Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
January 31, 2006 - January 24, 2006

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Senators Kerry and Kennedy counting up votes against cloture yesterday.

STRATEGY. You think it's easy being this stupid?

The attempted filibuster was more symbolic than serious from the start, as Alito's opponents realized they were almost certain to lose yesterday's "cloture" vote...

Democratic Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry of Massachusetts took up the liberal cause last week, forcing Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to schedule yesterday's cloture vote so that today's confirmation vote could take place.

The debate was largely unremarkable until Kennedy delivered a thundering, ad-libbed speech in which he warned that the Alito vote "is going to have echoes for years and years to come."

"If you are concerned and you want a justice that is going to stand for the working men and women in this country, it's not going to be Judge Alito," Kennedy roared as tourists in the visitors' gallery leaned forward for a better view.

Yes, two of the richest men in the Senate, neither of whom has ever performed a day's worth of physical labor in his life, are the only ones in the country who know what "working men and women" need.

It reminds us of one of the great old comedy acts. We can't think which one. Maybe it'll come to us.

Antichristiane Amanpour

There are just two options, the way we see it.

FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT. Born in London. Educated at the University of Rhode Island. Worked at CNN. Slept with Peter Jennings. So there's no compelling reason why she would affiliate herself with the United States in any way. So we're not really mad at her for trashing our country, our troops, and our President at every single opportunity. After all, she's been chasing wars for a dozen years or so -- too much sun, sand, shrapnel, sex in un-upholstered vehicles -- these are things that make a girl old and embittered before her time. Not to mention the squiffy Rhode Island accent that makes her sound like she just swallowed a huge squirt of lemon juice. You know, too smart by half. She's probably having the same kind of identity crisis that's made Maureen Dowd envious of Georgetown streetwalkers and other interns.

So, once again -- in our constantly generous way -- we'd like to help. If she really were American, like, say, those network journalists who've made millions trying to destroy every presidential administration that didn't star a traitorous rapist, we'd recommend the Pelosi Total-Head-Rebuild, which always seems to restore women's self-esteem to an exorbitantly inflated level. But Ms. Amanpour is a citizen of the world, who has gleaned nothing but millions from the benighted nation to which she beams her journalistic ouevre, and for this reason we believe she has a second option: join the sisterhood of muslim women she has so solicitously yearned to restore to the beneficent ministrations of Saddam Hussein by taking the veil and hiding from the rest of us her war-ravaged fright mask. Besides, it won't be long before Saks is offering custom made burkhas for the affluent, suicidal feminists who root for Sharia while they spit nails at Alito. These are going to be very expensive frocks, but it's a good bet Antichristiane can afford a rack of them, and they'd go perfectly with the veil and the no driver's license and the Free Pass to the Rape Room. If she's really lucky, she can get her own talk show on Al-Jazeera, interviewing Araby's top female candidates for suicde bombings and honor killings.

All we ask is that the face she's been aiming at us for too long go away. Make it prettier, or make it disappear.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The House of Lords

  Prince Pinch of the Fourth Estate

HELPING THE MASSES. Yesterday, the New York Times published an editorial about Samuel Alito. It said, in part:

The judge's record strongly suggests that he is an eager lieutenant in the ranks of the conservative theorists who ignore our system of checks and balances, elevating the presidency over everything else. He has expressed little enthusiasm for restrictions on presidential power and has espoused the peculiar argument that a president's intent in signing a bill is just as important as the intent of Congress in writing it. This would be worrisome at any time, but it takes on far more significance now, when the Bush administration seems determined to use the cover of the "war on terror" and presidential privilege to ignore every restraint, from the Constitution to Congressional demands for information.

There was nothing that Judge Alito said in his hearings that gave any comfort to those of us who wonder whether the new Roberts court will follow precedent and continue to affirm, for instance, that a man the president labels an "unlawful enemy combatant" has the basic right to challenge the government's ability to hold him in detention forever without explanation. His much-quoted statement that the president is not above the law is meaningless unless he also believes that the law requires the chief executive to defer to Congress and the courts...

