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Monday, May 29, 2006

I'm a Grup!!

Finally, a name for people like me besides "immature jerk!" We're Grups!!

God bless you, New York Times Sunday Magazine. God bless you each and every one!
This is an obituary for the generation gap. It is a story about 40-year-old men and women who look, talk, act, and dress like people who are 22 years old.


Or take Michael Rauch, the creator of the recently canceled CBS show Love Monkey, which chronicled the life of a late-thirties single A&R guy in New York who frets openly about being a “suit” while working at the plucky indie label he joined after leaving his evil corporate record company, because for him, it was all about the music. Isn’t a guy like that—late thirties, still single, still bar-hopping, still chasing the latest hot rock band, his whole life, in fact, still defined by the word still—kind of, I don’t know, pathetic? “If this show existed ten years ago, the answer would be yes,” says Rauch. “But now, absolutely not. Now it’s less the exception than the rule. Especially in New York.” Rauch himself is 38. “I spoke to an undergrad class at NYU recently. And it was terrifying how much we had in common. I’m looking at these kids who look about 12, and we’re all going to the same movies and watching the same TV shows and listening to the same music. I don’t know if it’s scarier for them or scarier for me.”


During the dot-com boom, businesses not only allowed people to come to work in clothes they might usually wear to clean out the attic but encouraged this as a celebration of youthful vivacity and an upheaval of the fusty corporate order. Suits were thought to be the provenance of, well, suits. The dot-com bubble burst, but the aesthetic remained, as part of the ongoing rock star–ification of America. Three-day stubble and shredded jeans are the now-familiar symbols of the most desirable kind of affluence and freedom.


If the boomer’s icon of success was an empire-building maverick magnate like Ted Turner, the Grup’s model would be Spike Jonze, the 36-year-old Jackass-producing, skateboarding, awesome-indie-movie-directing free agent. Remember, the Grup of today is the slacker from 1990 who, fresh out of college, ran smack into the recession and maybe fiddled around with a riot-grrl band, then got a job at 25 for a Web-development company where she wore jeans to work and played Ping-Pong and stayed late and covered her desk in rare Japanese action figures. Now that woman is 35, a VP at a viral-marketing firm, still dressing down because everyone knows that the youth market is where it’s at, yet is scared to death she’s going to ossify into the same kind of corporate stooge she swore she’d never become. For a Grup, success isn’t about how many employees you have but how much freedom you have to walk, or boogie-board, away.


What’s with the Grups and passion? It’s all anyone wants to talk about. Passionate parents, passionate workers, passionate listeners to the new album by Wolf Parade. Even Rogan lights up when he talks about touring Japanese textile factories to find the perfect denim for his jeans. And I start to realize: Under the skin of the iPods and the $400 ripped jeans, this is the spine of the Grup ethos: passion, and the fear of losing it.

Which brings me back to my father: the one who wore suits, not jeans; the one who, when he was my age, already had four kids; the one who logged a lifetime at exactly the kind of middle-management jobs that no one wakes up excited about going to in the morning, and who then found himself sandbagged by the late-eighties recession, laid off in what must have felt like the worst kind of double whammy. All the adult trade-offs he’d made turned out to be a brutal bait-and-switch. Is it any wonder that the Grups have looked at that brand of adulthood and said, “No thanks, you can keep your carrot and your stick.” Especially once we saw just how easily that stick can be turned around to whap your ass as you’re ushered out the door, suit and all. Just how easily a bona fide, by-the-book adult can be made to wonder where it all went wrong, and why you ever bothered to grow up in the first place.

The article is actually mostly pro-Grup, and the parts that weren't don't apply to me, so I feel very good about myself right now. All this time people thought I was just a lazy, ambition-free Peter Pan (without the glass eye), and it turns out I'm just really, really smart and cool.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

An observation

Today was a very good hair day.

Blogs I've been reading lately

As I wait for the Vicodin to kick in, here's a partial list of some blogs I've been reading lately. (Doesn't mean I always agree with them, just that I enjoy reading them.) Note that blogs such as Instapundit and Andrew Sullivan aren't on this list, since everybody's been reading 'em since Christ was a corporal.

Greg Gutfeld: The funniest man in blog business. Never have so many been so offended by the writings of the one. It was actually actually Das Gut's fault that I started blogging in the first place, and as soon as he inevitably offers me a job, you can kiss this site goodbye.

Dean's World: One of the best all-around political blogs out there, in my opinion. Dean Esmay is both prolific and intelligent, and his posts are invariably well-reasoned and interesting, as are the posts of his co-bloggers. A must read.

Christopher Althouse: Son of Ann, Chris possesses smarts and a nice way with the English language. I've picked a couple of fights with him, but only because it saddens me to see a smart person be wrong (i.e., disagree with me), particularly about movies. (See comments section here and my post and comments here, in which I pull off the rare double feature of pissing off both Chris and his Mom.) Plus, I'm jealous that he lives in Austin, one of the coolest cities in the US. Also, in some ways he reminds me of a younger me, which really pisses me off to no end.

Jeremy's Special Blog: A great tonal mix of seriousness and humor, laced with a healthy dose of The Truth.

Fmragtops, Radioactive Liberty, Steve the Pirate, Shoot a Liberal: Again not stuff I always agree with (though I do, more often than not) , but these four blogs are consistently funny and fun to read. Throw in the more-than-occasional rant and much talk of impaling from our four guys who may or may not be "just friends," add water and stir until humor is hard-edged.

The MoxArgon Group: I'll be honest, I don't know what to make of this. Is it a spoof, or is it really written by a handful of evil aliens who are the forerunners of a potential invasion of Earth by marauding ETs? I can't make up my mind.

Gun Toting Liberal: GTL is a good dude, and he was one of the first bloggers to offer me advice, which, if I recall, was Godawful. Unfortunately, he knows very little about music and this is putting a heavy strain on our once-deep, if platonic, friendship.

That's it for now: more to follow at a later date.

Triumph of Geroge Will

I know this is a week or so old, but George Will, a columnist I don't come close to always agreeing with, nails it with this observation:
A pastor called to a new church arrives on the day of a funeral for a man he never knew. The new pastor asks if someone in the congregation would like to say afew words in praise of the deceased. After a long pause, from the back of the church a voice calls out: "His brother was even worse!"Twelve years after the high-water mark of postwar conservatism, this is the Republican rallying cry: Democrats would be even worse than we are!
Sadly, that really is the best they can do. Even more pathetic (from a Democratic point of view, at least) is that that may be enough.

