Saturday, September 30, 2006

Novel Idea

[posted by Callimachus]

This tame little novel is one of the most obscure, and most astonishing, books ever written in English. I was delighted to find it online when I first started poking around on the computer (its copyright had long since expired). Then the site went down. Now someone of my correspondence has found another one.

Just read the opening graphs -- the "Call me Ishmael," the "Whan that Aprille" of this magnum opus -- and see if you can guess what makes this a masterpiece:

If youth, throughout all history, had had a champion to stand up for it; to show a doubting world that a child can think; and, possibly, do it practically; you wouldn’t constantly run across folks today who claim that “a child don’t know anything.”A child’s brain starts functioning at birth; and has, amongst its many infant convolutions, thousands of dormant atoms, into which God has put a mystic possibility for noticing an adult’s act, and figuring out its purport.

Up to about its primary school days a child thinks, naturally, only of play. But many a form of play contains disciplinary factors. “You can’t do this,” or “that puts you out,” shows a child that it must think, practically or fail. Now, if, throughout childhood, a brain has no opposition, it is plain that it will attain a position of “status quo,” as with our ordinary animals. Man knows not why a cow, dog or lion was not born with a brain on a par with ours; why such animals cannot add, subtract, or obtain from books and schooling, that paramount position which Man holds today.

More for what is omitted than what is included.

Those Were The Days

[Posted by reader_iam]

Update: I just have to say that I chickened out on the title of this post. It was, originally: "Those Were The Days, My Friend." Boy, am I not happy about that. Given the reference.

Dan Aykroyd: Hello. I'm "Weekend Update" Station Manager Dan Aykroyd. This week, the Shah of Iran declared martial law, in an attempt to put a stop to the violent writing which has paralyzed his country. The Shah is the subject of tonight's "Point/Counterpoint". Jane will take the Anti-Shah Point, and I will take the Pro-Shah Counterpoint. Jane?

Jane Curtin: Dan, I know exactly what you're going to say: "Jane, you ignorant slut! The Shah is our friend, he sent us oil during the 70's re-embargo. He's a fighter against Communism." Maybe so, Dan, but what happened to the human rights you scream about every time a Saranski gets sentenced to some Soviet jail? Why is it wrong to torture a dissident and freezing Siberian Goulag, but okay to wire a leftist student's genitals in a baking Tehran dungeon? I only hope that someday someone wires your genitals, Dan. Then you'll be singing a different tune!

Dan Aykroyd: Jane, you poor, misguided scrag! Sure, the Shah's a jerk, but he's all we've got! Just look at the map. To the north, the Soviet Union; to the east and west, Afghanistan and Iraq. Both leftist radical states; and in the south, the Persian Gulf. Any idiot can see that Iran would be a prized stepping stone in an eventual Soviet takeover of the world. And when that happens, Jane, those Cossacks will be coming over here with their broom handle, and we'll see how you'll feel then! Of course, you'd probably love it, you ignorant slut!

Jane Curtin: That's the news. Good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

(Note: Any typos, in this case, for a change, aren't mine, but rather were in the transcript I found here.)

No YouTube that I could find, more's the pity.

Talking Trip

What Has That Kid Been Smokin'?

[Posted by reader_iam]

I fully expect this to be the funniest news story that I read all day.
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - A man who police say was caught with two pounds of marijuana allegedly told officers the drug wasn't his because he stole it.

Bradley Robison, 18, of Cedar Rapids, was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver and failure to affix a drug tax stamp.

When police found him with the marijuana, he said he had stolen it from a nearby business that he had just broken into, court records show.

Linn County Attorney Harold Denton said it doesn't matter how Robison got the marijuana — only that he had it.

Nice try, though.

Update: Go here for other insanities.

Thoughts Of Hell

[Posted by reader_iam]

I interrupt your--and my--regularly scheduled Saturday morning activities to share my latest thought from the fiery pits of my more so-called Orwellian fears ("so-called" because "Orwellian" is often used in the opposite way from what Orwell's overarching point was):

I'm beginning to think the meaning of the word "informed," as in "people need to be informed," has now morphed into "of the right opinions," as in "people must come to the same conclusions or they are not of the right opinions." Not to mention stupid and sheeplike.

This is a broad-brush musing, intended and directed generally, without regard to political persuasion(s).

Now, as you were.

Friday, September 29, 2006


[posted by Callimachus]

Some Aleut villages reject Hugo Chavez' free oil offer.

Leaders from four Western Alaska villages have rejected an offer of free heating oil from a Venezuelan- owned company because that nation's president this month called President Bush "a devil" and made other inflammatory comments about the United States.

"Despite the critical need for fuel in our region, the Unangan (Aleut) people are Americans first, and we cannot support the political agenda attached to this donation," read a statement from Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association released late Thursday.

Anyone want to pass the hat and get up a fund to buy these folks some oil?

UPDATE: Terri goes me one better and tracks down a mailing address for the people. Next step?

The Media We Deserve

[posted by Callimachus]

What's left out can be as telling as what's included. In a story such as this, for instance, which leads off with Bush's comments at a news conference speaking to some troops.

President Bush asserted Friday that critics who claim the Iraq war has made America less safe embrace "the enemy's propaganda."

It then goes on through many details and permutations of the war, the world scene, the political scene. It allows time for Bush's critics to respond:

With just over five weeks left before congressional elections, Democrats were quick to react. "President Bush's election-year attacks are the product of a desperate White House with no credibility left with the American people," said Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

"It was yet another example of how he is in denial over what is happening in the war on terror," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Now, what was entirely missing from this story -- astonishing, since it was another headline on the same day -- was the newly released barrage of "enemy propaganda" by Ayman al-Zawahri of al-Qaida. And sure enough, it sounds exactly like Bush's domestic critics:

"Can't you be honest at least once in your life, and admit that you are a deceitful liar who intentionally deceived your nation when you drove them to war in Iraq? ... Bush, you deceitful charlatan, 3 1/2 years have passed since your capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, so how have you found us during this time? Losing and surrendering? Or are we launching attacks with God's help and becoming martyrs?

... What you have perpetrated against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other Muslim captives in your prisons and the prisons of your slaves in Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and elsewhere is not hidden from anyone, and we are a people who do not sleep under oppression and who do not abandon our revenge until our chests have been healed of those who have committed aggression against us."

Yep. He touched all the bases in Michael Moore Field. Does that guy watch CNN or what?

But you get not a whiff of that in the Bush story. All you'd get is Bush's remark and the political response from Democrats. Nobody even had the guts to ask, "well, is their rhetoric essentially the same as the enemy's propaganda?" The leading Democrats certainly aren't going to bring that up on their own. The similarity is rather embarrassing to them, I'd think.

But until you actually ask that question, and show the comparison, you won't know whether Bush is making an accurate comparison or not.

And then you can't ask yourself the next question: Whether having the same criticism of Bush as al Qaida has really is an embrace, or whether it's an unfortunate convergence. In other words, you deny the Democrats the opportunity to frame a response.

And then you can't ask yourself whether an awareness of that convergence, at a time when tens of thousands of us are fighting, and in some cases dying, and working for a better world and a safer America in the Middle East, ought to compel you to think about the totality of what you're saying and how you're saying it.

And then you can't ask whether you really trust a party that would rather flap its gums than win a war, if that's what it comes down to. And, well, that's probably my path. But there's a whole line of essential political awareness that the Associated Press, in this case and many others, would rather fudge and hide than allow.

The media draws the lines very tightly around some stories, as in this case. In others, it stretches them wide. If Bush made a speech about, say, increasing levels of safety in parts of Iraq, you can bet the AP version would include several paragraphs on the day's carnage (but little context on those crimes).

Here, it won't even point you to the essential companion piece. No connection. Move along. Whatever you do, don't think about it.

UPDATE (and probably more apropos of this): For instance, when the Associated Press quotes a prominent Democrat painting lurid pictures of American failure in Iraq:

“America is in deep trouble in Iraq,” said Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. “The continuing violence and death is ominous .... Militias are growing in strength and continue to operate outside the law. Death squads are rampant.”

does the AP also feel compelled to note that painting lurid pictures of American failure in Iraq is part of the party's political strategy?

A memo sent out to Democrats last week by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a strategy group led by former Clinton pollster Stan Greenberg, discusses Mr. Bush's "failure in Iraq, which energized Democrats and dispirited Republicans." It urges Democrats: "On Iraq, stress Bush/GOP 'mismanagement' and need for a 'new direction.'"

Good politics? Sure, probably, if politics is your highest measure of human activity. Good reporting? Not by a New York Times mile.

Talking About Foxes And Henhouses

[Posted by reader_iam]

And Rep. Mark Foley.
Six-term Republican Rep. Mark Foley of Florida resigned from the U.S. Congress on Friday following reports he sent sexually inappropriate e-mails to underage male congressional interns.

