Archive for The Lileks Zone

Four points about the (literally) flaming lunatic

1. No one seems to be chewing over the possible rationales for his fellow. Seems rather obvious, no? Anger! He was consumed with fury whe the Western media refused to allow the Ft. Hood shooter the dignity of ascribing his motivations to Islam. This insult cannot stand! Of course, the Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab (translated: Holy Hot Britches) may not stand very well either, having singed his yarbles with his failed attempt to light the explosive.

2. As usual, I first heard of the event on Twitter, where people were chuckling over the “fireworks” some idiot had set off upon landing. I mean, I’m happy when we’re on the ground, but I don’t set off Roman candles. When the seriousness of the event became clear, there was only one thing left: minimization from the left. Sure enough: someone who’d spent a solid week hammering the media for suggesting the Ft. Hood shooter was motivated by his religious beliefs scoffed at the overreaction to some fellow “setting his pants on fire. RAISE THE TERRORIST THREAT LEVEL!”

To these people, any reaction is an overreaction – if it comes from the right, that is. The progressive left is permitted to criticize elements of Islam, but only after everyone’s agreed that right-wing Christianity is a real threat to liberty and Roman Polanski. Besides, the right does not criticize fundamentalist Islam for its totalitarian, misogynist, intolerant aspects; the right just doesn’t like anyone who doesn’t like Jesus. So if you’re for tax cuts and deregulation you must hate Hindus, too. Are we clear?

Trust me, if you believe in this, life is so much simpler.

3. When a fellow from Nigeria caused a disruption on the same flight a day later by staying in the lavatory and refusing to come out, a very well-respected twitter-person said we should translate “uncooperative” to mean “uppity.” Makes sense. Whatever was going through the flight attendant’s mind as she attempted to get the fellow out of the bathroom, it was essentially naked racism. This is why stews let you listen to classical music on your iPod as you land but get really angry if you don’t turn off your portable electronic device if they think you’re listening to rap.

4. The President’s response. From CNN:

“Those who would slaughter innocent men, women and children must know the United States will do more than simply strengthen our defenses,” Obama said.

Obama said the government was doing “everything in our power to keep you and your families safe and secure during this busy holiday season.”

Ah. Well. So keeping someone on the Hinky List from boarding a plane is not without in our power, then. So taking seriously the worried words of the jihadi’s relations are not within our power. A strange force, perhaps composed of dark matter or MUONs or WIMPs or some other theoretical substance, push away the hands of officials when they pick up a phone to summon whoever’s drawn the duty to run a PETN dowser over the suspect’s underwear.

Come to think of it, WIMPs might well be the problem. The acronym stands for Weakly Interacting Massive Particles, which us as good a description of the Federal security apparatus as you’ll find.

Another West = Bad Guys movie? Why, of course

I’ve been a science-fiction fan all my life. As a youngling, to put it in Yodaspeak, I watched the first episode of Star Trek ever broadcast, on my Grandparent’s color TV. So when I say I’m not enthused about “Avatar” it’s not because I’m cold to the genre. Granted, there’s just something about cerulean-hued biped cats flying around on dragons that doesn’t hit me precisely where I live these days, and I have to admit that the trailers did not impress me with the aliens’ realism. Gollum I could buy; these guys looked like Play-Doh. But I’m sure it’s better in high-def 3D. No, it was something else in the trailer: when the vast hordes of spacecraft and munitions showed up, I wanted them to be the good guys. Please let them be defending something. Is that too much to ask?

Apparently. The technological forces of the Earth are, of course, the Very Bad Guys. (Enjoy this vivacious rant for more.) They’ve come to a planet to steal resources, and shoot the locals if they interfere. As Lord Vader would say: impressive. Good-heartened people everywhere are meant to sympathize with the locals, naturally, and the entire plot is built around a soldier who switches sides and leads the aliens against the marauders. This would have been an interesting twist – 50 years ago.

