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April 1, 2011 - March 25, 2011

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Split. And Why It Matters.

THE WISDOM OF (PLUMP, CUTE) BABES. Sometimes, politics and religion converge. That's what's happening with me now, and I'm not handling it well. Let's set the scene. Here's a NYT essay by the new enfant terrible of the conservative elitist class, Ross Douthat. I apologize for pushing the 'fair usage' practice by borrowing the whole thing, but my defense is that in this case 'the whole thing' is nothing more than the posing of an incredibly important question:

Heaven and Nature

It’s fitting that James Cameron’s “Avatar” arrived in theaters at Christmastime. Like the holiday season itself, the science fiction epic is a crass embodiment of capitalistic excess wrapped around a deeply felt religious message. It’s at once the blockbuster to end all blockbusters, and the Gospel According to James.

But not the Christian Gospel. Instead, “Avatar” is Cameron’s long apologia for pantheism — a faith that equates God with Nature, and calls humanity into religious communion with the natural world.

In Cameron’s sci-fi universe, this communion is embodied by the blue-skinned, enviably slender Na’Vi, an alien race whose idyllic existence on the planet Pandora is threatened by rapacious human invaders. The Na’Vi are saved by the movie’s hero, a turncoat Marine, but they’re also saved by their faith in Eywa, the “All Mother,” described variously as a network of energy and the sum total of every living thing.

If this narrative arc sounds familiar, that’s because pantheism has been Hollywood’s religion of choice for a generation now. It’s the truth that Kevin Costner discovered when he went dancing with wolves. It’s the metaphysic woven through Disney cartoons like “The Lion King” and “Pocahontas.” And it’s the dogma of George Lucas’s Jedi, whose mystical Force “surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.”

Hollywood keeps returning to these themes because millions of Americans respond favorably to them. From Deepak Chopra to Eckhart Tolle, the “religion and inspiration” section in your local bookstore is crowded with titles pushing a pantheistic message. A recent Pew Forum report on how Americans mix and match theology found that many self-professed Christians hold beliefs about the “spiritual energy” of trees and mountains that would fit right in among the indigo-tinted Na’Vi.

As usual, Alexis de Tocqueville saw it coming. The American belief in the essential unity of all mankind, Tocqueville wrote in the 1830s, leads us to collapse distinctions at every level of creation. “Not content with the discovery that there is nothing in the world but a creation and a Creator,” he suggested, democratic man “seeks to expand and simplify his conception by including God and the universe in one great whole.”

Today there are other forces that expand pantheism’s American appeal. We pine for what we’ve left behind, and divinizing the natural world is an obvious way to express unease about our hyper-technological society. The threat of global warming, meanwhile, has lent the cult of Nature qualities that every successful religion needs — a crusading spirit, a rigorous set of ‘thou shalt nots,” and a piping-hot apocalypse.

At the same time, pantheism opens a path to numinous experience for people uncomfortable with the literal-mindedness of the monotheistic religions — with their miracle-working deities and holy books, their virgin births and resurrected bodies. As the Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski noted, attributing divinity to the natural world helps “bring God closer to human experience,” while “depriving him of recognizable personal traits.” For anyone who pines for transcendence but recoils at the idea of a demanding Almighty who interferes in human affairs, this is an ideal combination.

Indeed, it represents a form of religion that even atheists can support. Richard Dawkins has called pantheism “a sexed-up atheism.” (He means that as a compliment.) Sam Harris concluded his polemic “The End of Faith” by rhapsodizing about the mystical experiences available from immersion in “the roiling mystery of the world.” Citing Albert Einstein’s expression of religious awe at the “beauty and sublimity” of the universe, Dawkins allows, “In this sense I too am religious.”

The question is whether Nature actually deserves a religious response. Traditional theism has to wrestle with the problem of evil: if God is good, why does he allow suffering and death? But Nature is suffering and death. Its harmonies require violence. Its “circle of life” is really a cycle of mortality. And the human societies that hew closest to the natural order aren’t the shining Edens of James Cameron’s fond imaginings. They’re places where existence tends to be nasty, brutish and short.

Religion exists, in part, precisely because humans aren’t at home amid these cruel rhythms. We stand half inside the natural world and half outside it. We’re beasts with self-consciousness, predators with ethics, mortal creatures who yearn for immortality.

This is an agonized position, and if there’s no escape upward — or no God to take on flesh and come among us, as the Christmas story has it — a deeply tragic one.

Pantheism offers a different sort of solution: a downward exit, an abandonment of our tragic self-consciousness, a re-merger with the natural world our ancestors half-escaped millennia ago.

But except as dust and ashes, Nature cannot take us back.

I don't mean to demean Douthat. Putting the right question is a spectacular feat if you can do it in a single op-ed column. Answering that question is everyone's individual responsibility, not Douthat's. His last four paragraphs frame an existential crisis for anyone who's paying attention. For those of us who have significant parts of our personal identities bound up with our citizenship as Americans, the current political situation is also an existential crisis.

Have you wondered why your response to the Obama administration is so severe that it impinges on your personal life? This is why. For me, I must admit, it has amounted to panic. Because I know what is at stake.

Call it a perfect storm of assaults on faith. I cannot do the things, physically, I once did. When I shoveled snow the other day, I thought I was going to die. For real. I hid it from my wife but the dogs were concerned. They surged around me as I sat gasping for breath. I pushed them away. I push everyone away. Even my wife and closest friends. Especially my wife and closest friends.

Yes, I had the mid-life crisis the MSM convinced me I would experience. Back when I turned forty. But that pales in comparison to the end-of-life crisis you experience when you confront the fact that you are growing old and, worse than that, frail. It's easy to beat a mid-life crisis. You buy a Harley. It's not so easy to beat the end-of-life crisis. You look to philosophy, religion, family, country, humanity itself for a context that makes sense of your life and its inevitable approaching end.

For many, family is enough. Which is good. If you have it, embed yourself in it. It is its own kind of salvation.  But some of us don't. Some of us have only the illusion of family, blood relations of spouses whom we love fiercely but know to a certainty regard us as bit players on the stage of births, baptisms, Thanksgivings and other holiday dramas. There will be attendees at our funerals, but only because they are honoring someone else they care about more.

