Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
May 15, 2010 - May 8, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Governor of New Jersey

Newark Star Ledger reporter calls Christie "confrontational."

The South

Trailer Trash Barbie. Doesn't that about sum it up?

BIG HAT TIP TO HOTAIR. The things that make me maddest are stupid people who think they're smart and the contempt of inferiors for their betters. I've never lived in the south, but I've been to school with more southerners than most of the south's critics have ever met. Here's what I've learned. Despite Manhattan solipsism and California self-actualization, southerners are more complicated than Americans from other regions. If the major U.S. power centers are analogous to seat of the empire England, dominated by London snobs and intellectuals, the south is our variation on Ireland, but even more complex. (Yet I know one Irish lass who looks down her nose at all things southern. What she's been taught by life in the northeast.)

Let me offer a few specifics. We keep hearing that America hadn't been attacked on its own soil since the war of 1812 (unless you count the "colony" of Hawaii). Not true. The south experienced a devastating invasion and occupation which, whether you regard it as deserved or not, imbued them with an inherited regional and family memory of the horrors of war no Massachusetts preppie congressman can ever appreciate. Invaded, destroyed, subjugated, impoverished. So who's naive about the need for national defense? Whose views are "ignorant" on guns and border security and the sense of Christianity as equal parts forgiveness and crusade?

We romanticize the Irish experience of oppression (and IRA terrorism) because it produced poets, playwrights, novelists, and other colorful characters who were simultaneously good and bad, lyrical and violent, inspired and low, and brave and drunk. The south has all of that and more. I've never met a southerner who wasn't part racist and part guilty liberal. Day to day, in-your-face race relations have been a far more intimate part of their personal experience than it's likely ever to be for suburban liberals in the rest of the country. The truth no one wants to consider is that southerners just might be the grownups on this question. They stare at their own biases in the mirror every day, and they have to deal with them in ways that go beyond the merely symbolic and superficial. Blacks and whites in the south have an exceptionally intricate love-hate relationship with each other, with more honesty about it than I've ever seen in supposedly more enlightened environs. Where do most successful black politicians come from? Check it out, haters. Compared to other regions, a pluraility of them come from the south. Is there a southern version of the IRA? No. The Ku Klux Klan exists today primarily as a fantasy of the northern media, and its high-water mark was never in the south but in Indiana.

That's why I was delighted to see a professed liberal of foreign extraction write this, which had to be published in the U.K. rather than the American MSM. I'm reproducing all of it because I suspect she'd rather have the message get out than argue about fair use. The author's name is Seema Jilani.

Deep prejudice about the deep south
I'm tired of elitist US liberals who ridicule southerners and
then profess their love for Nina Simone and crawfish etouffee

I am tired of apologising. I apologised for being Muslim, post-9/11 and more recently for my Pakistani origins. Now, I apologise for being a southerner too. When an environmental catastrophe erupted in my backyard, I looked to the media to tell our stories and instead, found quotes from experts ruminating on energy policy. Where are the restaurant owners in the French Quarter who still haven't caught their breath after Katrina swallowed their lives? What about the fishermen? While recently rubbing elbows with fellow liberals from the east and west coasts, I felt that their disdain for the lives of the south was palpable. This led to my quest: to understand why mouths drip with condescension for the south, and particularly its people.

Is it Dubya? Born in Connecticut, he was a member of Yale's elite Skull & Bones Society. Ah, Sarah Palin? Born in Idaho, raised in Alaska. They claim Texas is imploding with rightwing conservatives: Texas has had 48 governors; six were Republicans. The former Texas governor Ann Richards once delivered the keynote address at the 1988 Democratic convention, where she famously said: "He [Bush] was born with a silver foot in his mouth."

It must be southern racism then. During my medical school interview, I was asked if I would wear a burqa and told I belonged in hell. This humiliation occurred in Chicago, not the deep south. During my Manhattan interview, I was unwelcome because I had done medical work in Gaza. Bigotry traverses the Mason-Dixon line, you see.

Perhaps then this loathing stems from our monochromatic populace, lacking diversity. Except that as a physician in Houston, home to the largest medical centre in the world, I have treated patients from Somalia, Ecuador and Egypt, among others. Our Vietnamese population blesses us with phenomenal pho and necessitates a translator 24 hours a day. Of the 82 majority-black counties in the US, all but one are in the south.

What about our so-called lack of political relevance? Did I mention that every major Texas city has a higher uninsured rate than the national rate? One in four Texans lack health insurance. In 2004, 20% of Texas children were uninsured, compared to 11% nationally. The Pew Hispanic Centre estimates that Texas alone holds 14% of all undocumented immigrants. Of the 40 babies I delivered in medical school, five mothers spoke English. Proponent of immigration reform? It starts at our borders. Want universal healthcare? We are the uninsured capital of the country.

This scorn must be because we don't contribute to the country's greater good then. But 35% of active-duty military come from the south. Of the US troop casualties in Afghanistan, 47% were from the south, and from Iraq, 38%.

