Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
April 29, 2010 - April 22, 2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


We're raising a nation of permanent adolescents.

BEAUTIFUL MUSIC. This week, a five-part series of National Review interviews with Mark Steyn. In the words of P. G. Wodehouse, he's the bee's knees. His website is a fascinating mix of brilliantly polemical political commentary and brilliantly nuanced essays on culture topics like twentieth century songwriting, performers, movies, books, and  Broadway. A man after my own heart. Don't miss this chance to see him close up.

P.S. Have to do this because I can't not do it. Steyn has written better about Sinatra than anyone ever. He's not just a cultural voyeur. He understands in incredibly detailed terms what made Sinatra such a genius -- his ear for songs, his intense involvement in arrangements, his innovation, risk-taking, and perfectionism. His essay about the Sinatra classic "I've Got You Under My Skin" made the song brand new to me, a huge feat considering I'd heard it over and over since earliest childhood.

But the wicked thing about Steyn's website is that he posts things for a time then locks them up in his private cupboard until enough demand builds for another posting. I've actually emailed him pleading for another look at "Under My Skin." He didn't answer me. (Which made me sad, not resentful. He has his own schedule for such things.) I feel the same way about his essay on Sinatra's rendition of "Soliloquy." But I can't even find a Sinatra recording of that at YouTube.

Anyway. It's always been a theory of mine that you have to have a passion for something, to a depth that requires encyclopedic learning, before you can be a successful generalist on other subjects. You have to know what knowing is before you can lay claim to an informed opinion on anything else. Irrelevant as it may seem, much of Steyn's political acuity is traceable to his bloodhound tenacity for running down seeming trivialities like this:

If that doesn't seem to make sense to you young'uns, it's only because sense itself has been deconstructed in your lifetimes. Why I worry so much about where you're headed...

Guilty Pleasures 3

Happy anniversary, my love.

THE GHOST STILL WALKS. Commenters on a recent post were kind enough to hit some of the high spots of InstaPunk posts past. Like Guilty Pleasures. The video shown above isn't exactly a guilty pleasure, but it's close enough for me: self-revelation, the thing I hate more than any other. Which is, I guess, the third degree of guilty pleasures, that thing which unclothes you in public. Not what you're embarrassed to like but what exposes your essence. Want to play? As before, there will be no value judgments. I'm willing to post whatever you want to share. Who are you?  I'll step up myself before I ask you to  strip. Here's mine:

Unless it's this instead:

Or this:

Unless it's this:

Life is complicated.

For sure. I die every day. A Harvard musician friend told me Gorecki was "boring." That's when I split with Harvard forever. He died and I'm awful. Go figure. My bad taste in music equals my bad taste in poetry. Which is why I like my own. As I said, life is complicated.

UPDATE. People seem to be getting the wrong idea. It's about what breaks your most private heart. I ask you all to listen to the last YouTube video. Close your eyes. Hear the lyrical voice of sorrow, unrelieved and hopeless of escape. Listen to that dreadful descending scale, its repetitive soundings and inevitable, cumulative, beautiful, step-by-step, downward path. Death and loss rise in our lives as we subside. Hypnotic, mathematical, even seductive. How do we, can we, counteract such a perfect force of nature? What I fight against while the universe insists otherwise.

Everything you need to know me is here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Real Obama Legacy

The last music we'll ever hear. I knew there was a reason
behind the greatest all-purpose trailer track ever. Enjoy it.

YOU BET HE'S SMART. I got an email from Doc Zero about this post. So it must be important. Bails me out of a trap I've been falling into lately: I keep thinking what's happening is so obvious it needs no comment because you must already know. You do know, don't you? Don't you?

Historians will ask over and over why yet another feckless Democrat was elected in 2008. How could Americans be so blind to the circling jackals of this world?

Now Obama seems intent on reversing the Cold War and letting nuclear proliferation explode. In Congress, the Democrats are committing mass suicide for him. FDR gave us the New Deal, and Obama is giving us the Raw Deal...

Obama is now set to be the biggest loser of the last sixty years -- the man who let nuclear weapons explode out of control by fundamentally misunderstanding the nature of the threat. The implications for the future are  unpredictable, but just as World War II was more consequential than the New Deal, there is nothing an American president can do that is more important that his national security actions. When -- not if -- nuclear proliferation runs out of control, it won't look like the Cold War, when only two superpowers had usable missiles and weapons, and when, after Stalin died, both sides acted fairly rationally.

Instead, Obama's towering failure means a multi-polar race to get the baddest bombs, with the mullahs racing the Sunni Arabs and a very real chance that Hezb'allah or al-Qaeda will get enough material to build a dirty nuke. Only advanced missile defenses will save us, and if America doesn't speed up our defense development, then the saner nations in the world will do it. They are not going to wait for us.

When unstable tyrannies like Iran, North Korea, Libya, and even Venezuela have nukes, Obama's self-glorifying ego trips will fade by comparison. The only question Americans will ask will be: How well did he protect his country? We forget that for the last ninety years, America's military power has been kept at the razor's edge -- not because we somehow decided to conquer the world, but because we had to resist the imperialistic aggression of the Kaiser, Hitler, Stalin, Mao (by proxy in Korea and Vietnam), and the Soviet Empire. Liberals pretend that war is all the past, but history hasn't ended.

