Instapun***K.com Archive Listing
InstaPunk.Com

Archive Listing
September 24, 2009 - September 17, 2009

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Where's The West Wing?

Can you spell E-T-H-A-N-O-L?

DID PRESIDENT BARTLET DIE OR SOMETHING? I'm not claiming a conspiracy here. I just think it's interesting and suggestive. With the Democrat Party in the clear ascendancy (sporting a 20 point lead in voter affiliation), you'd think the cable channels would be glutted with reruns of The West Wing, just to remind us all how marvelous it is to have a brilliantly intellectual liberal in the White House. But where is it? Nowhere. TVGuide.com couldn't find a listing for its being shown at all.

I wondered for a bit if it had to do with the estrogen-soaked final season, which seemed to be preparing us for a Hillary presidency that the elite media libs suddenly stopped wanting sometime last year. On the other hand, that season also featured an attractive young non-white male coming out of nowhere to steal the Democrat presidential nomination, as well as an unexpectedly centrist Republican candidate running against him; these were really quite good guesses. So what gives?

My theory is that forward-thinking liberals in the various network programming departments are seeing some things in The West Wing that they don't want to remind the voters about right now. Maybe later, but not now. Let's not forget that the Democrat Party subtly reconfigures its message and image at regular intervals, and while their fundamental conviction that bigger government is the answer to all questions remains a constant, the specifics of their PR strategies at any given time vary considerably. A party that's betting all the chips on infatuating the electorate with a "rock star" candidate probably doesn't want to create any thought-provoking contrasts between Jed Bartlet and Barack Obama.

Bartlet was, accidentally or not, an express opposite of George W. Bush: a Ph.D. and former college professor from an historic New England family, a learned Catholic, a dextrous participant in the infighting between the executive branch and Capitol Hill, and perhaps most importantly, a near-encyclopedic policy wonk. In the context of this election, ironically, comparing Obama to Bartlet makes Obama seem more like, uh, Bush. Think about it for a minute before you howl in outrage.

Take away the differences in pure personality and political constituencies, and you'll start to see that the Obama campaign bears a strong resemblance to Bush's 2000 campaign. Time for a change from eight years of a president who inspired bitter, destructive partisanship. Tiime for a president who knows how to work with both sides of the aisle. Time for an outsider who isn't tainted by a lifetime of grubby inside-the-beltway wheeling and dealing. Yes, the experience factor is wanting, but at this particular moment in time, less is more, because we have seen for years now that experience is more like corruption than wisdom. Trust my good intentions. No need for lots of specifics. Much better to stick to glossy generalities that give voters real hope for a desperately needed change in tone. In many ways, the track records of the campaigns are also similar. A near constant stream of gaffes, large and small, which betray a layer of disturbing ignorance beneath the generalities that Jed Bartlet would have exposed with witheringly sarcastic precision.

Indeed, the whole focus of The West Wing show seemed to be on exactly the kinds of process issues that encourage a view of the presidency as a skill position rather than as a font of feel-good rhetoric. The president must have a grasp of details, a thorough understanding of the complex interdependent organizational structures inside, yes, the beltway, and a profound understanding of history to keep him anchored against the winds of political pressure and public opinion. It's probably the case that not too many Americans know Obama's least favorite, and least studied, subject in school was history, but they will come to experience the inevitable effects of that hole in his education. His many blunders in the state primaries are a direct consequence of the fact that he just doesn't know much about the states, academically as well as personally. And Jed Bartlet was an economist, fond of lecturing on the subject. He would have been particularly scornful of Obama's fuzzy grasp of issues such as the capital gains tax.

And there's also a ticking bomb inside The West Wing that is very specific and relevant to a huge chunk of 2008 campaign rhetoric and its, well, lies on all sides. The bomb is addressed directly but incompletely here:

West Wing's Ethanol Problem

The West Wing is a smart television program, written by smart people with access to an enormous amount of expertise. Part of the show's appeal is its willingness to present both sides, even with highly controversial issues like the morality and efficacy of the death penalty or political assassinations. When it comes to ethanol, however, The West Wing's writers apparently believe there is only one side and it is exceedingly negative.

This was demonstrated a number of times in the show's early years, when Aaron Sorkin was in charge. In the first season, Vice President John Hoynes (Tim Matheson) was asked to break a tie vote in the Senate in favor of extending the ethanol tax incentive. He balked, since he had vigorously opposed that incentive when he was in the Senate. At the show's conclusion, President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) gives Hoynes permission to kill the incentive, and confesses, "You and I agree on ethanol, but you were the only one to say it."

The Jan. 26 episode, "King Corn" raised ethanol trashing to an entirely new level. In this episode, one of the presidential candidates, liberals as well as conservatives, and Democrats as well as Republicans, strongly object to ethanol, although in the end all but one ends up "pandering" to Iowa's caucus voters by endorsing the fuel.

The environmental site in which the above appears is pro-ethanol -- as are both presidential candidates in 2008 -- and strongly objects to the "King Corn" episode, which is summarized at a West Wing fansite with more samples of dialogue:

...Josh and Santos go to Iowa... The next morning each has a 5:45 wake up call and each immediately turns on the TV to see the same news story, etc... Each of three candidates that day (we follow Vinick through the same kinds of things after he has a 5:45 wake up call as well) deals with ethanol and what to tell the Iowa Corn Grower's Expo about this product as each addresses the group at different times this day. Even Russell, whose speech is first, tells Will,
"It takes more oil to transport it and fertilize it than we save using it"
"Sir, you're not considering changing the speech?"
"...Don't worry, I'm not suicidal. I'm going to take the pledge."

The environmental site is absolutely correct about The West Wing's writers. Ethanol is something of a running joke in the series, a kind of all-encompassing symbol of the lies politicians on both sides of the aisle are willing to tell for votes. With the Hoynes vote against ethanol mentioned above occurring in the first season of the show and the "King Corn" blasphemy in the last season, that's seven years of writer antipathy to a linchpin of the "energy independence" and "decarbonization" policies of both parties today. I haven't seen every episode by any means, but my memory tells me that ethanol comes up more often in West Wing conversations than any episode guide will reference.

