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Ed Driscoll

The New Puritans

Vile from New York

September 30th, 2014 - 8:07 pm

Mollie Hemingway of the Federalist deserves an enormous amount of credit — and hazard pay — for watching the vile season debut of Saturday Night Live, so you didn’t have to:

Oh for crying out loud. If you can’t make fun of this president, you should hang up your hat and go work for Everybody Loves Raymond or something. The degree of difficulty is high? Really? I mean, Sarah Palin manages it so it can’t be that hard, right?

Sheesh. As Kyle Smith wrote:

The charter Choom Ganger, confessed eater of dog and snorter of coke. The doofus who thinks the language spoken by Austrians is “Austrian,” that you pronounce the p in “corpsman” and that ATMs are the reason why job growth is sluggish. The egomaniac who gave the queen of England an iPod loaded with his own speeches and said he was better at everything than the people who work for him. The empty suit with so little real-world knowledge that he referred to his brief stint working for an ordinary profit-seeking company as time “behind enemy lines.” The phony who tells everyone he’s from Chicago, though he didn’t live there until his 20s, and lets you know that he’s talking to people he believes to be stupid by droppin’ his g’s. The world-saving Kal-El from a distant solar system who told us he’d heal the planet and cause the oceans to stop rising. The guy who shared a middle name with one of the most hated dictators on earth. Nope, nothing there to mock. No way to get a grip on this polished, oiled obsidian.

My husband and I looked at each other with confusion and disgust as the Weekend Update crowd told President Obama to cheer up and that things would get better. There were lines like, “Benghazi used to be a huge deal, now it’s just John McCain’s safe word,” and suggestions that he go on the road with the real first family, Beyonce and Jay-Z. Jost said that Bush had wrecked the economy, bombed every country with sand and that all he had to do was paint one ok picture of a dog to get back in the country’s good graces. Ha ha! All so funny and fresh!

Back in 2010, Michael J. Lewis of Commentary explored how the original Saturday Night transformed itself during its first three seasons from the politically-laced leftwing comedy of George Carlin (who hosted SNL’s very first show in October of 1975) to the much more apolitical and lighter gags of frequent host Steve Martin. As Lewis noted, this was also the transformation of the 1970s pop culture from the Watergate era and the left’s dark obsession with Nixon to the goofy apolitical, party-hearty disco Star Wars years of 1977 and ’78. This was also the era in which Robin Williams broke through to national success as a comedian, and his first album, Reality, What a Concept is remarkably politics-free. (Even his William F. Buckley impersonation on the album was pretty benign.)

A similar trend happened to the regular cast of Saturday Night Live itself, as Dan Aykroyd’s impersonation of Jimmy Carter was much sweeter and protective of Jimmy Carter’s reputation than his recurring savage Nixon impersonations or Chevy Chase’s impersonations of Gerald Ford as a clumsy, vacuous bumbler. (Not to mention the show’s admitted — and successful — efforts to demonize Ford via his press secretary, who naively volunteered to guest on the show’s first season.) By protecting Carter, Saturday Night Live accidentally allowed itself to flourish as a much more apolitical show than its first season, and Aykroyd, Belushi and Bill Murray all became superstars, as did Steve Martin during his regular guest appearances on the show, and while he never appeared on SNL during its breakthrough first five seasons, so did Williams.

But at least Jimmy Carter had his doofus brother Billy, Miss Lillian, and the family’s assortment of southern stereotypes for comedians to at least mildly goof on. In contrast, Obama has been treated with the most delicate and gossamer of kid gloves, but thanks to PC and the left’s overall descent into nagging humorless puritanical scolds, I don’t see any successors to Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Aykroyd, Belushi or Murray on the horizon anytime soon.

(Headline inspired by former Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales’ 1980 polemic against the disastrous first post-Lorne Michaels season of SNL.)

“Watch: Megyn Kelly Matches Up Obama UN Speech Rhetoric with Bush in 2001,” via Breitbart.tv, which notes that “Kelly played a clip that compared the tenor of President Barack Obama’s address to the United Nations earlier in the day to then-President George W. Bush, who addressed the same body from the same spot shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks:”
(more…)

Gray Lady Suffers Malaise

September 15th, 2014 - 1:25 pm

Elizabeth Scalia, aka “The Anchoress,” describes Roger Cohen’s piece in the New York Times titled “The Great Unraveling” as “an exquisitely-written dose of reality.” Regarding America in the age of Obama, Cohen describes it in Dickensian terms; “It was a time of weakness”:

The most powerful nation on earth was tired of far-flung wars, its will and treasury depleted by absence of victory. An ungrateful world could damn well police itself. The nation had bridges to build and education systems to fix. Civil wars between Arabs could fester. Enemies might even kill other enemies, a low-cost gain. Middle Eastern borders could fade; they were artificial colonial lines on a map. Shiite could battle Sunni, and Sunni Shiite, there was no stopping them. Like Europe’s decades-long religious wars, these wars had to run their course. The nation’s leader mockingly derided his own “wan, diffident, professorial” approach to the world, implying he was none of these things, even if he gave that appearance. He set objectives for which he had no plan. He made commitments he did not keep. In the way of the world these things were noticed. Enemies probed. Allies were neglected, until they were needed to face the decapitators who talked of a Caliphate and called themselves a state. Words like “strength” and “resolve” returned to the leader’s vocabulary. But the world was already adrift, unmoored by the retreat of its ordering power. The rule book had been ripped up.

Elizabeth responds, “It is, finally, perhaps a time of dawning realization that the centers are not holding; old orders are in extremis; new orders are in capricious adolescence”:

The troubles briefly enumerated in this sobering op-ed are only the most obvious issues. They are the pebble tossed into the pond, rippling outward in ever-widening circles — expanding to include a unique “time” of global crisis: governments failing at every level, everywhere; churches are divided, their freedoms challenged; citizens are distracted, dissatisfied and distrustful, their election mechanisms in doubt; schools are losing sight of the primary mission of education; families are deconstructed and the whole concept ripe for dissolution; respect for human dignity is doled out in qualified measures; there is a lack of privacy; a lack of time to think, to process and to incarnate; a lack of silence.

It sounds terribly, terribly depressing, yes. Who wants to read that? Who wants to think about that?

