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Where in the World is Bean the Blogger?

[ 6 ] March 15, 2008 |

In the last 36 hours, I have:

1) woken up with food poisoning
2) spent the day vomiting
3) gone to the doctor and gotten an anti-nausea shot (and not in my arm)
4) gotten on an 8-hour plane-ride
5) slept for most of said plane-ride and shooed away the plane food (repeatedly and impatiently)
6) gotten of the 8-hour plane-ride.

Moral of the story: I’ll be traveling for the rest of the week. Will blog when possible, but probably sporadically. Enjoy any scandals that erupt while I’m gone.

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The Myth Of 1960

[ 13 ] March 14, 2008 |

I don’t mean to pile on the Mamet essay — given that it consists entirely of sophomoric cliches it will convert nobody, and as Roy says if it compels some wingers to check out Glengarry Glen Ross or American Buffalo the net effect will be positive — but since this particular foolishness gets wider circulation I figure it’s worth shooting down:

Bush got us into Iraq, JFK into Vietnam. Bush stole the election in Florida; Kennedy stole his in Chicago. Bush outed a CIA agent; Kennedy left hundreds of them to die in the surf at the Bay of Pigs. Bush lied about his military service; Kennedy accepted a Pulitzer Prize for a book written by Ted Sorenson. Bush was in bed with the Saudis, Kennedy with the Mafia.

Admittedly, some of this stuff about JFK has some merit (and, indeed, his “reverence” for Kennedy demonstrates the same shallowness as the collection of reactionary bromides under discussion). But “stole his in Chicago”? Leaving aside the fact that JFK stealing a net positive of votes in Illinois is assumed rather than proven, some simple math is in order:

1960 Election Electoral Votes
——————————

JFK: 303
Nixon: 219
Thurmond: 15

Illinois: 27

I think even a guy who couldn’t find his fuckin’ couch in the living room could figure this one out.

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"You want to know what it takes to work for the Hoover Institution? It takes brass balls to work at the Hoover Institution."

[ 0 ] March 14, 2008 |

Shorter Mamet:

I used to be a Democrat, but after reading Thomas Sowell I’m outraged by the Bay of fucking Pigs.

I don’t know what David Mamet was reading during the many years before his apparent political conversion, but he’s now convinced that Sowell is “our greatest contemporary philosopher.”

Er….

Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism” is too rich a book to be summarized in a newspaper column. Get a copy and start re-thinking the received notions about who is on “the left” and who is on “the right.” It is a book for people who want to think, rather than repeat rhetoric.

I suppose it’s only a matter of time before Mamet discovers that Michael Medved is our greatest contemporary film critic.

(Via Roy)

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Wanksta’s Paradise

[ 24 ] March 14, 2008 |

Wow. YouTube certainly does create entirely new possibilities for profound embarrassment.

Having said that, I think Matt is being too quick to cede the large tacky middlebrow vote to Clinton, although the lameness of the particular manifestations that sometimes emerge from Clinton supporters has been striking. Middlebrow is not a monolith! For example, correct me if I’m wrong, but the Oprah Winfrey Show strikes me as…not un-middlebrow. And while The Wire I’ll concede, I find it very puzzling to cite will.i.am’s musical support in behalf of the proposition that Obama is too cool to win.

Above: middlebrow schlock.

If Obama can just get a supporting video from an American Idol contestant, he’ll be back to par!

Speaking of which, since I was stuck at a hotel in exburban Virginia earlier in the week because I was in D.C. to give a lecture and waited too long too book a hotel at this time of year, I actually for the first time saw some American Idol as part of a captive audience at the hotel restaurant. Apparently, involves a bunch of fourth-rate singers murdering the Lennon/McCartney songbook, and doing an unspeakably atrocious arena-rock “Eleanor Rigby” gets you talked about as if Sam Cooke came back to earth and inhabited your body. (Note: I do not speak for the Obama campaign.)

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Somewhere, Heath Ledger Is Smiling

[ 28 ] March 14, 2008 |

John Gibson can’t quite meet the standards of Fox News.

