Saturday, August 22, 2009

Health Care as a Moral Obligation

by Smitty

Cassandra raises the Moral Obligation question with respect to health care. She's linking Dave Schuler. Schuler's framing, emphasis mine:
Is is possible to make a coherent argument that government-provided healthcare is a moral obligation but that our obligation doesn't extend to people in Zambia? I don’t think it is but I’m willing to listen to the arguments.
One aspect of the question is one of scope. If you picture authority as forming a hierarchy, in the US we have Federal, State, and Local government. You can also argue individuals 'govern' themselves.

Another aspect of the question boils down to authority/responsibility. Governments have you trained to play along with taxation, asserting legal action, or, ultimately violence if you resist too heavily.

What is the scope of a moral imperative? Does it extend beyond the individual, or voluntary associations, i.e. a community of faith? This would depend on the definition. I'd argue that moral imperatives (e.g. stay sober) are subjective ones, voluntarily acceded.

Ethical imperatives (e.g. don't kill me) would seem the low common denominator that we comfortably apply universally, as objectively as possible. They tend to have legal backing.

So, is there a law stating that we owe medical care to Zambia? No. Should there be? If there was going to be, I'd need a thorough argument showing me how the scope of the obligations up the chain of sovereignty command supports the notion.

Ponder the psychology of the assertion (based upon Schuler's)
Government-provided healthcare is a moral obligation, and our obligation extends to people in Zambia.
You've explicitly argued a unified world government at that point. That's problematic. Also, the 'moral obligation' is a tough nut. You can't morally obligate me except through my faith, which the US Federal Government is explicitly precluded from establishing in the First Amendment. Then you'd have to have a single world religion to cast that 'moral obligation' everywhere. We can't even maintain a single language spoken globally. A religion? *snort*

The question is transcendental, and anyone on the left who raises it probably needs a boot to the head:

Commenter K raises an excellent "why isn't it theft?" question. Here is the intellectual laundry process:
  1. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
  2. If I can't have it, you can't have it. Your possessions are 'unfair'.
  3. You have, therefore you stole.
  4. Since you're both unfair and a thief, we can liberate property from you via government proxy and feel good about it.

Carol rocks the fairy tale

by Smitty

Carol at No Sheeples Here has a fair-tale read on the current administration, replete with rainbow-trailing unicorn graphic. Thankfully the One is sporting a suit, and not in the buff.

I've got a similarly counter-factual project in the works. The early reviews are somewhat brutal, but let me tease a bit, to motivate my editing:
Oscar Wilde: There is a fine line between delightfully clever and deserving cleaver. By the time it reaches Smitty, that line separates a morning star and a machete.

"Half-Cocked" Jack: Never has me inability to read been such a blessing.
You go, Carol!

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey
Kills 21,900 Every Year!

America's No. 1 problem? A decline in the quality of union goons. Take these United Food and Commercial Workers people trying to boycott Whole Foods because the company's CEO wrote a WSJ op-ed critical of ObamaCare. Matt Welch quotes their propaganda handout:
John Mackey is a right wing libertarian. . . .
He has just launched a campaign to defeat a single payer national health insurance system. . . .
And the problem with Mackey's campaign is that it results in the deaths of 60 Americans every day due to lack of health insurance. (Emphasis added.)
Wow, talk about "burying the lede"! And they forget one of the basic rules of propaganda: The bigger number is alway better. Do the math, people:
60 x 365 = 21,900
According to UFCW, Mackey might as well be cruising the streets with an Uzi, gunning down the innocent:
"Die, you random uninsured bastards!"
This merely confirms my longstanding suspicions toward these "crunchy cons" types. Just think of all the people who die every year after choking on organic tofu.

Too bad for Obama that his success is dependent on second-raters like these UFCW clowns who can't even write halfway decent radical propaganda.

More at Michelle Malkin, Gay Patriot and Instapundit. Via Memeorandum.

Shocking report uncovers U.S. abuses

The torture of Filipino guerrillas 1899-1902! German POWs roughly manhandled by doughboys in 1918! Eyewitness accounts of GI atrocities against innocent residents of the Solomon Islands in 1942!

Yes, all this and more, coming soon from Newsweek, which today features this dramatic summary:
A long-awaited report on post-9/11 interrogation tactics will reveal harrowing new details about treatment of suspected terrorists.
This sort of stuff is not surprising if you are old enough to remember the post-Watergate era, after Democrats won a huge congressional majority in the 1974 mid-terms and proceeded to "expose" misdeeds of the FBI, CIA and the Pentagon, and impose various "reforms" that had the effect, in combination, of nearly destroying our nation's ability to fight crime, prevent espionage or win wars.

Disapproving of torture is one thing. Emasculating America's anti-terrorism capacity is something else entirely. And it is always wrong to fret over the "rights" of a bloodthirsty animal (e.g., Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, mastermind of the USS Cole bombing) for whom there could be no legitimate complaint of injustice if one of our troops had put a 7.62-mm slug through his skull.

Did you protest Obamacare today?

by Smitty

I met ~15 patriots today at the office of my local tool.
The cell phone is not a blogging platform. Will flesh this out later.
For now, rmember that one of the chief ramifications of Hopium and Changeeba is that politics has ceased to be a spectator sport.
Your sins of omission to participate on whatever level you can will be held against your freedom and your wallet.

The protest was small, but fun. The first question was, are we in the right place?
Note Google Maps:

This agrees with his website.
So, we're left to wonder: where is our trusty representative?

Probably he's unused to having groups of citizens show up to tell him what a piece of work they think the 111th Congress is.
Well, we're planning on sharing the love with him on Tuesday, over in Reston, VA.

That anyone turned up on such short notice was impressive. Especially in the absence of any formal organization whatsoever. This district is completely blue. Wikipedia says Moran took the Oath of Office in 1991. To where he took the oath is unclear. Twenty years of this jackanapes is sufficient.
The family photo was small, but give us time.

Few More Jerry Raids Await

Few More Jerry Raids Await

by Smitty

Track-a-'Crat and I were out to Inglourious Basterds last night. If you take it as a comic book, the movie is an entertaining vehicle. At one point, ordering a glass of milk takes on sinister overtones. If you take the movie seriously, it falls apart. The characters are paper thin and the whole plot is counter-factual.
As with Pulp Fiction, the title encapsulates the film: the spelling errors in IB are a clue as to what you're getting. Tarentino is a truth-in-labeling kind of fellow, and should be respected for that.

They told me if I voted for McCain that the state would merge with the church, and they weren't just shuffling prayer mats!
  • Obi's Sister is off jury duty, and amazed out the pace of Changeeba and
  • Hyscience isn't buying co-ops. They're like coops with a dash of punctuation.
  • Belvederus Maximus has the best roundup on the topic. As if that's surprising.
Legislation of Death
  • The Daily Pundit says "Under socialized medicine, child molesters get Viagra, but granny gets her blood pressure meds pulled."
  • Momma Pundette linked in a roundup of news of the 'God in Heaven' variety. Pray for peace.
  • Ruby Slippers had an excellent roundup, linking the Rick Lowry post.
  • Reganite Republican Resistance has a lengthy analysis of Obama's political condition.
  • Carol rounds things up nicely.
  • Jimmie breaks in with a primo clip from Airplane! about the left's characterization of Sarah Palin.
  • The Classic Liberal picked up the Maureen Dowd riff.
  • Carolyn puts it succinctly: What they don't seem to get is that they are energizing the anti-ObamaCare folks with each falsehood they put out.
Protest Photos
  • Carolyn complements this blog via image theft. You can't damage our images any further, but have a go nonetheless.
  • The Daley Gator had mooched the pictures first.
On the departure of the Prince of Darkness
Linked by the following:
Grand Canyon
Here, wall: a bit o' primer
  • Moe lane picked up Stacy's anti-primer crusade. One subtlety is that, with a long 'i' vowel, primer goes on the wall. With a short 'i' vowel, the word describes that which makes one prim and proper. Stand by for a smirk from me if you fumble the shibboleth in conversation.
At least it wasn't LaTreena
On Geekiness
  • The Fat Guy says:
    I’ve never had a Heinlein obsession, but I’ve never had an electric guitar, either. I’m not going to rattle off my manliness bona-fides. It’s unbecoming.
2996 Project
I'll be honoring a Naval Reservist present in the Navy Command Center
Readers Indigestion
  • Wizwow quotes Stacy.
  • Lead and Gold:
    The Reader's Digest did not need consultants. It just needed a great editor who did not have contempt for the core market.
Great Headlines

They can't sell cars to the sane, but they can sell crap to the electorate.