Sadly, this is essential reading; this is essential thinking.

Fair enough, but consider the source — over the past 12 years, the New York Times, when not going on benders on the evils of golf courses and air conditioning, and publishing outright fabulism, has, more recently, published pieces calling for the end of the US Constitution, and mocking the “fervid subsets of evangelical Christianity” of its presidential candidates — only, upon further review, to discover that these extreme worldviews are Catholicism, Lutheranism and Mormonism, bedrock religions of America’s history.  Its leading journalists have publicly called the citizens of the American midwest “The dance of the low-sloping foreheads” and filed William S. Burroughs-style stories of openly experimenting with drugs. And of course, in 2008, it went all-in to champion a man who was clearly not ready to be president, to the point of actively burying potentially damaging stories about him and refusing to run op-eds from his opponent.

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Tina Brown Could Not Be Reached for Comment

August 25th, 2014 - 3:33 pm

“Daily Beast Slams ‘Benedict Arnold’ Burger King for Planned ‘Inversion’” via a merger with the Canadian Tim Hortons chain, Ken Shepherd writes at Newsbusters:

Patriotism may be the last refuge of a scoundrel, as Samuel Johnson put it, but a lack of it may be the last refuge of corporate executives who have run out of ideas on how to improve their business,” groused Daily Beast global finance editor Daniel Gross in the open of his 9-paragraph screed “Burger King Plots Canadian Invasion to Save His Faltering Kingdom.” “It’s one thing for a fairly anonymous company that sells pumps or valves or industrial products to other businesses to renounce its citizenship for the sake of saving a few bucks on taxes. It’s quite another when you’re an iconic American consumer-facing company that relies on fickle consumers for a large share of its business,” Gross fumed.

Gosh. Wait’ll Gross discovers that the Daily Beast, the Website he writes for, was founded by a woman who left her country of origin in search of better business opportunities, and presumably, lower taxation, eventually becoming a citizen of her newly adopted homeland. How can he work for a corporation born of such scoundrelly* origins?

* Yes, it’s a word, according to cads and bounders and scalawags at the Oxford dictionary.

Update (8/26/14): “This is Awkward:” Warren Buffett, “who President Barack Obama has lauded and named a signature proposal after, is helping finance a deal that would allow Burger King Worldwide Inc. to reincorporate in Canada and potentially reduce its U.S. tax bill through a so-called inversion, the Journal reported late Monday.”

No word yet on how former President Obama will question his supporter’s distinct lack of patriotism.

Funny How This Keeps Happening to CNN

August 8th, 2014 - 11:36 am

Now is the time when we juxtapose, Small Dead Animals-style:

Our crew explored Tehran and Isfahan, eating some spectacularly delicious and sophisticated food. We were welcomed with open arms at every restaurant we visited. (The proprietors of our hotel in downtown Tehran must have found out from our visas that it was my producer’s birthday, because they invited us all down to the office, where they surprised us with a cake.) It was at one of these long lunches where I met The Washington Post’s correspondent, Jason Rezaian, and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi. They were well-known and liked in Tehran and were referred by mutual friends who knew that experienced English-speakers — with a unique perspective from straddling both worlds — would be helpful to our production.

A few weeks later, they were mysteriously arrested and detained. Based on what they told me, I cannot possibly understand why.

—”These people I interviewed in Iran clearly loved the country. So why did it put them in jail?”, Anthony Bourdain, celebrity chef and host of CNN’s “Parts Unknown” series, in the Washington Post on Tuesday, (found via our friendly neighborhood Vodkapundit and bon vivant, Steve Green.)

Over the last dozen years I made 13 trips to Baghdad to lobby the government to keep CNN’s Baghdad bureau open and to arrange interviews with Iraqi leaders. Each time I visited, I became more distressed by what I saw and heard — awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff.

For example, in the mid-1990′s one of our Iraqi cameramen was abducted. For weeks he was beaten and subjected to electroshock torture in the basement of a secret police headquarters because he refused to confirm the government’s ludicrous suspicion that I was the Central Intelligence Agency’s Iraq station chief. CNN had been in Baghdad long enough to know that telling the world about the torture of one of its employees would almost certainly have gotten him killed and put his family and co-workers at grave risk.

Working for a foreign news organization provided Iraqi citizens no protection. The secret police terrorized Iraqis working for international press services who were courageous enough to try to provide accurate reporting. Some vanished, never to be heard from again. Others disappeared and then surfaced later with whispered tales of being hauled off and tortured in unimaginable ways. Obviously, other news organizations were in the same bind we were when it came to reporting on their own workers.

We also had to worry that our reporting might endanger Iraqis not on our payroll. I knew that CNN could not report that Saddam Hussein’s eldest son, Uday, told me in 1995 that he intended to assassinate two of his brothers-in-law who had defected and also the man giving them asylum, King Hussein of Jordan. If we had gone with the story, I was sure he would have responded by killing the Iraqi translator who was the only other participant in the meeting. After all, secret police thugs brutalized even senior officials of the Information Ministry, just to keep them in line (one such official has long been missing all his fingernails).

“The News We Kept To Ourselves,” then-CNN president Eason Jordan’s mea culpa in the New York Times for his network serving as shills for Saddam Hussein for well over a decade, April 11, 2003.

But CNN will continue to back kleptocratic totalitarians, religious fundamentalist headchoppers, and radical chic terrorists — it’s in the very lifeblood of the channel’s corporate history.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results:

“Let’s Give Up on the Constitution”

—Headline at the New York Times, December 30th, 2012.

“Has the ‘Libertarian Moment’ Finally Arrived?”

—Headline at the New York Times, today.

And note the photo choice for the Times’ story. Is that a subliminal crosshair above Rand Paul’s forehead? Coming the same day that the Daily Beast (formerly Newsweek) put Sen. Paul in a red bull’s eye?

nyt_rand_paul_crosshairs_8-7-14-1

Click to enlarge. Note possible crosshairs in image.

Coincidence…?

Yes, of course. But considering the Times wasted 800 words in September of 2000 maniacally looking for imagined “DemoRats,” in GOP video freeze-frames, and destroyed Sarah Palin in 2011 over their fever swamp elimination rhetoric fantasies for using run-of-the-mill, bipartisan-approved political targeting clip art, they should be on particularly high alert for even accidentally using similar tactics themselves.

