Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
November 19, 2009 - November 12, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009


You have my ear.

INSTAPUNK LISTENS. I was pleasantly surprised that AllahPundit linked my last post. When I take somebody on that directly, I email them if I can to let them know about it. Seems fair. Regardless of his motives, I respect him for the link.

I also read all the comments. Some good points were made and some important questions raised. I appreciate the compliments and enjoyed the trolls. Things wouldn't seem quite real without them, would they? That's why I'd like to offer them a one-size-fits-all bouquet. YOU ARE WHO WE THOUGHT YOU WERE. Thanks for the demonstration.

But there are other, more serious questions of identity surfaced in the comments. People have different assumptions about the meaning of terms like "RINOs," "libertarians," "independents," "moderates," and even "conservatives." I'm not going to be able to match specific ideas with specific commenter names here, but I am going to clarify what I think about these labels and how they relate to the electoral task facing conservatives.

For example, I was concerned by the commenter who identified himself as a RINO because he is pro-choice in the weeks before brain activity begins in the fetus. That's not a RINO in my view. And more importantly, I don't believe it's the definition of a RINO in the poll AllahPundit was talking about. I tend to agree with the commenter who opined that RINOs are either opportunistic Democrats (Arlen Specter) who have a local reason for running as Republicans or they are Democrats Lite; that is, they have no real philosophical objection to big government solutions but get worried when they seem too expensive (John McCain).That's who I think the poll respondents were talking about.

It's true that there are one-issue conservatives, particularly on abortion. But the impact of this kind of constituency is, in my opinion, consistently overstated. One of the commenters pointed out, very eloquently, the difference between principle and ideology. Despite the media's ignorant overemphasis on the religious right, conservatives tend not to be airy-fairy utopians but hard-headed pragmatists. Their views are not a species of hyper-intellectualized theoretical dogma. which is, self-evidently, the province of liberals and snobbish conservative elites. Grass-roots conservatives tend to be merely common-sensical. Government interferences in the lives of private citizens seem to result in hideously expensive and often frightful unintended consequences, which should therefore be limited as much as possible. They regard as the only proper roles of government those things which private citizens cannot do for themselves -- administer the rule of law consistent with the Constitution, build and maintain key elements of national infrastructure like the interstate highway system, negotiate treaties with reasonable foreign powers, and defend the country from hostile threats, foreign and domestic. Everything else the government seeks to do is suspect. Not out of the question, mind you, but suspect. For example, most conservatives have no principled aversion to a safety net that protects the weakest among us from death and ruin. But the bigger government gets, the more suspicious they become.

This represents a core of beliefs to which, in all likelihood, a solid majority of Americans would subscribe. It's certainly the basis of the Reagan political coalition which won two landslides in the 1980s. What do all our other disputed definitions signify in this context? When the stakes are small, they are important drivers of individual political fortunes. But when the stakes are big enough, they are revealed as subsidiary.

In other words, there are principles, and then there are principles. The italicized ones are the ones that people remember and rally to when they are directly threatened. The others are things we care deeply about but can stand to set temporarily aside when the situation is truly dire.

Are there differences between so-called social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and national security conservatives? Yes. But they're grossly overblown by the liberal mass media and those who, for whatever reason, accept the pronouncements of the mass media. Generally, they all agree with the basic definition of conservative spelled out above. Arguments about the Ten Commandments in public places, the ongoing spat about gay marriage, guns, and the Patriot Act pale in comparison to the prospect of a government which intends to take over the entire private economy and regulate every aspect of our individual lives. Very importantly, opponents on specific issues in these camps do not fundamentally disagree about each other's root assumption -- that the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, religion, and whatever cussed viewpoint you want to espouse, with no say granted to the federal government to restrict or criminalize private opinion. I submit that Obama is a sufficiently catastrophic threat to the Constitution itself that other differences will matter less and less as we approach election day in 2010 and 2012.

There are only two points worth analyzing above and beyond the existence of this large, fundamentally American coalition. Who are the Independents, really, and what does it take to pull them toward one tent or the other? The broadest possible definition is that Independents are people who for one reason or another choose not to affiliate themselves with a major party. Some of them truly are between the two parties. These are the moderates.

I have written a fair amount about moderates, but they are only one segment of Independents, and given recent polls, hardly a decisive segment. They do get an outsized share of the press coverage because they are the politically visible and outspoken RINOs and DINOs, as well as private citizens so lacking in self-awareness they're proud to articulate their "no opinion" pitifulness on TV panels emceed by pollsters in the run-up to major elections. But their decisions have little to do with ideas or principles. They tend to vote for the last politician they heard. Which is to say they're idiots nobody should waste any analytical attention on.

There are also self-proclaimed moderates who are anything but. You have Republicans who are still pissed off at Bush and looking to punish him. You have Democrats who are pissed off at, or on behalf of, the Clintons, who want to punish the ideological sins of their party. And you have people whose political positions are so utterly incoherent that they are simultaneously rightwing and leftwing, depending on which particular issue their fragmented and contextless minds are interrogated about.

On top of this are the genuine extremists -- people too far to the right of the Republican Party to admit they'd ever endorse one of their candidates and people too far to the left of the Democrats to admit... you get the drift. On the right, for example, you have people who call themselves libertarians, objectivists, and 'Paulists,' as well as paleolithic types who are still hoping for Buchanan or Perot. On the left you have Greens, Communists, Naderites, etc.

