Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
June 29, 2007 - June 22, 2007

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

uh, nice start, but...

GETTING BY. We don't want to be a broken record. We don't want to be a broken record. We don't want to be a broken record, but replacing Andrew Card is nothing more than a promising start. What's needed immediately if not sooner, first and foremost, as the Number One top priority (and did we mention right away?) is a completely new communication staff. Utterly. Entirely. New. Maybe people who have some experience at communicating in governance rather than, say, airline corporations or agricultural conglomerates. You know, people who understand that well paid professionals whose job titles include the word 'communications' have a duty to inform and persuade the electorate, cold-cock agenda-driven journalists and their (mis)leading questions, defend key policies against slander and demagoguery, expose partisan lies, make the necessary arguments for change and perseverance, explain complex ideas, herd the braindead housecats of your party's legislators into a solid voting bloc, and advise the President about how to respond to the ceaseless malignant attacks on his character, record, and intentions. You know, communicate.

Next steps? Not to be a broken record, but we got specific about those quite a while back. Maybe you'd be willing to look at them now?

Whatever. There's nothing riding on your decision but the fate of the whole free world. And, of course, the 2006 elections if that makes it seem more important somehow.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Sean Penn plays with dolls.

MOVIE STARS. Life in these United States is sure amazing. Today, there's a report from that Sean Penn works out his political frustrations in a rather unusual way:

Hollywood activist SEAN PENN has a plastic doll of conservative US columnist ANN COULTER that he likes to abuse when angry. The Oscar-winner actor has hated Coulter ever since she blacklisted his director father LEO PENN in her book TREASON. And he takes out his frustrations with Coulter, who is a best-selling author, lawyer and television pundit, on the Barble-like doll. In an interview with The New Yorker magazine, Penn reveals, "We violate her. There are cigarette burns in some funny places. She's a pure snake-oil salesman. She doesn't believe a word she says."

More than little creepy, eh? But the last two sentences of the article clear everything up. If you're a highly moral liberal, the right way to treat people you believe to be insincere is to perform ritual torture on their effigies. Uh huh. Is this what we're supposed to consider enlightened tolerance on the part of the elite left? Yeah, probably.

Of course, Sean Penn's roots aren't really liberal. They're communist. His father, Leo Penn, was a member of the American Communist Party that has long been proven -- by Soviet records -- to be an agent of direct sedition and treason against the United States on behalf of Stalin. For what the Stalinists thought about tolerance vs. torture, look here.

Ann Coulter's apparent crime against nature was to remember Leo Penn's career and document it. That's not snake oil. It's merely a reminder of the kinds of things self-professed liberals are capable of doing in the name of ideology. Perhaps she shouldn't have mentioned it. After all, Sean has been giving us plenty of reminders of his own since 9/11. Like father, like son, right? Leo would have probably have known what to do with an Ann Coulter doll, too, in his heyday.

Regardless, it does seem that Sean needs some advice. Beating up dolls may incline one to think that there are no consequences for this kind of behavior. This may not be true with respect to Ann Coulter. She's at least as mean as the jolly fellows who write South Park, and look what they did to Isaac Hayes when he left the show. Even images and effigies have been known to fight back.

Violation? Cigarette burns in funny places? Sounds like a liberal...

Worse, there's more to Ann Coulter than a 12-inch talking doll. Take our word for it.

Put away the doll, Sean, and face the real deal.


Paul Ehrlich, David Gergen, and Francis Fukuyama

ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL. Today's InstaPundit links to a Charles Krauthammer column exposing ex-neocon Francis Fukuyama's convenient memory about how he initiated the conversion that has made him a darling of the anti-war left. Then the Blogfather proceeds to add a comment of his own and some updates:

(T)hat's just the beginning of a rather serious takedown. Not that his history of being wrong about, well, pretty much everything has hurt Fukuyama's career so far.

UPDATE: Ron Butler emails: "Francis Fukuyama, the Paul Ehrlich of geopolitics?"

Pretty much.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Byron Matthews emails: "His peculiar talent is to sense the intellectual tide and quickly ride it, which makes him the David Gergen of geopolitics."


