Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
July 25, 2012 - July 18, 2012

Monday, May 16, 2011


The point all Republicans
are too dumb to make...

THEY'RE RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT, DAMN THEIR HIDES.... They always seem to lose the framing arguments, don't they? Today's the day the debt limit is scheduled to go critical. The Republicans talk about cutting spending. The Democrats talk about the frightful human costs of cutting federal programs and the more sensible alternative of raising taxes.  The Republicans resist raising taxes because that somehow hobbles the government's responsibility to create jobs in a weak economy. Because it's rich Republicans who create jobs when they're not otherwise engaged in supervising the custom builds of their $100 million dollar yachts. Why the Democrats tend to win such confrontations. Republicans talk vaguely about growing the whole economy, which the Dems instantly reduce to the old lingo of "tickle down economics," and voters confront the pitched battle between those who would penalize ordinary working people versus those who want to make the richest pay their fair share.

The simple truth the Republicans never state flat out:

Raising tax rates does not automatically increase tax revenue,
whereas cutting federal spending always decreases the deficit.

Forget who's paying the taxes. It's not a class issue. It's more like simple physics. There's an optimum level of tax rates that's like a perfectly balanced carpenter's level. When it's right -- i.e., when the lozenge is floating between the markers on right and left, tax revenue is maximized. The portion of the lozenge that's between the markers is tax revenue. You can tip the level either way, but if you tip it out of balance tax revenues decline.

If tax rates are too low, available revenues are left on the table. If tax rates are too high, available revenues are left on the table.

Note that this is neither a conservative nor a liberal argument. When ideologies are figured in, conservatives don't mind tilting toward lesser federal revenues because they want to shrink government, and liberals don't mind tilting toward lesser federal revenues because -- but wait! -- they do mind lesser federal revenues. They're just stone ignorant about economics and the functioning of the capitalist markets they've never liked.

Which leads us to the underlying philosophies of the parties the Republicans should be doing everything possible to exploit and never do.

The biggest Big Lie Democrats and liberals of every stripe subscribe to is not the idiocy of George W. Bush and all Republicans in general, bad as that libel is. It's worse than that. Much worse than that. It's their reflexive allegiance to the static model and the zero-sum view of human society.

What's the static model? Thank you for asking. It's the belief that the economy is a machine that behaves according to machine rules, which is to say that human decision-making in response to changing circumstances is not a factor. More specifically, it holds everything else constant when it contemplates some change. All will remain as it is now except for the one change we are contemplating. That's how the CBO scores ObamaCare as a net cost saver. ALL OTHER FACTORS REMAINING THE SAME, ObamaCare will reduce healthcare costs and pay for itself. Never mind that premiums are already rising as economic participants in the altered health universe are anticipating huge dislocations of future income opportunities and historically predictable massive cost increases associated with greater federal control. (Medicare now costs dozens of times the most pessimistic Republican projections when it passed.) That's how the Obama administration scores a big tax increase on "rich" people. They will continue to make as much money as they do now and we will simply take a bigger percentage of it. Revenues will automatically increase. The machine motors on and individual human decisions can't possibly affect it. Even though the human record itself makes a joke of static analysis and the machine view.

Interesting perspective for the "party of the people," isn't it? I can illustrate this fallacy by an anecdote from my business school days, with an idiotic but triumphant performance by one of the most esteemed professors at my Ivy League Business School. He said, smirking, "It's been argued that progressive tax rates create a disincentive for income generation. I'd like to deal with that right now." He held up a (Roosevelt) dime. "Here's my proposition. If I offer to give you a dollar with the understanding that I'll take back 90 cents and leave you with only a dime, don't you still want the dime? Of course you do." He smiled happily and repocketed his dime.

I can still remember how very satisfied he was with himself. Of course, his proposition was a fake. Like most illustrious university professors, he forgot about the question of work. Give me a dollar, take back 90 cents, and I'll accept the dime. But would I work for that dollar knowing it's only a dime? No. Not on your life. Because as a human being, I value my time. The more likely outcome is that I refuse to play if 90 percent of my effort is paid to someone else.

His was the machine view, the liberal view. But contrary to the great love, tolerance, and understanding by liberals of all us weak, fallible humans, the economy is not a machine; it's an organism, alive, aware, and alert to the decision points created by every major change in the rules of operation. If you systematically remove my incentives for effort and risk-taking, by penalizing my effort and risk-taking, I will withdraw my efforts and end my risk-taking. I'll make less and have less to tax, regardless of the rates you impose. The carpenter's level has been tilted un the direction of reduced revenues. Don't argue with me. Argue with the damned level and the lozenge that veers out of the optimum zone.

The other Democrat/liberal fallacy -- the second Big Lie they tell themselves so often they believe it (or do they?) -- is that capitalism is a zero-sum game. That's the source of their usually unspecified grudge against the prosperous. The premise of the lie is that every dollar a rich person acquires is at the expense of a poor or middle class person. Almost 300 years after Adam Smith, they would have you believe, they still don't accept the concept of wealth creation, that a rising tide lifts all boats. In point of fact, they have to know this is a lie they are telling for political gain.

