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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12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Saturday, April 24, 2004
22:58 - Dowdifying Reality

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Have you ever seen a testimonial quote on a DVD case that says something like, "This is ... a good movie"?

Makes you wonder exactly what the ellipsis is leaving out, doesn't it? Like, say, the word not?

Anyway, that's how I often feel these days when trying to work out exactly what ails the Left so severely as to completely alienate me from all the Leftist ideals that I once held so dear, not to say from all my Leftist friends who (with a few rare exceptions) want to have nothing to do with me once they've discovered I'm no longer batting for their team.

It has to do, I guess, with being able to formulate complex hypotheses about how the real world works, founded upon completely, provably incorrect basic assumptions. They'll take some concept that they picked up somewhere, like "The Republicans and the KKK are basically the same thing"—and use it as the foundation and the springboard for a whole worldview that assumes that anyone who votes for someone with an R next to their name is a racist, or at least condones racism.

Sigh and trot out unpleasant facts that specifically refute the fundamental assumption, and you get sputtering, hemming, hawing, and furious attempts to reclaim some kind of moral high ground—certainly not anything like an "Oh, I guess I was wrong."

You can see this happening in our media and politics all the time. Just today there was more news of American casualties in Iraq. Of course, there's a knee-jerk reaction among many in the media and all over the country that "This was never supposed to happen! I thought we were all done with Iraq. I mean, didn't Bush tell us that the war in Iraq would be a cake-walk, and that it would all be over quickly?"

A quick perusal of his speeches shows that Bush said no such thing. In fact, he said (and continues to say) the diametric opposite:
This is a massive and difficult undertaking -- it is worth our effort, it is worth our sacrifice, because we know the stakes. The failure of Iraqi democracy would embolden terrorists around the world, increase dangers to the American people, and extinguish the hopes of millions in the region. Iraqi democracy will succeed -- and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Teheran -- that freedom can be the future of every nation. (Applause.) The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution. (Applause.)

Nor did his "Mission Accomplished" speech from the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln suggest that our job was over:

We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We're bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We're pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We've begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated. We're helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people. (Applause.)

The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave, and we will leave behind a free Iraq. (Applause.)

Nor, for that matter, did Bush ever "promise" that invading Iraq would make us safer, indignant bumper stickers on Volvos and minivans notwithstanding. He's pitching an entirely different approach than "making us safer" in the immediate term. From the 11/6/03 speech:

Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe -- because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export. And with the spread of weapons that can bring catastrophic harm to our country and to our friends, it would be reckless to accept the status quo. (Applause.)

Therefore, the United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. This strategy requires the same persistence and energy and idealism we have shown before. And it will yield the same results. As in Europe, as in Asia, as in every region of the world, the advance of freedom leads to peace. (Applause.)

Furthermore, all over the place people are claiming that Bush said Iraq was an "imminent threat". They'll even point triumphantly to the Jan. 28, 2003 State of the Union speech, claiming that Bush specifically used the word "imminent" regarding the threat Iraq posed. However, very few people on the Left seem willing to actually read the speech, preferring to take it as an article of faith that it says what they've been told it says.

In fact, it says:

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.

In other words, he said, in only slightly more words, "Iraq is not an imminent threat". But the media and the politicians determined to grill Bush are somehow managing to mentally toss that little not right out the window, inserting a mental ellipsis for the testimonial on the DVD case for Bush: Smackdown 2003. "Iraq is ... an imminent threat."

Hey, we're just saving space. How much difference can one little word make?

Only turns the entire premise of the discourse one-hundred-eighty degrees, is all. But hey, that's not important, right?

But that's old news even for the Leftists who have somehow accepted reality enough to shut up about this particular issue. Some have Moved On to carping about the economy, like a member of my social circle who was over at our house last night. We were watching a Deep Space Nine two-parter, in which Our Heroes are space-time-wedgied back to the San Francisco of 2024, where the poor and homeless are processed into barricaded-off "sanctuaries"—derelicted neighborhoods where there is no law and no hope, just the cast-aside refuse of a depressed urban world who have been moved to an out-of-sight, out-of-mind location for the benefit of the champagne-and-caviar set. Plenty of opportunities for Sisko and Bashir to walk slowly about the lawless streets and give long, excruciating, whining soliloquies about how "This is a society that has simply given up... if only people would wake up and realize what they must do to become a truly enlightened culture, none of this ever should have happened!" (This is in the days before the Federation passed laws against poverty, you see, and simply transported poor people into space or somehow "lost the signal due to interference", or however the hell they "abolished" poverty and greed and sickness and money.)

Someone made a comment about how even in 2024, the urban peacekeepers (the National Guard) were still using those old Deuce trucks from WWII. "Well, they're in a depressed economy," someone else pointed out. "When that happens, they'll press old equipment into service."

This friend, from behind the dinner table, harrumphed over his turkey. "Well, we're working on getting to that point ourselves," he growled.

The economy is getting worse, you see. Unemployment at 1996 levels, industry at a 20-year high, tens of thousands of new jobs being created every week—all stuff you can read about in any financial-news source you care to check out. But never mind—it's an article of faith that the economy is still careening down the toilet, dragging ourselves inevitably into 1933, with Hoovervilles for all of us.

I didn't want to break up such a happy scene of Friday-night bonhomie, so I said nothing. Ah well, there was always this cheerful Trek episode to watch.

So now the flavor of the month, brought to us by LGF (of course), is what that bunch of perennial winners over at Democratic Underground are doing: namely, running a poll to try to figure out what can possibly explain Bush being ahead in the polls.
Poll question: Is Bush ahead in the polls because most Americans are racist?

The polls show most Americans support a foreign policy that embraces preemptive strikes outside legal bounds (ie. Iraq).

They are willing to kill foreigners willy-nilly behind a policy that says “all Muslims are a POTENTIAL threat.” Never mind the ramifications of killing innocent people, as long as these attacks hinder terrorists they are justified. After all, in the end us Americans represent the good guys: Christian/Jewish brotherhood, and the Muslims represent the terrorists.
Generalizations like this are what leads to mass genocide. It’s no different than the anti-Jewish propaganda that Hitler promoted as a cover for his brutal imperialism.

As of right now, 67% of the respondents (deep thinkers all, I'm sure) have voted Yes. (And the rest, judging by the followup comments, believe that, no, it's actually because most Americans are ignorant.)

And let's not forget Jermaine Jackson:

Jermaine, also a singer, told Reuters in an interview: "I do not agree with the U.S. government. What they are saying about Muslims and Arabs is all propaganda and brainwashing."

Now: what I want to know is, have any of these people even read a speech by Bush on Islam, Muslims, or terrorism? Have they even heard one?

Or have they heard every last one, and simply discarded them because what they heard didn't match the presumptions about Bush that they'd already stuffed into their brains, whatever cereal box they originally read them on?

I'll freely admit: if our President were going up in front of the microphones every couple of weeks and delivering speeches that called upon Americans to ferret out any and all Muslims or suspected Muslims living in their towns, call their local authorities, and turn them over for internment and questioning because, you know, all Muslims are potential terrorists, y'all—well, sure, I would in fact be all about condemning such hateful and unsupportable incitement. It's uncalled-for, it's un-American, it's Nazi-esque, and it's just plain wrong.

Only problem is, it's not happening.

It's not even close to happening.

Here is a handy summary page of all of George W. Bush's statements on Islam and Muslims over the years. Let's look at a few random examples of what this hateful Nazi racist redneck Republican has said, tarring innocent Muslim Americans with the brush of terrorism and fomenting anti-Muslim sentiment throughout this country:

• "The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war."

• "Here in the United States our Muslim citizens are making many contributions in business, science and law, medicine and education, and in other fields. Muslim members of our Armed Forces and of my administration are serving their fellow Americans with distinction, upholding our nation's ideals of liberty and justice in a world at peace."

• "The Islam that we know is a faith devoted to the worship of one God, as revealed through The Holy Qur'an. It teaches the value and the importance of charity, mercy, and peace."

• "It should be clear to all that Islam -- the faith of one-fifth of humanity -- is consistent with democratic rule. Democratic progress is found in many predominantly Muslim countries -- in Turkey and Indonesia, and Senegal and Albania, Niger and Sierra Leone. Muslim men and women are good citizens of India and South Africa, of the nations of Western Europe, and of the United States of America."

• "This new enemy seeks to destroy our freedom and impose its views. We value life; the terrorists ruthlessly destroy it. We value education; the terrorists do not believe women should be educated or should have health care, or should leave their homes. We value the right to speak our minds; for the terrorists, free expression can be grounds for execution. We respect people of all faiths and welcome the free practice of religion; our enemy wants to dictate how to think and how to worship even to their fellow Muslims."

• "According to Muslim teachings, God first revealed His word in the Holy Qur'an to the prophet, Muhammad, during the month of Ramadan. That word has guided billions of believers across the centuries, and those believers built a culture of learning and literature and science. All the world continues to benefit from this faith and its achievements."

• "We're taking action against evil people. Because this great nation of many religions understands, our war is not against Islam, or against faith practiced by the Muslim people. Our war is a war against evil. This is clearly a case of good versus evil, and make no mistake about it -- good will prevail."

Anti-Muslim? I have a hard time imagining how he could possibly be more pro-Muslim in his speeches, short of converting.

Not only has Bush never said a single word treating Islam as the "enemy" or casting a glowering scowl upon the Muslims within our borders, as he's charged to be constantly doing by the DUers and Leftists everywhere—he's said precisely the opposite. He's rained down these statements of politically-correct peacemongering with such zeal that people like Charles Johnson, who see acts of Islamic terror condoned and cheered by mainstream Muslims on a daily basis, grow increasingly frustrated with Bush's steadfast refusal to even use language that approaches the subject of making war upon even a specific and tiny subset of Islam. Bush is saying all the right things, all the things the Left would demand to hear from a President who's fully on their side. These quotes are not just not racist or anti-Islamic, they're fawning. They're simpering. They're about what you'd expect to hear if Noam Chomsky or Ibrahim Hooper were writing Bush's speeches.

And yet not only are they ignoring all these statements, they're treating Bush as though he's been saying precisely the opposite of all of them, all this time.

Hell, ever since 9/11/2001, he could have been pounding his fist on the table, ranting about nuking Mecca in a brown military dress uniform and a little toothbrush moustache, and the Left could not possibly vilify him any more than they're doing now.

