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August 28, 2007 - August 21, 2007

Thursday, June 08, 2006


Anti-U.S. Forces Mourn
Passing of Al Zarqawi


Sen Joseph Biden blinks back tears in interview with CNN's Soledad O'Brien.

SPECIAL REPORT. As news of the death of insurgent leader Musab al Zarqawi sped around the world, expressions of grief and anger poured in from those who oppose American colonialism in the middle east.

French President Jacques Chirac cancelled his first two appointments with his senior mistresses to publicly announce his sorrow over the loss of "a great leader, a great man, and a great friend."

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited a spontaneous gathering of grief-stricken citizens at the Brandenburg Gate and sang hymns in the nude to protest "the outrageous U.S. military strike against the noble forces of resistance to the American Occupation of Iraq." Merkel also called for a worldwide "Day of Mourning" to honor the fallen leader.

Back in the U.S., Democrat congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid held a joint press conference to acknowledge what Pelosi called "a grave setback in our effort to unseat the illegal puppet government the Bush administration has imposed in Iraq."

Senator Reid vowed, though, to "keep fighting for what the American people so clearly want -- the total, humiliating defeat of George W. Bush and the U.S. military in this disgraceful war."

Both leaders expressed their personal sadness about the death of Zarqawi and offered their condolences to his surviving family.

Speaking at a breakfast reunion of pardoned Vietnam-era draft fugitives, Rep John Murtha of Pennsylvania called the strike on Zarqawi's safe house "yet another example of cold-blooded murder planned and carried out by U.S. troops." He demanded a public apology for the crime by the President and repeated his earlier demands for the immediate ouster of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, reached by phone at his villa in Cannes, said, "The quagmire keeps getting deeper and gooier, or I should say, more gooey, with each passing day. It is time to bring all the criminal U.S. troops home and let Saigon, er, Baghdad negotiate the just peace with their opponents that all Iraqis want."

Taking time out from his promotional tour for the movie "An Inconvenient Truth," Former Vice President Al Gore told reporters that the Zarqawi slaying was, "one more proof the end times have come. If we look clearly at the rubble of Zarqawi's house, we can see that parts of the sky really are falling. How can Bush's crony government continue to deny such incontrovertible evidence?" After concluding his brief remarks, Gore offered to give reporters tickets at a 20-percent discount to the next showing of his movie. "We all have a responsibility to get the word out," he explained.

Democrat Party Chairman Howard Dean declared in a quickly arranged speech, "Today, all Americans - except for the evil Christian Republican ones -- are mourning the death of a courageous fighter for Iraqi rights. Our great party joins with those grieving Americans wherever they are, in Massachusetts, in New York, Rhode Island, California, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Minnesota, Maine, New Hampshire... AAAARRRRGGHHH!"

On the CNN Morning Show, Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware spoke movingly about Zarqawi's tragically premature death experience and announced that one of his committees would be scheduling immediate hearings to determine exactly where Iraq is on the map. "When we find that out," he promised, "we'll do something really serious about it."

Oscar-winning actor George Clooney gave an impromptu press conference in Hollywood to announce that he will be producing, directing, and starring in a movie about Zarqawi's inspiring life. "Obviously, we can't bring him back to life," he said, "but maybe we can give some meaning to his death by focusing on his many wonderful accomplishments." Clooney also called George W. Bush a boob for the 403rd time.

Activist Cindy Sheehan offered the Zarqawi family a grave lot next to that of her son, so that "two of George Bush's murder victims can rest in peace together." She called for an immediate end to the war in Iraq and suggested that maybe the Iranians should drop one of their nuclear bombs on U.S. troops there.

"And they can get Israel, too, while they're at it," she said.

Among the mainstream media, NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Time, and Newsweek are all planning special telecasts or print editions to honor the memory of the martyred insurgent.

"It's the least we can do in response to this terrible event," said Publisher Pinch Sulzberger. "That's the responsibility of a journalist, to do the least we can do in support of the people we serve."




Wednesday, June 07, 2006


To all the Daves

Prototype: The Unknown Comicmenter

INANITY. Last week, I posted an entry about my father, who died in 1999. Probably a mistake, given that a blog is essentially an open letter to the universe. I expressed the fact that I missed him and tried to render a brief portrait that exposed some of both our strengths and weaknesses. Writing about him was part of a decision process that's still underway, about whether or not maintaining this small conduit to the outside world is still worth the time and effort it requires, whether it's ever had any value in its two-and-a-half years of existence, and whether or not I should continue it. One regular reader had previously identified the question I was grappling with in his comment on the May 9 entry:

You've (all) been on a roll the last few weeks. Feels like you're tying up loose ends, getting ready for an end. If you gotta go, you gotta go, but I'll surely miss you (all).

