PSMITH 2012. Take a moment today to raise your gingerbread, and remember.
* * *
Chain Gang and company have done an excellent job keeping InstaPunk lively over the past few months, but InstaPunk himself has been AWOL. An imaginative truant could think up plenty of excuses -- death in the family, moving to a new home, illness, the holidays -- but honesty compels a truthful accounting. The primary reason for the long absence is a six-month-old boy named Psmith. He's a thing called a Scottish Deerhound. Most people have never seen or heard of them, and those who have perpetuate the notion that they're a breed of dog, albeit an unusual one, of ancient lineage and imposing size, developed for the purpose of overtaking stag in the open field and wrestling them to ground with tree-like legs. Of course, those who actually live with deerhounds learn speedily that they are not dogs at all, but wraiths of Scottish lairds killed long long ago in the fruitless battle against the innumerable enemies of Scotland. You'll note that deerhounds exhibit no trace of redeye; the anomaly disclosed by color photography is an artifact of a human soul trapped in an animal body.
* * *
Three or four times a day, two greyhounds and a deerhound charge out of the big white box into the open air, and they see EVERYTHING. The deerhound in particular feels compelled to comment whenever he sees a turkey. He says, "HOO HOO HOO HOO HOO." Then he springs about five feet straight into the air and says, "HOO HOO HOO HOO HOO."
Due North: "HOO HOO HOO HOO HOO."
* * *
It's precisely when they take actions of various sorts that Presidents get into so much trouble. Psmith is the perfect antidote to that problem. He has no platform except for his own mammoth deerhound posterior. He has no ideas of any kind. If elected President of the United States, he would serve by standing (and sitting) there quite handsomely. He might want some gingerbread, but a multi-trillion dollar economy like ours ought to be able to handle that.
And just imagine how soothing and reassuring it would be to the America people to know that their President is snoozing on his great big couch in the Oval Office rather than talking to people, giving orders, making speeches, signing bills, and getting dangerous folk the world over all riled up about problems nobody can really fix.
We're running Psmith (the 'p' is silent) on the Do-Nothing Party ticket, and nobody can beat his experience. He's been doing nothing with imperturbable consistency all his life. He's not even asking for your vote, because that would be doing something.
* * *
We told him it would be okay. He was a couple weeks away from his sixth birthday. And now I'm assailing myself with the idea that the dumbass actually believed us. That if he could make it from the car to the foyer, our promises would be fulfilled.
But that's not true. Psmith did that last journey from the car to the vet foyer on sheer courage. I know it because the thought of it brings me to tears every time I think of it. He did it because we asked him to. Because we asked him to. And he made it the whole way.
O Lord. Give me the courage of Psmith to do one impossible thing and I will be content.
Give me one moment of the beauty of Psmith and I will lay down my pen.
* * *
He's seven today. I didn't get a chance to meet him before he left. But Mr. and Mrs. Boss love him. So I do too.
Good dog. Good pooch.
Tuesday, July 05, 2011
trailer is wrong. It's not about aliens. It's about Marines.
BACK FROM EXILE. 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,
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.