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June 4, 2011 - May 28, 2011

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Vietnam Psychosis

The Poster Child: Maryscott O'Connor, Center of the Universe

THE DAILY CAUSE. Yesterday, Hugh Hewitt reported on the response of the "KosKids" (NSFW) to the confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court of the United States.

For those not in the know, Hugh was referring to the contributors and commenters at the Daily Kos, brainchild of Markos Moulitsas, who has become such a luminary of the Democratic Party that even the august Teddy Kennedy is making entries at his website.

The leader of the Kos response was a woman named Maryscott O'Connor. Here's an excerpt from her sophisticated reaction to the defeat of the Dem's crazed filibuster attempt (asterisks mine):

We are F***ed.

The original text is blockquoted below, but it seems cruelly, viciously ironic to keep it up right now.

What I want is a complete list of every Vichy Democratic Senator who voted for Cloture. That's what I want.

The Vichy Democrats: Akaka, Inouye, Cantwell, Rockefeller. Byrd, Bingaman, Lieberman, Nelson (FL), Nelson (NE), Baucus, T. Johnson, Dorgan, B. Lincoln, Salazar, Conrad, Landrieu, Pryor, Carper, Kohl

I don't know what to DO with this list, not yet -- but I know for GODDAMNED sure I won't be VOTING for any of them, lt alone sending them any goddamned MONEY.

Frankly, right now I'd like nothing better than to torpedo the entire lot of them. Just dump them like so much worthless, leaden, VICHY MOTHERF***ING BALLAST.

I got nothin', folks. Don't look over here if you want comfort or a nice, uplifting LIVE TO FIGHT ANOTHER DAY speech.

I'M DONE WITH THEM. They are DEAD to me.

Yeah. CANTWELL and BYRD and LANDRIEU and BINGAMAN and every last motherf***ing one of them, I'm DONE with them.

I'm registering Independent tomorrow. You're welcome to join me.

I guess she's telling us that she doesn't have enough words in her vocabulary to express her chagrin, hence her tendency to rev over the redline into the ignoramus zone of all-caps and F-words. This isn't a new phenomenon, obviously, and she isn't even the first woman cited at InstaPunk in the last week or so who thinks it's somehow persuasive to curse like a 14-year-old boy. A "lady" named Jane Hamsher recently got just as exercised about Kate O'Beirne's book criticizing feminist politics.

What is a little different, and therefore illuminating, is the amount of personal information Ms. O'Connor provides in the bio portion of her website, which is called My Left Wing. Here is the beginning of her "manifesto":

My name is Maryscott O'Connor. (MSOC for short.) I am 37, married (to Adam Crocker) with a 5.5 year old son (Terry O'Connor).

I am also an orphan of Vietnam.

My father, Lieutenant Terence Raymond Roach, Jr. of the Third Marine Division, was killed on February 8, 1968 at Khe Sanh, during the Tet Offensive. I was born 3 months later, on April 29, 1968.

This is a sad thing (although the word orphan in my experience applies to children who have lost both parents). One might be tempted to feel sorry for her if she hadn't elaborated to an unattractively revealing degree:

I consider Vietnam to be the defining feature of my life. Had it not been for that unjust war, I would have grown up with a father and a happy mother. Had she not been widowed, my childhood would have been very different; I cannot imagine it would have been worse (that's a lie: I can imagine Terry Roach coming home with PTSD and providing me an even MORE f***ed up childhood than the one I had -- but I choose NOT to imagine it that way). It ought not surprise anyone that I have an extreme sensitivity to needless war. [emphasis and asterisks mine]

Bear in mind that this woman is 37 and has a 5.5 (?!) year old son, yet she still expresses herself like a teenage girl in the throes of a self-induced anxiety attack. We are all supposed to give her plenty of leeway about her "extreme sensitivity" because she was a victim of the Vietnam War. It's hard not to gain the impression that of all the dark consequences of Vietnam, this is the one that matters most, because it happened to Maryscott. Even the alternative universe in which her father survives Vietnam is stained with potential disaster. She doesn't miss him; she weeps only for herself. From her very first breath on, she has been a victim, acting out in every conceivable way, taking her revenge against every possible accomplice in her misery, however tangential: the federal government (especially those who advocate a strong national defense), the military, capitalism, authority of any kind, men, and, probably, the United States of America.

Think I'm overstating? Here's her chosen epithet for herself:

A Radical Leftist Liberal Socialist Commie Feminist Pinko from Hell

I have always been politically aware, a Democrat and a liberal. In 2000 I became a political activist. The national shame of that sham election spurred me to contribute to John Kerry, to volunteer for the Kerry campaign and to become involved to a degree I never imagined possible for me, by joining a liberal blog (Daily Kos) and interacting with thousands of people who felt as I do – that George W. Bush is the worst thing that has ever happened to the United States and that we must do everything in our power to elect John Kerry and John Edwards.