I don't know. Help me out here. I'm more upset about the scrapping of the United States (the link I sent Doc Zero in return). Why? I think you can all see that InstaPunk hasn't offered any thoughts on foreign policy lately. Perhaps I'm succumbing to the Ron Paul view of the world: if we shut our eyes very tightly, it will all just go away. Or something like that.

The bigger question. How much of this stuff do you want us to talk about? Do you need us to keep repeating the alphabet? In order? So you won't forget it?  Or do you prefer, like Penny, to pretend that eventually we'll all wake up from the bad dream and everything will be fine? Is that what I'm doing behind a screen of distractions?

OR do you crave analysis? Picking through the entrails like a Roman soothsayer. I can do that. I think. But let me put it in perspective for you. I love Doctor Zero. He's a very fine writer. But I haven't been able to read his posts of late. I'm thinking, like, how much firepower does it take to prove the obvious? Surely not this much. Which is nothing against the Doc. I admire him more than any other blogger. But...

Well, let me put it another way... Just because no one mentions it and I don't propose it, does no one think that Putin wasn't behind the plane crash that killed the Polish government? I've just been assuming you knew. Give me some guidance, folks.

Is the Doc serving his folks better than I am serving you? If so, please tell me. I'll get with the program, I promise. No more movies, music, TV, sports, online Bibles, or delicious babes. InstaPunk will start getting relevant again.

UPDATE. A response from the Doctor:

You raised an interesting point about the need to apply firepower to reviewing the basics, and stating the should-be-obvious.  I think it's important.  People who weren't exposed to important essentials of liberty, the Constitution, and capitalism in school - which is, sadly, most of us - are not well-equipped to resist the siren song of the Left.  They look at a complex world, filled with crises, and they desperately want to believe the sales pitch from the debonair super-geniuses of the Democrat Party.  It seems *reasonable* to believe that brilliant social engineers can design a better society, an attitude that persists from the prewar era, when early Progressives and Wilsonians promised to bring the scientific brilliance of industry to bear on political issues.  I'm actually in the planning stages of putting together a book on that very topic.

Even presenting the evidence of socialism's historical failure to the average Obama voter has no impact, because they'll quickly assure you that bad people caused those failures.  The new crop of compassionate maximum leaders, most especially our Historic First Black President, will succeed where others have failed.  Besides, even if you persuade them to regard the success of collective programs as unlikely, they'll tell you that all competing ideas are immoral.  If you get past *that*, they'll say it's best to shoot for Utopia even if the odds are against you, because you might just beat the odds... isn't that how dreamers are supposed to think?  And following your dreams is the most noble of human endeavors, isn't it?

I believe it's essential to persuade people this stuff *can't* work.  It always ends the same way, and inflicts the same horrors of poverty and tyranny on its subjects.  To win that argument, it's essential to go back to basics, and rewrite the programming installed by a decade in the public schools.

We're in a bad place right now, and the only way to escape is to win the dedicated support of a *lot* of people.  I don't think you can do that by telling them to carefully consider the pros and cons before they push the "Yes, We Can" button... because they're likely to think about the last tongue bath Obama got from the network news, squeeze their eyes shut, and stab the button.

- DZ

I always give Doc Zero the last word because I like him so much. Although... never mind.

UPDATE 2. The good doctor has also now weighed in with his own fine piece about the SS United States. You'll find it at the Green Room and the DocZero site. Every voice helps. Spread the word to all who might care.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Althouse Objection

Is that reason in those eyes? Or pure, nutty pretension?

SIGH. Good old Allah at Hotair is now quoting from this post by Ann Althouse (reproduced in full only to avoid the unfairness of cherry-picking):

"Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" is not a good idea.

And as long as I'm disagreeing with Glenn Reynolds [AWWWW], let me say that I disapprove of "Everybody Draw Mohammed" Day, which he seems to be promoting. (Hot Air, Dan Savage, and Reason are actively delighted by the idea.)

I have endless contempt for the threats/warnings against various cartoonists who draw Muhammad (or a man in a bear suit who might be Muhammad, but is actually Santa Claus). But depictions of Muhammad offend millions of Muslims who are no part of the violent threats. In pushing back some people, you also hurt a lot of people who aren't doing anything (other than protecting their own interests by declining to pressure the extremists who are hurting the reputation of their religion).

I don't like the in-your-face message that we don't care about what other people hold sacred. Back in the days of the "Piss Christ" controversy, I wouldn't have supported an "Everybody Dunk a Crucifix in a Jar of Urine Day" to protest censorship. Dunking a crucifix in a jar of urine is something I have a perfect right to do, but it would gratuitously hurt many Christian bystanders to the controversy. I think opposing violence (and censorship) can be done in much better ways.

At the same time, real artists like the "South Park" guys or (maybe) Andre Serrano should go on with their work, using shock to the extent that they see fit. Shock is an old artist's move. Epater la bourgeoisie. Shock will get a reaction, and it will make some people mad. They are allowed to get mad. That was the point. Of course, they'll have to control their violent impulses.