This got me thinking about a perennial problem in public affairs and history. There are always highly credentialed people on the scene playing important roles in policy and decision making. In the positions they take, they are right or they are wrong, and it seems there's no good way of determining which is which until long after the fact. There can be great men who are wrong about important matters, but most often the leaders who are dead wrong are not great but small men, whose powers of vision, discernment, and judgment are simply inadequate for the challenges they face. How do we recognize the pygmies before they do us irreparable harm?

The haphazard lumping together of the three men cited in Instapundit's blog represents an interesting point of departure for examining this question. Of the three, only one has so far been exposed as a gnat squashed in the flywheel of history. While many conservatives have already consigned Gergen and Fukuyama to the limbo in which the midgets of human experience reside, it's still possible that they are right and we are wrong. It will probably take decades to obtain a clear verdict. But it was Paul Ehrlich who gave us the fantasy of the Population Bomb that would drive us to worldwide starvation and exhaustion of natural resources in his own lifetime. It didn't happen. With regard to western civilization, the converse has proven to be the real crisis -- diminishing birthrates that threaten to degrade Europe and the rest of the developed world into neo-barbarian enclaves of Islam. Thus, Ehrlich is now destined to be a minor footnote of the twentieth century.

What's interesting is that he does not conform to many of the criteria that might appear to be indicative of the Small Man. He did not work his way up to a position of power for which he was unqualified like, say, George McClellan. He did not ride the coattails of a popular/populist wave of sentiment that happened to be stupid, like a William Jennings Bryan (Fukuyama?). He did not subordinate common sense to a vain belief that he could rationally stage-manage irrational forces of history, like Neville Chamberlain. He did not succumb to simple weakness of vision, intellect, or character, like Jimmy Carter or von Hindenburg, And he did not merely feather his own nest as a clever operator in thrall to those who could grant him power and praise, like Albert Speer, Vidkun Quisling, or Aaron Burr (Gergen?).  In fact, he was learned, original, dedicated, and a tireless fighter for what he believed in. He began his public life as a mere college professor without any kind of official power and attracted considerable attention to ideas that turned out to be entirely erroneous.

Some might say this nominates him as a great man, but it does not. Great men do have great achievements, whether they also exhibit great weaknesses or not. Paul Ehrlich is, on the stage of history, a mediocrity, a failure, and a man singularly devoid of accomplishment. He was completely wrong about his life's work.

What can we learn from his example? Underdogs aren't necessarily right just because they're underdogs who succeed in creating a stir. Outstanding educational credentials don't necessarily translate to true brilliance. Integrity of intellect doesn't necessarily prove rightness. So how are we supposed to arm ourselves against the seemingly brilliant true believers, especially when they come into conflict with more ordinary-appearing men?

Using the Ehrlich model, for example, how might we have decided that Winston Churchill was a great man back in the days when he was a maverick Parliamentarian opposing the consensus foreign policy of all the countries of Europe because he saw a Chaplin-lookalike chancellor as a stake in the heart of civilization? Underdog, yes, but it doesn't matter. Beautifully, classically eloquent, yes, but it doesn't matter. Absolutely sincere, yes, but it doesn't matter. How might we have known that he was as right and implacable as Lincoln, who was in power, pitifully uneducated, and derided on all sides as a stumblebum political hack?

To get a clue, I think we need a new cultural term. Intellectually, philosophically, and artistically, we live in an age that has been named "post-modern."  The use of a prefix in a term that is supposed to characterize one or more generations of thought and aspiration is suggestive. It is suggestive of being at least one remove from what is genuinely original or vital. The post-moderns are "post" a lot of things -- post-Christian in faith, post-rational in thought, post-nationalist in politics, post-innovative in the arts. Their only philosophy is collage, a pasting together of discrepant styles, cultures, belief systems, and folk traditions in ways that can be taken apart intellectually but are considered inviolate with regard to their equivalence in moral terms. It is the time of the great leveling -- everything can and should be a patch in the tedious stitching of the human quilt.

