g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon ValleyNew York-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry, political bile, and sports car rentals.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

Steven Den Beste
James Lileks
Little Green Footballs
As the Apple Turns
Cold Fury
Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
Eric S. Raymond
Tal G in Jerusalem
Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
Ravishing Light
Cartago Delenda Est

Cars without compromise.

Book Plugs:

Buy 'em and I get
money. I think.
BSD Mall

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12/27/2004 -   1/2/2004
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12/13/2004 - 12/19/2004
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11/29/2004 -  12/5/2004
11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
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10/25/2004 - 10/31/2004
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12/29/2003 -   1/4/2004
12/22/2003 - 12/28/2003
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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Wednesday, July 2, 2003
18:59 - Virtual Friday!

Since I'm still without net at home, and since there's no work tomorrow or Friday, that means there might be no blogging happening until... ugh. Monday. Maybe I'll sneak in to work to do some stuff, if interesting things happen. But most likely not.

Happy 4th, everybody!

12:51 - What Makes a Lie

While I wasn't looking, a few days ago Rachel Lucas posted Michael Moore's latest letter to the President in its entirety. She didn't really even have it in herself to fisk it, because-- and she's entirely right in this-- "it sort of takes care of itself anyway".

Your blatant refusal to back up your verbal deception with the kind of fake evidence we have become used to is a slap in our collective American face. It's as if you are saying, "These Americans are so damn apathetic and lazy, we won't have to produce any weapons to back up our claims!" If you had just dug a few silo holes in the last month outside Tikrit, or spread some anthrax around those Winnebagos near Basra, or "discovered" some plutonium with that stash of home movies of Uday Hussein feeding his tigers, then it would have said to us that you thought we might revolt if you were caught in a lie. It would have shown us some *respect*. We honestly wouldn't have cared if it later came out that you planted all the WMD -- sure, we'd be properly peeved, but at least we would have been proud to know that you knew you HAD to back up your phony claims with the real deal!

I guess you finally figured that out this week. It started to appear that millions of us were calling you on your bluff -- those "fictitious reasons for the fictitious war." So you quickly produced this man and his rose bush and some 12-year old piece of paper and some metal parts. CNN broke in at 5:15pm and screamed they had the exclusive! "IRAQI NUCLEAR PLANS FOUND!" But a few good reporters started asking some hard questions -- and, barely 3 hours later, your own administration was forced to admit the plans were "not the smoking gun” proving that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

She's right... I can't think of anything helpful to say either.

Except the obvious, which is this:

Moore finds it patently more plausible that: <deep breath> Bush and the Pentagon, the State Department, backed up by Clinton, the UN's weapons inspectors, France, Germany, Russia, Iran, and China, fabricated a case out of whole cloth for war against Saddam; sowed dissent within the ranks of the conspirators so that none but the Brits, Aussies, Poles, and Americans actually were willing to commit military troops, and the others were willing to damage their own economies and diplomatic standing out of the principle of blockading the enterprise; orchestrated and carried out the most stunning military operation, in scale and scope and civilian casualty rate and technological leverage and speed and efficiency, ever yet seen on Earth; and then, availed of all the technology and manpower that won the war in three weeks, failed for month after month to find any of the alleged weapons of mass destruction, which should have surprised nobody because it was all a massive sham, but it was surprising that the occupying force wasn't dedicating itself from day one to planting evidence for retroactive justification of the war; and then, late in the game, decided that they'd better get evidence-planting, and so they constructed a piece of contraband so flimsy and so old and so ambiguous in its background that it would have been totally useless even as propaganda and a shameful blight upon the record of any covert operative who was trying to create fake evidence, and which was indeed agreed by Bush's own administration to be "not a smoking gun" --

...than that the war was fought on the basis of intelligence that was thought to be valid at the time, and the lack of WMD findings today is indicative of nothing but the inadequacy of that intelligence.

No barber of Occam, Moore.

Isn't it fascinating how the more ridiculous a conspiracy theory appears, the more proof it represents to those who believe in it of the conspiracy's depth?

Monday, June 30, 2003
10:54 - Hello again

It's Monday already? Damn.

We're almost done with the move-out/move-in. Almost. It's the last day of the month today, which means we turn in the keys tonight, which means we have to have the last few things moved out by then, plus everything scrubbed down to a reasonable approximation of livability.

They're talking like today will be nowhere near as hot as it was over the weekend, just for us, just for the move, thank you very much, whoever's still giggling at us from behind a cloud over that one. Heaving huge boxes full of books in and out of pickup trucks and washing machines up and down stairs in 106-degree heat is fun! Yeah! Well, c'mon, actually it was, sorta. There's always that feeling of accomplishment, which is made marginally less satisfying as time goes on and you realize that you're moving from a 2500-square-foot house to a 1700-square-foot one, and you're going to have to divest yourself of a good one-third to one-half of your possessions just in order to be able to sidle into your room between the door and the towering, nodding colonnades of cardboard boxes.

All of which is made even more interesting by our bizarre decision to pick up Capri before moving, which meant he got to acclimatize himself to the old house, thinking that was his new home, for like a month-- at which point we started shuttling him back and forth to the new place for lack of a dogsitter, and he really doesn't like driving, I don't think. Oh, sure, he'll do it, but he'll be sulky and passive-aggressive about it, and he keeps falling over once he's in the back seat and the car starts lurching from street to street. So then he gets to this new place, full of the smells of new paint and new carpet and new other dogs in the neighborhood, and then he gets left alone for hours on end while we do more shuttle runs, each of which involves about an hour's turnaround-- so what's a dog to do for amusement but pee on the carpets? Hey, gotta work off all that stress somehow. So in the midst of so much else, I've got to do emergency Resolve treatments to keep these brand-new carpets from being ruined before we've even had a chance to put any furniture on them. (He's settling down now, though-- after we started slowing down the frantic pace. We're in the home stretch now, and I think he senses that.)

Oh, and there's no network at home now. After packing up my computer on Saturday and bringing it over, there's no more communication from me to the outside world from home for like another two to three weeks while they wait for the phone company to set up the T1. (Presumbly somewhere deep within the SBC offices they have one of those big crudely-painted "thermometer" signboards that keeps track of the levels of bribery necessary to get them to go out and do some given task; right now the red is just inching past the "You gotta be kidding me" level, with "Right as soon as we finish the World Championship Spitball Tournament" near in sight.) So I get no opportunity to do e-mail or blog or anything except at work, which means no outside communication on weekends at all. What'd I miss?

Katharine Hepburn died, I heard.

Somebody shot up a hotel in San Francisco, the "sideshows" in Oakland (which nobody on the news bothered to define, apparently assuming that everybody's watched 2 Fast, 2 Furious by now-- the police guy they interviewed talked like "We had reports of sideshow activity around 3rd and Lexington, and we responded and found that sideshow activity was indeed in evidence, and the sideshow activity had been in progress for some time"-- thank you, now what the %^#$ is it? Quit talking like Space Ghost describing sex!) are going unchecked because the police aren't funded to try to keep the rice-boys from doing doughnuts on people's lawns, and someone with a sword hacked up a grocery store in Irvine. Quick! Ban all swords! Think of the children!

I understand the Palestinians couldn't keep their "truce" for even a single day. Suck my butt, Palestinians.

iSight can be used to capture raw DV footage for use in iMovie, according to Damien and this thread. Also, those same ad-hoc networks that have already exploded into existence for iCal and (until someone went ahem iTunes Music Sharing are now popping up for iChat AV too. Now you can browse chatter lists by name and see who's open for audio or video sessions. I do believe network effect has a part to play here.

589 e-mail messages. Mostly spam and error bounces, I'm sure, but some are bound to be things I need to pay attention to, like for work. So that'll be it for now.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003
17:21 - If only they made cars out of bumper sticker glue

I hope those BUSH LIED, PEOPLE DIED bumper stickers were made with that environmentally-friendly mucilage that lets you peel them off without damaging your car (a derivative, no doubt, of the non-freon-based Space Shuttle foam that falls off and destroys thermal tiles).

Eventually the left will come to understand that just because a cute slogan rhymes doesn't mean it's true. Somehow, however, it's not looking like they'll realize it in time for the 2004 elections.

Fortunately, they captured Baghdad Bob too, so we'll have plenty of alternate explanations in short order. Or are all these sudden successes just a little too convenient?

16:12 - Does this mean they've gone mainstream?

Calling all fans of Michel Gagné's Insanely Twisted Rabbits! Yeah, you know who you are.

Snerk. Heh. Gotta-- n-n-HAH! Gotta catch 'em all! Hee hee heeee.

(Too bad there's only the one. So far.)

Monday, June 23, 2003
16:18 - Total Journalist

Sweet! An interview with the creators of Homestar Runner.

It's notable that today, Chris wore his The Cheat shirt, and I have on my Strong Bad one... talk about the target audience.

08:27 - Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain

From Think Secret, which has pre-keynote photos like this one:

After Apple's accidental posting of Power Mac G5 specs to its Apple online store last week, the company emailed many of its employees a copy of their non-disclosure agreement (NDA). While Apple didn't specifically mention the G5 post, the email reminded employees of the agreement they signed when they were hired, in an effort to prevent leaks late in the weekend.

Sources confirmed that the PowerPC 970 CPU that is at the heart of Q37 -- the Power Mac G5 -- is code-named "Neo" within Apple.

Have I mentioned lately that I love Apple's code names?

More later, in all likelihood.
Thursday, June 19, 2003
17:32 - He asked for it

My favorite has to be this one, by far:

09:22 - Oooh. How you say, ze OUCH.

Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi:

"They missed a good opportunity to shut up," Berlusconi told reporters in response to French criticism of his decision not to meet Palestinian leaders during a recent trip to Israel.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said this week that Berlusconi had "not satisfied the European position" by holding talks only with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during his June 9 visit to Jerusalem.

"I went (to Israel) as the prime minister of Italy. There's no way France can issue criticism over something that was the sole right and responsibility of the Italian prime minister," Berlusconi said, clearly bristling with irritation.

His choice of words in telling France to keep quiet precisely echoed comments made by French President Jacques Chirac earlier this year when he criticised east European leaders for their staunch backing of the U.S. position on Iraq.

The man may be under investigation for corruption, but he's still the leader of a major European nation-- and it seems to me that if major European leaders are going to start tossing barbs like this, and hold steaming grudges over French paternalistic sneering just like the Americans do, well-- might this be the beginning of the meltdown of the EU?

FRANCE: The Italian government has not satisfied the European position, and is acting in an irresponsible and unilateral manner, something we've come to expect of the Americans, but unbefitting of an enlightened European nation. Italy has missed a good oppor--
ITALY: France, you just missed an excellent opportunity to kiss my ass.

I understand Italy is beautiful this time of year.

Via Tim Blair.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003
17:38 - Movable Object Meets Irresistible Force

Kris forwards me this tasty little book excerpt regarding the development of the Segway (then known as Ginger), and the fateful meeting in which Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs and other investors met with inventor Dean Kamen and discussed development and marketing plans. The lesson everyone learned was that you don't ask for Steve Jobs' input unless you expect to have the whole thing turned on its ass.

"Because I see a big problem here," said Jobs. "I was thinking about it all night. I couldn't sleep after Dean came over." There were notes scribbled on the palm of his hand. He explained his experience with the iMac, how there were four models now but he had launched with just one color to give his designers, salespeople, and the public an absolute focus. He had waited seven months to introduce the other models. Bezos and Doerr nodded as he spoke.

"You're sure your market is upscale consumers for transportation?" said Jobs.

"Yes, but we know that's a risk for us," said Tim, "because we could be perceived as a toy or a fad."

If they charged a few thousand dollars for the Metro and it was a hit, said Jobs, they could come out with the Pro later and charge double for industrial and military uses.

Tim's eyebrows shot up approvingly. He looked at Dean, whose face was a mask, so he turned elsewhere. "Mike?" he said, looking at Mike Ferry for a marketing opinion.

"It's a good point," said Mike, giving his usual noncommittal response.

"What does everyone think about the design?" asked Doerr, switching subjects.

"What do you think?" said Jobs to Tim. It was a challenge, not a question.

"I think it's coming along," said Tim, "though we expect—" "I think it sucks!" said Jobs.

Fascinating reading.

Friday, June 13, 2003
15:50 - Getting it into words

What with all the refocusing of the world's attention on Israel ever since 9/11-- distracted, it seems, only temporarily by Afghanistan and Iraq-- a lot of people are finding themselves trying to come up with the ideal words with which to express how they feel about Israel, whether on the "pro" side or otherwise.

For many years it's been terribly easy to ignore the macabre docu-drama of Israel & the Palestinians-- as the news reports still describe it, even the less biased ones, it's just lumped together into the rubber-glove hazmat zone of "The Middle East". They seem to be conspicuously avoiding even using the name of Israel. "A fresh wave of violence erupted today in the Middle East," says the top-of-the-hour news, as though you can never quite tell where these things are going to happen next-- whether tomorrow's bus explosion will occur in Cairo or next week's missile strike on terrorist leaders will take place in Kirkuk or next month's pizzeria bombing will happen in Yemen.

Such terminology, to me, smacks of the alarmingly common tendency among Westerners to just put it all on a shelf somewhere and forget about it. "It's all just one big mess," I hear over and over. "Both sides are totally obsessed with death and violence. We should just build a big wall around it and lob in a nuke. Kill 'em all-- Israelis and Palestinians alike." Don't get me wrong-- there was a time when I might have said the same thing. But to hear it now, it rocks me back on my heels. It's a deeply, deeply troubling thing for me to hear-- an almost wilfully vicious refusal to take sides, to declare one side "good" and the other side "evil". When the planes hit the towers that morning, it was a gore point in the cognitive streams of all the world, but particularly of Americans; some of us saw the images on TV of the Palestinians dancing giddily in the streets, and we said, "All right, all sympathy I had for them-- and it was considerable-- has now officially evaporated." And the hole they've been digging under the doghouse they're in with me has only gotten deeper since then.

