Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
October 13, 2012 - October 6, 2012

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Meet Pete:
The Boot and Face

REMINDS ME OF ME WHEN I WAS YOUNG. The title kind of sounds like it was a twisted version of some British ex-pat pub -- think leather, spikes, mohawks and chains, all present for Sunday Roast. You can imagine it maybe on South Street near Broad in Philly, thirty years ago. In reality, it's just the actual state of affairs that each and every one of us submits to on a daily basis.

Go ahead and conceptualize "lawlessness."

The first thing that comes to mind is maybe the "Wild West," black and white shoot-em-up scenes from your childhood. Maybe it's that time you got lost in the projects and felt both comforted and disturbed that "Police Interceptors" made up a significant minority of the cars passing through. Maybe it's Chicago amid Prohibition and Al Capone and tommy guns. Maybe it's Somalia. Ghengis Khan. 9/11.

I would wager that the last thing on your mind is that dickhead cop who just ran a red light, who seven blocks later pulled over some teenager for turning without flicking on his blinker. Or the bus driver who just pulls back onto the road without signalling, well, because he can. Surely you're not thinking of the city councilman who, in his campaign, tells his older constituents that they're finally getting sidewalks because he'll get their neighbors to sacrifice at least a little of their driveways and front yards. Or your Attorney General who wants to protect children by adding more burning hoops to all attempts at purchasing sinus meds. What about your congressman who says the only way he'd agree to foist more debt on your future grandkids is if it comes with some gibberish about some spending cuts and caps at some time that balance out at some point? Certainly, you wouldn't be thinking of that judge who sent a stupid (or maybe not so stupid) black football player to jail for having a gun in the wrong place.

What about those presidential candidates? You know, those people with such love for their country (read: narcissism and lust for power and domination over others) that only they can rule the world, wage war against every lowly people who defies our collective might, protect each and every one of us from ourselves and others and make "stable" once again that great ritual of buying and selling, owning and getting rid of. Some of these would-be gods would define, for all of us, exactly what amorous contracts are permissible, exactly what may or may not be ingested, and all the ways it's not permitted to divest of the fruits of your labor. That, and they'll get to decide whether or not multitudes of other, we'll refer to them as humans for lack of a better term, get to live or die. And all will be good and just, in accordance with the great laws.

No these are the people that get a pass because they are the laws. They create them, enforce them and decide which diktats advance the will of the state or don't. Your government, right or wrong. Warts and all, they are us. You know, something about the "will of the people." The Great Sacrificers in service to the masses keep us safe, and without their cockamamie schemes and grandstanding, our world would spin off into a violent state of anarchy which would endanger us all and unleash that demon inside each and every one of us causing us to kill our parents, eat our children and dismember every person we can get our unchained hands on.

Or maybe not. Maybe that's just the line you bought that allows you to sleep at night during the first part of the year, instead of losing sleep during early summer nights as you realize you won't start working for yourself until mid-June. Instead, you're just generating payola for the politicians so their thugs with guns don't come kidnap you at gunpoint and hold you in a government cage for ransom. Ahem, I mean, arrest you for criminally not paying your fair share of taxes and evading the laws which all good, upstanding citizens adhere to.

Go ahead, sit at that red light at 3 am when no one's coming the other way. Don't start building that new deck or addition until that until the permit comes in the mail. When your kid gets a ticket for speeding, make sure he pays it to teach him a lesson. And good for you for not hiring that Guatemalan guy that did an awesome job on the drywall in your neighbor's living room; he wouldn't provide a Social Security number, so he mustn't have come here by the appropriate channels. Better that a white guy who speaks English, pays his taxes and votes Republican gets the work, anyway.

Meanwhile, the joke's on you.

Lawlessness is the organizing principle of those who dominate the current order. It persists because it is accepted by everyone of us to varying degrees, and by those who aren't readers here all but completely. Any abuse against any one of us can be justified by our overlords as long as they arranged at some point to sanction the crime. Yet, they're so sloppy! The political class wields the power to dominate you or me so greatly and make it all legal, yet virtually none of what the US, state and local governments do is within their own rules. Nearly all law is "unconstitutional." This especially includes the Orwellian-named PATRIOT Act. This includes every one of the at least five wars our government currently wages against foreign peoples. This includes every red cent of debt the politicians incur in our name. Virtually every tax dollar confiscated from you or me. Every restriction on any behavior that hurts no one else, including especially every regulation restricting the earning or spending of money. Oh, and take a minute to check out the newest oppression, MORIS. How familiar and endearing!