Every time they make the argument that the rich have somehow unfairly benefited and need to "give something back," they are explicitly denying the history of the American economy that has made us the richest, freest, and most upwardly mobile society in the record of all human civilizations. If economics were a zero-sum game, we'd all still be sharing the scarcities of 15th century plague-ridden economies in medieval Europe, with no indoor plumbing and life expectancies in the late thirties.

Where do they think the contributions they get from Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, and the Google Boys come from? Their fortunes weren't ripped from the mouths of orphans and widows. They were created, not out of thin air, but out of rich minds who inspired lucrative demand for attractive products. The same way it's always been done in this extraordinary land -- by Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers, and (fill in the blanks, ad infinitum).

I understand why most liberals in congress and on the national scene don't understand America. How pitifully few of them have ever created anything but a campaign for their own personal politcal ambitions.

What I have a harder time understanding is why there are so few Republicans who even sense the opportunity to demand a philosophical referendum that would indict their liberal foes as aliens in their own country and vipers in its bosom.

I'm taking no prisoners on this. None of the candidates -- not even the sainted Ron Paul -- has had the wit to state the nub of the argument without descending into thickets of economic jargon and ideological/philosophical jabberwocky:

Raising tax rates does not automatically increase tax revenue,
whereas cutting federal spending always decreases the deficit.
It's not a class issue. It's simple physics. Think carpenter's level.

There's plenty of history to cite. We've already had 90 percent tax rates in the lifetimes of living Americans. In the Eisenhower administration. JFK cut them back and increased revenues substantially. Reagan did the same. His tax cuts also dramatically increased federal revenue, which the Democrat congress happily spent into deficit. George W. Bush increased tax revenues by cutting tax rates. Why the hell is it so hard for a Republican to say these simple words?

Raising tax rates does not automatically increase tax revenue.

Because they're so dumb they can't let go of the idea that their best chance for election is pretending that it's the federal government's job to "create" jobs by running things the right way.

The government doesn't create jobs. The right tax rates aren't about ideology, Paulistas take note. At the moment, the federal government needs all the revenue it can get. It really does. The wolf is at the door. Time to take the ideological bullshit and class warfare out of the discussion.

A Kind(ish) Word
About Ron Paul

I watched the whole thing. Can you?

YEAH, SO LET'S ALL PRETEND TO TAKE RON PAUL SERIOUSLY. Don't get your hopes up.  I overcame my irrational sense of his hysterical tone and personal creepiness long enough to watch his interview with Chris Wallace yesterday. So I'm now prepared to talk not about his personal creepiness but his platform.

It's possible that he is, as Juan Williams (never mind his motives) was intimating today on Imus, a seminal figure in the remaking of the Republican Party. As was Barry Goldwater. This is not a small thing.

When I was a management consultant, I gave seminars to top executives a couple decades ago on the subject of "mental models." (A subject I understand Glenn Beck has recently recycled under another name.) The idea is that our sense of the possible is determined by a consensus that can occasionally be wrenched in a different direction, so that what used to seem insane becomes part of our horizon of possibilities.

I accept that Ron Paul is saying things that haven't been said for a long time. In this respect, he is expanding the mental model of what is possible. I'm pleased that young people are undergoing this mental stretching exercise.

I was also impressed that he answered Chris Wallace's questions so directly. He's obviously an honest man. More power to him. I am absolutely convinced that he is sincere.

But here, I confess, is the end of my kudos to Ron Paul. And the beginning of my message to his followers.

Ron Paul will never be president. He may run and run and run....

Ever heard of Harold Stassen?

...but he will never be a nominee of the Republican Party and he will never be president. Why? Because he is more ideologue than politician, and he is running for the presidency of a country that no longer exists.

I'm not even talking about his foreign policy, which is ludicrous and verging on criminal. I'm talking about his very conception of the presidency, the American people, and the state of our culture. It represents a nostalgia for a time that hasn't existed in the lifetime of Americans. He wants to be Calvin Coolidge, basically a remote civil servant located in the White House, with no responsibility for the disasters, ruptures, and snafus that strike every one of the fifty states from time to time. "Not my business," he proudly announces. "That's not who the president is supposed to be."

Fine. But even Reagan knew better than that. Like it or not, the president of the United States is the most powerful and influential man in the world.. Americans are long long past accepting him as a mere accountant of the nation's balance sheet. There may be value in Paul's view but there is no currency in his stated policy. He and all his followers can rue the ancient day when the game changed, but Americans by an overwhelming majority now believe in a national safety net. We can debate how safe that net that should be, battle about its costs and benefits, but if you argue it shouldn't be there at all, you are simply quaint, a curiosity who will never be taken seriously. That part of our national debate is no longer on the table.

Honestly, he puts me in mind of Rip van Winkle. A whole bunch of people who, for reasons of youth or inexcusable inattention, suddenly became aware of a crisis in American poliltics without any knowledge of how we got where we are. Sometimes it seems he's running against FDR in 1936, still trying to undo the Keynesian disaster of the Great Depression and forestall the losses of saving the U.S. from war with Hitler.

What's hard to communicate to the new true believers: The oldness of his positions, meaning not the inveterate wisdom of them but the obsolete temporality in which they might have made sense. Is it a coincidence that he is also old and cannot see the world except through old old eyes that only seem new to youngsters who still think they can turn back the clock to the days before nuclear weapons, the Cold War, and that distant instant when we might have passed up the responsibility to be the adult in the room of the world?

