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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire

Now that Digby has informed everyone that “Tristero” is in fact the renowned composer Richard Einhorn, and Richard Einhorn has confirmed the fact that he is Tristero, I thought I’d reveal the related fact that Richard Einhorn and Tristero are the same person.

Didn’t see that one coming, did you?  And just wait ‘til we find out that Digby is also Richard Einhorn.

No, that’s probably not true.  I met Richard in New York last week, and over lunch, even after I spiked his San Pellegrino with veritaserum, he told me he still doesn’t know who Digby is, even after guest-blogging at Hullabaloo for months.  But it would be fun to start the rumor that Einhorn is Digby anyway—and it would be fitting, too, because I first met Richard Einhorn through some Wacky and Daffy Postmodern Internets Hijinx eighteen months ago.

Here’s the setup.  First, I wrote this post on September 7, 2004, just after the Republican National Convention, during which I passed myself off for three and a half nights as one of those “I used to be a Democrat, but since 9/11, I’m furious that the Supreme Court took prayer out of the schools” converts.  The occasion of the September 7 post was a characteristically batshit-insane Weekly Standard essay by David Gelernter, in which Gelernter not only complained of Democrats’ “racist hatred of uppity white conservatives, who have developed the cheek to threaten the left’s cultural power,” but also spun out an extended analogy between Iraq and Kitty Genovese, accusing The Left® of ignoring Iraq’s cries for help.  (In an aside, I wrote, “Surely Gelernter remembers the travesties of the early 1980s, when Donald Rumsfeld’s organization, ‘Conservatives for Peace in the Middle East,’ held a candlelight vigil for Saddam’s victims while Jimmy ‘Friend to Thugs’ Carter snuck into Baghdad in a daring pre-dawn mission and gave Saddam caches of chemical weapons while the rest of the left rolled over and went back to sleep.”)

OK, so Mr. Tristero came across this post later that day, and decided it would be really funny to praise my “postmodern” blogging.  So he claimed that I made up both the Gelernter essay and the Weekly Standard website, and closed his reply by saying,

But what a tour de farce! The perfectly faked Weekly Standard site, the pitch-perfect rhetorical parodies, the properly amazed and bemused comments from the “real” Michael Bérubé, blogger. . . . For a while there, I was totally sucked in. I really thought Gelernter had actually gone completely off his rocker.

Goddamn, I thought to myself at the time.  This guy’s even more convoluted and pomo than I am!  Hey . . . maybe that’s why his name is Tristero

So there was nothing I could do but play along.  I followed up with a post in which I “admitted” that the David Gelernter essay was a hoax:

OK, so Tristero nailed me.  No hallowed skein of stars can ward, I trow, who’s once been set his tryst with Tristero!  But, dear readers, even though I know some of you are tired of finding layer after layer of annoying postmodern irony on this humble blog, I confess that I really thought I could pull this one off with impunity. . . .  So with a little help from my English Department colleague Charles Kinbote, I downloaded the Eystein Reality Generator, an open-source device that tinges any website simulacrum with an eerie pale fire, and put together my elaborate Weekly Standard parody in the course of an afternoon.

And I would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids and your weird “Don’t Ever Antagonize The Horn” cult!!!

Then I complained that Tristero’s discovery had set the Weekly Standard’s attorneys on me, and that I’d received a “cease and desist” letter from the legal firm of Warpe, Wistfull, Kubitschek and McMingus, signed by somebody named Metzger.

Well, by this point people were plenty confused—even my friends and regular readers.  One commenter, under the nom de web Lowlife, wrote in:

I believed your original post.  When Tristero (whose blog is daily fare at Chez LowLife) revealed the fake I believed his post.  Now, with this post, I am convinced that Tristero was wrong and the original was right and true.  I’ll never trust you again.  I will, however, continue to read you everyday.

And Chris Robinson wrote,

This is better than “The Crying Game.” Camera pans downward to reveal Tristero is Michael Berube who is really David Gelernter who is, of course (and we discerning readers should have seen it all along) Karl Rove. Hopefully the real Berube, duct taped to a radiator in a dark closet, will escape in time to save us all from this right wing, android-driven, conspiracy. Let us pray.

Folks, I’d had me some fun with the Internets before, but until then, I never realized that blogs could be so infinitely recursive in a loopy Borgesian kinda way.  And I owe it all to Richard Einhorn.

