Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
May 19, 2011 - May 12, 2011

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cobra Thoughts

More of what we're losing, day by day. And don't forget the big ass-end.

. I have no real good reason for this post. Like so many things, it was a weird process of association. Mrs. CP was wondering what people really think of my deerhound posts, and I said I thought they found them entertaining without necessarily wanting the dog. Because they're too much to handle, too high maintenance, though spectacular. I thought it was like the way I feel about Ferraris, exotic and cool as hell but, you know, no way for me.

So I wallowed this morning in more deerhound videos, which was fun, of course:

None of it works without the big ass-end.

But I also realized I'd picked the wrong point of comparison. Deerhounds aren't Ferraris. Ferraris are refined and smooth and upper class to the point of snootiness. Deerhounds aren't that at all. Borzois are. Afghans are. Greyhounds are. Not deerhounds. Deerhounds are rude and crude and loud and obnoxious, over the top and frequently vulgar. Which is when I remembered the AC Cobra and started looking at Cobra videos. Which led me to a whole new line of thinking.

Something about atavism. Like the way if there had ever been any dogs in the Lord of the Rings movies, the only ones who would have fit in would be deerhounds and wolfhounds. And as I looked at the Cobra videos, I realized that they too have become ancient, a throwback to a more primitive, more vital time. In some ways even more so than the much older Bugattis and Duesenbergs. We can still find the fashion line of the sleek and the opulently stately in the automobiles of today. But there is really nothing to compare to the height of automotive madness that was the Cobra. Not even the obviously imitative Viper, which is an all too quiet parade machine.

Several other things are notable and perversely relevant to our current state of affairs. The Cobra may have been the last truly gestalt collaboration between the Brits and the Americans in technology. Its basis was a typically tiny Brit sportscar called the AC Bristol. American Carroll Shelby figured out that he could shoehorn a small-block Ford V-8 into the engine bay, which was the birth of the original 289 Cobra, a beast that slew Corvettes by the hundreds in SCCA racing in the mid 1960s. Then came the typically American upping of the ante. Shelby figured out how to jam a NASCAR-quality big block Ford engine with four Weber carburetors producing more than 500 horsepower into a slightly modified AC chassis with an ass-end swollen to accommodate much bigger, grippier tires, and an ultra-legend was born. The 427 Cobra weighed next to nothing, had an automatic transmission because no one could manually shift fast enough to maximize its acceleration, and it could go from zero to sixty in 3.9 seconds and zero to a hundred in well under 10 seconds. Depending on the gear ratios selected, it could reach 200 mph with virtually linear acceleration. It cost about $8,000.

It was also, for all its British roots, loud, flashy, and so instantly and terrifyingly fast that you couldn't be a silver-haired banker looking for young tail and safely own it. You had to know how to drive it or the car would flat kill you. The suspension was good, but with almost unlimited power under the throttle, you can get sideways and off the road in a heartbeat. The Cobra was no rich Casanova's rolling bedroom.

The engine was so highly tuned that it could only operate on Sunoco 260 megatane gasoline, no longer available today (sigh). It was so radically configured that the engine roughness you hear in the videos is a function of a racing cam that barely runs at idle; it wants you to stamp on the throttle and hit a sweet spot of 7,000 rpm -- in other words, it's junk around town; no environment for sweet-talking 18-year-old girls into your clutches.

It has become one of the rarest of all automotive legends. Only 200 of the 427 Cobras were ever made. Most of them still survive, having come gradually into the hands of those who know how to drive them and care for them. At the same time, no car in history has ever inspired such a vigorous replica industry. Obviously, the thing speaks to individual souls in a way few cars ever have,

Here's the rub. The Cobra is clearly an archetype of the fossil fuel evil liberals want to remove from our lives. Yeah, it got crappy gas mileage. But it was also an apex of the automotive esthetic. While they piddle around in their Priuses, I can't help thinking that we're losing something important about ourselves.

Is this how you want so see yourselves in the more responsible progressive age? Or do you dream in your deepest hearts of something more like this?

He's babying it, because the car is worth a gazillion dollars. But it's a taste.

Sorry for interrupting your New Age meditations...

I'm just saying... You
know what I'm saying?

THE DIAMOND STATE. Prevoiously, we have noted this:

Delaware is 20 minutes away from here. It's a state with three counties, only one of them inhabited and that one by one city. Which means they're nothing but levels of government; federal, state, municipal (Wilmington), "greater Wilmington" a.k.a. New Castle County, and townships, of course, all piled on top of individual citizens. Does it work? No. DelDot, the offending agency here, is a tri-state joke (NJ, PA, and DE). We all know that Delaware traffic signage is designed to get you lost and that DelDot "improvement" projects invariably involve years of main artery shutdowns with no visible signs of progress ever. On any given day, about half of the lanes of the Delaware Memorial bridges to and from New Jersey are closed for maintenance, although, oddly, there's rarely a DelDot truck or worker in sight.