Besides — the ghost of Saul Alinksy and his Rules #4 and #5 requires us to point these things out. (And it’s not the first time since 2011 the Gray Lady has employed eliminationist imagery against conservatives.)

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“It’s not pretty, even if your credentials are impeccable,” Neo-Neocon writes:

John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, says he remembers the morning he spotted a well-known colleague at a gathering of climate experts.

“I walked over and held out my hand to greet him,” Dr. Christy recalled. “He looked me in the eye, and he said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Come on, shake hands with me.’ And he said, ‘No.’ ”

Neo adds, “It’s fortunate for Dr. Christy that burning at the stake has gone out of style.” But paradoxically amongst carbon-obsessed warmists, book-burning is making a rapid comeback, at least at San Jose State:

At speaking of the academic left believing that books have evil talismanic powers, Aaron Clarey spots a hilariously overblown reaction from a librarian who came across my February interview with Aaron on his then-new book Bachelor Pad Economics.

A hundred years ago, a central tenet of the left was “epater la bourgeoisie” — or shock the middle class. Apparently, they didn’t consider that their ideology would become so sclerotic and brittle that it would eventually transform them into a remarkably vapour-prone class of the bourgeois in constant search of the fainting couch. But then, as original Saturday Night Live writer Anne Beatts once said, you can only be avant-garde for so long before you come garde.

How Not to Promote Immigration Reform

July 15th, 2014 - 3:15 pm

“This CNN story makes it sound like Jose Antonio Vargas worked very hard to get arrested. Which I guess makes sense,” Mollie Hemingway tweeted earlier today. Jonathan S. Tobin of Commentary adds that Vargas isn’t helping his cause:

Today, America’s most prominent illegal immigrant arrived at the border between Mexico and the United States to demonstrate his solidarity with the tens of thousands of people streaming into the country without permission. But the stunt by which former journalist Jose Antonio Vargas got himself arrested did more to undermine support for immigration reform than to foster sympathy for the illegals.

Vargas became a national figure three years ago when the former Washington Post reporter outed himself in the New York Times as an illegal immigrant. Vargas came to the United States at 12 from the Philippines to live with his grandparents who were naturalized citizens. But he was brought here by a “coyote” without a legal visa and spent the rest of his life lying about his status and using fake documents. After graduating college he consulted an immigration lawyer who told him his only path to citizenship was to return to his home country, wait ten years and then apply to come back with permission. On the cusp of a successful career he refused and continued lying even as he was part of a Post team that won a Pulitzer. Eventually, he tired of the deceit as he continued to rise in mainstream journalism and decided to put himself forward as a symbol of the plight of the so-called “dreamers”—people who were brought to the country illegally as kids and who went on to make a contribution to society.

“Spent the rest of his life lying about his status and using fake documents.” Vargas will never make it as a leftwing journalist with those sorts of tactics.

Oh wait — let me check with Dan Rather, Matt Yglesias, and Touré on that last supposition and get back to you.

And I better run it past the president, and academia, just to make certain.

Privilege Checked

July 15th, 2014 - 10:34 am

America’s most visible illegal alien detained, Noah Rothman writes at Hot Air, sadly using an exquisitely PC term in his first sentence:

Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and activist who favors of immigration reform, is also a proud undocumented immigrant. Born in the Philippines but raised in the United States from the age of 12, Vargas worked and lived in America for years where he advocated through his reporting the reformation of American immigration laws.

Last week, Vargas penned a report from Texas for Politico Magazine chronicling the plight of a person in his position – a man without documentation on the frontlines of an immigration crisis. He recently produced a pro-reform documentary entitled Documented, which is set to air on CNN. It is not unfair to say that Vargas may be the most successful and well-known illegal immigrant in the United States. Indeed, that is a status and a reputation that Vargas has cultivated through his prolific and exemplary work after he revealed his illegal status in 2011.

On Monday, armed with only his Filipino passport and a copy of the United States Constitution, he was detained by immigration authorities in a Texas airport and taken to a border patrol station for processing.

The enforcement of American immigration law immediately sent the left into fits of rage.

Of course — what doesn’t send the left into fits of rage these days? Particularly when, as Noah writes, Vargas’ privilege was finally checked.

Vargas is employing a variation on a tactic that put Michael Moore on the map with his first film, Roger & Me. Just as Moore had an on-camera interview in the can with then-GM CEO Roger Smith, but couldn’t show it, lest it ruin the theme of his documentary, there’s little doubt that working through channels, Vargas could easily obtain legal American citizenship — but chooses not to do so, in order to flaunt his victim status, so desirable amongst his fellow leftists these days. (QED.)

Rothman writes that “It is true that Vargas is far more American than he is Filipino.” It will be interesting to see if he’ll decide to now make the former status official, or continue to wallow in self-imposed victimhood as the world’s most documented “undocumented” immigrant.

Now is the time when we juxtapose, Small Dead Animals-style:

“NYT Admits: ‘Somewhat Late’ on IRS Story, But Editor Swears ‘We’ve Paid Copious Attention.’”

—Headline, NewsBusters, yesterday.

“New York Times Maintains Blackout on Philadelphia Abortionist Gosnell’s Trial on Infanticide.”

—Headline, NewsBusters, April 15, 2013.

“Nothing Funny about New York Times Coverage of the Catholic Church.”

—Headline at NRO’s Corner blog, September 4, 2013.

Kate Zernike of the New York Times describes how tea-party activists explore “dusty bookshelves for long-dormant ideas” and study “once-obscure texts” by “long-dead authors.” She is of course referring to Friedrich Hayek, whose book The Road to Serfdom was excerpted in Reader’s Digest and never has been out of print, whose Nobel Prize for economics in 1974 celebrated the importance and mainstream acceptance of his thinking, and whose death in 1992 isn’t exactly ancient history. The article fails to illuminate tea-party philosophy and some of what it tries to say is bizarre. (Check out Zernike’s jaw-dropping attempt to define “the rule of law,” which is apparently a term she hadn’t heard until recently.) But it does serve the useful purpose of highlighting the biases and blinders of certain journalists.

