Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
July 11, 2006 - July 4, 2006

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Goosestep Enigma

PSAYINGS.5A.19. The Cambridge On-Line Dictionary contains the following entry:

Other dictionaries and reference sources also link the goosestep to Hitler without elaboration of its continuing history.Yet it's an interesting fact that this bizarre means of military locomotion has been, and remains, a popular accessory of totalitarian regimes generally, even those who fought directly against Hitler. Russian and Eastern European nations in the Soviet bloc favored the goosestep, as does Putin's Russia (!).

Ditto the Red Chinese.

Is anyone surprised that the anti-western jihadists in the mideast also stomp around like SS troops, especially in Iran?

And, of course, Kim Jong Il wouldn't have it any other way:

A triviality? Possibly. But, as has been said in other contexts, the devil is in the details. I have the nagging suspicion that despots have more in common with one another, regardless of ideological and religious differences, than they do with whatever population they rule. I think the goosestep, and its graceless, rigid reduction of a human soldier to an automaton, has a deep irrational appeal to tyrants. It feeds directly into the same lust for power that enables them to kill and torture their own people in the name of service to those people and whatever faith they profess.

If this is true, it puts the lie to the notion that we can make progress in the world by understanding all the multifarious ethnic, religious and political grievances of problem states like Iran and North Korea. The totalitarian state is its own faith and treats all other factors as tools to be manipulated for the sole purpose of maintaining and increasing power.

Perhaps it's time for us to send the touchy-feely diplomats to the showers and develop a new index of the personal symptoms of despotism that cut across all cultural and geographic boundaries -- goosestepping troops, four-hour speeches, mega-posters of the megalomaniac-in-charge, increasingly lopsided "election" victories, etc -- and use them as the basis for understanding intent. Should we keep trying to convince ourselves that deep down, China really does want to coexist in a community of nations? Should we  go on overlooking Putin's career in the KGB and his bland assurances that democracy in Russia works better as a "benevolent" autocracy unhindered by the inconveniences of a free press? Should we consider subtracting Islam from the calculus of Iranian sabre-rattling and start treating the imams less like eccentric clerics and more like the Nazi Party?

And -- for those of you on the left -- isn't it time to stop playing at the fiction that Bush is Hitler and start recognizing that the globe is dotted with his natural sons, looking stern and patriotic as they review their goosestepping troops on parade? If you can accomplish this one small feat of perception, perhaps you can also discern that there is no way to appease such men, no wrong that can be righted to secure peace, no treaty that can slake their hunger for more power, and no conceivable end to their scheming that doesn't include putting a bullet in their heads.

Can you do that? Of course you can't. Your sleep grows deeper to the lullabye of heavy marching feet. So be it.

UPDATE. In response to Alfa's question, the figure who looks like Pinocchio is actually yours truly in disguise at all these impressive events. When it comes to dictators, discretion (and a wooden expression) is the better part of choler.

McKinney Wins Election Debate

LEADERSHIP. Unaccountably, Drudge ran an inaccurate piece today about the congressional debate in Cynthia McKinney's district. He reports that:

Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D) failed to appear at two televised debates over the weekend, fueling criticism from two opponents who are challenging the controversial incumbent in a July 18 primary in the Georgia's 4th District.

CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY reports: DeKalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson and architectural firm project manager John Coyne, who are challenging McKinney, debated Saturday on WSB-TV and also participated in a second debate Friday that was sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club and which will air tonight at 7 p.m. Johnson's campaign said that McKinney's absence was a "slap in the face" to her constituents.

The video footage we've obtained not only fails to confirm this but soundly refutes it. McKinney appeared several times during the proceedings and by our reckoning managed a little more than a "slap in the face" to her would-be rivals. What's it look like to you?

You know what we always say at the Big Girl News Network: Go, Girl!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Felicitazione, Italia.

CHOSEN AGAIN. Have I ever mentioned how much I love Italy? Well, I do. A beautiful country, a fine and handsome people, magnificent cuisine, and artistic triumphs in a virtually unbroken string from the Etruscans through the factories of Ferrari. They also know a little something about music, and faith, and other things too. I may lack a civilized appreciation of soccer, but I also know when to fall silent about minutiae and enjoy the moment. Congratulations to a team and a nation who have earned the admiration of the world.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Friday Follies

TGIF. It's been a short but turbulent week in the blogosphere, and now it's time to review some of the highlights and lowlights from our admittedly skewed perspective.

The North Korean kerfuffle gave us the opportunity to revisit the hilarious Team America website, which did much to offset the tedium of the pundit class, most of whom are still trying to describe the right diplomatic approach for dealing with a lying, murderous midget who's broken every promise he ever made.

There is no diplomatic approach that will cool this guy's jets. The only question that matters is what constitutes a trigger event for a military solution. All the talk about talks and sanctions is much more ridiculous than anything Trey Parker and Matt Stone have assembled here, but they're much better at finding the humor in the situation. Take a long leisurely look at the site.

