Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
May 27, 2009 - May 20, 2009

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Credit Where Credit Is Due.

NSFW: Out for Justice. That's us.

DA MOVIES. Our own commenters are frequently complimentary and appreciative of our efforts, but it's a special thrill when commenters at some other site say nice things. I found this at

Those guys over there are serious movie junkies, to be sure.

They can tie EVERYTHING back to some movie.

To paraphrase the One, "Yes, we can." Which is why I'm taking this opportunity to rectify an injustice of sorts. Over the weekend past, Mrs. CP and I watched the Netflix rental "Taken," starring Liam Neeson. It turns out that Mrs. CP has become something of a fan of action movies, including all three Bourne movies, which she likes because, "They do what I'd like to be able to do to some people." Meaning she likes them for the exactly the same reason us guys like them. We watched "Taken" a second time because she wanted to see it once more before we had to mail the DVD back to Netflix.

Under my (obnoxious, I admit) questioning, she admitted she had no knowledge of the cinematic antecedents of the incredibly efficient combat skills of either Jason Bourne or Liam Neeson's character in "Taken." And I realized that she's probably not alone. So I decided to delineate the obvious linkage which no one else seems inclined to acknowledge. Bourne's filmic daddy is Steven Seagal. And it's time for us to give the man his due.

I know he's become a figure of fun. MAD TV has had oceans of yucks at his expense. And the poor guy apparently still needs money, or he wouldn't be appearing at the age of nearly 60 in all those low-budget cable flicks that make you wince at his scotch-bloated face and body and reflexes so deteriorated every fight scene has to be rendered in slow motion. But forget that. He's at least as important as Bruce Lee in the history of action movies and probably more so.

Even the cynics at know the truth:

Steven Seagal was not an elegant man. His action scenes, unlike their Hong Kong counterparts, were not about elaborate or flashy moves. They were about breaking your arms mostly, in the quickest and easiest ways possible. Seagal showed up dressed in black leather, greased-back hair and gold chains, resembling nothing more than a New York Guido out for kicks on a Saturday night. Then, to everybody's amazement, you watched as he flipped men around his head by the dozens to a soundtrack of bones snapping so fast and in such numbers, it was like setting off Chinese firecrackers in a bowl of Rice Krispies. Seagal took the sometimes condescending sophistication out of martial arts movies. He was there to do business, and may God have mercy on your elbows if you took issue with it.

It wasn't just the "condescending sophistication" he took out of martial arts movies. It was the moronic fantasy he took out, the balletic homo-eroticism, the stupid swishes and ludicrous posing, the sheer, numbing boredom of it all. When Seagal arrived on the scene in Above the Law, he demonstrated an obvious truth that Von Damme, Norris, and even Lee never quite cottoned to. Fighting is about hurting the other guy so much he has to stop fighting back. The better you are, the quicker this happens. Seagal's fights could usually be measured in seconds, not minutes. No pirouettes. Just hurt. In his prime, he was the single deadliest hand-to-hand fighter in the history of the movies. It's not a dance. It's punishment. And you actually believe it.

Without Seagal, there would be no Bourne franchise. And there would be no "Taken." In such movies, it's not really about the acting. It's about the action. Seagal changed the game forever.

That's all. I wish he'd quit too, but if he can't afford to, so be it. I refuse to laugh, though. Lots of stars have lingered too long. What's more, he had one moment on film that I would nominate for an all-time clip reel. I can't find it (perhaps you can), but it's in his second movie, Hard to Kill. He annihilates one bad guy and, in the course of making his way to the second bad guy, passes his young son, whom he pats tenderly before reaching his next victim, whom he also savagely annihilates. Laugh all you want, but it's a thing of beauty. Death and love and death. I am by no means convinced that Oscar-winner Matt Damon could have pulled it off.

So watch your mouth.

"You get what you pay for."

Making the Boss look good.

BAGGAGE. Here's the latest, after a week in which his loose lips have been a national story:

When Biden's teleprompter failed, he poked fun at Obama, who's known for relying on teleprompters for his speeches.

"What am I going to tell the president? Tell him his teleprompter is broken? What will he do then?" Biden joked.

We've staked out a pretty solitary position on Joe Biden. Unlike most of his so-called critics, we don't like him. At all. We think he's a sly, self-important, sanctimonious ass and there's nothing about him we find even remotely attractive. As we specified here, long before he became Vice President.