You’d think that up until, oh, three hours ago we were making movies where cowboys were good guys, shooting treacherous Injuns while wearing white hats, pausing only to sing songs about The Trail and the Last Round-Up and other fictional conceits that undergird the myth of the west. But we’ve been revising that old story for 50, 60 years. For heaven’s sake, the old “Gunsmoke” radio shows regarded the “Indians” with respect, and reserved its concept for men who didn’t know enough to treat them with dignity. They ran a half-century ago, and if the message was so culturally offensive, it didn’t interfere with a seven-year run.

Obligatory but-of-course for the congenitally dim: not to say all such plots have been Fair and Balanced. But the anti-narrative is now the narrative, and it has been so for years. It you really wanted a revisionist story, try this: some scientists show up on a primitive planet to study its environment and perhaps bring a few benefits of civilization to its tribes. Unfortunately, they’re shape-shifting religious maniacs who believe that progress is evil, and use their knowledge of special herbs and spices to infiltrate the newcomer’s home world and kill them all at the behest of their tree-god. You’d still get the opportunity to depict and alien world in all its CGI beauty; you’d still get spacecraft vs. dragons.

But you’d have something unacceptable to modern critics, who are so irrevocably wedded to the Imperialism narrative they cannot possibly imagine that the strongest civilization might actually have merits – indeed, it is strong because it figured out something unique about the combination of freedom, invention, scientific inquiry and exploration. Unless that’s just too chauvinistic. Perhaps. But you wonder if Hollywood could make Casablanca today without changing its allegiances. Or at least having Rick and Renault walk off through the fog, heading to Iowa to exchange vows.

What the media needs: more liberals! Er, more brave people

In the Wall Street Journal, liberal columnist Thomas Frank tells us all what’s what: “Newsrooms Don’t Need More Conservatives.”

Yes, because they’re already so stuffed with free-market types they’re just falling out the windows. Frank writes:

How is the (Washington) Post supposed to check up on its reporters’ politics? I’m hoping for loyalty oaths and televised hearings, with stiff penalties for employees who refuse to talk or to name names: It would be the perfect spectacle for the end of the newspaper era.

He’s right; I don’t know how they’d do it. Maybe – and I’m just talking off the top of my head here – you could ask them? And while you’re at it, ask them why they missed the ACORN story, among others. Frank writes:

Craziest of all, though, is the prospect of the Post ditching its decades-long pursuit of the grail of objectivity . . . because it got scooped on the Acorn story. If that is all it takes to reduce the Washington Post’s vaunted editorial philosophy to ashes, what is the newspaper industry planning to do to atone for its far more consequential failures?

Does he wonder why the Post never thought to peek at ACORN, or any other such case? Couldn’t be a petrified institutional disposition to regard such groups as above criticism, given all the Good Work they do? Couldn’t be their reflexive desire to ladle a rich stew of hagiography over the head of anyone who denounces profit and works for the “community”? Frank seems to be one of those fellows who believes the media is conservative because every story on the banking industry doesn’t conclude with a quote from someone who thinks they should all be nationalized, and we have more people covering the Pentagon than the Gandhi center.

He concludes with an ominous view of the future:

A form of journalism that offends nobody, that comes crawling to the powerful, that mirrors the partisan breakdown of the population as a whole. If that’s the future of journalism, we can be certain that ever more catastrophic failures await.

Uh huh. Well, this whole “partisan breakdown” seems to be new to Mr. Frank, but that’s what you get toiling in a monocultural town in an industry that’s been boring everyone to death for decades. Overtly partisan papers were once quite common, and made for lively journals. You could say that truth is the first casualty of writing from a particular perspective – but if that’s the case, why does Frank expect us to believe what he’s telling us?

I’ve been asked about my politics
several times in my Glorious Career, and in each case I understood why: I had a rep as an opinion columnist, and when they assigned me to do something with political overtones, such as report on the Democratic Convention, they wanted to get a sense of my intentions. BRING DOWN THE INSTRUMENTS OF THE OMNIVOROUS STATE! I usually replied, then ha-ha just kidding, no, I will not be grinding axes on company time. Didn’t really want to do heavy-duty thumbsucker policy videos anyway, which is why I ended up in Denver driving around in a rickshaw with Dave Barry chasing Darryl Hannah.

