Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
May 30, 2012 - May 23, 2012

Monday, March 14, 2011

Open Thread

I'm sail thread. Show me you're more than silk.

SPEAK UP, JADED ONES. Never done this before. But there are a lot of unanswered questions in the posts and comments of the past couple of weeks.

I'll just make a few comments to sink the needle in.

I've been struck by how many of you -- even in trying to be optimistic -- are devoted to the idea that American "exports" are mostly negative. I think this reflects the overlooking of some key variables and a parochial viewpoint. The variables I didn't hear mentioned? The Internet, cellphones (Arab uprisings and their internal/external communications, anyone?), American Johnny-on-the-spot response to natural disasters, and the still growing number of families all over the globe who have one or more relatives living or studying here. The movies and TV shows you think are so disastrous in PR terms are probably communicating things you've ceased to look at -- the amazingly high standard of living enjoyed by even those who are poor in our terms, the amazing freedom to criticize the U.S. government and still obtain lucrative international distribution (Freedom!), the extraordinary technology involved in all our media productions, now taken for granted by us but almost miraculous to many in the global audience, and the enduring archetype of the maverick American hero, who doesn't have to submit to any authority to prevail and survive, if not prosper to an exceptional degree.

Besides which, our music is all over the world. Good, bad, or indifferent it speaks to the world's young the same way American jeans spoke to the children of the Iron Curtain countries a generation ago. You all take being American for granted. They don't. Why they're still trying to come here and live, even from countries who officially despise us and have aimed all their propaganda at discrediting our way of life. Every America-hating director, actor, and musician is actually making his despised homeland more attractive to all the people who know they don't have what the haters no longer see as a privilege.

What I meant by vitality.

A nod to Helk. He wants to discuss presidential candidates. I thought I'd opened the door to that, wide open, but nobody responded. So come out and talk. Don't just sharpshoot. Make your case and arrive at some valid conclusion.

Japan. What do you all think of the current disaster? I have a few prodding thoughts. Our own media and government tend to exaggerate rather than underplay emergencies for political ends. Our anti-Bush press declared there were 10,000 dead in New Orleans before it quietly conceded there were only about a hundred. In Japan, home of the most obedient, well organized, and homogeneous people on earth, the government has consistently understated likely casualties, dangers, and national impacts from the first moment. Yet with some notable media-distorted exceptions, we seem to have a talent for recovering from horrific disasters in places like Tornado Alley (and this week in northern New Jersey) with barely a peep. Who's exceptional? Them or us?

Nuclear plants. A 9.0 event that happens once in a couple hundred years is supposed to make us panic about the "China Syndrome" all over again. I'm guessing that wouldn't happen without the ratings-driven hysteria of the 24/7 news cycle, and Fox News is as guilty as anyone. Maybe more so. (Don't get me started on the fact-free incitations of Allyson Camerota and the shockingly nepotist promotion to International Correspondent of new college grad Peter Doocy, whose Fox host father can't even pronounce the name of Miyagi, Japan. We're supposed to take any of these folks, seriously?) What do you think?

Wisconsin. As ugly a display of nasty inter-party political combat as we've seen in years, but as far as I know, nobody got killed -- unlike the ongoing protests in Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, etc. A lot of marble got damaged in the capitol building and the place stank like the Superdome after Katrina, but only the rhetoric was actually homicidal. Do you feel ashamed or proud? Why?

World Leadership. The catastrophe in Japan has caused the publication of figures we haven't seen in a while. Did you think China with its billion-plus people was actually overtaking our economy? (Bet you did.) The proof of our decline. Turns out the three economies behind us in rank don't add up collectively to the GDP of the United States. And Japan -- even before the earthquake/tsunami -- had a national debt twice its GDP. I predict that once again, the world's weakest form of democracy, i.e., the parliamentary, will fall at the precise moment when it needs to lead firmly and without partisan favor. Which our republican democracy is expressly designed to enable, except when we have a cipher as president.

Okay. Enough. Discuss amongst yourselves. And by that I mean anything that strikes you as worthwhile. When the whole world seems to be falling apart and the president is invisible except for participating in a Gridiron roast, everyone else should be prepared to say a little something.

P.S. I just smacked Eduardo in the Comments, which I hate to do, because he came in leading with his chin rather than his own ideas. My smackdown is meant as an inspiration for him and the rest of you. "Open Thread" means talk about your subjects, not mine. I was only trying to stir the pot, not mandate the recipe for the resulting stew as one more reflection of me.

For the timid or for those who want a closing thought for their wise comments, I'm presently torn between two wildly discrepant posts, one on Evolution and the other on March Madness (meaning the combined insanity of this month's NFL lockout coupled with the conveniently sudden MSM consensus that student athletes, especially -- surprise! -- basketball players, should be paid for being subpar students who receive this one, against-all-odds lottery win of getting a chance at a college education they wouldn't otherwise qualify for.) You can end your comments by voting for one or the other of my post ideas. But I really hope you offer some coherent personal arguments on another topic first.

