Instapun*** Archive Listing

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October 13, 2012 - October 6, 2012

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Weekend Hi/Lo Lights

The trailer is wrong. It's not about aliens. It's about Marines.

. We had the family barbecue, cracked rib notwithstanding, and a good time was had by all, most especially our three-year-old granddaughter, who managed to throw a real floating frisbee for the first time. I grilled steak and chicken and everyone said they liked it. Of course they would say that. And I had managed to cut the grass ahead of time, all two acres of it. I'd do a victory lap, but I'm, uh, resting now.`

In other news:

Brizoni has rallied. As I knew he would. Blogging on a regular basis is something like being a ninth-inning closer in baseball. It takes a certain mentality and there's a learning curve involving pressure and go-to-hell ego. He's passed a major milestone. Enough said about that. (If you're interested in 'closers', see also Suits.)

Speaking of baseball. I haven't mentioned the Phillies since they acquired their fourth ace. One of those (Roy Oswalt) is hurt and underperforming, largely due to his homestead having been wiped out by a tornado. But there's a fifth ace, a four-eyed rookie named Vance Worley, who is now 4-1 with the lowest ERA of the starting staff. An important part of the reason the Phils have the best record in baseball. And an unbelievable 3.02 earned run average for the team's starters. Worley and the bullpen registered a two-hit shutout in the July Fourth game. A highlight. Plus, it was announced over the weekend that three Phillies starters -- Halladay, Lee, and Hamels -- have been picked for the NL All-Star team. It had to be so. Anything else would have been a scandal.

A related lowlight. ESPN's highly touted Sunday show, The Sports Reporters, finally noticed the Phillies, but only to compare Cliff Lee and his consecutive scoreless inning streak (three straight shutouts) to their own favorites, who are always in the American league if not the Red Sox or Yankees (who only play each other 50 times a year on ESPN national broadcasts.) A Miami sports reporter named Israel Gutierrez felt compelled to compare Lee unfavorably to Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers, because Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball. Huh?† He pointed out that Lee is performing a full ERA point better than his career record, whereas Verlander is a threat to throw a no-hitter every time out, and besides, Cliff Lee might not even be the best pitcher on his own team. Hello? ESPN considers itself a sports reporting organization to which facts matter? Facts. Verlander is also performing a full ERA point better than his career record,† No-hitter threats? Halladay threw two last year, one of them a perfect game and one a playoff game. btw, Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball. (Loved the two-minute standing ovation he got in Toronto, his old team, on Saturday, before he beat them in a complete game.) Talking career ERAs? Lee , 3.76. Verlander, 3.66. Halladay, 3.27. The question nobody on the panel asked: would you rather have Verlander -- or Halladay, Lee, and Hamels?† Hamels has the best ERA on the Phillies full-season starting staff, and Halladay has the most innings pitched, the most complete games, the most wins, the most team wins of games he started, and the most strikeouts in the National League. I am sick, sick, sick of the sports MSM bias for the American League and against the Phillies. Rooting is one thing. But misrepresentation of the facts is another. Cliff Lee is not at all diminished by being the second or third best Phillies pitcher.Verlander is not the best pitcher in baseball because he's marginally better than the second or third best Phillie starter. Okay. I'll stop.

A high and low and something in between on the same subject. Comedy. What with a bit of a backache or so after the Sunday barbecue, I stayed up late and found myself watching standup on the Comedy Channel. Saw a guy named Christopher Titus, who shocked the hell out of me. He was performing in California and busting on today's lax and permissive parents. He described a childhood of his own almost indistinguishable from legal abuse and depicting it as superior to what he sees going on now. Late in the show he confided that his mother and his sister both suffered from schizophrenia and committed suicide. He launhced the show by carrying the American flag on stage and he ended by carrying it, bundled up, away. Was it funny? Not really. But some of his† lines got cheered lustily. Which got me thinking about other unfunny comedians who have a message to send. So I did something I've been avoiding: watch the lavishly praised and even lionized star named Louie CK in his critically lauded show Louie. Available On Demand.† Definitely, absolutely, and thoroughly not funny. Not even original. It's a rehash of the Seinfeld show in format. He intersperses his standup with scenes from his sorry life. He's divorced. He has two daughters he tries to please but who hate him anyway. Hilarious? The critical plot point was a visit by his hugely pregnant fat sister who didn't know who'd impregnated her and felt it necessary to say the F-Word at least twice in each sentence. So, of course, she suddenly starts to deliver prematurely, and two neighbors Louie never bothered to meet come to the rescue. The breakthrough moment? Louie, who hates everyone and wants to meet no one new or have any new friends, reluctantly concedes that he can meet new friends. The reviewers love this? Really? How much do you have to hate life itself to regard this as edifying, entertaining, or funny?