People need to learn to deal with getting mad when they hear or see speech that enrages them, even when it is intended to enrage them. But how are we outsiders to the artwork supposed to contribute the the process of their learning how to deal with free expression? I don't think it is by gratuitously piling on outrageous expression, because it doesn't show enough respect and care for the people who are trying to tolerate the expression that outrages them. [boldface and font size changes mine]

We've talked about Ann Althouse before, specifically in the context of her position as a "moderate." The key to her whole post and moral position is the supersized prepositional phrase "at the same time." In general, moderates aren't so much balanced and measured in their thinking as they are determined to have it both ways, to play both ends against the middle for the purpose of appearing more reasonable and principled than the opposing sides they are patronizing. They're declaring their superiority to all strenuous advocates.

A very interesting take from an attorney and a professor of law, which is a profession that entirely depends on adversarial advocacy. Does Ms. Althouse argue to her students that the justice system would be best served if criminal trials were required to include a 'moderate attorney,' positioned between prosecutor and defendant, who delivered a "plague on both your houses" summation to all juries before they retired? Something to the effect of, "What can we ever know for sure given that both sides are so monolithic in their arguments? Life itself is smothered in reasonable doubt and none of us is without unspeakable guilt, including all of you. I urge you to return with no verdict, as a hung jury. Thank you."

Her comparisons and logic in this instance are both flawed, so amateurishly as to seem almost deliberate, as if she's using specious reasoning to forestall a spate of violence her delicate constitution could not tolerate. Peace is always preferable to principle, or something like that.

No Christian decapitated Andre Serrano or butchered him on a city street for his blasphemy. Mostly, the people who decried his "Piss Christ" objected principally to the fact that his work was subsidized by a grant from federal government ninnies like Nancy Pelosi (Scroll for 'Piss Pelosi.) The people who are now defending South Park are in many cases the same people who were offended by an episode in which a bleeding statue of the Virgin Mary was grossly diagnosed as not stigmata but menstruation.

Regardless of how it's characterized (even by our own Brizoni), the intent of depicting Muhammed in the present circumstance isn't tit-for-tat blasphemy; it's a defense of the First Amendment, which dies when the threat of violence silences American citizens. Probably the hardest thing for muslims to understand -- and obviously for an obsessive clothhead like Althouse to see -- is that the flood of new Muhammed heretics couldn't care less about Islam as a religion except insofar as it has decided to make war against us. That's what's intolerable. Yes, we may think the whole faith is silly when it isn't actively malignant and murderous, but that would be their business until they start threatening us with death for what we do, which is express our views loudly, frequently, disrespectfully, rationally, irrationally, and freely.

The last is the critical one.  All the other adverbs have their critics and enemies on both sides. But what we Americans must have in common is the 'freely' part. When that is imperiled, all normal boundaries of response become irrelevant. So-called moderate Islamic sensitivity is not sensitivity at all. It's complicity in extortion, blackmail, and terrorism. Remember that word, Ms Althouse?

No, probably not. Moderates don't like to hear that word anymore. It offends people. Like all those moderate American muslims we never see standing up in absolute outrage against the criminal members of their faith who are butchering their own women and 'infidels' all over the globe in the name of a religion whose scripture advocates genocide against the Jews and the permanent enslavement of half their own populations.

But we shouldn't be disrespectful because we don't like it either when Christ and his followers are mocked, regardless of the fact that we mostly put up with the mockery of Christ even when it's our own elected government that is determined to promulgate it. Where's the equivalence here? In your eyes, Ms. Althouse. Christians are, have been, and will probably remain tolerant of blasphemers. We're confident enough in our faith to persist in our belief despite the fact that the most cynical of our own intelligentsia despise us more than they do the barbarians who are sworn to kill us and destroy our way of life.

Well, it's not about religion anymore. If the muslims seek to intimidate us by being flat-out barbarians, we Christians can at least revert as far as the Old Testament without abandoning our heritage. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Which, for all you theological illiterates, actually means for an eye only an eye, for a tooth only a tooth , as opposed to -- for a rape, say -- stoning or hanging the victim. (Ready for sharia, Ann? When no one has the courage to stand up against verbal death threats, who will stand up at the foot of the gallows for infidel females who presume to be professors?)

Of course, Ms. Althouse's get-out-of-jail-free card is her "at the same time" qualifier. We're not allowed to retaliate because our retaliation would constitute retaliation, which is not acceptable because of its equivalency to, uh, retaliation.. (Note the perfection of this logic.) No. Freedom of expression in this situation must be reserved to artists, like, uh, Andre Serrano, because artists do what they do and therefore can't be accused of retaliation or anything but art, like showing the Virgin Mary menstruating in front of a church, which any fool could see is art.

Unless it's a particularly juvenile form of individual free expression protected by the constitution of the United States.

Ergo: my final response to Ms. Althouse, and Hotair (fretting over a backlash), and anyone else, is that under the constitution we are all artists, all satirists, all high-minded philosophers and intellectuals, because no one has the right to declare that we're anything otherwise.

I can also suggest that when they stop threatening to kill us for exercising our rights under the most enlightened governmental framework ever conceived by its founders, the disrespect to their vicious warlord god on earth is likely to expire from complete lack of interest. Almost immediately.

