Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
October 6, 2010 - September 29, 2010

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Morris-Hannity Poll

Finally. Pure political science.

AN XOFF NEWS SCOOP. There's been a lot of back and forth in the political coverage of late. The Democrats are pretty convinced they're making a comeback. Which might be discouraging to those who think the Obama administration needs to be stopped in its tracks right now. That's why the results of the latest and most comprehensive poll yet taken might be important to likely voters.

The Dick Morris-Sean Hannity poll is the only one that has called all 50 states to inquire specifically about how people intend to vote in both House and Senate elections. The results are eye-opening. More than several hundreds of people were contacted, and for once the polling approach did not assume that 60 percent of them were Democrats and and 30 percent of them Republicans. This time, the respondents were allowed to self-identify and the resulting demographic breakdowns represent a breathtakingingly breakthrough revelation of poll-type categorical voter categories. The Morris-Hannity approach disdained the narrow party affiliation IDs which skew most of the MSM-reported polls and cause "adjusted" results that somehow always favor the left.

For example, in the M-H poll just completed, here are the self-identifications used in the (let's face it, always necessary) voter breakdowns: Republicans 34%, Democrats 35%, Independents 62%, Tea Partiers 31%, Conservatives 38%, Mama Grizzlies 29%, Angry Racist White Men 18%, Liberals 22%, Socialists 12%, Outright Communists 9%, Bitter Castrating Feminists 6%, Crazed Apocalyptic Christians 26%, Atheists 12%, Nihilistic Greens 8%, Jews 2%, and Muslims 0.06%. In what other poll do you get subtabs (I don't know what they are, either) like that?

When all adjustments have been factored in and appropriately weighted (Morris swears he didn't have a thumb on the scale and Hannity would have sworn too, only he doesn't swear. He's a good boy...), the projected results of the mid-term elections are not good news for Nancy Pelosi.

If the election were held today -- and, of course, much can change before Tuesday, November Nth -- the outcome would be as follows:

In the House, Republicans would win 925 seats.

In the Senate, Republicans would win 214 seats.

Promising? Yes. Determinative? Yes. BUT. This is no reason to become overconfident. We all have to keep working. And be sure to vote as many times as possible on the critical Tuesday, whenever exactly it is.

Keep the faith and don't get complacent. Okay? Sean and Dick asked me to communicate that to you.

(But hey? Do we have it in the bag or what?)

Wink wink. Repeal is just a few weeks away.

For sure, we'll finally have peace in our time. Can't wait.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Monday Morning Quarterback:

Setting the Record Straight

Is Peyton Manning grinning about 2-2? You know.
Since we're talking about super elite QBs and all?

IGGLES. I was going to give this a pass. I really was. But I revisited my post about Eagles fans and the tea partiers, and I realized I couldn't. There's an old bit of advice for writers: If you would be universal, first be local. Which is another way of saying that the whole is always somehow embedded in scenes of lesser scales, which suggests that the universe is a kind of hologram. The whole is always included in every fragment.

But enough of the pretentious introductions. What happened yesterday in the sports mass media and at and around the Eagles-Redskins game is worth documenting. I admit I watched it all, because early in the day a sportscaster said, "Today is Christmas Day for the sports media." Wow. He was referring, of course, to the return of Donovan McNabb to Philadelphia. Why? The answers, and there are a few, illustrate much about the difference between media narratives and the reality as it is lived by those who are most intimately involved. There are social and political factors at work, as well as behind-the-scenes agendas, and the result is an attempt to preempt and alter afterwards the facts of the matter as they occur. I'll explain in three parts, which you can think of as three acts that tell the real story and expose the artificial narrative.

I. The Buildup.

Both the NFL Network and ESPN lavished huge chunks of airtime on the Eagles-Redskins game. They had two competing storylines: the Second Coming of Michael Vick and the First Return of Donovan McNabb. These were obviously entangled. Donovan McNabb had a lot to do (reputedly) with the signing by the Eagles of Michael Vick, the quarterback who would be starting against McNabb in this "Christmas Day" game.

The NFL Network

Their coverage tilted more toward the Michael Vick side of the story because they had scored an interview of Vick by his former Falcons coach Jim Mora, the man whom he had arguably let down and betrayed the most. Perhaps, too, the NFL Net producers and hosts were less impressed by the fact that an NFL team had traded away a longtime franchise star. (Awww) Truth is, it happens all the time. That's the reality of the NFL as a business. The San Francisco Forty-Niners traded away a far greater star than McNabb ever was when they dealt Joe Montana to the Kansas City Chiefs. This stuff happens. It's a business. There comes a time to turn the page, manage salary caps, rebuild, etc. Which is why NFLN also had a friendly interview of Eagles coach Andy Reid by his friend and former colleague Steve Mariucci.

