March 7, 2008 - February 29, 2008
Monday, February 12, 2007
Dixie Chicks, from left, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines,
and Sarah Jessica Parker, accepted the award
for best album of all
time with uncharacteristically few
political jibes. A class act.
. Every so often,
we like to look in on the Grammies
and try to solve the perennial mystery: why do they attract so much
attention? They treat almost every major genre of music -- classical,
jazz, rock, country, rap, Latin, world, et al -- as afterthoughts
and only get around
to honoring the true giants of music after they're
wheelchair-bound or dead. Last night, for example, they slipped in --
between endless nominations in various pop categories -- lifetime
achievement awards for Maria Callas (30 years dead) and the Doors (Jim
Morrison is 35 years dead). We haven't looked it up, but our bet would
be that neither of these superstar acts got a Grammy when they were
alive. Still, we enjoyed their unexpected duet performance of "Break on
Through," unless that was a couple of other guys. Even if it was, we
thought it rocked.
Once you accept that the Grammies are strictly about pop music, though,
it's easy to sit back and gape at all the pretty-boy singers and
half-dressed babes making love to their microphones. We got to see
Justin Timberlake perform big numbers, twice, and we have to admit the
tuxedo-with-huge-white-sneakers look is killer. Everywhere else you
looked, there were nice big breasts barely contained by clingy fabric.
There were some beautiful hips on display, too, from the monumental
Michelangelo curves of Beyonce's lower half to the perpetual motion
machine called Shakira, who probably precipitated some serious tremors
along the San Andreas fault. If she didn't, Christina Aguilera did,
with a performance so loud it must also have broken large amounts of
glassware throughout Southern California. It was an unusual treat
to hear the Dixie Chicks's pledge of allegiance to themselves, recited
with enough woeful chirps to remind us of three crickets sad about
getting stepped on in a redneck bar. Very moving. And did we mention
Carrie Underwood? We hope so, because she's, well, mentionable. She's
the American Idol, you know. Several of her dresses were quite pretty,
but one looked like they had forgotten to sew on the bottom half of her
skirt to cover up that slip. She's definitely getting the hang of the
pop star thing, though. As is Al Gore. But he does need to check with
Justin Timberlake about getting bigger sneakers.
On the other hand, the musical performances were exceptionally good.
This year, they rounded up a bunch of old guys
who know how to sing real songs and play real musical instruments -- The
Police, Smoky Robinson, Nicole Richie's dad, and the Red Hot Chili
Peppers. Stevie Wonder introduced three newcomers who also knew how to
sing and play so they could be pretty much ignored in the big awards
later on, which have everything to do with pop, meaning popular,
which in this particular year means politically correct, and not much
to do with anything else.
We can't remember all of them, but here are the most important award
categories and winners:
Best Mumbled Audio Recording of an
Anti-Semitic Book by an Author Who Was Once a Miserably Incompetent
President. Jimmy Carter.
Best Attack on a Fox News Talk Show Host by a Haute-Couture Corporatist
Rapper Who Lost a Big Endorsement Contract Because of That Bastard Bill
Best Song Written by a Hired Songwriter for a Girl Band That's Really
Really Pissed About Getting Criticized for Jeering at the President in
Concerts Overseas. Dan Wilson.
Best Song Recorded by a a Girl Band That's Really Really Pissed About
Getting Criticized for Jeering at the President in Concerts Overseas. The Dixie Chicks.
Best Country Album Containing a Song Recorded by a a Girl Band That's
Really Really Pissed About Getting Criticized for Jeering at the
President in Concerts Overseas. The
Best Album of the Year Containing a Song Recorded by a a Girl Band
That's Really Really Pissed
About Getting Criticized for Jeering at the President in Concerts
Overseas. The Dixie Chicks.
Best Album in the Entire History of Music Recorded by a a Girl Band
That's Really Really Pissed
About Getting Criticized for Jeering at the President in Concerts
Overseas. The Dixie Chicks.
And did we mention Joan Baez? We hope not. Because she is absolutely,
completely unmentionable. Although one of us thought her dress was
For a change.
Not surprisingly, La Malkin
checked out the Grammies, too.