Oddly, the same people who disparage us also have love affairs with our culture. They ridicule us and then profess their love for Nina Simone, Austin, Johnny Cash or Louisiana's crawfish etouffee dish when it's trendy. This brings me to my favourite specimens: cocktail party progressives. You know the type – can't converse without referencing the New Yorker. Pretentious, self-congratulatory liberals who applaud their own humanity while mocking the south. Curiously, they feign knowledge of Hank Williams when fashionable, but their intellectual elitism forgets that Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams were southern geniuses.

I adore our southern nights and the taste of authenticity in Willie Nelson's voice and Muddy Waters' blues. I love that we celebrate colossally in New Orleans: Jazz Fest, Crawfish Fest, Mardi Gras, even Jazz Funerals. I was touched when kind neighbours baked us casseroles and stood by us as we endured post-9/11 racism. I am proud that Houstonians opened their homes to 250,000 New Orleans evacuees. That's genuine southern hospitality. Southerners are not the ignorant, inbreeding, toothless rifle-owning trailer trash that my progressive colleagues paint them as. They are vibrant, passionate Americans with resolve. They have survived and flourished through the civil rights movement, disastrous hurricanes and oil spills, Enron and Halliburton scandals, the Fort Hood tragedy and their loved ones coming home in body bags.

They have epic stories. It's time our media act as their vessels.

I'm going to follow this with four more links I think are relevant. The first is to a jocular press conference President Obama held shortly after his inauguration:

Interview of the President by Regional Reporters, 3/11/09

Question regarding the geographic diversity of Obama's appointees:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I wanted to ask you about your Cabinet and your senior staff. By my count, you have about seven folks from the Midwest, six from the West, a crowd from the Northeast, and with maybe the exception of your able-bodied press secretary --


Q Mr. Gibbs.

THE PRESIDENT: He's the only Southerner?

Q I think so.

THE PRESIDENT: You guys are feeling neglected?

Q Yes. (Laughter.) So I'm wondering why is that and what you don't like about the South?

THE PRESIDENT: I love the South. (Laughter.)...

Obama's Cabinet includes appointees from the West (DHS's Janet Napolitano, Labor's Hilda Solis, Energy's Steven Chu, Commerce nominee Gary Locke), the Midwest (Defense Secretary Robert Gates, HHS nominee Kathleen Sebelius, USDA's Tom Vilsack and DOT's Ray LaHood ), the Northeast (EPA's Lisa P. Jackson, HUD's Shaun Donovan) and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who could conceivably claim every region except the West.

The second is to an Instapunk post that didn't highlight the south because Obama's area of ignorance isn't just the south but most of the continental United States. If you read it, you'll see why "(Laughter)" is an MSM disgrace.

The third has to do with invisible unintended consequences. From today's NRO Corner blog:

Holder Profiles Arizona    [Andy McCarthy]

Isn't that really what the Attorney General is doing?

He hasn't read the Arizona immigration law, even though reading the law is the basic duty of any lawyer (let alone the U.S. Attorney General) who is called on to assess a legal situation.

Thus, he hasn't got reasonable suspicion that Arizonans are violating the Constitution, even though reasonable suspicion is the basic investigative standard we expect law-enforcement to satisfy before officials harass Americans with stepped up scrutiny.

And we know he has a bias because he told us, unabashedly, that he thinks Americans are "cowards" on matters of race.

Think about it this way:  If a police officer, without taking elementary investigative steps to inform himself about the facts of a situation, and thus without reasonable suspicion, simply assumed a person must be guilty of wrongdoing based on the police officer's avowed prejudice, what would Eric Holder call it?

The fourth is for all of you who are sure you know what you know about The South and are somehow prepared to condemn Obama and Holder for their bias without acknowledging your own. It's from a Wiki post on Southern Culture. I'm only giving you a few paragraphs to mull. You can dig deeper, far deeper than Wiki does, on your own.


Mark Twain had extensive knowledge of the Mississippi River and the South, and included in his works the injustice of slavery and the culture of Protestant public morality.

Perhaps the most famous southern writer is William Faulkner, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1949. Faulkner brought new techniques such as stream of consciousness and complex techniques to American writings (such as in his novel As I Lay Dying).

Other well-known Southern writers include Pat Conroy, Zora Neale Hurston, Eudora Welty, Thomas Wolfe, William Styron, Flannery O'Connor, Carson McCullers, James Dickey, Willie Morris, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Walker Percy, Barry Hannah, Alice Walker, Robert Penn Warren, Cormac McCarthy, John Grisham, James Agee, Hunter S. Thompson, Wendell Berry, Bobbie Ann Mason, and Harry Crews.

Possibly the most famous southern novel of the 20th century is Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, published in 1937. Another famous southern novel, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, won the Pulitzer Prize after it was published in 1960.


The musical heritage of the South was developed by both whites and blacks, both influencing each other directly and indirectly.

The South's musical history actually starts before the Civil War, with the songs of the African slaves and the traditional folk music brought from Great Britain and Ireland[citation needed]. Blues was developed in the rural South by African Americans at the beginning of the 20th century. In addition, gospel music, spirituals, country music, rhythm and blues, soul music, funk, rock and roll, beach music, bluegrass, jazz (including ragtime, popularized by Southerner Scott Joplin), zydeco, and Appalachian folk music were either born in the South or developed in the region.

