Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
September 8, 2009 - September 1, 2009

Monday, September 07, 2009

Speak Ill of the Dead Loudly, Unsparingly, and Immediately

THIS IS WHAT THE TED KENNEDY DEATH MEDIA COVERAGE WAS. There were two types of comment on Ted Kennedy's death: Blind, idiot praise, and "I may not have agreed with him, but nice nice nice blah blah blah BS BS BS." People who should have known better, like Orrin Hatch, were too busy, in fits of utter narcissism, showing tact instead of pointing out what a piece of crap the late Senator was.

Even our own InstaPunk decided honesty won't be appropriate until a whole year has passed (though to his credit, he did brutalize the laws of physics to bring you that article [ED.: 363 days] ahead of schedule). ­

A year. Insane. If you ask me, the autopsy and subsequent public flaying of guts shouldn't take place much longer than... what's today?... two weeks, is about right.

You know what? Not even two weeks. Right away. The second after a guy like that dies. Immediately. In a just world, here's how it all would have gone down.

- Every red state-- and every blue state with more sense than Massa-God-Damn-Chusetts-- should have erupted in jubilation the moment they heard the sentence "Senator Edward Kennedy died today...." American skies should have been lit up like the Fourth of July. Bowing to what should have been immense public pressure, Obama should have declared the day a national holiday. Balloons of Kennedy's face should have been filled to bursting in joyous effigy.

- Every press agency-- AP, Reuters, UPI, et. al.-- should have dug up the negatives of every picture of Kennedy in their archives, and burned his face out with a lit cigar; like how the ancient Egyptians scratched and carved the faces of disgraced pharaohs out of pyramid walls.

- And, at the carnival, don't forget the wall of funhouse mirrors that should have recreated the timeline of Kennedy's weight gain. The last mirror squashes your reflection into a pencil-thick line, three miles wide.

- The Pope and the cardinals should have crashed his funeral to perform a mock exorcism, but with vomit instead of holy water. Midway through Obama's eulogy. Right after the sublimely audacious statement "Through his own suffering, Ted Kennedy became more alive to the plight and suffering of others," Benedict should have kicked the door in shouting "The Power of Christ compels you!" over and over, as he and his homeys stormed the catafalque, swinging those metal incense balls like bolas.

- Vatican City should have been evacuated for weeks, and covered from border to border in exterminators' tents. To symbolize a much-needed delousing of the whole Catholic religion, following the long-awaited end of Senator Kennedy's affiliation with the faith.

Of course, the moment for such timely denunciation has passed. However, there remain actions that can -- must -- be taken.

- Kennedy's Senate seat can still be torn out of the Senate floor by the bolts, scrubbed, boiled, then burned to ashes, and the ashes scooped up and burned again. All 300 million American citizens should line up, single file, to the spot where the seat once sat for an opportunity to strike the ground with a 436-pound (Kennedy's weight when he died­) sledgehammer. Once every man, woman, and infant in the nation has had a turn, the earth under the rubble should be salted.

- Bush can dust off one of his unused Medals of Freedom (you know he stuffed a few down his pants on moving day), and award it to brain cancer. The American Medical Association and the American Cancer Society can issue a joint statement announcing a one-week "ceasefire" with brain cancer, during which no chemo, surgery, or any other aggressive action will be taken against brain cancer. Billboards bearing the slogan "Give brain cancer a break!" or "Thanks, brain cancer!," and depicting brain cancer patients giving a thumbs-up, can still be erected.

- Everyone who voted for Kennedy, even once, should be forcibly enrolled in a new sex offender-style registry. Since, as with sex offenders, rehabilitation is impossible, Kennedy voters should be forced to stay 500 yards away from any location where political activity takes place -- city halls, polling booths, street corners, etc -- and barred from communicating online with anyone of voting age. A website should be set up where people can see what Kennedy voters live near them. We'll call it

- Mandatory sterilization for Kennedy's kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews, and anyone more closely related to him than, say, a 7th cousin, must be carried out. Including relatives by marriage. I'm sure some of them have managed to never murder by neglect, or kill the progress of any American minority group with "kindnesses" like affirmative action, but we simply can't take that chance.

- Kennedy's remains should be reinterred at the bottom of Chappaquiddick. With a backhoe.

And you know what else? This all goes double for Harry Reid, when he finally kicks off. Which will probably be 40 years from now, of natural causes, peacefully in his sleep. Piece of crap.

UPDATE. Forget murder and legislative poison. Ted Kennedy is literally a traitor. Literally. Still researching, but the picture is clear:

Ted Kennedy's Soviet Gambit
Treasonous Teddy: Chappaquiddick Only the Beginning
Ted Kennedy: Reagan's Benedict Arnold
Ted Kennedy should have been arrested for treason--a post-mortem
On Kennedy, Andropov, and KAL 007

In return for the Soviet Union's resources and aid in defeating Reagan's re-election bid, Kennedy offered to sponsor and coordinate a PR tour for head USSR cock Yuri Andropov.

This is the same USSR that killed more Russians than Nazi Germany killed Jews, and would have turned the whole of the earth into a prison planet, if the US hadn't kept them in check long enough for them to collapse under the weight of their own evil. If you need a reminder.

The above prescriptions aren't enough for a man who would collaborate with that power. Here's an addendum:

- Ted Kennedy should be cloned, and the clone tortured for his entire life. When the clone dies, clone again and repeat. For the next thousand years. Longer.

And not with any of this weenie "stress position" slumber party torture, either. Real torture. Torture-torture.

And never explain to any of the clones why they must live in inexhaustible pain and misery. A guilty conscience might take some of the edge off. Let them live in unending agony, uncomprehending desperation, and utter existential horror in every minute from birth to death.

