Sunday, July 31, 2005

Some Thoughts on Witches

I posted up the etymology of some "magic" words at Winds of Change. Among the comments it drew was this one from Mark Buehner:

[I] once got in an argument with a born again about the Potter books (which i love). At some point in the conversation, it occurred to me that the discussion was going nowhere because the person i was arguing with believes in witchcraft. It was a very strange feeling, kinda funny kinda creepy. How do you argue logic with someone that believes in witches, and their corrupting power over us via popcorn fiction?

And I thought of something to add to that, and I tried to type it as a follow-up comment, but due to technical difficulties over there, I couldn't post it. Which meant that, instead of flushing it out of my system at the moment of inception, I carried it around all weekend. Other things I read or saw washed over it, and the colors ran and bled.

And the gist of it at the end is: "Men stopped burning witches not because they stopped fearing them, but because they stopped believing in them."

Witches were still real, and still terrifying to Martin Luther and James I of England ("King James Version"). But in the 17th century learned men in Europe began to use reason and to think scientifically, and they no longer believed in magic. By the mid-18th century almost no one took witchcraft seriously in the Western world outside the most ignorant peasants or the most benighted corners of Europe.

What happened? The Enlightenment spirit of inquiry, which rejected supernatural explanations of natural phenomena. The same men who disentangled natural science from Biblical scholarship also pried astronomy away from astrology. There was no place for the spiritual or the supernatural in their explanation of the universe.

As rationalistic and educated men came to hold power in the Church, they, too turned away from belief in witchcraft, regarding it as an ignorant superstition based in faulty understanding of God's power. The obsession with witchcraft also suffered because it was associated with medieval scholastic theologies which were falling from favor for other reasons. As early as 1610, no less authority than the Grand Inquisitor of Spain could write, "I have not found even indications from which to infer a single act of witchcraft has really occurred."

In the last witchcraft trials in the colony of Pennsylvania, in the first decade of the 18th century, juries would return no verdict but that so-and-so "has the reputation of a witch." The reality was out of the question.

By the late 19th century, the handful of believers still sounding a warning about witches, like Montague Summers, could only rail in futility against "The rationalist historian and the skeptic," who, when confronted with the evidence of witchcraft, respond with "a flat denial of all statements which did not fit, or could not by some means be squared with, their own narrow prejudice."

I know a woman many would call a witch. It's not the right word, but it conveys some of the right idea. She was a hereditary priestess in a very ancient craft, and she had powers. She was my lover for three years. I don't believe in magic or the supernatural. But I know she could do things. And she could see things.

And as a rational man, in a conflict between what I disbelieve and what I have seen, I have to put experience first. I don't expect you to believe this -- I insist that you not believe it. No one's word -- mine or any man's -- should convince you of things that are incredible. What happens to me is experience, but only to me. When I tell you about it, it is mere heresay.

I introduce her, because she had bitter thoughts about "the burning times," and the persecutions of her sisters by the early Church. But it occurred to me, too, that the early Church took them seriously, and treated them as a deadly serious threat. The social order in a community that looked to wise women with supernatural training for healing or cursing was incompatible with the patriarchal cell organization of the Church.

You can rail against the way the Church killed these people. But you can't deny it took them seriously. Witches were the ultimate gnostics. When our culture turned agnostic, it ceased to see them. We saw just odd, mumbling old women who thought they were casting spells to harm their neighbors, or young beauties who seemed to have a potent magical hold on the minds of young men.

So today you can see people who are upset by Harry Potter books as a lunatic fringe, but remember; the rest of us never resolved our feelings about witches, either. We just let them slip back underground.

Secret Life of Beasts

In another case, a farmer noticed that many of his roosters had unaccountably formed a gang of rapists. When Grandin looked closely at their surroundings, she saw that the problem was that there was not nearly enough room for the chickens to practise their instinctive mating ritual, leading the male to take the short-cut to have his way. When the farmer gave his chickens more space, the rapes ceased.

To call that the fascinating fact of the week doesn't even come close. But then I'm a closet Darwin geek, so maybe you don't think so. Who is this "Grandin" and how did she figure this out? She's autistic, and she finds that gives her an insight into the animal mind. A review of her book explains it.

About one in every 500 people has autism, a condition characterised by severely impaired social and communication skills and by repetitive interests and activities. The author of this eye-opening book, Temple Grandin, believes that such people have an especially close affinity with animals and are better placed than others to empathise with animals and to understand their behaviour. Many experts ridicule such generalisations, but Grandin is utterly confident that she is right, and she speaks with authority: not only is she a professor of Animal Science but she is autistic.

Grandin deserves to be taken seriously since she has unequivocally demonstrated her special understanding of animals. Hard-nosed accountants in the fast-food industry pay her considerable sums to advise them on how best to treat the cattle in their slaughterhouses. By dramatically improving the conditions in abattoirs, often through insightful but inexpensive changes to conventional practices, she may well have done more for animal welfare than anyone else in recent history.

So if the consciousness of animals is something like that of autistic people, what human state most resembles the awareness of plants? I remember reading someone who compared the awareness of plants to that of people who are asleep.

Freedom's Just Another Word

And when Shanghai MSN Network Communications Technology, half-owned by Microsoft, recently launched a Chinese version of MSN My Space, a blog-hosting service, it ceded to Chinese demands to block words like “freedom” and “democracy” from use in blog titles.

This Newsweek article looks at it from a technology perspective. But really it's a language issue. Amritas, a blog by a professional linguists with a deep knowledge of Asian languages, is linking to, and commenting on, suggestions for ways the Chinese can get around the blockers.

Stepping over the "block" may not be difficult at all, as it turns out. You can use essentially the same trick junior high school boys use to get rude words broadcast: You have the PA system page someone with a plausible sounding name that is a homonym for something else. Ah, come on; you did it, too: "Will Heywood Jablomi report to the information desk."

Chinese contains thousands of homonyms -- words that sound the same but are built of totally unrelated characters. According to one of the writers Amritas cites:

All one would need to do is combine, for example, the characters for "word" [actually 'character'] and "swim." It's utter nonsense to any filtering program, but together ["ziyou"] they have exactly the same pronunciation and tones as the word ["ziyou"] for freedom.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Once Again

uncool is the new cool.

But for many twenty-, thirty- and fortysomethings, the appeal of being cool and edgy is rapidly deteriorating. "The last identity you would want to claim now is a hipster," says John Leland, author of "Hip: The History." "It's the worst of insults."


So if everybody's hip, then let's be unhip, and indeed, what a very hip idea. Some people are just fed up with the whole enterprise.

Haven't we been here a few times before? Like when Huey Lewis sang "It's Hip to be Square."

Whom to blame this time? There's always the Internet:

Unlike the beatnik '50s, when discovering some gem of cultural arcana involved real detective work, today getting hip to the latest blog or indie rock band is as easy as logging on to the Internet.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Just Another Day

Smith, deployed near Kirkuk with his National Guard unit, reports on another day in the sandbox.

We searched around 12 villages, some as large as 8,000 people. We cordoned them off and searched each and every house. We found LOTS of stuff. I’m sure we have prevented countless deaths throughout the country. We blew up a cache of weapons the first day that consisted of a dozen RPG’s, over 200 mortar and rocket rounds, 3 AK47’s, thousands of rounds of ammo, Motorola radios for detonating IED’s, spools of wire, and other IED making materials. The next couple days were more of the same. I’m not sure how many people we detained, but it should have been a lot more. It’s tough with the IA because they will tell their buddies we are coming, and we find that a lot of terrorists are long gone by the time we get there. You know how quickly word spreads in small towns. We are working to rectify the situation though, so it won’t be a problem for long.

That's the thing I'm missing from the big media reporting. This is the war. This is where it's being won -- or lost. And if you're the AP and you don't tell me what people like Smith are doing, day in and day out in Iraq, you're not doing your job.

If all you write about it suicide bombers because you're locked into the notion that the only news is big explosions, get a new model. Journalism has done it before. You can do it. Nothing ever blew up in Watergate.

Today, every mil-blogger is his own Ernie Pyle. In part, that's because there are no Ernie Pyles with newspaper columns nowadays. Read the war correspondents filing from Iraq for the big media, and see how many G.I. -- or National Guard -- voices they contain. Last summer I read through dozens of New York Times and AP versions of stories about the fighting in Najaf. They quote U.S. generals in Baghdad, and they quoted al-Sadr's militiamen. And they quoted U.S. politicians. Where were the G.I.s? The exact people Pyle put at the center of everything he wrote? The people most Americans are most interested in? The ones who performed splendidly, picking off the thugs without putting a scratch in the precious Shi'ite mosques? Where were they?

With the Internet, you can find them, of course. But the owners of networks and newspapers might want to file this under "1,000 reasons we're losing audience."

Smith has another message for us:

One more plug before I finish. Things are good here. Regardless of what you hear on the news. The terrorists are losing, and losing bad. If you can’t see that, you need to open your eyes. They have resorted to such cowardly tactics as suicide bombers targeting civilians. Civilians! What did the civilians ever do to the terrorists? Nothing. But it doesn’t matter. The terrorists are only here (from other countries mind you) to create havoc.

It’s not working too well. For every huge explosion you see on CNN, there were probably two dozen that were prevented by quick thinking, hard working soldiers. You don’t hear about that on the news though. You don’t hear about the 18 year old machine gunner who shot a suspicious vehicle trying to enter their convoy which turned out to be an attempted suicide bomber. This hero is not on CNN for saving the lives of fellow soldiers and Iraqi civilians alike. You don’t hear about how many lives were saved when the Iraqi army raided a small village and destroyed hundreds of would be IED’s. No, that is not news my friends.