I don't yet have the words to explain what you've done for me the past five years. Thank you. And if this tearful goodbye is premature, I can live with that.

Looking forward to the rest,

- Zoni

In our blog, he usually calls himself Brizoni, and the abbreviated signoff after his kind words was touching. That's what commenters can do for you, especially in a small blog like InstaPunk, where we have just a few hundred regulars apart from the occasional Instalanche or Michellanche that bring in thousands.

I wanted to acknowledge, and thank, Brizoni and others like him, even though the decision is still unmade. I also thought it might be a good time to address another circumstance that many bloggers deal with, what I call the "unknown commenter," who comes in on a periodic or one-shot basis to attack you. I got one of those in response to the entry on my father. He listed his name as "Dave." He said:

God, you do go on, don't you little fella?

No disrespect to your father, you seem to bring him into focus only as the progenitor of the demigod, no demagogue, you imagine yourself to be.

Addressing yourself in the third person, all that crap.

I've been reading your thinly disguised rants - as - self aggrandizement- for awhile now and wonder/...

let me see if I can do an effective imitation of your inflated style of prose:

"' As John Lennon said when addressing Peter Fonda at a little soiree around the pool, after Fonda had been expounding extemporaneously about TM, or something....'

"Who put all that shit in your head?'"

Which of course , became the telling line in the famous Lennon/ McCartney ditty' He Said, She Said' and oh....! blah blah blah

not exactly terse is it?

not exactly Hemingway is it?

not exactly ...uh what's the word? oh yeah, accurate.

The Chomsky thing, for example. Bringing in contextual red herrings with Bill O'reilly like aplomb, thereby preaching to the choir of little minds that think in the boxes you do.

Liberral Conservative Right/Left

A little less verbosity? is that possible?

Gee.These days anyone who's a typist thinks he's a genius

Bye now!

All of us who permit comments have received missives like this. There are only a few different ways to deal with it. We can screen commenters ahead of time by asking for identifying information -- like a valid email address -- to deter the worst of the haters. We can delay posting comments until they've been vetted and delete the ones we don't like. We can ban the worst offenders altogether. We can ignore their comments. And we can respond if they make worthwhile points or need a smacking.

Instapunk.com has never used any of the pre-screening tools, and we don't delete unflattering comments. In two-and-a-half years, we've banned only one commenter. And, frequently, we respond, mostly when we feel the readership as a whole might enjoy the cut-and-thrust. We dish it out on a regular basis, and it seems only fair that we be prepared to take it as well.

That was my initial feeling about "Dave." The internet is a free-fire zone, our door is always open, and if he wants to take a shot or two, so be it. But being in a more than ordinarily contemplative mood, I began to realize that Dave's comment was a kind of archetype and deserved some categorical response. I get tired of reading the term "troll" in other blog comment sections. My guess is, the people who are called trolls don't ever quite understand the basis of the contempt they inspire. I thought it might be helpful to all the Daves out there to explain just how much you give away about yourselves in your supposedly anonymous comments. And perhaps if I do it right, other bloggers might regard this singular analysis as a useful link to offer their own Daves.

Why do I describe this particular Dave as an archetype? Because he uses an absolutely formulaic and transparent approach to his hit-and-run attempt at wounding the blogger's vanity. It begins with the implied statement of personal superiority:

God, you do go on, don't you little fella?

Yes, I do. It's called blogging.  And since you have no way of knowing that I don't stand six-eight and weigh in at 340 lbs, the "little fella" appellation can only represent your appraisal of my intellectual stature compared to yours. Perhaps you'd better do something to start proving your claim. But in the archetype of the unknown commenter, this is never offered. Dave he is, and Dave he will remain, hiding inside a brown bag without reference to his own blog, other published works, accomplishments, experience, or anything one could connect to a resume. He is a voice out of the ether, something like the whisper of an obscene caller.

No disrespect to your father, you seem to bring him into focus only as the progenitor of the demigod, no demagogue, you imagine yourself to be.

The masterfulness of Dave is that he fulfills the formulaic requirements so swiftly, in so few words, without the spewing that usually obscures the bones of the archetype. The step that always comes after the unproven declaration of superiority is the immediate display of deficiency -- logical, grammatical, educational, moral, psychological, political, etc. In this case, he's already logically off point. The entry is clearly about a sense of doubt and personal loss, not about the presumed divinity of the writer. No disrespect to my father? Right. Whatever Dave is mad about predates this piece, and he doesn't give a damn about what personal emotions he might be trampling. He has a hard-on about InstaPunk, and he couldn't care less that this probably isn't the right time to pursue it. But most people out there do have a sense of pitch about human emotion, and they know something important about you if you don't, Dave.

