Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Around the World Wide Web 23

Boy, am I busy. This is the last week of Cyrano, which closes on Friday. On Saturday I play Bottom in selected scenes from A Midsummer-Night's Dream at a benefit dinner. Plus I have a full-time job. Blogging will have to be set aside for a few days at least.

1. Neal Boortz points out this interview with National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell about, among other things, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a law that treats war as if it were domestic law enforcement. It takes 200 hours to get a warrant to monitor conversations between Islamic terrorist suspects overseas and an individual in this country. I can understand the enemy resisting our war efforts, but why is our own government binding our warriors in bureaucratic red tape?

2. Born Again Redneck posts some thought-provoking quotes from Ayn Rand.

3. Some leftist calls for the military to arrest Bush. Captain Ed has this idiot's number:

...Civilian oversight keeps the military from seizing power and is a long and vital tradition in this nation. It's what keeps us from becoming a banana republic, run by military strongmen.

Lewis wants to turn America into just that kind of nation. His Bush-hatred runs so deep that he would willingly see the military take control over the federal government just to get rid of him. The Left likes to talk about supposed fascism among conservatives, but the Huffington Post is literally calling for a military coup to reverse an election, not only an un-Constitutional act but also the kind of authoritarian rule they supposedly despise.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Born Again Redneck has problems keeping his blonde drunken starlets straight:

Maybe I'm getting old. I just can't keep up with all these drunk-driving bleached-blonde Hollywood celebriclone drug addicts who seem to pop in and out of rehab like cuckoo clocks.

I'm deeply disappointed that Patrick does not follow the sufferings of Lindsey/Britney/Paris/next month's flavor with avid interest.

But seriously, his post implies an interesting question: why are people fascinated by the legal and personal problems of drunken celebrity sluts? These young women have beauty and fame, which does distinguish them to a degree, but not much else. Their talent is, in my opinion, minimal -- but I can see how a Britney Spears is of value to young girls. Kids prefer cartoons to Tolstoy, and Spears is like a cartoon version of a singer/dancer. (My sister, a high school librarian, blames the influence of Britney Spears on the contemporary trend of girls talking in a baby voice.)

Intellectually, these starlets are, to put it charitably, undistinguished. If they have said anything intelligent, I've missed it. One young celebrity, I forget which, when asked if she and her date wanted buffalo wings, replied, "We don't eat buffalo." One wonders if she thought buffalo have wings.

Paris Hilton recently said she wants to stop acting dumb. I must say, her act so far has been most convincing. Either she is a method actress or it's not entirely an act. Wasn't it Paris Hilton who asked if Wal-Mart only sells stuff for walls?

These starlets are the opposite of Greta Garbo. Garbo was a remarkable beauty and a talented actress, a real star. She was also an intensely private woman. Like her character in Grand Hotel, she just wanted to be alone. At the height of her fame in the 1930's she was plagued by a pack of reporters who would camp outside her home, hoping to get pictures. Unlike Garbo, if today's starlets were left alone they would be devastated; fame is their raison d'etre.

It's frustrating that celebrity fame is disconnected from actual achievement. A scientist who researches a cure for cancer toils in obscurity, but a vapid actress with dyed hair and a boob job gets fame. Such is the way of the world. People don't scrutinize celebrity to see if the idols deserve the attention. If a Paris Hilton is famous, they accept it.

Dr. Hurd has lamented America's obsession with fame. Young people develop twisted values so that achievement and self-fulfillment are not prized as highly as being talked about by other people. This fame obsession is a form of social metaphysics: the reality of one's life is not as important as what other people think about you -- or the fact that many other people do think about you.

The disconnect between fame and achievement is, I believe, part of the reason so many of these young celebrities use drugs and alcohol. Deep down they suspect that they really don't deserve the adoration of the masses. At the risk of psychologizing, I think this had something to do with Kurt Cobain's suicide. Despite his fame, inside he still felt like a screwed up adolescent, nihilist junkie; the more people worshipped him, the more agonizing was the disconnect. Cobain saw the cult of fame from the inside and he saw that it is hollow.

Celebrities face another psychological problem, one Mises writes about in The Anti-Capitalist Mentality: entertainers are disposable. Unlike toothpaste or sausage, to which consumers develop loyalty, people get bored with entertainers and want something new. The show biz bible is called Variety for a reason. An entertainer can become forgotten as quickly as he shot to fame. So these stars of minimal talent achieve the Holy Grail of modern culture, fame, and they know they could lose it fast. The instability of the business must be difficult to live with.

So what is the answer to my original question, why are people fascinated by the legal and personal problems of drunken celebrity sluts? I guess if people are willing to be fascinated in celebrities such as Paris Hilton who are famous for little more than being famous, then it follows that they would be interested in their drunken mistakes, their jail time and their mental breakdowns. These problems are the stuff of gossip.

It's depressing. The fascination with celebrity sleaze gives us a view of humanity that is uninspiring and banal. Instead of man as pioneer, genius, producer, scientist or artist, we have man as backyard gossip. Some people shrug it off, but for hero-worshippers who cherish high ideals, it can be hard to take. But one can always ignore idiocy and ignorance and focus on better things. Just because many people choose to talk about nonsense doesn't mean you have to.