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"Oops"

[ 0 ] March 13, 2008 |

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If We Don’t Contain the Communists, They’ll Soon be in Texas

[ 25 ] March 13, 2008 |

On Monday the Wall Street Journal recycled an editorial that conservatives have been using more or less since the late 1940s. The theme runs something like this:

Democrats are threatening to abet the cause of (Communism/Islamism) by failing to support our (puppet/strongman/”friend”) through (arms sales/financial support/free trade deals) and as such are revealing themselves to be traitors. A true patriot understands that our (puppet/strongman/”friend”) needs (arms/money/trade) in order to resist the inexorable advance of (Communism/Islamism).

Try it yourself; recommended insertions include “Augusto Pinochet,” “Ngo Dinh Diem,” and “Pervez Musharraf“.

In this Monday’s case, we find that the traitorous Nancy Pelosi is abetting the onslaught of communism by failing to press a Colombian free trade agreement forward with sufficient enthusiasm:

What is it about Democrats and Hugo Chávez? Even as the Venezuelan strongman was threatening war last week against Colombia, Congress was threatening to hand him a huge strategic victory by spurning Colombia’s free trade overtures to the U.S…..Colombian President Álvaro Uribe is embracing greater economic and political freedom. He has bravely assisted the U.S fight against narco-traffickers, and he now wants to link his country more closely to America with a free-trade accord. As a strategic matter, to reject Colombia’s offer now would tell everyone in Latin America that it is far more dangerous to trust America than it is to trash it….

Which brings us back to Mr. Chávez and his many Democratic friends. Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd’s early support helped the strongman consolidate his power. Former President Jimmy Carter blessed Mr. Chávez’s August 2004 recall victory, despite evidence of fraud. And then there are the many House Democrats, current and former, who have accepted discount oil from Venezuela and then distributed it in the U.S. to boost their own political fortunes. Joseph P. Kennedy II and Massachusetts Congressman Bill Delahunt have been especially cozy with Venezuela’s oil company. If Democrats spurn free trade with Colombia, these Democratic ties with Mr. Chávez will deserve more political scrutiny.

One might, at this point, observe that Hugo Chavez’ political survival is tied intimately to the price of oil, and as such by any reasonable accounting has been done immense service by the war in Iraq and by continued bluster against Iran. Indeed, I’m inclined to think that Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have done far more to solidify Chavez’ position than any Democrat… with the possible exception of Joe Lieberman.

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The Push Up

[ 0 ] March 13, 2008 |

Interesting…

The push-up is the ultimate barometer of fitness. It tests the whole body, engaging muscle groups in the arms, chest, abdomen, hips and legs. It requires the body to be taut like a plank with toes and palms on the floor. The act of lifting and lowering one’s entire weight is taxing even for the very fit…

But many people simply can’t do push-ups. Health and fitness experts, including the American College of Sports Medicine, have urged more focus on upper-body fitness. The aerobics movement has emphasized cardiovascular fitness but has also shifted attention from strength training exercises…

In a 2001 study, researchers at East Carolina University administered push-up tests to about 70 students ages 10 to 13. Almost half the boys and three-quarters of the girls didn’t pass.

I, for one, simply can’t do pushups. I’ve never in my life been able to do more than a couple dozen, and that leaves me in a state of crippling pain. And this is in spite of engaging in fairly regular (3-4 times a week) upper body weightlifting. As it appears that my experience is not unique, I have to wonder how useful it is to use the push up as a proxy for physical fitness, or to focus on it at the expense of other exercises…

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Do Not Go Gently

[ 0 ] March 13, 2008 |

Apparently Geraldine Ferraro is taking a page from Dylan Thomas. Yes, it’s true that she submitted her resignation last night from Senator Clinton’s “very large” finance committee (those are Sen. Clinton’s words in quotes). According to NY Mag, Ferraro’s resignation included this tidbit:

“If anybody is going to apologize,” she said defiantly, “They should apologize to me for calling me a racist.”

Right. And apparently she plans to continue hitting the campaign trail, so she can “speak for herself.” If I were a member of the Clinton staff, I would fund a long vacation somewhere very remote for Ms. Ferraro…and stat.