More seriously, that encounter introduced me to a great contemporary composer, whose work will shortly be included in David Horowitz’s forthcoming book, The 101 Most Dangerous Classical Composers in America Today.  Last May, I had the chance to attend a performance of his 1994 masterwork, Voices of Light, which he wrote in response to (and as a score or parallel text for) Carl Dreyer’s stunning 1928 film, The Passion of Joan of Arc.  I filed my review the next day, and demanded that all of you buy the DVD of Joan / Voices without delay.  Over the past nine months, I’ve noticed that a couple of you have delayed.  Stop delaying now.

Funny thing is (and I mean this in a completely unpostmodern kind of way), I was just re-watching Joan / Voices the other week, and I confirmed something I wasn’t quite sure of at first.  As I mentioned last May, I was struck by the violin solo two-thirds of the way through, which stands in such stark contrast to the more overpowering moments of the piece.  The vulnerability and tenuousness of that solo—at least up to the 1:30 mark (it’s right here in my personal stereo)—make perfect sense, because Joan is alone and defeated, having just signed her confession under great duress.  But then something strange happens: the music, which up to that point has been largely appropriate to the period (medieval chant, the first fumblings at polyphony, motets; the libretto is composed of texts written by female mystics of the period as well as the letters Joan dictated, all of which are sung in the original languages—Latin, Old and Middle French, Italian), gets wildly and weirdly anachronistic.  Just as Joan realizes that she’s made a terrible mistake, just when she decides to recant her confession and go to her death at the stake, the violin strikes a strained, dissonant chord, and then proceeds into the kind of impressionistic fury that won’t be heard in Western classical music until the nineteenth century.

It’s as if Einhorn is marking this moment as distinctly and indelibly modern, a moment of individual subjectivity that cannot be captured by the musical modes available at the time.  Now, the entire composition of Voices of Light is the work of genius, but this little musical frame-breaking strikes me as extra extra genius.

Of course, Joan’s antinomianism is at once heroic and fateful: one strand of it leads to the Reformation, and from the Reformation eventually to the Enlightenment; another strand leads to the belief that individuals can receive direct revelation from God, and gives us the American tradition that runs from Anne Hutchinson to Joseph Smith to David Koresh.  All the more appropriate, then, that her moment of martyrdom be marked by such a wrenching and multivalent chord.

So go buy the DVD already.  And let’s thank Richard Ein– er, I mean, Tristero– for all his fine work as a dangerous composer and a dangerous blogger.

Posted by Michael on 02/21 at 02:22 PM
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Monday, February 20, 2006

A matter of principle

Learned scholar and public intellectual Dr. Mike Adams visited Penn State last week, hosted by the Young Americans for Freedom, and he was apparently a big hit.  I didn’t attend his talk, because it was kind of nice outside that evening and I wanted to spend some time with the blast-ended skrewts in my back yard.  I assumed that it would be standard fare, and when I heard that the talk included a complaint about The Vagina Monologues (Dr. Adams feels that the play demeans women, and as a tireless fighter for women’s rights, he considers it a setback to his cause), I wasn’t surprised.  But I also noticed in the next day’s paper that Adams had had some curious things to say about the Stalinist gulag that is Penn State:

“Penn State has an unconstitutional speech code, and something has to be done about it,” he said. “If you reach a public university’s funding, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish.”

Let me take the second remark first.  If you “reach” Penn State’s funding, you actually won’t be amazed at what you can accomplish.  I’ve said it before, but I don’t mind saying it again: twenty years ago, forty-five percent of Penn State’s budget was provided by public funds, and in-state tuition was $2562.  Our level of state support is now down to ten percent, and in-state tuition is $11,508.  So you could say that students who ask their state legislators to cut Penn State’s budget because of the campus “speech code” are basically cutting off their noses to spite their faces, except that you’d have to acknowledge that we’re talking about some really tiny noses.

Besides, what’s really stunning is the “unconstitutional speech code” remark itself.  For in reality, dear reality-based friends, Penn State doesn’t have a speech code.  It has the “Penn State Principles,” which are mailed to all entering students.  Here they are:

I will respect the dignity of all individuals within the Penn State community;

I will practice academic integrity;

I will demonstrate social and personal responsibility;

I will be responsible for my own academic progress and agree to comply with all University policies.

That’s about it.  Play nice, don’t cheat, don’t get drunk and break things, and meet your graduation requirements.  It’s really not too much to ask.  The full version is available on the Penn State website, in .pdf format.