Foley, chairman of the House caucus on missing and exploited children, said he would resign after ABC News reported he sent messages to current and former congressional pages with references to sexual organs and acts.

XWL of Immodest Proposals and Amba of Ambivablog sum it up beautifully. Me, I just want to run to the nearest bathroom for a shower and the nearest pillow for a good punching. (For starters.)

But I do want to say, to this:
House Speaker Dennis Hastert said Foley had "done the right thing" by resigning. He said he had asked officials to look into the incident and make sure all congressional pages were safe. "None of us are very happy about it," he said of the Foley situation.

Not very "happy"? Not very happy? What the hell kind of reaction is THAT? (If it'd been a Dem ... well, you know ... just curious.)

Make that TWO VERY LONG showers and two VERY LARGE pillows.

Update, later: Now I can I understand the ridiculously...relaxed...reaction of Hastert, to which I disbelievingly referred earlier. TPM points out the obvious in the AP article about Foley's resignation:
The page worked for Rep. Rodney Alexander (news, bio, voting record), R-La., who said Friday that when he learned of the e-mail exchanges 10 to 11 months ago, he called the teen's parents. Alexander told the Ruston Daily Leader, "We also notified the House leadership that there might be a potential problem," a reference to the House's Republican leaders.

Yet, not only was the situation not brought into the light, but Foley was backed in his re-election efforts.

Now, I get it. If what the AP article is implying (and TPM is saying more explicitly) is true, "not happy" can be translated to the cynical: "We got caught caring more about this guy's seat in Congress, and partisan politics generally, than we do about the welfare of young pages, and that is such an upsetting and un-happy-making thing."

Beyond disgusting. Beyond stupid. Unfortunately, so not beyond imagining.

No, I'm Not Going To Explain This One


I'm pretty sure this is an example of what he means by journalists falling into "the callous art of spincraft."

The Senate on Thursday endorsed President Bush's plans to prosecute and interrogate terror suspects, all but sealing congressional approval for legislation that Republicans intend to use on the campaign trail to assert their toughness on terrorism.

That's so revolting I could puke. That cynical, Mr. Journalist? It's only really about the domestic politics? There's no other aspect of the story that belongs in the lede?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

'A Coup is Not Entertaining'

So they say.

Thai coup leaders have banned go-go girls from dancing near tanks and troops on Bangkok streets as a distraction from the serious business of power, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

"It is not appropriate to entertain soldiers while they are on duty," Colonel Acra Tiprote told Reuters after a troupe of 10 women in tight camouflage vests and shorts posed with soldiers and tanks while making a music video.

"People should differentiate between entertainment and seriousness. A coup is not entertaining," Acra said, although the tanks sent in to lead Thailand's first coup in 15 years had turned Bangkok into a carnival-type attraction.

Where's the "bring it on" when you need it? More here.

The Left and Jihad

A more comprehensive and contextualized view than usual, thanks to Fred Halliday. But in context or out, the conclusion remains the same: Stop the wedding.

This melancholy history must be supplemented by attention to what is actually happening in countries, or parts of countries, where Islamists are influential and gaining ground. The reactionary (the word is used advisedly) nature of much of their programme on women, free speech, the rights of gays and other minorities is evident.

There is also a mindset of anti-Jewish prejudice that is riven with racism and religious obscurantism. Only a few in the west noted what many in the Islamic world will have at once understood, that one of the most destructive missiles fired by Hizbollah into Israel bore the name “Khaibar” - not a benign reference to the pass between Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the name of a victorious battle fought against the Jews by the Prophet Mohammad in the 7th century. Here it is worth recalling the saying of the German socialist leader Bebel, that anti-semitism is “the socialism of fools”. How many on the left are tolerant if not actively complicit in this foolery today is a painful question to ask.

The habit of categorising radical Islamist groups and their ideology as “fascist” is unnecessary as well as careless, since the many differences with that European model make the comparison redundant. It does not need slogans to understand that the Islamist programme, ideology and record are diametrically opposed to the left – that is, the left that has existed on the principles founded on and descended from classical socialism, the Enlightenment, the values of the revolutions of 1798 and 1848, and generations of experience. The modern embodiments of this left have no need of the “false consciousness” that drives so many so-called leftists into the arms of jihadis.

Round Here

I've lived in this area too long when I see a letter to the editor in support of marijuana law reform and it's signed "Mary Jane Smoker" and I don't bat an eye. Someone has to explain it to me. Hey, yeah, funny! But it's a real name around here. It's the common Anglicization of the German surname Schmucker.

Also common among the last names in this very conservative part of the world are Stoner. And Erb.

And Weekendrastafarian. No, I made that last one up. Hell, you don't even have to make it up in a community where a "Erb-Smoker" wedding runs in the social section of the newspaper and you actually may drive past a business with the Simpsons-esque name "Stoners Pots."


Beautiful wife picture.

Seven months (almost) and counting.

"I Ain't Drunk"

[Posted by reader_iam]

...but my memory for where I saw who perform and when, exactly, is sure getting foggy around the edges.

I woke up this morning thinking about that master, Albert Collins, picturing him performing in a specific venue (not the one highlighted here), the name of which for the life of me I can't remember. And I can't even exactly place when, except that I know, because of the people I remember being with me, that it had to be during the period when I was involved in college radio, probably when I was still general manager and a morning DJ.

Man, was he ever on fire. Absolute genius on his Telecaster. I've seen a lot of blues acts over time, but he was a stand-out, for sheer energy (which is another reason you'd think I'd remember WHERE. Had to be Philly. Surely.)--and the amount of sweat flung around, by him, his band and all the people dancing their behinds off. Except for me. As I recall, I was on crutches that night, as a result of one of the more spectacularly self-destructive stunts I'd pulled a few days (weeks?) earlier. Or maybe that was the OTHER time I saw him--and where was that? (Hmmm. Maybe I'm getting at the core reason why there are certain memories, or periods of time of memories, that my mind's letting go fuzzy as to the details. Hadn't thought of that time on crutches in at least a decade or longer, until this morning. Maybe, also, this is why I almost never remember dreams.)

Anyway, if you're not familiar with Collins, run, don't walk, to your nearest music shop, online store, or download site and get educated. You can pretty much pick anything at random, buy it unheard, and be a better person for it.

What are you waiting for?

"The" Tokyo Rose of Tokyo Roses Dies [Updated]

What a tragic story was "Orphan Ann's," the elements of which should be read be as a cautionary tale.

Too late tonight for me to comment. But I remember, so clearly, when Gerald Ford pardoned "Tokyo Rose" back in early '77, not so very many weeks before my 16th birthday. As always, it was an opportunity for a history lesson in my family, one that packed a wallop.

When you finish reading the WaPo article, overnight or tomorrow morning, you might also want to read this.

Iva Toguri D'Aquino: R.I.P.

(Sincerely curious: How many of you reading this would have recognized D'Aquino's name by itself? For that matter, how many people even think about Tokyo Rose anymore, much less her "Orphan Ann" incarnation? Much less the real woman, so unjustly treated?)

UPDATE: I see that Ann Althouse has a post up about D'Aquino's death and the NYT obituary.

I'm getting the impression, from reading around a bit today, that there are still people (not Ann) who buy into the Tokyo Rose myth, specifically with regard to D'Aquino. Despite better information being out there for decades and decades. Despite facts presented in articles about her death even this week.

How incredibly sad. Funny the way injustice just lingers and lingers and lingers, like a smell you just can't quite eradicate.

UPDATE: For a perspective from a publication not exactly know as soft on those who would offer "aid and comfort to the enemy," see this 2002 Weekly Standard article.

UPDATE: One more: A pdf of an article from Issue XXVII, Winter 2004-2005, of World War II Chronicles: A Quarterly Publication of the World War II Veterans Committee. Google it if you want to read the html version.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Take A Powder, Page 6 Writer and Editor

[Posted by reader_iam]

Take a powder: To make a quick departure; run away.

Keith Olbermann receives a powder-laced envelope in the mail, and Page 6 thinks it's funny.

I think Page 6's reaction is "funny," all right, but I emphatically don't mean "ha-ha."

Look, I'm not a fan of Olbermann's, and I've whacked him on at least two occasions, most notably one a little over two weeks ago (in someone else's comments section, which got raised into the actual post) and one in a post here, just a couple of days ago. (I'm not linking by design.) That's how vehement disagreement goes, with substance or style, or both.

