Thursday, March 14, 2002

Radical Cheerleaders Invade Baltimore

There is a new threat to the nation. I am speaking, of course, of Radical Cheerleaders. A horrific combination of bad clothing, bad music, and bad ideas, they have descended upon the nation's revered institutions in massive numbers exceeding at least two people.

Normally, I have a fair amount of tolerance for cheerleaders. Short skirts and lots of bouncing create a climate of appeasement in my fevered brain which causes me to overlook the sillier aspects of the 'sport'. But these are radical cheerleaders. And not a Gen-X, 'extreme' sort of radicalism that might be interesting. Oh no, these are the unkempt, unshaven, histrionic kinds of radicals that give me heartburn. I have no desire to see such people bouncing around in short skirts, legs akimbo. I might accidentally see something that causes a certain kind of mental trauma that would not please Mrs. Happy Fun Pundit.

I quote from this press release from the 'Rainforest Action Network':

The radical cheerleaders entered the Citibank at noon disrupting the business and educating customers with performances of cheers such as "Hey Citi you're so blind, you're so blind, you're so blind you blow my mind. Hey Citi!' shouted the radical cheerleaders erratically dressed in short skirts and florescent tights to the tune the Bangle's 80's hit "Hey Micky!"

We've come a long way from the Black Panthers, baby. Apparently, the 'education' of the customers did not include grammar or spelling. It also did not include music trivia, because I'm pretty sure that the chant was based on a Tony Basil song called "Mickey". The Bangles made an entirely different type of bad music.

I'm also not sure why these people were proud to be dressed 'erratically'. My four year old daughter dresses erratically. Perhaps I have been lax in not seeing this as a desperate cry for help from the oppression of the Kindergarten Proletariat. My bad.

Another gang of Radical Cheerleaders has descended upon the nation's beloved Taco Bell franchise. They are protesting the treatment of farm workers on a tomato farm in Florida. So of course Taco Bell is at fault, because they buy tomatoes. According to "Worker's World", one of the nation's premier sources of nutbar press releases, the workers on this farm are 'surrounded by barbed wire' and forced to work in 'cell-like buildings'. Sounds pretty ominous until you realize that just about EVERY farm worker is 'surrounded by barbed wire' (instead of say, being surrounded by rogue cows). And 'cell-like' buildings can be found on pretty much every farm, as long as you are willing to stretch the definition of a 'cell' to mean 'any smallish building with a door' as the Worker's World apparently does.

But I have some sympathy for the Taco Bell protestors. Because I hate that damned Chihauha. So in that spirit, I have made up a new cheer for the Taco Bell radical cheerleaders:

Hey hey, my my,
The Taco Bell dog has got to die.
Don't even need a reason why,
Let's make that rat-sized doggy fry!

I'll be there as soon as I get my skirt on.

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Letterman Redux

This last weekend, the talking head parade on TV just couldn't stop yammering about Ted Koppel being punted from network TV. Much has been said about this whole sorry spectacle, but I'd just like to make a few points about some of their sillier statements:

Nightline is necessary because it's the only 'hard' news show left.
Many pundits saw the potential cancellation of 'Nightline' as a blow to the nation, because it was the only show providing quality analysis instead of 'info-tainment'. Well, let's suppose that is the case. Who's fault is that? News on television is packaged as entertainment because they need the ratings to pay for big production values and outrageous salaries for those 'concerned' TV journalists. In an era where even Ted Koppel in late-night can pull in 8 million a year, you've got to put up the numbers. And where are all the big-time anchors who are lamenting the dumbing down of TV? Oh yeah - they are hosting newsmagazine shows for bigger salaries. Memo to Dan Rather: If you want quality news back on the air, how about offering to take a salary cut to, say, $1 million a year, on the condition that you get more control over content? Not willing to make that deal, hmmnn? And here's a suggestion for network executives: The next time one of your pampered crybaby news anchors demands a raise, tell him that you'll give it to him only on the condition that the show be made a little lighter on facts and heavier on entertainment in order to raise the ratings. Then publish the negotiations and let the simpering prima-donna expose himself for what he is.

Americans need Nightline because they need the in-depth coverage.
I know TV people hate to admit this, but television has NEVER been good at in-depth coverage. This is especially true in the web era. Today, if people want serious coverage, they can go to any number of web sites and read the story, view interactive maps, and follow links to background material. If they want to know even more, they can use a search engine to dig up the same source material that the talking heads have condensed down to 30 second sound bites in their attempt to be 'thorough'. We also have a number of 24 hour news networks, newspapers and magazines, and radio. Even in the bad old days before the internet, television was a poor choice for in-depth coverage. Newspapers did it better.

