Monday, October 13, 2008



The Search for Intelligent Life

Is the Angry Right the product of a left-wing plot?

13 OCT 08

Best of the Tube Tomorrow
We've received word that our "Fox & Friends" segment, previously announced in this space, has been cancelled (though it may be rescheduled for later in the week). Apologies for any inconvenience. That's show biz.

The Search for Intelligent Life
Our Friday item on the Angry Right provoked many comments from readers. Most disagreed with us, some angrily. A frequent refrain of our readers was also sounded by Thomas Lifson of American Thinker:

We have to take these efforts to discredit us seriously. Agents provocateurs cannot be ruled out. We know that leftists infiltrate GOP rallies with intent to harm. The sneering left has outed itself on Kos and Mother Jones, by publishing a picture of a leftist infiltrator, who carefully placed herself to be picked up by cameras. The green arrow was added by the lefties.

Weirdly, the photo Lifson uses as evidence of "infiltrators," originally posted by Markos "Kos" Moulitsas, does not appear to illustrate anything of the sort. It depicts actor Jon Voight, who supports McCain, with a man holding a microphone in front of his face. In the background are two anti-Palin signs. We were unable to ascertain the provenance of the photo, but it looks to us as if Voight is not participating in a McCain-Palin rally but giving a television interview while standing in front of an anti-Palin demonstration (perhaps a counterdemonstration outside a McCain rally).

Are the people who shouted vile anti-Obama things at McCain rallies really pro-Obama plants? This strikes us as rather paranoid, and paranoia is also a common feature of the Angry Left. To be sure, even paranoids have enemies, and the "agent provocateur" theory is possible, which is to say that believing it does not entail any logical contradictions and it would not violate the laws of physics for it to be true. Yet while we cannot disprove it, it strikes us as highly implausible.

A common argument for the existence of God is the argument from design, which goes something like this:

Man-made objects are the product of an intelligent designer.
Man-made objects are complex and ordered.
Nature also is complex and ordered.
Therefore, nature is the product of an intelligent designer.

Accepting the premises, the problem with the conclusion is that it obliterates the distinction upon which the argument depends. If all things have the qualities of complexity and order, then these qualities alone cannot be the basis on which we differentiate between man-made things and natural ones. The argument from design ignores the differences between things that we know to be the product of intelligent design and things about whose ultimate origin we can only speculate.

This is not to say the argument from design is false, only that it is not the logical proof it sometimes purports to be, and thus it does not free the believer from the necessity of making a leap of faith. It amounts to an assertion that nature is so wondrous that it is hard to believe it is the product of chance. This is an appeal to intuition rather than reason.

The inverse of the argument from design is likewise an appeal to intuition--an intuition that, in our experience, generally is quite robust, to wit:

If something seems stupid and random, it probably is not the product of an intelligent designer.

Putting On Ayers
The McCain campaign has been making an issue of Barack Obama's personal and professional associations with unrepentant Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers, with whom he worked at the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, an education-policy outfit. The typical defense is that Ayers, despite his history, is a respected member of the Chicago establishment. But what does that tell us about the Chicago establishment?

Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass sheds some light on the subject. "The reason Ayers is not a big deal in Chicago has to do with the Chicago Way," he writes:

Ayers is a terrorist—the narcissistic son of privilege and clout—whose father, Thomas, was the boss of Commonwealth Edison and a friend of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley. As a leader of the ultraviolent Weather Underground, Ayers admitted to helping bomb the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon in the 1970s. He should have been sent to prison. Instead, Chicago political clout allowed him and his wife, fellow radical Bernardine Dohrn, to magically join the payrolls of universities here.
Obama says he was 8 years old when the bombs went off. But he was a grown man when he sought Ayers' political blessing, and when they worked on the same education projects.
"They're friends. So what?" Mayor Daley said in August.

Ayers, in Kass's telling, was rehabilitated socially without being rehabilitated morally for no reason other than that he was a son of privilege. This makes his "radicalism"--the justification in his own mind for his violent acts--look rather phony.

In one of the most opinionated journalistic "fact checks" we've seen, Alexander Lane of calls criticism of the Ayers-Obama connection not only "false" but "malicious":

It unfairly tars not just Obama, but all the other prominent, well-respected Chicagoans who also volunteered their time to the foundation. They came from all walks of life and all political backgrounds, and there's ample evidence their mission was nothing more than improving ailing public schools in Chicago. Yet in the heat of a political campaign they have been accused of financing radicalism. That's Pants on Fire wrong.

