Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
March 20, 2006 - March 13, 2006

Monday, March 20, 2006

Death in a Cold Light

TODAY'S HEADLINE. I think there's some anniversary or other that's going to be getting a lot of attention in the next few days, and I didn't want to talk about that because everyone else will. So I thought I'd talk about something else instead. How about death? Did you know that last year in the United States 2,310,000 people died? (This doesn't include approximately 2 million abortions, but that's another topic for another day.) The way the World Factbook keeps track, that's 8.25 people per thousand, which sounds better than the big number, but gives every U.S. citizen a higher chance of dying this year than of ever winning a million dollars in the lottery. There will be about 6,300 winners of the death lottery in this country every single day of 2006. That's a little over 260 an hour and over 4 per minute. Since you started reading this, between four and six of your fellow citizens have handed in their dinner pails.

Why should you care? Because we're all going to win this lottery eventually. No exemptions. But that's exactly why we tend to avoid paying much attention to the facts. If they wanted to, the New York Times editors could headline the front page of their paper every day, "6,300 Deaths Yesterday in Continuing U.S. Health Catastrophe." But they don't do that because you don't want them to and would probably stop buying their paper if they did.

Collectively, we've all developed a great workaround for this gruesome unreported story. We do ask for, and receive, plenty of stories about death, but always in a way that makes it seem somehow avoidable or controllable for the most of us. Local television news programs play a very active role in keeping death alive, so to speak, as an important news story. While they may overlook such trivialities as reporting seriously or in depth about local politics, they work hard every day to show us deaths by auto accident, arson, homicide, corporate negligence, and, of course, smoking. And they try not to give us big numbers, but individual faces -- of the schoolgirl slain by the drunk driver, the toddler who couldn't be rescued from the rowhouse fire, the cop gunned down on a domestic disturbance call, the hooker raped and murdered on the corner, the chemical plant worker who succumbed to toxic fumes, and the contemptible old lady who continued to sneak cigarettes at the nursing home even after her lung surgery. What's great about this kind of death reporting is that it almost always gives us something to blame, whether it's bad behavior or criminals or insufficient government protections. And there are even kinds of death that make us feel somehow immune -- the celebrity skydiving accident, the newest pre-teen killer drug, the fatal crimes and diseases of passion our own love lives aren't imaginative enough to encounter, and the heroic deaths of those who do brave things we would never contemplate. The illusion of death as a syndrome of the very good and the very bad.

What we experience in the news shows and obit columns is a steady drip-drip-drip of death that makes it seem like something we can put away by tossing the daily paper in the trash or changing the channel. This is punctuated by another kind of relieving death story -- the Dramatic Total.  School Shooting Claims 16 Dead. 10 Lost in WV Mining Disaster. 21 Dead or Missing in Tornado Rampage. 9/11 Death Toll Passes 3,000. New Milestone in Iraq: 2,000 Killed in Action. The Dramatic Total can be a balm even on foreign soil, as long as the numbers rise by an order of magnitude: 100,000 Drowned in Tsunami. Saddam's Mass Graves Yield 200,000 Bodies. African Genocide Estimated at 500,000 Victims. 1 Million North Koreans Believed Dead from Starvation. What's so wonderful about these kinds of stories is that they give us a safe way of expressing outrage about death. We can be angry at death, indignant, resentful, and self-righteously superior to its instigators if not the actual state it represents. Which is another way of pretending that death doesn't have us by the throat -- each and every one of us -- all the time.

You see, what  all these acceptable stories are about is keeping death a stranger. The chemistry is altered when death becomes an intimate. The math changes. We stop calculating in terms of raw longevity and begin assessing life in terms of quality, accomplishment, spiritual attainment and legacy. Time fades into the illusion it always was. The field of psychology has mangled this natural transition into a forced death march through the so-called phases of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Everything I've described so far is about the denial of death. It's something that happens to others, the ones who are weak or excessive or over/under-privileged or unlucky or stupid. It can't happen to me because I'm good or moderate or pacific or important or altruistic. Lies. Death comes to everyone. Every one.

