May 16, 2006 - May 9, 2006
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
The MSM are winning.
It's called Chinese Water Torture. It
princelings of the blogosphere are proud, perhaps justifiably, of the
impact their new form of media has had in recent years. They brought
down Dan Rather, they helped reelect George W. Bush in 2004, and they
have played a part in the steady erosion of the credibility and
circulation totals of major newspapers like the New York Times,
Los Angeles Times, and Boston Globe. They see themselves as a potent
new political force climbing atop the crumbling ruins of the Mainstream
The only problem with this view of media matters is that it's wrong.
Think back to September 12, 2001. Imagine that an omniscient seer had
told you then that four-and-a-half years later, the U.K. and Spain
would have experienced al Qaeda attacks in their own countries;
France's appeasement-oriented government would have been rocked by
Islamic riots in Paris and other cities, Denmark would have had its
citizens and embassies targeted for Islamic terror attacks on account
of political cartoons portraying Muhammed; Russia would have endured a
deadly hostage siege by Islamic terrorists at a school full of
children; and in all that time, the United States would not have
experienced a single additional terror attack on its own soil. Imagine
the seer had told you further that the United States would, in the same
period of time, wage and win two wars in the middle east, overthrowing
the Taliban in Afghanistan and midwifing the formation of a
parliamentary democracy there, then driving Saddam Hussein from power
in Iraq and bringing that destitute country to the verge of its first
parliamentary government, elected by nation-wide vote and backed by a
western-trained police force and a non-Baathist army, while Saddam
himself sat in the dock awaiting the verdict of his trial for crimes
against humanity. Imagine he had told you that American combat deaths
in these two wars over three years time would not have exceeded 5,000.
Imagine that he also told you the American economy would have fully
recovered from the 9/11 attack in this timeframe, returning to
employment, interest, inflation, and growth rates rivalling if not
exceeding those of the Clinton years, despite wartime budget deficits
and huge increases in gasoline prices caused by the inevitable
uncertainties in the middle east, while the socialist economies of
Europe stagnated or shrank. Then imagine that he told you George W.
Bush's approval rating just six months after his reelection would stand
at 29 percent.
Would you have believed him? Would you have believed that the predicted
accomplishments could be achieved so speedily, if at all, in the
post-9/11 world? And would you have believed that a man who led such
bold endeavors would be the least popular president in modern history
save for Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter?
Yet that is the case. And here, courtesy of CNN
is the unkindest cut of all:
The poll of 1,021 adult Americans was
conducted May 5-7 by Opinion Research Corp. for CNN. It had a margin of
sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Respondents favored Clinton by greater than 2-to-1 margins when asked
who did a better job at handling the economy (63 percent Clinton, 26
percent Bush) and solving the problems of ordinary Americans (62
percent Clinton, 25 percent Bush). (Watch whether Americans are getting
nostalgic for the Clinton era -- 1:57)
On foreign affairs, the margin was 56 percent to 32 percent in
Clinton's favor; on taxes, it was 51 percent to 35 percent for Clinton;
and on handling natural disasters, it was 51 percent to 30 percent,
also favoring Clinton.
Moreover, 59 percent said Bush has done more to divide the country,
while only 27 percent said Clinton had.
When asked which man was more honest as president, poll respondents
were more evenly divided, with the numbers -- 46 percent Clinton to 41
percent Bush -- falling within the poll's margin of error. The same was
true for a question on handling national security: 46 percent said
Clinton performed better; 42 percent picked Bush.
all like to go back to the paradise of
How could this have happened? Bungles,
scandals, corruption, and bad luck? Well, in case anyone has forgotten
this elementary fact, every presidential administration has its share
of bungles, scandals, corruption, and bad luck. These are the whales,
sharks, and other monsters that swim ceaselessly in the political
ocean. But the ocean itself -- the medium in which the monsters swim --
is the MSM. In this context, the blogosphere is no more than the foam
on the whitecaps stirred up by the vast currents and movements in the
ocean below. And while the bloggers were fighting their various and
diverse battles in the name of truth, justice, and common sense, the
MSM ocean was harnessing its entire immensity on just one story, told
an infinite number of times, in every possible inflection, from every
direction, and with the deadly persistent accuracy of a dripping tap:
George W. Bush is no good.
It doesn't have to be true, it doesn't have to be fair, it doesn't have
to be consistent in its terms. All that matters is that it is repeated
with uniform constancy: drip, drip, drip. George W. Bush is no good.
George W. Bush is no good. George W. Bush is no good. Change the
headlines, seem to change the subject. Abu Ghraib. European disdain.
Tom Delay. Katrina. Deficits. Valerie Plame. Gas prices. Karl Rove.
