March 4, 2006 - February 25, 2006
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Coulter's right: "Bareback Mountain"
all the Oscars.
This is a real contest. The winner -- and there can be only one -- will
receive the following prize: a large can of Three Diamonds tuna:
Not the chunk light, but the albacore.
All you have to do is best Ann Coulter in predicting the winners of the
Oscar in the same categories in which she has made predictions. Read
her column here
Then submit your own predictions, including your reasoning, for
the same categories in which she has made predictions. The person who
gets the most right, with the best
, will win.
All judging will be performed by InstaPunk, himself, in person. You can
send your submissions via email, at the address shown on this page, or
via the Comments section. We have secured extra bandwidth to
accommodate the inevitable landslide volume of traffic. Don't forget,
we're talking Three Diamonds. Large. Albacore
All systems are GO. Start predicting.
Our servers are already taking a beating. But we can handle it. Albacore
. We understand. Keep
Just to clarify -- Yes, it's really Three Diamonds tuna. Albacore.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
A California auto accident involving
alcohol, guns, a Ferrari, and a Swede.
Let's set the context. Sweden is obsessed with making safe cars --
Volvos and Saabs -- and they lose only 6.74 per 100,000 of their
population to motor vehicle accidents each year (as compared to 16.39
per 100,000 here
In fact, they're highly responsible, enlightened, and mature generally,
thanks to 50 years of socialistic government. Here are some other
pertinent facts about the most superior people in Europe.
The whole country is obsessed with ending nasty habits like smoking
which they have reduced to half the level that still obtains in the U.S.
to smoke-free Sweden
On June 1st 2005 restaurants, cafes, bars and nightclubs throughout
Sweden open their doors to a breath of fresh air. A smoking ban is the
latest step in the country’s long-term efforts to combat the problems
of tobacco consumption.
In 1963, 49 per cent of Swedish men and 23 per cent of Swedish women
were active smokers. The startlingly high figures sent a shudder
through the country’s health campaigners and initiated the move to kick
out the habit
Sweden spearheaded tobacco control programmes and became one of the
first countries in the world to pump money into public information and
With a proactive track record in preventative measures, Sweden now
joins a number of European countries to introduce legislation against
smoking in bars, restaurants, cafes and nightclubs following the
initiatives of Ireland, Norway, Italy and most recently Malta...
Tobacco is the single biggest health risk in Sweden which houses 1.2
They also have very strict gun control
, which may or may not work, but nevertheless bespeak a
wonderfully progressive attitude toward the awfulness that is firearms:
Some claim that the culture in America
accounts for the inverse relationship between guns and crime – "What
works in America won’t work everywhere." So, narrowing the comparisons
as much as possible, here are some results: Between Sweden, Norway, and
Finland, you’re more likely to be a victim of crime if you’re a Swede.
Both Norway and Finland have more relaxed gun laws and higher rates of
gun ownership than Sweden. Sweden’s overall victimization rate is
similar to America’s, and Sweden’s is increasing while America’s is
And until the European Union began to coerce them to change existing
laws, Sweden had even achieved a state of near-Prohibition of alcoholic
beverages. According to one cultural
When I arrived in Stockholm in the
early 1960s Sweden was almost as far apart from the rest of Europe as
the countries behind the iron curtain. People traveled little in those
days and Sweden’s social- democratic government was a very
paternalistic one, guiding citizens in the “right” direction in various
In the 1950s Sweden still had ration books for alcoholic drinks. This
allowed the authorities not only to limit the individual’s consumption
but also to keep tabs on it. Every bottle you bought was entered into
the book; when the limit was reached you weren’t allowed another drop.
This authoritarian attitude was still very much in evidence when I
arrived. Monopoly shops could be as crowded as railway stations, with
over a hundred people waiting to place their order. Customers might be
turned away summarily, no matter how long they had been queuing. The
Swedes were friendly but subdued (at midnight, in sub-zero
temperatures, one would see pedestrians patiently waiting for traffic
lights to change before crossing roads empty of traffic). I recall one
well-traveled Swede telling me that he never found such passivity in
any other country.
While selling drink to the public was the Systembolaget’s raison
d’être, it did everything possible to persuade them to abstain.
When sales dropped, as they sometimes did (perhaps when illicit stills
were unusually productive!), they published exultant advertisements in
the press, drawing the public’s attention to the downward trend.
