Archives for June, 2006

“Wing” Nuts

I’ve got a post over at Cato@Liberty explaining why I hate the West Wing and I’m glad it’s gone. It was prompted by an Ezra Klein piece in the American Prospect that celebrated WW’s passing for slightly different reasons. “Iron Lungfish,” a commenter at Ezra’s blog puts my complaint with the show perhaps better than I did:

The show’s default attitude towards politics – and the presidency in particular – is one of unabashed naivete, which most certainly is not a good thing to foster in American life. One of the greatest flaws in American politics is that we’re not nearly skeptical enough of our leaders, that we’re willing to see reelection of incumbents as the default instead of firing them for their incompetence and corruption, that most of us see the president as the whole world’s commander-in-chief instead of as the whole country’s public servant. The West Wing reveled in the power and ceremony of the executive branch, in the kind of stateliness and pageantry that built up George Bush’s image over his first four years in office. For the most part I’d say the show was mostly harmless – it was a symptom, not a cause, but it wasn’t a symptom of anything good.

Posted on Jun 27, 2006 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Desperados: Why Don’t You Come to Your Senses?

I have a post over at Cato@Liberty about the Right’s attempt to justify the war on the basis of 500 pre-Gulf-War artillery shells with degraded mustard and sarin gas. I liked Clark Stooksbury’s snark better.

I have a feeling that this war is going to be for the Right what the Alger Hiss case was for the Left. Twenty years from now, they’re still going to be trolling through the online docs, occasionally seizing on one of them and screaming “You see? You see?!” to an audience of 12. Maybe one of them can tell me whatever happened to Salman Pak.

Posted on Jun 23, 2006 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments


In my view, all cats look like Hitler, at least a little bit.

Posted on Jun 23, 2006 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

At the Movies

My Netflix experience over the last month or two.

Freeway: If, like all fundamentally decent people, you think Reese Witherspoon is adorable, you may enjoy this little known early role for Reese, where she plays an illiterate teenage runaway who runs into Kiefer Sutherland’s serial killer. I think you’ll enjoy it more if you don’t have any expectations going in.

Munich: Liked it. Don’t believe the neocon hype. This isn’t a morality play about how vengeance begets violence. Clearly, from the DVD commentary, Spielberg thinks it is, but what does he know? There are only a couple of speeches along those lines in the movie, and I didn’t find them objectionable. It’s just not that didactic. It was possible to watch Dead Man Walking and think Sean Penn got what he deserved (I did), and ditto for the most part with Munich. Most of the movie is just about the mechanics of being an assassin, and it has a very ’70s feel. It plays like an homage to Day of the Jackal.

Dawn of the Dead: much better than I had any right to expect. Ving Rhames and that likable British actor from Mind of a Married Man. Are zombie movies inherently elitist? Are they a critique of consumer culture and the “Mass-Man” made possible by the productive power of capitalism? I don’t know, I just threw that in to compensate for having such low-rent taste in movies. Anyway, people trapped in a mall with a whole world of rabid brain-eaters outside: that’s entertainment. No catatonic shuffle in this movie: the zombies can sprint.

That’s all I can remember right now outside of reality TV.

Posted on Jun 20, 2006 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

War: Boredom Cure

9/11: downside: 3,000 dead Americans. Two wars. Tens of thousands of innocents dead as a result. Possible clash of civilizations with untold more dead to come.

Upside: Christopher Hitchens won’t get bored.

From an interview in World magazine:

As a journalist Mr. Hitchens extensively covered the Bosnian war and the Gulf War, yet describes 9/11 as “an exhilarating moment” because it crystallized his views. “Everything I hate is on one side, and everything I love is on the other. I’m never going to get bored with this.”

War. What is it good for? Well, there’s that.

It’s a recurring theme with him. As he said a few years ago:

I am prepared for this war to go on for a very long time. I will never become tired of waging it, because it is a fight over essentials. And because it is so interesting.

