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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11/11/2002 - 11/17/2002
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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
Sunday, September 19, 2004
13:49 - Denial of the conspiracy is the surest sign that it exists

Huh boy... I really don't know whether I should laugh or cry. As long as I can be sure that this really is the form the Left's death throes will take this election season, and that they won't be rewarded for this kind of insanity with a victory at the polls.

See, what's apparently happening is that now that all the big media outlets (except for CBS) have acknowledged that the Killian memos are fakes, they're shifting to a hysterical wave of finger-pointing, to try to figure out where they came from—and of course it couldn't have been one of their own, pure as the driven snow that they are. The prime suspects, of course, are Bush and Karl Rove, in an ingenious insidious ploy that has used the blogosphere and the mainstream media both as musical instruments in the hands of some Satanic virtuoso.

How does one come to believe that this is how "the other side" works? How does one come to believe in the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy? How does a magazine like Time descend so far into madness to headline an upcoming exposé, "Bush Campaign Keeping Close Eye on Blogs, Using Them To Mainline Information to the G.O.P. Faithful" (via LGF)? I mean, I know I have never been contacted by dark-suited operatives offering to feed me information manufactured or illegally purloined so as to thwart the Kerry campaign. I can't imagine Powerline or LGF or InstaPundit being similarly "mainlined", mostly because these guys write the way they think: carefully. Maybe I'm just isolated in some odd islet of unconventional thought with the rest of these guys, but I've always been under the impression that the widely-read right-wing bloggers are such because of their own reasoning, not because of what they're being told to believe by GOP operatives.

After all, LGF points out that the likes of Matthew Yglesias see nothing wrong with explicitly mentioning the names of people in the Daschle office and Kerry campaign who are "mainlining" the Left side of the blogosphere with powdered dirt. So apparently it's just assumed that there's a similar force directing the right-wing blogs like marionettes, but it's just too shadowy and sinister for us to give it its name. We couldn't, of course, have been clever enough on our own to, say, recognize the Killian memos as fakes without a "highly technical" dossier on them being fed into the Freepersphere by a top-hatted undercover agent by the name of "Buckhead". Without that analysis we'd never have seen those stupid Word printouts for what they were.

I could choose to be insulted that the other side would think us so gullible and dependent upon outside help; or I could choose to be disappointed that they think the things we believe are so untenable that we have to have superiors feeding us intravenously with distilled "talking points" to regurgitate; or I could choose to be saddened that they apparently do have to have such top-down direction, without which their narrative rapidly shakes itself to pieces, between calling a scandal "no big deal" and then jumping up and down about the conspiracy that must be in charge of such a devastating blow to their credibility.

What is there to do but sit and slowly shake one's head back and forth?

Saturday, September 18, 2004
23:59 - Arrrr

The day be upon us, says I.

22:57 - A little down-home cookin'

Captain Ed has a real masterpiece of a post up. It seriously must be read to be believed.

I wouldn't sully its perfection by presuming to excerpt it.

21:03 - The trap is sprung


"There are a lot of questions about the documents and they need to be answered," Bush told the Union Leader newspaper of Manchester, New Hampshire, after a week in which some experts questioned whether the documents had been fabricated by those seeking to damage Bush in his re-election race.

"I think what needs to happen is people need to take a look at the documents, how they were created, and let the truth come out," Bush added.

You don't suppose George W. Bush is more familiar with the output of Microsoft Word than Dan Rather is, do you?

17:40 - Celsius 41.11

I doubt this will hit screens like F9/11 did; but check it out online, at the very least. Celsius 41.11, a refutationof Moore's movie—one of many in the works, it seems—has a trailer that's pretty dang powerful. Go and see.

Check out the protester woman explaining why she likes Saddam Hussein:

When you talk about a "dictator", well, there's pros and there's cons.
If a dictator provides free health care, then I like that dictator!
If a dictator provides university and education for everyone, then I like that dictator!

Ah, the old free-health-care-and-literacy argument in favor of socialist dictators everywhere. People love 'em because the socialist part is so attractive that it makes them forget all about the dictator part. The promise of free admittance into hospitals and universities excuses all else.

Isn't it amazing how cheaply some people are willing to sell their humanity?

UPDATE: Paul Denton has comments.

10:24 - That eye no longer seems like a reassuring symbol


Friday, September 17, 2004
09:32 - Okay, that's just weird

Going through my spam this morning, I saw one message that talked about "married women looking for discrete encounters". I chuckled inwardly—all right! Multiple times!

And not three seconds later, Greg Kihn, in one of his sponsorship ads, said, "If you're a discernible customer, you're gonna want to go to Stevens Creek Toyota..."

Boy, not many continuum fans this morning, huh?

Thursday, September 16, 2004
20:29 - Saves us all a lot of effort

This just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy somehow: a local political ad, currently airing on many different cable channels, for State Assembly candidate Ira Ruskin.

What makes it so cool is that it's just so forthright. It doesn't pull any punches; it doesn't make any empty promises. It ends with the tagline: We know where he stands. And indeed we do.

Which means the ad has the interesting property that for people who oppose the things Ruskin says he stands for, the ad is as powerful a case for voting against him as it is for people who agree with him to vote for him. If Ruskin's opponent wanted to run an ad telling his base why not to vote for Ruskin, he may as well just pay to have Ruskin's own ad aired more frequently.

It really is a marvel of honesty, and for that—if for nothing else—I must tip my hat to Mr. Ruskin.

11:31 - Now that took guts

Looks like Kevin Drum, one of the Left's most widely-read bloggers, has come out in favor of retreating from the Memo War:

I think it's time for everyone to give up on this. The memos are almost certainly fakes, they're sucking up media bandwidth that could be better used elsewhere, and Dan Rather is toast. Besides, there was really nothing in them that told us anything new.

Time to move on.

Go to Tim Blair's site to see a collection of the reactions from his readers that he must have known he'd receive. It's really quite breathtaking. As EvilPundit says in Blair's comments, "The poor bastard is trying to plug the holes in a sinking ship, and the other crew members are beating him with baseball bats."

It really took some balls to go ahead and say it, in light of these comments... and it really illustrates what peril one must be in, as a big-time Lefty writer, to know what kind of readers you have and what they expect from you.

Drum ought to be applauded for his clear vision, and more so for his courage. I wouldn't want to be in his shoes right about now.

UPDATE: Joshua Marshall of Talking Points Memo was similarly applauded for his intellectual honesty by a long-time fan. Phew, boy. These guys are really tolerant of dissenting points of view, aren't they? Right up until you express one. (Via John N.)

UPDATE: USA Today has a roundup of reactions from both sides of the blogosphere. Looks like a consensus to me, if there's a divergence in how happy it makes people. (Via Jonathan H.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2004
11:09 - Well, at least they're being honest now

One interesting side effect of the CBS/memo-forgery thing is that now that everyone is spinning madly over it, with every news organization but CBS holding interviews with bloggers demonstrating the memos' falsity, and CBS itself continuing to insist upon their authenticity and calling their opponents "partisan hacks" and such, is that it's seemingly made a lot of people lower their guard. There's no longer any pretense being made about media bias, or the purported lack thereof: it's all a given now, now that what we're discussing is so much more focused on a single event and person.

This past weekend, for example, we had the release of the Democrats' "Fortunate Son" video, which is founded upon the forged documents and features Dan Rather (as though anyone could possibly imagine that a coincidence). Under normal circumstances, wouldn't a news organ trying to dispel accusations of bias refuse to put its most prominent anchorperson in such proximity with a political party and its advertising? Wouldn't it shy away from anything that even looks like an endorsement? But that seems not to even matter anymore—everybody knows Dan Rather is staunchly opinionated toward one side now, and the only question in the air is whether he has any actual journalistic integrity left at all. It's really quite a stunning development, I think.

In other words, the edifice of the "impartial media" really has fallen, very suddenly. The mask has dropped. And of course there'll be no putting it back on.

So now that these bodies of authority over the information we consume are no longer hiding the fact that they're hiding things from us, we get stuff like this stunning admission—nay, taunt—by members of the Borders Bookstore employees' union, instructing employees to do everything in their power to prevent customers from buying the anti-Kerry book Unfit for Command.

You guys don’t actually HAVE to sell the thing!

Just “carelessly” hide the boxes, “accidentally” drop them off pallets, “forget” to stock the ones you have, and then suggest a nice Al Franken or Micheal Moore book as a substitute. Borders wants those recommends, remember?

I don’t care if these Neandertals in fancy suits get mad at me, they aren’t regular customers anyway. Other than “Left Behind” books, they don’t read. Anything you can do to make them feel unwelcome is only fair. They are the people pushing retailers to cut costs, don’t forget. And they would censor your speech, your books, your music in a heartbeat, so give them a taste of it!

Don’t get mad, get even!

We've been increasingly suspecting that the bookstores might be doing something like this, but it seemed far too far-fetched to be more than a conspiracy theory; after all, the first commenter at Kevin's site said (several weeks ago), "I'm a little surprised by this, that a huge conglomo-mega-corp would do this. I'm sure it had more to do with whoever stocked that table than corporate guidelines if I had to guess."

Well, I guess sometimes one can't overestimate how weird reality can be.

Don't you just love it, though? "And they would censor your speech, your books, your music in a heartbeat, so give them a taste of it!" Where have we heard this kind of language before? They'll kill you as soon as look at you! Don't feel bad, they're not even human! They don't feel pain!

Just remember, this isn't censorship, because it's by the good guys. For a good cause. With good intentions.

I swear, the more hysterical these people get about how evil their opponents are, the more people they're going to end up driving away from their side of the aisle for good. Not everyone is so willfully blind as to forever ignore the discrepancies between what they see and what they're told.

UPDATE: Kevin found an official statement from the Borders Union website that's just a scream to read. Unintentionally so, I think... but it's so hard to tell.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004
15:50 - Dueling Truths

Go check out this LGF thread, where members give play-by-play commentary not only on Dan Rather's continued nutcase stonewalling on the document-forgery case, but of Brit Hume on Fox interviewing Scott Johnson (of Powerline fame), mentioning Charles Johnson and LGF numerous times, and showing the recreation-overlays.

One TV audience is being fed a line of what another TV audience is now learning first-hand is bullcrap.

I don't ever want to hear anyone tell me that Fox is "too biased to be useful" again. Ever.

14:49 - Hurricane warriors defend humanity

Here's the latest creative outpouring from the Ar-Rahman list:

I could write you a poem
With my aching tears.
Aching tears don't repair scars.
I must place my blood on my palm
Regardless of my old age.

Young Iraqi boys fight like lions,
Iraq’s neighbors watch soccer.
Iraq’s puppets
Fire American weapons;
They kill Iraqis
In vengeance for dead U.S. soldiers.

Iraq! I've built cuts and bruises
Around my heart to feel your pain
Until you're free.
I wish I could be there with you.
My back can still take a bomb or two.
I'd rather bleed to death
And not see you bleed.

My last hope is I die for you…
Burry me in Baghdad,
In Fallujah,
In Najaf,
In Sammarra,
In Ramadi;
Burry me
Inside every grain of your soil.

Iraq, you fell to your feet before.
Each time you pursed out from your wounds
Before your enemies dug their heels.
They all fled like wild creeps.

George deceived you:
He entered your home
From the back door.
He paraded your prisoners
Like sick dogs;
He raped your daughters and mothers;
He disintegrated your pride;
He dismantled your joints;
He severed your heart from your soul;
He bombed your mosques and libraries;
He robbed your galleries and museums;
He stained your earth;
He polluted your air;
He poisoned your water;
He spoiled your food;

Every drop of blood George spilled
Will clot his brain
And sicken his heart.
His nights shall become dreams
Of Hell Fire.
His subhuman followers
Shall be reduced to talking pigs.

George commits war crimes,
Victims return on flights of hurricanes and storms;
In seconds they sweep
What B52 carpet-bomb in days.

Hurricanes, Charlie and Frances invaded Florida.
Iraq is holding on its last breath.
Najaf, Fallujah, Sammara and Baghdad
Cannot dig enough graves
Under hails of U.S. bombs.
Is God giving us a sign?
Could this be just a mild warning
For the worse is yet to come?
Hurricanes, Charlie and Frances
Ruined millions of homes;
Nearly 6-million homeless
Join their Iraqi peers.
George W. Bush claimed God is on his side.
Believe George or God,
The choice is yours.

Islam weeps when humanity bleeds.
Hurricanes and U.S. Zionists
Are enemies at war:
Hurricane warriors defend humanity;
Zionist killers kill Arabs and Muslims.

America and Israel reduced Palestine
To concentration camps.
Hitler giggles in his grave,
His grandchildren carry his name.
Today they murder Afghanis and Iraqis;
Tomorrow they will bomb Iran and Syria.
Israelis, Palestinians, Afghanis and Iraqis
Prepare more cemeteries;
United States ships coffins free of charge

Saddam? Who?

Monday, September 13, 2004
02:01 - Life on the urban frontier

I just witnessed the freakiest thing I think I've ever seen in the hallowed halls of suburbia.

About fifteen minutes ago, sitting in my comfy upstairs chair watching Lupin the Third, I heard outside my window a sudden flurry of caterwauling and rustling leaves. It sounded like a typical cat fight, coming from the hedges and brush at the far side of the house on our right at the end of the cul-de-sac; and I was about to dismiss it as such... except that the yowling and the tumbling in the dry leaves lasted for nearly half a minute, sounding particularly strained and earnest. When it died out, it did so quickly, as though a bag had suddenly been thrown over the participants. And, as I realized a few moments later, there had only been one cat's voice in the fracas.

An unsettling thought therefore ran through my mind on spindly legs, but I hustled it out and went back to the TV-watching. Cat fights can be weird, I thought.

Then, a moment later, Capri came into my room, making those little whimpery noises he makes when he wants a walk—or, more generically, when he'd like to go outside please. So I pulled on some shoes and went downstairs with him, put on his collar, and we headed out the front door.

Capri tugged forward immediately, and I could immediately see why: right in front of me, about forty feet away, a taut, loping, canine shape, about knee-high with tall pointy ears, trotted out from behind the car parked at the sidewalk on the right, looked at me, and then glided briskly leftward across my field of vision and then away from me down the road. And it was followed immediately by three others, each emerging from some nook between cars... and one carrying something heavy and limp and, well... cat-shaped.

Coyotes. Four of them. Hunting in a pack... in my cul-de-sac, right outside my window.

And they just made off with one of our next-door neighbors' cats!

I've heard coyotes yelping and howling in the ravine behind the power station down where I walk Capri, late at night; I've known they come within vocal range of my bedroom window, but I'd never known they'd become so brazen as to take the hunt right down the middle of a suburban cul-de-sac. Apparently the local coyotes have begun to evolve into the ecological niche vacated by wolves, and now hunt in packs very similar to their larger cousins; their quarry is necessarily smaller, but a cat is quite a prize, especially for something as small as a coyote.

I tried running after the hunting party as they paused at the end of the cul-de-sac, where it opens onto the major avenue; they stood there, seemingly unconcerned, surveying the situation, and knowing I couldn't follow them because Capri was far more interested in sniffing the ground where they'd left their various calling cards than in giving chase. (Probably just as well.) But I likewise couldn't drag him back inside so I could grab a Mag-lite and go running after them; so I had to just let him finish satisfying his olfactory curiosity, myself watching passively as the coyotes turned and vanished into the night, and then took Capri back inside the house where he lay down seemingly exhausted from the night's sleuthing.

I grabbed the flashlight and ran out in the direction where I was pretty sure the coyotes had gone—left turn at the avenue, down to the vacant lot that abuts the wooded ravine with Guadalupe Creek at the bottom—but the trail was long cold. Again, it's probably just as well.

Our neighbors are going to have an unpleasant surprise tomorrow morning; I guess it's up to Lance to tell the story.

But it's something to have witnessed it first-hand, lemme tell you.

22:42 - Today is a great day for democracy!

Oh, and I would appreciate it if anyone who thinks that Bush is guilty of waging war on our democracy and exploiting 9/11 for his own political purposes would please take a look at this.

We're not doing any setting of the bar here, folks.

Saturday, September 11, 2004
19:54 - "We were supposed to get the TNG future, not the B5 one"

I'm not going to post anything today, or at least about today... partly because I'm just too swamped in projects, and partly because I don't think I have anything original to say this time around.

But Paul Denton does; and though it is his own unique tale, he may as well have been speaking for me, because his perspective is one that's quite close to my own heart. He makes observations that I wish I'd thought of making. And he describes a mental process, shaped by pop-cultural forces I find all too familiar, that I underwent in parallel.

So just go read it already.

Friday, September 10, 2004
16:48 - Now that's some irony

Powerline, which has been one of the big movers in the memo-forgery scandal still being unwrapped, has discovered that the handwriting-analysis expert that CBS got to verify the authenticity of the memos is this guy.

It's so surreal, I keep expecting to wake up any moment now. I mean, read the article... and then consider the context.

I swear. I am just sitting here with my face in my palms, slowly weaving side to side as the credibility of the news organization I spent every evening of my pre-college life with crashes to earth.

Every minute brings some new revelation. I don't have anything to add—just posting something because I have the feeling this will be one of those moments I'll want to look back on from the comfortable distance of several years in the future, so I can see what I was doing when...

13:15 - Good start

If this holds any water, it's exactly what I and so many of us have been wanting to see for three years now.

This September 11 marks the third unforgettable anniversary of the worst mass murder in American history.

After September 11, many in the Muslim world chose denial and hallucination rather than face up to the sad fact that Muslims perpetrated the 9-11 terrorist acts and that we have an enormous problem with extremism and support for terrorism. Many Muslims, including religious leaders, and “intellectuals” blamed 9-11 on a Jewish conspiracy and went as far as fabricating a tale that 4000 Jews did not show up for work in the World Trade Center on 9-11. Yet others blamed 9-11 on an American right wing conspiracy or the U.S. Government which allegedly wanted an excuse to invade Iraq and “steal” Iraqi oil.

After numerous admissions of guilt by Bin Laden and numerous corroborating admissions by captured top level Al-Qaida operatives, we wonder, does the Muslim leadership have the dignity and courage to apologize for 9-11?

. . .

Only moderate Muslims can challenge and defeat extremist Muslims. We can no longer afford to be silent. If we remain silent to the extremism within our community then we should not expect anyone to listen to us when we complain of stereotyping and discrimination by non-Muslims; we should not be surprised when the world treats all of us as terrorists; we should not be surprised when we are profiled at airports.

Simply put, not only do Muslims need to join the war against terror, we need to take the lead in this war.

As to apologizing, we will no longer wait for our religious leaders and “intellectuals” to do the right thing. Instead, we will start by apologizing for 9-11.

We are so sorry that 3000 people were murdered in our name. We will never forget the sight of people jumping from two of the highest buildings in the world hoping against hope that if they moved their arms fast enough that they may fly and survive a certain death from burning.

. . .

We are so sorry.

For more information visit our website at: www.freemuslims.org

This had better be for real. I'd hate to have gotten my hopes up for nothing. Right now, though, the server linked above isn't responding to pings, so who knows. This might or might not be earnest, or it might or might not represent a statistically significant number of Muslims. I'll have to wait to find out, though; after all, as we know, stuff can be forged.

But this is the solution we've all wanted: Muslims taking the lead in weeding out their own ranks, perceiving it as being in their own interest to confront their rogue element and present a benign face to the world. Any corporation or government body would aggressively subject itself to rigorous vetting to maintain moral consistency and honor; CEOs step down, Senators resign, maverick employees are fired. It's a system that's served the Western world very well: in a free market of ideas, it's in your own interest as an organized body to hold your members to strict standards, to expect every member to be a good representative of your group, and to own up in good faith to failures on that count. It's a system, however, that has until now eluded the Muslim community, whose leaders prefer instead to chant mantras of Islam being a "religion of peace" and the perpetrators of terrorist attacks being "not really Muslims" and the victims of such attacks being "legitimate targets" (often all in the same breath). In a culture where admission of culpability is the worst possible failing, these kinds of reactions can possibly be seen as rational, which is not to excuse them. ("The soft bigotry of low expectations", anyone?)

But this is the modern world, and it's ruled by modern notions such as the free market of ideas to a degree far greater than we really realize, without the benefit of first-hand historical context. In the age of mass media and light-speed communications, the world's most repressed societies are far more aware of how different life can be in other parts of the world than even the enlightened societies of the Middle Ages were. It's in this environment that it has to sink in that applying Western-style standards of conduct to one's own religious group, no matter how huge or decentralized, is the only way to resolve this clash of civilizations without the world erupting into a conflagration. (I'm not sure how this can be accomplished without a mechanism such as excommunication by which members, if they value their faith, can be kept in line—but at least nobody's ruling out the adoption of a more flexible, possibly more centralized form of Islam that's still considered "legitimate", which seems necessary in any case.)

The War on Terror has been a bleak prospect, though a necessary one, these past three years: regardless of successes in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in decreasing terrorists' power worldwide and defending our own borders against any major attacks since 9/11, there's always been a vague feeling that we weren't going to get out of this without at least a couple of cities, somewhere, going up in a mushroom cloud. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next year, but within our lifetimes.

I really hope this "Free Muslims" group is for real. Because they've got the right idea, and their position catching on is what our world's future depends upon. They need all the encouragement they can get. And so from them at least, if not from the entire Muslim world yet (for clearly they don't speak for all of it), I say—with full awareness of the gravity implied—"apology accepted".

10:01 - I'm dyin' here...

Just unearthed! Secret memo proving John Kerry was in Cambodia for Christmas!

Thursday, September 9, 2004
14:24 - Sir, we have achieved total meme penetration

Aaron McGruder once more deftly demonstrates the depth of his logical and critical thinking skills, and his estimation of those of his readers:

Boy, I sure can't wait till the animated version of this stomps its way onto Adult Swim.

10:56 - "Senator, I direct your attention to this damning Flash animation dated March 3, 1971..."

Boston Globe, CBS, you goddamn putzes.

You call yourselves "journalists".
Wednesday, September 8, 2004
00:46 - Cola Wars '04

Now, I'm not prepared to make a taste judgment on Coke vs. Pepsi. I've got my own preference, but growing up in the 80s taught me that while Democrats vs. Republicans and Macs vs. PCs might be perfectly reasonable and enjoyable topics for discussion, Coke vs. Pepsi is well beyond the pale for polite conversation.

But I'd just like to note something about the current "half-diet" cola race. Pepsi has Pepsi Edge, and Coke has C2—essentially the same thing, regular cola with half regular sugar and half Splenda. Cool, fine; you get to market it as having half the bad stuff and all the taste of the real thing, and it's totally legit. Perfectly above board.

But look at the two ad campaigns. Coke is marketing C2 as being "half the carbs, half the cals, all the taste" of Coke Classic; the ads show people dancing around and being athletic and having fun. They compare the new product to the original Coke (a tacit disparagement of Diet Coke if I've ever seen one, but that's an aside), and don't even mention Pepsi.

Whereas the Pepsi ad shows a guy with a house full of Coke paraphernalia and collectibles—an irrational zealot—"cheating" on his chosen cola by drinking a Pepsi Edge. And the voice-over says that Pepsi Edge has half the sugar and carbs of Coke.

Not of Pepsi. Of Coke.

Once again, I'm making no value judgments about the relative tastes of these drinks. But one of these ads, it seems to me, is taking a teensy bit of a dishonest tack here.

16:40 - It had to be said

I didn't even watch the second episode of Father of the Pride; I figured I'd learn everything I needed to know about it from friends within five minutes of it being over anyway, and I was right. As for reaction, I'm hearing quite positive and quite negative, plus everything in between. In other words, the jury's still quite far out.

Now, I know it's silly for me to keep posting about something I don't have that much interest in, but I just have to say something to Siegfried and Roy:

Lose that ridiculous name Sarmoti. Just... drop it. Yes, yes, I get it—it's your little acronym for your show; very cute. But I've seen your show, live... and endlessly braying this nonce word, and using it as a character name in property after property after property, does not magically serve to turn it into a hip cultural meme that kids shout to each other across the schoolyard and get embroidered into their backpacks. It's just not gonna happen. Give it a frickin' rest, all right?


15:47 - That's what I'm talkin' 'bout

Via B.C.:

On July 29, 2004, it happened. John Forbes Kerry came to the podium at the Democratic Convention and uttered three words that made many Viet Nam vets skin crawl: “Reporting for Duty!” At last the time had come for these long-suffering veterans.

The past was staring back at these wrongly disgraced vets from their television sets. The face it bore was that of John Kerry, the man who had shredded their honor without a thought and climbed over the bodies of their fallen friends to launch a political career. Kerry had stripped them of their dignity the day he sat before Congress in his fatigues and portrayed them as “baby killers” and “murderers.” Kerry did the unspeakable. He had publicly turned on his fellow vets while they were still in harm’s way and American prisoners were still in the hands of the enemy. Kerry accused them all of being out-of-control animals, killing, raping, and pillaging Viet Nam at will. The anti-war movement--the protesters--had their hero and he was a Viet Nam War veteran, an officer, a medal winner, a wounded warrior: John Forbes Kerry.

. . .

All across America, soiled uniforms and memories of being shamed and humiliated have resurfaced and Vietnam vets demand their rightful place in history. John Kerry seems bewildered by the reaction of his “fellow vets.” He has become defensive and angry because now his service and honor are being questioned. Kerry seems oblivious to the pain he caused three decades ago when he stole all honor and dignity from those same “fellow vets” for personal gain. Now he wants to use them again, for the same reason.

All across America, Viet Nam vets are smiling. At last, perhaps they can bury their demons. These angry vets are demanding that this man who sentenced them to being shunned as criminals, tell the world that he was wrong and that he is sorry for what he did to them. Kerry must admit that he lied about them.

For many, it would still not be enough. Satisfaction and hopefully peace will come when Viet Nam vets see and hear John F. Kerry give his concession speech the night of November 2, 2004 with the knowledge that it was their votes that helped defeat him. There are approximately 2.5 million Viet Nam veterans in America and they have not forgotten.

Kerry might serve an invaluable purpose to history after all.

11:15 - Now do it without looking

While the Kerry campaign runs around in circles devouring its own and contradicting itself and throwing bigoted tantrums and covering its tracks, it seems all Bush has to do to gain points in the polls is sit back and ignore the campaign entirely, because if he gets too close all he'll end up doing is getting his hands muddy. But, y'know, sometimes you just can't help yourself... if the ball is at thigh level and just floating in firm and straight, how can you not take a swing?

"When the heat got on in the Democratic primary, he declared himself the anti-war candidate. More recently, he switched again, saying he would have voted for the war even knowing everything we know today. And he woke up yesterday morning with yet another new position. And this one is not even his own. It is that of his one-time rival, Howard Dean. He even used the same words Howard Dean did back when he supposedly disagreed with him."

Talk about bringing a gun to a slap-fight.

Now if only he can do stuff like this in the debates, where the remarks aren't prepared in advance...

Tuesday, September 7, 2004
16:38 - Don't tell me they're losing SA

SomethingAwful's Lowtax is mad... and he's fun to read when he's mad.

It's very refreshing, too. I love the smell of backlash in the morning.

13:24 - Prank Politician

First (well, not first, but less recently) there was this, the page where the Kerry campaign helpfully listed all of Bush's accomplishments, with a tacit and unspoken disclaimer that they forgot to include that presumably would have said that they were all lies (including such gems as "John Kerry is Weak on the War" and "Bush Good for Immigrants"), except that instead of bothering to write such a disclaimer, they eventually deleted the page. Sort of. Or not. Who the hell knows.

And then there's this:

"Everybody told me, 'God, if you're coming to Canonsburg, you've got to find time to go to Toy's, and he'll take care of you,'" Mr. Kerry said, dropping the name of a restaurant his motorcade had passed on the way in. "I understand it's my kind of place, because you don't have to - you know, when they give you the menu, I'm always struggling: Ah, what do you want?

"He just gives you what he's got, right?" Mr. Kerry added, continuing steadily off a gangplank of his own making: "And you don't have to worry, it's whatever he's cooked up that day. And I think that's the way it ought to work, for confused people like me who can't make up our minds."

Reynolds says, "Is there anyone running this campaign?" I've been suspecting, for some time now, that this isn't a campaign at all. It's an Ivy League frat party. It's a self-congratulatory bunch of mutual back-slappers who are so convinced they deserve to win the Presidency that none of them has even given any thought to the notion that anyone might need to be convinced of it. It's like a guy with a physics degree applying for a job at Barnes & Noble: "What do you mean, I don't have the qualifications? Haven't you seen my credentials?"

I'd always been under the impression that Presidential campaigns, more so than just about any marketing or PR genre on the planet, were so carefully and spotlessly run, and the candidate so well-rehearsed and groomed and prepped with can't-miss material, that you expected that whichever candidate won, you'd be getting a package as shiny and smoothy shrink-wrapped as to put a Mac box to shame. By comparison, Kerry's looking like a six-year-old Pentium II machine cobbled together from nameless generic junk you found in your garage. Not pretty, but without any substance to redeem its appearance either. If I had to put a name on it, I'd say that Kerry seems to have built himself up with self-aggrandizing fantasy and cadres of sycophants to the point where if things don't go his way, he's too utterly floored by the very possibility that he freezes up and babbles. We already know that he assumed the media wouldn't allow the Swift Vets to score any points against him, so he was staggered when they did; now that his defenses are thrown wide, he's running out of people to blame for these failures, which seem to be coming closer and closer together.

This is just historically inept. Hell, Perot embarrassed himself less often. If I were a Kerry supporter, I'd be so mortified right now I'd be taking down all my bumper stickers and yard signs and planning a nice, long vacation on some island somewhere so I wouldn't have to face my neighbors' stares until all this had blown over.

UPDATE: The man is really beginning to make me nauseous.

The betrayed ghosts of Vietnam are restless and hungry, and this whole election and all its bile might prove to be worth it if by Kerry's sacrifice they can be laid peacefully to rest at last.

UPDATE: Oh, and let's not forget this gem. If Kerry thinks making fun of Southern accents is the way to campaign, John Edwards might not even vote for him.

You know how a twelve-year-old who knows he's in the wrong will "defend" against his opponent by mimicking his speech in a nasal, high-pitched, Cartman-like voice? "You said I could have it this weekend!" "Yyw syyyw yyy haayy yyy wwwkwnd!" Isn't that all that Kerry's defense has turned out to amount to? I mean, how stupefyingly juvenile can you get?

11:04 - How I Spent My Labor Day

This was a momentous crisscrossing of ley lines on the calendar, because finally—at long last—I've made some headway in getting my custom master suite under control.