The NY Post's bit of snark, however, hasn't to do with that. It has to do with poor taste in making fun of a fear that every one of us could, and mostly would, legitimately have if greeted with an envelope containing a powdery substance, in light of the (unsolved, unresolved, unredressed) powder-substance-based anthrax scare that took place just post-9/11. And regardless of the reason--the darn reason doesn't matter--Olbermann is a high-profile figure. One who pisses people off, including the more unhinged, physically vengeful, and perspective-impaired among us. A target for the true kooks among us, who might very well take the metaphorical "crossing of swords" into some sort of whacko--but potentially dangerous--physical vendetta.

Olbermann would be a fool indeed, personally, if he didn't realize that there are people out there that might wish him ill personally--and I don't mean in the realm of ideas or metaphor, but physically. Of course, a powder-filled envelope delivered to his home--anyone's home, mine and yours included--is scary. Of course, he should call 9/11. I would. Wouldn't you? I'd want to get checked out, too, by medical professionals.

Post 9/11, this sort of bullshit prank is not funny.

Speaking of which, while Page 6's stupid, ill-considered and pettily gleeful little piece inspired this post, I don't want to let the actual instigator off the hook:

Whoever you are, what the hell is wrong with you? Pick up a phone. Write an e-mail. Write a snail mail. Hell, start a blog. Whatever. Use your "freedom of expression" at a level higher than a slimy slug.

You do no favor for whatever political position, or group, with which you identify by staging the so-called prank you pulled. (And, in case you're of the deeply conservative and/or law-and-order type, you have wasted and are wasting the time of people, resources etc. that I'd bet you'd say you're all for.)

I also assume that Page 6 had a source for its little set-piece of puerility. Ditto to you, customized appropriately (since you're so clever, I'm sure you can figure out how my previous words apply to you, as well).

Mr. Olbermann, I have no idea what all the facts are surrounding what happened, or how you did or did not react. But you know what? It doesn't matter.

On this one, I'm in your corner. No one, not even a public figure, not even a controversial one, not "even" a member of the MSM, should have to come home to what greeted you, prank or not. No one.

Page 6/NY Post staff: What, you don't agree with that?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Choam Nomsky

[posted by Callimachus]

Yeah, I know that's not his name. I just like to write it like that. I used to post fictional sound-byte reactions to news stories in Chomsky's voice and I gave them that name. And ever since then I've gotten a few hits every month from people Googling that name. Evidently they think it's his name. So it amuses me.

Chomsky has been pegged so often and so well in his contradictions that I don't generally feel the need to add to the work of Oliver Kamm and others. I could neither expand nor ornament what they've already said.

Still, I do enjoy reading a fresh take on the old problem, and here's a gem.

To his supporters Noam Chomsky is a brave and outspoken champion of the oppressed against a corrupt and criminal political class. But to his opponents he is a self-important ranter whose one-sided vision of politics is chosen for its ability to shine a spotlight on himself. And it is surely undeniable that his habit of excusing or passing over the faults of America's enemies, in order to pin all crime on his native country, suggests that he has invested more in his posture of accusation than he has invested in the truth.
To describe this posture as "adolescent" is perhaps unfair: After all, there are plenty of quite grown-up people who believe that American foreign policy since World War II has been founded on a mistaken conception of America's role in the world. And it is true that we all make mistakes--so that Prof. Chomsky's erstwhile support for regimes that no one could endorse in retrospect, like that of Pol Pot, is no proof of wickedness. But then the mistakes of American foreign policy are no proof of wickedness either.

This is important. For it is his ability to excite not just contempt for American foreign policy but a lively sense that it is guided by some kind of criminal conspiracy that provides the motive for Prof. Chomsky's unceasing diatribes and the explanation of his influence. The world is full of people who wish to think ill of America. And most of them would like to be Americans. The Middle East seethes with such people, and Prof. Chomsky appeals directly to their envious emotions, as well as to the resentments of leaders like President Chavez who cannot abide the sight of a freedom that they haven't the faintest idea how to produce or the least real desire to emulate.

Success breeds resentment, and resentment that has no safety valve becomes a desire to destroy. The proof of that was offered on 9/11 and by just about every utterance that has emerged from the Islamists since. But Americans don't want to believe it. They trust others to take the kind of pleasure in American success that they, in turn, take in the success of others. But this pleasure in others' success, which is the great virtue of America, is not to be witnessed in those who denounce her. They hate America not for her faults, but for her virtues, which cast a humiliating light on those who cannot adapt to the modern world or take advantage of its achievements.

Prof. Chomsky is an intelligent man. Not everything he says by way of criticizing his country is wrong. However, he is not valued for his truths but for his rage, which stokes the rage of his admirers. He feeds the self-righteousness of America's enemies, who feed the self-righteousness of Prof. Chomsky. And in the ensuing blaze everything is sacrificed, including the constructive criticism that America so much needs, and that America--unlike its enemies, Prof. Chomsky included--is prepared to listen to.

Chomsky is so important now because he never was a Marxist. Every blame-it-on-America intellectual who was one went down with that ship in 1989. Which makes Chomsky's nasty barge the only boat still afloat in that navy.

I do, however, disagree with Chomsky critics who praise his linguistics work while wishing he'd stuck to it instead of dabbling in politics. The two halves of Chomsky are of one piece: They are consistent, and the importance and the flaws and the excesses exist in both halves. His feuds with biologists over Darwin are as legendary, in their way, as his political polemics. The view of the human mind and its working that informs his linguistics is at the root of both.


Sun Gets Hotter

Bush Probably Will be Blamed.

[posted by Callimachus]

Damn that Shrubbie McChimplerburton!

Bu$hCo went and made the sun hotter. O when will teh sheeple awake to the crimes of this admini$tration?

The energy output from the Sun has increased significantly during the 20th century, according to a new study.

Many studies have attempted to determine whether there is an upward trend in the average magnitude of sunspots and solar flares over time, but few firm conclusions have been reached.

Now, an international team of researchers led by Ilya Usoskin of the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory at the University of Oulu, Finland, may have the answer. They examined meteorites that had fallen to Earth over the past 240 years. By analyzing the amount of titanium 44, a radioactive isotope, the team found a significant increase in the Sun's radioactive output during the 20th century.

Over the past few decades, however, they found the solar activity has stabilized at this higher-than-historic level.

Prior research relied on measurements of certain radioactive elements within tree rings and in the ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica, which can be altered by terrestrial processes, not just by solar activity. The isotope measured in the new study is not affected by conditions on Earth.

The results, detailed in this week's issue of the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics Letters, "confirm that there was indeed an increase in solar activity over the last 100 years or so," Usoskin told

The average global temperature at Earth's surface has risen by about 1 degree Fahrenheit since 1880. Some scientists debate whether the increase is part of a natural climate cycle or the result of greenhouse gases produced by cars and industrial processes.

The Sun's impact on climate has only recently been investigated. Recent studies show that an increase in solar output can cause short-term changes in Earth's climate, but there is no firm evidence linking solar activity with long-term climate effects.

The rise in solar activity at the beginning of the last century through the 1950s or so matches with the increase in global temperatures, Usoskin said. But the link doesn't hold up from about the 1970s to present.

If you want to know what I think about global warming, I've written about it here and here, among other places.

I think it's real, at least in the short-term, but within the scale of what has happened naturally in the historical past. I don't think we know enough yet to say why it's happening. We certainly don't know enough to be saying what we ought to do about it. But many of the things people are recommending as solutions to it, whether relevant or not, are worth pursuing in their own right. And wherher it's entirely man-made or natural, it's something to be concerned about in the world as humans have shaped it.

But the hell with telling you that. It's much more fun to watch commenters who can't tell the difference between a human voice and a talking-point zombie turn themselves into self-made asses.

Council Winners

[posted by Callimachus]

Watchers Council winners from last week showed what blogs can do best.

I write that aware that I'm unable to avoid the appearance of arrogance, because one of my posts, ‘You'll Never Know What We Did,’ based on the emails from my Iraq contractor friend, was a winner. So I'll be the first to say I don't write like that often enough. But I'm prevented from writing what I know best -- my local scene -- by my job. And anyway, Kat did the real work on it.

The winner outside the council was Just Outside Westminster Cathedral Today... by Joee Blogs -- A Catholic Londoner, which was just a superb example of citizen media at work.

Also getting votes in the council were That Was Not a "Blunder." It's Just An Excuse to Kill Infidels by Gates of Vienna and Between the Canary and the Alligator by Soccer Dad.

Getting votes outside the council were What Did You Do This Summer? by Murdoc Online and Shots Fired At Oslo Synagogue on History News Network blog.

Votes went to When Atheists and Secularists Quote Scripture at Hot Air, which was one entry in an ongoing, and excellent, debate of the kind you just don't see anymore in mainstream media. An entry from the secular side, When Religious Folk Misinterpret Secularists at INDC Journal, also was nominated, but I seem to be the only one who gave it a vote.