I fail to see how anybody could aspire to want the job of President. If you're the wrong kind of person, you see, you can simply do nothing right, in the eyes of a certain segment of your constituency. No matter how good you are, no matter how many of the right moves you make, you're guaranteed to be loathed with a murderous, fiery rage. Boy oh boy—where do I sign up?!

If DU were a real place, you could walk in with a clipboard, stop people at random, and ask random questions:

• "Do you think that Bush has characterized Iraq as an 'imminent' threat to America?"
• "Would you say that Bush has used anti-Muslim rhetoric in his speeches to the country about terrorism?"
• "Did Bush give the impression in his speeches that the war in Iraq would be easy and quickly accomplished?"
• "Do you think Bush has unfairly fomented anti-Muslim sentiment in America in the wake of 9/11?"
• "Would you say that Bush is a racist?"
• "Would you describe the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as being characterized by widespread, reckless destruction of civilian property and lives?"
• "Would you say that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are fundamentally 'racist'?"
• "Do you think Bush's speeches regarding Islam and Muslims post-9/11 are similar to Hitler's speeches regarding the Jews in the 1930s?"

You know that a depressingly large majority of the respondents would answer "Yes" to every last question.

Reality be damned. They know what's goin' down.

These people wonder why nobody takes them seriously. They know they're right; they know they're educated and sophisticated and intellectual, so they can't be wrong. Obviously. They don't need to read the news. They know it supports their assumptions. Why would they have to confirm what they already know?

So to explain away this bizarre tendency of Americans to view them with dismissal and bemusement rather than the awe they feel is due them as the intellectual superiors of the average Joe, they concoct increasingly freakish theories, theories which make perfect sense to them. Like: Americans support Bush because Americans, by and large, are racists. And Bush is a racist, so obviously they like him. He plays to their hateful, bloodthirsty impulses, just like Hitler.

These are people who grew up thinking they were better than everybody else: the smart kids in high school, picked-on by the jocks. They had to concoct some reason why the jocks kept getting the chicks and not them, and why the idiots in the school weren't simply herded into the gym and gassed so the smart kids could actually learn something. I believe I understand something of their mindset, having once been there myself; they hold a grudge toward humanity already, and naturally they hate the unseen force that unjustly held them down during their formative years. Nowadays the stakes are simply higher, and the conspiracies are commensurately vaster and more evil.

It must be terribly depressing in the DU world, to live in a reality that's so dismal, that deliberately ignores everything that's going right so as to convince themselves that everything is shit. They can shut out the fact that we live in the richest, most tolerant, safest, most culturally/racially diverse country in the history of planet Earth, which ought to be the vindication of every "progressive" ideal they hold close to their hearts; they can convince themselves, somehow, that we're a nation of inbred, white-trash, racist rednecks with single-digit IQs and no interest in anything beyond pro wrestling and shooting beer cans off fences. Theirs is a world with a perpetual soundtrack of morose Goth music and R.E.M. and Jello Biafra and Rage Against the Machine, where Peter Schilling lyrics spark nods of rueful agreement rather than outrage:
How I love the life I lead
Cannot think and cannot read
Watch our values slip away
play the game of U.S.A!

I find myself wondering which is worse: "cannot think and cannot read", or "will not think and will not read"...?



UPDATE: Sigh. Twice today I've had friends approvingly tell me that in this post, I've very effectively made my case: that most Americans are morons who don't read.

That was the exact opposite of the point I was trying to make. (Is there a theme here?)

What I'm trying to say here is that most Americans are not morons; they're way more in-tune with reality than most of "us" (the self-described Enlightened Elite) are willing to believe. Most people are rational, open-minded, and willing to listen to reasoned discussion from both sides of an argument. I mean, think about ten random acquaintances, and think back on twenty random people you met or saw during the course of the day. How many of them would you describe as clinically stupid? By which I mean, how many of them—driving on the highway, walking past you in the mall, serving you your Arby's sandwich, delivering your package—would you call idiots, people on whom you wouldn't feel comfortable conferring the sacred trust of democracy?

How many would you guess are racists? How many would you guess are ignorant?

DU says "most". Are they right? I don't think so.

The problem I'm trying to highlight is that the Leftists, the DUers, the elitists who are positive that Bush is a Muslim-hating racist and that Americans can't be trusted with sharp scissors because they're actually (gasp!) polling in his favor, are singularly and unusually prone to this behavior. I believe they're worse than the statistical average when it comes to being open-minded about alternate viewpoints. I believe they're (perversely) inured to rational, multifaceted discussion because they're convinced of their own superiority, whereas most everyday folks tend to have a humility about them that lets them accept that they might not be aware of the whole story on a given issue.

A contemptuous lack of faith in the decency, intelligence, and social competence of the majority of Americans is a clear sign of the kind of immaturity that you see concentrated, primarily and almost exclusively, on the Left these days.

And I want no part of it.

Thursday, April 22, 2004
09:55 - Tabloids Become Seanbaby
http://www.weeklyworldnews.com/news/index.cfm?instanceid=61499

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Wow! I've been pooh-pooh'ing the Weekly World News and other checkout-lane tabloids all these years. As it turns out, they actually appear to have some real, live, serious humor writers on staff. Could this be the beginning of a trend from "bizarre news that pretends to be real" to "mainstream parody news"? I'd sure feel a lot better about it.

EUROPE TO BECOME GIANT THEME PARK!

Member nations of the European Union have announced plans to discontinue their status as individual countries in order to merge into one giant theme park!

The new park will be called EuroWorld and will cover the entire continent of what is now known as Europe. The decision was made by the EU countries in response to their collective realization that no one in Europe has had an innovative idea in well over a century.

With nothing new to offer visitors, the European countries decided to stop pretending they were still relevant, and to start celebrating their colorful pasts.

"Our stagnant continent has been a virtual museum for decades," explains an unnamed EU representative. "Many could argue that we already were nothing more than an amusement park. The decision to legally become a large theme park is really only a formality."

Via Tim Blair, who says to be sure to take note of "planned prostitute races in Amsterdam". (Shouldn't that be drag races?)

Wednesday, April 21, 2004
14:54 - Didn't you get the memo?

(top)
So are there any comics out there that aren't going to feature a character getting his leg blown off in Iraq as this week's theme?



Guys, al-Sadr reads comics too.

I hope I don't have to start reading Garfield just to avoid this kind of crap.


11:13 - Same planet, different worlds

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Sometimes, I wish that some people who get profiled on LGF could read the words of other people who get profiled on LGF.

For instance, here's Jermaine Jackson, a Muslim convert, acting on his own recognizance as a sort of "cultural ambassador" to the Middle East:

Jermaine, also a singer, told Reuters in an interview: "I do not agree with the U.S. government. What they are saying about Muslims and Arabs is all propaganda and brainwashing."

Considering that what Bush and the U.S. government have been saying about Muslims and Arabs, constantly, ever since 9/11, to the frustration of people who increasingly see evidence to the contrary, is that "Islam is a great and peaceful religion, and a very tiny minority of extremists are trying to pervert it through terrorism" and "Arabs are as capable of democracy, and as deserving of it, as anyone else in the world"— is Jackson saying that that's what he disagrees with so fervently? I wonder if he's ever heard a speech by Bush on terrorism.

Meanwhile, here are a bunch of twenty-something Muslim professionals, sitting down to lunch at a chicken joint in Luton, England:

"As far as I'm concerned, when they bomb London, the bigger the better," says Abdul Haq, the social worker. "I know it's going to happen because Sheikh bin Laden said so. Like Bali, like Turkey, like Madrid - I pray for it, I look forward to the day."

Someone better tell these guys that all the bad stuff people are saying about them is "propaganda" and "brainwashing". Who could ever believe these sweet young men could be capable of violence? After all, says Jermaine:

"I understand their feelings but do not approve of their methods. Islam is a religion of peace. They are wrong," he said.

Something's not jivin' here:

"I agree with you, brother," says Abu Yusuf, the earnest-looking financial adviser sitting opposite. "I would like to see the Mujahideen coming into London and killing thousands, whether with nuclear weapons or germ warfare. And if they need a safehouse, they can stay in mine - and if they need some fertiliser [for a bomb], I'll tell them where to get it."

It's clear where Jackson thinks the problem lies:

"I don't think it is right for us to go to someone else's country and tell them what to do and how to do it," said Jermaine, who is a guest of the royal court in the pro-Western kingdom, which hosts the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.

Wonder how he'd react to hearing this?

According to Sayful, the aim of al-Muhajiroun ("the immigrants") is nothing less than Khilafah - "the worldwide domination of Islam". The way to achieve this, he says, is by Jihad, led by Bin Laden. "I support him 100 per cent."

Does that support extend to violent acts of terrorism in the UK?

"Yes," he replies, unequivocally. "When a bomb attack happens here, I won't be against it, even if it kills my own children. Islam is clear: Muslims living in lands that are occupied have the right to attack their invaders.

"Britain became a legitimate target when it sent troops to Iraq. But it is against Islam for me to engage personally in acts of terrorism in the UK because I live here. According to Islam, I have a covenant of security with the UK, as long as they allow us Muslims to live here in peace."

How downright decent of him. LGF commenters are taking this bit slightly out of context-- Charles' quotation leaves off the final paragraph, without which the interpretation is easily that "All lands are Muslim lands, and all non-Muslims are invaders and occupiers of their own countries." That doesn't appear to be quite what this guy is saying, but honestly, how comforted do you feel?

(In fact, that last paragraph has the feel of a hasty bit of backpedaling. Considering the way these guys talk to the reporter as described in the article, freely giving their names but refusing to be photographed, it would be in character. You don't suppose the penultimate paragraph, the "Brits are the occupiers of Muslim England and must be driven out" one, is their true sentiment, do you?)

But Jackson knows better. He has cred.

"I think Muslims have become the new Negroes in America. They are being mistreated at airports, by the Immigration -- everywhere," he said.

How, then, is one to take this?

But Sayful and his friends laugh at the idea that they are local pariahs. "The mosques say one thing to the public, and something else to us. Let's just say that the face you see and the face we see are two different faces," says Abdul Haq. "Believe me," adds Musa, "behind closed doors, there are no moderate Muslims."

