Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
October 22, 2008 - October 15, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Moderate Mike

Michael Smerconish, Philly Talk Radio Host

MASTALK. Under ordinary circumstances, I wouldn't even be writing this. I don't dislike Michael Smerconish. There's nothing to dislike. Or, to be honest, to like much either. The man who is everybody's friend is no one's friend. The lawyer who is everybody's friend is a hungry shark in the water. Michael is a lawyer, and everybody's friend, but he's no shark in the water. That's key to understanding him. He's more like a trained porpoise at Sea World, executing one clown trick after another, and definitely digging the applause. That's why he basically traded his law practice for talk radio fame. He'd rather be liked than, well, anything. He has raised the pactice of self-deprecating humor on his show almost to the level of vaudeville shtick. He never tires of telling his listeners how low his SAT scores were, and his promos seem to dwell on his many on-air goofs.

So for his latest trick Michael has decided to endorse Obama for president despite having been a Republican throughout his adult life. He's made much of the fact that his endorsement was or would be attracting scathing email, which makes him brave, I guess, for sticking with his principles whatever the claimed cost to his career. Fine.

I'm willing to believe he thinks he's acting on principle. But what principle? His history seems to be that he latches on to one or two quite specific causes, which he advocates quite fiercely and tirelessly, and with respect to everything else he is equally tireless (and tiresome) in being able to see all sides of every question. His causes -- like his long campaign to oppose the freeing of Mumia Abu Jamal -- seem more rooted in emotion than principle. He has a close friendship with the widow of the police officer Mumia was convicted of killing. Her anguish is the core of his own passion for the subject. Similarly, the one political topic which seems to have aroused a similar obsession is the failure of the Bush administration to track down Osama bin Laden. Sure, he talks about other things, but in terms of the broad range of issues represented by the War on Terror, bin Laden is the only thing about which he sees only one side. And sure enough, that's what he claims as his chief reason for endorsing Obama.

Terrorism. The candidates disagree as to where to prosecute the war against Islamic fundamentalists. Barack Obama is correct in saying the front line in that battle is not Iraq, it's the Afghan-Pakistan border. Osama bin Laden crossed that border from Tora Bora in December 2001, and we stopped pursuit. The Bush administration outsourced the hunt for bin Laden and, instead, invaded Iraq.

I knew this was coming for months. But it's not just the "terrorism." There are people who are natively ambivalent about most things. Such people tend to prefer other people who speak and act ambiguously rather than with focused conviction. Obama is Smerconish's kind of guy -- smooth, polite, a good talker, and so apparently reasonable in his public persona. McCain is the opposite -- too sure, too abrasive, too argumentative, too willing to get down and dirty when he might not get his way.

I think that's pretty much the whole story on Smerconish. Like a lot of reasonable moderates, he doesn't have that many convictions, or at least not convictions that flow from the head instead of the heart. That's also why he's being disingenuous when he talks about paying a price in the popularity of his show by endorsing Obama. It's not in Michael Smerconish to be a Limbaugh or a Hannity. His listeners aren't seeking an advocate; they're looking for a jovial voice in the morning, a friend. They won't hold it against their host that he's still just as squishy about everything political as he has been all along, dating back even to the 2000 election controversy, when he seemed unaware how much was at stake and became mesmerized instead by each new legal maneuver in Gore's attempt to steal the election. He'll never deal with the big picture when he can have a small picture instead.

But there is one irony I'd like to share with you all, because it can be understood in terms of a small picture -- i.e., "Bill Ayers's door."

Ayers' office door is decorated with pictures of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Che Guevara and Malcolm X. It is also home to pictures of children, bills of rights for students and parents, and a rainbow-hued greeting card advising "How to Be Really Alive." A place of prominence is give[n] to a New Yorker cartoon of a man interviewing for a job. The interviewer says, "I'm trying to find a way to balance your strengths against your felonies."

Smerconish probably can't find his way to that small picture, though, since it would mean following the narrow, focused trail of Stanley Kurtz's research into the breadth and depth of the Obama-Ayers connection. Somewhere on that trail there undoubtedly lies an assertion or a fact that might hurt somebody's feelings, which would require our fearless talk host to change the subject and make another bad joke about how he dumb he is.

But I never said he was dumb. He just says and does dumb things for approval. Kind of like that performing porpoise.

YouTube Wednesday:

Honorable Surrender

At some point you get tired of all the fighting and yearn for peace.

NEVER SURRENDER. Last week, our favorite spitfire blogger Rachel Lucas sought to stem the tide of defeatism that's sweeping through the conservative and Republican forces who should be fighting for John McCain and Sarah Palin. She chose for a dramatic metaphor the movie Lord of the Rings, specifically Aragorn's speech to his troops in their darkest hour, when all seemed lost even before the final battle had been joined. I admire her spirit and implacable resolve, but I think there's a better movie metaphor available, one (or maybe two) more in line with American experience and the current situation. In Last of the Mohicans, the commander of a British fort during the French and Indian War faces a grim prospect. Without immediate, heavy reinforcements, his troops will be overrrun by the French and everyone killed, including his two daughters. When he learns from the lips of the enemy general that no reinforcements will be coming, per the orders of his superior officer, he contemplates the treachery within his own ranks and decides on an honorable surrender. That's the scene shown above. Seems very civilized, doesn't it?

It's the same note I hear in the recent columns of Kathleen Parker, National Review contributor and token esteemed female conservative in the pages of the Washington Post. Here is the beginning and some key excerpts of her most recent essay published online at both NRO and WAPO.

It's Not the Economy

It's the ugliness.

By Kathleen Parker

At this juncture, I wouldn't want to bet even a subprime mortgage on this presidential election. As perhaps never before, multiple hidden factors could alter the outcome.

Judging by polls, it would seem that Barack Obama will be our next president. Monday's Washington Post-ABC tracking poll, for example, showed Obama even winning 22 percent of conservatives and getting 12 percent support among Republicans...

Among the hidden factors is the so-called Bradley Effect, meaning that whites lie to pollsters about their support for a black candidate. It is cited as the reason Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley lost to George Deukmejian in the 1982 California governor's race, despite polls showing him up to seven points ahead.

