Saturday, May 22, 2004
The Day After Tomorrow
Tornadoes are going to
destroy Los Angeles
going to discuss this movie the day after tomorrow.
Friday, May 21, 2004
Speaks Out! (click here)
What's gotten into the Speaker Guy all of a sudden? For years we get
hardly a peep from him as Daschle and Kennedy and McDermott and
Schirmer and Rangel scorch the President and Republicans in general for
everything under the sun. Then, within the space of just a few days, he
takes on both McCain and Pelosi.
First, he lit into the Senior Panderer from Arizona:
Asked Wednesday about McCain's
Hastert, who was rejected for military service because of a bad
shoulder, first joked: "Who? Where's he from? A Republican?"
Then, more seriously, he said: "If you
want to see sacrifice, John McCain ought to visit our young men and
women at Walter Reed and Bethesda (two Washington area military
hospitals). There's the sacrifice in this country. We're trying to make
sure that they have the ability to fight this war, that they have the
wherewithal to be able to do it. And at the same time, we have to react
to keep this country strong not only militarily but economically. We
want to be able to have the flexibility to do it. That's my reply to
And here's what he had to say about Pelosi's
on the President:
House Speaker Dennis
Hastert, R-Ill., said
Pelosi "has the right to disagree with President Bush.''
"But her comments
president's competence cross the line,
'' Hastert said. "Was it incompetence that put Saddam Hussein in jail?
Was it incompetence that disbanded the Taliban? Was it incompetence
that spurred the fastest economic growth rate in 20 years? Was it
incompetence that created the highest home ownership rate in history?''
We doubt that he'll choose to go another
round with McCain, but this is quite a lot of progress, considering
what we said about him in Shuteye Nation back in 2000:
The Speaker Guy. The
second most powerful man in the United States of Ameria, which means
we must be talking about, uh, uh...
Is it Humbert? Hissifit? Uh, sorry, can't think of it just now. If you
find out, please let us know.
So we finally know his name, but we
still can't figure out what's behind this unprecedented bravery. Is it
Wheaties? Steroids? Or is it just that all the screaming and shrieking
from the anti-Bush crowd interrupted his four-year nap? We'll let you
know if we find out anything, but we're pretty confident that any show
of guts by Republicans in Congress must be an aberration, not a trend.
THE ISLAMIC CHALLENGE
Over at Target Blank, David Scribner has published a neat little essay
in response to a challenge from Osama Bin Laden. His line of argument
is worth reading in toto, but his conclusion should whet the appetite:
I am left with a feeling in my gut
that, in order to defeat militant
Islam, it is only necessary to read the Koran. A lot. Out loud.
Having tried this particular exercise, I tend to agree.
Thursday, May 20, 2004
TWISTING IN THE WIND
You're trailing in the polls
your approval rating's at an all-time low
, the mass media
are after your head
opponent is wooing members of your own party to be his running
, conservatives are sitting on their hands
there's another nasty book
out about you, and there's a new scandal photo
out of Iraq every single day. What can you do but... dance
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
There is something I call the invisible parenthetical. It shows up most
often in election analysis, though not exclusively. It also makes
intermittent appearances in assessments of the Iraq War. Its purpose is
to signify that can of worms which remains stubbornly unopened. There's
a good example in Tony
's latest column:
We have the strength — military,
economic, cultural, diplomatic, (dare
I include the strength of our religious faith, also?) — to persist
around the world unto victory — for generations if necessary.
But all this potential capacity for victory can only be
brought into full being by a sustained act of collective will. It is
heartbreaking, though no longer perplexing, that the president's
political and media opposition want the president's defeat more than
America's victory. But that is the price we must pay for living in a
free country. (Sedition laws almost surely would be found
unconstitutional, currently — although things may change after the next
terrorist attack in America.)
It's the second parenthetical we're concerned with here, the one that
alludes to the radical change in circumstances represented by another
9/11, or larger, attack. Blankley's diction differs from most in that
he doesn't use the word 'if'; it's clear he has no doubt that it's
coming, and the only question is when. Whether we admit it or not, I
believe most of us agree with this gloomy prediction. We know that our
borders are still porous, the INS still can't keep track of all those
expired student visas, and increasingly, the various Islamo-fascist
terror plots in other parts of the world are reported to involve the
supposedly nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. Was it the mass
media's deliberate intention or our collective turning away that caused
the bomb plot in Jordan to disappear so quickly from public view? A
plan to kill as many as 80,000 people with explosives and chemical
agents -- does this not merit our interest?
That's why I call it the invisible parenthetical. It's there in plain
sight, the asterisk that says everything we're thinking about right now
could be rendered void in a single moment, but we're not going to think
Politicians and pundits put it in almost ritually, as if they were
knocking wood to keep bad luck away, but the ballooning dimensions of
horror that live inside the mention are closed off from scrutiny by
But I have another name for it too: the presidential parenthetical.
From this perspective, it's the clearest indication of just how far
away most of us are from seeing the world situation the way President
Bush has to see it. For him the "next attack" can be no aside or sotte
voce appendix. It is, in many respects, the only topic of importance.
