Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
December 24, 2012 - December 17, 2012

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Not Guilty Pleasures 2

Do you know this guy? My favorite 20th Century artist.

FOLLOW-UP. Usually, commenters demonstrate the validity of the truism about herding cats. They seize on one phrase or paragraph in a post and run off in their own individualistic directions. Which is fine and to be expected. Not this time, though. Three generations -- preponderantly the 50+ crowd -- checked in to report on their own relation to the map test, implicitly confirming that it is somehow important, even if the knowledge involved never made them rich. Left unsaid: it made them wiser and more concerned about the state of our nation's youth. They don't need to know precisely why. They just know it's not trivia. They also took my question about "Rhapsody in Blue" seriously and answered it honestly. Which is to say their comments weren't about showing off. They were about pondering the bigger question I'm asking.

The dissenters were equally revealing. Penny likes attention. Here's her response:

Your spirit?


Not that we ...count.

Really, Penny? If the readers and kids didn't count with me, I wouldn't be here. Nasty? Maybe. And maybe the kids need to know that there's someone who's willing to call them on their bullshit. Because make no mistake. A bullshitter knows he's a bullshitter. He keeps doing it, though, till he gets caught and held to account. It's long past time that the veneer of learning is differentiated from the real thing. I think it might actually constitute a relief for them: I don't have to keep faking everything with no end in sight.

Speaking of which, there was also Helk, who commented four times. First, with a snide link without explanation designed to jeer at the whole subject of American culture:

But then, as other commenters piled on, he couldn't resist resisting their import:


"After all, the chief business of the American people is business. Of course the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence." Who said that? Don't cheat.

I agree with that statement. Though I will add that without a bit of wealth one has only a meager shot at any kind of luxury.

What again does knowing the states have to do with making money? Not yesterday but today? My lawyer doesn't know the fifty states but he got me out of a lot of hot water on a few occasions. Should I find defect in him as a result of lacking memory?

Nope. Because I am not judging him based on his memory of (what are in my particular case) immaterial facts - I am judging him based on his ability to solve my legal problems.

Now to the issue of learning - what lesson is greater than the lesson of how to make money? You know, tangible factual non-levered cash?

You want to preach from on high about the good life metric and how the good life requires as deep a knowledge of facts as one can glean while on this mortal coil. I never disagreed with you. What I disagree with is the idea that this deep well of facts has any material bearing on my getting capital.

My. Getting. Capital.

Now, I am conversant in may things. That helps impress prospective employers. I cannot deny that.

But as for the factory workers who live across the street from me - they do metal plating. They know how to chrome a bumper and how to use JB Weld to repair a radiator. But they don't even know half the states. And you know what, to the extent that they live inside a bubble they are happy there.

Happiness is not equated to knowledge. In fact, many times I feel that it is inversely proportional.

The same guy who said that statement I quoted above said this:

"We make no concealment of the fact that we want wealth, but there are many other things that we want very much more. We want peace and honor, and that charity which is so strong an element of all civilization. The chief ideal of the American people is idealism. I cannot repeat too often that America is a nation of idealists. That is the only motive to which they ever give any strong and lasting reaction."

I put you in that category. But being an idealist does not provide for financial resources.

Snide Link 2.


By the way, my obsession with making money is directly related to my attempt to finance land.

Lands of Missouri.

So I am less interested in history and more interested in the future. But that in no way means that I will not be restored to my studies following my success.

Or failure.

Superobserver (i.e., Helk)

There is so much that is great.

Snide Link 3.

I'm sure he'll forgive me for responding to all of them at once. I think it's called multi-tasking, something only you tech babies are supposed to be capable of.

Yeah, I know Coolidge. His son went to my school. I used to see the boy's portrait in Traylor Hall every time I was called to the headmaster's office to explain the latest outrage I'd published in the school newspaper or the school literary magazine. He was a handsome kid, Coolidge's boy. He died of blood poisoning. At my school. He wore colored socks in a tennis match, got a blister, and the dye did him in. Maybe a reason why Silent Cal was so silent. His best quote? A woman at a dinner party sat next to Coolidge and told him she'd bet her girlfriends she could make him say three words. He replied, "You lose."

The same message I have for Helk. You're simultaneously so above the trivial nature of my tests that you can't be bothered to take them seriously and yet so beneath their esoterica that you paint a portrait of yourself with your hands sunk deep in the good earth, just trying to make a buck like Coolidge said we should, doing the real American thing.

What a crock. Because then you proceed to hang Coolidge's subsequent words from the same quote about idealism around my neck. That's called having your cake and eating it too.