After these two exposures, I might have been excused for believing that I have simply lost my sense of humor. Neither Titus nor Louie caused me to crack a smile. Not one. But I had also seen, also on the Comedy Channel, a standup by Norm MacDonald, late of SNL. Which I'm tossing into this weekend roundup. His topics were hardly lighthearted. He did routines about death, serial killers, and alcoholism. But no politics. And he had me laughing out loud inside of his first two minutes on stage. He talked about the deaths of his own father and his uncle, not to mention the stranger who vanishes on the evening news and turns up in a shallow grave in the woods. But Norm MacDonald is funny. And Louis CK isn't. btw, neither is the new sitcom called Wilfred, which I also watched because the guy in the bad dog suit reminded me momentarily of Raebert. I was wrong about that. It's a coarse, stupid show that is also not funny. The words, shit, piss, and fuck are not actually punchlines. They're just signposts of stoners trying to be creative and failing.

So let's close on a real July 4 highpoint. Mrs. CP and I watched the sci-fi movie Battle--Los Angeles. It's been a bad year for sci-fi. Stargate Universe is dead. The Brits have a new nihilist series called Outcasts which is unrelievedly dreary. The American version called Falling Skies is clicheed and uninspired, if blatantly aimed at inspiration, thanks to its Spielberg DNA. James Cameron is already planning Avatar sequels 3 and 4, no doubt in 4-D. All the comic book sc-fi movies this summer have bombed. But Battle--Los Angeles turned out to be the best thing to watch on July 4. It's a tribute to the U.S. Marine Corps, short on alien technology and long on, well, the Corps. Watch it. I won't offer a single spoiler. If you don't have a tear in your eye at the end, you're probably a New York Times subscriber with oak leaf clusters.

Oh, it's still a wonderful, fine thing to be an American. That would be a key highpoint.

P.S. Casey Anthony. Highpoint. Sorry. The prosecutors never charged her with first-degree manslaughter, the crime they were best equipped to prove. They never had the remotest possibility of a first-degree murder conviction. With no crime scene, no cause of death, no forensic evidence linking the defendant to a crime, and no witnesses, they chose to overreach, counting on the vengeance motive of the jury. Second-degree murder would have been a stretch. Yeah, she killed her daughter. But you have to prove it. They didn't. That's a win for the principle of reasonable doubt. And it happened in Florida. Where the death penalty is still real.

You know what? It's why I'm not posting every day anynore. We don't get to flush people away because we suspect them of wrongdoing. I hate prosecutors. Yeah, HATE. All that over-charging and once-we've-got-em-never-let-em-go ferocity of al those blond former federal prosecutors....

Sick of it. Build your case. Argue it to a jury. Prove it in court, even if you're not in Ohio. Then talk to me.

Happy, happy Independence Day!

P.P.S. Hey, watch the Libertarians go. Ayn Rand would be for the death penalty! Back it off. Slowly. The prosecutors failed to make their case. Motive, maybe, but no murder weapon and no crime scene. Law is NOT about moral conviction. It's about the law. Libertarians. Pshaw.

Tired of these idiots. Of all people, libertarians should know that the guilty sometimes go free. That's what happened this time. The price we pay for freedom.

But here's the deal. Morality does rule. Casey Anthony will not get away scot free. I'm pretty sure she'll be dead from one cause or another in less than five years.

Man's law is about procedure, not justice. God's law is about justice. No one ever gets away with a major crime.

Brizoni? A wasted post on your part. Sometimes the mentor is still much much smarter than the mentee. Like now.

Casey Anthony:
Loose Ends

I'd like my punishment to fit her crime, whaaaaaat?