Also getting votes were The Charter of Progressive Politics: What We Demand by Professor Kurgman's Beautiful Mind, a little bit of good-natured humor at the expense of the other side, and The View and the Radicals by Fausta's Blog.


Hear, hear

[posted by Callimachus]

Will Bunch reads the journalistic riot act to David Broder.

You, and your colleague Bob Woodward, and so many others, grew to admire the callous art of spincraft you'd been trained to expose -- so much so that when Hurricane Katrina devastated an American city and betrayed a stunning indifference to the fate of the nation's poorest, you could only write that Katrina "opens new opportunities for [Bush] to regain his standing with the public."

Your cynicism hardened as it grew -- to the point where your most famous quote is that "anybody who wants the presidency so much that he'll spend two years organizing and campaigning for it is not to be trusted with the office." Ideas didn’t matter. Do you even remember what you wrote in 2000, when Al Gore gave his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. You said:

I have to confess, my attention wandered as he went on through page after page of other swell ideas, and somewhere between hate crimes legislation and a crime victim's constitutional amendment, I almost nodded off.

And when “the dean of American journalism” writes that, no wonder that so many voters thought that Gore and George W. Bush were Tweedledee and Tweedledum, or that a protest vote for Ralph Nader or Pat Buchanan in what proved to be the closest presidential election in modern American history wouldn’t matter.

Can't say I agree with Will's politics much, which are newsroom-typical, and I'd point out some symptoms he overlooks. But I'll sign on to his broader dignosis of the disease.

Why Wait 'Til 16 If You Can "Buy It Now"?

[Posted by reader_iam]

There's plenty of time to get a drivers license (and a job) later, after all.
Jack Neal briefly became the proud owner of a pink convertible car after he managed to buy it for 9,000 pounds ($17,000) on the Internet despite being only three years old.

Jack's mother told the BBC she had left her password for the eBay auction site in her computer and her son used the "buy it now" option to complete the purchase.

The kid's mom was fortunate that the seller had a sense of humor to go along with his car, which he agreed to repost for sale to someone else.

We have beaucoup computers in this household, but there's just one--mostly stripped down, and with extra security--that my son's permitted to use (and it's right in the literal center of our home, with no privacy and next to where I keep my laptop). He's proving to be pretty savvy and adept himself (and requests specific urls, properly stated), but is still naive enough to call me if he accidentally gets to a site in some way other than one of the shortcuts on the desktop.

That won't last, and don't I know it. Now, as I peer to my left over his shoulder as he plays an internet-based game (via Disney), I notice that--eek! how did these two get by us?--both eBay and Amazon buttons appear on his browser toolbar, at eye level.

I'd be shocked if there were stored passwords anywhere on his computer (which we don't personally use for purposes where we'd do that). But still--you know what? I'm all for learning from the mistakes of others, especially parents. Gonna go do a bit o' admin as soon as I hit publish here... .

Monday, September 25, 2006

Olbermann: Becoming That Which He's Supposedly Been Attacking All This Time

[Posted by reader_iam]

In other words, the flip side of the coin of the sloppier, less responsible, cynical, time-elliding, history-selective, context-disregarding, willfully reductive, and manipulative parts of his mirror image in the ideologically rightist part of media. In short: He's self-styling himself to be cable-news TV's answer to right-wing radio. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
And finally tonight, a Special Comment about President Clinton’s interview. The headlines about them are, of course, entirely wrong. It is not essential that a past President, bullied and sandbagged by a monkey posing as a newscaster, finally lashed back.

It is not important that the current President’s "portable public chorus" has described his predecessor’s tone as "crazed."

Our tone should be crazed. The nation’s freedoms are under assault by an administration whose policies can do us as much damage as Al-Qaeda; the nation’s "marketplace of ideas" is being poisoned, by a propaganda company so blatant that Tokyo Rose would’ve quit. Nonetheless.

The headline is this: Bill Clinton did what almost none of us have done, in five years. He has spoken the truth about 9/11, and the current presidential administration.

"At least I tried," he said of his own efforts to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden. "That’s the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They had eight months to try; they did not try. I tried."

Thus in his supposed emeritus years, has Mr. Clinton taken forceful and triumphant action for honesty, and for us; action as vital and as courageous as any of his presidency; action as startling and as liberating, as any, by anyone, in these last five long years.

The Bush Administration did not try to get Osama Bin Laden before 9/11.

The Bush Administration ignored all the evidence gathered by its predecessors.

The Bush Administration did not understand the Daily Briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S."

The Bush Administration… did… not… try.—

Moreover, for the last five years one month and two weeks, the current administration, and in particular the President, has been given the greatest "pass" for incompetence and malfeasance, in American history!

President Roosevelt was rightly blamed for ignoring the warning signs — some of them, 17 years old — before Pearl Harbor.

President Hoover was correctly blamed for — if not the Great Depression itself — then the disastrous economic steps he took in the immediate aftermath of the Stock Market Crash.

Even President Lincoln assumed some measure of responsibility for the Civil War — though talk of Southern secession had begun as early as 1832.

But not this President.

To hear him bleat and whine and bully at nearly every opportunity, one would think someone else had been President on September 11th, 2001 — or the nearly eight months that preceded it.

That hardly reflects the honesty nor manliness we expect of the Executive.


But if his own fitness to serve is of no true concern to him, perhaps we should simply sigh and keep our fingers crossed, until a grown-up takes the job three Januarys from now.

Except… for this:

After five years of skirting even the most inarguable of facts — that he was President on 9/11 and he must bear some responsibility for his, and our, unreadiness, Mr. Bush has now moved, unmistakably and without conscience or shame, towards re-writing history, and attempting to make the responsibility, entirely Mr. Clinton’s.

Of course he is not honest enough to do that directly.

As with all the other nefariousness and slime of this, our worst presidency since James Buchanan, he is having it done for him, by proxy.

Thus, the sandbag effort by Fox News, Friday afternoon.

Consider the timing: The very same weekend the National Intelligence Estimate would be released and show the Iraq war to be the fraudulent failure it is — not a check on terror, but fertilizer for it!

The kind of proof of incompetence, for which the administration and its hyenas at Fox need to find a diversion, in a scapegoat.

It was the kind of cheap trick which would get a journalist fired — but a propagandist, promoted:

Promise to talk of charity and generosity; but instead launch into the lies and distortions with which the Authoritarians among us attack the virtuous and reward the useless.

And don’t even be professional enough to assume the responsibility for the slanders yourself; blame your audience for "e-mailing" you the question.

Mr. Clinton responded as you have seen.

He told the great truth un-told… about this administration’s negligence, perhaps criminal negligence, about Bin Laden.

He was brave.

Then again, Chris Wallace might be braver still. Had I — in one moment surrendered all my credibility as a journalist — and been irredeemably humiliated, as was he, I would have gone home and started a new career selling seeds by mail.

The smearing by proxy, of course, did not begin Friday afternoon.

Disney was first to sell-out its corporate reputation, with "The Path to 9/11."

Of that company’s crimes against truth one needs to say little. Simply put: someone there enabled an Authoritarian zealot to belch out Mr. Bush’s new and improved history.

The basic plot-line was this: because he was distracted by the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Bill Clinton failed to prevent 9/11.

The most curious and in some ways the most infuriating aspect of this slapdash theory, is that the Right Wingers who have advocated it — who try to sneak it into our collective consciousness through entertainment, or who sandbag Mr. Clinton with it at news interviews — have simply skipped past its most glaring flaw.

Had it been true that Clinton had been distracted from the hunt for Bin Laden in 1998 because of the Lewinsky nonsense — why did these same people not applaud him for having bombed Bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan and Sudan on August 20th of that year? For mentioning Bin Laden by name as he did so?

That day, Republican Senator Grams of Minnesota invoked the movie "Wag The Dog."

Republican Senator Coats of Indiana questioned Mr. Clinton’s judgment.

Republican Senator Ashcroft of Missouri — the future Attorney General — echoed Coats.

Even Republican Senator Arlen Specter questioned the timing.

And of course, were it true Clinton had been "distracted" by the Lewinsky witch-hunt — who on earth conducted the Lewinsky witch-hunt? Who turned the political discourse of this nation on its head for two years?

Who corrupted the political media?

Who made it impossible for us to even bring back on the air, the counter-terrorism analysts like Dr. Richard Haass, and James Dunegan, who had warned, at this very hour, on this very network, in early 1998, of cells from the Middle East who sought to attack us, here?

Who preempted them… in order to strangle us with the trivia that was… "All Monica All The Time"?

Who… distracted whom?

This is, of course, where — as is inevitable — Mr. Bush and his henchmen prove not quite as smart as they think they are.

The full responsibility for 9/11 is obviously shared by three administrations, possibly four.