But when some pus nuts friggin terrorist blows up innocent people in the middle of a market, you are told by the media that we are losing the war and that we shouldn’t be here. Well, we should. When you work with these people daily, you see what the hard work is doing. When the kids are anxious to go to school to learn about the world around them, you realize that we should be here.

I hope the trend continues, and that the terrorists run out of cowardly suicide volunteers. Can there be that many stupid people around? Iraq doesn’t have any left. Neither does Iran. These terrorists are from Syria, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, ect. I hope the people fight back. They are starting to, believe me. Yesterday we were tipped off by a man in the village about a house that had already been searched. When soldiers went back inside to search more carefully a cleverly hidden sniper rifle was found. How many people had this terrorist killed? How many would he have killed had we not been tipped off? A big thanks goes out to that civilian. That Arab wants to see his country make something of it’s self. I do too. And you know what, I think it will.

Because It Can't Be Said Often Enough

Here's Olivier Roy saying it again:
Conflicts in the Middle East have a tremendous impact on Muslim public opinion worldwide. In justifying its terrorist attacks by referring to Iraq, Al Qaeda is looking for popularity or at least legitimacy among Muslims. But many of the terrorist group's statements, actions and non-actions indicate that this is largely propaganda, and that Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine are hardly the motivating factors behind its global jihad.


Why would a Pakistani or a Spaniard be more angry than an Afghan about American troops in Afghanistan? It is precisely because they do not care about Afghanistan as such, but see the U.S. involvement there as part of a global phenomenon of cultural domination.

What was true for the first generation of Al Qaeda is also relevant for the present generation: even if these young men are from Middle Eastern or South Asian families, they are for the most part Westernized Muslims living or even born in Europe who turn to radical Islam.

Moreover, converts are to be found in almost every Qaeda cell: They did not turn fundamentalist because of Iraq, but because they felt excluded from Western society (this is especially true of the many converts from the Caribbean islands, both in Britain and France).

"Born again" or converts, they are rebels looking for a cause. They find it in the dream of a virtual, universal ummah, the same way the ultraleftists of the 1970s (the Baader-Meinhof Gang, the Italian Red Brigades) cast their terrorist actions in the name of the "world proletariat" and "Revolution" without really caring about what would happen after.

It is also interesting to note that none of the Islamic terrorists captured so far had been active in any legitimate antiwar movements or even in organized political support for the people they claim to be fighting for. They don't distribute leaflets or collect money for hospitals and schools. They do not have a rational strategy to push for the interests of the Iraqi or Palestinian people.

Even their calls for the withdrawal of the European troops from Iraq ring false. After all, the Spanish police have foiled terrorist attempts in Madrid even since the government withdrew its forces. Western-based radicals strike where they are living, not where they are instructed to or where it will have the greatest political effect on behalf of their nominal causes.

The Western-based Islamic terrorists are not the militant vanguard of the Muslim community; they are a lost generation, unmoored from traditional societies and cultures, frustrated by a Western society that does not meet their expectations.

Hat tip to the excellent Evetushnet.


The Opposite of "Support"

... is no longer "oppose."

I'm interested in the choice of words in this lede from an article in the "St. Louis Post-Dispatch":

WASHINGTON — The administration's talk about sharply reducing the number of American troops in Iraq starting as early as next spring gets a strong endorsement from military experts, both those who support the war and those who question it.

The newspaper's writer chooses to see the spectrum of opinion about the Iraq War as black and white. Or rather, black and gray. On the one side, people "support" the war. The opposite of "support" typically is "oppose." But not here. Here they merely "question" it.

Do none of these "experts" who question the war go so far as to oppose it? Do none who support it ever question it -- I support it, and I constantly question that support, checking it against the shifting realities. I have met people online who began by supporting the war and who then came to oppose it by process of questioning. Andrew Sullivan does this several times in the time it takes to watch a baseball game.

I think I just spent more time thinking about this choice of words than did the writer who actually made the choice. But if I'm right, that -- the reflexive nature of the writing -- is why this choice of two words is an insight into newsroom mentalities.

For proof that "supporters" do, in fact, "question," consider Michael Young reviewing "Losing Iraq: Inside the Postwar Reconstruction Fiasco" by David L. Phillips.

His conclusion: "For those who supported the war and still do — present company included — Phillips' book makes for arduous but obligatory reading." I'm not sure I would agree with them that dissolving the Baath Party and the armed forces were "irresponsible moves," especially compared to not dissolving them. But, overall, Young makes his points well. It's a sobering assessment.

For all the hopes it placed in Iraq, the Bush administration fouled up when it could have avoided doing so. Phillips' book is a reminder that Iraq was not necessarily about neo-colonialism, oil, Israel, or racism toward Arabs. Yet those are the reasons often cited to explain American difficulties in Iraq, as if they mandated divine retribution for hubris. U.S. hubris was certainly a factor in the downward spiral in Iraq, but as Phillips makes clear, success was always achievable. He does not use principle to blame the administration; he questions its competence, while accepting that Saddam had to be overthrown. What makes Phillips' book so damaging is that it was written by a onetime believer.

Young and Phillips, however, do not occupy the same ground as the anti-war cassandra crowd that opposed the whole enterprise before it happened. In fact, Young suggests what has gone right -- such as the January 30 election and the ripples of democracy throughout the region -- were exactly the outcomes the anti-war voices were most certain would not happen.

These two, and others like them, see Iraq as a grand opportunity "botched," one that, at best, will improve the Islamic Middle East in many senses, but worsen it in some others. The failure, such as it has been, lay in the execution, not the conception.

Don't Think of a Sea Cucumber

"Stealth" may be the bad movie Ty Burr of the Boston Globe says it is, but he doesn't convince me of that in his review of it. In fact, he tells me it's a "pretty fair" action-thriller, and he seems to like the action scenes.

He writes, "The issue isn't the quality of the action scenes, because these days that's mostly what Hollywood is good for."

So what is his problem with "Stealth?"

The issue is that this is exactly the sort of movie we don't need right now: a delusional military fantasy in which collateral damage doesn't exist.

Hey, Hollywood. Stop trying to entertain the booboisie and get busy propagandizing them! Didn't you hear Michael Moore? "We" lost in 2004 because "we" didn't educate enough people.

That initial strike involves dropping an "implosion bomb" on an apartment building in downtown Rangoon that's miraculously occupied only by the terrorists; the cute kids next door remain unhurt. Later, when EDI's assault on the warlord causes radioactive dust to drift over a nearby village, Kara calls in the medics to relieve the terrified villagers - with what? Gatorade? - and that's the last we hear of that. Oh, a few North Korean soldiers get killed, but they're as one-dimensional as Purcell's willowy Thai girlfriend (Jaipetch Toonchalong), who nods and smiles uncomprehendingly as he mumbles about the human cost of war.

It's not enough for Ty that the movie does, in fact, allude to the "human cost of war," something he also indicates in his plot summation. No, no, no. Monologue is not enough! The Hollywood gods must shove it down our throats while they scold us for being such lemmings as to have voted for That War-Monger in the White House! How dare we then go out and relax in an air-conditioned theater when, you know, BLOOD FOR OIL!

Am I spoiling the party? Harshing the high-flying flyboy buzz? Tough. For a movie to pretend, in the face of the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi men, women, and children directly or indirectly caused by our presence there, that we can wage war without anyone really getting hurt isn't naive, or wishful thinking, or a jim-dandy way to spend a Saturday night at the movies. It's an obscenity.

Ye gods. He wants all "Fahrenheit 9/11," all the time, at the multiplex. He even jumps on Chrissie Hynde for contributing a vocal track to the final credits. "Chrissie, honey, did you even read the script?"

Listen, Ty, all wars do that. It's the nature of war, no matter who starts it, no matter who opposes it. No matter who is the enemy. Some wiser heads than you have figured this out before. Hemingway wrote, "A defensive war, which must necessarily turn to aggressive at the earliest moment, is the necessary great counter-crime. But never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime. Ask the infantry and the dead." War, like revolution, destroys and takes. There's a script called "history." Ty, read it.

Still, it never occurs to Ty that some of us are utterly nauseated by the brand of shrill hectoring he insists Hollywood force on its audiences. It also never occurs to him that summer movies are not required viewing, and audiences can go watch penguins slithering on the ice in theater 15 if they don't like the agitprop on the big screen in theater 14. Ty gets paid to watch movies; the rest of us don't.

He also misses the point that many of us might be able to approach the tragedies and human consequences of war on our own (perish the thought of someone thinking without being told what to think!). And we might be able to do that one night and enjoy a bit of Hollywood popcorn the next. And some people might even find an entree into meditation on the moral complexities of war exactly because they watched this action movie that touched on it without insulting its audience.

But Ty dismisses such people as "audiences lacking higher brain functions. Sea cucumbers, perhaps. Ones waving American flags."

Good work, Ty. Way to be persuasive. Next time, just review the f-ing movie, OK?

E-Mailed to 'Pressthink'

[In reference to this]

I am the person who blogs under this name. I find it highly amusing, and a bit disturbing, to be called a liar by the managing editor of CJR, on your site, for writing of things of which I know and he cannot -- the daily conditions at my job. I also find it highly amusing and a bit sad that he is a leader in our profession, yet so focused on his pre-conceptions that he cannot even come up with a logical reason for calling me a liar for writing about what I know and he doesn't.

