Instapun*** Archive Listing

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January 6, 2012 - December 30, 2011

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

This is Only a Test

Comment if the sound file works, prease.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Here's the iconography. What's the truth?

WHY OBSESS ABOUT BULLSHIT? I knew this would come up. As it has, in the comments. To wit: "Frazier was TWICE the champion the POS Ali could ever dream of being." Be patient. I'll get to this. But there's an important point at stake and I'll get to it in the right order.

I know I'm speaking to a subset of a subset here, but the truth is what it is, regardless of the preconceptions and gaps in the minds of the audience. Old 'conservatives' never saw Ali as anything but a disruptive troublemaker and rooted continuously for a humiliation that never quite came, no matter how fervently they yearned for it. Probably why they abandoned boxing as a sport. You younger kids have probably been raised with a metrosexual aversion to boxing as a sin akin to dogfighting, never mind what that says about your assessment of those who compete in it willingly.

This is a lesson for both of you. I'm not talking down here. Just clearing away some of the cobwebs and the distortions of time. Which is what a lesson it is, even if it's conducted for the benefit of talented intellectual equals who know things that just aren't so.

There are jarring contradictions in both your points of view. And something shining in the space between them.

I have to begin with some non-sequiturs. My first outreach is to the (comparative) kids who regard me as something like Methuselah, even if I amuse you from time to time. You're not really superior to boxing. It's just that boxing has become inferior to your sense of good entertainment. You're not averse to violence. You play incredibly violent video games. You thrive on acts of semi-accidental mayhem in the form of viral videos that show you, vividly, broken bones and other bloody injuries. Many of you are fans of sports -- the NFL and NHL -- whose game action can maim, crippple, and kill the participants. Others of you are devoted fans of professional wrestling -- despite its obvious fakeries -- and the new mixed martial arts style of one-on-one combat. Still others of you are happily willing to claim that "Raging Bull" is one of the greatest movies ever made. (HINT: It wasn't.) For ALL of you, my message is this. None of these can ever compare to the drama of an old-style heavyweight championship boxing match and the champions who fought them. You're superior to nothing. What you are is jaded and ignorant.

My second outreach is to the dinosaurs who insist on hating Muhammed Ali. I know how this argument works. I heard it from my own dad and countless other "boxing fans." Who was better? uh, Joe Louis was better. Because he defended his title 25 times and humiliated Hitler's Aryan champ, Max Schmeling. Rocky Marciano was better because he retired undefeated. And, least convincing of all, Joe Frazier was better because he was a patriot from Philly who knocked Muhammed Ali on his ass once and never tried to pretend he was a world-important figure. (Also called The Rocky Effect: Frazier becomes an honorary Italian and therefore not really black somehow but, uh, Philadelphian. Think I'm kidding? The bizarre truth of the buildup to the first Ali-Frazier fight was that those who were the most frightened of black uprisings in the wake of the Radical Sixties rooted for dark-skinned Frazier against the scary light-skinned Nemesis named Muhammed Ali. Why? You tell me. But Ali seemed at the time completely uncontrollable, a man with a mind of his own. As opposed to Frazier. Who liked hats and leisure suits. Regardless of that, he was an honorary white man doing battle against the evil black man.) Usually, they'll cite all three as superior to Muhammed Ali because look at all the things they did Ali didn't do.

Now for the shining thing. Ali.

Seriously. Think about it. Before Ali, no one had ever regained a lost heavyweight title. He did it twice. A political title fight? Give me a break. The first Ali-Frazier fight was for them the second Schmeling-Louis fight, a confrontation in which civilization itself was on the line. What they forgot was that there was a first Schmeling-Louis that put White America's hero Joe Louis on his ass. Yeah. There was more than one Ali-Frazier fight too. The politics of that are obviously still resonating.

Oops. Did I forget Rocky Marciano? Even in his own time, he benefited from a desire for white men to win. He always got cut, always bled like a pig, and would have had his fights stopped every goddam time if he weren't the post-Joe Louis White Hope. Yeah. He had a hell of a punch. So what. There's really no art in getting beaten half to death for ten or twelve rounds in the hope that you can deliver your one freak paralyzing punch. Muhammed Ali fought at least four other fighters with a freak paralyzing punch. And they all hit him with it. He never got cut. He also never ended a fight on the canvas. That's the freakiest thing of all.

Sorry if I'm beginning to sound angry. But I am angry. I can't count the number of times I've been accused here of being a racist -- or of not taking black behavioral propensities into account in assessing the state of current events.

I oppose Affirmative Action not because I think the Fourteenth Amendment automatically swept away all forms of racism. I oppose it because it isn't helping liberate African-Americans from an anti-intellectual culture that imprisons them in a separatist, inferior, lifelong ghetto. I was ten years old when I became a fan of Cassius Clay. I was the only one in my sixth grade class who wanted him to beat Sonny Liston, the only one who predicted he would, and probably the only one who sneaked a transistor radio under the covers to hear him do it. And, boy, did he do it.

Get Matt or Lake or someone else to explain it to you. Something about him appealed to my writer's sense. He was an original. He'd only been a light-heavyweight when he won the Olympic Gold Medal. He did everything wrong in this time-honored sport. He held his hands at waist-level, almost asking to get taken out by a left hook, uppercut, or right cross. He was brash to the point of silliness. Compared to the post-Joe Louis malevolence of Sonny Liston: "He WILL kill you."

Then he dispatched Liston again with a controversial phantom punch I could clearly see in the replays, and followed it up by changing his name. "I am Muhammed Ali."

Blah blah blah blah. He fought everybody on the heavyweight boxing scene and destroyed them all. Former champion Floyd Patterson. Longtime contenders like Ernie Terrell. (MY first acquaintance with black anger. Terrell wouldn't call him by his new name; Ali tortured him in the ring: {"What's my name?" Jab "What's my name?" Jab. ""What's my name?" Ferocious combination.}) Yeah. I was a pre-teenager. I learned about the Civil Rights Movement from Muhammed Ali. And I could understand because all the hostility was so focused on one man.