The fact that ethanol is a symbolic litmus test of political integrity in West Wing Land may very well keep the show off the air for a long time to come. Maybe forever. Because ethanol is even worse than a litmus test. It's also a highly visible thread that if tugged on enough could lead to a complete unraveling of everyone's political plans for dealing with energy issues and so-called climate change issues. Biofuel mandates represent the first very large-scale attempt to address both sets of issues by immediate government intervention in markets. If the first such attempt should unleash a tidal wave of unintended negative consequences, the twin identity of ethanol as a marker of political dishonesty and as a headline for misguided government attempts to manage the natural forces of the planet could prove the undoing of a whole generation of politicians, in both parties.

Think I'm overstating the case? Are you sure? Then take the time to watch ALL of this C-span video of a speech by Robert Bryce, author of "Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of Energy Independence." Yes, it's an American Enterprise Institute speech, but as Bryce proudly proclaims at the beginning of his remarks, his political roots are as a liberal and even a left-winger. (He even begins with a set of Bush jokes.) Actually studying the energy industry in depth, however, which has become his lifetime avocation, forced him to accept that the laws of thermodynamics did not conform to his political preferences. His presentation is stuffed with facts even political junkies know little of, and what political content he offers arises directly from those facts, not from his advocacy of any politician or party. How can we be sure of that? Because he can prove that they're all lying to us. (The Flash Player works well once you figure out the clunky controls, and there is a full-screen option as well.) As further incentive, I'll dangle the news that he proposes a sensible and dramatically improved solution for the 21st century with respect to meeting fuel needs and minimizing carbon output without crashing the global economy.

To end on a less serious note, those who have been missing The West Wing might enjoy the following all-purpose episode produced by Mad TV.



Well, I enjoyed it anyway.





Nancy Pelosi Quits Congress:
"His name is Bruno... I think."


A wobbly Speaker of the House resigned late Wednesday
to pursue "the one true love of my life, come what may."

XOFF NEWS. After having gone missing for almost twelve hours during which her family frantically sought her whereabouts, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made a brief appearance before cameras Wednesday night to announce that she was leaving Congress to "follow my man to Tijuana for the Pan-American Tattoo Festival," because "he told me to -- or be ready to get my ass kicked from here to Mexico."

Colleagues and friends of the Speaker expressed astonishment and dismay that she would so suddenly abandon one of the most powerful political posts in the nation. Her husband was reportedly so distraught that he cancelled his entire round of appearances at San Francisco bathhouses tonight. Senator Diane Feinstein was the only Pelosi intimate on Capitol Hill to tender any word of support: "In all fairness," she said, "I've spent a weekend or two myself in Oakland with a few dozen of my closest motorcycling friends, and I recognize that look in her eyes. When you've been well and truly, er, befriended, within an inch of your life, it doesn't matter whether you're a U.S. Senator, Speaker of the House, or Empress of Goddam Japan. He snaps his fingers and you do what he says."

When asked for a comment, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, "Damn." Moments later, he added, "Damn." Then he concluded, " If only I'd known, I'd have, well, you know, not wasted so much time talking about screwing Republicans."

No party elections have yet been scheduled to determine a replacement Speaker, although multiple party-type parties are in full swing all across Washington, DC. According to party insiders, Senator Barbara Boxer, also of California, is leading the swinging by a head and a "surprisingly agile abdomen."

A spokesperson for the Hillary Clinton campaign dismissed rumors that the former candidate had anything to do with Pelosi's resignation. "Bruno is just a casual friend of the family," she said. "He has no official duties in the campaign organization. What he does in his private life is completely unrelated to any services he might perform, if and whether he does, for Mr. and Mrs. Clinton."

The San Francisco office of the FBI was still printing out Bruno's rap sheet at press time but estimated that the last page would be in hand before the morning network shows went on the air at 7 am.




Monday, June 23, 2008


Milestones:

All-Time Historical
Lowpoint in Sports


A scene repeated all across sporting America this weekend.

THE TIGER BLUES The longest day of the year always kind of sneaks up on me. But this weekend was the summer solstice, which begins both summer and the six-month long decline in the length of days. I was hardly expecting a sudden, coincident, all-time historical lowpoint. But that also occurred this weekend. Fortunately, there was plenty to keep us busy about the household -- mowing the acreage, cleaning out the garage, filling feeders to keep up with voracious goldfinches, hummingbirds, etc, and grilling burgers and gorging on homemade blueberry pie (w/fresh Jersey blueberries b'God) -- but in-and-amongst and after the domestic fun, we began to be aware of the shocking cultural milestone that had dropped on our heads.

The Hockey is done, except for their utterly inscrutable draft. The NBA season is over. The only NFL activity involves tracking which prima donna athlete refuses to tie his shoes in minicamp (Chad Johnson), and baseball entered the nadir of its season with a round of pointless inter-league games even the SportsTalk lunatics can't bring themselves to care about. Wimbledon wouldn't be playing out its boring early round matches till Monday. The Tour de France hasn't started yet, and are they really going to inflict that drug-infested scandal marathon on us this year anyway? And now, for the first time in over a decade in this customary dead spot of the sports year, there's no Tiger for the announcers to talk about during soporific tournaments like the one that's played a week after the U.S. Open. This is as close to zero as the sports world can get, now or ever.

We looked in vain through the weekend listings for the usual glut of sporting events covered by network and cable channels. Oh, indeed, there was a plethora of sad substitutes as programmers tried desperately to fill the void: Formula 1 racing, which hasn't raised my pulse above a flicker since the days of Niki Lauda and Jackie Stewart. Arena football -- who can watch that crap? -- it's like tabletop pool, a novelty that wears off within minutes of a first encounter. Olympic trials in judo (??) and women's gymnastics ("Oh, dear. She fell off the beam. How sad." How usual.) One of the cable channels was actually covering the NHL draft live! Live? Good God. ESPN was reduced to running professional bowling, automobile shows from last year, and promos for the -- wait for it! -- upcoming NBA draft! One of the Spanish language channels was showing "futbol" eliminations for the 2010 World Cup. 2010???!!! In what universe does that make any sense?

Which reminds me. Mighty ESPN also sank as low as devoting hours and hours of its precious airtime to the 2008 European Soccer Tournament. Worse, we actually watched some of it. Mrs. CP got a modest kick out of watching the hated Orangemen of Holland lose in the closing moments to Russia while I was mostly busy grilling burgers outside. And, then, on Sunday, out of a pitifully unfounded hope that something interesting would happen in the Italy-Spain quarter-final, we actually watched our second soccer game in one weekend.

