February 3, 2013 - January 27, 2013
Monday, November 14, 2011
there gold in them thar spills?
THE BEST HAVE THEIR WEAK MOMENTS. I read all the comments but I
can't respond to all of them. That would be folly. The good ones need
no particular remark unless they start a new line of thinking. The bad
ones are usually self-evident unless they illustrate a pattern of some
kind or are so absurd as to need calling out. But if you want your
comments replied to, I can give you some guidelines. 1) Be brilliantly
original or provocative. Or
2) Demonstrate that you haven't read what I've written, 3) Be
nonresponsive to what I've written while pretending to respond, 4)
Ignore what I've written to pursue your own personal agenda, or 5)
Cherrypick what I've written to register some great gotcha that bores
everybody but you.
I've made no secret in the last week or two that I'm disgusted with
things in general, but that hasn't deterred stratagems 2) through 5).
Which is your right, of course. And some of you have been valued
commenters in the past. Like William O'Blivion, who has many erudite
thoughts -- but not this week. Case in point. He replied to my
post about how dumb conservatives are being thus:
A slap at my dismissal of Herman Cain, sure. Fine. Never mind that
Harry Truman was anything but an amateur. He was a skilled Washington
politician who got lots of attention for pursuing war profiteers when
he was in the House of Representatives. Yes, he was a haberdasher at
one time and never earned a college degree. Not quite the same thing as
never having held any kind
of elective office. But that was just the opening salvo. The
bottom line here is the bottom line: "Not even Reagan was a Reagan."
Uh, yeah. He was. Mr. O'Blivion is wallowing in his own despair and
wants us to wallow with him. Disgust is not despair. In fact, it's the
opposite. He's welcome to his own agenda, but I write my posts. Comments should be
written too, not splattered across the Internet.
There's also Pittsburgh Guy -- uh, Bud -- all bent out of shape because
KDKA broadcast a football game on the radio in the 1920s and the Wiki
entry I quoted
about the University of Pennslvania claimed that laurel for Penn. Which
justified a slander only half mitigated by one of those opaque Internet
Never mind what the post was about. Meaning the worst scandal in the history of
amateur sports. Or that I wrote an actual -- if wry -- love
letter to Pittsburgh a week or so ago.
Pittsburgh is a fine fine city. Like so many American cities are.
Unique in history, architecture, cultural riches (Pippa has already
studied Faberge treaures at the Frick), neighborhoods, and ethnic
identity. I love this country. Wherever you go, there is beauty, stores
of knowledge and art, and the people make you welcome and proud to be
American. Even in the appalling moral cesspool that is the headquarters
of Stiller (Steeler) fans.
Wrenching the whole discussion into a back alley nobody cares about is
its own reward. Cherrypicking is
its own reward, however off topic, distracting, and dull.
Yes, I'm grousing. William O and Bud will understand that I'm just
teasing them. Commenters are entitled to commit most of the sins I've
enumerated. But Sins 2) and 3) actually piss me off. Which brings me to
SkinnyDevil. He's a Paulista. Initially he was befuddled by this
Then he collected himself and (non)responded to what he didn't like.
I admit it. This whole post is about sneaking up on SkinnyDevil, who
has his own blog and seems to think the weight he's throwing around is
somehow equal to InstaPunk's. Wrong. He commits the cardinal sins that
make Lord Laird mad. He hasn't read what I've actually written, which
answers the questions he triumphantly asks, and he is nonresponsive to
the central point of the post he presumes to be superior to.
"You are well aware that Iran poses no
direct threat to the US."
The weakest argument in the world is presuming that your own lame
assumptions bind the person you're disagreeing with the same way they
bind you. ("You are well aware that if I shoot your brother I haven't
harmed you in any way.") I
despise Ron Paul's foreign policy precisely because it doesn't
conprehend that events in the world -- such as the annihilation of
Israel -- would also be crippling assaults on the United States. Not
perceiving that fundamental point is the stated reason for my
detestation of Ron Paul. Why I -- in the text of my post -- call him
"not a politician" but "a cult leader." So SkinnyDevil can't or doesn't
read. Which is my problem with all Paulistas.
"Which brings us back to why you would
take issue with Paul when every candidate on the stage with him agrees
with much of what he says..."
Read what I fucking wrote: "The plan
is published as a spreadsheet, with no description of how any
transition is to be accomplished. The problem I've always had
libertarians. We're right. Who gives a shit about what happens when we
finally take charge?" [Boldface added
after the fact because it's apparently necessary for some of the tools
in the audience.]
If Gingrich says he wants to do away with various federal
departments, I know that he
knows it requires more than the stroke of a pen and a crazy grandma
smile of jubilation. Which makes him vastly different from the
congressman who could guest star as the villain of the week on Criminal Minds without raising an
What part of that don't you
Disgust, Part 2
The Mark Twain
hope that, like Mark Twain, a hundred years from now people will see my work and say, "Wow, that is
actually pretty racist."
1998 – Richard Pryor
1999 – Jonathan Winters
2000 – Carl Reiner
2001 – Whoopi Goldberg
2002 – Bob Newhart
2003 – Lily Tomlin
2004 – Lorne Michaels
2005 – Steve Martin
2006 – Neil Simon
2007 – Billy Crystal
2008 – George Carlin
2009 – Bill Cosby
2010 – Tina Fey
2011 – Will Ferrell
Disgust. Mark Twain was not a standup comic or movie actor or producer.
Hemingway said of him, "All modern American literature comes from one
book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry
Finn." (Except that there was also Edgar Allan Poe.) He was a writer. Here's a reminder from a
lovely and still affecting souffle called Innocents Abroad, which none of
the winners could duplicate or even aspire to. So what else is new? As
Keith Richards says, "90 percent of everything is crap." MT is an
exception. Behold the American voice:
They pronounce it 'Pom-pay-e.' I always
had an idea that you went down into Pompeii with torches, by the way of
damp, dark stairways, just as you do in silver mines, and traversed
gloomy tunnels with lava overhead and something on either hand like
dilapidated prisons gouged out of the solid earth, that faintly
resembled houses. But you do nothing of the kind. Fully one-half of the
buried city, perhaps, is completely exhumed and thrown open freely to
the light of day; and there stand the long rows of solidly-built brick
houses (roofless) just as they stood eighteen hundred years ago, hot
with the flaming sun; and there lie their floors, clean-swept, and not
a bright fragment tarnished or wanting of the labored mosaics that
pictured them with the beasts, and birds, and flowers which we copy in
perishable carpets to-day; and there are the Venuses, and Bacchuses,
and Adonises, making love and getting drunk in many-hued frescoes on
the walls of saloon and bed-chamber; and there are the narrow streets
and narrower sidewalks, paved with flags of good hard lava, the one
deeply rutted with the chariot-wheels, and the other with the passing
feet of the Pompeiians of by-gone centuries; and there are the
bake-shops, the temples, the halls of justice, the baths, the
theatres—all clean-scraped and neat, and suggesting nothing of the
nature of a silver mine away down in the bowels of the earth. The
broken pillars lying about, the doorless doorways and the crumbled tops
of the wilderness of walls, were wonderfully suggestive of the "burnt
district" in one of our cities, and if there had been any charred
timbers, shattered windows, heaps of debris, and general blackness and
smokiness about the place, the resemblance would have been perfect. But
no—the sun shines as brightly down on old Pompeii to-day as it did when
Christ was born in Bethlehem, and its streets are cleaner a hundred
times than ever Pompeiian saw them in her prime. I know whereof I
speak—for in the great, chief thoroughfares (Merchant Street and the
Street of Fortune) have I not seen with my own eyes how for two hundred
years at least the pavements were not repaired! —how ruts five and even
ten inches deep were worn into the thick flagstones by the chariot
wheels of generations of swindled tax-payers? And do I not know by
these signs that Street Commissioners of Pompeii never attended to
their business, and that if they never mended the pavements they never
cleaned them? And, besides, is it not the inborn nature of Street
Commissioners to avoid their duty whenever they get a chance? I wish I
knew the name of the last one that held office in Pompeii so that I
could give him a blast. I speak with feeling on this subject, because I
caught my foot in one of those ruts, and the sadness that came over me
when I saw the first poor skeleton, with ashes and lava sticking to it,
was tempered by the reflection that may be that party was the Street
Then we lounged through many and many a sumptuous private mansion which
we could not have entered without a formal invitation in
incomprehensible Latin, in the olden time, when the owners lived
there—and we probably wouldn't have got it. These people built their
houses a good deal alike. The floors were laid in fanciful figures
wrought in mosaics of many-colored marbles. At the threshold your eyes
fall upon a Latin sentence of welcome, sometimes, or a picture of a
dog, with the legend "Beware of the Dog," and sometimes a picture of a
bear or a faun with no inscription at all. Then you enter a sort of
vestibule, where they used to keep the hat-rack, I suppose; next a room
with a large marble basin in the midst and the pipes of a fountain; on
either side are bedrooms; beyond the fountain is a reception-room, then
a little garden, dining-room, and so forth and so on. The floors were
all mosaic, the walls were stuccoed, or frescoed, or ornamented with
bas-reliefs, and here and there were statues, large and small, and
little fish-pools, and cascades of sparkling water that sprang from
secret places in the colonnade of handsome pillars that surrounded the
court, and kept the flower-beds fresh and the air cool....