Which is probably the unkindest cut of all. To all the barbarian muslims of the world. Because it will constitute the final proof of what I'm saying -- that Americans don't give a solitary tinker's dam about Muhammed. Or the psychotic religion he lowered like an ox yoke on the most savage, gullible, and damned peoples on the face of the earth. Except that -- when they decide they'd rather be free -- we're willing to talk. Freely. If that word still means anything to you.


THE DEAD PAST. Not a new cause for me but an old ache. Back in 1997, I wrote (in Writing down America), of a tragic rendezvous:

Before going to the restaurant, Andrew and I went to a business meeting in Philadelphia. The way out of town took us down Delaware Avenue along the riverfront. I asked Andrew if he had ever seen the S.S. United States, which is anchored near the Walt Whitman Bridge. He said he hadn't and so we drove down past the entrance to I-95 to take a look at the world's mightiest ocean liner, now decommissioned. I had been briefly aboard her almost thirty-five years ago, in the port of Genoa, when she was still plying the South Atlantic, and I knew that she had set the record for the fastest trans-Atlantic crossing by a passenger ship. It made me feel old to see her up close again. The red, white, and blue paint is peeling off her monster twin stacks, and rust is eating away at the superstructure and hull. I don't know what the plans were for this relic, but they must have miscarried because there's no sign that anyone cares what's happening here.

We pulled up near the bow and parked. Andrew gazed at the crumbling white paint that used to spell an illustrious name.

'The United States,' he said slowly.

'Yes,' I said. 'Sad, isn't it?'

'Very sad.'

That was 13 years ago. Last night I saw a documentary subtitled "Lady in Waiting," which was educational, nostalgic, moving, and hopeful. Here's a trailer that hints at the whole:

So much I didn't know. The fastest ship ever. Somewhere around 40 to 46 knots at top speed. A ship faster than a greyhound at full gallop. Unsinkable in a way the British Titanic launched 40 years before only presumed to be. A past captain of the United States asserted with utter confidence that if his ship had hit that iceberg, it wouldn't have sunk. The United States could have survived five flooded compartments (more than any ship built today), its hull was the strongest ever built, and it had two distinct engine rooms for safety... not to mention lifeboats for all aboard. The United States didn't just break the trans-Atlantic record; it shattered it, Three days, ten hours, and a few minutes to cross from New York to Southampton on its maiden voyage. NO ship has ever been faster. Even today, there's no equivalent or remote rival to the speed of the SS United States. It was built to last a hundred years and it served for only seventeen.

When I was briefly on board in 1963, I was still drunk with the glamour of the Queen Elizabeth, whose passenger I had been, and I saw no wood, no Old-World elegance. Like everyone else back then, I set myself up for the the most painful nostalgia of all, the ache the future has for a gleaming present sunk hopelessly in the past. Only now do I yearn for the bold fifties and sixties modernity we've lost forever. The United States was a perfect ship -- impervious to ice, fire, and hurricane. In her 400 Atlantic crossings, she was late only twice, and then because of tugboat strikes in New York harbor, which she short-circuited by docking herself. There was a tale recounted in the documentary of two ships breasting a hurricane en route to New York. Both ships encountered 80 foot waves and it was the United States which arrived on schedule nonetheless and set sail on the return  trip, on schedule, the next day. The other ship lay dead in port for weeks after. To put this in perspective, I withdrew disdainfully (aged 10) from the United States for a 10-day trip on the Italian Line's Leonardo da Vinci (sister ship of the Andrea Doria) on which the ship was nearly lost in a hurricane the United States would have battered into submission.

I remember that hurricane as one of the great traumas of my childhood, the first time I ever encountered thoughts of mortality. I survived it, of course, but I am filled with admiration for a ship on which no such thoughts would ever have arisen. Cool. America. The United States. Figures.

Then, today, I learned why the 2008 documentary I saw replayed last night on NJN Channel 23. The show concluded with hope -- the Norwegian Cruise Line had purchased the ship whose hull and engines were still intact and intended to refit her as a super-premier cruise ship. Following up this morning at the SS United States Conservancy, I found this.

The SS United States Conservancy has recently learned that America's national flagship, the SS United States, is in imminent danger of being bought by scrappers. This great vessel, which still holds the trans-Atlantic speed record, may soon be destroyed. Bids for purchase of the ship by scrappers are being collected by NCL this month.

The current owners of the vessel, Genting Hong Kong (formerly Star Cruises Limited), through its subsidiary, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), listed the vessel for sale in February 2009 but have not announced a purchaser to date. There has been acute interest in the ship by scrapping companies. While NCL graciously offered the Conservancy first right of refusal on a sale of the vessel in 2009, the Conservancy has not been in a financial position to purchase the ship outright.

Irony of ironies. Back in 1997 I saw an analogy between the fate of the United States and my country. Little did I know. It was abstract then. It's literal and direct now. The scrapyard is imminent. I was worried then. I'm desperate now. They're killing our country and soon we'll get to see a vivid metaphor of that reality.

Which causes a psychotic break and a dream I hope you have tonight, as I know I will.

Fight. However you can. Our country dies, day by day. Here's the place you can watch it, blister by blister on the steel of our national soul. Let the United States go. When you begin to miss her, you won't even know what you're missing or why you're missing anything. And not even Jason Mattera can help you with that. How can you ache for what you've never known you lost?

