Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
October 14, 2008 - October 7, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

Trojan Horse

Pssst. The name that should be on the tip of your tongue is Johnson.

GETTING YOU READY. A lot of pundits and commentators on both sides have been groping for appropriate historical analogies to put the coming Obama presidency in context. I'm the only one who's sussed it out correctly. So pay attention.

On the left, the favorites have been JFK's Camelot and Lincoln, meaning the second Lincoln term we never got because of John Wilkes Booth, in which all the amimus of the Civil War would presumably have been soothed away by the kind of oratory we remember from the Gettysburg Address and The Great Emancipator's Second Inaugural Address.

On the optimistic right, the most popular (and delusional) comparison has been to the disastrous one-term presidency of Jimmy Carter, whose rigid naivete paved the way for the Reagan Revolution.

On the pessimistic right, there has also been abundant resort to Carter analogies, but their emphasis is less on the brevity of Carter's tenure in office than on the longevity of his catastrophic legacy -- legitimization of Islamic fascism, negotiation with terrorists, appeasement of openly declared enemies, sabotage of the U.S. military, self-destructive energy policies, wrong-headed economic measures, and a holier-than-thou relationship between the executive branch and ordinary Americans who would rather be Americans than global citizens. A very few on the libertarian right (e.g., Glen Beck) have reached all the way back to 1860  for a better parallel, positing that our union faces as grave a crisis as the Civil War itself, one that threatens to shatter our national unity forever.

All these analogies are wrong. Nobody but a bare majority of voters on one particular Tuesday in November 1976 ever liked Carter, let alone loved, admired him, and saw him as some kind of messiah. To the extent they approved him at all, it was because they imagined him humble, which he wasn't, and they swiftly came to despise him. Obama's following approaches cult status. He is the kind of political figure who can do absolutely everything wrong, fail at every task to which he puts his hand, and still retain the devotion of those who have projected onto him their wildest utopian fantasies. That's the only way he could have survived a candidacy which has made so many missteps and changes of position that the man literally has no fixed points left on the public record other than his party affiliation. Carter was a man (don't know what he is now, besides contemptible). Obama is a symbol. He has enormously greater latitude for screwing up than Little Jimmy ever did.  The optimistic right fears him too little. So does the pessimistic right. We'll get to the Civil War later.

The Dems aren't in much better shape. Obama has none of JFK's wit and common touch, and he is 180 degrees opposite JFK's muscular foreign policy. (Michelle and Jackie might as well be from different planets.) In fact, the only things Obama and JFK have in common are a cool presence on camera, a perfect figure for clothes (tautology?), and striking inexperience in any executive capacity. Obama does have a couple of attributes in common with Lincoln. Both are nominally sons of Illinois, though both were born and raised elsewhere. And the second term of Lincoln is as purely imaginary as the massed expectations of an Obama presidency. Since his self-serving and lavishly praised speech on race, already virtually gone from the public record, the Obama faithful have been promising us a Lincoln. What we're going to get is a Johnson.

No, not Lyndon Johnson. Andrew Johnson. The father of post-Civil War Reconstruction. That's right. The most appropriate year of comparison is nothing in the twentieth century and it's not 1860, either. Lincoln was no pacifist or appeaser. He fought the Civil War tooth and nail, and he helped make it the most ferociously savage war yet fought, so much so that the term "Total War" was coined to describe its excesses. We remember his speeches not because they were the highpoint of his presidency, but because they are reminders of his strength as a moral decisionmaker. If he'd been more like Obama, we wouldn't remember him at all.

Obama is a post-Lincoln kind of guy, a pure politician in a time of pure politics. That's why the year that fits best is 1865, when a second, less violent but more pernicious war began, this one against all those who had opposed the powers Lincoln' reelection had given the upper hand over a defeated enemy.

I'm NOT arguing the historical pros and cons of Reconstruction as it unfolded in the nineteenth century here. I'm aware that the historical debate still rages over whether it lasted too long or not long enough. I'm just saying that it's the closest equivalent to where we are right now. Whatever its perceived merits afer the fact, Reconstruction began as an attempt to punish and humiliate the South, even unto ruination. Its direct effects included the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, the subsequent adoption of Jim Crow laws and their innumerable dreadful consequences, as well as the impoverishment of the former Confederate states into the late twentieth century. Reconstruction as it was administered -- regardless of its motives -- was the American equivalent of the Versailles Treaty that followed World War I and helped bring about World War II.

Just as the War between the North and South ended at Appomatox, the state of Total War between the Left and Right which has raged since George W. Bush's election in 2000 will end with the election of Barack Obama in 2008. He has presented himself as a trans-racial unifier, a post-partisan healer who is able and determined to bring a divided country back together. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Obama is a one-man Trojan Horse, an apparent peace offering filled with implacable instruments of vengeance. Nothing could be clearer than that the Democrats and all their allies hate their Republican and conservative opposition. They will not be content with electoral victory. They need annihilation. And in Obama, they have the exact right man for the job. That's why they tossed Hillary (and their few thousand diehard feminists) to the wolves and with her Bill Clinton, the moderate Democrat who showed them how to govern from the comparatively safe center. There's absolutely nothing safe about Obama. That's why they preferred him. After Bush, they were no longer interested in governing. They wanted revenge.

Barack Obama was raised by a Marxist mother as a mixed-race, stateless anomaly, in an isolated colonial acquisition of the United States, sent abroad for education in Third-World nations that had themselves experienced the brunt of European colonialism, and then released for a power elite education into exclusively urban locales within the continental United States. He knows nothing of life in the 48 states that don't contain one of the four most populous cities and precious little of life outside those cities. His major acts as an independent adult were to form alliances with a racist black nationalist preacher tied to Louis Ferrakhan, join the inveterately corrupt Chicago Democratic political machine, intimidate his electoral opponents into quitting the race before election day, and ally himself with a radical sixties political terrorist for the purpose of funnelling money to 1) educational programs designed to radicalize minority students and 2) a renegade national organization in the business of promoting minority voter fraud and minority access to fraudulent mortgage contracts. This is not a trans-racial second-term Lincoln stand-in. It is far and away the most left-wing political personage who has ever been nominated by a major party to run for the presidency of the United States.

