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Friday, November 30, 2007
A Simple (Conservative) Plan
I have not yet seen the Coen brothers' No Country For Old Men. I might catch it sometime this weekend. But Jonah Goldberg's mini-review ended on an odd note:

I've been surprised more people haven't compared it — favorably or unfavorably — to A Simple Plan which I've long argued was one of the most conservative movies made in recent times. The plot alone is remarkably similar (though hardly identical).

I went: huh?

I saw A Simple Plan in the theaters when it came out in '95 or '96. I liked it well enough, but I never thought of it as a political film at all, let alone "one of the most conservative movies made in recent times".

So I puzzled around for a while, trying to think of what might be construed as remotely political in the movie.

In case you haven't seen it, A Simple Plan was a clever little crime drama about three small-town guys who find a crashed Cessna with a dead pilot and a duffel bag full of money in the middle of the woods. The guys conclude that the money was probably drug money, so they make a deal: they will keep the money at one guy's house, and agree to keep their mouths shut. If the incident doesn't go public, they reason, that means that the whoever stashed the money in the plane wouldn't dare to try to claim it. Since there's nothing to link the three guys to the plane, they figure that if they play it cool for a year or so they can split up the money, sell their houses, and move out of the area.

But of course, nothing goes the way they plan. Greed and suspicion lead to a series of brutal outcomes, and in the end it's revealed that the money is all marked bills provided by the FBI as part of a kidnapping case.

I suspect that Goldberg thinks it's "conservative" because he sees it as a cautionary tale that champions small-town virtue. In other words, "A Simple Plan" is a warning to filmgoers of what might happen to them if they aren't sufficiently conservative.

But is that true? Wouldn't it be liberal do-gooders, and not conservatives, who would turn the money in to the police? Wouldn't it be conservatives who would adopt "finders keepers" as an operating philosophy? Isn't it a conservative mantra that "I will not die for anyone else, or ask anyone else to die for me"?

I would have thought that "A Simple Plan" was, like "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre", a story about human greed and folly. But Jonah Goldberg has revealed it is not. It's a story about the superhuman virtue of the right wing. I guess you learn something every day.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Jonah Goldberg's Blow-Up-The-Computer Speech
Jonah Goldberg really likes Star Trek, so maybe he's understand this analogy. Remember when Kirk and Spock would go to some planet run by a computer, except the computer's not doing what it's supposed to, and it's causing havoc? (This was about every other episode, by the way). And Kirk defeats the computer by confronting it and spouting all kinds of goofy, illogical nonsense at it, until it gets hopelessly confused and explodes?

Well, pay attention, because this is Jonah Goldberg's Blow Up The Computer speech:

As someone who subscribes to the view that liberalism is a secular religion, it is very frustrating that liberal politicians do not offer up a paper trail for people to scrutinize the way conservatives do. Liberalism has a dogma as rich and serious as conservatism, but you can't go to a liberal politician and ask: Are you loyal to John Dewey? Richard Rorty? John Rawls? You can't ask what their bible is because they are acolytes of the bookless faith of good deeds, the cult of do-goodery. So when they argue for keeping "religion" out of politics they are saying "keep your religion out of politics." When they say that we need to "get past ideology" they are saying we need to get past your ideology. This means that conservatives must constantly defend their own territory rather than demand a similar accounting from liberals.


It might come in handy someday.

The Secret Science Club

Who but PZ Myers would introduce us to a place called the Secret Science Club? (Of course you've never heard of it -- if you had, it wouldn't be secret, right?

Not as exciting as the name implies, apparently, but how could it be? It's a sort of scientific lecture series / salon. And man, they've got a humdinger of a logo.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007
My, How Times Have Changed
Time Magazine, December 2006:

Who are these people? Seriously, who actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I'm not going to watch Lost tonight. I'm going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana? I'm going to mash up 50 Cent's vocals with Queen's instrumentals? I'm going to blog about my state of mind or the state of the nation or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street? Who has that time and that energy and that passion?

The answer is, you do. And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME's Person of the Year for 2006 is you.

Time Magazine, November 2007:

The site gives members the option of sending an update to their friends with every purchase they make online--an extension of the news feed that tracks all the other things Facebook members do. If you choose to tell your friends about the Seinfeld DVD box set you just bought from Amazon, for example, your friends will also get a small ad right beneath that update. Advertisers can specify, on the basis of demographic data culled from a user's profile, exactly which members they want to view the ad.

It has the creepy prospect of turning your life into one big direct-mail campaign.

Read the rest of the article -- called "Is Facebook Overrated?" -- here.