I'll get to the bottom line of all this in a moment. Before I do, though, I'd like to say a word about libertarians. There are two varieties. The old original libertarians are actually the ideologues of the right. They hate all functions of government but customs, the post office, the courts, and (to varying degrees) the responsibility for national defense. These people have no excuse whatever for not opposing Obama tooth and claw. Then there are the contemporary squishy libertarians, who pretend to have an ideological reason for opposing everything they oppose (drug laws, anti-abortion laws, God in the public sector, wars) while tolerating a great many things that are, in fact, manifestations of big government paternalism (social security, affirmative action, environmentalism, anti-smoking laws, and various forms of economic regulation). I call these faux libertarians (or is 'urban elite libertarian' a nicer term?). Libertarians of this stripe are distinguishable by the fact that they at least occasionally spoke well of Obama before he became the anti-capitalist Anti-Christ. Their political philosophy is that they're for what they're for and against what they're against. Which makes them superior to the rest of us somehow. But when push comes to shove, if they vote, which they're often too superior to do, they will vote Republican. Mostly. Hey, Allah. How ya doing? Finding lots of common cause with Neal Boortz, Penn Gillette, and Glenn Beck, are you? Didn't think so.

BOTTOM LINE.† How would you go about winning over the "Independents"? They're just the big pile of glop in the mix. We put them in the middle only because the two parties are more clearly defined on the right and the left. But there's no valid reason for regarding them as some organized continuum between right and left. In reality, they're just the 'junk DNA' of the American political chromosome. There's no single message you can convey to them that will win them over. They're all over the place. All you can do is be who you are, believe what you believe, and trust/hope that there are enough subscribers to your core beliefs that they'll come with you when the stakes are too high for vain posturing.

And, finally. How does embracing a RINO, or even a DINO, get you even one step closer to a majority of independents? They're confused as it is. Unless they can see you're actually somewhere, you'll never tempt them out of the nowhere that is their political home.

Thanks again for all your contributions.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Big Tent Paradox

The biggest tent of all is burning. Or haven't the RINOs noticed?

REASONABLENESSITUDE. The purpose of this post is not to beat up on Allah. It's to get a jump on the furious debate that's going to be raging throughout the lead-up to the 2010 mid-term elections. Here's Allah's headline and a sample of his thinking:

Poll: 51% of Republicans would rather
risk losing elections than win with RINOs

Reminds me of Jim DeMint notoriously saying that heíd rather have 30 pure conservatives in the Senate than a centrist Republican majority, presumably so that he could lose with honor on every single vote...

Democrats are +20 on whether theyíd rather win with centrists than lose with true believers; Republicans are -8. Thatís not a huge problem when moderates are trending right after gagging on Hopenchange for the better part of a year -- note that The Oneís approval rating is now 45 percent among independents, down seven points in just a month -- but if/when unemployment starts to recover and the trend stabilizes, itís a major problem. A 28-point spread between the parties on this point essentially places the GOPís fortunes in the Democratsí hands: The only way the right wins a majority is if the left screws things up so egregiously that even staunch conservatives are apt to beat centrist Democrats head to head. Itís a passive strategy, but itís a strategy, I guess. Exit question one: If the GOPís so conservative these days, how is it that only 44 percent of Republicans want Palin to run for president versus 48 percent who donít?

It's a pretty short position statement but a telling one. It also lends itself to fisking almost line by line, beginning with that headline: 51% of Republicans would rather risk losing elections than win with RINOs. Alternatively, Republicans are finally, with the fate of the whole country on the line, prepared to make a principled stand rather than continue the squishy compromises that have led, seemingly inevitably, to the most leftist presidential administration and congress in American history. That's stupid, is it?

Then we confront the beginning of his oh-so rational argument: Democrats are +20 on whether theyíd rather win with centrists than lose with true believers; Republicans are -8. Thatís not a huge problem when moderates are trending right after gagging on Hopenchange for the better part of a year -- note that The Oneís approval rating is now 45 percent among independents, down seven points in just a month -- but if/when unemployment starts to recover and the trend stabilizes, itís a major problem. This is an argument that exposes much about the person making it. Principally that politics is not fundamentally about right and wrong policies for the country, but about playing the tidal ebb and flow of the game. It seems to assume that circumstances will sometimes favor Democrats and sometimes Republicans, almost at random, and the winner is the political operator who picks the cagiest advocacy position, not the truest one. For example, it hasn't yet occurred to AllahPundit -- can you believe it? -- that it's belief in principle which leads conservatives to the conviction that no real improvement in the economy is possible under the current regime. The Dems can screw around all they want with spin and statistical phantasms, but their policies are gutting the native resilience of the American economy. Yes, it would be a major problem if the economy somehow survived all the silver bullets that have been fired into its heart, but that's hardly a question of Las Vegas point-spreads. It's not going to happen because the Obama policies are absolutely dead wrong. What we believe.

More sophistry: A 28-point spread between the parties on this point essentially places the GOPís fortunes in the Democratsí hands: The only way the right wins a majority is if the left screws things up so egregiously that even staunch conservatives are apt to beat centrist Democrats head to head. Itís a passive strategy, but itís a strategy, I guess. He "guesses." Let me repeat his silliest point: "if the left screws things up so egregiously that even staunch conservatives are apt to beat centrist Democrats head to head." Ya think? Isn't that the whole point? This isn't some spin of the roulette wheel in which the Dems either screw things up "egregiously" or they don't, depending on where the ball drops. For those who actually have principles, it's not a guessing game at all. The Dems are screwing things up, not only egregiously but close to fatally. Opposition to this is, in the same terms, not a strategy, passive or aggressive; it's an indispensable requirement. Before we ever get to the question of what we would do instead, we have to stop the wanton demolition of the most successful nation-state ever conceived by the human mind. If you can't see that, you can't see anything or understand anything. I guess.

Proof:† Exit question one: If the GOPís so conservative these days, how is it that only 44 percent of Republicans want Palin to run for president versus 48 percent who donít? Bad assumptions and bad analysis ultimately lead to clownishness. Which is what we're getting here. Conservatives almost universally admire Palin, but they're not sure she's the right candidate to overthrow a president whose weaknesses mirror her own -- lack of experience, a celebrity based on life story rather than decades of accomplishment, and a native charisma of similar type to that which has caused the American electorate to make its most disastrous mistake ever. These are objections that have nothing to do with moderation; they are pragmatic and wise reservations for a constituency which knows that it MUST win the next presidential election or lose their country.

