Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
August 8, 2007 - August 1, 2007

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Bionic Baseball

He broke the record. Hip hip hooray.

PSAYINGS.5S.1-8. 756. That's a lot of homeruns. Bud Selig should have been there. But he wasn't:

Barry Bonds hit No. 756 to the deepest part of the ballpark Tuesday night, and hammered home the point: Like him or not, legitimate or not, he is baseball's new home run king.

Bonds broke Hank Aaron's storied record in the fifth inning, hitting a 3-2 pitch from Washington's Mike Bacsik 435 feet to right-center field. Three days earlier, Bonds tied the Hammer with a shot to left-center in San Diego.

"Thank you very much. I got to thank all of you, all the fans here in San Francisco. It's been fantastic," he said shortly after crossing home plate, his godfather, Willie Mays, at his side.

Conspicuous by their absence were the commissioner and Aaron himself.

Though he was on hand for the tying homer, deciding to put baseball history ahead of the steroid allegations that have plagued the Giants slugger, Bud Selig wasn't there for the record-breaker.

Steroid allegations? Who knew? I thought the reason Bonds was suspect had to do with his elbow protector.

 ...Barry Bonds is guilty of the use of something that confers extraordinarily unfair mechanical advantage: the “armor” that he wears on his right elbow. Amid the press frenzy over Bonds’ unnatural bulk, the true role of the object on his right arm has simply gone unnoticed.

This is unfortunate, because by my estimate, Bonds’ front arm “armor” may have contributed no fewer than 75 to 100 home runs to his already steroid-questionable total...

For years, sportswriters remarked that his massive "protective" gear – unequaled in all of baseball -- permits Bonds to lean over the plate without fear of being hit by a pitch. Thus situated, Bonds can handle the outside pitch (where most pitchers live) unusually well. This is unfair advantage enough, but no longer controversial. However, it is only one of at least seven (largely unexplored) advantages conferred by the apparatus...

Anyway.. The commissioner should have been there to congratulate the first player to have taken baseball beyond ordinary human limitations. But he had a good reason for being absent. He was attending field trials for a new kind of pitcher's glove being developed in Japan. In this era of arms so fragile that managers who used to make tactical decisions during games now spend their time counting pitches, the new glove could be a career saver. Not only does it protect pitchers from damaging their arms, it also seems to enable otherwise ordinary hurlers to throw 140 mph fastballs. Without steroids.

Improved pitching. Drug free.

It's poignant in a way. Barry Bonds is probably the last baseball player who's going to hit more than 700 homeruns. The commish is going to see to that. On the whole, it's a good thing. The national pastime has to get past its current obsession with drugs. And everybody likes to see a no-hitter. Don't they? Sure they do, Bud.

Barry's happy too. 756. It's a record he'll enjoy for a long time to come.

Low-Carbon Lifestyles

Click here for the carbon cruise of your life.
HINT: Go for the full-screen option.

CLIMATE STUFF. Now that New York is underwater it's time to get serious about cutting back on the old CO2. We've explained before how CO2 could be cut in half instantaneously, and the video above is a demonstration of how much fun it could be. Something for our buddies at Shakespeare's Sister to think about. We know they want to save the planet. But are they ready to do it in style? You tell us.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Shakespeare's Sister

Why is this woman smirking?

TELLING IMAGES. Lefty bloggers were scornful about the objections conservative bloggers posed to The New Republic's soldier in Iraq, Scott Thomas. Now that Thomas has confessed himself a liar to the military, some of the bloggers lefties attacked are pulling in their horns. CadillacTight, for example, says:

Several bloggers will also be deeply embarrassed by their support of Beauchamp and TNR (I’m not going to name names here, these bloggers know who they are), but I suspect their method of dealing with the embarrassment will be the usual — They’ll just stop writing about the incident, and pretend their previous attacks never happened.