Which is fine. The way of things. There are other relationships. I have had a life-long relationship with God, specifically Jesus Christ. I thought it was a unique relationship. I thought if I did His work, in my own particular way, He would wink at my manifold sins. But my sins are still sins. And I also thought, for way too many years, that my not quite believing in Him was somehow (roughly) analogous to Him not expressly condemning me. Talk about your hubris.

But I am still a Christian. If not blindly at least philosophically, historically, and ritually. And I'm an American. These two, however qualified, used to be more or less synonymous. I was also a rational being, convinced that being part of the Long March Toward a Better Life Through Science and Other Forms of Educated Thinking would count for something at the, uh, end. You see, I also knew that being a Christian meant that you were also a participant in the LMTBLTSOFET that bound me up with the brotherhood of American exceptionalism.

But here, toward the end of my life, I have become, suddenly, a pariah. Friends turned on me for things I said here. I needed my country to sustain me in my beliefs. I knew that the Christianity-based U.S. Constitution had been a force for good in the world, which was part of my faith, such as it was, in the gospels. Have I mentioned the word 'frail'? I needed my country to bolster my religious faith.

And then came Obama. Not his fault, I guess. Back in 1999 I heard my own dad tell me, in the full knowledge of his own imminent death from cancer, that the country he had fought for no longer existed. Those of you who have read this blog all these years know that I rejected his angry, dying dismissal. Still do. BUT...

Even he never anticipated that a president of the United States would take the position that human existence was somehow wrong in the scheme of things. Which, no matter how you boil it down, is the position -- nihilist in the extreme -- of the supposed savants of western civilization. Note that the Chinese exhibit no such enlightenment. That's why they'll own the 21st century. Problem is, I don't want China to own any century. Especially one I'm living or dying in. Which means it's time for me to die. And I'm having trouble with that idea. My wife saved me from dying. Now she can't understand why a mere Obama is undoing her good work. She blames me. All I can do is apologize. And try to explain that it's bigger than anything she or I can control.

The Split. Yeah. Have you ever had the feeling that people are arguing about matters YOU settled long ago? I do. Every day. (Book of Andrew, Book of ASSUMPTIONS.) What is with this idiotic notion that Nature is good and Mankind is bad? Fact is, Nature is cruel, even demonstrably vicious, and Mankind is, uh, more kind than not. That's why Mankind has prospered and proliferated. DUH. Consider this: Christianity is the biggest ever departure from Nature. Its central premise is that we all matter. Odd. Wrong? Perhaps. But absolutely right in human terms. It has led to the extension of human thought, lifespans, and a kind of beauty and accomplishment no other culture has ever dreamed of. No other kind of human philosophy has produced such sheer gorgeousness. Now we are being asked to regard ourselves as vile, a scientifically verifiable pollution on the face of the earth, something akin to the AIDS virus. The President of the United States subscribes to this view. Let me repeat that. The President of the United States subscribes to this view.

While I am struggling on matters of faith, patriotism, and survival. My response? Fuck him and the horse he rode in on. The Split does matter. Not just because I'm going to die, but because we all know we're going to die and  we all still care about what happens after  Human religion is by definition the Split with Nature, the proof that we are better than lions, hyenas, wolves, and black mambas. Most of us live every day with the proof -- the species that remade themselves just for the privilege of living with us and acquired a moral sense along the way -- dogs. Now we're on the "precipice" of taking better care of our dogs than ourselves. It's called ObamaCare.

Obama has made me a monster. I confess it. I thought I was part of a national tradition that would move from strength to strength regardless of my own personal failings. I was wrong. I thought Jesus Christ was strong enough to withstand both the dashboard totemism of the fundamentalists and the politically correct nonsense of the Catholics and Episcopalians. I was wrong. I thought I could soldier through my doubts and fears -- Obama's deliberate assault on my country and its freedoms -- without anyone knowing the depths of my despair. I was wrong.

But -- and here's where I appeal to my brethren -- how do you explain to loved ones that "mere" politics can be the driver of your distance from "Christmas spirit" and threaten everyone else's enjoyment of the season?

Let me be clear about what I'm not saying. I'm not blaming it on Obama. I'm talking about my own loss of family and lack of faith. I have failed in every way possible. The Obama adminstration found all those cracks and turned them into the personal disaster I now face.

I AM sorry. I am also, truly, in despair. I love my wife, I love my (her) family, I love my country, and I'm not serving any of them at the moment. That's the definition of my despair.

UPDATE. Thanks to Eduardo. Psalm 31:

10 For my life is spent with grief,          
and my years with sighing:
my strength faileth because of mine iniquity,
and my bones are consumed.
11 I was a reproach among all mine enemies,          
but especially among my neighbors,
and a fear to mine acquaintance:
they that did see me without fled from me.
12 I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind:         
I am like a broken vessel.
13 For I have heard the slander of many:          
fear was on every side:
while they took counsel together

Thanks to others, too. It does all matter...

The Future

DEE-TROIT. I actually know this city. Had a car stolen there once. (An SUV I didn't want but had to buy because I was a GM consultant and they hated my MR2.) While I was working as a consultant to the -- wait for it -- UAW. Who didn't want to hear it. How to not kill the industry they were sucking the life out of, that is. Things like not beating the crap out of auto workers who took jobs with Japanese companies in America. Or keying their cars in their driveways, at home. Didn't. Want. To. Hear. It.

But. Here's your future under the Obama administration. Just imagine health care Detroit style. Lots of money flying around and death at every turn. HUH! (Does this git me a Peace Prize?)

I'm working on the Christmas spirit thing, though. My friend Chain Gang made it simple enough that even I can understand it. He pointed out that nobody ever believed all of Jeremiah's correct predictions. Am I as good as Jeremiah? No. So cut it out during the Christmas season, okay? Save the gloom and doom for the New Year, okay?


Monday, December 21, 2009

A good and true Tip
for our sci-fi junkies.

MTV, uh huh. Also, he's from southern New Jersey.

A NEW FONT OF INFO. There is actually an InstaPunk-certified movie reviewer. Since we don't always see movies the moment they come out, where are you supposed to turn? Well, Kurt Loder would be the guy.