Lately, it's gotten much much worse. On the Friday of Easter weekend, I tried to cross the bridge and discovered that it was down to one lane. It took me more than 45 minutes to traverse one mile of bridge approach. When I finally got onto the bridge, there was still no sign of actual work being undertaken. Just a cop car or two and a miscellaneous truck parked in one of the lanes. But I think I now know what that travesty was all about:

Delaware Memorial Bridge tolls set to rise July 1

May 18, 2011|By Paul Nussbaum, Inquirer Staff Writer

Auto tolls on the Delaware Memorial Bridge are slated to increase by $1, to $4, on July 1 following unanimous approval of the new tolls by the Delaware River and Bay Authority commissioners Tuesday.

Higher tolls are needed to pay for repairs and upgrades on the bridge that connects New Jersey and Delaware at the southern end of the New Jersey Turnpike and I-295, officials said.

"The effects of age and heavy use mandate substantial capital improvements in order for the DRBA to continue to provide safe and efficient travel" over the bridge, DRBA chairman Bill Lowe said in a statement.

Yeah, the bridges need work. Ha ha. Who doesn't get it by now? The suckers don't want that one-lane stuff. Soften'em up for a few months with long delays and mucho inconvenience. Then they'll be happy to hear that repairs will be made with a 33 percent increase in the toll. Private sector capitalist enterprises struggle to keep inflation in single digits, even in a time of runaway gas and food prices. Governments just fart in your face and raise prices by a third because they always have the option of mafia-style protection: you wouldn't want anything bad to happen during your daily commute, would you? Would you?

You know what I'm saying? I think you do.

Delaware. Home of "Jovial Joe" Biden. Who cares so much about the little guy.

F___ off, Joe. Yeah. That's what I'm saying.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Odds and Ends

As always, InstaPunk remains at the center of the passing parade.

WILLIE.21.1-2. A lot of sloppy stupid stuff going on, but not much that's worthy of an essay-type post. So maybe you'll forgive me for a series of non sequiturs that don't add up to anything but a self-satisfied InstaPunk smirk.

Trump is out. Color me bored. As I predicted, he found out PDQ that politics is a blood sport in which even self-ordained titans can be laid low in seconds. Still, I have to concede that Big Hollywood had a point about a certain debt of gratitude we probably owe him.

Speaking of Big Hollywood, this was a delightful reminiscence about John Wayne, and this was an educational reminder about the substance of Ronald Reagan and the careless viciousness of the left-wing media.

Schwarzenegger. Pretty tired of the celebrity rules in Kally-FOR-neea. No journalist could have sussed this out when he ran in the first place? Were they protecting Ahnold or their only frail link to the Kennedy royalty? Doesn't matter. The whole episode is very Hollywood, very Kennedy, and very over the top. Just like the whole bankrupt state of Kally-FOR-neea. Do I care? Not at all.

Huckabee's out, too. I thought, to be honest, that it was a non-item. But then I heard him as a guest on a local Philly talk radio show. Not being a candidate apparently empowers him to speak more bluntly about what he thinks. My jaw dropped when he dared to say what so many people know but don't have the nerve to express: Obama is a shallow thinker, bright, sure, but not penetrating enough to be even a passable president. He also described contemporary American politics as a kind of cesspool (my distillation, not his words), in which money can elevate the worst over the best. Maybe Huckabee does have a role to play in the upcoming campaign follies. I'm reevaluating.

Three cheers for Hillary. The first major political figure to give the finger to Jimmy Carter he's richly deserved throughout his self-serving post-presidential bid for acclaim. Asked if she wanted to meet with him after his trip to North Korea, she said, "No." Then she elaborated. "HELL no."

Three more Republican candidates are all but out. Gingrich mouthed off the cuff once too often. Good riddance. His lame support for ethanol and global warming alarmism was already a fatal long-term problem. His betrayal of Paul Ryan's brave effort to address the budget and the deficit were the last straw. Huntsman is done before he even got started. He accepts global warming because 90 percent of scientists do, which they don't. Add to that his gushing praise for the leadership of Obama and nobody will vote for him in the primaries. Thank goodness. And Mitt Romney refused to admit that RomneyCare in Massachusetts was a mistake. He prefers to quibble about bureaucratic differences between the progam that's bankrupting Massachusetts and the ObamaCare program that will bankrupt the United States. Nobody wants to hear why Romney is technically blameless for an evidently socialist government intrusion into the health care mess he personally sponsored and passed into law.