In general, country music is based on the folk music of white Southerners, and blues and rhythm and blues is based on African American southern forms. However, whites and blacks alike have contributed to each of these genres, and there is a considerable overlap between the traditional music of blacks and whites in the South, particularly in gospel music forms. A stylish variant of country music (predominantly produced in Nashville) has been a consistent, widespread fixture of American pop since the 1950s, while insurgent forms (i.e. bluegrass) have traditionally appealed to more discerning sub-cultural and rural audiences. Blues dominated the African American music charts from the advent of modern recording until the mid-1950s, when it was supplanted by the less guttural and forlorn sounds of rock and R&B. Nevertheless, unadulterated blues (along with early rock and roll) is still the subject of reverential adoration throughout much of Europe and cult popularity in isolated pockets of the United States.

Zydeco, Cajun and swamp pop, despite having never enjoyed greater regional or mainstream popularity, still thrive throughout French Louisiana and its peripheries, such as Southeastern Texas. These unique Louisianan styles of folk music are celebrated as part of the traditional heritage of the people of Louisiana. Conversely, bluegrass music has acquired a sophisticated cachet and distinct identity from mainstream country music through the fusion recordings of artists like Bela Fleck, David Grisman, and the New Grass Revival; traditional bluegrass and Appalachian mountain music experienced a strong resurgence after the release of 2001's O Brother, Where Art Thou?.

Rock n' roll largely began in the South in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Early rock n' roll musicians from the South include Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, James Brown, Otis Redding, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, among many others. Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash, while generally regarded as "country" singers, also had a significant role in the development of rock music. In the 1960s, Stax Records emerged as a leading competitor of Motown Records, laying the groundwork for later stylistic innovations in the process.

The South has continued to produce rock music in later decades. In the 1970s, a wave of Southern rock and blues rock groups, led by The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, and 38 Special, became popular. Macon, Georgia-based Capricorn Records helped to spearhead the Southern rock movement, and was the original home to many of the genre's most famous groups. At the other end of the spectrum, along with the aforementioned Brown and Stax, New Orleans' Allen Toussaint and The Meters helped to define the funk subgenre of rhythm and blues in the 1970s.

Many who got their start in the regional show business in the South eventually banked on mainstream national and international success as well: Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton are two such examples of artists that have transcended genres.

Many of the roots of alternative rock are often considered to come from the South as well, with bands such as R.E.M., Pylon and The B-52's forever associated with the musically fertile college town of Athens, Georgia. Cities such as Austin, Knoxville, Chapel Hill, Nashville and Atlanta also have thriving indie rock and live music scenes. Austin is home to the long-running South by Southwest music and arts festival, while several influential independent music labels (Sugar Hill, Merge, Yep Rock and the now-defunct Mammoth Records) were founded in the Chapel Hill area. Several influential death metal bands have recorded albums at Morrisound Recording in Temple Terrace, Florida and the studio is considered an important touchstone in the genre's development.

Ya know, politics tries to make life simpler than it is. They're bad, we're good. We know what laws to make.

The ultimate distillation of the conservative position is that no one knows what laws to make about the essential human things because law does not necessarily bring about good. That's why we want fewer laws, fewer opportunities to punish people we don't understand for views and behaviors and places the so-called smart people just don't like.

Go Flyers!

HOPING FOR MIRACLE TWO. At this point it gets atavistic and nasty. I may make fun, but when it gets down to it, I'm Flyers, Flyers, and more Flyers.

Here's to the old days.

And hoping the New Age  is about to begin.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Crosby with the Puck

When an irresistible force meets an immovable object, it must be The Hockey.

UPDATE. Couldn't resist this. With all apologies to Ernest Thayer's 1882 classic, "Casey at the Bat":

The Outlook wasn't brilliant for the Pittsburgh six that day:
The score stood hard against the Pens, with but one minute more to play.
And when the hometown goalie had to leave the ice in shame,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, if only Crosby could upend the Habs' good luck -
We'd put up even money, now, if Crosby got the puck.

But Penguin offense was anemic, and Hab defense amounted to attack;
The former was a kiss of death because the latter's goalie was Halak.
So on the Pittsburgh legions a bloody sun began to set,
For there seemed but little chance of Crosby charging to the net.

But Montreal got careless, and one reckless pass went just astray;
The checking was ferocious, Pen skaters joined and upped the fray;
And when the spray of ice had settled, the crowd went clean amok,
'Cause Sidney perfect Crosby had possession of the puck.

Then from 10,000 throats and more there rose a hopeful hoot;
It rumbled through the Center, it rattled all about;
It drummed the battered boards and seemed a surefire bet,
For Crosby, Sidney Crosby, was advancing on the net.

There was ease in Crosby's passage as he slithered down the ice;
There was pride in Crosby's bearing and a smile on Crosby's face.
And when, beset by Habs, he escaped with fake and duck,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Crosby with the puck.

Ten thousand faces eyed him as he conjured with his stick;
Ten thousand tongues applauded when he slipped another check;
Then while the last defenseman spun from his clever hip,
Defiance gleamed in Crosby's eye, a sneer curled Crosby's lip.