And, unlike so many of the MSM authorities who do like Joe but are concerned about his talent for dumbshit "Look at me" quotes, we accurately predicted the most serious of his gaffes thus far:

Since President Obama is planning to begin his "rule" by "executive order," the transition team has had to engage in some very high level cerebration to arrive at the most productive possible use for, well, irrelevant officeholders like the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, the Senate Majority Leader, and the former president of the United States and his wife, who is, reportedly, a U.S. Senator representing the State of New York. And especially the Vice President,. Who's been making a lot of noise (surprise!) about how lamprey-like he intends to be about attaching himself to policy meetings and the like.

It's long been clear that the "undisclosed location" business wasn't going to work in the new regime. No location remains undisclosed for long when the person so located immediately discloses it to everyone within earshot, generally accompanied by some weird ethnic or gender insult. [boldface added]

Our advice on preventing such a misstep was ignored, of course, as will be our advice about how to correct the current ongoing embarrassment. But this time, the inspiration wasn't ours. It was Mrs. CP's. When she learned of the teleprompter remark, she shrugged and said, "You get what you pay for."

She's right. How many of you know that the Vice President makes only $208,100 a year? That may sound like a lot, but in the world of Washington, DC, with all its lobbyists and billionaire senators roosting in their dearly purchased seats, it's a pittance. What does Old Joe have to lose? $200K is barely enough to pay for all his Metroliner tickets between Wilmington and Washington. The schlub must be feeling like a resentful poor relation. No wonder he's pissing in the White House punch bowl. Mrs. CP had it nailed. He's giving them exactly what they're paying for.

So let's give the sorry sonofabitch a raise. How about an even million bucks? Maybe that would get his attention. You know. Focus him on actually trying to please the Boss. As if being VP were a real job or something.

It couldn't hurt. Nothing else seems to penetrate his thick, dimwit skull. Maybe John Murtha could build Joe his own private airport in Greenville, Delaware, or whatever pricey suburb it is he lives in without getting invited to any of the DuPont family parties. That's got to hurt, too. Maybe Obama knows somebody who's got some clout with the DuPonts and could wangle Joe an invite. Probably not.  You know. But at this point, anything would be worth a try.

Or not. I have to admit, if he keeps on being this much of an ass, I might start to like him in spite of the fact that he has no brain, no character, and no clue. And I'd really hate it if that happened.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Death Sentence

CARING. I love it when people tell you not to get too passionate. It's only politics, they say.

As someone who's getting old, I beg to differ. I have a president, whom I'm supposed to support, who will probably shorten my life considerably. And before he outright kills me, he'll poison the rest of my days.

His inflationary "print money" approach to the current economic crisis will devalue my savings and reduce my standard of living substantially. His dictatorial fiats about the automotive industry will force me and my wife into smaller, more dangerous cars just as our defensive driving skills are fading. His energy taxes will make my living room colder at a time when I'm starting to look for blankets to keep me warm in summer. His "green" initiative will no doubt keep these old bones hustling to sort my trash into piles of plastic, glass, cardboard, and hazmat light bulbs when it's all I can do to ride a lawn tractor over my patch of grass once a week. And he's obsessed with health care -- not, mind you, with keeping me alive in the winter of my years, but with controlling "costs." I'm old enough to know what that means. When you're old, you're all cost. You're just an expensive chip on the board that everyone's moving around, without consulting you, for the purpose of reducing their outlay. If I actually wanted to keep going because I believed, say, the new atheistic religion that mandates narcissism as the only personal God it's acceptable to worship, I'm staring straight into the gun barrel of no transplants, no expensive experimental drugs, no hip or knee replacements, and no life-extending operations. For the greater good. You know. For the bottom line.

For the record, I don't mind the dying part, even if it's Obama's hospitals that wind up killing me. The truth is, I haven't even been to a doctor in 20 years or more because my opinion of modern medicine is about the same as my opinion of medieval medicine -- just a painful, humiliating way to get killed by (reputedly) well-intentioned idiots. Sooner or later, I know, I will experience some physical crisis that will land me in their embrace, and they will dutifully, professionally, expertly kill me, with or without Obama's help. But I do object to the avalanche of initiatives designed to strip from me the few pleasures I have left and to consign me to secular hell for enjoying those pleasures. As I fade and fail, they're going to deprive and persecute me for liking my smokes, my beer and wine, my red meat, my frigid air-conditioning in summer, my roasting heat in winter, my half-acre lawn in the country, my gas-guzzling pickup truck I don't want to replace with a Prius, and my right to call anyone by any name that occurs to me.