O'Reilly debated Jon Stewart on the subject of the rapper Common's invitation to the White House. He lost. Because he never made the only point that matters. The president can invite anyone he wants to the White House. (Dumb as hell to stake your whole position on opposition to that elemental truth.) But is it a good idea? In this case, no. Bad PR move. We already know how Obama feels about white cops interacting with African-Americans. This wasn't a good time to remind everyone that he's black first and American second. But neither O'Reilly nor Stewart could bring themselves to mention the elephant in the room. You know. We're all too polite to bring up race. Advantage lefties. Stewart was the cleverer one, but his smarts can't overcome presidential stupids.

Nancy Pelosi's congressional district accounted for 20 percent of April's waivers of compliance with ObamaCare. You couldn't make this stuff up. Nothing to see here. Move along.

60 percent of the French think Americans set up the IMF chairman with sexual assault charges. Those would be the same French who think Roman Polanski sodomizing a 13-year-old is not so much rape as droit de seigneur. And they can't understand why the "no bail" decision. Maybe they should ask Roman about that.

InstaPunk had something of a set-to (see Comments, too) with the Ron Paul faithful. Now they're uncharacteristically silent. Somehow I don't think they're bored. I think they're tongue-tied.

And, finally, just for fun, Apotheosis posted this photo in a comment on our latest post about the deerhound Raebert.

All I can tell you is, that dog's NOT Raebert. If there's a more comfortable spot to be had, he's in it. Trust me.

I know you do. Because I'm at the center of everything...

Monday, May 16, 2011


The point all Republicans
are too dumb to make...

THEY'RE RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT, DAMN THEIR HIDES.... They always seem to lose the framing arguments, don't they? Today's the day the debt limit is scheduled to go critical. The Republicans talk about cutting spending. The Democrats talk about the frightful human costs of cutting federal programs and the more sensible alternative of raising taxes.  The Republicans resist raising taxes because that somehow hobbles the government's responsibility to create jobs in a weak economy. Because it's rich Republicans who create jobs when they're not otherwise engaged in supervising the custom builds of their $100 million dollar yachts. Why the Democrats tend to win such confrontations. Republicans talk vaguely about growing the whole economy, which the Dems instantly reduce to the old lingo of "tickle down economics," and voters confront the pitched battle between those who would penalize ordinary working people versus those who want to make the richest pay their fair share.

The simple truth the Republicans never state flat out:

Raising tax rates does not automatically increase tax revenue,
whereas cutting federal spending always decreases the deficit.

Forget who's paying the taxes. It's not a class issue. It's more like simple physics. There's an optimum level of tax rates that's like a perfectly balanced carpenter's level. When it's right -- i.e., when the lozenge is floating between the markers on right and left, tax revenue is maximized. The portion of the lozenge that's between the markers is tax revenue. You can tip the level either way, but if you tip it out of balance tax revenues decline.

If tax rates are too low, available revenues are left on the table. If tax rates are too high, available revenues are left on the table.

Note that this is neither a conservative nor a liberal argument. When ideologies are figured in, conservatives don't mind tilting toward lesser federal revenues because they want to shrink government, and liberals don't mind tilting toward lesser federal revenues because -- but wait! -- they do mind lesser federal revenues. They're just stone ignorant about economics and the functioning of the capitalist markets they've never liked.

Which leads us to the underlying philosophies of the parties the Republicans should be doing everything possible to exploit and never do.

The biggest Big Lie Democrats and liberals of every stripe subscribe to is not the idiocy of George W. Bush and all Republicans in general, bad as that libel is. It's worse than that. Much worse than that. It's their reflexive allegiance to the static model and the zero-sum view of human society.

What's the static model? Thank you for asking. It's the belief that the economy is a machine that behaves according to machine rules, which is to say that human decision-making in response to changing circumstances is not a factor. More specifically, it holds everything else constant when it contemplates some change. All will remain as it is now except for the one change we are contemplating. That's how the CBO scores ObamaCare as a net cost saver. ALL OTHER FACTORS REMAINING THE SAME, ObamaCare will reduce healthcare costs and pay for itself. Never mind that premiums are already rising as economic participants in the altered health universe are anticipating huge dislocations of future income opportunities and historically predictable massive cost increases associated with greater federal control. (Medicare now costs dozens of times the most pessimistic Republican projections when it passed.) That's how the Obama administration scores a big tax increase on "rich" people. They will continue to make as much money as they do now and we will simply take a bigger percentage of it. Revenues will automatically increase. The machine motors on and individual human decisions can't possibly affect it. Even though the human record itself makes a joke of static analysis and the machine view.