Friday, August 24, 2007


It's a fascinating country, India: "The world's largest democracy," with a population of 1.12 billion, and now the world's customer service department. It is a place of vast contradictions that embraces (in a mixed economy) the individualism of a free market, yet retains vestiges of a pre-capitalist caste society. How many Indians will touch an untouchable to this day?

On the 15th of this month India celebrated its 60th anniversary of independence from the United Kingdom. As an American I tip my hat and say congratulations. A free and flourishing India is not only morally right, it is important to the world's economy. And India is, along with Israel, America's natural ally in the war against Islamic totalitarianism.

I believe that independence is good, but I also think India's association with the British Empire was the best thing that ever happened to it -- another paradox in this land of contradictions! The infusion of western values that came from Britain accounts for India's progress and is the foundation of its freedom.

"East is east and west is west, and never the twain shall meet," wrote Rudyard Kipling, but in India today the two very different cultures do meet. I once read an anecdote about an Indian VIP who was taken to a concert in New York City of the three B's -- Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. After the concert he was asked which he liked best. He said he liked the piece at the very beginning the best. After some confusion his American host realized the Indian thought the orchestra tuning up was part of the show and liked that best.

In India you can find individuals on the cutting edge of the Information Revolution, but you'll also find ghastly superstitions and mysticism. Now, mysticism is everywhere in the world, from Malibu to Melbourne to Madrid to Marakesh; but it is noisier and more bizarre in Mumbai. You don't find fakirs lying on a bed of nails in Montana.

Along with the mysticism in India you can find many who subscribe to the philosophy of Ayn Rand, a philosophy of reason and reality that is the opposite of mysticism. I was fascinated in the 1980's to read announcements in The Intellectual Activist of all the cities where Leonard Peikoff's taped lectures could be heard. After the USA, the country with the most lectures by far was India.

When Leonard Peikoff's Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand was published in 1991, I could hardly put it down and I took it to work with me as a temp legal proofreader. This being New York City, I was surrounded by liberals, of course; they reacted to the sight of the book with revulsion, as if I had done something wrong merely by bringing the book to work. I was not part of the politically correct group. But there was one Indian woman at work, an immigrant with a heavy accent whose eyes lit up at the sight of the book and we had a very nice conversation about our favorite philosopher. To the liberals, Ayn Rand represented an enemy to be scorned; to that Indian woman she represented the best within, the hope of aspirations fulfilled by the use of reason and productiveness in a free country. (I suspect that the Indian woman was the only one in the office besides me who had actually read Ayn Rand.)

What are we to make of a country where one can find both Objectivists and Hindus? A country where one can find computer programmers and women who decorate fire hydrants with flowers in some fertility ritual because they look like phallic symbols? A country that has a thriving international commerce and poor people who defecate in the gutter?

I think the contradictions in India are the same as the rest of the world -- the struggle of reason vs. faith, individualism vs. collectivism, freedom vs. statism -- but the mysticism is purer, which is to say more backward and less tempered by the west's philosophic heritage of reason. The crisis is similar to that in the Islamic world, but India seems to have benefited from its Hindu religion's syncretism. Unlike the more dogmatic Islam, Hinduism, from what little of it I understand, has a tradition of bringing in outside ideologies and working with them.

Looking at the struggles in non-western civilizations reminds me how much we owe to the medieval scholastics led by Thomas Aquinas, who integrated Aristotle with Christianity. They made this world real to Christians and made all the subsequent achievements of science and civilization, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, possible.

Hindus must have their limit of how much reason they will tolerate before they lash out in mindless force. Hinduism is certainly no guarantee of freedom. India seems to be in a precarious position: will it move forward in the direction of reason and freedom or backward to its mystical past?

Ultimately, the fate of India and the world rests on the fate of America. American leadership allows the best elements of the rest of the world to work for peace and international trade. If America succumbs to religion and statism, there is no hope for the rest of the world.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Free Michael Vick

Let me see if I can make you angry.

Michael Vick is an innocent man who is being persecuted by an unjust government.

...the NFL star agreed Monday to "accept full responsibility" for his role in a dogfighting ring and plead guilty to federal conspiracy charges.


The maximum term is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, although federal sentencing guidelines likely would call for less. Defense attorneys would not divulge details of the plea agreement or how much time Vick can expect to serve.

However, a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the terms are not final, told The Associated Press that prosecutors will recommend a sentence of a year to 18 months.

The sport of dogfighting is disgusting, sick, immoral and even evil. To want to watch dogs rip each other to shreds is sadistic; it might be a sign of psychological problems. Certainly it is a sign of inferior imagination and sympathy to the suffering of man's best friend.

It reminds me of the spectacle of bearbaiting, which was popular in Shakespeare's day: dogs were loosed to attack a chained bear. In Merry Wives of Windsor Shakespeare has a moron speak with fascination about bearbaiting. Although both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I loved the sport, it is clear that Shakespeare was not a fan.

Michael Vick is like pornographers, drug dealers, flag burners, prostitutes, Leona Helmsly and Michael Milken: he is among the least defensible, most loathed people in America, whom the government feels confident to persecute even though they have done nothing that would be against the law in a truly free country.

