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:

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James Lileks
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As the Apple Turns
Entropicana
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Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
Eric S. Raymond
Tal G in Jerusalem
Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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 3/28/2005 -   4/3/2005
 3/21/2005 -  3/27/2005
 3/14/2005 -  3/20/2005
  3/7/2005 -  3/13/2005
 2/28/2005 -   3/6/2005
 2/21/2005 -  2/27/2005
 2/14/2005 -  2/20/2005
  2/7/2005 -  2/13/2005
 1/31/2005 -   2/6/2005
 1/24/2005 -  1/30/2005
 1/17/2005 -  1/23/2005
 1/10/2005 -  1/16/2005
  1/3/2005 -   1/9/2005
12/27/2004 -   1/2/2004
12/20/2004 - 12/26/2004
12/13/2004 - 12/19/2004
 12/6/2004 - 12/12/2004
11/29/2004 -  12/5/2004
11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
11/15/2004 - 11/21/2004
 11/8/2004 - 11/14/2004
 11/1/2004 -  11/7/2004
10/25/2004 - 10/31/2004
10/18/2004 - 10/24/2004
10/11/2004 - 10/17/2004
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 8/16/2004 -  8/22/2004
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12/29/2003 -   1/4/2004
12/22/2003 - 12/28/2003
12/15/2003 - 12/21/2003
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11/24/2003 - 11/30/2003
11/17/2003 - 11/23/2003
11/10/2003 - 11/16/2003
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10/27/2003 -  11/2/2003
10/20/2003 - 10/26/2003
10/13/2003 - 10/19/2003
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12/30/2002 -   1/5/2003
12/23/2002 - 12/29/2002
12/16/2002 - 12/22/2002
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11/25/2002 -  12/1/2002
11/18/2002 - 11/24/2002
11/11/2002 - 11/17/2002
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10/28/2002 -  11/3/2002
10/21/2002 - 10/27/2002
10/14/2002 - 10/20/2002
 10/7/2002 - 10/13/2002
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 9/23/2002 -  9/29/2002
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  8/5/2002 -  8/11/2002
 7/29/2002 -   8/4/2002
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  7/8/2002 -  7/14/2002
  7/1/2002 -   7/7/2002
 6/24/2002 -  6/30/2002
 6/17/2002 -  6/23/2002
 6/10/2002 -  6/16/2002
  6/3/2002 -   6/9/2002
 5/27/2002 -   6/2/2002
 5/20/2002 -  5/26/2002
 5/13/2002 -  5/19/2002
  5/6/2002 -  5/12/2002
 4/29/2002 -   5/5/2002
 4/22/2002 -  4/28/2002
 4/15/2002 -  4/21/2002
  4/8/2002 -  4/14/2002
  4/1/2002 -   4/7/2002
 3/25/2002 -  3/31/2002
 3/18/2002 -  3/24/2002
 3/11/2002 -  3/17/2002
  3/4/2002 -  3/10/2002
 2/25/2002 -   3/3/2002
 2/18/2002 -  2/24/2002
 2/11/2002 -  2/17/2002
  2/4/2002 -  2/10/2002
 1/28/2002 -   2/3/2002
 1/21/2002 -  1/27/2002
 1/14/2002 -  1/20/2002
  1/7/2002 -  1/13/2002
12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, February 6, 2005
23:06 - That neurotoxin is some funky stuff

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You know, normally I sort of involuntarily shun Duck Dodgers In the 24th 1/2 Century, for reasons I'm not entirely sure I understand. Part of me, I'm sure, has a natural revulsion for any show that fits the "modern, self-consciously hip overseas-animated remake of some beloved property from the Golden Age of Animation or some other bygone era" mold (think "Scooby-Doo with cellphones", or the tedious trudge that Tiny Toon Adventures became after its initial flurry of inspiration), even when the modern remake is actually higher-budget and much better written than the original. And maybe part of it is just my tendency these days to ignore everything Cartoon Network shows that isn't part of the Adult Swim block, just because Adult Swim is so damn cool it makes the rest seem pale and pointless by comparison.

But when I do happen to tune in, as often as not I find myself impressed beyond any expectation I might have had. Tonight, for instance, the second half of the show was "Samurai Quack", a parody guest-directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, with cameo roles by Mako (Aku's voice) and Tartakovsky himself. And boy, was it a hoot. It was an unremitting self-effacing dig at Samurai Jack's deliberate, artsy style and all its calculated clichés—the letterboxing bars that appear before the fight scenes, for example. Daffy Duck drawn and animated in the Jack style is surreal enough, but to have him belt out lines like "Behold my messy hair of determination!", or tap into the power of his ancestors by flashing back to a black-and-white Leave it to Beaver scene where he accosts the newspaper obscuring his dad, borders on the Venture Brothers-ian.