His unexamined candidacy has also demonstrated the lengths (and lows) to which he is willing to go. His internet-based campaign finance "bundling" operation has devised ways of receiving foreign moneys, even from places like Iran, which cannot be called to account. He has succeeded in demonizing all who question his negligible qualifications and dubious political partners as racists. He has been ruthless in using left-wing tactics to suppress and/or libel specific accusers and accusations, including mass phone and email attacks undertaken by his own campaign managers -- and ambiguously sponsored groups whose more extreme statements can be disavowed if necessary. He has been such a chameleon on public policy matters, thanks to his quasi-messianic rhetoric and mass-media appeal, that he cannot be pinned to any specific position he has taken, since it will probably change tomorrow without being detected or challenged. He has become so much a symbol that being a cipher no longer matters.

Meanwhile, both Democrats and Republicans play directly into his hands. Democrats are willing to endure the costs of the Reconstruction he will wreak on the nation because it will hurt Republicans more than Democrats. If his vengeance should prove to be race-based, so much the better for them. They are on the side of the angels in this, they believe, and their sense of poetic justice is nourished by the lies they have continuously told themselves about the nature of their red-state antagonists. Even the most cynical of them seem unaware that the underhanded tactics they connive in might also be used, one day soon, against them too. If race relations should be set back a hundred years by what is done in the name of punishing conservatives, eradicating racism and other forms of "hate," and redistributing the wealth of a greedy capitalist system, they figure they'll still have a seat at the table where the spoils are shared. But there is no honor among thieves -- or pirates. They know it but keep forgetting that they're not necessarily the smartest pirates on the open sea. Bad news for them. Worse news for everyone else.

So the man who has, apparently, convinced a majority of us that he is the only one capable of bringing us all together is, in reality, the one who has the best possible training in eliminating all his -- and his sponsors' -- political enemies. He will have the full support of a veto-proof Congress as he sets about the task of denying free speech (on "hate" grounds) to his enemies, facilitating the socialization of not only the healthcare system but also the nation's financial system, and gradually, suborning both the U.S. Constitution and national sovereignty to authoritarian international systems like the United Nations, the European Union, and the World Court.

But John McCain is self-righteous about informing his terrified supporters that they needn't fear an Obama presidency, because "he's a decent man." Which does more than any Obama attack to defeat McCain, because it proves him the worst kind of fool. No wonder high-profile conservatives are scrambling for cover. It won't be pretty when the Obama DOJ starts investigating Sarah Palin for malfeasance in office as Governor of Alaska. (Tina Fey will no doubt be happy to help with funny funny skits...)

Four years of this will not be undone by any congressional electoral rebellion. Obama's legacy will make Carter's look like the first attempts of an amateur graffiti vandal. In this respect, he is no tyro. He has been raised for this purpose as single-mindedly as Sarah Conner's son was raised to fight the conspiracies of SkyNet.

What's really waiting in their horse's belly?

How now will you defend Troy?

Friday, October 10, 2008

On the Firing Line:
Bombshell Duds
David Brooks, Kathleen Parker and Christopher Buckley.
I'm not calling them turncoats. Just effete and tiresome.

ELITIST UPDATE. Earlier in the week, David Brooks called Sarah Palin a "cancer on the Republican Party." Today, he excommunicated all the conservatives who don't work for The New York Times or National Review:

Modern conservatism began as a movement of dissident intellectuals. Richard Weaver wrote a book called, “Ideas Have Consequences.” Russell Kirk placed Edmund Burke in an American context. William F. Buckley famously said he’d rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard. But he didn’t believe those were the only two options. His entire life was a celebration of urbane values, sophistication and the rigorous and constant application of intellect.

Driven by a need to engage elite opinion, conservatives tried to build an intellectual counterestablishment with think tanks and magazines. They disdained the ideas of the liberal professoriate, but they did not disdain the idea of a cultivated mind.

Ronald Reagan was no intellectual, but he had an earnest faith in ideas and he spent decades working through them. He was rooted in the Midwest, but he also loved Hollywood. And for a time, it seemed the Republican Party would be a broad coalition — small-town values with coastal reach....

Republicans have [since] alienated the highly educated regions — Silicon Valley, northern Virginia, the suburbs outside of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Raleigh-Durham. The West Coast and the Northeast are mostly gone.

The Republicans have alienated whole professions. Lawyers now donate to the Democratic Party over the Republican Party at 4-to-1 rates. With doctors, it’s 2-to-1. With tech executives, it’s 5-to-1. With investment bankers, it’s 2-to-1. It took talent for Republicans to lose the banking community.

Conservatives are as rare in elite universities and the mainstream media as they were 30 years ago. The smartest young Americans are now educated in an overwhelmingly liberal environment.

His conclusion, of course, is that Sarah Palin is the catastrophic climax of a process of devolution that has destroyed the conservative movement in America. It's an astonishing piece, as revealing as it is, well, stupid.

We have here a whole series of untruths, misrepresentations, and confusions of cause and effect. I am sure that this is an accurate representation of the conservative universe from David Brooks's viewpoint. It's just that it's historically and conceptually false. If you read the whole essay, for example, you will discover that he has essentially confined the entire Reagan Revolution to one three-sentence paragraph, almost as an asterisk to the real work that was done by Buckley and other conservative intellectuals like himself. I'll come back to the falsehoods later, but first it's time to take note of another, equally provocative essay that appeared online today.

It's by Chris Buckley, son of the late patron saint of the National Review, William F. Buckley. Son Christopher has decided to endorse Barack Obama. Here are some representative excerpts of that gem of insight, longer than I would like but necessary to convey the flavor.

The son of William F. Buckley has decided—shock!—to vote for a Democrat.

Let me be the latest conservative/libertarian/whatever to leap onto the Barack Obama bandwagon. It’s a good thing my dear old mum and pup are no longer alive. They’d cut off my allowance....