Miscellaneous Shouts:
Heading down to Representative Jim Moran's office. I need to tell him what a great thing it is that the Inglourious Basterds are purely fictional. We don't ever want any of that to occur in real
life. However, he should feel free to draw a lesson from the film in any case.
Please forgive my hasty oversights and send corrections and URLs to Smitty.

Fishersville Mike had linked us here on the Phoenix protests. What ends up happening sometimes, and I think this is was the case, is that my Technorati-scraper will have a line it in that says, and I just let it fall on the floor, lacking time to figure out where we were linked in every case.
Thanks for keeping me straight, Mike.

That's the spirit, Carol!

Over at No Sheeples Here, Carol's populist flock is now flying the Gadsden Flag:

Rumors that Carol has gotten "Don't Tread on Me" tattooed in a special place could not be confirmed this morning. But until the rumors are denied . . .

Friday, August 21, 2009

Jon Voight is right

A friend from The Washington Times Jennifer Harper scores an interview:
"There's a real question at stake now. Is President Obama creating a civil war in our own country?" Mr. Voight tells Inside the Beltway.
"We are witnessing a slow, steady takeover of our true freedoms. We are becoming a socialist nation, and whoever can't see this is probably hoping it isn't true. If we permit Mr. Obama to take over all our industries, if we permit him to raise our taxes to support unconstitutional causes, then we will be in default. This great America will become a paralyzed nation."
Left-wing bloggers are howling bloody murder over Voight's observative, but have any them -- including Alex Koppelman and Logan Murphy -- bothered to read F.A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom lately?

Well, I have, and what I see is how by relentlessly pushing for the expansion of government and, just as relentlessly accusing all opponents of mala fides, the Obama administration is bringing us to this all-or-nothing crossroads on that slow road toward totalitarianism that Hayek discerned 65 years ago.

When advocates of limited government try to point this out, of course, the Left immediately screams, "What about Bush?" And who can say them nay?

Every Republican who voted for the Orwellian-named USA Patriot Act, every Republican who voted for No Child Left Behind and Medicare prescription drugs -- every Republican, in other words, who abandoned the limited-government principles of Reagan -- is at fault for having given the Left this opportunity. And I guarantee you, as soon as I publish this, I will be attacked by some Republican who considers it "unrealistic" or "impractical" to criticize, inter alia, NCLB.

Some of these soi-dissant conservatives don't give a damn about how big government is, as long as Republicans are in charge, which tends to make me suspect they view "conservatism" as a convenient synonym for "jobs for the boys."

If the Left's opponents do not resolve to stand firmly on the rock of limited government, they'll never be able to stand at all.

More conservative reaction from Don Surber, No Sheeples Here and Gay Patriot.

All Girls Named Tonya (Part 2)
Don't Start Me Talking . . .

Don't start me talking.
Oh, I could talk all night.
My mind was sleepwalking
While I didn't know what to write . . .
-- Elvis Costello, "Oliver's Army"

She is a respected Atlanta businesswoman now, but after reading the story I had e-mailed her, she felt the need to call her old classmate from Turner Middle School and Lithia Spring High. Bad boy though I was, Vicky remembered me as having been a nerd -- a "brain" -- in middle school, which may explain how I eventually became so dangerous.

What kind of hoodlum plays trombone in the school band? Actually, lots of us, although bad as the trombone section was, we weren't total outlaws like Mike Stevens and the drum line.

For some reason, low brass and drummers were always the evil guys in band. Whatever happened to my hoodlum buddy Bo Collins, who was also so talented on the French horn, baritone and flugelhorn? Bo's sister was a majorette, as was Susan McDade and . . .

I digress. By eighth grade, when I managed to sneak a peek down Vicky's blouse -- a glimpse that permanently etched itself in memory -- her days as a nice girl were rapidly disappearing in the rearview mirror.

Vicky and I talked for more than an hour Friday afternoon, and at one point she began naming her boyfriends in consecutive order, beginning with Forrest Bennett, the first boy she ever kissed. Forrest, whose good looks I always envied, was probably the first kiss for a lot of girls in Lithia Springs, and more than kissing, too. He died a few years ago when he dove into a too-shallow swimming pool and broke his neck.

Vicky named Forrest and about three or four other guys as having been her boyfriends up through seventh grade. Then, one day she and Ginger Whiteside did some blotter acid.

"After that, I was pretty much everybody's girlfriend," she said.

Ah, Vicky -- but you were never my girlfiend!

Bad Boys, Wild Girls and Cool Cars
Bad as I tried to be, I never had a cool car, and girls like Vicky only rode with guys who had cool cars. Even after I grew my hair down to my shoulders, learned to play guitar, and became running buddies with one of the biggest dope dealers at Lithia Springs High (a saxophone player and math geek who bought his first ounce of Columbian goldbud from me) I was never cool enough for Vicky.

Kirby, however, was that cool. In high school, my older brother drove a red Mustang with a 289 V-8 -- a few years later, it was replaced with a green Chevy SS -- and he also had dark hair, a mustache and a cool charm that his goofy younger brother could never quite match.

Vicky and I had talked for more than an hour, and I had already twice said, "Well, it's been nice talking to you . . ." when I mentioned Kirby, who still lives in Douglas County.

"Oh, yeah, I remember Kirby," she said. "One time, I had a menage a trois in a motel with Kirby and T----- G-----."

Like Vicky, TG was a former cheerleader. The threesome occurred, Vicky said, about 1978 or '79, in a motel off Thorton Road. Her mother had finally kicked her out of the house, and Vicky was dating a South American gentleman who was in the import-export business, so she had a lot of cocaine. Also, she had a supply of valium to take the edge off, as necessary when she needed to get some sleep.

So naturally, Vicky managed to hook up with Kirby. By 1979, my older brother had already been in the Army (101st Airborne), been married, fathered a son named Tony, and gotten divorced. Exactly how Vicky's menage with Kirby and TG came about . . . well, the details are kind of fuzzy in Vicky's memory.

Puking and Other Memorable Events
That's one thing about being a survivor of the '70s. You know you engaged in some bizarre decadence back in the day, but the details tend to be a bit sketchy. For example, I mentioned to Vicky that 1977 Led Zeppelin concert -- the last time Zep played the old Omni in Atlanta, on their last world tour before John Bonham died -- a memorable occasion of which I actually remember only bits and pieces.

"Oh, yeah!" she said. "I went to that with Tim Foreman and his brother John. I don't remember anything from that. Except I'm pretty sure I puked."

Puking at rock concerts was routine back in the day. I puked at my first concert in 1975 -- Rod Stewart and the Faces. Jeff Beck was also on the bill and the opening act that night was a band from Boston that was just then becoming nationally known for songs like "Sweet Emotion" and "Dream On." I went to that concert with an older guy named Tony Wheeler, whose skinny redheaded sister, Becky, played flute in the band. I'd briefly gotten to second base with Becky our freshman year, on a band trip to Florida, but don't remember exactly how I ended up hanging out with her older brother a year later when his date for the Rod Stewart concert called to cancel.

What I remember is that we bootlegged a pint of Canadian Mist whiskey into the concert, shared it with some guys behind us who reciprocated by sharing their weed, and. . . Well, I don't remember Aerosmith at all. I remember that Jeff Beck was a jerk who stormed off the stage after complaining of problems with the P.A. system. I remember Rod Stewart's encore was "Twisting the Night Away." And I remember puking.

Hereditary Traits
That's how the '70s were. So, of course, my older brother's three-way with Vicky and TG remains in Vicky's memory only as fragments.