And now the deadly black-eyed puck goes hurtling through the air,
And Crosby waited, watching it, in haughty grandeur there.
Fired by the godlike superstar, the puck unleash-ed sped --
"We'll win it now, Game 7 is ours" the Pen announcer said.

The sneer is gone from Crosby's lip, his teeth are clenched in rage;
He pounds with cruel violence his stick against the cage;
And now the goalie sees the puck, and now he reaches out,
And now the air is shattered by the blare of Crosby's shout...

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Pittsburgh - Sidney Crosby has struck out.

One miracle down. One miracle to go -- Flyers against the Bruins, tomorrow night. And, though it goes without saying, congratulations, Montreal Canadiens.

P.S. This particular outcome was predicted before the game began by our own Puck Punk. As his editor I can vouch, with my word of honor, that I received his post at least two hours before the initial face-off. (He wasn't right about the Flyers, but nobody's perfect.) In deference to this incredibly unlikely call, I'm giving you the entire post to peruse at your leisure:


Well I have a good news, every body. I have a very good news. The last knock at the door is not the deportion agent or loan officer, but it is the worker of the census.  He ask me why I not give him my form to the mail, and when I say I am not citizen of the U.S. he make the big smile and ask me to talk in my house. We sit down and he explain to me the correct way to make out the form of census.

He say is only practice for when one day soon I am become a citizen in the amnesty. He even let me practice of fill out the form many, many time, each time with different name, gender, race and address to match my neighbors, but always saying I have many childrens. I tell you this, mes amis: when I am US citizen in future, always I know how to fill out the census form very good and all is to the thank of this nice worker.

And for a better news, he gives me the job to collect the more census form! This is many good because at same time I find out that the Dish Networks call plan does not work like I think. Instead of get money I get only the free credit for more Dish Networks service, which I like, but for what use is many Dish Networks credit if the electric bill can not be pay?

But now I am come to the best news of all: my Montreal Canadiens. First they are defeat the Washingtons after being down 3 to 1 games. Then they are down 3 to 2 games to the Penguin Crosbys, but then they win a glorious game 6 and are now at the tie of 3 games with the game 7 tonight. Oh, my heart jump to my throat and my hands are shake, but tonight I still watch! You must see what you miss if you are not watching the hockey two night before:


And also the InstaPunk Phlyers have a good game against the Bear until they lose tonight in Phyladelphia. I am sorry about this as the InstaPunk is only now discover the wonderful of the hockey, and maybe he does not watch more if the Phlyers go away, but as we say in French Canada: c'est la guerre.

For anyone who care about the West, it is very excite. The Shark will now play the Chicagos, so one of them must go to final to play for Stanley Cup! I must stress to every body at the InstaPunks to watch this games for seeing much wonderful hockey games! Do not disappoint, please!

Many of us Canadian forget that outside our country, nobody grow up with good sports like the hockey or the curling, and maybe this is why for you it is hard to like the anyshell. All announcer of games are Canadian and they do not care to teach a class about rules for every show. And Barry "The Mullet" Melrose is the only person left at the ESPN who knows about the hockey, but the American there do not like for him to talk so much because on the SportsCentral show they need more of the times to talk about the Danica Patrick, the any-A basketball with Snoop Jackson, and the strange game about the tall, ugly girls, too.

So do not forget, you must give the hockey a good chance, and start tonight to watch my Habs as they kill the Penguin and make all in the Pittsburg cry asleep in bed. For this thought makes my heart warm. Okay, I must go now for nap. I work night shift of the census tonight and it start after the game of the Habs and Crosbys. My new boss say to wear ski hat and bring baseball bat for the work tonight. I do not understand why is the reason for this or why we must work at late night to take the census form, but my boss pay me in the cash monies so I do not ask too many of the questions. Still, I am many excite about this new job, because it seem your workers of the census are always so busy. Your country is very amuse.

Somehow, I expect he's going to have more to say shortly.

My Dry Cleaner

Start 3 minutes 25 seconds in. You won't regret it.

ANGELS COME IN MANY FLAVORS. Have I ever told you how much I love America? Mrs. CP and I have a superlative dry cleaner in our home town. Which is a poor town. One of my jobs, since I work at home, is to drop off and pick up the dry cleaning. We struggle over whether I have the receipt or not for the latest lot. I usually do. But it doesn't matter. All I have to do if I don't have the receipt is tell the proprietor my phone number. He has it all under control. He checks his computer, punches a button and the vast serpentine line of clothes jolts into motion while he watches and prepares to pounce on the exact right set of draped hangers.

Did I tell you he's Korean? Wouldn't want to be politically incorrect. He's a small, handsome, polite man. He has many employees but you get the sense that he's the taciturn, firm type as a boss. I've never heard him raise his voice above a whisper. You walk into the store, a bell jingles discreetly, and there he is. There's music playing. And you're overwhelmed by a clean smell. Not of dry cleaning fluid but of laundered, starched cotton, warm but not hot. He's not young anymore, and every time I go in I wonder if the wedding pictures on the ceiling fascia are of him and his wife or of his daughter (son) and her husband (wife). There's something timeless about the photos. You can't even even tell if they were taken here or in Korea. But -- and I guess I'm getting old and sentimental -- they're ineffably sweet pictures somehow. I study them every time.