Have a problem with that? Fine. Build a time machine, go back to '41, and swap him with Rosemary right before the sharpened scoop goes in. Don't like that either? Then shut up. Torturing his clones with needles and fire until the sun goes dark is the only moral option remaining.

Friday, September 04, 2009

9/11Patriots Day is
Almost Upon Us

Eating the Towers. Hold, JS. Hold! Let us handle this...

I'M INSTAPUNK. THERE ARE ALWAYS WHEELS WITHIN WHEELS. Last year on September Eleven I featured an incredibly moving YouTube video by one of our more talented commenters, who's also a blogger in his own right. On that occasion I proposed that there was something mystical about the images he had chosen to assemble into his video poem about the event:

The author, Peregrine John, maintains that it's only a chronology. It's much more than that. At the beginning, you get to see the Twin Towers thrusting through the clouds. This is who we are, who we were, the most vivid possible example of American exceptionalism. We just shone.

Then comes the attack. And I've spoken with Peregrine John about this, and he denies it, but if you look, you can see that there is a face of predation in almost every single frame of the assault on the towers. I don't want to overplay it, but this is no accident. It was no "tragedy." It was an attack on the United States of America by forces of, well, evil.

Watch from frame to frame. Does it not look as if the Towers are being eaten?

Regardless. Look at the footage. What in the Obama campaign convinces you that he feels any of the pain -- or meaning -- of this loss? What makes you think he would fight in remembrance?

Before I ran the video here, I discussed my ideas about "deep meaning" with Peregrine John. I told him of the oddest image I had seen from that day:

At the time of the attacks there was one photo which seemed to show a well defined demonic face in the smoke of the towers, and efforts to debunk the photo as a fake failed. What blew me away in your photo sequence was that it was possible to see such faces in virtually every image of the towers in distress. Yes, I know the brain is wired to see such things, and I'm not reading more into it than that, but...I also don't know for sure that it's NOT there.

Modest as he is (I called him "reticent"), he conceded that he was unsettled by the process of examining the images. He told me in an email:

I've wondered a bit about that, myself.  Never made much of it overtly, since frankly we have enough trouble being taken seriously already.  But yeah; I see it.

Now we're eight years on. And we have a president who has never shown the slightest emotion about what happened on 9/11. (Go ahead. I dare you. One genuine sign of emotion by Obama about this or anything.) (Hell, Peggy Noonan just figured out today that he is cold. What took her?)

As we approach another anniversary, we're being asked to believe that our president cares about a lot of things, including us and our futures. Hard to believe. Why? Because he insists on surrounding himself with people who despise both America and us, meaning average Americans.

For example, this particular conflation of opponents of his healthcare bill with "right wing domestic terrorists" was not instigated by him or his administration, but where is his outraged repudiation of such sentiments? Absent. The response was to quietly remove the offending post, not to denounce it or reaffirm his commitment to being president of all American citizens. Why? He isn't.

And in a disturbing echo of the hatefulness of Jeremiah Wright, we learn that Obama has appointed, without congressional confirmation, a man who controls a $30 billion budget for "green jobs" who believes that 9/11 was either an inside job or a conspiracy of silence by Bush administration officials who knew of the plot and approved it for their own bellicose/mercenary purposes. Democrats would like us to sniff and snort away such an appointment because he is only a "mid-level" official. And we can only ask, since when are people who have budget authority for $30 billion in spending "mid-level"? Who the fuck is "high-level"?

Here's the bottom line. We're being tested. The country made a big mistake in electing an untried, accomplishment-free narcissist because he made speeches that appealed to people who don't know what real eloquence consists of. (uh, articulate wisdom, not euphonious platitudes celebrating the self delivering the speech...) But there comes a time when you have to ask brutal questions -- are you for us or against us? Obama is against us. He doesn't care about defending America from her enemies. He just doesn't. He thinks we deserve everything that's happened to us. He thinks we deserve everything he intends to do to us.

If you disagree, I invite you to cite any quotation, any possible echo he's uttered of what we've written about 9/11 since it happened. You can't. He doesn't care.

Here's what we've said over the years:

I defy you to show me anything from Obama or his nasty wife that reflects a similar recognition of the price Americans have paid for being the kindest nation in the history of all nations on earth.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Getting Down to Basics

FEEDING TIME. I've got a grab bag of references I'll share with you before I make any points. Big hat tip to the National Review for the first four.

From Yuval Levin:

There has been a peculiar strand of commentary on Obama (from David Brooks, Jon Meacham, and a few others) describing the president as a “Burkean,” apparently for his understanding of, as that New Republic piece put it, “complexity and the organic nature of change.” I think this is downright bizarre.

A certain kind of progressivism and a certain kind of conservatism have long both claimed to possess a deep understanding of the “complexity” of society. The American progressives of the early 20th century (and here I tread on Jonah’s turf and he can surely correct me) insisted that traditionalism might have been suited to an earlier simpler time when the lives of individuals and communities were contained in their narrow circles, but now in modern times our lives were shaped by massive social forces that must be understood by social scientists and marshaled by policy experts who command the whole and understand its full complexity.

But the conservatism of prescription and practice, the conservatism of Burke, had never taken life to be simple. It argued against radical liberalism — and against ways of thinking we now call progressive — in just the terms the Left would later use against the Right: that their worldview was simplistic and naïve, and ignored the inescapable complexity of human things.

