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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12/13/2004 - 12/19/2004
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11/29/2004 -  12/5/2004
11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
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10/25/2004 - 10/31/2004
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10/28/2002 -  11/3/2002
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10/14/2002 - 10/20/2002
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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
17:55 - Takin' care of business

The Dean campaign thought it owned the Internet. Well, maybe they did for a while, but I'll bet this guy paid for his copy of Flash:

And put it to good use, too.

11:39 - Rubble rubble

If you can't change their minds with documentaries, maybe you can do it with bombs.

An apparent attempt to blow up a McDonald's drive-in restaurant in northern Italy was foiled on Sunday but the suspected terrorist died when his car exploded with him strapped inside.

Witnesses said a man, later identified as Moustafa Chaouki, a native of Casablanca, drove his Fiat Tempra into the queue of cars waiting at the restaurant in Brescia, 100km east of Milan, at 10 pm. His car contained four cylinders of kitchen gas, each with a capacity of more than 70 litres.

...Or maybe you can't.

Commenter dorkafork:

I keep picturing the Hamburglar in a suicide bomber vest.

Ronald/Grimace in 2008!

Monday, March 29, 2004
23:00 - I have a new favorite number

...And it's "480p".

Meaning, I just got me one of them new-fangled teleo-vision sets for my bedroom suite. The room is still a mess, and not quite laid out yet for proper use as a secondary home theater, but now at least the building blocks are in place:

It's a 32-inch flat-screen CRT, with HD input capability, that I got for about the same price I was prepared to spend on a plain non-HD TV. (They were clearing out this model for the next one that was due to be shipped in in a couple of days, which meant I got this one at a $400 discount from the sticker price-- not a bad deal at all.)

And I also got a Philips DVD/VHS combo player with component video and digital coax audio out, and progressive scan, for $100. Fry's was selling off a palette full of these things; as I was standing in line to pay for the TV, I noticed that the guy behind me and the guy in front of me both had these same DVD players-- so I went and grabbed one too. The other ones on the shelves averaged $150, and didn't have progressive scan. I'm sure there's a downside to the one I got, but I have yet to find it.

Because the player and the TV both support 480p-- 480-line, full DVD resolution, and progressive scan instead of interlaced (so there's no flicker). Once I got everything hooked up properly, hot damn it looked cool! I've never seen a system with these features all hooked up as intended before; even our downstairs system, with a much bigger full widescreen HDTV display, doesn't have a component-video/progressive-scan DVD player on it, so I never really knew what I was missing. This is something else again, lemme tell ya.

So now I have to get an AV receiver/amp that supports digital coax input for the DVD player, 480p video switching, and 5.1 speakers so I can mount the rear channels on the wall above my desk. And then I can watch Cartoon Network in one of the most decadent settings ever designed purely around the newly-released DVDs of the Adult Swim shows.

Oh: and did I buy this using my Bush tax refund? Why, yes. Yes I did.

Sunday, March 28, 2004
12:40 - The dominoes begin to fall

J Greely sends this link, wherein what appears to be the untimely demise of BuyMusic.com is discussed.

According to an e-mail sent to prior customers of BuyMusic.com (link intentionally left out), the online store will become "integrated" with its parent site, Buy.com, within several days. What this means to the fate of what was once called "The World’s Largest Download Music Store" is unclear.

Launched before iTunes for Windows, BuyMusic.com initially expected to sell one million songs per day – or 200 to 300 in the first year – according to estimates by founder and CEO Scott Blum. When re-interviewed in December, Blum offered no statistics, but did say, "We’re nowhere near Apple’s numbers."

Remember, this is the company whose initial ad campaign featured Tommy Lee of Motley Crüe leaping on stage, grabbing Apple's iTunes-logo guitar, and smashing it to pieces. I can therefore say without guilt, "Good riddance, you bitter, vindictive dot-com-brained and-then-a-miracle-occurs morons."

Maybe we should start a Death Watch for Napster, the Coca-Cola music store, and the other pretenders to the throne. Because unless and until Microsoft launches their own service, which they can fund through sales of Windows and Office the way they do all their other money-losing departments like MSN and the Xbox, iTunes (which is supported through iPod sales) won't have any real competitors.

Saturday, March 27, 2004
22:27 - Oh, God, I needed that...

Via LGF comes this story of a French "culture consultant" whose advice to John Kerry is: quit acting so French.

The subtext being, of course, Act like you're as stupid and provincial as those pathetic American plebeians, if you want their <sniff> "vote".

“Kerry’s trouble is that he is simply not the common man,” Clotaire Rapaille, who’s been contacted by Kerry’s campaign team for advice, told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

In the wake of the US-led war on Iraq, which France opposed, the Democratic hopeful’s command of the French language, plus his background in France and Switzerland, could be a real liability among US voters, he said.

“Forget the French connection,” he advised.

“The French are thinkers — ‘I think, therefore I am’. Americans want somebody who is going to take action. All this association of Kerry with thinking too much and nuance and five-sentence answers is off-code.”

He added: “American culture is an adolescent culture... In America, you have to be the common man, be able to make people think you are the common man.”

Rapaille, author of the forthcoming book “Archetypes of the President,” specializes in psychoanalysing cultures. His expertise is sought out by major US corporations, and he’s often interviewed in US media on mass culture.

Besides dropping the French connection, Rapaille suggested that Kerry take fewer holidays, start giving “one word or two” answers to questions — and do something about his wardrobe.

“Go to K-Mart, buy jeans and cowboy boots... Dress like you are going into a bar in Kansas to drink from the bottle,” he said.

I cannot wait to see him try it. What is this, My Fair Lady in reverse? C'mon, Mr. Kerry, try it again: the tacos and tobacco fall mainly in Waco...

My God, the condescension and the scorn. I guess I should applaud the guy for concluding that being French isn't quite the answer to all solutions, but I'm not-- because it's clear what his preferred solution would be here: Americans should stop acting so American.

Too little, too late, and too frickin' transparent.

I'm only just now getting my laughter under control.

Friday, March 26, 2004
16:19 - "Like lips and teeth"

I wonder how much of this is true, or what credentials Kenneth Timmerman has.

If even some of it holds water, this is pretty damning stuff. The whole thing needs a read, but here are some favorite bits:

NRO: It seems "cool" these days for right-of-center Americans to French-bash: Hasn't it gone a little too far? Aren't you just adding to the lifespan of "freedom fries" with a book about a "betrayal?"

Timmerman: It's a serious matter when the leaders of a country such as France show by their actions that they are willing to jettison a friendship with America that goes back 225 years in favor of a dictator such as Saddam Hussein, whose claim to fame includes the massacre of some 300,000 of his own people. And yet, that is precisely what French president Jacques Chirac and his foreign minister Dominique de Villepin have done. They have shown that they were willing to exchange exclusive oil deals with Saddam, and political payoffs, for the French alliance with America.

NRO: Did Chirac actually lie to President Bush before the Iraq war?

Timmerman: Yes, and this is why the president and Secretary of State Powell were so taken aback when foreign minister Dominique de Villepin pulled the rug out from under United Nations negotiations on January 20, 2003, by announcing, apparently out of the blue, that France would never ever agree to using force against Saddam Hussein.

Before the first U.N. vote in early November 2002 (actually, it was the 17th U.N. resolution condemning Saddam and calling on him to voluntarily disarm or suffer the consequences, which included his forceful ouster), Jacques Chirac picked up the phone and called President Bush at the White House, personally reassuring him that France "would be with" us at the U.N. and in Iraq. To demonstrate his intentions, he said, he was sending one of his top generals to Tampa, Florida, to work out the details with U.S. Central Command leaders for integrating French troops into a Coalition force to oust Saddam.

"Chirac's assurances are what gave the president the confidence to keep sending Colin Powell back to the U.N.," one source who was privy to Chirac's phone call to Bush told me. "They also explain why the administration has been going after the French so aggressively ever since. They lied."

That, it should be noted, is what a lie is. A lie is not when you take years-in-planning action based in part on the near-certainty of widely held, non-partisan intelligence information that later turns out to have been faulty. A lie is when you deliberately attempt to trick someone into doing something because you secretly oppose them and favor their adversary.

NRO: You accuse France of actually encouraging genocide — it seems like an outrageous charge.

Timmerman: It's a very specific charge, made by Hoshyar Zebari, who is now the Iraqi foreign minister. Zebari was referring to the massacre of the Marsh Arabs who used to live in the Howeiza marshes along the southern border between Iran and Iraq. In the mid-1990s, at the urging of the French, who worried about sending their oil engineers into the area, Saddam drained the marshes — an area the size of the state of Delaware — turning the rich, fertile homeland of this ancient people into a dust bowl. Then he sent in the Republican Guards, massacring thousands of civilians. Why? To make the area safe for French oil engineers and French oil workers.

NRO: You say in your new book that the Iraq war was, in fact, all about oil.

Timmerman: The war in Iraq was indeed a war for oil — waged by the French, not the United States. The Chirac government was desperate to maintain its exclusive — and outrageously exploitative — oil contracts with Saddam's regime, which would have earned the French an estimated $100 billion during the first seven years of operations, according to experts I interviewed for my book. My worry today is that a Kerry administration would back the French, who continue to assert that these contracts are legally binding on the new Iraqi government. That would be a travesty and a dishonor to all those Iraqis who died under Saddam.

ELF was always the biggest developer of the Iraqi oil fields, not Shell or Exxon, and certainly not Bush's small Texas-based concerns.

I don't have the link (I can't find it, damn my eyes and my browser), but one of the Richard Clarke stories is about how on September 12, an agitated Bush grabbed him and several top advisors by the lapels, dragged them into a conference room, and demanded that they investigate whether Saddam were behind the attacks. Clarke tried to refuse, to say sight unseen that it was al Qaeda unassisted, as though he could have known that; but Bush insisted, testily. "Find out if Saddam did this," he said. "Just look into it."

My reaction was this: Gee, that sure sounds like a guy thinking, Oh boy, now I can go invade Iraq and take their oil! Thank God for those hijackers! ...Doesn't it?

NRO: What are French motivations when dealing with these regimes — purely economic?

Timmerman: Contracts are certainly very important. Americans need to remember that France is not a free-market economy, as we still are (despite the efforts of Hillary Rodham Clinton to nationalize the U.S. health-care industry!). When French businessmen go abroad, they often travel in delegations led by the prime minister, or the foreign minister, or some other top official. The French government gets involved not just in opening doors, but in negotiating contracts. Often, these contracts have involved substantial kickbacks to French political parties. Even today, French companies can declare as an expense on their income-tax declaration the bribes and commissions they pay to foreign agents. This was banned in the United States in the 1970s under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. This is one of the reasons the French like to do business with dictators. In a free and fair market, their companies can't always compete.

Ouch. Yuck.

There's more, and it's good-- especially the Moussaoui stuff. Again, Timmerman is only credited as a "NYT best-selling author" and "investigative reporter", which puts him about on a credibility level with Michael Moore. But if any of what he's saying here is true, well...

Via Kevin.

10:15 - Free (Software) Iraq!

Looks like I've got me some homework today.

"We need all kinds of computer books."
-- Ashraf T. Hasson, founder, Linux Users Group of Iraq

Donate an extra copy of a good computer book to help Linux and free software education in Iraq. You bring the books, and we'll ship them! Money donations are also welcome. Thanks to our sponsor BookCrossing for supporting the event.

I hope Iraqis are okay with FreeBSD... hee hee.

10:08 - How big a rifle round do you use for a "character"?

I've been staying out of the whole Richard Clarke thing, because I know I can count on others to do a much better job of covering all the relevant details as soon as they're brought to light.

Lileks, for instance.

You wouldn’t know from today’s paper that he’d said these things. You would have only read an allusion to a “tape,” with no explication.


Probably this is why:

And MoveOn.org is still gleefully sending out urgently worded e-mails to its members:

As you may have heard, Richard Clarke, a former counter-terrorism advisor to Bush, and a registered Republican who has worked in every administration since Reagan, has exposed Bush's mishandling of 9/11 and the war on Iraq. In his book "Against All Enemies," Clarke does an amazing job of presenting the facts and connecting the dots. Instead of refuting Clarke's claims, the Bush Administration has launched a campaign of character assassination, hoping that the story will just go away.

We're committed to stopping that from happening by making sure that the American public hears Clarke's extraordinary comments. If we can raise $300,000 in the next few days, we can run a hard-hitting ad nationally that highlights his message.

Boy, I can't wait to see that little gem.

Whatever it takes, eh? To hear some people tell it, Bush is a greater threat to America than bin Laden ever was. And I've got to admit, if the only impressions of him that a person gets flow as hearsay from the quavering voices and rattling fingers of people who would be totally at home marching in the streets under giant papier-mâché oil barrels, it's pretty hard to get a good impression of the man. Normally I'd be able to trust the news media to give me an accurate representation of things, but these days-- perversely-- I feel like the news media is the enemy of the truth. Not because I disagree with it, but because it's so easily and repeatedly contradicted by facts, facts it should have-- if it had any legitimate claim at all to either impartiality or a commitment to reporting the whole story-- placed front and center, no matter what it might mean politically.

That's why blogs form such an unreasonably large portion of my diet lately: it's not that they provide me with discourse that I can count on not to say things I disagree with; that's a non-zero ingredient, but certainly not the only thing. It's because how else would we hear stuff like this?
"WE WANT DEMOCRACY LIKE THE OTHERS:" Here's some more evidence that the freeing of Iraq is sending ripples across the Arab world, to the discomfort of despots:

Kurdish residents claim the government responded to what they call peaceful protests with violence as an excuse to say Syria remains too unstable to introduce the kind of democratic reforms that are helping their brethren in Iraq.

"We want democracy like the others," said Hoshiar Abdelrahman, another young shopkeeper in Malikiya, 60 miles east of Qamishliye.

More here:

Many of those present had relatives and friends in northern Syria and were in cell-phone contact with them hour by hour. In and around the city of Kamishli, in the past few days, several dozen Kurdish protesters have been shot down by Baathist police and militia for raising the Kurdish flag and for destroying pictures and statues of the weak-chinned hereditary ruler, Bashar al-Assad. In tussling with local party goons who shout slogans in favor of the ousted Saddam, it is clear, they are hoping for a rerun of regime change.

It is early to pronounce, but this event seems certain to be remembered as the beginning of the end of the long-petrified Syrian status quo. The Kurdish population of Syria is not as large, in proportion, as its cousinly equivalent in Iraq. But there are many features of the Syrian Baath regime that make it more vulnerable than Saddam Hussein's. Saddam based his terrifying rule on a minority of a minority—the Tikriti clan of the Sunni. Assad, like his father, is a member of the Alawite confessional minority, which in the wider Arab world is a very small group indeed. Syria has large populations of Sunni, Druze, and Armenians, and the Alawite elite has stayed in power by playing off minorities against minorities. It is in a weak position to rally the rest of society against any identifiable "enemy within," lest by doing so it call attention to its own tenuous position.

And that's not all:

In Syria, and tomorrow in Iran, there are forces at work who intend to take these pronouncements with absolute seriousness. It would be nice if American liberals came out more forcefully and demanded that the administration live up to its own rhetoric on the question.

Yes, the Administration shouldn't chicken out now. The dominoes are teetering, and we should be giving them a shove.

Yes, those are links to big-media articles; but that's a function of blogs too: to scrape together crucial scraps of information that otherwise would get buried. It's not like you hear ongoing coverage on the evening news about Syria and Iran agitating for democracy, or people pointing out just how unequivocally Libya's surrender of its weapons programs and the cracking open of the Pakistan-based nuclear black market are tied directly to the fall of Saddam.

In short, Bush's plan is working. Or it's doing an excellent impression of working.

That, and the complete lack of logic (to say nothing of taste) exhibited by those who attack him out of what can only be mob-guided reflex action, make it hard for me to want to join in the chanting.

I'm attracted to sanity. Could be a character flaw, and maybe that means it'll get assassinated too. But what can I say? I'm helpless to resist.

It'll all end in tears, I'm sure of it...

Wednesday, March 24, 2004
00:04 - Ill-Advised Marketing Campaigns 101

I'm sure I'm not the only one who holds the opinion that the recent KFC ad, in which the woman keeps telling her bewildered husband that the chicken strips she's eating are really "kitchen strips", is one of the worst, dumbest pieces of marketing ever. (The idea apparently being that the word "kitchen" conjures up images of fresh tastiness in a way that "chicken" never could, and she just can't help spoonerizing it into her speech.)

Okay, so Kentucky Fried Chicken wants to be known henceforth as Kitchen Fresh Chicken, presumably to foster a health-conscious image for their deep-batter-fried chicken products; fine. Whatever.

But kitchen strips doesn't sound like a food. It sounds like a cleaning product.

UPDATE: Greg Kihn on KFOX Thursday morning told the story of how PETA is now handing out buckets of blood to kids in front of KFC restaurants, to protest the fact that KFC, uh, serves chicken.

My e-mail to him:

I wonder if PETA has a problem with shiploads of thousands of sheep and goats being imported to, say, Mecca, for the ritual animal sacrifice at the Hajj.

I wonder if they plan to make vegetarians out of the people of Central Asia, China, Latin America, and Africa.


KFC's an easy target because it's in a country where people won't fight back, where they'll capitulate to terrorists (yes, PETA are terrorists) if it's politically correct to do so.
Then again...

22:46 - They'll let just anybody have a blog these days

Via Tim Blair, here's Noam Chomsky's new blog. Joy! The landscape of digital discourse can now at last be called complete!

I wonder who'd be laughing if you showed this excerpt to, say, some Iraqis:

People in the more civilized sectors of the world (what we call "the third world," or the "developing countries") often burst out laughing when they witness an election in which the choices are two men from very wealthy families with plenty of clout in the very narrow political system, who went to the same elite university and even joined the same secret society to be socialized into the manners and attitudes of the rulers, and who are able to participate in the election because they have massive funding from highly concentrated sectors of unaccountable power that cast over society the shadow called "politics," as John Dewey put it.

I've never been so proud to have turned down that acceptance letter from MIT.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004
18:52 - Everything you know is wrong...

...Black is white, up is down, and short is long.

The world has changed. What was once liberal is now illiberal, and the old progressivism has become mean-spirited and opportunistic. What was once idealistic is seen as calculating. When I read about the “Jews” now, it is almost always negative and emanates either from the European left or the so-called liberal university here in the United States. Israel, still democratic and still attacked by autocracies, is now hated rather than respected, not for what it has done, but for what it is. The world snored, for example, this week when suicide bombers were foiled in their attempts at getting at a chemical weapons dump so that they might once more gas Jews. Neither Kofi Annan nor Desmond Tutu, for all their recent media appearances, said a word when Palestinians apologized for murdering a jogger in Jerusalem on the mistaken impression that the poor Arab was a “Jew.”

When I turn on the TV and see some wild-eyed crazy-like public figure ranting, it is not a John Bircher frothing about pure drinking water and statesmen of dual loyalties, but prominent Democratic politicians like an Al Gore or Howard Dean screaming to the point of exhaustion, alluding to the end of America as we have known it, and citing a “betrayal” of the United States. Secret meetings, stealthy friendships, and contorted past relationships—the purported exegesis of all this intrigue and plotting now comes out on NPR and in the New York Review of Books, not garish 1950 pulp newspapers printed in pink.

. . .

I don't know quite how they did it, but the Democrats' candidate looks as at home snowboarding at a ritzy ski resort as George Bush does at a NASCAR rally. And when I hear anti-Semitism, hatred of Israel, warning about Jews in government, fury about foreign aid, visceral hatred and rude exclamations, sinister conspiracy theories, and racial separatism it usually has come far more often from someone on the Left than Right and from one educated and affluent rather than poor and ignorant.

That's Victor Davis Hanson, of course (via LGF). And he's right, you know.

13:23 - 90s Post-Mortem

Michael Bowen has a long, crunchy analysis of what The Nineties were all about. Very well worth reading.

Missing from the things he lists: fascination with any particular foreign entity (none of the 80s' obsessions with Japan or Australia); religion (the 90s were the time when religion officially became something you didn't discuss in polite company); war (the 90s were our vacation from worrying about global politics, and even things like Kosovo we couldn't get excited about). It was a very introverted decade, one where we spent time streamlining our lives, discovering new things to do with our free time and new ways to attain more of it (which usually ended up in our having less of it, but more money). It was the decade when politics became personal, when the President became just One of the Guys, in a ballcap, eating pork rinds on the couch, who just happened to run a country in his spare time-- and whose personal life thus became the whole country's business. America emerged from the 90s on September 10, 2001 a totally different nation from when it left the Reagan era under the auspices of Alternative Rock and Wayne's World. In some ways we'd grown up; in others, we'd grown down.

Hopefully we're done with that phase. Nowadays it's time to get down to business.

Monday, March 22, 2004
01:26 - Mr. Lucas, take note

This (via Tom F.) is superbly done... not least because it illustrates so vividly just how ridiculously dumb an idea the whole "pod race" thing was.

This is more entertaining than all of Episode I. And you know... the iPod is a better marketing success than even the video game around which the movie was written.

22:10 - The Price of Likeability

Whenever some friend acquires his first Mac, and comes up to me with a wary and guarded sort of half-smirking, half-hunted sneer on his face (which is quite a trick), asking me to show him the ropes and get him started off right, I feel as though I've been put in a certain unusual kind of position. No longer am I the Macolyte zealot frothing at the mouth and waving my signs trying to convert the heathen. Now I'm the guy who has to put his money where his mouth is. The friend wants me now to prove to him that his multi-thousand-dollar purchase, made in part on my recommendation, was not in fact a foolish move. It's put up or shut up time, and I'd better deliver.

So what do I do? I'll tell you what I don't do: I don't start out down a long and sanctimonious tourist trail of reasons why the Mac is so great. I don't point out all the stupidities of Windows and where the Mac excels them. I don't. Why not? It would seem this is the optimum time to do so: a captive audience, and better yet, a receptive one, just aching to hear that he's made the right decision.

But that's not what I do. Instead, I feel an odd compulsion: a desire to steer attention away from the finer points of Mac OS X, and instead direct every eye front and center to the flaws, the omissions, the things the friend will have difficulty doing on this new, minority platform. I'd best get them out of the way, you see. Best point them all out, so he discovers them now, while I'm watching. Better that than have him stumble across them two weeks from now, after he's left for a semester at the University of Hawaii, and there's no calling me in for a quick lunch appointment to figure out why the machine won't shut down or how you get all those windows back that suddenly scooted off the screen when you brushed your finger accidentally across the top of the keyboard.

I do this because I want the Mac-- and me, by extension-- to be liked.

Perverse, isn't it? It doesn't make much sense in this context. But that's what goes through my mind. Prove to him how much I and my convictions suck, my brain says, and he'll thank me for it. Just like being able to say "I was wrong", the ability to be self-effacing-- to deride one's own circumstances and very being-- has become a central part of how a lot of us view polite social interaction. We're not supposed to be proud of ourselves, self-esteem-building child psychiatrists notwithstanding. We're supposed to mock ourselves and everything we stand for. That way everyone will like us, and we'll have got their guard down, and they'll feel sympathy for our causes and stand with us after all.

Because winning hearts and minds through positive memes, you see, is gauche, jingoistic, simplistic, fascistic.

I found myself wondering, on the way home, as I was thinking about the previous post about the Canadian Muslims agitating for the North American Caliphate, what kinds of social trends might lead to this sort of thing happening, and I arrived at the notion that it's happening in places where being self-effacing has taken on such a cachet that it paralyzes the whole nation into indifference.

"Maybe even shari'a would be better than what we have now," goes the grumble on the street from those citizens helplessly watching the phenomenon unfold before them.

There's a song by the Canadian group Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie, called The Toronto Song:

I hate the SkyDome and the CN Tower too;
I hate Nathan Philips Square and the Ontario Zoo!
The rent's too high,
The air's unclean,
The beaches are dirty,
And the people are mean!
And the women are big and the men are dumb
And the children are loopy 'cause they live in a slum!
The water is polluted and the mayor's a dork!
They dress real bad and they think they're New York...
In Toronto . . . !
Ontario . . . oh-oh!

"You know . . . now that I think about it, I pretty much hate all of Ontario!"
"Yeah! Me too!"

And it goes on. It's a ditty tossed off with such glib, cheery sincerity that you can't help but feel that it flows from a deep, deep wellspring of despair that underlies Canadian pop culture: a sense of futility, indifference, helplessness, grim commitment to a grand (well, not really) vision (well, not really) of future being that, all things considered, really isn't all that exciting. It's to the point where the only raw, honest expressions of Canadian national pride come from beer commercials, and most of what's left is founded in bitter disillusionment at being in America's shadow.

I have a friend in Toronto who tells me that he used to just hate Conservatives. Now he hates Liberals and Conservatives alike. Personally I don't find that all that much of an improvement.

Looking at the photo down there, of the guy carrying the WE WANT THE KILAFAH sign, my immediate reaction is something along the lines of Look, man, you're in CANADA-- one of the great bastions of modern Western Civilization. Instead of adhering to your insular tribal interests and seeking to change the society into which you've implanted yourself from outside, why not try to discover what it is that the traditional values of your host nation might have to offer you? Why not identify as a CANADIAN, instead of as a Muslim? ...But a lot of what I've seen in Toronto tells me that there aren't many on the sidewalks who would be willing to tell him that to his face. They're not that thrilled with their own set of achievements; they're not flush with pride at what they themselves bring to the table. They feel guilty over sharing the American culture of McDonald's and Wal-Mart and Nike, and their pop art reflects a desire to reject it if only they could. They're not about to get behind trying to foist it upon others, upon people who have seen fit to immigrate and bring fresh blood into the populace. Much better to just let 'em have whatever they desire to keep them comfortable, keep them in-house. This is no time to be alienating anybody.

Even if they do have al Qaeda sympathizers in their midst.

I'm not just picking on Canada, either. This is just an example. I'm looking at all the nations where this kind of pessimism seems to have taken root, this idea that Western Civilization maybe ain't all it's cracked up to be, this unwillingness to plant a foot and speak out for what's good and what's worth fighting for. The poll that shows that more Iraqis are optimistic about their country's future than Germans are about theirs really plucked a few dissonant chords-- it throws into stark relief something we've known for some time, but that only rarely gets attention: that there's a divide in this world now not between capitalist and communist countries, but between optimistic and pessimistic ones. There are the countries newly emerged from behind the Iron Curtain, like Poland and Romania and the Baltic states, their people increasingly happy, believing in their societies and their nations, willing to project their own views of what life should be elsewhere and beyond their borders; and then there are the Old Europe countries, the ones whose days of Empire are long past, and whose post-monarchic dreams of democracy have faded into a hazy senescence of socialism: France, Germany, Britain, Canada. It's small wonder, really, why the countries that didn't send troops to Iraq made that choice: they think Iraq's better off without the West's meddling fingers. What good has the West done, anyway?

On Dean Esmay's blog a few days ago, there was a discussion of "The Nineties"-- what defined the decade? Commenter Mark Hasty contributed the following sentence:

The 90s were the time when rock & roll ceased being primarily about love and sex, and began being primarily about alienation and pain.

Exactly. And rock probably isn't the only place where this has happened: the Nineties may well have been the volta in history where the West, collectively and fundamentally, shifted to a negative attitude from a positive one. Optimism gave way to pessimism. Idealism gave way to cynical practicality. The Berlin Wall fell, and left in its place were malaise and ennui and nihilism and boredom and angst.

A shameful legacy for the children of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, the inheritors of Payne and Lincoln and Churchill, to bear, it seems to me.

Is negativity to be the defining hallmark of the 21st century? Is Kurt Cobain going to turn out after all to be the desultory messenger of our culture's demise, just like the reactionaries all said at the time? Are we supposed to join the formerly great nations of the world in pessimism and nostalgia for a glory long past, and docilely quit the world stage in favor of someone who can show some backbone and some fire in the belly? If the Islamists have one thing we don't, it's the courage of their convictions; nobody's telling them their Golden Age isn't in the future. Yeah, they're yearning for the fourteenth century, but they want it back-- they're not preaching understanding and multicultural tolerance, they're loaded for bear and they're on the hunt. Just like we were once upon a time.

