Monday, January 31, 2005

Neoconservative Objective Number Three: The Democratic National Committee

Yes, there is still much work to be done in Iraq, as you have heard someone say every 30 seconds over the past two days. But the global crusade for democracy does not wait upon police and administrative matters. It is time to survey the horizons beyond Iraq, and draw new plans accordingly.

I realize that Iran and Syria rank high on everyone's "to-do" list. And of course, Saud Delenda Est, sooner or later. But given our current commitments, it's time to turn our attention to objectives closer to home, and show that we can deal with domestic matters with the same degree of reckless enthusiasm. It's time that we deal with that most troubled region of the world, the Democratic National Committee.

In the DNC we have all the components of a fledgling democracy, just waiting for someone to pick them up and piece them together. The DNC's very name suggests democratic aspirations. And elements within the DNC have been struggling to implement a quasi-democratic election of their own, but so far without success. What's the big hold-up? The Vatican once elected three Popes in less time than this. In 69 AD, the Romans cranked out four new emperors in less time than this. But the DNC's efforts just grind on like a damaged gearbox, and the mounting bill for catering and trashed hotel rooms is threatening their economic stability. Responsible persons need to step in at this point, and give one of their viable candidates a leg up.

Does the United States have a vital interest in the Democratic National Committee, you may ask? Of course not, smartass. Nor does the DNC have any impact on world oil markets, or access to enriched uranium, et cetera. There is no evidence that they possess any weapon which has sharp edges or moving parts - apart from occasional noise pollution and misdemeanor vandalism, the DNC poses no threat to its neighbors. All of which, I submit, is beside the point. This is an idealistic humanitarian effort, not some of your cynical Nixon-Era realpolitic. You don't like it? Go sob on Henry Kissinger's lap.


1. William "Watertight" Smith. Former US Senator from Michigan, and former chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. Earned the nickname "Watertight" during the 1912 Senate inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic, when he asked, "Why didn't the passengers just go into the watertight compartments and close the doors?"
STRENGTHS: Knows how to ask the tough questions. Comes from Michigan, which is almost a Red state.
NEGATIVES: Smith died in 1932. An interim chairman would have to preside until a suitable Smith clone could be deployed. There is, by the way, ample precedent for political participation by persons who are currently dead.
OVERALL EVALUATION: An untimely choice, at best. Michigan is currently in a bad light with DNC partisans, following an effort by state party officials to impose a DNC dictatorship headed by Donald "Baby Doc" Fowler.

2. Edward "Quagmire" Kennedy. Younger brother of famed US President John F. Kennedy, and current senior US Senator from Massachusetts. Kennedy is a member of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee and has extensive political experience.
STRENGTHS: Besides the obvious dynastic connections, Kennedy was the brother-in-law of the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who has a fanatical cult following. Kennedy has great appeal to monarchists and celebrity-worshippers who would otherwise feel disenfranchised.
NEGATIVES: Poor driving record. Makes enemies faster than Keebler makes cookies. Might turn DNC into a breeding ground for Mary Jo Kopechne Brigade terrorists.
OVERALL EVALUATION: Good. Note that it is not customary (or in fact, strictly legal) for a sitting US Senator to also occupy the DNC chair. On the other hand, it is also not customary for a US Senator to ingest massive quantities of psilocybin and amyl nitrite, so Kennedy is an anomaly to begin with.

3. Karl Rove. Currently a political advisor to President George Bush. Extensive political experience, and proven record as a fund-raiser.
STRENGTHS: Huge name recognition among DNC faithful. We're talking HUGE. Studies show that 73% of coherent verbal utterances by DNC staffers feature "Karl Rove" as either the subject or direct object. Has a reputation in the DNC for god-like competence, and the kind of supernatural mystique previously attained only by Haitian dictators and pagan agricultural deities. Is rumored to have Osama bin Laden tied up in the trunk of his car.
NEGATIVES: Currently a Republican. Has mercenary instincts that could be exploited, but this might require a supplemental appropriation or some creative budget-looting. Also, bears disturbing resemblance to "Principal Weatherbee" from Archie comic books.
OVERALL EVALUATION: Excellent. This choice would be highly appealing to those who feel the DNC needs to be "shaken up" like a hysterical prostitute.