But you can already see why these principles would be controversial in some quarters.  No one, to my knowledge, complains about principles two through four, but the first one—well, for conservatarians of a certain stripe, it’s right up there with the work of the Gang of Four (no, not the band):

The University is committed to creating and maintaining an educational environment that respects the right of all individuals to participate fully in the community.  Actions motivated by hate, prejudice, or intolerance violate this principle.  I will not engage in any behaviors that compromise or demean the dignity of individuals or groups, including intimidation, stalking, harassment, discrimination, taunting, ridiculing, insulting, or acts of violence.  I will demonstrate respect for others by striving to learn from differences between people, ideas, and opinions and by avoiding behaviors that inhibit the ability of other community members to feel safe or welcome as they pursue their academic goals.

This principle clearly violates Article II, section II of the U.S. Constitution, which stipulates, in relevant part, that the President “shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to stalk and harass Individuals and Groups, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall take care, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to taunt, ridicule, and insult whichever Individuals and Groups he so chuses.” Therefore, as Constitutional scholar Dr. Mike Adams has pointed out, it is unconstitutional.

Worse still, this Penn State Principle violates some individuals’ “natural law” right to compromise or demean the dignity of others, and in that sense it is profoundly self-contradictory, insofar as it clearly compromises the dignity of individuals and groups whose very purpose it is to compromise the dignity of other individuals and groups.

Now, seriously, folks, you know I’m opposed to campus speech codes, and opposed to the various kangaroo (or water-buffalo) courts that sprung up around them.  But this isn’t a speech code.  It’s just a document that says, “here are some basic ground rules for civility; while you’re here, we expect you to be civil to one another.” It doesn’t have an enforcement apparatus; there are no black helicopters scanning the Penn State campuses for hate criminals and roving gangs of insulters.  It’s just . . . um, just a statement of principles.  Like it says.

And yet, in one very wingnutty wing of the persecuted-campus-conservative movement, this document is taken as Exhibit A of everything that’s wrong with academe.  I’ve had a few exchanges with that wing, as you know, and when it comes to Penn State’s so-called “speech code,” the conversation tends to go something like this:

Me: Have a nice day!

Very wingnutty winger: Don’t you tell me what kind of day to have!  You are violating my rights!

So just for future reference, whenever someone talks about Penn State’s “speech code,” you know you’re in the presence of Advanced Wingnuttery.  And if you hear someone talking about Penn State’s “unconstitutional speech code,” kneel and bow your head!  You are in the presence of a member of the Royal Family of Wingnuttia.

Addendum: readers who click on the magic Internets hyperlink marked by the words “tireless fighter for women’s rights,” near the top of this post, will discover in short order why Dr. Adams would be so offended by the Penn State Principles.  Here’s the first paragraph of Dr. Adams’ long-running series, “Why I Don’t Take Feminists Seriously”:

Dear Daisy:

First of all, let me tell you how thrilled I am to receive hate mail from a feminist named “Daisy.” I can’t think of many names—with the possible exceptions of Coco, Mercedes, and Jasmine—that could make you sound less like a feminist and more like a stripper in a club that offers two-dollar table dances.

Daisy? I mean, I get Coco and Mercedes and Jasmine: some people might think immediately of Coco Fusco or Mercedes Ruehl or Jasmine Guy, and some people might think immediately of strippers in cheap clubs.  I guess it takes all kinds to make a world!  But Daisy?  How odd.  I suppose it all depends on whether you’re thinking about Daisy Miller, Daisy Buchanan, or Daisy Fuentes.

Posted by Michael on 02/20 at 02:53 PM
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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Bush’s chat with novelist alarms environmentalists, Christian groups

From today’s New York Times

WASHINGTON, Feb. 18—One of the perquisites of being president is the ability to have the author of a book you enjoyed pop into the White House for a chat.

Over the years, a number of writers have visited President Bush, including Natan Sharansky, Bernard Lewis and John Lewis Gaddis. And while the meetings are usually private, they rarely ruffle feathers.

Now, one has.

In his new book about Mr. Bush, “Rebel in Chief: Inside the Bold and Controversial Presidency of George W. Bush,” Fred Barnes recalls a visit to the White House last year by Michael Crichton, whose 2004 best-selling novel, “State of Fear,” suggests that global warming is an unproven theory and an overstated threat.

Mr. Barnes, who describes Mr. Bush as “a dissenter on the theory of global warming,” writes that the president “avidly read” the novel and met the author after Karl Rove, his chief political adviser, arranged it. He says Mr. Bush and his guest “talked for an hour and were in near-total agreement.”

“The visit was not made public for fear of outraging environmentalists all the more,” he adds.