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Silver Platter

[ 0 ] March 13, 2008 |

In light of the too-late resignation of Clinton campaign Senior Adviser For Race-Baiting Gerry Ferraro, it’s worth highlighting this about New York’s new governor:

With Spitzer announcing his resignation amid a prostitution scandal, Paterson, 53, will become the country’s third African American governor since Reconstruction.

Still, black people just have it too damned easy in this country!

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The Essence of Dick

[ 32 ] March 13, 2008 |

One of my great satisfactions in life occurs once or twice a year when I get to lecture on Richard Nixon; on those days, I remember what Christmas was like before I stopped believing in Santa Claus. For what I’m sure are complicated reasons, I find it immensely cathartic to spend several hours (as I did tonight) reliving the uninterrupted horror of those years. Almost none of my students were alive while he was in office, and few of them even remember when he died in 1994. When I explain that Richard Nixon is at the top of my list of presidents I’d like to engage in a drunken fistfight, they just think it’s weird that I possess such a list. As far as they’re concerned, I might as well throw down with Calvin Coolidge or Franklin Pierce.

By way of distinguishing between Nixon and your garden-variety chief executive, I try to explain that in his moment, Nixon was the closest approximation to a natural disaster that American political history had ever seen. He employed burglars and thugs who spoke casually about murdering journalists and bombing the Brookings Institute. Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney worked for him, for god’s sake, and they were merely shapeless wads of goo compared with mature psychopaths like Liddy and Colson and Hunt and the rest. Toads like Ben Stein conceived speeches for him during those last drunken months. By the time his career ended, it was as if the nation’s brain had been infested by parasites or poisoned by arsenic; and forty years after his election, we’re still cramped up, delirious and vomiting and scratching our skin raw because of what he managed to do in less than six years. And the fact that we got a couple of fucking pandas out of the bargain does not, in my view, set things right.

Every time I teach Nixon, something new stands out as the essence of Dick. Some years, it might his obsession with the film Patton, which he watched over and over, like a teenager with a reel of bootlegged porn, while deciding to invade Cambodia. Last year, I yammered on and on about his efforts to micromanage the planning details for social events at the White House — obsessing for hours over napkin styles and hors d’oeuvres selections, all of which Alexander Butterfield described in jaw-slackening detail during his Watergate testimony. Tonight, it was simple — a brief moment at the beginning of Nixon’s “Silent Majority” speech in November 1969. I’ve played this address in class many times, but we’re always drawn the last and most famous section, when he introduces his audience to his Imaginary Friend — the “silent majority” itself — and explains, ever so gently, that dirty hippies are not going to shape his policy. For my money, at least, it represents the most brilliant and insincere five minutes in Nixon’s entire presidency.

As compelling as those moments are, however, I can honestly say I’d never noticed this fantastic declaration that lands mere seconds into the event.

I believe that one of the reasons for the deep division about Vietnam is that many Americans have lost confidence in what their Government has told them about our policy. The American people cannot and should not be asked to support a policy which involves the overriding issues of war and peace unless they know the truth about that policy.

What follows, of course, is a mass of lies — a stream of methane vapor twenty minutes long that has, of late, wafted anew every time Bush, McCain, Lieberman or anyone else reminds us of America’s noble intentions in Iraq or warns the nation against a “precipitate withdrawal” from a war they pretend we can still win.

It’s not quite as theatrical as Nixon’s later claim not to be a crook, and it lacks the rhetorical thrill of a presidential candidate promising to be a uniter rather than a divider, but I think the essence of Nixon is visible in those two sentences.

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Journalistic Restraint

[ 42 ] March 13, 2008 |

The NY Times has unveiled “Kristen.”

I have to say, the decision to reveal her identity publicly makes me somewhat uncomfortable — she will now be branded as the woman who brought down Spitzer, and as a prostitute. She is sure to face stigma (though perhaps she’ll get her 15 minutes too). That said, she’s an adult and chose to talk on the phone with the Times reporter.

Still, something about it sits funny.

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