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June 29, 2005 - June 22, 2005

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Our Condolences

Tragedy strikes the 'Today' family.

"HE IS HISTORY, AND I AM STILL TODAY'S HEADLINE..." Life is so unfair. Matt Lauer tries to branch out from his Today Show base and cash in just a little on his popularity as the smarmy girlie-man sidekick of NBC's perkiest dominatrix and what happens? He takes the mass-media equivalent of a shotgun blast to the face. He has to stand there and pretend to like it when the numbskull TV viewers of America choose Ronald Reagan as the "Greatest American." Who could have guessed? The nominees included Michael Jackson, Madonna, Tom Cruise, and Michael Moore, for God's sake. And Matt had really done  his usual homework on the presentation and production end. When it was time to discuss the relative candidacies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, for example, Matt was masterly in his subliminal communication with viewers:

In summarizing the lives of the 25 finalists in the Discovery Channel's "Greatest American" contest, NBC's Matt Lauer on Sunday night labeled Bill Clinton as "brilliant" before trumpeting: "Under Clinton the economy boomed -- deficits turned into surplus -- and more than 22 million jobs were created. Along with the character flaws and the subpoenas came peace and prosperity." The brief segment did not feature any explicit criticisms of Clinton's presidency, but when it came to George W. Bush, whom Lauer described as "our tough-talking, language-mangling Commander-in-Chief who most Americans just want to hang out with," Discovery put on musician "Moby," who declared over flag-draped coffins: "From my perspective, you cannot call yourself a Christian, talk about the sanctity of life, and then support the death penalty, and support a war."

It must have been disquieting when three Republicans made the list of ten finalists, but one of them was Abraham Lincoln, and both FDR and Bill Clinton made the cut too. Who could have foreseen the terrible turn things would take?

The program "Greatest American," has aired on the Discovery Channel for the last month; originally starting with the Top 100 Greatest Americans of All Time. The list was ridiculed and ripped apart for major exclusions of what some would consider "obvious members" of the list as well as the inclusions of people such as Ellen Degeneres, Brett Favre, Dr.Phil, and Oprah Winfrey.

The Top 100 dwindled down to a Top 10 two weeks ago, where

10. Franklin D.Roosevelt

9. Oprah Winfrey

8. Elvis Presley

7. Bill Clinton

6. President George W. Bush

The Top 5 was named last night with sections of the studio squared off for the crowd's favorite.

5. Ben Franklin

4. George Washington

3. Martin Luther King Jr.

Then it came down to two Republican presidents Abe Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.

President Reagan beat Lincoln for the top spot by just 0.5% of the vote.

Approximately 2.5 million people voted in the final vote via telephone and America Online.

O Calamity! O Horrors! Oh, Mommy, what have they done to your poor little boy? Reagan? Reagan? REAGAN? REAGAN?

AND HE HAD TO PRETEND TO LIKE IT. O WEEPING AND WAILING AND GNASHING OF TEETH.

There really aren't any words that can take away the pain at a time like this, and we're reluctant to do more than gravely shake Matt's hand while a tear drips slowly down our cheek, but the desire to say something helpful is too strong to overcome. So, in addition to our condolences, we'd like to offer Matt an empty platitude or two to show that our heart is in the right place. Time is the great healer, Matt. Someday -- perhaps in a year, or two, or five -- you will awaken as a whole girlie-man once again. The sun will shine, the birds will sing, and Katie will nod briefly in your direction before storming into the producer's office for another knock-down-drag-out brawl. Trust us on this, Matt. You will recover, and maybe you'll even write a bestselling book about your heroic conquest of post-traumatic shock syndrome. Tom Cruise could play you in the movie.

Does any of this help at all? No? Okay. We'll just tiptoe out of the room now and leave you alone. Sorry.





Safe? No way.

The supposed design of the towerlet to be built at Ground Zero.

THE SMART GUYS TAKE OVER. It's supposed to be safe. Here's the promotional material:

The new design for the 1,776-foot tower is meant to make it more resistant to truck bombs. The building will now be 90 feet _ instead of 25 feet _ from West Street, the major north-south thoroughfare along the Hudson River.

The tower's cubic base will be clad in luminous materials _ probably a combination of stainless steel and titanium _ that will be shimmering and light-reflective as well as blast-resistant, according to a description of the redesign posted online by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.