“Obscurantism,” a post by John J. Miller at the Corner, October 3, 2010.

Or as Neo-Neocon wrote earlier this week on the NYT blackout of the IRS scandal, “what the Times is doing is ass-covering:”

They can’t think of a way to spin Obama’s abysmal failures any more (they do have certain standards, although those standards are pretty low), so they are silent.

They’re also very accustomed to setting the news agenda, and think they can get away with ignoring news they don’t like. That Times slogan “All the news that’s fit to print” takes on new meaning, doesn’t it? Up till now I’d always assumed they were conveying the idea that they cover the news thoroughly (they’d like us to think they cover it objectively, too, but that’s an absurdity). But did you ever wonder what sort of news isn’t “fit to print”? Why, it’s news that would hurt liberals and help conservatives, that’s what news. And it doesn’t matter if that news constitutes the biggest scandal since Watergate—potentially even bigger than Watergate.

The Gray Lady fancies itself a world-class newspaper, and a paper capable of covering all of America, but its output is as remarkably provincial as the worldview depicted in Saul Steinberg’s classic “View of the World from 9th Avenue” New Yorker cover from 1976. Which is exactly how Timesmen view middle America — just ask them.

But of course, all of this presumes that the Times, in classic Orwellian doublethink mode, still primarily considers itself a newspaper, and not a house organ for a political party.

Or to  put it another way, “Rush Limbaugh Was Right: For Liberals In And Out Of Media, It’s The Ideology, Stupid.”

Run Hard With This Campaign, Democrats

June 22nd, 2014 - 2:56 pm

Fanfare for the common man, 21st century style, as Democrats weep for the hardworking salt-of-the-earth chap who cheerfully runs the IRS while it upends the lives of millions of Americans and routinely “loses” its own documents. The above clip was apparently assembled by the Grabien video aggregation Website; as James Lileks joked to “Generalissimo” Duane Patterson during his weekly visit to Friday’s Hugh Hewitt “Aftershow,” “We give the RNSC some trouble, but that’s really the best ad that they’ve put out in a long time. Because here you have it: the Democrats set themselves up as the defenders of the IRS”:

Duane: Please, please run on that, Democrats. Please!

Lileks: Absolutely! Make that point clear to all. It’s almost as if their sympathy extends to this because [the IRS is] doing the Lord’s work – if there was such a thing – in that they are the ones who make it possible to take money from people, and give it to other people. And if a little shakes out for Congress in the meantime, just great. They are a force for good, because they are a force for spreadin’ the wealth around, they are a force for redistribution. And boy, they’ve lost aid, their budget has been cut, and they’ve lost employees – to which a lot of people have got to sit up straight and say, holy cow!

Duane: The sad part in this is that you’re just not funded enough.

Lileks: How are we going to run this country! How will we pay for everyone’s healthcare, if we don’t have sufficient IRS agents? Madness, this kind of sequestering! But at least we did learn one thing: If Lois Lerner is resigned to her computer being gone, I think we all can move on. if she’s made her piece with it, I think the rest of us can, too.

As Mary Katharine Ham adds at Hot Air, “Through every second of this montage, please remind yourself that these people fancy themselves anti-establishment. They are the fighters of the Man, the afflicters of the comfortable. Pathetic.”

Actually, I’m pretty sure that the left dropped that particular modified limited hangout right around January of 2009. These days, they’re simply in the business of the naked acquisition of as much power as possible, and don’t really care who knows it, as the above clip helpfully demonstrates. It also answers the observation on the IRS scandal raised by Megan McArdle at Bloomberg View, who writes, “I am inherently suspicious of any suggestion of a conspiracy, particularly one involving civil-service employees”:

Not because I think especially highly of civil servants, but because conspiracies are hard to get together, and hard to keep together — someone is likely to blab. Civil servants have a lot to lose by helping political appointees pursue their partisan agendas and no particular reason to be helpful. If it turns out that the IRS engaged in wrongful conduct, I will be inclined to credit complex sociology-of-organizations explanations (where everyone at the IRS shares an unspoken and perhaps unrecognized belief that people who campaign against taxation are clearly political ideologues, while people who campaign for more environmental spending are just swell, public-spirited folks trying to save the planet).

That culture, endemic in Washington and the pundit class that defends it, is vividly on display in the above clip, which will hopefully go into wide circulation in the coming weeks. C’mon E.J. Dionne of the Washington Postspread the news, far and wide!

Update: “On the IRS Emails, the Plot Thickens.”

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

June 16th, 2014 - 7:14 pm

An Alternet author has a sad because her local supermarket plays the Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb” in the background. Or as Matt Welch writes at Reason, “Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But the Rolling Stones Should Be Banned From Trader Joe’s!”

Today’s not-The-Onion headline comes from AlterNet:

Trader Joe’s NYC Store Defends ‘Racist, Sexist, and Misogynistic’ Songs on Playlist

Even after Elliot Rodger’s killing spree, Trader Joe’s manager says the store will keep playing a famous song that demeans women.

Even after Elliot Rodger’s killing spree! The nerve of these supermarket managers, not policing their Muzak to weed out songs that no one besides an AlterNet contributor could dream of linking to the Isla Vista massacre! Author Lynn Stuart Parramore goes on to describe her confrontation with store management over the misogynistic classic “Under My Thumb“:

Why should I have to hear about a guy comparing his girlfriend to a dog while I’m buying vegetables?

I decided to ask Trader Joe’s this question. Just so they would know I wasn’t making things up, I printed out the lyrics to “Under My Thumb” and brought them into the store with me. I was directed to a young man named Kyle Morrison at the manager’s station, to whom I explained in friendly terms that I was a frequent shopper and that I had heard a song playing over the sound system which, in the wake of the Elliot Rodger killing spree, made me feel uncomfortable. I told him the name of the song, and offered him the paper with the lyrics. [...]

Without looking at the page, Morrison’s first response was to tell me rather smugly that art was a matter of interpretation. I asked him to read the lyrics, and let me know how he interpreted them. He said he didn’t have time, so I read off a few for him.

“Do you think those lyrics are offensive to women?” I asked.

He looked uncomfortable. “It’s just like the radio in your car,” he argued. “There are all kinds of songs playing on different stations.” [...]