All but the final phase described by psychologists are simply different flavors of denial driven by fear. We cycle through all of them all the time, just as we react in turn to each of the artificially framed stories told us by the media. The death of someone completely unlike us feeds our denial. The Dramatic Total arouses our anger. Death by institutional policy or neglect makes us feel we can bargain away the danger. The failure of such bargaining induces depression. Throughout, death remains the terrifying stranger whom we deny and turn away from at every opportunity.

There are really only two "phases," denial and acceptance. Achieving acceptance of death is one of the primary purposes of all major religions. Why is it that Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and all the other great faiths work so hard to eliminate the fear of death, to describe it as a rite of passage rather than an end? Because like all unconquered fears, the fear of death distorts our values and creates a self-defined prison. Lives that should be lived become instead a kind of bunker in which we hide and peek out at the world through ragged slits in our fortifications against death.

The irony of our great post-modern secularization is that it has stolen away our avenues to acceptance. When we scoff at the Christian heaven -- or the Muslim heaven -- we are reducing our own power to establish values and accomplishments that are more rewarding than mere survival. In the process we surrender strength and authority to those who have overcome their fear of death, even if we feel nothing but contempt for their spiritual logic. That's why the Islamists are willing to die by the thousands without pausing in their mission to count up the dead, and we cannot take a single step to stop them without counting, and recounting, and adding up, and performing all the other masturbatory math of the most cowardly primitives who didn't even have the guts to venture out of their caves.

Here are the facts we don't want to hear about in the media. We are all going to die, and the overwhelming majority of us are going to die from heart disease (28.5%), cancer (22.8%), stroke (6.7%), emphysema (5.1%), and accidents (4.4%), to the tune of more than 1.5 million a year. Another 70,000 of us will die from diabetes every year, 62,000 from flu or pneumonia, 55,000 from Alzheimer's, and about 115,000 from various other diseases. That's more than 5,000 a day, 80 percent of the total. The wild hope of curing any or all of these diseases is merely rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. If we eliminate these ills, we'll just die from something else.

The funny thing is that wars, even terrible wars, kill far fewer victims. In the U.S., World War II -- from December 7, 1941 to May 15, 1945 -- killed a little under 500 troops per day. The Iraq War has killed just over two troops a day. And amazingly enough, the country of Iraq, even in the midst of its horrifying warfare, has a lower annual death rate than the United States -- 5.5 per thousand versus our 8.25 per thousand, while the arrogantly neutral (and safe) Europeans have a higher rate than both -- 10.1 per thousand. Do you begin to see the distortions of denial?

So what are we really doing when we insist that the price of confronting Islamism and liberating an oppressed people in another country is too high? We are saying that nothing is more important than physical survival for our allotted three score years and ten (or twenty). Can this really be true? No risks are worth taking to defend our values, our way of life, the prodigious accomplishments of our forebears from those who would ransack and overrun us. Would you really prefer to hide in an empty concrete bunker for the remaining decades before you, too, join the list of 100 percent casualties by expiring from heart attack, cancer, or stroke? And does this determination really make you feel superior to those who have so transcended the fear which grips you that they believe a short, noble life offered up in service to you is better lived than a 50-year game of hide-and-seek with cancer? Do you honor them -- or yourself-- by scorning their bravery as contemptible beside your pusillanimity? Or are you simply using them as one more gambit in your lifelong game of denial? Isn't it all really about you?

Try this as you fulminate and rage about the unacceptable daily casualties in Iraq. Each morning, remind yourself that more than 6,000 of your fellow Americans will die today -- feel the gush-gush-gush of death. Remind yourself that you, too, are absolutely going to die, probably enfeebled, probably in pain. Ask yourself if there is anything you'd like to do in the time left to you that is more important than trying not to confront the inevitable fact of your own demise. Anything?