And finally, I find it highly unamusing that my cyber-identity can be cyber-libeled on your pages, yet when I try to post any reply at all in my defense, the comment is rejected for "objectionable content." If the false accusation has the floor and the truth can't get a foot in the door, then we're in a shape as sad as Patrick says.

I would sign my name if I trusted you not to reveal it. I have no reason to feel such trust based on current level of experience. My bosses have vowed to fire me if I write online about newsroom matters without first getting their approval, or if I blog in any form. Jeff Jarvis knows the story.

Update Jay Rosen e-mailed me back promptly and assured me the inability to post at his site was a glitch of some sort, not an intentional block. He even offered to post something I would e-mail, but I told him that didn't seem wirth it. It would be something like comment #115 in the thread, and anyway my inability to really identify myself would mean whatever I could say would fail to convince the doubters who find my descrptions of my workplace unsuited to their perceptions of reality.

Besides, it's much more fun to sit back and watch people who think everything's fine in the big media wear down their keyboards "proving" I can't possibly exist. And my co-workers -- the two who didn't drink the Bush=Hitler-flavored Kool-Aid -- have already gained the phrase "worse newsroom in Christendom" out of it, which was well worth the price of being called a liar by one of the deans of American journalism.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Another Sad Case

The boss asked me to fill the letters to the editor page this afternoon. I always enjoy that because it gives me a chancew to read lots and lots of letters to the editor that really ought to be written to our "ask the doctor" column. "Dear Doctor. I'm suffering from a hellacious case of Bush Derangement Syndrome. What ought I to do?"

Here's one off the top of the stack:

The recent London bombings can only be labeled as obscene and dastardly. Likewise for the 9/11 attacks, the Madrid bombings and all the other atrocities perpetrated by the insurgents, Taliban, Al Qaida or whatever you care to call the scum responsible.

And who is it that dared to open the Pandora’s box that triggered the formentation of all this evil? Namely that sanctimonious megamaniac working in the Oval office.

Ah, can you still cast your mind back to that happy golden age of humanity that came to such a crashing close on Jan. 20, 2000? Back when everyone lived in peace and harmony and bright-eyed young people of all races stood on hillsides in the dawn holding bottles of Coca-Cola, with flowers in their hair, singing songs together about peace and harmony.

Me neither. But our writer sure can.

Do we really want a demigog ...

[Sic!] Demigog. What's that, Magog's bastard son? Unfortunately, I had to change it. I would have loved to have printed it that way, but it's my job as an editor to prevent the public from knowing how ignorant the letter-writers truly are. Oh, he also wrote "9/22" instead of "9/11."

Do we really want a demigog who dreams that in one fell swoop he can democratize the entire world, many of whose nations have been ruled by dictators (cruel or otherwise) for years? He has proven that with his attack on Iraq based to a great part on the worldwide threat of WMDs, which ultimately didn’t exist, the “one fell swoop” theory doesn’t do the trick. And now that the sleeping beast has been awakened, he has the audacity to take on the insurmountable challenge of subduing all terrorists, whose motto, by the way, seems to be “where there’s a will, there’s a way” no matter what the cost in loss of military or civilian lives.

It’s about time that the American public put down their Big Macs, turned off their laptops and cell phones, got out of their SUVs and realized something has got to be done about this man and his sycophants.

By now, I’m sure it’s apparent that I’m not a big fan of George W. If he’d just wipe that silly smirk off his face. It’s about time that we realize that we’ve been hoodwinked long enough.

Again with the smirk. What is it with facial expressions?

I say his actions are grounds for impeachment if not removal from office.

Brilliant idea. Impeach him and remove him from office! Hit him with both barrels. Lol!

Lovelady and Me

The more I think about this, the funnier it seems.

As I've mentioned, I'm contributing to the new "centrist" blog Donklephant. To help get it launched, spark some debate and generally bash things up a bit, I bloviated about my wanderings in the political wilderness, the usual Left Behind story that, if you've hung out here for a while, you'll recognize.

I spiced it up with some of the anecdotes from the Chomskyite/leftist/knee-jerk liberal clique in my newsroom, which I've told here over the years in dribs and drabs. It's part of that story, because I discover what I think partly by constant friction against what I don't accept.

The whole piece (a three-parter) got a lot of nice comments, some thoughtful criticism, and a dollop of snark.

Here's where it gets interesting. One of the readers, Patrick Walsh, posted a link to it at PressThink, Jay Rosen's journalism blog. It's way, way down in the comments section there, number 84 or so, but no need to hunt because I'm about to reprint the relevant response here.

It comes from, of all people, Steve Lovelady, managing editor of "Columbia Journalism Review," one of the two or three most prestigious trade publications in all of journalism. And guess what? He basically calls me a liar.

It doesn't pass the smell test on several counts.

I can think of no other way to interpret that.

Is my newsroom that bad? That even a seasoned journalist doesn't believe it can exist? But look closer. Mr. Lovelady's job at CJR must be a bit of an easy chair, because he's got lots of time to hang out at PressThink, and by his postings there he generally reveals himself to be a powerful defender of what we're now calling the "MSM," and one who partakes of the general liberalish view of the world and current events that prevails in newsrooms. One who wouldn't be irritated or offended by a steady stream of anti-Iraq war, anti-GOP, what's-wrong-with-America, anti-Christian fundamentalist remarks.

So how does he go about justifying his dismissal?

First, we are to believe that the author (who, from his posts appears to be quite articulate and outspoken) sits there like a timid little mouse amidst all this insanity, boneheadedness and intolerance and never rises up to state his own case?

Uh, look around you. This is the Internet. This is where the world's mice go to roar. The Internet is the place where pimply social failures become online lotharios, brow-beaten corporate drudges become Jedi heroes, and nobody knows you're a dog.

The idea that I would grit my teeth and bear it in the office, then vent about it anonymously online, hardly beggars belief. But one of the leading lights of modern journalism seems to think so.

Second, as Dave notes, most newsrooms are not especially political places nor are they occupied with people passionate about politics (certainly no newsroom I've ever been in has been one-tenth as passionate about politics as, say, the denizens of the comments section of Press Think are.)

Ah, yes, the old fallacy of statistics of small numbers. He's never seen it. So it can't be true. I wonder when was the last time he went to work every day in a small-town newspaper's newsroom?

The truth is, at the Dallas Morning News, or the Chicago Trib, or the Denver Post, or the Seattle Times, or the Miami Herald, for every 100 editorial employees maybe half a dozen are political reporters or editors -- if that.

Not the point, Mr. Name Dropper. I never said our political writer was a Bush-hating blowhard (we only have one such reporter. I've never even seen a "political editor"). But then, he mostly writes about county and state politics. That's the nature of a political writer on this humble plane of the Fourth Estate, where Mr. Lovelady, in his elevated career, probably has not set foot for a long time.

Yet the fact that they're not political reporters doesn't preclude my co-workers on the copy desk or in the reporting pool from being politically vocal. Any more than being a MIT professor of linguistics, not of poli sci, prevents Chomsky from being politically vocal.

And that's the sum of the "several counts" he manages to make to justify writing me off as some sort of fraud. Somehow I was hoping for more. But hey, I've felt for four years now that my profession was more and more out of touch with reality. Now I have it from high authority that the feeling is mutual.

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Chapter One

Here's another "Left Behind" story to add to the list. This one may be the earliest in the modern pack -- it's that ol' debbil AL CAPP! Chronicled in this article on "right-wing" comics.

Then you had Al Capp of Li’l Abner fame, a former liberal so distressed by the excesses of the sixties that he took time off from chronicling Dogpatch’s amiable swindling and social climbing to lampoon “Joanie Phoanie,” a Joan Baez look-alike in bare feet and love beads, with flies constantly circling her head. Capp also came up with Students Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything (SWINE). In one representative entry, SWINE, having determined that America should be returned to its rightful Native American owners, induces wimpy Harvard administrators to hand over the university to the only Indian they can find—a shady character named Lonesome Polecat.

Even Lonesome Polecat—who soon trades the school to mobsters—can hardly believe the administrators’ lack of spine. Coming upon a bunch of students hitting a dean over the head with protest signs, he demands, “Why enemy no fight back?” “Because we’re students!” replies one of the kids. “If we commit assault, arson, and vandalism . . . ”

“... they’re not crimes ...” chimes in another.

“... they’re simply proofs of our idealism!” adds a third.

In explaining his political shift, Capp described an ideological journey that countless other liberals would make in the decades to follow. “What began to bother me, privately, was that, as things grew better, the empire of the needy seemed to grow larger. Somehow they became entitled to government gifts other people couldn’t get, such as people who worked,” Capp explained. “Yet I remained a loyal liberal,” he continued. “I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the home of liberalism. I spoke at liberal banquets in New York, Los Angeles, Washington. One day a lady photographer came to my studio and showed me a collection of Boston photographs. A publisher would publish them if only I would rattle off the captions. ... Well, one doesn’t turn down a lady liberal. ... This one, she said, will break your heart. She showed me a picture of a city street. It was mid-afternoon, the sun was shining. Garbage cans were tipped on the sidewalk. Bottles lined the gutters. On a porch sprawled a half dozen teenagers, drinking and smoking. The caption, I said, should be, ‘Get up off your asses and clean the street!’ The lady stormed out. I guess that was when I began leaving what liberalism had become.”

I still remember that series in "Li'l Abner," which still ran in the Philly Inquirer when I was a kid.