I did manage to reach Trader Joe’s customer service department and spoke to someone named “Nicki” (she refused to give her last name), who told me robotically that the music lists were set and Trader Joe’s would not change them.

“Even if they are offensive to women shopping in your stores?” I asked. “No one ever complains,” she said curtly. “I’m complaining,” I replied.

Why yes, Lynn, you are!

Misogyny being a regrettable part of life; romantic struggle being the single biggest subject of pop/rock music, and art being art, we will always have songs that fail the Parramore Test.

It’s nice to know that even as he’s a month away from turning 71 years old, Mick Jagger can still offend someone. But to understand how this moment came to be, return with us now to the not-so-thrilling days of 36 years ago, when supermarkets and retail stores still universally played easy listening instrumental Muzak in the background. When my father built his retail store in South Jersey in 1977 and installed an AM/FM receiver and overhead speakers in the customer portion of the store, one of my first questions about it went something like this:

ED JR.: Dad, can we put the radio in the store on WYSP or WMMR [then the two biggest rock stations in neighboring Philadelphia]?

ED SR.: No.

ED JR.: Aww, how come?

ED SR.: We’re going to play [whoever was the easy listening instrumental station in Philadelphia.] Because the music isn’t for us. It’s for the customers.

Presumably, boomers with dads who owned businesses had conversations like that throughout the post-Beatles-era America, until one day, Dads got fed up enough to collectively give in, and said in unison, “Fine. Leave us alone — put whatever the hell you want on in the background if it’ll make you happy,” and the boomers won the argument.

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“Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
– H.L. Mencken.

At Reuters, film critic and journalist Neal Gabler is unhappy with entertainment of a different sort, dubbing the NFL the “Last sports bastion of white, male conservatives”:

But football’s appeal is more than demographics. The numbers reflect the values of white conservative males. No professional sport looks more overtly macho than the NFL, and none appears to take greater delight in violence — not even the National Hockey League, which has gone to great lengths to curb fisticuffs. The Michael Sam draft story revealed that none may be more homophobic. Where the National Basketball Association enthusiastically embraced Jason Collins when he announced he was gay, former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has claimed that that he was released for advocating gay marriage and that his position coach made homophobic slurs. Then are the numerous player tweets against gays, as well as Miami Dolphin lineman and team captain Richie Incognito’s gay taunts against former teammate Jonathan Martin.

But the league’s appeal to entrenched conservative values goes deeper still — to the heart of the relationship between labor and capital. No other professional league seems to exhibit the indifference, even contempt, to its own players that the NFL does to its athletes — which is why the former players have filed their suit. The record of concussions and the use of painkillers demonstrate that to the NFL — and many of its fans — players are essentially expendable, interchangeable, to be used up and then discarded. The fact that football players have never established a powerful union, as baseball and basketball players have, only shows how much those players have drunk the league’s Kool Aid. The career of the average NFL player lasts scarcely three years, yet it is the only professional league that doesn’t have guaranteed contracts.

Still, the game’s soaring popularity may actually signal the potential waning of those values rather than their power. Just as baseball embedded itself into the national psyche because it captured a sense of the country and then hung on because it represented a pastoral oasis in a frightening new industrializing world, football embedded itself into the national psyche because it captured Ronald Reagan’s America, and it may be thriving among its core fans because it is a last redoubt of white male values now being threatened by changing national demographics and a more tolerant mindset.

It is hard to call a league as popular as the NFL an anachronism. But it just may be a place where rich old angry white men can enjoy their world on Sunday — even if that world may be crumbling around them.

Gosh.

There’s really only one thing to do — and it must be done now: “I agree, shut the whole thing down,” Glenn Reynolds jokingly quips, adding that the NBA should be shut down as well, to comply with MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry’s recent take that a professional sports league that routinely hands out seven and eight figure contracts to African Americans is a modern form of slavery.

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Post-Literary Traumatic Stress

May 17th, 2014 - 10:55 pm

The contradiction is fascinating: having completed, as Roger Kimball put it, the Long March through newsrooms and the entertainment world, in addition to academia, the result has been a forty year coarsening of the culture that’s apparent to everyone. Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction contains, according to one reviewer’s estimate, at least 69 uses of the N-word. My local 24 Hour Fitness routinely plays rap music on the gym Muzak system containing the N-word amidst an endless variety of crudely sexual and misogynistic “lyrics.” My local supermarket occasionally plays on their Muzak “Pump It Up,” Elvis Costello’s rockin’ ode to masturbation. In the 1950s, CBS insisted that Lucy and Desi slept in separate beds on I Love Lucy, and famously refused their use of the word “pregnant” on the air while Lucille Ball was very much pregnant. Today, the gang on CBS’s Two and a Half Men routinely engage in sexual romps and use sexual and scatological language that would have caused William S. Paley an aneurism.

This is the pop culture environment that we all live in, and it’s inescapable, whatever your age, and however much TV you consume. Turn off the TV and the radio, avoid the movie theater, and the stuff is pumped into your supermarket Muzak. If you have teenagers, they’ve been exposed to all of the above examples, and countless worse, long before they audit their first college course. Which makes a New York Times article headlined “Warning: The Literary Canon Could Make Students Squirm” all the more silly:

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Should students about to read “The Great Gatsby” be forewarned about “a variety of scenes that reference gory, abusive and misogynistic violence,” as one Rutgers student proposed? Would any book that addresses racism — like “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” or “Things Fall Apart” — have to be preceded by a note of caution? Do sexual images from Greek mythology need to come with a viewer-beware label?

Colleges across the country this spring have been wrestling with student requests for what are known as “trigger warnings,” explicit alerts that the material they are about to read or see in a classroom might upset them or, as some students assert, cause symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in victims of rape or in war veterans.

The warnings, which have their ideological roots in feminist thought, have gained the most traction at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where the student government formally called for them. But there have been similar requests from students at Oberlin College, Rutgers University, the University of Michigan, George Washington University and other schools.

The debate has left many academics fuming, saying that professors should be trusted to use common sense and that being provocative is part of their mandate. Trigger warnings, they say, suggest a certain fragility of mind that higher learning is meant to challenge, not embrace. The warnings have been widely debated in intellectual circles and largely criticized in opinion magazines, newspaper editorials and academic email lists.

