Instapun*** Archive Listing

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October 13, 2012 - October 6, 2012

Friday, October 12, 2012


Two screens tell a story.

CONTINUE NOT PANICKING. I'm confident the eventual fallout will be that Paul Ryan won last night's debate. Does it matter? Too soon to say. But I have thoughts anyway, most of them centered on the number 'two.' Maybe they're illustrative of what's going on in our imperiled nation. Take a look-see.

A Face-off of Number Twos

Vice-Presidential debates are placeholders. Just something that happens between presidential debates -- unless there's a debacle of some kind. Nobody really casts a vote for the second guy on the ticket. Why it was weird that Democrats were somehow counting on Biden to put Obama back in the game and stanch the hemhorraging in the polls. Really? All Ryan had to do was seem knowledgeable, smart, credible in terms of character and seriousness, and he'd pass the litmus test for a running mate. If he doesn't scare us as a guy a heartbeat away from the presidency, he wins. He did that. Which might render everything after this a footnote. But I'll proceed anyway.

Two Flavors of Contempt

Obama lost the first debate because he didn't even bother to participate. He held his opponent in such low regard that he didn't prepare, didn't respond to challenges, and clearly didn't even want to be on stage interacting with Romney before the American public. So what changed in the second? Only the tactics. Biden was equally contemptuous of his opponent but in a much louder and more obnoxious way. Where Obama stared at his podium, Biden smirked, laughed, rolled his eyes, guffawed, interrupted at will, raised his voice, talked over his opponent, and did everything possible to sabotage the whole idea of "debate." It's exactly the same attitude, executed differently. Does this give any useful tip to Obama for his second debate, given that Number One has already declared his mistake "being too polite"? No. Remember Clinton's famous campaign dictum, "It's the economy, stupid"? The lesson for Obama's campaign this time should be, "It's the contempt, stupid. Cut it out."

Two Sexes.

The Democrat meme of a Republican war on women took a serious hit last night. One of the hugely overlooked factors in this race is that grown-up women really really like Paul Ryan. I don't understand it, but I know it to be so from a flood of anecdotal evidence. Women also are painfully familiar with the patronizing and dismissive tactics Biden used against Ryan. They've encountered them with blowhard assholes-in-charge in every walk of life. Men may excuse Biden up to a point on alpha male dominance behavior grounds, although I personally think men are more sophisticated readers of character than that. But the typical female response to what Biden did last night is visceral, instantaneous, and hostile. The man is a bully, a jerk, and an oaf. Ryan, in stark contrast, is polite and that rare thing, a gentleman. I hate to break it to the Democrat Party, but women by and large admire gentlemen, even if they don't marry or otherwise consort with them.

Two Perspectives.

Forget the pundits. I watched (and heard via radio) too much of the post debate analysis. All this inside-the-beltway expertise is getting toxic. Brit Hume, Greta van Susteren, and Laura Ingraham (to name just a few) keep marveling at the fact that in person Joe Biden is a truly nice guy, continuously affable, charming, and in Hume's words, "willing to take his shirt off and give it to you on the spot if you asked for it." They can't comprehend why he can become so unhinged and vicious in events like last night's debate. Bullshit. It doesn't occur to media personalities that they are on TV and radio talking about Joe Biden? It's not possible he has some vested interest in being nice to them? Here's a take (via TNR's Campaign Spot) by someone who watched him up close in his senate dealings:

David Harmer, who ran the closest race of any California Republican House candidate in 2010, sends along this message of his particular disdain for Vice President Biden, and his challenge to Romney donors.

I don’t mind stupid people. It’s stupid people who think they’re smart that aggravate me — which goes a long way toward explaining my profound and enduring antipathy to Vice President Joe Biden, the most vapid gasbag ever to hold the office.

Back when I was young and frisky and counsel to a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I routinely had to sit just a few feet behind and over from that insufferable blowhard. His chairmanship of Senate Judiciary was notable for two, and only two, things: his world-class logorrhea, and his serial character assassination of honorable men and women whose nominations he torpedoed for the crime of holding conservative convictions and taking the Constitution seriously. For someone with an intellect as shallow as Biden’s (76th out of 85 in his class at a law school that U.S. News ranks as 96th out of 200) — and who was a mendacious plagiarist to boot (see, e.g., Why Biden’s plagiarism shouldn’t be forgotten) — to question the qualifications and character of jurists like Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas required a veritable Everest of chutzpah.