Here are some obvious facts AllahPundit and his ilk have consistently overlooked. As many had feared, Obama is shaping up as a weak, foolish, and utterly unqualified president akin to Jimmy Carter, though far more ideological and dangerous. The only way to deal with a disaster of such magnitude is not to make the conservative tent bigger, but to bring more people into the necessary tent. That's how Reagan trounced Carter in 1980. Nations do reach crossroads, places where the available paths diverge sharply. The challenge is to make even the noncommital, undecided, endlessly appeasing compromisers choose which fundamental direction is right and which is wrong. To ask even the barely principled to make a principled choice, because sometimes only principled choices matter.

Consider. Allah's scorn of hardass conservatism is also an implicit defense of the betrayals of Jim Jeffords, Olympia Snowe, her evil twin whose name I can't quite recall (just kidding, Susan Collins), Arlen Specter, Colin Powell, and the obsession with dealing with the devil we've seen in "Big-Tent" moderates like Lindsey Graham and his sponsor ("who's your daddy?") John McCain. (Allah does go on about about beta males. Tell you anything?)

That last name is brutally relevant. I'm hardly the first to make this point, but I'll be damned if I ever forget it. Weren't we proselytized by the politically savvy Republican moderates that nominating McCain would appeal to Independents, broaden the reach of the Republicans who had so often been tarred as rigid reactionaries? What happened? All the prominent moderates and Independents we were pandering to endorsed and voted for Obama. I mean, if there's hardly any difference between the Dem and the Repub, all the kudos go to endorsing the Dem. Hell, I'm not even certain that McCain voted for McCain. I know his damn daughter didn't.

It better not be that easy next time. And the AllahPundits of this world had better think up a new schtick for the next election cycle. Because the old one keeps reminding me of Neville Chamberlain.

Sorry, Allah. Sorry, Ed, Sorry, Michelle. I know you're making money by covering the whole waterfront with seemingly disparate positions that add up to Republican diversity. But there can be no acceptable diversity when what's at stake is our country. That's not a polling kerfuffle. For most of us, the ones who don't make our living posturing about who's up and who's down today, it's a bitterly real question of whether we get to live the rest of our lives free or as slaves of the state. If the Independents can't figure that out in spite of your temporizing, well, screw-em. Sometimes a smaller tent is more attractive -- because it seems more of an accomplishment to get into. That's the paradox.

Just so you know.

UPDATE. As should be obvious, AllahPundit linked this post (thank you, AP), and a lot of his commenters came by to read it. I've responded to some of their points here. Yup. Patrick included.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

An Ayn Rand Primer

"You zee, if you force ze record to go backward, with a hand motion like
zees, it produce very pleasing zound. Which I call 'scratching ze record.'"

WE KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT MISUNDERSTOOD GENIUS. Like it or not, Ayn Rand is returning to the public consciousness in a big way. At protests and on bumper stickers around the country, Atlas Shrugged quotes have become a common sight. Atlas has gone from literary whipping boy to prophecy so accurate it reads like simple parody (we know something about that, too). Major-league libertarians are running a whole series of videos about Rand's newly relevant ideas. And observant people everywhere are otherwise remembering that philosophy phone book of hers they read back in college.

The New Yorker, of course, noticed none of this. It took two Rand biographies coming out at the same time to raise their eyebrows. Wasting no (further) time, they dispatched DC-area critic Thomas Mallon to reassure the intellectual crowd they don't have to revise any of their crap biases. The esteemed publication won't let you read the review for free, ironically, but they graciously let you look at an abstract. It gives you the tone and quality of the hit piece right away.

These objective looks at the first Objectivist, Anne C. Hellerís ďAyn Rand and the World She MadeĒ (Doubleday; $35) and Jennifer Burnsís ďGoddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American RightĒ (Oxford; $27.95), have different strengths and a shared weakness. Heller does the better job dealing with Randís early life in Russia and her later personal dramas. Burns more ably situates Rand within and against the world of American conservatism. Both biographers overestimate the literary achievement of their subject, whose intellectual genre fiction puts her in the crackpot pantheon of L. Frank Baum and L. Ron Hubbard.

Disregarding the syphilitic inclusion of Baum (it's a bit ham-handed to levy the "crackpot" charge at an author of fantasy books for children), there's a major flaw in Mallon's lumping: Rand was right. L. Ron Hubbard's nightmare of alien tyrant Xenu bedeviling the earth with a fleet of spaceborne DC8s has not, as of this writing, come true. Rand's vision of the enslavement of the competent to the incompetent, and the ensuing collapse of liberty and civilization, has. Is coming true right now, point of fact.

There's a lot of ill-informed opinion about Ayn Rand and Objectivism. Every group has an excuse to not read her fairly. Lefties hate her because she taught that man has an inherent right to pursue happiness for himself. The Christian right hates her because she was a staunch atheist. The other conservatives hate her because Bill Buckley told them to.

I've been a student of Objectivism for years. I'm infected with none of the prejudices of either her detractors or her acolytes. I'm in a unique position to give you the lowdown on what Objectivism really has to offer the conservative movement, from the weaknesses in its metaphysics, to its strengths in providing a moral base for preserving and reinforcing American freedom.

Or I can just let YouTube do that heavy lifting. Some of us have day jobs, after all.

Thanks to THE INTERNET, you can get more of the straight dope (so to speak) from the horse's mouth (uh, so to speak) than ever before. Here's an Ayn Rand primer, in easy-to-digest VIDEO!