Short of an Iranian-style cultural revolution, it’s virtually impossible to put the Genie back into the bottle, once a pop culture begins to coarsen. If Scott Fitzgerald can cause “symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder,” then every song on the radio and every TV show post-Beverly Hillbillies should be preceded by similar warnings.

As for “Trigger Warnings” on Fitzgerald and Twain, when supermarket muzak returns to 101 Strings-style easy listening arrangements, and the Hays Office reopens shop in Hollywood, then the idea of “Trigger Warnings” for literature might almost make sense. (Actually, it would be still be awfully silly.) But you can’t make it your ideology’s self-styled goal to loosen language and mores and then invent “Trigger Warnings” simply to find yet another excuse to avoid reading the works of Dead White European and American Males. Or if you do, don’t be surprised if your ideological opponents begin to adopt the idea to dilute and ameliorate your cultural forms of expression.

Related: “Dear Class of 2014: Thanks for Not Disinviting Me,” Stephen L. Carter, a Yale law professor writes at Bloomberg View:

The literary critic George Steiner, in a wonderful little book titled “Nostalgia for the Absolute,” long ago predicted this moment. We have an attraction, he contended, to higher truths that can sweep away complexity and nuance. We like systems that can explain everything. Intellectuals in the West are nostalgic for the tight grip religion once held on the Western imagination. They are attracted to modes of thought that are as comprehensive and authoritarian as the medieval church. You and your fellow students — and your professors as well; one mustn’t forget their role — are therefore to be congratulated for your involvement in the excellent work of bringing back the Middle Ages.

Or the culture of the Weimar Republic combined with the rigid intellectual conformity and race-obsessed tribalism of its immediate successor.

And don’t miss Mark Steyn on the cancellation of a Fargo first-grade class’s rendition of the Village People’s “YMCA” because of…

I don’t want to spoil it for you. Read the whole thing.

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“Baldwin was arrested in Manhattan for riding his bike the wrong way down a street and for disorderly conduct, a law-enforcement official said,” Pervaiz Shallwani writes in the Wall Street Journal.

Commence schadenfreude overload on Twitter.

Alec Baldwin arrested for going the wrong way is the perfect metaphor of the man’s life. In no other profession can a man continually f***-up so badly and pocket millions, in-between sanctimonious calls for, as it was known for about five minutes on the left in early 2011, “the era of new civility,” (see headline above) while damaging so many around him.

More from the Journal:

Actor Alec Baldwin was arrested in Manhattan for riding his bike the wrong way down a street and for disorderly conduct, a law-enforcement official said.

Mr. Baldwin was allegedly riding his bicycle north on Fifth Avenue in the center of the street between 15th and 16th streets, the official said.

Officers approached Mr. Baldwin told him he “was riding his bicycle the wrong way,” an NYPD spokeswoman said.

Mr. Baldwin was not able to produce identification and “then he got belligerent and started to argue with the officers,” the spokeswoman said.

Jim Treacher has a photo of Baldwin’s latest run-in with authority atop his post at the Daily Caller:“Alec Baldwin? Belligerent? Toward women telling him what to do? More specifically, women of color?”

“That doesn’t sound right!”

Heh.

Oh, and past performance is no guarantee of future results:

“Alec Baldwin names Bill De Blasio as his pick for next New York City mayor, knocks Christine Quinn as ‘untrustworthy’”

— Headline, the New York Daily News, December 7th, 2012.

Flash-forward to today:

“New York City is a mismanaged carnival of stupidity that is desperate for revenue and anxious to criminalize behavior once thought benign.”

— Tweet from Baldwin (who apparently still hasn’t kept his many promises to quit Twitter), today.

Hey, nobody said it was easy being a small-government totalitarian leftist.

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Or, Two NBCs in One!

The connection between slavery and fossil fuels, however, is more than metaphorical. Before the widespread use of fossil fuels, slaves were one of the main sources of energy (if not the main source) for societies stretching back millennia. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, nearly all energy to power societies flowed from the natural ecological cascade of sun and food: the farmhands in the fields, the animals under saddle, the burning of wood or grinding of a mill. A life of ceaseless exertion.

Let me pause here once again to be clear about what the point of this extended historical comparison is and is not. Comparisons to slavery are generally considered rhetorically out of bounds, and for good reason. We are walking on treacherous terrain. The point here is not to associate modern fossil fuel companies with the moral bankruptcy of the slaveholders of yore, or the politicians who defended slavery with those who defend fossil fuels today.

In fact, the parallel I want to highlight is between the opponents of slavery and the opponents of fossil fuels. Because the abolitionists were ultimately successful, it’s all too easy to lose sight of just how radical their demand was at the time: that some of the wealthiest people in the country would have to give up their wealth. That liquidation of private wealth is the only precedent for what today’s climate justice movement is rightly demanding: that trillions of dollars of fossil fuel stay in the ground. It is an audacious demand, and those making it should be clear-eyed about just what they’re asking. They should also recognize that, like the abolitionists of yore, their task may be as much instigation and disruption as it is persuasion. There is no way around conflict with this much money on the line, no available solution that makes everyone happy. No use trying to persuade people otherwise.

MSNBC talking head Chris Hayes in The Nation today. Link safe; goes to Twitchy, where Twitter users are wondering if Hayes was intoxicated from, presumably, non-petroleum-based spirits, when he wrote the above and Tweeted:

Wait’ll Chris discovers how his bosses make their money:

NASCAR has finalized the other half of its next long-term TV contract with NBC and severed future broadcast ties with ESPN and Turner Sports.

NBC and Fox will share rights to the Sprint Cup Series beginning with the 2015 season.

NBC and NASCAR agreed to a contract that runs from 2015-2024, but didn’t release financial terms of the deal.

NBC picks up the last 20 of a scheduled 36 points Sprint Cup races, and they could air Sunday afternoons as a lead-in to Sunday Night Football. Fox and NBC will share TV rights to the Nationwide Series, which has aired on ESPN since 2007 ABC and ESPN began a NASCAR deal in place of NBC.

— “NBC returns to NASCAR in deal that runs through 2024,” USA Today, July 23rd, 2013.

