June 5, 2005 - May 29, 2005
Sunday, June 05, 2005
Fighting -- Fair and Otherwise
Readers write -- again. InstaPunk's recent take on Mark Felt brought another flurry
of commentators to our door. We've talked about comment writing before,
but we've got further insight and thought we'd share.
Now understand this -- we like comments. That's
why we made Tech Tonic put them on the site. He told us nobody else has them; we wouldn't like them;
and that we and the site would be abused -- but we insisted.
Comments do not have to agree with the views of the poster, in fact, if it were all, "Way to go!" comments,
we'd just as well not have them at all. So what seems to be the trouble?
First of all, there are degrees of conflict. There is staring at your adversary. There is ignoring your
adversary. There is avoiding your adversary. There is putting-up-with your adversary. There is shoving
your adversary. There is punching your adversary. There is scheduling a
brawl with your adversary. And, finally, there is shooting your adversary -- even shooting your adversary
has its gradations from a draw-and-shoot coming out of the bathroom to the full blown
Blog comments seem to be missing a lot of this nuance. Blog comment writers are more like a clown going by
on a unicycle throwing eggs and heading on to the next four-year-old's birthday party. Or, as in the case
of InstaPunk's recent Buchanan
post, the emptying of a tiny car full of innumerable midget clowns right down there in the center ring.
Also, missing from blog comments is an element of conflict that seemed to be more well known a few decades ago
-- drinking. It is an important element of any conflict to remember that someday soon you will embrace your
adversary. You might even admire things about him. Look --
people drive Toyotas even though their grandfathers were forced to march to their deaths under Japanese
bayonets and bullets on their way to Bataan --
well, we don't, but that's a matter for another day. The idea is that after even the most horrific beating
there will be drinks all around for the combatants and the spectators -- and, on particularly hot afternoons --
drinks during the fight: always being careful to take it back outside so as not to damage the bar -- well,
You see? It isn't riding by on a unicycle. If you're angry by what you read, relax, get ready for a fight.
Then, begin in earnest, but know somewhere in the back of your mind that when it is all over we're all going to
stand up next to the bar and have a drink and laugh and talk about how you fight like a girl.
Remember, most people in our country don't care one way or the other about the topics
we discuss here. If you do, you've come to the right place. But be prepared to think. Be prepared
to argue your point. Be prepared even to change your mind. Be prepared to admire an upper cut that almost sheers your
jaw off. We can only take you as seriously as you present yourself. Hope that helps. Have fun.
Saturday, June 04, 2005
Just in Case (Ned.54.11) -- PART II
AKA -- 'Windows cannot load, missing or corrupt \System32\hal.dll.'
I want to make you aware of a virus/worm that ripped through here last night. You may get an email
from our server or someone you trust of which you should be very wary. Just know that we're not
sending you any important .zip files and, if we must, we'll let you know right here at InstaPunk.com.
I got an email from the administrator of our webserver. It read, "Please read the attached and follow
it's instructions." The "it's" vs. "its" should have tipped me off . . . but that is something
Chain Gang discussed elsewhere --
and it drives InstaPunk right up the wall. But, I digress. As you can
imagine, our merry band here gets tons of
spam and gimmicks that we simply delete everyday. With all the public email addresses, it just
rolls in like the tide.
So, upon receipt of this little post, I was skeptical. I ran Norton Anti-Virus on the .zip file. Nothing.
I extracted the .zip file and ran Norton on the resulting 'Info-Text.txt' file. Nothing. I opened the resulting
'Info-Text.txt' file and then everything went to hell. Norton caught the little bastard in the act, quarantined
him, and sent a report back to HQ. But not before he spread his mischief all over the server.
As it turns out, 'Info-Text.txt' was not the real name of this file -- it was 'Info-Text.txt .exe'
with the .exe suffix well out of view of the file listing. That's just mean.
Norton responded with a new set of virus definitions within the hour which I downloaded. Scanned the
system; used three additional Norton remove tools for the gaggle of stuff that was found; ran Ad-Aware
once I was finished with the Norton stuff; and rebooted.
What happened? Just a black screen with the phrase, 'Windows cannot load, missing or corrupt \System32\hal.dll.'
Great. Rebooted. Same thing. Really amazing. Used the boot around floppy to get to the main system
hard drive and everything looked fine. This boot around floppy is simply remarkable. It is tiny. The main
file is just over 200k, but it really works. I got it from www.bootdisk.com
and it contains: BOOT.INI, NTLDR, NTDETECT.COM, and a README.TXT file. That's it and it gets past fatal boot
errors -- this is what I used the last
time and it really should be in your bag of tricks.