You're too authentic to have to know anything about your country because you're operating under the Prime Directive of your country: to make money and forget everything else.

Then you top it off with a jeering link to "The Greatest Speech Ever Made," hoping to impress by the subtlety of your supposed learning, which you personally don't need at the moment because you're shaking the money tree, yet you just had to twinkle your implied superiority because all us "idealists" are just too self-involved with cultural trivia you know just enough about to piss on. Color me unimpressed.

You know that I know that you know "the Great Dictator" was a massive critical failure. The "greatest speech" is widely considered the disastrously mawkish, self-indulgent end of a career that would have ended more nobly if Chaplin had retired when talkies came in. (I never cared for Chaplin anyway.)

So, again, you're trying to have it both ways. You're not accountable to any objective standard of learning, but you just have to show off what you think of as learning ("I'm conversant with... what?")

You're a quick study and a multimedia dilettante. But if you're so focused on making your fortune, why do you you keep scratching the itch of my posts? Because you know I'm right. There's a difference between being smart and being intelligent. The Latin root of 'intelligence" relates not to IQ but understanding. Which has nothing to do with quick command of facts and references but learning and wisdom.

I'm no idealist. I think Chaplin's speech is farcical and idiotic. I'm a pragmatist. An imaginative realist, if you will. I believe we can make things better, not perfect. I don't believe in any human paradise. There will always be pain and suffering and injustice and waste. We mitigate these by doing the best we can to understand as much as we can and make good decisions that aren't exclusively selfish in their intent. Knowing the human legacy is a vital resource for keeping the intent honest and resolute. If you've read as much of my work as you say you have, you know this already.

I think that's why you came here and why you stay here. Your cynicism, your various poses, your provocations, all have to do with the fact that you're using brains as a substitute for intelligence. You sensed that I had the ability to see through that. You wanted me to see through that.

And, no, I'm not trying to break you down. In my twenties I was like you. I'd skated through everything on smarts alone. And then I realized it was a dead end. That's when I sat down and taught myself how to write. The most painful process I've ever been through. I'd graduated from college at the age of nineteen without knowing how to write. When I'd learned how to write, nothing was ever the same again. Knowing one thing made me aware of how much I didn't know about everything else. Honest humility is the surest defense in the world against slick fakery. Everything I tried after that I did to the absolute best of my ability, because I knew it would never be good enough. I may seem like an egomaniac at InstaPunk. In reality, I always see myself as a week late and a million dollars short. (Thought you'd appreciate the monetary reference.)

It's not me trying to humiliate you that I can see and anticipate your debating maneuvers as easily as Neo with Agent Smith at the end of The Matrix. I've been there. How can I be so smart and keep getting nowhere? Hmmm.

This is your wakeup call. Sure you can win what you want materially. Making money for a smart person is about being fanatically focused on money. But I'm talking about life. And you can't quite figure out how to have one of those.

Go print out the map. Fill in the names of the states. Et cetera. Et cetera. I guarantee you, you are not above the exercise.

Liberal Magic

Curiously revealing.

. I should explain that Mrs. RL is very quick on the trigger with movies and TV shows. "This sucks. Get rid of it." Sometimes, though, I find things she slowly comes to enjoy. Why I do what I call pre-screening. I did that with Terra Nova, Steven Spielberg's new gigantic TV epic. I was skeptical from the first promos. "Something you've never seen before!" Really. Like we didn't see Avatar and Jurassic Park I thru VIII. Okay. Excuse us for remembering. We promise not to do it again.

But I watched it On Demand anyway. After seeing the trailers for Prime Suspect, she said, "No way." But after the pilot episode, she's intrigued. So what's the deal with Terra Nova? My report.

Honestly, I find myself chuckling. I can see Spielberg's and all of lefty Hollywood's intent, and I can't help thinking they've swallowed their own grenade. The show is supposed to be a billboard for environmental paranoia, meaning the need for our acceptance of draconian governmental control of energy resources (you know, to save us from ourselves), and after the first 20 minutes it becomes something altogether else. An advertisement for free enterprise, the need for military protection even in a putative utopia, and a startling contextual preference for dangerous, unpredictable frontier life over regulated nonentity.

Talk about counter-propaganda.... and it doesn't end there. The script's need for drama requires that all the old human weaknesses be repeated in the Jurassic world of Terra Nova's brontosauri and T-Rexes. But as with all Spielberg pieces, the most active agents of chaos are the Kids who refuse to listen to their parents, have no common sense, and absolutely no personal connection with anything like community responsibility. No wonder Spielberg makes campaign contributions toward an all-powerful nanny state. His parents couldn't control him. He can't control his kids, and, well, QED.