As in the original design, the structure outlined in the latest plan exceeds city fire code requirements, and will have biological and chemical filters in its air supply system.

It also has the original design's extra-wide emergency stairs, a dedicated staircase just for firefighters, enhanced elevators and "areas of refuge" on each floor. Stairs, communications, sprinklers and elevators will be encased in 3-foot-thick walls.

But it isn't safe. Because the terrorists, er, foreign insurgents, still don't like us. Everyone knows that, which is why the really smart people are slowly taking over the Ground Zero redevelopment project. Debra Burlingame, a 9/11 widow, alerted us to the effort in a Wall Street Journal article earlier this month.

The World Trade Center Memorial Cultural Complex will be an imposing edifice wedged in the place where the Twin Towers once stood. It will serve as the primary "gateway" to the underground area where the names of the lost are chiseled into concrete. The organizers of its principal tenant, the International Freedom Center (IFC), have stated that they intend to take us on "a journey through the history of freedom"--but do not be fooled into thinking that their idea of freedom is the same as that of those Marines. To the IFC's organizers, it is not only history's triumphs that illuminate, but also its failures. The public will have come to see 9/11 but will be given a high-tech, multimedia tutorial about man's inhumanity to man, from Native American genocide to the lynchings and cross-burnings of the Jim Crow South, from the Third Reich's Final Solution to the Soviet gulags and beyond.

She also revealed the identities of those who are helping to design the IFC:

The driving force behind the IFC is Tom Bernstein... a proud member of Human Rights First since it was founded--as the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights--27 years ago, and has served as its president for the last 12.... It was Human Rights First that has called for a 9/11-style commission to investigate the alleged torture of detainees, complete with budget authority, subpoena power and the ability to demand that witnesses testify under oath.

In fact, the IFC's list of those who are shaping or influencing the content and programming for their Ground Zero exhibit includes a Who's Who of the human rights, Guantanamo-obsessed world:

• Michael Posner, executive director at Human Rights First who is leading the worldwide "Stop Torture Now" campaign focused entirely on the U.S. military. He has stated that Mr. Rumsfeld's refusal to resign in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal is "irresponsible and dishonorable."

• Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, who is pushing IFC organizers for exhibits that showcase how civil liberties in this country have been curtailed since September 11.

• Eric Foner, radical-left history professor at Columbia University who, even as the bodies were being pulled out of a smoldering Ground Zero, wrote, "I'm not sure which is more frightening: the horror that engulfed New York City or the apocalyptic rhetoric emanating daily from the White House." This is the same man who participated in a "teach-in" at Columbia to protest the Iraq war, during which a colleague exhorted students with, "The only true heroes are those who find ways to defeat the U.S. military," and called for "a million Mogadishus." The IFC website has posted Mr. Foner's statement warning that future discussions should not be "overwhelmed" by the IFC's location at the World Trade Center site itself.

• George Soros, billionaire founder of Open Society Institute, the nonprofit foundation that helps fund Human Rights First and is an early contributor to the IFC. Mr. Soros has stated that the pictures of Abu Ghraib "hit us the same way as the terrorist attack itself."

Mrs. Burlingame seems to regard this team as sinister in some way, but if safety is the prime consideration -- as it seems to be for so many Americans -- then there is no alternative to soliciting the participation of people with these kinds of backgrounds. By the time they have completed reconfiguring the Ground Zero project's architecture and content, the place will be absolutely 100 percent safe. There will no longer be any doubt that however much foreign insurgents may hate America, it's nothing compared to how much elite and powerful Americans hate America. This has to be an enormously effective deterrent to further acts of violence in the city whose most powerful people lead the world in hatred of this country. That's why the over-engineered tower described in the piece referenced above will never be built. It just won't be needed. The whole idea of a single fake-me-out tower with 50 stories of panic room office bunkers and 50 stories of uninhabited, bomb-repellent gridwork can be tossed in the trash where it belongs. New Yorkers will be able to go all the way to the tippy top of the new twin towers design that will soon be unveiled by Soros and company. What do you think of it?


Artist's rendering of the "World Tolerance Center."

We were impressed too. With towers like those, they can be 150 stories tall. Think of the view from the Turban Terraces.

