Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
November 30, 2012 - November 23, 2012

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Rising Tide

TWO MISSIONS. Good news. You're all at least a little wrong.

Yesterday I read Postcards From Hell, a photo essay of the worst-ranked countries in the Failed State Index, and had an imaginary argument with a Peace Corps-type I know.

"You're not doing any good for these people, Peace Corps gal. You can bring them hot lunches and build wicker baskets with them every day for the next hundred years. They'll still be impoverished, starving, living without sanitation and industrialization, and under tyranny's boot to varying degrees. The only progress made in all these benighted backwaters is the effect of First World technology as it fiters into-- ONE COULD SAY TRICKLES DOWN TO, EVEN-- the Third."

"Nuh-uh! I'm doing good work out here! You just want brown people to starve because you're racist and greedy. Also, Bill O'Reilly."

"You wish. Look, it's great you've discovered the importance of human life, but you're doing as much good as a damp rag on Tom Hanks' forehead in Philadelphia. Maybe it brings his fever down enough that he can sign his last will and testament, but he's still covered in lesions, a hundred pounds underweight, and voiding his internal organs as they liquefy one by one. I'm the scientist in the French lab, running centrifuges and studying slides under microscopes. Looking for a cure. You call me insensitive and uncaring because I won't waste time away from the lab on damp rag duty. If my condolences seem brusque, it's because I'm engrossed in my work. Which, I feel compelled to repeat, is trying to stop AIDS deaths from happening."

"That's a cute line about bringing the fever down. You glossed over the fact that sometimes a fever needs to be brought down immediately; otherwise you'll have spent all those hours in the lab working to cure a corpse."

"...You have a point."

Obama's the fever. We need damp rags and 50 ccs of that stuff that gets fevers down, stat. Otherwise our brain will pop and collapse like a scorched souffle. But Obama's just a symptom. Fevers attend sickness. We don't cure the sickness, the fevers will just keep coming, no matter how damp our rags or how many ccs of Fever Stop we pump into the IV. And after enough fevers take their toll one by one, we could airlift a rag factory into the Pacific and the patient would still be too far gone to help.

The sickness is deficient and defective national character. The sickness is bad philosophy. We're at a crossroads (it's a cliche because it's so perfectly apt). We need to decide who we ought to be. Merely recovering virtue lost is a good start, but it won't do alone. "Do what the Jacksonians did" is a crap plan, commenters. Letting the Union dissolve is no plan at all. Even crazy-ass Frank Miller understood that (the comic's from 1990). Even IF the Balkanization of America could somehow accomplish anything in the very short term-- and it can't-- we'd still be stuck with WE.

Jim Morrison thought he could kick his heroin
addiction by moving to Paris. Turns out he took his
addiction with him and keeled over inside six months.

WE are the problem, ultimately. We let Obama happen, we let TARP happen, we continue to let the Democratic party happen. We let legislators lard our lives with a hundred thousand unworkable laws and regulations. Here's another true cliche: With great power comes great responsibility. With great freedom comes great accountability. We've never been full sexy libertarian-free, but for actual centuries we've been free enough to determine our own destiny. We've made our bed. If we don't want to sleep in it, we need to make it again.

Bar none, the worst thing we can do is sit back and wait for history to ride in on a golden chariot and save us. The Boss is right: history does NOT have "its own imperatives and mandates." MEN move history. The American tide has to rise, but it won't rise on its own by magic. It must be made to rise. We must choose to be the kind of people who rise. And stay risen. Which means figuring out what kind of people can stay risen; figuring out what that takes. That's not idealism. That's ambition. "Your ideal vision of the country or the universe" matters. But it has to be a GOOD vision. Preferably, a great vision. Ideally.

Treat the symptom-- Throw Obama out of office. Cure the disease-- become a nation that won't elect another Obama. We have to do both. One's no good without the other.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What I haven't done for a while:

A Fisk Plus.
Yeah, that would be me.

REVIEW THE WEEK'S POSTS AND COMMENTS. This is going to be a big long post.

I keep saying we have the best commenters. We do. Other blogs treat them like flies, signs that the carcass of text is attracting lots of feeding but hardly any meritorious thought. Numbers matter to them, not conflicting ideas. The more esteemed you are as a blogger, the less concerned you are with what the commenters comment. And if you offend as a commenter, you get caught coming in (filtered; i.e., not posted) or going (banned from the site). Not so here. Lately I've been challenged by Diogenes, who is probably a professor at a major university, and we have not seen eye to eye beginning with this post and  subsequently in this post. By all means read the history, including all the comments, though I'll begin with the most recent Diogenes comment because I think it's sufficient for a starting point. With one quick detour via his ally Urthshu, who thought I was being glib on the subject of Jacksonianism:

Diogenes is referring to this when he talks about the Jacksonians. Its one of the four major traditions in American politics and foreign policy, just as valid as your own Jeffersonian approach. Each is called to the fore when needed and D may be absolutely correct about it.

Which is when Diogenes responds. And when I start fisking (me in bold italic inside square brackets):

Thanks Urthshu. My own neurosis wanted to rise to the bait, so I shut up and you took care of it for me. All I could "think" of is CCR's "Up Around the Bend" -- which also does well at explaining some things...

More recently, see this:  I thought people here would also be aware of these things...