In 2008, the mainstream media widely regarded Biden as adding “gravitas” to the Democratic ticket. Whether that says more about the shallowness of Barack Obama or the shallowness of his acolytes in the press is hard to say. Either way, I’m anticipating tonight’s debate with unseemly eagerness, indeed relish. Unlike Biden, Paul Ryan is a gentleman, so Slow Joe won’t get a taste of his own medicine. But next to the earnest, informed, disciplined, and precise Ryan, Biden can’t possibly go 90 minutes without exposing himself as a five-star buffoon...

Those of us outside the Beltway get to see Biden as he is outside the Washington preserve. We're not similarly beguiled by his blarney and bluster. We can see him for what he is, a half-smart, self-important, insensitive, blundering narcissist who should never be within shouting distance of nuclear launch codes. Worse, we can hear the thud of his entirely inappropriate attempt to exploit the death of his wife and daughter in a purely politically motivated effort to compare his own humanity to that of Mitt Romney. He lowered his voice like a bad actor -- or one of the many defendants we have seen on true crime shows who weep without tears to sway the jury their way. Great guy? Good old Joe? That's just not going to sell to people who have a soul.

Screw the pundits on this one. Wait a few days and see what verdict the jury brings in.

Two Against One

I think Ryan won the debate for reasons stated above. But I do believe it worth mentioning that the moderator was helping Biden. She didn't stop Biden from interrupting, which he did 80 some times, and she also interrupted Ryan herself with followups she never seemed to have for Biden.

Debating for Two

There's been criticism of Ryan for not getting into Biden's face as Biden got into his. Conservatives are making this case aplenty. A stupid charge. Ryan was showing the maturity he isn't expected to have at the tender age of (ahem) 42. He never forgot that his mission was not to screw things up for Romney. If he were debating Biden without that burden, I'm certain he would have uncoiled a couple of crushing counterpunches. This is the guy, after all, who made Obama look silly in White House meetings on ObamaCare. But he made a cool and clever decision to let his opponent self-destruct without risking controversy by upping the ante and courting chaos and meltdown on national TV. He remembered that his job was to be solid, stolid, prepared, and statesmanlike, not Rocky. He accomplished the mission. Today he's not the star, but he's not a lightning rod either. What better description do you have of the the role of Vice-President?

Two Generations

Ryan's implicit advantage. Obama failed to make his second-term case for hope and change. Biden's job was to drive home campaign talking points that all Republican ideas are old and worthless while Obama ideas are new and glowing with potential. Think about it. (Although he mentioned Obama by name only once or twice?!) The old man is arguing that his own long experience is proof of the vigor of Obama's so far dismal results. The young man is arguing that Washington's long experience is a death knell for the next generation. Who's more credible? An old man who wants to stay the course? Or a young man who wants to leave a stronger nation for his young children? If both are sincere, who gets the nod? If one is a shameless old hack and the other an earnest, evidently astute reformer with skin in the game, who gets the nod?

Two Kinds of Christians

Two Irish Catholics. One who believes that life begins at conception, which makes terminating a life past conception unacceptable. One who believes life begins at conception, but, hey, murder is in the eye of the beholder. Who are we to say? Are we all expected to be politicians of faith?

Two Kinds of Americans

One who declares that we should never be ashamed to stand up for American values. One who doesn't see the grotesquerie of laughing during a discussion of the brutal assassination of an American ambassador and then claims his opponents have always been down on America. Right.

Two Classes

Biden exemplifies an ultimate, highly distilled version of the class system he pretends to oppose. In reality, there are only two classes in the liberal Democratic view. The governors and the governed. He's been riding the Amtrak gravy train so long he can't even tell when he is patronizing not just his debate opponent but the citizens he's supposed to be serving. He tells them to use their common sense. As if he, at this stage in his long coddled, corrupt life, he would know what common sense is.