"Its many interesting compositions will build dramatic tension!" Phew. You know, maybe there is some good stuff coming out these days for the pre-11:00 PM audience after all.

And with American Dad coming to Adult Swim's 11:30 slot next Sunday, I guess maybe I'd better be keeping my options open...


21:21 - The Left's Behind (or, This reporter promises to be more trusting and less vigilant in the future)
http://powerlineblog.com/archives/009475.php

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Wow. The more stuff like this I read, the more it irks me when people insist in all seriousness that the United States is in the thrall of a bunch of religious dimwits who treat the Left Behind books with more regard than the Constitution.

For Bill Moyers, Grist, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune to allege that James Watt, as Secretary of the Interior, argued that "protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ" is an outrageous libel.

It's revealing, too, to trace the course of the libel over time. The Star Tribune relied on Bill Moyers, and printed a charge by him that, had the editors thought about the matter, they should have realized was ridiculous on its face. Moyers relied on his "favorite online environmental journal," Grist, which in turn relied on (and apparently embellished) a book by Austin Miles, a former circus ringmaster who became disillusioned with Christianity after an encounter with James Bakker. At no stage did any of these worthies think it necessary to do some fact-checking before besmirching the reputation of a former cabinet officer.

. . .

It would be possible, I suppose, for Bill Moyers to distort the truth and mischaracterize the words of others more baldly than he did in his Star Tribune op-ed, but it wouldn't be easy. One can only wonder what made Moyers think he could get away with such blatant misrepresentations. No, wait. It isn't hard to figure out after all. Moyers is just a year or two behind the times; he doesn't know about the blogosphere. Throughout Moyers' career, he was free to slander conservatives with impunity, knowing that there was no forum in thich their responses would ever be heard.

Next time someone in a position similar to James Watt's actually says the kinds of things attributed to him with such airy surety by people like Bill Moyers, then I'll sit up and pay attention. But I've pretty much stopped assuming that any such aspersion is accurate, and now start from the presumption that there's some monkey business going on on the part of whoever's doing the reporting. Recent experience has me presuming a lot more innocence and virtue on the part of Christians than on that of the people determined to denigrate them.

I hope Moyers is proud of himself. From now on I'll have to be convinced to his (or one of his compatriots') side, and he'll have a lot more ground to cover before winning me back.


13:19 - An exercise in restraint
http://www.divisiontwo.com/articles/MacMini2.html

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It ought to be fairly obvious, even on a cursory reading, that this review of the Mac mini by one Jorge Lopez, MCSE, is the equivalent of the Truth Media reviews on SomethingAwful: full of deliberate idiocy and calculated inaccuracies, trolling for incoherent fanboys the author can then make fun of in public.

And at that, it's almost too successful: even though you know what it is, you still want to throttle the guy, huh?

I'm genuinely impressed.

UPDATE: Apparently the poor guy has received over 1,600 long, angry rebuttals so far. That's a whole lotta pigeons.

I wonder at what point the prank's initial fun will no longer have been worth it...


12:39 - The way of the future... the way of the future... the way of the future...
http://www.usatoday.com/money/advertising/admeter/2005-02-02-napster-usat_x.htm

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So Napster is going to be clashing with iTunes in today's big game, I see. They're both fine teams! Yeah, I know, I know.

The game plan: Try to persuade iTunes buyers of individual digital songs to switch to a new Napster To Go premium service launching Thursday that will let consumers transfer up to 1 million tunes to compatible portable music players for a flat fee of $15 a month. (Related: Super Bowl Ad Digest)

Apple's wildly popular iTunes online music store offers songs on a pay-per-download basis of 99 cents per tune. With consumers snapping up 1.2 million per day, iTunes looks like an unstoppable juggernaut. But Napster thinks it can make an effective case that its subscription model is a better deal for consumers in the long run.

"We think we have an incredible value proposition," says Alan Cohen, chief marketing officer for Los Angeles-based Napster. "We think the 99-cent-download model will be a thing of the past."

Unless what they're pushing is one of the Microsoft-style "All your songs become useless if you stop paying your subscription fee" schemes, I completely fail to see how this model can possibly be acceptable to the labels. $15 for 10,000 songs a month? How does anybody make any money?

"An incredible value proposition" indeed. For consumers, I suppose, until they realize they don't own their music after all, and are just renting access to it.