But, Mr. Bush, if you are now trying to convince us by proxy that it’s all about the distractions of 1998 and 1999, then you will have to face a startling fact that your minions may have hidden from you.

The distractions of 1998 and 1999, Mr. Bush, were carefully manufactured, and lovingly executed, not by Bill Clinton… but by the same people who got you… elected President.

Thus instead of some commendable acknowledgment that you were even in office on 9/11 and the lost months before it… we have your sleazy and sloppy rewriting of history, designed by somebody who evidently redd the Orwell playbook too quickly.

Thus instead of some explanation for the inertia of your first eight months in office, we are told that you have kept us "safe" ever since — a statement that might range anywhere from Zero, to One Hundred Percent, true.

We have nothing but your word, and your word has long since ceased to mean anything.

And, of course, the one time you have ever given us specifics about what you have kept us safe from, Mr. Bush — you got the name of the supposedly targeted Tower in Los Angeles… wrong.

Thus was it left for the previous President to say what so many of us have felt; what so many of us have given you a pass for in the months and even the years after the attack:

You did not try.

You ignored the evidence gathered by your predecessor.

You ignored the evidence gathered by your own people.

Then, you blamed your predecessor.

That would be the textbook definition… Sir, of cowardice.

To enforce the lies of the present, it is necessary to erase the truths of the past.

That was one of the great mechanical realities Eric Blair — writing as George Orwell — gave us in the novel "1984."

The great philosophical reality he gave us, Mr. Bush, may sound as familiar to you, as it has lately begun to sound familiar to me.

"The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power…

"Power is not a means; it is an end.

"One does not establish a dictatorship to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.

"The object of persecution, is persecution. The object of torture, is torture. The object of power… is power."

Earlier last Friday afternoon, before the Fox ambush, speaking in the far different context of the closing session of his remarkable Global Initiative, Mr. Clinton quoted Abraham Lincoln’s State of the Union address from 1862.

"We must disenthrall ourselves."

Mr. Clinton did not quote the rest of Mr. Lincoln’s sentence. He might well have.

"We must disenthrall ourselves — and then… we shall save our country."

And so has Mr. Clinton helped us to disenthrall ourselves, and perhaps enabled us, even at this late and bleak date… to save… our… country.

The "free pass" has been withdrawn, Mr. Bush…

You did not act to prevent 9/11.

We do not know what you have done, to prevent another 9/11.

You have failed us — then leveraged that failure, to justify a purposeless war in Iraq which will have, all too soon, claimed more American lives than did 9/11.

You have failed us anew in Afghanistan.

And you have now tried to hide your failures, by blaming your predecessor.

And now you exploit your failure, to rationalize brazen torture — which doesn’t work anyway; which only condemns our soldiers to water-boarding; which only humiliates our country further in the world; and which no true American would ever condone, let alone advocate.And there it is, sir:

Are yours the actions of a true American?

I’m K.O., good night, and good luck.

Are there reasonable points there? Sure. A bunch. But that's true of the flip side, too, in any given polemic like this. The problem is that reasonable points aren't, well, the point.

Speaking of points? My initial reaction was this: I give up. What's the point? There is no point, right? No point to parsing, no point to agreeing, no point to disagreeing, no point to conceding, no point to fisking, no point to even pointing out what's on point or off. Or just plain wrong. Or even what's right.

Because that's not the point.

Not at all, not at all.

Update: "Countdown" courage. Sorry to have whacked the link.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Reach Out Of The Darkness

[Posted by reader_iam, wearing the temporary hat of an Admin]

Sorry to interrupt the flow around here, but if you look to the right, under our blog handles, you'll see a bit of breaking news!

That's right, folks: Done With Mirrors now has its very own email address, hot off the presses: donewithmirrors(at)gmail(dot)com. Please note that this is a blog email, with all that implies. (Please, uh, e-mail us if it's not clear what that means.)

Points for being the first (in comments) to indicate "getting" the title of this post by identifying the reference (double points if you did it without Googling, and I believe you). Extra credit for the best explanation (on target or not) of why I think it's funny. Creativity and variety appreciated.

(Hint: It doesn't refer to Cal and me, with regard to each other. Well, at least not in my mind. But don't let that restrict you.)

Now, carry on, carry on.

Voting for a Loser

[posted by Callimachus]

Just wondering how many out there have ever done this. And whether any pundit ever calculated it into his reading of a vote result.

In a couple of months I'm likely to vote for a candidate I am sure is not going to win, and I don't want him to win. If I thought he had a chance to win I'd vote for his opponent.

We're talking about the Pennsylvania governor's race. The incumbent, Ed Rendell, is a basic big city political deal-maker, ward-heeler, realist, Pennsylvania moderate Democrat. He's done a good job on most things and hasn't got any big scandal tailing off him. He's good enough for me to keep.

His GOP opponent is Lynn Swann, the former football star. Swann just can't get traction. Whatever Rendell hasn't solved -- like property-tax-based school funding -- Swann hasn't got a better answer for.

But he's run a decent clean campaign with a loser's hand. The idea of the Republican Party out here in deer hounter country getting behind a black candidate appeals to me. And I think he's got a future. So I will vote for him. Good game, thanks for playing, you made democracy stronger and America better.

I've done this before. Dole in 1996 comes to mind. I knew he wouldn't win, I didn't really want Clinton to lose, but I thought he deserved to be honored and applauded for his public service. Clinton didn't need my vote, so I gave it to Dole.


[posted by Callimachus]

I did a wire service search tonight for every variation of the name "Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith." The search would cover everything published in the last three or four days by most of the big media services.

I got only one hit. The online version of it is here. It's an incidental mention in a column of short takes that also includes news about pandas at the National Zoo.

I did a serch for Chomsky. It came up exactly 50 hits.

I did get a hit on another Sgt. Smith, but it wasn't the same one. This one was a gay Marine, prominently featured in a big story about how the military is hungry for recruits but turning away homosexuals.

Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith, however, has been invisible in the gatekeeper media.

Fortunately, the alternate media remembers him.

Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy near Baghdad International Airport, Baghdad, Iraq on 4 April 2003. On that day, Sergeant First Class Smith was engaged in the construction of a prisoner of war holding area when his Task Force was violently attacked by a company-sized enemy force. Realizing the vulnerability of over 100 fellow soldiers, Sergeant First Class Smith quickly organized a hasty defense consisting of two platoons of soldiers, one Bradley Fighting Vehicle and three armored personnel carriers. As the fight developed, Sergeant First Class Smith braved hostile enemy fire to personally engage the enemy with hand grenades and anti-tank weapons, and organized the evacuation of three wounded soldiers from an armored personnel carrier struck by a rocket propelled grenade and a 60mm mortar round. Fearing the enemy would overrun their defenses, Sergeant First Class Smith moved under withering enemy fire to man a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on a damaged armored personnel carrier. In total disregard for his own life, he maintained his exposed position in order to engage the attacking enemy force. During this action, he was mortally wounded. His courageous actions helped defeat the enemy attack, and resulted in as many as 50 enemy soldiers killed, while allowing the safe withdrawal of numerous wounded soldiers. Sergeant First Class Smith’s extraordinary heroism and uncommon valor are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the Third Infantry Division “Rock of the Marne,” and the United States Army.

Not only do most people living in America today probably not know his name, most of us assuredly also don't know his mother's name. Because, you know, there's only one "grieving mother" who speaks with "absolute moral authority" in this war.

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Boring Postcards

[posted by Callimachus]

Two examples of the first generation of resort hotels in America.

Old Orchard House opened in 1837 in an old farm house and soon was serving summer vacationers from as far off as Montreal. The owners built a big new hotel for 300 guests. It burned down in 1875, but they replaced it with this 500-guest version.

As this photo shows, the idyllic view above is somewhat deceptive: The walkway runs down, not to the beach, but to the railroad station that brought the tourists to town.

Unlike most of the Jersey Shore postcards I show you, the building in this one is still there It's the sole survivor of the golden age of grand hotels on Long Beach Island. The "borough of Surf City" where it was built originally was a region known as "Great Swamp." You have to think the real estate prospects were improved by the name change.

The core of this old hotel seems to date back to the 1840s, and it was known as Harvey Cedars Hotel in its heyday in the late 1800s. This photo shows it as it was when the Philadelphia YWCA ran it as a women's vacation resort. The camp foundered in the Depression.


Pay Attention, Lest Death Be The Price

[Posted by reader_iam]

Because inattention, like arrogant ignorance (and ignorant arrogance), carries a cost that balloons into debt unpayable.