The NFL has every right to ban Vick from the game for life for his participation in dogfighting. However, dogfighting should not be a crime. Animals have no rights, only humans have rights. To give animals rights means to violate human rights. If animals have rights, then one could argue that eating a hamburger and wearing leather shoes are crimes.

Let's take it to the absurd extreme. If animals have rights, then one could argue that any assertion of human will over an animal is a crime. No one asked my cats if they wanted to live with me. I asserted my will over them, bought them and took them home in a little cage as if they were, well, animals.

Animals do not have rights because they do not have the faculty of reason. They deal with one another using force, and humans have a right to initiate force against animals.

It comes down to property rights. If a person owns an animal, then he should have the right to dispose of his property as he wishes. Property rights are absolute; a free and just state should go out of its way not to violate them in any way. It should go so far to protect property rights that it errs on the side of going too far, if such is possible.

Men do not have property rights if they do not have the right to be immoral, stupid, unfair, whimsical and disgusting with their property. A proper government exists only to protect and defend individual rights, not to make sure people are fair, moral and intelligent. This is hard for many to accept in our age when the government routinely violates property rights in countless ways. This absolute, laissez-faire conception of rights is currently theoretical and unconnected to the reality of our mixed economy. It is, as Ayn Rand called capitalism, the unknown ideal.

(Incidentally, isn't it odd that people want to throw the book at Vick but they yawn when Mary Winkler, who murdered her sleeping husband -- a human being -- with a shotgun blast, is let out after 67 days?)

The proper punishment for one who abuses animals is social ostracism. People can voluntarily refuse to sanction irrational, destructive behavior against animals. If we had a free government, then our traditions and customs of volunteer, social punishment would be stronger and more effective, just as private charities flourished before the New Deal brought the state into the charity business.

I don't want to come across as a flower child but I personally think the sport of game hunting is a barbaric holdover from the middle ages. I think it is sick to spend one's leisure time killing animals. People can get much of the thrill of the hunt pursuing animals with a camera instead of a rifle and I believe this is psychologically better than some atavistic lust to butcher a beast in cold blood. But I recognize that hunters have a right to their kills. I hope that as reason spreads through our culture -- if that ever happens -- that the popularity of hunting will wane.

The better our culture becomes, the better our norms of treating animals will be, but our advancement is stifled and indeed retarded when the state assumes the role of our conscience and tells people what they should and should not do. As always, when the state intervenes where is ought not, then people forget their responsibilities and become like children who depend on adults to think and judge for them.

UPDATE: Took out one word, tyrannical; it seems an overstatement of the US government.

Around the World Wide Web 22

1. Do you think any drugs were involved in the making of this Turtles video, or are they just a bunch of happy young men?

2. John Edwards's ignorance will astonish you. How can anyone with half a mind be so clueless as to ask if Cuba's health care system is government controlled? Does he not know what communism is?  If a Republican said something that stupid, it would be the end of his Presidential aspirations.

3. Richard Salsman on "The Quiddity of Liquidity."

4. Robert Novak says Jimmy Carter lies more than Bill Clinton.  I'm glad we've finally found some distinction for the man.

5. This review of an Off-Broadway play about Palestinian women is quite interesting.  It is written by a feminist who should be sympathetic to the play, but is clear-thinking enough to see it for the poorly written propaganda it is.

6. Phillis Schlafly looks at the New Leftist agenda of the National Education Association, America's largest teachers union. It must be miserable to be a non-leftist member of this union. Non-leftists who teach in government schools must face crises of conscience every day.  I don't know how they do it.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Defining Premise

Have you ever wondered what makes a person a liberal or a conservative, a Democrat or a Republican? Or to be more precise with language, what makes a person a socialist or not?

Is it the old joke -- a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged? Or the other old joke -- he who is not a liberal at 20 has no heart and he who is not a conservative at 40 has no brain?

Is it just environment? Do children tend to take on the opinions and beliefs of their parents and their peers? This probably explains many people, especially the passive-minded people who are content to go along with the crowd. But what shaped the opinions and beliefs of their parents and peers? There can't be an infinite regress; at some point, somebody had to have an original thought.

Is it the belief in God? Many more Republicans than Democrats believe in God. But how do you explain that Objectivists, up until lately, voted mostly Republican? With the growth of religion, the belief in God might become the defining premise in American politics in the near future -- and a baleful day that will be indeed. But we're not quite there yet.

Is it pressure group politics? Do people gravitate toward the party that serves their interests best? This would explain why minorities and unions vote Democrat and why the middle class, small business and military vote Republican. But it does not explain why rich educated whites vote Democrat, nor does it explain why many poor people in the "heartland" vote Republican. Both parties are such broad coalitions that it is hard to determine sometimes who they would not give money to in order to buy votes.

In my opinion, the defining premise is the belief in moral absolutes. Liberals are moral relativists. Both the religious right and Objectivists are moral absolutists. (The problem with the religious right, of course, is that their morality comes from religion, not reality. Their morality is grounded in faith, not reason, and is therefore dogmatic.)

