July 3, 2005 - June 26, 2005
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
There is something I call the invisible parenthetical. It shows up most
often in election analysis, though not exclusively. It also makes
intermittent appearances in assessments of the Iraq War. Its purpose is
to signify that can of worms which remains stubbornly unopened. There's
a good example in Tony
's latest column:
We have the strength — military,
economic, cultural, diplomatic, (dare
I include the strength of our religious faith, also?) — to persist
around the world unto victory — for generations if necessary.
But all this potential capacity for victory can only be
brought into full being by a sustained act of collective will. It is
heartbreaking, though no longer perplexing, that the president's
political and media opposition want the president's defeat more than
America's victory. But that is the price we must pay for living in a
free country. (Sedition laws almost surely would be found
unconstitutional, currently — although things may change after the next
terrorist attack in America.)
It's the second parenthetical we're concerned with here, the one that
alludes to the radical change in circumstances represented by another
9/11, or larger, attack. Blankley's diction differs from most in that
he doesn't use the word 'if'; it's clear he has no doubt that it's
coming, and the only question is when. Whether we admit it or not, I
believe most of us agree with this gloomy prediction. We know that our
borders are still porous, the INS still can't keep track of all those
expired student visas, and increasingly, the various Islamo-fascist
terror plots in other parts of the world are reported to involve the
supposedly nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. Was it the mass
media's deliberate intention or our collective turning away that caused
the bomb plot in Jordan to disappear so quickly from public view? A
plan to kill as many as 80,000 people with explosives and chemical
agents -- does this not merit our interest?
That's why I call it the invisible parenthetical. It's there in plain
sight, the asterisk that says everything we're thinking about right now
could be rendered void in a single moment, but we're not going to think
Politicians and pundits put it in almost ritually, as if they were
knocking wood to keep bad luck away, but the ballooning dimensions of
horror that live inside the mention are closed off from scrutiny by
But I have another name for it too: the presidential parenthetical.
From this perspective, it's the clearest indication of just how far
away most of us are from seeing the world situation the way President
Bush has to see it. For him the "next attack" can be no aside or sotte
voce appendix. It is, in many respects, the only topic of importance.
We don't like to imagine, but he has to imagine, the reality and the
cascading consequences of an attack that kills 80,000 Americans.
What happens on that day? Compared to its impact 9/11 will be seen in
hindsight as only a ripple, a warning not heeded. There won't be space
in 10 years of New York Times editions to honor the dead with
individual eulogies. Panic and the interdependencies of technological
infrastructure will plunge the United States, and the world, into an
instant economic depression.. If such an event were to happen the day
after tomorrow or the day after a month from now, what would become of
all our earnest editorializing about Abu Ghraib, the role of the U.N.,
the shocking $25 billion overrun in occupation costs, the need to win
hearts and minds in the 'moderate' Muslim world, the dangers of the
patriot act, the disputed basis of the war in Iraq, the jobless
recovery, gas prices, the 9/11 commission report, and Bush's attendance record in
the National Guard?
All would be swept away. We would confront images of death so
widespread that almost everyone in the country would know one of the
victims personally. A major city would be paralyzed, gripped in a
sudden crisis of survival as water, electricity, food, and medical care
became unavailable for hundreds of thousands of citizens. The president
would confront a near universal demand for revenge on a massive,
nuclear scale. Pundits who are at this moment writing sober columns
about the need for Rumsfeld's dismissal will propose lists of targets
-- Mecca, Medina, Damascus -- requiring immediate annihilation. Those
who continue to oppose self defense on the basis that America
somehow deserves the wrath of dark age fanatics (there will be some,
and you can meet them today at Moveon.org and
Democraticunderground.com) (but notice who's parenthetical now) will be
reviled and persecuted by people who once marched with them in anti-war
demonstrations. The editorial columns of newspapers will bulge with
indignant outcries about why it is taking so long to retaliate, to seal
our borders, to clamp down on the Arab autocracies who are breeding
mass murderers with impunity. And when the evidence indicates that the
plot was hatched and harbored in Iran (Syria), the chattering experts
will demand to know why nothing was done before it was too late.
Does this day of transformation seem far-fetched? Of course it doesn't.
We the people just don't want to think about it. Maybe we can't think
about it. But the President of the United States has to think about it.