I have family who are carpenters, farmers, PhD chemists, transportation consultants, musicians, among some other things. That list covers most of us. Every one of those people, and the lesbians across the street from me, too, deserve representation. [Is this a diversity challenge? I have family who range from professors to prisoners. We all do. I'm more diverse all by myself than your list, though I'm not a Lesbian. Big whoop. This is America.] And the first thing they all deserve is for their taxes to be spent prudently. [And they'd all agree on what 'prudently' means? I think not. The problem you're ducking.] We have not seen that from either party; and that's all I am trying to get across. [No. You straddle innumerable definitions of 'prudently' and you don't even recognize most of them.]  The country-club republicans are afraid of the "tea party" because it is a spontaneous uprising of their "inferiors," people Reagan, for one, trusted. I know them, I trust them, and in part I still am them. [Inferiors? Have you ever read this site and its views of the intelligentsia vs. regular Americans? There's a book's worth about that subject here. I shook hands with Barry Goldwater when I was eleven, I sought out a Reagan chicken dinner fundraiser when I was fifteen just to see him. I expected to be disappointed. I was wowed. You're going to tell me who the real people are? Of course you are.] These people rule this country, regardless of what the parties want to think. [No. Absolutely not. You're asserting the complete opposite. Your whole point. They should 'rule' but don't.] They are the people for whom the country exists, and a pillar of "American exceptionalism." And the parties are afraid. [Everybody with any sense is afraid. They should be. Fear is a great catalyst of focus.] Perry isn't, Palin isn't, Bachman isn't; Romney is. That does not mean I want one of the first three; I really want better. [Why I have been suggesting you actually analyze their electoral strengths and weaknesses one by one. But no. You're above all that.]

But you can't always get... [...what you want. If you quote Stones at me, you really don't know who I am.]

Dunkirk: OK, the rescue was carried out by every person on the Dover coast, not the Royal Navy and not the royal yacht. Ol' Ned rowed across the channel and picked up the boys, then he rowed back. The Bush/Rove/and-now-Romney powers in the R party want Ol' Ned not only to go home, but to shut up and forsake his rights as "an Englishman." [IOW, as an American in our actual case]. [Trying not to hurt your feelings here, but the point of Dunkirk was to suggest that we are all Ol' Ned  now. It's up to us to save our republic because the big political hardware can't do it without our help on the shoals and beaches. Not by ignoring the big ships waiting offshore, but by helping them do what they can't do alone. Or would you rather the story went that fishing boats carried stranded soldiers all the way to Dover and screw the destroyers and cruisers? Uh, I guess you would.] [Also. Interesting your usage of the name Ol' Ned. A nickname for the devil. But I guess you knew that.]

The Brits have given up their natural rights; we will not give ours up. Does that mean a loss to Obama? I doubt it. [Not without hard work, honey. Another Dunkirk lesson you missed. A lot of people died to make the Dunkirk miracle happen. The outcome isn't all about ideological bluff.]

IP, I pray to God that I am making things harder. harder for the people who delivered us McCain and want to deliver us Romney. [Oh stop it. McCain was going to win until the market meltdown happened. Lumping Romney in is sheer drama. We're not talking Shakespeare here; we're talking politics, about which you have yet to say word one.] Harder for the fools who really do want more Obama. I personally think that the Dems have imploded and will continue to do so. [I think the Tooth Fairy has thyroid cancer. I really do.] I think Obama, like Bush the first, hates his job and is throwing it away with both hands. [Love it, love it, love it. Let's pitch a TV series about it. We could call it "I'm Giving up Golf Someday Soon."] I think he's compelled to destruction, and he cannot complete ours [he's starting to realize what last November meant for him, even if the c-c R's aren't yet] so he is turning inward. [Inward? Really? To his inner sand trap?] My info says that housing and employment are highly likely to worsen soon, that banks are going to fail, and that Obama and dems are going to suffer for that. And there's the Euro contagion, too.[Kewl, kewl, kewl. And then Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi will fall sobbing to their knees begging for an instantaneous return to Jacksonian democracy, the end of entitlements, and AK-47s in every household.]  One of the existing R candidates will be president. I am not certain which yet, and I have ambivalent feelings about all of them. So? Wait and see what develops. We will know who's best, or less bad. We will not get Reagan again, no Thatcher, no Pope JPII, no Lincoln, Jefferson or Washington. Damn. [And I was so hoping for JPII... but as you say, wait, wait, wait, wait and see.]

But with a strong congress, maybe even a flawed president can stave off the fiscal cataclysm that is approaching. 'cause I really don't like cat food. What to do? [Ah. The question I kept asking you. What prompted you to think of it?]

Well, organize to take over local committees. Support good local candidates. Reclaim the school board from the Gramscians. There's lots that can be done. [Now there's a plan of attack. So completely thought out.]

But really [rilly?], don't call me a kid or insinuate that I can't or don't think; particualrly when I see Lake begging somebody to resuce the blog from oblivion above. Jeez. [I'd never call you a kid with a strategy and tactical plan like you just laid out in the one-line paragraph above. But don't ever pretend you know what this blog is up to. You just don't. InstaPunk is its own Vatican, deeply inscrutable.]