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Carnival of the Etymologies

[A regular Thursday feature of "Done With Mirrors"]

Special "Harry Potter" edition! in honor of J.K. Rowling's new book, which my son read last week, and her nose for juicy obscure and historical words. She seems to me the sharpest English popular writer in this way since J.R.R. Tolkien.

Witch is Old English wicce "female magician, sorceress," in later use especially "a woman supposed to have dealings with the devil or evil spirits and to be able by their cooperation to perform supernatural acts."

English used to be a fully inflected language, with genders like German or Latin, and wicce is the feminine form of wicca "sorcerer, wizard, man who practices witchcraft or magic."

The nouns all come from the verb wiccian "to practice witchcraft," which has relatives in Low German. But the exact origin of it is lost in the murk of history.

The Oxford English Dictionary simply dismisses it as of uncertain origin. Ernest Klein's etymology dictionary suggests a connection with Old English wigle "divination," and wig, wih "idol."

Calvert Watkins, another noted modern etymology writer, suggests the nouns represent a Proto-Germanic *wikkjaz "necromancer," and thinks this may mean literally "one who wakes the dead." He bases this on the notion that the root of the word is Proto-Indo-European *weg- "to be strong, be lively" (the root of wake (v.) and vigil).

The early 20th century English etymologist Ernest Weekly notes a possible connection to Gothic weihs "holy" and German weihan "consecrate," and writes, "the priests of a suppressed religion naturally become magicians to its successors or opponents."

That wicce once had a more specific sense than the later general one of "female magician, sorceress" perhaps is suggested by the presence of other words in Anglo-Saxon describing more specific kinds of magical craft. In the Laws of Ælfred (c.890), for instance, witchcraft was specifically singled out as a woman's craft, whose practitioners were not to be suffered to live among the West Saxons:

"Ða fæmnan þe gewuniað onfon gealdorcræftigan & scinlæcan & wiccan, ne læt þu ða libban."

The other two words combined with it here are gealdricge, a woman who practices "incantations," and scinlæce "female wizard, woman magician," from a root meaning "phantom, evil spirit."

Another word that appears in the Anglo-Saxon laws is lyblæca "wizard, sorcerer," but with suggestions of skill in the use of drugs, since the root of the word is lybb "drug, poison, charm." Lybbestre was a feminine noun meaning "sorceress," and lybcorn was the name of a certain medicinal seed (perhaps wild saffron).

In Anglo-Saxon glossaries, wicca renders Latin augur (c.1100), and wicce stands for "pythoness, divinatricem." One glossary translates Latin necromantia ("demonum invocatio") with galdre, wiccecræft.

But the Anglo-Saxon poem called "Men's Crafts" has wiccræft, which appears to be the same word, and by its context means "skill with horses." And in a c.1250 translation of "Exodus," witches is used as a word for the Egyptian midwives who save the newborn sons of the Hebrews: "Ðe wicches hidden hem for-ðan, Biforen pharaun nolden he ben."

If witch once had a narrower meaning, after the Christian conquest it acquired a much broader one. "At this day," Reginald Scot wrote in "The Discoverie of Witchcraft" (1584), "it is indifferent to say in the English tongue, 'she is a witch,' or 'she is a wise woman.' "

The witch in witch hazel seems to be a different word, from Old English wican "to bend."

Witch in reference to a man survived in dialect into the 20th century, but the feminine form was so dominant by 1601 that men-witches or he-witch began to be used. Gradually, though wizard emerged as the male equivalent of witch.

Wizard goes back at least to the early 15th century, and its earliest meaning was "philosopher, sage," which is no surprise since the root of it is Middle English wys "wise."

Other languages than English also have seen words for "wise man" become words for "magician" (such as Lithuanian zynys "sorcerer," zyne "witch," both from zinoti "to know"). The connecting sense in this transition is perhaps "to know the future."

The meaning "one with magical power" did not emerge distinctly in English wizard until c.1550, the distinction between philosophy and magic being somewhat blurry in the Middle Ages.

Wand is a word that first appears in English about 1200, and it comes via the Viking invasion, from Old Norse vondr "rod, switch." The root of this is Proto-Germanic *wend- "to turn," which is the root of wind (v.). The notion is of a bending, flexible stick.

The phrase magic wand is attested from c.1400, which shows the etymological sense of "suppleness" already had been lost from the word by then.

But the original notion is preserved in a German cognate, Wand "wall." What's the connection between a wand and a wall? Well, originally the German word meant "wickerwork for making walls," or "wall made of wattle-work," which turns this little word into an insight into prehistoric Germanic domestic architecture.

Magic came into English around Chaucer's time, originally meaning "the art of influencing events and producing marvels." Unlike witch, it's an import, from Old French magique, which in turn is from Latin magice "sorcery, magic."

The Romans got the word from Greek magike (an adjective presumably with tekhne "art"), which is a feminine form from the noun magos "member of the learned and priestly class." This is a word the Greeks picked up from Persia, and it is the same word that has come down, in another form, as Magi.

Old Persian also is an Indo-European language, and the root of Old Persian magush may be Proto-Indo-European *magh- "to be able, to have power," which would connect it with many modern words, including might and machine.

The French import displaced native wiccecræft and also drycræft, from dry "magician," which was related to the Irish root of Druid..

The transferred sense of magic from a supernatural power to "legerdemain, optical illusion, etc." took place around 1811.

But the connection of magi and witch is explicit in the medieval "Three Kings of Cologne" (c.1400):

"Þe paynyms ... cleped þe iij kyngis Magos, þat is to seye wicchis."

The noun spell with the meaning "incantation, set of words with magical powers," is first recorded in the 16th century. Its earlier meaning is reflected by the Old English ancestor of the word, spell, which meant "story, speech."

This comes, of course, from the same root as the verb spell meaning
"name the letters of," which came from Anglo-Saxon spellian, which meant "to tell, speak." The meaning "write or say the letters of a word" began to appear about 1400, from notion of "read letter by letter, read with difficulty."

So a root meaning "say words, speak" forked in English, one branch going down the path of "say magical words" and the other "to name the letters which make up a word."

Many synonyms of the noun spell also mean, basically, "to speak." Old English also had galdor, which meant "spell, enchantment," but also "song," and comes from galan "to sing," the source of the second element in nightingale. German has besprechen "to charm," from sprechen "to speak."

Enchant comes via French enchanter "bewitch, charm," from Latin incantare, which was used of magic spells but literally meant "to sing upon," from in- and cantare "to sing."

Fascinate, though its sense weakened in the 19th century to "delight, attract" originally meant "bewitch, enchant," and was used to describe the actions of witches and serpents, who were said to be able to cast a spell by a look that rendered one unable to move or resist.

It has been traced back to Latin fascinus "spell, witchcraft," which may ultimately come from a Thracian form of Greek phaskein "to say."

A different path from language to magic flows through glamor, which originally meant "magic, enchantment." It's a variation of Scottish gramarye "magic, enchantment, spell," but which is in fact itself a variant of our old friend grammar, which in Scotland also preserved the general medieval sense of "any sort of scholarship," especially occult learning. Glamor was popularized in England and America by the writings of Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832). Its main modern sense of "magical beauty, alluring charm" is first recorded in 1840.

The other verb spell "work in place of (another)," probably has no relation to magic or letters. It came from Old English spelian "to take the place of," which seems to be a relative of spilian "to play," and modern spiel.

The witch's flying broomstick originally was also many other objects (pitchfork, trough, bowl), but the broomstick became the popular image via engravings from a famous Lancashire witch trial of 1612.

Broom, of course, is the common flowering shrub whose twigs were tied together to make a tool for sweeping. The word is recognizable in Old English brom, from Proto-Germanic *bræmaz "thorny bush" (cf. German Brombeere "blackberry"). In English folklore, both the flowers of the broom and sweeping with broom twigs were traditionally considered unlucky in May (Suffolk, Sussex, Wiltshire, etc.).


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Black and White and Brown

The comments on Cicero's post on the other site veered off into John Brown. Mea culpa. But he's among the Americans who won't stay buried. They come back and stalk the fields again in times of crisis, when we edge a little closer to our collective reflexes. He's a warning and a disturber of peaces.

Much of what was said in defense of Oswatomie Brown in 1859 has uncomfortable resonances — for all sides — today. Thoreau, for instance:

He was like the best of those who stood at Concord Bridge once, on Lexington Common, and on Bunker Hill, only he was firmer and higher-principled than any that I have chanced to hear of as there. … They could bravely face their country’s foes, but he had the courage to face his country herself when she was in the wrong.

… We talk about a representative government; but what a monster of a government is that where the noblest faculties of the mind, and the whole heart, are not represented!

He wrote that only those “who are continually shocked by slavery have some right to be shocked by the violent death of the slaveholder,” but that such people “will be more shocked by his life than by his death.”

I shall not be forward to think him mistaken in his method who quickest succeeds to liberate the slave. I speak for the slave when I say that I prefer the philanthropy of Captain Brown to that philanthropy which neither shoots me nor liberates me. … I do not wish to kill nor to be killed, but I can foresee circumstances in which both these things would be by me unavoidable. …

I know that the mass of my countrymen think that the only righteous use that can be made of Sharp’s rifles and revolvers is to fight duels with them, when we are insulted by other nations, or to hunt Indians, or shoot fugitive slaves with them, or the like. I think that for once the Sharp’s rifles and the revolvers were employed in a righteous cause. The tools were in the hands of one who could use them.