Of course it's her style to exaggerate for effect, but when a conservative describes himself as being "to the right of Attila the Hun," his exaggeration is nevertheless informative. So, too, with Maryscott.

There are millions of us out there in the world, and, like me (as I have discovered to be true), many American liberals have spent the past 5 years feeling as if they wandered in a wilderness, bereft of companionship, solace or sustenance. Once having found communities like Daily Kos, we also found our voices again. We discovered that, contrary to the claims of the Vast Right Wing Corporate Propaganda Machine, we liberals are legion.

What if all our voices, cacophonous as they might sound to the uninitiated, are actually the harmonic, symphonic key to saving democracy, saving the Democratic Party – and by extension, saving our beloved nation and the world from the heretofore deafening and meretricious roar of the Radical Right Wing?

So I say to you now: WE are the messengers of truth. WE hold in our hands the power to change the world. WE hold the high ground, my friends.

How hard is it to imagine her experience of life as she would see it? Who would require more data (more, say, than the vision of wandering "in a wilderness, bereft of companionship, solace or sustenance") to delineate a story of unending ordeals, obstacles, injustices, and unfair accidents as she might tell it? The fact that she does tell it would be superfluous if it didn't also reveal her self-obsessed unawareness that all lives exhibit these attributes, whether we're all in perpetual mourning for a person we never met or not. Here's an excerpt from the section titled About Me.

I WAS a professional actress, before I simultaneously became OBSESSED with politics and realized I would never, EVER be able to do and be what it takes to make a successful acting career here in Los Angeles.

I am not one for false modesty; talent-wise, I happen to be a gifted actress. That's no more to my credit than the colour of my eyes -- I was born with it. Also not a half-bad singer.

But… I do not have the single-minded drive and willingness to subjugate all else to my aspirations to a career as an actress. If I could go back in time and change one decision, it would be this: I'd have finished college and then turned LEFT out of Ann Arbor instead of right. New York. I should have known that the stage was my proper milieu. But I had a man to follow to Los Angeles, and out-of-whack delusions and expectations of a film career. The lure of fame and money and love was irresistible to my vanity and self-aggrandizing self-image. Thus did vanity contribute to my seemingly irresistible (though certainly subconscious) drive to f*** up my life for at least a decade.

But such is life; had I made different choices, I certainly would have had a very different life... but I'm actually sort of ENJOYING the life I lead today.

Yeah. We noticed. But in case we don't believe her, she gives us more details in a section titled Minutiae about Me:

If you’ve made it this far into my logorrheic self-obsessed biography, Congratulations! Have some trivia:

•    I’m a recovering alcoholic. Haven’t had a drink since November 22, 1996.

•    I’m a smoker. And serial quitter. One day, I swear, I WILL defeat this ***ing addiction.

•    I am on disability, due to an immune disorder that causes chronic pain and fatigue (fibromyalgia – what a bullshit diagnosis).  Adam used to make a living as a photographer, but Bush’s fabulous economy forced him to go back to work in the film industry.

•    My husband and I are college educated people (though I dropped out of the University of Michigan to move to California with my first husband and royally f*** up my life for a solid decade). Adam's parents were wealthy and my mother was solidly middle class. Our combined income now puts us somewhere on the edge between middle and lower-middle class. Before I became disabled, my son and I already qualified for MediCal and Medicare because our income had become sufficiently low. However, as our income stagnated over the past four years, my MediCal benefits were cut and my share of cost increased to the point where we could not afford to avail ourselves of medical treatment.

Fortunately, last year Adam became eligible for health insurance through his union (though continuing with that coverage depends on his working at least 300 hours on union jobs, which are scarce). It came just in the nick of time, too – shortly after getting the healthcare benefits, I had to undergo testing for uterine and ovarian cancer. I might have been tested and treated months earlier, but opted not to seek yearly physicals because of the increased share of cost through MediCal. However, should the worst diagnosis have come to pass, I was more worried, frankly, about our share of the expenses than I was about dying. Twenty percent of a medical crisis is enough to bury us. It turned out to be a problem easily remedied with a D&C and birth control pills, incidentally. Two treatments I'm sure the Radical Right Wing Neocon Christofascist Zombie Brigade would love to make virtually impossible to receive...