But others took that opportunity to cynically recuse themselves from the whole argument. "It's all just a big intractable mess. They're all equally bad." As though by saying so, the speaker bought anonymity, and a low profile, and a ticket out of identification with the hated evil West. Don't identify with Americans or with Israel, see, and you'll get a pass when the next Islamic atrocity comes. Oh, sure, I know most people don't actually think in these terms. Not out loud, anyway. But I have to wonder: isn't that exactly what thought process got Auschwitz built? A refusal to call evil by its name, and a denial of the existence of moral poles, even in this world of catastrophe and atrocity and achievement and human kindness?

So a lot of us have been trying to decide how best to express which side of the issue we're on. Some, like Charles Johnson of LGF, prefer to chip away at the edifice of the Israeli/Palestinian moral landscape, piece by piece, until a rough-hewn but towering sculpture remains, the expression on its face ugly but unmistakable and unignorable. Others, however, have sought to create the perfect encapsulation of the situation in a few succinct paragraphs. Few have shown a more effective combination of effectiveness and succinctness as Lileks-- but that, of course, is his unique gift. Others have to go into more detail.

Like this guy: Scott of AMCGLTD.com.

I say these things to Americans in the hope they will understand. Understand that even today when Israelis say they're fighting for their existence they aren't kidding. Understand that the Palestinians are not the helpless victims they so often claim to be. Understand that it's not radical Jewish terrorists who blow themselves up in the name of Jaweh. Understand that someone saying they're not against Jews, they're against Zionists is like someone saying they're not against Americans, they're against the United States.

I say these things to Israelis in the hope they, too, will understand. Understand that we realize one culture in the Middle East helped found ours, while the other wants to destroy it. Understand that we know we only got a taste of what it's like to live in your shoes. Understand that because of this the most powerful country the world has ever seen is working with all its might to ensure your nightmares, now ours, remain nothing more than dark wisps left behind on children's pillows.

I say these things to Israel's enemies even though I know they will never understand. Never understand that by destroying two buildings they succeeded only in transforming an ambiguous friend into a staunch ally. Never understand that by singing the praises of human detonators they merely dig a deeper hole in which to bury their own culture. Never understand their religion is no longer a force to be reckoned with, ceased being one six centuries ago, and their traditions are what got them in this mess in the first place.

I say these things to everyone so they may all understand. I am just one man among an ocean of men, a sea of women, living in a country of our own making with our own blood and treasure. I look across half the world and find in a region as old as time itself only one small nation that looks like mine. Unique in that region, its government is of its people, by its people, and for its people, and I am willing to do whatever I can to ensure it does not perish from this earth. True, I am just one man, standing up for what I believe in.

But I do not stand alone.

"These things" to which he refers need to be read, particularly by those who seek to hide from the problem and avoid the risk of (gasp!) offending anybody by throwing up their hands and referring dismissively and cynically to carnage on schoolbuses or ice cream parlors, and calculated tactical strikes on key terror leaders and the bulldozing of their homes, as all part of some symmetrical cycle-of-violence somewhere out on the part of the map that says This Way Be Dragons-- as, simply, "violence in the Middle East".

It's more than that; I know it is. There's a time to take sides, and that time was several months ago at the latest. If taking the side that I'm choosing makes me a target for ridicule and bile, well, so be it-- my life is comfortable enough that I can stand a few slings and arrows. It'll be good for me. It'll remind me that on that September day, when those plumes of smoke told the TV audience that War Was Coming, I decided that I wasn't going to hide or run away from it or pretend it didn't concern me. I wasn't going to respond to the spectre of America revving up its war machine by looking for a way to weasel out of being involved. I decided at that point that, ideologically at the very least, I wanted to be a part of the war, because I believed-- suddenly, and very strongly-- in the side I was on.

There are those for whom the world has become a video game, or a long cynical TV drama, the kind that Makes You Think About Who The Good Guys Really Are. Such people are wont to find solace and validation in the juicily ironic image of a bloodstained American flag with swastikas instead of stars, because hey-- it's all insightful and stuff! It's got levels of meaning! It has to be truer than something as simplistic and stark as the plain old flag draped over Saddam's face. Only someone of this mindset can say "Hmm-- the Jews want us to remove The Protocols of the Elders of Zion from Indymedia; surely that means it's something worth reading! What are they trying to hide?" while being unable to name Israel's current prime minister.

But as boring and cliché as it's become, I like the good ol' real world. It's amazing how many things snap into focus as soon as one commits to a moral stand. Suddenly history and the future truck at once into frame like that famous shot in Vertigo. I find myself saying things like, This is my planet, dammit-- and I refuse to let its bright future, full of freedom and reason and democracy and innovation and miracle upon human miracle, be stolen from it without a fight.

I run the risk, of course, of sounding like some kind of apocalyptic doomsayer, or worse, a florid swords-and-sorcery fantasy novel. But that's only because these issues we face today, I think, are too big to ignore. They're every bit as big as the world-changing clashes that we normally have to escape into fantasy to find. But they're here and they're real. And if dorky-sounding words are the best contribution I can make toward their ultimate successful resolution, then let the dorkage begin.

And just after I posted this, I went art-approving, and came across a couple of well-thought-out sentiments like "Ugh. All the stupid humans are letting thousands of forests and animals die every day because they're all too into a stupid war that never should've happened that killed innocent people who deserved to live", and "I'm just so tired of human stupidity. Pretty son I'll be driven off the deep end, give myself animatronic ears and tail and a new digestive sysytem, and live with wolves." Yeah, great idea. Let's kill each other for supremacy in the pack and a greater share of the raw meat; that's a lot more evolved.

Ah, to be young again.

Thursday, June 12, 2003
02:33 - Oh, the humanity


See the hideous destruction of the merciless American onslaught on the innocent people of Iraq. Witness the indiscriminate bombing and destruction of infrastructure. Marvel at the slaying of civilians and the rape of local women. Behold the terror and outrage expressed by the Iraqis at their oppression under American military rule, where they pine for the halcyon days of Saddam and the benevolent plenty with which he blessed his sovereign nation's people.

The graffiti-marked pedestal bears a sign with the sculpture's title: NAJEEN, which means "survivor," and also happens to be the name of the group of young Iraqi artists who created the artwork.

"Freedom is not a gift from people with tanks," says sculptor Basim Hamad, a Najeen member and the driving force behind the new artwork.

Fardus Square, now also called Freedom Square, is in the city center. Traffic wheels around the square?unless protests clog the flow. The sidewalks teem with a minibazaar of currency exchange booths and men selling satellite telephone calls. The Paradise Hotel stands just off the square.

. . .

For the new plaster sculpture, 23 feet tall (7 meters), the Najeen created abstract figures of a mother, father, and child holding a crescent moon, symbol of Islam, around a sun, symbol of the Sumerian civilization. The Najeen dedicated the sculpture to "every person in Iraq and to freedom-loving people everywhere."

Once again, millions of people living within the borders of the US have less understanding of what it means to be free than do a people in a faraway land who have never been able to take such a luxury for granted.

Another image for the ages.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003
10:01 - It looks different in here somehow

So there wasn't much in the way of blogging yesterday, and it's all to the good-- the painting is down to the crunch, and I only get like an hour of daylight after work each day in which to work. This lets me do some touch-ups and make some minor progress, and yes, there's such a thing as incandescent lighting here in this modern world; but you try lighting your work surface when your outlets are taped over and your fixtures are disconnected. Plus I can't do all the hard stuff on my own, which involve holding ladders while I crawl up into the 20-foot ceiling cracks and hope my edging tool doesn't smudge.

But it's all good, because here's one more reason why I think I'll like living at the new place:

With sights like this on cool summer evenings, with banks of fog spilling down over the Santa Cruz mountains right at my back, I don't have much cause for complaint.

On the way home, though, unfortunately Mike turned out to be totally right: the BBC was positively gleeful over Israel's helicopter attack on Rantisi. "This Israeli attack deals a heavy blow to the roadmap for peace," the anchor said in her smooth, oily BBC voice that sounds like the radio equivalent of black ice. "It's unclear just how the government of Ariel Sharon thought it could get away with an assassination attempt at this sensitive time." Sure enough, it's the poor innocent Palestinians who are working in good faith toward peace, and any forthcoming failure of the roadmap will be all the Israelis' fault for striking at a target of opportunity-- someone who both sides were under no illusions as to being a major player in the terror network-- and striking at him in such a way as to absolutely minimize casualties other than Rantisi himself, by comparison to which our dropping four bunker-busters on that restaurant that we were pretty sure Saddam was in was unforgivably brutal and indiscriminate. But never mind, because that kind of attack is just as bad as a mother raising her child with exhortations to become a shaheed, filling his head with visions of sugarplums and exploding Jews and translucent-skinned virgins in heaven, so that he grows up to strap on a bomb belt and board a school bus and incinerate a dozen schoolchildren. It's all the same thing, see. That whole region needs to be walled off and nuked. No moral people left in there whatsoever.

Also via Mike, an LGFer's comment:

The Palistinians would kill every Jew, but can't. The Jews could kill every Palistinian, but won't. This is what's called "morals."

Anyway, then there's this massive coding project I suddenly discovered last night that I had to complete or else. You know how that can be.

Monday, June 9, 2003
11:43 - Forhorklingads!

Hey, look: Strong Sad has an iPod.

Now all he needs is ears.
Friday, June 6, 2003
21:25 - Oh ho ho, very witty, Wilde

So when I started my car this evening, NPR had on a discussion of some local issue or other, featuring interview-soundbites from some deep-voiced commentator whose name I didn't catch. I have no idea what the context was (the show was "The California Report"); but in discussing the various viewpoints on the issue and the proper airing of the opposing stances, he had the following cynical one-liner:

"It's been said that democracy is like two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner."

Ah hah. Cute. Very pithy. But let's finish the thought, shall we? How about when it's two sheep and a wolf voting on what to have for dinner?

Doesn't that more accurately describe the typical social issue these days?

Thursday, June 5, 2003
00:51 - Too easy...

My only reaction to this scoop covered by Den Beste, on the possibility that the reason we haven't found any WMDs so far is that Saddam kept trying to buy them from con-men who delivered him barrels of sand instead of the weapons he paid for, is a juvenile but irresistible one:

There's a great joke in here somewhere about "selling sand to Arabs".

I'll let someone else come up with the actual joke. But as the late, great Bill Hicks used to say, I'm just planting seeds, people... just planting seeds.

14:30 - 'Scuse me while I kiss this peanut

Those darned pesky ripcords...

BERLIN (Reuters) - One of Germany's most controversial politicians, former deputy chancellor Juergen Moellemann, fell to his death Thursday in a parachute jump that police are investigating as a possible suicide.

His death came within hours of a search of his home in Muenster, western Germany, by prosecutors probing allegations he violated party funding rules. Also Thursday, the German parliament lifted his immunity from prosecution.

Moellemann's populist stunts -- he often parachuted into campaign events -- had helped propel him to the top of the liberal Free Democrat party, but he quit in March in disgrace over charges of anti-Semitism and irregular party funding.

Eyewitnesses at the jump near the western town of Marl said Moellemann, who had been a paratrooper in the German army, probably killed himself. "It was clear suicide," said an experienced parachutist who saw the fatal jump.

Poor old Hans Moellemann. Must have been the date with Selma that really did it.

And to think-- he was only 31 years old!

Wednesday, June 4, 2003
01:33 - Could it be...?

As heart-sickening as this story is, and as many maddening questions as it raises, there is one bright ray of hope: the fact that it's Reuters, and that it's concluding something like this:

Like many of the new generation of bombers, he has more in common with the hijackers who carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States than with the stereotypical profile of poor, desperate young men with nothing to lose.

He is a father of eight, well educated with a middle-class background and has even taken the unusual step of letting his family in on his plans. "They are proud of me," he said.

They still can't bring themselves to say the word "terrorist", but this is as close as I've ever seen Reuters get to acknowledging that the idea is the same.

Not that it really means there's hope or anything. It's probably way too little, way too late.

Via LGF.

14:07 - Offenders Anonymous

This almost makes me want to do postdoctorate work in linguistics or history or art, obtain a fellowship, and become a professor at this institution or some similar one.

Just so I can tell these students to go directly to hell, do not collect 200 francs.

Monday, June 2, 2003
10:43 - Ow

Painting makes my neck feel weird.

Sunday, June 1, 2003
12:28 - Insert clever title here

Can't post... painting.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003
12:22 - Greetings from Hell; wish you were here

Well, I'm back from Arcata-- the Hippiest Place On Earth. It was every bit as ensconced in its own hindquarters as it was last year, except a lot more so. I can only imagine what it must have been like a month or two ago; but even as it is, now that the war is over, the climate is still thoroughly out of touch. I mean, just look at it:

The last few pictures are of the "Freedom Shrine" that some enterprising civic-minded locals had erected on the wall of the Longs Drugs some years ago; it had four glass cases containing replicas of some of the country's most important historical documents, such as the Bill of Rights, the abolition of slavery, the peace treaty from the Spanish-American War, and a bunch of other such things. And of course it had been defaced, covered with posters, scrawlings, and flyers declaring that WHEN THE BOMBING STARTS, AMERICA STOPS. I'm surprised the glass hadn't been smashed.