In issue after issue, you can see politics determined by morality. Take crime, for an easy example. As moral relativists, liberals tend toward lenient punishment; they shrink in horror from the death penalty. Those who believe in moral absolutes, on the other hand, see vigorous punishment as justice; when someone kills in cold blood, he deserves to be executed.

In the 19th century Thomas Jefferson, a product of the Enlightenment, thought rapists deserve the death penalty. Today, after two centuries of the radical subjectivism of modern philosophy after Kant, most people would think Jefferson was a little harsh. One wonders how much modern philosophy has affected even those of us who oppose it.

Guns are another issue. Liberals think, "Who are we to judge other people?" It's a short step from that idea to, "Who are we to hold the power of a gun? Only the state should have such power." (Granted, the state is just comprised of fallible individuals as much as any other institution; this is a contradiction of statism.)

Liberals support intervention in the economy because it's not fair that employers with their subjective judgment can fire whomever they want or pay "slave wages."

The belief in moral absolutes has been the defining premise in politics all my life. But things are changing, and not for the better, with the increasing religiosity of the Republicans and the increasing radicalization of the Democrats (see Daily Kos). What does the future hold?

If the Republicans become the party of religion and the Democrats the party of modern philosophy, then we will have a pure, classic rationalist-empiricist split in American politics, with the left mumbling skepticism and the right shouting dogma detached from reality. Neither party will be a comfortable fit for those who advocate reason, except on an ad hoc basis. We're close to this situation now, although both parties show moments of lucidity and reasonableness.

We come to an interesting question: Why has President Bush, a seriously religious man, advanced socialism with his spending and big government?

Well, he is actually being consistent with Jesus Christ with his socialism. Christ was no capitalist; his Sermon on the Mount sounds outright communist to me. Christ was an altruist who believed the individual should sacrifice.

The contradiction between capitalism and Christianity has always been present in the religious right. Throughout the 20th century, as traditionalists, they rode the last waves of our enlightenment heritage and were for free markets (to some extent, or at least in lip service). As modern philosophy advances and we get further from the 18th century, the right will become more altruist and socialist. Combine that statism with nationalism and religious dogma and you will have fascism. Religion does not protect the right from modern philosophy.

Although the defining premise now is the belief in moral absolutes, the difference 20 years from now might be whether or not one subscribes to reason and reality -- with a vast majority on the left and right who do not uphold reason and reality and a small minority who do.

UPDATE: Revision.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Seasonal Commerce

Someone on the radio mentioned seeing Halloween stuff in a store -- in the last week of July. July!

At first this bothered me. Personally, I don't want to see Halloween decorations before October. September should be about Labor Day (even though it's a commie idea), the end of summer and back to school. August should be about nothing but the fact that it is about nothing (dog days, "silly season," everyone is on vacation). So Halloween decorations on sale in July seems premature.

After a second thought I reconsidered; the store probably knows what it is doing. Selling decorations is entirely different from using them. If a store can make a profit selling Halloween stuff in July, why shouldn't it? The people who get upset about this are confused about the retailer's purpose. His purpose is to make a profit, not to celebrate holidays. The retailer has to put the holiday items out before people use them in order to get the business.

So go ahead retailers: make it Christmas in July if you want. If nothing else, you provoke angry radio hosts to talk about you. You know the old line -- no publicity is bad publicity.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Around the World Wide Web 21

1. I was watching this video on You Tube and enjoying it enough, despite the poor sound quality, because it featured two heroes of my childhood, John Lennon and Chuck Berry, singing "Memphis, Tennessee," a nice example of Berry's songwriting genius. Then I heard this sound. It was like, like... someone taking a stick out of a duck's throat. Or someone passing gas on a plastic bean bag chair.

It was Yoko. Singing.

It angers me. John Lennon can marry who he wants, and he and his wife can do New Leftist PR stunts, and his wife can even break up the Beatles. That's all fine. But putting Yoko on stage with Chuck Berry -- that's just wrong. You don't insult a man like that.

2. Via Instapundit I came across this piece by John Leo on modern journalism.

If anyone ever starts a museum of horrible explanations, the one-liner by Newsweek's Evan Thomas about his magazine's dubious reporting on the Duke non-rape case — "The narrative was right but the facts were wrong" — is destined to become a popular exhibit, right up there with "we had to destroy the village to save it."

What Mr. Thomas seems to mean is that the newsroom view of the lacrosse players as privileged, sexist, and arrogant white male jocks was the correct angle on the story. It wasn't.

Leo gives many examples, not just the Duke lacrosse players story. The writers with this modern epistemology are so sure their world view is right despite contrary facts that, at their worst, they are willing to make up facts that fit their "narrative." When they don't make up facts, they commit routine bias by ignoring what doesn't fit and selecting to spotlight what fits their "narrative."

3. Literatrix insists, like the guy in that Monty Python movie, that she is not dead. But how does she know? How does she know she is not in hell being tricked by Satan into thinking she is alive? (Sorry, I just finished Robert Mayhew's Descartes's Meditations.)