And there's more. Mrs. Burlingame described the square footage allocation now being planned:

While the IFC is getting 300,000 square feet of space to teach us how to think about liberty, the actual Memorial Center on the opposite corner of the site will get a meager 50,000 square feet to exhibit its 9/11 artifacts, all out of sight and underground. Most of the cherished objects which were salvaged from Ground Zero in those first traumatic months will never return to the site. There is simply no room.

She's right. That's why the final solution of the Ground Zero facility will entirely replace the cramped 9/11 Memorial with a Museum of Heroes honoring those who have done the most to bring about a peaceful end to the so-called war on terror. The 9/11 relics will, of course, be stored away so they won't be disturbing to members of the mass media, who are uniformly delicate of stomach and unanimous in believing that 9/11 should never be mentioned, referenced, or depicted again.

Our sources won't yet give us permission to reveal the names of the individual heroes who will be celebrated in the museum, but we can tell you that many of the interior design details are already finalized. The walls will be hung with beautiful burkha blue drapery fabric, the floors will be fabricated from cedars of Lebanon and covered with a Persian carpet woven especially for this space. You can see a rendering of it here. We'll publish more information about the Museum of Heroes as we get more results from our beseechings and pleadings.

Safety first, safety last, safety always. That's the American way. Or at any rate, it's the new American way.

UPDATE. Thanks to Michelle Malkin for the "Love Link." Our most recent entry in support of her can be found by scrolling down to the June 24 posting. And if you keep scrolling to June 22, you'll encounter our infamous Piss Pelosi" artwork and our proposed "Contract with America for Democrats," of which we're very proud.




Saturday, June 25, 2005


Fox News Scandal?

Surprised by paparazzi in Aruba. What have they been up to?

PSAYINGS.5A.40. An anonymous source in Aruba has told the XOFF News Team that "something fishy" is going on between FNC's Greta Van Susteren and notorious ladykiller Alan Colmes. While the pair were supposedly separately on assignment in the tiny island paradise, they were observed together on numerous occasions. One witness saw them getting bicycle riding lessons. Another saw Colmes trying to talk one of those beach ladies into braiding Greta's hair, apparently with no success. A waiter from a hotel neither is (officially) registered in claimed to have served them a romantic dinner for two -- PB&J sandwiches, Doritos, and cottage cheese washed down by Snapple and club soda cocktails. For dessert they had canned peaches. A lifeguard at yet another hotel saw them dog-paddling together in the children's wading pool. Afterwards they sat together for five minutes in the sun and sprayed each other with instant tanning lotion before disappearing indoors.

The concierge of the hotel told XOFF News, "If I was that Mrs. Colmes or that Mr. Van Susterenen, I'd be plenty worried, mon."

We know we're worried. If we find out they've been taking sleeping lessons as well, there will be no more doubt. As it is, where there's smoke, there might also be an acrid smell.




Friday, June 24, 2005


Catfight!

Andrew Sullivan is hyperventilating about our friend Michelle Malkin

FUNDAMENTAL PRECEPTS. Here at InstaPunk we were pretty shocked to read Andrew Sullivan's little blog today about Karl Rove's remarks. Here's the part that raised our collective eyebrows:

It seems to me that Karl Rove's sickening generalization about "liberals" in the war on terror is revealing in ways not obviously apparent. Sure, there were some on the hard left who really did jump to blame America for the evil perpetrated by the monsters of 9/11. I took names at the time. But all "liberals"? The New Republic? Joe Lieberman? Hitch? Paul Berman? The Washington Post editorial page? Tom Friedman? Almost every Democrat in the Congress who endorsed the war in Afghanistan? You expect that kind of moronic extremism from a Michelle Malkin, but from the most influential figure in an administration leading a country in wartime?

Moronic extremism. From a Michelle Malkin. Ironically, Sullivan's piece was featured at RealClearPolitics alongside Michelle Malkin's blog entry on the same subject, as if the RCP boys are trying to start an all-out catfight.

Obviously, Ms. Malkin doesn't need any help from us to deal with a Sullivan, but we still thought that his was a performance worthy of comment. Why is he so itchy about this subject that he feels compelled to Sunday punch La Malkin?

