Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
December 21, 2009 - December 14, 2009

Friday, September 19, 2008

Administration Hobby Previews

I didn't much care for the whole biking thing, either.

A TALE OF TWO TICKETS. It's inevitable that one pair of candidates or the other is going to get elected, and we'll get subjected to the usual partisan political fights and screw-ups. What's probably harder to remember right now is that we'll also get bombarded with a lot of stories about what the first and second families do to amuse themselves in their leisure hours.

Do you remember? Sure you do. The Kennedy touch football games. LBJ hoisting his beagle by the ears and showing off his gall bladder surgery scar. Jimmy Carter just sitting there in his frumpy cardigan with that look on his face. Reagan riding horses with his big cowboy hat on. Clinton spraining his knee at Greg Norman's house chasing another piece of tailMcDonald's cherry pie. George Bush the Elder skydiving and George the Younger chain-sawing  sticks at the ranch and falling off his mountain bike. Even vice presidents afflict us with their hobbies. Who can forget Dick Cheney shooting one of his pheasant-hunting friends in the face? Spouses, too. Jackie wanted to redecorate everything in sight, and Nancy Reagan spent most of her free time with fortunetellers and astrologers. Lynn Cheney writes children's books. Ugh. Are you ready for the four years of puff pieces you'll have to endure depending on who we vote into office this November?

You haven't thought about it, have you? Here's a preview. It's not meant to prejudice your vote. There's good and bad on both sides. But who you prefer in the off-hours probably says as much about you as your politics. That's why it's worth looking at.

The Obamas are probably reassuring to the smartest people, as you might expect. Here's a hint about her favorite leisure time pursuit from Michelle, courtesy of the prestigious national news and commentary journal Seventeen Magazine.

On her Facebook page, she lists her interests as "Being a mom, Sudoko."[sic]


It's meta-linguistic. Like Pachinko. Without all the racket.

And from the same source we also learn what hubby Barack likes best.

According to Barack, Michelle doesn't like to play Scrabble. Why? She's very competitive, he says, and "I usually beat her, and I tend to gloat."

Should he let her win occasionally? No. But he should be more gracious about it. I think. We wouldn't want her to get the idea that everyday American life is somehow mean.

He'll probably stop gloating after he wins the presidency.

All very cosmopolitan, to be sure. Very little chance of seeing bandaids and carefully phrased medical press conferences after a lost weekend of Sudoku and Scrabble. The Bidens, on the other hand, will tend to remind us of our physical frailties and vulnerabilities. Joe doesn't play sports at his age, but he does have a rejuvenation regimen that's bound to attract tons of attention after he becomes vice president.

Who knew? You've got to believe. Then comes Viagra.

Maybe the gush of media coverage about hair plugs will be good news for a lot of guys who were too shy or embarrassed to look into the available options. And Joe's wife Jill also has a positive use for her free time. She has her own Breast Health Initiative, which so far hasn't got the glowing reviews it deserves, but I think we're safe in saying that if the Obama-Biden ticket wins, we won't be able to walk down the street without hearing how to give ourselves a breast self-exam.

It's ALL good. Seriously.

So, with the Dems, we'll get our lives enhanced by a bunch of numbers, words, rejuvenation schemes and cancer prevention. Pretty elevating stuff. Especially when you compare it to what the Repubs will probably batter us with. Let's face it. A McCain-Palin administration would be a lot noisier than the refined and helpful hobbies of the Obama-Biden administration.

Forget Cindy McCain's $300,000 convention outfit. This woman is a maniac in her free time. She builds and drives drift racers. Just when you're about to nod off waiting for the weather report during the local late news, you'll probably be blasted out of your warm doze by footage like this:

Is this really what we want middle-aged women doing? Me,
I'm votiing 'Present.' Does she truly know how to heel-toe?

Of course, it's also possible you won't miss the weather report for once. But this is only the beginning. John McCain was an honest-to-God naval aviator, which means we're going to see a whole new emphasis on archaic show-off displays like this:

You know I'm right... The Blue Angels will be fixtures in the
Lincoln bedroom. They'll probably replace the Secret Service.

