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May 8, 2004 - May 1, 2004

Saturday, May 08, 2004


instapunk050804add


Our presidential candidates demonstrating their fitness to serve.

MEDIA MAMAS. This is just too good. We have it on excellent authority that Margaret Carlson appeared on MSNBC last night, commenting on the performance of Donald Rumsfeld during his congressional testimony. What did Margaret have to say? "He thinks he's a combination of John Wayne and Hugh Grant," she opined. Huh? This made us remember our entry for Margaret back in the year 2000 for our feature called Who's Who in Shuteye Nation (names changed to protect the guilty). It wasn't very respectful. Now that we've experienced her latest wisdom, we feel, well, not very respectful.

Margaret Curlson. Political columnist for Newsprint magazine and regularly scheduled pundit on CTN's Capital Geeks. She's the one who did all her homework in ninth grade even the day after the tornado flattened the school. But then nobody invited her to the prom, and she's been mad ever since. She's also figured out that it's all the fault of the Republians. Well, that's progress. Now, if she could only nerve herself up to get one of those miraculous TV talk show makeovers—lose the glasses, get her hair washed, try some makeup—who knows what wonderful things might happen?
And as long as we're being less than respectful, we thought maybe we'd throw in our Who's Who entry for Eleanor Clift. She probably sounded off about about Rumsfeld last night too, or at least she'll be doing so very soon. Too bad for her.
Eleanor Cleft. Political columnist for Newsprint magazine and frequent guest pundit on TV shows about politics. She's even more insane than Mary Magdalen, which is saying something. When she's on TV, you can actually feel her throbbing and pulsing her way to a full-blown psychotic episode. Hate is just too mild a word for the way she feels about Republians, and the betting line in Lost Vegas is that she'll be the first TV journalist to come to work one day with a semi-automatic rifle and waste a few of her right-leaning pundit colleagues. It's hard to say where all this animus comes from. On the face of it, she's had a pretty fortunate career for a woman of extremely modest intelligence and charm. It's hard to imagine anyone inviting her to participate in any event, professional or social. Maybe she just showed up one day, and nobody's ever wanted to run the risk of telling her she's not wanted. On the other hand, maybe it's a diversity issue. There can't be too many other pundits who take the position that abortions should be not just legal, but mandatory. This may sound a little chauvinistic, but we're only trying to help—has she, we wonder, ever tried sex? It's been known to calm people down. Some people. Somewhat. Forget it. Sorry we asked.
We're tired of media mamas.




Friday, May 07, 2004


instapunk050704

MUSLIM SENSIBILITIES. In a column at Townhall.com, Jonah Goldberg makes the case for why CBS should not have aired the prisoner abuse photos that sparked the latest firestorm of controversy. He begins with this preamble:

Because it is required to repeat the obvious as if it were catechism during feeding-frenzy moments like this, let me say again: The abuse of Iraqi prisoners depicted in those now world-famous photos is an outrageous scandal and the perpetrators must be punished.
I'm not going to do that. If this means I should be considered a suspect in the conspiracy to commit the worst war crimes since the last time an American soldier insulted some foreigner, so be it. I'm feeling less apologetic all the time. What's bothering me is hinted at in a sentence much later in Goldberg's column:
But these pictures are so inflammatory, so offensive to Muslim and American sensibilities, whatever news value they have is far, far outweighed by the damage they are doing. "Context" - the supposed holy grail of responsible journalism - is lost in the hysteria and political grandstanding.
I know what he''s trying to say. I know he's trying to do the civilized thing and assume the best about all the good people of the world. It's just that I can't quite get past the phrase "Muslim and American sensibilities" without slamming on the brakes. This wording makes it seem very much as if we're being asked to regard these as the same sensibilities. I'm not buying that. If he had written "Muslim sensitivities and American sensibilities," I might have let it go. But he didn't. And now I'm moved to sound off about Muslim sensibilities as I perceive them.