It seems to us, though, that Lane is trying to have it both ways, and not only in that he is peddling opinion as fact. If Ayers's status as a respectable member of the Chicago establishment exculpates Obama, then it implicates the Chicago establishment.

New York Times columnist Frank Rich, attempting to blame the McCain campaign for the outbursts of the Angry Right, finds a sinister implication in something Sarah Palin said:

Don't for an instant believe the many mindlessly "even-handed" journalists who keep saying that the McCain campaign's use of Ayers is the moral or political equivalent of the Obama campaign's hammering on Charles Keating.
What makes them different, and what has pumped up the Weimar-like rage at McCain-Palin rallies, is the violent escalation in rhetoric, especially (though not exclusively) by Palin. Obama "launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist." He is "palling around with terrorists" (note the plural noun).

Note the plural noun! Apparently Rich is unaware that Ayers's wife is a fellow Weather Underground terrorist. Indeed, before this year, she was the better known of the pair. No wonder Rich has not won a single Nobel Prize.

Not One of Whom?
Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, a civil-rights eminence, is accusing the McCain campaign of "sowing the seeds of hatred and division," the Associated Press reports from Washington. Lewis likens McCain's campaign to the governorship of Alabama segregationist George Wallace:

"George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights," said Lewis, who is black. "Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama."

It seems far-fetched to draw a connection between America in 2008, where a black man is the favorite to become the next president, and Alabama in 1963, where an "atmosphere of hatred" had existed for as long as anyone could remember.

As for the animosity against Obama on the political right, even the New York Times recognizes that it is dubious to attribute this to racial prejudice:

Mr. Lewis's remarks outraged some of Mr. McCain's supporters and other Republicans. Race is indisputably a backdrop against which this campaign has unfolded, they agree, but that does not mean opposing Mr. Obama or using harsh words is racist.
Put another way, simply because Mr. Obama is black does not mean that the expression "not one of us," as he has been called at Republican rallies, is an appeal to the worst instincts of voters.
"At first I was open to Obama because I thought we needed new thinking about jobs and the economy," said Burton Reed, a Republican at the rally here. "But the more I heard about him, the more worried I became. He says he's Christian, but I hear he's Muslim. And he just doesn't sound pro-U.S.A. I kind of question his devotion to this country."

The Times quotes presidential historian Douglas Brinkley: "Obama has been running as a post-racial candidate from the start, and he has been doing it very well, but the fact of the matter is that some voters--we can't know yet how many--will not get past his race. And I very much believe that the McCain-Palin ticket is tapping into that."

No doubt there are some voters--and there is probably no way of ever knowing how many--who "will not get past his race." But everyone knows that Obama is black, so McCain does not need to appeal to people for whom the "us" in "not one of us" is people of pallor.

How Race Is Lived in America

  • "Race Remains Campaign Issue, but Not a Clear One"--headline, New York Times, Oct. 13
  • "Race Starts With Little Fuel, and Goes Uphill From There"--headline, New York Times, Oct. 13

Wannabe Pundits
Guess the topic:

It's been interesting to hear Sarah Palin, the Republican VP nominee, accusing Barack Obama of "palling around with terrorists"--a huge distraction, in my opinion, from the economic crisis and other pressing issues.

The author is Dong Ngo, the article appears at, and the next two sentences read as follows:

If that's not the kind of distraction you enjoy, I have another that might prove more fun.
Activision announced Friday that its new first-person shooter Secret Service will be released later this year for three platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, and the PC.

That's right, it's a videogame review!