I'm not sure our ears will be able to stand the strain. Worse, none of the high-decibel McCain extravaganza will do anything to prepare us for the quiet, murderous stalking of Sarah Palin on the hunt for a moose:

No, I didn't show a kill. Don't want to.

And then there's snow machine dude. How sick do you think we're going to get of features, reportage, and melodramatic cinematography like this?

So it looks cool. This time. Think hundreds of times.

Plenty is my guess. But the decision is up to you. Up to all of us, actually. Choose wisely.


P.S. I was definitely not trying to give the impresson that the Obamas and Bidens aren't athletic. Michelle, for example, is on record as saying that she likes to run on her treadmill. That can be athletic, right?

Sure it can.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Why Palin is "Ready"

This isn't a form of rape? What worse thing could you do to a male candidate?

YUP, SHE'S A WOMAN. I wrote the other day about the Babar Conservatives who haughtily inform us that in their considered opinion, Sarah Palin is not ready to be Vice President of the United States. As I reread the post, I spent too much time on it. Here's a better one.

She's ready. The biggest and most important qualification for the presidency of the United States has become, thanks to the MSM, an ability to endure inhumanly savage and filthy personal attacks and still do your job. The fact that such attacks are automatically easier and more damaging to inflict on a woman than a man is a big part of the reason women are still not permitted (officially, at least) combat roles in the U.S. military. It is, for example, a given that women can be subjected to the physical and psychological torture of gang rape if captured, while it remains an unlikely possibility for male U.S. troops unless they're captured in San Francisco.

Here's the irony. While David Brooks and his oh-so-refined fellow skeptics have been parsing the gaps in her state department jargon, Sarah Palin has been undergoing a metaphorical gang rape by the colleagues (of both sexes) they sup with in the Capitol's finest restaurants. Yet she's still here. When asked, she stepped up to the challenge of running the gauntlet any Republican VP pick would have had to run this year. In response, the "liberals" and the feminists have invaded her life and her person to a degree that should be repellent to every American citizen. The SNL skit aside, the sexist innuendoes about Hillary pale in comparison to what has been done to Sarah Palin. Any day now, I expect Chris Olbermann to solemnly demand a live, televised internal exam of Sarah Palin so that we can all be assured that she is indeed a woman and not a white supremacist militia conspirator in drag. "If  she won't put her feet in the stirrups, what is she trying to hide? Let's all look inside her vagina so we can decide for ourselves." The New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, and, of course, The Philadelphia Enquirer (not a typo) will consider it a reasonable request. Speaking of pigs who try to disguise themselves with lipstick...

But she's still here. Still smiling and doing her job in support of the ticket. This woman has more guts than any single other person you have ever met. And what is the biggest challenge of being President of the United States? Withstanding all the pressure, polls, abuse, and libel you receive while you make decisions that affect the well being of everyone in the world. Making the decisions honestly requires good information from your flunkies and common sense. The hard part is finding someone who can make right decisions that are unpopular. Sarah Palin has already passed that test. Bring on Putin, Ahdumjihad, and Kim Il Dong. She'll make mincemeat of them.

I always thought this movie, and this scene, were ridiculous.

I've changed my mind. I wish I had even half the courage Sarah Palin has already shown America. David Brooks and Ross Douthat are pussies. Meaning no disrespect to Mrs. Palin (to whom I apologize for the bad language). Now, can we get on with the election? You know the one. John "They broke my arms and all my teeth" McCain versus Barack "I'm so nervous without a teleprompter" Obama.

UPDATE.  In a startlingly immediate fulfillment of prophecy, New York comedienne Sandra Bernhard has added the explicit threat of gang rape to the left's bombardment of Sarah Palin. She avers that Mrs. Palin should stay out of New York City unless she wants to be gang-raped by Berhnard's black "brothers." A funny joke? Here's an event just referenced by Rush Limbaugh which explains what constitutes humor In Bernhard's set. No pictures. Just words. Still NSFW.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

YouTube Wednesday:

Putting You in the Mood

Liking the audio wasn't part of the plan. But we do.