I told you it was going to be a big long post. Go get a cup of coffee. Put your feet up. Time for thoughts big and small. The Jacksonian essay linked by urthshu up top is a labelling exercise. Jeffersonians believe in the First Amendment. Jacksonians believe in the Second Amendment. Jeffersonians are elitists. Jacksonians are just folks. Jeffersonians are negotiators. Jacksonians are, uh, killerswarriors, responsible for horrendous atrocities in war, including the deaths of 900,000 Japanese civiliansthe conquest of Japan before an invasion became necessary. But Jacksonians also like country music, whereas Jeffersonians listen exclusively to string quartets. Obviously, all the common wisdom in the country lies with Jacksonians.

Bullshit. In urthshu's post I was inferred to be Jeffersonian. Which, I'm thinking, in the Diogenes context, makes me a country-club, Rockefeller Republican. Not so fast, lamplighter. What I actually am is American. Pragmatic, capitalist, libertarian but not Randian about it, security-minded, which means, I guess, that I'm a Jeffersonian-Jacksonian-Lincolnian-Reaganite hodge-podge. In other words, I believe in free speech, liberty for Americans, and if enemies get in the way, hit them as hard as you can, as suddenly and violently as you can, so they'll know not to make the same mistake again. Meaning, once again, American. Or is that Grantian?

How idiotic is it to be thinking in these terms when the country is verging on bankruptcy and profligately tossing away all its influence in foreign policy at a time when the world has never been less stable. As Jefferson put it the last time we were on the eighteenth green at the Rockefeller Country Club, "What wouldn't you give for a martini about now?"

What does all this label obsession mean in the context of catastrophe? Nothing. It's misdirection. Posturing in the absence of clear ideas about what to do tomorrow. Permit me to explain.

What drew Diogenes's ire was my insistence on picking a winner. Oh no. Can't do that. Above that. We're all about "principles."

Like I haven't been about principles for eight years. Hundreds of thousands of words about principles and I'm still to be lectured like an undergraduate about the meaning of American history. As if I didn't know it. I'm informed that a commenter picked Pawlenty as a loser scant weeks, er, months, after I dismissed him as an also-ran. Et cetera. Give that man a frozen turkey for Thanksgiving.

Then I'm held up to suspicion for wanting to nominate successors. It's discussed in terms of "rescuing" the site. Why would I be looking for successors? Because I've laid out tons of ideas, carefully thought out and presented, which people keep repeating back to me as if they'd thought of them first and are now patronizingly sharing with me. In short, my temper is getting shorter. So I thought maybe some younger voices would have more patience. More than I do anymore.

All right. I'm the one without patience. Get used to it. Apparently, no one else can do this drill three, four, five times a week. I can. I do. So what am I thinking, what am I asking with regard to the presidential election?

Guess what? I don't give a damn what your ideal vision of the country or the universe is. I have a much much clearer vision of what that is in my head than you ever will. Sorry. Just reporting. What I want from you is a gameplan for reclaiming this country from Obama. I want details. I want tactics. I want -- how many times do I have to say it before you get it? -- to win.

But you don't get it. No matter how many times and ways I ask it. You don't get it. You maunder on about what you believe, what the people want, as if you knew. Which you don't. So I'll get specific.

Think ahead to October 2012. Obama being all presidential in the debates. Will Ron Paul suddenly remember his suspicions about the deliberate implosion of Building Seven? Will Sarah Palin blurt out that life as we know it began six thousand years ago or suddenly spell 'phenomenon' with an initial 'f''? Will Rick Perry be explaining how he never meant anything by his dalliance with the stripper named Tiffany? And Ruby, Baby, Lovey, and Tex? Will Romney be explaining for the twelfth time that ObamaCare isn't RomneyCare, except that they were both good ideas that went bad somehow?

Fat chance. You're all into lecturing me about what it means to be an American. Because Americans are just going to rise like some enormous conquering tide and reclaim the country we all love so much. Because you know your history and history has its own imperatives and mandates and like that, and fuck the politicians.

Until October 30, the week before the election, when your savior candidate turns out to be married to his own sister, and it all goes away. Which is called politics. And on that day, all the people who have been so continuously insulted by my calling them 'kids' will feel betrayed and just absolutely awful because how could they have known? What with being smarter than everybody but God and all.

P.S. btw, thanks to Diogenes. It's called debate, and it happens here in the IP Octagon. Thanks also for the two song references. He's right. They're appropriate. This one:

And this one:

Plus, one of my own.

Shammadamma. Who's your rooster?

When Brizoni gets back, everything will be nicer and funner. I promise.

The Top Ten Stones Albums

Not in the Top Ten. Why this whole post is a joke.

BRIZONI, YOU KNOW HOW TO STOP THIS INSANITY.  I've done some tough Top Ten lists, but this one really takes the cake. Diogenes made the mistake of quoting Stones at me, and now I'm in full retro mode. Blame him, not me. I'm just a poor street fightin' man. How can they not all be the best at the moment when they were released?  But you know me. I can make the hard choices. And I'll do it this time, too.

10. Got Live If You Want It.

The Stones and me have always been about synchronicity, that curious confluence of all possible variables into a whole that makes perfect sense. Got Live was the first Stones album I ever heard. I was thirteen. Away at school  for the first time. The record just showed up from nowhere. No jacket. It seemed to float across our dirty laundry, horribly scratched, of course, but who could tell? For some reason it didn't, never, skipped. Probably made of some otherworldly black impervious plastic that added its own meaningful cosmic radiation noise to the deep-in-the-well-accompanied-by-women-screaming technology of the original recording. My first acquaintance with the Stones. Lady Jane. As Tears Go By. I've Been Loving You Too Long. Get Offa My Cloud. Never did.

