Instapun*** Archive Listing

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January 10, 2009 - January 3, 2009

Friday, October 12, 2007

Historic Rendezvous

InstaPundit and Ann Althouse

PSAYINGS.5A.40. Can you believe it? The photo above records the first ever meeting between Glenn Reynolds and Ann Althouse. It happened yesterday in New York. Yesterday. Mark the date on your calendars. In blogger terms, this is the equivalent of an 8.9 on the Richter Scale.

A friendly word of warning to Glenn, though. Be careful, Big Guy. That Ann's a real siren. The way you two carry on electronically already reminds us of another legendary couple:

Just keep things virtual, if you know what we mean.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Atlas Won't Shrug

A Very Odd Couple: Angelina Jolie and Ayn Rand

PSONG 20. Yesterday, Michelle Malkin noted the 50th anniversary of the publication of Atlas Shrugged, the extraordinary paean to capitalism written by Ayn Rand. She also revealed the incredible fact that Angelina Jolie has been signed to star in a movie version of the book. If you haven't read the book, you can't know just how incredible this circumstance is. The folks at confirm that the project is in some stage of development, and they include a plot synopsis. Here's an excerpt:

Enter a world of corporate bureaucracies, where railroad executive Dagny Taggart struggles against mounting odds to keep her company, and her industry, out of the toilet. In the course of her struggles, she meets many adversaries, a few allies, and a handful of characters she cannot quite figure out. Among these are Hank Rearden, Francisco D'Anconia and a cadre of others. An increasingly present, and mystery thread to the story, is the presence of graffiti, asking the simple but mysterious question "Who is John Galt?" This seemingly simple question begins to haunt Dagny Taggart as she struggles with feelings of confusion related to her personal relationships, her struggles with politicians and bureaucrats, and the continuing disappearance of heads of industry whom she considers kindred spirits. As more and more of the heads of industry abandon their companies, and condemn those industries to ruin at the hands of politicians and bureaucrats, Dagny embarks on a series of quests to discover the answer to 'little mysteries' (Who smokes premium cigarettes wrapped in gold paper embossed with dollar signs? Who is John Galt? Where are the heads of industry going? What does the world do when the people whose efforts make things run correctly stop contributing?)

I'll tell you right now the eventual shooting script will bear little relation to this synopsis and even less to the unmistakeable intentions of Ayn Rand. (Check out the message boards already starting up at There is simply no way the book Rand wrote can be transformed faithfully into a movie by left-wing Hollywood, whose loudmouth political activists are living caricatures of the philosophy Rand was attacking in every word of Atlas Shrugged. Her loathing of the socialist egalitarianism best exemplified by Berkeley and Hollywood leftists was utter, devoid of any shade of nuance. She didn't believe in income redistribution or a social safety net of any sort. Her ideal was a pure meritocracy in which absolutely unfettered capitalism rewards those who work, innovate, and take risks in the market. Not much is said about those who are incapable of work or unwilling to work. Presumably, they will learn when their straits become dire enough.

The book is also unabashedly pro-American. One of the characters in Atlas Shrugged delivers a five- or ten-page speech celebrating the fact that the United States is the only nation in history to employ its own initials ('U" superimposed on 'S') as the symbol of its currency, thus demonstrating the cardinal value of the nation (regardless of any cracker-barrel platitudes we may repeat as a pretense of altruism.) God, for example, is conspicuously absent from Atlas Shrugged; Rand was an atheist, which along with her ruggedly individualistic feminism, was all she had in common with the 'progressive' community in which this movie will be made. Nor is the atheism incidental. Rand was a product of the Soviet system, a supreme rationalist who created her philosophy in direct opposition to the equally atheistic rationalism of Marxism. Time and again she assaults the concept of "the greatest good for the greatest number," arguing that personal sacrifice is actually immoral and, correctly, that most of what we think of as sacrifice is not. The mother who goes hungry in order that her child may eat is not sacrificing anything. She is simply choosing an alternative she values more highly than her own physical well being. But the more abstract and remote from the individual such choices become, the less legitimate they become. At the extreme, the requirement to sacrifice personal well being in deference to the needs (or demands) of an entire populace amounts to annihilation of the individual self.

Rand's writings are as extreme -- and as unrealistically black-and-white -- as the rationalist totalitarian system her personal experience inspired her to oppose. That's why her books have always been most prized by those who read them very young. (I note that Michelle read Atlas Shrugged in high school, at about the same age I did.) Her sensationally radical opposition to a lot of unexamined social pieties provides a clarity that enables young minds to see a bigger picture they never knew was there. For most, the result is a kind of intellectual breakthrough which leads through time to a better educated and usually more temperate view of the ideal social contract; for example, one in which an individual may feel some responsibility for the well being of people he doesn't know personally, or in which a soldier may give up his life for his country without its being an immoral sacrifice.