Six medical workers face death by firing squad if sense, science and conscience don't prevail.
Lawyers defending six medical workers who risk execution by firing squad in Libya have called for the international scientific community to support a bid to prove the medics' innocence. The six are charged with deliberately infecting more than 400 children with HIV at the al-Fateh Hospital in Benghazi in 1998, so far causing the deaths of at least 40 of them.
One reason for the lack of interest [added: among scientists], he says, is the widespread notion that the trial is a sideshow, and that the "real decisions" will be made by diplomats (see Libya's travesty). Altit argues that diplomacy has so far failed to secure results, and that the medics' release will only be secured by using scientific evidence to fight the case in the Tripoli courtroom. He hopes that exposing the "emptiness" of the prosecution case will ramp up enough international pressure to force governments to take action.

At present, the case has been sidelined by broader geopolitical interests in the opening of oil-rich Libya to international relations, says Antoine Alexiev, another defence lawyer on the case. The United States decided in May to re-establish diplomatic relations with Libya. And Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, has been given red-carpet treatment at the European Union's headquarters in Brussels — without mention of the medics' situation.

[Emphasis added to underscore a failure of sufficient attention on the part of the U.S. AND the EU, regardless of whether at least one major blog site chooses to emphasis only ONE part of the equation (while extolling its nonpartisan effort). How self-serving and cynical of it, given that it clearly read the same articles that I did. Not that it doesn't still deserve great credit for lending its reach to the cause.]
... The researchers carried out a genetic analysis of viruses from the infected children, and concluded that many of them were infected long before the medics set foot in Libya in March 1998. Many of the children were also infected with hepatitis B and C, suggesting that the infections were spread by poor hospital hygiene. The infections were caused by subtypes of A/G HIV-1 — a recombinant strain common in central and west Africa, known to be highly infectious.

But the court threw out the report ... .

This is an international failing and an utter disgrace to any country and international entity which could bring pressure to bear, specifically including the U.S. AND the EU. Apart from the scientific issue--which should be enough, in any rational and sensible world, in this sort of case--there is also another one: Why should any international health-care worker ever supply desperately needed services and care to the most needy and vulnerable in the world if this sort of travesty is the consequence? Especially with the acquiescence--by omission, at least--of the world?

Write, blog, call--whatever. Do something. And if you're a scientist in a relevent field, do whatever you can do, or if you know someone who is a scientist in a relevent field, ask him or her to speak out, in whatever fashion, and/or contact appropriate professional organizations or affiliations.

The illness and death of the children is a tragedy. However terrible that is, it doesn't excuse how the fate of the medical workers is being handled. Or the insufficient attention of the world community.


While you're thinking of issues of conscience, please keep these cases in mind as well:


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Blog-reading Gives Me The Vapors

[Posted by reader_iam]

Or, at least, an Ambivablog post did, in addition to a good laugh. (You must follow the link, but do heed Amba's warning.)

Immediately, this song jumped to mind and started relentlessly worming its way through my brain.

Oh, the flashbacks from one's college days!

Of course, I know now that the connection my brain made is based on an '80s-era American rumor, rather than the original intent of the songwriter, but at the time, Dave Fenton himself was none-too-clear about it. Regardless, I'm stuck with the brain image that was imprinted so many years ago, but had luckily not thought about in a donkey's age until I went a-surfing today.

Boy, that'll larn me!

(By the way, I'm not sure you could get away with making this video today, and not because of the topic at hand, so to speak, but rather the physical ethnic reference.

This is most likely a good thing.)


[posted by Callimachus]

You can see a picture of New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins here. And there you also can read about how dangerous Iraq is for him and other U.S. MSM reporters, and incidentally read about his book deal.

And I've told you about my friend Kat, who worked for almost two years for a contractor in Iraq, the place that is too dangerous for reporters to cover, yet somehow not too dangerous for her to work in.

Maybe it's time I showed you Kat:

That's the whole thing. All there is. I'm 6-foot-3, and looking down, that's what I'd see.

Now I have been reading NYT copy since the war began, and I think Filkins has done some brave reporting and some competent reporting, too. But I wasn't in Iraq. Kat was. I showed her the Filkins piece. Maybe it was the way the interviewer wrote it up. She wasn't pleased:

"According to Filkins, the New York Times is burning through money "like jet fuel" simply to securely maintain its operations in the country. In addition to the 70 local reporters and translators, the Times employs 45 full-time Kalashnikov-toting security guards to patrol its two blast-wall-enclosed houses -- and oversee belt-fed machine-guns on the roofs of the buildings. The paper also has three armored cars, and pays a hefty premium each month to insure the five Times reporters working there."

Gods, it looks like I could have hired somebody to carry my gun, as I see it. I never realized that could be done. I guess it doesn't matter, since I'm still here. Apparently the terrorists were frightened by my steely black eyes and 5ft tall, 89lb muscular body. They must have known when the saw us that "hell is coming with me." (giggles to self)

       If it wasn't that, it must have been either my nineteen-year-old "security" boy or my mid-40's best Iraqi Army buddy with the one stinky uniform and 5-7 missing teeth. Nothing says security like a pot-belly in an army uniform. And if I happened to be able to load his gun faster than he could ... well, you know. He needed a job, and I needed somebody, anybody, who could speak ... preferably really fast. I think about Laurel and Hardy. Nah, they were funny. We were just goofy.

       Great to see the press is well equipped, though. Really. I'm thinking all the armor would have slowed our Toyota down while we sped down those nasty roads they're talking about. No convoys for me, hell no. Got no time to wait for no freakin convoy and armor. If they're coming your way, yippie. But if they're not, just duck your head a lot, pretend you're busy with things in the truck and go. Not hi-tech or expensive, but it seems to have been effective. (No, I wasn't driving, just in case you guys are worried I broke traffic laws. Truth is, I was not allowed to for security reasons ... which is another story.)

       But I'm also checking out this burrow of which Dexter speaks. I'm kind of jealous in a way, but he doesn't make it sound so nice. Still, chances are, if I'd known we needed bomb shelters to keep us all safe, my company would have built them ASAP, definitely. I mean, when you're a country, dedicated to rebuilding another country no matter (f***ing) what, you don't pause to build or even locate those kinda things, do you? We didn't think so. I mean, it wasn't on our "A" list of things to do. Others, such as the NYT, might differ.

       I have to say, though, belt-fed machine guns on the roof is kinda overkill. Those are really cool things, so I saw. I mean, if you need to kill something they're good I guess, and if you just want to blow lots of stuff to pieces, they're kinda fun. But for where you're working, they kind of make you stick out like a sore thumb, and yell "shoot at me, ya dumb Iraqi bastards!" From my experience, that might be helpful for producing good news ops, but I believe it might also make it impossible for you to blend in with the locals.

All in all, I'm really thankful that Dexter was able to share his experience with the rest of the press. It's difficult to live in a hardened bunker, not going out to do your job, and relying on others not too skillfully chosen to do your job for you. I can almost taste the fear as he describes it, and my first response is certainly to slap him and his co-hibernators on the back for their selfless display of courage, innovation, and integrity in doing their job.

I'm sure that Dexter will remember me and all of the other contractors and civilians who worked in Iraq slightly shorted of all the elaborate defence mechanisms dedicated to those in his profession. I'm sure he could appreciate the depth to which one of my rather small size five appendages could install itself within his and his cohort's posterior sections. It would be pleasurable to me at any time to let him accompany myself on one of our less important or threatening rides to a place of little or no interest to anyone but ourselves. Thank goodness for the New York Times.

Unlike Dexter, nobody offered her a book deal.

UPDATE: Kat responds to "Bob" (introduction here) beginning here.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Victoria Is Still Such Fun

And I get a kick out of her original voice whenever she chooses to sing.

(Not that I always AGREE with her, but then, who cares? Not I.)

Snake Oil

Our friends on the left want you to buy your gasoline from Hugo Chavez.

Instead of using government to help the rich and the corporate, as Bush does, Chavez is using the resources and oil revenue of his government to help the poor in Venezuela.

I needn't tell you my BDS-infected co-workers here in the MSM already are down with that and have proudly been doing this and bragging about it for months.

Noam Envy

The rest of the America-haters are whining.

No one is more bewildered or, frankly, bummed by all of the attention suddenly being paid to Noam Chomsky than Andrew Bacevich.

"I've written a few books critical of US foreign policy, too," said Bacevich, a professor of international relations and history at Boston University. "Why couldn't Hugo Chavez hold up one of my books?"

Boston! Christ almighty it's like the last car of the circus train up there.


Son Memories

Reader_Iam's son is at that lovable age when a boy sees enough of the world to know how much good he wants to do for it. Gods, you just want to stop time and hug them forever.

I remember when Luke was 5; we went to a birthday party for a daughter of the guitar player in my band, and at one point I looked up and Luke was sitting at the snack bar engaged in what looked like a serious conversation with my friend's father. The dad was the kind of old man who just has a way with kids like Luke, who have grown up around adults; calm and earnest and not the least bit condescending.