"I remember doing it in the bathtub with Kirby," she says. "And I think it was just like, hey, let's get T---- in here so she can try this."

Vicky did, however, recall a certain detail -- some traits are hereditary -- which confirmed her story to the necessary degree of certainty required by a professional journalist. And a phone call to Kirby added more details.

First of all, Kirby didn't remember the names of either Vicky or TG. He vaguely recalled TG having been a cheerleader at Douglas County High, but did not realize that Vicky had been a former classmate of mine.

Kirby was in a bar -- probably the Crystal Palace, a rowdy Southside after-hours club on Stewart Avenue -- when he met Vicky and her friend. He invited them to go smoke a joint.

So, Kirby says, they were riding around getting high in his Chevy when Vicky said, "F--- this smoking-a-joint stuff. I've got a bunch of coke. Let's go get a hotel room."

Kirby got home about 1 p.m. the next day and was cooking himself something to eat when the phone rang. It was Vicky saying, "Hey, I got some more coke. You want to come over again?"

When he went back, Kirby said, Vicky was there with a different girl than her girlfriend from the night before. Evidently, Vicky had been telling another one of her friends about the wild ride on this thoroughbred champion -- "Give him some coke and he'll go all night" -- which had occasioned the invitation for a repeat performance.

Vicky definitely remembered Kirby, and when I called her back to tell her Kirby's side of the story, she was a bit hurt that he'd forgotten her name. (As I said before, she is no longer known as "Vicky.") She didn't remember how she'd ran into him and had forgotten the name of the Crystal Palace, but she did remember that her rendezvous with my brother lasted more than one night.

"Oh, we might have partied for two or three days," she said. "I did that all the time. It was crazy back then."

Survivors, Casualties and Mysteries
A few weeks later, Vicky moved in with that South American businessman, who had a mansion in Midtown, and things got even crazier. The mansion was often the scene of wild coke-fueled orgies and one day Vicky regained consciousness -- "I didn't wake up, I came to" -- and looked around.

Naked bodies were sprawled everywhere, and there were still two big lines of coke, apparently laid out the night before by someone who must have passed out before snorting them.

"I remember saying to myself, if I don't get out of here, I'm gonna die," Vicky remembers. And soon she moved away to Athens. She didn't quit partying, but she had passed a turning point. She had made the decision that led to her survival.

"It's only by the pure grace of God that I'm still here," she says.

When I got that glimpse down Vicky's blouse during an eighth-grade class at Turner Middle School, that must have been about May 1973. She had already taken fateful steps, beginning when she dropped acid with Ginger Whiteside.

Ginger was killed instantly in a car accident while we were in high school. She was 15 or 16, I think. Vicky said she's still got the obituary somewhere, but she remembers something odd about Ginger: She had often predicted she would die young, as if knowing she was doomed from the day she was born to be riding in that brand-new Corvette that wiped out on Sweetwater Road. And at Ginger's funeral, the song they played was "Time" by Pink Floyd:

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day.
Fritter and waste the hours in an off hand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town,
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.
Ah, memories. It was the '70s, so the details of some events are sketchy, and lead to mysterious questions. For example, why did I never get past second base with Becky Wheeler? And whatever happened to Bo Collins?

Still, I do remember Ginger's sad eyes. And I remember Vicky when she was a pretty blonde cheerleader at Turner Middle School.

She was naturally thin, with a delicate bone structure and long slender legs. For some reason, however, Vicky had never been one of those girls I had crushes on, like Carol Purdy. Until that spring day in 1973 when she wore a certain blouse and leaned over a certain way, so that at a certain angle I could see . . .

Oh, some things you never forget.

* * * * *

All Girls Names Tonya (And Other Lessons of a Misspent Youth) -- click here to read Part One -- is one of those books that no publisher in their right mind would ever pay me to write. But if you don't think these stories are completely worthless, please hit the tip jar.

UPDATE: Part Three: The Disturbing Case of David Copperfield.

Wayne Allen Root does Reason TV

Interviewed by Matt Welch:

Wayne's book: The Conscience of a Libertarian

Operation Yard Sale?

Remember when the federal government waged war against al-Qaeda terrorists? Now they're at war with a new enemy: Second-hand toys!
If you're planning a garage sale or organizing a church bazaar, you'd best beware: You could be breaking a new federal law. As part of a campaign called Resale Roundup, the federal government is cracking down on the secondhand sales of dangerous and defective products.
The initiative, which targets toys and other products for children, enforces a new provision that makes it a crime to resell anything that's been recalled by its manufacturer.
Via Newsalert.

Gene Lyons, they'll hate you for this

You won't win the healthcare debate
by calling people stupid racists

Gnashing of teeth! Rending of garments! How will Democrats succeed without their most reliable tactics?

Steyn on Hugh Hewitt

by Smitty

Hugh Hewitt has Mark Steyn free-associating to Newsweek, among other bits of brilliance. Excellent.

The last ten minutes with Andrew Breitbart are well worth your time, also.

'Dear God in Heaven'

So says Pundette after learning that, under the British socialized medicine system, a repeat-offender child molester is being prescribed Viagra at taxpayer expense.

Really. Can you anyone think of anything else to say? Not even "death panels" constitute a more concise argument against ObamaCare.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Punk bands over pundits

by Smitty (h/t Kathryn Jean Lopez)

Oh Peggy. "Pull the Plug on ObamaCare", you say, as gently as possible. You cast Obamacare opposite Hillarycare, as if Congress was first supposed to create a fine mess,
And at the end, in the fall, the beauty part: The president swoops in and saves the day, forcing together an ultimate and more moderate plan that doesn't contain the more controversial elements but does constitute a successful first step toward universal health care.

That's not what happened.

It all got hotter, quicker than the White House expected. The many plans of Congress congealed in the public mind into one plan, and the one plan became a poison pool. The president is now immersed in it.

Saved by the passive voice, the poor wee "wee-weed" President.

The Circle Jerks underscore the President's 'record', with a bladder-load of legislative blather on disc...

Come to think of it, that 'release' does contain some advice that's scatalogical, echoes the president, and is about as useful as anything coming out of the likes of Noonan and Krugman:
"When the s**t hits the fan"
in a sluggish economy
hits the land of the free
standing in unemployment lines
blame the government for hard time

we just get by
however we can
we all gotta duck
when the s**t hits the fan

10 kids in a cadillac
stand in lines for welfare checks
let's all leach off the state
gee! the money's really great!

soup lines
free loaves of bread
5lb blocks of cheese
bags of groceries
social security
has run out on you and me
we do whatever we can
gotta duck when the s**t hits the fan
Here it is on YouTube:

Back to the Noonan, starry-eyed, as with a thousand points of light.
Every big idea that works is marked by simplicity, by clarity. You can understand it when you hear it, and you can explain it to people. Social Security: Retired workers receive a public pension to help them through old age. Medicare: People over 65 can receive taxpayer-funded health care. Welfare: If you have no money and cannot support yourself, we will help as you get back on your feet.
These things are clear. I understand them. You understand them.

You understand that the economics fail, lady? You could as reasonably wish water would flow uphill.
  • The Constitution was never amended to support entitlement concepts at the Federal level.
  • The demographics don't supply the necessary population to feed the beast.
  • The moral hazard of that much cash before Congresses composed of that little integrity was too much.
Get Over It!
And when normal people don't know what the words mean, they don't say to themselves, "I may not understand, but my trusty government surely does, and will treat me and mine with respect." They think, "I can't get what these people are talking about. They must be trying to get one past me. So I'll vote no."
Normal people do understand this much: when things are too complex, money is moving from Wallet A to Wallet B. If you don't understand the mechanism (and I'll bet a pizza that your condescending butt does not, at any useful level of detail) then you are Wallet A. Was that explanation simple enough?
In a more beautiful world, the whole health-care chapter could become, for the president, that helpful thing, the teachable moment. The president the past month has been taught a lot by the American people. It's all there in the polls. He could still step back, rethink, say it didn't work, promise to return with something better.