9. Emotional Rescue.

This is going to sound terrible. I remember just a handful of exact moments when something big happened. The JFK assassination. The Apollo moon landing. 9/11. And the first on-air playing of the song Emotional Rescue. Some things you're just not prepared for. I'd been through the radical sixties/ I knew my Stones. I knew that you don't always like it the first time you hear a new Stones album. That's part of their greatness. You have to keep listening until you just can't stop listening. But I was driving up Broad Street in my Chrysler convertible, listening to WMMR in Philadelphia, and they did a world premiere of this song. The top was down. The volume was up. I was still young enough to have religious views about music. And this thing came on. I was simultaneously horrified and enthralled. Stones disco????!!!! What the fuck? But this time there was no wait time. I hated the idea and loved the song. If there had to be disco, who better to do it best than the Stones?

8. Dirty Work

The corporate album, as I always thought of it. I was working for a dirty, nasty corporation at the time. This album got me through it. One Hit to the Body. Dirty Work. Had it With You. How did they know? They just always seemed to.

7. Goatshead Soup

I never got a speeding ticket because of Heartbreaker, but a friend of mine did and I certainly deserved dozens. My go-for-it, pedal to the metal days. "Starfucker, Starfucker, Starfucker, Starfucker, St-a-a-a-a-a-r." I went everywhere at a hundred miles per hour. I also went to my first Stones concert, in Philly, wearing my dad's WWII fighter pilot jacket with the Flying Skull squadron insignia and his painting of a P-47 on the back. I got stopped three times just trying to make it into the Spectrum by people who had "heard" I was selling acid. I had an acid look about me in those days. It just wasn't LSD. So I got to see Jagger kick a fifteen foot inflatable penis on stage. But the rest of the concert was much much better. Otherwise, I'd never have gone to four more over the years. And I've spoiken before about my love for the song "Winter."

6. Sticky Fingers

They just kept topping themselves. After two of the greatest rock albums ever made, they did this. College. First heard this album at a mixer. Once again, the songs felt like I did. I just wanted to be alone. Things were as bad then as they are now. Dead Flowers. Sister Morphine. Wild Horses. Standing inthe exact center of the hole that was swallowing everything and making it heroic somehow. It's a period piece I rarely listen to anymore. But it was perfect, with that relentlessly vital if subdued Stones insistence that we still keep going. Still. Keep. Going.

5.  Some Girls

I know. Shattered. An all-time classic. But I love the title song. The music press billed this as a comeback album because it followed four of my favorite Stones albums they didn't play as much on the radio. You know. Comebacks are a relative thing.If you're the Stones. Feminism was a big thing in 1976. Unless you were the Stones.

4.  Tattoo You

Getting serious now. Maybe the greatest rock album ever, except for all the other Stone albums. Some singers do a falsetto. Jagger does fleets of falsettos, everything from love you to fuck you. You can see the growing divide between Jagger and Richards, but it's still all okay. Start Me Up. Black Limousine. Neighbors. Tops. Waiting on a Friend. Unusually timeless for the Stones. Okay. One more.

3.  Let It Bleed

How can anything top Tattoo You? Easy. When I was fourteen I listened to this album every day. While all the girls were listening to the Beatles. We all need someone to bleed on...

2.  Beggar's Banquet

This one's imprinted on my soul. I heard it at least often as I heard Let It Bleed, then two songs became a backdrop to my first reading of Tender Is the Night. Don't ask me how. The universe works in mysterious ways. In my mind, Fitzgerald's greatest moments are linked with Factory Girl and this one:

Don't ever ask questions that need no answer. In my mind, Dick and Nicole Diver are dying in the south of France with the Stones playing in the background, mocking and loving and forgiving. But that's just me.

1.  Steel Wheels Babylon Revisited Voodoo Lounge.

Okay. I'm about to give up. This is the worst project I've ever attempted. I'm out of control.

You can all go away now.I'm struggling with my emotions.

You know how it goes. With all us country club Republicans.

P.S. A commenter pointed out that I was all wrong. He's right. I left out Undercover, Exile on Main Street (a double album), It's Only Rock and Roll, and God knows what else. What also occurred to me was that I left out Stones country, Stones reggae, Stones blues, Stones rap, and Stones parody. So, in reverse order:

It takes a while for the Bob Dylan to kick in. But it does.
Sympathy wasn't the album it appeared in, though. Life.

Rap? All the way back in Undercover.

I also forgot to mention "She Was Hot." My bad.


And so many more it hurts.


Brizoni linked Gil Scott Heron. Jagger was a mentor.

And, of course, country. Too many to choose from. Here's a great one:

Stones country songs would be enough to put them in the Hall of Fame.

Oh. Was there ever something called British harpsichord rock? They did that too:

Though I'm guessing the Queen still doesn't want him to be a Lord.

None of these tributes/covers/spoofs is pure, of course. The Stones are always the Stones. Part of their mystique.(As far as I know, there have only been two successful covers of Stones recordings, and I can't think of the second one.) But I beg you to acknowledge their longevity. They outlived everybody else. In the process, they did every form of popular music -- from rock to reggae to disco to blues to country -- without ever ceasing to sound like themselves. In the battle between Beatles and Stones they won decisively by surviving. And while a mythology has been created of the rock stars who died at the age of 27, the greatest rock star of them all is still the king of all of them, grizzled and showing off his horse-tooth grin. Just this afternoon, I saw a documentary about the Doors and Jim Morrison. The highpoint of their career was a wag who dubbed them the "American Rolling Stones." Shortly after that, Jim Morrison melted down on stage when he saw his girlfried sitting in Jagger's lap in the front row.