Courtesy of a tip from Wuzzadem, here's a truly hilarious video of the
song the Dixie Chicks should
have performed last night:
If you liked it, send some "get well soon" cheer to Wuzzadem
. (Scroll down the
left-hand column at his site for contact information.) He's
as usual, but we can be sure there's real pain involved.
LAND OF VICTIMS
. I generally know when to let a subject go, but I
also once accepted the advice that a comment worth responding to is a
blog entry worth writing. So I decided to respond to this whole comment
from a gentleman named Ray
, who remains angry and embittered about my challenge
supporting Mitt Romney despite my non-satiric explanation
motives. As I contemplated what he wrote, it seemed an excellent
opportunity to specify what I have addressed only generally about the
mistakes Mormon apologists are making. I haven't omitted any of Mr.
Swanson's words. Here they are, in full, with my thoughts:
If you want to call Mitt Romney an
untrustworthy idiot, you should come up with some specific data to
support such an assertion. He was trustworthy and smart in turning
around the 2002 Winter Olympics, making it successful in every way,
including being profitable enough to provide permanent endowments to
support the continued operation of the Olympic venues for the benefit
of the people of Utah. He has proven trustoworthy and smart as governor
fo [sic[ Massachusetts. He proved trustworthy and smart as the head of
various businesses, rescuing companies that were going under and making
them profitable employers of thousands of people.
Good opening salvo for an armored assault. But try stating this as a
positive argument for Romney rather than as an aggrieved and reflexive
attack on those who might be skeptical.
If it boils down to "Romney is Mormon,
therefore he must be untrustworthy and dumb", even if you throw out
such a statement simply to be provocative, it is nevertheless offensive
and demonstrates carelessness not only about the feelings of millions
There is no right in the Constitution not to be offended by what
various people might say. I'm offended all the time by what leftist
totalitarians say about the United States, what liberals say about
conservatives, what hard-line feminists say about men, what black
race-baiters say about white people, what atheists and Islamists say
about Christians, what homosexuals say about heterosexuals, what Global Warming hysterics say about skeptics of
the latest scientific permutation of original sin, and what
"pro-choice" activists say about fetuses. I nevertheless accept that if
those who disagree with me manage to hurt my feelings, they are
committing no crime. With respect to my feelings, they are not even
committing a sin. All too often, people use injured feelings as an
excuse for not thinking. I have always been scornful of George Bernard
Shaw's wisecrack that he would have had a higher opinion of Jesus
Christ if, in the gospels, He had ever exhorted people to think. That
is precisely the reason for the parables, which are not edicts but
invitations to think. (Shaw was an 'arrogant twit' on this point.)
Similarly, I invite you to think rather than emote like some irritated
...but also a total ignorance of how
precisely such casual prejudice led to the murder of good Mormons,
including Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, and the forced exile of
thousands of people from their homes, first in Missouri and then in
Illinois. Thinking that you can throw out such bigotry in the interest
of your own entertainment places you in the camp of those who murdered
Mormons at Hauns Mill, Missouri. It places you with the Mormon-haters
who sent the US Army against Utah in 1857, and who confiscated all
Church property and denied Mormons the right to vote and serve on
juries in the 1880s.
No, it doesn't. There's a vast difference between provocative speech
and murder. Casual prejudice doesn't come marching up to the door with a bucket of tar and feathers. It just says things you don't like and have no right -- moral or legal -- to suppress. If you disagree, then you shouldn't be backing a Republican
candidate at all, but one of the presumptive juvenile tyrants at
Berkeley who want to make unwelcome speech a hate crime and prosecute
social heretics for what they think rather than what they do. Is that
part of your faith? Do you
really want to make me nervous about your religion? Keep going.
Your ignorant bigotry places you in the
camp of those who cried out for the summary imprisonment without trial
of 100,000 innocent American citizens of Japanese ancestry for three
years during World War II. Your ignorant bigotry places you in the camp
of the jihadists who call for the extermination of all Jews and the
annihilation of Israel.