And he was so clearly, obviously, and brilliantly the best. With my taste for eternity and my bent for scholarship, I could discern that he was the best ever. Faster, more elusive, and smarter than any of them. But because he never got hit, he was probably yellow. He was a loudmouth, which meant he was a con artist and a fake. He was good looking (even to white people), which meant he was one of those most dangerous of all negroes, the "high-yella."

But it always came back to the ring. That's where the truth is. What you kids are missing now. MMA is a cheat. Boxing can be beautiful. Grappling and chokeholds never are. MMA is technique, a kind of thuggish chess. Boxing is a character test, checkers with pain. I challenge anyone to find a heavyweight boxer in all of boxing history who made of boxing the art Muhammed Ali made it.

Then they took it away from him. Like vandals smashing a work of art in progress. Exactly like that.

They held a smug white man's tournament to replace him. Joe Frazier won it against a bunch of Muhammed Ali sparring partners and other also-rans, including Ali imitators who also held their hands low in imitation and got knocked into the middle of next week for their affectation.

So began the Joe Frazier era. Inheritor of a title he didn't really earn. He knocked people out. He was another Jersey Joe Walcott, only not as good because he was from Philly, not Jersey (This is a personal remembrance, don't forget...)

And then Ali was back, restored to his license. Two hurry-up tuneup fights -- God, how he needed a payday -- and Ali was suddenly in the ring in Madison Square Garden after a 3-year layoff against a seasoned titleholder who was, uh, "TWICE the champion" he was. Even on the scorecard after fourteen, Ali got knocked down in the 15th round and despite his being up in seconds the decision went to Frazier.

Thus was the stage set for a multi-part war. All the old baggage was still in play. Old white men were still in Frazier's corner, pleased with his victory over the presumptuous one. Then George Foreman threw a wrench in the works. He destroyed Joe Frazier utterly. Five knockdowns in two rounds. (Don't hold me to that. If it's not exact, it's close.) A brand new, New Generation,  ultra-slugger Heavyweight Champion.  Foreman was bigger and taller and more hard-hitting than anyone, including the ghost of Joe Louis. No one could last two rounds against him. Bam Bam Down Done. More awesome in reputation even than Mike Tyson at his height. No lie.

I apologize to everyone who actually knows this history. But I beg you to remember that I didn't begin to write The Boomer Bible in its current form until I discovered that people don't know much about history. So, if you already know all this, just pretend you don't for the sake of those who really don't. I guarantee you it's more dramatic than Lost. Because it's true.

Almost parenthetically during the Foreman reign of terror, there was a second Ali-Frazier fight, which Ali won handily by decision. Restored to fighting condition, he knew how to outpoint the slugger from Philly in a twelve-round contest. No big deal. Two over-the-hill fighters blah blah blah... When's Foreman fighting next?

Problem was... Foreman was going to fight Ali. And how the cynics in the sports press pounced. The fight would be in Zaire. The sums discussed were princely. Ali was milking the last watery ounce of his celebrity to make a HUGE payday. The logic was inevitable. Frazier and Ali were evenly matched. Foreman had annihilated Frazier. Ali was even more past it than Frazier, yesterday's news. Ali was a dead duck. QED.

And Ali was old. To put it in perspective, I listened to that first Liston-Clay fight when I was ten. The Foreman-Ali fight was going to happen when I was in graduate business school. We had midterms that night and raced to the apartment of the guy we knew who had the new-fangled thing called HBO (or was it PRISM?) where the fight would be on live.

Subsequently, Norman Mailer wrote an entire book about that fight (the only Mailer book I like). He spends a whole chapter on the first round, from his seat in the first row. The sound of the punches Ali took in the gut from the most fearsome puncher the world of boxing had ever seen. You can find the book for yourself. (It's called "The Fight.") The metaphors are painful even to read. Then came the spontaneous Ali strategy of the rope-a-dope. Which wasn't all that sophisticated. Take punches, take punches, take punches, and take punches to my gut until you are tired. And then I'll kill you. Which he did in the eight round. After lying against the ropes and taking the most ferocious body blows in history for seven and a half rounds, here comes Ali, suddenly dancing and jabbing and punching in a flurry so fast that Foreman is on the canvas in mere seconds. My favorite moment is the punch Ali does not throw, at the very end, because Foreman is already done. (That moment of restraint is frozen in my memory because it reminds me of the referee's decision to keep sending Cleveland Williams back into the buzzsaw after the second knockdown in Round 2 of that fight. It was their hatred of Ali that prolonged that fight, which should have have been over after the second knockdown and was inexcusably prolonged after Williams finished Round 2 flat on his back.) Loving Ali is not sedition. It's glorying in an American original, ultimate underdog, winning wonder.

After the Foreman knockout, we screamed, we yelled, we ran all over the campus proclaiming our unalloyed joy at the greatest upset in heavyweight boxing history. And, uh, yeah, there was a West Point graduate and a Navy aviator on the scene cheering with us.

A day before that contest, I had clipped a column by Red Smith from the New York Times. It was titled, "All Ali has left to lose is his presumption." I carried it in my wallet until it literally dissolved.

So. Suddenly. Ali is once again the heavywight champion of the world. What does he do? He gives another title shot to the man who is "TWICE the champion" he ever was, Joe Frazier. Because he's such a snivelling coward and all.

Which results in the greatest heavyweight championship fight the world has ever seen. The only prizefight that rivals "Rocky" for number of punches thrown. Back when title fights still lasted 15 rounds. Nothing will ever compare again. Pardon the three segments.

Note that one of the commenters is Ken Norton, chosen because there is no one who has ever hated Ali more than he does.The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I apologize for the poor video quality. Just remember. We didn't get to see it while it was happening. What we heard at the times was that Frazier had made Ali a beaten man by the end of the tenth.