A few years before I’d been asked specifically to write a political column, and declined, citing the Garrison Keillor Effect: when you’re known in a particular market for ecumenical amusement, suddenly showing your partisan game face makes half the audience hate you, and I’d preferred to keep the appeal of the local work as wide as possible. Keillor – a fine writer, but possibly the worst newspaper columnist working today – continues to annoy former fans with some of the most egregious, flat-footed, bone-headed sanctimonious bile-froth published in papers today. But he’s loaded, and if those cretinous Rethugs hate him, well, it’s a badge he wears with honor.

But back to Franks. So it’s a witch-hunt McCarthy-style if we ask a White House reporter if he ever, once, in his life, voted for a candidate who didn’t push for more taxes, more regulation, more state control, more intrusion on the private sector. Noted. This doesn’t mean you couldn’t be a flaming Red and be impartial; objectivity is not possible to attain in the brain, but certainly possible to achieve on the page. All it takes is an accurate understanding of the other side’s view of the debate, an ability to apprehend on an intellectual level the terminology and precepts of the other side, a grasp of how the Enemy defines their motives.

Good: “I think conservatives oppose abortion because they believe it is the taking of an innocent human life.”

Not so good, but it’ll do: “Conservatives oppose abortion because they believe it is the taking of a human life, although the question of when life begins remains contentious

Bad: “Conservatives say they oppose abortion to preserve ‘life,’ but this must be seen in the context of other actions which include the death penalty, failure to fund childhood medical progams, Head Start, and a general indifference to Women’s issues.”

It’s not that hard to be fair, unless you think you’re dealing with EVIL ITSELF, in which case your animus cannot help but leak into your work. Once I was dealing with an editor going over my review of a book written by the FIRE co-founders, a book about political correctness and free-speech assaults on campus. She said, and I quote:

“F****ng Republicans.”

“Excuse me?”

“They always have three names,” she said. She pointed to the name of a co-author. “Three names.”

“Like Hillary Rodham Clinton?”

That was the end of the conversation.

Most reporters are liberals. Most editors, being former reporters, are liberal. There’s no way you can exist in a particular ideological bubble without letting it shape the way you frame ideas in your head, but that doesn’t mean they’re trying to slant things. Getting it right is the mantra, partly because you look like an idiot in front of your bosses when you get it wrong. Much of what we see as bias arises simply because reporters don’t read what a lot of us read on the web, something I’ve poetically named “Non-contiguous Information Streams.” They’re either unaware of competing narratives, or don’t grant them the merit they deserve – that’s where bias comes in – or are too constrained by time and space to break out from the Overclass Perspective. Finding out who voted for whom wouldn’t change much. If newspapers wanted to avoid getting dinged for bias every time they put out a paper, they’d make sure copy desk had a few conservatives- professionals who can be just as tough and fair as their liberal counterparts, and can recognize the unexamined shibboleths.

Opinion writers are a different matter. Hammer those guys all you want. Frank, of course, wrote “What’s the Matter with Kansas,” the very title of which suggested there was something pathological about not realizing you’re better off voting for Democrats. You can see his point. Can you imagine working next to someone who didn’t believe there was something the matter with Kansas?

OIERTUER dvnksdnjksdfwq, as my child once wrote

Gordon Brown, the British PM, is noted for his earnest devotion to Green belief-systems; from occasional observation, he also seems prone to spout the faux-concern of nanny-twaddle favored by the modern left. If you expected the same from his wife, you’d be correct. This is a good example: his child typed some gibberish on Twitter, and it naturally became a teachable moment for the nation.

Speaking at the formal unveiling of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety’s first strategy, the Prime Minister said last week’s intervention by younger son Fraser had shown him how important supervision was.

“Last week, the people who follow Sarah, my wife, on Twitter received a message of gobbledegook which my younger son had bashed out on the keys and then pressed send while she was out of the room,” he told the audience.