It is already real to him. He experienced 9/11 from the perspective
that none of us has had, as the one who is responsible for leading the
country through the mess. He knows what that is like, which is why we
can demean his intelligence all we want to in our hubris; the truth is,
in this respect, he is the only
person among us right now. He knows that every
sacrifice is worth making to prevent that impending horrific day from
coming. He knows that America the Free is impossible to defend through
sheer defense. That's why he took the fight to the terrorists at once
and why it doesn't matter which reason he picked for taking out Saddam.
He fought in Iraq the way the allies fought in North Africa in 1942,
because it was a way to engage the enemy right now. He knows it doesn't
matter if the Europeans whine and splutter because they will wail with
misery after the economic crash caused by mass death in the land of the
What does he see that we don't? Body bags. Thousands upon
thousands, if not millions, of the slippery black lozenges that
used to be mothers, fathers, children, marines, airmen, and
seamen, bags filled and buried on his watch in such numbers that the
casualties we are experiencing now seem not reckless but prefatory, the
scattered shots of the phony war in the days before blitzkrieg awakened
a sleeping nation.
We must try to see those body bags too. If we can't, all our
convictions about what's right, what's wrong, what's important, what
isn't, are likely to be wrong. Dead wrong.
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
JOBS AND SUCH
of our faithful readers has written in to ask InstaPunk to say a few
words about the economy. The Democrats keep talking about how bad the
economy is, he notes, even though the economy is doing well by most
measures. And they're hammering George Bush every day about all the
jobs that have been lost. What, he wonders, does InstaPunk think about
Well, InstaPunk laughs whenever a politician uses the word "I" and the
term "create jobs" in the same sentence. What images come to mind when
John Kerry intones, "I will create 20 million new jobs in
eight years"? A Hollywood montage of Kerry in a hardhat digging the
first shovelful of earth in a new dam project, Kerry bent over
blueprints of a new supertanker at the shipyard, Kerry in a surgical
mask supervising the manufacture of the newest and fastest
microprocessor yet, Kerry in a straw hat piloting a John Deere tractor
in the fields of Iowa, Kerry with his thinking cap on, devising the
next high technology industry that will fuel years of economic growth...
It's all ridiculous. Presidents don't create jobs. They don't run the
economy. They have less power over it than the federal reserve chairman
does. They have a few tools they can use to try to influence the
economy, although most of these consist of asking congress to spend
more or less money, cut or raise taxes, and monkey with the minimum
wage. Beyond this, they can negotiate trade agreements and serve a
facilitating role in finding overseas markets for American business.
And that's about it.
Now let us consider all the things a president has no control over. He
can't do much , for example, about droughts, floods, earthquakes,
tornadoes, and other acts of God or demons. He can't do much about the
billions of good and bad decisions made by companies and entrepreneurs
in their day to day pursuit of prosperity. He also can't do much about
the global economy that everywhere impacts American business prospects.
He certainly can't do anything about the stagnant European economy,
which depresses the overseas opportunity for American business. The
Europeans work about 35 hours a week, show up about 200 days a year,
and make exorbitantly high wages so they can pay the exorbitantly high
taxes that pay for all the Europeans who don't work at all. On
top of this, the Europeans have a steeply declining birth rate. Their
economies aren't going to be growing anytime soon.
The president can't do anything about the boom and bust cycles of the
Asian economies, which are currently more bust than boom because they
tend to be chronically lacking in either natural resources (Japan,
Taiwan, Singapore) or capital (China, Phillipines, Malaysia).
He can't do much about the other American economies either. Canada is
locked into a socialist bureaucracy that spends money faster than
Canadians can earn it. Mexico's only economic strategy is sending all
its workers here, because there aren't any jobs at home. South America
suffers from European-style lethargy combined with the kind of
political stability one might expect from the Phillipines.
The old Soviet states still don't have any economies to speak of, just
gangsters and crude barter systems. They can't seem to do anything
about it. How could the American president?
And no one can do anything about Africa.
The biggest economic role played by a president of the United States is
to take the blame when things go south and to (try to) take credit when
things go well.
The funniest part of all of this is that everyone knows it. Every four
years, though, we go through this period of hysterical amnesia in which
we abandon common sense and converse gravely about how well or poorly
the president has "managed" the economy.
Bah. That's what InstaPunk says.
Monday, May 17, 2004
Two Peas in a Pod.
Black is the fashion color this year
at Cannes -- if your surname is Moore or Kerry.
