satan's modernized methods:
Just now they were running through a neighborhood of superb homes, structures of four and five stories with balconies and fountains with sculptures in them. The youngest of the men noted his amazement.
"You approve of these homes, Dr. Pefley?"
Lee admitted it. "Gosh," he said. "And just look at that one! Why, it must be the post-mortem residence of some great philosopher or composer? Melville's house, is it? Poe's?"
"Who? No, actually it's the summer place of one of the finest strong side tackles in the country. Hell of a nice guy, too."
"And that one! Moses!"
"I can see you have good taste. That one belongs to a really great man, doctor. He picked just the right time to unload half a million contracts of orange juice futures. Two lovely children, too."
"And there! Happy the man or woman who dwells in that!"
"Lottery winner."
"And yonder!"
"Rock singer."
Lee gaped at it. He had subscribed all his life to the meritocracy theory, and now he was being vouchsafed a look at one of the meritocrats himself, a fat man in an undershirt snoozing by the pool.
I've known Tito for about 15 years. He never ceases to denounce me as a "philistine," mainly due to my abhorrence of opera, and I return the compiment by calling him a "pagan," to which he never objects. To anyone who enjoys a fine novel, I heartily recommend all of Tito Perdue's books.

Is Rush racist?

Every conservative discovers, sooner or later, that to criticize liberal ideas is to be adjudged guilty of some "-ism" or diagnosed with a "phobia." Nowhere is this more true than in the realm of race.

Steve Benen has one of those "a-ha!" moments with a segment of a recent Rush Limbaugh monologue:
"The [economic] deterioration reflects lower tax revenues and higher costs for bank failures, unemployment benefits and food stamps. But in the Oval Office of the White House none of this is a problem. This is the objective. The objective is unemployment. The objective is more food stamp benefits. The objective is more unemployment benefits. The objective is an expanding welfare state. And the objective is to take the nation's wealth and return to it to the nation's quote, 'rightful owners.' Think reparations. Think forced reparations here if you want to understand what actually is going on."
RAAAAACISM! (Remember, bloggers, there are five A's in "RAAAAACISM!" Some of you have been slacking off and trying to get by with four.) Benen pronounces Limbaugh's suggestion "nauseating," but as always, we must ask the question, "Is Rush right?"

Would any honest "progressive" deny that the aims of their redistributionist economic program -- to tax the evil "rich" for the benefit of the sainted "poor," in Robin Hood fashion -- are motivated by notions of "social justice"?

Is it not a fundamental tenet of this "social justice" ideology that the wealthy gain their riches by the exploitation and oppression of the poor? And is it not furthermore true that, vis-a-vis the racial aspect of "social justice," progressives believe that black people have been especially victimized by capitalist greed?

From such a chain of premises, it follows that a policy that purposefully hinders the private free-market economy and expands government entitlement programs -- the "Cloward-Piven Strategy," as it has been called -- is to some degree intended by the authors of the policy as "forced reparations," just like Rush says.

In other words, is Limbaugh being denounced as a racist merely for describing this policy accurately?

In The Vision of the Anointed, Thomas Sowell describes how liberals employ "mascots" and "targets" to advance their policy aims. By positioning themselves as defenders of "mascots," liberals set a rhetorical trap whereby any attack on their policies is denounced as an attack on the (allegedly) victimized and downtrodden people whom those policies are supposed to benefit. Ergo, anyone who criticizes the cost of Medicare is accused of wishing to deprive the elderly of health care, and anyone who criticizes affirmative action is accused of hating women and minorities.

The problem, of course, is that this prevents rational discussion of policy. Limbaugh would surely argue that black people would benefit more from a flourishing private-sector economy -- which offers them jobs -- than they would benefit from an expanding program of entitlements, which offers them only government handouts.

Furthermore, we have seen that the "Cloward-Pivens Strategy" brings disastrous results for the poor people its architects claim to care so much about. Go read Fred Siegel's The Future Once Happened Here if you want to see how this kind of liberal policy has devastated America's great cities and brought misery to the urban poor.