Not that we always agree. He liked Watchmen, for example, which we didn't, not at all and by a whole lot. BUT. Here's what you get with Loder. He knows his movies, the whole history and all the references and antecedents. His reviews are literate but column length. He takes movies on their own terms, which is to say that he doesn't expect a Pixar movie to be an Ingemar Bergmann film, even though he knows Bergmann inside out. Nor can you wow him with sheer money, celebrity, or hype (He worked for MTV, don't forget.) He's also a good enough writer and reporter that he tells you why he liked, or didn't, a movie, in ways specific enough for you to decide whether his opinion is relevant to you or not.

Finally, I have found him to be the best of all reviewers at confirming my own viewing of a movie I've actually seen. He sees what's good about it, what's bad about it, and he almost never spoils it with his review.

Imagine my surprise to discover that he grew up less than fifty miles from me, is a libertarian, and employs his experience with saltwater as a source of philosophical wisdom:

I grew up on the Jersey Shore, on a little barrier island. The Atlantic Ocean was on one side, the bay was on the other. Everyone there hunted and fished and clammed and got crabs out of the bay. And one day my brother told me someone had come down from the Bureau of Petty Harassment or something and they measured the temperature of the water and had decided it was a little too warm and a certain type of bacteria might incubate in it and there was a chance that might harm the clams. And so, from now on, no one was supposed to take clams out of the bay anymore. Which everyone ignored. And no one died. That was before the government got tenacious about this stuff. So I thought that was pretty stupid right there

I know exactly what he's talking about. But I didn't know it when I discovered his reviews. I thought he was the pseudo-intellectual of MTV. I was wrong. Fortunately, I found I was wrong by reading his writing, not his biography. Now I am happy to report I've located his review page on the Internet, thanks to Big Hollywood. I commend you to do the same. Here's a sample of his review of Avatar:

There's a lot to look at here: the luminescent glow of the jungle in which the Na'vi live, the ancient Tree of Souls with which they commune, a spectacular range of mountains hanging high in the sky up above Pandora — and there's a lot going on. The director and his battalion of digital technicians have cooked up a fantastical bestiary of Pandoran creatures — futuristic hammerhead rhinos; dogfighting battle dragons; and, in one virtuoso sequence, a vicious six-legged thingy that chases Jake through the jungle and off the edge of a cliff (see trailer). The meticulous detail in which these creatures have been rendered, and the complexity with which they're arrayed in the film's exotic environments, are undeniable marvels of moviemaking art.

Unfortunately, whenever the action lets up and we're returned to the piddling story, the picture slumps like a failed soufflé. It's also heavily laced with political instruction of a most familiar sort. Cameron, who's now 55, is a self-acknowledged aging hippie, and his boomer worldview is strictly by-the-numbers. Quaritch and Selfridge are evil Americans despoiling the Na'vi's idyllic planet in exactly the same way that the humans have (we're told) trashed their own native orb. The invaders are armed with deplorable corporate technology (an odd animosity in a major-studio movie that reportedly cost more than $300 million to make), and they speak the familiar — and here rather anachronistic — language of contemporary American warmongering. ("We will fight terror with terror!" "It's some kind of shock-and-awe campaign!")

The Na'vi, on the other hand, with their bows and arrows and long braided hair, are stand-ins for every spiritually astute and ecologically conscientious indigenous population ever ground down under the heel of rampaging Western imperialism. They appear to have no warlike impulses themselves, and they live in complete harmony with their environment. (They even talk to trees.) Why, the movie asks, as if the question were new, can't we be more like them?

You see? He's not as political as I am. He doesn't get as pissed about ideology as I do. But he still knows that a superficial crap script is bad moviemaking.

I know more than that. But in the interim, Kurt Loder will do. And when he likes a movie you probably wouldn't, he gives you enough information about his own viewpoint and arguments to let you decide for yourself. What more could you ask than that?

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Pollyanna Syndrome

AIN'T POLITICS GRAND? Well, well, well. Aren't conservatives starting to sound cocky? Over in HotAir's Green Room, CK Macleod is grinning:

Purely from a political standpoint, this should be a time for celebration – watching the worst political leadership combine in modern, perhaps in all American history joining hands and leaping off the President’s “precipice.” If ever there was a time for “the worse, the better” rightwing Leninism, this may be it. Or, for those who prefer their references more pop culture-y, there’s always Dirty Harry (if it was good enough for Ronald Reagan, it’s good enough for me)...

Insert "Make my day" clip from Dirty Harry. Then an honor roll of triumphalists:

Allahpundit ties together several strands, then sums things up succinctly in a message to the Dems (if not quite as succinctly as Massachusetts Dem Michael Capuano): “Good luck in those midterms, champ.” William Kristol, whose idea inspired the earlier post on politically sane alternatives, provides a political play call – noting that Obamacare’s three main beneficiaries are Big Pharma, Big Government, and Big Insurance, while urging the Republicans to argue “1,000 times no”...

Insert quote from Jay Cost pointing out that these Big Three beneficiaries are ideal for any politician to run against. Next:

If these gentlemen are right, we can stop calling it Obamacare, Pelosicare, Reidcare, Idon’tcare, Whatevercare:  The day it passes it will be Zombiecare.

The fiscal and perhaps other reckonings to come will likely require much more from us and our political system than merely avoiding the Obamacrats’ mistakes, but they have provided the negative blueprint for how to proceed to that hard business, and much of the material for construction – even if the Dems do themselves a favor and scrap this bill at the 11th hour. Do the systematic opposite of what they’ve been doing. That template may serve conservatives for a generation. [boldface added]

Even Michelle Malkin has got a fevah:

Social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, the GOP leadership, Sarah Palin’s heartland supporters, conservative think-tank intellectuals, D.C. and Manhattan conservatives, Big Business and small-business conservatives, Joe the Plumber conservatives, and every stripe and flavor of conservative in between are all united against the Democrats’ proposed government takeover of health care. All.

It’s the Left, not the Right, cracking up. It’s the party donkey, not the elephant, now in a rabies-crazed frenzy...

House Democrats are blaming Senate Democrats and the White House for the legislative meltdown. The Nobel Peace Prize winner-in-chief himself has come under fire. Democrat Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin carped that “the Obama administration is sitting on the sidelines.” Democrat Rep. John Conyers of Michigan accused the White House of selling out to the insurance industry.