There are other Ayn Rand interviews, notably with Mike Wallace in the 50s and Phil Donahue, taped shortly before she passed. The Donahue special strays into trivia too often. And the Wallace, while beeee-yootifully shot in that no-BS, early-days-of-TV black and white, doesn't quite hit the heights like this Tom Snyder episode from the ugly-as-sin Carter administration. Wallace is clearly in over his head trying to match wits with Rand. Snyder, on the other hand, prefers to simply do his job as an interviewer, which is to coax and guide the thoughts and feelings out of his subject. Part 1 might seem like fluff, but it's all set-up for Parts 2 and 3, which kicks the philosophy talk into high gear.

Rand made dozens of attempts (maybe not dozens, I don't know the exact number, fuck off) over the years to summarize her philosophical innovation. Her informal history of human thought in For the New Intellectual is compelling, but ultimately unsatisfying. And a hero's treatise at the end of Atlas goes on for 100 pages (I mean 100 pages where every paragraph starts with, and does not end with, quotation marks), and, though awesome, features no organization whatsoever. The clip above is the best. A comparatively short speech from the film adaptation of The Fountainhead, that other book of hers you've heard of.

Evidently heavily NyQuilled, Rand slaps conservatism around like Bogart slapping Peter Lorre in The Maltese Falcon. Her judgement is brusque and incomplete, but, as always, she has a point...

Objectivists have a reputation as humorless fanatics. It's earned. Here's a welcome exception. Josh Zader founded the first (but not the last?) dating site for Objectivists and Rand enthusiasts. This is maybe the only time I've heard-- or read-- what it's like to be an Objectivist and live your life doing something other than thinking about Objectivism all the time.

For some reason, all this Ayn Rand talk made me think of this clip. Weird.

From here, you can decide if you're ready to take the plunge into the thousand-page Atlas, or the 700 page Fountainhead. Or, try some of her shorter, but no less intellectually compact, non-fiction. Prepare for The Objectivist Ethics the way you would a hike up Everest, or a week-long scuba dive.

And if Rand's personal tone turns you off, let me tempt you with another Objectivist writer.

It makes no sense to say that need itself confers a right unless someone else has the ability to meet that need. So any "right" to medical care imposes on someone the obligation to provide care to those who cannot provide it for themselves.

If I have such a right, some other person or group has the involuntary, unchosen obligation to provide it. I stress the word "involuntary." A right is an entitlement. If I have a right to medical care, then I am entitled to the time, the effort, the ability, the wealth, of whoever is going to be forced to provide that care. In other words, I own a piece of the taxpayers who subsidize me. I own a piece of the doctors who tend to me. The notion of a right to medical care goes far beyond any notion of charity. A doctor who waives his bill because I am indigent is offering a free gift; he retains his autonomy, and I owe him gratitude. But if I have a right to care, then he is merely giving me my due, and I owe him nothing. If others are forced to serve me in the name of my right to care, then they are being used regardless of their will as a means to my welfare. I am stressing this point because many people do not appreciate that the very concept of welfare rights, including the right to health care, is incompatible with the view of individuals as ends in themselves.

Tell me you don't want that in your ideological toolbox.

John Ford, John Wayne,
and the Americans

There's a story about this song and John Wayne.
And another story about John Ford in tears.

WHO WE AREWERE. Mrs. CP and I are still recovering from our latest Netflix movie rental, Watchmen. It's always irked her that once I start watching a movie, however bad it is, I have to see it through to the end. This time, I volunteered to pull the plug forty minutes in. That's how bad it was. Then we consulted our list of recent releases we had signed up for and realized there weren't any we really wanted to see. They were simply the best (least obviously awful) of a bad lot. So I've been on the alert for tips about movies, present and past, that can see us through the deeps of winter and the NBA season. A big problem for me is that there are very few movies I can bear to see again and again. Usually, I need five to ten years between viewings of even great movies. My better half is not always exactly gruntled about this; she'd really like to see Touch of Evil and Three Days of the Condor again, for example, but I'm not good enough at concealing my lack of enthusiasm. I need to work on that.

But sometimes the universe does provide. Today, with this on my mind, I stumbled on a multi-part meditation on an old movie I have somehow never seen. (I guess I always thought it was a routine WWII actioner.) It's the work of a director even Orson Welles approved of. When asked to name the three greatest movie directors, he answered, "John Ford, John Ford, and John Ford." I think I know what he meant. But the guy who's writing this series of articles on a John Ford movie I've never seen absolutely knows what Orson Welles meant. Here are two paragraphs from the first of five posts at Big Hollywood:

They Were Expendable was made in the Fall of 1944, while most of the people portrayed in the story were still rotting in Japanese POW camps, if indeed they weren't already dead. Just like our modern foes, the Japanese mocked the Geneva Conventions throughout World War II, and by the end some 40% of the POWs in their care had been executed, starved, or died of disease in their camps. This is compared to Europe, where only 1% of American POWs in German camps died. The events the film depicts took place in early 1942 when, in the wake of Pearl Harbor, tens of thousands of Americans found themselves trapped in the Philippines and facing a fearsome Japanese invasion. The enemy bombed them with impunity, destroying their bases and leaving them with only four planes and an assortment of tiny boats. Supplies and morale dwindled into oblivion as, rather than be evacuated, they were ordered to hold their positions as long as possible against -- and eventually be killed or captured by -- an overwhelming enemy who was infamous for torturing and murdering prisoners.

How these Americans (and Filipinos) comported themselves as they were gobbled up by the Japanese war machine, buying time with their lives so that General MacArthur could escape the clutches of the enemy and prepare a counter-assault, is the focus of the film. And yet it is like no other war film ever made. Its long running time (two hours, sixteen minutes) allows us to linger on scene after scene of doomed men and women slowly losing their grip on their homes, their jobs, their culture, and each other. Under Ford's direction, the movie rises above mere plot -- battles, strategies -- to become something much greater: the cinematic ennobling of an entire people, their way of life, their code of honor, and their selfless sacrifice. Lindsay Anderson would later declare it his single favorite film from his single favorite director, noting the presence of "image after image of conscious dignity" depicting a "love of brotherhood, loyalty," and "the spirit of endurance that can wring victory from defeat."