Breaking the law is synonymous to crime. Yet, while the Casey Anthonys and OJ Simpsons of the world cause public outrage when the legal system fails to hold them accountable for their criminal violence, the American people simply look the other way when the Public Criminals loot and pillage, rape and murder, on a daily basis. Their violence is systemic, and that's whey they can pilfer, destroy and kill on such grand scales.

So what do we have to look forward to? George Orwell said it this way: "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." (I was delighted to see the book this quote is lifted from, 1984, among IP's most important of the 20th Century.) We've discussed the boot; what about the face?

You and I are the face. Our face grimaces and winces a bit with all the abuse, but mostly we wear an expression of dull complacence when it comes to the violence of our masters. Instapunk suggests we adopt the look of "Izzie the Bengal." What I know about the face the boot is stomping on is that it is worn by a people whose extreme generosity is constantly strained. A people that has kept a mostly jolly manner despite being robbed and battered. First blood has been drawn by the DC Crime Syndicate and other public criminals, yet we have restrained ourselves from rolling out a single guillotine.

Which is surprising, at least when you think about what we're told about ourselves. The state propaganda machine would like to have us believe we're a rootin' tootin', gun-totin', ignorant, violent and selfish people that needs to be more generous and sensible -- more European. But really, we are attacked and abused and no quarter is offered to us unless we physically, financially and psychologically submit to our masters. We have no moral obligation any longer not to retaliate in kind. But it is peace we want. Maybe Mencken was right about our peace, but nonetheless we carry the belief, however insane, that the ship will right itself, that the good guys will win in the end, and we can solve our differences without anyone getting hurt. It may be a fantasy, but it gives us at least one major instruction: violence will not be tolerated. It will turn your allies against you and destroy the legitimacy of your arguments, leaving no one persuaded and all of us losing.

So really, in the end, we who won't provide a steady stream of apologia for the public criminals are left with only a few choices:

1) Do nothing. Better yet, ignore, deny and even become oblivious to the crimes that are taking place. Anyone reading this has obviously rejected this option.

2) Complain. Quietly or loudly, simply explain to "the people" what's wrong and what needs to be done, and eventually they'll wake up, righting all wrongs and meting out justice to those who deserve it. This is a solution in only a fictional sense.

3) Fight back, but do it within the system. There is a process - so learn the rules, make a sacrifice and "get involved." Really, this is the logical next step from simply being a "truth-teller." But it's largely nonsense. Nearly everyone playing this game doesn't understand the nature of politics, economics or the reality of the state. They believe that the state has some moral authority to do something about everything. If you're the only one who doesn't, you'll eventually be shunned for being "ineffective" and not "getting things done." You can't change the system from within. Forget that. It will eat you alive, if it doesn't transform you into one of the criminals, and you'll be left longing for all those hours with your family that you missed and you'll never get back. You'll be wishing that you never "woke up." that you held fast to your denial or oblivion long ago, but could at least say you still had your life - and your soul.

4) Resist. Everywhere and in every way you can. While the boot is stomping on your face, you're tying its laces to those on the other boot. Fuck the permit and the red light. The building inspector is corrupt, so figure out a way to make that work for you instead of against you. Go the speed that you feel safe driving, not the one you're told to or which the people who fear the road feel safe. Hide every dollar you can. Tell everyone about the government crimes in a targeted way that makes them lose any respect for the state. Our government has become a banana republic. We need to start treating it like one. Its laws are arbitrary, abusive and typically based on no logic or morality. I've long said the only tolerable government is one which can be ignored. The sooner we start ignoring their claims of legitimacy and power over us, the sooner we start mocking and undermining their "authority" and resisting their demands, the sooner the paper tiger that bullies us will will crumple.

Here endeth the lesson. [ED. Whoo. I have a vested interest in this one. I remember when Pete was a hippie slacker and I thought I could awaken his latent talents. But I can't and won't take credit for the fact that he's this much of a tiger. Life is not what we think. Ecen Instapunk is humbled by pure roiling fire.]