Some of the propaganda was alarmist. To men it was hinted that drinking
would make them impotent; one poster in monopoly shop windows showed a
picture of a human body with hideously distended internal organs, with
a text claiming that such was the inevitable result of habitual
drinking. Those wanting to go out for a drink found that there were
scarcely more than three or four places in the whole of Stockholm where
this was possible. And if you got into one of them (there was always a
queue) you could not get a drink before you had ordered a hefty – and
very expensive – sandwich. The drinks themselves were four or five
times more expensive as in an English pub. All of this produced a
neurosis about alcohol comparable to attitudes to sex in Victorian
The owner of the Ferrari in the accident is a man named Stefan
Eriksson. He is Swedish, which means he was raised by his government to
be a much better behaved (and more law-abiding) person than the facts
of the accident
seem to suggest he is:
The mystery deepened Monday in the case
of the puzzling crash last week of a $1-million Ferrari Enzo on Pacific
Coast Highway in Malibu.
Sheriff's detectives said Monday that they believe a gun's magazine
discovered near the wreckage is connected to the crash, and they plan
to interview an unnamed person who they believe was in the car with the
Swedish game machine entrepreneur...
The totaled Ferrari was one of two Enzos that Eriksson brought into the
United States from England along with the Mercedes SLR, Brooks said.
But detectives concluded that the totaled vehicle did not have
appropriate papers and was not "street legal" for driving in
California, he said.
Detectives have been trying for nearly a week to sort out what exactly
happened last Tuesday morning when Eriksson's Enzo — one of only 400
ever made — smashed into a telephone pole, totaling the car. Eriksson
told deputies that he was the passenger and that a man he knew only as
"Dietrich" was behind the wheel. But detectives have been openly
skeptical of the story, noting that Eriksson had a bloody lip and that
the only blood they found in the car was on the driver's-side air bag...
"The guy should have had an IQ test," said Malibu Mayor Pro Tem Ken
Kearsley, who has been following the coverage of the crash with a
half-grin. The driver's IQ "couldn't come up above 60 if he was doing
120 on PCH," Kearsley said.
But in fact, Brooks said Monday, the car was traveling 162 mph when it
crashed, far faster than the 120 mph originally believed. The Ferrari,
with just a few inches of undercarriage clearance, hit a bump at a
crest in the road, sending the vehicle airborne and into the power
pole, Brooks said.
The question of whether Eriksson was the driver is key to the case,
Brooks said. Eriksson's blood-alcohol level was 0.09%, higher than the
legal limit for operating a motor vehicle.
It all does make one wonder. It's not as if the road was some kind of
serpentine obstacle course:
There are really two problems that need to be solved here. First and
most importantly for Stefan is the question of what his legal defense
should be. And here I think it's possible to give him some good advice.
It's almost impossible to get convicted of anything in California as
long as you can make all the halfwits they put on juries out there
believe that you just couldn't help it. It also helps to have a very
expensive lawyer who gives press conferences every 15 minutes. What
Stefan's lawyer should say in his first press conference is that Stefan
couldn't help it because it was America's fault. He wasn't from a
country where they put a gun in one hand and a bottle of booze in the
other right before they shoehorn you into a ridiculously fast car that
can go three times the safe speed for the existing road conditions. How
could he be expected to defend himself against that kind of pernicious
influence? It was inevitable that he would succumb as he did. And not
ever having been a teenager in the U.S., there was no chance that he
would know how to operate a motor vehicle at high speed while drinking,
shooting, and smoking at the same time. The jury will practically give
him a standing ovation when they acquit.
The other more difficult question is, why? Why would a man so
meticulously raised to be a "passive," law-abiding, vice-free citizen
of the world's most advanced civilization engage in such reckless and
immoderate behavior? For a long time (say, two minutes) I was stumped.
Then I googled the words Sweden and suicide. Here's the first thing
Sweden is a small country of only 8.9 million people. Today our
standard of living is among the highest. Approximately 8 % of Sweden's
gross national product amounts to health and medical services. Our
people are among those who live longest. Almost 18% of Sweden's
population are over 65 years old and 4.7% over 80 years old... In
Sweden suicide is responsible for about 1,500 deaths each year. By way
of comparison, approximately 600 persons are killed in traffic
accidents yearly. Swedish women are likely to experience episodes of
major depression twice as much as men. However, for suicide, male
gender dominates. The rate among adolescents has increased markedly,
and in the 15-44 age group suicide is the main cause of death.