The writer's name is Leo Grin. He goes on to reveal more about John Ford, John Wayne, and other members of Ford's legendary acting troupe than I've read anywhere else, including lacunae such as Wayne's almost pitiful letter to Ford looking for some way into the war. I won't beat the drum any more. Here are links to the five parts posted thus far:

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

I don't know about you, but I'm planning to see this movie ASAP. I remember the Americans. And I miss them like hell.

Hating Sarah Palin

Newsmagazine? Really? REALLY? She says it's sexist,
I think it's great publicity: "Who's your Mommy?"
I mean, if we have to have a Mommy in the new nanny
state, I'll take her. Better than Hillary's Nurse Ratched.
I'm sure I'm not alone in this. Unless you're a liberal...

GOD SAVE US FROM 'SMART' PEOPLE. This isn't about her political prospects. We've written about those before and, like everyone else, we don't know what they are. We're skeptical about whether she's done, or doing, her necessary homework. And like Mrs. CP is about Rutgers and Ravens games, I find that I simply can't watch her various collisions with the MSM. I have to change the channel, invent a chore, or develop a sudden interest in the 161st NatGeo explanation of the Mayan collapse. So I guess I like her. I had a similar problem watching Reagan's dealings with the press in his second term and all of Ali's fights after the Thrilla in Manila. It doesn't say anything about their competence; it says plenty about my protective paranoia.

Like Ali, she's obviously tougher than my fears for her. So put all that aside. When I look at it clinically, I can sort of understand some of the hostility she attracts. Republican elitists think she's a fetching distraction who might guarantee a presidential loss in 2012 we could otherwise avoid with a safe choice like Romney (ugh). Democratic operatives are still smarting from the experience of seeing a mere woman from nowhere delivering the only telling body blows against Obama anyone scored against him in the entire 2008 presidential campaign. All of which means that she's a political force to be reckoned with, and depending on your own personal politics and ambitions, you might be understandably disposed to oppose her.

But here's what I don't get. Hating Sarah Palin. That's my whole point here. Think about it. Who do you have to be to hate Sarah Palin?

And through my general skittishness and protectiveness, I'm perceiving this as a major-league, big-time question. If you're a woman, you hate her because she's beautiful, famous, happily married, a devoted mother, and strong enough to endure an unending media assault indistinguishable for all intents and purposes from gang rape? Really? You hate her? WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU? What I know for sure: I don't ever want to be in your bed or have you in any part of my life. You're a cunt.

If you're a man, you hate her because she's beautiful, famous, happily married, a devoted mother, and strong enough to endure an unending media assault indistinguishable for all intents and purposes from gang rape? Really? You hate her? WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU? What I know for sure: I don't want you as a friend, an in-law, a colleague, a business acquaintance, or even the stranger sitting next to me on a barstool. If I knew you felt that way, I would never return even a business phone call, let alone shake your hand in a corporate conference room or play you a game of 8-ball in a local tavern. You're a worthless prick and probably a violent mysogynist suffering from -- what do they call it now? -- erectile dysfunction. No wonder we're all about 'texting' now. ED = PC. But a limp dick is a limp dick and infinitely more pitiful for being a partisan cause.

You want to tell me it's about politics. Politics? Politics? Hatred. Over politics.

I despise Barack Obama more than I've ever despised any politician. I believe he's a conscious enemy of the United States of America. I don't much like his wife either. But if Republicans did to Michelle Obama and her daughters what Democrats and "nonpartisan" journalists have done to Sarah Palin and her family, I would be outraged to the point of foaming-at-the-mouth fury. It's unspeakable, despicable, so far beneath contempt as to be inhuman.

So what does it really mean that so many highly educated and well connected liberals hate Sarah Palin enough to demand the right to inspect her uterus, endlessly republish Photoshop fakes of her in lewd circumstances, and denounce every single aspect of her identity as a woman, a mother, and a person?

I think it tells us who we're really up against. There's nothing liberal about liberals. They're an army of Stalins. They're all psychopathic impotents five-feet-three in the mirror, willing to slaughter millions to make themselves feel taller, smarter, more powerful, bigger. Men and women both.

You see, that's what a strong, capable woman does to both men and women. The insecure ones, that is. She makes them feel small, weak, and afraid. If you're a man, your dick shrivels. If you're a woman, you become a ravening, vengeful harridan.

Sarah Palin's most useful role, regardless of her political future, is as a litmus test. In her presence, otherwise civilized-seeming liberals show their true colors. Her very being exposes their dark oppositeness. She is luminously beautiful; they hate her because they are dark and ugly, soul ugly, inside. She is strong; they are vindictively weak. She is a mom's mom; they are at best, technically, parents. She is independent and vital: they are (co-)dependent and perversely in thrall to death. She is religious; they are lost and alone in a bleak textbook universe. She shoots guns and drives snowmobiles for fun; they are terrified of the outdoors and buy Priuses to alleviate a guilt whose source they can never acknowledge and never expiate without an act of suicide they have no stomach for. She is normal, ordinary, average but alight; they suspect they are ordinary too, except that they have no light. They are drab. They hate her.

Americans -- remember them? -- should be asking themselves what it means that a woman of traditional American values can be so reviled, so relentlessly, so unscrupulously, so take-no-prisoners viciously. She doesn't need to become president to perform an invaluable role. Why is she so popular in the heartland? Because she is us. A good-hearted ambitious American doing her best to offer her best. If they -- and who are they, exactly? -- hate her so much, then it has to be the case that she's only a symbol of the hatred they feel for all the rest of us. If ordinary average Americans ever figure this part of the equation out, the 'liberals' are done forever. I'm thinking Sarah Palin is making that outcome more likely.