The Vick interview was unexpectedly intense and illuminating. Vick proved far more compelling than he was in his initial public apology. He didn't address the animal cruelty issue, which I suppose no one could. It's the black spot at the center of his fall (and his soul) that is beyond words of any kind, because the animals have no words to respond. But he looked Mora in the eye and confessed that he had lied to his coach and the man "who always had his back" because his "whole life was a lie." He admitted that he had never worked especially hard at game preparation, that DVDs of game films had piled up in his car, and when Mora said, "If there had been a million dollar check in one of those DVDs..." Vick said, "I'd never have known it." When Mora asked if there was something he should have seen, could have done to prevent the disaster which occurred, Vick replied without hesitation: "There's nothing you could have done. Nothing anybody could have done." He said his mother had tried to warn him but it "went in one ear and out the other." He said, "I was Mike Vick. I thought, what's the worst that could happen to me?" Then he declared that the only thing which could have stopped him and forced him to reevaluate his own behavior was "going to Leavenworth." He referred to the "man upstairs" as letting him know "This has to stop before it goes any farther. I'm going to take this all away from you for awhile so you can think about your life." He looked Mora in the eye and never wiped away fake tears. He also talked about what he had learned from McNabb about being an NFL quarterback: arriving at 6:45 in the morning, working out, watching film, and learning about the game they were both privileged to play.

Afterwards came a panel discussion in which two of the three former players NFLN features, plus former coach Mariucci, expressed shock at Vick's revelations. As if they'd never experienced or witnessed anything similar in their own careers. (Right.) Only Michael Ervin said he knew exactly what Vick was talking about and had overcome something similar himself.

The Andy Reid interview similarly focused on Vick. As Eagles fans have long suspected, Reid wasn't thinking about the Eagles when he sought to sign VIck. He was thinking about his own sons, both of whom had served their own terms in prison. He explained that he had observed successive phases of response: it's somebody else's fault; it's my fault; hey, I'm going to get out; and then I'm out and I'm scared to death of the wide world I've been released into. Reid contacted Vick in the final phase and decided to help. On the McNabb issue, the interview was perfunctory. All three Eagles quarterbacks were in the last year of their contracts. So he entertained calls about all of them. The Redskins wanted McNabb. He made the deal. Back to business.

Then the NFL Network addressed the issue of McNabb's return to Philadelphia. The panel discussion, marinated for hours in the Vick redemption and the Eagles' role in it, now took up the question of whether the Eagles fans would boo their returning ex-quarterback. They didn't exactly predict boos would happen, but they were all delivering sermons about why they shouldn't happen. As before, Michael Ervin was the most outspoken. He said Philadelphians should tear down the statue of Rocky and erect one in its place of Donovan McNabb. Sheesh.

ESPN (aka "Going Over the Top")

Here, loving Vick took a back seat to loving McNabb. And hating Philadelphia. In what I took to be an unprecedented step, ESPN touted and showed footage of a pre-production meeting in which Chris Berman, Mike Ditka, etc unloaded on their expectations of Philadelphia boobirds disgracing the memory of their -- supposedly our-- great quarterback. (Gosh, you'd think he'd been criticized once by some political conservative, they were so petulant.) This was accompanied by a review of McNabb's Philadelphia career, beginning with the booing of his selection by the Eagles in the draft by a handful of painted Eagles fans in the audience and then skipping on through all the highlights of his career and QB statistics. Five NFC conference championship games, for example, along with a listing of the handful of NFL QBs who could boast the same, with nary a mention of his 1-4 win/loss record in such contests or the win/loss records of his fellow titans. (uh, better.)

Then we saw the official on-air treatment of the Donovan return. Which consisted exclusively of scolding/lecturing Eagles fans and the whole City of Philadelphia in advance for the disgraceful booing everyone knew would occur. Because, as Ditka said, "We all know about Philadelphia."

MISSING: Among many other things, the completely mediocre performance thus far of Donovan McNabb as a Redskin; the total failure to mention that any other NFL team deals away stars in the twilight of their careers; citing the survey naming McNabb as the greatest ever Eagles quarterback without mentioning that it was a Philadelphia fan poll which named him thus; and the failure of any ESPN personality to stand up for their own most knowledgeable football analyst, Ron Jaworski, who was cited as a beloved figure in Philadelphia despite career statistics inferior as an Eagles QB to Donovan McNabb. (For the record, Jaworki was more lustily booed than McNabb ever was as an active player. But Philadelphia always welcomes its sports stars back with open arms when their careers are done, boos or no, as many many former players will attest. They come back to Philadelphia to live. And they never pay for a meal or a drink again in their lives.)

Bonus Snippet: Fox Sports.

Didn't see Fox News Sunday until the very end. But the final handoff was to Joe Buck and Troy Aikman preparing for their game broadcast. Troy Aikman, not jocularly, asked: "Who isn't booed in Philadelphia. I'm still booed here every time I broadcast a game." Poor Troy.