Would it be too hard for MicroSoft to have this little set of files run in lieu of the very unhelpful, freeze
everything, just stare back at you like a dumb child error message? Then, if it didn't work, they could display
the very unhelpful, freeze
everything, just stare back at you like a dumb child error message. Just a thought.
Anyway, all that was required was an edit to the boot.ini file that I documented before,
but I'll put it here again, for your convenience. Here is the required edit
1. [boot loader]
\WINDOWS <-- replacing 'signature(whateversinhere)'
5. [operating systems]
"Microsoft Windows XP
Professional" /fastdetect <-- replacing 'signature(whateversinhere)'
That's it. Six hours of mucking around and its as good as new -- just messing with you -- it's as good as new.
Be careful out there . . .
Friday, June 03, 2005
The Schick Quattro -- 12 mpg in the
. Who would have thought it could
ever get this nasty? The Big Guys have been sluggng it out in court
Gillette Co. ads claiming its M3Power
razor raises hair up and away from the skin are "unsubstantiated and
inaccurate," a federal judge said in siding with Gillette's chief
competitor, Schick-Wilkinson Sword.
U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall in Connecticut granted Schick a
preliminary injunction prohibiting the use of the television and print
ads. Gillette was also ordered to change packaging for the product and
remove in-store displays that feature the false claims.
Wednesday's ruling said the depiction in Gillette advertising was
"greatly exaggerated" and "literally false."
Gillette spokeswoman Michele Szynal said the company has not decided
whether to appeal.
"Right now the ruling won't have any affect on our marketing since the
visuals don't appear on any (current) advertising or point-of-sales
material," she said.
The M3Power, a high-tech, vibrating men's razor introduced early last
year to compete with Schick's Quattro razor, held a 20 percent global
share last quarter and was the world's top-selling razor, Boston-based
I saw the ads when they came out, and I was skeptical -- especially the
part about a battery in the handle -- but I have always been skeptical
of commercials about shaving. When I was a teenager, a boarding school
roommate of mine fell under the spell of the "Take it all off
campaign, which featured a striking nordic dancing girl, stripper
music, and a muscular young man shaving in long powerful yanks that
made the facial skin crawl just to watch it. I should have known what
was up when my roommate returned from his morning ablutions bleeding
heavily from multiple gouges on his face, but instead I was dumbfounded.
"What happened to you?" I asked.
"I was trying to shave like in that commercial," he said.
"Everybody knows there's no blade in that razor, you idiot." Well, I thought
everybody knew that. Just
like I thought everybody must know that adding more and more blades to
razors isn't necessarily going to give you an easier, closer shave. I
was once out of blades for my "Sensor Excel" (sometimes I close my eyes
and try to imagine the meetings where the ad guys pitch product names
to CEOs... it's hard but fun), and so I was forced to try out one of
those razors that arrivein the mail promising to improve your sex life
and increase your income. It was one of the "Schick Quattro" models
mentioned in the news article. I wondered how Audi felt about the use
of the Quattro label, but I figured the products were probably
different enough to prevent legal conflict. Then I shaved with the
sumbitch and immediately reconsidered. It's like driving an SUV over
your face. You practically have to steer the thing with both hands.
Does Audi know that razors are on the verge of blossoming into
all-terrain vehicles with four-blade drive and roll-resistant shock
absorbers? Are they incapable of seeing anything sinister in the recent
development project subcontracted to Orange
The next step in shaving technology.
But where were we? That's right. Do the honchos at Gillette and
Schick-Wilkinson Sword really believe that we take their ads at, ahem,
face value? Don't they
Then how could they possibly believe all the crap their copywriters
dream up? Sure, it's a neat idea to stuff a battery into a razor
handle, but they have to know that we know that it's not going to do a
damn thing worthwhile. So why did the legal beagles at Schick-Wilkinson
Sword get so worried that they felt it necessary to spend millions in
court? Is it possible that the company which developed a two-pound
razor with four blades for no reason at all could think the other guys
were getting away with something?
Obviously, they need some help. So I am now going to blow a secret I
thought was shared by all men and
the razor companies. We buy your fancy looking, high-tech razors, and
pay your outrageous prices, for one reason: to make sure there's no way
the ladies can mistake our razors for theirs. What their legs do to a
blade is so awful it can't even be discussed in public, which is why
they buy theirs by the bagful, all those cheap little pink disposable
things. We also don't mind paying for whatever illusion you can muster
that your products are too high-tech to be used by amateurs, just in
case the ladies should ever get it into their heads to take a test
BUT -- and this is important -- please don't overdo the size and weight
thing. Razors don't have to be physically impossible for women to lift
to deter them from unauthorized use. Do what you've been doing all
these years, but a little less than what you've been doing lately, if
you know what I mean. Okay?