When it comes to how leaders in all ages act, I believe post-modernism has always been with us in one key respect. This is that the complexity of contemporary life has (habitually) reached a point which can no longer be dominated by human will, either in the singular power of human individuality or the united spirit of a single community. It must be compromised to keep the impending catastrophe from doing us all in. We must, at last, begin to embrace the status quo, settle for less than our boldest dreams, initiate a process of self repudiation in recompense for the grievances of others, or even deny (or doubt) our own human right to survive. We become so supremely civilized we forget that survival is always at risk and always worth fighting for.

It's contemporary bias which blinds us to the fact that this is a recurring phase in human affairs. Every civilization has fallen, after all. Notably, the fall of every civilization has also been stage managed by small men in the grip of the syndrome I choose to call Post-Civilization. The fall always begins at the point when the supposedly wisest and smartest decide that the best days are behind, and the future can only be negotiated successfully be aiming lower, accepting more of the demands of opponents and enemies, and accepting the possibility that their most deeply held traditions may be flawed or defective. If a civilization were a human body, this would be a period of bleeding out, the slow numbing of limbs, the dimming of self-consciousness, the fading of strength, resignation to a death only faintly anticipated.

Most small men are simply flawed and, well, undersized, readily accepted by the hordes of like-minded comrades who are also self-righteously fixated on doing what seems easy right now. Sometimes, small men can even be courageous, as when they they defend the broken barricades of bad ideas their egos can't live without. The dangerous small men are those who possess enormous talent but approach their challenges with a post-civilization mentality. They seek to shepherd us gently into that good night where all journeys end. Their only ideal is the zero-sum game, because they are realistic, pragmatic, and wise. Paul Ehrlich is an archetype of Post-Civilization Man.

Great men come in all flavors and from all backgrounds. What distinguishes them is their vitality, their absolute determination in pursuing a better outcome than repeating the fancied high points of the past. They believe that the price we pay today and tomorrow to seek brand new accomplishments in the future is worth even their own humiliation and ruin. Their style is not to regulate or diminish, but to lead and inspire and challenge the very best in each of us, asking whatever sacrifice and pain are required to keep the human destiny looking up to the stars rather than down to the drab prospect of accommodation and retreat.

Now if you think that the small men really are wiser, name some names of the great small men who supervised the terminal stages of every great civilization.

I thought so.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Liberals We Love:
Jack Cafferty

Designated Driver of the Collaborator News Network

WISDOM. Lest anyone think Bill O'Reilley is the loudest braying donkey of cable news, we'd like to commend Jack Cafferty to your attention. He works for a little station in Atlanta that has about 4,500 regular viewers, which explains why you may never have heard of him. But that doesn't mean he isn't as big a crude, stupid boor as they come. His usual position is that he knows everything there is to know. For example, he single-handedly ended the recent controversy about whether the mainstream media are reporting too negatively on Iraq:

Cafferty's comments followed a discussion between Wolf Blitzer and CNN's Reliable Sources host Howard Kurtz on the subject of Iraq war coverage. He dismissed any question of the media's role in covering Iraq, and placed all the blame directly on "politicians":

"You know, I just have a question. I mean, part of the coverage, they don't like the coverage, maybe because we were sold a different ending to this story three years ago. We were told that we'd be embraced as conquering heroes; flower petals strewn in the soldiers' paths; a unity government would be formed; everything would be rosy; this, three years after the fact, the troops would be home. Well, it's not turning out that way, and if somebody came into New York City and blew up St. Patrick's Cathedral and in the resulting days they were finding 50 and 60 dead bodies a day on the streets of New York, you suppose the news media would cover it? You're damn right they would! This is nonsense, it's the media's fault and the news isn't good in Iraq. The news isn't good in Iraq. There's violence in Iraq. People are found dead every day in the streets of Baghdad. This didn't turn out the way the politicians told us it would. And it's our fault? I beg to differ..."

Before the segment ended, Blitzer applauded Cafferty for speaking his mind: "I love it, Jack, when you tell our viewers how you really feel about an issue, and you just did. Thanks very much."

