Saturday, October 23, 2004

The Last Conservative to Comment on "Supersize Me"

Last night I gave in to curiosity and saw the Morgan Spurlock film "Supersize Me!" Before I give any reaction to the film, I feel duty bound to report that I just consumed a Double Quarter Pound Value Meal that was, in fact, supersized. When Mr. Spurlock ordered the same meal in the film, he ended up harfing out the window of his car. The combination of calories and suspect ingredients apparently overwhelmed him. After taking down my order (identical, except that I'm a Diet Coke man), I toyed with the idea of adding a soft serve. Of course, I've been poisoning myself for years. Maybe I, like the hero of "The Princess Bride," have immunized myself against fast food toxins. Mr. Spurlock, on the other hand, lives with a woman described as a "vegan chef." He was like a Baptist teetotaler who decided to break his alcohol fast with a fifth of Old Grand Dad.

In retrospect, it's surprising the film was such a success. When one watches Spurlock go through his traumatic month of McDonald's only and hears about his weight gain and terrible health effects, a few words and concepts float through the brain, things like "control group" and "adequate number of subjects" and "statistical outliers." The film makes this point itself, actually. We are introduced to Don Gorske, who has eaten some 19,000 Big Macs in his lifetime, averaging about two or three a day. He's trim, pink of cheek, and has a very full head of hair. So, Spurlock lists while Gorske thrives. What does any of it prove? Probably the importance of genetics.

Friday, October 22, 2004

More John Stewart Stuff

I'm glad to hear WSJ has a piece dealing with John Stewart. I have now complained so much about my wife watching "The Daily Show," I think she has given it up. She is not a very political person, but really enjoys the show. I can't count the number of times I moaned in anguish, "Can't you see that this guy is fully invested in advancing the liberal project?" She always looked at me very much as my cats would have if I said it to one of them.

How anybody could have seen Stewart as some sort of comic independent is beyond me. When liberals come on the show, you can feel the love and the "you're safe here" attitude. When conservatives appear, you feel the friction beneath the surface. Jonah Goldberg increased my already strong respect for him when he took a seat and dominated with humor and charm, very much the way Ronald Reagan might have done it.

Jon Stewart, Serious Blowhard

James Bowman has an excellent article on TV "satirist" Jon Stewart in today's WSJ.

Bowman points out that Stewart's satire always seems to be directed at the Right, which is perfectly acceptable, and that when questioned on the logic of his positions, Stewart retreats to the excuse that it is all just kooky fun. Bowman correctly notes the cowardice of such a strategy, and exposes the willful ignorance behind Stewart's pretense of superiority over his audience and those whom he attacks. Bowman's article also reminds us of what real satire can and should achieve, and shows how far short of that standard Stewart falls. Highly recommended.

French Begin Assimilation of Immigrants—Ineptly

The French are desperately—and belatedly—trying to begin assimilating the huge number of legal and illegal immigrants who have settled in that country in the past few decades. (See story in today's NYT.) As in many other countries, the immigrants have held tightly to their previous religious and cultural habits, causing much friction with the native-borns, to say the least. Correctly realizing that such efforts will be most effective and lasting when they concentrate on the young, the French have taken steps to prevent children from immigrant communities from presenting themselves as a separate group of people different from the native French around them.

An excellent idea, in theory.

Unfortunately, the government has chosen to make religion, rather than culture, the central issue. Specifically, the French government has banned all religious symbols from the schools—which may well be a necessary condition for full assimilation (though I am by no means convinced of that) but is most assuredly not a sufficient one. Children are now forbidden to wear traditional Arab clothing, yarmulkes, turbans (which are not a religious symbol), or even large crosses, in French schools. A French priest was barred from working in a school until agreeing to remove his cassock and collar and don a business suit. Other aspects of the process have been equally bizarre.

The change has brought much confusion and resentment, of course, and it is by no means clear how firm the French will be in their resolve to ensure that immigrants to the nation become at least somewhat French and dedicated to the national culture (however unpleasant that thought may be to most Americans. . .).

One suspects that the effort will not end with the controversy over religious symbols; and that, at least, is one hopeful sign.

The Germans, Dutch, English, Spanish, and others will surely be watching the French effort closely. They had better.

