July 22, 2011 - July 15, 2011
. The FBI is notoriously late to do anything. We asked them back
in 2007 for a profile of a malefactor who could actually succeed in
destroying the United States of America. Guess what dropped into our
inbox this morning:
First, let's dispense with the misconception. Obama is not an
African-American. He was never disadvantaged by race. He grew up in
Hawaii, where white people are openly called 'howlies' and have to live
down their carpetbagger status. What is he, then? An object
lesson, a worst case, a perfect storm example of how a person of
mediocre abilities can be propelled into a situation where he
constitutes a positive danger to the whole world.
He's basically a white guy with olive skin, raised exclusively by his white mother, no father on the scene, who lucked into a system of chutes that obviated the need to climb any ladders. Compare him to Bill Clinton. Similar bio, right? Except that Clinton had to earn his way into Yale and Yale Law School. (Which btw is much much harder to get into than the Harvard Law School. Class size at Harvard Law? 900. Class size at Yale Law? 100. You do the admissions math.) It's easy to find people who knew Bill Clinton way back when. They tell us he was smart, ambitious, funny, and charming, even if they didn't personally like him. We know bad things he did, as well as the good things. He was a Rhodes Scholar. People remember him from that experience too.
Now contrast with Barack Obama. When have we ever heard from anyone who went to college or law school with him? We haven't. We're not talking Joe the Plumber here. We're talking hundreds of successful, articulate people from Occidental College, Columbia University, and Harvard Law School, none of whom have anything to say about him. As far as we've been led to believe, he had no friends. Just like he has no transcripts, board scores, grades, or course curricula. He's a cipher, except for his own two autobiographies, which contain many provable errors of fact and which were probably not written by him in the first place. He was also an editor of the Harvard Law Review who never wrote anything. Because he was saving it all up for his autobiographies? Or because he was never much of a writer?
Why the Cone of Silence? Who is Barack Obama? Think Being There:
If I had to guess, I'd put his IQ at about 110. Yes, that's above
Chance the Gardener, and it's above average. But that's all it is. All
he is. What's the same is the
reaction to him by those who have promoted him and defended him. A
pattern of elaborate over-praise that's not really traceable to any
accomplishment or talent. Just to the manner he exhibits in certain
carefully orchestrated settings. Why does he always have to have a
teleprompter, even in casual open-air settings? Why has Hotair's Ed
Morrissey been able to publish an "Obamateurism of the Day" every day since the man took
office? And why do even Republicans defend their own gaffe-prone
candidates by citing the tactless gaffes of Joe Biden rather than the
much more heinous howlers of the President of the United States (Marine
Corpse, 57 states, "no shovel-ready projects ha ha," etc). Everyone,
including his fiercest political opponents, is still giving this guy a
Well, if you fell for Chance the Gardener in the first place, you're more or less stuck, aren't you? The MSM is stuck because they never did their due diligence when he was a candidate. Black people are stuck because they overrode their initial doubts and skepticism and accepted him as one of them. Democrats are stuck because they totally abandoned a political path that worked -- Clintonian moderation -- in pursuit of a Utopian fantasy that was too good to be true, with the usual result. Republicans are stuck because stating the obvious is tantamount to racism.
Worse, what they'd all have to confront if they admitted their error is the fact that Affirmative Action is a viper in the bosom of the United States. The MSM could concede that Obama isn't really very smart. Black people could admit Obama isn't really an African-American. Democrats could admit that Obama's presidential leadership has slaughtered their agenda and maybe even their legacy. (Republicans... well, forget them; they're stuck regardless.) But then they'd all have to admit that one of their most prized common beliefs is, well, the viper at the bosom of America. Affirmative Action is expressly designed to shoot mediocrities past the usual ladders of education into heights of power and position for which they are woefully unprepared and, yes, wholly undeserving. That's what they can't live with.
But we can't live with the result of their denial. And remember that theirs is the racist view. They're still beholden to the one-drop rule. He's black so opposing him is racism. We don't have to be beholden to their definitions.. Obama is more than half white. Genetically half, yes, but courtesy of his mother and grandparents, white. He used -- they used --the Affirmative Action program to send him up available chutes of opportunity rather than climb the ladders most have to climb. One can understand their ambitions and choices.