Never mind that the Saddam regime practiced torture on a scale more massive than anything seen since the tyranny of Stalin while the good Muslims of the middle east resisted the idea that he should be removed from power. Chalk that up to politics. Never mind that American prisoners of Muslim combatants have been routinely beaten and, worse, killed, mutilated, displayed, and cheered in their desecration. Chalk that up to extremism. Never mind that the worldwide scourge of terrorism is of exclusively Muslim origin and is without precedent in its deliberate targeting of the most helpless among us. Chalk it up to fundamentalism, even though some of us will be inclined to mutter under our breath that Christian fundamentalists have yet to hijack an airliner full of civilians and crash it into a convention hall loaded with abortionists. Never mind that despite the media's universal acceptance of so-called moderate Muslim outrage about 9/11 and subsequent acts of Islamofascist terror, I personally have yet to see any kind of Muslim advocate evince regret about these attacks without rushing into a "but" clause focused on excoriating the west for its treatment of Muslims. Chalk that up to failed communications.

What I do mind is having my sensibilities compared to those of a religion which currently practices what are called honor killings. These can't be blamed on politics or governments or miscommunications. They are not isolated incidents. A search for the term will turn up more than 90,000 entries in Google. These horrors are committed by men of Muslim "sensibility" against their own sisters and daughters, their wives, and the mothers of their children. All too often they are not prosecuted. No arrests are made. They are accepted as part of Islamic culture.

Why am I expected to care about the sensibilities of such people? I don't give a fig about what they regard as "humiliation" and "abuse." My American sensibility is that it's inexcusable for Americans to do what was done to Iraqi prisoners. I'm very much afraid that the media orgy these acts have inspired will lead directly to the deaths of good Americans in Iraq. But I'm not losing any sleep over how much it may have offended the feelings of Muslims.

Now I guess I belong to the growing fraternity of Americans who owe the rest of the world an apology. Okay. I apologize for the fact that I'm not going to apologize. So there.




Thursday, May 06, 2004


instapunk050604

ITEM. Contrast these stories about President Bush and Senator Kerry.

BEWILDERMENT. Yesterday I couldn't seem to get away from Ted Rall. He's the political cartoonist who savaged Pat Tillman in print on the day the former Cardinal football player was laid to rest. Rall was a guest on the O'Reilly Factor and after a couple minutes I walked out on him and ran an errand in my car. It turned out that he was there too, as a guest on a local talk radio show. So I gave up and listened to him talk. He claimed, just as he had on O'Reilly, that he was a mainstream liberal Democrat. He stood behind his quote about Tillman, repeating his assertion that the Army Ranger was "fighting an evil war on behalf of an evil President." He denied not only the legitimacy of the war in Iraq, but also the legitimacy of the war in Afghanistan. He declared it unproven that Osama Bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attack. This is a mainstream liberal Democrat? Maybe it's so. If it is, I feel genuine sorrow about what has happened to this country. That such a vituperative and graceless vindictiveness could poison the mainstream of one of the nation's two great political parties is a nauseating possibility. What is it they are for, these people who feel so much hatred about what they're against? I never seem to hear them articulate it in any broad terms. I know they're in favor of government-controlled healthcare. I know they want higher taxes on people they deem well to do. I know they have a faith in the U.N. that is as naive as their anger at Bush is noisome. But all of this does not seem to me to add up to a real philosophy of governance comprehensive enough to account for their fury and hatefulness. And without a great vision to counterbalance them, their dark emotional outbursts seem to arise from no discernible source, which comes very close to looking like an objective definition of evil, a malignancy that exists for its own sake. I hope I am wrong about this. I fear the possibility, however small, that I am not wrong about this.




Wednesday, May 05, 2004


PARTISANSHIP. Okay. So they didn't. But if it was Bush who was being accused, you know this would have been the headline.




Tuesday, May 04, 2004


instapunk050404

DEJA VU. The mass media of the world are never happier than when skewering the American military. No, American soldiers shouldn't mistreat prisoners. We can all agree on that. And muslim idiots shouldn't fire their damn guns in the air. But why is it we're still waiting to see the first picture of a child with a bullet hole in the top of her head? Nobody can tell me this doesn't happen in the course of all those loony street celebrations they have. Is it that Americans are more likely to be toting cameras with them wherever they go? What would we be saying right now if Saddam's prison guards had had Walmart disposable cameras to record their beatings, rapes, and murders of 300,000 political undesirables? Oh. That's right. We'd be saying, "Look at how barbarian the Americans are..."