All politics aside, I invite anyone and everyone to dispute one single critically important point. This president is reaching into our day-to-day lives to a degree orders of magnitude beyond any of his predecessors. This pompous popinjay is in the business of telling all of us how to live.

To that I have the terse reply of a man old enough to know exactly what he is saying: "Fuck you, Obama. Fuck you and the Prius you rode in on."

With any luck they'll come for me now. For what I just said. Which must be the only remaining blasphemy an American citizen can utter. I'm hoping they come to arrest and fry my ass for heresy. Before I have to suffer the long humiliating process of being reduced to subhuman levels by a government that pretends it cares about me while it's smearing me to bloody paste like a bug on a windowpane.

Come on, libs. Tell me why I'm wrong and how much Obama cares. Though I suspect what you'll really say is good riddance, which is my final point. The right to life is now subject to political correctness. Which would be, not to put too fine a point on it, the end of the American Dream. Before you get too happy with that, know that I intend to haunt your dreams. My death will be like yours, just sooner, and maybe not quite so bitter. Because I never bought the bullshit.

Vetting Sotomayor

Why are they hiding her behind the teleprompter? Five o'clock shadow?

WIKI-POOP. All the smart moderates in the Republican Party think Republicans should be more like Democrats. The nomination of Sonia Sotomayor is an excellent opportunity to get started at that. If there's one thing Democrats know how to do, it's vet nominees for high office. If the Republicans want to win back accomplished, high-minded intellectuals like Colon Powell, David Books, and David Frump, they should seize the day and vet Sotomayor as if she were Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, Charles Pickering, or (yeah!) Sarah Palin. To help out, we've prepared a list of substantive questions that need to be pursued as aggressively as possible on every television news and gossip program. Almost all of them relate to the only important information contained in the biographical sketch published today by the Washington Post:

Judge Sotomayor is deeply committed to her family, to her co-workers, and to her community. Judge Sotomayor is a doting aunt to her brother Juan's three children and an attentive godmother to five more.

1. Apparently, she has no children. How many abortions has she had? Can she prove how many she's had? (It's a Roe v. Wade thing.)

2. Is she willing to provide photographs from her most recent internal exam detailing whether or not her uterus shows signs of having been pregnant at one time or another? Does her vagina show signs of having given birth, perhaps to a child that was given up for adoption to one of those professional Hispanic foster mothers we hear so much about? Can we see it, to determine for ourselves whether we think she may have given birth?

3.  Apparently, she has no husband. Is she a misanthrope? That is, does she hate men? We have a right to know. Can she produce a list of all the men she has ever dated or slept with so that we can determine to our own satisfaction what she may have meant by this quote:

[In a] 2001 “cultural diversity lecture” at the University of California... she “hopes that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

4. Is she a lesbian? Does she have pictures? What porn movies does she rent? Are they all about short squat Latina lesbians like herself? Is she in any of the porn movies about short squat Latina lesbians she's so obsessed with? Can we see all her underwear? That would be very helpful. Somehow.

5. Is it just a coincidence that she looks exactly like a shorter, squatter version of Roseanne Barr? Can she prove that she's not related to Roseanne Barr? And that she isn't having sex with Roseanne Barr seventeen times a week, shouting obscene anti-male hate speech the whole time?

6. She looks like she would probably pee standing up. Can she prove that she doesn't do that? Can we watch?

7. Now that you mention it, can she prove that she's not actually a man, faking the whole semi-female-looking thing just to take advantage of the affirmative action opportunities for the one zillionth of one percent of Hispanic women who can con their way through Yale Law School? We need pictures. Gynecologists under oath with charts and graphs and stuff. And probably some topless braless shots just to make sure.

8. Isn't it true that before she went to Princeton with her female impersonator pal "Michelle," she made a living as a super-flyweight Mexican boxer fighting under the name "El Soto Socko"? (she was less dumpy back then.) And isn't it true that she made mucho pesos in fixed fights where she took dives so often she got run out of boxing and had to go to Princeton on full scholarship or starve?

9. Given that she's just a crooked ex-boxer from Mexico whose friends are all crooked female impersonators from Chicago, can she read? Can she supply proof of that?

10. And about the whole Mexican thing? Does she have a green card? Or is she just a flat-out illegal alien, like the president and all the other appointees in the Obama administration who pay no taxes and get confirmed anyway?

Well, this is how the Repubs would go about it if they really wanted to bring Colon Powell back under the Big Tent. But they won't. Because they really don't want him back. Racists.

You know. Or maybe you don't. But you could always ask Sarah Palin. She knows exactly what I'm talking about. Something about respect for women. Except when they're racist, homophobic bitches. Like that Miss California c___.