Unless they do own the tracks, and the labels are getting $.001 per song. And Napster is getting what's left over to pay for the hosting.

Maybe I'm hallucinating visions of flaming airplanes and germs coating doorknobs and men in dark hats coming to take me away, but I keep imagining that when the iTMS first opened, its 99-cent-per-song model was the brand-new breakthrough that finally made legal music downloading a viable proposition, logistically and economically, and it (plus the iTunes/iPod combination) was what catapulted it to success, leaving all the subscription services scrabbling for the scraps left behind...

Meanwhile, here's the iTunes ad. Yeah, I do like it better than the "I Fought the Law" one...

UPDATE: Yeah, it seems that that's exactly what their "incredible value proposition" is: not only does your Napster music die if your subscription lapses, but they only allow you to play each track a certain number of times per month. As sleuthed by Bob C. from Napster's site:

"For royalty accounting and analysis purposes, Napster
will track the Downloads that you so transfer and the
number of times that you play Downloads on such
devices. Napster also automatically renews your rights
to any Downloads stored on your portable devices at
the beginning of each Subscription Month. Thus, in
order to continue to play such Downloads on that
portable device, you will need to dock your portable
device (i.e., connect to the PC) and log onto Napster
at the beginning of each Subscription Month."

Joy. You know, when the iTunes store first opened, geeks everywhere were falling all over themselves trying to "prove" that the iTunes DRM model was somehow flawed or could be construed as meaning that customers were leashed to Apple and didn't "own" the music after all. It was months before the general consensus settled upon us that Apple's model was acceptable at all to hard-core privacy nerds, let alone that it was in fact about the best deal any user could reasonably expect to receive from a music downloading service; and it was no easy task getting to that level of acceptance, either. And these are the people Napster thinks it's going to woo away by selling you songs that become useless chunks of wasted disk space if you don't pay them $15 a month for the rest of your life?

Meanwhile, Ben Dyer of Radical Bender has done the math. Hee. Yeah, in light of this kind of thing, perhaps "in the long run" is a phrase the Napster execs shouldn't be mouthing in public statements, eh?

UPDATE: The Register would seem to agree with this assessment. Quite forcibly, at that.

Friday, February 4, 2005
14:29 - A whole lotta fingers
http://www.brainshavings.com/mt/archives/001698.html

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...Add up to one big photo-Fisk. Via Dean Esmay.

It takes a really seriously thickened head to keep out the idea that these kinds of images are indistinguishable from the atrocities of the Nazis. But those heads are among us.

There's an artist from another site I run, a Japanese girl living in Germany to pursue her art career, who saw fit to write a couple of pieces on Naziism and the Auschwitz memorial into her DeviantArt account, the gist of both of which was that "Hey, the Germans are basically nice people, and it's not fair to keep making them feel bad for producing Hitler."

Which is a nice sentiment, and normally I'd be all for it. But there's a problem. I'm not going to tell this artist this, unless she asks me why I had such a tight-lipped and ambivalent response to reading the pieces; but the recent rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, where France and Germany caution Jews to protect themselves in public by not wearing any clothes or jewelry that identify them as Jews, where members of the Russian Duma introduce legislation banning Jewish groups, and where large percentages of the populations identify Israel as the primary threat to world peace (when they aren't saying it's the US), ought to signal us that the dangers that led to the formation of the Nazi party have not passed us by. One of the commenters on the artist's pieces, the one about the Auschwitz memorial, says:

Nobody should ever overlook what happened there - ghastly. Too bad I'm not so sure those or similar things are not going to happena gain - look at Iraq, for instance.

Yeah, I am looking at it.

This commenter may be too young or too cloistered or too determinedly rebellious to know what he or she is saying. But since this kind of thing also comes so readily to the fingers of the posters at DU, who hail from our most prestigious universities as well as our most slovenly basements, I can't dismiss it as irrelevant. It's quite symptomatic of our current popular mindset. Likewise when the artist herself conflates America's evangelism for "freedom" with the Nazis' then-compelling party platform of forging Germany into a perfected Aryan race. It's really, seriously, not the same thing, even if they occupy similar places in a historical template one has constructed. Such blinkered equivalence is both insulting and terrifyingly dangerous.

Now that it's been shown, for instance, that the Iraqis who want democracy actually are a majority, and the insurgents only represent a minority—it seems some people need to have it explained that not all minorities are good, and not all majorities are evil.

To put it bluntly: When we have this much difficulty in the modern world identifying fascism—or, indeed, identifying what is not fascism—then the lesson of Auschwitz truly has been lost.

