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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12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, November 30, 2003
23:17 - Go back to your bonfire

So SomethingAwful, in its inimitable way, is playing to what we know its audience to be in the following way:

Lately I've been thinking about the 2004 election. After all, the first primaries are coming up with remarkable speed. With any luck, Ol' Dubya will be out of the White House pretty soon. But in the meantime, I think it's high time we stop bemoaning the fact that we have a juvenile power-mad redneck as our current President and start enjoying the privileges this affords us. After all, we may have been the most powerful nation in the world under Clinton, and sure, we may have even felt like the most powerful nation in the world under Clinton. But did we get to act like the most powerful nation in the world under Clinton? I think not, unless you take "like the most powerful nation in the world" to mean "diplomatically and reasonably." But that's not what having power is all about. Having power is about making the people who don't have power feel like they don't have power. So as long as Bush is pissing off every other country in the world to the point where our allies are taking to the streets and burning him in effigy, let's make the most of it. Since we already look like jerks, we might as well be jerks. It's time to tell the other nations of the world that we're not acting like this because we're stupid. We're acting like this because we can, dammit!

Setting aside for a moment whether the disaffected college-age youths who were toppling the effigies represent "our allies" or not, I have to ask: Where's the honor in being in these countries' good graces?

These are countries that, "represented" by their unelected delegations in the EU, thought that there might be something worth investigating about how 59% of their polling publics had concluded that Israel was the world's biggest threat to peace and how anti-Semitic attacks and slanderous hatred seem to be occurring at a rate not seen there since the late 1930s; so they commissioned a study to find out where all this Jew-hatred could possibly be coming from. Then, when the independent body returned its findings that the attacks were primarily being perpetrated by young immigrant Muslims, the EU in its infinite wisdom buried the report for fear of offending young immigrant Muslims. In other words, fuck the Jews-- they've had their moment of sympathy.

And they call us the simplistic racists. Bunch of bloodthirsty, unrepentant, unreconstructed Nazis over there, the lot of them. (Or at least, 59% of them.) They haven't learned a goddamned thing from the past century.

I don't want these people's approval.

And I especially don't want them getting any ideas about "having power".

Thursday, November 27, 2003
02:19 - Now there's an undisclosed location

Via Instapundit-- you just gotta love this...

In a stunning mission conducted under enormous secrecy, President Bush flew into Baghdad today aboard Air Force One to have dinner with United States officials and a group of astonished American troops.

His trip _ the first ever to Iraq by an American president _ had been kept a matter of absolute secrecy by the White House, which had said that he would be spending the Thanksgiving weekend at his ranch outside Crawford, Tex. . . .

The presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, appearing on CNN, called it ``a perfectly executed plan'' that would be ``one of the major moments in his biography.'' It would have provided ``an incredible thrill'' for the American.

Mr. Bush sneaked out of Crawford on Wednesday in an unmarked car, then flew to Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, where a few advisers and a small number of reporters sworn to secrecy joined him. They then flew on to Baghdad International Airport, arriving around dusk.


"We did not charge hundreds of miles into the heart of Iraq, pay a bitter cost of casualties, defeat a ruthless dictator and liberate 25 million people only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins," the president said, prompting a standing ovation and cheers.

He also had a message for the people of Iraq: "The regime of Saddam Hussein is gone forever," he said, and pledged the help of the United States and its coalition partners, saying "we will stay until the job is done. I'm confident we will succeed."

Wearing an exercise jacket with a 1st Armored Division patch, Bush stood in a chow line and dished out sweet potatoes and corn for Thanksgiving dinner and posed with a platter of fresh-baked turkey.

It reads like a parody. If this were early April, I'd certainly be doing a double-take. But no, this is just the way it's done these days.

First he does a tailhook landing on a carrier to show the flyboys that he's willing to undergo the same dangers that they do every day. Now he's following the flight-path of the DHL jet that got RPG'd on its approach a few days ago.

One would have thought he'd tone down these stunts, under pressure from the Agent Smiths surrounding him. But noooo. I wonder if even Democratic Underground hates Bush as much as whatever hapless schmoe is responsible for directing this man's security does.

But I'm sure it's all just an empty gesture, that all the soldiers see through to its hollow, shallow roots. Just politicking; just grandstanding, just baby-kissing.

Whatever. You know what? These are epic times. Not just terrible, fearful times-- epic times. And I'm not complaining one bit that there's a guy in office who's willing to put some good things into this chapter of future history books to go along with the bad ones.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003
18:36 - Clippy's been de-res'ed!

This is what happens when you run Microsoft Office and that Matrix screensaver on the same Windows machine, and they fight for the same piece of memory:

Now if only I could simply stretch out my gloved hand and decompile Clippy into a vertical stream of unidentifiable amber ASCII characters, and hold him there until I squint behind my little oval sunglasses and with a barely perceptible gesture I break the loose bindings that hold his virtual entity together and he dissolves into the digital continuum...

Monday, November 24, 2003
20:06 - Dum dum dum dum dum

By the way... I'm sure quite a few people saw last week's South Park episode, and I'm sure that the lesson it taught-- in light of the "Let's Make Fun of Islam (coughandalltheotherreligionstoocough)" episode that caused all the furor a Thursday or two ago-- was not lost on them.

Namely, that this one made fun of the Mormons... for about 21 minutes. Then, in the final sixty seconds, Trey and Matt spun around and whapped the audience in the face with a two-by-four.

You've got a lot of growing up to do, buddy. Suck my balls.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we appreciate South Park so much. Yeah, anybody can make fun of the Mormons, say the duo (I believe Trey was brought up Mormon-- and hell, he's done it before). But it takes being willing to shake up the audience and alienate the people who are lulled into that dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-stupor to turn around and point out the obvious, practical, real-world significance of whatever topic they're skewering this week. The lesson, as always, is quit being such a dumbass, get your head out of the clouds, and come join us in the real world.

And even without the turnaround at the end, in any case, I'd have a hard time imagining the Mormons getting up in arms over this episode. If they didn't do so over Trey's 1997 masterwork, they won't now.

Though if Trey and Matt ever go after the Scientologists, now...

13:29 - Now that's redwood

Behold! The partially-finished deck.

It's already serving a gallant purpose: providing a clean, level surface at the same level as the kitchen floor, so one can traverse the six feet to the hot tub without walking through mud or going down and up steps. It's all Thompsonized, too, and the water seal brings out that deep rich redness all the more. This deck rocks.

It's going to rock all the more when the secondary, raised portion is done. All that's complete at the moment is part of the truss, but when it's finished, it'll be a quarter-circle jutting out over the planter box, where there will be a tree and lots of planted items. And it's 25 inches or so up off the ground. The vertical variation in this backyard is going to be what makes it cool. Especially once the sunken areas are done, with all their landscaping and flagstones and gazebos and things.

It's really taking shape now...

13:23 - I love it here

Last night I finished the book and submitted the last five AR chapters.

And just as I'm ready to step blinking back out into the sunlight, I discover that it's November. How the hell did that happen?

Now I have to wear a jacket when I walk Capri at 2:00 AM. But as I pass the long open swath where the power lines are strung, I can hear the weird yelping howl of coyotes, howlign all night somewhere up in the Almaden Valley. If I listen, I can even hear them from my bedroom window.

Right here in the middle of Silicon Valley, and I can hear coyotes from my house.

November or not, I love this place.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
19:42 - Speechifying

I know it's difficult to judge how good an orator a given President is by the content of any particular speech, because they're all written by hired teams of wordsmiths, and the President is just the vehicle (right?).

But part of me just likes believing that Bush wrote stuff like this himself:

It was pointed out to me that the last noted American to visit London stayed in a glass box dangling over the Thames. (Laughter.) A few might have been happy to provide similar arrangements for me. (Laughter.) I thank Her Majesty the Queen for interceding. (Laughter.) We're honored to be staying at her house.

Americans traveling to England always observe more similarities to our country than differences. I've been here only a short time, but I've noticed that the tradition of free speech -- exercised with enthusiasm -- (laughter) -- is alive and well here in London. We have that at home, too. They now have that right in Baghdad, as well. (Applause.)

And that's just the start. There are plenty more "(Laughter)"s before the piece is out.

13:34 - One for the ages

Via Cold Fury-- this is quite possibly the funniest damned thing I've seen all month: a story related by Porphyrogenitus' uncle in Iraq.

A squad of Marines were driving up the highway between Basra and Baghdad. They came upon an Iraqi soldier badly injured and unconscious.

Nearby, on the opposite side of the road, was an American Marine in a similar but less serious state. The Marine was conscious and alert.

As first aid was given to both men, the Marine was asked what had happened. The Marine reported; “I was heavily armed and moving north along the highway. Coming south was a heavily armed Iraqi soldier.”

“What happened then?” the corpsman asked.

“I yelled to him that Saddam Hussein was a miserable ass hole, and he yelled back: ‘Tom Daschle, Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton are miserable ass holes’.

“We were standing there shaking hands when a truck hit us.”

Beauty, eh?

13:04 - Why I fear for the future of a great ally

From The Guardian's page of letters from what seem to be deliciously cherry-picked celebrity sources to George W. Bush on the occasion of his arrival in Britain:

Dear George,

I would just like to say how much I hate you. You have done nothing positive in your whole time as president. You are the reason for the poverty in the Middle East. You have no idea what you are doing. You're killing loads of people, and that is not excluding your own nation too. There are still lots of very poor people in America, and they are getting poorer.

You keep making excuses about Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, but all you were in Iraq for was the oil. Saddam had been there for 30 years, so why is it only now you decided to act? You keep talking about September 11 when all you do is bomb other countries and give Israel lots of money. It is a very bad idea that you have come over here.

I don't want to grow up in a country which is so influenced by you and your policies.
Mickey (12)

How goddamned sad is that?

UPDATE: Oh, and the last time I saw something like this, it was on the Ar-Rahman list.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003
02:17 - What a turkey sandwich was truly meant to be



18:36 - NIMBY

So at what point do we declare that the second Kristallnacht has occurred?

Obviously Jewish high schools or the Israeli embassy in France getting torched hasn't qualified. Nor has all the anti-Semitic graffiti at Rutgers and other enlightened universities, or on WWI memorials in France.

So how about the Holocaust Museum in Terre Haute getting firebombed and burned to the ground?

The last fifty years have been but an uneasy respite, everybody. Round Two is upon us.

Monday, November 17, 2003
11:58 - Look what's done

Here's what we finished this weekend.


The deck's in two sections (so far-- a third, raised one will straddle the planter box where it sweeps diagonally across the left segment), and we did the first one Saturday and the other one yesterday. The first one-- directly between the hot tub and the door-- was just a simple rectangular truss, which we bracketed down onto the beams footed in concrete. The other piece, though, was more complex-- sort of a "U" shape, which we partially constructed on top of the hot tub, then moved into position, and then held up at a twisty oblique angle-- huffing and puffing-- by one of us while the other fired in deck screws at a rate that would make one think what it would be like if Legolas were a carpenter.

Then a generous slathering of Thompson's, and then some planks laid down so Capri can get out into the yard without breaking his legs. (He has not been happy with the recent developments in his backyard. It'll get better soon, trust me...)

Just another couple of days' worth of work, and the planking will be down. And oh, what a psychological coup that will be.

11:38 - Braaaaaaiiiins

Okay... so like, I was up till well past 4:00 AM last night doing author review on the most hideously mutant chapter ever-- a combination of three previously submitted chapters, which I had to stitch together with new text and illustrations and somehow form into a coherent whole. I don't remember any of it, so I may or may not have been successful. Either way, I haven't had much sleep this weekend at all. As you'll probably hear once I get a certain post written.

So if anybody needs me, I'll... uh, be right here pretending I feel like a normal human being.

Saturday, November 15, 2003
15:46 - Oh, that evidence

You know... it seems to me that the administration could have saved itself an awful lot of grief by simply releasing information like this before its entire integrity was called into question.

Friday, November 14, 2003
12:55 - Enough old-food mockery to go 'round

This lady soooo wants to be Lileks.

Reading it is like reading Cracked magazine when your subscription to MAD has run out, but even Cracked had the occasional funny morsel.

...Okay, no, it didn't. But this site is good for a chuckle or three.

Thursday, November 13, 2003
13:24 - How To Do It

Wesley Clark's going to show us all up by catching Osama bin Laden.

Alan: Hello children!

Jackie: Hello!

Wesley: Hello!

GC: Hello!

Alan: Well, last week we showed you how to be a gynaecologist, and this week on "How to do it", we're gonna learn how to play the flute, how to split the atom, how to construct box-girder bridges...

Jackie: Super!

Alan: ...and how to catch the notorious terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, but first here's Jackie to tell you how to rid the world of all known diseases.

Jackie: Hello Alan!

Alan: Hello Jackie!

Jackie: Well first of all, become a doctor and discover a marvellous cure for something and then, when the medical world really starts to take notice of you, you can jolly well tell them what to do and make sure they get everything right, so that there'll never be diseases anymore.

Alan: Thanks Jackie, that was great!

GC: Fantastic!

Alan: Now, how to play the flute. Well, you blow in one end and move your fingers up and down the outside.

GC: Great Alan! Now, we have Wesley, who will tell us how to catch Osama bin Laden!

Wesley: Right-- you talk to the Saudis, and you pressure them to jolly well help us out, and then we take their crack Saudi commandos to where Osama is hiding out on the Pakistani border and we run up and catch him!

GC: That's just wonderful, Wesley! Well, next week we'll be showing you how black and white people can live together in peace and harmony and Alan will be over in Moscow showing you how to reconcile the Russians and the Chinese. Till then, cheerio!

Alan: Bye!

Jackie: Bye bye!

Wesley: Bye!

GC: Bye!

Wednesday, November 12, 2003
19:46 - Ladies and Gentlemen, the Loyal Opposition

1. Read.
2. Weep.

NEW YORK--Dear Recruit:

Thank you for joining the Iraqi resistance forces. You have been issued an AK-47 rifle, rocket-propelled grenade launcher and an address where you can pick up supplies of bombs and remote-controlled mines. Please let your cell leader know if you require additional materiel for use against the Americans.

You are joining a broad and diverse coalition dedicated to one principle: Iraq for Iraqis. Our leaders include generals of President Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s secular government as well as fundamentalist Islamists. We are Sunni and Shia, Iraqi and foreign, Arab and Kurdish. Though we differ on what kind of future our country should have after liberation and many of us suffered under Saddam, we are fighting side by side because there is no dignity under the brutal and oppressive jackboot of the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority or their Vichyite lapdogs on the Governing Council, headed by embezzler Ahmed Chalabi.

Because we destroyed our weapons of mass destruction, we were unable to defend ourselves against the American invasion. This was their plan all along. Now our only option is guerilla warfare: we must kill as many Americans as possible at a minimum risk to ourselves. As the Afghan resistance to the Soviets and the Americans' own revolution against our former colonial masters the British have proven, it will only be a matter of time before the U.S. occupation forces become demoralized. As casualties and expenditures rise, the costs will outweigh the economic and political benefits of occupation. Soon the American public will note that the anticipated five-year price tag of $500 billion, with a probable loss of some 4,000 lives and 10,000 wounded, is not a reasonable price to pay to get our 2.5 million barrels of oil flowing to the West each month. This net increase, of just 0.23 percent of total OPEC (news - web sites) production, will not reduce U.S. gasoline prices. At an average of 35 attacks each day, an hour does not pass without an American soldier coming under fire somewhere in Iraq. Ultimately the American public will pressure their leaders to withdraw their harried troops from our country.

It is inevitable. Our goal is to make that day come sooner rather than later.

This from Ted Rall, who if you questioned his patriotism would fly into a fury.

What is the matter with these people?

(Via Emperor Misha I.)

UPDATE: Oh yes, and lest I neglect to point it out, this was written on Veterans' Day. I'd been expecting to see throngs of brain-donors staging their usual anti-war protests against the veterans' parades, but I guess they were too smart to pick a fight with a bunch of people who had been trained in various forms of unarmed combat. Pity.

However, Rall's thing is, if anything, worse.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003
18:56 - Talk about "embedded journalists"

Via LGF:


Maybe we should sic our own reporters on them and have 'em duke it out.

Operation Desert Fox™ for real this time!

15:20 - "I invented homeland security"

After reading the text of the Gore speech (at Aziz's suggestion), yes, I acknowledge the many explicit details he outlines regarding the Patriot Act and its political overtones. But you know... I noticed something else about this speech. Namely, that it's probably not quite what MoveOn.org was expecting; their lavish praise of it (which is mostly what I was pointing at in my earlier post) has to have followed a few sideling glances and furrowed brows from those in the audience.

Gore's stance, in a nutshell, is that our efforts at shoring up homeland security are insufficient. That the moves we've made are secretive at best (if we give them the benefit of the doubt) and, at worst, smack of the gulag. His biggest beef is with the search-and-seizure and arrest-without-trial parts of the Patriot Act.

And you know, he's not going to get a whole helluva lot of argument from me on that. I don't like those parts of the Patriot Act any more than the next guy. A case can be made for their necessity in a shadow war, yes, and it's been pointed out that the infamous "library records snooping" clause that Gore flashes for the camera has never actually been invoked. But still, that's small comfort for the civil libertarians in the audience.

But that's just it. Gore's speech is designed to appeal to those for whom civil liberties and security are both paramount goals, and seeks to find a better balance between them than what's currently on the books.

Where Civil Liberties are concerned, they have taken us much farther down the road toward an intrusive, “Big Brother”-style government – toward the dangers prophesized by George Orwell in his book “1984” – than anyone ever thought would be possible in the United States of America.

Hmm. Anti-big-government. Anti-Big-Brother. Anti-Orwellian-Nation.

Sounds to me like he's more conservative than Bush in this speech.

I don't know what MoveOn.org initially thought of this speech-- obviously they lapped it up, because it was delivered in front of them directly, and was a broadside straight at Bush. But they must have realized at some point that what they were applauding was a libertarian's call-to-arms... not the self-blaming, dictator-supporting, Stalin-apologist agenda that's at the corner of the International-ANSWER-style Left that's usually so well represented at MoveOn.org.

This is why I think the 2004 election is going to be so interesting. To beat Bush, the Democrats are going to have to find ammo that will serve them. The economy apparently is no longer in their quiver. Iraq is not gaining traction as enough of a "failure" for the American people to blame Bush for it. What's left? Security and individual liberty... and in order to beat Bush, the Democrats have to effectively be better at both of those things than the Republicans are.

Can they stump for smaller, less invasive government and better, more effective security against terrorism without selling out the entire rest of their statist, centralist platform? Can they pursue these goals without, in effect, becoming Republicans?

12:40 - Dissension amid the cabal?

So, conspiracy-mongers: the Joozineks control all media and politics, and rule the world by proxy, right? And Bush is just a puppet on strings fighting a client war for Sharon against all his Arab neighbors? And all wealthy Jews are a part of the secret cult that directs the world's finances and keeps America rich, the Middle East poor, and the Republicans in power?

Well, then-- what to do about George Soros' $15.5 million in donations to MoveOn.org and others, intended to oust Bush?

Is Soros cruising to get his ass busted down by the International Zionist Conspiracy? Or is this all just part of some evil scheme that's just too complex for mere mortals to comprehend?

Soros has the right to give his money to whomever he wants to (Campaign Finance Reform Act notwithstanding). But you know... that's the point, isn't it?

Monday, November 10, 2003
17:38 - The Easily Impressed Orphans

MoveOn.org calls this speech by Al Gore "remarkable":

"I want to challenge the Bush Administration’s implicit assumption that we have to give up many of our traditional freedoms in order to be safe from terrorists.

Because it is simply not true.

In fact, in my opinion, it makes no more sense to launch an assault on our civil liberties as the best way to get at terrorists than it did to launch an invasion of Iraq as the best way to get at Osama Bin Laden.

In both cases, the Administration has attacked the wrong target.

In both cases they have recklessly put our country in grave and unnecessary danger, while avoiding and neglecting obvious and much more important challenges that would actually help to protect the country.

In both cases, the administration has fostered false impressions and misled the nation with superficial, emotional and manipulative presentations that are not worthy of American Democracy.

In both cases they have exploited public fears for partisan political gain and postured themselves as bold defenders of our country while actually weakening not strengthening America."

According to MoveOn.org, Gore was "not mincing words". Well, if he's trying to make Religious Reich salsa, he's going to have to mince these words a little bit finer, because I don't see anything "remarkable" or "damning" or even "new" here. Just more expansive rhetoric about all the freedoms we've given up, though I've yet to hear anybody actually be able to name one way in which Americans are less free than we were before 9/11. I guess Gore must have listed some in his speech (the e-mail links to a streaming webcast version of it, which I'm not going to waste time watching), but MoveOn.org doesn't seem to have seen fit to have listed any in this call-to-arms-- preferring instead to use this vague and spurious digest, with its implicit assumptions of decimated civil liberties, as its above-the-fold banner.

The rest of the e-mail encapsulating it fairly pees on itself with glee over how amazing the speech was. Guys, just a note... the more you do this, the more people look at you with pity rather than with sympathy.

Sunday, November 9, 2003
03:41 - Who is this moron?

As I was driving to the movie, NPR was airing some guy in a darkened soundstage reading headlines off a sheet of paper and reciting their details in as snarky a tone as possible. I have no idea who this joker was, because there was no station ID or anything in the fifteen minutes that my radio was tuned to him... but I'd love to know if he was someone I should have known about beforehand. Sunday evening, 7:00-8:00 hour? San Jose area, KQED?

He started out by reading the usual encouraging news about chaos and disorder in Iraq, reading all the administration's statements in Epsilon-minus voices, and peppering it with his own recommendation, which was "Get our troops back home, right now. But hey, that's just me." Great. Noted.

He went on to talk about "some stories of our Homeland Security forces on the march," which I thought were going to be lurid reports of our Ashcroftian Gestapo running amok and arresting shopkeepers and filmmakers on flimsy pretenses. But no... as a matter of fact, the most heinous story he came up with was a group of police who had been hired to guard a Texas power plant against possible terrorist activity. Instead, it turns out the cops had spent their shifts-- for the better part of a year-- fishing in a pond at the facility. This clown read the story and its unfolding details-- the cops kept fishing even after they'd been ordered to stop, they covered for their colleagues who wanted to fish-- against a backdrop of mocking music and in a tone of deep puffed-up indignation, except where he read the police chief's statement in a know-nothing Texan accent, even though the statement itself (talking about how the department is very disappointed in the actions of its officers and will take whatever corrective means are necessary) was completely unimpeachable in its content.

He then also noted a story about how security guards at Lawrence Livermore Labs had lost a set of keys, and now they'll have to change all the locks. "'Because of redundant security systems, the increase to risk of security breach is minimal; and in any case there is no evidence of a security breach.' Yeah, well, how would they know?" Great. Real insightful commentary there, whoever you are.

Then he switched gears, moving on to making fun of Fox, who had just announced criminal prosecution against an employee who circulated an e-mail containing the salaries of all the upper-level employees. His tone was, "Those dastardly power-grubbing executives! How dare they-- who do they think they are, treating this simple e-mail as cause for criminal prosecution?" Never mind the fact that this kind of incident would be grounds for termination and possibly prosecution at any company, but the fact that it was Fox... now, damn. That's comedy gold!

He proceeded to read an apology e-mail sent out by the execs to the employees, which apologized for the distraction caused by the original e-mail and its consequences; but of course, this was worth mocking, so he played that "I'm so sorry" song in the background.

"The company said it feared that the e-mail would spark a storm of executives asking to renegotiate their salaries, in light of the information contained in the e-mail. Oh, now we all know executives would never do something like that!"

By this stage I was in the parking lot and he still hadn't announced his name, so I shut off the car in disgust. What is this? Who decided this was insightful commentary? Whose idea was it to give this guy, whoever he is, an hour-long slot on Sunday prime-time on NPR?

The way he was going, he'd have sneered over reports of a low-pressure system moving into the area if he could have somehow blamed the Republicans.

UPDATE: Harry Shearer? Dear God, nooooo...

I swear, Hollywood's starting to look like the end of the 70s version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Thursday, November 6, 2003
19:49 - Oh.

I'd wondered why, in all the back-and-forth over whether Pvt. Jessica Lynch had been tormented while in captivity in Iraq, or whether she had been expertly cared for until the 'Merican stormtroopers burst in firing blanks while the cameramen filmed, Lynch herself had never said a word about what had happened.

Well, now she has an authorized biography out, so I guess we know.

"Jessi lost three hours," Bragg wrote. "She lost them in the snapping bones, in the crash of the Humvee, in the torment her enemies inflicted on her after she was pulled from it."

The scars on Lynch's battered body and the medical records indicate she was anally raped, and "fill in the blanks of what Jessi lived through on the morning of March 23, 2003," Bragg wrote.

"The records do not tell whether her captors assaulted her almost lifeless, broken body after she was lifted from the wreckage, or if they assaulted her and then broke her bones into splinters until she was almost dead."

But, after all, it's just "filling in the blanks". So expect Indymedia and DU to leap to the fore with the charges of conspiracy and propaganda.

It does fill in an awful lot of blanks, though.

(Via LGF.)

13:05 - Sanity spreads

Fawaz Turki, writing in the Arab News, says he was wrong all along to oppose the war in Iraq.

Is it too early to adopt a revisionist view of the US war in Iraq and for this column to admit its mistake in having vehemently opposed it from the outset?

At issue here is whether the Iraqi people have benefited from the overthrow of the Baathist regime and whether the American occupation will eventually benefit their country even more. I’m convinced — and berate me here from your patriotic bleachers, if you must — that what we have seen in the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates in recent months may turn out to be the most serendipitous event in its modern history.

Let the fatwas ring forth. But you know... sometimes all it takes is a single voice to be raised, for others to realize that it's okay. Someone has to be the first.

Via InstaPundit, who also links to this post at Healing Iraq which is as worthy of a read as that "Andrea vs. Mohammad" radio clip from March was.

First, I have to explain to some western idealists that public demonstrations is an alien idea to the majority of Iraqis. We have been forced to demonstrate in favour of Saddam, the Ba'ath, Palestine, and Arab nationalism for 3 decades. Just to give you an idea on how that was like for us; party members would surround colleges, schools, and govt. offices. They block all outlets and shove people into buses which head to wherever the demonstrations are to be held. You simply cannot refuse to demonstrate. I remember hiding in the toilet back in high school whenever the buses came into the park to herd us to the demos. It wasn't a pleasant experience I can tell you. Once I got stuck and had to shout anti-imperialist slogans at one of these rallies just two years ago. You don't have the slightest idea of what it is like to live your life daily in fear.

Now today, we are facing terrorist and violent threats against our nurseries, schools, colleges, hospitals, clinics, oil pipelines, power stations, water purification systems, and other civilian facilities. If you think that a peaceful demonstration would deter those criminals from doing harm to us, then you are 100% wrong. Do you think the Syrians/Saudis/Iranians/Yemenis/Sudanese would simply say 'Oh look, the Iraqis don't want us there, lets go home and leave the Americans and Iraqis work it out'? Or if you think we should go out and face the dangers just to prove to you -paranoid Americans sitting in your ivory towers watching tv- that we do not support the terrorists, then you are wrong again.

You see a handful of teenagers dancing in front of the camera celebrating dead Americans, and you judge an entire people, you start whining about pulling the troops out of Iraq and giving the Iraqis what they deserve. Are you people really so close-minded? It is the fault of your news agencies that show you what they want, its certainly not ours. If you want us to go out and cry for your dead soldiers and wave American flags, then don't count on it either. We are losing way too many innocent Iraqis daily to be grieving over dead soldiers who have actually made a decision to come here. What about the thousands of dead Iraqis who were not as lucky to have a choice? Did you cry for them?

Sooner or later it will dawn on the Left that they've grown so complacent about the assumption that they speak for the "common man" and are "open-minded", that they've become the elitists who heap contempt upon the average Joe and suck up powdered propaganda through the nose.

12:48 - Blood Money

So I was all set to write some snarky post about how NPR should turn down the $200 million gift they just received-- from the widow of Ray Kroc, the McDonald's magnate. Sure, it's enough money to run the network for like two years... but it's money that comes from that bastion of evil American corporate imperialism, carrying our filthy culture into places that don't want it (like Jordan, where they lined up literally for miles outside the door when the first Golden Arches opened).

But, of course, Scrappleface is way ahead of me.

Dammit, I just get up too late in the morning.

Tuesday, November 4, 2003
15:01 - This here's what America's all about

'Tis the season, it seems, to Fisk poetry, or at least overanalyze it. And as I was driving in to work this morning, Weird Al's "The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota"-- long one of my favorite songs of his-- suddenly seemed to be a lot more microcosmic of some bigger archetype than I'd really figured before. It's an immensely silly song, yes, but it's as apt an encapsulation of what really drives all us warmongering, inbred, proselytizing, overfed, unsophisticated cowboys to do the things we do as any other piece of popular media that's a product of its cultural environment.

Well, I had two weeks of vacation time coming
After working all year down at Big Roy's Heating And Plumbing

Not a rock star or a movie god, just a regular Joe in a workaday job. What has he accomplished? What has he contributed to society? Well, maybe he hasn't built dams or designed moon rockets, but this is a guy who does his job because it's his duty-- and whatever he makes from it no doubt goes into his family and his house, his own little corner of America that he's helping build.