None of him is new. The only thing that is new is the desire of the left to tar all of us with his archaic platitudes. He's having a vogue now because they would like us to be dismissible, all the way down to him and his simplistic perspectives.

I don't begrudge him his right to speak and attract followers. I'm simply tired to death of the evangelical fervor that insists he's a sage voice telling us who are old enough to know better that he's saying anything new. Or, that he as a personality is anything but another manifestation of the fashion called retro.

Goldwater? Reagan? No. Stassen? Tell you in 2016.

But I concede he believes what he's preaching to the last breath.

P.S. You might want to read the exchange between Brizoni and me in the Comments section. That's why I'm inserting this video.

All the Paulistas might want to compare and contrast this with the video of Ron Paul's appearance on Fox News Sunday. If you don't know the history, this is the event known as 'The Speech,' which launched Ronald Reagan's political career. It was the only shining moment in the absolutely disastrous 1964 presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater. It was run again and again, because it was the only positive, upbeat communication associated with Goldwater's march toward electoral suicide.

I watched it with my parents the first time it aired, 47 years ago. It was absolutely electrifying. (I was 10 and I still remember the moment; only the moon landing, the Kennedy assassination and 9/11 are as seared into my memory.) I think you'll find that the opening citations of federal debt and levels of taxation could be the opening of a Republican candidate address in 2011 almost unchanged.

Like the Paulista Minutemen, Brizoni over-interpreted what I was saying in the post above. I wasn't disagreeing with Paul's ideals. I was saying, "Quit telling us oldsters we don't understand. We do. But we also know that winning the political battles isn't about being a fusspot curmudgeon who insists that he, just like the liberals, knows more about what we need than the average people do."

Compare and contrast. Paul harps on everything that's wrong. Everything he'll undo. Reagan does a lot of that, too. But he also shares a vision of just how great we can be, a magnificent hope and faith in the American people. Somehow, constant kvetching about the Federal Reserve doesn't accomplish the same end result. Note also that the isolationism Paulistas insist is part of the "package" of liberty takes on an entirely different, and far more realistic, spin here.

But I'm sure, as always, you know better, just as you know more about economics than an old fart with thirty-some years of business experience and even more than that in the practice of effective communications.

Two Sci-Fi Reviews in One day

The hero hates us. Cool.

KEEPING YOU CURRENT. You think I spend all my time puzzling over Mike Huckabee's intentions? Think again.

All right. I saw two movies, one called "Equilibrium." and one called "The Day the Earth Stood Still."

Last first. The Keanu Reeves opus almost caused a fight with the missus. She said, early on, "I hate this." But I was determined. You know me. I love lefties. I had to watch all the way to the bitter end to make the pronouncement that this was the single awfullest big-budget sci-fi movie ever made. Which it was.

I was no fan of the original, which is where I parted company with Mrs. CP. She liked Michael Rennie. I despise the whole genre of movies that make Earth the bad boy of the cosmology set. When the aliens come to tell us that we are somehow uniquely terrible in the community of intelligent species, all I can see is the liberal equivalent of original sin turned back on itself by the presumption of superior rationality,

English translation. If Darwin is right, as the scientists insist he is, life erupts into intelligence as part of an inevitable predatory spiral. The strong eat the weak and get stronger and smarter. How could it be otherwise? So, when the aliens come, they are interfering either because they've forgotten their own evolutionary roots or because evolution isn't an apt description of how mankind came to be in the first place. In either case, they have a lot of nerve threatening us with extinction because, whoever they are now, even we backward whatever-we-ares have never attempted annihilating an entire species on purpose. Isn't committing species-level genocide though you're a million years more advanced than we are a good deal worse than harpooning one too many whales in the early industrial age? You tell me, O You Secular Moralists.

Of course, Keanu had done his intelligence homework. He knew he could do this whole godlike part without a second of acting. He knew the script was as brilliant as anything a Keanu could think of. For example, he got to condemn humanity to death based on a single meeting with one solitary alien mole who had lived as a human in New York's Chinatown for 70 years. Even then, doubts were expressed. But hey, one guy, one neighborhood, one ambigious verdict, how do you think the universe would decide the fate of six and a half billion non-New Yorkers? How any New York liberal would have conducted the research. You just have to love a liberal's sense of fairness and justice...

Why I loved this movie so much. (Loved it, loved it, loved it.) Perfect exhibition of the lefty mentality in the northeast. Perfect. Though maybe one spokesman for all five boroughs shouldn't get the say-so for the whole fucking planet. There's Jersey, too. What do you think?

Sorry but I have to skip to the ending, where all of modern technology is wiped out. Supposedly a happy ending. Only 6.2 of 6.5 billion people are destined to die of starvation, disease, and unspeakable battles for nonexistent resources, as opposed to the whole enchilada. (Even Escape from LA made this the apocalypse it obviously is...) And Hollywood thinks we want to see this kind of crap?

We don't. Which is why the palate cleanser is a very little known movie called Equilibrium. Christian Bale, Sean Bean, and the usual British delight with a hopelessly ecstatic fantasy called "no emotions whatever." It's as fun a movie as an incredibly depressing post-apocalyptic nightmare can be. For once, Christian Bale is good looking. He has a love interest he actually touches fingers with, briefly, oh so slightly, before she is burned to death in a crematory oven. What the Brits call flaming passion.