Who could have thought they'd be so spectacularly successful, though? We have to undo the damage. That's the first priority. Then we have to figure out how to prevent it from happening again.
. My favorite type of newspaper article is the "let's introduce an old idea to the NASCAR-loving public by acting as though it's a recent scientific development" article. Sometimes they'll sneak them in the Op-Ed section so they have plausible deniability if anyone calls them on it. But they know what they're doing.
Today's LA Times sets a new benchmark: "Science and religion: God didn't make man; man made gods." News!
Authors J. Anderson Thomson (punchline spoiler: "He serves as a trustee of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science") and Clare Aukofer start their piece by quoting contemporary hit singer John Lennon and the cutting-edge cosmological insights in his 21-century smash hit "Imagine."
The article goes on to discuss all the oh-so-new developments in the case for atheism I've been reading about in X-Men comics since the early 90s. Did you know "it is often beneficial for humans to work together"? I was just as surprised as you. Did you know our imaginations can conjure all kinds of crazy shit, some of it really convincing? Science proved it, in case you thought you just, erm, imagined it. This also pretty much proves we just imagined God, way back in the middle ages or whenever. And there's even a documented glitch in human brain chemistry that makes you hallucinate God! Sort of. If you squint. And even then, you have to kind of take it on... faith... a little...
Most antitheists who tout temporal lobe epilepsy as debunking God are shrewd enough to not go into detail as to what the phenomenon consists of. A "feeling the presence of another and maybe you assume it's God or an angel or something" button is a far-ass cry from the "God Button" smoking gun one usually reads about in this discussion. And it is by no stretch of the conceptual faculty "conceivable" that this accounts for Paul's conversion. Maybe-- mmmmmmmmaybe-- in a newly-verbal caveman would a spike of Feeling the Presence of Another and Maybe You Assume it's God or an Angel or Something hormones lead to an imagined conversation the length and depth of the Damascus experience; and one that similarly went against all his preconceived notions. But Paul, though a devout Jew, was also a cosmopolitan, sophisticated Roman citizen. His iPad may not have had the 4G wifi, but he was still materialist enough to not take the Christian reports of miracles at their word. Having a simple feeling of being watched couldn't induce him to renounce his life's work in a panic, kids.
Thomson and Aukofer must know this. Guilt must have motivated such a clumsy feint in their final paragraph.
We sure do. And we can be even better as a species if use our reason honestly, instead of spending our whole intellectual lives getting back at our parents for lying to us about Santa Claus.
UPDATE. I always said we have the best commenters on the internet. You each get a response, because you're smart and wonderful. (Except when you miss the most important point the Old Man's made all year, and maybe in the history of this site, because you can't be bothered to read carefully enough. Minor quibble.)
urthshu: Thanks, homie. Good to be back.
Interesting point about Einstein. Your standard ascetic, with his flagellation and his biology-defying starvation stints, his conspicuous self-denial, is still obsessed with the physical. Einstein was cut from a different cloth. He didn't give a crap about the physical. At least, not about his personal physicality. He had a closet full of identical suits so he wouldn't have to sweat that particular detail. His seems to me like a much purer path intellectualism than wearing a diaper and drinking nasty Ganges water from a hollowed-out skull and putting on a great big show of discomfort.
But I wouldn't lump him in with the Yogis. When's the last time a Yogi thought of something new? Yes, Autobiography of a Yogi was a lovely book, but seriously. Where's the breakthroughs? The innovation? The mere creativity? What ideas do they have? Maybe there's a thriving movement of Yogi intellectualism I don't know about, but I'm pretty confident they spend their time turning the same thoughts over and over.
Helk: You're a tough nut to crack. And I might mean "nut" in more than one sense of the word. But I might not. Still making up my mind about you. There is one thing I'm sure of: You think pride is a sin. And not just because you heard it in Sunday School. You think anyone's positive opinion of one's self is delusion and vanity.