If the SATs asked political questions

A recent Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that 25% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing. This means that:

a) 25% of Americans misunderstood the question
b) 25% of Americans don't speak or read English
c) 25% of Americans are brain dead
d) 25% of Americans thought they were voting for American Idol hottie Katharine McPhee
e) All of the above

Friday, May 26, 2006

Dr. Strangelaw or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Hate the Congress

I've held off blogging about the whole farcical, Kubrickesque, "Gentlemen, you can't follow the law in here, this is Congress!" thing mainly because the absurd separation-of-powers logic used by House Speaker Hastert, Minority Leader Pelosi and others may have surprised me, but it didn't shock me. That is, I was surprised at the specific "justification" our lawmakers have given for being above the law, but not at all shocked that they consider themselves above the law.

Here's why:
The more powerful a government is, the more powerful government positions are.

The more powerful goverment positions are, the more they attract the kind of people who enjoy the feeling and trappings of power.

The more people enjoy the feeling and trappings of power, the more likely it is that they will use any means necessary to keep themselves in power.

The more people will use any means necessary to keep themselves in power, the more likely they are to eventually consider themselves above the law.
We cede more and more power to our government every day: how can any of us be shocked when we finally notice that we've created an arrogant, out of control political class? The reason I used to consider conservatives preferable to liberals is that a central tenet of conservatism is supposed to be smaller, less intrusive government. But it seems that Congressional "conservatives" have learned that smaller government means less power for them, and they've discovered that they don't like that idea.

So from there it's a straight line to the sad spectacle of the past several days, in which we've seen outraged - and terrified - Congresspeople shamelessly wrapping themselves in the cloak of the Constitution to hide the fact that they're ethically naked. (These days it's just a skip and a jump from the Congressional Record to a criminal record.) And all the shock in the world can't hide the fact that we, the people, created the very monster we despise.

And when you create a monster, you can't be surprised when it acts monstrously.

Gab Galloway

Fatboy George is at it again:
The Respect MP George Galloway has said it would be morally justified for a suicide bomber to murder Tony Blair.

In an interview with GQ magazine, the reporter asked him: "Would the assassination of, say, Tony Blair by a suicide bomber - if there were no other casualties - be justified as revenge for the war on Iraq?"

Mr Galloway replied: "Yes, it would be morally justified. I am not calling for it - but if it happened it would be of a wholly different moral order to the events of 7/7. It would be entirely logical and explicable. And morally equivalent to ordering the deaths of thousands of innocent people in Iraq - as Blair did."

There's nothing I can say about a dictator's best friend that Hitch hasn't already said a thousand times better than I ever could. (Although the phrase "some folks just need killin'" comes to mind for some odd reason...)

(H/T: Hot Air, appropriately enough...)

Iran so far away

Please read Charles Krauthammer's column in Friday's Washington Post. I'm not always a huge fan of the sometimes sour Krauthammer, but he absolutely nails it with his explanation of why the US absolutely should not engage Iran in one-on-one negotiations, unless Europe agrees to one condition:
Entering negotiations carries with it the responsibility to do something if they fail. The E.U. Three understood that when they took on the mullahs a couple of years ago. Bilateral U.S.-Iran talks are the perfect way to get Europe off the hook. They would preempt all the current discussions about sanctions, place all responsibility for success on the negotiations and set America up to take the blame for their inevitable failure.

It is an obvious trap. We should resolutely say no.

Except on one condition. If the allies, rather than shift responsibility for this entire process back to Washington, will reassert their responsibility by pledging support for U.S. and/or coalition military action against Iran in the event that the bilateral talks fail, then we might achieve something.

You want us to talk? Fine. We will go there, but only if you arm us with the largest stick of all: your public support for military action if the talks fail. The mullahs already fear economic sanctions; they will fear European-backed U.S. military action infinitely more. Such negotiations might actually accomplish something.

That's our condition. Otherwise, the entire suggestion of bilateral talks is a ploy that should be rejected with the same contempt with which it was proposed.

Read the whole column: it's perfect. You'll love me for recommending it. Have I ever steered you wrong?

Light Blogging

Just a heads up that blogging will be light for the next couple days due to family obligations. You are all ordered to go outside and enjoy your weekend.

And if we don't talk before Monday, just remember to spend 15 minutes or so remembering why it's Memorial Day.

Other than that, you're old enough to decide for yourself and I'm not gonna stop you, even if what you're doing breaks your mother's heart.

(Sorry, just gearing up for the family stuff...)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Hearing Truth from Bawer

Jamie Gazlov interviews While Europe Slept author Bruce Bawer over at FrontPageMagazine. Check it out, especially if you haven't read the book.

Good quote from the interview:
Americans and Europeans both learned a lesson from World War II – but we learned different lessons. America learned that evil should never be appeased. If Britain and France had not caved in to Hitler at Munich, the war and the Holocaust might never have happened. Europeans, however, have been taught that the lesson of WWII is the evil of war, pure and simple. War should be avoided at all costs. Dialogue is always better than armed conflict. This mentality feeds anti-Americanism – instead of admiring America’s willingness to defend its freedoms in war, which after all is what made possible the liberation of Western Europe from the Nazis – duh! – Europeans see Americans as people who simply love to make war. We’re primitive, bloodthirsty warmongers. They see themselves, by contrast, as the preachers and guardians of a new, more noble and sophisticated era of peace. And they’ll make any compromise in order to preserve that peace.

European Muslim leaders know this. And they’ve manipulated it brilliantly. European politicians have become classic dhimmis, giving in to Muslim demands and being careful to avoid giving any offense whatsoever in order to maintain social harmony. The result, of course, is that Muslim leaders just get more and more demanding, and more and more easily offended.
Read the whole thing, and if you haven't read the book, you should. It'll make your fists clench and your blood boil, but it's one of the most important books of the past several years.

(H/T: Roger L Simon.)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Despite earlier report, America not dead yet in Michigan schools

I've held off from blogging about this because I couldn't quite believe it was true:

In perhaps a well-intentioned, but pernicious example of political correctness, the Michigan Department of Education is attempting to ban the "America" and "American" from our public schools. Even though the word "America" appears in the department's own civics and government benchmarks, the department's style protocol for the Michigan Education Assessment Program requires that "America" and "Americans" be expunged from our testing and grade level expectations. Last week, the department ordered that our hard-working teachers not utter the words.

The Department of Education asserts that "Americans" includes Mexicans, Canadians and others in the Western Hemisphere, so referring to U.S. residents as Americans is inappropriate. In the department's view, "America" happens to include South, Central and North America. Accordingly, when referring to the colonial period, the state bureaucracy requires teachers to refer to "the colonies of North America" or "North Americans." After the American Revolution, the nation is called the United States (not of America).

I'm glad I decided to wait. The MDOE has now put out a press release saying there is absolutely no truth to this story, which first surfaced in the above-cited Detroit News op-ed piece, written by an ex-MDOE member. According to the release:

No such edict has gone out to school teachers across Michigan, nor will one, said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan. He explained that an independent association of Social Studies educators has discussed the issue of official U.S. documents or titles, but that any recommendations regarding changes in school curriculum have not even made it to his desk for review.