Despite the fact that he has been largely discredited on both the right
and the left of the political spectrum, Michael Moore (see the other
picture above) is drawing
and ahs for his latest filmic blunderbuss from the critics in
at the Cannes Film Festival. A sample:
Even those skeptical of Moore, who has
drawn criticism that he
skews the truth to fit his arguments, were impressed.
``I have a problematic relationship with some of Michael Moore's
work,'' said James Rocchi, film critic for DVD rental company
Netflix, saying he found Moore too smug and stunt-driven in the
past. ``There's no such job as a standup journalist.''
Yet in ``Fahrenheit 9/11,'' Moore presents powerful segments
about losses on both sides of the Iraq war and the grief of
American and Iraqi families, Rocchi said.
``This film is at its best when it is most direct and speaks
from the heart, when it shows lives torn apart,'' Rocchi said.
Maybe there's something special in the air
at the French
Riviera that sunders men from their judgment and insight. Or maybe it's
more pedestrian than that: too much eye candy simply rots the higher
processing functions of the brain.
At any rate, it's time for a reminder about Michael Moore. His Lowness
has not merely been criticized in the past. He has been taken apart,
exposed as a fraudulent documentarian, and proven a vicious slanderer.
has found egregious errors and misrepresentations in his written works.
And a law professor named David T. Hardy
deconstructed Moore's malefic sleight of hand in film works such
as Bowling for Columbine
has also undertaken a dispassionate analysis of the pathological nature
of Moore's personality
allowing readers to decide for themselves whether Moore is a malignant
narcissist or a full blown sociopath.
We're not going to acknowledge Moore every time he raises his hand for
more attention. But from time to time we will repost these links
because no one should make the mistake of assuming that we're dealing
with a garden variety leftist here. We're dealing with someone who may
be purely evil. We do assume that Professor Hardy will continue with
his excellent work
Sunday, May 16, 2004
The Philly Flyer
The one-eyed terminator from Philadelphia ices the competition at
HORSE TIME. Philadelphia
claims him, but so does Salem County, New Jersey. He lived here before
he began his racing career. Now it looks as if the whole country is ready to
claim him. The Associated
His victory in the Kentucky Derby was merely impressive. But
his triumph in the Preakness Stakes was the horse racing equivalent of
a one-punch knockout.
A small colt of humble origins, unbeaten Smarty Jones cast himself
as a possible great when he blew away his rivals in yesterday's 1900m Preakness
to win by a race-record 11 1/2 lengths over Rock Hard Ten before a record
crowd of 112,668.
Next stop the Belmont Stakes on June 6, when he will be poised to become
only the 12th Triple Crown winner and first since Affirmed pulled off a
sweep in 1978. Not bad for a horse who knocked himself unconscious, and
nearly lost his life, when he bashed his head into the starting gate before
running in his first race.
Now he's eight-for-eight and on the cusp of joining racing's legends.
There's also this eerie quote in the Chicago
Said Servis: ''You know, I saw an interview where Billy Turner
[the trainer of Seattle Slew] said that as the Triple Crown [sequence]
went on, he noticed an incredible transformation in his horse as he approached
the paddock before these races. It was almost as if the horse was transforming
himself into something incredible, something fantastic. I looked at Smarty
today and that's what I sensed. For the first time, I really felt I was
witnessing what Billy was talking about.''
All of this makes Smarty Jones the equine equivalent of a South Street
Saturday, May 15, 2004
. We've been told over and
over and over again that Senator Kerry has experience that uniquely qualifies him to be our Commander in Chief. We decided to
do some research on this. Everyone knows that President Bush has been our Commander in Chief these past four
years. Before that he was governor of Texas, the head of a major league baseball franchise and operator of miscellaneous oil service companies.
Senator Kerry has been a legislator for 20 years, which is not an executive position because executives are responsible for getting things done and legislators aren't. Prior to that he was a lieutenant governor, which sounds executive but isn't because lieutenant governors are like vice presidents, invited to a lot of meetings but not in charge of anything. If we look all the way back to Kerry's youth, we do find one brief period of executive responsibility: he commanded a swift boat in Vietnam — for 90 days — over 30 years ago.
Of course, there is one aspect of the executive life with which Senator Kerry is intimately
, which may or may not impress the voters. He doesn't talk much about this area of his expertise, though, for whatever reason. He appears to be hanging his hat on having once been a lieutenant in the navy.
