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August 28, 2005 - August 21, 2005

Thursday, June 10, 2004


instapunk061004add

New Kerry Strategy Beating up Bush


Taking a battering in the polls

CAMPAIGN MASTERY. It would seem that things have been going George Bush's way of late. The economy is now inarguably in a state of rapid growth, including the job market. The announcement of a prime minister, president, and ministers of Iraq is beginning to make it look as if the occupation really is in a state of transition to self-rule. And the recent death of Ronald Reagan has served to remind Americans that there's been more than one cowboy president who chopped wood on his ranch and stood up to a firestorm of domestic criticism about his bold and highly aggressive foreign policy. Yet the latest published results of polling appear to show Kerry opening up a lead just as all these developments are breaking Bush's way. What gives? The answer is easy. The smartest thing Kerry has done in months was proclaim the suspension of his campaign efforts during the Reagan funeral drama. We haven't seen or heard from him in days. Voila. He starts shooting up in the voters' estimation.

Anything we can do about it? Maybe not much in the macro sense. We don't have the clout to drag him back into the public eye where he would no doubt resume damaging his own presidential prospects. For the sake of our own morale, we should remember that this will happen. Before we know it, he'll be out there again, droning his absolute eternal support for all sides of every issue. Until then, we can improve his visibility to ourselves at least. That's why we're providing access to a fun little game that allows you to box with Kerry on the White House lawn. It's even possible to knock him out. We did. Just click on this link, (wait for the game to load -- it will) read the instructions, and when the game starts, wait for the bell to ring (!!!) before throwing any punches. Then have at it. It's easy, it's all in good fun, and you just might feel better...




Wednesday, June 09, 2004


Instapunk060904

The Big Picture





TIME TO STAND BACK. This fellow named Howard Hallis decided to draw a Picture of Everything. Here's just a fraction of what he includes in the list of picture elements:

If I started drawing cartoon characters, why not add all the cartoons I could think of as well? And aren't The Beatles cartoons? Then why not all the rock stars?! And movie stars! And space ships, fantasy buildings, historical figures and places! And why not all the religious figures and iconography? Think about all the famous vehicles from movies and TV, you have to put those in... And video game characters!

It's hard to tell if he's succeeded or what constitutes success in such an endeavor. But it's impossible not to admire the vision, the ambition, the enthusiasm involved in pursuing the work to completion. That's why it's time for all of us to stand back for a moment from our usual myopic view of life and ask a few hard questions of ourselves. When is the last time we undertook some huge overreaching effort? When is the last time we tried to see it all whole, understand it all, comprehend the way it all fits together? (If you need an explanation of the antecedent for "it" here, give it up; you're already out of the running.) When is the last time we left off criticizing the gigantic efforts made by others to appreciate the beauty of their daring and courage in trying at all?

I find it rather therapeutic to examine Mr. Hallis's painting in detail, which his website has been crafted to enable us to do. If you can put aside today's headlines and op-eds and other media trivia for a half hour or so, you might find it rewarding to discover what all has to go into a Picture of Everything. File it away for reference when you launch your next superhuman effort in whatver arena you choose to call your own.

Here endeth the lesson.




Tuesday, June 08, 2004


instapunk060804

The News Between the News

Guess who?

A NIGHT OF CALM. Perhaps it's not even worth writing about, but an odd thing happened on Fox News Channel's prime time lineup last night. No shouting. No blustering. No ranting or raving. And no vicious political attacks from left or right. How come? Both the O'Reilly Factor and the Hannity and Colmes show devoted almost every segment to remembering Ronald Reagan.

O'Reilly interviewed Newt Gingrich, Jerry Brown, and others about their memories and assessments of Reagan. In particular, he was pursuing similarities and differences between Reagan and G. W. Bush, as well as lessons Bush might take from Reagan. All real partisanship seemed to be on hold. Gingrich, obviously positive about Reagan, nevertheless highlighted some foreign policy errors, and he was serious in his critique of Bush, observing that the President would do well to follow Reagan's example in avoiding negative campaigning. Jerry Brown, whose father lost the governorship of California to Reagan, evinced very much the same tone, acknowledging his respect and affection for Reagan and pointing out that liberals have been too monolithic in their characterization of his policies. Brown noted that Reagan was a strong environmentalist while governor of California and lamented that he had chosen James Watt as his interior secretary. The next guest was Ellis Henican, usually the sneermaster among opinion columnists, and even though his segment concerned the G8 summit rather than Reagan, the moderate mood established previously seemed to continue. Henican and O'Reilly were both reasonable about their differences, neither raised his voice, and the sense of exceptionalism persisted.