It was a quaint and curious pastime, wandering through this old silent
city of the dead—lounging through utterly deserted streets where
thousands and thousands of human beings once bought and sold, and
walked and rode, and made the place resound with the noise and
confusion of traffic and pleasure. They were not lazy. They hurried in
those days. We had evidence of that. There was a temple on one corner,
and it was a shorter cut to go between the columns of that temple from
one street to the other than to go around—and behold that pathway had
been worn deep into the heavy flagstone floor of the building by
generations of time-saving feet! They would not go around when it was
quicker to go through. We do that way in our cities.
Everywhere, you see things that make you wonder how old these old
houses were before the night of destruction came—things, too, which
bring back those long dead inhabitants and place them living before
your eyes. For instance: The steps (two feet thick lava blocks) that
lead up out of the school, and the same kind of steps that lead up into
the dress circle of the principal theatre, are almost worn through! For
ages the boys hurried out of that school, and for ages their parents
hurried into that theatre, and the nervous feet that have been dust and
ashes for eighteen centuries have left their record for us to read
And so I turned away and went through shop after shop and store after
store, far down the long street of the merchants, and called for the
wares of Rome and the East, but the tradesmen were gone, the marts were
silent, and nothing was left but the broken jars all set in cement of
cinders and ashes....
In a bakeshop... the exhumers of Pompeii found nice, well baked loaves
which the baker had not found time to remove from the ovens the last
time he left his shop, because circumstances compelled him to leave in
such a hurry.
In one house (the only building in Pompeii which no woman is now
allowed to enter) were the small rooms and short beds of solid masonry,
just as they were in the old times, and on the walls were pictures
which looked almost as fresh as if they were painted yesterday, but
which no pen could have the hardihood to describe; and here and there
were Latin inscriptions—obscene scintillations of wit, scratched by
hands that possibly were uplifted to Heaven for succor in the midst of
a driving storm of fire before the night was done.
In one of the principal streets was a ponderous stone tank, and a
waterspout that supplied it, and where the tired, heated toilers from
the Campagna used to rest their right hands when they bent over to put
their lips to the spout, the thick stone was worn down to a broad
groove an inch or two deep. Think of the countless thousands of hands
that had pressed that spot in the ages that are gone, to so reduce a
stone that is as hard as iron!
They had a great public bulletin board in Pompeii—a place where
announcements for gladiatorial combats, elections, and such things,
were posted—not on perishable paper, but carved in enduring stone. One
lady, who, I take it, was rich and well brought up, advertised a
dwelling or so to rent, with baths and all the modern improvements, and
several hundred shops, stipulating that the dwellings should not be put
to immoral purposes....
In one of these long Pompeiian halls the skeleton of a man was found,
with ten pieces of gold in one hand and a large key in the other. He
had seized his money and started toward the door, but the fiery tempest
caught him at the very threshold, and he sank down and died. One more
minute of precious time would have saved him. I saw the skeletons of a
man, a woman, and two young girls. The woman had her hands spread wide
apart, as if in mortal terror, and I imagined I could still trace upon
her shapeless face something of the expression of wild despair that
distorted it when the heavens rained fire in these streets, so many
ages ago. The girls and the man lay with their faces upon their arms,
as if they had tried to shield them from the enveloping cinders. In one
apartment eighteen skeletons were found, all in sitting postures, and
blackened places on the walls still mark their shapes and show their
attitudes, like shadows. One of them, a woman, still wore upon her
skeleton throat a necklace, with her name engraved upon it—JULIE DI
But perhaps the most poetical thing Pompeii has yielded to modern
research, was that grand figure of a Roman soldier, clad in complete
armor; who, true to his duty, true to his proud name of a soldier of
Rome, and full of the stern courage which had given to that name its
glory, stood to his post by the city gate, erect and unflinching, till
the hell that raged around him burned out the dauntless spirit it could
We came out from under the solemn mysteries of this city of the
Venerable Past—this city which perished, with all its old ways and its
quaint old fashions about it, remote centuries ago, when the Disciples
were preaching the new religion, which is as old as the hills to us
now—and went dreaming among the trees that grow over acres and acres of
its still buried streets and squares, till a shrill whistle and the cry
of "All aboard—last train for Naples!" woke me up and reminded me that
I belonged in the nineteenth century, and was not a dusty mummy, caked
with ashes and cinders, eighteen hundred years old. The transition was
startling. The idea of a railroad train actually running to old dead
Pompeii, and whistling irreverently, and calling for passengers in the
most bustling and business-like way, was as strange a. thing as one
could imagine, and as unpoetical and disagreeable as it was
uh, yeah. Like I said. He was a writer,
not a comic. Or the racist of Tina's ignorant imaginings. Here's the
bed he died in.
Imagine having sex with Tina Fey in
that bed. Can't? My point exactly.
I'm betting if he were still in it he'd raise himself up and cuss a
blue streak against the shallow nothings who have been lent his name as
an honor they feel free to dishonor.
He was a great cusser. Just like me.
what. We're champions. Again.
AS LOYAL AS THE PENN STATERS. I went to a lot of games when I was a
student, and in those days the Patriots also played at Harvard Stadium
on Sundays (yeah, I'm that old.) I saw Joe Namath subjected to the
gentlest sack any NFL quarterback has ever received. They owed him.
But here's the funny thing. I never bought anything that said Harvard
on it. I never bought a Harvard tee-shirt, sweatshirt, or class ring. I
was so used to the squiggly-eyed look people gave you when they asked
you where you went to college and you said "Harvard" that I just never
went there. How many times can you hear people say "Hah-vid" and laugh as if it's the
first time you heard the joke? Pahk
the cah in the Hahvid Yahd? Fine. Go for it. Enjoy yourself.
Then I got married for the final time a few years ago. I introduced my
bride to the fun of college football, which she had never cared about
and suddenly fell in love with. We got Rutgers season tickets. And, as
if by magic, I suddenly started getting all this Harvard stuff as
presents from my wife. Tee-shirts advertising their frequent Ivy
football championships, an official Harvard sweatshirt (my first one ever, at the age of 57), a
long-sleeved gray jersey that felt almost discreet and another bright
crimson one that boasted of the team Ryan Fitzpatrick led to the title.
And my wife had a tee-shirt that contained the coats of arms of all the
Harvard houses on the back. Presents for the female kids and grandkids
turned out to be Harvard things, some of them involving glitter.
I was embarrassed. Sometimes I'd change my shirt before a family
gathering or a trip to the hardware store. I always disliked people who
wanted Harvard to be the first thing strangers knew about them. As
well, who needs more snobs?
You know what, though? This week, I'm finally proud. Especially of
Harvard football. Harvard Stadium has 40,000 seats, usually half-empty
except for the Yale game. Franklin Field, Penn's home, has 60,000
seats, usually two-thirds empty when Harvard is playing there, and
we've been there twice for that with abysmal results. The last time I
actually had to apologize to the guests we'd invited to the dismal
performance of Harvard -- it was the single worst, dullest college
football game I've ever seen. Why I picked up the whole tab at the
fabulous Ralph's Italian restaurant in South Philly.
I'm not apologetic now, though. I'm proud. Finally proud. With one week
to go in the season, Harvard has clinched its 14th Ivy football title
out of the last 56 years. It doesn't even matter what happens against
Yale next week, except that Yale's quarterback should definitely attend
his Rhodes Scholarship interview in Atlanta rather than play a
meaningless rivalry game.