Predictably, the flap about the New York Times's curious journalistic standards has continued, and gallons of ink (i.e., billions of bytes) have been spilled over-analyzing the incoherent rationalizations put forward by executive editor Bill Keller. Not surprisingly, the core issue has been mostly overlooked. The ultimate responsibility for the Times's crumbling reputation and subscription base rests with the publisher, who inherited the business from his father and clearly regards it as his own personal toy. His politics are immature, if not actually perverse, but worse than that he is obviously neglecting his oversight duties as well. Why is it that no one in the MSM will issue the long overdue call for Pinch Sulzberger to quit his acting job on the mediocre teledrama Numb3rs and get his callow self back to work on the family business?

Pinch is playing hookey

Probably because no one in the left-wing media wants to acknowledge that the NewYork Times is a family business, about as far removed from the socialist-egalitarian ideal media liberals espouse as one could get.

Speaking of the socialist-egalitarian ideal, we couln't help noticing the number of hits we've been getting in search of a photo of Jane Hamsher, one of the great socialist-egalitarians from the Hollywood community. The original piece on this site ran back in January of this year, and we had no idea why web surfers were suddenly interested in her, although we had predicted that she would eventually make news, probably in some ugly way. And so, apparently, she has. Courtesy of Instapundit, we found this, this and this to confirm our first impression of her character. As a favor to all her new fans, here's the picture you're looking for.

Jane Hamsher

A word to the wise, though. One of the commenters on the January entry offered the following (which we can neither confirm nor deny):

That photo is now NINE years and much plastic surgery later. She spent a fortune trying to look like Heather Locklear, and no one can figure out why.

Another flurry of hits sought out an entry recording one of our pet peeves: the deterioration of major league baseball attire. A little research turned up some kindred spirits who also disapprove of this particular sartorial crime:

 The Boston Red Jax?

Well, it's nice not to feel completely alone on a major issue.

It's even better not to feel completely alone on a second major issue. For once we have to agree with the great blowhard Neal Boortz about something. He doesn't like the tailbone tattoos women seem determined to disfigure themselves with these days. And we have to thank him for pointing us in the direction of this great SNL treatment of the subject.

Click on the pic to see the video.

While we're being grumpy about trifles, you should know that the audio clip playing with this entry was chosen because some of us happened to see Kevin Spacey's movie Beyond the Sea earlier this week. It's clear that for Spacey this fanciful biopic about Bobby Darin was a labor of love, but the end result is completely terrible, an unmitigated disaster. Love aside, Spacey is just plain too old to play a young Bobby Darin and his acting is so over the top it verges on the cartoonish. The script itself is  unpleasant if not actually deranged. And these aren't even the movie's biggest sin. Bobby Darin was as accomplished a saloon singer as Frank Sinatra, and it was unforgivable for Spacey to believe that he could be effective at faking that voice and singing style. It just doesn't work, and we hope to God it doesn't become a trend -- Steve Buscemi acting/singing the part of Sinatra, Meryl Streep acting/singing the part of Doris Day, Forrest Whittaker acting/singing the part of Mario Lanza... It's a dark road that should never be travelled as far as the coast, let alone beyond the sea.

Beyond the Pale

On a lighter but still musical note, we'll end with a link to a rather delightful interview with Ann Coulter in which she recounts her life as a deadhead. If you love hating Ann Coulter, don't read it because there's a chance you'd wind up hating her a little less, and that wouldn't be any fun, would it?

Deadheads. Coulter? Beyond belief. But cool.

So long for now.

P.S. Yes, today is the first anniversary of 7/7 in the U.K. People are also looking for our pix from that day. They're here. We stand by what we said then. More than ever.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Happy Birthday.

60TH. I saw Mr. Bush's press conference today with the Canadian dweeb who insisted on talking French before English. Canadians. Hmmmph. BUT it was a Canadian journalist who wished the President of the United States a happy birthday, which GWB noted with typical self-deprecating humor.

So he's 60 today. That fact makes him a Charter (or seminal) Baby Boomer, since the beginning of the boom coincides with the end of WWII in 1945, and obviously, the first babies born to the boom would have been conceived in that year and born in 1946. His sixtieth birthday is the signpost of a generational milestone as the nation's most privileged generation begins its passage into the "golden years."

You'd think there would be some media attention to the striking fact that the President of the United States is, factually and symbolically, in the vanguard of the generation that benefited most from the achievements of the so-called Greatest Generation.

Yet, like the American journalists at today's press conference, there's been almost no attention paid to this significant anniversary. But there's one notable exception, and I will defer to it completely. The blogger known as The Anchoress has written a beautiful essay about George W. Bush on the occasion of his birthday. Read the whole thing here.