Interesting perspective for the "party of the people," isn't it? I can illustrate this fallacy by an anecdote from my business school days, with an idiotic but triumphant performance by one of the most esteemed professors at my Ivy League Business School. He said, smirking, "It's been argued that progressive tax rates create a disincentive for income generation. I'd like to deal with that right now." He held up a (Roosevelt) dime. "Here's my proposition. If I offer to give you a dollar with the understanding that I'll take back 90 cents and leave you with only a dime, don't you still want the dime? Of course you do." He smiled happily and repocketed his dime.

I can still remember how very satisfied he was with himself. Of course, his proposition was a fake. Like most illustrious university professors, he forgot about the question of work. Give me a dollar, take back 90 cents, and I'll accept the dime. But would I work for that dollar knowing it's only a dime? No. Not on your life. Because as a human being, I value my time. The more likely outcome is that I refuse to play if 90 percent of my effort is paid to someone else.

His was the machine view, the liberal view. But contrary to the great love, tolerance, and understanding by liberals of all us weak, fallible humans, the economy is not a machine; it's an organism, alive, aware, and alert to the decision points created by every major change in the rules of operation. If you systematically remove my incentives for effort and risk-taking, by penalizing my effort and risk-taking, I will withdraw my efforts and end my risk-taking. I'll make less and have less to tax, regardless of the rates you impose. The carpenter's level has been tilted un the direction of reduced revenues. Don't argue with me. Argue with the damned level and the lozenge that veers out of the optimum zone.

The other Democrat/liberal fallacy -- the second Big Lie they tell themselves so often they believe it (or do they?) -- is that capitalism is a zero-sum game. That's the source of their usually unspecified grudge against the prosperous. The premise of the lie is that every dollar a rich person acquires is at the expense of a poor or middle class person. Almost 300 years after Adam Smith, they would have you believe, they still don't accept the concept of wealth creation, that a rising tide lifts all boats. In point of fact, they have to know this is a lie they are telling for political gain.

Every time they make the argument that the rich have somehow unfairly benefited and need to "give something back," they are explicitly denying the history of the American economy that has made us the richest, freest, and most upwardly mobile society in the record of all human civilizations. If economics were a zero-sum game, we'd all still be sharing the scarcities of 15th century plague-ridden economies in medieval Europe, with no indoor plumbing and life expectancies in the late thirties.

Where do they think the contributions they get from Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, and the Google Boys come from? Their fortunes weren't ripped from the mouths of orphans and widows. They were created, not out of thin air, but out of rich minds who inspired lucrative demand for attractive products. The same way it's always been done in this extraordinary land -- by Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers, and (fill in the blanks, ad infinitum).

I understand why most liberals in congress and on the national scene don't understand America. How pitifully few of them have ever created anything but a campaign for their own personal politcal ambitions.

What I have a harder time understanding is why there are so few Republicans who even sense the opportunity to demand a philosophical referendum that would indict their liberal foes as aliens in their own country and vipers in its bosom.

I'm taking no prisoners on this. None of the candidates -- not even the sainted Ron Paul -- has had the wit to state the nub of the argument without descending into thickets of economic jargon and ideological/philosophical jabberwocky:

Raising tax rates does not automatically increase tax revenue,
whereas cutting federal spending always decreases the deficit.
It's not a class issue. It's simple physics. Think carpenter's level.

There's plenty of history to cite. We've already had 90 percent tax rates in the lifetimes of living Americans. In the Eisenhower administration. JFK cut them back and increased revenues substantially. Reagan did the same. His tax cuts also dramatically increased federal revenue, which the Democrat congress happily spent into deficit. George W. Bush increased tax revenues by cutting tax rates. Why the hell is it so hard for a Republican to say these simple words?

Raising tax rates does not automatically increase tax revenue.

Because they're so dumb they can't let go of the idea that their best chance for election is pretending that it's the federal government's job to "create" jobs by running things the right way.

The government doesn't create jobs. The right tax rates aren't about ideology, Paulistas take note. At the moment, the federal government needs all the revenue it can get. It really does. The wolf is at the door. Time to take the ideological bullshit and class warfare out of the discussion.

A Kind(ish) Word
About Ron Paul

I watched the whole thing. Can you?

YEAH, SO LET'S ALL PRETEND TO TAKE RON PAUL SERIOUSLY. Don't get your hopes up.  I overcame my irrational sense of his hysterical tone and personal creepiness long enough to watch his interview with Chris Wallace yesterday. So I'm now prepared to talk not about his personal creepiness but his platform.

It's possible that he is, as Juan Williams (never mind his motives) was intimating today on Imus, a seminal figure in the remaking of the Republican Party. As was Barry Goldwater. This is not a small thing.