While I applaud such restraint, I don't feel any obligation to share it. The real work on this story was done by Michelle Malkin, Ace of Spades, McQ, and many others. (I only contributed some snark on the fact-checking farce.) They should take their bows and rest on their laurels. But a little more work is called for. I think the fuzzy nature of lefty thinking in this affair is worth examining further. I also think they will return to the fray with the claim that Beauchamp's confession to the military was coerced and therefore meaningless. Unfortunately for them, however, their position is indefensible even without the findings of the military investigation, and I can prove it.

The blogger who calls herself Shakespeare's Sister is a perfect case in point.She was quick to leap to the defense of TNR and Thomas.  As TNR's corrections and qualifications accumulated, she grew ever more superior and dismissive in her postings. The following excerpt is really all we need to expose her rhetorical poverty:

All of the behavior and incidents Beauchamp described were confirmed by other soldiers in Beauchamp's unit. In one of the incidents -- the one where Beauchamp and another soldier mocked a woman with a disfigured face -- the incident was confirmed but it turned out it happened in Kuwait, not Iraq, while Beauchamp's unit was waiting to deploy to Iraq. When told about this discrepancy, Beauchamp immediately acknowledged the mistake. Have you ever remembered an incident accurately, and you know it happened that way, but you just get the time or the place mixed up? Apparently that never happens to right-wingers who are blinded by their ideological hatred for anyone who implies that U.S. troops could ever be anything but blameless, noble heroes... [italics mine]

A couple of points here. First, the question should read "Have you ever gotten the time and place mixed up?" If you have done this with an incident that occurred as recently as a year or two ago, I'd expect you'd also be willing to amend the first part of the question to read, "Have you ever thought you remembered an incident accurately...," because there is no definition of accurate it conforms to.

The best case here is that it's an instance of incomplete or convenient memory, which means that possibly crucial context is missing. For example, it may not be important that I can't remember exactly when I broke that crystal vase if it's the vivid sensation of the shattering itself that's my reason for remembering the incident at all. But if my real reason for remembering is that my wife never forgave me for it and our married life afterwards was permanently poisoned, then I have lost indispensable information if I can't recall exactly when it happened. My supposedly accurate memory may be false as a milestone of my life. I am compelled to consider the possibility that I have conveniently assigned the blame for my failed marriage to the breaking of the vase, which could have been just one of a sequence of ugly events, one ironically memorable for the fact that this time it wasn't my fault. Timing is important. A journalist who is careless about keeping events in their proper sequence is concocting a narrative, not reporting the facts; i.e., he is not doing journalism.

The middle ground, particularly when it's the place that gets "mixed up," is that it's altogether a false memory. Accurate memory is a time machine -- it enables us to relive the actual experience to some degree. We see the images again, hear the sounds again, smell the smells again. But if the images we see are from a different place, then they are not the right images and the so-called memory is false. What has happened in this case is that I know or believe an incident occurred, and my brain -- lacking any real memory of it -- has fabricated one for me. It may seem real, but it just isn't. This happens to all of us quite a lot. Quick, think of the last time you went swimming. Did you see a picture of yourself swimming? (Most people do.) That's not a memory. Our memories all have gaps, and we stitch up the gaps with fabrications so that our experience seems continuous. But false memory is dangerous if we can't tell the difference between it and reality, and it belongs nowhere in anything which purports to be journalism.

There's one other problem with getting the place "mixed up." It means necessarily that we also got the time wrong. Because none of us has the ability to be in two places at once. Place is doubly important.

The worst case, of course, is that a memory has been deliberately falsified or made up out of whole cloth. Needless to say this constitutes a lie by any definition.

Shakespeare's Sister appears to be saying that anything less than deliberate fabrication is not a lie. That's the point of her asking us to remember our own memory lapses with respect to time and place. But hers is a specious argument. In our interior lives, convenient or false memories may not be a sin. The situation changes at once, though, if we are asked to swear to a convenient or false memory under oath. Now we have an obligation to separate what is real from what is artificial because misremembering can cause injustice. In that sense it is tantamount to perjury, a de facto lie.