WODEN'S DAY. Now that the New Great Depression is upon us, it's time to think about how we'll survive the next four months till Barack Obama gets inaugurated and fixes everything in a few days. I don't mind telling you it's going to be quite a shock. We'll all have to move out of our Manhattan penthouses and look for work somewhere away from Wall Street. There aren't any real instruction manuals for a cataclysm of this sort. Will there be enough gas for our BMW SUVs? And will there be batteries for our Ipods and Blackberries? Nobody seems to know.

But necessity is the mother of invention, as they say, so I decided to look for guidance in the movies. That first Great Depression has been covered pretty thoroughly in the movies, it turns out, and it's possible there are some survival strategies we could adapt for ourselves even if they didn't have things nearly as bad in the old days, what with their mere 90 percent decline in the stock market, their piddling 25 percent unemployment rate, and their more manageable 50 percent mortgage default rate.  We'll just have to do the best we can.

It looks like there are three main ways of surviving a depression to pick from, according to Hollywood.

1. Get Adopted by the Well-to-Do

The first and perhaps best way is to figure out how to hang around with rich society folks and movie stars even though you personally don't have any money. That's what William Powell did in My Man Godfrey, and we all know how smart he was.

Just being around money makes it rub off on you.

A variation of this is becoming a kind of star yourself by being famous for what a great symbol you are of the  problems and aspirations of the common man. That gets you invited to places where the food and drink is exceptionally good,  and beautiful women start to admire you for just being there. Like Gary Cooper did in Meet John Doe.

Heck, he wound up with a Barbara of his own.
Come to think of it, Obama demonstrated this approach just last night at his $28,500 a plate dinner in Hollywood. I mean, if you can't actually be Barbra Streisand, be her lapdog instead. It sure beats handing out MREs to homeless wretches in south Texas or distributing chits for free shoeshines to the newly unemployed at the Lehmann Brothers Tent City Center.

2. Become a Sports or Entertainment Sensation.

This one has the disadvantage of requiring you to possess some natural talent and determination to excel in a way that people can easily recognize. But you don't need a fancy resume or much in the way of educational credentials. Like Russell Crowe showed us in Cinderella Man.

We didn't say it was easy. You've got to take some punishment.

Actually, though, you don't even have to be a human being for this one. But it helps to know some who have the guts and faith to believe in you against all odds.

Did we mention the punishment? Like even a couple broken legs.

Some of you will already be edging toward the show business line. The news isn't all good there, either. For example it's possible to be good and likeable and all, and still fail to become an international sensation. Like Clint Eastwood showed us in Honkytonk Man.

I doubt if anybody even paid a cover charge.

You've got a bettter chance if you lay off the smokes and have a great national health insurance program to cure your tuberculosis before the big recording session. Still, the truth is, you could easily wind up six feet under with nothing to show for it.

As you can see, relying on talent and resolve is a very mixed bag.

3. Get Moving and Keep Moving. If You Have to, RUN.

Sometimes the only available option is to get the hell out of the house and down the road. You can fill up the 4WD gearbox of your SUV with sawdust and set out for Oz with your "BP likes windmills" roadmap to guide you. Or if you don't have a car anymore, hop a freight train. That's what Preston Sturges taught us in his great movie Sullivan's Travels. As bad as it sounds, you might hook up with Veronica Lake, which is a jackpot all its own.

That's Joel McCrea with her. The lucky bum.

Of course, things don't always go completely, sbsolutely perfect for Joel in this movie, despite the Veronica angle. Freight trains sometimes contain shady characters with clubs (the bludgeon kind, not the golf kind). A lot of you may want to pass up the train option. But cheer up. Even if you don't have a car, there's nothing that says you can't steal one,

That Bonnie was a pip, wasn't she?

However. A life of crime is sometimes directly associated with a death of crime. Just so you know. Which is why maybe it's better to keep a low profile and just follow along as best you can to wherever everybody else seems to be going. Like to California, where they have the very best health and welfare programs for the indigent in the whole damn country. And lots of cameramen to boot. Who can capture your big personal sob story on film and make you an icon among pitiful losers for the rest of time. That's why there isn't anybody anywhere who hasn't seen Henry Fonda shake his trembling finger at fate in The Grapes of Wrath.