But equally significant this time may become known as the Reverse-Bradley Effect: whites who would never admit to voting for a black man, but do. And, expanding the definition somewhat, Republicans and conservatives who would never admit to voting for a Democrat, especially one so liberal...

"Palling around with terrorists," as Sarah Palin said of Obama, gets to an underlying xenophobic, anti-Muslim sentiment. Using surrogates who strategically use Obama's middle name, Hussein, feeds the same dark heart.

This tactic, denied but undeniable, has been effective with target audiences, some of whom can be viewed on YouTube entering a Palin rally in Pennsylvania. One cherubic older fellow totes a stuffed Curious George monkey wearing an Obama sticker as a hat....

One can hope that the uglies will cancel each other out. That leaves an X Factor of possibly exponential proportions that includes not just the Bradleys, but the Reverse-Bradleys.

I've received too many e-mails and had too many conversations that began, "Just between you and me," and ended with, "I wouldn’t want anyone at work to know," to believe that this is an insignificant trend.

Sitting quietly at their desks are an unknown number of discreet conservatives who surprise themselves as they mull their options. Appalled by McCain’s erratic behavior, both in dealing with the financial crisis and his selection of an unsuitable running mate, they will quietly (and with considerable trepidation) vote for Obama.

Including, we can only surmise, Kathleen Parker. She's produced a little triptych of unhappy columns of late, beginning with her dismissal of Palin, who seems to be from Alaska rather than South Carolina, and followed by a moving defense of Christopher Buckley, who managed to get himself fired his resignation accepted from his father's magazine for endorsing Obama. You see, Kathleen knows Christopher Buckley and recognizes all that is fine in him (I'm reminded of Mr. Fabian, the talent on stage at 8:00 into this clip from Tombstone). But there's no room in the vicious conservative world for the truly rarefied souls we normally find only in the pages of a Barbara Cartland romance novel.

Poor Kathleen. Yes, it's the 'Ugly' that's got all the hens (male and female) squawking in the Republican coop. There's been way too much cannon fire and chain shot flying around over the last eight years. Isn't it just possible that if we let the Democrats have their turn this time that all the malevolence will be drained out of the national dialogue? Can't good people agree that it would be a good thing, regardless of mere political ideology, if we all just consented to the election of the first black candidate for president and got this immense combination milestone-millstone out of the way? Maybe the Democrats would stop their ugly, and that would mean we could find candidates of our own who weren't so committed to ugly, and aren't we all just completely exhausted, sickened, and drained by the continuous rhetorical ugly that's poisoned this nation for so many years? I mean, what's the worst that could happen?

Sorry, but the ugly don't stop just because somebody surrenders.

YouTube doesn't have the scene where -- after the touching ceremony above -- the French general Montcalm gives Magua exquisitely diplomatic permission to massacre the defeated English to the last man, woman and child, but you can probably imagine it if you're not Kathleen Parker, David Brooks, Christopher Buckley, Peggy Noonan, or Michael Smerconish.

I want to be clear about one more thing. I'm not saying that Rachel Lucas was completely wrong in her choice of movie metaphor. I think she's, if anything, a mite premature. The scene she cites will apply to an even darker hour, when the veto-proof congress will seek to shut down free speech for conservatives by reimposing the Fairness Doctrine. That's the day when you'll find suburban Republicans in the streets carrying banners and, yes, torches, pikes, swords, and AK-47s.

For "Gondor and Rohan," read conservatives and Republicans.

There's a whole ocean of ugly on its way, and the dainty sacrifice of Christopher Buckley, er, "Christo," isn't going to forestall it, honey. Besides, we still might win. Wouldn't that be a bitch?

UPDATE. By the way. Rachel has a new post "discovering" someone we wrote about back in August. Oh well. We're still very fond of her.

Late Night Wisdom

Can't wait to get more of that Ball State intellect...

SNIGGER GIGGLE. I don't usually watch the late night shows, but I did tune in to the Phillies victory over Tampa in the first game of the World Series, and then, still -- miraculously -- awake, I watched some of the late night shows. Wow. Jimmy Kimmel did five minutes about Sarah Palin in his opening monologue. Letterman was way past his monologue but he had a little female toad who did five minutes of her own about -- guess who? -- Sarah Palin. And then there was Craig Ferguson, who did seven minutes about -- you'll never guess -- Sarah Palin.

You know what? Not one of these guys could ever score with Sarah Palin. Letterman is a narcissistic douchebag from Indiana who exploits his own mother for ratings. Kimmel is a loser who's getting back together with a skank -- Sarah Silverman -- who does fart and poop jokes when she isn't trashing his masculinity in high-def. And Craig Ferguson is a Scottish faggot who, well, he's a Scottish faggot. What more do you want?.

So tired. Not one of them I couldn't reduce to ashes in a conversation. But they get to sell their sorry wares to America every single night. How is it possible that they don't know Joe Biden is a fucking moron? The man does nothing but produce punchlines for jokes. Nothing.

N O T H I N G.

Moron. Joe Biden hasn't demonstrated the slightest insight about foreign policy in thirty years. And he's the "gravitas" of the Obama administration when it comes to foreign affairs.

You're all crazy.

C  R  A  Z  Y.

Palin has been at least a governor, with budget responsibility and authority. None of the other candidates can claim that. None. And you all dare to laugh at her?

C  R  A  Z  Y.

Yes, maybe we'll lose, but nobody will be able to accuse us of being as totally fucking dumb as David Letterman.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I Hate Chess...

...but I like this.

Mad Cowboy Disease

"W". As the pressidential campaign reaches its final two weeks, I can't help thinking of The Forgotten Man. No, not the Depression era icon of those who doubted FDR's New Deal, but the lonely figure who still occupies the White House. Whether you know it or not, he's still important, still "misunderestimated." Republicans and conservatives in particular need to focus on him right now if they want to use the remaining time before Election Day wisely. I'm very serious about this. He is neither a fool nor a tragic figure. He is an archetype. And anyone who misreads what kind of archetype he is runs the risk of making bad decisions over the next fourteen days.