Hannity and Colmes did not succeed so well as O'Reilly in mixing real analysis with reverence, but their guests -- principally, Alexander Haig, George Schultz, and Ed Meese -- related anecdotes that were more intimately revealing than worshipful. Schultz recalled the careful setup of the first meeting between Gorbachev and Reagan, the two of them seated alone in front of a drawing room fireplace. The schedule called for a 10-minute face to face, but the 10 minutes became an hour and then the two leaders went to another location in Geneva, where they spent the entire afternoon alone together, talking. Schultz recalled that Gorbachev seemed astonished and pleased to discover that he genuinely liked his erstwhile adversary. For once, Hannity was not cocky but respectful and restrained. Colmes took no potshots. Each segment began and ended with a clip of Reagan: scenes from his movies, excerpts of his speeches, and key moments in his presidential debates. His sunny spirit really seemed to pervade the evening, which somehow resulted in a feeling of sadness. The usual political fare of our day -- hateful charges, repetitious cant, angry crosstalk, and unending resentment -- contrasts so miserably with the intermission brought about by Reagan's death that it's impossible not to wonder how far we've fallen in 20 short years.

DAVE 14.41. The lighter side of both programs was provided by show business guests with personal recollections of Reagan. On Hannity and Colmes, actor Robert Conrad, now on the cusp of 70, recalled receiving a phone call from the President to praise him for a movie the first couple had just seen in the White House. On O'Reilly, Mickey Rooney told of meeting Reagan for the first time. Rooney was just fifteen and remembered the two of them saving a dog who had just been run down in the street. The third show business guest was the voice via telephone of Doris Day, who also received a presidential phone call after she had criticized the Reagans for leaving their dog in Santa Barbara instead of taking it home to the White House. Her criticism appeared in a print interview, and about a month later, Reagan called her to explain that the dog was miserable at the White House -- no room to run, no time off the leash -- and really preferred Santa Barbara where he had wide open spaces, plenty of other dogs to pal around with, and other human friends as well.

The story was charming, but equally so was the voice of Doris Day, long gone from the public ear. It is still musical, breathy, and lilting, still somehow young. It made me remember what a phenomenal talent she was: the very best female vocalist to come out of the Big Band era, her voice surpisingly powerful and utterly at ease throughout its range. For those who don't remember, and for those who do, here's a sample of what singing was, once upon a time. (Wait for it to load; it's worth it.)



We'll be back in the jungle soon enough.




Monday, June 07, 2004


instapunk060704

Our New Protector

David Brock

GOOD GUY. Have you heard of him? He's the one who started out as a card-carrying member of the right-wing conspiracy, wrote a not nice book about Anita Hill, and then suddenly remembered that he should be a liberal instead. Now the mainstream media love him, and he's leveraging his newfound acceptability into a crusade against the right-wing bias of the mass media??? Does this mean he's as dumb as he looks? Yes. All you have to do to prove it to yourself is check out his new website MediaMatters.org, conceived as an antidote to the Media Research Center and loaded to the gunwales with takedowns of conservative lies and propaganda in the Bush-loving media. The only problem is, if you look at MediaMatters.org, you'd think that the mass media consist only of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, and the rest of the Fox News hosts and analysts. Given that this leaves out the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, Time, Newsweek, NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, and NPR, it would seem that David needs a pair of specs so those beady eyes of his can see where the real Goliath is.

We tried to count the total number of references to O'Reilly, Limbaugh, and Fox News on the site's main page, but not being liberal enough to do fancy arithmetic, we gave up well into the double digits. Without these targets, Brock would have nothing on his page but a couple of lame protests about CNN, MSNBC, and a handful of opinion journalists who are known for criticizing both sides of the political spectrum. Here are the rare gems of this sort we we were able to find (hyperlinks are his):

On the June 3 edition of CNN's Inside Politics, CNN congressional correspondent Ed Henry echoed right-wing media coverage of progressive financier, philanthropist, and political activist George Soros's June 3 speech at the Campaign for America's Future "Take Back America" conference, reporting as fact the right-wing talking point that Soros "equated the Iraqi prisoner abuse to the 9/11 attacks." [Excuse us, David, but he did equate the two.]

During a report by CNN correspondent Tom Foreman on the June 2 edition of Wolf Blitzer Reports, Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for Internal Communications Allison Barber defended continued broadcasts of The Rush Limbaugh Show by the American Forces Radio and Television Service, stating that AFRTS programming "is based on popularity here in the states." [If only they could ditch the popularity requirement, AFRTS could broadcast Air America.]

On June 3, MSNBC went for the real deal, substituting Scarborough Country host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican member of Congress from Florida, with guest host John D. "J.D." Hayworth, a current Republican member of Congress from Arizona. [Yawn. Does anybody anywhere on the right or the left watch MSNBC? Oh, that's right. David does.]