When I was a management consultant, I gave seminars to top executives a couple decades ago on the subject of "mental models." (A subject I understand Glenn Beck has recently recycled under another name.) The idea is that our sense of the possible is determined by a consensus that can occasionally be wrenched in a different direction, so that what used to seem insane becomes part of our horizon of possibilities.

I accept that Ron Paul is saying things that haven't been said for a long time. In this respect, he is expanding the mental model of what is possible. I'm pleased that young people are undergoing this mental stretching exercise.

I was also impressed that he answered Chris Wallace's questions so directly. He's obviously an honest man. More power to him. I am absolutely convinced that he is sincere.

But here, I confess, is the end of my kudos to Ron Paul. And the beginning of my message to his followers.

Ron Paul will never be president. He may run and run and run....

Ever heard of Harold Stassen?

...but he will never be a nominee of the Republican Party and he will never be president. Why? Because he is more ideologue than politician, and he is running for the presidency of a country that no longer exists.

I'm not even talking about his foreign policy, which is ludicrous and verging on criminal. I'm talking about his very conception of the presidency, the American people, and the state of our culture. It represents a nostalgia for a time that hasn't existed in the lifetime of Americans. He wants to be Calvin Coolidge, basically a remote civil servant located in the White House, with no responsibility for the disasters, ruptures, and snafus that strike every one of the fifty states from time to time. "Not my business," he proudly announces. "That's not who the president is supposed to be."

Fine. But even Reagan knew better than that. Like it or not, the president of the United States is the most powerful and influential man in the world.. Americans are long long past accepting him as a mere accountant of the nation's balance sheet. There may be value in Paul's view but there is no currency in his stated policy. He and all his followers can rue the ancient day when the game changed, but Americans by an overwhelming majority now believe in a national safety net. We can debate how safe that net that should be, battle about its costs and benefits, but if you argue it shouldn't be there at all, you are simply quaint, a curiosity who will never be taken seriously. That part of our national debate is no longer on the table.

Honestly, he puts me in mind of Rip van Winkle. A whole bunch of people who, for reasons of youth or inexcusable inattention, suddenly became aware of a crisis in American poliltics without any knowledge of how we got where we are. Sometimes it seems he's running against FDR in 1936, still trying to undo the Keynesian disaster of the Great Depression and forestall the losses of saving the U.S. from war with Hitler.

What's hard to communicate to the new true believers: The oldness of his positions, meaning not the inveterate wisdom of them but the obsolete temporality in which they might have made sense. Is it a coincidence that he is also old and cannot see the world except through old old eyes that only seem new to youngsters who still think they can turn back the clock to the days before nuclear weapons, the Cold War, and that distant instant when we might have passed up the responsibility to be the adult in the room of the world?

None of him is new. The only thing that is new is the desire of the left to tar all of us with his archaic platitudes. He's having a vogue now because they would like us to be dismissible, all the way down to him and his simplistic perspectives.

I don't begrudge him his right to speak and attract followers. I'm simply tired to death of the evangelical fervor that insists he's a sage voice telling us who are old enough to know better that he's saying anything new. Or, that he as a personality is anything but another manifestation of the fashion called retro.

Goldwater? Reagan? No. Stassen? Tell you in 2016.

But I concede he believes what he's preaching to the last breath.

P.S. You might want to read the exchange between Brizoni and me in the Comments section. That's why I'm inserting this video.

All the Paulistas might want to compare and contrast this with the video of Ron Paul's appearance on Fox News Sunday. If you don't know the history, this is the event known as 'The Speech,' which launched Ronald Reagan's political career. It was the only shining moment in the absolutely disastrous 1964 presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater. It was run again and again, because it was the only positive, upbeat communication associated with Goldwater's march toward electoral suicide.

I watched it with my parents the first time it aired, 47 years ago. It was absolutely electrifying. (I was 10 and I still remember the moment; only the moon landing, the Kennedy assassination and 9/11 are as seared into my memory.) I think you'll find that the opening citations of federal debt and levels of taxation could be the opening of a Republican candidate address in 2011 almost unchanged.

Like the Paulista Minutemen, Brizoni over-interpreted what I was saying in the post above. I wasn't disagreeing with Paul's ideals. I was saying, "Quit telling us oldsters we don't understand. We do. But we also know that winning the political battles isn't about being a fusspot curmudgeon who insists that he, just like the liberals, knows more about what we need than the average people do."

Compare and contrast. Paul harps on everything that's wrong. Everything he'll undo. Reagan does a lot of that, too. But he also shares a vision of just how great we can be, a magnificent hope and faith in the American people. Somehow, constant kvetching about the Federal Reserve doesn't accomplish the same end result. Note also that the isolationism Paulistas insist is part of the "package" of liberty takes on an entirely different, and far more realistic, spin here.