He's not a fool because whatever his faults, he succeeded in preventing the next terrible, seemingly inevitable thing from happening to the United States. Who wouldn't have settled for that seven years ago after the twin towers fell? He's not a tragic figure because he hasn't been destroyed, either by his own fatal flaw or the vengeance of the almighty, which would have meant blood and death for large numbers of us as well. He has been ridiculed and mocked and ostracized and shunned by those who should have known better, but he is still Commander-in-Chief of a nation which has not been defeated in the field on his watch. That was his mission. It became his mission the day America was attacked inside her own borders. He has made mistakes but he has not failed in this one supremely important responsibility. Mission accomplished.

To the extent that the War on Terror has been shoved to a back burner in the current campaign, it is a measure of George W. Bush's success as a president. Any objective reading of the evidence about the economic crisis facing the world today suggests that he did not cause it, in fact tried to prevent it, and lacked the clout to fix the burgeoning problem because his pursuit of the primary mission made him too unpopular to accomplish what was needed. But we have grown used to blaming him for everything, and so we blame him for this, too. Does he complain, whine, or point quivering fingers at his innumerable enemies? No. As he has from the first day of his presidency, he accepts the popular abuse and soldiers on.

Are either of the men we're deciding between to replace him as durable and stoic as he is? Does it matter? Yes. It matters. All presidents of the United States receive torrents of abuse, experience treacherous disloyalty from allies and subordinates, and are pitilessly  second-guessed at every moment of every crisis. How many of Bush's detractors even remember a time when the president exploded in anger on camera at the umpteenth unfairness he'd been subjected to by rapacious media? Is sturdy equanimity something we've come to take unjustifiably for granted? Should we be so dismissive and ungrateful to a man who led us through harrowing times without ever once pleading for public mercy? What kind of leader is it exactly we think we deserve? And if we get what we truly deserve, how good a leader will we get?

We all have to ask and answer these questions for ourselves. For my part, I know that I cannot approach the coming election decision is good conscience without acknowledging the debt I owe as an American citizen to the eight years of service I've received from George W. Bush. In their own unique ways, both candidates to succeed him are greater and lesser men than he is. How much greater and how much lesser are the big question marks. George Bush has never committed the cardinal sin of turning on us and accusing us of being the problem. If this is the standard, I'm not sure either of our current choices will measure up. And that concerns me. Because -- and this will probably be news to a lot of brainy Americans -- I've become fairly certain that we've been spoiled in this regard by a highly unusual man. He may leave office unnoticed, without fanfare or expressions of regret, but I can easily imagine the day when people wish they had him back instead of what they so arrogantly desired to replace him.

Archetype? Since our subject is unpopular cowboys, one of the three or four best westerns ever made was John Ford's The Searchers. The basic plot may sound familiar. A decent but otherwise unexceptional cowboy is minding his own business when something horrific occurs to his family. He spends years of his life hunting down the people who did the horrific thing and in the process alienates other members of his family because of what he's willing to do in pursuit of what he conceives as justice. Along the way he has to walk a tightrope balanced between his gut hatreds and his familial love. At the end he succeeds in his mission. And watches the healing reunion of his loved ones unnoticed, from outside the family circle. The part of Ethan Edwards may have been John Wayne's greatest role ever. Hardly anyone gets to play it in real life. And certainly not with as much fierce resolve and personal grace. That's one definition of an archetype.

When George Bush leaves office, he may try to steal quietly away. But I'll have an eye on him as he disappears into the sunset.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Smart People Outsmarting Themselves

Yes, it was an attempted setup. Did it succeed? Yes and no.

OVER. MAYBE. I'm going to address here several of the reasons IP (The Boss) has been so pessimistic about the upcoming election and explain why I -- CP -- am less so. The logic gets complicated at times, but bear with me. This thing is NOT over. Why? Because so many smart people are working so hard to close the deal on the wrong assumptions.

Back in August, it was The Boss himself who explained how decision criteria change as the point of final commitment approaches. The closer we get to election day, the more people think about risk. The forces of liberal goodness and righteousness think they are dealing well with the risk issues and that fate has played directly into their hands with the financial crisis, which makes people remember that the Republicans have been in charge for eight years, the economy is tanking, and the least-risky choice is therefore obviously a Democrat. In this case, one named Barack Obama. Because everyone knows that it's Democrats who care the most about "working Americans." Right? Right.

Well, right if you know who your audience really is. Unfortunately for the Democrats and their allies and new "hop-on-the-bandwagon" friends, the evidence suggests they don't know who their audience is. For example, they think the most critical variable in the last three weeks of the race is the people who call themselves "independents" and "undecideds," the group TruePunk trashed in the most recent post here at

That's simply not true. The real most critical variable is the possibility of defections within the ranks of traditional Democrats who have been going along and going along and may yet come to smell a rat in the Obama narrative sometime in the final three weeks. The second most critical variable is the possibility that the election has always been much closer than the arrogant assumptions of liberals allow them to perceive. These two variables are intricately interrelated, which is why all analysis at this point is complex. That's why I'm going to make an apparent detour from argument into observations and thoughts about what's been happening the past few weeks. This will set the scene for some direct analysis at the end. With me so far? Some of my thoughts are going to seem like pure non sequiturs until I tie them in later. Okay with that? Well, try to hang in there anyway...

The Boston Red Sox.

I wrote of my own views about this scurrilous team a few days ago here. Among other things, I said:

I never thought anything could make me root for the Yankees. But at least the Yankees look like ballplayers, not homeless winos stuffed into dirty oversized baseball uniforms. I hold it against the Red Sox that I always want the Yankees to hammer them 11 or 13 to nothing when they're on TV, which is every single damn day of the baseball season. Because I hate the Yankees too. And everyone who claims them as their team. Being a Yankee fan is a profound moral defect. Anyone who roots for the perennial favorite is sick in the soul. But it pales in comparison to the defectiveness of people who root for the two stigmata teams -- the Cubs and the Red Sox -- who have afflicted the entire nation with their sorry-ass excuses for not winning big games over the course of the past century. (And don't get me started on their Yuppie a__hole fans.) Yeah, I know the Red Sox have overcome the "Curse of the Bambino." Who doesn't? It made me sick when they bleated about it for 40 or so years of my life, and it makes me sick even to think about it today. Their record of failure should be a source of deeply private and personal shame, not love and praise.