Which is why I'm proud at
this point. Big time football has just
exploded in a nuclear firestorm. The Ivy League ("The Ancient Eight" as
one of my tee-shirts has it) has been, after all these years,
vindicated. Harvard football players aren't physics majors and
classics scholars. They tend to live with other jocks in Kirkand House.
On the whole, they're dumber than the rest, but some of them still make
the NFL, which they do NOT turn their noses up at. But, but, but...
are definitely, absolutely amateurs. They do not go to bowl games,
there are no challenges or replays at Ivy games, and every one of us
roots for Columbia to win at least one game every year, because they
are the smallest undergrad population and we don't want them to become
Yesterday I had to run an errand that encompassed two states. I put on
a 2006 Harvard football championship tee-shirt. I was just hoping
would make a sleighting remark, so I could say we play football cleanly
as a sport. Unlike some schools we could mention.
No one did.
I mean, who cares about Ivy League football? Let's be real here.
But we did help invent the game. Does that count for anything...?
uh, No. So be it. And I'm busting my buttons over it, for the first
in 40 years. Go figure.
We win. Or, rather, I win. Who out there has a wife like mine, who always knows what's important way ahead of time? I tell you, it makes me humble.
Dexter Season Five
shows get worse and gutter out... I tell the truth about such things.
. I promised myself I would do four posts
today. I concede I'm
getting tired after just three. But the Lady and I have been watching
Dexter Season 5 in our usual fashion -- all at once -- and I have to
have a confession to make.
Maybe I was burned out by watching the end of the Harry Potter saga.
Deadliest Hallows XIX showed up in the queue on Friday, so we watched
it. Okay. Best of the whole 45-movie saga. I can admit that. Who among
you can say I'm not fair about all matters not pertaining to the
Rolling Stones? See?
But then there were the On Demand continuations of CSI New York, NCIS, and Not CSI Somewhere, USA, and I have
to tell you there's such a thing as series burnout. Too much of a good
thing is still too much of a good thing, and there's no way I wouldn't
tell the truth to my faithful readers about such a thing.
Which is why I have to report that Dexter Season 5 is absolutely the
best ever. They've changed the show without changing the show. How
Michael Anthony Hall doesn't automatically win the Emmy for most killer
TV performance every year is far beyond my poor powers of film
I can't say much without risking spoilers, so I won't say much. Just
watch. Especially if you're a Christian. Oops. I said too much. What I
meant to say was, watch especially if you're a homicidal heretic with a
grudge against the world. Except that...
Something I never ever thought would happen. Dexter making me cry. With
him, for him, by him being
He does that. Lady Laird left home half an hour early this morning to
mail the DVD
so we could get the last epsiode ASAP.
I think I can stop writing now. Four posts. All done. Except one thing:
Harris? Fuck you. Dexter would know what to do with you, and being
an NFL fullback wouldn't make a particle of difference. He's a, well,
SPARTANS? First, my gratitude and congratulations to all veterans.
This is your day, and we
should all feel honored to have you living among us.
Anything different this year that's worthy of special remark? Yes. A
couple of things. The date: it's 11/11/11, which constitutes a natural
numerical tribute to the original Veterans Day, called Armistice Day
and set on November 11 because the armistice ending World War I was
concluded at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh
month in 1918. Sadly, I believe we have no more surviving veterans of
that war. The time set aside to remember them is now Memorial Day.
The other thing is the basketball game that will be played between UNC
and Michigan State on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Carl Vinson this
evening. I confess to having mixed feelings about this event and am
curious how others feel.
On the one hand I understand it's a great opportunity for the navy to
show off one of its crown jewels in prime time, and I'm sure active
service military personnel around the world will get a morale boost
from the game.
On the other hand I've got some nagging doubts I probably shouldn't
mention. But I will. The video clip shows the impressive and no doubt
hugely expensive effort that's gone into making a flight deck into a
basketball stadium, and I can't watch it without remembering the dire
Drudge headline in which Leon Panetta declares that the U.S. military
will become "a shell" of itself if the president's "supercommittee"
can't agree on other ways to reduce budget deficits. So is this
ostentatious one-off sporting event the right message to be sending the
nation at this moment in time? I don't know. Especially given that some
of the cuts being discussed involve serious reductions in veterans benefits.
Another question no one wants to raise. Is this whole show underway
because our commander-in-chief loves college basketball? He's
definitely going to be there (though I
thought he was bound for Bali to get as far away from the
supercommittee as possible). To the best of my knowledge he hasn't yet
attended the regularly scheduled Army-Navy football game (played in an
arena that doesn't have to be built from scratch), though I guess he
will this year since it'll be his last chance before the 2012 election.
And, you know.
Please forgive my skepticism. I know it's unworthy of the day. But I
sometimes wonder if he is too.
What do you think?
and a CONTEST!!!
Remember: the NYT
would never say such a thing in an editorial.
ARE SMART, RIGHT? Found an interesting essay
today (h/t Hotair) that I agree with somewhat. It purports to explain
why people engage in irrational loyalty to leaders and institutions
that have betrayed them in profound ways. What's interesting is that
the author is observant, and even self-deprecating at times, but still
manages to omit
entirely the very best example of the idea he's advancing, which makes
him a sorry proof of his otherwise excellent point. The title is
Crushing Our Better Angels: How
Tribalism & Self-Identity
Force Us to Support Penn State, Herman Cain and Rick Perry
Cute, huh? Penn State and two besieged Republicans automatically belong
together. Is he saying that defenders of Penn State and Paterno are
necessarily Republicans? Noooooooo. He's far more even-handed than
that. He's so even-handed that no one would guess what he finally
reveals in the second to the last paragraph -- "I'm not a Republican."
Well, actually I did guess,
but I can be even-handed, too, and there's much wisdom in what he's
The common narrative today is that we
have lost all faith in our institutions. This is wrong, of course. We
have simply lost faith in those institutions that most bind us together
as one, such as being a citizen or a local newspaper that everyone in
town reads. Instead, we’ve doubled down on those institutions that
allow us to believe we are better than our neighbors. GOP, DNC, Tea
Parties, Occupy Wall Street, alma maters, libertarianism, even churches
whose primary message is that We Are The Good and The Others Will Burn
are all on the rise these days. What all of these institutions have in
common is that they stroke the very core of our ego. Stick with us,
they say, because by being one of us you will be a fundamentally better
person than your neighbor.
And so we join up, and by doing so are rewarded with constant
reassurance that despite whatever our shortcomings may be, We are
better, smarter, and more pure than Them. It’s hard for a message that
powerful and self-affirming not to become a cornerstone of our
self-identity. And in many ways, this message creates positive outcomes
for us. Feeling like you have a grip on life is no small part of being
successful in it. If nothing else, it allows us to feel part of a
community in these days of everything and everyone being so plugged in
The problem is that we humans will go to great lengths of denial to
preserve our own self-identity. And if we have allowed our
self-identity to be wrapped up in the success of people we have never
met, we tend to close our eyes, cover our ears and go “LALALALALA” when
those people slip and fail us.
He cites the examples of Rick Perry's record of crony capitalism,
Herman Cain's repeated story changes about the sexual harassment
charges leveled against him, and the Penn State scandal as instances in
which tribal loyalty inspires the defense of behaviors no one in the
tribe approves of or would accept in other contexts. And I believe he
really is trying to be fair
since he begins the column with his mistaken childhood adulation of
Steve Garvey and also references the Monica Lewinsky scandal:
I saw the very same dynamic with
Democrats, those self-proclaimed protectors of women’s rights, and
Clinton. And I see the exact same thing happening right now with the
GOP [regarding the audience applause for Cain when he was questioned
about the charges in the most recent debate.]
And he's right about Cain:
[A]t each stage of this scandal
breaking Cain has been caught in a lie. First he swore he have never
been formally accused by anyone, ever. Then he claimed that he had been
accused but had not known the outcome – yet still somehow knew no money
had been paid out. Then he admitted there had been money paid out, but
he had no idea how much. Then he admitted to having known that they got
a very, very small amount. Then he bizarrely told his followers that
there were going to be more of these allegations coming to light, and
that they should ignore them. The Republicans have rallied around him
every step of the way...