REASONABLE DOUBT CUTS BOTH WAYS. After only a couple hours, almost everything that needs to be said about the Casey Anthony verdict has been said. Our good buddy Doc Zero has illustrated that 21st Century justice isn't quite the technological and scientific marvel we think it is. The merits of double jeopardy have been debated. All the pertinent Justice System Bad movies have been quoted. Patron Saint of vengence Dexter Morgan has been invoked.

There's just a few small bases left to cover.

There's been a whiff of blowback against the extremes of popular outrage about the case. Shades of posturing that too closely resemble the "I would never celebrate the death of any human being" moral narcissism that proliferated when Osama bit the literal bullet. Not on anything like the same order of magnitude, mind you, but it still needs to be addressed and debunked.

A friend of mine on Twitter ("tweeps," we kids call them. Aren't we precious?) articulates it well:

If you are sitting there saying that someone should be raped, beaten, murdered...are you any better than the person you think is bad?

Yes. Much better. I'll explain.

Take kidnapping, for example. Holding a person against his will. We all agree this is a Bad Thing. And no one has ever, or will ever, disagree with arresting that kidnapper and taking him to jail. But what is jail? Holding someone against his will. Are the police just as bad as the kidnapper, doing the same thing he did? Nope. What's the difference? The kidnapper did it to someone who didn't deserve it. The police are doing it to someone who does. You used to hear people say "let the punishment fit the crime." That's the principle at work here.

Does Casey Anthony deserve all manner of horrible fate? Fraid so. Another base to cover: Hate (ha) to disagree with The Boss, but there's no reasonable doubt here. A mathematically-insignificant-but-still-technically-bigger-than-zero chance is not a reasonable doubt. I understand the need to put the burden of proof on the state, and I understand the need for consequences for prosecutorial grandstanding & overkill, but lying to police + googling "chloroform" and "neck breaking" + having so little regard for your missing child that you don't try to avoid being photographed partying right after she goes missing = DUH. Let's start erring on the side of justice, shall we? Anthony's lawyers may as well have contrived a quantum-physics-swapped-her-unkilled-toddler-with-a-dead-doppleganger-from-an-alternate-universe defense. Hey, quantum physics is a real thing! YOU don't know!

Rand defines crime as "the initiation of physical force." Kids on a playground know the concept as "Who started it?" and they've got the right idea. (and yes, intent matters too. That's why we don't punish involuntary manslaughter like we punish cold-blooded murder. That's why we have laws against things like attempted murder and conspiracy to defraud. Jesus and Gandhi to the contrary, the proper revision of "An eye for an eye" is "An eye on purpose for an eye on purpose.") Punishment is the collection of a debt to morality itself. Nothing hypocritical about it.

One last base to go. I'll make it quick.

If Casey had broken her daughter's neck a scant seven trimesters sooner, we never would have heard about it. If George Tiller had stabbed Caylee in the brain before her mom crapped her out, he'd be a hero, Casey would have been making a noble sacrifice, and Caylee wouldn't count. As anything at all. Not even so much as three fifths of a person.

UPDATE: Quote of the century: "Man's law is about procedure, not justice. God's law is about justice."

Absurd. Then why have man-made laws in the first place? Why not let God take care of it all? Do you think He's not up to it?

Go ahead. Spank away. Can't wait.

UPDATE 2: I should be a good "mentee" and bite my tongue. But me and my damned self-respect...

Boss, I'm not sure what you're responding to. Nothing I wrote. Maybe that's my fault. I was trying to be all subtle and author-ly. I'll explain what you missed while you were wailing on that straw man.

1. You don't know Ayn Rand. I know you think you do. You don't.

If I said Edmund Burke was too staunch a traditionalist to have ever supported America's bid for independence, I'd be dead wrong. Even though my characterization of Burke's thought as traditionalist is largely correct. Such is your understanding of Rand. Not far off generally, yet still managing to botch the essentials. Remember when you claimed Randian orthodoxy would see "a soldier [giving] up his life for his country" as "an immoral sacrifice"? Dead wrong. I wasn't implying she advocated the Death Penalty or anything else, and you wouldn't know if she supported it or not. Your one readthrough of Atlas in high school didn't make you an expert. Even with your superhuman insight and pattern recognition.