A more reasonable view is offered by Victor Davis Hanson. He, too, is offended by the photos of prisoner abuse, but he has the wit to be offended by other things as well.

The Arab world -- where the mass-murdering Osama bin Laden is often canonized -- is shocked by a pyramid of nude bodies and faux-electric prods, but has so far expressed less collective outrage in its media when the charred corpses of four Americans were poked and dismembered by cheering crowds in Fallujah. The taped murder of Daniel Pearl or a video of the hooded Italian who had his brains blown out -- this is the daily fare that emanates now from the television studios of the Middle East.

Indeed, if Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera could display the same umbrage over mass murder that they do over these recent accounts of shame and humiliation of the detained Iraqis, much of the gratuitous violence of the Middle East would surely diminish. The papers that now allege war crimes are the same state-controlled and censored media that print gleeful accounts of death and desecration of Westerners and promulgate an institutionalized anti-Semitism not seen since the Third Reich.

Shame on all -- soldiers and media types alike -- who are serving up such a delightful meal to al Jazeera.

MAINLINERS: Here's a happy news item.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - An investor group headed by former Vice President Al Gore said Tuesday it is launching a cable news network for young adults, buying an existing network with an eye to retooling it with "irreverent and bold" programming.

The group is buying the Newsworld International channel from Vivendi Universal Entertainment for an undisclosed sum. The deal with Gore's company, INdTV Holdings, was announced Tuesday during the National Cable and Television Association convention in New Orleans.

Newsworld International is a 24-hour channel broadcasting international news produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that now has about 14 million North American households, according to the Vivendi Web site.

Gore said the network will be "an independent voice in this industry" with a primary target audience of people between 18 and 34 "who want to learn about the world in a voice they recognize and a view they recognize as their own."

"This is not going to be a liberal network, a Democratic network or a political network," Gore said at a news conference.

The programming will continue to be provided by Canadian Broadcasting Corp., officials said.

So it's just going to be an out-and-out socialist network. Sounds good, Al. We can't wait to enjoy a brand new outlet for 24/7 America bashing.




Monday, May 03, 2004


Instapunk050304
NIGHTWASTE. I watched some but not all of Ted Koppel's memorial on Nightline. My guess is that hardly anybody watched all of it. What was there to learn or feel? At approximately two seconds per name and photo, there was no way to connect with any individual casualty in the list. The show's format deliberately restricted us to only this duad of data -- name and photo, name and photo, name and photo -- as if we were being subjected to a kind of sensory deprivation. I experienced the illusion that the broadcast was actually being transmitted in black and white.

The absence of music in a medium where it is a standard part of the experience reminded me of Failsafe, the 1960s nightmare fable of the Cold War. In that soundtrack-less movie, the nuclear annihilation of New York City is rendered through a sequence of soundless freezing of live action shots. Children playing. Freeze. Pedestrians bustling. Freeze. It's an act of reduction and diminishment. This is it; this is all they are now; it doesn't matter who they really were, what they believed, what they loved; they're just gone. Though Koppel titled his piece The Fallen, the broadcast was not about honoring individual sacrifice. It in no way compared to the newspaper tributes that memorialized the 9/11 dead. Those were about introducing us to people whose lives had value and meaning despite their premature end. The Fallen was not that. It was a featureless droning process of accumulation. It was the broadcast equivalent of the Vietnam Memorial known as The Wall, a bleak rendering of futility.

It is this self-evident comparison which exposes the trick. Mark Steyn explains this eloquently in his most recent column.

...We owe it to the dead, always, every day, to measure their sacrifice against the mission, its aims, its successes, its setbacks. And, if the cause is still just, then you honor the fallen by pressing on to victory -- and then reading the roll call of the dead.