When presidents make clear, with modesty and even some chagrin, that they have made a mistake but that they've learned a lesson and won't be making it again, the American people tend to respond with sympathy. It is our tradition and our impulse.
Peggy, I understand you're Roman Catholic, so let me tell you directly: this more beautiful world is the Kingdom of Heaven, ushered in by the return of the carpenter. Short of that, just give it up. Modulo individual, random acts of beauty, the world is a circle of jerks.

Article V is the appropriate place to start. If the POTUS and the Congress That Shall Live in Infamy don't start at square one, then I say they should all stand impeached for failure to carry out their oaths.

As for you, Peggy, lose the purple prose and acquire some historical and economic analysis, or continue to seem less useful than a punk rock band.

All Girls Named Tonya
(And Other Lessons of a Misspent Youth)

One of my favorite mental exercises is dreaming up titles for books that no publisher in their right mind would ever pay me to write. For example, my history of the 30-year war between neocons and paleocons would be entitled, First, They Came for Mel Bradford. and the story of my 10 years in the newsroom of the Washington Times would be called I've Served My Time in Hell.

Idle minds are the devil's research-and-development department. An early and persistent aversion to doing assigned work -- in college, I always felt a compulsion to read the selections in the Norton Anthology of Literature that the professor did not assign -- led to a habit of dreaming up mischief, some of which mischievous schemes actually came to fruition.

I'm just thankful the Internet and digital cameras had not been invented when I was in middle school. Me and my hoodlum buddies would have cooked up some felonious trouble quicker than you can say, "Hi, I'm Chris Hansen from Dateline NBC."

There can be no doubt that Turner Middle School in 1973 enrolled a few girls who would have been hanging out in the wrong chat rooms, had Internet chat rooms existed in 1973. But me and my hoodlum buddies would have probably scanned in the yearbook photos of Vicky Jones in her cheerleading outfit, created a bogus online profile ("blondchrldrvicky"), and found some way to monetize it, reaping profit from the lascivious interest of old creeps . . . kind of like Dateline NBC does, really.

Vicky Jones is now a respected middle-aged Atlanta businesswoman, no longer known as Vicky Jones, but if you were to ask her today, she'd tell you there were some very bad boys at Turner Middle School back in the day.

When the school band sold candy for a fundraising drive, who stole that candy and re-sold it -- one piece at a time -- to their fellow students?

When one of our hoodlum friends discovered that a local scrap-metal dealer would pay a certain amount per pound for stainless steel, who organized the scheme to pilfer spoons from the school cafeteria?

Hal Coffee ratted me out to Mr. Bell when I came back to science class with both pockets full of spoons. Then I screwed up by telling the assistant principal the name of the scheme's mastermind -- I should have exercised my right to remain silent -- so me and my friend each got a paddling and a week's suspension, and my friend also nearly strangled me for naming him . . . which I shall not now do, as he also is eminently respectable in middle age.

'Noble Savages' -- Not!
We were wicked, you see? I hung around the hoodlums because (a) they were more fun than the nerds, (b) if you've got enough hoodlum buddies, nobody messes with you, no matter how scrawny you are, and (c) Original Sin.

OK, I was a kid from a respectable middle-class home, whose parents spared no effort -- Baptist church, Boy Scouts, music lessons, youth sports, their own stern discipline -- to steer me into the paths of righteousness.

Thanks to parental guidance, I had every opportunity to do right and yet, by the age of 12, I was already a notorious hellion. I nearly didn't graduate high school because of repeated suspensions (e.g., showing up drunk for homeroom) and those four days in April 1977 I spent in the Douglas County Jail (subsequently acquitted at trial, having learned my lesson about the right to remain silent).

So when I got to college and was presented with the naive theories of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and other altruistic philosophers, I recognized that stuff for the dishonest scam it was.

"Noble savages," my right butt-cheek! Somewhere, in one of those unassigned anthology selections I insisted on reading, Mark Twain dispatched rather brusquely with the notion, then prevalent among certain East Coast "reformer" types, that the American Indian (whom political correctness had not yet converted to a "Native American" or, better still, "indigenous peoples") was the embodiment of the natural virtues of humanity unspoiled by the supposedly warping influence of civilization.

The "state of nature," and all that rigamarole, you see. Twain exposed that Rousseauean myth of the Noble Red Man for the hokum it was, describing the reality of the situation with such cold brutality as to make anything I've ever written about David Brooks seem mild by comparison.

A childhood spent in the companionship of hooligans and ne'er-do-wells -- hanging around the kids your mother specifically told you not to hang around with -- sort of spoils a man for Rousseauean myths. An early and direct acquaintance with wickedness makes it difficult to believe that people always act on motives of sincere goodwill.

All Girls Named Tonya, the title of that childhood memoir no publisher will ever pay me to write, derives from a principle of human psychology first postulated by a genuinely evil little bastard who became one of my dope buddies in 10th grade. That title is 67% of what I call Art Hembree's Law:
All Girls Named Tonya Are Sluts.
If your name is Tonya, I apologize on my old friend's behalf, but as a lowlife trying to score some easy action circa 1978-86, I can testify that Hembree's Law proved amazingly reliable.

When I was a freshman in college, I was deeply in love with a sweet brown-eyed girl named Amy, who was still in high school back home. My dad didn't allow me to take a car to college, so one Friday in mid-February 1978 I hitchhiked home -- about 100 miles from my college -- in order to be there for a big date with Amy I'd been dreaming about.

Lithia Springs High School was playing a home basketball game that Friday, and there was going to be a "Valentine's Dance" afterwards. I was a pretty good dancer, and my plan involved taking Amy to the dance, leaving early and . . . well, taking the long way home, so to speak.

A Likely Excuse
Alas, when I called Amy, she told me her mother refused to let her go that night. (Maternal intuition, no doubt.) This infuriated me, as I believed the mom-won't-let-me-go story to be one of those lame excuses girls use to avoid dates with boys they don't really like that much.

In such a mood, then, I got slicked up for the dance, hopped into my '73 VW Bug and went off in search of trouble, which I soon found.

Of course, I did not actually go to the basketball game (lame), and by the time I pulled my Bug into the parking lot off County Line Road, the game had just ended and everybody was on their way to the dance in the cafeteria.

Now, I was never one of those cutie-face boys, but I was lean and funny and had figured out a few things about maximizing whatever advantages came my way. My acne was in remission that weekend, my hair was a cool shag, and my wardrobe was disco-fantastic. So despite the infuriating misfortune of Amy's refusal, I felt like a million bucks when I paid my $2 at the door and strutted into the dance.

No one was dancing. Teenagers are self-conscious and nobody wants to be the first one out on the floor, but I was always bold and shameless. So I grabbed a girl named Lori (one of Amy's best friends) and dragged her onto the floor, where we danced for one song before I went off to chat with some of my old hoodlum buddies I hadn't seen in months.

Out in my VW, an eight-pack of pony Millers was chilling in the February night. Legal drinking age in Georgia at that time was 18, which made for surprisingly easy access to alchohol at far earlier ages. As a 14-year-old freshman playing the part of Pappy Yokum in our high-school production of "Li'l Abner" in spring 1974, I'd arrived at the cast party after consuming at least half a quart of Boone's Farm strawberry wine, and by the time I got there, the seniors had already spiked the punch with PGA. (Violent 2 a.m. wretching ensued.)

Hello, Foxy Lady
Fast-forward to that night in 1978 when, with my eight-pack of cold ponies, I was ready for whatever action came my way at the dance, which didn't take too long. When I went looking for trouble back then, I seldom missed it.

Soon a girl I knew approached me to explain that there was another girl who had seen me dancing, and thought I was cute, and wanted to dance with me. This girl I knew led me over to a gaggle of her friends, amongst whom I espied a girl with bleach-blonde hair in wing-shag "Farrah" style, platform shoes and tight faded jeans.

This blonde displayed two telltale signs that any perceptive 18-year-old horndog in 1978 would have recognized instantly: She wore light-blue eye shadow (ding!) and a black T-shirt with gold-glitter script declaring herself to be a "FOXY LADY." (Ding! Ding! Ding! Like you just hit the slot-machine jackpot, baby.)