So I have to say to Canada: have some frickin' pride in your country and your heritage! Tell the old stories without lampooning them. Cheer for Western culture without adding a rueful postscript about how awful the Golden Arches are. And France-- you too, buddy. Come on-- you used to be cool. Germany-- c'mon, I thought we were past this Goth-teenager phase of yours. Yeah, you screwed up in the past, but it's not the end of the world. We've moved on; can't you? And England... jolly old England, home of Shakespeare and John Donne and Newton, of towns called "Okeford Fitzpaine" and people called "Sir Reginald Aylmer Ranfulry Plunkett-Ernel-Erle-Drax", where the name "Finsbury Park" didn't always mean something sinister to LGFers and whence so very much of what Americans identify as their own folk culture fundamentally springs, stand up! Not everything about the days of the redcoats and the tall shakos deserves to be banished to the dustbin of history just because we all hate the idea of Empire so very very much now.

And I don't excuse America either. Have we become so jaded that we're at risk of falling into the same inward spiral as the rest of the West? Is even the American perpetual-motion machine of innovation and industry and wealth unprecedented in human history not immune to the sickly seductive gravitation of self-doubt, self-loathing, and collective guilt? Have even we lost the will to fight? Has the spark left us, too?

What we need, very simply, is a resurgence of positivity. There's no need to wallow in engineered angst, to be unable to look ourselves in the eye in the mirror except as tragic anti-heroes in a black comedy. The longer we insist upon seeing only the evil that the West does, even if it means shoveling off whole mountains of good in order to find it, the weaker we make ourselves and the less stomach we actually have for the fight in which we find ourselves. Now, if that positivity means our pop culture has to simplify itself, to revert to the shallow primary colors of the 50s-- well, does it really? I think we can stand to lose a few onion-layers of self-parody and self-referential mockery that makes up so much of our consumer lifestyles today, and the underlying vibrancy won't suffer. And if it means adding more layers of irony and indirection until it all collapses upon itself under its own weight-- if, for example, we have to go through the logical evolution of Space Ghost Coast to Coast before we can have Superman again-- well, so be it. We can do it. We're not out of ideas yet.

Being liked isn't the only thing there is in the world. Being passive and submissive, teaching our children to play with shields but not with swords, is no way to preserve our heritage of whose merits we only occasionally now mouth bland nothings. We can stand to be a little arrogant. We can take being a little disliked. Because that's what drives us. It's what's always driven us. The Renaissance didn't happen because the Ottomans and the European crowns ruled jointly in a pan-global socialist paradise, after all. And you know-- being disliked but privately envied is better than being loved but privately scorned.

The West isn't exhausted. We've been taking a breather for the past ten years, but now it's time to get up.

Back into the ring.

18:31 - Why is stuff like this never a joke?

Via Mike Silverman: further proof that our future will be bland, tasteless, humorless, frail, and spent cowering in fear for our lives, just like once upon a time we had the stones to declare we would never deign to live:

HE WEIGHS in at somewhere in excess of 17 stone, has suffered several heart attacks and undergone triple heart bypass surgery. With his protruding belly, addiction to doughnuts and Duff beer and his fear of any form of physical exercise, Homer Simpson is nobody’s idea of a figure of good health.

Unfortunately, the message appears to have gone over the heads of the health police. They want him to change, cut down on the fatty snacks and eat some pasta. It’s not going to go down well with the Atkins people, but they appear to be serious.

A team of researchers from New Jersey’s Rutgers University ploughed through 63 episodes of the hit cartoon show to analyse what sort of a health message it was sending out. Failing to see the joke, they were unimpressed.

"Fats, sweets and alcohol, particularly beer, doughnuts and salty/fatty/snacks accounted for 52 per cent of all foods eaten in this programme," their report said. "Homer was also portrayed eating food more often (he alone accounted for 21 per cent of all actions showing food being eaten) and ate greater quantities than other characters."

Make it stop...

18:20 - The Mecha of Mecca

Here's something that's pretty refreshing. SomethingAwful's Zack Parsons has put up his own colon-cleansing take on recent al Qaeda machinations, and it's stress-relieving. I mean it.

Al-Qaeda is no longer the fresh hotness. In fact, Al-Qaeda never was the fresh hotness. So they blew up the World Trade Center and killed three thousand people in one day. Yeah, that was shocking, mostly thanks to television news. Do you know who else killed three thousand people in one day? Just about everyone. In fact, as wars go, killing three thousand people in a single day is not exactly an epic accomplishment. During World War II the US and England firebombed Dresden and killed (according to some sources) over 200,000 people over a three day period, and we were the GOOD GUYS. Let me slow that down and run that by you again Al-Qaeda, we firebombed the refugee filled city of Dresden killing hundreds of thousands of people and history still recognizes the United States as one of the good guys.

Do you know why? Because we were better than the alternative. Do you know what's not better than the alternative? You.

The article gets a bit wishy-washy toward the end (Parsons seems to become engulfed in a flood of moral-equivalence-inducing sneer fluid that compels him to register at least a token bat at Christianity and Bush), but it's not bad. The remainder of the thing is tart and honest and not at all polluted with rectal-cranial-inversion syndrome. In other words, at least you don't have to worry that SomethingAwful is entirely in the hands of people who would have spent this past weekend on Market Street or Hollywood & Vine chanting "Death to America".

That being a real live concern these days makes me want to hit something very hard.

Sunday, March 21, 2004
15:59 - S+0p +3rrR0rizzrn N000wWW!!!11!``

Is this a spam?

I just got two copies of it, one of which was sent to the "owner" address of a mailing list I run; the address isn't used for anything but receiving automated admin-type messages from Majordomo, and it isn't publicized anywhere as a contact address (though I wouldn't be surprised if it's been assimilated into the depths of the Usenet bit-cesspool at some point in the mists of time). Here's what it said:

Subject: Stop Spreading Hatred

I think being a Muslim you are not working for peace. You are misguided, mistaken and spreading hatred through disinformation and false accusations, which is resulting in death and miseries for number of innocent people living around the world at the hands of merciless KILLER MUSLIMS and also bringing bad name to MOHAMMED as Founder Of Islam.

Try and work for peace and reconciliation, and prove to the WORLD through your deeds that MOHAMMED teaches "love & peace" and not Cruelty, Inhumanity and "Hatred & Killing" of the innocent civilians.


I had to re-read it a couple of times to grasp what it was saying and from whose viewpoint it supposedly came. But, well, y'know, I can probably get behind a sentiment like this. More so, certainly, than G3N*R1c V1@grA or anti-depressants for a fun night on the town asgd178v or uphold payroll accept vibrato prosecute extradite sidelight. (God, that last one's got a lot of nerve...!)

15:20 - Slow-motion train wreck

Via LGF: photos from this weekend's peaceful peace protests for peace:

Yeah, nice job centering the lettering there, sport.

You know, some time ago I think I recall people warning that as the anti-war Left's cause became more and more ridiculous, their expression of that cause would get more and more bizarre, radical, and blatantly offensive. And it would drag along with it all the shallow but otherwise well-meaning people who simply didn't want war. What started out being a simple popular show of support for extended diplomacy rather than quick militarism (a rational discussion can be had there) would devolve quickly to a showcase of all the looniest and most offensive radical agendas who have coopted the movement: eco-terrorists, Stalinists, Maoists, anti-Semites, dictator-appeasers, people who prefer UN-sanctioned genocide to US-sponsored liberation, and people who feel more sympathy for the terrorists who destroyed the WTC than for the people working inside it or their friends and families.

Yet it was with some skepticism that I read the claims that that's where it would lead. "Surely," I thought, "there would be some repudiation of the true fringe radicals from the mainstream of the movement. Surely there would eventually be a schism, a wilful and voluntary separation of the vapid but otherwise harmless Hollywood bubbleheads from the International ANSWER and Hamas and Saddam apologists. No way would they decide, even a year after the invasion of Iraq, with more Iraqis optimistic about their future than Germans are about theirs, that it's more important to show solidarity under the BUSH=HITLER flags than to purge their ranks to ensure their principles at least are unsullied. ...Right?

What a fool I was.

Congratulations, guys. I hope you're happy in the company you've chosen.

You may now board the express train directly to Hell.

Friday, March 19, 2004
14:21 - So here we all are again

One of the major criticisms of Bush-- the ones I find valid, that is to say-- is that he hasn't been a great communicator. He doesn't give many speeches or press conferences. During Clinton's term, I seem to recall seeing him behind the mike every other time I glanced up. Monicagate notwithstanding, that still seems more or less what I'm used to.

What with several foregoing months of Democratic candidates hammering on Bush with increasingly outrageous accusations, from the AWOL thing to "lying" about Iraq's WMDs, with nary a word emanating from the White House in defense, naturally this makes me jittery. Much as I appreciate seeing snarky speeches from the White House methodically (and hilariously) taking Kerry to pieces, the fact that it's Cheney doing the skewering is surreal in the extreme. What about the Oval Office? What, is it football-and-pretzels season or something?

Well, this morning's speech from Bush is a welcome change. It's well worth a read. It's an excellent piece of perspective, and it covers a lot of the bases we've been pining for him to cover for a long time now. Finally-- inarguable hammering on the "fraudulent coalition" business, a real progress report on Afghanistan (oh yeah, that place), and a stern moral stand on the sickly joys of appeasement.

The news outlets are bound to play the "Even As..." card, saying something like Even as terrorist bombs exploded all over Baghdad like some kind of macabre burlesque of the Fourth of July, President Bush spoke against so-called "terrorism" today, or something equally insipid.

Well, that's a game we all can play. Even as President Bush spoke to laud the contributions and sacrifices of the partners of the US in the War on Terror, John Kerry went snowboarding in Idaho to get away from criticism of his policies. There: moral high ground secured, because I didn't even mention what happened there.

Meh. It's not an easy time to be in my position, reminding myself why Bush needs support this November. Stronghold-bound far-right-wingers aren't making it any too easy to get cozy with the GOP. (I believe it was Goats who reminded us that "nothing good ends in rhea".) But you know, even if I have to be the very model of the nostril-holding citizen come Election Day, there are things whose importance is temporal, and there are things whose importance is timeless.

I'm not going to throw away the future to save the present.

11:23 - The Dane in Spain

Reader George M. forwards this Rudyard Kipling poem, which seems to be making the rounds:

(A.D. 980-1016)
Rudyard Kipling

IT IS always a temptation to an armed and agile nation,
To call upon a neighbour and to say:—
“We invaded you last night—we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away.”
And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you’ve only to pay ’em the Dane-geld
And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation to a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say:—
“Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray,
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to says:—

“We never pay any one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost,
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that plays it is lost!”

I wonder what contemporary event it was that spurred him to pen this. Guess I've got some homework to do.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004
12:43 - Interview posted

My interview with Stephen Ibaraki is posted, at the Network Professional Association site (link above) and also at the Canadian Information Processing Society site.

It reads a little oddly, especially toward the beginning, because I don't think the interviewer really had any idea what to ask me; questions like "What triggered your interest in computers?" are impossible to answer without sounding impossibly dorky. Do forgive me on that point. I did my best.

This guy does interviews of people who (according to the sample bio sheet he sent me for my own submission) do things like testify before Congress on technological matters and run the premier security and cryptography sites on the Net and so on-- needless to say I had no idea how I was supposed to compete with characters like that. So do indulge the rather, er, padded-bra bio.

Other than that, though, I got a chance to put a lot of stuff into words that I think is pretty interesting. I may add it to the main Grotto11 front-page-- anything to flesh it out, after all...

Tuesday, March 16, 2004
18:21 - Hey Europe-- ask yourselves why they hate you

This WaPo story requires registration, but it's worth it if just to act as yogurt on sunburn today:

Sociologist Emilio Lamo de Espinosa says Europeans have been dreaming. Writing in Le Monde (in French), Lamo says Europeans have thought they would be spared because they haven't supported the Bush administration's policies.

"When the Americans declared war on terrorism, many of us thought they exaggerated. Many thought terrorism was not likely to occur on our premises, [inhabited by] peaceful and civilized Europeans who speak no evil of anybody, who dialogue, who are the first [to] send assistance and offer cooperation. We are pacifists, they are warmongers. . . . . Don't we defend the Palestinians? Are we not pro-Arab and anti-Israeli?"

"Can we dialogue with those who desire only our death and nothing but our death?" Lamo asks. "Dialogue about what? The manner in which we will be assassinated?"

"The war against terrorism will be long and difficult," he concludes. "It was that cretin, President Bush, who said that."

You know, if you want to change y'all's mind and come along and help us fight, we won't hold any of these past couple years against you.


16:28 - Hold still-- there's some duct tape on your eyes. Just a sec-- hold on... RRIIIIP!

Via Andrew Sullivan:

A December posting on an Internet message board used by al Qaeda and its sympathizers and obtained by CNN, spells out a plan to topple the pro-U.S. government.

"We think the Spanish government will not stand more than two blows, or three at the most, before it will be forced to withdraw because of the public pressure on it," the al Qaeda document says.

"If its forces remain after these blows, the victory of the Socialist Party will be almost guaranteed -- and the withdrawal of Spanish forces will be on its campaign manifesto."

That prediction came to fruition in elections Sunday, with the Socialists unseating the Popular Party three days after near-simultaneous bombings of four trains killed 200 and shocked the nation.

As infuriatingly picture-perfect as the operation has been for al Qaeda, for which we can only admire their shrewdness in identifying a soft target and playing it like a cheap violin, there's one thing they gave up this week: the advantage of our uncertainty.

Until now, we've been operating by guesswork. As many Den Bestes as we have, analyzing the situation and the available intelligence and coming up with battle plans likely to hurt the enemy, there are just as many nay-sayers and people convinced that our actions are misguided and our assumptions flawed. Everything we've done, from Afghanistan to Iraq, has been subject to gainsaying and denials of validity-- often from the mouths of the very Taliban or Saddam, claiming to the bitter end that we're attacking them for no reason, that we're using 9/11 as the pretext for an unjust war against innocents (bolstered, of course, by a credulous media only too willing to give more credence to Baghdad Bob than to Donald Rumsfeld). It's been easy for anti-war types to bray in public about how Iraq and al Qaeda are totally unconnected; how al Qaeda is a hobbled threat at best, without the capability to plot anything that would really affect us anymore; how Bush and his conservative allies are bungling the War on Terror and how a leftist or Socialist government could do it better.

But now that's all shot down. Now we have causal links in black and white. Now we know exactly how they're operating, and what kind of tactical goals they're seeking.

Let's absorb this: al Qaeda is out there and operational. They're sorely hurt by Iraq and desperate to see our efforts there fail. And they're rooting for Socialists-- and actively working to install them in office-- because Socialists, whether they intend to be or not, will be on al Qaeda's side.

I wonder if these message boards are where Kerry talks to his "foreign leaders".

There's nothing more I can say. Dammit. How much clearer can the path in front of us get?

12:07 - The Approval of the Enemy

Just a thought on the subject of Kerry and his "foreign leaders want me to win" business:

Running for President on a platform of having foreign leaders rooting for you is like buying a car from the salesman who has a big plaque behind his desk saying SALES LEADER 2003.

Hint: The fact that he's sold the most cars at that dealership does not mean he's on your side. It doesn't mean he's going to get you a good deal.

It means he's the best at hoodwinking the buyers.

09:54 - A callous moment

You know what my feelings are right about now, regarding the Spain debacle?

I'm thinking, Good. Go ahead and give up. You see what you morons get.

Is that wrong of me? Does that make me a bad person?

I'll decide later whether I regret saying this. But right now, my gut's telling me something, and I'd better just get it out before it gives me heartburn. It's telling me that If Europe is determined to play this role, let 'em play it to the hilt. It makes things easier, and it might shorten the war.

Why? Well, here's what I'm thinking. Everybody's all concerned that the Europeans are determined bewilderingly to capitulate, apparently having learned nothing from the Sudetenlands of their own history-- or, worse, not regretting it. It could be that Europe actually regards the Chamberlain approach, with open eyes, to be the best path forward. They know where it will lead, and they don't care; it could indeed be that their senses are dulled by time regarding the horrors of what results from fascism, or that a good number of them actually rather enjoyed having the trains run on time and the big colorful banners fly on the ramparts. Fascism is designed to be pleasing to the crowds, after all; maybe the Europeans just have this thing for fascism. Maybe it's just in their bones.

Maybe they feel like it's about time for another Big Nasty Event to happen among the hallowed halls of the ancient redoubts of Carolingia, something-- anything!-- to spice things up and provide a little diversion on a scale they can tell their kids about. If it's Islamofascism instead of Hitlerism, well, potato, potahto. They've been through it before, right? And who really suffered but the military and some Jews?

I'm feeling like the Europeans regard America as a bigger worry and a bigger threat than resurgent fascism in their own backyards. Sure, you say-- that goes without saying; it's what everybody's been saying for months. But think about exactly what it means. Think about how perfectly all the events line up with this model. The Europeans are more concerned with spiting the Yanks than they are about fighting terrorism aimed at the direct overthrow of their own governments. They'll happily capitulate to the terrorists if it means poking a stick in the eye of America.

I didn't want to believe it had gotten this bad, but apparently it has. And there's nothing left, it seems, but to just play along. It's the only way to get this thing over with as quickly and cleanly as possible.

See, here's the thing: We've been making all these noises about how worried we are that Europe won't act like America when attacked. Sure, al Qaeda hasn't gone after America since 9/11, because we fight back-- they know that now. Now they're going to attack Europe, the "soft underbelly" of the West (as we ourselves called Spain and Italy way back when), and Europe isn't going to fight back the way we did. Well, so what? Sure, it'll encourage al Qaeda to attack more of Europe-- but the faster that happens, the closer we get to the inevitable war that will drag in the whole world once again. If Europe were to act like America and fight back, then al Qaeda would just take longer to rebuild, longer in between attacks, just long enough to keep the blows coming as a series of low-level wounds that we never quite can keep pace with. The war would be a police action, fought through diplomacy and special ops and infiltrators, and it would take decades and cost tens of thousands of lives.

But if Europe's going to encourage more and faster attacks against soft Western targets, then those attacks will come. And with each one, America's resolve will harden. Let Andalusia fall. Let Lyon impose shari'a. Let the Vatican burn. How many of these things will it take before Europe decides to get serious? It'll happen eventually. But all the while, America would still be fighting. We'll remain in Iraq even if every other nation withdraws. Whatever other lesson al Qaeda draws from this, they won't conclude that attacking America directly again is worth it. They've got a honeypot now: Europe.

Western pundits speak in horrified terms of a coming war, on the scale of WWII, as though it's to be avoided at all costs. We seem to believe that this whole "terrorism" thing can just be smoothed over, solved diplomatically, even by those people who understand the necessity of force. There's an unwillingness to confront the possibility that the only way this war will end is in the trenches. But I'm starting to think that anything short of that will be absolutely insufficient; the enemy will always just rise back up again unless they're burned out by the roots.

War and Tyranny are both awful. But here's the difference: Americans believe Tyranny is worse, whereas Europeans believe War is worse. (We're used to War, and Europe is used to Tyranny.) I think War is coming, because Tyranny is coming first.

Of course I don't want al Qaeda to blow people up. It would be great if they just stayed home and passed resolutions like the UN, remaining pleasantly bland and feckless just like the Europeans. But if they're going to attack, if it's part of their nature that can't be excised any more than a wasp can be trained not to sting, then these attacks each need to teach us more how to defend against them, lest the victims die pointlessly, in vain.

Imagine what would have happened if Chamberlain hadn't appeased Hitler-- if Churchill had been in office at the time and had told him where he could stick his Sudetenland. Would it have averted war? Hardly-- it would have sent Hitler back to Berlin in a fury, determined more than ever to win. He'd have built up his army to an astonishing power within his borders, and the blitz through Poland might have come in 1940 or 1943-- but it would have happened. Hitler would have fought more patiently, more methodically. And who knows-- by 1950 he might have been Führer of all Europe. Could even America have challenged him then?

Instead, Chamberlain served to bait Hitler into war before he really had a sustainable advantage. He attacked thinking he'd face no opposition-- as indeed he didn't in France in 1940. But remove Pearl Harbor from the picture, and Europe could have gone another three years before anyone seriously tried to take Hitler down. I don't think we would have had a chance.

These attacks in Europe-- Madrid, and whatever is bound to come next in Britain or the Netherlands or Germany-- are the Pearl Harbors of this war. They're what's going to whip up a sudden wave of reaction, whether from America and Australia and Britain or from (as if) the attacked European countries themselves. This reaction will be what's necessary to stamp out Islamofascism before it's really had a chance to form an unbeatable infrastructure. The sooner the better, after all. If Europe remained safe for another five years, though, imagine the public attitudes toward the WoT. Would it even be in the news? Only as a matter of derision. Terrorism? the people would sneer. Don't make me laugh! That's soooo 2001! Nobody on Earth would have the mandate or the funds to pursue the war effectively. And it would drag on like that, timed ideally for al Qaeda to whittle away at the infidels, helping their below-replacement-rate population decline along, for decades. Leaving us in a much worse position than we're in today.

We need to get this done now. And as horrible as it sounds, the more attacks in Europe right now, the more vividly al Qaeda makes its point that it's not going away, the better our chances of mustering the courage and the wherewithal to take them out, swiftly, decisively-- in a way we can commemorate by flashing V-signs at the cameras.

Monday, March 15, 2004
14:40 - Classical Music Metadata Redux (hah! More like "incrux")

Alan Little has picked up where I left off regarding classical music metadata organization in ID3 tags and iTunes-- and shown just how badly I underestimated the scale of the problem in the first place. And you know, I knew I was skipping a ton of stuff. I just didn't want to think about it.

Alan is much more thorough, though. Using real data-modeling techniques, he pulls apart a typical piece of classical music and identifies all the pieces of information that get jammed together to make the title of a Beethoven quartet or Haydn symphony. So much of this stuff dates back to a time when musical notation itself was still fairly new-- let alone, say, works' naming conventions-- that it seems many people who have tried this before, such as those intrepid souls who came up with the "BWV ###" numbering system to formalize the cataloging of old compositions, eventually were overcome with despair and gave up their numeration effort before they even got around to doing Beethoven.

I have to imagine that Apple's been thinking about how to handle this. Probably a lot of Little's ideas are already on whiteboards somewhere in the iTunes group, probably languishing under newer and sexier diagrams and drawings of cartoon characters, the edges of the critical listings of field names nibbled away by dry-erase rot and spritzed with a few mistings of cleanser. I wouldn't doubt it if they've been batting around ideas for how to make the classical music listening experience as fully digital as modern music from the CD age has so easily become; but as soon as they start to really embrace how big a project it is, it just rolls over and crushes them, and they go out for Thai.

It'll involve a whole different layer to iTunes, frankly-- and a whole new ID3 tag version and set of fields that probably only iTunes will support. Yeah, once all those fields are in place-- imagine having a separate browser column for each of the six-plus fields in Beethoven’s String Quartet no. 9 in C op.59 “Rasumovsky” no.3-- iTunes will make short work of drilling down to the level where you want to start your playback. But the visual representation will look markedly different from what we're used to.

Probably what Apple's waiting for is for the music-buying market to make more of a determined shift to the digital realm and away from CDs, where classical music was never really at home anyway. In fact, every form of recording ever available has been miserable for classical-- only modern rock and pop and such, the genres popularized in the vinyl era, evolved under the influence of mass marketing and tuned themselves to match the medium. Classical never had anything but the live performance to define its structure. And it's only now, with on-demand digital downloads, that a careful distributor can recreate the experience of a live classical performance with a delivery mechanism that approximates what the composer might have had in mind. If Apple reaches the decision point where it concludes that there's good money to be made on a sufficiently-sized market segment that's interested in classical music downloads (I doubt it'd be infested with file-sharing scofflaws, but that's just a hunch), then they might get serious.

But it won't be easy. Nobody wants to tackle this. Otherwise there'd be third-party shareware MP3 players specifically designed for classical music already floating around the download sites, and if there are any, they haven't crossed my radar. iTunes wasn't the first application of its kind; it leveraged the work that many independent developers did before Apple ever took an interest in Digital Hub stuff. And I suspect they'll want to see if public interest, as indicated by the windsock of where third-party development effort gets spent, will support a classical iTunes before they commit to productizing the idea.

Sunday, March 14, 2004
12:30 - Feeding the crocodile

Via Tim Blair, Mark Steyn has a few responses to those who would blame the Madrid bombings on Spain's ill-advised support for the US in the War on Terror. Including this one:

3) It makes no difference.

Even if you'd avoided Iraq or Andalusia or British banks or Pilger or any other affront to Islamist sensibilities, you'd still be a target. As the PR guy for the Islamic Army of Aden said after blowing up that French tanker: "We would have preferred to hit a US frigate, but no problem because they are all infidels." Commissioner Keelty is confusing old-school terrorism – blowing the legs off grannies as a means to an end – with the new: blowing the legs off grannies is the end. Old-school terrorists have relatively viable goals: They want a Basque state or Northern Ireland removed from the UK. You might not agree with these goals, you might not think them negotiable, but at least they're not stark staring insane.

That kind of finely calibrated terrorism – just enough slaughter to inconvenience the state into concessions – is all but over. Suppose you're an ETA cell. Suppose you were planning a car-bomb for next month – nothing fancy, just a dead Spanish official plus a couple of unlucky passers-by. Still want to go ahead with it? I doubt it. Despite Gerry Adams's attempts to distinguish between "unacceptable" terrorism and the supposedly more beneficial kind, these days it's a club with only one level of membership. That's why so many formerly active terrorist groups have been so quiet the past couple of years. In that sense, Bush is right: It is a "war on terror", and on many fronts it's being won.

If Islamic terrorism were as rational as Irish or Basque terrorism, it would be easier. But Hussein Massawi, former leader of Hezbollah, summed it up very pithily: "We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you." You can be pro-America (Spain, Australia) or anti-America (France, Canada), but if you broke into the head cave in the Hindu Kush and checked out the hit list you'd be on it either way.

So the choice for pluralist democracies is simple: You can join Bush in taking the war to the terrorists, to their redoubts and sponsoring regimes. Despite the sneers that terrorism is a phenomenon and you can't wage war against a phenomenon, in fact you can – as the Royal Navy did very successfully against the malign phenomena of an earlier age, piracy and slavery.

Or you can stick your head in the sand and paint a burqa on your butt. But they'll blow it up anyway.

Yup. Though in an extension of the same Xbox-is-still-working mentality I mentioned earlier, far too much of Europe and the world think that if they just lay low and attract little enough attention, maybe... they'll be last to go, or something. Deep down, they recognize the nature of the problem-- but as long as it's being handled by bigger players than themselves, they're safe. In the meantime, what would it profit them to root for the US and provoke the other side into treating them as a big player too? You end up like Spain.

European anti-Americanism is thus a logical piece of strategy stemming from being a bit player on the world stage. In context it makes sense.

Not that that makes it any less cowardly.

Saturday, March 13, 2004
10:35 - They start 'em early 'round these parts

Ahhh, the sounds of summer.

Wait. What? It's only, like, March. But yeah, Opening Ceremonies for the local Little League were what woke me up this hot (hot!) March morning. When I took Capri for his morning jog down the street one block over, it was lined with every car in the county, and everybody in them was over in the far baseball field under the flowering cherry trees, the announcer reading off the names of hundreds of cheering kids and their coaches and team names, and apologizing for the mangling of the names he tripped over.

I can hear the cheering from my window now.

Yes, there are some things from my youth that I miss. Why do you ask?

(Oh, wait. I sucked. Right.)

10:11 - Okay, you talked me into it

Yeah, yeah, I know it's vaguely gauche to talk about medical issues in public, or at least in my brain it is. But here goes anyway, because it's not serious and actually pretty funny.

So I was in at the Kaiser hospital again yesterday. The doctor had just given me a shot of cortisone and prescribed a six-day course of steroids. This is for the second stage in what's become rather a comedy of errors-- originally just a stupid swollen lymph node under the jaw, which has now all but gone away, for which I'd been taking antibiotics, not that they seemed to do much good. But now, nine days later, here I was again. Let's just say, well, I've missed the last two days of work, something I've never done since before my freshman year of high school (yes, I was a very boring kid), mostly to avoid freaking people out.

I headed down to the pharmacy. The pharmacist behind the consultation counter got my order, and looked in the computer. "Tie-man?" (as they always pronounce it.) "So you were in here nine days ago for some amoxicillin... and now you're here for methylprednisolone. That would be for.... what, an allergy? A rash?"

I rolled up a sleeve and showed her. Her eyes got as wide as dinner plates.

"Oh my God! she breathed. "What did you eat?"

I met her gaze as levelly as I could. "Amoxicillin," I said.

Friday, March 12, 2004
02:31 - "Actually, I wrote my thesis on life experience, and..."