I suspect that it's the stress of being bedfellows (no pun intended) with the considerable army of liberals who do merit Karl Rove's pejorative assessment, which was, for any who may have missed the screaming headlines in the MSM:

But perhaps the most important difference between conservatives and liberals can be found in the area of national security. Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers. In the wake of 9/11, conservatives believed it was time to unleash the might and power of the United States military against the Taliban; in the wake of 9/11, liberals believed it was time to… submit a petition. I am not joking. Submitting a petition is precisely what Moveon.org did. It was a petition imploring the powers that be" to "use moderation and restraint in responding to the… terrorist attacks against the United States."

Andrew Sullivan lists those he considers exceptions to the mindset Rove specifically ascribed to Moveon.org, all of whom supported the Afghanistan invasion, but he is in denial about what has happened since. The initial near-unanimity about retaliating against the enemy no longer exists. Among liberals that first response can now be seen as a kind of hysterical moment in which they experienced a patriotism they generally loathe and from which they have been recovering at various rates ever since.

I'm sure a glib political switch-hitter like an Andrew Sullivan (no pun intended) would like to believe that his own crisis of conscience with respect to the Iraq War is mirrored by the understood targets of Rove's wrath -- Howard Dean, Michael Moore, Jimmy Carter, Al Franken, Nancy Pelosi, Teddy Kennedy, John Kerry, the Hollywood traitor elite, Dick Durbin, John Dingel, Charles Rangel, Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, Mike Wallace, Andy Rooney, Aaron Brown, Paul Krugman, and the editorial staffs of the New York Times, Time, Newsweek, and, yes, the Washington Post. But it isn't so. Rove was figuratively if not literally correct. Here's why.

The real foreign policy agreement that binds most liberals together -- from far left to moderate -- is their conviction that the use of military power against Islamofascism will only make more Islamofascists and that our safety depends, as Nancy Pelosi said just a few days ago, "on our reputation and how we are viewed, especially in the Muslim world." Their worldview cannot comprehend a circumstance in which it is better policy to hunt down and kill our enemies than to try to win them over by understanding them better. This is not a smart remark. It's simply a description that fits all the rhetoric and behaviors we have seen since liberals began backing away from every component of the War on Terror that resembled war.

They claim at conventions and on the floor of Congress that they are resolved to defend America from a threat they refuse to identify with its sponsoring religion, but they oppose each and every serious measure required to conduct that defense. They oppose wars that don't come with a perfect five-year plan for all contingencies. They oppose  tough talk to the craven and corrupt saboteurs of American foreign policy like France and Germany. They oppose treating terrorists as terrorists and wish to extend to them all the legal protections of the country those terrorists are sworn to destroy. What does all this add up to? They want the War on Terror to go away, as if it were only the fevered dream of George W.  Bush and (of course) Karl Rove.

These days, conservatives don't much care where liberals stood on the invasion of Afghanistan. We always knew that this was going to be a long haul, and most of us always expected that liberal support would evaporate through a series of semi-plausible objections derived from their uber-tolerant understanding of those who despise them, which is virtually infinite except in the case of American conservatives, for whom they have no tolerance at all.

But Andrew Sullivan has the nerve to get pissed off when Karl Rove allows himself a mild understatement about the behavior of a political party and ideology that have merely proclaimed their patriotism while committing act after act that is indistinguishable in any way from what a committed traitor would do to sabotage the prospects for success of his country.

Is it really moronic extremism to get tired of patronizing patriots who feel no shame about libeling their country's president and the military while legitimizing every tiny propaganda gambit essayed by the killers who are stalking us across the world? I don't think so. And I'd love to see the labyrinthine argument by which Mr. Sullivan would try to wriggle out from under this essential truth.

Of course, a divided soul like an Andrew Sullivan probably isn't as upset by Karl Rove as he is by all the impediments to his moronically jocular (since we can't risk the connotations of words like 'gay') social agenda. Which means he's insane. That's permitted in this country, and it's quite admired in some circles. But it does eliminate one's qualifications to pass judgment on Michelle Malkin's intelligence.


We just thought this was a good picture.

Just to be clear -- we weren't trying to separate the combatants or prevent a battle royal. We just wanted to put our two cents in before the fireworks get going in earnest.

But a word to the wise: chill out, Andrew. If it comes to a cage match, we're betting on Michelle Malkin.