Author Christopher Hitchens joined the chorus of right-wing pundits purporting to diagnose former Vice President Al Gore's psychiatric state following Gore's May 26 speech about U.S. policy in Iraq. Hitchens, appearing on MSNBC's Scarborough Country on June 3, said, "Al Gore's been making speeches that make him look and sound completely nuts." [Would that be the prominent right-wing piglet who just ridiculed Ronald Reagan upon the occasion of his death? Just wondering, David.]

The main theme of the page appears to be Brock's outrage that Bill O'Reilly is saying so many bad things about George Soros. He also seems peeved that O'Reilly called Molly Ivins a socialist. Uh, isn't she? Guess not, because O'Reilly apologized on the air. (Just because someone is a socialist doesn't mean you have to mention it in public. Manners, you know.) Which brings us to another point. How many conservatives truly believe Bill O'Reilly is a conservative? Some nights he is. Some nights he's anything but. He's a... what's the right word?... muckraker. Or maybe it's loudmouth. We keep getting those two confused. But if Brock wants to allocate 60 percent of his website to hectoring O'Reilly, we suspect a lot of the real right-wingers are going to be snickering up their sleeves. Who knew O'Reilly could actually be of use for anything?

Thanks for the laughs, David. We'll be frequent visitors to your site.




Sunday, June 06, 2004


instapunk060604



GREATNESS. I will never forget election night 1980. He was leading in the polls, but not by much, and the press was doing its best to conjure up a comeback miracle for the worst president in U.S. history. Then the polls began closing, and the network anchormen seemed nearly mute with grief. The landslide was enormous, a nationwide rumble that kept growing louder all evening. The unthinkable had happened. A genuine conservative had been elected president with a thundering mandate for change. He delivered on his promise. A country which had become cynical and pessimistic in the aftermath of Vietnam, Watergate, and the embarrassing midget named Carter began to feel hope and pride again. The Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union fell, and then he rode off into his long and painful sunset. The sense of loss arrived long before today. Shuteye Nation put it this way in 2000:

RR. An American Dream, glimmering away. He really believed all that rhetoric about making America great again, and he made a lot of other people believe it, too. What's more, he actually tried. He cut taxes°. He stood up proudly against an enemy everybody had been too afraid to talk about in anything higher than a whisper for years. He took a bullet and lied through his clenched teeth about how slightly injured he was. For this he was treated with continuous, sneering contempt by all the people who believed in the good° things, and when he left office eight years later, the last chance for America had expired invisibly and completely. What had he accomplished? The government and the federal budget° had grown in every year of his administration—inexorably, ineluctably, inhumanly. The good people smiled and are smiling still, trying hard not to laugh out loud at the ignominy of his failing, emptying light. But when he passes into history° at last, it is our light which will be buried in the past.

Now he is gone. Godspeed, Mr. Reagan.





instapunk060604add UPDATE... FREEDOM. We keep hearing from liberals that it's the Republicans who are nasty and mean-spirited. Here is the page from Democraticunderground.com in which those kindly, humanity-loving lefties offer their thoughts on the death of Reagan. It's notable for two things. First, the bile isn't limited to one or two hardcore haters; it's practically uniform throughout. Second, if you scroll down the list of messages (please do), you will see that there are multiple deleted messages, each representing a defender of Reagan who decried the general disrespect for the dead. How can we be so sure? Because the vicious replies to the deleted messages are still there. Do we need any other evidence to form an opinion of the left's real devotion to freedom of expression, tolerance, and fair-minded public debate?




Saturday, June 05, 2004


Go, Smarty.





instapunk060504 UPDATE.

Darn it, Smarty.


Words fail us...





Friday, June 04, 2004


instapunk060404

Fresh Air!

Terry Gross, the illustrious daughter of Howdy Doody

JOURNALISM. It's been a distinguished week for some of the biggest practitioners of objective reporting. On Tuesday, Terry Gross interviewed Donna Brazile about her new book on the NPR show Fresh Air. Terry was so hot to begin Bush-bashing, she couldn't even exchange pleasantries with Brazile before soliciting her defense of Al Gore's latest womanish outburst about Bush's "incompetence." Brazile is, of course, the political mastermind who helped the campaigns of Mondale, Dukakis, and Gore accomplish their electoral defeats. Standing atop this mountain of failure, she pronounced Gore's shrieking odium a fine and positive contribution to the political debate. Her book, incidentally, is called Cooking with Grease. Sound appetizing to you? Yet it's all sweet in the mouth of Terry Gross, who managed to read the most excoriating libels against the president in the same saccharine voice she uses to stroke Lesbian poets suckling at the NPR tit in hopes of selling a twentieth copy of their latest collection of hogwash. Why is it that after listening to Fresh Air, one feels in immediate need of... fresh air?