Fie on the mass media. They never fail to fail to be gracious to this president.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

N. Korean Technology

(Hit your refresh key if you want to see and hear it again, in sync.)

THE TROUBLESOME OTHERS. I should probably be really worried about the North Korean missiles, but it's hard to do that. Sophisticated technology projects are difficult enough under the best of circumstances because there's a need for equal and opposite forces in play to achieve success. Schedules generally call for maximum results in minimum time, while the sheer complexity of the undertaking requires a devotion to quality assurance that tends to moderate results and lengthen lead times. Imagine attempting to implement an ICBM-based nuclear weapons program in an organization headed by a single megalomaniacal retard whose idea of project management is murdering those who fail or tell him no.

What you get in circumstances like that is a bunch of poor judgment and frightened CYA activity by those who are supposed to be dispassionate, scientific, efficient, and prudent. The results tend to be flashy but sloppy in the short term, plagued by escalating problems in the medium term, and utterly unmaintainable in the long term. Yes, the North Koreans can pull off a missile test, or two or six, but that's a very cry from being able to integrate accurate, dependable long-range missile systems with properly engineered nuclear warheads. Somewhere between now and then, they are likely to cripple their own over-extended resources through some catastrophic accident against which no safeguards have ever been put in place.

I know it will be argued that we've seen great technological achievements by other despotic regimes, notably the Soviet Union, China, and Nazi Germany. But none of these regimes was afflicted with anything like the full array of North Korea's handicaps. All three of these frightening precedents had access to vast natural resources and populations ranging from 150 million (?) in Nazi-occupied Europe to nearly a billion in China, as compared to 22 million North Korean prisoners, many of whom are starving literally to death.

All three of the old evil empires also had effective espionage apparatuses to counterbalance the weaknesses of tyrannical project management. Further, the record suggests that their accomplishments -- however frightening to their enemies -- didn't ever quite live up to the boasts made about them. In the end, the Soviet Union collapsed in large measure because of the inordinate percentage of GDP spent to create a gigantic nuclear arsenal in a totalitarian state that couldn't build a reliable automobile; for them, real efficiency was never possible. In the last five years of Hitler's rule, the Third Reich generated dozens of brilliant (non-nuclear) weapons prototypes that could have turned the tide of the war if the military had been able to manufacture them, but typically, the necessary resources were squandered to the bad decisions of the fuerhrer. Needless to say, North Korea hasn't a fraction of the scientific talent of mid-twentieth century Germany. And while China did become a nuclear power under Mao, that country has made far more progress by conning capitalist nations into selling them technology than it ever did during the Cultural Revolution.

It will also be argued that North Korea has so far prospered by blackmailing or cajoling foreigners into giving them technology. But if I give you an F-16 and you can't find a resource for spare parts, how long will that F-16 be able to fly? And if you can terrify a pilot into taking off in it, will you regard it as mere bad luck if he crashes before he reaches the target?

Here's what I believe it comes down to. Nothing technological in North Korea is maintainable, even if it can ever be made to work in the first place. Here's a telling excerpt from Strategypage's  report on yesterday's missile tests:

[M]ore North Koreans are finding out how badly they have been screwed by their leaders... For example, food and fuel supplies sent to North Korea have been halted, not to force North Korea to stop missile tests or participate in peace talks, but to return the Chinese trains the aid was carried in on. In the last few weeks, the North Koreans have just kept the trains, sending the Chinese crews back across the border. North Korea just ignores Chinese demands that the trains be returned, and insists that the trains are part of the aid program. It's no secret that North Korean railroad stock is falling apart, after decades of poor maintenance and not much new equipment. Stealing Chinese trains is a typical loony-tune North Korean solution to the problem.

If a rail system can't be maintained in working order, what of intercontinental ballistic missiles? It's not as if North Korea is exactly rich in powerful friends. Stealing from the only people on earth who give a damn about you? Come on. That's why the American response to yesterday's tests was so much milder than some people seem to want. A four-year-old sociopath with a machine gun may be a disturbing sight, but the truth is, if his finger ever gets near the trigger when it's loaded, you can just shoot him in the head then. Everyone will understand then.

The Corzine Mystery

If you're from NJ, you lose.

A FOOL AND OUR MONEY. He was once the CEO of Goldman Sachs, and he was rich as Croesus. Then he bought himself a seat in the U.S. Senate with God only knows how many of his own millions lavished on the campaign. So far so good. Nerdy executive wants to leap into the glamorous political life and feel like a statesman. A statesman from New Jersey. O-k-a-a-a-y. I could sort of buy that.