Which raises the philosophical question, if snotty narcissistic kids aren't evil and parents' attempts to discipline them are, then why are we even talking about the Nature of Man? Civilization was obviously doomed from the moment American children learned they could tell Mommy and Daddy to go fuck themselves. We should be agonizing over The Natue of Teenagers, the one force in the universe even God doesn't have the guts to confront. Why bother doing this all over again in 25 million BC when Spielberg has made it the central theme of every movie he's made that contains kid actors?

Because of the CGI, stupid.

Which is pretty good.The dinosaurs are convincing. Kewl. The other flora and fauna are convincing. The parents, excepting their characteristic doormat relationship with their sociopathic progeny, are decent enough. But we've seen all this before. Why watch?

One reason. The Sore Thumb.

You know. The thing that things stick out like?

Why I enjoyed this show so so much. The Sore Thumb is liberal Hollywood's understanding of the basics of civilized life. The biggest fantasy aspect of this sci-fi fantasy blockbuster isn't the time machine that transports Los Angelenos to the Jurassic Age, or the dinosaurs that pursue our heroes, or the immensely imaginative foliage that papers the sets. It's the Terra-Nova settlement itself. Everybody has a nice little house with bedrooms and decorations (discussions of paint), running water, and there are military vehicles charging hither and yon (powered by what?), nice new clothes (made by whom?), etc, etc.

Understand. The trip to Terra Nova is one way. They can't order provisions from the fatally stricken 22nd century earth. But the appurtenances look better than what we'd expect from Walden II.

In the entire two-hour pilot episode the only reference to actual labor was one day in the life of the hero when he had to cut down vines on the protecting wall in the so-called "agricultural unit." No sign of factories, mills, refineries, oil rigs, blacksmiths, or anything else that bespeaks an industrial civilization. Truth to tell, Terra Nova is more reminscent of the Eloi in H.G. Welles's Time Machine than it, well, isn't. So there. I can't wait for the Morlocks to show up. Oops. That's an entirely different new series. Sure it is.

Hence my title. It's liberal magic. The scriptwriters don't know anything about plumbing or electricity or manufacturing or weaving or sewing or energy production or home-building or motor vehicle maintenance, so they just assume it's all automatically there while the actors fret about where their kids are, knowing they'll never know. Because their kids are all absolute stone fucking brats like Steven Spielberg.

I think the show's a keeper. Funniest thing I've seen in years. This really is how lefties see the world. The invisible labor of people they don't care about will just materialize whenever they need it. Like an assistant with a Valium and a mango. And did I mention that the opening credits list eleven different "executive producers"? Obama would be proud.


More on "More on
the Sin of Faith"

Get it? It's like a DOUBLE cross. Irrevelvant puns are the best.

CLARIFICATIONS. Right up front: I didn't mention abortion because I took it as understood we're all on the same page. It's bad. Unborn babies shouldn't be stabbed in the brain. This is me officially making that explicit. OK?

Since this is, as has recently been stressed, his blog, my responses to Robert's comments get their own post.

Brizoni's Knievel analogy IS absurd. Such a sect would end very quickly. No new members. How, btw, the Shakers failed to take over and rule the world. They didn't believe in procreation. Result. No more Shakers. Some things take care of themselves without FBI SWAT teams pounding through private doors.

There's a Snake River-wide gulf between not having babies and letting babies die. I'd like the Followers of Christ membership to dwindle to zero as much as anyone, but passive infanticide is not an acceptable means to that end.

Hence all our civil protections against the intrusions of government on our civil liberties and, yes, freedom to make catastrophic mistakes -- or what look like mistakes to all-knowing others. That's where this issue gets more complex than Brizoni wants it to be.

I'm reminded of George Will's speech to last year's CPAC. "The liberal/conservative argument in our country is alive and well. It turns on the two polar values of western political thought: Freedom and Equality. Both important, always in tension, always being adjusted." I'd argue the two polar values are, properly understood, freedom and justice (liberals got their portion wrong because that's what they do). That tension is complex enough to merit its own post. Or its own thousand posts. That's why I didn't address it in my entry on murder-by-faith-healing, a much smaller issue.

...our attempts to judge God are bound to fail because we can't see behind the veil.

Which is why I didn't try. Hence the "agnost" part of "agnostic." And that's why your and urthshu's objections to my Holocaust example are moot (not to say I have any problem with their substance). The Holocaust proves God can't be relied on to preseve life on earth. It proves it. And it's not the only proof. I explicitly declined to make a claim one way or the other what that says about God. I'm more interested in what God's unreliability means for us, here.