Attack of the B Squad
In looking over some posts from a year ago, it's interesting what a puzzle the GOP nomination was to me then. It seemed as if no one could possibly win. Well, almost no one:

With Bill Frist officially out, and George Allen effectively eliminated from the running as a GOP contender for the Presidency, the Republican right is looking for a new champion. At the moment, the contenders for that dubious honor seem to be Sam Brownback, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

Of course, John McCain has been tacking to the right lately, and it is likely that Rudy Giulani will soon follow suit. But it seems improbable that the right wing of the party will ever feel comfortable with either of them.

At this point, it's uncertain whether Brownback has any real enthusiasm for running, or any real financial resources to run with. Gingrich seems to be waiting for the party to anoint him, a strategy that didn't work out so well for Mario Cuomo in 1988.

Which leaves Romney.

It is worth remembering that Frist, Allen and McCain were regarded at the probable front-runners before this election cycle started. Giuliani and Romney, not so much. Fred Thompson wasn't even on the radar screen.

But the probable front-runners self-immolated, imploded, or evaporated. That happens sometimes, but I haven't seen such a deep bench of also-rans since the Dems in 1988.

Let's look at the leader board. Giuliani is inexplicably ahead in the national GOP polls. He has managed to associate himself with 9/11, the way Bob Hope associated himself with "Thanks For the Memories". But he is his own Achilles heel. No matter how scripted or protected he is, sooner or later his inner nutcase is going to escape and wreak havoc on his campaign.

Thompson spent so much time pretending he wasn't interested in running that when he finally did jump in, everybody wondered why.

And Romney could be described as wooden if it weren't for the fact that what you see is actually simulated woodgrain. He is a man of such studied artifice, such rock-ribbed fake conviction, that the Democrats can only dream of running against him.

Frist or Allen might have been formidable candidates, had their political careers survived up to the current electoral cycle. John McCain would be formidable too, if the conservatives in his own party took him seriously. But they don't, so now the Republicans will try to win with their B squad: bereft of any real policies, any real arguments, or any true convictions.

Saturday, November 24, 2007
You Just Remember Who Wears The Pants In This Civilization, Missy
Because it's always a good idea to keep up with the Taliban wing of the Republican party, here's a snippet from an essay published in the Daily Texan, a student paper in Austin (via Echidne):

The androgynous masculinization of the modern woman, through the donning of pants, suits, uncovered shoulders and unveiled hair, has in a sense led to the slow whorification of ladyhood. In discarding feminine dress, women seem to have symbolically discarded femininity and modesty (the virtues of women) in favor of sexual virility, promiscuity and immodesty (the vices of men). The ideal form of a true lady is a constant, immutable aspect of humanity, and this strange new development can only represent a bizarre aberration of a perverse and ignoble culture. Dresses are an essential part of any true lady's attire, and they should be worn.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this essay is that the author purports to be a History major. Someone majoring in History -- even in Texas -- should be aware that societal standards of female beauty are not immutable, even in our own culture; and that modes of dress for men as well as women have changed radically through history.

To argue that women shouldn't wear pants because pants are for men is an ignorant comment that would be understandable coming from a child or an uneducated person; coming from a student of history, it is simply baffling. Julius Caeser didn't wear pants; neither did Jesus. Were they androgynous? Were they not men?

And as Echidne notes, the author's tone sounds remarkably similar to that of Osama Bin Laden, right down to the lamenting of women's "uncovered shoulders and unveiled hair".

Friday, November 23, 2007
The Bizarro-World Food Pyramid

Here's an interesting chart that was posted on Ezra Klein's site. Of all the money spent on US agricultural subsidies, less than 1/2 of one percent goes toward fruits and vegetables.

So not only do farm subsidies keep food prices artificially low, they also artificially promote bad nutritional choices. And those choices are made not only at the McDonald's drive-through, but at your local elementary school cafeteria, where tight budgets often determine what's on the menu next week.

Friday Armadillo Blogging

This week's 'dillo: the lovely Dasypus Novemcinctus

Now He Tells Us
Grover Norquist, anti-tax kook and long-time Bush sycophant, now suggests a constitutional amendment to prevent the immediate family members of former presidents from running for the White House.

K-Lo at the Corner objects to the scheme, on the grounds that it would prevent Jeb Bush from running.

Maybe the constitutional amendment could just apply to Democrats?

Ten Months In Tibet

Never officially having declared myself on hiatus, I can't claim to have returned from it. Yet here I am: determined to shake the trees once again, just to see what falls on our heads.

Why the long absence? It's simple, really. I've spent the last ten months in Tibet, where I have learned the power to cloud men's minds so they cannot see me.

Women, however, still have the power to see right through me. Including the lovely Mrs. Uncle Mike.

So let's continue our journey, shall we? Let's walk through the Valley of Fear, past the Cliffs of Insanity, right up to the Brink of Madness.

Don't be scared, I visit these places all the time.

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