Even the sainted William F. Buckley derived no small part of his appeal from the fact that he could always one-up any condescending liberal egghead. That was a big part of his legacy. At a time when the media wanted desperately to paint conservatives as paranoid, anti-intellectual bigots in the George Wallace mode, Buckley’s sesquipedalian erudition served as a kind of reassurance.
But Buckley brought something else to the table: civility, self-deprecation, and a playful wit that could be intellectually devastating without being humiliating. Even when he explained that Robert F. Kennedy was ducking his invitations to appear on Firing Line — “Why does baloney reject the grinder?” — liberals had to chuckle in admiration.
It’s that touch which has largely gone missing of late. Intellectually, Buckley was a passionate believer that liberalism was the Enemy. But liberals themselves were merely the opposition (Gore Vidal notwithstanding).
Where did that come from? Again, much of it is a product of the times, stemming from new technology, economics, and other deep-rooted causes. But I want to focus on one. Over the last decade, conservatives have developed a severe case of Alinsky envy.
It is one of the oldest insights into human nature that envy corrupts the soul. (Aquinas defined envy as sadness for the good of others.) But Alinsky envy is corrupting in a different way. For years now conservatism has convinced itself that the Left wins by, in effect, cheating. They lie. They only care about power. They demonize and slander their opponents. I’m not going to sit here and claim that there’s zero merit to that argument. There’s a lot of merit, even if it’s often an exaggeration.
My objection is the conclusion conservatives draw from it: We’ve got to take the gloves off and play by the same rules! Alinsky’s rules! As David Kahane (eye roll) puts it: “Become what you behold.”
A whole cottage industry on the right has thrived around this argument, and on the whole, it’s grotesque. You cannot argue that your enemy is evil and uses evil means and at the same time argue, “We should do it too!”
It’s particularly hypocritical given that Alinsky envy blossomed alongside obsessions with conservative purity. It is a circle that will not square: Our ideology has a monopoly on virtue, but in order for virtue to triumph we must act like people we claim are virtueless. The effort to make this argument work is inherently corrupting because it inexorably replaces ends with means. “Winning” gets redefined before our eyes into anything that fuels our ecstatic schadenfreude over the suffering of our opponents. Whenever Trump did something indefensible the “defense” “But he fights!” would pour forth.
. . .
Bill O’Reilly grew up in Long Island before the city started to decline, but he is incontestably a product of the nostalgia-besotted working-class worldview that Giuliani tapped into. He doesn’t call himself a conservative, but a “traditionalist.” And his vision of tradition isn’t Burkean, Oakshottian, or Hayekian. He doesn’t harken to Russell Kirk’s Mecosta, but to Levittown. And to an extent that’s fine. America could use a bit more 1950s Levittown morality. Sean Hannity, born in New York City but raised in Long Island, is another who largely fits that mold. More broadly, as I’ve written dozens of times, Fox News was always more populist than conservative, but its populism is often infused with a New York sensibility.
This was always the core of Donald Trump’s act, even when he was a proud Democrat. A bridge-and-tunnel billionaire, he always had a chip on his shoulder about New York elites. It wasn’t quite the same Irish-Catholic chip that O’Reilly had, but the similarities are more interesting than the differences. O’Reilly’s intellectual insecurity drives him to churn out gimmicky histories, written by someone else. Trump’s spills out in boasts about his grades and his superior brain. They both insist they’re the smartest man in the room and that people who disagree with their meniscus-thin judgments are not just wrong, but bad or stupid.
Trump’s nostalgic appeal to Make America Great Again using common sense to defeat the pinhead elites combined with his implied promise to humiliate his enemies with his strength and will was simply a variant of O’Reillyism. Indeed, Bill O’Reilly was the John the Baptist of Trumpism long before Donald Trump appeared on the political scene.
I should say that I wish Donald Trump were a Rudy Giuliani, and I hold out the barest glimmer of hope that he could turn into one. But my suspicion is that he is a creature who mimicked the aesthetics and style of a Giuliani without anything like his discipline or expertise. And that in itself is a sign of the toxic corruption of celebrity conservatism that David French describes. Too many people think being a conservative is all about the public posture, the performance in front of the camera and not the performance on the job.
Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category.
Workers have choices, too, though some have more choices than others. But if you think that paying the CEO a lot drives down workers’ wages, wouldn’t you also think that other expenses would put downward pressure on wages, too? And which would produce the heavier pressure: $376 million for the CEO or $8.3 billion for the IRS?
. . .