It all feels very 1990s – the period between 1992 and 1994, specifically – when liberals smugly declared the premature death of the GOP only to be walloped by the midterm conservative backlash. The ruling majority got greedy, overreached, and lost touch with average Americans. With the support of the public, Republicans united to slay Bill Clinton’s stimulus monstrosity and Hillary Clinton’s health care monstrosity...

One major difference now is the vast proliferation of alternative media – through Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and Fox News – that has facilitated the spread of information about Democrats’ big government designs and given rise to Tea Party activism. The Right’s ability to change the narrative is greater than ever. The Democrat crack-up reminds us that there are no fait accomplis in politics. Political coroners, take heed.

I don't object to some modest optimism. We all need to believe that defeat can be turned eventually into some kind of victory. But I just want to sound a strong cautionary note. The notion that "If ever there was a time for 'the worse, the better' rightwing Leninism, this may be it" is absolutely dead wrong. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

It's sheer giddiness to think that it's somehow better for conservatives if the Democrats succeed in passing this truly horrendous healthcare bill. Madness, in fact. Yes, the Dems will experience huge losses at the polls in 2010, but even the rosiest of all possible electoral scenarios is nowhere near rosy enough to undo the damage the bill would cause. The Republicans could retake the House, but not by the majority the Democrats presently hold. It's less likely, though remotely possible, that Republicans could retake the Senate. However, there's no way on earth the Republicans could command the 60-40 majority that has made possible the currently imminent hijacking of one-sixth of the U.S. economy. Which means that there's no way to get to the magic number that would be required for repeal.

That's why Democrats in the House and Senate are prepared to commit political suicide to pass this bill in the first place. If any bill passes, the federal bureaucracy will permanently control a huge new chunk of our lives and liberties.

Think about that. Some damage control could be accomplished certainly. Fearful Democrats might be bludgeoned into passing new legislation that would effect tort reform, undo the federal funding of abortion, eliminate some of the excesses of taxation, Medicare cuts/rationing, and add some much needed oversight on bureaucratic tinkering with the doctor-patient relationship. But the sea change in the nature of healthcare decisionmaking will stand. The federal government will remain the central power in determining what constitutes acceptable health insurance and what medical treatment and procurement policies will govern the behaviors of doctors, hospitals, drug companies, and insurance plans. That's not just the camel's nose under the tent; it's the whole camel. Costs will rise the way they always do under government control, and the quality of service will decline in the way we're all used to when the government is involved -- e.g., the Post Office, the DMV, and those federal professionals who handle airport security checks. Profit will be steadily driven out of the healthcare marketplace and with it the innovations that have made this country the worldwide leader in the advance of medical technology.

This not a time to feign outrage at the monstrous bill rocketing toward corrupt, extorted passage in the congress and then wink at each other when the Democrats cripple their own electoral prospects by jamming it down our throats as the law of the land. If they pass this bill, they win a giant victory and all of us, the citizens of the United States, are the losers. Our lives will be shorter, less free, more embroiled in paperwork and red tape, and both more expensive and infinitely more humiliating and oppressed.

I can't conceive of any November 2010 electoral outcome that can compensate for such catastrophic real world results.

Can you?

This is not the time to crow, or gloat, or wink, or pat each other on the back over Dem dissension and stupidity. It's time to redouble our efforts to DEFEAT THIS TYRANNICAL TAKEOVER OF THE MOST PERSONAL PART OF OUR INDIVIDUAL LIVES.

Screw the 2010 elections. Defeat this bill.

UPDATE. CK MacLeod responds to this post at It's a well argued piece, and I don't disagree in principle with most of his future tactical points, although I have an overriding objection and a related dispute with his close:

If Obamacare, on its own terms or as implicated in approaching fiscal catastrophe, remains anywhere near as unpopular over the coming years as it is now, there is no fundamental reason why it can’t be rescinded – piece by piece or all at once.  I therefore remain convinced that the proper response by conservatives to its passage cannot and must not be despair – certainly not yet, certainly not while a popular wave against the prime perpetrators is rising, and not while the tools of democratic self-government are still within reach.

I can see why Instapunk and others might feel justified in calling me or anyone else out for unwarranted optimism as we stand on the Obamic “precipice,” but in my opinion defeatism and pessimism are far worse responses.  This is a moment for sober judgment, and for confidence in one’s own beliefs and analysis, whichever best keeps you in the fight.  It’s a moment to decide whether our message to the Obamaist progressives is going to be:  “You win -- we give up” or “We’re coming after you, and getting rid of your laughable, embarrassing, and repugnant health care bill (presuming you ever get around to passing it) will just be the beginning.”

All I said was that we shouldn't treat passage of the bill as any kind of good news. It isn't and wouldn't be. I detect that MacLeod is actually agreeing with me on this point. I never suggested that if the bill were passed, the appropriate conservative response should or would be, “You win -- we give up.”

AFTER the fort has fallen, you immediately begin planning to retake the fort. But when you are still defending the fort and the ramparts are under fire, you don't grin knowingly at each other and say, "Boy are THEY in trouble if they dare conquer this fort!" Who in his right mind of those engaged deeply in the fight would say that? You could call it a timing issue. Yes, today Dunkirk is remembered for the heroic, largely civilian response that rescued the core of the Brit army from annhihilation at the hands of Hitler's troops early in World War II, an extraordinary, almost miraculous turn of events that was indispensable to the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany. But I very much doubt that the outmanned troops trapped and facing capture or death at Dunkirk winked at each other said, "Those Nazis have really stepped in it this time. We've got'em right where we want'em."

It would have been infinitely better if the British expeditionary force had defeated the Germans in France instead. Dunkirk wouldn't have had to be an inspiring story. The Battle of Britain might not have happened. The atrocious losses of the American B-17 bomber groups who had to fight Germany from across the channel wouldn't have been so atrocious. D-Day and its appalling casualties wouldn't have been necessary at all. In reality, Dunkirk was a military catastrophe, not a clever public relations coup for drumming up mythic evidence of Hitler's doom.