I am—drum roll, please, cue trumpets—making this announcement in the cyberpages of The Daily Beast (what joy to be writing for a publication so named!) rather than in the pages of National Review, where I write the back-page column. For a reason: My colleague, the superb and very dishy Kathleen Parker, recently wrote in National Review Online a column stating what John Cleese as Basil Fawlty would call “the bleeding obvious”: namely, that Sarah Palin is an embarrassment, and a dangerous one at that. She’s not exactly alone. New York Times columnist David Brooks, who began his career at NR, just called Governor Palin “a cancer on the Republican Party.”

As for Kathleen, she has to date received 12,000 (quite literally) foam-at-the-mouth hate-emails. One correspondent, if that’s quite the right word, suggested that Kathleen’s mother should have aborted her and tossed the fetus into a Dumpster. There’s Socratic dialogue for you. Dear Pup once said to me sighfully after a right-winger who fancied himself a WFB protégé had said something transcendently and provocatively cretinous, “You know, I’ve spent my entire life time separating the Right from the kooks.” Well, the dear man did his best. At any rate, I don’t have the kidney at the moment for 12,000 emails saying how good it is he’s no longer alive to see his Judas of a son endorse for the presidency a covert Muslim who pals around with the Weather Underground....

A year ago, when everyone, including the man I’m about to endorse, was caterwauling to get out of Iraq on the next available flight, John McCain, practically alone, said no, no—bad move. Surge. It seemed a suicidal position to take, an act of political bravery of the kind you don’t see a whole lot of anymore.

But that was—sigh—then. John McCain has changed. He said, famously, apropos the Republican debacle post-1994, “We came to Washington to change it, and Washington changed us.” This campaign has changed John McCain. It has made him inauthentic. A once-first class temperament has become irascible and snarly; his positions change, and lack coherence; he makes unrealistic promises, such as balancing the federal budget “by the end of my first term.” Who, really, believes that? Then there was the self-dramatizing and feckless suspension of his campaign over the financial crisis. His ninth-inning attack ads are mean-spirited and pointless. And finally, not to belabor it, there was the Palin nomination. What on earth can he have been thinking?...

As for Senator Obama: He has exhibited throughout a “first-class temperament,” pace Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.’s famous comment about FDR. As for his intellect, well, he’s a Harvard man, though that’s sure as heck no guarantee of anything, these days. Vietnam was brought to you by Harvard and (one or two) Yale men. As for our current adventure in Mesopotamia, consider this lustrous alumni roster. Bush 43: Yale. Rumsfeld: Princeton. Paul Bremer: Yale and Harvard. What do they all have in common? Andover! The best and the brightest.

I’ve read Obama’s books, and they are first-rate. He is that rara avis, the politician who writes his own books. Imagine. He is also a lefty. I am not. I am a small-government conservative who clings tenaciously and old-fashionedly to the idea that one ought to have balanced budgets. On abortion, gay marriage, et al, I’m libertarian....

Obama has in him—I think, despite his sometimes airy-fairy “We are the people we have been waiting for” silly rhetoric—the potential to be a good, perhaps even great leader. He is, it seems clear enough, what the historical moment seems to be calling for. [emphases mine]

The Brooks piece and the Buckley piece may seem substantially different -- one a formal construct of argumentation and the other a personal, almost casual memoir of conversion -- but what they share is far deeper than any of the points they make. Both rest on the unacknowledged assumption that what is called intellectual is, in fact, meant to be synonymous with intelligence itself, specifically the kind needed to make decisions for a rowdy people that can never be trusted to do such basic things as read character, employ logic, understand consequences in the short and long term, and run their own damn country.

In Christopher Buckley's piece in particular, I found reinforcement of a suspicion I have always entertained, with much reasonable doubt to be sure, about William F. Buckley. To make this suspicion clear, I'll need you to look at the following YouTube clip from Brideshead Revisited, the miniseries of Evelyn Waugh's exploration of the British aristocracy in the Edwardian (pre-WWII) era. The scene in the clip portrays the first exposure of the staid protestant protagonist, Charles Ryder, to the glamorous society of Oxford's decadent Anglo-Catholic demi-monde.

Skip to 2:55 in, to the arrival of Anthony Blanche. Watch
 as much of his luncheon performance as you can stand.

The relevance of this scene is not Blanche's ostentatious homosexuality. It's his determination to dominate by being outrageous. He succeeds brilliantly in his goal of attracting attention. He is more a master of style than of substance. But in his social context, he might be pardoned for believing that verbal quickness and cleverness are the most effective proof possible of authentic intelligence. After all, people listen to what he has to say. They are defenseless against his repartee.

That, forgive me, was always my concern about Buckley the elder. For two reasons. First, because I had run into blueblood "conservatives" at Harvard myself and when you scratched the surface, they were not so much (small "R") republican federalists as  anglophile monarchists. Like the Anglo-Catholics of Waugh's book, they looked down on the lesser American elites of Kennedys and Massachusetts descendants of the founding fathers. They regarded membership in the Democrat Party as an unbecoming stain on true aristocracy. Their objection to the power of labor unions wasn't a political distaste for the New Deal Coalition so much as an unpleasant olfactory response.

Second, the Buckley verbal style always grated on me. It was so mannered, so somehow self-satisfied in its refusal to be clear and direct, that I immediately associated it with the posturing of Anthony Blanche. And if you think the comparison is far-fetched, how is it that an American born in this country and educated at Yale continuously displayed the most perfect possible example of the infamous "Oxford stutter"? Worse, his columns embodied exactly the same refusal to communicate clearly and directly. His sentence structure was perverse, his syntax rococo, his use of vocabulary deliberately opaque, and his anti-egalitarian insistence on being incomprehensible to those who did not know Latin or Greek made me regard him as more poseur than political evangelist. I never bought the act that he was reaching out to everyday Americans. If he was, he was a terrible writer. If he wasn't, he was an American version of Anthony Blanche -- a pretentious (however learned) cocktail party hero.