A filibuster is a radical tool. It's easy to see why Democrats are frightened of it. But from our perspective, there are some things far more frightening. One of them is Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court.

This depressing presentation of  left-wing political persectives as if they were obvious mainstream positions immediately reminded me of a recent Hugh Hewitt column in the Weekly Standard. Mr. Hewitt had occasion to spend some quality time with current students at the Columbia School of Journalism, where a new dean is reportedly trying to repair the crumbling credibility and competency of professional journalists. One professor even permitted Hewitt to poll members of a core class in the curriculum. Here's what he learned about the current student body of the most prestigious school of journalism in the land:

A fifth of the students are from the New York area, and between 37 to 40 percent are from "the corridor"--from Boston to Washington. Another fifth are from the west coast, and 10 percent are foreign. It is a pretty "blue" student body, and willing to pay handsomely for the privilege of their credentials. A year at CSJ--tuition, living expenses, incidentals--comes to $59,404...

The "blue" nature of the student body is further confirmed by my polling of the class I attended.... Six of the 16 were English majors, two studied history, and the balance spread across the humanities. No one had a background in the physical sciences. No one owned a gun. All supported same-sex marriage. Three had been in a house of worship the previous week. Six read blogs. None of them recognized the phrase "Christmas Eve in Cambodia"... Three quarters of them hope to make more than $100,000 as a journalist, 11 had voted for John Kerry, and one for George Bush (three are from abroad and not eligible, and one didn't vote for either candidate). I concluded by asking them if they "think George Bush is something of a dolt." There was unanimous agreement with this proposition, one of the widely shared views within elite media and elsewhere on the left. The president's Harvard MBA and four consecutive victories over Democrats judged "smarter" than him haven't made even a dent in that prejudice.

The intake valve at the elite media's equivalent of the Army's war college isn't pulling in many conservatives. In fact, it isn't pulling in many moderates.

Between these two quotes, we have a quick and dirty snapshot of America's Fourth Estate, an institution so traditionally powerful that it has become very nearly another branch of government. It may be the case, in fact, that a lot of people believe the first three estates are the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the American republic. But historically, the definitions are French: The First Estate is the nobility; the Second Estate is the clergy; and the Third Estate is the peasantry.

This societal model has nothing to do with contemporary American political culture. Or does it? The more I think about the arrogance, intransigence, and blindness to its own self-contradictions of the American left, the more it seems that any illuminating explanation cannot be fundamentally political, but must be almost purely social.

Try this hypothesis: The political leadership of the Democrat Party constitutes the nobility (1st Estate). The academic institutions, including colleges, universities, foundations, and think tanks are the new clergy of the post-Christian Age of Secularism (2nd Estate). And the rest of America, including the despised Republicans and red-staters, as well as the much-needed servant corps of minorities, union members, and other dependent recipients of government largesse, are the peasantry (3rd Estate). The mainstream media, of course, remain the Fourth Estate in this construct.

To see why this might matter in practical terms, it's important to understand that the historical difference between nobility and peasantry was absolute. A peasant could not become a noble by acquiring money or position. Nor could a noble become a peasant by losing his land and fortune. A noble is from birth to death simply better than a peasant, regardless of other circumstance. In Dumas's Three Musketeers, for example, the noble hero d'Artagnan begins his career impoverished, uncouth, and uneducated in all disciplines. He cannot afford to pay his first servant, and they both eat scraps and sleep on straw, but D'Artagnan still has the automatic right to order his servant about and beat him without rebuke. The difference between them is in the blood.

Now consider the history of American liberalism, whose founder and inveterate icon was Franklin D. Roosevelt, an unabashed aristocrat. FDR led his New Deal revolution with a cigarette holder clamped between his teeth and a frosted martini glass in his hand. He was a graduate of Groton and Harvard, a member of Harvard's Fly Club, which is located less than two blocks from Teddy's notorious Owl Club and was -- and is -- rather more exclusive. Roosevelt  was also related by birth to two of the most powerful players in the World War II campaign, Winston Churchill and Douglas MacArthur. Churchill was of distinctly noble blood and had to resign his title in order to run for office in the House of Commons. In doing so, he was part of a long tradition of aristocrats managing the democratic affairs of the peasantry for them, a tradition to which Roosevelt also obviously belongs. The father of America's New Deal for the common man was by any definition a blueblood, a native of the same part of the country Hewitt designates as the Boston-Washington "corridor," where an enormous percentage of the country's institutional credentialing power continues to reside.