I don't usually end on a minor key. But this time I will. Courtesy of Brizoni. He decided to explain Ayn Rand to you all since his elders had obviously failed at the task. His post reminded me that in Atlas Shrugged, there's a thirty or sixty page exegesis on the value of American currency because the symbol of the dollar represents a 'U' superimposed on the 'S.' So I'll close this rant with an altogether other observation: "U.S." is a far more direct reference to the people our government now wants to subjugate and control. Us.

Call it the Most Inconvenient Truth.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Weirdness: A Diversionary Post

REAL SCI-FI. Did anybody else have a weird weekend? The sense that everything had tipped into the Twilight Zone during the umptieth week in a row of the Obama administration?

For example, Eduardo was upset by the Obama bow. So were others:

uh, What? Doh-bama. Not news. Didn't bow at all to QE2. Did bow to Saudi King Abdullah and Akihito, son of Hirohito. Where's the mystery? He's the butt-boy of every (non-western) royal creep on earth. Twilight ZoneHomey.

Still others were upset by the decision to try Khalid Sheikh Muhammed in New York. Which makes perfect sense if your principal view of reality is the Sci-Fi series "Fringe."

Criminal law enforcement as an anti-terror tactic and treating terrorists like American citizens in judicial proceedings makes perfect sense if 9/11 never happened. Which -- abracadabra -- it never did. Any more questions?

But my job is and remains making sense of all this for people who definitely know better. You know. Affirming the sensible. Explaining the apparently inexplicable. Illuminating sheer dumbassery in all its stupid glory. And reminding even the most eminently skeptical that there are "more things in heaven and earth... than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Affirming the Sensible. Trust a moderate to think the New England Patriots made a huge mistake in going for it on fourth-and-two when they were up by six points with more than two minutes left.

Except that if you're the BEST coach, your thought process is different from all the mediocrities you compete with. You're able to recognize game-changing talent on the other side. If you actually believe in genius talent, your decision process changes. You know that giving a genius two full minutes to go 70 yards is an invitation to disaster. If you're a genius yourself, you take a calculated risk: you trust your own judgment to take command of the situation and prevent the awful thing from happening by preventing it from happening. What I couldn't believe was all the sportscasters who proclaimed, "you have to punt especially because of Peyton Manning." When what was obvious to me was that you'd have to punt if the quarterback was anyone but Peyton Manning (or your own Tom Brady -- takes one to know one). Bellichick was just being smart. Everybody else was being an idiot. As usual.

Well, how about that? With one example, I also accomplished the next two objectives: 2) Explaining the apparently inexplicable, and 3) Illuminating sheer dumbassery in all its stupid glory.

All that remains is is the fourth objective: Reminding you that there are "more things in heaven and earth... than are dreamt of in your philosophy." To do that, I've got a video, a website, and a photograph. I can't wait to hear from all the Patriots fans who are also experts on Gaugin and the moon. It'll be so kewl.

As I said, it was a weird weekend. Is it possible that Peyton Manning really is the second coming of Johnny Unitas? Of course not. There's no such thing as reincarnation. Period. Like, I mean, abolutely not. Impossible (h/t Lloyd Pye).

At least reincarnation isn't explicitly Judeo-Christian. More Buddhist than anything, right? Until you bring possession into it. Which the Booth Brothers clearly did with their documentary about this outlandish story:

Tired yet? Okay. We're left with one weird photograph from the dark side of the moon. And it really is from the moon. But there has to be a good explanation, a really good explanation, why there's nothing weird about it.


Okay. I have a deal for you. You explain to me why a president of the United States bows abjectly to the son of Hirohito without a murmur of complaint from the New York Times, and I'll explain to you why there's no such thing as the spirit world and why there are no crystalline towers or ruins on the moon.

Is that a contract? Here's my hand...

P.S. Yeah, I know there's no such thing as any of this. Except Bill Bellichick. Think about that.

P.P.S. After "The Trilogy," here's my favorite weirdness from the liberals' favorite network torture-porn:

Part of the weirdness. Actually watched the CSI "Trilogy" crossover. Not my first crossover. It was the first time I'd seen CSI Miami in a couple of years. The whispering. The shades. It made me sick. A weirdness antidote: Caruso killed.

Small notes. Marg Helgenberger looks like an old madam. Gary Sinise looks like he didn't want to have anything to do with Caruso. Laurence Fishburne looks like a tuna. Jonathan Togo looks really really FAT (which is bad for the young stud role). Emily Procter looks puffed and stretched. Melina Kankaredes still looks good, if a bit gaunt. And CSI Las Vegas still looks too dim-watted to look at. But we did enjoy CSI Vegas's goof on Caruso's sunglasses. Too bad it wasn't encyclopedic.

NETFLIX QUESTION:† If Marg Helgenberger is beautiful, what is David Caruso? ANSWER: The square root of awful NOT multiplied by the cube of pretentious.

Friday, November 13, 2009

What I Can't Understand

Obama's cool middle-finger salute to Hillary during the 2008 campaign.
Sometimes the teenager comes to look like a man without becoming one.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS. Rasmussen is the pollster who knows what's going on with likely voters. Obama's job approval rating is now below 50 percent. Even Gallup reports that the president's heavy-handed push for socialized medicine has resulted in a backlash of monumental ("sea change") proportions. But other polls seem to indicate that however much they disagree with his policies, Americans continue to like Barack Obama personally. Job approval and personal approval are different things, as this recent USA Today debate between Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel verifies. According to Thomas:

While the president's personal approval ratings remain above 50%, support for his performance has fallen to under 50%. And, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll late last month, for the first time since Obama was elected, a majority think the U.S. is on the "wrong track."