And then, suddenly, somehow, the Antichrist beat Frazier to a pulp in the 13th and 14th rounds. Interestingly enough, the unavailability of actual fight footage prior to the age of the Internet has enabled Ali haters to continue to insist that Frazier was always better. He just wasn't. Not seeing what actually happened made it easier to pretend about what happened and what didn't.

But. The thing is, they're both stupendous champions. American champions. They're not ideological opponents. They're competitors in the same line of work. What Marxists never understand. One of Ali's best friends today is George Foreman. God bless him. And God bless America.

Ask me when I began to doubt the reports of the mainstream media.

P.S. I read this out loud to the Missus before I posted it. Didn't want to offend anyone, don't you know. She said, "How do you do this podcast thing? It would all be so much better if people could hear you read it."

I said, "I have no idea."

She said, "Find out."

Does anybody know?

UPDATE. Nobody wants me to do a podcast yet (your loss, believe me; I read like Paul Schofield) But I'm used to the fact that there will be no interest if I'm not philophilosophizing about Lost. (You know. the 8-year TV series consisting of flashback memories of all the people who died in a plane crash 8 years ago. What the alphabet TV networks call suspenseful. Like Hawaii Five Oh. Kewl.) Finally. An intelligent response to this post. By somebody who isn't and was never js. He calls himself Thucydides. Which you can't call yourself if you're not smart.

The Ali I don't care for is the Ali myth. The one who appears on, say, ESPN Classic when a parade of lefty sportswriters (redundant?) play the usual game of status-seeking and prove their totally-not-racist credentials by talking up how much they loved Ali and everything he "represented" - which usually ends up being their side of the 60s culture war. The ones who love to wax poetic about Ali only, or primarily, because doing so lets them get in another dig against racist conservatives. I don't care for them or their Ali.

So what I appreciate about this post was the opportunity it provided to see what a less *political* appreciation of Ali might look like. Or maybe it would be more accurate to call it a more honestly political appreciation?

You offer Ali as an American original, a look at "who we've always been." I like that. I especially like it because you don't claim that what we've always been is without its warts. Ali shows us something shining about ourselves, but he also shows us something about the parts that don't shine.

Love of violence. Americans love to fight, Patton said. I don't think he was wrong. We do like to fight, we like violence. There's a touch of the barbarian in the American soul. Maybe that will help us avoid the ultra-civilized hell of the Europeans.

Defiance of authority. Ali dodged the draft in the name of individual conscience. The same spirit which animated that move animates the Tea Party's stand against reckless government acquisition of property. I know the parallels aren't perfect, but we have to take the good with the bad. Do you like American individualism taking a stand against an oppressive state? Well, you're also going to get draft dodgers and those who refuse to "serve" with that.

Showboating. Americans are ebullient, uncouth, proud. Sportsmanship was taught for generations, I think, to counteract some of our native tendencies toward showboating. That such things are no longer taught or enforced is due to systemic lack of will. Ali isn't responsible for them and he doesn't "represent" the modern decay. He represents tendencies which have always been there.

For both good and ill I think I buy that Ali is an example of who we've always been. I'm not ashamed to like him.

What's wrong with this guy? Can't we like get him arrested for parking tickets or something? You know he made a bunch of money during the Bush years. He must have stolen it from somebody.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Self-Fisking Obama
Address to the UN

A THING NOT MENTIONED. After he delivered this combination olive branch to Iran, unilateral knee-capping of Israel, and (customary) needless kneeldown by the United States, 21 nations felt obliged to walk out on Iranian president Adumjihad's sinister tirade against the U.S. and Israel. Read it and weep. Add your own damn boldface, italics, and outraged commentary. Here, all we can see is pompous, weak, treacherous, self-serving lies and rhetorically empty crap from start to finish. And the unique self-fisking phenomenon. Which is, I admit it, an innovation in American presidential speechifying. As I said the day of his election, he's no president of mine. Ecce:

Transcript of Obama’s Remarks to the U.N. General Assembly

Here is the White House transcript of President Barack Obama’s remarks to the United Nations General Assembly this morning in New York.

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, my fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great honor to address this Assembly for the second time, nearly two years after my election as President of the United States.

We know this is no ordinary time for our people. Each of us comes here with our own problems and priorities. But there are also challenges that we share in common as leaders and as nations.

We meet within an institution built from the rubble of war, designed to unite the world in pursuit of peace. And we meet within a city that for centuries has welcomed people from across the globe, demonstrating that individuals of every color, faith and station can come together to pursue opportunity, build a community, and live with the blessing of human liberty.

Outside the doors of this hall, the blocks and neighborhoods of this great city tell the story of a difficult decade. Nine years ago, the destruction of the World Trade Center signaled a threat that respected no boundary of dignity or decency. Two years ago this month, a financial crisis on Wall Street devastated American families on Main Street. These separate challenges have affected people around the globe. Men and women and children have been murdered by extremists from Casablanca to London; from Jalalabad to Jakarta. The global economy suffered an enormous blow during the financial crisis, crippling markets and deferring the dreams of millions on every continent. Underneath these challenges to our security and prosperity lie deeper fears: that ancient hatreds and religious divides are once again ascendant; that a world which has grown more interconnected has somehow slipped beyond our control.

These are some of the challenges that my administration has confronted since we came into office. And today, I’d like to talk to you about what we’ve done over the last 20 months to meet these challenges; what our responsibility is to pursue peace in the Middle East; and what kind of world we are trying to build in this 21st century.

Let me begin with what we have done. I have had no greater focus as President than rescuing our economy from potential catastrophe. And in an age when prosperity is shared, we could not do this alone. So America has joined with nations around the world to spur growth, and the renewed demand that could restart job creation.

We are reforming our system of global finance, beginning with Wall Street reform here at home, so that a crisis like this never happens again. And we made the G20 the focal point for international coordination, because in a world where prosperity is more diffuse, we must broaden our circle of cooperation to include emerging economies — economies from every corner of the globe.

There is much to show for our efforts, even as there is much work to be done. The global economy has been pulled back from the brink of a depression, and is growing once more. We have resisted protectionism, and are exploring ways to expand trade and commerce among nations. But we cannot — and will not — rest until these seeds of progress grow into a broader prosperity, not only for all Americans, but for peoples around the globe.