These bookshelves are second-hand, bought from a couple of friends who have a mansion in Scotts Valley—seriously, I think their house is too damn big for these shelves or something. But they're very serviceable; quite heavy-duty, attractive, and modular. I can expand them with gear from the Organized Living store at the Valley Fair mall, and I think I'll be doing just that later today, to get a couple more of those short shelves for the stack on the left. I may also see if they have this set in waist-high varieties, so I can add another unit along the arch wall.

When all this is done, I'll have organized all my shelvable goods such that the attractive stuff—large hardcovers, boxed sets, encyclopedias, etc—will be out here on these shelves, with lots of space around them set off by nice bookends that I need to go track down; and the less picturesque stuff, like the software boxes, will go into seclusion in the better hidden bookshelves in my bedroom.

And this is really only the first step of the dressing for this wall. I fancy one of these for the TV to sit on, instead of this too-tall table with all its useless space underneath; that'll bring it down by eight inches and let me make still better use of the shelf space above. And this matching armoire will sit off to the right, solving my clothes-storage problems quite attractively. But that's a $450 outlay all told, and I can wait till next month before plunging. Right now I'm still reveling in the uncommon joy of not having piles of books and boxes and CDs and other assorted crap covering every square inch of carpet in the north side of the room. I can walk around the couch on all sides now! I can sit on the floor! Capri can sprawl in front of the TV, instead of wedging himself between the coffee table and the chair I'm sitting in! Woo-hoo!

I think it's serendipitous how well the stereo unit fits on that shelf, too, don't you? I am so very very happy.

Monday, September 6, 2004
01:24 - I've worked myself into a nice little rut here

Several acquaintances have mentioned that they might move to Europe if the November elections should go a way they don't approve of; it's so much more "progressive" there, don'tcha know. It's all about the progress. Now crank up that Progressive Rock and pour me a Progress Cola.

They'll find themselves in a paradise where their toilets verbally admonish them to observe proper hygiene practices and castigate them for peeing standing up; and where words like "thin" and "hard-working" are banned from dictionaries because they discriminate against lazy people and mock the underweight.

Some days, to overanalyze the old joke, I'll take Congress over progress in a heartbeat.

UPDATE: And it's from the land of nuance that we get things like this. This must be some of that "humor" stuff that I've heard so much about.

But, hey, I console myself with the knowledge that I know more about the etymological history of the word aluminum than he does.

Sunday, September 5, 2004
16:16 - Just a note on multiculturalism

Via LGF, this one's worth reading.

But it's just an excuse for me to note: when I was in Toronto, the guy driving me to the airport on the last day (in a conversation where I talked about my 1991 trip to Russia, where the only language that we and our host family shared was Spanish, between me and their oldest daughter, making me the interpreter) issued a curious statement:

"My workplace," he said, "is so diverse that I can walk from one end of the office to the other and hear English, French, Hindi, Gujarat, Arabic .... and I'm like, all I speak is English! It's the only way we can communicate... I suck!"

And what I didn't say was: No, you don't suck. If you were, say, to move to another country where you didn't speak the prevailing language, and you didn't bother to LEARN the prevailing language, THEN you would suck.

Maybe I was in a weird mood after being heckled on the sidewalk by Arabic-speaking youths on the way back to my host's apartment, leading to dreams that night wherein old acquaintances of mine had turned out to have converted to Islam and joined al Qaeda, and were now waylaying travelers in mountain passes and mimicking their speech and mocking their clothes from horseback.

Or maybe I shouldn't let strange dreams affect my waking thoughts.

UPDATE: And for God's sake, the word is spelled HAMSTER, not HAMPSTER! Aarrgh! Not even Disney can grasp this. What is so hard about this?!

Damn kids! Get offa my lawn!

15:46 - The sky is green, and all the leaves are blue

It's easy to see how people get so they don't want to watch TV anymore. Sometimes it gets so that you can't even turn it on without feeling like you're peering into a freakshow, a Stargate to another dimension where everybody behaves according to the most cultured illogic imaginable, like Kirk in that one old Star Trek episode where he and Spock and McCoy foiled the evil robot of the Ron Jeremy villain by dancing around acting as incomprehensibly as possible until its head exploded.

I bring up Star Trek because two nights ago, in the wee hours, an episode came on that I can't imagine anyone even pitching today: The Omega Glory. If you're not familiar with it, just read the synopsis and think about how hard they'd laugh at you if you tried to submit this script in Hollywood today. Imagine what kind of world it must have been in 1968: one where intoning the preamble of the Constitution in a sci-fi show wasn't part of an irony-filled parody of McCarthyism or an indictment of American propaganda as being worse than anything the Stalinist state ever dreamed up. Imagine it being sincere.

For that matter, imagine an age where a utopian idealist like Roddenberry, committed to the idea of the abolishment of money and personal property and national identity, nonetheless produced this episode, which ends with Kirk smiling and exiting as the camera fades out over the faded and tattered Stars and Stripes. It's so cheesy and overdone it's distinctly embarrassing to watch, even for me; how did audiences react to it? I can't even begin to guess, as the concept of a world where a show like this can even be broadcast is utterly alien to my modern eyes. Nothing would surprise me.

Because flipping around the channels, I keep landing on things like Jay Mohr finishing up "Last Comic Standing" with a monologue about how "We'll be back after the Republican convention... yeah, those wacky Republicans..." to raucous catcalls from the audience; and other comics taking the stage to issue tired routines about how Bush stole the election by rigging the polls in Florida with the help of his brother, which elicits deafening cheers from the audience. Now, I know all too well that it's possible to laugh at a funny joke even if you disagree wholeheartedly with the logic underlying its premise. But have I completely lost my ability to find things like that funny? Or is it just that I'm too bowled over by the idea of whole roomfuls of people who see nothing wrong with the comedian's reasoning, and too frightened by that prospect, to toss it off with a giggle?

I wasn't quick enough to the remote on Friday, and the first few seconds of The Daily Show blared behind me before I had a chance to turn it off. Jon Stewart and his comic troupe of reporters were covering the convention, and the first thing they sneered about was how tight the security was—"which shows you just how dangerous they thought WE WERE." Which is such an insultingly disingenuous piece of misleading language as to make me want to claw my eyes out: which convention was it that put all its protesters into a razor-wire-topped "Free Speech Zone" cage? And which one let the protesters run amok in the city? And which convention's protesters mobbed the downtown of the city all week long, causing vandalism and violent attacks and kidnapping flags (and planning much worse, like barrages of urine bombs and throwing marbles under the hooves of mounted cops' horses) until they had to be arrested by the scores, not to mention infiltrating the actual convention to be repeatedly within weapons range of the speakers? "There was a distinct feeling of fear in the air at this convention..." said the reporter, flashing a shot of a big projection screen saying FOR A SAFER AMERICA AND A FREER WORLD or something. And I wonder, just what kind of cataclysm would it take before our lionized and implicitly trusted comedy organs should start to suggest that maybe, just maybe, it's possible to be funny without cramming reality through a garlic press first? That it's possible to entertain without lying? When our first national impulse is to see the word FREE and read it as FEAR, hasn't the spirit of this country become completely obscured and banished from polite discourse? And shouldn't something be done about that?

I mean, just flipping on the radio is fraught with peril these days. I stepped into Lance's car to go get lunch because my own car was boxed in; he has KCBS running, and the only times I hear it are occasions like this. But I can't listen to five minutes of KCBS without hearing something that makes me furious. Last time it was the uncritical, ten-minute long promotion of Fahrenheit 9/11 put on by the on-scene reporters interviewing exiting moviegoers. And this time it was some guy from the "Progressive Democrats of America" (anyone wanna bet his favorite band is Rush?), responding to Henry Kissinger's remarks about the War on Terror by saying that "The way to make America safer is to make friends, not to make new enemies." I wanted to slam on the brakes and scream at the radio: So what you're saying is, we should have made FRIENDS with Saddam? We should be making FRIENDS with Bin Laden? Since when the %^&$ was Iraq a NEW enemy?! ... Not that it would do any good, of course. Just as it would do no good to shout at the author of this cartoon and ask him exactly how it's possible to be neither "with us or with the terrorists". But that's futility in its most distilled form, since we're talking about someone who can make Bush look like some kind of mutant rodent and Kerry resemble a square-jawed superhero, replete with halo and beatific grin.

Maybe I'm doing something to attract things to my senses that infuriate me. Maybe I've got some sort of magnetic field that starts right outside arm's reach that pulls freaky things into view, shows them to me just long enough to make me mad, and then clears them off and makes room for the next one. I really don't know. But if the alternative is sealing myself off in a little box, only to emerge for November 2nd and then re-ensconce myself like a groundhog, I'm not convinced that it's a worse choice. At least as far as my mental health is concerned.

Friday, September 3, 2004
13:56 - I did not use Capri as the model

Frank J. has unveiled the new Chomps t-shirt, with design by yours truly.

Also be sure to look here, here, and here, as Frank chronicles the journey of a dozen sketches that led to the final Chomps. His recollection of the politeness level of the exchange is very much in the "fevered" category, though now in retrospect I wish I'd sent him one joke sketch of, like, a French poodle yapping or something, right about at #10 or so. Ah well.

Best of luck to Frank as the marauding hurricane seeks for his hidden underground base.

11:46 - Now that that's over...

I didn't see Bush's speech live, but here's the transcript, and CapLion and Stephen Green (among others) liveblogged it. Sounds like it was a pretty good one, with some really choice moments (Bush winking at a protester being dragged out of the hall? Jokes about his own walking and speaking abilities?); I'll have to catch the video tonight.

Then apparently Kerry came on stage somewhere at midnight to issue this oh-so-measured response:

"We all saw the anger and distortion of the Republican Convention. For the past week, they attacked my patriotism and my fitness to serve as commander in chief. Well, here's my answer. I'm not going to have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and by those who have misled the nation into Iraq.

The vice president even called me unfit for office last night. I guess I'll leave it up to the voters whether five deferments makes someone more qualified to defend this nation than two tours of duty.

Let me tell you what I think makes someone unfit for duty. Misleading our nation into war in Iraq makes you unfit to lead this nation. Doing nothing while this nation loses millions of jobs makes you unfit to lead this nation. Letting 45 million Americans go without health care makes you unfit to lead this nation. Letting the Saudi royal family control our energy costs makes you unfit to lead this nation. Handing out billions of government contracts to Halliburton while you're still on their payroll makes you unfit. That's the record of George Bush and Dick Cheney. And it's not going to change. I believe it's time to move America in a new direction; I believe it's time to set a new course for America."

So let's see here: Kerry's already said that he himself would have gone into Iraq if the decision had been his; I guess he's saying he's just as unfit to lead as Bush, huh? Brilliant move. Does Kerry have ADD or something? How can he contradict everything he says so breezily, so regularly? Does he maybe just honestly not remember what he himself said?

Cheney's four student deferments make him unfit to defend the nation. Or maybe it was the one he got because he'd just become a father. Got it. And Bush was only in the National Guard; he didn't actually blow himself up throwing a grenade into a rice stash or get a thumbtack in his ass or anything medalworthy like that. From now on, only people who fought in Vietnam are capable of making military decisions for this country. Right, Clinton?

And from there one just has to wonder whether Kerry actually researched any of the barbs he flung at midnight, or if he knows full well that he's being disingenuous, but trusts the American people to be too stupid and the news media to be too biased for him ever to get called on it. For instance, Kerry must understand that Cheney is not on Halliburton's payroll; he has deferred compensation, on terms that were laid out at the plan's inception such that the amount he gets paid cannot change regardless of Halliburton's corporate fortunes; and on top of that, he gives all his deferred compensation income to charity. Does Kerry not know this? Or does he just hope people will blindly believe him without looking up the facts?

Facts, Mr. Kerry, appear to be your enemy. Holy damn, though—you need to listen to your handlers once in a while.

Everybody has weighed in on Kerry's little diatribe, focusing on one point and another: Ann Althouse finds it disturbing that Kerry's response to questions about his leadership abilities is to say that he will not have any such questions. Boy, that sounds like a guy I want to have accountable for running the country. And "pouncer" in Stephen Green's comments points out the idiocy of conflating "health care" with "health insurance", as well as of suggesting that anyone who doesn't stand up to the Saudis on oil matters is unfit to be President—which includes everybody who's been in office since OPEC was formed. But Kerry doesn't have to come out and say, somehow, that his presidency would "put the Saudis in their place", or whatever we're to assume the alternative is. It's sufficient, apparently for the New York Times and the rest of the media machine, for him to say things like "People die of cancer" and "Not everybody on the planet is happy", and everybody just implicitly understands that the only thing standing in the way of unspoken, ineffable solutions to those things is that John Kerry is not President yet.

Is there anything he said last night that wasn't a stupid, easily deflated conspiracy-theory-ridden canard? If that's what Kerry's running on now, I've got another word for it: fumes.

Oh, but MoveOn.org has already proclaimed, shockingly enough, that Bush's speech was a failure and Kerry's was a hard-hitting masterpiece:

Republicans hoped that their convention would strike a ringing tone that would echo through the media for the next week. But between the speakers' nastiness and belligerence, John Kerry's swift and tough response, and our hard work, the momentum they're banking on is nowhere to be seen.

At a midnight rally last night, John Kerry stood up to Bush's attacks. "For the past week, they attacked my patriotism and even my fitness to serve as commander in chief," he said. "Here is my answer to them: I will not have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and who misled America into Iraq."[1]

Now that the convention bubble has burst, we have an opportunity today to focus the media on the soap scum that remains. Commentators have been surprised at how ruthlessly negative and bitter the convention was - from the Purple Heart band-aids that Karl Rove's mentor handed out on the stadium floor [2] to Zell Miller's rabid attack on John Kerry [3]. Whether or not that perception solidifies into conventional wisdom depends on the conversation in the nation's editorial pages, where our letters to the editor can make a big difference. We've loaded up our letter to the editor tool with all the information and talking points you need to write a letter -- all it takes is a few minutes of your time.

"Letter to the editor tool". Could it be any more perfect? I'm gonna go call someone that right now.

UPDATE: Oh, and eat this, MoveOn.org.

Wednesday, September 1, 2004
11:31 - That's what I get for not watching the news

JMH sends this Telegraph editorial by former Vietnam protester Janet Daley, titled "In the 1960s, we marched for a reason":

But the biggest difference between then and now, of course, is that we marched against our government when it supported dictators, not when it removed them. The logic of the anti-Vietnam War movement was that America, in its ferocious determination to hold back the spread of communism, was prepared to back the tyrannical Diem regime in South Vietnam even to the extent of thwarting democratic elections when they threatened to put communists into power.

Our complaint was that America's foreign policy was deeply hypocritical and self-serving: committed unswervingly to democracy and liberty at home, while supporting any murderous despot abroad who was prepared to be "our son of a bitch" rather than the other side's. The ultimate paradox is that the country that still behaves in this way - prepared to do business with pretty much any murderous regime or criminal dictator who will cater to its interests - is France: the nation that today's anti-war protesters regard as the epitome of wisdom and restraint.

But the "warmonger" Bush, supported by the "liar" Blair, is doing precisely the opposite in Iraq, where a peculiarly vicious tyrant has been overthrown and subsequently arrested with due legal process, in the hope - idealistic and even naïve, perhaps, but unquestionably sincere - of introducing democracy and freedom to his country.

She also describes the televised back-and-forth between John McCain and Michael Moore thus:

I watched Michael Moore's buffoon-ish reaction when he was attacked by John McCain at the Republican convention, over and over again yesterday.

Fox News showed it repeatedly, probably figuring that the sight of Moore behaving like a snotty 10-year-old defying the headmaster was the best gift the anti-war movement had presented to George W Bush since Howard Dean's "I Have a Scream" speech. (The BBC, which also ran it time after time, was presumably just overcome with admiration.)

And as I watched this puerile performance from a man who is regarded as the spiritual leader of American, and now British, conscientious protest, I thought "Has it come to this?" Is this how it ends, the great modern tradition of American dissidence launched by my generation of students in the 1960s?

I'd love to know what gestures Moore offered the camera (though I suppose I can guess). Time for me to do some Googling...

Tuesday, August 31, 2004
23:47 - Happy thoughts

After one thing and another, and the post from Monday night, and reading the work of the true master (start there and read the whole week—it's prime cuts), I've come to the conclusion that I'm rapidly sliding down a slippery slope of negativity, where to read these posts here, one would easily be forgiven for thinking that I hated everything except for Macs and Capri. So I'm gonna have to do something about that.

I don't know what, though. I imagine it'll have something to do with trying harder to find things to be happy about, like when I used to write about clouds and architecture and stuff. I guess that won't be too hard, right? My memory's not that truncated.

Or so we'll see. And for the record, I'd like to say that the Monday post notwithstanding, my vacation totally rocked. Seriously. And it's worth mentioning, though I had avoided it for fear of committing some grievous national-security faux pas, that I shared a cabin with a guy serving in the Army unit in charge of Camp Delta at Guantánamo Bay. He had some stories to tell, mostly to do with how ridiculously lacking in fact or reality the media's stories about life at Gitmo have all been. I think he may have disseminated a bit of sanity and wisdom through osmosis, too. And I hope we conveyed plenty of appreciation to him, as much as I hope he had a good and restful vacation before he ships back to his post there as soon as he gets home.

So, yeah. Sorry about the last few weeks, everybody. I'm gonna do better.

Saturday, August 21, 2004
07:13 - Back into the all-concealing shadows I go

Reminder: I'm on vacation until 8/30. For real this time.

Friday, August 20, 2004
14:38 - Is Kerry still here?

It's been interesting getting caught up on the Kerry campaign goings-on in the three days I was gone. I got an e-mail from MoveOn.org lambasting Bush for "not condemning the Swift Vets ad while he himself had been absent from service during a period of his National Guard years" or some such. To the best of my recollection, Bush never even said anything definitive about the "AWOL" accusations; he just released some pay stubs and let the issue play out. But now all the accusations against him are taunts trying to get him to talk about issues that he has no reason to talk about, and which if he were to talk about them would likely deflate all the premises upon which the accusations are founded. MoveOn.org and its like have convinced themselves that Bush's National Guard service is just as important as Kerry's Vietnam tour, even though Bush has never even mentioned it as a campaign point and Kerry's done nothing but talk about Vietnam; now they're calling Bush a hypocrite for "attacking" Kerry (by saying nothing), which he isn't, on grounds that he himself "claims an advantage on" (military service), which he doesn't.

My guess is, Bush is just watching Kerry's tour schedule so he can be sure he's outside the minimum safe distance when Kerry finally goes nova.

When I get back home again ten days from now, I'm sure I'll have a lot to digest.

14:10 - Modern art


Don't nobody miss Peter Bagge's homage to Modern Art.

I have a feeling I'll be forwarding this URL to a lot of people...

11:46 - Odds and ends

I just gotta say: the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport has got to be right at the top of the list of Most Excellent Airports that I've seen.

It's just opened what can only be described as a mall inside an airport; it's called "Northstar Crossing", and the usual concourse direction signs all but vanish amongst the brightly-lit stimuli of a familiar mall interior, featuring all the usual name stores from T.G.I. Fridays to Starbucks to full-featured bookstores. The main food court has a long, long plate glass window that faces onto the sunset, and we happened to be there just as the sun was setting; it streamed in over hundreds of happy diners and glinted off a stone waterfall on the back wall, under icons of the four seasons. I got a pre-wrapped deli sandwich that may as well have been marketed as a Caprese salad on focaccia; grilled chicken with fresh sliced mozzarella and ripe tomato and some leafy greens. All it needed was kalamata olives and some sundried tomatoes, and there you are...

The main concourse, too, was full of hip restaurants and lined with moving walkways as well as a tram that shuttled the length of the wing of the airport; just outside our gate there was a kids' play area, an interactive online demonstration of ethanol fuel, and an automat-like Bose Wave Radio demo kiosk, which not only let you test-drive the omnipresent device—but you could put in your credit card, which would unlock one of the doors in the display so you could take home your own unit.

That's right: you can now buy consumer electronics from vending machines. How's that for progress, huh?

Anyway: there's a great deal to be said, as I've increasingly come to suspect, for the small-town Midwestern life. People are born, live, work, marry, raise kids, grow old, and die in towns like Litchfield, Illinois not because they're stupid or provincial, but because they know they've got something good going on right there; traveling the world doesn't shake that conviction, it only reinforces a wisdom that those of us who leap impetuously into the urban unknown often lack. Sure, we might end up writing web browsers or becoming movie stars; but is that really any different an impact on the world, or more positive, than starting a ramifying family that spreads out from coast to coast, yet comes back home to Litchfield once all has been said and done?

Some of us bohemian intellectuals will consider it unfortunate that the much-celebrated sense of community present in these small towns is religious in nature. Whole towns, they'll sniff, full of people caught up in a mass delusion that lasts them their whole lives. Well, call it that if it makes it seem less threatening or more palatable, I suppose, or if you really enjoy finding reasons to look down on people. But seeing roomfuls of octogenarians all of whom know my name and whole life history, and "Ladies' Auxiliaries" producing tablefuls of food and desserts so that the family at the center of everything hardly has to take care of a thing, leaves one wondering exactly what some people's problem is. At least every one of these folks knows how to read sheet music, thanks to the hymnals. At least the kids learn how to be quiet and pay attention, without the aid of Ritalin. And at least it takes place in a nice air-conditioned building. What other function could draw so many people together for so many years, making everybody's kids into the kids of the entire town? If it takes a village to raise a child, it sure as heck doesn't take a suburb.

And I suppose I should mention that halfway between Litchfield and St. Louis, there's a very tall FREEDOM IS NOT FREE — VOTE BUSH 2004 billboard, and the landscape is dotted with barns painted with huge flags and slogans. Whatever motives or justifications one might ascribe to those who put these things up, I think—I think—that I do in fact prefer it to this:

That's the flag that appeared shortly after 9/11 on the hillside in the Sunol Grade summit on I-680, northeast of Fremont in the East Bay. It's quite inaccessible; someone would have had to drive down from Berkeley or wherever, get off at Vargas or Sheridan Road, trek up onto the hillside, climb a couple of fences, and do this. It takes a certain amount of dedication and self-assurance that what they're doing is right.

And it's been like this, in view of millions of motorists, without being cleaned up, for... how long?

This wouldn't happen in some parts of the country.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004
07:48 - Family Matters

And because it does, I'm going to be away from net access for the next three days, until Thursday night.

And after that begins my actual vacation, which lasts until 8/30. So I wouldn't expect too many entries until that day, if I were you.

I could use the sleep anyway...

Monday, August 16, 2004
13:22 - Credit where it's due

I've got friends (or, more accurately, friends of friends) who refuse to read any items from National Review Online, when directed there in an argument. After all, everybody knows how biased that site is—it's a freaky right-wing warmongers' magazine, right?

Funny, then, that Byron York of NRO has taken it upon himself to debunk the latest attack on John Kerry's credibility, the one about David Alston not serving with Kerry on his boat. Seems he did after all, if briefly. And York's article, while bringing up still more details that could stand clarification, is a model of what journalism is supposed to be: facts that answer questions, with editorializing kept to a bare minimum. Pretty good for an editorial.

Those wily wingnuts. What nefarious scheme will they come up with next?

Meanwhile, MoveOn.org is sending out frantic e-mails urging members to call on President Bush to denounce the Swift Vets' ad. It describes the ad as a vicious piece of slander, quotes a few of the vets' lines, and then demands that it be removed from the public eye.

Not a word, of course, to counter whether the vets' claims might be true. None are needed.

Friday, August 13, 2004
15:00 - Sick juxtapositions

In this story linked by Glenn, I just couldn't help but notice this:

Oh, yeah, put me down for a gross.

Do you take payment in oil?

14:17 - That's what happens when you get your memory from Sears — Sears

Boy. if this one turns out to be true ....


Sooner or later, the people who have decided to vote against Bush because they believe he has an honesty problem are going to have to come to grips with a demonstrably worse alternative.

13:37 - Shows work, needs thought

Actually this article does bring up a pretty good discussion, and does so in a well-argued way. It's all about enfranchisement, really, and whether now that we've done away with barriers to voting such as sex and race (and, if some people get their way, age, citizenship status, criminal history, and species), we should think about instituting a few subjective criteria to narrow down who should be allowed to make political decisions in this democracy.

Namely, that people who are too apathetic to vote shouldn't be allowed to.

A pretty incendiary thought, but at least the author's got some reasoning behind it. He says that the "Rock the Vote"-style ad campaigns currently running on MTV and Comedy Central (which I mentioned last night) are playing a dangerous game with a delicate balance: they're appealing to the uninformed to convince them to vote like they're informed.

You know, this all begs an interesting question: what does it tell you about a group’s agenda and ideas if it thinks that it has a vested interest in getting out the idiot vote?  That’s just a little food for thought for those whose drive to vote originates from within.  But remember, if someone doesn’t want to vote, it’s probably for a very good reason. And, most of all, remember that when the wrong people choose, we all lose.

I disagree with this for a number of reasons, foremost among which is that, hey, I watch Comedy Central, thankyouverymuch, and so—I imagine—do a lot of people who would likely qualify as "informed". The audience selection criteria for ads on cable channels are not limited to "gullible idiots". Furthermore, acting as though they are betrays—or rather confirms—an elitism that the author is quite explicit in admitting. If being able to do a quadratic equation or explain the electoral college is to be a prerequisite for voter registration, we'll be selecting for the segment of voters who are either snooty academics in a moral miasma, or total political cranks—and disenfranchising anyone who votes on their heart's impulse, which is not altogether a bad thing.

However, that said—check out Stephen Green's response, and the addenda by his commenters. I don't agree with all of them either, but... they sure are worth a cathartic chuckle or two.

11:24 - That's the best you can do?

You have got to be kidding me. This is the winner of MoveOn.org's contest to solicit anti-Bush ads?

Ads, I might add, that are apparently intended to parody Apple's "Switch" campaign (which has now been consigned to the dustbin of marketing history)?

You know, this throws a lot of suspicion on the authenticity of the "Real People" in Apple's ads... because they were all quite poised in front of the camera, with dynamic voices, good enunciation, and well-organized thoughts.

What the hell's this guy's problem?

There can be no doubt that he's a "real person", because he's nervous as all hell, he speaks in a monotone, and what he obviously thinks is a devastating tale of political malfeasance reads like the mutterings of Milton from Office Space.

It's so bad at making its point that the ad almost serves as a satire of war opponents. "W-w-we were told there there were all these weaponsofmassdestruction! But w-where are they? We looked all over! They weren't there! It's-it-it was all a lie!"

Guy sounds so unsure of himself that five minutes in a coffeeshop with a laptop ought to be sufficient for a concerned friend to help him debunk whatever canards like this one that he twitchily believes. Yet, somehow, this story appealed enough to MoveOn.org to make it their pick of the litter.

At this late stage in the debate, can MoveOn.org honestly still not comprehend what the war was all about, or appreciate the irony of millions of Iraqis too busy enjoying their newfound freedom to give a rat's left asscheek about whether we found weaponsofmassdestruction or not? Or in light of John Kerry's admission that were he President, he would have gone into Iraq too, even if he'd known that no weaponsofmassdestruction would be found, realize that believing that Saddam posed a threat to the world's peace and security was not a lie, but at worst an overreliance on faulty intelligence data by all the world's leaders dating back through Clinton?

They can't be that dense. They have to understand the logical fallacies in what they're peddling. No human could be this relentlessly stupid. Even as part of a large online group.

They have to instead be cynically trying to manipulate what they see as the intellectual weakness of the gullible American public; if they just harp on the word "lie" often enough, eventually no amount of proof positive will dissipate it. It's a rule that Lenin and Stalin and Goebbels knew all too well, because after all, it does work.

Dean says:

As I watched it I thought, "I can't believe they're that stupid." My friend John of Weekend Pundit chuckled and said, "but they are. It's because they firmly believe most of America feels as they do." I laughed nervously, but I had to wonder if he wasn't right.

Can my faith that the American people won't be so easily duped be enough to justify my not undergoing a severe nervous meltdown between now and November? I sure hope so.

Thursday, August 12, 2004
21:51 - Did they just say what I think they said?

So Comedy Central is running various "register to vote" ads whose purpose is painfully transparent (they didn't, after all, do this in 2000). But one of them is just a tiny bit unsettling...

It's got South Park clips in the background. The narrator says: It may take a village to raise a child... but it takes a small mountain town to raise a President! —And Cartman, dressed as Hitler, yells "Forward march!" and leads the townspeople in an angry mob down the street toward the camera.

Go to ComedyCentral.com and choose your dictator—er, president.

Um... yeah, whatever you say...

10:03 - What he really wants to do is direct

Does this count as "Kerry Derangement Syndrome"? Is making this big a deal out of what's becoming clear is a baldfaced, premeditated lie with great repercussions the equivalent of going into hysterics over Bush's National Guard record or accusing him of "lying" about Iraq's WMDs?

I've seen people lately acting horrified that there are intelligent and thoughtful bloggers "taking the Swift Vets seriously". As though their very nature as an "attack" group renders their cause laughworthy.

Well, so far it looks like they're batting better than .500, and Kerry can't seem to come up with a rational or coherent defense.

Looks like that American Spectator blurb from a couple of days ago was accurate: beyond Fox News, the press is in full cover-up mode for Kerry on this one.

Yo, Media: Your candidate has apparently lied, repeatedly, over the last 30 years. He did so to embellish his credentials, and in the pursuit of various political ends. His campaign is putting out false spin that doesn't pass the laugh test. Does this say anything at all about his fitness for higher office?

(Will Collier)

The Jon Stewarts of the world will now say, "Well, okay, sure, he lied—but hey, you've got a lot of nerve, saying his lies make him unfit to lead, while you make excuses for or ignore Bush's much worse lies!" Pause for laughter and applause.

Well, let's leave aside for a moment the relative veracity of the "lie" claims for both men, and the relative seriousness of each. This argument is shining a spotlight on whether we want to claim the moral high ground by not "stooping to the same level" as the Bush-haters. It's about deciding what character flaws are acceptable and ignorable, and what deeds cannot go overlooked.

I don't give a crap about reported marital problems or daughters with see-through gowns. Those won't impact his ability to be an effective President. (Unless, of course, they end up consuming his entire attention the way Monica did Bill.) But I do care, quite deeply in fact, about Kerry's seeming inability to admit to any fault or wrongdoing, his history of inconsistency on key issues and absenteeism from Senate votes, and his rapidly unraveling contention that Vietnam made him any kind of a better person than he was before.

These are key character traits highlighted by events. They deserve scrutiny if we're to understand what makes this man tick.

In short: if the lessons he learned in the Mekong Delta were "Hey, these medals are a ticket to a great political career—gimme more" and "Could you guys just got about your business while I film you? It's for a documentary I'm making... for later" and "I can make up horrible stories that damage the President and the country's will to continue to fight"... well, I don't think a damned thing he learned is likely to help us win the War on Terror.