It's still ten times the movie described above. And for once it doesn't seem leftist but about life and living and all that stuff and what it might mean, even if you're a Brit.

I know that was brief and ambiguous. Whatever you do, Don't watch this -- or at least not all of it. It has big-time spoilers in it. Final Word? In comparison to this movie, Neo was a pussy. Okay?

I warned you...

Courtesy of Mrs. CP film productions.

SILENCE DOES NOT PAY, UNLESS IT DOES. Yeah. Raebert again. Self-explanatory, I think.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Haircut today

Still as true as it ever was.

YOUTUBES EXPIRE, LOVE DOESN'T . When I left the barber chair, one of the female stylists stepped out and said, "You look like a new man." I thanked her. Then she announced to the entire shop, "He just got his semi-annual haircut."

True. It's a bright sunlit place. I hate their mirrors. While I'm getting my hair cut there, I confront an old man in every pitless detail of time's toll. Not such a big deal. I am old these days. But my shaving mirror is kinder. It lets me feel maybe 40 instead of nearly 60.

I was going to cut grass today. I hope and trust Mrs. CP will forgive me that I didn't. I plan to cut tomorrow, before the universally predicted rain.

But I still look better than Tom Waits. Marginally.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Thought Experiment

So what makes you you? And how much of this light
 show are you personally willing to shut down for good?

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR. I'd thought of posting about a controversial rapper at the White House, but I'm doing this instead. A post I've been mulling for a long time now. It's about the self-annihilating properties of ethnic and other categorical hatreds. Before I begin. let me state what this post is not. It's not a defense of the multicultural political correctness that's been rammed down our throats by the lefty intelligentsia. It's not a national or global political argument of any kind. It's not an endorsement of  "All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds" pollyanna-ism. Conflicts will always be with us, as will prejudices and irrational hostilities, and the inevitable conflicts, prejudices, and hostilities will be costly and perhaps, in some contexts, fatal. 

My only point here is strictly personal. What price are you willing to pay for your hatreds in terms of your own personal identity? Are you willing to stop being you or become a radically reduced version of the self who is living your life?

Here is the premise of the experiment. It's an act of subtraction. Examine all your own biases and resentments. Who would the world be better off without? Identify them and then subtract them completely from your own experience of life, your memories, your beliefs, the mind that makes you you.

To begin with a fairly vanilla example, the Irish reliably hate the English. But what if the English had never existed? Would the Irish still be the Irish? Yeah, they'd still be Celts on a green island, but much of their history, heroes, and poets would be swept away. Without the English, there would have been no United States that defined itself in opposition to British tyranny, no waves of immigration that transplanted as many Irishmen as who still live in Ireland to the brawling new world where some of them achieved spectacular heights and more sad Irish stories, like the tragic presidency of John F. Kennedy.

I'm not saying there wouldn't have been an alternative history, but how much of you, today's Irish, would remain? And again, I'm speaking personally. None of your cultural touchstones would be the same. Maybe there'd still have been a James Joyce, a William Butler Yeats, a Michael Collins, and even a St. Patrick, but they would bear no resemblance to the specific emotional foundations of your own life and personality. And for those who value brilliant poetry and prose and song, there would be no inspirational neighbors like Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens, Jane Austen, or Gilbert & Sullivan.

You see, the subtraction has to be total. Like Kevin Bacon's six degrees of separation, every loss ripples through the whole and winds up striking extremely close to the most intimate core of personal experience.

A lot of people hate the Jews, more and more all the time, including some of our most celebrated professors and intellectuals. Okay. Subtract the Jews. Completely. No Marx. No Freud. No threat of nuclear war in the 21st century middle east. Happy? Not so fast. At the extremes, there is no more Bible and no golden age of Hollywood. So there is also no Christianity, no Constitution of the United States, none of the movies you use as personal metaphors for your own heroic view of yourselves, and no Islam -- because there is no Ishmael for Muhammed to use in tracing his own lineage back to God. But remember that there is also no "David" by Michelangelo and, in fact, no Italian Renaissance, Age of Enlightenment, no theory of relativity or quantum physics, no M.I.T. Start wiping Jews out of your mind and there won't be much left of what you call civilization.

There's no shortage of people who hate the Germans. Without them, there would have been no Hitler or holocaust. And no Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart, no Wagner opera about the "ring" and therefore no Lord of the Rings" and -- dare I say it? -- no Harry Potter. Also, no Mercedes Benz, BMW, Porsche, Volkswagen, or Apollo 11. No World War I and World War II that made heroes of our family forebears and bolstered the pride of family so many still feel today. No Marlene Dietrich in Destry Rides Again, and no pretzels, brats, hot dogs or hamburgers(!). Erase all those things from your life. Are you content to shut down all the synapses of your brain that connect to things German as if they had never existed?

No Russians? No Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, ballet, American figure skating team, Dostoevsky, or James Bond movies. Or vodka. Think about it. No vodka.

No Arabs? Well, then, forget Arabic numerals, algebra, and the sophisticated mathematics they made possible. Imagine yourself dialing cellphone numbers in Roman numerals. Except also subtract the cellphones. We'd still be using the biggest blackboards on earth to calculate simple square roots.