If that doesn't quite have the sweeps-month ratings appeal ''Nightline'' is looking for, since Ted has now established himself as a $6 million list reader he might like to remind people of the comparative costs of war. At two seconds per name, to read out the combat deaths of the War of 1812 he'd have to persuade ABC to extend the show to an hour and a quarter. To read out the combat deaths of the Korean War, he'd need a 19-hour show. For World War II, he'd have to get ABC to let him read out names of the dead 24/7 for an entire week. If he wants to, I'd be happy to fly him to London so he can go on the BBC and read out the names of the 3,097,392 British combat deaths in World War I, which would take him the best part of three months, without taking bathroom breaks, or indeed pausing for breath.

The Vietnam reading would likely be a 24-hour show. How big a wall of futility could we make out of 40 minutes worth? The mathematical discrepancy here is not intended to trivialize the Iraqi war dead. It is intended to demonstrate how great a leap it is to equate Iraq with Vietnam. But it's a leap Koppel was self-consciously trying to make. And he used ignoble means to do it. He used the constraints of the television medium to make his list seem much longer than it is. How did he do that? By making his recitation of their names boring. Surely they, and we, deserve better than that.




Sunday, May 02, 2004


instapunk050204rev PUNK EPISTLE. There are plenty of punk writers out there. One of them wrote in to endorse Instapunk's rebuttal of Steve Chapman's call for "loyal opposition to the war." He went on to add a personal perspective:

. . . BECAUSE NOBODY WILL REMEMBER OR CARE . . . I was a latecomer in supporting this "war" on terror. It seemed to me to be a lot like the "war" on drugs or the "war" on crime -- just the most recent excuse to expand an already intrusive federal government and run roughshod over what little was left of the U.S. Constitution.

As things have proceeded, I am now convinced that "war" is the correct term and my initial suspicions were unfounded. It is within this context that I am astounded at the complaint that the Bush Administration failed to prepare Americans for the cost, length, and commitment required in this war -- see Miami Herald from April 2, 2004 as one example of this oft-repeated accusation.

You see, one of my own earliest objections to the Bush Administration was the (to me) overblown nature of its description of the Islamo-fascist threat. I distinctly remember shouting out loud, "How ridiculous!" when Vice President Cheney proclaimed in his most solemn voice, "It is different than the Gulf War was, in the sense that it may never end. At least, not in our lifetime" (see National Review, Dec 17, 2001).

What the hell? A lifetime of war? It couldn't be. I grew up at the tail end of the Cold War, in which entire cities faced total, simultaneous annihilation with about eleven minutes notice -- there were even debates about whether or not the impending victims should be notified. What good would it do?

That colossal threat didn't endure for quite a lifetime. I couldn't see how the 10,000 nuclear ICBMs of the Soviet Union were a lesser challenge than a gang of angry Islamists who have to steal whatever they can muster to throw at us. Even the World Trade Towers/Pentagon attacks required the theft of commercial airliners. These guys couldn't possibly take a lifetime to defeat.

Well, now it is 2004, and I understand that we're confronting more than a gang of thieves. I know we're up against some murderous unknown percentage of a billion muslims. It's become possible for me to comprehend that it may take a lifetime. Yet according to polls, the American people seem to have forgotten the nature of the threat as it was described by the Bush Administration very early on in the process. And as a nation, we're apparently shocked that it has taken more than one full year to instil an idea that western nations have wrestled with since the Magna Carta in a part of the world that has only recently emerged from the 7th century. Huh?

It seems that when it come to beating the Bush Administration, any stick will do. Forgetting what has been said in the past is the preferred way of redirecting blame in the present. "I wasn't prepared" can thus become "I wasn't prepared by the Bush Administration." Cut me a break.

Don't hold your breath, my friend.




Saturday, May 01, 2004


instapunk050104 PUNK RADIO. It's May Day, the time when leftists the world over celebrate the reign of reason which resulted in more torture and murder and misery than all the religions of history. In honor of the occasion, one of our number has taken to the airwaves to discuss the Worstest Generation. There's no charge for listening, and if you're a Swarthmoron, what you hear will make your head spontaneously combust. Tune in now.




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