I'm going to suggest to you an alternative. Between the two extremes of arrogance and self-loathing stands the golden mean of Honest Self-Assesment. In all aspects of self. Unflinchingly. "I'm good at tarring roofs and bad at reassembling alternators." "I couldn't cook a quiche to save my life, but my 16-layer nachos are second to none." "It's good that I sponsor a fly-covered African child, but that doesn't excuse my hushed cruelty to the Starbucks gal when she botches my Mocha Frap." All the way up the ladder of importance.
I anticipate your reaction to this idea will be something like "How naive, to think anyone can think honestly of himself." Well, OK... have you tried trying?
Wardo: I imagine it looks like a salon hair dryer with an array of wires coming off the dome.
Guy T: Nicely done.
diogenes: Thanks for the well-wishes.
Unless you're counting Acts 15, "the first five councils" were chronologically farther from Christ's mortal ministry and the Apostles than we are from Washington and the Founders. The doctrine of the Trinity is a fourth-century Roman heresy, a misguided attempt to reconcile the Gospel with the Greek metaphysics popular at the time. It falls apart when confronted with John 17.22 and Romans 8.17-- among other verses.
DJMoore: "Because frankly, the Christians and deists make a hell of lot more sense when they talk about how to live than the atheists do." That's why I won't shut up about Ayn Rand. IN the field of moral development, she's a lot more productive than all those militant atheists who do nothing but pat themselves on the back for being atheist.
IP: Did Christ put the divine spark in man? Or did he simply uncover it?
UPDATE 2. Some butt-covering, just-in-case clarification: When I say you're the best commenters on the net, that's not just a set-up for a ball-busting spike. It's the truth.
The latest proof: Gnardo Polo writes the most eloquent defense of faith I can recall. "Rationality doesn't deny faith, anymore than faith denies rationality. My faith must be bolstered through experience, otherwise I will abandon it. My rationality must accept certain premises that I cannot verify first hand."
Amen, sir. And that's coming from an
atheist agnostic probably-not-theist.
(and when I say I say you're the best, that's kind of an inside joke. One of The Boss's major pet peeves is people claiming to have thought of what he said first. You see.)
. What a
weekend. We were both exhausted after a Monday-through-Friday gauntlet
of tedious business meetings, a domestic plumbing emergency (something
about "water so hard it's petrifying your pipes from pump to septic
system"), the combination of my cracked rib and the need to ferry two
greyhounds to the vet simultaneously, and the crushing intellectual
challenge of having to come up with two Top Ten lists in the space of
two or three days. Then, suddenly, it got really hot. So we gave a pass
to the sold-out Harry Potter finale AND our grandaughters' birthday
party at a blisteringly shadeless pool in North Jersey (everything above Exit
One of the Turnpike, a.k.a. the Wild Weather Wilderness), and sulked.
We knew, thanks to WIP's Rob Charry, that there are no sporting events this time of year excepting the always grimly hit-and-miss restart of the baseball season after the All-Star break. So we resigned ourselves to watching the Phillies, even though we knew -- also thanks to WIP -- that we were destined to lose the weekend series against the hapless Mets because the National League manager in the All-Star game had dared to pitch two of our starting pitchers (Halladay and Lee) for as much as 23 pitches apiece, which meant they would both need a full rotation's rest. Shocking. Everyone knows that no one who's picked for the All-Star game actually plays in it anymore. There are only 162 games in a baseball season, and it's criminal to expect those selected to play after they've shown up and taken their bows on the field. The weekend series would feature a starting pitcher lineup consisting of two green beans, Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick, and only one of our supernaturally unhittable aces. Woe was us. Sesame crackers with Irish cheddar and a piquant German horseradish mustard are some consolation, but let's face it, not enough when your home team is only 24 games above .500 halfway through the season. When utter despair is only one broken, dropped cracker away (Get AWAY from that, Raebert!), life becomes hard indeed.
Yes, we dodged a bullet when the rookie Worley gave up a single run and won the opener. But we couldn't wait to hear what the oracles at WIP would say when the ace Cole Hamels got shellacked in game 2. Probably some sort of doleful "I told you so" with which it would have been impossible to disagree. The All-Star game treachery was coming back to haunt us, never mind how. Which set the stage for "Black Sunday," when the sixth starter in the Phillies starting rotation was scheduled, like a lamb led to the slaughter, to start against a Mets team that had scored 11 runs the day before. We tried to fend off panic with a four-egg chives and parsley omelet accompanied by buttered rye toast and fresh-squeezed orange juice, but hours of dread still lay before us.