“It started with our mistake and, of course, it was a mistake not to supervise the internet and we were taught a big lesson as a result of that.”

It’s too perfect: the parents were taught a lesson. As opposed to “you can be right sure I taught my child to keep his marmaladed fingers off daddy’s computer, and that was the end of that. Now let us get back to discussing the rum ration for the Navy, and other suitably adult topics.”

Contriteness from his wife:

Shortly afterwards she explained the origins of the tweet: “In future I will turn my computer off when I am not using it – to save energy and avoid junior tweet interference.”

Turn it off? Why not just put it to sleep? But if she puts it to sleep, we risk junior tweet interference again, don’t we. Here’s the thing: having said she will turn her computer off to save energy, which is the most moral and important thing people can do, she has done her part, even though no one expects her to actually do so. The idea that she’ll power down her laptop every time she steps away from the keyboard is nonsense, but it’s enough to say she will. The example has been set, and even thought no one will follow it, we will all feel better about intending to shut down our computers to save energy.

The things one has to say when you’re constantly worried about being greener-than-thou constituents attacking you for having a laptop in the first place. To say nothing of a carbon-vomiting thing like a child.

Reason #8: Because they want my money

Climategate is quite surprising, really. Those of us disinclined to hop around fluttering our hands in a non-stop spasm of eco-panic thought the dispute was over interpretation of data, not data cooked so expertly you expected the scientists to be awarded five stars by Gourmet magazine. It doesn’t change some minds, of course. To this day I hear the same question: Why don’t you believe the science?

Reason #1: Because they say the science is SETTLED. Sorry: nothing is settled. Kirk died four Star Trek movies ago and I still expect him to show up in Shanter form in the next one.

Reason #2: We’re supposed to Question Authority, right? I read a bumpersticker that said something along those lines. If you’ll let me Question Authority, I’ll grant that you can’t hug your child with nuclear arms, to quote another bumpersticker. Deal?

Reason #3: I grew up hearing one ecological disaster scenario after the other, and believed I would be eating Soylent Green on a glacier with wooly mammoths on one side and the busted husk of the Statue of Liberty on the other. Also smart apes and possibly zombies.

Reason #4: It’s probably due mostly solar activity and other natural cycles. People are always freaked out about the weather being hinky.

Reason #5: It could be the above, plus us. If so, I don’t think it’s a cataclysm ready to happen. Even if it is, I have zero faith that anything will be done about it, but this is the worst-case scenarios, and I’m not interested in dwelling on those, and they make for bad policy.

Reason #6: Because I don’t believe the people who believe not only The Settled Science, but a vast zesty assortment of ideas that seem to be based on a gut-level guilt and smug self-flattering notions unexamined since college.

Such as: Organic food is better. because chemicals are bad. “Chemicals,” in this case, means smelly clear liquids pumped out from a big spout labeled DOW DEATH SAUCE; a bald man in a lab coat with a dueling scar, an eyepatch AND a monocle walks around sampling the chemicals, barking commands like “Needs more cancer! And Red #4! Also a touch of nutmeg!” These false, unnatural substances have managed to take the essential components of natural fertilizer and make them unholy. Or so some think. If you put out two carrots, tell someone that Carrot #1 was fertilized with chemicals made in gleaming pristine factories where well-paid workers have a great health plan, and Carrot #2, which was fertilized with manure hand-packed by unskilled laborers who made minimum wage. Take your choice! Oh, and I’m not going to rinse it off first.

Turns out organic isn’t anything special, aside from its magical ability to make people pay twice the price for lettuce blessed by the “organic” designation. It can also make you just as sick as ordinary food if you don’t wash off Mother Nature’s Fertilizer. Eco-holy sounds a bit like e.coli, when you say it aloud.

But for some, the idea is counterintuitive. It cannot be right. It makes no sense to say that organic isn’t better than non-organic, just as it makes no sense to say that nuclear power is safe. Don’t argue facts with them; they have unimpeachable sources: Jane Fonda AND Meryl Streep.