The shame of it. What can I say? I am personally fond of Italy. There was nothing else on. The weather map insisted we were under imminent threat from severe thunderstorms all afternoon (which never came). And, yes, I should have known. As Instapunk regulars know, this site has assessed the appeal of soccer in some detail. But I, personally, had never sat there and watched an entire game of world-class soccer.

You'll never know. Words are inadequate. They played the entire 90 minutes of regulation with no score. Then they played two 15-minute overtime periods with no score. For the math-challenged, that's two full hours of "sport" in which nothing whatever happened. There are no 'plays' to speak of. One team starts out kicking the ball down the field, passing it to one another as if they have something in mind. But the other team always takes it way from them before anything can happen, and then they do exactly the same thing. Every once in a while two players make contact, one of them falls down and begins shrieking as if he's just been hammered into the turf by Brian Urlacher (no f'ing way, Jose) and the ref gives the guy who touched him a 'yellow card.' Then there's a 'free kick,' which is about as free as all other things European; the kicker faces a solid wall of opposing players between him and the goal. So he kicks the ball over their heads, over the goal, and into the crowd. Then they start again.

The only entertainment value is a kind of expanding wonder. What do they use for highlights on TV news/sports coverage? Crowd shots? Clips of players rolling around on the ground pretending to be hurt? Refs dealing yellow cards as deftly as Vegas poker sharks? All those kicks that go way left or way right or way o-o-o-ver that gigantic net? What statistics do the soccer encyclopedias compile? There's nothing to count or keep track of that might be a finite accomplishment or 'play.' Number of pointless steals of a ball from the opposition? Number of pointless losses of the ball to the opposition. The ratio of pointless steals to pointless losses? And what do their career statistics look like? A Hall of Famer like Beckham makes history by scoring, like, uh, three goals lifetime? And, uh, he played 19,000 hours of goal-free time in regulation?

I don't know. I don't know why the rules are systematically designed to prevent scoring. I don't know why players and teams are disqualified in the next game for routine fouls committed in this game, thus preemptively destroying the purity and fairness of tournament competition. I don't know why the rules deliberately remove the suspense of a down-ticking clock by adding unknown quantities of penalty time after regulation play, thus ensuring a built-in, premeditated anticlimax. I don't know why hundreds of thousands come to watch and weep and wail and sing and cheer. I don't know why I watched.

Somebody eventually won. On penalty kicks. Which, as far as I'm concerned, they could have done without wasting 120 minutes of running around futilely on the field beforehand.

Of course I do have some suggestions. I honestly believe, having watched, that there is a good game rattling around somewhere inside the boneheaded bore the current rules mandate. Adopt hockey's penalty box/power play format (pay now, not tomorrow), jettison the yellow card/red card bullshit, and penalize fakers just as sternly as those who commit fouls. (Who really wants to watch professional athletes making deliberate pussies of themselves? Not even Europeans should get off on that...) Quit adding penalty increments at the end of regulation. And, for God's sake, allow the fast break that makes basketball such a volatile and momentum-driven game. Let the lone superstar go one-on-one with the goalie in the heat of play on the field, as opposed to the artificial stasis of the post-game penalty-kick snore. If your game can't be decided by being played with all players on the field, it's not much of a game. It may be a kind of theater. But it's not a sport.


This is a sport. The kind of truly extreme moment soccer can never produce.
Not without big rule changes anyway. It can't come down to refs and pussies.
For example, in this one NFL play I can count three/four 'yellow cards,' easy.
Sorry. I know it's
tres inappropriate. But right now, I'm really missing sports.

Hey, though. I'm just a dumb American. An American who will remember the summer solstice weekend of 2008 as the all-time worst moment in sports in my lifetime.

Otherwise, it was a wonderful couple of days.





The Atheist Wars (Cont.)


Seeing more clearly by turning your back on everything.

REPORT FROM THE FRONT. Since we threw down the gauntlet, they keep coming. Not in a wave but in fits and starts, solitaries that they are. I've contended with a few in the comment sections, but it occurred to me I should share the kind of high-minded debate customary with the hard core; that is, those whose tone is consistent with what Rachel got in the post that inspired my intervention. Here is an exchange that began with this comment (Yes, he calls himself "My Comment Name"):

My Comment Name

IP sez: "There is nothing -- no principle of science whatever -- to rule out the possibility that an intelligence capable of generating the universe, from string or quark to multi-galactic infinity, would not also be capable of observing or participating in everything, in perpetuity, without ever violating the laws of his own creation and yet accomplishing his will in everything"

Well, alright. There's also no principle of science to rule out the invisible leprechauns dancing on my eyelids, but I don't see anybody getting rich offa that shit.

You refer to "deists" quite a bit, but may I take it that we are talking about your belief in the Judaeo-Christian deity in particular? Why not Mbombo, or Mangala, or Kamui, or Brahma, or any of the multitudes of other cosmic individuals that have been lumbered with responsibility for this crazy universe we ride around in? After all, any of those stories is as useful as an explanatory tool the one you currently subscribe to; so why not?

It's worth thinking about, because only when you understand why you have written off all the thousands of other gods, will you understand why atheists have written off yours, too.

Basically, man, we are all atheists. Some of us just believe in one less god than you do.

I chose to respond for reasons I made clear:

Instapunk

MCN:

"You refer to "deists" quite a bit, but may I take it that we are talking about your belief in the Judaeo-Christian deity in particular?"

No, you may not. You didn't read the post. Which is absolutely 100 percent typical of your ilk.

Preening arrogance has replaced not only logic but the ability to read a complete essay or a complete paragraph. You're an ignorant, presumptuous, time-wasting fool. Learn how to read before you come back here again.

I framed the argument carefully and deliberately excluded -- in the first paragraph -- all matters of specific religious preference. Your inability to perceive that is an indictment of whatever you BELIEVE constituted your education.

Sadly I must inform you you didn't receive an education -- merely a set of unthinking poses.

This made him angry, though it didn't change his argument by one jot or tittle:

My Comment Name

Instapunk: "I framed the argument carefully and deliberately excluded -- in the first paragraph -- all matters of specific religious preference."

Well, that was always the other option, but your macho posturing must have blindsided me for a moment, because I momentarily considered that such a chickenshit tactic was beneath a man of your pectoral magnitude.