Via Mike at Cold Fury, a post that says what I wish I had the attention span this weekend to say (it's a long story and not one I'm about to get into, so why I bothered mentioning it now I don't know, oh, shut up, Brian, and post the excerpt):

The drum beat for Kerry, where I live, is constant. I’m on the Metro the other night after work, and a bunch of younger folks – probably Teach for America kids, or maybe Georgetown students – were ranting about how awful Bush is, and how they are excited about this upcoming “Beat Bush Back to Fucking Texas” party that a friend was throwing. I have friends working in the law enforcement and intel agencies around the government, who have gone gray haired since 9/11 – they always look tired for some reason and when some mutual friend starts going on about the phonied up war on terror, they look ill. Occasionally, it slips out on CNN that some terror suspect was caught coming into the country, and I hear rumors from my reasonably well placed friends that we are only getting the tip of the iceberg – that we don’t get the 90% that’s below the water line. Meanwhile, a liberal ex-friend of mine keeps sending me Rall cartoons, horrific videos alleging all sorts of wild Bush-led conspiracies to make money on oil, and the whole left side of the political class is going on about how Florida was stolen. And my friends working on the national security side of life get grayer, and grayer, both in the face and the hair. It’s like we aren’t even in the same world.

Then this huge attack happens today in Spain, and I can tell you, the result will be predictable: the Chomskies and Sonntags of the world, and all their bush league imitators, will say Spain had it coming for sticking with America. They shouldn’a gone on that cockamamie imperialist adventure in Iraq. It won't even be on the radar for most of the left in this country - the sophisticated Europhiles simply won't register the attack, because it doesn't fit their world view, except as an attack on an America proxy, and thus expected. 'Cuz America is evil, you know. At least when it has a Republican president.

Quite frankly, I’m sick of it. Sick sick sick sick sick. It’s like sitting in a burning house, and your friend in the adjacent easy chair keeps offering you popcorn, and insisting that the burning smell is in your imagination. Or at worst, it’s because you burned the popcorn you idiot, now shut up and watch the movie.

I want . . .

Go follow the link, where Mike's right in saying there's lots more, to find out what Al Maviva wants. (Not really. But in that bleak world of the imagination.)

If only every college-age stonergamerraverlamerloser who always flopped like a dead and sullen fish onto the Left side of the aisle whenever some argument came up, who assumed that because he liked sex and drugs and bunnies and clean air and not being around religious people, and because conservatives obviously hated those things, Republicans were the evil bat puppet to be beaten with sticks in the morality play of Life, could read this. And absorb it. And realize what they're asking of the world. And realize how little experience of that world they're using as their philosophical basis. And come to terms with the idea that hey, maybe just because they're young, they don't necessarily have the answers. Maybe, in fact, it's because they're young that they don't have the answers. (But that's anathema! ...Yes, but it makes sense, doesn't it? ...No! No! Well, yes--no! Aauuugh! Help!)

Life experience. What wonders it doth work. Funny how a single day-- a day like 9/11, say, or 3/11-- can dump so much of it on a guy.

00:09 - Fair enough

By the way-- I just wanted to grab hold of this little bauble from Thursday's Bleat:

I can understand why some don’t like video games – what’s the point? All those hours spent clicking and mousing, and for what? I can see that; I feel the same away about opera: people striding around yelling in Italian. Does nothing for me. But I’ve been playing Halo again (on the Mac – a far superior experience than the Xbox version) and I realized that these games give you choices and situations real life never presents. Nevermind the fact that I will never find myself riding a commandeered alien vehicle and interrupt a battle between the Covenant and the horrid flood, and e forced to dismount and engage in a shoulder-mounted RPG duel. Goes without saying. But when the battle’s over, you scavenge for ammo. There’s lots of RPG ammo. There’s a rare sniper rifle, too. Since you can only carry two weapons, this means you’d have to drop your Trusty Shotgun for a sniper rifle, and your other weapon would be a rocket launcher. This is the worst combination you can have – two long-range weapons, nothing for close work when one of those gawdawful Flood bipeds comes running at you. But the game seems to suggest that this is what you should do, so you do it.

In a world where your choices are usually of the paper or plastic nature, this is a welcome change.

An interesting point, to be sure. I don't know if it's sufficient to break me of my entrenched cynicism on the subject, but it certainly comes close.

17:39 - Compare and contrast

InstaPundit has inadvertently placed a couple of photos (or links to photos) quite close together, and it's hard to find a better illustration of the different kinds of people who demonstrate on opposite sides of this modern war.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

I don't know about you, but I've got my side picked out.

12:26 - Portals to the Netherverse

Don't miss today's Penny Arcade:

And Tycho is a pretty clear thinker. Reminds me of a few friends of mine:

If you want to coexist with different breeds of geeks, you need to adopt a value-neutral approach to the platforms. So, while there are many conversations one can have regarding different computing methods, I typically do not choose to have them. Gabriel and I no longer discuss God for the same reason - people express themselves via means as divergent as spirituality and operating systems, so as soon as the topic starts to get interesting it invariably becomes personal. Obviously, that has a tendency to occlude rational dialogue. There might have been a point where I had a surplus of energy to invest in philosophical cul-de-sacs. I no longer remember it.

The way Apple projects its brand, however, has nothing to do with the underlying technology. It could not be more divorced from it. So if they want to create largely empty stores staffed exclusively by young hardbodies in ill-fitting t-shirts, it's open season. Its possible that each manifestation of this chain does not resemble the others, that each one is not populated with the scrubbed, tousled young things of the sort one sees in serious teen dramas. You'll forgive me if I don't believe that. I'd say it's far more likely that there is a single Apple Store, connected by a serious of geographically distinct portals.

Got it in one.

Anyway, the dichotomy between how I feel about Apple and how I feel about politics-- the respective philosophies are just about dead opposites, leading me to believe that maybe I like Macs so as to feed my repressed inner activist-- is something that's bugged me under the surface for years now. Naturally I've found myself getting a lot less extreme in my Apple boostering over the past year or two, though it occasionally bubbles up beyond my control. I've had a number of deep conversations with friends about just what it is that I think I'm doing by supporting Apple, while at the same time stumping for free-market industry and natural competitive forces. And honestly I don't know. All the anguished car metaphors or petulant demonstrations of technical superiority don't matter a whit in the absence of market evidence supporting my position. But that hasn't stopped me, and after all the essays and e-mail conversations I'm no closer to understanding it than I was before.

I will note, however, on a pseudo-tangent, that most of the Mac guys I know today used to be big PC gearheads, Linux junkies, Windows gurus, and so on. They loved tinkering around in PC cases-- they lived for it. They knew all the stats of all the video cards and hard drives and motherboards and RAM buses and everything that was on the market; they read AnandTech and Ars Technica and always could be counted on to reel off a ream of advice on putting together a new machine, or whip one up themselves from parts at Fry's in the matter of an afternoon. ...But eventually, the magic and the fun just sort of went out of it; there's only so much fulfillment to be had from overclocking a Celeron or picking jumpers out of the dark cavity of a motherboard under a rat's nest of power connectors or slicing your thumb open on a stamped-sheet-steel case from the dumpster outside the office. Moreover there's only so much romance in hacking the Registry, running virus scanners, tweaking all the interactive desktop settings to come up with the perfect purple-text-on-black gothic color scheme in GNOME or Windows. Eventually one just gets sick of it. And more than one, it seems, has.

Nowadays my friends tend to either buy off-the-shelf PCs from Dell or AlienWare, or buy Macs. I think there's more significance in that than in fussing over brand identity, or even agonizing over whether I'm being politically consistent in all my doings. It's more like, "Well, yeah, we were both right all along. Let's stop all the fussin' and the feudin'."

"...And let's go to the opening of that new Apple Store down at the mall!"

Thursday, March 11, 2004
19:03 - Somos todos españoles hoy

Just spreading the address of the Spanish Embassy around a bit. For expressions of condolences, whatever form they might take. It's not much, but it's something.

His Excellency Inocencio Aris
Spanish Embassy
2375 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037.
Phone #202-452-0100

Be sure to look at these photos first.

Spain's been a welcome ally in the War on Terror, giving the US the benefit of the doubt over the French on their own border. They've been on our A-list for some time now, but today they should go right to the head of the class.

After all, so much of the criticism of America's pursuit of the War on Terror is (perversely) that it's motivated by our own self-interest. As though as long as terrorism wasn't happening in the Europeans' backyards, they were free to scoff at us-- 9/11, to many in the world, is no nearer than some flickering images on TV. Abstract. Distant.

Now, though, if Spain decides to go full-bore on their own WoT arm, and we throw in our lot wholeheartedly... well, nobody could ask for a better or more powerful friend, as the Spanish will soon discover. And who in Europe will scoff then?

That said, I'm sure it'll be a matter of hours before the meme is spreading that the attacks today were perpetrated by the CIA, specifically to raise European sympathy for the WoT and cooperation with Bush this election year.

My God. These are the things we have to think about nowadays.

Have we become so inured to terrorism that pondering the inevitable wacko conspiracy theories is an activity that's actually visibly on our collective radar?

Time to step back. Survey what's happened. Make a judgment that's free of sarcasm and double-entendre and overanalysis. And act.

It's still September 2001. It's never stopped being September 2001.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004
16:52 - A World of Padded Corners

Via Rosemary Esmay, who aptly points out the critical importance that this bill must pass:

Eating a Big Mac, supersize fries and a supersize Coke isn't healthy. Nobody should be "confused" by that. If you eat like that everyday YOU WILL GET FAT. If you don't get fat - you either have a helluva metabolism or you spend way too much time working out.

I don't want you suing Mickey D's into bankruptcy or changing it's menu. I like a Big Mac every once in a while and I sure as hell want to get one when the urge hits me. Same with KFC, Wendys, BK or whatever. We like our fast food. Leave it alone. Oh, and keep your greedy paws away from Taco Bell!

If this bill fails and people can sue restaurants, these restaurants will suffer economically and then what? How can McDonald's or whoever protect itself?

Perhaps, employees should start telling patrons that they are too fat for the Quarter pounder with cheese. How about refusing service to overweight/obese persons? Or maybe only allow them to buy a salad and a diet cola?

That won't happen will it?

People will then sue because they were discriminated against. If people refuse to accept responsibility for their choices and results of those choices, what will happen to our freedom?

It may be too late to get it back. Once a nation starts off down the road toward padding every sharp corner, wrapping pillows around every soft cranium, and creating the infrastructure for guaranteeing a life of (modest) ease and (adequate) health and (average) success, it's very nearly impossible to turn back. Public services like free health care and employer-administered social benefits are really, really hard to take away from people. Once they have 'em, they have 'em for good. Which is fine, if you don't mind that you're not living your own adult life anymore, free to fail as well as to succeed: someone else is taking care of you, just like in kindergarten.

A decade ago, America marveled at that guy who was in the news saying he'd been eating a Big Mac a day for like twenty years and was fit as a fiddle. Marveled that he was alive. See, we knew better.

Now, there's that guy who's choosing to eat Big Macs three meals a day specifically so he can become fat and miserable, and then make a documentary showing how evil McDonald's is for letting him do this to himself, presumably so he can pressure them into selling healthier food. (I guess he figures obesity is what makes for a successful documentarian.)

Methinks America has forgotten how to be its own watchdog. Now it's all about nutritional-information boxes on restaurant menus and class-action lawsuits against anybody you feel like blaming your ills on.

Now "KFC" no longer stands for Kentucky Fried Chicken. Now it means Kitchen Fresh Chicken.

Let that sink in, especially knowing that the food hasn't changed.

This has to stop. It has to stop now.

Tuesday, March 9, 2004
01:05 - No More Mr. Potato Head?

Is this for real? Via Tim Blair, it purports to be a series of off-the-cuff comments from Dick Cheney at the annual Gridiron dinner, which sounds like something I should know more about.

Many people have made noises about Cheney being Bush's biggest detriment for his second term, that he's deadwood and a magnet for criticism over policy and conflicts of interest, and that he should feign a heart attack and let Rudy Giuliani or Condi Rice step in as Veep.

But after seeing this, I'm wondering...

Thank you, President [Al] Hunt, members of the Gridiron . . . at one point during your skits, I had a little scare. I felt a tightness in my chest. I started gasping for air and breathing irregularly. Then I realized it's called laughing. . . .

Lots of familiar faces here tonight. I always feel a genuine bond whenever I see Senator Clinton. She's the only person who's the center of more conspiracy theories than I am.

. . .

Here's an unsigned question. "Mr. Vice President, don't you think it's time to step down and let someone else add new energy and vitality to the ticket?"

No . . . I don't. And Rudy [Guiliani], you need to do a better job disguising your handwriting.

Oh . . . and Rudy has a follow up. "How can you be so sure you'll be on the ticket?"

Because the CIA told me so! . . .

. . .

Dave Broder: "How would you accurately describe your role in this administration? Be honest."

I would say that I am a dark, insidious force pushing Bush toward war and confrontation. . . .

There's more. Even if this is just a spoof, it's a bloody good one.

But if it's not, we'd better make sure to get that security alert level down so Cheney can make more public appearances. Him, Bush, and Rumsfeld, up on stage with a brick wall behind them, a few bottles of Calistoga, and a 10:00 slot on Comedy Central...

Monday, March 8, 2004
13:27 - You heard it here first (maybe)

When a friend pointed this out to me last night, and as I skimmed the various links (without following any of them) and read the synopses, my first reaction was: What is this, Kerry/Bush slash fiction?

Then I thought, a few moments later, that when the archaeologists of the late-21st-century sift through the burned-out rubble of our once-proud civilization, searching for clues to the technological, political, social, and cultural shifts that led inexorably to the cataclysmic downfall of the human race so many horrific decades earlier, some poor investigator would be tasked with the onerous but crucial duty to track down the first time anyone on the Internet used the words Kerry/Bush slash fiction.

Oh no. What have I done?!

12:08 - I wanna go too!

If it's in The Guardian, it must be true!

Well, maybe only if it says something positive about America.
Cuba? It was great, say boys freed from US prison camp

Asadullah strives to make his point, switching to English lest there be any mistaking him. "I am lucky I went there, and now I miss it. Cuba was great," said the 14-year-old, knotting his brow in the effort to make sure he is understood.

Not that Asadullah saw much of the Caribbean island. During his 14-month stay, he went to the beach only a couple of times - a shame, as he loved to snorkel. And though he learned a few words of Spanish, Asadullah had zero contact with the locals.

He spent a typical day watching movies, going to class and playing football. He was fascinated to learn about the solar system, and now enjoys reciting the names of the planets, starting with Earth. Less diverting were the twice-monthly interrogations about his knowledge of al-Qaida and the Taliban. But, as Asadullah's answer was always the same - "I don't know anything about these people" - these sessions were merely a bore: an inevitably tedious consequence, Asadullah suggests with a shrug, of being held captive in Guantanamo Bay.

On January 29, Asadullah and two other juvenile prisoners were returned home to Afghanistan. The three boys are not sure of their ages. But, according to the estimate of the Red Cross, Asadullah is the youngest, aged 12 at the time of his arrest. The second youngest, Naqibullah, was arrested with him, aged perhaps 13, while the third boy, Mohammed Ismail, was a child at the time of his separate arrest, but probably isn't now.

Tracked down to his remote village in south-eastern Afghanistan, Naqibullah has memories of Guantanamo that are almost identical to Asadullah's. Prison life was good, he said shyly, nervous to be receiving a foreigner to his family's mud-fortress home.

The food in the camp was delicious, the teaching was excellent, and his warders were kind. "Americans are good people, they were always friendly, I don't have anything against them," he said. "If my father didn't need me, I would want to live in America."

Asadullah is even more sure of this. "Americans are great people, better than anyone else," he said, when found at his elder brother's tiny fruit and nut shop in a muddy backstreet of Kabul. "Americans are polite and friendly when you speak to them. They are not rude like Afghans. If I could be anywhere, I would be in America. I would like to be a doctor, an engineer _ or an American soldier."

Heh. If the rest of the Cubans knew about this, they'd probably be clamoring to get in.

I'm sure statements from Amnesty International and the IRC will be immediately forthcoming.

Don't miss these exclusive photos of the Birkenau of the Caribbean, sent via Mark O.

Friday, March 5, 2004
18:44 - Get used to it

The "culture card" is only going to work for so much longer. I'm glad to see some countries have sane and intelligent judges. Via LGF:

Three Pakistani gang rapists who are facing life in jail yesterday begged a judge to be pardoned, citing cultural differences that led to the brutal attack, immaturity on their part and hardship within their families if they were imprisoned.

. . .

The girls were repeatedly raped, threatened with knives and bullets and one was told the other had been killed because she had resisted her attackers. None of the men can be named because the younger brothers, MMK and MRK, 18, were minors at the time. Another man, known as RS, is 25.

. . .

The brothers are representing themselves because they believe an anti-Muslim conspiracy has prevented a fair hearing. Their father, a practising doctor, told the court they should be pardoned because they “did not know the culture of this country”.

"Nobody told us gang-rape was somehow frowned upon in the kufr lands!"

Do we seriously have to start including lessons on matters like this in the naturalization process?

11:39 - Viggy, Viggy, Viggy... you have been a bad monkey!

Viggo Mortensen was hired for his face. John Rhys-Davies wasn't. And it's your assets that get exercise.

Rhys-Davies sees these same themes espoused in The Lord of the Rings, observing, "[J.R.R.] Tolkien knew that civilization is worth fighting for. There are times when a generation is challenged and must fight to defend their civilization from annihilation."

Of course, others on the set didn't see it the same way. Viggo Mortensen, who played Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, wore a "No Blood for Oil" T-shirt during a promotional interview for the movie on Charlie Rose's PBS show.

Ironically, Mortensen's character in the movies is a military leader. And many have drawn parallels between the conflict in The Lord of the Rings with the war on terror. With a twinkle in his eye, Rhys-Davies confides that a friend whispered to him while watching Mortensen in The Return of the King, "Does he realize he's George Bush?"

Ouch. That's so mean!

Ah well. Viggy's young and pretty. One day, he might have to start taking roles that don't depend on his face, and then he might have to start exercising other parts of his head:

Rhys-Davies used to be a radical leftist, as a university student in the '60s. He first started to come around when he went to the local hall to hear a young local member of parliament by the name of Margaret Thatcher. "I went to heckle her," Rhys-Davies says. "She shot down the first two hecklers in such brilliant fashion that I decided I ought for once to shut up and listen."

Hey, it happens to the best of us.

Thursday, March 4, 2004
23:36 - If for no other reason


Mac monitor.

13:21 - Before you go...

Some people in my e-mail correspondence have made oblique noises about moving to France to get away from the fascist nightmare that America has become. Surely, they say, things would be better in Europe. They'd go as part of a tour group or something, then sidle off behind the Eiffel Tower. And then they'd spend the rest of their days as wandering minstrels singing for their supper to the patrons of dimly lit, leather-clad coffeehouses. Whatever their final lot, surely it'd be an improvement over Bush's Reich.

I wonder if I could convince any of them to read this heartfelt essay by Nidra Poller, before they board that plane. Particularly if they're Jewish.

If their perspective isn't changed by it, then maybe the jetway is the right direction for them anyway.

Wednesday, March 3, 2004
16:28 - Freedom is slavery

InstaPundit pointed to this post by the Transplanted Texan, writing from Canada, in which he describes an assault on freedom of speech-- in the most real sense, that of government censoring the words the public are allowed to use in speech or print. Tune in to read his righteous Fisking.

HALIFAX - The Nova Scotia government has published a list of words and phrases it wants banished from the news media, including "madman," "nutcase," "fruitcake," and "kooky," and will pay people for reporting their use.

The Health Department is offering cash awards to citizens who inform authorities of instances of "outdated, negative, inappropriate" terms it considers offensive to people with mental illness.

The government even says "mental hospital" and "nervous breakdown" should be verboten, not only in stories dealing with the mentally ill, but in all public discourse.

But... but... but... I thought Canadians had free speech! It says so right here:

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

a) freedom of conscience and religion;
b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
d) freedom of association.

That's the trouble with laws that are worded in this kind of nebulous, content-free manner: what, exactly, does it mean? It describes various touchy-feely concepts, but it doesn't draw any legal lines or distinctions. What exactly does the Charter of Rights and Freedoms allow the government to do regarding speech, expression, thought, association, and so on? What does it forbid the government to do? It really doesn't say. Is Nova Scotia in violation of this section of the Charter? Worded as it is, is it even possible to be in violation of it? The question is almost nonsensical. It's like a statement from the Supreme Soviet on gifted education policy, claiming that "all Russian children are equally clever".

This is why a sentence like:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

...while seemingly a lot more arcane and severe, is much more compelling from a legal standpoint because it actually specifically forbids certain actions of the government. It contains a positively worded command. It doesn't just affirm "freedoms", it establishes a legal framework that can be cited in later legislation and judicial proceedings regarding free-speech issues. You can render a pat legal judgment on whether the government has in fact passed a law that abridges the freedom of speech, and strike it down if it has. You can't make firm law based on a statement that "everyone" has certain "fundamental freedoms".

After all, Nova Scotia certainly seems to believe it's acting within the principles of "freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression", in forbidding citizens to call each other crazy in public-- or, at least, that there's no law on the books specific enough to prevent them from doing so.

Let's hope the Canadian public feels strongly enough about this issue to fight back.

UPDATE: CapLion IM's:

So like, what are the canucks supposed to fight back WITH? They can't use guns OR harsh language, now.


Maybe they can use ironic social commentary in public-funded naked sitcoms.

13:31 - Self-solving problem?

So it's become well-known that Bayesian anti-spam filters like Outlook and Apple Mail and others use are having pretty good success, as indicated by the fact that so much spam these days is engineered to try to circumvent them.

But... this circumvention seems to me as though it's bound eventually to be fatal to the spam's original purpose, which is to try to fool the recipient into buying something.

Cialiys is knowwn as a Super ViagrYa or Weekend Viagrua because its eetcffs start snooer and last much lenogr.

I don't know what percentage of Internet users would have been likely to follow up on a message like this, if it had been spelled correctly. But wouldn't that percentage be pretty severely lowered, losing a significant percentage even of the people who would have responded to a genuine-looking offer for Cialis in their inbox, if the recipients can't even read the message?

It'd be interesting to see some stats on this matter.

11:19 - That's unpossible!

Here are some French nutritionists who are about to get run out of town on a rail:

The Big Mac, epitome of American culture and the junk food revolution, receives an unexpected thumbs up from two leading French nutritionists in a "good food guide" to supermarkets and fast food restaurants published today.

The relative fat-to-protein contents of a Big Mac is considerably healthier than classic French snacks such as quiche lorraine and better than many other sandwiches or fast foods on the market, the authors say.

"Strangely enough, the products which are the most demonised are not necessarily the worst," say Jean-Michel Cohen and Patrick Sérog who analysed 5,000 forms of food readily available to consumers in French shops, supermarkets and restaurants.

What? That cannot be! Next you're gonna tell me that shopping at Wal-Mart with millions of products at historically unprecedented low prices can be construed as superior to spending all weekend running from one downtown mom-and-pop shop to another, or that a modern large middle class has certain advantages over a feudal peasantry, or that indoor plumbing isn't necessarily as bad as an outhouse in a freezing backyard, or that being able to e-mail or fly anywhere in the world on a moment's notice is better than spending your whole 30-year life no more than five miles from your home village.

Get outta here, ya agitator!

10:15 - That's gratitude for ya

Stunning. Kentucky Fried Chicken in Australia is running an experiment: remove bacon from the menus, "in favour of Muslim-friendly products." (No mention is given of whether they considered making the food acceptable to Jewish customers to be important as well, or whether there had been any pressure prior to this to make the menu Kosher or anything.)

And what's the reaction to this gesture of goodwill, not to say peace offering? How is this voluntary act of modifying a long-time Western tradition, by removing products that the population at large has always enjoyed having, received by those to whom it's directed?

But the human rights co-ordinator for the Islamic Council of Victoria, Bilal Cleland, warned KFC's menu may not in fact be halal.

"We hope that people are not taken in by this scheme. Just because you take the bacon out of the burgers doesn't make the food halal," he said.

"There has to be authentic certification that the food is halal and I haven't seen any evidence of that."

He said that all the meat, including chicken, must be certified as halal before it was acceptable to Muslims.

"We hope that people are not taken in by this scheme"?!

Geez. You're welcome.

Monday, March 1, 2004
17:42 - The power of bumper stickers

Tim Blair does seem to attract a commenter clientele who regularly construct these beautifully sculpted masterpieces of encapsulated, self-contained argument threads, doesn't he?

Here's his whole readership assembling themselves into a neat spiral around a loon by the name of "vaara" and taking regimented turns kicking him/her/it in the groin with sarcasm, dramatic irony, metaphor, pathos, puns, parody, litotes and... satire. They're vicious. But oh, so fun to read. Particularly the poster by the name of Dean, and another (or maybe the same person) posting as "araav".

"vaara" pops back up like a punch-clown a couple of times, reels off some stupid pseudo-riposte, and immediately gets pulled down below the surface. He/she/it hasn't reappeared in some time, not since saying (in effect) "Y'all're a bunch of redneck racists!" quite without context or corroboration; but the thread remains as a true gem, the likes of which I haven't seen since the "how I became a conservative" thread from Valentine's Day weekend.

It's the one that starts out:

Lileks subsequently went through what he describes as a “mid-30s polar realignment”. Mine began earlier and was largely complete by my mid-20s, after I’d endured and observed a gulag-load of left-wing hypocrisy, illogic, and outright wrongness. There’s only so many times you can be told that 2 + 2 = Walrus before this thought strikes: “You know, maybe these people don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”

...And gets better from there.

11:01 - Gawd

Anybody who feels that George W. Bush is unusually, ominously, religious and devout for an American president... you read Lileks now.


Sunday, February 29, 2004
02:14 - As my camera battery charges...


Here are my photos from the SF Apple Store opening. They're more interesting than Apple's own photos. Really! They've got captions and everything!

01:24 - The Wall Wot Keeps Time

Here... this should be good for a few Monster-House-esque geek points. I know I've been sorta slack lately in that regard.

This is my bedroom wall, facing the foot of my bed. It has a built-in atomic clock. Neat, huh?

...Actually, the deal is this: I bought one of those $30 radio clocks from OfficeMax; tore it apart; extracted the little box that houses the mechanism and the radio-syncing electronics; took off the hands, and attached longer hands made from strips of Bristol board; then I took a larger rectangle of Bristol board, sprayed it with the same drywall texture gunk they use on the walls, and painted it red to match; and then waited for like six months while I got the room all painted and trimmed and ready.

Then, today (finally), I got out the razor knife and cut a hole in the drywall just the right size to stick the box in, plus some finger holes so I can remove it later (to change the battery, etc). Then I used wood glue to tack down the paper patch so the edges are barely visible, unless the light is coming directly from the side (which it usually is-- bah). Then I used a compass and a plumb bob and little cutouts of Bristol to lay out the tick marks. I started the clock so it synchronized itself to the atomic time, then pressed the hands into place. And there you have it.

It's an NTP-enabled wall.

UPDATE: Okay, picky, it's not actually NTP... it's the weird analog ticker-radio thing astronomers and such use. Same concept.

Now, if I had wired up some kind of micro-PC in the wall, and written a port of ntpd to run on WallOS, then we'd be in business...

Maybe I'll get in touch with Larry Wall.

Friday, February 27, 2004
16:51 - Hack your own arms off

Wow, some people sure have long attention spans! Combustible Boy noticed that I'd posted almost two years ago (good God, has it been that long?) about a hacker by the name of Jerome Heckenkamp who was on trial for cracking eBay and Qualcomm, among other places. He was being a real prick about it, too, showing the kind of attitude in front of the judge that the term "contempt of court" was pretty much invented for:

The computer whiz then asked the court to identify the plaintiff in the case. Ware explained that the United States was the plaintiff, and was represented by assistant U.S. attorney Ross Nadel. Heckenkamp said he wanted to subpoena Nadel's "client" to appear in court, and Ware asked him who, exactly, he wanted to bring into the courtroom.

When Heckenkamp replied, "The United States of America," Ware ordered him taken into custody.

"The comments that you are making to the court lead me to suspect that either you are playing games with the court, or you're experiencing a serious lack of judgment," said Ware. The judge added that he was no longer satisfied that Heckenkamp would make his future court appearances.

Heckenkamp had been free on $50,000 bail, and living under electronic monitoring -- prohibited by court order from using cell phones, the Internet, computers, video games and fax machines.

