Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
November 12, 2007 - November 5, 2007

Monday, November 12, 2007

60 Minutes on Veterans Day

HARD CASES. If you wanted to see yesterday's wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns, you had to watch it on C-SPAN. Fox News carried snippets of it between breakaways for celebrity gossip and the latest Peterson murder. CBS's 60 Minutes demonstrated its appreciation of the veterans and our currently serving troops by doing segments about the MRSA virus, a possibly psychotic murderer on death row, and a wry look at the so-called "Millennial Generation" entering the workforce. Thanks, CBS.

If Morley Safer and company were conscious of the irony of spotlighting spoiled slackers on a day when many were preoccupied by† a different segment of the Millennial Generation, they never hinted at it. Their touchstone was the sweeping characterizations articulated by Jeffrey Zaslow of the WSJ Career Journal:

You, You, You -- you really are special, you are! You've got everything going for you. You're attractive, witty, brilliant. "Gifted" is the word that comes to mind.

Childhood in recent decades has been defined by such stroking...

Now, as this greatest generation grows up, the culture of praise is reaching deeply into the adult world....

Employers are dishing out kudos to workers for little more than showing up....

America's praise fixation has economic, labor and social ramifications. Adults who were overpraised as children are apt to be narcissistic at work and in personal relationships, says Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University. Narcissists aren't good at basking in other people's glory, which makes for problematic marriages and work relationships, she says.

Her research suggests that young adults today are more self-centered than previous generations. For a multiuniversity study released this year, 16,475 college students took the standardized narcissistic personality inventory, responding to such statements as "I think I am a special person." Students' scores have risen steadily since the test was first offered in 1982. The average college student in 2006 was 30% more narcissistic than the average student in 1982. [EMPHASES MINE]

The on-camera experts -- Zaslow, employers, consultants -- did express concern about the millennials, but their primary message seemed to be that most of the growing and adapting needed must be done by the Boomer and post-Boomer adults presently in charge of the workplace. What incompetent parents began must be continued and fine-tuned by the rest of us because there's no realistic alternative. They are who they are.

Did I mention irony? I should revise the number. Let me count the ironies embodied in this segment. There's the irony of an elite news organization choosing to lavish attention on the most pampered and relentlessly attention-demanding subset of American youth on a day when they themselves can't spare a minute for the most selfless of our youth. There's the irony of that same news organization's flagrant refusal even to report on the recent very dramatic achievements wrought by that selflessness. And there's the irony of the historical role played by that news organization -- and the elite liberal culture it speaks for -- in maliciously libelling and evicting from university campuses one of the (very) few institutions capable of undoing parentally caused damage: the U.S. military.

The best and brightest among the cognoscenti have been adamant about the desirability of keeping ROTC as far away as possible from our most prestigious -- dare I say narcissistic? -- colleges and universities, the very places that have become the breeding grounds for silver spoon kids too loutish and lazy to master eating with a common knife and fork. What manner of unspeakable perversion do they imagine is underway at the supra-ROTC campuses of West Point, Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy? Something so vile that preventing it is worth the price of turning America's once world-leading corporations into permanent servile babysitters?

You couldn't possibly figure out the answer to such questions from the MSM's network news organizations. But if you're a lowly college football fan, you could have learned a lot over the past two weeks about what goes on inside America's service academies. Two weekends in a row, you could have seen smaller teams with far less available practice time defeat the heavily recruited football celebrities of Notre† Dame.† Navy and Air Force prevailed over the Fighting Irish the same way -- with discipline, unflagging determination, and, yes, brains. Both teams featured running backs too small to be recruited by any football power, and both backs played in multiple roles, on special teams as well as the offense, where they also blocked ferociously when they weren't carrying the ball.

Even sports announcers were moved to point out that playing football for a service academy means a five-year commitment after graduation that rules out professional football -- and that the daily regimen includes on average 10-12 hours of rigorous study (no phys. ed. majors), drill, and other work besides football practice. Nevertheless, they find ways to excel. Air Force's diminutive star (5'8", 180 lb), Chad Hall, is just one example:

The Falcons senior running back-receiver is the only player in the country to lead his team in both rushing (1,122 yards) and receiving (426). He set a school record for rushing in a game last week when he gained 275 yards against Army, breaking the mark of 256 he set earlier in the season against Colorado State...