His bottom line advice is good, too:
The first [step] is to always be
willing to take a step back and audit your beliefs. When someone you
are supporting is being “unfairly crucified” by FOX or the lame stream
media, take a step back and ask yourself: If this was happening to the
other tribe’s team, how would I be reacting right now? If the honest
answer is anything other than “the same,” it might be wise to go back
through all of the facts you had previously dismissed to see if perhaps
you’ve let yourself miss something. More important, though, is this:
Be an advocate for what your tribe stands for, not an advocate for your
I simply don’t believe that there
aren’t a ton of Republicans out there that are very disturbed by what
has transpired with Herman Cain this week...
These people need to speak up; not to the world at large, but to the
members of their tribe. I’m not a Republican, so I can point to the
myriad of things that don’t add up about Cain’s denials all day long
and it’s going to fall on deaf ears. The same way, not incidentally,
that Democrats shrugged off all evidence of Clinton’s pattern of sexual
harassment fifteen years ago. People don’t listen to those outside
their tribe when their self-identity is on the line. But they might be
open to peeking at reality when it’s being presented by one of their
Peeking at reality. I like that. Why I couldn't help wondering why the
article never took a single peek at Obama. Presumably, the tribe of
Obama supporters still believes in transparency, the dismissal of
lobbyists from the corridors of DC power, the end of the kind of crony
capitalism that has this author so disgruntled about Rick Perry, and
the spirit of civil bipartisan problem-solving Obama proclaimed as his
ideal in the 2008 campaign. But somehow the need for self-questioning
by Democrats about the performance of their hero with respect to these
basic tribal values never made it onto the writer's radar. I guess some
realities are too difficult to peek at, let alone examine with a
So I was mulling his problematic essay when I encountered this entry
Why aren’t people totally into
our awesome economic growth?
When something appears inexplicable, it’s best to start by checking
assumptions first. Ylan Mui at the Washington
Post should have taken that advice before reporting on a “rift”
between the supposedly good economic growth an the American state of
A rift is emerging between Americans’
state of mind and the state of the economy.
The economy is getting stronger, with the nation’s gross domestic
product growing at its fastest clip so far this year. The number of new
people signing up for unemployment benefits has steadily declined, and
consumer spending is rising.
But by almost any measure, Americans remain unhappy. Consumer
confidence has plunged to levels last seen during the financial crisis.
A recent Nielsen poll found that nine out of 10 Americans believe the
country is still in a recession. … This persistent pessimism has
So what are the assumptions that lead [sic] [to] this article?
First, Mui implies that the economy is heating up, and that the weekly
initial jobless claims rate indicates a significant improvement that
consumers should notice. Neither are [sic] true...
Ed Morrissey does his usual competent job of explaining exactly why the WAPO claims aren't
true, which is worth reading to be sure but entirely unnecessary. You
don't have to be an economist to know that the economy sucks and that
consumers are unhappy because there's no sign that things are going to
get better anytime soon. When a consumer knows his house probably isn't
worth what he owes on it, he's not going to be elated by decimal
point changes in leading economic indicators. This "has perplexed
economists?" Really? Which economists? Ah. The smart ones.
That's when I finally understood the oxymoron at the heart of the
column I quoted
above. Note that the whole thrust of the essay was about moral issues,
which evidently concern conservatives more than they do liberals, at
least in the sense that liberals regard conservative talk of morality
as hysterical and naive, whereas their own is objective and nuanced
(uh, persiflage designed to sound sensitive). The essence of liberal
tribalism is not moral
but intellectual. The thing they
can't let go of because it's a "cornerstone of their self-identity" is their
rational superiority, the unwavering irrational
conviction that they
are simply smarter than we are. Their obliviousness to the sheer,
obvious awfulness and incompetence of the Obama presidency may be the
biggest blind spot in the history of any American political party. And
think just how much work it
must take to keep from seeing how bad everything is and how much worse
it is getting day by day.
I mean, what kind of mental, er, rational,
did Ylan Mui have to perform in order to write such a piece
of fantastic bilge about the state of the economy? In terms of
intellectual honesty, he's every bit the vandal of the Penn State
students who overturned a TV news van and busted out its windows in
protest of the Paterno firing.
Which is when I had one of those flashes I sometimes have. I flashed
forward to the endorsement editorials we will all be reading in the
fall of 2012 when the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Boston
Globe, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Los Angeles Times the Chicago
Sun-Times, and the San Francisco Mother Jones Daily will soberly
articulate their reasons for recommending Barack Obama over anything
Think about it. It's already a done deal. All those editorials could be
written today and nothing would change between now and then but a few
***** CONTEST!!! *****
So write me one of those editorials. If you don't want to pick a
Republican candidate to beat up on, go with [Generic Republican],
though I don't mind if you put your own favorite into the mix. The
purpose is to do kind of the opposite of what our friendly columnist
advises: put yourself into the minds of the libs who are committed to
reflexively defending the worst president in U.S. history. It will take
some imagination, some sleight of hand, and some artful phrasing.
I can help with an artifact from Shuteye Nation. I wrote an endorsement
editorial well before the 2000 Republican nomination was decided. It
may help you capture the appropriate objective tone. The winning entry
can't sound like Moveon.org. It's got to sound like Moses coming down
from the mountain with his commandments in hand.
March 8, 2000
A Shuteye Times EDITORIAL:
Major Party Endorsements
Yes, the Super Tuesday
primary showdown has come and gone. The results appear to be decisive.
The nominees of the two major parties will be Al Bore and George W.
Bush XIV. The primary for the state served by this newspaper will not
be held for another few weeks, which means local voters have had no
chance to participate in the momentous choices already completed. In
this context, an editorial endorsement of any candidate(s) by the Times
might seem at best irrelevant and at worst arrogant.
Yet we believe we must play
our part in the process, however small that part has been rendered by
the rush of events. As journalists, we must accept the responsibility
that accompanies our constant daily focus on matters of policy,
statecraft, and controversy. We are in a position to offer an informed
and reasoned opinion. We have thus elected to publish our views about
the candidates and to endorse those whom we believe would best serve
the Amerian people, regardless of their chances for victory.
On the side of the
Democratics, there has been a briefly contentious campaign between Vice
Presdent Al Bore and former New Joisey Senator Bill Broadley.
Both have offered thoughtful proposals and plans in areas that
undeniably concern the mass of common people, including health care,
education, racial relations, and social security. In may respects,
therefore, both Bore and Broadley are qualified to occupy the highest
office in the land. Nevertheless, we are persuaded that a basis for
choosing between them does exist. Senator Broadley’s health care
proposal, while containing some positive features, has a crippling
weakness which the Vice Presdent was able to discover: it would
terminate the Medicare program on which many millions of Amerians
depend. This is unacceptable. We therefore find it appropriate to
endorse the candidacy of Al Bore, Vice Presdent of the United States.
With respect to the
Republians, the field of candidates has been considerably larger, and
the tone of the debate far more negative, perhaps to the point of
obscuring both issues and qualifications. However, we have accepted the
obligation to evaluate and choose one of their number. The first cut is
not especially difficult. Candidates Keese and Bowser do not reflect
mainstream views or concerns of the people, and their angry rhetoric on
the Choice issue in particular has made it clear that they lack both
the temperament and the responsiveness to the voice of the people which
are necessary in a Presdent of the United States.
Steve Forbus is similarly lacking in
temperament, and in retrospect, it would seem that the extraordinarily
vicious style of campaigning which has marked the Republian race began
with Forbus’s negative television ads about George W. Bush. For this
reason, we have been compelled to eliminate him from consideration.
Several others appear not to
have been serious candidates from the outset, despite obvious
strengths. Senator Orange Hatch entered the race too late to be a
factor, and former cabinet secretary Liddie Dull appears to have
entered the race too early. We were impressed by both on the merits.
Perhaps they will seek the nomination more ardently in future. Former
Vice Presdent Dan Quail also dropped out early, but he has never been a
serious factor in national politics. (P-O-T-A-T-O. Our apologies. We
couldn’t help it.)
The choice for endorsement
must, then, fall to one of the two remaining Republians, George W. Bush
or John McKane. Like many Amerians, we have been impressed by the story
of John McKane, and by his character and his commitment to campaign
finance reform. Too, we were buoyed by his principled decision some
weeks ago to refrain—unilaterally—from negative campaigning. That is a
precedent which many would do well to follow.