Life Imitates 'Saturday Night Live'

  • "Later on the show, SNL cast members Fred Armisen and Darrell Hammond recreated the presidential debate from Friday. Hammond, who played John McCain, made light of McCain's decision to suspend his campaign for the bailout bill, asking to suspend it yet again. 'Effective immediately, each of us suspend our campaigns, and instead hold a series of three pie-eating contests,' said Hammond (McCain). 'Next Tuesday, Kansas City-lemon meringue. Saturday, Jacksonville-blueberry. The following week, in Dallas-coconut custard.' ", Sept. 29
  • "Barack Obama smashed his record. No sooner did the Illinois Senator set a new bar for mentions of the word 'pie' in a single campaign event, than he shattered his own mark. This morning, as previously noted on, he spoke the word 'pie' a staggering 13 times in one 86 second period. It was a number most thought could never be matched; like Hank Aaron's 755, Mark Spitz's 7 gold medals. But like Aaron and Spitz, Obama learned nothing lasts forever. A mere 2 hours after reaching the magic 13, Obama did better; 15 mentions of the word 'pie' in 104 seconds.", Oct. 11

How Thoughtful of Them!

  • "American Flight Attendants Take Case to Passengers"--headline, Dallas Morning News, Oct. 10
  • "Cops Sweep Area for Gang"--headline, Times (Munster, Ind.), Oct. 11

Man Bites Dog
"Mouse Bites Snake to Death"--headline, Daily Telegraph (London), Oct. 9

Someone Get Him Out of There and to a Hospital!
"Florida Mailman Bitten by Rattlesnake Hiding in Mailbox"--headline,, Oct. 12

At Least They're Not Driving
"Text-Messaging Elephants Roam Wild in Kenya"--headline,, Oct. 13

New Euphemism: 'Excuse Me, I Need to Visit Rhode Island'
"What Happens After You Flush? RI Offers New Tour"--headline, Associated Press, Oct. 10

Stay Away From Gov't Eyes
"Gov't Eyes Plan to Take Ownership Stakes in Banks"--headline, Associated Press, Oct. 12

Everything Seemingly Is Spinning Out of Control

  • "Zombies Invade Manhattan Beach"--headline, Daily Breeze (Torrance, Calif.), Oct. 11
  • "Maryland Nuns Branded as Suspected Terrorists"--headline,, Oct. 11
  • "Now Bodies of the Dead Not Being Buried in Echo of Winter of Discontent as Effects of Credit Crunch Spread Across Britain"--headline, Daily Mail (London), Oct. 13
  • "Rabbi Alleges Threat Over Chicken Ritual"--headline, Washington Post, Oct. 11
  • "Krugman Wins Economics Nobel"--headline, New York Times Web site, Oct. 13
  • "Prostitution Has Not Suffered Drop-Off Despite Economic Meltdown"--headline, Daily News (New York), Oct. 13

News You Can Use

  • "Study: Intelligent Men Have the Best Sperm"--headline,, Oct. 13
  • "Premature Ejaculation: It's Not in Your Head"--headline,, Oct. 12

Bottom Stories of the Day

  • "Larry Hagman Excited About 30th 'Dallas' Reunion"--headline, Associated Press, Oct. 11
  • "Attorney: Jailed O.J. Believes He Was 'Railroaded' "--headline, Associated Press, Oct. 11
  • "Accounts Differ Over How Old Oak Was Nearly Cut Down"--headline, Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, Oct. 12
  • "More Study Is Needed"--headline, WLIO-TV Web site (Lima, Ohio), Oct. 11
  • "Nader Decries Major Parties"--headline, Forum (Fargo, N.D.), Oct. 12
  • "McCain Camp Offers Mixed Signals on Economic Plan"--headline, Associated Press, Oct. 13

"The Rensselaer County Legislature will investigate how the county Board of Elections printed 'Osama' instead of Obama on 300 absentee ballots," the Albany Times Union reports from Troy, N.Y.:

The Republican majority and Democratic minority agreed Saturday that the board's operations need a hard look at after the county was embarrassed nationally by the placement of ''Barack Osama'' on the ballots mailed this past week to voters in the towns of Brunswick, Nassau, Sand Lake, Schaghticoke and Schodack.
"We need to review the procedures to make sure there are better checks and balances,'' said Minority Leader Virginia O'Brien, D-East Greenbush. O'Brien said she would speak to Legislature Chairman Neil Kelleher, R-Troy, about undertaking a substantial review of the incident. . . .
The Republicans issued a statement saying they want answers from both Board of Elections Commissioners Edward McDonough, a Democrat, and Larry Bugbee, a Republican. . . .
McDonough repeated that it was an unfortunate mistake that made it past two Democrats and two Republicans who proofread the ballots.

We blame Ted Kennedy.

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