He seems to think that his Vietnam service will help him be taken seriously as a wartime President. I see no evidence that he thinks his Vietnam service will help him be a wartime President. I don't think the latter interests him.

This Presidency, to him, looks more and more like the culmination of a thirty-year piece of elaborate political theater Kerry's been putting on—Act Three of the self-absorbed narrative of his life, where the moral of the story is that our military is stupid and gullible and quick to turn to barbarity, that a President who orders our troops into battle is usually harboring sinister motives that betray the trust of honest military heroes like him, that American armed response to global problems is always misguided, that America has a lot to learn from its European betters, and that the American people are little more than a passive, popcorn-eating audience who want to see a happy ending, with the Stars and Stripes flying on the same pole as the French Republic's banner under a sky-blue pennant whipping in the wind at the top, set against the Arc de Triomphe on a sunny day as the credits roll.

It's no coincidence, it seems, that Kerry delivered many of his statements about his war experience by comparing it to Apocalypse Now.

True students of history know that history isn't a narrative... it's just a series of events and responses, events and responses. People deal with these things as they go. They can't foresee what will happen ten pages further into the book. However, what makes them adaptable enough to respond to those new events when they come is that they don't realize they're in a book—they aren't tempted to think they see the end of a chapter coming, or a set of reading comprehension questions, or a forced echo of some piece of narrative foreshadowing that occurred three chapters ago. If the people in the book start thinking they're in a book, they do things like film themselves at war and make up salacious stories of wrongdoing to try to discredit our motives and sap our national resolve during times of trial.

Understanding these things about John Kerry relies upon giving the full due weight to issues that come up like the accusations of the Swift Vets. One may not like they method with which they've come forward (though we have to remember, these guys aren't just out to re-elect Bush—they've been active for months, trying to get some other Democrat nominated rather than Kerry; their beef is with Kerry himself, not with "anybody but Bush"); but if we ignore their testimony, even if it's true, just because it arrives in an ugly fashion, we risk not understanding what drives the man who would transform this nation from what it's become under Bush, playing out the climactic act of his Great American Novel, with himself as the redeemed, vanquishing tragic hero.

Somehow I don't think the story would turn out the way he wishes it would.

UPDATE: Keep on tranglin, Boston Strangler.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004
01:07 - Back out of the woodwork

Wow. So National Lampoon still exists, huh?

And it looks like they've suddenly become quite busy indeed... and with something whose time appears at last to have come: a full-scale parody of MoveOn.org, complete with a full trailer for a spoof of Fahrenheit 9/11.

And here I was starting to despair of anybody but the Left being able to use satire and sarcasm to their advantage this year. Thanks, National Lampoon—my faith in humanity is beginning to ebb back...

Thanks also to Combustible Boy for pointing this out and soothing my soul.

00:58 - So this is the "Arab Street", is it?

Boy, stories of cultural contact don't get a lot more disarming than this one, do they?

Every place in Tunis was friendly.

A waiter at the Café de Paris on Avenue Habib Bourguiba: "I cannot take any money from you."

Another waiter, at a different café: "You must come back. I need to see you before you go."

A random man on the street who only stopped to say hi: "America and Tunisia." He made two fists and placed them next to each other. "Friends."

Let's not go nuking any Meccas, hmm?

14:11 - I mock your pain


Misuse the word "fact" and I laugh giddily when things don't go your way.

Hee hee hee hee heeeee!

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
18:38 - At last, a real plastic turkey

Now that just damn well rocks.

TalkingPresidents.com is anything but a politically unslanted company, as even an embarrassingly brief perusal of their site will reveal; but at least their renditions of Bush are smiling, unlike the dour and grim KB Toys version of the "Top Gun" figurine. In this case, it's particularly appropriate.

Regardless of how the trip was viewed politically, it will become a piece of our nation's history. It spurred a wave of patriotism here at home among many on Thanksgiving Day 2003. His appearance before the troops boosted the morale of many of our soldiers. Bush's sense of humor was clearly visible as he said, "I was just looking for a warm meal somewhere." Then he showed his appreciation for our soldiers saying, "Thanks for inviting me to dinner...I can't think of a finer group of folks to have Thanksgiving dinner with than you all."

It was a damned gutsy stunt, one that put him in very real danger, every bit as much as the tailhook carrier landing did—and while people found they could deride the "Mission Accomplished" stunt by smirking over how many soldiers had died since the banner was unfurled on the Lincoln, the best anyone could do to discredit the Thanksgiving event was to scoff that the turkey was "plastic".

Well, it wasn't. But now it is, and it takes a severely hardened heart not to stir at the thought of an action figure commemorating a piece of real-life action heroism.

I'm not about to claim that Bush's presidency has been faultless or sparkling. Far, far from it. But it's had its moments, and this was one of them.

11:42 - I knew I'd see the magic picture if I stared long enough

So I was idly perusing earlier posts from this week (yeah, I'm obsessive that way), and since I well know that taking a break of a day or so from a piece of visual art can completely change your take on it, I gave this post another look. The one about the German Subway tray-liner advertising, which LGFers had been arguing over whether it constituted a satiric depiction of 9/11.

Many LGF readers didn't follow the original link and didn't see the picture. But many eventually did; and of those who did, most agreed that it isn't a 9/11 parody—but others still maintained that it was. I wasn't sure what to make of that; it doesn't much look like it to me. It looks more like the burger is being depicted as Godzilla. It's a stupid way to parody 9/11, if that's what the artist's intention was. The latter interpretation mystified me.

But just now I realized: it all depends on which direction you see the burger as traveling.

I was seeing it moving from right to left, emerging from the buildings, and sort of "rearing up".

The people who see 9/11 in it are probably seeing the burger as moving from left to right, which would indicate that it's crashing down at an angle, leaving burning destruction in its wake.

This interpretation only just now occurred to me; for a minute or two I told myself that it didn't affect the overall message, that it didn't matter how I saw the burger's movement occurring—the artist sure gave us plenty of ambiguity. But on further reflection... no, if you see the burger coming in from the left, this picture immediately becomes a whole lot more alarming.

It may not have been intentional; I still maintain that whatever the artist was paid for this contract job, Subway got ripped off. But I can certainly see the source of confusion now, and at the very least Subway should have been a little more circumspect in considering how at least one or two people in the ad division must have interpreted the picture.

This still just makes them careless, rather than deliberately offensive.

I think.

10:58 - Oncologist to the world

Stephen Green has posted a good stiff dose of perspective and foresight.

Oh, how I wish it were possible for our government to explain it to us in these terms.

09:41 - Morning brings no relief

Its sales rank at Amazon is #1... but check this out:

Editorial review? Editorial review?! What the hell?

McCain's quote is a public slam on the people who appeared in the Swift Vets' ad. Not a review of the book.

What in the crap has happened to this planet? Bush Derangement Syndrome has so gripped the country that all the major online booksellers try to sabotage an anti-Kerry book? This is utterly insane.

(Thanks to Jaed for noticing this.)

And meanwhile, the Swift Vets have made it onto The Daily Show, where Jon Stewart has dubbed them "Operation Vet Offensive". Ho ho. And he shows the McCain quote, then follows it with the Bush administration's quote about halting "all unregulated 527s". Which Stewart quips was aimed primarily at "a group called Texas National Air Guard Veterans For Truth, made up of people who recall serving with the President."

Appreciative laughter throughout the room.

Because, you know, everybody knows Bush was AWOL. Because, like, there were all those accusations a while ago, right? And they were never conclusively answered. Or at least the mainstream media didn't cover any such responses. Which means they didn't exist. Right?

That's where the burden of proof is going to lie this election season. Bush is presumed guilty of all things, regardless of proof otherwise; and Kerry is presumed universally virtuous, regardless of proof otherwise. Those who control what we see and hear and read will see to that.

There's a terrible precedent being set this year.

Monday, August 9, 2004
18:35 - God dammit

Okay, will you actor idiots just please line up and get all this crap off your chests right now? I am getting so sick of every single week bringing yet another name of an actor I admire telling a credulous foreign journalist how awful America is. Can't we just get this over with so I don't have to wonder as I poke through the DVD racks, and can at least know? I mean, you're all determined to sound off, right? Why drag it out? It can't be that you're reluctant to take an "unpopular" stand, right?

In an interview posted today on the website of a major Frankfurt newspaper under the title "George W. Bush Lied to Me," star actor Will Smith had some interesting things to say about the USA, President George W. Bush, Michael Moore and the September 11 terror attacks among other things.

When asked if 9/11 had changed anything for him personally, Smith answered:

“No. Absolutely not. When you grow up black in America you have a completely different view of the world than white Americans. We blacks live with a constant feeling of unease. And whether you are wounded in an attack by a racist cop or in a terrorist attack, I’m sorry, it makes no difference.”

It is interesting to note that, on a certain level, Smith is comparing American police officers, those charged with protecting society, with Islamic terrorists intent on destroying America and everything it stands for. Smith implies that racism is so rampant among America’s police that it is a threat equal in magnitude to black America as that of international terrorism.

Of course the German press would love to hear that America is the new Nazi state. Wouldn't that just beat all?

Thanks, Will. It's not only September 10th, it's also 1954.


15:16 - Pass me the airbrush

Lots of people claim to have seen this independently, otherwise I'd never have believed it. It's just not even plausible; but apparently it's true.

The cover of the new anti-Kerry book, Unfit for Command, set to hit shelves soon, has been given an alternative, pro-Kerry cover at the Barnes & Noble online store. The title of the book has been changed to Fit for Command, and the cover image has been changed from a close-up of a finger-pointing Kerry to a picture of Kerry in uniform with other Vietnam veterans. (The book currently sits at #7 on the Barnes & Noble Top 100 and at #2 on Amazon.)

LGF commenter Buckaroo says:

I used to laugh about the Soviets & ChinComs who would airbrush Politburo members out of existence.

I'm not laughing anymore ...

Hey, they didn't make mistakes either. Just ask 'em...

UPDATE: All too real.

UPDATE: InstaPundit's coverage of the unraveling Kerry's-Christmas-in-Cambodia thing, featuring reader e-mail:

Several readers note that the "near Cambodia" completely destroys the point of Kerry's original statement. This is representative:

If the campaign is really saying Kerry was just "near Cambodia", isn't that phenomenally lame?

When Kerry brought up Cambodia, he was always doing it in the context of presidential lying--i.e. "I was in Cambodia, listening to the president say we had no troops in Cambodia".

With this re-write, it becomes "I was *near* Cambodia, listening to the president say we had no troops *in* Cambodia, which, okay, was true as far as I could tell, but if I'd been just, like, sixty miles further west, it would've been a LIE!"

I hope he can do better.

Me too.

Um, I don't.

This is getting nauseating.

The sooner we can stop this charade that noxiously pretends that this haughty, condescending, thin-skinned, inconsistent, weak-willed, childish pathological liar is in any way qualified to be President of the United States, the better off we'll all be.

UPDATE: Wouldn't it be something, you know, if the self-flagellating impression we as a nation gave ourselves of our military in the post-Vietnam denouement was largely based on what Kerry told the Senate about how shamefully it had behaved—and if it turns out that what he said was all fabrications, or statements of what he himself had done, contrary to his superiors' orders?

What if Kerry owes his entire political career to his bombshell testimony back in the day—two Senatorial decades purchased at the price of our military's honor and credibility, the loss of which dogs us today in Iraq?

Why, it would turn this election into a choice between voting the very embodiment of our military's undeserved shame into the world's highest office, or exorcising a ghost that has haunted and crippled us for thirty long years...

...But no, I'm just being fanciful.

13:44 - The Blame Train

Kevin at Chinpokomon.com has a hilarious roundup of stories being stirred up in the wake of what John Kerry may as well be calling his "Pissing Off America" railroad tour. His campaign train keeps blasting through whistle-stop destinations, leaving sign-waving supporters and cancer-suffering children long-faced and disappointed on the platform.

Predictably, "Campaign officials blamed the conductor for failing to slow down."

Is it just me, or is this becoming a theme of the Kerry campaign? We are never wrong? We don't make mistakes? Is that the message they think they're sending?

Hint, guys: it's not working.

You blame your Secret Service detail for knocking you down on the ski slopes. You blame a journalist asking an honest question for "smearing" Teresa over her "un-American" comment. You blame a Republican attack machine for creating the Swift Vets out of thin air to impugn what had previously been seen as an unimpeachably honorable military record. And now you're blaming the conductor for not slowing down the train?

How hard is it to simply admit to a mistake? How damaging do you think it would be to say that, for instance, "There was a mixup in our planning" or "We had problems communicating our whistle-stop directions to the conductor"?

I've written before about this: a "pathological need to be right", characteristic of the likes of Michael Moore, John Kerry, and, indeed, a great many people I've known throughout my life who seem to have gotten it into their heads that the most important thing in the entire world is to be seen as infallible—that the slightest admission of being wrong about anything is tantamount to admitting utter defeat about everything.

Not only do we have an innate desire to be right all the time-- we also seem to have an odd presumption that it's better to be right all the time, because that will make us better liked and better respected.

It's been one of the hardest life lessons for me to learn, that this is not the case.

Admitting you're wrong about something not only doesn't generally detract from how well respected a person is; it often makes him better liked. I mean, come on. We all know that one butthole in our social circle who can simply never admit defeat in an argument. What happens over time? Do people get to respect him more, defer more to his opinion, whether he's right or wrong? Or does the guy gradually stop getting invited to parties?

If someone can never say those three simple words, I was wrong—then he's immature. That's what I must conclude. If someone in my social circle is relentlessly insistent upon everything that goes wrong being someone else's fault, then it means he's not mature enough to face up to failures—which, naturally, precludes learning from such failures.

And I don't want a President who's as immature as that guy who stops being invited to one's parties.

Kris tells me of a Nova show in which a famous astronomer had discovered a new planet; he'd written up a long and groundbreaking report, which he was prepared to give to a packed house at a major science convention. Then, the night before the keynote speech, the scientist discovered a mistake in his calculations: he hadn't discovered a new planet after all. In horror, he checked and rechecked his numbers, and it was true: all he had to present to the breathlessly waiting audience was an error.

So what did he do? Did he fudge the facts? Did he blame an assistant for taking bad data? Did he skip the country? No—he went up on stage before the thousands of his peers, cleared his throat, and told them all that the discovery that he'd prepared to show them was false after all. He showed them his research, presented the now-meaningless report, and submitted himself for the mortifying judgment of the room.

He got a standing ovation. A long, loud one. And now his character is so far beyond reproach that his peers will hurl themselves before a moving train for him.

If only our politics judged character by integrity the way the scientific community does, eh? If only politicians placed honesty above this need to present an incorrupt face to the public—which the public could always see through anyway? If only our leaders would admit to being human!

I may not be paying enough attention, but I haven't seen any statements from the Kerry campaign—on any subject—that admit to mistakes or miscalculations of any kind. Kerry, it's becoming more and more clear, takes himself way too seriously for that. I've seen no evidence of the kind of self-effacing humor that characterizes Bush; indeed, since today's pop-culture society values self-effacing humor so highly, I find that to be vaguely ironic. If only Kerry had been able to say, for example, "Oops, I took a spill there. Hey, I can faceplant with the best of 'em!" He doesn't think that would have ruined his shot at the Presidency, does he?

But I get the feeling that if either of the candidates is in a position to claim to be "humble" on the world stage, Kerry's no more likely to be willing to admit to American fault than Bush is—probably a lot less so, in fact. Most Americans feel that we have nothing to apologize for regarding Iraq; but a Kerry presidency, if it shares anything with Kerry's own life, is going to involve its own fair share of embarrassments and failures. If Kerry stands before the nation or the UN in the wake of some scandal and points at scapegoats, we'll know we've elected someone with no more intellectual maturity than the kid who kicks all his friends out of his parents' basement when the D&D game goes sour.

The Democrats are going to have to learn to accept their own faults, if they want to be taken seriously by the rest of the country. America isn't "theirs" by right, their sniveling assertions to that effect notwithstanding. They're going to have to earn it. And that means showing some understanding that the American spirit is fundamentally about owning up to mistakes and failures, because that's an inseparable part of the freedom to succeed that we cherish in this country. If the Democrats can't reconcile themselves with that principle, then they don't deserve to inherit the reins of the nation: they won't have any idea where to steer it... but they'll never stop to ask directions, either.

11:44 - You take the high road

Oh, but Paul, the moral bar's been raised, you see—thanks to the miracle of message boards:

Do you not think its an old boring, worn out cliche to bash the Police Academy films?. They are in a league of their own now. They have a cult following. Whether its for being crap or not, they have now reached a legendary status. Jesus, the most interesting people nowadays are those who like Police Academy movies because those people are certainly unique. I hate the same old boring people who have no minds of their own and only follow the crowd. Can you say something more original next time?.

Gosh, I feel like an uncultured heel now for smirking at news of a Police Academy 8.

Wait. No I don't!

09:50 - Nyah ah ahhh. I love being evil!

I believe I agree with Glenn's take on this ad.

When you flat-out refuse to accept that the other side can possibly have any motivation other than evil, sure, it makes for fun Flash aimations—but whom, exactly, do you think you're convincing? All it does is tell moderates, people who can see both sides of a given issue, that you aren't interested in rational discussion or compromise.

These moderates are people who don't like to reward petulant foot-stamping whiners who think they're "simply right and that's all there is to it". And now they won't. Congratulations, creators of "Choice Chick", for very likely turning off a fair number of people who had been fence-sitters on the abortion issue. Congratulations on being immature, condescending brats who hijack morally-superior vocabulary so you don't have to face engaging reasoned opposition. Congratulations on turning what had seemed a totally reasonable position into a parody of itself, and on insulting a great many people who had otherwise been sympathetic to your cause.

Gee, where have we seen this happen before?

Sunday, August 8, 2004
15:03 - A lost art, revived

Now that is an awesome headline.

Still doesn't hold a candle, though, to "Howard Stern's Private Parts Surprisingly Sensitive"...

Saturday, August 7, 2004
00:39 - Oh, tell me more

So I'm sitting here minding my own business, when up pops an e-mail (seemingly sent as spam—the sender is "root@concentric.net") with the following contents:

People in the armed forces are lazy! Read this article:


And then forward this to all of your friends so that the world can learn
the truth about our military!! I'm trying to get the word out so people
stop treating these people like royalty when they've hardly done
anything for us. Thank you for your time.

Uhhh... huh.

Boy, I tell you what: you know how they say a picture's worth a thousand words? Well, I guess that makes this guy's picture and the article that goes with it pretty much redundant.

There's a whole site full of this stuff, too. I can't quite figure out what this guy's story is; I'm torn between "twitching crackbaby" and "ingenious master of satire".

Either way, it's fun, in a poking-roadkill-with-a-stick kind of way.

Friday, August 6, 2004
20:15 - The fourth branch of government, the fifty-first state

Something's happening in journalism. Something big.

I can imagine what it must be like to be one of these journalists present at this conference, can't you? You've got your laptop and your notepad, you're sitting in what's become the position of power in the press room, where you get to ask whatever questions you choose, no matter how irrelevant or loaded. You've got this specter called "Journalistic Integrity" hovering around at the edge of your consciousness like an unwelcome chaperone—but as you ask your questions, and as Bush does his best to fend them off, first you clear your throat pointedly, and nobdy elbows you in the ribs... so the next time, you try a little snort, and you hear someone else giggle at the other side of the room. Then you chortle. No pangs of remorse, no glowering stare from the spectral Murrow-shaped schoolmarm... so now you laugh out loud! And you boo! And you cackle! And the whole room joins in!

What's running through your head now? That journalists are the rightful holders of real political power in this country. You've even got a rationale for it: the market selects media organs that suit its demands for news coverage and appropriate slant toward an agenda. Viewpoints that are unpopular don't get the ratings, and eventually a consensus is reached. Why, it's democracy! And you sit excitedly in your chair, tapping away gleefully on your laptop, and you envision the day when the Press Corps will rise as one, march toward the front of the room, drag the President out of his chair, and throw da bum out! All on live national TV! This is politics, Information Age style!

At least, that's what it's got to look like from within the heads of those who consign their mascots of integrity and impartiality and respect to the sidelines as they become seemingly less and less relevant, as there are fewer and fewer repercussions for straying into outright partisanship. The draw of power is all too real, and all that stands in the way of someone grabbing for it is that person's value system; when that value system evaporates, escalation becomes exponential. It's the same mechanism by which starry-eyed college kids, hoping to impress the cute blonde at the study session, end up waving BUSH=HITLER signs and torching Jewish cemeteries. It all seems so innocent, it all seems to be the right "progressive" thing to do... surely someone would have cried "Halt!" if we'd taken a wrong turn anywhere, right?

But from outside the bubble, it looks more like a train wreck... and to see a roomful of journalists boo and laugh mockingly at the President as he stumbles over meaningless questions from left field like "what tribal sovereignty means for Native American tribes in the 21st century" isn't just bizarre, it's profoundly insulting to our sense of what politics should be.

Journalism thinks it's on the verge of becoming our nation's designated kingmaking body. But it might just find that it's become our nation's pariah, marginalized and scorned and afforded as much deference and respect as fortune-tellers.

Meanwhile, while googling for Bush quotes, I found this. I'd thought it would be a derisive collection of malapropisms... but damn, these are funny.

I needed that.

13:27 - Congressman, legislate thyself

Via Cold Fury...

I've made some noise lately about people dimly aware that something called "The First Amendment" exists, deciding that it means they should be allowed to say anything they please in any venue, and provided with protection against people who might dare to disagree with them. I've been trying patiently (and not-so-patiently) to explain what precisely the First Amendment does and does not guarantee.

Let's review:

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.

In other words, unless Congress is involved, the First Amendment doesn't frickin' apply. "Free speech" between private parties is regulated by the market of ideas, and one side is free to shout down or stifle the other and stop buying tickets to its concerts.

No Congressmen around? Then no First Amendment breach. Congress doesn't get involved in private discourse, because to do so—on either side—would be censorship. Got it? Good.

Several members of Congress sent a letter Tuesday to Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News, to express their opposition to what they say is the network’s “unfair and unbalanced” bias towards the Republican Party.

The group, composed of 38 Democrats and Independents from the U.S. House of Representatives, has requested that Murdoch meet with them to discuss their concerns.

“The responsibility of the media is to report the news in an unbiased, impartial and objective manner,” the letter reads.

“It seems clear that Fox News network has a deliberate bias in favor of, and often serves as an extension of, the Republican Party’s policies and ideology.”

. . .

A spokesman for Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said there were legislative avenues that the group could pursue as a secondary measure but declined to speculate on what those might be. 



You wanna run that by me again?

No, that can't be what you're saying. You're saying that members of the House of Representatives—you know, Congressmen ...

... and Fox News ... the only network that even vaguely demonstrates a lack of liberal slant ...

... and unspecified legislative avenues ...

Tell me, Congressman—how much more flagrantly do you think it's possible to breach the explicit verbatim commandment of the First Amendment?!

Oh, and just watch: these guys will be hailed as "brave" and "conscientious" for standing up to the heinous threat to free speech that Fox represents. When Murdoch is hounded from the dial and we have ideological purity once again, this group of Congressmen will be called American heroes, and anyone who opposes them will be branded "enemies of free speech and the First Amendment".

How has this happened? How can there not be anyone on the Left who sees something like this and takes a step back and says, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, let's not get carried away here—promoting liberal ideas is all well and good, but let's not turn the very premise of the First Amendment on its ass! Let's at least practice what we preach, and observe a little self-restraint before we end up rewriting the whole Constitution out of pure spite!"

If these Congressmen don't find themselves impeached by their own party for flagrant disregard of the Constitution that they'd sworn to uphold, then the Democrats have forfeited any claim even to understand this country's founding principles, let alone to be trusted to defend them.

My God, I have seldom been so angry.

10:37 - Things that need coverage

Via LGF—on Fox News, of course (like anyone else would report on this):

ALBANY, N.Y. —Information found in Iraq led federal investigators to become suspicious of an Albany, N.Y., mosque leader, FOX News has learned.

Last summer, U.S. troops discovered Yassin Muhhiddin Aref’s name, telephone number and address in a book left behind in a vacated terrorist training camp, a U.S. official told FOX News. The book also revealed that Ansar al-Islam, the group running the camp, had given Aref a title: “the commander.”

The next time someone tells me that terror alerts are politically motivated, that there is no terrorist threat that isn't made up by Bush, or that Iraq had nothing to do with the War on Terror, I'm going to kick him square in the nuts.

UPDATE: Mike presents the quoted material rather more effectively.

09:55 - Now that's mildly creepy

A couple of days ago, I linked to the day's Sinfest strip, and because of the episode's determinedly Bizarro-World premise, sneeringly titled the post "We make our own reality".

Now look at the following day's strip:


Thursday, August 5, 2004
22:58 - Subway's on thin ice—but it's holding

I saw this earlier today, and almost linked it, but something stopped me.

(CNSNews.com) - Picture this: a gigantic cheeseburger (with tomatoes and lettuce) slamming into two high-rise buildings, as cartoon characters run from the flaming ruins.

It’s clearly a takeoff on the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center, and according to the Virginia-based Center for Individual Freedom, the illustration appears on page 18 of a 30-page “food diary” distributed by Subway sandwich shops in Germany.

. . .

The new image shows that Subway’s advertising is “far more disturbing and anti-American than previously thought,” the Center for Individual Freedom said in a press release.

Outrageous! Making fun of 9/11 in order to sideswipe burger joints? Intolerable! I'm boycotting Subway and writing to their management!

...But hold on a minute here. I stopped short of this reaction; and what stopped me was the actual image in question:

"Clearly" a takeoff on 9/11? I don't think so. Yeah, I was outraged when I read the citation. And it's clear that Subway's German advertising does routinely seem to use condescension toward Americans as its stock in trade (Don't eat burgers! What, do you wanna end up like the Americans?). But this image stops well short of being a 9/11 parody. If anything, it's a "Godzilla"-meme iteration, and not a very skillful one at that. But if the artist had intended to evoke 9/11, he did a staggeringly incompetent job.

So I'm not going to be doing any boycotting of Subway. Particularly, as commenter Doctor Bean says:

Subway is a franchise. Each store is owned by some poor shmuck trying to make a living who pays Subway for the use of the name and the Subway stuff (like McDonald's). Subway does not own the individual stores. A boycott would just hurt the guy in your neighborhood who never heard of what's happening in Germany. Subway would still get his monthly franchise fee; they would lose nothing. Any action should be directed to the national company.

Subway's management should certainly hear about how we "Amis" feel about being characterized with an obese Statue of Liberty holding a burger and fries (I'm sure a giant statue of Michael Moore holding a lawsuit would be more appropriate anyway). But let's not go nuts and assume the Germans would flock to a restaurant that trades on 9/11-mocking imagery.

The French, though, are another story.

Anyway, I had a comment, myself:

Everybody, please pledge to look at the image in question before firing off the flame or enacting your boycott before lunchtime today. :)

I think this may be symptomatic of a larger tendency-- of people, even intelligent LGFers, to trust the quoting skills of the blogger so much that they think it's unnecessary to follow the link and see the whole story for themselves. While the bloggers in question may be in fact great at selecting what to quote, sometimes that's the problem: they become too good, and people assume that what's quoted is the entirety of what's interesting and actionable about the linked item.

I'm not saying Charles should change his linking-mostly-without-comment style. It's part of what makes LGF so demonstrably factual. But I'm saying, as a longtime LGF mostly-lurker and blogger, that it would behoove us all to add "read the original item before becoming outraged" to the list of things we do when a news story breaks, right along with "the 48-hour rule".

Yeah, I agree.


17:26 - My eyes are streaming

Whether primarily from inconsolable sadness at the human condition or raucous goatlike laughter I'm not prepared to say. Suffice to say, it's a mixture of both.

My God. I used to know people like this... hell, I used to be people like this.

UPDATE: The comments on this post are hysterical. "I... I.... I think I just laughed up my liver...."

13:17 - What's going on here?

So InstaPundit just discovered that the Kerry campaign has faxed legal threats to stations airing the "Swift Vets" ad—the fax is strongly worded, as one might imagine, but claims adamantly that not a single one of the people portrayed in the ad actually served with Kerry, and that as such it's just slander.

And if you go to the Swift Vets site, the main page with the movie still comes up—but the "index.php" page with all the background material times-out and/or throws an SQL error. Overload? Misconfiguration? Emergency "maintenance" and rewriting of content?

Boy. I don't know what to think about this; one way or the other, this is going to be a bloodbath. If the Swift Vets are lying, then it'll be Kerry's biggest coup to date and a fiasco for his opponents. But if the Swift Vets are telling the truth and the Kerry campaign is issuing threats which are themselves based on false claims, then he's just amplified the ad's effect tenfold.

Either way, this ain't gonna be pretty.

UPDATE: SwiftVets.com now says "We are moving to much faster servers. We'll be right back."

I'm on pins and needles here. This isn't some subjective argument, where both sides have a reasonable case and losing is no big deal. This is a binary disagreement over objective facts. One side's claiming it's sunny and the other is claiming it's cloudy; in a minute we're going to open the curtains, and one side will be proven absolutely, incontrovertibly, dead wrong.

How can either side, knowing the truth would come out, give the other side ammunition of this magnitude? Conceptually, this development absolutely staggers me.

UPDATE: The best point I've seen from this LGF thread is from Fenway_Nation:

Wonder if this form letter being faxed by the DNC is just a formality that would give the 'Mainstream' media outlets the opportunity to weasel out of airing the swiftobat vet's ad.

"Gee, we'd LIKE to air this, but we got this scary fax from the DNC counsel...."

That would explain the hysterical language, and why the Kerry campaign is faxing the C&D orders to the TV stations airing the ad, rather than to the Swift Vets themselves—which is what you'd expect them to do if the vets were lying, wouldn't you? And the SwiftVets.com site has been online and saying the same things for months before the ad came out; Kerry had forever to C&D them if what they were doing was provably libelous.

Still no official response from the vets, but I'm seeing more reasons to be suspicious of Kerry than of them.

UPDATE: So John McCain demands that Bush disavow the Swift Vets' ad, and Bush does not do so; meanwhile, the Vets respond to McCain via Drudge, in a more or less content-free way. Any response yet to the fax from Kerry's legal team?

UPDATE: Unless I'm reading this incorrectly, the vets have been giving affidavits to the stations that air the ad, affirming the authenticity of their claims. Someone who's listening to Hewitt ought to be able to confirm this...

Oh, and evidently Fox News is about to present the ad (with rebuttals from both sides) shortly.