So there are left-leaning and right-leaning strands of students of complexity. But they have in mind quite different things. For the Progressives, the world is too complex to be understood in human terms — in terms of sentiment, experience, honor, habit, and piety. For the Burkeans, the world is complex precisely in those human terms, and is too complex to be understood in abstract rational terms — in objective, theoretical, scientific, detached, specialized terms. In this sense the Burkeans have an organic idea of politics, while the progressives have more of a scientific view of politics.

From Mark Steyn:

Paneled to Death

From the Daily Telegraph:

Patients with terminal illnesses are being made to die prematurely under an NHS scheme to help end their lives, leading doctors warn today.

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, a group of experts who care for the terminally ill claim that some patients are being wrongly judged as close to death.

Under NHS guidance introduced across England to help doctors and medical staff deal with dying patients, they can then have fluid and drugs withdrawn and many are put on continuous sedation until they pass away.

Sarah Palin got it right on the "death panel" business, and finnicky conservative critics missed the point: Governmentalization of health care leads to rationing, and rationing leads to death panels — very literally.

From Mark Krikorian:

Smash the Shower-Head Enemies!

...The bathroom is getting to be a pretty depressing place. First low-flow toilets, then shower heads, and now light bulbs. Next, the greens will want to ban tubs in new home construction for using too much water and push for legal limits on how hot your shower can be. Sound ridiculous? Think again. This kind of thing really highlights the distinction between traditionalist conservationism and watermelon environmentalism (green on the outside, red on the inside).

From Iain Murray:

Re: Smash the Showerheads

A correspondent points out that life imitates Seinfeld.

More generally, Mark is of course correct. We are entering a time when the state will have a say on everything you do in every room in the house, for your own benefit or some greater good, of course. Those who naïvely think that this form of state will stop at the bedroom door have another thing coming.

All right. Now me. From a high-flown philosophical argument -- "In modern times our lives were shaped by massive social forces that must be understood by social scientists and marshaled by policy experts who command the whole and understand its full complexity" -- to death panels and thence to showerheads... what's the unifying thread for us ordinary citizens?

The real policy debate that's underway in Washington right now is not nearly as complicated as the beltway pundits make it seem. The Obama-Democrat agenda is not about healthcare or environmentalism or the economy or even social justice. It's about transforming the American people into cattle, tagged and penned and used and finally harvested like the domesticated (but dangerous) dumb animals they think we are. And it's also the reason for the growing split between elite inside-the-beltway conservatives and what they clearly regard as neanderthal reactionaries in the benighted regions that live in the other 99 percent of the nation's geography. The dirty secret is that they basically agree with the progressive social engineers; they just don't want the necessary animal husbandry regime to be quite so nakedly obvious. They want bigger pastures for us to graze in and smaller, less painful tags stapled to our ears. Maybe then we'll still think we're free. The vision of the government as scientific farmer, though, is the same.

That's why everyone involved -- from politicians to the media to the pundit class -- think they can get what they want by complicating and confusing and drawing out the various legislative processes until our sad little attention spans are exhausted and our anguished moos will subside into silent acceptance. They really think they are the sophisticated ones and we are the dolts. Which is their fatal mistake.

The truth is, if we would but realize it, we are the sophisticated ones. We are the inveterate consumers of government bureaucracy, while they are merely the perpetrators of it, slipping all the inconvenient rules themselves while they tighten their grip on the rest of us. We know what it's like to be in the pen of the DMV, feel the pinch of tags attached by the Social Security administration, medicare, and the IRS, not to mention zoning boards, building codes, CAFE regulations, property tax assessors, seat-belt and child-seat laws, child welfare agencies, and pissing in a cup to get a job. We know what life is getting to be like in the shrinking barn, where their science is invading even our most private bodily functions, to the point where we can't even flush away our own excrement without the government's hand on the toilet handle. The only free, private place left in this country is the interior of a woman's uterus, which when it comes to our own juvenile daughters, represents yet another invasion by the godlike farmer in charge of the herd.

They are going to try to baffle us with bullshit in the next few months. We'll be lectured and propagandized not to give in to feelings of paranoia, especially by the great intellects on our own side, because nothing nefarious is really afoot, and our own raging gut instincts are all wrong, ignorant, and laughable.

Here's how you survive the con job, which is all an exercise in herding. Focus on the picture up top. That's who they think we are. But it's not who we are. We're the productive members of the most remarkable species yet known in the entire universe. We are not cattle. We have done nothing to deserve this vicious attempt to turn us into farm animals. They have no right to legislate away the highs and lows of human experience, which are far beyond their poor powers of perception to comprehend, let alone sit in judgment of. We are in the right. They are the criminals. And absolutely everything they are proposing now is designed to lead us into a slaughter pen from which there is no escape.

I'll leave you with two additional references you can make of what you will. The first is not what I was looking for. I went searching for a passage in Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye in which the detective Marlowe explains to a tortured writer what life would be like if he got off the booze. I couldn't find it so I can only approximate: fewer, duller colors, lower highs, higher lows, a life more pallid but with fewer disasters. In a sense, that's the progressive dream of the well intended among the totalitarians, but the life they offer boils down in the final analysis to shades of gray that are drained of joy as well as tragedy. And it's a promise they can't deliver on. Because we are not statistics. We are people.