If liberal policy is demonstrably bad for black people -- as Limbaugh, Sowell and Siegel would argue -- then in what sense is it "racist" to oppose liberalism? In fact, given the clearly evident socio-economic disaster inflicted on the black community by decades of liberal policy, is it not liberals themselves who ought to be attempting to defend themselves against such accusations?

The real problem with modern liberalism is the concept of "social justice." As Friedrich Hayek explained, "social justice" is a mirage, a will-o'-th'-wisp that, however enthusiastically pursued, can never be achieved. And "social justice" harms those it aims to help, in part because it destroys the only legal and economic system -- free-market capitalism -- wherein the downtrodden have ever been able to improve their fortunes to any great degree.

The great irony of all this is that, even if you favor government aid to the poor -- or perhaps, especially if you favor such aid -- the health of the free-market economy should be paramount in your considerations.

After all, government can't conjure money out of thin air. Ultimately, government can only spend on aid to the poor what it takes from the private economy in taxes. So if liberals pursue policies that harm the private economy, they're killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. (Anybody tried applying for food stamps, health care or student loans in Zimbabwe lately?)

So the accusation of "racism" against Rush Limbaugh is transparently false, its entire rhetorical basis being the liberal conceit that only mala fides (bad faith) can motivate opposition to liberalism.

Economics is not a popularity contest

Yesterday I posted about the idiocy of NRSC endorsing Florida Gov. Charlie Crist in the Senate race against conservative Marco Rubio.

Greg Sargent, who has apparently gone from Talking Points Media to a Washington Post site, gets all snarky about Rubio's first TV ad:
Another mark of just how far to the right the GOP has moved:Barely moments after the news broke that Governor and stimulus-supporter Charlie Crist has entered the Florida GOP primary, his conservative opponent already has a new ad attacking him -- with an image of President Obama, whose performance is supported by strong majorities and by Independents. . . .
It isn’t every day that a politician seeks to turn a race into a referendum on his opponent’s support for a President with an approval rating in the 60s, but these aren’t ordinary times for today’s GOP.
Let me see if I can explain what Greg Sargent evidently doesn't understand. It doesn't matter how popular Obama or his policies are, if his policies bring disaster. Remember how high Bush's numbers were in 2002?

At this point, Obama is popular for being Not Bush. But there is a sell-by date on that commodity, and I'm betting that the Not Bush brand won't have much value on the first Tuesday in November 2010.

The biggest problem Obama will face going forward is that the deficit-spending Keynesian approach that he and the Democrats have embraced cannot produce recovery. It never has and it never will. It Won't Work and The Fundamentals Still Suck.

Greg, try to wrap your mind around what Megan McArdle is telling you about the bond market. And I'd say Megan is a wee bit on the optimistic side. After all, with trillions of dollars in new government debt soaking up so much scarce capital, what will the resulting shortage of private credit do to the already weak housing market? Unemployment is already near nine percent and will not decline soon, and without new buyers entering the market, the mortgage-default problem will likely get much worse in the near future.

None of these economic problems (and I've merely scratched the surface) can be solved by pointing to Obama's poll numbers. As it becomes evident that Obama's policies are making matters worse, that there is no magic to Hope, those poll numbers will decline, and being seen as associated with Obama's policies will be political poison.

Snark all you want. Crist is a "dead man walking" politically speaking, and Rubio is making the smart bet by vocally opposing Obamanomics.

Oh, and not incidentally, remember that promise about "tax cuts" for everybody earning less than $250,000 a year? Well, now we have the details. Just a big fat lie:
40% of the value of new "tax cuts for families" is actually new spending, not new tax cuts. . . .
Families with taxable income of $230,000 and individuals with taxable income of $190,000 will see their income tax rate rise. . . .
By limiting tax breaks for the production of domestic energy and a raft of other energy tax hikes, the Obama budget blueprint will raise American families’ energy bills by $105 billion over the next decade. . . .
Small businesses will shed jobs to pay for the higher small business tax rates. The Obama budget blueprint calls for the top tax rate to climb from 35% to 39.6%, and for the second-highest rate to climb from 33% to 36%. . . . These tax rate hikes would be devastating for small businesses, which pay taxes on their owners’ tax forms. $2 out of $3 in small business profits pay taxes at these tax rates.
Good-bye, Hope! Hello, Change!