II. The Game.

Narrative overturned. Philadelphia Eagles fans gave Donovan McNabb a gracious standing ovation when he was announced. Then, when he took the field as the Redskins quarterback, he was booed. Perfectly appropriate. Although this has been reported by ESPN, etc, I haven't seen anything like an apology to Philadelphia. Hours of vilification are supposed to be undone by a terse trailer acknowledgment? What I did see on NBC Sunday Night Football was yet another replay of the booing of the drafting of McNabb followed by footage of the ovation, with the caption "What 11 years of all-pro performance will effect." Shabby. The draft booing was never a denunciation of McNabb. It was disappointment that the Eagles hadn't drafted the most promising running back in several years at a time when they didn't have a running game. In all the years since, they've never featured a running game. A lack Eagles fans have been right about for the past dozen years.

The game. Michael Vick got injured. His play was the most electrifying of any quarterback in the game in the limited time he was on the field. Of the three quarterbacks who played, the one with the worst quarterback rating was Donovan McNabb: 60.5. Sorry, but that's Rex Grossman territory.

Bald truth. It wasn't Donovan McNabb who beat the Eagles. It was the Redskins running game, the Eagles coaching staff, and the Eagles coaching staff. In fact, McNabb did everything he (historically) does to keep the other team in the game. He played for one of four quarters (one below par), he completed less than half his passes, he went 2 for 11 in the second half for a total of ten yards, he stopped the clock late in the game by running out of bounds showboating his own first down, thus benefitting his opponent for, uh, no discernible reason, and he failed in the final two minutes to run out the clock by getting a final, fatal first down. Everything Eagles fans are used to. Result? The Eagles came heartbreakingly close to winning the game on the final Hail-Mary pass of Kevin Kolb. The Eagles' most sure-handed receiver had his hands on the winning touchdown pass as time ran out. If he'd hung on, the whole narrative would have been different.

Triumph McNabb?

III. The Aftermath

An ESPN reporter opined that maybe Eagles fans are now wishing they hadn't traded McNabb away. No. Curt Menefee at Fox Sports awarded the "game ball" to Donovan McNabb. Outrageous. In the locker room after the game McNabb could have thanked his own teammates for winning a game that meant so much to him personally. Did he? Absolutely not. He chose to grandstand instead: "Everyone's entitled to a mistake," he said. "They made the mistake of trading me last year." Who's "they"? The head coach who gave him a huge bear hug after the game? The fans who gave him a generous standing ovation before the game? Perhaps the only honest statement came from Troy Aikman, who said, "If there's one word that describes the relationship between Eagles fans and Donovans McNabb, it is 'complicated.'"


The media narrative has to compete with reality. The narrative has it that Donovan McNabb scored a signal, vindicating victory against his old team and all its "angry old white man fans" last night.

The reality? Donovan McNabb is a spent quarterback and the Eagles were right to get rid of him. His only two long completions came against blown Eagles coverage, and he also had two long passes that made no sense whatever -- one to nowhere and one to the Eagles secondary, intercepted as it should have been.

I kept asking Mrs. CP why ESPN refuses to report on McNabb's so far dismal performance with the Redskins. She had an answer. Everyone expects McNabb to join ESPN after he retires. So, don't knock his play. I had another. I've never heard a word of criticism about McNabb after the Limbaugh kerfuffle, which has been continuously overblown by everyone, including the Philadelphia sports media, ever since it occurred. I think we're both right.

But here's the truth about McNabb. All of which was exemplified by what we saw from him last night. Read it and judge how generous or not the Philadelphia fan reaction was last night. Think 'complicated.'

McNabb is happily married, has children, and has never had a hint of scandal about his personal behavior. He is admired for that.

McNabb is a hard-working, dedicated player, who has played with pain, won some spectacular victories, and put the Eagles into more championship situations than any other Eagles quarterback. He is adored for that.

McNabb has more pure talent than any Eagles quarterback has ever had, with the possible exception of Randall Cunningham (also beloved), and he has been the hope of the city for that.

McNabb never plays all four quarters of a game. He's generally brilliant for one or two, sometimes three, but never all four. Last night was a predictable reminder.

McNabb has never bonded with the Philadelphia fans. It's a subtle thing. Something about entitlement versus the blue-collar environment of Philly. He "takes full responsibility" for a loss, then in the second half of the same sentence blames "young players" or unfair expectations or the way things go or something, anything other than his own performance. The final straw was his summation of last year's two humiliating annihilations by the Dallas Cowboys, when he said, "I'm sorry we can't win 16 games every year."

McNabb, in the final analysis, is more about statistics than performance. The best NFL Network contributor, Jamie Dukes, famously says, "Forget statistics." Yeah, McNabb has the lowest percentage of interceptions of any great NFL QB in history. But he had three in the one Super Bowl he played in. That's what Jamie Dukes means. Why Eagles fans regard McNabb with profound, heartstruck disappointment. He has never, despite all his thousands of yards of passing, shown any ability whatever to execute the two-minute drill or even hold the ball long enough to run out the clock in a close game. A statistic I don't think anyone tracks: losses late in games due to incredibly long field goals. I'm pretty sure every Eagles fan will attest that in the McNabb era, it has never mattered how long the field goal try was that was made possible by McNabb's three-and-out late in a game that should have been won: the opposing team always made it. My anecdotal proof is that I stopped watching long ago. When the other team got into something like field goal range after McNabb and Reid bungled another attempt to run out the clock, I just changed the channel and waited for the final score to crop up in the corner of the other game. Here's the deal (and I ask if it constitutes greatness...): McNabb either builds up a big enough lead with early pyrotechnics to survive late opposition comebacks, or he loses. From first to last, the two-minute game has always been a complete mystery to him. Something Eagles fans are absolutely sick to death of. Sick. To. Death. Of.