It's not worth pointing out, we suppose, that the mission of journalists is not to wreak vengeance for disappointed personal expectations, but to communicate clear and accurate information to the public about what is happening right now. Nor would it elicit any thoughtful response from Mr. Cafferty, we're sure, to ask him why it is that both U.S. military personnel on the ground and Iraqi bloggers are among the most vocal in declaring that the U.S. mainstream media refuse to report many developments that could easily be interpreted as good news.

We won't list those here, because they are available in many locations throughout the blogosphere, and we've decided to follow Mr. Cafferty's lead in this post, ignoring the positive in favor of the negative because his network disappointed us so badly years ago by refusing to report the mass murders and rapes of the Saddam regime in exchange for palace access.

It's actually a pretty easy way to operate. For example, we researched Jack Cafferty's career in several places (here and here) and discovered the following.

Cafferty formerly co-anchored CNN's weekday morning broadcast, American Morning, but he doesn't anymore. Ratings? Now he just hosts a weekend show about money and does some stints of punditry with Wolf Blitzer. Prior to CNN, he spent half his career as a TV host and news reader for a local station in New York City. Before that he worked in small hick markets like Des Moines, Iowa, and Reno, Nevada. There's no indication in any of his bios that he ever saw the inside of a college, served in the military, wrote a book or newspaper column, or acquired any direct experience in foreign policy. His period of greatest fame was probably the immediate aftermath of a traffic accident in which his car ran down a bicycle and he pleaded to leaving the scene of an accident to avoid jail time. Still, he has won some awards over the years, including the usual self-congratulatory crap from the MSM, as well as a Third Place in the Media Research Council's 2005 DisHonors Awards and one of Hugh Hewitt's prestigious Nutter Awards. Frankly, to us, his career seems a hopeless quagmire.

Don't blame us, Jack. According to you, that's how journalism is supposed to be done.

Unless Tom Berenger has a better way.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Democrat Hall of Fame

Madeleine the Great

THE POTATOE. Every year about this time, the buzz starts and long forgotten Democrats come out of the woodwork to make odd speeches and publish weird books about a world that never existed. Average citizens are generally hurled into a state of alarm by such shenanigans, but that's because they don't know that it's just another election season at the Democrat Hall of Fame in Hyde Park, New York. MSM reporters convene on the first of April to vote on eligible nominees, who must have been out of office for at least five years before they can be considered for election to the Hall. As with baseball's hall of fame, it's usually the case that only two or three candidates are voted in each year, and this year presents a distinct challenge because it's the first year of eligibility for alumni of the Clinton administration. Bill, of course, is a dead cert for election in his first year of eligibility, but after that it gets complicated. Al Gore is eligible but is not on the ballot because he hasn't yet decided whether or not to make a giant fool of himself by running for the presidency a second time. That leaves a wide open window of opportunity for a handful of other candidates, who are doing everything possible to curry favor with the voters. Here's how the field is being handicapped by those in the know.

Mike McCurry. He was  the press secretary throughout the Clinton administration's fight against conviction during the impeachment trial in the Senate. Most say he's a lock to be voted in before his five years of eligibility run out, but not this year. He has been notably absent from party Bush-bashing forums, and that doesn't sit well with the party's news networks (CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, and CNN) and publications (NYT, WaPo, Time, Newsweek, etc). Although he bought a round of drinks last week at the monthly meeting of the Liberal Conspiracy Press Association, he did not receive an invitation to go fishing for stripers on Walter Cronkite's yacht. Not a good sign. Look for him to be snubbed in 2006.

Warren Christopher. Much beloved for his testosterone-free term as Secretary of State, Christopher was once considered likely to be voted into the Hall, but this is his final year of eligibility, and he has so far failed to deliver the major Bush-bashing speech or book that voters expect. It's reported that he has conducted a series of "in-depth negotiations" with NYT and WaPo editors to "discuss his qualifications" for the Hall, but his polite mention of the "possibility of forwarding the matter to the U.N.'s Appeasement Promulgation Council" is not being taken seriously by voters. Like sand through the hourglass, Christopher's chances appear to be running out.