As for our common security, America is waging a more effective fight against al Qaeda, while winding down the war in Iraq. Since I took office, the United States has removed nearly 100,000 troops from Iraq. We have done so responsibly, as Iraqis have transitioned to lead responsibility for the security of their country.

We are now focused on building a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while keeping our commitment to remove the rest of our troops by the end of next year.

While drawing down in Iraq, we have refocused on defeating al Qaeda and denying its affiliates a safe haven. In Afghanistan, the United States and our allies are pursuing a strategy to break the Taliban’s momentum and build the capacity of Afghanistan’s government and security forces, so that a transition to Afghan responsibility can begin next July. And from South Asia to the Horn of Africa, we are moving toward a more targeted approach — one that strengthens our partners and dismantles terrorist networks without deploying large American armies.

As we pursue the world’s most dangerous extremists, we’re also denying them the world’s most dangerous weapons, and pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.

Earlier this year, 47 nations embraced a work-plan to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials within four years. We have joined with Russia to sign the most comprehensive arms control treaty in decades. We have reduced the role of nuclear weapons in our security strategy. And here, at the United Nations, we came together to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

As part of our effort on non-proliferation, I offered the Islamic Republic of Iran an extended hand last year, and underscored that it has both rights and responsibilities as a member of the international community. I also said — in this hall — that Iran must be held accountable if it failed to meet those responsibilities. And that is what we have done.

Iran is the only party to the NPT that cannot demonstrate the peaceful intentions of its nuclear program, and those actions have consequences. Through U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, we made it clear that international law is not an empty promise.

Now let me be clear once more: The United States and the international community seek a resolution to our differences with Iran, and the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it. But the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program.

As we combat the spread of deadly weapons, we’re also confronting the specter of climate change. After making historic investments in clean energy and efficiency at home, we helped forge an accord in Copenhagen that — for the first time — commits all major economies to reduce their emissions. We are keenly aware this is just a first step. And going forward, we will support a process in which all major economies meet our responsibilities to protect the planet while unleashing the power of clean energy to serve as an engine of growth and development.

America has also embraced unique responsibilities with come — that come with our power. Since the rains came and the floodwaters rose in Pakistan, we have pledged our assistance, and we should all support the Pakistani people as they recover and rebuild. And when the earth shook and Haiti was devastated by loss, we joined a coalition of nations in response. Today, we honor those from the U.N. family who lost their lives in the earthquake, and commit ourselves to stand with the people of Haiti until they can stand on their own two feet.

Amidst this upheaval, we have also been persistent in our pursuit of peace. Last year, I pledged my best efforts to support the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, as part of a comprehensive peace between Israel and all of its neighbors. We have travelled a winding road over the last 12 months, with few peaks and many valleys. But this month, I am pleased that we have pursued direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians in Washington, Sharm el Sheikh and Jerusalem.

Now I recognize many are pessimistic about this process. The cynics say that Israelis and Palestinians are too distrustful of each other, and too divided internally, to forge lasting peace. Rejectionists on both sides will try to disrupt the process, with bitter words and with bombs and with gunfire. Some say that the gaps between the parties are too big; the potential for talks to break down is too great; and that after decades of failure, peace is simply not possible.

I hear those voices of skepticism. But I ask you to consider the alternative. If an agreement is not reached, Palestinians will never know the pride and dignity that comes with their own state. Israelis will never know the certainty and security that comes with sovereign and stable neighbors who are committed to coexistence. The hard realities of demography will take hold. More blood will be shed. This Holy Land will remain a symbol of our differences, instead of our common humanity.

I refuse to accept that future. And we all have a choice to make. Each of us must choose the path of peace. Of course, that responsibility begins with the parties themselves, who must answer the call of history. Earlier this month at the White House, I was struck by the words of both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “I came here today to find a historic compromise that will enable both people to live in peace, security, and dignity.” And President Abbas said, “We will spare no effort and we will work diligently and tirelessly to ensure these negotiations achieve their cause.”

These words must now be followed by action and I believe that both leaders have the courage to do so. But the road that they have to travel is exceedingly difficult, which is why I call upon Israelis and Palestinians — and the world — to rally behind the goal that these leaders now share. We know that there will be tests along the way and that one test is fast approaching. Israel’s settlement moratorium has made a difference on the ground and improved the atmosphere for talks.

And our position on this issue is well known. We believe that the moratorium should be extended. We also believe that talks should press on until completed. Now is the time for the parties to help each other overcome this obstacle. Now is the time to build the trust — and provide the time — for substantial progress to be made. Now is the time for this opportunity to be seized, so that it does not slip away.

Now, peace must be made by Israelis and Palestinians, but each of us has a responsibility to do our part as well. Those of us who are friends of Israel must understand that true security for the Jewish state requires an independent Palestine — one that allows the Palestinian people to live with dignity and opportunity. And those of us who are friends of the Palestinians must understand that the rights of the Palestinian people will be won only through peaceful means — including genuine reconciliation with a secure Israel.

I know many in this hall count themselves as friends of the Palestinians. But these pledges of friendship must now be supported by deeds. Those who have signed on to the Arab Peace Initiative should seize this opportunity to make it real by taking tangible steps towards the normalization that it promises Israel.

And those who speak on behalf of Palestinian self-government should help the Palestinian Authority politically and financially, and in doing so help the Palestinians build the institutions of their state.

Those who long to see an independent Palestine must also stop trying to tear down Israel. After thousands of years, Jews and Arabs are not strangers in a strange land. After 60 years in the community of nations, Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate.

Israel is a sovereign state, and the historic homeland of the Jewish people. It should be clear to all that efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States. And efforts to threaten or kill Israelis will do nothing to help the Palestinian people. The slaughter of innocent Israelis is not resistance — it’s injustice. And make no mistake: The courage of a man like President Abbas, who stands up for his people in front of the world under very difficult circumstances, is far greater than those who fire rockets at innocent women and children.