I'm not beating up on MacLeod here. I can see that we don't differ much at all on policy. My honest disagreement with him is that I think we must fight the bill with every weapon in our arsenal until the battle is finally and irreterievably lost. Then we immediately go to work mounting the counterattack. He seems to think we must accept our inevitable strategic defeat on the bill itself and buoy our spirits with dreams of the vengeance to come. But if any of those dreams cause us to fight a scintilla less hard against the imminent disaster of passage, I am opposed. Even after the rescue from Dunkirk, there was no guarantee that salvation of the Brit officer corps would succeed in building a new and larger army capable of defeating Hitler. And, in fact, it didn't. A "deus ex machina" was required -- the United States of America.

This time it's the United States of America that's being pushed into the sea. Our own civilians may mount a heroic  rescue from disaster, and we'll be 100 percent on board with that. But there are no guarantees. And it would still be much much better if no rescue were required, no Battle of Britain, no Twelve O'Clock High, no D-Day, and no Battle of the Bulge to undo the harm of this one dastardly Blitzkrieg offensive.

And dare I point out that we have nowhere to turn but our own citizenry for rescue? There will be no "deus ex machina" to transform our patriotic sacrifices into final victory the way we did for the Brits.

I understand his position. But I disagree. Despite what happened last night, this bill still has not passed. Therefore, let us keep fighting.

UPDATE 2. CK MacLeod has responded to my response. That he materially misrepresents my response I won't bother with. He continues to believe that good conservative intentions can undo a bad bill en route to electoral and constitutional checkmate. That's the only point I'll deal with now. Here's what Sarah Palin is saying, and here's what she basing it on.

It's called booby-trapping the future. The Democrats are very very good at it. We still need to block this bill, whether it improves GOP prospects in 2010 or not. This isn't political calculus. It's simple arithmetic. Good news? It might still be possible. Would I rather have castles in air or a chance or a realizable hope? You tell me.

Honorary Punk Award

IT'S BEEN AWHILE. Gosh. We awarded this for the first time back in July 2004. At the time, we explained, "We don't give it out often. It goes only to those who write pieces that need no elaboration or injections of attitude to make their point. What we do in such cases is simply reprint the the entire article, with no more than a brief acknowledgment of one or two ways that they have earned our admiration." Today we're pleased to honor, gulp, a Brit (!) who isn't afraid to tell the truth about the ludicrous Copenhaaaagen summit. Herewith, the words of Mr. Gerald Warner:

 Copenhagen climate summit: 'most important paper
 in the world' is a glorified UN press release

When your attempt at recreating the Congress of Vienna with a third-rate cast of extras turns into a shambles, when the data with which you have tried to terrify the world is daily exposed as ever more phoney, when the blatant greed and self-interest of the participants has become obvious to all beholders, when those pesky polar bears just keep increasing and multiplying – what do you do?

No contest: stop issuing three rainforests of press releases every day, change the heading to James Bond-style “Do not distribute” and “leak” a single copy, in the knowledge that human nature is programmed to interest itself in anything it imagines it is not supposed to see, whereas it would bin the same document unread if it were distributed openly.

After that, get some unbiased, neutral observer, such as the executive director of Greenpeace, to say: “This is the single most important piece of paper in the world today.” Unfortunately, the response of all intelligent people will be to fall about laughing; but it was worth a try – everybody loves a tryer – and the climate alarmists are no longer in a position to pick and choose their tactics.

But boy! Was this crass, or what? The apocalyptic document revealing that even if the Western leaders hand over all the climate Danegeld demanded of them, appropriately at the venue of Copenhagen, the earth will still fry on a 3C temperature rise is the latest transparent scare tactic to extort more cash from taxpayers. The danger of this ploy, of course, is that people might say “If we are going to be chargrilled anyway, what is the point of handing over billions – better to get some serious conspicuous consumption in before the ski slopes turn into saunas.”

This “single most important piece of paper in the world” comes, presumably, from an authoritative and totally neutral source? Yes, of course. It’s from the – er – UN Framework Committee on Climate Change that is – er – running the Danegeld Summit. Some people might be small-minded enough to suggest this paper has as much authority as a “leaked” document from Number 10 revealing that life would be hell under the Tories.

This week has been truly historic. It has marked the beginning of the landslide that is collapsing the whole AGW imposture. The pseudo-science of global warming is a global laughing stock and Copenhagen is a farce. In the warmist camp the Main Man is a railway engineer with huge investments in the carbon industry. That says it all. The world’s boiler being heroically damped down by the Fat Controller. Al Gore, occupant of the only private house that can be seen from space, so huge is its energy consumption, wanted to charge punters $1,200 to be photographed with him at Copenhagen. There is a man who is really worried about the planet’s future.

If there were not $45 trillion of Western citizens’ money at stake, this would be the funniest moment in world history. What a bunch of buffoons. Not since Neville Chamberlain tugged a Claridge’s luncheon bill from his pocket and flourished it on the steps of the aircraft that brought him back from Munich has a worthless scrap of paper been so audaciously hyped. There was one good moment at Copenhagen, though: some seriously professional truncheon work by Danish Plod on the smellies. Otherwise, this event is strictly for Hans Christian Andersen.

Kewl. His prize? An exemption from some of the worst things we've said about Brits over the years. Sorry it couldn't have been cash. Like most subjects of western socialist plutocracies, we don't have any. [Hint, hint]

Why We Fight

It was depressing to watch.

FOX BUSINESS NETWORK.  I knew about John Stossel and his long history as a mote in the eye of ABC News. Mrs. CP didn't. Now he has this new show on the Fox Business Network (Thursdays at 8 pm), and I expected her to be impressed. She wasn't. Last night, he did this health care thing with the CEO of Whole Foods, who got into so much trouble by proposing that his own company's health plan was better than the federal healthcare bill. I don't think Mrs. CP actually objected to what he was doing by having a studio audience some of whom objected to what he was proposing. I think she was objecting to the fact that Stossel really is a journalist. One earnest longhair in his audience who objected to a non-government approach actually whined about having to pay (Excuse me -- get a bill for) his own money for a finger injury costing $500-- as if the government owed him treatment for free. And Stossel let him make the argument without rebuke.

What Mrs. CP wanted -- what I wanted -- was Stossel to tell the whiner, "You're a joke. We don't owe you anything." But he didn't. He's not O'Reilly. He's a journalist.