Common sense is the guy who detected the fraudulent game Biden was playing and chose, quite sensibly, not to play but to let reality speak for itself to the American people.

The Obama campaign has a golden opportunity to learn from last night's circus. Will they? No. Will Romney? We can only hope.

P.S. I made a prediction about this debate (see caption under main graphic). I was right. When Ryan referenced JFK's tax reductions, Biden lit up and said, utterly out of context, "So you're Jack Kennedy now!" He'd been waiting for his Lloyd Bentsen moment, but that moment was, unfortunately for him, almost 30 years in the past. Like most of what he had to say.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Doom & Gloom,
Me Hearties...

New from the Stones for all ye faint of heart.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Finally, a poll that matters.

That guy in the corner? Andrew Sullivan with his handy-dandy speculum.
Not even CBS News knows better than Andrew what needs looking into.

WASTE OF TIME BECOMES RELEVANT? This is going to come as a shock to some of you. The ones who think they've been scoring body blows by telling me to stop watching television. As if I haven't been completely upfront for decades about the fact that I'm an observer and critic of popular culture as an indicator of where we're headed and why. So be it.

Me? I think that's pretty funny. The only way to start a fight around here is to diss some sci fi movie, like as not derived from a comic book or video game unless it's Star Wars or Star Trek related. (Sorry. I forgot von Clausewitz. Prussians ace Klingons every time.)

Yeah. I watch TV. Because it matters to the state of the nation. More people vote in American Idol than vote in presidential elections. Same goes for Dancing with the Stars. Why I'm delighted to share the following CBS News item with you.

"Dancing With The Stars: All-Stars"
elimination: Bristol rolls as two go home
Former "DWTS" champions Helio Castroneves...and Drew Lachey were eliminated in the show's third round Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012

No Bristol bashing here.

Look not on this page, dear reader, for poison prose about the girl from Alaska who keeps rolling over more talented competitors.
No tirade about the unfairness of a world that rewards the barely competent over the gifted.

If you're looking for barbs about a voting audience that has reduced political clout to its most trivial denominator, you need to Google elsewhere.

We're not going to write that Bristol Palin taking her Red-State free-ride once again is an expression of the rampant mediocrity that threatens to drag down our great nation.
If it needs saying, someone else will have to say that every week that Bris endures on "Dancing With The Stars: All-Stars" is an aberration of the very definition of a "talent show."
No, I said all I needed to say last week, when the Bristol effect first reared its ugly head again after keeping her in the game way too long in Season 11. So let's just get to the recap.
After Monday night's dazzling show, it became clear there were at least eight dancers who had the talent and moves to go all the way this season.
One of that eight, ex-boy band member Drew Lachey, was sent packing Tuesday -- the first former "DWTS" champion to go.
The second contestant ousted was Brazilian race car driver Helio Castroneves, whose super-charged smile and "aw-shucks, I-love-ya America" charm couldn't translate to audience support this time around. Castroneves, also a former "DWTS" champ, was part of the underbrush that needs clearing to get to the best and brightest...
The elimination show began with a reprise of the amazing quick step by Shawn Johnson and her partner, Derek Hough, which was hailed by the judges and this writer as one of the best dances ever seen on "DWTS" -- full of energy, fun and flips...

In the first elimination, Kirstie Alley, herself on shaky ground, got a scare when she was paired with Lachey in the bottom two. But she survived to use her wiles and comic assets for another round.
"I can honestly say I would not change a thing, you know. Everyone questioned why I would come back. I came back because this is fun," said Lachey after the axe fell...

We got to see more of those pearly whites when Castroneves got the cut. "I want to thank America, you guys vote for me, I couldn't be happier."
The one who SHOULD be thanking America is -- oh wait, we're not going there.

So Bristol Palin doesn't dance very well but she's being voted to another week by the millions because...? Well, here's what CBS's enlightened liberal commenters have to say:

dontknowitall says: Two good dancers released yet the Ice Princess remains.