Do you subscribe to any particular creation story or not? Are you seriously telling us that you think all of them are just dandy, provided that "god/gods did it" forms the basis of that story? Do you expect us to accept that you subscribe to mere "deism"?

Do you accept the story of Mbombo or Vishnu, or do you not? Am I really so worthy of your scorn for suspecting that you do not currently worship, among others, Kamui? Or am I in actual fact absolutely correct about this?

Deliberately refusing to pin yourself down - or, in other words, failing to stand up for what you believe - is not just a sneaky argumentative sleight of hand; it is pure moral cowardice. The swagger of your response is belied by the lack of balls shown in your original post.

Time for the slam dunk, plus some exposition that may be useful to the thoughtful:

Instapunk

MCN:

"Deliberately refusing to pin yourself down - or, in other words, failing to stand up for what you believe - is not just a sneaky argumentative sleight of hand; it is pure moral cowardice. The swagger of your response is belied by the lack of balls shown in your original post."

Interesting. "Pure moral cowardice"? What does that term mean to an atheist?

The question I posed sits at a far more fundamental level than any possible questions of morality. It's hardly swagger to point out that knowing there is no god is just as much a declaration of faith as knowing there is a god. What you don't like, and won't address, is that it's every bit as impossible to prove there is no god as it is to prove there is a god.

I'm fascinated by your insistence that I must reveal to you my specific religious beliefs before you can seriously come to grips with the rational basis of my argument. To me that's a sign that your own convictions exist only in opposition to the convictions of others. If I really were a religion-neutral deist who disdained all forms of organized religion, the passion of your opposition would begin to go limp. Which means it's necessary for you to evade the pure philosophical argument and make of me a secret religious fanatic hiding behind logic to prevent the death blows you can always wield against the foolish faithful.

You see, you are deluded by an assumption that is probably invisible, as deep assumptions often are, that specific sectarian religious beliefs come first and then result in convenient answers to the underlying philosophical questions. If this isn't the case, you're shit out of luck, because all your arguments are based on that inference.

I'm afraid I must disappoint you in this regard. As a very young man, I discarded anything like religious faith until I had taken the main questions all the way to their most basic elements, the ones I described in my post. All the steps toward what you would call religion were taken only after I had wrestled with those basics. To this day, whatever faith I have is a frail thing. I am no evangelist. The argument I made is all I am sure of, which regardless of how you deliberately misunderstand it, consists of asserting that atheists and deists bear an equal burden of proof that neither can meet.

My own religious faith is irrelevant, because it is not constant, not certain, not at times above the level of mere wistfulness and speculation. It does contain beliefs about morality and divinity, but these beliefs are subject to continuous questioning, doubt, self-examination, and, yes, hope.

I suspect this is something you know nothing of. Your own certainty sees its mirror image in those you despise the most. You demand that others reveal to you an exact set of postulates to which you can favorably compare your own. Then you feel prepared to go to war and win. Like any goddam lawyer whose idea of intelligence is destroying the other guy's argument by any and every means without actually having a fully realized synthesis of his own.

What you don't understand, and never will, is that those who aspire to religious faith, in all philosophically honest traditions, are not fixed and rigid cartoons of churchiness but constant questioners. They know they do not know, and they know that faith is a choice which is not made once but every day, every minute, every second, throughout their lives.

No thinking Christian would doubt that there are times when the Pope himself does not believe in the God of the New Testament, the resurrection, or even salvation. (Which does not make me a Roman Catholic, btw, because I'm not). The nature of faith is that it IS self-consciously faith, a matter of willing belief not certainty; a choice made repeatedly, not a pigeonhole one falls into and defends savagely against all comers.

You know nothing of this. How could you? Unable to confront or contend with my logic, you CHOOSE to see the most elemental matters of philosophy as a battle of balls. Which makes you a clown. With balls like a pair of infected peas.

To the extent that I swagger, it's only because the very basic logic I employ is incontrovertible. To the extent atheists are certain, they are deluding themselves. More than deists. Because there are too many primary questions no mere human being can presume to know the absolute answer to.

An example. One self-satisfied atheist (in the comments) cited as an example of his superior knowledge context the fact that we still don't know where the moon came from. He's right. We don't. It's the closest object to our home in the whole incomprehensibly vast universe, and we don't know for sure where it came from, why it's there, or why its size and orbit are so oddly synchronized with the earth's orbit of the sun, and he believes that's somehow proof that his atheism is scientifically justified.

That's insanity. As is your pompous posturing. You know next to nothing about the universe you live in. For you to claim otherwise (and I suspect you're dying to claim you do) is proof of every point of my argument.

Now. What of you? Who are you? What of yourself, your life, your values, your own beliefs about life and meaning and morality have you shared? Nothing. And I'm the coward?

I hardly think so. I'm on record here with hundreds of thousands of words about my beliefs, convictions, experiences, and tastes. You arrive like a thief in the night, anonymous, hidden behind your bluster and bile, and you point a headless, bodyless finger of accusation. You're a joke.

So why did I respond? Because my considered response may be helpful to other inquiring minds like my own. And because when an opponent goes out of his way to give you a perfect setup for a spike, it's hard to resist slamming it down his throat.

You're pwn'ed.

Now go away.

And so it goes.

UPDATE. Talk about drawing blood. 'My Common Name' felt obligated to respond to his marquee status in this post and launched another verbose and convoluted attack. So I smacked him. Which pissed him off. The text of his explosion is quoted at the beginning of my response, which is, again, not for his consumption, but for everyone who approaches these questions not as an acid debater but as an inquirer.

"I don’t consider my position one of certainty, either, even if you do. I’ve explained, very roughly, the process whereby I have come upon my (current) position. I’m happy with it, and really, that’s all that matters."

"Well, Jesus Mothercunting Christ. That… that’s truly awesome. I swear to your god that that is the lamest fucking thing that’s ever been addressed to me in my long and sordid history of internet roustabouts. Pwn’ed in your bollocks, you ridiculous pissarse."

"Bollocks?" "Pissarse?" Gordon Ramsay, I presume? You're just another foul-mouthed Brit (I include Aussies and all the various disaffected Celts in that) (and btw, haven't seen 'cunt' used as a verb since that literary giant William Peter Blatty introduced it in 'The Exorcist.' Hmmm. Is that what the limeys call contextual irony?) jacking off with words about ideas you don't really care about except as a demonstration of your assumptive superiority. Reversion to precious homo-erotic Brit slang is the indelible stamp of of an impotent 'arse' pining for lost days of Empire..