I reserved judgment about Buckley because he did ultimately bond with and support Reagan. Reading Chris Buckley, though, who is one further generation from Edwardian England, I am frankly repelled at his anglicisms -- "mum and pup," "don't have the kidney," "the bleeding obvious" -- and casual Latin pretentions "pace Oliver Wendell Holmes." I'll readily admit I haven't read Chris Buckley's fiction, but I'd place a small wager that he writes more like Waugh than any other American you might name. I'm also suspicious that he's so easily seduced by Obama's "writings."  If he cares enough about the candidates to libel John McCain for trying to win an election, he should also care enough to consider evidence that Obama may not have written his "first-rate" memoirs. (Oops. What would that do to his "airy-fairy" endorsement? What, what, eh?)

And bearing just a bit longer with the Waugh analogy, it does seem to me that the best way to understand the high and mighty American Republican elitists is to see them as the minority Anglo-Catholics in the liberal aristocracy that dominates all the professions and universities. The political battle they think they perceive with their superior intellectualism is actually a social contest undertaken in the very provinces where David Brooks feels himself losing -- "Silicon Valley, northern Virginia, the suburbs outside of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Raleigh-Durham," among other watering holes of the rich and privileged. These places are no more liberal than they've ever been. What's changed is the snobbery standard. Nobody likes Bush and the cognoscenti are embarrassed he went to Andover and Yale. Academic institutions among the elite have been marxist for a century. That hasn't changed. Lawyers switch parties whenever their opportunity to sue is threatened. T'was ever so. What's different is the company highbrow conservatives are compelled to keep -- or at least defend.

When I was much younger, my experience wth such snobs convinced me that there was a fifty-first state no one knew about. It included Grosse Point, Michigan, Lake Forest, Illinois, Chestnut Hill in Boston, the Philadelphia Main Line, the Upper East Side, New York, and dozens of other wealthy preserves where the children were destined to attend the same prep schools, the same prestigious universities, and the same private summer communities. Call it the "Commonwealth of Intelligentsia." Its citizens tended to know one another, no matter how far apart they lived, and they shared what Fitzgerald called a "vast carelessness," nourished by the certainty that real consequences are always visited on those a level or two down in the social order. For the past eight years, parties have been a drag for intellectual conservatives. The poor dears. The local politics of Intelligentsia have gotten ugly. Teacups are being dashed to the floor in anger. (Which is tantamount to extreme violence for the Paper People.)

This is the state David Brooks and Chris Buckley are from. The rest of our country isn't real to them. The Reagan Revolution is only worth a couple of sentences in the tomes they write about their own accomplishments, and they missed all the real historical antecedents of conservatism in flyover country because they can't understand or even perceive a movement that begins in people's hearts and lives rather than high-society skirmishes that result in unlikely invitations and lucrative book and media contracts.

Bottom line (I use this term here because they hate it so): Defecting from the cannon-riddled ship of American conservatism at this point in time is perfectly predictable and perfectly illuminating about who they are. They never got into this game to defend hockey moms, moose hunting, and Down syndrome babies. And their astonishment at discovering that in the internet age, writing about politics can lead to such unpleasantness as death threats is also a revelation of their naive presumptions. They've been "conservatives" all this time without knowing what innumerable combatants like Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter put with daily, hourly? Me, I'm perfectly happy to have them run away to their boat slips in Nantucket and put all the nasty byplay of politics behind them forever.

But the good news is we don't need them. Intellectualism is not the same thing as intelligence. In many ways it is frequently the opposite. (Read Chris Buckley's "pup" quote about Harvard vs the phonebook and then his uncomprehending deprecations of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton politicians. He knows. But he doesn't. QED.) If you want to read the best writing about American conservatism, read "Reagan in His Own Hand."  No, he wasn't an intellectual. But he was smarter than all the clowns we've been discussing in this (admittedly) overlong post.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Edwin Arlington Robinson

OBLIQUITY. I'm not saying it's meaningful. I'm just saying I thought of it, that's all. The two far and away most famous and anthologized poems by a truly original American poet. It's not that they're right or determinative. It's just that they're somehow close. Is that worth pointing out? I think so. Here's the first one.

Richard Cory
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean-favoured and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good Morning!" and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich, yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine -- we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked and waited for the light,
And went without the meat and cursed the bread,
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet in his head.

And here's the second one:

Miniver Cheevy

Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,   
Grew lean while he assailed the seasons;   
He wept that he was ever born,   
And he had reasons.   
Miniver loved the days of old           
When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;   
The vision of a warrior bold   
Would set him dancing.   
Miniver sighed for what was not,   
And dreamed, and rested from his labors;           
He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot,   
And Priam’s neighbors.   
Miniver mourned the ripe renown   
That made so many a name so fragrant;   
He mourned Romance, now on the town,           
And Art, a vagrant.   
Miniver loved the Medici,   
Albeit he had never seen one;   
He would have sinned incessantly   
Could he have been one.           
Miniver cursed the commonplace   
And eyed a khaki suit with loathing;   
He missed the mediaeval grace   
Of iron clothing.   
Miniver scorned the gold he sought,           
But sore annoyed was he without it;   
Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,   
And thought about it.   
Miniver Cheevy, born too late,   
Scratched his head and kept on thinking;          
Miniver coughed, and called it fate,   
And kept on drinking.

I mean, isn't it odd? It's not like they're portraits or anything. But aren't they somehow in the ballpark?


Well, Gee.

Philadelphia is too good for Sarah Palin.
She ain't fuckin' classy enuff or somethin'.

ANGRYVILLE. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer anyway. Sarah Palin is scheduled to drop the puck at the Flyers' home opener of the regular season. Which is so outrageous that the Inquirer just had to promote a poll asking if if this was appropriate. Here's how the readers voted:

Ain't that highfalutin? But understandable, of course. The Flyers have always stood for the indefinable sang-froid of Philadelphia society, the kind of class that can only be properly exemplified by Dave Schultz declaiming the Gettysburg address to the Spectrum crowd while serving an eight minute penalty for high-sticking, fighting, assault-and-battery, and insufficient respect for Mainline manners regarding the soup course.

Yeah, it's a foregone conclusion that 102 percent of Philadelphia voters will cast their ballots for Obama in November. But what exactly is the problem with being polite and appreciative of a hockey mom who happens to be running for Vice-President of the United States? Who would it kill to mount no poll at all and just let Sarah Palin drop the puck in a game she'd gladly miss if she could see the son who's serving in Iraq instead?