If you're not sure how to handle being wrong, hit me up for some pointers. I have more practice than you.

2. God's intervention is always a maybe, at best. When an old tree needs to be cut down in your backyard, you don't pray for lightning to strike and burn it down for you. You break out the chainsaw & the day-glo kevlar chaps and start cutting. When you find yourself needing more money, you don't (just) pray to win the lottery. You sell some of your things, try to get more hours at your job, or think of some new value you can create (you can pray for inspiration, if you want, but you wouldn't just pray for it and then sit waiting patiently). When your car breaks down, you don't (just) pray it starts working again. You open the hood and roll up your sleeves. Jonas Salk didn't pray to wipe out polio. Da Vinci didn't splash paint on the canvas straight from the bucket and pray it landed where it needed to.

I'm not saying prayer is useless. People have won lotteries. Pestilence can wane on its own. Cars have been known to start working with no discernable cause. I'm not saying God doesn't get involved. But how dependable is His involvement? For responsible men, prayer is only a garnish on action.

Why should our legal system be any different? In a matter so important as justice, how is it acceptable to pass the buck Upstairs?

I'm not advocating lynch mobs or Chuck Bronson rampages (duh). I'm proposing a new principle in the philosophy of law: Presumption of Accountability. God may pick up man's slack, but we can't count on that. Therefore the burden of dispensing justice falls to man, and man exclusively. "Let's err on the side of justice" was hyperbole (double duh). What we need to do is not err at all. That a flawless justice system is impossible is irrelevent. Just like the impossibility of eradicating all disease doesn't mean there's a point at which we can stop the fight and say "good enough." So you don't miss that last point, I'll restate it, boldface it, and give it its own paragraph.

A flawless justice system is impossible. That doesn't relieve us of the obligation to strive for it. And how much more diligent and thorough would our striving be without God's Final Destination safety net as an excuse to slack?

3. So why not fix our system as best we can? "Juries can find guilty or not guilty on the charges they're asked to consider. They're not allowed to make up their own charges. For the awesome reason that they're not lawyers or judges."

Thanks for the remedial Social Studies lesson. I'll rephrase. Why shouldn't we let juries reduce charges? We let them determine amounts when it comes to financial compensation. If the evidence points to a lesser crime, like, to pick an example off the top of my head, first-degree manslaughter, it's unjust not to let them convict.

Do NOT tell me "the Founders didn't set it up that way, so we better not mess with it." That's not a reason. I won't insult you by intimating you don't know what a disaster the Interstate Commerce Clause has been. If we see an aspect of our system that needs real improvement, we need (hence the word need earlier in the sentence) to make that improvement.

But maybe you think I'm wrong.

Prove it.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy Civic
New Year!

GOD SHED HIS GRACE. If you're smart like me, you'll relate to this experience. Ideas are constantly bouncing in, out, and around my head. Memories, schemes, songs, jokes, raw concepts, violent revenge fantasies, depraved sexual scenarios involving women I've just passed in the street, soul-rendering imaginary contacts with The Divine, all kinds of mental stuff. And with all that stuff ricocheting in a thousand directions a minute, these ideas are bound to smash into each other from time to time. And combine.

Sometimes these combinations are silliness; two words that land next to each other on my mental soundtrack. "Ketchup nipple." Ew. Ha ha. Sometimes they're more complex. Sex robot documentary I watched last night + Mad Max flashback from when I watched it three months ago + observation of the proliferation of dull but physically attractive women I made six weeks ago + memory out of nowhere of a paragraph on the ethics of brain transplants I read almost two decades ago = best movie idea ever DIBS BACK OFF.

But once in a while, once in a blue ass moon, an idea is simple AND brilliant. Last night, it was 4th of July + New Years Resolutions.

Thank this video. It shot unbidden into my forebrain as I was trying to hash out an Independence Day post.

(incidentally, the Boss's resolutions from Chinese New Year are identical. Especially the "E" mail thing. Don't get me started)

We already have more than one New Year. There's regular New Year, then you've got your Fiscal New Years, and there's even a Chinese New Year, which is the cheap lead-enpoisoned knockoff of real New Year. Why not a... Freedom New Year? Liberty New Year? Prerogative New Year? Does prerogative work as an adjective? It's got "tive" right there at the end, like an adjecTIVE should.