__________

Environmentalists were not the only group Mr. Bush considered during Mr. Crichton’s visit.  “They covered the entire spectrum of Crichton’s work,” said Mr. Barnes.  “Crichton warned the President that the rapacious Japanese economy would soon crush America, that female executives are often the perpetrators in sexual-harassment cases, and, most important, that the lost city of Zinj is populated by murderous talking gorillas.  As in their discussion of global warming, Mr. Bush was in near-total agreement.”

Environmentalists have responded with alarm to the news.  “This shows the president is more interested in science fiction than science,” Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, said after learning of the White House meeting. Mr. O’Donnell’s group monitors environmental policy.

Curiously, however, Christian conservatives have also expressed concern.  “The president met with Michael Crichton for an hour and they never discussed the dangers of genetic research?  That’s an outrage,” said the Rev. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.  “While we understand that the president needs to stay informed about global-warming charlatans, sexually predatory women and dangerous talking gorillas, we strongly believe that he should take a stand against scientific research conducted by atheistic madmen.  The president needs to reassure Christians that the Culture of Life® will not be threatened by genetically engineered dinosaurs, human-animal hybrids, or deranged robots with Yul Brynner’s face.”

Toxic, rapidly-reproducing crystalline organisms from outer space could not be reached for comment.

Posted by Michael on 02/19 at 01:36 PM
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Friday, February 17, 2006

Autocratic but fun Friday

Sean Hannity on academe, this week on Hannity and Colmes:

Kids are indoctrinated. They’re a captive audience. What can be done to remove these professors with these radical ideas from campus?

My reply (not that I was on Hannity and Colmes at the time):

That’s a great question, Sean.  Let’s break it down into two parts.

Kids are indoctrinated. They’re a captive audience.

The process all starts with the captivity, really.  As you know, Sean, in America, students are assigned to their universities by the Federal Education and Re-education Committee.  Once they arrive on campus, they are subjected to a rigorous system of mandatory coursework.  We like to call it “basic training,” and let me tell you, the foreign language requirements are especially punitive.  Now, the FERC records tell of a student who tried, in 1988, to “choose” an “elective” course at a Big Ten university.  That student was sentenced to twenty years in the Nevada silver mines, where she works today.  And I don’t think I have to tell you what happens to undergraduates who violate curfew!

[Laughter]

Now, you mentioned indoctrination.  Let me dilate on that for a bit. 

Once they get into my course (required for graduation), Advanced America-Blaming and Applied Appeasement of Terrorists, they are graded primarily on attendance and recitation.  They are also required to turn in two essays, one in which they blame America first, the other in which they propose a strategy for appeasing a terrorist enemy.  I am very strict about these essays.  I demand that their essays conform to the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Sixth Edition, and that they spell America with a k.  (Extra credit for three k’s!)

The results are quite dramatic.  Many of my students come from conservative backgrounds, but by the tenth week of class, they can chant “all power to the Supreme Soviet” with the best of them.  Basically, we party like it’s 1929.  At the end of the semester, they leave my classroom and plaster the campus with posters reading “Meat is Murder” and “Bush is Hitler.” Two years ago, one enterprising student came up with a “Meat is Hitler” poster.  I have recommended that student to some of the nation’s top graduate schools.

My thinking is that if we can’t get them in college, we inevitably get them in graduate school.  Look at young Ben Shapiro.  When he got out of UCLA he was still an ultraconservative firebrand in the D’Souza/ Coulter tradition.  He even wrote a book called Brainwashed, even though he himself had not been brainwashed.  But after just two years at Harvard, he’s dropped out of law school to join the national touring company of The Vagina Monologues.

As to the second part of your question:

What can be done to remove these professors with these radical ideas from campus?

That’s actually quite easy, Sean.  I think a simple auto da fé should do the trick.  But let me answer you in a song.

Hey Sean Hannity, whaddya say?
I just got back from the auto da fé
Auto da fé? What’s an auto da fé?
It’s what ya oughtn’t to do, but ya do anyway

Sean Hannity:

Great tune, Michael!  Let me join in!

Auto da fé? What’s an auto da fé?
It’s what ya oughtn’t to do, but ya do anyway

Fox News Channel, what a show.
Fox News Channel, here we go.
We know you’re wishin’ that we’d go away!
So all you professors better get a clue
We got big news for all of you:
You’d better change your point of view . . . today!
‘Cause Sean Hannity’s here and he’s here to stay!