The first victim of Brown’s raid, of course, was Hayward Shepherd, a free black man.

Churchill and Gandhi

Cicero is one of the poster over at Donklephant who we don't hear from often enough. Today, he's got a fine one on Gandhi and Churchill.

Here's my response to it, from the comments:

Wonderful exploration of these crucial topics. Bravo!

Some thoughts inspired by your thoughts.

As it stands, Gandhi advised European Jews to pacifism in 1938. Although it’s doubtful that Jewish behavior during the Holocaust had much to do with Gandhi’s nonviolent principles, their general pacifism in the face of a political cult devoted to their annihilation is tragic. European Jewry might’ve benefitted from having an indomitable leader in Churchill’s mold, had it been possible.

I don't think even a Churchill could have saved them. Without military might, and a nation as a refuge and bastion, they were doomed. No other nation would take them in. No other nation would risk its sons to save their lives. Isn't that the true lesson of the Holocaust? Isn't that the true reason for Israel?

Gandhian tactics work against essentially moral and democratic regimes. They rely on the ruling power's ability to feel shame and its desire to be humane. However badly such powers may behave in individual cases, their own inner light always can be touched and it will inspire them to do right. That is his essential belief. That is why he spoke of satyagraha as a weapon of the strong, not of the weak. It's the tool the loving parent uses on the child who is trying to strike him in a fit of temper.

In the application of Satyagraha, I discovered, in the earliest stages, that pursuit of Truth did not admit of violence being inflicted on one's opponent, but that he must be weaned from error by patience and sympathy. For, what appears to be truth to the one may appear to be error to the other. And patience means self-suffering. So the doctrine came to mean vindication of Truth, not by infliction of suffering on the opponent but one's own self.

How truly telling, then, to learn there is a movement to influence the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to adopt the tactics of Gandhi against Israel.

One of the last foreigners to visit Yasser Arafat before he fell ill was Arun Gandhi, grandson of Indian leader Mohandas K. Gandhi. He traveled to Arafat's compound in Ramallah with a simple message: Put down the gun and adopt Gandhi's way of nonviolent resistance.

Is anyone proposing this for, say, Dutch secularists in confrontation with Islamist extremists?

[Islamist = political ideology based on a religion, not the religion itself. Not all communists live in communes.]

As for Churchill, yes I turn to him, too, and look to him as a beacon in this current war. But sometimes he scares me. It is too easy to get lost in his swirl of words and forget the ways in which that war was not like this one. Even to the degrees that the two wars are alike, he is not always our best patron saint. Not yet. Not unless things get really bad. Here's Churchill, after describing the bombing of London:

We ask no favours of the enemy. We seek from them no compunction. On the contrary, if tonight our people were asked to cast their vote whether a convention should be entered into to stop the bombing of cities, the overwhelming majority would cry, "No, we will mete out to them the measure, and more than the measure, that they have meted out to us." The people with one voice would say: "You have committed every crime under the sun. Where you have been the least resisted there you have been the most brutal. It was you who began the indiscriminate bombing. We will have no truce or parley with you, or the grisly gang who work your wicked will. You do your worst - and we will do our best." Perhaps it may be our turn soon; perhaps it may be our turn now.

We live in a terrible epoch of the human story, but we believe there is a broad and sure justice running through its theme. It is time that the enemy should be made to suffer in their own homelands something of the torment they have let loose upon their neighbours and upon the world. We believe it to be in our power to keep this process going, on a steadily rising tide, month after month, year after year, until they are either extirpated by us or, better still, torn to pieces by their own people.

The time has not yet come for us to apply that attitude.

You write:

Moreover the assumption, which served Gandhi so well in dealing with individuals, that all human beings are more or less approachable and will respond to a generous gesture, needs to be seriously questioned. It is not necessarily true, for example, when you are dealing with lunatics. Then the question becomes: Who is sane? Was Hitler sane? And is it not possible for one whole culture to be insane by the standards of another? And, so far as one can gauge the feelings of whole nations, is there any apparent connection between a generous deed and a friendly response? Is gratitude a factor in international politics?

I cannot conceive that Hitler was insane. Every decision he made was rational. Sane men can do terrible violence. John Brown was another who often is called a lunatic but was not. The tactics of the Nazis, even when they seem the most irrational, had a sound, but cruel, foundation. In April and May 1945, when anyone could see the war was lost, they kept fighting, and they made sure to fight in the towns and cities of Germany that had not already suffered. They sought to bring down Germany into utter destruction and ruin.

Why? Not because they thought they could turn around and win (though there was some faint hope of a split among the Allies and a negotiated peace with the West), but so that the surviving Germans would live under occupation in conditions of such misery that they would resent the occupiers more than the Nazis, and that a myth of heroic resistance and a Golden Age under Hitler would take root and the Third Reich would rise again in time. [See Stephen G. Fritz's "Endkampf" for a fascinating account of all this.]

And it showed signs of working in 1946 and '47. If the German people had not been so utterly worn out by war, and if some Nazis had managed to survive in an unconquered enclave, in the Alps for instance, a real insurgency might have developed. As it is, it's easy to recognize the same game being played with better success in Iraq. It's why the insurgents waste firepower on blowing up water plants and electrical substations.

It's why the U.S. infrastructure building -- yes, the work of the dreaded Halliburtons and their contracting cronies -- is a front-line battle in this war.

As a culture we tend to be blind to the great qualities of our own civilization, obsessed with past transgressions. Confronting radical ideologies like Islamofascism requires us to believe in our own civilization, in spite of its flaws. We will need to express the power of our culture to others, and why it’s something worth living and dying for. That’s what should be at the center. Western culture can endure only as long as the majority of its citizens promote and have faith in its many ideals, while addressing its imperfections.

I can endorse that wholeheartedly. It's an excellent statement of the kind of attitude we need at the center. It requires an element of "joining" and of "preaching" and of "embracing what is flawed" that makes a lot of people uncomfortable -- especially Americans, maybe, who tend to value their individualism in part precisely because it allows them to avoid making morally compromising decisions.

As for modern-day pacifists, I was raised among them, among the remnants of William Penn's Delaware Valley Quakers. I respect them, when they are true to it, and especially when they keep the sense of perspective that Gandhi, in World War II, lost. I think of an anecdote of Leonard Kenworthy, a Quaker activist in Nazi Germany at the breaking of the war.

Often, on his way to visit the U.S. embassy for recent news, Kenworthy would find himself whistling “the very catchy tune of Wenn wir fahren, wenn wir fahren, wenn wir fahren nach Engel-land, a favorite tune of the German radio broadcasts about traveling to Angel-land, a play on the world England.” Realizing this unintentional, implicit support for the war, this Quaker pacifist quickly switched to whistling God Bless America and got a “perverted sense of satisfaction from that defiant act.”

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Navigating Diversity

Julie Burchill has a hard-hitting column on the reaction to the London bombings by the soft-headed, deep-pocketed British left. It's called Why should we tolerate these Islamofascists who hate us all?

Still, there was something a little creepy about the way in which certain people went on about the diversity of the dead. For one thing, it showed a willingness to believe the best of the bombers: that if only they had known that they had murdered delegates of all creeds and colours, they wouldn’t have done it.

Bullshit. This sort of Islamofascist hates multiculturalism. Just you try building a church in Saudi Arabia! They won’t even let our troops out there celebrate St Valentine’s Day. And as for any idea of the races being equal ... it is the Muslim world that keeps slavery alive, and Muslim governments, as in Sudan, that see nothing whatsoever wrong with ethnic cleansing. Recently a Muslim columnist wrote sorrowfully of how in her culture a Muslim girl marrying a black man was the greatest shame that could fall upon a family. So much for equality under Islam.


What we have learnt recently is that diversity is not just to be celebrated mindlessly, but also navigated and negotiated. We, the host community, have accepted multiculturalism; the issue now is whether hardline — and I stress hardline — Muslims can do the same.

To my eyes at least, “live and let live” seems to be a concept they have a problem with; until they can grasp it, as the Sikhs and Hindus have (who have at least as strong and rich a culture, but feel no need to burn books, form parliaments, set up separatist schools and kill their fellow Britons to demonstrate this), the jury is still out on whether hardline Muslims can truly live happily in non-Muslim countries. And, after all, they have 56 — count ’em! — of their own to go to if they don’t like it. They are spoilt for choice.

Or will they not be happy until every last country in the world is composed of veiled women, bearded men and dead infidels, of all creeds and colours?

Some of us already have come to a conclusion about the answer to that question. Whether we spell it "color" or "colour," we recognize an enemy whose world is all black and white.

The Nazi Slur

Why do we call each other "Nazis?" Why is that the quick-draw insult to hurl in modern American politics?

Some easy answers come to mind, especially if you consider the other candidates. "Nazis" and not "commies," for instance, because even though the communist governments in various lands have been just as deeply tainted by most of the atrocities charged to the Nazis (and some of them much more deeply), many Americans still brush off "commie" as a comical relic of McCarthyite extremism.

The word perhaps also involves uncomfortable and complex reactions from many folks on the left, who, McCarthyism or not, still haven't resolved the legacy of so many of the heroes of that wing of American politics who seemed to regard Stalin as trustworthy and America as evil.

But "Nazis" wouldn't have been the worst insult in America during World War II itself. It was the "treacherous" Japanese who blindsided us and brought the war to us, as Americans never forgot. It was 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry who were herded into internment camps on the basis of mere suspicion (similar internments were carried out in Canada, Mexico, and Peru), while no government body took action against the German-American Bund, which had openly advocated for Hitler until the outbreak of fighting.