As fate would have it, this Foxy Lady was the very girl who had seen me dancing earlier, and who was most grateful for the invitation to join me on the dance floor. We boogied through a funky number (maybe it was "Brick House") and then the DJ played a slow song (maybe "Always and Forever"), and when I danced slow, I danced slowwwwww, with whispered conversation in my partner's ear.

Within five minutes of the end of that slow-dance, Foxy Lady and I were on our way to my VW in the parking lot and perhaps I forgot previously to mention an important fact: Her name was Tonya.

Hembree's Law proved reliable and, after quickly consuming a few of those pony Millers, Tonya and I were parked at the end of a dirt road near the Vulcan rock quarry. The Bug had reclining seats and we were at third base, with a home-run clearly to be anticipated, when an unprecedented thing happened.

I thought about Amy. Somewhere in my cynical young hoodlum soul, a warm ember of conscience still flickered, which now flared up into a most inopportune flame of guilt.

"Ah, maybe I better take you back to the dance," I told the disappointed Tonya, as we zipped up and I cranked the VW for the return trip to school. No, I thought to myself, it wasn't worth blowing my chances with sweet brown-eyed Amy just to score with this other chick, Foxy Lady though she was.

Is there a moral to this story? Is there even a point? asks the exasperated reader. Well . . .
  • Amy found out.
At some point the next week, there was a school assembly, at which Amy found herself seated near Tonya, who happened to be regaling friends with tales of her night of passion with that cute college boy named Stacy.

Douglas County was (and still is) kind of a blue-collar place, so dating a college boy was considered a prestigious thing, which partly explains Tonya's boasting. And boys named Stacy were as rare then as ever, so Amy didn't need any further corroboration to know what I'd been doing the night of the Valentine's Dance.

Ironic, you see. Tonya was letting on to her friends that we'd gone all the way, with certain notorious details -- derived from her visit to third base -- which had the effect of providing Amy with entirely superflous corroboration of a tale which, nevertheless, was a lie.
  • Amy broke up with me.
Oh, the bitter recriminations which resulted from that February night! While I was certainly guilty of a sort of infidelity, it was not unfaithfulness in the first degree. And, after hitting the brakes when Tonya was giving me green lights all the way, I had congratulated myself as having done the right thing in the end.

Perhaps I should have done the wrong thing. After everything blew up, I cursed myself for having missed a chance. Had I gone all the way with Tonya, and added a few endearing words to our assignation, perhaps she'd have felt the kind of emotional bond that would have ensured our affair remained a guilty little secret.

Instead, having had but a fleeting grasp of passion -- yes, I was notorious for a reason -- Tonya felt entirely free to boast of the legendary magnificence, so that nothing I could say in my own defense would exculpate me.
  • I blamed Amy.
Odd how an arrogant sinner can never accept responsibility for the consequences of his own sins. Pride and impatience go hand-in-hand, and the Sunday after that February dance, Amy's mother let her come to my house for a dinner that I tried to make as romantic as possible. How easily I might have accepted her Friday night refusal and decided to skip the dance, but . . .

Still, it burned. If she hadn't turned me down, I'd have never been at that dance alone, and Tonya the Foxy Lady would have had to take her chances with some inferior fellow. (Obviously, a girl named Tonya wasn't going to do without on a Friday night.)

Amy's refusal to accept my explanation or give me a second chance seemed entirely unjust, given the extenuating circumstances. For all my disco-hoodlum ways, I genuinely did love her, and this heartbreak was painfully damaging.

Henceforth from that breakup with Amy, it is fair to say, my attitude toward romantic life became tainted by a spirit of vengeance that blinded me to the fact that my female companions might be as deeply in love with me as I had once been in love with sweet brown-eyed Amy. No, they were all just faithless little heartbreakers, undeserving of trust or consideration, no matter how (temporarily) innocent they might be.

Ladies, I did you wrong. And it wasn't Amy's fault or Tonya's fault. Blame only me, and I am without excuse.

Force of Habit
What became of all those broken hearts? Oh, they got over me, I suppose. Surely no man could ever be as special as I imagined myself to be back then. And so I but rarely hear of any of those girls, and Tonya's fate remains a mystery, but what friends have said of Amy racks my conscience. Blame only me.

Youthful habit is a powerful force in life. Now a happily married father of six, those old habits are sublimated (rather than dishonestly denied or, as they say, "repressed") as harmlessly charming flattery. What my arrogant young heart craved, I came to realize in belated maturity, was the praise and admiration of women which my impatient hoodlum passions led me to solicit by the most direct means possible.

Fool! Even old and ugly, I now get abundant admiration by the merest exercise of innocent courtesy.

Oh, yes, and the sequel was most interesting to any student of psychology. In 1988, I brought a lovely young lady to Atlanta for an inexpensive but romantic evening that included visits to meet some of my kinfolk.

Dad was polite and friendly enough, but initially less taken with this latest girlfriend than he had been with her buxom predecessor, green-eyed Christine from Marietta. Aunt Pat was her usual gracious self, making quite a favorable impression on my date.

What I remember most, however, was the reaction of my older brother Kirby, when my date and I visited him at home with his wife and new baby daugther. Leaving his wife to get acquainted with my new girlfriend (they were about the same age), Kirby invited me outside for a smoke.

"Damn, Stacy," he said. "Could you have found a better lookalike for Amy . . .?"

Well, it took me 10 years to find her, and though I really think Mrs. Other McCain is much better-looking, the resemblance was indeed striking, though it never occurred to me until Kirby pointed it out.

Twenty years into our marriage, Mrs. Other McCain -- whom I told all about my misspent youth -- keeps a watchful eye on me, and is always keenly suspicious when I go off to Washington for one of those "events" I must cover from time to time. I assure her she has no need to worry, as I would not impair the magnifent legend by permitting any improper contact with my middle-aged decrepitude.

Ah, but she knows me too well, and Mrs. Other McCain's suspicion is actually quite flattering, as if I were still the Speedo-sporting prime stud she married.

Nevertheless, I'm still mindful of Art Hembree's Law. Even an old guy can never be safe around a girl named Tonya.

* * * * *
Well, as I said, All Girls Named Tonya is another one of those books no publisher would ever pay me to write, but I don't think that little story is entirely worthless. Do you?

Hit the tip jar.

UPDATE: Thanks to all those who have hit the tip jar, and to Melissa Clouthier, who calls this "a slice of genius." (Let's not get started about girls named "Melissa," OK?)

Meanwhile, I got a call Friday from Vicky, who read this and says she sure hopes none of her clients in Atlanta -- who know her as a respectable middle-aged businesswoman -- read Part Two: Don't Start Me Talking.

Some things from the '70s are easily forgotten, but the legendary magnificence is a hereditary trait.

UPDATE II: Part Three: The Disturbing Case of David Copperfield.

Because some people don't have lives . . .

. . . there will be a nationwide Rifftrax screening tonight of the worst movie ever made, Plan 9 From Outer Space. I know this because on Tuesday, discussing the career of Robert Novak, I wrote:
Speaking of "journalism through whiskey," there will be a 7 p.m. Happy Hour event Thursday at the Continental Lounge in Rosslyn, Va. -- just across the Potomac from D.C. -- and if you haven't been personally invited, feel free to show up anyway.
Bloggers, journalists, fat cats, bigwigs, congressional staffers, congressional mistresses, lobbyists, interns, hookers, policy wonks, oppo researchers, "senior administration officials," two-faced backstabbing GOP political operatives -- everyone should consider themselves invited.
To which Joe Marier replied:
I can't make the Continental event, alas; I have tickets to see the Rifftrax show at Tysons Corner.
You might have achieved maximum geekdom if . . . well, NTTAWWT.

So while Joe is sitting in a theater full of guys who spent too much time as children playing with the Gilbert DeLuxe Chemistry Lab they got for their 8th birthdays, I expect to be shooting pool with the guys who cheerfully suffered strange rashes as adolescents . . .

