Archives for September, 2006

Goldwater on Goldwater

The HBO documentary on Barry Goldwater was nicely done. Without the glasses, when you caught him smiling, he was a hell of a good-looking guy, I was surprised to see. And a wonderfully oddball, interesting guy: pilot, filmmaker, ham radio operator. I cracked up when Barry Jr., himself an old man now, said Barry Sr. told him, when it came to his romantic life “keep it out of town, son. And if you haven’t gotten it by midnight, go to bed.”

Towards the end, they explored whether Goldwater moved left late in his career–on abortion, gay rights, and kicking Falwell in the ass. But those who said he hadn’t changed got the better of the argument, it seemed to me. He was never a social issues guy, and you won’t find much, if anything, in Conscience of a Conservative that would appeal to a theocon today.

The best piece of evidence that he had moved left wasn’t discussed in the movie. It’s this piece from the Wall Street Journal that BG penned in 1995, endorsing FDA regulation of tobacco:

I have devoted my life to fighting for limited government, and I do not endorse new government programs lightly. But there is a special role for government in protecting children from the greatest dangers in our society. One of those dangers is tobacco.

It pains me to note the title: “Save the Children.” But he was a very old man by then, and there’s little else to suggest he’d become more statist as he aged.

What I don’t understand is why everyone–including, in the documentary, James Carville–says the famous “little girl nuked” ad was unfair. (Known as “Daisy,” it can be seen here.) LBJ pretending to be a man of peace is enough to put you off your lunch, but the consensus seems to be that the ad was unfair to Goldwater. Why?

You could mark down BG’s comment about “lobbing one into the men’s room at the Kremlin” as an offhand crack, like Reagan’s on-mike “the bombing begins in five minutes.” You could dismiss the suggestion that we use low-yield nukes as a sort of super-Agent-Orange in Vietnam as unlikely to spark a nuclear exchange between the superpowers.

But in Conscience of a Conservative, he describes what the U.S. ought to do in the event of an Eastern European uprising along the lines of Hungary, 1956:

In such a situation, we ought to present the Kremlin with an ultimatum forbidding Soviet intervention, and be prepared, if the ultimatum is rejected, to move a highly mobile task force equipped with appropriate nuclear weapons to the scene of the revolt. Our objective would be to confront the Soviet Union with superior force in the immediate vicinity of the uprising and to compel a Soviet withdrawal. An actual clash between American and Soviet armies would be unlikely; the mere threat of American action, coupled with the Kremlin’s knowledge that the fighting would occur amid a hostile population and could easily spread to other areas, would probably result in Soviet acceptance of the ultimatum.

Of course it would, though, as BG admits a paragraph later:

Any policy that successfully frustrates the Communist aim of world domination runs the risk that the Kremlin will choose to lose in a kamikaze-finish.

9… 8… 7… 6…

Was it so unfair to suggest that a man who could write (or endorse) such words might be a little too cavalier about the risks of nuclear war?

Now it’s entirely possible that the possession of the power to end life on earth might have sobered Barry, made him more responsible. Acton’s dictum about absolute power aside, that seems to happen sometimes, as it did with JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis. And you like to think that Goldwater’s essential humanity would have won out, as Reagan’s did, against the throw-weight Gradgrinds and armageddonite ideologues surrounding him. Goldwater was, as the film makes clear, too nice a guy to destroy the world.

Posted on Sep 23, 2006 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Comic Book Revolution

And here’s another movie I didn’t care for so much: V for Vendetta. Not, of course, because it was anti-War on Terror. (It was at least [spoiler alert] semi-ambivalent about torture with the whole “I love you Natalie Portman, so let me torture you into a higher plane of consciousness” thing at the end.)

The thing was, even though I like dystopias, I’d prefer to see a remotely plausible future British fascism. As others have pointed out, the vision the filmakers opted for–gay-bashing religious fanaticism–doesn’t come close. It should look more like Blairism/Cool Britannia on steroids. You know, wanker fascism.

But more than anything, I thought V smacked of a kind of infantile leftism. Through one or two daring acts of street theater-slash-terrorism, one can transform an entire society and shift it towards freedom. Blow up a couple of buildings, whack a couple of public officials, pass out some masks, and people will wake up, say “hey wow–this is tyranny!” and throw it off. (Is that leftism? It sounds like the social theory behind the Iraq War.) But that’s not how it happens, I think. To borrow from William Stafford via Jim, “justice will take us millions of intricate moves.”