If you've waded through all this and are still here, you've probably had a gestalt by now. How utterly perfect this woman is as a symbol and archetype of the contemporary American left! She's a victim, she's a victim, let us count the ways: war orphan (sorta), exploited and duped out of college by a MAN, substance abuser, a sufferer from chronic fatigue (Is this the syndrome nicknamed "The Yuppie Disease"?), perpetually under the thumb of the healthcare bureaucracy (and apparently an expert in the Byzantine intricacies of health insurance, MediCal, and other freebie programs), and throughout, of course, a victim of the endless machinations of the "Radical Right Wing Neocon Christofascist Zombie Brigade."

The only sense of personal responsibility she demonstrates is the cant of 12-step recovery programs for victims of this and that. But fundamentally, she appears to take no real responsibility for anything because her life was ruined by the President of the United States before she was born. No one has ever prospered without having a father.

You already know what they are, but here's an abbreviated list of her political positions:

•    I am pro-choice.

•    I oppose the death penalty.

•    I support gay marriage.

•    I oppose school vouchers.

•    I believe public education should be funded on a per-student basis equally throughout the nation.

•    I support the legalization of marijuana (and, frankly, all narcotics)

•    However, for as long as drugs are illegal (and I realize my views on decriminalizing drugs are not shared by most people), I believe that non-violent drug offenders ought to be put in treatment – not prison.

•    I believe that “three strikes” laws and mandatory minimums must be eradicated.

•    In addition to sentencing reform, I believe in the necessity of massive prison reform in this country.

•    I believe in strong government regulation of corporations:.

•    I support the concept of Fair Trade, as opposed to “Free Trade.”

•    I believe in universal health care.

•    I believe in that most basic tenet of every reputable religion and philosophy that ever existed: Love thy neighbour.

•    To that end, I do believe in humanitarian and sometimes military intervention by the United States and every civilized nation when it comes to genocide (see: Sudan), brutal dictatorships and the systematic abuse of human rights.

That last one's interesting. In case you had any doubt, Saddam does NOT qualify as a brutal dictator: none of his victims was named Maryscott O'Connor. But I'm only kidding. You knew that already.

Overall, the picture is pretty clear. Life's hardships and inequalities should be eliminated by the government, and anything and everything that anyone wants to do is fine and dandy, although if they slip up and really hurt someone else, they should get free and caring treatment from the government. The only freedoms that are truly dangerous and need to be suppressed are free trade, free competition in the marketplace, and the freedom to choose a different school for your children than the one in your immediate neighborhood.

This is what she calls the high ground, and on this basis she claims to be the possessor of TRUTH. But I'll bet she doesn't recognize the freedom of other people -- that is, people who hold different views from hers -- to regard their own convictions as truth. In fact, I don't think she could even understand the argument. Why? Because she lives in a Universe of One. (see the picture above.) Regardless of her talk about the people, there is only one person whose experience means a thing to her, and that person is trapped in a solipsistic nightmare that will last to the day of her death, no matter how many opportunities to learn life affords her. That's why her anger is so utter and so unquenchable. Vietnam slew her in the womb, and so every day, every challenge, every issue is Vietnam, an unwinnable ordeal inflicted malevolently upon her so damagingly that it bleeds away all energy but rage, her last pitiful connection to the humanity that is otherwise "dead" to her. Whose death is she really talking about? And how many other dead are out there blogging for vengeance against the author of all calamity, George W. Bush. The mind boggles.

It's hard to take voices like this seriously, but we have to because there are so many of them and they dwell so permanently outside the bounds of rational discourse. My own first inclination was to feel sorry for her, but this is a dangerous temptation. Maryscott feels sorry enough for herself to let the rest of us off the hook. What we need to do is understand that all the most outrageous loons of the left are likely to have quite similar life stories. What they share is not politics per se, but a view that life is something that is happening to them. Since there is no chance that we can teach them to live their own lives and accept responsibility for both the good and the bad they experience, we are forced to battle them at one remove from their real grievance. There is no chance to change political views that are merely symptoms of an inside-out perspective on life. All we can hope to do -- and therefore must commit ourselves to do -- is win the debate where it counts, in the voting booths of our nation.

That said, I do sincerely hope that Maryscott experiences a miracle and discovers the joy of trading in her politics for a fulfilling life in America.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Senators Kerry and Kennedy counting up votes against cloture yesterday.

STRATEGY. You think it's easy being this stupid?

The attempted filibuster was more symbolic than serious from the start, as Alito's opponents realized they were almost certain to lose yesterday's "cloture" vote...

Democratic Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry of Massachusetts took up the liberal cause last week, forcing Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to schedule yesterday's cloture vote so that today's confirmation vote could take place.