It's well and good to say that the past is in the past, or to burble out (as another commenter does) the old saw that "those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it" (a statement that I always used to think applied to History class, which is kind of funny when I think back on it) under the assumption that they've actually absorbed what it means, while clearly drastically missing the point of the exercise. But I don't think we can afford to sanitize the past like some people seem to want to do. The moment we do, the moment we renounce our commitment to teaching our younger generations the real lessons that the 20th Century left behind for us—learning to spot real tyranny coming a mile off, instead of reciting pale and gassy slogans about tolerance and diversity—we prop the door open for the same evil to sneak up on us again from a direction we'd left unguarded.

There's really quite little to be gained from endlessly browbeating the Germans over WWII. But somehow the point of it all has slipped away, as though we've spent fifty years ritualizing a set of poorly-formed cautionary mantras, so that the process has become its own purpose and the underlying meaning has become lost. If all we've succeeded in doing is teaching kids to see fascism in everything, even in the spread of democracy, then we'll be so busy hanging Hitler signs over people like Bush that we'll never notice the real Hitler until he's on the throne again.

UPDATE: A related topic I've been itching to point out for some time has been brought up by Kevin Connors at Sgt. Stryker's Daily Briefing: the causes of the Civil War, and how they're represented today. InstaPundit started it off with a post that angered Kevin, who proceeds—in his post and in a number of the comments, increasingly doggedly—to defend the South's right to secede.

The discussion is fascinating. There is quite a bit of mental exercise to be done, more than most realize. Especially, as my post above tries to illustrate, in light of the fact that we are completely unfamiliar anymore with the political atmosphere or even the day-to-day realities of antebellum life in the South, in the days when you'd say The United States are doing a thing rather than The United States is doing a thing. Many posters on both sides weigh in, and there's even some flip-flopping of sides, as people come into the argument thinking one thing and leave thinking another. Those are the best kinds of arguments, I think: productive ones. (Too bad the involved parties can't seem to agree on a spelling of secession. Sheesh.)

One thing I have to note:

You have these revisionists running around nowadays who, for a variety of reasons, try to make the traitors into Noble Men Fighting for States Rights’, but they always fail to mention which State’s Right in particular they were fighting to maintain. I can’t explain it, other than to chalk it up to losing not only the physical war, but the moral one as well. The fought to maintain a vile institution and lost. Their cause discredited and tossed into the ashbin of history, they decided to sweep their shame under the rug and claim that their ancestors fought and died for some glorious cause, instead of fighting for the cause of Evil.

Exactly. There are certain "code words" in currency these days; euphemisms designed to distract and shield one's attention from the reality of a given controversial subject by changing the vocabulary to something more generalized and innocuous-sounding. "Intelligent Design" means creationism, for example. "Gay rights" means "gay marriage". Any honest discussion ought to complete the sentence beginning with any euphemistic truncation: not pro-choice, but pro-choice-to-kill-babies. Not states' rights, but states' rights to own slaves.

Whatever side one is on in any of these matters, simply stating the real terms of the discussion instead of an airy sanitized version can make all the difference. Honest debators can still exist on both sides, and many extenuating circumstances complicate the matter, but at least neither party is kidding itself.

Thursday, February 3, 2005
01:23 - Scouring of the Shire
http://iraqilibe.blogspot.com/2005/02/iraqi-citizens-kill-5-terrorists.html

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That's how Chris M. characterizes this account of the citizens of an Iraqi town giving back as good as they'd have gotten from the insurgents bent on "punishing" them for voting on Sunday.

'No!' said Merry. 'It's no good "getting under cover". That is just what people have been doing, and just what these ruffians like. They will simply come down in force, corner us, and then drive us out, or burn us in. No, we have got to do something at once.'

'Do what?' said Pippin.

'Raise the Shire!' said Merry. 'Now! Wake all our people! They hate all this, you can see.... They just want a match, though, and they'll go up in fire.'
Tim Blair likens it more to The Magnificent Seven, following from a different account by a Mark Willacy who conducted an interview on Australian ABC TV in which he was asked questions like, "Do you think that is a one off, Mark, or is it a sign perhaps that some Iraqis are no longer sympathetic to the insurgents' cause?"

Just perhaps. Maybe some.

I don't think anyone's naïve enough to expect Iraq to follow a storybook script of any kind. But these stories do come from somewhere, reflecting some fundamental impulse deep in the human character... and Iraq's now in one of those "building" phases, analogous to the Wild West, where there do appear to be great days ahead: high stakes, a reward that's been earned. People are willing now to fight to ensure it won't be stolen away from them now that they've had a sight of it.