How many Americans are still shaped in one way or another by the Civil War? No slavery, no blacks, no century of humiliation and suffering for the south. In the north, probably no more United States. Don't forget that it was the Civil War which changed accepted usage from "the United States are..." to "the United States is..." We'd probably be three or four different clashing nations by now. The Civil War was a stupendous passion play that tempered the mettle of this nation into a force strong enough to bear sacrifice for others and do great good in the world. Do the southern boys want to give up their imaginings of Pickett's Charge, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee? Without the Civil War, Lee would be a footnote, a West Point officer who served with distinction and no memorable actions. Gettysburg would be a farm town and we'd never have heard of Abraham Lincoln.

A point to ponder for both blacks and whites. Without slavery, the Civil War, and the Emancipation Proclamation, there is no African participation in America. Blacks would still be in Africa and whites would be, well, blander. Anybody on either side want to subtract the African-American part of their lives from their lives? Really? No Martin Luther King, no lynchings, and no Nathan Bedford Forrest or Black Panthers, but also no blues, ragtime, jazz, or rock and roll, meaning no Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Smokey Robinson, Beebe King, James Brown, Beatles, Stones, Dylan, no Motown, Temptations, Supremes, or Four Tops, no Michael Jackson, and no Allman Brothers, Van Halen, Pearl Jam, GNR, U2, Madonna, or Lady Gaga. Right. Subtract it all from your minds and memories. It's not there any longer. All the songs you fell in love to gone, gone, gone. Not all of us can fuel our romance with a strict diet of Loretta Lynn. Some of us still rely as much on Nat Cole as Frank Sinatra, and there's no Sinatra with Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Coleman Hawkins.

No Hispanics? Forget Christopher Columbus discovering America. He was not Italian but Spanish, probably Catalan.

No French? Well. Paris no longer exists and a long list of other stuff too numerous to list in architecture, art, cuisine, and personalities -- Bridgette Bardot, Napoleon Bonaparte, Charlemagne, Debussy, Edith Piaf, and Voltaire -- without whom your mind would be substantially different. For example: without Pascal, La Rochefoucauld, Moliere, and Voltaire, Mark Twain might have ceased his output after the "Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." Ripples. Ripples.

No Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Cambodians, Vietnamese? Toss out spaghetti (brought back from China to Italy by Marco Polo), martial arts movies (losing Bruce Lee would really suck, wouldn't it?), not to mention paper books, fireworks at the ballpark, Fu Manchu, Charlie Chan, and that ugly chick everybody loves on Grey's Anatomy. And perhaps more importantly for American minds, no Platoon, Apocalypse Now, or Heavy Metal Jacket.  No Sands of Iwo Jima, no Doolittle Raid, no Battle of Midway. We'd have far less idea what we're capable of when the going gets really rough.

Even the people who oppose and challenge us help to make us who we are. When you imagine them out of existence, we all become poorer, smaller, and less interesting and individual.

I repeat that there would be alternate histories. But when you think about it, those histories would be less interesting and less dramatic.

I know there are times when we want to wish away the "bad people." But the result, if you contemplate it seriously, is worse than cowardly; it's boring.

No matter how much I complain, I would never wish any of them out of existence. I may want to defeat (some of) them, educate them, oppose their crazier agendas, and yearn for impossible accommodations, but they're built into the world that has made my own consciousness what it is. And I wouldn't willingly omit a single drop of my own consciousness for any cause on earth. Die maybe. But not dim my mind's eye or amputate huge chunks of my experience of life.

Some of you may feel differently. That would be your problem.

Final thought. What does "Common" mean? I think I've explained it.

Celebrating a Life

They called him Mr. Basset. He was 19 and a gentleman.

LOSING OLD DOGS HURTS TOO. Over at Hotair's Green Room, Jazz Shaw has a remembrance of a beloved family pet:

The dogs went for a walk each and every morning that the weather would allow with my wife and [me], and I think that the one sentence I said to her more often than any other was, “Everyone loves the basset.” And they did. It seemed to be almost impossible for anyone, male or female, old or young, to not immediately be drawn to Mr. Basset. I still remember one walk just recently when we were out strolling with them and two cars pulled up at the corner and stopped, with each driver pausing to stare and to smile. That’s probably what I will remember most about Mr. Basset. He brought a smile to the face of everyone he met. He was a fat old hound dog, so the guys always seemed to like him. And while he weighed nearly 80 pounds, he was low to the ground with those big floppy ears, watery eyes and short legs, so ladies and children did not find him threatening.

One elderly grandmother up the street from us did not even own a dog, but took to buying boxes of dog biscuits and knew when we went for walks, and would hurry out to give him a treat and pet him. I’ve long since lost count of how many people I’ve met in this town simply because they would approach to ask questions about Mr. Basset and pet him.

I can relate. Sighthounds draw the same kind of instant fans. It's a moving story. Thinking back to Charlotte's Web, all I can say is "Some Dog." You really do have to read the whole thing -- long and lesiurely as a basset hound taking his morning constitutional -- to appreciate the depth of feeling involved here. At the end you will shed precisely one tear, distilled finally from a dignified life that ended, not unheroically, in extreme old age. I'm not being callous. Mr. Basset wouldn't have wanted more than one tear. He was a gentleman, reserved and self-effacing to the last.