So. What I don't get is who it is that likes Obama personally and why. Is it a politically correct lie? "You'll never catch me saying I don't like this president..." Actually, I hope that's what it is. Because there's nothing to like about Barack Obama. He is cold, remote, haughty, lecturing, humorless, vindictive, tone-deaf about both public opinion and public emotion, indecisive, conceited, and sweepingly judgmental. Not somebody you'd ever buy a drink for in your local tavern. JFK had a regal bearing, too, but he charmed with his undeniable common touch. I can imagine pool players in NFL jerseys happy to buy him a snifter of brandy and overlook his unfamiliarity with darts, but not this guy. I can't imagine him ever passing a mirror without pausing to admire himself in it.

For me this is an incredibly important point. I'm closer than I've ever been to doubting the essential wisdom of the American people. I've always thought it okay that they don't know who the Vice President or Speaker of the House is, because I always trusted them to be able to recognize a total, creepy phony. Either they do recognize it and aren't saying, or they are being dangerously gullible in the face of an historic threat to their own freedom.

Please educate me about this. I don't know how to read the evidence.

For example, I warned about this as a potential problem around election time last year. I said:

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.

How, then, should I interpret the gay, pro-Hillary website which said this today?

Oh, how we RAILED against Bush in 2000Öand how we RAILED against the surge in support Bush received post-9/11 when he went to Ground Zero and stood there with his bullhorn in the ruins on that hideous day.

We were convinced that ANYONE who was president would have done what Bush did, and would have set that right tone of leadership in the wake of that disaster.† President Gore, President Perot, President Nader, you name it.† ANYONE, we assumed, would have filled that role perfectly.

Well, we told you before how much the current president, Dr. Utopia, made us realize just how wrong we were about Bush.† We shudder to think what Dr. Utopia would have done post-9/11.† He would have not gone there with a bullhorn and struck that right tone.† More likely than not, he would have been his usual fey, apologetic self and waxed professorially about how evil America is and how justified Muslims are for attacking us, with a sidebar on how good the attacks were because they would humble us.

Honestly, we donít think President Gore would have been much better that day.† The world needed George W. Bush, his bullhorn, and his indominable spirit that dayÖand we will forever be grateful to this man for that.

Are they exceptions? Or are they the emotionally honest ones who actually have the balls to expose the lie other Americans are telling pollsters?

Help me out here.

I want to believe that even Americans who don't understand the healthcare debate (or know who Joe Biden is) can see that they made a gigantic mistake. If they can't, we're done for. If they see Obama for what he is, there is still hope.

Tell me.


Which one has the calculating eyes? Which one the charisma?

THE SHARPEST KNIFE IN THE DRAWER. Ann Althouse has now passed judgment on Sarah Palin. Amazing that she waited so long:

Sarah is Dumb...

Women have been patted on the head like that for years. It does not express more profound respect. Indeed, it often betrays disrespect under the surface. If ó back when my sons were children ó someone had told me that he was impressed by my work as a law professor because I was a "working mom," I would have felt insulted. Perhaps he only meant well, but I would make a mental note to be suspicious of him. The famous Samuel Johnson quote would spring to mind: "Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."

If Sarah Palin did not see the limited value of Nicolle Wallace's comment about Katie Couric, then she is too pollyannaish and unsophisticated to be trusted with presidential power. Couric is a pussycat compared to the world leaders who will smile and exude pleasantries and then stab you in the back.

And blah blah blah. A few points. Women are always nastiest to other women. Althouse, for example, has a soft spot for both the political and ethical mistakes of Al Gore. Apparently she likes doughy idiots with penises, especially if they were born to power.

At the same time, she seems curiously lacking in sympathy for a penis-deprived person who was absolutely rocketed from oblivion into a race for the presidency of the United States.

Permit me to make a few points on behalf of the female sex that the law professor Althouse seems not to think worth considering.

For example, I wrote Palin off as soon as she resigned her governor's chair. But now I'm thinking maybe I misunderestimated her. Everything I know tells me she's not ready for national office. But women have their own ways of doing things. Let me repeat that. Women have their own ways of doing things. Sarah Palin is breaking ALL the rules, every day, consistent with how she's behaved from Day One of her national celebrity. I have absolutely no idea what's she's up to. Does that make her an idiot? Maybe. Unless it makes her something brand new.

It's interesting to me that women in particular never think of other women in terms of destiny. They think of other women in terms of hard work, dues paid, credentials acquired, scandals avoided or mitigated, but never ever EVER in terms of just showing up when destiny is calling, the way Napoleon and Lincoln did.

Because most women don't think of themselves that way. At base, they know they're second rate. They have to plot and connive and wriggle into positions of power. Obey the rules. All the rules. If they deviate, even once, they're done. Toast.

Which means that the thing they hate the most is another woman who just is. I have a leg up here because I'm married to one like that. Sarah Palin breaks all the rules, recklessly, fearlessly, apparently even self-destructively. But she's a comet. None of us knows where's she'll land, how, or why. If she were a man we could describe her as a running back loose in the secondary. She could dance her way to the end zone with one counter-intuitive move after another.

But she's a woman. Which is fatal.

Except that if we're being honest about our belief in the equality of the sexes, she just might be crafting a new way. Upending all the old rules. Destiny might be on her side after all. After Obama, America might be sick to death of 'brilliance,' and want instead a candid traditionalist with five kids and a healthy openness about how easy it is to get suckered by the mass media machine.

What value might Americans place on an 'anti-politician,' one who admits she's more like us than them, one who is as demonstrably fearless as she is professedly ordinary? And far more beautiful than all her female and geeky detractors?

It's the kind of situation that's guaranteed to make most women dislike her. The women who are imitation men, that is. [Cough, cough.] But I can assure you that men are paying attention. They're not necessarily convinced yet that she's a presidential candidate. But they're prepared to be convinced. And all the woman hatred heaped on her does nothing but open their minds further.

That's all I'm saying. Althouse is an empty vessel here.