An Unorthodox Take on the Tur-A-zuh Gaffe

When Theresa Heinz-Kerry dangerously doubted that Laura Bush had ever held a real job, everyone knew she had spoken injudiciously and exposed a coarseness of her own character. What is regrettable is that conservatives have felt such a giant need to call her to account for it. As was demonstrated by the Rush Limbaugh-Donovan McNabb controversy(here and here), we have developed a terrible pattern of attempting to destroy people for slightly intemperate remarks. This constant game of "GOTCHA" is no substitute for a genuine discourse.

Lest anyone call me a hypocrite because I called out Maureen Dowd for her constant references to "extra-chromosome conservatives," I hasten to point out that she has embraced that awful label and taken a bath in it.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Maureen Dowd Believes Pat Robertson

In today's NYT, columnist Maureen Dowd shows a Strange New Respect for the veracity of televangelist Pat Robertson:

"When Paula Zahn asked the televangelist Tuesday whether Mr. Bush, as a Christian, should admit his mistakes, Mr. Robertson said he'd warned a self-satisfied Bush about Iraq: 'The Lord told me it was going to be (a) a disaster, and (b) messy.'

"Mr. Robertson said, 'He was the most self-assured man I ever met.' Paraphrasing Mark Twain, he said Mr. Bush was 'like a contented Christian with four aces. He was just sitting there, like, I'm on top of the world, and I warned him about this war. ... And I was trying to say, Mr. President, you better prepare the American people for casualties. "Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties."'

"W., it seems, really believes he's the one. President Neo. (And his advisers are disciples. That's why Condi Rice so willingly puts aside her national security duties to spread the Bush gospel in swing states, and why Karen Hughes raced to impugn Mr. Robertson's veracity after he described his chilling encounter with W.)"

The conversation sounds as plausible and rigorously documented as many of Robertson's other notoriously bizarre off-the-cuff remarks, but Dowd relates the story as if it were Gospel. We shall eagerly await her endorsements of Robertson's tales of miraculous healings, donations provided by the Lord when Robertson's ministry was in financial straits, and the amazing ability of prayer to control hurricanes.

"Outing" Mary Cheney

Interesting, though typically ultrapartisan, column by Frank Rich of NYT today:

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/24/arts/24rich.html?8hpib

As usual, Rich sees hypocrisy only among his enemies, and he should have done well to include an acknowledgment that Kerry's and Edwards' mentions of Mary Cheney in the debates were cheap, trashy, and nakedly ambitious, by no means a behavior indicative of a worthy national leader or a decent human being.

However, Rich correctly points out that it is impossible to "out" someone whose procilvities are as well-known as those of the young Ms. Cheney, which Bush supporters have accused Kerry of doing in his awkward and seemingly bizarre mention of her during Debate 3. As Rich notes, there is evidently something else behind the Republicans' protests at Kerry's debate gambit:

"To understand what strange game is playing out here, you must go back to the equally close 2000 election. In the campaign postmortems, Karl Rove famously attributed his candidate's shortfall in the popular vote to four million "fundamentalists and evangelicals" in the Republican base who didn't turn up on Election Day. A common theory among Bush operatives had it that these no-shows had been alienated by the pre-election revelation of Mr. Bush's arrest for drunk driving years earlier.

"The current Bush-Cheney campaign clearly believes that for these voters, Mary Cheney's sexuality could be a last-minute turnoff equivalent to Mr. Bush's D.U.I. history. When Rich Lowry of National Review said on Fox that "millions and millions of people" were not aware that Mary Cheney was gay until Mr. Kerry brought it up, it was clear just which four million he was talking about. Mr. Kerry, his critics all speculate, was deliberately seeking to depress voter turnout among Mr. Rove's M.I.A. religious conservatives by broadcasting Mary Cheney's sexuality to them for the first time."

Exactly. To which I should add, if the religious conservatives are so out of it that they don't know about Mary Cheney, and so short-sighted as to stay home because the vice president has not chained his daughter up in the Blair House attic, then any party that depends on their votes has no right to claim the White House.

Then again, maybe the religious conservatives are smarter than Rich thinks.

More Democrat Party Religion Trouble . . .

Democrats have become incredibly tone-deaf in matters of religious belief. The Mary Cheney thing is one example, but there are others. Consider the hiring of a religion adviser to the Kerry campaign. Their choice was a female clergy-person who was strongly pro-choice and probably wrote her thesis on the work of Shelby Spong. Not exactly the person to help you touch base with those crazy evangelicals. The same dynamic holds with "the Rev." Barry Lynn from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Just because he has some sort of professional religious affiliation, we're supposed to buy into his theory of strict separation. When you listen to him talk, it seems quite clear he doesn't even like Christians. You wonder whether his mother made him attend divinity school.