Thursday, June 23, 2005


The Liberals We Love
Nancy Pelosi

If you like soap operas, you gotta love Nancy.

THE GITMO SHAM, PART II. When the Durbin affair started, I had the temerity to treat it as a topic for humor, but when I saw the fury of conservatives, I felt obliged to point out that there have always been idiot senators (about 100 in the current lineup) and that we'd be spending our time more wisely if we examined the press (non)reaction to his treason more closely than his staggering back-and-forth progress to an (un)apology. My reasoning was that the most sinister part of the story was the general indifference of the American public -- encouraged by the mass media -- to this kind of seditious behavior by a congressional leader. This drew some criticism from people who believed I was being elitist for regarding my fellow citizens as apathetic.

I know that we now have polls showing that only(!) 20 percent of Americans agree with Durbin's characterization of Guantanamo guards as Nazis, while the rest of those who have opinions think the Gitmo detainees are getting treated as they deserve -- if not too generously. But this does not rebut my point. A more important poll suggests that Americans are disapproving of Bush in increasing numbers because they no longer believe the war in Iraq was worth fighting in the first place. Why should they think that? Because the Democrats and their allies in the media have done nothing but harp on the bad or embarrassing news from Iraq since the war started.

One looks in vain for any acknowledgment by Democrat leaders and party spokesmen that  the Iraq War has generated huge and widening ripples of change throughout the middle east. There have been real elections in Iraq, and even the Sunni holdouts were so impressed by the turnout that they have decided to participate in the new government, along with their supposedly mortal enemies the Kurds and the Shi'ites. Isn't this coming together of bitterly opposed segments of the populace more positive than the barbarisms of a small band of 'insurgents' who can't even articulate a political agenda to justify their violence? Does any such comparison issue from the mouths of Democrats or their flacks at the New York Times? No.

In the wake of the overthrow of Saddam, Libya voluntarily abandoned its weapons of mass destruction programs -- does any word of this positive development get a mention in the Democrat routine about missing WMDs? No.

Frightened by presidential rhetoric (!?), Syria withdrew its troops from Lebanon, leading to the first elections there in how many years? You won't find that number being trumpeted by Democrats or featured on the CBS Evening News, will you? No.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Syria are feeling enough of the heat from democracy's infancy in Iraq that their despots have felt obliged to speak of reform, baby steps toward freedom for their subjects. Does any Democrat or liberal pundit link this to Bush's foreign policy or his determination to stay the course in Iraq? No.

American troops are still dying, yes, but does the grim recitation of casualties ever include any summary of the gains their sacrifices have earned -- in terms of time to permit progress, to rebuild an Iraqi infrastructure savaged not by American bombs but Saddam's Baathist Reich, to demonstrate to Islamic fanatics that the enemy is not weak or afraid or vincible in combat, to let the message sink in throughout the middle east that the old days of double dealing and state-sponsored Islamic hatred of America may be sinking slowly in the west? No.

All we get are body counts, sniping about gaffes of planning and execution, extension of the left's theology of victimization to our most bloodthirsty and remorseless enemies, and a continual two-pronged assault on the President of the United States and the military which has heroically made his foreign policy shake the world.

It doesn't matter if some guy on an Illinois barstool thinks Durbin was out of line if he kind of sort of believes the slightly less-over-the-top rhetoric of Democrats and left-leaning pundits who tell him day after day that fighting our enemies is dangerous because it makes them hate us more. Or if he believes that we have failed in our national mission because ugly things happen to bad guys in wartime and it's never forgivable if some of the bad things that happen to them are us.

Durbin wasn't the problem. He was the tip of a huge iceberg which is stalking the American ship of state looking for any opportunity to punch a hole below the waterline. Now he's apologized, and we've knocked off the tip of the iceberg. Are we all feeling better now? Why, no. There's a new tip of the iceberg. Her name is Nancy Pelosi, and we are all obliged to run in mad circles around her, demanding retractions, apologies, etc for this:

"The treatment of detainees is a taint on our country's reputation, especially in the Muslim world, and there are many questions that must be answered. These questions are important because the safety of our country depends on our reputation and how we are viewed, especially in the Muslim world [Our Link: Scroll to the foreign policy section].