Inasmuch, Flanagan emphatically stated that, if such a recommendation ever came to his desk, it would be stopped in its tracks.

“We are not seeking to do away with the terms ‘America’ or ‘American’ from classroom instruction,” Flanagan said. “It’s not going to happen. I consider myself an American. We live in the United States of America. We are citizens of the United States of America. But the vernacular is that we’re Americans.”

These curriculum associations consist of curriculum content supervisors who represent diverse views and opinions.

“These are advisory groups,” Flanagan said. “The conversations and internal communications between members of an independent association have been misconstrued as Department of Education policy. This is not a Department of Education policy, nor will it ever be our policy while I’m here. I would never approve the removal of ‘America’ or ‘American’ from our classrooms. Not on my watch.”

That's about as firm a denial as you can make, although it obviously doesn't preclude the possibility that the advisory group isn't considering making the recommendation that the use of "America" be done away with. In fact, it looks as though that may be closer to the truth. The Free Press has this in a sidebar to the original op-ed:

What a state social studies consultant is telling educators in e-mails about using "America" and "Americans" in tests and courses:
  • "I have promised teachers that we would delete the use of American [when we are really ONLY referring to the United States] from the GLCEs (grade level content expectations) so that everything is consistent and correct as soon as it was feasible."
  • "It is ethnocentric for the United States to claim the entire hemisphere."
    -- Karen Todorov, Michigan Department of Education
  • Okay, so that's one moron's advice. But the question is, how could the Detroit Free Press run the op-ed itself without first checking with the state Department of Education? Instapundit linked to the op-ed early this afternoon, but why wouldn't he? It's one thing to run an opinion piece in which facts can be disputed, but even the biggest MSM-hater probably wouldn't expect a fairly well-respected newspaper to publish an op-ed in which the entire subject is totally inaccurate. And the sidebar, rather than absolving the Free Press, makes matters worse, because it appears as though it backs up the op-ed.

    Even now, I can't find any mention of the Department of Ed's flatout denial anywhere on the DFP's website, meaning anybody reading the op-ed now has no reason to question its veracity. Maybe the "Free" in Free Press refers to the paper's level of truth content. The Detroit Press: Now Truth-free!

    "God is My Spotter"

    CBS Sportsline columnist Clay Travis notes the following on Pat Robertson's website:
    Did you know that Pat Robertson can leg press 2,000 pounds? How does he do it?

    Where does Pat find the time and energy to host a daily, national TV show, head a world-wide ministry, develop visionary scholars, while traveling the globe as a statesman?

    One of Pat's secrets to keeping his energy high and his vitality soaring is his age-defying protein shake. Pat developed a delicious, refreshing shake, filled with energy-producing nutrients. Discover what kinds of natural ingredients make up Pat's protein shake by registering for your FREE booklet today!
    Oddly, there's no mention on Robertson's website of the guy he had to hire to follow him around with a fire extinguisher because his pants burst into flame every time he speaks.

    (Hat tip: Radley Balko.)

    Isolation Chamber

    Blogging at misteramericano, tdr makes this excellent observation:
    But conservatives today have abandoned the positive and inclusive spirit that animated Reagan's politics. Instead conservatives have embraced the negative and divisive spirit of the Republican Party's angry little brother, Patrick Buchanan. Buchanan, for those who only know him as an occasional MSNBC commentator, ran for President more than once on an isolationist, anti-immigrant, and protectionist platform. He lost badly each time.

    Things have changed. America finds herself at war abroad in a conflict that seems without end. More and more Americans just want to call it a day and bring the troops home. At home, many Americans have come to view illegal immigrants as an invading army to be repelled at all costs. In the middle of a booming economy, Americans are insecure about their own prospects as Lou Dobbs relentlessly demagogues on TV about a "War on the Middle Class." Buchanan's time has come.
    To go a step further, I think the biggest difference between Reagan-era conservatism and Bush-era (faux) conservatism or Buchanan-style paleoconservatism is the difference between optimism and pessimism.

    Whether you agreed with him or not, there's no denying that Reagan's vision of America was relentlessly optimistic. And the reason he was able to communicate this so clearly is not just because he was an actor, and not just because he had the incomparable Peggy Noonan as a speechwriter. He got this view across because he honestly believed it.

    To those of you too young to remember Reagan, it probably sounds ridiculous to say that a politician honestly believed in something he was saying. But Reagan did, and despite his faults, what he said resonated with much of America because of this basic honesty of vision. It didn't hurt that Reagan exuded a confidence in America that no politician since has come close to matching, although Clinton was at least smart enough to try. This was not the false confidence of that manifests itself in the putting down of others; it was the quiet confidence that comes with knowing how good you are. Reagan knew in his heart that America was the greatest force for good on the planet, and that this was not because of its government, but because of its citizens. Knowing that he believed in you made you believe in him, and in his vision.

    We don't have that sunny optimism any more, and although some might argue that this just means we've become more realistic, and that this is a good thing, I don't think that's the case. I think we've lost something invaluable and irreplaceable, and that we need to look everywhere until we've found it. Nobody (except Reagan) thought Reagan was being realistic when he called on Gorbachev to "tear down this wall." But the wall came down. Many on the left were outraged when Reagan called the Soviet Union an evil empire. But an evil empire it was, and Reagan's words gave aid and comfort to those trapped behind the Iron Curtain. (It's no accident that some of the former Soviet-bloc nations have been our staunchest allies over the past several years.)

    In the middle of the last century it was liberals who had an optimistic view of America's place in the world. A liberal told us that we had nothing to fear but fear itself. A liberal told us that we would pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. And it was conservatives who argued that we needed to put ourselves first, and that the freedom of others wasn't worth the price of one American life.

    Reagan changed all that, and in truly reactionary fashion, liberals suddenly decided that we shouldn't pay any price, bear any burden, or meet any hardship to assure the survival and the success of liberty. Really what they decided was that words such as freedom and liberty were just words, just expressions of the white male power structure, and that we needed to be more sensitive to other people's cultures. This view continues to be espoused by today's left, despite the fact that it is really an expression of the "white man's burden" turned on its head. "Of course freedom is good for us," they say, "but it wouldn't be right for us to impose our world view on people of other cultures." The fact that this is the moral equivalent of Nero fiddling while Rome burns is lost on these people, who are content to suffer separated shoulders from patting themselves on the back for their "cultural sensitivity" to the brown and black. They're more than willing to send foreign aid to underdeveloped nations, but God forbid we should try to do something about the political and economic systems that in many cases directly led to the underdevelopment. (Root causes, anyone?) That would be "imperialistic" and "hegemonistic." We must respect the culture of the Other, even as the Other has an average lifespan of 26 and dies of diseases that the don't you dare say it's better West eliminated decades ago.