William Cohen. A distinctly iffy candidate, Clinton Secretary of Defense Cohen is pinning his hopes for election on Democrat nostalgia for the days when terrorist attacks on the nation were met with dire threats and saber-rattling inaction. In recent months, Cohen has been conducting a quiet PR campaign with voters, consisting mostly of mailings, in which he reminds them via photos and newspaper clippings that he did nothing at all in the wake of the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya and on the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen. Insiders say there's enormous sympathy for Cohen, as well as admiration and genuine affection, but his chances for induction are "fatally compromised by the fact that he was once a Republican." Oh well.

Madeleine Albright. Long considered a dark horse for the Hall because of her dim intellect and slutty reputation (Caution: NSFW), Albright has been on the comeback trail for several years now. WaPo and NYT editors in particular are impressed by her willingness to bash Bush in public for conducting a foreign policy that defends the United States more than it does every tinpot dictator who has a few bucks to feed into the president's reelection campaign. While they've been persistently reluctant to endorse an aged bimbo whose IQ is noticeably in the special education category, her chances got a huge boost with the op-ed one of her secretaries wrote today for the  L.A. Times. An excerpt:

For years, the president has acted as if Al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein's followers and Iran's mullahs were parts of the same problem.

Yup. He has. The problem is called Islam. It's kind of a shame nobody noticed this problem during the eight years of the Clinton administration, but then again, that's an omission that's likely to make Madeleine Albright this year's slam dunk favorite to join Bill Clinton at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Hyde Park.

Congratulations, Maddie.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

House of Lords, Part Deux

A "highly credible public figure"

THE SEQUEL. Back in January, we suggested that the liberal universe is organized around an older cultural model than the Constitution of the United States, namely, the French concept of four estates: the nobility, the clergy, the peasants, and the press. The current version, we argued, regards the Democratic leadership as the nobility, secularist university faculties as the clergy, conservatives and dependent minorities as the peasantry, and the press, of course, is still the press. The specific context for our discussion was the Alito nomination to the Supreme Court, and we proposed that the Dems would like the judiciary to augment and supercede the Congress as a kind of House of Lords. (You can read the whole essay here, if you like, but do it later.)

Our consideration of the liberal nobility focused on the U.S. Senate, but there's another arena where one can see the anachronistic revival of a born aristocracy in action: Hollywood. Has anyone else noticed how many of the current stable of stars are descendants of other celebrities and show business moguls? In the old days, this was rarely the case, and the few exceptions proved the rule: Lon Chaney, Jr., followed directly in the footsteps of Lon Chaney, Sr.; Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., emulated the career of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., and, notably, the offspring of the illustrious Barrymore siblings -- John, Lionel, and Ethel -- fared poorly in their own attempts to light up movie marquees. And we suppose we should mention Frank Sinatra, Jr, Patrick Wayne, and Chris Mitchum. There. It's done.

But in the world-changing sixties, the worm turned. As with so many contemporary show business trends in the U.S., this one began with Jane Fonda, who parlayed her father's superstardom into a career, first as a semi-soft-porn bimbo in Barbarella and other forgettable films, then as a celebrity political activist and international movie star. After her, the deluge: Michael Douglas, son of Kirk Douglas; Alan Alda, son of Robert Alda; Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis; Katherine Ross, niece of Katherine Hepburn; Anjelica Huston,  daughter of actor and director John Huston; Rob Reiner, son of actor and producer Carl Reiner; Carrie Fisher, daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher; Margaux and Mariel Hemingway, granddaughters of Ernest Hemingway; Drew Barrymore, granddaughter of John Barrymore; Angelina Jolie, daughter of Jon Voight; Kiefer Sutherland, son of Donald Sutherland; Sean and Christopher Penn, sons of screenwriter Leo Penn; Isabella Rossellini, daughter of Ingrid Bergman; Gwyneth Paltrow, daughter of actress Blythe Danner; Miguel Ferrer, son of actor Jose Ferrer; Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen, sons of Martin Sheen; Sean Astin, son of Patty Duke and John Astin; George Clooney, nephew of singer and actress Rosemary Clooney; Nicholas Cage, nephew of director Francis Ford Coppola; Sigourney Weaver, daughter of producer Sylvester Weaver; Robert Downey, Jr., son of director Robert Downey, Sr.; Bridget Fonda, daughter of Peter Fonda and niece of Jane Fonda; Kate Hudson, daughter of Goldie Hawn; Freddie Prinze, Jr., son of comedian Freddie Prinze; Roseanna, Patricia, and David Arquette, grandchildren of comedian Cliff Arquette; Liv Tyler, daughter of rock star Steve Tyler; and probably others we'll remember later.