But the residual Rand effect is still dangerous to leftist orthodoxy -- a core belief in the power and worth of the individual, on whose best achievements the success of whole nations and societies depend. No organization, no committee, no plurality of mediocrities can serve as a substitute for outstanding individual achievement. And if the incentives for the best and brightest among us are taken away, or too seriously diminished, the entire culture will crumble.

This is the irreducible nut at the center of Atlas Shrugged, and it's one Hollywood just won't be able to swallow. The story will have to be changed. The script will be rewritten endlessly until a way is found to spit out the nut. It will go through drafts as a Bush-bashing allegory, an anti-war parable (business is war by other means, right?), an allusive prefiguring of the worldwide economic crisis wrought by Global Warming, a melodrama symbolic of feminist battles against the patriarchy, a shallow screed against corrupt (Republican?) politicians, a complete reversal in which the disappearing industrialists are portrayed as villains for abandoning the parasitic sheep who feed off their talent... and, in fact, anything and everything BUT what Ayn Rand was saying on every page of her 1000+ page book. The most unlikely miracle of all is that a movie will ever be released in theaters.

You can take that to the bank.

I don't mean to be a wet blanket to all you Rand fans. I'm just trying to be realistic.

P.S. The sound file contains excerpts from the music I listened to continuously while I was reading Atlas Shrugged when I was fourteen. Don't ask me why. It just seemed to fit.

UPDATE. Just for you, Mal (see Comments). A prize for recognizing Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto right out of the box. I've replaced the original sound file with a big chunk of the second movement you (and I) love so much.

And also just for you, because I know you're grappling with the challenge of raising your boys, there was a prescient precursor to Atlas Shrugged just for kids.

It's the Dr. Seuss masterpiece Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose, originally published in 1948. Granted, it's not about capitalism, but it is about the rights and responsibilities of individuals, and it was once -- however briefly -- a movie.

Thidwick allows himself to become the carrier for a bunch of freeloaders who eventually weigh him down to the point that he can no longer defend himself against hunters. Fortunately, he is able to shed his antlers in time to survive. Oddly enough, it was Russian animators who first thought to turn it into a film feature.

"Welcome," as the Russian film was called, has now been withdrawn from YouTube because the heirs of Dr. Seuss claimed a copyright violation. But Thidwick lives on, most recently as the subject of a PhotoShop contest at

And so it goes. Long before you start giving your kids the Civics Quiz, you can start getting them ready for extreme capitalism by popping this book into their Christmas stockings.

Will you be glad you did? Who knows? Eventually it may get them shot.

St. Ann in Crisis

RENAISSANCE. It actually started last week when the Coulted One appeared on Fox & Friends to promote her new book and confessed that she was mortified to have been received on the Today Show like a normal human being. She was clearly outraged that Matt Lauer and Company hadn't responded to her appearance with their usual outrage. Now, it appears, she's taking steps to reclaim her fading infamy. Today, reports:

Slash-and-burn columnist Ann Coulter shocked a cable TV talk-show audience Monday when she declared that Jews need to be "perfected" by becoming Christians, and that America would be better off if everyone were Christian.

Coulter made the remarkable statements during an often heated appearance to promote her new book on advertising guru Donny Deutsch's CNBC show "The Big Idea."

In response to a question from Deutsch asking Coulter if "it would be better if we were all Christian," the controversial columnist responded: "Yes."

"We should all be Christian?" Deutsch repeated.

"Yes," Coulter responded, asking Deutsch, who is Jewish, if he would like to "come to church with me."

Deutsch, pressing Coulter further, asked, "We should just throw Judaism away and we should all be Christians?" She responded: "Yeah."

Coulter deflected Deutsch's assertion that her comments were anti-Semitic, matter-of-factly telling the show's obviously upset host, "That is what Christians consider themselves: perfected Jews."

Obviously, Ann is trying to regain the notoriety she once received for declaring that Christians should invade Arabia and convert all muslims to Christianity under pain of death. But, sadly, it's just not working anymore. Far too many otherwise sane liberals have realized that Coulter is merely exhibiting a sense of humor, which -- though alien to their own experience -- removes enough sting from her posturings to render her harmless.

We'd like to help. So we've decided to take her seriously. What a mean-spirited, bigoted bitch! And, boy, have we figured out how to make fun of you, you Christian chauvinist, short-skirted hussy you. Watch this and weep:

You're probably feeling pretty small about now, aren't you, Ann?