The debate was largely unremarkable until Kennedy delivered a thundering, ad-libbed speech in which he warned that the Alito vote "is going to have echoes for years and years to come."

"If you are concerned and you want a justice that is going to stand for the working men and women in this country, it's not going to be Judge Alito," Kennedy roared as tourists in the visitors' gallery leaned forward for a better view.

Yes, two of the richest men in the Senate, neither of whom has ever performed a day's worth of physical labor in his life, are the only ones in the country who know what "working men and women" need.

It reminds us of one of the great old comedy acts. We can't think which one. Maybe it'll come to us.

Antichristiane Amanpour

There are just two options, the way we see it.

FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT. Born in London. Educated at the University of Rhode Island. Worked at CNN. Slept with Peter Jennings. So there's no compelling reason why she would affiliate herself with the United States in any way. So we're not really mad at her for trashing our country, our troops, and our President at every single opportunity. After all, she's been chasing wars for a dozen years or so -- too much sun, sand, shrapnel, sex in un-upholstered vehicles -- these are things that make a girl old and embittered before her time. Not to mention the squiffy Rhode Island accent that makes her sound like she just swallowed a huge squirt of lemon juice. You know, too smart by half. She's probably having the same kind of identity crisis that's made Maureen Dowd envious of Georgetown streetwalkers and other interns.

So, once again -- in our constantly generous way -- we'd like to help. If she really were American, like, say, those network journalists who've made millions trying to destroy every presidential administration that didn't star a traitorous rapist, we'd recommend the Pelosi Total-Head-Rebuild, which always seems to restore women's self-esteem to an exorbitantly inflated level. But Ms. Amanpour is a citizen of the world, who has gleaned nothing but millions from the benighted nation to which she beams her journalistic ouevre, and for this reason we believe she has a second option: join the sisterhood of muslim women she has so solicitously yearned to restore to the beneficent ministrations of Saddam Hussein by taking the veil and hiding from the rest of us her war-ravaged fright mask. Besides, it won't be long before Saks is offering custom made burkhas for the affluent, suicidal feminists who root for Sharia while they spit nails at Alito. These are going to be very expensive frocks, but it's a good bet Antichristiane can afford a rack of them, and they'd go perfectly with the veil and the no driver's license and the Free Pass to the Rape Room. If she's really lucky, she can get her own talk show on Al-Jazeera, interviewing Araby's top female candidates for suicde bombings and honor killings.

All we ask is that the face she's been aiming at us for too long go away. Make it prettier, or make it disappear.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The House of Lords

  Prince Pinch of the Fourth Estate

HELPING THE MASSES. Yesterday, the New York Times published an editorial about Samuel Alito. It said, in part:

The judge's record strongly suggests that he is an eager lieutenant in the ranks of the conservative theorists who ignore our system of checks and balances, elevating the presidency over everything else. He has expressed little enthusiasm for restrictions on presidential power and has espoused the peculiar argument that a president's intent in signing a bill is just as important as the intent of Congress in writing it. This would be worrisome at any time, but it takes on far more significance now, when the Bush administration seems determined to use the cover of the "war on terror" and presidential privilege to ignore every restraint, from the Constitution to Congressional demands for information.

There was nothing that Judge Alito said in his hearings that gave any comfort to those of us who wonder whether the new Roberts court will follow precedent and continue to affirm, for instance, that a man the president labels an "unlawful enemy combatant" has the basic right to challenge the government's ability to hold him in detention forever without explanation. His much-quoted statement that the president is not above the law is meaningless unless he also believes that the law requires the chief executive to defer to Congress and the courts...

A filibuster is a radical tool. It's easy to see why Democrats are frightened of it. But from our perspective, there are some things far more frightening. One of them is Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court.

This depressing presentation of  left-wing political persectives as if they were obvious mainstream positions immediately reminded me of a recent Hugh Hewitt column in the Weekly Standard. Mr. Hewitt had occasion to spend some quality time with current students at the Columbia School of Journalism, where a new dean is reportedly trying to repair the crumbling credibility and competency of professional journalists. One professor even permitted Hewitt to poll members of a core class in the curriculum. Here's what he learned about the current student body of the most prestigious school of journalism in the land:

A fifth of the students are from the New York area, and between 37 to 40 percent are from "the corridor"--from Boston to Washington. Another fifth are from the west coast, and 10 percent are foreign. It is a pretty "blue" student body, and willing to pay handsomely for the privilege of their credentials. A year at CSJ--tuition, living expenses, incidentals--comes to $59,404...