Death in Iraq. Angry mothers. NSA wiretaps. Drip, drip, drip, drip,
drip, the lede is always the same. George W. Bush is no good. George W.
Bush is no good. George W. Bush is no good. George W. Bush is no good.
George W. Bush is no good. George W. Bush is no good. Forget the good
news, bury the accomplishments or ignore them altogether. Drip, drip,
George W. Bush is no good, George W. Bush is no good, George W. Bush is
It took the MSM three years to bring George W. Bush's approval ratings
down from their post 9/11 high to 52 percent on election day 2004. It's
taken them just 18 months [corr. per Tim] to bring him down another 20 to 25 points.
They never forgot their mission. While the princeling bloggers pissed
and moaned about Harriet Miers, and immigration, and federal spending,
the MSM kept on dripping out its one story, and now they are within
reach of their goal -- Democrats restored to the majority in both
houses of Congress and the stage set for the vengeful impeachment
and dismissal from office of the most courageous president in modern
We're just one bubble among the tens of thousands in a single patch of
foam on the MSM ocean. Who are we to stand in the way of the American
tidal wave of nostalgia for the great Bill Clinton presidency? We can
only submit. Here are a few of the moments we're sure everyone wants to
savor again and again, like fine wine, from the days when the President
single-handedly created a booming economy, took care of everyone's
needs, minded the national security faultlessly, and was so thoroughly
honest in all his dealings with the American people.
Caring for Ordinary People
The Once and
Feel better now? Well, who wouldn't?
Saturday, May 13, 2006
The Man with Two
Gibson when he was a Scot. Little did we
know he was advertising for the blue states.
. This is interesting
Film star and director Mel Gibson has
launched a scathing attack on US President George W Bush, comparing his
leadership to the barbaric rulers of the Mayan civilisation in his new
The epic, due for release later this year, captures the decline of the
Maya kingdom and the slaughter of thousands of inhabitants as human
sacrifices in a bid to save the nation from collapsing.
Gibson reveals he used present day American politics as an inspiration,
claiming the government callously plays on the nation's insecurities to
He tells British film magazine Hotdog, "The fear-mongering we depict in
the film reminds me of President Bush and his guys".
It's hard to know what's going on here. InstaPunk isn't here, but he
would have some kind of answer, definitive and clearly argued even if
it were wrong. Unfortunately, we have to respond as best we can, which
is to suggest a list of possible explanations for Bush-bashing by a man
who produced and/or starred in Braveheart,
, and We Were
, all of which films make it clear that there are wars
which do need to be fought and enemies who do need to be opposed:
He made so much money with The Passion that he is now rich
enough to empathize with 3rd World hatred and envy.
He's had so many kids -- two dozen? -- that he's got
father's brainrot: none of my
sons should die for their country.
He's tired of being snubbed by Sharon Stone, Susan
Sarandon, Madonna, and Barbra Streisand at Hollywood parties.
He's spent too much time hanging around with his old Lethal Weapon co-star Danny Glover,
who hates the U.S. as much as Harry Belafonte does.
He does still believe in just wars, but who in his
right mind could believe that it's just to fight back against
who murder their wives for getting raped and slaughter thousands of
civilian women and children
for no reason whatsoever in hopes of deflowering 21 virgins in the
He has an irrational soft spot for Saddam Hussein,
who reminds him of the character he played in Payback.
After making Bird
on a Wire, he got close to Goldie Hawn's daughter Kate Hudson,
who rehabilitated his political sensibility to the point that
he now understands George W. Bush is
responsible for everything wrong in the world.
Of course, there's another more disturbing possibility, which is that
Mel Gibson really is the anti-semite critics of The Passion
said he was. We don't
like this one because InstaPunk defended him from this charge. But
unless you're a liberal Democrat who is a priori
committed to the idea that
every use of American military force is a crime, it's very difficult to
justify the assertion that an American president is "fear-mongering"
when he seeks to protect Americans from avowed, ruthlessly savage
unless you happen to agree with those enemies that the world's problems
could all be corrected by driving the Jews into the sea.
As we said, we don't like this explanation. InstaPunk is a Scot, and he
has told us many times that the two peoples on this earth who are the
most alike are Scots and Jews -- both have overachieved in terms of
their contributions to civilization relative to their population, both
are tribal and argumentative but reluctantly fair in their social
organizations, both have a history of fighting wars against long odds,
and both are reviled for being unattractive in their financial
dealings. (In fairness to InstaPunk, we should note his asterisk to
the last point, which is that the lavishly admired Quakers are far more
unattractive when it comes to money matters than either Scots or Jews,
but the only people who know this are the ones who have done business
with Quakers -- they
suffer in embarrassed silence.) It's sad indeed that we must now
concede the possibility Mel Gibson is as crazy as Matt Stone and Trey
Parker represented him in South Park
The larger lesson is that movie stars are not political savants. They
are people who spend inordinate percentages of their lives envisioning
how they look to still and motion picture cameras. You probably
couldn't say that about Locke, Washington, or Lincoln.