It's called passion, folks. Catch it.

Regarding pain...

HELK WEIGHS IN. I have seen full grown men hung from holes in their backs, dangling from a large Cottonwood tree in the scorching sun. I have seen men far older than IP drag up to sixteen Buffalo skulls around a large circle surrounding this tree, the skulls cutting deep grooves into the ground.

A story - once a very large (tall and strong) Indian Brave of about 20 years of age was dragging six or so of these very large Buffalo skulls around this circle, crying. He kept saying "I am doing this for my people." Well, the elders were not at all impressed with this sad display of anguish, especially considering that I was there, witnessing it.

So the oldest man I have ever seen at a Sundance, white hair, bony, tiny compared to this large Indian Brave, hooked up the twelve Buffalo skulls and began dragging them, smiling and laughing, around the circle.

Once, twice, over and over and over again, literally having to walk at a 35 or 40 degree incline (due to the weight of the skulls). As he kept going, I could see that he was straining. But he felt no *pain*, rather he was working his body to the maximum extent.

He has to drag these skulls until the wooden spikes that pierce his back are literally ripped out of his flesh. Finally one of the skulls catches the Earth just so, and the resistance rips out the spikes. He then runs, literally looking like a man possessed of nothing but ecstasy and unadulterated bliss.

I mention this because there is nothing, I repeat *Nothing* more metaphysically significant than pain. Christ endured the pain of Crucifixion in order to fulfill Psalm 22. And what was his reward for suffering?

Eternal life, eternal bliss, and the salvation of all Mankind.

Well, maybe not *all* men are saved... That is not for me to judge. But I will tell you that I would love to see you drag even one Buffalo skull around that circle. I think you might re-frame your feelings regarding pain as being metaphysically insignificant.

These people of whom I speak are Lakota, but the white haired man was, well, a white man. Few whites have ever seen their rituals. Frankly, almost everyone I have ever known is a total pussy compared to the men and women who forgo water and food and perform the Sundance. Why do they do it?

They do it as a form of prayer - they endure the pain and transform it into an offering. An offering to God. A sacrifice. What have you sacrificed of yourself so that others might receive the Glory of God? Anything?

I didn't think so.

And more to the point, I was honored to be allowed to participate in one of their sweat lodges. As fate would have it, I was placed inside the lodges with the Sundancers - the men who never leave the circle during the dance. Now I at this time had a membership at a very ritzy private spa, one with a steam room. So I fancied myself prepared for a sweat. I mean, I had been steaming nearly every single day for months.

It was the most intense heat I have ever experienced in my life. While I sat there, trying to sink into the Earth, trying not to die, the men around me were singing - singing! Full bodied sounds ringing out in the darkness of the lodge. I could barely breath, the act of inhalation scorching my tongue and these men were singing their native songs at full volume!

So there is something to be said about enduring pain as way to conquer perceived limits. There is no such thing as pain - but not until you are willing to go *beyond pain* will you ever have any idea what that means.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Design & purpose or unhappy accident?

HEAVY ANALOGIES. Brizoni's recent post knocked something loose in my head that reminded me I promised the Boss a post regarding religion several months ago. Specifically, about my roughly two year experience of reading through the entire Bible, cover to cover (the version I read: the Apologetics Study Bible, which is excellent & I strongly recommend to anyone). I ran into a problem, though: how could I write about that without the gist of the post being, "Hey, guess what? I read the Bible!" because who cares? Luckily, the Boss started talking about this show called Stargate Universe (a spin-off of the Stargate franchise) in his posts. It became available on streaming Netflix, and once I started watching it I knew I had found my opening because believe it or not, the plot of SGU has a lot in common with my experience reading the Bible.

In the show, the characters have to escape a disaster and end up marooned on a spaceship called Destiny. They initially reach the ship using stargates, which are portals created untold eons ago by a race of aliens called the Ancients. But escaping to Destiny is a one-way trip. Destiny itself doesn't have enough juice to create a portal to earth since it is too far away, so the crew settles in for an extended stay. They discover that Destiny is gigantic, unknowably old, in poor repair (most of the ship is uninhabitable due to damage), and has been abandoned. It's completely foreign to the humans who are forced to live aboard it. After they figure out a way to survive, the characters immediately start trying to figure out some way they can get back to earth (which must somehow be done by stargate travel because they are so far out in the universe that flying back to earth would take a million years or something). Everyone, that is, except for one person: Dr. Nicholas Rush (who is InstaPunk; seriously, watch the show and tell me Dr. Rush is not the fictional embodiment of IP).