So. Yesterday I went in to his place of business. And I heard Mozart pouring through the place. Raised by Anglo-Saxons, I couldn't bring myself to ask. And he, being Korean, didn't volunteer. But I experienced a new synthesis if not an epiphany. Mozart is also the smell of clean warm cotton and pure Korean love. Never knew that.

Did I ever tell you how much I love America?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Woodrow Bama

I like this picture. I'll explain why below.

TYGER TYGER. Let's call this post a reason check for reasonable conservatives. I'm probably long overdue in writing it. I have one excuse. I never much liked Woodrow Wilson, dating back to long before Jonah Goldberg and Glenn Beck discovered his perfidy against the United States of America. I just considered him kind of a jerk politician. Still do, in fact, despite all the calumny that's been laid at his door. But my conscience got something of a kick in the ass (where do you keep yours?) when I read this post by our old friend C. K. MacLeod at the Green Room. I urge you to read it all before continuing here, but I'm only going to quote a paragraph or two as a teaser:

From income taxes to Mother’s Day, from child labor restrictions to saving football (Wilson was a lifelong fan, and a defender of the new sport against attempts to ban it), we could expand our view of Wilson’s influence virtually at will – especially if, as the Wilsonhitlerists seem to prefer, we credit him with or blame him for the entirety of what Hays calls the Populist-Progressive Era.  At some point in this process, modern America would begin to look like an inheritance directly from Woodrow Wilson, passed down to us by those who followed in his footsteps – with the men who founded the country looking like distant ancestors on the family tree, necessary to our existence, but not very relevant to it.

Regardless of where that argument might lead, I wouldn’t want to be the one to make it:  I don’t see how it can ever be a conservative project to tear the nation or its history – the two ought to be inseparable – to pieces.  Isn’t that what radical constitutionalists accuse Wilson of attempting?

I'm not quite as forgiving as McLeod, but on the whole he's right. My point in discussing it is not so much to rehabilitate Wilson's image as to surface a few fundamental principles of politics and history I believe we'd do well to remember during the stormy seasons to come.

For example, I don't fault Goldberg or Beck for tracing the lineage of ideas that are presently having a huge impact on our nation. All ideas have their seeds in the past, and understanding requires a certain amount of intellectual archaeology. Slogans, bumper stickers and other forms of cant may seem like weeds, but they almost always have deeper roots than that, some of them as deep as the roots of trees. The act of digging is necessary and potentially illuminating, but it also poses some risks. Tracing the tortuous line of an idea as if it were an insistent, unbroken vine can lead to the perception of a conspiracy where none actually exists. The word 'fascist' is loaded; however technically correct it may be denotatively, its horrible latter-day connotations would probably have appalled H.G. Wells and Woodrow Wilson as much as they do us. In the era before Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco, fascism didn't, couldn't, have meant what it has come to mean to us today.

Permit me to give you a perspective that lets the "liberal fascists" of Goldberg and Beck off the hook almost completely. They were elitists who thought they knew better than common folk how things should work, but that fact alone is hardly sinister. Even the democratic tradition is imbued with the assumption that governance is best led by the smartest and most thoroughly educated among us. Our founding fathers were as guilty of this assumption as the progressives. They were aristocrats, landowners, generally men of wealth and scholarly attainment (John Adams went to Harvard; James Madison to Princeton, the university of which Wilson was president). The log cabin element of American politics was always more myth than tradition, and while it produced Lincoln, it also produced James Buchanan, arguably the worst president before the twentieth century, and quite a number of mediocrities. History can (and did) lionize Ben Franklin and Andrew Jackson, but they were notable exceptions from technologically simpler times.

It's easy to forget (or not learn in the first place) that the early years of the twentieth century represented an explosion of scientific ideas so profound that we're still grappling with the impacts a full century later. It was in 1905 that Albert Einstein published papers that would lead to both the theory of relativity and quantum physics. How could it be wrong to think that the future of human government would be determined by advances in science, not homespun nostrums or antiquated Bible quotations. The world was on the march. Human flight began in 1911, a year before Wilson took office. Why shouldn't a university president think he had not the privilege but the duty to architect a more scientific model of American society?

I suspect he was thinking more in terms of far-seeing cultural design than control or totalitarian oppression. And in viewing government as a science he was a pioneer. How many readers out there majored in 'political science'? Does that make them automatically fascist? But pioneers are frequently wrong. They pursue mistaken directions. They have ideas that in the end don't pan out. They take huge risks in formulating their new ideas. Which is why we chose them in the first place. Woodrow Wilson was a completely exemplary American experiment, and his fate tells us a great deal about ourselves and our system of government, even today.

What does it tell us? Several things. 1) Events trump ideas, and politics trump plans. 2) Even Americans are drawn to aristocrats, but they never consent to being ruled. 3) Dissecting the lives of famous men tends to conceal the fact that in the United States, Americans are the ones in charge, no matter how unscrupulously they rewrite the story afterwards; and 4) Unintended consequences are grimly real, but without a statute of limitations, history itself becomes absurd. Let's look at these one by one. Briefly. I promise.