Hillary Rodham Clinton, embracing the Left’s current fervor for Hugo Chávez–style economic populism and nationalism (weirdly, “the Left” includes the Republican presidential nominee, for purposes of this discussion — bang-up job, Republicans!), complains about inequality, and offers as a partial solution higher corporate taxes. Businesses respond to changes in their expenses in different ways. But who do you think is likely to take it in the shorts if you jack up Apple’s tax bill? The designers and programmers who are being offered new six-figure jobs eight times a week at companies all over the country and all over the world, or the parking-garage attendant?
. . .
Sometimes businesses go so far as to relocate their headquarters in response to taxes and other burdens; one way of doing that is the dreaded “corporate inversion,” in which a U.S. company uses a merger to relocate its legal domicile to some sweaty, exploitive, relatively low-tax Third World crap-hole . . . like Canada, the United Kingdom, or Ireland. Mrs. Clinton proposes to put a stop to that by enacting an “exit tax,” which is a really nice way of saying “ransom.” That might cause some trouble for existing businesses considering relocation, but what effect might it have ten or 20 years down the road? Do we really think the people who are smart, creative, and energetic enough to build the powerhouse corporations of tomorrow are going to be too stupid to figure out how to incorporate in Switzerland instead of Delaware?
Ozymandias and Statolatry
Mrs. Clinton’s nomination will have a similarly negligible effect on the lives of American women. It isn’t exactly a Muppet News Flash that women can run for high office in these United States: You can be Sarah Palin and be on a major-party ticket and be called a “c**t” by all the nice people who will be urging you to vote for Mrs. Clinton as a show of solidarity with women. You can be a woman and do a hell of a lot better job running PepsiCo than Mrs. Clinton did running the State Department. You can be a woman and be seriously considered for the Republican nomination in spite of a slightly short political curriculum vitae. You can be a woman and be a Marine.
If your daughter didn’t already know that she could grow up and make of her life whatever her dreams and abilities allow, and learned otherwise only upon seeing a dreadful politician take the next step in her dreadful career, that isn’t a failure of a patriarchal society. You’re just a bad father.
. . .
If you think Mrs. Clinton “cares about women,” ask Juanita Broaddrick or Gennifer Flowers.
Maybe one needs to be sick to run for office. [Anthony] Weiner is a disciple of New York senator Chuck Schumer.
Schumer famously said, “I was born to legislate.” This goes to the heart of the political sickness—the need to tell others how to live. As economist Walter Williams puts it, “I respect ordinary thieves more than I respect politicians. Ordinary thieves take my money without pretense. (They don’t) insult my intelligence by proclaiming that they’ll use the money that they steal from me to make my life better.”
In the next weeks, as cameras record every utterance burped up by politicians at the political conventions, I’ll take comfort knowing that when politicians can’t force us to do things, people often ignore them (remember, government is force; this is why politicians are important, and dangerous).
The idea of electing comedians and comedy teams to office is very attractive to the Italian national character. I have praised them for this before. It shows a maturity of understanding rare in the annals of modern democracy. Given the omnipresence today of po-faced progressive parties, the alternative cannot be po-faced “conservatives,” whom the po-faced Leftist media will methodically smear and slander, as for instance in Canada and USA. They accept that verdict, and agree to lose. Rather one needs people with a sense of humour and no political past. I suppose this is the argument for Trump; though I would argue that he takes himself quite seriously, and doesn’t see the joke at all.
For vulgarity is not the same thing as humour. It is a dimension of comedy, but the full commedia dell-arte requires more. It must be spontaneous on several theatrical levels to occasion real surprise, and catch the po-faced off their leaden balance. It requires masks and good costumage. It requires stock gli immorati, ridiculously in love as much with themselves as with their sweethearts; fine silk dresses or alternatively the patched clothing of an impudent Colombina, with her weaponized tambourine. It requires confusions of identity, in the spirit of old Terence, and Plautus. It needs fantesche and servette (maids and serving wenches); Smerildas, Nespolas, Diamantinas.
. . .
Plus, men who make jokes that are genuinely funny, such as some untranslatable remark Beppe Grillo tried the other day about the new Muslim mayor of London, which made all the po-faced heads explode. He has been called, repeatedly, “the most dangerous man in Europe,” for his ability to attract audiences, and make them laugh, despite being banned from Italian state television and so forth. He does not run himself, but is content with his position as backstage producer, out of his conviction that criminals should not aspire to political office. (Almost everyone in the Italian Parliament has a criminal record, many in the first degree.)