And you talk about lame.

What you'll never be able to see in a thousand years is that there's no point in talking with you. Because the only thing you're about is scoring points. And that really IS an atheist preoccupation.

Your rhetorical winding and twisting is very much like the last video from 'Love and Death' Wade Pelham posted here. You don't have anything against religious faith per se, but but But BUT... the faithful really do all have to admit that you are smarter. You have nothing against morality and if pressed, you will admit to moral feelings yourself, but, But BUT... that doesn't mean anything except when the moral outrage is expressed by you.

You are an atheist within limits, you say, with no presumption of certainty, because you're basing your lack of belief on the math of probability, but you're still superior to agnostics because their agnosticism exists only within limits which are (presumably) not based on the same understanding of mathematical probability you have achieved. And math, lest we forget, is a human invention which has a certain utility but no meaning and blah blah blah but but but. Aaaagh.

You exist in a vacuum. Your dudgeon is a meaningless artifice. Your life is a meaningless sequence of masturbatory gestures. YOU'RE NOT IN THE GAME. You're a pissed-off referee with a pocketful of yellow cards and red cards you fling about as if your rules were something other than a dry cough between the lines of 'Being and Nothingness.'

You're a (what do you chaps call it?) wanker. That's why I say you're pwn'ed. You're not at all interested in the deep questions; you're just fighting. Because you can. And because you have resentments so deep down in your nature that you can't resist roaring into the fray. Which means you're a fucking boring waste of time.

I'll grant you one nugget of response to your mumbo-jumbo creation question. My creation story, the one I believe, lies in the field of potentialities between Hawking's possibly nonexistent (because always -- Zeno's Arrow-like -- infinitely approaching the unreachable limit) Big Bang and Roger Penrose's quantum mind. There is a space in that conceptual interval which leaves room for all presently conceived possibilities and innumerable ones we can't conceive of. It may allow for all kinds of relationships that science cannot presently comprehend, including a universe in which ideas, art, poetry, symbols and allegories -- and Jung's synchronicity -- interact seamlessly with the physics we keep trying to reduce to (mere) math. In this context, there might be a place for humanity's many metaphorical creation myths and its curiously parallel religious convictions to be something more than fairy tales, fallacies, jokes, proofs of mankind's talent for self-delusion, and catalysts for your contempt. The continuously unfolding and infinitely reinterpretable story of Christ's sacrifice on the cross may -- may, I say -- actually be of a piece with the universe itself. These are conceptions which have the potential to expand minds and deepen the most minute aspects of human experience -- without consigning us all to fanaticism or irrational denial.

But every word you write demonstrates that you're not interested in such possibilities, even though you confessedly cannot rule them out. Worse, there's no way you could ever understand the dimensions of such a universe. Which would be like string theory rendered in an umpty-dimensional hologram embodying emotions and thoughts as well as particles and their components. I'm talking about a kind of imagination you're too smart to realize you're too damaged to aspire to.

You arrive here to deliver a series of sanctimonious jabs. I respond with one unanticipated uppercut, and you are shocked, shocked that anyone could dismiss your sheets of verbal diarrhea as, well, diarrhea.

Got news for you, mate. Life ain't about taking the integral of all equations to arrive at a bunch of falsely reassuring straight lines. Life is fabulously, wondrously, beautifully, even miraculously mysterious and interesting. All the stuff we don't know is a ticket to the most exciting ride any form of life has ever taken. But you'd rather be the smartest paramecium in the petrie dish. Excuse me. A Brit paramecium. That would be kind of the dictionary definition of a condescending, unimaginative twit.

I repeat. Go away.

P.S. btw, InstaPunk is a persona of this website. If you did any research, you'd find that most of the regular commenters think they know who he is in terms of a real-world identity. But they're wrong about that, sometimes to their discomfiture. His is a virtual identity, an emergent electronic property of this website, and his name is InstaPunk.

It's true, my friends. I am, on these screens, only electrons and thought forms. Forgive me for any misunderstandings and hurt feelings that fact sometimes causes.


Brilliant. The myth of superior Brit education.

Okay. This thread is all done now. I promise.






Update:

Correction & Elaboration

The Hugh Douglas Files: Only NFL and NBA players are athletes. Right.
Driving these things is exhausting, dangerous, and, yes, an athletic feat.

OVERSTATING THE CASE
. Okay. I made a joke yesterday about Formula 1. I was going for a laugh. Truth is, I have always been mesmerized by Formula 1. They're the ultimate competitors in all of human sport. As a boy, I had the privilege of watching Mark Donohue when he was still an amateur. He drove an Elva numbered "000," and in a 20 lap race on an incredibly narrow 1.2 mile sports car track he lapped everybody. Everybody. He was also a Brown-educated engineer, which to the Hugh Douglases of this world probably means that he simply outsmarted the competition with a lot of tech trickery and hand skills. But nothing that required the talents of an athlete. I was a fan of Mark Donohue. I was in awe of Jimmy Clark and Jackie Stewart. Two of the three died in cars. It doesn't get much more serious than that.

It's a funny thing. InstaPunk (The Boss) has been having his fun with atheists of late, sending them into predictable spins of illogical, emotional self immolation. But it takes a blizzard of words and days of osmosis for him to do his damage to the callow pretenders who think their Internet experience qualifies them as philosophers. The amazing thing about cars is that they can make you confront God in an a split second. I literally could not list every internal combustion engine powered vehicle I have driven (or ridden) at one time or another -- Dodge PowerWagons, John Deere tractors, Triumphs, Nortons, Harleys, BSAs, Jags (a bunch), Bugattis, Cobras, Chrysler 440s, Trans Ams, ChrisCrafts, 60 mph speedboats, airboats -- and I have streaked across the land and watery expanses of the rural southern counties of my state at speeds which, at my present age, make me blush. In those mad rushes I have had occasional brushes with the prospect of sudden death, but there was only one experience that made me appreciate the true stature of professional race car drivers.