1) Events trump ideas, and politics trump plans. In reality, Wilson wasn't an ominous precursor of FDR, even if that describes his intentions in some bass-ackwards way. He was a two-term Jimmy Carter. He was elected, like Clinton, with a plurality rather than a majority of the vote, which meant he had no mandate. He was naive about foreign affairs, reminiscent of Carter's human rights obsession. He didn't want the United States to enter World War I until it became impossible not to. Then he destroyed himself, and perhaps the rest of the century, by pursuing a naive peace plan that was probably admirable on paper but doomed in the real world of politics and human venality. Is this really the man we want to demonize as the dark heart of Obama's marxist agenda? No. After a hiccup called Warren Harding, a president named Calvin Coolidge still had the political clout to cut the federal budget in half and rescue the nation from depression. How was that possible? Wilson created no huge permanent entitlements that couldn't be undone. Like Carter, Wilson had his Reagan. The presidency is the apex of the marketplace of ideas. Wilson proposed, Coolidge disposed. Slam dunk. It's called American exceptionalism.

2) Even Americans are drawn to aristocrats, but they never consent to being ruled. We do love the highborn, including JFK, FDR, and before him, Wilson. But we still demand results. Wilson presided over what has to be considered the single greatest failure ever experienced by an American president. He convinced the world to set up the League of Nations, but he couldn't persuade his own people to support it. The congress refused to ratify America's participation. It was a failure that broke his health and ultimately cost him his life. This makes him a villain of American history? Hardly. It makes him a tragic victim of a people he never understood well enough to persuade them of his vision. Was the vision wise? Probably not. Why he lost. Remember that.

3) Dissecting the lives of famous men tends to conceal the fact that in the United States, Americans are the ones in charge, no matter how unscrupulously they rewrite the story afterwards. There's a somewhat less ringing endorsement of this statement here, courtesy of Jay Cost at Read it. And as you do, remove the qualifiers and temporizing phrases. The truth is, we're always in charge. We are ruthless in giving the loud and confident enough rope to hang themselves with. Then, if they fail to produce, we lower the boom and drive them out of office in punishment for our own delusions and temporary obsessions. Justice has nothing to do with it. It's a capitalist measure: the only thing that matters is results. The American electorate is Jack Welch. We don't care why you failed. You failed. You're toast. Wilson failed because nearly a million Americans died on account of World War I -- 100,000 in combat and almost 700,000 in the flu epidemic that followed them home. Did Wilson cause the flu? No. But it was still his fault. Because we believed his fine words and his fine words turned into bitter death. That's the track Obama is on if he cares to learn from history. He's accountable most of all for what he said that we believed.

4) Unintended consequences are grimly real, but without a statute of limitations, history itself becomes absurd.  As we've seen, there's plenty of blame that will be assigned to the players presently on the stage. History, like progress, is discontinuous. What WIlson did or didn't do has virtually nothing to do with what Obama is doing or not doing. Progressivism is not the Illuminati, not some subterranean conspiracy that has bided its time in secret meetings and waited to spring during the perfect storm of national vulnerability we're experiencing now. Progressivism is as old as the founding fathers -- you know, the ones who compromised on "three-fifths" as the right accounting of black humanity. They made a measured judgment to deal with the political realities of their time. Are they now, still, responsible for the fate of a fatherless, abused child prostitute in Detroit? No. They're not. They did the best they could and they saw as far they could see. (Nietzche is NOT responsible for Hitler. Hitler is.) I have a friend who blames the New Deal and its staggering federal power grab on Abraham Lincoln and his suppression of states rights in order to win the Civil War. Is he right? No. He's a smart man, but in this instance he's clownishly wrong. Or is Lincoln the precursor of Woodrow Wilson, who's the precursor of FDR, who's the precursor of Lyndon Johnson, who's the precursor of Barack Obama, and maybe Thomas Jefferson is really the guy we should dig up and hang for the healthcare bill. It's all bullshit.

The history of ideas is instructive. But it's not a replacement for the history of politics, which is driven by unexpected events, crises, and the mercurial will of the governed. Politicians, no matter how arrogant and self-assured, are always our hostages. And that's the good news.

The potential destruction of America and its constitution is not a predestined outcome of a plot hatched by Woodrow Wilson and his racist, anti-semitic Princeton football cronies. It's a possible outcome of our inattentiveness, our indifference, our poor decision making, our short-sighted thinking and convenient memories.It's nice to know where dangerous and contemporarily destructive ideas originated. But it doesn't absolve us of our responsibilities. Which are located in the here and now, with absolutely no room for evasion or delusion.

Why do I like the picture above? Because it's so evocative of FDR. Same lordly self-satisfaction in a moment of triumph. The difference between them? Not much. Both of them were partially educated ignoramuses. But one of them was politically lucky. And the other one wasn't. Who has the power to change a politician's luck? Only us.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Role of
the Taser in Sports

PASTIMES. I had no idea this incident had created such a furor:

A police officer in Philadelphia exercised his so-called discretion this week when he Tasered an unarmed teenager who ran onto the baseball diamond during a Phillies game. He shot the 17-year-old prankster from behind, firing 12,000 volts that sent the boy tumbling into a heap.