Sure, that’s a repugnant sentiment, and one that you’d do better to leave unsaid, if you’re weird enough to feel it. But something else struck me about the World magazine interview, something that goes beyond the Right’s very favorite ex(?)-Trot. Wikipedia confirms what I thought I knew about World:

WORLD differs from most other news magazines in that it its perspective is one of conservative Reformed evangelical Protestantism: Its mission statement is “to report and analyze the news on a weekly schedule in an interesting, accurate, and arresting fashion, and to combine reporting with practical commentary on current events and issues from a perspective committed to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God.”

World’s editor is former Bush aide Marvin Olasky.

Now, I’m not a Christian, but aren’t Christians supposed to get offended at the following? Hitchens says:

“[Jesus on the cross] is scapegoating that absolves one of all responsibility in return for the acceptance of the incredible and the undesirable. And then with the other shoe, the other hand, says if you don’t believe it, then we have a real program of torture that will go on forever. It’s disgusting. It was completely invented by very underdeveloped human beings,” he says, astoundingly citing Augustine and Aquinas. “These are peasants; the sort of people we are up against now, with wild looks in their eyes and living in caves.”

The interviewer who clearly digs Hitch, says only that this is ” a rare moment of less-than-astute analysis” for him.

Insult our Savior, defame our religion, support the president: you’re pretty swell, all things considered. The war must be very, very important to Christian conservatives.

Posted on Jun 20, 2006 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments


It’s amazing to me that a sport that seems to add up to watching foreigners jog (and periodically fall over and flail about to draw the ref’s attention), a sport so boring that I can almost understand starting a riot just to liven it up–can generate so much heated discussion.

Posted on Jun 20, 2006 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments


The Project for a New American Century appears to be closing down. I credit the awesome power of punk rock.

Posted on Jun 19, 2006 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Jack Ryan and Hughes-Ryan

Just saw Clear and Present Danger for the first time. I think I held off because I tired of Harrison Ford around the time he made that movie where he got shot in the head and became a liberal. C & PD isn’t too terrific either, but I liked its politics–and not just the drug-war critique. It’s a surprisingly republican movie. Small ‘r,’ that is, not “Republican,” which indicates the opposite.

The whole thing’s a critique of covert operations, shadow government, and executive branch freelancing in foreign affairs. Harrison Ford’s Jack Ryan, as acting deputy director of the CIA, is determined, at the cost of his career and even his life, to uphold the laws requiring congressional notification for black ops. Ryan is all-too Mr. Smith Goes to Langley, and Harrison Ford’s idea of looking determined is to put on his passing-a-kidney-stone face, but bonus points for distinctly non-evil politics. And you have to love “No, how dare you sir?”

Posted on Jun 18, 2006 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Shorter David Brooks

Courtesy of Jim Henley:

Brooks has discovered that the coming divide in American politics will be between bad people who hate foreigners and good people who want to blow them up.

Posted on Jun 16, 2006 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Party of Death, Dude


Nothing against Ramesh, but just as I found myself about to make the hackneyed point that maybe his book’s title fits just as well for the party that may be contemplating tactical nuclear strikes on Iran, I realized that the 12-year-old metalhead in me can’t help thinking “Party of Death” sounds pretty badass for either party. It makes me want to make the Satan fingers.

Posted on Jun 16, 2006 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Daddy Party

Now that Jim Webb has won the Democratic nomination for VA Senate, I expect Harvey Mansfield, Rich Lowry, and everybody else in the jock-sniffing Republican Cult of Masculinity to endorse him. I mean, he’s no wrestling coach, but Webb’s plenty tough nonetheless.

Jim Webb was a platoon leader, a rifle platoon commander and he was also a company commander. He won the Navy Cross, which is the nation’s second highest award for battlefield gallantry after the Congressional Medal of Honor. The Marine Corps very rarely awards the Congressional Medal of Honor to anybody that survives the experience. He won two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars, several Purple Hearts. Webb is one of the toughest people I’ve ever met and remains so to this day.