Among his most dangerous notions is that citizens should be permitted free speech, and that the power of politicians should be curtailed. This goes considerably beyond the “Brexit” position, that British politicians should be re-empowered at the expense of European ones.
A father told his 3 sons when he sent them to the university: “I feel it’s my duty to provide you with the best possible education, and you do not owe me anything for that. However, I want you to appreciate it. As a token, please each put $1,000 into my coffin when I die.”
And so it happened. His sons became a doctor, a lawyer, and a financial planner, each very successful financially. When their father’s time had come and they saw their father in the coffin, they remembered his wish.
First, it was the doctor who put 10 $100 bills onto the chest of the deceased.
Then, came the financial planner, who also put $1,000 there.
Finally, it was the heartbroken lawyer’s turn. He dipped into his pocket, took out his checkbook, wrote a check for $3,000, put it into his father’s coffin, and took the $2,000 cash.
He later went on to become a member of Congress. . . .
Every normal person understands that every one of us stands on the shoulders of giants. Newton, Einstein, Aristotle, the inventors of the danish, and so on. And, though the West gave the East computers and plastic, and the East gave the West gunpowder and silk, undergraduates have given us nothing. But that’s not their fault — they’re young and innocent. They know nothing. You can’t blame an undergraduate for panicking about cultural appropriation any more than you can blame a puppy for chewing up your baseball mitt. That’s why these kids are in school — to learn things.
The spineless, weaselly deans and presidents of America’s universities should try to remember that.
The Liberal Fantasy of Cultural Appropriation, by Josh Gelernter
Moral preening. Ozymandias
How well did being backed by rich people work for Mitt Romney in 2012? Are the Koch brothers more powerful than the average American voter’s desire to be taken care of by the Great Father in Washington? Have they picked our next president yet?
. . .
It is great that we were sent a savior. But how come, after seven years of being saved, we still have “urgent work to do”?
. . .
We have moved from an expensive system in which tens of millions of Americans were uninsured to a crazy expensive system in which tens of millions of Americans are uninsured.
. . .
One thing that we proved in the housing market of 1992-2007 was that it doesn’t matter how much something costs as long as you can refinance it.
. . .
Summary of what the three candidates said: Despite being led by one of the greatest human beings who ever lived, American government today is incompetent, unable to deliver functional infrastructure, safe water, desired foreign policy results (even with countries in Central America), or health care to citizens. Branches of the government may be unable to pay their debts (Puerto Rico). What we need to do is give this incompetent government a larger percentage of the GDP to allocate. We should also task this government with setting wages for both government and what was formerly known as “private sector” jobs.
The last debate for the Democrats, by Philip Greenspun
Moral Preening and Ozymandias
skit guys – love words
It is requisite for the relaxation of the mind that we make use, from time to time, of playful deeds and jokes.
Sepp Blatter, Jack Warner, Charles “Chuck” Blazer
Until just a few days ago, former Vice President of FIFA Jack Warner was apparently unaware that the popular American satire newspaper The Onion is not, in fact, real news.
While defending his tenure as FIFA’s vice president in a video, Warner cited a recent fake report by The Onion that claimed FIFA, which is the principal governing body of international soccer competitions, had “frantically” announced that the United States would now be hosting The World Cup this year.
A former FIFA executive accused of soliciting bribes in the corruption case brought by U.S. authorities against world soccer officials, wants to know why the United States is hosting this year’s World Cup if it dislikes soccer’s governing body so much.
Former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner, who is from Trinidad and Tobago, has denied the charges against him and was granted bail after surrendering to authorities in his home country on Wednesday. In a video posted on his Facebook page, which has now been taken down, Warner holds a newspaper and says FIFA “has frantically announced” the United States is holding this summer’s World Cup.
“If FIFA is so bad, why is that the USA wants to keep the FIFA World Cup?” asks Warner, who maintains the charges against him and other FIFA officials stem from U.S. frustration over the country’s failed bid to host the event.
But Warner might want to check his sources. The next World Cup is not until 2018, in Russia, and the paper he holds up in the video is the Onion, a satirical U.S. publication.
Stressing that soccer’s international governing body will continue to conduct business as usual in the face of high-profile fraud charges, FIFA officials assured the public Friday that the ongoing U.S. Department of Justice investigation will in no way affect the 2022 Qatar slush fund.
Sepp Blatter, Jack Warner, Charles “Chuck” Blazer, Budweiser, McDonald’s, Nike, adidas, Coca Cola, Visa, Kia, Hyundai
Indictment – WARNING: THIS IS A 164 PAGE PDF: Jeffrey Webb et al Indictment – US Department of Justice
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