The conflict between Israelis and Arabs is as old as this institution. And we can come back here next year, as we have for the last 60 years, and make long speeches about it. We can read familiar lists of grievances. We can table the same resolutions. We can further empower the forces of rejectionism and hate. And we can waste more time by carrying forward an argument that will not help a single Israeli or Palestinian child achieve a better life. We can do that.

Or, we can say that this time will be different — that this time we will not let terror, or turbulence, or posturing, or petty politics stand in the way. This time, we will think not of ourselves, but of the young girl in Gaza who wants to have no ceiling on her dreams, or the young boy in Sderot who wants to sleep without the nightmare of rocket fire.

This time, we should draw upon the teachings of tolerance that lie at the heart of three great religions that see Jerusalem’s soil as sacred. This time we should reach for what’s best within ourselves. If we do, when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations — an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel. (Applause.)

It is our destiny to bear the burdens of the challenges that I’ve addressed — recession and war and conflict. And there is always a sense of urgency — even emergency — that drives most of our foreign policies. Indeed, after millennia marked by wars, this very institution reflects the desire of human beings to create a forum to deal with emergencies that will inevitably come.

But even as we confront immediate challenges, we must also summon the foresight to look beyond them, and consider what we are trying to build over the long term? What is the world that awaits us when today’s battles are brought to an end? And that is what I would like to talk about with the remainder of my time today.

One of the first actions of this General Assembly was to adopt a Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. That Declaration begins by stating that, “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.”

The idea is a simple one — that freedom, justice and peace for the world must begin with freedom, justice, and peace in the lives of individual human beings. And for the United States, this is a matter of moral and pragmatic necessity. As Robert Kennedy said, “the individual man, the child of God, is the touchstone of value, and all society, groups, the state, exist for his benefit.” So we stand up for universal values because it’s the right thing to do. But we also know from experience that those who defend these values for their people have been our closest friends and allies, while those who have denied those rights — whether terrorist groups or tyrannical governments — have chosen to be our adversaries.

Human rights have never gone unchallenged — not in any of our nations, and not in our world. Tyranny is still with us — whether it manifests itself in the Taliban killing girls who try to go to school, a North Korean regime that enslaves its own people, or an armed group in Congo-Kinshasa that use rape as a weapon of war.

In times of economic unease, there can also be an anxiety about human rights. Today, as in past times of economic downturn, some put human rights aside for the promise of short term stability or the false notion that economic growth can come at the expense of freedom. We see leaders abolishing term limits. We see crackdowns on civil society. We see corruption smothering entrepreneurship and good governance. We see democratic reforms deferred indefinitely.

As I said last year, each country will pursue a path rooted in the culture of its own people. Yet experience shows us that history is on the side of liberty; that the strongest foundation for human progress lies in open economies, open societies, and open governments. To put it simply, democracy, more than any other form of government, delivers for our citizens. And I believe that truth will only grow stronger in a world where the borders between nations are blurred.

America is working to shape a world that fosters this openness, for the rot of a closed or corrupt economy must never eclipse the energy and innovation of human beings. All of us want the right to educate our children, to make a decent wage, to care for the sick, and to be carried as far as our dreams and our deeds will take us. But that depends upon economies that tap the power of our people, including the potential of women and girls. That means letting entrepreneurs start a business without paying a bribe and governments that support opportunity instead of stealing from their people. And that means rewarding hard work, instead of reckless risk-taking.

Yesterday, I put forward a new development policy that will pursue these goals, recognizing that dignity is a human right and global development is in our common interest. America will partner with nations that offer their people a path out of poverty. And together, we must unleash growth that powers by individuals and emerging markets in all parts of the globe.

There is no reason why Africa should not be an exporter of agriculture, which is why our food security initiative is empowering farmers. There is no reason why entrepreneurs shouldn’t be able to build new markets in every society, which is why I hosted a summit on entrepreneurship earlier this spring, because the obligation of government is to empower individuals, not to impede them.

The same holds true for civil society. The arc of human progress has been shaped by individuals with the freedom to assemble and by organizations outside of government that insisted upon democratic change and by free media that held the powerful accountable. We have seen that from the South Africans who stood up to apartheid, to the Poles of Solidarity, to the mothers of the disappeared who spoke out against the Dirty War, to Americans who marched for the rights of all races, including my own.

Civil society is the conscience of our communities and America will always extend our engagement abroad with citizens beyond the halls of government. And we will call out those who suppress ideas and serve as a voice for those who are voiceless. We will promote new tools of communication so people are empowered to connect with one another and, in repressive societies, to do so with security. We will support a free and open Internet, so individuals have the information to make up their own minds. And it is time to embrace and effectively monitor norms that advance the rights of civil society and guarantee its expansion within and across borders.

Open society supports open government, but it cannot substitute for it. There is no right more fundamental than the ability to choose your leaders and determine your destiny. Now, make no mistake: The ultimate success of democracy in the world won’t come because the United States dictates it; it will come because individual citizens demand a say in how they are governed.

There is no soil where this notion cannot take root, just as every democracy reflects the uniqueness of a nation. Later this fall, I will travel to Asia. And I will visit India, which peacefully threw off colonialism and established a thriving democracy of over a billion people.

I’ll continue to Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, which binds together thousands of islands through the glue of representative government and civil society. I’ll join the G20 meeting on the Korean Peninsula, which provides the world’s clearest contrast between a society that is dynamic and open and free, and one that is imprisoned and closed. And I will conclude my trip in Japan, an ancient culture that found peace and extraordinary development through democracy.

Each of these countries gives life to democratic principles in their own way. And even as some governments roll back reform, we also celebrate the courage of a President in Colombia who willingly stepped aside, or the promise of a new constitution in Kenya.

The common thread of progress is the principle that government is accountable to its citizens. And the diversity in this room makes clear — no one country has all the answers, but all of us must answer to our own people.