That’s from a Booknotes interview with Robert Timberg, author of Nightingale’s Song, which tells the story of five Annapolis grads who went to Vietnam: Webb, Ollie North, Bud McFarland, John Poindexter, and John McCain.

Of course, Republicans-for-the-Strenuous-Life may be withholding their endorsement because Webb dropped the Annapolis boxing championship to Ollie North:

TIMBERG: The boxing story — Jim Webb and Ollie North, same class — Class of 1968 — never really liked one another. It was like they were oil and water. At any rate, North had been in a terrible car accident in his plebe year and it was questionable whether he could ever return to the academy. By an enormous force of will and rehabilitation, he managed to come back and he was in Jim Webb’s class. Both of them were boxers, but Webb had been boxing for years, almost from the time he was 12, 13. And he was very, very good. North was what somebody called a good Saturday night boxer. I mean, he just seemed to rise to the occasion. Webb, on the other hand, knew he could — under ordinary circumstances — could just take North apart. But Ollie had knee braces from his car accident.

People went up to Webb and said, “Hey, Jimmy, you hit Ollie too hard, you might kill him.” And Webb knew this was baloney. How — I mean, no one was going to let somebody in the ring with a steel plate in his head, which is one of the things he had heard. But somehow Webb got himself psyched out in this and when you box — particularly when you box at the academy, because no one is a great stylist, you’ve got to go in there and you’ve got to meet — you’ve got to fight to win, you’ve got to have — you’ve got to be psychologically attuned to taking your classmate’s head off, if you will. And Webb wasn’t. I mean, he went in there, he was tentative, he was very stylish. He ducked, he moved and North looked kind of sloppy. But North landed some punches and this fight ended up with Ollie North beating Jim Webb in a fight that everybody else felt Jim Webb was going to win hands-down.

Me, I’m still waiting for the Rich-Lowry/Al Franken cage match to happen. WAR Franken!

Posted on Jun 14, 2006 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Content of Our Character

I’m familiar with the insinuation that Iraq war opponents are closet racists. (As Bill Kaufmann once put it, it’s always the people who object to killing foreigners who get called xenophobes.)

But this is a new one on me. Apparently it was the hit of the right-wing blogosphere about a month ago. It’s a Wall Street Journal column by Shelby Steele suggesting that if you don’t want to carpet bomb Iraq, you must suffer from crippling white guilt. If white people recognize how awesome they are for ending slavery and stuff, then, Steele suggests, perhaps “America can once again feel the moral authority to seriously tackle its most profound problems. Then, if we decide to go to war, it can be with enough ferocity to win.”

Seriously, this is the most demented thing I’ve read in months. Speaking as a person of the pale persuasion, I’m pretty well free of white liberal guilt. I’ve never oppressed a black man, none of my ancestors held slaves, none of them fought for the Confederacy, and some of them fought for the Union, though, not, I think, totally voluntarily. The ad hominem atmosphere of college racial politics–the suggestion that you’re a closet racist if you’re not for affirmative action, welfare, reparations, etc–drove me rightward in college, just as the implication that you hate your country if you don’t support the Iraq war keeps knocking me in the other direction these days. When conservatism’s flagship magazine publishes a cover story calling Bob Novak “unpatriotic”–it’s time to wonder whether the Right hasn’t become the Left’s mirror image.

Posted on Jun 7, 2006 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Air America

If you get Air America, I’ll be on the Randi Rhodes show at 4:30 today, talking about the Bush constitutional record and perhaps enjoying what the American Spectator used to call “strange new respect.”

Update: eh, pretty lackluster performance. Talk radio makes nuance tough, and the attempt to hang on to nuance makes me sputter a lot of “uhhhs” and “you knows.”

Posted on Jun 1, 2006 in Uncategorized | Comments Off