But I'm sure, as always, you know better, just as you know more about economics than an old fart with thirty-some years of business experience and even more than that in the practice of effective communications.

Two Sci-Fi Reviews in One day

The hero hates us. Cool.

KEEPING YOU CURRENT. You think I spend all my time puzzling over Mike Huckabee's intentions? Think again.

All right. I saw two movies, one called "Equilibrium." and one called "The Day the Earth Stood Still."

Last first. The Keanu Reeves opus almost caused a fight with the missus. She said, early on, "I hate this." But I was determined. You know me. I love lefties. I had to watch all the way to the bitter end to make the pronouncement that this was the single awfullest big-budget sci-fi movie ever made. Which it was.

I was no fan of the original, which is where I parted company with Mrs. CP. She liked Michael Rennie. I despise the whole genre of movies that make Earth the bad boy of the cosmology set. When the aliens come to tell us that we are somehow uniquely terrible in the community of intelligent species, all I can see is the liberal equivalent of original sin turned back on itself by the presumption of superior rationality,

English translation. If Darwin is right, as the scientists insist he is, life erupts into intelligence as part of an inevitable predatory spiral. The strong eat the weak and get stronger and smarter. How could it be otherwise? So, when the aliens come, they are interfering either because they've forgotten their own evolutionary roots or because evolution isn't an apt description of how mankind came to be in the first place. In either case, they have a lot of nerve threatening us with extinction because, whoever they are now, even we backward whatever-we-ares have never attempted annihilating an entire species on purpose. Isn't committing species-level genocide though you're a million years more advanced than we are a good deal worse than harpooning one too many whales in the early industrial age? You tell me, O You Secular Moralists.

Of course, Keanu had done his intelligence homework. He knew he could do this whole godlike part without a second of acting. He knew the script was as brilliant as anything a Keanu could think of. For example, he got to condemn humanity to death based on a single meeting with one solitary alien mole who had lived as a human in New York's Chinatown for 70 years. Even then, doubts were expressed. But hey, one guy, one neighborhood, one ambigious verdict, how do you think the universe would decide the fate of six and a half billion non-New Yorkers? How any New York liberal would have conducted the research. You just have to love a liberal's sense of fairness and justice...

Why I loved this movie so much. (Loved it, loved it, loved it.) Perfect exhibition of the lefty mentality in the northeast. Perfect. Though maybe one spokesman for all five boroughs shouldn't get the say-so for the whole fucking planet. There's Jersey, too. What do you think?

Sorry but I have to skip to the ending, where all of modern technology is wiped out. Supposedly a happy ending. Only 6.2 of 6.5 billion people are destined to die of starvation, disease, and unspeakable battles for nonexistent resources, as opposed to the whole enchilada. (Even Escape from LA made this the apocalypse it obviously is...) And Hollywood thinks we want to see this kind of crap?

We don't. Which is why the palate cleanser is a very little known movie called Equilibrium. Christian Bale, Sean Bean, and the usual British delight with a hopelessly ecstatic fantasy called "no emotions whatever." It's as fun a movie as an incredibly depressing post-apocalyptic nightmare can be. For once, Christian Bale is good looking. He has a love interest he actually touches fingers with, briefly, oh so slightly, before she is burned to death in a crematory oven. What the Brits call flaming passion.

It's still ten times the movie described above. And for once it doesn't seem leftist but about life and living and all that stuff and what it might mean, even if you're a Brit.

I know that was brief and ambiguous. Whatever you do, Don't watch this -- or at least not all of it. It has big-time spoilers in it. Final Word? In comparison to this movie, Neo was a pussy. Okay?

I warned you...

Courtesy of Mrs. CP film productions.

SILENCE DOES NOT PAY, UNLESS IT DOES. Yeah. Raebert again. Self-explanatory, I think.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Haircut today

Still as true as it ever was.

YOUTUBES EXPIRE, LOVE DOESN'T . When I left the barber chair, one of the female stylists stepped out and said, "You look like a new man." I thanked her. Then she announced to the entire shop, "He just got his semi-annual haircut."

True. It's a bright sunlit place. I hate their mirrors. While I'm getting my hair cut there, I confront an old man in every pitless detail of time's toll. Not such a big deal. I am old these days. But my shaving mirror is kinder. It lets me feel maybe 40 instead of nearly 60.

I was going to cut grass today. I hope and trust Mrs. CP will forgive me that I didn't. I plan to cut tomorrow, before the universally predicted rain.

But I still look better than Tom Waits. Marginally.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Thought Experiment

So what makes you you? And how much of this light
 show are you personally willing to shut down for good?