Kingsville1950 says: I do not even want to watch the show anymore. I just knew BRISTOL was not going to get kicked out. I could of dance the dance she did. There was nothing hard about the dance. I do not know what is going on, but the dancers that have gone home were 110% better than her. I am very disappointed at the judges which are usually so picky about any little thing and of course Bristol gets away with it. All those great dancers that have been send home instead of Bristol. Very disappointed here in Texas.

nirak2-2009 says: This is the last straw for me. I am not watching anymore. First of all BRiston Palin shouldn't even been on the show.She is the worst dancer ever and having two very good dancers go home and have Bristol stay is a travesty.

lovethiscountry says: Remember, I doubt that Bristol begged to come back. . . she would have been invited by the show producers. They knew what happened in her first appearance and certainly knew it would happen again. Bristol should have said no to their invitation

bgdavis47 says: This is the most incredible travesty I have ever seen on television. What must the producers of this show be thinking? I know so many people, myself included, who will no longer watch as long as that no-talent Bristol is on there and the really talented dancers are eliminated. What happened to the "dance-off" of the bottom two? Eliminated so that Bristol won't be? But then the judges probably wouldn't eliminate her as they already give her much higher marks than she deserves. Nomore for me - I've watched from the beginning of DWTS but I'm done with it now.

spacengin says: Maybe the ratio of voting should be changed. Instead of 50/50, I think that a 70 judges/30 public ratio would be better. Or how about a dance off between the low judges pick and the low public pick with the audience deciding. Rather than discontinue watching, we should all vote for the mid-leader boarders. That way, the top talent will be gone and the TEA partiers can suck watching inferior performances. This will kill the show unless the producers change the rating system.

misterhman replies: Good idea ...something definitely needs to be done if the show wants to become an honest dancing competition. Right now the show has become a national spectacle and laughing stock. Maybe DWTS should adopt a modern-day GONG show format. Imagine the images of the Palin entourage in the audience and the reaction of tea-baggers if Bristol were to get GONGed.

LittleBird64 says: When I saw that Bristol was coming back this season, I hoped that the "dance off" (that the show instituted last year where the two couples in the bottom would dance off and the judges would have the final say based strictly on the DANCING) would mean that Bristol would be one of the first ones out. She is after all, the worst one in the competition and consistently lands at the bottom of the leader board. When I saw they did away with that, (Wonder why? Because Bristol's back?)I just accepted that she would sail to the end surpassing the better dancers. I decided that I would try to enjoy watching the other, talented dancers this season and try not to be surprised and angry each week while the awkward, no talent Bristol escapes elimination after elimination each week. I knew it would be this way because that's the way it was when she was on before. I called it last night before they revealed that Helios would be going home. I knew that Bristol would not even be in danger and I was right. This season is not a "dancing competition"'s a competition about whose mommy has the most influence and whose mommy is campaigning the hardest to win her daughter votes. I'm sure Bristol is a nice girl, but honestly at this point, I'd be embarrassed if I were her...coming out on stage again after such phenomenal dancers have been sent home before her. ABC, this is a dancing competition and it's obvious to your viewers that you're catering to the Palins by abolishing the dance off and by giving Mama Palin more face time than anyone else's family members. It's really a shame...this used to be my favorite show too. Hey how about Bristol trying out for American Idol next? Doesn't matter that she probably can't sing either...she might get to be a rock star! reply linkicon reporticon emailicon oshinbreez says: Have you heard of the website ? It's a site that picks the worst performer in the fan voting shows ie: American Idol, DWTS, etc and has their followers see how long they can keep the worst in the competition. I have a feeling Bristol might be around for a while.

twmat311 replies: This might be reality TV's "jump the shark" - when the show gets the attention of Otherwise, once viewers figure out how to game the judging, either fix it or dump it.

oshinbreez replies: Someone had a great suggestion that the dance-off be re-implemented. That would work as the pro judges would be able to make the final decision.

luckyturqoise says: Palin should have been sent home. Drew should have stayed. I will not watch anymore.

zenia5 says: Dancing With the Stars is becoming more and more of a joke when a whining, poor dancer like Bristol Palin stays while much, much better dancers are sent home. She is obviously riding on her mother's rabble-rousing coat tails....still using her questionable tactics to stir up her base. This entire family is sickening. After I watched a clip from Bristol's "reality show" where her young son was spewing the "F" word while Bristol and a friend laughed uncontrollably at him, I knew for certain what a piece of trash she really is.

lawkwfl replies:Well obviously you're interested in her, you are after all reading an article with her name in the title. If you don't like the way DWTS is doing their casting you've got a choice you know, its called a remote.As for the "trash" comment, why is it posts like yours always seem to lower themselves to name calling? You know the old saying about it takes one...right? She's making millions on TV and your posting on a CBS message board. Sour grapes?