No, it doesn't. Making fun of people -- any people -- is not the same
as seeking to deprive them of freedom or life. Indeed, it is the
opposite. Jokes are the safety valve of civilized societies that keeps
minor resentments from ballooning into fanatical hatreds. If I'm wrong,
show me any
anecdote from Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, Baathist Iraq, Kim Jong Il's
Korea, Castro's Cuba, or Khomeini's Iran comparable to this exchange
between British parliamentary rivals Nancy Astor and Winston Churchill:
ASTOR. If you were my husband, I'd poison your coffee.
CHURCHILL. If you were my wife, I'd drink it.
People who actually work with Mormons
know that they are at least as well educated as the general American
populace, and that the more educated a Mormon is, the more dedicated he
tends to be to his faith. They are trusted to be doctors and attorneys
and professors and business leaders throughout America. They compete
well in the academic environments of universities across America. For
example, until recently a Mormon, Kim B. Clark, headed the Harvard
Business School. Among the leading 15 Mormon leaders, several of them
have PhDs and JDs and MDs, one is a nuclear engineer, and several have
been presidents of colleges and universities and were respected in that
capacity among their academic peers before assuming Church leadership
Tedious name-dropping. And counter-productive. It tends to reinforce
the widespread notion that Mormons have a hard time distinguishing
between real goodness and more superficial attainments like success,
wealth, authority, and status. If I were really being mean, I could
invite you to reread this paragraph making the following substitutions:
1) for "Mormons," "National Socialists;" 2) for "American," "German;"
3) for "Harvard," "Heidelberg," 4) for "America," "Germany;" 5)
and for "faith" and "Church," "Party." Would it still sound like a
perfect resume? Not that I'm asking.
If your reasoning is that anyone who
believes something that is "impossible" is an idiot, then every atheist
is in just that category, because their [sic] is simply no hint of any
scientific explanation for how life started.
Every hypothesis comes down to a lot of hand-waving and simple
blind faith that nature, unassisted, can create living cells--with DNA
and their complex chemical machinery--out of random pieces of
non-living matter. Richard Dawkins just skips that part and talks about
Darwinian evolution, hoping you won't notice that he hasn't provided
any explanation whatsoever for the generation of living cells, which
have to exist already before evolution can work. The National Science
Foundation web page on evolution blabs on about their [sic] being several
alternate hypotheses, but it doesn't set them out nor admit that none
of them rises beyond mere speculation and "imagine this". The simplest
living cell is a factory that can reproduce itself. Mankind hasn't been
able to build anything that capable, that can find raw materials in the
environment, and obtain its own energy, and make multiple duplicates of
itself, that contains not only the machinery but also the complete
instructions for how to build and operate itself. Darwin lived in a
time when spontaneous generation had not yet been disproven by Pasteur.
We know far too much about chemistry and DNA to ignore the question of
how cells came into being in the first place. Scientists who gloss over
this unanswered question are ignorant or hypocritical or
self-deceptive. Their confidence that someday science will figure it
out is nothing but pure faith, not reason. Ergo, atheists believe in
something that is simply, on known scientific principles, impossible.
They are therefore just as "dumb" as those who believe in things which
are typically classified as "religious" in nature but miraculous, such
as the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
Sorry for reducing your brilliant argument against atheism and
evolution to microfiche, but it's completely irrelevant here.
(Instapunk has gotten into enough trouble with atheists and
evolutionists in the past.) There's a more important point that most of
the Mormon spokespeople in the comments have quite failed to perceive.
Not all infinities are created equal. For example, the infinite set of
rational numbers is larger than the infinite set of integers. In the
same way, not all impossibilities
improbabilities are created equal. It may seem improbable that a divine
incarnation named Jesus Christ rose from the dead after being executed
by the Roman governor of Judea, but we do not not have to further
diminish this probability by questioning whether there was a Roman
Empire, a captive state called Judea, a city called Jerusalem, a town
called Bethlehem, a place called Nazareth, a sea called Galilee, a
Greek language in which the gospels were written, a Latin language in
which the memory and meaning of the improbable events were translated
into doctrine and creed, or a process of recording scripture that did
not involve the use of magical, disappearing technologies.