Before two deputy U.S. marshals hauled Heckenkamp away, he threatened legal action against the judge. "I will hold you personally liable," he said. "I will seek damages for every hour that I'm in custody."

Two years is a lotta hours. Wonder if the court will bill him now? Because he's guilty.

Prosecutors agreed to recommend no more than two years in prison, and not to seek restrictions on Heckenkamp's employment-related use of computers and the Internet in the period of court supervision likely to follow any prison term.

The hacker will get credit for approximately eight months of time that he spent in custody in 2002, after he fired his lawyer to clear the way for a series of unusual legal challenges that only served to perplex and anger federal judges in two jurisdictions.

Among other gambits, Heckenkamp had argued that the government lacked standing to prosecute anyone, and that the indictments in the case referred to a different defendant: they spelled his name in all capital letters, while he spells it with the first letter capitalized and subsequent letters in lower case. Angered by the arguments, federal judge James Ware declared Heckenkamp a flight risk and ordered him arrested in the courtroom. He was released on bail, months later, only after accepting legal representation again.

Two years ago I said:

This contemptible little turd needs to be put up on that bench and had his "guilty" sentence read loud and proud on national TV, with a nice close-up on his face, so everybody can see just what can happen if you think it's a game to go making life miserable for overworked site admins at high-profile commercial websites.

If only we could, wouldn't we throw the book at hurricanes and floods and earthquakes for all the damage they do? We have to budget for them and buy insurance policies to cover them, because we can't do a thing to control them. We also have to budget for and insure ourselves against hackers, and yet we can control them. They're not a natural disaster, they're people. And that means they can be caught and punished.

I just want to see one of these kids' cocky little asses worked over with a potato peeler and a bag of rock salt, and photos of the results posted to every newsgroup and mischief-making web forum on the net. The fear of God is a wonderful thing, especially when put into someone who has no concept of it.

Seems things have worked out pretty well accordingly, as widely read as SecurityFocus and other sites carrying this story are. As this article notes:

In a 2002 jailhouse interview with SecurityFocus, Heckenkamp claimed that hackers had penetrated his dorm-room computer and used it to crack other systems. "Some of these companies I had never even heard of before I was charged," said Heckenkamp. A similar theme dominated a website set up by supporters and maintained by Heckenkamp's father, coloring the hacker an "innocent scapegoat of a restless, unrelenting and desperate FBI, caught in the middle of a 21st century spin-off of McCarthyism."

That website could no longer be reached Monday.

I love it. On top of the implicit invincibility hackers feel in themselves, there's the careless bandying about of the word "McCarthyism" in which we've indulged more and more for the past couple of decades. Now it's gotten to the point where the term is so diluted that nobody can even conceive that someone they know might in fact merit investigation. Remember the "Free Mike Hawash" campaign?

Sometimes justice does indeed prevail, against all valiant efforts.

15:28 - Where censors fear to tread

Regarding the recent Howard Stern flap, I don't have anything to add, really, never having heard his show. However, I did want to just mention one of my fondest memories: Back in the mid-90s, when Stern's movie "Private Parts" had just been released, CNN featured a review of it on their site. The headline link looked like this:

Howard Stern's Private Parts Surprisingly Sensitive

They'd changed it when I looked again a few hours later; I didn't think, at the time, to grab a screenshot. More's the pity.

15:13 - Just ask the Myrmidons

Chief Wiggles is back from Iraq and has some choice words for Bush's critics:

In the whirl wind of political debate that is circling around the president regarding his motives for going to war, I find it curiously strange that no one has asked the opinion of those of us who have put our lives on the line to carryout that vary decision. Who better than us to answer the question regarding the existence of weapons of mass destruction as a premise for going to war? Do the self proclaimed political experts write us off, assuming we are like sheep blindly following a miss guided shepherd to the extent of putting our own life in jeopardy? Do they really think we have not thought about the reasons for and justifications behind leaving our families and putting ourselves in harms way?

The vast majority of the military unanimously support the president's decision to take preemptive action against Saddam Hussein. We agree it was necessary in order to eliminate a serious threat to the stabilization of this region of the world, to free a country of people from bondage and torture, to prevent a continuation of an anti-American sentiment, for that matter anti-Western world policy, with the real potential, if not actual, to create such weapons and aid our enemies in their terrorist activities.

Why is it that the people of the US armed forces have not and are not speaking out against the president's decision, if in fact the WMD issue was the only premise behind making such a decision to go to war? Yes, we believed all along that he had such weapons before, that he had such weapons now, or that he possessed the knowledge and the capability to use, share, or develop such weapons in the future to promote his own anti-American plans. I have said all along that Saddam's only real weapon against us was to hide everything so well that we would never find such evidence of their existence, in hopes that by doing so he would create a back lash of political opposition for the president.

Looks like the Chief has been one of the most prescient observers of all.

The Left won't ask for the opinions of the military because it's presumed that our armed forces are made up of those buffoonish, self-absorbed, thick-skulled, muscle-bound morons who made the lives of all us intellectuals such hell in high school. Let 'em rot, goes the self-satisfied shrug from the people who now enjoy such well-deserved prestige and power as they sit in college dorms or lecture halls, composing anti-war poetry to read at furious Russian immigrants. Anything we hear from soldiers' mouths is probably just propaganda anyway. Unless it's protest.

Clinton, a draft-dodger? Dean, a draft-dodger? Nooo problem-- that just shows a principled contempt for the military, like any good-hearted soul should have. But Bush... why, he must have been AWOL! Or at the very least he hid in F-102s in the National Air Guard instead of going to the front lines! Crucify him! And Kerry served honorably, then protested that awful war! Put him on a pedestal!

I'll bet the military would object to being used as such an opportunistic tool, if only anybody would ask their opinions.

14:12 - "Beware of Lilliputians"

Via CapLion.

Clearly understanding that I was heading toward an F in this class, I took off on a suicide mission. I approached the lit stage where these “poets” sat warmed by applause and proudly waiting for more compliments.

“Don’t you think,” I asked, “it is pathetic to perform in this anti-war circus now that Saddam has been captured? How do you feel about his capture?”

“It’s great that they got him,” one of the guys on the stage answered.

“But how,” I asked, “could it have happened without a war?”

The instructor flew at me like a vulture, “Tatiana! Stop this immediately!”

He already knew my ways; I had had a few words with him regarding his anti-American attitude.

“Don’t try to shut me up! You guys are such conformists. No courage to be dissidents even for a change. Go and study accounting! Your poetry sucks!”

Once again, it's the immigrant who has the most fervent love for America, the former slave who has the most vivid appreciation for freedom.

How galling it must be for the rest of her class, mustn't it, to have to sit there and watch a non-American, a former Soviet citizen, the very antithesis of the “Colonialism, imperialism, capitalism, exploitation of the working class” they hate so much-- looking them in the eyes and telling them what morons they are. "I lose my breath with fury," she says. "The attacks of these literary dwarfs on this country feel personal, against me and my safety. It was not without reason that the great American actress Bette Davis, upon being asked for major life advice, spat the answer, "Beware of Lilliputians!” She knew what they were capable of."

Don't accuse Americans of xenophobia. We love immigrants, because they more than anyone else know what it truly means to be American. By definition.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004
23:16 - Here we go

We can probably expect to see a bunch more stories like this...

A woman collapsed in an East Wichita theatre this morning, during a showing of "The Passion Of The Christ". Peggy Law apparently suffered a heart attack. She was pronounced dead a short time later at a Wichita medical center.

Peggy Law, also known to some by her married name Peggy Scott is a respected figure in the local broadcasting community. The tragedy has hit some here at KAKE especially hard. She was a former employee.

People viewing the movie at the Warren Theatre East say Law collapsed during the portion of the movie where the crucifixion of Christ was shown.

The attentive will also remember that during the filming of this movie, the assistant director and another crew member were struck by lightning-- twice-- as they shot the crucifixion scenes.

20:54 - "Wet Dog" is not a good perfume idea

I'd like to know exactly who the hell came up with the idea that long walks in the rain are "romantic".

Funny, the word that would have leapt to my mind is "coldwetmiserable", or something similar.

A jacket soaked through with fat raindrops and a head full of hailstones do not put me in an amorous mood.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004
17:28 - Someone's gonna get rich

I hate it when I have to start off a post with these words, but sometimes it's necessary: Has the whole world gone insane?!

Here's Doonesbury's Garry Trudeau, seemingly unsatisfied still with the thorough debunking of the "Bush AWOL" claims-- unsatisfied enough to offer a $10,000 cash prize to anyone who can prove he saw Bush reporting for drills.

For the past twelve years, George W. Bush has had to endure charges that he didn't take the final two years of his Guard service as seriously as duty required. (For updated timeline, click here.) And the two witnesses who have come forward in support so far haven't exactly cleared things up. We at the Town Hall believe that with everything he has on his plate, Mr. Bush shouldn't have to contend with attacks on the National Guard, which is serving so bravely in Iraq. And we're willing to back up our support with cold, hard cash.

Granted, this has been tried before. In 2000, concerned veterans in both Texas and Alabama offered cash rewards to lure former guardmates of Mr. Bush into stepping forward, to no avail. The problem, in our view, was that these enticements weren't serious enough, that the sums offered were insulting. In contrast, we at the DTH&WP respect how inconvenient it can be to subject yourself to worldwide media scrutiny in general, and Fox News in particular, and are thus prepared to sweeten previous offers by a factor of five. That's right, we're offering $10,000 cash! Yours to either spend or invest in job creation. All you have to do is definitively prove that George W. Bush fulfilled his duty to country.

So don't let the smear artists define the president. If you personally witnessed George W. Bush reporting for drills at Dannelly Air National Guard Base between the months of May and November of 1972 we want to hear about it. Help Mr. Bush put this partisan assault on his character behind him, so he can focus on more serious issues like jobs, the deficit and the coming civil war in Iraq. Just contact us below with the salient details. If we think you're a possible winner, we'll get back to you pronto. Good luck to all contestants!

Sounds like some easy cash to me. But apparently Trudeau is so confident that Bush was actually "AWOL" (a term, by the way, that has no meaning in the National Guard, since you either show up for drills or you don't-- there is no "AWOL") that he's willing to put up $10K of his own personal scratch against it. Quite a bet.

It's also quite a lot of money to devote, in the subterfuge-laden name of defending Bush from "gutter politics", to keeping his campaign firmly entrenched in the gutter.

The snide contempt Trudeau shows for ... well, just about everybody in this little stunt is beyond my capacity to paint with adequate adjectives.

15:56 - Incidentally

If I continue to support Bush even in the light of today's FMA remarks, I suppose the role I get to play is that of the guy in this story.

Stupid? Bold? Trying to make a subtle point? Trying to make a not-so-subtle point? Who knows?

All I know is that my mind isn't changed, even if everyone else's is. After all, this is precisely what I said would happen.

Thank you very much, Massachusetts State Supreme Court. Thank you very much, Mayor Newsom. I hope you're pleased with yourselves.

UPDATE: It should perhaps be pointed out that Bush's statement left open the possibility of state definitions of civil unions:

But Bush also said state legislatures should be left to define "legal arrangements other than marriage," suggesting that such an amendment would allow states to establish civil unions.

In other words, the FMA as currently worded (with its "and the legal incidents thereof" clause) is not what he's backing. You'd think that would make Sullivan happy. But no... this is war.

UPDATE: Nathan at Dean Esmay's blog said, the other day:

Has there ever been an issue in which the opposition has so patiently repeated exactly what it will take to convince them (opponents of SSM saying, "give it more time, don't push us")? And has there ever been an advocacy group who so completely ignored such advice?

No kidding. I feel like screaming, but I'm too tired.

13:26 - "Finally, we have started swinging"

Now's the time when all the bizarre accusations that have been leveled against Bush-- his AWOL thing, the WMD thing, the economy, all that-- are going to suddenly start blowing up in the Democrats' faces.

"The candidates are an interesting group with diverse opinions," Bush said. "They're for tax cuts and against them. They're for NAFTA and against NAFTA. They're for the Patriot Act and against the Patriot Act. They're in favor of liberating Iraq and opposed to it. And that's just one senator from Massachusetts."

Not least among the unfounded accusations will be that Bush is a witless buffoon-monkey. If this is just the opening salvo against the likes of Kerry and the others who opposed war, they can look forward to a fun campaign full of one-liners like this:

"They now agree that it's better that Saddam Hussein is out of power. They just didn't support removing Saddam from power," Bush said, a smile growing across his face. "Maybe they were hoping he would lose the next Iraqi election."

I keep using the 1996 election as the model for this one. Only this time it's Bush who gets to be Clinton, with the amiable grin and the casual jibes and the ease of the incumbent with everything going his way. And it'll be Kerry running on Dole's dour old platform of "You're not as happy as you think you are!"

Monday, February 23, 2004
09:12 - Did I miss anything?

So let's see... what happened in the world while I was up in the mountains getting blizzarded in the face at 30 mph?

Bush met with a Nashville blogger (and a few others) in Washington to talk turkey about the economy, and didn't invite the big press. Cute. And the blogger in question described the meeting in great, revealing detail. Memo to John Kerry: This is what a populist does. Take notes.

(Oh, and following the WaPO's whining about getting scooped by a blogger, check out how said blogger twists the knife.)

The Pentagon commissioned a report describing a science-fiction-esque hypothetical worst-case scenario, climatologically speaking, in which atmospheric conditions change so much-- in ways most climatologists think are nigh-impossible, but they want to know how bad it could conceivably get, so they can develop contingencies-- that whole zones of the Earth become uninhabitable, famines and floods abound, wars break out and cause nuclear winter, and so on. And, as Tim Blair has covered, The Guardian in London has found the report and-- like a kid finding one of those chocolate gold coins and thinking he's struck it rich-- concluded that it's a secret, "suppressed" Pentagon forecast for what it know is going to happen. The Guardian Observer then freaks out, screeching about how humiliating this is for the Bush administration and how this is America's just desserts for not ratifying the Kyoto treaty, only now the whole world has to pay for Bush's deep-rooted evil and unbelievable incompetence. We've got 'im now, lads! Uh, yeah, but you guys just fell for a War of the Worlds. Way to go!

We've apparently got Osama bin Laden boxed in, or something. The man's sleeping out in the cold in the mountains, without a dialysis machine. Has anybody confirmed whether he's alive, or if his followers are just carting around an extremely tall corpse on donkeyback?

Ralph Nadir has joined the Presidential race, which is both good and bad. Good because he'll be a spoiler just like before. Bad because now when Bush wins, the Left will blame it on Nader again, claim that if it weren't for him Bush would have been defeated, and then rally for the rules to be changed after the fact so we bow to their wishes when they stamp their little feet and wail about stolen elections and popular votes and electoral colleges and dimpled chads. We know it'll happen. Couldn't we have just had a nice, clean two-sided race for once?

And the Palestinians blew up another bus full of schoolchildren in an act of what, er, can only be considered "legitimate defense against oppression". Immediately followed by Noam Chomsky joining the New York Times, with an op-ed column describing Israel's security wall-- the last and only real option for defending against suicide bombers without actually going and killing anybody, and if I'm wrong about that I'd love to know what could possibly be a more humane solution-- as a "weapon" of aggression and apartheid. In other words, Israel, stop fuckin' defending yourself. Even the non-violent kind of defense is more defense than you Jews deserve. Suicide bombers? Suck it up, or abandon Israel and disperse back to the corners of the globe, like before WWII, like the Palestinians demand. I get it.

Just another weekend in Paradise, I see.

Friday, February 20, 2004
17:43 - Off Skiing

Reports are that it'll be a weekend of falling snow and fresh powder. So that's where I'll be.

Back Sunday....
Thursday, February 19, 2004
11:20 - That's no ordinary rabbit

Hah! This is hysterical.

Karol at AlarmingNews.com was helping run a pro-Bush campaign event in New York City; Karl Rove was scheduled to speak.

Scott had emailed me that there were going to be the usual corny protestors outside, so I was expecting the small crowd gathered across the street from the place. I walked in and checked my coat and while I was doing that I heard someone say 'Karl is going to talk to them!' I walked over to the door and looked through the glass and indeed, Karl Rove was crossing the street to go talk to the protestors. Everybody watched and whispered 'what is he doing' as he walked over to them. The crowd shifted down the street as he approached them. I watched some of the protestors take his picture. It was stunning.

He went to talk to the protesters... and they ran away. I guess they really do think the Bushies are something other than human...

Wednesday, February 18, 2004
23:08 - Nobody moves or the planet gets it

Here's a dude who understands what we're doing.

I don't really like the Bush Doctrine, okay?

After 9-11, I thought we should confine our efforts to the Al Qaeda organization. Instead, Bush decided to condemn half the Middle East with his Axis of Evil speech and roll tanks into Iraq.

It bothered me. It still bothers me. But dammit, if you look at the patterns, it seems to be working. The Middle East thinks Bush is batshit crazy, and their governments are afraid of us. Do you get that? The bad guys are afraid of us, because against all logic and common sense, we went into Iraq and we took Saddam down.

We ignored all the reasonable advice from Asia and Europe and people like me, and we went in with guns blazing. We've paid a terrible price in men and money, and we're still there.

What's the lesson? Fuck with America and we will intervene, flagrantly, in the Middle East. So, if you want us to go home, what should you do? What will happen if we get attacked again? What will happen to the governments of Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia if Al Qaeda sets off a nuke in Times Square?

You think we'll just pack up and go home? Or will we stick our meddling capitalist fingers in every Middle Eastern cesspool on the planet, hoping to turn up a needle in the haystack?

Middle Eastern governments want us to leave them alone. They'll snipe at us when they feel protected, funneling money to terrorist organizations when they think they won't be traced. But what happens when we follow that money home? What happens when their attempts to scare us backfire, and the crazy American president starts taking out dictators in Iraq and Afghanistan?

I'll tell you what happens. The money dries up, and governments that used to wink and nod at terrorism get on their secret satelite phones and tell their extremists to cool it, unless they want to see Marines taking showers in the palace.

Bush wants to be like Reagan, and he has succeeded. Everybody thought Reagan was crazy, when he went on TV and said, "We begin bombing in five minutes." His comments scared the shit out of people. It scared us in America, and more important, it scared our enemies.

In 2001, New York was burning and we were afraid. Today, there are American flags flying in Baghdad and our enemies are afraid.

I don't have access to all the documents, but I must entertain the possibility, the possibility that the Bush Doctrine is working. We have been relatively safe since 9-11. Iraq is a hot zone, but there have been no major attacks on U.S. soil. Why? Because the people who finance terrorism are afraid of us.

We will be hit again, okay? That fear has limits, and Bush is pissing a lot of people off. But tyrants around the world are making compromise noises because we have put the fear of God in them. And if Kerry wins this election, all of that progress will be rolled back.

Europe will love us. The UN will praise us. The Arab world will breathe a huge sigh of relief. And money will start trickling back into Al Qaeda's coffers. The bad guys will tighten their grip on their respective populations, and the price we have paid will have been paid for nothing.

I've quoted the whole thing because the whole thing bears repeating.

What we're doing isn't quite nuking the moon... but it's not quite not, either.

18:42 - KERRY: Now can we stop talking about terrorism and get back to the trivial and petty issues that are at hand?

Frank J. has posted some suggested campaign ads for Bush to use in the coming year.

Don't miss 'em.

14:11 - What a fascist state we've become

So here's George Galloway:

However, Galloway’s abhorrence of tyranny is not as absolute as he likes to think. The noticeboard that covers one wall of his office bears portraits of Galloway’s personal idols, some surprising (Churchill, Bobby Moore), some not (Aziz, Arafat, Marx, Guevara, Castro). I make an idle reference to this as a “rogues’ gallery”; Galloway seizes on the phrase.

“I don’t – and I don’t think many readers of The Independent on Sunday – consider Castro or Guevara a rogue. These people are heroes.”

But Castro is a dictator, and you just said. . .

“He’s a hero. Fidel Castro is a hero.”

He’s a dict. . .

“I don’t believe that Fidel Castro is a dictator.”

I honestly can’t think of anything to say to this.

“Fidel Castro is a great revolutionary leader. But for 40 years or more of siege, undoubtedly Cuba would have developed, democratically speaking, differently. But when the enemy is at the gates, spending billions to destroy the revolution, you have to accept that there will be restrictions on political freedoms in a place like Cuba.”

You’ve met El Presidente, I take it.

“Yes. Magnificent. He’s the most magnificent human being I’ve ever met.”

At this, I laugh out loud – as much with delight at Galloway’s fabulous effrontery as with derision at the absurdity of the statement. Fortunately, if one thing can be said to have defined Galloway’s career, it’s fondness for an argument, and he presses on with a grin.

“You won’t get me to resile from this point. He is the greatest man I have ever met, by a country mile. You simply cannot compare Fidel Castro to Saddam Hussein or to any other dictator.”

And then there's this Diane Nelson, Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology (gee, there's a field that'll be full of free-marketers and modernists), who says:

While my take on the word freedom may be slightly different than those of the Duke Conservative Union (slavishly following the commands of Sauron--oops! I mean David Horowitz--does put a slightly different slant on the term) I do appreciate their efforts to call to our attention the lack of diversity in party affiliation among some Duke faculty.

While there are important differences, we must keep in mind that the Democrats and Republicans show negligible divergence on major domestic and foreign policy issues Clinton's government, after all, bombed Iraq repeatedly while George W. Bush just did it all at once. Neither has released data on the numbers of Iraqis killed; social services, welfare, support for education and the environment were gutted under both regimes and no high ranking member of either has been held responsible for personal benefits derived from ties to the military cybernetic complex, etc....

Given this, I also want to know, where is the diversity? Where are the Greens, Labour, the Christian Democrats, the Socialists, the Communists, the Workers Party, the Black Panthers, Puerto Rican independistas, etc...? Where is the truly wide range of partisan organizing that, across the globe, offers diversity in imagining options for the future?

Now, maybe I'm remembering my history wrong, but it seems to me that people had their lives ruined in the 50s in this country for a good deal less than this. High-ranking academics, entertainers, politicians, all across the board. And here, today, we have a British MP of 36 years who believes that backing Castro, Saddam, Kim Jong Il, or the Iranian mullahs against Bush and Blair is not only morally consistent, it's imperative for the future of the free world; and we have universities overrun with professors who loudly wish for Americans to die in "a million Mogadishus" and who bemoan the lack of Communist representation on American campuses. And not only do these people not suffer any backlash for their opinions (well, Galloway seems to have been forced from power in disgrace, but more over his illicit fiduciary dealings with Saddam than over his ideological stance), they're applauded and lionized.

Hell. What kind of right-wing totalitarian empire are we, anyway? Wouldn't these guys be the first to suffer mysterious "heart attacks" under the Reich?

We're not only so touchy over Vietnam we can barely muster the courage to go to just war in response to an attack on our own soil; we're also so paranoid of McCarthyism that we can't even bring ourselves to declare these people the blackguards they are. McCarthy had to probe into people's private lives to find incriminating details that as often as not were fabricated; these intellectuals and politicians and entertainers today can chant and wave red flags in the street and we simply avert our eyes and whimper.

What we need is a Sim50's video game to come out. Maybe that will fit into the 21st-century attention span.

Monday, February 16, 2004
20:09 - You won't be seeing this in Doonesbury anytime soon


The artist, who fears retaliation from former regime loyalists for his work with the Coalition, spent several months sculpting and casting the statue. Though he created the original statues of Saddam along with another artist, he created the 4th ID memorial through his own design, said Anderson.

     The sculpture is based on a scene many in Iraq have witnessed in one form or another. A soldier kneels before a memorial of boots, rifle and helmet – his forehead resting in the hollow of his hand. Behind and to his right stands a small Iraqi girl with her hand reaching out to touch his shoulder.

     The little girl portrays, in her eyes and presence, a sympathy mixed with gratitude. She was added to remind people of why the sacrifice was made, Fuss said.

     “It’s about freedom for this country, but it’s also about the children who will grow up in a free society,” he said.

How 'bout it, Garry? Got any snide comments to cast into the mouths of sunglasses-wearing disaffected youths? Maybe the statue is made of plastic or something?

No matter how dearly you'd love for America to fail in Iraq, I'm afraid events are outpacing that prospect. So, so sorry.

18:57 - "As President, I will work to make the world round"

So apparently John Kerry couldn't stand it that Bush pulled off yet another of these extraordinarily successful human-interest stunts (MC'ing the weekend's NASCAR race) that are more populist than he has any inkling of how to be. And so the following words dribbled out of the corner of his mouth:

Kerry, who has a commanding lead in the race to oppose Bush this fall, chided the president for taking time out Sunday to attend the Daytona 500, saying the country was bleeding jobs while he posed for a "photo opportunity." Bush had donned a racing jacket to officially open NASCAR's most prestigious event in front of some 180,000 fans.

"We don't need a president who just says, `Gentlemen start your engines,'" Kerry said. "We need a president who says, `America, let's start our economy and put people back to work.'"

What in the crap is wrong with this man? Hey moron, HE DID. Remember the freakin' tax cuts? Have you looked at the economy lately? What part of "fifth straight month of job growth" and "unemployment at a two-year low" do you find unacceptable, Mr. Kerry? How would you propose to improve on this? How would you "start the economy"?

I just don't understand this. I'm at a loss. Am I really that poor at comprehending politics after all? What the hell have I missed? What economic problems is Kerry so steamed about? Someone explain to me where he's getting his news from.

Or is it simply that Kerry isn't actually paying attention to the news at all?

Considering that he seems to write his one-liners a month in advance, and regurgitate old, tired jokes that don't even make sense in the current context (he's concerned that Bush will raise taxes? Is that how I'm supposed to be reading this?), one gets the impression that Kerry quite simply doesn't have a clue what the fuck he's talking about.

Let's start imagining what'll happen when President Kerry tackles all the big important Presidential issues with the same deep thoughtfulness and consistency as he's shown so far in his campaign issues.

The war on terrorism? He'll immediately release all the prisoners from Guantanamo, then push a law through Congress allowing the FBI to shoot anyone on sight who shares any traits with terrorists, such as possessing brown hair, at least one leg, a head, etc.

Tax law? He'll repeal Bush's tax cuts, then "start the economy" by personally printing millions of $20 bills at the Mint and then dumping them out of a blimp onto the nation's poorer cities.

Gay marriage? He'll help pass the FMA, then marry a male intern before the bench in the Supreme Court.

The space effort? He'll demand that we become the first country to send a man to the Moon, and blame Bush for our failure thus far to do so.

Gun control? He'll shoot the NRA.

God. I can't come up with any more of these. It takes hard work to think as disjointedly as Kerry apparently does.

Liberals tend to be concerned that most Americans are too stupid. I'm starting to think that the thing to worry about is collective insanity.

UPDATE: George Will has a bunch of questions for Kerry, which are along the same lines as the famous "letter to Dr. Laura", and just as unanswerable.

Saturday, February 14, 2004
01:58 - I dood a Photoshop!

I know I'll never be a real SomethingAwful goon, but I'm the next worst thing. I'm a blogger.

11:02 - Happy Valentine's to you too

The Ar-Rahman list has sent out a long article explaining why Muslims aren't allowed to celebrate the kufr festival of Valentine's Day.

Most of it has to do with the fact that it's a pagan Roman holiday (replete with animal sacrifices and weird processions), and celebrating it is tantamount to emulating the Romans, which is a no-no. Okay, fine.

This just brought me up short, though:

Among the ugly rituals of the Romans on this day was the sacrifice of a dog and a goat, the daubing of their blood onto two youths then washing the blood off with milk, etc… This is something that would cause revulsion in anyone of a sound nature, and it is unacceptable to the sound mind. 

....Rrrrright. Animal sacrifice and blood rituals are bad. Uh huh. Got it.

I won't forget it, either.

10:34 - Let it go

Here's what those incriminating National Guard records have to say about the lying, cheating, coasting, drug-abusing AWOL/MIA/REMF/KP (or some damn military acronym) Lt. Bush:

In November 1970, the commander of the Texas Air National Guard, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, called Mr. Bush, then 24, "a dynamic outstanding young officer" who stood out as "a top-notch fighter interceptor pilot" mature beyond his age.

"Lt. Bush's skills far exceed his contemporaries," Colonel Killian wrote in recommending that Mr. Bush be promoted to first lieutenant. "He is a natural leader whom his contemporaries look to for leadership. Lt. Bush is also a good follower with outstanding disciplinary traits and an impeccable military bearing."

A little free advice to Garry Trudeau and company: Start a new storyline. This one ain't going anywhere.