UPDATE: The original InstaPundit post has lots more details that have been coming out, such as this expansion on Fenway_Nation's theory (above), by Kevin Greene:

This will backfire, and is surely why the Internet is the medium of our time. More people, I suspect, will see this ad because of the controversy over the attempt by the Kerry camp to keep it under wraps.

Yup. Remember how many Google searches there were on "Daniel Pearl" and "Nick Berg"? Let's be tallying the "Kerry Swift Vets Video" searches in the near future. And this one's got an official site, too.

Glenn's also got this rather inconclusive interview between two of the Vietnam vets in Kerry's Swift Boat squadron, conducted on CNN. Summary: lots of bullets flying around, and nobody's sure what the hell happened.

But that's neither here nor there, compared to the histrionics of the Kerry lawyers' fax. Are they splitting hairs, trying to get stations to ditch the ad because certain claims that the video never even made are incorrect (like whether the one guy was "a doctor" or "Kerry's doctor" or whatever)? Or are they just playing the left-leaning media like a well-tempered klavier, giving them a soothing "there, there" so they won't feel obligated to give those nasty right-wingers a platform?

UPDATE: One last thought. It occurs to me that this (and this) are illustrations of what Kerry and Michael Moore et al. meant when they said they'd be hiring teams of "fact-checker" lawyers to make sure that they'd be ready for any attacks that might come.

They meant it in the sense of "check your facts at the door".

This is a private party, and facts aren't welcome here. Just leave them with the fact-checker over there. Complain, and we sue yo' ass. We got lawyers!

"Bring it on" indeed.

UPDATE: The Swift Vets' response is now available.

Wednesday, August 4, 2004
23:42 - Crossover hell

I know this makes me a bad comics-type-person, but am I the only guy on Earth who looks at Alien vs. Predator and thinks, "what a frickin' joke"?

Next summer: Batman vs. the Terminator! Followed by Speed Buggy vs. Richie Rich!

21:45 - I'm sure Berlin was considered "progressive" at a certain time

I guess it's possible for a city to become so liberal and tolerant and progressive that its people become Nazis.

Ugh. My earlier feeling about today seems to be bearing itself out... but that boulder's doing a lot of damage on the way down.

Via Mike Silverman.

17:49 - Maybe John Kerry should stop talking about Vietnam

Just a thought.

16:50 - I think I need a cigarette

Mike at Cold Fury refreshes his claim to his site's title. Big time.

It's been a zillion "little things" for the past couple of years, but I think Howard Dean's moronic remarks about the "suspicious timing" of the terror alerts have touched off something of a that's-the-last-damn-straw vibe. Honestly, it's nothing we haven't heard a thousand times before, but... well, somehow, something about it this time—maybe just the idea that bald barking insanity has so visibly gripped the world around us, reaching up to such heights as pretenders to the White House—has sent more than one of us just a little bit round the bend.

Why do I get the urge to describe the general sentiment I'm picking up today as like a giant boulder dislodged from a mountainside, slowly starting to roll downhill?

Tuesday, August 3, 2004
21:46 - The logo of the white stallion

Via LGF... the most in-depth and gripping piece of real journalism on the Jihadist movement I've seen in months, possibly ever.

I hesitate to say something like "refuse to read it at your peril", because however I feel about this whole mess, fearful isn't how I'd describe my sentiments. (Perhaps epically pissed-off.) I don't think people would be well served by instilling themselves with fear. But we'd better instill ourselves with something.

Think about this article the next time someone tells you that the announcement of some new terror threat, particularly one against specific targets and sourced from a specific apprehended suspect, is a suspiciously-timed political maneuver.

14:26 - We make our own reality

Today's Sinfest:

Today's Dean Esmay:

Dani Emery actually thought we were joking when John Eddy and I said we expect there to be a few deaths at the Republican convention in New York. The Democrats managed to avoid that by forcing all protestors into a cage, but the Republicans have no such plans.

But that's not important. What's important is that it makes you think, or something.

Why doesn't anyone ever make artists think?

UPDATE: Oh, and I understand this will soon be made into an animated series and shown with great fanfare on Adult Swim.

Is it November yet?

13:02 - That rock ain't doin' a whole lot for me

I hope everybody has wastedspent a good hour or two of their lives on this by now:

There's something profoundly meaningful about the whole experience, but I'm not sure what it is. All I know is... no one can defeat Trogdor the Burninator.

No one.

Monday, August 2, 2004
21:58 - From the mouths of babes does often come cereal

Corsair found this most excellent Washington Post article on yet another clash of cultures: between American kids who think Iraqis hate us because of the war, and Iraqi kids who are fans of Bush.

And, in fact, American students said they found their Iraqi counterparts to be a highlight of the week.

"It's so cool," declared Carrie Shoultz, 16, of Eagan, Minn., as she lingered around the Iraqis' dinner table. "I oppose the war, but I thought it would be good to get it from the horse's mouth."

And what had she found? Majid asked wryly.

"That [the Iraqis] were pretty split," Shoultz said. "I thought they didn't like us [Americans] -- I wanted to hear that they didn't like us. But then you got Ali here . . . who supports Bush!"

The ignorant wog!

These American kids probably have "Think For Yourself" slogans scrawled all over their schoolbooks. One day they'll learn that thinking for oneself doesn't mean simply listening to people your own age instead of to people who are older and wiser.

17:22 - Darling Oem-Software Customer!

Courtesy of Chris—this has got to be in the running for Best Spam Evar:

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They say it only takes one bite in a million to make spam worthwhile... but if you ask me, those are pretty optimistic odds in this case.

12:50 - Argh!

First goes the pronunciation; then, when no consequences are forthcoming, goes the spelling.

I've fumed before about Nestlé Crunch ads starring people who think that "caramel" is pronounced with one A and two syllables; one such ad even featured two guys (one of them, inexplicably, Shaq) arguing over the pronunciation. Eventually sanity seemed to win out.

But now you can go to Taco Bell and order what appears on the menu, verbatim, as a "Carmel Apple Empanada".

What is that—apples from Carmel? I never realized the region was known for its apple orchards.

Yaagh! Didn't even the marketing people go to high school? Do we need to call up the Hooked on Phonics people and have them talk to Tricon's people? Let's have some standards in professional signage, for crying-out-loud!

09:50 - The honeymoon's over

Dean Esmay noted a couple of days ago that several big left-leaning papers, including Der Spiegel, have started coming out, as it were—clearing their throats, shuffling their feet, and then saying in no uncertain terms that Fahrenheit 9/11 is a bunch of crap, and that the Left is doing itself no favors by treating it as though it's a piece of honest journalism that retains any credibility for itself or its maker.

And the Poles? The Poles know propaganda when they see it.

I do believe Mr. Moore has heaved himself breathlessly over a very apprehensive shark with this one. F9/11 was his big chance, the biggest one he'd ever get—and boy did it pay off; he's been paraded around the DNC like an appointee to a new Cabinet-level Office of Homeland Denigration, and he's everybody's favorite celebrity at the box office and around the water cooler. But... well, now that there's been time for people to really absorb what his pack of sound and fury says (or, really, doesn't say)—it's starting to sink in just how little it signifies. He's never going to get a bigger opportunity than this one—never such a subject so dear to his heart to cover, with never so much at stake. He's done.

And having released F9/11 in the summer, Moore gave us a whole five months to let it turn into a cliché and a joke. And for people like Trey Parker to release rebuttals, much better timed so as to be October Surprises.

If anyone got gamed here, it's their own dang fault.

Sunday, August 1, 2004
21:16 - Judging character

CapLion noticed this about Kerry's recent statement that he wants to put Osama bin Laden on trial for "murder" in a U.S. court:

Kerry has just proven that he doesn't care one bit about the war on terror, about 9/11, or about the survival of our nation. He just said (assuming the highly unlikely-- that bin Laden hasn't been cave paste for years) that should bin Laden be captured, he should be tried for murder. This is a flip-flop on his previous statement that if captured, he should be shot in the head. This proves something to me: Kerry doesn't give a damn either way. He only wants the power, and is willing to say or do whatever his handlers calculate as the best means to that end. If that means appearing "moderate" on the subject of bin Laden, then that's what he says.

Yes, exactly. This is key and critical. If Kerry can't come up with a consistent statement about how he'd deal with Osama if he arrived in Washington in chains, and hems and haws based on how he thinks voters will react to his stance on capital punishment or international criminal justice, then he's making a statement far louder than anything he could say in words.

A friend recently told me that he's simply bothered by the idea that "someone with Billy Graham on his speed-dial is in charge of fighting the war on Islamia." Okay, well, fair enough. But who would you rather have: someone who justly recognizes this war as the clash of civilizations that it truly is, or someone who doesn't even seem to give a crap?

Having religious convictions doesn't automatically make someone a good person, it's true. But neither does not having religious convictions. And in the case of the struggle we're now facing, a leader who is so caught up with believing that his aloofness from overt faith is proof of his intellectual superiority that he would treat terrorism as a criminal matter, to be dealt with by police and the court system and "first responders", and who can't work up the moral courage to even issue a vaguely visceral response to questions about bin Laden, is someone we can't trust to have a value system at all.

Maybe we're old-fashioned that way. But, well, so are they.

12:28 - Dueling posters

Compare and contrast:

Which do you suppose will be more successful? And which is more grounded in maturity and reality?

And let me just say that I don't believe I've ever heard of anybody on the Right trying to prevent the Democrats from holding their convention, much less forming an organization soliciting posters toward that end.

Such faith in democracy.

(Both via LGF.)

Saturday, July 31, 2004
00:26 - Take that

I'm not sure why I didn't link to this when it was first spreading around—but on deeper cogitation it seems the kind of thing that really ought to be more widely known about.

“We saw the hole for the bunker but it hard to believe someone live in that hole. It was really small,” Samir remembers. “They shot in there and he started yelling, ”Don’t shoot, don’t shoot, don’t kill me.’“ So I had to talk to him. I was the translator. I said, ‘Just come out.’ He kept saying, ‘Don’t shoot. Don’t kill me.’”

In Arabic Samir said he continued to pursuade Saddam to come out. He was about to come face to face with the tyrant who killed his loved ones.
Saddam was the reason he fled Iraq in 1991 and eventually moved to St. Louis.

Samir says, “I was like, ‘I got him.’ We all reached him and pulled him out. And we say Saddam Hussein he looks really old. He looks disgusting.” There was also anger. “You want to beat the crap out of him. He destroyed millions in Iraq. I’m one. I left my family 13 years ago because of him.”

Saddam couldn’t fight back, but he did speak out. “He called me a spy. He called me a traitor. I had to punch him in face. They had to hold me back. I got so angry I almost lost my mind. I didn’t know what to do. Choke him to death. That’s really not good enough.”

For Samir, this was sweet justice. One of Iraq’s own, now a U.S. citizen, helping arrest one of the world’s most wanted fugitives. “I said ‘Who are you? What’s your name?’ He replied, ‘I’m Saddam.’ Saddam what, I asked. He said, ‘Don’t yell. I’m Saddam Hussein.”

I wonder why this wasn't publicized more back when Saddam was first captured; and I hope the reason wasn't that this is an exaggerated story. I sure hope it's for real, though; the symbolism is all there, as perfect as though expertly screenwritten. It makes for an irresistible scene for when the Iraq War gets made into a blockbuster movie.

...Well, that is, if Hollywood ever comes to the conclusion that it's possible to portray the Iraq War in a positive light.

23:46 - When Photoshop is outlawed, only outlaws will have Photoshop

Ow. My brain.

Friday, July 30, 2004
16:56 - The future doesn't belong to fear; it belongs to CNN

Oh, isn't this just loverly.

Study: Fear shapes voters' views

President George W. Bush may be tapping into solid human psychology when he invokes the September 11 attacks while campaigning for the next election, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.

Talking about death can raise people's need for psychological security, the researchers report in studies to be published in the December issue of the journal Psychological Science and the September issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

"There are people all over who are claiming every time Bush is in trouble he generates fear by declaring an imminent threat," said Sheldon Solomon of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, who worked on the study.

"We are saying this is psychologically useful," said Solomon.

In other words, as Lance puts it, this study—which CNN presents as the most scholarly of works—posits that "only cowards and insane people could possibly vote for Bush."

"In one we asked half the people to think about the September 11 attacks, or to think about watching TV," Solomon said. "What we found was staggering."

When asked to think about television, the 100 or so volunteers did not approve of Bush or his policies in Iraq. But when asked to think about Sept. 11 first and then asked about their attitudes to Bush, another 100 volunteers had very different reactions.

"They had a very strong approval of President Bush and his policy in Iraq," Solomon said.
Imagine that.

One might almost be forgiven for thinking that 9/11 actually happened, or something.

14:39 - The man gets it

It's hard to imagine two speeches as sundered in both style and content as Kerry's, from last night, and Bush's response to it from Springfield, Missouri.

Bush speaks in short, clipped sentences, without any of Kerry's flourishes or ligatures or arpeggios. He'll never use twenty words if he can make his point in five. He'll leave out words like "I'm" or "It's" if the meaning is clear without them. The result is a speech that doesn't sound like it's coming from a politician: it sounds like it's coming from, well, a cowboy.

Which makes it easy, as you read through the first part of it, to think there isn't any substance in it—just a bunch of catchphrases equivalent to "Make my day" and "Bring it on" and "Gee up, Clem." I'm sure that's what it sounds like to anyone listening to it with skepticism born of sophistication and immersion in the freshman reading list at Columbia.

That's why I was startled to find that this speech has some real meat in it. Statements and claims that seriously make you raise your eyebrows and rub your chin. Thoughts that make you nod your head off to the side and grunt approvingly as you evaluate it. He's naming trends that have only been hinted at and postulated among blogs and analysts—and they make perfect sense.

This world of ours is changing. Most Americans get their health care coverage through their work. Most of today's new jobs are created by small businesses which too often cannot afford to provide health coverage.

To help more American families get health insurance, we must allow small employers to join together to purchase insurance at discounts available to big companies.

To improve health care, we must limit the frivolous lawsuits that raise the cost of health care and drive good doctors out of medicine.

We must harness technology to reduce costs and prevent deadly health care mistakes. We must do more to expand research and development for new cures for terrible diseases.

In all we do to improve health care in America, and we will make sure the health decisions are made by doctors and patients, not by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.

. . .

We're not turning back to the old days, the old Washington mindset that says they will give the orders, you'll pay the bills. We've turned a corner from that way of thinking and we're not turning back.

These are exciting times for change. The economy is changing, the world is changing.

In our parents' generation, moms usually stayed home while fathers worked for one company until retirement. The company provided health care and training and a pension. Many of the government programs and most basic systems, from health care to Social Security to the tax code, were based, and still are based, on the old assumptions.

This is a different world. Workers change jobs and careers frequently. Most of the jobs are created by small businesses. They can't afford to provide health care or pensions or training. Parents are working. They're not at home.

We need to make sure government changes with the times and to work for America's working families.

You see, American workers need to own their own health care accounts. They need to own and manage their own pensions and retirement systems.

They need more ownership so they can take the benefits from job to the job. They need flex time so they can work out of the home.

All of these reforms are based on this conviction: The role of government is not to control or dominate the lives of our citizens.

The role of government is to help our citizens gain the time and the tools to make their own choices and improve their own lives.

That's why I will continue to work to usher in a new era of ownership and opportunity in America. We want more people owning their own home. We want more people owning their own business. We want more people owning and managing their own health care system. We want more people owning and managing a part of their retirement systems. When a person owns something, he or she has a vital stake in the future of the United States of America.

Did he just make me happier with his social policy than with his defense policy?

These are audacious changes he's proposing—but not as far-reaching as the let's-copy-Canada mindset of the Clintonian era, and not as cynical either. It's a new approach to a new set of societal issues, not twenty-year-old answers to thirty-year-old problems. And really, all it is is a distillation of philosophy: a philosophy that's never materially changed since 1789. Our lives are in our own hands—that's what makes us different. It's what makes us Americans. It's the very essence of our social contract, which—far more than the borders of the country or the language we speak or the color of our skin—sets us apart from every other country that's ever existed.

What Bush is proposing is a plan to modernize our thinking about such social needs as the flexible family, the small entrepreneurial business, and the pressure for affordable health care—and to do it, crucially, in such a way as not to undermine our personal independence as individuals. It's not a recommendation to just try here what's been tried elsewhere; it's an acknowledgment that not only have those solutions been shown to be very imperfect where they've been tried, but they're also designed in response to a world long extinct. To adopt such plans here, today, would be to declare 1970 the most perfect of all eras.

The solutions he's proposing wouldn't have made sense fifty or even twenty years ago; but they're aimed at the world of 2008, based on trends and projections. Now, I didn't pay particularly close attention to Kerry's speech; but I don't seem to recall him describing any plans for America that exhibited this kind of insight into and acceptance of social trends, or linked them so well with American ideals. All he did was try to appeal to our sense of shame (the old "the only advanced nation in the world which fails to understand that health care is not a privilege, it's a right" business). I can only conclude, then, that Kerry really doesn't have much in the way of insight or vision—just a vague idea to stay the course, smile a lot, and hope that's enough.

Cowboys don't smile a lot. They don't have to.

(Via CapLion, who has a non-Fisking of a lot more of the speech.)

Thursday, July 29, 2004
12:20 - AirPort Explosion

What? No, I mean the good kind.

Damien Del Russo writes to say:

Just thought you might want to know - I already know 3 people with Airport Express. When I got my iPod back in the day, it took about 2 years until I had 3 friends with an iPod (not I have about 6). Airport Express just started shipping and it is already popular! For one, I credit the iPod - more people are checking Apple products more frequently. I also credit myself, as I mentioned the device to two of the purchasers (LOL).

So what does this mean? Well, for one, it means I am not selling my stock. Beyond that, hell if I know! But I do suspect that the AE is a winner.

On Monday, Kris and I got an urgent smoke signal from our mole inside the Apple campus that the long-awaited shipment of 200 AirPort Expresses had finally arrived at the on-campus store, where the employees get discounts for themselves and their favored confederates on cool Apple gear (including hardware). This store tends to lag the regular retail channel in stocking new items, which stands to reason—Apple wants to get stuff into the hands of the retail customers, not the discounted employees. But finally, they were in stock, and right down the road. So off we jogged. Lo and behold, there they were: a whole display of them, right next to the front door, stacked up in their neat little blue-and-white boxes that look like they've got candy in them rather than networking appliances. Kris and I each picked one up, along with a connection kit (extension cord, analog and optical audio cables), and went home happy.

We happened to be over there again yesterday (Wednesday)... and the display was completely gone. Not a single unit left. We asked the clerk; he said all 200 boxes had been snapped up within a day. As we stood there, other clerks told customer after customer, stacked up in line, that the AirPort Expresses were, unfortunately, sold out.

This thing's flying off shelves faster even than the iPod did. I think Apple's figured out how to hit all the right notes—and they're riding the waves of customer demand, springboarding off each new interference crest with new toy after new toy, catapulting themselves into a lead like they've never enjoyed before.

I've noticed a problem, though: if you hook up the AirPort Express via the digital optical cable, each time you start a new track playing, you lose about one second's worth of sound—it's like the receiver has to waste a fair amount of time auto-synchronizing to the signal format, and the song cuts in about a second after it starts. (It doesn't happen if you hook it up via analog.) This is really ugly, and I've sent in a bug report to Apple—I hope it's something they can fix. I'm sure they can.

12:10 - Another bunch of jokes ruined

Dean Esmay makes an excellent point over here, to add to the ongoing debate over religious/ethnic profiling in counterterrorism measures.

Events on the ground keep throwing our conventional wisdom into a cocked hat; we'd better be equipped to turn our policies on a dime, the way Israel does. We could learn a thing or two.

09:19 - Pettable Furniture

This is a dog who knows how to get comfortable:

He arranged those cushions himself.

Monday, July 26, 2004
10:29 - I feel a conspiracy theory coming on

Why do I get this strange feeling that Margo Kingston and the Cow-Orker are the same person?

09:22 - Buy Our Crushed Dissent


Yay. MoveOn.org has released a "Future Soundtrack for America", with songs from every band on the planet, whose sales proceeds will go toward a very deserving charity: helping defeat George W. Bush.

The album features a pretty amazing line up of artists: Blink-182, Bright Eyes, David Byrne, Laura Cantrell, Clem Snide, Death Cab for Cutie, Mike Doughty, The Flaming Lips, Fountains of Wayne, Jimmy Eat World, Ben Kweller, The Long Winters, Nada Surf, OK Go, Old 97's, R.E.M., Sleater-Kinney, They Might Be Giants, Tom Waits, will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are all featured. In addition, the family of Elliott Smith contributed a mix of "A Distorted Reality Is Now A Necessity To Be Free," a song from Smith's as-yet-unreleased last record, and the first release of new material since his death in late 2003.

Together, the songs present a passionate rallying cry for all of us to take our country back. Mike Doughty's song "Move On" hones in on the passion that drives all of our activism, singing "I love my country so much, like an exasperating friend." Tom Waits' contribution is a heartbreaking song about a letter home from a soldier in Iraq. R.E.M. takes on Bush and the war in Iraq, and They Might Be Giants (whose John Flansburgh pulled the project together) revisit a campaign song from the Presidential campaign of 1840.

You know what? You know how isolating this is? My opinion of some of these bands would be raised if I found out they were just doing this for the publicity.

No way is this the same planet that 9/11 happened on.

Sunday, July 25, 2004
21:13 - Gotta watch those Jetta drivers, man

Richard Stevens:

I see at least one count of using an iSight in an extremely stupid manner, Your Honor...

21:08 - 21st Century House

I guess it was only a matter of time before this happened:

Network executives are informally calling it "Amish in the City," although they said Sunday the title will likely change.

"To have people who don't have television walk down Rodeo Drive and be freaked out by what they see, I think will be interesting television," said CBS chairman Leslie Moonves, who also oversees UPN. "It will not be denigrating to the Amish."

It's premiering later this month.

That's the thing about reality shows, isn't it: there's no concept for one that you can think of in parody, that won't one day be made into an actual series...

19:20 - At least this doesn't happen in the minors

Watching the HDTV broadcast of the Yankees/Red Sox game at Fenway this afternoon, we couldn't help but notice how much time the ESPN announcers spent throughout the game talking about John Kerry (who was in the audience, in a luxury box right next to the Red Sox dugout), the Democratic Convention, and how everybody in the city is just drunk with anticipation of the coming week's citywide happytime party. The HD cameras keep flitting back to Kerry to get his ho-ho-ho, I say, hurrah to all that! Smashing defense of the wicket, what? reaction shots to Red Sox homeruns, to the faces of Hollywood big-names who were also in attendance (Ben Affleck, the Meet the Press guy, and others), and to just generally talk about how great Kerry is. They spent a whole half-inning interviewing him instead of covering the game, for Pete's sake.

I know we can't expect such a thing as impartiality from our media, not when they openly admit their biases and stick out their lower lips like, "What? You wanna fighdaboudit?" But come on... there have got to be some corners of the entertainment world that are free of politics, right? I'm not asking for a lot—I don't want political bias in my direction, I just want not to have to worry about stumbling across yet another blankly-grinning knot of Kerry-bots on every channel. I don't want to have to start watching The 700 Club just because I can count on it to cause me less teeth-grinding pain than what's on the rest of the dial.

Last night we were out in Stockton watching a Ports game—single-A ball, in the Rangers system, in a biome all its own both politically and economically—two hours from San Jose, it's a quiet agrarian community where RC Cola has the concession contracts instead of Coke or Pepsi, and where in the parking lot of the stadium, there are actually one or two cars with yellow "Support Our Troops" ribbons and "Bush/Cheney '04" bumper stickers in between all the "Vote Bush Out" and "War Is Not the Answer" ones. And you know? It was great.

This is what it's come to: I'll take cover under country music, nostalgic Route 66 Americana, and outposts of a staid Midwest just to make the noise stop.

It's barely even worth asking whether Kerry thinks he's risking any votes from battleground New York by mugging shamelessly for the HD cameras as a Red Sox fan.

UPDATE: And then there's The Simpsons, which tonight featured Mr. Burns forming a media monopoly and crushing all dissent and protestors, including pure sweet Lisa who dares to speak out under his iron boot. The conclusion, if I'm reading it right, makes fun of bloggers, too.

No more... no more... I'll talk, I'll talk...

Friday, July 23, 2004
16:34 - Now I'm a believer

Back in April, I was fairly skeptical of the whole media-bias meme. I hadn't read the relevant exposés on the subject; and what's more, I hadn't paid much attention to the big media outlets for a long time, so I figured I didn't have a basis for judgment. But I did still get Newsweek, and I guess at the time I still hadn't been in a habit of reading it with an eye out for unfair characterizations. I looked at each issue in a vacuum, and ignored any trends I might have noticed in what they chose to cover week upon week. So I never really noticed anything untoward.

But I'd begun by that time to suspect that the rumors I'd heard were true; what with dishonesty scandals breaking from CNN to the New York Times, I figured I'd best start narrowing my eyes a little harder at the pages I casually flipped through while in the bathroom.

So on 4/30, I posted this:

The way I see it, there are two possibilities for what Newsweek will use as the world-shattering cover story on next week's issue:

1) UNSCAM. [The story then about a week old]
2) This. [The Abu Ghraib story, which had just broken]

Ooh! Ooh! I know! Teacher pick me!

Looking back on this naïve version of myself, from three months on, I can only sit and ruefully laugh. How could I even have imagined that a scandal in which the UN thoroughly disgraced itself and deflated any lingering presuppositions of its humanitarianism and extranational integrity might be able to upstage a story about some bored National Guardsmen fucking up in a war-zone prison? What made me think they would even be in the same ballpark? As I wrote the post, I half-expected to be proven wrong—that the media would blow the cover off UNSCAM, recognizing the truly monstrous level of global-scale betrayal that it implied, and realizing the pointlessness and inherent divisiveness of spending too much time on Abu Ghraib. I actually thought the mainstream media would see UNSCAM as the bigger story, put aside pretensions of kingmaking, and do its job.

Even three months ago I had no idea, quite honestly, how firmly these media organs had planted their flags.

Oh, the disillusionment.

So now Dean asks:
Rather Biased notes that CBS news has run exactly one story on Sandy Berger and that it sided with Berger. It ran one story on Joe Wilson's recent credibility problems, and suggested he was the victim of a smear job. It has run not one single story on the UN Oil-for-Food scandal, or about Jamie Gorelick. But it has found the time to run 80 stories about Iraqi prisoner abuse and 29 on Wilson's accusations of Republican malfeasance.

Why do people even bother watching CBS news?

The April version of me might have feebly tried to suggest something about how maybe the color scheme in Dan Rather's tie is better than Tom Brokaw's, or something; but today? I think the answer's pretty damn obvious:

Because it's fundamentally dishonest and partisan. Which is what the viewership demands.

Thursday, July 22, 2004
20:23 - There's the truth... and there's The Truth!

Of all the subject matter Garry Trudeau could have chosen for Doonesbury this week, is anybody out there surprised that he'd pick OutFoxed?

Trudeau seems to really be reaching for his satiric muse, though, and she may be getting tired of having been groped so often. Here's today's strip:

Now, let me just be sure I'm understanding this right: An editor sends out a memo to professional journalists that asks them not to editorialize... and Trudeau sees this as evidence of an agenda?

So he's saying that the only way for journalists not to be biased is for them to feel free to "mourn the loss of U.S troops and wonder out loud why we're there"? The only way for journalists not to be biased is to editorialize? Am I getting this right, Garry?

Ye gods. He really is far gone, isn't he? But yet this strip, at first reading, sounds damning, doesn't it? As long as you don't think too hard about it.

This is another prime example of those pernicious and malleable sound bites that are only scandalous if you announce them in just the right tone of voice. It's exactly like Michael Moore's snide comments about Bush finishing reading My Pet Goat with those third-graders for seven minutes after hearing about the second tower being hit. If the school's principal relates that tale, audience members well might say, "What a guy!" and "Those poor kids—good for Bush, letting them finish having their special moment, instead of going crazy right there in the room!" and "Now that's being calm and collected—imagine how sick he must have felt inside, yet he did what he knew was important!" But if Moore describes the scene, using the same words but adding a sneering tone and an ominous soundrack, the audience says, "What an idiot!" and "He's incompetent!" and "I'll bet he was in on it!"

By that same technique does Garry Trudeau guide his readers into a mindset where a memo from Fox's top editors asking his anchorpeople not to dish on-camera about how the war is wrong is grand evidence of the dread evil of Rupert Murdoch's extremist, worse-than-al-Jazeera propaganda network.

Jeez. I almost hope this isn't the worst of the slings and arrows that OutFoxed has to hurl, because it's pretty frickin' pathetic.

17:51 - Again, not that it matters

Mike at Cold Fury:

From the 9/11 commission, heard on the radio just now: “There is no question whatsoever that there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.” As if any justification beyond the several others for removing Saddam had ever been needed, there it is as plain as it can be made. And may all the antiwarriors choke on it.

Woebegone contrite retractions from the “Bush liiied!” crowd now gleefully accepted; all hair shirt coupons cheerfully honored. No other discounts, no returns, no rain checks.

God, it must absolutely suck to be a lib here lately.

Oh, no. All this means is that the 9/11 Commission is just a Bush Administration tool after all, just like everyone else who suggests that the war might have been a good idea. Even though a month ago the 9/11 Commission was being paraded around in front of us as the Righteous Instrument of Bush's Destruction.

Mike's correct in that in order to be on the Left and claim to have a consistent moral and intellectual position on Bush and the war, you have to have an attention span no longer than a week, so you can dismiss Joe Wilson and the Sixteen Words as "yesterday's news", and so if you can wait out the Sandy Berger thing until the end of the month without the complict media even mentioning it, us dumb Americans will all just forget, forget, forget. Whereas, to the best of my admittedly self-interested knowledge, I and other pro-war bloggers have maintained precisely the same arguments ever since the beginning: Iraq is a strategic goal, an opportunity to seed liberal democracy in the Middle East, a way to put pressure on Iran and Saudi Arabia from close proximity while being able to stabilize the oil supply and keep it from being used as a weapon against us, a chance to remove a brutal dictator, free the Arabs under his thumb, and give them a view of a benevolent America rather than the monstrous one they've always seen on al-Jazeera, and to eliminate any potential threat of WMD proliferation by a crazed neo-Saladin. (More or less in that order.) These were my justifications in the summer of 2002; these were my justifications on March 21, 2003; these were my justifications on April 10, 2003; these were my justifications as we unearthed fighter jets buried in sand dunes and absorbed IED attacks using sarin bombs; these were my justifications as we faced a distinct lack of any major stockpiles of banned weapons; these were my justifications as the Abu Ghraib story broke; and these were my justifications on the day Allawi's government assumed sovereignty. I guess that makes me stubborn, or lacking in nuance or something. Well, call it that if you want to, but my word for it is being right. That's what we call it in engineering, when you don't have to keep changing your vision to fit reality.