UPDATE. The good doctor has also now weighed in with his own fine piece about the SS United States. You'll find it at the Green Room and the DocZero site. Every voice helps. Spread the word to all who might care.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Announcement: Spin-Off Blog

The real reason Muhammad didn't want his likeness shown: He's a pig-girl.
A hot one, too. Who refused to wear a burka. Excuse me a moment.

MAY 20? Why wait a month? Muhammad sucks now.

Kurt Westergaard, who drew the now-classic bomb-turban Muhammad, best gives voice to our proper outrage.

Many of the immigrants who came to Denmark, they had nothing. We gave them everything - money, apartments, their own schools, free university, health care. In return, we asked one thing - respect for democratic values, including free speech. Do they agree? This is my simple test.

Of course, too many of them fail this test. One day's not gonna be enough to smack some gratitude into these idiots. Insulting Muhammad needs to be a way of life. It needs to be a part of everybody's everyday routine, like checking email, or putting dishes in the sink. We need to carve out a few minutes as a matter of habit each day to let these idiots know we do not bow to thugs and losers. No matter how sharp their curved swords, nor how loud their foreign-sounding jibber-jabber.

To this end, we've started a little spin-off blog. Daily Muhammad will mock the worst world religion once a day, every day, until a suicide bomber makes a wrong turn at Albuquerque and nukes Mecca. And a few days after that, too.

Stand up. If anything matters to you, stand up. And stay on your feet.

Friday, April 23, 2010

American Pastime
This is how it feels when your team wins the big one.

. I wrote a couple of days ago about the need for a "humor resistance," but perhaps I should have broadened it to a "life resistance," because laughter is not the only medicine for what ails us. I also noted, just yesterday that I was glad to see George Will had returned to the fight with considerably less snootiness than he was displaying a year ago. I was pleased that he compared NJ governor Chris Christie to a "burly baseball catcher." His metaphor seemed positively homespun.

But I was unprepared for what I heard this morning on Philadelphia SportsTalk radio (WIP). Host Angelo Cataldi had an interview with -- surprise! -- George Will, whose baseball book Men at Work has just been rereleased ten years after its initial publication. I've written before about the leftwing bias that seeps into WIP commentary, and so I was surprised again when Cataldi praised not just Will's baseball writings but his political punditry. Then I found out other things I didn't know. Men at Work is the bestselling baseball book ever written, surpassing the success of Roger Kahn and Roger Angell (E.B. White's son), who both wrote lyrically and brilliantly about the national pastime in the days before the NFL became the 800-pound gorilla of American sports. I knew George Will was an accomplished student of the game, but I guess his blind allegiance to the pitiful Cubs blinded me to his greater allegiance to the game itself. My bad.

I'll get back to Will a bit later, but I have to describe the additional shocker that was the catalyst for this post. Just a few minutes after I heard the WIP interview, I stumbled across Charles Krauthammer's latest WAPO column. It's about -- drumroll, please -- baseball. Specifically, the great man's love of the hapless Washington Nationals. There is something wistful and determinedly self-therapeutic about his fondness for baseball's worst team:

I’m a former Red Sox fan, now fully rehabilitated. No, I don’t go to games to steel my spine, perfect my character, or journey into the dark night of the soul. I get that in my day job watching the Obama administration in action.

I go for relief. For the fun, for the craft (beautifully elucidated in George Will’s just-reissued classic, Men at Work), and for the sweet, easy cheer at Nationals Park.

You get there and the twilight’s gleaming, the popcorn’s popping, the kids are romping, and everyone’s happy. The joy of losing consists in this: Where there are no expectations, there is no disappointment. In Tuesday night’s game, our starting pitcher couldn’t get out of the third inning. Gave up four straight hits, six earned runs, and as he came off the mound, actually got a few scattered rounds of applause.

Applause! In New York he’d have been booed mercilessly. In Philly, he’d have found his car on blocks and missing a headlight.

No one’s happy to lose, and the fans cheer lustily when the Nats win. But as starters blow up and base runners get picked off, there is none of the agitation, the angry, screaming, beer-spilling, red-faced ranting you get at football or basketball games.

I'll overlook the Philly libel (although I'll have more to say about it anon), because he has a larger point which he articulates eloquently:

Baseball is a slow, boring, complex, cerebral game that doesn’t lend itself to histrionics. You “take in” a baseball game, something odd to say about a football or basketball game, with the clock running and the bodies flying.

And for a losing baseball team, the calm is even more profound. I’ve never been to a park where the people are more relaxed, tolerant, and appreciative of any small, even moral, victory. Sure, you root, root, root for the home team, but if they don’t win, “it’s a shame” — not a calamity. Can you imagine arm-linked fans swaying to such a sweetly corny song of early-20th-century innocence — as long gone as the manual typewriter and the 20-game winner — at the two-minute warning?