Of course it's a wild exaggeration to say that the Red Sox play the Yankees every day of the baseball season on national TV. But it probably rings true with millions of baseball fans in San Diego and Milwaukee and Kansas City and Baltimore and Tampa and Texas and Atlanta, not to mention Philadelphia. The mass media in this country, specifically including those who cover professional sports, are overwhelmingly focused on the northeast corridor from New York to Boston, with subordinate attention to Chicago and Los Angeles and sometimes Dallas because it remains mysteriously in the NFC East Division of the NFL, along with Washington, New York, and Philadelphia. Baseball's an older and smaller world though. There, even ESPN's most talented correspondents spend 65 percent of their time stewing about the prospects and screw-ups of the Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Mets. Everybody else is peripheral, a subplot or a sidebar, except when the Cubs have their rare chance at the end of their over-celebrated ill-fortune.

This is the MSM geography of the United States. The infamous Steinberg cover from The New Yorker of a generation past remains the truth of it:

The Primacy of Boston.

You might search in vain for Boston on the Steinberg map, but it's there nonetheless, everywhere. The reputed intellectual power of New York, including Wall Street and the opinion-shaping satirical entertainment served up by SNL, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert, flow directly from Boston, which also still exerts a snob claim over Philadelphia with regard to the founding of the nation. (The Constitution may have been written in Philly, but John Adams was already penning his version of the "Fairness Doctrine" in Boston.) Between them, Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School account for a striking percentage of the CEOS, managing partners, and decision makers of the most influential banks, brokerage houses, and law firms of Manhattan. For example, Yale Law School may be equally famous, but each year's class at Yale Law School produces 100 graduates compared to Harvard's 900. Yale has an equally cramped -- and fairly new -- 'school of management science,' whereas Harvard Business School has been pumping out 800 instant executives a year for generations. New York contributes, of course. Columbia University's Law School is less prestigious than Harvard's and about half the size. Its Graduate School of Journalism, which dominates the upper ranks of the MSM, produces a Yale-like 100 graduates a year. (There's a reason Yale is always in second place.) Overall, New York City is a province of Harvard.

Back to the sports example for just a moment. I chanced to watch part of the Boston College-Virginia Tech football game last night on one of the ESPN channels. Showcasing the City of Boston during one of their standard returns from commercials to the game, they featured this building while referencing BC's home in Chestnut Hill, a suburb of Boston.

The building is in Harvard Square, Cambridge, not Boston, and it belongs to Harvard, not Boston College. To the MSM, including ESPN, apparently, Harvard is Boston, the gleaming brain of the United States, the Kennedys, the Roosevelts, and (ahem) Barack Obama. The musicians shown in the photograph above are the Harvard football marching band, who are also relevant, as I'll explain in a bit.

But here's a founding institution of the current MSM you may never have seen.

It's the Harvard Lampoon Castle. And, yes, it is a castle. Also a pivate, prestigious undergraduate club for mostly private-school educated wits. One of its most talented members was Robert Benchley, arguably the strongest pillar of the famous Algonquin Roundtable of 1930s fame and a founding talent of the illustrious New Yorker magazine, which still sneers from Manhattan at the submerged 99 percent of American society today. Benchley was a kind and humorous soul rather than a snob -- ironies always abound in such matters of history -- but the spirit of Algonquin wits like Dorothy Parker fed back into the Lampoon through the years and made it first an innovator in parodying American magazines like Time, Cosmopolitan, and Playboy, and then a pioneer in subverting all American institutions via irreverent and increasingly leftist humor. The National Lampoon was a sixties offshoot of the collegiate club, with obvious inspirational and show biz links to Chevy Chase, John Belushi, and other stars from the original Saturday Night Live TV show. Sound like ancient history? Conan O'Brien is also a past president of the Harvard Lampoon.

It's not unreasonable to suggest that without the Harvard Lampoon, there would never have been a Saturday Night Live, a Daily Show, or a Colbert Report. Everyone's favorite comedy movie, Animal House, was a National Lampoon production with an inside joke nobody but the merest handful ever got; Faber College was Harvard's view of its neanderthal Ivy football rival Dartmouth. (And now, irony of ironies, the Czar of the Financial Bailout, Hank Paulson, is a former Dartmouth tight end.) These are inside jokes, people. And the American electorate -- as well as a lot of the current comedy writers -- are the true butt of those jokes. (Do the Brits get no credit? Of course they do. Second City TV is an obvious connection, and Punch is the patriarch of all juvenile intellectual humor, But SNL and Monty Python are twin traditions: Oxford and Cambridge are as heavily implicated as Harvard, and all of them are "superior" to ordinary dummies like Joe the Plumber and Sarah Palin.) The Lampoon mentality was the ultimate in elitism: we laugh at everybdoy because we're above everybody. Today, the same ethic holds; it's just that the Harvard source has been forgotten and the Tina Feys of the Manhattan set believe their assumed superiority derives from being citizens of the nation's most incredibly parochial subculture, the dumb smarties who prefer living in the neurotic capital of American narcissism to living in the other 99.9 percent of the United States. That is, the part that is not utterly dominated by Harvard University and its snooty, sometimes invisible tendrils of absolute intellectual dominion.

Nod to the Boss.

None of this is news to IP. He knows everything I've been describing. The difference between us is that he thinks the proverbial tipping point has been reached. He thinks Americans have lost the ability to see they're being ridiculed and fight back. He thinks Harvard now rules the United States, the way they always intended to. I don't. Here are some other observations that make me disagree with his pessimism.

The Harvard Football Marching Band.

Starting in the sixties, Harvard's marching band started thinking it would be funny to be a parody of a marching band. They quit wearing hats, abandoned the discipline of drilling in even rows, and made a mockery of the traditional practice of marching in order to their on-field spellings. Instead, they simply ran chaotically to their assigned locations. They even gave up trying to play very well because it was more fun to be a loud disruptive band than a good one. Before the half, they massed in the end zone and then ran like a mob into place for their first number. It was funny at first, but it was a single punchline they repeated until they killed it. In the end, they simply weren't a good marching band. But they never perceived this part. It never occurred to them that the bands of Ohio State and Alabama and Texas could master their joke in a day, while they had permanently lost the admittedly minor art of performing their act in an orderly way with pride. The simple fact that they dared to be awful was a joke that, to them, never stopped being funny. This is a textbook example of how smart people outsmart themselves on a regular basis.

