Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
December 22, 2005 - December 15, 2005

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Elton John's Bride

David Furnish is solemn as his twin brother Matt beams.

ROCKERS ROCK. That old stinky InstaPunk was such a wet blanket yesterday... Nobody wants to hear the rants of a retro rock fashionista who still coordinates his boot chains with his boot knives. Unlike the rest of you, I've actually seen InstaPunk, and I can assure you he looks utterly perfect if you want a Gothic time capsule to bury in your garden.

As for the rest of us, we know how the other half lives. That would be all of you H-E-T-E-R-O-S, as if there were any -- and as if you weren't always dreaming of us, you know, the perpetually light on our feet, like the swiftest minds of all, like, does the name Sullivan ring a bell?

There was a time when we lived underground and wrote poetry and ballets, but now we are ineradicably aboveground and obsessed with weddings. You have no idea what we can teach you about empire gowns and floral trellises and ice sculptures and shrimp nested in caviar and drinking Moet from the toe of a size thirteen silver slingback pump. Beyond that, you have absolutely no idea about the ecstasy of the wedding night, what one man can do to and for another when the paparazzi have gone and all that's left is an aging conscupiscient rock star, his docile factotum, and a hundred sex toys proffered by a dozen of the most beautiful wenches you think you'd boff if secretly you weren't as hot for David as we all, every one of us, always and inevitably are.

Unless you're not a Brit, of course. But then you'd be a wog. Probably an American. F*** you. I have to go now. Matt is waiting. I mean David. You wouldn't understand anyway. See you in concert.

P.S. Come on in, Andrew. I dare you..


Uh, it does look like there's some chafing.

WHAT SADDAM KNOWS. No wonder dictators ruthlessly put down a free press. In his latest courtroom tirade, the man in the nonexistent booth claimed today that:

(T)he Bush administration lied when it claimed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, just at it lied by disputing his claims of being beaten.

"The White House lies once more," Hussein said, "the No. 1 liar in the world. They said in Iraq, there is chemicals, and there is a relation to terrorism, and they announced later we couldn't find any of that in Iraq.

"Also, they said that what Saddam Hussein (said) was not true," he continued in an apparent reference to his claims Wednesday that he and all seven of his codefendants were beaten and tortured by their American captors.

"I have documented the injuries I had before three American medical teams," he said.

Hussein later appeared to waver, saying the medical teams numbered "two, for sure, unequivocally." He began to heal after eight months, he said, but bruises remain three years later.

I see. And so can you. Call me crazy, but I suddenly have one or two more questions about WMDs...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Brokeback Brains

Arnold Schoenberg, Rutter 205

BEAGLING. A prelude to today's topic. The sound file and the painting above are the work of Arnold Schoenberg, who has been called "the most able composer of the twentieth century." If you haven't listened to the sound file, I urge you to do so. I can fearlessly predict that the overwhelming majority of you won't like it. Not just because I don't like it, which I don't, but because of a structural faultline that exists between Schoenberg's perspective on music and that of most music afficianados. He has intellectualized music to such an extent that he has virtually eliminated the emotional core of an art form to which most people respond emotionally (and physically) rather than intellectually.

It's possible, of course, that some percentage of people could come to embrace Schoenberg by studying his musical philosophy and learning to translate the sensory experience he provides into an esthetically satisfying intellectual experience, but this kind of experience is likely to be so different from their intuitive response to traditional music as to represent not a difference in degree, but a difference in kind. It will seem, even to them, that they like music, and they like Schoenberg. And it will seem to many of those who can't accomplish this feat that they don't like Schoenberg because they like music.

There's nothing wrong with any of this. It's just the way it is. The Roman poet Vergil summed it up nicely with the aphorism "degustibus non disputandum est," meaning tastes shouldn't be disputed. We all have them. We like spinach or we don't. Trouble only enters the picture when someone insists that we really should like spinach even if we don't, or the music of Schoenberg, or -- to get to the point at last -- gay sex.