If you can't find an answer, get ready to live in the Islamist world. They are not afraid of death, at least not as much as you. And they're just dying to kill you.

UPDATE 03/21/06. The 'Dramatic Total' tantrum surrounding the third anniversary of the Iraq War is in full cry. Stay abreast of the details with Michelle Malkin.

Friday, March 17, 2006

St. Patrick's Day!

By all means, party with your greyhounds, but don't let them drink too much.

UNICORNS & SHAMROCKS. There are hundreds of ways of celebrating St. Patrick's Day, but we especially like the approach taken by these folks in Houston. They even get the leprechauns involved.

If you're really seriously Irish, though, you might want to get some guidance from this blog, which in past years has even shown us how best to follow in the path of St. Patrick himself.

We like that idea too. What better way to work up an honest thirst?

Have a good one.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


WHAT'S THE BUZZ? The Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci is soon to go on trial in France for having dared to write critically about muslims and the religion of Islam. For those who don't know of her, she is the maverick foreign correspondent and cultural critic Christiane Amanpour has been self-consciously imitating throughout her CNN career. Except that Fallaci is smart, original, and far too independent to be a politically correct whore for the Palestinians. Her present lonely situation is described in the current issue of L.A. Weekly, along with this compelling assessment of the self-appointed thought leaders of western culture:

Fallaci speaks for the ordinary reader. There is no one she despises more than the intellectual “cicadas,” as she calls them — “You see them every day on television; you read them every day in the newspapers” — who deny they are in the midst of a cultural, political and existential war with Islam, of which terrorism is the flashiest, but ultimately least important component.

Her latest book on the subject is The Force of Reason. We should all read it. Drawing on history and her own observations and experience, Fallaci:

...illuminates one of the central enigmas of our time. How did Europe become home to an estimated 20 million Muslims in a mere three decades?

How did Islam go from being a virtual non-factor to a religion that threatens the preeminence of Christianity on the Continent? How could the most popular name for a baby boy in Brussels possibly be Mohammed? Can it really be true that Muslims plan to build a mosque in London that will hold 40,000 people? That Dutch cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam are close to having Muslim majorities? How was Europe, which was saved by the U.S. in world wars I and II, and whose Muslim Bosnians were rescued by the U.S. as recently as 1999, [be] transformed into a place in which, as Fallaci puts it, “if I hate Americans I go to Heaven and if I hate Muslims I go to Hell?”

Oriana Fallaci

We could go on quoting from the L.A. Weekly article and discuss her views in conjunction with those of Mark Steyn, who has also written extensively about the imminent peril of Eurabia. But we're not going to because we're so taken with Fallaci's "cicadas" metaphor.

Loud, raspy, droning insects. A plague because of their extraordinary repetitive resonance, not their collected insights, which are really only one groundless affirmation repeated ad nauseam and unto death: Bush is the problem.

Are you up for a sensory adventure? Listen for the cicadas that drown out intelligent conversation every day in our own country:

Russ Feingold, champion of limiting free speech in politics, who nevertheless pretends to be defending freedom (and the Constitution he has betrayed) by denying the national security imperatives of the War on Terror in order to promote the fiction that Bush is the problem. Bzzzzzzzzz.

Harry Reid -- that dry droning voice of Democrat obstructionism -- who can't bring himself to endorse Feingold because it might compromise him in the 2006 election, but who can't bring himself to repudiate Feingold either, because if his party wins the 2006 election, the only order of business for Democrats will be impeaching the President, because Bush is the problem. Bzzzzzzzzz.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America, who travels to a foreign land to affirm her allegiance, not to the Constitution she is sworn to defend, but to "the experience and good thinking foreign sources may convey," specifically for the purpose of discovering "common denominators of basic fairness governing relationships between the governors and the governed." This while the governments she looks to in order to supersede her own constitution are busily engaged in surrendering freedom to Islamist extortionists who care nothing for fairness. A contradiction? A problem? Of course not. Everyone knows that Bush is the problem. Bzzzzzzzzz.