What's a statistic? In the current paradigm, it's a demographic that can be studied, and reduced to indistinguishable units, by federally funded surveys purporting to give us meaningful information about parts of the herd. Example? How about blondes? You've heard all the jokes. The last somewhat racial group we're all still allowed to jam into a tiny box of presumptuously stereotypical ridicule (forgetting that we're all being thrown into a similar box we're not supposed to notice). Well, here's what I found instead of the quote I was looking for. Draw your own lessons and conclusions. Since you're human I feel you can do that without a government manual:

"There are blonde and blondes and it is almost a joke word nowadays. All blondes have their points, except perhaps the metallic ones who are as blonde as a Zulu under the bleach and as to disposition as soft as a sidewalk. There is the small cute blonde who cheeps and twitters, and the big statuesque blonde who straight-arms you with an ice-blue glare. There is the blonde who gives you the up-from-under look and smells lovely and shimmers and hangs on your arm and is always very, very tired when you take her home. She makes that helpless gesture and has that goddamned headache and you would like to slug her except that you found about the headache before you invested too much time and money and hope in her. Because the headache will always be there, a weapon that never wears out and is as deadly as the bravo’s rapier or Lucrezia’s poison vial.

There is the soft and willing alcoholic blonde who doesn’t care what she wears as long as it is mink or where she goes as long as it is the Starlight Roof and there is plenty of dry champagne. There is the small perky blonde who is a little pale and wants to pay her own way and is full of sunshine and common sense and knows judo from the ground up and can toss a truck driver over her shoulder without missing more than one sentence out of the editorial in the Saturday Review. There is the pale, pale blonde with anemia of some non-fatal but incurable type. She's very languid and very shadowy and she speaks softly out of nowhere and you can’t lay a finger on her because in the first place you don’t want to and in the second place she is reading the Wasteland or Dante in the original, or Kafka or Kierkegaard or studying Provencal. She adores music and when the New York Philharmonic is playing Hindesmith she can tell you which one of the six bass viols came in a quarter of a beat too late. I hear Toscanini can also. That makes two of them.

And lastly there is the gorgeous show piece who will outlast three kingpin racketeers and then marry a couple of millionaires at a million a head and end up with a pale rose villa at Cap d’Antibes, an Alfa Romeo town car complete with pilot and co-pilot, and a stable of shopworn aristocrats, all of whom she will treat with the affectionate absentmindedness of an elderly duke saying good night to his butler."

— Raymond Chandler (The Long Goodbye)

Too abstract? Too literary? Too dated? Here's a YouTube video (h/t Brizoni) that makes exactly the same point in altogether other terms:

There's no need for any "ending." Unless we file blindly or obediently into the pen they are planning for us.

(uh, Don't be asking me to explain the connection between Chandler and Clarkson. I have more faith in you than that.)

Hope'n'Change in Japan!

The fever spreads.

WHO THE HELL KNOWS?  It's so cool how the whole world has decided to embrace its irrational otherness, isn't it? I mean, I don't pretend to understand anything about Japanese politics, except for the fact that they continue to maintain the 100 percent conviction rate every nation devoted to the rule of law rather than a feudal emperor has... but I couldn't help feeling buoyed by this miniature portrait of the new first couple, which -- oh so reassuringly -- emphasizes the First Lady more than her diminutive,  penis-burdened spouse.

I have been abducted by aliens, says Japan's first lady
(Oh, and she also knew Tom Cruise in a previous life)

Japan's new PM, Yukio Hatoyama, with his wife, Miyuki

By Peter Popham

Move over Michelle, watch your backs, Carla and Sarah. There's a new kid on the first lady block, and she looks like upstaging the lot of you.

Miyuki Hatoyama, wife of Japan's Prime Minister-elect, Yukio Hatoyama, is a lifestyle guru, a macrobiotics enthusiast, an author of cookery books, a retired actress, a divorcee, and a fearless clothes horse for garments of her own creation, including a skirt made from Hawaiian coffee sacks. But there is more, much more. She has travelled to the planet Venus. And she was once abducted by aliens.

The 62-year-old also knew Tom Cruise in a former incarnation – when he was Japanese – and is now looking forward to making a Hollywood movie with him. "I believe he'd get it if I said to him, 'Long time no see', when we meet," she said in a recent interview. But it is her claim in a book entitled "Very Strange Things I've Encountered" that she was abducted by aliens while she slept one night 20 years ago, that has suddenly drawn attention following last Sunday's poll.

"While my body was asleep, I think my soul rode on a triangular-shaped UFO and went to Venus," she explains in the tome she published last year. "It was a very beautiful place, and it was very green."

When the new Japanese first lady related her adventures to her then husband, he told her flatteningly that it was probably just a dream. But she is confident that Yukio, the man now entrusted with the task of hauling Japan out of its deepest recession, would have reacted very differently. "My current husband has a different way of thinking. He would surely say, 'Oh, that's great'," she wrote. Mrs Hatoyama's self-confidence in projecting her personality, and shattering the traditional expectations of a political wife, probably derives from her early years as a dancer in Japan's legendary all-female Takarazuka theatrical troupe.

Founded in 1913, Takarazuka has long enjoyed cult status in Japan. The star players in its glitzy, saccharine, ferociously camp productions of US classics like Gone with the Wind enjoy superstar status among the armies of women that flock to the shows. Takarazuka's actresses are picked from thousands of teenage hopefuls in a stringent selection process and subjected to a quasi-monastic training regimen. While a handful become household names, the great majority, like Mrs Hatoyama, retire after a few years. But the aura of belonging to this exclusive sorority clings to them for ever.

After six years Mrs Hatoyama quit the troupe and went to the United States. It was there, while working in a Japanese restaurant in San Francisco, that she met Yukio, then a graduate student at Stanford University. Miyuki was still married to her first husband. "The average man chooses his mate from among unmarried women," Mr Hatoyama boasted years later. "I chose mine from among all women."

Rejecting the reticence that is customary in Japan, Mr Hatoyama makes no secret of his devotion to his multi-talented wife. His website has a photo of the pair of them in an affectionate pose, and he admits happily to being what the Japanese call a "my-home-papa". "I feel relieved when I get home," he says. "She is like an energy refuelling base."