CBS. The Tiffany Network. Right. Couple points. CBS wouldn't have any ulterior motive in trashing a popular ABC show, would it? No. Of course not.

Beyond that, the dudgeon here is hilarious. (Be patient. There will be a larger point after we've had our fun.) As if Dancing With the Stars was ever a legitimate competition or anything more than a popularity contest. Yes, it takes someone who actually watches TV to see what's going on here. The show has always been a joke.

The judges are jokes. The imitation Noel Coward of a judge who pretends to be punctilious about rules, niceties of dance movements, and the inappropriateness of the expressly erotic -- unless he suddenly decides otherwise based on a (usually male) butt whose thrust takes his fancy. The female judge who fans her face and sometimes has to leave the stage to change her panties when a soap opera star or NFL retiree manages not to fall down during a dance routine. The crazed Italian who practically launches himself at every female who brings breasts and a big waggling ass to the stage. Without this outlet, he'd probably be in prison. Competition? Yeah.

The professional dancers are a joke. They're there to become stars in their own right. One, Maks, has been accused of slapping one of his stars (Hope Solo) around when she didn't perform to suit him. Another, Edyta, is trying to set the record for coming closest to total nudity on a prime time network show. (Simple equation: Sideboob = Stardom somewhere, somehow.) Still others have already flown the coop for recording contracts, etc. Everybody on the dance floor is on the make, one way or another, from fallen stars to ambitious hoofers. Consider that some aging soap stars are actually being jacked in the polls because they're dancing with famous DWTS dancers. Reality TV? Well, you're the judge, aren't you?

The contestants are jokes. NFL alumni are great athletes but they are not dancers. If they wanted to do an all-star show, they'd do better by bringing back the talented ones who lost to much more popular running backs, wide receivers, and linemen. There are a bunch of those. Then there are the "non-dancers" whose athletic disciplines involved training in ballet and modern dance. Figure skaters, anyone? And boy bands and girl singers who have spent years dancing on stage with no formal training. Really? And did we forget fading pop stars like Master P, who showed up in giant sneakers and didn't get voted off for weeks because hip-hop fans kept him alive? Or popular old farts from Jerry Springer to George Hamilton to "two-ton" Kirstie Alley, who never danced a lick but cleaned up in the voting because, you know, people just love them. There was also the man without a face. He won too. (Don't give me a hard time; that's his whole point in becoming a celebrity...) I don't begrudge him that or think ill of him, because he was performing a public service on behalf of wounded veterans. Just don't tell me this show was ever a competition. It's just a show.

All that's by way of clearing out the underbrush. The DWTS voters have always been kind to country singers, for example. The support for Bristol Palin is surely akin to the vote totals that kept a more corpulent version (than now) of Marie Osmond on the show for weeks after she should have lost out to a semi-professionally trained competitor like an Olympic skater. The vilification of Bristol Palin is completely out of place. It's just political hatred disguised as a love of pure competition. Sad, really.

Now to the bottom line. Bristol Palin may not be a very good dancer. But she's obviously getting lots and lots of votes against All-Star DWTS celebrities who have a record of getting lots and lots (and lots) of votes. That's interesting in this election season, no?

And Kirstie Alley still might win. She has much bigger boobs and ass than Bristol or even Emmitt Smith. If you can't count on that, what can you count on?

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

My First Debate

Okay. I was a year older. But not as smart.

DON'T COUNT YOUR CHICKENS. I was just listening to Limbaugh crowing about the forthcoming Romney landslide. He cited the fact that at 61, he's been following politics closely for 45 years. Which inspired me to do some arithmetic. I'm 59, but I've been following politics closely for 47 years. I had my first political debate in 1964 when I was 11. It was the Johnson-Goldwater election. I lost. My opponent mopped the floor with me.