Eh—I dunno. For some people it's just fun not to have to stick with one idea for more than a week, so it's just as well that events keep the ball in motion. More power to 'em. Just not before November 2nd.

15:24 - Well, it's not like it matters after all

Yay! Bill Whittle's back! Sort of.

But though his latest post isn't one of his capital-E Essays, it does have this observation:

The best thing about Eject! Eject! Eject!, of course, is that it gives me a voice. It puts me in the fight. The worst thing about Eject! Eject! Eject! is that that voice obligates you to stay in the fight. And when you feel like you are a part of the fight, it is very, very hard not to be swinging all the time. In the car on the way home. Watching the news. Overhearing a conversation in the next room. And even with all the energy and stamina you can muster, sometimes you need to hear that bell and sit down for those precious sixty seconds. Not throw in the towel. Just sit down, spit in a bucket, and try to get the idea of hitting hard and getting hit back out of your head for a few precious moments. Unclench your fists. Breathe.

....Yeah. No kidding.

Bill has the courage to hang it up for seven weeks at a time, though, and that's more than I can say for me. Ah well—at least I'm still enjoying the process, even if it doesn't particularly look that way on certain days.

13:54 - DEFCON 5, all is clear, let's go fly a kite

So the mystery has been solved about the bizarre Syrian musicians who behaved on their flight to San Diego as though they were trying at all costs to make everyone on the plane think they were about to become hijack victims. Turns out all's well, there's no reason for anyone to have worried, and the passengers who thought there was something odd about Middle Eastern men queueing up en masse at the lavatory, passing weird paper bags back and forth to each other, and making little hand signals to each other over their Qurans are just paranoid. Racist too, I'm sure.

But that's just one of the stories of airsickness coming out these days, and the Washington Times has a good roundup of them.

A second pilot said that, on one of his recent flights, an air marshal forced his way into the lavatory at the front of his plane after a man of Middle Eastern descent locked himself in for a long period.

The marshal found the mirror had been removed and the man was attempting to break through the wall. The cockpit was on the other side.

But I'm sure he was just a musician on his way to a gig. Or a real estate agent. Or a Palm salesman. Any one of whom probably had perfectly good reasons to try to break through the bulkhead from the lavatory into the cockpit he frickin' tried to BREAK into the COCKPIT THROUGH THE BATHROOM WALL and we're only finding out about it NOW, as part of a SURVEY?!

Eh. But why worry? As everyone knows, the terror alert system is a big sham, a tool of the Bush Administration's scheme to keep us all programmed into a state of terrified torpor by a manufactured, fictional "threat", and hateful and fearful of innocent Arabs and Muslims in our midst.

Now let's forget our troubles with a big bowl of strawberry ice cream!

13:37 - The funny papers

"Fisking Dowd," says commenter Conrad, "is ungallant. It's like beating up yor baby sister."

Yeah, well, whatever. Sometimes it just can't be avoided.

As I keep saying, people these days seem to like to get their political opinions via osmosis from whatever prevailing winds blow from the comedian's stage. I don't think it's too much to imagine that at least as many politically-minded people read the New York Times for Maureen Dowd's staggeringly obtuse editorial insights as for the front-page headlines where the bias is limited to which facts can be trumpeted and which can be hidden away, depending.

So when one of her columns appears, how can someone like Stephen Green not instantly sling spidey-webs all over it?

It's well worth a read. But, as with most things of this nature, only those who already wish to see Dowd punctured and jetting flatulently around the room will enjoy it, or see it at all.

12:00 - There but for the grace of God

Via Dean Esmay and Bill Quick, a cautionary set of statistics about where the best of intentions may lead:

Health care can have a zero price to the user, but that doesn't mean it's free or has a zero cost. The problem with a good or service having a zero price is that demand is going to exceed supply. When price isn't allowed to make demand equal supply, other measures must be taken. One way to distribute the demand over a given supply is through queuing -- making people wait. Another way is to have a medical czar who decides who is eligible, under what conditions, for a particular procedure -- for example, no hip replacement or renal dialysis for people over 70 or no heart transplants for smokers.

I'm wondering just how many Americans would like Canada's long waiting lists, medical czars deciding what treatments we get and an exodus of doctors.

You can look at either of two things: a) the fact that at least nobody has to pay up front for this health care, regardless of ability; or b) in which direction people sneak across the border for it.

It's an observation that many, but yet too few, made regarding Soviet socialism and the Berlin Wall, and about Cuba. Sure, they had da free health care and da 100% literacy on the other side of da wall. Why, then, oh why doesn't anyone take a raft to Havana or jump the fence Eastward when they need a CAT scan or a better life for their children? Why's everyone going the other direction?

Yet something tells me that we won't learn this lesson until we've tried changing our system to match what's never worked in the past. I guess we oughtta get some points for optimism.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004
15:30 - Dumpster diving

Gee, it's been some time since I posted any of the fascinating insights from the ever-illuminating Ar-Rahman list, hasn't it?

Well, let's rectify that situation:

| assalaam u alaikum
| r marriages permissable between relatives? like i have a
| daughter i want her to get married either with my
| brother's son or my sister's son ? is it correct
| according to islamic rules? and if yes has it any
| scientific disadvantage.

Walaikumas salaam,

Islam permits inter-family marriages (pls refer to Sura Al-Nisa) where clear definations are present as to who we can & who we can't marry. It is amazing that whilst the Quran does not specify how to offer prayers (salah) how to perform Hajj how to observe fast during ramadhan it very clearly in details talk on the subject of marriage and women rights. However please be clear that the prospective bride & groom are happy with the arrangement.

 As far as scientific disadvantages are concerned I am from the medical/scientific background and yes there are disease which are passed on genetically however there is no proven analysis/data whether this is highly prevalent amongst inter-family marriages. All I can say is if you marry within the gene pool you are aware of you can take precautions relating to ceratin disease like heart/diabetic etc but what is the surety that outside the family gene pool does not have these or worse ailments?


Ahh. Mm. I see.

Once again, my blinkered Westernized philosophy has imprisoned my thinking. Thank you, Riaz, "from the medical/scientific background", for showing me the way. I brim with tolerance and understanding.

Just like Nicholas Kristof, whose op-ed in the New York Times a few days ago was also forwarded gleefully to the list.

"Jesus merely raised one hand a few inches and a yawning chasm opened in the earth, stretching far and wide enough to swallow all of them. They tumbled in, howling and screeching, but their wailing was soon quashed and all was silent when the earth closed itself again."

These are the best-selling novels for adults in the United States, and they have sold more than 60 million copies worldwide. The latest is "Glorious Appearing," which has Jesus returning to Earth to wipe all non-Christians from the planet. It's disconcerting to find ethnic cleansing celebrated as the height of piety.

If a Muslim were to write an Islamic version of "Glorious Appearing" and publish it in Saudi Arabia, jubilantly describing a massacre of millions of non-Muslims by God, we would have a fit. We have quite properly linked the fundamentalist religious tracts of Islam with the intolerance they nurture, and it's time to remove the motes from our own eyes.

I wonder if Kristof is familiar with the meaning of the word "ethnic" (or "mote"). Or has heard a typical Friday sermon from Mecca or Damascus.

UPDATE: George H. has done me one better. Man, go nuts—this I'd love to see.

14:25 - They learn well

Far too well.

Just like the terrorists do.

They know how to push it, just far enough, until society pushes back against them—then they whimper about being persecuted and repressed until everybody leaves them alone. Then they push harder.

Just like the terrorists do.

They know that all they have to do is provoke a response—any response—and they win all battles at once, moral, political, tactical, strategic. They know that they've paralyzed their opponents into cowering immobility.

Just like the terrorists do.

They even know they're frickin' insane. But they also know a little insanity is justified, for the sake of the greater good.

Just like the terrorists do.

We had better $%^#$! not give any of these people any reason to celebrate on November 2nd.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004
00:30 - Good on you

Thank you, Australia, for being one of only six sane countries apparently left on Earth.

17:57 - The language of poetry

I wasn't gonna post this, but... well, I guess I'm just a bastard that way. Besides, it's too good not to.

Hey, at least I blurred it.

14:24 - Ulan Bataar Awaits

Words fail me.

“It’s a real conflict for me when I go to a concert and find out somebody in the audience is a Republican or fundamental Christian. It can cloud my enjoyment. I’d rather not know. . .”

[said Linda Ronstadt.]

The state of the nation: “I saw a movie recently about a camel and these people in Mongolia, and I relate to them better than people here in this country. It looks like (Germany’s) Weimar Republic to me here.”

They don't fail Moore, though:

In a statement directed at Mr Timmins, Michael Moore said: "For you to throw Linda Ronstadt off the premises because she dared to say a few words in support of me and my film is simply stupid and un-American."

Oh yeah, I thought I'd heard something about people in this country getting called "un-American" for expressing dissenting views.

The LGF commenters are having a field day. But the best one yet:

I don't know how much more of this progressive tolerance and love I can take.


Monday, July 19, 2004
02:07 - Pants! Pants! Sing the praises of pants

Stephen Green has the silliest, and yet most lavishly apt reaction yet to the revelation about Sandy Berger, Clinton's NSA advisor, hiding documents about Osama bin Laden and counseling Clinton not to pursue him.

Some are calling this a "Watergate-sized scandal". But if this becomes as big as Watergate—nay, hell, if it becomes as big as Abu Ghraib—I'll retract any aspersions I have made about the slanted media.

And if not, well...

20:00 - Life imitates art

So we've got Arnie quite literally kicking all kinds of ass all around the State; he's got 70% of California cozying up to him just to bask in his glow (as opposed to the reported 30% approval rating for the State Assembly), he's restored California's credit rating and got the Davis budget under control, he's declared war on bloodsucking trial lawyers and frivolous lawsuits by proposing gigantic taxes on punitive damages, and he's done it all with a slickness even Clinton could never match. And now, as he starts to unveil his grand master plan for a complete political overhaul of the State's intractably byzantine legislative system, he slips into character to deliver the coup de grace:

But the governor was engaged in a lot more than just sound-bite politics. His spokesman indicated he was seriously considering sponsoring initiatives to both change the entrenched legislature to part-time status and to redraw California’s gerrymandered political districts. “This weekend, the budget fight stopped being about local government and started being about major political reform,” said Dan Schnur, a GOP political consultant.

The California electorate is hungry for such change, and the governor had large crowds in three cities eating out of his hand. “I want you to go out there and go after those Democratic legislators. Vote them out of office, and we will put new faces in there,” he said in Stockton. The audience in Ontario went wild when he launched into a description of how legislators catered to special interests: “If they don’t have the guts to come up here in front of you and say, ‘I don’t want to represent you, I want to represent those special interests, the unions, the trial lawyers, and I want them to make the millions of dollars—if they don’t have the guts, I call them girlie men.”

Needless to say, the crowd loved it. And what lesson do we take from this? Not that Arnie is a great politician, though he may well be; but that after all the smoke has settled, it appears that this dirty little secret may be showing its face after all: we Californians actually did vote for a character, not a politician. Or at least in part. We might as well face it: we didn't hire him to be just another vague, harmless, compromising diplodoormat with a set of mild moderate views and a charcoal-gray suit; we hired him to be Arnold Schwarzenegger. We were fed up with Gray Davis and bureaucracy-as-usual, and wanted someone to come bursting in, guns blazing, and take out the trash. No more PC bullshit, we said; just get in here and kick some ass. We might have convinced ourselves that we were punching the ballot for "Mr. Schwarzenegger", but the image in our minds was the T-100.

But is this such a bad thing? When we vote for a politician who's already typecast a certain way, as an action hero or a football player or a cowboy, we do it with a certain gut feeling that the person will execute the office in a way that's informed by the role in which we picture him. We've done it before. And it doesn't seem to be beyond the realm of possibility that the politician in question actually will decide, as Arnie seems to have done here, to play the role to the hilt. If the public wants the Terminator, he thinks, or the musclebound caricature of him from SNL—well then, that's what he'll be.

Damn if it isn't working.

But this is the best bit, straight from the self-parodying, "can dish it out but can't take it" files:

Democrats responded that the remark was sexist, anti-gay and bullying...

Ha! HAAAH! HAAA HA HA HA HA HA ha ha ha HAAAAAAAA! <snerk> HEEEE hee hee hee heeheeheeheeheeee heh heh heh. <snort> Pbbbbbtttttt. Ha ha ha HAAAAAAAA HAW HAW HAW Hhhheeheeheeeeee. <wiping tears> Hee hee hee hee HAAA HA HA HAAAAAH!

Oh, Lord have mercy, that's just beautiful.

15:25 - "They have guns, you know"

This is an awesome read. Witness the difference between the small towns of Stewart and Hyder, on opposite sides of the international boundary in Alaska's panhandle, become acquainted with someone by the name of GOVERNMENT AGENT, and learn the meaning of thumos.

In every language in which we have tested this, "frontier" means something nearly opposite to its American sense. The French Larousse gives only one meaning for frontière, and that is the border between two nations--which in an oft-invaded country like France conjures up danger rather than opportunity. In Mandarin Chinese the term is bian jie or "boundary." In Cantonese, the word for frontier is huang di, which carries a negative connotation of "wilderness" or "wasteland." A frontier is a barren hardship post, not a place of opportunities, explains a Chinese colleague.

Russians have a very similar attitude toward frontiers. A Russian who discovered that one of these authors maintains his judicial chambers in Alaska blurted out, "Why were you sent?" The idea that there might be appeal in an assignment on America's Alaskan frontier seemed incomprehensible to him.

During America's expansion westward, frontier transformed into the very opposite of a boundary or limit. Its primary meaning in American English came to be a "boundless realm of possibility." Indeed some foreign dictionaries call this meaning of "frontier" an "Americanism."

There's way too much to quote, so just read it all. It's just fascinating. Oh, and it's by a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which I'd been led to believe doesn't think like this at all... what's up with that?

13:44 - This is what happens when you stop worshipping the Sun

It gets mad and heats up.

Global warming has finally been explained: the Earth is getting hotter because the Sun is burning more brightly than at any time during the past 1,000 years, according to new research.

A study by Swiss and German scientists suggests that increasing radiation from the sun is responsible for recent global climate changes.

Dr Sami Solanki, the director of the renowned Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Gottingen, Germany, who led the research, said: "The Sun has been at its strongest over the past 60 years and may now be affecting global temperatures.

"The Sun is in a changed state. It is brighter than it was a few hundred years ago and this brightening started relatively recently - in the last 100 to 150 years."

Dr Solanki said that the brighter Sun and higher levels of "greenhouse gases", such as carbon dioxide, both contributed to the change in the Earth's temperature but it was impossible to say which had the greater impact.

. . .

Dr Gareth Jones, a climate researcher at the Met Office, said that Dr Solanki's findings were inconclusive because the study had not incorporated other potential climate change factors.

"The Sun's radiance may well have an impact on climate change but it needs to be looked at in conjunction with other factors such as greenhouse gases, sulphate aerosols and volcano activity," he said. The research adds weight to the views of David Bellamy, the conservationist. "Global warming - at least the modern nightmare version - is a myth," he said. "I am sure of it and so are a growing number of scientists. But what is really worrying is that the world's politicians and policy-makers are not.

"Instead, they have an unshakeable faith in what has, unfortunately, become one of the central credos of the environmental movement: humans burn fossil fuels, which release increased levels of carbon dioxide - the principal so-called greenhouse gas - into the atmosphere, causing the atmosphere to heat up. They say this is global warming: I say this is poppycock."

Better not say that too loudly, Doctor, or our new gods might hear you and have you "disappeared".

13:22 - Señor Moore no es macho, es solamente un borracho

Wow. It's the Dixie Chicks all over again:

LAS VEGAS - Singer Linda Ronstadt not only got booed, she got the boot after lauding filmmaker Michael Moore and his new movie “Fahrenheit 9/11” during a performance at the Aladdin hotel-casino.

Before singing “Desperado” for an encore Saturday night, the 58-year-old rocker called Moore a “great American patriot” and “someone who is spreading the truth.” She also encouraged everybody to see the documentary about President Bush.

Ronstadt’s comments drew loud boos and some of the 4,500 people in attendance stormed out of the theater. People also tore down concert posters and tossed cocktails into the air.

“It was a very ugly scene,” Aladdin President Bill Timmins told The Associated Press. “She praised him and all of a sudden all bedlam broke loose.”

Timmins, who is British and was watching the show, decided Ronstadt had to go — for good. Timmins said he didn’t allow Ronstadt back in her luxury suite and she was escorted off the property.

Bewilderingly enough, the audience didn't appear to have been induced to act in this way by armed Secret Service agents lining the aisles. I'm sure Elton John and Whoopi Goldberg will continue scratching their heads over this inexplicable, maddening behavior, even as it begins to become a pattern as we recognize that Hollywood and the entertainment industry as a bloc have become thoroughly, dangerously, disconnected from the reality we cherish.

I know which casino will get my money next time I'm in Vegas.

Via LGF, which has a ton of juicy stuff today. No, more than usual, which is saying something.

UPDATE: of course, people are already yammering that Ronstadt's "First Amendment Rights" are being curtailed. Guys, I hate to be a broken MP3 file, but new rule: You have to have READ the First Amendment before you invoke it in an indignant statement of purpose.

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.

Not a word in there about how if a performer, hired to sing, says something political and unpopular, her audience is prohibited from booing her off the stage. Congress is the only thing that the First Amendment applies to. Congress! And there's no word on whether any members of Congress were in attendance at the Aladdin, or wrote down new laws against Ronstadt before cramming them in bottles and hurling them at her head.

In other words, the First Amendment does not even apply here.

The First Amendment is a presumption that there are no laws curtailing free speech, except common-sense ones like about yelling "Movie" in a crowded firehouse. It's a prohibition against the federal government making any new such laws. Got that? It's about making new laws, not about directing how private citizens may argue with each other or decide freely whom to support with their time and their dollars.

You want balance? You want democracy? Then everybody gets their say. Not just the ones you happen to agree with. Don't miss Sparkey's vivid illustration of this pernicious little meme at work.

And incidentally, this reminds me: what if, instead of our First Amendment, we had something like Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

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.

Since this language is vaguely worded in the positive, rather than crafted as a specific prohibition against the federal government—do you suppose this little event might have gone down differently? Would Timmins have had the "right" to boot Ronstadt out? After all, she has the fundamental freedom to say what she wants, right? Does this language enjoin just the government, or private citizens too? What does it actually mean?

Sunday, July 18, 2004
21:03 - An unexpected treasure trove

Someone's iMix: The WORST Music on iTunes!

Some of this stuff is pure fool's gold. (Yes, it's got William Hung in it...)

14:28 - They know what's important

Just now on KCBS, at the top o' the hour:

Coming up: An Iraqi-government-sanctioned U.S. airstrike against suspected insurgents in the Iraqi city of Fallujah has killed some fourteen people. Local hospitals, however, report that some civilians are among the dead. Also, in sports...

Don't you just love it? Not a word about whether the attack was successful or not. Only that there were civilians killed.

Sure glad our media has its priorities in order.

12:43 - That's more like what I had in mind

Via Cold Fury—Orson Scott Card is at least one storysmith who's put his talents to good use lately.

How stupid are Americans?

I think the answer is:

As dumb as we wanna be.

Well, let's come back to that thought.

Kerry's voting record in the Senate says that he'd rather our military consisted of a sixty-man chorus dressed in camo and singing "Give Me Some Men Who Are Stout-Hearted Men."

And maybe, maybe, one bugler.

If it had been up to Kerry, we wouldn't have had enough of a military to take over downtown Dallas, let alone Iraq.

But, just like Clinton, Kerry has realized that you can say anything you want during the campaign. As long as you're the Democratic candidate, the liberal media will actually take your promises seriously; and when the Republicans start attacking your record, they'll accuse them of "negative campaigning."

Not only that, but Kerry's sudden "stronger defense" plans are not provoking howls of outrage from the anti-war wing of his own party.

Why is that? Don't you wonder?

I mean, they're still ripping into President Bush as if he were the anti-Christ -- no, as if he were Mel Gibson -- because they hate this war that has closed down two terrorist-sponsoring governments and liberated millions from tyranny.

But when Kerry promises to do exactly what President Bush has been doing, only "better," they don't attack him at all. Why is that?

For the same reason that the economic leftists of the Democratic Party didn't attack Clinton back in 1992.

They don't believe him.

It's as simple as that.

They know that Kerry, like Clinton, is merely saying whatever it takes to get elected. You paint yourself as the sober moderate so people will vote for you. Then, when you're in office, you behave exactly like the leftist you really are.

This would explain the peals of giddy laughter that Kerry gets whenever he drools out that joke about how Bush wants to "lay off your camel, tax your shovel, kick your ass and tell you there is no promised land", so hoary that it's been used on every President since Truman; his audience, apparently, is simply so starved to hear any words come out of any mouth but Bush's that they'll cheer however loudly they have to, for whatever moronic babble it is, toward the greater goal of having Bush defeated in November. Issues? Issues don't matter. Deeds don't matter. Character doesn't matter. The only thing, evidently, that matters is the name—as long as the name of the guy sitting in the Oval Office is not spelled B-U-S-H, the actual person whose name it is could be Rasputin and they'd still slurp at his toes.

But the vast middle group, the people who get their news from Leno and Letterman and Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show, all they know is "Bush Is Dumb" and "Kerry's Going to Win the War." So guess which one they'll vote for.

Precisely what I've been saying. We've become a people that derives our political views from the Ivy-League snobbishness of Doonesbury, the anarchic nihilism of George Carlin, and whoever can do the best impression of the President on Saturday Night Live. Sincerity is lost; we assume that whatever any politician actually says is a lie, so we depend on humorists and satirists—dealers in irony and invective—to have done our thinking for us, to have analyzed the politicians' lie-filled speeches and separated the meaning from the rhetoric, then gone to the trouble to distill it into a series of Flash-animated caricatures to be shown on VH1. If they've got a funny-as-hell joke all queued up, ready to stake their ratings on it, we think, surely that means they've thought the matter through! We worship the irreverent because it deconstructs complex reality for us into something to laugh at derisively and shriek "It's true! It's so true!" in ecstatic response.

Regardless of what Kerry promises during his campaign, a vote for him is a vote to end any serious effort to fight terrorism using our military abroad. And since he is also committed to dismantling the laws that make serious homeland security possible, just how do you think he's going to do against our sworn enemies?

There is a difference between the two candidates. A huge one.

In the past couple of weeks, people have been giving Reagan way too much credit for being an international tough guy. The collapse of the Soviet Union? I recall that Gorbachev and Yeltsin had something to do with bringing the idea of freedom to Russia. Reagan might have said, "Tear down this wall," but he also traded arms for hostages and pulled the Marines out of Beirut as a reward to the terrorists.

In other words, we revere Reagan for his toughness, but he had his non-tough moments, and he got lots of credit for things he only contributed to.

George W. Bush is the real thing. Despite unbelievable political hostility, at home and abroad, he has determinedly pursued the war that we had to fight, and still have to pursue until we win.

Reagan caved in on Beirut and on paying off hostage-takers. George W. Bush hasn't caved in on anything significant concerning this war.

But W isn't smooth on TV. He has Letterman ridiculing him viciously every night on NBC. He has a lot of liars calling him a liar. The media message is constantly being pounded home: Even though W has successfully governed our country through the first two campaigns of a war that was forced on us; even though he has presided over a recovery from the recession that began during Clinton's presidency, despite the huge economic setback caused by 9/11; even though he has a track record that would be the envy of any wartime or peacetime president ...

In other words, even though he has the job of President and has done it as well as anyone in recent years (and, I believe, better than Reagan by quite some) ...

He still might lose the election, because Americans are so dumb we actually believe it when political dimwits like Letterman call Bush stupid ...

Which brings us back to the original question Card poses. Are we Americans actually that stupid? I think not. I don't think we're any more stupid as a people than anyone else on the planet. I don't even think most Leftists are stupid—I'd venture that genuine stupidity is a characteristic that gets distributed fairly evenly across the spectrum, and is in fact really quite rare. If stupidity were the hallmark of any particular political view, we wouldn't have people like Ralph Nader or Pat Robertson—both geniuses in their own right—commanding empires of personality at opposite ends of the landscape.

No, it isn't stupidity. It's just the dynamics of our modern form of political discourse. Everything has to be reduced to a joke, a one-liner, a sound bite. And in polite private conversation, everyone wants to have their own little anecdote or slogan that defines how they feel politically, so if the guy across the dinner table makes some jibe about our leaders, we'll know how to swat it right back with the dexterity of a badminton champion.

Peer pressure is what it is. Peer pressure is a very powerful force; the smartest among us can fall prey to it, and have ever since we've had peers. If you take a random sample of people, with differing political views, they'll all generally sort of avoid hanging their banners out too far, because nobody wants to be unpleasant in mixed company. But stir the pot a little, leave it out in the sun—and sooner or later, people will gravitate toward others of like mind. Our form of political discourse is to suck in what the comics on Comedy Central say and then regurgitate it at opportune times; and since comedians all sing the same tune nowadays (how funny can someone be while waving a flag? You've got to tackle The Man, right? And comedians band together too, once they see which way the wind is blowing), the audiences soon find themselves bobbing in a sea of uniform derision and hatred for Bush.

Then, while walking your dog through a pleasant residential neighborhood, you find a truck parked at the sidewalk with the words BUSH LIED — VOTE HIM OUT written in duct tape on the back window, and you stop in your tracks and stare for a moment... and then you just shake your head and keep moving, because what good would it do? How likely is the truck's driver going to be to listen to you quote the Butler Report, or challenge him to explain exactly how Bush did lie? You're harshing his mellow, to use an apt expression from a site I seem to have seen recently. You're not being funny. In this day and age, even facts have to be weighed against what the comedians say, and they're at a distinct disadvantage too. We don't give sincerity a second thought. If it can't be spun into a relentlessly infectious joke on prime-time cable, where the only voice that bucks the trend is the ever-more-my-hero Trey Parker, we don't take it seriously.

No, we're not being stupid. We're just assuming that the pop-culture consensus burbling around us got that way for a reason—that if every comedian in the world says "Bush is Stupid" or "Bush Lied", then how can it not be so? After all, fifty million Americans can't be wrong . . .

Anyway, read Card's whole piece. It's best absorbed in unedited sequence. Authors tend to be like that.

11:44 - In Japan, they call him "Annual Gift Man" and he lives on the Moon

Brian sends this:

In the remote mountains of northern Japan sits a strange little town with an even stranger story.

It’s a story of Jesus Christ, and it goes a little something like this: Jesus didn’t die up on his cross at Golgotha. That was his brother. Christ himself fled across Siberia and, after a brief detour through Alaska, landed in Japan — where he got married and raised a family.

The town, Shingo, calls itself Kirisuto no Sato: Hometown of Christ.

Check out this alternate legend. At least he didn't have tentacles...

Saturday, July 17, 2004
17:48 - Six Degrees from Lileks

Heh. This is the kind of thing that makes the blogosphere such a small, fun world:

I googled the cartoonist, [Sam] Viviano, wondering if the kid had just stepped back into the smothering mists of history. There certainly wasn’t much promise in the illustrations, after all. Wouldn’t it be cool to find out that he was living in Arizona running a popular restaurant? I could call him up and ask if he remembered appearing in this book I’d saved for more than a quarter of a century. “You – you have a copy?” he’d say. “I don’t believe it. I lost my only copy in a flood, and never thought I’d see it again. Bless you!” Or so those stories go if the fates decide it’s a happy-ending day.

Well, imagine my surprise.

From Lileks to Sam Viviano to MAD to The Lion King to me. Gee whiz, indeed!

16:05 - The New York Enquirer

Here's something that happened while I was up at my folks' place this week on vacation.

Now, I don't normally make a habit of watching the evening mainstream media news. I'd gotten out of that practice at college, since we didn't have TV there; and afterwards, I had the Web (and, later, blogs) to satisfy my appetite for news. These days I don't even listen to KCBS on the radio anymore. But, you know, hey—if I have the opportunity to refresh my memory as to why I no longer find this to be an important source from which to get my news, I'll often take it.

So the evening news comes on—I'm not sure which one; I think it was CBS News, the big national six-o-clockstravaganza. And what's their absolute top story, the thing with which they lead off the hour of news, the piece of reporting with gravest national import?

Why, this:

In the annals of Washington conspiracy theories, the latest one, about Vice President Dick Cheney's future on the Republican ticket, is as ingenious as it is far-fetched. But that has not stopped it from racing through Republican and Democratic circles like the latest low-carb diet.

The newest theory - advanced privately by prominent Democrats, including members of Congress - holds that Mr. Cheney recently dismissed his personal doctor so that he could see a new one, who will conveniently tell him in August that his heart problems make him unfit to run with Mr. Bush.

Mind you, this rumor was not the story, per se: the story was that the New York Times had printed this. "Quiet rumors that Dick Cheney might be dropped from the ticket became a lot louder this morning," said the anchorwoman, "When the New York Times this morning published this story." They showed a photo of the article in situ on the newspaper. This was the story! That this rumor, advanced by nobody more in-the-know than "prominent Democrats", had been printed by the NYT. And, you know, if CBS's goal was to expose the NYT as a source of garbled lies, it would have made a pretty strong case. But somehow I doubt that's what their intention was.

The news desk then turned to CBS' primary Washington correspondent, that fat guy who looks like Wayne Knight, who said that he'd spoken directly to "no fewer than five top Bush administration officials, from Karl Rove on down," all of whom had assured him in no uncertain terms that the rumor was unfounded—that Cheney was on the ticket, that the party considers him an asset, that there's no reason to expect any changes. So the newsdesk appears to have made the best effort possible, and found that there's no basis in truth for publishing this rumor as-is. Sounds like good reporting so far, right? That silly Times!

...But what does CBS do next?

Why, yes—you guessed it! They called up John Kerry and got a sound bite:

"The Bush administration may like to paint me as some kind of flip-flopper. But if Bush drops Cheney from the ticket, he will prove himself to be the flip-flopper of all time."

Wheee! Isn't this great? This is how news is made today! If you're a "prominent Democrat", apparently, you can now just make up wild stories with no basis in reality and send them in to the New York Times, who will gleefully print them above the fold! Hey—since this has worked so well this time, let's accuse Bush of murdering Jon-Benet Ramsey, and Condi Rice of being a space alien engaged to Elvis! By the end of the day, you'll have John Kerry on the phone with Dan Rather and fifty million viewers, telling us all in concerned tones how much he disapproves of the murder of child beauty queens and the Republicans' tacit policy of employing illegal aliens in top official positions, not to mention his belief that he, like most Americans, frowns on interspecies marriage between extraterrestrials and dead musicians. Just watch the polls soar! Damn Republicans won't know what hit 'em. Huzzah!