Jazz has my deepest condolences and, I'm sure, yours as well. But he's seeking immortality for Mr. Bassett on the Internet. I'm more than willing to help spread the word.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


From left to right: grandfather, grandfather, father, father.

TIME. Hadn't thought to do this until I got my own watch back from the jeweller, after God only knows how long without it, and realized nobody even wears watches anymore. Everybody has cellphones. So what are people going to do in future generations? Hang on to granddad's last iPhone? Get all nostalgic about his final digital apps?

I dug out this little set of keepsakes because all but the oldest still tick (haven't sent that one for repair) and I can remember the elders of my family wearing their timepieces. Something of them still attaches to the old mechanical movements. When the forgotten things respond to the winding and start up again, it's like having the owners back, their time resumed, if only for an hour or two. Did you know that they counted seconds even in the old days?

And way back then, there were two kinds of time. My dad had a minimalist wristwatch he used to go to work and keep track of his business appointments. But he also had a gold watch with a chain that connected  him to his past. (The fob that looks like a Phi Beta Kappa key isn't. The thing that looks like a cross is.) There were times when he wore that piece of lovely jewelry, because there's more than one kind of time. Something we've lost. Along with all the other things we've lost. Along the way.

He also started wearing, at some point, his own father's wristwatch, also shown above. As if its ticking was a continuation. Which I guess it was. Because when I wound them all up today and saw that they were still capable of keeping time, it was -- for the briefest possible moment -- like having them all back with me again.

Can you do that on your iPhones? Just asking.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


What You Never See.

Tuscaloosa tornado aftermath: they're going to put it back together.

RELATED... There's a gaping hole in the documentation of most American natural disasters. We get to see the damage the day after. The TV journalists pose in front of the wreckage of people's lives.

You'll have to imagine the network correspondent in khaki; he's long gone.

They cover the story in accordance with their own traditional values -- Are the people weeping and scavenging the ruins for pitiful reminders of what they've lost, like photographs and crushed tricycles? Is FEMA here? Has the president visited? Yes? The government will provide. Mission accomplished. And all go home to await the next catastrophe.

If you look at the volume of documentaries produced by the various channels that proclaim a nonfiction mission, it seems impossible that they could have missed anything. They're all over dinosaurs, guys who accidentally shoot themselves in the head with nailguns, the pyramids, climate change, brand new old footage of the Titanic, bigfoot, shark week, UFOs, the origins of the universe, Atlantis, Hitler, volcanoes, Nostradamus, the ugliest ever catfish, serial killers and why women marry them, asteroids aiming at earth, the history of mud, more Hitler, fixing gigantic things that are broken, hummingbirds, Nostradamus and the 2012 apocalypse, Roman sexual deviancy, the menace of pythons in the everglades and bears in the suburbs, why Jesus was just a nice guy who got crucified, duplex trans-gender operations, frozen mammoths, Jack the Ripper, base-jumping and other suicidal hobbies, still more Hitler, the Loch Ness monster, the manufacture of microprocessors and toothpicks and skateboards, Satan, things that melt, aggressively fat meter maids, ghosts, stalactites, women unexpectedly having babies in the ladies room, the absolute final word forever on Jack the Ripper, everything in the world you could possibly imagine about Princess Diana, why Darwin was so incredibly right about everything and the Bible not so much, celebrity ghosts, shark month, stone-age Amazonian tribes with breasts, mail-order brides from Russia and how they died, how much we love the Brit royals, angels and why they don't exist, what the world will look like after the pestilence called Man becomes extinct, the Jack the Ripper we never knew until this newest latest revelation, African tribes with breasts, AND a great many of the more arduous strains of blue collar American life -- crab fishing, coal mining, logging, sewer cleaning, hog slaughtering, Alaskan everything, the difficulty of being a professional urban vagina on meth-amphetamines, wrinkled moms who live with a hundred cats and never throw out the trash, plus innumerable treatments of the general awfulness of the south, with a special emphasis on the underground railroad, dead jazz geniuses, and hick spouses who kill each other using their Bibles as silencers.

What you never see, though, is what happens after the news networks fly home to New York after a natural disaster. Well, except for post-Katrina New Orleans, where everybody sat and waited for the federal government to fix everything and, uh, are still waiting.

The word "except" is key here. The experience of New Orleans after Katrina is clearly the exception. There is a zone of the United States called Tornado Alley that rips whole towns to pieces every year. And guess what? Those towns rebuild themselves. Year after year, decade after decade. HOW EXACTLY DO THEY DO THAT?

Think about it. You've seen the splattered houses, churches, hospitals, and stores. Places where it's hard even to figure out which pile of rubble used to be Main Street. But the people who are from there don't leave, and they rebuild their lives. Yeah, I know there's government money and loans and such that figure in, but let's face it, the work is done primarily by the so-called 'ordinary' people we last saw standing on the splinters of their homes and thanking God that most of their neighbors are still alive.

I want to see the process. I want to see the bulldozers and backhoes that clear away the flattened houses and shattered trees. (Where do they put all the refuse?) I want to see how these communities that no longer exist except for the people who lived in them come together and start building anew on the cleared ground. I want to see the churchless church suppers, the pitching in of nearby less damaged counties and towns, the ad hoc schooling that goes on in the absence of air-conditioned classroom buildings and hardwood basketball gymnasiums, the families living with families while they struggle through how long (?) without income, the mayor making deals with contractors and banks and farmers, the doctors who set up clinics at the only gas station still standing, the women who run the food and clothing banks to keep body and soul together for parents and children while the town comes slowly back to life.