UPDATE: Thanks to Michelle Malkin for reminding us that the recession has accelerated the impending insolvency of Social Security and Medicare.

Like the lady said, the fundamentals suck. And, as Jimmie Bise reminds us, the Obama administration is "creating jobs" in much the same way Jayson Blair "reported news" -- they're just making stuff up.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Paglia: say the 'C' word!

by Smitty

Camille Paglia is never a bore, but she, as so many do, misses the obvious:
Troubled by the increasing rancor of political debate in the U.S., I watched a rented copy of Seven Days in May last week. Its paranoid mood, partly created by Jerry Goldsmith's eerie, minimalist score, captured exactly what I have been sensing lately. There is something dangerous afoot -- an alienation that can easily morph into extremism. With the national Republican party in disarray, an argument is solidifying among grass-roots conservatives: Liberals, who are now in power in Washington, hate America and want to dismantle its foundational institutions and liberties, including capitalism and private property. Liberals are rootless internationalists who cravenly appease those who want to kill us. The primary principle of conservatives, on the other hand, is love of country, for which they are willing to sacrifice and die. America's identity was forged by Christian faith and our Founding Fathers, to whose prudent and unerring 18th-century worldview we must return.

In a harried, fragmented, media-addled time, there is an invigorating simplicity to this political fundamentalism. It is comforting to hold fast to hallowed values, to defend tradition against the slackness of relativism and hedonism. But when the tone darkens toward a rhetoric of purgation and annihilation, there is reason for alarm. Two days after watching "Seven Days in May," I was utterly horrified to hear Dallas-based talk show host Mark Davis, subbing for Rush Limbaugh, laughingly and approvingly read a passage from a Dallas magazine article by CBS sportscaster David Feherty claiming that "any U.S. soldier," given a gun with two bullets and stuck in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Osama bin Laden, would use both bullets on Pelosi and strangle the other two.

How have we come to this pass in America where the assassination of top government officials is fodder for snide jokes on national radio? Davis (who is obviously a glib horse's ass) did this stunt very emphatically at a news break at the top of the first hour. It was from there that the Dallas magazine story was evidently picked up by liberal Web sites and disseminated, pressuring CBS to denounce Feherty, who made a public apology. The gravity of this case was unfortunately overshadowed by feisty comedian Wanda Sykes' clumsy jibes at Rush Limbaugh the next night at the Washington Correspondents Dinner. Sykes (who is usually hilarious) was rushed and inept, embarrassing herself and her hosts. But what Mark Davis did, in irresponsibly broadcasting Feherty's vile fantasy, was an inflammatory political act that could goad susceptible minds down the dark road toward "Seven Days in May."

"Increasing rancor", Camille? Having just finished reading America's Constitution: A Biography, I can safely assert that there is legitimate, dispassionate concern amongst "We the People" about the direction that the country has taken. This is not to say that your emotional characterization of the problem is wholly inaccurate. However, what is sadly absent from your hormonal analysis is the word "Constitution". Modern Liberalism seems wholly rooted in the present tense. Neglectful of history, except as a weapon against the opposition. Ignorant of the future, except where it can be used to mine fear and guilt (medical costs, anthropogenic global warming).

We should instead see "an invigorating simplicity to this political fundamentalism" rather than concern for the foundation and historical direction of the country. Are you sure, Ms. Paglia, that there is no wisdom in "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." (Amendment 10) Heeding that Amendment, however bereft of nuance, would have been significantly cheaper than the Community Reinvestment Act. Or did I miss something, Oh Condescending One?

The Pelosi-Reid line bit, besides the sad attempt at apologizing for the inexcusable (Sykes), is more glaring in its omission of another movie: Death of a President. Now, I haven't seen DOAP or SDIM, but it seems obvious to me that, unless you have a modern liberal non-command of proportion, that a movie wherein the sitting president gets snuffed might be more destabilizing than a tasteless joke about The Doltish Duo.

So, Camille, can we expect you at a Tea Party on 04 July? Are you afraid to circulate amongst "just folks"? Would your ivory tower crumble to confront the greatness of the country in its simple, positive, Constitutional, laughing-at-the-DC-idiots form? What if, for all their lack of polysyllabic locution, the common people are packing greater wisdom than you?