The Kaus-Wright Debate

These kinds of thoughts occurred to me after reviewing the blog discussion about Brokeback Mountain between Mickey Kaus and Robert Wright at I had the sense that they were trying oh-so-hard to be scrupulously reasonable about a subject which is inherently anything but, and the odd conversation that resulted seemed to touch on numerous relevant issues without ever getting much below the surface of any of them. (I'm going to reprise a fair amount of their discussion below, and since I have no intention of putting words in their mouths, I encourage everyone who doubts my motives to watch the exchange between Wright and Kaus at the site linked above.)

This is a good place for me to apologize for the snide title of this entry, because both these gentlemen are intelligent and thoughtful. They are liberal in the classical definition of the term -- seeking tolerance out of deep-seated principle, prepared to consider and yield to superior argument, however counter-intuitive. In fact, where they both consistently err, at least in this context, is by preferring the counter-intuitive discipline of their educations to their native intuition, which makes its presence felt only in awkward pauses and the overly meticulous search for the right words. They are having a rigorously intellectual discussion about a subject which touches on every aspect of being, from the nerve ends of the skin all the way to the deep unconscious of the mind. It is not surprising that they come off looking like over-educated castrati. What is surprising is the extent to which their conversation succeeds in becoming a microcosm of our whole cultural approach to homosexuality.

I am expressly not accusing them of dishonesty. Kaus, in particular, laid the groundwork for the webcam discussion by writing a candid little assessment of Brokeback Mountain's box office appeal to heterosexual men. He suggested that people are only interested in romances involving at least one character they're attracted to. Thus, heterosexual men  are likely to pass on a love story between two men, especially if fairly explicit sex is involved.

Hardly a controversial opinion. Yet when the subject came up for web discussion with Robert Wright, Kaus seemed defensive from the start, almost embarrassed to confess a certain revulsion at seeing men touch each other sexually. His discomfort about his own response led him to suggest that the revulsion lay in his genes, a product of Darwinian selection rather than environmental factors, such as bourgeois morality, which his education should have enabled him to overcome.

Now Robert Wright happens to be something of an expert on Darwinian theory, and he is so poker-faced as a webcam performer that it is impossible to tell how ingenuous or disengenuous his subsequent hijacking of the discussion was. Either way, he immediately grabbed Kaus by the head and towed him into the deep end of the pool; he saw no Darwinian basis, he said, for a heterosexual male experiencing an "active revulsion" to male homosexual behavior. Kaus immediately began flailing in the water, denying that his revulsion was active and characterizing it as "superficial" instead. From this point onward he was in retreat.

Wright argued that in Darwinian terms heterosexual men should respond positively to the presence of homosexual men because it reduces competition for females and therefore increases the likelihood of passing on one's genes. Along the way, Wright conceded that he, too, felt some discomfort about watching homosexual acts between men but declared that he believed the assertions of homosexual men that their preference was genetic even if he couldn't quite understand how this made any sense in evolutionary terms. While Kaus spluttered about Wright's simultaneous acceptance of genetic homosexuality and seeming unwillingness to grant the possibility of a genetic basis for his (Kaus's) aversion to homosexuality, Wright dwelt on the possibility that genetically based sexual preferences could exist without having any Darwinian cause, which would make them in some sense meaningless. On this foundation, he proposed that heterosexual revulsion to the witnessing of homosexual acts could be "desensitized" by prolonged exposure, as opposed to evolutionarily necessary Darwinian responses such as the revulsion we feel for decomposing flesh. Kaus responded by hesitantly and somewhat apologetically bringing up the threat to survival represented by anal sex. Both of them tap-danced around this issue for a bit.

At the end of the conversation, when Wright graciously confessed that he didn't have a definitive answer about the source or meaning of heterosexual aversion to homosexuality, Kaus expressed his relief and his gratitude for having been allowed to escape being "pinned" in the debate by Wright.