"There are many questions that have gone unanswered: What was the atmosphere created that permitted detainee abuse, and why was it tolerated? What was the training and supervision of the troops? Who had this responsibility? What is it that the Republicans are trying to hide? How far up the chain of command does this go? Why is the Secretary of Defense not taking responsibility? This happened on his watch.

"Many of the detainees have been in U.S. custody since October 2001. Why have they been in custody for nearly four years without being charged? Why has so little been done to resolve the status of the detainees?"

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that there's no rationale for getting mad about the Durbins and Pelosis, but I do think it's a strategic error to take their various moronic remarks too seriously, to try to refute them each time they pop off. Isn't it time to start laughing at them outright instead of duelling with their dim and underhanded daggers?

If Nancy Pelosi has become the lead attack dog on the Guantanamo facility, it's time to lean back, put our feet up, and chuckle. There's a little game I play regarding politicians, just for my own amusement generally. Now I think maybe we should all start playing it in public, as loudly as possible. Maybe derision can break through the mass media wall to the American people. Here's how it goes. Other Occupations for Politicians: I think about what kind of job they'd have if they had to function in real life like the rest of us. For example, when I look at Harry Reid I see a third-rate auto mechanic, extorting a meager income from those who can't afford better by replacing parts that aren't broken, charging them for work never done, and fending off their complaints with insults, threats, and those burning beady eyes.


You'll pay him for that wall job or else.

It's hard to look at him without imagining the filthy coveralls and dirty fingernails of a choleric loser and liar (!) who never cleans his shop and can't keep the help from quitting every six weeks. Should I really take him seriously? Okay. I will if I can.

I have a different impression of Nancy Pelosi. She has always reminded me of an actress, the kind that plays the same role in a soap opera for decades. You know, the dilute daytime version of Joan Collins, who lives in her stage makeup and throbs with melodrama as she overacts her way through seven on-screen marriages, two or three murder trials, endless acts of treachery and malevolence to members of her TV family, and offstage acts the grande dame who but for a turn of the cards would have given Joan Crawford a run for her money. It doesn't matter what she's talking about -- the plight of the homeless or the incompetent leadership of the president -- all I see is an aged also-ran starlet, checking the location of the lights and holding her head just so in hopes that the latest facelift scars don't show on camera.

Is that too personal, too mean-spirited for the illuminati of the left to handle? Just another example of low-class conservative abuse of a liberal icon? Perhaps they'd prefer it if I couched my criticisms in the form of high art, say, the kind of highbrow takedowns of our cultural icons that get subsidized by the National Endowment for the Arts and defended to the death by liberals. They couldn't object to that kind of satire, could they?Then let's see what they think of this comparison:

 
Piss Christ (left) and Piss Pelosi (right)

They can take their pick. Either way, I intend to laugh, because the only other response a private citizen can make to systematic treason is illegal.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin is calling out this quote from Karl Rove:

Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.

This is in keeping with the contract recently proposed.




Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Study finds... not.

Who's gonna talk you home tonight?

NUMBERS JOCKS. Practically every day, some news organization or other presents us with a dire headline that includes the phrase "Study finds." Without a full exploration of the content, each of these can function as a factless propaganda item that reinforces an existing belief or annoys us by contradicting an existing belief. The interesting question is whether we, as individuals, behave differently depending on which of these two circumstances applies. Today, I came across this teaser in Drudge:

STUDY: Cellphones take up driver attention...

I happen to believe that this is true. It seems reasonable to think that there would be fewer accidents if all those businesspeople, housewives, and teenagers weren't motoring down the highway yakking on the phone. On the other hand, my libertarian inclinations resist the notion that the cops should have yet another excuse to punish people for what they do on their own private property (i.e., in our cars) before any external driving misconduct occurs. So I was curious to see what the "study" had found. The opening paragraphs certainly sounded authoritative:

Using a cellphone -- even with a hands-free device -- may distract drivers because the brain cannot handle both tasks, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

Imaging tests show the brain directs its resources to either visual input or auditory input, but cannot fully activate both at the same time, the team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found.

Johns-Hopkins. They're smart. They must know. But then Reuters briefly describes the methodology:

Writing in the Journal of Neuroscience, Yantis and colleagues said they tested people aged 19 to 35 by showing them a computer display while they wore headphones playing voices.

At the same time, the volunteers brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging.