Atheists make it simple for themselves by declaring that there is no veil to see behind.

Pascal (and Will Ashbless, via his 21st century updating of the Wager) got it backwards. God cannot, in justice, punish sincere disbelief. All he'd have to do to dispel legitimate doubt is make Himself manifest unambiguously to every individual-- small potatoes for the omnipotent. The fact sincere disbelief in Him can exist at all is His fault, no matter how good his reasons or extenuating his circumstances. And He understands this.

If He does punish honest nonbelievers, He's unjust. What can I do against tyrannical omnipotence, except hope for the chance to spit in despot God's eye before he sends me off to the eternal punishment of the upright? Maybe some great thinker will one day devise a contingency plan for a thing like that. Personally, that's not a battle I pick.

I don't deny there may be a veil. I don't deny the veil is worth trying to pierce. I do deny I have any pressing imperative to pierce the veil. I do deny I ought to live according to any merely potential obligation to an unproven Creator.

Since there may not be a God, and we only potentially owe anything to a God who refuses to prove He exists beyond reasonable doubt, it makes sense to me to err on the side of atheism. Which means acting as though there's no safety net of life after death or of (infrequent at best) divine justice here in mortal life.

So in that sense, in Will's words, "there are no agnostic actions." In another sense, behaving as if this life is the one shot we've got is the action of a rational agnosticism.

I won't pretend I'm not biased one way or the other. I would prefer a Godless universe, with room to explore and build. I don't want God or anyone or thing else having dibs on the whole of existence. But my want alone doesn't affect reality. God might be real as hell. He may have done most or all of the building and exploring there is to do. When I die, I may have to just come to terms with that. I trust (hope) any God who does exist would be a paragon of goodness, and won't condemn me for not going against my honest judgement.

One last thing. Commenter ErisGuy made a remark I can't let lie.

It is up the family to choose the medical treatments for its members, including declining treatment or choosing ineffectual treatments.... The state derives is powers from those the family voluntarily and revocably grants to it.

Wrong. The state derives it's power from the consent of each individual governed. The individual, not the family, is the fundamental unit of society (don't feel bad; the Mormons make the same mistake). A free society respects the sanctity of self-determination. The family's most sacrosanct responsibility is to make sure its children develop a self that can determine its... self. A child can't very well determine himself before he has a self to determine.


(9/29) MORE CLARIFICATIONS. From the comments:

But why is [abortion] bad? Don't get me wrong... I'm glad that you think so. But you haven't explained what your basis is for such a judgment.

Happy to oblige. Abortion is bad because life is the standard of value. Life-- not God or anything else-- is the purpose of morality. I'll explain.

It's that there's no objective moral law. The little detail that always gets left out.

But that's wrong, sir. The standard of life is the most objective morality there is.

When I read "there is no resurrection without Christianity" instead of "there is no Christianity without resurrection," I committed what psychologists call a Freudian fuck-up. Robert thought Christianity justified the resurrection. I thought the resurrection justified Christianity. Robert was operating from the primacy of God. I was operating from the primacy of life.

Put another way: Is God subordinate to good, or is good subordinate to God?

Imagine this. Somewhere in the universe, God has created a planet with human beings like us. The difference between Earth and Planet Q is, He's sending everyone on Planet Q to hell. Without exception. Regardless of merit. From serial rapists and Stalinesque tyrants to miscarried babies and sweet, gentle retards and five-year-old girls without a mean bone in their little bodies. Their brief, often frustrated lives were the closest to happiness they'll ever get. God created them to send them to hell. No salvation. No recourse. Just endless, eternal punishment. Forever.

Are you OK with that? Does no part of you object to that? Is your response "Whatever God wants is good"? Really?

Really? Really?


Are you sure?


IF it's not OK for God to create conscious human beings for the sole purpose of torturing them without end, then God is subordinate to good. Then morality is transtheistic.

You want something even more objective than the preservation of life? Sorry. Even God can't help you with that one. Any more than He explains the creation of existence? If God created everything, who created God? If God doesn't need a creator, why does existence? Similar problem with the morality question. Is an evil act good when God does it? If not, why not?

So God is accountable to you? Pitiful.

Straw fiat. God is accountable to morality. I've done my best to determine what morality consists of. Care to explain how I'm accountable God who keeps His existence ambiguous? Or how anyone is?

God is good if he serves life (same goes for the family, ErisGuy). I'd like to hear an argument to the contrary. Honest, I would.

STILL MORE. It isn't my, or maybe anyone's, responsibility to prove the existence of God to you.