4. Howard Dean. Former Vermont governor. Front man for the so-called "Howard Dean for President" phenomenon, a charismatic religious movement that traces its roots to 19th Century Dunkerism.
STRENGTHS: Is not related to former Nixon aide John Dean. Combines the outlandish appeal of a Marilyn Manson with the wholesome, middle-American looks of a John McCain. A sort of ersatz Eugene McCarthy for the Johnny-Can't-Read Generation. Attracts lots of media attention.
NEGATIVES: Attracts lots of media attention. When appearing on talk shows, displays poor sense of self-preservation. And geography. Dean's followers may pose the worst threat to public safety since China's "Cultural Revolution". Has many enemies in the powerful Clinton crime family.
OVERALL EVALUATION: Poor. A Chairman Dean may ultimately alienate the DNC's allies in Canada and France, when the Jerry Lewis-like appeal starts to wear thin and the Jimmy Carter-like folksiness starts to threaten international security.

5. Barbra Streisand. Former Assistant Secretary of State, 1992-2000. Extensive political and fundraising experience.
STRENGTHS: Stalin, meet Stalinda. Superb authoritative manner, excellent command voice. Lyrical sense only slightly inferior to Jesse Jackson's. Would instill discipline and parade-ground precision to the DNC, after the manner of General George McClellan.
NEGATIVES: Also has General George McClellan's ego, and General George McClellan's politics. Has General George Armstrong Custer's sense of prudence. Has General George Patton's sense of public relations. Has General George C. Marshall's sense of humor.
OVERALL EVALUATION: Excellent. A Karl Rove who doesn't frighten middle-class housewives.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Democracy for So-Called Liberals

The so-called Liberals were chased away from the so-called polls by the so-called army.
H.L. Mencken reporting on Cuban elections, Gore in the Caribbees (1917)

On the eve of the first ever democratic election in an Arab state, who could be cold to the sentiments expressed by Omar and Mohammed at Iraq the Model?
In 48 hours from now, the dying dictatorships and their filthy tools, the terrorists, will find themselves facing an elected legitimate government in Iraq ... On Sunday, the sun will rise on the land of Mesopotamia. I can't wait, the dream is becoming true and I will stand in front of the box to put my heart in it.
Or Husayn at Democracy in Iraq?
There is only one day left until the momentus day of Iraqi history that will always be remembered, celebrated, and looked upon with happiness by future generations. It will also be a day that inspires our neighbors to develop their own democracies. I cannot wait ...
Finally, Ali at Free Iraqi:
Now, and thanks to other humans, not from my area, religion and who don't even speak my language, I and all Iraqis have the real chance to make the change. Now I OWN my home and I can decide who's going to run things in it and how and I won't waste that chance. Tomorrow as I cast my vote, I'll regain my home. I'll regain my humanity and my dignity, as I stand and fulfill part of my responsibilities to this part of the large brotherhood of humanity. Tomorrow I'll say I'M IRAQI AND I'M PROUD, as being Iraqi this time bears a different meaning in my mind. It's being an active and good part of humanity.
With all this for us, who could be against us? Besides the doomed barbarian al-Zarqawi and his dwindling crew of head-choppers?

This is a reprise of the great 1986 election in the Philippines that clobbered the disgusting tyrant Marcos (there were no blogs in 1986, yet historians assure us that it really happened) - only this is even better. Or the 1990 Nicaraguan elections that sent the Sandinista caudillos to the Google cache of history - only this is even better.

Or for some people, even worse. Let us pause in our celebrations to remember those for whom the advancement of democracy and freedom is not an occasion for joy, but an unspeakable agony. Mostly self-inflicted agony, but real all the same. For example, the 1990 Nicaraguan election destroyed an estimated 75% of "progressive" culture, requiring an enormous clean-up and rebuilding effort. Some of it was never restored, and refugees wandered around picking at the rubble, wondering how the world could ever make sense again with no Sandinistas in it. There was no Howard Dean in those days, so they had no one to turn to. To make matters worse, when Nicaragua fell to democracy the left lost a major source of cheap pot.

And I'll never forget the look of despair on the face of Professor Stephen F. Cohen, the commissar of Soviet affairs for The Nation, as he sat in a studio watching news footage of rambunctious Russians tearing down the statue of "Iron Felix" Dzerzhinsky in Moscow. Tearing it down and busting it into little itty-bitties and stomping on every little bit. Liberated beyond their wildest hopes and drunk on neoconservative firewater, how could those Russians know that Professor Cohen's bruised heart was in every little piece? "Vandalism," the professor sputtered. "I don't see how this vandalism proves anything ..."

Of course there is no joy in Mudville, ever, and it would be hopelessly utopian to think that there ever could be. Democracy hurts. But for some it's not the little pang that ordinary work-a-day Republicans and Democrats feel now and again when they lose. You win some, you lose some, and you'll always get another shot. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

But when you lose all the time, you have two options: You can learn to love failure and join the Libertarian party, or you can suffer the mental tortures of the damned with progressive folk, for whom the world literally comes to an end every four years - much to the alarm of Canadian immigration authorities. And even worse than an American election is an election in the Third World, which is supposed to be setting up revolutionary dictatorships, not making more Israels. Otherwise all that pseudo-Marxist theory and "Liberation Theology" is just, like, going to waste.