Of course, it’s not fair to reject an international consensus based on a series of arguments with a relative who believes the oceans will slosh across Minnesota in a few years unless we start acting like Europeans, and take the train everywhere and live in houses so small you have to grease the hallways so two people can pass at the same time without resorting to leapfrog. This particular relative became the most vehement when discussing the shameful illumination of the downtown office towers. Really: What some might see as a beacon of Progress and Civilization, she saw as an earth-killing folly. (Apparently the Eiffel Tower – and the rest of the City of Light – is lit up by billions of volunteer fireflies.) If you should say well, let’s build another nuclear power plant, it’s like suggesting we shovel plutonium into premature-infant wards or napalm the Amazon or – heaven forbid – drill for oil somewhere. These are dangerous, irrational notions. Solar and wind, wind and solar. And a five-dollar tax on gas. When I tried to note how such a tax would be inflationary, given the amount of foods transported by train and truck, the argument promptly segued into cant (Europeans do it), casuistry (we should buy everything from local producers anyway) to the inevitable bottom line: we can’t go on like this.

Like how? CONSUMING! Consuming what? THINGS? Which things? THINGS PEOPLE DON’T NEED! Ah. This category is invariably stuffed with items the speaker finds useless or excessive, as opposed to the essential items like espresso makers, French wine, nice furniture, and a TV set that’s big enough to show a good indie movie but not so big you’d be tempted to rent “Transformers,” or anything. It’s those people living in McMansions in the suburbs we have to do something about. The ones who have to drive everywhere. If we can make them live in the city in sustainable huts insulated with hemp with a trolley clanging past every 10 minutes, buying what they need from a co-op, biking to work, straining their urine to use for laundry bleach, and otherwise living sustainably.

How about you just suburban people live as they like, but make air travel to Europe or Asia prohibitively expensive? Cut down on emissions that way.

No, that would be barbaric. Oh, and another thing about Americans: not only do they consume too much, they don’t have passports.

So you’d be happier if the people in the suburbs got passports and took stinky jets all over the world, polluting even more?

Well, they could see how other people live, and realize that the American way isn’t the best.

Whose is, then? I have no problem admitting that the French way is the best for France, since that’s how France turned out, and given the absence of blood in the gutters and leaders’ heads bouncing into baskets, it seems they like it. Likewise I am comfortable with the American way, in all its glorious options. I’m likewise comfortable with the advances and freedoms of Western Civilization. Always room for improvement. But these people want to knock it down by half, and they use fear and panic to do so. Always doom for improvement, if you will.

Reason #7: Because Al Gore is worried about it. That sealed the deal a long time ago.

It’s easy for the mask to slip when it’s just held in place by spittle

K-Lo at the Corner watches Chris Matthews, so you don’t have to. This is the sort of heroism that would earn someone a nine-hour triumph in Roman times. She plucked out this tidbit, which shows the danger of speaking your mind without having one:

As she points out, President Obama is the commander-in-chief, so West Point really isn’t, technically, an enemy camp. The part I found interesting – in a mere 31 seconds, such a bounteous crop of twaddle – is Matthew’s characterization of a president pumping up the troops.


Sarah Palin makes a man nervous, pt. 20,364

Today at the Mall of America I was pointing out some orange-hued Holiday Ornaments to a friend, and made the mistake of continuing to walk while looking over my shoulder. I ran right into a pole, head first, cut my brow and made a loud BONNNG sound that approximated a Tibetan gong. I blame Sarah Palin.

Like Sarah Palin, the placement of this pole is a troubling development, and speaks to problems not only in the Republican Party but our democracy at large. The pole appeared to be structural, even though it was slender, and it is a sign of our debased public standards that something this slender should be considered load-bearing. Barry Goldwater would have insisted on a much stouter pole; Ronald Reagan would managed to make the pole both populist and substantial. The pole, like Palin, looked good, but –

Hold on, I’m having a spell again. Have to sit down.