Dramatic!

Last night's Boston-Yankees game was certainly the most dramatic 10-3 baseball game I've seen in a while. The big story should be the Red Sox's amazing comeback, of course, but New Yorkers will undoubtedly see the series as the biggest collapse in history.

As usual, the division championship series have been far more interesting than anything we can have any hope that the World Series will be.

As a White Sox fan from early childhood, the Yankees have always been for me one of the greatest sports nemeses, as they have a long history of coming in ahead of the Second City's Second Team, perhaps the most consistently second-place team in sports history. (With the leagues split up into three divisions, these rivalries have unfortunately been significantly weakened.) Yet I cannot fault George Steinbrenner for spending whatever it takes to put a highly competitive team on the field every year. I should certainly do the same, in his position. Boston, of course, is not exactly a small-market, Poverty Row team itself.

The Cardinals have an impressive lineup, but it would be interesting to see a Boston-Houston World Series, given that the Red Sox haven't won a World Series in more than 80 years and the Astros have never been to one. Something good would have to come of it.


Die, Yanquis, Die!

Yankees fans will have to forgive me. I was raised from a sperm to hate two professional teams: the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys. No nonsense, tell it straight Bill Parcells has mitigated my hatred of "America's Team" somewhat, but the Yankee penchant for outspending the rest of the league and adding prime free agents every year amplified the impulse implanted within me by my father. Strike a blow for the power of nurture!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Sinclair Says It Never Planned To Air "Stolen Honor"

An advertising executive source just sent me a press release from Sinclair that supposedly sets the record straight about their intentions to pre-empt normal programming. Here are a couple of interesting excerpts:

"The news special will focus in part on the use of documentaries and other media to influence voting, which emerged during the 2004 political campaigns, as well as on the content of certain of these documentaries. The program will also examine the role of the media in filtering the information contained in these documentaries, allegations of media bias by media organizations that ignore or filter legitimate news and the attempts by candidates and other organizations to influence media coverage.

"Contrary to numerous inaccurate political and press accounts, the Sinclair stations will not be airing the documentary “Stolen Honor” in its entirety. At no time did Sinclair ever publicly announce that it intended to do so. In fact, since the controversy began, Sinclair’s website has prominently displayed the following statement: “The program has not been videotaped and the exact format of this unscripted event has not been finalized. Characterizations regarding the content are premature and are based on ill-informed sources.”"

And this bit toward the end:

"David Smith noted that, “The experience of preparing to air this news special has been trying for many of those involved. The company and many of its executives have endured personal attacks of the vilest nature, as well as calls on our advertisers and our viewers to boycott our stations and on our shareholders to sell their stock. In addition, and more shockingly, we have received threats of retribution from a member of Senator John Kerry’s campaign and have seen attempts by leading members of Congress to influence the Federal Communications Commission to stop Sinclair from broadcasting this news special. Moreover, these coordinated attacks have occurred without regard to the facts since they predated the broadcast of our news special.”

"Mr. Smith further stated, “We cannot in a free America yield to the misguided attempts by a small but vocal minority to influence behavior and trample on the First Amendment rights of those with whom they might not agree. I have been encouraged, however, by the thousands of e-mails and other messages I, and others, received supporting Sinclair’s efforts to hold firm to its ideals in the face of a firestorm of controversy which, ironically, was actually based on misinformation. We also took comfort in the positions of other media organizations which supported our right to present this story notwithstanding any disagreement they may have with the content, as well as in the words of Michael Powell, Chairman of the FCC who refused to block the program, noting that to do so would be ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘an absolute disservice to the First Amendment.’”"

Interesting stuff. Sounds like they may get into Fahrenheit 9/11 a bit if I can read between the lines.

Jay Homnick is a Rock Star . . .

Is it unseemly for a contributor to an online publication to hype a writer who contributes to the same mag? If so, I'm an uncouth fellow. Jay Homnick's work has really emerged over the past few months. He and Colby Cosh have raised the game at the Spectator to the point where there are often days where it's the best read on the web. Homnick's latest piece looks at the Bizarro world where "a man can submit a tax return which shows that he and his wife employed an array of loopholes to pay a 12 percent tax rate on a grossly understated income of $5 million, run for President against a man who paid a 27 percent rate, and say that he will stop pandering to the wealthy and see that they pay their fair share."