This would be nothing but their own problem, except that their funk is contagious. Some so-called Liberals, who are supposed to prefer ballots to bullets, are showing the symptoms of Ramsey Clark Syndrome and staging a listless, uninspired public Die-In. They don't actually fall on their backs and quiver like gassed cockroaches, they just act like they want to.

At The American Prospect, Frederick Barton waxes enthusiastic: Election Day: Iraqis will go to the polls Sunday. There will be many missed opportunities. Well, alas and alack. What's the number one missed opportunity? The fact that this historic, nation-building election will not include a referendum that would (he hopes) kick Coalition troops out of Iraq. That would almost restore Barton's faith in democracy. Barton is also confused about who owns Iraq's oil, and was hoping that tomorrow's election would settle that question. Except that it's not a question, and Iraq has no time to do Barton's homework for him.

At The Nation (where the fun never stops) they drag Professor Juan Cole out of his Hussein-hole at the University of Michigan and prop him up in front of a microphone: Juan Cole on the Iraqi Vote: What kind of election can you have in the middle of a bloody war? Why, no kind of election at all, of course. Juan Cole is supposed to be a professor of history, but he's a professor of Middle East history, which means he's never heard of Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, or Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In fact, he's probably not even sure what "democracy" is - but whatever it is, it gives him butt rash.

At the lower end of the information food chain, The Village Voice fantasizes: While the Iraq election and other jokes rain down [sic], the GOP goes into hiding. If the Iraqi election is so funny - at least as funny as Ward Harkavy's lame metaphors - why isn't
The Village Voice laughing?

Rather than dredging through all the cyber-donk blogs for more tales of woe, I just want to note the always-special-case of Andrew Sullivan. Yesterday he wrote:

HOW DO WE JUDGE SUCCESS? How do we tell if the Iraqi elections are a success? That they happen at all? Surely we should have a higher standard than that. Here are my criteria: over 50 percent turnout among the Shia and Kurds, and over 30 percent turnout for the Sunnis. No massive disruption of voting places; no theft of ballots. Fewer than 500 murdered.
I sure hope that Zarqawi doesn't read Andrew's blog,else he might get the idea that he could win by killing 501 people tomorrow and stealing a ballot box. Ferdinand Marcos and Daniel Ortega could have used this kind of advice, but it's too late for them now. Oh, the missed opportunities, as Barton would say.

Today, Andrew highlights an e-mail from one of his readers:
One danger is that “democracy” becomes synonymous with “tyranny of the majority,” to paraphrase John Stuart Mills. Another is that those who wanted to vote, but did not, fail to “suspend disbelief” towards the winners. The losers of elections provide legitimacy through their acquiescence to the results. If one third of the eligible and interested voters are not included in the outcome, the democratic process of losing elections is short circuited. Winners do not need persuasion that democracy works.
That should be John Stuart Mill, unless there were two of them. If there were two John Stuart Mills, they would both be appalled to find themselves associated with this kind of disastrous sentiment.

Yes, "the tyranny of the majority" (a quote from Mill, not a paraphrase) is a bad thing, as we all learned in grade school Civics. That's why we have constitutions that protect minority rights, a goal favored by the majority of Afghans and Iraqis. Thanks for the safety tip, anyway.

But unforgivable is the idea that "the losers of elections provide legitimacy through their acquiescence to the results." ABSOLUTELY AND UTTERLY FALSE. By acquiescing to the results of elections, the losers provide legitimacy to themselves, and in refusing to acquiesce they discredit no one but themselves.

Either you believe in democracy or you don't, and if you believe in it you accept it win or lose. Some of the people who are lecturing the rest of us need to learn a few fundamental lessons of their own.

UPDATE 1/30: "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive ..."

"Take my eyes and look through them my friends, you have supported the day of Iraq's freedom and today, Iraqis have proven that they're not going to disappoint their country or their friends."

UPDATE: A succinct statement of the bloggy contrarian view from TalkLeft:
The right-wing blogosphere, like President Bush, considers the elections a triumph for democracy. The top liberal bloggers, Daily Kos, Atrios, Josh Marshall, knowing better, are either ignoring the elections or have moved on.