His daughter went on to become a famous movie star. See?

Didn't Michelle Obama say something similar about the country's unfeeling oppression on the subject of Princeton student loans? Well, there you go. She's famous, right? And she's definitely ready to weather our imminent New Great Depression. That's why we've got to elect her husband pretty damn quick if we don't want to get caught speechless in the new normal. We need to be ready, too. We need an immediate government program to supply us all with our own teleprompters so we  can beg for help in the most affecting possible way. And we're going to need lots of practice. Which is why it's so helpful that South Park anticipated the "running like hell" strategy more than a year ago. Watch. Practice. Act out. It's the new WPA.

It brings tears to our eyes.

We can do this. I know we can. No, don't thank me. Thank Hollywood.

COMING CLEAN. Don't want anybody to get the wrong idea. We love all these movies. Every one of them is worth watching. The ones from the thirties are delightful and upbeat, which was appropriate to a time of pain and despair. Of the later ones, only Bonnie and Clyde seems dated, mired in the usual '60s anti-establishment swamp. The three newer ones are excellent. Eastwood's Honkytonk Man is surprisingly affecting and effective. Cinderella Man keeps getting better on subsequent viewings, which is rare indeed. And Seabiscuit. Uh, apologies, but we're animal people here, and specifically horse people who disapprove of racing in a big way (still angrily grieving for Barbaro), but I love this movie so much I'm going to watch it again tonight. The divine spirit moves and it fills all who can accept it with an ocean of light. A thousand bucks on the midget horse to waste War Admiral's ass. Any takers? What if I told you War Admiral has degrees from Harvard, Yale and Princeton? Thought not.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Republican Elitists

a.k.a. Babar Conservatives. Alors!

REMEMBER "POST-CIVILIZATION"? Well, this is interesting. David Brooks of the New York Times has published today an amazingly candid summary of the elitist Republican argument against Sarah Palin. It begins:

The narrow question is this: Is Sarah Palin qualified to be vice president? Most conservatives say yes, on the grounds that something that feels so good could not possibly be wrong. But a few commentators, like George Will, Charles Krauthammer, David Frum and Ross Douthat demur, suggesting in different ways that she is unready.

The issue starts with an evaluation of Palin, but does not end there. This argument also is over what qualities the country needs in a leader and what are the ultimate sources of wisdom.

There was a time when conservatives did not argue about this. Conservatism was once a frankly elitist movement. Conservatives stood against radical egalitarianism and the destruction of rigorous standards. They stood up for classical education, hard-earned knowledge, experience and prudence. Wisdom was acquired through immersion in the best that has been thought and said.

Harrumph. For the moment I'll defer making the point that in his intro he's asserting what is at best a half-truth and give you the key points of his highbrow argument, which he gets to after an interval of belittling the legitimacy and effectiveness of the more recent tradition of so-called populist conservatism.

In the current Weekly Standard, Steven Hayward argues that the nation's founders wanted uncertified citizens to hold the highest offices in the land. They did not believe in a separate class of professional executives. They wanted rough and rooted people like Palin.

I would have more sympathy for this view if I hadn't just lived through the last eight years. For if the Bush administration was anything, it was the anti-establishment attitude put into executive practice.

And the problem with this attitude is that, especially in his first term, it made Bush inept at governance. It turns out that governance, the creation and execution of policy, is hard. It requires acquired skills. Most of all, it requires prudence.

What is prudence? It is the ability to grasp the unique pattern of a specific situation. It is the ability to absorb the vast flow of information and still discern the essential current of events -- the things that go together and the things that will never go together. It is the ability to engage in complex deliberations and feel which arguments have the most weight.

How is prudence acquired? Through experience. The prudent leader possesses a repertoire of events, through personal involvement or the study of history, and can apply those models to current circumstances to judge what is important and what is not, who can be persuaded and who can't, what has worked and what hasn't.