14:13 - Leonard Cohen, eat your heart out
http://www.arabnews.com/?page=7§ion=0&article=58456&d=3&m=2&y=2005&pix=opinion.j

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Wow. In the Arab News, of all places. Chances are that time and distance will make the impact of Sunday's elections fade behind more doubt and quagmire and "perspective", as with every other positive milestone since 9/11; but for now, at least, it's time to highlight it all so it lasts as long as possible. Here's what Saudi Dr. Mohammed T. Al-Rasheed has to say:

Bravo Iraq! For history, Jan. 30, 2005, is one magnificent day for Iraq and the Arab nation. Regardless of who won and who lost, the day should be a permanent fixture on the Arab calendar forever. I don’t want to talk politics; I simply want to celebrate history.

In spite of everything, the Iraqis voted. They did so with a passion and a seriousness that gives the lie to the cliché that Arabs are not ready for democracy. One myth down, a thousand to go.

Everyone says that this is the first free elections in Iraq for fifty years. That is another lie. There has never been one single free election in the long history of the Arabs ever. This is the first one.

It took the Americans to conduct it and force it down the throats of dictators, terrorists, exploding deranged humans, and odds as big as the distance between the USA and the Middle East.

British guns and soldiers were in the area for so long yet did not care to look at the people.

They waltzed with people Gerty and Lawrence (their colonial spies) baptized and were happy to see the nations slip into slavery.

Likewise, the French could not bring themselves to see that the Arabs were good enough to cast a vote. And even when it happened in Algeria, the French orchestrated a putsch to annul it.

On Sunday America vindicated itself to all doubters, including me. They delivered on the promise of an election, so I am sure they will deliver on the promise of withdrawal.

. . .

Perhaps in the coming weeks we will take issue with America again. But for today, I am celebrating by having a McDonald’s. I hate fast food, but for this day I will make an exception.

Since people like Michael Moore are MIA, Robert Fisk is eating cardboard, Aaron McGruder is off on irrelevant tangents, and Garry Trudeau is entertaining fantasies of visceral racial hatred among soldiers whose primary charge in Iraq is spotting insurgents in a sea of friendly or indifferent Iraqi faces they're sworn to defend, maybe there's a chance that people like Dr. Al-Rasheed might get taken seriously, even if just for a day or two. Maybe that's all it will take for the world to realize that something has changed: even if everything up till the very present day was about imperialism and hegemony, now it's not. The facts on the ground are too obvious to ignore now. It's all been faith and presumption, but now we know.

And knowing is half the battle. (Right, Guardian?)

Wednesday, February 2, 2005
11:24 - How you know you've lost
http://www.wired.com/news/mac/0,2125,66460,00.html

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Although it's soon to be as ubiquitous as no accessory has been since hats fell out of style, there's one place where the powers-that-be would dearly love for you not to love your iPod so much:

To the growing frustration and annoyance of Microsoft's management, Apple Computer's iPod is wildly popular among Microsoft's workers.

"About 80 percent of Microsoft employees who have a portable music player have an iPod," said one source, a high-level manager who asked to remain anonymous. "It's pretty staggering."

The source estimated 80 percent of Microsoft employees have a music player -- that translates to 16,000 iPod users among the 25,000 who work at or near Microsoft's corporate campus. "This irks the management team no end," said the source.

So popular is the iPod, executives are increasingly sending out memos frowning on its use.

. . .

"These guys are really quite scared," said the source of Microsoft's management. "It shows how their backs are against the wall.... Even though it's Microsoft, no one is interested in what we have to offer, even our own employees."

Heh heh heh.

Er—sorry. I mean, um, how sad for them.

Heh heh heh.

(Via Kris and MacNN.)

Tuesday, February 1, 2005
21:21 - Implied, Lisa... or implode?

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I guess they're finally starting to say it.

I naïvely expected to hear words like this during the UN hearings on the foundation for the war, in which Powell's evidence (which turned out to be pretty flimsy, if not so transparent as to be disastrous in retrospect to his credibilty) seemed a lot more convincing at the time. But barring that, as grounds for such repudiations dissolved shortly afterwards, I expected to hear these words in the wake of the growing body of testimonials from Iraqis pining for freedom and taking peace activists to task for their "simplistic Nickelodeon diplomacy", and recantations of the Human Shields who cried, "Oh God, what have we done?" But it wasn't to be. Nor was it to be upon hearing freed Iraqis jubilantly call out for "Democracy, Whiskey, Sexy" as they dragged the Saddam statue to its knees. Nor did the Transfer of Sovereignty date evoke so much as a sniff of introspection on the part of those who insisted, not that we were in Iraq to steal the oil and kill brown people for the fun of it at the command of our Zionist masters, but that democracy was something Iraqis just weren't suited for, the poor dear darkies.