Which is why I haven't asked you to.

And it lies within the realm of possibility that God may not view individuals as all that important, and He certainly doesn't seem to view death as an Evil, so maybe you shouldn't either.

The Holocaust wasn't evil, since God let it happen? Thanks for clearing that up. Your way is so much easier.

Guess what I'm saying is if you're going Agnostic, go all the way and stop building expectations of behavior towards a being you admit to knowing no definite information of.

Muhfugga, how many different ways do I have to repeat this? I'm not saying God should do a damn thing differently. I'd like Him to do more real-world saving, yes, but I'm not pining for it. When I was younger, I wanted to be saved by God or the lottery or the vaginas of my various crushes. But I'm putting away childish things. Believe it or not-- and I doubt you will, because I'm not sure you can begin to conceive of this-- I don't want to be saved anymore. I want freedom. Real freedom. Where both risk and reward are all mine. Where I get to take credit for what I make of my own life.

God can be what He wants. As it stands, He's chosen to save life on earth from horror and tragedy so infrequently that He effectively doesn't exist. Maybe His reasons for this are genuinely good. I'll repeat that in boldface, so you can't pretend you didn't see it: Maybe His reasons for this are genuinely good. That's literally fine. I'm interested in how we ought to conduct ourselves in light of His absenteeism.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Not Guilty Pleasures

Tell me honestly: Do you know this piece of music?

PSAYINGS.5Y.1-56 -- THE BARE BACKBONE. Since I've determined not to withdraw from the site I've had a change in perspective, prompted in large part by a couple of recent posts and exchanges with our younger hotshots. I realized I may have been making a mistake I was making when I began The Boomer Bible and had to learn not to make in completing it. I'm not trying to be pompous and superior here, just reportorial. My first outline and drafts were allusive and brief, depending on a base of shared cultural and historical knowledge I thought was our common heritage. Rather than the book of Ziggie, I had a book of Minoans, designed to lampoon Freudian concepts without ever mentioning Freud, for example. I thought everyone knew a little something about Freud. Then life intervened, as it does, and I had to put away the manuscript for a number of years, during which I learned that what I thought people knew they didn't know. Why The Boomer Bible turned out to be the monster it ultimately became and why I was afraid to resume the writing of it for so long. The more I learned about what people didn't know, the bigger the unwritten book got.

Now I realize I'm possibly repeating an error no man should make twice. I'm dazzled by the brilliance of multiple youngsters who have contributed to InstaPunk in recent years. They know plenty about plenty of things. But they also have a habit of wrenching themselves into absurd postures that make absolutely no sense to me. They display a kind of cynicism, and naivete, I can't comprehend. And, yes, I frequently use a cynical voice because that is an integral part of my role as a satirist -- to be scathing, denunciatory, and dismissive . But the very purpose of satire is to hold the world up to a moral standard the satirist really does believe in. By definition, he cannot be a cynic. Or he would not write. He does write because he desires to provoke thought, not to be God himself sitting in judgment.

I'm sympathetic to the spirit of youthful rebellion, because I was a rebel too. But I'm beginning to suspect that something is missing in even our brightest youngsters that I never doubted for a moment of my youth -- a ferocious admiration of the incredible beauty of life and the ineffable courage, creativity, and genius of the human race.

It's not my intent to point fingers. Examine recent posts and comment threads here, and you will find what I'm talking about. The education system in our country has failed them utterly. They're having to do it all for themselves, and maybe I've been remiss in repeatedly returning to the easiest of cultural touchstones -- popular music, TV, the movies, and the politics of the moment. My failure. Why I've been losing my temper so often. Failure will do that. Politics isn't about ideology, as written by this or that recent seer. Politics is about life, about preserving and promoting what is best in life, what makes life worth living, which can never be reduced to "jobs" or cold theories or individual chunks of legislation or monolithic villains of various stripes. To think intelligently about politics, we must all have a very deep context of the whole that includes not only what we most revere but also what we do not revere and yet need to know about.

What is context for a human being living in America in the early 21st century? It begins with a timeline of important historical events beginning all the way back in ancient Sumeria when writing first made history possible. But it doesn't end there. Dates aren't history and they aren't life. They're just the alphabet we need to learn before we can learn how to read. There is also geography, which is the landscape of history that begins to make sense of how people, ideas, conflicts, and illumination spread from one culture and one time to the next.

Permit me to take time out for a simple test. Can you fill in all the names of the states on this map without looking anything up in a book or on the Internet?