It's a curious but demonstrable fact that ever since the New Deal, Democrats have consistently retained mass popular support without abandoning their upper-crust credentials. Most loved after FDR was JFK, graduate of Choate and Harvard, and the son of one of FDR's ambassadors to the Court of St. James. Al Gore, androgynous senator's son and Harvard graduate, won the popular vote in 2000, as the Democrats will NEVER forget. It was this same vein of aristocratic populism John Kerry attempted to tap into in his own political career; the congressional hearings in which he testified as a young man are as cringe-inducing for his faux Kennedy accent as they are shameful for his dissembling. He is an archetype of the "transnational" identity that has always characterized European nobility, owing in his particular case to his childhood in France, Germany, and Switzerland and his centuries-old family roots in New England, whose influence on him was analyzed in depth in a piece called John Kerry's America during the 2004 election campaign:

In the eyes of many New Englanders, the region is culturally more like Europe than the rest of America. It has cobblestone streets, centuries-old buildings, established families who dominate the local history books, each with its own seal and tartan... No New Englander worth his salt will own up to being a snob, but New England snobbery is undeniable. It's there in the jokes, in the vocabulary, in the knowing references to the benighted souls back in the red states... True to the region's Europhilic origins, New Englanders, as a whole, care deeply about what France and Germany think about America, Americans, and U.S. foreign policy. When Kerry wrings his hands about the need to "rebuild our alliances," he's not just giving voice to his own concerns; he's playing to his base, a constituency that can't bear the thought of losing international popularity contests.

John Kerry's failure is due less to his aristocratic bearing than to his lack of a common touch; you've got to smile winningly at the peasant beggars from time to time. Yale and a half-billion dollar fortune are perfect credentials for a Democrat populist. Where he failed, many others have succeeded, and it's important to point out that his senate seat is still as safe as Teddy's.

I'm sure there will be people quick to object that these are extraordinary exceptions and hardly indicative of anything other than the fact that money and politics have always been inseparable. Look at the Bushes: it's the same thing. Except that it isn't. A family like the Bushes on the Republican side of the aisle is, indeed, such an outstanding anomaly that it accounts for much of the blazing hatred the left spews toward them -- to the puzzlement of many in the peasant hinterlands.

How might one prove that the First Estate label is far more appropriate for Democrats than Republicans? A good place to look for evidence is the U.S. Senate. Most senators are rich or at least well off. But there are some definite differences in the demographics of senate membership in the two parties. For example:

- Name the party whose senate membership includes a Hall of Fame baseball player, two medical doctors, two veterinarians, a Cuban refugee, the daughter of Greek immigrants, the spouse of a former Miss Oklahoma, a member of the AFL-CIO, and 30 graduates of state universities located in their home states (54 percent).

- Name the party whose senate membership includes a Rockefeller heir, a Rockefeller spouse, a former owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, two Rhodes scholars, two senator's sons, the spouse of a senator's widow,  the brother of a President, the wife of a President, and just 17 graduates of state universities located in their home states (38 percent).

And, yes, the lists above are not entirely fair. The Republicans have a senator's son (Lincoln Chafee) and a Rhodes Scholar of their own (Richard Lugar), while the Democrats have a miner's son as Minority Leader, but isn't it the Republicans who are supposed to suffer from a lack of diversity and a lack of understanding and compassion for the average folk back home? So where is it that the Senate Democrats acquired all that understanding and compassion for ordinary Americans?