There used to be a franchise called Malibu Grand Prix. You piad your money for five or ten laps on a tiny but demonically intricate course behind the wheel of an open-wheeled, under-powered race car for the privilege of having your lap times displayed to everyone as you drove. Initially, it was a blast. Those of us who knew something about driving turned in stunning lap times that impressed our girlfriends and even the girlfriends of other less fortunate drivers. But after the third lap there is a fourth, and a fifth, and a sixth, and your timing starts to stutter, and your body and brain grow weary, and what was once exuberant fun becomes work. Labor. Then you begin making mistakes. You're actually out of breath. The legs you never gave any thought to at all are suddenly leaden, slow to do their automatic business with the pedals. Your arms, hands, whatever, aren't quick enough with the steering wheel. And here you are -- a guy who risks his life successfully every damn day on real world roads at much higher speeds than this -- gradually losing control of a vehicle on a f___ng carnival ride.

I'm not up to discussing philosophy at the level InstaPunk has set. But here's what I know. There are flashes, somewhere between the crises you create for yourself at free high speed and the exhaustion of trying to do it in a disciplined state of endurance, that put you face to face with death, eternity, and your own shortcomings. I'm thinking the atheists who are so damn sure InstaPunk is a fool haven't experienced moments like this.

Is that the 'foxhole' argument? Maybe it is. I don't know. I really don't care. I'd settle for Hugh Douglas watching the YouTube video up top and then reassessing his bullshit position that race car drivers aren't athletes. Of course, he'd probably be willing to make an exception for Lewis Hamilton, once he finds out who he is. Any progess is still progress after all. Hugh concedes that Tiger Woods is an athlete, though all other golfers aren't. And when he looks into it, Lewis Hamilton might be an athlete, too, though all other race car drivers obviously aren't. We're waiting for the next step of your enlightenment, Hugh.




Friday, June 20, 2008


Funny Enough -- part II

Let's Talk About God.
Or, How do we teach people what life is all about fast enough for them to actually live one?

Thanks to Rachel Lucas's little fracas with her blog and InstaPunk's conviction that he can reason the atheists off of their atheism (Here and here.), I've been asked to say a few words on behalf of God.

As you may have noticed from my previous post, I'm Catholic. So, I must have something to say about God, His existence, and what that means for you.

InstaPunk's effort is laudable and noteworthy in that none of his critics address the three areas to which he confined his argument. Three areas that a rational, honest proponent of atheism would have already considered and should be able to articulate why they pose no difficulty.

I find the topic much less interesting so I'm much less apt to provide a comprehensive treatment of it. There are others who go after the whole thing with more energy and more enthusiasm. Allow me to contribute a thought that may cast a shadow of doubt over the rationalists' enterprise – both those with faith, and those without.

Lately, I've been thinking about a question. Perhaps it will shed some light here – “How do we teach people what life is all about fast enough for them to actually live one?”

Rick in the comment section gives us a chronology: 24 years of real belief in God; 11 years of searching; and seven years of contentment – as an atheist. Now he is 42.

I'm going to fictionalize him into Roger so he'll be less likely to take offense. Roger will also be given three kids and a wonderful, supportive wife. Let's take a look.

Roger got married as a real believer, began searching when the kids were born and laid the “There is no God” speech on the wife and kids just as they're getting ready for middle school.

What happens to them? Does the wife follow along? Maybe she made all the turns with the eleven year search and agreed with the shifting conclusions as they were determined. Maybe not. The kids have been watching TV and playing video games during the search so the entire enterprise was probably lost on them and the conclusion seemed really exciting or really boring to them depending upon the temperament of each.

Eleven years is really quite an insignificant time relative to geological time or even in the context of say, 6,000 years of recorded history. Hell, 6,000 years is insignificant in geological time.

Roger admits as much when he reports that his physics knowledge needs a tune-up after a 13-year hiatus. This will mean a few more years of running down the books on physics and evaluating the possibly conflicting interpretations of the theories and then incorporate the new found knowledge into his life. The result? Who the hell knows.

What about the kids? Well, now they're at the university where they are learning . . . and incorporating that into their life. They will understand – after tens of thousands of dollars – that there are no answers only questions. Questions that really shouldn't be asked if you want to make a lot of money.

The bad news of course is that Roger will be about 45 or so once the physics stuff is looked into and, let's face it, Roger's time is almost up. Maybe he can pass on his insight to the grand kids. Really, if he's honest, he'll have to tell them that he is still searching and still investigating and that there have been many new developments that must be incorporated into his views and what they need to do is to keep an open mind and keep learning and keep researching – unless they need to make a living, then they should get a job that pays really well for a minimal time commitment.

Looking at this fictional Roger let's us see what the scientific-objective-rational-figure-it-out-for-yourself crowd really has in store for everyone. A lifetime of confusion.

In this confusion, inter-generational transmission of value and direction is lost. It must begin again with the next generation because they have learned never to accept anything which they themselves have not verified and researched.

My point is that this project is extremely difficult to sustain across time. Consider passing the quest to your children. You may be a reader and a thinker and may also be willing to spend three to four hours a day reading books – eight to ten on weekends wrestling with the nature of truth and how to apply it to your life. But, most people are not. They won't read. They don't read.

For people that don't read, they get the idea that it is all bullshit anyway from the people that do.

My first thought of the juvenile nature of such a quest came to me while reading Freud. He was regaling himself over the purity of his quest and his disengagement from all that had come before him and how he set out without a single conclusion to observe the facts as he found them. It was too loud of a toot on the horn. I thought, “What utter bullshit.” What an impossible dream. Nothing? What about his language? Surely he'd take that along. And, for the readers out there, you know all the perils of value and direction found embedded in a single word let alone a sentence or a paragraph.

No. Freud wasn't going anywhere without all the conclusions already formed in his mind long before his investigation was even begun.

This hints at the nature of reality itself. The nature of truth.

Nietzsche asked, “What if Truth is a woman?”

We can wonder, “What if reality is actually created by belief and not the other way around?”

If this is the case, the Creator no doubt knows it. If the Creator is benevolent He most likely told us.

See?




Wednesday, June 18, 2008


No More Golf This Year


PSOMETHINGS.44. Yes, it's true. Here's the bitter bad news:

Tiger Woods has decided to have surgery on his left knee, which will end his 2008 season.

Woods said on his Web site that he will have surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament. He also wrote that he needs time to rehabilitate a double stress fracture of his left tibia, which he said was discovered just before the Memorial Tournament in late May.