I lost count of the NO WAR ON IRAQ, BUSH IS AN IDIOT, and NO BLOOD FOR OIL bumper stickers. I'm sure the people putting them on their cars thought they were being clever rebels, just like whoever it was who spray-painted YOU ARE NOT WHAT YOU OWN onto the sidewalk concrete a block from where I was staying. Yeah, you go, you free-thinker you. I saw Fight Club too, and I get haircuts. Anyway, I did see one truck with a couple of US flags in the back window, a religious bumper sticker, and another decal that said DON'T HASSLE ME-- I'M A LOCAL. That's the best sense of humor I saw all weekend. (No, wait-- my mistake. There was another sticker that said JUST BECAUSE NOBODY UNDERSTANDS YOU DOESN'T MEAN YOU'RE AN ARTIST. That one wins. I never thought cynicism could be so refreshing.)

Arcata is just about the right size to exist in perpetuity as a self-sufficient commune, mostly because it's a college town-- Humboldt State University is right across the freeway, offering such pursuable majors as Redwood Studies, Recreational Herbology, and Vegetarianism in AmeriKKKa. Nah, okay, I kid. But the median age of the town appears to be about 19, and (as North Korea knows so well) it's easy to be self-sufficient when you've got patrons and family sending you money all the time.

For what it's worth, the two best grocery stores in town are the Co-Op and Wildberries, both of which operate on the community membership system; they leave the local Safeway in the dust when it comes to quality. But then, they don't carry any major brands, except where they absolutely have to; no Hershey's, no General Mills, no Nabisco, precious little Coke. Whether this is because of choice or price or principle isn't clear-- but it's probably not price, because the organic stuff they carry in pride of place costs twice as much as I'm used to, across the board. But then, Wildberries' deli sandwiches are awesome, and they have fresh mozzarella balls and baklava and other such neato little delicacies that I hadn't really seen in any mainstream grocery store-- not outside premium places with Italian names. I must say I'm impressed by the selection; it's anything but banal. There have been great strides made in the name of organic production and local branding. It's a far cry from the worm-eaten but self-righteous forced-smile organics of the mid-80s. Kudos to them-- but they don't carry Kudos, so never mind.

I'd say I could live quite comfortably in a town like that-- it's definitely gorgeous, and fun, and tiny (everything is within about two blocks of everything else, and a block is about three houses long, and a house is about the size of most houses' garages-- it's like a doll's city). But for the lack of Silicon Valley's teeming masses and the nearness of travel and services, there's nothing I'd really be missing. Even the communal wireless Internet link, beamed from the city center into all the hillside houses, was pretty fast (except when the guy in charge of it rebooted the routers, as he does every day at 2:00 PM to tinker with them). For a world of futons and hydroponics and surrealist sculptures of diapers hanging from ceilings and walls covered with photos of the obligatory world-traveling-disaffected-youth backpacking trips through Southeast Asia, it's not bad.

Except, of course, for the people. The ones Not In Whose Name America does anything other than roll on its back and pee on itself while the rest of the world lines up to take a good kick at it.

Ahem; anyway. The Kinetic Sculpture Race was lots of fun-- the crowds this year were bigger than they were last year, although the receding economy has resulted in a lack of sponsorship; many of the entries, lacking the money they had last year from large toolmaking companies or copy centers, weren't able to do much besides paint their sculptures a different color and come up with a new pun for the name. ("It's now... the Albino Rhino!") Whodathunk-- even wacky free-love human-powered vehicle contests require the helping hands of evil corporations in order to rock the world. Fascinating.

But that said, there were still a good many fabulous entries, even more than last year; though the energy was a little less this time, the creativity was still there. My favorite was the Mullet Bullet:

This time, too, I didn't have to drive down to Ukiah and back for the Memorial Day parade; so I stayed up in Arcata, put up with the Bush=Hitler t-shirts, and enjoyed the parts of the race that I'd missed before, such as the water entrance. It's always fun to see a giant papier-mâché horse slide gracefully into the water and glide off under the bridge, followed in short order by a guy in a business suit on a bicycle with an innertube strapped to his back, hurtling down the ramp and somersaulting with a horrific splash the moment his wheels touch water. It was a thing of beauty, I tell ya.

The finish line in Ferndale was graced with gorgeous clear sunlight, a rarity for Memorial Day Weekend in Humboldt (one of the Race rules is "In the case of sun, the Race will be held in the sun"). All the machines finished within half an hour of each other, with great gusto and energy. It seemed there was more of a focus on keeping everyone safe this year than on allowing everyone to have fun-- constant admonishments to stand back, whether in the finish-line square or on Dead Man's Drop, where we couldn't position ourselves in the shifting sands just downhill from where the large top-heavy machines would bog down and topple over on top of us. C'mon! The danger is half the fun! Plus it makes for great camera angles! ... They apparently no longer have the Slippery Slimy Slope (last year some disgruntled farmer got so sick of the throngs of spectators traipsing through his fields to get to the Slope that he piled a truckload of manure right across the dirt road they were using), and what they replaced it with wasn't spectator-accessible, but that's okay. We had plenty else to do in the area, like drive up into the Trinity River wilderness and play in the river at a secluded canyon sand bar where we barged in on a tentful of three hikers who seemed decidedly glum for the duration of our presence, contenting themselves with odd-smelling materials tossed into their campfire while we waded around in the near-ice. I'm sure they were just as happy to see us leave, so they could resume their frolicking. But hey, this land is your land, this land is my land, right? Privacy is an illusion in the Workers' Paradise. And by the way, that was poison oak.

Good weekend, all things considered. How was yours?

Thursday, May 22, 2003
01:15 - Into the Breach


Well, it's that time of year again: Memorial Day Weekend, time for a bunch of ex-Moles to gather together from the far corners of the Earth and drive up into the redwood forests for the Kinetic Sculpture Race in Arcata, California.

The alert among you will know Arcata as the very epitome of Hippie Central; it's on the coast, on the northern shore of the bay containing Eureka, in the heart of fabled Humboldt County. It's a foggy little commune with a neighborhood co-op as its primary grocery store, a communal wireless Internet link from the top of the three-story building in the main town square, and little bohemian coffee shops everywhere. It's the home of the very Northtown Books that (as Lileks screeded about a couple of years ago) Michael Moore visited in triumphal solidarity; it's the place that last month decided to fine any government officials who tried to enforce the Patriot Act:

This little city (pop.: 16,000) has become the first in the nation to pass an ordinance that outlaws voluntary compliance with the Patriot Act.

"I call this a nonviolent, preemptive attack," said David Meserve, the freshman City Council member who drafted the ordinance with the help of the Arcata city attorney, city manager and police chief.

. . .

The fine for breaking the new law, which goes into effect May 2, is $57. It applies only to the top nine managers of the city, telling them they have to refer any Patriot Act request to the City Council.

Wish me luck, guys.

(Note that this means no blogging until Tuesday. That is, unless I have the time and inclination to blog via wireless from the communal mind-beam. I doubt I will, though; somehow I imagine I'll be having fun despite myself.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2003
16:36 - Boondocks Meltdown

You have my pity, Mr. McGruder, but not my respect.

Hey Charles-- mind if I borrow this?
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
11:53 - Lima lima mike foxtrot

Via The Command Post-- here's a fascinating and very entertaining Wired article on Rumsfeld's Great Experiment: the digital war. It's all about "swarm theory", the high-speed deployment tactic that swooshed past the Iraqi defenses like the Blitz past the Maginot Line. On the ground, it doesn't look much like the grand hype suggests; but that's okay, because it's even cooler. This war, apparently, was won with store-bought GPS units, consumer walkie-talkies, and Microsoft Chat.

Swarm theory is also moving online - into chat rooms, an application Mims is pioneering for military purposes. When a problem develops on the battlefield, a soldier radios a Tactical Operations Center. The TOC intelligence guy types the problem into a chat session - Mims and his colleagues use Microsoft Chat - and the problem is "swarmed" by experts from the Pentagon to Centcom. Not only is the technology changing the way we maneuver, Mims notes, it's changing the way we think.

But the system is not without problems. Because anyone on Siprnet who wanted to could set up a chat, 50 rooms sprang up in the months before the war. The result: information overload. "We've started throwing people out of the rooms who don't belong there," Mims says.

"What's funny about using Microsoft Chat," he adds with a sly smile, "is that everybody has to choosean icon to represent themselves. Some of these guys haven't bothered, so the program assigns them one. We'll be in the middle of a battle and a bunch of field artillery colonels will come online in the form of these big-breasted blondes. We've got a few space aliens, too."

Great stuff.

(And from the sound of this, ours is the most informal, fast-and-loose armed force in the history of the world.)

Monday, May 19, 2003
12:01 - That's the woman; I'd recognize her anywhere


Tell me: why is it that religion can ever be given precedence over common sense?

Namely, that the purpose of a photo ID card is so that the person can be IDENTIFIED?

I'd heard about this sort of thing being taken seriously in France (and considering that the French government has been sponsoring Islamic councils and French supermarket chains have recently stopped carrying pork so as not to offend Muslims, it didn't exactly surprise me); but I honestly didn't think anybody would try it here. More fool me.

Ah well. At least the online survey on the site has 91% of the respondents saying that Muslim women shouldn't be able to disguise themselves in front of the DMV's camera any more than anybody else should.

I mean, geez. Why not just draw a stick figure on the ID card, or use a photo of a Lego guy or something? Either that or drop the BS and dispense with the whole concept of "photo ID".

Via LGF, which makes me an intolerant racist bastard.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003
20:23 - 9/11 for the Saudis?

InstaPundit links to this Arab News article (and this one), which struck me in a surprising way: Isn't this exactly the kind of introspective scrambling and sudden self-blame that occurred here starting on 9/12? Doesn't it have the feel of one of those "Why do they hate us?" rambles?

If so, it's exactly what we needed to have happen at some point: an analogous event, right in the heart of the Arab world, to 9/11; something that shook them up as much as those jetliners did us.

It's obviously terrible that the victims died, but-- (see there? That's what a but feels like) -- compared to 9/11, this was a pretty mild event from the Saudi perspective. It's right in their backyard, exploding their own "it can't happen here" myths, making crystal clear that turning a blind eye to terrorism is just as dangerous for the harborers as it is for the objects of the terrorists' ire. The fact that it was only an event of this size may even help make the prospect of change more palatable to the Saudis, more so than if, say, thousands of Saudi nationals in a business tower had been slaughtered. They might be more rational this way, bypassing the weeks of horrified pegging of opinion gauges that occurred here after the WTC fell.

Australia had its 9/11 in the form of Bali; they subsequently got on board with Iraq. Now, if these Riyadh attacks are perceived by the Arab press as being of the same nature, demanding positive corrective action from moderate, practical Arabs and a swallowing of pride in the interest of solving the problem, it might be exactly the medicine we need in order to bring the chain of events set in motion by 9/11 to a civilized close.

11:50 - iMacX970-Power64

LoopRumors has word that the 970 shipments to manufacturers in Taiwan are well underway:

We received word that two large shipments of Power PC 970 processors went to Foxconn in Taiwan, under a purchase order from Apple computer. Twenty thousand 1.4Ghz PPC 970's and forty thousand 1.6Ghz PPC 970's have already arrived in their hands. IBM's inventory contains fifty thousand 1.8 Ghz PPC 970's, of which forty thousand are destined for Foxconn tomorrow (Wednesday).

IBM has listed as pending 2Ghz parts as well, which means that it will be in inventory within a month if their fab in East Fishkill produces sufficient volumes of them, and from what we hear they should be in stock by mid-June.

I don't like getting my hopes up, but... dammit, I need a new machine. Preferably one with a better audio-ripping optical drive than the DVD-RAM combo drive in my G4/450 which still results in clicks and pops whenever I import any CDs, something that doesn't happen on my iBook or the current iMacs. (I think the DVD-RAM just has a bum driver that they never really had the incentive to keep current, once DVD-RAM stopped being a useful form of media.)

And if it can rip at 25-30x instead of my current 6-7x, so much the better, eh?

Anyway, the question that ultimately arises from these 970 rumors, and one that I was pondering this morning in the shower, is... what the hell will the machines themselves be called? PowerMac G5? G6? PowerMac 970? Here's a discussion forum whose denizens discuss exactly that; possibilities range from "something with X in it" to weird combinations of "64" and "970" and all the other monikers that have become common memes lately. As some of the commenters are correctly noting, they'll have to come up with a name that maintains existing mindshare capital ("PowerMac"), yet doesn't suggest discredited or outdated technology (e.g. "64", as in "Nintendo 64"); something that leverages "next-generation" terminology (Xmac?) without being hard to say quickly. I guess this is why the marketing guys get paid the big bucks, huh?

Sheesh. I wonder what other company gets this kind of speculation going about its own product names.

09:52 - What were those Root Causes again?

OSAMA: We must slaughter the infidels in order to fight back against their abominable military presence in Saudi Arabia, the country that houses the Muslim Holy Sites!

FRANKS: Okay, well, Iraq's now better for us anyway, so let's pull out of Saudi Arabia. That oughtta make them happy.

OSAMA: Ha haaa! Fooled you! We want to slaughter you no matter what you do! Ha ha haah! BOOM!

AL-FAISAL: Well, y'know, this stuff happens everywhere. Whaddyagonna do, huh?

POWELL: I'm sure this situation can be resolved through diplomacy. We even have a Roadmap to Peace ready to go in Israel and the occupied territories-- and the Palestinians say they're on board with it!

PALESTINIANS: Yeah, check this shit out! BOOM!

POWELL: Uh... yeah. Diplomacy, perhaps?

I think it should be fairly obvious by now that diplomacy is the cause of these attacks, not the solution to them. If we insist upon being seen as a country that uses words to deal with bombs, what possible tactical advantage could they see in not continuing to use bombs? Especially when their goal is not "peace", but "death for the infidels".

Diplomacy ain't gonna resolve goals that widely disparate.