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR. I'd thought of posting about a controversial rapper at the White House, but I'm doing this instead. A post I've been mulling for a long time now. It's about the self-annihilating properties of ethnic and other categorical hatreds. Before I begin. let me state what this post is not. It's not a defense of the multicultural political correctness that's been rammed down our throats by the lefty intelligentsia. It's not a national or global political argument of any kind. It's not an endorsement of  "All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds" pollyanna-ism. Conflicts will always be with us, as will prejudices and irrational hostilities, and the inevitable conflicts, prejudices, and hostilities will be costly and perhaps, in some contexts, fatal. 

My only point here is strictly personal. What price are you willing to pay for your hatreds in terms of your own personal identity? Are you willing to stop being you or become a radically reduced version of the self who is living your life?

Here is the premise of the experiment. It's an act of subtraction. Examine all your own biases and resentments. Who would the world be better off without? Identify them and then subtract them completely from your own experience of life, your memories, your beliefs, the mind that makes you you.

To begin with a fairly vanilla example, the Irish reliably hate the English. But what if the English had never existed? Would the Irish still be the Irish? Yeah, they'd still be Celts on a green island, but much of their history, heroes, and poets would be swept away. Without the English, there would have been no United States that defined itself in opposition to British tyranny, no waves of immigration that transplanted as many Irishmen as who still live in Ireland to the brawling new world where some of them achieved spectacular heights and more sad Irish stories, like the tragic presidency of John F. Kennedy.

I'm not saying there wouldn't have been an alternative history, but how much of you, today's Irish, would remain? And again, I'm speaking personally. None of your cultural touchstones would be the same. Maybe there'd still have been a James Joyce, a William Butler Yeats, a Michael Collins, and even a St. Patrick, but they would bear no resemblance to the specific emotional foundations of your own life and personality. And for those who value brilliant poetry and prose and song, there would be no inspirational neighbors like Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens, Jane Austen, or Gilbert & Sullivan.

You see, the subtraction has to be total. Like Kevin Bacon's six degrees of separation, every loss ripples through the whole and winds up striking extremely close to the most intimate core of personal experience.

A lot of people hate the Jews, more and more all the time, including some of our most celebrated professors and intellectuals. Okay. Subtract the Jews. Completely. No Marx. No Freud. No threat of nuclear war in the 21st century middle east. Happy? Not so fast. At the extremes, there is no more Bible and no golden age of Hollywood. So there is also no Christianity, no Constitution of the United States, none of the movies you use as personal metaphors for your own heroic view of yourselves, and no Islam -- because there is no Ishmael for Muhammed to use in tracing his own lineage back to God. But remember that there is also no "David" by Michelangelo and, in fact, no Italian Renaissance, Age of Enlightenment, no theory of relativity or quantum physics, no M.I.T. Start wiping Jews out of your mind and there won't be much left of what you call civilization.

There's no shortage of people who hate the Germans. Without them, there would have been no Hitler or holocaust. And no Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart, no Wagner opera about the "ring" and therefore no Lord of the Rings" and -- dare I say it? -- no Harry Potter. Also, no Mercedes Benz, BMW, Porsche, Volkswagen, or Apollo 11. No World War I and World War II that made heroes of our family forebears and bolstered the pride of family so many still feel today. No Marlene Dietrich in Destry Rides Again, and no pretzels, brats, hot dogs or hamburgers(!). Erase all those things from your life. Are you content to shut down all the synapses of your brain that connect to things German as if they had never existed?

No Russians? No Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, ballet, American figure skating team, Dostoevsky, or James Bond movies. Or vodka. Think about it. No vodka.

No Arabs? Well, then, forget Arabic numerals, algebra, and the sophisticated mathematics they made possible. Imagine yourself dialing cellphone numbers in Roman numerals. Except also subtract the cellphones. We'd still be using the biggest blackboards on earth to calculate simple square roots.

How many Americans are still shaped in one way or another by the Civil War? No slavery, no blacks, no century of humiliation and suffering for the south. In the north, probably no more United States. Don't forget that it was the Civil War which changed accepted usage from "the United States are..." to "the United States is..." We'd probably be three or four different clashing nations by now. The Civil War was a stupendous passion play that tempered the mettle of this nation into a force strong enough to bear sacrifice for others and do great good in the world. Do the southern boys want to give up their imaginings of Pickett's Charge, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee? Without the Civil War, Lee would be a footnote, a West Point officer who served with distinction and no memorable actions. Gettysburg would be a farm town and we'd never have heard of Abraham Lincoln.