Addressing yourself in the third person, all that crap.

I've been reading your thinly disguised rants - as - self aggrandizement- for awhile now and wonder/...

Now we're getting to it. The real motivation that drives the unknown commenter to force his attack, regardless of its relevance or timeliness. That's the third part of the archetype. It's always really about them, not you, the obsessive expression of a longstanding grudge, against you or someone or something else. In this instance, he has stored up hostility about the persona of InstaPunk at Instapunk.com. His own irrational reaction blinds him to the possibility that there are complexities he hasn't considered, even if they could be divined by attention to available evidence. For example, he overlooks the fact that Instapunk is both an individual contributor to the website and the title of the site as a whole, which complicates the use of names. He hasn't bothered to discover that entries signed by Instapunk tend to be the only ones that do use the singular personal pronoun rather than the editorial 'we.' He doesn't suspect that some contributors, not all, have a business need for everyone's anonymity because they are conducting transactions in the government sector. And finally, he is too obtuse to realize that InstaPunk is currently referring to himself in the third person because he is critically examining the persona named Instapunk with some degree of doubt and indecision. This is always one of the major identifying criteria of the unknown commenter; he doesn't quite get what's going on in the arena he's so superior to.

let me see if I can do an effective imitation of your inflated style of prose:

"' As John Lennon said when addressing Peter Fonda at a little soiree around the pool, after Fonda had been expounding extemporaneously about TM, or something....'

"Who put all that shit in your head?'"

Which of course , became the telling line in the famous Lennon/ McCartney ditty' He Said, She Said' and oh....! blah blah blah

not exactly terse is it?

not exactly Hemingway is it?

not exactly ...uh what's the word? oh yeah, accurate.

The butchered putdown comes next, always with a revealing indicator about what might constitute real authority since no personal credentials will ever be cited by the commenter. This one's perfect. "let me see if I can do an effective imitation of your inflated style of prose." Well, you can't, Dave. You've given too much of yourself away. You've been to college, I grant, but you also cite one of the lowest common denominators of pop wisdom as an indisputable authority. John Lennon is your idea of an eloquent literary critic? It doesn't take a luminary to call things 'shit.' In fact, it's usually the spoor of the ignorant confronted by complexities they're ill equipped to understand. The theory of relativity is 'shit' to a crack whore.

It's also a neon sign signifying the presence of the unknown commenter. He hasn't the wit to refute anything actually said or written by his target. He puts his own ill chosen words into the mouth of his target and then, responding to his own stupid straw man, denounces the stupidity of the target. Not exactly terse? No. Nor coherent. Not exactly Hemingway? No. Your words, remember. And what is your understanding of Hemingway, anyway? What is it, exactly, that you admire about him? That he's a famous name you can drop in the absence of any personal information about yourself? That you seem, to yourself, sophisticated for citing him as a great writer who is presumably better than a small-time blogger? Or is it that he writes short sentences, short enough for you to understand. It was the great liberal Norman Mailer who observed that those who most abhor long sentences are those who simply can't read well enough to understand them. It was also Mailer who remarked that For Whom the Bell Tolls was Hemingway's attempt to prove that he could write long sentences -- and failed in the attempt.

Different Daves will apply the butchered putdown differently, of course, and there's little point in digging deeply into this Dave's invisible line of thought. What matters is that they if they were truly interested in matters of the intellect, they would be prepared to plumb the depths of the propositions they offer as declarations of fact. They never are.

The Chomsky thing, for example. Bringing in contextual red herrings with Bill O'reilly like aplomb, thereby preaching to the choir of little minds that think in the boxes you do.

Liberral Conservative Right/Left

A little less verbosity? is that possible?

Gee.These days anyone who's a typist thinks he's a genius

Bye now!

Finally, the fancied coup de grace. This tends to be a scattershot list of imputed crimes against the superior sensibility of the unknown commenter. (The Chomsky entry he refused to address in specific terms is here.) Oddly enough, it's almost always a poorly worded, badly spelled and punctuated bullet list of non sequiturs intended to prove that anyone who does listen to you is a pathetic moron compared to the unknown commenter. If they reference anything you've written, they don't seek to refute it or contend with its principal arguments, merely to condemn it by edict and half-assed anecdote.