Depression is the most common experience in elderly suicide victims,
while alcoholism is the most common diagnosis in the younger.
It's very hard to die or get yourself killed in Sweden. All the cars
are safe, and all the drivers drive like old ladies, because most of
them are. Crime may be rising, but you can't count on getting killed by
a Swedish gunman just because you're sick to death of existing. It's
increasingly hard to smoke yourself to death, and the
authorities just aren't going to let you drink yourself to death. So
what do you do after you take a fling at the high technology business
world and come a cropper? You import the world's fastest car to the
most libertine nation in the western world, and you get behind that
wheel, and you figure if you're drunk and having a ruminative smoke at
160 mph when you fire that gun at your head, the situation just might
result in the closest thing to bliss any Swede is likely to experience
in this day and age.
If that's what happened, I don't know how to advise Stefan once he's
overcome his legal difficulties. His best shot would be leveraging his
newfound fame into a celebrity lifestyle where -- as in this country --
drinking and driving at high speed with mysterious firearms inside your
not quite legally registered exoticar while
is considered admirable by
millions and millions of people. But he probably wouldn't believe it.
until he went on Oprah, that is.
Now that I've tried to solve Stefan's problems, maybe some of the
brilliant social engineers in this country could explain to me why
their Swedish-style plans for eliminating all the pleasurable vices
from life in the United States won't result in 260 million Stefan
Forget it. I'm just pulling your chain. I know that most of you really
live to be a hundred, smoke-free, dry as a bone, stuffed with
well-intentioned pills, and speed-limited in
your little Saab
old-age scooters to 5 mph on the sidewalks of St.
Petersburg. I hope you enjoy it. Give my best to the boring old farts
in your bingo club when you get there.
How It Will Happen
Fashion creations by Rolf &
Viktor (left) and Vivian Westwood (right)
. The Drudge item
to it as "Beheading Chic," but it's worse than that. The world of high
fashion may seem immaterial to everyday life. It isn't. As a cultural
bellwether, it's probably more significant than the editorials in the
New York Times or the leading newspapers of Europe. The latter can be
challenged in the arena of reason. Fashion circumvents reason and
re-landscapes the culture by a top-down process of osmosis, altering
what we accept as commonplace by redrawing the boundaries of acceptable
experience in the eyes of young people before their parents are aware
that anything significant is happening. The most outrageous couturier
runway stunt can become a popular hit at your local 'Hot Topic' with amazing speed, reconfigured perhaps, but with the underlying
message of the original intact. The recent mode of middle-class girls
attiring themselves as streetwalker Lolitas began on the runways of
Paris, Milan, London, and New York. Now a new process is underway.
Westwood dressed up for her show. Horns?
linked by Drudge seems a rather jolly celebration of Vivian Westwood,
the British designer who rose to prominence defining the punk look for
Sid Vicious and the Sex Pistols. Characteristically, she is portrayed (more than a little disingenuously, to be sure) as
a mischievous rebel who -- like so many artistes -- delights in shaking
us up with her irreverent perspective. Whatever blows your skirt up,
A flying penis, voluminous robes and a
call to release a convicted prisoner -- British fashion designer
Vivienne Westwood brought it all to Paris in a shrill show on Tuesday.
In an autumn-winter collection inspired by Greek themes, 64-year-old
Westwood paraded models in long, gold shimmering coats and girls
showing off colorful tights under bright purple layered dresses with
the word "Innocent" printed on them.
"I think it is terribly important to have opinions, and to think. We
live in a world of action without thought," said Westwood, who has kept
her eccentric edge since her bondage- inspired creations for the Sex
Pistols punk band in the 1970s.
Westwood, who is famed for using British fabrics such as tweed and
tartan for her daring clothes, has not been shy to add a political
touch to her clothes. Last year, she presented tops reading "I'm not a
terrorist. Please don't arrest me" to protest against a tightening of
Wearing two sparkling little devil's horns in her bright red hair,
Westwood told reporters she wanted to raise attention to the case of
Leonard Peltier, a American Indian activist convicted for the 1975
killings of two FBI agents...
Westwood's collection included a golden suit with a wide hood,
toga-style dresses in pink and purple and accessories such as a
police-man style visor in sparkling gold.