Posted on Sep 20, 2006 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Klaatu Barada Prikto

Caught The Day the Earth Stood Still on Tivo the other night. I was surprised at how much I disliked Klaatu, the self-righteous, humorless, asexual humanoid alien who lands his flying saucer on the D.C. Mall–and threatens to destroy Earth because we’re too belligerent.

Barnhardt: One thing Mr. Klaatu, Suppose this group should reject your proposals. What is the alternative?

Klaatu: I’m afraid there is no alternative. In such a case, the planet Earth would have to be… eliminated

Barnhardt: Such power exists?

Klaatu: I assure you, such power exists.

We know Klaatu’s a hawk, but is he a conservative or a liberal hawk? Mr. K endorses a doctrine of preventive war that makes the Bush National Security Strategy look timid. He’s willing to murder several billion people because someday, eleventy generations away, we may threaten the Interplanetary Dweeb Congress and their robot companions. You can’t be too careful when dealing with the Humanofascist threat, I suppose. But unlike today’s conservative hawks, he’s obsessed with multilateralism. Again and again, people say “tell us what you want, Mr. K. We’ll take you to the president” And again and again the earnest prig says “no, I must meet with the leaders of all nations at once. I don’t want to show any favoritism when I formally threaten to destroy your planet.”

I confess I supported our troops when they shot Klaatu full of holes and I groaned when Gort reanimated him. (Having been dead seemed to make no difference in his personality). We may have our problems here on Earth, but I see no reason why we should have to take a bunch of crap from some condescending space liberal who lets a robot boss him around.

Posted on Sep 19, 2006 in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Conservatism Is So Confusing

If GOP voters are Voting to Kill, why don’t they join the Party of Death?

I also like that, per Amazon, people who viewed the first book also shopped for this book.

Posted on Sep 18, 2006 in Uncategorized | Comments Off


We’re in trouble now, patriots.

“A professional jujitsu fighter from Brazil sat in a Loudoun County jail yesterday on a felony charge that he tried to open the cabin door of a Dulles-bound airliner as it cruised at 30,000 feet over Tennessee.”

Al Qaeda has discovered Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. You bastards: America will never tap!

Posted on Sep 14, 2006 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Saddam’s Hindrocket

An article in Sunday’s New York Times takes you to a Graveyard of Goofy Weapons south of Baghdad. Among them, the remnants of Saddam’s Supergun, which would have been the world’s biggest howitzer:

the barrel alone would have been 512 feet long and weighed 1,665 tons. As the pieces lying around in the lot in Iskandariya illustrated, the barrel was wide enough to fire projectiles “the size of industrial garbage cans,” as Mr. Lowther put it.

Estimates on the cost of two planned superguns and a smaller prototype called Baby Babylon range from $25 million to several hundred million dollars. If the big guns had operated as designed, they could have shot a 300-pound projectile 600 miles, or lifted a much larger payload into orbit if it was outfitted with a small rocket engine.

Doubtless there’s some true believer out there in the right-wing blogosphere trumpeting this story, hailing it as confirmation that Saddam was the Arab Hugo Drax, coming ever closer to having the means to kill us all. What if he had loaded it up with some of those degraded mustard gas shells, floated it off our southern coastline and aimed that sumbitch right at Disneyworld?

I’m with Lt. Col. James A. Howard, quoted in the article after visiting the site: “I think a gun this big would be kind of dumb.” You could say the same about the sort of tin-pot totalitarian who would build it. And about people who still insist Saddam was a threat.

Posted on Sep 14, 2006 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Happy Belated Patriot Day

Hey patriots: happy Patriot Day, a day late. I feel like an earlier America would have picked a day when we kicked some British ass to commemorate as Patriot Day. There is the Battle of Brandywine, but that’s obviously not why Congress picked 9/11.

Anyhow, despite our rulers’ tendency to confuse nationalism with patriotism, and their best attempts to keep us scared, things are looking up for post 9/11 America. We’re safe as houses, fat and happy; irony didn’t die and our culture is as wonderfully wiseass as ever. God bless America.

Posted on Sep 12, 2006 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Good News

The Post reports that Dunkin Donuts is taking a run at Starbucks, especially in the DC area. Right on. DD’s coffee is much better, and you can get real donuts there instead of a piece of cake masquerading as a breakfast muffin. It also has a chance of catching on with the coveted hipster demographic, which seeks that faux working class vibe. It could be the Pabst of coffee.

Featured prominently in my first memories of visiting New York City in the ’70s were visits to the once-ubiquitous Chock Full O’ Nuts coffee shops, where they had awesome whole wheat donuts. Dunkin Donuts doesn’t come close, but it does come closer than Starbucks.

Posted on Sep 7, 2006 in Uncategorized | Comments Off