In all parts of the world, we see the promise of innovation to make government more open and accountable. And now, we must build on that progress. And when we gather back here next year, we should bring specific commitments to promote transparency; to fight corruption; to energize civic engagement; to leverage new technologies so that we strengthen the foundations of freedom in our own countries, while living up to the ideals that can light the world.

This institution can still play an indispensable role in the advance of human rights. It’s time to welcome the efforts of U.N. Women to protect the rights of women around the globe. (Applause.)

It’s time for every member state to open its elections to international monitors and increase the U.N. Democracy Fund. It’s time to reinvigorate U.N. peacekeeping, so that missions have the resources necessary to succeed, and so atrocities like sexual violence are prevented and justice is enforced — because neither dignity nor democracy can thrive without basic security.

And it’s time to make this institution more accountable as well, because the challenges of a new century demand new ways of serving our common interests.

The world that America seeks is not one we can build on our own. For human rights to reach those who suffer the boot of oppression, we need your voices to speak out. In particular, I appeal to those nations who emerged from tyranny and inspired the world in the second half of the last century — from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to South America. Don’t stand idly by, don’t be silent, when dissidents elsewhere are imprisoned and protesters are beaten. Recall your own history. Because part of the price of our own freedom is standing up for the freedom of others.

That belief will guide America’s leadership in this 21st century. It is a belief that has seen us through more than two centuries of trial, and it will see us through the challenges we face today — be it war or recession; conflict or division.

So even as we have come through a difficult decade, I stand here before you confident in the future — a future where Iraq is governed by neither tyrant nor a foreign power, and Afghanistan is freed from the turmoil of war; a future where the children of Israel and Palestine can build the peace that was not possible for their parents; a world where the promise of development reaches into the prisons of poverty and disease; a future where the cloud of recession gives way to the light of renewal and the dream of opportunity is available to all.

This future will not be easy to reach. It will not come without setbacks, nor will it be quickly claimed. But the founding of the United Nations itself is a testament to human progress. Remember, in times that were far more trying than our own, our predecessors chose the hope of unity over the ease of division and made a promise to future generations that the dignity and equality of human beings would be our common cause.

It falls to us to fulfill that promise. And though we will be met by dark forces that will test our resolve, Americans have always had cause to believe that we can choose a better history; that we need only to look outside the walls around us. For through the citizens of every conceivable ancestry who make this city their own, we see living proof that opportunity can be accessed by all, that what unites us as human beings is far greater than what divides us, and that people from every part of this world can live together in peace.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

No. Thank you very much. President ChamberlainQuisling. Oh. I almost forgot. What Krauthammer said. With that absolutely withering contempt he's a master of:

Disconnect? Not with me. I know exactly what he's about. I read him clear as day.

The Elitist Blur

Mock hero of the republic. Yawn. Anybody else tired of clicheed snot?

STILL IS. SORRY. Is it funny? In a way. But only in a way. Because it's so revealing.  Here's the story. Explication to follow.

Colbert embarrasses Dems; Conyers asks comedian to leave

By: Byron York

Actor Stephen Colbert testifies alongside several other witnesses before a U.S. House committee on farm labor

The appearance of comedian Stephen Colbert before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law has turned into an embarrassment for the Democrats responsible for the hearing.

The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, but Rep. John Conyers is chairmen of the larger Judiciary Committee. In that role, he has a seat on the subcommittee, and he spoke up early in the hearing. To the surprise of many observers, Conyers used his time to ask Colbert to leave.

"I'm so happy that you've helped us fill the room," Conyers said to Colbert. "I haven't seen this many cameras since -- when?"

"Maybe since impeachment," said Lofgren, to pained laughter among the lawmakers.

At that point, Conyers thanked Colbert for showing up and asked him to leave the room. Colbert seemed confused. Was Conyers asking him not to speak? No, Conyers said, he was asking him to leave altogether.

"You run your show," Conyers said. "We run the committee."

Colbert said he was there at the invitation of Lofgren and would do whatever she asked. Seeking a moment to think, Lofgren asked Republican Rep. Dan Lungren to speak for a few moments while she decided what to do.

Colbert stayed in place as the other witnesses made opening statements. When Colbert's turn came, Conyers briefly interrupted to say that he was withdrawing his request for Colbert to leave.

Then Colbert began his testimony, which was an in-character schtick based on a one-day visit to an upstate New York farm. "This is America," Colbert said. "I don't want a tomato picked by a Mexican."  As the hearing went on, Colbert said things like, "I was a cornpacker…cornpacker is a derogatory term for a gay Iowan."

At the end, Lofgren proclaimed the hearing "helpful." She thanked the witnesses, who she called "volunteers to help make a better country." But the presence of her star witness, Colbert, had cause[d] a number of strange and awkward moments, ones that could come back to some of the Democrats on the panel in the campaign ahead.

Just so you understand what was going on here. Stephen Colbert has a mock TV political opinion show in which he pretends to be a dimwit, right-leaning O'Reilly-type commentator. It's such an open joke that a member of Congress thought it would be fun to invite him to testify in character before a congressional subcommittee.

Let's count the ways that this is intolerable.

1) Tea parties have shocked the nation into realizing that ordinary people are mad as hell about the arrogance of government, demonstrated beyond all doubt by the passage of voluminous legislation even members of congress are forced to admit that they haven't read and couldn't understand if they did. In this political environment, which has Democratic house members running for their political lives, what kind of mentality does it take to endorse this kind of demeaning political theater as a totally unforced insult to the electorate?

2) All the political and cultural polls indicate that liberals of Obama's stripe are a distinct minority. The country remains (as Hugh Hewitt would say, on and on and on) 'center-right.' Which means that we're presently being ruled by a distinct lefty minority which looks bigger than it is because it happens to own a monopoly of the mass media, the entire educational system, the judiciary below the level of the Supreme Court, and the producers of movie and TV entertainment. Like a puff adder, they look bigger than they are. What on earth is the motivation for tempting the wrath of those rural flyover folks who possess all the snake-killing hoes and know how to use them? 