The Japanese of Japan were ruthlessly dehumanized in American propaganda (they returned the favor). Ernie Pyle, having covered the war in Europe, transfered to the Pacific, and ultimately died there. In one of his first columns from the new theater, he wrote, "In Europe we felt that our enemies, horrible and deadly as they were, were still people. But out here I soon gathered that the Japanese were looked upon as something subhuman and repulsive; the way some people feel about cockroaches or mice."

The Allies had a policy of distinguishing between "good" and "bad" Germans. Our enemies usually were not "Germans," but "Nazis," or even "Hitler." But in the Pacific, it was "the Japs," or even "the Jap." Probably this was because of the Germans' nearness to us in race and culture. In the Pacific War, the good/bad dichotomy took place on the level of "Asian." The "good" Asians were the Chinese and the Filipinos -- on our side.

Yet "Nazi," in the words of Wolfgang Schivelbusch, "has held the supreme place of ontological evil in the American mind since 1945." The distinction of "Germans" and "Nazis" certainly is part of the reason. To call someone "Japanese" today, and mean it as any type of insult would be crudely racist, like similar uses of "Jew" or "Gypsy" or "Welsh" or "Dutch."

Present-day Germany represents no evil to the U.S. If anything, the country is frustratingly pacifistic. Yet "Nazi" is safey deracinated. There were Hungarian, Croatian, Ukrainian, and French Nazis. There were American Nazis. That elevates it to a special category. It emerges, out of the 20th century's fat book of pathological politics, as the ultimate evil, and the word is a "moral lightning rod" affixed to one's political opponents.

But I think there's a moment in American history that helped elevate this word to its present position, if it needed a further push.

Stephen Ambrose noted that of all the peoples the American G.I.s encountered during World War II, they identified most with the Germans, whom the American soldiers regarded as "clean, hard-working, disciplined, educated, middle-class in their tastes and life-styles ... just like us."

Even before the war, even before the Berlin of the 1920s became the first Americanized metropolis in Europe, other Europeans recognized Germany -- a brash, new, militaristic nation -- as the America among them. Its capital was a big, unstylish, fast-moving, technologically advanced parvenu city that non-Germans derided as "the Prussian Chicago."

When American troops crossed into Germany itself in late 1944, they learned the same thing. The surprise that the U.S. propaganda about Germans had not been true hit the soldiers in the invading divisions at the same time they felt the shock of what the Third Reich really had done to forced laborers and Jews -- something the propaganda had not prepared them to see.

Some, even at that point, made the connection and recognized in the common qualities the Germans and Americans a common weakness. The Germans were, in the words of one G.I., "just the type of folk who are content to sit back and let someone else have the responsibility of running the government."

The discovery of the stark reality of the concentration camps came at the same time as the discovery of the essential humanness of the enemy and their similarity to us. A report from Europe in the August 1947 issue of "Commentary" noted:

"[F]or Americans especially, the individual German is an attractive person. These children were charming little people; they were pathetic in their need ... yet they did not whine or pester; they stood there quietly, with trust in their eyes. And the American heart went out to them.

As for the adults, they strike most Americans in Germany as decent, pleasant, rather kindly people, who respect their parents, love children, and lavish affection on pets; they are admirably clean and orderly, and have all the solid qualities favored by Ben Franklin.

For most Americans, it is increasingly difficult to associate such individuals with the crimes and bestiality of Germans as a group. This is the paradox of the individual German vs. the collective German. A child, a pretty girl, a wise old lady, is friendly to him, and the American cannot remember what he has been told about the German record. The contrast is too great to be believed."

This is not to say that Americans have Nazi tendencies, or Guantanamo=Auschwitz, or that the U.S. is the new Third Reich. I'll leave that to the contemptible left, which insists it's so because, for instance, we love our flag and the Germans of the 1930s loved their flag. Screeching weasels, rabid with America-hatred.

But there is something about the Germans' stagger into darkness in the 1930s that thoughtful Americans can take as a warning. It's particularly worth our while to study and learn that dreadful wrong turn, and how it happened. And maybe, by keeping the "Nazi" insult alive as the worst one in our cultural vocabulary, the partisan loudmouths are doing us a small favor.

When we were kids in the late 1960s, we "played army" as a core game in the neighborhood. There were as many Pacific war movies on the UHF channels as European war movies. Korea had come and gone; Vietnam was raging. Yet always we played it as "Germans and Americans." I don't think we bunch of little caucasian brats ever could have imagined ourselves as the Japanese, or the North Koreans, or the Viet Cong, even in play. But Germans, yeah, that was just enough like us.

UPDATE: Submitted to Carnival of German-American Relations

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Sunday, July 24, 2005

Old News

Six in 10 Americans "expect another world war in their lifetime," according to AP-Kyodo polling.

I say, been there, done that. We already fought World War III, from 1945 to 1989. A century from now, when the details have melted down and the essential things stand up uneroded from the landscape, the U.S.-Soviet conflict of 1945-1989 will seem to be a single world war in which Korea, Vietnam, Bay of Pigs, and Afghanistan (1980s) were campaigns or episodes.

And we're now in the early stages of World War IV.

History doles out names and numbers to the wars, not journalism. The term "world war" was in use several years before 1914, probably originally in German, as Weltkrieg. But there was no "World War I," of course, until World War II began, in 1939 ("Great War" was the most common name for it until then).

I have no hesitation in conflating related conflicts into large wars. America gave up the fight in Vietnam. But that was one camapign in a war which America ultimately won. This is not political justification. Nor is it revisionism. It's merely a historical perspective. The long view of history sees related conflicts as long-term wars. The Peloponnesian War, the Hundred Year's War, had long intervals of truce and peace, but we rightly consider them single conflicts.

But this article also reminds me why I have so little patience with polling. When you ask people if they expect to see another world war, what exactly does that mean in their minds? Do they imagine another big multi-national war involving nuclear weapons? Another war of massive armies and navies slugging it out over broad stretches of territory? Or some sort of new and fluid warfare that yet involves many nations and peoples?

That would be three different answers, but at least one quote in the story suggests some people are seeing it the way I am.

Some question whether that war has arrived, with fighting dragging on in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of the U.S. campaign against terrorism."I feel like we're in a world war right now," said Susan Aser, a real estate agent from Rochester, N.Y.

It's almost too common to remark upon, but the writer makes the usual defeatist choice of verbs -- "dragging on."

Then the article devolves into a critique of America's use of the atomic bomb to end World War II. It's opposed by some as inhumane. Nothing new in that. And as usual, there's no follow-up question asking such folks, "what would you have done instead?"

But one of the people quoted in the story offers up his version, unsolicited.

But military instructor Hugh "D.J." Carlen, who lives near Fort Knox, Ky., said: "I don't think we really needed to do it. We darn near had the country starved to death. We could have effected a blockade.

Brilliant! Yeah, that's it. Let hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians starve to death, slowly. Too weakened to rise up against the military class that has them by the throat, and which has the power to keep the nation's dwindling resources in the service of the ruling powers, like Saddam did under his blockade.

And at the same time let perhaps millions of Chinese, Koreans, and Indonesians die of starvation, too -- either those in the Home Islands as slave workers or those in the territories still under Japanese control -- while you starve out the Japanese.

Is that really more humane than tens of thousands of Japanese killed by two bombs and ending the war in a couple of weeks?

On other quote from the article that I can't let pass by without comment:

For 63-year-old Masashi Muroi of Tokyo, the attacks with atomic bombs "were mass, indiscriminate killings and perhaps violated international law."

Her admirable strictness about "perhaps" violations of international law is rather one-sided, considering that the Japanese were terror-bombing undefended cities and machine-gunning tens of thousands civilians in China even before the Nazis and Soviets unleashed such horrors on Europe. Even Nazi embassy officials in Nanking were shocked by what the Japanese did there in 1938.


Thursday, July 21, 2005


It looks like I'm not going to get to a "Carnival of Etymologies" today. Hopefully tormorrow. The trouble is, I'm off work this week and having too much fun.

What writing I've done largely has been consumed by a three-parter over at the other place, another attempt to hammer out my remembrance of things recently past.

But here's something to, hopefully, tide over you etymophiles:

Ipsa tulit camisia:
Die Beyn die waren weiss
Fecerunt mirabilia
Da niemand nicht umb weiss
Und da das Spiel gespielet war
Ambo surrexerunt:
Da ging ein jeglichs seinen Weg
Et nunquam revenerunt.

[Chanson populaire Allemande, - XVIe siècle]

A rough translation is:

She wore a bra
Her legs were white
They worked miracles
That nobody knows about
At the end of the game
They both got up
And went their separate ways
Never to return.

Said to be a "popular German song" of the 16th century. Lines 1,3,6 and 8 are in Latin, the others in German. Found at the beginning of part 3, chapter 4 of "Les avontures du Roi Pausole" from the 19th-century French author Pierre Louys.

Proving, once again, that, if you have a blog, no research, however trivial, need go to waste.

Historical Tidbit

The radicalness of America, when it was founded as a free democracy, is something easy to forget. Encountering passages like this in a history book can be jarring:

"In 1784, a British ship on a passage from India stopped at the Comoro Islands in the Mozambique Channel, off the coast of southern Africa. It found that the African inhabitants had risen in revolution against their Arab rulers. Their rallying cry was 'America is free! Cannot we be?' "

Today, a correspondent sent me another example. She's an avid hiker, and came across this place while walking the south coast of England. It seems dramatic sea-coast changes in the Middle Ages (yes, there were such things before the internal combustion engine) opened up a stretch of beach near the town of Hastings that was a true no-man's land. As such, it gradually became a place where people built houses and businesses and thrived without the burden of taxation and other duties that every level of government forced on its citizens.