If InstaPunk was a sci-fi character, he would be Dr. Rush.

Rush is convinced there is something special about Destiny and is determined to learn more when nobody else cares. He, and a few other characters, have studied the Ancients enough to get a rudimentary understanding of how the ship functions. Anything beyond that they slowly learn on their own, episode by episode. Eventually they discover that long ago, the Ancients discovered a signal in the "background noise" that is present all across the universe. This points toward a certain location and the possibility of an intelligence that was present at the beginning of time. So ever since its construction, Destiny has not been wandering aimlessly as the crew initially thought. It has doggedly, endlessly been trudging on autopilot toward the source of the signal to discover what it is. And, repeatedly, the ship seems to act on its own to save its ignorant human crew.

At first I gave IP some flak about SGU. There are some episode plots ripped straight out of other series and the whole being stuck-on-a-spaceship thing is ripped off from Battlestar Galactica. However, the series eventually takes a turn in which the characters grow and the plot becomes engrossing. Rush is the central character who moves from unquestioning Dawkins-like atheism to, "All right...something more is going on here than I originally thought." It was watching his journey exploring Destiny that reminded me of my own journey exploring the Bible.

Like Destiny, the Bible is very old, created by some others a long time ago. It is very confusing for anyone who jumps into it cold. Parts of it will be nigh incomprehensible unless you have previously studied it or know someone who can explain it to you. Many people don't care about it all and want nothing to do with it, yet even today it's capable of kindling a passionate fervor in people of all ages who discover it. But above all, it points to something more going on in the universe. It's like a signal transmitted through the ages, cutting through all the background noise and yelling, "HEY! Over here!"

I read it with as much of a critical eye as I could. In particular, I was looking for something, anything, that would disqualify scripture right off the bat & cast doubt on the rest of it. I don't mean things we would consider merely implausible, like the Red Sea parting, but rather things we know for a certainty now to be untrue. You'd figure that if Judaism (and by extension, Christianity) is just a big scam, the scammers who started it up thousands of years ago would have been pretty short-sighted & rigged the system to give them all sorts of benefits (like pretty much every other religion & cult out there). By the same token, if it was all inspired by somebody's crazed epileptic seizure it would have been proven to be false & nutty a long time ago.

Instead, both the Old & New Testaments are amazingly accurate. I said amazingly accurate, where both prophecy and real-world information are concerned. And by that, I mean think about when the OT was written and what was known at that time. You could have told people just about anything back then and they'd believe you, yet the Bible never strays into that territory. In fact, what mankind has learned through both science and archaeology over the years has ended up supporting what's written in the Bible far more than anything else (e.g., the Flood, evidence for the existence of King David, a continuous stream of history regarding the Ark of the Covenant, the writings of Josephus, etc.)

To be sure, if you don't believe that any sort of miracles or supernatural phenomena are possible, then you will have a hard time with it. For me, it's not much of a stretch for the Creator of all existence to be able to do incredible things. Also, consider that however hard it may be for you to believe that Moses received the 10 Commandments from God or that Jesus rose from the dead, there is nothing in the Bible about hydras & unicorns living in what is now Canada or nonsensical explanations for things (i.e., black people have black skin b/c the sun god's half-human bastard drove the sun chariot too close to Africa). So while Methuselah's alleged age may be hard to swallow, the Bible doesn't ask you to believe that there is a big guy with a trident living in the ocean who causes storms when his brother steals his latest love interest (not to mention that you can still be a Christian and remain skeptical of Methuselah's lifespan).