What I was struck by. He obviously salted his in-studio audience with people who want the government to take care of them. The camera lingered on them throughout, arms folded, cross little faces, sooo unhappy about the mere mention of capitalism, even as the Whole Foods CEO explained how his company's health program worked and multiple hourly paid employees expressed their happiness with their company health plan. What was clear was that nothing could ever dent the dissenters' view that only the government was competent to make anything better for everyone.

Which made me think -- frankly -- of our schools. For example, there was a Stossel guest, a woman, who tried to explain the value and productivity of profits. She convinced no one. She sounded like a PR agent. Which reminded me that kids in our schools today learn far more about media spin and Global Warming and the sins of America than they ever learn about basic economics. How do you teach the ineluctable fact that profits are the source of innovation, reinvestment, and new, cheaper goods and services to people who have been propagandized by NEA schoolteachers to believe that they're owed everything in life by just showing up? And when that's all they learn, you get something like this (maybe a stand-in for Stossel's grumpy socialists...)

I mean, how dulled to basic reasoning do you have to be to hear about a completely successful program and see no possibility of good in it. Because the government is automatically better. And how obtuse do you have to be never to have heard a story like this and wondered... just wondered... that stuff like this might be true...

AND.  How f___ing braindead do you have to be not to know that this kind of byproduct of government interference is just flat fucking wrong?

I guess you'd have to be like the people Reid, Pelosi, and Obama are so confident they can fool. Wouldn't you?

Because smart people are all Democrats. Like the Jersey Shore cast. Right.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

In case you have a
yen to see Avatar...

What Virtual Progressivism looks like.

SMURFS ARE COOL. The good news is that the Fox Business Network has finally produced a winning alternative to the Three Blind Mice that make up the cast of Fox & Friends. The bad news is that FBN's "Imus in the Morning" wastes a few minutes on obligatory stock-markety snore bait before it gets down to the 'business' of jeering at absolutely everyone and everything via Don Imus's now perfected pose of malignant narcissist heroically battling prostate cancer while evincing not the slightest concern or regard for a single other human being on earth. It's laugh-out-loud funny half the time and annoyingly financial or dully reminiscent of his old MSNBC show the other half. (Bo Dietl? Please.) At any rate, because Imus starts so slowly, I've continued to make the mistake of tuning in to the beginning of F&F, even though the stooges appear to be on a mission of getting demonstrably dumber every damn day.

But maybe today was the last straw. This morning, self-admitted cultural genius Steve Doocy announced that he had seen "Avatar" and pronounced it "great," "fantastic," and promised a full review on Friday. It's probably only a coincidence that James Cameron is a scheduled F&F guest tomorrow or so. I'm sure you've already been exposed to some of the MSM reviewers who share Doocy's glowing appraisal of the movie we're supposed to flock to like lemmings, but I thought you might appreciate some additional, uh, information:

Hollywood Reporter.

Is "Avatar" a $300 million [uh, wrong number] public service announcement about global warming? Some folks are saying that.

James Cameron responds, saying: "At whatever price tag, it's a PSA for global warming -- obviously Republican. (laughs) There is a theme ... and I think it's a theme that's a legitimate one, it's one that I care very passionately about, and by the way, I think if we want to survive as a species we better all start caring about it."

Big Hollywood Review 1.

The fact that “Avatar” is basically “Dances With Wolves in Space” represents the film’s major flaw. For despite being the most expensive film of all time, with a $300 million production cost and another estimated $200 million spent on advertising, “Avatar” is also one of the most derivative films of all time. It’s hard to believe that a man like Cameron (“Terminator 2,” “Titanic”), who is capable of absolute genius in creating the film’s staggering visuals and astonishing breakthroughs in 3D IMAX technology, is unable to come up with a screenplay that isn’t a hamfisted mishmash of countless better films’ plot elements and a heavy-handed bash on modern American foreign policy.

Big Hollywood Review 2.

Absent from the big screen for over a decade now, Oscar-winning director James Cameron returns armed with a reported half-billion dollars, a story he’s been desperate to tell for 15 years, and the very latest in cutting-edge visual technology. The result is “Avatar,” a sanctimonious thud of a movie so infested with one-dimensional characters and PC clichés that not a single plot turn – small or large – surprises. I call it the “liberal tell,” where the early and obvious politics of the film gives away the entire story before the second act begins, and “Avatar” might be the sorriest example of this yet. For all the time and money and technology that went into its making, the thing that matters most – character and story – are strictly Afterschool Special.

What a crushing disappointment from one of our most original and imaginative filmmakers...

Within 15 minutes, the “liberal tell” spoils every story beat of Sully’s character arc. He’s as dull a protagonist as you’ll ever see. Sigourney Weaver plays a gruff-talking, cigarette smoking scientist with … wait for it, wait for it … a heart of gold. Giovanni Ribisi’s sweaty weasel of a corporate executive never moves beyond that and Col. Quaritch is all ‘roid rage, no humanity and his Big Speech about the necessity of “a pre-emptive attack to fight terror with terror” was as surprising as Cameron‘s use of a military “shock and awe” campaign to level the Na’Vi’s precious “Home Tree” as a tacky metaphor for the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Oh yeah, he went there…

NY Press.

Cameron’s superficial B-movie tropes pretend philosophical significance. His story’s rampant imperialism and manifest destiny (Giovanni Ribisi plays the heartless industrialist) recalls Vietnam-era revisionist westerns like Soldier Blue, but it’s essentially a sentimental cartoon with a pacifist, naturalist message. Avatar condemns mankind’s plundering and ruin of a metaphorical planet’s ecology and the aboriginals’ way of life. Cameron fashionably denounces the same economic and military system that make his technological extravaganza possible. It’s like condemning NASA—yet joyriding on the Mars Exploration Rover.

Pretty cool, huh? Hollywood insight on 9/11, the Iraq War, Global Warming, and the sickening evil of American capitalism all wrapped up in one diverting, half-billion-dollar, high-tech, big business 3D blockbuster. I can only wonder why Cameron didn't see fit to solve the healthcare controversy, too, while he was at it. Unless he had as much trouble raising the 2.5 trillion dollars the 'solution' costs as we will.