Monday, May 25, 2009

War is Hell.

Finn's Point National Cemetery

MORE THAN FLAGS. Our war dead aren't all buried at Arlington. They're in cemeteries all over the country and around the world, many of them close to where they died. We honor them with imposing memorials and elegant ceremonies in settings of beauty and repose. This is fitting in that it requires of us a formal recognition of their sacrifice, but it is also a kind of fraud. All those crisp uniforms, white marble, and orderly rows of graves serve to make the deaths themselves into the ritual that memorializes them, a sacred symbolic act somehow cleansed of the ugliness and pain of war's reality.

This year, as we grapple with a national debate rooted in the delusion that defense of the nation can be accomplished without pain or ugliness, like some well regulated interscholastic sporting event, I'd like to propose that people take a few moments at least to look beyond the flags and under the gravestones, through the dignified music, and beneath the fine words engraved on the monuments. Under the grass of the cemetery swards lie the bodies of men, almost all of whom died horribly from wounds, wasting diseases, and the cruel ambitions of tyrants. It's fine to spin lofty rhetoric about our values, as if the existential crises of our nation can be overcome by impressing our enemies with our sense of fairness and restraint. But it's not fine if we fool ourselves into believing it. What impresses our enemies most of all is the unswerving resolve to defeat them as swiftly and unambiguously as possible.

The pious opponents of war (and who, truly, is a proponent of war?) love to recite the following famous quotation:

"War is hell. You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace."

They quote it because the point has rarely been made more simply and clearly. But they tend to ignore the ironies of its authorship and the context in which it was written.

William Tecumseh Sherman

General Sherman penned the famous words in a letter of response to the people of Atlanta, who were begging him for mercy during the most vicious fighting of the Civil War. Here is more of what Sherman had to say:

Gentleman: I have your letter of the 11th, in the nature of a petition to revoke my orders removing all the inhabitants from Atlanta. I have read it carefully, and give full credit to your statements of distress that will be occasioned, and yet shall not revoke my orders, because they were not designed to meet the humanities of the cause, but to prepare for the future struggles in which millions of good people outside of Atlanta have a deep interest. We must have peace, not only at Atlanta, but in all America. To secure this, we must stop the war that now desolates our once happy and favored country. To stop war, we must defeat the rebel armies which are arrayed against the laws and Constitution that all must respect and obey. To defeat those armies, we must prepare the way to reach them in their recesses, provided with the arms and instruments which enable us to accomplish our purpose. Now, I know the vindictive nature of our enemy, that we may have many years of military operations from this quarter; and, therefore, deem it wise and prudent to prepare in time...

You have heretofore read public sentiment in your newspapers, that live by falsehood and excitement; and the quicker you seek for truth in other quarters, the better. I repeat then that, by the original compact of government, the United States had certain rights in Georgia, which have never been relinquished and never will be; that the South began the war by seizing forts, arsenals, mints, custom-houses, etc., etc., long before Mr. Lincoln was installed, and before the South had one jot or tittle of provocation. I myself have seen in Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi, hundreds and thousands of women and children fleeing from your armies and desperadoes, hungry and with bleeding feet. In Memphis, Vicksburg, and Mississippi, we fed thousands and thousands of the families of rebel soldiers left on our hands, and whom we could not see starve. Now that war comes to you, you feel very different. You deprecate its horrors, but did not feel them when you sent car-loads of soldiers and ammunition, and moulded shells and shot, to carry war into Kentucky and Tennessee, to desolate the homes of hundreds and thousands of good people who only asked to live in peace at their old homes, and under the Government of their inheritance. But these comparisons are idle. I want peace, and believe it can only be reached through union and war, and I will ever conduct war with a view to perfect an early success.

Sherman knew that the best way to abbreviate the horrors of war was to secure victory. He knew better than anyone that he was one of the furies unleashed when the reckless initiated war. His duty was to protect his own troops and to eliminate the war-making capability of the enemy. When, on the infamous March to the Sea, Confederate "insurgents" planted "IEDs" in the road to kill and maim his troops, he responded by placing his Confederate prisoners at the front of the column. We would today, I suppose, call this torture under the Geneva Convention. For several days they died with great regularity. But then the local guerillas stopped planting their mines. War is hell.