It is sad that George W. Bush
failed to rise to the occasion. His media assault on his rival in South
Carelina and thereafter was unjustified. Unlike some of his adherents,
we are unmoved by the tendered excuse that McKane started the negative
campaigning in the south by comparing Bush to Bill Clitton. We note
that Mr. Clitton is the Presdent of the United States, one who has been
elected to that office twice and who has been approved for his
performance by a majority of voters almost continuously for eight
years. How could such a comparison be interpreted as a mortal insult by
Mr. Bush, who has registered no accomplishment which measures up to
those of Bill Clitton?
Depending on one's
viewpoint, Mr. McKane's statement might be regarded as anything from
ambiguous to incomprehensible, but it cannot be considered vicious. Mr.
Bush must accept responsibility for the low standard of rhetoric which
We have another bone to pick
with Mr. Bush as well. The decision to speak at Bobby Joe University
was indefensible. We sympathize with the millions of Roman Catholics
the wurld over who must be wounded and frightened by his tacit
endorsement of the Bobby Joe policy of religious genocide. And we
cannot in good conscience endorse a candidate who would sell his
integrity and honor so cheaply.
We endorse for the Republian
Presdential nomination Senator John McKane. Perhaps we should have
spoken out earlier. Still, we must draw what comfort we can from the
notion that late is better than never.
Good luck, Mr. Bore. And
good luck, Mr. McKane.
We will, of course, wait
until the fall campaign to publish our endorsement of a candidate in
the general election. As journalists, we can observe no less scrupulous
Pick any newspaper you like. I'll post any that are good. And then we
can discuss what if anything we've learned through the exercise.
. Something of a portmanteau post, encompassing a
lot of what I'm disgusted about these days. The flashpoint is Paterno,
of course, but there's also reference to Occupy Wall Street, Eric
Holder, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, and Ron Paul (all of
whom I've been asked about in recent comments). I'll even be touching
on my own personal history. Not to mention political philosophy. Are
The clip above is from a 1948 movie of an Arthur Miller play, All My Sons. Here's a pertinent
'user review' from IMDB.com:
The film/play takes place in 1945 - 46.
[Manufacturer Joe] Keller's oldest son has died in World War II, in a
military aviation crash. His younger son Chris (Burt Lancaster) has
returned too from military service upset -- he is aware that something
is wrong about the death of his brother, but he is not sure what. He is
also aware that his father has a secretive side -- one that he is
sensitive about. It appears to be connected to the wartime trial of
Keller's partner Herbert Deever (Frank Conroy). It seems that Keller
and Deever's plant got a big government contract that required the
delivery of airplane motors at a particular date. It was a very
lucrative contract: in fact, it built their company. But there was a
defect in the motors -- which did not prevent Deever from completing
the delivery of the defective motors. As a result, twelve planes
crashed in the South Pacific, killing their pilots and crews. Deever
ended up going to prison, but the critical decision was made without
Joe Keller being present (he was ill that day) and so Keller did not go
Somehow, despite Chris's perplexity about his brother's death in the
war, the Kellers would seem not to have any problems. Joe is an
apparently successful manufacturer and seems well liked. His wife Kate
(Mady Christians) is always ready to smooth over any little flurries of
difficulties that may pop up. But Chris comes home with his girl friend
Ann (Louise Horton). This is upsetting to Joe and Kate, though they try
to put their best face on it: Ann is the daughter of jailbird Herb
Deever. And sometimes tagging along is angry, troubled George Deever
(Howard Duff), who has occasionally visited his dad -- and has heard
the story of the defective motors from a different perspective. And
that perspective raises issues about "good old" Joe Keller.
Up to 1945 the subject of government contracts and corrupt cost cutting
rarely popped up on stage or screen. But during World War II it became
a big issue because of the huge government contracts that Washington
set up for the war effort... the subject never really came up before in
film... So when Miller did this film it was, if you will, "virgin
Miller, of course, turned the issue into a morality situation - as Joe
Keller comes face to face to his sin against his partner, his country,
the war effort, and his own sons. And he does, in the end, learn that
the material gain was too costly - as he realizes, the dead pilots were
all his sons.
It's hardly a secret that Arthur Miller was a leftist. His Death of a Salesman implicitly
argued that capitalism robbed human beings of their native dignity. The Crucible presented the greatest
straw man in dramatic history: there were no witches in
Salem, so there must have been no communists or Soviet agents in Hollywood.
Except that there were, as the historical record has abundantly
So why am I recommending that you all watch a big chunk of All My Sons? (Whole movie available
Some loading problems due to length... I recommend skipping to 59
minutes in, which worked for me. You'll see everything that matters.)
Because in this play at least, Arthur Miller's ear as a writer served
him better than his political views. The tragic flaw of Joe Keller is
not capitalism or aggressive business ambition. It's his own character.
His rationalizations may involve the primacy of family and the right to
make a buck, but the solution to his frailties isn't the elevation of
the collective; it's the sense of personal moral responsibility for his
own actions. They are all my
sons. Not a conviction any government can enforce. It's a personal,
individual contract with life.
What Joe Paterno forgot. His moral lapse had nothing to do with
capitalism. He wasn't a money-grubbing CEO. He was a deity. Absolute
power corrupts absolutely. His elevation of "the program" over basic
moral imperatives which require virtually no decision by decent men has
more in common with ideologues than businessmen. At some point Joe
Paterno forgot that the ends don't justify the means. Who else forgets
that at greatest cost? Lenin. Stalin. Mao. Castro. Pol Pot. What I'm
doing is so intrinsically important that it's okay if some nameless
Businessmen don't come to conclusions like that unless they are no
longer capitalists but factotums of the powerful who have the ability
to eliminate the most essential element of capitalism -- competition.
Which brings us to another fascinating nexus. So-called "kids" at Penn
State riot in response to the dethroning of their football god, which
has absolutely nothing to do with the 'Occupy' protesters mounting
anarchic attacks against the capitalist system, also involving violence
and, well, tantrums, with no regard for the 'proletarians' they're
hurting by shutting down restaurants, shitting on doorsteps, and
otherwise demonstrating their ignorant infantilism.
But isn't it really all the same thing? A failure of consciousness?
Always returning to the same bankrupt assumption. I'm not responsible.
Everyone else is; that is, everyone else is responsible to me and my
whims. Because I have this half-assed idea of how everything ought to
be, and it doesn't matter at all that I haven't the slightest idea how
to get there. I just want what I want, whatever it is.
And we've been taught to let it all go. As if having what we conceive
of as a pure idea outranks all the hard work grownups have to do.
Ron Paul. Why am I so hard on him? I was asked. Is it just
because I "disagree" with his foreign policy? No. He's the Joe Paterno
of libertarians. Ask him about Iran and he answers that if we're nice
to Iran, Iran will be nice to us. That's akin to pretending that a
child molester will stop being a child molester because that's what's
convenient for our 'program.' But it doesn't end there. This kind of
delusional thinking feeds back into areas where we're supposed to be
competent. Ron Paul has also called for the immediate end of the
Federal Reserve, the Energy Department, the Education Department, the
Commerce Department (excuse me, the constitution does require federal
oversight of interstate commerce), and the immediate sale of all federal lands (parks too?).
The plan is published as a spreadsheet, with no description of how any
transition is to be accomplished. The problem I've always had with
libertarians. We're right. Who gives a shit about what happens when we
finally take charge? He's not a politician; he's a cult leader. Almost
like the coach of a team that doesn't want to hear anything but a
great halftime speech.
Eric Holder. No, he won't get canned unless there is no alternative but
to throw him under the bus. Not only because Fast & Furious is a
federal government version of the Joe Paterno scandal (did he know
anything and if not, why not?), but because he's done so many
incompetent things that the hearings for his replacement would turn
into a nightmare of muckraking that would drench the Obama
administration in ignominy. See? It's not about capitalism. It's not
about money. It's about power and the careless arrogance
that goes with it. The man never reads his memos. Pretty much the
Paterno defense, eh?
Barack Obama. Another federal government version of the Paterno
scandal. Solyndra. What did he know, and how could he have been so
careless, egotistical and stupid? Because he has absolute faith in the
virtue of his program. It's all of us who worry needlessly about the
little people victims nobody honestly cares about, let's face it.
Herman Cain. A Republican version of the Paterno scandal. You're an
embarrassment. Have the good grace to go. But your ego apparently won't
Mitt Romney. Everyone's concerned he might compromise his principles.
If he has any. Guess what. I've been there.