The answer is clear in their biographies. They acquired them at a handful of the most elite colleges and universities in the world: Oxford, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, M.I.T., University of Chicago, West Point, Annapolis, U. Michigan (Law), Wellesley, Swarthmore, University of Virginia, Georgetown, Duke, and Washington & Lee. Fully 58 percent of the Democrats in the Senate went to one or more of these schools, and to top it off, 65 percent of them have law degrees.

Republicans? About 30 percent have degrees from these elite institutions, with 54 percent possessing a law degree.

These statistics become even more discrepant when the female membership of the Senate is analyzed. The Democrats boast of having nine women senators against the Republicans' five. But it's the Old Boy's Club of Democrats who apparently scorn the level playing field. Only one of their nine female senators has a law degree (Hillary), and the only other two who have advanced degrees of any kind have a Masters in Social Work. Only three of the male Democrat senators do not have an advanced degree of some kind: John D. Rockefeller IV, Mark Dayton (heir to the Dayton-Hudson department store fortune), and Frank Lautenberg; six of the women do not: Barbara Boxer, Maria Cantwell, Dianne Feinstein, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, and Patty Murray.

On the Republican side, the women have the same order of credentials as the men. Removing them does not change the percentage who have elite degrees or law degrees: 30 percent and 54 percent, respectively. And 20 percent of Republican senators do not have advanced degrees, including two Vietnam veterans (McCain and Hagel), two marines (Roberts and Burns), a man nicknamed "Perfect Game" (Bunning), a professional horse shoer (Chafee), and a member of Phi Beta Kappa (Collins).

The uniformity of the men in the Democratic senate is remarkable if their credentials are examined in isolation. 67 percent of them (i.e., 36 senators) have degrees from just 13 elite universities, and 80 percent have law degrees (which doesn't leave a lot of room for doctors and vets and MBAs, let alone self-made men, farmers, athletes, actors, and horse shoers).

Think back to the Democrat men of the Judiciary Committee upbraiding Alito for having attended a snob school like Princeton, while two-thirds of their old boy colleagues possess similar credentials. What is really being scorned here? The elitism of Princeton? Or the presumption of a peasant who matriculated out of his class? (Maybe we should ask Princeton graduate and Rhodes Scholar Paul Sarbanes (D) of Maryland what he thinks.)

An important note. In harping on the distinction between elite universities and state universities, I am not implying that there is any absolute difference in quality of education. The membership of the senate exhibits the same kind of two-hump curve found in the corporate world, where the most successful executives tend either to have elite degrees or state school degrees, without very much in between. The meaning of this should be obvious. The population excels in intelligence and accomplishment across the board. In youth, though, some could afford the prohibitive costs of the elite schools, and some could not. The cream still rises to the top. What does make for an interesting discussion, though, is the likelihood of a distinctly different social experience between the elites and the more affordable state schools.

This brings us to the Second Estate. The professoriate of our colleges and universities constitutes, in our hypothesis, the clergy of American aristocracy. It doesn't take a cultural anthropologist to detect that the leftward tilt of this professoriate increases as one moves up the scale of prestige to the top universities in the country. Maybe there are those who would undertake to make the argument that the faculty at the University of Oklahoma is just as left-wing as the faculty at Harvard, but I don't envy them the task. The community into which young scholars are invited at the most elite schools is not a physical place, but a conceptual domain of intellectual and cultural superiority. These are the high priests who write the scripture that undergirds the nobility's assumption of divine right to rule.

Now given that the Fourth Estate is populated by courtiers who have been educated by the same clerics and who regard it as their sacred duty to support the nobles of the First Estate, it finally becomes possible to see that politics per se is not the governing factor in the mix. The peasantry matters to the extent that they constitute much of the subject matter in the games and gossip at court. But the peasants will always remain peasants. That's why the political minds of the nobility, the clergy, and the press do not see any philosophical contradiction in the fact that their most earnest efforts to improve the plight of, say, black peasants serve only to keep the black peasants trapped in the same old cultural prison. Of course they're always going to be poor: that's why the nobles need to be able to control more of the national income and redistribute it with the usual self-flattering fanfare. It's why they don't see a contradiction between affirming the right to choose for pregnant women while denying the peasants' right to choose non-government schools, firearms for self-protection, and a consumption tax in place of a Big Brother income espionage/confiscation system. It's why they see no contradiction between their constantly reiterated devotion to freedom of speech and their own (and their clergy's) sewer-mouthed refusal to tolerate it from peasant conservatives.