Unless you want to try making a scandal out of his hemorrhoids. That oughtta be good for a belly-laugh.

Friday, February 13, 2004
13:36 - The dangers of drawing a strip a week in advance

He's still at it. But one would think he hasn't been paying attention to the news:

Danger! Danger! Pull up! Pull up!

... You know, on second thought, just crash. I'll even laugh. And that's a promise.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004
15:59 - "Sorry about all the dead people, Saddam-- we shoulda left that to the professionals"

I hadn't thought it was possible for Garry Trudeau to find a way to cram this many pieces of misleading and morally and logically sprained dogma into a single daily strip... but I was wrong.

Astounding, isn't it?

Talking about Saddam's "tyranny" is changing the subject. Yeah, they're demanding The Truth on the streets of Baghdad, aren't they?

"No WMD means no rationale for war". Uh, no, no WMD means now there's at least one fewer insane dictator in the Middle East with the history and capability of making them. God, I'm sick of explaining this-- but I'm even sicker of the fact that it needs to be explained.

"What do you say after you invade another country by mistake? ...It's like a blooper invasion!" Boy, Garry sure came up with a heap of one-liners late last night, huh?

"Oops, my bad. Sorry about all the dead people." Yeah, sorry about those mass graves being opened. Sure is a shame the world had to see that. It would have been so much easier to just leave them lie, huh?

Normally I tell myself that Trudeau is just a humorist making his way in the world, and he has a right to his opinion just as I have a right to mine.

But dammit, I am really starting to loathe the man.

Accusations like this, and the "Bush AWOL" thing... well, I often have to explain to friends that I'm really not a big Bush booster, not by nature. His spending habits aren't thrilling me, and I certainly don't like his stand on the FMA. But you know, I have this thing about bullshit. I don't like it, no matter who it's directed at. I didn't like it when people giggled over Gore "inventing the Internet", because I knew that was a bald misrepresentation of what he said; and I don't like it now, when people accuse Bush of flying to Baghdad so he could pose with a "plastic turkey" on Thanksgiving. Bullshit. I call it when I see it. When someone's undertaking an unprecedented world-changing burden, and he's being sniped at from all directions, and the content of the sniping consists of bullshit, I'm going to call it that. I see what's going on in Kerry's speeches and Moore's movies and Trudeau's strips, and you know what I see? Bullshit. I will not put up with it, and I will not remain quiet on the subject just so people can "have their fun". This is serious business, and I'm goddamned sick of people who can't deal with it and prefer to cower under this carapace of "humor" to maintain their illusion of intellectual superiority. It's not funny, Garry, you pinhead. You're being disingenuous and you know it, yet the glow you get from feeling like a "rebel" is worth more to you than taking a principled stand for some values that aren't very popular in the highbrow academic/entertainment world. So stuff it so far up your ass you can taste it.

Hhhh. Okay. I'm better now.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004
16:56 - What's this? Proof?

I get it. The Left has no trouble throwing its weight behind draft-dodgers like Clinton and Dean. But it doesn't hesitate to latch on to a flimsy claim of Bush being AWOL in 1972-73 from his National Air Guard assignment, pointing to it as evidence that Bush is somehow less dedicated to this country than the abovementioned.

And they even made these claims without a full reckoning of the facts. Apparently they assumed that if the official records were ever made public, they'd prove Bush was a deserter, just like Michael Moore says. They've been building up the story for so long now that it's become almost conventional wisdom.

Well, now the records are public, and they're all squeaky-clean.

What was that people have been saying about the importance of a good poker face? I think Bush was just biding his time, letting these guys overplay their hand so far that when the time came to call, he'd leave with all their pants.

When the arguments are as ludicrous as the ones the Left has been using, demolishing them over the next several months is going to be child's play.

13:28 - Giving it a name

Here's a fascinating little angle, forwarded by Brian D., on what the Internet has become, illustrated in the schism between two factions: the "Worknet" and the "Playnet", a divide that's becoming clearer as the digital culture matures, and may well be the defining conceptualization of cyberspace that actually ends up reinventing our real-world existence.

The Worknet is instrumentalist, goal-oriented and largely characterized by commercial and retail sites, but also news sites, information portals, and even political posting sites.

One senses that the inhabitants of the Worknet (as opposed to those who just drop by to shop) are typically older, less educated but more experienced, and politically centrist, liberal or conservative.

Most of all, the Worknet is thoughtful — it is about learning things, getting stuff done, staying on top of what’s happening. In the Internet landscape, the Worknet is suburbia and the city downtown by day.

The other Internet might be called the “Playnet,” because it is the Internet we largely use when are just having fun — and because it reflects a distinctly emotional view of cyberspace. The Playnet is experiential, self-directed and largely characterized by chat rooms, .alt sites, games of all kinds and the cult of celebrity.

One senses that the inhabitants of the Playnet (as opposed to those who just drop by to play) are typically younger, more educated but less experienced, and tend towards libertarianism, political extremism and anarchism.

The Playnet is emotional — it is about breaking the rules, experiencing the novel and taboo, becoming viscerally engaged, and even about killing time. It is about feeling. In the Internet landscape, the Playnet is rural districts, college towns, and the city downtown by night.

In other words, this isn't just your standard "Left vs. Right" or "old vs. young" or "elite vs. the masses" or any of the usual classifications that we're used to. It's not even about the technologically empowered vs. the powerless and clueless, because both the Worknet and the Playnet have representatives from both.

In other words, the divide isn't about what we are, it's about what we do. It hinges on whether we prefer to spend our time doing serious work, or relaxing in worlds of our own creation.

Some sites and phenomena immediately sprung to mind as I read this. Something Awful and bash.org and MMORPGs are all Playnet things. And you can't get much more Worknet than USS Clueless or Slashdot.

We all spend time in both worlds, some leaning more toward one than the other. (I run large sites that represent both Worknet and Playnet communities.) Yet it's not clear that this divide will factionalize people the way that politics or race or education traditionally have done; this is a divide that doesn't prevent anyone from slipping effortlessly from one side to the other on nearly a moment's notice. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if people start thinking along these lines more and more in coming years; after all, the Internet ain't going away.

11:32 - The benefits of having an outside camera

Mark sends this one too: Recent leaked video showing the real reason why NASA lost contact with Spirit as soon as it started drilling into that rock.

11:05 - Selective Amnesia

Lileks today has one of those Bleats that occasionally pops up out of nowhere and answers a lot of questions that we all knew had answers, but until then just sort of existed in a formless miasma of vague assumptions and half-remembered statistics. Many of us knew of stuff like this, for example, but I certainly couldn't have pulled together all the data points like this.

Okay, well, outtakes: went back to the microfilm today to February 1998, when the Clinton adminstration was making the case for attacking Iraq. How things change. Clinton was arguing that Saddam not only had WMD, but that one day he might want to make more WMD, and this wasn’t acceptable. Interesting to read between the lines - the Clinton administration seemed to be arguing that the potential for future production was itself a valid reason to strike. Military force is never "the first answer,' Clinton said, “but sometimes it’s the only answer.” “If Saddam isn’t stopped now,” the AP story said, quoting Clinton,“’He will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. And someday, someway, I guarantee you, he’ll use that arsenal.’” Thus spake Clinton in 1998. He went on to note that the strikes planned could not possibly destroy Saddam’s arsenal, because A) they didn’t know where everything was, and B) they didn’t want to kill Iraqis by unleashing clouds of toxins. And it gets better: a sidebar noted that this war plan – Desert Thunder – had been prepared weeks before, in case Saddam stiffed in the inspectors.

Bill Clinton had a plan to go to war before the crisis flared! What does that tell you? Obviously, he was looking for any excuse! Halliburton! We all know about the ties between Clinton and Halliburton – he gave them a sweet no-bid contract after his Balkans war, you know.

Anyway: it's deja vu all over again. You want to talk imminence? WMD? Democratic concern and conviction? Go back to the papers of 1998; it’s all there, right down to the terrorist links: Hezbollah, for example, swears it will strike Israel if the US attacks Iraq. (A poll of Palestinians showed that 94% supported Iraq, and 77% wanted Iraq to kill Jews if the US attacked Iraq.) Bob Dole was quoted as supporing the strikes but urging Clinton to seek Congressional Authorization. A story on Bush 41’s reaction said that the former president would completely support Clinton if he decided to attack, but noted that Bush 41 urged Clinton to get more international support - which was lacking at the time.

And indeed, Kofi struck a deal. Which fell apart by summertime. Which lead to cruise missile strikes. Which lead to boredom and disengagement. Which lead to half a decade of Saddam on the throne and the dissidents in the shredders and the tots in the gulag and dead people heaped in ditches and oil-for-palaces deals and Uday and Qusay pleasuring themselves in Rapeland Incorporated and Abu Nidal putting his feet up in a Baghdad apartment, pouring a nice cool glass of tea, and thinking: ah. This is the life.

Wonderful stuff, microfilm. I hope the various mechanisms we have for archiving the Internet remain as accessible over time.

(And this is right after James says "No politics tonight". Geez. I'd hate to see what he's got under the broiler. ...No, wait. I wouldn't hate it. What the hell?)

A friend of mine noted that after reading Lileks' piece, he now remembers Clinton saying and doing these things-- but it had slipped his mind before. Somehow I don't think this is an uncommon thing. Dean Esmay noted a few days ago that despite all the rhetoric from Left and Right, if you were actually to compare Bush's governing profile to Clinton's, including spending proposals, things signed and vetoed, corporate backers kicked-back-to, and political positions held (and even level of religious fervor in speeches), the two are nearly indistinguishable. I guess this applies to Iraq, too, but who remembers that now? Who wants to remember?

As I mentioned a while back, I was listening to the Henry Rollins comedy CD that I bought off iTunes; his routines were as anti-Republican as you expect from any comic, with the usual offhand jibes and guffaws at unquestioned and accepted caricatures of Reaganites and Robertsonians. But when Rollins started talking about Clinton and Monica, his take was as follows: Don't we have more important things to worry about than whether the President got a BJ at work? Like, say, this Saddam Hussein guy? This dictator who's got all kinds of chemical and biological weapons, and is probably lining 'em all up to fire at us any day now? Can't we get some troops in there and finish him off before it's too late? Thunderous applause all around.

You'd almost think he wanted us to take out Saddam.

But what's happened all of a sudden that's made the Left so deathly afraid of the US actually doing the things they themselves have wanted for so many years?


Is it that 9/11 has made the Left that much less willing to take care of problems in the world, now that it's clear that these problems actually can cause us damage? I wonder who in America really was the most frightened by the events of that day.

And for that matter, I wonder what exactly it is that people like Kerry think they're going to do when they start getting asked the hard questions later this year? (Or whoever else; but if Kerry's it, then I'll pick on him.) Like, say, If you oppose the war in Iraq, why did you vote in favor of it? And If you hate the Patriot Act so much, why did you vote for it, and even speak so eloquently in support of it during debate? I wonder if he'll plead temporary insanity. Temporary insanity brought on by 9/11. Like the whole rest of the country! We were all spooked! We were all insane! We've all gotten better now. 9/11? C'mon, what, are you guys still on about that silly 9/11 thing?

It's been this country's goal for a lot longer than Bush has been President to reform the Middle East, eradicate terrorism, solve the Israel/Palestinian problem, and get rid of dictators with illusions of WMD-fueled superpowerdom. There's something that's changed between 1991 and now, though, and it's not that Bush is in office. It's 9/11. That's the moment at which we realized as a nation that we had to pick up the pace, because our current efforts were getting nowhere. And that evidently scared the bejeezus out of the Left. Because it meant we were actually doing something.

Apparently their most powerful, and most insidious, weapon these days is selective amnesia. Convincing us that everything was just peachy all over the world before the 2000 elections; that the Fourth Reich began on that November day, and whatever happened the following September was just something to gawk at on the roadside from the safety of our handbasket on its way to Hell.

The nice thing about selective amnesia, though, is that it's pretty easy to counter, as long as you've got history on your side.

UPDATE: Maybe Kerry can blame it all on typos. Good God, this is funny.

UPDATE: One source for anyone who wants to see more where the Clinton stuff came from is Snopes. A whole blinkin' page full of "Democrats in favor of taking out Saddam" quotations from 1998 on. It's as comprehensive a list as I've seen. (Thanks to Tim Blair.)

Sunday, February 8, 2004
02:05 - Bone futures are up

I swear this is not a posed photo. Capri has carefully collected all the rawhide bones he's been given over the past couple of weeks, sorted them, and laid them out in a line in front of the TV. Then he sleeps in his little alcove near them.

This is his bank account, see. There are the ones, and the fives, and the tens, and the twenties...

Saturday, February 7, 2004
14:58 - "Annnnd... cut!"

Here's the big problem with Israel's security wall: It makes a perfect backdrop for staged photo sessions.

Look, it's in English and everything.

Thursday, February 5, 2004
16:17 - This stuff works

Also via Dean: it seems that some of the more illustrious inhabitants of the blog world are getting some real recognition. About the most impressive kind of recognition, at that. Says Bush:

Our people in uniform understand the high calling they have answered because they see the nation and the lives they are changing. A guardsman from Utah named Paul Holton has described seeing an Iraqi girl crying and decided then and there to help that child and others like her. By enlisting aid through the Internet, Chief Warrant Officer Holton had arranged the shipment of more than 1,600 aid packages from overseas. Here's how this man defines his own mission: "It is part of our heritage that the benefits of being free, enjoyed by all Americans, were set up by God, intended for all people. Bondage is not of God, and it is not right that any man should be in bondage at any time, in any way." Everyone one in this room can say amen to that.

That's Chief Wiggles he's talking about, there; the "aid packages" are thousands of toys donated by blog readers over the past few months.

Talk about grassroots participation. This may be the first time outside of Forrest Gump that I've seen a discrete piece of what for lack of a better term I'll call "energy" pass so visibly from a private individual up to a collection and distribution point, and then on upward through war and reconstruction until it's given public recognition from the President's own mouth. Truly remarkable.

And while there are those who still see blogging as being a solipsistic endeavor that's nowhere near as revolutionary as its practitioners tend to believe it is, I think we've got a pretty good bit of proof otherwise right here.

16:09 - Taxonomic Developments

Via Dean Esmay, who is soliciting submissions for a similar project of his own-- it seems there have been some new additions of late to the famed Flame Warriors site. The two featured new additions are political in nature: Pinko and Capitalista.

Mike Reed clearly means to be as evenhanded as possible here, in adding the two opposite characters at the same time. But judging by the descriptions of the two, it's pretty clear which one he'd rather be...

Wednesday, February 4, 2004
02:11 - The harmful effects of documentaries

Further to the earlier observations about this week's particularly egregious Newsweek, I have to mention this: it's a sidebar near the front that also happens to be online. It's an interview with a guy who-- get this-- is eating at McDonald's for three meals a day, for a month. For a documentary.
Morgan Spurlock, director of "Super Size Me": My body just basically falls apart. I start to get tired; I start to get headaches; my liver fills up with fat because there's so much fat and sugar in this food. My blood sugar skyrockets, my cholesterol goes off the charts, my blood pressure becomes completely unmanageable.

How much weight did you put on?
About 25 pounds in a month.

How did you feel?
I felt terrible! I put on this weight so quickly my knees hurt. I would eat, and I would feel so good because I would get all that sugar and caffeine and fat and I would feel just great. And then an hour later I would just crash--I would hit the wall and be angry and depressed and upset. I was a disaster to live with.

Why McDonald's?
The chain has 30,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries on six continents. McDonald's could institute real change. If the company would launch healthier menu options, it would happen across the board.

You know how some things are just beyond ridicule? This is squarely in that category. I mean, damn! The guy is sitting here calmly telling us that he ate ninety McDonald's meals in a month and how scandalized he is that it gave him headaches and made him gain weight.

Now: You remember a few years back when some guy was in the news because he had grown accustomed to a steady diet of a Big Mac every single day for years and years, and he seemed fit as a fiddle? Remember the general reaction? Most people were shocked that he was still alive. He was a freak, a curiosity: Big Mac Man. Good for him, we all said. I don't think I'd want to try that, but if it doesn't kill him, hey, more power to him.

Now this guy is intentionally setting out to stuff as much fast food down his throat as he can, specifically so he can go on the news and tell everybody how fat and sad the food makes him. All for the noble purpose of forcing McDonald's, after fifty years of providing a product whose healthiness has changed very little (and probably for the better, if at all), to "institute real change".

What a trooper, huh? What a guy. Where would we be without him?

How would we ever otherwise have learned that in the foregoing decade, we have seemingly gone from a people with a general awareness of the unhealthiness of eating at fast food every day, to vacant, drooling bovines incapable of discerning whether a cheeseburger or a salad is better for you? All hail Morgan Spurlock, the Bringer of Light!

Help! I've intentionally stuck my head up my own ass. Ow! Ow! We've got to pass laws to reduce ass-related injury hazards! Asses are criminally unsafe! Fight Halliburton and the Ass Lobby!

01:41 - May the best Captain stand forth

Well, well. Looks like Patrick Stewart has at last had the meltdown that I suppose was all but inevitable-- I mean, c'mon. Even without ever hearing where he stands on this or that political issue, if you had to think of an actor who embodies the foremost values of the Hollywood Left, wouldn't it be ol' Pat? Aristocratic, theater-y, British even-- and best known for a role that's defined primarily by its opposition to his counterpart in the earlier series-- the European superseding the American. Picard, it's long been noted, is the embodiment of a UN in Space-- he's an ambassador, a negotiator, not a fighter. He's the aesthete with the tropical fish, the logician who put Spock to shame, the cold facilitator of dialogue who had more to learn about human emotion than Data did. Hell, even his name was French.

But Kirk, as we all know, was the cowboy-warrior, the lover, the military man, the guy who always went armed with the away teams because he liked to. And William Shatner has reinvented himself lately in ways I never really expected, but in ways that have really spiked my respect for him. Seen him in that recent Priceline commercial? Where his voice-over job gets taken away by Leonard Nimoy? It's all an extension of the character he's created ever since the fateful SNL appearance where he told Trek fans to "get a life". He's figured it out now. He knows all the Shatner jokes, and instead of getting pissed about them, he's playing into them. As a past-his-prime actor, he knows he has two choices: Either make himself still more of a laughingstock, or become a lighthearted parody of himself. He's chosen the latter, and he looks like he hasn't had so much fun before in his life.

I'd be quite surprised if I were to hear that Shatner counted himself into the same ideological ranks as Stewart evidently has.

11:46 - At least they provide a good laugh

I just love this spam/virus that I've received a few times:
Subject: why me?

You say in the www. that i'm a terrorist!!!

No way out for you. I REPORT YOU !

You've said THAT about me

Uh-oh. I'd better, uh, open the attachment! Yeah!

11:22 - Unbiased Reporting


This week's Newsweek has a cover featuring a mosaic of nine figures: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, Blair, and a couple others-- and Saddam. These pictures are intermingled with a humungous quote in block letters: WE WERE ALL WRONG. (And in very tiny letters underneath, the attribution to David Kay is made: "Former U.S. Weapons Inspector".)

How nice of them to include Saddam in the list, eh?

The ass-covering angle is that the tableau is presented as a rhetorical question: "Will Anyone Pay?" Gee, will this have negative impact on anyone's political career who's currently in office? Just an innocent question, asked out of curiosity.

But that's a pretty transparent pretext. If they were really honest about asking that question, we'd see photos of Clinton, Kennedy, Kerry, and Chirac-- none of whom doubted the existence of WMDs in Iraq. They were "all wrong" too, weren't they? And with this in mind, the question "Will anyone pay?" comes across for what it more likely is: an angry, angry, vindictive, blinkered shout of rage over perceived betrayal. It's a call to arms. And even if the article itself is more evenhanded, more people will read the cover than the article.

Someone really wore down his teeth while Photoshopping this cover together.

My question is: why the hell isn't Bush on the airwaves doing damage control? Virginia Postrel has already noted this, but if Bush loses a ton of Middle America support, it'll be through letting magazine covers like this go unchallenged. No, no need to censor anybody, perish the thought-- but there is such a thing as defending oneself against slander. Otherwise "Bush Lied!" will be the title of Michael Moore's next movie, and any arguments that the war in Iraq was motivated by anything more noble than a fraudulent accusation of WMD possession and a cynical grab for oil (neither of which make sense if you try to work out the political and economic logic) will have been banished into the noise by the time the election rolls around.

Let's have some powerful campaign speeches about how our actions since 9/11 have fit into the grand plan of the war against terrorism. Let's see as much of that very plan as can safely be revealed without giving away the game. Let's make the case, shall we? Yes, the WoT is supposed to be an effort that takes longer than three years. But if there's a long-term and secret vision that balances so precariously on holding to a complex and tenuous course, what chance of success do you think it'll have if you sit back and let yourself be walked all over like this? What are you afraid of, another season of "That's My Bush" on Comedy Central?

It's well and good to fly to Baghdad for Thanksgiving to show the troops you know what you're doing. How about spending dinner with the rest of us once in a while?

Tuesday, February 3, 2004
16:28 - Before the World Turned Color


What you're looking at here is a color photo of Russian soldiers.... taken in 1912.

This site is full of these, all in gorgeous full color, all from 1907 to 1915 or so. It's absolutely mesmerizing.

Apparently, the Russians had internalized the practice-- probably insanely expensive, which is why it seems to have been done by the Photographer to the Czar-- of taking photos which consisted of three separate plates, red, green, and blue. What's astonishing is that they did this even though they didn't have a means to process the separated negatives into a combined final print. So color photography has effectively been around for a century; it's just color processing that took the time.

And the plates seem to have withstood the ages, so they processed out into some gorgeous pieces. Like this one. (Good God.) And this one. And this one (check out the colors on those dresses). And this one.

For history buffs, techno-geeks, and cultural students alike, this is akin to a religious experience.

(Via Dean Esmay and Samizdata and everybody else who's passing this link around.)

Monday, February 2, 2004
21:25 - Germany comes round?

Holy crap!

Germany is seeking to distance itself from France's tight embrace and realign itself more closely to Britain and America, senior German officials signalled yesterday.

They said the row with Washington over Iraq had been "catastrophic" for Berlin and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder had become "a prisoner" of President Jacques Chirac's campaign to oppose the war to topple Saddam Hussein last year.

"We were more dependent on the French in that situation. But this will not be a permanent situation," said one authoritative source.

Another official explained: "We have to be careful that we are not identified with every word that the French president utters. We must have our own identity and be a little more clever."

The latest indications of Berlin's quest for a rapprochement with London and Washington came two days after Joschka Fischer, Germany's foreign minister, abandoned Berlin's dream of creating a European federal state.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Mr Fischer said the Iraq crisis had exposed the divisions within Europe and brought home to him the need to accept diverse traditions and history.

He even adopted some of Tony Blair's language about the need for the European Union to rest "on strong member states" rather than becoming a "superstate".

Now that's a bit more like it...

12:17 - Hooverville

So I was down in Pacific Grove, seaward of Monterey, last night visiting a friend who's on vacation up from Los Angeles. Sort of a traditional thing. He's a funny, funny guy-- deep into the animation and voice-acting circles, with all that implies. Two hours of plain conversation with this guy leaves one breathless, one's sides aching, and the comedy sector of one's mind reeling from all the exercise.

We went into an ice cream shop after dinner. It was a quaint little place, with candy piled to the eaves, old arcade games against the wall, and strange flavors of ice cream like "Super Hero" and "Rabbit Tracks".

My friend went up to the counter to order; he noticed the tip jar on the counter, which had coins taped all over it from countries all over the world. It had Canadian toonies, Danish kronor, coins with Y-shaped holes in them, Paris subway tokens, and dozens more. My friend asked if he had the Korean 50,000-won coin, or whatever it is.

He and the proprietor, a young-looking fellow in a baseball cap, looked for Korean coins all over the cup. "Really? You're kidding me."

"I'm serious," my friend said. "I was in Korea last year, and I had the 'American Breakfast' in the hotel for like 20,000 won, which is like twelve bucks."

He paused for thought. Then: "Of course, that was a few years ago. Now it's probably more like five won to the dollar. 'Cause, y'know, Bush."

The proprietor tossed his head. "Oh, don't even get me started," he growled.

Now, this isn't a new sentiment. I talked about it last week-- how Bush is being roundly blamed, even among the astute and thoughtful and sharp-minded, for an economic problem that a) he did not create and b) he has largely resolved.

What struck me was how the very word Bush has now apparently become shorthand for "the reason why everything sucks." Don't have a job? Bush. Foreign investors backing out of contracts? Bush. Smog over LA? Bush. Too much traffic on the freeway? Y'know, Bush. And it communicates all the necessary meaning, packing a consciousness's worth of disgust and contempt and frustration into a single plebeian syllable.

Maybe it's to be expected. Maybe in bad economic times, a two-term president is just not something Americans can stomach. Maybe we just don't have that kind of attention span, or that kind of patience. After all, Herbert Hoover only inherited the downtimes that created the "Hoovervilles".

God, it sucks, though.

Oh, and later, the same friend opined that the Walt Disney Company, in order to survive, ought to remove not just Michael Eisner, but also Senator Mitchell, from the board of directors. Why? "Like a Republican knows anything about being creative," he scoffed.

11:47 - The difference between Sharon and Hitler?

Hitler annexed the Sudetenland; Sharon gave it back.

(Oh yeah. Maybe that's not the only difference, either.)

Sunday, February 1, 2004
02:52 - Share the Dearth

Well, this is just lovely, isn't it? So very heartwarming.

This, and its parent site, make me wonder just how eerily appropriate the title "Downhill Battle" really is. To wit, it's so tempting to sympathize with the file-sharing grass-roots communities, isn't it? Theirs is such a worthy cause. The filthy corporate whores of the RIAA may have the letter of the law on their side, but we all know the Internet has changed all the rules of copyright and information and creativity forever, right?

Well, this is where that downward slope-- as slippery as it is-- leads us:

PEPSI IS ABOUT TO DUMP 100 million free iTunes songs into circulation. During the Super Bowl, they'll be launching a promotion that gives you a 1 in 3 chance of winning a free iTunes song under the bottlecap of a Pepsi. Those 100 million caps could theoretically mean 65 million dollars for record labels and musicians (that's what's left after Apple's cut).

But we have a hunch that most Pepsi drinkers won't bother to download and install iTunes just to get a single song. To help remedy the situation, we are announcing the Tune Recycler which lets people donate their unwanted iTunes codes, which we will redeem. Of course, we would never send Pepsi's money to the big five labels (that would be a little incestuous, don't you think?). We'll be using the codes to buy music from independent labels. We're going to pick single albums and buy them over and over-- each purchase sends a little cash to some cool people.

So charming. So populist. So forward-thinking. So egalitarian.

It's for the artists' own good that they're tearing down the only hope the music industry's infrastructure has of surviving the transition into the digital future. It's for the artists' own good that these people can't compromise. Hell, they have all the power; they have the bludgeon. The genie is out of the bottle, and it's theirs to command, and they know it. Why should they compromise?

It all sounds so heartfelt and selfless. Too bad it all boils down to nothing more honorable than wanting to keep getting stuff for free.

11:49 - Helpful E-mailing Tips

Here's a lesson in how not to begin an e-mail to me:

Good daytime, my name's Tavu and I am under severe circumstances claiming your assistance.

Now, as luck would have it, this message goes on to become an actual on-topic piece of correspondence for me to answer. But the e-mailer will probably never know how close his message came to going reflexively into the "Nigerian Spam" bucket...

Saturday, January 31, 2004
00:31 - Train wreck of a nation

What must it be like to live in France?

Where Nazi slogans appear on WWI cemeteries and Jewish schools are firebombed, and there's always empathy for the perpetrators above action against it? Where capitulation is the prescribed treatment for any social or cultural disagreement-- where it becomes forbidden to sell pork in major chain supermarkets, while McDonald's outlets become gang-occupied strongholds in street warfare that outguns the police?

Where a Muslim immigrant population that makes up a third of France's under-18 demographic harasses and rapes women in the walled suburban projects, but the government thinks it's a useful gesture to try to ban headscarves in public schools?

And where slaughterhouses televise mass butchery because of a "right" demanded as part of a religious ritual?

The Paris suburb of Evry, which has one of France’s largest Muslim populations, has decided to install video screens to enable the local faithful to watch some 3,300 sheep being slaughtered for Eid this year.

The televised ritual slaughter which will take place in a large mobile abattoir is the idea of a local meat wholesaler.