Basic HTML code for bloggers

I'm currently helping someone learn to blog, and this is a post to explain that learning a few simple HTML commands is very useful in blogging.

Why? Because the "what you see is what you get" (WYSIWYG) interface doesn't always give an exact rendition of what the page will look like. Sometimes the coding gets screwed up, and if you don't know how to fix the code, the page will look like crap. Every blog software has an "edit HTML" that lets you go in and alter the code yourself. Eventually, every blogger has to learn to use HTML.

Don't be intimidated by thinking, "Oh, that's high-tech geek stuff. I don't know what I'm doing. What if I screw up?" The answer is, if you screw up, you'll go back and fix it. It ain't rocket science, and your computer is not going to blow up because you used the wrong code on your blog. Besides, nobody's reading your blog yet. So relax.

The Bare Bones Guide to HTML is a good place to start. Most of those codes you don't need to know. Basically you need bold, italic, "link to something," blockquote, paragraph and line break. But go ahead and print the whole thing out, staple the pages together, and keep it handy.

Those treacherous bastards!
NRSC to endorse Charlie Crist?

Politico reports that the recto-cranial inversion cases at GOP-HQ are planning another atavistic blunder:
Even as Gov. Charlie Crist comes under fire from Florida conservatives, he will be getting some important political backing today as he announces that he’s running for the Senate in Florida.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee will be endorsing Crist, according to a senior Hill operative, marking the first time it has taken sides (for a non-incumbent) in a competitive GOP primary this election cycle.
(Via Memeorandum.) Why would any conservative ever send another dime to the NRSC after this? Marco Rubio is the conservative in that primary, and it was Charlie Crist whose endorsement of John McCain help deliver Florida to that dingbat loser.

To hell with Charlie Crist and to hell with the NRSC. Go give some money to Marco Rubio.

UPDATE: At AmSpecBlog, I quote the chairman of the Conservative Republican Alliance:
"In case the NRSC forgot, it was Governor Crist that openly supported the Obama 'stimulus' plan, and gave the plan political cover here in Florida," CRA chairman Javier Manjarres said in a press release. "Why does the NRSC issue an endorsement without even waiting to find out where the respective candidates stand on the issues?"
Here's Marco Rubio's first ad hitting Crist:

UPDATE II: Mitch McConnell endorses Crist, prompting John Hawkins to ask:
Can endorsements from Kathleen Parker and Colin Powell be far behind at this point?
Hawkins is calling for Cornyn's resignation as NRSC chairman. Just don't send 'em money, whatever you do.

UPDATE III: Oh, good: Now Ed Morrissey hates me, too.

UPDATE IV: Lots more negative reaction from conservatives, including Erick Erickson of Red State, who calls our attention to Dan McLaughlin's Red State blog post, "Charlie Crist picks a fight Republicans don't need."

Dan Riehl is more approving, but perhaps he hasn't studied the situation in Florida in the detail McLaughlin has. Basically, the old wobbly moderate, Crist, is stepping on the career of the promising Latino conservative, Rubio. It's the exact opposite of what we need. It's a triple disaster: Crist will forego a reasonably safe re-election bid as governor, to waste NRSC money running for an iffy Senate seat, creating an expensive GOP primary in the governor's race. It's just bad basic politics, all the way around, and only an idiot like Cornyn could think this was a smart move for the NRSC.

Jimmie Bise Jr. at Sundries Shack doesn't want any of what John Cornyn is smoking.

Fortune Favors the Bold

Inspired by the musings of a new-minted ex-Democrat at The American Thinker, I wrote a little bit for the American Spectator blog:
A projected federal deficit of $1.8 trillion, borrowing 46 cents for every dollar they spend. The Secretary of Heath and Human Services announces she'll save $2 trillion in health care costs, but the numbers don't add up. It's mere "political theater," as Megan McArdle says. The "Underpants Gnome" approach. There are only two things standing in the way of health care reform, says Cato's Michael F. Cannon: Math and politics. Obama and the Democrats may have the political power, but they can't overcome the math problem.
Everybody on the Right nowadays is talking about how to fix the problems of the conservative movement and the Republican Party. The problem with a lot of this talk is that most people on the Right have been Republican all their lives. They don't have the experience of becoming an ex-Democrat, so they don't understand what kind of messages cause such conversions, and they get it all wrong.