Strangely enough, some of the other Mormon debaters have even dared to
frame the improbability of Christ's immaculate conception and
resurrection as an implicit accusation against those who question the legitimacy of Mormonism. I can't think of a worse line of
argument. A Mormon begins his series of improbable beliefs with an
acceptance of all
Testament improbabilities, then piles on top of them the improbabilities
of the Book of Mormon -- a civilization, language, history, and
technology for which there is no evidence of any kind
No, this does not mean that you are wrong. It does not mean that you
are crazy. It means that you constitute a tiny minority of the most
populous and influential religion of all time. Skepticism, distrust,
and even scorn from the limb out of which you grow as a twig are a
natural condition of your existence. There is probably no other country
in history in which the people of your faith could have survived
and prospered as they have here. Utah and the Mormon Tabernacle are a
purely American miracle. Now you even aspire to the highest office of
the nation that -- despite numerous bumps and scrapes did finally
accept your right to exist -- and it is your choice how you respond.
How do you choose? With a cynical presumption that no one else in the
land believes as deeply in their faith as you believe in yours, which
gives you the right to demand acquiescence, silence, and even obeisance
in the face of what could be perceived as ludicrous heresies? With
bilious resentment and contempt for those who still cling to the
two-millennium-old taproot from which you and yours are but a
century-and-a-half-old sprout? Or with the missionary enthusiasm
and humility with which the first Christians set about sharing the
spiritual joys of their faith with the ancient denizens of the culture
whose laws and traditions gave them the chance to survive the lifespan
of their original inspiration?
My oldest impression of Mormons was that they were missionaries, not
bratty didacts. Fact is, I have cousins who are Mormons. And one close
friend from college who was one of the few saintly people I have known.
He had been raised by Mormons as a touchingly virtuous person, a bishop
by rank, but he was also a troubled agnostic of his own faith. From
what he shared with me of his knowledge and doubts, I did
acquire a skeptic's view of
Mormon scripture -- and an unsettling conviction that true goodness can
be sired through paternity of
dubious worth. (In fact, this is my only reason for believing in the
existence of the "good" muslims who are supposedly on our side.) Call
it bigotry, but I learned to expect extraordinary personal qualities
from Mormons even as I continued to question the legitimacy of their
faith. My conclusion is that your dudgeon, Mr. Swanson, is itself a
Only in America could a religious faith like this rise from nothing to
the possibility of supreme elective office in a religious nation in
fewer than 150 years. You're scarcely older than the Seventh Day
Adventists and the Jehovah's witnesses. You've lost a few true
believers along the way. But so have the Roman Catholics and the
Protestants and the Christians who fought to free the slaves in the
United States of America. Join the club. So quit your whining and
griping and start using your faith and considerable intelligence to
convince this unbelievably hospitable nation that you have something
wonderful to offer.
Call me what you will. That's beside the point. You're competing for
the highest office of the greatest, freest country in human history.
It's time to prove you're more than yet another victim-in-waiting.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
stings elephant, outraging many.
You are all most welcome for the preview
I have given you of two issues that will be part of the 2008
presidential campaign. Since no one seems in the mood for humor, I'll
explain these for everyone who finds it impossible to delve below the
most superficial level of provocation for insight.
First, though, a couple of observations and assertions.
has proven that he can
be trusted. The most prudent response he could have chosen to my post
was no response. That he attempted to address the questions I raised
speaks very well of his integrity.
Even the angriest commenters here still did not stoop to the
four-letter filth that is not just common but pervasive among leftwing
blog folk. That their jibes were mostly wide of the mark was
unfortunate, but it does highlight one of my reasons for posting what I
And what about all those irate Presbyterians? I mean, how could they
furious just because
I slammed John Calvin about as hard as I did the Mormons? Uh, what? You
didn't notice any irate Presbyterians? Hmmmm. I wonder why.
For the record -- and as most regular readers of InstaPunk should
readily have determined -- I don't hate Mormons. If Romney turns out to
be the Republican nominee, I will probably support him. I don't think
he's the best candidate available because he's a Massachusetts
Republican on the wrong side of some key conservative issues. I also --
and separately -- don't believe he's electable, no matter how smart and
rich he is. All you enraged Mormon commenters have just helped
InstaPunk makes fun of everyone. That's a big part of what we do here,
and we're not going to stop doing it because we are not political
players with some obligation to be politically correct. We romp up and
down on the sidelines shouting catcalls and sticking out our tongues.