Advertisers are wrong in thinking that young people are a better audience.
This was a major recurring theme - the pundits kept pointing out that Nightline's raw viewer numbers are as good as Letterman's, but Koppel's audience is older, and therefore less desirable to advertisers. The pundits questioned the wisdom of this, saying that older people have more money and the advertisers are wrong to target young people. This is arrogance in the extreme. To assume that a multi-billion dollar advertising industry lacks the basic insights available to your average "Reliable Sources" panelist is ridiculous. Advertising has become a science. They know what they are doing. But this arrogant attitude permeates TV news people. They love to give opinions on things they don't understand, and they consider the opinions of others to be irrelevant. They are the keepers of truth, and have the six-month J-school diplomas to prove it.

I suspect Nightline will be replaced sometime in the near future. Jon Stewart and "The Daily Show" would make a fine replacement. Or maybe they'll wait for Conan's contract at NBC to come up and try to put him up against Letterman and Leno (which would be very interesting). Either way, the Republic will stand. Koppel will migrate over to CNN or get a primetime newsmagazine show or replace Sam and Cokie on "This Week". In the meantime, the cable networks will fall all over themselves to air a "Nightline" type show in that time period to try and pick up the viewers. No one outside of the professional pundit biz is losing any sleep over this. And I've already said too much about a very silly controversy.

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Set Phasers on Stupid

Until now, I haven't thought much of watching the new Star Trek series Enterprise. The one episode I watched seemed likable enough, but the story was a little muddy and I didn't know the characters, so I had no real compelling reason to tune in to the next episode. So it fell into that TV wasteland of shows that are okay but always seem to have been on the day before I remember to watch them.

But not any more. Now I have to tune in. Because The Nation hates it. That's all I need to know to tell me that watching will be a worthwhile experience.

See, I figured the Star Trek franchise was due for retirement. Over the years, it has gotten completely incoherent and lazy, much like the writers at The Nation.

In the review linked above, Donna Minkowitz laments the passing of the faddish socialism that oozed through "Star Trek - The Next Generation". God, I hated that crap. Every time some smarmy Star Fleet officer looked down at some poor inferior race and said, "Money? We no longer need money." I wanted to scream, "GREAT! GIVE EVERYONE A BIG FREAKIN' STARSHIP THEN!" I mean, presumably there must be some way of allocating resources, or everyone would live in their own personal floating cities.

But like socialism in the real world, the socialism in Star Trek depends on ignoring uncomfortable little details like, 'Not everyone can have everything they want.' Even in a world of replicators and immense wealth, there must still be scarcity. What about works of art or ancient relics? Can I just walk into the Federation museum and help myself to the 10,000 year old Andorran tantric love crystals? I'm having a party, and last time those cheap Klingon love crystals gave me a terrible rash. Or maybe it was the Klingon.

Anyway, Ms. Minkowitz continues attacking Enterprise on similarly specious grounds. Consider her take on the 'new' Vulcans: They are portrayed as being elitist, restrictive, pushy, geeky. So the natural assumption Ms. Minkowitz makes is that they are supposed to be metaphors for Jews. I think this says a lot more about Ms. Minkowitz than it does about Star Trek, because when I think about elitist pushy geeks, the first thing that comes to my mind is The Nation.

This is how she describes science officer T'Pol:
A caricature of a bitter woman of color, obsessed with human (i.e., white) evils, bleating endlessly about self-determination for Klingons and other people whose names sound dumb to humans.

In other words, T'Pol would be right at home at a NOW rally. Instead of whining, Ms. Minkowitz should be happy that Star Trek has finally captured the all-important Andrea Dworkin demographic.

Finally, Ms. Minkowitz hates the fact that Captain Archer loved his father and grew up playing with toy rocket ships. She sees a 'heavy Freudian element' in all this. You know, 'cause rockets are long and pointy, and because Dad had a big one. She describes a scene of a small boy playing with a toy rocket with his dad as him "Literally trying to get it up." One suspects that Ms. Minkowitz sees a 'Heavy Freudian Element' in her breakfast cereal.

Of course, it would be ludicrous to even think that little Johnny plays with rockets because he LIKES ROCKETS, or that he hangs out with Dad because he loves him. That would never do, because then our intrepid writer wouldn't be able to use killer lines like, "In the show's iconography, T'Pol represents a castrating woman as well as a scheming racial inferior". Because everyone knows you can't have a good feminist diatribe without getting the word 'castration' in there somewhere.