The GOP's problem is not that it is too "extreme" or "mean-spirited." There is no need to yield ground on social issues, global warming, health care or anything else. The Republican Party elected as president George W. Bush who, as Bruce Bartlett extensively documented, was never really a conservative. The GOP then nominated John McCain -- short, old, grumpy and bald -- who was even less of a conservative than Bush.

Yet when this abandonment of sturdy principle yielded the inevitable electoral disaster, what did the likes of David Brooks tell you? "Blame conservatives!" But what did I tell you?
Conservatives who sought to prevent McCain's nomination cannot be blamed for his defeat. And it is his defeat, not yours.
Ideologues tend to see election results in ideological terms. Right now, "progressives" are congratulating themselves on the triumph of progressivism. But Obama will be the next president because millions of non-ideological "swing" voters -- those I call the Ordinary Americans -- saw him as the superior candidate. A vote for him was not, in the eyes of those key voters, an endorsement of any ideology. . . .
Good candidates win elections, and bad candidates lose. John McCain was a bad candidate and he lost. Those who try to put an ideological spin on this election will miss that basic point.
With the GOP "brand" at low ebb, reaping the harvest of ex-Democrats is crucial now. And that harvest will not be reaped by fearful, defensive RINO squishes peddling an apologetic message of moderation: "We're Republicans, but we're not really so bad. Please don't hate us, OK?"

That wasn't the message that made me an ex-Democrat in the 1990s. It was the economics, stupid. Whatever the spark that causes someone to become disaffected with the Democrats (and most Democrats are Democrats because, like me, they inherited their parents' partisan loyalties), the ultimate weakness of the Democratic Party is that its agenda flunks the test of basic economics.

This bold truth is why Meltdown is a bestseller, why sales of Atlas Shrugged are soaring and why you're hearing a lot more people talking about Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. The Democrats are in charge, the numbers don't add up, we're heading toward a stagflation trap, people are starting to figure out that It Won't Work, and they're seeking answers.

The answer is not those "new ideas" that people keep telling us the Republican Party needs. No, what the GOP needs is some very old ideas: Limited government and economic freedom.

The GOP also needs something else: Courage. Without the courage to speak boldly in favor of solid political and economic principles, all else is in vain.

The pathetic whining of a spoiled brat like Meghan McCain, the intellectual elitism of Ross Douthat -- these are of no use to the conservative cause in this crisis. We need to "cowboy up," mustering the courage to speak plain truth, in the confidence that there are still enough Americans with the good sense to prefer truth to lies.

Nothing succeeds like success. The Tea Party movement succeeded in bringing hundreds of thousands together on April 15, and plans to bring that success to the nation's capital on Sept. 12 for the Taxpayer March On Washington. That's 120 days from today. What are you doing to make it a success?

Let the elitists and the moderates keep wringing their hands and whining. Conservatives need the courage to speak the truth, and speak it boldly, because fortune favors the bold.

UPDATE: In reaction to the talk of Gary Sinise as a GOP leader, Michelle Malkin says:
Mimicking the Left's idolatry isn't the path to GOP salvation. It's the path to permanent ruin.
The rebranders have it ass-backwards. The key isn’t rebranding the GOP. It’s rebranding Obama.
Not to argue with The Boss, but:
  • A) It is important in politics to have attractive, articulate candidates.
  • B) I've heard very good things about Sinise from Andrew Breitbart.
That doesn't mean Sinise is The Real Deal, or that Nicolle Wallace has a freaking clue. And MM is certainly right that the "rebranders" are strategically mistaken about the nature of the GOP's problem. But having sharp candidates doesn't hurt. I'm thinking Marco Rubio is looking pretty sharp right now.

3/21: Patterico: 'The final word'?
2/28: Tea Parties, Defeatism and Wolverines
2/23: Rick Moran takes counsel of his fears

Can we talk about stereotypes?