We don't like to imagine, but he has to imagine, the reality and the
cascading consequences of an attack that kills 80,000 Americans.
What happens on that day? Compared to its impact 9/11 will be seen in
hindsight as only a ripple, a warning not heeded. There won't be space
in 10 years of New York Times editions to honor the dead with
individual eulogies. Panic and the interdependencies of technological
infrastructure will plunge the United States, and the world, into an
instant economic depression.. If such an event were to happen the day
after tomorrow or the day after a month from now, what would become of
all our earnest editorializing about Abu Ghraib, the role of the U.N.,
the shocking $25 billion overrun in occupation costs, the need to win
hearts and minds in the 'moderate' Muslim world, the dangers of the
patriot act, the disputed basis of the war in Iraq, the jobless
recovery, gas prices, the 9/11 commission report, and Bush's attendance record in
the National Guard?
All would be swept away. We would confront images of death so
widespread that almost everyone in the country would know one of the
victims personally. A major city would be paralyzed, gripped in a
sudden crisis of survival as water, electricity, food, and medical care
became unavailable for hundreds of thousands of citizens. The president
would confront a near universal demand for revenge on a massive,
nuclear scale. Pundits who are at this moment writing sober columns
about the need for Rumsfeld's dismissal will propose lists of targets
-- Mecca, Medina, Damascus -- requiring immediate annihilation. Those
who continue to oppose self defense on the basis that America
somehow deserves the wrath of dark age fanatics (there will be some,
and you can meet them today at Moveon.org and
Democraticunderground.com) (but notice who's parenthetical now) will be
reviled and persecuted by people who once marched with them in anti-war
demonstrations. The editorial columns of newspapers will bulge with
indignant outcries about why it is taking so long to retaliate, to seal
our borders, to clamp down on the Arab autocracies who are breeding
mass murderers with impunity. And when the evidence indicates that the
plot was hatched and harbored in Iran (Syria), the chattering experts
will demand to know why nothing was done before it was too late.
Does this day of transformation seem far-fetched? Of course it doesn't.
We the people just don't want to think about it. Maybe we can't think
about it. But the President of the United States has to think about it.
It is already real to him. He experienced 9/11 from the perspective
that none of us has had, as the one who is responsible for leading the
country through the mess. He knows what that is like, which is why we
can demean his intelligence all we want to in our hubris; the truth is,
in this respect, he is the only
person among us right now. He knows that every
sacrifice is worth making to prevent that impending horrific day from
coming. He knows that America the Free is impossible to defend through
sheer defense. That's why he took the fight to the terrorists at once
and why it doesn't matter which reason he picked for taking out Saddam.
He fought in Iraq the way the allies fought in North Africa in 1942,
because it was a way to engage the enemy right now. He knows it doesn't
matter if the Europeans whine and splutter because they will wail with
misery after the economic crash caused by mass death in the land of the
What does he see that we don't? Body bags. Thousands upon
thousands, if not millions, of the slippery black lozenges that
used to be mothers, fathers, children, marines, airmen, and
seamen, bags filled and buried on his watch in such numbers that the
casualties we are experiencing now seem not reckless but prefatory, the
scattered shots of the phony war in the days before blitzkrieg awakened
a sleeping nation.
We must try to see those body bags too. If we can't, all our
convictions about what's right, what's wrong, what's important, what
isn't, are likely to be wrong. Dead wrong.
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
JOBS AND SUCH
of our faithful readers has written in to ask InstaPunk to say a few
words about the economy. The Democrats keep talking about how bad the
economy is, he notes, even though the economy is doing well by most
measures. And they're hammering George Bush every day about all the
jobs that have been lost. What, he wonders, does InstaPunk think about
Well, InstaPunk laughs whenever a politician uses the word "I" and the
term "create jobs" in the same sentence. What images come to mind when
John Kerry intones, "I will create 20 million new jobs in
eight years"? A Hollywood montage of Kerry in a hardhat digging the
first shovelful of earth in a new dam project, Kerry bent over
blueprints of a new supertanker at the shipyard, Kerry in a surgical
mask supervising the manufacture of the newest and fastest
microprocessor yet, Kerry in a straw hat piloting a John Deere tractor
in the fields of Iowa, Kerry with his thinking cap on, devising the
next high technology industry that will fuel years of economic growth...
It's all ridiculous. Presidents don't create jobs. They don't run the
economy. They have less power over it than the federal reserve chairman
does. They have a few tools they can use to try to influence the
economy, although most of these consist of asking congress to spend
more or less money, cut or raise taxes, and monkey with the minimum
wage. Beyond this, they can negotiate trade agreements and serve a
facilitating role in finding overseas markets for American business.
And that's about it.
Now let us consider all the things a president has no control over. He
can't do much , for example, about droughts, floods, earthquakes,
tornadoes, and other acts of God or demons. He can't do much about the
billions of good and bad decisions made by companies and entrepreneurs
in their day to day pursuit of prosperity. He also can't do much about
the global economy that everywhere impacts American business prospects.