The real shock is this was not a clear misuse of force. Officials defended the officer, saying he followed protocol, which allows police to Taser a fleeing suspect.

The case is an extreme but timely example of why poorly crafted Taser policies need to be changed. Regulations restricting use of the weapons need to be spelled out, so there is little room for such discretion in the absence of far more aggressive behaviour on behalf of a suspect.

So what. Some people are upset with what goes in the Philadelphia sports community. Nothing new. Philadelphia is the city they all love to hate. Then, over the weekend, I learned that two WIP SportsTalk hosts almost came to blows on air over the subject. Hugh Douglas, former Eagles defensive end, clashed with co-host Rob Charry over the issue of team safety. Douglas made the point that a nut on the field is a danger to athletes and to the people who are trying to catch him. Charry, on the other hand, is a stereotypical sports journalist lefty (we learn from facebook that Charry "likes" this), who sees a police state behind every potted palm except the ones statist Democrats are using for props at their news conferences.

Rob Charry: A face made for sports talk radio.

Charry, who is exactly my age, is, perhaps needless to say, an obnoxious halfwit I've grown to loathe for his canned diatribes -- whenever call traffic is slow -- about how neither golfers nor racecar drivers are athletes, as well as his not very well disguised bias against any athletes who admit to being conservatives. He can't quite explain, for example, why he dislikes ex-Phillie Curt Schilling, who never dissed Philly even after moving to Boston. He just doesn't like him. You know.

Which means in the current instance, I suppose, that the real culprit in the tasing at the Phillies ballpark was George W. Bush or Dick Cheney.

But I'm with Hugh Douglas. The tasing was justified. A teeneager running loose on a ballfield is no frail grandmother giving lip to a cop at a traffic stop. He's a random unknown obviously in good enough physical shape that tackling him could cause injury to the tacklers and clearly fit enough not to be grievously injured by a taser. A dog running wild on a baseball field is funny. A drunk jerk running wild on the same field is annoying and potentially dangerous. Also upsetting to one of the flightier star pitchers in baseball, Cole Hamels. Which is why I'm prepared to thank GWB and Cheney for tasing the dumb sonofabitch even if he meant no harm. Maybe he's learned not to do it again. That would be a good thing.

I mean, some tasings are good things. That's what got me to thinking about the role tasers might play in big-time sports. They're decisive, to be sure, but not necessarily official or even a penalty. The way the target hits the ground is more cancellation than sentence. It's just an abrupt way of saying "Stop it. This is unacceptable." It interrupts time when the time that is going on is bad behavior. It allows time to resume its normal course when the unacceptable has been removed from the field of action.

There are quite a few things in sports that should be stopped without making a big deal of them otherwise. Without fines, team punishments, stoppages of play, or other sanctions. Things that rules haven't been very good at preventing. Stop the offender cold in his tracks and resume play as if nothing had happened. Without remark, rules changes, or note of any kind. Others tempted to imitate the offender might take the lesson and refrain in future. I've compiled a few examples of where tasers could have a very positive impact on sports. See if you agree.

NFL Football. We've all grown used to silly touchdown celebrations. But who isn't irritated by losing teams whose defensive players make a tackle and then expend energy they obviously need to keep their team in the game stomping around in personal glory over a single second-down stop on their own 20 yard line?

Yeah, lots of these are TDs, but not all of them. Even so, tase'em.

NFL referees should just tase these idiots and have them dragged quietly off the field to the locker room. (Idiot owners should be treated the same way, regardless of income or age.)

Major League Baseball.  Fan interference can change a game, a series, a season. As it did with the Chicago Cubs in 2003. Fans like this shouldn't have fifteen minutes of fame. They should be absented from the moment and forgotten.

Raise your hands, everybody who thinks shock
treatment wouldn't improve this guy's personality.

There's another MLB example on my mind, but I'll save it for later.

Soccer (i.e., Third World Football). This is the most over-hyped, least intrinsically intriguing, most boring team sport in the world. Nothing could make it a good game, but one thing that could be improved by vigorous tasing is the pansy practice of pretending to be injured for the purpose of drawing the referee "yellow cards" that decide most contests.

Soccer refs? Put away the damn red and yellow cards. Tase these phony creeps and make them play their damn nil-nil game like men.

NHL Hockey. Speaking of men. There was a time when The Hockey was played by men. Now they have helmets, visors, and method acting degrees.

Hockey refs are tough. Remind the players of Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull by tasing them when they act like Sidney Cohen.

NBA Basketball. Or is this the WNBA?

No. Lesbians are tougher. But the NBA con is older.

Professional Boxing. It's been on a downhill path for a long time. Ring refs should know when to stop a fight suddenly "by accident" rather than perpetuate an official travesty.

Truthfully, I'm ready for boxing to be banned. Tasing is far more humane than what they do to each other for paychecks that are stolen from them by everyone. (Yes, I'm becoming Howard Cosell. Proudly.) Just tase both fighters when they enter the ring. Much better outcome all around.

Professional Golf. Just for Rob Charry. Because golfers aren't athletes. For example, PGA officials should tase golfers who don't have athletic bodies. Unlike offensive linemen in the NFL, who never look like Kate Smith, only with bigger boobs and a less pretty face. And golfers who don't know how to dress, unlike every NFL wide receiver and NBA star.