"It's time for you to find someplace new to recruit your henchmen. We're getting back to our business of beauty," says Miss California USA pageant direct Keith Lewis, setting the gay rights cause back at least 20 years with his portrayal of the vicious, catty drama queen stereotype.

Via Townhall, where Greg Hengler says that Lewis is "openly gay," which is a term of art in such a case. I mean, some guys are gay and you'd never know unless they told you. But Lewis? It's like he's emitting a gaydar homing beacon or something.

Gay Patriot notes Lewis's over-the-top bitch act:

Why must he so attack Maggie Gallagher? And why do so many gay lefties use the word "shame" to describe the actions of their ideological adversaries? . . . Why can't these people show some class, some grace, in confronting their adversaries? Why must they adopt so harsh a tone and so vitriolic a vocabulary?"
It's who they are: Angry at the world, externalizing their own unhappiness by projecting it on scapegoats. Lewis's attack on Maggie Gallagher grates because it is a non sequitur. In fact, the whole press conference was a non sequitur, as far as any official business of the Miss Calfornia USA pageant was concerned.

This was Lewis, the preening narcissist, venting his personal rage against someone (Gallagher) he's identified as The Enemy, inflated in his mind as the dehumanized embodiment of his every disappointment and of everyone who has ever disapproved of him.

However, such is the Movement mentality -- if you've ever read Eric Hoffer's The True Believer, you understand -- that all of Lewis's comrades will congratulate him: "Yeah! You sure showed her!" The viciousness is reinforced by this echo-chamber effect.

Meanwhile, well-meaning people will watch the video and say to themselves, "What was that about?"

UPDATE: BTW, if you actually know Maggie Gallagher, you know she's hardly the Evil Hate Monster of left-wing imagination. If it is true -- as Keith Lewis says -- that a large share of the contributions to the National Organization for Marriage goes for Gallagher's salary, benefits and expenses, then that is surely with the knowledge, and perhap by design, of her supporters.

Her organization is a small one, and if she had a larger budget, then a smaller share of the contributions would be required for her salary. (Question: What is David Brock's salary at Media Matters? What is the budget of Media Matters?) John Hawkins of Right Wing News recently interviewed Gallagher:
[L]ook at what they're doing to Carrie. Okay, I mean look at what they're doing to a nice girl. She's a beauty pageant contestant. All she did was say when asked, "Hey I think marriage should be between a man and woman," and they're reacting and dumping on her and trying to destroy her as if she had said something shameful and controversial.
So what we need to learn from Carrie is that they're dumping on people who believe that marriage means a man and a woman because they don't want to debate the consequences of gay marriage. They don't want you to think about what it means when your government adopts a law that says you're like a bigot if you disagree with the government's definition of marriage.
Bingo. The gay left's eruptions of screaming intolerance are not accidental. As I keep trying to explain, the gay-rights movement is egalitarian, not libertarian, and that is an important distinction. Egalitarianism, which aims to re-arrange society so as to produce "social justice," inherently involves coercion, and therefore inevitably requires that the government assume vast power over the lives of the ordinary citizen.

It is this egalitarian appetite for power that produces the "Gay Rights, Gay Rage" reaction that we see in the reaction to Carrie Prejean. Those who don't understand the power dynamic of politics believe that it is possible to reach some compromise with egalitarianism. This belief is a fundmental error.

George Orwell, a socialist, wrote his two great novels, Animal Farm and 1984, after his experiences in the Spanish Civil War awakened him to the dishonesty and viciousness of Soviet communism. (Soviet-trained commissars played a key role in organizing the anti-Falangist resistance in Spain.) But Orwell died at age 46, and never made the next step beyond recognizing the evil of totalitarian tactics to understanding that such tactics are implicit in the egalitarian ideology of socialism.

This is why Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom is so important. Hayek understood that the egalitarian Left's promise of "social justice" is a lie, and that the Left's militant demands on the so-called "issues of the day" are mere ploys, tactical means to the strategic end: Destruction of the free society. If you don't understand this, if you think that the same-sex marriage argument is merely about being nice to gay people, then you have been deceived.

PREVIOUSLY: Latest 'Carrie Prejean Nude' News Update.

How to get a million hits, etc.