    I get the sense that in the area of foreign policy, the conservative "base" circa 2006 has more in common with so-called "progressives" than either side would like to admit, although it's a case of different roads reaching the same neoisolationist terminus. In his heart, it's clear that George W. Bush would be more comfortable with a sort of "steady state" world, in which America takes care of herself first, and then, if anything is left over, maybe turns her attention abroad. (Indeed, as many people have pointed out, that's pretty much the foreign policy platform he ran on.) And this shows everytime he makes a speech about spreading democracy and freedom: the words are there, but the vision isn't. There's no heart, no soul, in what he's saying. Reagan made statements: Bush gives speeches. The Reagan administration would have emphasized Iraqi freedom as a reason for Operation: Iraqi Freedom, rather than downplaying it until it became clear that we weren't going to find any WMD any time soon. Why? Because they would have had the political smarts to know how it would play, and, more importantly, because Reagan himself would have believed it.

    Excepting the neocons, I think many of today's conservatives feel much the way Bush does. They may duitifully back the President, and they sincerely believe that now that we're in Iraq we have to win, but in their hearts they don't particularly care one way or the other whether the Iraqi people will ever be free, and they doubt that we can effect this kind of change in the first place.

    This same pessimism among conservatives - and many liberals - extends to their views on immigration. Lost among the fence-building crowd is any semblance of the notion that this country still has the ability to handle a great influx of immigrants: many of them look at America as a zero-sum nation rather than the land of limitless possibility that Reagan believed in. Illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from Americans, they say. Well, no, they're not, actually, but by now the entire issue is running on almost pure emotion on all sides - logic has left the building and is warming up the car. Defending the illegals doesn't make much sense; after all, their first act in coming to America was to break our laws. But does anyone doubt that there is a sizeable number of people who favor building the Rusty Curtain who would just as soon these people not be here period, whether illegally or legally?

    How far we've come from Reagan's call for a wall to be torn down. How far we've come from Reagan's neverending faith in America. How far we've come from Reagan's boundless belief in us.

    Tuesday, May 23, 2006

    A Torn ACLu?

    Via Jay at Stop the ACLU, this almost-Clintonian headscratcher from a press release posted at the ACLU's website:
    The American Civil Liberties Union today expressed its alarm over the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence vote to confirm General Michael V. Hayden as the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The committee voted 12 to 3 to name the former Director of the National Security Agency to the highest position at the CIA.

    The ACLU is a non-partisan organization, and takes no position on Hayden’s nomination. [Emphases added]
    So what's the right way to make this clear: "It depends on what the meaning of 'takes no position' is," or "We did not take a position with that nominee, General Hayden"?

    House party tonight at 9 Eastern

    The one and only (thank God) fmragtops (who may or may not be French), will be liveblogging tonight's season finale of House over at the creatively named Blogs for House.

    People are saying that Blogs for House is "The perfect companion to the perfect show," "The next great group blog" and "What Blogs4Bauer wishes it could be."

    (I can't seem to find the links for those "quotes." Maybe I'm too far out in front of the news cycle? Either way, I love putting the word "quotes" in quotes. It's so meta.)

    (As an aside to my aside, the Jack Bauer Kill Counter is complete for SeasonDay 5. The official total is 316 corpses.)

    So head on over to Blogs for House tonight at 9pm Eastern. You Left Coasters should head over at 9 Pacific and read along while you're watching. And if you're not American, well, then you're just un-American, and I quite frankly question your patriotism. No liveblogging for you, one year.


    Adult Swim question

    Does anyone out there think Futurama is at all funny or clever? If so, could you let me know why? I just don't get it. It's the one show featured on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block that I've never liked.

    That is all.

    Amir misunderstanding

    Allahpundit reports that Amir Taheri, who pretty much launched the story about the new law supposedly passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country's Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians to wear colored badges to identify them as non-Muslims, is backpedalling, sort of:
    He says he’s sticking by his story, which after all wasn’t a news story but an opinion column, and if other people treated it as a news story then that’s their fault for having “jumped the gun.” Errrrr…

    He also says (or seems to say) he never claimed the provisions about non-Muslims had been formally enacted, only that they were being considered
    It's the old "I wasn't wrong, I was too far out in front of the news cycle" excuse.

    Add Salter and Stir the Pot

    I just got around to reading McCain speechwriter/chief of staff Mark Salter's riposte to Jean Rohe at PuffHo. Rohe, in case you don't know, is the woman who gave a student commencement address at the New School right before McCain spoke and a bunch of students and faculty embarrased themselves. You can read her self-serving claptrap here and her self-pitying claptrap here, if you feel the need.

    As to Salter: Everything he said is absolutely correct, and he shouldn't have said any of it. As he himself writes, McCain "has managed to endure much worse."

    Let the left have their fun, let them elevate yet another unworthy to the post of town crier, as they did with Cindy Sheehan. When was the last time any "respectable" liberal publication associated themselves with her? Besides, Rohe's main crime is the know-it-all foolishness of youth, and given that the Senator is the first to admit that he himself had some less-than-stellar moments as a young man, Salter would have been better served by letting the whole thing go. All he's done is reset Rohe's Fame Clock to 15 minutes.

    Here's my favorite part of her speech:
    We have nothing to fear from anyone on this living planet. Fear is the greatest impediment to the achievement of peace. We have nothing to fear from people who are different from us, from people who live in other countries, even from the people who run our government--and this we should have learned from our educations here. We can speak truth to power, we can allow our humanity always to come before our nationality, we can refuse to let fear invade our lives and to goad us on to destroy the lives of others. These words I speak do not reflect the arrogance of a young strong-headed woman, but belong to a line of great progressive thought.
    I don't think Jet Blue flies to whatever world it is she lives in. It's obviously a world without terrorists, without dictators, without people who would very much like to kill a fairly large number of us. Hey, I'd like to live in that world, too. But I don't think I ever did, even as the sumgnoxiousTM college student I was. I'm jealous.