So one night when my family the I were gathered 'round the dinner table
I said, "Kids, if you could go anywhere in this great big world, now
Where'd you like to go ta?"
They said, "Dad, we wanna see the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota"
They picked the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota

...And yet he lives all year for that vacation. And what does he plan to do on his two weeks off? Sit on the couch and eat pork rinds and watch golf? Lie in the hammock and swat mosquitoes? Nope-- his plans center on his family. It's all about the wife and kids, and what they might enjoy. And if they pick something he wants to do too, well, hey-- bonus!

So the very next day we loaded up the car
With potato skins and pickled wieners,
Crossword puzzles, Spider-Man comics, and mama's homemade rhubarb pie
Pulled out of the driveway and the neighbors, they all waved good-bye
And so began our three day journey

Packed to the gills with snack foods and popular media. More than just creating a semblance of homelike comfort while on the road, they're indulging. This is a time to celebrate.

I used to think, by the way, that the waving neighbors were a relic of a time long past. But at the new house, well-- our neighbors would wave.

We picked up a guy holding a sign that said "twine ball or bust"
He smelled real bad and he said his name was Bernie

You never turn away someone who shares your common goals.

I put in a Slim Whitman tape, my wife put on a brand new hair net
Kids were in the back seat jumping up and down,
yelling "Are we there yet?"
And all of us were joined together in one common thought
As we rolled down the long and winding interstate in our '53 DeSota
We're gonna see the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota
We're headin' for the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota

It's a kooky combination of Route 66 retro and modern suburbia. Of course the whole song's a paean to Americana, but the setting in time and space is deliberately left vague-- the family's stuck in the Leave It to Beaver 50s, while at the same time evidently living in a world of car tape decks and diet sodas. (This song dates from the early 80s, remember.) And kids being annoying in the back seat is as timeless as the interstate that leads to Wally World.

Oh, we couldn't wait to get there
So we drove straight through for three whole days and nights
Of course, we stopped for more pickled wieners now and then

Once you've got the goal in mind, you don't stop or get distracted. But there's always time to feed the economy with snack-food consumption.

The scenery was just so pretty, boy I wish the kids could've seen it
But you can't see out of the side of the car
Because the windows are completely covered
With the decals of all the place where we've already been

There's Elvis-O-Rama, the Tupperware Museum,
The Boll Weevil Monument, and Cranberry World,
The Shuffleboard Hall Of Fame, Poodle Dog Rock,
And The Mecca of Albino Squirrels
We've been to ghost towns, theme parks, wax museums,
And a place where you can drive through the middle of a tree
We've seen alligator farms and tarantula ranches,
But there's still one thing we gotta see

All immensely silly places, but they may as well have been real (some were). Why go to these things? Because they're cool. Where do you think memories come from? It's all so inconsequential, so futile, so false-- but it's all a part of a shared national hallucination that coalesces into something that's all the stronger for it. When a people has this much leisure time, and yet worries at it with such gusto as to find attractions like these to go to and spend their money, it's not decadence, as some accuse-- it's the opposite of decadence. It's the raising of the banal to epic heights. It's the lust for life. It's the feeling-- nay, the conviction-- that while the past may make for good postcards and window decals, the best days always lie ahead.

Shame about that scenery, though.

Well, we crossed the state line about 6:39
And we saw a sign that said "Twine Ball exit - 50 miles"
Oh, the kids were so happy the started singing
"99 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall" for the 27th time that day

Another timeless classic. As is the obsessive need to time the trip and track the mileage-- "Are We There Yet?" for the grownups. Because obviously the dad's as big a kid as the ones in the back seat.

So, we pulled off the road at the last chance gas station
Got a few more pickled wieners and a diet chocolate soda
On our way to see the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota
We're gonna see the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota

Better make sure it's "diet", to cancel out all those wieners and pie. Charmingly naïve.

But here's where we get to the real crux of the thing: the narrowing of perspective, the raising of something so provincial and pointless to the stature of a religious experience:

Finally, at 7:37 early Wednesday evening as the sun was setting
in the Minnesota sky
Out in the distance, on the horizon, it appeared to me like a vision
before my unbelieving eyes
I parked the car and walked with awe-filled reverence towards that
glorious huge majestic sphere
I was just so overwhelmed by its sheer immensity,
I had to pop myself a beer
Yes, on these hallowed grounds, open ten to eight on weekdays,
in a little shrine under a makeshift pagoda,
There sits the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota
I tell you, it's the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota

Even a holy place charges admission-- and that's okay. There's nothing else in the world that matters. This is vacation time; this is the one little break and reward we give ourselves for a year of uncomplaining labor, and by God we're going to make it worth remembering. We may not be able to change the world in our spare time, but we can at least enjoy the living daylights out of it.

Oh, what on earth would make a man decide to do that kind of thing?
Oh, windin' up twenty-one thousand, one hundred forty pounds of string
What was he trying to prove? Who was he trying to impress?
Why did he build it? How did he do it? It's anybody's guess
Where did he get the twine? What was goin' through his mind?
Did it just seem like a good idea at the time?

Do you really have to ask? Because he could.

And that kind of dedication you've just gotta admire.

Well, we walked up beside it and I warned the kids
"Now, you better not touch it, those ropes are there for a reason"
I said, "Maybe if you're good, I'll tie it to the back of our car
and we can take it home", but I was only teasin'
Then we went to the gift shop and stood in line
Bought a souvenir miniature ball of twine, some window decals,
and anything else they'd sell us
And we bought a couple postcards, "Greetings from the Twine Ball,
wish you were here"
Won't the folks back home be jealous?

Suddenly it all drops back down to Disneyland mode. It's still sacred ground, but now there's moychandising, moychandising. And good for it, too; these guys aren't buying knickknacks and postcards out of a feeling of obligation, but because they genuinely want to remember this experience. Now, it's left sort of open-ended whether the song portrays the whole family's honest emotions, or just this dopey dad and his rose-colored and inscrutable obsession with Americana that the family just indulges him in, for the sake of blessed family unity. But for all intents and purposes, it's all genuine.

I gave our camera to Bernie and we stood by the ball
And we all gathered 'round and said, "Cheese"
The Bernie ran away with my brand new Instamatic,
but at least we got our memories

Aw! That's what you get for trusting people. I'll bet they pick up another hitchhiker on the way back home, though.

Then we all just stared at the ball for a while and my eyes got moist,
but I said with a smile, "Kids, this here's what America's all about"
Then I started feelin' kinda gooey inside and I fell on my knees
and I cried and cried
And that's when those security guards threw us out

Now then, now then. It won't do to get too sentimental over this, now would it? Yet when it comes to paying your respects to something you believe in, there's no limit to the lengths to which you'll go.

You know, I bet if we unravelled that sucker,
It'd roll all the way down to Fargo, North Dakota
'Cause it's the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota
I'm talkin' 'bout the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota

And it'd probably reach all the way back to here, too.

Well, we stayed that night at the Twine Ball Inn
In the morning we were on our way home again
But we really didn't want to leave, that was perfectly clear
I said, "Folks, I can tell you're all sad to go"
Then I winked my eye and I said, "You know, I got a funny kind of feelin'
we'll be comin' back again next year"
'Cause I've been all around this great big world
And I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather go to
Than the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota
I said the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota

And in the end, though, it all comes back around to the kids. Whether it has any bearing on reality or not, nothing makes this guy's day more than to see his kids bouncing in glee. And really, that's what makes the Twine Ball such a spiritual destination: sure, it's worth nothing. No symbol has any value, in and of itself. But you can never foretell just what power can grow up around a symbol, or what associations people will form with it. With luck, a symbol's fame and meaning grow, spread, expand beyond its own provincial borders-- and before you know it, people flock to it, though they don't even know why. Money changes hands. Memories are forged. And wealth is created.

These are the foundations of a nation that's so secure in its own existence, its own petty leisure pursuits, that it is willing to dash itself to bits when called upon to save the world. The more ridiculous our diversions are and the more ease in which we live our lives, oddly, the harder we're willing to fight to keep from giving any of it up.

That's the dichotomy that repeatedly confuses the rest of the world about America, while at the same time defining us. And it only looks like a contradiction if you don't live here.

13:17 - Oh my flippin' gawd

Via LGF, Tariq Ali spins quite a yarn in The Guardian:

Few can deny that Iraq under US occupation is in a much worse state than it was under Saddam Hussein. There is no reconstruction. There is mass unemployment. Daily life is a misery, and the occupiers and their puppets cannot provide even the basic amenities of life. The US doesn't even trust the Iraqis to clean their barracks, and so south Asian and Filipino migrants are being used. This is colonialism in the epoch of neo-liberal capitalism, and so US and "friendly" companies are given precedence. Even under the best circumstances, an occupied Iraq would become an oligarchy of crony capitalism, the new cosmopolitanism of Bechtel and Halliburton.

The Iraqi maquis have weakened George Bush's position in the US and enabled Democrat politicians to criticise the White House, with Howard Dean daring to suggest a total US withdrawal within two years. Even the bien pensants who opposed the war but support the occupation and denounce the resistance know that without it they would have been confronted with a triumphalist chorus from the warmongers. Most important, the disaster in Iraq has indefinitely delayed further adventures in Iran and Syria.

Got that? No reconstruction. Misery. Worse than it was under Saddam. And the guys who blow up the UN building and the Red Cross are the maquis to Bush's Hitler.

This is a hugely widely-read paper in Britain. Yet facts evidently are not welcome there.

But people like Tariq Ali are:

Ditching the Labour Party he embraced Leninism, becoming a leader of the International Marxist Group (IMG). "One can see," he said then, "that we shall once again see (workers') Soviets in Europe in the 70s".

So: when people talk about how America is trying to defend those quaint little notions like "freedom" and "democracy", and people sneer at them to say that those ideas are under no threat in today's postmodern enlightened world... um, guys? Hello? Right under your nose?

God, this makes me mad.

How many American soldiers and political victims of brutal regimes will have died in this century alone, only for us to blithely throw away all the fruits of our hard-won hundred-year victory and invite the enemy in to sit at our table?

Monday, November 3, 2003
11:45 - Thass what I'm talkin' bout

Among the many things that we got done this weekend-- such as finishing out the front landscaping with a truckload of head-sized quartz rocks, planting three more new birch trees out back, finally gluing up the cove base trim in the laundry room, and finally finishing the ceiling and floor trim in my bed area and moving the furniture into place (Hey, I actually have room in there now), was blessed progress on trimming the curtains. Thanks to the deft assistance of my mom, who stopped by with my all-too-willing-to-ruin-his-back dad this weekend.

Does that work, or does that work?

11:38 - Worth pointing out

Glenn Reynolds and Sofia Sideshow, discussing this story, in which the 101st Airborne found piles of money in Saddam's palaces... and are using it to finance construction of parks and infrastructure through private local contractors, Bechtel and Halliburton be damned.

...points out something that I took for granted, and notes that it's nothing to take for granted:

Alright, I re-read both articles, looking for mention of the single most obvious facet of the story. Something most Americans don't even think about. Indeed, Glenn didn't pick it up, and the Globe and Mail didn't pick it up, although it's right there, the single-most lauded aspect, and we Americans missed it totally. I'll bet 99% of Americans who read the articles missed it.

They didn't steal the money.

You remember the film "Three Kings," where disaffected angst-ridden grunts went off on their own in search of gold? I mean, they were stuck there in some sort of 'war,' and the crisis they face is whether to help the citizens or succumb to greed. It was very 90's, and brilliant and all that?

Let's repeat this: A squad found tons of money lying around...they started to spend it...on others...without orders.

They didn't steal the money!

You think they'll make a movie of that?

Their honesty is simply taken for granted. It shouldn't be. It's not how the rest of the world works.

What they did is both outrageous and thoroughly American.

So is not realizing it.

That's me. Outrageous, and thoroughly American. Because I didn't realize it.

Oh, sure, this is probably just an isolated case. I bet they found millions more dollars in other stashes, and we never found out about those-- there are just going to be a lot of mysteriously wealthy ex-reservists in a couple years. Right?

Either that, or we as a people have just become so sophisticated and skeptical as to have lost all credulity in the spirit of human decency.

Friday, October 31, 2003
17:13 - What if you threw a bomb party and nobody came?

Everybody's linking to Charles Krauthammer today, and so I'll jump on the bandwagon, if only because it's a pretty good summation of what a lot of one-off essays around the blogosphere have been piecing together, bit by bit, for months now. It's sort of a status report, a checkpoint on what those of us who have been paying attention have known from the start would be a long, bitter trudge, rather than an effortless magical transformation. (The only difference being that we evidently decided that just because something is hard doesn't make it not worthwhile.)

It's a short column, and I could nearly quote the whole thing. But I won't.

Our enemies in Iraq have learned these lessons well. The car bomb of Oct. 12 was aimed at the Baghdad Hotel, housing not just large numbers of Americans but much of the provisional Iraqi government. It would have been the equivalent of the two Beirut bombings in one: a psychologically crushing massacre of Americans -- which would have sparked immediate debate at home about withdrawal -- and the instantaneous destruction of much of the pro-American government, a political decapitation that would have left very few Iraqis courageous enough to fill the vacuum.

The bomber failed. Most significantly, it was Iraqi police who assisted in shooting up the car at a relatively safe distance and thus preventing a catastrophe. The car bomb campaign has, however, continued with singular ferocity since. The war in Iraq now consists of a race: The United States is racing to build up Iraqi police and armed forces capable of taking over the country's security -- before the Saddam loyalists and their jihadist allies can produce that single, Beirut-like car bomb that so discourages Americans (and Iraqis) that we withdraw in disarray.

Who wins the race? If this president remains in power, the likelihood is that we do.

Maybe this is why suddenly a whole bunch of liberal Democrats, politicians and bloggers alike, are coming out of the woodwork and endorsing Bush. Zell Miller. Roger Simon. A bunch of others. (Read the post for some great one-liners and links to the original sources.) Suddenly people are realizing what even this Democratic Underground seething fury-boy (passed on by Andrew Sullivan) has suddenly evidently come to realize:

regardless of right or wrong.
we dont want to be associated with supporting the killing of our own troops.
that would be political suicide… we dont want to be associated with “supporting” Iraqi resistance.
something like that would make us (dems, libs, progs, whoever) look terrible and just give the opposition fuel.

And who knows-- maybe even some of them think that supporting terrorists against our own troops is wrong for other reasons than merely "political suicide". I mean, hey, I don't expect miracles-- there's a long way to go on the ol' rehabilitation trail for some of these people. But it's a positive first step, as they say.

A couple of days ago, there was the oddest feeling, among my friends and in my inbox, that there was a chill wind a-blowin'... that people were suddenly digging in, taking sides, and lashing out at each other in a cross-spectrum all-out free-for-all, tearing apart old friendships and turning implicit trust into bitter disappointment and betrayal. I watched this happen in various LiveJournal comment pages, and I wondered if the witching hour of All Saints' was upon us-- if all the usually friendly and occasionally sarcastic back-and-forth over the past two years was finally about to give way to all-out ideological war.

Well, the situation seems to have been defused somewhat... but from the look of these links, the Left is sitting on top of a big frickin' juicer. There's this enormous sharp wedge being driven right up into the middle of the movement, and we're already seeing everybody to the right of a certain line start to peel off and join the world of the practical, gritting their teeth if necessary, but knowing that if forced to choose between supporting the War on Terror and lying down with people who shriek "Zionazis!" if you so much as breathe on them wrong, there are some things that are worse than war.

After all, if even Democrats are now saying things like this:

"I remember the day, and it wasn't so long ago, that liberals like me were attacking our government for supporting dictators. Now these new "liberals," or whatever they want to call themselves, attack our government for taking down dictators. "

... then they'll have to be quicker on the draw to catch up with Lileks, but better late than never.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003
04:58 - Oh, but the color scheme is all wrong, though...


Tuesday, October 28, 2003
13:51 - Angry Young Men

This TCS column by Arnold Kling has some interesting observations, ones that I don't find surprising these days:

I did not feel this sort of discomfort in 2000, which was the one other year when I attended Pop!tech. Back then, a conservative or libertarian attending the conference felt like a Jew among a group of tolerant Christians. This year, a conservative or libertarian felt like a Jew among a group of Christians whose main topic of conversation was the despicable nature of Jews.

I'm in the midst of a heretofore quite pleasant e-mail conversation with someone (met through a channel that would probably have led him to believe I'm way more liberal than I am) whose LiveJournal consists alternately of long, passionate, emotional, artistic soliloquies about the nature of beauty and the beauty of nature and so forth... and vitriolic revulsion toward the Right and its icons. "I tend to view anyone or anything bearing a Bush/Cheney logo in much the same way that I view biohazard labels -- they are warnings that the contents therein are likely to be volatile, unstable, antithetical to human life, and quite possibly lethal," he says. "This public safety notice brought to you by Citizens Who Still Know How To Think Clearly."

(I haven't told him my horrible secret yet. I dread the inevitable day when I will.)

A few days ago, he told me that "In these terrible times, I would probably be arrested for treason for speaking the mildest of my views, so I usually just shut up."

And I turned to the TV, where there was C-SPAN coverage of thousands of protesters gathering on the Mall in front of the Capitol ("the U.S. Parliament", that is), dancing around effigies of Bush's head on stakes planted in the ground, chanting "Fuck George Bush!" on national TV.

Anybody catch the estimates of how many were arrested, how many beaten or killed by police?



For the curious, here is an extensive photo-blog of the event.

And here's what happens to dissenting opinions (held by pregnant women, no less) who dare to show their faces.

And I'm left not feeling angry, not hateful, not sad... just bewildered. What has happened here?

How is it that the Left, with its vaunted compassion for the "common man", can have so little respect for the average Joe on the highway that a Bush/Cheney bumper sticker (or, horrors, a Christian one) is grounds for automatically dismissing the person-- his life lived to date, his opinions, his accomplishments, his career, his family, his military service or charity work or lack of any of those things-- as "volatile, unstable, antithetical to human life, and quite possibly lethal"?

It's okay-- he's just a "mass", right? And the masses understand nothing.

Discouragingly, I'm seeing more and more evidence that there's some kind of rolling wave of illogic and thoughtlessness taking a grip on this country. There are plenty of people on the Left who are thoughtful and reasonable people, who acknowledge the good of the removal of Saddam while they criticize the success of the post-war rebuilding, for example. But such people would have found find few like minds in the crowds sponsored by International ANSWER and the Workers' World Party in Washington, D.C. this past weekend.

For them, logic and morality and reality itself all take a backseat to the paramount importance of being right:

I'd also like to mention that I wrote this last May, when Iraq war supporters were still confidently insisting that weapons of mass destruction would be found. Well, guess who was right? That's right. The liberals were right about this. Ha ha.

Meanwhile, the Iraqis have nothing but contempt for the UN and the Western "peace protesters" who, for all their supposed compassion toward the Iraqi people, would only have succeeded in keeping Saddam in power. These protesters are doing no favors to anybody but themselves-- certainly not to Iraq. And I'll bet the Iraqi man-on-the-street would simply laugh in your face if you asked him if he was outraged that the weapons of mass destruction hadn't been found yet.

To say nothing of the fact that the implied logic of the above quote is that Bush "lied" his way into war, using a pretext that he knew was false, and that he knew would be revealed to be false... but then he somehow neglected to "lie" in the aftermath, planting some WMDs in order to complete the alibi. I mean, c'mon. A 14-year-old D&D player would be able to figure out how to make the story complete. As a leader, you get to be either an evil genius or an incompetent buffoon. But not both.

Further, the quote assumes that Saddam didn't actually have WMDs, and that a small-voiced but insistent cadre of liberals-- like, oh, Clinton, Chirac, Schröder, Putin, the UN inspectors, John Kerry, Wesley Clark-- had said so all along. It's pure revisionism-- 180 degrees from reality-- to say this, but people are doing it anyway. If they admit that Saddam had WMDs at all, they apparently suggest that he voluntarily and secretly destroyed them in the time since the inspectors were kicked out in 1998, even though doing so could have gained him no conceivable benefit, and was likely only to result in his ouster as he wouldn't be able to prove his disarmament to the UN's satisfaction. The mental gymnastics necessary to support this theory are astonishing. I would not want to try to debug the spaghetti-code inside these people's brains.

And yet, without irony, they call themselves Citizens Who Still Know How To Think Clearly.

Some hold that this raving sect of mentally incoherent logically-impaired sign-wavers is just a fringe, a cult of anti-personality drunk on the camaraderie that arises from the novel prospect of shared mass hatred of a single visible, iconic person. I think it's bigger than that, though. It takes a lot of effort to get people into the streets of the world's cities by the hundreds of thousands. This isn't happening by accident. It's lasted too long to be a fluke.

And I think there's something new going on. A nostalgic romanticization of Vietnam's hippies, perhaps, and the intense need to reduce the world to recognizable, bite-sized caricatures, icons, insightful parallels. Or possibly it's the second- and third-order fallout in the nation's collective mind from 9/11-- first was the shock and horror and patriotism, but then there was the freight-train backlash against it that has so violently uprooted the foundations of so many people's minds that all cognitive consistency is lost.

If this is what 9/11 has done to us in the long term, then bin Laden really did have a plan and a half, didn't he?

11:54 - Thank you for noticing

I only have one comment regarding this Der Spiegel article, linked by LGF:

"The fourth plane, according to bin al-Shaibah's questioning, should have hit the Capitol, the U.S. parliament ... U.S. authorities long suspected that it should have hit the White House. Only bin al-Shaibah's statement corrected the error," the magazine reported.

You know, it's funny-- I don't seem to ever recall any American, whether news anchor or redneck-in-the-street, refer to some other country's legislative body as "The German Capitol".

(I know how the "Russian White House" sounds, but that's what they call it, isn't it?)

Likewise, they keep saying things like "Defense Minister Rumsfeld". I have yet to hear anybody refer to a European politician as a "secretary".

So how come Americans know what a Parliament is, but Germans have to have "Capitol" explained to them? Who's more internationally conscious again?

Monday, October 27, 2003
01:40 - Half haste helps, but whole haste hinders

Hrrmph. Okay. Okay. Good. Very good.

You'll like this one.

Ahh, those wacky British place-names...

(I especially like how the family lives in a "bungalow". I am Cornholio! I live in a bungholow!)

Saturday, October 25, 2003
22:54 - Scintillating lunchtime conversation

CHRIS: E-business... F-stop.. G-spot...
ME: H-... um. Bomb?
CHRIS: I-Life... J-walk...
ME: K-rations... L-train...
ME: You know, like in Chicago.
ME: M-path.. N-tropy...
KRIS: O-ring...
DAVID: P-chan?
ME: Q-zone... R-type... S-class... uh, T-party...
DAVID: U-suxxor.
CHRIS: V-ger?
ME: Double-U-suxxor!
CHRIS: X-ray. Y... not.
ME: Z... coach?

Yay! We're dorks!

Friday, October 24, 2003
12:17 - "Our first goal is to show utter contempt for the environment..."

This is most excellent. Apparently it's what all of Hollywood heard in January.

As Marcus says, "When do I get my three nucular missiles?"

Seriously. I'm waiting.

Thursday, October 23, 2003
15:26 - Maybe I should add a polling feature... naaahh

This would be a revealing poll:

With which war in U.S. history do you think this year's War in Iraq has the most in common?
  1. Revolutionary War
  2. Civil War
  3. World War I
  4. World War II
  5. Vietnam
  6. Korean War
  7. Gulf War
  8. Afghanistan

Might make an interesting Rorschach's test.

(No, I'm not actually asking for responses. It's just a thought experiment.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2003
20:22 - Webmasters, re-arm!

By the way--

In response to Jen's general request, I registered at an online Arabic translation site (there don't appear to be any free ones, so I plunked down for one-- who knows how else it might prove useful) so I could obtain a translation of this page, which refers in perpetrators' terms to the recent DOS attacks against Internet Haganah.

The translated document is here.

Make of it what you will.

19:43 - Temba, his arms open

Matt at Blackfive:

At first, I was so damn angry after the experience you are about to read that I didn't trust myself to write something coherent. Then, I calmed down and figured that it was an anomaly. I wasn't going to write about this experience, but, with the recent comments coming out of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Malaysia, I thought that I might be able to shed some light on what we are up against in the world...

Go read his story.

How the hell can we ever convince people like Masood that "the Jews" aren't the problem - that his blindness is the problem? And if we can't convince the likes of him, how can we reach countless millions that don't have Masood's liberal education, facility with English, or access to our mediums?

Simple answer: I don't think we can penetrate that kind of cultural and religious brainwashing.

Which is why, when I saw this article on the Malaysian Prime Minister's hateful words, I wasn't shocked. Not in the slightest.

It really is us against them. Us and the Israelis and a few others against 1.6 billion zealots.

Get used to the idea.

A simplistic thought, yesno? Good and evil? Us against them? How infantile!

...Except that, as Steve Antler (via InstaPundit) points out, it really is a different world that we're up against. A different experience of humanity.

Our cultural reflexes admonish us to find common ground above all else, and to allow our own interpretations of reality itself to fluctuate, to ebb and flow, to conform to whatever mode lets us all "just get along".

It's what comes naturally to us these days, just like the irresistible urge to find tortured parallels between historic or even mythical events and what's going on in the present world. Stratfor, the other day, posted an analysis that painted Bush today in terms that equated him with the Kennedy that faced down Krushchev over Cuba: inexperienced, irresponsibly belligerent, unfocused, tharn (to use a Richard Adams word). Hey, the Russians called JFK a "cowboy" too! Sunrise, sunset... sunrise, sunset...

(Not saying the piece was without merit. It had plenty. It just strikes me as very telling that even a news analysis organization like Stratfor can't seem to resist the temptation to speak in the language of historical metaphor-- because, hey, they know it's what catches readers' imaginations. More so than just shooting straight with an analysis of the situation in a vacuum.)

But the Left, it seems to me, is so deeply ingrained with this idea of describing the world in poetic, metaphorical terms, that they leap to even the most ludicrous levels of hyperbole just to get on record with the All-Important Parallel. That's how Bush gets to be Hitler. It's how Iraq gets to be Vietnam. It's how the Israelis get to be the Nazis. It's how America, the nation that has done more than any other in the history of the world to lift humanity out of its millennia of anonymously skulking in mud huts under the whips of the elite masters, gets to be the Evil Empire. Historical parallels, mixed with a rich helping of shocking irony... why, that's how to make truth! ...Right?

Hence this widely held impression, espoused by so many high-school and college liberals, that conservatives are either a) fascistic or b) stupid, or most likely both. They must be fascistic because they have flags, and Hitler had flags! They must be stupid because they see things in black and white, and as we all know, the world is all shades of gray!

What seldom seems to be stated is that yes, the world is all shades of gray... but those who support the WoT have not denied this fact. They have, instead, analyzed the gray of our situation, and they've made a judgment as to whether it's closer to black or to white.

That's the trap that this guy fell into, in that thread at IMAO: he strode confidently into the fray, sure that he was facing down a bunch of uneducated hicks who had never set foot outside their home counties except to buy new coonhounds. It clearly hadn't even occurred to him that anybody could be intelligent, eloquent, educated-- and yet conservative and/or pro-war. Does not compute!

For the Left, analysis begins and ends with the acknowledgment of grayness. It's both the default condition and the epitome of perspicacity to see how multifaceted everything is. The beauty of it is that you don't have to do any work to come to that conclusion, because that's where everybody starts out these days, right from the cradle. What children's books are being written today that feature a struggle between Good and Evil? How many, by comparison, are all about characters of all backgrounds coming together to overcome a nonspecific hardship?

(This is speculation... but somehow I think my suspicions wouldn't turn out too far off the mark. And yes, I know all about those studies that describe how you can foretell a country's political atmosphere by looking at the rhetorical slant of children's books written fifteen years beforehand.)

So conservatives who take sides automatically fall under suspicion. After all, if they see things as black and white, it must mean they just haven't thought things through, right? They just haven't yet arrived at the inevitable conclusion, the Truth of Gray?

And if they have arrived there through rational thought, well... you know what that means. Evil!

That same Stratfor article warned against losing historical perspective when faced with the temptation to presume that today's situation is unprecedented. Well, okay, concern noted. But we really are in a unique period in history. World cultures are interacting physically and intellectually in ways never before seen on planet Earth. And something like 9/11 really hasn't ever happened before.

Oh, sure, historical parallels can be drawn, with some mental gymnastics. But are they really likely to be helpful? Even if the reactions of the world to, say, Pearl Harbor, or to Sherman's March to the Sea, or to Carthage can be judged to have been "correct", who's to say that those same reactions have any applicability to today?

This war we're fighting is a war of ideas far more than it is one of bullets. It's a common foe, one we've fought before, in many guises: the recurring specter of a philosophy that simultaneously absolves a people of its sins and blames its hardships on an external "other". We once called it monarchic tyranny; then we called it Naziism; then we called it racism; then we called it communism; now we call it radical Islamism. We've used the same fortress of ideas to fight each one of these foes-- freedom, democracy, secularism-- and while we change from it a little each time, we keep winning.

But that doesn't mean we can allow ourselves to slip into historical overanalysis regarding today's situation. We have to develop a new vocabulary, because the old one will just get us tongue-tied.

Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.

Shaka, when the walls fell.

Mirab, his sails unfurled!

Seems to me we'll get a lot further by calling a spade a spade... and paranoid Jew-hating xenophobes by their true name.

The Bad Guys.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003
18:13 - Comics Roundup

They never disappoint.

Hey, Garry, he's a Nazi too! Haven't you heard? Oh, and BUSH LIED, PEOPLE DIED!

Ladies and gentlemen, the Compassionate Left.

Oh wait, this one's funny.

15:40 - Feeding Frenzy

While al Qaeda continues its relentless assault of Weapons of Mass Annoyance against HostingMatters, preventing us from reading InstaPundit or LGF or any of a bunch of others, it would seem that everyone's gathering over at IMAO. To pile on one James Wakefield.

I love Michael Moore. I agree with everything he says and I love it that he is making you disgusting, stupid, haters so angry. As I am not an American it's easy for me to think that all Americans are power hungry war mongers that want to destroy all of the worlds diverse cultures. Greed and capitalism are taking over, its great to see that there are some good Americans like Michael Moore trying to make a difference for the good of all humans and not just the wealthy with their multiple yachts and mansions.

P.S You are not PROVING anything by just saying someones ideas are stupid; the key to an argument is to actually give a reason for why something is stupid. Maybe if you all thought about issues instead of seeing everything in black and white (or good and evil) you wouldn't be right wing.

Power to the Prolatarian. -James

And so it starts.

After some back-and-forthing about how to spell "proletarian", James (who lives in Australia) sneeringly asks:

So what exactly do conservatives want? What do you want the world to be? Do you want western culture to conquer all the minority groups it can? Do you want George W declared president of the world? Do you want corporations to be more rich and powerful? Do you want to send scary (sorry "amusing" satire) hate mail to everyone that wants equality? Do you want poor 14 year old girls to have to live with their mistake and have the baby? Do you want more toxins in our waterways? Do you want to live in gated communities where you don't have to mingle with the poor?

Uh huh. Yeah, he's got us there.

Cue David:


You ask a profound question. What do conservatives like me want? Well take it from a guy who has traveled to every continent except Antarctica, I sure don't want what the Third World has.

There is this depressing similarity among Third World nations, be it Morocco, El Salvador, Vietnam or Saudi Arabia. It's the trash, dirt streets, emaciated animals, poor construction techniques, corrupt cops, prevalent violence, undrinkable water, racism, hatred, bigotry and depression. It's being stopped by four cops with machine guns in Cambodia and being "asked" to pay the "road toll." It's meeting a missionary couple and their three small kids at a hotel in Colombia, then finding out a week later that Marxist guerillas kidnapped and killed them. It's walking through the market in Marrakech and getting nauseated by the unrefrigerated meat covered with flies. It's driving down roads in Angola and seeing all the bloated corpses by the side of the road. It's having a prostitute in Thailand tell you that she has a great job - it pays so much more than any other job she could get. It's getting so violently sick in Calcutta that you think you're going to die because the bartender put ice in your drink. It's driving through Saudi Arabia and seeing piles of discarded tires, abandoned cars and trash to make an American Indian cry along the highway.

Then it's returning to the land of heaven, better known as the United States. The land of paved streets and lawns, and houses with paint on them, and water you can drink, and low crime and good paying jobs for women and responsive government and, well and just about everything else from free emergency medical care to clean air to people who stop at red lights and use the on ramps to get on and the off ramps to get off the highway. It's not seeing adolescent girls selling themselves openly without comment by the locals.

James, I don't want to live anywhere other than the United States of America, despite having an enjoyable visit to Australia. But I know for a fact that millions of men, women and children in the Third World watch television and movies and see what we have here and they crave it. They crave it because they live a life of pain and shit.

So James I find your comments depressing and ironic. You and Michael Moore advocate a hatred of the system of government and economics which has created a virtual heaven on earth. You asked "Do you want western culture to conquer all the minority groups it can?" And I answer, "YES." And all the billions of your so-called minorities in the world scream "YES." You asked "Do you want corporations to be more rich and powerful?" And I say, "Yes, I want corporations which produce the medicines which cure the poor of the world, I want the corporations which feed the world, I want the corporations which produce washing machines and cars and airplanes and cell phones and computers to be more rich and powerful."

Then James you asked a most interesting question, "Do you want to live in gated communities where you don't have to mingle with the poor?" How odd. In order to conquer the world, we would need to leave our gated communities. And you implied, by the way you phrased your questions, that you don't want us to leave our gated communities to conquer the world’s minorities. So I would answer this last question with "No I don't want to live in a gated community, blocked off from the poor. I want to bring the benefits of my culture and wealth and beauty to the sick, poor and downtrodden everywhere." You, James, oppose that. In other words, you want me to remain in my gated community so that the poor remain poor. Because as long as the poor remain that way, you have meaning to your life. You care nothing and do nothing for them. You use them as a crutch for your self-righteous evil.

And James, that is why I despise you and Michael Moore and all those who profit from hating and loathing the very thing which brings hope to the poor of this world.

Not that this slows James down. For a little while he acts like he's waffling, like things sort of might seem to make sense. But-- no! No! He's lost it. It's gone.

I really hate religious extremists, inparticular islamic extremists. It is very easy to think that maybe if we just nuke them they will go away, but that would just make more people HATE America. I am an athiest but I don't want to see the end of religion. Diversity and multiculturalism are a beautiful thing, Australia has many cultures living harmoniously together. War is not the answer, increase aid and increase immigration, show people that their cultural identity is respected and their people are welcome to enjoy the benefits of our society. It's a simple idea; if you are nice to people they wont hate you. I don't like it how the west is seen as a christian culture when a multicultural society would be better (and Muslims would stop thinking their is a Christian agenda to wipe them out.)

Post-modernity is pluralist. It is insane to think that a single culture can conquer all others when you think about all the bloodshed it would cause. When people start getting killed for their political and religious beliefs (no matter how stupid we secretly think their religion may be) it is clearly a large step away from being civilized.

I would much prefer my medicines to be made by government owned institutions so that there would be no profiteering in health. Third world countries would also have access to these medicines.

Wouldn't it be nice if America was "heaven on Earth" for everyone not just white middle class men.

Ared, Tom beta 2, Jeff from PRMd, and an immigrant grad student all pile on, gnawing on these last bits of twisted wisdom with longish essays. And then Bill Whittle arrives on the scene.


You are an idiot.

I say idiot because you clearly know nothing about this country. I spent three months in Australia, and I can tell you there are more rich, successful minorities in America than there are people in OZ. There are more rich blacks in Los Angeles than there are on the rest of the PLANET.

You ask what conservatives want? We want to be FREE, idiot -- I say idiot because you can apologize for Saddam all you want, but the fact remains that Iraqis are not being ortured to death at a rate of 5,000 a month, thanks entirely to George Bush and conservatives, and not to Michael Moore. He is too busy torturing Americans to do anything else.

You say you want to make the world more equal -- well, conservatives want that too, idiot. I say idiot because we believe that rather than making the entire world into your poverty-striken, environmentally -ruined, third world shithole of failure, dictatorship, crime, starvation and disease, we would prefer to raise them to the level of free, happy, capitalists -- like Michael Moore, for instance, who, you may have noticed, is not on the verge of starvation like your Proletariat.

You do seem a nice sort of idiot though. But the next time you say only rich, white men are successfull in the USA, perhaps you might want to take your head out of your butt and LOOK THE FUCK AROUND FIRST.


And then he gets mad.

Oh, PS Idiot --

North Korea STARTED the crisis by announcing it had nuclear weapons in direct violation of the deal brokered by BILL CLINTON, who sent the high holy man JIMMY CARTER to get HIS PERSONAL WORD! that the NK's PROMISED, CROSS THEIR HEARTS AND HOPE TO DIE that they would not develop a nuclear program. Bush put them in the Axis of Evil BECAUSE THEY LIED, and when they are gone --no thanks to you -- you will see unfold horrors that make Iraq look like a Beverly Hills Kindergarten.

Once AGAIN, THAT is the result of your Proletariat, idiot -- they are eating their own babies, as you shall find out soon enough.

Ronald Reagan said that the difference between Communists and non-Communists was simple: Communists READ Marx and Lenin; Anti-Communists UNDERSTAND Marx and Lenin.

When Dear Leader goes the way of Hitler and Saddam -- no doubt over your strong protestations -- we will see the triumph of you and your fucking proletariat -- another five or ten million to add to the hundred million or so that your little communist paradise has killed in a century.

You be careful with that word, boyo. There are still free people in the world who are not afraid to fight for their freedom, and you are the low life that rides on their sacrifices for free.

And James pops.

Well I guess I have been proved wrong. Lets get rid of the hopeless goals of living in harmony amongst each other. Multiculturalism is not going to work, we need to send the message "assimilate or DIE!" Who can stop us?

What was I thinking when I made the stupid statement that being nice to countries would stop the hatred. The clear way of fixing their intolerance is to blast them into submission. The bloody united nations trying to do everything diplomatically, they are idiots. Some liberals are suggesting that by bombing countries we are increasing the risk of terorism, I say thats a risk we have to take. In an effort to decrease the terrorism we will increase the searching powers of the police and keep a close eye and regular inspections on all the people practicing Islam (and communists, intellectuals, artists, unions, protestors and the unemployed).

We should go to war with North Korea, who cares that they have the third largest army in the world. The inevitable loss of thousands of American and allied countries' soldiers and Korean civilians is acceptable because they would be heroes. It may take a hundred years to wipe out (or assimilate) all the non-western cultures, but we have to do it to clean this world up.

To fund this crusade we have to tighten the budget abit; we'll spend less on public education, hospitals and we'll abolish welfare altogether. Don't worry there will be a tax cut for corporations so that they will stimulate the economy. The economy will still be strong. Conscription must be brought back to support the army.

With welfare gone there will be a large crime increase, so I recommend you all go out and get a gun to protect yourself from dole bludging scum (well they wouldn't be dole bludging anymore, they'd just be scum!)


So your civil liberties are going, you are becoming a police state, civilians may end up being sent to war (and quite likely dying in a gruesome death.) Your public services are being wittled away or privatised, many areas are becoming too expensive for normal people to live, the arts are being ignored, your freedoms that you are so proud of are being taken away from you, but you get to show off your millitary muscle and you get to clear the world of evil (whatever evil may be)

Attack a country if it invades an allie and the united nations condones the attack.
Attack a country that threatens your way of life (and is an IMMEDIATE threat, none of this scary premptive nonsense)

My buddy Michael Moore is doing all he can to stop America from becoming a facist state, but all you can do is liken any leftist activity to irrelevant 3rd world dictatorships. We have learned from the mistakes of Communism. We will keep fighting against the conservative agenda and we will stop America from taking over the world.

Wow. Sure glad everybody went to all that effort.

This guy would have us solve problems like poverty, dictatorship, and civil war by scooping everybody up, putting them in a terrarium full of candy canes, and hoping it all works out. It's like pulling a branch off a tree, sticking it in the ground, and then patiently waiting for a forest to bloom. And then acting shocked when all it does is die.

Conservatives understand one simple, stupid, moronic thing that the most salt-of-the-earth gardener understands: for something to grow, it has to take root. That means starting slow, giving it nourishment, migrating bit by bit, carefully assembling the conditions so that natural laws take over.

Society's ills can't be solved with a hammer. (Or a sickle, for that matter.) They can be solved with fertilizer. Sure, it smells like shit. That's what it is. But look what it does.

You can't make poor people rich by giving them handouts. You can't make a country racially harmonious by promoting people from minority groups just because of their skin color. You can't create jobs and a strong economy by forbidding companies to fire anybody. You can't have world peace by shutting down the military and ignoring hideous dictatorships.

You can, however, study Adam Smith. You can read Jefferson and Hamilton. You can make a country wealthy by encouraging individual achievement, and by keeping from stifling it with a government that people come to rely on for more than basic services. When people see their destiny as being in their own hands, they make their own world a better place-- because nobody fouls his own nest, if he can truly call it his own.

Some people look at this viewpoint and see in it a bloodthirsty death-cult mindset that revels in war and empire and racism and aristocracy.

I can shake my head and cluck my tongue and think to myself, At least people like this aren't in charge, and their opinions don't matter. But you know... I'd be wrong.

Monday, October 20, 2003
11:48 - There, there

Penny Arcade:

As Marcus puts it: The cycle is complete.

04:43 - My eyes are open, Tyler

If I were in the game development industry, and I read this collection of covert snapshots of gaming forums gathered by the Something Awful guys, I would kill myself. Many times over if necessary.

I mean, how could you live with it, knowing that this is your audience?

Sunday, October 19, 2003
05:23 - New Iraqi Dinars


Iraq's new bank notes were released on Thursday. Pretty cool, if you ask me, and full of the same high-tech security features that are on our own evil new $20. But, of course, the best feature of all is the lack of Saddam's face.

Note that they are also missing portraits of Bush and Rumsfeld. Somehow.

Incidentally, this is via Healing Iraq, a blog run by a 24-year-old Baghdad dentist.

I'm not sure if the American adminstration deliberately chose this day , October 15th, to start circulating the new Dinar or if it was purely coincidental. Nevertheless the timing is wonderful and so symbolic. Iraqis know this day to be 'thikra al-zahf al-kabir' or the anniversary of The Great March, it can also be translated as The Great Crawl which is more accurate. Saddam's version of elections. It was in October 15th 1995 that Saddam decided to show the world how Iraqis want him and only him to be president 'for life'. So he set up voting centers all over Iraq, so that the people would vote for their 'beloved leader'. Of course it was absurd, there were no other candidates, no political parties, no nothing. Mukhabarat and security agents had already started spreading rumours on the street that the paper you would submit had some kind of watermark that you could be traced by. Of course there was nothing like that, but it was a message to Iraqis that no one could even dream of saying no. The paper ran something like this (I don't recall the exact wording): 'Do you vote for president Saddam Hussein (Allah preserve him), Yes, or No'. It was actually a poll. And it was creepy enough for everyone to say Yes. Of course the voting procedure was carried out in a democratic fashion, armed Baath members hanging around the centers, and sometimes even voting for you, nobody simply could secretly write no and fold the paper and submit it. It was all scrutinized by party members. But some people somehow DID write no, but it didn't change anything. It was all prearranged. It was just a farce. The next day Izzat Ibrahim AlDori (revolutionary council vice president) announced the results proudly to the world: %99.9. And that was it. Each following year after 1995, October 15th was a day for celebration. Last year Saddam pathetically realized the need for another show, seeing how things looked bad for him. It was pretty much the same thing, but this time the results were %100! I clearly remember it because I was almost killed that day...

The guy's worth a read.
Saturday, October 18, 2003
02:56 - Not hyperbole... maybe just parabole?

Interesting comment on an online comic site, "Little Gamers":

In other news, iTunes is out for windows, and PC-folks are laughing at the phrase "Best program for windows ever" they post at the site.
I bet they won't be laughing when they try it, actually, they'll all be crying, crying out for a mac of their own, crying because they run a system that sucks ass (well, not if you're playing games on it, cuz then it's pretty dope).

As commentary from the gamer world goes, that's pretty lofty.

(Meanwhile, my gamer co-worker says that he can already see that iTunes will replace his WinAmp, his CD-ripping software that he hates, MusicMatch, his CD-burning software that doesn't work very well, and his ID3-tag editor. All these functions are neatly wrapped up in this one elegant app.

Well, yeah. That's the idea.)
Friday, October 17, 2003
20:05 - Windows 101 for Diplomats

Before iTunes can perform well as an "ambassador" application to the Windows world, it apparently must learn to speak the language. Or vice versa.

The Punning Pundit has a post in which he describes his first impressions of iTunes for Windows. His conclusion is generally favorable, but the bulk of his post is taken up with gripes, most of which seem to stem from a general misunderstanding of how the application is supposed to work. Now, I'll grant that iTunes does require a little bit of explanation for people who think it's intended to be something it's not; and so while I've responded to the fellow directly in e-mail, I feel it would be a good idea to go through his gripes and address them point by point here, because they're worth discussing.

It took about five minutes to figure things out; the problem is that Mac people just don’t think like PC people, so the buttons are labeled different things and are in different places. Nary an "option" tag to be seen, but most of what I wanted was under "edit". "Edit" is used for other things in Windows, and, well you get the idea...

Windows apps all used to put the Preferences (or Options, or Settings, or whatever they call them this year) into the Edit menu. Then they moved them to the Options menu. Then they moved them to the Tools menu. The location of the Preferences on Windows apps has always been a moving target.

If Apple were to do the Windows version the same way as they did the Mac version, they'd put the Preferences into the Application (iTunes) menu-- but that doesn't exist on Windows. So if they were to do it the Windows way, they'd put it in the Tools menu... but iTunes doesn't have a Tools menu. Apple menus are designed as follows: <Noun> -> <Verb/command>. So, File -> Open. Or Controls -> Play. There is no place for a "Tools" menu. Rather, iTunes has File, Edit, Controls, Visualizer, Advanced, and Window menus. There isn't really a logical place to put the Preferences, is there-- except for under Edit.

Moving on...

Believe me, the difference is easy to hear. To make it a fair test, I ripped the M4A file at the same 320 kbps...

There was a slight difference in Apple’s favor. Not a big one, but a noticeable one. The Apple file was 14 Megs compared to the Mp3’s 10 Megs. I’m not sure if the M4A file is worth a 28% file size increase. And definitely not for a codec that no one else’s software can read...

That's weird. I never saw AAC files that were larger than MP3 files at the same bitrate. Well, maybe not never-- but probably 85% of the time. And it was never much larger.

In any case, it's an open standard-- there's nothing stopping other vendors from developing software that will read AAC files.

The big thing, though, the one thing that turns me off I-Tunes completely is this: Apple re-named all my music files and changed my organizational structure! Remember that friend I mentioned in the earlier paragraph, the one whose files I change as a prank? Well, Apple changed mine as a "convenience". It did have (buried in the bowels of the program) a check-box for “keep the I-Tunes music folder organized”, and didn’t tell me that the I-Tunes folder would be wherever I store my music. It also doesn’t let me set how it is organized. So all the CDs I have by with multiple artists are now scattered all over my music folder, organized by the artist responsible for each track. A sampler CD with 30 artists will now be under 30 different folders. And there is no half way with this thing...

Here's the answer you're looking for:

The deal with iTunes is this: It's not a mere front-end for your MP3 files, like WinAmp is. It's a complete music management system-- designed to handle all your music needs, from importing off CDs, to organizing, to burning to CD, to syncing to iPod, to sharing over the Net. It's all in the one application. And along with that comes the philosophy that you don't organize your music by folder and filename, but by song title and artist and album. It's a content-based interface-- one where you organize your media based on the intrinsic criteria that the media itself carries with it, rather than by some clumsy and ill-suited computer-imposed metaphor like "files" and "folders".

I've written about this at some length, years ago. (Geez, has it really been that long?)

And so the idea is that iTunes organizes all of your MP3 files for you, in the background, changing filenames and folder names to match the ID3 tags that you change within iTunes. This way, you can immediately navigate to any folder in your iTunes Music folder (which is inside your My Music folder), browse by artist, then by album, then by track. When you put in a CD to import from it, iTunes looks up the track names and album info, and it writes out the new files into pre-organized folders in that filesystem structure. But you don't ever have to go into the filesystem to find them-- it's just for your convenience. And you can customize it if you want-- you can have it add track numbers to the filenames, or not; you can even choose not to have it copy all your files to the consolidated folder. That's the default behavior anyway-- if you double-click on an MP3 in some random location in the system, it gets added right where it is. But if you turn on "Copy files to iTunes Music when adding to library", then it'll copy your MP3 files to the consolidated location. "Keep iTunes Music Folder Organized" is what controls whether iTunes renames files according to your ID3 tag edits on the fly. Why would you not do this? Only if you have MP3 files with all those underscores and huge long filenames, I suppose, all in a big flat folder and your own personalized system of browsing through them by folder/filename. Hey, suit yourself, I guess...

In any case, the whole idea is that iTunes will find all the track information when you import new albums, and create its music folders that way. If you already have a collection of MP3s, there's a good chance that their ID3 tags are not all filled in-- and so iTunes is going to have a hell of a time organizing them. But just select them in groups, Get Info, edit the ID3 tags, and let iTunes sort everything out for you. Don't worry, be happy.

And when it comes to compilation albums-- I'd wager that the "Part of a compilation" checkbox is not set in most of these songs' ID3 tags. Well, that's easily enough sorted out, isn't it?

For future imports, you put in the CD, and iTunes automatically figures out that it's a compilation. It then creates the audio files inside a "Compilations" folder, instead of scattering them to thirty different places according to the different artists. (Tip: select all the songs in the album within iTunes, Get Info, and turn on the "Part of a compilation" checkbox. Watch iTunes neatly assemble your files back together in the folders. Let it work as designed.)

Unless, of course, something went wrong in the automatic track lookup...

The other big knock against the I-Tunes is the lack of automatic ID Tag look up. I should clarify; there is a manual look-up, but one so dumb it couldn’t find the Who’s Pinball Wizard. As this is not an obscure song, I can only presume some difficulty on Apple’s end...

Something weird's going on here, because my Windows-using friends assure me that Windows iTunes does indeed do automatic CDDB lookups, just like the Mac version. Put in the CD, wait a few seconds, and iTunes automatically populates all the fields. If it wasn't able to look up your track names, even if you do it manually, suspect a network problem.

iTunes uses the CDDB, aka Gracenote, for its CD lookups. This is not a small database. If iTunes couldn't find information in it for a popular album, there's a network problem. And in any case it's not Apple's fault.

But! If iTunes doesn't find the track names on a CD you've inserted, just select all the tracks, Get Info, and fill them in yourself. Including the "Part of a compilation" checkbox if necessary. You only have to do it once. Then Import.

A more minor knock (but still worth mentioning) is that the player lacks as "pause" button. Seriously. I have to turn the song off if I want to have a moment of silence...

A more minor knock (but still worth mentioning) is that the player's "pause" button is not always present, even when a song is playing. Seriously. If I’m not on the "library" screen while listening to a song, I can't pause it. It’s a minor thing, but anything that makes me do more steps is a pain...

This confuses me. iTunes' Play button turns into a Pause button while it's playing. Or, if you have selected a different music source in the sidebar from the one it's currently playing from, it becomes a Stop button. The idea is that the music source you're currently viewing-- the Music Library, a CD, a playlist, Internet Radio, someone's Shared Music-- is a single big playlist, and if you let iTunes keep playing, it'll keep selecting songs from that window. If you shuffle it, repeat songs, start and stop it, it works all within that music source. But if you select a different music source, then iTunes assumes you're wanting to play music from that source-- and so the Pause button, which implies wanting to stop the music and then continue playing from the original source, instead turns into a Stop button so that the next time you Play, it'll be taking music from the current music source.

The alternative is for iTunes to have both a "Pause"(/Play) button and a "Stop" button... and the difference between them is subtle enough that I think most novice users would be confused. Control buttons should be as few as possible, and as significant as possible. You really want to make the user have to think about whether he or she wants to "stop" or "pause" the song?

Solution? Leave it in a single music source while you're letting iTunes play music on its own. The only reason you'd be switching between music sources a lot, in any case, is if you're playing with the application for the first time. Once you start using it, this will cease to be a problem, I daresay.

Tip: Double-click on any music source (a CD, playlist, whatever) to open it in a second window. Then you can work on that music source, edit its contents, change its settings, whatever you like-- and the music, playing from within the music source in the original window, will have a Pause button instead of a Stop button.

Other than that, I-tunes really is a nice piece of software. It is free (a big plus), fast, small, and has a decent (though non windows-friendly) interface. It is way, way better than Microsoft’s offering (though that isn’t saying much).

You don't say. Now, I suspected that most of the gripes from Windows users would be along the lines of how you can't resize the window by gripping the edges-- like in Windows-- or how the scrollbars are Aqua-themed. But these gripes are mostly founded in misconceptions about what iTunes is for, and how it operates. Yes, yes, I understand the irony of it all-- Mac software is supposed to be so intuitive! And iTunes is supposed to be such a great example of it! And yet here I am, having to write this long-winded essay explaining how to use it! Uh huh, yeah, I know. All very humbling and all that.

But, look-- for the new computer user, iTunes eliminates the need to think about "MP3 files". That's its entire point. If you come into iTunes expecting it to be a non-intrusive front-end like WinAmp, letting you keep your old MP3-collecting lifestyle intact while running iTunes under its default settings, I'm afraid you're cruising for a bit of a shock. Making friends with iTunes means giving up a goodly number of preconceived notions about how MP3s and digital music work-- you have to let go of obsessive control over filenames and folders in the filesystem; you have to work with ID3 tags and automatic lookups rather than manually organizing lists of files in folders to specify playlists. iTunes frees you from an immense amount of organizational hassle-- but if you try to hold on to what you have come to expect MP3 files to do under Windows, then making your habits reconcile with how iTunes does business makes things way more difficult than either the WinAmp method or the Mac method on its own could ever be.

UPDATE: Kris reminds me that in the iTunes installation wizard on Windows, there's a screen where it asks you whether you want it to automatically keep your Music folder organized... and it defaults to off.

I should also point out that this is exactly what I was afraid of, with taking iTunes to Windows: iTunes on the Mac is designed to take advantage of the Unique File IDs in the HFS+ filesystem, so even if you move your files around on the disk, iTunes will still be able to find them, even if you turn off "Keep my iTunes Music folder organized". But under Windows, it can't do that; if you move a file from where iTunes thinks it is, it'll lose track of that file. This complicates matters quite a bit, when it comes to the whole question of automatically copying files into the iTunes Music folder, or where to put newly created files. Ideally it should all still "just work" (iTunes should only copy files from their existing locations into iTunes Music, not move them-- and anything that it would automatically rearrange must be inside the iTunes Music folder to begin with, so I don't understand how any of the original structure can have been "lost")-- but hey, this wouldn't be the first time that what looks like a bug actually turns out to be a misunderstood feature.

04:58 - Homer sleep now

I'm done.

With the primary writing task, anyway. Now comes author review.

And in the meantime, back to the deck-building and trim-painting...

Thursday, October 16, 2003
13:43 - But... but... but... free speeeeeech!

What the blithering hell is wrong with Guardian readers?

The paper's site removed the thread on their discussion forums which had the title "Is it time to assasinate George Dubya Bush?"

And, as LGF notes, the forum denizens are now bitching and whining about "free speech".

I would like to challenge the Guardian Media Group Plc to come up with a reasonable explanation why this page was deleted. I can come up with hundreds examples of risky articles printed by their journalists - most of which I usually support. An abonimation of free speach and human justice.

Then someone points out:

You people have a skewed idea of what 'free speech' is.

Free speech does not apply to a private entity that posts rules and guidelines as to what is acceptable behavior on their privately owned and controlled medium.

Free speech also does not allow one to shout 'fire' in a crowded theater or 'Hi Jack' at the airport.

To which the insightful response was:

Inkind - but free speech does allow one to ask questions does it not? Would you prefer something like - 'Should George W be removed from office by the same means he removed Sadaam Hussain?'. After all, whats good for the goose....

I had a witty retort, but... really. I can't even say anything that does this justice.

I mean, what can you say about people who feel passionately enough to argue in its favor, that Bush should be assassinated because he ousted Saddam Hussein?

And what can you say about people who think that "free speech" is anything but the Constitutional guarantee that the government-- let me say that again, loudly and clearly: THUUUHHH GUUUHHHVERRRNMEEENT... shall not abridge the people's right to express their opinions freely? It is not some cosmic force that applies to all discussions in public and private, hosted by commercial entities or conducted in one's own home, whereby you can justify even the most anti-social and hateful statements by shaking your fist at the walls and yelling free speeech! To hear these people talk, which I have done on occasion, they act as though "free speech" is some word they can call out, like "Sanctuary!", which immediately will strike dumb any opponents who wish to punch the speaker in the mouth for publicly advocating the murder of their elected leader.

Incitement to violence is not a protected form of free speech, numbnuts.

And what's more, why is it that the most pacifistic liberals I know are also the people who are most apt to personal physical violence? A couple of months ago, we were heading out to lunch; someone asked where we wanted to go, and I made some silly pun about a nearby restaurant, as I am wont to do. And this one co-worker, one of the most ardent techno-hippies and promulgators of anti-war and anti-Bush rhetoric in the office, without hesitation spun around and kicked me in the balls. Oh, sure, he didn't mean to actually connect, and he apologized profusely while I lay writhing on the floor. But listen, man! It's not me, the rabid warmonger, who countenances physical violence against his fellow man! But if you go to any "peace" demonstration, you're as likely as not to find smashed windows, fist-fights, forcible suppression of cameramen like Evan Coyne Maloney-- I mean, just look at this:

Why is it that people like these Guardian commenters always seem to act like murder and violence are the way to react when democracy doesn't go their way? I'm all for not allowing political power to fall into the hands of people with that twisted an idea of how a democratic form of government works.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003
20:59 - Project Crossbow

In reading this Rand Simberg piece on the various pro- and con- and indifferent-to- takes on the Chinese space program (congratulations on a safe landing to taikonaut Yang Liwei, by the way), I was reminded of something that had occurred to me earlier today:

This is not to say, of course, that we should be totally complacent about Chinese space activities. While it doesn't justify a surge in NASA budgets, it should cause concern from a military standpoint.