Thursday, May 8, 2003
18:53 - This deserves recirculation

A comment by "Bleeding heart conservative" in a thread at LGF, in response to a one-line snipe. Talk about swatting a fly with a Buick.

I'm mostly just posting this to get it into the database, so I can link back to it for reference later.

17:13 - Switch to Homestar!

Rock on.

13:22 - Watch out for the sky

Today's "Boondocks":

It means we as a people discriminate not on the basis of race or skin color or gender or religion, but on the basis of opinion. Shouldn't that make you happy?

Perhaps you'd prefer it if the tyrannical US government were the one to censure the Dixie Chicks, eh? Then everything would fit into your little book o' rules right neatly.

Can't have those people speaking out against someone's opinion. No, sir. That would undermine democracy, you see.

Didn't you know the First Amendment only protects unpopular opinions, not popular ones? Didn't you know it's only the unpopular opinions that have any merit?

Wednesday, May 7, 2003
19:09 - The rest of the story

Via The Command Post. I was sort of expecting something like this to show up by now; after all the inevitable headlines (Newsweek and Time must have been in a race to the presses to be the one who got to use "Saving Private Lynch"), and the stories of heroism that consisted mostly of journalistic expansions on what the troops were told by Nasiriyah lawyer Mohammed al-Rehaief, it seemed like the thing to do was to wait and see what details surfaced once everybody got to tell their side of the story.

Three days before the U.S. raid, Lynch had regained enough strength that the team was ready to proceed with orthopaedic surgery on her left leg. The procedure involved cutting through muscle to install a platinum plate to both ends of the compound fracture. "We only had three platinum plates left in our supply and at least 100 Iraqis were in need," Raazk said. "But we gave one to Jessica."

A second surgery, and a second platinum plate, was scheduled for Lynch's fractured arm. But U.S. forces removed her before it took place, Raazk said.

Three days after the raid, the doctors had a visit from one of their U.S. military counterparts. He came, they say, to thank them for the superb surgery.

"He was an older doctor with gray hair and he wore a military uniform," Raazk said.

"I told him he was very welcome, that it was our pleasure. And then I told him: `You do realize you could have just knocked on the door and we would have wheeled Jessica down to you, don't you?'

"He was shocked when I told him the real story. That's when I realized this rescue probably didn't happen for propaganda reasons. I think this American army is just such a huge machine, the left hand never knows what the right hand is doing."

I'll buy that. I would also submit that al-Rehaief's impression of what was going on in the hospital may not exactly have been top-drawer intelligence, either. Based on what we're told he said to the American troops, I'd still say it made sense for the rescue unit to bash in the way they did. After all, they thought they were heading into an Uday charnel-chamber. The fact that, if this story is true, it actually turned out to be that we "rescued" Lynch from a place that was more professional and well-starched than my local Kaiser Permanente would owe more to good old-fashioned crossed wires and playing-it-safe than to any kind of propagandistic malice. That's why they call it the "fog of war".

What troubles the staff in Nasiriya most are reports that Lynch was abused while in their case. All vehemently deny it.

Told of the allegation through an interpreter, nurse Shinah wells up with tears. Gathering herself, she responds quietly: "This is a lie. But why ask me? Why don't you ask Jessica what kind of treatment she received?"

Good question; I've wondered that myself. How come we still haven't heard her side? That's something that's been bugging me for a while. I don't know if anybody's been on as many magazine covers as she has without being interviewed.

They're saying that the rescue was nothing like the Hollywood script that it's been made out to be. But I'd say that on the contrary, it actually sounds like a much more interesting and thought-provoking movie than it otherwise would have been. Ironic and self-denigrating and darkly comic. Just like most modern war movies usually are.

Tuesday, May 6, 2003
13:08 - Public Service Announcement

Because it seems to be so sorely needed, everywhere I turn, it falls to my hands to present: The "How To Spell Original FAQ".
Q: How do I spell 'original'?

A: O-R-I-G-I-N-A-L

Q: How many times does the letter 'O' appear in 'original'?

A: One.

Q: Wait, I thought it was spelled O-R-I-G-I-O-N-A-L.

A: No, it isn't.

Q: How did you say it was spelled again?

A: O-R-I-G-I-N-A-L

Q: How come?

A: Because William the Conqueror said so.

Q: Nuh-uh!

A: Yeah-huh.

Q: You can't chain me, man! Spelling is subjective, like a bird in the wind!

A: I'll give you a bird in the wind.

Q: You're stifling free speech!

A: No, this is stifling free speech: <wraps a pillow around Qer's head>

...Any more questions?


Thursday, May 1, 2003
18:44 - The gauntlet is thrown

The revelation of the William Morris agency getting the Boycott Hollywood site shut down-- the site dedicated to exposing Hollywood actors and actresses who whine incessantly about their right to dissent being stifled, shut down in as blatant an attempt to stifle dissent as can be imagined-- is so rich, so dripping with irony as to render me and many others simply speechless. I can't think of a thing to say about it; I'm in vapor-lock. It speaks for itself, I tell myself.

But it really doesn't. It's such a big issue that it has to be covered in as much gruesome detail as possible, to make sure everybody knows exactly what's going on and what horrible hypocrisies it uncovers throughout the American political landscape today. I'm not the one to do it; I don't have the strength.

Fortunately, Mike "Cold Fury" Hendrix does. He covers all the bases, and provides a much needed catharsis.

The only thing lacking now is universal awareness. This meme needs to spread.

16:40 - They don't let idiots fly Navy jets

Remember Bill Pullman's role as President Whitmore in Independence Day?

"I'm a fighter pilot; I belong in the air."

I wonder if audiences seeing that movie in 1996 thought such a statement was unbecoming of a President-- or if they couldn't resist a flush of wistful pride.

(Apparently he would have taken an F-18, but the Secret Service made him settle for an S-3B Viking. And he didn't actually do the carrier landing himself. But still.)
Wednesday, April 30, 2003
10:19 - Keepin' it Bouncing

I've been following Charles Johnson's Little Green Footballs for several months now. It's the kind of place that can really raise some eyebrows-- not just because of its content, but because of the reaction it inspires among those who don't like that content.

For those who haven't been to the site: its primary focus is the events in the Islamic world and surrounding environs that continue to shape the post-9/11 global political landscape. The timbre is unapologetic and uncompromising, and many people who stumble across it from left-leaning sources often mischaracterize it as a "hate site". LGF has been tarred as such numerous times over the past year or two, been de-linked from others' blogs in the midst of hands-fluttering scandals, and generally had its reputation precede it outside its own circles, and not in a good way. Charles has been fielding a lot of hate mail lately (or at least posting more of it, for the purpose of mocking it); sites like this one state glibly that Charles believes that "The only good Muslim is a dead Muslim". Now, while it's easy for someone who has followed the site for a long time to point out counterexamples which disprove that slur, a casual viewer who finds himself on the page is likely to be very startled by the content, and I can hardly blame such a person for being a little unnerved. I don't believe any of Charles' posts would hold up under scrutiny as being "hate speech" (though occasionally he has been known to overreact a bit to ambiguous, easily misinterpreted language); but nonetheless, there are times when I feel self-conscious about reading it, as though I should be worried someone might be reading over my shoulder and conclude that I'm some kind of Nazi.

Which means that LGF serves as a very interesting test case, now that the political-correctness era is being dealt its most serious blow by the fallout of 9/11. While it doesn't meet any of the criteria that would normally characterize a "hate site" (c'mon, Charles takes great pains to point out reasonable and hopeful viewpoints from within the Muslim world-- there are just precious few of them), LGF is perhaps the modern archetype of a straight-talking, call-it-like-he-sees-it rejection of PC moral relativism. The fact that the result looks to so many people like "hate speech" is a symptom of the sickness of our times.

Terry Gross' Fresh Air last night had as a guest a historian who spent the hour bemoaning the censorship that school textbook writers have imposed upon themselves-- insisting upon portraying every civilization throughout history as "glorious", for instance describing the achievements of the Mayans in towering, florid terms that make the students wish they'd lived there-- but not saying a word about how they performed ritual human sacrifice or hadn't invented the wheel. Similarly, textbooks insist upon treating every religion in a positive light-- focusing on Islam's 14th-century achievements, while glossing over the treatment of women in modern-day Sharia states and the undeniably important links to terrorism. (The fact that all textbooks get vetted for "accuracy" by a single Islamic scholar, as the historian noted, certainly doesn't help matters.) The result is that kids are being denied exposure to troubling intellectual problems, stunting their ability to make informed decisions later in life; they're presented with a description of a world that's peaceful and harmonious and egalitarian, while a step outside (particularly if you happen to attend Manhattan's Stuyvesant School) will tell you-- quite forcefully-- otherwise.

LGF is a guilty pleasure for a lot of people, I'm sure-- because it feels so much like "forbidden fruit" these days, like a voice from another time when the Thought Police weren't hovering outside our doors, when you could talk about things like requiring immigrants to learn English or like joking about how Asians are bad drivers, without being labeled a retrograde fascist Jewish Nazi. So a lot of the most respected people in the blogosphere are fans of LGF, and come down on Charles' side whenever charges of "hate speech" are leveled. It's one of the few sites that's so determined to pursue its chosen goal that it's willing to alienate the opposition to the point of attracting cyber-terrorism.

We can address the "root causes" of people's assessment of LGF as a site that claims "the ony good Muslim is a dead Muslim". I think it's fair to say that Charles thinks that something is wrong with Islam, or at least with certain popular practices of it, and that something needs to change-- something that explicitly bans the hateful incitement spewing from the imams of the faith's highest mosques; something that removes the incentive toward suicide-bombing and jihad in its modern virulent interpretation; something that expresses hope and joy for the here-and-now and the real world rather than nihilism and self-destructive yearning for the afterlife. But that's a criticism of Islam, not of Muslims-- except when we're talking about people who perpetuate exactly those problems within Islam. And when Charles points out some example of this kind of idiocy, the eyes of casual readers widen in horror at what may appear a condemnation of all Muslims and a desire for them all to be erased from the planet.

Again, this is an entirely inaccurate characterization of the site-- but it's reasonable to see how one might arrive at that viewpoint, especially if one is coming from a world of moral equivalence and political correctness. This kind of raw, unashamed criticism (of such sacred cows as "religion" and "culture") is hard to find these days. It's rare.

And in cases like LGF, where the content and the readership consistently backs up its claims with facts and reasoned discussion, and in which the supporting texts (from large-scale and respected sources) require so little in the way of embellishment to support Charles' position, it's equally easy to see why it's such a haven for those readers who are just plain sick and tired of bullshit.

To see just how far a site can go without venturing into its own kind of incitement and legitimately earning "hate" labels, LGF is probably it. I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes a case study that forms a cornerstone of neoconservative/South Park Republican thought.
Friday, April 25, 2003
01:02 - Crikey!

From yesterday's SFGate coverage of the Australian SAS takeover of one of Iraq's airfields:

"The Iraqi air force understood that it needed to stay on the ground for its own safety," said Gen. Peter Cosgrove, chief of the Australian Defense Forces, who spoke to troops at the airfield on Thursday.

The Al Asad airfield, which housed the largest known contingent of Saddam's jet fighters, represents one of the big catches of the war. Three fighter squadrons -- the bulk of the Iraqi air force -- were stationed there, 112 miles northwest of Baghdad.

The Australians say they are still taking inventory but have so far found 57 fighter aircraft, mostly Soviet-era MiGs but also three advanced MiG 25 Foxbats, the fastest combat aircraft today.

Awwh, now 'ere's a real byooty! This hyeah MiG-25 Foxbat is not awnly the fahstest critter in the skoys, it's also extremely endaynjahd. Not many of them still exist in the wuhld! Now, let's see what happens if we stick our thumb up its tahlpoyp!


(No I'm not.)

Thursday, April 24, 2003
20:57 - More Radio Fun

Whenever I leave work earlier than 7:00 PM, I get to hear what's on NPR before Fresh Air comes on-- which in this case is Pacific Time. Usually it's fairly benign, but there's always the strange air of some shadowy patronage behind it. It's always just a little too cheerful, a little too starched.

Today, when the radio came on, it was on a report of an Asian Hip-Hop Festival taking place in LA; it talked about the various rappers whose oeuvre spanned English, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Korean, and played a few samples. Good clean fun.

Then it mentioned that all the proceeds from the concert were to go to a relief charity for the North Korean people. "We want to send the message that we want food, not bombs, in North Korea," one youth said. From the tone of the show, it was decidedly unclear whose bombs he was talking about-- Kim's, or ours? The events of the past few months have conditioned me to assume always that when young activists get together to raise support for a cause involving a part of the world that we're taking an interest in, for whatever reason, it's damned seldom that said cause is aligned with US foreign policy.

One guy did say, in fact, that the Asians in the communities putting on the event do blame US foreign policy over the past fifty years, in part, for the situation in North Korea. (At least they were good enough to allow the in part part.) And then he delivered the real corker, proving wryly that the show must have been taped a couple of days ago at least: that he and his compatriots hoped that the trilateral talks this week between the US, NK, and China, would lay the groundwork for the relief and disarmament that North Korea and its people so desperately need.

Boy, that's really worked out well, hasn't it?

Wednesday, April 23, 2003
20:11 - The Unconquerable Made-Up Mind

Fresh Air with Terry Gross tonight had as a guest Jonathan Schell, author of The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People. I don't know anything about this author, other than that the people who bought his book from Amazon.com also bought books by Gore Vidal and Susan Sontag, so I can render a guess as to the bent of his opinion.

Which, during the course of the few bits of the conversation that I heard at stop lights (I had the radio turned down so I could ponder more important things, like what video rental places might still have Nerds Ropes), appeared to be that the war in Iraq is a demonstration of the new US attitude toward conquering the world, which we would never be able to do because of the indomitable will of whatever people we try to subjugate with our reversals of worldwide masterpieces of diplomacy like the ABM treaty and our new decision to solve the problems of WMD with force and aggression and pre-emption rather than with words.