In fact, the article did not touch on the real subtext of Westwood's
newest creations, which are revealed by the slide show linked from the
piece and confirmed by the work of other designers as well.
"An autumn-winter collection inspired
by Greek themes." Right.
The inspiration is not Greek, but Islamic, and fundamentalist Islamic
The Westwood "toga-style dress in...
purple" is on the left.
Are we still thinking this is all cute and harmless? Combine the
eyehole-less hood above with the "toga-style dress" and we are all the way
to burkha. Beyond actually. The hood really does suggest the
grisly hostage exhibitions we have seen on television courtesy of al Jazeera, and
Westwood adds a further touch that underscores her message in bold strokes.
Note the blown-up detail below, which appears twice (at least) on the
outfit -- above the printed eyes of the hood and underneath the "Greek" geometric
border on the "dress":
This is not at all subtle. The Greek letters are a straight
transliteration of the English word "Future." What are we to make of
the neighboring circles? Sightless eyes -- the blinders of the burkha, the blank
stare of a decapitated head? Or merely empty crocodile tears for an
ineluctable fate we no doubt deserve? It hardly matters. Westwood has
incorporated the barbaric iconography used by the sworn enemy of her
license to shock into her design esthetic. She might as well have come
truly clean and used her Greek letters to spell "thanatos," which to
the Hellenes meant love of death.
An isolated instance? No. She is joined in her perverse fascination with
the death of the west by at least two other designers featured in the
same fashion-photo slideshow. A Frenchman named Castelbajac responds to
the current climate of Islamist threat to the nation states of Europe
by transforming his models into visual ridicule of Christanity and
European nationality and history. How cool.
The dead hand of Christianity
Most of his creations are explosions of
color and Warhol-like pop motifs. His use of starkly simple imagery
is reserved for the outfit that places a medievally outsized
crucifix at its center. One might think of this piece as his philosophical base, the vision
that "informs" his treatment of individual countries in other designs.
An affectionate pop tribute to the
Campy and fun, right? Wrong. Cued by the discrepant Christian concoction,
we can recognize the same ideas at work. The Union Jack is, of course,
a concatenation of three Christian crosses, and despite the primary colors, the
context is still death. The face of the dead cast-off princess is framed,
literally, by skeleton gloves in playful (or blood-drenched) red. The other two outfits
are feminized permutations of Brit military uniforms, also linked to
death: more skeletal gloves on the first and a cartoon rendering of a long-dead queen
with downcast eyes on the second. All three of the models are
presented with blackened or concealed eyes. The busby borrowed from the
Welsh Guards is here, in fact, pressed into service, burkha-like, to
cover one eye completely and eclipse the other. Notably, the symbols of the lost British Empire translated into women's clothing do not so much endow them with female strength as emasculate them. From the vantage point of the designer, the models are not to be seen as women, emblematic of the advance of equality and participation, but as symptoms of pathology, proof of compleat castration. As western women, the models do not even exist.
Fun with Switzerland
It's the same with Switzerland:
blackened eyes, skeletal gloves, and a comical reconfiguration of the
bustline as the tesselations of a castle surmounted by a regnant red crescent
gaily flaunting the obviously dispensable accessory of an archaic Swiss
flag-cum-cross. The effect of the whole is like a puzzle of Fashion Pictionary that reads: "Come
on, Islamists! Breach our ramparts, and smite the bloody hands of our
bankrupt faith!" Unconvinced? Take a gander at this closeup of the
A Templar and a Nun
They're still swinging their bloody
swords, all right, but their position has already been overrun. The crescent has already conquered and is their backdrop. There's
more one could say, of course, but the point has already been made sufficiently. Castelbajac is jeering at the fait accompli of a vanquished Christian Europe. In
fairness to the purity of his anti-patriotism, it should be noted that Catelbajac doesn't spare his own
country, either. (Just for fun, find the red crescent below and interpret the one western symbol employed in his joke on the tri-color of France.)
The third designer working this theme is actually a two-man Dutch team
consisting of Rolf Snoeren and Viktor Hosting.