Two intelligent, well educated men produced a discussion that was in almost every respect ludicrous. How and why was it ludicrous? When Kaus introduced the issue of anal sex he referred to it as "the moose," a term those of us who do not hang on the sayings of Pinch Sulzberger might understand more easily as "the elephant in the room." But the elephant in the room is not anal sex; it's the political and social agenda of the gay movement, whose purpose is to overturn a moral consensus which has underlain western civilization for at least 2,000 years. In this context, the entirety of the Darwinian discussion was off-target and irrelevant.

Let's return to Schoenberg. For purposes of argument, I'll posit that one to two-and-a-half percent of the population has an inherent attraction to the twelve-tone music Schoenberg composed. I'll also posit that the devotees of twelve-tone music may have been oppressed or mistreated in the past by adherents of traditional music. (Maybe, in this scenario, heavy metal bands used to mock twelve-tone compositions on their stratocasters, and their groupies used to beat up twelve-toners, steal their Ipods, and call them 'tonesies'.) In response to this kind of abuse, a twelve-tone liberation movement is born. They want the oppression to stop. A majority of traditional music lovers agree that it should. But as they achieve this initial objective, the twelve-toners start to insist that everyone must now listen to twelve-tone music and like it. If they persist in not liking it, they are to be branded as bigots, compelled to undergo musical reeducation, and everywhere treated with derision and disgust.

With respect to this secondary initiative, it just doesn't matter whether the traditional music lovers love traditional music because it is embedded in their cultural tradition or in the genetic programming of their senses and brains. All that matters is their distaste for it, which relieves them of any obligation beyond toleration. Note, significantly, that we have left morality out of the scenario as it relates to the predispositions of traditional music lovers. This omission is key because it does not at all change the fact that it's nonsensical to try making the internal esthetic responses of this overwhelming majority of music listeners into a basis for moral condemnation or a diagnosis of pathology. (What price the additional irony that psychology, one of the keystones of secularism, has invested so much resource in convincing us that genes and the environment make morality impossible and pointless? Except when it comes to brute egalitarianism, of course.) The most that can be required of the traditionalists is that they refrain from harming twelve-toners or preventing them from exercising the formerly taboo preference. Their own physical and emotional responses to music, per se, cannot and should not be regulated by statute or any other form of compulsion.

Kaus is defending what does not have to be defended. He owes no one a change in, or rational explanation of, his interior esthetic, emotional, and physical responses. And Wright is implicitly demanding a deep explanation that is only relevant in the opposite case -- that of a tiny minority which demands that the social structure of the entire community be rebuilt for the purpose of making that minority loved, admired, and celebrated rather than merely tolerated. For example, Wright's exegesis on Darwin entirely omits the fact that the structure of society and its behavioral customs are also part of the evolutionary process he believes in. As a primate, man is a social animal and his survival depends upon a consensus about behaviors which minimize loss of life and property by enabling -- no matter how -- members of the community to live and work together. Acceptable behaviors also conform to Darwinian principles; that is, their identity as advantageous attributes cannot be defined in absolute terms but only through their utility in promoting survival. There is thus risk in dispensing with embedded behavioral attributes without knowing the nature of the traditional advantage they provided in the past.

Wright puts the shoe on the wrong foot. It's not the heterosexual's responsibility to prove that his physical and emotional aversion to homosexuality is a Darwinian survival attribute. It's the responsibility of the homosexual to prove that his own previously taboo behaviors do not represent a risk to survival for others. And even if the homosexual can do this, he still has no right -- Darwinian or otherwise -- to tyrannize the majority by demanding an emotionally positive interior response by heterosexuals to an experience they feel loathing about.