Sometimes you land smack dab in the middle of a moral mess. I did. I
worked for a Fortune 100 computer company division that developed a
risky product strategy. They accepted a huge custom contract for a
software platform and then lied to the corporation that the custom
product was a commercial product with immense market appeal. They made
a big deal about a "Big Bang" release of all its parts and bullied the
software organization into productizing it. There was even a huge mural
reprising Pink Floyd's "The Wall" album cover intended to drive the
code writers above and beyond the call of duty to a set-in-stone deadline. A colleague and I
fought the "Big Bang" release tooth and nail. Toward the end, we shared
a 36-hour day that began at world headquarters and ended in the
software organization's auditorium as we argued that releasing such a
product would be tantamount to fraud. The way we were thanked at the
end of our presentation by the division VP made it clear our careers
Did I resign? No. I was responsible for generating all the marketing
materials for this phantom product. I delivered them on schedule and
put them on the VP's desk knowing that I was the only one in the
organization who had made the deadline he set. Then I gave him a
one-page memo describing exactly how to avoid committing fraud without
alerting the corporate brass that we had utterly failed in our mission.
I described the creation of a brand new Major Accounts Marketing
Organization which would automatically take over the sales effort when an
eager rep in the field tried to sell any part of the "Big Bang." The
stated purpose of the new marketing organization was to make sure that nobody
A week or two later my boss, not the VP, informed me that my plan was
being implemented. The Major Accounts Marketing Organization never
earned a single dollar of revenue. Maybe the greatest achievement of my
A year after that, the entire division was gone. I resigned right
before the end, and I don't regret what I did. I trusted that if I did
what I thought was right it would all work out for the best. What
people forget about capitalism. The market decides -- when it's allowed
to function. The market will decide the fate of Penn State as a
football program and as a university. It hasn't done that yet but it
will. The market will also decide about big Wall Street banks. The
protest I happen to agree with is the decision by citizens to transfer
their accounts out of the government-mobbed up giants into local
savings & loans. We are the market.
And being part of the market, we bring to the market everything we've
been brought up to be as moral human beings. Capitalism is a system.
The purpose of being raised properly by parents is to know what the
right thing is and when it's the right time to do it. Individuals operate within the system and contend against it when necessary. An idea inherent in a constitution which concedes that justice is God's province and the law our feeble attempt to imitate that justice.
You are the market too, and all your
moral bases are part of that market.. If Mitt Romney is
unacceptable, you will decide that. I don't know about him. Why I
understand all your chaff. But he can't possibly be worse than Barack
The only positive point I can conclude on is that if we absolutely
demand men of principle, they will eventually appear. That really is
the American Way.
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
My MNF Commitment
honey. I promise to grit my teeth and say 'nuth-think.'
. Ordinarily I wouldn't do two football posts in a
row. But this is a special circumstance. I was all fired up about
yesterday's post and it slopped over into my reaction to last night's
Monday Night Football game. This is by way of explanation, not excuse.
Because -- and I know you longtime readers will scarcely be able to
credit this -- I made myself obnoxious to my wife by making continuousconstant fun of MNF color announcer
This isn't about the fact that the Eagles lost. I was expecting that.
It's already dialed in, so to speak.The Eagles suck and we're both
rooting for other teams anyway (Ravens, Bills, Lions, Raiders, and
Raiders). My wife just wanted, quite understandably, to watch a
football game without having the experience ruined by her husband. I
plead guilty with extenuating circumstances. My impersonation of Jon
Gruden is spot on, and most of you would enjoy a few minutes of it, as
did my wife the first time she heard it. I draw on my knowledge of the
dactylic nature of glossolalia ("speaking in tongues") to imbue my
performance with satiric cruelty, which amuses the performer no end and
ultimately bores the listener into a coma because once started -- just
like glossolalia -- it just keeps going, impossible to stop.
So what conceivable circumstances could be extenuating?
I have a long history of problems with ESPN's Monday Night Football
"talent." Suffering is not a thing which can be counted -- unless you
have specific names to name:
There was a time when we thought
nothing could be worse than Joe
Theismann and whatever made-up storyline he clung to diarrhetically
through thick and
thin, usually having to do with what a brilliantly prescient football
mind belonged to one Joe Theismann, who graduated from Notre Dame,
don't you know, and could reduce any football game to the one-note plot
he had dreamed up in his hotel room the night before, regardless of
what was actually happening on the field.
But then came Tony Kornheiser.
me HERE for my beneficent omission of the endless list of broadcast
crimes perpetrated by this pompous pseudo-intellectual's incessant
outrages against every conceivable prior definition of the sins of
repetition, loving the sound of your own voice more than life itself,
and frankly nauseating
homoerotic hero worship of the league's two most repellent permanent
adolescent jerks. In NFL history. Ever. By a long,
And then I made perhaps the biggest single blunder of my whole career
as a prognosticator:
Now he's gone. Maybe Gruden will be
awful, boring, obnoxious. All we
know for sure is that he can't possibly be as bad as Tony Kornheiser.
Incredibly, against all odds, and absolutely catastrophically, Jon
Gruden is worse than Tony
Kornheiser. He cannot stop
talking and he cannot prevent
himself from seeing every single play as a Hall of Fame performance
worthy of a ringing motivational speech to the nearest Kiwanis Club
(er, you and me on the couch in TV land). Every player is the greatest
player ever, every play is
the greatest play ever, and
could you really, just once, SHUT THE FUCK UP?!!!
How I got into trouble in the first place. Thing is, when you start
doing Gruden, you start to feel
how he does what he does. It's all in the meter. When I start that damn
dactylic praise rant, I find myself knowing more about football than I
really know. It spills out of me like the Sunday halleluiahs of a Pentecostal in a
Kentucky double-wide church: I praise blocking schemes, run blitzes,
defenses, man-man-zone transitions, and triple-move wide
receiver routes I never heard of till they tumble from my double-loud teflon
vocal cords and scare the cats into the garage.
Jesus. No wonder she walked out on me and went to bed. It's a wonder
she hasn't actually shot me.
At least she was spared the ignominy of a season-ending fourth quarter
for the Beagles,
which I narrated helplessly to myself to the bitter end, in tongues.
This morning, in Philadelphia, WIP SportsTalk is hoping for Jon Gruden as a
replacement for Andy Reid. Frankly, I'm with them. At the very least it
would get his immensely annoying ass off Monday Night Football. And
we'd have a
whole year to save up for a cable package that'd let us see every
Raiders game instead of the ones involving flightless birds (Ravens
If you know what I mean.
To be clear, what I mean is, I'm committed. No more Jon Gruden
impressions. But what do you think of my Raiders idea?
Just so you don't miss it, there's a pool underway at the previous
post, with (I think) a pretty decent prize. Go take a look. Enter
early and often. Time's a'wasting...
Still Dumb as Ron PaulRocks.
LONH: Light on, nobody home.
Also called: Tea Party Passion.
. Sorry. I never really thought Herman Cain
would be the nominee.
I apologize to everyone who thought he would. My assumption was that a
stone amateur politician wouldn't be exactly what America was looking
for in 2012. If you thought otherwise, I'd like to apologize, but I
can't. You're a fucking idiot. We've had an amateur in office for three
years now. It's going to take us a decade or more to get out from under
what he's already done. Yes,
it's fun to play with the idea of the oddball hero. I love the
movies where the hang-glider stewardess lands the 747 so she can go
home to her fatherless infant son, BUT... that's just the movies.
Amateurs don't win the U.S. Open, and they don't parachute in from
nowhere to run the most complicated organization in the history of life
on earth. Sorry. Cincinnatus is just a Roman fable, and our modern
version of it --
William Tecumseh Sherman -- is still the most relevant lesson you
Paulistas and Randians need to learn from.
The other morning, one of the weekend doofuses on Fox & Friends --
Jeff Briggs, if you're counting -- was all bent out of shape about the
Cain-Gingrich "debate." He was actually offended, all het up about the
fact that the two agreed more than they disagreed, as if Gingrich
should have taken down the 9-9-9 plan and then what? Made life easier
Romney? Why was Briggs so fired up? Because he's a nincompoop. Gingrich
played the opportunity flawlessly. He didn't have to attack Cain to
prove he was smarter and more credible. He does that everywhere he goes
by just showing up.
Some uncomfortable facts. Cain is done. If he isn't, he should be. And
the longer you postpone the inevitable, the worse our prospects get. If
you're serious about getting rid of Obama, you have to start listening
to the the smart ones, and there are only a few of them: Charles
Krauthammer, Thomas Sowell, Jonah Goldberg, Mark Steyn, George Will,
and (obviously) me.