And don't just tell yourself you can. Do it. There's a link today I won't give you to the Obama campaign luminaries who distributed a map to their activists highlighting the three states where the next campaign events would occur: California, Washington state, and Colorado. But the map highlighted not Colorado but Wyoming. You know. One of the flyover states.

I submit you can't understand U.S. history, really, without knowing this map. When I was a kid, my dad made us learn the capitals of every state at the dinner table. I still know them. Silly? No. It's part of the backbone. You remember by remembering the shape of the state and knowing that capitals are almost always located in the center. It helps you learn the map.

Thing is, I was never especially good at geography. My teachers weren't teaching it 50 years ago. Why I've been trying to make up for that the rest of my life. So I watch shows like "How the States Got Their Shapes," and innumerable documentaries about the rest of the world from Europe to South America to the Middle East to the Far East to Africa to wherever. Because it's a gap that undermines my confidence in my worldview.

Then comes the history that puts flesh on the dates. What the dates mean and how those events resonated past their time to ours and beyond.

What do you have if you have all of this? A corpse.

What breathes life into the corpse and thence into your own mind and soul? The cultures that underlay the historical peoples and events. The art, the music, the literature, the religions, the philosophies, the sciences, the architecture, the archaeological remains of the peoples themselves. It's impossible ever to know enough. The older you get, the more you despair of knowing enough to claim absolute certainty about anything. But you can still have conviction. You can still have context for the hypotheses suggested by your own life experience. Which argues for knowing the most about the place and the people you come from personally. Knowing one thing well at least helps you know what knowing is. If you can't fill in the map of states of your own country, then maybe you don't know shit about anything.

And if your knowledge of the America you live in is confined largely to the time you have been a conscious (?) person watching movies and sitcoms, listening to pop music, fiddling with high-tech gadgets that make you feel sophisticated because you can copy and paste the answers to questions that might otherwise embarrass you, and expressing yourself via Facebook and tweet as if you had something to say anyone should listen to, then it doesn't matter if you read a book once that impressed you or even two or ten. You don't know anything.

I'm not done with this topic. I've just begun. But I'll close with a question for all those who think maybe I'm not talking about them. The YouTube up top. Do you know this piece of music? Have you ever listened to it all the way through? Do you know its historic importance? It's incredibly famous. When you type the letters "rhap" at YouTube, it pops up immediately. Maybe you think you have an awareness of it because it's so famous and you've heard the opening strains. But this is an icon from your own country. It matters. It's one of the ABCs of American culture. If you don't know that or if you don't believe that, or all the complexities of why, you're an ignoramus.

How much flesh and blood and nerve and brain is attached to whatever fragmented backbone of history you rely on to preach your certainties to the world?

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Florida Straw Poll

NO NEED TO THINK, RIGHT? So they announced the results of the oh-so predictive Florida Straw Poll and discussed them on Fox News Sunday. To be fair, there were some big surprises:

Winnie the Pooh 37.11%

Yosemite Sam 15.43%

Goofy 14.00%

Daffy Duck 10.88%

Eeyore 10.39%

Droopy 8.43%

Pluto 2.26%

Minnie Mouse 1.5%

Britt and A.B. and Bill and Juan were all inclined to agree that nobody was really voting for Winnie the Pooh. They were sending a message. Pooh was offering a simple honeypot called 9-9-9, as compared to sterling capitalist and technologist Goofy's 59-point (!) jobs plan. Which was too complicated for Florida Hoverounders (Free! Count me out) and besides Pooh has a "Winn-ing" personality, compared to Goofy's "what the hell is he, really?" identity. (I mean, if Pluto's a dog, what is Goofy?") They all seemed concerned about the Mormon thing, and the conservative-liberal flip-flop thing, and what the hell is a front-runner if he's always losing in the polls?

They did concede that Pooh had completely outclassed incorruptible immigration hardliner Yosemite Sam in the last debate, but they seemed to agree that wasn't because Pooh is smart or a legitimate candidate (I mean, really? Pooh? Pooh.) but that Sam has developed a tendency to fire off all his ammunition in the first ten minutes, then drop into a siesta for the next hour and a half. Correctable? They didn't know.

They soberly reminded viewers that at this same stage of the 2008 campaign, the polls had Mayor Elmer Fudd and TV star Foghorn Leghorn way out in front of Wile E. Coyote, who was then dead in the water with no more credit at Acme and no prospects, yet went on to gloriously win the nomination and fall off his customary cliff, screaming all the way down...

Nobody could have seen it coming....