Robert Wright and Mickey Kaus are, of course, free to learn how to turn off their own instinctive revulsion if their liberal guilt so dictates. And in these terms, their discussion was not irrelevant to them. It was irrelevant to most everybody else, however, as Kaus tacitly admitted in a postscript he wrote in his blog:

Universal love story or epater les bourgeois? You make the call! If you want to be convinced that Brokeback Mountain is a gay movie, read David Leavitt's annoying article arguing that it's not a gay movie. Especially this sentence:

His Ennis Del Mar is as monolithic as the mountainscape in which—with the same swiftness, brutality, and precision that he exhibits in shooting an elk—he fucks Jack Twist for the first time.

You wouldn't write that last bit in a classy publication like Slate if it were Jane Twist! Leavitt is taking both sexual pleasure from his sentence and pleasure in shocking his readers. If that's the pleasure he takes from the film, it's a gay film!

He doesn't state that his own resistance and revulsion may arise in part from the determination of people like David Leavitt to rub our noses in acts we find deeply offensive. That's the very real barrier they are erecting now to their further acceptance in society. Kaus might not admit as much in print or on camera. But I'll bet he'd admit it over a beer. That's the price we're all paying for political correctness and fraudulent over-intellectualization of sex. It explains why we're all submitting so passively to the brand new phenomenon of the gay rights bully.

I'll say what few seem able to anymore. Have your rights. Enjoy them. But don't ask me to watch or imagine your sexual exploits. I find them disgusting.

P.S. I still don't like Schoenberg, either.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Dumbest Ad Campaign of 2005

It took incredibly sophisticated "two-stroke" technology
to win 2005's hotly contested advertising competition.

ADAM.32.1-12. For most of the year, we thought the prestigious InstaPunk Award for Dumbest Ad Campaign was going to be a tortoise race among three exceptionally tedious competitors. Capital One's annoying series of David Spade ads featuring Three Stooges style physical comedy was an obvious contender. So was that endlessly replayed single ad for Paradise Lines about commoners who couldn't seem to recover from the glamor of the sardine-like accommodations on a 5,000-passenger cruise ship. (We wanted to kill all those people. Seriously.) And then there was the financial services company campaign in which investment advisers grafted themselves so closely to families that they delivered more tearful toasts than the father of the bride and louder cheers on the sidelines than the biological soccer mom. (We cringed every time and still haven't the slightest recollection of whose ad it is.)

Month after month, these three outstripped everyone else in their capacity to inspire headshaking disbelief. Suddenly, though, at the eleventh hour of 2005, several other challengers have exploded on the scene -- hares running a brilliant sprint to overtake the leaden Big Three.

Anyone who buys light bulbs can't help but be impressed by the shocking nerve of Sylvania's new capaign about the long-term reliability of its automotive headlights. It's not bad enough that Sylvania (and let's not forget GE) makes millions and millions of dollars selling us light bulbs that burn out in two or three weeks of ordinary use. Now they want to let us know, in no uncertain terms, that they really do know how to make long-lasting light products. When they want to. If they feel like it. Dumb.

But what's faster than a car daring to trust Sylvania quality control in the dead of night? Why, a speeding train, of course. The  Molsen-Coors Company is now advertising its Coors Light product with a silver bullet train making tracks through the entire history of the Super Bowl, as if images of the Lombardi Packers, the Steel Curtain, the perfect 17-0 Dolphin team, and Ditka's Monsters of the Midway could somehow endow the world's worst, weakest, pissiest beer with balls. Really dumb.

The race ain't over yet, though. How do you blow the doors off a bullet train? One word: Jets!

Born from Jets!

Oh those Europeans. There we were, thinking this was going to be an All-American competition to reassert our birthright as the dumbest of the dumb, when suddenly the horizon is filled with the shrieking silver shapes of fighter jets (stall speed 200 mph?) struggling to keep up with the newest four-wheeled birkenstock (top speed 110 mph?) Saab calls an automobile. The laws of physics be damned; this is the finals of the dumb advertising sweepstakes, and the Swedes are planning to steal the honors with the most outrageous nonsense seen in many a year. Well, they've succeeded. No other company on earth could be so thoroughly lame-brained as to fabricate a daredevil performance image for a sex-free milquetoaster fifty years after its introduction. It's awe-inspiring. Just to put it in perspective for you, we'll do the unthinkable and remind you of the illustrious past being referenced here:

An early Saab fan-cooled, two-stroke jet. Very hot.