Though there is a syndrome related to professional golf that does require tasing. It's hinted at here. And here.

You see? Tasing would be much kinder. No one's seeking senseless bloodshed here. (Although I am rooting for the Hell's Angels to get the first crack at this particular problem, even before my own suggested solution.)

Finally. As a baseball fan, I really wanted to find some way to bring the taser solution into the problem of homeplate umpires who can't call balls and strikes better than a blind man staring in the opposite direction from the pitcher. I had ideas, struggled with the 'who' problem on taser control, and was innovating a fan-held remote taser option when I stumbled across this:

Okay. I admit it. Referee type jobs are difficult. Lots of instantaneous judgments required. Something like cops have to deal with in public safety situations. Maybe, just maybe, the decisions should be left to the professionals. And if and when we second guess those decisions, perhaps we should give them the benefit of the doubt. Unless we're Rob Charry. In which case we can be certain Tiger Woods was never an athlete and Richard Petty was just a redneck with a cowboy hat and a heavy throttle foot. You know. Expertise.

Bullet Heads

Napolitano, Sotomayor, and Kagan

. I wasn't going to touch this. I honestly don't care who's a Lesbian and who isn't. Until people who are trying to influence appointment decisions care. That's when I start to take notice. The only thing I have against Lesbians is their personal conversations. Which in my experience has always been, exclusively, about the most boring subject I've ever heard tell of, namely, uh, Lesbians.

I didn't bring this up today. Michael Smerconish did. The former Republican who discovered late last year that Hope and Change mattered more to him than a lifetime of conservative principles. God bless his little, little heart and smaller brain.

Since then I've pretty much avoided his early morning radio show. Correction. Since then I've avoided his radio show like the plague. But I had to get gas for the mower this morning and suddenly there he was on the car radio. He was working a poll he'd thought of about who we good Americans wanted as the next Supreme Court justice:

I'm not kidding. This is Smerconish's poll.

The only part I heard was an interview with his new liberal friend Alan Dershowitz, who testified to the fact that Elena Kagan was a moderate's moderate (which must have made Smerconish beam) and that she was a poker player who never bluffed. (He conspicuously didn't say she was a good poker player.)

Anyway, Smerconish subjected Dershowitz to his poll question, and Dershowitz to his credit ignored it completely in favor of clicheed attributes like learning, judgment, neutrality, objectivity, and fidelity to the law. With time out for an advertisement about how gay the Israeli army is, which should tell us backward Americans something because the Israeli army is the best in the world. (Excuse me. Isn't the Israeli army the one that got its pansy ass kicked by hamas and hizbollah a couple years ago and crawled back home with their tail between their legs while the U.S. Army was winning the surge in Iraq? uh, no? Okay. Smerconish didn't object either.)

Our moderate hero Smerconish, fixated on his post-Republican obsession with diversity, devoted himself to sucking up to Dershowitz and only at the last minute forced himself to pose the "L" question. Dershowitz denied it. Awwwww.

Where we are. Smerconish, of course, is a fool. As he ever was. When Dershowitz uses the word moderate he's not talking about the phantom zone of compromise between Barack Obama and Gerald Ford (a.k.a. Oz). He's talking about the Harvard Law School, where the left is busily engineering legal lightning to reanimate the mummy of Lenin and the right is standing on the U.S. Constitution to keep their feet off the pigshit while they write a brand new constitution on the barn wall, beginning with the part about how all animals are equal, only some animals are more equal than others.

I'm sick to death of fools. Especially sick of those who pretend to be humble while with every breath they proclaim their superiority in every sense they value. Look at Smerconish's last choice: A Great Heart. What the fuck does that mean? Is that the Smerconish seat? I suspect so.

But why do we need yet another bullet head telling us what to do, how we should feel, and why what we know is completely wrong?

What's a bullet head, you ask? I'm not smart enough to answer that. Ask Napolitano, Sotomayor, Kagan, or Smerconish.

Boring, mediocre, bovine, bossy devourers of freedom. They're cows. Lowing in the darkness.

When people talk about diversity, why don't they ever talk about the kind of diversity real people seek out rather than duck around the corner to avoid? At Big Hollywood today, Michael Moriarty called out a demographic I've never heard a liberal, or even a moderate, pursue for their big tent. And quite correctly, he called it out as an exclusively American demographic:

Beginning with Ms. [Marilyn] Monroe, there really are no classic, “dumb blondes” in Europe.

“Dumb blonde” is an exclusively American label.

However, no “dumb blonde” has ever or will ever receive so much attention from world renowned intellectuals, male and female, as Marilyn Monroe.

Norman Mailer, Arthur Miller, Joyce Carol Oates, Lee and Paula Strasberg and, of course, the Kennedys.

Liberals all. If they're so damned anxious for us to compromise, I'll compromise that way on this Supreme Court seat. I'd take the judgments of dumb blondes I've known over every liberal I've ever met.

They tend not to be arrogant, resentful little phonies. And they're never bullet heads. That's good enough for me. It's about the most we can hope for these days.

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