In such straits is it that remarkable that we turned to non-sporting events for distraction? The last sprint stage of the Tour de France before Paris. And the peculiar rite called the British Open. As it turned out, Americans were competing pretty fiercely in both these non-sporting events, and the doom of the Phillies' rubber-game catastrophe was still hours away. So we rooted for the Americans. With grim foreboding because we're not dummies here on our media room couch with the air-conditioner cranking at full horsepower behind us. We're more like seers or something. It looked there toward the end that the Tour de France stage was going to come down to a duel between the young American Tyler Farrar and the veteran king of bicycle sprints, Mark Cavendish. I told my better half just before the last kilometer (that's European for half a mile or so), Farrar didn't have a chance. I was mostly right. He was gaining on Cavendish in the last hundred meters (European for a football field plus end zone) like Secretariat running down Sham, but he made his move too late. And lost. Shit.
That's when we switched over to the British Open, which for those of you who have never heard of it involves a Scottish game called golf. We play a version of it here, where it is conducted in a tree-rich park setting of astonishing physical beauty and on terrain that can be calibrated by caddies to the nth degree. In the U.K., where the Open unfolds, it's played in a kind of bleak open-air seaside wasteland raked by sudden squalls from every direction and studded with things called bunkers (we have them in the U.S., too, but here they look like shallow landscape ornaments of snowy beach sand) which are basically man-height shell holes left over from the Blitz in World War II that may or may not still contain unexploded bombs and snipers. Oddly enough, though, there were two Americans who were in contention against a fattish, gray-haired Northern Irish gentleman who had never won a major golf tournament in his 40-to-who-knows-how-many years of life thus far. It was his twentieth attempt to win the Open. He was supposed to be feeling the pressure. We watched him play the first couple of holes. Silently. Still pissed about the defeat of Tyler Farrar.
Over a succulent Jersey tomato sandwich -- thick slices, salt, pepper and dash of celery salt, plus a lightly seasoned mayo on whole wheat bread -- I made my infallible prediction to my helpmeet. "It's his day. He's got the narrative on his side. We're going to come up empty again.""
The narrative? Oh. I forgot. Everybody loves this guy. He's undeniably charming and humble (unlike some cats we could name). He tragically lost his wife of many years to cancer. His lack of success in majors is countered by his success in the Ryder Cup, where as a team player, he wins consistently. And he has even defeated Tiger Woods in a playoff. Plus, Northern Ireland is on a roll. A country the size of Connecticut with a population slightly larger than Delaware's has already won two majors in the last thirteen months. Impossible. But no more impossible than expecting the two Americans in the chase to catch him. Phil Mickelson has never won the British Open (after officially umpteen tries), and the other American, who shall be nameless, has acquired a reputation for blowing up in the back nine of the last round in multiple majors. It just wasn't going to be our day.
Mickelson and the other kid made a valiant charge but obediently fell apart on the back nine, and we watched the winner kissing his new fiance, a former Miss Northern Ireland, with a bad taste in our mouths that could only be slightly mitigated by fudge brownies and vanilla ice cream, the kind where you can still see the flecks of the vanilla beans.
We were having an awful day. But now it was time for the Phillies. As is our custom, we busied ourselves with multiple household chores during the early innings, because being a Phillies fan in the age of no-hitting and who's pitching? means watching the actual game as little as possible. When we dared to take a look in the seventh, the score was 7-1, Phillies, and my sense of impending disaster was nigh overwhelming.
Which is when we switched over to the Women's World Cup in Soccer. Our aged hearts couldn't take any more Phillies just then, so we decided to root for the new electrically exciting phenomenon called Team USA Women's World Cup Soccer. The Final.