And I won't even promise I'll pay attention to the vote totals. Who votes for what, or doesn't, might make all the difference.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Quantum Creationist

SCIENCE OR SOMETHING. Just kidding. There's no such thing as a Quantum Creationist. Not that I know of, anyway. But I was struck by some documentaries I saw today on Netflix. The first was called Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution. It's frankly creationist, but that doesn't mean it has no interesting points to make. There's a website that provides some background, and it lists creatures whose set of special survivability capabilities would seem to be simultaneously necessary, not gradually developed through a process of incremental Darwinian adaptation:

††† * Bombardier Beetle
††† * Giraffe
††† * Woodpecker
††† * Australian Incubator Bird
††† * The Chicken Egg
††† * Platypus
††† * Black & Yellow Garden Spider
††† * Gecko & Chuckwalla Lizards
††† * Human Eye & Ear Drum

It's completely useless, of course, to point out that I believe there's room for some intelligence in the species definition game without a simple "God did it" explanation. The harpies will be here in an instant to denounce me as an idiot and fool for noticing that Darwinian gradualism -- "punctuated equilibrium" notwithstanding -- just doesn't work in every instance.

That's why I was similarly struck by a documentary called "The Quantum Activist," in which a renowned physicist argues for the existence of God as a scientifically verifiable concept.

I don't agree with everything he says, either, but he speaks eloquently about the difference between the "bottom up" materialism of contemporary science and the "top down" possibility of a quantum universe characterized by nonlocal communication. Of consciousness as the catalyst of the material world, not the by-product of mere matter. Which I've only been writing about for 40 years or so.

If you're interested, you can watch it here.

If you're not, you can wait breathlessly with the rest of the American population for the two-foot tsunami that's threatening Los Angeles with seriously soggy Jimmy Choos.

P.S. And, yeah, I'm feeling heartsick for the Japanese. Kind of creepy, really, to hear all the fretting about Hawaii and California when there are real casualties in Japan. Have we really become a nation of pussies?

Just for fun...

Joe and Zbig's commie daughter. It's beautiful to be MSNBC/DC.

OH, STOP.† The guys at Hotair don't have a clue of any kind. Now they're defending Joe Scarborough. Here's the post, called NRSC says itís not exactly ready for Senator Joe.

But the thing to read is all the comments. I guarantee you will enjoy them.


Wednesday, March 09, 2011


Got this from Hotair. They're not pissed off enough either.

. Everything that's wrong with the mass media. Laura Ingraham can be a killer, but with David Brooks, is she? No. She's a respectful lamb. Forget his pomposities, his bigotry, his self-contradictions. Why? He's employed by the NY Times, and it's never good business to piss off the Times.

Just to remind you, here's what we've said about Brooks and other elitists in the past.

I'm gagging right now.

Come on in, Helk. I'm spoiling for a fight. Sick and tired of all you snobs. But be careful. I was raised by snobs. I know all your moves. Yes I do.

@#$%"&*. That was me, yakking.

Monday, March 07, 2011

American Exceptionalism:
What the Elites Take Exception to.

Our "special relationship" with those who hate us.
And yeah, sorry, even the ones we love who hate us.

GET BIGGER. It's a slippery subject and I'm not surprised that your answers were all over the map, ranging from black pessimism to deranged fantasy (Trump?) to "I have no idea."

But the headline of the discussion is surely this: Given the worldwide obsession with America, what's most shocking is how little even our closest allies know about us. Almost as shocking is how willing we are, in our weak moments, to credit their criticisms as valid, as if they were based on something other than resentment, jealousy, and cultural blindspots a mile wide.

The real source of the abiding strength and resiliency of our nation is a hidden thing, not because it is a small secret squirrelled away in some recondite corner of history, but because it is too big for the most sophisticated, and therefore most specialized and myopic, perspectives to perceive.

I'm not making a subtle argument here. We're just plain bigger, more various, more elemental, basic, deep, and natively passionate and decent than all our naysayers, foreign and domestic, can comprehend.

Not a subtle argument but a huge one to frame. It can be posed in micro and macro terms, and it can be demonstrated anecdotally, statistically, and historically. My qualifications for posing it? I've been obsessed with the "Big Picture" all my life. The most important thing I've learned about the Big Picture is how few people are capable of seeing it. All our education and acculturation is designed to cut the Big Picture down to size, to reduce bigness to significant subsets about which useful generalizations can be made. In this way, we are induced to employ our own knowledge and intelligence against the possibility of clear perception. And, of course, every observer brings to bear his own selective blindness as a filter meant to distinguish between what is good and bad, important and unimportant, relevant and dismissible. What the observer fails to understand is that each of his judgments about these distinctions is also a judgment on the size and scope of his own mind.