I think Civic New Year is the winner. An occasion for every American to reaffirm his committent to the founding principle of his republic: Self-Determination.

The Foundation for Economic Education has an excellent checklist of things you can do every day to advance the cause of liberty.

____ I raised it in a conversation and hopefully turned on a light in at least one personís mind

____ I defended it when it was challenged by error

____ I improved my own knowledge of the literature of liberty so as to become a better advocate

____ I recommended a good article, book or film that advances values consistent with a free and civil society

____ I sent a personal check to an organization I know to be working for the advancement of liberty ideas

____ I resisted temptation to subvert liberty by accepting something from government that didnít belong to me

____ I took action to clean up my own act so that I can be a solid exemplar of the virtues necessary for a free society to flourish

____ I told at least one of my representatives that if he or she ever voted for more government again, I would pull out all the stops to see him or her defeated in the next election

____ I told my college or university alma mater that if they didnít start hiring faculty who know how to present and defend the case for free enterprise, theyíll never, ever get another dime from me

Glenn Reynolds had a similar idea for this Fourth, insofar we ought to plan to defend freedom, instead of just celebrating it. He's only thought in the short term-- which is absolutely fine, and great, and necessary, don't get me wrong. But we shouldn't save this kind of watchfulness for emergencies. As Jefferson famously said (maybe not famously enough), "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." That vigilance doesn't have to be never-ending panic and paranoia and worry. It just has to be consistent. An open ear. A ready eye. And once a year, a renewal, a refreshing, and a rededication.

It's what we owe to those who paid the last full measure. They wanted us to live free. Why don't we understand that?

Civic New Year's Resolutions. I'm making mine now.

Friday, July 01, 2011

UPDATE: Until posting bugs get worked out, InstaPunk is squatting here.

UPDATE: Until posting bugs get worked out, InstaPunk is squatting here.

UPDATE: Until posting bugs get worked out, InstaPunk is squatting here.

UPDATE: Until posting bugs get worked out, InstaPunk is squatting here.

From: brizoni@hell.yeah
Subject: Logjammed (and not in the fun dirty way)

"Don't let big posts get in the way of the little posts," you tell me. Like it's that easy. All my little small post ideas have ended up feeding back into one of the big ones. And I've got either two or four HUGE ones coming down the river, depending how you count.

1. The Gay Marrigae Thing

I mostly agree with you that gay marriage is, in and of itself, dull pagentry (is that your turn of phrase or mine? I call dibs if you can't remember). But the debate around gay marriage has become a locus of significance. We discussed some of this on the phone, but I've thought of more that needs the Zoni exegesis. I've identified three issues that, the more I write, the more it looks like they'll each need their own post.

Do I mean locus or nexus?

A. ZERO-SUM FREEDOM. We all know the left subscribes to a kindergarten Marxist zero-sum economic model. Similarly, their idea of freedom is, as you pointed out all those years ago at the end of Writing America Down and in the Shuteye Nation Glossary, the freedom to limit the freedom of others. They don't put it quite in those terms, of course, but that's what it amounts to.

I found a blog with a handy roundup of the legal troubles so far encountered by those who oppose gay marriage. Have to admit, it's worse than I thought.

Why was a photog from AZ sued for refusing to work on a gay marriage? #ramifications

Why was a church in New Jersey sued for disallowing a gay marriage in their auditorium? #ramifications

Why did the Catholic Church pull its adoption services out of Boston? #ramifications

True or False? A pastor in Canada was brought before a tribunal for preaching against homosexuality? [sure, that's only Canada, but still]

Why wouldnít I expect the govt to use tax exemption as a weapon against religious institutions who disagree with GM?

Of course, I'm not talking about the right and correct distinction between Equal Liberty and Absolute Liberty. There's a difference between limiting the power someone has over you and limiting their autonomy.