Why go through all this? For the list of components that make up the archetype. Here they are:

1.    Implied statement of personal superiority. No personal ID, info, or website.

2.    Immediate display of deficiency. Failures of logic, fact, grammar, spelling.

3.    Obsessive expression of pre-existing grudge. Non-responsive to subject entry.

4.   "Doesn't Quite Get It" factor. Oblivious of context.

5.    Bungled putdown.
Incompetent, irrational, irrelevant insults.

6.    Lowest common denominator of pop wisdom (e.g. Bush lied, people died, etc)

7.    Fancied coup de grace. Expressions of triumph about points not proven.

It's a dance of the seven veils, and depending on how incoherent the unknown commenter is, the veils can be removed in any order. They wonder why they are banned, why they are termed trolls, why they are treated with no respect, why they are ignored. Perhaps it's time they learned.

Dave, are you listening? And by Dave, I do mean all you Daves. Our prescription for what ails you was documented long ago by our own Chain Gang. If you prefer another course, learn how to think and write like an adult. Or get your own blog. Or, better yet, get a life of your own.

Only trying to help. As usual.




Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Hot Somalis


WHAT ALLAH WANTS. Michelle Malkin has a roundup of news from Somalia. It seems they're going to be back in business very soon as a full-fledged terrorist state. And, of course, the Somali women are eager to embrace the fun new fashions the Islamists are designing for them. According to the AFP caption for the pic shown above:

Somalia women show a Koran during a demonstration to denounce the United States in the lawless capital Mogadishu, on June 2. Somali Islamists claimed to have seized full control of Mogadishu after four months of bloody fighting with a US-backed warlord alliance and were set to impose Sharia law across the city.

We bet those women in the background can't wait to get killed by their fathers and brothers for exposing their lewd faces to the camera. It's every girl's dream. In Africa. Or would that be Afrabia now? How about Afraidia?

Just asking.

P.S. And because it's 6/6/6 -- the release date of Ann "Antichrist" Coulter's evil new book and of John Moore's dreadful remake of the antichrist biopic The Omen -- we thought we should try, in our own small way, to do something really really bad. So we did. A little slice of the Great Satan. The link is here, but be warned, it's NSFW. Big Time.

P.P.S. No, we didn't forget. It's D-Day. Here's a sweeping WWII tribute InstaPunk did back in June 2004, the 60th anniversary of the Normandy invasion. And here's something to ponder. Put yourself in the boat for a few seconds. It's damned hard to do. But try.






Monday, June 05, 2006


Het up about gas prices?


O MONEY. Every time gas prices go up, people -- especially politicians -- start saying stupid things. Like, they say the government should do something to control the situation -- tax oil companies more or prosecute them for price gouging or pass some kind of new legislation to, you know, keep prices down. Right now, lots of Democrats are acting as if Republicans are to blame for gas prices being so high, and they suggest that putting Democrats back in power would somehow improve the situation.

Here's a reality check. The Democrats favor the same kinds of policies -- economic, environmental, and social -- routinely administered by the socialist progressive governments in Europe. Like the Europeans, they think the government should be in charge of as many things as possible, only they can't afford to be quite as socialist liberal as the Europeans because of all the evil red state people in this country. Now, if Democrats are right about how much better a job they'd do for us average, ordinary American motorists, wouldn't we expect to see that gas prices in Europe would be lower? Or if not lower then not higher? Or if higher at least not DOUBLE what they are here?

See for yourself. Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and the U.K. in virtual lockstep at about $6.50 a gallon.

The next time some liberal pol starts pandering to you about how much he shares your pain at the gas pump, remember that the highest part of the price you pay for gas is taxes. And raising taxes is what liberals socialists do best.

Bon voyage Happy Motoring..




Saturday, June 03, 2006


Late to the Party


PSAYINGS.5Q.33. We try to keep up with what's going on in the blogosphere, the internet, etc, but sometimes you run behind schedule and wind up arriving at something good when all the other guests are driving away. That's what happened last week. Do you let it go, or do you own up to being negligent and offer up the praise that should have been forthcoming when the work was still new?

We found three essays we really liked. Smart guys holding forth on three different subjects. It's possible you missed them if you're as scattershot  as we are. So we're going to add our two cents well after the fact. But in case you didn't miss them, we're going to limit our excerpts to one or two tantalizing paragraphs of each. Then we'll give you the link to the whole piece, which in all three cases you read in full if you haven't already.

The first is from Mark Steyn, who took a more serious approach to an issue we considered only humorously last week. It's about the technical question of what the hell is going on with the leadership of the U.S. Congress, especially the Republicans. He says, in part:

Of all the many marvelous Ronald Reagan lines, this is my favorite: ''We are a nation that has a government -- not the other way around''...