And he revealed that he originally ruptured the ACL in 2007 while running at his home in Orlando after the British Open. He said he decided not to have surgery at that point, and he went on to win five of the next six events he entered (through his Target World Challenge in December).

Woods said no date has been determined for the surgery, which will be the third in five years on Woods' left knee.

Woods said doctors have assured him the outlook is positive. Doctors have told him that the stress fractures will heal with time.

Of course, the PGA is gamely trying to cope. Regularly scheduled tournaments will be played as exhibitions for the rest of the year since the results obviously won't count. There's no guarantee, however, that any of the events will be televised; the networks are businesses, not charities for sports without viewers. Otherwise, we'd see a lot more coverage of curling.

Sorry. Best wishes to Tiger. Hope you get well soon.





Planet Nerf
It's like killing with kindness. Sort of.

...OR NUTHIN. When guns are outlawed, onlyoutlaws will have gunsforgo the hassle of finding illegal guns and just use knives instead:

Britain is redoubling its efforts to stop young people carrying knives, after a volley of fatal teenage stabbings and headlines warning that the country is in the grip of a knife-crime epidemic.

Too many stabbings. That's a drag. My heart would, er, bleed for them if I didn't delight in the chance to see that famed Brit intellect go to work solving this problem. "Can't stab if you've got no knife, can you, bloke?" some Great Expectations-looking twit thinks. "Get rid of all them knives, then. Righto!"

Police have embarked on a stop-and-search operation to retrieve weapons; the government has warned of tougher sentencing for teenage culprits, and a "youth summit" has come up with a $6 million [537 British Pounds- Ed.] ad campaign to warn of the perils of carrying a knife.

Uh, shouldn't that be "the perils of not carrying a knife"? It's not as if each knife is some kind of unstoppable projectile, flying like Robin Hood's arrow toward a young hooligan hundreds of yards away carrying another knife. Unless they're referring to the risk of puncturing your scrotum with a knife in your pocket, like Mr. Bean with a Sheffield steel fountain pen.

Youth summit. They didn't make any actual young people attend, did they? Now I'm feeling pangs of sympathy.

The name sounds lofty, doesn't it? Summit. The handful of kids in the nation who don't carry knives are led to expect an event that's part think-tank, part Woodstock. What they get is closer to a goddamn DMV seminar, where the pressure on everyone to pretend they're having a good time and saving the world kills their youthful enthusiasm stone-dead. Like a load of buckshot to the face.

I'm irritated. Let's skip to the punchline:

Another medical expert, Dr. Mike Beckett, argues that it is time to remove sharp knives from kitchens altogether. He says there is no need for the pointed tips that make knives fatal. "What people want in a kitchen knife is the edge," he told the BBC. "The point on the end of the knife actually serves little culinary purpose, but it is the point that kills people."

That's some mighty big stupid, doctor. Leaving aside the idiocy of "only the point can kill" for the moment...

A KNIFE CAN SLASH AS WELL AS JAB, TURNS OUT.
Or is that not taught in Brit medical schools anymore?


...can you see the implications of this "logic"? If not, come with me into the terrifying mind of Lord Bottingham, future Minister of Public Safety. Watch how his deformed, anemic morality cuts the rights of man to ribbons, like Helen Keller pushing a lawnmower through a rose garden while wearing one of those electric dog-shocking collars.

"Murder is dreadful. Simply unspeakable. Guns are used to kill. Outlaw guns. Problem solved! No further thinking required! Time for a snort at Boodles!

"Wait. Now kids [the most prominent group of murderers, evidently] are using knives instead of guns. Outlaw knives-- at least the keen ones. They don't need to be quite so keen, after all. Set a legal cap on how sharp a knife may be. Require all knife sharpeners to be rigged so they hone a knife only to an edge that can slaughter butter...

"What's this? Kids are using rope to strangle each other now? Guess we have to get rid of rope, too. II know, I know. I don't like the idea either, but we have to protect the beastly little bastardskids, don't we? From the other ghastly, common larvaekids, all of whom want to kill each other so frantically that inventiveness in homicide is the only sort of creativity they express anymore. The only way to stop them is to inhibit them, to render them physically unable to enact their fervent bloodlust. So rope's right out of the picture. Bungie cords too. You'll have to use something else, mate. But nothing that can ever harm a human being in any way. That's why we replaced all the real motorcars with dodgy electrified golf carts a few years back. Getting out and walking across every road with a greater than one-degree incline is a small price to pay for keeping the repellent low-bred spawn of cockney verminkids safe. Isn't it? Brilliant.


Why are the kids so homicidal when they have this to look forward to?

"Bollocks! Now the monstrous semi-human hooliganskids are using cricket bats, paperweights, and grandmama's objets d'art to bludgeon random passers-by to death. We've got to ban EVERY OBJECT WEIGHING MORE THAN A KILOGRAM! Excluding, of course, nature and whatnot. (After all, igneous rocks have more right to this planet than we do, being way more natural. By far.) We'll have to put spool after spool of razor wire around each tree-- to protect them, as well as us. From their heavy limbs and pokey branches. And it's high time to finally take down all those public sculptures of the "heroes"-- Ha!-- of Brit military imperialism...

"Bugger! Now every bloody bastardchild under 18, without exception, is pushing his closest relatives into the razor wire! Bugger our war-mongering, imperialist heritage! We've got to cork all the razor wire... except we can't make corks anymore, because most of the equipment is illegal and our cork colony is right down the drains. Bugger the universe's random, cruel wit! Bloody hell.

"But... WHAT WHAT! We can still make Nerf. The Nerf works converted to all-Nerf production some time ago.

"We could Nerf everything! Nerf police boxes, Nerf carriageways, Nerf pencils and office cubicles, even Nerf kitchen bits!

"And everything we can't make out of Nerf will have Nerf padding, applied with super glue, so it can never be removed, for any reason! Brilliant!

"Finally, a consequence-free Britain! Utopia! An orange-coloured paradise! Island Nerf!"

Bloody brilliant. Brits...

Of course, it can't happen here.

P.S. Hey, Mal: There's a sliver of hope. You know the great thing about people with no stomach whatsoever for a fight? They have no stomach whatsoever for a fight. Thank GodAllah.





Greatness.