Oh. One more. Andrew
Klavan. He's every bit as smart as the rest:
So the double standard continues with
Cain. Not only have the reliably
left wing news sites like ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN been acting as if this
were the story of the decade, but right wing sites like Fox and our own
PJMedia have added fuel to the fire, eagerly tracking down more
details. You can be sure that will keep happening as the story
proceeds. And if Cain turns out to be guilty, you won’t be hearing any
excuses for him here.
And yes, it’s unfair. But there’s a reason it’s unfair—a reason it
should be unfair. There’s a reason we right wingers vet our candidates
while the left adulates theirs, a reason we condemn our miscreants
while the left elevates theirs, a reason our news outlets cover stories
that the left covers up.
The reason is: we’re the good guys. We have to do what’s right.
The left doesn’t. Sorry, but that’s the way it works. It’s the price
you pay for defending what’s true and good, the price of holding
yourself to a high moral standard. Our politicians have to be better
than their politicians. Our journalists have to be more honest. Even
our protesters have to behave with decorum and decency—and still suffer
being slandered—while theirs can act like animals and commit acts of
violence and lawlessness and spew anti-semitic filth and still find
themselves excused and glorified.
I'll make a couple of quick points before closing this post. Last time,
wooing the independents didn't matter. They were all going to vote
regardless. What convictionless clowns do. This time, the independents do matter. Yes, Romney is going to
be the nominee. Bad? Up to a point. As president, he'd be better than
purpose of the debates and the primary process is to drive Romney
farther right than he would go otherwise. Which is not a waste of time.
Democrats can dispense with their campaign promises the moment they're
sworn in. Republicans can't. If Romney promises to be the new Coolidge,
he probably will be. That's the best thing about Mormons. Dull as they
are, they do what they're told.
Not happy about Romney coasting to the nomination? Get behind Gingrich.
He'll force Romney to make specific
commitments. He'll force Romney to issue real plans and legislative
promises. And if Romney suddenly somehow blows up, Gingrich isn't the
worst of all possible worlds. Sure he's a shit with a trophy wife and a
dead-of-cancer wife, but... Bill
Clinton? Anybody? And we already know
that about Gingrich. He ain't Mother Theresa. But neither are most
people who run for president, including the skinny, lying little
self-obsessed shit sitting in the Oval Office right now. It would be
the ultimate treat to see Newt debate
Obama. I'm thinking it's O-person's worst nightmare. He's gone nearly
years without having to be on his own in a mano a mano confrontation
with a guy
who's twice as smart as he is.
I'd pay cash money to see that happen. At my age, that's as close to
heaven as I can imagine -- Obama throwing up in the men's room while
his Bill-Russell wife lashes him back to the podium.
"Be a man, Barry!"
However that scenario turns out, it's a win. (Extra credit for Barry's
response as he's wiping the puke off that Mussolini jaw....)
Bottom line. Are we clear yet that Cain is done? Of course not. I await
the inevitable tide of Cain supporters and Paulistas who desperately
want to lose this election for the greater good.
Proceed. Just don't comment to that effect unless you're as dumb as a
fucking rock. Do we understand one another? Good. Feel free. What the
First Amendment is all about.
I'm not saying this is fair. I'm saying it's a metaphor for a lot of
what I'm feeling right now. We all start from various points of local
chauvinism, and we all have a bunch of those points, which entail
multiple layers of personal experience, some of them almost too subtle
to recognize. So this is an exercise in personal revelation. Make of it
what you will.
I've been listening to WIP SportsTalk in Philadelphia all morning. The
Philadelphia Eagles have a season-critical game with the Chicago Bears
tonight, but the morning guys spent 80 percent of the time talking about
Penn State. The mid-day guys took over at 10 am and promised
all-Eagles, all show. Except that the only thing they and their callers
have talked about for two and a quarter hours thus far is Penn State
and Joe Paterno. It makes me prouder than usual of Philadelphia sports
fans. What's happening in Happy Valley is far more important than
what's happening tonight at the Link. Why is it so important? All the
answers to this question are personal. Some -- hardly most -- of the
callers are prepared to defend Joe Paterno to the last codicil and
semicolon of his carefully crafted statement of non-responsibility. I'm
not. Why I'm sharing my
reasons for feeling the way I do. Some basic background...
I've probably been rooting for Penn State football for more than 40
years. When they were an independent (like Notre Dame, Army, Navy, and virtually no
one else) building contending teams, they were the Boise State of their
generation. The big-time traditional football factories automatically
received more respect, and even some spectacular, high-profile bowl
wins failed to earn them the national championship they once or twice
seemed to deserve. They were the perpetual underdog whose discipline
and focus, exemplified by their minimalist uniforms, made me admire
Importantly, though, that fan loyalty wasn't strictly geographical. I
regarded Penn State as the heir to an older tradition that had been, to
some extent, honorably abrogated. Which is a self-serving way of
admitting that I was in those days the Ivy League snob I was raised to
be. The majority of states have two large state universities, one
called "The University of [Whoever]" and the other called "[Whoever]
State University". Generally, in terms of prestige, the "University of"
outranked "State" because the latter were subsequent land-grant
creations designed to teach more technical disciplines than the liberal
arts curricula of the older schools. That ranking still obtains to this
day. The University of Michigan famously committed a public relations
error in recent years by referring to Michigan State as "Little
Brother." This differential has no greater degree of distinction in the
nation than in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, where The University
of Pennsylvania is an Ivy League institution founded by Benjamin
Franklin, and Pennsylvania State University is an afterthought located
in the hinterlands famous mostly for, well, football.
Still, for the willing, there was an argument for Penn State as a
species of guerrilla avenger. The University
of Pennsylvania had been a national football power in its own right
once upon a time, until it voluntarily deemphasized the game as a
threat to its academic integrity with the formation in 1956 of a formal "Ivy League" conference
that awarded no athletic scholarships and banned spring practice. I should also reveal that my paternal grandfather was a Penn
graduate and his son was an alumnus of Penn's inveterate and still
season-ending rival Cornell
(the only university in the nation which can boast a 2-0 record against the
Ohio State Buckeyes AND which voluntarily surrendered
a national championship via an act of honorable sportsmanship.)
There was a sense in which Penn State was picking up this fallen
Penn's home stadium Franklin Field is not
only the oldest stadium in football but holds many other records as
well. It is the site of the oldest stadium scoreboard (1895), the
"original horseshoe" (1903), the first college football radio broadcast
(1922 on WIP-AM), the first double-decker football
stadium (1925), the largest stadium in the country (1925 to 1926), the
first college football television broadcast (1940 on KYW-TV)
and the first FCS stadium to host ESPN's College Gameday
beats Paterno's two (over how many years?), but the sense of continuity
was reinforced for snobs like me by the fact that "Joe Pa" originally
went to Ivy League Brown University and professed a devotion to the
education and graduation of his players that contrasted sharply with
other images of the time. As the son and grandson of three Ohio State
Buckeyes, I can still remember seeing a dismaying parade of no-necked
plug-uglies from Ohio State and Michigan in the 1970s announcing their
majors as "Phys Ed" before various Big Games. It felt almost seditious
to root for the Nittany Lions of Penn State.
So I liked Paterno for reasons other than those of the National Press,
who heard his accent as blue collar. I thought he had higher values
than his coaching peers. But my regard for Penn State, and Joe Pa, has
deteriorated over the years, more and more of late. Here's why, In no
Gradually, the home of Penn State -- i.e., State College, PA -- has
come to be called "Happy Valley." Wiki cites no source for this name.
But there is a source,
in Nairobi Kenya:
The Happy Valley set was a group of
privileged British colonials living in the Happy Valley region of the
Wanjohi Valley, near the Aberdare mountain range, in the colonies of
Kenya and Uganda during the 1920s - 1940s. The elite social group
became notorious for stories of drug use and promiscuous sexual
The area around Naivasha, Kenya was one of the first to be settled by
white people and one of the hunting grounds of the hedonistic Happy
Valley set. The colonial town of Nyeri, Kenya, to the east of the
Aberdare Range, was the center of Happy Valley settlers.
You may think it anomalous. But I had lived in Ohio. I had a
straitlaced Roman Catholic (albeit union-loving MIT graduate)
consulting partner there who warned me about the isolated towns like
Lima and Findlay along our customary route to Detroit, where so much of
our work lay and where I once came close to being stranded by a broken
rental car. He said a few years back he'd had an assignment in Findlay,
which has no neighbors for fifty miles in any direction, and he was
shocked by the activities he was offered to participate in. Nairobi?