We've seen recently how valuable, even critical our space assets are to our military capability. In the middle of a war on a new form of fascism in the Middle East, of uncertain length and a cloudy trajectory, we cannot risk the loss of the satellites that not only save many of our soldiers' lives, but those of innocent noncombatants as well.

The Chinese were also no doubt watching, with the rest of the world, the precision devastation that we wreaked on first the Taliban, and then, even more precisely, on Saddam's regime, often destroying individual tanks while leaving civilian vehicles parked right next to them unscathed. They know that our power to do that comes from orbit, and that if they can come up with systems that can negate that advantage by blinding our eyes in the sky, and silencing our guidance signals, our military ability will be crippled, and back on more of a parity with other powers, including themselves.

If they can do so, then there will indeed be a danger, but it's not at all obvious that their present manned space program puts them on a path to that goal, any more than it puts them on a path to the Moon, in any timely or affordable fashion.

What I suddenly thought of was one of my all-time favorite movies, Real Genius.

Never mind the utterly joyous 80s nostalgia that it evokes, for anyone who's seen it (the scene at the end, with "Everybody Wants To Rule the World" playing over the slow-motion college conspirators cavorting in torrents of popcorn, then fading to the nice brief understated credits that movies had back then, actually brings a tear of lost youth to my eye); never mind, even, the fact that the "Pacific Tech" depicted in the movie was in fact meant to represent my own alma mater in Pasadena, where the sights and sounds and events and wall-scribblings in 1994-99 were so languidly parallel to the 1985 analog-synth geekery seen throughout the movie that I feel better represented by Chris Knight and Mitch Taylor than by any icon of the post-Internet-revolution world.

No, what I was thinking of, with some startlement, was the general premise of the movie.

HOLLYFELD: I've been thinking about your laser solution. I figure you've increased the output to six megawatts.

CHRIS: Yeah.

HOLLYFELD: What would you use that for?

MITCH: The applications are unlimited. Industrial for one.

HOLLYFELD: With the power source you've come up with, the beam would only last fifteen seconds. What good is that?

CHRIS: I don't care, Laslo. I graduated.

MITCH: Let the engineers figure out a use for it. That's not our concern.

HOLLYFELD: Maybe somebody already has a use for it, one for which it's explicitly designed.

JORDAN: You mean Hathaway had something in mind all along?

HOLLYFELD: Looks at the facts: Very high power. Portable. Limited firing time. Unlimited range. All you'd need is a big spinning mirror and you could vaporize a human target from space.

CHRIS: ...This is not good.

Turns out the mega-laser the pure young geniuses have been working on all this time is meant to be made into an orbital beam weapon, as cooked up in a dimly-lit, smoke-filled Pentagon boardroom in the movie's opening scene. And when the realization dawns on Chris and Mitch that they have somehow not been able to detect this possible use for the thing, the project being directed by Evil Dr. Hathaway (sponsored by DEI, of course), the reaction-- on their part and on that of the audience-- is horrified shock. "How could you build that mirror? Chris shouts rhetorically to the absent Kent. The protagonists are betrayed, their very ideals shivered to the core. The scientific breakthrough they've achieved, to them for the pure love of contour integrals and radiatively coupled ground states, is headed into space to be used against... well... against...

...See, that's where my mind was hanging up this morning; it's where the Tears For Fears soundtrack started skipping a beat. What, exactly, was the movie saying was so evil about the antagonists, Dr. Hathaway and his DoD bosses?

Was it... their betrayal of the kids' pure scientific motives for personal gain?

Was it... Chris' realization that he is only graduating because he did the professor's bidding, and not because of his actual academic merit?

Was it... hmm... let's see...

Was it simply that the United States was building a weapon that could target and destroy a person at will, anywhere on the planet?

Forgive me for saying so, but these days, Project Crossbow sounds like a dandy idea.

The tenor of the movie, mired in its Reagan-era cynicism about "Star Wars" and the rapidly vanishing Soviet threat (though the "Project Crossbow" promo video shown to the Pentagon brass featured an anonymous South American drug boss of some sort-- all the more ominous, it's meant to be, since it's just some guy relaxing by the pool with a drink, zapped from his chair while the butler's back is turned-- he wasn't hurting anybody, was he?), keeps coming back to the very idea that a weapon of any kind is evil incarnate. Cut the crap, Kent! You built a weapon! shouts Mitch into Kent's head, tapping into his rival's braces to amplify his voice and embody himself as the sepulchral presence of Jesus. And this horrifies even the weaselly Kent, who from that point on goes from sneering, hated nemesis to sympathetic, shuffling dupe who is redeemed by the purity of his faith in his professor. The very idea! A weapon! As though the top private universities in America aren't dedicated to pushing the limits of science first and foremost in the interest of national defense advances. I mean, who's fooling whom? I never even thought about this until just today-- which is really weird, since I've watched the movie at least a couple of times on DVD recently-- but perhaps the least credible concept in the entire movie (except for that dumb-ass line from Mitch about "liquid nitrogen", in reference to the solid cylinder of ice from which Chris saws a quarter-sized chunk for the vending machine-- a visually clumsy piece of flubbed direction that made a lot more sense on paper) is the idea that nobody in the group-- not Chris, not Mitch, not Jordan, not Kent, not even Laslo until his steam-tunnel epiphany-- even considered what the practical purposes of a six-megawatt laser would be.

Of course it makes sense once you think about it, as Laslo illustrates. What else could it be?

But this is the turning point in the movie, when the antagonist role shifts from the Kent-Hathaway Axis of Arrogant Lab-Politics to the decidedly more sinister Department of Defense brass and their B-1 test harness for the laser, targeted at a dummy motorcade (intended probably to represent Gorbachev and his retinue, but looking suspiciously like Kennedy in Dallas). Our Heroes dedicate their brains toward defeating the ones who are revealed to be the true villains: the US Government and their diabolical plans to attack unspecified bad guys from orbit. It's a moral imperative.

Which, of course, they do. And there was much rejoicing, amid mounds of popcorn in the ruins of Hathaway's new house.

And the Evil US Government is foiled again. It'll have to look elsewhere for its weapons of death, thankyouverymuch.

This is 1985's view upon the nature of war and its role in the technological future: We have far too much death and destruction right now, thank you. Kindly keep your Death Beams out of the skies, Mr. President. We have no need for such things in the modern world.

Just imagine, though, if Clinton had had such a thing at his beck after the 1993 WTC bombing.

Nowadays we're seeing the benefits of the God Button-- Predator drones icing terrorists in their cars who didn't even know they were in danger, unmanned bombers taking out ground targets painted by forward observers with GPS units, those concrete-filled Acme Guided Anvils that eviscerated Saddam's T-72s without even the need to explode. We have the technology now, and it's being used against the bad guys-- who are seeing more and more that the more omnipotent their enemy appears, the more futile their own cause is and the less incentive they should have to pursue it. As it should be.

Yet somehow I get the suspicion that if Real Genius were to be remade today, the writers would look surreptitiously for a somewhat different prototypical Evil to hang the story from than the Pentagon and its ludicrous mad quest to find ever better and more effective and more targeted weapons against those unspecified, anonymous, third-world, cave-dwelling supervillains who might want to wreak their maniacal plans against American interests. (Scoff, scoff. <cough>)

So now I get a better idea of the kind of memes that I grew up with, the kinds of ideas that seemed-- even until this very morning-- to be so unremarkable as to fail to raise one of my eyebrows. Weapons are bad, says the movie, and I nod and laugh at the caricatures. Of course weapons are bad. And of course the Pentagon is evil for wanting more of them.

If only we could live in a world where science nerds got megamillion-dollar funding to build six-megawatt lasers purely for the joy of discovery and scientific advancement, right?

Sheesh. Goes to show, I guess, that grads of that little temple of learning on California Boulevard who go on to write movies about their transcendental experiences there on campus might indeed be real geniuses... but their senses of reality are impaired to the point of catastrophic material failure by the surreal atmosphere of the place.

First-hand experience tells me that it's no stretch for such a thing to happen to a guy. (The student who snaps and freaks out in the study hall in one of the montages-- one of the best scenes in the whole movie-- could have been taken straight from one of the South House lounges on any given Thursday night.) That doesn't, however, excuse him from snapping out of it once it's all over.

UPDATE: John writes to point out that we do have these kinds of weapons now, sorta. (And also sorta.) He's right, too-- in a world where someone is eventually going to have weapons like this, I'm glad it's us. I think the world could do far worse (and has done) than to trust us to be the keepers of the flame.

18:58 - Your concern is noted

Earlier today:

BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip - A remote-controlled bomb tore apart an armored vehicle in a U.S. diplomatic convoy Wednesday, killing three American security guards and wounding a fourth in the first deadly attack on a U.S. target in the Palestinian territories.

The attack, on a convoy of U.S. Embassy diplomats entering Gaza to interview Palestinian candidates for a Fulbright scholarship, was a dramatic departure from typical militant operations, which usually target Israeli soldiers and civilians. It was almost certain to lead to greater U.S. pressure for a Palestinian crackdown on militant groups.

"Palestinian authorities should have acted long ago to fight terror in all its forms," President Bush (news - web sites) said, blaming Palestinian officials for the attack.

Yeah. Killing American diplomats who are there interviewing Fullbright applicants. That sure sends a rational message of legitimate resistance against oppression. We read you loud and clear.

"HalfLife" from LGF:

NPR just had John Burns on (from the NYTimes), and he reported that the stone-throwing "Allahu Akbar" chanterss near the bomb site had to be dispersed twice, once by Palestinian police shooting over their heads, and once by an Israeli tank shooting over their heads (after which he added something about "tear gas")...

When the journalists were finally allowed in, he says he saw a crowd of 600 or so, and they stoned the journalists. He said they were laughing and smiling, and at first he thought they were friendly [how stupid can he be?], but then they started throwing rocks, shattering the car's windows... He said he was at the rear of the convoy of journalists, if his driver hadn't managed to speed away from the scene, it could have been bad... They were actually chasing the car! He admitted it was terrifying.

Yes, Virginia, they hate you too. They'd probably have killed even the beatified Rachel Corrie, who died defending the tunnels that were probably used to smuggle in these bombs, if she were in the crowd. And "terrified" or not, she'd probably welcome death, for it came at the hands of her beloved pet cause. Like this brain-donor who said it would be an honor to be eaten by a bear... and is now duly honored.

IndyMedia blames the attack on the Jews:

The zionazi foe has attacked a U.S. diplomatic convoy in order to win the sympathy of Americans. Recent opinion polls had shown a tremendous drop in Americans' support for the zionists with Americans holding zionists equally responsible for violence. Consequently, the zionazis have launched an attack on the U.S. vehicles in a desperate ploy to blame Palestinians and detract from any possible media focus on yesterday's 50th anniversary of the zionazi genocide at Qibya. The article below shows that Zionazi tanks were already in position to make full use of the opportunity.

It must be a form of what Lileks calls "English Major Disease" that leads cosseted Western college students to look for the insightful hidden meaning in everything that turns the obvious interpretation of an event on its head. Four years of seeking the all-important top-of-the-bell-curve grade leads a person to see a world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wild flower-- and a swastika in the Star of David, and an international Zionist conspiracy in the World Trade Center crashing down. It's an obsessive need to find historical parallels to contemporary events, even if it involves stretching credibility beyond its elastic limit-- and to react to the latter events as though they were the former, as though by treating 9/11 like it's the Reichstag Fire, these people get to atone for their not being alive in time to prevent the actual Hitler from rising to power. This kind of mental onanism is what makes a person refuse to believe there's such a thing as real Good and Evil in the world; just because he's never experienced true Evil, for him it doesn't exist, and all reality is relative.

These people are going to eviscerate this country. Especially since the Democratic candidates seem so busy trolling for their oh-so-willing votes.

And for a finale, here's instant reaction from the Arab News:

Oh, for the voice of reason that was M. Khalil.

12:49 - For your edification

Via J.M. Heinrichs:

Puretracks.com, Canada's first legal online music service, was launched amid much fanfare yesterday, with record industry executives saying the service could prop up faltering sales caused by free downloading sites.

The service, which as of yesterday was offering 175,000 tracks from a wide variety of artists, hopes to draw fans who want to download music legally. Its launch was called "a watershed moment in Canadian music history" by Alistair Mitchell, co-chief executive of Moontaxi Media Inc.

Fees, which customers can pay with credit cards or a "cash card" that can be purchased at retail stores, start at 99¢ for a song and $9.99 per album.

Buyers can save the files on their hard drives or burn them onto CDs, but the service limits the number of times the files can be transferred.

Until now, Canadians were unable to legally download music from sites like Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes due to copyright restrictions that are determined on a country-by-country basis.

Sounds like a good idea.

Maybe too good.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003
12:49 - Wow. Three points!

I usually think my nasal cavity is fairly safe from having to pass carbonated liquid through it when I'm reading Steven Den Beste.

We have to take candidates as packages, and can't really pick and choose features to create a best-of-breed candidate (i.e. Clinton's charisma combined with Dole's erectile dysfunction).


12:04 - The least REMF President ever

Following a sudden rebound in Bush's popularity rating, which has been sagging lately under an early campaign warmup by the Democrats that has gone largely uncontested from the White House, there's this Guardian article by George Monbiot, found by Tim Blair:

Now Bush, of course, is commander-in-chief as well as president, and he has every right to address the troops. But this commander-in-chief goes far beyond the patriotic blandishments of previous leaders. He sometimes dresses up in the uniform of the troops he is meeting.

He quotes their mottoes and songs, retells their internal jokes, mimics their slang. He informs the "dog-faced soldiers" that they are "the rock of Marne", or asks naval cadets whether they gave "the left-handed salute to Tecumseh, the God of 2.0". The television audience is mystified, but the men love him for it. He is, or so his speeches suggest, one of them.

He starts by leading them in chants of "Hoo-ah! Hoo-ah!", then plasters them with praise and reminds them that their pay, healthcare and housing (unlike those of any other workers in America) are being upgraded. After this, they will cheer everything he says. So he uses these occasions to attack his opponents and announce new and often controversial policies.

The marines were the first to be told about his interstate electricity grid; he instructed the American Legion about the reform of the Medicare programme; last week he explained his plans for the taxation of small businesses to the national guard. The troops may not have the faintest idea what he's talking about, but they cheer him to the rafters anyway. After that, implementing these policies looks like a patriotic duty.

This strikes me as an abuse of his position as commander-in-chief, rather like the use of Air Force One (the presidential aeroplane) for political fundraising tours...

...Or like landing on the USS Lincoln to congratulate the troops after taking Baghdad, yes?

Monbiot finds it creepy that Bush is so conversant with military slang and the soldier's mindset. He thinks it's a cheap shot, a low blow-- that if Bush tells the Marines about his kooky plans first of all, after buttering them up with carefully rehearsed lines, they'll believe anything he tells them-- and that this will immediately confer a landslide popular victory to Bush in 2004. 'Cause, you know, like, every able-bodied registered voter in the United States is in the military. Or something.

Monbiot mutters about facts and figures from socialist websites and "appointed" Presidents, in what I honestly don't have the time to decode. (Hey, there's a reason why I haven't been posting much of anything for the past few days. Deadlines. The kind that make you wonder whether it might be a good idea to run away to live in a cave for a few years until it all blows over.)

But as Blair notes, this article is more telling than I think Monbiot intends. It means that Bush is, quite frankly, a lot more shrewd than those who dismiss him so rapidly as a "moron" can imagine believing. Those whose comedy routines and book proposals are predicated on verbal gaffes and SNL-esque caricatures of the President won't want for material, certainly, because the feckless and moronic caricature version of Bush has taken on a life of its own-- owing nothing to reality, it nonetheless comes across as received wisdom to anybody already predilected toward believing it. And Bush the actual person does little to dispel the myths.

Except to the military, apparently.

It's easy to dismiss his landing on the Lincoln as a "publicity stunt", a cheap and cynical ploy to bolster morale among the only constituency he really cares about during wartime. But look: The man did not just stretch a flightsuit over a beer gut, hoist himself into the back seat of an escorted military transport, and land at a base under guard somewhere. He took a Navy jet-- an S-3B Viking-- and what's more, he flew it:

Bush said he did take a turn at piloting the craft.
"Yes, I flew it. Yeah, of course, I liked it," said Bush, who was an F-102 fighter pilot in the Texas Air National Guard after graduating from Yale University in 1968.

What the Secret Service didn't allow him to do-- aside from taking an FA-18, which Bush reportedly wanted to do, but the spooks were going to be having none of that, opting instead for the Viking, the safest jet in the fleet, and painting "Navy 1" on the tail-- was land the thing. Do you know how dangerous it is to land on an aircraft carrier, even in a Viking? Do you know how hard it is? Anybody who's ever played a flight-simulator game might think it's a bitch, but it's quite a bit more intense than any game can convey. The noise, the vibrations, the G-forces, the sudden deceleration... and the constant knowledge that the slightest misstep or mechanical failure will send you skidding off the deck into the water a hundred feet below where you'll sink before they can rescue you, or plowing into the stern of the carrier in a blazing fireball. People die in carrier landings all the time-- and these are trained pilots, people who do it for a living, who do it every day. And this time it was carrying a sitting President of the United States. The man whose personal safety is probably guarded with more obsession and paranoia and infrastructure than any other in the entire world. The man who, if the Secret Service had its way, would be encased head-to-toe in Nerf from swearing-in to stepping-down.

If you ask me, this is an entirely fitting way to commemorate the event. (And for what it's worth, I can't think of too many Presidents who would have looked hotter in that flightsuit.)

All this means that the message that Bush means to sent to the soldiers, very explicitly, is that I understand what it's like to be one of you. Clinton might have put on the Basset-hound eyes while telling the cameras that "I feel your pain", but who could really take that seriously? But imagine yourself as a Navy pilot on the Lincoln. To see your commander-in-chief come sailing in on a Viking, after having flown it at least part of the way, and then go through a real, honest-to-God deck landing, catch the arrest wire, and step out wreathed in smiles... well, there's not a man on that deck, or indeed in the whole military, who didn't receive the message loud and clear. The message was-- and this has been said before, but it bears repeating-- that this is a President willing to put himself through the same trials and risks that he asks of his armed forces. I mean, let's be truthful here: In landing on that carrier, Bush put himself at greater risk of life and limb than perhaps any President has been in during living memory, barring assassination attempts. And it's not recklessness; it's a carefully calculated way to convey familiarity and confidence in a very crucial time. Many Presidents are criticized as what we now hear to be "chickenhawks"-- people willing to send other people to fight wars, but who aren't willing to go and fight themselves. Bush himself has taken barbs-- a pale attempt at mirroring the draft-dodger accusations against Clinton-- for "dodging danger" in Vietnam by flying in the Texas Air Guard instead of going to the front lines. Well, the only way Bush could have dispelled that criticism any more effectively is if he rode into Nasiriyah standing on the front of an M-1 Abrams, waving a Kabar and shouting commands through FO gear.

Is this disingenuous? Is he ignoring the rest of America while pandering to the military? Somehow I don't think so. If he's shrewd enough to acquaint himself with soldier slang like "the God of 2.0", which apparently the audience ate up with more gusto than how the Germans received "Ich bin ein Berliner", then he's intelligent enough to understand that the military does not represent the entire country when it comes time for elections. He knows full well that he'll have to turn his attention to the domestic campaign trail before too long.

But first things first. Right now, the biggest reason why this war is no Vietnam is that Bush is no Nixon-- or Johnson. And the men know it.

UPDATE: I also heard him a few days ago telling a bunch of Cuban-Americans that Cuba será pronto libre. His pronunciation wasn't that of a linguist-- he'd clearly rehearsed it-- but it did sound more natural than "Ik bin aahhyn buh-linnah". I think this is as close as we're going to get to the grand old days when politicians were expected to speak at least five languages fluently.

Friday, October 10, 2003
15:42 - This can't be right

Via Balloon Juice-- a stark look at the terrible cost of the quagmire in Iraq.

I can't quote. I'll just copy the whole thing. The wider this can spread, the better.

L. Paul Bremer

Coalition Provisional Authority Administrator

Opening Remarks

Press Conference 9 October 2003

Six months ago today Coalition Forces liberated Baghdad.  I am sure that many of you were as thrilled as I was to see Saddam’s statue and his regime fall.

Most, but not all, of what has happened since then is good.

The Coalition has completed over 13,000 reconstruction projects, large and small, as part of our strategic plan for the reconstruction of Iraq.  That plan has four elements:

·      Create a Secure Environment.
·      Begin Restoration of Essential Services.
·      Begin to Transform the Economy.
·      Begin the Transformation to Democracy.

Before taking your questions I would like to review briefly some of the progress in each of these areas.

Create a Secure Environment.

Six months ago there were no police on duty in Iraq.

·      Today there are over 40,000 police on duty, nearly 7,000 here in Baghdad alone.

·      Last night Coalition Forces and Iraqi police conducted 1,731 joint patrols.

Six months ago those elements of Saddam’s military that had not been destroyed in combat had buried their airplanes and melted away.

·      Today the first battalion of the new Iraqi Army has graduated and is on active duty. 

·      Across the country over 60,000 Iraqis now provide security to their fellow citizens.

Six months ago there were no functioning courts in Iraq.

·      Today nearly all of Iraq’s 400 courts are functioning. 
·      Today, for the first time in over a generation, the Iraqi judiciary is fully independent.

As today’s events have made clear, much remains to be done to establish an acceptable security environment.  Even so, things have improved enough to ease the curfew in Baghdad to only four hours.

Begin Restoration of Essential Services.

Six months ago the entire country could generate a bare 300 megawatts of electricity.

·      On Monday, October 6 power generation hit 4,518 megawatts—exceeding the pre-war average.

·      Please notice these photos of central Iraq:

o    The first was taken February 1, 2003.
o    The second was taken April 11.
o    The third was taken October 1.

·      If we get the funding the President has requested in his emergency budget, we expect to produce enough electricity for all Iraqis to have electrical service 24 hours daily—something essential to their hopes for the future.

Six months ago nearly all of Iraq’s schools were closed.

·      Today all 22 universities and 43 technical institutes and colleges are open, as are nearly all primary and secondary schools.

·      Many of you know that we announced our plan to rehabilitate one thousand schools by the time school started—well, by October 1 we had actually rehabbed over 1,500.

Six months ago teachers were paid as little as $5.33 per month.

·      Today teachers earn from 12 to 25 times their former salaries.

Six months ago the public health system was an empty shell.  During the 1990’s Saddam cut spending on public health by over 90 percent with predictable results for the lives of his citizens.

·      Today we have increased public health spending to over 26 times what it was under Saddam.

·      Today all 240 hospitals and more than 1200 clinics are open.

·      Today doctors’ salaries are at least eight times what they were under Saddam.

·      Pharmaceutical distribution has gone from essentially nothing to 700 tons in May to a current total of 12,000 tons.

·      Since liberation we have administered over 22 million vaccination doses to Iraq’s children.

Six months ago three-quarters of Iraq’s 27,000 kilometers of irrigation canals were weed-choked and barely functional.

·      Today a Coalition program has cleared over 14,000 kilometers of those canals.  They now irrigate tens of thousands of farms.  This project has created jobs for more than 100,000 Iraqi men and women.

Additionally, we have restored over three-quarters of pre-war telephone services and over two-thirds of the potable water production.

Before the war there were 4,500 Internet connections and important services, such as instant messaging were forbidden.

·      Today there are 4,900 full-service connections.
·      We expect 50,000 by January first.

Begin to Transform the Economy.

Six months ago Iraq’s economy was flat on its back.

·      Today anyone walking the streets can see the wheels of commerce turning.  From bicycles to satellite dishes to cars and trucks, businesses are coming to life in all major cities and towns.

Six months ago all banks were closed.

·      Today 95 percent of all pre-war bank customers have service and first-time customers are opening accounts daily.

·      Today Iraqi banks are making loans to finance businesses.

·      Today the central bank is fully independent.

·      Today Iraq has one of the world’s most growth-oriented investment and banking laws.

Six months ago Iraq had two currencies.

·      Next week Iraq will get a single, unified currency for the first time in 15 years.

Begin the Transformation to Democracy.

Six months ago there was no freedom of expression.  Satellite dishes were illegal.  Foreign journalists came on 10-day visas and paid mandatory and extortionate fees to the Ministry of Information for “minders” and other government spies. 

·      Today there is no Ministry of Information.

·      Today there are more than 170 newspapers.

·      Today you can buy satellite dishes on what seems like every street corner.

·      Today foreign journalists and everyone else are free to come and go.

Six months ago Iraq had not one single element—legislative, judicial or executive-- of a representative government.

·      Today in Baghdad alone residents have selected 88 advisory councils.  Baghdad’s first democratic transfer of power in 35 years happened when the city council elected its new chairman.

·      Today in Iraq chambers of commerce, business, school and professional organizations are electing their leaders all over the country.

·      Today 25 ministers, selected by the most representative governing body in Iraq’s history, run the day-to-day business of government.

·      Today the Iraqi government regularly participates in international events.  Since July the Iraqi government has been represented in over two dozen international meetings, including those of the UN General Assembly, the Arab League, the World Bank and IMF and, today, the Islamic Conference Summit.  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs today announced that it is reopening over 30 Iraqi embassies around the world.

Six months ago Shia religious festivals were all but banned.

·      Today, for the first time in 35 years, in Karbala thousands of Shiites celebrate the pilgrimage of the 12th Imam.

In six short months we have accomplished a lot.

We are also aware that the progress we have made is only a beginning.  A quarter century of negligence, cronyism and war mongering have devastated this country.  Such profound damage cannot be repaired overnight.

Bringing Iraq up to minimum self-sufficiency will require the full $20 billion the President has asked of Congress in his supplemental budget request. 

We are fighting terrorism here and we will continue to fight it until it no longer threatens the hopes of Iraqis, the hopes of the world.

The importance and urgency of this task was underscored for all of us today when terrorists car-bombed a police station and assassinated a Spanish diplomat.

As the President just said, “We will wage the war on terror until it is won.”

And as we all know, the penultimate paragraph nullifies all the rest of it. Remember, our involvement in Iraq is a dismal failure founded on lies and deception, and deeply contrary to American values.

And since the war's end, the only thing our millions of highly-trained babykilling amphetamine-freak warrior-cavemen have done is ride around in SUVs, raping local girls and making pregnant women eat depleted uranium and making fun of Muslims at prayer, when they're not being blown up by Iraqi Patriots dropping grenades from overpasses.

And Bush just wants that $87 billion so he can buy yachts in which to zoom around Umm Qasr.


11:44 - But ... he's from Aus... nnnnever mind

There's just something encouraging and heartwarming and no small bit silly about this.

Afghan children smile in front of a billboard featuring Hollywood action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kabul on Wednesday. The man they know as "Arnold, the American man, the bodybuilder", was elected as the new governor of California. REUTERS/Rathavary Duong

Via Tim Blair.

Thursday, October 9, 2003
20:44 - Frank J. Quote of the Day

Tips to Ahnuld:

* I know you campaigned saying you're for gun control, but come on; you're Arnold. Liberalize laws on guns and then save money by cutting the police force in a program called "Shoot Your Own Damn Criminals".

Hee hee hee.

13:51 - O'really?

In between legs of a journey once again to Home Despot to pick up trifling little tidbits like MORE GIANT CREOSOTE-SOAKED RAILROAD TIES, which I sincerely hope is the last we'll ever have to see of these things, I heard the Fresh Air interview that aired last night with Bill O'Reilly. Bill walked out fifty minutes in, after telling Terry Gross in no uncertain terms that he thought her interviewing tactics were despicable and that he was being made the unfair victim of a hatchet job.

The audio stream is here. And it's worth a listen, because both O'Reilly (on his own show) and Terry proudly broadcast the interview, each thinking that it exonerated him/herself and made the other person look like a dunce or bitch (as the case may be). O'Reilly said, "I rather enjoyed telling her off; go listen to the archived interview on my own site and see what I mean"; but Terry actually used that quote in her packaging of the show, appealing to the "I'm the unbiased one! See? Look, I don't even use any adjectives in describing how the interview went!" contingent.

And I listened. I was interested in hearing exactly how the interview deteriorated.

The subject was nominally O'Reilly's book, Who's Looking Out For You?-- though it turned out to be more about Al Franken's book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, which skewers O'Reilly. And the very first question that Terry led off with was, "Are you sorry you sued Al Franken?"

This was only the first in a long string of erroneous accusations that Terry leveled at him, and O'Reilly deflected them all with facts and personal statements of purpose. Now, I can see how some people might consider O'Reilly to be a pompous ass-- he says things like "I have three bestselling books, Terry," and unless you realize the context is that he's trying to explain that he doesn't want the Times reviewing them because he knows they'll only turn it into an excuse to attack him, it sounds rather high-handed. But by the time O'Reilly got to the point where he drew himself up to his full height and really told her off, it was clear (to me, at least) that he was entirely right in thinking that the interview had been very little but a long string of attacks that he was expected to fend off, hopefully saying something potentially embarrassing along the way "that they can print in Harper's Magazine". Terry's questioning consisted almost entirely of reading disparaging quotes against O'Reilly that other authors and reviewers had made, and then asking him: "So, is that a fair assessment?" It's like "Al Franken here calls you, and I quote: A snooty nutcase who's brainwashed into going lock-step with the party line and clubs baby seals. How do you respond to that?" Over and over and over. The only thing that wasn't along those lines was in the middle of the interview, where she asked him, in effect, So you're conservative, huh? How did you get that way? Did you have a bad childhood? Were you abused by your father? Is it maybe some kind of medical condition? Please explain to our listeners; I'm sure they really want to know.