G-R-R-REAT. Something important has gotten lost in the American experiment. Something we used to know deep down but seem committed to forgetting. What triggered my own memory was Mark Steyn's last post before he went on hiatus to mount a new offensive against the forces which no longer believe in freedom of speech. He wrote this about Obama and McCain:

Sen. Obama has learned an old trick of Bill Clinton's: If you behave like a star, you'll get treated as one. So, even as his numbers weakened, his rhetoric soared. By the time he wrapped up his "victory" speech last week, the great gaseous uplift had his final paragraphs floating in delirious hallucination along the Milky Way:

"I face this challenge with profound humility and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people … . I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal … . This was the moment – this was the time – when we came together to remake this great nation."

It's a good thing he's facing it with "profound humility," isn't it? Because otherwise who knows what he'd be saying. But mark it in your calendars: June 3, 2008 – the long-awaited day, after 232 years, that America began to provide care for the sick. Just a small test program: 47 attendees of the Obama speech were taken to hospital and treated for nausea. Everyone else came away thrilled that the Obamessiah was going to heal the planet and reverse the rise of the oceans: When Barack wants to walk on the water, he doesn't want to have to use a stepladder to get up on it.

There are generally two reactions to this kind of policy proposal. The first was exemplified by the Atlantic Monthly's Marc Ambinder:

"What a different emotional register from John McCain's; Obama seems on the verge of tears; the enormous crowd in the Xcel Center seems ready to lift Obama on its shoulders; the much smaller audience for McCain's speech interrupted his remarks with stilted cheers."

The second reaction boils down to: "'Heal the planet'? Is this guy nuts?" To be honest I prefer a republic whose citizenry can muster no greater enthusiasm for their candidate than "stilted cheers" to one in which the crowd wants to hoist the nominee onto their shoulders for promising to lower ocean levels within his first term. As for coming together "to remake this great nation," if it's so great, why do we have to remake it?

Uh, yeah. Obama's a great talker. McCain's a great self-promoter. But is either of them great in the sense of the word that we all know underlies its constant overuse? No. They're not great. They're politicians. Both of them. Which is mutually exclusive with the real meaning of the word 'great.'

That's what Steyn is reminding us about. He explains in a later paragraph:

Speaking personally, I don't want to remake America. I'm an immigrant, and one reason I came here is because most of the rest of the Western world remade itself along the lines Sen. Obama has in mind. This is pretty much the end of the line for me. If he remakes America, there's nowhere for me to go – although presumably once he's lowered sea levels around the planet there should be a few new atolls popping up here and there.

What is American exceptionalism? The notion, the conviction, that we're different from every other nation in history. On what was this conviction founded? In terms of politics, it was founded on the brand new idea that a nation's political leaders were not to be blindly followed but continuously suspected. Indeed, our best presidents have been those who were self-consciously plain, keenly aware that their power was largely an accident of timing and circumstance, that they themselves were merely reflections of a national mood that could have been exemplified by many others. They did not see themselves as messiahs. And if they suspected other people did, they worked to disabuse the majority of that impression. Washington set the precedent of retiring after two terms in office, after having turned down a proffered crown. Jefferson was too shy to play a charismatic executive. Jackson was too human, too flawed to play at being a savior. Lincoln probably came the closest to being truly great, but his press -- the world over -- was every bit as bad as Bush's, and he never knew he was being groomed for sainthood. And the record of the "phantom amendment" proves that the Great Emancipator was also a sly and potentially unscrupulous politician.

It's only since the advent of mass media that we have begun to see presidents as mythological figures -- Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and now Obama -- as larger than life figures, larger even than ourselves. It's all hogwash. The partisan critics of these icons have all been right to some degree. TR was a cartoonish personality, a blustering braggart making up for a sickly youth with oceans of overbearing bravado. FDR was an arrogant, ignorant snob, dumb as a brick about economics and blind to the sedition and treason in his own inner circle. He never did directly what he could do by stealth and sneaky tactics. Truman was a lifetime politician who lucked into the biggest political deal ever. JFK was a sex- and drug-addicted Irish mobster, heir of a ruthless clan that accumulated power with no thought about the values of democracy. Reagan was an actor who found a different way to be the star his talent couldn't achieve in Hollywood.

I've been thinking about such not just because I'm concerned about the cult of Obama. I've been watching the new attacks on Winston Churchill by Pat Buchanan and others, for example, which was at first surprising because I grew up in the generation which deemed Churchill the "Man of the Century," and then not so surprising as I remembered that Churchill was a politician, meaning that at least part of him was low, mean, unscrupulous, and self-obsessed.

It is an American act to challenge the putative greatness of the so-called great, especially when they're politicians. That's how we've avoided monarchy and aristocracy for close to a quarter of a millennium. It got me thinking. About greatness. Nobody who aspires to so much power and control can ever be truly great as a person. How do I know that? Because I've had the privilege of knowing -- in my entire lifetime -- two truly great human beings. I've known many more good human beings, but greatness is its own category. It's the kind of human quality you find yourself measuring yourself against, even when it doesn't seem relevant, and the measurement always makes you feel inferior. You know what I'm talking about. None of the excuses work when you're talking about real greatness.

So I've known two. My paternal grandfather. And my wife. Which makes me blessed among men. I've had the honor of knowing two people who were always who they were, without doubt or apology, and whose singular goodness survived every temptation and became, instead, an example of how one should respond to life's trials. Interestingly, the quest for power and authority never figured into their life plans. Instead, they managed somehow to do things for others, serve as un-self-conscious examples of virtue in its purest form, and enjoy the simple pleasures of a life that could not be summarized in a bumper sticker. I've known good men who were good executives, but greatness is always an impossibility. They make choices the great ones would never make. Because when it comes down to it, the career matters more than, well, other things. I'm not accusing. I've been there. But I don't like to think I could go there again. When life gives you a second opportunity to learn, you're worse than a fool if you don't try to take in the lesson.

If you want Obama or McCain, cast your votes accordingly. But please do it the American Way. Knowing that they're both damned dirty politicians who can't be trusted any farther than we can throw them.

I'd say the same thing if Abraham Lincoln were running again. So help me.





Cyd.


FAREWELL. She was the best. Ever. Now she's gone. But you can read about her here.

But this is all you need. There was a time when young women were sexy.



Long gone.




Back to Archive Index

Amazon Honor System Contribute to InstaPunk.com Learn More