...although, paradoxically, nobody seemed interested in discussing Daffy, Eeyore, Pluto, or the two-faced Droopy, who sits on a couch with Cruella De Vil talking about saving the environment and then insists he's committed to defeating the (NSFW) Road Runner. They prefer to write them all off as also-rans without wasting much of their dazzlingly IQ-heavy analysis on remote possibilities. (Me? I'm liking Daffy Duck. Always did.).

Somebody, maybe Bill Kristol, did point out that Droopy wins, almost invariably (via the unfair advantage of being 3 times smarter than the rest of them), the points he feels like contesting, but he's still Droopy and more than a few kibble bowls overweight, so who cares? Because Sam and Goofy are so far ahead in -- what? -- the current polls. Sigh.

[Frankly, I'm curious that nobody else was curious how Eeyore's followers failed to stuff this particular ballot box the way they have stuffed every other straw poll ballot box at every conservative conference and gathering for the past four years, but it's an idle curiosity when all is said and done, and I guess I can't blame them for not wasting time on a trivial mystery. Eeyore will never be president. If you've lost your tail, it seems like an especially egregious form of carelessness.]

Led (inevitably) by Chris Wallace, the panel was prepared to spend some time writing the political epitaph of the flake Minnie Mouse, who came in dead last despite her polka-dot bows and startlingly yellow shoes. Something about her being a tea party cartoon too scripted and polka-dotted to take seriously. (The term mental retardation was mentioned.) Like all women, we're to infer, except the acceptably unappetizing A.B. on the Fox News Sunday panel, whose sole implementation of yellow is the hair dye that starts an inch above her black roots. Of course, this might have been a warning shot across the bow of Betty Boop, who continues to lurk above the fray without pointing her hypnotic boops in any particular direction. All of them are afraid she could still boop-boop-a-doop her way into a catastrophic Republican snafu.

The appalling, unthinkable, Republican nightmare.
(The impatient can skip to 1:10 in,, right to the vile.
disgusting, rightwing whoring Sullivan hates in her.)

Well, Juan Williams wouldn't mind. But his private and mostly concealed smile of satisfaction could not compete with Bill Kristol's Cheshire cat grin. He's convinced that the Winnie the Pooh vote is a clarion call to the one personage who really could save the day for Republicans and the Republic.

Raise your hands if you knew he was from New Jersey.

So. What's up, Doc? Well, we'll see. Won't we?

More on the Sin of Faith

The only medical science acceptable to God, evidently.

I'M STILL RIGHT. Yet another faith healing couple has murdered their child (it's always the same group that makes the news. We've got a nest of them up here in the Portland area). This used to be a controversial thing, but I'm not sure anyone pays attention anymore. What was once a contentious debate about freedom of religion versus not murdering children has kind of fizzled. "Kooks will be kooks," seems to be the dismissal. So this may be something of a dead, or ailing, horse I'm about to beat. But just in case.

Religious freedom does not include the "right" to kill your child. Not even by inaction.

I understand religion-- mainstream Christianity in particular-- is under attack. I've done some of the attacking myself (the really good, logically sound attacks). I understand that, as Christians see it, the law is turning against Christianity, and that this makes them sensitive to any suggestion that religion ought to be regulated. I get that. I honestly sympathize. But the thing is, religious freedom does not include the "right" to kill your child. Not even by inaction. Seems obvious when I put it like that, doesn't it?

In a free society, religion is necessarily private. That way, every individual is free (hence the word free) to decide the matter for himself. If you want to be a faith healer, go right the hell ahead. Don't want to have your own bladder infection looked at? Awesome. But that's not the kind of decision you get to make for anyone else. Even if they are your kids who you legally own.

Imagine you were a high priest in the Cult of Evel Kinevel. Instead of regular water immersion, baptism into your faith is jumping the Grand Canyon in a perfect replica X-1 Skycycle. Should you be allowed to force you kid to make that jump? Or to strap your infant to the X-1, push the Skycycle down the ramp, activate the booster rockets via remote, and hope he makes it?

Moreover-- and this is the real point-- God's track record is indisputably spotty. Exhibits A, B, C, D, and most of the other letters? The Holocaust. Don't get me wrong. This isn't the argument that the Holocaust, or any of the commonly trotted-out travesties, prove God doesn't exist. I'm not some arrogant prick atheist (but two out of three ain't bad) who chooses-- and it is a choice-- to leave out the whole "heaven is forever" part of the God hypothesis when contemplating the oh-so intractable "problem of evil." That's existential laziness. On a few levels. What I am saying is that the Holocaust proves conclusively that God's intervention is, at best, a maybe. He might make a 20-dollar bill appear in your laundry basket when you need it. He might make the battery in an alarm clock die so a WTC employee sleeps in on 9/11. Or he might let 10 million innocent lives be systematically executed. Whether His reasons are good or bad, Dude does what He wants.