We were students in a small private school whose parents had all made great personal sacrifices to procure a good education for their children. Parents and students painted the classrooms of a deteriorated sanitarium to get ready for the upcoming school year. Class sizes were tiny, about 10 or 12 per grade. There was no state bureaucrat to tell us that even little kids couldn't care about what happened in the 1964 election. Their parents sure did.

It was a year after the assassination of JFK. Not one of us who didn't know exactly where we were when we heard about that. Which also meant there was no kid who was unaware that politics was important. The 1964 presidential race was an ugly one. For example, it was the year of the single dirtiest campaign ad ever run -- by a Democrat, of course -- one never forgotten to this day even though it only ran once.

Even kids knew what the ad meant. We'd already been through the Cuban Missile Crisis, and we had had to deal with the fatal contradiction between what our teachers, during those very directly dire days, told us to do in the event of nuclear war -- get under your desks and wait -- and what our parents were telling us at home: If there is nuclear war, nothing will be left. But we still played touch football, memorized our arithmetic flashcards and James Whitcomb Riley poems, and took spelling tests. The millennials think they invented multi-tasking.

This isn't a screed, just an explanation. The kids of our school were into the 1964 election. We were going to have a straw vote, and the centerpiece was going to be a debate between the Johnson and Goldwater advocates. Kids were wearing buttons, for heaven's sake. How I know what no one knows, the name of Goldwater's running mate. (Look it up.)

I don't know how the decisions were made. The selected debaters were me, a seventh grader (11) and Michael, an eighth grader (13) who was my sister's principal academic rival and one she had repeatedly trounced in grades and other competitions. My suspicion is that she didn't want to debate him because she secretly liked him.

The focus of the debate, chosen by me as the argument developed, was George Orwell's Animal Farm, which both the seventh and eighth grade had recently read. I projected it as a vision of the FDR/LBJ vision of how government would continuously increase its rule by making ordinary people less equal than the rulers. I cited Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Johnson as the upright walking pigs of the farm Goldwater was trying to defend us against. I was eloquent.

Then Michael blew me away with simple history. Animal Farm was a classic roman a clef. Napoleon and Snowball were Lenin and Trotsky. Animal Farm was about the Russian Revolution, clear and simple. It had nothing to do with American politics. I persisted, insisting that it was a prescient warning. Michael followed with more details proving his point.

Nobody told me I'd lost. In fact, Goldwater won our straw vote and I went to Philadelphia to hand over the $50 or so we'd raised for Goldwater to him at the Union Club. I shook his hand and he slightly acknowledged me.

But I knew. It didn't matter if in some figurative sense I had been right. I had missed the historical basis altogether. Which is when I cut myself off from all the propaganda of my youth. I argued with my own father about politics from then on. He hadn't known that. I was subjected then to all the education he paid for -- liberals in prep school and college who were determined to make me into the opponent of my first debate. I had to find my own way back from the conviction that being right doesn't matter if you don't know why.

So I learned why. I read a lot. I consumed history. In college my major was absolutely everything that had ever happened. Afterwards, when that proved to be a poor personal economic decision, and when I couldn't afford it, I borrowed money to go see Reagan at a chicken dinner when he was in eclipse. He blew me away. "God. He's still the guy who made The Speech." I became a writer after all. Not in the name of politics but belief in myself. Fancy that.

In the end, my dad was borrowing from me in his last letters to the editor. He'd always been right. I should have been happier that like Dumas, he was perfectly willing to take credit for Dumas fils. But you know how it goes with fathers and sons. He never approved of me, and I never forgave him till the very very end. It was Robert the Bruce who said, in utterly incomprehensible dialect, "Warriors breed assholes, which is to say they always sire themselves." Unless I said that on my own. Why I don't lose many arguments 47 years later.

A property I haven't yet seen in the Romney "good fellow" family. Let's hope I'm wrong.

Not since the age of eleven. Bastard pure and simple.

Just don't tell me that the past has nothing to do with what's happening now.

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