There. Better. What did I write while I was in my state? Let’s see . . . hmm. Nonsense. Utter drivel. Political commentary of the most intellectually facile sort, the sort of thing you might hear if Chris Matthews stuck his finger in a light socket and started babbling uncontrollably. (Correction: when he does it, which is apparently nightly on MSNBC.) It seems I was channeling this column by Steve Chapman in the Chicago Tribune. This week he wrote:

The 19th century American writer Henry Adams said the descent of American presidents from George Washington to Ulysses S. Grant was enough to discredit the theory of evolution. The same could be said of the pantheon of conservative political heroes, which in the last half-century has gone from Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan to Sarah Palin. That refutation may be agreeable to Palin, who doesn’t put much stock in Darwin anyway.

Ooh! Zing. Palin on Fox, Sept 17. 2008:

Q: Did you only want to teach creationism in school and not evolution?

A: No. In fact, growing up in a school teacher’s house with a science teacher as a dad, you know, I have great respect for science being taught in our science classes and evolution to be taught in our science classes.

Well, it’s truthy-true, if you must quibble. My point isn’t to defend Palin, who can handle herself, or to descend into ad hominem and wonder why so many men get the vapors and have to take to the fainting couch when Ms. Palin is discussed. Eek! She has a gun! Icky icky! No, let us just savor the left’s newfound admiration for Goldwater and Reagan. Previously Barry was dismissed a proto-Bircher who spent his private time mumbling about Precious Bodily Essences and wondering if he should nuke the Rooskies on Sunday in God’s honor, or do it on a Monday so it didn’t interrupt people’s day of rest. Reagan was the amiable dunce, Bonzo co-star, jelly-bean popper, an actor, fer heaven’s sake. But now Goldwater is retroactively suffused with wisdom, and it turns out Reagan actually pondered international relations and Communism at length, instead of being a nuke-happy dunderdolt who wanted to put missiles in Europe to manifest some sort of phallic metaphor. Who. Knew?

Chapman goes on. And on, and on:

Who needs policy? In her world — and the world of legions of conservatives who revere her — the persona is the policy. Palin is beloved because she’s (supposedly) just like ordinary people, which (supposedly) gives her a profound understanding of their needs.

That attitude used to be associated with the left, which claimed to speak for the ordinary folks who get shafted by the system. Logic and evidence about policy, to many liberals, were less important than empathy and good intentions. Now it’s conservatives who think we should be guided by our guts, not our brains.

It’s only safe to admit that many liberals were brain-ignoring and gut-guided when the conservatives have taken that approach, and liberals are lead by the Smartest Man Ever To Stride the Globe. Note also how the equation means that conservatives were once the ruthless rational types – which goes against decades of screeching about the right’s endless pantheon of fears. Commies! Homos! Minorities! Women! Apparently the right had excellent empirical briefs against all of them, in Chapman’s world, but have tossed them away for the Lure of the Gut.

He concludes:

You could almost forget that for well over a year, Republicans have ridiculed Barack Obama as lighter than a souffle, an inexperienced upstart who owes everything to arrogant presumption and a carefully crafted image. But Obama wrote a 375-page book, “The Audacity of Hope,” that shows a solid, and occasionally tedious, grasp of issues.

It is hard to imagine Palin (as opposed to a ghostwriter) producing anything comparable.

Almost as hard as it is to imagine that modern conservatives would expect it.

They’d expect it of Romney. Probably Pawlenty. They wouldn’t expect “a tedious grasp” from Palin, anymore than a Democrat would expect Joe Biden to talk about anything without putting his foot so far down his mouth his small intestine filed a restraining order. More to the point: guts can be useful if the head of state is grasping for endless federal control, tedious or not. If the head can produce an endlessly detailed rationale for putting the federal government in every doctor’s office in every town in every state, there are a great many people whose guts say “well, NO,” and they are drawn to someone whose instincts do not compel them to federalize every moment of your daily life – and don’t need 375 pages to tell you why.