A Saab 92 high-performance motorcar, bristling with aircraft technology.

In all the excitement, we forgot what the prize is. But we'll think it over and get back to you.

Monday, December 19, 2005

A Forgotten Mystery

. We're coming up on another new year, and as I have done for half a decade now, I find myself thinking about the Y2K computer bug and the end of technological civilization that didn't happen on January 1, 2000. It seems especially relevant this time around, which I'll explain later even if I can't infer a helpful lesson.

I was one of those who was definitely concerned but not panicked. I didn't build an underground shelter stocked with canned goods and shotguns, but unlike the blissfully ignorant ones who didn't know or care how the ones and zeros did their magic inside PCs, I had worked in the computer industry deeply enough to believe that disaster really was possible. Anyone who has had to write a computer program knows what insensate and literal machines processors are. The very simplicity of the problem -- two-digit representations of the year would be read as 1900 rather than 2000 if not reprogrammed -- meant that impacts could be incredibly numerous and far-reaching. Some of the most expert computer jocks I'd heard of were the most concerned about the prospects for calamity. And vast numbers of computer illiterate businessmen who had come to believe they could order problems out of existence were famously reluctant to take the Y2K bug seriously or allocate real resources to fix it.

Then the dread day came and... nothing. TV news anchors turned it into an instant joke. The world was suddenly divided into those who had never known enough to worry and those who were too embarrassed to admit they had ever worried. The cataclysm that didn't happen disappeared from the radar as completely as if there had never been a Y2K scare in the first place. All's well that ends well?

The thing is, there was a Y2K scare. You can verify that to yourself by doing a Google search. You'll get pages and pages of links. What you won't find are more than a handful of entries dated after January 1, 2000. Either an enormous and expensive hoax was perpetrated on the world, or we all dodged a huge bullet. Yet in all the years since, who among us has cared enough to figure out which it was?

We should care, though. Here's why. There is precedent for significant events that disappear from cultural consciousness. The 1918 influenza epidemic was an outstanding example. Within weeks of the height of the death toll, Americans ceased writing or talking about it. This singular event, which killed five times as many Americans as World War I, wasn't even mentioned in the history books I learned from in elementary school. My grandparents spoke plenty about both world wars, but they never said a word about the Spanish flu.

Today, of course, various experts are trying to warn us about a possible (some say inevitable) pandemic of avian flu, although most of us are far more concerned about the NFL playoffs than mass death due to a virus. In another part of the cultural spectrum, our lawmakers are whistling past the graveyard of future terror attacks by dismantling the Patriot Act and forcing U.S. interrogators to treat al Qaeda captives more respectfully than the cops in your town treat petty criminal suspects. Our national memory is already fading exponentially about the potentially huge loss of life that might very well have occurred -- and was, in fact, erroneously reported -- in New Orleans. Nevertheless, many highly esteemed scientists are beating the drum louder and louder about global warming, which may represent the closest analogy we have to the Y2K scare, while other experts insist that warming is merely a cyclical phenomenon that tracks more closely with sunspots than human behavior. So many bad things that could happen, and here we are trimming our Christmas trees with silly smiles on our faces.

So is it truly the case that the really bad thing can never happen here? That our spectacular ignorance does in some way protect us?  The nuclear holocaust that was supposed to be the outcome of the Cold War never happened. All the yearly predictions of Armageddon by seers and psychics never happen. Maybe we're just generally safe from everything.

But 9/11 happened. And whether anyone remembers it or not, the influenza epidemic happened. That they're both absent from our public consciousness these days keeps leading me back to the Y2K bug. Were we standing on some kind of brink? If not, why not? If so, how did we escape? And either way, why do so few people care?