3) If you're presently out of favor as a political force, and if you're a distinct and shrinking minority, what could possibly possess you to thumb your nose at all the ordinary citizens who are taking in the problems of a collapsing economy, uncontrolled borders, and cities and states bankrupted by invading freeloaders? Unless you have mysteriously mistaken yourselves for the entertainment celebrities who are accountable to no one because you're just so damned rich and sexy looking? Granted, Barbara Boxer is a stone fox; but Stephen Colbert? I don't think so. For most Americans, fame is not a substitute for substance, even if the famous can't somehow comprehend the difference.

Which is what I think is happening here.The citizenry is suddenly fed up with celebrity. They've ceased to care how above us all you are -- or think you are. The state of the nation is not a joke. Unless everything is a joke but your own well feathered nest. Unless there really is an elite political class which is actually entitled to its own perks, earmarks, inside jokes, and sometimes brazen contempt for the, uh, governed.

I took some heat when I first criticized Stephen Colbert.  Maybe some of you will withdraw your objections now.

Maybe not. But you should at least think about it. Testifying before congress shouldn't ever be a comedy routine. No matter how brilliantly superior to commonfolk you believe yourself to be. Key point? He didn't leave. The Democrats didn't insist. They just can't help themselves. Any of them.

P.S. I am truly sorry for the personal tragedies in his life. It doesn't give him an excuse to be a creep. Quite the opposite.

Oh hell. Gotta do it. Standing by what I said the first time.

There. I feel better.

The American Romance

ALI BOMA YE. Things remind you of things. "Creep" reminded me of this. Romeo & Juliet is really very American. What do we do? We do what we do, regardless of everything that tells us what not to do. The act of falling in love is the great driver of the American Melting Pot. Because we all listen to the same songs, which are of course American songs, and then we do what we always always do. Make our own decisons. Yeah, it's not as grim as Radiohead makes it seem. But they're Brits. Still, the potential is always there to make romance into tragedy. Funny, isn't it? That in America it's usually more romance than tragedy.

Maybe it's because we don't have as many earls and lords and Oxford dons and so forth. Maybe it's because we're Americans.

Is anybody else tired of Europe? Tired of fear and nihilism and hatred and emptiness? No?

Last weekend I went to see a football game. Temple against the University of Connecticut. UConn always wins that game. Every year. Until last Saturday. I had the privilege of sitting next to a Temple grad during the game. She had a boy's piercing two-fingered whistle, but she had never seen her team win a game. She didn't know they had a fight song. She thought she was an alumna of a city commuter school. No school spirit. No chance of winning against the schools that had names, songs, and traditions. But then Temple won, in a great show of character and go-to-hell spine.

Love this country. Constant shakeup. What we do.

We're not done, kiddies. Obama has hit us unawares like a Mike Tyson left hook. Decked us. But we'll get back off the canvas. We will.

Think about it. Yes, there was Tyson, who fell by the wayside, but there was also the Ali Shuffle. Who we are? Who was he? An American original. A champion and a genius. Who we've always been. Our country shines with the brilliance of the self-selected winners. There are are always losers. And always winners. But our winners are oh so bright.

And I'm looking forward to the October 8 release of Secretariat. When we run, we go like hell. It's something in the air we breathe. I still believe.

And I know you do too.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Yeah. He's a God. What kind?

OLD OLD STORY. Even Mrs. CP didn't want me to write this post. Because of the incredibly thin line that exists between psychos and heroes. So I'll begin in defense of heroes. Usually, they don't seem to know how they did what they did -- how they killed all those enemy troops on the way to saving their own and securing the victory against all odds. In these days of the 24/7 news cycle, they seem at a loss. Stupefied and confused by the mere fact of so much attention. They're the heroes we expect. Their very bafflement is the proof that they're the good guys. Michael Vick is of a different stripe.

I saw a play in the Eagles opening game that impressed me. A blitzing Packer linebacker came through the line unobstructed. The camera was right behind Vick. He knew he was going to get creamed. But he stood in there unflinchingly and delivered a perfect pass for a first down. Brave. I was filled with admiration. He did get creamed. And he popped up unhurt afterwards.

Then one of the announcers asked a question I'd already thought of. When has Michael Vick ever been hurt enough not to show up for the next play? Answer. Never. He's a fucking superhero.

I'm writing this because my friend Matt from Annapolis dared me to. Because the Eagles have crossed over to the dark side and signed their deal with the devil. Michael Vick is the new starting quarterback for the truest fans in NFL football.

Yes. They want him. But many of us don't. We'd rather lose than have him at the helm, no matter how exciting and talented he is. And, yes, he is both exciting and talented. But he's no hero. He's a psychopath. The psychological profile of the experts is no secret. He's a psychopath. Psychopaths have no empathy. They feel no fear. Or any other emotion. When you combine that with remarkable athletic ability, you get a Michael Vick. I have a silly test of quarterbacks that focuses on their eyes. Peyton Manning has quarterback eyes. Donovan McNabb doesn't. You know what I'm talking about. Vick has quarterback eyes. Cold, commanding, and relentless. But unlike Peyton's, Vicks's are evil eyes.

I once saw an attempt at defining the attributes of a great Grand Prix driver. Their reflexes were average, somewhat slower than mine. But their psychological profile grouped them with fighter pilots as 'borderline' psychopaths (Why Mrs. CP didn't want me to write this), as men who feel no fear.

But feeling no fear is not pathology if you have values. As the son of a fighter pilot and an old motorhead, I can testify that the state of feeling no fear is mostly a function of youth, youth, and adrenalin. What I saw Vick do the other night is something else.

Make no mistake. I DO actually admire him. He IS a superhero. But he's also not quite human. And that constitutes a certain rigging of the game.

And what I -- and many many others -- will never forget: he tortured and killed dogs and enjoyed it. He can't ever change enough to erase that fact about his psychopathic self.