Terry actually challenged him on that, saying that wasn't the whole point of this war that treaties and diplomacy had failed? And he stuttered for a bit, seemingly taken aback; but then he went off on a tirade that went something like this (I'm not quoting exactly, but this is as closely as I can recall it):

At least North Korea publicly stated that they were backing out of the ABM treaty; we, instead, have simply reversed our policy, and are re-arming for a new nuclear-armed world. Our people at STRATCOM are seeking out and designating new nuclear targets in Iraq and elsewhere as we speak. And the Bush administration made a statement early in this war that said that if the Iraqis should use chemical or biologcal weapons against the American troops, then we would use "any force necessary" in response-- which, of course, is diplomatese for "nuclear weapons". And we should also realize that the US is more aggressively developing nuclear weapons today than ever before; now we've got these so-called "bunker busters", which, uh, can take out certain underground installations. These "bunker busters" are nuclear weapons which further demonstrate that the US is committed to a double standard regarding weapons of mass destruction and who should be permitted to use them.

Gee. Really? We dropped four of these puppies on a restaurant and turned it into a rubble-and-Saddam-parts-filled crater, and the buildings right next to it were barely damaged. Damn, that's what our nukes can do these days?

This guy has not the faintest idea what "bunker busters" are, and he's writing books about war and diplomacy and going on NPR to talk about them to audiences of millions. What's wrong with this picture?

Maybe I should order a transcript of this show; there's probably lots more juicy material in there to work with.

UPDATE: Hmm. But then, as Matt tells me, there's the RNEP, a nuclear version of exsting bunker-busters that is apparently being developed. Somehow, though, I suspect that this only makes Schell correct by accident...

UPDATE: Actually Schell talked about the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, not the ABM treaty; my bad. The stream of the interview is here; the part I was paraphrasing above is between 16:30 and 20:00.

Hey, c'mon, it was from memory.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003
01:26 - Peace, justice, morality, culture, sport, family life and the obliteration of all other life forms

Charles Johnson has gathered together this week's crop of rantings and ravings from the highest authorities of the planet Krikkit. Reality is taking its time to sink in, but the timbre seems to be changing a little bit, subtly. I'm not yet sure whether it's for the better or the worse.

Shaykh Ibrahim Mudayris delivers the sermon, which he begins by saying: "O people of Palestine, O steadfast people on the land of beloved Palestine, I know that your hearts are bleeding painfully over what happened in Iraq. I know that your hearts were wounded by the fall of Baghdad, the capital of the caliphate. But, the fall of Iraq does not mean that we will give up our resoluteness and bow to the enemies of God. The quick dramatic events that led to the fall of Baghdad remind us of the Monguls, who entered Baghdad and overwhelmed it in a matter of hours. History repeats itself. That was caused by treason. And today's events smack of treason. But, O God's subjects, it is early to distinguish the traitor from the victim of treason. My fellow preachers and friends blamed some figures for treason and other things. But, I say from here: O people, O God's subject, you must wait until the facts become clear. We are sure that Baghdad was delivered and that it did not surrender. The whole issue smacks of treason. But, was Saddam the head of treason, or was he the victim of this treason?

Sigh. To quote Lileks once more, whatever.

The more I see these hysterical sermons seeking ever more far-fetched justifications for the Americans' inexplicable success and condemnations of the genocidal designs of the bloodthirsty Crusaders, the more I'm reminded of Grandpa Simpson tottering around, pointing at birdbaths and shrieking DEEEEAAAATH!

13:40 - Whiteboard of DOOM

The latest update:

Yeah, that's appetizing.

Oh, and I don't think I ever posted these two:

Monday, April 21, 2003
01:56 - A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

What was that joke about how Heaven is where the cooks are French, the police are British, the lovers are Italian, the mechanics are German, and it's all run by the Swiss; whereas Hell is where the cooks are British, the police are German, the lovers are Swiss, the mechanics are French, and it's all run by the Italians?

(Oh yeah, I guess that's what that joke was.)

Anyway-- what is it when Iraq and Iran are jointly in charge of the Conference on Disarmament, and Libya is in charge of the Human Rights Commission-- only to have that position wrestled away by China and North Korea?

I'm told it's known as the UN, but I think I'll call it TEH SUCK.

(Via Corsair the Rational Pirate.)

18:24 - Well, that sure explains a lot

Via LGF; this one's a real barn-burner.

George Galloway, the Labour backbencher, received money from Saddam Hussein's regime, taking a slice of oil earnings worth at least 375,000 British pounds a year, according to Iraqi intelligence documents found by The Daily Telegraph in Baghdad.

A confidential memorandum sent to Saddam by his spy chief said that Mr Galloway asked an agent of the Mukhabarat secret service for a greater cut of Iraq's exports under the oil for food programme.

He also said that Mr Galloway was profiting from food contracts and sought "exceptional" business deals. Mr Galloway has always denied receiving any financial assistance from Baghdad.

Asked to explain the document, he said yesterday: "Maybe it is the product of the same forgers who forged so many other things in this whole Iraq picture. Maybe The Daily Telegraph forged it. Who knows?"

Siphoning money off the oil-for-food program and then railing bitterly against the sanctions that were killing Iraqi babies; accepting blood pay and then doing everything a back-bench MP can do to derail the war effort and keep Saddam in power. It just doesn't get much more despicable than this.

If this war accomplishes nothing more than smoking out all those Western politicians who are in the back pockets of the worst dictatorial regimes the modern world has to offer, it'll have been a resounding success on that strength alone.

Begone, Gríma Wormtongue!

Sunday, April 20, 2003
23:27 - Weird Bugs and Poisonous Reptiles

I saw Bulletproof Monk today, after Lance and Drew and David and I (but mostly Lance) finished hanging and shimming the new door leading from my bedroom to the main upstairs bathroom. (Upon which the house is officially converted to a 2-bed, 1-and-a-half-and-a-half-bath, and probably divested of 1/3 its market value.)

Before I saw the movie, I'd thought: Great, it's Chow Yun Fat does The Matrix. And now that I've seen it, it's Great, Chow Yun Fat does The Matrix. And Fight Club, and Rush Hour.

Which isn't to say that it wasn't fun. It was dreadfully fun, and awesomely silly. I felt like giggling at the premise all the way through; this movie is to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon what XXX is to every James Bond movie. And I mean that in the best possible way. It seemed as though Chow's perpetual smirk throughout the movie meant that he was having a hell of a time keeping from laughing through every shot.

Obligatory Macs-On-Screen observation: when Kar breaks into Jade's palace and finds her tables full of treasures and exotic animals and such, he finds an iBook running the built-in OS X "Forest" screensaver. It fits in perfectly with the surroundings, and it looks gorgeous. I'm sure it was donated by some crew member who stuck his laptop in front of the director and said, "Hey, wouldn't this look good in there?" And it's awfully hard to say no to a smiling iBook.

Nice, crisp, fun feel-good action/adventure/kung-fu movie. I approve a lot.

Side note: From the look of the trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean, Orlando Bloom has officially been inhabited by the unquiet shade of Cary Elwes.

Friday, April 18, 2003
01:01 - Unfrozen Funds


Oh, this is nice and crunchy.

The Army decided to poke around in some suspicious-looking Baghdad houses that had been barricaded up; and what should they find, but $650 million in cash, in dozens of little metal boxes.

(Thus far.)

Real cash, too; evidently it's been vetted and found to be genuine. That's a lotta money. It'd go a long way toward any of the reconstruction projects we've got planned.

Officials did not immediately confirm that the currency was legal tender, but an Army private here who said he had worked for an armored car company examined the bills and called them genuine.

Taylor Griffin, a U.S. Treasury spokesman, offered assurances that any cash retreived from Hussein's regime would be held aside for the people of Iraq. "If we find money and it's not counterfeit, any assets belonging to Saddam Hussein and his cronies will be returned to the Iraqis," Griffin said.

Soldiers of the division's 4th Battalion, 64th Armored Regiment were ordered to stop searching the area shortly before midnight after commanders discovered $600,000 missing from an opened box. Officers said the cash was recovered in a tree and three soldiers were questioned.

Oh, look-- we're demonstrating our evil colonial intentions by giving it back to the Iraqis. Think how easy it could have been for us to keep it, to declare it as spoils of war, the property of a deposed government-- or even to just hush it up. (And we lay the smack down on our own guys who try to make off with some of the loot. No tontine for you bozos!) Instead, it's going into the trust fund with the oil money.

If, that is, the UN can be persuaded that lifting the sanctions against Iraq is permissible. Which shouldn't be too hard, right? After all, they wanted to lift the sanctions, all up until the start of the war, remember?

Oh yeah. The Americans are in charge now, so the sanctions must stay. I understand.

16:34 - Europe's Predicament

The Buggy Professor has pulled together a few of the more incisive articles from the past months which help to explain the political situation in France and other EU countries (particularly Germany and Russia)-- what makes them tick, what ticks them off, and how they resemble ticks. It's rather creepy stuff. One of the featured articles is Dalrymple's "Barbarians at the Gates" from a few months ago-- full of florid hyperbole, I'm sure, but dozens of other articles lend it grim credence.

The post is long, but it's worth a read.

The impression one is left with is quite frankly that France and the EU flatly refuse to do anything "the American way"-- including adopting the typical American solutions to the very problems created by their refusal to resemble America, such as multiculturalism rather than our "melting pot". Their social mores forbid them to cast any but a blind eye upon the religiously-defined anti-Semitism in their street protests or the Wild West lawlessness of the North African immigrants in the cités, lest they appear to be as culturally insensitive as the Nazis or-- worse-- the Americans.

Some EU countries are starting to push back, though. I heard on the radio a little while ago that the Netherlands is making efforts (in the wake of Pim Fortuyn's assassination, whose motivation is only now being fully digested, though it was fairly clear before now to anybody who's been paying attention) to reassert the Dutch national identity. They're teaching Dutch language and Dutch culture classes to immigrants, supported with economic incentives, intended to encourage the non-native-born populace to miscegenate, to become-- if not Dutch, then at least hyphenated, just like the Americans. Such an initiative is dreadfully gauche and retrograde in the face of transnational progressivism, and I'm sure it horrifies Europeans for whom the preservation of all cultural purity except their own is paramount, but those are exactly the attitudes that ensured we had an unprotected left flank when 9/11 came along-- and even Europe's left recognizes that the cités aren't just a quaint tourist attraction whose problems a few more social assistance programs will solve. Europe's grown soft-- wilfully-- and soft is a perilous thing to be these days.

Old Europe seems to have learned the lesson of Nazi Germany all too well-- and in shying away from such a phenomenon ever arising again from among its own elite, has only succeeded in fostering it among those downtrodden populations it steadfastly refuses to interfere with. I'm not insensible to the moral teachings of West Side Story, but sometimes the world just stubbornly refuses to play like a stage production, and sometimes there is no moral.

Overcorrection always has unintended consequences.

UPDATE: Den Beste has the goods on France. Or, I guess, the bads.

Thursday, April 17, 2003
17:43 - Hindsight is 20/20

Where were these guys a month ago, I'd like to know?

Friendship gave way to overt hostility, despite the diplomatic smiles and the denials which functioned as confessions: "The Americans aren't our enemies"...By its intransigence and its promise of a veto "regardless of the circumstances," our country divided Europe, paralyzed NATO and the UN, destroying the possibility of avoiding a military confrontation through a precise, joint ultimatum that would have forced out the Iraqi dictator. Far from avoiding a war, the "camp of peace" precipitated one by playing Asterix against Uncle Sam. A ridiculed France has now removed itself from the game. You don't run a great country by getting high on media successes and rhetorical jousts. In this regard, Tony Blair, who took the risk of confronting his electorate while remaining faithful to his convictions, revealed himself to be a true head of state.

The President's conduct reflected public opinion. In the future, we will talk about the hysteria, the collective intoxication that shook France for months on end, the anguish of the Apocalypse that seized our better halves, the almost Soviet ambiance that welded together 90% of the population in a triumph of monolithic thought, allergic to the slightest dissent. In the future, we will have to study the media's partisan coverage of the war?with few exceptions, this coverage was more activist than objective, minimizing the horrors of the Baathist tyranny in order to better reproach the Anglo-American expedition, guilty of all crimes, all problems, all misfortunes in the region.

For weeks, Television Baghdad invaded our brains and our television screens to the point where the very few Iraqi dissident guests had to apologize for existing?to the point where a French singer, in an act of remarkable obscenity, left the stage of a variety show on France 3 upon the arrival of Saad Salam, a film-maker and Iraqi opponent. We will have to explain why the Kurdish minority was, during this period, forbidden from protesting when Saddam's hatchet men paraded on our boulevards, brandishing Saddam's portraits, screaming slogans to his glory, going so far as to lynch the poet-in-exile, Salah Al-Hamdani. We will have to analyze the alarming proportion of French (33%) who, not wanting a coalition victory, pronounced themselves, de facto, in favor of Hussein's victory.

Durn tootin'. Why do you suppose it's taken until after the war for voices like this to make themselves heard, though?

Think what could have been saved, if only they'd spoken up beforehand. Instead, there's now a political gash that will take years, if not decades, to heal.

If this is intended as a get-it-off-your-chest-whew-that-feels-good á la the CNN/Eason Jordan thing, it's ringing just about as hollow with me. Glad to see you've found your moral centers, guys. How's about finding it in time for it to count, next time?

11:11 - Random Thought

So I got to thinking...