The "blue" nature of the student body is further confirmed by my polling of the class I attended.... Six of the 16 were English majors, two studied history, and the balance spread across the humanities. No one had a background in the physical sciences. No one owned a gun. All supported same-sex marriage. Three had been in a house of worship the previous week. Six read blogs. None of them recognized the phrase "Christmas Eve in Cambodia"... Three quarters of them hope to make more than $100,000 as a journalist, 11 had voted for John Kerry, and one for George Bush (three are from abroad and not eligible, and one didn't vote for either candidate). I concluded by asking them if they "think George Bush is something of a dolt." There was unanimous agreement with this proposition, one of the widely shared views within elite media and elsewhere on the left. The president's Harvard MBA and four consecutive victories over Democrats judged "smarter" than him haven't made even a dent in that prejudice.

The intake valve at the elite media's equivalent of the Army's war college isn't pulling in many conservatives. In fact, it isn't pulling in many moderates.

Between these two quotes, we have a quick and dirty snapshot of America's Fourth Estate, an institution so traditionally powerful that it has become very nearly another branch of government. It may be the case, in fact, that a lot of people believe the first three estates are the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the American republic. But historically, the definitions are French: The First Estate is the nobility; the Second Estate is the clergy; and the Third Estate is the peasantry.

This societal model has nothing to do with contemporary American political culture. Or does it? The more I think about the arrogance, intransigence, and blindness to its own self-contradictions of the American left, the more it seems that any illuminating explanation cannot be fundamentally political, but must be almost purely social.

Try this hypothesis: The political leadership of the Democrat Party constitutes the nobility (1st Estate). The academic institutions, including colleges, universities, foundations, and think tanks are the new clergy of the post-Christian Age of Secularism (2nd Estate). And the rest of America, including the despised Republicans and red-staters, as well as the much-needed servant corps of minorities, union members, and other dependent recipients of government largesse, are the peasantry (3rd Estate). The mainstream media, of course, remain the Fourth Estate in this construct.

To see why this might matter in practical terms, it's important to understand that the historical difference between nobility and peasantry was absolute. A peasant could not become a noble by acquiring money or position. Nor could a noble become a peasant by losing his land and fortune. A noble is from birth to death simply better than a peasant, regardless of other circumstance. In Dumas's Three Musketeers, for example, the noble hero d'Artagnan begins his career impoverished, uncouth, and uneducated in all disciplines. He cannot afford to pay his first servant, and they both eat scraps and sleep on straw, but D'Artagnan still has the automatic right to order his servant about and beat him without rebuke. The difference between them is in the blood.

Now consider the history of American liberalism, whose founder and inveterate icon was Franklin D. Roosevelt, an unabashed aristocrat. FDR led his New Deal revolution with a cigarette holder clamped between his teeth and a frosted martini glass in his hand. He was a graduate of Groton and Harvard, a member of Harvard's Fly Club, which is located less than two blocks from Teddy's notorious Owl Club and was -- and is -- rather more exclusive. Roosevelt  was also related by birth to two of the most powerful players in the World War II campaign, Winston Churchill and Douglas MacArthur. Churchill was of distinctly noble blood and had to resign his title in order to run for office in the House of Commons. In doing so, he was part of a long tradition of aristocrats managing the democratic affairs of the peasantry for them, a tradition to which Roosevelt also obviously belongs. The father of America's New Deal for the common man was by any definition a blueblood, a native of the same part of the country Hewitt designates as the Boston-Washington "corridor," where an enormous percentage of the country's institutional credentialing power continues to reside.

It's a curious but demonstrable fact that ever since the New Deal, Democrats have consistently retained mass popular support without abandoning their upper-crust credentials. Most loved after FDR was JFK, graduate of Choate and Harvard, and the son of one of FDR's ambassadors to the Court of St. James. Al Gore, androgynous senator's son and Harvard graduate, won the popular vote in 2000, as the Democrats will NEVER forget. It was this same vein of aristocratic populism John Kerry attempted to tap into in his own political career; the congressional hearings in which he testified as a young man are as cringe-inducing for his faux Kennedy accent as they are shameful for his dissembling. He is an archetype of the "transnational" identity that has always characterized European nobility, owing in his particular case to his childhood in France, Germany, and Switzerland and his centuries-old family roots in New England, whose influence on him was analyzed in depth in a piece called John Kerry's America during the 2004 election campaign:

In the eyes of many New Englanders, the region is culturally more like Europe than the rest of America. It has cobblestone streets, centuries-old buildings, established families who dominate the local history books, each with its own seal and tartan... No New Englander worth his salt will own up to being a snob, but New England snobbery is undeniable. It's there in the jokes, in the vocabulary, in the knowing references to the benighted souls back in the red states... True to the region's Europhilic origins, New Englanders, as a whole, care deeply about what France and Germany think about America, Americans, and U.S. foreign policy. When Kerry wrings his hands about the need to "rebuild our alliances," he's not just giving voice to his own concerns; he's playing to his base, a constituency that can't bear the thought of losing international popularity contests.