We can't help pointing out that rarely in the annals of military history has a lieutenant sought such a promotion. (Of course, Hitler was a corporal...) So to be fair, we dug into the specifics and compiled the following
for your consideration.
Friday, May 14, 2004
I'm sure the mainstream media are grateful for the unexpected windfall
they received this week. What could be a better distraction from the
butchering of Nicholas Berg than the discovery of SEX
PICTURES from Abu Ghraib? Maybe the pictures themselves, but I'm sure
they're working on getting those for us too. If we could just lay our hands
on a few of those, we could forget about Berg altogether. Possibly something
featuring a BREAST.
We all know how pleasurable it is to feel offended about seeing one of
those. And, let's face it, it's not nearly as icky as looking at savage
real world violence. Did anyone see Nancy Pelosi after she had viewed the
sex pictures? She looked overcome, almost as if she had witnessed an unbelievable
slaughter. Oh that's right. The Berg video didn't upset her nearly as much.
The Boston Globe's Jeff
Jacoby has some interesting thoughts about all this:
Offensive and shocking pictures that undermine the war effort
should be played up, but offensive and shocking pictures that remind us
why we're at war in the first place shouldn't get played at all?
Yes, Virginia, there really is a gaping media double standard.
News organizations will shield your tender eyes from the sight of a Berg
or a Daniel Pearl being decapitated or of Sept. 11 victims jumping to their
deaths, or of the mangled bodies on the USS Cole, or of Fallujans joyfully
mutilating the remains of four lynched US civilians. But they will
make sure you don't miss the odious behavior of Americans or American allies,
no matter how atypical that misbehavior may be, or how determined the US
military is to uproot and punish it.
The ruse that is used to rationalize this double standard is both clever
and corrupt. Somehow, the mass media have connived to convince us that
these truly national events belong only to the dead victims and their families.
The major networks no longer run footage even of the planes striking the
twin towers because the images are too troubling to the "9/11 families."
Excuse me? We're all 9/11 families now. Our world changed profoundly on
that grisly day and we are not permitted to remind ourselves of how awful
the carnage was? The same logic has been employed from the very beginning
to deprive us of the worst and most personal images of the WTC attack,
those who chose to plummet dozens of stories to their deaths rather than
be burned alive.
Yet Peter and Tom and Dan have no scruples about showing us six-year-old
amputees as a way of driving home the collateral damage of American bombing.
If they were as fearless about showing us the mutilated victims of Saddam's
torture chambers, we might be better enabled to keep the "prisoner abuse"
photos in perspective. Maybe Teddy Kennedy couldn't get away so easily
with his glib and revolting
comparison of Bush to Saddam. But I guess that's the point. They want us
to forget why our country is embroiled in a complex situation in Iraq.
Why else would Peter Jennings somehow forget
to mention that Berg's self-proclaimed murderer has clear ties to the 9/11
attacks? Or is he already confident that the memory of those attacks has
been driven from our heads by a picture of a smoking girl in a tee shirt
pointing at the genitals of an Iraqi
It's up to us to remember. Let's do so: Look here,
as Andy Rooney has overstayed his welcome, columnist Jimmy Breslin really
needs to go home and do his ranting in a Lazyboy in front of the TV. A
quote from his latest stream of bile:
The prison pictures they watched in such secrecy belong to
the public whose taxes pay for this war. These utter fools in suits and
uniforms, some smooth-faced liar from the Pentagon, or a general who should
be in a grand jury himself, try to control the free speech of the nation
and commit a war crime.
You see, he knows that people are watching the Berg video on the internet,
and he just can't stand not being able to displace those images with those
of sex parties in Abu Ghraib cells.
Get stuffed, Jimmy.
Thursday, May 13, 2004
The most coherent anti-war statement yet produced by the intellectual
. Finally. The
, inveterate defender of Stalin and Soviet communism, has
just published a dizzying array of pieces by its most renowned contributors
offering a bunch of brilliant strategies
for extracting the U.S. from the quagmire in Iraq. Such luminaries. Such
credentials. Such knowledge. Such insight. Such eloquence.
Now for our rebuttal: uh, no.