Findlay? State College? No accounting for where affluent boredom will
turn into something else.
I mean, you think rural locations in the middle of nowhere would be
safe places to send your daughters to school, right? Traditional
values, football the chief entertainment, yeah! Until I read about Penn State'sHappy
Empowering to some, offensive to
others, Cuntfest arrives at Penn State this Saturday.
The all-day festival, sponsored by
Womyn's Concerns and the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, is
inspired by Cunt: A Declaration of Independence, a book by Inga
Muscio. Muscio feels the word, which once had positive connotations,
should be reclaimed by women.
In her book, Muscio says 'cunt' stems
from words that were either titles of respect for women, priestesses
and witches, or derivatives of goddesses' names.
"Cunt originally started off as a good
word," said Michelle Yates (junior-women's studies), who initiated the
event. "And it got transformed into one of the worst words you can call
The word's negative connotation was not
lost on Penn State Police Services, who received a number of complaints
Wednesday about a Cuntfest banner on the Osmond building.
"It didn't take long for people to get
offended by it," said Bruce Kline, assistant director of Penn State
The police removed the banner less than
half an hour after Yates hung it, Yates said. Soon after, she told the
police she had written permission to hang the banner, and they hung it
back up within several hours.
Our beloved mother tongue contains a
certain number of words that are designated as "bad" or "obscene." One
might wonder just how bad a word can be: picture it robbing convenience
stores or dumping toxic waste into the watershed.
Like Harley mechanics, the bad words of
English are a happy, useful group. Rich in Anglo-Saxon percussiveness,
full both of definite meaning and allusive complexity, they are capable
of turning vague everyday blah-blah into stuff that pisses off the
If that was the intention of the Womyn's
Concerns group at Penn State when they organized the Cunt Fest! and
then the Sex Faire, they certainly succeeded. The first of these events
was a feminist art fair; the second was an attempt to educate students
about sexually transmitted diseases, rape, the concept of consent, and
Now if you've ever tried to get the
attention of college students off beer and basketball long enough to
ponder something like feminism even for a moment, you will understand
the marketing strategy of Womyn's Concerns, who wanted to make their
events - in themselves fairly tame - sound sexy. They tried to wrap
their informational content in the black leather of bad words so that
people would show up.
State Representative John Lawless from
Montgomery County, our very own Jesse Helms, was also provoked into
attendance, and now demands that Governor Ridge suspend funding to the
Penn State system. It is not perfectly clear how much in the way of
taxpayer funds were used for these events, though it appears to be a
fairly small amount; most of the money came from student fees.
Dr. Laura Schlessinger got hold of the
story last week and lent her angelic contralto to the choiring whine of
outrage. I think it's fair to say that, like Womyn's Concerns, Lawless
and Schlessinger are pursuing the marketing strategy of provocation.
One thing we absolutely do not have to
worry about is the defunding of Penn State; if Ridge tried that he'd be
tarred, feathered, and run out to Cherry Hill on a rail. Indeed the
deepest concrete risk is that we will be seeing Lawless continually on
CNN and listening to Dr. Laura's weedeater voice into the indefinite
Perhaps the most controversial element
of the Sex Faire was the "Tent of Consent" in which students who
volunteered could disappear behind a curtain for two minutes of
consensual, or perhaps merely conceptual, activity. I do not for a
moment minimize what can happen in two minutes, but I suspect that
there was more bashful aversion than orgiastic groping. Indeed this is
a version of the pre-adolescent party game known as "seven minutes in
heaven," which in my experience of parenting twelve-year-olds turns out
to mean nothing at all.
campuses such as Penn State University Park are themselves tents of
consent, little spheres of post-adolescent experimentation, in which
the wild temptations of freedom suggest themselves but
internalized conservatism originating in the students' parents almost
always wins out in the end. Future accountants fight ineffectually for
the freedom of Mumia Abu-Jamal; recovering high school cheerleaders
pierce their noses. [boldface added]
As long as the nose's owner consents,
what, we may ask, the heck? Or the f**k, for that matter? Soon these
same people will be our state legislators, and then they and Lawless
can be outraged together.
Which begins to seem much more ominous than semiotic feminism when you
factor in Penn State's stratospheric ranking as a top 2011 party
Students in Happy Valley
can raise a glass because they are being recognized for partying with
the best of them.
Penn State is No. 2 on
Playboy’s 2011 Top 10 Party Schools in North America.
Playboy Magazine got
“input from students, fans of Playboy’s social media pages, alumni,
feedback from Playboy campus representatives at schools across the
country, and interviews with countless others,” they said.
Other factors like
male-female ratios, winning sports teams (go Nittany Lions), proximity
to the mountains, beaches and lively music scenes also played a role in
picking the Top 10, Playboy said.
The only school that beat
PSU on Playboy’s list was the University of Colorado at Boulder, which
like Penn State boasts ski slopes, a great bar scene and a lively music
But, Boulder doesn’t have
JoePa or the Gingerbread Man or the Dark Horse or the Deli.
We are! Penn State!
Why am I making a big deal out of the doings at a mediocre state
university that has never produced much? Penn State never belonged in
the Big Ten. They have nothing like the record of graduates produced by
Michigan, Wisconsin, Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois, Minnesota, or even
Ohio State. And much as I hate to admit it, my old snobbery is rising
to the surface. In the Ivies, only Princeton is consistently,
permanently juvenile, holding class reunions for every class every
year. Penn State is the public version of that neurosis.
My final point. I won't claim serendicity again, but I'll at least
propose it. Lady Laird and I went to the Link earlier this year to cheer for the underdog Owls in
the Penn State-Temple game. Before Lady Laird adopted Temple as one of her teams, I used to root for Penn State
unless they were opposing my mother's Buckeyes. The missus even rooted
for the Nittany Lions (secretly) against the Buckeyes. No more.
She still won't admit it, but she's been rooting against Penn State
ever since. You see, the black players of Penn State are Nittany Lions,
while all the players of Temple are ghetto monkeys who need to have
racial imprecations shouted at them by drunken louts in "white-out" Penn State
jerseys. Kewl? No.
Doesn't all this come together somehow? Is there such a thing as
illiterate narcissism that can infect thousands of otherwise civilized
people, so that the Nittany Nitwit identity of their half-assed
consciousness blinds them to the simplest and deepest of moral
responsibilities? I don't expect Princetonians to be anything but
egotistical turds. But Penn Staters don't have the excuse of high board
scores. And they really do have a responsibility to explain a cosmology in
which Linebacker U. trumps human decency, geographic jingoism,
sliver-like icons half-dead in an upstairs booth (God nodding off above it all?), and the obligation to cry rape when a child is, uh, raped.
Joe Paterno is a shit. He's let down everything. As an Ivy-Leaguer,
he's just a dumb jock. As a coach, he''s a company man. As a
generational example, he's an empty shell, a fake.
Which is where we've landed. There's no one left to admire. Why I'm so
disgusted. Why we're (in my opinion today) doomed. The only person I
admire anymore is my wife.
Apart from these electronic friendships, I have no respect for anybody.
And no hope for us.
Because there's some Penn State in all of us. The program is the
program and I'll serve the program because the program is the program
and Michelle tells me this is my legacy. Whether it kills you or not.
Isn't that where we are now? Everyone and everything corrupt? I just
want to throw up. Me, I'm seeking the comparative Galahad-like purity
of Ohio State players who traded championship rings for tattooes. Where
can I get a tattoo that separates me from the countless whores who are
destroying our nation?
Done, done, done.
But think of the red Terminator eye. It goes out. But then it reignites.
Wait. I'm sure it will reignite. Sometime.
propose a pool. Pick a date and time when Joe Paterno will join Jim
Tressel as a disgraced ex-coach. The prize for the winner is a
(relevant) framed graphic from Shuteye
Town 1999. (but only if we get ten entries or more... although you can enter more than once.)
one would you trust to look out for your
I mean, yeah, I know, it's awful to think of. Tressel knowingly allowed several of his
players to make as much as $250 on merchandise their university was
making millions from. Whereas Joe Paterno is an icon in an upstairs
booth on the verge of ascending straight to the right hand of the
Football Father. Almost unearthly at this point. How dare we question him? Disgraceful times we live