Sadly, I'm afraid I do know who you are. It's just that you all make me want to throw up.

And I'm running out of patience with Philadelphia too. If this is who you really are, then I'll be quite content with a four-game sweep by the Dodgers and a 2-14 season for the Eagles.

Why does absolutely everything have to be poisoned by vicious politicking? There's literally nowhere left to go to escape it. To which the only response I can make is this: GO TO HELL. GO DIRECTLY TO HELL. DO NOT PASS GO, AND DON'T EVER PRETEND THAT PHILADELPHIA IS A FRIENDLY BLUE-COLLAR TOWN.

Are you listening, Mayor Rendell? I doubt it.


Elf Hunt

The elves seem to be having trouble with their electronic equipment.

DESTINATION TRUTH?  The Sci Fi Channel never ceases to amaze. Last night I was channel surfing and happened across this new show, which is apparently about elves looking for solid evidence that there are human beings in Iceland. I tend to be skeptical about such things, and it didn't help that most of the so-called investigation was carried out in pitch darkness with a lot of night vision camera work designed to make us feel "eerie." The only thing that came through at all clearly is that they don't know their ass from their elbow when it comes to electronic equipment. It's no wonder they've accomplished so little on the world stage.

It's not that I blame Icelandic elves for wanting to make contact with other forms of life. Given the mess they've made of the Icelandic economy, I can easily understand why they'd be moved to search for entities who know something about addition, subtraction, and double-entry accounting, but why not do your searching a little closer to hand, like maybe in a city (if they have any there)? Why is it always necessary to charge out into the wilderness at night when you're looking for unusual phenomena? If you ask me, they're damn lucky they didn't get stomped on by a gaggle of trolls, which are generally the only "strange" beings you're going to encounter under such circumstances.

The only reason I'd ever watch this show again is that one of the elves looked like she'd be sort of foxy if they could just ditch the night vision paraphernalia. Maybe they'll do that in some future episode, possibly when they're investigating rumors of carp in Loch Ness. That could be done in daylight, don't you think?

But I'm not holding my breath. To be honest.

What stinks on the Obama Jet?

We can't figure it out. Can you? Like a mix of Old Spice and ammonia, maybe?

TREASON. Some CBS reporter has really screwed the pooch this time:

The McCain folks are more helpful and generally friendly. The schedules are printed on actual books you can hold in your hand, read, and then plan accordingly. The press aides are more knowledgeable and useful to us in the news media. The events are designed with a better eye, and for the simple needs of the press corps. When he is available, John McCain is friendly and loquacious. Obama holds news conferences, but seldom banters with the reporters who've been following him for thousands of miles around the country. Go figure.

The McCain campaign plane is better than Obama's, which is cramped, uncomfortable and smells terrible most of the time. Somehow the McCain folks manage to keep their charter clean, even where the press is seated.

More than enough said. There's one cowboy who will never work again.

The Scottish Perspective

They cut off her head. The English. And then they hunted us down.

ROOTS. I see that CountryPunk is trying to cheer everyone up. That's fine. Be cheered up. Keep thinking you're going to pull a rabbit out of the hat till the first Tuesday in November proves otherwise. I'm fine with that.

It's just that I know it's over now. This wonderful country is blind drunk on Obama and they're not going to wake up remorseful until a few months into his tragically sorry-ass administration. That's the way it is. I'm already getting used to it. And I respectfully suggest that you start getting used to it, too.

There are a lot of reasons why he's going to win. I'm going to list a few of them because knowing them might arm you for what you'll be facing next. I'm not trying to depress you. But the facts of the matter are depressing. Sorry. But you deserve to know the truth, even if it's shattering.

1. Half the citizens in this country pay no federal income tax. They have the vote but they have no responsibility and no accountability. Their vote is about how much more stuff they're going to award themselves from the public treasury. Half the country is carrying the other half on its back. Sooner or later the back breaks. That's when the politicians are most eager to pretend they can help. More than half of Obama's tax cut for 95 percent of the electorate is actually a check that will be cut to people who pay no taxes. No one's called him on this. Why? Because the country is broken.

2. More than half the electorate claims to believe in God, but they don't. Not really. Scots know everything there is to know about applying reason to religion. Our Calvinist, Presbyterian asses have jumped through every imaginable hoop to reconcile faith with the predictable decisions of the so-called "reasonable man." All contemporary protestantism flows from this Scottish precedent. It doesn't work. The whole purpose of Christian faith is to keep men from positioning themselves as gods. When men start to debate "reasonably" about a position like Obama's that a child which survives an abortion can be shoved into a closet to die, religious faith is dead regardless of how many people go to church every Sunday. We have permitted and enabled men to make themselves into gods, governments into churches, and ourselves into the slaves of men. That's where we are now. We have actively connived in the notion that religion is imprisonment, while we forget that imprisonment is imprisonment, even as we clamor for it as if it were freedom. Obamessiah is not a campaign accusation. It's the clearest fact before us. Americans would rather have Obama ruling them than Jesus Christ. Don't like it? Get used to it.

3. God AGAIN. Even if he doesn't exist, God is the most necessary philosophical concept in the history of human civilization. He is the sole means of keeping the most power-hungry humble and preventing government from transforming human beings into dispensable, dollar-adjustable statistics. It was the absence of God in the societal equation that enabled Stalin and Mao to kill tens of millions of people for the "greater good." It is only religion which has the irrational force to declare that one human life can be equal to or greater than the "greater good." But Americans have allowed themselves to be slowly driven backwards into a philosophical model that replaces faith with cost accounting, appetites, and organic chemistry. You want "free" healthcare. You will get it. And you will learn that the price of it is accepting a death sentence from the state when your life is too expensive in dollars to perpetuate. But you have spent a very long time already learning that despite your avowed faith, everything important in life is measured in dollars. Otherwise, there would be no way to buy your vote by promises of punishing rich people with higher taxes.