There's a concept called a trusted opponent-- or if there isn't, there should be, and I'm coining the term right now. It's someone who, even though his position on some issue disagrees with yours, is logically and ethically consistent in his reasoning; it's not a raving lunatic, but neither is it someone who will waffle and espouse varying stances depending on circumstance or mood or audience, or use sneaky sucker-punches by way of argument. It's someone whom you wouldn't be ashamed to be convinced by.

So-- who would be a more credible opponent: a liberal who expresses respect for Bush? Or a liberal who loudly repudiates Stalinism?

In other words, does it give a member of a given group more moral authority to claim solidarity with that group's ideological opposition on certain issues, or to denounce the more extreme incarnations of his own group's ideology?

I'm leaning toward the latter. I know that during high school, when I was tending to the liberal side on more issues than I do today, I would have been a lot more reassured by a Republican who loathes Pat Robertson than by a Republican who supports environmental controls. There's just something more soothing about seeing someone's eyebrows aimed at the slippery slope behind him than seeing his hands held out supplicatingly towards me. It makes me feel like there's less to worry about.

And it would have been an excellent spur for me to think "Hey, maybe these guys aren't all nuts; maybe they have a point after all." If they repudiate their extremists, it tells me they're willing to sacrifice some solidarity with the members of their group that only they would support, in favor of coming to the table with their opponents on issues that all or most people should be able to agree (or at least compromise) upon. Seems reasonable to me. After all, is this about group loyalty, or about the relevant issues?

That's the kind of predicament Islam is finding itself in, it seems to me. While it's well and good to hear of Muslims in support of our troops and the War on Terror, somehow it just doesn't do as much as would hearing of Muslims denouncing al Qaeda and the Palestinian suicide bombers and the like. Not just denouncing them either-- but also denouncing those among their own leaders and respected figures who fail to denounce such things. These would include folks like Altaf Ali, Florida director of CAIR, who steals his opponent's notes to avoid having to answer hard questions; and Kevin James, New York director of government relations for (yep) CAIR, who despite being featured in December's PBS special Legacy of a Prophet as Exhibit A on the list of patriotic American Muslims (a FDNY hero, no less), now has a severely hostile Arab News article vilifying Bush and the War on Terror. These guys don't exactly reflect well upon the faith, and nor will a lack of widespread condemnation of them.

On the other hand, things like this really encourage me: an honest self-examination that isn't afraid to point out areas in which Islam might be lacking, or in which it could stand to benefit from the examples of other religions, if the goal is truly to aid ordinary humans in their everyday lives. I don't know how many people would subscribe to this fellow's viewpoint, but little would make me happier than to discover that "it's a lot".

Links all via LGF, which has the odd property that although Charles Johnson's own text borders on bile-spewing generalist invective, the much more expansive pieces to which he links-- in major news sources like Yahoo News and Arab News and the BBC-- tend to justify his words, sad though it is.

UPDATE: Speaking of LGF, this comment thread has turned somehow into Ex-Lefty Anonymous-- seems just about every reader is a former liberal who underwent a political shift with age, money, responsibility, and 9/11, while yet hanging on to many core liberal values. Lots of interesting personal stories, not one of them irrational (rationality and a willingness to agree to disagree on certain divisive issues is a hallmark there).

Interesting moniker they've (we've?) adopted, too: Eagles.

10:42 - Oh, that's perfect

One of Glenn Reynolds' readers has the perfect name for those concrete bombs the RAF has been dropping on tanks in Iraq:

It's Ironic that with the early buzz about "Shock & Awe" and the MOAB bomb, that the real big military technological advancement shown in this war is not the bomb with a bigger bang, but a bomb with no bang at all, the "Concrete Bomb", a GPS guided bomb meant to smash into things, but not explode.

Or as I prefer to call it the ACME Guided Anvil.

<clap clap clap> Very good, sir. You get a prize.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003
22:52 - There's nothing good on

The past couple of nights, I've been up way too late performing unnatural operations on my backup server. What should have been a simple addition-of-a-disk turned into a protracted odyssey whose details are too stupid and boring to even mention here.

(Not like that's ever stopped me before.)

I noticed that my offsite backup server, which does a nightly CVSup mirror of my main server, and whose single 40GB disk is clearly inadequate to serve the main machine's pair of disks at 80GB and 20GB respectively, was full. Yeah, yeah. I knew I shoulda seen it coming. More to the point, I should have done something about it back in February, at which point the disk stopped having enough space for the system to generate an e-mail to tell me it was out of space.

Ahem. So I went to Fry's and got me a nice modest 60GB disk, which I planned to add to the 40GB disk already in the machine. I'd partition it for /home or something-- it'd be easy. I'd done it a hundred times before. So then I went to the co-lo facility (e.g. a friend's garage), dug the 1U machine out from the slot in the cabinet in which it had been buried, peeled off the top, blew away about three epochs' worth of compacted dust and shale deposits with a can of compressed fluorine or whatever it is, and discovered... that the machine only supports one disk.

Razzam frazzam! Well, that's what I get for using a cheapo $600 1U server from one of our more economical lab rigs. Okay, so let's see...

Back to Fry's to trade in the 60 for a bigger disk to make the new single, hitting 95 on the freeway so as to get there before closing time, reaching the doors at 9:55-- only to discover that they close at 9:00. Bah!

So no 120GB disk for me. I guess I'll make do with replacing the 40GB with the 60GB; it doesn't buy me that much time, but it's still the cheapest solution I have to hand. And until my home equity line of credit checks get here, I don't have much in the way of disposable income to blow on unneeded gigabytes.

Thus began the trudge through putting a fresh clean install of the OS on the new drive, partitioning it the way it should be (like maybe with a / partition big enough to hold two kernels, and a /var big enough to hold a log file or two), and transfusing the 38GB of /usr sludge from one IDE chain to the other. This took two days. Well, actually it took about four hours, but I had to do it twice. (No, Brian, you can't create a bootable installation of FreeBSD just by copying the files over and hoping the BIOS recognizes that useless "Make Bootable" flag in fdisk.) And I wasn't exactly keen on becoming a fixture at said friend's house, or a lurking grue in their garage, hunched on a ratty old office chair squinting at a sidelong-mounted scratched-up cabinet monitor.

And once it was all copied over, the old config files moved to temporary directories, and the machine buttoned up and slotted back into the cabinet, it was still an image of the server as it was in late February-- so it was time for a day's worth of CVSupping to sync that last few gigabytes. By the time I had that running to my satisfaction, it was almost 5:00AM last night.

But it's all happy now. But I'd rather not write anything tonight; I'd rather sleep.

Wait. I guess I did write stuff. Damn.

And that war show has really gone downhill since the episode with the statues.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003
16:50 - As long as it takes


1985 isn't so long ago. But regardless, when it comes to incidents like the Achille Lauro, the memories stay fresh.

I think it's all to the good that one of the first (of what may be a good many) terrorist nabs we've made in Iraq is of someone whose notoriety is from an incident nearly twenty years ago. It'll send the message that when we go after terrorists, it doesn't matter how many years we have to search or what protective governments we have to overthrow-- we'll do the Mountie thing and always get our man.

This, along with the Ron Jeremy arrest last month, should at the very least give a lot of people the cold heebie-jeebies: commit an act of terrorism that gets the Americans involved, and you'll be running for the rest of your life. And even if that sounds like fun, we will get you.

From the comments at LGF:

It should also be publicized that as "senior emeritus terrorist," he freely attended those Hamas/Fatah/Is. Jihad hate-fests in Egypt over the last two years and that Egypt laughed at our demands for his arrest.

And the fact that he was turned back at the Syrian border is a good sign too-- seems maybe some people are starting to listen. The dominoes are beginning to fall...

15:34 - Raising the bar

It's now a war crime to use any weapon on the battlefield that is less technologically advanced than the most insanely modern and precise wizard weapons in our arsenal. Anything that can kill a civilian as well as it can a military target is hereby deemed evil.

People who had volunteered as Saddam's "human shields" will be among those contributing testimony. "Any evidence we can get hold of, we will present," Mr. Shiner said. "The [ICC] prosecutor would have a duty to investigate if there was credible evidence."

Mr. Shiner said the activists' case will probe the coalition's use, or suspected use, of cluster bombs, depleted uranium ammunition and fuel-air explosives.

These weapons are unauthorized, he claimed, because they "can't distinguish between civilian or military" targets.

Mark my words-- the moment we develop "morality bombs", which can kill those with evil thoughts but bounce right off the pure of heart, it will become a crime against humanity to use any weapon other than those during a war.

Regardless of, you know, intent. In all this war-crimes folderol, why is it that nobody is even approaching the most obvious of all factors involved in the deaths of civilians-- whether the party doing the killing intended civilians to die or not?

Without that crucial bit of testimony, which in the non-military world has given us such distinctions as "manslaughter" and degrees of murder, it becomes morally equivalent for us to accidentally wound a kid while firing on an advancing T-72 or while defending a checkpoint against cars accelerating through the cordon, and for Saddam's thugs to torture that same kid in a children's prison or to drop mustard gas on his house or to hide weapons in his school.

The guys crying "war crimes!" either are deliberately ignoring this distinction, or are too dense and blinded by their own hatred to understand it.

(Via Bill Herbert.)

10:55 - Karl Marx Dances by the Pond


Aarrgh! Another bizarre retro-silly song with hypnotic 60s animation to try to get out of my brain.

Not... working... All the ducks are swimming in the water! Nooo! Make it stop!

Damn you Chris!

(I love this video, though. It's like, what if the Beatles had CG?)

09:48 - Australians kick ass

Andrew Bolt in Australia's Herald Sun deals out some savage swipes against those journalists and politicians who warned direly against the war, laden with quotes from before the fact-- while at the same time wagging a warning finger at those who are now "moving the goalposts", claiming that what they were really warning against all this time was that post-war reconstruction would be difficult.

Rather than, for instance, that the assault on Baghdad would be a civilian-slaughtering bloodbath from which the Americans would shrink in horror and defeat.

Now he oughtta take on Janeane Garofalo.

Monday, April 14, 2003
14:09 - Weekend Wars

An update on the house is in order, I suppose...

Let's see: so far we've had the roof redone, had a plumbing flush-out done, bought that new couch and chair for the new master suite, torn out the wall between the two bedrooms, replaced all the electrical outlets and switches (three-way switches suck ass), installed a new stove and dishwasher and microwave (the latter two arriving today), installed new ceiling fans and light fixtures, broke up a corner of the concrete pad out back and dug a square for the new hot tub foundation, dug a trench for the conduit to the hot tub, got the front picture window replaced, and removed all the hideous blue kitchen cabinet doors and drawers so we can strip the paint and redo them in black with gold trim. We've also been pricing stone-slab countertops, stone tilework for the fireplace, carpeting, more lighting, and picking paint colors.

All it looks like we've done so far is piled sheetrock shards on the floor and propped up big pieces of wood with nails sticking out of them against the walls. We don't even have a real garbage can yet.

Ah well-- the electrical work is now all done, so at the very least we can work at night now. Now comes the fun stuff, the part that actually makes a visual difference. Up till now it's been tedious and unglamorous (and, as James will attest, shocking) until now, but here's where the fun begins.

Time to build a wall.

Saturday, April 12, 2003
01:22 - Massive suckitude

You know... this war has gone about as well as could possibly have been expected, for anybody who has considered the war a good thing. Casualties have been extremely low; damage to property and infrastructure has been unprecedentedly light; and the liberation on the popular level has proceeded without the need for sneer quotes except by the most cynical. It's hard to find a real point to pick at from the past three weeks.

But then something like this happens, and there's really no way to look at it in a positive light.

The National Museum of Iraq recorded a history of civilizations that began to flourish in the fertile plains of Mesopotamia more than 7,000 years ago. But once American troops entered Baghdad in sufficient force to topple Saddam Hussein's government this week, it took only 48 hours for the museum to be destroyed, with at least 170,000 artifacts carried away by looters.

The full extent of the disaster that befell the museum came to light only today, as the frenzied looting that swept much of the capital over the previous three days began to ebb.

As fires in a dozen government ministries and agencies began to burn out, and as looters tired of pillaging in the 90-degree heat, museum officials reached the hotels where foreign journalists were staying along the eastern bank of the Tigris River. They brought word of what is likely to be reckoned as one of the greatest cultural disasters in recent Middle Eastern history.

A full accounting of what has been lost may take weeks or months. The museum had been closed during much of the 1990's, and as with many Iraqi institutions, its operations were cloaked in secrecy under Mr. Hussein.

170,000 artifacts-- many of them indiscriminately smashed in place rather than stolen, according to the video. These aren't art, they're millennia-old pieces of our past, irreplaceable. One wishes to think that they're mostly just destined for private hoarders in hopes of ransom and extortion, but that's a hell of a best-case scenario-- and the amount of stuff that's just been casually destroyed would seem to discount it.

There's not much of a spin that can be put on this. Reportedly, the museum keepers pleaded with Marines for protection, and we gave some-- for like half an hour, before leaving. I know we're not equipped to act as MPs (why weren't MPs deployed by now? Is this an unintended consequence of Franks' taking advantage of the opportunity to strike while the iron was hot-- he gave up the MP presence he hadn't ordered to show up until later?); I know we're not deployed with enough manpower to protect against looting while still engaged with enemy forces-- but shouldn't the National Museum of Iraq, considering its contents, be considered one of the sites whose protection is an objective of ours?

As some of the commenters at The Command Post said, this is probably the worst news yet to come out of Iraq since the war began. On one hand, that says a great deal for the war as a whole-- if this is the worst disaster to occur, we've done pretty well. But equally true is that this is pretty damned bad.

It's certainly not enough to indict the war or its motives, in my view-- but it does represent a screw-up on our part. I hope we can sort of salvage what we can by offering hefty rewards for Iraqis to turn in what they've looted (considering Saddam's cultivation of the idea of Iraq as the historical heir of the great Mesopotamian cultures, perhaps there is some sense of civic/national pride that we can play on here). But that will only be a partial solution at best, and a messy one. The fact remains that this is a black eye-- a real shiner.