"Chad Hall is an academy kid," [Air Force coach] Calhoun said. "He will fight and claw and scratch to get the job done."

A football fan could have seen something even more educational watching Friday night's Army-Rutgers game. Rutgers is far better than this year's Notre Dame and they defeated Army handily. But Army played the whole game exactly the same way Navy and Air Force played theirs, with practically no penalties or mental errors, and as resolutely on the final snap as the first. The ESPN announcers had spent an entire week at West Point and were so overwhelmed by the experience they couldn't stop talking about it.† They expressed their sense of privilege at having been permitted to witness the daily lives of the cadets, which filled them with admiration. One of Army's best defensive players was also commander of one of the academy's four regiments; his duties were so time-consuming that he slept about four-and-a-half hours a night. They spoke on the phone on-air with the father of the Army quarterback, who had been on duty in Iraq throughout his son's football career and thus had never seen him play in person, but only via the Armed Forces Network.

Apparently, not all of the Millennial Generation are like the dysfunctional creeps in Morley Safer's piece. The military seems to know a little more about raising adults than the nation's affluent parents. But, I can hear the libs tut-tutting, what happens to them in the cauldron of war? What kind of beasts do they become after they've experienced combat? What becomes of them when they realize they've been duped into a greater sacrifice than kids should be expected to bear?

You could have learned something about that, too, last night, though not on CBS. You'd have had to go exploring as far as the Military Channel, which devoted the entire day's programming to some of the tougher consequences of military service. For example, from 9 to 10, the channel broadcast War Wounds: Women Fighting On (video at link) and from 10 to 11, War Wounds: Home and Still Fighting. Neither show is for the faint-hearted, and if you don't have the courage to watch all the way to the end, you might very well draw a wrong conclusion, as did the reviewer for the ever-reliable New York Times (Take special note of the gag-me rhetoric in the second sentence):

[Home and Still Fighting] chronicles the rehabilitation of several American soldiers severely wounded in Iraq...

Wounded soldiers have become something of a cause, especially since Bob Woodruff, the ABC newsman, used his own battlefield injuries to shine a spotlight on their plight in a television special in February....

The TLC program, though, is particularly graphic in its images and its details. Watch it and youíll learn how a man vomits when his jaw is wired shut. Youíll learn the odd side effects when a chunk of skin from the scalp is used to reconstruct a nose.

The documentary completely ignores the elephant in the room: the war itself, and whether these menís sacrifices were justified. That leaves it feeling vaguely voyeuristic, like the latest entry in an escalating game of who can find the most hideously wounded soldier and get him to agree to go on camera.

But against that cynical view thereís another: Weíre obliged to look long and hard at the ghastly injuries these men have sustained. Because, collectively if not individually, weíre the ones who sent them over there.

Beginning with the fact that he doesn't know the difference between soldiers and Marines, the NYT's Neil Genzlinger doesn't know much. He fundamentally misstates the purpose and value of this show and Women Fighting On. Yes, the wounds we see are horrible, and peculiarly unnerving in the case of the women, but the point of their additional sacrifice in sharing their ordeals is not our reaction, but theirs. We observe them depressed, in pain, trying to assimilate considerable and in some cases overwhelming physical loss, but if you were looking for an exact opposite of the feckless me-ism of CBS's Millennium Generation, they are it.

In the Women episode, we meet three veterans who have experienced amputations and worse, but the tears they shed are for the comrades-in-arms who didn't make it home. One carries a copy of her dead friend's (large) tattoo so that she can have it inked onto her own forearm in permanent remembrance. Another insists that she doesn't regret her decision to enlist, because her experience and the people she met, including the two close friends killed in the same accident that so grievously wounded her, have meant so much to her life. All three remain proud of their service and determined to lead strong, rewarding lives.

It's the same with the men, as well as the friends and families in their lives. There is a sergeant whose face and most of whose eyesight were obliterated by an IED. He worries that the burden of his many reconstructive surgeries and his various intervening disabilities, including damage to his hands, falls more heavily on his wife than on him. She has two young children to care for, but they all care for each other, and for those who watched Morley's Millennials earlier in the evening, it was far easier to see how they could manage to remain cheerful, hopeful, and forward-looking than to imagine how any of the stunted human beings in the 60 Minutes piece could respond as bravely to any setback, including the loss of an iPod.