To be honest, somewhere between the Tour de France and the British Open, I'd also confided in my cupcake-eating bride (she finds chocolate the perfect dessert after an omelet) that I had grave doubts about our chances. I had a passel of reasons. Only Americans were plugged into the Team USA narrative. Everyone else was rooting for Japan. They'd knocked off two titans in Germany and Sweden, they'd never yet beaten the top-seeded Americans, and their country was desperately in need of a lift (however tiny in a country that regards women as best unregarded) after the devastating earthquake and tsunami that had leveled their economy. Plus, they had beaten the other star-studded glamor teams by controlling the ball, controlling the ball, controlling the ball, and displaying extraordinary discipline at key moments. I felt Team USA, with its insistence on last-second heroics was riding for a fall. Not to mention the media tsunami of adulation and time-consuming interviews with all the stars that had swept the team out of its legendary focus into statements of overweening pride in its focus and stardom.
But watching them was better than watching the Phillies after the incompetent youngster Kendrick was pulled after a seven inning, one-run performance in favor of a bullpen that had been either sitting around for a week or getting shelled the day before. We were rapt in our separate positions on the couch, watching the riveting ball handling of world-class soccer teams playing for all the marbles, my wife snoozing discreetly with her head on a designer pillow, and me dozing with my head in the full upright position, remote clutched in my hand, maybe, unless it somehow fell to the floor in all the excitement.
There's one great thing about soccer. You never miss the big big plays. The announcers suddenly start yelling, and you awake with a start to see the moment when the unstoppable first seed team suddenly falls apart and commits a bonehead play right in front of its own goal, allowing the game to be tied. And you don't miss the second moment when the first seed team suddenly falls apart and commits a bonehead play right in front of its own goal, allowing the game to be tied and sent into pachinko. (When the male spouse has the wit to go get takeout -- subs and French fries, plus a side order of pickles, because we haven't been able to touch a bite all day.) And because there's a certain ugly similarity between soccer and the way they decide NHL hockey games these days, you don't miss the idiotic penalty kick portion of the game when everything goes all to hell and away.
A really perfectly awful Sunday for America. But I do have some closing thoughts. What maybe few others are willing to say. Team USA choked. Toward the end of regulation, however long that is, Brandy Chastain in the broadcasting booth was boasting of the fitness of the American women. But they already looked tired to the point of dumb error, much more so than the Japanese, and they had looked confused all day long. In the end, they believed their own press clippings; they expected to win and when they got late leads they tried to sit on them against a team that is better at plink-plink-plink ball handling than they were. They choked and I feel happy for Japan. Bad as things are economically and politically here, they're worse in Japan. I'm not sorry about the outcome. You have to earn it and the Japanese team definitely did.
I'm also not sorry about Darren Clarke winning the British Open. He played his final round like an absolute champ, with unflappable nerves and moments of pure brilliance. He literally broke Mickelson's will by scoring an eagle on the same hole Mickelson had eagled to pull even with him. That's the stuff of greatness. I'm happy for him too. All the announcers had chosen as their subtext of the tournament (given the sudden ascendancy of Northern Ireland), what's wrong with American golf? Duh. What's wrong with American golf is no Tiger. We'll see how that problem works itself out.
Finally. I forgot to mention the Phillies won on Sunday, not without difficulty, but they won, thus winning the series, as usual. The expected catastrophe did not occur. The ace failed (he's entitled, once in a blue moon), and the two disrespected youngsters both pitched like aces. And noting that there are no sporting events this time of year but major league baseball, our little household finished the day 1-0 on the victory side. And the Lorna Doones at bedtime were the perfect ending of a perfect day.
So why Blue Monday? Back from sports victory to the reality of a country running headlong toward ruin. Why the little cheer-up video I placed up top. Overdone? Maybe. Best I could do on short notice.
Lake checks in:
This is less of a proper post with a grand point and more a collection of notes, experiences, and impressions about my experience with Apple and its products. Fair warning, since the Mac vs. PC debate has provoked thousands of internet flamewars over the years and for all I know, it could lead to one in the hardened halls of Instapunk comments.
I proposed this guest post with some trepidation: the Boss is old school to the core, and I could only imagine his disdain for the haughty hipster output of a 'magical' company like Apple. I was shocked to hear that like me, Mrs. CP's life has been altered for the better by her iPhone. I was less shocked to hear that the Boss himself loves his iPod -- all that music from every era, yeah, I can picture him liking that.