    My favorite lines from Salter's ill-conceived comment are:
    Ms. Rohe and those of her fellow graduates who hailed their school's President as a war criminal and who greeted the Senator's reference to a friend's death with laughter proved only one thing, one sad thing, that they could learn a thing or two about tolerance and respect from the students of Liberty University.
    Once upon time, even among the young, the words courage and hero were used more sparingly, more precisely. It took no courage to do what you did, Ms. Rohe. It was an act of vanity and nothing more. And please don't worry about the Senator's discomfort with you. He has managed to endure much worse. McCain was once offered release from imprisonment and torture because of his father's position as a senior military officer. He declined because he would not leave his comrades behind, and thus, willingly, accepted four more years of hardships life will spare almost all of us from.
    You took exception to the paragraph in which he lightly deprecated the vanity of youth. Well, Ms. Rohe, and your fellow graduates's comical self-importance deserves a rebuke far stronger than the gentle suggestions he offered you. So, let me leave you with this. Should you grow up and ever get down to the hard business of making a living and finding a purpose for your lives beyond self-indulgence some of you might then know a happiness far more sublime than the fleeting pleasure of living in an echo chamber. And if you are that fortunate, you might look back on the day of your graduation and your discourtesy to a good and honest man with a little shame and the certain knowledge that it very unlikely any of you will ever posses the one small fraction of the character of John McCain.
    As I've noted in several posts, I'm not a big McCain fan. But there's no getting around the fact that Salter is among the best writers in Washington. Here he sounds kinda like Peggy Noonan would if she would just get rip roaring drunk and let down that impenetrable WASP shield of hers. But that shield is what made her a perfect fit for the always genial Reagan. And, now that I think about it, the lack of that shield is what makes Salter a perfect fit for the sometimes cranky McCain.

    For the best take on Rohe and her new-found celebrity, read Greg Gutfeld's dead-on parody here. You might even find something from your cranky narrator in the "readers' favorite comments" section right after his post.

    Speaking Truth to Bauer

    Warning: West Coast Spoilers

    The fifth season of 24 finished up tonight with back-to-back episodes that kept the tension level pretty high. A good body count in the first ep (don't forget to stop by Blogs 4 Bauer and check out the official Jack Bauer Kill Counter) and some great work by the First Lady in the second.

    Left unresolved in the wake of Jack's boat trip:
    President Logan's final fate
    WTF ever happened to my man Curtis?
    Everything about Evil Can You Hear Me Now Guy, aka Bluetooth Man, aka The Preppy from Hell
    Why Jack keeps torturing people when he knows it upsets Andrew Sullivan

    All I know is that they have to bring Logan back next season. Greg Itzin is far too good of an actor to just be given his walking papers.

    Only 8 months til "tomorrow"....

    Monday, May 22, 2006

    MonoPundit survivor ends up at Wizbang

    Lorie Byrd, who was summarily dismissed from PoliMonoPundit for disagreeing with Poli's view on immigration, has resurfaced at Wizbang, so all's well that ends well.

    Lorie's a lot more conservative than I am: she voted for Jesse Helms three times, whereas the racking dry heaves I would get from even contemplating voting for him once would prevent me from taking a single step towards the polling station. But she got screwed over at MonoPundit, and I'm glad she's landed on her feet.

    Offensive Headline of the Day

    "Dixie Chicks in the Line of Fire"

    Seriously? They volunteered to go to Afghanistan? No? Iraq, then? No?

    Oh. I see. They're "under fire" because some people are upset at them. Same thing, I guess.

    This should probably be filed under "Who cares," but Time magazine has decided that this is the most important story of the week. So let's quickly see how tough life is for the Chicks:
    Now that she's truly notorious, having told a London audience in 2003, on the eve of the Iraq war, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas," Maines has one regret: the apology she offered George W. Bush at the onset of her infamy. "I apologized for disrespecting the office of the president," says Maines. "But I don't feel that way anymore. I don't feel he is owed any respect whatsoever."
    Natalie ain't to brite, are she. If you apologize for disrespecting "the office" of the president, feeling that "he" isn't owed any respect doesn't matter. I certainly can't take seriously anyone who butchers the English language like that, and I'm sure all liberals agree with this sentiment. People who make linguistic mistakes are just stupid, or so I keep hearing.
    [T]he first single from the Dixie Chicks' new album, "Taking the Long Way" (out May 23), is called "Not Ready to Make Nice." It is, as one country radio programmer says, "a four-minute f--- you to the format and our listeners. I like the Chicks, and I won't play it."

    Few other stations are playing Not Ready to Make Nice, and while it has done well on iTunes, it's quite possible that in singing about their anger at people who were already livid with them and were once their target audience, the Chicks have written their own ticket to the pop-culture glue factory.

    "I guess if we really cared, we wouldn't have released that single first," says Maguire. "That was just making people mad. But I don't think it was a mistake."

    If you don't care, stop doing interviews that talk about how tough you are, and how you're "under fire." Otherwise, accept the fact that your choices have consequence and shut up.
    Whether the Dixie Chicks recover their sales luster or not, the choice of single has turned their album release into a referendum. "Taking the Long Way" is designed to thumb its nose at country's intolerance for ideological hell raising, and buying it or cursing it reveals something about you and your politics -- or at least your ability to put a grudge above your listening pleasure.

    And however you vote, it's tough to deny that by gambling their careers, three Texas women have the biggest balls in American music.

    Yeah, they're at least as brave as George Clooney. It must be really scary to be on the cover of Time. And listening to three spoiled women sing about the fact that they're not ready to make nice doesn't sound like "listening pleasure" to me.

    Over lunch in decidedly uncountry Santa Monica, California, where they have lived part time while recording "Long Way," the Dixie Chicks -- in fancy jeans, tank tops and designer sunglasses -- seem less like provocateurs than busy moms (they have seven kids in all, ages 1 to 5) amped up by a little free time.

    My God, they're wearing fancy jeans, tank tops and designer sunglasses! Poor things! They really are under fire. I'm sorry, I had no idea.
    In conversation they are loud and unembarrassable, celebrating their lack of boundaries in that escalating, I-can-be-more-blunt-than-you way unique to sisters (which Maguire and Robison are) and women who have shared a tour-bus bathroom.
    Is "loud and unembarrassable" the new classless?

    Bottom line: The politics of Radiohead skew heavily to the left, but in my opinion they're the best rock band in the world. What the Dixie Chicks don't realize is that any "fire" they're "under" has less to do with their political leanings than it does with their smugnoxiousnessTM. And does anyone seriously believe that no matter how good their new album may be, they would be on the cover of Time if it weren't for their classless behavior? You'll pardon me if I don't waste any more time worrying about them. Something tells me they'll come out of their "war" much better than a lot of actual soldiers will.

    Heads up to Vets

    From WaPo:

    Dear Veteran:

    The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has recently learned that an employee took home electronic data from VA, which he was not authorized to do and was in violation of established policies. The employee's home was burglarized and this data was stolen. The data contained identifying information including names, social security numbers, and dates of birth for up to 26.5 million veterans and some spouses, as well as some disability ratings. As a result of this incident, information identifiable with you was potentially exposed to others. It is important to note that the affected data did not include any of VA's electronic health records or any financial information.

    Read the whole thing if this may affect you.