Other liberal bloggers express their criticism: Oliver Willis, Talking Dog; Maxspeak; Jerome Armstrong of MyDD; Armando at Daily Kos; Juan Cole.
Let it be so noted for the record, but this raises questions. What is the better thing that Kos, Atrios, and Marshall know? If it's "Silence is Golden", then this is wisdom that was very recently acquired. Millions of happy Iraqis might like to know what is even better than their experience today, but they're being ignored. Did they do something wrong?

Juan Cole delivers beautifully, though; I couldn't have scripted it better myself:
I'm just appalled by the cheerleading tone of US news coverage of the so-called elections in Iraq on Sunday.
Ha ha ha ha ...

I can picture the look on his face. You're not just appalled, Professor. You're Imelda Marcos, muttering about the ignorant masses and their lousy so-called "elections" as you try to pack fifty pairs of shoes into one suitcase. You're Bianca Jagger, bawling your eyes out at the Managua airport on the awful morning after Nicaragua fell to democracy. You're Stephen Cohen, watching Felix Dzerzhinsky get busted to smithereens, crunch, stomp, stomp, stomp ...

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

It Rang Like It Meant Something

A Dialogue on Bush's Inauguration Speech

GLEN: What the hell is Peggy Noonan’s problem?

SOCRATES: Could you be more specific?

GLEN: What is this ditzy blonde-blither about George Bush’s speech being “over the top” and full of “mission inebriation”? And what is this crap about fur coats at the inauguration? Are there not enough protein-starved vegan halfwits in the world without her pitching in to help?

SOCRATES: Let us examine your first question. I’m surprised by your objection to Noonan’s cautionary note about the pitfalls of utopian thinking, and the tendency of power to corrupt good intentions. As someone who’s been smoking conservative theory like crack for as long as you have, I would think that this familiar tune would make you play the air-guitar.

WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY: Yes. One might say, for example, that Bush is attempting to immanentize the Eschaton. One mustn’t immanentize the Eschaton. And one must also remember Lord Acton’s seminal observation …

GLEN: Who the hell was talking to you?

SOCRATES: See what I mean? I think that Noonan has struck a guilty nerve in your conservative conscience, such as it is. She is correct to point out that the Kingdom of Heaven is not of this earth. Human nature is human nature, and we live in a human world – an all too human world, as Nietzsche would say. You can’t just build yourself a new planet out of rhetoric and unrealistic expectations. You have to live in the real world, Glen.

GLEN: Don’t talk to me about the real world. Every pig thinks that his own particular sty is the real world. The world of ideas and imagination is real, too.

SOCRATES: Yes, especially the ideas you agree with, right? You pay small heed to the ones you don’t like. And don’t tell me you don’t recognize the hypocrisy of expecting those political leaders whom you disagree with to be ignored, while everybody is supposed to drop everything and follow your favorite crusaders. It was your contempt for such a double standard that once prompted you to hurl an empty Jim Beam bottle at the celebrated American historian, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

GLEN: I didn’t throw a bottle at Arthur Schlesinger.

SOCRATES: Well, at his image on the television device, I mean.

GLEN: It was Doris Kearns Goodwin, and I missed.

SOCRATES: Which proves the salient points of my argument all the more. First of all, you couldn’t hit an elephant in the ass with a shotgun to save your life; secondly, you’ve had an irrational problem with blond women ever since one of them threw up on you, and thirdly, your conservative instincts go to sleep when George Bush starts raving about democracy and freedom.

GLEN: That is such a lie. You’re describing a shallow and outmoded idea of conservatism. And not all idealistic expression is empty rhetoric – some people mean what they say, and some people don’t. And some people can do, not just talk. Now, Ronald Reagan ---

SOCRATES: Oh, here we go with the Ronald Reagan business again. Ronald Reagan said this, Ronald Reagan said that …

GLEN: Ronald Reagan ---

SOCRATES: I suppose if Ronald Reagan swallowed a bowling ball, Glen would have to swallow a bowling ball, too.

GLEN: Ronald Reagan was a conservative who spoke to the future, not to the past. And he could do more than talk. He understood that it’s fundamentally about principles, not politics. Standing by principles may put you in a different relationship to society at different times – depending on the context, it may make you a conservative, a liberal, a radical, or even a conformist. Sticking by your guns might make you all of those things in a single lifetime. But being a “liberal” or a “conservative” in that sense is not what’s important, and being in the minority or the majority is not important. Truth, reason, and the recognition of possibility are what count, not the habitual mid-sets and superficial attitudes of petty politics.

SOCRATES: When you mention the future and “the recognition of possibility”, I think I see where some of your so-called idealism comes from. It’s your scientific utopianism …

GLEN: Optimism, not utopianism.

SOCRATES: … which is mostly derived from cheesy science fiction stories about race car drivers who build rocket ships (out of scrap iron and good old American know-how) and fly to Mars.