Though Mr Hatoyama is a multi-millionaire and the fourth generation of his family to rise to the top of the Japanese political world, his appearance is unconventional by rigid Japanese standards: his hair is unruly and he rejects the navy uniform of the political world in favour of suits of brown and moss green.

It is this refusal to bow to convention, as well as his tendency to drop conversation-stopping remarks – like his call, during the election campaign, for a "politics full of love" – that long ago led other Japanese politicians to dismiss him as an uchujin, an alien. Though not, presumably, the one who took Miyuki to Venus.

No word yet on whether she also wrote an illiterate thesis at one of Japan's top universities, thereby proving once and for all the the primacy of women as the world's ultimate whatsits.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

YouTube Wednesday:

The Importance of Living

CARPE DIEM. Much as I respect him, my friend InstaPunk is sometimes too abrupt and dismissive. He overlooks points that should be addressed because they seem peripheral or silly to him although they really aren't to others. This happened the other day when IP linked a Metalkort post about hockey, noting to one of our smartest commenters, Billy Oblivion, that sports could be "transcendant," which prompted Billy to reply thus:

There might be something transcendent about playing sports, but I can't (note *I*) can't find much of interest in *spectating*.

Of course, as may be clear I'm not big on the whole "transcendent thing". I just don't get it. This could be because I'm probably not neurotypical.

There are a lot of borderline sports I enjoy participating in, including bicycling and nordic skiing, and I really do enjoy *participating* in them. Can't sit still to watch them for very long though. And certainly can't be bothered to get involved in the cult-of-personality that is modern professional athletics.

Oh, and of course shooting. I can't wait to get back to the states so I can play with my guns again. Being that I'm in a war zone the military won't let me have one.

And I like running, or at least I did until it started hurting too much.

I just don't get watching.

IP responded by comparing Billy to Marvin the Robot (see clip above) and disinviting him to this year's Super Bowl Party, which drew a further objection:

But this IS fun.

I'm watching my country (and my childrens future) spin down the drain while a bunch of people are standing on lip of the sink yelling "Go Back Go Back", and a much MUCH smaller number are down there in [the] vortex trying to change things.

So if I sound Marvin when I write it's at least partially a function of where I'm at, and partially a function of having a brain the size of the universe and seeing no way out of the mess we're in.

I would much rather teach my daughter history and math and writing than teach her how to corn gun powder and improvise first aid and medical supplies.

Malthus was a dick, and his disciples are hell bent on making it happen.

At which point IP riposted with a quip (admittedly irresistible) about "a brain the size of the universe" and exited left (pursued, no doubt, by bearBilly's brain).

I'm not content to leave it there. Yes, Billy's in a war zone, for which he has our admiration, but that also gives him a specific gravity that other readers might find more compelling than it should be. Is Marvin's really the mood we should all be in, especially given that many of us are forced by day-to-day circumstance to remain on the "lip of the sink" rather than down in "the vortex" where Billy implies every one of us should be?

I don't think so. And I don't think you should think so, either. If the vortex is as strong as Billy (and others, including IP) believe it is, we'll all be drawn into it eventually. Should we fight it? Yes, of course. But that doesn't mean we have to be continuously grim until the day it sucks us finally down the drain. There's a huge difference between whistling past the graveyard and holding a defiant garden party in the graveyard. The former is denial. The latter is the highest form of resistance. It affirms the vitality that will not be defeated by the mere proximity of death.

I don't think anyone here is in denial. We have been, posters and commenters alike, plainspoken about the nature of the threat to our way of life. But, as Hemingway observed, it's possible to be serious without being solemn. We know what's going on. That most assuredly does not mean that we're required to abandon the living of our lives in favor of constant grousing about the worst things that could happen. That's its own flavor of submission and defeat. Let us weep and wail about all the terrible things that might happen while our own misery accelerates the arrival of the inevitable catastrophe.

That's fucking bullshit. As is Billy's distinction between "playing" and "watching." Every life includes plenty of both. Hell, we're all players in dozens of ways. We go to work, we discharge our professional and personal responsibilities, we look after our families, we labor to keep house and home together because these are our primary fields of battle. And we also "spectate" at the endeavours and accomplishments of others. We do that when we read a book, listen to a song, watch our children play Little League baseball, pay attention to political events that affect us, and invest our enthusiasm in sports or other subjects that inflame our curiosity and passion. Should we stop investing our enthusiasm in such things when there's a storm on the horizon? Or should we take all the more pleasure in them because there's a storm on the horizon and moments matter and life is short? Did Winston Churchill give up grinning while Hitler's Nazis closed in on Britain in 1940? No. Did he give up following Harrow's cricket season? I don't know, but I know how I'd bet.

The human record is legion on this question. People survive terrible times precisely because they have the ability to keep on living life in the face of crushing threats that by any rational measure should plunge them into doleful misanthropy. Curiously, what Billy seems to be interpreting as denial is exactly what we wind up celebrating most in the human spirit.

Herewith, today's YouTubes:

First, a fictional American entry that has nevertheless become a classic portrayal of what's called "grace under pressure."

[I could also give you the movie version of M*A*S*H as an example of necessary insanity. But I won't. It's too close and obvious an example. Football! Humor! Shit like that.]

How did the Brits who weren't Winston Churchill behave at the lip of the sink while they waited to be drawn into the Nazi vortex? Well, they didn't just sit there muttering...

You want reality? Tell me why people still read (uh, spectate at) The Diary of Anne Frank? Because right up to the moment of cataclysm, she was living her life. And that's her revenge on the people who murdered her.