It isn't FEMA that does all that. It's American people hewing together and working their asses off to make miracles happen.

We know it happens. Despite all the lamentations about New Orleans, Mississippi -- every bit as hard hit as the Big Easy -- quietly went to work and pulled off the standard American recovery while the Big Easyites wanted somebody else to do it. Why is theirs the only story worth covering?

I'm absolutely certain people by the millions would watch a series about such a recovery. It's a black hole in the media depiction of "the bitter ones who cling to their guns and religion." Because that's not all they cling to, and we all know it. They cling to each other, help each other, work for each other, and give new life to each other.

Are you listening, History, Discovery, NatGeo, Green, Current, TLC, and company? I don't need another fantasy science documentary about brightly feathered dinosaurs. If you're using CGI, you don't know. You're just guessing. What I need is a glimpse of facts that don't require any guesswork. Average Americans routinely, habitually, come back from the brink. Why can't you get off your high horse and show us that?

P.S. Affirmation from commenter Patrick:

I knew from the moment the storms ended (I live in North Alabama) that the people here would pull themselves back up. I actually got nervous when FEMA came in and the president came for his photo-op. My first thought was, "Thanks but no thanks. We need to stick to the people who understand the problem, not ones who will only contribute to it." I'm proud of the people in my community for getting through this with grace and dignity, and that's coming from a guy who is often very hard on his fellow Alabamans. Just stay out of the way. No cameras needed. We don't want your pity. Just let me get to work.

You see. My only point: we want to see, too. Need to see. All of us.

I mean, I know it seems like it should be a private thing, but it's gone beyond that. The rest of the country needs to remember how this country works. And not one micro-second of it is pity. It's learning.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Cravens & Cretins

The new Fox News "ace' foreign correspondent: Peter Doocy.
Sorry for the tiny picture. He may get bigger in time. Show me.

UGH. AND THE LIBS TALK ABOUT HYPOCRISY. A bad day. A day when I do despair of America. But one more time, credit where credit is due. For once, Hotair has been pretty much on point with its areas of focus. Let me count the ways, large and small, that I am disgusted by the current scene. Some will have links. Some won't. If you can't verify the linkless ones on your own, to hell witcha. These all from the past week, in no particular order.

The Republican frontrunner, Mitt Romney, agrees with the decision not to release Osama death photos. Never mind that the righteous libs who defend this decision were hammer-and-tongs in favor of releasing all the Abu Graib photos, the only conceivable purpose of which was to tar all American troops in combat with the crimes of a few, so that they would be in greater danger from the mythical "moderate muslims" who have already swarmed the Arab Street to denounce (and deny) the "murder" of a muslim martyr. And never mind that the death of bin Laden is not remotely akin to the deaths of innocents which have been celebrated by Arabs of all stripes from the beginning of terrorist hostilities against the U.S. As we've said before, there really aren't any "moderate muslims." There are just three types of muslims: open jihadists, passive-aggressive jihadists; and a handful of American infidel (patriot) muslims who will probably be killed eventually. Not that any part of the MSM, or even Hugh Hewitt, ever notices. And it's way too late to get Mitt Romney a spine transplant.

Juan Williams, who owes his whole current income and career to Fox News, insists on referring to enhanced interrogation techniques as the popping out of eyeballs and severing of hands. He also referred -- without rebuke -- on Fox News Sunday to the "murder" of Osama bin Laden. Golly, Juan. We know you have an advocacy job to do. We'll never call you an asshole or punch you right in the face for spouting outageously false lefty propaganda on camera. We'd never do anything to make your kids feel uncomfortable about you at their prep schools on Parents' Day.

A street survey in New York City showed us that teenage New Yorkers don't even know who Osama bin Laden was and what he did. Hooray for government schools. Hooray for NYC parents. Hey. How is this even possible? uh, how did Obama get elected in the first place?

Another study, undertaken by government experts in Detroit, revealed that 48 percent of the residents of that city can't read -- can't fill out government forms or employment applications, decipher prescription drug instructions, or understand solicitations to the government programs designed to help them. I wonder who they'll be voting for in the next presidential election. No, I don't. I only wonder how they'll find the buses that take them to their polling places.

Don Imus, suddenly reversing his clicheed stance on Obama ("he's a good guy but he doesn't know what he'd doing") 180 degrees purely because of the Osama kill. "I thought he didn't know what he was doing, but I was obviously wrong about that." uh, saying yes to a military operation doesn't exactly make you Socrates. Unless, like Imus (er, scroll), you're Dummocles, the man who has one dumb unchanging opinion about everything that ever happened. But once Imus says something, you can absolutely count on the fact that he will repeat it, repeat it, repeat it, until we're all sick to death of it. I'm not going to be able to watch him anymore. Depressing.

Hotair thinks it's cool that Condi Rice argued idiot MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell to a standstill, although some of us remember -- in the blood is thicker than water department -- that Condi Rice went all squishy in the 2008 presidential campaign because she admired Obama so, despite his unrelenting villainization of her boss and the man who made her a worldwide celebrity, George W. Bush. Thanks, Condi. Good show. Loved that cameo with Alec Baldwin on 30 Rock. So so sweet. What a rock of principle. For a celebrity.