UPDATE:  Don’t forget the First Rule of Satire, kids!  The wingnuts are always worse than you can possibly imagine. Right now, in fact, in the sunny state of Arizona, they’re promoting a bill that would protect undergraduates from . . . novels by Rick Moody!  Here’s State Senator Thayer Verschoor on The Ice Storm:  “There’s no defense of this book.  I can’t believe that anyone would come up here and try to defend that kind of material.” Someone get this guy a copy of Gravity’s Rainbow!

Posted by Michael on 02/17 at 12:55 AM
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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Re cycling

It’s 59 degrees in State College today.  I’m in my English department office and I have the window open.  I rode my bicycle to my seminar yesterday, and again to my office hours today.  I’ve never done that in a February.  And we didn’t even get hit by the record-setting snowstorm that covered New York and New England last weekend, so there isn’t any lingering snow in sight.  You know, I could grow to like this whole “climate change” thing.  Besides, there’s so much of northern Canada still underpopulated, and I hear Antarctica is a great place to raise a family.  So I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

Riding home yesterday I had a bicycling flashback.  I’m not much of a cyclist, and I don’t have much of a bicycle (though I heart Janet for getting me one for my birthday two years ago; it’s definitely the best vehicle for getting to and around campus).  Just four speeds, but it looks pretty cool, being black and silver like the Raiders.  It’s the first bicycle I’ve owned in over twenty years.  Here’s what happened to the last one.

In 1981-83, when I worked as a word processor at Simpson Thacher Bartlett in midtown Manhattan, a new cadre of middle management human- resources dweebs arrived in the corporate world and began harassing the clerical staff.  By the time I left New York, the HR dweebs had outlawed Walkmen in the office, even though the word processors, in our windowless room, had no direct contact with attorneys (and thus no need to keep their ears open for orders, requests, demands, or ringing telephones).  They argued that listening to music distracted us from the task of revising all those loans, tax memoranda, and merger-and-acquisition documents.  They implemented a dress code.  They tried to drop the overtime “meal allowance” for night-shift WP staff from $6.50 (dinner) to $2.50 (breakfast) on the grounds that no one eats dinner after midnight.  The fact that no one in New York eats dinner for $6.50 somehow escaped them.  And this was in a firm that charged clients $500 per billable hour in 1981.  But I’m proud to say that I fought that one and won on behalf of all my brothers and sisters on the late shifts.  It was my only victory over the HR crew: the other issue on which I challenged them, their brand-new lateness policy, remained in place.

That policy penalized employees if they were more than five minutes late for the start of a shift three times in the course of a month.  I pointed out to the dweebs that with the exception of myself and two other guys (actors who had chosen word processing over waiting tables for their regular-income jobs), the entire support staff lived in the outer boroughs, and had no way of insuring that their various buses and trains would reliably get them to work right on the dot.  I asked for a fifteen-minute period instead.  The dweebs, being dweebs, responded that the support staff should simply plan to arrive extra-special early to avoid lateness penalties.

Yes, well.  I lived only four miles away from the office, but after one week in which two of my west side IRT trains broke down, leaving me late for work and within one five-minute mishap of suffering lateness penalties, I went and bought a crappy used bicycle for $100.  I called it the Plymouth Duster of bicycles.  But it got me to work on time.

More than that, it gave me tremendous adrenaline rushes once I got out of Central Park and into midtown each morning.  And the trip back home was even better.  For those were the years in which the city created bus lanes on Madison Avenue in order to ease the pressure on bus traffic heading to the Queensboro Bridge: through 60th Street, the right two lanes of Madison were off limits to all vans, cabs, trucks, and just plain cars.  Well, the bike messengers and I loved that.  We would slip into the narrow space between the bus lanes, which at 5 pm were lined with buses as far as you could see, and take off.  I thought of it as the urban-bicycle equivalent of surfing, and it was definitely tubular.  Getting out of the tube was tricky, of course, and there was always the possibility that a bus might creep out of its lane, which would leave a cyclist plastered to the side of the bus alongside the display ad, where he would doubtless remain until someone peeled his flattened ancient-Egyptian form off the bus a couple of days later.  But it was, to say the least, a rush.

When I moved to Charlottesville in 1983, I brought my bike with me.  I didn’t have a car, and I believe Charlottesville’s public transportation system consisted of one single bus making lazy circles around the county.  But one day in my very first week in Charlottesville, while I was riding my crappy used bike back to my crappy graduate-student apartment, I realized that I had never been in a left-turn lane before.  Three years of riding around Manhattan, and I’d never once seen a left-turn lane.  Damn!  And here I was trying to make this turn, and like a fool, I was on the left side of a left turn lane on busy four-lane US route 29.  So, looking behind me to make sure I had the room to cross over, I pedaled to the right side of the lane . . .