And when the authorities came calling, as they inevitably did, the citizens responded by defiantly running up the Stars and Stripes.

By 1822 it was estimated that more than 1000 souls had acquired ramshackle, incommodious but rate-free accommodation on the shingle bank, guaranteed to provoke the great and the good on the Borough Council, Aldermen and councillors alike. Added to the freedom from expense there was the allegation (equally provoking but largely unfounded) of lawless and licentious behaviour amongst the inhabitants of this motley collection of habitations. A few half-hearted attempts were made to impose official control and the immediate response to this was the American flag (a contemporary symbol of freedom) being run up in defiance. And so the America Ground was born.

The America Ground was not the haphazard collection of squats that officialdom liked to imply. It was a properly organized community supplying most if not all of its own needs. Barry Funnel's "The America Ground" tells us that it had among others a "carpenter, miller, mast and blockmaker, baker, brewer, cowkeeper, fishermen, gardener". Lodging houses were a major industry as was pigkeeping, in fact these two appear to be the main sources of activity, dominating all others. These others
included warehousing for tallow, rope and coal. Lime-kilns were present as were a sawing house, stonemasons and a tallow factory, multiple piggeries, a slaughterhouse and butchers. There was a gin palace, and perhaps surprisingly a school. This does not on the face of it suggest the sink of iniquity rumoured among the rest of the Town of Hastings but more that of simple folk getting on with the business of life.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Chickenhawk Meme

Every blogging supporter of the U.S. military in Iraq seems to be getting a similar pack of comments and e-mails recently. In effect they say, in tones of supreme snarkiness, “You support the war, so why don’t you go over there and fight it, or else shut up?”

It’s a personalized form of the election campaign insistence that all patriots and military supporters must vote for Kerry because Bush was a draft dodger (so who did you vote for in ‘96, when it was Clinton vs. Dole?).

The e-mails and comments have come on so suddenly and are so similar that war supporters have started talking about them as the “chickenhawk meme.”

... more


The Past vs. the Present

The Democratic leaders demand George W. Bush must never mention “9/11" when he speaks about the War in Iraq. This is said to reflect their concern that the president will shelter an “unjust and illegal war” in the star-spangled mantle of the broadly popular Great War on Islamist Terror.

But at the same time the Demos must know this is a tactic that can pay. If they can prise Iraq away from 9/11 in the American mind, they can have a field day tearing up the management of the war, past and present, and pretend this does no real damage to America.

So how do you decide whether the Iraq experiment is a campaign in this fluid new type of cross-cultural war America finds itself in — the equivalent, perhaps, of the 1942 North Africa invasion or Sherman’s March — or some entirely unrelated and fatal distraction — the equivalent of Athens’ Sicilian expedition or Napoleon’s march on Moscow?

... more

Rove Kill

The whole Rove thing? I suppose I could care less. Every candidate who hopes to get within pissing distance of the White House these days has to have a political voodoo doctor, it seems. Their contemptible careers — men despised but feared — seem like something from Machiavelli for Dummies.

And they always come to a bad end. It’s as predictable as a Sunday School tract, and the only vaguely interesting plot element is how much partisan gore is spilled in the fall. Really, Rasputin set the standard. Everyone after him is just a piker.

... more

Best of Enemies

Last time I was in Paris, with my son, we walked down to see the Louvre on a Tuesday afternoon, forgetting that it’s always closed on Tuesdays. So instead we took a long walk up the Champs Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe.

The day must have been some EU anniversary, or else it coincided with a visit from a Berlin dignitary. All up the broad avenue, flags fluttered from every post: the French tricolor and the red-yellow-black ensign of Germany. It was somewhat daunting to see this display of Franco-German unity, in the year of world defiance of America, and feel our small and American selves beneath it.

At the end of our long walk, we reached the Arc. We stood under it and looked up and around, and read what was engraved in marble and cast in bronze.

... more


Friday, July 15, 2005

Actual Emailer Names

Culled from a load of spam I just cleaned out of the barn:

Marries C. Obtrusiveness
Breakfasted A. Democritus
Limburger O. Zigzag
Iterates S. Abundant
Conglomerated G. Concealment

And the winner is:

Mafioso R. Dowdiness

War and Islam

Where in Islam is the ability to stop fighting, to accept that there will be no world caliphate? As if we needed reminders after Sept. 11, the Islamist movement is not an internal matter for Muslim nations only. An isolationist America or Europe can say it is no business of ours if Middle Eastern or North African countries embrace female circumcision, beheading, denial of basic rights to religious minorities. There is an international relations component to this religious movement.

In a world where the most deadly weapons slowly ooze out of their containers, a region festering with petulance and paranoia has to be dealt with, now, not later. It’s not a good time to tell ourselves convenient lies about what motivates those who would kill us.

More here.

And on a similar theme to this good thread at Marc's place.


Over at the Other Place

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Six Degrees

Jack Kirby, "The King of the Comics," creator or co-creator of The Fantastic Four, Captain America, The X-Men, and The Incredible Hulk, grew up with terrorist victim Leon Klinghoffer. He talked about it here in this old interview with, of all people, metal rocker Glenn Danzig (though really it's no surprise to learn he's a comic fan):

[At this point, there is a break in the recording, and it resumes with a discussion of the Achille Lauro incident. In October 1985, members of the Palestine Liberation Front, a member-organization of the PLO, hijacked the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro while it was at anchor in Port Said, Egypt in the Mediterranean Sea, and held its passengers hostage. Many American tourists were on-board, including elderly, wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer, who was a boyhood friend of Kirby's. The terrorists shot Klinghoffer in cold blood and threw his body overboard. To rub further salt into the wound, PLO officials repeatedly mocked the victims, declaring at the United Nations that Mrs. Klinghoffer had probably murdered her husband "for the insurance money." Abu Abbas, head of the PLF and mastermind of the hijacking, when asked about the killing of Klinghoffer, replied, "Maybe he was trying to swim for it."]

GLENN: The guy who jumped on the terrorists was in a wheelchair?

JACK: He was in a wheelchair, yeah. When I knew him, his folks owned the mini-store on my block. He was the only one that went after the terrorists.

ROZ KIRBY: He went after them verbally. He talked back to them.

MIKE: They shot him in the head.

JACK: Nobody said a word to the terrorists; they did as they willed. Klinghoffer was the only one who talked back to them. He died. They threw him overboard and he died. A guy from my block would do it. He wouldn't stand for it because there were women on board and he felt that...

GLENN: Where was that? In Brooklyn? Bronx?

JACK: No, Lower East Side. And that's why I say they turned on him. [People on my block] were people that were just becoming Americans. I felt I was an American because I was born here. All the guys felt that. And, of course, Captain America came out of that kind of a feeling.

[Hat tip, Amritas]

Carnival of the Etymologies

[A regular Thursday feature of "Done with Mirrors"]

Writing about certain cartoons this week got me thinking about that word and where it came from. The extension of cartoon to "comical drawings in newspapers and magazines" is fairly recent, perhaps no older than this June 24, 1843, reference in the British magazine "Punch":

"Punch has the benevolence to announce, that in an early number of his ensuing Volume he will astonish the Parliamentary Committee by the publication of several exquisite designs, to be called Punch's Cartoons!"

The word itself has been in English since 1671, as an artists' term meaning "preliminary sketches made on strong, heavy paper." The word comes via French from Italian, and originally meant the paper itself.

[Carton is the same word, directly from Latin through French. Cartons were made of the same heavy pasteboard artists used for sketching.]

If you follow these words back through Medieval Latin, you discover them as the augmentive case of carta "paper," which is from Latin charta "leaf of paper, tablet."

That connects them to card, chart, and other similar words. The Romans seem to have got this productive word from Greek khartes "layer of papyrus," which probably is from some Egyptian word.

When terrorists bloodied London last week, they left their scars on one of the quirkiest and most beloved mass transit institutions in the world, the Tube. The London subway was christened the "Twopenny Tube" even before it even opened, by H.D. Browne, in the "Londoner" of June 30, 1900.

Tube for "cylindrical railway tunnel" is attested from 1847. The noun tube first appears in English in Shakespeare's day, from Middle French tube, which is from Latin tubus "tube, pipe," a word of unknown origin.

Tuba, the musical instrument, is related. Its source is Latin tuba "straight bronze war trumpet," an etymological cousin of tubus. Tuber "thick underground stem" probably is out of the family, however. Its Latin source is tuber "lump, bump," which is perhaps related to tumere "to swell."

Many cities have underground railways, but only London has the Tube. The Paris Metro (1904) is from the French abbreviation of Chemin de Fer Métropolitain "Metropolitan Railway." Berlin's U-bahn (1938) is a German shortening of Untergrund-bahn, literally "underground railway."

The preferred American subway for "underground railway in a city" is attested from 1893, first in reference to Boston.

In my favorite coffee shop this week, the owner had a box on the counter with the label “please return thermoses here.” We started speculating on the correct plural of thermos, but we didn’t come up with an answer.

Thermos (still a trademark name in Britain) was registered in 1907. The thing itself was invented by the Scottish scientist Sir James Dewar, who, among other accomplishments, first liquified hydrogen, was co-inventer of cordite, made a bubble four feet across, and was the first to predict what is now called superconductivity.