The insect colonies known as Harvard and Yale, where myopic feminists are slaying academic freedom even as they offer safe harbor on a silver platter to the avowed enemies of every other kind of freedom as well, because they can recognize no danger from barbarians abroad so long as they remember that the president of their own country, Bush, is the problem. Bzzzzzzzzz.

The thrumming hive of show business, which gathers round its symbolic queen to take credit for understanding everything better than the people who make them rich, gorging themselves on the fruits of a freedom they routinely abuse while failing to make a single mention of those who are fighting and dying overseas to preserve that freedom. Instead, they congratulate themselves for their brilliant discovery that Bush is the problem. Bzzzzzzzzz.

The New York Times, the Washington Post, CBS, ABC, NPR, NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, Time, Newsweek, etc, who saturate the atmosphere with virtually infinite restatements of the lie that with respect to Islam, Iraq, Iran, the U.N., and even nature itself, Bush is the problem. BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

We could go on, because the buzz does go on, day after day, month after month, and year after year, while the Islamic flood tide rises to calamitous levels around the world, irrigating anti-semitism and gradually drowning the one faith which is most responsible for the rise of individual rights, science, and political liberty. But we prefer to let you take it from here. Listen to the buzz as long as you dare, be ever mindful of its existence and purpose, but be aware that if you listen too closely for too long, it will drive you mad. There can be no other explanation for the routineness of the insanity around us.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Springtime for Clooney

You can't see the grass here, but he sure isn't letting it grow under his feet.

MECCA. With a week or so for reflection, we've figured out that the big story of the 2006 Oscars wasn't Crash's upset of Brokeback Mountain. It was the unleashing of Best Supporting Actor winner George Clooney upon the world. Who would have thought that an acting award would be tantamount to the anointing of a new messiah of the artistic and political intelligentsia? He started demarking his new territory with his acceptance speech, in which he explained the commanding role played by Hollywood in leading America out of the darkness of past error into the light of transformational liberalism. As even Peggy Noonan had to acknowledge [Caution: Dowdian elisions below]:

George Clooney is Hollywood now. He is charming and beautiful and cool...  And because [his audience] are his inferiors, he must teach them. He must teach them about racial tolerance and speaking truth to power, etc. He must teach them to be brave. And so in his acceptance speech for best supporting actor the other night he instructed the audience about Hollywood's courage in making movies about AIDS, and recognizing the work of Hattie McDaniel with an Oscar. [hyperlinks added]

Only a day or two later, he reinforced his mandate as a cultural savior by writing an open letter to the youth of America, in which he threw down the gauntlet for youngsters who are as committed to rescuing the world from Republicans as he is:

Still not content with the amount of limelight his newly elevated persona was receiving or emanating, he delivered unto the masses a revolutionary blog entry in the Huffington Post, in which he condensed his accumulated political wisdom into terms even the dumb reactionaries at the New York Post could understand:

George Clooney has a message for Democratic office-holders who voted for the war in Iraq, only to claim later that they'd been misled by President Bush:

"F— you!"

The movie star's argument — directed at the likes of presidential wannabes Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Kerry and John Edwards — is actually more nuanced than that.

"Just look at the way so many Democrats caved in the runup to the war. In 2003, a lot of us were saying, where is the link between Saddam and Bin Laden? What does Iraq have to do with 9/11? We knew it was bulls—.

Now, the XOFF News Team has learned that his commitment to strike while the iron is hot has proceeded to the inevitable next step -- announcing a groundbreaking new motion picture written, produced, and directed by George Clooney:

While the picture has yet to be filmed, critics are already raving about the production's brilliance and courage. "Daring, gorgeous, hilarious, and bitingly satirical," declares a preliminary review by Shaun Proulx in the Toronto Globe and Mail. "An overwhelming triumph," explains David Edelstein in Slate. "If Mel Brooks had directed Dr. Strangelove, or if Stanley Kubrick had produced [the remake of] The Producers, the result would surely resemble this -- a screechingly funny black comedy possessing the film-noir originality of Clooney's own [remake of] Fail-Safe, the meticulous historical verisimilitude of Good Night and Good Luck, the political genius of Syriana, and more than a soupcon of the devil-may-care sexiness of [the remake of] Oceans 11."