Sure you are.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Moderate Thing

THE DEPTHS CAN BE OVERRATED. This isn't going to be a long piece. Moderates mostly don't interest me. Let me rephrase that. I mostly find moderates uninteresting. They like to call themselves centrists or middle of the road or mainstream. That's because they've only given the matter a moderate amount of thought. What they are is a motley collection of divers people, including the following:

1. The ignoramuses who routinely respond "don't know" in surveys of opinion on specific issues

2. The oafs who remain undecided for months after the conventions in presidential campaigns

3. The nuts whose opinions on various issues are so inconsistent they can't add up to (even) a party affiliation

4. The suckers whose minds are changed by the last shallow sound bite they heard

5. The impotent intellectuals who read everything, understand nothing, and therefore never think they have enough information to arrive at a conviction

6. The esoteric dilettantes who can be passionate about trivia but curiously dispassionate about fundamentals

The first four categories aren't worth thinking about at all. They're just flotsam and jetsam on the political ocean.

The fifth category is primarily infuriating. It's the default position of loquacious ciphers like David Gergen and Mort Kondracke. They will consider the most ridiculous argument and act as if it had sufficient merit to be judiciously considered, and they will earnestly entreat their betters to be more reasonable about utterly unreasonable positions. Time wasters.

The final category is at least marginally interesting because it disproves the fallacy that political moderates are somehow manifestations of the Greek principle of the Golden Mean -- moderation in all things (which is absolutely and fatally boring). Category 6 moderates can be adamant, even warlike, but not in accordance with any particular pattern. It's not that they're intensely convinced about the deep things and open-minded about the small things. It can even be the reverse.

Today's Ann Althouse blog entries are a beautiful illustration. She publishes an undistinguished photograph of a man in shorts walking a pair of Italian greyhounds (er, "two skinny dogs"). It's left to her faithful, mostly moderate commenters to explain that the theme of the photo is Ann's aversion to short pants on men. Fine. She's entitled to her pet peeves. Even if they're a little strange.

Subsequently, she posts an entry about Al Gore and his prospects of winning the Nobel prize. She says:

Some people think yes, yes. I'm wondering if I want to be one of them. A lot seems to hang on whether his movie was totally honest. It wasn't, but nevertheless, I like Al Gore. Here's my simulblog of "An Inconvenient Truth." I'm glancing back at all my Al Gore posts, trying to see how consistent I've been. There are too many to check, and I'm sure I've mocked him as ridiculous or pompous on many occasions. But I mocked him as ridiculous and pompous back in 2000, and I voted for him. The Republicans got a new guy in Thompson. Time for the Democrats to get someone new. The old crowd is so tedious, especially the topic of whether Hillary is inevitable. Let's have some Al. If he wins the Nobel Prize. [emphasis mine].

The movie wasn't honest, but she still likes him and would still accept a transparently political, Carter-like Nobel Prize award as some kind of credential. And, yeah, I know she's kidding, but she is and she isn't. (Here's more on her 'simulblog' of Inconvenient Truth.) That's the kind of moderate she is, the kind of cultural oberver she is. (And more here if you scroll) One of her commenters seems to understand exactly where she's coming from:

I think that "An Inconvient Truth" is not truthful, largely. I would like to see Al Gore get in the race, because I think that he is a better man than he lets on, as he is playing to a strange audience.

There's that word 'strange' again. Coincidence? No. Merely 'inconvient.' The strange ones are the whole non-moderate audience on the left and the right who accord some meaning to the word 'truth,' even if they disagree about what it is.

I almost blogged about Althouse last month because she did about four entries in less than a week detailing her distaste for Jeffrey Toobin's new book on the Supreme Court. She actually seemed pretty mad about the way he used allusive description as a substitute for making direct moral, political, and character accusations of the justices. I didn't finish the post because ultimately I could find no point in her repetitious wrath. (You can find the relevant entries at her site by searching for Toobin....) Toobin's slyly disingenuous presentation provoked her ire while Al Gore's flat-out untruths don't. Oka-a-ay.

Something in Toobin's work or behavior offended her personally, and we'll never find out what it is. Logic, the law, and all the tools of argument are just a game to be played hard when something, never mind what, pisses her off. In the same way, there's something entirely subjective and invisible about her affection and historical votes for Gore and Kerry, as well as her continuing desire to vote for Hillary, even though she appears to understand that the War on Terror is real and the Dems are all sandbagging the issue. For some reason I can't fathom she doesn't need to agree with or believe the truthfulness of the politicians she's prepared to trust. But finding that reason would require her to be more interesting to me than she is. It could be as simple as garden-variety intellectual snobbery or the observation of another of the commenters on the Gore entry:

An inconvenient statistic about Ann's Gore post:

Word count:

"I" / "me" / "my": 11

"Gore" / "he" / "his": 10

And it's Althouse, by a nose!