    NOAA shows inhuman restraint, doesn't recommend building arks

    Howard Dean and The Party of Doom

    Drudge reports that the Democratic National Committee secretly worked against the successful re-election campaign of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin:
    DNC Chairman Howard Dean made the decision himself to back mayoral candidate and sitting Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu (D-LA), sources reveal.

    Dean came to the decision to back the white challenger, over the African-American incumbent Nagin, despite concerns amongst senior black officials in the Party that the DNC should stay neutral.

    The DNC teams actively worked to defeat Nagin under the auspice of the committee's voting rights program.

    The party's field efforts also coincided with a national effort by Democrat contributors to support Landrieu.

    Landrieu had outraised Nagin by a wide margin - $3.3 million to $541,980.

    Preliminary campaign finance reports indicate many of Landrieu’s contributions came from out of state white Democrat leaders and financiers, including a $1,000 contribution from Sen. Ben Nelson's (D-NE) PAC.

    The defeat of Mitch Landrieu is the latest setback for Dean's often criticized field operation.

    In his victory speech late Saturday night, Nagin praised President Bush.

    "You and I have probably been the most vilified politicians in the country. But I want to thank you for moving that promise that you made in Jackson Square forward," Nagin said.
    Andy Sullivan asks:
    How much more damage can Howard Dean do to the Democrats before someone finally pulls the plug?
    I have a different question: How did the Democrats select someone whose own presidential campaign imploded so spectacularly to head their national committee?? If Drudge is accurate (an admittedly not-so-small if), it's just another example of Dean's utter lack of competence to run anything larger than a small New England state. Between his tin ear and his inability to even suck-up correctly, Dean is a disaster, regardless of how much money he's helped raise.

    If Drudge is right, and the DNC made a decision that supporting Landrieu was in the national party's best interest, it should've explained why, and openly supported his candidacy. Since Katrina, Nagin's own incompetence is a matter of public record, so this wouldn't have been all that difficult. Instead, by conducting a shadow campaign, the DNC leaves itself open to the dual charges of racism (from blacks) and pandering to/fear of its black constituents (from whites). Only in Dean's America.

    If Drudge is wrong - a not totally-farfetched possibility - it still does nothing to change the fact that Dean's leadership does nothing but help Republican claims that the Democrats can't be trusted to run the country. Say what you want about Ken Mehlman, but when was the last time you saw him having to furiously backpedal from something he'd said or done?

    Besides, if you're a Democrat and you want to secretly work against someone, how do you overlook the 800-pound gorilla named Hillary? If Dean had any ability whatsoever to lead his party he'd be working day and night to either draft Al Gore 2.0TM or come up with someone else who can prevent the debacle-in-the-making of a Hillary nomination. There is no other potential nominee - including John Kerry - who will cause so many people to vote Republican who would rather not.

    Given the seemingly overwhelming feeling among many Americans that a Republican administration and a Republican-controlled Congress have done a less-than-stellar job with their stewardship of the country (to put it mildly), it's absolutely astonishing that the Democrats haven't already locked and loaded substantial gains in the mid-term elections and a solid lead going into the 2008 presidential race.

    Absolutely astonishing until you realize that the guy who's running the Democratic store is "an arrogant, devious, self-righteous, and politically maladroit bully," that is.

    Is that global warming or is Bill Clinton giving a speech somewhere?

    From Reuters:
    Former President Bill Clinton said on Saturday global warming is a greater threat to the future than terrorism and that the United States and other countries must "get off our butts" and do something about it.

    Clinton, speaking to the graduating class at University of Texas' Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, said the United States must pursue policies that make "more partners and fewer enemies" and use "institutionalized cooperation" before there is catastrophic damage from global warming.

    "Climate change is more remote than terror but a more profound threat to the future of the children and the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren I hope all of you have," Clinton said.

    "It's the only thing we face today that has the power to remove the preconditions of civilized society," he said.

    "I am not one of those who is pessimistic about the future of the world, assuming we get off our butts and do something about climate change in a timely fashion."

    Well, at least now we know why he did absolutely nothing about terrorism for eight years.

    Sunday, May 21, 2006


    Alex Pareene at Wonkette is having a little trouble seeing the line - you know, the one you're not supposed to cross. Here's a lovely little excerpt from a fake instant message conversation posted on Friday:
    operative: she has internet videos?
    operative: does she do the thing with the ping-pong balls?*
    Michelle Malkin is justifiably upset:

    Pat yourselves on the backs, you tolerant liberal bastards.


    This is hardly
    the first
    made Asian whore ping-pong ball jokes about me.

    But Wonkette has now mainstreamed it. And I'm sick of it. Are you proud of yourselves? Do you get a bonus from Nick Denton for scraping the bottom of the barrel?

    I'm far from a Malkin fan (I don't even have a permalink to her on this blog), but Pareene's little joke is beyond the pale. Can you imagine the uproar if a conservative blogger had made a similar joke?

    The Wonkette post has since been updated to say: "This is not funny. We apologize." The way it's placed, however, makes it unclear if it's referring to the whole post or just the ping-pong ball joke. (Given that the whole post ain't funny, it's tough to tell.) Also, who's "we"? And are "we" apologizing because it's not funny, or because it's offensive and racist?

    Wonkette commenter Wagner James Au has the best take on this:

    Of course you think it's funny, you disingenuous racist coward, it's why you ran it in the first place. It's also why nothing has happened to the equally racist comments above from "ifthethunderdontgetya" and "Montecore" above, despite Gawker Terms of Service which expressly forbid "abusive, obscene, threatening, harassing, defamatory, libelous, offensive or sexually explicit" posts in Comments.

    Michelle Malkin is a gasbag ideologue who can be justly and snarkishly criticized for myriad reasons, so you should do some soul searching to wonder why you instead consider her Asian heritage fair game for mockery. Or for that matter, why, when you look at a Filipino-American woman, the image of a sex worker is one of the first things that springs into your surprisingly narrow mind.

    In all honesty, I think I've looked at Wonkette maybe twice since Ana Marie Cox left. I wasn't too impressed either time. I still enjoy Defamer and Deadspin, but maybe Wonkette's just played out, or maybe the dudes writing it now simply aren't as clever as Cox was. Forgetting the fact that it's racist, I don't think Cox would've stooped to making an Asian woman/ping-pong ball joke if only because it's so stale and cliched.

    It'll be interesting to see what, if anything happens to Pareene. I'm not a big fan of firing people for making one bad mistake, but I would think at the very least Malkin is owed a real apology.

    (Hat tip: Dean Esmay.)

    Not your father's Republican Party

    This sums up the ex-party of small government perfectly.