Afterwards he came up to me chuckling. "I asked your son what he wants to be when he grows up," he said. "He said, 'I want to be a writer, like my dad, but there's only one problem.' I said, 'What's that?' He said, 'I don't know how to write.' "


A whole smorgasbord of chewy things in this Tony Corn article in Policy Review. Written like a blog entry, it's a slap-down of doctrinaire Clausewitz followers and an encouragement to 4GW proponents (while urging them to broaden their thinking).

Jarring insights and farflung couplings starburst out of it in every graph:

[T]his static conception of the global jihad in terms of finite “stock” ignores the dynamic created by media, i.e., the cyber-mobilization as the new Levee en Masse.

... Caught in a time warp, Gray looks jihad (al Qaeda) and dawa (Hizb-ut-Tahrir) in the eye, and see nothing more than — a bearded version of the IRA. Rather than bury their heads in the Clausewitzian sand, strategists would be better inspired to meditate the truly “remarkable trinity” engineered by Arab governments for more than thirty years: natalist policies, anti-Western mass indoctrination, and mass emigration to the West. Isn’t time at least to add a chapter to On War on “demographic warfare?”

... [W]hat the post-Gulf War American Army has come to resemble is the post-World War I French Army: In both cases, victory breeds complacency, and this in turn can lead to a solid but unimaginative army capable of holding its own against an equally solid but unimaginative opponent — but is not necessarily a match for an innovative military, be it in the form of the German “blitzkrieg” yesterday or Chinese “unrestricted warfare” tomorrow.

... Like Clausewitz, Carl Schmitt is a dangerous mind — only more so. Paradoxical as it may sound, the one-time jurist of the Third Reich is today an icon among the Western leftover left and its jihadist allies, who know that they will find in Schmitt, rather than Marx, the precision-guided weapons they need against liberalism. At his best, Schmitt remains to this day the most cogent critique of liberalism as a “political theology.” And while the leftover left may hold it against him that he provided the best philosophical basis for a distinction between authoritarianism and totalitarianism, they are forever grateful to Schmitt for having put forward a proto-theory of Lawfare.

"I Want To Be Multilingual When I Grow Up"

[Posted by reader_iam]

"And a passionate and confident reader, too!"

My son's words, in a burst tonight. Good thing to hear--generally speaking, of course--but especially since today he lost a bid to become student-government rep or alt for his first-grade class, which was the endeavour about which he was determined and enthusiastic earlier this week.

Life goes on.

(And sometimes, just sometimes, as a parent, you think: "Well, hey, maybe I'm getting at least a bit of it right.")

Tequila Man

Danny Flores, whose voice you assuredly know for its growling out the single word "tequila," has gone to the big Tiki bar in the sky.

The obits make wonderful reading.

“I can honestly tell you he never got tired of playing that song,” said his wife, Sharee.

Thanks For Weighing In, (My) Sen. Harkin [Update 2]

[Posted by reader_iam, in this case a.k.a. An Iowa Resident Who Votes And Who Is Registered No Party*** Which Is Why I Get Literature And Run-Up-To-Election Phone Calls From Everyone]

Update 2: For those of you who may just now be visiting, you may wish to read the comments for a back-and-forth that might provide additional clarification. Or fodder. Whatever.

Actual start of orginal post:

... on Hugo Chavez's comments at the U.N.

Not! Still "Not"!

It really is better to actually listen to what he said to get the tone. Talk about clueless. I mean, even some of President Bush's harshest critics, including people more influential (and even more beloved among Bush despisers) than Harkin, whacked Hugo Chavez for this one.

For the record, I have now lived in Iowa long enough to twice have had the opportunity to vote or not for Sen. Harkin. Once I did. Once I didn't. He's just now made my choice the next time, should we still be living here a couple of years hence, a whole lot easier (depending, always, of course, on his opponent--but in this case, the benefit of the doubt will likely redound to Candidate X). (Then, of course, there are all the examples of evidence to demonstrate the sloppiness of a key assertion of Harkin's).

This, for me, isn't about President Bush. It's about Hugo Chavez, and particularly (though there's more to it) with regard to whom he's been embracing and what he's been saying about them, largely in complete disregard of the records of the regimes and plight of the people living under them. And--yes, though to a far lesser extent, but still--the people who would embrace a Chavez, it seems almost on principle (meaning, the principle that he is and has been so outspoken about President Bush and the U.S. generally).

Psssst, haters of the sitting president of the U.S., I've got a hint for you: It is possible to despise President Bush with every breath of your body, to even be deeply suspicious of U.S. intentions generally or The American Project, or whatever, and still not embrace Hugo Chavez or overlook the utterly reprehensible regimes and leaders with whom he has sought to establish a coalition, whether to oppose the U.S or for any other purpose under the sun.

I'm resigned to this conflation among certain segments of our body politic (please read the first comment attached to this post).

But I'll be damned if I'll tolerate it from a sitting senator, who should know better and has an obligation to be informed, not to mention a staff whose job it is to help him get there. Especially when I'm a constituent.

Nice job of seizing the opportunity to hit the standard line of talking points. But you get a big old "F" from this Iowa voter for lack of sense, or, apparently, even a clue.

Shame. On. You. Senator. Harkin.

Update: I should probably clarify that in the state of Iowa, one does not have to declare a party affiliation in order to be a registered voter. Prior to moving to this state a little more than a decade ago, I lived in a state where that was not the case when I initially registered. (I don't now if that's true now.) Upon reaching voting age in 1979, I picked "Independent," because I was just "starting out," so to speak. (I believe that my parents, by the way, then at least, did not share a party affiliation.) I never changed my designation, through various times and evolutions of personal opinions/views, primarily because during a large chunk of my adult life on the East Coast, I was involved in print journalism, in one form or another--stringer, part-timer, full-timer--first in reporting, but then primarily in various editing roles. As such, at that time (or, more precisely,during that time period), I thought it inappropriate symbolically to make a change, either way, whether or not anyone knew. However I may feel about that now, and for whatever reasons, that's how I felt then.

The "No Party" choice stemmed from something different, originally, and since then has come to mean something else.

Just to both clarify ... and simultaneously muddy the waters, at the same time.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Avert Your Eyes

[posted by Callimachus]

Every now and then while surfing through a site like Memorandum I get suckered into clicking on one of the big Democratic/left bloggers. Usually it's with some sense of impending horror, as in this post, which I read to learn whether the supremely important Matthew Yglesias really couldn't get the name of Iran's president right. Apparently, he couldn't. [But after all, all those other world leaders don't really matter. The only thing that matters is Bush.]

And when I read them, I usually compound the error by reading the comments. That's where I learn about the people who have a much, much more coherent and informed view of the realities of the modern world than us war criminal neo-cons.

And here I meet comments such as these:

What are Ahmadinejad's politics, Petey?

I kinda seem him as the rock that broke the nose of the most idiotic leader our country has had. ...


My feeling is that anyone being smeared by the morons who got us into Afghanistan and Iraq can't be all that bad...


Kinda reminds me of Bush and the rest of the planet right now. Every black eye and blow we receive is cheered by quite a few people. I can't say as I look back any of the bullies I remember from the past ever turned out OK. Sociopaths are a pretty tough group to cure of their pathologies.


Bush looked a lot crazier and scarier than Ahmadinejad. The guy just doesn't come across as the scary lunatic the neocons are trying to portray him as.

I agree that Chavez has an entertaining style. Speaking at the UN, he dramatically said that "el diablo" had been at the lecturn the day before, crossed himself, then said he could still smell the sulphur. It was hilarious. Also, I read an article about him a while back in the Atlantic. If I remember correctly, it was mentioned that Chavez sometimes refers to Bush as the devil, but usually just calls him shithead.


Bush is the devil and he dresses like shite. There, I said it. I'd much rather have Chavez or even Ama-whatsit running this country. Look at the profile of the U.S. since Bush took over- down, down, down. Look at the profiles of Iran & Venezuela- all up arrows.

Any questions?


No "Rite Wankers" allowed. This was a light-hearted post about the leader of Iran, not some kind of political screed. So what, the guy looks cool, and at least he represents his country well. Our "president" makes us look like a bunch of buffoons, um, because he IS a buffoon.

Maybe we can get a real leader next time that could be seen in the same hallway with Kofi Annan and not look like a retard.

Chavez wiped the floor of the UN with Bush. It's a fact.


At this point a disapproving link from Instapundit came in and, as someone posted, had the effect of lifting a rock and letting the sun shine on what was going on under it.

People seem to forget that if someone wants to kill you, just maybe you might have done something to piss them off a little bit? Maybe you should figure out what that thing is, and I don't know, stop doing it? Or maybe rather than arming yourself to the teeth and killing everyone in your path in "self defense", you should sit down with this guy, and ask, "Why are you so mad at me?" It's called diplomacy, and it's a word that most righties seem to have forgotten the meaning, or existence of.