Here's to you, Tonya, wherever you are!

OK, you had me at
'Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders'

Our friends at NewsAlert know how to get a blogger's attention:
Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
applaud new changes at stadium
That's the headline from a story from the Dallas Morning News, which would involve actual reading, rather than the Pavlovian autonomous nerve reflex must-click-this reaction that every heterosexual man with a Google Reader experienced when he saw that headline . . .

Blogger's Motto: Hits is hits.

Who's behind the anti-Bernanke stories?

Like this one in the New York Times:
In Washington and on Wall Street, it would be a surprise if President Obama did not nominate Mr. Bernanke for a second term, even though he is a Republican and was appointed by President George W. Bush.
But the White House has remained silent. And despite Mr. Bernanke’s credibility in financial circles, both he and the Fed as an institution have come under political fire from lawmakers in both parties over the handling of particular bailouts and the scope of the Fed’s power. . . .
While the White House keeps mum about Mr. Bernanke’s future, the leading Democratic candidates to replace him include Lawrence H. Summers, director of the National Economic Council; Janet L. Yellen, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco; Alan S. Blinder, a Princeton economist and former Fed vice chairman; and Roger Ferguson, another former Fed vice chairman. . . .
You can read the whole thing, but what arouses my curiosity is why the editors of the New York Times felt the need to run this story at this time.

Stories like this don't "just happen" in Washington. Somebody covets the guy's job, either for themselves or one of their allies. The fact that Larry Summers' name is at the top of the list of candidates to replace Bernanke might make Summers the chief suspect.

On the other hand, Summers has enemies in the White House, and the idea may be to kill two birds with one stone: Get Bernanke out of the Fed, and replace him with Summers so as to remove Summers from the Economic Council.

So I suspect Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (or his friends) of pushing the anti-Bernanke meme to the press. Geithner obviously views Summers and Bernanke as rivals to his influence in the Obama administration's economic policy shop.

Oh, and all the praise for Bernanke in the Times story? Overdone and premature. When you cut the rate to zero, it's easy to look like a genius -- for a while. But what happens when the next wave of foreclosures and bank failures hits? You can't cut the rate lower. At some point, you reach the limits of monetarianism, and we've been at the limit for months now.

Unspeakably wretched

Yesterday, I slammed as spectacularly boring -- to say nothing of its sheer wrongheadedness -- a 5,000-word "Path to Republican Revival" article by Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner published in the September issue of Commentary.

A fellow journalist sent me an e-mail praising the nail-on-the-head accuracy of my slam on Gerson, a writer who has dullness down to a science. In reply to my friend I wrote:
Did you *try* to read that mess? To whom could it possibly be interesting? JPod screwed the pooch in agreeing to publish it.
Of course, I despise the whole "How to Fix the GOP/Revive Conservatism/Save the World" genre of big-picture political writing, where the writer pompously prescribes his own 12-point plan. Has any such endeavor ever actually resulted in anything useful? It's basically just an excuse for policy wonks to market themselves to potential clients, and is a disservice to readers of whatever publication issues it.
And, naturally, the same themes in suspiciously similar language will crop up next fall in a book with a prominent Republican's name and photo on the cover, and somewhere in the acknowledgements Gerson and Wehner will be mentioned for their "generous assistance."
This phony racket becomes so predictable after a while you get sick of it.
-- RSM
The revolving door in Washington, which gives employment to fraudulent "journalists" like ex-Dem operatives George Stephanopoulos and Chris Matthews, probably doesn't mind a GOP hack like Gerson pretending to be a journalist. But even this system of dubious ethics is subverted when, while masquerading as a WaPo columnist, Gerson so transparently pitches himself as a Republican "strategist," which is what this Commentary article with Wehner really was, a pitch. It's enough to make you throw up a little in your mouth.

Most journalists who write about politics will sooner or later be asked to engage more directly in the political process. It happens, but that's not what I'm complaining about, per se. Jim Pinkerton worked for the 2008 Huckabee campaign and, so far as I can see, emerged from the experience unscathed.

However, there are times when the informed reader can detect in the "journalism" of ex-administration officials the whiff of career marketing, and it rankles.

When Jeanne Kirkpatrick wrote "Dictatorships & Double Standards" for Commentary she did not do so in order to seek the U.N. ambassadorship from Ronald Reagan. Indeed, Kirkpatrick was a Democrat and couldn't possibly have imagined such an outcome.

Thirty years later, however, we've seen how political professionals have learned to game the system, and whenever you see a magazine publish something as awful as this -- really, can anyone reasonably claim that "The Path to Republican Revival" has any merit as journalism? as literature? -- you should trust your instinctive Whiskey Tango Foxtrot reaction.

What bothers me most is that these two former helmsmen from Team Bush, who helped steer the S.S. Republican into the iceberg, now propose to offer sailing lessons to others. These miserable failures had their chance and blew it. They should slink away in shame, rather than being permitted to insult the readers of Commentary with 5,000 tedious words of wrongheaded political/policy analysis.

But, dear God, what wretched writing! I've just attempted, for about the third or fourth time, to read this damned thing -- I printed it out for that purpose -- and keep bursting out in hysterical laughter at the combination of obviousness and leaden phrasing:
Obama’s overreach has created a measure of opportunity for Republicans. The question is whether that opportunity will be grasped. Can Republicans overcome their manifest problems and succeed in preparing themselves for a restoration of public trust, and can they do so not only by appealing to new groups but also by offering compelling answers to pressing public needs?
Herewith, a brief primer. . . .
"Herewith, a brief primer"? Were I the magazine editor to whom a freelancer made the mistake of submitting a piece containing that sentence, I'd be fighting the urge to hunt down that miserable son of bitch and strangle him with my bare hands. In a case like this, a good editor would respond with a curt rejection notice:

You thieving scoundrel:
We pay writers by the word. I've consulted our lawyers, who agree that your effort to get me to pay you for the sentence, "Herewith, a brief primer," constitutes attempted petty larceny by the laws of this state and may also be prosecuted as a federal felony under the mail fraud statutes.
I'm cutting you a break this time, but if you ever again try to swindle me with a cheap scam like this, you'll be buying yourself a one-way ticket to Leavenworth.
Please find another career for which you are suited, as journalism is clearly beyond your abilities.
The Editor

There may be a shortage of good writers in America, but the editor who agrees to pay for a sentence like "Herewith, a brief primer" is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Great Cash-for-Clunkers Mystery

Why would a federal program to give away money keep running out of money?

If you had to think two seconds to figure that out . . . you might be a liberal.

(Hat-tip: Hot Air.)

Perp-walking Ricky Hollywood's mom

Mom's a felon, and her lawyer is a key adviser to her thug son:
Sherry Johnston pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of possession with intent to deliver the painkiller OxyContin. Five other felony counts were dropped. . . .
She hugged her lawyer, Rex Butler, before being escorted out of the courtroom and taken to a correctional facility where she'll be held until her Nov. 20 sentencing. . . .
Johnston, 42, is the mother of 19-year-old Levi Johnston. He and 18-year-old Bristol Palin were engaged but called the wedding off after their son, Tripp, was born in December. . . .
Q. What do guys in Anchorage call it when they go on a date with Levi Johnston's mom?
A. Taking out the trash.

Maximum geekdom achieved!

Unless there's a Society for Creative Anachronism blog out there, can you really top an online video in which Glenn Reynolds interviews a sci-fi author and discusses, inter alia, "the suckiness of the Starship Troopers movie"?

This is just sad, people. It's what happens when boys whose mothers won't let them play football grow into teenagers who can't dance, then become college students who spend their weekends rolling those weird D&D dice and . . .

Well, you see how this disturbing pattern of pathology ineluctably progresses to the point where grown men actually care about the film adaptations of space fantasy novels.

Am I the only one who sees this whole cluster of behaviors, centered around the telltale abnormal interest in fictionalized distant worlds and/or ancient times, as constituting something that might be called Total Geek Syndrome?