He certainly can't do anything about the stagnant European economy,
which depresses the overseas opportunity for American business. The
Europeans work about 35 hours a week, show up about 200 days a year,
and make exorbitantly high wages so they can pay the exorbitantly high
taxes that pay for all the Europeans who don't work at all. On
top of this, the Europeans have a steeply declining birth rate. Their
economies aren't going to be growing anytime soon.
The president can't do anything about the boom and bust cycles of the
Asian economies, which are currently more bust than boom because they
tend to be chronically lacking in either natural resources (Japan,
Taiwan, Singapore) or capital (China, Phillipines, Malaysia).
He can't do much about the other American economies either. Canada is
locked into a socialist bureaucracy that spends money faster than
Canadians can earn it. Mexico's only economic strategy is sending all
its workers here, because there aren't any jobs at home. South America
suffers from European-style lethargy combined with the kind of
political stability one might expect from the Phillipines.
The old Soviet states still don't have any economies to speak of, just
gangsters and crude barter systems. They can't seem to do anything
about it. How could the American president?
And no one can do anything about Africa.
The biggest economic role played by a president of the United States is
to take the blame when things go south and to (try to) take credit when
things go well.
The funniest part of all of this is that everyone knows it. Every four
years, though, we go through this period of hysterical amnesia in which
we abandon common sense and converse gravely about how well or poorly
the president has "managed" the economy.
Bah. That's what InstaPunk says.
Monday, May 17, 2004
Two Peas in a Pod.
Black is the fashion color this year
at Cannes -- if your surname is Moore or Kerry.
Despite the fact that he has been largely discredited on both the right
and the left of the political spectrum, Michael Moore (see the other
picture above) is drawing
and ahs for his latest filmic blunderbuss from the critics in
at the Cannes Film Festival. A sample:
Even those skeptical of Moore, who has
drawn criticism that he
skews the truth to fit his arguments, were impressed.
``I have a problematic relationship with some of Michael Moore's
work,'' said James Rocchi, film critic for DVD rental company
Netflix, saying he found Moore too smug and stunt-driven in the
past. ``There's no such job as a standup journalist.''
Yet in ``Fahrenheit 9/11,'' Moore presents powerful segments
about losses on both sides of the Iraq war and the grief of
American and Iraqi families, Rocchi said.
``This film is at its best when it is most direct and speaks
from the heart, when it shows lives torn apart,'' Rocchi said.
Maybe there's something special in the air
at the French
Riviera that sunders men from their judgment and insight. Or maybe it's
more pedestrian than that: too much eye candy simply rots the higher
processing functions of the brain.
At any rate, it's time for a reminder about Michael Moore. His Lowness
has not merely been criticized in the past. He has been taken apart,
exposed as a fraudulent documentarian, and proven a vicious slanderer.
has found egregious errors and misrepresentations in his written works.
And a law professor named David T. Hardy
deconstructed Moore's malefic sleight of hand in film works such
as Bowling for Columbine
has also undertaken a dispassionate analysis of the pathological nature
of Moore's personality
allowing readers to decide for themselves whether Moore is a malignant
narcissist or a full blown sociopath.
We're not going to acknowledge Moore every time he raises his hand for
more attention. But from time to time we will repost these links
because no one should make the mistake of assuming that we're dealing
with a garden variety leftist here. We're dealing with someone who may
be purely evil. We do assume that Professor Hardy will continue with
his excellent work
Sunday, May 16, 2004
The Philly Flyer
The one-eyed terminator from Philadelphia ices the competition at
HORSE TIME. Philadelphia
claims him, but so does Salem County, New Jersey. He lived here before
he began his racing career. Now it looks as if the whole country is ready to
claim him. The Associated
His victory in the Kentucky Derby was merely impressive. But
his triumph in the Preakness Stakes was the horse racing equivalent of
a one-punch knockout.
A small colt of humble origins, unbeaten Smarty Jones cast himself
as a possible great when he blew away his rivals in yesterday's 1900m Preakness
to win by a race-record 11 1/2 lengths over Rock Hard Ten before a record
crowd of 112,668.
Next stop the Belmont Stakes on June 6, when he will be poised to become
only the 12th Triple Crown winner and first since Affirmed pulled off a
sweep in 1978. Not bad for a horse who knocked himself unconscious, and
nearly lost his life, when he bashed his head into the starting gate before
running in his first race.
Now he's eight-for-eight and on the cusp of joining racing's legends.
There's also this eerie quote in the Chicago
Said Servis: ''You know, I saw an interview where Billy Turner
[the trainer of Seattle Slew] said that as the Triple Crown [sequence]
went on, he noticed an incredible transformation in his horse as he approached
the paddock before these races. It was almost as if the horse was transforming
himself into something incredible, something fantastic. I looked at Smarty
today and that's what I sensed. For the first time, I really felt I was
witnessing what Billy was talking about.''
All of this makes Smarty Jones the equine equivalent of a South Street
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