Wow. We can't wait. Industry insiders report that the film is a kind of screwball comedy set in the infamous Eagle's Nest (Berchtesgaden), where the election-stealing German leader planned World War II with his chief accomplices Herman Goering, Joseph Goebbels, Joachim von Ribbentrop, and Rudolph Hess in 1938. The madcap plot alternates between the social and erotic hijinks of the dim-witted principals and their search for an appropriate lie to tell the German people about why they're going to invade defenseless Poland. According to the draft press release, "An inspired choice of supporting cast manages to make the political satire ring eerily true while simultaneously leveraging the current vogue for gender-bending sexual byplay. The audience will respond delightedly to the hopelessly unresolved identity conflicts of both Goebbels and von Ribbentrop, and they'll hoot with glee at the aburdly violent hunting mishaps of Hitler's number two man, Hess, although it's not too early to speculate that the laugh-riot portrayal of the notorious cross-dresser Goering may grab a Best-Supporting Actor Oscar for surprise co-star Michael Moore."

Michael Moore as Goering and Whoopi Goldberg as foreign minister von Ribbentrop

Streisand as propaganda minister Goebbels and Ed Asner as Deputy Fuehrer Rudolf Hess

Serious makeup: Janeane Garofalo as Eva Braun & Clooney as the fuehrer "H"

It goes without saying that the real star of Weekend at Berchtesgaden will be writer-producer-director-actor George Clooney, known to his intimates in the film merely as "H." Even insiders are secretive about George's take on the role of a lifetime, so we have to content ourselves with a few tantalizing hints. We're told that "H" isn't exactly the genius described in the history books, and "he's been known to mangle a 'liebensrump' or two."

We'll be first in line at the box office. You can count on that. Unless you can't.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Let's Make a Deal 2006

Do you want Door #1, Door #2, or Door #3? Pick and click.

HOT NEWS. What's more fun than mindless fear of gargantuan cataclysms? Nothing, unless it's being able to help spread dismay and panic to every little niche of the mass media universe. This week, thanks to a more boring than usual news cycle, we can actually take our pick of impending apocalyptic events to worry ourselves sick about.

On the other hand, some of us would probably prefer to worry about this. It's got tremendous potential, but you can still manage to swallow your dinner without heartburn.

But, as they say, to each his own.

The Best New Hybrid

PC TRANSPORT. Pictured above is the new Bugatti Veryon Hybrid, whose two-powerplant design reduces the need for reliance on wasteful fossil-fueled internal combustion technology. We have commented previously on the drab styling and performance of current hybrid vehicles, and that's why we're so excited that Bugatti is offering genuine exoticar looks and handling in a truly environment-friendly package. The Veryon's electric motor runs on five "D" batteries and produces 6.5 Volts, 8000mAh. You can get a fuller technical description here.

The batteries

The electric motor

In operation, when the driver desires to diminish the load on the internal combustion engine, he can engage the electric engine with the flick of a switch on the dashboard. This initiates the alternative drive mechanism, thus:

Electric motor in operation. Cool, huh?

The only significant drawback we can think of is that the Bugatti Veryon will cost approximately $2 million. Of course, all hybrids are somewhat pricey because of the experimental technology involved. The mitigating circumstance here is that the traditional technology employed is perhaps slightly more powerful and robust than its competitors in this market niche.

The gas motor has 16 cylinders, 64 valves, and produces
a reasonably adequate 1001 horsepower.

Acquiring hybrid technology alway involves tradeoffs. When you go shopping for your next "green" auto, though, we suggest you check out the Veryon. You just might like it.

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