    Here's an "off the top of my head" list of ways the GOP has learned to stop worrying and love big government:
    War on Drugs
    Increased regulation of the Internet/War on Porn
    Support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage
    National prescription drug plan
    More welfare for farmers
    Increase in federal government meddling in education
    Huge budget deficits
    Regulation of free speech (McCain-Feingold)
    Please feel free to add to this list in the comments.

    (Hat tip to Sullivan.)

    Update: Fmragtops says:
    The stated principles of the Republican Party are still small government, personal responsibility, low taxes, and strong national defense.
    Cranky says:
    One out of four ain't bad.


    I just found out about the big blowup over at PoliMonoPundit during the past week. I never really headed over there that much because I wasn't a big fan of the overall tone of the blog, and now I know I was right.

    Seems PoliMonoPundit himself had awhile back invited some of his better commenters to become guest bloggers, and pretty much gave them free reign. Very cool. But apparently disagreements over the hot button issue of immigration proved to be too much for PoliMono to take. Here's guest blogger Lorie Byrd:
    I received a lengthy email from Polipundit tonight alerting us to an editorial policy change that included the following: "From now on, every blogger at will either agree with me completely on the immigration issue, or not blog at" I would provide additional context, but Polipundit has asked that the contents of our emails not be disclosed publicly and I think that is a fair request. There has been plenty written in the posts over the past week alone to let readers figure out what happened. Polipundit ended a later email with this: "It’s over. The group-blogging experiment was nice while it lasted, but we have different priorities now. It’s time to go our own separate ways."
    Here's guest blogger Alexander McClure:

    I believe we have a duty, as the majority party, to act responsibility, to be worthy of the confidence of the American people. The secret of our success has been our openness, our willing to debate, our eagerness to confront issues, and to create solutions. Unlike our adversaries, we do not engage in the venomous politics of division and hate. Therefore, I believe we should not disparage our President nor distort what he says. As I said in one post several weeks ago, a party of freedom cannot be a party of fear.

    Because of these beliefs, and because of the the immigration issue, I can no longer participate on this site in my former capacity.
    And here's guest blogger DJ Drummond:
    The ‘guest writers’ contributed a lot of good work to the Polipundit site. Being angry at us now would only prevent the appreciation of some very good insights. But to those who think that the site owner somehow owes us anything, I would remind you that we were essentially no-name writers when he gave us the offer to write here; he not only has the right to change the make-up of his site, it’s his duty to do so when he sees it as needed. A coach changes his roster when it is necessary, so much more a site owner whose message needs focus. Poli and I differ on this issue of the Illegals, specifically with regard to the President and the tone of the debate, but we have long agreed on many important issues, and we still have great respect for each other. Even if we can no longer post on the same site, we still serve the same greater cause, for the same reason.
    So what to make of this? Right off the top, let me state the obvious: it's PoliMono's blog, and he has every right to do what he wants with it. If that includes expecting guest bloggers to agree with him on the immigration issue, that's his decision.

    But here's the thing: the debate on immigration is not really a debate. It's people with differing opinions calling each other names and questioning each other's motives. The fact is, most people who support building a wall along the Amerexico border are not "racists." And by the same token, Senators who don't march in lockstep with PoliMonoPundit shouldn't be referred to as "Quislings" or "agents of Mexico."

    But PoliMono doesn't see it that way: not agreeing with him on this issue apparently makes you an enemy of the state. And he's not alone. The level of invective over immigration is in my opinion worse than it is on any other issue right now, including the War in Iraq. What's particularly bothersome is that when it comes to immigration, the childish name calling is not limited to the Kos/DU crowd on the left or the LGF/Coulter crowd on the right. On this issue, otherwise rational people completely lose their minds.

    Here's what PoliMono has to say about the guest blogger issue:

    The blog has focused on various issues, but one issue on which I cannot give in to the elites is illegal immigration. On that, this blog’s position must be clear, not ambivalent. As a legal immigrant, I feel very, very, strongly about this. Back in 2004, I nearly withdrew my support for Bush’s re-election when he came out with his suicidal immigration “reform” plan.

    So far, I’ve allowed the guest bloggers here to write pretty much what they pleased about all issues, including illegal immigration.

    But on the illegal immigration issue, I now find myself having to contend with at least three out of four guest bloggers who will reflexively try to poke holes in any argument I make.

    Suppose three out of four columnists at the Old York Times were pro-Republican. You can bet publisher “Pinch” Sulzberger would do something about that right quick.

    Suppose a Bush administration official came out openly against amnesty. The Bushies would show him the door.

    Similarly, the writers at need to respect the editorial position of on the most important issue to this blog, as the “publisher” sees it - illegal immigration.

    Well, Sulzberger wouldn't have hired three pro-Republican columnists in the first place, so that's a silly analogy. And what, exactly, does PoliMono mean when he says that the guest bloggers "need to respect the editorial position of on...illegal immigration?" Respecting a position is not the same as agreeing with it, which is clearly what PoliMono wants. FIAR gives his position on immigration here. I don't agree with much of it, but I think it's probably the best summation of that point of view that I've seen, and I respect it.

    I guess as an extension of PoliMono's policy, since I don't agree with the editorial position of on the most important issue to that blog, I should probably just completely stop reading it. Not a problem. Done, and done.

    But here's a quick piece of unsolicited advice for PoliMono: If this issue is so important to you, it seems to me you should be trying your damndest to convert people to your point of view. All you're doing now, with your name calling and your attitude, is preaching to the choir.

    Saturday, May 20, 2006

    I Love Ya, CC!

    Ray Nagin has won re-election as Mayor of New Orleans.

    No word yet on whether Reverend Ike will be named Secretary of the Treasure, or Stevie Wonder the Secretary of Fine Arts.
    Hey, CC!
    They say your jivin' game, it can't be changed
    But on the positive side,
    You're my piece of the rock
    And I love you, CC.
    Can you dig it?
    God bless Chocolate City and its vanilla suburbs.


    FBI agents searched the congressional office of Rep. William Jefferson late Saturday as part of an ongoing bribery investigation, NBC News has learned.

    Jefferson, D-La., has denied involvement in any illegal activity.

    The search, conducted by the Washington Field Office of the FBI, is extremely rare -- if not unprecedented, NBC reported.

    Jefferson, a Democrat in his eighth congressional term, declared his innocence Monday during news conference outside the federal building in New Orleans and said he will not resign in the face of the investigation that has resulted in guilty pleas from two people who implicated him in a bribery scheme.

    A U.S. government official with knowledge of the investigation told NBC that the FBI secretly videotaped Jefferson.

    Three thoughts:
    How come TruthOut didn't give me a heads up about this? I guess they didn't want to be "too far out in front of the news-cycle" again.

    I can't believe a Lousiana public official could be suspected of bribery...

    Why haven't I heard a peep from the usual suspects about the "culture of corruption"?
    Off to you, GTL...