If the Eagles go on to win the Super Bowl this year, it will mean two things. Thank God for sparing Kevin Kolb from death via his incompetent offensive line. But the victories won't count. Because Michael Vick is not, when all is said and done, a human being.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Old Guy, R.I.P.

No. He never said he was sorry.

3RD PERSON POV. I regret to inform you all that Old Guy passed away Monday, a week before his 77th birthday. We will miss him.

He was, in his own words, "an old coot." It's no secret that we took a lot of heat for his posted attempts to take Obama up on his call for a serious dialogue on race relations. He still holds the record for most comments here on his first post and his second.

Should we have published his controversial thoughts? Yes. Are we sorry that the accidental viral diffusion of his posts permanently consigned InstaPunk to the backwaters of the blogosphere? No. On the occasion of his passing, we reread what he had to say and we find no hatred there, only an old man's attempt to tell the truth as he saw it. The way we read it, that's what the First Amendment is all about. And philosophy.

Which doesn't mean that InstaPunk has any right to be linked, respected, popularized, or made fashionable. The First Amendment also carries an implicit mandate that speakers be responsible and bear the consequences for what they say. We have no problem with that. Regret is an unfailing signpost of ambition unhorsed. All we've ever wanted to do here was communicate the truth as we saw it. We still have the freedom to do that. As long as we continue to have that freedom, we're good.

About his passing. We visited when he was failing at the end. He said a few things, in no particular order or context, that seem worth sharing:

"I hope there's a God. My mother's life would be a farce if he wasn't there."

"I don't mind dying. I'm not afraid. I'm just a shit-making machine. I'm tired of all the eating that takes."

"If there's a hell, that's where I'm going. No doubt. All the folks I've met aiming at heaven are the worst Saturday night I could ever imagine."

"There better be dogs in hell, too. And not just the vicious ones. I want to hang out with the ones who pretend they can't hear all those commands."

"I sure hope hell is like Salem. I always thought it was hell and it's what I'm used to."

I'm not as sure as he is that he's going to hell. But wherever he winds up, I'm pretty sure it will be a lot like like Salem and there will be dogs there.

He didn't look so bad dead. Still cross looking but maybe more calm. Probably the less stress involved in not having to make all that shit.

G'bye, Old Guy. Give'em hell. Whatever your destination.

Who's the Wacko
in Delaware?

O'Donnell's married? To a man? How quaint. I feel
safe in saying that those are, indisputably, breasts.

NUTS. Honestly. It's an interesting question. Christine O'Donnell appears to be a modestly unfocused woman of the sort we've all met, albeit more conservative than most, while her opponent Christopher Coons bristles with elite credentials, including Amherst and Yale.

Is it at all conceivable that voters are getting sick to death of Yale? Perhaps. But maybe they'd relate better to his charismatically common-man story of average American values:

After college, Coons worked in Washington, D.C., for the Investor Responsibility Research Center, where he wrote a book on South Africa and the U.S. divestment movement. He then worked as a volunteer for the South African Council of Churches and as a relief worker in Kenya, before returning to the U.S. to work for the Coalition for the Homeless in New York. In 1992, he earned his J.D. degree from Yale Law School, and a master's degree in Ethics from Yale Divinity School.

Coons clerked for Judge Jane Richards Roth on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and then worked for the National "I Have a Dream" Foundation in New York. After returning to Delaware in 1996, Coons began his career as in-house counsel for W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc., Newark, Delaware-based makers of Gore-Tex fabrics and other high-tech materials. There he was responsible for the ethics training program, federal government relations, e-commerce legal work, and for general commercial contracting. In 1999, he was awarded the Governor's Outstanding Volunteer Award for his work with the "I Have a Dream" Foundation of Delaware, the Governor's Mentoring Council, and the United Way of Delaware.

Oh. So the guy hasn't ever actually had a job. You know, the kind of job where you contribute to the bottom line or get fired. He's been browsing in South Africa and Kenya instead. And stuff with foundations, charities, non-profit liaison bullshit and like that. I see. Which is ever so much better than being an average citizen with overdue bills and mortgages and inconvenient religious beliefs, etc. I see. He's obviously a shoo-in for the Senate. When the Delaware voters get a load of just how hard he's worked for Kenyans and Zulus, they'll flock to his banners (which will be very appropriately bio-degradable) because the citizens of Bear, Delaware, feel so soulfully close to Shaka Zulu. Or something.

Guess what. Coons might win. But I don't think O'Donnell is the only wacko in the race. I'll leave it to Michael Barone to decipher the internals of the polls, but I have two observations to make that I think will have an impact on the outcome, regardless of what the polls say.

1) Christopher Coons is bald. He's not even in comb-over territory. He's a youngish chrome dome. Electorally, that's not good. It's worse than not good if you're a do-gooder lefty who's spent most of his life not caring about his home state. It makes you look like what you probably are -- a privileged, unattractive weenie dilettante who woos women by being slavishly submissive to feminist cant.

2) Christine O'Donnell has breasts. This is pretty much undeniable, even by Democratic strategists. True, she may be a few pounds overweight, but those extra pounds, let's face it, don't look bad on her. Especially when she dons her Palin specs. How do you think she managed to trounce her septuagenarian primary opponent? Does anyone want to spoon with Coons or read his tramp stamp? I rest my case.

Think about it. Baldness versus Breastedness. If Karl Rove weren't so old and so betrothed to his whiteboard, he'd see it too.

Except that inside the Beltway, they actually think the resume of a guy like Coons is impressive. Don't laugh. They really do. Go to a Georgetown cocktail party, utter the name 'Yale,' and fourteen female journalists will roll onto their backs with their legs waving in the air. (Another four male journalists will sink to their knees with their tongues stuck out, but that's a whole other topic.)

Here's the thing. I've been to Delaware. If they have to have a strange bedfellow for political purposes, trust me: Christine O'Donnell will be their preference. It doesn't take two graduate Yale degrees to say "fuck no" to more federal spending.

And she has breasts. That would be a pure bonus.

Try to remember, Karl. Way way back. Before the whiteboard. Anything?

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