4. You're pussies. Scots fought the English in open battle for hundreds of years. We know that people who claim to hate you usually do hate you and need to be killed before they kill you. You've either forgotten that fundamental postulate of the social contract or never knew it in the first place. My people came here because we were driven out of Scotland after our last military attempt to install a Catholic on the throne of England. We failed, The Church of England won. And now that church is an empty, meaningless barrack of a religion, devoid of faith, courage, and meaning. We came here because there could still be meaning here. But the enemies of meaning have turned your souls inside out. You'd rather swear allegiance to an embittered, unaccomplished orphan than take responsibility for your own lives. Well, it's better to die in battle for Bonnie Prince Charlie than become the slave of a man who preferred a borrowed legacy of slavery to being free. Your Islamic enemies will eat you for lunch over the next four or eight years. For a thousand years, the Irish thought they could make peace with their oppressor. McCain is Irish. You picked him. Now live with him. He'll be much happier after he loses and can return to his Irish "maverick" role as an irrelevant troublemaker.

All of these points represent decisions you have made. You don't wish to be men. You don't wish to be free. You don't understand the value of bending your knee to a greater power than the most expensively educated person in the room. You are killing this miraculous, this divinely blessed nation. And so I give you all I can -- the back of my hand.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Debate Highlights

SUGGESTION: Keep the sound turned off on the clip and listen to our audio
file instead. We guarantee you'll enjoy rooting for your guy more this way.

THE LOWDOWN. No, I didn't actually see the whole thing. I tried -- but somewhere in the third or fourth minute, after Brokaw wrapped his thick tongue around the first question and the two combatants sailed in with all their finely tuned politico-martial artistry, I.... well, I... to be completely honest... I nodded off for about, oh, ninety, maybe ninety-five minutes. When I regained consciousness, the pundits were in full cry, and I had to content myself with a few highlights. These are reproduced for you above, in case any of you also slipped into the comforting arms of Morpheus during the titanic showdown between John "Slugger" McCain and Barack "The Boxer" Obama.

Of course, no matter how many times I review the film, I can't detect any single blow that landed on either of them. Maybe next time they should get a referee who doesn't believe twelve rounds of dancing at a safe distance from harm constitutes a boxing match.

But that's just me, I guess.

Our Eunuch Future

Uh, I know we're supposed to be happy, happy, happy with less, less, less,
but market researchers suggest people still like what they've always liked.

SAVING THE PLANET. It's really not clear that people are willing to go gentle into the good night of species self-loathing and tiny human footprints on the good earth. I saw my first Smart Car (see the pink thing above) in the flesh last week, and I was instantly struck by what a statement it seems to be. It flagrantly violates all the traditions of automotive esthetics, so much so that this seems one of its main purposes in being.

Not coincidentally to my mind, the sighting occurred outside an orthopedic shoe shop, where I have since seen the vehicle a second and a third time. I get the feeling I'm being given an orthopedic lesson: ugly and offputting is fine if the result is somehow therapeutic. Well, maybe. But one of the things I have always hated about counterculture cars is the artful "happy face" so many of them seem to wear, as if a broad enough smile could overcome their deficiencies in such politically incorrect categories as speed, handling, responsiveness, and crashworthiness. I mean, we are trusting our lives to these mechanical creations. Is it wrong to expect that they have been designed to defend us from sudden death and other forms of automotive violence? And shouldn't their appearance suggest that somehow? Or do today's green designers really expect us to overlook everything but a cheerful grille? For example, here's the sheetmetal remake of the Smart Car before it was released for sale in the U.S.:

The righthand pic is the newer version. Note the friendlier eyes and happier grin.

The purveyors of hybrids and microcars obviously believe we can be seduced by little deathtraps that exude bonhomie even as they lead us in wide-eyed innocence to fatal collisions with vehicles of vastly more predatory origins. Here's a quick look at the glad grilles of the smaller, slower, more planet-oriented set.

Various cheerful goofy-mobiles from Nissan, Toyota, Suzuki, etc.

Are you charmed? Chances are, you're not. What's the evidence? A new survey about what people are attracted to in cars. Here's the straight skinny:

People Love Angry-Faced Cars

If a Toyota Prius just looks too friendly for your tastes, you're not alone. People readily see faces and traits in cars, and a new study suggests that they prefer cars to appear dominant, masculine and angry.

The finding rests on the propensity we have to actually see faces or human characteristics in everything from cars to clouds, a phenomenon called pareidolia. But now researchers hope to better understand what goes on in the brain when people see faces in objects versus humans faces, as well as help automakers design more appealing cars.

"When investing in a new passenger car, you're talking about billions," said Truls Thorstensen, head of EFS Consulting Vienna. "If you get the wrong styling, you get problems"...

Study participants assessed cars based on a system known as geometric morphometrics (GM), which allowed the men and women to rate certain traits on a sliding scale (such as "infancy" to "adulthood"). The traits represented maturity, sex, attitudes, emotions, and personality - all things that people infer from human faces at a single glance.

After rating car traits, participants then answered the question of whether they saw a human face, animal face or no face at all on the cars. They drew facial features such as eyes, nose and mouth on the car images whenever they did see faces...

People overwhelmingly preferred cars that rated highest on "power" traits." High "power" cars like the BMW 5 Series tended to be lower or wider, and have slit-like or angled headlights with a wider air intake.

The participants also largely agreed on which cars had which traits, such as arrogant, afraid and agreeable. A few traits such as disgusted, extroverted and sad caused more disagreement. [emphases added]

In other words, automobiles are still important for their perceived embodiment of sexual power, the planet be damned. The remaining debate would appear to be not about the significance of sexuality per se, but what gender automotive sexuality ideally represents. In short, it's still an automotive rather than an environmental controversy. As it should be. If the greens want to drag us into their new Luddite paradise, they're going to have to give up on the neutered appliance-like vehicles that would satisfy their obsession with wiping out the human drive to reproduce. Instead, they'll have to devote themselves to promulgating lousy, slow, dangerous pieces of crap that still look something like this:

But cars that look like this and can't do anything but deliver their occupants into the devouring steel maw of a runaway Peterbilt may not exactly entice large numbers of the populace. Except the death wish cases, of course. Which is precisely who the greens are and have always been. Maybe they'll have to rethink the Pied Piper pilgrimage to doom they've had their dried up hearts (and gonads) set on all these years.