The Boston Red Sox (Again).

Yes, the Red Sox are a better baseball team than the Harvard band is a football marching band. But there's still a worthwhile point of comparison. The Boston Red Sox are the Ivy League, the Harvard, of major league baseball teams. Old, imbued with tradition, scrupulously documented myths, an ancient edifice that confers a certain kind of aristocracy by mere association. There's nothing more Harvard-like than the legend of a team too good to keep Babe Ruth. They're also complete slobs. (The notion that snobs are always more neatly dressed is at least partly due to the mythology of the Animal House Greek hierarchy and all its endless imitators...) Like the Harvard band, they are above observing the traditions of discipline and grooming that still signify the blue collar Yankees and the (once blue collar Brooklyn) Dodgers. They're too good to be so conformist as to shave, bathe, and dress up in their uniforms. That's something lowlife Marines would do. But I don't happen to think most Americans like the Red Sox. I think most MLB towns and communities think they're a bunch of overpaid slobs playing in an obsolete park that gives them an unfair advantage.

The Fox News Panel.

This morning on Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace conducted the most MSM-type interview of McCain I've ever seen him administer. He was every bit as truculent, misrepresentative of known facts, and needlessly argumentative as if he were Charles Gibson, George Stephanopoulos, or Tom Brokaw. The Fox panel -- reminiscent of the similar panel that was predisposed to declare McCain the hapless loser of the third debate -- was equally anxious to jump on the Obama bandwagon. ("It's over, he hasn't much of a chance, and even that chance is mostly fantasy," the conservative panelists said, while Juan Williams preened in a suit with shoulder pads borrowed from the Washington Redskins...). Then Bill Kristol decided to underscore his own analytical surrender by dispensing with facts and polls altogether and plighting his troth to the fate of -- who else? -- the Boston Red Sox. He declared that McCain was in the same fix and that if the Red Sox won, McCain would, or at least could, win the election.

Chris Wallace confessed his discomfiture with Kristol's metaphor. He admitted to being a Red Sox fan himself. If the fate of McCain and the Red Sox was intertwined, he would be, uh, "conflicted."

It was all in good fun. But it wasn't. We we were being given a glimpse of the smallness of the pundit universe. Hell, even Brit Hume was choosing his words of hope for McCain from a diminutive slagpile. They all live in the northeastern corridor, in, well, the NFC East, and all their views (and similes) were products of that tiny slice of the American cosmos. I don't think most Americans see any relationship between the fate of the Red Sox this season and their own prospects for the future.

The World Outside the Beltway.

So the veterans of Fox News are preparing themselves for the inevitable transition to an Obama presidency. Just like the intellectual conservatives, the "hope and change" Republicans, and other floaters on the river of public opinion. What is persuading them? Why, it's the polls, man. Who wants to be left out in the cold if it's going to be an Obama universe?

How do they know they can trust the polls? Because the polls were more or less right the last time. Even if they haven't been close to right most times in the last thirty years. And besides, the polls correspond to their own notions of who is good enough in their terms to win. Which has to do with a view of the United States very much like the New Yorker graphic shown above.

I don't think most Americans believe that the opinions of pundits have any bearing on reality, whether from the right or the left. I think they see it all as noise. And, unfortunately, noise that has intruded much more than it should on their own private concerns and decisions.


Our own esteemed commenter Guy T. has linked to a Zombietime discussion of polls everyone should read. It does a lot to explain why we shouldn't believe published poll results, but I don't believe it goes far enough.

It doesn't deal with the probability, for example, that registered Republicans and McCain voters might simply hang up on pollsters before being polled. Which I myself have done several times this year. Yes, the professionals might try to fill in the blanks of people like me, but if a higher percentage of McCain voters and conservatives are hanging up, how are they determining their Republican-Democrat percentages? Historically? How? And how can they be sure that the replacements they eventually get -- for whatever percentages they're determined to use -- are representative of those of us who hung up disgusted with the whole business of polling? What if the hard-core conservatives aren't represented in either the presidential votes or the party affiliation identifications? What then?

The truth is, the only reasonably accurate polls over the last fifty years have been in the last two elections, which were notable not for incredible advances in probability theory, but for their rare scarcity of key variables in electoral decison-making. In 2000, there were no threat issues: the economy was sound, the Soviet Union was gone, and the principal issue was, who do you like more as a steward of the inevitable, ongoing American prosperity? In 2004, it was who do you trust more in the War on Terror: A sitting president who accepted the challenge of 9/11 and took the war to our enemies? Or a former sympathizer with our communist enemies in Vietnam? Granted, the result was closer than it should be in an intelligent country. But the decision points were few.

This year, there are way too may variables for any pollster to guess right about who will vote, how reliably who will show up, and for what ultimate purpose. This year, the polls are going to be wrong, one way or the other. They're just a rough guess. Here are some of the reasons why.


Regardless of the outcome, this year's election will set back the cause of racial relations in the United States. Americans who thought they were past race-based decision making on electoral matters are now rethinking their positions. They have learned much they would rather not have known. That there is some something called Liberation Theology which perverts Christianity into white-hating racial separatism. That even the most revered black statesmen like Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice are willing to put race above supposedly lifelong philosophical and political convictions. That black politicians are somehow immune from the ordinary process of interrogation about their associations with potential criminals, seditionists, and radicals, to the point that even asking questions about such associations makes you a target for persecution yourself. And they've learned that it can even be dangerous to tell people what your political preferences are in an election involving a black person, lest you be charged with the worst charge available against an American citizen, that of being racist. Which means people are lying to pollsters and each other by the millions.

The Media.

While the Democrats have believed they were, as usual, waging a clever class war against fatcat Republicans, millions of Americans have been learning that the media were also fighting a very stupid class war against them. We learned that the media regard themselves as so much smarter than the most of us that they don't even have to conceal their bias, their hatred of our humble tastes, or their contempt even for the ways we earn our daily bread: plumbing, electrical work, construction, truckdriving, pumping gas, and anything else involving real work with hands and muscle. We're too dumb to have an intelligent opinion, and if we dare to ask a question of one of the lords running for king, we can expect to be ridiculed and humiliated into ruin.