It ain't easy being a rock God, are it?

P.P.S. Mrs. CP called in immediately, wanting to remind all the millenials that there's something called sex as opposed to "hookups." She seems to think it's important. I'm not on Facebook so I have no idea what she's talking about. She seems to think it's important, though, so here's sex on stage. Which, come to think of it, you won't get from Green Day, Moby, or even Kanye West and Usher. Sex isn't about just f___ing. It's about chemistry. Watch some chemistry.

I think Mrs. CP's point is about vitality. Do you have any of your own anymore? Rilly?

Monday, August 22, 2011


READ ALL THE COMMENTS HERE.  I'm reprinting my last comment on this post because I keep hoping for a real discussion of what's to be done. I began by quoting two paragraphs of a Diogenes comment which took exception to the byplay beween us that had already occurred:

Let me see if I can understand this. If one takes seriously the evidence that the republic is actually in peril, one gets called names. We are to accept that because somebody is a "professional journalist" that s/he knows what is best politically, as opposed to the poeple of the country. We are to accept that the only way to beat the creature that we have is to elect a Rockefeller republican who invented Obamacare. We are to accept the WSJ/Chamber of Commerce devil's bargain on amnesty and immigration. We are to accept the continuation of the construction of the police state [have you ever been to a "Fusion Center"? I have. Pure Police State.]

So because the mob is running the administration, we are to ignore the fact that, without the "tea party" [whatever that may mean to you], the compromise on the debt ceiling would have been much worse. So let's elect more republicans who will give away our birthright, our grandchildren's earnings, the rule of law as opposed to the rule of men -- all of it, cause otherwise we'll have more Obama.

Then I said this:

Uh, no. You don't understand right. You certainly don't understand me.

I trashed Pawlenty from the very beginning. (Do the search; I won't cite all the links.)

I trashed Romney so much last time around [2008] that I got berated by Dean Barnett and Hugh Hewitt as a Mormon-hater and a disgrace to conservatives everywhere.

The "Bluto" charge is hardly name calling. Who doesn't love Bluto from Animal House? It's just that he may not be the world's best political strategist.

But what I'm seeing here in a lot of comments is grumpy defeatism. Okay, let's go ahead and lose because we will have been right. How's that going to help our children and grandchildren?

It won't. And citing Andrew Jackson as a role model is feckless. His predominant character traits were choler and an insatiable thirst for vengeance.

Is that really all you have left?

I'm not asking anybody to submit meekly to [commenter] jaytee's analysis, which includes important insights about how the great MSM machine works. But engage it. Debate him in real world terms that are also aimed at preventing a second Obama term. If I'm playing an NFL championship game with a pickup team, why would I disdain the expertise of an NFL coach who has been in game-planning meetings? I wouldn't. Unless all I want is to go down in a blaze of self-destructive glory.

Don't just lament the plight of our heirs. Work to prevent that plight while there is still time. And there IS still time before the ballots are cast in the 2012 election.

Almost a year and a half by my count.

What's the strategy that forestalls disaster? Forget the presidency and focus on holding the House and winning the senate to ensure gridlock? Maybe. Better than deliberately giving the finger to the whole electorate.

Swallow your pride and get behind Gingrich because he knows how the system works and is far more of an adept on tenth amendment issues than any tea partier you can name?

THINK. Something Andrew Jackson wasn't exactly known for.

The situation we're in now is mostly the making of Obama but also partly the making of our own rhetoric, gaffes, and half-assed spokesmen.

Deal with it.

Forget the Trail of Tears. Think Dunkirk. It happened. The Brits got themselves trapped and faced total annihilating loss -- without the rescue of their officer corps, they could not have built a professional army to oppose any future German offensive . They wriggled out of it without succumbing to the temptation of another Charge of the Light Brigade.

Why they managed to win in the end.

Whether you know it or not, you're actually making everything harder. What is needed now is not heat and fury but cold cold plotting.

The Mission. The Mission. The Mission. And one more thing: The Mission.

Now let the conversation continue.

A Technology Challenge
for the New Economy

DON'T BE ALARMED. Everybody's talking about innovation as if it's something the government can do, or command, or fund, or somehow inspire. Really? I'd like to propose a test.

Before we spend trillions on green jobs and antimatter-based replacements for fossil fuels, let's see if the government can find a technological solution to the second-worst esthetic blight on the population of the United States.

No, I'm not referring to obesity. Fat is beautiful, as all the fat people keep insisting we must accept for reasons of political correctness. I accept. Fat is beautiful. Fat people seem to think so. Good enough for me. Because I am nothing if not politically correct. A real blight is one so generally accepted as a blight that few people take issue with the assumption that it's some kind of problem which can never be explained away. It's just awfulness incarnate. Like small breasts and no hair. Unforgivable.