Granted, there would have been plenty of consequences of our trying to cordon off the museum, among which would be accusations from the world community that we're obviously trying to make off with the Iraqis' national treasures, or that our priorities apparently extended to museums and banks but not to hospitals or embassies, and so forth. But c'mon... this isn't just Iraq's national history we're talking about here; it's the whole world's.

Damned if you do, damned if you do something else. The best we can do, I guess, is try to prevent more such things from happening. Yuck.

UPDATE: A good counterargument to our applying martial law. Not much of a consolation, but...

Friday, April 11, 2003
01:04 - Ghost Town

I've been watching CBS' live webcam of this square-- the one with the big Saddam statue that the tank-extractor pulled down-- off and on for the past couple of weeks.

It's usually been deserted. Maybe a person or two walking around; a tank was parked in the foreground a couple of days ago. No cars were ever to be seen.

The square is totally packed with traffic now-- the curbs are lined with parked cars, and the street lanes are moving slowly but resolutely. People are walking up and down the sidewalks in long, unbroken lines. No running or shouting or looting in sight; some car horns can be heard, but only in a typical "big city" kind of way.

It looks for all the world like the surface streets near a stadium on game day, or the access road to a university. Busy, crowded, energetic, but in no way chaotic.

I don't know what "normal" looks like in this square, not having seen it before the war started. But if what I'm seeing here isn't what could be described as "normal", I'd be very surprised.

... Dan Rather's blurbs in the right-hand pane notwithstanding.

18:05 - The Legacy of General Woundwort

It's not my fault that I'm so evil
It's society... society!
You see, my parents were sometimes abusive
And it made... a prick of me!

In the dusty playground the chanting children's voices grew louder and louder, ringing inside the head of a dark-haired boy who stood alone by a crumbling school wall.

"Bastard, bastard, bastard," the children spat.

The boy tried to run but the taunting continued - just as it did most days for him in the village of Al-Ouja near Tikrit in north central Iraq.

But on this sweltering hot summer's day the six-year-old had had enough.

The lonely, taciturn child slowly bent down, picked up an iron bar lying on the ground then slashed it through the air towards the other children.

The rag-tag group of boys ran off in fear. And Saddam Hussein first learnt the power of terror.

As one of the commenters at The Command Post suggested, this might well become a cautionary tale for parents to paraphrase to their bullying youngsters. "You want to grow up like Saddam Hussein?"

Even Hitler didn't gain the ignominy of being reduced to a tale to terrify or entertain children. Even today he's still a name that people avoid saying in polite company or in front of kids, and maybe-- like General Woundwort in Watership Down, who did become such a cautionary tale-- his legacy wouldn't have displeased him. Saddam, who was already on the way there (thanks to Parker and Stone, though I had no idea they were apparently quite accurate), now seems to stand an excellent chance of suffering that ultimate humiliation.

Good. Unless, like Woundwort, he would have gotten off on it.

15:58 - (Yester)day of the looters

Don't declare Iraq lost to permanent anarchy and chaos just yet.

The meeting had barely begun when the officer proclaimed: "Gentlemen, I am here to get this power station up and running. I've got engineers and contractors itching to get started. Is there anything you would like to add?"

"Actually," said the station's planning manager, Adel Hussein al-Shati, a stout, elderly man who once studied at Portsmouth Polytechnic, "we'd like to do it ourselves." He then explained how long it would take and how many men he needed.

"Well that's a relief," the officer said. "Get to work."

"Of course," Mr al-Shati said. "This is our job and this is our country".

That's in Basra. The same thing will soon be happening all over Iraq.

When it's the Iraqis themselves who will be (willingly) doing the bulk of the reconstruction and the reorganization of the country, they'll increasingly be some of the most realistic and urbane people in the Middle East. We'll have removed just one major roadblock, the one they couldn't have eliminated on their own-- Saddam. We won't, however, have built them a new country out of charity. If there's one lesson we need to have learned by now, it's that charity doesn't win us friends. Removal of obstacles does. Charity just breeds resentment.

And it seems to me that to assume that without a dictatorial hand on their shoulders-- either Saddam's or Bush's-- the Iraqis will automatically devolve into the kill-or-be-killed mud-hut proto-civilization of the Y2K episode of The Simpsons is to suggest that they're a bunch of little brown savages.

Somehow I don't think that's a fair characterization.

Thursday, April 10, 2003
02:22 - More dollars than sense

Okay, so here's something that's been bugging me about Fox's coverage since the start of the war.

No, it's not about the political angle, or the commentators, or anything like that. It's about the video screen they use as a digital chalkboard for describing troop movements and such.

It's one of those big widescreen flat-panel plasma displays-- the ones that were like $15,000 a year or two ago, but now are "only" about $7,000; now you can see them in every booth at any given trade show, lining the walls of airports, and even showing ads above the concession stands at movie theaters. Yeah, they're expensive as hell-- but they're cool.

The trouble is, Fox appears to be using one purely for the sake of this camera shot shown here, with the screen off to the side so the commentator can gesticulate at it. It looks nice and slick.

However, the image displayed on it is stretched. It's a widescreen display; but they have to put a map on it, and then switch it to the full-screen feed so it fills the TV audience's 4x3 screen. When it's on the plasma display, it gets stretched to fill the display shape.

Which is usually fine for abstract stuff, but for maps it sucks butt. It means half the time, the displayed map or satellite image or flyover is distorted horizontally, and the rest of the time that big gore point in the Tigris looks more like a gentle bend in the river and less like a pancreas. When you're dealing with maps in particular, this makes distances misleading and undermines the point of trying to display a map.

I guess there isn't a good solution to this, other than not using the widescreen display for the gee-whiz camera angle in the first place, but then they'd look all low-tech and stuff! We can't have that, now...

... Okay, rant over.

17:08 - The horror of victory

Somehow, somehow they'll find a way to turn this into a defeat for America. Somewhere they'll find something to blame us for, some way in which they can paint us as war criminals and global oppressors bent on world domination and the slaughter of innocents.

NPR just had an hour-long segment of interviews with UN officials and diplomats, wringing their hands, anguished, frustrated almost to the point of tears over the current situation. "The mood around here is very bleak," they said. "It hasn't been this tense in the hallways of the UN since the Cuban Missile Crisis." In pained, agonized voices the interviewees mourned for the diplomatic process, the inspections, the human dignity inevitably destroyed by any war. "This is a humanitarian crisis," they wailed, as though Baghdad were the site of a nuke blast.

Not a word about the cheering throngs, the felled statues. Not a word about the tears of joy in Dearborn. Not the slightest peep about what the Iraqi people are saying to the world. You'd think it didn't matter.

They're confronted with the fact that a great good has just been done, and not just without the UN-- but in spite of the UN. They've been whisked through a scene change on the stage of history, and the curtain's just been raised-- and they're finding themselves on the side of evil. Yeah, they'd better be tense.

Meanwhile, Robert Fisk does his valiant best to wrap himself once again in a bloody flag of moral rectitude-- which he himself rescues from a mud puddle. The hero.

BAGHDAD, 11 April 2003 - It was the day of the looters. They trashed the German Embassy and threw the ambassador's desk into the yard. I rescued the European Union flag - flung into a puddle of water outside the visa section - as a mob of middle-aged men, chadored women and screaming children rifled through the consul's office and hurled Mozart records and German history books from an upper window. The Slovakian Embassy was broken into a few hours later.

At the headquarters of UNICEF, which has been trying to save and improve the lives of millions of Iraqi children since the 1980s, an army of thieves stormed the building, throwing brand new photocopiers on top of each other and sending cascades of UN files on child diseases, pregnancy death rates and nutrition across the floors.

The Americans may think they have "liberated" Baghdad after the most stage-managed photo-opportunity since Iwo Jima, but the tens of thousands of thieves - they came in families and cruised the city in trucks and cars searching for booty - seem to have a different idea of what liberation means. It also represented a serious breach of the Geneva Conventions. As the occupying power, the United States is responsible for protecting embassies and UN offices in their area of control, but yesterday their troops were driving past the German Embassy even as looters carted desks and chairs out of the front gate.

"Stage-managed photo-opportunity".

Some people are so incapable of joy that they refuse to see it in even the most inarguably positive and joyous event to have occurred in the Middle East in decades. It takes a special kind of person to watch the sledgehammers at the statues and the looters kissing the cameramen, and to then put sneer quotes on the word "liberation".

To be working so hard to turn such a massive humanitarian victory into an ignominious defeat has got to be one of the most contemptible things a "journalist" can do.

12:54 - What is it with these people?

Information Minister Al-Sahhaf is alive and well, and working in Iraqi embassies all around the world under assumed names.

After TV showed Saddam's statue come tumbling down in Baghdad, Iraqi diplomats in Brazil carried box after box of papers out of their embassy -- and set them on fire. Then they denied police reports that documents were being destroyed.

"It's all lies," said Brazilian embassy official Abdu Saif. "We are only burning debris and recently cut tree branches."

In Tokyo, Iraqi diplomats hauled garbage bags stuffed with shredded documents out of the embassy. Neighbors whispered that the amount of trash was three times the usual level.

I swear I've never heard the words "it's all lies" so frequently as over the past three weeks, unless it was over the past six months from Arab ambassadors in the UN. Everything's always lies. Hollywood lies. Zionist lies. Crusader lies. Liars-- they'reall liars!

Would it be gauche of me to suggest that it takes one to know one-- or more appropriately, to see one where none exists?

Some of these guys must be so steeped in lying as a part of their professional lives that they honestly believe that the rest of the world is lying. I heard a story on the radio some time ago about a woman who as a professional hobby would attempt to defraud department stores into giving her refunds for clothes that she didn't actually buy there. She would do this at dozens, even hundreds of department stores; and whenever the store saw through her lies and refused to pay up, she grew furious and indignant-- after she left. "They wouldn't even believe me! How dare they? The eye-dacity!"

I'm beginning to think that the real threat to the US stems not even so much from state-supported Islamism (which has failed to follow through on its threats of devastating attacks to coincide with the start of our war in Iraq), as from the deeply ingrained mechanism of institutional lying that is de rigeur throughout the Middle East. Iraqis were prevented from seeing newspapers from outside the country until a few days ago; only now are they starting to see what the rest of the world really thinks about this war. (Remember that before we invaded, Iraqis routinely thought that the "human shields" were there because they'd been paid by Saddam. From the Iraqi viewpoint, what other explanation could there be? Think about it.) And in Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, the Arab Street is turning out not to be made up of throngs of young and willing suicide bombers-- but rather of average men and women who are suddenly finding out, to their shock and horror, that all the sources of information that they've been listening to all their lives have been lying all along.

They never even knew they were being lied to; the first indication that anything at all was amiss from the party line was when Al-Jazeera was forced to about-face from "Saddam's forces are slaughtering the invaders" to "There was practically no resistance, and the Iraqis are smothering the Americans and British with kisses and flowers" in the space of a day. Until that happened, they had no idea that what they were being told wasn't the truth. Suddenly their whole lives are thrown into chaos. So they're reacting with everything from disbelief to horror to throwing things at their TV sets to going home and crying. They've just had their minds punched in the gut by cold hard reality. That'll fuck you up.

But what does it tell us? That there's an infrastructure of media-based mind control in place in the Middle East, and that it's very closely tied in with the various state apparatuses; it's this system of manufactured truth that is the real enemy in this war, because it's what is preventing the Arab world from seeing the US as liberators rather than as oppressors. It's what turns even the less-than-devout against us on religious terms. It's what prevents people from learning from history, from understanding the world in which they live, from knowing what kinds of ways of life there are besides their own. It's what tells the people in these Middle Eastern countries that their way of life is the only pure and good one, and that America and Israel are the great evil powers in the world which threaten all that is good and just, for their own selfish ends.

We worry about violence on TV corrupting our children. Well, we might instead want to worry about propaganda on TV corrupting a whole region. Yeah, the media is to blame for the ills of today's world-- but not in the way Michael Moore thinks.

Which means that our current plan for reform in the Middle East is right on track. Liberating Iraq has been a twofold blow: on the one hand, it freed the people of Iraq, which is all to their own benefit as well as to ours, in removing Saddam from the equation; 26 million Iraqis now have a better future, and we have a more secure one. But on the other hand, the Arab media machine has been dealt a serious wound; Al-Jazeera has been severely demoralized and had its credibility shattered among millions of its critical viewership. Now that they know that what Al-Jazeera broadcasts is lies, or at least it was revealed to be such here and now in Iraq, the Arab viewers know that they can no longer trust it. And if they can't trust Al-Jazeera, who else might have been lying to them all this time?

Could it be, maybe, just possibly-- that all the people who have been using the words "It's all lies" are the ones most likely to be lying themselves?

Wednesday, April 9, 2003
01:53 - Here's a peace demonstrator for ya


Poor misguided fool. If only he knew that IndyMedia and International ANSWER were his people's true allies, that the Americans were only motivated by slaughtering Iraqi babies on a bloodthirsty lark, and that Bush = Hitler.

22:05 - VB Day

Andrew the Punnng Pundit has declared today "VB Day", the day of victory over the Ba'athists. And he makes a point that I think is frequently lost, even on those who have Bill Whittle on a slow intravenous drip:

The US is designed, from the ground up, for one specific reason, to do one specific task: to make life for Tyrants as hard as possible. America is not about Homelands, but rather about constitutions. During the darkest days of the Civil war, when the whole world waited outside to recognize America's dissolution—and the disillusion of the American people—the greatest president our nation had ever known stood up and made a speech. There he said that we would no longer be fighting just for the sake of being one nation, we would also fight for a bigger task; freedom for everyone. It was not until the call for Americans to free a people held in bondage went forth that America began to win the war. Singing John Brown's Body they marched into battle. Behind them they left Freedmen, and Freedmen's Bureaus. The fact that it took a generation to reconstruct a shadow of that Tyranny is a tribute to the men who ended it the first time...