I began this post with images from a national cemetery near where I live. Finn's Point is a spit of land projecting into the Delaware River but walled off from its remorseless flow by a palisade of reeds that lowers the ground it surrounds and gives it the sepulchral quality of an open-air catacomb. There is a constant shush of wind in the reeds, which only reinforces the stillness we associate with calm and solace. If there are voices to be heard, their whispers are not of anger but remembrance. Or so it seems. Finn's Point is not a typical graveyard. It is distinct from many other veterans' cemeteries in the north because its oldest inhabitants are Confederate troops, who died by the hundreds from disease as prisoners of war at Fort Delaware. War is hell.

Fort Delaware: Guantanamo 1860s style?

But if Fort Delaware was bad, the Confederate prison at Andersonville, Georgia, was worse. Far worse. It is easy to deplore the carnage and ruthlessness of all kinds of individual events within war. It is impossible, though, and folly of the highest order, to believe that war can ever be sanitized of all its horrors and bitterly hard decisions. To fight half-heartedly once engaged is the greatest sin of all. It kills more of your own -- soldiers and citizens alike -- and because it prolongs the fighting, it winds up killing more of the enemy too.

So, when you honor our fallen troops today, just this once I ask you to reach deeper into your vocabulary than the pretty word 'sacrifice.' Thank them as well for their ferocity, their deadly skills, their ability to kill the enemy and break their will so that our nation might be preserved against its foes. War is hell. And our fallen warriors are not all lost lambs. A part of what we must admire, if we are honest, is that they, too, carried a bit of hell with them when they marched.

I thank them all for that.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Hoyer's Got Pelosi's Back

At one point in the press conference, Hoyer even drank a glass of water.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Missing Think

The "8th Wonder of the World" (left) and the headshaking oversight of 5/19 (right).

EUREKA. The best lede was in the New York Daily News:

Feast your eyes on what a group of scientists call the Holy Grail of human evolution.

A team of researchers Tuesday unveiled an almost perfectly intact fossil of a 47 million-year-old primate they say represents the long-sought missing link between humans and apes.

Officially known as Darwinius masillae, the fossil of the lemur-like creature dubbed Ida shows it had opposable thumbs like humans and fingernails instead of claws.

Scientists say the cat-sized animal's hind legs offer evidence of evolutionary changes that led to primates standing upright - a breakthrough that could finally confirm Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

"This specimen is like finding the Lost Ark for archeologists," lead scientist Jorn Hurum said at a ceremony at the American Museum of Natural History.

"It is the scientific equivalent of the Holy Grail. This fossil will probably be the one that will be pictured in all textbooks for the next 100 years."

Gadzooks. Holy Grail? Lost Ark? I also immensely enjoyed the gloating of Hotair's resident atheist AllahPundit, even if it was (partially) tongue in cheek:

Well, a missing link, not necessarily the missing link, although insofar as it seems to confirm Darwin’s speculation about transitional species, it’s a huge coup for fans of Uncle Charlie. I love the smell of fossilized monkeys in the morning. Smells like … victory. If anyone needs me, I’ll be at the bar drinking champagne with Charles Johnson.

I expect a lot of drinking will be going on -- and has been going on. Because there's also been this from the BBC:

Dr Chris Beard, curator of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and author of The Hunt for the Dawn Monkey, said he was "awestruck" by the publicity machine surrounding the new fossil.

He argued that it could damage the popularisation of science if the creature was not all that it was hyped up to be.

Dr Beard has not yet seen scientific details of the find but said that it would be very nice to have a beautiful new fossil from the Eocene and that Ida would be "a welcome new addition" to the world of early primates.

But he added: "I would be absolutely dumbfounded if it turns out to be a potential ancestor to humans."

Don't get me wrong. I'm not questioning the ardor or belief of the folks who are hyping this discovery. But they like publicity as much as the next guy, not to mention the money publicity brings for more research. It's also worth remembering that there's a long and troubled history with regard to fossils and the definite conclusions scientists draw from them. (Piltdown Man, anyone?) Recently, for example, a big argument has broken out about whether T-Rex was the terrifying predator we've been told he was for, oh, half a century or more or, in fact, a "slow-walking" scavenger who'd have been useless in combat because once knocked over, he could never have gotten up again. And just last week, another rebel paleontologist announced that Pterodactyls and Pteranodons were incapable of flight. Bummer. He's being roundly denounced, of course, because all he has on his side is basic calculations about properties of mass and aerodynamics.

I don't know who's right. But neither does anyone else. Interpretations of fossils are fluid things. All you have is something "like" a skeleton that's frequently not bone but stone. In the case of dinosaurs they're hundreds of millions of years old. In other cases, they're tens of millions of years old. Inferences are involved. Scientists are clever, but...