Seriously, after this story finished playing itself out on Wednesday night, I just sat there staring at the TV. This is the news I spent so many years watching? It was't always this much of a farce, was it?

I mean, come on... at least wait until news actually happens before you give political candidates a platform on which to make hay out of it, huh?

14:24 - Oh yes, I'm supposed to not be here

I guess I'm not gone till Sunday like I thought I'd be. The family visit was only for the course of the week; we just dropped off my brother and his wife at the airport a couple of hours ago, and things are now slowly getting back to normal around here. Oh boy! 900 e-mails to go through!

I may have more to say about the week after I've dug a few furrows through my inbox.

14:15 - Guinan, report to Airlock B

Sometimes comedy just writes itself.

CapLion has the scoop: Whoopi Goldberg has been dropped from her SlimFast endorsement because lots of SlimFast customers wrote and called in to complain about her embarrassingly crude anti-Bush comedy routine a little while ago (that John Kerry giddily attended, naturally).

Predictably enough, Whoopi concluded that this textbook case of free market expression amounts to the suppression of free speech:

"The fact that I am no longer the spokesman for SlimFast makes me sad, but not as sad as someone trying to punish me for exercising my right as an American to speak my mind."

Just for reference, Whoopi, here's the right you have as an American to speak your mind:

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.

I'm sure that with your empathic powers, you can not only tell when the Enterprise is a ship of peace and not a ship of war, but also that the First Amendment guarantees that a private corporation that hires you for endorsement work is not allowed to terminate your contract when you make public statements that offend that corporation's customers and cause them to switch to competitors' products.

All well and good so far, right? All neatly following the script? "The President sucks! Now give me my money!" "No! You're scaring away our customers!" "Eeeee! You're crushing my dissent!" We've all heard it before. Nothing new here, right?

Here's where it really starts inducing the giggles:

Diversity promoter Asa Khalif, who has made headlines for accusing celebrities of insensitivity, cried foul in the Goldberg firing. "I smell racism from beginning to end," said Khalif, head of Racial Unity USA in Pennsylvania. "SlimFast must realize that black women have every right to voice their views."

I get it. Now it's because she's black. Now, all of a sudden, Whoopi Goldberg, the most successful and famous African-American comedienne of all time, is the victim of racism. She's been fired by SlimFast for being black and opinionated. See, 'cause if she had been white and SlimFast had fired her for her comments, Mr. "Diversity Promoter" would have been just peachy-keen with developments, right?

And if Whoopi had been fired by, say, Ben & Jerry's for voicing pro-Bush views, I'm sure Mr. Khalif would be pounding the podium and yelling that she was fired because she's black, right?

My God. Does this stuff defy parody, or what?

Wednesday, July 14, 2004
14:59 - Gone

I'm going to be away from net access for the next several days, probably until Sunday night. Blogging may be slightly curtailed.

See you all later!

Tuesday, July 13, 2004
23:50 - See, see, what it is, is this is what it is, see

Somewhere along the line, something happened that changed how people everywhere view the President.

I don't know what exactly it was, or whether it's this President in particular that this applies to; but what happened is that the burden of proof shifted from those who wanted to posit that Bush was evil to those who wanted to posit that he wasn't. In earlier times, we generally assumed the President had flaws, but that someone who wanted to discredit him would have to point them out and prove them. Otherwise we gave the President the benefit of the doubt, out of respect for the office and an understanding of the need for unity—discussing the issues of the day rather than the vagaries of the President himself. But sometime, somehow, it became the accepted understanding that Bush was a bad person; and suddenly, it was no longer necessary to cite reasons for believing so. Particularly in the personal circles in which I travel, it's become such that finding someone who isn't anti-Bush is about like stumbling across a Platygaeist. He's the subject of honest bewilderment ("...You're joking, right?"), then scorn and ire.

in these circles, the accepted wisdom is that Bush is a fanatical religious zealot, even though he's no more overtly religious in his speeches and conduct than, say, Clinton, or indeed any other President in our history. Although it's an article of faith that "politicians lie", in Bush's case even a "lie" that turns out to be true is cause for crucifixion. Though throughout the 90s it was obvious throughout pop culture, movies, and comedy routines that Saddam was an evil monster whom we should remove as quickly and expediently as possible, in the post-9/11 world for Bush to follow up on everybody's heartfelt exhortations—from Gore to Kerry to Edwards—by invading Iraq makes him into Hitler.

What moved the goalposts this far? What has caused this drastic a change in how we judge our leaders? How do we even cope with this kind of cognitive dissonance?

Because that's what it is. I honestly just don't get it—I can't see how one can arrive at the mindset that the President is presumed evil and must be proved benign. I mean, I can laugh at Clinton jokes as hard as anybody; but I fully and unhesitatingly recognize the good things about him. He was an astonishingly good "uniter"; he created an atmosphere in which we could enjoy the prosperity of the 90s without being worried that we were taking ourselves too seriously. He did rather disgrace the office, but realistically, he was only following in a grand tradition of Presidential lasciviousness that went back generations. I can respect Clinton even as I disagree today with a lot of what he stood for. And should Kerry win, I'd give him the same respect due his office even as I stood in opposition to many of his policies. I've never equated Clinton with Stalin, and unless he grows horns and a tail, I don't ever intend to call Kerry Satan.

So what is it about Bush that has driven so many people, frankly, around the bend?

I don't know, but I can guess—without too much glibness—that it was just 9/11.

How? In the sense, I suppose, that we've reached a point in our national discourse where we've become so obsessed with the cult of the "other"—the en-vogue oppressed minority, the fetishized untainted aboriginal tribe, the patriarchal European social and political paragon, the non-Christian religious zeal—that when something as horrific as 9/11 occurs, we're allergically reluctant to blame it on anybody or anything but ourselves, especially when it appears to originate from the basic tenets of a romantically un-Western culture. We have a desperate need, instead of blaming someone else and risking being called "racist", to find an internal scapegoat for something that shakes our psyches thus to the core. And what better candidate for that role than a President who's already seen as somewhat illegitimate, and who already has a reputation as being a bit of a verbal bumbler, and (for special bonus credit) comes from the party that is seen as being opposed to the party that gave us the carefree prosperity of the 90s? Voilá: the perfect recipe for a domestically generated "problem" designed to take our minds off the bigger, externally imposed problem that we all know is out there, lurking.

We want our problems to be close to home, so we can feel like we have a chance of solving them. We'll even alter reality if that's what it takes.

...Then again, though, it might have just been the fallout and bitter backlash from Monica Lewinsky.

22:59 - So that's how it is

Via InstaPundit:

Recognition of the obvious. The media “wants Kerry to win” and so “they’re going to portray Kerry and Edwards as being young and dynamic and optimistic” and “there’s going to be this glow about” them, Evan Thomas, the Assistant Managing Editor of Newsweek, admitted on Inside Washington over the weekend. He should know. His magazine this week sports a smiling Kerry and Edwards on its cover with the yearning headline, “The Sunshine Boys?” Inside, an article carrying Thomas’ byline contrasted how “Dick Cheney projects the bleakness of a Wyoming winter, while John Edwards always appears to be strolling in the Carolina sunshine.” The cover story touted how Kerry and Edwards “became a buddy-buddy act, hugging and whispering like Starsky and Hutch after consuming the evidence.”

Newsweek’s competitor, Time, also gushed about the Democratic ticket, dubbing them, in the headline over their story, “The Gleam Team.”

Oh, but there is no media bias! What a silly idea!

14:22 - As if it weren't obvious

This John Podhoretz column is actually quite a good read. He raises some good points that follow from this:

JOHN Kerry has finally spoken the words that make the November election an unambiguous choice. On "60 Minutes" on Sunday night, according to the official transcript released by CBS News, Kerry said: "I am against the — the war."

He tried to qualify them, to fudge them a bit, but no matter. The words are now out there and can't be taken back.

Oh, but he'll try. He'll say the opposite, and then switch back again, for every audience he talks to between now and November. After all, now he'll have to. Stupid economy keeps getting better, and now he has to find something new to berate Bush for. He can't even say he lied anymore.

What I want to know is this: How, after Sunday night, could a President Kerry ask a single man or woman in the U.S. armed forces to risk his or her life in Iraq when he is "against the — the war"? Don't simple honesty and decency demand that Kerry immediately announce his plans for a complete withdrawal from Iraq?

Kerry has made no such announcement. In fact, he continues to proclaim his support for a huge American presence in Iraq on the grounds that "the world has a stake in . . . a stable Iraq."

He never speaks about the Iraq war in terms of protecting America from terrorism, or advancing democracy in the Muslim Middle East, or liberating a suffering people from more than 30 years of tyranny and chaos.

He offers no cause higher or nobler than "stability."

That cannot stand. Kerry cannot lead this country to a successful resolution of the hostilities in Iraq if the only positive value he sees in victory is "stability." The country won't stand for it.

Kerry may share JFK's initials, but right now, the president he most resembles is Richard Milhous Nixon — the very man he condemned in 1971 for not wanting to be "the first president to lose a war."

Nixon did become the first president to lose a war.

If John Kerry becomes president, he'll be the second.

Uh huh. You know, the news about the Philippines, and the stark contrast between Bush's and Kerry's approaches to the war and terrorism, are perfect illustrations of the whole central point of everything we've all been writing about for the past three years: Attitude is what this war is about. Not conquest, not foreign aid, not oil interests, not alliances, none of those postmodern silly reasons we're all used to for going to war. This is all a matter of attitude. You know how even a decade ago we'd all internalized the notion of an embattled President sitting in a smoke-filled room, growling, "We don't negotiate with terrorists"? That was the attitude that was understood to be the only sensible course of action, in everything from Star Trek to Saturday-morning superhero cartoons. We don't negotiate with terrorists. Attitude is paramount. Because if you do negotiate with terrorists, if you let your attitude slip, they win. That's all they want, and you're giving it to them.

Now, even as England counsels its citizens to "adopt a submissive posture" when mugged, and give the attacker whatever he wants and don't attempt self-defense at all—we seem to be embarked on a global re-education program to convince the Western world that the solution to any threat is to simply give in to it, buy it off, and then seek justice—if any is to be had—from some paternal body of latent authority. Mugger steals your purse at knife-point? Give it to him and call the cops. Terrorists blow up your buildings? Do whatever they say, then ask the UN to draft a resolution condemning the act.

Spain and the Philippines have shown that they think the best way to respond to terrorists taking their citizens hostage and blowing up their trains is to take the terrorists at their word and fulfill their demands—because hey, then they'll go away and be nice, right?

Those of us who seem to remember something about the inalienable right to self-defense—and about how using terror to achieve one's demands is a tactic that should never, ever be rewarded with success—are finding ourselves more and more alone in the world.

But we remember what a difference attitude makes. We remember our self-defense courses that taught us to strike a threatening posture, to brandish a gun, to make it clear to the mugger that we are not going to be an easy target—which will make him skedaddle, since he's out there looking for easy targets, not to get beat up. And we remember that the absolute last thing you want to do, when attacked by terrorists, is to give even the slightest impression that you're taking their demands seriously. You treat them like vermin. You react with unreasonable force. You make sure they understand that getting you angry is not something they want to do.

There were those of us who wanted to respond to 9/11 by nuking Mecca; and of course, our civilized and tolerant natures won out in the first nanosecond of discussion, and that option was never really taken seriously. Of course it wasn't. But that impulse was there; among serious, intelligent people who understand the nature of war, the desire to mount a response way, way out of proportion with the scale of the attack itself was always there, floating in the back of our minds. It's what made us go to Afghanistan as quickly as practicable after 9/11. It's what made us go to Iraq to sweep out whatever looked like a potential threat. And, well, that's why al Qaeda has been focusing on other countries than the U.S. since then. They know we're not an easy target; and they also know that there are other countries who are.

Sucks to be them; but they know the rules of the game they're playing. Or ought to.

Kerry's approach to the war will be to rein in all our attitude. We'll fold up the tents, call off the dogs, go back to minding our own business like we were doing on 9/10. Those who vote for Kerry because he opposes the war (at heart, even if he tries to take back his words) are specifically voting for this change in our attitude: they want to see us negotiate, form alliances, be friendly and welcoming and forgiving. To adopt a submissive posture. To cower in the alley when the mugger tackles us with a knife, to hand over our purse and then—if we're still alive—to call the cops. Who, no doubt, will put out an APB, much may it threaten the attacker whose face you never saw and who slunk away silently into the shadows with your goods and your dignity.

I don't think the American people as a whole have forgotten what it means to be the belligerent, bristling, broad-shouldered, square-jawed, pugnacious people we once liked to imagine ourselves to be. We still like Popeye better than Captain Planet, after all. It's still in our blood somewhere—even if just in reliquary earthy expressions like "in our blood"—to understand the importance of attitude. Now that the Presidential race, as if there had been any doubt before, has reduced itself to a choice between being badasses or being wusses, I do think more of us will choose the former; because we realize that there's always time to dabble in the arts, but not when the museum is burning down. And you don't wear silk dresses on the city streets at night.

Monday, July 12, 2004
22:48 - I so needed that

This is making the rounds... and let me tell you, it has released a lot of stress all at once.

My sides hurt... but it's all good. Aahhh.

CapLion: "It's amazing how hard it is to type when you're laughing your ass off."

17:35 - Philippines beg for mercy

We've often heard people in political statements describe Islam as a "religion of peace". But this is possibly the first time I've heard the word mercy used in such a statement.

DUBAI (Reuters) - The Philippines will withdraw its forces from Iraq “as soon as possible,” Philippine deputy foreign minister Rafael Seguis said on Monday in a statement he read out on al Jazeera television.

“In response to your request, the Philippines ... will withdraw its humanitarian forces as soon as possible,” Seguis said according to al Jazeera’s Arabic translation of his remarks.

His statement was addressed to a group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq, which is holding a Filipino driver hostage and has threatened to kill him unless Manila agrees to withdraw its troops by July 20.

“I hope the statement that I read will touch the heart of this group,” Seguis told the satellite television from Baghdad.

He declined to give an exact date for the 50 humanitarian troops’ withdrawal, which Manila had insisted would take place by August 20 as earlier scheduled.

Seguis appealed to the group to release their hostage, truck driver Angelo de la Cruz, and added: “We know that Islam is the religion of peace and mercy.”

It's clear why he chose that word: on behalf of his country, he's begging for mercy.

Commenter merav:

The Phillipines and Spain are doing even more than rewarding the terrorists: they're VALIDATING them. They're saying, in effect: "You are right, and our governments are wrong. Your actions are reasonable, and ours are not. You are a religion of mercy and peace; we are savages and warmongers. You have a perfect right to behead our civilians, we filthy infidels have no right to protest, but we appeal to your mercy. You caught us red-handed. We're guilty. We deserve the beheadings. We'll do anything you say. But please bless us with your overflowing mercy. Allah hu-akbar."

Yup. That'll show 'em.

12:04 - But he supports the troops

The USMC has issued a 1000-word review of Fahrenheit 9/11.

11:41 - Do you want to know the awful truth.... or do you want to watch me hit a few dingers?

Via Tim Blair—here we have a full-color illustration of how seriously the Moore Left takes the reality in which we live, painted by Simon Houpt of the Globe and Mail.

All that talk about my lazy American colleagues shirking their responsibility to put the tough questions to Bush made me feel guilty by association. I wanted to prove I couldn't be pushed around like them. So I put a question to Moore, referencing David Denby's New Yorker review of Fahrenheit 9/11, asking something that had bothered me when I saw it.

I appreciated the j'accuse nature of the film, but I wanted to know why it didn't address the dangers of armed Islamic fundamentalism, obsessive anti-Westernism, suicide terrorists, and what Moore thinks would be the proper approach for the U.S. government to legitimately conduct itself in a fight against terrorism. After all, if you're going to criticize measures like the Patriot Act, wouldn't you want to offer an alternative?

Moore took a moment to compose his answer. "Night after night, we are hammered on our television networks and our cable news channels about the Islamic fundamentalists. We've seen it all, we've heard it all," he began, speaking unusually slowly and deliberately. "My job is to say: Maybe there's something else going on, maybe there's another piece of information you should have before making up your mind. Maybe you should see an opposing viewpoint once in a while in this country. The corporate media in this country, they've got control of it 24/7, 365 days of the year. My film is our humble plea: Can we have just two hours for our side?

"The second part of your question is: How do you fight a war against religious fundamentalists? Well, that's what we're doing in this country, and I hope we're successful on November 2."

And the room full of hundreds of sycophantic journalists roared with laughter. Case closed! Shut him down!

What must it be like, to look at a mainstream media in which 7% of journalists describe themselves as "conservative", and conclude that the press is not liberal enough?

And am I reading his reply incorrectly, or is he describing the Islamic fundamentalists as our side?

Sunday, July 11, 2004
23:31 - Extry! Extry! Read aaall about it!

Evidently, if your tastes run to such things, you can now go and spend several hours perusing sites that explore to every last gleefully dancing detail the sudden meltdown of the whole BUSH LIED!!! thing. The upshot being, well, no, those infamous "sixteen words"—the ones about Saddam buying uranium from Niger—have turned out to be correct after all.

Which also simultaneously lets the air out of a whole bunch of other Bush canards, like the "Joe Wilson's CIA wife was outed by the Bush administration to punish him for speaking out against them" and the "BBC guy was murdered to cover up evidence that he sexed-up the Iraq dossier" ones.

Oh well; at least still PEOPLE DIED!!!11, right?

God, I'm still so tired of this stuff... even when it turns out well.

Friday, July 9, 2004
18:19 - Oh yes, do go on, please

Sure! What the hell!

I, David Blomstrom, a candidate for state office (Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction), hereby declare my belief that President George W. Bush deserves and should receive the death penalty, after the appropriate legal or quasi-legal formalities. I urge other patriotic Americans and foreign nationals alike to openly call for Bush’s execution. Furthermore, I sent my first press release announcing my position to Al-Jazeera in symbolic gesture designed to call attention to the corruption that runs rampant in America’s media.

Let me first emphasize that this is not a death threat. Nor is it designed to encourage physical attacks. On the contrary, such an assault would probably accomplish nothing, for a number of reasons.

. . .

The stunning impact of Moore’s movie is a reminder that millions of Americans still care about truth, justice and democracy. Yet millions of Americans still rally behind George W. Bush, whether driven by stupidity, corruption or selfish fear.

In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the French newspaper Le Monde recalled a Revolutionary War partnership when it declared, "We are all Americans." Ironically, the French, Germans, Chinese, Brazilians and residents of other nations are truer Americans than many U.S. citizens.

Rather than celebrate July 4, 2002 as a commercialized commemoration of our national birthday (sponsored by Washington Mutual at Seattle’s Gasworks Park), let’s designate it the beginning of a new revolution, a global class struggle that topples the arrogant and corrupt elite that are returning America to the days of King George, with the entire world his colony. We desperately need a new revolution, and all good revolutions focus heavily on two items that are sadly neglected in America today — accountability and education.

No, this isn't a Something Awful parody. This is what some unemployed guy running for office in the Seattle educational system ground out syllable by painful syllable from behind that slablike brow.

What can one do but tiredly laugh? Just laugh, and laugh, and don't stop laughing for God's sake because the implications of this being how a lot of our citizens think are too depressing to contemplate?

UPDATE: Know what this guy's premise reminds me of?

"Did you know they've reinstated the death penalty for lawyers?"
"Really? For what offense?"
"What do you mean, offense?"

17:39 - Oh, so we've dispensed with the pretense, have we?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I've usually been under the impression that when Garry Trudeau puts numbers and figures (like from polls and financial statistics and such) in his Doonesbury strips, they're traditionally at least accurate—and he uses them as the basis for his strips' humor content.

What the hell's that?

Does Garry think his readers are all able to tell how facetious he's being here—or does he just figure they'll all believe him? I mean, it stands to reason that all Iraqis hate the occupation, right?! Of course they do! Everybody knows that!

Just like everybody knew that nobody in Iraq wanted the war to happen. Yuh-huh. It's fake-out "news" like this, screwball comedy masquerading as thoughtful op-ed material, that led to the "human shields" being caught completely by surprise by the idea that nearly all Iraqis wanted the war—that the Iraqis assumed that the "human shields" could only be on Saddam's payroll, since nothing else could explain their motives.

Trudeau spends decades building up a reputation as a guy who builds his narrative around real facts and figures. But when the facts and figures don't support his narrative, he slips seamlessly into fantasy numbers—and the readers can't tell the difference. They're not intended to.

If we wonder what could lead to people like Moore blithering about the insurgents representing majority Iraqi sentiment, well, here it is right in front of us. Nice going, Garry.

See Victor Davis Hanson for elucidation of where Trudeau's chosen narrative is leading him:

The war that Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards once caricatured as a fiasco and amoral is now, for all its tragedies, emerging in some sort of historical perspective as a long-overdue liberation. At some point, one must choose: Saddam in chains or Saddam in power. And the former does not happen with rhetoric, but only through risk, occasional heartbreak, and the courage of the U.S. military. If Iyad Allawi and his brave government succeed — and they just may — the United States will have done more for world freedom and civilization than the fall of the Berlin Wall — and against far greater odds. Deanism is dead. Moorism is a fatal contagion that will ruin anyone it infects.

Kerry is only now starting to grasp that a year from now Iraq more likely will not be Vietnam, but maybe the most radical development of our time — and that all the Left's harping is becoming more and more irrelevant. Witness his talk of security and his newfound embrace of the post-9/11 effort as a war rather than a DA's indictment. It is not a good idea to plan on winning in November by expecting us to lose now in Iraq.

So John Kerry is starting to get it that the conventional ignorance of Michael Moore, the New York Times, and George Soros is already anachronistic. You can see that well enough when a grandee like Tom Brokaw, Christiane Amanpour, or a Nightline flunky starts in with the usual cheap, cynical hits against Iraq reformers — only to be stunned mid-sentence, like deer in the headlights, with the sense that they are berating noble and sincere men and women — far better folk than themselves — who at risk to their lives are crafting something entirely new in the Middle East.

I hope Garry's proud of himself.

Thursday, July 8, 2004
17:34 - On second thought... yeah, go ahead, scream your fool head off, Mikey

Looks like Steven Den Beste has identified an upside to Michael Moore.

It strikes me that for all the short-term hoopla and enthusiasm about Moore from the left, and trepidation about him from the non-left, that in fact he may turn out to be just the man the non-left needs, appearing exactly when and where the non-left needs him most. A non-left mole couldn't have done a better job framing the LL position to their disadvantage.

Moore has planted his flag smacko in the middle of the Holy City of anti-Americanism. To defend that position, the LL's will now vocally proclaim something many have long believed but avoided admitting: they hate America and everything it stands for. That is not a message that will sell well to the broad electorate. They will proclaim that they love this nation, but... and then make clear that they despise most of the people who live in it, and despise the very features of this nation that the majority of us see as its greatest virtues. And they will poison the leftist political position even for non-loonie leftists. (Since Moore's supporters constitute a significant base of support for the Democratic Party, they're going to represent an ongoing headache for the Kerry campaign by their antics. And that will force him to continue to equivocate about his position major issues, to avoid alienating them, and at the same time avoid alienating the broad electorate.)

Spot-on. The people who say they love America but hate Americans, or who wrap themselves in stars and stripes while claiming that Americans are too stupid to be trusted with democracy, are only hiding under a thin veneer that masks their true nature. Their vision of an ideal America has nothing to do with what America has ever stood for in the past—just what they think some theoretical, post-historical, post-religion, post-monetary, Star Trek version of America should be. "Let America be America," says Kerry, quoting Marxist poet Langston Hughes. Intentionally? One hopes not, but one can't help but suspect so.

So the truth will out, eventually. The timing thing still worries me, though; there's not enough time before the election for people to discover that the economy is doing pretty frickin' hot and that Kerry/Edwards don't present much of a palatable dish for the next four years, and since so much of our public discourse centers around whichever movie is announced using the three-foot-high marquee letters that come out of the Big Box at the multiplex, the Your-Duty-Is-Clear-Mr.-and-Mrs.-American-Voter meme won't dissipate before November. It's well and good to see that Moore is in no better a position to fight in the long term than al-Sadr was. But committing to engaging him and his followers over the long term means acquiescing to a Kerry win this fall, and I don't know if I'm willing to pay that price. Moore is one man, and sooner or later he'll collapse under his own weight and start his own solar system somewhere far away where he can't hurt anybody. But if we let him dictate the first national referendum on our conduct following 9/11, and give the world the perception that America repudiates our every action since that day, then any victory that occurs in the political landscape until 2008 will be small, flavorless potatoes.

But then again, we seem to have been able to operate under a deadline in Iraq, so maybe we can do the same here. Georgie boy, could you please start frickin' campaigning, for Pete's sake?

16:35 - So Kerry's running on the Bush Stole The Election ticket

Via Will Collier at VodkaPundit, John Kerry:

"Don’t tell us disenfranchising a million African Americans and stealing their votes is the best we can do."

Um, what?

Let me rephrase that: WHAT?!?

Exactly why hasn't this little tidbit been noted by the national press? With a banner headline? That's not just rhetoric, it's the electoral equivalent of a blood-libel. For one thing, it's a flat-out lie, as reluctantly found by the partisan Democrat-dominated US Civil Rights Commission, which despite months of investigation, noted only 26 people with "disenfranchisement" complaints, most of which were found to be specious (link is to a .pdf file of the minority dissent, see page 32).

Not "a million disenfranchised," but 26 people with complaints, not all of which were valid.

Kerry isn't just lying, he's indulging in blatant, ugly race-baiting (it's noteworty he says nothing about the military personnel whose 2000 absentee ballots were voided at the demands of Gore lawyers--now they were disenfranchised, but since they didn't vote correctly, it's below French John's notice). Why isn't he being called on it by the press?

Scratch that--you already know the answer. The press is on his side.

Seriously, what is up with all the casual racism on the Left these days? Like Ted Rall implicitly calling Condi Rice a "house nigga" (his words)? Do these guys just get away with it because everybody assumes that you can't be racist if you're on the Left, no matter how ugly your language or your deeds or your policies—and you can't not be racist if you're on the Right, no matter how hard you have to scrape and dig to unearth even the slightest hint of racism?

Where did this "racist Republicans" rap come from, anyway? I grew up assuming it as an article of faith. But check out the "Hate Mail" page of Silent No More, a conservative-youth site, where one of the webmasters responds to some brain-donor misusing his copy of Outlook Express:

My name is Gerard, a proud member of the "Right-wing attack machine" and yes, I'm Black. So, I have a unique perspective of the charges you raise in your e-mail.

Founded by abolitionists, the Republican Party has had a 150 year history of fighting for Civil Rights. In contrast, the Democratic Party's active opposition to Civil Rights gave rise to the Ku Klux Klan, Black Codes, Jim Crow Laws and other repressive legislation which resulted in the multitude of murders, lynchings, mutilations, and intimidations (of thousands of black and white Republicans). On the issue of slavery, Democrats gave their lives to expand it while the Republicans gave their lives to ban it.

While Democrats were busy passing laws to hurt blacks, Republicans devoted their time to passing laws to help blacks. Republicans were primarily responsible for the following Civil Rights legislation:

1. The Emancipation Proclamation
2. The 13th Amendment
3. The 14th Amendment
4. The 15th Amendment
5. The Reconstruction Act of 1867
6. The Civil Rights of 1866
7. The Enforcement Act of 1870
8. The Forced Act of 1871
9. The Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871
10. The Civil Rights Act of 1875
11. The Freeman Bureau
12. The Civil Rights Act of 1957
13. The Civil Rights Act of 1960
14. The United States Civil Rights Commission

They also gave strong bi-partisan support and sponsorship for the following legislation

15. The Civil Rights Act of 1964
17. The Voting Rights Act of 1965
18. The 1968 Civil Rights Acts
19. The Equal Opportunity Act of 1972
20. Goals and Timetables for Affirmative Action Programs
21. Comprehensive Employment Training Act of 1973
22. Voting Rights Act of Amendment of 1982
23. Civil Rights Act of 1983
24. Federal Contract Compliance and Workforce Development Act of 1988

The Democrats opposed all of the above and to this day refuse to acknowledge their shameful past. Your charges of racism against [our Editor] are unwarranted, unsupported, and downright foolish. History speaks for itself. Labels have changed, but Republican Party ideals have not. As noted writer Thomas Sowell once said, "If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 50 years ago, a liberal 25 years ago, and a racist today."

The party of Lincoln, remember? And despite what Michael Moore might say, the NRA is not a front group for the KKK. It was founded by Union officers. The KKK's mortal enemies.

Dean says that the big divide in American politics today is between "People who understand pragmatism and the lack of instant change, and those who don't."

I think, from the perspective of race, the divide is between "people who believe that the various races are so different that they can't be reconciled without external force imposing handicaps and promotions to try to 'even things out', and those who think there are no differences that are so great that they won't simply disappear if everybody is treated with true equality".

But equality is racist these days. I get it.

13:05 - And it's all our fault

MoveOn.org has been agitating lately for the US to act more strongly against the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. "The Bush administration has asked for UN sanctions of the country," said a recent e-mail release (paraphrased), "but it's not enough." Implying, apparently, that MoveOn.org supports the US going to war as long as it's not what we actually plan to do. As long as they can criticize us for not doing enough in some godforsaken part of the world, they're ridin' high.

I wonder what they might have to say now that France has declared that it won't be getting involved, and would rather let a million people be slaughtered by the Sudanese government (because, see, as long as other countries aren't involved, there is peace):

“In Darfur, it would be better to help the Sudanese get over the crisis so their country is pacified rather than sanctions which would push them back to their misdeeds of old,” junior Foreign Minister Renaud Muselier told French radio.

France led opposition to US moves at the UN over Iraq. As was the case in Iraq, it also has significant oil interests in Sudan.

Mr Muselier also dismissed claims of “ethnic cleansing” or genocide in Darfur.

“I firmly believe it is a civil war and as they are little villages of 30, 40, 50, there is nothing easier than for a few armed horsemen to burn things down, to kill the men and drive out the women,” he said.

Which makes it all okay.

So glad to know where the French, our moral superiors, stand on all this.

But it's not as though this isn't a shining moment for the BBC as well. Right now, the story has the following snippet:

France led opposition to US moves at the UN over Iraq. As was the case in Iraq, it also has significant oil interests in Sudan.