And for a final example, what we have elsewhere described as one of the best film treatments of the holocaust, a movie that depicts popular culture as a heroic resistance from the lip of the sink, even as the vortex is strengthening and claiming its casualties. But the lip of the sink has its own invaluable role to play.

I sympathizeempathize with Billy's depression. I would have answered his comment differently. When he said this...

I would much rather teach my daughter history and math and writing than teach her how to corn gun powder and improvise first aid and medical supplies.

...I would have said this...

If you teach her both, she'll be more alive than she'd be in a world where only the first set of subjects was necessary. Rejoice for her. She will have a full life, however long or short it is in years. If you measure it otherwise, the totalitarians have already won.

It's what I'd say to all of you, too. If anybody asked. Which, to be honest, they haven't. And so I laugh at myself for my pretensions. A pretty good response to feeling so serious so much of the time, if I do say so myself. Anybody else feel that way?

P.S. As I reread Billy's comments, I realize that I have probably just branded myself as "neurotypical." My apologies to all those of you who aren't.

Speaking of Lions...

Rear Admiral Wayne E. Meyer (1926-2009)

NEWS. Our president delivered a eulogy for the so-called "Liberal Lion of the Senate." Did he say anything about the passing of this honest-to-God Lion of the United States Navy who did so much to keep us all safe?

Navy Marks Passing of Rear Admiral Wayne E. Meyer

Retired Navy Rear Adm. Wayne E. Meyer, regarded as the father of the Navy’s AEGIS Weapons System, passed away today.

 "I am deeply saddened by a great loss to our Navy family,” said Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations.  “Rear Admiral Meyer’s passion, technical acumen, and warfighting expertise served as the foundation of our Navy combatant fleet today.  On behalf of the men and women of the United States Navy, I extend my deepest and most heartfelt sympathy to the Meyer family.  He was a close friend and mentor to so many of us.  His legacy will remain in the Navy forever."

Meyer was born in Brunswick, Mo., on April 21, 1926.  In 1946, he graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.  He also held an master’s degree in astronautics and aeronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School.

Meyer’s Navy career began in 1943 as an apprentice seaman.  In 1946, he was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve and was transferred to regular Navy in 1948.  After several years at sea, he returned to school in 1951 and attended the Joint Guided Missile School, Fort Bliss, Texas, and the Naval Line School, Monterey, Calif., and eventually served as an instructor at Special Weapons School, Norfolk, Va.

Meyer returned to sea as executive officer on USS Strickland, followed by service on the commander’s staff, Destroyer Force Atlantic.  He was then ordered to USS Galveston.

In 1963, Meyer was chosen to head the TERRIER desk in the Special Navy Task Force for Surface Missile Systems.  He turned down a destroyer command to continue his work with missile, radar, and fire control systems, and became the founding Chief Engineer at the Naval Ship Missile System Engineering Station, Port Hueneme, Calif.  In 1970, the Navy chose then Capt. Meyer to lead the development of the new AEGIS Weapon System in the Naval Ordnance Systems Command.

In this position, Meyer was promoted to rear admiral in Jan. 1975.  In Jan. 1977, he assumed duties as the founding project manager of the AEGIS Shipbuilding Project.  This project was ultimately responsible for the construction of all of the Navy’s current cruisers and destroyers – with 89 ships built or in construction, and more in planning. This is one of the longest and largest naval shipbuilding programs in history.  He retired from active duty in 1985.

 In Nov. 2006, the Secretary of the Navy announced that an Arleigh Burke class destroyer, DDG 108, would be named in honor of Rear Adm. Meyer.  Christened on Oct. 18, 2008, the ship utilizes the same combat system that Meyer helped to develop, the Aegis Combat System, including the SPY-lD, multifunction phased array radar.  This advanced system makes the AEGIS ship the foundation of the U.S. Navy’s surface combatant fleet.  Additionally, when the ship is commissioned in Philadelphia, Pa. on Oct. 10, 2009, it will be manned with a complement of highly trained sailors, providing the Navy with a dynamic multi-mission warship that can operate independently or as part of carrier strike groups, surface action groups, or amphibious ready groups, ensuring USS Wayne E. Meyer will lead the Navy into the future.

Rear Adm. Meyer’s personal decorations and service medals include: Distinguished Service Medal; Legion of Merit; Meritorious Service Medal; Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation Ribbon with Bronze Star; China Service Medal; American Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal; National Defense Medal with Bronze Star; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal; Vietnam Service Medal; Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Unit Citation; and Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Unit Citation.

His other awards include: American Society of Naval Engineers Gold Medal, 1976; Old Crow Electronics Countermeasure Association Silver Medal; Distinguished Engineer Alumni Award, University of Kansas, 1981; Naval Ordnance Engineer Certificate #99; Fellow in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics; Missile Systems Award for distinguished service, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1983; Navy League's Rear Admiral William Sterling Parsons Award, for scientific and technical progress in construction of the nation's AEGIS fleet, 1985; Harold E. Sanders Award for a lifetime of contributions to Naval Engineering, American Society of Naval Engineers, 1985; Admiral J. H. Sides Award for major contributions to Anti-Air Warfare, National Security Industrial Association, 1988.

In 1977, Meyer was designated a Pioneer in the Navy's Acquisition Hall of Fame in the Pentagon.  In 2008, he was presented with the sixth annual Ronald W. Reagan Missile Defense Award.

No. He doesn't care at all about the members of the U.S. military. That's why support for the War in Afghanistan is vanishing. Obama is willing to spend them like pennies so long as no one else notices the cost.

But we do. Stand for the Navy Hymn.

P.S. Like our friend who's a devoted Ohio State fan, we will be rooting for Navy this week when the two play one another for the first time in years. And we also urge this further act of sedition against an administration that so despises the U.S. military.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Let's Go Debunking...