To recap, then. All those gut-feeling liberals before Obama: good. All those smart, brainy conservatives: good, I guess. Popular figures on the right who channel the very same emotions liberals once claimed to understand: very very bad. It’s not because of her policies, mind you – it’s because she’s dumb and popular. If Sarah Palin believed in nationalizing the energy industry, raising the top tax rate to 50%, fleeing from Iraq, and had aborted her last child, why, they’d hate her just as much. Right?

No, of course not. Sometimes I think they feel good about being scared of Sarah Palin because they feel so bad about being proud of Barbara Boxer.

In the future, everyone will be anti-American for 15 minutes

Via HotAir, another nugget from the dependably unpleasant Jim Moran:

Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) has strong words for the Republicans opposing Attorney General Eric Holder’s plan to bring five 9/11 suspects to New York City to face trial.
“They see this as an opportunity to demagogue,” he said. “They will seize on any opportunity to do that, and that means they’ll even take a stand that’s un-American.”
“It’s un-American to hold anyone indefinitely without trial,” Moran added. “It’s against our principles as a nation


Well, Daniel Pearl’s parents object to the NYC venue. You’d think that the parents of the man beheaded by the hand of Khalid “Hedgehog” Mohammed would have “absolute moral authority,” to use Maureen Dowd’s hagiographic term for Cindy Sheehan, but not if you’re on the wrong side of an issue. If the Obama Administration wants criminal trials, then the people who are objecting the most strenuously must be doing so because they object to anything President Obama does, and since he is the shining manifestation of America, they’re un-American. If you cannot bellyfeel that, brother, you’re doubleplus ungood.

Accusations of u could be made daily by nationally-prominent Democrats, and they would never penetrate the brainpans of people who believe Bush held a mock crucifiction of the Dixie Chicks on the White House lawn and called them “traitors to America, and not incidentally, Country-Western music.”

So why isn’t dissent patriotic anymore? Because no one’s dissenting, really. They’re just gainsaying anything the administration puts out, of course. True dissent would require an intellectually honest argument opposing the President, and such a thing cannot by definition exist, any more than there are empirical critiques of the heliocentric view of the solar system or neutrinos the size of golf balls. You can excuse the Democrats if they become exasperated by having to share the stage with lunatics, but really, guys, let’s be careful out there. When discussing “Anti-American” people, and the subject includes people who sawed off the head of an actual American, you might want to consider who’s more worthy of the epithet.

On a related note: why did it take this long to try KSM, anyway? Isn’t he about two years past his expiration date? The Pakistanis hung the guy convicted of kidnapping and murdering Pearl over seven years ago. Even worse: they may have waterboarded him afterwards.

Calm down, man, you’ll burst a vessel

Why read Andrew Sullivan? Well, as the most-principled conservative in the world – a job he got by traducing or disavowing most conservative principles, which made him a Honest Voice to the left – he provides lessons for us all. But there’s another reason. Love this quote:

You realize after a while that they have no principles but the maintenance of their own power and the destruction of their perceived enemies. War for ever indeed – within American and outside it. At any cost. Whatever it takes.

The stern man-on-the-ramparts denunciation of infinite perfidy: pure Sullivan. Who’s the “they”? Neocons! Hsssss! What’s it about? It doesn’t really matter, but in this case it’s the controversy over an Iranian lobbying group. His point gets run through the industrial shredder over at the Weekly Standard; fun times.

No, the quote above is the reason you should read him. Some day he’s going to use the exact same phrase to describe the decision of McDonald’s to reduce the availability window of the Shamrock Shake by two days, or something equally innocuous, and I want to be there.

You cannot make this stuff up

Note: Every time I think this piece is done, there’s new revelations about Major Hasan, and a swift denial from the left that it means anything. I’d better post this before we find that Hasan had slipping away every few months to have a torrid affair with Bin Laden in a cave somewhere. Even then it would be wrong to bring it up, since it wouldn’t prove he was motivated by ideology, and might smack of homophobia.