The position of a journalist is even more serious. He is not being summoned to remember by some outside agent. He is volunteering to provide factual information which if it employs memory will also be reinforced by research. If he fails in this duty he is worse than a mistaken eyewitness on the stand. He is, in fact, a tacit and unscrupulous liar. If he further proposes that the incidents he reports on have some larger meaning that should affect our perspective on the overall context from which his account is derived, then he is a dishonest propagandist and nothing more.

There's no need to reassert the relevance of the fact that Thomas substituted Iraq for Kuwait in his first incident report and therefore put the supposed result of his desensitization via war before its cause. Getting the time and place wrong in this way is only a mistake when it occurs in the privacy of your own head. When it occurs in print, under the rubric of nonfiction, it is false reporting, unforgivable, and morally indistinguishable from a deliberate lie.

And this much has already been admitted to by TNR and Scott Thomas. Shakespeare's Sister can impugn the honesty of the military process that has subsequently played out all she wants. It will not correct the fundamental error of her attempt to equate the vagaries of private recollection with the responsibilities of professional journalism. Case closed.

All that's left is wondering about what's really going on inside the head of Shakespeare's Sister. Is she a flat-out dolt? A shallow poseur who enjoys attacking the right more than she cares about truth? Or is she just the sad dupe of a tainted political perspective she loves so much she can't bear to recognize its corruptions?

Well, if it's any help, here's an intriguing quote from her brother Bill:

If you did wed my sister for her wealth, Then for her wealth's sake use her with more kindness: Or if you like elsewhere, do it by stealth; Muffle your false love with some show of blindness: Let not my sister read it in your eye; Be not thy tongue thy own shame's orator; Look sweet, spear fair, become disloyalty; Apparel vice like virtue's harbinger; Bear a fair presence, though your heart be tainted; Teach sin the carriage of a holy saint; Be secret-false: what need she be acquainted?
-- The Comedy of Errors (Luciana at III, ii)

You've got to admit there's been "some show of blindness" here. But the comedy isn't all that funny.

UPDATE. I guess I've been told. Shakespeare's Sister is actually a cousin of Prince, i.e., she's now the girl "Formerly known as Shakespeare's Sister." ???. Think I'm kidding? That's how she signs off. (If I'd caught her before she changed her name, would that have made her responsible for her lunacy? Nah.)

Apparently, any critic who quarrels with this blog's logic must first identify which of the following "group blog" contributors is Kathy and which is Melissa (of which one of them is presumably Shakespeare's Sister -- a.k.a. the girl in the photograph labelled 'Shakespeare's Sister'). So help me out. Who's who?

Give up? Me too. The scathing response is, alas, bravado. If "Shakespeare's Sister" isn't the Shakespeare's Sister of the photograph, or Misty or SomewateryTart, we're still supposed to know that she's really Kathy or Melissa instead? And does that change the argument in any way at all? No. It doesn't. I don't care who's who at this moronic blog. My suspicion is that they're all equally (mal)adroit at debating issues on the merits, including the pitiful-looking males of the hive. If the queen bee of Shakespeare's Sister -- regardless of what name she chooses to hide behind -- hangs her whole rebuttal on an assertion of mistaken identity, it means either that she has no response or she's throwing some unnamed co-blogger (still unidentified) under the bus -- somebody else made that idiotic argument, not me!!!!

My guess is, there's no one at Shakespeare's Sister who's willing or able to refute the argument made above. Does that make me a douche? I don't think so. Call it another case of mistaken identity. I'm not made of rubber or related products. I'm almost never filled with vinegar and water. And there's no part of my anatomy that resembles a quarter-inch tube which enters a female to the accompaniment of a bored sigh.

Instapunked? You betcha.

UPDATE 2. All right. Now it's getting clearer. The graphic above is obsolete. They got rid of her. The original sister was a dog.  She also wasn't smart enough about politics. Or something. That's why the whole crushing burden fell on Melissa or Kathy, who were smart as a whip about, well, all kinds of things, including the completely criminal behavior of the Republicans in Saddam's Iraq and other peace-loving muslimish countries. But the new star of the Shakespeare's Sister blog is really really smart, and you can understand how she'd resent being pictured like some four-eyed geek when what she like totally looks like is a total babe:

Melissa or Kathy or so

Cool? I hate to be a pain, but I'm still not buying. Their whole linegushing floods of thought -- and all their commenters --isare imbecilic.