The final image was the first trip out of the hospital for a young Marine who had sustained the loss of a leg, severely wounded hands, and multiple head and facial traumas. His mother pushed his wheelchair to the Iwo Jima Memorial, past Marine guards who saluted his passage along the path to that huge and familiar sculpture. He was on the mend and he was smiling as he explained how seeing his mother's ceaseless care of him throughout a series of life-threatening emergencies had taught him how he must care for his children when he had his own one day. The red-jacketed Marines who performed the memorial ceremony swarmed him afterwards and had their picture taken with him, all of them standing in the kind of thin red line fabled for never breaking.

What the wife of the man with the wounded face said turned out to be true. The injuries were atrocious and terrifying the first time you saw them. But as soon as you recognized the people inside, you stopped seeing the wounds at all. Then the frightened pity fell away too. What remains is warmth and admiration... and pity for the Genzlingers whose only reaction to their experience is counting up ammunition for the next polemic about the war.

There's more to the Millennial Generation than Morley suspects. But you have to know where to look. And you have to be willing to look. What say you to that, Mr. Safer?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Day

The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns

A time to thank those we can and to remember those we can't. God bless them all.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Some Logical Implications

THERE ISN'T ANY GOD. Don't watch the YouTube file yet. I want to provide a little context first. This past week we've had stories in the news that might not seem to have anything to do with the clip above:

- The extraordinary Michael Yon photograph the MSM don't seem to have much interest in.

- Publication of a book defending the actions, character, and historical rightness of Joseph McCarthy.

- Two separate middle school controversies that seem flatly contradictory on their face: one involving punishment for hugging in school and one involving birth control without parental notification for 11-year-olds . (And don't forget all the progressive breastbeating about "the kids" over the S-chip bill...)

- The Univeristy of Delaware Reeducation Program.

- The Weather Channel's founder proclaiming like a bolt from the blue that Global Warming is the "biggest scam in history."

All of these events and their treatment in the mass media are opportunities to see secular liberal orthodoxy at work.

The Yon snap is photo non gratis on two counts. It suggests quite powerfully that Iraqis are not all at one another's throats, and it embodies an expressly religious symbol that is supposed to be anathema in that country. So it doesn't fit the Iraq narrative we're expected to believe without question. It's just a blip to be ignored.

The McCarthy book was six years in the writing, voluminously footnoted, and the first treatment of McCarthy to take extensive advantage of the Soviet records made available since the end of the Cold War. Naturally, the traditional opening review from Publishers Weekly merely yawns, accuses the author of† "conspiracy thinking," and argues, absurdly, that "Most scholars... concede his position and argue now only over secondary matters, like the guilt of Alger Hiss." Is it really "conspiracy thinking" to document the breadth and depth of a very real Soviet conspiracy which penetrated all branches of our government and stole every major military and diplomatic secret we had? Also, am I the only one who missed the previous flood of scholarly books exonerating Joe McCarthy? And since when was the matter of Alger Hiss's guilt "secondary"? He stood behind FDR at Yalta. What's more, his guilt is no longer a matter for argument. He was a Soviet agent. What's most puzzling to the PW reviewer, of course, is why anyone would spend the time trying to rescue the reputation of the most defamed American of the twentieth century. In the orthodoxy of the left, he long ago passed over into the realm of iconic evil. He is the Judas of their faith, beyond facts and beyond redemption. He is the kind of personal, cultish symbol upon which their worldview depends, a necessary foil for equally iconic liberal saints like FDR, JFK, RFK, and MLK. A McCarthy book of this sort is a heretic testament, doomed to oblivion before it ever hits the shelves.

The two school controversies are not as contradictory as they appear. What they have in common is a secular view of humanity as livestock whose animal behaviors are best handled through a combination of bureaucratic regulation and antiseptic veterinary prophylaxis. Despite their fervent protestations, they don't really care about the kids except as instruments for enhancing the power and reach of the government. The only rational motive for separating an 11-year-old girl from her parents at the moment of puberty is to prevent those parents from imposing moral, spiritual and religious values the state finds objectionable. Why is hugging bad? Because the school administration says it is -- and we expect you to do as we tell you and believe as we tell you.