And there is one final caveat about Hollywood's most expensive movie ever, included almost as an afterthought in a lengthy U.K. article about Cameron's Magnificent Obsession, which struck me as odd. (And great that an American filmmaker who has made a fortune in America wants to debut his biggest movie ever in Europe...)

More worryingly for Cameron, the 3D effects, which are supposed to mean that Avatar is the 'first film of the future', left several viewers feeling nauseous. 'I definitely would not eat before seeing the film,' one told me.

Exactly the same feeling I had as a kid, thirty-some years ago, watching much-ballyhooed 3D experiments like "House of Wax" and "Carnage." Maybe the eyes and the brain don't like being continuously fooled into a perceptual illusion for 90 or 180 minutes at a time. No matter how much technology is deployed, at some point in time, illusion becomes delusion and the result is bodily resistance in the form of nausea.

The way some of us react to other popular delusions on the world stage at the moment -- the messianic identity of Barack Obama, the Democrat love of humanity which is pushing the healthcare bill toward passage, the "save the world through scientific autocracy" movement that is acting itself out so magnificently in Copenhaaaagen, the, uh, you get the picture.

Pun intended. Getting the picture in these instances requires a special set of eyeglasses. You've got to view the world in exactly the right artificial way not to see that the deep virtual reality you perceive in front of you is merely a tricked-up distraction from the deadly real knives advancing on your back from behind you.

That's why I didn't show you another Avatar trailer. What's far more important is the image above. The fools are being so willingly taken in. Every lying despot hands out his own set of glasses. And people put them on and keep them on. Soviet/Marxist glasses. Castro glasses. Che Guevara glasses. Chavez glasses. Al Gore glasses. Pelosi glasses. Obama glasses. They even learn to disregard the nausea as a kind of dyspeptic aversion to 'conservatives.' Why shouldn't they? They've learned to disregard every inconvenient fact along the way, too. Nausea has become part of their limbic response to life itself.

So why shouldn't James Cameron have his own special glasses? Enjoy the view. As long as you can bear it without puking your guts up.

Unfortunately, I'm already there. Without some safe zones, all they're doing now is making enemies of the rest of us. Which is another way of saying, screw you, Steve Doocy. Not seeing Avatar anytime soon.

UPDATE. Here's a Big Hollywood roundup and a more daring soul who sees in Cameron a D.W. Griffith figure. My only quibble -- not sure from what I've heard that 'Avatar' is the technological breakthrough it's supposed to be. Want to see a cinematic breakthrough that still takes the breath away half a century later? Take a look at this SINGLE UNINTERRUPTED SHOT in 1958's Touch of Evil.

Yeah, Orson Welles was a lefty too, but he was far more than a technocrat ideologue...

You kids...

Obamessiah Revisited

Who are the dummies here?

THE PROMISE KEEPER. I mean, who said what, when? The enlightened libs said Obama could fix everything forever. Idiot conservatives said he was just another pol, peddling panaceas to gullible fools. Who was right? No matter who you are, left or right, he's broken all his campaign promises. [Promise Keeper Update]

Righties remember his promises about a new spirit of bipartisanship, transparency in government, televised hearings on C-Span in which both Republicans and Democrats could exchange views about solutions of the healthcare problem, and no increase in taxes for the little guy.

Lefties remember that he was going to undo all the Bush policies like the Patriot Act, big pharmaceutical companies' control of drug pricing, Wall Street invulnerability to the vicissitudes of the economy, and any escalation of the militaristic response to the threat of Islamic terrorism.

All of those promises lie broken today, less than a year into his first term.

So who were the dumb ones?

The dumb ones were the ones who voted for Obama the messiah. Which is a huge majority of those of you who voted for him. The promises he made to conservatives were mostly less important to conservatives than the lies he told to independents. He intimated to them that he would govern from the center, not the left. Conservatives never believed it. We placed our credibility in what he had said in his two autobiographies, in his record as a community organizer, in his charmed friction-free life with no real job responsibilities. (Do you really want to lecture us about how wrong we were?)

We thought he was a racist, Anti-American, African Liberation Theology fanatic, and probable Marxist who would do everything possible to diminish the image and influence of his own country throughout the world and appease authoritarian and totalitarian regimes who have done nothing but oppose American values and ideals. We thought he would seize on the fact of an economic downturn to increase centralized government power and punish the people whose hard work makes propserity possible for the rest.

This was the promise we saw in his background and character. We never believed what he said. His lies don't bother us in the broader context. (we never believed the bipartisan transparency rap, for example.) He has fulfilled all the promises of his character. The only promises he hasn't kept are the ones that have nothing to do with his own increase of personal power.

Are we surprised that he kept the executive powers George W. Bush carved out with respect to intelligence and surveillance of private citizens in regard to the war on terror? No. There's a consistency of purpose here that's so dead simple only a liberal could miss it.

Every single move and decision of the Obama administration is consistent not with any set ideology but with the increase of executive power. Where the Bush administration sought more executive power, he agrees and moves to confirm it. Where he sees some other opportunity to extend and increase executive power -- over banks, businesses, health care, etc -- he siezes it.

This is a man who can't bring himself to condemn Ahmadinejad, Chavez, or even Mugabe. He can diss the U.K. Prime Minister and the Queen. But he can't be an alpha male with ruthless dictators.

Probably the good news not reported by the right-wing commentators. If Obama doesn't have it in him to be a messiah, he also doesn't have it in him to be a Mugabe, no matter how envious and adoring he is.

Obama's idol. Robert Mugabe. One-party despot.

Not Mugabe. What a relief. He's just a weak, wilted putz. Like a better-dressed Carter. The only important question that remains -- can we undo the enormous harm he has wrought before it sinks our nation? I have to say yes. Why? Because I have to say yes. Anything else would be defeatism.

As for those of you who thought they saw a messiah...

You really really really suck. Watch your video again and tell me you were immune. To insanity. Better yet, make another video expressing the same degree of blind stupid faith. Waiting...

P.S. By all means, come back. Tell us how much you believed in Obama. Then tell us how much smarter you are than, duh, conservatives, who have always believed that men are men and none should ever be worshipped.

Bests and Worsts of 2009

SOMETHING WORSE THAN THE SMELL OF ROTTING MOUSE? Bests and worsts of the decade soon to follow. This is just a foretaste.