Of course, there are still plenty of Hollywood stars who come from nothing and nowhere, but surely there has been enough second and third generation stardom by now to make one wonder how much of show biz success is a function of real talent and how much is a function of connections and serendipity. Interestingly, there's very little of this multi-generation stardom to be found in the world's other great (and arguably greater) acting talent pool, the United Kingdom. The Redgrave and Mills girls are all pretty long in the tooth now, and Geraldine Chaplin hasn't made much of a splash since 1965's Dr. Zhivago. But isn't it the U.K. which is still clinging officially to the tradition of aristocracy by birth? What does it mean that Hollywood is beginning to resemble a community where titles are inherited things while we look in vain across the pond for a corresponding phenomenon in the land of kings, dukes, and earls?

Two attributes of the above list of stars are striking. First, despite their roots in the entertainment industry, an inordinate number of them have experienced deep personal and professional turmoil over the years. Various of them have been arrested, some repeatedly, for legal problems ranging from drug and alcohol abuse to assault. And it may seem priggish to point out that of the female aristocrats on the list, all but one have done nude scenes and most have simulated the sex act on screen -- priggish but nonetheless true (definitely NSFW). Yes, the Hollywood life is a fast life featuring plenty of temptations, and artists are notoriously flamboyant, but the personal lives of these privileged heirs to fame and fortune tend to be every bit as messy as those who enter the world of celebrity with no early preparation for the shock of stardom. Even the "artist" excuse becomes suspect in these circumstances. How many great writers and painters do you know of who are the sons or daughters of great writers or painters? No wonder actors refer so ostentatiously to their profession as a craft rather than an art. And even if you make every allowance for the unique stresses of celebrity, the irreducible fact that remains is this: these are not people who have grown up like most of us or who have lived lives anything like ours. They are a breed apart, a separate class in the world's most egalitarian democracy.

That's why the second striking attribute of this list is so striking: the percentage of second and third generation Hollywood aristocrats who are loudly and self-righteously hostile to Republicans on topics ranging from capitalism to social values to foreign policy. For some reason, they believe they are expert advocates for the needs and rights of ordinary people. Alan Alda is a sappy male feminist and bleeding heart. Rob Reiner hasn't found a leftwing cause he can't slobberingly endorse in every possible venue. Sean Penn has the nerve to visit Saddam's Iraq as if he somehow speaks for any sliver of ordinary American experience. Gwyneth Paltrow goes out of her way to disdain Americans and the American way of life in foreign interviews, as if she knew anything about either. George Clooney is a boorish leftwing ass who acts more like a candidate for office than a so-so actor with more ambition and connections than talent. Angelina Jolie is auditioning simultaneously for the  roles of Mother Theresa and secretary-general of the U.N. Michael Douglas has delusions of Democrat presidency almost as toxic as Martin Sheen's. And if you google their names, you'll find others on this list, including even the winsome Kate Hudson, who are eager participants and donors at Democrat fundraising (and Bush-bashing) galas.

Which brings us to Charlie Sheen, erstwhile addict of hookers and cocaine, who has just stepped into the spotlight to announce his conviction that the 9/11 attack was not planned by bin Laden or Islamist terrorists, but evil rightwingers in the camp of Bush and Cheney. The news article reporting this actually begins with this ridiculous statement:

Actor Charlie Sheen has joined a growing army of other highly credible public figures in questioning the official story of 9/11 and calling for a new independent investigation of the attack and the circumstances surrounding it.