He goes on, of course, to point out that George W. Bush and Sarah Palin don't possess these attainments, and he is therefore able to conclude:

The idea that "the people" will take on and destroy "the establishment" is a utopian fantasy that corrupted the left before it corrupted the right. Surely the response to the current crisis of authority is not to throw away standards of experience and prudence, but to select leaders who have those qualities but not the smug condescension that has so marked the reaction to the Palin nomination in the first place.

I'm grateful for such directness. As grateful as I am amused by his expressed discomfort about "the smug condescension" of others to the Palin nomination.

The only problem with his argument is that it's wrong in almost every particular. It bespeaks a peculiarly parochial point of view that is frankly out of touch with the roots of post-FDR political conservatism and with the broad swath of the American people who support it.

Before I explain this further, I think it's important to take a closer look at the people Brooks cited as subscribing to his own views of Palin. They have more in common than you'd think, enough, in fact, to constitute their own little demographic. David Brooks is a Canadian-American educated at the University of Chicago. Charles Krauthammer was born in New York to French parents and received his undergraduate education at McGill University in Canada before going on to Oxford and then the Harvard Medical School. George Will also took a degree at Oxford before finishing up at Princeton. David Frum  was born in Canada and took his degrees at Yale and Harvard. Ross Douthat is the baby of the bunch, a 2002 graduate of Harvard. Geez. Travel. Internationalism. Universities where 700 SATs are just the starting point. The post-imperialist sophistication of Canada and the U.K. Windsor collars and cufflinks. Cool.

No, I'm not arguing that they're unqualified to comment. They're smart, accomplished men (though one of them can hardly be considered to have the "experience" required to pass judgment on a woman almost 20 years his senior, n'est-ce pas?). It's just that when they step forward to tell the rest of us what it means to be an American conservative, I can't help wondering if what they really are is Tories. You know, the colonial elite who understood that the American Revolution was misbegotten and doomed to disaster because it lacked  "standards of prudence and experience," meaning that it was much much better to trust the King. A lot of the Tories were so convinced of their connection to "ultimate sources of wisdom" that they fled the American colonies for the more civilized provinces of Canada. And were never heard from again. Until lately, that is.

I apologize for mocking them, but I also think they deserve it. The hyper-intellectual brand of American conservatism in the twentieth century has always seemed to me to be taking more credit than they ever earned for the Reagan Revolution. Think of it as National Review Disease, or the Buckley Bullshit. Just the other day, Brooks devoted a column to trashing the Goldwater conservatism which found the political legs to run down the defeatist moderate Republicanism Brooks and Douthat in particular now seem to be peddling as the best chance for a negotiated peace settlement with the socialist left. (Sorry, I can't really pretend to have any respect for Douthat. He's just an ambitious, self-important pup for now, unlike the others on this list.) The Tory conservatives continue to think twentieth century conservatism began with Buckley. It didn't. It began with a lot of hard-working Americans whose traditional middle-class values were violently offended by the gross egalitarian excesses of FDR, a president they despised as deeply as today's cartoon leftists hate George W. Bush.

What Buckley brought to the table was not the first expression of disbelief in the rightness of a continuously expanding federal government, but the charm of a Talleyrand. He could not reverse the political currents in which he moved, but he could ride them to personal success and even acclaim. He could debate John Kenneth Galbraith and company without becoming physically ill. He could separate his political convictions from the life and death stakes they represented to those who never took tea with the confiscatory, communist-appeasing elites. He therefore succeeded in creating a conservative voice that was permitted to coexist with the overwhelmingly dominant liberal intellectual hierarchy which ruled both houses of congress and the government's purse strings for a span of 48 years, less one brief hiccup in the moderate Eisenhower administration. Buckley was, in short, a gadfly. The barbarian admitted to polite society on the strength of his many elite credentials -- learning, wealth, travel, gracious civility, and (consequently) harmlessness.

But the real conservative movement in this country was never a function of the elites. It came from the west, from Goldwater and Reagan. Its whole ascendancy was fueled by a new kind of populism, the common voices of the competent -- those who knew they were doing the real work and creating all the wealth that government wanted to take and redistribute to those who demanded it most plaintively. That's a huge difference from the old-style populism Brooks is trying to lump conservatives into, the Huey Long or William Jennings Bryan (or John Edwards) variety that appeals to those who believe they are helpless victims of a power structure so entrenched they never have a chance to get out from under without a dispenser of booty focused exclusively on them. The populism of the conservative movement that took the White House and congress from the Democrats in 1980 had one simple message "Get government off our backs so we can live our own lives and make our own decisions."