GLEN: Carson Napier went to Venus, not Mars.

SOCRATES: But you’ll remember that he intended to go to Mars, and wound up going in the opposite direction by mistake. I think you’ve missed the significance of that lesson, by the way. But I shouldn’t speak ill of a man who compensated you for your inadequate childhood by killing a hundred million alien Nazis and having sex with a snotty princess. I just don’t think the real world owes you any additional gratification.

GLEN: I’ll tell you who owes who. The “real world” – the world that people like us have built out of our theories and our prejudices and our idiotic politics – owes the human race.

SOCRATES: Owes the human race what?

GLEN: Owes it the recognition that nations belong to the people that live in them, not to the governments that rule over them, and not to the sick ideologies that have oppressed and massacred them in record numbers over the past hundred years. The real world has to give up its cynical self-justifications, and admit that every slob on earth has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – within the broad context of lawful conduct and peaceful regard for the rights of others. That’s not utopianism, it’s a fact.

SOCRATES: Says who? You? God? The 82nd Airborne Division?

GLEN: Yes. And a couple of other people, too.

SOCRATES: I’ve always regarded democracy as an unsightly mess, so I’ll admit that your desire to inflict your mess on the entire universe is not “utopian” in that sense. Most utopians promise good things, not a world full of George Bushes and Barbara Boxers. But surely you realize that the hope of achieving your ignoble goals is utopian, and the means of doing so – if such means even exist – are fraught with danger. Look at the disastrous results of the idealism of the American Sixties.

GLEN: Sixties idealism was not a failure, it was a success.

SOCRATES: Really? This is going to be good, coming from the likes of you. Anyway, what do you know about the Sixties? You spent the Sixties trying to eat your crib toys.

GLEN: Yeah, especially that big yellow thing, whatever the hell that was. I wish to God some other people had followed my excellent example.

SOCRATES: So you admit that it was all a waste of time, a waste of American lives, and ultimately the ruin of American political and intellectual culture. Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon squandered American moral capital and earned your country the hatred of the entire world. George Bush is already well down the same road, and you want to jump down Peggy Noonan’s throat just because she has the courage to say so.

GLEN: It was the bogus idealism of the Sixties that failed. Mindless rebellion, anarchism, drug abuse, self-pity, defeatism, isolationism and solipsism – that’s not idealism, it’s the opposite. Superficial, cynical, and petty. The true idealism, which advanced Civil Rights, expanded into space, and planted a flag in opposition to Communist tyranny – that was a success. We made some awful mistakes and we lost a lot of battles, but we won the war. It’s our nihilist opponents who are now going down the same road to defeat, not us.

SOCRATES: Everybody in the world hates you.

GLEN: That’s good, because it makes things more challenging.

SOCRATES: You’re insane … you’re out of your freaking mind.

GLEN: That’s good, too, because it makes thinking more challenging.

SOCRATES: I suppose, as Noonan noted, your gang wants to colonize Mars, too. In your spare time, when you’re not spreading your democratic disease all over the place.

GLEN: I know what John F. Kennedy would say if he were here.

JOHN F. KENNEDY: America, let’s grab our balls and go!

GLEN: So there.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Prolegomena to a Future Blogger Ethic

Accusations of whoring (or "consulting", what's the difference) are flying faster than beer bottles at a Linda Ronstadt concert, and with an equally insufficient degree of accuracy. Although Glenn Reynolds says "I'd certainly oppose the creation of some sort of overarching Code of Blogging Ethics", that's only because he hasn't heard my suggestions.

[FULL DISCLOSURE: Howard Dean paid me $75 to write this. He thought he was buying some mail-order Canadian drugs.]

1. Never post nuclear launch codes on your blog.

2. Never use “impact” as a verb.

3. Remember to be biased and prejudiced against things, not biased and prejudiced towards things. Also, your job is to wreak havoc, not "reek havoc".

4. The people who disagree with you are fascists, not “facists”. A facist is a person who participates in Farcical Aquatic Ceremonies.

5. If you are a US resident who is getting paid to blog, do not accept payment in Food Stamps, as this is a felony under federal law. If you accept sex or drugs as payment for blogging, do not donate blood.

6. Never accept payment of any kind from persons who are under 18 years of age (or under 6 years of age if you live in Canada). Never accept payment from persons whom you know to be institutionalized for mental health reasons, from nursing home directors, or from CBS News editors. If you receive funding from the CIA, never give them a receipt.

7. If you web-cam yourself while blogging, please do not wear an SS uniform, a Star Trek uniform, a Munich-style anarchist ski mask, a Dan Rather-style sweater, or underwear that is inappropriate to your gender. Remember always that you represent the blog community.