    Da Vinci: Veni, Vidi, Vici

    A good history of the decline of the Catholic church's influence in Hollywood in today's Washington Post:
    For decades American Catholics exerted the moral equivalent of final cut over Hollywood cinema. Galvanized by the church hierarchy, they managed not just to control but to convert the motion picture industry.


    With box offices hemorrhaging in the Catholic strongholds in big cities, Will H. Hays, Presbyterian Church elder and president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA), turned to a Victorian Irishman named Joseph I. Breen to negotiate surrender terms with the Catholics. Hays told Breen that "the Catholic authorities can have anything they want."

    What the Catholics wanted, and got, was a censorship regime that ceded dominion of Hollywood cinema to Catholic theology for the next 30 years. On July 15, 1934, Breen set up shop at the Production Code Administration, an in-house arm of the studio system that vetted film scripts for Code violations prior to production. Thus, before the cameras ever rolled, the fix would be in. The visible mark of quality control would be a quite literal Production Code Seal of Approval, an oval logo encircling the MPPDA initials, printed on the credits of every Code-worthy film.

    Between the Legion of Decency on the outside and the Breen Office on the inside, Roman Catholics made certain that Hollywood defended the faith. Of course, sin could not be exiled from the screen, but the transgression always had to be offset by what Breen called "morally compensating value" -- usually in the form of a just and certain punishment, or a voice of morality reminding audiences that crime does not pay.

    Writer Thomas Doherty shows how much things have changed since those days:
    When the Catholic hierarchy lost the power to energize millions of parishioners for some real Catholic action, when American Catholics responded to calls to boycott Hollywood blockbusters with approximately the same obedient deference they accorded the Vatican's advice on birth control, then Catholic dominion over Hollywood lapsed. And today the only Code that Hollywood adheres to is the kind authored by Dan Brown.
    On that note, The Da Vinci Code seems to be pretty much review proof (as I thought it would be), grossing over $30 million dollars on Friday alone, with a projected weekend gross of $80-85 million. Let the gnashing of conservative teeth begin!

    That's hot!

    Raytheon works to fix heat-ray in time for Iraq test next year
    Raytheon Co., the world's largest missile maker, said it's trying to fix problems with an experimental heat-ray weapon to keep the device on schedule for a field test in Iraq early next year.

    Raytheon's new weapon, which is intended to repel hostile forces by creating a sensation of intense heat on skin, doesn't act quickly enough to be effective, said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Wade Hall, who directs the program that would test the device. Waltham, Mass.-based Raytheon is working to resolve the issue, company spokesman Alan Fischer said.

    The so-called "active denial" system was developed by Tucson-based Raytheon Missile Systems.
    The H is O indeed...

    (Via Greyhawk at Milblogs.)

    Relatively Fabulous?

    Over at Tapped, Matt Yglesias seems to think he's back in freshman philo:
    I don't want this to be misunderstood, but I'm a moral relativist. Or, rather, I reject moral realism, the view that "moral claims do purport to report facts and are true if they get the facts right. Moreover, they hold, at least some moral claims actually are true." This is a much-debated philosophical issue, but in punditland, it's just a term of abuse. Ergo, Fred Siegel writing in Blueprint about the least-significant challenge currently facing America -- college professors who are too left-wing for Siegel's taste:
    If, as Michel Foucault told the Berkeley faculty in 1983, "There is no universal criterion which permits us to say, this category of power relations are bad and those are good," then there is no way to prefer a liberal society to fascism, communism, or Islamism.

    Tragically, I don't have time for a full-throated defense of my meta-ethical views at the moment. But this kind of claim, oft-made, is clearly false. Is there a universal criterion by which I judge whether I like chocolate ice cream better than vanilla ice cream? Presumably not. Is there, therefore no way to prefer chocolate ice cream to vanilla ice cream? Obiously, no; people are walking around with preferences about this as we speak, and it's fine. Similarly, letting the ontological chips fall where they may, the purported objective superiority of liberal societies to Islamism doesn't play an actual role in Siegel's preference for liberal societies.

    Sometimes, you face a question that you think has an objective answer like "How much should we care about budget deficits?" What you're supposed to do in those circumstances is look at the evidence in an even-handed and objective way. The big issues of political commitment don't work like that at all. Siegel didn't go learn Arabic fluently, then read the Koran (it says you should only read it in Arabic), then study the works of Sayyid Qutb and other Islamist commentators, and then objectively weigh those arguments against the great names of liberal political thought in an open-minded and unprejudiced way before deciding, "Yes, those Islamists are all wrong!" That would be dumb, and nobody lives their life like that. Nevertheless, if you asked Siegel to explain his preference for liberal societies, I'm sure he could muster some reasons in much the way that I can. Islamists do a lot of stuff that seems cruel and repugnant -- sawing off peoples' heads, for example or stoning gay people to death. Is that "really" wrong? Do I need to check? Deduce it from first principles? If I can't come up with an airtight argument against head-sawing within the next fifteen minutes, does that throw everything into doubt? Again, that's silly; nobody thinks that.

    First of all, I'll wager that there's no such thing as a absolute moral relativist, if you'll pardon the expression. Everybody has at least one moral position they are convinced is not debatable. In the West, claims of moral relativism are usually just pseudo-intellectual excuses for deriding one's own culture or political system: for example, refusing to categorically state that the Western ideal of liberal society is morally superior to Taliban-style theocracy would be considered "nuanced" and "sophisticated." At best, one should say, as Yglesias does, that liberalism is preferable to Talibanism, because who are we to judge the morality of crushing homosexuals under walls or sexually mutilating young girls? Get it? It's just like ice cream! (I guess college professors everywhere use the same analogies, because I heard the same crap at Columbia.) We saw the same thing during the Cold War, when many on the left (and many Europeans) saw the US and the USSR as just two sides of the same coin.

    In contrast, call the Soviet Union an "evil empire," refer to the situation in North Korea as "evil," or call terrorists "evil-doers," and you are immediately the subject of scorn and derision. How simple-minded you have to be to call something evil.

    Of course, these are the same people who called for divestment from South Africa, the same people who think universal health care is a "right," the same people who believe that abortion is a woman's right. It doesn't matter here whether these stances are right or wrong, what matters is that they all assume a universal and absolute morality: "My body, my choice" is hardly a statement of "preference."

    I also find it odd that many of the same people who won't objectively judge Castro or Kim Jong-il (or Saddam, for that matter) have absolutely no problem saying that Republicans are evil. But I'm weird that way. This always reminds me of the scene in Revenge of the Sith in which Obi-Wan tells Anakin that "Only the Sith speak in absolutes," and then ten seconds later says "The Emperor is evil."

    Obi-Wan Yglesias needs to grow up a bit.