Highly credible public figure? Charlie Sheen? An assertion so idiotic that it's proof-positive of our First Estate theory. But Bad Boy Charlie's choice of causes is a helpful insight into the true nature of lefty celebrity politics. Where have they gotten the majority of their education about world affairs, after all? From the movie scripts they've memorized and play-acted in. His first big role was in Platoon, where he learned about the Vietnam War and American foreign policy from the paranoid megalomaniac Oliver Stone (who is also memorable for having resurrected an absolutely discredited conspiracy theory about the JFK assassination). Charlie has starred in various other movies featuring wild conspiracy plots, including alien invasion and White House assassination intrigues. He has learned about the nearly flawless efficiency of his country's special forces units by starring in Navy SEALs. Why wouldn't it be credible to him that an intricate and profoundly evil conspiracy could be planned at the top of the national power structure and executed through its myriad phases and details in absolute secrecy? It happens in the movies all the time, and it's always the case -- on-screen, anyway -- that the malignant plotters would succeed easily if it weren't for the handsome hero who single-handedly undoes their dirty work.

But why would anyone -- especially the intellectuals of the news media -- expect us to regard an advocate like Charlie Sheen as credible? Because the press propagandists also belong to one of the anointed estates -- the Fourth -- and are so removed from the lives of the peasantry that they believe we are gullible enough to genuflect before any of the nation's true aristocrats, including a spoiled high-school dropout who hitched a glory ride on the back of his Dad's celebrity. We're supposed to forget that this particular noble family is headed by a patriarch who flunked his own college entrance exams and has yet come to believe somehow that he's the Nobel laureate PhD. President he plays on a TV show.

The sad fact is that the years-old 9/11 conspiracy theories are being deliberately revived right now as part of the general effort to administer a coup de grace to the Bush presidency. Celebrity endorsement is a necessary vehicle for this scheme because time has not been friendly to the conspiracy theorists. Only a determined idiot could sign on to all that's left of their witches' brew of contextless claims. How, for example, do you think Charlie acquired his expertise in the gospel of WTC treachery? By watching a movie, of course, in this case one of the numerous flash documentaries that appear and reappear in viral persistence on the Internet. Here's one called Loose Change, which is archetypally ominous in tone, inconsistent with multifariously documented facts, and blatantly self-contradictory in its own terms. And if you can't discern these defects by watching, here's what even a dedicated 9/11 conspiracy theorist has to say about the movie.

While it is still possible to find thousands -- or even hundreds of thousands -- of web pages devoted to crackpot fictions about 9/11, the more educated of the conspiracists have been waging a long war of attrition against the transparent nonsense of films like Loose Change for a couple years now. Their own belief in conspiracy has been reduced to one point of contention -- the way the twin towers and Building 7 fell. Their understanding of physics is insufficient to imagine how the towers could collapse at the speed of freefall, because they keep seeing the process as an incremental series of floor-to-floor collapses (akin to the fallacy of Zeno's Arrow), which, by their accounting, would require ten seconds or more to complete.

Seriously, that's all that's left of the dozens of errata which have been compiled into the bizarre story that lets bin Laden and al Qaida off the hook. And anyone who has the wit to perceive that the collapse of the towers was not an incremental affair, but a wave of collapse that fed instantaneously from the level of the fire down to the foundations without resistance will see that, in truth, there's really nothing left of this whole tired tantrum of hateful paranoia.

And shouldn't it be easier to understand a few elementary aspects of materials and engineering than to concoct an explanation for why hijacked airliners were roped into the conspiracy for window-dressing when the real damage was always going to be done by planted explosives? Terrorists can learn to implode a building as easily, if not more so, than they can learn to steer airliners into skyscrapers. But it's not nearly as good cinematically, even if it reduces the complexity (and risk) of the plotting by about 99 percent.

Maybe that's why it's become time to call on Hollywood's second-generation morons to concoct the explanation for them, some combination of evil corporate executives and fascist warlords who went into business for themselves after James Bond finally dismantled S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Sound good? Maybe we could get John Williams to write the score.

And if Charlie Sheen isn't enough of an authority to convince all us peasants, perhaps they'll dig up some second generation Hollywood duchess to persuade us by holding a topless press conference catered by George Soros and CAIR. That ought to do the trick. We just love being lectured to by naked noblewomen. As long as we can see the press conference on high-def TV.