They were told to look for specific numbers, for instance, on a computer screen, while hearing recorded voices saying a stream of numbers...

This, the article concludes, "is like driving and trying to talk on a cellphone."

Uh, no, it isn't. It may be that there is some fundamental validity to the point that driving and talking on the phone are competing tasks which the brain doesn't handle efficiently at the same time, but this test proves no such thing. It's a setup. The exercise performed by the volunteers involved identifying the exact same information, specific numbers, via two different senses, sight and hearing. The one task is a direct and highly specific confusion factor for the other. What kid hasn't teased a pal who was trying to memorize a phone number from the yellow pages by reciting a stream of random numbers out loud? In this case, it's obvious the brain will switch its number processing capacity from one input source to the other, aware that no mixed attention span can do justice to either input.

This is very far from being akin to the circumstance of driving and talking on a cellphone. Neither task is directly analogous to the processing of numbers, which occurs in a different part of the brain from language processing. If you doubt this, consider the difference between the number task -- identifying specific numbers -- and the phone conversation task, which can lose or ignore plenty of specific words and still achieve understanding of the gist. And the brain process that attends to the road is neither numeric nor linguistic -- it's performing a kind of subconscious pattern recognition, looking for important exceptions in the overall visual field which require the application of conscious decision making. If it were otherwise, we would find it impossible to do what we all do on a regular basis: drive some familiar route with hardly any recollection of the trip after we've reached our destination. No exceptions spotted, no conscious processing required.

The study focuses on one kind of processing function, not related to driving or talking, and tries to compare it to a situation that involves two altogether different kinds of processing functions which may or may not create complications in an organ well known to be capable of advanced multiprocessing tasks.

The conclusions are nonsense. Johns-Hopkins should know better, and we should all be reminded of the need to be skeptical when we're urged to be credulous of some scientific authority and even when we're inclined to agree with the conclusions being reported.

Is this how the link between global warming and human behavior came to be regarded and reported as a "fact"?





A Contract with America
for Democrats


"We'll Bless America."

FOR DEAN & COMPANY. Republicans keep referring to Democrats as "obstructionist," implying that the minority party doesn't really have any ideas for changing the status quo. I think this does them a disservice. If they'd known about John Kerry's Yale grades beforehand, they might have picked a standard bearer more adept with words than George W. Bush. And since the election, it may be the case that the Democrats have been too caught up in their anti-Bush emotions and rhetoric to articulate a set of proposals for definitive action, but that doesn't mean they can't be articulated. All that's required is to draw some logical inferences from the views consistently espoused by those who speak for the party and convert them into an agenda that could be presented to the voters in the next two elections.

Here's a first draft of what such an agenda might look like in several broad areas of policy:

CONTRACT

If the American people vote to return Democrats to a majority in the Senate and House and to the Presidency:

Foreign Policy

1. The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation making it illegal for any American troops to serve as instruments of national imperialism in any way whatsoever. All U.S. troops presently serving overseas will be brought home immediately and put to work rebuilding the infrastructure of our impoverished inner cities.

2. The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation declaring an end to the illegal and undeclared War on Terror. Further, legislation will be passed to ensure appropriate reparations to all nations and demographic constituencies who have been victimized by American bombing, troop actions, prisoner abuse and humiliation, U.N. resolutions, and domestic and international propaganda efforts.

3. The Democrat Party will immediately nominate and assure the approval of a U.N. ambassador who will work tirelessly to repair the damage done to America's reputation abroad by the current administration's unilateral efforts to conquer alleged enemies, overthrow alleged tyrants, and undermine international efforts to secure a more fair and equal distribution of the world's wealth.

4. The Democrat party will immediately nominate Former President Jimmy Carter as a cabinet-level  Ambassador-at-Large-for-Life to negotiate mutually acceptable peace terms with North Korea, Iran, al Qaida, and the Palestinian people, including terms for ending the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and for executing the prompt relocation of Jewish people from Palestine to other countries, including the United States and our closest allies, such as France, Germany, and Russia. Mr. Carter will be specifically chartered to conduct all negotiations in a spirit of true tolerance for the cultural traditions of other countries and their historical mistreatment by the United States of America.