In fact, I'd begun to despair of ever hearing anything like this:

By now, you might have even voted against George Bush -- a second time -- to register your disapproval.

But after watching Sunday's election in Iraq and seeing the first clear sign that freedom really may mean something to the Iraqi people, you have to be asking yourself: What if it turns out Bush was right, and we were wrong?

It's hard to swallow, isn't it?

. . .

Obviously, I'm still curious to see if Bush is willing to allow the Iraqis to install a government that is free to kick us out or to oppose our other foreign policy efforts in the region.

So is the rest of the world.

For now, though, I think we have to cut the president some slack about a timetable for his exit strategy.

If it turns out Bush was right all along, this is going to require some serious penance.

Maybe I'd have to vote Republican in 2008.

Whoa, now, let's not do anything rash.

I'd be happier to see the Democrats remember what the name of their bloody party is, and put a few chips on the idea that maybe democracy is a good thing after all—not just for white people, but for anybody in the world. That's all I would ask.

I saw (rather, heard) the first part of the Daily Show last night, too, before I tore myself away from what I was working on and changed the channel. It seemed Jon Stewart and friends were having a hard time figuring out how to spin jokes from a bunch of images of Iraqis gleefully holding up ink-stained fingers and dancing in banner-waving street mobs. "It was in fact a good day," said Stephen Colbert, "And that makes... what, three they've had. Three good days... the day the statue came down, the day we captured Saddam, and now this. So in the Iraqi Week of Good Days, we're up to... Wednesday! It's Hump Day!"

The nervousness of the audience's laughter was palpable. I kinda wish I'd stuck with it until the end, though—it must have been downright tomblike in there when Stewart said this:

Jon Stewart, late in the Daily Show last night to Newsweek pundit Fareed Zakaria: "I’ve watched this thing unfold from the start and here’s the great fear that I have: What if Bush, the president, ours, has been right about this all along? I feel like my world view will not sustain itself and I may, and again I don’t know if I can physically do this, implode. (Hat tip: David Frum).

That would be awful, I know. But see, democracy is bigger than the details needed to bring it to life. Once you've accepted that the people who say they want it actually represent a popular movement, and are not just a bunch of paid flunkies preening for Western cameras and bags of illicit M&Ms, there is no more arguing against democracy. To argue against democracy is to argue against a country's people, and nobody wants the terminology to get that far, lest it reveal where one's priorities really lie.

Believing the worst about the war all this time, whether or not one agrees with Brown in that "going to war still sent so many terrible messages to the world" (a statement which sends a quite reassuring message to would-be Hitlers), means believing that the Idiot Supergenius Bush deluded America into fighting for the spread and germination of democracy, a concept he was himself patently opposed to, and in whose service he was willing to construct the most elaborate, audacious, and shameless lie in American history. It takes believing that Bush says he likes freedom, but is lying and secretly hates freedom—but he's willing to subvert our entire governmental system to create freedom anyway, because it serves his nefarious goals.

But there's another explanation, one that requires much fewer mental gymnastics.

Being on the side of the war means simply believing Bush meant what he said and said what he meant. That he believed the things he said, that he acted in good faith, that he never knowingly lied, and that the end result—democracy in Iraq—depends not on subterfuge but on honesty. Hard as it might be, one only has to believe that Bush and the pro-war faction of American politics has simply been sincere all along for the sight of grinning, finger-waving Iraqi voters to make sense.

Otherwise one has to layer the assumption of one lie on top of the assumption of another, deception upon conspiracy upon betrayal upon belief in the worst impulses of humanity manifesting themselves constantly in every level from Republican voters and Iraqi citizens up through the President and his cabinet. The only way to explain away positive developments in the face of such expressed evil would be to add yet more presumptions of ill intent on top. Eventually you end up with an edifice so hideously elaborate that it necessarily crashes in under its own weight.

The theorists would call it "elegant" to believe that simply putting our faith in the higher ideals of freedom and democracy, ignoring the popular disdain for such concepts as have been made current by the nightly comedy lineup, and in our elected officials to act according to their own publicly expressed beliefs about the world instead of in direct contradiction to them, is enough to bring about positive change in the world. It requires no cynicism and no resentment. It requires no second-guessing, no overanalysis, no reliance on data that's guaranteed to be faultier than what the administration might be working with. It requires no spiderweb of half-baked beliefs all bolstered by nothing but prejudice and detestation and peer pressure. All it takes is a little bit of trust, the fundamental building block of any modern free society.