P.S. By the way, if you share the secret with other people in your
business, could you possibly not mention it to Michele Szynal? It might
not be good if too many women tumbled to the facts. And I can't think
of any reason whatever for discussing this matter with Judge Janet C.
Hall. That may have been your big mistake right there, Gillette. Come
to think of it, everyone named in the article was a woman. Have they,
taken over the razor
God. Maybe this is all much worse than I thought... What have I done?
Thursday, June 02, 2005
Home Sweet Home
I have defended the State of New Jersey in previous posts, but
it is true that we do suffer from one very serious problem: too much
government. Way too much government. The national wire services have
been carrying this story
about a billboard located about 10 miles from
where I'm writing. It's in a town called Pennsville, a long skinny burg
that lies parallel to the Delaware River. The developer who posted this
message (on his own billboard, incidentally) is being prevented from
redeveloping land which has been used for commercial purposes as long
as I've been alive.
1990, Juliano, who has built shopping centers, convenience stores,
office buildings and hotels, bought some land in a prime spot near the
Delaware Memorial Bridge, which is traveled by 17.5 million people each
way each year.
land near Interchange 1 of the New Jersey Turnpike, Juliano has built a
Hampton Inn, a Cracker Barrel restaurant and planned a truck stop.
previous owner received state approval for the truck stop in 1985. But
the state now says the land is in a wetlands area and is unsuitable for
either a truck stop or a Home Depot, which Juliano proposed building
there last year.
"Unsuitable" is an interesting characterization in a county that
suffers from chronic unemployment and a business climate that is
permanently starved for capital and aggressive entrepreneurs. The
classification of Juliano''s land as "wetlands" is arbitrary and fairly
ridiculous, since just about every acre on his side of Route 49
(Pennsville's Main Street) could
also be called wetlands due to its proximity to the river. The same
classification could be made about the neighboring DuPont Chambers
which used to be (and may still be, for all I know) the single largest
chemical plant complex in the world.
The news article does its best to depict the developer as a nutcase and
his problems with the state an isolated instance.
DEP officials say Juliano's anger is
misplaced. The agency, after all, has approved four of Juliano's
projects over the last three years — each in under seven months.
We'll have to consider action against
"I think that he came to the mistaken belief that he had a personal and
perpetual exemption from the wetlands laws," Environmental Protection
chief Bradley Campbell said.
So far, the state has done nothing about the billboard, and it's
unclear whether it could. "At some point, we'll have to consider action
against him," Campbell said, implying a potential legal fight.
Why? Because he's saying nasty things about the state on
his own land?
You see, the real reason Mr. Juliano is a nutcase is that he ever
believed his land belongs to
him. In the state of New Jersey and its various county and municipal
governments, the operating assumption is that your land belongs to the
government, which allows you to use it under extensive and onerous
conditions. Property taxes throughout the state are outlandishly high,
but that's where the department of environmental protection comes in,
serving as a kind of legbreaker to keep people from selling their
property. Uh, protecting the environment, you know. If the house you
bought had an underground oil tank when you bought it, you can't sell
the house without replacing it with an aboveground tank and cleaning up
any oil in the soil. If your house has a well and septic system,
increasingly stringent environmental regulations require that perfectly
serviceable systems be replaced with new systems so large they require
the destruction of complete half acre properties, at a cost of tens of
thousands of dollars, or else
the house cannot be sold. In fact, there are many residential
properties in rural areas where there isn't enough land under title to
accommodate the required septic factory. Welcome to the State of New
Juliano believes the refusal to let him
build is a violation of his
civil rights. The state, he says, is taking his property rights without
You bet they are, Mr. Juliano. For that you can thank a succession of
dimwit governors -- moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans, curse
their reasonable pandering to eastern political correctness -- who have
created a monstrous tax burden and a monstrous regulatory environment,
all in the name of protecting us citizens from ourselves. In the
process, they have crushed the economic prospects of cities like Camden
and Newark, and they have strangled the business and agricultural life
of a half dozen southern counties, where it's almost impossible to
operate a farm, start a business, or find gainful employment. Car
insurance rates throughout the state are still the highest in the
nation, thanks to an ancient, apparently unfixable no-fault law, and
the only remedial measure the last governor could think of was to start
treating all accident claims like insurance fraud.
And what do the people who vote these idiots into power do about it?
Nothing. Here's an interesting fact: if Corzine should resign from the
senate to run for governor, New Jersey will own the unique distinction
of being the only state in the union saddled with an unelected governor
and two unelected U.S. Senators. The last governor was forced to resign
in a personal scandal that was widely believed to be a cover for far
more serious problems with corruption. And who will the good people of
New Jersey elect to deal with the mess this time? Another moderate
It's Corzine, Juliano said, who can
save the day. That's the reason behind the fourth line on the
billboard: "Can Senator Corzine really do anything?"