And we're expected not to notice or take offense at the fact that there's nowhere to hide from the constant propaganda on behalf of Obama. The Lampooners have smuggled their clever putdowns of Republican idiocy into everything -- cop shows, sitcoms, late-night monologues, daytime women's fare, and celebrity gossip programs. Not even Sunday Night Football is safe from media snark about the stupidity of the Palins among us. Do they really imagine there's no breaking point? No straw that will sting the camel into biting the foreman before his back breaks under the load?


This time around, it's not just a matter of personality. A LOT of people know or feel that the stakes are this big.


So the Harvard crowd have attempted to convince us this week that 1) the election is already over, 2) Joe the Plumber is a dumbshit who should never have challenged Barack Obama, and 3) Sarah Palin fell into a perfect trap when she agreed to go on Saturday Night Live.

I'll answer in reverse order. Sarah Palin made the SNL crew, and all its celebrities, look like what they are -- pompous pretenders who have nothing whatever to do with real life. Did she know they were trying to set her up to look like a fool? Yes. Did they succeed? No. (With each other? Yes. Maybe.) Facts. She's done more substantive things with her life than any of them have. She's better looking by far than Tina Fey, who looks exactly like the arid, thin-lipped, career-obsessed narcissist she is except when she's imitating Sarah Palin. (God. How sick are you of hearing even Republicans claiming they're identical in appearance...?) Her gracelessness about the greatest career break a journeyman comic could ever receive is all the proof we'd ever need. And Sarah Palin's participation in the "rap" sketch is an extraordinary statement all its own. It says, "Yeah... So?"  Meaning, so what if you think this is who I am? I'm here and I'm laughing. Tell me again who it is the joke's on?

The Harvard Lampoon mentality doesn't work when you try to apply it to people who aren't made-up caricatures. It doesn't work with Sarah Palin. It makes the jesters look cheap and shallow. It doesn't work with Joe the Plumber either. Ordinary people have the sense to know that the media don't get to rip you apart because you asked one question of a powerful person.

Palin and the Plumber are a potent one-two punch. They're the real people. And the Democrats and their Lampooners have made the ill-advised decision to ridicule and humiliate them for not being among the glitterati. Poll death soon to follow.

This is not Harvard America. It's the United States of America. Even for the sake of a joke, there are a lot of blue-collar registered Democrats who will find something wrong with Alec Baldwin, even in jest, demeaning a candidate for Vice President of the United States as a "horrible woman." It doesn't change this fact that she she participated or smiled. What matters is that we know the fake part was his good humor.

Then there's reality. Everyone without an embittered eye can see that she's more woman, and more beautiful, than Tina Fey will ever be. There are acid tests. Why do you think Fey refused to do more than pass Palin on stage? She was afraid.

Deep in the heart of America, this is known. And the Americans who have Sarah Palin for a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, or a friend are perfectly prepared to cross up Harvard America and blame Obama for trashing her. Including many many Democrats that party used to honor as "working Americans" -- from plumbers to welders to ditch diggers to trash haulers to blue collar business owners -- who don't appreciate being ridiculed by SNL, Joe Biden, CNN, or Barack Obama for the possibility that they might dare to ask one question. The election is officially up in the air. That's why it pays to know your audience before you start cracking jokes you THINK will level the opposition.

In the long run, this isn't going to be good for the Red Sox either.

P.S. Harvard can do better. But apparently they'd rather rule the world than inspire it. [Have to say this: Take this link. It really is lovely. Not everything Harvard is bad.]

P.P.S. One of the threads I didn't get to in this post was moderate Republican talk show host Michael Smerconish of Philadelphia endorsing Obama when even the lefty Philadelphia Inquirer felt compelled to endorse McCain as well as Obama. Smerconish has a particular reason to be ashamed of his choice. We'll get to it. I promise.

UPDATE. Monday morning. Exit the Red Sox. The race may be over now for Bill Kristol. But that doesn't mean it's over for McCain and Palin. Congratulations, Rays. And GO Phillies.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rooting for the Red Sox

I just love that Volvo sign, don't you? Says it all somehow.

STILL STEAMED. Yes. For the first time in my life, I'm hoping the Red Sox will overcome their current difficulties and make it to the World Series. That's not a slap at the Tampa Bay Rays. I think they're a better and worthier team. But this is personal.

Let me make it clear. I hate the Red Sox. This nauseating crew of whining, loutish, smelly prima donnas has already accomplished one miracle in my life -- making me root for the damned Yankees in the 162 games they play against each other every year on ESPN national telecasts. I never thought anything could make me root for the Yankees. But at least the Yankees look like ballplayers, not homeless winos stuffed into dirty oversized baseball uniforms. I hold it against the Red Sox that I always want the Yankees to hammer them 11 or 13 to nothing when they're on TV, which is every single damn day of the baseball season. Because I hate the Yankees too. And everyone who claims them as their team. Being a Yankee fan is a profound moral defect. Anyone who roots for the perennial favorite is sick in the soul. But it pales in comparison to the defectiveness of people who root for the two stigmata teams -- the Cubs and the Red Sox -- who have afflicted the entire nation with their sorry-ass excuses for not winning big games over the course of the past century. (And don't get me started on their Yuppie a__hole fans.) Yeah, I know the Red Sox have overcome the "Curse of the Bambino." Who doesn't? It made me sick when they bleated about it for 40 or so years of my life, and it makes me sick even to think about it today. Their record of failure should be a source of deeply private and personal shame, not love and praise.

That's why I want the Phillies to have their crack at beating the odious new Gashouse Gang of baseball. I'm not saying it's predetermined or a date with destiny or anything like that. The Phillies also have a history of losing big games. But they've never turned it into a national mass media soap opera. They've had the innate good character to be embarrassed rather than proud of their failures. They've never been that narcissistic, self-obsessed, and generally disgusting. And in the process they've been overlooked. While the baseball world was slobbering over Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, and other wearers of the scarlet sock who didn't win a world championship, the greatest third baseman in baseball history barely registered with the Yankee-Sox-obsessed morons of the national sports press. His name was Mike Schmidt. Most of you have no idea who he is. But for me he'll be at the plate every time a Phillie batter gets an 0-2 count in the World Series. He was maddening that way. And then he'd hit a titanic home run to save the day, after having first stolen doubles and triples from the opposing team with his perennial gold glove. When he played, the press adulation was always about the Yankee third baseman, Graig Nettles, who wasn't worthy to hold Schmidt's jock strap....