And because they are nobles -- with all the historical connotations the term implies -- they see no contradiction in the fact that their own deepest loyalties are not to the nation in which they were born, but to the pan-European aristocracy that has been running things for the peasantry in the Old (better) World since one or two kings got carried away in times past.

So now they are engaged in a great war of reaction. Despite the fact that they exercise absolute control of two of the four estates -- clergy and press -- they feel their power slipping away. Too many peasants in the Senate and House. A traitorous bastard malapropist in the White House. They absolutely require an institution above the vulgar House of Commons the U.S. Congress has become. They see the U.S. Supreme Court as their missing House of Lords, endowed ideally with the noble (and  lifelong) right to veto peasant legislation or rewrite it from the bench -- and make of the Constitution what royal edicts have always been, a moveable feast that satisfies today's appetite and, with a new stroke of the pen, tomorrow's too, whatever it may be.

It is intolerable to contemplate, even for a moment, that the peasants should be able to dismantle the House of Lords and turn it back into what Chief Justice Roberts called a "referee at a football game." They don't understand how this dire outcome could actually occur, and it's so black and white in their minds that they can't even explain their disgust.

But I think I just have.

The Most Beautiful by the Very Best

KRAUTS.13.1-6. Congratulations to Michelle Malkin for remembering Mozart's 250th birthday. We know she went to Oberlin, so it's no surprise, just a pleasure. Here is InstaPunk's present: the most beautiful piece of music ever written (with the possible exception of the final act of the Marriage of Figaro, also by Guess Who). It's the Concerto for Clarinet and Oboe. [Click on the Audio Button above.] The whole thing.


BONUS. We're still right-wingers here. You haven't seen this particular take on the lefties before. Once again, enjoy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

InstaPunk Takes the Test

THINGS. You just answer a few questions, and they tell you what kind of a sports car you are. Glenn Reynolds is a Mazda RX-8. Hmmm. I thought he was a Honda hybrid. But I thought I was a Jaguar E-Type. Not true, according to the experts:

I'm a Ferrari 360 Modena!

You've got it all. Power, passion, precision, and style. You're sensuous, exotic, and temperamental. Sure, you're expensive and high-maintenance, but you're worth it.

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz. Seems like a pleasant way to brighten an otherwise gray day.

The New Tourette's Syndrome

"Everything is extraordinary in this disease: the name is ridiculous,
its symptoms peculiar, its character equivocal, its cause unknown,
 its treatment problematical."  - Gilles de la Tourette

IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE? First, a little background:

Dr. Gilles de la Tourette was a French neurologist at the Salpetriere Hospital in Paris. In 1884 Gilles de la Tourette, prompted by his mentor, Charcot; in a peer-reviewed article, described nine patients who were affected with compulsive tics; some of which he had never personally treated or come in contact with, The symptoms were characterized by multiple muscle tics, vocal noises, and compulsive swearing.

Here's a description of a typical sufferer penned by Dr. Tourette:

“In the midst of an interesting conversation, all of a sudden, without being able to prevent it, she interrupts what she is saying or what she is listening to with horrible screams and with words that are even more extraordinary than her screams. All of this contrasts deplorabl(y) with her distinguished manners and background. These words are, for the most part, offensive curse words and obscene saying(s). These are no less embarrassing for her than for those who have to listen, the expressions being so crude that an unfavorable opinion of the woman is almost inevitable.”

The disease named for Tourette is still with us today, but it has lately been joined by a peculiar variant in which otherwise reasonably normal people break off "all of a sudden" from what they were doing or saying to let fly with some inappropriate left-wing political utterance. George Clooney's little outburst about Abramoff at the Golden Globes is a recent instance, but its incongruity is mild compared to what Tom Shales did today in his media column.