The trouble is, when you trust in trust, there's not much comedy to be made from it. When one's mind is at ease, and not tugged in a million directions by a roil of contradicting, incompatible presumptions, there's not a lot left to say.

And we're just not a people accustomed to silence. Because, after all, we're free.

UPDATE: Tim Blair has more sightings of people starting to exit the "reality-based community" and re-enter actual reality.


20:33 - If I have seen farther, it is by kicking the shins of giants
http://coldfury.com/index.php?p=5260

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Fascinating stuff about Galileo Galilei by John over at Cold Fury today.

Seems the guy was a lot more human than a generation of college kids naming their dorm-room computers after him might suggest—and so were the actors of the Inquisition.

Stop! Stop burning me with nuance!


15:21 - Oh... my... God.
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=14549_Holy_Warriors_vs._GI_Joe&only=ye

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This is more laughable even than Rathergate.

Maybe the major journalistic corporations should start instituting a "Take a Blogger to Work Day".


14:06 - A million household uses
http://news.com.com/Putting+the+Mac+Mini+in+your+dashboard/2100-1042_3-5539831.html?

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Via JMH: an idea whose time has, er, well, hmm...

Sloatsburg, N.Y.-based Classic Restorations has laid out plans to install the Mac Mini in car dashboards.

The company was already working on a way to install a Mac laptop when Apple Computer introduced the Mac Mini last week. Melvin Benzaquen, president of Classic Restorations, noticed that the dimensions of the diminutive desktop were just about perfect to fit into the space automakers allot for car stereos.

What exactly anyone would do with a Mac in the car is not totally clear, but Benzaquen said there are lots of possibilities, from logging in to one's home network to playing music or movies. Equip the car with Wi-Fi, and it might be able to get Internet access from the parking lot of a Starbucks or McDonald's, he said. GPS (Global Positioning System) navigation and voice-activated programs are other options.

"There are so many things you could do," Benzaquen said.

Uh huh. When someone says "There are so many things you could do", it usually means "We have no idea, but we sure hope someone out there is creative enough to make us profitable".

I mean, more power to 'em and all. (After all, the inevitable PC conversions of the Mac mini only result in defeatured, slower computers than the original, rather than the uglier but much faster results that past tower conversions have become.) The Mac mini's press has been so overwhelmingly positive lately that it stands to reason that people would be coming up will all kinds of possible aftermarket applications for a full desktop-class computer that fits almost into a jacket pocket.

But in a car? To leech wi-fi from an adjacent coffee shop? To watch movies on an LCD screen whose image becomes invisible in sun glare? That's reaching, if you ask me.

It's not clear how big the market is for such a product, but Benzaquen said he has had plenty of interest. His Web site has gone from 1,500 hits a day to more than 36,000 hits in the first full day after announcing the Mac plans.

Then again... if you build it, they will come, and in droves. For whatever reason.

(We're Mac users. We don't need a reason.)

Monday, January 31, 2005
17:43 - Putting a face with the name
http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/000641.html

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I'm fascinated by detailed reports of life in countries that we know very little about or that seem like Netherworld versions of our customary Western experience—Russia, Israel, China, Thailand, Iran—where allegedly life proceeds according to modern expectations of technology and discourse, but where there's just that much that's so very alien about it. I stare at maps and atlases with obsessive fervor, wanting to be able to put the texture of familiarity with the rich and rolling names on the paper.

That's why, when something like this photo tour of Libya by Michael Totten (via Mary Madigan) comes along, I gobble it right up. Fascinating stuff. All hail digital cameras and the Web.

Same thing goes for this description of the likely crumbling façade of North Korea's regime. It's in this way that one starts to slowly attain an idea of what kind of mental strangulation one undergoes in a country ruled under a personage like Kim Jong Il or Saddam Hussein, how much of one's own human reasoning powers and perception of reality one is forced to flatly deny oneself... and why when people like Iraq the Model's Ali say things like this:

2003; the year of freedom.
Before you I was mute, and here goes my tongue praying for the best,
Before you I was hand-cuffed, and here are my hands free to write,
Before you my mind was tied to one thought and here I find wide horizons and greater thoughts,
Before you I was isolated, and here I join the wide universe.
I will never forget you; you broke the chains for my people, and rid us from the big jail.