Best politician. Michelle Bachman. She has all the liabilities of Sarah Palin -- articulate, good-looking, conservative, determined, smart, and ebullient. Must be awful. No. She's great.

Best movie. No nominees this year. None, nada, nil, zilch.

Best television show. 'Fringe.' Does it matter that the show makes no sense, that the plots are frequently borrowed from 'X-Files," that the whole premise is absurd? Yes. But not enough. The Aussie agent is hot and so is her "we're not having sex but love each other" boyfriend from some old network soap opera. Hell, it doesn't even matter that the plots fall so completely apart that it's easy to turn the thing off ten minutes before the end because you've figured out the paranaormal explanation this week. Well, yeah, all that does matter. But the Aussie FBI agent is still hot.

Best sporting event. Tiger Woods sleeping with every woman in America. While winning all those golf tournaments. Unless it was the X-Games, which are absitively, unf***ingly unbelievable.

Best news story. The AP assigning eleven reporters to fact-check Sarah Palin's book and only four to fact-checking ClimateGate. I mean, really. How cool does it get?

Best song. There weren't any good songs this year. Here's the newest good song:

Best blog. InstaPunk. Yeah, we've looked around. Read the popular conservative nominees. Objectively, finally, we've decided the best is, uh, us.

Best new cable show. Imus in the Morning.

Worst politician: Nancy Pelosi. We'd elaborate. But there's no need.

Worst movie: '2012.' People actually believe this end-of-the-world shit. Meaning liberals. You know, the rational ones.

Worst television show: Too many to list. The woman who had all those kids who also divorced her husband for better ratings. Unless it was the woman who had all those babies just to prove that she could have all those babies. Either way, the only thing proved was that women are completely f***ing nuts, which must make all those Brandeis, Smith, and Wellesley grads feel great. As they shouldn't.

Worst sporting event: Every NBA game played this year. With Honorable Mention to "March Madness."

Worst news story: The Obama Inauguration. And all the subsequent magazine covers. Yuk. Yuk. Yuuukkkkk...!

Worst blog: Temptation abounds. I'd love to hit all the obvious targets and smash them into ruins but, hell, there's only one Worst Blog. Andrew Sullivan.

Worst new cable show: Tossup between Rachel Maddow and Joy Behar. Since they're both morons, why do I have to decide? But I will. Rachel Maddow is the one I'd like to argue into the weeds. She's vicious, awful, and deranged, but not retarded. Like Joy Behar is. Meaning retarded. Give me Rachel to crush. And I'll be happy. Or as close to it as I can get in an age when Obama is able to destroy my country with a 49 percent approval rating.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Is this the biggest news
story of the month?

BULAVA. I know. ObamaCare. Nuclear trigger in Iran. Troops to Afghanistan. The Copenhagen climate change farce. But what the hell is this thing? Does it look like a failed and out-of-control missile test to you? Really? That's what they're telling us, of course.

New Russian missile may be behind Norwegian lights


MOSCOW — The failure of a new Russian intercontinental ballistic missile during testing was the cause of spectacular spiraling blue lights in the skies over northern Norway, analysts said Thursday.

Russia's defense ministry said a Bulava missile was launched Wednesday by a nuclear submarine submerged in the White Sea and its third stage suffered an unspecified failure.

Photographs and amateur video footage of the bluish-white in the Norwegian skies have been circulating on the Internet since Wednesday and spawning speculation of UFOs. The ministry did not confirm the lights were the result of the failed launch but military analysts said they clearly came from the Bulava explosion.

I am absolutely not a rocket scientist. But to me it seems that an out-of control missile test would look like, well, something out of control. Not a perfect -- and I do mean perfect -- spiral with a crazy blue light beaming from the center point. For example, here's a failed misssile test:

You know. Failure. FAIL. Not a mesmerizingly mathematical light show. And, sure, there are lots of conspiracy theories fanning out across the Internet. But, uh, shouldn't there be?

I'm just asking.

The Dollar Menu Turn-Off

UNREAL. Fast food franchises have basically gone nuts in the past few months. They want us to know how much great fast food we can buy for a buck or two. Which is a wonderful tribute to American capitialism's talent for competing in the teeth of a massive recession through advertising. But Mrs. CP has been getting increasingly grumpy about it all. Subway subs that aren't even remotely appetizing to look at. Burgers and fries from everybody else that, in her opinion, are almost enough to turn you off burgers and fries for good. Especially when they feature that limp, almost raw bacon which actually makes her want to throw up. So this is for her. And it's also in the way of a tip to McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Sonic, etc. We're not buying because the burgers don't look good.

Sorry. The problem appears to be self-proclaimed "food dressers" who don't particularly like food themselves. Maybe you should do something about that. One way to phrase the question to yourselves:

But, once again, ignore the unreal burger...

Suit yourselves. I know you will.

ManBearPig is stonewalling

So much comic material, so little laughter.

POIGNANT? I was going to say something. I'm almost certain I was. But I forgot what it was. I'm sure Doctor Zero can remind me. In the interim, all I can think to do is reproduce an email from ace commenter Lake:

Not sure if you've been following the detailed data mining of the CRU files since posting about it... This account of Australia's Darwin station and the statistical faith put into such a poor example yielded a couple of excellent pieces, the second of which reminds me of your poignant 'pre-blog' post from Writing America Down:

Analysis of Darwin data:

Discussing homogenization in general:


Yes, Lake, I have been following the unfolding mess. The corruption is all pretty slam dunk. The question is, does it matter? I enjoy seeing Al Gore fleeing the questions he doesn't want to answer. But it doesn't satisfy in any meaningful way. It makes me feel a little like a liberal. I have so little regard or respect for Al Gore that I can't believe anyone takes him seriously. But they do. Obviously. This must be how the left (i.e., the sexually dead and dying totalitarian minority) views Sarah Palin. Except that I'm not afraid of Al Gore. I don't feel any particular need to disembowel him in print. He, uh, speaks for himself. Even when he doesn't.

Maybe that's my character flaw. On the other hand, for a great big idiot on the world stage, he differs from Palin in that he isn't a beautiful, charismatic woman. Significant? I think so. I really do.

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