I found a lengthy webpage by somebody who does care. Ben Best was involved in Y2K reprogramming projects. And he continued to study the event long after it didn't happen. Except that it did happen, as he documents, just not on the horrific scale many of us feared:

There were problems with heart monitoring equipment and defibrillators reported in Sweden & Malaysia. E-mail systems failed in Qinghai branches of the People's Bank of China and in Russia's press service. Machines processing credit-card transactions in many Chinese banks failed on January 1st.

The first baby born in Denmark in January was registered as being 100 years old. The IRS sent demands for payment by 1900 to many taxpayers. Ten percent of cash registers in Greece printed receipts with the year 1900.

Computer controls on prison cell doors failed in British Columbia. Computerized prison records in Italy gave incorrect dates for birthdays, trial-dates and release-dates.

Highland Community Bank in Chicago was unable to electronically transfer Medicare funds. The Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago reported a Y2K failure associated with the transfer of $700,000 in tax payments. Three mission-critical systems failed at the Federal Housing Administration. 100,000 people in Sweden were unable to access their bank accounts over the Internet.

Emergency phones on the Adirondack Northway in New York went dead because they weren't Y2K compliant. Cash register/inventory systems were so malfunctional at many Washington State liquor stores that some stores were forced to temporarily close. Hundreds of slot machines failed at racetracks in Delaware.

Y2K computer problems at the Hong Kong Futures Exchange forced manual compiling of options prices, whereas more serious problems forced Pakistan's stock exchange to close on January 4th.

A hydroelectric plant in Kazakhstan has been forced into manual control due to Y2K problems encountered on January 1st. Manual operations are also in place for an income tax system in Gambia which was not Y2K compliant. Y2K bugs affected aluminum manufacturing in Korea & Venezuela.

Problems described as somewhat serious were failures to process data from US miliary reconnaissance satellites and a problem at the main US uranium storage site for nuclear missiles. Both problems occurred at midnight GMT and both problems were dealt-with within four hours -- although the satellite photos for the few hours after midnight were irretrievably lost.

A survey of 1,750 technology workers by CMP Media (a publisher of high-tech trade publications) revealed that 25% of organizations experienced Y2K computer problems, more than half of which were serious enough to cause a brief interruption of service. Peculiarly, hotels & restaurants have reported the largest adverse effects of any industry.

Problems in the nuclear power industry are difficult to cover up because the reporting requirements are very stringent. In the United States, only one nuclear plant was shut down due to a possible Y2K-related incident. Seven Y2K-related non-critical nuclear power plant incidents were reported in total for the US. Japan reported 5-10 minor nuclear power Y2K problems, such as failing radiation monitors and temperature gauges. One similar problem was reported in Korea and for two of Spain's nine nuclear reactors.

These incidents demonstrate that there was a Y2K bug. It's also true that hundreds of millions of dollars were spent to prevent it from doing great harm. And there are some technological reasons why problems proved not to be as bad as feared in hardware categories like embedded microprocessors. Yet despite his methodical analysis of the facts -- and of his own psychological reaction to the Y2K crisis -- Mr. Best arrives at some final observations that tend to defy logic.

There were editorializing journalists who wouldn't know the difference between a computer program and a medical diagnosis who claimed that the Y2K bug was all hoax & hype. Such people gloat that they were "right" -- but how can they be right about something they have no understanding-of, simply on the basis of outcome?

Results are important, but they are not really "the only thing". A person who spends a lot of money gambling is not proven shrewd by the fact that he or she happens to have a big win. The ancient Greek philosopher Democritus is given credit for his claim that matter is composed of small, indivisible "atomos" particles -- in contrast to Plato & Aristotle who said that matter is infinitely divisible. But Democritus had no evidence for his belief, so it is silly to give him credit for something less consistent with experience than divisibility. People who are right for shallow reasons do not deserve more credit than those with deeper understanding who make mistakes. Nonetheless, if understanding does not minimize mistakes, something is being misunderstood.