Did anybody see yesterday's blockbuster story (well, would have been blockbuster if it hadn't been for the discovery of the Holy Grail) about Komodo dragons? I did. Here's a taste:

Scientists always believed that because Komodos also fed on carrion, their mouths must teem with bacteria and that the germs infected their victims, killing them slowly.

Magnetic resonance imaging scans have shown, however, that Komodos have glands in their mouths that produce venom similar to that of many snakes.

The lizard’s sharp, serrated teeth open up wounds into which the venom flows from the gland that runs along the jawline. The venom acts as an anticoagulant, increasing the blood flow and reducing blood pressure, sending the victim into shock. The victim’s blood cannot clot and it bleeds to death....

Despite the dragon’s venom gland running visibly along its jawline, scientists had not realised until now that it was poisonous.

“That’s because no one bothered to look,” said Dr Fry, who noted the gland during his work with captive Komodos at Singapore zoo.

I can't tell you how many nature shows I've watched over the decades in which highly credentialed zoologists stared straight into the camera and informed me that Komodo dragons kill by infecting their prey with the godawful bacteria in their mouths. A whole new dimension in halitosis. I believed them. Why wouldn't I? But they were wrong.

Need I point out that Komodo dragons are still alive? No fossils required. Are zoologists less well trained than paleontologists or anthropologists? No. They're products of the same process. Something about theories you like so much you stop questioning them. It's just easier to prove zoologists wrong. The deader your subject of study is, the easier it is to go on being wrong for a long long time without getting caught. Think about it. One illustrious archaeologist single-handedly prevented the decipherment of Mayan writing for three decades because he declared that Mayan writing didn't actually mean anything and there was no one credentialed enough to oppose him. Now one can read the history of its decipherment without encountering a mention of his name. Science has its own secrets. Which usually involve covering up mistakes and stupidity.

So I won't venture an opinion about the merit or lack of it of the new fossil. I'm patient enough to wait for more analysis without accepting any slam-dunk assertions about "proof" of Darwin. I remain skeptical not about the fact that new species emerge but about how they emerge and what drives that emergence. Heresy, I know. Every time I even mention that intelligence might be part of the natural process, I get inundated by an army of screaming scientific inquisitors anxious to burn me at the stake. Even though I'm not arguing for Genesis but for the entirely natural hypothesis that a process which can produce intelligence might actually involve intelligence. To me it seems less arrogant somehow. Scientists are intelligent, and nothing else in nature is? Not even the people who are slightly less degreed than scientists? Cool. Except even they don't talk that way all the time, even if their talking is generally in code. Here's another recent story I found, this one at

The genetic toolkit that animals use to build fins and limbs is the same genetic toolkit that controls the development of part of the gill skeleton in sharks, according to research to be published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on March 23, 2009, by Andrew Gillis and Neil Shubin of the University of Chicago, and Randall Dahn of Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory.

"In fact, the skeleton of any appendage off the body of an animal is probably patterned by the developmental genetic program that we have traced back to formation of gills in sharks," said Andrew Gillis, lead author of the paper and a graduate student in the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago. "We have pushed back the evolutionary origin of the developmental genetic program that patterns fins and limbs."

"Genetic toolkit." "The developmental genetic program that patterns fins and limbs." I see. Yeah. I know. The "blind watchmaker" and all. Even words that denotatively presume intention and purpose have a different meaning when a scientist uses them. A toolkit isn't a toolkit, because a tool is something that is used intentionally for a purpose and this obviously isn't that. It's much much less. Even though it's doing much much more than anything we uniquely intelligent folk have ever done with tools and patterning and developmental programs. Obviously. But why is it so damned impossible to describe without resorting to such inflammatory vocabulary? Because nature is intelligent without actually employing intelligence.

A lot like scientists, I'm thinking.

Well, as I said in another recent post, I'm certainly not suggesting that scientists refrain from using all their, um, tools, if that's a word that doesn't offend their intelligence by implying its absence. All I'm asking for, again, is a little humility, the occasional disclaimer which acknowledges that they're not yet certain of anything, regardless of how assertive they are in promoting, and hyping, their newest theories.

If anyone wants a laugh to end this nonscientific monologue, I can at least prove that my skepticism about the "latest and greatest" in scientific pronouncements is of long standing. Below the fold, you'll find a column from Shuteye Nation,  a TV review that originally appeared in that nation's "paper of record," The Shuteye Times. Enjoy.