So maybe she's just a much smarter and more polished version of Maureen Dowd.

Or she could be a genuine paradox. I doubt it, though. I think she's more of a coffee table curiosity. Worth looking at and exclaiming over periodically, but not worth delving into at any length.

Like all the other moderates. It's what's called a distinction without a difference.

How much time did we waste on that? Sorry.

P.S. In response to an email, let me clarify that the use of the word 'divers' was not a typo. It's a snob usage I thought humorously appropriate in this context.

UPDATE.† Apologies for continuing the boringness. But here's the archetypal Ann Althouse comment:

AlphaLiberal said...
Let's have Al, for sure.

The flaws in the movie don't undermine it's credibility. Most of the kvetching I read was scientists, so given to caveats, complaining Gore didn't lay out all the caveats under the sun and that the timlines he was discussing weren't always clear to the audience.

Yeah. Whatever. He also reached about a billion or two more people than the usual cautious scientific paper. Scientific couching doesn't play well in the mass markets, but people can investigate more and find that.

Gore was slimed by the press big time in 2000.

Kewl. My favorite part -- "Most of the kvetching I read was scientists, so given to caveats..." Geez. When scientists get in the way of a globular politician, the whole world must be in deep shite. And I'm especially encouraged by the assurance that "The flaws in the movie don't undermine it's credibility." Gawd. What a relief. And here I was thinking that an incompetent and biased farce of a presentation might derail the entire worldwide movement toward a just totalitatarian response to Global Warming.

Thank Gaia.† All I'm waiting for now is a photographically poetic response from the Althouse goddess. It's going to be so kewl. When she explains -- logically or imagistically -- how Hillary will knit up the unraveled sleeve of care for the whole fucking universe.

If only I had the NYU law degree that admits a neophyte into the inner sanctum of philosophical enlightenment. And digital photography. (H/T Glenn Reynolds, who links Ann Althouse every single goddamned day. God bless him.)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Whoa, Peggy.

DESIRE. When you make a habit of writing the purplest of prose, there's always a danger of getting carried away. And now that Peggy Noonan has embarked on the midlife crisis that compels her to trash Republicans right and left, she's started displaying a tendency to get a little too up close and personal, if you know what I mean. Like this passage in her current column:

Barack Obama has a great thinking look. I mean the look he gets on his face when he's thinking...† I mean the look he gets in an interview or conversation when he's listening and not conscious of his expression. It's a very present look. He seems more in the moment than handling the moment. I've noticed this the past few months, since he entered the national stage. I wonder if I'm watching him more closely than his fellow Democrats are.... I've started to lean forward a little when he talks.

Please spare us the heavy breathing, Peggy. Frankly, thinking is one thing Barack Obama appears to have given up for Lent, or the election cycle, or the duration. If you really get off on watching men think, rent a movie starring Jimmy Stewart or Denzel Washington. Believe me, they're far better at it than Obama is. And if you don't believe me, maybe you'll believe Jules Crittenden, who actually had the intestinal fortitutude to listen to Obama's entire speech about foreign policy at DePaul University. You can read his complete assessment here, but the following excerpt is indicative:

Iíve taken some small liberties to abbreviate Obamaís bloviations at this point, but stayed true to the spirit of his speech:

Blah blah blah, no WMD. Blah blah†blah, conventional thinking. Blah blah blah, Iíll pull out, I promise. Blah blah blah,†Iíll talk to crazy dictators. Blah blah blah†Ö

Good lord,†he isnít stopping.† Heíd be better than everyone else. He gets it like no one else. He ran around barefoot in Indonesian villages.† Hey, me too.† Maybe I should be president. And this part†is good:

I will always tell the American people the truth. I will always tell you where I stand.

Clock springs are flying out of the bullshitometer!

Sigh. I'd really appreciate it if someone would explain the appeal of this drab, ordinary man. He's never uttered a word that isn't a tired cliche and yet millions profess to be experiencing a great excitement about his candidacy. Why? WHY?

Is it a chick thing? A manifestation of the 'geeks are sexy' fad? I mean, ask any guy. Any guy. In times past, Obama would have been the guy in the cheesy nylon shirt with a slide rule holstered on his hip. The one with the dumb shoes. The one who laughed at the stupidest jokes. The one who stood too close to you because he just didn't know any better. The one who couldn't get laid to save his life. And now he's a sex symbol for panting right-wing columnists?

When did the world turn upside down and inside out?

Don't answer that. Please.

Just tiptoe softly away and leave me alone for a bit.

Thank you.

GOOD NEWS WE REALLY NEEDED. Wuzzadem is back. Wuzzadem is back! Maybe there's hope for us after all...

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