P.S. Do you honestly believe I don't want Melissa or Kathy to be smart? Of course I do. It's just so disappointing that they're not. Smart, I mean. Yeah, I know they probably got prestigious degrees from prestigious universities, and everybody always said how they were so smart and everything, but... you know. If either Melissa or Kathy were really smart, we'd also know which was which. Wouldn't we?

Honestly, the thing that troubles us most is that all the young liberal firebrands are probably just as willing as Melissa or Kelly to rip off that bikini and sexually attack the latest man of their dreams. In a way that's good. It really is. But where does it leave the sister of William Shakespeare? We shudder to think of it.

But Melissa and/or Kathy will work it out.

Won't they? God knows they're smart enough. Right?


UPDATE 3. Here's their newest entry, laughing their heads off at InstaPunk, which sure beats having to explain their lame-brained defense of The New Republic. Note that they have yet to address a single point made here about the Scott Thomas (Beauchamp) mess. CadillacTight was right. I gave them too much credit. But at least they're having fun.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A Primer on Minnesota

On the map it's somewhere near the top, in the middle, but slightly left of center.

BARBARIANS.4.1-18. It's a terrible tragedy, and we have nothing but condolences for the victims of the bridge collapse and their families.

[Pause for a typically phlegmatic nordic expression of grief; i.e., a long sigh]

Okay? Okay. Now we begin the long and complicated process of bringing the blame for this catastrophe home to the Bush administration. I suspect liberals are going to need some help with this, because Minnesota lies not on the blue west coast or the blue east coast, but somewhere in between, in -- let's face it -- flyover country. So why would Bush and company need to drop this city to its knees with so much loss of life? As it happens, there are plenty of good reasons to suspect a conspiracy.

In the first place, Minnesota is a blue state. The greatest writer yet produced by this northern wasteland was Max Shulman, who made it clear that the roots of his home were far different from those of the Anglo-Saxon imperialists who did so much to impose their will on the New World. Note, for example, Shulman's eloquent translation of 'Minnesota': "a name which derives from 'minne' meaning a place where men and women ate underdone pemmican and 'sota' meaning the day the bison got away because the  hunter's wife blunted his arrows in a fit of pique."

You see, they're just different. Not Scottish, not Irish, not Welsh, not even English, but Scandinavian, descended from the Norwegians and Swedes who have led the way in turning Europe into a suicide-obsessed socialist dystopia. That's undoubtedly why leading conservative intellectuals like Ace of Spades have expressed some polite reservations about their character and motives:

I don't remember when my Pappy first taught me hate -- hatred of the icicle-squating Scandi snow-wops. But I'll always thank him for it.

One of my earliest memories is of watching the Muppet Show, and happily laughing along to the Swedish Chef. Hur-de-ver-de-verd-e-verr, the Swedish Chef said. And I, not knowing any better, merrily repeated his dirty Scandi gutter-talk. "Hur-de-verd-de-verd-e-verr," I said along.

My Pappy walked in, agahst, and shook his head in disgust. "They're goddamned trying to brainwash these kids," he said. The next day, the television was gone, and in place of the tv was a record player and a bunch of Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx albums. "You listen to these guys," my Pappy said. "They don't truck with any goddamned Scandi luge-jockeys"...

I remember how excited he'd get to watch the US Open, and root for Jimmy Connors, who he called "The Great Off-White Hope." The day Bjorn Borg beat Jimmy Connors was just about the saddest day of my Pappy's life. "Don't worry, son," he told me as he gave my hair a comforting tussle. "Bjorn Borg is just a shaved Yeti in short-shorts. Those people are barely evolved from the snow-sasquatches. Jimmy Connors is still the greatest human tennis player in the world."