But that they will. It's fun to imagine them trying -- and constantly stubbing their undersized toe on a human reality they can't begin to comprehend. Especially the part about how women also love angry male cars. It gives one hope for the whole human race.

Zoom zoom zoom.

EXTRA CREDIT. Why did this car fail so completely in the markeplace?

Nice liquid eyes, though.


He just keeps moving forward. Even when nobody is following his lead.

REVISIONISM. Time for credit where credit is due. The current election season has tested every conservative, and most have been found wanting. Ann Coulter defected at one point to Hillary Clinton, probably just for fun but hardly in service to the cause of preventing a Democrat landslide. George Will and Peggy Noonan can't decide whether to be frightened of Obama or to kiss him passionately on the lips. Charles Krauthammer is openly disgusted with the world and the whole American political scene. Somewhere between fifty and seventy percent of National Review editors are a positive disgrace, whining about this and that piece of right wing bric-a-brac getting singed by McCain and/or Palin while the whole house is burning spectacularly to the ground. Michelle Malkin has gone shrieky bipolar, slamming Bush and McCain with every fiber of her being one day, then hurling apoplectic charges at Obama and his army of Orcs the next. Even Rush Limbaugh wavers between supporting his party's nominee and initimating that an Obama landslide will create a new yellow brick road for the second coming of Reagan. (It won't.)

And then there's Sean Hannity. He never quits, never stops, never loses heart, never doubts, never tires of repeating his mantras about Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, and all the other unreported vulnerabilities and disqualifications of Barack Obama.

I have no idea how he does it. But after a certain point, you have to dispense with the condescending remarks about his education and intelligence and acknowledge that he is the only equivalent we have to every single goddamn Democrat in Washington, DC. Because that's how they are. They just keep coming, like a battalion of terminators. Nothing wounds them, hurts them, or slows them down. Those dead red eyes are locked on the prize in a way that almost no conservative can understand or even believe. And the only one we have who fights the way they fight is Sean Hannity.

I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. But right now I feel some moral obligation to salute it. He's the only one who never gave up on the Ayers connection, not even for a single day. He's either less than human or a superhero. You tell me which it is.

Ever so reluctantly, I'm compelled to admit he's earned my admiration. That's my tablespoon of humility for today.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Finally Feeling It....

AFTERTHOUGHTS. It was always a long shot that we would win this election. I don't feel bitter about the losing part. I feel bitter about the price we'll pay for losing this time.

Worse, I'm finally starting to reciprocate the hatred I've felt from the left my whole life. I have (believe me) many personal and professional reasons for hating them, but I've always resisted till now, because I'm only one more tadpole in the pond and it just doesn't matter in the scheme of things if I get swallowed up in the food chain.

I've been mad before. I've been irate throughout the Bush presidency, beginning with the blatant Gore attempt to steal the election and overturn every civil precedent governing this nation while claiming the high ground in civic virtue.

I was incredibly pissed off when they tried the same tactic again in 2004, claiming they might have won in Ohio even though they clearly lost, just as they had lost in Florida four years before.

But it's only now that I have truly progressed to hatred. Actually, it doesn't extend to Obama. I'm older than he is. I'm fairly sure that in his heart of hearts he's a radical left-wing Marxist racist, but that's not a crime in and of itself. In the ordinary course of things, he would be a splinter party of one, self-righteous and (inevitably) rich by virtue of the rewards his adoring constituents would lavish on him.

Here's who I hate: Reid, Pelosi, Schumer, Rangel, Durbin, Frank, Leahy, Kennedy, Hoyer, Harkin, Dodd, Kucinich, Biden, Jefferson, Feingold, Hastings, Dingel, Murtha, McDermott, McCaskill, Byrd, and Waters. They're all corrupt. They will all say and do ANYTHING to promote the power of the Democrat Party. They are willing to see the United States lose a war, enter a depression, get overrun by illegal aliens, pretend that our climate is experiencing a peril we can do something about, abet the process of transferring our national wealth to enemy states for energy we could produce at home, preside over the miseducation of our children at the hands of incompetent union teachers, let lawyers bankrupt our health care system with idiotic and frivolous malpractice suits, lard their local budgets with secret earmarks, and watch more than a million babies die every year -- just to keep the campaign funds flowing.

The congressional Republicans are bad, too, but not this bad. I despise a lot of them, but I don't hate them. They never conspired in the metaphorical rape of a female candidate for national office. Nor would they. It wouldn't occur to their poor dumb souls that it was even an option.

I'm trying to be civilized about this. I don't want anyone to die of cancer and I don't want the wives (spouses) or children of anyone to fall ill or perish. However....

However. If your name is Reid, Pelosi, Schumer, Rangel, Durbin, Frank, Leahy, Kennedy, Hoyer, Harkin, Dodd, Kucinich, Biden, Jefferson, Feingold, Hastings, Dingel, Murtha, McDermott, McCaskill, Byrd, or Waters, I very much want you to wake up in the middle of the night in a severe existential crisis and confront your faces and eyes in the mirror.

Before I tell you how bad I hope that experience is, let me add some other names to my hate list: Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Katie Couric, Punch Sulzberger, Andrew Sullivan, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Tom Brokaw, Brian Williams, Larry King, Glenn Greenwald, Dan Rather, Charles Gibson, Jim Lehrer, Gwen Ifill, David Gergen, Jan Wenner, Bill Maher, David Letterman, Craig Ferguson (deport him!), and all the editors of Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, The Nation, The New Republic, NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, MSNBC, CNN, all the hosts of Air America, and all the vicious, foul-mouthed left-wing bloggers and commenters who commit mental crimes of violence against their enemies.

Now. Here's what I hope happens when you confront yourselves in the mirror. Annihilation. I want you to see yourselves as you are -- intellectually and morally corrupt, dishonest, selfish, narcissistic, shallow, more devoted to pornography than philosophy, contemptuous of your betters, servile to superiors, alienated from all worthwhile pursuits, poisonous to the happiness of your own children, and dead-ended on a down-the-drain pursuit of wealth and fame. When you see this and recognize the profound reality of it, you will also see your real face -- a nightmare that I confidently expect and hope will send you screaming iinto the night. Because the face you've earned will be a kind of ugliness no one could behold without horror.