And here's the truth about Philadelphia. Never reported by all the Philadelphia haters at ESPN etc. The real reason for the trading of Donovan McNabb was the Philadelphia Phillies and the Philadelphia Flyers. For a decade, Eagles fans have been urged to stay the course and accept the comparative success and ultimate failure of the Eagles because they were the best game in town. Almost always in the playoffs, and what else can you expect?

Well, in the past few years, Philadelphians have learned to expect better. The long-suffering Phillies became World Champions of baseball with about a tenth the angst and soap opera and alibis represented by the Eagles. The Phillies went out and won the World Series without us having to hear any stories about superstars with hurt feelings or protectively pissed off mommies. Then they lost a World Series without making any excuses, blaming each other or anybody else, or Philadelphia fans for their mean remarks, and came back to win a fourth straight division title without -- in all that time -- a single, back-stabbing leak to the press about which multi-millionaire said what nasty thing to which other pampered multi-millionaire. They're, uh, a kind of a team.

The Flyers. Had an indifferent regular season last year. Then they performed a miracle against the Boston Bruins, coming back from 0-3 to win a seven game series and made it into the Stanley Cup Finals against all odds. They lost in the finals. But they lost somehow better than the Eagles ever lose. Because they never ever quit, and they never looked for a moment like they weren't giving their best. They won our hearts because they were playing like hell the whole time.

What Philadelphia expects and deserves. After all, who pays for all these stadiums, parks, and arenas? Philadelphians.

The final point. The one that ties it all back to the tea parties. These teams work for us. We pay their salaries and we fund their facilities, even those of us who can't afford to attend their games. We have a right to boo when they don't try hard enough, when they throw tantrums or hissy fits, and when they think we should simply worship them without expecting results.

I grant that we've accepted a new age of bread and circuses. We pay for coliseums and entertainments most of us can't afford to see in person. But the only possible American saving grace is that we get to have our say. And when the nation's media demand that we uncritically admire something less than success just because they have personal and ideological ties to the people who are supposed to be admired, fuck them.

Bottom line. Donovan McNabb made 100 million dollars in Philadelphia. He didn't meet expectations. On the whole, he was treated very kindly by the people who have funded his fortune. But he didn't do the one thing that was expected of him. And he never will. For anyone else either. He should be grateful looking back because there's nothing ahead of him that will ever compare.

And here's another dead cert: ESPN and other MSM sports media won't hesitate to slam Philadelphia again at the first opportunity. As if the moment of grace they've momentarily acknowledged never occurred. If a Philly fan boos someone in the baseball playoffs, ESPN will trot out the footage of the snowballing of Santa Claus, as sure as my name is CountryPunk. Because if there's anything the elite media truly hate and despise, it's average Americans.

Especially if they come from Philadelphia and environs. Yes. They're that lazy, stupid, biased, and parochial.

Hail Philadelphia. And the tea parties. Same damn thing. I am with you all.

No Pressure, Just Die

It's gonna be so great when we're all dead.

BREAKDOWN. I know.Instapunk and fellow guest-poster Eduardo have written about it at length: There's a segment of the population which hates human beings and desperately wishes we could all just die and go away, leaving Earth the perfect paradise it would be without anyone to observe it.

Some of these groups have millions of dollars to spend on delivering their message, and they frequently go for shock value when creating media projects.

First there was the unnecessary and sickening 9/11 ad from the WWF:

Next came the straightforward threat from some tough guy with Greenpeace:

"If you're one of those who have spent their lives undermining progressive climate legislation, bankrolling junk science, fueling spurious debates around false solutions, and cattle-prodding democratically-elected governments into submission, then hear this:

We know who you are. We know where you live. We know where you work.

And we be many, but you be few."


Last week, though, the bar was lowered even further -- below the gutter, below the sewer, down somewhere near the center of the Earth.

All in the name of humor. Naturally.

You must watch it for yourself and you must watch it all the way through.

Within 48 hours, the official video was yanked with this posted in response:

Sorry. Today we put up a mini-movie about 10:10 and climate change called 'No Pressure'.

With climate change becoming increasingly threatening, and decreasingly talked about in the media, we wanted to find a way to bring this critical issue back into the headlines whilst making people laugh. We were therefore delighted when Britain's leading comedy writer, Richard Curtis - writer of Blackadder, Four Weddings, Notting Hill and many others – agreed to write a short film for the 10:10 campaign. Many people found the resulting film extremely funny, but unfortunately some didn't and we sincerely apologise to anybody we have offended.