B. AUTO-SOPHISTRY AND THE THEOCRATIC URGE. But the conservative response, like I mentioned to you, has been a tragedy and a farce. In the blog I linked above, author Justin Hart admitted "Religiously, I oppose homosexuality and gay marriage but that is not a convincing (or even valid) argument to warrant a legislative ban on gay marriage." The right has noticed the "not convincing" part, but hasn't noticed or hasn't wanted to face the "not valid" part. Their tack against gay marriage has become a real blight on the movement.

You know the specious narrative they've contrived. Marriage is primarily for purposes of childbearing and rearing. Marriage is essentially and necessarily a contract two people make with society, not each other. Since marriage is for childbearing, marriage by infertile men and women is OK because their biology is symbolic of fertility, but man/man and woman/woman marriage is not, and that symbolism would crush the entire institution.

BS, BS, BS. And the worst lie of all? That all this BS has traditionally been understood as this. Consider the implications. History is the chief cornerstone of conservatism. Modern conservatives have taken to lying about it.

This isn't just a small fringe on the right. It's, with maybe only one notable exception, the WHOLE right. Otherwise smart cats, like Josh Trevino on Twitter and even Melanie Philips. Her resorting to BS is particularly inexcusable. A quick look at the sacrament of marriage in The Book of Common Prayer puts the lie to all this nonsense PDQ.

C. INSTAPUNK EXCEPTIONALISM. That exception I mentioned? You. (And Doc Zero has started to come around) Like you emailed me, and in numerous posts over the years, your perspective on the whole tedious gay thing has been quite a bit different. This post will be mostly a "best of" compilation, along with me oh-so gracious suggestion that the right get its head out of its theocratic keister and follow your example.

I've got this other log in the jam.

2. Jesus, Ayn Rand, and Beyond.

Did you catch the Ayn Rand Institute's latest op-ed on

A doozy, right? The only reason it didn't get more attention is it was published on the same day we learned John Lennon may have been a closeted Reaganite in his final years.

[I had an idea for what was supposed to be a short post about that. Lennon survives his murder, continues intellectually down the free market path, and in 1984 releases a Chuck Berry-style album of ideologically purified versions of his greatest hits. "Revolution" with a lot more smack talk about Mao. "Instant Karma" reworked as a paen to Adam Smith's invisible hand. "Imagine a seperation of state and economics." "Give Liberty a Chance." Strange days, indeed. But I'd have to write extensive new lyrics to all these new songs and decided it wasn't worth it the time it'd take.]

But even though most of us were distracted and didn't hear the clang of the gauntlet as it was thrown down, it has been thrown down nonetheless.

Why won't I shut up about Ayn Rand? Blame CS Lewis and his best work, the underrated Abolition of Man. Huxley had a similar idea he called the Perennial Philosophy, and, more recently, some hippie came out with a lesser take called The Four Agreements. The idea is that, among all the conceptions of right and wrong in human history, there is a broad consensus. A messy but definite overlap. Lewis envisioned this consensus as having a source. Borrowing from the Chinese, he called that source The Tao.

In a telling passage, Lewis said this about moral progress:

Does this mean, then, that no real progress in our perceptions of value can ever take place? That we are bound down for ever to an unchanging code given once and for all? And is it, in any event, possible to talk of obeying what I call the Tao? If we lump together, as I have done, the traditional moralities of East and West, the Christian, the Pagan, and the Jew, shall we not find many contradictions and some absurdities? I admit all of this. Some criticism, some removal of contradictions, even some real development, is required.

I don't have to remind you that Lewis is the most highly regarded Christian apologist of the last century.

The post will go into more detail and contain a lot more justification, but in my mind, there's clear progression. Moses improves on Abraham, Jesus improves on Moses and the prophets, The Founding Fathers improve on Jesus, Rand improves on The Founders. It's not a tidy progression-- The Founders are not just better than Jesus, Rand is not just better than The Founders (or Paul or name your influential Anno Domini philosopher). But improvement has been made, and improvement must still be made on Rand, and then made on whoever the next great moral developer turns out to be.

The question is not who to deify. I propose we deify none at all, while at the same time rendering due reverence to those who have done the best work in the field of moral thought.

No small ground to cover. But it'd make one hell of a 4th of July post, am I right?

So that's what I'm working on. I'm not derelict. Just have too much posty greatness to sort through in a timely fashion. You know how it is. Right?

Rib treating you any better?

- Z

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