5. The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation authorizing the World Court in the Hague to begin war crimes proceedings against all U.S. government and military personnel who have been complicit in the undeclared war on terror and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

National Security

1. The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation creating a new commission to identify the perpetrators and/or accomplices in the September 11, 2001 attack on New York during the period of time between January 2000 and October 2001. All those identified and proven complicit by the commission will be prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the law, including George W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, and their aides and representatives.

2. The Democrat Party will immediately triple the budget for 'first responders' to domestic attacks by aggrieved foreign constituencies, including the first ever budget for education and sensitivity training to prevent the possibility of hostility or acts of revenge by American victims of such attacks. All Americans must understand and accept the abiding rights of other peoples and civilizations to freely express their resentments against their historical oppressors. This initiative, combined with the Carter initiative to negotiate a peaceful resolution with al Qaida, should speedily end the irrational aspects of international relations which have fueled the cycle of violence.

3. The Democrat Party will pass legislation to reduce the military budget of the United States by 90 percent. This will preclude the possibility of inadvertent provocation of other foreign nations and constituencies by the fact of American military power, reinforce the importance of diplomatic negotiations as the only appropriate road to peace, and vastly reduce the federal budget deficit created by the Republicans.

4. The Democrat Party will pass an employment bill guaranteeing minimum wage jobs to all unemployed Americans and undocumented aliens as security guards at nuclear power plants, chemical plants, truck depots, shipping docks, and other facilities which might be targeted by foreign insurgents prior to the attainment of lasting peace. Any American citizens killed while so employed will receive compensation equal to that received by civilian victims of the September 11, 2001, tragedy.

Domestic Prosperity

1. The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation raising the minimum wage to a level equaling the minimum annual income of the nation's highest tax bracket, thus eliminating the nation's recent history of giving tax breaks to the rich at the expense of the poor. Any increases in revenue associated with this legislation will be used to guarantee the continuation in perpetuity of the current social security system, as well as to radically refund affirmative action programs designed to offset any new disparity between rich and poor, and to finance reparations from the federal government to African-Americans, Arab-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Native Americans, women, and Undocumented Aliens -- all of whom have created wealth for the rich without being fairly compensated in the past.

2. The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation creating a single-payer national health care system, so that Americans can finally enjoy the unparalleled benefits of the health care enjoyed in such countries as Canada, the United Kingdom, and France, where all share equally in such attributes as access and expertise, as well as delays and scarcities.

The Environment

1. The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation banning all new domestic oil exploration and requiring automotive and energy companies to find a replacement for petroleum-based fuels in 12 months.

2. The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation endorsing the Kyoto Protocols, so that the ensuing worldwide economic slowdown will be shared equally with Europe and Asia, thus forestalling the potential for military and diplomatic conflicts arising from inequity.

The Judiciary

1. The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation to realize the historical dream of Franklin Delano Roosevelt for a Supreme Court consisting of 12 justices. All subsequent nominations to the Court will dispense with the Republican litmus test on abortion and will instead focus on the highest principles of constitutional justice, such as the need to continuously rehabilitate the obsolete verbiage of 18th century slaveowners with the more enlightened judicial principles practiced by our closest allies, such as France, Germany, and France.

2. The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation extending legal protections afforded American citizens under the U.S. Constitution to all living human beings on earth, without exception.

Political Reform

1. The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation banning all forms of voter registration as intrinsically discriminatory against the poor and uneducated. In future, voters may vote where, when, and as often as they choose during the entire month of November, and all disputes will be resolved by the new, larger, and more democratic Supreme Court, thus ensuring that every voter's voice is counted.

2.  The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation creating a commission of our country's most prestigious academicians to develop  standards for the politically correct use of the First Amendment, thus ensuring that our national political discourse will no longer be impeded or diverted by language insulting to disadvantaged minorities, including women, African-Americans, Arab-Americans, Native Americans, undocumented illegals, and so-called "liberals." The recommendations of this commission will be enacted immediately after the swearing in of the new Supreme Court.

3. Immediately after the signing of the political reform act described above, the Democrat Party will pass a series of special reform measures banning the Fox News Channel, political talk radio, political abuse of the internet, and the participation of any avowedly religious persons in the political process, with the exception of muslims, hindus, buddhists, taoists, new age spiritualists, wiccans, and some Jews.

I think it's a good start. Did I leave anything out?




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