O'Reilly seemed unaware of what Fresh Air is about. If he had, he might have been well aware of how "balanced" Terry's choice of guests and interview formats is. She had clearly not been as confrontational with Al Franken when she'd had him on a previous show, as O'Reilly charged in a surmise-- she admitted as much. And last week, when she hosted the guy from Americans For Tax Reform (who, incidentally, was erudite and genuinely pleasant and inspiring to listen to-- especially his bit about being a "Reagan Federalist", in the sense that he believes each State should have to compete for "customers"-- citizens-- by providing the best bang for the buck, or else they'll move to a different State), she listened to what he had to say with genuine and abject horror. When the guy explained how any kind of tax that divides people based on their income is sold to the public based on how many people are likely to be alarmed by it ("Don't worry-- it's not you that's being affected by this, it's them-- it's someone else"), it's based on the same kind of mentality that led to the Nazis' actions, Terry audibly blinked a few times, interrupted him, and said, "Did... did you just compare a progressive tax to the Holocaust?" And the guy had to explain it all over again-- he didn't backtrack or rethink what he was saying, but he had to drive it all home again to try to counter Terry's Godwin-esque attempt to drive her shiv into his credibility. It's a real shame that she didn't simply listen to what the guy was saying, and respond intelligently, rather than just using her unassuming and melodic voice to caress and massage and look for just the right chink in the guest's armor where she can zero in for the kill.

As for O'Reilly, I think he acquitted himself with dignity, though Terry did her best to damage-control her way out of it with matter-of-factness and making a big show of how unemotional she was in presenting The Facts. I think O'Reilly was plenty justified in feeling threatened and under attack by her questioning-- I know I wouldn't have enjoyed spending an hour countering disparaging remarks made against me by my rivals. I'm proud of Fresh Air for posting the transcript, because I do think it's more damning against Fresh Air than it is against O'Reilly.

13:24 - Sleep deprivation is a terrible thing

Refer to Savage Garden.

When alcohol and cholesterol are runnin' through your veins
And lawyers suing burger joints are poisoning my brain
Vegan food and whole-wheat pizza pushin' me too far
I've got to break away
So take my hand now
Cause I want to live like cannibals
Healthy and free, like cannibals
I want to live
I want to run through the jungle
For arms and the ribs and the eyes and the feet...

I've been having difficulties shopping at the store
Unexpected cravings always leave me wanting more
Cannibals are onto something, Stouffer's doesn't see
Which one eats a human?
Solves our problems, you and me

Nutrition in the jungle
Nutrition in your head, yeah
Would you like to make a run for it?
I would like to taste your hand, yeah

Cause I want to live like cannibals
Healthy and free, like cannibals
I want to live
I want to run through the jungle
For arms and the ribs and the eyes and the feet...

Sometimes a meal can get you down
It's so unhealthy
There's so many carcinogens
And I feel like
I'd sorta rather eat the cheeeeeeef

When alcohol and cholesterol are runnin' through your veins
And lawyers suing burger joints are poisoning my brain
Cannibals are onto something, Stouffer's doesn't see
Which one eats a human?
Solves our problems, you and me

Nutrition in the jungle
Nutrition in your head, yeah
Would you like to make a run for it?
I would like to taste your hand, yeah

Cause I want to live like cannibals
Healthy and free, like cannibals
I want to live
I want to run through the jungle
For arms and the ribs and the eyes and the feet...

Thank you, thank you.


UPDATE: Let's get the revolution started, then. I'm hungry.

Wednesday, October 8, 2003
11:22 - I'm sure that doesn't count as gloating...

Greg Kihn is on a roll these days.

...And the shining star of democracy rises into the sky like a lawn chair attached to a weather balloon... making navigation difficult for slow-moving blimps. Let the new age dawn for California! And I say, two cars in every garage! Two chickens in every pot! ... And free pot for every chicken!

I think he just makes it up as he goes along.

Tuesday, October 7, 2003
03:30 - Let the "Recall Arnold" petitions fly

For the most satisfying response to today's events that I've yet found, I'm going to recommend (surprise) Bill Whittle.

The day will come when we will lose a big election. On that day, we should say that we lost because we failed – we failed to articulate our message, we failed because we ran corrupt and uninspiring candidates, we failed because we didn’t listen to the wisdom of the electorate – we failed because we thought four or five political hacks in a campaign room somewhere knew what was better for the nation or the state than the millions and millions of people who actually live and work in it. And on that day, we should pledge to do better, to try harder to get the message across, and most importantly, to listen to what the people are saying. And we should accept that loss, congratulate the winners, accept defeat with grace and dignity – like adults -- and then look under the hood with a very cold and unemotional eye, fix the mistakes, and get a better product out there. This would mean giving up the infantile pleasures of moaning and crying about the Lost Cause. But that is what you have to do in order to win. And with stakes this high, winning matters. It matters.

Yes. And I intend to treat this election's results as the dignified and meaningful expression of our two-century-old institution that it is, and ponder the deep significance of declining opposition poll numbers and the democratic implications of mid-term special elections and the phenomenon of actor governors and the realism of expectations for the remainder of the current term and the cautious eye we'll have to keep on ourselves to make sure we hold Arnold to the same standard that we'd hold anybody...


Tonight, I'm simply going to go to bed happy.

I guess it's all to the good that my iPod has finally croaked its last, and no longer stays mounted long enough for me to boot the iMac and do screenshots before it resets itself repeatedly and endlessly. Tomorrow I buy an external pocket drive. And tonight I lie on a couch and smugly reload those poll numbers.

I'll be back to my analytical and dispassionate self in the morning.


22:09 - Insane! Insane, I tells ya!

So I register my G5 with Apple. And they send me an e-mail that says, "Hey! Thanks for registering. As a thank-you, how about we give you a year's free subscription to MacWorld?"

Eh. Whatever, y'know? I can't even really get too excited about MacAddict these days; I haven't read MacWorld in an awfully long time. And whoopty-doo, a half-year's subscription and stuff. And there was much rejoicing; little flags wave.

The e-mail sits in my inbox for like two weeks. Finally, today, while I wait for the recall results to be announced (Heh-- CNN reports results of 0% for every candidate, for the recall, and against the recall), I pop it open and read what it actually says.

You may choose to receive your free issues of Macworld in the exciting NEW digital format OR the traditional print format. By choosing digital, you can receive your first issue of Macworld instantly - no waiting for it to arrive in the mail. It's the same great magazine delivered directly to your Mac with powerful and interactive features.

Digital format? Hmm. You mean, like, a web page? Or maybe a PDF?

What the hell. I go click on the linky thing. I fill out the little form. I select the digital option. It downloads something called the "Zinio Reader", which is an app that automatically downloads these packaged digital magazines on a regular basis and lets me read them offline. Mm'kay; with ya so far.

Up pops the November issue of MacWorld.


Looks like a PDF. Gee-whillikers. I can click to zoom in, and click again to soom out. Yaaay.

How do I turn the page? No little arrows in the toolbar.


<clicks on the right margin, because it seems intuitive to do so>


Wait! Do that again!

The page-turning effect takes less than half a second. It goes ZIP. And it's totally smoothly mapped onto this weird curved surface.

Is that bloody gratuitous or what?

Phew. <flip> <flip>

Okay, get that thing outta my face. Hide the app. There's my web browser.

CNN: NO on recall, by 52-47%? You gotta be kidding me...

UPDATE: Wait, no. 53-45% in favor.

UPDATE: No! 52-47%! Dang it! They keep changing their mind. How can they not know all the results ten minutes after the polls close?! Blaahh!

11:41 - Representing the human vote

Greg Kihn with ongoing recall election coverage:

Green Party candidate Peter Camejo getting strong support from the waterfowl and rodent population... waterfowl and rodents, of course, having gotten the vote after Gray Davis signed the "Every Species Gets a Vote" bill, secretly, last week...

I gotta get to the polls. Damn waterfowl!

Monday, October 6, 2003
12:05 - Dirty dancing can be dangerous

"No, Freddy! Haven't you heard about the new dance policy? That's not acceptable here!"

I don't know if I should give these people points for creativity and gamely attempted humor, or points for inadvertent train-wreck quality.

Either way, it's in Lawrence, Kansas, Mike...

04:10 - Anybody need a large-format flatbed scanner?

Because my new G5 has PCI-X slots, which are not compatible with the standard PCI SCSI card that powers my Microtek ScanMaker 6400XL scanner, I'm forced to sell it so I can recoup the cost toward the next model up (which supports FireWire).

(Forced to sell the scanner. Not the G5.)

And since nobody on Ebay feels like bidding, it behooves me to seek out some form of advertising for buyers that's free and yet reaches an audience of like-minded people who might be interested in this sort of thing.

Like... oh, I don't know... a blog.

Here she is. This is a large-format ("tabloid") scanner, e.g. 17x12" (A3) scan bed. It's in like-new shape, it's never let me down, and I feel like a cad for parting with it at all. It comes with:
  • Adaptec AHA-2906 PCI SCSI card, including Win/Mac drivers and all original manuals
  • 12-foot SCSI cable, 25-pin to 25-pin, which connects to the SCSI card directly
  • 25-pin to 50-pin adapter for the scanner end of the cable
  • Power cord

The scanner cost $900 when it was new; I'd be very happy if I could get something in the range of $500 for it now, but I'll be glad to listen to reasonable offers.

(Here's the official product page.)

Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?

Sunday, October 5, 2003
03:02 - American Indians Aren’t Like Palestinians

So says David A. Yeagley, a Comanche Indian.

Via Emperor Misha I.

01:41 - Turf Wars

Pictures! Yay!

This weekend we made some major progress in the backyard. We went from fence-up-but-not-much-else to fence-and-planter-box-installed-and ready-to-start-the-deck. This involves lots of intermediate steps, but I have lots of pictures, so bear with me.

First of all, the "Before" pictures.

Nice, right? A little bleak, a little stark, a little empty-- a little small, for that matter. Right? The tree is kinda ugly; this is taken in Februrary, though, when I was still on the initial tour with the real estate agent. Boring old backyard. Nothing to write home about, or certainly to post about.

What you don't see, because I couldn't bear to take a picture of it from the kitchen door, was the view you get when you look straight east, straight at the wall.

For maximum horror, here it is from the upstairs bedroom window:

That's right: it's the one major reason why this house had been on the market for five months, and had had its asking price lowered twice to about 3/4 that of all the identical houses on the street. There's a friggin' power substation right behind the house.

The real estate agents were having a hell of a time getting people interested, apparently; seems it was the South-of-85 version of the Murder House that Marge sold to the Flanderses. Once, when I was standing in the cul-de-sac talking to the agent, another agent drove into the driveway and took a potential buyer inside. I heard them talking, clucking over the living room, looking at the staircase, going into the kitchen, looking outside-- and then TROMP TROMP TROMP they come running back outside, jump in the SUV, back out of the driveway, screech to a halt, and then peel out westward down the street, leaving smoking rubber patches where their tires were. And hey, it's not like I can blame them.

But we were stupid that way-- we thought, hey, we can MAKE something of this! And for what it's worth, the station doesn't make that much noise or anything, and we're sure there aren't any PCBs or anything in the soil or evil EM waves in the air. (We even get perfectly fine AirPort reception.) And the view, if you ignore the power station, on a clear day (which the above picture is not), actually looks out across the valley to the mountains on the opposite side-- it's a nice view, a valley view. It's not a view of, say, someone else's backyard.

How's that for spin?

Anyway: after a summer's worth of work both inside and out in the house, it's really become a totally different beast now. The interior colors are all different. My bedroom is now a luxurious master suite with crown moldings, new floor trim, a semi-private bath, and a divider wall with archways and red velvet curtains leading to the bed area. (Material for another post.) Art is hung on the walls. The front yard is landscaped with boulders and hibiscuses and a myrtle and a park bench. And the backyard is unrecognizable as its former self.

First order of business, after installing the hot tub (first things first), was the fence.

Neat, huh? It's made of redwood fence slats screwed into horizontal beams bolted to vertical treated 4x4 posts, which are each carriage-bolted into holes we painstakingly hammer-drilled through the concrete-brick fence. It totally blocks out most of the power station from ground level-- and what you can see through the latticework will be blocked out once we plant some morning glories which will climb up the vertical trellises and creep throughout the horizontal pieces.

But what shall we plant them in, my precioussss?

Why, this!

(Do be so good as to disregard the machinery littering the place. What I'm pointing at is what's along the base of the fence.)

It's a planter box, made of railroad ties. And those things are heavy! 9x7-inch by 8-foot pine beams, soaked in creosote, which fills your lungs and causes cancer when you try to cut it. But it's been wrestled into shape and pinned into position, and now all the fill soil we dug out of the front yard is piled into the box and ready to be covered with topsoil.

I should note that in the picture on the upper right, the big open expanse of dirt is where there used to be a mound of earth and turf carted in from the front, and caked into a volcanic lava cap by the summer heat. Today I moved it all, wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow, into the planter box. And even when armed with a pickax and a square-point shovel, it is hard to cut turf. It's got that nylon-string mesh stuff, and the big clods stick together and prevent you from getting your shovel into it. My left arm is hanging limply by my side as I type; fortunately I've trained my blisters to be prehensile, or else I'd never have been able to type this.

Anyway, that's where things stand. I may post a layout drawing of the backyard plan sometime soon; it's vital for the understanding of what's going on to be able to see the final blueprint. The deck, suffice it to say, will surround the hot tub and sit on top of the railroad ties where it juts back toward the house, and will merge flush with the edge of the planter box. The railroad ties will be painted (to reduce the creosote smell) and faced with redwood, to make it possible to sit on them. And then the box will be filled full of turf, ground-cover flowers, and nice spreading trees which will nod over the hot tub.

And then the right corner gets planted with birch groves and floored with bushes and lawn and inlaid with pavers for lawn furniture, and the left corner gets a gazebo, a flooring treatment involving lots of flat flagstones, and a round lawn. Add a few more trees as privacy screens, run 110-volt power and Ethernet and soupcan-string intercom, and voilá-- nothin' to it!

Honestly I have no idea what we've let ourselves in for. But it's been fun so far-- or at least, I'm assuming it's been fun, because most things that leave me this sore are fun.

00:51 - Thanks for the bullet points

There's an anti-recall ad on TV right now. It says:

Under a Democratic governor, we've:
  • Passed domestic partnership legislation
  • Banned greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming
  • Strengthened laws protecting a woman's right to choose
  • Enacted the nation's toughest gun safety laws
  • Worked to stop offshore drilling
  • Passed the 8-hour work day
  • Increased the minimum wage
  • Expanded family and medical leave

The Republicans fought against each of these issues. If they get rid of the governor, what do you think they'll do next?

Gee, I dunno, but I've got a few suggestions.
Saturday, October 4, 2003
02:59 - The case for a state-run news media

Phew. Sorry about the deliberately misleading title. I just did it to get your attention. Did it work?

But things that are deliberately misleading is kinda the subject of the day, isn't it?

I've gotten a lot of responses to my post from Thursday, in which I said:

Next year's election will be where the final hand is dealt. It will tell us how many people in this country have been able to weather the battering of the guiltmongers and the doom-seekers and the sowers of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, and hold on to what we know is the right course of action for ourselves and for the world-- and how many are ready to cash in, give up, lie down and let blissful slumber overtake our eyes while the Pods placed by the social-progressive Europeans creep ever closer to our bedsides.

One of the more cynical responses said, simply, "Democracy's a bitch... isn't it?"

All I could think of in response was, "Yup... after all, it gave us Hitler."

There's an ugly expression-- or, rather, an expression that's come to seem ugly through modern eyes: "Making the world safe for democracy." It's an idea that seems to have gone largely out of style, mostly because people don't really "get" what it means anymore. To many, it sounds like a veiled form of idealistic imperialism, a presumption on the part of buzz-cut white males in Congress that our quaint and abstract and tired concept of "democracy" is something that the rest of the world wants, and only doesn't have because of some vague and imagined threat floating on the horizon.

It's been a while since anybody had to think of this as being reality. It's been a while since it's been reality.

Or has it?

It's at the core of what we're doing in the Middle East, after all. We're removing obstacles which stand in the way of democracy, such as the Taliban and Saddam. Democracy is a powerful self-sustaining force, but it's more fragile than we often realize-- in order to take root, it needs time, dedication, and stability. And even a stable democracy can be overthrown... or overthrow itself.

We fought against encroaching communism because communism was an idea that could be voted in by a democratic public, even though once instated it would effectively destroy the democracy that created it. It's a seductive, compelling idea, one that-- given enough play in people's minds-- can come to power and then burn the bridges behind it that brought it there.

For Marx, after all, had something right: he believed that it was the natural progression of a capitalist society to eventually evolve into a communist one. So we've seen can indeed be the case, in a sense: the richer and safer and more peaceful a country becomes on the strength of its free-market economy, the more its people will push for socialistic reform, more state services paid for by higher taxes, and so on. Guilt on the part of the rich leads to elites pushing statism as a form of philanthropy for the proletariat. A democracy can voluntarily vote into power a communist system, because its people will be convinced that it's the best thing for them to do.

Trouble is, communism isn't a "new and improved" form of economics, one that breaks free of capitalism-imposed chains and carries its adherent nations to the stars. It's quite the opposite, as we've seen; it can take a vibrant, innovative, individualistic people and transform it into a homogeneous, dull, dreary, bleak mass of impoverished welfare-slaves without hope of respite (let alone aspiration to excellence), crushed under the weight of a bloated and often unbelievably brutal State. The people might have voted for it, but it's not the enlightened panacea they'd hoped it would be. And they'd go back to the way it was before... if only they could.

Our goal during the Cold War was to "make the world safe for democracy"-- meaning that we would prevent communism from taking hold in countries that might be seduced into voluntarily trying it. Our doing so meant the support of brutal military dictators in places like Iran and Panama and Chile, and we've paid a bitter price in honor and human life-- but wasn't it the lesser of two evils, in the long run? Maybe not, but can the question be dismissed out of hand?

So here we are, "making the world safe for democracy" again. This time, the threat we have to fight in order to make democracy safe is Islamism and old-fashioned Arab strongman dictatorship. Both things that a democratic Middle Eastern populace can vote into power. It's unlikely that Iraq would choose an Islamist government like the Taliban or like the Iranian mullahs, but the possibility is there-- it could happen.

All it takes is for the free populace of a democracy to be fed misleading information, pervasively and from the sources that they implicitly trust. Whether these sources are the government, religious leaders, or a free press, all that matters is that the people believe it.

Gary Larson reminds us:

This phenomenon validates Joseph Goebbels' 1934 advice: Bombard the "primitive rank and file," with "propaganda...essentially simple and repetitive." To say this Nazi tactic works today is an understatement.

And, needless to reiterate, Hitler came to power democratically.

So: what is it that keeps our democracy strong and self-sustaining?

A free media, many cry.

Yeah, well, here's a question: What happens when a free media undergoes a trend wherein it decides as a bloc to accomplish some partisan end, even if it means perpetuating lies and deliberately misleading the public? What checks and balances exist in a free media to make sure it keeps telling the truth, so the populace is accurately informed?

Well, there are news organs of every political persuasion, comes the answer. If one is lying, another will balance it out and debunk it.

A fine theory. One that's served us well for many, many years. One that certainly seems always to have held true.

But what if it's not?

What if all the major news organs decide that their job is no longer To Tell The Truth, but To Get Ratings? What if journalists, ever seeking the scoop of a lifetime and the status of a Bob Woodward, commit to actively defrauding the public so as to advance their own careers within the media industry that's itself locked into a marketing/sales feedback loop of dispensing anti-Administration memes, being told by ratings that the people--fascinated and shocked--want to see more, and then having to produce more and more of the same slanted "reporting" because it's what the audience wants?

Americans have an insatiable lust for The Truth; it's part of our DNA. We also have a latent mistrust for authority, and we're always willing to entertain the notion that our government might be lying to us.

So we give the benefit of the doubt-- reflexively-- to whoever blows the whistle on them. It's a lot harder for us to believe that Jimmy Olsen is misleading us than that the government is, and we love a good stick-it-to-the-Man scandal. It's the media who always looks like the good guys... even when they're the weasels.

I'm not saying that this is what's actually happening. The media companies appear to be left-biased, but their relentlessly downbeat reporting about Iraq and Bush might stem simply from the "good news doesn't sell" adage, and a palpable sense of cynicism about blatant patriotism in the news-- even if all that can be interpreted as such is the ungarnished coverage of a positive development in the war. But it can hardly be denied that the media seems more willing to linger over the kinds of headlines that Michael Moore or Robert Fisk might pen, than over a dispassionate White House press release. It's hard to pin down the likes of CNN and MSNBC and the New York Times as deliberately lying as a matter of course. But their slant feeds free organzations like MoveOn.org, who do their grass-roots activism based on a fraudulently constructed impression of reality, as when they gleefully parrot New York Times Dowdifications like the "Ahnuld is a Nazi" meme even as it gets soundly debunked by the people who are paying attention.

So what happens if our free media, the institution that we so rightly place on a pedestal as one of our greatest achievements and the most obvious declaration of our unashamed belief in the strength of our democracy, lies to its patrons like Goebbels did?

We've grown to trust our free media precisely because it's free. Its freedom inherently guarantees accuracy and balance, we tell ourselves.

And that's where a lying free media is even more insidious than a Pravda. Because if we had a Pravda in this country, at least we would know it was lying. We don't expect lies from CNN.

I will reiterate, just for clarity: a state-run media would be a disaster for this country, a baldfaced denial of everything we stand for. I hate the idea. It's despicable. I would never condone such a thing, or deign to live in an America that had instituted it.

But... (and don't we all love that word now?)...

If our free society and its free press have embarked upon a feedback loop of anti-Bush rhetoric that has taken upon itself such a life of its own that we no longer care whether the things we accuse him of are even true, as long as they get him out of office... that is precisely what would signal, to me, the demise of the America that we know. It would mean that freedom had failed us. It would mean that in our freedom and our trust in those whom we trusted because of our freedom, we had wilfully deluded ourselves from reality in favor of a sickly-sweet poultice for our souls. It would mean that we had sacrificed Truth at the altar of pleasing fantasies. It would mean that we'd come to value other countries' present opinions over the lessons of our own history.

This has never been true of us in the past-- and the day it becomes true is the day that America ceases to be America.

Friday, October 3, 2003
03:22 - Meanwhile, on planet Earth

"Controversial Cleveland murals are protected".

Yeah, I'll "protect" them all right. Please go stand by the stairs.

Ayad, 37, a Palestinian-American who owns Grandpa's Kitchen, has had dozens of controversial images painted on his business establishment over the last few years. Public officials and Jewish Clevelanders say these murals are blatantly offensive and antisemitic.

The newest signs, painted over the spring and summer at the deli, include a group of skullcap-wearing Jews counting money at a table while Jesus hangs on a cross above them, and a supposed talmudic endorsement of pedophilia. In the latter, a Jewish priest holds a small boy in his arms. The priest is quoted as saying, "Silly man, this is not my son, he's my wife." Below this is an alleged line from the Talmud. "Like the tear comes to the eye again and again so does ... virginity to a child under 3 years and 1 day."

Above this mural is contact information for Cong. Stephanie Tubbs Jones for those seeking reparations from Israel. The congresswoman's image has also unflatteringly appeared on past murals. Ayad was angry she never followed up on a letter she sent him over two years ago, claiming she would help him get back his father's land.

Another new sign shows Hitler with the Star of David branded into his upraised and bleeding hand. A larger Star of David superimposed with a swastika is painted to the right of this image.

Remember, always remember: It's Muslims who are constantly oppressed and silenced and publicly vilified in this racist country of ours.

I mean, criminy.

Via LGF.

19:11 - Color me surprised


Polish troops in Iraq (news - web sites) have found four French-built advanced anti-aircraft missiles which were built this year, a Polish Defense Ministry spokesman told Reuters Friday.

France strongly denied having sold any such missiles to Iraq for nearly two decades, and said it was impossible that its newest missiles should turn up in Iraq.

"Polish troops discovered an ammunition depot on Sept. 29 near the region of Hilla and there were four French-made Roland-type missiles," Defense Ministry spokesman Eugeniusz Mleczak said.

"It is not the first time Polish troops found ammunition in Iraq but to our surprise these missiles were produced in 2003."

You know, I always wondered what Arabs thought of using missiles named after the French semi-mythological hero who fought back the Saracens at Roncesvaux.

Apparently it was just peachy-keen, with Saddam and with Chiraq.

Thursday, October 2, 2003
20:25 - Sarindar

If this is true...

Iraq, in my view, had its own "Sarindar" plan in effect direct from Moscow. It certainly had one in the past. Nicolae Ceausescu told me so, and he heard it from Leonid Brezhnev. KGB chairman Yury Andropov, and later, Gen. Yevgeny Primakov, told me so, too. In the late 1970s, Gen. Primakov ran Saddam's weapons programs. After that, as you may recall, he was promoted to head of the Soviet foreign intelligence service in 1990, to Russia's minister of foreign affairs in 1996, and in 1998, to prime minister. What you may not know is that Primakov hates Israel and has always championed Arab radicalism. He was a personal friend of Saddam's and has repeatedly visited Baghdad after 1991, quietly helping Saddam play his game of hide-and-seek.

. . .

It was just a few days after this last "Disclosure," after a decade of intervening with the U.N. and the rest of the world on Iraq's behalf, that Gen. Primakov and his team of military experts landed in Baghdad — even though, with 200,000 U.S. troops at the border, war was imminent, and Moscow could no longer save Saddam Hussein. Gen. Primakov was undoubtedly cleaning up the loose ends of the "Sarindar" plan and assuring Saddam that Moscow would rebuild his weapons of mass destruction after the storm subsided for a good price.

Mr. Putin likes to take shots at America and wants to reassert Russia in world affairs. Why would he not take advantage of this opportunity? As minister of foreign affairs and prime minister, Gen. Primakov has authored the "multipolarity" strategy of counterbalancing American leadership by elevating Russia to great-power status in Eurasia. Between Feb. 9-12, Mr. Putin visited Germany and France to propose a three-power tactical alignment against the United States to advocate further inspections rather than war. On Feb. 21, the Russian Duma appealed to the German and French parliaments to join them on March 4-7 in Baghdad, for "preventing U.S. military aggression against Iraq." Crowds of European leftists, steeped for generations in left-wing propaganda straight out of Moscow, continue to find the line appealing.

Mr. Putin's tactics have worked. The United States won a brilliant military victory, demolishing a dictatorship without destroying the country, but it has begun losing the peace. While American troops unveiled the mass graves of Saddam's victims, anti-American forces in Western Europe and elsewhere, spewed out vitriolic attacks, accusing Washington of greed for oil and not of really caring about weapons of mass destruction, or exaggerating their risks, as if weapons of mass destruction were really nothing very much to worry about after all.

... And we end up voting Bush out of office purely because of the palatability of the idea that he "lied" about WMD, then it's all over. The terrorists will have won.

Not just them, though. Al Qaeda's actually a side issue in the global game, looked at through this lens. What's really at stake is a century-long war of ideology, where on one side we have the ever-encroaching socialistic forces that prey on the compassion of people in rich and peaceful countries... and on the other, increasingly alone in holding out against those forces, is America. The Cold War had strongly delineated sides, big polar extremes to choose between. But since 1990, when we thought we'd won, it seems to me that all we've done is let our guard down.

The encroachment has continued. Only it's been at such a low level, and embarked upon with such pure and benign of intentions, that we never saw it coming.

It's called the "peace" movement, "green" politics, our old buddy transnational progressivism, and Western self-loathing and revulsion at seeing our own institutions-- the things we'd once looked on with pride and affection, like Levi's and McDonald's and Barbie-- being pulled into far-flung cultures. They all loved us, but we hated ourselves. We hated ourselves for poisoning the world with our gauche impurity. And we fought ourselves whenever we had the opportunity to make the world a better, richer, or more peaceful place.

We were busy for fifty years trying to hold back the Iron Curtain. But the forces trying to hold us back come from within our own borders.

Sure, that's no bad thing, if what you're talking about is "imperialism". (Read this if it's what you think I mean.) But it is a bad thing when the America that the hippies and their modern counterparts mean to restrain is the America that dares to try to do some good in the world, just because it's the right thing to do. "Who are we to say what's right or wrong?" they cry.

Well, it seems to me that we've done a better-than average job of making those judgments so far. Better than some countries I could mention.

But now we've seen exactly what happens when all the sides in this ideological battle, all the ones who have been building up their ranks in secret and in the open for decades, are called upon to show their hands. 9/11 did that-- it brought everyone out of the woodwork, Right and Left, and forced everyone to take sides. In the grand scheme, it looks as though that's the biggest effect 9/11 may in fact have had: it's the closing bell, the shout of pencils down! that tells us to take stock now of how many people stand on which side of the line.