These guys would laugh in Jackson's face when he talks about "Islam" meaning "peace", or says that Muslims are living under the equivalent of Jim Crow laws in the US. These guys are living the yuppie high life and they know it; Sayful says right out that he has "never experienced racism" in the UK, and he smirks gleefully over the idea of overthrowing the very country on whose dole he happily lives. The fact that the West is willing to tolerate their presence at all, without demanding loyalty oaths (jingoist! Anti-multi-culturalist!) or conducting nighttime raids against people willing to talk to newspapers like this, and that the West treats people like Jackson as "cultural ambassadors" and gives them the benefit of the doubt, doesn't signal friendship. It signals willingness to surrender. All it takes is a little bit of subterfuge, a little bit of camouflage, a little bit of patience, and a little bit of C-4.

Who do we believe, Mr. Jackson? How sincerely can we allow ourselves to believe the constant refrain of Islam means peace? We keep getting mixed signals, and the consequences of choosing the wrong people to believe are either a) making a group of people feel uncomfortable, or b) getting slaughtered by the thousands. At what cost comes our commitment to decency and fairness?

The strength of our society—trust—is also its weakness. See, we all trust each other to a certain degree, all day long, to act in a certain way, and to behave in a certain predictable manner that's in accordance to what we say we're going to do. When that trust is intact, our society blossoms. But when we rely too much on that trust, it's so easy to subvert.

The USSR learned this long ago: communism requires the cooperation of everybody to work, but it takes only the rebellion of one person for it to fail. ...Unless you kill that person.

We have a lesser version of that problem here. We don't know how much we can trust Muslims. The article in ThisIsLondon is interspersed with statements from moderate Muslims (like the president of the Islamic Cultural Society in Luton) who insist that the firebrands are the exception, but what are we risking if we take his word over theirs? In a world where we're accustomed to far more honesty in our interpersonal dealings than we really even believe, can we even recognize deceit like this anymore, or distinguish it from harmless bluster?

Our culture, in these Western countries, is a lot more fragile than we think—fragile and complex. Americans (and especially Canadians) are fond of sniffily dismissing the idea that American "culture" is anything worth being proud of, let alone exporting. But it seems to me that if we found ourselves bereft of that culture, and thrust into a world where all the things we take for granted are different or nonexistent, from movies to food to music to being able to wear shorts on a hot day or (if you're a woman) drive a car or go to school, or even being able to trust the word of your neighbor even though he's of a different religion, we'd sure as hell miss it.

Besides, as one commenter says:

Anybody want to tell me that an evangelical Christian handing out tracts is more dangerous to society than this kind of bile? Guess which one the Left is fighting though.

All I can conclude is that the Left wants a different culture. Better? Worse? Doesn't matter; they just want change, like Jermaine Jackson in white robes that allow him to transcend a racial past that everybody but him seems to have been able to come to terms with.

Change. Progress. Anything but what we have now.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004
18:36 - Columbine explained
http://slate.msn.com/id/2099203/

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All this time we'd all assumed that Michael Moore had at least this much right: Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the "Trenchcoat Mafia", the Columbine killers, were the products of a society that had lost its heart—an America where violence was institutionalized, where video games and the nightly news desensitized a generation of youths to the point where they thought it would be cool to shoot down their teachers and the jocks who tormented them day by day.

Dave Cullen, however, appears to be in exclusive possession of a new interpretation of all the official analysis that has been done since the event: FBI psychologists' work, operating independently of all the pundits in the news and behind the documentary camera, has reached an entirely different conclusion about the nature of these two boys and what they—particularly Harris—were trying to do.

School shooters tend to act impulsively and attack the targets of their rage: students and faculty. But Harris and Klebold planned for a year and dreamed much bigger. The school served as means to a grander end, to terrorize the entire nation by attacking a symbol of American life. Their slaughter was aimed at students and teachers, but it was not motivated by resentment of them in particular. Students and teachers were just convenient quarry, what Timothy McVeigh described as "collateral damage."

The killers, in fact, laughed at petty school shooters. They bragged about dwarfing the carnage of the Oklahoma City bombing and originally scheduled their bloody performance for its anniversary. Klebold boasted on video about inflicting "the most deaths in U.S. history." Columbine was intended not primarily as a shooting at all, but as a bombing on a massive scale. If they hadn't been so bad at wiring the timers, the propane bombs they set in the cafeteria would have wiped out 600 people. After those bombs went off, they planned to gun down fleeing survivors. An explosive third act would follow, when their cars, packed with still more bombs, would rip through still more crowds, presumably of survivors, rescue workers, and reporters. The climax would be captured on live television. It wasn't just "fame" they were after—Agent Fuselier bristles at that trivializing term—they were gunning for devastating infamy on the historical scale of an Attila the Hun. Their vision was to create a nightmare so devastating and apocalyptic that the entire world would shudder at their power.

Harris and Klebold would have been dismayed that Columbine was dubbed the "worst school shooting in American history." They set their sights on eclipsing the world's greatest mass murderers, but the media never saw past the choice of venue. The school setting drove analysis in precisely the wrong direction.

The whole thing is worth reading. This is important stuff. Particularly revealing are the entries from Harris' personal journal, which depict not a picked-on kid with delusions fueled by violent pop media, but a cold-hearted serial killer and mass murderer in the making—a prodigy in the psychopath department.

"YOU KNOW WHAT I HATE!!!? Cuuuuuuuuhntryyyyyyyyyy music!!!

"YOU KNOW WHAT I HATE!!!? People who use the same word over and over again! . . . Read a f---in book or two, increase your vo-cab-u-lary f*ck*ng idiots."

"YOU KNOW WHAT I HATE!!!? STUPID PEOPLE!!! Why must so many people be so stupid!!? . . . YOU KNOW WHAT I HATE!!!? When people mispronounce words! and they dont even know it to, like acrosT, or eXspreso, pacific (specific), or 2 pAck. learn to speak correctly you morons.


It rages on for page after page and is repeated in his journal and in the videos he and Klebold made. But Fuselier recognized a far more revealing emotion bursting through, both fueling and overshadowing the hate. What the boy was really expressing was contempt.

He is disgusted with the morons around him. These are not the rantings of an angry young man, picked on by jocks until he's not going to take it anymore. These are the rantings of someone with a messianic-grade superiority complex, out to punish the entire human race for its appalling inferiority. It may look like hate, but "It's more about demeaning other people," says Hare.

In fact, I'd say it sounds like he might have been a Michael Moore fan.

Ohhhhh! Ohhhhh!

Monday, April 19, 2004
23:50 - Lorne Greene for President
http://www.grotto11.com/blog/LorneGreene4Pres.mov

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Gee, where have we seen something like this recently?


"If we mind our own business, there is every reason to believe that the Cylons will leave us alone..."

TiVO'd and encoded and sent to me by James Sentman.


18:21 - The descendants of slaves

(top)
Further to my Fear of God post from last week, reader Thom T. sent me the following, which I believe crystallizes a very important historical perspective:

Just read the "Fear of God" post. While I normally
simply appreciate your blogging very much, for the
past few days, it seems like either I'm channelling
you, or vice versa. Scary, I know. :)

Anyway, I'd been thinking about precisely this issue
lately, about exactly what it is these cretins don't
get, and it crystallized in my mind when I read the
passage in which you wrote your solution.

What they don't get is that for the majority of the
world, existence on Earth is a pretty crappy
experience from cradle to grave, and for a good
number of those people, existence on Earth is a
horriffic, shitty, really, really, REALLY
unconscionable version of Hell on Earth.

This is not exactly a stunning revelation, obviously.
The vast majority of humanity lived somewhere in
between these two states until 1850 at the earliest
(and that's being generous, time-frame-wise), and we
know this. Why this is important in regard to the
cretins is that they have their history all mixed up:
I have heard, first-hand, several people, most of whom
are friends of mine and who are not extremists, posit
the view that there were so many other, greater,
NON-WHITE civilizations from the past that
accomplished so many great and beautiful things, and
that our civilization is but a crude, cruel, inhuman,
conformist joke on humanity, where the rich prosper,
the poor are crushed, and the rest of us are drones.

What they don't get is that while Michelangelo was a
great sculptor and painter, THAT WASN'T THE MAJORITY
OF ITALY AT THE TIME. That while the Egyptians built
some of the most breathtaking structures, which are
rightly named wonders of the world, THEY WERE BUILT BY
SLAVES. That while the Greeks may have been more
ahead of their time intellectually than any other
civilization before or since, THAT WAS ONLY A FEW VERY
FORTUNATE GUYS. The vast majority of people who lived
during those ages, and during the great ages of China,
Babylon, Persia, Phoenicia, the Almohads, etc., were
either slaves, or one or two steps above, and that
life for them was pretty damn piss-poor.

They see only the greatness, and, combined with their
ideas of multi-culturalism, project the past onto the
present, and see America as this crude infant
stumbling blindly across the world and wrecking all
that is good, and replacing it with Wal-Marts and
McDonalds. Among these people are those who went to
Iraq (remember, this was once Mesopotamia!!) to become
human shields, and were stunned to learn that the
majority of Iraqis really, really wanted freedom more
than anything else.

What they don't get is that the Industrial Revolution
was vastly more important than the Rennaisance. What
they don't get is that Adam Smith's "The Wealth of
Nations" is the most important work in the history of
humankind (outside of the Bible, for me), and not
Joyce's "Ulysses". What they don't get is that the
Cotton Gin was a far more important discovery than oil
paints.

What they really don't get is that personal and
economic freedom are the same thing, and the it was
recognition of such that truly freed the decrepit, and
that, if that didn't happen, they, and we, would be
the decrepit of today. They see themselves as being
the spiritual descendants of the Michelangelos, the
Plutarchs, the Aristotles. Wrong. We're the
descendants of their slaves.

And, finally, it's much simpler than all this, really.
It's freedom OF, or freedom TO, not freedom from.

And if they really want to free people from hunger,
poverty, and oppression, they should stop reading Maya
Angelou, and start reading Adam Smith. The world
outside the West largely sucks. The pagodas should
not be destroyed, but building a few Wal-Marts along
side them would be far more helpful than corrupt
Oil-for-Food programs.