The piece is a lengthy review of this season's "American Idol." He's impressed:

Vaudeville didn't die after all -- it was only in a coma -- and now has returned in a form suitably twisted to fit the times: "American Idol," the Fox network's stupendously successful amateur competition, which is back for a new season with its popularity not only intact but skyrocketing.

The program, airing Tuesday and Wednesday nights, has been very, very good for network television because the show has reached the phenomenon stage, a kind of inescapability. It's talked about, argued about, discussed with gusto, a bona fide annual national event.

Unlike many other observers, Shales has found a way to rationalize the fact that much of the show's entertainment value lies in watching the humiliation of the defenceless and talentless.

(T)he show is at its most endearing and irresistible... when viewers tune in hoping not to catch a brilliant new star in the ascent but rather to savor an array of ghastly disasters, people who have no more business singing in public than your Aunt Minnie but who audition for the competition anyway.

When the show started, this aspect of it seemed awfully mean-spirited -- humiliation television, cruelty as entertainment -- but the program is such a familiar part of pop culture now that all contestants have to be aware of what they're getting into -- and in fact, some try to be even worse than they really are, feigning pain but reveling in the attention when assailed.

He could have left it at that, of course, but since he's writing for the Washington Post he has to reach for some broader cultural meaning in even a low-rent phenomenon like "American Idol". Otherwise, why would a luminary like himself waste any time on it? So he settles on the notion that the show is telling us something important about Americans:

(T)he show arguably celebrates something else: American Self-Delusion. Many of the most truly terrible performers do appear oblivious to their lack of talent. They become indignant when jettisoned and assume the judges are tone-deaf, have tin ears, or in Cowell's case, that they're just mean and jealous.
Anyone who has ever witnessed a British music hall performance or a French mime act or any sort of Japanese pop star might venture to suggest that self-delusion is more probably a function of human nature than national identity, but such an argument is beside the point. What's really going on here is that Shales is building up to a Tourette's moment. His very next sentence is a kind of seizure:

"Idol" may represent American self-delusion at its most benign, whereas current foreign policy may represent it at its most arrogant.

 "American Idol" is somehow informing us about Bush foreign policy??!! Well, that should be a mighty interesting little disquisition. The reader can hardly wait to see where this is going. But it's not going anywhere. The Tourette's moment has come and gone, and the resolution of any possible idea buried in the writer's head is preempted with a single word. "Whatever." Thus continues Shales:

Whatever, it really is more than vaudeville rising from the dead (television having been the coffin it was buried in). "Idol" spotlights only singers -- not the full range of performance other amateur hours have presented -- but seems no less significant for that, mainly because such vaudeville staples as comedy and dance teams have become largely extinct.

Now we're back to vaudeville, the original point of entry to the subject, and the critic moves into his wrap-up without further reference to his one-sentence fit.

About 20 years ago, someone gave this guy a Pulitzer Prize, which hints at the possibility that he may not be a complete idiot, but one has to wonder. Somewhere between writing and publication there is usually a step called Reading Over What You Have Written. Does this weird new form of Tourette's conceal its existence from the sufferer? Does Shales read his moronic non-sequitur with something like pride? Or is he simply as impotent to edit it out as he was to avoid writing it in the first place, regardless of the intense embarrassment created by his condition?

These are deep waters, and I think it's time medical professionals applied themselves to the challenge of understanding and treating this disease. Before it spreads. Much farther.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Desperate Humor

Joel. Isn't he cute?

EXPLAINING THE JOKE. Everyone's getting all hot under the collar about Joel "I Don't Support Our Troops" Stein, including Michelle Malkin, Instapundit, and a whole array of folks listed here. Exhibit A from Joel's offending column in the L.A. Times:

I've got no problem with other people — the ones who were for the Iraq war — supporting the troops. If you think invading Iraq was a good idea, then by all means, support away. Load up on those patriotic magnets and bracelets and other trinkets the Chinese are making money off of.

But I'm not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken — and they're wussy by definition. It's as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn't to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward.

I read it before the other bloggers started noting it, and I have to admit, something about it struck me as "off." So I clicked on his bio right there at the L.A. Times site. Here's what's there.