"Personally, I think the more topless photos, the better. But as a straight male, what do I know about beauty pageants?"
-- Professor Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit

Monday, May 11, 2009

Video: Ann Coulter does 'Red Eye'

Chairman Ann says:
"This is a pageant in which the women are asked to strut in bikinis . . . It is owned by a well-known, renowned, open, serial adulterer, Donald Trump. It is judged by sodomites. And they are claiming they are shocked to see the sight of a 17-year-old girl's back."

'They said they were Democrats first'

by Smitty (hat tip: TOTUS blog)
ABC contributor George Will suggested former Sen. John Edwards was irresponsible to campaign for the Democratic Party nomination.
"Think about what a tragedy it would have been if he had won?" Will said.
Tragedy? Greek? The Book of Job? The current economy?
Several of [Edward's staffers] had gotten together and devised a "doomsday" strategy of sorts.
Basically, if it looked like Edwards was going to win the Democratic Party nomination, they were going to sabotage his campaign, several former Edwards' staffers have told me.
They said they were Democrats first, and if it looked like Edwards was going to become the nominee, they were going to bring down the campaign.
Look, if we're going to continue slouching The Road to Serfdom, then what difference does it make which stuffed shirt gets the credit/blame? Oh, right: non-worshippers of the POTUS are racist. OK, modulo the nebulous DNA difference, again: what's the difference?

'Democrats first' is as good as 'Republicans first'. How about 'Constitution first', ye losers?

I guess you know this means WAR, Attila?

On the recent collapse of Conde Nast's super-upscale business magazine Portfolio, Little Miss Attila approvingly quotes Virginia Postrel:
Portfolio worked -- for a while -- as an advertising vehicle, but it never gave readers a reason to care. And from what little I know from the inside, the stuff about editing the life (and glamour) out of articles is entirely true. Newspaper training isn't the ideal background for magazine editors.
Attila then adds her own snark about people from "a newspaper background," as if our inferiority were a self-evident fact known to everyone in the literary racket. Of all the insults I have to bear -- Michael Gerson is a twice-weekly columnist! -- this little put-down is just too damned much.

Postrel is the former editor of Reason, and her dig at "newspaper training" may be a backhanded jab at current Reason editor Matt Welch, formerly of the L.A. Times. The Gawker item Postrel links in blaming "newspaper training" for the demise of Portfolio is by former researcher/staff writer Paul Smalera, who aims his ire at the magazine's top editor:
[Smalera's colleagues'] resumes were dotted with long-term assignments from Time, The New Yorker, Fortune, The New York Times and other A-list publications. The most popular being the Wall Street Journal, the former home of editor-in-chief Joanne Lipman and much of her top staff.
OK, so Portfolio was directed by a former Wall Street Journal editor who brought a lot of Journal staffers along with her. So what? David Brooks, whom I loathe, used to work at the Journal. That coincidence is not even an indictment of the Journal, much less an indictment of everyone in the newspaper industry. What is Smalera's specific grievance against Lipman?
But if you have to say one thing about the failure of Lipman to create a successful magazine, it would be that dissent was not brooked by her. Not ever. . . .
When others at the magazine tried to inject their talents into the dialogue by questioning the wisdom of certain articles, certain cover choices, word choices, headlines, etc., Lipman was not interested in hearing from them if their ideas about those things differed from hers. . . . When Lipman took any advice at all, it usually came from the top deputies she brought with her from the Journal. Yet despite her tight grip on the magazine's editorial content, there was the obvious scattershot, disconnected mix of stories and covers, and the pendulum swung wildly from issue to issue. Lipman's means of survival and ascension at the Journal soon became clear with firings and departures and freeze outs at Portfolio: they had less to do with editorial acumen and more to do with knowing how to squash revolutions and power plays.
OK, fine. Lipman was a dictatorial ogre who surrounded herself with favored cronies, refused to listen to advice or suggestions from anyone else, and generally tyrannized the workforce. Let me see a show of hands if the same general description fits your boss.