As a result of these concerns we've taken it off our website. We won't be making any attempt to censor or remove other versions currently in circulation on the internet.

We'd like to thank the 50+ film professionals and 40+ actors and extras and who gave their time and equipment to the film for free. We greatly value your contributions and the tremendous enthusiasm and professionalism you brought to the project.

At 10:10 we're all about trying new and creative ways of getting people to take action on climate change. Unfortunately in this instance we missed the mark. Oh well, we live and learn.

Uh huh, got it. Oh well.

So how did this lil' film come into existence? Big budget, big director, big actors and sports stars, big effects, and big name on the soundtrack -- how did such a group of people get pulled into such an execrable project?

The answer is not good. We're seeing just the tip of a massive (though possibly melting) glacier of star power, money, and conviction from some seriously disturbed people with a cause. The good news is that in an effort to outdo each other in showing just how much they hate the human race and all that it has wrought on this planet, they make blunders like these. They show normal people just how crazy they actually are, and in so doing, interrupt the progress they've been making.

They are fanatics, and this is their fantasy.

Since the release and subsequent pulling, even some of the most virulently outspoken AGW bloggers in the climate web are speaking out against it. But the damage is done, and this video has only begun to do its service in opening people's eyes -- not to runaway global warming climate change climate disruption, but to the mindset of its disciples.

P.S. [ED.] The post is by Lake. The P.S. is by me, IP. I'm only adding this because I can't help seeing the reversal between the video Lake has surfaced and this video from the 80's. From rejecting conformism with extremism to embracing it with extreme prejudice in the same fucked up country inside of a generation or so makes me weep.

Worse, the pedagogues of the new nazis -- the ones with the new switches and commandments -- are the children of last generation's rebels against, uh, totalitarian authority.

Too bad nobody could see they were just as bad as what they hated. (Oops. Sorry. We saw. Nobody listened.)

Britain? Fuck you and die. And I really fucking mean it. (Sorry, Lake.)

Friday, October 01, 2010

Mitch Daniels

A good, thorough, and even-handed interview by C-SPAN's Brian Lamb.
It's long but an excellent introduction to a potential 2012 dark horse.

ALWAYS RIGHT? WHO KNOWS?. A name we keep hearing, though he's never included in the wild-ass presidential polling about Republican candidates. Here's his basic resume at Wiki:

Mitchell Elias "Mitch" Daniels, Jr. (born April 7, 1949) is the 49th and current Governor of the U.S. state of Indiana. A Republican, he began his four-year term as Indiana's 49th Governor on January 10, 2005 and was elected to his second term by an 18-point margin on November 4, 2008. Previously he was the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under George W. Bush and also worked for Eli Lilly and Company. He is cited as a rising star within the Republican party and has approval ratings hovering near 70%.

Upon becoming Governor, Daniels pressed for a series of changes that brought him into conflict with both Republicans and Democrats. During his first year in office he proposed a number of tax increases, budget cutting, and privatization plans to balance the budget. Because of the opposition led by Republican Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, only two of the new taxes were approved. Support for a switch to Daylight Savings Time, the privatization of the Indiana Toll Road, and the closure of many license branches brought him into conflict with Democrats and his approval ratings dropped to 42% in 2005. He began pressing for constitutional changes to cap state property taxes at 1-3% of value in 2007. The caps were approved by the Indiana General Assembly as statute. The resulting drop in revenue was offset by an increase to the state sales tax. His support for the property tax limits, and the proposals' subsequent adoption, helped raise his popularity and secure his reelection bid. His second term saw a major drop in state revenues, leading to major spending cuts by the state.

I'm bringing him up now because he seems to fullfill a lot of the criteria I laid out back in November 2009 for who would be the candidate to beat Obama in 2012. I said:

[T]hanks to the amount of time I've spent studying Criminal Minds, I've been able to come up with a definitive profile of the next president of the United States, the chief feature of which is that he will bear no resemblance to Barack Obama. Things we can say for sure.

-- He won't be an historical first of any kind, like, say, a woman
-- His clothes won't quite fit.
-- He won't be a dynamic, galvanizing, or particularly moving speaker.
-- If he schedules a primetime press conference, none of the networks will cover it.
-- He'll win presidential debates by causing the audience to turn off the television out of boredom.
-- His wife won't wear jeans shorts or designer belts five inches wide.
-- He won't appear on any magazine covers or adoring YouTube videos.
-- He won't cause any network newsmen to get homoerotic leg twitches.
-- He won't cause any network newswomen to get hot and bothered on Air Force One.
-- He won't be young.
-- He won't be good looking.
-- He won't be charming.
-- He won't be sexy.
-- He won't be even remotely glib, folksy, or clever.
-- He won't have different accents for different audiences.
-- He'll spend a lot of time off-camera in the White House. Working.
-- He won't be apologetic about anything American, at home or abroad.
-- We'll be okay with that.
-- He'll have actual experience in government, foreign policy, and executive roles.
-- He'll love the United States more than himself.
-- He'll be a ruthless bastard about pursuing American interests abroad.
-- He'll see wars as opportunities for victory, not occasions for PR bonanzas in world opinion.
-- He'll be elected BECAUSE he is boring, experienced, competent, and predictable. And boring.