No. They do NOT look like 9/11
Their contribution to the mix is
especially interesting and timely in the context of an item linked
yesterday by Glenn Reynolds. In an essay published in the Sunday Times
of London, author Douglas
sounds an alarm about the Netherlands. I apologize for the
length of what seems a digression in our little fashion rotogravure,
but the following quote is intensely relevant:
"Would you write the name you’d like to
use here, and your real name there?” asked the girl at reception. I had
just been driven to a hotel in the Hague. An hour earlier I’d been
greeted at Amsterdam airport by a man holding a sign with a pre-agreed
cipher. I hadn’t known where I would be staying, or where I would be
speaking. The secrecy was necessary: I had come to Holland to talk
Last weekend, four years after his murder, Pim Fortuyn’s political
party, Lijst Pim Fortuyn, held a conference in his memory on Islam and
Europe. The organisers had assembled nearly all the writers most
critical of Islam’s current manifestation in the West. The American
scholars Daniel Pipes and Robert Spencer were present, as were the
Egyptian-Jewish exile and scholar of dhimmitude, Bat Ye’or, and the
great Muslim apostate Ibn Warraq.
Both Ye’or and Warraq write and speak under pseudonyms. Standing at the
hotel desk I confessed to the girl that I didn’t have any other name,
couldn’t think of a good one fast. I was given my key and made aware
that the other person in the lobby, a tall figure in a dark suit, was
my security detail. I was taken up to my room where I changed, unpacked
and headed back out — the security guard now positioned outside my
The event was scholarly, incisive and wide-ranging... we tried to
discuss Islam as openly as we could. The Dutch security service in the
Hague was among those who considered the threat to us for doing this as
particularly high. The security status of the event was put at just one
level below “national emergency”...
Where Holland has gone, Britain and the rest of Europe are following.
The silencing happens bit by bit. A student paper in Britain that ran
the Danish cartoons got pulped. A London magazine withdrew the cartoons
from its website after the British police informed the editor they
could not protect him, his staff, or his offices from attack. This
happened only days before the police provided 500 officers to protect a
“peaceful” Muslim protest in Trafalgar Square.
It seems the British police — who regularly provide protection for
mosques (as they did after the 7/7 bombs) — were unable to send even
one policeman to protect an organ of free speech. At the notorious
London protests, Islamists were allowed to incite murder and bloodshed
on the streets, but a passer-by objecting to these displays was
threatened with detention for making trouble.
Holland — with its disproportionately high Muslim population — is the
canary in the mine. Its once open society is closing, and Europe is
closing slowly behind it. It looks, from Holland, like the twilight of
liberalism — not the “liberalism” that is actually libertarianism, but
the liberalism that is freedom. Not least freedom of expression.
All across Europe, debate on Islam is being stopped. Italy’s greatest
living writer, Oriana Fallaci, soon comes up for trial in her home
country, and in Britain the government seems intent on pushing through
laws that would make truths about Islam and the conduct of its
followers impossible to voice.
I don't believe there will be any doubt that Rolf and Viktor are taking
a position and sending a message about the Islamicization of Europe. In
stark contrast to the political context just described, the Islamic
images they employ are not censored or intimidated into silence. They
are out in the open for all to see, and we are permitted to read their
message while the ideas of real thinkers are being locked in an opaque
strongbox. The question I will leave for you is what this particular
message consists of. Here is the evidence:
The last one does look as if a wedding
is being contemplated. But how eagerly? In aggregate, the collection is
so scary -- so evocative of the entombment, even the erasure, of women
that one is tempted to believe a challenge is being mounted to the ideas
being embraced by Westwood and Castelbajac. Yet the whole purpose of
fashion is to attract, to propose the esthetic appeal of new
influences, however difficult, and to begin the process of inseminating
the popular culture with those influences. Are we being warned or
inured? It's anyone's guess which is the intent here. Regardless, the
once alien images and concepts of the world's only philosophically
bellicose major religion are being smuggled into our everyday
consciousness. If Europe becomes, as Mark Steyn predicts, Eurabia
this will have been one of the incremental steps along the way.
The United States is less endangered than Europe by Islamic cultural
absorption. I do recommend, though, that American parents keep closer
track than they have so far of the fashion trends that sweep through
the teen and pre-teen boutiques where their daughters shop for the
latest and greatest in chic attire. Be on the alert for variations on
the theme of headscarves and veils and desert robes. I know it will be
argued that especially here fashion is mere frivolity, a kind of witty
commentary on matters unserious and impermanent. In reply I'd suggest
it's worthwhile to take a closer look at the life, career, politics,
and public statements of Vivian Westwood. She thinks fashion is more
Vivian. What exactly
does blow her skirt up?