UPDATE. Thanks to AllahPundit for the link (and the gracious email). A related post here, which drew support from Jonah Goldberg and a good-humored if off-target rebuttal from John Derbyshire.

An Affaire du Web

Ron Rosenbaum

PUNKS. As regular readers know, I don't normally quote whole blog posts by anyone. I'm making an exception for Ron Rosenbaum, who wrote this on May 18:

Come Out Anonymous Cowards! This is Your Chance

Your chance to explain what’s so scary to you that you have to hide your identities behind a mask while hurling oh-so-brave insults. (possible enshrinement of your cerebrally challenged remarks in google for all time?)

The New York Times super-smart web culture columnist Virginia Heffernan’s recent ruminations about the low standards, (e.g. the low I.Q.) of typical web commenters and their frequent self-congratulatory ignorance and stupidity, while capturing some truths about them, left out one aspect of the problem — the source, the cause of the domination by dimwits: anonymity.

I just can’t believe that the average human being is as creepily vicious as the average commenter. And the reason can be found in something a close reading of Virginia’s column discloses: all her examples of idiot commenters were anonymous and used screen names. Anonymity allows the the inner thug and thick-head to emerge with no fear of being shamed or embarrassed by their ugly deficiencies. They can be low brow creeps and not get caught. It’s why bank robbers wear masks. Of course not all the most moronic are anonymous; some are too stupid to know how stupid they appear and so proudly affix their real names to their lame remarks. But in general I think if you administered an IQ test the anonymous would score significantly lower. They’re the special ed class of blogging. Like monkeys in a cage they seem to be unaware that there are other ways of expressing their views than throwing feces.

And by the way, as I’ve said before, this goes for both liberal and conservative commenters who seem to try to outdo each other in their embarrassing display of intellectual impotence. They are what H.R. Mencken called “the booboisie”.

Recently an editor at a well-known publishing house said he was putting together an anthology of what he described as new threats to liberty and asked if there was something I’d like to contribute.

I told him about my continued fascination with the way anonymity has enabled a new race to the bottom of sub-human discourse on the web. Where once web-boosters, like the self anointed new-media-guru for hire Jeff Jarvis, used to proclaim that the back and forth between bloggers and commenters would open up a broader array of of voices, previously unheard points of view, the voice of the people without mediation.

While in fact commenter culture has turned into an endless war of digital lynch mobs, liberals and conservative gangs enforcing group think conformity on their respective mobs with febrile insults. Not a broader spectrum of opinion but a more narrow minded one that is incapable of little more than sub normal bozo-like displays of party line talking points for the most part. A threat to freedom in the sense that the vast tide of stupidity drowns out any attempt at intelligent discussion.

It–the venomous culture created by anonymity–threatens free speaking if not free speech itself, although one can see the hand of the Stalinist or fascist censor behind the mentality of many commenters: Punish those who disagree with me! People who disagree with them don’t deserve to live, or at least to be allowed to be heard without being covered in their vile verbal spittle.

I’m talking mainly about anonymous commenters and I should point out some of them may have genuine reasons for not using their real name. I accept that. Those who use the real names are generally too ashamed to sink to the depths in the race to the bottom of infantile insults that is the usual standard among political minded commenters on both sides.

So here’s your chance, anonymous commenters! Your chance to come out of the closet you’ve been quivering in. Identify yourself from now on (include home numbers so that random checks can be made in case you’re cowardice extends to fraudulence and impersonation of the innocent) and I wont be able to call you cowards anymore. You’ll have more self-respect! You won’t have to say ‘”I’m a person who’s afraid to put his name behind his opinions”.

Those who don’t will have proven my point about your cowardice and given me material for the book I am contributing to. (And justified my policy of not always “approving” anonymous abusive commenters.) So it’s win-win for all of us. You won’t have to skulk around knowing you’re too timid to stand up for what you believe in. And, if you persist in your combination of timidity and childish insults I’ll have more to bolster my thesis for the “threat to freedom” book. Deal?

He's famous for having written a book critical of Hitler. He has a blog at Pajamas Media. With respect to his personal politics, he says, "I’ve Already Admitted to Being a Liberal Who Likes Mark Steyn…" He's an accomplished journalist and I was willing to overlook the fact that he was (yet another damn) Yalie.