And so today, we see that America has once more; this very day, 9 April 2003; fulfilled her mission. We have once more helped topple a dictator, a tyrant. We are told that theGame is over. We have fulfilled once more our historic mission...

It's a world of blogs and space travel, of McDonald's and destruction derbies. But one thing that this world has not outgrown, for all its progress, is tyranny. Tyrants existed back in the eighteenth century too-- imagine that. And oddly enough, that's what makes the Constitution as applicable today as it was then. That, I might venture to say, is why the USA still stands, in much the same form as it did two hundred years ago.

The world today is much freer of tyranny than it was then, but it'll never be completely free. There will always be Saddams who create themselves the moment they see the opportunity. In their absence, it's easy for America to evolve toward the postmodern middle ground that Europe has become; but as has now been demonstrated, that globalist paradise makes a poor deterrent against such men arising, and an even poorer countermeasure. Those are the occasions when the world needs America to be America.

The whole world can't be America; perhaps that's as it should be. But history will record April of 2003 as another of those occasions, repeated every few decades, when the world was saved from being a much worse place because America existed.

19:05 - One-liners

The comments pages at The Command Post (and other sites, such as LGF) are frequented by a lot of people who rattle off great one-liners that I wish weren't doomed to be lost. Blogging rolls forward; sizzling zingers succumb to bit-rot.

I can't resist commemorating this one. In response to this post, linked to an article in which Syria vows not to recognize any post-war "occupying" US military government in Iraq, "Ankchank" says:

Syria won't recognize the new government in Iraq? Yeah, it's called democracy. No wonder they won't recognize it.


18:30 - The Real Heroes

Good-- I'm glad this is happening. I hoped it would.

First, they have to find him. But when they do, residents of this small town want to thank the Iraqi man who helped save POW Jessica Lynch by bringing him to West Virginia.

The man, a lawyer known only as Mohammed, reportedly led U.S. troops to the hospital where Lynch was being held. The 19-year-old Army private was rescued last week and is recovering at a military hospital in Germany. Mohammed's role hasn't been confirmed by the military.

The effort to track down the man is being led by James Thibeault, who has founded Friends of Mohammad. The organization will be based in Lynch's hometown of Palestine, which is about 70 miles northwest of Malden, a Charleston suburb.

The man walked fifteen miles-- from the hospital out into the desert to where the troops were, then back, where he made maps of the hospital (undoubtedly at severe risk of life and limb) and then back again-- to save a woman whom he didn't even know from torture and certain death. Whatever awards we have that can be given to foreign nationals, he deserves. I hesitate to "rank" such things, but his deeds' merit is easily on par with that of Lynch's own, if not greater.

That said, and as alluded to in this article, there may be something either very hopeful or really bizarre about an organization based in a place called Palestine named "Friends of Mohammad", whose purpose is something so non-partisan and human. It's about time.

I wonder how they'll find him, though. "Um... we're looking for a man named Mohammad. Anybody know a Mohammad living in this town...?"

14:51 - Mark your calendars

There's too much to link to. Everywhere I go, there's only one subject on bloggers' minds: the war's all but over. Sure, there are some regiments left in the north of Iraq; the 4th ID is still arming for entry "within a week" to clean up whatever might be left. Saddam might be in Moscow by now. But the overwhelming preponderance of blog content right now is the visual and textual evidence, today, April 9, 2003, of history in the making. Whether it's the 9th or the 10th, or whether people remember that it falls in April of 2003 or Safar of 1424, this will be a day to remember.

What gives me the most hope, though, is this account by Dean Esmay of what happened in East Dearborn, Michigan today. In a part of the world where the anniversary of Iraq's liberation will be reckoned by the Gregorian calendar rather than the Muslim one, it's a day of gladness unlike anything America's Muslim population ever hoped to enjoy in the days following 9/11.
Then I heard it rising above the traffic, that famous trilling sound Arab women make in moments of triumph. It came from a group of black clad women in front of what used to be the Camelot theater but is now a fruit market. They modestly covered their mouths with their headscarves, but I knew it was them. Their daughters in modern dress, looking like typical Brittany Spears teenage girls, danced with one another to the sound of Middle Eastern pop music like the MTV-influenced kids they are, waving to the boys with the flags in the Chevys and Ford pickups and PT Cruisers as they drove by.

One vehicle summed up this palpable outpouring of joy. Painted on the side of a black SUV: "No more fear in Iraq!"
It's been hard, and it will continue to be hard, selling the idea of freedom to a people for whom the coming of liberation is necessarily going to look like the threatening hand of an outsider power. But the first step has now been taken; Iraq will be the first true example of the post-9/11 US policy toward the Middle East, in which we cast off isolationism and show that we have a vested interest in creating democracy and freedom in a part of the world that for the most part has never known it. Like Kuwait, Iraq will become a net exporter of human dignity, and the people in the surrounding dictatorships and theocracies will see that there is a real alternative ready and waiting-- one that is gaining ground.

Maybe these folks in Dearborn can pass on the message, just through their actions today-- that the US is not, in fact, the great evil that they've always been told it is. It's not Satan. It's just a country-- albeit a country that's a success without a need for state-controlled TV, or for religious enforcement, or for thought police. It has no designs on other countries' sovereignty; only on its own security. And it is no disgrace to see in that, as Leonard Cohen put it, the machinery for change and the spiritual thirst. Democracy is coming, he might have said-- to the world.

The 14th century struck us in the back on September 11. Today, the 21st century strikes back, and not with a weapon-- but with the greatest gift a country in the position of the US can give: the removal of the obstacles which prevent the 14th century from transforming into the 21st and joining the rest of the world.

We remove obstacles. It's what the job description is of any manager at a corporation: I remove obstacles so that those underneath me can succeed. Sometime in the past two years, America decided to become a manager. Not a policeman; a manager.

Managers are often reviled and ridiculed; maybe America is the Pointy-Haired Boss to the world, fat and ignorant and isolated in its big cushy corner office. But it's those pointy-haired bosses that turn the engineers' individual miracles and stockholders' dreams into world-changing successes. All the engineers and stockholders have to do is buy into it.

Today is America's Middle Eastern IPO.

09:28 - Faces

Drop your masks, everybody; take a bow. The show is over.

International ANSWER responds:

On Saturday, April 12, join the tens of thousands of people of conscience who will surround the White House. The whole world is watching to see if the people of the United States can intensify the power of the anti-war movement at the moment that the Bush Administration is intending to slaughter tens of thousands of Iraqi people and occupy their country.

We urge every anti-war organizer and concerned person to bring your friends, neighbors and family members to this all-important mobilization on April 12.

...Baghdad has been bombed relentlessly, terrorizing the occupants of that city and of the entire country. ... U.S. and British forces have laid siege to Basra, bombing and destroying the electrical supply to the main water plant and blocking the Iraqi food distribution system...
Arab world incredulous at Saddam's fall
The overwhelming emotion for many was one of disbelief, tinged for some with disappointment after weeks of hearing Saddam's government pledge a "great victory" or fight to the death against "infidel invaders."

"We expected resistance, not what happened," said Ghadah Shebah, a business administration student at the American University in Cairo.
"You won't be seeing footage like this on al-Jazeera", the Fox anchor said.

And dozens of Syrians, Jordanians, Egyptians, Saudis, and others continue to pour into Iraq to defend their poor helpless Iraqi brothers against the horror of genocide at the hands of the Americans.

I wonder if they'll listen to the liberated Iraqis they meet when it's explained to them what has really happened-- or if they'll just slaughter them.
Realization dawns
A captured Iraqi colonel being held in one of the hangars listened in astonishment as his information minister praised Republican Guard soldiers for recapturing the airport.

He looked at his captors and, as he realised that what he had heard was palpably untrue, his eye filled with tears. Turning to a translator, he asked: "How long have they been lying like this?"

The "minders" have all vaporized. Minister of Information al-Sahhaf is gone. And suddenly, al-Jazeera has no more propaganda to broadcast; we in the West have been expecting this victory and these scenes of celebration for days now, but for those who get all their information from al-Jazeera and who take al-Sahhaf's words at face value, their world has suddenly gone from a promise of total victory over the infidels to the crushing reality of absolute, near-effortless defeat, in less than 24 hours.

"The whole world isn't like the US"; I've always known that, but I may not have really felt it until now. I may not have had a context in which to understand just what it means to have to face the reality, one day, that everything you've been told, all your life, from your most trusted information source, the most benevolent and compassionate and authoritative father figure(s) in the world, has been a lie.

I'm trying to figure out how it is that an entire swath of people can be trained so deeply and effectively to shut out reality, to believe in the most transparent and insane of propaganda, when there is so much counterevidence immediately available to anyone who chooses to look. What we're seeing here is the same state of mind that allows people to listen to imams who shriek for Allah to freeze the blood in the Americans' veins and believe that that represents the best and only positive future for the world.

"Freedom" is one of those words that has been tinged with cynicism, more so every time we put it in the name of some food or sexual device, or every time we talk to a contemptuous European. But we never really do get a sense here of just how much we take that simple concept for granted, and what it means to the people in these pictures, and how alien it is to those glued to their TVs waiting vainly for the next reassurance from the Information Minister. A simple concept, but really not all that common in the world today. The freedom to know.

Many seem not only to not know of other viewpoints, but not to want to know of other viewpoints. It's a bizarre kind of creation of reality through selectively allowing only certain bits of information in through the eyes and ears. It seems a whole lot of people, in fact, like it that way.

What is it that has driven so many people into this mindset? Is it their religion, their culture, their countries' political systems-- what? What common element is there? What culprit is there that we can identify without seeming racist, or bigoted, or ethnocentric, or intolerant, or (worst of all) generalistic?

How do we call a spade a spade, without being denounced by the Union of Differently-Shaped Shovels?

I'm sure the historians will be able to come up with something to explain the situation the world is in, the thorough rejection of reality throughout the Middle East and the desire to die in waves for an illusion.

I'm sure it will turn out to be the Americans' fault-- and Israel's.
UPDATE: AP and Reuters report on the incredulous reaction among Arabs in the region. Disappointment, disgust, the dawning understanding of a world turning upside down.
"We discovered that all what the (Iraqi) information minister was saying was all lies," said Ali Hassan, a government employee in Cairo. "Now no one believes (Arab satellite TV channel) al-Jazeera anymore."
Really? If that's true, that's a big first step.
UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds says that watching the footage of the celebrations and the statues toppling is "better than blogging". I agree; 'scuse me.
UPDATE: Balloon Juice has a much better photo-fisking than this post.
Tuesday, April 8, 2003
11:52 - Innocent Iraqi Children

"War is bad for children and other living things!"

BAGHDAD (AFP) Apr 08, 2003
More than 100 children held in a prison celebrated their freedom Tuesday as US marines rolled into northeast Baghdad amid chaotic scenes which saw civilians loot weapons from an army compound, a US officer said.

Around 150 children spilled out of the jail after the gates were opened as a US military Humvee vehicle approached, Lieutenant Colonel Fred Padilla told an AFP correspondent travelling with the Marines 5th Regiment.

"Hundreds of kids were swarming us and kissing us," Padilla said.

"There were parents running up, so happy to have their kids back."

"The children had been imprisoned because they had not joined the youth branch of the Baath party," he alleged. "Some of these kids had been in there for five years."

Yep. That's a regime that cares deeply about international law and the well-being of its people, all right; I'm sure they would have voluntarily disarmed if we'd just given them more time.

In other news, anti-war sentiment has reportedly fallen to about 15% of the US public in polls. I wonder if those who continue to forlornly wave signs on Market Street or try to sabotage the Port of Oakland had (or have) any idea that these are the kids they've been working so valiantly to "protect".

UPDATE: Yeah, hush it up, Scott Ritter.
You've spoke about having seen the children's prisons in Iraq. Can you describe what you saw there?

The prison in question is at the General Security Services headquarters, which was inspected by my team in Jan. 1998. It appeared to be a prison for children - toddlers up to pre-adolescents - whose only crime was to be the offspring of those who have spoken out politically against the regime of Saddam Hussein. It was a horrific scene. Actually I'm not going to describe what I saw there because what I saw was so horrible that it can be used by those who would want to promote war with Iraq, and right now I'm waging peace.

Yeah. Heaven forfend we should, you know, like do anything about it. It's bad and all, but the warmongers are worse!

Chalk this up as another great UN moral victory, along with the Congo, Rwanda, and Srebrenica.

09:17 - Evil Oppressors Part II

What was that again about how this is a war against Islam?

It is a sound which has echoed down the centuries but which has not been heard here for 15 years - the wailing call to prayer.

On Friday however, at 0430 (0130 GMT), in the minutes before the desert dawn, the voice of the Imam rang out.

What Saddam's Baath party had forbidden, the British Army had restored.

The townspeople, whose mosque was destroyed years ago, prayed in the privacy of their own homes.

But instead of their worship being a secret and dangerous thing, it was freely performed with new joy.

The 1st Battalion Royal Irish secured a public address system for the Imam and men from their attached Royal, Electrical and Mechanical Engineers installed it on Thursday night in time for Friday prayers.

Not that anybody will notice.

Via The Command Post.

Meanwhile, someone on Ar-Rahman posts these pictures, under the subject line "A New Crusade is going on!!"

Yeah, wouldn't you just love it if it were? There's only one problem: it's a horrific paranoid fantasy from Bizarro World.

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© Brian Tiemann