John Kerry's failure is due less to his aristocratic bearing than to his lack of a common touch; you've got to smile winningly at the peasant beggars from time to time. Yale and a half-billion dollar fortune are perfect credentials for a Democrat populist. Where he failed, many others have succeeded, and it's important to point out that his senate seat is still as safe as Teddy's.

I'm sure there will be people quick to object that these are extraordinary exceptions and hardly indicative of anything other than the fact that money and politics have always been inseparable. Look at the Bushes: it's the same thing. Except that it isn't. A family like the Bushes on the Republican side of the aisle is, indeed, such an outstanding anomaly that it accounts for much of the blazing hatred the left spews toward them -- to the puzzlement of many in the peasant hinterlands.

How might one prove that the First Estate label is far more appropriate for Democrats than Republicans? A good place to look for evidence is the U.S. Senate. Most senators are rich or at least well off. But there are some definite differences in the demographics of senate membership in the two parties. For example:

- Name the party whose senate membership includes a Hall of Fame baseball player, two medical doctors, two veterinarians, a Cuban refugee, the daughter of Greek immigrants, the spouse of a former Miss Oklahoma, a member of the AFL-CIO, and 30 graduates of state universities located in their home states (54 percent).

- Name the party whose senate membership includes a Rockefeller heir, a Rockefeller spouse, a former owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, two Rhodes scholars, two senator's sons, the spouse of a senator's widow,  the brother of a President, the wife of a President, and just 17 graduates of state universities located in their home states (38 percent).

And, yes, the lists above are not entirely fair. The Republicans have a senator's son (Lincoln Chafee) and a Rhodes Scholar of their own (Richard Lugar), while the Democrats have a miner's son as Minority Leader, but isn't it the Republicans who are supposed to suffer from a lack of diversity and a lack of understanding and compassion for the average folk back home? So where is it that the Senate Democrats acquired all that understanding and compassion for ordinary Americans?

The answer is clear in their biographies. They acquired them at a handful of the most elite colleges and universities in the world: Oxford, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, M.I.T., University of Chicago, West Point, Annapolis, U. Michigan (Law), Wellesley, Swarthmore, University of Virginia, Georgetown, Duke, and Washington & Lee. Fully 58 percent of the Democrats in the Senate went to one or more of these schools, and to top it off, 65 percent of them have law degrees.

Republicans? About 30 percent have degrees from these elite institutions, with 54 percent possessing a law degree.

These statistics become even more discrepant when the female membership of the Senate is analyzed. The Democrats boast of having nine women senators against the Republicans' five. But it's the Old Boy's Club of Democrats who apparently scorn the level playing field. Only one of their nine female senators has a law degree (Hillary), and the only other two who have advanced degrees of any kind have a Masters in Social Work. Only three of the male Democrat senators do not have an advanced degree of some kind: John D. Rockefeller IV, Mark Dayton (heir to the Dayton-Hudson department store fortune), and Frank Lautenberg; six of the women do not: Barbara Boxer, Maria Cantwell, Dianne Feinstein, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, and Patty Murray.

On the Republican side, the women have the same order of credentials as the men. Removing them does not change the percentage who have elite degrees or law degrees: 30 percent and 54 percent, respectively. And 20 percent of Republican senators do not have advanced degrees, including two Vietnam veterans (McCain and Hagel), two marines (Roberts and Burns), a man nicknamed "Perfect Game" (Bunning), a professional horse shoer (Chafee), and a member of Phi Beta Kappa (Collins).

The uniformity of the men in the Democratic senate is remarkable if their credentials are examined in isolation. 67 percent of them (i.e., 36 senators) have degrees from just 13 elite universities, and 80 percent have law degrees (which doesn't leave a lot of room for doctors and vets and MBAs, let alone self-made men, farmers, athletes, actors, and horse shoers).

Think back to the Democrat men of the Judiciary Committee upbraiding Alito for having attended a snob school like Princeton, while two-thirds of their old boy colleagues possess similar credentials. What is really being scorned here? The elitism of Princeton? Or the presumption of a peasant who matriculated out of his class? (Maybe we should ask Princeton graduate and Rhodes Scholar Paul Sarbanes (D) of Maryland what he thinks.)