The thing about the ultra-whites (as Celts refer to Scandis) is how credulous they are about dumb socialist ideas. For example, it's only natural that the mainstream media would have lionized at least one of their number as a coldly objective journalist. Don't know who we mean? Ultra-whites are always great at sliding in under the radar:

Aaron Brown (born November 10, 1948 in Hopkins, Minnesota... is an alumnus of the University of Minnesota. He dropped out after his freshman year to work at a local radio station and never returned.

Brown has over twenty-six years of experience in journalism and was CNN's lead anchor during breaking news. He also hosted "CNN Presents," a documentary series, and was co-anchor during election coverage.

They can't fool real Americans like Bush, Cheney, and me, though. He attracted my attention a long time ago:

[A] journalist always has to be on the alert (a la Dan Rather) for the story that is being suppressed just because it's false when everybody who is anybody knows it's really true, or sort of true, or should be true, because it would make such a damn good story. And that's journalism in a nutshell, which is where you can always find the mind of an Aaron Brown.

On the Wellstone Funeral

“I find myself at exactly the right place for a reporter tonight. I’m annoyed at both political parties, and you can’t be more fair and balanced than that. Last night’s event in Minneapolis – calling it a memorial insults the dead – was totally tasteless....Equally shameless has been the reaction received here. There may in fact be non-partisans upset with the event, they may in fact exist. They did not make themselves known in our in-box today. Instead, what we received was a series of identical letters....I don’t mean thematically identical; I mean literally identical. Word for word....So here is what last night proved: One side can be tasteless and the other side has the computer skills to cut and paste under the guise of genuine outrage. Which is worse? To me it’s a tie.”

Anchor Aaron Brown’s “Page Two” commentary at the start of CNN’s NewsNight, October 30.2002

Yes, we remember the Wellstone funeral too. No matter how long we live, we will NEVER get over the ugliness of the fact that Republicans objected to it and had the unmitigated gall to communicate their objections to the mass media via boilerplate language. It was unspeakable then, it's unspeakable now, and it represents a permanent dishonoring of the memory of Paul Wellstone. And the Democrats shouldn't have done what they did either, like Aaron pointed out.

I had occasion to remember Aaron's eloquence last night, when a Minneapolis Star-Tribune reporter pointed out that Minnesota hadn't experienced a tragedy as tragic as the bridge collapse since the plane crash of Paul Wellstone. I'm sure the families of the victims would be happy to trade their lost loved ones for Paul Wellstone even now if he could be restored to life and the U.S. Senate.

That's where real Democratic values come into play. Ultra-whites in Minnesota are primarily Lutherans (atheists) who exhibit the limitless tolerance for opposing ideas exemplified by the state's most heart-warming stoogesage, Garrison Keillor. Here's a touchstone American liberals should all be able to relate to in their struggle to accept the humanity of Minnesota's pasty-faced and diversity-free residents of an otherwise contemptible heartland state. His 'Lake Woebegone' is the drab, emotionally impotent commune all liberals everywhere pine for with the comforting certainty that it can never come to pass. I've gone personally out of my way to recognize his unique contribution to public discourse in the past:

Here's a man, we're being told, who knows how to listen, a man whose ear for heartstrings has perfect pitch and infallible memory. The word pictures create for us a space of tender three-dimensional empathy inside which we can share with him everything that is fine and good and humble and human and authentic in the American experience.

But there are dark things afoot, things that cannot help but alarm a man of such exquisite sensibilities and, of course, all who have the depth of character to recognize the harmonic intricacies of his composition. Okay, I'll get to the point. If you want to know what Garrison is working up to here, listen for the discord in this passage:

After the iPod takes half the radio audience and satellite radio subtracts half of the remainder and Internet radio gets a third of the rest and Clear Channel has to start cutting its losses and selling off frequencies, good-neighbor radio will come back. People do enjoy being spoken to by other people who are alive and who live within a few miles of you.