“If the idea succeeds this year then it’s likely to become a permanent fixture of Eids in future,” a local municipal spokesman said.

Meanwhile, at Le Mans, west of Paris, the local authorities have decided to build a “hard” structure in which the sheep belonging to local Muslims can be killed.

“If this works out,” says an official for the prefecture which is overseeing the development, “then it’s an idea that will probably be tried elsewhere in France.”

The new approach to the slaughter of the Eid sheep comes after years of difficulties for French Muslims who, having bought a sheep for Eid, thought it was their right to see them killed in a local slaughterhouse.

What must it be like inside the average French person's brain? Behind what must be a mask of a fixed, quivering, teary-eyed grin? Happy, happy, happy! ... But what will PETA think? But non! We must do everything to make all cultures happy! But... the animals! But-- freedom of religion! But... secular society! But... France's traditional valu--aaaauurrghhh! POP!

22:26 - His boots are ivory, his hat is ivory, and I'm pretty sure that TOWER is ivory

Well, well. It seems that not every college student in the country is a complete raving nutbar. There are in fact some out there who are articulate, forthright, and willing to point out the hypocrisy in a prevailing campus atmosphere that so perversely shuts down all dissenting opinion in the very name of "free speech".

On Monday, January 26th, 2003, a debate about the Iraq War was held out in the hallways. While there was strong anti-war support, there were a few individuals, such as myself, who believed the war was justified. Those individuals, who believed that there was such justification, were badgered, and silenced by one person, because their opinions differed from her own. Even those who unsuccessfully tried to moderate the discussion were criticized viciously for having done so.

Because I was not allowed to openly say my piece, I expressed myself in an alternative form- writing. I put a three page paper on my door (largely derived from the online journal, “USS Clueless”) [Stephen denBeste -ed.] that for the most part, outlined, why I believed that there was a need to remove Saddam, and the Baathist party in Iraq; and also reform sects of the Arab culture (such as the Wahabi) that have long supported terrorism by all means. These three pages have caused quite a stir on the hall. So much so that:

· someone removed the three pages from my door

· I have been called (possibly by the same person who removed the paper from my door) a racist, a fascist

· those who stuck by me were repeatedly vilified for doing so.

I have reposted my opinion on my door, only to have it torn down again and again.

But now it's on the Web, and it deserves to be read by more open-minded heads than those tragicomical figures in her hall.

22:12 - What I Did Today

I was here:

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Having a roommate with a private pilot's license kicks ass.

And so does Yosemite, covered in late-January snow, on a crisp cold day where the clouds break over the foothills to give flyers-by a perfect panorama suitable for filling up whole Flash cards with photos. (Plenty more where this came from.)

The trip was a fairly exciting one, too. Columbia airport, in the foothills east of Stockton, is a hideous bitch goddess. Crosswinds of 15 knots made it impossible to line up accurately on the runway without losing rudder authority, so after two go-arounds we moved on to Oakdale, on much flatter valley ground. And thence a straight shot home. Yeah, mountain flying is cool-- but so is getting home in one piece.

I may get some nice high-quality iPhoto prints of a few of these photos. My brother might like some of them...

Friday, January 30, 2004
17:29 - I've seen things, I've seen them with my EYES

As thoroughly insane and mind-melting as this is, somehow I think this is even worse.

Kuala Lumpur... you know, Simpsons references show up in the damnedest places, don't they?


16:16 - Hey! Me too!


Woo-hoo! It's here!

And it sure did take its sweet time, huh? Panther was released in late October, and within a couple of weeks David Pogue already had a book out on it. How in the name of high holy hell did he write it so fast? Especially since the UI wasn't ready for screenshots until early October at the latest? That's why I had no fewer than three weeks' work beyond the release date just trying to get all the screenshots done. Now, the Apple Stores all have Panther books of all types, from this series and that series, and even one from another series by the same publishing company as mine. (Huh?!) I'm jostling for space, instead of being first out of the gate.

But if there's one lesson I'm learning from all this, it's that the world of Mac tech publishing moves very damned fast. Why, a few days ago-- not two weeks after iLife '04 was released-- O'Reilly published a 56-page PDF pamphlet on iLife '04 which is freely downloadable. It's instant documentation! Quite an industry we got here.

I'd originally submitted a TOC with 33 chapters; after I'd written and submitted them all, I was told that it came in at nearly 700 pages, and there was a hard 500-page limit. Besides which, as I was unaware, there's an iLife in a Snap book being done at the same time by another author, and it covers everything four of my chapters did, in yet more detail. So I had to combine those four chapters into one big mega-chapter on iLife, liberally spattered with references to the other book, and covering only the high points of the (then) four iApps-- which still entails quite a lot. (I also had to cram in things like QuickTime and image conversion and DVD playback into that chapter, which is about the only place they fit.) After all the hacking and slashing and consolidating and wholesale culling, I was down to 19 chunky chapters straining at the seams of the covers.

I just got my copy last night, and it ended up looking a lot better than I'd dared hope. It's very densely packed; they got it down to 600 pages (that's 600 exactly, including the insides of the front and back covers, which have actual content on them), and the illustrations came out nice and bold. Capri is featured front and center on lots of pages, as are various friends.

It's my first solo, and I think I'll pop me a Diet Coke in celebration. Huzzah!

Oh: The woman on the front? I believe her name is Joanne Royalty Free.

11:44 - Getting there


I'm still working on the South. One of these days!

Thursday, January 29, 2004
11:32 - FBI: "Get a Mac"

This has been popping up in various places. It's quite a good read, eliciting many a tired smile from anybody who's ever tried to educate a friend or loved one about the importance of computer security (or from anyone who's spent the morning cleaning out 500 copies of the MooreTurd virus, or whatever it's called).

It's not every day that I have an FBI agent who's also a computer security expert come speak to my class, so I invited other students and friends to come hear him speak. On the night of Dave's talk, we had a nice cross-section of students, friends, and associates in the desks of my room, several of them "computer people," most not.

Dave arrived and set his laptop up, an IBM ThinkPad A31. He didn't connect to the Internet - too dangerous, and against regulations, if I recall - but instead ran his presentation software using movies and videos where others would have actually gone online to demonstrate their points. While he was getting everything ready, I took a look at the first FBI agent I could remember meeting in person.

Dave is from Tennessee, and you can tell. He's got a southern twang to his voice that disarms his listeners. He talks slowly, slightly drawling his vowels, and it sort of takes you in, making you think he's not really paying attention, and then you realize that he knows exactly what he's doing, and that he's miles ahead of you. He wears a tie, but his suit is ready to wear and just a bit wrinkled. His dark hair is longer than you'd think, hanging below his collar, further accentuating the country-boy image, but remember, this country boy knows his stuff. All in all, he gives off the air of someone who's busy as heck, too busy to worry about appearances, and someone who's seen a lot of things in his time.

So what does this country boy have to say about security? We-hell:

Dave had some surprises up his sleeve as well. You'll remember that I said he was using a ThinkPad (running Windows!). I asked him about that, and he told us that many of the computer security folks back at FBI HQ use Macs running OS X, since those machines can do just about anything: run software for Mac, Unix, or Windows, using either a GUI or the command line. And they're secure out of the box. In the field, however, they don't have as much money to spend, so they have to stretch their dollars by buying WinTel-based hardware. Are you listening, Apple? The FBI wants to buy your stuff. Talk to them!

Dave also had a great quotation for us: "If you're a bad guy and you want to frustrate law enforcement, use a Mac." Basically, police and government agencies know what to do with seized Windows machines. They can recover whatever information they want, with tools that they've used countless times. The same holds true, but to a lesser degree, for Unix-based machines. But Macs evidently stymie most law enforcement personnel. They just don't know how to recover data on them. So what do they do? By and large, law enforcement personnel in American end up sending impounded Macs needing data recovery to the acknowledged North American Mac experts: the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Evidently the Mounties have built up a knowledge and technique for Mac forensics that is second to none.

(I hope I'm not helping increase the number of sales Apple has to drug trafficers.)

No, but you sure gave a boost to our image of the Mounties! Dudley Do-Right goes Mac-hackin'. I love it. We always get our Mac!

Okay, I'll stop now. But the article is plenty entertaining, even aside from that section. Well worth a read.

UPDATE: Oh, one more, thing, from an anonymous tipster.

Here's how Microsoft recommends you protect yourself from malicious URL-spoofing, phishing, and other spam-scam tricks:

The most effective step that you can take to help protect yourself from malicious hyperlinks is not to click them. Rather, type the URL of your intended destination in the address bar yourself. By manually typing the URL in the address bar, you can verify the information that Internet Explorer uses to access the destination Web site. To do so, type the URL in the Address bar, and then press ENTER.

Now that's the wave of the future right there. Good going, Microsoft.

11:12 - What's wrong with this picture?

Israel releases more than 470 Palestinian terrorists from prison, in exchange for a few corpses of IDF soldiers and a businessman who may or may not be alive.

On the same day, a Palestinian policeman blows up a bus in Jerusalem, killing ten and wounding fifty.

It's clearly Israel's fault. And the natural outgrowth of poverty and desperation.

What? You say my logic doesn't hold? You say the Jews aren't monsters who deserve to be killed no matter what they do? What are you, some kind of Nazi?


10:20 - Go to the source

You know... in all the rhetoric over Iraq that has come from the Left and from various Presidential candidates, there's something that seems very conspicuously absent.

Namely, any indication that any of them have taken the seemingly obvious step of seeking the Iraqis' opinion of the war. It's just taken as a foregone conclusion that the Iraqis never wanted the war to happen, and that they now resent us for waging it. Any reports of cheering or jubilation-- bah. Just propaganda.

Well, Dr. Dean, I hope you're as open-minded as the Left always claims to be, because here's yet another of the long string of testimonials straight from the mind of an Iraqi that wonders just what the hell people like you are smoking. What's more, this guy is responding directly to you.

I’m not going to comment about the rightness of the statement with more than saying that only a (blind) man would believe it and only a man blinded by his ambitions would dare to say it, but when you say such words, don’t you mean in other words that the sacrifices made by the American soldiers are all in vain? And that these soldiers are not doing a service to the world, nor to Iraqis and not to America. In fact you are saying that since they didn’t do the world, America or us a favour then they’re only doing a favour to GWB and his administration.

Don’t you agree that by saying those words you accuse the American soldiers of one of two charges each of which is worse than the other;
You are saying that, either they are stupid enough to sacrifice their lives for the sake of GWB political future, or they are evil people who love fighting and killing and they are doing this only for money, in other words they’re no more than mercenaries. Saying that you only disagree with the way this issue is handled will also not change the fact that you are only harming your men and women on the battlefield.

By statements like these you deny any honourable motives for the great job your people are doing here. How in your opinion will this affect the morale of your soldiers? Feeling that their people back at home don’t support them and that they’re abandoned to fight alone in the battlefield.

And all of this for what? For staying in the white house for 4 or 8 years? Is it worth it?
And this is not directed only to Mr. Dean, it’s for all the Americans who support such allegations without being aware of their consequences. What’s it that you fight so hard for, showing your soldiers as s occupiers and murderers, the soldiers who I had the honour of meeting many, and when talking to some of them, I didn’t see anything other than gentleness, honesty and good will and faith in what they’re doing.

Your words and those of others were insults to the Americans, Iraqis and moreover to yourself, and I’m certain you don’t represent the number of Americans you fanaticise about.

Imagine how pissed he must be, to write an open letter to someone running for the government of a foreign country, and to make these kinds of value judgments about Americans and how much of them Dean's statements represent.

And you know, for all the talk about whether Bush is losing his base, I can't help but think that there's something missing from the debate, and that's the debates. Remember those? Kerry or Dean or Edwards or somebody is going to have to spend the year standing up on stage next to Bush, and they're going to have to debate the issues.

In past years, these debates have involved things like: One guy says how he'd improve government-covered health care as President. The other guy responds by explaining the budgetary impact and how Americans have shown they don't want it, and the other guy would rebut with his own viewpoint, blah de blah de blah. The kind of stuff that puts the sitcom audience to sleep.

But what's it gonna look like this year? Will Kerry stand up there, point at Bush, and say, "You took us to war with a fraudulent coalition"? Will Dean wave his arms and shout about how Bush sold the war based on "lies"? Will Clark call on Michael Moore randomly from the audience to ask questions about how much ooooiiil Halliburton has stolen from Iraq? I sure hope so, because Bush won't have to do a thing but stand there with his palm pressed to his forehead, shaking his head and chuckling softly, as the opponent gets dragged off-stage with a shepherd's crook. In the primaries, these guys aren't describing plans for serving Americans' interests; they're just batting around conspiracy theories, and I don't think they're equipped for the kind of shifting of gears that's going to be necessary to take on Bush on actual issues like, oh, 9/11, and the removal of regimes that Americans have wanted to see gone for over a decade.

All Bush has to do is read a few letters from Iraqi bloggers, like Ali's, and it'll be in the bag.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004
18:36 - Eat oil, France

Via InstaPundit, of course. It's aaaall about the oil.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Documents from Saddam Hussein's oil ministry reveal he used oil to bribe top French officials into opposing the imminent U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

The oil ministry papers, described by the independent Baghdad newspaper al-Mada, are apparently authentic and will become the basis of an official investigation by the new Iraqi Governing Council, the Independent reported Wednesday.

"I think the list is true," Naseer Chaderji, a governing council member, said. "I will demand an investigation. These people must be prosecuted."

Such evidence would undermine the French position before the war when President Jacques Chirac sought to couch his opposition to the invasion on a moral high ground.

If this pans out, and people I talk to still grumble about possibly moving to France to become disaffected expatriates like Fitzgerald, I'll buy them a ticket my damn self.

I wonder what these bribes looked like, incidentally? Oh, look, Saddam's here-- let's get this party started! And-- oh my God, look what he's brought! Forty million barrels of OIL! Someone get the spigots out and tap these puppies! Chug! Chug! Chug!

Bleh. Seriously, though. At least something we suspected we'd find in Iraq is finally coming to light.

UPDATE: Interestingly, though, this represents a rather less nuanced and more pedestrian (though more sensational) view of things than Steven Den Beste's thesis, which states that France (and friends) have been actively trying to thwart American power and influence in the world by creating a European political bloc to oppose us in our international endeavors, obstructing us in post-9/11 action, etc. This news suggests that they're simply motivated by money. Does it mean that if Saddam hadn't bribed Chirac, he would have supported us? How much oil did it really take to move France from a "token participant" to an outright diplomatic opponent? Or was it more like a "thank-you" note?

Neither interpretation is going to leave Chirac standing, if the right questions end up getting asked.

Oh, and now is it clear why our soldiers guarded the Oil Ministry building after April 9th, and not the Iraqi National Museum?

13:17 - Now that's good comedy

Any fears that there's no mystique left in our international relations ought to be allayed by this silly Borowitz riff (at least I think it's a riff), via Dean Esmay:

Jan. 27 - North Korean dictator Kim Jung-Il got his first glimpse of Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean on the evening of the Iowa caucuses last week and is now “terrified” by the former Vermont governor, associates of Kim revealed today.

According to those sources, the ruthless North Korean had spent a long, hard day reprocessing nuclear fuel rods and was looking for something relaxing to watch on TV when Dean first appeared on the screen, delivering his bizarre post-Iowa concession speech.

As Dean built to a crescendo...

Not to interrupt, but dammit! Do I have to go through this again?!


...Kim appeared alarmed and agitated, the sources said. “Who is that madman?” the madman reportedly asked.

According to one of Kim’s aides, “There’s only one way to describe the look on Kim’s face when he was watching Dean: pure, unadulterated terror.”

Kim’s every waking moment is now haunted by his fear of Howard Dean, the aide revealed. “At night, Kim gets out of bed and wanders the hallways in his pajamas, muttering Dean’s name,” the aide said.  “Dean really gives him the willies.”

Now that's a visual. Hey, I bet it made his hair stand on end too!

But according to Dr. Randolph Koestler, a professor of Far East Studies at the University of Minnesota, Kim’s all-consuming fear of Howard Dean could impel the brutal dictator to abandon his nuclear program if Dean is elected President.

And if Kerry is elected, or even if Bush wins, Dean should be made ambassador to North Korea. They could even dress him up like one of those weird Korean vampires with blood coming out of the corners of his mouth.

Or if nothing else, they can have a deathmatch between Dr. Scream and the Rumsfeld Strangler. How 'bout it, Frank?

10:43 - What the Internet was meant for

I tell ya, it doesn't get any better'n this.

Penguins, a yeti, and range markers.

Monday, January 26, 2004
17:54 - Conventional Wisdom

I was at another of those conventions this weekend, in case anybody's wondering where the devil I've been. One of those conventions where the parking lot of the hotel is filled with Saturns covered with rainbow stickers (it's a factory-installed option!) and little 80s SUVs plastered with upside-down American flags and slogans like REPEAL THE PATRIOT ACT and ONE NATION, UNDER SURVEILLANCE and IT'S THE OIL, STUPID and a blood-dripping BUSHARON and I MAY LOOK LIKE A FREAK, BUT I CAN BEAT YOU AT JEOPARDY and I WANT MY COUNTRY BACK (to which I silently respond, Yeah, well, good luck taking it away from the rest of us. See you at the polls, Scooter!)

At one of the art auctions that I attended in order to procrastinate more effectively, it was difficult not to notice that few people were in attendance, and bidding was less than energetic. People were putting up anemic bids of $15 and $20 for full sets of comic books and pieces of original art, and the best bid-baiting anybody could get to stick was to coax everybody to raise bids to the next prime number.

At one point, the auctioneer, holding up a particularly non-desirable piece of art, looked out despairingly over the crowd, who just wasn't biting. And he said, "This is all George Bush's fault!"

Which, of course, got applause and rueful laughter. And a fresh round of bids.

See, the Dow may be over 10,700, and every economic indicator in the world may be giddily positive. But here's what's infuriating.

a) People who aren't paying attention to the news are still convinced we're in a deep recession; and

b) They're sure it's all Bush's fault.

Point out to these people that the crash of the dot-com sector and the freefall of the stock market began during Clinton's term, and they'll just shake their heads and stare dumbly. Or they'll claim that if it weren't for Bush, the recession would have resolved itself much sooner.

Mention the tax cuts, and they'll sniff dismissively. "They weren't fair! And they haven't done any good!"

Point out that yes, in fact they have done a lot of good, and manufacturing expansion is at its highest level since the 1950s, and so on and so forth, and they'll say that they don't have jobs yet, so what's everybody so excited about? And anyway, the economy was bound to recover on its own. Tax cuts-- bah!

Come back in six months, when unemployment has sunk to late-90s levels or less, and the refrain will probably still be "too little, too late"-- there'll be some far more complex and less compelling argument made than "Tax cuts => economic recovery". And yet it'll be what's on everybody's lips come election time. Somehow or other, it'll still all be Bush's fault; somehow or other, the economy will be made into a liability for his campaign and not an asset.

Ah well. It's not like logic or realism were ever terribly popular at these conventions.

Friday, January 23, 2004
16:42 - A Visual Day

Most of the noteworthy things on the web today are best enjoyed through the visual medium enhanced by the clickthrough paradigm.

Frank J has this for us:

I got an e-mail from a friend of mine in Florida who is trying to find a home for a cat. Hopefully someone can help.

I'm trying to find our cat a new home. It is a nice cat, even likes baths, as you can see from the picture. Trouble is, my husband says the cat stares at him, and it freaks him out. Even though it is all in his head, I have find the cat a new home. Interested?
Picture of the Kitty

Who can resist?

(Frank better keep that katana close by his bedside, though, after this.)

Anyway, then Cox and Forkum weigh in on the Dean Scream, with one of the best interpretations I've seen. (Oh, and keep scrolling. They do their blogging visually, and it surely gets the point across. And here I sit typing thousand words after thousand words...)

15:03 - History Is Lies

Should I just stop reading comics altogether or something?

Terrorists? There ain't no stinkin' terrorists! Why, just look-- no attacks in two whole years! You people are all just paranoid!

Pardon me while I go bang my face repeatedly into my desk.

UPDATE: Of course, for some people-- the ones whose skin burns at the mere mention of the word "preemption"-- the problem of terrorism is a self-solving one. Terrorists commit horrible acts, yes, but they kill themselves in the process. Justice is served! Problem solved! Everybody go back to discussing Ben and J-Lo!

Thursday, January 22, 2004
18:06 - The iTunes Monster Grows

And if you keep shooting it, it feeds on the rays and only gets bigger.

J Greely has been keeping a close eye on new features being added to the store, and of note lately are an RSS feed (which allows you to tune your music preferences with a bunch of checkboxes and menu options and then produces an XML/RSS feed for you to peruse in your favorite syndication receptacle), and a new "Imports" section (no URL available-- just wait until it fades in at the top of the Music Store page in iTunes). This latter features a page full of albums that are apparently exclusive to the iTMS, and which all come from exotic locales like the UK and Benelux and the UK and the UK and France and the UK. Chances are that this section will be doing a lot of expanding in days to come. (I want my Rammstein, dammit!)

Meanwhile, the grass roots continue to deepen and spread. Goombah, which is nearing final release, pairs you up with other iTunes users and matches you music collection up with theirs, producing lists of music you might like to buy. And for GarageBand (which, as Damien noted in e-mail, and which this article seems to confirm, reeeeeally prefers it if you're running a G5, wink, wink), songsmiths now have a centralized clearinghouse site to host their songs, much like iCalShare.com for iCal calendars: GBXchange, soon to be MacJukebox.net. Sure didn't take long.

This plus the Billboard charts feature added two weeks ago make it pretty clear that the iTMS has only barely begun to flesh out its offerings. Now that the first wave of competitors has hurled itself with all its force against Apple and drained back like the sea off the rocks, Apple's ready to concentrate on really inventing what this stuff's going to look like for the next five or ten years.

I, for one, can't wait.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004
23:11 - George W. Bush shot JFK!

Seriously. That's the reasoned opinion of at least one of the people whom Evan Coyne Maloney interviewed in the freezing cold outside the auditorium where Al Gore gave his speech on global warming the other day.

His goal was ostensibly to see whether "regular Democrats" bought into the Bush=Hitler nonsense peddled by the MoveOn.org crowd, and he sought to do so by interviewing regular attendees at the address. Now, granted, the circumstances rather selected for the kind of people willing to brave 1-degree weather in New York to sit in on a Democratic message, so there weren't going to be too many casual centrists in evidence. But still-- damn.

Watch it. And as you're doing so, repeat to yourself: It's conservatives whose thought processes are governed by fear, ignorance, and mad conspiracy theories. It's conservatives whose thought processes are governed by fear, ignorance, and mad conspiracy theories. It's conservatives...

23:04 - Help me out here

Why, why in the name of crap is this so $%^$^ funny?!?

Take three measures Lord of the Rings. Fold in two measures of cars. Mix thoroughly and roughly. Bake in a hot SomethingAwful for three hours.


Monday, January 19, 2004
23:44 - Pass the controller

On the way up the backside ski lift at Sierra-at-Tahoe on Saturday, a friend and I looked down at the largest of the many terrain parks now strewn about the resort.

Kids from fifteen through thirty-five were hurling themselves twenty feet in the air, spinning around in space, grabbing the edges of their boards, turning graceful somersaults, even riding the grind rails on skis. By the dozen, one after another, they were swooshing down the hill as easily as though they were strolling through the park, dressed in baggy pants and drooping hoodie-sweatshirts, looking almost bored. Boarder after boarder turned perfectly executed pirouettes and soaring leaps and flashy displays of easy competence, tossed off with an air of complete low-key nonchalance. It could hardly have been choreographed better.

"Wait a minute," my friend said. "Weren't we supposed to be a nation of big, fat, klutzy couch-potatoes?"

Funny, yeah-- I'd heard the same thing.

Next time someone steps up to the mike to lecture about how America's youth is bloating itself to death in an anti-physical wasteland of virtual reality and fast food, I'll offer to take him to the backside of Sierra-at-Tahoe and show him what America's youth is doing in its spare time.

Hell, I'll even spring for the lift ticket.

19:28 - Ooh-ooh, I know this one

Our friends at TrueMajority.com (the Ben & Jerry's guys, if my memory serves) have helpfully provided a PDF file of a "report card" which we can use to score Bush's State of the Union speech tomorrow night. You can print it out, mark in your grades, and mail it in, all in the interest of Bush's stated commitment to "accountability, testing, and reporting".

In the absence of an actual speech to grade yet, we have to amuse ourselves somehow. What better way than to perform a little independent auditing of our standardized tests, hmm?

Give a high grade for clearly focusing on the big picture. Watch out for "The Spin" and subtract for only talking about side issues that make him look good. Give a failing grade for using lies or misleading statements. Extra credit should be awarded for offering up real solutions to our nation's problems and facing up to our most difficult problems.

Sure 'nuff; sounds fair to me. Well then. Let's get cracking, shall we?
The Big Picture: During the President's term the number of jobs in this country has actually declined by over 2 million. The poor have gotten poorer. Record deficits have kick-started growth, but recent gains in jobs aren't even enough to cover the number of new workers looking for jobs due to natural population growth.
The Spin: Recent economic growth is a sign of better things to come.
The Lies: Everyone got a tax cut and the rich and poor benefited equally.
Extra Credit: Give the President extra credit if he admits that the rebound in the economy is being fueled by record deficits that will eventually choke the economy if we don't change things soon.

I don't know what these guys expect Bush to say about the economy and the tax cuts, but apparently it's something along the lines of "Every American got an equal amount of tax proportionate to his or her income back in the form of a check", or something equally specific and equally preposterous. No dice there. But when it comes to the recovery, why do you suppose it is that "the big picture" insists on placing an upward trend under a big "but" clause, ignoring the fact that even the most timid projections show an extremely positive outlook in coming weeks and months? Why is a Dow average of 10,600 not part of the "big picture"? If you want to step back and look at the "big picture" regarding the economy, I wonder how much more effectively you can do that than "Bush passed tax cuts, and now the economy is rebounding"?

I also wonder how-- and why-- Bush is expected to downplay his role in this achievement, and point out only the pessimistic view of the economy, so that he can stave off criticism that he is just "trying to make himself look good". Remove the identity of the man on the podium, and tell me that he's supposed to respond to a surging economy by issuing sobering warnings and admonishments that things aren't as good as they seem. Yeah, that's the way to bolster consumer confidence.

Or is the message here that the economy is only allowed to recover under a Democrat?

Moving on.
Social Studies
The Big Picture: After 9/11 everyone wanted to help us, now almost nobody does. Osama is still on the loose and our bullying overseas adventures are fueling Al Qaeda recruiting.
The Spin: The President is taking strong and decisive action. We haven't had an attack on our soil since 9/11 and unnamed evildoers have been thwarted.
The Lies: Iraq was involved in 9/11.
Extra Credit: Give the President extra credit if he admits that last year's State of the Union was all about Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction that did not exist.

I entreat anybody to provide me proof-- or even convincing conjecture-- that Osama bin Laden is not dead. Any takers?

The Spin? Something tells me that if Bush wants to point out "evildoers" who have been thwarted, they need not be unnamed; he can point to many actual news stories. Unless we're meant to believe that all those Air France and British Airways jets were cancelled around New Year's purely as part of a conspiracy to fool Americans into thinking terrorists still exist. Who does he think we are? Some kinda morons? There ain't no terrorists and there never was!

Does the author of this thing actually expect Bush to implicate Iraq in 9/11, when he didn't even do so last SotU? In the absence of new overwhelming proof, I mean?

As for the extra credit, I hoped to see some attention paid to Logic class on this report card. For instance, explain to me the following: Given that Bush trumped up the case for war based on a lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Given further that Bush and his advisors knew that if we invaded on that false pretext, it would become known-- when we found no WMDs-- that it was false. Explain why the administration did not then plant WMDs for the troops to "find", or simply report that said WMDs had been found, thereby justifying the pretext. In other words: if the Bush administration is evil and ingenious enough to lie its way into war, why is it not competent enough to secure an alibi?

(For extra credit, convince me that if we do find WMDs in the near future, the Left will acknowledge that the pretext for war was correct, and will not accuse the administration of exactly the above subterfuge: planting weapons to retroactively justify the war.)

Next quarter we'll cover an advanced concept called "Occam's Razor".