Because we can. I don't recall receiving anything like the amount of
grief you Mormons expressed when I was just as "borderline offensive"
(Dean's words) about Richard
Dawkins's atheist agenda
a few weeks ago.
So here's the first point. Did all you Romney adherents and Mormons
really think that the subject of Romney's religion wouldn't come up in
the course of a campaign for the presidency? The most disturbing thing
about the comments was how offended and surprised everyone seemed to be
that anyone would bring up the subject. That is truly absurd. And is
this how you're planning to persuade the electorate that it's not a
problem? By immediately resorting to ad-hominem attacks without
bothering to look past the first incendiary remarks for more
information about the person who offended you? (Leaping to the
conclusion that InstaPunk is a liberal and/or Jew hater and doing nothing to verify such assumptions
before making a fool of yourself is really inexcusable if you're
actually trying to help your cause, not just blowing off steam.)
Romney's religion is definitely going to be an issue in the campaign. If
you want your man to win, the time to drag this looming iceberg into
the open is now. The worst possible strategy is to ignore it until
after Romney is nominated, because that's when the left will go to work
on it, and if you thought I
was unfair, you ain't seen nothing yet. We've just seen how unafraid
the lefties are of using genuinely
against the Roman Catholic Church. They despise
evangelical Christians even more than they do Catholics. You need to
think long and hard about how unscrupulous they'll be about the Church
of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints.
Some facts everyone in the Romney camp needs to accept pronto. It is
remarkably easy to make fun of Mormonism. You're going to see a lot of
it, and I mean a ton. And it's not going to be as simple to handle for
Romney as it was for Kennedy to handle his Catholicism. Nothing I read
in the comments reassures me that you Romneyites understand this
reality. I am especially concerned about the intimations I read that
there are Mormons who are good Mormons even though they do not really
believe all the harder to believe stuff!? Talk about your slippery
slopes. Serious thought has to be given to how Romney advocates and the
Mormon community generally should respond to the doubters. And there
will be a great many doubters who are not "arrogant twits" or "bigots"
or "haters," but mere conventional traditionalists who think that what
and where a person comes from says a lot about who he is and what he will
do in a pinch.
This brings me to the second issue -- the role and responsibilities of
"players" like Hewitt and Barnett. Though he circled around the
question quite a bit, Barnett never did quite draw a clear line between
being a blogger and a semi-official advocate for a political candidate.
In fact, his posture of taking offense at InstaPunk's Mormon abuse
rather than recognize the size and danger of the iceberg does no
service to his readers or his candidate. He wound up falling through
the rift between blogger and campaign-worker. As a campaign worker he
shouldn't have linked me at all. As a blogger, he should have
remembered that satire is in InstaPunk's DNA and addressed the fact of
a political problem that is best not wished away.
This is a significant issue of its own, irrespective of the Romney
candidacy. In the 2008 election, the political world is going to reach
into the blogosphere in new ways, drafting bloggers as political
soldiers and thereby creating much confusion and potential conflict of
interest. Last week's flap about John Edwards's blog girls is only the
first of what will prove to be many controversies. What is
the line between bloggers and
campaign soldiers? What are the ethical questions that should be
anticipated and thought through ahead of time? Specifically, what
should bloggers-turned-campaign-workers tell their readers about what
they will or will not do with their writings on behalf of a candidate?
Or are we just supposed to read between the lines and guess how much is
honest discourse and how much is pragmatic political spin?
Frankly, I'm not comfortable with that, and it seems to me that Dean
Barnett is still grappling with the problem but has not quite come to
grips with it yet.
For all of you who found it impossible to read this because you're so
blinded by the conviction that I'm just a bigoted idiot, my
condolences. Shooting off your six-guns at anyone who says unflattering
things about Mormonism is naive at best and self-destructive at worst.
Whether you know it or not, I've just done you a big favor. Get a grip.
And finally, to Dean: I know you'll sort your way through the ethical
issues. That's why I picked on you rather than someone else.
A more specific response from InstaPunk to a commenter
who's still angry and bitter.