I said the other day that McCain and Specter and Sarbanes and Lott and the rest were presidents-for-life of the one-party state of Incumbistan. Between all the comprehensive immigration reform and corporate governance reform and campaign-finance reform and campaign-finance-reform reform and all the other changes, McCain and Co. sail on, eternally unchanging, decade after decade. There are no plans for Senate governance reform or Trent Lott finance reform. Incumbistan is a government that has a nation.

That's the beginning and end of Steyn's column. Everything in between is brilliant. Here's the link.

The second is an unexpectedly thoughtful, detailed, and insightful essay from Ace of Spades, hidden among the usual potpourri of scatological jokes and grumpy left hooks. It concerns the real reason why lefties are so quick to go nuclear with their political opponents, especially those -- like conservative blacks and Jews -- whom they are disposed to attack as racial and philosophic traitors. Here's the excerpt:

The left, to a man, considers itself to be educated and enlightened. It matters not how little actual schooling a particlular leftist may have had, nor how unintelligent the person might be. They all consider themselves intellectuals of sorts. If they dropped out of college after one semester, they just think of themselves as autodidacts whose genius could not be stimulated by the ossified and bourgeois teaching of the academy. If they're just plain stupid or crazy -- like, say, Charlie Sheen -- they indulge in farcial conspiracy-theorizing, reassuring themselves that they are intellectual because they know things others do not. They are one of the chosen few brave enough to see past the web of lies and glimpse the arcane truth behind, say, the implosion of the World Trade Center (a SEAL team planted those charges, you know?).

This conceit, usually wholly undeserved, of practically every leftist in the world is what makes leftism so intoxicating for the intellectually insecure, and what makes leftists so easily led and manipulated. It's an attractive doctrine for those who wish to conceive of themselves as intellectual and brilliant, for it provides an instant short-cut to the equivalent of an MIT education.

There's much much more, and it's exceptionally well argued. Here's the link.

Finally, we stumbled across a thought-provoking essay about American Idol, which is 1) highly unusual, and 2) asks a very interesting question about the proceedings that have fascinated so many millions of people. Until we looked at this little gem, we weren't particularly fascinated.. See what you think:

I'm always drawn to the early episodes in a season of "American Idol." They're entertaining, as guilty pleasures tend to be, but also intriguing in a way that speaks to my scientific curiosity. I'm referring to the multitude of contestants that perform, umm...shall we say, dissonantly—meaning they are seriously out of tune, even awful.

What's especially interesting is that often these same contestants are completely ignorant of this fact, sometimes defiantly so. As a scientist, I feel compelled to seek an explanation somewhere in the scientific literature.

A scientific explanation for all those inane diatribes by the talentless about being informed that they can't sing? That is intriguing. Here's the link.

We'll slink away now. Thanks for sticking with us this far, if you did. If you didn't, it can't possibly matter, can it?




Friday, June 02, 2006


Nonlinearity


PSAYINGS.5A.41. The standard graphic representation of the Mandelbrot set is really only a snapshot of what it entails. The set is infinite and has the interesting property of painting the same shapes, including the one shown above, no matter how small a sample of it you take. It just keeps going. The history of the set used to be pretty straightforward:

Discovered in 1976 by IBM researcher Benoit Mandelbrot, the Mandelbrot set is the most famous fractal (a mathematical object with the property of infinite detail). Only the advent of fast computers made feasible the repeated calculations involved -- or so it was thought.

The problem is, a 13th century monk named Udo seems to have anticipated Mandelbrot by about 700 years, if mathematician Robert Schipke is to be believed. He found the set standing in for the Star of Bethlehem in a drawing of the nativity by Udo of Aachen. Udo was already known to moderns as the author of the poem Carl Orff set to music in the Carmina Burana. What no one knew was that the stirring O Fortuna of the opera was as much literal and mathematical as it was poetic: Udo had spent much of his youth exploring probability theory in the hope of learning how to predict which souls would go to heaven and which to hell. This led him to devise the exact equation that produces the Mandelbrot set. He spent years performing calculations by hand that the 20th century IBM mathematician would later complete in a matter of hours on a computer. His patience was rewarded with a vision of the intriguing shape that has played across computer screens for the past 30 years.

You can read the rest of Udo's story at the website linked above. We found it fascinating because the Mandelbrot set is an outgrowth of Chaos theory, which is responsible for much of the structure of The Boomer Bible, as you'll see here. Another name for chaos is nonlinear systems theory, because it deals with the messy reality of equations that don't come out even, and where the finite can suddenly veer off the chart into infinity.

Which is kind of what happened with Udo, as you'll learn here.

All in all, too good not to share.




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