What I want for you is nothing less than soul death. That's hatred. Of course, you're all too smart to believe in soul death. Which is playing right into my hands. When the money and celebrity's done and all that's left is you being old and dying, you will begin to ask all the questions I'm trying to confront you with now.

Here's the measure of my hatred. I really do want you to be 80 and alone when you realize the importance of asking and answering questions about life. And, God help me, I look forward to the sick feeling in your bellies when you discover you've come all this way for nothing. Because you've never understood a damn thing that was important.

I told you. I hate you.

May God forgive me.

SHOCKER! CNN does its job. For once.

Cub reporter researches Obama's relationship with Ayers and gets it right.

GLIMMER? Anderson Cooper doesn't seem too thrilled about this odd detour into journalism, but young Drew Griffin seems rather buoyed by the experience of this thing called 'reporting.' I just hope he didn't have his heart set on getting a job at The New York Times. Because he isn't going to get one.

'Cuda Strike.

Don't heckle Sarah. She'll take a big smiling bite out of you.

IS THE WORM TURNING? A word to our faithful readers. Don't read too much into the official pessimism of TruePunk and the Boss. These are guys who haven't watched their favorite teams play a game of football or baseball for most of their adult lives. They're both convinced they're jinxes. So they pretend they don't care, claim they've already discounted the inevitable negative outcome, and are then pitifully ecstatic when, say, the Phillies handily win their playoff series against the Milwaukee Brewers. I'm just saying. They definitely haven't given up. The more they talk that way, the harder they're looking for signs of hope. Here's one. The barracuda appears to be swimming free in the electoral ocean. No, she's no Reagan. Even I will concede that. But Bobby Jindal might be, and every backwoods hero can do more with a Little John at his side.

P.S. And if you haven't checked it out yet, spare a few minutes to review our recommendations about the fabulous forthcoming movie, "O."

In Case You Didn't Know...

No. There will be no electric guitars. Or rapping. Be thankful.

THE MASTER'S VOICE. Mark Steyn is back. He left there for a while, shut down his site while he battled Canada's pogrom against free speech. We've repeatedly referenced Mr. Steyn for his blazing acuity about global and U.S. politics, but he's just as good -- perhaps even better -- as a maven of popular music. He's the best source, for example, for those who who want to know precisely how and why Sinatra was a vocal genius, which may seem obvious to fans but still benefits the beleaguered ones who live with Sinatra skeptics and haters. Steyn is the only writer we've yet found who is a serious song historian. He tells you everything about the person who wrote it, the people who sang or performed it, and which recordings and artists cemented it into our cultural canon. He's a wonder and a treasure for anyone who remembers music longer than the few weeks any song sits on  top of the Hit Parade. He can also write about music in a way that almost makes you hear it. Which all other music critics think they can but can't.

So today, we're just celebrating Mark Steyn's return. Here's his essay on "Body and Soul," which also includes an interesting detour into the history of "I Cover the Waterfront," providing an outstanding excuse to listen to Billie Holliday. And who wouldn't welcome that on a bright blue gloomy Tuesday?

Yeah, we know there's a debate tonight and the stock market's plunging. Get over yourself. Life goes on. Life. Goes. On.

The Black Depression

NOBODY WANTS TO LOSE THEIR STUFF. Those of us who don't find Barack Obama a compelling candidate are supposed to be the racist ones. We aren't. We're the ones who know that a bad black president would be far more damaging to the cause of racial equality than no black president. That's why most Republicans have always believed the first minority president (black/female/etc) would be a Republican. In large part because we have no affirmative action gene in our makeup; we just don't think the person in charge should be put in charge because their ancestors weren't allowed to be in charge. If that's the case it's sad but hardly a credential for leadership. Sorry.

That's the real burden of electing a minority candidate to the presidency. You have to give them a chance to succeed in office. If your deepest, truest motive for backing Obama in the 2008 election is recompense for slavery, Jim Crow, and 400 years of the short end of the stick, vote this time for McCain. Why? Because this election is a perfect storm of reasons not to elect a black president.

The financial crisis is Exhibit A. We slew our banks by mandating, through Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, that they give mortgages to people who didn't qualify under historical criteria. It doesn't matter that many of those people were white. What matters is that the impetus for such an initiative was to put poor black people into homes of their own. Nobody in either party has ever cared whether or not poor white trailer trash could secure a mortgage. Maxine Waters and Barney Frank wouldn't have gone out on a limb for the poor whites who afflict every Celt-based nation on earth. What they wanted was to bring poor black people out of the shadows and install them in the American credit system, whether they could handle the responsibility or not.

Here's the tragedy. They couldn't. The result? Bad American credit to people who weren't ready for it is poised to bring down the entire global economy. It's not a failure of capitalism. It's a failure of government interfering in capitalism for well-intentioned if misguided motives of social justice.

Sadly, there will be a backlash. You tell poor people to come scam you and then when they do you get outraged? Well, yeah. You do. Especially if you're one of the ones who always plays by the rules and is now threatened by those who don't. If the economy keeps tanking, this is not going to be known as the Great Depression II. It's going to be known as The Black Depression. It will set race relations in this country back a half century or more. And it's the absolute worst time to elect a first black president. Nothing he does, or can do, will be analyzed in nonracial terms. He will be handcuffed by his race, criticized for every act of compassion and restraint, and there's absolutely no chance in the current circumstances that he will be able to govern as a "trans-racial" pioneer of some new age.

I won't labor the point. If times are going to be genuinely hard, there's no rationale for compelling a black American to be identified with hard times in perpetuity. If Obama really were as talented as a Lincoln, there would be some reason for taking the risk. But he isn't. And there isn't.

The presidency right now is a sour apple. Hand it to McCain. He's used to sour apples. Hold your fire. Elect Obama when the time is propitious for success rather than years of darkness and failure.

I know you won't listen. But there's nothing ironic about the advice offered.

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