By 2012, the entire country will be yammering for an old-fashioned, even soporific president. Where can we find someone like Chester A. Arthur, Millard Fillmore, James K. Polk, Benjamin Harrison, or Martin Van Buren? Unfortunately, almost all Republicans flunk the test. Romney is good looking if not sexy. Huckabee is charming if nothing else. Giuliani and Thompson just love those cameras. Palin is completely out of the question

Yes, it was tongue-in-cheek, but not completely. I was sincere about the fact that Americans would be looking for an 'Anti-Obama.' I still think it's the smartest way to go, even if Sarah Palin is pioneering new ways of breaking the rules.

Take a look at him. Like everyone else, he has his plusses and minuses.But pay attention and learn who he is. You might warm to him, slowly. He's a budget cutter and a fiscal conservative. So maybe you'll forgive him for the Princeton, Georgetown, and Bush administration stuff. He referred to the end of his first political stint in Washington as "going straight." He became an executive at Eli Lilly, which he credits as the most important experience in preparation for being governor.

Which is the deliberately not rousing end of my pitch. Except that his nickname is "The Blade." Resonates with us. Oh. That reminds me. He said this to a recent graduating class at Butler University:

As a generation, you are off to an excellent start. You have taken the first savvy step on the road to distinction, which is to follow a weak act. I wish I could claim otherwise, but we Baby Boomers are likely to be remembered by history for our numbers, and little else, at least little else that is admirable.

We Boomers were the children that the Second World War was fought for. Parents who had endured both war and the Great Depression devoted themselves sacrificially to ensuring us a better life than they had. We were pampered in ways no children in human history would recognize. With minor exceptions, we have lived in blissfully fortunate times. The numbers of us who perished in plagues, in famine, or in combat were tiny in comparison to previous generations of Americans, to say nothing of humanity elsewhere.

All our lives, it's been all about us. We were the "Me Generation." We wore t-shirts that said "If it feels good, do it." The year of my high school commencement, a hit song featured the immortal lyric "Sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today." As a group, we have been self-centered, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and all too often just plain selfish. Our current Baby Boomer President has written two eloquent, erudite books, both about..himself.

As a generation, we did tend to live for today. We have spent more and saved less than any previous Americans. Year after year, regardless which party we picked to lead the country, we ran up deficits that have multiplied the debt you and your children will be paying off your entire working lives. Far more burdensome to you mathematically, we voted ourselves increasing levels of Social Security pensions and Medicare health care benefits, but never summoned the political maturity to put those programs on anything resembling a sound actuarial footing.

In sum, our parents scrimped and saved to provide us a better living standard than theirs; we borrowed and splurged and will leave you a staggering pile of bills to pay. It's been a blast; good luck cleaning up after us.

Okay. All done.

The Great Podcast Experiment

. So I'm obeying Brizoni's instructions. Begins to make me feel like the codger dribbling on his bib while the young ones sniff and look away. Maybe that's why I picked as my experimental recording the "Sometimes I'm Just an Old Man" post from January 2008.

Here's the link:

Let's see if it works. Please report.


. Minor, teeny tiny cleaning up of the recording.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Important Stuff

Josh Gates. He's having himself a hell of a time.

. The mid-term elections? No. Scary pictures of Hillary Clinton? No. The president interacting, for once, with real pissed-off citizens in a townhall event? No. It's all the silly season. No one knows what's going to happen in November. The people will decide. And chances are, regardless of what pundits say, they'll send a pretty strong message to Washington, DC, about how fed up they are with everyone and everything associated with the federal government.

Which leaves us with the important stuff. Meaning teevee.

Time for some updates and a new recommendation.

We just got the DVDs for last season's Dexter. Have to admit it's looking great so far. Dexter stalking and taking down the female cop who slaughtered her family was both creepy and weirdly family affirming. We'll keep you advised.

Rubicon. It keeps getting better and better. I have no problem telling you it's the best written television series I've ever seen. And probably the best acted too. Who's Arliss Howard? Where has he been all this time? And that's just a stand-in for all the players, major and minor, who make every scene worth watching. My only serious question about this series is how they can ever have a second season. It's so intense that it's clearly the dramatic apogee of the lives of everyone involved. Once they reach a denouement of any sort, the story will be done. The Brits know that's okay. I don't think Americans do.

And now for the newbie. It runs on Syfy and is called Destination Truth. The single most baffling TV show I've ever seen.

What the hell is it? I have no idea. But I love it.

Nominally, it's a spinoff from Ghost Hunters, but it's oh so much more than that. The protagonist isn't a heavily tattooed roto-rooter man with a bunch of heavily tattoed roto-rooter people following him into haunted attics and going "Oh shit!" right before every commercial.