That's the trouble with Communism: it claims to be the ideology of the huddled masses, the wretched refuse yearning to breathe free. But history shows us that when those huddled masses stop huddling and start revving up their hands and brains, the tools of capitalism are far more readily at their service than the tools of communism, and rewards them far better. It allows the best of them to rise to power and stardom, but any of them to freely and realistically aspire to it. The alternative is a world where the best possible future for a peasant is to remain a peasant.

Which is well and good, if we can convince ourselves that the life of the peasant is a good, honorable thing, or that being taken care of by a maternal State is the "right" way to live. But Americans have never quite taken to asceticism, nor to allowing anyone to dictate how we live our lives. Which is why we do the things we do.


10:00 - He lied to us through song!

(top)
So, lemme get this straight here.

Michael Moore told us (in a South Park-lookalike cartoon) that Americans are plagued with gun violence because we're all armed out of visceral terror of black people; and that the NRA was formed at about the same time as the KKK (and by the same people), right after the Civil War, as a means to arm Southern whites against the Negro Menace.

And it was in a documentary, so it must be true! ...Right?


So it turns out that not only was the NRA founded by former Union officers as a means to keep the populace well trained in marksmanship, in readiness for another national threat like the Civil War; but gun-control laws were initially created to disarm the darkies.

I know something of the history of this legislation. The original Act of 1893 was passed when there was a great influx of negro laborers in this State drawn here for the purpose of working in turpentine and lumber camps.... [T]he Act was passed for the purpose of disarming the negro laborers and to thereby reduce the unlawful homicides that were prevalent in turpentine and saw-mill camps and to give the white citizens in sparsely settled areas a better feeling of security. The statute was never intended to be applied to the white population.... [I]t is a safe guess to assume that more than 80% of the white men living in the rural sections of Florida have violated this statute.... [T]here has never been, within my knowledge, any effort to enforce the provisions of this statute as to white people, because it has been generally conceded to be in contravention of the Constitution and non-enforceable if contested.[1]

So Moore's not just lying, he's being fundamentally racist. He should be ashamed and appalled to be aligning himself with such a reprehensible philosophy, and he should contritely apologize for misleading the American public and his fans throughout the world.

...Hah! Right.

By the way—did anyone else notice, on the Simpsons episode that aired last night (the one where Lisa becomes student body president and gets art and music and athletics cut from the school budget, in a parody of "Evita"), how studiously the animators softened their caricature of Moore for his self-voiced cameo? They slimmed him down by a hundred pounds or more, and gave him a clean shave. Yeah, the line he got was a gentle self-effacing poke at the dubiousness of his statistics, but damn they were flattering on the visuals.

Sunday, April 18, 2004
20:11 - Snopes is on the case
http://www.snopes.com/photos/commercials/sportka.asp

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Those "SportKa" ads have been circulating over the past couple of weeks.

You know the ones.

If you don't, this link-- the Snopes page covering the ongoing controversy surrounding them-- has them archived. Scroll to the bottom of the page and view the two movie clips before reading the story, if you want my advice. (And I know you're just aching for it.)

It's one of those things that makes me think, damn, that's offensive. Good for them!


17:49 - Change! Change! Change at all costs!
http://opinion.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/04/18/ueton.xml&sSheet

(top)
Another link via LGF: Eton College in Britain "is appointing an imam to promote Islam to the children of Britain’s upper crust".

Eton College is to become the first top public school in the country to appoint an imam to help pupils gain an understanding of Islamic culture and thought.

The school, which has taught 18 British prime ministers, is also to offer Arabic as a language for the first time from this September to increase better understanding of the Muslim world.

The appointment of Oxford graduate Monawar Hussain has already been supported by many who say it is a positive initiative on behalf of Eton and a sign that many traditional British institutions are changing.

This is what I find so baffling and maddening: there are those to whom "change" is the most positive possible thing, the word "progressive" is the best ever to codify a thought, and "traditional institutions" are nothing more than an evil to be eradicated.

Never mind what we're "changing" into. As long as we're changing. As long as we're making progress.


16:13 - Charming
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&u=/nm/20040418/wl_nm/serbiamontenegro_k

(top)
Via LGF: apparently the next phase in the War on Terror has been unveiled, and it's the UN:

United Nations (news - web sites) police in Kosovo are holding four Jordanian members of the force following a gunbattle with U.S. police in which two American women prison officers and a Jordanian male were killed.

"Four Jordanians were detained yesterday after the incident and they are in custody," U.N. Police Commissioner Stefan Feller told a news conference in the provincial capital, Pristina.

"We don't know the motive," he said in response to questions about a report that violent emotions over Iraq (news - web sites) was behind the clash. "I cannot say the reasons for the incident," Feller added, calling it a "reckless attack."

Let's review: yesterday, Israel takes out Abdel Aziz Rantisi, co-founder of Hamas and perpetrator of countless acts of commissioning terror attacks. Today, Jordanian UN peacekeepers open fire on American members of their own force.

Shee-yah, that can't be right!

Whatever the cause, a lethal firefight is unprecedented between two of the 30 or so national contingents of the Kosovo U.N. law enforcement mission, which numbers some 3,500 officers.

“I have to say, this was a sad day for U.N. peacekeeping,” Feller said. But he said no changes to the mission were planned.

Maybe, but it's also only the latest in a long line of moral and military disasters for the UN, ranging from Srebrenica to Rwanda to the Iraq Oil-For-Blood program to Kosovo, where we risked our soldiers' lives to defend Muslims from genocide. And the UN may pay lip service to condemning this act, but what do you suppose the real position is of those voting members of the UN Security Council, those illustrious representatives of free democracies like Syria, Saudia Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, and China?

America doesn't want to believe that the UN is, in fact, our enemy now. Their voting against our interests in such a predictable bloc over the past many years hasn't swayed us much; we've worn the plastic grin and just hoped reality would someday come to match our fantasy of benevolent, peaceful world government. But maybe being in a shooting war with other UN members, who are wearing UN uniforms at the time, will change the tone of things a bit.


14:12 - About that money of "yours"
http://www.interocitor.com/archives/000286.html

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Get a load of what The Interocitor has found (via Dean Esmay): the original 1040 form, the very first income tax form from 1913.



Imagine what this must have been like: all your life, the money you've made is the money you keep. No crap about "take-home pay" or "incremental payments" or W-2 forms. Your wage is your wage, and the government doesn't have to know a thing about it.

Then, one day in early '14, you get a form in the mail that says: THE PENALTY FOR FAILURE TO HAVE THIS RETURN IN THE HANDS OF THE COLLECTOR OF INTERNAL REVENUE ON OR BEFOR MARCH 1 IS $20 TO $3,000.

And right after that, it says we're the government, and we're here to help. So give us 1% of whatever money you earned. Or else.

(Or, if you made more $20,000, 2%, or higher, up to 6% for people making half a million bucks a year or more.)

We take this sort of thing for granted nowadays; we've had income taxes all our lives, and even though it now gets calculated at rates ten times what they were in 1913, it all gets withheld by the employer, and all we're doing at tax time is fine-tuning the last couple thousand bucks up or down.

What must it have been like, in 1913, for people to suddenly have to work out what one-one-hundredth of what they earned that year was, and dig it out of bank accounts or mattresses, under the baleful eyes of glowering, fedora-adorned agents in dark suits, and send it in to Washington?

I know it would have made me feel weird, no matter how many Interstate highways they promised me it would buy.

Friday, April 16, 2004
15:31 - Wish your problems away
http://justoneminute.typepad.com/main/2004/04/zoop_and_theyre.html

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Wow. I don't think I'll ever be able to enjoy a game of "Zip, Zap, Zoop" at a party or improv show again. Because "Zoop" will now unavoidably be embedded in my mind as the magic word that John Kerry uses to make Republicans go away.

I don't think we need a script or a rehearsal, people - we all know our parts. Let's have the "he was kidding crowd" to our left, please, the "earnest but humorless" group to the right, and our topic is Sen. Kerry's recent quip to a group of 4 and 5 year olds:

Mr. Kerry obliged, but still seemed to have politics on the brain as he narrated the story of the magic wand — "Zoop!" — making things disappear.

"I could go zoop! and Republicans would disappear," he said.

Now, the crowd on the left has it easy - just keep yelling "he was kidding". "Don't we have more important issues to discuss" is also good. Counter-examples of bad Bush behavior are encouraged; lacking that, we are glumly aware of a certain tendency to drift towards personal invective as a substitute for actual argument, and we hope that can be minimized.

The group on the right - be sure to mention press bias. The Note admitted that Sen. Clinton got a pass on her Gandhi joke a while back, so see if anyone makes a similar admission here. Also, we expect you to hit on the probable response if Bush had said this - don't forget Ashcroft, the Patriot Act, stifling of dissent, the importance of our leaders promoting pluralism, etc. Let's see some emotion!

. . .

For a big finish, someone please make a connection to Kerry's "lying, crooked Republicans" comment, and address the question of whether Kerry really wants to be President of all the country, or just half of it.

My guess is that he wants to be President of the easily amused.

Thursday, April 15, 2004
16:18 - How An Italian Dies
http://timblair.spleenville.com/archives/006475.php

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In a word: well.

As the gunman's pistol was pointing at him the hostage "tried to take off his hood and shouted: 'now I'll show you how an Italian dies,'" [Frattini] said.

Reportedly Al-Jazeera refused to broadcast this murder because it was "too gruesome". Shyeah, like that's ever stopped them before.

We know why they didn't broadcast it.


11:15 - Nobody's Perfect
http://slate.msn.com/id/2098860/

(top)
Wait a minute. This woman is an NPR commentator?

I speak of Ann Louise Bardach, who tore Oliver Stone a new one in this interview over his recent Castro-love-fest documentaries.

ALB: Now, when you were talking to the prisoners who tried to hijack a plane, one told you he was a fisherman, and you said, "Why then didn't you take a boat?" Why did you ask that?

OS: Well, it seemed to me that if they were familiar with boats, it seemed to be the best way.

ALB: Did you know that in Cuba there are virtually no boats? The boats that are used for fishermen are tightly controlled. One of the more surreal aspects of Cuba, being the largest island in the Caribbean, is that there are no visible boats.

OS: I see.

. . .

ALB: For the second film, you received permission to see the dissidents Osvaldo Paya, Vladimiro Roca, and Elizardo Sanchez. They spoke critically of the government. Obviously, that couldn't have happened unless permission for them to see you was granted, right? What do you make of Castro allowing that to happen?