Protests in the streets of cities around the world against the prospect of America freeing twenty-four million people from the grip of the worst tyrant since Hitler have shown one side's numbers, one side's strength. "Human shields". University professors remembering Mogadishu the way we used to remember the Ardennes. Hollywood, our proudest and most uniquely American institution, rallying in a bloc to impose restraint upon our bellicosity. And the news media determined to convert our proudest moment in the modern age, our greatest act of charity and humanity and sacrifice, and our most easily vindicated by anyone looking at it with clear eyes-- into a shameful failure. That is the measure of the opposition's strength.

They're stronger than I ever would have imagined possible.

It's not "protest" when you've gained the upper hand.

All the threads are coming together now. All the grass-roots forces and pressure groups and lobbies that with one hand held up the torch against the bleak bulwarks of the Warsaw Pact, and with the other sifted into our national bloodstream an intravenous drip of a watered-down, sugared-up, tantalizingly addictive stream of the same poison that had doused the far side of those walls-- they've all shown their colors now. All in the name of equality, diversity, peace, conservation, and respect, we've found ourselves not having won the Cold War after all-- but having set ourselves up to lose the Warm War. That's what it's been all along.

Who could be so callous as to take a stand against racial equanimity? Or so hateful as to oppose peace? Or so ghoulish as to fight against environmental controls?

Those questions are exactly the weapons that we were never equipped to defend against. Nor, judging by the snow-blanket silence coming from the White House lately, do we have the means to do so now.

Because it would appear that the forces that want us to pull back, quiet down, leave the world stage, and stop trying to solve other people's problems are in fact stronger than the forces that cling to those old-fashioned notions of justice, fairness, security, and freedom for all.

The only reason that the latter side has been able to make the strides that it has, in Afghanistan and Iraq, is because of a fluke-- a few boxes of hanging-chad ballots in Florida. More and more it appears that if it weren't for the contents of the trunk of a car in Dade County, Saddam would still today be enthroned in Baghdad, and New York might be a denuded ruin or Los Angeles a poisoned wasteland.

"But Los Angeles IS a--" Hush.

More and more it appears that what the people of this country really want is what people like Michael Moore and Peter Camejo want: apologies, capitulation, accession to the practices of the enlightened governments of Europe and Asia, and the voluntary surrender of our nation's armed might-- a gun buyback program for the United States Military-- so as to bring about true global equality and unarmed world government. The people calling in to NPR this morning on the ongoing Recall coverage show, if their sheer numbers were any indication at all, show that there's only so much propaganda we as a people can absorb from the get-the-government-overturning-scoop-or-die media before we start to believe it, facts on the ground be damned. 9/11 brought the world into sharp relief for many people-- but for nearly as many the wound scabbed over far too rapidly, forming an ugly scar as they worried it endlessly, searching for a way to take solace in ritual self-mutilation.

Next year's election will be where the final hand is dealt. It will tell us how many people in this country have been able to weather the battering of the guiltmongers and the doom-seekers and the sowers of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, and hold on to what we know is the right course of action for ourselves and for the world-- and how many are ready to cash in, give up, lie down and let blissful slumber overtake our eyes while the Pods placed by the social-progressive Europeans creep ever closer to our bedsides.

If Bush manages to win reelection, there's a chance. It means we have room for a much longer-term plan to be executed, a mandate to do things right in this effort to bring democracy and the rule of law at long last to the last part of the world still mired in medieval theocracy. It will spark outrage from the Left, but it'll be muted-- chastened, driven to the sidelines-- while the voices that gleefully revel in slogans like "Selected not Elected" and "Bush Lied, People Died" have to suck up the fact that they aren't being listened to, that they have no voice and no power after all. They'll have to face the fact that in order to win over a significant portion of the people of this country to your views, you have to grow up a little, walk a mile in the other man's shoes, find out what it is to live the kind of life you were raised to oppose. They'll have to understand that Americans aren't so fickle, so easily duped, so susceptible to cheap shots and low blows and infantile slogans repeated ad nauseum. They'll have to realize that America still believes, for all its faults, in America-- and it's not going to be converting itself into a clone of Canada or England or France (or, for that matter, Nazi Germany) anytime in the foreseeable future.

But if he loses... then it means the forces that have lost their faith in the American ideal, that have banked on the dream of the future they see in Star Trek, that think reality is a subjective and malleable toy that each person has free rein to knead and mold and bat around to his whim... those forces have grown strong enough to defeat those who think otherwise. It means America has changed forever, irreversibly. It means the great Experiment has failed-- the idea that the people can rule themselves, defeating the ages-old cycle of brutal dictators and evil nepotistic tyrannies and aristocratic, manufactured "culture" in favor of the true, vibrant jubilation of the common and everyday man and woman imagining a universe and changing the world, will cease to be a viable force on the global stage just as Marxist communism did.

At the time of the Civil War, Europe watched with ghoulish glee-- praying for the Confederacy to win, and so to dash to pieces this heretical idea of a Union of democratic States that could breach free of history and shame every nation that had not yet let go of its justifications for withholding governing power from its people. Lincoln, by holding the States together at the cost of nearly everything held dear up to that crowning ideal, threw humiliation to those European powers that had hoped so fervently to see America fail-- and in so doing, forced them into their own internal turmoils that led to the crashing overcorrections of nationalism and populism and elitism that eventually coalesced into the Bolsheviks and the Nazis. America got back on its course, but Europe lost its way-- and it took American resolve to put things right again.

The repercussions of WWII lead in direct lines to the Israel/Palestinian conflict, the Vietnam War, the inevitable fall of the Soviet bloc (and sudden renewed hope in Eastern Europe for greater days ahead), and the emergence of America as the world's only superpower, endowed with the ability to change anything, anywhere on the globe, that we see fit, untrammeled by any technological or practical barriers. The only thing keeping America from remaking the world in what it knows to be a successful, intoxicatingly vibrant, deeply human and enlightened image is the reluctance and self-doubt of its own people. And so fearful is that people of the specter of becoming an imperial power, even one whose only "empire" consists of an exportation of ideas, prevents us from accomplishing those goals of supreme benevolence and modernity that it has taken the planet Earth thousands of years of human history just to be able to conceive of. At long last, eight thousand years after Ur, humanity is capable of standing up, of casting away the relics of ancient days that in the absence of a power keeping watch over them divide a people between privileged overclasses and downtrodden masses; free finally of the seduction of communism and its heavy-handed, statist imposition of equality at the expense of individuality, nations can tap the potential of all of their people and become proud, modern, and free. The age of tyranny is over. All that remains is to clean up the last vestiges of it.

If only we have the courage to do so, and the will to deny that we step onto a slippery slope toward Naziism every time we speak of defeating a despotic government and freeing a people. All it takes is to look the self-doubting hordes in the eye and say, loudly, NO! We are not out to enslave the world. We are doing the exact opposite. We have the unique opportunity to do the most good that's ever been done on the face of this planet, and all you can do is pine for a fantasy world? We're doing more than any country ever did before to bring this world a little closer every day to that very fantasy... and yet you oppose it because it means in the process we might end up killing the villains who currently keep it from coming about?

The realities of a world of tyranny and subterfuge and shady backroom deals is evident nowhere as much as in the stories of what went on in Saddam's Iraq-- not least between his doomed regime and a bitter, power-hungry ex-Soviet-bloc cadre of schemers. Yet our propensity for self-doubt causes us to suspect our own government of high treason before we entertain the possibility that we might have the moral high ground, that we only look like we have egg on our faces because we don't cheat. It's that kind of paralysis-- that kind of enslavement to our worst interpretations of everything we do-- that has the opportunity to kill this country's aspirations, to bring to naught everything we've worked for all this time. No other country, indeed not even the whole rest of the world put together, can kill America. But America can commit suicide.

We have a year to prepare-- to decide the direction our sword will be pointed.

11:50 - This time the Road Cruiser is a good thing to see


Hey. Yeah. Go look at this page-- and while you're at it, check out the intro and the rest of the site-- and tell me Afghanistan is doomed to remain forever in the crapper.

ARMAN FM supports local businesses.

Do you have a favorite store in Kabul?  Maybe the best prices, range or service.  Let us know & we will let others know as well!

Contact us on bestbuys@arman.fm or 070 28 93 83 or PO BOX 1045 Central Post Office, Kabul, Afghanistan.

Sounds like... um... <gulp>

... America.
Wednesday, October 1, 2003
15:39 - Flip the switch

POWER is posted. (At 4:50 AM, too. Damn, he's been working hard on that one. And boy, is it ever worth it.)

How is it possible to quote from a Whittle piece? I won't do it.

Anyway, at the end he notes that Front Line Voices-- Frank J's new pet project, a showcase of letters from the soldiers and others on the ground about what's really happening in Iraq-- is open. I've been watching it prior to its official unveiling for a few days now, and it's going to merit a sidebar link, I do believe.

Bill says of the letters, "Go and read them. They will show you the kind of people -- the kind of power -- we really are far more eloquently than anything I could write." They're eloquent, yes, but Bill does sell himself short.

13:08 - Don't let this vanish into the bit-bucket

At NRO's Corner and via Tim Blair, a Seussian tale that someone simply must illustrate. Or at least save; it's too good to simply go the way of the Emperor's Comments. (Heh.)

Phil Rose, a friend in Seattle, writes to ask if people around here call the president "That Bush." Writes Phil, "They don't call him 'President Bush' or even 'Bush,' but 'That Bush' as in, 'Oooooh, I hate that Bush. That Bush is mean. That Bush is stupid. That Bush spends all his time taking money away from the people and giving it to The Rich.'" Phil says he found himself wondering who this guy "The Rich" is -- if he's anything like The Donald. He started thinking of That Bush being like the Grinch, slinking from house to house, stealing purses and wallets and putting them into a huge bag for The Rich. And then Phil started to write:


The poor people dove down in Dumpsters for stuff
But The Rich, in his palace, cried "I don't have enough!
"What to do? Who to call? What button to push?
"I know! The red one that summons That Bush!"

So The Rich pushed the button, a bell chimed "Clang! Clang!"
And up popped That Bush! And That Bush said, "You rang?"

And it goes on.
Tuesday, September 30, 2003
14:59 - Beautiful

Here's what MoveOn.org is now mailing around to all its subscribers, though its main page still seems bereft of recall-related links:

It's that one on the left that brings a little tear of gladness to my eye. Has the Left finally learned how to be self-effacing?

Or honest?

Monday, September 29, 2003
15:27 - Don't write us off just yet

Damien Del Russo points this out:

When asked how they would vote on recalling Davis, 63 percent of probable voters surveyed said they would vote yes, compared with 35 percent who said they would vote no.

In a separate vote to choose a replacement for Davis, Schwarzenegger was the choice of 40 percent of respondents.

Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante was the choice for 25 percent of voters polled, Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock received 18 percent.

The poll showed Green Party candidate Peter Camejo with 5 percent and syndicated columnist and independent candidate Arianna Huffington with 2 percent of the respondents' support.

Good, good. So McClintock won't be a spoiler even if he stays in the race, because I imagine more people will throw in with Arnie as election day approaches (out of an acceptance of the reality of their comparative electabilities) than will swing to McClintock on principle. Bustamonte seems to be failing to thrill people (his numbers are barely better than McClintock's). Sure, these comparative numbers are only among those who would approve the recall (e.g. mostly Republicans), but it's refreshing to see just how little support Mr. DJ Smooth is getting. And it's even more refreshing to see that even out here in Berkeleyland, Huffington and King Camejomejo are waaaay down in the noise. California doesn't want anyone more socialist than Davis in office, thankyouverymuch.

We might just come out of this all right.

Meanwhile, in La-La Land, MoveOn.org is running an EMERGENCY! Stop Schwarzenegger! mailing campaign. Hey, good luck to 'em-- I suppose not winning a single kooky cause since Monicagate will really demoralize a group, huh?

Friday, September 26, 2003
15:57 - Shake some sense into people

Forget yellowcake. Forget mass graves. Forget children's prisons. Forget weapons of mass destruction and pillaged museums, and especially oil.

Because this is what the anti-war forces were trying so hard to keep from happening. This is what the major media refuses to acknowledge is newsworthy or even positive.

Opinion polls conducted in Iraq since the war - by reputable polling agencies that have predicted election results across the world - have vindicated this view, showing that a large majority of Iraqis wanted the invasion. And there was therefore reason to hope that this visit to Iraq would be a happy one. None the less, I have spent the summer fearing for Sama, Yasser and Abtehale. Partly I was anxious for their physical safety: they were very close to the UN headquarters on the day the building was blown up, for example. But mostly I worried about their emotional health. All three had spent their lives pining for home. What if home disappointed them? What if the Iraqi people saw them as strangers? What if Iraqis did not want to hear them evangelise for democracy?

They returned to London earlier this month. The minute they arrived at my flat, beaming and speaking at a hundred words a minute, my fears evaporated. Abtehale began: "We were so scared that we might have been wrong. We kept thinking, `What if we get there and everybody hates us for supporting the war?' But it was amazing: almost everyone we met was more hawkish than us. All over the country, even people who really hated the Americans agreed it would have been a disaster if the war had been called off." Yasser said: "One of the first things my uncle said to me was that his greatest fear in the run-up to the war was that the Americans would do what they did in 1991 and leave us to Saddam."

Yet, Yasser admits: "The first fortnight, I was really, really depressed. Everyone in Iraq had been totally conditioned to wait to be told what to do by the state. Anybody with initiative got tortured or killed by Saddam, so people just waited for orders. So even after the liberation, they couldn't understand that they were free; they didn't know what it meant. But then I saw that gradually they were realising, and that day by day they were sort of defrosting."

The IPO people went to Iraq with clear goals. First, they wanted to establish debating societies and newsletters in the Baghdad universities. "These are going to be the seeds of democracy," Yasser explains. "Once you learn to argue against people instead of killing them as Saddam did, you're on your way. We explained to the university students that they could have different newspapers - and even have different opinions in the same newspapers - and it seemed totally surreal to them. They just couldn't understand it. But when they realised that it really was possible and nobody was going to punish them, they were so excited that they were just obsessed.

"They were in the middle of their exams and supposed to be studying, but they insisted on writing and photocopying a newsletter that they distributed everywhere. They wrote articles on amazing things they could find out about on the internet - philosophy and art and the difference between proportional representation and first-past-the-post! It was the best thing in my life, seeing that," Yasser says.

I could just quote and quote and quote. But read the whole thing, as they say. Please.

And then think about just what it means when 100,000 protesters gather in London to denounce the American presence in Iraq. Think of the "human shields" who went to Baghdad thinking they were doing the Iraqis a favor. Think about every anti-war slogan uttered by a friend or colleague.

And try to keep your gorge down.

UPDATE: Steven Den Beste does the necessary expansion on this that I didn't have the wherewithal to write. On one level, the article-- and the knowledge that so many utterly morally corrupt people in the world staunchly oppose the changes that are described in it-- speak for themselves. But on another, the analysis needs to be done. The revolution must be described; the process must be put into words.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003
22:20 - That didn't go as planned

I heard a good portion of the California Recall Election debate on the way home; there was Huffington, McClintock, Bustamonte, that Green Party guy, and Ahnuld. The questions were prerecorded, but that doesn't mean the debate was boring.

Quite on the contrary-- it was a real free-for-all. Lots of personal attacks, lots of wild accusations, lots of numbers flung back and forth with little regard for their accuracy or timeliness. The moderator-- whose name I have to find out, as he wrangled these guys with the acerbic aplomb of a Clive Anderson-- was hard put to it to keep them on-topic, for instance to keep a question about how to raise state revenues from circling around into a slam on another candidate's sexual morality.

Impressions: The Green Party guy was completely nuts, as I pretty much suspected he would be. He thinks the fact that the US is the only industrialized nation in the world not to have socialized medicine is the greatest scandal ever, and made doubly so by the fact that illegal immigrants aren't covered equally with citizens. He was so caught up in his weepy, marshmallowy, sit-on-a-hillside-and-feed-the-bunnies-with-manna-from-heaven fantasyland that the other guys pretty much just ignored him, as well they should have.

Ariana Huffington was the most grating-- not because she managed one way or another to turn every single question into an attack on Schwartzenegger (which was admittedly rather easy to do), but because she was so self-righteous. She got to wear the mantle of put-upon-writer-struggling-in-this workaday-world as well as the I'm-smarter-than-everybody-else-here smugness and the big-corporations-are-evil public appeal and the please-think-of-the-children unsassailable attitude, the latter of which, when questioned, she got to turn into a barb at Arnold and "the way he treats women". Arnie retorted, "I think I have a role for you in Terminator 4," but just as he was about to say what it was, my engine died because I was right at the metering light on the on-ramp and I wasn't paying attention when I let out the clutch, and by the time I got the radio back on, the whole crowd was roaring and the moderator was saying "Hey, now, this isn't Comedy Central." Shoot.

But Arnold, now that it comes to him, was the biggest disappointment. He didn't come across as stupid, or even lacking in appropriate experience; he just didn't seem to be taking the whole thing seriously. It's mostly his doing that the debate was so chaotic-- he engaged in as much gleeful mud-slinging as Huffington did, and a lot funnier ("Yeah, you know all about tax shelters, don't you-- you had one last year that I could drive my Hummer through"). The only problem was, he seemed unprepared, and the mud he slung wasn't exactly of proper consistency (Huffington had a perfectly good explanation for that "tax shelter", which she told him about point-blank). He clearly had a lot of facts and figures memorized, but I think his was the crashiest of crash courses in California politics and finance, because the other candidates constantly picked apart his numbers, corrected him, and challenged him with posers that he answered only with cleverly worded platitudes. "Why should the richest 4% of Californians be taxed at a lower rate than the poorest?" asked the Green Guy. "I'm not even asking for a progressive tax-- just a flat one. Why won't you simply agree with me on this one little point?" And Arnold responded by muttering about how Mr. Green should move to Massachusetts. He seemed, more than anybody else, to have been working from a script, and he didn't acquit himself particularly well. I'd been getting the impression for a while that he wasn't taking the election seriously enough to be able to win; but now I'm afraid he's not looking like someone I want to vote for.

Bustamonte reminded me of nobody so much as Brian, the dog from Family Guy. Constantly rolling his eyes, sighing, muttering "Yeah..." and "Uhhnh" and "Well...." over other candidates' statements. I'd have found this annoying, except that the reason why he usually had to do such a thing was to correct some factual error of Schwartzenegger's. Arnie accused Bustamonte of hypocrisy in advocating spending on education but then cutting hundreds of millions from the state education budget in consort with Gray Davis; Cruz carefully, and with admirable restraint, pointed out that he had been the author of the bill to inrease such spending; he even had to reiterate it after Arnie harped on it in rebuttal with some ramble about his after-school programs, which it seemed he was clinging to with some desperation as his last bargaining card.

"I'm the only one here who has been in business! Nobody else here has had to meet payroll or pay for employees' health care!"
"Uh, Arnold, that's not tr--"
"You know what you politicians do all the time? You--"
"<sigh> No, Arnold. What do we do?"
"You invent all these causes, you come in for a photo-op, and then you leave and are never seen again. I sponsored after-school programs for inner-city youth..."

...And so on. I really felt for the man after a while; but then he joined the throng with his position that illegal immigrants should not only be given drivers' licenses, but full medical coverage, social benefits, legal protection-- all that rot. And Huffington, in her smarmy I-can't-be-beholden-to-special-interests role, took him to task for giving preferential treatment to Indian gaming and other groups who'd heavily supported him. So he's no angel. The guy seemed the most like someone hard at work down in the trenches; at least he seemed sincere about his commitment to the job. But that doesn't make me want to vote for him.

The big surprise, though, was Tom McClintock. He impressed the hell out of me. He was the most concise, well-spoken, restrained, and effective speaker on the whole panel-- and what's more, he seemed alone in the group in having his head screwed on straight and California's priorities in order. When the question of health care and drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants came up, McClintock was the only one to give the debate its real name: allowing illegal immigrants special treatment. "Illegal immigration is the act of cutting in line," he said. While Green Man and Bustamonte and Huffington had spent a lyrical five minutes each crooning about how illegal immigrants are our biggest source of Cheap Labor (there's that term again), picking our vegetables and building our skyscrapers and digging our ditches and getting the least pay-- McClintock was the only one to point out that illegal immigration undermines the very process of legal immigration that's what makes this state so great. (Green Man had whimpered about how immigration was a human problem, not a legal one, and the very term illegal was unfair and barbaric when one thinks how every one of us, were we in the shoes of one of the Noble Ancient Inhabitants of This Continent and living in another country, would cross the border to get a better life For Our Children.) Huffington had smirkingly berated Arnold for opposing the drivers' licenses for illegals (sorry, undocumented immigrants) while he himself-- horror, shock!-- was an immigrant! But even Arnold didn't point out the crucial distinction: Arnold had come to this country legally. Arnold had followed the rules. Arnold had made the sacrifices that entitled a person to benefit from our State services-- whereas illegal immigrants are sneaking over the border and cheating the system that so many others are following so dutifully. But McClintock was the only one up there willing to stand up for our immigration laws (some of the most lenient in the world, already) and the virtues they exist to uphold. Arnie had only been able to ramble about how giving licenses to illegals presented a "security risk" because it didn't involve a background check. C'mon, Arnie. As a legal immigrant yourself, couldn't you have pointed out the ethical distinction between rewarding a person for working hard within the system, and rewarding a person for finding a way around it? ...McClintock was also the only one to stand up in favor of Prop. 54, which will prohibit the government from collecting any racial data on citizens. The Democrats and the Green Guy all said this was terrible-- how can we know we have a colorblind society if we don't collect information on everybody's skin color?-- and Arnie just rambled about how "equality is good"; only McClintock matter-of-factly stated that the only way we'll get a colorblind society is by stepping back and forcing ourselves to stop obsessing over race-- to become one "race", an American race, unified and equal under the law.

I'm afraid Arnie is cruising to lose my vote; he has his heart in the right place, and I think he could probably do well in the job as long as he put together a top-drawer team of advisers, because they'd sift the data for him and he would make the right decisions. But McClintock alone among the candidates showed himself not only to be principled and dedicated and intelligent, but also clear-sighted and able to do his own data-sifting. I still think it might be good for California to have someone like Arnie shake things up a bit, again, provided he has a crack team of handlers making sure he knows what his cards really and factually look like; I think he's a very smart guy, with a lot of things going for him. He just doesn't do too well when the spotlight's on him, which is really weird. My only worry is that he'd treat the governorship-- not like the WWF, but like Comedy Central, as Clive the Moderator said.

McClintock, I'm not sure if I trust him yet. I'll have to do a little more research to see whether his principles are tempered by humanity, or whether he's the kind of guy you've got to watch out for because he thinks he knows what's best for you. But he's scored big with me tonight.

UPDATE: Dammit, I can't compete with LGF's Dar ul Harb:

Next on Fox!

Celebrity catfight! Arianna Huffington tries to claw her way up from the bottom of the pile, but barely scratches the semi-synthetic skin of Governator Ahnold. Ahnold remains focused on protecting the "programs for the children."

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante anchors the opposite end of the dais from the Governator, exuding the powerfully subdued condescension field loaned to him by the Al Gore 2000 campaign, but it proves unable to radiate far enough to fully absorb Ahnold's charisma.

The Green Party's Peter Camejo, product of an unlikely fusion of genetic material obtained by space aliens from former New York mayors Ed Koch and Rudy Guliani, attempted to appeal to those Californians from "every planet on the Earth" --a highly sought-after group of voters still undecided about the recall, according to former Gov. Gray Davis.

State Sen. Tom McClintock stayed on his conservative message, and out of the Governator's line of fire, by an innovative strategy of answering the questions, which had been provided to the candidates in advance. This proved attractive to voters confused by the helleno-germanic crosstalk, and thankful for the clarity of McClintock's American English diction (even if he did bloody well curse in British during his answer about Sacramento's relationship to municipalities).

Can Governator Ahnold overcome the loss of conservative Republicans to McClintock, and go on to beat Bustamante, tackle the special interests in Sacramento, the state budget deficit, and the state's decaying infrastructure, while at the same time funding health care and afterschool programs for the children?

Or will Gov. Davis' parting words be "Et tu, Cruz?"

UPDATE: Or Frank J, either, though that should surprise nobody. Best line: "Arianna Huffington died as she lived: extremely off topic."

15:18 - Making a scandal out of a scandal

I mentioned to my roommate the other day how the relentless negativity coming from all the news networks regarding post-war Iraq, even in the face of countless reports by returning servicemen (covered by bloggers but nobody in the major media) of the amazing progress and positive atmosphere there, has reached "scandal" proportions; he disagreed, saying that if nobody knew about it but bloggers, then it wasn't much of a scandal, was it?

Okay, point. But evidently the blogosphere isn't about to let that be the end of the matter.
Time for Bloggers to Fight a Front in the Real War

Poking fun at Glenn Reynolds has been amusing, but I think I have a real cause for us blog writers and blog readers to work for now.

As I've said before on my own site, I don't get legitimately angry that often, but one thing has been pissing me off lately, and that's the coverage of the war in the media. All we hear is the negative news, and everything is painted to make the war look like a failure. Yet, anytime I talk to one of our troops who has actually been in Iraq, the outlook is quite different. I hear how nice and thankful the Iraqi people are. I hear of all the progress that is being made. I hear of the schools the troops have help built, and how big Marines are sitting on teeter-totters and swing sets teaching Iraqi kids how to use them since those children have never had a playground before.

And I never hear any of this in the major media.

Some of this is just the habit of media to dwell on the negative, but not all of it. These are stories people want to hear, but too many news organizations have no interest in them. And I don't think I'm going to far out on limb to say some of them are purposely ignoring any good news to try to spin victory into failure. They are trying to fight a propaganda war.

Well, let's fight back.

Hear, hear. And the fact that this is Frank J leading the charge is quite something-- it's a real testament to how even the bloggers who are normally thought of as "humorists" (the blog world's equivalent of color commentators) might turn out to be the ones who really make a difference.

Now, it's encouraging to see that Dan Rather has begin issuing little disclaimers saying "Of course, in other parts of Iraq, things are going quite well", and Democratic lawmakers are starting to come out of the closet and admit that this incessant campaign on the part of the media to convince the American public that going to Iraq was a bad idea is, itself, counterproductive and indeed deeply, deeply insulting to our achievements and our true intentions. Yes, yes, everybody's leery of patriotic jingoism in the evening news. But it's entirely possible to go too far in the opposite direction, you know? And it should eventually occur to even the most cynical and self-despising liberal that anything that prolongs the resistance effort, encourages guerillas into thinking they can "pull a Mogadishu", or impedes reconstruction is just going to end up costing more American lives and dollars-- and if that doesn't soften their hearts, maybe the thought of a half-rebuilt Iraq plunging back into dictatorship and oppression just so the anti-Bush forces can prove a point will.

It's the 21st century, and there are still too many evil dictatorships out there. America and its allies finally did something about one. There was terrible murderous regime in Iraq oppressing 24 million people, and now that regime is gone and those people have hope. There are millions more who could use that hope as well, but there are forces out there to make sure that does not happen. They want to tell us we are losing. They want tell they enemy they are winning. This is no small thing. Public opinion, both in America and world wide, will affect the outcome of this war. If Iraq is seen as a victory, it could cause the collapse of more evil regimes because they'll know they are next. If it is seen as a failure - a “quagmire” -then evil is encouraged and strengthened.

Frank has instructions on what we can do. Fortunately there already seems to be traction building, and I think many Americans are starting to get tired of the cognitive dissonance between what they hear from their returning soldier sons and daughters about how well things are going in most of Iraq, and MoveOn.org claiming that:

" Congress must withhold the $87 billion requested by President Bush until he dismisses the team responsible for the quagmire in Iraq -- starting with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld -- and ends the U.S. occupation of Iraq by transferring authority for rebuilding to the U.N. "

I mean, really. What outcome do you guys actually hope for? Why not say what you really feel?

So let's get some of those good ol' grass roots planted and dug in. If this is going to be a scandal, let's make it a scandal that'll make MonicaGate look like V-E Day.

Monday, September 22, 2003
23:45 - Vocabulary lesson

Here's a new word for you, kids: bias crime.

NEWARK, N.J. - Police are investigating a graffiti attack on several buildings on Rutgers University's main campus in New Brunswick, including a Jewish community center and a fraternity house, as a bias crime.

On Saturday morning, swastikas were found spray-painted on Rutgers Hillel. They were also painted on the porch and front door of Alpha Epsilon Pi, an historically Jewish fraternity.

Three other buildings were damaged by spray paint, but no swastikas were painted on them, police said.

Got that? Bias crime.

Like giving unfair news coverage to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, or like defending Sammy Sosa after the corked-bat thing because you're a Cubs fan.

Or like spray-painting swastikas on campus Hillel buildings.

Y'know. It's all just the same. Simple bias. That's all.

(Via LGF.)

23:23 - And this next player wants to hit the ball too. And he does! And everyone is happy! And there he goes, off in that direction.

Did anyone else happen to catch the Commonwealth Club address, recorded on the 19th, of Prince Bandar bin Sultan?