Then, on Thursday, Mike Wallace deigned to appear on the O'Reilly Factor, where he defended his statements about the Iraq War at the Smithsonian celebration of World War II vets. (The second link is to a video clip of Wallace's remarks; if you want to see unscripted journalistic eloquence, please watch it. Note how much trouble the great man has formulating a coherent sentence.) With an audience of veterans, many of whom he must have known would be supporters of President Bush, he nevertheless marred a proceeding that should have focused on the shared experience of World War II by implying that Mr. Bush was 'invalid' as commander-in-chief and that the war in Iraq was 'not a noble enterprise.' His buddy Al Neuharth, formerly head of USA Today, went on to suggest that no president who had not seen combat should be commander-in-chief. (Has he heard of the constitution, we wonder? Or this?) Amazingly, O'Reilly succeeded in obtaining a concession or two from Wallace in the following exchange:

O’Reilly: “Do you think it was the proper venue to make those comments because, you know, it was a celebratory situation where, and you knew that some World War II veterans were going to disagree with you, so was it the right venue?”
Wallace: “It seemed to, it seemed both to Neuharth and to me that it was the right venue, because we talked about it ahead of time, it was a venue in which we are celebrating a war in which so many people died, but they died in the service of something that they deeply believed in, and they were not alone, I mean, we were not alone in that, our allies and so forth. The, this is not a war, I’m candid to admit it as much as I’ve already said so as I had no idea C-SPAN was there, it is not a war that I believe in. We don’t have allies. We didn’t.”
O’Reilly: “Yeah, but the people who are dying over there believe in it, and, you know, was it your turn to maybe denigrate their sacrifice? I’ll give you the last word on it, but I think that was the opposition to what you said.”
Wallace: “Well, that’s perfectly sensible, perfectly sensible criticism, free country. That’s the kind of business we do. Mind you, I should not probably have said it there.”

Once again, note the tangled syntax of the unscripted Wallace. It has long been our suspicion that the Grand Inquisitor of 60 Minutes would not be quite so invincible without a teleprompter. Here's what we said in Shuteye Nation 2000, where the names are all changed for the hell of it:

Mike Wallops. The most feared TV journalist in Ameria. Why, when the producers sit Mike down in front of that camera and he starts reading off the questions the bad guys didn't answer right in last week's interview, the terror in special interest land is palpable.

Oh. One more thing. A slap on the wrist for O'Reilly too. When Wallace claimed we don't have allies in Iraq, the Great Mouth replied, "Yeah, but..." A glitch in the "No Spin Zone"? Yeah. All right. Two hours of detention. Silent detention.


InstaPunk assigns Bill O'Reilly two hours of detention.




Thursday, June 03, 2004


instapunk052704

For Sale Cheap! One Pharaoh Phake Hound.

It's believed pharaoh hounds were the inspiration for the image of Anubis. Or vice versa.

DOG (R)EVOLUTION. Scientists are pretty sure that modern humans are related to Lucy, the three-foot-tall primate who walked sort of erect in the African savannah umpty-thousand years ago and left a half dozen bones behind for Harvard to glue back together. Okay. Dog experts have been pretty sure that the pharaoh hound and the Ibizan hound are direct descendants of the most ancient dogs rendered in art, namely the Anubis figures of Egypt. But now it turns out that the dog experts are wrong:

Both breeds, along with several others that dog aficionados have long believed dated back thousands of years, are actually much more modern animals -- re-creations that were probably produced by breeders.

The findings have sent reverberations though the ranks of dog fanciers, who primp and preen their beloved companions for shows and take great pride in their pedigrees.

"This is clearly going to raise some eyebrows in the Pharaoh hound world," said Greg Witt, vice president of the Pharaoh Hound Club of America. "It goes against our belief system. People are pretty passionate about their dogs. There is going to be disbelief."

The findings come from the first detailed genetic comparison of the genes of purebred dogs.

If you're wondering who else is sporting a fraudulent coat of arms, here they are: Norwegian Elkhounds (not Vikings) and German Shepherds (not wolf cousins).

And there's more to the story. DNA analysis suggests that the dogs which are most closely related to each other, and to wolves, are the Samoyed, basenji, Saluki, Afghan, Lhasa apso, Pekingese, Shar-Pei, Shih Tzu and Akita.



Kissing Cousins

These guys don't look much like wolves. They don't look much like each other. So why do scientists think Lucy is related to us? Fossils don't have DNA. It must be because she's bipedal and therefore looks (to scientists) somewhat human. Just like a German Shepherd looks (to us) like a wolf. Maybe it's more than dog breeders who have some rethinking to do. Who knows what else might turn up in the human family tree?


What didn't Darwin know and when didn't he know it?




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