...They're not preening, they're not trolling for comments, they're not posturing for favor from the overlords, they're not practicing their ironic sneers in hopes of building a J-school portfolio. They mean it. In a way that people like us can never fully understand. (Thank goodness.)

Here's the kind of thing, from Iraqi Shiite sheik Hamid Chiati, that inevitably draws hollow latte-spilling guffaws from the Democratic Underground crowd:

"Yes, we still face explosions, kidnapping and killing. But already the new Iraq is better even when we don’t have bread.

"We don’t have water, but we are happy. Electricity - no. But we’re better off because under Saddam no one respected us - and today they do. That’s more important than bread or water or electricity."

It's all the rage to second-guess everything we hear, to come up with a new and subversive angle that sounds like the exact opposite of what The Man would say, just for the frisson of smugness one gets from feeling like one sees through the smokescreen to the ugly, ugly truth beneath and attains appropriate cynicism to dismiss any otherwise inspiring development as so much futility in the face of an inexorably decaying and irredeemable world.

But some days... well, you've just got to drop the cynicism and the irony by the wayside and just let people sound sincere for once. Take them at their word. The Iraqi insurgents were dead serious when they said they'd try to kill as many voters as possible; fortunately the Election Weekend nationwide curfew kept casualties to a very small number. We owe it to their intended victims to treat their words with just as much seriousness and respect, for they are just as earnest.

Maybe one of these days a photo tour of Baghdad won't look like the snapshots captured by a lander on an alien world. Maybe someday it'll look so familiar that a stroll down a street there won't seem any more thrillingly different than walking around Toronto or Berlin. Maybe the people there will one day have spent enough time living under a government of their own making that in some ways they'll seem more familiar to us if we should meet them on the street than anyone but our own countrymen.

I can think of many worse fates for the world.


14:04 - It's a thing! I'm so happy!
http://www.apple.com/powerbook/

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New PowerBook G4s. Nothing special beyond a speed-bump; hardly worth mention.

Er, wait. What about this?
Ready to Scroll
Scrolling through web pages or large documents on a trackpad can challenge even the most nimble fingers. That’s why every PowerBook G4 features a new trackpad with scrolling capability. Just drag two fingers over the trackpad to scroll vertically and horizontally or pan around any active window. Change this feature to suit your needs: Customize your trackpad settings or turn off scrolling completely via System Preferences.

Ooo. Okay, I can see that being useful. Has this been done before? I've seen some solutions for this in PC laptops, with extra buttons and little rollers, but this may be new. (A friend of mine referred to it as a "fondlepad".) Considering all Apple's done in mainstreaming the trackpad throughout the iPod's life, I guess it stands to reason that they'd be in a mindset to do their innovation around it these days.

Oh, and here's another shiny bit:
Takes the Fall
Now every PowerBook G4 is equipped with Apple's Sudden Motion Sensor to help protect your most valuable asset: your data. The Sudden Motion Sensor senses change in axis position and accelerated movement. In the event of a drop or fall, the Sudden Motion Sensor instantly parks the hard drive heads so they won’t scratch the disks on impact, lessening the risk of damage and improving your chances of retrieving valuable data. When the Sudden Motion Sensor senses your PowerBook is once again level, it unlocks the hard drive heads automatically.

Sweet!


13:08 - I'm against picketing, but I don't know how to show it
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=104x302

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So is this, more than anything else we've seen to date, not the very definition of "dead-enders"?

All the media keeps talking about is how happy the Iraqis are, how high turnout was, and how "freedom" has spread to Iraq. I had to turn off CNN because they kept focusing on the so-called "voters" and barely mentioned the resistance movements at all. Where are the freedom fighters today? Are their voices silenced because some American puppets cast a few ballots?

I can't believe the Iraqis are buying into this "democracy" bullshit...

Fortunately there are some in the comments with the ability to come back from the brink of pure insanity and refute this garbage. But this kind of thing seems to be all that's in the news today, all that anyone's talking about.

I have not yet read, in fact, a single news story or blog post that mentions any projection of who won the election. Though for accounts of the casualties from terror attacks and protests against the horror of democracy around the world, well, I have to stick to Spongebob and Sailor Moon fan sites to avoid them.

This is what it felt like on November 3, too. What should have been a great, elating victory turns into the somber, frustrated surveying of a field of battle where nobody even has the heart to cheer.

UPDATE: Tim Blair's coverage makes for reassuring reading. Except if you're one of the Leftern naysayers, though. I keep thinking that if they had any sense or honor they'd be wallowing in introspection and shame today, but... I guess we all know better than that.

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© Brian Tiemann