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Randi Rhodes looking cute and mischievous
If you're one of the 280 million or so Americans who haven't had a
chance to listen to Franken's Folly (a.k.a. Air America), it's probably
news to you that the most tempestuous little teapot in the lineup is a
woman who calls herself Randi Rhodes. (Is my bias showing, or doesn't that
sound rather like a pornstar monicker?) Thanks to the dutifulness of a
handful of columnists who live in New York City, the Great Unwashed among
us can at least read brief quotes of this doll's daily fulminations. For
The queen of venom, Randi Rhodes, followed Franken in the host
slot. Her imitation of a cracker military type telling a soldier to "insert
this fluorescent light bulb into that man's buttocks" was revolting. She
compared U.S. prisons in Iraq to the "Nazi gulag" and said, "The day I
say thank you to Rumsfeld is the same day I'll say thank you to the 12
people who raped me."
Rock bottom came when she compared Bush and his family to the Corleones
in the "Godfather" saga. "Like Fredo, somebody ought to take him out fishing
and phuw," she said, imitating the sound of gunfire.
There's more, and to be fair, Franken hasn't completely lost his light
touch. The same article
reports that he's gotten off some good ones about torture, pedophiles taking
communion, and a bunch of new (well, not really) names for Rush Limbaugh.
Ironically, the author of this little recital seems to hate Limbaugh as
much as Franken does. Perhaps he's listened to Limbaugh as much as the
rest of us have listened to Randi Rhodes. Still, my bet would be that we won't
have Randi around to not listen to for much longer. So we'd better not
listen to her while we can. Well, you know what I mean.
It's painful to read Andrew
Sullivan these days. It used to be that he wrote reasonably about policy
and politics, with occasional forays into the, for him, emotionally volatile
subject of gay marriage. But since Massachusetts and San Francisco raised
the specter of a constitutional crisis about marriage, it's just about
all he can think about. He pretends to be weighing the relative strengths
and weaknesses of Bush and Kerry, as if he were performing some kind of
rational calculus. What is transparently obvious to an increasing number
of his readers, however, is that he is desperately searching for an excuse
to throw his weight behind John Kerry, a man he knows to be weak, hypocritical,
and undistinguished. Yet Kerry's ability to pander to every politically
correct fad makes him seem like the road to happiness if gay marriage is
the only thing on your mind.
The coup de grace in the descent of a superior intellect to idiocy was
delivered in Sullivan's latest column for The New Republic. This once unflinching
champion of the war on terror has now devised a workaround for his preferred
candidate's career-long record of appeasement: prop up Kerry with McCain
in the role of VP. He begins by reasserting his long, and utterly unfounded,
faith in the unstable and self-obsessed publicity hound from Arizona. Then
he proceeds to offer up a truly ridiculous proposition:
He could become for Kerry what Cheney has been for Bush: a
confidant, a manager, a strategic mind, a guide through the thicket of
war-management. But he could also be more for Kerry: He could be a unifying
force in the country in the dark days ahead.
Domestically, a Kerry-McCain ticket would also go a long way toward
healing the Vietnam wound, now rubbed raw again by recent events in Iraq.
The two men represent very different responses to that war, and could help
unite their generation -- finally! -- over it.
Sigh. What all is wrong with these few sentences? Practically everything.
McCain the politician is hardly anyone's guide through a thicket of anything.
He threw himself out of the presidential race in 2000 by blowing his stack
in public much the way Howard Dean did. His fellow senators aren't
fond of him. Quite a few of us in the general public -- Republicans and Democrats
alike -- are under the impression he's slightly nuts. He's a "unifying
force" only if the constituencies you wish to unify are Andrew Sullivan
and Chris Matthews.
But these are mere quibbles compared to the red flag Sullivan hoists
in his next paragraph. Think about it. We're being asked to believe that
the country will "finally" get over the Vietnam War if we put
in charge the very two men who seem most obsessed with that war. Name any
two other politicians who appear more likely to eat, sleep, and dream Vietnam every day of their lives. Imagine the policy discussions in the
"This latest thing in Iraq is the Tet offensive all over again."
"No, it's not. It's Qe Sanh."
"You say that one more time, I'm going to frag you myself."
Mr.Sullivan, if you want to back Kerry because you think he'll cave
in on the gay issues you care about, go ahead. Everyone's entitled to be
a one-issue candidate on occasion. But please spare us this kind of lunacy.
There's always the danger that someone might actually listen to you. And
that would be a disaster for the nation.
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