OS: I don't think he was happy with it. I don't think he wants to be in the same film with Paya. In his mind they are faux dissidents.

ALB: He actually calls them faux dissidents? He called them the so-called dissidents?

OS: Yeah, so-called, right. I was in Soviet Russia for a script in 1983, and I interviewed 20 dissidents in 12 cities. I really got an idea of dissidents that was much rougher than here. These people in Cuba were nothing compared to what I saw in Russia.

ALB: Did you ever think to bring up why he doesn't hold a presidential election?

OS: I did. He said something to the effect, "We have elections."

ALB: Local representative elections. But what about a presidential election?

OS: We didn't talk about it, especially in view of the fact that our own 2000 elections were a little bit discredited.

Bardach comes across as a clear-eyed and quick-witted historian, and Stone comes across as a clueless partisan nimrod. And yet, for some reason, people don't caricature him as a poop-flinging simian.

Don't miss the moral judgment Stone renders upon Castro on the basis of his shoulders.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004
01:41 - The face of the enemy

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Poor, poor victims. So persecuted. So hounded. So terribly in danger of having their voices squelched by the merciless boot of The Man.

Who am I talking about? "Dissenters", of course.

The ones who threaten violence against anyone who dares to come near them with an opposing opinion.

Behold, via Tim Blair, the words of an Indymedia protestor in Melbourne (where "Liberal" means "right wing"):

My immediate reaction was to charge at these bastards and try to smash thier placards and hurt them as much as possible. I was accompanied by several other enraged demonstrators. Unfortunately the more militant socialist groups had already marched away so most of the immediate crowd complained that we where ruining a peaceful march. I stand by the actions we took. When Liberals have the confidence to attend a anti-war demo it clearly isn't a good sign.

If people are serious about activism they should realise that change doesn't come from wishing problems away it comes from militant direct action. By standing there debating with a bunch of right wingers at a rally, not only are people wasting time and demoralising everyone, they are giving them confidence to come back and disrupt more rallies. In the ideal situation Young Liberals should be left bruised, bashed and bleeding if they dare show thier face at a rally like that. That way they will be more hesitant about coming next time, and if they do the police will be more likely to quickly move them on.

And let's not forget Exhibit B, Racist Democrats On Parade. And Exhibit C, while we're at it.

Just rounding up some of the more outrageous things I've seen in the past few days. Someday it'll prove useful to have these links handy.


01:28 - UNethical
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=10663_New_Poll

(top)
Charles at LGF is running a poll for a new name for the UN's astonishingly corrupt Oil-For-Food program.

My vote goes for "UNron". Though "UNSCUM" and "Oil-For-Blood" are also good.


01:12 - The movie idea that dare not speak its name
http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/04/0404/041504.html

(top)
I'd like to take this moment to thank Mark Steyn for not showing up on Hugh Hewitt's show today.

Because if it had, then Lileks might have hashed all this out on the air, and he might not have written it down. And I might not have gotten to read it.

This will sound crass, but bear with me.

9/11 would make a hell of a movie.

It’s the most dramatic day of modern times. The story lines are clear; it writes itself. You don’t have to make up heroic characters; every minute has a dozen. No Hollywood falsities need intrude – no star-crossed lovers, no cheerful archetypes, no swelling music (take a cue from “A Night to Remember,” which didn’t introduce an orchestral score until halfway through, to great effect.) Just tell the story as it happened that day, and people would cram the theaters by the millions. Just like they went to see “The Passion.” And with the same emotions, I’d bet: from the opening moments the audience would have the same sick clot in their stomachs, the same old throb of dread we all felt during “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan.” This wasn’t pleasant, but it was important to see it, and know.

It doesn’t demean the day to make a movie of it, anymore than it would be an insult to write a novel about the events. Movies are how we tell stories; they’re the means by which the culture coalesces around certain ideas, or learns which ideas they should coalesce around.

And that’s the problem. I wonder whether Hollywood execs shy from a 9/11 movie because they think it might send the wrong message.

It would anger people anew, and we’re supposed to be past that. It would remind us what was done to us instead of rubbing out noses in what we do to others – I mean, unless you have a character in the second tower watching the plane approaching and saying “My God, this is payback for supporting Israel!” it’s going to come across as simplistic nonsense that denies the reality in the West Bank, okay? It would have to tread lightly when it came to the President, because even though we all knew that he wet his pants and ran to hide, we’d have to pretend and do scenes in Air Force One where he’s taking charge instead of crying help mommy to Dick Cheney, right? I mean the idiots in flyover people believe that stuff, and you’d have to give it to them or they write letters with envelopes that have these little pre-printed return address stickers with flags up in the corner. Seriously. Little flag stickers. Anyway, we would have to show Arab males as the bad guys, and that’s not worth the grief; you want to answer the phone when CAIR sees the dailies of the guys slitting the stewardess’ throats? And here’s the big one: if we make a patriotic movie during Bush’s term, well, it doesn’t help the cause, you know. People liked Bush after 9/11. Why remind them of that? Plus, you can just kiss off the European markets, period.

Richard Clarke’s book is available? Here’s a blank check. Option that sucker.

Yeah. That's what irked me so much about Sony's making that movie out of Against All Enemies. It's not so much that it's like a Michael Moore fantasy with a Titanic budget. It's that it'd be the first 9/11 movie, produced during our military response to it, and it'd be a movie with a political motivation other than let's win.

And that's just nauseating.

Anyway, read the whole thing; it's a keeper. (Like that's unusual.)


14:45 - A little fear of God is a good thing

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Read this post by Mike of Cold Fury, regarding the true-believing fifth-columners right here within our borders; and then read CapLion's response to it:

I would contend that there are two distinct camps in the anti-war crowd. There are the Berkeley brats and the Evan Maloney interviewees-- mostly amiable leftists against the big bad establishment as it's still the in thing to do among the more bellbottoms than brains crowd. That's fine, I can handle stupid kids doing stupid things, that's more or less a given.

What worries me, though, is the other camp. The organizers. The sympathizers. The people who carry North Korean and Palestinian flags and actually believe that the US should be destroyed, and have for some 20 years of their lives. These people are the price we pay for the 1st Amendment.

I'm glad they exist, in principle. I'm glad we can point to them as they rave and rant about things they've never actually experienced or even have a basic understanding of and say, that's the difference. Those people aren't being dragged off to the gulag for dissent against the government. Our system works better.

However, there must be a line in the sand, when it's no longer free speech and dissent. When it comes to aiding and abetting the enemy, these people have to be removed from society and pay the price of their actions.

. . .

Now, I know some of my readers will balk at the implication that people chanting clever little slogans and waving signs are committing treason and should be put to death because of it. To those people, I'll say this: I would tend to agree with you. However, when those slogans are "Burn America, Burn" and the signs read "War against America is the real war on terror", it's time to draw a line and say this crap stops here.

These people, as I said, are a byproduct of the freedom we all enjoy. 50 years ago, we had a strong society that simply wouldn't tolerate this sort of thing. If a gaggle of morons walked down main street in the 50's waving flags of the Soviet Union, men would have loosened their ties, rolled up their sleeves, and proceeded to whip the snot out of them. The cops, if anything, would likely join them. The local judge, if anything, would probably charge the people getting the snot whipped out of them with inciting a riot or disturbing the peace or some such.

Unfortunately, for all our marvelous advances in technology, medicine and manufacturing, society has been going to hell in a hand cart for the last forty years. Instead of men rolling up their sleeves to deal with such things, we're now forced to stand by the sidelines and grumble, lest we be charged with assault by the justice system that has been so mutilated by soccer moms and trial lawyers, it's possible to sue fast food chains because you're fat or are prone to drop coffee in your lap.

For a parallel perspective, read this article on South Korea and its relationship to North Korea, via InstaPundit; note the changing attitudes among young South Koreans, who have never known war with the North, but who have always known an American military presence. Who do they think is the bigger threat?

Most of the anti-war keyboard commandos here in America today are like these South Korean kids, worshipping an idol of a world that they think may as well exist because they've simply never seen first-hand evidence to the contrary. Most of the hard-core Left here has never lived through a real, home-front-gripping war—or if they have, it was Vietnam, which gave them a legacy of righteous anti-patriotism that something like World War II never would have in a million years. People who grow up learning only the lessons of Vietnam naturally come to believe that the U.S. is at the very least capable of evil as much as it is of good, and that war is fundamentally bad. There's an element of truth in each of these statements—but it's only an element, among others. There are mitigating circumstances. Someone growing up with the lessons of WWII and Vietnam would be able to balance "The U.S. sometimes gets sucked into wars that are cruel and unjust and it shouldn't be involved in" with "The U.S.'s performance in WWII was so valiant as to set it and its allies above any other nation in the history of the world on questions of morality", and "War is bad" with "War sometimes is necessary to remove a greater evil than war".

But without those balancing elements, the positive lessons of America's military history as well as the negative ones, there's only negative energy in these people's brains. They see no concrete, first-hand evidence to counter their condemnations of the thing they have seen America do, and so their frame of reference is fatally imbalanced. Through it, even the good things America does-- good on the scale of WWII, even-- are evil.

These people don't even really "hate America", per se-- or at least, not the principle of America. Press them, and they'll say they're fighting for freedom and for democracy; even the far-Left kooks at least believe that those words should be on their banners, even if their interpretation of them is twisted beyond recognition. Their idea of "freedom" is what Europe has, or aspires to have: freedom from poverty and sickness and envy and war, rather than actual individual liberty—"free beer" rather than "free speech". (The two are mutually exclusive, diametrically opposed concepts, yet they use the same vocabulary, unfortunately.) They're not actually arguing for slavery or for theocracy or for monarchy. At least, not if you force them to explain their reasoning.

What they hate is what they perceive America to have become, or to have refused to become; they're personally affronted that America has not simply ceased to matter as a national entity, that a Roddenberry-esque world government has not risen to benevolent power, with all national governments subservient to it, and with all cultures in the world inviolate from each other and yet coexisting peacefully. They see imbalance of global power as being the culprit for this failure, and since the U.S. is the only superpower left, well—that's gotta come down, man. No matter what kind of destruction of human life and achievement that really entails. It's gotta go.