To hear him speak, America and Saudi Arabia are better friends than any other two countries on Earth. "Flattery sweet as honey dripped from his tongue," as they say. He threw the floor open, rather than "giving the party line" (his words), and fielded open questions from people about anti-American sentiment in Saudi Arabia and suchlike. He answered everything with Oxford-don loquacity; it's hard not to believe the guy.

Except when he says things like: "Unfortunately, Monday Morning quarterbacks are all over the place-- and I must note, I watch Monday Morning Football... I'm a Dallas Cowboys fan, and so I saw the game-- and was pleased with the result, I might add... anyway--"

Now, I admit I'm not as big a football fan (of America's Team™, no less) as Prince Bandar bin Madden, but isn't it Monday Night Football?

And he sounded so sincere...

15:29 - Meaningless mantras

I started thinking this morning (a dangerous pastime, I know) about the concept of "diversity". I'd been wondering just where all this Western self-loathing has come from-- this collective national guilt at sharing citizenship with the evil rich white males who run the wooorrrld-- and just sort of found myself pondering what leads people to plaster bumper stickers on their cars that plead for "diversity" above all other goals. If a rainbow-colored "Celebrate Diversity" sticker is alone on the back of a car, without even a "peace" symbol or that blue square thing with the yellow "equals" sign to accompany it, does that mean the person considers "diversity" to be the absolute most important thing this country has to work on? Or is it just a passive, feel-good way to say "Hey, I'm not a racist, not that you were gonna accuse me of being one or anything, oh, and I'm so sorry for being white"?

I'd like to know just since when a lack of diversity has been a problem, though? (I mean, we already have people from every planet on Earth in this state.) On NPR the other night, Sound Money was interviewing the chief of a Socially Responsible Investment mutual fund; and she said that one of the three big planks of what makes an SRI is that it buys companies that actively work to "promote diversity". Okay, um... maybe I just haven't been in the workforce long enough or worked at enough companies to notice, but-- it seems to me there's plenty of diversity in companies today. The engineering team at my company has members who are black, white, Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Hispanic, Australian, Texan, and Hippie. In surprisingly equal measure. Know how many outreach programs the company engages in so as to be "socially conscious" in keeping ethnic balance in its hiring practices?

Okay, well, maybe that's because it's a technology company, and we hire anybody who's competent, because economically we can't afford not to. But I can drive down the street and look in the windows of businesses in strip malls, and you know what I don't see? Signs saying NO IRISH NEED APPLY or WHITES ONLY. Wonder why that could be?

Maybe because "diversity in the workplace" was a genuine goal that needed to be pursued about a hundred years ago, but now it's just a silly conceit. Like holding a picket rally demanding for cars to have four wheels, or supporting federal funding to get more kids to use the Internet.

The beauty of it is that no matter where you look, you see evidence that it must be working!

Whenever I see a "celebrate diversity" bumper sticker, then, or hear about some mutual fund that seeks out companies that actively try to "promote diversity", I get unbidden mental images of just what that means. Maybe I'll show up at work one of these days with a big cake, decorated with candy people in all different colors holding hands in a big circle. I'll go around and hand a piece to each member of the team, and say, "Boy, I'm sure glad you're      (race)     ! Thanks for being part of this company!" Then I'll go home and tell the guy who spent this morning with a couple of subcontractors jackhammering out the big concrete slabs from behind the house, "Hey, way to hire Hispanic people for menial labor! Kudos to you! I bet they'll appreciate it even more if you learn a few more than six words of Spanish!" And I'll pass out beers. Maybe I'll go back to my college, where Asian students outnumbered White ones by a pretty good margin, and demand that Admissions give more favorable treatment to Caucasian applicants. All in the name of Diversity!

It reminds me of a time when I was working at an ISP back in my hometown. There was this one customer, a thin, mousy guy on those arm-crutches that spoke of a past injury or malady-- your heart just went out to him. (This was in 1996, so the Internet was brand-new, and home users walking in to sign up typically had not the slightest clue what "going online" was all about. It was still the age when people had 286 boxes they'd bought in 1986, and they'd heard about this "Internet" thing that they could get on and have sex.) So this guy comes in and signs up for an account; he asks us in this slow, careful, halting voice that makes you wonder whether he's got some kind of mental impediment what all the details are to the process of getting information that's on these "web sites" he's heard about. He wants to find out information about healthful water systems, herbal healing, that sort of thing. He wants a regular user account; he wants unlimited hours. He even signs up for a domain name, which he plans to use in selling herbal holistic remedies or something. We spend about an hour teaching him how to do everything he's going to need to do, how to search for information on the Web, how to find the important sites for the interests he has and the business he wants to run; he keeps asking the same uncertain questions, sounding scared and overwhelmed. He takes his time to convey crucial words, like "in-for-mation"; he clearly has something very important in his head, and he's determined to get it, but something's just not quite gelling. Eventually, though, he seems timidly satisfied, pays for the account and services, stands up, and quivers his way back out of the office.

A week later, he appears again at our door. He has more questions. Specifically, he wants to know about "bulletin board systems". He's heard about BBSes as this other "thing" you can do with your modem. We look at him, brows furrowed. Well, we're an Internet provider; we don't have anything to do with BBSes. What do you want to go on them for, anyway?

And he wobbles, looks pleadingly from one of our faces to another, and says uncertainly, "Because... they have... in-for-mation..."

It's just a word he'd latched onto. Something that was already on the Internet in abundance beyond historical precedent, but that, to him, was something he always needed more of. Like diversity.

Look: "Diversity" is not something we need to actively work towards. Racist hiring practices are not a palpable problem anywhere in this country. If an incident of such a thing is discovered, it becomes-- or, I daresay, would become-- a huge scandal. We get far more negative blowback because of affirmative action and a desire to have "diversity" above all else (witness Jayson Blair) than because of anything that even hints of the things that affirmative action was supposedly supposed to combat. The cure has gone well into the worse-than-the-disease category.

And if someone tries to get me to buy into a "socially conscious investment" mutual fund, one whose paramount goals include stamping out that pervasive racism problem in publicly traded corporations' hiring policies in America, I'm going to smile, nod, and go and seek funds that are more interested in making money than in solving a problem that no longer exists.

UPDATE: John writes to say:

If you strive for excellence as your primary goal, you will attain diversity by default.

If you strive for diversity above all else, excellence will suffer.

Unless you are the NBA.

13:45 - World travelers

Via Tim Blair, a Canadian guy studying in San Francisco takes one of those globe-trotting, apologizing-for-America's-existence backpacking tours to discover what it's like in the places that we call evil:

In the end I just tried to absorb the situation and try to read as much as I could about it. I found out later, when he left the car, that he was a government official working in intelligence for the national broadcasting company. But he was not complaining about the conversation in the car, he was the one complaining about the government. His frustration was to the point where he was almost losing control, he needed to vent or he would burst.

Many of the people in the cabs in Tehran had the similar thoughts. "Tell George Bush to come and get rid of the mullahs for us." I was shocked by the openness of that statement. With one fellow I tried to discuss it with him in more detail to see if he really meant it or was just talking. I told him that if George Bush came and got rid of the Mullahs, it would not be to help the people of Iran; he would be coming for the oil. The fellow replied, "He can have the oil, its not doing us any good anyway and at least then we would be free."

Either way, I'm sure we can find it in our hearts to sell them some of that oil we've stolen from Iraq. At a modest markup, of course.

Oh, and I like this part:

Midway through the tour we stop for a refreshing beverage. I drink my juice and my guide, with a sly smile, tells me to look at my cup. I see that written on the side of it are the words "Down with USA". Ouch. I chuckle a little and tell him that's very interesting. He tells me to read the other side of the cup, which I see says "Down with Israel". He's smiling quite gleefully, like he just did something brilliant, and I'm laughing along with him, because it's so banal. I mean really, is that it? After that, I headed over to a friends home for some khoresh e seeb, and ghormeh sabzi.

Maybe the reason "why they hate us" is that although we've got it amazingly good here, we're squandering it with self-hatred. Our problem isn't chauvinism; it's the opposite. We live in a place the rest of the world dreams of living, but we're too blinded by guilt to appreciate it.

I suppose I'd hate us too.

Sunday, September 21, 2003
15:28 - Wild Blue Yonder

Done with that last stupid chapter; now just two more to go and I'm at the 75% deadline. Now I'm off to go flying around the bay with Chris; back later.

Saturday, September 20, 2003
15:10 - We wonders, yes we wonders

Remember when I was in the woods north of Toronto last month, and in a cabin at the camp site I found a sheaf of "Camp Songs" that had been rewritten with cheerful militant Islamic lyrics?

Well, well...

TORONTO - A Muslim youth organization that American counter-terrorism officials say was founded by Osama bin Laden's nephew has been operating in the Toronto area, the National Post has learned.

The World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), established in the United States by Abdullah bin Laden, publishes literature promoting Islamic jihad and hatred of Jews, according to a senior investigator.

The Canadian branch, in Mississauga, operates under the supervision of the U.S. wing set up by Abdullah bin Laden, according to the group's own literature. Its headquarters is in Saudi Arabia.

In an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Virginia, David Kane, a senior special agent with the Department of Homeland Security, quoted provocative sections of books published by WAMY. One of the books said, "Teach our children to love taking revenge on the Jews and the oppressors, and teach them that our youngsters will liberate Palestine and al-Quds [Jerusalem] when they go back to Islam and make jihad for the sake of Allah."

Special Agent Kane said another book compiled and published by WAMY listed "Heroes of Palestine" who had been killed in attacks against Israelis, including a terrorist who hijacked a bus and drove it off a cliff, killing 14.

"The Jews are the enemies of the faithful, God and the angels," Special Agent Kane quoted another WAMY book, entitled A Handy Encyclopedia of Contemporary Religions and Sects, as saying. "The Jews are humanity's enemies; they foment immorality in this world; The Jews are deceitful, they say something but mean the exact opposite."

WAMY Canada runs a series of Islamic camps and pilgrimages for youth.

I'm sure it's just a bizarre coincidence.

Friday, September 19, 2003
15:35 - Good News Don't Sell

I'm sure it would come as a surprise to people who get their news via hearsay from chat-forum wags and syndicated cartoonists to hear that things in Iraq are actually going well-- quite well indeed. That despite yesterday's attack near Tikrit, insurgent violence is dropping quite precipitously (we're going for longer and longer periods without American deaths). That Baghdad has electrical power. That just about every town and city has a democratically elected council. That American soldiers even today, in mid-September 2003, are hailed from the sidewalks with cries of "We love America!" and "Thank you Bush!" as they drive through the streets of all but a few Tikriti strongholds. That despite the slant you get from CNN and ABC and just about everybody but Fox, the troops don't have to skulk from doorway to doorway for fear that every second-story window harbors a sniper sheltered by the Loyal Iraqi Patriots.

In fact, to hear the reporting from the major news organs and all the popular comic artists (who, of course, people are predisposed to believe anyway because they're funny), one might come to believe that Iraq is, in fact, a quagmire that we should retreat from immediately.

Trouble is, if we were to do so, the Iraqis would be really surprised. Not least at our rationale. Because from where they stand, the longer the Americans stay, the better.

Glenn Reynolds has put up a nice long roundup of all the latest scandals that have gone nicely unreported except in the blogosphere-- Andrew Gilligan's doctoring of his Palm Pilot's message dates, Christine Amanpour's whining about being "intimidated" by Fox News, initially anti-war federal judge Don Walter's brick-wall first-hand realization of just how right we were to go to Iraq.

These things are reaching the editorial pages, but it'll be some time before they appear above the fold. If ever.

Only by continuing to spread the word will that ever happen.

Of course, if humor can be used for evil, it can be used for good as well. Read Frank J.'s take. No, really.

"Why are you filming the G.I.’s helping school children?" CNN's Lefty Stevens asked Fox News's Melinda Hawkish, "There's no story there."

"I think people would be interested in how war and destruction has improved the lives of the Iraqis," Melinda answered.

"Bah! Only stories of failure are news worthy," Stevens answered. Nearby he saw a troop fall to the ground, and he and his cameraman quickly rushed over to film him. "Yet another troop has fallen in this burgeoning quagmire," Stevens narrated.

"I'm alright," said Private Gomer, standing up, "I just done tripped on a rock."

"Dammit!" Stevens exclaimed, "Well scream for us if you are more seriously wounded."


13:05 - Stealing Capitalism's Sooouuuul

This morning the guest on Forum was William Greider, author of The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy. And with a title like that, you just know it's going to be one of those hours where I turn down the radio so I can hear the much more pleasant sounds coming from my VR6 all the way to work.

But, inevitably, the engine noise winds down as I come to the stop light after the off-ramp, and what is the guy doing but... holding gamely forth about how our society rewards all the wrong people for the jobs they do. "We have this artificial ladder of 'brain workers' and 'hand workers'," he says. "We have this idea that people who use their brains for a living are somehow better people, and that people who use their hands are to be looked down upon." He went on to explain how in order to make progress, we need to restructure society so that the people whose jobs we need are the ones who get paid the best, instead of those do-nothing parasites like corporate executives and scientists and stockbrokers and politicians. He noted that even brain surgeons do tedious repetitive work with their hands, while truck drivers and seamstresses and janitors all have an "intellectualizing process" in what they do. "One can ask the question of who in society we need more-- garbage collectors and sewer workers, or brain surgeons and bond traders? And frankly I'd have to say it's the garbage collectors!"

Unalloyed approval from the hostess and from the callers. Of course.

I parked and shut off the car before I could hear whether anyone called in to ask the following question, though: Why should a job that requires a $200,000 eight-year education be paid on an equal basis with a job that can be trained for in three days?

Y'know, just askin'.

I don't care how much society "needs" one job or another. Sure, we need people to flip our burgers, clean our streets, watch us while we sleep, and all the rest of the things Tyler Durden told the police chief guy while threatening to cut off his balls. Yes, I understand that unskilled labor is crucially important to the function of society.

But let's not kid ourselves, all right? There's no need to go all "noble savage" about people with menial, unglamorous jobs. I understand the temptation to get all weepy about the inequity of it all; why should Mr. White-Collar get paid six figures to sit behind a desk all day and type on a keyboard while his friend from high school digs ditches in the blazing sun for minimum wage? Oh, the humanity! And we need ditches to be dug; we don't need software to be written! ...Well, look: no matter how much you think the world should work, the supply and demand rules of economics apply to jobs the same as they do to everything else. Want to know why it costs an employer five bucks an hour to get a guy to swing a pickax, while it costs another employer $100,000 a year to get a guy to write C++ code? Um, because the people who are capable of swinging a pickax are more numerous than the ones who are capable of writing C++ code.

This is pretty rudimentary stuff. Why do I even need to explain it? Why are guys like Greider allowed to make hundreds of thousands of dollars writing books about how this fundamental theory of market economics is backwards and wrong and doesn't make sense?

Yes, we have a class system. We do. But it's one based not on accident of birth, or on inheritance, or on race or religion or gender-- but on merit. Tom Lehrer once started off his "It Makes a Fellow Proud to Be a Soldier" song with a monologue noting that our armed forces not only prohibit discrimination on the grounds of race, creed, and color, but also on the grounds of ability. It was a rueful joke in 1959; but today some people actually seem to want to add that criterion to the list.

It's a hard thing to get past, I admit. Even Greg Kihn, on KFOX in the morning a couple of years ago, wondered why we should trust airport security to an underpaid unskilled workforce when we need to be manning those X-ray machines with our best and brightest? We need those people, by gum. And I had to e-mail him to point out that if the airports could afford to pay the guys at the security checkpoint a salary commensurate with the education that makes them "our best and brightest", then they'll take that job. But unless they do, why the hell should someone who has put in that kind of money and study and effort over the years-- specifically to enhance his earning power-- choose to stand behind a beeping archway for twelve hours a day, staring at a little black-and-white TV screen and waving a magnetic wand over little old ladies' armpits?

While, presumably, Microsoft hires bums off the street to write their flagship software?

...Wait. Maybe Greider's on to something there.

Anyway: the callers clearly weren't going to be any help; the first one said "Hi-- I've been the beneficiary of capitalism all my life, but I've noticed that in recent years especially, the Soul of Capitalism has gotten progressively more dark... I mean, who can deny that one of the main reasons for the war in Iraq was oil?"

Uh, I can, you dorktard. If we invaded Iraq to steal their oil so we can have cheap gas, then why the hell do I have to pay $2.25 a gallon at the pump? I want my Evil Capitalist Imperialist Oppressor dividend, dammit! What, do I have to drive around the back to get to the special pumps, the ones reserved for the members of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy? The ones where all the card-carrying demons in business suits fill up their SUVs and motorhomes and Palestinian-baby-threshing machines for a nickel a gallon, just like in the good old petticoats-buttoned-at-the-neck 50s?

Where do they get these people?

Oh, wait. It's California.

"My vision is to make the most diverse state on earth, and we have people from every planet on the earth in this state. We have the sons and daughters of every, of people from every planet, of every country on earth," [Governor Davis] said.

Never mind.

04:42 - Baghdad Blog

Ah yes: this is why I keep listening to NPR on the way home from work. It's because every so often, Terry Gross will have on some guest who's just too interesting to pass up. And I can hardly think of a more interesting candidate for the position than today's guest: Salam Pax.

I didn't get to hear the whole thing-- we were running back and forth getting lattices from Home Despot to finish up the fence with-- but what I did hear was most excellent. You get to hear about Salam's life and times, how good his English is, what it was like in Baghdad during the bombing (which, it must be noted, was a subject that Terry just kept goading and goading and hoping he would expand upon, but all he did was talk about how "precision bombs are just scarily accurate" and how the bombing and even the ground invasion of Baghdad proper were as nothing compared to how scared his fellow Iraqis were of the Ba'athist army and what they might do.)

The audio's all archived, so I'll be grabbing an hour tomorrow to absorb the whole thing.

Thursday, September 18, 2003
18:45 - Where do I get tickets?

Bill Whittle has some Big News.

As commenter "Blackfive" puts it, he's kicking in the gates of Hell.

11:34 - That's the stuff

Lileks has gotten in the habit of warning people off of his more screedish Bleats, because presumably a lot of people don't wanna read "all that political crap".

Whatever. When I see the words "Bail if you choose; see you tomorrow", I rub my hands together and pour myself a drink, grinning.

Monday, September 15, 2003
19:28 - Censorship: American Style

Some countries censor their citizens to prevent them from discussing events and ideas which might make the State look bad. Some countries silence teachers in their schools who might tell their students that their country might be in the wrong.

And here in AmeriKKKa, our public schools deny teachers the right to discuss the most important event in our recent history in such a way as to portray the country as being in the right.

Ritter on Wednesday showed his class of 13- and 14-year-old students a CNN-produced video that included images of Sept. 11 victims leaping from windows. He did not have district approval to show the video, Amole said.

Jeanette Washington, a student curriculum administrator, dropped by Ritter's classroom while he was playing the video "America Remembers," and Ritter later was called out of class to meet with principal Cynde Fischer.

Ritter said he agreed not to show the video again. After a meeting Wednesday afternoon he understood he could answer questions only about Sept. 11, but he went to school Thursday with other anniversary activities planned just in case, he said.

That morning, he said, Fischer told him he must limit his Sept. 11 discussion to the crash of United Airlines Flight 93, and then move to a regular lesson about the foundation of American government.

"I did not feel it was an option for me to explore other Sept. 11 (topics)," he said.

School officials told him they would sit in on the class, and when he protested, they told him he could follow their directions or leave, Ritter said.

When he went downstairs to think about it, he returned and Fischer told him to leave, he said.

He returned for a regular day of work Friday, but administrators asked him to leave again, he said.

Minders. Right here at home. To make sure he doesn't teach his students about the attack on the World Trade Center.

Our future isn't just a Nerf world. It's a Nerf world run by Big Brother.

(Via LGF.)

19:04 - One would think they planned it this way

Oh, brother.

A federal appeals court Monday ordered California officials to halt preparations for the October 7 gubernatorial recall election, citing concerns about a "hurried, constitutionally infirm" process.

Specifically, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the state needed to upgrade its voting equipment first.

"The inherent defects in the system are such that approximately 40,000 voters who travel to the polls and cast their ballot will not have their vote counted at all," the court ruled, citing voting machines that the secretary of state's office has declared unfit.

Interesting. So I suppose all previous elections which were carried out using archaic systems similar to California's Pleistocene punch-card system are also hereby to be considered null and void, yesno? Including the one that elected Davis in the first place?

What I find more teeth-gritting about this is that all the bizarre eleventh-hour vote-pandering legislation that Davis has been pushing through in the past few weeks-- like giving legal driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, and requiring catalytic converters on lawnmowers, which will probably mean lawnmowers' O2 sensors will now all start burning out and requiring $500 repairs every six months-- will not be immediately and painfully repealed by whatever saner candidate steps into his seat, as a little nasty-gram-to-the-new-guy, welcome aboard-- have fun dealing with this, as planned. Instead, these travesties will stand.

If Davis has used the recall as a cover for this flurry of ludicrous and otherwise impossible lawmaking, only to emerge smelling like a rose thanks to the Ninth Circuit, even Arnie won't be able to save us.

18:56 - Hammer drills both kick, and suck, ass

My arm, leg, and abdomen muscles all agree this is so.

But all the holes are now drilled in the concrete-brick wall along the back of the property, and the pressure-treated 4x4s are all mounted with 10" carriage bolts, and the cement piers and posts are all painted a deep terra-cotta reddish-brown. That's so the crosspieces can be attached between them, and then the piers can be covered with vertical trellis pieces, which then will stretch across the top. The brown will show through the trellises on the way up, but the rest of the white wall will be covered with redwood planks.

The backyard's still a mess, but it's starting to take shape. Slowly. Surely.

Photos. I need photos.

Friday, September 12, 2003
03:36 - Politics from the Land of Make-Believe, with flowers and bells and leprechauns and magic frogs with funny little hats

Still getting caught back up on all those newsgroup discussions. And lo and behold, on 8/6 there was an "anniversary" piece for the Hiroshima bombing. Centered around and juxtaposed with Bush's statement after we mistakenly bombed that wedding in Afghanistan.

"Fat Man and Little Boy Say: Civilian Casualties Are Unavoidable!", copperplated brashly in the circular border surrounding an iconic, eroticized "riding the bomb" image we all know from Dr. Strangelove.

Followups included deep sentiments like "Bush must be getting better at sticking feet in his mouth."

God, I'm getting tired of this crap.

Civilian casualties are unavoidable. Yeah, so? They bleeding well are.

Especially when the civilians in question are in the immediate vicinity of al Qaeda strongholds, and firing machine guns into the air when there are spotter planes about.

But no, it's all of a piece with Hiroshima. Which was itself just another piece of unwarranted American brutality, to be mocked and satirized and vilified fifty years on.

I honestly don't know what to make of these guys anymore. They seem to have just enough historical awareness to enable them to make accurate reference to dates and events and quotes artfully out of context, but they're totally lacking in the moral weights and balances that underly these decisions ensconced in their circumstances. I can't dismiss it all as simply people regurgitating sound bites they think are cute and visuals they think make for good irony; but nor can I believe that they have all the information necessary and yet have arrived at these dumbfounding ethical conclusions about America's role in the world and conduct during war.

Without knowing which case it is, I can't know whether these people simply want more tactical perfection and more moral consistency in US actions, or if they simply want the US to go away and take its poisonous history and culture with it.

On that note, I seriously need some sleep.

18:46 - ...Or the terrorists win

Damien Del Russo has a rather different take on "getting over it":

But that was then - now, I hardly think about it. Weeks go by when Sept. 11th doesn't enter my mind - even media references slide by. And, I think that's fine. Of course I would be much more concerned if our government weren't doing something about it. But even though some of the methods are stupid (e.g. silly airport security) or ineffective, the main action - taking the fight to the terrorists and West-haters in the Middle East - is going well. I trust our military to do the job there, and that's the most important thing at this point. So, I'll do my home improvements, take my daughter for evening walks on perfect days in September, and go on living the good life we have here, now. There's never been a better time to be alive, and if terrorists and dictators had their way, it would be downhill from here. But that won't happen, because we, the victims of 9/11 - Americans - won't let it happen.

Next year, I'll probably write about my daughter, or football. My best hope is that we can continue to remember Sept 11th, as opposed to suffering another national tragedy - that's the best measure of our success and resilience. Never again.

I can get behind that.

14:33 - Innocent Infant Artists

Normally I don't get to hear the locally-produced, Asian-interest program Pacific Time on my NPR station, because it comes on about a half-hour before I usually leave work. But some days I manage to catch it, because I'm on the road early, for whatever reason.

Usually the show is quite interesting-- and not just because of the funky Sino-rock theme music or the kookily endearing coverage of protests and concerts by Asian activists to "help the North Korean people who are suffering under American oppression". There are some real and worthwhile viewpoints to be had, things the show is frankly quite right to say I don't normally hear in the mainstream news. (Though the question of whether the importation of rice into Japan by Japanese-Americans is a larger issue to most people in the US than, say, Laci Petersen is surely up for debate.)

But yesterday I skipped out early to attend a dinner party up in Berkeley with some old high-school friends, the same ones I'd spent that day on the boat with a couple of weeks ago. (Zachary's Pizza, man. Mmm-mmm.) And that meant I hit the traffic snags in the partially-constructed 237-880 interchange, reducing my speed to a crawl and my engine noise to the level where I could hear the radio, just as Pacific Time came on.

Since the start of the Palestinian intifada and the September 11 attacks, the angry voices of political Islam that have shouted lthe oudest from the Muslim world. But there is a more conciliatory voice urging peace and dialogue with the West, and unequivocally condemning terrorism in all its forms. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a recent conference of mainstream and progressive Islamic scholars put out a message of moderation.

That's the summary of the first segment, as given on the website. And it was quite honestly one of the most refreshing things I've heard in a very long time. Conferences of moderate Muslims, actively coming together to figure out how to combat fundamentalism. An acknowledgment that radical Islam teaches that innovation and new ideas are wrong, an idea which these moderates think is ridiculous-- "You can't develop without new ideas." They talked about the Qur'an admonishing Muslims to seek out not just religious knowledge, but a second kind of knowledge as well-- scientific and technological and medical knowledge-- which, oddly, is something that's completely neglected by Taliban-style theocracies. The Malays interviewed said that they have a long way to go, but that they see 9/11 and the war in Iraq as a turning point for modern Islam-- and a positive one, even. "Radical Muslims have had this idea that by extreme faith, by sacrificing themselves, they can change history. But now, after 9/11 and Iraq, they're starting to realize that they cannot write history in this world." I'm paraphrasing, but that's what the guy more or less said. He sounded wry and optimistic, too, not as fatalistic as my flawed paraphrasing sounds. (Listen to the archived audio if you're interested. This first segment at least is quite worthwhile, and I found it hit the spot yesterday in particular.)

But then... oh, then. Then there was this second segment:

The U.S. has imposed stricter immigration measures since September 11, 2001. While some American artists are able to travel to Indonesia to participate in cultural exchange projects, Indonesian artists have faced a tough time getting U.S. visas.

A bunch of love-beaded American artists, mostly female by the choice of interviewees, departed immediately after 9/11/01 to go to Indonesia, bringing messages of cultural exchange and tolerance and bright pretty colors. They would ride to locations on little scooters, perch on rickety bamboo ladders, and paint huge murals of flowers and butterflies and birds with their Indonesian counterparts, and thereby gain a better understanding of Muslims and Islam in the post-WTC world.

My first reaction was, hey, why Indonesia? Why not go to Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan and try this?

The artists, of course, when prompted with a microphone, held forth with great vigor about how wonderful a people the Indonesians were-- how the artists had felt great trepidation about going to a Muslim country post-9/11, but found upon getting there that everybody was just so nice and welcoming and generous and laid-back, and how after a few weeks of living there, they found themselves becoming similarly at ease, the stress and cares of their lives back in America slipping away. "They would drive us around on their scooters every day, and paint with us," one breathy-teen-voiced participant said. "Not being able to reciprocate just made me feel really bad. I felt that these people deserved to be able to, you know, like, travel... much more than I do."

One of them mused in doleful, singsong voice about how badly she wanted her new Indonesian friends to be able to come to the US for their art-exchange program tour. "I want to show them so many things about America. I want them to see all the things that I hate... and then I want to share some things about my childhood and community."

Geez, don't fall all over yourself with jingoism there, you chauvinistic American.

And the big story in this segment was about how the Indonesian artists, when they tried to get their visas to enter the US, faced such a horrible police-state atmosphere that the listener can't imagine why anyone would ever want to enter such a place. As the narrator ominously intoned, young men coming from Muslim countries were suspect. "The interview process was humiliating," one Indonesian artist said. "When you come into our country, it's all based on this idea of, like, friendship and goodwill. But just to go to the US Embassy, it's all surrounded with barbed wire-- it's like going into a war zone. And the entry interview-- I thought it was going to be, you know, a normal conversation. Not like where you go up to a counter to buy a ticket."

I hope Ashcroft and Tom Ridge get the message: 9/11-like rage against America is caused by long lines at Customs.

But they got their visas, and they did their tour of the US, and they showed off their murals and paintings of birds and flowers and trees and butterflies, and it was a big hit. But the stress got to be just too much, and the artists retired to a back alley after a show to smoke and drink and talk.