Fox News continues to decline in quality and credibility, as if consciously boosting the claims of the liberal plutocracy that they're a joke. This morning, F&F host Gretchen Carlson used the word "poignant" as if it meant "pointed" in characterizing Chris Wallace's best question during an interview with National Security Adviser Donilon. Fellow host Brian Kilmeade, on a similar point, spoke of the difficulty of "disseminating between" rather than "discriminating between" administration positions on waterboarding and shooting an unarmed bin Laden in the head. Meanwhile the interns in charge of the F&F chyrons remain in open warfare with the interns in charge of the F&F news crawlers. Where the chyron says (correctly) "protesters," the crawler insists (incorrectly) on "protestors." Where the crawler says (correctly) "al Zawahiri," the chyron, for day after day, announces (incorrectly) "al Zawahri." Often simultaneously on screen. And nobody ever corrects the errors. My favorite crawler: "No group has yet to take credit for the attack..." Diagram that one, Doocy. And speaking of Steve Doocy, F&F weatherman turned loose-cannon political wag, am I the first to point out the disgrace of the rocketlike, nepotistic ascendancy of his son, first-year college grad Peter Doocy, who just this Mother's Day weekend was tossed to by an FNC host to explain the difficult relations between the U.S. and Pakistan? Sorry. Whenever they do that, now and in future, I will -- as I did yesterday -- switch channels directly to the TruTV classic, "It Only Hurts When I laugh," which is much less embarrassing to watch or get caught watching. Fox News has indeed made itself a joke. Are you listening, Roger Ailes? Or just laughing your way to the bank?

I wouldn't have been as hard on Rush Limbaugh as I was last week if I'd realized no one else -- NO ONE ELSE ON EITHER SIDE OF THE AISLE -- would notice that his "incredibly gutsy call" was actually a no-brainer. If he'd passed up the opportunity to kill bin Laden with positive proof that he had done so, the fact would eventually have leaked, and the American people would never have forgiven him. Other presidents might have had some choice. Obama had none. What was the meaning of all those 'Birthers'? They thought he might be a muslim sympathizer. Why did it take 16 hours to decide to do what he absolutely HAD to do?

I was also taken aback by this reference -- I first heard it on Fox News Sunday, by newly chastened NPR mouthpiece Mara Liasson -- to an "Arab Spring." Again, no denunciation by the assembled elite conservatives. It's a ludicrous turn of phrase. Yeah, I'm sure all us elite conservative contributors to Fox News Sunday know that Mara is fighting for her NPR life, and we also feel sorry for the allergies that make it necessary to cut away from her when she can't speak, and she is such a nice woman, BUT -- what we're looking at in the Arabic middle east is hardly a push toward Jeffersonian democracy or even Lech Walesa's Solidarity-type populism. Every well organized political faction on the scene with a chance of taking power from the ancient autocrats is more kindred with the Ayatollah Khomeini and his "Arab Eclipse of Civilization" than with anything we'd recognize as a push toward individual feedom. The Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hizbollah, these are the forces of "democratic" rebellion that want to green the Arab deserts. Their idea of liberation is worldwide submission to sharia (i.e., annihilation of the Jews, honor killings of female relatives, clitorectomies, burkhas. overt female illiteracy, tacit male illiteracy, and a permanent shortage of wives achieved by murder that creates an endless pool of idiot adolescent killers of the "infidels" who can get laid in this lifetime. Cool.)  But it would be impolite to mention that, I guess. What with Mara's cough and all. But it does beg the question. Even Mara must know that "spring" comes with its own share of ills that must be treated before they become crippling or fatal. Or. Not.

I could go on. Obama on 60 Minutes taking credit for his "gutsy call" without being asked a single question about why his Justice Department is still prosecuting CIA interrogators who were acting legally and acquired useful information that helped kill Osama bin Laden. Fox News interviewers failing to challenge ex-CIA flack Michael Scheuer who claimed, without on-screen objection, that three administrations have "lied" to the American public by misrepresenting bin Laden's hatred of the U.S. as anything but a desire to get our troops out of Arab countries. "He doesn't care at all who we are and what we think," Scheuer said with smug finality. Is that so? Then what of the worldwide push for sharia? And... oh forget it. Scheuer has books to sell, and he's a Fox News analyst. Frank Luntz, another Fox News analyst, pretending that there was anything significant about an orchestrated second-string Republican debate in South Carolina. News flash to genius Luntz:  Nobody cares about Herman Cain. He's a more polite and admirable version of Donald Trump. He is not a presidential candidate. Meanwhile, the president's reelection campaign is already in full swing, with all the usual uncritical support of the MSM.

The new media are already as corrupt as the old media. And the ones who should be leading the charge are bunkered in fantasies that have nothing to do with either governing or fixing what's wrong.

Which is why I gave credit to Hotair up top. We've had our differences, God knows, but perseverance is a virtue, and Ed Morrissey has assembled a list of "Obamateurisms" that could and should be the basis for real Republican campaigns:

Previous 2011 “winners”:

Not a hat-tip but hats-off to Ed. This time he said it best.

Cheer each other up. You won't make a dent in my pessimism today.

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