The Tyranny of Clichés

[Amazon Link] I've been a Jonah Goldberg fanboy for a number of years now, and this book was an automatic buy for me. And, unsurprisingly, I found it to be a great read, full of insights and humor.

The subtitle is "How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas". True, but perhaps more accurate would be "How Liberal Arguments Got Lazy, Dishonest, Illogical, Ahistorical, Silly, and Incoherent." (That probably wouldn't have fit quite so well on the dust jacket.)

Jonah—I call him Jonah—leads off his introduction with a quote from Orwell: "[W]e have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men." He could have equally well used the take-home point from Orwell's "Politics and the English Language":

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better.
Jonah's had quite enough of that, thanks very much. The book is a quick evisceration of a couple dozen examples of "bad usage": thought-free clichés deployed by lefties to short-circuit and deflect intelligent argument.

And it's amazingly topical. A mere few weeks before the book was published, President Obama speechified about how the proposed GOP budget was "nothing but thinly veiled Social Darwinism." That utter bullshit got quickly refuted; but it would have been far simpler just to cut-n-paste the main points from Chapter 8 here.

Really: if you've found yourself annoyed by some smug liberal who's rattled off some facile self-serving wordstring: it's probably here. The "living Constitution"? Chapter 14. "Social justice"? Chapter 11. (I, for one, am not giving one dime to any institution that claims to be fostering "social justice.")

One problem: the progressive folks that make the arguments Jonah skewers here are the least likely to read the book. Too bad. If only a handful of liberal pundits decided to avoid using the listed clichés, they would be (at least) more interesting, if not any less wrong-headed.

I got the Kindle version, which suffered from annoying formatting with the initial drop-cap on every chapter: it wound up floating by itself above the rest of the text. Oh well.

Here's what's neat, though: on page 64, Jonah describes Mayor Bloomberg as a "nannying, statist bully who, much like Napoleon, hurls around charges of ideological ensorcellment as a way to delegitimize political opponents he cannot defeat in open debate."

Ensorcellment? Wha…? But Kindle comes to the rescue: even sitting (as I was) in the food court of the Northshore Mall in Peabody MA, all I had to do highlight the puzzling word, punch a key, and I was immediately whisked to the relevant entry in the included dictionary. (Not that it matters, but my guess is that Jonah went for the highfalutin word here as a small homage to the late William F. Buckley, Jr.)

So that was nice. In addition, when Jonah mentions (page 102) that the Oxford English Dictionary (invidiously and unjustifiably) claims that "Social Darwinism" is "often used to justify political conservatism, imperialism, and racism", I was able to quickly verify that sad fact as well.

Last Modified 2012-09-23 11:17 AM EST

Knight and Day

[4.0 stars] Knight and Day (2010) on IMDb [Amazon]

It took awhile for Knight and Day (a movie originally released in the summer of 2010) to work itself to the top of the Netflix queue, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. Yes, it's a crass, shameless, commercial bit of dumb fun aimed strictly at moneymaking. But I decided to concentrate on the fun. Nothing wrong with that.

(And, for a crass, shameless, commercial movie, it didn't do that well in theatres: in its opening weekend, it came in behind Toy Story 3 and an Adam Sandler comedy.)

So anyway: Cameron Diaz plays June, on her way back to Boston from picking up some vintage car parts in Wichita. (She's an ace mechanic restoring her dad's old GTO for her sister's wedding present.) She runs into—literally—handsome stranger Roy at the airport. Fate (together with some behind-the-scenes help from a bunch of all-seeing CIA agents) put June and Roy on a near-empty flight together; it turns out that it's near-empty for the sole purpose of trapping Roy: he's suspected of murdering a bunch of CIA agents and stealing a Macguffin.

Well, it's only a matter of minutes before Roy prevails against another half-dozen or so agents. (Self defense! Stand your ground!) He and June find themselves on the run.

There are a lot of spectacular stunts, PG-13 violence, and explosions for the adolescent guys (both actual and perpetual, like me). There's girl-whisked-way-by-mysterious-and-dangerous-stranger romance for the ladies. June is a clueless ditz when the plot demands it; she is resourceful and courageous when the plot demands that. And Tom Cruise plays Roy as consistently and amusingly upbeat and good-humored, even with bullets whizzing by, high-speed chases, crashes, etc. The movie doesn't take itself seriously, probably a good idea.

Last Modified 2012-09-23 11:18 AM EST

Memorial Day 2012

  • Let's all remember.

  • Judge Andrew Napolitano has a thought-provoking essay at Reason.
    What if Memorial Day reminds us of times when we had more freedom? What if freedom is dying right under our eyes? What if the memory of the past is more fulfilling than the reality of the present?

  • Please view and share this video about Honor Flight

Last Modified 2014-12-05 11:40 AM EST