Some IT (Information Technology) professionals have been feeling like housewives -- whose considerable accomplishments in doing their work went unnoticed because it was so successful. Only if the work had not been done would the severity of the problem have been appreciated. But because there was no serious problem, much of the public believes there was never a problem and that the Y2K computer bug was a hoax...

It is very difficult to establish proof that severe problems were prevented rather than would never have occurred in the first place. Why did not the 30% of small-to-medium size businesses with no preparation for Y2K not suffer more? How could a problem of such magnitude have been so perfectly fixed that there was not a single major disaster somewhere in the world? Technological malfunctions and disasters occur daily in normal life on this planet. The Y2K computer bug ended-up looking like the world's greatest refutation of Murphy's Law. It seemed that so many things could have gone wrong.

It is easy to latch-on to an explanation such as "hoax", "hype", "problem-fixed", etc., but it is not so easy to find an explanation that fits all the facts. I am still left with the disquieting feeling that I cannot understand the Y2K computer bug problem or why events transpired as they did. As I said in my initial Y2K essay (May 1999), "The Y2K problem can be very frustrating for someone in search of hard facts".

Mr. Best was there. He's looked into it since. He doesn't know what happened or why, and he can't find any easy answers. So it appears that Y2K doesn't offer us much of an object lesson in anticipating or assessing future dangers. Even in an almost purely technological arena, outcomes can still be so unpredictable as to seem irrational or even anti-rational. All we can do about such situations is the best we can, as they come up

Which suggests that maybe there is a lesson after all. When Mr. Best concedes that he can't figure out the truth of Y2K even after the fact, he is saying that the nature of reality is incurably messy. The scoffers would have it, probably, that all the money spent preparing for Y2k was a waste. They might be right. They might not. I'm reminded of the antiwar crowd who are so certain that the messy reality of Iraq proves that it was wrong to depose Saddam. That is not a logical inference if life is as messy as the Y2K story indicates. Rather, not deposing Saddam would have resulted in a different mess we'll never get to experience.

Now what should we do about avian flu, and global warming, and the Patriot Act, and prisoner treatment, and planning for natural disasters, and the war in Iraq? We've already seen the right answer, which seems both simple and hard -- the best we can, given that we just don't know what's going to happen and may never understand what did happen after the fact. The best we can do probably involves steering a course that avoids the Scylla of ignorant wishful thinking and the Charybdis of imagining doom lurking at every bend in the road ahead. It probably also involves fewer recriminations in hindsight and more focus on the future than on the road not taken.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Molly Ivins

PSAYINGS.5A.11. I'm not going to beat up on her or even fisk her. I'm simply going to show you the first paragraphs of her column in today's Texas Bleat (or whatever rag is so lout-brained as to pay for her words) and a link to the rest.

Ivins: Despite Bush's claims, situation grows steadily worse in Iraq

By Molly Ivins
AUSTIN, Texas - As one on the liberal side of the chorus of moaners about the decline of civility in politics, I feel a certain responsibility when earnest, spaniel-eyed conservatives like David Brooks peer at us hopefully and say, ''Well, yes, there was certainly a lot of misinformation about WMD before the war in Iraq, but . . . you don't think they, he, actually lied, do you?''
    Draw I deep the breath of patience. I factor in the long and awful history of politics and truth, add the immutable nature of pols - fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly - and compare Tonkin Gulf, Watergate and Iran-Contra with the piddly Curveball and Niger uranium. I prepare to respond like a reasonable person - ''Of course not actually lie, per se, in the strict sense'' - and then I listen to another speech about Iraq by either the president or the vice president and find myself screaming, ''Dammit, when will they quit lying?''
Read the whole thing. It's her standard fare, but here's the amazing part. On this day of all days, her assessment of Iraq contains no mention of the elections. Not one. And she presumes to speak on behalf of sanity.

There's nothing more that needs to be said about this, uh, woman.

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