4. Roger Simon mocks Tommy Thompson's failed presidential aspirations because Thompson insulted Jews, gays and Muslims. Insulting groups of people is generally not a good strategy for politicians who want as many votes as possible. The Jewish comment aside, however, I agree with his statements on gays on Muslims:

[Thompson] was asked: "If a private employer finds homosexuality immoral, should he be allowed to fire a gay worker?"

Thompson replied: "I think that is left up to the individual business. I really sincerely believe that that is an issue that businesspeople have got to make their own determination as to whether or not they should be."

Moderator: "So the answer is yes?"

Thompson: "Yes."

Thompson later blamed the need to go to the bathroom and a dead hearing aid battery for his answer. (Also, he was not wearing the tinfoil hat that he uses to block out gamma rays from Mars.)

Thompson had been a popular political figure in Wisconsin -- having been elected to an unprecedented four terms as governor -- and also was secretary of Health and Human Services.

So what does he do at Ames in what he knows will probably be his last national speech?

He insults Muslims.

"I went to Afghanistan, and women couldn't go out of their homes without a burqa," Thompson told the crowd. "Wouldn't that have been nice today in this temperature?"

As I write this column, the temperature in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, is 95 degrees, which is hotter than Ames was on Saturday when Thompson spoke. And, I guarantee you, women are walking around in burqas in the sun without being as addled as Thompson was without one in air conditioning.

I find nothing wrong with either answer. Employers should be able to fire whoever the hell they want to fire and burqas are ridiculous. I guess politicians can't tell truth anymore.

5. George Reisman on "The Housing Bubble and the Credit Crunch."

6. Hurricane Flossie brushes by Hawaii. I thought they were called typhoons in the Pacific, but I must be confused.

UPDATE: Deleted the gratuitous jab at women. I needn't blame the entire female sex for Yoko's strange effect on John Lennon's musical judgment.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Oregon Shakespeare Festival will be going downhill.

Hip-hop at a Shakespeare festival? It may be a stretch, but Bill Rauch seems prepared to try many things to attract a more diverse audience to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where he is the new artistic director.

...The audience has gotten steadily older and wealthier: Between 1991 and 2004, the mean age increased to 56 from 48, and the mean income to $95,250 from $68,600. Although the acting company is 25% people of color, the audience is 95% white.

Enter Mr. Rauch, 43, who has many ideas about to make the Festival not only artistically better but also more welcoming to audiences of all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. Bringing in hip-hop is one. Another is a Latino festival, to take place next summer around the opening of a production of Arthur Miller's "A View from the Bridge," interpreted with a largely Latino cast. A third is his plan to replace the current format of the Green Show - free outdoor performances, prior to the evening curtain, which currently feature a modern-dance company - with a rotating schedule of diverse local and national artists.

...Mr. Rauch hopes to establish a connection to the growing Latino population in the Rogue River Valley, through events like the Latino festival, which will include Spanish-language play readings and performances where Spanish speakers can hear simultaneous translations of English-language productions over headsets.

For this fall, he is planning what he calls "a hip-hop boot camp," which will bring hip-hop artists to town to generate ideas for future projects. "At first blush a Shakespeare festival doing hip-hop may sound absurd," he acknowledged, "but I think there's a real connection between theatrical movements that are about celebrating language and combining slang with elevated poetic forms. Shakespeare grabbed vernacular from the street." [This reads like a parody -- ed.]


Mr. Rauch wants to produce non-Western classics, beginning next season with an adaptation of the Sanskrit epic "The Clay Cart," which he will direct. He also wants OSF to play a greater role in developing new plays. Next season's schedule includes the world premiere of "Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter" by Julie Marie Myatt, about a female Marine returning from Iraq. It will head afterward to the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.

It's common for Artistic Directors to want to make their casts more diverse. Mr. Rauch is going one better: he's worried because the audience is too white. Wanting to get "audiences of all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds" is fine, but you don't do that by lowering Shakespeare to the level of Hip-Hop street culture. "Oh, Juliet -- thou is my bitch." Wouldn't it be better to appeal to the best within people of all skin colors, to focus on universal values?

OSF's new Artistic Director is focused on bringing New Leftist values of multiculturalism and diversity to the festival. Basically, he's going to turn the atmosphere into what you see on college campuses today.

I go to a Shakespeare play to see great art; as a side benefit, I get away from modern culture. I like to see art from an age now dead, and be reminded of a time when western culture had different standards -- when it had higher standards, and looked at metaphysical issues that are universal to all humans, not just skin color. Mr. Rauch is telling me, "Sorry -- as the Sartre play says, no exit."

Karl Rove's Legacy

Here are two Republican reactions to Karl Rove leaving. First, from John Hawkins:

Rove is generally considered to be a political genius and undoubtedly, he knows a lot about politics and running a campaign. However, his reputation seems a bit undeserved given how disastrous the last two and a half years of the Bush Administration have been.

I mean, if you're the primary political adviser to a candidate who hasn't even been polling consistently in the forties since early 2005, you're either doing a terrible job, the candidate is a nightmare, or some combination thereof.

Given how well Bush did in his first term and some of the really terrible ideas Rove has reportedly been behind, like comprehensive immigration reform and the Medicare Prescription drug benefit, you have to think that he has had a lot to do with Bush's lack of political acumen in his second term.