I'm going to cite some examples. But I won't be giving you links. Look them up for yourselves. That's part of the challenge of thinking out of your own personal box and striving for the bigger perspective.

You'd think, wouldn't you, that our closest ally, the United Kingdom, would have a better take on who we are than any other nation on earth. The past few years, however, have shown that their view of us is clownishly wrong, far more a reflection of their own national neuroses than the superior intelligence our own intelligentsia routinely ascribes to them. What they choose to admire in us is only that part of our culture for which they can claim at least partial credit -- the snobbish mentality of the American northeast, whose mounting atheism and apocalyptic vision of western civilization is every bit as parochial as their own.

Trivial vignettes. The popular asshole comedian Russell Brand wears a Che Guevara tee shirt to an awards ceremony. Why? He's still fighting the Brit class war and hasn't bothered to inform himself that Che Guevara was a murdering thug. Simon Pegg -- the talented creative force behind "Shaun of the Dead" -- has a new movie designed to ridicule American protestant Christianity, about which he knows absolutely nothing, personally or geographically. The atheism that is killing the U.K. has to be projected somehow onto an American population as if our belief is sicker than a dead, increasingly nihilistic monarchy which has never been able to assimilate the "wogs" it depends on more and more to do all the heavy labor. Problem? The movie misses. It's just not accurate about who the non-Anglophile American Christians might be. Ricky Gervais of "Office" fame feels compelled to do a comedy about the "lies" all religion represents. Funny? No. "Top Gear's" asshole muckraker host invades New Orleans to piss on the American response to Hurricane Katrina and manages simultaneously to feign outrage about the government's neglect of Katrina victims and despise, finally, the poor black victims he so superiorly champions. One of the very best Brit TV series, "Wire in the Blood," is consistently intelligent, literate, and complex until it does a special "movie-length episode" set in the American southwest, at which point it turns into an avalanche of dumb stereotypes about American hicks. The Brit version of "Law & Order" is obsessed with homosexual rights and yet oddly revelatory in its dramatization of the open persistence of racial prejudice in an institutional fashion that is simply not tolerated here. Fact is, they're still sniping at one another about being Irish, Welsh, Scottish, English, Cornish, and Manx -- and panicking about the dangers lurking in the segregated muslim sharia ghettoes they've created for themselves. What chance could they possibly have to understand the far more successful American detente among a hundred different nationalities and all the world's races, with the lone exception of Australian aborigines?

Why focus on the Brits? Because the pipelines of the "special relationship" between our two nations in the broader cultural sense connect the U.K. with our two coasts, which reciprocate fawningly to the detriment of the rest of us. (Meryl Streep libelling Margaret Thatcher as a senile bitch? Please). The British Oscars, called BAFTA awards, are now indistinguishable from our own academy awards. Same movies, actors, and directors honored, for the same genuflections to political correctness. But we still look up to them -- those accents, don't you know. And on the east coast, there remains an incestuous, insufferable kinship between the New York Times and the Times of London and between the Ivy League and Oxford and Cambridge. What all the smartest people are thinking; you know, the ones who really count. Meaning the same intelligentsia who are still trying to steer the American ship of state toward the same rocky shoals that have long since turned the U.K. into a sunken disaster of a nation that has lost not only its youngsters but its cultural luminaries and its own legacy of law and civilization. Without learning thing one about the American genius for assimilating immigrants and combining their native strengths with the American traditions of freedom, upward mobility, and social equality as a fact, not a Hyde Park polemic.

And we're supposed to look up to them on the subject of national healthcare? Why?

Frankly, the Brits are the class of Europe, with the sole exception of Italy, who are too disorganized to express their affection for us in a way we can accept as a major vote of confidence. (Although we should.)

Point is, nobody knows us in our immense, effulgent glory. Our own media who presume to do it for us are every bit as parochial as the Brits -- who have a better bead on us than any other nation on earth. (No. Don't mention Canada. The bitter, weak, younger brother. Nothing more.)

Bigger point. All of you don't have a full comprehension of us either. You have blindspots, geographical prejudices, causes,† ignorant assumptions, flat dismissals that are based on nothing you can really prove. America is bigger than you too, bigger than all of us. Every negative generalization you make, or I make, is wrong at some level.

Closing thought. We are the people who came here looking for something better. The ones whose common trait by inheritance is a questing spirit, a refusal to submit, surrender, or settle for less than we might accomplish with our hands and minds and unremitting effort. We found it.

When you decide to give up, it's not a sign that America is done. It's a sign that you are done. Which means you have some work to do before you pass judgment on your fellow citizens.

Taking exception to things American is both our birthright and our obligation. But it's also an affirmation of American exceptionalism. Until you deny what is so evidently, obviously, blatantly unique in the history of human civilization. At which point, you're not worth much more than Russell Brand in his Che Guevara tee-shirt.

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