An important note. In harping on the distinction between elite universities and state universities, I am not implying that there is any absolute difference in quality of education. The membership of the senate exhibits the same kind of two-hump curve found in the corporate world, where the most successful executives tend either to have elite degrees or state school degrees, without very much in between. The meaning of this should be obvious. The population excels in intelligence and accomplishment across the board. In youth, though, some could afford the prohibitive costs of the elite schools, and some could not. The cream still rises to the top. What does make for an interesting discussion, though, is the likelihood of a distinctly different social experience between the elites and the more affordable state schools.

This brings us to the Second Estate. The professoriate of our colleges and universities constitutes, in our hypothesis, the clergy of American aristocracy. It doesn't take a cultural anthropologist to detect that the leftward tilt of this professoriate increases as one moves up the scale of prestige to the top universities in the country. Maybe there are those who would undertake to make the argument that the faculty at the University of Oklahoma is just as left-wing as the faculty at Harvard, but I don't envy them the task. The community into which young scholars are invited at the most elite schools is not a physical place, but a conceptual domain of intellectual and cultural superiority. These are the high priests who write the scripture that undergirds the nobility's assumption of divine right to rule.

Now given that the Fourth Estate is populated by courtiers who have been educated by the same clerics and who regard it as their sacred duty to support the nobles of the First Estate, it finally becomes possible to see that politics per se is not the governing factor in the mix. The peasantry matters to the extent that they constitute much of the subject matter in the games and gossip at court. But the peasants will always remain peasants. That's why the political minds of the nobility, the clergy, and the press do not see any philosophical contradiction in the fact that their most earnest efforts to improve the plight of, say, black peasants serve only to keep the black peasants trapped in the same old cultural prison. Of course they're always going to be poor: that's why the nobles need to be able to control more of the national income and redistribute it with the usual self-flattering fanfare. It's why they don't see a contradiction between affirming the right to choose for pregnant women while denying the peasants' right to choose non-government schools, firearms for self-protection, and a consumption tax in place of a Big Brother income espionage/confiscation system. It's why they see no contradiction between their constantly reiterated devotion to freedom of speech and their own (and their clergy's) sewer-mouthed refusal to tolerate it from peasant conservatives.

And because they are nobles -- with all the historical connotations the term implies -- they see no contradiction in the fact that their own deepest loyalties are not to the nation in which they were born, but to the pan-European aristocracy that has been running things for the peasantry in the Old (better) World since one or two kings got carried away in times past.

So now they are engaged in a great war of reaction. Despite the fact that they exercise absolute control of two of the four estates -- clergy and press -- they feel their power slipping away. Too many peasants in the Senate and House. A traitorous bastard malapropist in the White House. They absolutely require an institution above the vulgar House of Commons the U.S. Congress has become. They see the U.S. Supreme Court as their missing House of Lords, endowed ideally with the noble (and  lifelong) right to veto peasant legislation or rewrite it from the bench -- and make of the Constitution what royal edicts have always been, a moveable feast that satisfies today's appetite and, with a new stroke of the pen, tomorrow's too, whatever it may be.

It is intolerable to contemplate, even for a moment, that the peasants should be able to dismantle the House of Lords and turn it back into what Chief Justice Roberts called a "referee at a football game." They don't understand how this dire outcome could actually occur, and it's so black and white in their minds that they can't even explain their disgust.

But I think I just have.

The Most Beautiful by the Very Best

KRAUTS.13.1-6. Congratulations to Michelle Malkin for remembering Mozart's 250th birthday. We know she went to Oberlin, so it's no surprise, just a pleasure. Here is InstaPunk's present: the most beautiful piece of music ever written (with the possible exception of the final act of the Marriage of Figaro, also by Guess Who). It's the Concerto for Clarinet and Oboe. [Click on the Audio Button above.] The whole thing.


BONUS. We're still right-wingers here. You haven't seen this particular take on the lefties before. Once again, enjoy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

InstaPunk Takes the Test

THINGS. You just answer a few questions, and they tell you what kind of a sports car you are. Glenn Reynolds is a Mazda RX-8. Hmmm. I thought he was a Honda hybrid. But I thought I was a Jaguar E-Type. Not true, according to the experts:

I'm a Ferrari 360 Modena!

You've got it all. Power, passion, precision, and style. You're sensuous, exotic, and temperamental. Sure, you're expensive and high-maintenance, but you're worth it.

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz. Seems like a pleasant way to brighten an otherwise gray day.