A point to ponder for both blacks and whites. Without slavery, the Civil War, and the Emancipation Proclamation, there is no African participation in America. Blacks would still be in Africa and whites would be, well, blander. Anybody on either side want to subtract the African-American part of their lives from their lives? Really? No Martin Luther King, no lynchings, and no Nathan Bedford Forrest or Black Panthers, but also no blues, ragtime, jazz, or rock and roll, meaning no Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Smokey Robinson, Beebe King, James Brown, Beatles, Stones, Dylan, no Motown, Temptations, Supremes, or Four Tops, no Michael Jackson, and no Allman Brothers, Van Halen, Pearl Jam, GNR, U2, Madonna, or Lady Gaga. Right. Subtract it all from your minds and memories. It's not there any longer. All the songs you fell in love to gone, gone, gone. Not all of us can fuel our romance with a strict diet of Loretta Lynn. Some of us still rely as much on Nat Cole as Frank Sinatra, and there's no Sinatra with Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Coleman Hawkins.

No Hispanics? Forget Christopher Columbus discovering America. He was not Italian but Spanish, probably Catalan.

No French? Well. Paris no longer exists and a long list of other stuff too numerous to list in architecture, art, cuisine, and personalities -- Bridgette Bardot, Napoleon Bonaparte, Charlemagne, Debussy, Edith Piaf, and Voltaire -- without whom your mind would be substantially different. For example: without Pascal, La Rochefoucauld, Moliere, and Voltaire, Mark Twain might have ceased his output after the "Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." Ripples. Ripples.

No Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Cambodians, Vietnamese? Toss out spaghetti (brought back from China to Italy by Marco Polo), martial arts movies (losing Bruce Lee would really suck, wouldn't it?), not to mention paper books, fireworks at the ballpark, Fu Manchu, Charlie Chan, and that ugly chick everybody loves on Grey's Anatomy. And perhaps more importantly for American minds, no Platoon, Apocalypse Now, or Heavy Metal Jacket.  No Sands of Iwo Jima, no Doolittle Raid, no Battle of Midway. We'd have far less idea what we're capable of when the going gets really rough.

Even the people who oppose and challenge us help to make us who we are. When you imagine them out of existence, we all become poorer, smaller, and less interesting and individual.

I repeat that there would be alternate histories. But when you think about it, those histories would be less interesting and less dramatic.

I know there are times when we want to wish away the "bad people." But the result, if you contemplate it seriously, is worse than cowardly; it's boring.

No matter how much I complain, I would never wish any of them out of existence. I may want to defeat (some of) them, educate them, oppose their crazier agendas, and yearn for impossible accommodations, but they're built into the world that has made my own consciousness what it is. And I wouldn't willingly omit a single drop of my own consciousness for any cause on earth. Die maybe. But not dim my mind's eye or amputate huge chunks of my experience of life.

Some of you may feel differently. That would be your problem.

Final thought. What does "Common" mean? I think I've explained it.

Celebrating a Life

They called him Mr. Basset. He was 19 and a gentleman.

LOSING OLD DOGS HURTS TOO. Over at Hotair's Green Room, Jazz Shaw has a remembrance of a beloved family pet:

The dogs went for a walk each and every morning that the weather would allow with my wife and [me], and I think that the one sentence I said to her more often than any other was, “Everyone loves the basset.” And they did. It seemed to be almost impossible for anyone, male or female, old or young, to not immediately be drawn to Mr. Basset. I still remember one walk just recently when we were out strolling with them and two cars pulled up at the corner and stopped, with each driver pausing to stare and to smile. That’s probably what I will remember most about Mr. Basset. He brought a smile to the face of everyone he met. He was a fat old hound dog, so the guys always seemed to like him. And while he weighed nearly 80 pounds, he was low to the ground with those big floppy ears, watery eyes and short legs, so ladies and children did not find him threatening.

One elderly grandmother up the street from us did not even own a dog, but took to buying boxes of dog biscuits and knew when we went for walks, and would hurry out to give him a treat and pet him. I’ve long since lost count of how many people I’ve met in this town simply because they would approach to ask questions about Mr. Basset and pet him.

I can relate. Sighthounds draw the same kind of instant fans. It's a moving story. Thinking back to Charlotte's Web, all I can say is "Some Dog." You really do have to read the whole thing -- long and lesiurely as a basset hound taking his morning constitutional -- to appreciate the depth of feeling involved here. At the end you will shed precisely one tear, distilled finally from a dignified life that ended, not unheroically, in extreme old age. I'm not being callous. Mr. Basset wouldn't have wanted more than one tear. He was a gentleman, reserved and self-effacing to the last.

Jazz has my deepest condolences and, I'm sure, yours as well. But he's seeking immortality for Mr. Bassett on the Internet. I'm more than willing to help spread the word.

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