One of them picked up a cut-out letter E from the ground. So they all started naming words that begin with E. At first it was simple words: entertainment, and easy. Then it went on to more complicated words: eternal, and endless. Soon, though, the reality of the present began to hit home, with words like exit permit and entry visa. Then words like excluded and expelled. And finally, words like embassy... and evil... and empire.

Yeah, excellent. Emissaries with easels, explaining "evil" to expatriates whose experience has been expunged of events in East Timor.

"One-Way Cultural Exchange Between U.S. and Indonesia" is the name of this second segment. Yeah, I'd say that's about right. Only one side learned anything.

Thursday, September 11, 2003
15:39 - Understanding


13) Check your weapon before you leave and long before you leave. (You must make your knife sharp and must not discomfort your animal during the slaughter).

Via LGF.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003
23:50 - My chest hurts

Fark's topic today: Microsoft High.

18:12 - Perspective and soda

Tim Blair:

The Associated Press reports from Jerusalem:

On the eve of his daughter's wedding, Dr. David Applebaum sat with the young woman late into the evening at a coffee house, offering fatherly advice on marriage before her big day.

Father and daughter were killed late Tuesday when a suicide bomber struck the cafe - one of two attacks that left 15 people dead.

Applebaum had just flown back to Israel after giving a talk at a New York terrorism symposium marking the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Dr. Applebaum was the founder and director of Jerusalem’s TEREM emergency medical centres. His daughter's funeral will be held on the day she was to be married.

Oh, but I'm sure the AP and Reuters will find a way to tell a similar story of irony and woe and loving family life cut barbarously short when the IDF finally gets Abdul Aziz Rantisi and Mahmoud Zahar.

You know it'll happen.

16:06 - If you can't say anything nice...

Do they have even the slightest idea how offensive this is? How deeply, deeply wrongheaded and inhuman?

Of course not, because we don't preach our outrage on state-sponsored TV. That's not what we do here in the Civilized World. We have to bottle up our anger, you see. We have to keep quiet, smile, take deep breaths, dispense our feelings in small measured doses with warning labels. Because to do otherwise would be hubris.

That's what being Western is all about, apparently. Turning the other cheek. Appeasement. Peace at all costs. Absorbing insult and attack without retaliation.

I think I can still do it. But it's getting awfully hard.

(Just imagine, as a thought experiment, what it would be like if America had responded to 9/11 the way that, say, the Palestinians would have.)

15:40 - Just shut up, McGruder

Yet another of those things that only sounds ridiculous if you don't think about it.

Right. It can't be something based on actual science, something that's a lot more complex than can be explained in a three-panel comic strip. It must be because those Republicans are so DumbEvilStupid™ that they're willing to invent a Topsy-Turvy Town where environmentalist language can be used to justify their desire to cut down trees just because they... hate trees.

Or whatever.

13:47 - Stay Angry

Tim Blair found this piece. He says it's that "one thing" that you should read if you only read one 9/11 piece, but there seem to be too many of those to only pick one. (Seems we've already well and truly taken care of that problem identified a couple of weeks ago-- namely, that none of the "official" entertainment organs were planning commemorative pieces. All hail the grass roots, eh?)

Growing anger, anger that got bigger after seeing the images. No wonder they have disappeared. GOD forbid that Americans get angry. We have to stay passive, we have to crumple up handkerchiefs in agony, we have to blubber and mourn the loss. But righteous anger is to be avoided. Americans cannot be trusted to handle their anger. Anger is BAD, right? Anger is NEGATIVE. We have to try to understand WHY, we have to try to see the other side's point of view.

Well, you know what? I do see the other side's point of view, and I hate their point of view. It's like that great Dennis Miller quote from his recent HBO special: "You know what? I hated religious fanatics who wanted to murder me on September 10, okay?"

"Understanding" is not the key to everything. You can understand something and hate it with all your heart just the same. As a matter of fact, the MORE I understand the reasoning of the thugs on those planes, and the ideology behind them, the MORE I hate them.

Seeing those images again made me outraged at those of us who chide others to get over it. I am stunned that anyone could ever look at the carnage on that footage (and I saw the whole damn thing with my actual eyes) - and somehow ... not be changed. Get OVER IT? What? Are you out of your goddamned freaking mind? What is the MATTER with you?

I was a little miffed at myself for so quickly condemning PBS as a whole after that "Muhammad: Portrait of a Peaceful Leader of a Peaceful Religion" or whatever it was, a couple of Decembers ago. But seeing the spreading reaction to this 9/11 special, I'm glad again that I haven't wasted any thought on PBS since then.

On the other hand, I'm glad someone is keeping an eye on them.

Tuesday, September 9, 2003
23:30 - We need role models

This piece is getting linked from all over, and with good reason. I guess it's because things like this have come to light in the past two years that I feel as though anything I myself could add or write would just cheapen things.

If you read only one emotional and inspiring story and learn only one name tihs September, though, you could do far, far worse than those of Rick Rescorla.

20:09 - Nothing to see here

I'm afraid I won't have anything very meaningful to say on the subject of 9/11, now that the second anniversary is rolling over us like the low, solemn clouds that have been inexplicably hanging on the tops of the Santa Cruz mountains for the past couple of days, only this afternoon to start shedding some moisture on our sidewalks.

I wasn't there, after all.

I was asleep, safe in my bed, on the West Coast, where it was only just becoming light at the time that the first plane hit back at the other end of the country. I woke up, stretched, tried to focus on what I was hearing out of my clock-radio-- not classic rock, but what sounded like an extraordinarily agitated news report. There's usually news on at 9:00, at the top of each hour; but it didn't usually sound like the headline-reader was trying to keep from shouting the lines into the microphone.

So I turned on the TV, which was usually perpetually tuned to Cartoon Network; I didn't even remember the channel number for CNN, so I had to use the on-screen guide to get there. And then I sat there staring at the AMERICA UNDER ATTACK banner, and at the plumes of smoke (the towers had already fallen by this time), wondering what the hell kind of "attack" they could possibly mean-- ICBMs? Street riots? What city was this? --for a few dumb minutes before I even turned around to see what was on my computer monitor.

The first thing was a message from CapLion, sent shortly after the first plane hit. Terrible accident, he said. Boy, would traffic suck in Manhattan this morning.

Then there was one more message. It only had two words in it. And then idle.

So what could I do? I woke up my roommate-- "You should probably be awake for this"-- and sat down dumbly to watch his TV for a little while. I filled him in. There wasn't much to say. There were already rumors of footage of Palestinians dancing in the streets, but I shelved that for later. There were still those images of the crashes themselves to process. Eventually I just went back to my room, called my boss, asked what was going on at work, said I'd be in a little later, and just sort of sat there.

I'd bought a PlayStation 2 the previous night. September 10. There it was, the date and the price, right there on the receipt from Fry's. What a set of circumstances under which to try to learn how to play Gran Turismo 3.

I talked to a couple of friends online. Yes, I'd heard what had happened.

Poor Khlau Kalash vendor.

Humor was all I could fall back on. That and the iron object in the back of my dresser, which I realized I might be called upon to dig out. Some of our neighbors were Muslim, you see.

And who knows what an angry mob might decide to do?

Neighbors are neighbors. And even at that point in the day, we knew that we weren't going to be a part of the real war, the one being fought in the urban canyons back East. Perhaps we had to play up our own role. If we had to die in the streets of San Jose fighting off our own vengeful compatriots in the historic violent riots on the Blackest Day in American History, well, so be it.

But, of course, that didn't happen. (I really should have known better. I didn't know anywhere near as much about America two Septembers ago as I do now.) We went to Cosentino's and did some cursory shopping, picking up essentials on the off chance that the country would be locked down or something. The air was still, traffic was light, but it was no different-- oddly-- from how I remember Christmas being in my youth. Normally we'd stayed home and indoors all day. It was Christmas, for crying-out-loud! You didn't drive on Christmas! And so on those rare times in the early years that we did go somewhere, I always found myself staring in fascination at the rare other cars we passed, wondering who was in them, what they were thinking. What could be so important? Why aren't you inside? The whole year has been leading up to this! Get off the road! And though age brought practicality and cynicism about that kind of thing, the same kind of primal nerve got tripped in my mind on that day. Didn't you hear the news? Go home, dammit! Can't it wait?

Eventually I went in to work, though not many people got much done. Most people went home early. Our friends gathered to watch the news until late into the night, hunched around a party tray of snack food, like some kind of macabre Cinco de Mayo festival. Hell, it was practical.

We told the stories we'd heard throughout the day. We waited for new developments, revised numbers, talking-head analysis, categorical denial and apology from cross-legged Taliban officials. We noticed after a couple of hours that there hadn't been any commercials. We wondered if there would ever be commercials again.

But for me, and for a lot of us three thousand miles away from where it happened, the reality of the events was still dull and distant, and-- somehow-- simultaneously loud and touchy and oversaturated. It wasn't like any of us thought it was all just a dream, or anything maudlin like that; it was more like being suddenly inside a sci-fi movie. Who knew when the clouds over the horizon would suddenly light up red and the sky would boil with spreading fire? Who knew when the Golden Gate Bridge would collapse asunder and crash into the Bay? Who knew when our computer screens would all suddenly flash giant skull-and-crossbones icons and shout Allahu akbar! at us? Who knew if anybody could ever watch a movie, or listen to a song, or buy a loaf of bread without feeling somehow guilty about the mundanity of it all? By gum, everything should have meaning now. They'll be writing history books with chapters that start with today's date. That banana you eat, that e-mail you type, that toe you stub might one day be on some kid's final exam.

So it was with no small amount of guilt that I, and probably others, went to bed that night. Guilt that we hadn't been in a position to take a more active part; guilt that we were worried about deadlines at work while people in New York were concerned primarily with finding out whether their family members were alive; guilt that we out here were never actually in any real danger, and especially guilt that we'd acted as though we might be.

And so, although this account has dragged on far longer and become far more self-aggrandized than I'd intended it to, I'd recommend looking elsewhere for apt first-hand descriptions of what it was like on that day where things actually did happen. Where guilt arose only from having the luck to live out the day when others did not.

I can't imagine how I might have handled being in that position. All I know is that I haven't "gotten over it", even having spent the intervening two years here on the sunny West Coast, far away from the battlegrounds, surrounded by those who are ready to dismiss any lingering emotional attachment to 9/11 as some damn faux Madison Avenue white-male sob-story sold by the cable networks and the politicians as an excuse to enslave the world.

I can only imagine what it would take for a New Yorker to "get over it".

No, actually I can't.

16:29 - Sounds awfully familiar to me


Via VodkaPundit-- Daniel Pipes has a post-mortem on the Oslo accords. Because by now they're not just merely dead, they're really most sincerely dead.

I remember, at the time, that not only were the accords hailed with a kind of festival atmosphere among all those who so desperately wanted to believe that something could work, but there was another side to the public discourse that painted Clinton, not to put too fine a point on it, as Satan. "He will come in the guise of a peacemaker," said the usual Final Days fantasies, triumphantly centering on that "handshake" photo.

I guess he couldn't have known how things would turn out, though naïveté may well have played a part. But it can hardly be argued that things are better now because of Oslo.

What went wrong?

Many things, but most important was that the deal rested on a faulty Israeli premise that Palestinians had given up their hope of destroying the Jewish state. This led to the expectation that if Israel offered sufficient financial and political incentives, the Palestinians would formally recognize the Jewish state and close down the conflict.

Israelis therefore pushed themselves to make an array of concessions, in the futile hope that flexibility, restraint and generosity would win Palestinian goodwill. In fact, these steps made matters worse by sending signals of apparent demoralization and weakness. Each concession further reduced Palestinian awe of Israeli might, made Israel seem more vulnerable and incited irredentist dreams of annihilating it.

The result was a radicalized and mobilized Palestinian body politic. In speech and actions, via claims to the entire land of Israel and the murder of Israelis, the hope of destroying Israel acquired ever-more traction.

Thus did the muted Palestinian mood at Oslo's start in 1993 turn into the enraged ambition evident today.

In other words, appeasement doesn't work. Never has, never will.

Maybe the EU's finally tagging Hamas as a terrorist group (following the recent Jerusalem attack) is the sign that we've been looking for (or at least one such sign), namely that what we're dealing with here is a culture for whom terrorism is not just condoned, it's celebrated, inculcated in kids from birth, taught in those "summer camps" that instruct children in bomb-making techniques, painted lavishly in murals, commemorated in street names and schools, and seen as the legitimate way to salvation. As long as the Jews are offered as the scapegoat for the whole of the Arab world and its collective failures, where the world thinks nothing of a "cease-fire" in which dozens of attacks are foiled each day and which is named for a historical "truce" in which Mohammad's forces laid down their arms so as to rebuild their strength for a later sneak attack, and where the last desperate attempt at a humane deterrent against terrorism-- a partition wall-- is condemned and torn at by "peace" protesters, and where the majority of Palestinians believe not in a two-state solution but in the destruction of Israel, trusting to diplomacy and reason and the common human desire for peace is just wishful thinking.

In the spirit of Oslo's 10th anniversary, I propose a radically different approach for the next decade:

* Acknowledge the faulty presumption that underlay both Oslo and the road map (Palestinian acceptance of Israel's existence).

* Resolve not to repeat the same mistake.

* Understand that diplomacy aiming to close down the Arab-Israeli conflict is premature until Palestinians give up their anti-Zionist fantasy.

* Make Palestinian acceptance of Israel's existence the primary goal.

* Impress on Palestinians that the sooner they accept Israel, the better off they will be. Conversely, so long they pursue their horrid goal of extermination, diplomacy will remain moribund and they will receive no financial aid, arms or recognition as a state.

* Give Israel license not just to defend itself but to impress on the Palestinians the hopelessness of their cause.

When, over a long period of time and with complete consistency, the Palestinians prove they accept Israel, negotiations can be re-opened and the issues of the past decade - borders, resources, armaments, sanctities, residential rights - be taken up anew. The sooner we adopt the right policies, the sooner that will be.

In other words, they can't be rewarded for the road they've taken-- they must be defeated. That is, after all, what we're doing with al Qaeda. And this is, after all, part of the same war.

UPDATE: Den Beste has more. One way or another, it always comes back down to Arafat.

UPDATE: It would be interesting to know if anybody can find one instance, just one, of Israelis behaving even remotely like this after any IDF operation against terrorist leaders, no matter how focused, efficient, or successful.

Hell, I can't even imagine Americans acting like this if we got bin Laden.

15:42 - Spam Moment of Zen

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That's all.
Saturday, September 6, 2003
03:05 - Out of the fog

Via InstaPundit-- a soldier's report from Iraq, including his stupefaction at finding upon his return home that all the news reports we've been seeing here have been so negative.

THE QUESTIONS I GET FROM A LOT OF PEOPLE HERE ARE, "What's going on over there? Why is there so much fighting? Why do the Iraqi people hate us so much?" When I first heard that, that's when I realized that the news was not proportionate to what was going on in the country.

I was in eight or nine cities in Iraq. Starting from Kuwait, we saw pretty much every city along the river on the way to Baghdad. People absolutely loved us everywhere we went. There were big parades. We'd just roll down the streets, or sometimes be on foot patrol, and kids would run out of their houses just to wave at us, just to get a wave back from us. People would give us flowers; they'd give us flowers and gifts and Pepsi -- all kinds of stuff.

I'd have people come up to me and say, "What took you so long? You should have done this in '91!" Especially when we were in Baghdad. We were in this huge building, with a huge fence around it. I'd have a lot of people -- especially the elderly guys -- telling me, "I was tortured under this building for 12 or 14 years," or, "There's torture chambers under here." So we went down and checked it out, and sure enough, there were torture chambers under there -- basically an entire block, underground, with cells and everything else.

This is particularly interesting to me because it's appearing in the North Coast Journal-- the main newspaper in Arcata, the Hippiest Place on Earth, from where this soldier hails. While I was up there for the Kinetic Sculpture Race in May, the attitude was one of such post-war seething that I had the impression I'd have had my car vandalized if I'd been there a couple of months earlier. This is a place where newspaper vending boxes in front of supermarkets are covered with scrawls of "LIES" and glass display cases showing documents like the Bill of Rights and the abolition of slavery are plastered over with strident anti-war handbills. And the North Coast Journal, naturally, reflected the tenor of the place.

For this kind of story to appear there now must be horribly galling to the residents. I'll bet there will be protests outside their offices on Monday calling for the ouster of whatever Rupert Murdoch flunky has forcibly taken over the paper and printed such blatant propaganda to spread over their town.

It should be noted, however, that this kind of story is very, very typical; I've read a dozen or so of them, and to a man they all say, "Wait a minute. What the hell has the news been telling you all this time?"

It's taking its time, but the establishment of a free press in post-war America continues apace.

02:42 - Stupid fat lazy Americans

I heard on the news last night that there was a new health study out.

Oh great, I thought. I can't wait to hear how I'm going to die this time.

But that wasn't it at all. Just the opposite, in fact. The findings of the study were that in the past ten years in the US, there's been a massive decline in the number of restaurant patrons ordering dessert.

And the reason? Nothing to do with health concerns, it seems. It's all because Americans just don't have the time for it anymore. People cited in the study said they're working more hours than they were ten years ago, and though they're making more money, they have less time to linger over food.

And it's not just restaurants, either. Frozen dinner manufacturers have apparently changed their offerings to match the new buying patterns; and whereas ten years ago nearly all frozen dinners included some sort of dessert item, now only like 15% do.

What to make of this? I don't know, but with unions striking in Europe to try to get 30-hour workweeks and smoking still a ubiquitous thing from Lisbon to St. Petersburg, I'm starting to think that maybe the reason why I don't see as many morbidly obese people trundling down the streets as the news normally leads me to believe there should be is that they're all inside making documentaries.

Friday, September 5, 2003
21:08 - Dumb puppy, or soundbite salad?

According to Tim Blair, some of his commenters, and a USA Weekend article, Johnny Depp's "dumb, dangerous puppy" comments were taken wildly out of context and/or completely reworded. Or he gave two totally different interviews. I'm not sure which.

Instead he fell in love, first with Paradis and then with his adopted country. He says he is shocked by the gun violence in American schools and feels it is far safer raising a family in France.

"I was very lucky that something steered me to France back in '98," he says of his decision to make a movie with Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski in 1998. "I love America -- I love going back, seeing my family and friends -- but it's wonderful to get back to France and be living in a tiny village with nothing around. There is still the possibility to live a simple life. You can go to the market, walk about, buy fruits and vegetables -- the things they did 100 and 200 years ago. We have moments when we're sitting in our house and our kids are playing, and we look at one another and think, 'Thank God we escaped.' "

A product of the rural South who spent many years in Hollywood, Depp never really felt at home until he moved to France. He rejects the view that there has been a surge of anti-Americanism there because of opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, and he believes the French people have behaved in a dignified manner while some Americans have resorted to "schoolyard tactics" by renaming French fries "freedom fries."

"That was so revealing, that grown men sat around and came up with that idea," he says of the freedom fries initiative. "It was tragic and embarrassing. At the same time, I was happy it was exposed, and people knew that a bunch of congressmen -- big people, the upper-drawer people -- made that decision."

He also was not convinced by the Bush administration's rationale for the war. He says the real reason was America's economic interests. "I saw these American kids being shipped off to war, and I was looking at their faces and thinking, 'They're not ready for it,' " he says. "Is anybody ever ready for it? You're thinking about where they're going, what they're getting into. What's it really all about? It's about dough; it's about money. That's ugly."

So he wasn't deliberately lying, then; he's just on the clueless side. He prefers walking to market with a basket on his head, and that's fine. He thinks the war in Iraq was all about money, which is a new and interesting angle, well-thought-out and bound to upset many political theorists' theses. "Freedom fries" were cooked up by Congress, apparently. That's not the way I remember it, but hey.

If this is the extent to which his commentary reached, it definitely falls more into the "par for the course" category than the "Ha-haah, Orlando Bloom and I shall conquer every 14-year-old female American's heart, and then turn them all against their leaders in a mad cackling swarm of furies in baggy pants and glowsticks!" category.

That's good. It would have sucked never seeing Fear & Loathing again.

Thursday, September 4, 2003
20:51 - Tell me this isn't happening

Orwell was an optimist.

Prokofiev's version ends with Peter capturing the wolf and leading a triumphant procession to the zoo, paining music-loving environmentalists with romantic visions of wolves in the wild.

In the new version, narrated by former U.S. president Clinton and called Wolf Tracks, Peter again captures the wolf, but this time repents of his act and releases the animal, who howls a grateful goodbye.

"Forgetting his triumph, Peter thought instead of fallen trees, parched meadows, choked streams, and of each and every wolf struggling for survival," Clinton narrates.

"The time has come to leave wolves in peace," he adds.

French composer Jean-Pascal Beintus wrote the score for the new wolf-friendly version while former Soviet leader Gorbachev provides an introduction and epilogue.

"In Prokofiev's classic, man dominates, but Wolf Tracks expresses quite different values of balance and tolerance. All of us hope for a future where these values are lived every day," Gorbachev said.


Wednesday, September 3, 2003
03:05 - By their slurs shall ye know them


"I was ecstatic they re-named 'French Fries' as 'Freedom Fries'. Grown men and women in positions of power in the US government showing themselves as idiots," he told Stern.

Now which men and women in positions of power might you be talking about, you smirking little weasel? Which proverbial they have earned your incoherent ire?

Oh, that's right. Bush and Rice and Ashcroft and Rumsfeld, who jointly passed the Imperial Decree that all subjectscitizens of the US must henceforth refer to "French fries" as "freedom fries" on pain of exile to the gulags. Right?

He clearly doesn't have even the beginnings of understanding of how American society and government work, so perhaps his moving to France is the right answer for him. And for us. It'll raise the moral quotient of both countries.

Dammit, I'm running out of movies I can watch and enjoy whose stars haven't gone on record as card-carrying members of the Rectal-Cranial Inversion Brigade.

19:29 - I'm okay, really

I just got word from the VW dealer that on top of my O2 sensor being fixed (which is what the solidly-on Check Engine light is always about, always, though for some reason they always have to act like it's some big mystery, and for some reason nobody has invented an O2 sensor that has a lifetime longer than your average set of tires), the catalytic converter is also fizzled and must be replaced. Fortunately, replacing the catalytic converter is covered under the drivetrain/exhaust warranty.

Unfortunately, not only do they not have a catalytic converter in stock-- neither does any of the supply warehouses in the region. LA, Reno, Seattle... all out.

You can't get a catalytic converter for a Jetta if you live in the western United States. For, apparently, as much as six months.

No! No! Calm down! That's a worst-case scenario! the guy told me. It could be as little as a day or two! We just don't know yet.

Fine. Let's have a call back tomorrow to see what the news is. I fully expect he'll tell me that they've got one on back-order, and it'll arrive in about two weeks. Long enough to completely stall the household's mobility and progress on construction, but not long enough to qualify as "an unreasonable period of time" sufficient for me to demand a loaner off the lot. Murphy's Law works that way.

But no, no... I'm cool. Everything will be fine.

I know I've been on a bit of a tear today. I know it looks like this has been one of the most off-pissing days of my life. And I suppose it's had the potential to be one.

But I'm calm. I'm in my happy place. Oddly enough, I don't feel anywhere near as angry as I must sound.


15:57 - Remember when comics were funny?

God dammit, can we have just one strip that dares to break free of the Comic Artists' International Anti-US Union party line?!

I mean, yes, sure, humor is great for catharsis. We were all glad when we found we could laugh again after 9/11. But is there some great unspoken law, some You Must Never Speak of the Snares rule, that prevents any pop humorists on the planet (aside from Chris Muir) from acknowledging the scale and the importance of the war we're fighting? Let alone to stop spreading memes to a credulous and self-conscious public that, if the war should fail, are going to be the single largest cause for that failure?

They call it self-loathing, the desire among high-minded pundits to see the West fail so they can quote Denethor's death-pyre ravings and look all cool with their arms outstretched and a wall of flame leaping up behind them. But you know what? I call it treachery. I call it treason. And I'm beginning to think that as the 9/11 anniversary approaches with nary an acknowledgment on the major TV networks, it's going to take something even bigger and more gruesome than the events of that day to even get us back to the clarity we had two years ago. Much bigger. We're desensitized and cynical now, you see. Leads to wry, defeatist irony in place of the grim resolve we once had to put our foot down, ignore or silence our critics, and do some good in this world. But it's not real to us any longer. It's all a big fucking joke.

All that violence on television, I'll bet. Especially during September of 2001.

15:36 - Che and Che Alike

Somehow or other, this LGF thread turned into a back-and-forthing about Che Guevara. Itinerant limpet "View from Ireland" made happy noises about how many kids buy Che t-shirts because the guy looked soooo coool, and hey, he was an inspiring revolutionary! And for kids to grow up without knowing who he is reflects poorly on their school district.

To review:

Lessee here... Looking in my history books from College... Ah, here it is. Che Guevara: Argentinian of Irish descent... Trained as a doctor... Murdered hundreds of Cubans that wanted someone other than Castro to be in power... Murdered a couple hundred more in the La Paz Massacre... Extreme left-wing radical... One of the "spriritual founders" of the Shining Path which has killed more than 40,000 people... He was fond of tying people up, blindfolding them and then popping a cap in the backs of their heads while their wives and children were forced to watch... Executed by the Bolivian government on 48 proven counts of capital murder... Just the kind of guy that deserves to have his face on a t-shirt. Him and Bob Berdella.

And more:

OCTOBER 18, 1965: A CIA Intelligence Memorandum discusses what analysts perceive as Che Guevara’s fall from power within the Cuban government beginning in 1964. It states that at the end of 1963, Guevara’s plan of "rapid industrialization and centralization during the first years of the Revolution brought the economy to its lowest point since Castro came to power." "Guevara’s outlook, which approximated present -day Chinese--rather than Soviet--economic practice, was behind the controversy." In July 1964, "two important cabinet appointments signaled the power struggle over internal economic policy which culminated in Guevara’s elimination." Another conflict was that Guevara wanted to export the Cuban Revolution to different parts of Latin America and Africa, while "other Cuban leaders began to devote most of their attention to the internal problems of the Revolution." In December, 1964, Guevara departed on a three-month trip to the United States, Africa, and China. When he returned, according to the CIA report, his economic and foreign policies were in disfavor and he left to start revolutionary struggles in other parts of the world. (CIA Intelligence Memorandum, "The Fall of Che Guevara and the Changing Face of the Cuban Revolution," 10/18/65)

And VFI's response?

Che certainly was responsible for the executions of many following the revolution. A dirty job that Castro gave him. About 500 were killed.

Shining Path are Maoist. If anyone inherited the mantle of Che in Peru it was Tupac Amaru.

He was executed by the Bolivians (alongside the CIA) but not on any 'proven' counts of murder. In fact they denied executing him for a long time.

He was erudite, led a successful revolution, inspired countless numbers, never gave up, and happened to be drop dead gorgeous to boot. I don't think it's any mystery why he's a hardy perennial.

Of course. Never giving up. And being charismatic. What fine reasons to admire a guy, regardless of what it was he never gave up doing.

But I was a good boy. I kept from throttling the Canadians who proudly wore t-shirts with his image when I was up in Toronto.

I'll bet my teeth surfaces are flatter now, though.

Tuesday, September 2, 2003
22:15 - Cleanup in aisle 221B

This is bound to be of interest to some.

I'm told of a tale of Costco, when everyone was standing in the checkout lines waiting to pay for their heaps of goods; then, someone several registers down dropped a bottle of Worcestershire sauce. SMASH. And the smell wafted over the congregated throngs.

And to a man, they all abandoned their carts and scuttled off to the back of the store, to reappear laden with armloads of steaks.

(So now it's theorized that if a grocery store ever needs to kick its meat-counter sales up a notch, all they have to do is drop a bottle of Lea & Perrins somewhere near a recirculating vent. Bam!)

Well, this is apparently the way to do the same thing at a Home Depot.

Maybe it's just a music video. But the whole power-tool industry can probably be forgiven for cackling with glee over this.

14MB, but I know I can name people who will find it worthwhile-- or at least very silly.

19:50 - I hope al Qaeda's using Windows

The CEO of the Computer & Communications Industry Association sent a two-page letter to Tom Ridge, urging him not to entrust the operation of the Department of Homeland Security to Microsoft software.

These vulnerabilities and exploits are not new, and unfortunately were predictable. CCIA believes it is critical to maintain secure systems to protect homeland security, and so CCIA has asked the Department to reconsider its decision to promote Microsoft as the default software for DHS. Reliance on a company that distributes products known to have such serious vulnerabilities will not provide adequate security and stability to protect of our nation's most important computer systems.

Not that I imagine this will have any effect or anything; if one bureaucracy in charge of law enforcement and security (the FBI) has to be taken to school on how to use things like e-mail and Google, my hope that the DHS is more adept at using computers-- or stringent about secure usage practices and software deployments-- is pretty much nil.

Whatever it is Tom Ridge is doing at his post, it wouldn't surprise me a bit to learn that he does it by spending most days sitting hunched uncomfortably in front of a 14-inch monitor on a massive mahogany desk, little bifocals perched on the end of his nose, hunting-and-pecking his way wonderingly through e-mails that entreat him to assist the son of the late Mobutu Sese Seko to move $30 million into a bank account in the United States.

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© Brian Tiemann