Well, yes, there's some of that. But the protagonist isn't exactly a roto-rooter man. He's this guy:

Josh Gates (born August 10, 1977 in Gloucester, Massachusetts) is an American adventurer, explorer, photographer, and television personality. He is currently the host of Destination Truth on Syfy, (formerly the Sci Fi Channel), a weekly one-hour show filmed in remote locations around the world that explores some of the world's mysteries and unexplained phenomena. Gates was born in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, where he was the president of his high school class, and currently resides in Los Angeles, California. He has degrees in archaeology and drama from Tufts University, where he graduated with honors in 1999.

In addition to being a qualified SCUBA diver, Gates has also summited Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa and climbed Mt. Aconcagua in the Argentine Andes. From 1996 to 1998, Gates participated in The University of Maryland's archaeological excavations of Caesarea Maritima in Israel. Part of a small SCUBA team, Gates worked with researchers to excavate and better understand the ancient city's submerged harbor complex. In addition to his field work, Gates has traveled over 75 countries around the world and was recently inducted into The Explorers Club, a prestigious organization dedicated to the advancement of exploration since 1904.

Which is where all the baffling stuff comes in. Josh Gates is smart, witty, adventurous to the point of insanity, and clearly enjoying all the loony quests he undertakes for the show.

The premise of Destination Truth is both Quixotic and absurd. We always begin in the hardwood-floored offices of "the team," where word has just been received of some paranormal event in Sri Lanka (ghosts possessing dolls in a temple) or a cryptozoological sighting in the Horn of Africa (a brontosaurus that's eating the hedges in some tribe's backyard). He fills you in on the objective in a rat-a-tat voiceover narration, and then we watch his beleaguered crew stuff their duffle bags with techie equipment and stride for the exit.

We get Indiana Jones-style maps of their air travel -- "quickly boarded a jet for the 11,000 mile trek to Shangri La" -- and then we get contemporary scenes of baggage handling and racing for the next transportation device, usually an SUV that craps out two miles from the airport. (Isn't a running joke a hint of some sort") But there's a lot more to the transportation angle than beater SUVs. No episode is complete without some combination of creaky planes, helicopters, boats, motorcycles, snowmobiles, rafts, and (who knows?) airboats, tanks and rocket cars.

Is this, in fact, an Indiana Jones parody? No. At least no more than it's a hilarious travelogue parody. Because there's always a razor-sharp series of encounters with the locals in which Josh is alternately self-deprecating and condescending (though not in a mean way -- he's winking at us the whole time) even as the breakneck speed of the current expedition, and his wry voiceover, is maintained. You see, the whole modus operandi is to fly 10,000 miles into the Third World and slog through jungles, deserts, swamps and other impossible terrain to spend just one night investigating weird phenomena. And then, immediately, fly 10,000 miles back to Los Angeles for a two minute summary of the findings.

So it's fake paranormal research. A kind of sendup of all the silly shows in this genre? But no. Because in the night he and his crew spend investigating, Josh Gates takes insane chances of every sort, ranging from rock climbing unknown cliffs with nightscopes to SCUBA-diving in freezing cold black waters to spelunking in unknown caves to prowling the African savannah without even a rifle for protection. He's a maniac, and his "team" always seems terrified and put upon.

So the show is really "Let's take nutty chances at midnight for the hell of it." Except that doesn't cover it either. Because Josh and the rest of his crew are all techie nerds to the nth degree. They come armed with sonar and ground penetrating radar and underwater ROVs and infrared cameras and nightscopes and digital sound recorders and FLIR cameras that photograph the person wearing them (creepy) and EMF recorders and who knows what other crap, which they dutifully lug into the most hostile environments without more than a few hours of planning.

So the show is ultimately, perhaps, "Blundering Around the World with Josh Gates."

If it's all a fake, why would Josh and his crew take such extreme physical risks? And why would anyone participate? It seems as if every trip they take involves incredibly long distances and fairly extreme privation. On the other hand, what kind of meaningful research can you be pretending to do if you never spend more than one night collecting evidence?

As I said. The most baffling show on television. But Josh is funny. And bold as brass. I think that's the saving grace that makes it a keeper. The world really is Josh Gates's plaything. He's having a blast even if his crew isn't. When's the last time you thought of the entire planet as a candy store the right kind of kid can play in?

Finally. The right name for this show: "Josh's Candy Store."

Watch it. It's all of the above and more. Parody, tech nerdiness, show biz, goofy travelogue, smartass self-indulgence, adolescent thrill-seeking, and maybe a leavening dose of curiosity.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Best Fans

ONE LUMP OR TWO. For those who are thinking, "Not another sports post," this one is actually about the Tea Parties, not Philadelphia.

But it starts with Philadelphia. There have been two great stories boiling in the City of Brotherly Love this week. The Phillies, obviously, clinching their fourth straight division title in the National League, while the world of snotty sportswriters headquartered in New York is finally --after all this time -- acknowledging that they're definitely, absolutely for real as a great baseball team.