Okay. I'll stop. I want -- I really want -- the Phillies to have their shot at the Red Sox in the World Series.

Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino. Never thought I'd be so pumped after '80.

Sorry if any of this offended anyone.

Well, no. Not really. I retract that mealy-mouthed semi-apology. Be offended. This is baseball. It's much more important than everything else. Believe it or not, I'd actually forgotten that for 28 years or so. It won't happen again.

Undecided Insanity

She couldn't decide. Until Obama tickled her thigh last night.

MODERATION. I love this idea of "independents" and "undecideds," rounded up by Frank Luntz, weighing in on the election as if they had anything intelligent to offer. As if people who can make it all the way to October in a two-year election cycle are so intellectually Platonic that they're waitng for the very last squeeze of philosophical nuance to make up their minds. Let me count the ways I'm unimpressed. Starting with Luntz's toupee. (Forget I said that,) The last crew of "independents" he rounded up had half a dozen black people in the mix. Undecided. Right. They're uncommitted, independent, open-minded as a virgin nymphomaniac -- until they finally hear Obama sapeak. Which is when they decide he's much much better than McCain, with appropriate orgasmic accompaniment. And the Fox reporters say, "Oh, thank you, Frank. We wouldn't know what to do without you."


I think all the polls are bullshit. I think all the pollsters are bullshit. I think all the pundits are bullshit. I think the whole MSM is bullshit (including the Fox News Channel). And I think "undecideds" and "independents" are the very dumbest, least interesting people anyone could look to for guidance in a presidential election. You can't decide between socialism and capitalism? Between Israel and a second holocaust? Between drilling in the U.S. and being a permanent hostage to Saudia Arabia? Between victory and surrender in Iraq? Btween black nationalism and American freedom? Between babies and infanticide? Between American sovereignty and the United Nations? Between the U.S, Constitution and the European Union? Really????  You can be undecided and uncommitted about all that and we're supposed to PAY ATTENTION to what you think. Really????????

Okay. Fine.

Fine. Great. Yeah.

uh, Fuck you.  Excuse my language. Sorry.

Fuck you. Oops, slipped again.

Fuck you.

And the horse you rode in on.

uh. Moderates suck. Actually, they should be shot, not put on TV.

Sorry, Frank. Except we're not sorry. We want you and them to go away.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

YouTube Wednesday

Debate Preview

We're pretty sure this is what people are hoping for.

DIY. The last debate was, by any measure, pretty lame. Tonight's doesn't promise to be much better. Though McCain occasionally blasts his opponent on the stump, Obama is absolutely correct when he points out that McCain hasn't shown the cojones thus far to do it man to man. Apparently, he'd rather spend his dwindling time on the campaign trail reassuring the partisan Republicans he's made a career of insulting that they're paranoid loons for actually fearing the victory of his opponent. Way to go, Warrior Chieftain. So we're not expecting much from tonight but another farce.

The only consolation we can think of is that farces are sometimes entertaining. We've compiled a few that may help you devise your own preferred "narrative" of the upcoming Main Event. (Note to diehards; don't feel obligated to watch all of every clip...)

Will it be pure Hollywood, as skillfully choreographed and meaningless as all the MSM coverage of the campaign to date?

A silly celebrity non-event?

Real but still somehow fundamentally ludicrous?

Decisive but also inevitably comical?

Phony, stupid, and over-the-top?

Or just plain sad?

It's not as if anything important is at stake... so pick a scenario that appeals to you and go with it.

The Death of Outrage, Phase III

It's a lefty window display and photograph, but that's part of the point.

LOOK HERE FIRST! (NSFW).  I'm going to react here to three conservative bloggers I respect but disagree with. Patrick Ruffini makes a good faith effort to respond reasonably to Ross Douthat's argument that conservatives should stop attacking their own "elitists" and work for a stronger conservative coalition instead, one that might actually have a chance of winning. Jim Treacher writes today to suggest that those of us who feel the presidential race is over are simply falling prey to what the Dems want us to believe. He thinks a 24-hour "timeout" will restore our optimism. And Rick Moran of takes time out of his dedicated pro-McCain blogging to remind us all that if Obama is elected, he is our (i.e., Moran's) President, no matter how he got there, and we shouldn't succumb to the temptation to act like KosKids or the crazies at Democratic Underground..

I understand all their points and the rationales behind them. I'm not disagreeing with their arguments as far as they go, but I think they're all missing the elephant in the living room. And it's that elephant which has so many red-state conservatives in a state of mounting -- and justifiable -- rage and despair. The elephant explains why we won't be overlooking the behavior of the elitists even in the final stages of a presidential election, why we know the race really is already over, and why we won't be tamely falling in line behind "our President" when he takes office in January.

Back in 1999, William Bennett wrote a book called "The Death of Outrage." It was a moral commentary on the successful defense of Bill Clinton by liberals during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Liberals peddled -- and Americans bought -- the notion that the scandal was only about sex and should therefore be overlooked because "everybody lies about sex" and sex is a personal and private matter. Of course, the charges for which Clinton was investigated weren't about sex per se. They were about perjury, obstruction of justice, and related felonies associated with the coverup of the affair and the use of presidential influence to move her and other witnesses out of the line of fire.

The upshot was that Clinton was acquitted in the Senate and in the eyes of the American people, though he was subsequently disbarred -- not for sex, but for lying under oath. The media mythology since then has persuaded many, if not most, Americans that Clinton was unfairly persecuted for private peccadilloes that shouldn't have anything to do with his fitness for high office. As a culture, we learned that it's possible, even necessary, to compartmentalize immoral behavior. As long as a politician is popular in his pursuit of policy priorities affecting the American people, his status as a good or bad man by our own lights is irrelevant. Any personal outrage we might feel about his private conduct is more a reflection of our own intolerance and prejudice than of any failing in the officeholder. That was Phase I.