There are rumors floating around that Rove may be leaving to help one of the GOP candidates in 2008, but honestly, with his track record over the last couple of years, would anyone really want to base their political future on Karl Rove's advice?

I agree with this. I think the case against Rove is even worse than what Hawkins says. Why did spending go through the roof under Bush? Because Rove's strategy, as far as I can figure, was, "To hell with all that old fashioned talk about free markets and less government. In a welfare state you have to increase spending to buy votes. Cutting spending is too risky."

Bush bears the ultimate blame for his administration, but you have to think that Rove's pragmatism urged the more government/big spending approach.

Now here is Hugh Hewitt's take:

Democrats have to be worried that when Karl Rive exits the White House in August, he'll take a month off and end up at the virtual elbow of Mayor Giuliani, Governor Romney, or Senator Thompson. They should be worried. Of course that's what he (and Ken Mehlman) will be doing. All-stars whose franchise can't play for the title often show up in the heat of the hunt. Politics is like sports in many ways. And Rove is the Tiger Woods of politics. (That would almost make Bob Shrum Greg Norman, but Norman won two majors. I need a better analogy for Shrum.)

Rove is 5 for 6 in the big elections he has skippered, and despite more attacks than any presidential aide in history, he is strolling out of the White House with a smile on his face and the admiration of nearly everyone in the GOP. If he gets bored, there will be plenty of opportunities for him to return to the thing he does best --beating Democrats in November. When he does return, Dems will panic again.

Rove wins elections, and that is the most important thing to Hugh Hewitt. Also good, Rove makes leftists lose their mind. The mention of his name has the ability to cloud a Democrat's mind with fear and loathing, and that's always a good thing, isn't it?

Hewitt's position, by implication, is, "Screw small government principles, screw the free market, screw Goldwater, screw that extremist laissez-faire capitalism stuff and you know what? Screw the United States of America. Karl Rove wins elections for the Republican party. Case closed."

Until we get Republicans who can look past the next election, who can think in principles such as individual rights and who put America ahead of the Republican Party, then the GOP will continue its march to fascism.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Long Day

I'm exhausted. I rehearsed from noon to 3pm, then drove to Lancaster (getting quite lost on the way) to jam with the guys I used to play with back in the 1970's. I played bass and focused on "staying in the pocket," as bass players put it. I just wanted to hit right notes and stay on beat, and I did pretty well, nothing fancy (certainly nothing like Jaco Pastorius). My old mates were as sharp as ever.

We played:

"Cortez the Killer" (Neil Young and Crazy Horse)

"Like A Hurricane" (Neil Young and Crazy Horse)

"Old Man" (Neil Young)

"Ticket to Ride" (Beatles)

"Suzy Q" (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

"Sweet Melissa" (Allman Brothers)

"Your Time Is Gonna Come" (Led Zeppelin)

"Going to California" (Led Zeppelin)

"Sweet Home Alabama" (Lynyrd Skynyrd, the hardest three-chord song there is for guitarists)

"Walk Away" (James Gang)

"La Grange" (ZZ Top)

"Purple Haze" (Jimi Hendrix)

"Wind Cries Mary" (Jimi Hendrix)

"Wish You Were Here" (Pink Floyd)

"Eyes of the World" (Grateful Dead)

The only song that defeated us was "Suffragette City" (David Bowie); no one could remember the chord changes and there was not much enthusiasm for figuring it out.

Back in the '70s it was the young people who made Rock'n'Roll noise while the old people suffered in other rooms in the house (or went to the movies). Now it's the old people making noise while the young people suffer in other rooms trying to watch DVD's. But the young people can't complain too much because, you know, the old people are the ones with all the money. (From My Life As A Baby Boomer, chapter one)

Now I have to get back to the day job. Also, Cyrano opens this week. Blogging will probably be light.

UPDATE: We also played:

"Smoke On the Water" (Deep Purple, and we played the whole thing, not just the first four chords)

"You Can't Do That" (Beatles)

"In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" (Allman Brothers)

"Stray Cat Strut" (Stray Cats)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Around the World Wide Web 20

1. For those of you who don't believe something until you see a graph, here is a map of the NBA. It looks accurate to me. You can see why San Antonio dominated Cleveland in the finals. The other maps, about fouling, speed and so on, are also interesting.

By the way, it's August 7 as I write, baseball is heading toward an exciting September of scoreboard watching and football is about to start preseason games. So what was LA sports talk radio talking about when I turned it on today? You guessed it. The Lakers. The latest rumors and speculation involve Jermaine O'Neal being traded to LA. The Dodgers and Angels are both good this year, but people would still rather talk about the Lakers. (It might be different if we had a football team.)

2. The web site for a movie coming out on August 10th, Stardust, says, "A philosopher once asked, are we human because we gaze at the stars or do we gaze at them because we are human?" The answer is the latter. Gazing at the stars I take to be a woozy metaphor for having ideals. Humans need morality because they have a conceptual consciousness that is fallible, therefore they lack an automatic guide to action. So human nature comes first, then gazing at the stars.