I think he's groping toward several points here, which is why he seems to contradict himself fatally in the space of a couple paragraphs. If baseball isn't about "red-faced ranting," why the slams against baseball fans in New York and Philadelphia? His attraction to the Nationals is a kind of nostalgia, as if he's watching some team from the innocent American past play against the win-at-all-costs present. He's found a personal refuge from the vicious politics in which he's immersed every day in the nation's capital. And he's actually afraid of what will happen if the Nationals start to get good:

But now I fear for my bliss. Hope, of a sort, is on the way — in the form of Stephen Strasburg, the greatest pitching prospect in living memory. His fastball clocks 103 mph and his slider, says Tom Boswell, breaks so sharply it looks like it hit a bird in midair... I

I’m worried. Even before Strasburg has arrived from the minor leagues, the Nats are actually doing well. They’re playing .500 ball for the first time in five years...

They might soon be, gasp, a contender. In the race deep into September. Good enough to give you hope. And break your heart.

Where does one then go for respite?

Answer? Baseball. At some level, he knows that, else why reference the anachronistic ritual of thousands of fans singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during every seventh inning stretch. He's on the verge of remembering something he needs to remember but that is hard to remember because of where he lives and what he does. Baseball fans are the closest thing there is to the Tea Party phenomenon, and they suffer from the same mostly unfair slanders, some of which Krauthammer has thoughtlessly repeated. Permit me to use Philadelphia as an example.

Yes, there are boo-birds. But they are a tiny percentage of the fans who follow the team. Something like the few glunks who show up at tea party rallies with racist signs. They cannot compare to the outpouring that followed the death of broadcaster icon Harry Kalas, who filled the ballpark with mourners. He was ours and no one threw beer or punches. Time for some math, which is especially relevant in Philadelphia's case because the past few years have reminded even WIP sports analysts that their city is, and always has been, a baseball town as much as a football town. The Eagles always sell out their seats, which at eight games per year, amounts to less than half a million well-heeled asses in the stadium. The Phillies, on the other hand, sold out 72 of 81 home games last year, for a total of about 3 million in season attendance or six times what the Eagles get each year.

And, as has been abundantly pointed out elsewhere, the Philadelphia Phillies have lost more games than any professional sports team in history, over 10,000. The truth is that baseball loyalties run very very deep and are local in a way that the NFL can only envy. WIP hosts experience a constant stream of Philly residents who root for other NFL teams, most notably the more successful Steelers and the hated Dallas Cowboys, and they have a practice of hanging up on them with formulaic epithets. This is not the case with baseball. On the contrary -- and I've observed this in early games this season in Washington, Florida, and Atlanta -- the transplanted Philadelphians in these cities are so numerous in their jerseys and caps that their cheering for the Phillies sometimes rivals that of the home team's fans.

Baseball allegiance is a lot like patriotism. Its intensity may ebb and flow, but it is always there, an inviolable component of personal identity. Philadelphia has been so vilified as a locus of thug fans that no Philadelphia team will ever become America's team. The Phillies fans who sometimes outnumber National fans in the National ballpark are Philadelphia born if no longer resident there. They "cling" to their team because they cannot do otherwise, like all the armchair ladies with their cigarette coughs who watch (or listen to) every inning of every game all season long, year after year, win or lose. They call into WIP, too, and they know their baseball. They worry, and they may criticize, sometimes harshly, but they never give up rooting for their team.

Interestingly, George Will knows this too. In his WIP interview he reminisced about his stint in graduate school at Princeton, where he used what free time he had to attend games at the Polo Grounds in New York and Connie Mack stadium in Philadelphia. He stressed that the element he found most inspiring was this very localness, the sense that the team was of the city and its neighborhoods, a family affair. His words resonated with me because the first major league baseball game I ever saw was at Connie Mack stadium, a complicated and antique structure that made it hard for a kid to see what was going on for all the pillars and overhangs in the way. But I saw Dick Stewart (also affectionately/derisively known as "Dr. Strangeglove") blast a titanic grand-slam homerun to win the game. Which is why the clip from "The Natural" above is like an instantaneous wormhole to my childhood. Dick Stewart was a Phillie. I was a Phillie fan, born and bred. We won. I was there. That slicing line drive into the right field stands was part of my destiny. I was a kid.

You see, there's a huge difference between baseball and football. I've written before about the role football plays in the seasoning and toughening of American youth, which is a great secret strength of our country, but baseball has other, perhaps more important virtues. Krauthammer is flat wrong to call it a "boring" game. It's slow, complex, and cerebral all right, but it's not boring. It is, rather, like life itself. You get out of it what you put into it. Its complexity is infinite, and despite what contemporary NFL advocates claim, its complexity is an order of magnitude beyond football's. Football is, like the military, all about building an intricate machine in which perfection is defined as human cogs executing perfectly under fire. Only one quarterback in the NFL has the freedom to call his own plays. Baseball's complexity, like the game itself, is an artistic synthesis of individuals serving the team with individual knowledge, skill, and, yes, wisdom. Every fielder on a baseball team is responsible for calling his own response to the batter's response to a pitch. Every baserunner the same; if his judgment fails, no first or third-base coach can save him. Every batter the same; when he gets a green light, he's on his own when it comes to guessing the pitch and avoiding a strikeout or double play. A great baseball team is never a machine. It's a hybrid -- much like America -- of separate persons who come together by taking advantage of and compensating for the strengths and weaknesses of its members.

Every pitch is an infinity of possibilities. There is no clock. There is no need for any game ever to end. That all games do end in the major leagues (little leagues have a mercy rule) is a testament of competence the NFL does not require. In football, the clock ticks down mercifully to an inevitable end.