So any exercise of American military power, seen through the inevitable lens of Vietnam, automatically becomes an act of injustice aimed at preserving American supremacy—bad—and inevitably polluting other cultures with our own—bad. In their minds, any setback to world government (which is seen as the only real guarantor for peace that they can stomach, because for some reason if there's world government, everyone will just be peaceful-- all wars are merely the result of American injustice, after all) is held much higher in importance than any threat to American citizens, much less to American interests, or to the American economy fueled by American corporations.

But it is anti-American to wave the signs that Mike links to. Whatever these people think they're fighting for, whether the America they hold in their minds as the ideal future is real or merely a college kid's juvenile fantasy, they're causing deep damage to this country, now, in the present day, made up of us people. We are America, and if these people think we're the problem, then they're our enemies. So there.

So the question on everyone's tongue is, "At what point does this anti-American rabble-rousing cross the line into prosecutable treason?" It's a question that hasn't needed asking since Vietnam, and even then it never really went anywhere. But at the risk of bringing about the kind of all-out Civil War that I've been suggesting might indeed be in our future, something needs to happen that clearly delineates the answer to that question. To use ugly and cliché language, someone needs to be made an example of. They need to have the fear of God put into them.

If for no other reason than to throw into stark relief just how much people have been getting away with, and how harshly they would have been treated if they'd done their rabble-rousing in any other country. Particularly in one of the dictatorships whose flags they so proudly wave.

We need a new historical context, something for people to use as a yardstick. Right now the only measurement people can make is "how far are we from Vietnam?" We need a new one: "How far are we from WWII?"

Or, as Mike Silverman says in CapLion's comments:

The problem is that most Americans have forgotten what an enemy is...someone you have to kill because otherwise he will kill you.

There was a brief moment after 9/11 when it looked like that would change, but in the end, 9/11 wasn't enough of a shock to the system to change the dominant way the US public thinks, which is basically that as long as "Friends" airs on time and the local mall is full of fun stuff to buy, nobody really cares what radicals (here and overseas) are saying about us.

Our collective sense of context is badly broken, and with it our ability to filter experience. This is what needs to change... and sooner or later, somehow or other, it will.


11:46 - Spooky ninja powers

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On a mailing list that I help run, the topic of self-defense came up. It was all going along very amicably, with reasonable points being raised and good anecdotes being told.

Then, this one person, who had introduced himself by claiming to be taking ninjitsu classes, from an instructor who could "kill you with your own fingernails if he tried", says:

If any man in the american millitary can take Hatsumi I will pay them a
thousand bucks.

Mentality or not, no redneck military guy is going to pound someone who
dedicates 50 years to a martial art.

Several people, including the list's other moderator, replied with stern rebukes, pointing out that to tar all military people as "rednecks", or to show this kind of blithe, contemptuous disrespect to people whose job it is to protect us with their lives, is odious in the extreme. Y'know, just-- lay off the unthinking epithets, all right? We understand you believe wholeheartedly in the Real Ultimate Power, but even a ninja is susceptible to a kick in the balls. Or, say, a gun.

We thought that might be the end of it. But nooOOooo:

Don't bitch about stereotypes when you compare some crash course in self
defense given by an elitist jock club to a multi thousand year old technique
that's been practiced for more generations than this country has existed.

With all the fraud in the industry in the US, it's kind've annoying when
people downplay martial arts because they're comparing military guys to some
poorly run organization lead by a guy who gave himself a black belt.

What floored me about this quote was the part about "elitism". He's complaining about elitism in the midst of a contention that all modern military training is inferior to ancient martial arts, particularly the kind he's taking classes in.

It never fails to amaze me how people can completely miss the irony in what's coming out of their mouths or spewing from their fingertips.

And this is to say nothing of the fact that there were no ninjas on Flight 93:

What troubles me about Fielding's statement is that all of our system's did not fail. One of them succeeded --- the ability of the citizens of this country to identify a threat and take action as individuals to elminate it. The ability that was demonstrated so dramatically --- and successfully --- by the passengers on Flight 93, the only hijacked plane where the terrorists failed in their mission to crash into a valuable target.

As I wrote one year after the 9/11 attacks, I don't believe that America began responding effectively to Al Qaeda when we invaded Afghanistan. I believe we began responding effectively the moment that the passengers of Flight 93, fed information via cellphone calls from the ground, recognized what the terrorists on their flight planned to do --- and acted to stop it.

After all the hearings that the commission has had on the failures of our government to prevent 9/11, or even to respond effectively while it was happening, shouldn't there be at least one hearing to discuss what went right on that day? Where is the session devoted to studying the actions of the passengers of Flight 93, and their success at foiling the terrorists they confronted? Is there nothing at all to be learned from their actions, and their sacrifice -- or is the comissison just more interested in finding fault than in actually recognizing success?

No ninjas at all.

UPDATE: The following post reached the list today:

As much as we may all say we love to hate the millitary we must still be
very proud of them. I am proud to live freely as a canadian and am proud of
the peacekeeping work my country's forces do to try and spred that freedom
to other nations. So with out any any hesitation I salute all of north
america's men and women who have, are now, and will give to keep our great
nations free and proud.

I can't tell you how pleased I was to read that.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004
13:16 - There goes another career
http://www.weeklystandard.com/Utilities/printer_preview.asp?idArticle=3959&R=9DDC31D

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It's rare enough that a prominent actor or entertainer stands up in favor of Bush and/or the war that such an occasion is linkworthy in and of itself. It's just a bonus, then, when-- as in the cases of John Rhys-Davies, and now, Larry Miller-- they say extremely valuable and insightful things that we just don't hear from other quarters, including political spokespeople.

But when I saw that banner saying "Mission Accomplished," I thought, no, no, it isn't accomplished at all, it's barely begun, and if we're going to do this thing, accept this challenge, fully absorb the import of this moment, it's going to wind up making the Hundred Years War look like a performance of Nicholas Nickleby.

And please don't hand me that "Well, he just meant the major operations, and the rest of the message was more nuanced, and if you read the text . . ."

Baloney. I support the president in all of this, but what he should have done then, in my opinion, is what he can still do now. What I've been waiting for. What the whole country needs, for, against, and in between.

A speech. A big one. A grave one. Say that the world is a very bad place and has been for a long time, and that we're going to stop it in its tracks and make it better because we have to, and because, as Tony Blair said when he spoke to Congress, "It's your destiny."

Stand next to a map of Iraq, and another one of the world, and point out what's good and what's bad, what's been done and what's left. Say, "You may disagree, but here's where we are, and here's where we're going."

Yup. Be a communicator, dammit. We're losing whatever momentum we had, because you're not telling the American people what's next. We all know-- or rather, knew, on 9/12-- that this wouldn't end with Afghanistan and Iraq. Afghanistan was the immediate boiling concern, Iraq was the big wild card. Okay, now those are both known quantities rather than big question marks. But what's next? Secrecy was important when we didn't have our foot in the door; but now we do, and we the people need to be told of the real scope of the war, the real direction this all is going, before we all lose interest and faith that it's being handled in the way we'd all do if we were sitting in the big chair in the Oval Office or reading a storybook with schoolkids the day the planes crashed into the towers.

More, though:

Message to the administration: No one in Europe or on the left is ever, ever, ever going to like you from seeing a photograph of a marine handing a bag of groceries to a woman in a burkha. Jacques Chirac is never going to say, "Well, they have built a lot of community centers. Maybe Bush was right."

Win. Stopping building schools. Win. There's plenty of time and need for hospitals, but first . . . Win. Yes, yes, Iraqi girls can be very empowered by seeing a female colonel running an outreach program, and we can all chip in for the posters that say "Take Your Daughters To Mosque Day," but in the meantime, would you please win.

If I have to listen to one more administration spokesperson say, "The overwhelming number of Iraqis is with us, it's just a small percentage of cranks causing all the trouble," I'll be tempted to say something I swore I never would: "Du-uuh."

A small percentage, huh? About the same size as the few thousand Bolsheviks who took over the 100 million Russians in 1917? More? Less?

In service of this goal, I would like to propose a new slogan. It's based on the old anti-war chant from the sixties, "Peace Now!" You must've heard that one. Demonstrators have been shouting it for the last 40 years. "Peace Now, Peace Now, Peace Now." Hell, I think I probably shouted it, myself, somewhere around '73. (This would have been shortly before the drinking age in Massachusetts went down to 18, after which my friends and I took to shouting far more sensible things, like, "You can't cut us off, it's only 11:00. Hey, let go of me.")

Here's the new slogan: Win now.

Yeah. Don't worry about being liked; we're already despised. It may be more out in the open now, but it's the same ol' same ol'. Trying to build an "international consensus" for radically reengineering the Islamic world would be like arguing at the retirement home for reduced Medicare benefits; it's just not gonna happen. Time is of the essence here; we don't have it to spare for futile gestures.

But it's that insight about the Bolsheviks that really got me about this piece, incidentally.

Leave it to a comedian to remind us, in the age where the word "minority" has taken on an almost reverential tone no matter who or what it refers to, of the catastrophes that have been perpetrated throughout history by tiny minorities of people.

Democracy is, once again, every bit as much about preventing the tyranny of the minority as it is about preventing the tyranny of the majority; the American system presumes the latter risk, the risk of the pure democracy, and engineers checks and balances to counter it with the former risk, in the architecture of a representative republic. To fall too far in one direction or the other is to invite catastrophe. On one side lies fascistic persecution of those different from the mainstream, and on the other side lies elitist authoritarianism. Tyranny of the minority.

We must not allow ourselves to romanticize the notion of the "minority" as a harmless and helpless offshoot of society, there just to provide the necessary spice of life. It's not always so innocuous. Just as we wouldn't want to romanticize a homogeneous, conformist cultural wasteland where minorities are hidden away in the walls, we can't fool ourselves into thinking that just because something is a "minority", it must be good.

It's from such thinking that dictatorships are born.

(Via LGF.)

Sunday, April 11, 2004
12:17 - Moral high ground
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=10605_SF_Insurgence_Solidarity_March

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I suppose it would be wrong to punch an old man, huh?



And he's so convinced he's on the side of freedom, peace, and righteousness. Judging by his shirt, he even thinks he's on the side of America.

My brain hurts.

UPDATE: Deep breath... deeep breath...

Saturday, April 10, 2004
00:51 - Mmm... bug

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For months now, the accent wall above the living room has stood empty, a deep rich cinnamon brown color to contrast with the Sweet Marzipan of the walls; nice enough as a contrast, but empty and stark.