His discovery of the vacuum flask was a side-effect of his research in cryogenics. He built the first one in 1892, but no one bothered to manufacture them commercially until 1904, when two German glass blowers formed Thermos GmbH. The thermos itself was patented then, and named, in German. Supposedly the company sponsored a contest to name the thing, and a Munich resident won with a submission of Thermos. The name turns up in English three years later.

The trouble with pluralizing it is that thermos is an ancient Greek adjective (it literally means “hot”). English thermos at first generally was used as an adjective, too. People wrote of a “Thermos flask” or “Thermos bottle.” That makes the formation of a proper plural somewhat uncertain, as the ending in Greek might be different depending on whether you treat thermos as a noun or an adjective, and depending on the gender of the noun it is attached to.

Thermoses is how it usually has appeared in English, but the coffee shop owner and I agreed that doesn’t look or sound right. Thermai or therma are more etymologically correct, but they look nothing like English.

Greek thermos is related to therme “heat,” from the Proto-Indo-European base *ghwerm-/*ghworm- meaning “warm.” It’s relatives include Latin fornax “an oven, kiln;” Sanskrit gharmah “heat;” and Old English wearm (modern warm).

In ancient Persia, today would have fallen in the month of Garmapada a name formed from garma- “heat,” which is yet another thermos cousin.

Greek thermos meant both “warm” and “hot.” The distinction, based on degree of heat, between “warm” and “hot” is general in Balto-Slavic and Germanic languages, but in other tongues one word often covers both concepts, for instance Latin calidus, French chaud, Spanish caliente.

Greek nouns commonly end in -s in the singular, but -s is the overwhelming choice for pluralizing nouns in English. This has confused English-speakers who encounter words nativized from Greek. One common reaction is to snip off the -s and make a false English singular out of a perfectly good Greek one. The gyro sandwich that you get at a Greek restaurant, for instance, is really a gyros in Modern Greek (the word means “circle,” and the name originally referred to the roasted lamb in the sandwich, which was cooked on a rotating spit).

Kudos meaning “credit or praise” is another Anglicized Greek singular noun in -s, and the false singular kudo sometimes turns up in English. But kudos is rare in English, and its use generally is restricted to learned circles. Thus pedants can keep it on a tight leash and pounce on anyone boorish enough to write kudo.

The more common problem is the one presented by thermos: how to pluralize a noun that already ends in -s. Rhinoceros (from a Greek compound meaning “nose-horn”) has puzzled people for generations. “What is the plural of rhinoceros?” Sir Charles Eliot wrote in “The East Africa Protectorate” in 1905. “Well, Liddell and Scott [who wrote the authoritative Greek-English Lexicon] seem to authorize ‘rhinocerotes,’ which is pedantic, but ‘rhinoceroses’ is not euphonious.”

Fortunately, in that case, English as embraced the easily pluralized short form rhino. No such solution is offered for octopus, however, which is from the Greek adjective oktopous, meaning “eight-footed.” The proper plural would be octopodes, though octopuses probably works better in English. Octopi is an ignorant error, from mistaken assumption that the -us in the word is the Latin noun ending that takes -i in plural.

Another puzzler is biceps, which is a Latin word meaning “having two parts” (literally “two-headed”). Despite the -s, it is singular, and there is no such word as *bicep. A proper plural would be bicepses.

Perhaps the most astonishing relative of thermos is fornication, which comes ultimately from Latin fornax “oven.” Because ancient ovens were arched or dome-shaped, the word (in slightly altered form fornix) came to mean “arch, vaulted chamber.” And because Roman prostitutes commonly solicited from under the arches of certain buildings, the word acquired yet another layer of meaning, “brothel.” From there it was just a short hop to fornication.

Leaks are a hot topic in Washington, D.C., this week. The figurative meaning "come to be known in spite of efforts at concealment" dates from at least 1832; the transitive sense is first recorded 1859; the noun in this sense dates from 1950. The literal sense, of course, is "to let water in or out" [as Dr. Johnson concisely defines it], and it first turns up in English around 1420.

The direct source seems to be Middle Dutch (leken "to drip, to leak") or Old Norse (leka), and likely it was a word English sailors first picked up in the North Sea trade. There was a cognate Old English verb leccan "to moisten," but this did not survive into Middle English.

All these words come from Proto-Germanic *lek-, also preserved in German lechzen "to be parched with thirst." The whole group apparently is distantly related to lake.

NASA delayed the launch of the space shuttle this week. Shuttle as a name for a type of spacecraft that runs back and forth from Earth to space has been around since 1969; it was extended into space from a similar use in reference to aircraft (1942) and trains (1895). The image is of a weaver's instrument's back-and-forth movement over the warp.

The weaving instrument was so called (first attested 1338) from its being "shot" across the threads. The Old English word was scytel and it meant "a dart, an arrow." The word is related to shoot and to the Old Norse noun skutill "harpoon." Thus, unconsciously, the space shuttle returns the word to its roots, as it shoots through the clouds into the heavens.

In some other languages, the word for the weaver's machine takes its name from its resemblance to a boat (cf. Latin navicula, French navette, German weberschiff).


Wednesday, July 13, 2005


Pack of Lies

Revelations like this sort of put the lie to the complaint that American abuses of prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are creating fresh generations of jihadi terrorists.

Hani Al-Siba'i, director of the Al-Maqreze Centre for Historical Studies in London, has in recent days praised the bloody attacks in his adopted city. Here's an interview he gave on AMB TV which aired on Feb. 22. The questioner probes Al-Siba'i's banket defense of Islamist attrocities in Iraq:
Host: "Dr. Al-Siba'i, do you personally condemn anything they do? Can you say that even though you support these groups' case, they use such means? Is there a single method you are willing to condemn?"

Al-Siba'i: "... I condemn the occupation, which is the cause of all these tragedies. The occupation caused all these disasters. The country was safe and peaceful, until the Americans came, and we are expected to blame those who fight in defense of their honor?! ... I received a picture over the internet, and when I opened it I saw a woman being raped by seven men. An Iraqi woman in prison – this is on American websites now – and when I saw her, I couldn't sleep a wink. A woman being raped, completely naked, in prison."

Emphasis added. But those photos were exposed in the West as a fraud more than a year ago (though not after some overzealous media outlets ran them anyway). Most of the pics were pulled off Internet porn sites like "Iraq Babes" and "Sex in War," which cater to violent rape fetishes. The pictures were cheesy posed pornography featuring paid models.

But that doesn't make a damn bit of difference to Al-Siba'i or tens of thousands like him in the Islamic world. If the evidence fits his pre-conceived notion that America is the Great Satan, then, however tenuous, it must be true. If the evidence is later logically exploded and repudiated by the original sources from which he gleaned it, that proves it must be true, because the Zionists have the power to repress the truth with their control of the media.

Hell, even if there's no evidence at all, that proves it's true, too, because the enemy is just that good at covering things up. Hatred and a willful disregard for logic sent the modern Arab world off on a chain reaction of paranoia.

It doesn't help that so few Western books ever are translated into Arabic, and so few Arabs could read them if they were. It doesn't help, either, that this people inhabits a tent city of the most repressive and defective regimes on the globe. The habit of seeking and believing in the truth, in an authoritarian state, is a habit that can get you killed in a hurry. And the governments find it convenient to tell their subjects to blame every national failure on the Americans and the Jews rather than owning up to their own incompetence.

Thus they have conceived a world where their enemies are sinister subhumans with superhuman capacity, capable of any depravity, who will stop at nothing to stymie the supposedly god-ordained world triumph of Islam. Those enemies are at the same time omnipotent and cowardly. They can stage elaborate hoaxes to make it appear Muslims have done terrible things, or else Muslims really do terrible things to them, but in righteous and religiously approved retribution. The Arab mind doesn't seem to be made up on this one, nor does it seem to care about the contradiction.

Motive doesn't matter. The fact that Arabs were hurt or killed - or insulted -- is motive enough, since this is the presumed purpose of everything the enemy does.

Thus not only are random porn pics used to justify the slaughter of Iraqi Shi'ites and Kurds, the official American explanation of the fatal crash of Egypt Air flight 990 is scorned and the tragedy blamed, in childish and irreconcilable conspiracy theories, on the U.S. and Israel.

Flight 990 is a particularly inviting target for conspiracy theorists. It carried 33 top Egyptian military officers, plus it originated in New York, the city with the world's largest Jewish population. That's enough to convince many Egyptians that someone purposely brought down the plane to harm Egyptian interests.

Thus the world campaign against polio suffers a setback because Muslim clerics in northern Nigeria tell their followers the vaccine has been contaminated as part of a western plot to sterilize women.

Thus a Turkish suicide bomber kills himself and dozens more, while "boiling with rage" over reports of mass rapes of Iraqi women by U.S. troops that turned out to be the Turkish gutter press' misreading of a crude metaphor used by an online sex therapist in an anti-Bush screed on an American anti-war Web site.

Thus with every terrorist attack, including the London bombing of last week, faster than the police can recover the bodies a cobbled together story of how the Jews really did it spreads through the Muslim world, encouraged by Western anti-Semites.

All the more reason to support and encourage a free and democratic Iraq, and a reborn Lebanon. Worry about Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo for what they mean to America and our values and our military. But don't bother yourself over the notion that they are the match that lights the Islamist terrorists' powder keg. That's a self-starter.