Krauthammer is afraid of what happens to his peace of mind if the Nationals become a contender. He's been in Washington too long. Baseball is American life. That's why he's drawn to it, whether he knows it or not. It can be jovial and easy and tolerant as he is presently finding so healing with his Nationals, or it can be a slow, chesslike war, with ordinary fans playing their part with startling effectiveness, as when the despised Phillies fans turned the at-bat of pitcher Brett Myers into a series changing event against ace C.C. Sabathia in the World Championship 2008 season. The supposedly neanderthal Philadelphia fans knew that making the infallible Sabathia waste countless pitches on a pitcher might break his spirit. When Myers drew a walk, the fans reacted as if it were a homerun. Which in a way it was. It's a phenomenon called baseball.

Something like a Tea Party. The time comes when it's not enough to be an audience or a bystander. The masses suddenly have their part to play and they play it, intelligently and effectively.

One final point before I go. The NFL keeps advancing and changing itself, so that the game today resembles the game of yesteryear not at all. Baseball, on the other hand, is cyclical, like the American spirit. (The clinching reason I wanted to do this post.) Right now, the Phillies have the hottest pitcher in baseball. (Current ERA, Zero-point-something ) Last week, after win No. 3, WIP began soliciting nicknames for their brand new star, Roy Halladay. Callers were pretty fond of the obvious "Doc Holladay." Hosts were skeptical and kept advancing reminders of pitchers past like Steve Carlton, resulting in a bid for "Ace Holladay."

But I'm an old guy and so I thought once again of the video up top. The man's given name is "Roy." He's an old-time ballplayer. He can't stand to lose. He arrives at the ballpark before anyone else and leaves after everyone else. Unlike some of the current enthusiasts, I don't expect him to be untouchable all year. But it's clear he will fight to win every game he's in. I'm thinking of him, atavistically, as "The Natural." Roy Hobbes, after all, started out as a pitcher until he got derailed by a bizarre maniac.

I'm also thinking here of the difference between the book and the movie. In Bernard Malamud's novel, Roy Hobbes threw the pivotal game (not as in pitching it but deliberately losing it). In the movie, he won the pivotal game. Something about a difference in worldviews? We're seeing a difference in worldviews right now. The difference Krauthammer is trying to deal with. Maybe he should abandon the easy comfort of not caring about winning and start rooting for, well, the roots of America's pastime: the beauty of loyalty and principle represented by a community force that refuses to surrender to all the temptations to quit.

The Natural.

I've said some mean things about George Will. Now I'm asking you to read his book. Why? Because he knows we need something more than politics to get us through this season of crap. Which makes him a wiser man than I gave him credit for. And he knows a lot more about baseball too, including some things sublime. Uncharacteristically, Charles Krauthammer is fumbling in the dark. But quite properly, he's looking for hope of the un-Obama kind. We're just trying to help. If anyone can see the light, he can.

P.S. Sorry, Puck Punk. I appreciate The Hockey because Mrs. CP loves it so. But nothing can ever really compare to The Baseball. For those of us who grew up as fans and felt the supreme American-ness at its core. Forgive me.

Supporting South Park:

I have an idea...

The Prophet Mohammed. Cute, ain't he?

Let's ALL do it. Face it. It's pretty easy to take sides in the South Park-Comedy Central fracas. Some people are congratulating them on their bravery. Easy. Some people are damning the cowardice of Comedy Central. Easy. Others are saying let's stand up and support Matt Stone and Trey Parker. By, uh, saying we support them and maybe signing a petition. Easy.

Has it occurred to anybody that this vast thing called the Internet is the automatic answer? If we believe so much in free speech and not being intimidated by muslim thugs, we have it absolutely in our power to turn the tide. Uh, We are the World. If every "brave" proponent of free speech in the United States posted his own image of Mohammed, thousands and thousands of them, there would be too many of us to kill. We'd be an avalanche that would make their sorry jihadist threats puny by comparison. They can't kill us all.

Want to show your support for Matt Stone and Trey Parker? This is exactly how easy it is. Well, you've got to have some minimal PhotoShop skills, but other than that it's just a balls call.

So here you go, Hotair. Here you go, InstaPundit. Here you go, Ace of Spades. Here you go, Big Hollywood. Here you go, NRO. Here you go, all you free speech advocates, all you irate columnists and bloggers on the right who ache for the dead Dutchman and wish there were something, anything, you could do to prove your courageous solidarity with the two flippant assholes who are South Park.

It really is this easy. Didn't realize that? Maybe it's a punk thing.

P.S. I have no idea how to contact other sites except for Anybody who knows how is urged to do so. I'm deadly serious about this, but my ability to execute is almost zero. Check in, as you can, to let us know whom you've contacted...

To be crystal clear, I'm asking all of you to contact the whole world, not just the sites I've named here, although they're the first priority. Whether we agree with them or not, the Stone and Parker newens are still punks, and they are putting their lives on the line. I'm sure some of you can cite the chapter and verse in the Punk Testament which makes that OUR business as well. Please get to work.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Up the Down

FILE CATEGORY: ALWAYS RIGHT. Just over a year ago, I posted the video above and predicted that conservatives who kept bucking the admittedly overwhelming Obama tide would eventually catch the ear of the American people. How's that prediction working out for me -- and you? I think it's time for a snapshot view of what conservatives are talking about right now, which I offer with the suggestion that you try to remember how likely or unlikely such conversations would have seemed early in April 2009. Remember: back then, even conservatives were in retreat, wondering if their ideas had been slain in the Obama wave and just how much compromise would be necessary to retain a voice in future policy-making.