But not anymore:



It's an alpaca blanket, bought at South Lake Tahoe where the alpaca-products stores cluster as thickly as motels and snowboard shops; it's mounted on a frame made from 1x2-inch furring strips and stapled around the edges, then hung using a wire kit. It's just what that wall needed. Plus it can serve as an anti-PETA banner.

Anyway, we did some flying this afternoon-- I got to take the controls briefly over the Gilroy area, and I didn't make us crash. Yay! And then we picked up a friend and did a nighttime Bay Tour, the ubiquitous sightseeing circuit up the Peninsula, across north of Oakland, and back down the Pleasanton valley or any of several alternate routes. Then massive rock lobster tails at Red Lobster, followed by a stop at the Cheesecake Factory; and with that, a tiring but satisfying day is brought to a close.

I probably won't get to do any motorcycle test-riding tomorrow, because all the dealerships will be closed. Ah well-- perhaps it's just as well, because there's work to be done in the backyard. Plus I'm way too full, and probably will still be tomorrow.

Happy Easter, everyone.


00:14 - Burning Bush
http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2004/04/11/film_rights_bought_to_clarkes_

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It'll all end in tears. No, wait. Not tears. Blood.

The best-selling book by former counterterrorism adviser Richard A. Clarke may soon be a movie. Sony Pictures Entertainment has purchased the film rights to "Against All Enemies," Sony vice chairwoman Amy Pascal told The New York Times for yesterday's editions. In the book, Clarke charges that the Bush administration made Iraq more important than threats from Al Qaeda before and after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Never mind how pathetic and pointless this whole Clarke thing is, and the 9/11 commission shrieking like the guy at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. See, it's got legs... legs that go all the way up.

The Left no longer cares if its arguments make sense. It no longer gives a damn whether its machinations are perhaps not the best thing for our country to be engaging in while we're in the middle of a war. It doesn't give the tiniest crap whether it's forging an American society where doing good is punished, and doing evil is condoned or rewarded. That's all immaterial. Because now there's blood in the water. They see a way that they believe they can get Bush, and that's all that matters.

There's only one way out of this. It sucks, and it disgusts me, but it's the only way this trend will resolve itself, short of all-out civil war. And that's for Bush to become the Left's sacrificial lamb-- for Bush to be cast by his very supporters to the wolves, a peace offering, a capitulation, justified or not, for the sake of sanity at any cost; to be converted into the modern age's Hitler, Mussolini, and Joan of Arc, all rolled into one; to be impeached and arraigned and sentenced and imprisoned and stoned and hung from a lamppost in the village square. Guilty of anything or not, or even a figure of leadership during wartime unmatched since FDR and Churchill, it has to be done; he has to be torn apart, reduced to reliquaries-- for only that will satiate the Left's bloodlust.

Now we've got feature films being made-- not just rambling documentaries about Charlton Heston shooting little girls, but Sony-produced feature films-- which will project onto a 35-foot screen the story of a Bush administration that must be ripped apart like so much warm bread. Those of us who disagree had better just stay out of the way, keep our heads down, and not attract attention. Anyone who does will suffer a similar fate.

The alternative is a real, live war. It's happened before.

It's going to get way, way worse before it gets better.

But damn, I'd love to be wrong.

UPDATE: Read this. And this.

Friday, April 9, 2004
01:17 - Come with me if you want to live
http://sify.com/peopleandplaces/fullstory.php?id=13450922

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Now this is the kind of story that we don't see enough of these days. It's the kind of thing that comes near to restoring my faith in the real world to be just as good as any fantasy.

Los Angeles: Brawny movie hero and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger became a real life hero when he saved a cramp-stricken swimmer from possibly drowning off the coast of Hawaii, aides said Friday.

The "Terminator" star -- used to saving people, and indeed entire planets, from terrible fates in his Hollywood movies -- spotted a man in trouble off the coast of the lush island of Maui, where he is enjoying a weeklong family holiday, and stepped in to save him on Wednesday.

"He saw a man in distress in the water and brought him back to the shore," an aide to the former Mr Universe bodybuilder and Republican politician said.

"The man was hanging onto a boogie board and the governor knew there was something wrong and asked the guy if he was OK.

"The swimmer said he had cramps all over and couldn't swim back to shore, so the governor told him to hang on and swam him 100 yards (meters) back to the beach," the source said.

Okay, so he didn't tuck the guy under his arm and march in over the crests of the waves, battling sharks and drug-smuggling boats all the way. But still, how cool is that?


15:30 - Beware the Giant Stomping Saddam Statue
http://www.alien-zoo.com/newyorkgirl.html

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Insane! Insane, I tells ya!



What to make of it? Who cares?

(The video is "too weird to be political," in the words of the friend who passed this to me. But remember: it's one year ago tomorrow that the statue fell. Be sure to read what Omar at Iraq the Model has to say. No, I'm serious. Briefly.)

Then again, there's this:



Ah, those wacky French. (Mac users, make sure to get WMP9 first.)

Of course, if you're nostalgic about Windows in general for some reason, there's this...



Today's selection of freaky brain-popping mystery material brought to you by Friends On iChat™. Blame them!


13:37 - This just in my brain

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I saw something odd while watching This Just In last night, and it made me think something odd.

The odd thing I saw was a sequence where Bill O'Reilly is shown fantasizing about a cruise missile (funded by his own $1 million donation) launched from a jet fighter, with his face on a decal on its nose, streaking into Paris and blowing up the Eiffel Tower in a big mushroom cloud.

Now: granted, this was presented as a counterpoint to the sequence immediately preceding it, where Brian Newport (the lead character) fantasizes about the same donated cruise missile, with his own face on the decal, zeroing in on a hole where Osama bin Laden is hiding, creating the same mushroom cloud.

But I just couldn't help but think: if I were French, and I saw this show, even in context... hell yeah, it would piss me off.

It's clear that the intent is to mock Bill O'Reilly as being just a bit over-the-top and vindictive, with strange priorities and ire aimed in rather an unproductive direction. It's clear that the writers of the show aren't actually suggesting that attacking France would be a good thing.

But it has become somewhat of a tacit staple of our collective thought process, hasn't it? Tanks in Iraq spray-painted with FIRST BAGHDAD, THEN PARIS? And we giggle mischievously?

Sure, an argument can be made that France is not an ally-- even that it's playing for the other team. But it does us no service to treat them as adversaries in a shooting war, or to let such venom seep into our pop culture, even as a way of letting off steam. After all, isn't our disdain for France largely based on French loathing of America as expressed in their pop culture, which we'd like to think is unfounded and unprovoked?

Perhaps, if we're interested in laying a legitimate claim to the moral high ground here, it would be a good thing if we could rise above such pettiness. Because it sure looks ugly from the perspective of the business end. We're trying to convince everyone we're better than that, right? We could stand to rise above such childish thoughtlessness.

Hey, I told you it was an odd thing for me to think.


13:19 - And that's being optimistic
http://www.tnr.com/easterbrook.mhtml

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Sure, we coulda prevented 9/11. Here's how.

AN ALTERNATIVE HISTORY: Washington, April 9, 2004. A hush fell over the city as George W. Bush today became the first president of the United States ever to be removed from office by impeachment. Meeting late into the night, the Senate unanimously voted to convict Bush following a trial on his bill of impeachment from the House.

Moments after being sworn in as the 44th president, Dick Cheney said that disgraced former national security adviser Condoleezza Rice would be turned over to the Hague for trial in the International Court of Justice as a war criminal. Cheney said Washington would "firmly resist" international demands that Bush be extradited for prosecution as well.

On August 7, 2001, Bush had ordered the United States military to stage an all-out attack on alleged terrorist camps in Afghanistan. Thousands of U.S. special forces units parachuted into this neutral country, while air strikes targeted the Afghan government and its supporting military. Pentagon units seized abandoned Soviet air bases throughout Afghanistan, while establishing support bases in nearby nations such as Uzbekistan. Simultaneously, FBI agents throughout the United States staged raids in which dozens of men accused of terrorism were taken prisoner.

Reaction was swift and furious. Florida Senator Bob Graham said Bush had "brought shame to the United States with his paranoid delusions about so-called terror networks." British Prime Minister Tony Blair accused the United States of "an inexcusable act of conquest in plain violation of international law." White House chief counterterrorism advisor Richard Clarke immediately resigned in protest of "a disgusting exercise in over-kill."

When dozens of U.S. soldiers were slain in gun battles with fighters in the Afghan mountains, public opinion polls showed the nation overwhelmingly opposed to Bush's action. Political leaders of both parties called on Bush to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan immediately. "We are supposed to believe that attacking people in caves in some place called Tora Bora is worth the life of even one single U.S. soldier?" former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey asked.

When an off-target U.S. bomb killed scores of Afghan civilians who had taken refuge in a mosque, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Aznar announced a global boycott of American products. The United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn the United States, and Washington was forced into the humiliating position of vetoing a Security Council resolution declaring America guilty of "criminal acts of aggression."

You know that's how it would have gone down.

And it still might, if certain people get their way.

(Via LGF.)

Thursday, April 8, 2004
23:53 - "Shared histories", indeed...

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Hey, get a load of this full-page ad in Newsweek. Read it, and then you tell me you know how exactly to feel about it. Go on-- I dare you.



Hey, it's great that you're with us in Iraq and stuff. But you know-- aren't we, like, maybe, leaving a little something out? Just some little trifling matter or other?

I appreciate the gesture, and I understand the impulse. But damn, that's ballsy.


21:21 - A thousand words are just as good as a video
http://brain-terminal.com/articles/politics/quantum-democrats.html

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Evan Coyne Maloney, he of the excellent videos that expose Lefist moronism in the detail that only the eyes and ears can convey, has penned a brief essay that comes as close as I've ever seen to explaining what the psychological malfunction is that's got the Democrats and the American Left in such a stranglehold these days.

It would behoove you to read it all.

Here's the problem for the Democrats. You can't be both for and against unilateral action. You can't be both for and against a pre-emptive attack against a known enemy who has vowed to do us harm. You can't talk about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in the 1990s and then pretend now that they never existed. You can't call for toppling Saddam Hussein and then criticize someone for actually doing it. Actually, I guess you can do these things, because that's exactly what the Democrats have been doing.