Of course, there's nothing to be done about the first of these. Women's determination to insert baseballs or softballs into their chests in the utterly vain belief that it will make them more attractive to the opposite sex, whatever that happens to be today. Never mind that "tit men" are generally the lowest form of life on earth, including plankton. Why don't women know that in the infinitely superior wisdom they always display in commercials and sitcoms? Unless somebody's kidding us on the subject of female wisdom. It's a mystery. Also, an unfolding natural disaster no one seems able to control. Who wants to grapple with a bra populated by rocks? Women who spend thousands on such self-mutilation are beyond all help and can be reached only through pity (which still isn't an official government function, at least not explicitly). It's so obvious that all breast implants are an abomination, there's no accounting for the fever that swipes women's supposed intuition about all matters sexual and replaces it with a grotesque anatomical joke. Not even the government can deal with the delusions of crazy women.

Which leaves us with the Second Worst blight, one that maybe, just maybe, technology can address.

I refer, of course, to the scandal of male pattern baldness and the absurdly idiotic lengths men will go to in pretending they don't suffer from it. (As all men do. Percentage of bald men tracks precisely wih age. 30 percent of thirty year olds are bald. 50 percent of fifty year olds. 70 percent of seventy year olds. Aren't men supposed to be the sex with a knack for math?)

Good God. If you thought I was being hard on women before, you were wrong. Men are absolutely fucking nuts on the subject of head hair. Never mind that some of the admittedly sexiest movie stars are bald -- Sean Connery, Bruce Willis, Jason Stathem, and on and on. No. The rest of us have to be subjected on a daily basis to absurd comb-overs, truly rotten toupees you can't take your eyes off because they're so awful, and the whole gruesome hair-plug thing, which makes the male head look like a cribbage board. It's time for the feds to DO something about this.

I want a government investment in male hair infrastructure. Not to cure baldness. But to offer solutions to the maimed of spirit who can't deal with baldness.

THE CHALLENGE: A convincing toupee that doesn't give a bald fifty-year-old a twenty-year-old head of hair. Hey! Shocking concept, eh?

Novel concepts to be incorporated into the design: As we get older our hair thins. It's simply insulting to everyone to pretend this hasn't happened to you, too. So the new government-innovated toupee will actually let people see your scalp, the way they can see the scalp of every man who does still have hair. You know. Just enough hair to be plausible and convincing. Like all the rest of us older guys. Unless we're Bertrand Russell or Ronald Reagan. But none of you are Bertrand Russell or Ronald Reagan, are you? (And I'm guessing Rick Perry isn't either, but it's still a guess, except for the Bertrand Russell part. And the Ronald Reagan part.)

Proof of concept: Local TV weathermen will cease to look like walking ads for closeout sales on indoor-outdoor carpeting. Elderly Republican congressmen from the midwest won't always look like they're wearing a brimless baseball cap with a spurious ruler-straight part. And Donald Trump might stop looking like the world's oldest gay blade auditioner for the role of the Scarlet Pimpernel.

Proof of success. It will be affordable. Even used car salesmen will be able to stop looking like assholes.

THE EXPECTATION: The government can't and won't fund such research, because it might stop Republicans from being an automatic on-camera laughingstock. Even if they funded it, the results would be even more ludicrous than what we routinely guffaw ourselves sick at in ads for "The Hair Club for Men." And the cost per toupee would be $269,000.

But try it. It's cheaper than turning government loose on wind farms, healthcare, electric cars, and child nutrition.

And it would serve the incredibly valuable purpose of keeping the government out of the business of tits. Which are absolutely our business, not theirs.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Suits: A Metaphor

How the hell did Instapunk get me to root for a couple of bloodsucking lawyers?

LAKE CHECKS BACK IN. On Instapunk's suggestion, my wife and I started watching the show Suits on USA this summer. It's made for some great summer watching, lots of fun, and you should check it out. But that's not the main point of this post.

When IP recommended the show, he pointed out some parallels. The show is about Harvey, a top New York lawyer, the best at what he does. He doesn't lose cases. He's a gunslinger in negotiations, a quick wit in conversations, and a bit of an egomaniac… sound familiar? But the show's protagonist is not Harvey, it's Mike, the kid from the above clip. He's got a photographic memory and a money flow problem, so he lands an associate's position working directly for Harvey under false pretenses. After the setup in the pilot episode, the show has become a pretty standard serial. They work a case or two, beating the odds and outsmarting the competition, while Mike sorts out his personal life and tries to maintain his cover.

A week or two ago, a somewhat different episode appeared. Instead of working a real case, the stable of young Harvard Law associates are put through a mock trial presided over by the firm's managing partner. Mike, whose powers of recollection have earned him notoriety in the firm, is put up against a cutthroat hotshot out to make a name for himself. With the firm's partners acting as the jury, all the associates' career prospects are on the line.

Of course, Mike is put into the unfortunate position of needing to break a witness on the stand… who happens to be the office's beautiful paralegal that he's got the hots for and has also recently betrayed. So he has to decide: win the case and lose a friend or throw it and get back in her good graces. He has to choose between being Harvey, who always does what it takes to win, and being, well, a nice human being. Mike throws it. Later, he goes to Harvey's office, unhappy with the loss but feeling vindicated in his choice. I don't think there's a clip of it out there, so here's a transcript:

Mike: … I decided it wasn't worth hurting someone for the result.

Harvey:  The result is: you just told everyone at this firm, including myself, that you have a weak stomach. You don't have what it takes.