Yes, Mr. Juliano, there's a second reason you're a nutcase. Looking to
Corzine as some kind of possible savior is even dumber than thinking
you own land in New Jersey. He's just another New York carpetbagger
with a bunch of the same stupid and hideously expensive ideas about
nanny government that created your nightmare in the first place.
Take the sign down, sir. It's ugly and it's not going to do any good.
Let Corzine pay for his own damn campaign signs.
TEST 11:30 AM 4-23-2008
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
XXX marks the spot.
I the only one who's having trouble with this? Let me give you my
timeline. First, I heard on the radio that Deep Throat has finally come
forward to announce his identity. He's a ninety-year-old man who used
to be Number 2 at the FBI. My immediate thought is of a deathbed
confession: an old man wants to get a burdensome and painful weight off
his chest. Later that afternoon, I turned on TV cable news and there I
saw footage of the old man smiling and waving at the camera next to his
beaming daughter. Here's that
Then the daughter appears to be giving a press conference, and I
concede her words are something of a blur to me because she seems to be
taking a bow on behalf of her old man and using syllables that sound
something like "he-ro." Subsequently, I seem to hear the same syllables
being tossed around by other TV pundits. They keep replaying footage of
the old geezer smiling, waving, smiling, as if he really is pleased as
punch with himself. Apparently, my deathbed confession take was
As should be abundantly clear to everyone here, I am no lawyer and so I
do not understand all the legalities associated with Mark Felt's role
in the Watergate investigation, but my gut feeling is that they can't
possibly create the sort of context that would make this guy a hero.
I do have sympathy with the plight of a whistleblower -- generally
underlings in some huge organization that is doing wrong and can't be
stopped from inside. I understand their need for secrecy in the
amassing of evidence, both as a practical investigative tactic and as a
safeguard against the possibility of harm befalling them or their
families. I do not believe that it is always wrong to be an "informer,"
as my lifelong fondness for the movie On
should attest. I liked it before I knew it to be
Elia Kazan's defense of his naming of names in congressional
investigations of the Communist Party, and I liked it after that
(though I note that many on the righteous left continued to defame
Kazan even after the fall of the Soviet Union made it possible to
confirm that many members of the American Communist Party were, in
fact, Soviet spies).
The informer can indeed be heroic. Whatever its beginning, the climax
of such a hero's tale occurs when he comes forward to put a face on his
charges; he testifies in public to some commission or committee
responsible for determining the truth. This one act simultaneously puts
his integrity to the test of cross-examination and kills or mutilates
in the organization he is exposing. It is a moment both brave and
tragic -- the latter because a whistleblower with real information has
almost always been an accomplice in wrongdoing to that point in the
road where his conscience called a halt. The real life instances of a
Serpico whose hands were clean throughout are rare. More often, life
imitates the fiction of On the
, where Terry Malloy (Brando) has gone along with
wrong or illegal practices because it was simpler, easier, or more
profitable to do so.
After the climax of the heroic version of this plot comes the
denouement, where there can be redemption for earlier sins because the
hero is willing to pay a price even if the law gives him immunity. Elia
Kazan gave Terry Malloy a redemption he himself was denied by his
erstwhile peers in Hollywood. After enduring a terrible beating, Malloy
returns to work at his old job, proving his courage and his loyalty to
the principle that had inspired his actions.
What part of this rite of passage can we connect with Mark Felt? Almost
none of it. He was no underling. Rather, he was a very powerful
executive who could have made a huge impact by going public as soon as
he objected to the goings on in his organization. Did he? No. He chose
a route so sleazy that even the men whose careers he helped make gave
him a nickname borrowed from a dirty movie. Did he come forward after
the presidential downfall he worked to effect had been accomplished?
No. He remained at the FBI because his career there was more important
to him than helping to salve the national wounds that have continued to
fester ever since. The character he most resembles is the phantom
sniper who, according to 40 years of conspiracy theories, got away with
the assassination of John F. Kennedy: he hides in the shadows to bring
down a U.S. president, then disappears without ever having to account
for his deeds. He's a creature of the dark, a dishonorable
self-aggrandizing weasel, a well-connected coward, a snitch.
Too mean to say about a ninety-year-old? No. Think of the scorn and
abuse that has been heaped on Linda Tripp. What's different? She had
the guts to come into the sunlight. This guy comes blinking out into
the spotlight decades after the fact, and he actually has the nerve to
bask there like a contented reptile. Doesn't anybody have a sharp stick
they want to use?