Everyone? That's what I thought. In the immortal words of Elvis Costello:
Welcome to the working week.
I know it doesn't thrill you.
I hope it doesn't kill you.
Life sucks. Oh, and did I mention that I've got ties older than Paul Smalera?
I was a computer geek for several long years after college, and though I enjoyed it, it wasn't my calling. So I moved to New York and decided to become a journalist. . . . After writing some freelance articles and getting a foot in the door at another Condé Nast magazine, I found my way to Portfolio.
Right. The starry-eyed ex-geek moves to New York to be a journalist, because you can't be a journalist anywhere else except the most expensive city on the planet. And by age 30, or whatever, he knows everything there is to know about journalism, so that he is now qualified to tell us:

Readers got some articles written by really good writers who could've become A-listers, had their articles not been edited within an inch of their lives and rewritten mercilessly, as if not by magazine editors but rewrite men at the New York Post City Desk. They got some articles chock full of good raw reporting that should've been re-worked into something readable by those same rewrite happy editors. And they got some utter crap, written by hacks that should've never been there to begin with.
As for me, like a lot of the younger writers there, I was never really able to do much damage, or earn much praise. There were easily half a dozen writers under 30 there whose role was to be seen and not heard. Despite our hustling and trying to curry favor with our editors, in the hopes they could sell us to Lipman, we were up against the faceless contract contributors for space, and we -- especially me -- usually lost that battle.
Alas, Paul Smalera, God's gift to journalism! His talents unrecognized, aced out by "hacks" and "faceless contract contributors," his brilliant work editorially abused by wretched "rewrite men" who did not appreciate his every golden adverb.

Maybe everything Smalera writes about Lipman's blunders is true. But her most glaring blunder, I would suggest, was hiring punks like Smalera. If arrogance were talent, he'd have already won a Pulitzer or two. His article on "How Google Works," for example, obviously would have been an instant classic had it not be hacked to pieces by the editors.

The classic, though, is Smalera's dishy little tell-all about Portfolio which, in fact, tells us more about Smalera than it tells us about anything. His conclusion:

Essentially, it's hard to take principled stands when you work pretty much at the beneficence of a billionaire. And if you're wondering what's wrong with journalism these days, that's pretty much it.
Hey, I've got an idea: Let's start a business magazine for readers who resent rich people!

If Little Miss Attila wishes to indict those of us from "a newspaper background," she'll need a better witness than a dime-a-dozen punk like Smalera.

UPDATE: Does my vendetta against Smalera seem a tad personal, considering I don't know him from Adam's housecat? Trust me, I know the type: The junior staffer whose ambitions are more literary than journalistic, who thinks himself unduly burdened by the task of actually finding some news to report, who imagines that writing is superior to mere reporting -- a dime a dozen, like I say.

You run into this artsy-fartsy literary type too much in the news racket. They saw something in a movie (All The President's Men) or on TV (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) or read a magazine article about journalism and said to themselves, "I want to do that!"

What they didn't want to do was sit through a school-board meeting or write up a softball tournament or do any of the other crappy little jobs that (a) were the traditional training ground of journalists, and (b) are necessary to the production of a newspaper.

Which is to say, they don't want to pay their dues. Because they're arrogant punks. They don't want to work at a job, they want a "career," something glorious and wonderful like what they saw in the movies. If you ever hire somebody like that, they'll sit around brooding about how damned unappreciated they are, and how this work they're asked to do is beneath their talents, and they'll whine, whine, whine.

The only way to deal with such people is rudely. You're not going to alert them to the yawning gap between their skill and their ambition by talking nicely to them. Grab 'em by the scruff of the neck, get in their face, and tell 'em to shape up or find a new line of work.

Reality check, Paul Smalera: You suck.

UPDATE: Pouring salt in the wound left by Attila's insult, Smitty e-mailed me a link to this:
Dan Baum was a staff writer for The New Yorker for a time . . .
My gig was a straight dollars-for-words arrangement: 30,000 words a year for $90,000.
Nice work if you can get it. I can (and do) produce far more than 30,000 words in a month. My usual pace of original composition is about 400 words an hour, and I have never had a problem knocking out a reported 1,000-word news-feature in a single day, to wit. But the "No Conservatives Need Apply" sign hangs above the door at the New Yorker, so somebody else will have to do that $3-a-word work, I suppose.