OK Chris, here’s your action plan. If indeed there are “parallels between the abolition of slavery and today’s climate fight,” then your mission is to barge into the NBC boardroom and convince them to drop NASCAR coverage. And the NFL — all those charter flights to the games, and the Goodyear Blimp circling around overhead at the stadium — those will have to be dropped from coverage. And no car chases in cop shows, unless it’s hot Prius on Prius action. And no stretch limos for NBC, CNBC and MSNBC execs and the on-air talent. No helicopters or jet flights for the news team.

Do all that, have NBC sign off on it, then get back to us. If you’re going to accuse your bosses of the moral equivalent of slavery (Because Al Gore took the moral equivalent of the Holocaust decades ago, I guess), you must force them to stop.

Do it for Gaia, man. Do it for Gaia.

On the other hand, somebody else at the Nation has a much better handle on things: “Let This Earth Day Be The Last:”

F*** Earth Day.

No, really. F*** Earth Day. Not the first one, forty-four years ago, the one of sepia-hued nostalgia, but everything the day has since come to be: the darkest, cruelest, most brutally self-satirizing spectacle of the year.

F*** it. Let it end here.

Works for me; as Kathy Shaidle joked when she forward the above link, “Iowahawk, is that you…?”

Related: “Hard. Core.”

More: Heh, indeed:

Update: “The message to the carbon industry seems to be: You are surrounded. Give up. Don’t make us shoot,” Byron York notes at the Washington Examiner, unpacking the violence lurking just underneath what York describes as Hayes’ “radical ‘climate justice’ manifesto.”

Which would perfectly square the circle, as it wasn’t that long ago that MSNBC was declaring violent metaphoric imagery as racist.

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“I’m not a scientist and actually given what I’ve seen of scientists in my experiences following the global warming scam, I’m glad I’m not a scientist because a lot of these guys are basically shysters and crooks. They’re not some kind of white-coated elite with a special hotline to the truth. In fact, they’re just ordinary guys and girls trying to earn a living like the rest of us but slightly more dodgily than the rest of us in the one or two egregious cases,” James Delingpole of Ricochet.com, the UK Spectator and the executive editor the newly launched Breitbart London tells me in our latest interview. And that’s one of the kinder things that the author of The Little Green Book of Eco-Fascism:  The Left’s Plan to Frighten Your Kids, Drive Up Energy Costs, and Hike Your Taxes has to say on the subject. He’ll also discuss:

● If Mark Steyn loses his lawsuit to Michael Mann, who gets the top bunk in their cell at the Global Warming Stalag, James or Mark?

● The concept of the “Friendly Lawsuit,” and how it helps to explain that the left is nothing but Potemkin Villages, all the way down.

● Prying open “The Drawbridge Effect” to see what’s inside Al Gore’s and Thomas Friedman’s mansions.

● How can the media alternately tell us the world is coming to an end in five years if we don’t radically change our lifestyles, then cheerfully promote high-carbon footprint pro sports, such as the NFL and NASCAR?

● What’s the background behind the big “Climategate” scandal of 2009, and where does it stand today?

● How James both discovered American politics while living in England and joined the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.

And much more. Click here to listen:

(more…)

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The other night, after staying up too late watching an episode of Rumbole of the Bailey on the Acorn channel on my Roku set-top box, I clicked over to the Vemo channel. Acorn is devoted to classic British TV series, such as the Poirot murder mysteries, Brideshead Revisited, Edward & Mrs. Simpson, and the aforementioned Rumbole, starring veteran British actor (and occasionally scenery devouring over-actor) Leo McKern in the eponymous role. Vevo is an entirely different channel, one that also has a large YouTube presence, as a repository for rock videos old and new. At the start of the week, while listening to Sirius-XM on headphones while working, I heard Aerosmith’s “Jaded” song from 2001 for the first time in ages, and Joe Perry’s riff, which sounds inspired by Jimmy Page’s sharp-suspended fourth riff on Led Zeppelin’s “Dancin’ Days” rapidly became an earwig, playing over and over in my head.

So I thought I’d check out the video for the song, since Vevo generally does a very good job with running the videos in HD with full-range audio. And really – who doesn’t conclude a segment from a 1978 Thames Television show about an aging British barrister by saying, “Well, now that I’ve seen Rumpole of the Bailey, it’s time for some classic Aerosmith!” But I’m me, and that’s how my brain works, after years of having been badly mutated through massive Chernobyl-level  overdoses of pop culture.

While Vevo’s clips are free to watch, they’re often preceded by commercials for various products that sponsors believe would be appropriate for a rock video audience. However, in this case, the video was not preceded by a commercial, but by a public service announcement (PSA) designed to encourage young people to stop smoking.

Through the use of the most disgusting imagery possible.

The PSA began with a young man entering a convenience store and asking for a pack of cigarettes. Plunking a five dollar bill and his ID on the counter, he asks the clerk, “This enough?” Whereupon the clerk says, “Nope, there’s one more thing I need” – and proceeds to rip the customer’s front teeth out with a pair of pliers.

As James Lileks would say, pure 100 proof nightmare fuel.

Once the pliers came out, I averted my eyes until Steve and Joe and the boys began playing. I understand that not everyone realizes that excessive smoking can have injurious effects on a person’s dentition — and that Seinfeld is no longer on the air to remind them of this fact. At which point the juxtaposition was grimly hilarious, considering that Steve Tyler and Joe Perry used wear T-shirts in their rock videos describing themselves as “the Toxic Twins” – by the late 1970s and early ‘80s, before they went through maximum-strength rehab, puffs from a Marlboro 100 were by far the healthiest thing they were putting into their bodies.

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ATTENTION INTERNET: THIS IS A QUADRUPLE FACEPALM ALERT. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. REPEAT, THIS IS NOT A DRILL — assuming Mother Jones’ story is accurate, of course:

Last week, the online dating site OkCupid switched up its homepage for Mozilla Firefox users. Upon opening the site, a message appeared encouraging members to curb their use of Firefox because the company’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, allegedly opposes equality for gay couples—specifically, he donated $1000 to the campaign for the anti-gay Proposition 8 in 2008. “We’ve devoted the last ten years to bringing people—all people—together,” the message read. “If individuals like Mr. Eich had their way, then roughly 8% of the relationships we’ve worked so hard to bring about would be illegal.” The company’s action went viral, and within a few days, Eich had resigned as CEO of Mozilla only weeks after taking up the post. On Thursday, OkCupid released a statement saying “We are pleased that OkCupid’s boycott has brought tremendous awareness to the critical matter of equal rights for all individuals and partnerships.”