And this is a kind of populism the intellectual and social elites of the Tory class can never comprehend. It's not their fault particularly, but it skews their perceptions in fatal ways. Their lives have been too much governed by the process of getting good grades. In the social, academic, and organizational milieus in which they move, opportunity is achieved by the approval of others in a hierarchy. Talent is not immaterial but it's never a direct shortcut. In the world of writing, talking, and thinking, there is no such thing as the better mousetrap. However privileged they seem, the real power elites are always company men, mentored and tested for obedience and the key social graces before they can be accorded real responsibility or power. They learn how far and how hard they can push against the establishment, which forever afterwards governs their sense of what is possible.

That's why there's nothing in their experience to justify the meteoric rise of a Sarah Palin or for that matter a Bill Clinton or a Barack Obama. If these folks had been running the smoke-filled rooms in 1976, they would have sided with Gerald Ford against Ronald Reagan without a second thought. Prudence. Experience. The most you can expect is crumbs from the table of the Dems and an occasional nod of respect. To earn even this, you must cultivate the measured endorsements of the gray eminences the Tories respect so much more than ordinary people. The fact is, they're as infatuated by the Dem political class as the New Deal coalition of common folk they look down on as much as they look down on rank-and-file Republicans from Texas and, yup, Alaska.

But they're wrong about most of what they assume to be bedrock wisdom. In the America they've never been a part of, inexperienced talents like Bill Gates come out of nowhere and take down invulnerable gray giants like IBM. Ronald Reagan comes from Eureka College and Hollywood to win the Cold War, slash taxes, and restore American pride. George W. Bush comes from Texas, not Andover, and does a better job in his first term than in his second hurling back the menace of al qaeda and Islamic hatred, despite a timid European consensus ruled by the prudence and experience that can't even detect a knife poised at its own throat.

Of course, experience has its value and its place. But this is a remarkably stupid statement:

"The idea that “the people” will take on and destroy “the establishment” is a utopian fantasy..."

Reforming the establishment is not the same thing as destroying the establishment. It just looks like destruction to tea-sippers who admire the Medici more than Samuel Adams or Andrew Jackson. The saddest part of their ignorance is that it's clear they've never lived in a world of profit and loss, where accountability can be determined in stark terms and where sometimes the greatest, most productive changes can be effected by those who enter a staid bureaucracy with fresh eyes and see clearly, without the camouflage of convenient jargon or the grievous half measures and failures perpetrated in the name of prudent experience. American history is full of Sarah Palins. Many of our greatest moments have been achieved by raw talent and decency backed by unexpected courage.

And there's another essential ingredient of any political calculus that has a chance at doing something more than mitigating compromise with the leaden status quo; it's called winning. If you can't win the opportunity, it doesn't matter how much experience you have. You won't get the chance. That's one part of the equation Buckley never had to worry about. He was able to rely for that on the troglodyte populists who eventually enabled him to take credit for a generation of change he never felt the need for as deeply as my father and grandfather did.

Success has many fathers. I don't object to Buckley's claims of paternity with regard to conservatism as much as I do to those of the David Brookses and Ross Douthats who would have us employ the tactics of Neville Chamberlain to restore the polite defeatism of the Rockefeller Republicans. And I damn well hate the snotty, superior tone these small-minded men use to make their case for reduced expectations and incrementally lessened socialism as the apogee of American conservative aspirations.

To hell with the National Review and the Weekly Standard if they insist that our own candidates have to be able to sing Nessun Dorma to Charlie Gibson's satisfaction. He's never sung it to my satisfaction. And if he looked down his nose at me, I'd probably break it on the spot.

Some of us really don't give a rat's ass about what the ghost of Eric Severeid might think.

UPDATE 9/22/08:  An interesting illustrative snippet from today's Corner at NRO.

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