. . . and flipped completely over my handlebars, heels over head, and smack onto the back of the flatbed truck that had stopped in front of me.

I broke my sunglasses—but nothing more, miraculously enough.  Traffic stopped, and I picked myself up and dusted myself off, apologizing to the truck driver, who, for his part, couldn’t believe that a dumb-ass cyclist had done a 270 onto his flatbed.  (He was extremely kind, actually.) In response, I thanked him for having a flatbed, and for making sure that the payload area was empty and ready for my arrival.  Because, needless to say, if he’d had a mess of equipment back there, that would have hurt; if I’d hit a car instead, I would have wound up on the trunk or the roof, where I probably would have slid off and into the street; and if I’d hit any ordinary truck, I would have gone right into the back end, head first.  Was I wearing a helmet?  Of course not!  Why would anyone need a bicycle helmet?

I’m glad I lived through my first week in Charlottesville.  And I learned how to be more careful with a bicycle, too.  But to this day, I remember that accident vividly, and I’ve always found it kind of pathetically comic that I survived three years of biking in Manhattan, riding the bus-lane tube, dodging thousands of pedestrians and suddenly-opened car doors, and twice being deliberately jostled by crazy cabbies on Park Avenue at 15 mph or so, only to fly over my handlebars and onto the back of a flatbed truck within days of arriving in sleepy little Charlottesville.

Here’s to mild weather and bicycle safety.

Posted by Michael on 02/16 at 02:07 PM
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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Cheney incident provokes strong reactions

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14—The 78-year-old lawyer shot by Vice President Dick Cheney in a hunting accident over the weekend suffered a minor heart attack early Tuesday caused by birdshot lodged in his heart, hospital officials in Texas said.

The lawyer, Harry M. Whittington, was moved back into the intensive care unit at Christus Spohn Hospital in Corpus Christi, Tex., to be monitored for up to a week in case the birdshot shifted or additional pellets in his body moved into other organs, the officials said at a televised news conference. Dr. David Blanchard, the emergency room chief, estimated that Mr. Whittington had more than 5 but “probably less than 150 to 200” pellets lodged in his body.

“Less than 150 to 200 pellets,” remarked John Hinderaker of the award-winning Pajamaline blog. “I think that’s the key to this MSM frenzy right there.  If Cheney had been trout fishing and a companion had walked behind him as he started to cast, so that he inadvertently snagged his friend 150 to 200 times, resulting in a hospital visit, would we have seen this kind of frenzy? I don’t think so. I think we’re seeing, among other things, the press corps’ innate ignorance of, and hostility to, firearms coming through.”

Cheney’s friends and associates seemed to agree that the incident has been overblown by late-night comics and critics of the Bush Administration.

“Dick Cheney is one of the most skilled shots I know, and they’ll make fun of it forever,” said Alan K. Simpson, a former Wyoming senator who is a longtime friend and sometime hunting partner of the vice president.

“That’s quite true,” said a former aide to Simpson.  “You shoot just one guy in the face and send him to intensive care where he has a heart attack, and people don’t stop to average out your shooting accuracy over your lifetime.  It’s completely unfair.  Just like nobody ever forgets that one time in 1990 Senator Simpson told Saddam Hussein, ‘I believe that your problems lie with the Western media and not with the U.S. government. . . . The press is spoiled and conceited. All these journalists consider themselves brilliant political scientists. They do not want to see anything succeeding or achieving its objectives. My advice is that you allow those bastards to come here and see things for themselves.’ And no one ever remembers all the many times that Alan Simpson did not say this to Saddam Hussein.”

Some reporters have suggested that Democrats could overplay their hand by exploiting the incident for partisan gain.

“Democrats, too, have engaged in these luxury canned-hunting exercises,” said the Washington Post’s Deborah Howell. “Furthermore, Democrats have shot at animals, or asked lobbyists to direct buckshot to animals.  So we regard this as fundamentally a bipartisan scandal.”

Other commentators disagreed about the extent of Democrats’ involvement in the shooting.  “John Kerry would never have had the guts to do something like this,” said former Georgia governor Zell Miller.  “John Kerry would have fed those quail a yes no maybe bowl of mush that would only encourage animals and confuse our friends.  At least when a friend shoots you in the face, you know where he stands.”

Posted by Michael on 02/15 at 06:26 AM
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