WE LOVE THIS STUFF. There are all kinds of theories, notions, and arguments that are subject to debunking. We like the adversarial quality of the process, because it's frequently as challenging and entertaining as it can be informative. Which is a pretty cool combination when you think about it. The reason for the post is that I saw an excellent two-hour production by the National Geographic Channel last night on the subject of 9/11 conspiracy theories. It was a thoroughly professional piece of journalism, and I highly recommend that everyone plan to watch the next national airing of the show on September 5th.

The first hour and three-quarters was all science, including abundant experiments and technical recreations which blew apart the contentions of the (mostly) engineer conspiracy theorists they focused on, who were filmed without much in the way of editorial comment or editing designed to make them look like lunatics in the way that editing can. But the final 15 minutes chugged on at the same deliberate pace, in the same dispassionate tone, to consider why conspiracy theorists believe what they believe and where exactly their beliefs run afoul of reality and common sense.

The narrator conceded forthrightly that none of the mountain of evidence and expertise employed in the show was likely to have any effect on those who believe in the conspiracy. Their approach to the evidence rests on a psychological foundation which represents a deliberate choice in favor of a reality they prefer to the reality most other people would accept as real. In this case, they prefer a reality in which powerful American politicians and their henchmen create an illusion of a world that hates America for being America to a world in which irrational fanatics really do hate America for being America. The difference, for them, amounts almost to a religious conviction, which cannot be argued away by mere facts.

Also part of this final segment was a summary of the problems conspiracy theorists face in trying to defend their beliefs. They're on relatively safe ground when they're nitpicking the facts in evidence.  But when they must come forward with a counter-theory that accounts for the facts no one disputes, they run into manifold violations of common sense that can never pass the laugh test. The 9/11 conspiracy they envision would necessarily have involved thousands, if not tens of thousands, of accomplices, all of whom have kept silent throughout the years of reporting and analysis on the event. And the conspiracy itself  involves all kinds of wholly unnecessary substitutions, deceptions, and switches that make sense only as components of a particular, and usually silly, reconstruction of events whose whole rationale is to explain away what thousands of witnesses actually saw.

But there is also an interesting corollary of the logic laid out in the National Geographic piece. Which is that not all conspiracy theories or outright hoaxes are created equal. There are some key criteria which determine how likely it is that a given theory or hoax might actually succeed. For example, a theory that requires only a handful of conspirators has a much better chance of succeeding than something like the 9/11 conspiracy. Even a larger number of conspirators has some chance of success if the conspirators are homogeneous and highly disciplined rather than so diverse as to require civilian conspirators as the 9/11 theory does (e.g., blue-collar building "imploders," who would have required months of preparation to bring down the WTC towers.) There's also the old dictum of  "follow the money," which in this case indicts the conspiracy theorists more than anyone else. The conspiracists on TV are getting  publicity, fame, speaking engagements, and in the case of the "Loose Change" producer abundant revenue by promoting the conspiracy.  Who, for example, has had the strongest economic incentive over the years to keep alive the theory that JFK was assassinated by anyone and everyone but Lee Harvey Oswald? Conspiracy, in a word, can be an enterprise. And a damned profitable one at that.

Finally, there's the role played by human ignorance. False ideas can be smoothly perpetuated by exploiting what people don't know or appealing to preconceptions that favor the ideas being peddled. For example, all some literal readers of the Bible need to dismiss Evolution is the fact that scientists claim the earth is billions of years old. For them, no other evidence is needed that Darwin and all his followers are in error. For another example, most people tend to believe what they are told often enough without reference to the fact that there are those who disagree on substantive grounds, like, again, the neo-Darwinian Theory of Evolution, which was undermined (at least) by one of the discoverers of DNA on the grounds that there simply hasn't been enough time in the history of the earth to account for the complexity of nature's most sophisticated molecule; it must have come from somewhere else, directed by an extra-terrestrial intelligence (not God, obviously, but most conspiracy theories rule out God, don't they?)

Of course, most people don't think they're really ignorant or gullible or divorced from reality. Some, like the nation's prosperous professional debunkers, think all theories and notions that conflict with the settled "way of things" are lunacy. That's why the remainder of this post is devoted to showing you some additional examples, illustrations, and exceptions in the exciting field of "debunking."

First up is what I think is, hopefully, a noncontroversial example of the fact that even the most literate and educated among us may harbor some convictions that are more or less false. The subject is Third World Myths. The video is far more entertaining than we have any right to expect, so I encourage you to watch all of it.

Note that there's no actual conspiracy involved in all the wrong-headed assumptions so many people have. We've simply absorbed a set of preconceptions that aren't quite true and are, in some cases, spectacularly false. Now consider how many times we've believed generalizations put forward by people who don't really know much more than we do, except that they're speaking on camera, with an air of authority. Even experts in a variety of scientific fields can be persuaded by such misinformation. How much of what we all "know" to be true is false?

Next, a teaser for a program I wish the National Geographic would pursue with the same dispassionate rigor on display in the 9/11 show. It's about Global Warming. Remember the criteria laid out above -- the facilitating role of ignorance, even among "experts," and the age-old advisory to "follow the money." There can be such a thing as a "herd conspiracy," led by no one in particular but unified by the vast, common self-interest of willing or intimidated accomplices.