3. Good piece on why most terrorist attacks have failed since 9-11. The ultimate WMD is money, which right now is being spent in Iraq. But this reminds me how outrageous it is that money still flows from Saudi Arabia to terrorists. That is money from our "friends" meant to kill us. It's time to get serious with those sleazy bastards.

4. Religious conservative Michael Medved disagrees with Congressman Tancredo about the possible use of nuclear weapons against Muslim holy cities:

In a desperate effort to revive his floundering presidential campaign, Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo has returned to his unhinged and wildly irresponsible discussion of punitive bombing of Muslim holy sites in Saudi Arabia.

On “This Week” on ABC, he suggested that such threats against Mecca and Medina could serve to deter Islamic terrorists from staging nuclear attacks on the United States. In the Republican debate of August 5th, Representative Tancredo portentously intoned: “I read the national intelligence estimate. I see what they are planning. And I’m telling you right now that anybody that would suggest that we should take anything like this off the table in order to deter that kind of event in the United States isn’t fit to be president of the United States.”

I see nothing wrong with Tancredo's "portentously intoned" statement. If we're to fight a war seriously, nothing should be off the table, as nothing was in WWII.

I don't think bombing Mecca will be necessary; bombing Tehran might suffice. But if it is necessary, then it's necessary. Medved's argument boils down to: if we bomb Mecca, then we'll make all Muslims angry at us. To which I say, if our survival is at stake, I can live with that.

Medved's confusion seems to come from the fact that we are at war with one of the world's great religions, a mythology that has some billion adherents. Totalitarian Islam has its roots in the Koran itself, a reprehensible product of the Dark Ages. You can say we're fighting terrorism, you can say Islam is a religion of peace, you can whine "can't we all get along" but none of this changes the fact that we are in a war with Islam. It's Islam against the world. This does not mean all Muslims are evil; only the ones who take their religion seriously.

(Gus Van Horn beat me to this one.)

5. Ann C. of Creative Life is the new Artistic Director of the Austin Shakespeare Festival.

6. Elizabeth Edwards is in trouble because she said,

We can't make John black, we can't make him a woman...

She committed a postmodern faux pas: she told the truth. Multiculturalism has created a new Victorianism -- there are things polite people simply do not say. This has a lot to do with why leftists cannot succeed in talk radio.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Mt. Rockmore

A Classic Rock station in St. Louis, K-Hits 96, has an amusing promotion, Mt. Rockmore. Listeners vote on the station web site for the four rock artists who should be carved into stone like Mt. Rushmore.

What four artists would you say rise above the rest?

I would go with:

Elvis Presley

Chuck Berry

Jimi Hendrix

Bob Dylan

Those four are the innovators who were more influential than the rest. If I were to pick my personal favorite four, it would be:

John Lennon

Jimi Hendrix

Jimmy Page

Neil Young

If I could add a fifth, I'd put Alvin Lee, but that is a very idiosyncratic pick that only a guitarist would make. Sixth? Probably David Bowie.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Screenwriter's Questions

Jim Uhls, in his screenwriting blog, raises interesting questions.

Okay, I keep trying to pinpoint who exactly are the enemies of screenwriters. I won’t let the easy answers of “director,” “producer,” “studio exec” take the hit.
So, who the hell will I allow to be named as the enemies of screenwriters?
Fine. I’ll tell you.
-- And they are, above all other professions, the truly damnable cold, ruthless, reptilian marauders.
They are:
What the hell am I saying?
I’m saying -- we’ve all seen the enemies -- and they are --
-- US.
Yes, we all leap at the opportunity to wound and kill each other.
It’s called -- “being hired to rewrite a script.”
There may be millions of reasons why a writer turns down a rewrite gig.
But never in the history of film has there ever been -- or will there ever be -- a writer -- who needs the money -- or who loves the concept but dislikes the existing script -- who turns down the job because it would be morally wrong for a writer to rewrite another writer’s script.
Where else does this “artist replacement” happen? Were there playwrights called in to do a “character pass” on Tennessee William’s “A Streetcar Named Desire?”
How about painters called in to do a “polish” on the work of Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel?
Or, say, “gag men” brought into to “punch up ”Shakespeare’s comedies? And maybe a writer brought in to give more depth and texture to “Hamlet?”
What about a fiction writer, brought in to give some more “pizzazz” to “The Grapes of Wrath?” or “One Hundred Years of Solitude?”
Interestingly enough, not only did these things NOT happen -- the very concept of them happening is from ANOTHER PLANET.

In an industry in which writers are routinely rewritten, can it be said that they are artists? Doesn't Hollywood's rewriting practice guarantee hackery? Would Howard Roark work in such a profession?

Around the World Wide Web 19

1. Alex Rodriquez is a greater player than I had realized.

2. Keep this cat away from me!

3. This is the first negative piece on Vin Scully I have read. He began calling games for the Dodgers in 1950 -- 1950! -- 57 years ago. He is 80 now. He's still great and he is still treasured by everyone in Southern California. When I moved here in 1966 he was the voice of baseball and he is still that voice. The guy who wrote that piece is wrong, Scully never misses something important because he is too busy reminiscing like an old man. He is sharp and smooth and his baseball judgment is excellent. And when he does tell stories, they're always interesting. Not many people can start a story with "I remember Jackie Robinson telling me..."

