MOVIES. Our own commenters are frequently complimentary and
of our efforts, but it's a special thrill when commenters at some other
site say nice things. I found this at Grimbeorn.com.
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.
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
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
"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"
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
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
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
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
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 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.
The Last Glimmer
are they hiding her behind the teleprompter? Five o'clock shadow?
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
[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
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
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
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
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
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
. 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
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
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
At one point in the press conference,
Hoyer even drank a glass of water.
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
"This specimen is like finding the Lost Ark for archeologists," lead
scientist Jorn Hurum said at a ceremony at the American Museum of
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
I found, this one at Bio-Medicine.org:
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
"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
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.
. 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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Ron Rosenbaum has decided that ALL the respondents to his accusations
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