It's too bad about Braveheart
though. Sad to think that all those fine speeches are nothing but the
roar of the greasepaint. So be it.
Friday, May 12, 2006
The da Vinci
figure at Jesus's right hand (our left) is, according to The Da
not the apostle John but Mary
Magdalene. Only Leonardo knows for sure.
Christian theologians are all het up about The Da Vinci Code
, which sold 40
million copies as a book without attracting nearly this much ire. Now
that it's a movie, though, the fur is flying. The Roman Catholics are
ROME (Reuters) - Three top Vatican
cardinals have bemoaned the religious ignorance they say fuels
worldwide interest in the best-selling novel "The Da Vinci Code," whose
film premiere is due on May 17.
Speaking out amid a publicity countdown to the premiere, the Vatican's
culture minister, Cardinal Paul Poupard, said the book seriously
twisted Church history but most laymen did not have enough religious
knowledge to separate fact from fiction.
"The Da Vinci Code" has aroused fierce criticism from Christian
churches because it says Jesus Christ married his female disciple Mary
Magdalene and fathered a child with her but the Vatican hushed up the
The Greek Orthodox Church is furious
The Greek Orthodox church reportedly
criticised the best selling "Da Vinci Code" thriller, the film of which
comes out in the coming days, as offensive and mistaken.
The semi-official Ana news agency said that a leaflet to be distributed
to churchgoers at all Orthodox churches next Sunday states "From a
religious and historical point of view the content of the book is
"The work attacks and undermines in a treacherous manner religious
knowledge," said the leaflet, produced by the church's supreme body,
the holy synod.
Before people lose their heads altogether, it seems like a good idea to
review the evidence and put this over-the-top controversy to rest. Did
Leonardo paint a woman sitting at the right hand of Jesus in his fresco
"The Last Supper"? Maybe. What does that prove? Leonardo didn't know
everything. He designed a tank and a helicopter but forgot to design
the 1,000+ horsepower engine they both need to operate. What does that
tell you? Besides, he lived in the 1400s himself, which means he didn't
have any more firsthand information about Christ than we do.
One of the
first rules of argumentation is that if you want to convince anyone of
anything, you have to compare apples to apples. The da Vinci Code
is a movie.
Therefore, the only appropriate evidence we should cite in analyzing it
is other movies. And, dare we point out, Leonardo never saw a movie
about Christ, not even the silent version of King of Kings
. We're in a
much much better position to figure this thing out than he was.
I don't recall hearing a lot of serious objections to the great
spiritual film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
If you'll remember, Harrison Ford found the actual Holy Grail in
that movie and used it to heal Sean Connery of a gunshot wound. Would
the Holy Grail have that kind of power if Christ had conned everybody
about getting killed and then sneaked away to live a life of leisure in
the wine country of France? I think not. Sean would be a goner.
Sean's Grail Book
is at least as convincing as Dan Brown's book.
The next bit of relevant evidence did arouse quite a bit of fuss at the
time it was released, but even The Last Temptation of Christ
didn't suggest that Jesus faked his way through the crucifixion. The
Mary Magdalene plotline was there, but only to reinforce the fact that
Jesus was a man even if he was God too. What's interesting about this
is that it makes The Da Vinci Code
look a lot like one of those clandestine remakes, not to say rip-offs,
that copy some earlier movie and throw in a unique twist or two to make
it seem new. Think of all the different variations of Invasion of the Body Snatchers
the genealogy of Die Hard
, Under Siege
, etc. Who's got the
authority here? Die Hard
probably on one of your cable channels within the last month, but how
long has it been since you last saw Under
in the listings?
Willem Dafoe didn't escape to France.
I grant that the movie-going public has a short memory, but there is a
clincher to the argument. An awful lot of people went to see The Passion of the Christ
which contains the most recent and the most realistic depiction of
crucifixion. Who could watch it and seriously believe that anyone
could fast-talk his way out of that kind of predicament? It's called
death by extreme shock, and you're not going to cheat it by popping
a couple of aspirin beforehand and bribing a guard to let you out early.
en route to the Riviera.
I rest my case. If you have any further doubts about the flimsiness of
the da Vinci code premise, direct them to the people who know: Steven
Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Mel Gibson.
As for the cardinals and bishops, they should settle down. It's a MOVIE.