That's not what it said a couple of hours ago, though. It used to say that the U.S. had "significant oil interests" in both Iraq and Sudan. They "stealth-edited" this paragraph after a huge and damaging lie was posted on their site for long enough for the wire services to all pick it up. An innocent mistake? Oh, I'm sure of it. Anybody can make a simple slip-up like, oh, say, assuming that the U.S. invaded Iraq for oil, and now it wants to invade Sudan for oil—and France, ever the voice of reason and the morally pure guardian against venality, opposes this vile imperialistic maneuver.

Hey, rest of the world? How about you all just go watch TV for a while, or play cricket or whatever the hell you do in your spare time; and we'll go make the world a better place. Believe me, it'll all go better without your "help". We'll tell you when it's okay to look again.

No thanks are necessary.

Wednesday, July 7, 2004
01:03 - It's all good, it's all right; everybody read James tonight

This means you.

It only takes a little bit of work—a quote juxtaposed next to another quote, a researched statistic, a slight rewording of a statement—to reduce Michael Moore's credibility and intellectual honesty to fat cinders.

James put in a lot of work on this one.

16:19 - There's a mighty judgment coming, but I may be wrong

Mike at Cold Fury calls it as he sees it; and it ain't pretty.

The Dems laid down with the dogs years ago. All that’s left for them now, and for us, is to watch them scratch at the fleas and puzzle over how they got them. Bush will win in November, barring some incredible and unforeseeable catastrophe. When he does, watch for the now-desperate hard Left to get violent. It’s another battle they won’t and cannot win, but it’s the one that in the end they’ll have no choice but to fight. They’ve done it to themselves, and therefore my sympathy is limited at best.

The Left has been spoiling for a real fight for years now, and they’re most likely going to get it. It’s the awful truth, and I don’t see anything standing in the way of it but the Left’s own innate sneaky cowardice. When push comes to shove, perhaps the Left will be willing to put down their Bushitler signs and go home peacefully. But they’re not the majority, they never will be, and the only way they can win is through deceit, disinformation, intimidation, and, ultimately, violence. Scott’s fighting the good fight here, and we all ought to be out doing more of this sort of thing—speaking out before it’s too late to change the minds of the uninformed, and the dupes are standing shoulder to shoulder on the front lines with their manipulators. God help us if it should come to that at last.

Don't miss what he's responding to, either. On the surface it might look like things are getting a little better, like energy is starting to fizzle out on the sign-wavers' side; but that's just when things get most dangerous. It's when a group feels it's starting to lose its turf that it really begins to claw wildly. Just as with the Mac community in the mid-90s—when Apple was at its lowest ebb of inspiration, the only people left in the Mac camp were the real hard-core survivalists, the scorpions crouching in their holes, the "cold dead hands" types. They're the ones you've really got to watch out for.

A Left that feels it's lost the sympathy it once had when it congregated on the streets, bolstered by a sudden influx of energy from people enervated by Fahrenheit 9/11, is not going to be a pretty thing if Bush should win in November. The timing is too perfect. It's a harmonic convergence, a constructive beat.

I've been feeling lately as though I'm not going to be able to even stand up on Election Day until all the votes are counted, because I won't trust my legs to support me. But I don't even know which of the various outcomes I fear most. A Kerry win, which would let these people pour into the streets transported by joy and vindication, forever inscribing the lesson into history that America is no more steadfast in the face of terrorism and domestic nihilism than Spain or France... or a Bush win, which would send them into transports of rage. If the latter should happen, the evening of November 2nd, this country will be closer to a violent uprising than it has been since the 60s.

I can honestly say that despite people's pious claims that the terror-alert system is designed to keep people like me in a state of fear of another 9/11-like attack, I don't fear another attack at all. I was just up in North Beach in San Francisco, waiting outside the Stinking Rose for Mike Silverman to show up for dinner; I was gazing down Columbus Avenue to the Transamerica Building, the sunset glinting off its windows, framed by the broad lanes and the financial-district towers, and imagining just what I'd do if (unlikely as it is these days) I saw a plane plow into the side of it. I was left feeling strangely unmoved by the apparition. Thinking about seeing San Francisco turned into Lower Manhattan just makes me grit my teeth and narrow my eyes and want to start donating money and filling out forms... but thinking about frantically reloading CNN.com on Election night makes my heart race and my arms quiver even as I type this. I don't fear another 9/11-like terrorist attack. But I do fear what those who rally behind Michael Moore might do to this country if they're kindled.

What's worse: I don't think they're actually afraid of anything. An attack? They get to say "I told you so". Government crackdowns against them? They win the moral high ground. A Kerry win? They get what they want. A Bush win? They get to fight the war they've been itching for. Do they fear what damage it will do to the country in the process? That's all I'm afraid of, and somehow I don't think they would share that vulnerability.

If we make it to the 3rd intact, I'm starting to think I'll have to start believing in Divine Providence after all.

13:41 - The lawyers sleep tonight

Here's another item of possibly nil, possibly great interest. Who am I to say? But it's a story that I've been in something of a position to watch develop from the beginning.

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African lawyers are suing U.S. entertainment giant Walt Disney Co for infringement of copyright on "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," the most popular song to emerge from Africa, the lawyers said on Friday.

If Disney loses, South African proceeds from its trademarks -- including Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck -- could be seized by the courts, lawyers representing relatives of the song's composer said.

The lilting song, initially called "Mbube," earned an estimated $15 million in royalties since it was written by Zulu migrant worker Solomon Linda in 1939, and featured in Walt Disney's "Lion King" movies.

However, Linda's impoverished family have only received about $15,000, the lawyers said.

That would be the song also known variously as "Wimoweh", "Weemaway", and other spellings.

I was contacted (in my position at the helm of the Internet's Lion King fan community) by a journalist from South Africa a couple of years ago, who claimed to be putting together a report on Solomon Linda, the history of the song, and its long sordid history of greatness and stardom while its writer and his family languished in poverty. I wasn't able to provide much information or insight, but it was clear that something was going on, as he asked me specifically whether I thought Disney could be held liable for the kind of damages the lawyers are asking for. I told him I had no idea. It looks like they've gone forward indeed.

Who knows where this will lead? Again, I have no idea. My gut tells me "big settlement time"; after all, though Disney Feature Animation is surely not flush with cash (being disbanded and all), Disney the corporation is still a hard target to miss with a pillowcase full of dung. I don't necessarily think Disney ought to be the one held culpable for this whole mess (they're hardly the first ones to profit from the use of the song, and its use in The Lion King was simply as an offhand nod to a pop-culture meme as old as the hills, and they did pay the Tokens' label for its use); they're just obviously the most easy-to-sue of all potential defendants, so they're kind of stuck. But all the same, it would be nice to see some recognition, at the very least, roll back to the song's original author and his legacy.

I'll bet the author of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" would have done the same if he could.

13:27 - The smellier, the merrier

I'm not sure if anyone out there would find this particularly interesting or relevant (hell, for all I know, everybody does), but this is an e-mail quote passed on by a friend:

The time has come to let the Governor Swartenagger know that California would like ferrets to be legalized.  It’s easy.  Just call 916 445-2841.  Then press number 2 to respond to legislation issues, press 3 for Bill SB 89, the ferret bill, then press 1 to support it.  And you are done.

I'm not sure who this "Swartenagger" character is, but he seems to have gone to all this trouble to put up an automated opinion-registering system, so it's the least we can all do to use it.

11:42 - Iraqi nukes

Unless I'm very much mistaken, this isn't exactly what anyone ought to call a "smoking gun":

WASHINGTON, July 6 /U.S. Newswire/ — Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham announced today that the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Defense (DOD) have completed a joint operation to secure and remove from Iraq radiological and nuclear materials that could potentially be used in a radiological dispersal device or diverted to support a nuclear weapons program.

“This operation was a major achievement for the Bush Administration’s goal to keep potentially dangerous nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists,” Secretary Abraham said. “It also puts this material out of reach for countries that may seek to develop their own nuclear weapons.”

Twenty experts from DOE’s national laboratory complex packaged 1.77 metric tons of low-enriched uranium and roughly 1000 highly radioactive sources from the former Iraq nuclear research facility. The DOD airlifted the material to the United States on June 23 and provided security, coordination, planning, ground transportation, and funding for the mission.

Commenters at LGF have noted that these amounts of fissionables have been known about and accounted for since 2000.

But even so, this stuff does exist, it could have been used to make bombs (both dirty and real-live nuclear) and it was in Iraq, under the control of Saddam. And now it's not.

I call that a win.

11:28 - What did he think of Quayle, I wonder?

You know, he can be sharp under fire.

When a reporter noted that Edwards was being described as "charming, engaging, a nimble campaigner, a populist and even sexy" and then asked "How does he stack up against Dick Cheney?" the president immediately responded, "Dick Cheney can be president. Next?"

Not as sharp as Cheney, though.

Via VodkaPundit.

09:45 - Zippy Nation

Tim Blair has readers attacking him for daring to question Michael Moore's credibility.

people like you make me sick.

You now most obviouisly smack of DESPERATION.
Trying any way possible to tear apart Michael Moore.
Credit the public with some intelligence, please.

You are panicking because your greedy, corrupt,
controlling, manipulating regime is over.

enjoy your time in those hot fires of hell !!!

Reap as you shall sow.

Ever notice how Moore's followers always seem to emphasize UNUSUAL words in the middle of their SENTENCES by shifting UNEXPECTEDLY into all caps? It's like reading a frickin' Marvel comic.

Gee. Whom could they possibly have learned that habit from?

Tuesday, July 6, 2004
22:39 - Ashamed of Our Warriors

Via Dean Esmay—check this out. Here's the regard this country now has for the Greatest Generation.

We're this close to ominously telling our misbehaving kids at bedtime to be good, or else you'll grow up to be a soldier and fight for the defense of your country!

Monday, July 5, 2004
23:46 - "Don't want nothin' I can't get myself"

CapLion finally convinced me to go see America's Heart and Soul, which IMDB honors with a 2.9/10 star rating. No wonder, because it's pretty damn good, which means people rocking the vote from Denmark wouldn't like it one bit. There are a lot of people I could name who might benefit from seeing it—even though it'll probably never play in their neighborhood, being that it comes from the land of Evil.

Can West News Services, owners of several Canadian newspapers including the National Post as well as the Global Television Network commissioned a series of polls to determine how young people feel about the issues that were facing the country’s voters. Dubbed "Youth Vote 2004", the polls, sponsored by the Dominion Institute and Navigator Ltd. were taken with a view to getting more young people involved in the political process.

In one telephone poll of teens between the ages of 14 and 18, over 40 per cent of the respondents described the United States as being "evil". That number rose to 64 per cent for French Canadian youth.

This being Canada, the amount of anti-Americanism that was found is not surprising. What is significant is the high number of teens who used the word "evil" to describe our southern neighbour. As Misty Harris pointed out in her column in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, evil is usually associated with serial killers and "kids who tear the legs off baby spiders." These teens appear to equate George W. Bush and Americans with Osama bin Laden and Hitler, although it is unknown if the teens polled would describe the latter two as being evil. Whether someone who orders planes to be flown into heavily populated buildings would fit that description would make a good subject for a future poll.

. . .

Anti-Americanism played a prominent role in the election strategy of the Liberals. Paul Martin portrayed himself as the saviour of Canadian medicare while saying that if Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada came to power they would introduce "American-style" health care. Martin was happy to take credit for cutting taxes and eliminating the deficit during the 1990s when he was Minister of Finance, but he referred to tax cuts included in the Conservative Party platform as being "American-style tax cuts". Canadians who favour lower taxes or the private delivery of health care services or smaller governments or anything similar to what is found in the United States were called "un-Canadian" by Paul Martin.

Hi guys! We love you too!

I find it interesting that John Mellencamp, who wrote the aforementioned film's theme song, is playing benefits for the Kerry campaign; the song, as much as the movie, is all about self-determination—how the very essence of freedom, that quaint and silly notion we seem to place so much weird importance on in this country, is about the ability to succeed and fail on one's own. Everyone has the same opportunity to do whatever they want, no matter whether they come from a wealthy suburb or straight off the urban alleys, whether they've got the bodies of Olympians or are blind or wheelchair-bound. Nobody asks for handouts—nobody who truly values liberty does, anyway. Even the steelworkers of West Virginia, shows the film, would rather buy out their local steelworks and provide for their own pensions and health care coverage than hike their taxes (and everyone else's) to be guaranteed comfort from the State. Even a little girl's brain tumor, and the disaster that would be implicit in the loss of their self-provided coverage, aren't enough to shake these people's faith in the principle of self-determination.

It's no big mystery why it might seem "evil" for a country to try to dismantle an infrastructure set up to help everybody through redistributing wealth, by instead opting to let everybody fend for himself. That just seems heartless and soulless. But, well, that's why the movie is called what it's called. When everyone holds his destiny in his hands, heart and soul spring into being. This isn't an easy concept to grasp, but once you've seen it in action it's impossible to deny.

Evil? I'll deal. Meanwhile, you can be sure that this documentary won't be getting imported into China, or distributed by Hezbollah, anytime soon.

UPDATE: Yes, yes, I get it—this film is pap, it's feel-good fluff, it's propaganda every bit as much as F911 is, just in the other direction. It's the kind of thing Disney used to make back in the 50s, so loathsome the concept is to us now—for God's sake, it even ends with shots of fireworks against the Statue of Liberty. But there's a difference, you know. Moore's film aims to galvanize you, to make you mad, to convince you of something; whereas this one, while it clearly has a point it's trying to make, doesn't pretend to be anything it's not. It's a travelogue; it's a way to get out and meet a bunch of people who are worth meeting. Besides, you're not likely to get knocked down and spat on by the mobs coming out of this movie.

I resisted going, knowing that AH&S wasn't going to tell me anything I didn't know already. CapLion assured me, though, that even granting that, it was still worth watching. And you know, he's right. It's funny; it's beautifully shot; it's touching. I for one am glad Disney still has it in itself to produce documentaries like this, that the modern age's allergy to sincerity doesn't totally faze them. And at the very, very least I know it was eighty-four minutes of my life I can look back on and say I enjoyed.

19:20 - "I think I should get something for this..."

By the way... there's a scene in Spider-Man 2 in which an unkempt, bearded garbage man comes into J. Jonah Jameson's office and hands over the Spider-Man suit that he had found in a trash bin. Jameson immediately concludes that he has driven Spidey away through "the power of the press", and commences to gloating and celebrating. The garbage man demands payment for playing his part, saying that he could get twice Jameson's offer on eBay.

My question: Did that garbage man not look just a teeny bit like a certain filmmaker of recent note?

18:46 - No leftist ideology survives contact with the enemy

This is a breath of fresh air. Via Tim Blair, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (the latest in the ever-growing Hollywood Union of Actresses with Bizarre and Pseudo-Exotic Names) has had the strength of will to pit her anti-war views and reactionary anti-"redneck" prejudice against hot, sandy reality:

Another adventure that Romijn-Stamos is unlikely to have made as a model was a recent trip she and De Niro made to visit US troops in Iraq.

Staunchly anti-war, Romijn-Stamos said the visit had been a real eye-opener and it seemed to have given her a slightly different perspective on life.

"It was unbelievable and I'll never forget it," she said. "I grew up in Berkeley, California, which is the most liberal, left-leaning place you could ever find and I had zero contact with our military.

"So I had a pre-conceived notion they would all be rednecks who were only there because their daddies had been in the army. But I was wrong and I met the most amazing people over there.

"It was 130 degrees [Fahrenheit] and they were walking around in full fatigues and we'd get there to find out they'd been waiting in that heat for three or four hours. And they had so much perspective on it, they were really deep and smart and had a lot of opinions."

As I recall, Sean Penn was decidedly more down-to-earth after his visit to Baghdad, too. So were all those "human shields", let we forget.

Or lest the people in the six lines pouring out the doors from the ticket counter at the movie theater today take the slightest notice. (No, they weren't all there for Spider-Man 2.)

18:04 - Da Beeb

Over the past few weeks, I've been taken to task by shocked Britons who are absolutely scandalized to discover that I don't have any great regard for what, one told me, is "widely regarded as the world's most trustworthy news organization".

They then turn around and tell me that "It's quite natural for the authorities to make you think that the media is biased, when they become uncomfortable with the information that is coming out", and that "under Bush, the US is becoming a nasty place"—not to mention that "who says you are at war? The use of that word is very deliberate and totally inaccurate".

Oh, would that I lived in England, where the state-owned media is totally unbiased and presents only the most impeccable facts.

17:40 - I've never been so happy to see a Ron Burgundy poster

But I just saw Spider-Man 2, and besides Lance Armstrong rides with an iPod, so even this can't raise my blood pressure too high.

...Okay, a little bit. Razzam frazzam poo.

Sunday, July 4, 2004
03:35 - Food, Folks, & Fireworks

Well, we've just finished up an evening of some twelve or so people over for the first real outdoor barbecue that used the new deck and hot tub—the real christening of it, as it were. Lots of burgers and corn and chili was downed by all, as pops and bangs and whizzes for hours on end signalled fireworks going up from every backyard and open field surrounding us, and many friends who hadn't seen much of each other lately all got to catch up with one another.

Even political snarkiness was put aside—TV channels covering the fireworks displays in local cities had shown nonstop reels of parades and band concerts from all over the Bay Area; yes, there were tanks rolling down Main Street USA—but they were being driven by giggling blonde newswomen who showed off how easily their treads could crush cars. I'd all but forgotten about current events by nightfall.

We even used my bedroom suite's entertainment-center setup for the first time, watching the first seven episodes of Firefly on DVD—quite possibly the best-written sci-fi series I've yet seen (it manages to be an immensely detailed grunge-future serial, a violent period spaghetti western, and a raucous character comedy all at the same time, where every cliché plot point invariably takes a wild turn just to throw you off... and check out those IMDB comments, where some cheese Danish dismisses it contemptuously as "basically as American as it's possible to get." Sweet!). It lasted long into the wee hours, and even Capri seemed to sense that tonight was something on the special side, because he didn't hide out in a dark corner or anything, or even let me take him for a walk—he crawled up onto the couch and wedged himself between whatever humans would make room for him, there to lay down a thick layer of collie hair across the cushions and contentedly drool down our legs.

This is my kinda holiday.

Seriously, get a load of that commenter. The only redeeming feature of the series, to him, is the "great-looking female characters", whom he then proceeds to rank on the basis of lavish descriptions of their appearance. The male characters rate only sentences in passing (presumably because they don't have enough boobs), and the whole "Space Western" premise merits only snarling barbs from his scandalized European sensibility.

I'm liking this show more and more!

14:01 - Free Speech over Free Beer

Paul Denton's comments, this Independence Day and Canada Day, are of the type I wouldn't presume to make—but I'm glad someone would.

UPDATE: Also don't miss his observations on the (dare I say it) quagmire into which any state-funded medical care system will eventually stumble.

Recently, in a discussion over the perennial question of whether or not "most people are idiots", a friend argued for the affirmative thus: People [in Canada] want health care, welfare and so on to be there for them when they need them. They want roads to be in good repair and good public transit and a strong military. They also want lower taxes.

You know, there is a solution...

12:28 - Obviously some strange new usage of the word "bipartisan" that I wasn't previously aware of

On this, what will no doubt soon be known as Dependence Day, Baldilocks has uncovered a list of the ten members of the House of Representatives who want to turn over the sovereignty of our election process to impartial observers from the UN.

Joseph Crowley (D-NY-07)
Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-07)
Danny Davis (D-IL-07)
Corrine Brown (D-FL-03)
Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-14)
Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-08)
Michael Honda (D-CA-15)
Elijah Cummings (D-MD-07)
Julia Carson (D-IN-07)
Edolphus Towns (D-NY-10)

From the original story:

The bipartisan commission, they stressed, determined "that the 'disenfranchisement of Florida's voters fell most harshly on the shoulders of black voters' and in poor counties." Both groups vote predominantly Democratic in US elections.

Since this is a bipartisan committee, citizens from both parties should be equally incensed by this travesty, and should act to—

Wait. What?

Oh. Never mind then.

Saturday, July 3, 2004
21:03 - For refreshment of the spirit

Since it's so badly needed right about now. From Mike Silverman:

1. The American people are sane and intelligent. We are not stupid or ignorant. Extremists on the left, and the right, as well as opinion leaders overseas seem to think Americans are fat, somnolent, and base. Anyone who actually lives in America, really lives in America, knows that isn't true. We have something to celebrate today.

Happy 4th of July!

Read the whole thing; but this is the part I wanted to echo.

20:00 - Plain hobbit-sense

The more time goes by, the more faith I have in Middle America/the Midwest/the average Joe/flyover country. Lord knows I once dismissed it as the land of superstitious, hateful Bible-thumpers who thought France was somewhere in the vicinity of Topeka. But you know... city living might not be quite the intellectual fast-track that I once assumed it to be.

Via CapLion:

DECORAH, Iowa - The president of a company that owns movie theaters in Iowa and Nebraska is refusing to show director Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11."

R.L. Fridley, owner of Des Moines-based Fridley Theatres, says the controversial documentary incites terrorism.

Fridley said in an e-mail message to company managers that the company does not "play political propaganda films from either the right or the left."

"Our country is in a war against an enemy who would destroy our way of life, our culture and kill our people," Fridley wrote. "These barbarians have shown through (the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001) and the recent beheadings that they will stop at nothing. I believe this film emboldens them and divides our country even more."

Yes. Yes it does.

What gets me about Fahrenheit 9/11 isn't the blatant lies, exaggerations, misrepresentations, and flippant and irresponsible conjecture—sure, they're bad, but even Michael Moore's fans know they're there.

What gets me, instead, is the whole premise of the movie—the implicit purpose behind it. What's Moore trying to do here? Not to entertain; not to titillate; but to defeat Bush. This is a higher calling for him than addressing the concern of Islamic terrorism. Bush is a bigger threat to America than bin Laden.

After all, said friend from last night led off his "argument" with the statement that "We could absorb an attack like the World Trade Center every month without really being crippled as a country". Which, I guess, meant that we should. Forget terrorism—don't try to prepare for it or keep a watchful eye out or even talk about it. Do not speak of the snares.

Which is Moore's position too: there's nothing in this world of greater importance than making Bush look bad.

You could have made a movie just like Fahrenheit 9/11 about Churchill, or about Roosevelt. Absolutely you could. Even people who didn't like FDR got behind him for the greater good, out of respect for the office of the Presidency and out of understanding of the country's needs. Neither of these leaders were saints; both had unpopular policies, both were the subjects of plenty of pieces of potentially embarrassing film clips that could, especially if taken out of context, or their audio played on top of particularly horrifying imagery, be used to drive said characters from office even in the middle of a war. You could have released a bombshell documentary in 1944 about FDR's allegedly knowing about the Pearl Harbor attacks before they happened, for instance. But nobody did. It would have been unthinkable.

So why do it now? Just because Moore can? Just because any dickhead with a Canon ZR20 and a copy of iMovie can now make a feature film?

This country needs unity more now than ever but a few exceptional times in its history. Moore must know this, deep down in his heart. He must realize how much our enemies crave seeing us divided and fighting among ourselves. He must be able to conclude something from the fact that Hezbollah wants to distribute the film, and that China will be gleefully importing it as the first Western documentary they've ever allowed in. He must realize that Saddam's obstinacy throughout the 1990s was because once the dust settled after Desert Storm, he was still in power and Bush wasn't—which, as far as he was concerned, made him the winner. Moore isn't a stupid man—he has to understand what our wavering and our turning on our President looks like to the Islamists whom we're fighting. (Hint: It looks like they're winning.) But nonetheless, it's more important to him to throw gasoline on the fire, to drive a wedge quite purposefully through the nation's public consciousness. No, uniformity of opinion is no good thing—but intentionally dividing the country, and undermining the American people's ability to intelligently prioritize the issues we see before us (for example, being destroyed by terrorism before gay marriage or President who once had more than a passing interest in the oil industry), is contemptible in the extreme. It's petty and small-minded in a way that little else in history has ever been petty and small-minded. People could have done what Moore's doing, at any time in history; but until now, they had the decorum and decency not to. They had common sense.

The kind that Mr. Fridley of Decorah, Iowa still seems to exhibit.

Must be something in the water.

UPDATE: CapLion updates his post with a counterexample to Midwesterners being any more sensible than anyone else. His point is well taken, though—check it out.

What makes people refuse to see the scale of the conflict of our times, and to concentrate all their fury on one man who deserves so little ire by comparison? It's just tunnel vision, I guess... it's easier for people to lash out against the problem that's closest to home for them, that requires the smallest expansion of their attention span. It's way easier to believe that "the economy is in the toilet" or "Bush runs the USA based on his own personal religious beliefs" than to have to face up to the possibility that maybe Bush is in fact doing some things right, things for which he deserves to remain in office.

UPDATE: Via LGF, Michael Niewodowski (a chef at the Windows on the World restaurant in the WTC) has similar sentiments:

Moore’s film is the first major motion picture about Sept. 11, 2001. This bears repeating. When future generations look back on the Sept. 11 massacre, their first impression, through the medium of film, will be a work in which the president and the government are blamed for the attacks, and the soldiers who are protecting this country are defamed. Instead of a film version of Lisa Beamer’s book, “Let’s Roll,” or Richard Picciotto’s “Last Man Down,” we are presented with this fallacy. How could this happen?

It would be a colossal insult to insinuate that Franklin D. Roosevelt or the U.S. government were in any way responsible for the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Can you imagine the indignation of the men and women who lived during that period?

“Fahrenheit 9/11” is indicative of a nation that has become too apathetic, ignorant or deceived to face the enemy at the gate. America, where is your fury?

I'm drowning in it.

Friday, July 2, 2004
23:01 - So how 'bout that local sports team?

So you're having a Friday night dinner party; and over steaks, one friend pointedly makes the remark that one can't help but admire the ballsiness of "Bush and friends" for always keeping America in a state of fear and uncertainty with the terror alert levels. You and other friends set about explaining, for the ensuing half-hour, what the shadow war against terror is like, how many terror attacks are being thwarted worldwide daily, how al Qaeda terrorists view their victims (as "animals"), how much weaponry has been found in Iraq and who possibly has it now, and how pointless it would be to try to pretend that there isn't any terror war at all; and through it all, he nods at each point, making agreeing noises, acting like he comprehends your position, even sounds like he's willing to accept your point of view and come back from just-saw-F911-and-I'm-all-full-of-righteous-fury land.

Then he smiles, looks you in the eye, and says, "Yeah, I guess you're right... al Qaeda is pretty bad. Almost as bad as the fundamentalist Christians and Israeli lobby that control Bush."

There's just not much you can do at that point, is there? Other than turn on The Simpsons (and hope it isn't one of those annoying preachy ones from this year)?

15:37 - Please tell me this is a joke

This is the end. Really it is.

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Several members of the House of Representatives have requested the United Nations (news - web sites) to send observers to monitor the November 2 US presidential election to avoid a contentious vote like in 2000, when the outcome was decided by Florida.

Recalling the long, drawn out process in the southern state, nine lawmakers, including four blacks and one Hispanic, sent a letter Thursday to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan (news - web sites) asking that the international body "ensure free and fair elections in America," according to a statement issued by Florida representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, who spearheaded the effort.

"As lawmakers, we must assure the people of America that our nation will not experience the nightmare of the 2000 presidential election," she said in the letter.

"This is the first step in making sure that history does not repeat itself," she added after requesting that the UN "deploy election observers across the United States" to monitor the November, 2004 election.

UN observers. To watch our elections.

This is the faith the Democrats have in our system. This is the regard they have for their opponents. They don't trust Republicans any more than they do Iran or Saddam.

And they're willing to use the same kinds of tactics against their own countrymen as they once did against brutal, genocidal dictators.

I can't wait to see blue-helmeted Jordanians and Cubans standing armed outside polling places in Miami, to make sure Bush doesn't steal the election again.

Holy ^&%$^$%%@@. This makes me too furious to even type.

Thursday, July 1, 2004
15:37 - Zut! Ze war'eads!

I think VodkaPundit has the best reaction today to France and Germany pleading on behalf of Saddam not getting the death penalty.

How would you react to that little tidbit if you were an Iraqi? What would you say to a couple of governments who'd (a) armed and supported Saddam for decades, and (b) made every effort to prevent him from losing his grip on your country, your family, and your hide--and then presumed to tell you how you ought to deal with him?

Unless you were one of Saddam's former henchmen, I imagine you'd go find the nearest Frenchman or German, and start quoting Dick Cheney. Repeatedly.

Especially in light of all the new WMDs being found in Iraq.

I'd think this would be an excellent opportunity for France to keep quiet.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004
17:06 - Right back at'cha

I'll just say this: I've got Canadian friends too.

There. All buddy-buddy-like.

(Via Paul Denton.)

15:22 - Nice stops at midnight

Remember when we were all schoolkids?

I do. It wasn't all that very long ago. I remember more about those days than, perhaps, I expected to at age twenty-eight. Certainly more than I imagined I would after all the stuff that's happened in my life that I never would have predicted when my world consisted of the rust-stained drinking fountains and the painted-out lower panes of windows at my shabby middle school in Redwood Valley.

Remember what was important about school? Maybe I'm just projecting—maybe this is just my oddball experience, but I did have classmates, and I did pay attention to how they thought and acted. What was important in school, aside from our own internecine loyalties and pop-cultural interests, was the teachers. Which teacher did you get?

Is the teacher nice?

I remember niceness in teachers being paramount on the radar of third-graders. Would you get one of the teachers with the glowing reputations—a two-syllable, easily memorized name? A sunny smile? Someone who talked to the kids in a musical singsong, who gave us breaks and treats unexpectedly? Someone who was lenient on misbehavior, who encouraged the kids to operate in the class on their own terms? Someone who made sure everyone in the class was learning at the same pace, and would slow things down in order to let everyone catch up? ...Or would you get a teacher who wasn't nice? Someone who ran the classroom according to strict rules, who would send you to the principal's office as soon as look at you (or wave a yardstick at you while shouting)? Someone who snarled gruffly and was hard to please, who demanded punctuality and obedience and never offered up a pleasant surprise? Someone who graded harshly, but insisted that students excel on their own merits and held up the top-achieving students as trophies to the school?

We always wanted niceness in our authority figures. It was safer; it meant less work; it meant less hassle; it meant things were more pleasant.

Small wonder that we should look for the same qualities in the people we elect to lead us, then, once we grow up, eh?

If that's what we can call what we do. After all, what can one say about a society that values the same characteristics in its leadership as it did in its elementary-school teachers? Lenience on crime. Folksy language and bearing. A sunny smile. A sense of humor. A two-syllable, easily memorized name. Unexpected treats and breaks. Holding back the achievers so the slower kids can catch up. Talking down to us like we're children under the care of a nanny.