The Big Picture: We do have a new Medicare benefit for prescription drugs. Unfortunately it was done in such a way only drug companies could love. Heck, the new law actually makes it illegal for states to join together and negotiate lower drug prices. Meanwhile, 44 million Americans don't have any health insurance. That's an increase of about 4 million since President Bush took office. The rest of us are paying more for the coverage we do have.
The Spin: The Medicare drug benefit is great.
The Lies: We can't afford to give everyone health insurance.
Extra Credit: Give the President extra credit if he admits that we are the only wealthy nation in the world without universal health insurance.

Sure. "We" actually can afford to give everyone health insurance. "We" meaning the people with jobs and health coverage, naturally. "We" have too much money as it is. Why don't we all volunteer to give up a big chunk of it so we can have nice beautiful prepaidfree health care? Why can't we be more like Canada?

That's the way to stimulate the economy, folks. More taxes and punishment of the rich for succeeding. Not Bush's stupid "tax cuts" which only look like they're working. Avert your eyes! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!
Environmental Sciences
The Big Picture: Changes by the Bush administration are making the air dirtier, the forests shrink, and the globe warmer.
The Spin: These changes won't really hurt us but will help the economy.
The Lies: Letting power plants pollute more leads to "clear skies," letting lumber companies cut down forests saves them, we don't know why the earth is warming.
Extra Credit: Give the President extra credit is he simply admits the planet is warming and we share some of the responsibility.

See, when your audience is people who get their political awareness through comic strips, you can get away with crap like referring to the Healthy Forest Initiative as "letting lumber companies cut down forests" in order to save them, and you'll never get called on it. See, because the truth is just too hard to fit on a 3x5 card.

Remember: even if a statement has been shown to be true through practical application and empirical observation, if it's positive and Bush says it it's a "lie".
The Three Rs
The Big Picture: The President gave the schools a whole bunch of expensive new requirements but didn't provide any way to pay for them.
The Spin: The President gave the schools a whole bunch of new requirements.
The Lies: Giving schools a whole bunch of expensive new requirements without any way to pay for them will make kids smarter.
Extra Credit: Give the President extra credit if he proposes money to pay for the new requirements.

Hey nimrod: "No Child Left Behind" was a bipartisan initiative. If it was a stupid idea, just wave your hands a lot and it becomes the fault of the other guy. Brilliant, tried-and-true tactics.

What kind of superhuman would Bush have to be in order to fund all his original campaign promises, and deal with 9/11 and its global aftermath? Can you picture it? "Sorry, America-- al Qaeda and Iraq will have to wait, because I promised to deliver on No Child Left Behind. Real sorry 'bout that hole in Manhattan; I'm sure you folks can handle it yourself, right?"

By the way, remember how we were supposed to mark Bush down if he actually claimed any of the things listed as "The Lie"? Can you see him saying this one? "Ah'm not gonna spend any more money on these edumacation programs, but kids are gonna git smarter any-ol-ways." Is that about the size of it? Sounds like you've set him up to wreck the bell curve.
Arts and Crafts
The Big Picture: So much of the State of the Union Address is about image. The President will be prepped by pros to read a speech written by a team of wordsmiths. All the while he'll try to come across as a regular guy, only smarter.
The Spin: No, really, he's just a regular guy, only smarter.
The Lies: He's a regular guy. He's smarter.
Extra Credit: Give the President extra credit if he doesn't cynically exploit someone who actually did something heroic by putting them in the visitor's gallery and pointing to them during the speech.

Okay, look. The writer is just getting lazy now. He seems to have nothing left but a tired "Bush is stooopid" joke, and he can't seem to figure out how to fit it into his neat little format. If he's not going to put the effort into finishing this thing properly, then I'm not going to bother either.

Except to note that this Extra Credit piece is evidently a reference to this:

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President Pro Tempore, members of Congress, and fellow Americans:  

In the normal course of events, Presidents come to this chamber to report on the state of the Union.  Tonight, no such report is needed.  It has already been delivered by the American people.

We have seen it in the courage of passengers, who rushed terrorists to save others on the ground -- passengers like an exceptional man named Todd Beamer.  And would you please help me to welcome his wife, Lisa Beamer, here tonight.  (Applause.)

-- 9/20/01

That's right. Recognizing people like Todd Beamer is now "cynically exploiting heroism". Funny, I don't seem to recall anybody accusing Bush of that back in September of '01. What's the matter? Have enough people forgotten the horrors of 9/11 that it's now safe to turn it into an engine for political cheap-shots and sinister conspiracy theories about PR haymaking?

Remember this when someone who laps up this kind of stuff gets all offended about having his patriotism or sincerity questioned. This is what they giggle about to each other when they don't think anybody else is watching.

I'll be printing out my copy of this report and marking it in good faith. I might even make some marginal corrections to help out teacher.

Incidentally, here are transcripts of all the SotU speeches since Truman's in 1945. Fascinating... and very illuminating.

16:31 - Stand, Men of the West

John Rhys-Davies, just as he publicly said he was sure he would be, is now being thoroughly raked over the coals for daring to express that Western Civilization is worth defending.

In the interview, Rhys-Davies, who plays heroic dwarf Gimli and recorded the voice of computer-animated character Treebeard in the Hollywood blockbuster, interprets Tolkien's story of good versus evil as a metaphor for modern race relations.

He said: "There is a demographic catastrophe happening in Europe that nobody wants to talk about, that we daren't bring up because we are so cagey about not offending people racially. And rightly we should be. But there is a cultural thing as well.

"By 2020, 50 per cent of the children in Holland under the age of 18 will be of Muslim descent.

"I think that Tolkien says that some generations will be challenged. And if they do not rise to meet that challenge, they will lose their civilisation. That does have a real resonance with me."

"I am for dead, (traditional) white male culture," said Rhys-Davies, who divides his time between his homes in Los Angeles and the Isle of Man.

"Many do not understand how precarious Western civilisation is and what a joy it is.

"From it, we get real democracy. From it, we get the sort of intellectual tolerance that allows me to propound something that may be completely alien to you.

"I'm burying my career so substantially in these interviews that it's painful. But I think there are some questions that demand honest answers."

Note the elision of a quote from the earlier interview that makes the above statements sound even less like the ravings of a white supremacist (except insofar that expressing pride in your own culture is a monstrous thing, if you're European):

And don’t forget, coupled with this there is this collapse of numbers. Western Europeans are not having any babies. The population of Germany at the end of the century is going to be 56% of what it is now. The populations of France, 52% of what it is now. The population of Italy is going to be down 7 million people.

There is a change happening in the very complexion of Western civilization in Europe that we should think about at least and argue about. If it just means the replacement of one genetic stock with another genetic stock, that doesn’t matter too much. But if it involves the replacement of Western civilization with a different civilization with different cultural values, then it is something we really ought to discuss — because, [hang it all], I am for dead-white-male culture!”

Now there are leaflets being handed out at showings of Return of the King by the British Nationalist Party, which is portrayed as a completely loathsome group akin to the KKK. The leaflets, which were produced without Rhys-Davies' knowing (or endorsement after the fact), evidently go to great lengths to make clear that they are not trying to make racial judgments against Muslims (which doesn't even make sense, because Muslims aren't a race, remember? Rhys-Davies clearly understands this, but it seems to have been lost on the horrified guys responding to him and on the writer of the article), but rather trying to call attention to the notion that Western Civilization is not some unassailable edifice that can never be torn down, and indeed is a very precarious tapestry of human achievement that must be nurtured lest it fall into disrepair and ruin.

But those who are determined to make race-baiting hay out of this aren't going to be deterred by simple adamant denials of racial chauvinism.

"I condemn these comments as being racist and ill-informed," said Adam Price, Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East & Dinefwr.

"It is obvious that this man who now lives in the lap of luxury in Hollywood is out of touch with realities of the nature of present day European society.

"His attack on Muslims and comments about the threat that they pose to Western society shows his ignorance of world events and the true teachings of Islam.

"Ammanford people will feel very let down by a man with such close connections to the town."

Last night Mohammed Javed, chairman of the Muslim Society for Wales, said: "We want an apology. This could stir up racial hatred in society. It's ignorance, he should learn more about Islam and the religions before he makes these comments.

"They are based on his ignorance and nothing else."

Chief executive of the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association (Awema) Naz Malik agreed.

He said: "I do not know why he has said these things. If 50 per cent of people in Holland under 18 are Muslims in 16 years time, so what? In Britain the fastest growing race is mixed race, people of dual heritage. It is a cause for great celebration that our cultures are mixed.

"We live in a global society - we celebrate what is good in cultures and challenge what is bad in civilisations.

"Does he ever listen to any music other than European? Does he eat Indian food? Does he ever appreciate art other than that from Europe?

"I feel sorry for this actor because he must feel very insecure about his future. I feel sorry for his close mindedness."

Hey, maybe he does, you turd. How do you know how the man likes his tabbouleh? How do you arrive at feeling "sorry" for him and painting him as a past-his-prime actor now grandstanding for a legacy, just as he's knowingly imploding the reputation he's earned these past three years in the biggest role he's ever played? How come you can't bring yourself even to acknowledge that Western Civilization has a few benefits that even you enjoy, and that there are things that you might even learn from it, instead of just stamping your foot and demanding apologies? Can you be just a tiny bit less arrogant when demanding that Rhys-Davies turn his own expressions of cultural pride down from 1.5 to 1?

Rhys-Davies has made his career on playing protagonistic roles both European and non-European, and he's making it as clear as day that his goal isn't to denigrate other races or religions wholesale. His entire point is to demonstrate that Islam, just as we've been repeatedly remonstrated about, ought to be able to inspire great positivity in the world. But, dare we make mention, it's not. In this day and age it's inspiring suicide murderers, car bombers, sexual slavemasters, religious nihilists, and a cult of victimhood that preys on the modern European welfare states that are so bound to their mantras of multiculturalism and refusal to confront "what is bad in civilisations" that the social upheaval that Rhys-Davies is warning about is continuing unchecked, without even so much as a hunted and guilt-laden glance in its direction.

Rhys-Davies is daring to stand up and point, and for that he's being crucified.

If someone wants to see a social upheaval waiting to happen, one that's currently held in check by the fragile scaffold-work of postmodern antiseptic decorum, one could do worse than to point to the seemingly huge contingent of Britons who are snapping up the BNP's leaflets. The more they're denied the ability to speak freely and "challenge what is bad in civilisations", the worse the cataclysm will be when it finally occurs.

The way we're going, we will one day see a new Crusade fought right on the fields of Europe.

UPDATE: Alan e-mails to point out that the portrayal of the BNP as a skinhead/KKK-like group is entirely accurate, and Rhys-Davies is well advised to keep from being associated with such a bunch of thugs. I suspected as much, but I had no context for knowing for sure what the story was. I stand clarified.

In any case, it sorta confirms my point: if a major cultural confrontation is coming, it'll be between the radicalized fringes of society. And if the BNP is having as much success handing out these leaflets as the article makes it sound, then that ugly day may not be too long in coming.

Sunday, January 18, 2004
19:48 - LOLOLOL Bush iz st000pid LOL1!!11

In the hotel at South Lake Tahoe, trapped by the inevitable odd lineup of cable channels far from home, I caught a show that I've never seen before: VH1 Illustrated. Ever wonder what became of those guys who did the Napster BAD! short? Well, they're on VH1 now.

The show featured a long series of short animated skits, usually centered upon one pop star or another. (They have noses now.) Michael Jackson, for instance, moonwalks and flails through his latest video, only to have his bionic face fly off repeatedly. Ho ho ho. Arnold Schwartzenegger campaigns for the California governor's office on a platform of being a robotic monster from the future who will crush crime and budget problems. And Moby makes advertising jingles while dancing ridiculously behind his keyboard. And Steve Tyler answers the door for a bunch of talking drugs, and his lips-- some three times wider than his face-- flap wildly down to waist level. Sheer genius, I'm sure.

Which was all brought home to me by a recurring skit about George W. Bush, who appears-- surprise!-- as a gibbering buffoon. He tapes pictures of naked celebrities to his monitor and calls Cheney in to show him his new "website". He tapes letters (in envelopes) to the screen and phones Cheney to ask if his e-mail arrived yet. He becomes incensed at hearing that the Europeans think he's "stupid", and decides to write his own speech about world hunger, instead of the one prepared for him.

He delivers the speech before the UN. It consists of admonishments for parents around the world to pack their kids' lunches better. With juice boxes and sandwiches and pasketti. Just as Bush is about to demonstrate how to make pasketti, he's gonged by Kofi Annan and yanked offstage.

The next day, Bush reads the world's papers, the headlines of which all consist of variations on BUSH: EVEN STUPIDER THAN WE THOUGHT. There was a French one, a Spanish one, and several others.

And the very last one they showed was in German. It said, and I quote, letter for letter: BUSH IST EIN DUMKAUPF.

Don't you just love it?

Anyway, maybe I'm demanding too much from shows like this. But I think it demonstrates that I've been spoiled by South Park, which-- when it mocks things that are easily mockable-- doesn't merely make fun of the most obvious and easy targets it can find. No stupid visual gags about Steve Tyler's lips or Björk's surreal spaciness or Michael Jackson's plastic face come out of Trey & Matt's factory. Instead, South Park tackles difficult and often complex issues, usually by taking an unexpected or unpopular tactic, and wrenching the audience out of what may likely be its accustomed and barely-thought-out position on the issue. (Just think about that Mormon one. Dum-dum-dum-dum-dum!) VH1 Illustrated, it seems, is just a long string of dull and predictable cheap-shots, brought to life in frenetic Flash animation with eyebrows that wiggle epileptically with almost every frame.

And it's brought to you by the illustrious producers of a film that's "More subversive than Bowling for Columbine!". Gee. I never thought the artsy-fartsy Left would settle for this kind of stuff. Aren't they usually more demanding of artistic insight? Aren't they the superintelligent ones, who would never, say, misspell a word in a popular foreign language when making fun of someone they allege is stupider and less literate than they are? Aren't they the ones with the evolved sense of taste and intellect?

Or is this kind of stuff really what turns them on?

19:32 - Guns make you Rumsfeld

Via InstaPundit: an LA Times article that's genuinely fun to read. (Wow!)

Guns are bad. All my life, it's been that simple. At my son's preschool, if a child pointed a banana and said "bang," he was admonished to "use the banana in a happier way." As far as I was concerned, the 2nd Amendment gave us the right to protect ourselves against invading armies, not the right to buy a gun and keep it under our beds.

So what would make someone like me change my mind? I met this gun enthusiast. As research for my new novel, I asked him many questions, all the while voicing my disgust. My character might use a gun, but I never would. "Come to the range," the gun guy said. "I'll teach you to shoot."

I expected a dungeon full of men missing teeth and wearing T-shirts decorated with Confederate flags. Instead, I found a sunny, wood-paneled lobby and guys who looked like lawyers on their lunch break.

The man behind the counter was as pleasant as a grandfather from Central Casting. "What would it take for me to buy a gun?" I asked him. He explained the California laws, some of the most stringent in the country. I would have to wait 10 days — the "cooling off" period. There would be federal and local background checks. I'd have to take a safety class. I'd have to buy a childproof lock. I couldn't purchase an assault weapon. I couldn't buy more than one handgun per month. Of course, he said, if I didn't want to wait, I could drive 10 minutes and buy an Uzi illegally out of someone's car.

Ayep. I've only been shooting once or twice, but I can attest that the experience at the range I went to was about the same as hers. Now, I wasn't as taken by the thrill of firing the thing-- I still don't much like being around guns or shooting them-- but that's immaterial to how one might feel about the rights that ought to surround the things.

Later, I was surprised to discover that some of my closest friends owned guns. People I never would have suspected confessed that their guns made them feel protected. Still, most of my friends thought handguns should be outlawed, completely, in every circumstance.

I no longer was so sure. I did some research — there are countless testimonials about guns saving someone's life. I looked into shooting as a sport. I spoke to a woman who had found a wounded deer and shot it, ending its agony. I changed my mind: Guns aren't bad.

Which leaves gun violence. At least in California, we don't need more laws — we just need to enforce the ones we have. What else?

The answer has to be education: teaching people to deal with anger, to solve problems, offering them brighter futures, but also Gun 101. Maybe if teenagers were given computer-generated pictures of their own bodies, post-gunshot wounds, it would help them understand the enormity of firing a weapon. Maybe if everyone spent an afternoon at the shooting range, forced to follow the rules, they would respect the power of a gun.

I confess, I don't know exactly how to solve the problem, but at least now I know I don't know. Firing guns as a sport is great fun. Having a gun because it makes you feel safer seems understandable. Changing the way people behave? If you thought gun control was a distant dream … it could take centuries.

Very good. Indeed, just take people to the range and let them deconstruct the mystique surrounding guns exactly the way you have. If it converts an incorrectly premised "known known" into a well-founded "known unknown", that's the basis of realistic solutions rather than ideologically-driven thrashing about in the dark.

Friday, January 16, 2004
16:06 - Must be Friday

Was that last post optimistic, or darkly satiric, or nihilistic, or what?

I'unno. I guess there's a certain amount of morbidity and cynicism floating about the Net today. This guy is pondering death and how much it sucks. Andrew Sullivan is undergoing a meltdown-- both physically (his server) and philosophically-- making a lot of his supporters wonder what's gotten into him. Charles Johnson is finding ever more encouraging pieces of news. People who say the Israelis "don't want peace" will get to see just how inaccurate they were if Israel turns around, throws in the towel, and officially stops pursuing peace as a national policy. My project lead just stomped out of a meeting over a trifling disagreement with the product manager over a lack of timely decision-making over some inconsequential technical detail. And I've eaten enough Sour Patch Kids over the past two days that my tongue's skin is peeling off in great sheets.

In short, I think it's about time for a skiing vacation. I'm out of here in about an hour; after that time, I'll be incommunicado until Sunday night.

I knew I should have taken today off too.

15:43 - Jazz to Moonbase Two

Corsair the Rational Pirate seems to think he can't compete with the likes of Lileks on the matter of being eloquent about the space initiative. But with all respect due to Lileks, I think he's selling himself short.

We have always had sick people, poor people, bad people, and uneducated people. And when I say always, I mena for the last 100,000 years of so. Do you really think that closing up space to future exploration is going to change any of that? No! We have always had these problems and we are always going to have these problems. We spend hundreds of billions on education in this country every single year and yet there are still people out there who can't read. Want to know why? Because they are stupid or lazy or both. We spend further hundreds of billions on health care and yet people continue to get sick and die, the ungrateful bastards. Should we put on hold everything not health care related until we have conquered death and disease? Don't be a frigging maroon!

This country has proved that it can do more than one thing at the same time. we can fight terrorists (which are never really going to go away so you can quit holding your breath), protect the environment, try to make people's lives easier, educate the educateable and go to the moon and beyond. Will it be worth it? We can't know until we try it, can we? Will all the money spent on health care stop people from dying from a variety of horrible diseases? Probably not but we can still make life better while we try. Going to the moon is in the same category.

Yeah. And as Lance and I discussed last night, the moon isn't just a black-hole expenditure. What it amounts to, in the sense it's used in the business world, is a shifting of capital. If you're a company, you're not spending $6,000 to buy that new Cisco switch-- you're converting $6,000 of liquid assets into $6,000 in physical assets. Money changes form into equipment and people and all sorts of things all the time, often for no better reason than that it can do more work more efficiently (and develop more profit) in one form than in another. $80K can make a certain amount of money sitting in an interests-earning fund; but think how much value it can net your company if you give it to a person for a year's worth of his expertise. Maybe more, maybe less. But the question must be asked. And if half a trillion dollars is better spent taking us back to the Moon than floating in low-Earth orbit in slowly decaying shuttles, then wave that magic wand.

(As an interesting aside-- isn't it weird how the most vibrant developments in technology and wealth-creation come from a massive imbalance in capabilities between two parties? That's what trade is all about: A can produce X more efficiently than B, but B can produce Y more efficiently than A. So A trades X for B's Y, and both are richer in their own local contexts for it. And, perversely, the farther apart A and B are in their production capabilities, the faster wealth gets created. The same goes for space. We'll develop more and better miracle technology by trying to get that much further away from the pack in technical space supremacy, trying always for the overwhelming edge rather than the subtle one, than we ever would have if the whole world were operating on a cooperative and level playing field where nobody was particularly motivated for their own nation to be head and shoulders above the rest. Competition works in some types of markets, but in others-- like space, where the players are governments with budgets the size of planets-- a monopoly isn't a stagnation, it's a positive feedback loop.)

Space, as Bush has pitched it, is what amounts to a public works project (which ought to appeal to the socialists in the audience, if not to the nationalists-- heaven forfend the twain should meet). It's a tax-funded national effort which engages every citizen and gives him something of value for his money: pride, and hope. It creates jobs, it pumps money into private contractors, it stimulates visions of destiny and greatness when we need something to focus on. And it gives the country something of lasting physical value. In the New Deal, that thing of value was dams. Our task lies in making sure that we can get something of similar value from space.

And we will. If the first space push (and all its attendant infrastructure) gave us everything from DARPA to microwaves to ICBMs, this next one will give us things we can barely imagine today. If we play it right. If the money to pay for Bush's plan comes largely from cutbacks in the existing thumb-twiddling that NASA's been doing, then the bill we and our children pay will be as inconsequential to history as the bill we paid to get NASA moving in the first place, in the 1950s. Notice how much grousing we hear about that use of money these days? Didn't think so.

So, bring on the moonbases, and plant an American flag there bigger than the one at Guantanamo Bay. We can only hope that the technological plateau to which it brings us is a sustainable one, one that we won't have to abandon once the initial fervor dies down, because it will have found a way to pay for itself.

You know what I want to see? A sci-fi story in which humans have developed into a spacefaring species-- but have not achieved faster-than-light travel. Gimme a futuristic dystopia in which we've nuked ourself off the planet's surface, or in which the planet has greenhoused itself to the point where the only part of the surface that's habitable is in the polar regions, which are now temperate (minus ozone) while the middle latitudes are flooded and parched deserts too hot to support life. Give me a world where humans still forlornly orbit the planet, living now on floating cities in space, ferrying the way between autonomous moonbases and Mars bases and the Earth, carrying water between them, and where the future of humanity-- rather than out in the depths of interstellar space, which nobody any longer thinks it's feasible to reach-- is back on the Earth, on which we're practicing the nascent art of terraforming, just to get the surface back to a habitable state.

Do it without excessive preachifying, and I'll read the whole checkout-lane series.

Unless, of course, it's already been done, a hundred times over. In which case forget it.

Thursday, January 15, 2004
15:09 - Solid rocket backfire?

Andrew Sullivan may be simply suffering from a case of cold feet, but he just as well might be right:

LET THE KIDS PAY FOR IT: I'm talking about this $170 billion foray into space. After all, the next generation will be paying for a collapsed social security system, a bankrupted Medicare program, soaring interest on the public debt, as well as coughing up far higher taxes to keep some semblance of a government in operation. But, hey, the president needed another major distraction the week before the Iowa caucuses, and since he won't be around to pick up the bill, why the hell not? Deficits don't matter, after all. And what's a few hundred billion dollars over the next few decades anyway? Chickenfeed for the big and bigger government now championed by the Republicans. This space initiative is, for me, the last fiscal straw. There comes a point at which the excuses for fiscal recklessness run out. The president campaigned in favor of the responsibility ethic. He has governed - in terms of guarding the nation's finances - according to the motto: "If it feels good, do it." I give up. Can't they even pretend to give a damn?

Wouldn't it be something if Bush blew it on the last lap by alienating all the new-to-the-fold conservatives who flocked to his banner after 9/11, simply by being a reckless spender? Wouldn't it be a pisser if his final triumphant flourish post-Afghanistan, post-Iraq, and post-recovery-- his unveiling of a doughty space initiative to mirror and evoke JFK's-- in fact backfired on him by revealing a fiscal policy too extreme for even his fans to ignore or apologize for?

One can make the case that this kind of no-limit spending ought to appeal to people on the left side of the aisle... but those folks are the ones who will be put off by social conservatism, and who wouldn't be voting for Bush anyway. (Many people I know closely like to describe themselves as "socially liberal, fiscally conservative" or vice versa-- seldom both on the same side at once.) So is the space thing the coup de grace that seals Bush's legacy... or the blunder of the century?

That said, though... I would very much like to be there during something as huge and exciting as the first moon landing. Lance has told me with some asperity that humans have not been to the moon during my lifetime, and I sure hope something as petty as whether the line-items all fit on the page doesn't stand in the way of whether that remains the case.

14:56 - Bagged dad

Tim Blair found himself some pretty cool Saddam-capture photos, he did. Seven more where this came from.

"Hi, Mom! Look what I caught!"

Coolest hunting trophy photo ever, as one of the commenters said.

Incidentally, I love how the DU types squeal about how American troops are all white neo-Nazi inbred hicks on the inhale, and on the exhale posit that our ranks are filled with black and Hispanic cannon-fodder who take all the hits but get none of the glory.

This picture neatly explodes both those little pustules of thought, doesn't it?

Wednesday, January 14, 2004
13:22 - But... that's not what PBS told me!

A few months ago, there was a special on PBS or the Discovery channel or something which followed a young British Muslim on his first hajj. It dutifully recorded his every statement, following him through the ritual shaving of his head, the ritual collection of forty-nine stones to throw at Shaitan, the ritual throwing of the stones from within the swarming throngs as soon as he saw the pillar, the ritual off-the-cuff condemnations of America, everything. The show spared no effort to demonstrate how overwhelmingly beautiful and magical was the whole experience.

So what can this guy possibly be on about?

In Mecca, I found the same mixture of confusion, oppression and apathy I thought I had left behind in Egypt. But as in Egypt, nothing worked, even at the blessed hajj, for we were visitors not to an Islamic state but to yet another cynical Arab kleptocracy which only pretended to adhere to the true ideals of Islam.

The Saudis couldn’t even organize the hajj safely. Each day, as I performed the rituals of the hajj, I was part of massed crowds of Muslims from all over the world: Turks and Pakistanis, Nigerians, Malaysians, Arabs. We would shamble forward without order or seeming direction, endangering lives as we knocked over women, the lame and the elderly in our hurry to get from one ritual to the next. Once, in a street so filled with pilgrims that I could not take one step forward, I was forced to jump into the back of a truck to avoid being killed in a stampede.

At night, I would wander through the pilgrim camps, disgusted by the sight of the mud-faced pilgrims who were only too happy to sleep on the filthy streets. In the morning, the streets would be clogged again, and veiled women who had trouble walking because they’d so rarely been let out of their homes would waddle slowly before me. At the stoning ritual, I watched little girls fall under the crowds of pilgrims: Turks shoving Arabs, Africans shoving Indians until each day a few more pilgrims were trampled to death. The next day I would read of the incident in theSaudi Times (FOURTEEN PILGRIMS KILLED IN STAMPEDE) which would quote a hajj official who never took any responsibility for the deaths. He would only say that since the pilgrims had died on hajj they would ‘surely enter Paradise’. There was never any promise to cut the number of hajjis or control the outsized crowds to prevent these needless deaths.

The mutawan, the dreaded Saudi religious police who enforce the rigid observance of Wahhabi Islam, patrolled the streets, beating or arresting anyone they caught missing a prayer; it was impossible ever to know if the native Meccans prayed out of genuine piety or to avoid a whipping.

I returned from prayer in the Grand Mosque one morning to find my sandals stolen from the shoe racks.

What I want to know is, why do the mutawan not have to pray too at the same time? ...And who's gonna ask them?

Fascinating story, though. There's a lot more. It ends like this:

I was riding a train home from a short trip with friends to Assuit in Upper Egypt when the war in Iraq began. Our Egyptian guide told us the bombing had started the night before and that we should no longer speak English on the shuddering train or venture out of our apartments when we got back to Cairo. I locked myself in my flat and waited for word from the American Embassy. The next Friday from my balcony I watched a quarter of a million Egyptians rioting in the streets below, men and young boys chanting, smashing windows, pelting soldiers with stones and carting banners. A giant tank rushed down my street, its water cannons hosing the crowds while the soldiers drove back the protesters with batons.

I fled home the next week, leaving all my illusions of the Arab world in my Cairo flat. I couldn’t wait to be in America again. On the long flight home, I promised myself I would never accept anything less than full democracy for my fellow Muslims in the Arab world or apologize for the tyranny that now masquerades as Islam.

Yet, for all the hypocrisy and suffering I witnessed during my time in Egypt, it was impossible to ignore the sincerity of the poor and righteous and the depth of the belief of Muslims and Copts alike. I studied Islam with a village sheikh from Giza; I watched shop owners feed strangers during the nights of Ramadan; the local beggars, men who should have lost all hope, prayed each day without fail on tattered sheets of cardboard. It is only because of these expressions of true spirituality that I never lost my faith.