But I want to be clear about one key point. Not all conspiracy theories can be dismissed out of hand. It's just that the rules of rigor always apply. A theory gets more credible if 1) its participants could have been very few in number, 2) no more than one coincidence is required to believe it, and 3) some or many of those involved in the precipitating event were incompetent, lazy, or possessed of some incentive to make inconvenient facts go away. On this side of the argument, I bring you the Robert F. Kennedy assassination in two video segments:

I have no idea what the truth is about the RFK assassination. But there is reason to wonder if the facts might be different from what they're alleged to be. It's not crazy to keep probing. It's probable that Sirhan Sirhan was the lone assassin, but not quite certain. The truth of the matter could lie in the disposition and actions of one additional guy in that hotel pantry. That's the definition of "plausible."

Sorry to have carried on for so long. In recompense I'll close with a fully effective debunking of a wholly silly bit of propaganda. You'll like it. I promise.

Good day, Lloyd, wherever you are. You're often in my thoughts and I wish you only the best.

The Greatest American
Movie Ever Made

"I could'a been somebody." One of the two or
three most famous scenes in American cinema.

FOLLOWING UP. Let me count the ways this is the best movie ever produced in Hollywood. Beginning with my own infallible personal test. I have loved, lavishly, a great many movies in my lifetime. I know a movie is good when I encounter it while flipping channels and fall into it, unable to break away to something else. But I'm a guy and eventually I reach a point where I've seen a movie enough and need either a long break or, well, don't ever need to see it again. There's only one movie that has never failed the "flipping channels" test over the long haul. This is it.

It's better than all the popular rivals that come out on top in surveys and polls. Repeated viewings take down all the greats. Citizen Kane ultimately becomes dry and gimmicky. Casablanca is, in the end, mannered, stagey. The Godfather is an emptiness that grows. (GWTW was never a good picture, only an imitation of one, the way the book was an imitation of literature.) Vertigo more Greek tragedy than Americana. Every picture finally fails the test; you can move on to something else. It's always too much this or that, arty, contrived, stylistic, heavy-handed, directorish, dated, slow, self-conscious, sentimental, pompous, actorish, suspiciously slick.

Except this one. They don't show it much anymore on television, and I'm always skeptical when they do because they're fond of trimming the violence of the final scene in particular, but it doesn't make any difference. I still have to watch it. Every time.

There has never been more talent amassed for an American picture (and all the other countries don't count, let's face it). Brando. Eva Marie Saint. Rod Steiger. Lee J. Cobb. Karl Malden (restrained from his penchant for overacting for once by director Elia Kazan), and a soul-scouring score by Leonard Bernstein. For perhaps the only time in his career, Brando is making the same picture everyone else is. (Kazan again.) And it really is his best ever performance, dumb, stubborn, vulnerable, endearing, and broken. but dumb-persistent and fine.

Kazan's direction. Masterful to the point of genius. In every scene he seems to be simply observing, almost eavesdropping close up, but the editing leaves you a little short every time, so there is no voyeurism, only that sense of glimpsing reality without being able to stay quite long enough anywhere to understand the lives you're visiting. You are always outside looking in, which is Terry Malloy's life, too, and the lives of so many of us, the spectator-accomplice in the world's nastiness that has repeatedly made him, and will again, its victim.

We encounter faith the same way he does, in isolated speeches and gestures, the unexpected heroism of a priest, the unexpected tenderness of a woman who is willing to trust what should not be trusted. All without a hint of the habitual Hollywood underlining that was bad before Kazan and has grown mysteriously worse in the age of Spielberg and Cameron. He has to make his own way, just like us, recognize a moral fork in the road without the divine cues Hollywood likes to provide, just like us, and he has to do it with a knowledge his naive moral tutors don't possess, the dirty viciousness of those he's being sermonized to oppose. His is the plight of the ordinary man forced to choose between the easy sophistry of do-gooders and the malignancy of the powerful villains he meets face to face every day. The decision he makes is far braver than the one the superior moralists in his life think they are asking for. He is a man entirely alone with an impossible dilemma, and whichever way he chooses, part of his own conscience will accuse him.

"I' ain't a bum, Edie."
(btw, is that the Andrea Doria leaving the harbor?)

All of this is the movie itself. It gets weightier when you look into the history of Elia Kazan. He made this movie for a reason. He had been a communist, a card-carrying member of the American Communist Party. He knew that the ACP was not a Hollywood affectation but an extension of the Soviet infiltration of America. He testified before Congress, and he did name names. This movie was his response to those who condemned him. There are times when it's morally right to inform on your intimates. He was right to testify. But he will never be forgiven. Like a cop who turns in his guilty partner. He crossed that thin bluered line, and he is therefore damned.

That's the only reason this movie does not sit securely at the top of all Hollywood lists of the greatest movies ever made. Elia Kazan was hated, is hated, and will continue to be hated as long as there are wifty lefties in the Hollywood community.

But a great movie is a great movie because it proves itself against the test of time. In my mind, it's the one movie I'd want every American to watch right now. Nothing else conveys the simultaneous obligations and dread of the duties of citizenship we are all facing at the moment like this movie. There is a power in charge and it controls almost every aspect of our lives. If we protest in any public way, we risk being pilloried, humiliated, branded with the worst possible labels. Almost all the by-products of standing up for a mere idea, the liberty that is our birthright, are considered bad by the powers that be. The smartest and most domineering of the elite which has usurped our place as guardians of American virtue stand ready to annihilate us for remembering the simplest possible postulate, that we are not subjects of the government but its boss.

The motivating idea is invincible. In practice, the standing up against the traitors and usurpers is damned difficult. There's every chance that you could get beaten half to death (i.e., lose everything worthwhile in your life) espousing simple truths. Look at the Town Hall folks who have been demonized by media stars making millions. Don't cross Johnny Friendly.

"I'm glad what I done to you."

Well. Do your own research. You tell me what movie is greater. Now. This is how hard it's going to get... soon.

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