April 29, 2010 - April 22, 2010
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.
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):
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
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.
. Not a new cause for me but an old ache. Back in 1997, I
(in Writing down America), of
a tragic rendezvous:
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
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.
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.
Why wait a month? Muhammad sucks now.
Kurt Westergaard, who drew the now-classic bomb-turban Muhammad, best gives voice to our proper outrage.
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.
. 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'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:
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:
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.