I'm almost exactly the same age as Insty, and I well remember those who succumbed to the geek syndrome. Some of my college buddies got into that SCA thing, where they spent their weekends playfighting with wooden swords in preparation for the much-anticipated "Renaissance Faire."

OK, there were probably more antisocial things that students could do with their leisure hours, but watching my loser buddies waste their weekends on that lame SCA crap sure made me feel a lot better about my own decadent habits of getting drunk and scoring with disco skanks.

Today, of course, geekishness more commonly manifests itself as online role-playing videogames and attending Comic-Con, puerile Battlestar Gallactica fixations, etc., but it's still all part of the same syndrome.

These observations will spark a nature/nuture debate -- are geeks "born that way"? -- and I will predictably stand accused of intolerance for alternative lifestyles. But really, I'm just trying to help.

Somewhere in America at this very moment there is a 13-year-old boy refusing the offer of a Marlboro Red from the neighborhood juvenile delinquent.

"Uh, no thanks . . . I might get in trouble," says the geek-to-be, and seals his fate forever. No ditching school. No disciplinary infractions. No motorcycle accidents. No strange rashes after sneaking out of the house one summer night at age 14 to rendezvous by the laundromat with a girl named Tonya.

That 13-year-old kid confronted with his first chance to smoke a Marlboro is at a fork in the road, you see. One way leads to a leather jacket and an electric guitar, the other leads to a 3.9 GPA and a lifelong Robert Heinlein obsession.

I'm not saying that the geek path is necessarily unworthy, but I do feel it is important that these kids know they have a choice.

Won't you please give generously to help fight Total Geek Syndrome? The kid you save will thank you . . . once that strange rash clears up.

God endorses ObamaCare?

Remember all those liberals who warned that the Religious Right would impose a Taliban-style theocracy in America? They were right!
In a morning conference call with about 1000 rabbis from across the nation, Obama asked for aid: "I am going to need your help in accomplishing necessary reform," the President told the group, according to Rabbi Jack Moline, who tweeted his way through the phoner.
"We are God's partners in matters of life and death," Obama went on to say . . .
Oy vey! (Hat-tip: Weekly Standard.)

Say it ain't so!

Hope for $ale?
Two firms that received $343.3 million to handle advertising for Barack Obama’s White House run last year have profited from his top priority as president by taking on his push for health-care overhaul.
Hope-destroying details from Michelle Malkin, who just learned that Culture of Corruption -- Best. Book. Evah! -- will be at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list for the third consecutive week.

Michelle's secret to success? Page 291.

WSJ sings from the open-borders hymnal

Even after its divisive support for John McCain's "comprehensive immigration reform" helped sink Republicans in 2006 by estranging working-class voters from the GOP, the Wall Street Journal keeps plugging away, arguing the economic case for amnesty and open borders.

How many times have I had this discussion with my libertarian friends? Human beings are not commodities, and therefore free-trade rhetoric cannot applied to immigrants as if they were analogous to imported goods.

My 2004 KIA Optima does not burden public schools, does not impose health-care costs on taxpayers, does not require the accommodation of Korean bilingualism.

I grow weary of hearing immigration discussed as if it were a purely economic issue, where the costs and benefits can be calculated by experts applying algorithms to statistics, without regard for the political and cultural realities involved.

In 1965, the year Ted Kennedy pushed the Immigration and Nationality Act into law, we were a nation of 195 million. Today, our population exceeds 300 million, of whom the 2000 Census counted 31 million immigrants; responsible estimates of the number of illegal immigrants range as high as 12 million.

Beginning with the 1965 law, there has been no significant change to U.S. immigration law in the past 44 years that was not approved by Ted Kennedy.

In other words, we have a liberal immigration policy which, as is true of all other liberal policies, has produced disastrous consequences. And, as is so often the case, liberals now insist that the solution to the problems resulting from their own policies is . . . wait for it . . . more liberalism.

For at least 15 years, the editors of the Wall Street Journal have played a perfidious and dishonest role in the debate over this issue, obscuring rather than enlightening, like a squid inking the waters, and heaping opprobrium on any conservative who dares speak blunt truth.

Calling them out won't stop them from continuing their harmful folly. They have shown themselves to be beyond shame. But it is alway important to call things by their right names, and this principle extends to accurately describing as worthless two-faced sons of bitches the editors of the Wall Street Journal.

(Via Memeorandum.)

Oh, for crying out loud, David Frum!

On the occasion of Bob Novak's death, must you still stubbornly defend your errors?
Robert Novak was respected and liked by many, and their memories of him are the memories that deserve hearing today.
But there is one thing about Robert Novak that I have had in mind for some time, and today seems the appropriate moment to say it.
Novak was one of the people I discussed in a still-controversial 2003 article for National Review, “Unpatriotic Conservatives.”
That piece analyzed a group of conservatives so radically alienated from their country that not even the events of 9/11 could rally them to her cause. . . .
OK, I'll stop there and if anyone wants to read the rest, they can. But David, do you not see what was wrong with your 2003 article, and what is even more wrong with your untimely defense of it?

First, you did not "discuss" or "analyze" Novak, Buchanan, et al., you attacked them, and in exactly the same manner that liberals have attacked conservatives as far back as Barry Goldwater or even Joe McCarthy.

You did what a friend of mine calls the "Ransom Note Method," cutting and pasting like a kidnapper gluing together words clipped from magazines. You then presented this assemblage as if it constituted a complete file of the essential facts that told us who these men really were.

Nudge, nudge: "They're all Jew-haters!"

Unfair and unfortunate, especially considering that on the issue which was even then being weighed in the balance -- the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq -- their doubts were ultimately vindicated.

'Cakewalks' Have Consequences
More than 3,000 U.S. troops died to implement that policy, thousands more were wounded, billions of taxpayer dollars were expended and, while the eradication of Saddam's Ba'athist regime was inarguably a good thing, patriotic Americans may reasonably ask, "Was it really worth the cost?"

The domestic political consequences have included the mobilization of a powerful left-wing grassroots movement, the loss of a congressional majority it had taken Republicans 40 years to gain, and the election of the most left-wing Democrat president in our nation's history. As to the foreign-policy results, we can only speculate what mischief may ensue in however many years it takes for American voters to get their bellyful of liberal misrule and regain their traditional good sense. (Assuming, of course, that the Bush-damaged GOP can yet be salvaged as a workable majority coalition, which is at this point a hypothetical proposition.)

For these multiple woes, then, leading advocates of the Iraq invasion must bear responsibility just as, had the invasion turned out to be the "cakewalk" that Ken Adelman notoriously predicted, its advocates would now be fighting over who should get credit for its success.

While future developments might conceivably lead historians to conclude that the Bush administration's policy was altogether wise and beneficial, as matters stand now, the Iraq invasion bids fair to rank as the most tragic folly of imperial overreach since the Athenian expedition to Sicily in 415 B.C.

How, then, can you possibly consider it "appropriate" on the occasion of Novak's death, to attempt to defend your foolish attack on him and others when even many of the most staunch Republican loyalists -- men and women who defended the Bush administration through thick and thin -- now freely admit that Novak, et al., were right all along?

Say what you will, David, but facts are stubborn things, and the facts are not on your side.

Ex-Democrats and GOP Cliques
Let us now leave to future historians to argue the merits of the Iraq invasion, just as Civil War buffs still endlessly argue whether Longstreet or Lee was correct about the tactical situation on July 2, 1863. (Most folks down home derogate Longstreet as a faithless scalawag, but I believe Lee was both sincere and correct when he said he was entirely responsible for that defeat.)

Military considerations aside, then, what of your attempt to smear Novak, along with Buchanan and others both living and dead, with the odious taint of anti-Semitism?

This involves an old intra-Republican feud to which I'd paid little attention before arriving in Washington. Having been a Democrat all my life until 1994 (a story I've told in bits and pieces over the past 18 months, including a thumbnail version at The American Spectator), I little suspected that what I had once dreaded as a mighty Republican monolith was in actuality a middle-school playground of antagonistic cliques.