8. Avoid excessive use of internet acronyms like MSM (Mainstream Media), SCUM (So-Called Unbiased Media), BOOBS (Blogs Obviously Owned By Soros), etc. These confuse the MSM squares who will soon be getting most of their editorial analysis from us.

9. Do not attack other blogs in a selfish attempt to promote your own blog. Attack other blogs in order to maintain the overall tactical readiness of the blogosphere.

10. If you have to hang out in bars with reporters, or if you’re sleeping with reporters, don’t badmouth the blogs. Don’t go to Big Media suck-fests and tell stories out of school, or apologize for “blogger triumphalism”. Don’t be an Auntie Wonkette.

Monday, January 10, 2005

The CBS Report in So Many Words ...

Responsible bloggers will be up all night fisking their way through the mealy-mouthed prose of The Report of the Independent Review Panel on l'affaire CBS. Not me, though - far from fisking it, I lack the ambition even to link to it.

Since so many other capable people will be reducing the report's larger implications to finely-sliced headcheese, I decided to take a different approach by studying the number of times that certain key phrases appear in it:

“Mistake” – 11 occurrences. That in spite of the fact that the report claims to cover the entire period of the Memogate fiasco, not just the first 15 minutes.

“Sorry” – 7 occurrences. And in only five of them is it a CBS employee saying they’re sorry. The other two sorrys come from former Texas Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes, who is indeed a sorry-ass individual.

“Regret” – 4 occurrences. But all four of them are “deeply regrets”. CBS has no shallow regrets.

“Responsibility” – 9 occurrences. Five of them refer to the irresponsible Mary Mapes, one to the sorry-ass Ben Barnes, and the rest just kind of float there, weightless.

“Bias” – 13 occurrences. There are 6 political biases, 1 liberal bias, and 1 anti-Bush bias. Two of them are prepositional biases (as in “appearance of bias”) which is a kind of optical illusion, like the tunnel vision you get from drinking a whole quart of Purple Passion. The other 11 biases, we are told, don’t exist at all except in the minds of crazy people.

“Stupid” – 1 occurrence. Only one, but to be fair, it’s an “incredibly stupid” stupid.

“Dishonest” – 0 occurrences.

“Lies” or “Lied” – 5 occurrences. Three of them refer to Bush as the liar, and two of them to the poor deluded Bill Burkett. Nobody else told any lies.

“Ashamed” – 5 occurrences. Who’s ashamed of themselves? Ben Barnes, all five times.

“Proud” or “Pride” – 3 occurrences. Who’s proud of themselves? Dan Rather and CBS News, all three times.

“IBM Selectric typewriter” – 7 occurrences. Hope springs eternal.

“Microsoft Word” – 3 occurrences. How unfair is that? If this were a report about Lee Harvey Oswald, you would expect the people who make Mannlicher-Carcano rifles to get a decent amount of publicity.

“Forgery” or “Forgeries” – 16 occurrences. Obviously a lot of documents were withheld from the investigators, or it would be like 157 or something.

“Blogosphere” – 2 occurrences. It is referred to as “the so-called blogosphere” by the so-called independent review panel that wrote this so-called report.

“Blog” or “Blogger” – 10 occurrences. Four bloggers are mentioned by name: John Hinderaker and Scott Johnson of Powerline, and Bush-haters Linda Starr and Paul Lukasiak. Charles Johnson is not mentioned by name, but LGF scores a link in the footnotes. The link is broken and accesses LGF's 404 page, which is known to have a "Videodrome" effect on the viewer. This explains the warped verbal imagery of the report, and the weird allusions to abnormal sex practices.

“Kerry” or “Kerry campaign” – 90 occurrences. How did that keep coming up?

“Dan Rather is a f---g idiot” – 0 occurrences. I suspect this so-called report to be a whitewash.

“Anal Electrocution” – 0 occurrences. Obviously CBS has no intention of taking appropriate disciplinary action.

“Fox News” – 0 occurrences. Obviously they’re not going to advise the public on how to avoid this kind of thing in the future.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Beyond the Echo Chamber, No. 4 - The Gospel According to Kos

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them. (Luke 11:44)
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus)
Reclamation, joy before the angels of God! The point is that it works! (A Clockwork Orange)

Kos (of the Daily Same) decides to get himself straight with Jesus - sort of: On faith and values.

I have been a militant atheist all my life. Not militant in wanting to destroy religion, but in keeping it out of the public sphere.

But I have come to a conclusion recently that has startled me, obvious as it seems to me in retrospect -- it wasn't religious language that bothered me, it was the "values" promoted couched in religious terms ...