Palin's comet arc allows for plenty of mistakes and missteps. She has that smile. And that gift of honesty. We'll see what happens in the end. Oh yes we will. And the smart women will have nothing to do with that outcome. Guaranteed.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sincere Tributes to Veterans

WREATHS ARE NICE TOO. I don't want to besmirch yesterday's Veterans Day remembrances and ceremonies by criticizing the President's recent speeches at Fort Hood and Arlington. One of them is being hailed in some quarters as his best speech ever, and the other is widely deemed at least adequate to the occasion. I urge you to read them for yourselves. As you do so, though, perhaps you might consider a few simple questions. Do a search for the words 'free,' 'freedom,' 'liberty,' 'great,' 'greatest,' 'heroes,' 'independence,' 'dream,' 'courage,' 'bravery,' 'valor,' 'duty,' 'honor,' 'country,' 'victory,' and, also, 'terror.' Most of these words do appear. But are the contexts in which they're used quite what you'd expect from the POTUS and Commander-in-Chief of a war in two theaters against fanatical enemies who seek to destroy our entire way of life?

More specifically, is there anything in the the Veterans Day remarks that couldn't -- apart from a couple of proper nouns -- be said by any leader of any western democracy? Is it just me, or is there something rather 'one size fits all' about its neatly elegant rhetoric? An impressively subtle damning with praise in a plain white wrapper? And does the "best speech ever" erase the affect of the curiously delayed and flat response to the original event shown here?

Answer these question as you will. I don't insist on my own doubts. I just wonder...

Enough of that. Thanks to Jonah Goldberg, I discovered an antidote to my darker thoughts. First reactions do tell us a lot about what's genuine emotion and what isn't, and a site called Mental Floss has compiled a contagiously heartwarming collection of videos showing us how dogs (you know, the ones who 'don't really love their masters') respond to the homecomings of veterans returning from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other missions military. Jonah posted a favorite, and so will I:

For the rest go to Mental Floss.

If only they could all come home, safe and sound, to such unqualified love.

Hope from down
South Carolina way.

BIG VS. SMALL. A possible way out of the totalitarian Obama takeover. Not my idea, but one worth noodling about nonetheless. I know other people who have ideas, some of them from the hated state of South Carolina. So sue me. For example, the source of this idea has a daughter whose theory about Tom Brady is that he's a space alien. How else could somebody so pretty get away with so much in the NFL and win so easily? Sounds good to me.

Her father has an even more interesting idea. He tends to laugh at my fulminations about the state of the nation. He thinks I'm looking at everything backwards. As if the federal government of the United States were as important as it undoubtedly thinks it is. As if the federal government is the United States and can make or break what we do.

In his view, the federal government is simply a parasite, living off the productivity of the U.S. economy, its resources, expertise, and imagination. Like a tick. Granted, a great big fat tick that can infect its host with dangerous diseases, but certainly not an intelligent organism that has any ability to steer or control what it's feeding on. It's just a tick.

Which means that when it's fattened itself too much on the host, when it's bloated itself to the point that all its little legs are waving helplessly in the air, it will simply drop off -- a malignant irrelevancy shed.

In practical terms this means that the federal government can make us very sick, as it is doing now, but ultimately has no power to stifle the life force of the American economy. If the federal government makes promises it cannot keep, if it writes checks it cannot pay, if it presumes to tell people how to live who don't want to live that way, the casualty will not be America as a nation, but the federal government itself.

Yes, there will be another Great Depression when the federal government destoys the currency and seeks to levy confiscatory taxation of what truly productive people earn, but the Constitution does not reside solely within the courts. It is embedded in the people. We will not give up our right to freedom of speech, religion, and due process. The laws of contracts will survive malevolent, destructive regulations, because vicious federal bureaucracies lead inevitably to federal bankruptcy. Americans understand the sanctity of contracts, even if they have to be enforced by handshakes. The states will re-emerge. When the U.S. government becomes an empty shell, New Jersey will deal directly with California, Colorado with Florida, Tennessee with Montana. We the People will remain the most powerful economic force on earth, because whether Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, or Arlen Specter like it or not, we will still need paperclips, cellphones, disk brakes, title insurance, sump pumps, and, uh, doctors.

For example. The doctors who exit the medical economy when they learn that they're all going to be compensated as miserably as they are under Medicare will immediately join a black market economy that provides services for cash on the barrelhead. People will pay for what they receive. And it will be cheaper than what the government promises because the government won't be involved.

In this case, the bad news is the good news. We have seen, countless times though history, that the character of a people determines the character of their government. Soviet Russsia bore an eerie resemblance to czarist Russia. Communist China is a nastier version of dynastic imperial China. Fascist Italy was ultimately as Italian (i.e., WTF) as democratic Italy. Totalitarian America will simply be freedom and liberty reconfigured. The great hole in the Alinsky manual's recipe for dictatorship is that it forgets what spawned it: America's New Left revolutionaries were generated by a disdain for authority, but that disdain for authority long predates Alinsky. It goes all the way back to the Revolution. When it comes to resistance to authority, we're ALL experts, born and raised.

If ever there was a people who could subvert, torpedo, and destroy a totalitarian system, however cleverly conceived, it's the Americans. We may be too inattentive to notice the means by which the law is stolen from us and used against us. But just try to rule us. If you think government lost the War on Drugs, I beg you to imagine what will happen to the war on Capitalism.

Biggest problem in trying to turn the U.S. into France, the U.K., Germany, Italy, Norway, or Sweden? We are NOT France, the U.K., Germany, Italy, Norway, or Sweden. This I know through direct, personal, ludicrous experience. My South Carolina friend simply reminded me of it.

We are Americans. No matter how much our own government goes so out of control that it forgets the ancient American rule: Wrong us and we WILL make you pay.

Obama has started a fight he cannot ever win. Which is the final perfect definition of a born loser. Check the polls. Slowly but surely, this is the judgment they are rendering.

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