Which brings me back to SGU, Destiny, and why I, personally, am not an atheist. The more Dr. Rush researches Destiny, the more he questions his view of life, the universe & everything; especially when the ship starts talking to him. As I was thinking this post over in my head and feeling really happy with my Destiny/Bible analogy, it struck me that it was still lacking because Destiny is actually not the Bible. Destiny is earth. We are already on Destiny, all of us. That threw SGU into a whole new light for me because the pilot episode even depicts a scene much like birth, where people are thrown into what feels like complete chaos, yet they gradually are able to make sense of things & figure out how to survive with the tools given them. And if I really wanted to stretch things out, I could even depict Dr. Rush as Abraham, because Rush ends up "converting" most of the crew to believing that there is something special and important about Destiny. To me, atheism is worse than the members of Destiny's crew who endlessly pine only for getting off the ship. It's more as if there was a sect of people aboard Destiny who insist that the ship was not built by anyone at all but is just kind of there for no reason and can't have any meaning or purpose attributed to it. Oh, and anyone who thinks differently is crazy & delusional.

At this point, I'd like to present you with the part of the Bible that has the slam-dunk evidence Dawkins doesn't want you to read which totally proves it's all true, but you probably already know I can't do that. Which is kind of fitting, really, because SGU got cancelled after only two seasons and ended before they could wrap it all up. We've bandied this topic about many times before here and we already know that in the end, it's all a matter of faith. The only thing I can do is point to the signal, which you're in turn free to tell me is just noise and doesn't point to anything else out there. Unless it does.


The Manner We Need

Izzie the Bengal. She's six now.

THERE'S AN ART TO BEING PISSED. Mrs. CP took the photo. Izzie's less than half the size of the other housecats. (A story you may have missed.) But losing every wrestling match she's ever been in hasn't fazed her. She's still her own person, queen of all she surveys. And what is it about her that commands so much loyalty, so much fierce combativeness?

She's a wild thing. She never stops attacking. Never stops reigning as Isis, the one who is, regardless.

Sarah Palin, take note.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Criminal Minds:  Profiles in CourageDelay.

ZEROING IN. 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:

We of the Behavioral Analysis Unit are now ready to deliver our profile of the Unsub some of your local press have nicknamed "The Nation Killer." Write this down. I'll say it only once because repetition might make my face crack.

He is a white male between the ages of 35 and 55, moderately well educated, holding down a well paying job. He has above average social skills, an apparently normal family life, and makes contact with his victims by persuading them of his good intentions. He is what we call "organized," as opposed to what we call "unorganized." He knows where all his pencils are. People fall prey to his overtures because they see him as non-threatening and even helpful. Yet he harbors deep personal insecurities owing to a childhood and youth that he feels allowed him no chance to build an identity of his own. In opposition to this, he has created a fantasy of absolute control that drives him to obliterate what he sees as the freedom of others to act and live outside the expectations of institutional authority.

Additionally, and also, as well, we must warn you that because his public personality was established passively, through the external manipulations and overt protections of others, he has a very undeveloped sense of consequences, especially as regards his own actions. In this respect he must be considered an artificially constructed sociopath. He has become so used to the idea that others are responsible for and to his own well being, the actions he does take -- almost always injurious to others -- are simply not, in his mind, his responsibility. For this reason he feels no remorse for anything he does to others. Their job, after all, is to sustain his view of himself and to protect him from any confrontation with the reality that he has never earned any of the laurels and accomplishments which have have been accorded him. This view of himself is what we call malignant narcissism, the belief that he is the center of the universe and that his own native importance surpasses the rights and feelings of all those around him. A consistent trait of malignant narcissists is their tendency to fabricate autobiograpjical information, claiming accomplishments and attainments they don't have, coupled with the practiced cofidence to convince others that this fakery is true. Any exposure of the lies can precipitate a violent reaction.

In all such pathological personalities, there is what we term a "stresser," a catalyst or precipitating event that causes a damaged personality to become actively dangerous. In this case, we believe the stresser was the attainment of a career position for which he was totally unqualified but which his intimates and lifetime experience had led him to believe was actually owed him. When failure inevitably occurred, the shocking discovery that all his supposed talents simply didn't exist transformed him into a vengefully passive-aggressive saboteur whose malicious motives are probably mysterious even to himself. If he can't have the unadulterated glory he expects and believes is his due, then he is perfectly willing to destroy everyone and everything he feels is contributing to his lack of self-esteem.

As you go out in pursuit of him, look for a man who is well dressed, in keeping with his view of his status, who is superficially plausible in his presentation, but timid about confrontations that challenge his knowledge or skills, and consistently distant in his personal manner. His greatest fear is that you will see through him, and if he feels threatened in that regard he will strike swiftly and without warning. He may even call you names.