After that it starts to get fuzzy. The senior Senator from New Jersey -- a Democrat named SopranoTorricelli -- gets himself caught in a nasty bribery scandal, and the New Jersey Democratic Party replaces him in mid-campaign with 97-year-old ex-Senator Frank Lautenberg, who is duly elected by a trusting electorate.. Then, the Democratic governor of New Jersey gets himself caught in a nasty gay sex-cum-corruption scandal and declares his intent to resign at a future time that will be convenient to the gubernatorial election prospects of the Democratic Party. This historical nadir of Democrat prestige in the state is the exact point at which Jon Corzine announces his intention to run for governor, on the Democratic ticket, of course.

Well, that was confusing. I had a theory, but there were things wrong with it. The theory was that Jon Corzine actually fancied himself a future candidate for President of the United States and was the first Democrat to figure out that senators always lose the election if not the nomination. Generally, the American people want a state governor for President. A successful state governor. And there was the hole in the theory. New Jersey doesn't have successful governors. We have sleazy incompetents who are exposed as fools in the eyes of voters either immediately after their election or immediately after they leave office. How could that help Corzine's presidential ambitions? Who would want to leave the relatively safe environs of the U.S. Senate to administer one of the most corrupt state governments in the nation, particularly when the current state of unspeakable embarrassment couldn't be blamed on anyone but Democrats? Yeah, Democrats usually win the governorship in New Jersey, but not always, and when they do, they have an unbroken track record of instantaneously raising taxes in the most heavily taxed state in the union and then having to tough it out for four straight years of voter rage, which may or may not evaporate just in time to win a reelection squeaker in a heavily Democratic state.

So my revised theory was that Corzine had dreamed up a way to be a different kind of New Jersey governor. And he talked that way during the campaign. He talked about making the state attractive to business and bringing in more jobs to reverse the gradual exodus from the state that's been going on for decades. He spent plenty more millions getting out that message.

But then he took office, and what did he do? The exact same thing all his Democratic predecessors did. He announced a huge array of tax increases, including measures that penalize the working class Democratic base rather more than they penalize the affluent -- including higher (much) excise taxes on cigarettes AND a one percent increase in the state sales tax, which is already high (6 percent) in a state that has property taxes and an income tax, plus a highly regressive state-run lottery tax system business.

Well, raising the sales tax in this situation is a 100 percent guaranteed loser. You see, people actually pay the sales tax out of their own pockets -- no withholding magic -- every day of their lives. They also know that no politician in American history has ever lowered a sales tax. That means, they KNOW they'll be paying one percent more for everything for the rest of their lives.

Even the Democrats in the state legislature aren't that dumb. They rebelled. And what does Corzine do? He retaliates with an act of extortion that is once again aimed straight at the blue collar Democrat base: he shuts down the casinos because they can't run without state monitors, effectively laying off hundreds of working class wage earners and eliminating one of the major entertainment resources of thousands of other wage earners.

I have a new theory. Jon Corzine is f___ing crazy. He should be locked up.

I also have a corollary theory. Sooner or later, Democrats are going to stop seeing liberal-sounding mega-millionaire politicians as slightly less good-looking incarnations of John F. Kennedy. They may even reach the point of deducing that when you've spent your entire adult life riding around Manhattan and Washington, DC, in limousines that you can't necessarily be believed when you declare your undying allegiance to the plight of the little people. They may realize that to the Corzines and Kerrys and Gores of this nation, the little people are, in fact, just little people -- there to be used, manipulated, lied to, and patronized, with absolutely no accountability of any kind.

Maybe Corzine can escape accountability in New Jersey. There's no fool like a Springsteen fan, as we say in my neck of the woods. But the good news is, he won't ever be President of the United States. Even the dumbest Republicans will know what to do with a record like his, if he ever throws his silk tophat in the ring.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Declaration!

A reproduction of the original historical document. In case you ever doubted
how patriotic Democrats are when there's a real threat or danger of some kind.

HISTORY. Every year on this date, we like to remind everyone about the significance of the Fourth of July, so that no one has any excuse to forget why this is such a special day. It's called the Declaration of Independence, and its words should be engraved on every heart. Of course, we know the movie has been shown 143 times over the Holiday Weekend, but it's also vital that we take a few minutes to read the actual document that's being commemorated. Just remember: when the human race was threatened with total annihilation, the signatories were willing to do absolutely everything necessary as long as no nuclear weapons were involved. Thank God (or whoever) that we had a McIntosh computer to save the day. Here's the text:

Good morning.  In less than one hour planes from here and all around the world will launch the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind...  Mankind.  The word has new meaning for all of us now.  We are reminded not of our petty differences but of our common interests.  Perhaps it's fate that today, July the Fourth, we will fight for our freedom.  Not from tyranny, persecution or oppression.  But from annihilation.  We're fighting for our right to live, to exist.  From this day on, the fourth day of July will be remembered as the day that all of mankind declared we will not go quietly into the night.  We will not vanish without a fight.  We will live on.  We will survive.

Words to live by. Enjoy your barbecue.

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