That's the significance of the University of Delaware freshman indoctrination program. Its chief attributes were its compulsory nature and the vaguely defined threats levied against those who posed any resistance. Even the Resident Assistants who were conscripted as enforcers were threatened with career-ending consequences if they failed to carry out their propaganda duties. Any argument that such a program had as any part of its purpose the advancement of academic freedom, critical thinking and personal expression by students is simply laughable. The only conceivable purpose is the exact opposite of these ideals.

To what end? The stifling of debate. The ready acceptance of pre-programmed items of political and philosophical orthodoxy which empower collective, secular entities over individuals. The real mission of contemporary American education is to separate students from their families, their belief in God or any power higher than the government, and their confidence in their own curiosity and effort as a means of arriving at independent decisions. They are to understand that the "Truth," however conceived, is permanently out of their hands. That kind of authority is reserved exclusively for the consensus of the collective.

In what context have we heard "consensus" invoked most enthusiastically in recent months? Progressive environmentalists keep informing us that the debate about Global Warming is over. The consensus is in. If we resist the consensus, we are "deniers." But what are we supposed to do with our common sense understanding that the debate isn't over until all our questions have been answered to our satisfaction? Until then, we have every right to go on believing whatever we believe, even if it's wrong by someone else's lights.

The truly annoying thing about the Global Warming consensus for liberals is that every week or so some new "denier" shows up to remind the rest of us that a consensus is not necessarily a valid thing when it comes to science. When all scientists agree on an answer to a scientific question, it means everyone has stopped researching it. Have all the scientists stopped researching Global Warming? If not, what is it they don't agree on? More importantly, what is it exactly that they do agree on? Is it, in fact, possible that the consensus they boast of has more to with a worldview than a specific interpretation of meteorological data?

Mark Steyn has an interesting post at The Corner today. It has to do with the worldview of environmental activists:

"Humanity is the greatest challenge," says Colorado environmental activist John Feeney in "The Green Room" at BBC News. It's not enough to reduce emissions, we have to reduce the folks doing the emitting:

We must end world population growth, then reduce population size. That means lowering population numbers in industrialised as well as developing nations.

It's fascinating to observe how almost any old totalitarian racket becomes respectable once it's cloaked in enviro-hooey. For example, restrictions on freedom of movement were previously the mark of the Soviet Union et al. But in Britain, they're proposing limits on your right to take airline flights to other countries - and, as it's in the name of environmental responsibility, everyone thinks it's a grand idea. Mr Feeney's views are the logical reductio, which means in another six months or so European cabinet ministers and UN officials are bound to start taking them up.

Read the quote carefully: "We must end world population growth, then reduce population size. That means lowering population numbers in industrialised as well as developing nations." Who is the "we" here? Is it you and me and a bunch of other individuals emppowered to make our own decisions about our lives? Or is it some power above you and me which can reach down into our lives and bedrooms by brute force, if necessary, to make certain that we live generation after generation of less?

How would that power go about establishing unquestioned authority and obedience to policies so many independent folk might resist and flout? And what might their new, smaller and less human-infested earth look like in a generation or two? Something like a "hermit kingdom" perhaps, a spartan island in the immensity of space?

Now you can look at the YouTube video. The opening scene is the conclusion of one begun here. All you need to know is that the dramatic eyesight-restoring initiative shown in the clip was the result of an international mission by a Nepalese eye surgeon who personally operated on every person in the room, some thousand of them. You say it can't happen here? Test that answer with a modicum of logic.

If you've got the stomach for it, watch all three clips. The third is here.

You'll note, I think, that there isn't any place for that other kind of divinity referenced in Michael Yon's photograph.

If any of you atheists are offended, good.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

World Officially 'Insane'

INSANITY. What the Hell. It really doesn't matter what happens in the 2008 election. The libs have won. The Clintons will get away with everything because the kids are shooting up on shit and cows are falling out of the sky. Dennis Miller's gift of irony is powerless against this kind of nonsense. The Nielsen ratings prove that Americans prefer the all-out, swing-for-the-fences insanity of Rosie O'Donnell.

And Ron Paul is breaking fund-raising records. I'm going to leave it to all of you to tell my boy Peter why this is the most insane development of all.

I'm serious. Peter reads this site. He makes an effort to listen to my peculiar take on things. He used to be a sixties radical wannabe. Now he's a free-market libertarian working night and day for Ron Paul. That's a big change. But I can't tell him anything. He won't listen to me. So I'm asking Lake, Gug, J., Alpha, Bubba, BalowStar, Cold Fury, Wuzzadem and everyone else to explain this insanity to my boy.