For example, everyone here knows I generally like The Corner at The National Review. But it seems to me that I was the only conservative who got his dander up at Corner poster Jim Manzi, who's an archetype of the super-intellectual, nominally conservative appeaser of liberal elites and their technocratic causes. I specifically took issue with his pompous stands on global warming and torture, which were riding high even in conservative circles back then. In fact, I called him a dolt in two posts directly related to the 'escalator' post referenced above.

So imagine my surprise at reading this post at The Corner today:

The Real Epistemic Closure   [Andy McCarthy]

The most appalling thing about Jim Manzi's attack on Mark Levin's Liberty & Tyranny is its pompous invocation of "epistemic closure" as a cudgel to beat the side of the climate debate arguing for epistemic openness — and trying to make that argument against transnational scientific elites who desperately seek to enforce ontological closure in a most unscientific manner.

Timely, then, that we should be treated to an Earth Day essay in the Wall Street Journal from MIT's Richard Lindzen, who manages to meet the Manzi standard of "very serious climate scientist" despite having been cited by Levin. Prof. Lindzen is appropriately chagrined. Global warming alarmists, he concludes, have been discredited over the past several months by the scandalous disclosures about their decades-long shenanigans, yet, you'd never know it. Why? Because purportedly serious people are ignoring, discounting, and suppressing the evidence, as well as resorting to the old stand-by of ad hominem attack against critics — "suffused," Lindzen recounts, "by illogic, nastiness and outright dishonesty." (He doesn't mention whether he's picked this up by reading the Corner in the last day or so.)

Lindzen disparages "the official scientific community" — a group that mirrors what Manzi reverentially calls the "global scientific establishment" — for its transcontinental conspiracy. He accuses it of colluding in an effort to wait until the current controversy dies down before "reasserting" unsupported claims of "climate catastrophe" to government policy makers and funding agencies. He powerfully suggests that scientific elites are (to borrow a phrase Manzi uses in ridicule mode) "too trapped by their assumptions to incorporate [contradictory] data rationally."

Remarkable to read Lindzen spout such wingnuttery when, as Jim points out, none less than the national science academy of Mexico itself has not rejected the notion of man-made global warming. I'm ashamed to admit, though, that to me, Lindzen doesn't seem like a kook who probably thinks the Queen of England and the Trilateral Commission are in on a farcical global science scam. But what do I know? I don't even have a Ph.D.

My my. Do I detect a near punk tone of voice in the April 2010 edition of The Corner?

Are moderate rationalists and intellectual conservatives beginning to discover a need to start climbing that down escalator? Well, maybe. Here are a few links you'll have to look up and read for yourselves. They aren't all by former or temporary apostates. But they're all indicative of a new ballsiness, a refreshing confidence that the war being waged against us might actually be won and that it's less important to bash the so-called 'dummies' amongst us than to focus on the catastrophe being inflicted on us by the self-anointed smart ones.

A year ago, George Will was spending an inordinate amount of time looking down his nose at Sarah Palin. Today he's touting the promise of NJ Governor Chris Christie, who suddenly doesn't look so much like a Sopranos plug-ugly as a "burly baseball catcher" who's playing hardball in the most heavily taxed state in the union. He's even celebrating the big man's new monicker, The Trenton Thunder. He's right and I'm glad to have George Will back on our side.
The folks over at Hotair have been merciless with everyone they consider a "Birther." But today they had the grace or fairness or epiphany, or whatever it was, to link this very sensible summary of the Obama birth certificate mystery. I will not carp at past excesses. I congratulate them instead for acknowledging that even conservative positions can have, uh, nuances.

National Review print editors also surprised me today. I've been wondering since the inauguration how long it would take our best and brightest to realize, finally, that Barack Obama isn't really a likeable guy, but an arrogant prick. Something so obvious generally takes the best educated among us a lifetime to perceive. They've done it  in less than a year and a half. (I forgive the unnecessary slap at Palin; they can't help themselves when it comes to Ivy League snobbery.)

Now Mona Charen has always been made of sterner stuff. But read this and ask yourselves if you thought you'd be reading something like it a year after Obama's first Roman spring.

And ask yourselves if you'd have believed that an ordinary citizen would rise up and smack an MSM columnist in quite this dismissive and triumphant a way.

Then plow through all four segments of this annihilation of anti-capitalist propaganda being promulgated in the public schools. This rebuttal video has succeeded in getting its target ejected in multiple public school curricula.

Keep walking up the down escalator, my friends. I'm thinking that's what Hugh Hewitt had in mind with this appearance on MSNBC.

But I question his judgment nonetheless. I think, like the rest of us, he has to learn that this is a war, not a college debate.

Right now, though, I'm feeling hopeful. Maybe even Hugh Hewitt can join us at the barricades with a cutlass in his teeth. Eventually.

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