Also, apparently being witty, charming and well-dressed gets you respect and approval on the world stage. Bush should try it. I've certainly learned that being stupid, looking like a monkey and pissing the whole world off just gets you a boat load of trouble.


So are you saying that looking like a monkey is an advantage? I think not. Imagine sitting across the table from this guy as another world leader, as Bush bumbles, fumbles, mumles and stumbles. It would be a joke! Chavez is only pointing out the obvious, and it looks like it finally took a non-American to have the balls to say it. Many in this country have certainly been on the case since even before the "election" of '00, but when Hugo Chavez talks, people listen. When our president talks, people protect their dictionaries' ears.

I'm ashamed to say it, but the emperor was shown to be clothes-free yesterday at the U.N. If Chavez has the guts, and humor, to inform the world, then more power to him. If Amadinijad feels threatened by the U.S., who wouldn't? If you lived in Iran you'd be calling for nukes just to protect you from America. Unfortunately we citizens of America have nothing to protect us.

Democrats in '08, that's all I can say. For our sake.


I'm not saying that Bush is Hitler, I'm just saying he has certain, shall we say, Hitler-like qualities I could do without. Kind of like the difference between eating a can of straight anchovies and having an anchovy pizza. Now the pizza isn't anchovies, but it does have a certain unmistakable anchovy aftertaste...

But please, do go on Bush men (and ladies, but I have a feeling there are no ladies here). You amuse me.


If Venezuela and Iran can have shrewd, savvy presidents, why can't we?


Instapundit readers: You are all a bunch of stupid pussies. George Bush has been raping you up the ass for 5 years, while Glenn Reynolds has been egging him on. He's like your pimp, except when the john slaps you around, unlike a real pimp he doesn't do anything, just counts his money.



[posted by Callimachus]

Big mistakes and little mistakes. Missed chances for a bit of honest propaganda; easy put-outs booted.

Anousheh Ansari became the first female space tourist, the first female Muslim in space and the first Iranian to venture off planet when she blasted off yesterday from Russia en route to the International Space Station. As you may know by now "Ansari and her family left Iran a few years after the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the pro-U.S. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and brought hard-line clerics to power, in part because the opportunities for a young girl to study science were becoming limited there." Not only did Ansari study science in the United States, she turned that knowledge into billions of dollars. Hard to imagine what the morality police in Iran must think of all this if they even know about it ....

Unfortunately, the government of the United States failed to capitalize on this historic event. In a day and age where the Pope has to apologize for quoting a 14th century text in the face of violence (a nun killed and churches attacked, death threats made) the United States should be trumpeting the success of women such as Ansari. Her family could have fled anywhere in the world, and they chose the U.S., as millions of people have done and continue to do. Instead, we deny Ansari the chance to wear the Iranian flag with the American flag on her flight suit. This was a mistake for several reasons. First, she planned to wear the pre-revolution Iranian flag, and second, as our leaders have said so many times, our arguments are not with the people of countries such as Iran, but with their leaders. Imagine the power of the symbol that Ansari could have become as a Muslim woman who fled oppression to find love and fortune in the United States. I can picture her reminding the world that the new Iran is hardly improved, and that United States can still be the shining city upon the hill. Instead, we have demonstrated a knack for petty jealousy. Ansari's story is still inspiring, don't get me wrong. It is simply that you can't make stuff like this up, and we have missed a golden opportunity.

Dr. Demarche, writing at American Future.

Facing Death Over Pro-Moderate Views [Updated]

[Posted by reader_iam]

A Muslim editor of a weekly newspaper in Bangladesh is being sent to trial because he printed articles that criticized extremist Islam and/or were sympathetic to Israel.

The charge is sedition, which carries a death penalty upon conviction in his country. The title of my post notwithstanding, in the context of his world, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury's expression of alternative viewpoints is considered decidedly immoderate, but even after having been arrested previously and allegedly tortured while in prison, he persisted. Now, it appears, he is in real danger of paying for that with his life.
As editor of The Weekly Blitz, an English-language newspaper published in Dhaka, Choudhury aroused the ire of Bangladeshi authorities after he printed articles favorable to Israel and critical of Muslim extremism.

Bangladesh does not recognize Israel's existence and refuses to establish diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.

In November 2003, Choudhury was arrested at Dhaka's international airport just prior to boarding a flight on his way to Israel, where he was scheduled to deliver an address on promoting understanding between Muslims and Jews. His visit to Israel would have been the first by a Bangladeshi journalist.

Choudhury was charged with sedition, held in prison for 17 months and was reportedly tortured before being freed in April 2005. But the authorities in Bangladesh, which is ruled by a coalition government that includes Islamic extremists, decided to continue pursuing charges against him.

After reading the JPost article, I Googled the name of Choudhury, with whose story I have been familiar, and was astonished to see that under the news search, only one other publication--The Asian Tribune--appears to have picked up this story. (That article provides some information not provided in the JPost one, so I recommend reading it even though I'm not quoting from it in this post.)

I guess everyone's been a little busy, what with blasting the Pope for citing centuries old texts and for being generally insensitive and provocative, and then for his inadequate apology skills. Well, that and once again explaining how we need to understand and respect the anger behind resulting Muslim riots in various parts of the world, and even--if not quite make allowances for violence, exactly, then at least put the blame where it belongs. Which, of course, is not with the rioters.

OK. That's not very nuanced of me, and probably not particularly fair. I do know and generally do better. But you know what? I'm pissed as hell at our priorities, and tired as all get out by what I consider to be a dangerous undermining, even subversion, of the principle of freedom of speech. Why it's important. Where and when it's most important (generally, when it's most controversial and dangerous). Etc.

And I'm sickened by the "respect for my beliefs, but not for thine; free expression for me, but not for thee" cancer which regrettably appears to be afflicting radical Islam, by commission, and reprehensibly, by omission, even some significant portion of the not-so-extreme followers. (Then there are non-Muslim apologists for the actions of Islamist rioters and for restricting speech, but I'm not even going to go there.)
More from the Jerusalem post article:
After his release from prison last year, Choudhury proceeded to reopen his weekly newspaper, continuing to publish articles calling for greater interfaith understanding and warning of the dangers posed by fundamentalist Islamic terror.

Last month, unknown assailants set off explosives outside the newspaper's offices and planted a bomb in the press room that failed to detonate.

According to Benkin, Choudhury's family has been subjected to various forms of what appear to be orchestrated harassment. These have included pressure from the Bangladeshi authorities to denounce Choudhury, angry crowds gathering outside their home and even physical attacks. The intimidation has stopped "for the moment," he said.

Well, why bother with intimidation, when there's a good chance you'll just be able to shut the you-know-what up for good, with the sanction of the state, and make an example of him?

Choudhoury, along with American Richard L. Benkin, who is Jewish, established Interfaith Strength to "[strengthen] the bonds of understanding among people of different faiths" following Choudhoury's release from prison in April 2005. No doubt, along with resuming publication of the offending types of articles, this was a red flag to the snorting bull(y) that is the repressive, extreme Islamist element which simply cannot tolerate either dissent or a broader worldview.

Ironically, Choudhoury reportedly expressed the following after he was releasted from prison:
“[M]y 17 months in prison will have been worth it” if the government of Bangladesh helps return that nation to the principles of tolerance and democracy that are its heritage.

Hmmm. I'll just let that sit there, for you to ponder.

Except for this: Those of you so concerned about issues of tolerance and respect and sensitivity, do you think you can find some time to spare on Choudhury's behalf? Or would you worry that might be too offensive in some quarters?

[Update, Sept. 22] Charles Krauthammer has got it right in his column this morning: Muslim extremists have no sense of irony (and less tolerance). What's more appalling, in its own way, is that there are plenty of non-Muslim extremists, or even non-Muslim non-extremists, who share the same myopic, tunnel-visioned disease:
And the intimidation succeeds: politicians bowing and scraping to the mob over the cartoons; Saturday's craven New York Times editorial telling the pope to apologize; the plague of self-censorship about anything remotely controversial about Islam -- this in a culture in which a half-naked pop star blithely stages a mock crucifixion as the highlight of her latest concert tour.

In today's world, religious sensitivity is a one-way street. The rules of the road are enforced by Islamic mobs and abjectly followed by Western media, politicians and religious leaders.

To me, the points made in Krauthammer's piece should be so obvious that he shouldn't have to take up the column inches to make them. None of them require deep thought and or knowledge of either history or current affairs to grasp. (Nor do they require any particular partisan political philosophy.)

Apparently, however, grasping the obvious is simply intolerable for some. No irony there.