Please.† I'm the closest thing to a father Peter and Monica have. But they both need to hear from people besides me. People who are younger and smarter and stronger than I am.

If you don't weigh in, I may not be back. That's how serious I am.

Monday, November 05, 2007

There's no accounting for the Irish.

THE SECOND SHOE DROPS.There was only one notable football game over the weekend. Forget the incredibly over-hyped nonsense between the Patriots and the Colts. If you really are one of the morons contemplating the notion that the Boston Patriots are the greatest team ever, ask yourself what the Pittsburgh Steelers of Chuck Noll would have done to pretty boy Brady in the days before salary caps and lefty sports announcers who mistake stupid gestures for virtue.

Heart of Darkness: The new candy-ass NFL. Lights out to save the world.

When you come up with the answer, keep it to yourself. For all our sakes.

In their heart of hearts, Mean Joe Green and Terry Bradshaw are smiling quietly to themselves. So are we. (Uh, forget the "perfect" Dolphins, who would also have beaten the 2007 Patriots despite a regular season schedule that was almost -- but not quite -- as easy as the 6-game free ride Boston gets just for being in the same division with the Jets (1-8), Bills (4-4), and Dolphins (0-8).)

Speaking of green (Were we? Sorry), the one notable game was Navy's defeat of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish after 43 consecutive years of losses We've written before about the extraordinary nature of this rivalry, but this year we're, well, overwhelmed. In a good way.

Navy can't recruit like a Division I-A team, which is why they're not a Division I-A team. They shouldn't be playing Notre Dame at all, and wouldn't be without the special relationship that exists between the two institutions. But given that Navy insists on playing teams it shouldn't, the Navy coach has adopted a beautiful strategy: run a quasi-wishbone run-run-run offense designed to exhaust the super athletes who aren't used to having to stop the run 50 or 60 times in a row. Never punt, (almost) never pass, and never quit. In this way, Coach Johnson uses the only advantage he has -- character -- to perfection. Most of the time, sheer talent overcomes character, but the opposition always knows they had to earn their victory against a smaller, slower but unbelievably relentless team.†

This year, though, Coach Weisz of Notre Dame had less talent than usual. Still more than Navy could ever put on the field, but he responded in a highly unusual way. He decided that he would play Navy's game and make it a contest of character for the Midshipmen as well as the Fighting Irish. He also made his team run and run and run, and he rmostly refused to punt, and even with the game on the line, he passed up the opportunity to win with an easy field goal:

The Irish drove to the 24, but on fourth-and-8 Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis decided to go for it rather than attempt a field goal. Chris Kuhar-Pitters, who earlier returned a fumble 16 yards for a touchdown, sacked Evan Sharpley with 45 seconds left.

Navy coach Paul Johnson immediately tried to return the favor, calling a bizarre succession of plays guaranteed to give Notre Dame one last chance at a 44th straight victory, but the gods of the Celts intervened, sending the game to overtime. In the end, Navy scored a two point conversion twice in a row, thus satisfying the Celtic gods and securing an historic victory for Annapolis. I have to admit it's the first time I've ever liked Notre Dame and the first example of true gentlemanly conduct I've seen in college football since Number One ranked Cornell conceded they'd beaten Dartmouth on a fifth down and forfeited a national title to preserve their honor.

Yes, as the title of the post proclaims, there's no accounting for the Irish. They have a knack for being surprising. Consider the case of a world-famous rock star who actually departs from the easy leftism that cradles his super-pampered kind and dares to speak the truth instead of the usual bullshit:

There is an imminent threat. It manifested itself on 9/11. Itís real and grave. It is as serious a threat as Stalinism and National Socialism were. Letís not pretend it isnít.

Hats off to Irish superstar Bono.

In honor of this odd, lovely race, we'll conclude with two non-topical references that nevertheless reinforce the central point. One is a book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, which you can still procure for less than a sufficient quantity of Guinness. The other is a puzzlingly awful recitation of The Lake Isle of Innisfree, by its author, William Butler Yeats.

All in all, you'll find you just can't ever figure them out. They'll be exactly who they are all the way to the end of the world. That's what it means to be Irish. Among other things.

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