What I wrote Monday:

The Texas Army base shooting has made some people pull a sheet over their head so they can’t see the obvious: Ft. Hood Hood, Syndrome, if you will. Every time I think I’ve found a nifty example. something else comes along. After the news that the shooter had attended the mosque run by the imam who had ties to the 9/11 guys, someone I follow on Twitter said:

I used to attend the same church as a serial killer. Does this make me guilty by association?

No. It does not. Thanks for playing.

It in a way, it’s a perfect post, if you’re looking for Ft. Hood Hood Syndrome defined: the paucity of facts is matched by the self-assuredness of the dismissal. And it’s sarcastic to boot! Pwned!

Of course it doesn’t make one guilty to go to a church attended by a serial killer. But if you like this church because the padre praises serial killers, was on another country’s most wanted list because of his support for serial killers, was associated with the greatest act of serial killing in the country’s history, was watched by the FBI, and you chose him to perform your mother’s funeral, AND he praised you after you became a serial killer and told others to follow your example, well, yes, people might see a connection . . . somewhere, I don’t know. You’re right. It’s all very murky. We may never know.

That’s the new line, I guess: Islamaphobia is bad enough, so let’s not compound it with guilt-by-association. Can’t wait to see how this person responds to the ABC report about Hasan’s attempts to contact Al Qaeda, but we all know how that’ll play out: well, he didn’t succeed, did he? So there.

(Shortly after I wrote that, the ever-dependable Chris Matthews was wondering whether trying to get in touch with Al Qaeda was a crime. I’d say “you can’t make this stuff up” but obviously you can, if your mouth has been running ahead of your brain for so long it’s sending you postcards from the other side of the planet.)

* * *

What I wrote Sunday:

Cartoon in the morning paper: the bony fingers of the Grim Reaper passes a bloody baton marked “Fort Hood Horror” to a beastly hand marked “Fear and Prejudice.” Says the owner of the claws: “I’ll take it from here.”

So let us ask: where did he take it?

It’s the cartoonist’s way of getting in front of all the reprisals en route, the witch trials – my heavens, do we really need to go through that again? Didn’t putting on “The Crucible” in high school theater class teach us anything? It hasn’t happened, of course, and it’s not going to happen, but it COULD happen, and in some alternate world where Americans are just more honest about their true character, the night sky glows with burning mosques. But without any dispatches from the planet Rethuglican, they have to content themselves with the knowledge that they’re better people than their theoretical adversaries.

If Puritianism was once the suspicion that someone, somewhere is enjoying themselves, multiculturalism is the suspicion that someone, somewhere, is holding Islam responsible for something besides algebra.

That has to be it, because the left certainly isn’t inclined to admire the religion itself. They’ll permit atheists to criticize religion, because they’re so good ‘n’ hardcore about EVERYONE, man – why, a good uncompromising atheist is like the left’s Ayn Rand. Testify! There are no doubt discomforts on the left with Islam, but that’s all they are. There will be an uncomfortable moment when gay marriage is legal, and a lesbian couple sues an Islamic adoption agency for discrimination; there might be a moment of confusion when leftists ask themselves why they never see a rainbow flag and an EVERYONE WELCOME sign outside a mosque, like you do with every other urban Protestant church – does Islam have different flags to indicate they’re gay friendly? – but all this is deemed irrelevant, because . . . well, because it is, that’s all. Talking about Islam is a distraction from the real problem of Christian fundamentalism, and assuming the Ft. Hood’s shooter’s motivations had anything to do with Islam is Islamophobia. So there.

Does it work both ways? If someone on the left hears there’s been a shooting at Planned Parenthood, does their mind automatically extirpate any speculation about the theological positions of the murderer? If they learn that someone shot up a GLBT counseling center, and later learned he was an unhinged Mormon, would they insist that it’s the height of intolerance to look into his church, and tie it all to the anti-Prop 8 effort? Of course not.

There’s a bumper sticker I see on my drive home every other day: “ISLAM IS THE ANSWER.” For many on the left, well, that depends on the question.

And don’t ask the question!

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September 2021