Liberals, outside the black churches, have ceded the moral language to the Right, in large part because of people like me who flinched at every reference to God by a Democrat.

But using Christianity or Buddhism or any other religion as a moral foundation is really no less superior than the moral structure I use to guide my life (I'm a utilitarian). All that should matter is that we all arrive at the same conclusion.

In other words, it doesn't matter how we get there, as long as we all arrive at the same place. And there should be no shame for Democrats to explain the reasoning for their value structure. And if Jesus is the reason, then so be it.
I suppose this counts as a spiritual journey of the T.S. Eliot sort: "The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time." In this case, Kos arrives at the dog-eared "Social Gospel" of the Progressive Pharisee, which predates the invention of the steam engine. Welcome to the 18th Century, I guess.

So Jesus is just another expedient gear that the utilitarian can shift into when the going gets rough. As it does when dealing with Black evangelicals - whose unabashed Jesus-ridden and Holy Ghost-driven spirituality has been carefully ignored by secular liberals. If you can't say anything that isn't condescending, don't say anything at all.

There are a couple of problems with this Utilitarian Facsimile of Jesus. First, false confessions of faith do not generally inspire respect - either in the faithful or the unfaithful. They tend to inspire the opposite. That's why people admire Mother Theresa, but not Elmer Gantry or the Borgia Popes. The last thing the left needs is another truckload of intellectual dishonesty, no matter how utilitarian they think it is. You can look down your snoot at the American public (God Bless 'Em) all you want, but those peasants can smell your manure spreader a mile off.

Secondly, the Judeo-Christian religious tradition is meant to prescribe the spiritual and moral conduct of the individual, not the public policy of the House Appropriations Committee. To think otherwise is to make a mess of the separation of Church and State (remember that?) and repeat the errors of William Jennings Bryan and the Women's Christian Temperance Union. With the Democratic left already repeating so many errors, do they really have time to reprise that one, too?

Lastly - and this one for the umpteenth time - so long as Democrats understand "values" only as political issues that are expended in public debate like so much ammunition, then they will never understand values - or politics, either.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Goodbye, Spirit


Will Eisner, one of the greatest comic artists that ever lived ... lives no longer, alas.

The mainstream comic book heroes of my youth were a mess - moody and plagued with self-doubt, to the point of being neurotic (sometimes they actually described themselves as neurotic). Themes of death and rejection were very big. The "Teen Titans" (who included Robin the former Boy Wonder) were total disgraces who were forbidden by law to wear their costumes because they had screwed up something big, so they wandered dark streets in slacks and turtlenecks, resenting each other. I vividly recall opening a Green Lantern comic and seeing the hero, in his nice green and black costume, standing with his head hanging and saying "Well, I guess I'll recharge my ring and see if I can manage to do that without screwing it up." Failure, inadequacy, death. Lots of stories featured images of heroes actually dying, showing their coffins or their tombstones with mourners surrounding them - the hero never actually bit the dust, but he was always hanging by a thread. Everybody was Sylvia Plath in tights. It was very, very common for the last panel of a story to show the Superhero, not smiling in triumph, but with his face in his hands, weeping.

Spiderman and the Green Lantern were extra notorious for their insecurities. That was too bad for the Green Lantern, because he had the best-looking costume of any Superhero, and he was probably the best-looking man, too. (All for nothing, since girls didn't read the Superheroes and I doubt if gays did either. ) Then there was the Silver Surfer, who surfed through space spouting metaphysical angst on the order of Pascal's "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces fills me with dread" etc. The Silver Surfer had something called the Power Cosmic, which was like The Force for semi-suicidal hippies.

So thank God for Will Eisner, whose work from the 40s and 50s was reprinted by Warren Magazine during these dark years. He gave me my comic book hero, Denny Colt, aka The Spirit.

The Spirit's hometown was Central City, which was like an extra-seedy Chicago, not Gotham or Metropolis. Central City was grimy and rusty. A lot of loose paper blew through the streets. It had corrupt political parties (The Prosperity Party and the Good Old Days Party, both rotten to the core) instead of nice respectable authority figures. Unlike other comic cities, Central City had weather - lots of it. It rained and snowed like hell, the wind blew, and they had awful heat waves where everybody oozed sweat.

The Spirit wasn't the sunny, smiling politician type, like Superman and Batman. The Spirit got mad - really flew into rages. He frequently got mad at his girlfriend Ellen (blond daughter of police chief, always plotting marriage, etc.). When he got mad at villains, he gritted his teeth and steam rose from his head, and then he would wallop the daylights out of them. Now the late 40s and early 50s were the days when Superheroes in other books never hit people - they just lectured them and outwitted them. The Spirit beat them senseless. Really awful beatings, where men would be flung end over end into a tangle of garbage cans. Their faces would squish up under his fist. They always bled, with blood streaming down their noses and chins, and their eyes would swell completely shut. Other comics almost never depicted blood, but in Central City it covered the sidewalks and poured into the filthy sewers.