Thank God for Democrats. They're so damned silly it takes your breath away.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Unmanliness is the Answer?

SACRED TRUTHS. A woman named Ruth Marcus has figured out how to run the world. She's written a critique of a Harvard professor's book which suggests that manliness is a key to leadership. Her conclusion?

Mansfield writes that he wants to "convince skeptical readers -- above all, educated women" -- that "irrational manliness deserves to be endorsed by reason." Sorry, professor: You lose. What this country could use is a little less manliness -- and a little more of what you would describe as womanly qualities: restraint, introspection, a desire for consensus, maybe even a touch of self-doubt.

We haven't read Mansfield's book yet, and it's possible we won't ever. Our perception is that a Harvard professor of Government doesn't know about the real qualities of manliness any more than a Washington Post feminist does. We'll confine ourselves to commenting on her prescription for a wise administration of the affairs of the United States and the world.

Except for this significant quibble about the Mansfield quote Marcus cites: "irrational manliness deserves to be endorsed by reason." If this is an accurate quote, it's devoid of context and therefore meaningless. Still, it's worth pointing out that the subject of the sentence is absurd, an oxymoron that must be exposed. Manliness is not irrational. It has a moral component at its core -- that a man should behave in ways that embody courage, resolve, personal responsibility, dignity, and fairness -- which explicitly subordinates mere maleness to the guidance of reason. As an ideal of civilization, manliness governs emotion. It does not need to be endorsed by reason because it is already infused with reason.

Ruth Marcus

Now we're ready to tackle Ms. Marcus, who like most of her generation confuses manliness with the superficial macho that is in many ways its opposite. Macho starts fights to show off; manliness confines aggression to the situations that reasonably require it. Macho tailors its behavior to the audience; manliness dictates the same behavior in all company and in solitude. Macho is about ego; manliness is about character.

This error of understanding clearly has affected Ms. Marcus's list of supposed womanly qualities. The first two, restraint and introspection, are historically the province of men more than women. Restraint is a quality that becomes more important as one ascends the scale of strength and power. The most dangerous have the greatest obligation to turn the other cheek. Conversely, it is those who perceive themselves to be weak who frequently abandon restraint and indulge in explosive and destructive emotion. Introspection is more characteristic of those who make their own decisions in life without always seeking a consensus, and it is more likely to become a habit with those who do not have the option of presenting a painted face to the world.

With respect to consensus, I grant that women seek it more than men do. Whether this represents a better approach to decision-making is open to serious question. It is distinctly incompatible with manliness, because it is the first refuge of those who desire not to be held personally accountable for the consequences of their actions. It is also generally fatal to long-term resolve, because it so often results in half-baked plans that have only been half thought through, and it's far easier to give up by consensus than to soldier through to the end of a difficult course of action.

Self-doubt is part of the human condition and is never a virtue simply because it exists. The virtue accrues to those who can withstand self-doubt to complete an important task, even if it means finding reserves of strength and faith that may not have been known to be available.

What's important about Ms. Marcus's list of virtues is the picture it paints of how she believes serious situations should be addressed -- with lots of talking, a timid approach to concrete action, a fuzzy chain of responsibility that lets everyone off the hook for ill consequences beforehand, and enough dithering and uncertainty in execution to ensure that every action plan will ultimately be terminated before it achieves its half-assed goals. Throughout, of course, there must be plenty of agonizing and considerable concern for the feelings of everyone involved.

This may be an ideal system for publishing a daily wad of yellow journalism, but it isn't remotely close to what is needed when thousands or millions of avowed enemies are actively trying to kill your people, wreck your cities, and impose a seventh century barbarian regime on the entire world while most of the world cowers in impotent consensus.

Ms. Marcus and her feminist colleagues may have succeeded in trans-gendering the west into a woman's world, as most contemporary social evidence seems to confirm, but how much of their woman's world will still be standing when the consensus decides it's safer to accept sharia than to shed any more blood fighting it? Not much.

But, then, I'm not a woman, so what do I know?

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