Anyway, Enterprise is on Tuesday nights on UPN. Be sure to tune in. The Nation hates it, and that's all you need to know.

Monday, March 11, 2002

The VodkaMeister Scores One For the Team

All bow to his holiness, Pope Incorrigible I.

He's a wheelie-poppin', roulette playin', rock-and-rollin' party-animal of a Pope. He's the Popester!

And the funny thing is, if he did all the things he wants he still wouldn't crack the top 10 'most corrupt' pope lists. Unless he manages to father a few out of wedlock kids with those hooter girls. Then he's got a shot.

Anyway, if he pulls this off I'm going holy-roller. If for no other reason than for the sacramental malt beverages.
Another Victor Davis Hanson Must-Read

Victor Davis Hanson has an excellent article in today's NRO on the attitude of Kuwaitis towards the U.S. The article is a great rejoinder to those who believe that the Arab world is mad at us simply because of past grievances or because we don't help them enough. In the case of Kuwait, we SAVED THEIR COUNTRY. You can't be more helpful than that. And they are rich, so you can't blame poverty. And they are educated, so you can't blame ignorance. And they hate us.

You can't even blame the plight of the Palestinians, because Kuwaitis hate Palestinians so much they ejected all of them from their country.

What explains the Kuwaiti attitude towards the U.S.? I don't know. I think Victor Davis Hanson misses the mark a bit when he says that it's a resentment towards Western success, because the Kuwaitis pretty much share that success. They are rich, their infrastructure is modern with modern communications, good roads, lots of cars, and free access to the west for those in power.

I think the answer must lie much deeper than that. I'm not even sure we are capable of understanding how they think. The Arab world is still very close to its nomadic, tribalist roots. Western modes of thought simply don't apply. But because they look pretty much like us, we assume that they are motivated by the same basic ways of thinking. That is a mistake.
George Wins the Trifecta!

First it was the horrendous steel decision. Then it was sending General Zinni back to the Middle East. And now,just as Alan Greenspan tells us that the economy has already come out of recession and is growing faster than expected, Bush signs a 49 billion dollar 'stimulus' package into law.

These are all horrible decisions. The steel decision was by far the worst. With the stroke of a pen, Bush has swung open the gates in front of the federal trough, and now all the little piggies looking for government protection will be squealing and jostling for their own 'remedy'.

You can't over-state how damaging this is both to the country and to Bush. If he had stood his ground as a free trader, he'd have an instant answer for all of the other industries that come calling: "Free trade is our firm principle. If we didn't bail out steel, why should we bail you out?" But he can't do that any more. Now he's either going to have to bend over for every special interest out there who wants to be protected from fair competition, or he's going to have to tell them that their jobs are somehow less important than the jobs of steelworkers. I don't think that will go over very well in Mobile or Portland.

In addition, he's now opened the door for every other country that trades with the U.S. to pick up the same 'fair' trade mantra and run with it. Bush has now lost the moral case against protectionism. Every single trade fight that he engages in for the rest of his administration just became much more difficult.

Now that Bush has abandoned free trade, spent huge amounts of money on education and 'stimulus', and created a vast new bureaucracy by federalizing airport workers, he is leaving himself politically vulnerable on his flank. He may be in danger of letting his wartime popularity cloud his political judgement. If he stumbles badly in the war effort, he
is going to find himself attacked by the right, which he seems to be slowly abandoning, and the left, which wouldn't vote for him even if he ended the war himself with an M-60 and a bandolier of ammo, Rambo style.

If the Democrats were smart, they would try to outflank him on the war by being even more agressive, rather than trying to undermine the war effort. Now that Bush has angered conservatives and Libertarian-leaning centrists (his decisions on stem cells and his probable upcoming opposition to therapeutic cloning will help alienate them), he is going to become vulnerable to a hawkish Democrat. If the Democrats can find someone in their party who is pro-technology, pro-free trade, and strong on the war, Bush could be in trouble.

There are a few candidates in the Democratic party with sterling war records (including a couple of Medal of Honor recipients). If one of those candidates rises out of the party as a 'new' Democrat with market-oriented leanings (including support for school choice, which Bush also abandoned), Bush could wind up in serious trouble, especially if the war effort falters.

His dad painfully discovered the first rule of politics - "Always satisfy your base of support." If this keeps up, Bush the younger is going to wake up one day with Tom Daschle leering over him saying, "All your base are belong to us!".