Mike: You know, you keep telling me I have to decide what kind of lawyer I want to be, and if I were smart, I'd be just like you. Because everybody knows you're the best. But I'm also trying to decide what kind of person I want to be. Sometimes I like my kind of person a lot more than yours.

Harvey: You want to know what kind of person I am? Tough, but fair. I call it like I see it, and what I see is a kid who asked for an opportunity, but he still hasn't decided if he wants it or not.

Hmm. So if Instapunk is Harvey, who is Mike? Instapunk still has it, obviously, but all summer he's been looking for someone to step up. Sure, Mike could be Brizoni -- he's got the writing chops, he's got something to say, and he's got the reins of the site. Instapunk keeps goading him because he knows what Brizoni is capable of. But this post isn't a slam on Brizoni -- he gets enough from Instapunk in front of and behind the scenes, I'm sure.

I'm aiming this metaphor at myself especially. I thought I could help out this summer, but besides a TV and book recommendation, I haven't been able to pull it off. I keep wrapping myself up with other projects, idling a large amount of time away reading, playing and walking around with my kids, and doing summer vacation things. I haven't been following the large and important political events taking place even as you read this, and I've felt properly chastened by IP's serious warnings. I've basically chosen to be a normal human being, but I've recently recognized that the stakes have been raised.

Like Mike, the fake lawyer, it looks like I haven't decided what kind of person I'm going to be yet. I haven't made the clear decision to be an active and intentional participant in democracy and its future. I've been content to be a lurker, a reader, and an infrequent commenter, but that's not going to win cases… or elections.

I'm aiming this metaphor at you all, too. Maybe it's just me and you're fully invested in actually saving this sinking ship. I know Instapunk has the smartest commenters on the intertubes, but what is it worth if we lose?

Friday, August 19, 2011


PHONING IT IN. I debated deleting Brizoni's latest post, but I didn't do it because we're still about freedom of speech here.

But I will sigh. Because the upcoming election is about the United States of America, not Obama's racial animus. I suspect that animus exists, but it's hardly the most important thing. The important thing is removing him from office. He's not behaving like a racist or racialist. He's behaving like a scared Chicago politician running like hell for a reelection he has done nothing to deserve.

His jobs bus tour, for example, never went near a predominantly black community where unemployment is running at close to twice the national average. His fundraising efforts are still focused on Hollywood and other elites that are overwhelmingly white, hypocritically green, and annoyingly pink rather than black. When he panders, it's to La Raza, not African-Americans.

Is he vacationing in Harlem? No. He's rooty-tooting it up at Martha's Vineyard, playground of the bluest blue bloods in America.

What are his colors? White, green, pink, blue, and brown. Why do you think Maxine Waters is so upset?

I was at pains to write some time back that Obama is not actually a black president. He's a dogmatic, inflexible, political ideologue of a president who lacks the experience and the common touch to connect with the American people who have been devastated by his elitist certainty with regard to policy.

Why do I keep talking about "winning"? Because that's what matters. The Republican field is full of loose cannons who are all prone to offensive gaffes on a near daily basis. Why do I keep talking about "The Mission?" Because it doesn't matter if you personally can make excuses for the public flubs of Perry, Bachmann, Palin, Romney, etc, by citing worse outrages by Obama and Biden. Get used to the fact that Republican gaffes matter and Democrat gaffes don't. If we convince ourselves we can win that game, we automatically lose.

Here's a sobering poll about the Tea Partiers. Read every word.

This is our election to lose. And we ARE losing it.

The Power to Compel

Tired of hearing about the long abolished draft. Who are
 libertarians defending? Not these guys. Shammadamma.

RED BADGE OF COURAGE. Just had an interesting discussion with Peter, otherwise known here as PC. He's a Paulista, committed to the idea that if we leave the world alone, the world will leave us alone. The seal on his view is that no government has the right to compel military service and the risk of death and dismemberment it represents.

Which is a valid philosophical position up to a point.

And a potentially devastating critique of all foreign and domestic military policies of all nations up to the present day, when the world's armies are overwhelmingly volunteer forces. For example, it makes Lincoln into a tyrant and a thug, because he drafted the millions who became part of the 600,000 battlefield deaths of the Civil War.

There are, in reality, only three arguments against Peter's position. If you disagree with any of them, he is right.

1. There are wars that need to be fought.

Certainly not all of them. We'd all like to think that war is something which can be outgrown. People can get smarter, etc, but the fact seems to be that governments are a necessary evil, and governments employ force, for good and ill (Peter thinks governments are unnecessary...), and sooner or later the troops will be called upon to exert the will of whatever government is involved. Pretending this won't happen seems to be the biggest delusion of all idealists. There will be Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, Darius, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Tojo, and other tyrants who are determined to prevail. What do you do then?

2. Defenseless people get killed unless someone defends them.

Usually women and children, and old people.. Invasions of defenseless peoples result in massacres. Women are raped and killed, children are raped and killed. It's no good pretending that bad things don't happen when all the world wants to believe in harmony, wisdom, and peace.

3. Young men will be involved, regardless.

Who are the rapers and killers? Overwhelmingly, young men. What are young men? Athletically fit risk-takers who don't believe they can die until it happens to their comrades. What are armies? Young men (hopefully) disciplined. Taught to fight and kill amd maim each other rather than rape and butcher innocents.