There's much more buttery goodness inside. Check it out.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Continued Controversy at Baylor

Every Christian and most conservatives should be paying attention to recent events at Baylor University. Christianity and Classics are decidedly back in on campus and not everybody is happy about it. Notably, many older faculty have only the Enlightenment string on their philosophical violins. Others complain the curriculum, which recently received top rankings from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, is too eurocentric. Gasp! Naysayers have done everything they can to topple the University's President Robert Sloan. Rumor has it they'll even try to interfere with homecoming this week. For those who want more background on the Baylor story, go here.

Lone Star Liberals

Living a mere 90 or so miles from Austin as I do, I fully concur with the Weekly Standard's take on the "Keep Austin Weird" crowd. There is just not much in this world as disagreeable as a Texas liberal. How you can live in the former Republic, so full of raw energy, entrepeneurial spirit and patriotism, and not have a deep appreciation of Cowboy George W., I don't know. The guy's not perfect, but he fits Texas like a glove. There's a reason he stays in Crawford instead of Kennebunkport.

To John Bull, Thanks for Everything . . .

Our great and good friend Mike Fumento sends us this hilarious link:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uselections2004/story/0,13918,1329858,00.html

It seems that the infinitely kind and wise gods over at the Guardian newspaper have recognized the need for us stupid Heartland Americans to be educated by superior British Leftists, so that we shall know whom to vote for in the coming election. The linked story presents letters from American readers expressing varying levels of gratitude for the free education. It's funny because it's true, as Homer Simpson says.

That Whole Net Jobs Thing . . .

Throughout the campaign, Democrats have pummelled the President for not creating a single net job. Let's leave aside the problem with the view that the President (i.e. the government) is charged with the task of creating jobs. Has anyone considered the fact that Bush came into office with a ridiculously low unemployment rate? For years, it was believed full employment would look like a 5% unemployment figure. With the dot com boom, we witnessed unemployment well below 5%. It would have been anomalous in the extreme if Bush had been able to cook up a magical policy to improve on the fantasy land of life in the tech bubble. His tax credits are the only thing that prevented the bottom from falling out in a big way after the twin disasters of a stock market collapse that wiped out trillions of paper wealth and the far more serious terror attacks.

And by the way, why do we only speak of the World Trade Center when we talk about 9-11? I got lost driving around Washington, D.C. shortly after the attacks and looked up to see the ruin of the Pentagon through the glass of my passenger side window. They hit us right in the heart of our national defense.

The Kerry Polling Comeback Conspiracy

A number of weblogs have gone on record with the idea that pollsters showed an excessive Bush lead in September in order to set the stage for a major Kerry comeback in October. My own sense is that the theory is bunk. Large leads for Bush in September would have made fundraising more difficult for Kerry. More importantly, the Bush lead actually set the stage for a knockout punch with the first debate. Had the President been as good in debate one as he was in debate three, he might have disposed of Kerry permanently. It's highly unlikely any conspiracy of media and liberal politicos would have cooked up such a risky scenario for New England's most liberal Senator.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Why the Reform Club . . .

The Reform Club was the original meeting place of the classical liberals, the English Whigs, in the eighteenth century.

Taking up that same mantle for our own time, we are for reform--of government, tax and budget systems, the schools, social attitudes, sexual mores, attitudes toward personal responsibility, the definition of human life, the media, journalism standards, literature, film, music, attitudes toward mankind's place in nature, indeed, just about everything.

The principles guiding the reforms we seek are in line with the classical liberal, humanist Christian tradition.

The perpetual quest of the liberal mind—and to a large degree the sine qua non of Western civilization—has always been the search for ordered liberty.

The liberal mind seeks a balance between liberty and order in all things. In a human society, neither full liberty nor complete order is ever possible. The liberal recognizes this and accepts it, with all its implications.

We understand that freedom and order are ideals that can never be reached, but to which any good society must always aspire.

The goal of a liberal is always to find the policies, actions, behaviors, etc. that maximize both liberty and order simultaneously.

Critical components of this process are community, family, church, the “little platoons,” voluntary associations, local government, and the like.

We shall present the thoughts of a variety of persons who share this point of view, and shall discuss current events in light of the principles outlined here.

We look forward to your custom and comments.

Best w's,

S. T. Karnick

The Bottle and Bow

With this post, perfectly good champagne explodes onto the dock and into the sea. The Reform Club has set sail.