People like Tommy Mischke, a nighttime guy on a right-wing station in St. Paul and a free spirit who gets into wonderful stream-of-consciousness harangues and meditations that are a joy to listen to compared with the teeth-grinding that goes on around him. Not that teeth-grinders are to be disparaged: I enjoy, in small doses, the over-the-top right-wingers who have leaked into AM radio on all sides in the past twenty years. They are evil, lying, cynical bastards who are out to destroy the country I love and turn it into a banana republic, but hey, nobody's perfect. And now that their man is re-elected and they have nice majorities in the House and Senate, they are hunters in search of diminishing prey. There just aren't many of us liberals worth banging away at, but God bless them, they keep on coming. [emphasis added]

My my. The article is 1770 words long, but the bold-faced clause is just about all you need to read. Like his soulmate Andy Rooney, Keillor affects a folksiness that is merely a cover for pronouncements by a personage who is, truth be told, superior to most of us. He simply knows and we should believe him because he is wired into the real soul of the nation:

The reason you find an army of right-wingers ratcheting on the radio and so few liberals is simple: Republicans are in need of affirmation, they don't feel comfortable in America and they crave listening to people who think like them. Liberals actually enjoy living in a free society; tuning in to hear an echo is not our idea of a good time. I go to church on Sunday morning to be among the like-minded, and we all say the Nicene Creed together and assume nobody has his fingers crossed, but when it comes to radio, I prefer oddity and crankiness. I don't need someone to tell me that George W. Bush is a deceitful, corrupt, clever and destructive man--that's pretty clear on the face of it. What I want is to be surprised and delighted and moved. Here at the low end of the FM dial is a show in which three college boys are sitting in a studio, whooping and laughing...

Do you see what's going on here? In his universe, good and evil are so dead obvious and simple that they don't need to be explained, illuminated, or even considered. They are merely declaimed like commandments, because the speaker is not, for all his aw-shucks "hankering" and "twiddling," one of the great unwashed, but a seer. He listens, he sees, he passes judgment.

Now I hasten to say that someone of my intellect is easily satisfied by the act of criticizing a Garrison Keillor or an Aaron Brown. But the Bushes and Cheneys of this world do not have my intellect. Have you noticed their brow ridges, their prognathous jaws? They represent the neanderthal throwbacks of the not-quite-white Celtic under-race. They can't ever hope to attain the transcendent ennui and schadenfreude of the master racehyper-whites. That's why the Bush administration had to act as it did.

Do you still doubt? Well, just consider this in-depth poll taken among Minnesota citizens a few years back. They were asked two simple questions: 1) Did Bush lie? 2) Did people die? Here are their answers.

I wouldn't have taken this as a cue to destroy property and citizens. But I never conspired to make 9/11 happen, either. All I can do is try to shed some necessary light.

I think I've done that. Yah?

Endangered Habitats

Some migratory species require bright lights, fast cars and fast food.

LOVING THE LAND. Here's an interesting news item:

 Mexico seeks changes in U.S. border fence plan to protect migrant species

The Associated Press
Monday, July 30, 2007

MEXICO CITY: Mexico on Monday called on the United States to alter a plan to expand border fences designed to stem illegal immigration, saying the barriers would threaten migratory species accustomed to roaming freely across the frontier...

On Monday, Mexico's Environment Department said the proposed fences would seriously hurt species that cross the 1,952-mile (3,218-kilometer) border and that the United States needs to alter or mitigate the barriers where necessary.

"The eventual construction of this barrier would place at risk the various ecosystems that we share," said Environment Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira, noting that the border is not just desert, but includes mountains, rivers and wetlands.

Mexico also wants Washington to expand its environmental impact study on the fences and will file a complaint with the United Nations' International Court of Justice in the Hague, Netherlands if necessary.

The inventory of affected species is rather large.

Free-ranging cabana boys have to deliver margaritas over a vast area.

Larval gangbangers are genetically wired to nest in urban concrete habitats.

Domestic servants annually "flock" to Malibu and Beverly Hills.

Gardeners are irresistibly drawn from the desert to green suburban oases.

Not surprisingly, farm laborers migrate obsessively toward farms.

Sure, it's a cheap shot. But no cheaper than Mexico's flimsy excuse for opposing a border fence.

We wish them luck with that U.N. lawsuit, though.

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