There were about 18 comments when I posted my own: Here it is:

I understand why you’re grumpy, Mr. Rosenbaum, but has it occurred to you that your arguments could also be used against secret ballots in union and political elections? Democratic free expression is a lot like free markets and other kinds of liberty — frequently messy and sometimes downright ugly in practice. Maybe you’ve been sheltered and think life is otherwise, but please learn this: when you choose to stoop to the Internet as a venue for your ideas, you are not mounting a pulpit, however your amour-propre perceives it. You’re just one more voice on Hyde Park Corner, and you can count yourself lucky that the Internet doesn’t allow missiles like rotten tomatoes and cabbages. That’s how dissension was expressed in the real good old days you appear to be hankering for.

Just to remind you, you ARE here by choice, and you always have the option of retreating to bookwriting if you’ve no stomach for direct feedback from your readers. Remember, too, that in your profession, you have by definition sought out the fame of a byline. Like so many other professionals whose quality you prize over commoners. From where I stand, bylines don’t seem to guarantee much about the civility or the intelligence of the writer these days. Some of the vilest pundits and bloggers out there are happy to sign their names to some extremely vicious pots of verbal garbage. People who don’t aspire to a byline aren’t necessarily sneaky cowards. It may be for many of them that it’s more important to inject an idea or argument into the public debate than to stand up and take a bow for it.

If you read the commenters on your, well, tantrum, many of them politely reminded you that there excellent reasons for anonymity, and they should also have made you realize that amidst all the responses you don’t like, there can also be some pearls even a man as lofty as yourself can learn from.

A final word of advice. Be careful where and to whom you deliver your sermon on the propriety of always using your real name, address, and phone number in Internet communications. Is that really a lesson you want 12-year-old girls to take to heart?

I posted it on May 19 at, according to his inaccurate software, 11:15 am. I immediately received a notice that my post was "in moderation." At first, my post was No 19. It kept slipping lower in number. I could still see it, but it was always still in moderation.

Now it is gone. And so I repeat my comment here.

It was unacceptable apparently. It wasn't the meanest. In fact, it was gentler than many others which were posted. But it may have been the coldest and the most patronizing, as I intended it to be. I guessed that the one kind of comment he wouldn't tolerate would be one that took the same kind of tone with him that he took with his readers. He wants to lord it over others that he can write while his critics can't. He doesn't like it when another writer uses his use own tools against him.

Now read some of the comments that did make it into the mix and ask yourself who's really the coward here

I'm sorry to make a big deal out of so little. But readers know that we have fought hard here to keep our comments section open to everyone, without "moderation" or censorship. When we don't like what's said, we join the fray. It's never been our position that you should just listen and admire. We expect the occasional brickbat. Which is why we're so ready to pick it up and throw it back. That's pretty much how America works, isn't it? Unless you went to Yale or someplace like that. And when we call someone on the carpet for not identifying themselves, it's not because they haven't provided a name and address, it's because they haven't shared enough of their unique perspective and experience to carry any weight in the discussion. We deplore assaults that consist of nothing but insults and obscenities as much as anyone, but there have even been occasions when we've brought people back from that precipice. We get mad. As all of you can attest. But we never suggest you don't have the right to attack ideas or arguments you find wanting. And we never will. As long as we can lift a scriver, when you lunge we'll parry and go straight for your throat. This isn't a cocktail party. It's Punk City.

A final word to the Rosenbaums of the world, whether they write for Pajamas Media or the Washington Post. The writing of ideas is combat, aggressive by definition. Others come to your side brandishing their own weapons, or they try to kill you before you can kill them. It's called debate, but it's the verbal equivalent of war, whether you do it in the saccharine tones of Lake Woebegone or the all-out fury of, well, TruePunk. If you never knew that, it's time to learn. If you don't like it, get thee to a nunnery and leave the rest of us alone.

P.S. Having concluded this post, I tried to send Mr. Rosenbaum an email notifying him that I had responded here, as a courtesy. It turns out that the man who insists on names, addresses, and phone numbers doesn't even have an email address at PJM. Well, I tried.

UPDATE. Vis a vis my comment that "Some of the vilest pundits and bloggers out there are happy to sign their names to some extremely vicious pots of verbal garbage," here's only the latest proof. Although I can't agree with the final suggestion, that "Bret Baier... bring this up on tonight’s Special Report panel and let him respond at length." The usual Krauthammer "look" would be entirely sufficient.

UPDATE 2. Ron Rosenbaum has decided that ALL the respondents to his accusations are guilty.Which, to be honest, disappoints us. He's a garden variety idiot, and all the time we spent writing reasonably to him was wasted. Oh well. It happens. It's a faint faint hope that people of his stripe would ever come here and do real battle. But we're used to pompous cowards who don't know thing one about fighting. It's just that we'd really have loved to have had him in our sights....

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