The Spirit never used a gun, of course, but they used guns on him. The Spirit got shot more often than Dick Tracy. He would absorb massive barrages of gunfire, topple down a long flight of stairs, and crawl away trailing blood. Later he would show up, blood running through his fingers as he covered the wound, sweat dripping from his face, and get somebody to "dig the slugs out" of him. He felt real pain; it hurt like hell to look at him.

But he was also a nice guy - a believably nice guy, not the grinning cardboard goody two-shoes like Superman, but a real person that you actually believed cared about people, like the juvenile delinquents that he tried hard to set straight.

And he had the most incredible women - besides Ellen, there was a whole harem of female semi-villains (the term was "adventuress") like Silk Satin, Sand Saref, P'Gell, Thorne Strand, all with gorgeous eyes and killer bodies. They were the most beautifully drawn women in comics, and they were the only enemies who were allowed to run circles around the hero - because of course they were all deeply in love with him, and always sneaking away in last few panels to sob over him with big fat tears rolling down their cheeks. But the next time they came home from their little criminal activities, they would find the Spirit lounging on their couch, yawning and complaining that the perfume in their closet had made him dopey. He was incredibly cool and laid-back with women - with everybody, in fact. He would break into the crook's hideout and take a nap on the sofa until they got home. If they got irate with him or pulled a gun, he beat the utter living crap out of them.

In short, The Spirit was perfect. The kids moping over Spiderman's personal problems never knew what they were missing.

And so another good thing passes out of the world, but not forgotten or unnoticed. Go with God, Will Eisner.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Bold Thinking for the New Millennium

What was the human race thinking and doing a hundred years ago?

The best minds in Europe were laying the foundations of quantum theory - Einstein recognized the quantum properties of light in 1905 - while the worst minds were busy plotting war and revolution, or cheering on those who were. Those with no minds at all were inventing Dadaism. The Art Nouveau movement was pleasantly living out the last few days of its existence, about to be smashed into a kajillion itsy-bitsies by the War to End All Wars (which ended almost everything in Europe except war).

The Japanese sunk the entire damn Russian Imperial Fleet - much to the amusement of the British, who invited Admiral Togo to London and gave him the coveted Horatio Nelson Maritime Carnage Award.

In France, the disastrous social effects of the Eiffel Tower (which would soon ruin French civilization forever) were beginning to make themselves felt. Climbing to the top of its 1056 foot summit, higher than you could safely go in a balloon, French artists noticed that from up there everything looked pretty flat and squarish. If that's the way things really were, why bother to study perspective in art school? So they invented Cubism, and swore to be irrelevant from that day forth. (Some years later, Albert Camus would attempt to make French thinking work in the real world again. So they tampered with the brakes in his car, and took care of that problem.)

So what have we been up to lately? John Brockman at Edge (thanks to tc at Gene Expression for the pointer) asked 120 of our contemporary dinkum-thinkums: What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it? Here we look for the quantum dreams and dada delusions of our own time.


1. Albert Camus was murdered by French deconstructionist bastards for making too much sense (see above).

2. A romantic relationship and an automatic transmission will both go to Hell at approximately the same time.

3. Nobody cares about apathy.

4. Everybody always exaggerates.

5. Ye shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall keep you awake at night.

6. Correction to Nietzsche: That which does not kill me makes me smaller.

7. Carpe Diem, before Diem carpes you.

8. Circumcision proves the existence of God. It beats all of the other proofs hollow - forget all of that Ontological and Teleological stuff. Get the hell out of here with your Thomas Aquinas. The practice of circumcision is the proof that settles the question once and for all.

If you were going to invent a religion, would you start by cutting off the end of your genital apparatus? Only God would have thought of such a thing, and only an almighty God would convince people to do it. Would you do it for Elron Hubbard? Hell, no. And this, by the way, also proves that God has a great sense of humor.

I guess that one belongs on a list of things that I can prove, but I got carried away with myself.

9. Why dogs don't watch television: A television image is a two-dimensional representation of three-dimensional space, and the ability to comprehend such representation is beyond the canine brain. To a dog, television looks like a talking Jackson Pollock painting, and the dog sensibly ignores it.

10. Modern Communication, especially the Internet, will eventually force the adoption of a single human language. This language will be English, because Esperanto sucks.