In light of this incontestable truth, how can anyone justify waiting for God to act? If you answered something like "let God's will be done in all things," or "everything happens for a reason," I cordially invite you to stop eating. How disrespectful to God, to presume you can sustain your own life! Lie down and wait for God to feed you. Right now. Let us know how that works out for you.

I'm generally against regulation and government meddling in private matters, but the protection of life is a legitimate state function. Laws against negligent homicide are not statist tennets comparable to the welfare state. It's an abuse of language to say religious freedom is abridged when parents aren't allowed to let their children die for God. No rightful freedom has been denied.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Further Insight on
The Krugman Paradox

Krugman praying to himself. I think I know what the answer is.

REFUTATION AND HONESTY. Brizoni did a nifty little post on Paul Krugman, who is always wrong and always instantly refuted. How can he not know that he's an idiot? Thanks to my better half, I can offer an explanation that explains many other things as well. I know this violates the "fair use" rule, but it's simply too hilarious not to reproduce in considerable detail. Sorry. This from Wiki:

Personally, I love the Cornell connection. Incompetence isn't about being a Neanderthal. It's about being in over your head and not knowing it. Perfect. (And note that I'm not alone in discerning a slight problem among the best and brightest with geography...) Of course, Krugman is at Princeton, which makes him immune. Unless it doesn't.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Raebert Report

The mind of a deerhound

It's not easy being a Scot. You have to be a deep thinker.

DON'T BE GETTING WRONG IDEAS. So he's coming up on a year-and-a-half. Still a puppy. But I haven't reported for a while. He's huge. Gigantic, in fact. But he eats like a girl on a first date. "You won't think I'm being too forward if I take this Cheeto very very carefully from your hand." Greyhounds think every tidbit is a reprieve from starvation rations at a concentration camp. Not deerhounds. They're just as tentative about their own kibble.

For a long time we thought he was going to be smarter than Psmith. We were wrong. Psmith was best friends with Izzie, the 7-pound Bengal cat. Raebert is best friends with Elliott, the 10-pound tabby cat. Elliott even goes so far as to claw Raebert's face (because he's such a fun-loving cuss he accidentally claws everyone, even as he's chirruping his affection). Nothing. Raebert just draws his monster head back and pokes at Elliott with his oak-limb paw, like King Kong playing gently with Fay Raye.

But where were we? The deerhound mind. Thanks to accelerating technology, it is now possible to photograph deerhound consciousness. When he's staring into the distance looking his most nobly brave and Scottish, what is Raebert thinking of? Thanks to Apple's new iMind camera, we now know:

I like cheese curls.

He used to like Herr's pretzels. No more. When he comes upstairs to the media room in the evening, he makes a great show of affection. He kisses the missus (doesn't that sound like a country song title?). He kisses me, licks my hand, and then settles on his huge haunches with a hopeful smile on his face. Because he knows I have a bag of cheese curls at my feet. If you try to give him a pretzel, he takes it with his lips pursed and drops it on the floor. Cheese curls.

I really like cheese curls.

Molly, like most older greyhounds, is getting food aggressive. Raebert doesn't care. He's staking his all on the prize that all deerhounds since Sir Walter Scott's have been waiting for:

I could really use a cheese curl about now.

And here's the cute part. He doesn't grab or snatch even when the cheese curl is offered. He takes it so gently in his impossibly white front teeth that the frail puff is not damaged at all. He drops it on the carpet. Then he lovingly eats it. With that hollow chomping sound and the half-closed eyes of a man eating... well, you get the picture.

Who knew? Maybe all the wars in Scotland from time immemorial could have been avoided.

Don't worry. He only gets two per night. Or three if he's really being a pest. It's his idea of poetry.

Roses are red. And I want a cheese curl.

What else? He weighs a hundred now. And he's slowly, slowly becoming more than a puppy. But he still doesn't understand the deerhound factor. When we took him to the vet last week, he was completely befuddled by the fact that he was greeted by all the other dog owners as a rock star. "What IS that?" "He's gorgeous." He just wanted to kiss the only other dog he recognized, a hugely overweight pug who was as unintimidated by Raebert as Raebert was anxious to make a new friend. (Our own pug, Eloise, is NOT hugely overweight. Just a little. MY fault.)

Me? I'm thinking the pug had a secret stash of cheese curls. But I've always been a cynic.

Do we love him? Yeah. Achingly. Why do you think I have a bag of Herr's cheese curls at my feet?

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