One final thing. He may pretend to an identity he doesn't actually possess. He may present himself as a member of some oppressed minority, for example. This is all part of his elaborate defense mechanism. No one, under any circumstances, is to know who he really is, how weak, how dull, how drab and colorless..

Be very very careful. What you are looking for is a very small man in a very high place. Nothing is more terrifying in its potential destructive impacts than that differential.

Our team will, of course, remain here at HQ and man the phones. In case you run into him. Unless we get a call and have to go somewhere on our FBI jet. But you know how that goes. We never ever sleep and we never ever smile. Until the wheels lift off and one of us has finished quoting some dead marxist about how deadly life is. Then we grin like a motherfucker.

Thank you. Good hunting.

Unintended Consequences

Affirmative Action is a game of Chutes and Ladders.
The chutes bypass the lessons of climbing the ladders.
And, yes to answer Diogenes's question, the chutes go
UP. If that's counter-intuitive, so is Affirmative Action.

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 pass. Why?

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.

Athe... YAWWWWN, sorry...ism

"Trite? Then how do you explain these glasses, smart guy?"

JEFFREY 17. 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."

Imagine there's no heaven... no hell either... blah blah blah you know how the song goes.

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...

Beyond psychological adaptations and mechanisms, scientists have discovered neurological explanations for what many interpret as evidence of divine existence. Canadian psychologist Michael Persinger, who developed what he calls a "god helmet" that blocks sight and sound but stimulates the brain's temporal lobe, notes that many of his helmeted research subjects reported feeling the presence of "another." Depending on their personal and cultural history, they then interpreted the sensed presence as either a supernatural or religious figure. It is conceivable that St. Paul's dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus was, in reality, a seizure caused by temporal lobe epilepsy.

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 can be better as a species if we recognize religion as a man-made construct. We owe it to ourselves to at least consider the real roots of religious belief, so we can deal with life as it is, taking advantage of perhaps our mind's greatest adaptation: our ability to use reason.

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.)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Blue Monday

You think we've had it hard recently. Consider this guy.

H/T HOTAIR. 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.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Lake checks in:

Apple Just Smirks

Too precious by half.

LIES 2.17? 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?

Ten Best Novels

The ones who wrote in ways I can't.

BESTS ARE A TRICKY GAME. 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.

Tender Is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Maybe the most moving novel ever written. Speaking the words of the text makes you despair of ever saying anything half as beautiful.

The Sun Also Rises. Ernest Hemingway.

Yes, it should have started with Chapter 3, but it's still the best writer's textbook I know. Oddly, you're seeing writing done to perfection and being drawn in, but only as far as the writer's willing to let you. The buffer between him writing and you reading is the whole point.

The Waves, Virginia Woolf.

She didn't need any of us to read it. It was enough that she wrote it. But without the affectations of Joyce, she made stream of consciousness a scoop of shimmering water, not a literary and philological final exam.

The Good Soldier, Ford Madox Ford

Hemingway minimalism without the "look at me writing" factor. Brilliantly subdued and ultimately devastating.

The Tin Drum, Gunther Grasse

Pure explosion of genius. Can't tell you how many times I've read the chapter called "Faith, Hope, and Love" out loud to myself. Even in translation, it's a wonder.

Decline and Fall, Evelyn Waugh.

The absolute apex of satire. Funny, vicious, and true. Follow the life and death of Lord Tangent, son of Lady Circumference, and report back that you are a good person because you didn't laugh.

As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner.

Someone finally played around with point of view. In many ways his most accessible work. And, yes, he was a genius.

The Trial, Franz Kafka.

Who else has written one novel that got copied a thousand times by lesser lights who all got great reviews in The New York Times? Nobody. I understand he was actually a cheerful and charming soul. Figures,

Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry.

If confession is the soul of twentieth century fiction, nothing can ever surpass this book. He confessed, and converted, countless readers to his own fatal illness. That's talent.

A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Courage to write what is forbidden. A literary talent? In this case, yes.

1984, George Orwell.

To introduce ideas into fiction, in the twentieth century? No! Yes! If only it were more world-shaking than it has proven to be.

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.

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