Joel Stein is desperate for attention. He grew up in Edison, N.J., went to Stanford and then worked for Martha Stewart for a year. After two years of fact-checking at various publications, he got hired as a sports editor at Time Out New York. Two years later he lucked into a job as a staff writer for Time magazine, where over seven and a half years he wrote a dozen cover stories on subjects such as Michael Jordan, Las Vegas, the Internet bubble and — it being Time and he being a warm body in the office — low-carb diets.

Being desperate for attention, he has appeared on any TV show that asks him: VH1's "I Love the Decade You Tell Me I Love," HBO's "Phoning It In," Comedy Central's "Reel Comedy" and E! Entertainment's "101 Hottest Hot Hotties' Hotness."

After teaching a class in humor writing at Princeton, he moved to L.A. at the beginning of 2005 to write a column for the Los Angeles Times. He still contributes to Time and whatever magazines allow him to. But his heart belongs to you, L.A. Times reader. Only to you.

He's pulling your chain, guys. He wrote the column specifically to provoke the reaction he's getting. That's what he thinks of as humor.

That's not the end of the discussion, though. He taught "a class in humor writing at Princeton." Wow. That's the funniest sentence in either piece. The whole idea of teaching people to write humor is funny. When you add Princeton as the venue it becomes hilarious. Let me explain.

Writing things that are funny begins with having a sense of humor. That's not something which can be acquired through the ministrations of a devoted instructor. All the technique in the world fails if an underlying comic spirit is absent. Joel's bio is a great example of this principle. The real purpose of the bio is to let us know how cool Joel is by citing all his glossy resume entries couched in what seem to be self-deprecatory terms. But they're not really self-deprecatory. The punchlines are buried under the thunder of the big names Joel drops one after another like so many lead weights: Stanford, Martha Stewart, Time Magazine, Michael Jordan, HBO, Comedy Central, Princeton, and the Los Angeles Times. Someone who really knows funny would either forego lame jokes to present an arid list of credits or dispense with the name-dropping to communicate a persona rather than a Who's Who entry.

That's my real problem with Joel's column. It's a sly and superior attempt at humor that just isn't funny.

So what is, or would be, funny?

Well, there's no point in over-intellectualizing it the way we might if we were teaching Princeton undergraduates about the subject. Funny is always a change-up. Revealing the unexpected at precisely the moment the audience thinks it knows where you're heading. For example, just showing the banana peel and then the dowager slipping on the banana peel isn't funny. If you want laughs, after you show the banana peel, you have to make the audience forget that it's there before she unexpectedly slips on it.

Joel doesn't know this. He thinks it's somehow unexpected that a good liberal would eschew the idea of supporting the troops. That's his banana peel. He shows it to us immediately. Then, without even a hint of misdirection or original insight, WE are supposed to play the part of the stupid dowager who obediently slips on his neon banana peel so that the real audience -- i.e., Joel -- can laugh his ass off.

That's what we call a private joke. It's someting that invariably falls flat when undisciplined and untalented comedians sneak them into movies, shows, and other media.

Of course, it's not at all unexpected that a liberal might realize at some level that he really doesn't support the troops. That's why various conservatives took the piece too seriously. It's also why the real joke is really on Joel. The fact that he thinks he is making a joke -- at a time when American troops are exposed to real danger, maiming, and death, -- demonstrates that whatever he thinks he thinks, Joel truly doesn't give a rat's ass about the troops.

The joke's on him. And I'm laughing my ass off. Because despite his name-dropping and other pretensions, he really is a moral idiot. And much more important, he doesn't know sh*t about funny. No wonder he's "desperate."

And for the conservatives out there, rest assured that Joel Stein is no big villain. He's just a teeny-tiny little villain. A fly swatter is all that's required to deal with him.

UPDATE.Welcome to Michelle Malkin's readers. If you think Stein's column is a damning symptom of Liberal Disease, the New York Times editorial of January 26 is an even worse symptom, and we can prove it. Take a look. You won't be sorry.

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