Phase II followed almost immediately. It's the converse of Phase I. If we disapprove the polices and positions of a politician and regard them as, in some sense, immoral according to our own ideology, then absolutely everything about that politician is fair game for attack, including private and personal matters that would be exempt from rebuke in a politician whose politics we approved. That's how it came to pass that George W. Bush, his wife, daughters, extended family, and all members of his administration and party were acceptably in the eyes of the public subjected to almost inconceivably vile, vicious, and pornographic libel from brand new institutions like that were founded for the express purpose of mounting such assaults. As Phase II intensified, two additional effects surfaced. The MSM learned, much to its delight, that any prohibition which once existed against a clearly political double standard was also gone. Republicans could be pilloried, judged -- in advance of trial or any legal proceeding -- guilty of, yes, sexual misconduct that would never be -- and had never been -- career ending for Democrats, and there would be no public outrage.

So far, at least two Republicans have been destroyed and reduced to lewd punchlines for ultimately unproven allegations of homosexuality while Barney Frank continues to hold office and MSM respect despite having dalliances which involved obviously illegal conduct -- one with a page who ran a prostitution ring from Frank's house and the other a Fannie Mae executive who was as involved with subprime mortgage shenanigans as he was with Barney Frank. Phase II embodied the elegant simplicity of dividing the world in two. Democrats who committed lascivious private acts were protected by the natural right of privacy all well intentioned people share. Republicans were not protected because any such acts made them hyopcrites. The final flowering of Phase II was the MSM discovery that they, too, could trade in rumors, abusive characterizations, and an unabashedly obvious double standard without receiving any real rebuke from anyone. Hence the MSM-orchestrated gang rape of Sarah Palin that's been ongoing since her nomination.

In the current election cycle, we have advanced to Phase III, which is the direct opposite of Phase I. If a politician with whom we agree has a reputable private life,  then it's acceptable and even necessary to overlook all and every evidence that he is profoundly, politically and/or morally corrupt.  Obama looks nice, he sounds reasonable, he presents himself as a selfless idealist, and his family is handsome and untainted by scandal. Therefore, it is appropriate to give him a complete pass on his two decade-long alliance with black-nationalist racists posing as religious leaders, his ties to organized crime figures in Chicago, his associations with avowed marxists and anti-American revolutionaries for whom he funnelled funds to other dubious organizations during the only part of his career that can be said to involve action of any sort, his incredibly suspect fundraising practices as a presidential candidate, his McCarthyite alacrity for demonizing all opponents and critics as racists, AND his tacit acceptance of the -- dare I say the word? -- outrageous leftist abuse of Sarah Palin's motherhood, her womanhood, and basic human dignity (even including her private parts) since the Republican Convention

Worse than all this, the MSM are blatant activists in all three phases of the "death of outrage." Even ten years ago, Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews would have been run out of their profession for the appalling misconduct they have committed during the past two years. Polls indicate that a majority of the public is aware that the MSM is heavily biased toward Obama and against the Republicans. Yet they have been taught to feel no outrage, at least not sufficient outrage to declare that they will not vote for a party which thinks it's acceptable to make jokes about a mother's vagina and her Down Syndrome baby.

And what, pray tell, is the response of the most highly educated and "refined" of the Republican intelligentsia? Do they notice that their party's campaign has been savaged by the very lowest sort of political and personal vitriol imaginable? Do they twig at the idiocy of the charge that McCain is running a negative campaign while Obama hides behind the skirts of his Hollywood Furies? Does some aspect of their highbrow heritage as "gentlemen" kick in to make them stand up and say "enough is enough"? No. Like the snobs they are, they believe a victim of rape should be hidden away, her face blurred, her appearances in public terminated, her very name forgotten. No. Like the old-school feminists they pretend to oppose, they feel the deepest possible shame at even being associated with her. No.

NO. Rather, they're offended that anyone might hold any personal malice against them. They're not apostates. They're just contemptible scum.

And to the extent that John McCain doesn't see what is happening, can't bring himself to call Obama on his despicable passivity about what has been done to McCain's own running mate, he doesn't deserve to win. Regardless of his biography, he has become scum too. That's why there's despair in the ranks of conservatives. One thing we really do have a right to share with our party's presidential candidate is outrage about things that are absolutely wrong. But he's not outraged. He's just a crabby maverick whose moral compass swirled away in a DC toilet some number of years ago.

The rebuttal of all three blogs referenced above is the same. Outrage. Our party, our country, and our values are being hijacked by a system so corrupt that most of its leading lights belong in prison, or failing that, publicly horsewhipped.

We're not the ones who changed the rules. We're the ones who remember the rules. We're not the ones who made this a cultural war to the death. Make peace with the DC fops, Patrick, if it will make you feel more hopeful. Pretend for a single sunset and sunrise that the political dialogue in your country hasn't fallen into the deepest part of the gutter, Jim. Do your very noble best, Rick, to support your new gangster president when he takes office.

But don't count on all of us appreciating the calm reasonableness of your logic. We don't. And we won't.

If it's war they want, it's war they'll get. And that's not unreasonable. It's civilized. All you out there who know something about being ladies and gentlemen will understand what I mean. The rest of you? The hell with you.

UPDATE. More vague, inarticulate, even incoherent snobbery about Palin. If I didn't know better, I'd be tempted to jump to the conclusion that all women are nuts. Except that Mrs. IP isn't, and Laura Ingraham clearly isn't. But why do so many otherwise intelligent women fall into a black hole of self-destructive self-contradiction as soon as Sarah Palin is mentioned? My theory: She's a one-woman litmus test. If there's any weakness at all in your female self-confidence about your own bravery, independence, competence, ambition, motherhood, beauty, sexual attractiveness, or personal morality, you hate her. Is the great impediment to female advancement in politics in this country really traceable to women's infinite capacity to hate, envy, and despise one another? You tell me. If it is, no woman will ever be elected to the presidency in this nation. That bitch? Over my dead body.

Mrs. IP

We call her Boudica. To keep her in her place. She would
never have lost. The Romans would have been weeping.

REMEMBRANCE. Most of you don't know real women. You know stunted, sick, sad imitations of women. It must really distort your sense of what's going on. Like maybe you think Dowd is cool and Palin is dumb. You've never been married to this:

Poor you.

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