Best of all, he has never once used the phrase "going yard" to describe a home run. Almost everything in American culture is worse now than it was 40 years ago -- everything except Vin Scully. I hope he keeps working until he is 110 years old.

4. Double Plus Undead discusses a silly piece by a leftist who thinks Bush will cancel the '08 election and become a dictator. The leftist asks,

Who really believes this crew will walk quietly away from power? They have the motivation, the money and the method for doing away with the electoral process altogether. So why wouldn’t they?

Well, think about it. Bush got slapped around by his base for merely nominating Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Then he lost on the immigration bill because his base would not cooperate. With such cantankerous Americans around, do you really think he would risk a dictatorial coup? Any President who tried it would be mercilessly mocked and resisted by the entire populace across the political spectrum. Such a President would become the greatest American loser of all time. Why risk such humiliation when Bush can step down and enjoy the esteem that comes to former presidents?

People call leftists who discuss such bizarre ideas "moonbats" because they seem to be out of touch with reality. Actually, they're just stupid. And they're stupid because modern philosophy has taught them that ideas have nothing to do with real life and that people are determined by their glands, their potty training, whatever. Just as the Dark Ages, as Peikoff said, were dark on principle, so today's leftists are stupid on principle.

5. If the Kossacks want Democrats to be proud liberals, they're not having much success. Politicians still run from the L-word. Hillary Clinton prefers progressive. If you want the truth, both conservatives and socialists are reactionaries to capitalism. Neither likes capitalism because it is individualist and based on the morality of selfishness.

I like to call today's liberals conservatives of the welfare state.

6. Russia is increasingly belligerent.

Having just staked a claim to the North Pole, Russia is now eyeing the Mediterranean.

And just weeks after Norway scrambled its jets because Russian bombers got too close, Georgia says Russia fired a missile into its territory.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A Kossack Handicaps the Republicans

Trapper John at Daily Kos ponders the chances of the Republicans running for President and concludes, "Jesus, this is a weak field." The piece is worth reading as an example of how leftists delude themselves.

First, he concedes that a Republican could win if there are "Scandals, terrorist attacks, dramatic cultural shifts"; apparently, these events make people vote Republican.

Then Trapper John looks at Giuliani, Thompson, Romney, McCain and "Everyone else." He bubbles over at the prospect of scandal taking down Giuliani; he mocks Thompson's anemic fund-raising; he asserts that Evangelical Christians will not vote for a Mormon, so Romney is dead; and he notes McCain's organizational and fund-raising woes.

In the entire piece there is only one thing missing: the Republicans' ideas. This is the left's big weakness in politics. They don't understand the importance of ideas. They think people vote Republican out of fear, tradition, racism, nastiness, greed, nationalism, superstition, homophobia, rage, hatred and more fear.

Since he does not address ideas, Trapper John misses that Giuliani stands for strong defense and recently unveiled a health care policy that is a step in the direction of a free market, not a government takeover. Next November, these are the issues Americans will be evaluating, and the common man is more rational than leftists give him credit for being.

It is obvious from this piece (and from the Democrats' record in the last few decades of elections) that if Giuliani is the nominee, the liberal-left will have their smear machine working overtime. They will ease their consciences with such banalities as, "Politics ain't bean bag," then throw all the mud they can at the Republican.

I get the sense that people are tired of scandals. I think they're ready to listen seriously to new ideas. If I'm right, then this trend would be the greatest catastrophe to hit the Democrats since the Civil War. Forget scandals and terrorist attacks, although you could call this a "dramatic cultural shift." If Americans shift toward taking ideas seriously, the Democrats will fall apart because they have succumbed to the nihilism and subjectivism of modern philosophy and no longer understand that ideas move the world.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Around the World Wide Web 18

1. And then there is Kos. The netroots are having their yearly convention. Their movement loathes the centrist camouflage of the DLC; they want the Democrats to proudly campaign for their liberalism instead of running in terror from the word. (Even Senator Kennedy has been afraid to admit he is liberal on Sunday morning talk shows.)

You have to admire their honesty. And it might work, as no Presidential candidate has campaigned as a liberal since George McGovern in 1972. For 35 years we've had a lot proud conservatives and a lot of Democrats who would rather "focus on the issues instead of getting caught up in labels." Maybe a proud liberal is exactly the fresh air voters are looking for.

Or maybe the L-word is still the kiss of death. What would happen to a candidate who openly campaigned for bigger government, more taxes and weaker defense? The electoral map is not friendly to the Democrats; they must run a perfect campaign to beat that sea of red.

2. House erupts in chaos.

3. This liberal is (in one respect) right: it would be much better for the left if the Americans had lost the Revolutionary War.

4. Are things getting better in Iraq? Are Muslims getting disgusted with terrorism?

5. Masters of Science Fiction is a new anthology show on ABC that starts tomorrow, August 4, at 10/9c. It might be interesting or it might be godawful. The four shows are based on stories by Robert A. Heinlein, Harlan Ellison, Howard Fast and John Kessel. The narrator is Stephen Hawking.

6. The Bourne Ultimatum gets positive reviews.