The other story has to do with Michael Vick. I'll get back to that.

But first, here's the Tea Party angle. The MSM "narrative" about Philadelphia sports fans has remained unchanged for decades. Many of you who don't live here probably believe it because you have no reason not to. It's all you've ever heard. Philadelphia fans are crude, violent, drunk ingrates who turn instantly on their teams when the results are not acceptable in terms of the instant gratification mindset that afflicts this benighted city. They threw iceballs at Santa Claus, ran Donovan McNabb, one of the elite NFL quarterbacks of the past decade, out of town, and have always behaved with a kind of thuggish sullenness that makes them the embarrassment of sports fans the world over. Does that about cover your own view of the topic? Thought so.

I call it the "angry white man" narrative. It's been applied to Philadelphians for decades and it's been applied to Tea Parties since they first emerged on the scene. Problem is, it's no truer of Philadelphians than it is of tea parties. And vice versa. It's just an easy way for the MSM to characterize people they don't like.

And it's parochial as hell. Which is why the Philadelphia instance is so pertinent. Because the Philadelphia instance is all about New York. And guess who the chief rivals of New York teams in the National League and the National Conference of the NFL are? The Philadelphia Phillies and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Phillies have made it a practice in recent years to humiliate the New York Mets, and the Eagles have hectored the New York Football Giants for decades at least. (If you've missed the story of how Eagles linbebacker Chuck Bednarik nearly killed Giants halfback Frank Gifford, you're the only one.) The difference between their fans is a coin flip. They're both northeastern cities. The fans boo quickly, loudly, and vociferously because they care so very very much. The fans are blue collar -- they're not the yuppies of the Redskins, Patriots, and Forty-Niners, the oil barons of the Dallas Cowboys, or the hippies of the Denver Broncos fan base. They're, well, the same kind of folks that are attending tea parties.

And exactly the same demographics apply. The center of MSM sports journalism is -- TA DA -- New York. Objective are they? No. No more than they are with national political issues. They're, uh, New Yorkers first and foremost. Better, smarter, just plain superior. Even if our two NFL teams both play their games in New Jersey. Probably why they're not as cool as we are.

Which explains the Tea Party coverage. Completely. Same parochial mindset. We're New Yorkers. Everybody else is full of shit.

What's the twist here? Maybe the rest of you can learn something about America from Philadelphia sports fans. Don't sigh. Listen. Learn. Most of what you think you know just ain't so.

Philadelphia fans are loyal. The Eagles are always sold out. Not so rare in the NFL. But so are the Phillies. Sold out, I mean. For over a hundred straight home games. Only the New York Yankees have sold more tickets this year, but New York is three times the size of Philadelphia. And nobody can explain the huge Phillies contingent that shows up at every road game the Phillies play. It's inexplicable and awe-inspiring. But there they always are.

Philadelphia fans are knowledgeable. One of the key dramatic moments in the 2008 playoffs involved an at-bat by a pitcher. He fouled off pitch after pitch and finally broke the spirit of C.C. Sabathia. The fans were on it the whole time and, arguably, made the eventual game-changing walk happen. Philly fans know their baseball.

Philadelphia fans are complicated. Cartoons aren't complicated. Philly fans are worse than complicated. They're committed, conflicted, and agonized. (Tea Party anyone?) I've been listening to SportsTalk in Philly for the past week, and for a city that wants a Super Bowl win so desperately, the callers -- and the hosts -- are a divided bunch. They had good reason for wanting to be done with McNabb. In nine years, McNabb never did what Vick did last week. Score a touchdown with four seconds remaining in the fist half. (The tea partiers have always been accused of being racist because they don't like Obama.) Eagles fans weren't racist for disliking NcNabb. He never really liked them, and they wanted so much to like him that a typical Eagles crowd was a sea of Number Five jerseys. I guarantee there will be cheers aplenty as well as boos when McNabb take the field for the Redskins next Sunday in Philadelphia. But he never had the Unitas, Manning, Elway touch. He couldn't bring you back at the last second to a victory. Never could. Never did. The fans remember that too. Even the ones who cheer.

Vick can bring you back. And all over the radio, the fans don't know how to feel about that. Apparently, there's something more than winning they care about. Not all of them obviously. Some are gung-ho. But by no means all. They call in, a whole spectrum of moral vicissitudes. Upset by the betrayal of Kevin Kolb. Able to root for the Eagles with Vick but not for Vick. Lifelong fans but unable to watch an Eagles game at all. Able to root for Vick and the Eagles but finding a hole in their hearts, a twinge of conscience as they do so.

And hardly any haters. Again I'm reminded of the tea partiers. They're not simple-minded, most of them. They don't like the situation. They don't want Vick to go back to prison. They want him to find his own personal redemption. But they'd also rather have an Eagles team that didn't make them feel dirty to watch.

Something about congress maybe. Not to mention the White House.

Maybe ESPN should lighten up on Philadelphia. And maybe the MSM should lighten up on the tea partiers.

Just a thought.

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