Remember, we're talking Peter's worst case here: the compelled, the drafted. The volunteers of our time, and every time, are way above that. They fight for others. As, I suspect, do the drafted. Something the Paulistas know nothing of. Patriotism.

I'm building a logic box here. For Peter. He can argue 1) that are no wars which need to be fought. Which, given Hitler for one, is absurd. He can argue 2) that there is no difference between people, that a woman or a two-year-old child is not worth defending any more than an eighteen year-old-boy who has every capability to defend himself with bullet and bayonet. Good luck with that, especially if the two-year-old is your own daughter. And he can argue 3) that young men who seek every opportunity to demonstrate their invincibility on athletic fields, in motor vehicles, and the rough-and-tumble of daily adolescent life aren't willing to risk their lives for others, only to prove their priapism. It comes down to this for the smart ones, the ones who know the score (according to Paulista scripture): They think they look good in uniforms. They want to show off. They want to be the bravest-looking on the scene.

Peter's just that much too to old to remember the hero impulse. That fleeting feeling you could do it all if anybody asked. Now he's settling into the first signs of middle age. "I don't want to die. Why should anybody risk it?"

So nobody should risk it. Not ever. But think what that would mean.

The 101st Airborne would have caved in the Battle of the Bulge. The RAF would have bailed on saving the U.K. during the Battle of Britain. The Marine Corps would have folded at Iwo Jima. The Rainbow Division would have said "No thanks" at Chateau Thierry and Belleau Wood. 

Would the world be different now? You bet your ass. (Peter would probably be a drafted corporal in somebody's army.)

Grant can't bring himself to spend lives taking Richmond, because who really cares if there's one American Nation, or two, or four?

We can keep going. Wellington decides to "fuck it" at Waterloo. Nelson decides the "Battle of the Nile" is a waste of time. You know. The kids and all.

All that really matters is that eighteen year old boys get to do what they want, because eighteen year old boys are absolutely and completely the tits.

Which is how it seems, I'm sure, if you're thirty looking back on eighteen...

But not to anyone else. I remember how I felt when I was probably going to be drafted. In the top thirty of lottery numbers. I'd been hoping to finish college first. But okay, I thought. So be it. I hope I can do my duty to my nation.

And then nothing happened. I was in the first lottery in which no one was drafted. The war was over.

But I've never stopped believing I owed a duty to my nation. They can still collect at any time. I feel genuinely sorry that so few feel that way today.

Bourdain versus Deen

BOURDAIN RHYMES WITH DISDAIN. How far we've sunk. There's word of a feud developing between the Travel Channel's Anthony Bourdain and The Food Network's Paula Deen. What utter nonsense.

I've watched them both, enjoyed them both, and see real value in both. But now Bourdain has called Deen "the most dangerous woman in America," "she forms alliances with the mosy unholy corporations in America," and her food "sucks."

Let's back up a bit. They're both examples of the American Dream, that improbable breakthrough which transforms also-rans into stars. Paula Deen was a divorced Georgia woman of little education who faced down poverty with her two sons by starting a lunch service that took off and led to restaurants and ultimately television fame. Her business sense is undeniable, and her willingness to share her personal experience along with her recipes has made her beloved. Anthony Bourdain's experience is almost exactly analogous in a completely different sphere of life. He was a flower child who went to Vassar shortly after it became co-ed, dropped out and stumbled for some years, then sought training as a chef and discovered a knack for writing that gave him New Yorker assignments which led to -- where have you heard this before? -- television fame and personal adulation.

So Paula Deen is more cook and Bourdain more chef. Paula is down home and Bourdain is (perhaps ostentatiously) sophisticated and more writer and professional traveller these days than chef. Why on earth should one attack the other?

I have an advantage here that I will use ruthlessly. Although Bourdain has been travelling increasingly far afield of late, more and more pridefully, I might say -- to Cuba, to Vietnam, to other places of Anti-American political bent -- he also spent episodes in the early years of his show in urban U.S. locales whose cuisine was not exactly healthy. I watched him rave over dishes in Cleveland and even his native New York City that were so high in cholesterol the new Bourdain would probably phone the food police, just as he has now apparently done with Paula Deen.

Sad to say, it's all class warfare. which is almost always initiated by those who fancy themselves better by birth. The relentless contempt of the liberal elite for the just folks who dare to tread on the same terrain. Is it possible the Paula Deen TV empire is much much bigger than the Bourdain cult? I'm thinking, YUH!

So, Vassar boy is inherently superior to... well, full stop. Inherently superior, period. Interestingly, though, we know who Paula Deen is married to, who her sons are, and what she really values in life. Why her viewers love her. With Bourdain, what do we really know? He has friends or at least connections in foreign places, his appearance is only gradually dissolving in dissipation (who's going to outlive whom here?), and he may or may not have a wife at home, where he is never is and whom he never mentions. What we can be sure of is that if a Cuban made his cocktail this evening, it's a damned sight better than the cocktail he would have gotten in Miami.

You know. Because.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Flashback: Baby's
First Gaffe

OBAMATEURISMS. Well, not his first gaffe. His first official gaffe. First gaffe as President. I "drew" this a couple weeks after Obama, our intelligent antidote to eight years of Bush bumbling, bumbled his swearing in so bad they had to convene a do-over, just to be sure. Nothing at all happened today that's worthy of my esteemed comment, so enjoy this nugget from the Zoni archives.

Tell me I was wrong.

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