David Horowitz and Peter Collier have described their own shock, upon leaving their New Left allegiances to support Reagan in the mid-1980s, at discovering the vicious factionalism inside the GOP. To its enemies, the Republican Party inevitably appears to be a carefully managed, well-funded, brutally efficient political machine, staffed entirely by ruthless automatons acting in synchronized lockstep.

This powerful illusion of Republican unity vanishes as soon as, dillusioned by the latest Democratic Party betrayal, the ex-Democrat ventures inside the GOP camp and tries to join up. Immediately, the arriviste finds himself pulled this way and that, urged to pledge his loyalty to one clique, one cause, one ideological posse within the intramural league of Republican rivalries.

Paleo, Neo, Me-o, My-o
Little did I suspect, while yet a Democrat, how bitterly Republicans were torn by Operation Desert Storm. While I thrilled at this brilliant military victory that vanquished the Vietnam Syndrome, from my purely political standpoint as a moderate Democrat, that war had the tragic consequence of destroying the presidential hopes of Sam Nunn.

Meanwhile, unknown to me, the GOP faction led by Buchanan had opposed Desert Storm from the beginning. By the nature of the arguments the Buchanan faction made against that war, they left themselves exposed to the charge of anti-Semitism. We might say, as Antony said of the accusation that Caesar was ambitious, "If it were so, it was a grievous fault, and grievously hath Buchanan answer'd it."

As in every previous and subsequent engagement between the paleocons and neocons, the paleos emerged the embittered losers, while the neos went on to new heights of prestige and influence.

However, allow me now to suggest, David, that in the Babylonian debacle that destroyed Karl Rove's "permanent Republican majority," the neocons have now suffered their Philippi.

You cannot recover from this self-inficted disaster, my friend. Whatever the future holds for the GOP, if the Republicans should recapture their Reaganesque mojo, displace the vaunting Pelosi Democrats and roll onward to new glories, I pray that they will never again commit the errors of Bushism, failing to discern wise counsel from folly merely because the fools were clever enough to accuse the wise of crude bigotry.

Plagiarize Yourself Much?
Your 2003 "Unpatriotic Conservatives" article that defamed Novak and other critics of the Iraq war -- some of them arguable less innocent than Novak -- was not your first exercise in that sort of attack. I am grateful to my friend Daniel McCarthy for having filled the gap in my knowledge on this score:
While at the [Wall Street] Journal, Frum accepted the freelance assignment that would make his name: a 1991 cover story for The American Spectator attacking Pat Buchanan.
The article, "Conservative Bully Boy," described Buchanan as "everything couth conservatives want to escape" and took aim not just at Buchanan himself -- then contemplating a run against George H.W. Bush for the 1992 Republican presidential nomination -- but also at his paleoconservative and libertarian supporters, including Paul Gottfried, Murray Rothbard, and Thomas Fleming, among others. Frum accused Buchanan of "sly Jew-baiting" -- so sly, evidently, that it slipped past Jewish intellectuals Rothbard and Gottfried, but not the ever vigilant Frum. . . .
The hit on Buchanan earned Frum a book deal with The New Republic's imprint at Basic Books; indeed, Frum reused much of his material on Buchanan and the paleos for Dead Right's chapter on "Nationalists."
So, a dozen years before your 2003 National Review cover, you had deployed the same theme in the same situation. When America was at war under a Republican president, you denounced conservative critics of the war in a way calculated to inflict maximum damage on their influence. What could be more damaging than the suspicion of anti-Semitism?

It is worth mentioning here that I have various disagreements with Buchanan and some of his supporters. For starters, I am a philo-Semite so staunchly pro-Israel as to make Netanyahu look like a squish. Also, as was true of Novak, I am a resolute free-marketeer who has no use for tariffs, labor unionism, and other such economic deviations to which the Buchananites are sadly prone. (I admit an uncouth nostalgia for the gold standard, but some Austrian School friends assure me that this is actually quite orthodox.)

Despite these various disagreements, however, I cannot bring myself to say that Buchanan and his followers are evil. Nor, in the grand scheme of things, would I consider their support for the Republican Party a net liability to the GOP. If you take a look at the Tea Party crowds and townhall "angry mobs" now striking terror in Democratic hearts, they look a lot more like Buchananites than Frumians.

All of which is to say, as I look at the conservative movement going forward, I think we have seen an end to the era when populists and traditionalists -- Bradford, Sobran, Brimelow, etc. -- would periodically be scapegoated and purged to maintain the standard of "respectability" necessary to sustain the support of a tiny clique of highbrow elitists.

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Elitists!
No more of that. From here on out -- and I think I speak now for a very broad consensus of conservative opinion -- we're rolling like the Hell's Angels on a Labor Day weekend run to Monterrey. If this flagrant contempt for elite opinion causes panic among the effete snobs at the Wall Street Journal, if it offends the tender sensibilities of gentle souls like Peggy Noonan, David Brooks and Rich Lowry -- well, screw them.

And in an ironic way, David, you have helped make possible the new bad-boy conservatism of the future. Let's list a few names of those you have denounced in recent months:Having done your best to alienate the widest possible swath of conservatives -- thinking that Obama's popularity would justify a purge of those clamorous talk-radio types -- you now deem the occasion of Novak's demise "appropriate" to revisit your old grudge against conservative critics of the Iraq war.

Alas, no one important to the GOP's future is listening to you now. If your conservative credibility were a bank, David, the FDIC would shut it down. So far as any ability to influence rank-and-file conservative Republicans is concerned, you're as bankrupt as Kathleen Parker.

What really makes your renewed ax-grinding against Novak's ghost so risible, David, is your accusation that Novak and friends were "so radically alienated from their country that not even the events of 9/11 could rally them to her cause."

David: You're Canadian.

Case closed. Court adjourned. You are remanded to the custody of Judge Ann Coulter for sentencing.

UPDATE: My previous discussion of the Frum/Novak/Levin feud has now been front-paged at Hot Air.

UPDATE II: More Novak obituary tributes piling up, including this one from American Spectator editor R. Emmett Tyrrell:
He is one of the most loyal contributors that The American Spectator has ever had. Some who have written for us never let it be known in their bios lest they give offense to polite company. Bob never hid his relationship with us and mentions it often in his stupendously informative memoir, The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington. . . . He served on our Board of Directors, never flinching when the government haled us before a grand jury or when and the Clintonistas infiltrated into the media tales of our treasonous behavior. During all this hullabaloo I innocently asked Bob what the mainstream journalists thought of us. The mortar fire was pretty heavy. "They think you're obnoxious," he responded. Gee, Bob have a heart!
He actually did have a heart and a strong conscience. On the one matter that temporarily ended our friendship he was proved wrong or at least sort of wrong. When that became apparent to him he suggested we dine and smoke the peace pipe. He admitted he had been wrong. I insisted that he had only been a bit wrong. Our friendship was renewed. In all my years as an editor I have only known one other acquaintance to come forward and admit to being wrong. And again, Bob was only sort of wrong, but he had the self-confidence to admit error. He also had the intellect and general competence to fall into error rarely.
Read the whole thing. Meanwhile, Mr. Tyrrell's indefatiguable right-hand man, Wlady Pleszczynski, posts this video tribute:

Special note to David Frum: I noticed your most recent e-mail in my inbox but, due to my chronic e-mail overflow (which my intern has promised to fix as soon as he returns from his holiday jaunt to Florida), it was auto-deleted before I had a chance to read it.

Please don't take a non-reply, or the reiteration of my criticisms, as unfriendly gestures. I still want to be your friend, but your relentless ax-grinding against the paleos and populists is passed its sell-by date. I have done what I can to try to persuade my paleo friends to relinquish their own ax-grinding, and intend to do more in that direction.

However, if there is to be a "New Majority" -- a conservatism that can win again, as you say -- it cannot be built on the basis of an elitist disdain for those unruly grassroots activists. Majority coalitions are not built by a process of subtraction, which is what your anti-populist agenda represents. The fact that Bill Kristol continues to say nice things about Sarah Palin should be a warning signal of how badly you're isolating yourself.

I'll be in town Thursday, if you'd like to upbraid me in person for this criticism.