I started out as one of those hardcore computer nerds who not only didn't use a Mac but scorned those who did. Even before the too-cool-for-the-room ads, I saw them as pretty little packages that couldn't be doing real computer work and the people who used them as n00bs who had their cute little computers but didn't know about anything under the hood. I found myself spouting all the common lies when friends and relatives questioned me about it: "They're great for design work and art stuff, but if you want a real computer, get a PC;" "They have no choices between programs, and there's a lot you can do on a PC that you can't do on a Mac;" "Macs are twice as expensive as PCs, and I could build a much better machine for under $500."
When I came to this teaching career, now ten years ago (my life is accelerating!), I found a campus evenly split between Mac and PC users. Our computer labs were Macs because they were used for design courses and managed by one of the top tech gurus on campus. But faculty were given PC laptops to use and that was perfect for me. I immediately customized mine and quickly gained a reputation for being a guy who can help you out with computer problems. A lot of colleagues had a lot of problems, and since the head tech guy was primarily an Apple acolyte, they came to me. This worked out well for me, and my disdain for students and teachers who were such rabid Apple 'fanboys' grew, despite the fact that some of the smartest people on campus used them.
Then it happened. The screen on my beautiful, light, and fast PC laptop got cracked. No big deal, all data was safe, but it was going to take a week to repair and I was about to take a trip to the southwest national parks. Tons of pictures and video would need to be processed, we'd need some entertainment for the slow parts of the trip, and I had to stay in contact with the wider world to keep up with my master's program work. So I was given a loaner: A Mac. An overly-designed little white clamshell with this foreign operating system. I did a whole grin-and-bear-it act with the tech guy, but I was secretly interested to see just what all the hype was about.
It only took a week. It was a fun challenge to switch mental models, figuring out how Mac used the centered 'dock' vs. the Start menu of the Windows world, why programs didn't seem to quit when you closed them, why a menu bar was ever present at the top of the screen. But by the end of the week, I was hooked. I had never been more efficient as a computer user, and as much as it irked me, they were right, it just worked. There was no threat of malware and viruses. I never had to install any drivers or spend hours on the internet trying to find someone who got that same cryptic error message. It was blazingly fast and had dozens of keyboard shortcuts that I thrived on. By the time my PC screen was fixed and I gave back the loaner, I was sold -- my next computer would be a Mac.
So here I am, five years later, typing away on a MacBook Pro, surrounded by Apple gear. My iPad sits next to me, already loading itself up with the day's news, weather info before we get on the road, and the books I'm going to read on vacation. The iPhone in my pocket just reminded me about my meeting with the new headmaster, and it occurs to me how organized it's made me. Did you read that? It made me. As ridiculous as it seems, these devices are literally transforming my life.
I know how that sounds, and I don't like it either. But I have to be honest with myself. Reading apps for kids on the iPad have truly helped my three year old son with a speech delay learn to verbalize. The phone's GPS maps have helped us get lost with style: instead of doggedly pursuing a set path, we took random exits off the Jersey Turnpike and found wonderful little towns to eat something other than fast food. The AppleTV has transformed our viewing habits, and commercials are a thing of the past. When my dad got a Mac at my suggestion, it rekindled his love of finding new music, and the two of us have communicated better and more frequently than ever.
Yes, these devices are more expensive than their non-Apple
counterparts. But they work beautifully, Apple continues to innovate,
and I'm left with a more efficient and enjoyable life, so the premium
has been worth it for me. Does that make me a snotty fanboy? Well, I
can still laugh at a good Mac-bashing...
So, Instapunk readers, Mac or Windows? Or are you one of those Linux guys?
. Now Brizoni intends to talk about death. Before
he does, I want to talk about life. Therefore: the ten best novels of
the twentieth century. I won't say much about them. Just a line or two.
The rest would be up to you. My criteria are simple. The book gets you,
and you want to read whole passages out loud, because the words are so
determined to be said.
If you think I'm trying to buy more time for Brizoni and starting a
fight as some kind of distraction, you're wrong. Well, not really.
Actually, I'm just showing off. Which is my way.
CP knows about westerns. I know about novels. Let's fight.