The New Tourette's Syndrome

"Everything is extraordinary in this disease: the name is ridiculous,
its symptoms peculiar, its character equivocal, its cause unknown,
 its treatment problematical."  - Gilles de la Tourette

IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE? First, a little background:

Dr. Gilles de la Tourette was a French neurologist at the Salpetriere Hospital in Paris. In 1884 Gilles de la Tourette, prompted by his mentor, Charcot; in a peer-reviewed article, described nine patients who were affected with compulsive tics; some of which he had never personally treated or come in contact with, The symptoms were characterized by multiple muscle tics, vocal noises, and compulsive swearing.

Here's a description of a typical sufferer penned by Dr. Tourette:

“In the midst of an interesting conversation, all of a sudden, without being able to prevent it, she interrupts what she is saying or what she is listening to with horrible screams and with words that are even more extraordinary than her screams. All of this contrasts deplorabl(y) with her distinguished manners and background. These words are, for the most part, offensive curse words and obscene saying(s). These are no less embarrassing for her than for those who have to listen, the expressions being so crude that an unfavorable opinion of the woman is almost inevitable.”

The disease named for Tourette is still with us today, but it has lately been joined by a peculiar variant in which otherwise reasonably normal people break off "all of a sudden" from what they were doing or saying to let fly with some inappropriate left-wing political utterance. George Clooney's little outburst about Abramoff at the Golden Globes is a recent instance, but its incongruity is mild compared to what Tom Shales did today in his media column.

The piece is a lengthy review of this season's "American Idol." He's impressed:

Vaudeville didn't die after all -- it was only in a coma -- and now has returned in a form suitably twisted to fit the times: "American Idol," the Fox network's stupendously successful amateur competition, which is back for a new season with its popularity not only intact but skyrocketing.

The program, airing Tuesday and Wednesday nights, has been very, very good for network television because the show has reached the phenomenon stage, a kind of inescapability. It's talked about, argued about, discussed with gusto, a bona fide annual national event.

Unlike many other observers, Shales has found a way to rationalize the fact that much of the show's entertainment value lies in watching the humiliation of the defenceless and talentless.

(T)he show is at its most endearing and irresistible... when viewers tune in hoping not to catch a brilliant new star in the ascent but rather to savor an array of ghastly disasters, people who have no more business singing in public than your Aunt Minnie but who audition for the competition anyway.

When the show started, this aspect of it seemed awfully mean-spirited -- humiliation television, cruelty as entertainment -- but the program is such a familiar part of pop culture now that all contestants have to be aware of what they're getting into -- and in fact, some try to be even worse than they really are, feigning pain but reveling in the attention when assailed.

He could have left it at that, of course, but since he's writing for the Washington Post he has to reach for some broader cultural meaning in even a low-rent phenomenon like "American Idol". Otherwise, why would a luminary like himself waste any time on it? So he settles on the notion that the show is telling us something important about Americans:

(T)he show arguably celebrates something else: American Self-Delusion. Many of the most truly terrible performers do appear oblivious to their lack of talent. They become indignant when jettisoned and assume the judges are tone-deaf, have tin ears, or in Cowell's case, that they're just mean and jealous.
Anyone who has ever witnessed a British music hall performance or a French mime act or any sort of Japanese pop star might venture to suggest that self-delusion is more probably a function of human nature than national identity, but such an argument is beside the point. What's really going on here is that Shales is building up to a Tourette's moment. His very next sentence is a kind of seizure:

"Idol" may represent American self-delusion at its most benign, whereas current foreign policy may represent it at its most arrogant.

 "American Idol" is somehow informing us about Bush foreign policy??!! Well, that should be a mighty interesting little disquisition. The reader can hardly wait to see where this is going. But it's not going anywhere. The Tourette's moment has come and gone, and the resolution of any possible idea buried in the writer's head is preempted with a single word. "Whatever." Thus continues Shales:

Whatever, it really is more than vaudeville rising from the dead (television having been the coffin it was buried in). "Idol" spotlights only singers -- not the full range of performance other amateur hours have presented -- but seems no less significant for that, mainly because such vaudeville staples as comedy and dance teams have become largely extinct.

Now we're back to vaudeville, the original point of entry to the subject, and the critic moves into his wrap-up without further reference to his one-sentence fit.

About 20 years ago, someone gave this guy a Pulitzer Prize, which hints at the possibility that he may not be a complete idiot, but one has to wonder. Somewhere between writing and publication there is usually a step called Reading Over What You Have Written. Does this weird new form of Tourette's conceal its existence from the sufferer? Does Shales read his moronic non-sequitur with something like pride? Or is he simply as impotent to edit it out as he was to avoid writing it in the first place, regardless of the intense embarrassment created by his condition?

These are deep waters, and I think it's time medical professionals applied themselves to the challenge of understanding and treating this disease. Before it spreads. Much farther.

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