Some schoolkids eventually do seem to grow up, and recognize the value of a hands-off, withdrawn leadership who outlines a vision and a goal, but demands that we all get there under our own steam; who is unforgiving of shortcomings, but greatly honors those who manage to make it to greatness. More of us, we come to realize, have the power to make it in this world than we did to be the smart kids in school; and we react with revulsion when, instead of being forced to read and decipher Shakespeare as we were while growing up, today's public-school pupils are fed poems by Tupac Shakur:

One poem is "Dedicated 2 Me." Another is "Dedicated 2 My Heart." There's one "4 Nelson Mandela" and another "2 Marilyn Monroe," which laments: "They could never understand what u set out 2 do instead they chose 2 ridicule u." Another Shakur opus is titled "When Ure Hero Falls." Still another muses: "What Is It That I (insert pictograph of an eyeball) Search 4."

 A dictionary, perhaps?

 In riveting prose that presumably rivals Frost or Longfellow, Shakur brags that he is "more than u can handle" and "hotter than the wax from a candle." Edgar Allan Poe had Annabel Lee. Shakur had Renee ("u were the one 2 reach into my heart"), April ("I want 2 c u"), Elizabeth ("the seas of our friendship R calm"), Michelle ("u and I have perfect hearts"), Carmen ("I wanted u more than I wanted me"), Marquita ("u were pure woman 2 me"), Irene ("I knew from the First glance that u would be hard 2 4get"), and Jada.

 Proclaiming his love "4 Jada," Shakur pays gallant literary tribute to the object of his desire: "u bring me 2 climax without sex."

 Lord Byron, he wasn't.

It's a nice teacher who'll play Pokémon with his or her students. But that's not a characteristic that, when we from our adult perspectives see it in our government, our public school officials, or our President, we treat with a great deal of respect.

This isn't the place for nice. This is the world of grown-ups, and demanding that our leaders be as nice as the teachers who used to declare jumprope days and hand out candy is a sure recipe for ensuring that we remain a nation of children forever.

(Horrifying link via Cold Fury.)

14:17 - Damn mask won't come off

Tom Brokaw appears to be so convinced that Iraqi PM Iyad Allawi is a witless, bought-and-paid-for puppet that he's taking it upon himself to try to show everybody the strings. Even when there aren't any. (Via LGF.)

Brokaw: As long as the United States military remains a conspicuous presence in your country working hand in glove with the new Iraqi government, won’t you always be seen really as an instrument of the U.S. military and therefore of America?

Allawi: Iraq, as everybody knows, is the front state now — as the main theater to oppose and fight terrorism.  And, with the help of international community and with the help of the region and with the help of the Iraqi people, we are going to win.  We are going to prevail.

Brokaw: I know that you and others like you are grateful for the liberation of Iraq.  But can’t you understand why many Americans feel that so many young men and women have died here for purposes other than protecting the United States?

Allawi: We know that this is an extension to what has happened in New York.  And — the war have been taken out to Iraq by the same terrorists.  Saddam was a potential friend and partner and natural ally of terrorism.

Brokaw: Prime minister, I’m surprised that you would make the connection between 9/11 and the war in Iraq.  The 9/11 commission in America says there is no evidence of a collaborative relationship between Saddam Hussein and those terrorists of al-Qaida.

Allawi: No.  I believe very strongly that Saddam had relations with al-Qaida.  And these relations started in Sudan.  We know Saddam had relationships with a lot of terrorists and international terrorism.  Now, whether he is directly connected to the September — atrocities or not,  I can’t — vouch for this.  But definitely I know he has connections with extremism and terrorists.

"But... but... can't you understand? We invaded you under false pretenses so we could steal your oil and torture your people! Saddam? Screw Saddam! Come on, you primitive third-world simpleton, can't you see what's happening?"

Methinks Mr. Brokaw is losing what little grip he had left.


11:00 - Why They Hate Us

Joshua sends along this very worthwhile (and long) article by Bruce Bawer that delves into the very heart of European anti-Americanism.

That this was, in fact, a crucial question was brought home to me when a travel piece I wrote for the New York Times about a weekend in rural Telemark received front-page coverage in Aftenposten, Norway’s newspaper of record. Not that my article’s contents were remotely newsworthy; its sole news value lay in the fact that Norway had been mentioned in the New York Times. It was astonishing. And even more astonishing was what happened next: the owner of the farm hotel at which I’d stayed, irked that I’d made a point of his want of hospitality, got his revenge by telling reporters that I’d demanded McDonald’s hamburgers for dinner instead of that most Norwegian of delicacies, reindeer steak. Though this was a transparent fabrication (his establishment was located atop a remote mountain, far from the nearest golden arches), the press lapped it up. The story received prominent coverage all over Norway and dragged on for days. My inhospitable host became a folk hero; my irksome weekend trip was transformed into a morality play about the threat posed by vulgar, fast-food-eating American urbanites to cherished native folk traditions. I was flabbergasted. But my erstwhile host obviously wasn’t: he knew his country; he knew its media; and he’d known, accordingly, that all he needed to do to spin events to his advantage was to breathe that talismanic word, McDonald’s.

For me, this startling episode raised a few questions. Why had the Norwegian press given such prominent attention in the first place to a mere travel article? Why had it then been so eager to repeat a cartoonish lie? Were these actions reflective of a society more serious, more thoughtful, than the one I’d left? Or did they reveal a culture, or at least a media class, that was so awed by America as to be flattered by even its slightest attentions but that was also reflexively, irrationally belligerent toward it?

I don't know who would benefit more from reading this: Americans oblivious to just how much adolescent ire is directed towards this country from people we think of as "allies", or Europeans who might be chastened to see themselves in the mirror?

I have a friend who, though born in Michigan, travels the world and lives in Scandinavia as often as he can, where I know he spends much of his time guffawing in Swedish with his tall, ponytailed friends over how awful America is. I think he might be an excellent candidate for having this forwarded his way.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004
22:57 - Sir yes sir

You bet I'll vote.

Monday, June 28, 2004
20:56 - Olé

I may be wrong about this, but it seems as though Taco Bell is taking a different tactic during these heady days of diet-revolutions and fat-people lawsuits than all the other fast food restaurants have done. Whereas McDonald's and Arby's are developing healthy salads with bottled water and Subway and Carl's Jr. have their Atkins-friendly menus, it seems that what Taco Bell is doing is to go in a completely different direction.

Namely: is this the first time a fast-food chain in a rich nation with no serious "hunger" problem has introduced a menu full of items specifically designed to fill you up, for cheap? Like burritos with potatoes in them, tacos with two tortillas and extra beans, apple pies in big thick crusts, and cheese-covered potatoes in a bowl?

Seems like this is the opposite of what you'd do if you were beholden to none but the bottom line. Normally you'd make items that are as expensive as you can get away with, that are as un-filling as possible, so you feel the need to buy lots of them. If this is Taco Bell's contribution to the collective health of the nation—to convince people to eat to make themselves full rather than to eat what's yummy—then it seems to me to be rather an innovative answer to the sudden turning upon the fast-food industry that this country has undertaken.

And on the outright-backlash front, there's always KFC's "The Only Carb That Matters is Under My Hood" NASCAR promo, and of course this book...

18:48 - Curmudgeon in training

You know, I'm really starting to worry that I'm gradually becoming incapable of enjoying certain things that I always used to find very pleasant. Listening to most comedians, just to take one example that happens to be topmost in my mind just now.

I mean, am I the only one who used to find George Carlin just a bit funnier once upon a time than I do now? I just finished listening to his "You're All Diseased" routine from 1999, and while I can certainly appreciate the agility of his wit and the skill of his shiny sparkly delivery, I find myself unable to ignore just how determinedly shallow it is. Ten minutes at the beginning of the routine all about how airport security is just a big sham designed to keep white people scared and submissive to authority, and how terrorism is, to him, an "entertainment opportunity". Protracted rants about how men are either weak-willed and pussified or macho and pretentious, how God must be a man because no woman could possibly have screwed the world up this badly, how much white people suck and shouldn't attempt to be cool (the whole routine, indeed, seems to be designed to tickle the self-loathing reflex of the nearly-all-white audience), and how America as a concept and a people is inextricably imbued with "bullshit" from the Declaration of Independence through to the present day—the rationale being, naturally, that the country was founded by "white males" who held slaves and didn't give the vote to women.

Understanding some historical context behind the issues he discusses with such rampant fervor, as much as I would love to laugh at what are indeed very funny jokes, I find that I just can't anymore. All I can think about is writing annoyed blog posts about them.


I don't know what worries me more—the idea that so many comedians, even the true greats like Carlin, are so studiously shallow in their material (they can't, after all, really believe the stuff they're saying... can they? It's all just silly jokes intended to get a laugh through cognitive dissonance... right?)... or the exuberance of the audience, who shriek with laughter and applause at every suitably turned sarcastic witticism, no matter how silly the premise, just because it's delivered with the stresses and the punches just in the right place to make you feel like it's time to erupt with noises of massed approval. "'Have your bags been in your possession the whole time?' 'No! Every time I travel, just as the moon is rising, I take my suitcases out on the streetcorner and leave them there, unattended, for several hours. Just for good luck. Next question!'" Cue uproarious laughter from people who now, if you were to interview them, would be thoroughly convinced that the security questions at the ticket counter are wholly pointless exercises that prove what an incompetent and intentionally backward system we live in. You then get people who use these very comedy routines—lest you think I'm joking—as the basis for entire worldviews and philosophies, such as that there is no God because George Carlin said so and he was really funny. Somehow, knowing that this is the purpose that such routines serve for so many people kinda prevents me from consuming them with the lighthearted abandon I always used to.

Friends tell me that I've now found excuses to dismiss so many actors and comedians for the views they disseminate that there's nothing left that's safe to talk to me about. That worries me too, because it seems a valid concern. I can't enjoy a Johnny Depp movie as much these days, or something with Martin Sheen or George Clooney or Madonna (good thing I wasn't ever a fan of Barbra Streisand). Even Robin Williams is, sadly, on the list of people who I can't properly enjoy anymore—because I fear that if I were to listen to any routine he or his compatriots deliver, I'm going to find it studded throughout with little land-mines of stupidity—jokes that are intended to get an ingeniously engineered laugh out of the audience, but that if anybody knows the facts behind what he's mocking, will come across to that person as a direct affront against truth and intelligence and common sense.

Or is that just me?

UPDATE: Chris says:

I think it's something to do with fearing that some people will take Carlin's word as 'a funny truth' rather than 'funny ridiculous' .... Ie, things will be a lot funnier if you knew that NOONE actually believed it to be truth... but knowing, or suspecting, that some people out there will actually think that's is true takes a LOT of the humour out of it.

Good point. You know, there's something to be said for comedy that doesn't attempt to divide or exclude or define loyalties. That's why Lewis Black's recent show seemed so much less fun than his earlier material—everybody can enjoy the "candy corn" routine; but once he starts playing to a particular audience, even if you agree with what he's saying, you can feel the vibe having suddenly narrowed. It's now about furtively giggling behind other people's backs; and that's just not as fun and fancy free.

Which is why I enjoy the redneck comics of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour so much: Larry the Cable Guy, Bill Engvall, Jeff Foxworthy, Ron White. It's all so positive. It's all jokes about being unsophisticated, being fat, being ugly, being dumb, being poor, being drunk—but it's all tongue-in-cheek. It's not mean-spirited. It's not critical. It's just fun. When I see someone like Ron White come on-screen with his drunken-master-storyteller face, I heave a sigh of gratitude—because you know what? It feels like Cosby. And that's about the highest praise I can think of.

09:47 - Hey! Stick to the script!

Well, this should screw up a few people's plans.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 28 — In a surprise, secret ceremony that was hastily convened to decrease the chances of more violence, United States officials today handed over sovereignty to Iraqi leaders, formally ending the American occupation two days earlier than scheduled.

In a tightly guarded room behind high walls, L. Paul Bremer III, the top United States administrator, presented a formal letter recognizing Iraq's sovereignty to Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

Just 30 or so people were present for what Dr. Allawi described as the "historic" handover.

A few hours later, Mr. Bremer flew off on a military plane, leaving behind a country stunned by the sudden transfer of authority. Shortly afterward, Dr. Allawi was formally sworn in as Prime Minister.

"This is a historic day," said the Iraqi interim president, Ghazi Ajil al-Yawar . "We want a free, democratic Iraq that will be a source of peace and stability for the region and the whole world. We would like to express our thanks to our friends in the Coalition for the efforts and dedication they have spent."

Early by two days: enough to screw up attacks planned for the 30th, but not early enough to look like "cutting and running". And if the terrorists are anywhere near as taken by surprise by this as Allawi sounds, they're in for a rough bit of rethinking of strategy.

Especially if Allawi declares martial law, as he suggests he might. In which case he'll have need of our troops still helping out. Yet something tells me that if it's him in charge, and Iraqis handling the bulk of the peacekeeping, the terrorists will have a helluva time blaming us. Even if the crackdowns become way more brutal than we've been yet. Which they probably would.

I dunno... there's a lot of variables yet. People will no doubt criticize us for not making a complete military withdrawal immediately following today, or for planning all along to have "scripted" a situation whereby Allawi would invite our troops to stay past the deadline. And an Iraqi PM who declares martial law? Every time you see someone in the next forty-eight hours who says he sees Allawi becoming "another Saddam", take a drink.

But, well, you know, whatever. This is a huge step in the right direction, and anyone who criticizes it doesn't know how to do anything but criticize.

Sunday, June 27, 2004
21:42 - Okay, so I guess I don't get it

So exactly what the hell do we do when this starts happening?

First Lt Omar is sworn to uphold the law and fight the insurgency that threatens Iraq’s evolution into a free and democratic state. Instead, he is exploiting his knowledge of US tactics to help the rebel cause in Fallujah.

“Resistance is stronger when you are working with the occupation forces,” he points out. “That way you can learn their weaknesses and attack at that point.”

Suppose that as part of an urban renewal project, the city buys out a crack house and gives it to you outright. So, while the city's plumbers, electricians, landscapers, and other contractors are patching drywall holes, fixing leaks, and sweeping up the last remnants of the old occupants, getting it ready for you to move in, you—what? What do you do?

You go in and shoot them.

Well, obviously.

20:56 - Derailliued

Snuh. I hate when this happens.

I especially hate when it happens in the middle of a steep uphill road two miles from home, so that when the chain develops a distorted link and leaps off the sprocket, wrapping itself around the take-up gears and wrenching them off like a lasso, and threading them neatly through the spokes of the wheel so it locks in place, I have to carry the bike home.

Don't you hate that?

20:35 - Just out of curiosity...

Is this the kind of thing Michael Moore had in mind when he said "The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not 'insurgents' or 'terrorists' or 'The Enemy.' They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow -- and they will win"?

Does he find the scene in The Patriot where Mel Gibson and his merry band set up straw dummies on the hillside dressed as British officers, showed them to General Cornwallis through a telescope during a parley, and won the release of his prisoners to be the equivalent sort of thing?


(I wish the Pentagon would hurry up and give Frank his grant to build this.)

19:09 - Back into the closet for me

Now I know I don't want to see Fahrenheit 9/11 in theaters. Not just because I don't want to spend ten bucks to sit in a packed house full of people who will cheer wildly at things I know to be exaggerations, conjectures, or outright lies; but because I might well legitimately fear for my safety.

I hope Al Gore is pleased with himself.

18:55 - The way of the world

In Automobile Magazine this month, there's a fascinating biography of Charles Jasper Glidden, one of those globetrotting privileged aristocrats from the turn of the 20th century who made history in 1906-07 by driving a 16-horsepower Napier all around the world, in England, France, Germany, from India to Egypt, from Japan to New Zealand and through the gates of Jerusalem, meeting adoring and scandalized onlookers every step of the way. I can't find the article online; more's the pity, although here is a brief bio of the guy. Google no doubt can unearth more.

There were lots of interesting observations about the state of the motoring world in those days; for example, France was the only country in Europe that had passable roads, and America was still connected from coast to coast primarily by rutted dirt tracks, the subject of much derision from European wags. Streets in Java were mostly flooded. But, interestingly, the best roads in the world, the article says, were to be found in India, where "the British put Indians to work laying macadam surfaces as a way to pay off their famine relief".

The article concludes as follows:

What would it take to repeat Glidden's journey? Probably no amount of money could get you through Israel and into Syria today or over the Khyber Pass and into Afghanistan. Glidden's worries focused on logistics, securing gasoline and oil, contingencies for breakdowns. Today's road warrior must deal with politics, terrorism, poverty, and hate, tougher by far than worrying about when the needed valves would arrive or where you'd find your next can of gasoline.

In other words, it was a more peaceful, safer, richer, happier world a century ago, wasn't it?

If true (which it isn't), that's because there were empires back then.

Ain't it great how far we've come?

Thursday, June 24, 2004
22:48 - I'm Michael Moore, and I approved this message

Did my eyes and brain just conspire to commit fraud upon me? Or did I just see one of those Fahrenheit 9/11 TV ads that said, in its black-background title card (and against a graphic of the terror-alert color bar), verbatim:
Fahrenheit (Fah"ren*heit). adj:
The temperature in the atmosphere when it reaches the boiling point.

Boy, this movie sure does teach us all things we never knew before.

So that's what "Fahrenheit" means, is it? It's an adjective that describes the exosphere? "Wow, Buzz—it sure is Fahrenheit up here!"

I'm sure that can't be what it said... can it?

UPDATE: Nope, there it is again. That's exactly what it said.

UPDATE: Yeah, I know Michael Moore can't necessarily be blamed for this. It's probably some less-than-gifted hack working for the distributor.

But you know, I don't care who is behind this. I just have an objection to stupid crap on my TV. Especially in the middle of MXC.

(Ya hearrrd me.)

12:17 - It's all fun and games now

I must say I've got some new respect for Scott Kurtz, creator of the PVP online comic. He's noticed a disturbing new trend—well, not new, really; just seen afresh from yet another perspective. (Via .clue.)

I've tried just about every character type and I'm settling on my favorites. Last night, for fun, I decided to make myself a Captain America type hero...you know, go the whole patriotic route.

So I logged onto the Guardian server and created myself a Science origin Tanker with Invulerability and Super Strength. I dressed him in red, white and blue, adorned him and named him FLAG WAVER.

Once I got to a populated area, other people in the game started reacting to my character, but not in the way I expected.

"Ugh. I hate our country."
"How can you wave a flag of a country that kills other countries for oil we already have."
"Bush is an idiot."

I inquired if these people were from another country that maybe didn't look too kindly on the US. They all stated that they were Americans, but they just didn't really like America.

I have to say that I was flabbergasted. No. I was disgusted. I really didn't know what to say back to these other players. I certainly didn't log into the game to get into a political debate. If anything, I logged in to escape that stuff.

Read on to see his creative solution to the problem.

If I were in his position, though, I don't know if I'd have had the fortitude to be satisfied with that. I'd probably become deeply depressed by what I'd seen, so much so as to be unable to react to it with humor.

Behold the march of progress. We've defeated nationalism, bad old nationalism. It's a thing of the past. When even a lighthearted, leisure-time burlesque of patriotic spirit is hounded into the corner by unmasked hate, you've just got to pause the VCR, hold up an Uncle Sam poster from the WWII era next to it, and stare. Just stare. From one to the other. Just stare, and slowly shake your head.

This is what the past forty years of gradual, great-hearted "progress" has bought us. Do we even have buyer's remorse? Do we even give a flying Scotch loaf?

If I'd read a story like this in October of 2001, I would have thought it was a sick parody. I never would have conceived of believing it could be real.

Can we please have some people out there, some of those remaining few with a sense of reality and the ability to think and reason, to have the courage to declare they're on our side? I'm looking around and I'm seeing that even the fence-sitters see us as some kind of shameful burden to put up with—the retarded uncle in the basement, the way I once read Windows users see Apple. Who'll stand up and say I'm Spartacus? Who'll brave their friends' disapproving jeers to say they're with us? Is there anyone left at all who hasn't succumbed to the siren call of the social approval you get from being opposed to America? Could I just hear a "We're with you"—just a quiet little one, to renew my faith in a humanity that knows good from evil? I promise I won't tell anyone.

Urg. I'm sorry. I'm rambling. This has been a difficult couple of days.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004
21:04 - This is reeeeally starting to wear on me

On our way in to the grocery store just now, KCBS News was broadcasting a glowing report about Kerry's campaign speeches in the Bay Area. "We need a President who understands that America never goes to war when it wants to—only when it has to." Random (I'm sure) bystanders were interviewed. "He's on a roll!"

And as we exited the store, KCBS was relaying early exit interviews with theatergoers. Which movie they saw was never in question; KCBS didn't even feel the need to tell us. Just that "some people" had characterized it "more as an op-ed than a documentary." And that every single person coming out of the theater was simply, meltingly, overjoyed with it. "It's FAN...tastic," one said. "It's the best thing I've seen since... I don't know, Gone with the Wind." Then the impartial announcer gave us to understand that people left the theater knowing things they hadn't before, such as that the President remained in that classroom after being told that the second plane had hit, finishing up his meeting with those third-graders, that once-in-a-lifetime event that they were supposed to be enjoying, and utterly failed to leap up and scream at the top of his lungs that America is under attack! and immediately launch nukes, or whatever Moore wishes us to believe would be better than calmly giving at least one classroomful of grade-schoolers another seven minutes of life in a nation at peace.

This is why I haven't had KCBS on in my car for some years now, let alone NPR. This is what now passes for impartial evening news reporting. And now that I only hear it on the occasions when I'm in someone else's car, it just seems all the more a voice from another planet—one where 9/11 never happened, and where all our biggest problems today are caused by the man in the Oval Office, and everybody knows it. It's such a foregone conclusion as to no longer even bear discussion.

It's beating me down. I'm already tired after a long day at work, after getting up at 7:30 to walk the dog who's decided that the Summer Solstice should be celebrated by micturating as close to sunrise as possible. I do not need more of this crap. I do not need to be reminded that the chances appear to be lessening that this country will treat terrorism as the primary issue of the day, rather than a President they've determined to hate no matter what he does.

November's election will decide whether 9/11 has, in fact, slipped out of the attention span of the American public, and has reduced itself to the subject of bemusement and sarcastic cliché; but Fahrenheit 9/11 is a precursor to it, and its box-office success will tell us just how fervently America wants to simply erase 9/11 from history, like throwing out the highest and lowest grades in the curve to eliminate statistical outliers, and focus primarily and solely on electing the President they feel would do a better job in a peacetime America that has never known terrorism and never will again.

As Lance put it, fear and fury fade—but adolescent resentment of authority figures only grows. Bitter, self-centered chafing against The Man.

Bush is The Man now. Bin Laden stopped being The Man a long time ago. And America doesn't want to hear otherwise.

I'd weep if I had the energy.

UPDATE: Aargh! Now Comedy Central is blaring Michael Moore on The Daily Show! 11:00! across South Park.

Could someone please come get me when this is over?

11:22 - Presented as Fact

This is how the British government educates its people as to the true nature of life in the US.

A few days later I ended up in the Arab quarter of Brooklyn, where stories are plentiful about harassment of the Arab-Muslim community.

The talk is not only about Guantanamo Bay, but also about young men disappearing for weeks on end, forced deportations, being hauled in for questioning for speaking out of line.

They talk in detail about Section 215 - the bit which deals with personal records, and of the Metropolitan Corrections Facility on the corner of 29th Street and Third Avenue, where people are held without trial and access to lawyers.

"I don't know what's happening to this country," said Ihab Tabir, a Brooklyn immigration lawyer who is originally from Jordan.

"If you say anything against what is happening in Iraq for example, you can be arrested.

"You can't speak openly on the street anymore. I tell you, everyone is afraid."

Obviously he doesn't know what's happening to this country. Section 215, for example, has never been invoked.

I wonder if this guy took part in one of those six-digit-attendance anti-war protests. You know, the ones where everyone was rounded up and sent off to the camps.

The guy is a lawyer. An immigration lawyer. And he says stuff like this.

How, first of all, does a person in his position reach such a ludicrous state of mind? And how, more importantly, does Britain reach the point where its citizens' taxes pay for investigative reporting that seeks out people like this and presents what they say as the unvarnished truth about life over here in the Nazi States of America?

Do people over there believe this stuff? Or do they sort of dismissively wave it off with a "Pff, it's the Beeb, you know"? Even as they pay for the privilege?

Via Tim Blair, whose commenters (as is their wont) add vital details and refreshing reaction. Don't miss them.

09:58 - Black Hawk Up

Somalia, more than anything else, was probably the event that cemented the idea in the Arab mind that Americans were weak-kneed wusses who hid behind technology and ran away at the first sight of real blood—and thus, probably the direct precursor of 9/11. Whether deserved or not, stuff like that, coupled with the low-level impression of us that was being created by events like us firing cruise missiles from hundreds of miles away at things we didn't like, is what stuck in people's minds and gave them the courage—if that's what it can be called—to mount such an audacious attack.

Let's hope, then, that news of this starts spreading by word of mouth:

The Army's powerful 1st Armored Division is proclaiming victory over Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr's marauding militia that just a month ago seemed on the verge of conquering southern Iraq.

The Germany-based division defeated the militia with a mix of American firepower and money paid to informants. Officers today say "Operation Iron Saber" will go down in military history books as one of the most important battles in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.

"I've got to think this was a watershed operation in terms of how to do things as part of a counterinsurgency," said Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling, a West Point graduate and one of two 1st Armored assistant division commanders, in an interview last week as he moved around southern Iraq. "We happened to design a campaign that did very well against this militia."

When the division got word April 8 that Sheik al-Sadr's uprising meant most 1st Armored soldiers would stay and fight, rather than going home as scheduled, it touched off a series of remarkable military maneuvers.

Soldiers, tanks and helicopters at a port in Kuwait reversed course, rushing back inside Iraq to battle the Shi'ite cleric's 10,000-strong army.

That's more like it.

The three-week initial invasion was rightly praised as one of the most remarkable military achievements of modern warfare; but we certainly know now that it was easy—too easy. As much dismay as was shown throughout the Arab world when Baghdad fell, many people clung to a fiery hope that the insurgency would rise, and Palestinian-style, harry the invaders to death. This is something the anti-US portions of the civilian populations could rally behind, something that fit the popular narrative they all believed. They probably all believed in the Mahdi Army before we'd ever heard of it.

Last week, Sheik al-Sadr surrendered. He called on what was left of his men to cease operations and said he may one day seek public office in a democratic Iraq.

Gen. Hertling said Mahdi's Army is defeated, according the Army's doctrinal definition of defeat. A few stragglers might be able to fire a rocket-propelled grenade, he said, but noted: "Do they have the capability of launching any kind of offensive operation? Absolutely not."

See? We can fight a street-by-street urban war. We can put down an insurgency. And we do sometimes elect leaders with the balls to allow our military to prove it, to stay there till the job is done. This is a critical lesson to have taught.

One might even say we needed there to be a guerrilla war and an insurgency, just so we could show how we deal with such things now.

It was a visible, public deflation we saw throughout the Middle East last April 10th. But now, perhaps, a more important, more pernicious deflation is spreading. Many didn't believe, after all, that Baghdad could possibly have fallen without treachery. They were sure we'd end up leaving in shame, once the real resistance showed up. But now we've been there for over a year; Saddam's in custody; and we've scored a devastating psychological victory just before handing over sovereignty. Naysayers at home may mock the power handover as insufficient or premature or whatever (everybody has something bad to say about it, even those who want us out of there yesterday)—but in the eyes of the "Arab Street", crucially, we're now undeniably turning over the keys on our own terms, in the afterglow of a real victory. We're leaving in triumph, not in expedience or defeat. That's got to be a serious blow to Islamist morale. Moqtada al-Sadr stood up to the Americans... but then he surrendered and disbanded what was left of his army, and now seeks to enter government service under terms we dictate. Oh, how that must stick in the craw of all those who ever considered him a hero. Every bit as much so as seeing Saddam pulled out of a septic tank, hands in the air.

It's exactly—precisely—the antidote to the image we earned in Somalia. If this event eclipses Mogadishu in the minds of those who would be inspired by bin Laden's words, he—and his legacy—have just lost a whole lot of credibility, and the grass roots have become a whole lot less fertile.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: the War on Terror.

09:37 - No such thing as an "average" American

IMAO's Frank J doesn't put up many non-humor posts; but when he does, they're worth it. This one is especially so.

Yeah, I know, I'm just repeating what a lot of people in the blogosphere and elsewhere are complaining about, but I want is to do something about it. I tried before with the website Front Line Voices to get the story out of the heroism of our troops, but I know that isn't going to do it. The sad fact of the human condition is that people respond much more to pain than pleasure. Thus, the way to get people motivated, to keep people focused on the goal, is to show them the barbarism of our enemy. And I don't mean the horrible pictures of the beheading - that's just shocking people. Show the jubilation of the terrorists over their killing. Show the writings of the enemy in praise of death. Show everything we can about who these people are, because the fact is that all except the most morally forgone of our society will recognize evil when they see it staring in his or her face. Shades of gray won't hold up when people see just how black the depravity of the terrorists are.

If I had my way, the head story of every newscast would be about what these brutal thugs are up to, what they're thinking, what they're desires are. And not just focus on the terrorists, but also the brutality of all the government in the Middle East. No more root causes, no more blind tolerance, no more thinking that religious beliefs that involve violence and oppression should have any cultural respect. Every day the American people and the rest of the world would see how horrible the terrorists and the tyrants are, and everyday they would get madder and madder.

So why can't I have my way?

If nothing else, fairness dictates that it's his turn.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004
21:14 - Old, senile media

Stupid CNN, for keeping archives of its old news stories just lying around for anyone to see.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has offered asylum to bin Laden, who openly supports Iraq against the Western powers.

Via InstaPundit, who also has a similar story from The Guardian, also in 1999.

Apparently that whole "Bin Laden hates Saddam because he's secular, and al Qaeda would never work with Iraq for that reason" thing was only a very recent falling-out.

But then we believed all kinds of crazy stuff back in the Nineties, right? Like dot-coms were good long-term investment opportunities, Beavis & Butt-head would last forever, and Saddam was a bad guy who merited removal.

21:07 - Applause inflation

Oh, goodie. More Fahrenheit 9/11 trailers on Spike TV.

Remember when it won the Palme d'Or? First people were reporting that the standing ovation lasted 10 minutes; then 12 minutes; then 15 minutes was the highest estimate I saw.

Guess how the trailer begins?
At the Cannes Film Festival,
only one film has ever received
a 20 minute standing ovation.

He's good at this whole rewriting-history thing.

15:46 - Astonishing

This high school senior is a hero.

Think I'm being glib or facetious? Go read the site, then.

I have no appropriate words. I'm simultaneously too angry and too proud.

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© Brian Tiemann