But there’s a hitch: OkCupid’s co-founder and CEO Sam Yagan once donated to an anti-gay candidate. (Yagan is also CEO of Match.com.) Specifically, Yagan donated $500 to Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) in 2004, reports Uncrunched. During his time as congressman from 1997 to 2009, Cannon voted for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, against a ban on sexual-orientation based job discrimination, and for prohibition of gay adoptions.

William A. Jacobson of the popular Legal Insurrection blog notes that Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller was the first to report on Yagan’s donations (Ross’s article is date-stamped last Thursday), and that Mother Jones failed to credit Ross for his detective work. In any case, as Jacobson adds, “So when does the boycott of OKCupid start?  After all, the people who took down Eich did so based on the, ahem, purest of principled judgments.”

See, that’s problem with breaking out the torches and attempting to imitate the crowd in a 1930s Universal horror film: you can very easily get scarred yourself by the blowback. It will quite interesting to see where both Firefox and OKCupid go from here, having both jumped off the cliff in short succession.

Exit quote:

Although the source of the quote is pretty rich, as that great philosopher Murray Slaughter once said of another journalist who frequently descended into madness, “When a donkey flies, you don’t blame him for not staying up that long.”

Oh, and heh.

Related: The Rise of the Anti-Tech California Left.

As Always, Life Imitates Mark Steyn

April 3rd, 2014 - 3:32 pm

Mark Steyn, yesterday afternoon:

When I launched my legal offense fund for my big-picture free-speech pushback against an extremist Big Climate coterie that has bullied too many people for too long, a lot of people wrote to me and said, “I don’t want your crappy books and lousy CDs, Steyn. Why don’t you crowdsource this campaign? It’d be a lot easier.” And the reason I didn’t go to one of the big crowdsourcing sites is precisely because of what befell Mr and Mrs McAleer. Kathy Shaidle has been saying this about “the landlords of social media” for years — and years: “We don’t need another conservative website …with a faux-ballsy name like TakeThat!”; we need versions of YouTube and Blogger and now, apparently, Kickstarter. The Internet is built by people who are smart and savvy and “think outside the box” in technological terms – and on everything else are as conformist as the dreary obsolescent hacks at the dullest Gannett monodaily. And at some point or another, on abortion or “climate change” or Islamic imperialism, they’ll yank the rug out from under you to “enforce a culture of respect and consideration”. That’s why I’d rather go my own way. It’s hard work, and it’s certainly tough on my rather small staff. But it’s less frustrating than being told by CrowdSourcer.com that they’d like you to tone down your remarks on Michael Mann’s false claim to have been exonerated because the League of Climate Conformists is threatening to damn them as deniers.

~THE CONFORMISM OF COOL: As an example of the groupthink of the cutting edge of new media, consider an exception that proves the rule:

Mozilla CEO Resists Calls to Resign Amid Furor Over Anti-Gay Marriage Donation

The “anti-gay marriage donation” was $1,000 that Brendan Eich gave to California’s Proposition 8, which in November 2008 was approved by the same electorate that voted for President Obama and which banned same-sex marriage in the state – until the Supreme Court ruled that the voice of the people on this matter was “unconstitutional”. A five-year-old one-grand donation to a losing cause is apparently enough to render Mr Eich unfit for office at an American technology company. Because what matters in this brave new world is that everybody think alike – or at least pretend to. Invited to eat gay crow, Mozilla’s CEO is for the moment holding his own:

24 hours later, we now know how that played out: “Liberal Fascists Win Again: Firefox CEO Steps Down,” as spotted by Bryan Preston at the PJ Tatler.

Ace of Spades links to the sort of Stalinesque hate speech that caused all the trouble for Eich:

Moe Lane lists “Why I just dumped Firefox as a browser, and so should you. #uninstallfirefox.” And I can’t say I blame him at all; my first thought in response to Mozilla tossing Eich for doubleplusungood thoughtcrime was also to dump Firefox, but I’ve been using that browser for nearly a decade now, and several of its (now ironically named) open-source plugins make blogging and its ancillary functions easier — or in a few cases, doable at all.

But where to go? Internet Explorer? Bill Gates can sound like a cross between Margaret Sanger and Paul Ehrlich. Google Chrome? Google is, if anything, more politically correct in the Frankfurt School sense of the phrase than either company. As Mark noted, “The Internet is built by people who are smart and savvy and ‘think outside the box’ in technological terms — and on everything else are as conformist as the dreary obsolescent hacks at the dullest Gannett monodaily.”

Or toughest Soviet zampolit. But hey, these days, it’s the left that has the Juche; and they’re not afraid to use it.

Update: “Eich Is Out. So Is Tolerance,” Ryan T. Anderson writes at the Heritage Foundation’s Foundry blog:

Sure, the employees of Mozilla—which makes Firefox, the popular Internet browser— have the right to protest a CEO they dislike, for whatever reason. But are they treating their fellow citizens with whom they disagree civilly? Must every political disagreement be a capital case regarding the right to stand in civil society?

When Obama “evolved” on the issue just over a year ago, he insisted that the debate about marriage was legitimate. He said there are people of goodwill on both sides.

Supporters of marriage as we’ve always understood it (a male-female union) “are not coming at it from a mean-spirited perspective,” Obama explained. “They’re coming at it because they care about families.”

And “a bunch of ‘em are friends of mine,” the president added. “… you know, people who I deeply respect.”

Yet disrespect and intolerance seem increasingly to be the norm. For the forces that have worked for 20 years to redefine marriage to include same-sex unions, a principal strategy has been cultural intimidation—bullying others by threatening the stigma of being “haters” and “bigots.”

Exit quote from an otherwise rather PC guy:

The mob demands fresh scalps.

More: Binks at the Free Canuckistan blog assembles a list of alternative browsers, though I have one quick question: which one handles Java the best?

(Via 5F’F)