Even now, I can remember the dread in the faces of my Egyptian friends at what would become of their lives. Could it be, that the fascism which once bubbled up in Europe has now invaded the Middle East and that in our time, all hope for the true Islamic values of freedom, modernity and equality in the Muslim world lies not in the East, but in the West?

The saddest thing, though, is that it takes a Seattle-born convert to say this.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004
13:50 - Jeremy's... Iron

Lileks has found a real gem of a site: Not Fooling Anybody, which features photos of old Taco Bells, KFCs, Pizza Huts, and other such recognizable edifices that are now serving an extended term housing completely unrelated businesses-- or sometimes, entertainingly, almost identical businesses.

There's a KFC in Ukiah, right next to the movie theater, that would be a good candidate for the site. It's one of those little square kiosk-style ones with the tall peaked roof, and it's currently a tax preparer's office or a very cramped real estate agent or something. I'll have to snap a picture next time I'm up there.

And if there's one theme I'm noticing throughout the site, it's that Canada appears to have very lax rules regarding trade dress violations. Exhibit A: a former Embassy Cleaners in Toronto.

Brilliant. (Anybody up for a little paste-up work involving a "D" and a "U"?)

Check out the rest of the site, too. It's well worth the time.

Monday, January 12, 2004
17:33 - Corporate-Owned Government

Hey, No-Blood-For-Oil types? Think America's squealing in the grip of a corporate-backed cabal of cynical oil men and venture capitalists, McDonald's and Wal-Mart and Nike, of whom George W. Bush is merely a front-man for public consumption?

Well, how's this grab ya?

According to De Volksrant, the Dutch government is having difficulty finding business sponsorship for their EU Presidency.

On Saturday, the newspaper quoted the foreign ministry as saying that "seemingly businesses would rather not advertise with the Dutch EU Presidency".

The government is hoping to save two to three million euro from the overall costs, which are predicted to be around 68 million euro, through business sponsorship.

As Den Beste says:

Perhaps corporations don't think they get the bang-for-the-Euro from this that they would spending that money in other ways. The Dutch, always pragmatic anyway, might consider a more direct way to reward corporate sponsors, like those which are already used in the sports world.

The top contributor would get to have his name associated with the position during that six-month period in all news reporting, e.g. "The Mercedez-Benz/German presidency", "the "Guinness/British Presidency" etc. The executive would have a special jacket made which he would wear at all official appearances and especially at photo-ops which would display the corporate logos of the next five or ten contributing corporations, with placement and size being a function of the amount of money the offered.

This is precisely why a lot of us are so dismissive of such theories of omnipotent government conspiracies. When we see blatantly on display such examples of just how stupefyingly incompetent all the very best-laid plans for post-modern, post-national government are that call upon all our accumulated knowledge collected throughout human historical experience, the idea of the all-seeing altered-reality Matrix state penetrating every facet of our lives is pathetically laughable.

(Of course, maybe that's just what they want us to think...)

15:08 - At least they're not calling it "unsinkable"...


LONDON - The world's largest cruise ship, Queen Mary 2, set sail for the United States on its maiden voyage Monday, carrying 2,600 passengers who paid up to $48,000 for the privilege.

The 150,000-ton Cunard Line vessel left the southern English port of Southampton on the 14-day journey to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., its first voyage with fare-paying passengers.

Although Cunard has denied reports of a terrorist threat against the vessel, security was tight and police maintained a high profile.

. . .

As a small flotilla of boats turned out to watch the giant liner pull away, passengers lining the ship's balconies waved Union Jack flags and threw streamers.

Terrorists: the icebergs of the 21st century.

UPDATE: Reader Kenny puts on the finishing moves:

Clark: "There is no connection between the arctic icepack and icebergs. This was an unnecessary war."

Dean: "There's this theory floating around that the President was warned by the Eskimos that there were icebergs in the North Atlantic before the sinking..."

Kennedy: "This war was planned back in Texas between Bush and his Iced Tea industry buddies to take control of the ice from the polar bears."

No blood for ice! Peace Dude.

09:53 - For the record

Know what rules?


Particularly in a Cessna; particularly up the coast to Ukiah, where I grew up, to meet my parents on the tarmac for lunch before turning around and making the leisurely 90-minute return journey to the South Bay. Particularly when you get to 6,000 feet, and can see every landmark between the Golden Gate Bridge and Ukiah, including Snow Mountain, Mt. Konocti, Clear Lake, Mt. St. Helena and its geysers right up close, and the whole snowcapped line of the Sierras off to the east, beyond the impenetrable sea of fog that is the Central Valley. And particularly when you can see Ukiah's whole geographical shape from the air by the time you're over Healdsburg-- a town that seemed exotically distant when Ukiah's hills were the boundary of my life-- which makes the whole area seem eerily miniscule when you land. (I'd always thought Snow Mountain was terribly far away-- you can see it from the Ukiahi campus, the only snow-covered eminence on the horizon during the winter, and endearingly forthrightly named. But when you can see it lurking in the northeast all the way up from San Jose, and it's so close you can reach out and touch it by the time you start the final approach, it makes the whole region feel like... a model of a landscape, or something. Every hill is now a foothill. Every ridge is a step and a hop away.)

Know what else rules?

Having a roommate who just got his private pilot's license, and is looking for any excuse to put it to good use.

09:40 - Island of sanity

Sometimes I come awfully close to mothballing my bookshelf stereo, which I currently use as a clock-radio, and switching to an iPod in a set of inMotion speakers or something, set to start playing one of my playlists at alarm time. It'd be cool, and take up less space, and so on.

Then, though, I hear Greg Kihn on KFOX, and I remember why I still wake up to it each morning.

I've just got one question to ask each and every one of the Democratic candidates for the Presidency. I just want an honest answer: What would you do if the terrorists nuked New York?

I don't want to hear any tap-dancing; I don't want to hear any name-calling. Just give me a clear answer: If they hit us again, with bioweapons or nuclear weapons, which someday they will-- what will be your military response? When the chips are down, when the American people are counting on you to defend them... what will you do?

Dean thinks removing enemy tyrants won't help make us safer. I wonder what he thinks will.

Sunday, January 11, 2004
00:28 - Oh, that's subtle

Boy, somebody sure went out on a limb to pitch this movie.

It's called Chasing Liberty, and it's all about the embarrassingly rebellious daughter of the President running amok in Europe and causing headline-worthy havoc in her pure and youthful search for romance and individual expression, away from the stultifying and banal land of her birth.

In the trailer, said President says, "Why can't she just do what I tell her to, like the British?"

And the title suggests the hypocrisy of America and our so-called freedom. Brilliant and subtly thought-provoking, I'm sure.

Mandy Moore, huh? Wonder if she's any relation.

Thursday, January 8, 2004
01:28 - Material Science

Steven Den Beste is in the middle of a series of long essays regarding the nature of philosophical thought, of both the idealist and the realist varieties. As it happens, by coincidence, I'm in the middle of reading Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything-- a fairly lightweight tome on the technical details of cosmology and quantum theory and such, but one that does a pretty good job of covering all the bases... and a better one still at tying them all together in a coherent narrative with fascinating historical relevance. (I hadn't known anything, for example, about Sir Humphry Davy and his early-1800s work in identifying many key elements-- including alumium, to whose name he added an extra n four years after discovering it, which American scientists adopted readily-- but the Brits later decided they didn't like the word and added another i to the name. So take that, aluminium proponents!)

What's interesting, though, is the characterization in Den Beste's analyses of science as (at least in part) a realist's game. Engineers naturally get to be the most realistic ones of all, since by definition the things they propose have to be put into practice. But scientists are just engineers who work on paper, and should therefore think more or less like engineers do, right?

Bryson's book reminds me that no, science can easily be seen as just as arcane and idealistic as any of the "intellectual" disciplines so readily mocked in Den Beste's examples. After all, the history of modern science-- from Copernicus onward-- is a long tale of the battle between idealistic contemplations on the nature of the Universe, and the occasional realistic glimpses into the actual nature that our most gifted minds give us from time to time. We all wanted to believe in the model of the atom with three little electrons zipping around the nucleus in neat circular orbits, right? It's only grudgingly that we attempt to wrap our minds around things like wave/particle duality and p-orbitals and "spin". We wish the Universe would resolve itself into neat and elegant laws that we can understand in simple terms that relate to each other without our having to develop new vocabulary; but that seems not to be our destiny. (Even Einstein couldn't unify macro-scale and quantum-scale physics, obsess over it though he did for decades.) On only some occasions do we get to see something as conceptually elegant-- in the engineering sense-- as the periodic table of the elements. Such solutions are rare. For much else of the time, theoretical physics consists of so much hand-waving and refusal to think too hard about any given problem.

On the Standard Model of subatomic particles:

It is all, as you can see, just a little unwieldy, but it is the simplest model that can explain all that happens in the world of particles. Most particle physicists feel, as Leon Lederman remarked in a 1985 PBS documentary, that the Standard Model lacks elegance and simplicity. "It is too complicated. It has too many arbitrary parameters," Lederman said. "We don't really see the creator twiddling twenty knobs to set twenty parameters to create the universe as we know it." Physics is really nothing more than a search for ultimate simplicity, but so far all we have is a kind of elegant messiness-- or as Lederman put it: "There is a deep feeling that the picture is not beautiful."

And a page later, after describing a treatise by the estimable Michio Kaku on superstring theory:

Matters in physics have now reached such a pitch that, as Paul Davies noted in Nature, it is "almost impossible for the non-scientist to discriminate between the legitimately weird and the outright crackpot."

Precisely the ideological conflict that Den Beste has been talking about.

I can think wryly about the cynically satirical intro to Science Made Stupid: science, it claims, is "a way to obtain fat government grants" and "a way of baffling the uninitiated with incomprehensible jargon".

Surely I take natural exception to these characterizations, since after all this is the area in which my own education lies. But I can't help but think that there's some truth to it. I know why I ended up leaning toward an engineering degree rather than a theoretical physics degree. See, in the middle of your freshman year, each Caltech student is supposed to choose between "practical track" and "analytical track" (or prac and anal, as we liked to call them); these tracks led us into engineering/applied physics and theoretical physics, respectively. It was very difficult, once that decision was made, for a student to jump from one track to the other, and more so as time went on. (I never regretted my choosing prac track, for the record. It meant not getting to study with the likes of Kip Thorne, but you can't have everything. Where would you put it?)

And now that I look back on it, where for all the tedium of the frustrating lab work we had to do (this classic gem being a prime example, albeit from another campus) I could just as easily have been sitting in deep leather chairs in old vaulted libraries postulating about whether, as Dennis Overbye said, an electron can be said to exist before you observe it-- a very solipsistic view of the Universe, if you ask me-- I'm just as happy with where I ended up, thanks.

From the Rutherford atom to the "ether" to the geocentric Universe, science has had a very philosophically idealistic history. The past century has seen science become more and more accessible as we learn more and more of its secrets, and more and more of its formerly incomprehensible jargon has become part of our daily discourse. (At MacWorld today, I pointed at the "pitch bend" knob on one of the M-Audio keyboards on display, and said, "Hey, pitch bend-- isn't that what the Curies discovered uranium in?" And the Apple employee on duty guffawed heartily, and then sheepishly confessed that he found it really disturbing that he'd gotten it.)

But there's always the danger of science veering off into the ineffable again. I'm a little worried that we're on the verge of the same thing happening. Den Beste quotes C.P. Snow thus:

Scientific topics receiving prominent play in newspapers and magazines over the past several years include molecular biology, artificial intelligence, artificial life, chaos theory, massive parallelism, neural nets, the inflationary universe, fractals, complex adaptive systems, superstrings, biodiversity, nanotechnology, the human genome, expert systems, punctuated equilibrium, cellular automata, fuzzy logic, space biospheres, the Gaia hypothesis, virtual reality, cyberspace, and teraflop machines. Among others. There is no canon or accredited list of acceptable ideas. The strength of the third culture is precisely that it can tolerate disagreements about which ideas are to be taken seriously. Unlike previous intellectual pursuits, the achievements of the third culture are not the marginal disputes of a quarrelsome mandarin class: they will affect the lives of everybody on the planet.

Some will, sure. I don't doubt that things like neural nets and nanotech will become engineering problems, and therefore relevant to everyday life through natural product evolution. But what about stuff like string theory and the inflationary Universe and such? We learn the basics of these on the Science channel, but they aren't as relevant to our lives as the atom bomb was. Nor are they likely to be. Things are branching out, growing more byzantine. With the tendency toward the esoteric and abstract comes the tendency toward anal-track jargon.

Why all this musing? Do I disagree with Den Beste or with Snow? Nah. I just wanted to get a few thoughts down on paper, since the serendipity of all these things crossing my field of vision at once just seemed too interesting not to comment on. And much as I'd like for science to be as divorced as possible from disciplines that talk about "deconstruction and signifiers and arguments about whether cyberspace was or was not 'narrative'," I have to say with some disappointment that I don't think it's as far from that pole as it could be.

Long Live the Engineers.

UPDATE and random thought: Many people seem to be under the erroneous assumption that engineers love saying it depends, because we say it so much. Really, we don't. But we recognize that it's the only way to give a correct answer to most technical questions. We'd love it if we could explain things in simpler terms, but most often we just can't if we're trying to be accurate. Engineers vastly prefer correct answers over pleasing answers. It's when an answer is both correct and pleasing that we like it the best-- that's what elegance is.

Wednesday, January 7, 2004
11:29 - The Politics of Nice

Damien had some comments on my post from a couple of days ago about the Left's commitment to being "nice" above all else:

I think the Left is having such a hard time because the right has co-opted idealism. And idealism is a big part of nice, so they've somewhat lost the nice, and they aren't happy about it. Mostly, they are confused. "But, *we're* the nice ones - how can those mean repugs be freeing people in Iraq? How can they be deposing evil people like Saddam Hussein when *we're* the nice ones???" It's a real problem for them, but they are so brilliant they can easily postmodernize their way through it and come up with some twisted, convoluted logic where they are still idealistic and nice. But, it must be convoluted because they really have lost idealism. Their only real idealism now - environmentalism - is based on junk science. Ouch.

Speaking of idealism, I suspect I'll be pointing a lot of people at this post by Den Beste on the subject of the three factions fighting this long-term war. In part it's the age-old ideological struggle between those who think humans need shepherding and those who think humans can be their own damn shepherds; but now there's a new third force in the mix, one that we're all having trouble coming to terms with being there.

The parties have essentially switched - not policies, but in spirit. I've always been an idealist, and I am right at home in the current internationalist policies - freeing the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. I am not secretly evil, trying to take over their lands - I am genuinely nice and want people to have good lives, even if they had the misfortune to be born in the Middle East. I believe you share some of the same sentiments. It's the same reason I offer drunk people rides home from parties (if I am safely able to drive myself) or offer to lend my tools to my neighbors or stop to give people a jump start.

I like to think of myself as a realist-- it's the engineer in me. But above all I'm practical. If an ideology or a way of thinking has no use for me, I can't bring myself to waste time on it. But I'm known to allow a discussion to go on for months and months without my letting the other person know I loathe his ideas, because I find there's profit in the remainder of the conversation, the common ground. I'm into long-term solutions, and I'm willing to play the diplomacy game to curry favor from both sides of a disagreement so I can bring about harmony if possible. (How French of me.) But that's a part of practicality, to me. If by compromising or hiding my most deeply felt beliefs in the short term I can bring about an amiable and mutually beneficial result in the long term, I think it's worth it. I'd give a drunk friend a ride home instead of bugging out of there and staying away from him, because of practical impulses, not idealistic ones.

Maximizing happiness, in myself and the people around me, is a goal both for the practical and idealistic sides of the mind.

On a personal level, the liberals I live near are very nice, just the type of people I like to hang around with. However their politics have been dictated from the national level, and no longer align with the good-hearted people they are. It must be quite upsetting to have it thrown in their face by such a cretin as Bush, yet there it is - smiling Iraqis, Saddam - not Karl Rove - being frog marched.

Yeah. And just as the Islamists can't seem to imagine why all their piety hasn't earned them success like America's, the Left can't understand how the cold-hearted conservatives can possibly have it in them to be compassionate. The Islamists react by assuming that America succeeds because it's in league with the devil (and/or the Jews, whether or not that's redundant); and the Left reacts by assuming that Bush and co. must have ulterior motives. "Sure," they'll say, "Freeing Iraq was ultimately good for Iraqis. But come on... do you seriously expect us to believe that Republicans freed them just out of the goodness of their hearts?"

Uh, yeah. You expect us to believe that progressive taxes create jobs. Spooky.

It's true, the pro-war contingent does have other motives than the freedom of Iraqis in mind-- or at least, other aspects of that same goal. The long-term solution we're hoping for is a lust for freedom and democracy taking hold in the Middle East-- by gum a cause to fight for, against their own dictators, about which they can get just as incensed as they currently do over jihad. Only if their goal is personal temporal happiness and freedom rather than the death of the Americans and Jews, then the successful completion of that goal is in our interest and that of the world, not to our detriment. And we believe it'll be in their interest as well, if our own experience is any guide.

Talk about win-win. The only thing that has to lose out is fundamentalism. Tough thing for the Left to have to admit it can't get behind.

Tuesday, January 6, 2004
22:44 - Photo of the Day

Check out this photo. And Tim Blair's commentary above.

Geez, I'm in stitches over here...

Monday, January 5, 2004
00:18 - RealUltimateMajority

Wow. You know, for a fascist police state in which the slightest dissent from the prevailing party line is brutally suppressed with random midnight disappearings and torture, the jack-booted brown-shirts sure do give us an extraordinary amount of latitude, don't they?

Brought to you by the good people at Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream.

Sunday, January 4, 2004
21:48 - Flyover Country

This is why MoveOn.org is going to be so deathly bewildered come Election Day, when they discover that comparing Bush to Hitler seems unaccountably not to have swayed the election in their favor:

There's plenty more where this came from, from shore to shore.

(My favorite picture is the one of the UPS truck.)

19:38 - I believe it's called a "punt"

Some would respond to this ad by MoveOn.org by invoking Godwin's Law: The moment you mention Hitler or the Nazis in your discussion, the argument is over and you've lost.

I dunno. I think it's more accurate to describe this as a punt. The Left-- and the Democrats, unless they specifically repudiate ads like this in tomorrow's debate-- have gathered up all their remaining strength for a "last, best hope" sortie to launch with all their might. MoveOn.org has been running the so-called "Bush in 30 Seconds" campaign to solicit ideas for airable anti-Bush ads, with the promise that $7 million would go toward promoting the winning ad throughout the campaign process, whichever one might be the winner.

We want to run ads that are of the people, for the people, and by the people. Joining us in this effort is a great panel of celebrity judges, including Jack Black, Michael Moore, Donna Brazile, Gus Van Sant, Michael Stipe, Margaret Cho, and Moby.

With that kind of clout, you know they'll produce something worthy of Kubrick. (Fuck. Margaret Cho?! Has not a single comic or actor on the face of the planet not been eaten by the body-snatchers?)

Or will they?

If this is what wins, and what they air in the coming months, the Left will have spent all its remaining points. Instead of making a real argument surrounding Bush's policies, they're going to spend their precious thirty seconds morphing Hitler into Bush, and Hitler's statements about "protecting the homeland" into Bush's eerily religiously-charged statements about defeating al Qaeda and Saddam. (Statements which, if you google for them, you'll find that Bush never said.)

And they're proud of this.

I sure hope it wins. Because then every man, woman, and child in America will see clearly what the Left has reduced its arguments to. This is all that's left of it.

Even the least politically astute viewer will understand that there's this little thing called 9/11 which throws any spooky analogies into a cocked hat. And the newshounds and political busybodies will extend the metaphor, concluding that in MoveOn.org's estimation, al Qaeda and Saddam are the same thing as Poland and the Jews: unjustly attacked and ethnically cleansed to serve political ends.

I don't think any significant number of Americans is likely to fall for such lunacy. But I'd love to see this ad air, just because the blowback will be so amusing to watch. From a safe distance.

UPDATE: The baldfaced demonization of religion in this ad, by the way, further bolsters my belief that the Left thinks quite honestly that America has either out-evolved a need for religion, or deserves to be eclipsed by countries whose people have. Those who know me know I'm pretty much devoid of any religious conviction, but the principles of faith fascinate me, and I'm not so chauvinistic as to claim (as I did in high school) that to believe in a higher power is inherently irrational. The MoveOn.org-style Left, however, views religion with unmasked revulsion, and I somehow don't think that'll play very well in Middle America.

Saturday, January 3, 2004
02:35 - <

Okay-- time for another Public Service Announcement...

The word crescendo does not mean "climax".

Got that?

Every five or six web pages I read these days seems to contain some variation on the following: The evening's excitement rose to a crescendo when Lily threw a pie at the band. Aaarrgh! The word you're looking for here is climax, and the fact that this isn't an Italian-derived musical term just means you're gonna need to break out a thesaurus, pal.

Crescendo means, literally, growing. (I discovered this in 2nd-year Spanish class, where we learned the verb crecer, to grow, and its progressive form creciendo. Spanish and Italian follow many of the same rules.) It is used in music to signify a gradual increase in volume. It does not mean the fever pitch to which the volume finally grows. You don't "reach" a crescendo; you undergo a crescendo. You reach a climax.

Is everything clear?

23:39 - The deck's stacked

As I may have mentioned in passing, one of the sites that I spend most of my time administering is a fan-art archive for a particular animal-themed animated movie; the site has several thousand members, most of whom can be described without too much prevarication as "14-year-old girls".

The other day, I got the following e-mail:

Brian i need your help really bad. i know it's not really ____ related. but could you please post something asking the members to help me? it seems as though Canada wants to allow the hunting of harp seals. and there are just WAY too many animals being killed because of us. like horses and dogs and cats and pigs and everything. just because we say there isn't enough room for them. yet we have enough room for new shopping malls and houses for ourselves. i for one and so hurt by what i read on some of the sites i went to. there are lots of sites, i've been going to www.peta.org, www.hsus.org, andwww.theanimalrescuesite.com. i'm very sorry for sending this letter. but i'm so hurt by what we're doing to these animals. even TV programs are against saving the animals. please Brian i need all the help i can get, would you please please please help me help them? i'm gunna send an attachment with this e-mail. if you can resist such a cute face then i don't know who would help me. i'm begging you Brian, please can you help me!!!!!

Really, how does one respond to such a thing? How do you say something like "Well, little girl, it's very complicated..." and make it stick? I know it's never looked plausible in the least when someone tries that tactic in a kid's movie-- invariably it's some evil and stupid grownup too absorbed in his heartless grownup things to understand what makes life beautiful. If the silver screen has taught me anything, it's that adults are the primary reason why Ash and Pikachu must save the rain forest from Wario and Dr. Robotnik.

Now I find myself in the unenviable position of being one of those evil grownups. I have to figure out how to explain that PETA is a bunch of terrorists, and that animals are better protected today than they ever have been in human history. To buy time, I replied by simply saying that I didn't want to link to any such politically charged and off-topic causes from my site; and in reply she said:
but you posted about Sept. 11. should not the death of innocent animals be equily as important as that of humans? and you posted about lots of other stuff before, Brian, i know that it may not be that much of a big deal, but what if there were no more animals, there'd have never been a ____ for you to make your site on. if you won't help me than no one will, you know this is the first dream/wish i've had in a long time, and i didn't wanna give it up. but now that i see that your not even conserned about the animals i think i'll have to. but just remember that without the animals we as the artists on the site would have nothing to draw, and you'd have no website and wouldn't know any of us artists on the site. i would say thank you but i'm not sure what it'd be for. but just so you know, if you're with the other people that want to allow the hunting, etc. then i refuse to draw on your site again.

So clearly ambivalence is itself suspect, and I have to either wade into the discussion-- in appropriately softened language-- or take sides. Not fun.

And this is what I mean by the Left having the upper hand on kids' minds as they emerge from the scholastic systems of various Western countries. Who, I ask you, can resist such a cute little harp seal face? What kind of monster would be in favor of killing all the animals? And yet if you sit down and try patiently to explain that not only does not supporting PETA not imply wanting to kill all the animals, but supporting PETA is in fact tantamount to supporting domestic terrorism, congratulations-- you've just succeeded in filling with tears the eyes of a sweet young kid who just wanted to make the world a better place, and convinced her anew of the inescapable and incomprehensible evil of all adults.

It's long been held axiomatic that we all start out as unthinking jingoistic right-wingers, only to become compassionate and idealistic liberals later in life, after we've seen the beauty and wonder and joy there is in the world, and learned that life need not only be.... I dunno, cutting down forests and spilling oil all over virgin beaches to support our industry of endless unjust war. But as the above example illustrates, it's a lot goddamned harder to convince a kid that it is possible to be in favor of wildlife conservation without supporting organizations like PETA, than to explain to a kid in an American flag t-shirt why recycling is a good thing.

Dennis Kucinich must be snapping his fingers in frustration that these kids aren't yet of voting age, because that's all that separates them from his extant constituency.

20:53 - We get signal

"Very strong signal from the rover..."

"Flight 18 has carrier in lock."
"Thank you very much... and this is beautiful."

Friday, January 2, 2004
10:30 - Feels like France in August

<looks around empty office>

What-ho, we have today off too?

Jeez. I dunno about this.

Thursday, January 1, 2004
21:45 - "The people have spoken... the bastards."

I've never seen a more perfect line from the mouth of a statist lawmaker.

The BBC recently gave its radio listeners a chance to express their will, but did not want to hear the result. The great unwashed mass, who cough-up the license fees which pay the Beeb’s freight, were asked to suggest a piece of legislation to improve life in Britain, with the promise that an MP would then attempt to get it onto the statute books.

Listeners to BBC 4’s Today program (the very same show which claimed that intelligence on Iraqi WMDs had been “sexed up”), reposnded with a suggestion that would allow homeowners to defend themselves against intruders, without facing legal liabilities. The winning proposal was denounced as a "ludicrous, brutal, unworkable blood-stained piece of legislation" - by Stephen Pound, the very MP whose job it is to try to push it through Parliament.

The Independent reports that Mr Pound's reaction was provoked by the news that the winner of Today's "Listeners' Law" poll was a plan to allow homeowners "to use any means to defend their home from intruders" - a prospect that could see householders free to kill burglars, without question.

"The people have spoken," the Labour MP replied to the programme, "... the bastards."

Having recovered his composure, Mr Pound told The Independent: "We are going to have to re-evaluate the listenership of Radio 4. I would have expected this result if there had been a poll in The Sun. Do we really want a law that says you can slaughter anyone who climbs in your window?"

Memo to Britain: Yes.

I know you're a much more mature and dignified nation than we upstarts across the pond, and we colonists, we cowboyish teenager of a country, mustn't presume to lecture you on what a democracy is.

But perhaps your people can explain it to you.

UPDATE: Lest I be accused of Dowdification, I should point out that Pound's actual quote was this:

"My enthusiasm for direct democracy is slightly dampened," the MP told Today. "This is a difficult result. I can't remember who it was who said 'The people have spoken - the bastards'."

But I don't think this context changes the meaning as much as some people say it does. By couching the quip as an extant witticism that he's merely quoting, all Pound is doing is trying to deflect criticism from people alarmed at the directness of his language. He can say, "But I didn't actually mean that-- I was just echoing an aphorism I heard someone say once, as a way of exaggerating my own point!" But he's still saying the same thing. He'd have said the bare words himself if he weren't worried that the microphones were on.

13:48 - Is this a joke?


So this guy in Poughkeepsie, New York, has patented the star-and-crescent symbol.

Hopewell Junction attorney Aziz Ahsan and his family took on the task of seeking a patent for the symbol following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Patenting the symbol was Ahsan's attempt to create a positive Muslim identity.

Um... ever hear of prior art? Like, way prior?

I'm-a go register me a patent for the dollar sign and the cross.

Oh, and what's the reason for this again? So nobody but you is allowed to use this symbol? That's what a patent is for, you moron.

''There was a feeling that Muslims had something to do with the attacks,'' said Ahsan, adding most Muslims are law abiding citizens.

Uhhhhh... huh.

Yeah, better go combat that popular misconception.


Wednesday, December 31, 2003
12:33 - How do you know you're more geeky than the rest of your department?

When you come back from lunch on New Year's Eve and find that the automatic lights in your wing of the building have shut off.

(Such was the sight greeting Kris, Chris, and me upon our return from Togo's. Hello-o-o-o?)

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© Brian Tiemann