According to principles of quantum mechanics, it is possible for a subatomic particle to occupy multiple positions at the same time. Perhaps the Democrats hope to become the quantum party. If so, it explains why John Kerry, the consummate Quantum Candidate, is the perfect person to head the Democratic ticket this fall. Here's a man who criticizes President Bush for not giving our troops in Iraq sufficient supplies and equipment. But when he was given a chance to vote for an $87 billion package to supply our troops, he ultimately voted against it. (Although, in fairness to Kerry, I should note his nuanced stance on the issue: he explained his vote by saying, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.")

Principled, persuasive arguments can be made both for and against the tenets of the Bush Doctrine. Unfortunately, the Democrats are squandering their opportunity to outline an alternative vision and instead are resorting to knee-jerk criticisms and ad hominem attacks. That's too bad; this is a discussion our country must have, because it will determine how we handle this war against radical Islam, a war that could easily last a century. But it seems that the only war the Democrats want to wage is one against President Bush.

And against anyone who supports him. Check out what Markos Zuniga of the Daily Kos has decided is the course of action to take against the indispensable LGF:

So nice to see Coffman advertises on a site that calls for an ethnic cleansing of an entire region in retaliation for the - completely unwarranted - killing of four men. Yes it was a terrible thing, but killing women and children fixes this how?

And then we have the lovely insult to Islamic women, like this:

(Accompanying a photo of Islamic women in traditional garb) I don't know why more people - especially women - aren't converting to Islam. They make it seem so inviting.

Tell Mr. Coffman that America is not about ethnic and religious hatred.

You have to work really hard to find a way to describe LGF as a "hate" site, or as advocating genocide, religious hatred, or incitement against women. If LGF has a constant drumbeat, it's one of unrelenting vigilance against Islamic terrorism and fascism, including repression of women, indoctrination of kids into a cult of death, and moral bias in the media and other pundits that never miss a chance to lambast some American wrongdoing, or to overlook one committed by Arabs or Muslims. If you want to try to cherry-pick quotes from commenters and out-of-context post titles to paint LGF as a "hate" site, Kos is welcome to try-- but it doesn't do any good at all to do it by accusing Charles Johnson (baselessly, if necessary) of being some kind of neo-Nazi, not when you're coming from a site whose reputation is now primarily one that was won by saying "Screw 'em" when the American security contractors were killed and hung from a bridge in Fallujah, and claiming that the "mercenaries" deserved it. No real apologies or retractions have been forthcoming-- just statements that it's all the fault of America and of people like Charles for running a smear job on him.

The trouble is that the majority of Americans, whether the Left likes to hear it or not, are intelligent enough to make their own decisions. I know this is hard for elite-minded, self-important web geeks fresh out of college to swallow, but it's true. And whenever I see some Leftist-filled site-- like this one-- where the commenters haughtily dismiss accusations that they're not unpatriotic or anti-American, I can't help but notice that they immediately follow up such sentiments by saying things like "I love America-- I just hate Americans". Apparently without irony.

I want to ask these people: Okay, if not the people, what is it you do like about America? Yosemite? Castro Street? Hollywood? Humboldt County? When some European wag, like any of several dozen posters at the abovementioned link, sniffs that America is a "sick little country"-- why don't you defend it against him, and explain why he's wrong?

And if you're not willing to do so, then how exactly are you being patriotic?

To decry the majority of the people in your own country as too stupid or corrupt to make decisions for themselves is not democratic. It's quite the opposite. It's the antithesis of what democracy, the Constitution, and this country are all about.

(Wait. I just visited that link, and it seems the entire site has been removed. Well, hell. It was quite a spectacle.)

But I hope the illustration is clear. One blog's commenters can snipe at another blog's commenters all they want; that's how this modern form of discourse works. But the line gets drawn at slander; and more specifically, if impartial third-party observers should come by and look at the respective facts on the ground, they're going to notice that one side treats the facts as something worth presenting on their own merits, for readers to make up their own minds about-- and the other side treats such impartial observers, sight unseen, as unqualified to cogitate upon such matters.

These are the people who will look at the debate in coming months and decide who's laying out the facts for us all to make our own decisions about, and who's trying-- through sheer force of volume-- to prevent us from accessing those very facts.

UPDATE: Charles says:

I’m just curious; has anyone ever heard of a blogger or other citizen on the right side of the aisle demanding that a left wing site be shut down, by making false claims of TOS violations? Has anyone heard of a blogger on the right side of the aisle trying to find a home address and phone number to encourage their readers to harass and stalk the owner of a left wing site?

Remember, Charles Johnson was a liberal prior to 9/11-- a long-haired bike-riding art hippie.

He still has the hair and the bike. And the artistic sensibility. And everything else. And then some.

Wednesday, April 7, 2004
22:30 - Minor radiation leak. Roll up windows
http://www.angelfire.com/extreme4/kiddofspeed/

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Now this is fascinating beyond all reason.

It's a Russian lady on a Kawasaki ZX-11 (so it has a certain relevance for me), which she chose specifically for its power, comfort, and straight-line flat-out speed.

Because she likes to do the Dead Zone ride. Through the region surrounding Chernobyl. Camera in one hand, Geiger counter in the other-- and if it starts clicking, she cranks on the throttle.



She also stops for lots of truly excellent photos whenever the microroentgens reading is low enough. She accurately characterizes Chernobyl (and Pripyat, the Ghost Town itself) as the modern-day equivalent of Pompeii-- it's a near-perfect snapshot of what the Soviet Union looked like in 1986, untouched by change since then.

Except by the presence of a woman from the Matrix on a 140-hp Japanese supersportbike tearing down the main street of town, instead of dour and doughy men on 20-hp Workers' Chariots on May Day.


16:51 - State of a Different Union
http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/archives_roll/2004_01-03/deatkine_iraq/deatkine_ir

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If you're interested in getting a nice, thorough, realistic view of the state of things in Iraq, you could certainly do worse than this piece by Norvell B. DeAtkine, forwarded to me by JMH. It's by no means a glowing report, but it provides a better-fleshed-out picture of what's really going on than what most of the commercial media outlets are letting filter through, for reasons that become clear in the narrative.

It's a great portrait of the various factions in the country and what they all mean to each other, and what the prospects for democracy really are, not to mention what would be likely to happen if we were to pull out before the proper infrastructure for government is set up, or to turn it over the the illustrious United Nations.

Feedback from focus sessions and my own conversations with educated Iraqis confirm that there is an association of democracy with chaos. Moreover the lack of a civil society or even a civic consciousness in Iraq will be a monumental and long-term problem to solve. It entails reeducating the entire Iraqi society. For example, Oxford University conducted the most comprehensive survey of Iraqi attitudes in the November-December timeframe and discovered that seventy-nine percent of the population did not trust the Coalition. Of course, this was the news in the American media. The much more relevant finding, however, was that less than ten percent trusted their neighbors. This is the effect of thirty-five years of Ba’ath rule and intimidation. An entire society had been corrupted. This endemic distrust among all the Iraqis, even to the point some Iraqis would not tell their relatives that they worked with the Coalition, is no doubt the greatest obstacle to the implementation of democracy. The same survey indicated the Iraqis overwhelmingly welcomed democracy, rejected the idea of a religious government, and did not consider democracy some sort of nefarious Western import, as many of the religious Ulama preach.

Also don't miss the discussion of Kurdistan, what the cities there are like, how astonishingly modern and optimistic an area it is-- and how bewildering to them our policy of trying to pacify the Sunnis with magnanimous gestures must be, considering that the Kurdish cities are such a good example of what we'd like places like Baghdad and Basra to become.

We're getting there, but succeeding will take time. I'm sure everybody understands that, including the people who want us to get it over with in a matter of weeks. (We know what they're hoping for.)


09:25 - These people must be stopped
http://www.mtl2600.org/media/video/badgerbadger.mpg

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You know, I'm all for Casual Fridays and everything. But...



Aaaauuuuughhhh!

What hath Weebl wrought?

UPDATE: Speaking of which, I hope everybody's seen this cover article in Animation World magazine, the premier periodical in the animation industry, which does a deep exposé on Odd Todd, Weebl, and Homestar Runner. Evidently there's talk of bringing one or more of them from the Flash Meme world into the sphere of syndicated animated series...

Tuesday, April 6, 2004
01:56 - Nah, no bias here

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So the new issue of Newsweek is here, just in time for tax franticity week.

What do you suppose the cover story is? 308,000 new jobs in March? U.S. manufacturing at a 20-year high? The lowest poverty rate in decades? A special-report thick-spine edition full of inspiring anecdotal stories from all over America that illustrate what people are doing with their tax refunds, written with the sincere hope of inspiring readers to treat the economy with some optimism and start investing in earnest again?

Hah! Don't make me laugh:
THE DIRTY LITTLE SECRET OF THE TAX CUT
Why It's Smaller Than You Think

I knew there was a touch of gray in that there silver lining-- and I knew Newsweek would be able to find it for me.

Next time something like this happens, Newsweek becomes classified as mailbox spam, and treated accordingly.


14:13 - Relapse
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=10524_German_Antisemitism_Watch

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Europe is sick again.

Are we gonna have to amputate?

Three times in a hundred years really is too much, even when it's socialized medicine.

UPDATE: There seems to be some uncertainty over whether the quote in question is directly attributable to the person purported to have written it. And I'd be a lot more skeptical if this were the first thing like this to have been documented at LGF or elsewhere-- or even remotely the first.

Monday, April 5, 2004
19:14 - I used to not get it either
http://www.andrewsullivan.com/index.php?dish_inc=archives/2004_03_28_dish_archive.ht

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By the way, after hemming and hawing for a few days, I guess I should comment on this statement by Andrew Sullivan before it's beyond relevance:

THE PASSION OF THE JEW: If you didn't see South Park last night, my commiserations. Watching a cartoon Mel Gibson in his tighty-whiteys jumping onto his own sado-masochism machine was one of the more sublime sights of the year. Yes, he is clearly bonkers. And yes, Stone and Parker are geniuses.

Uh, yeah, he's bonkers as portrayed in South Park, all right-- hootin' and hollerin', leaping around his mansion in what may as well have been a rotoscoped Daffy Duck routine. However: I don't know what Gibsonian antics Sullivan is thinking of, but I've seen no evidence that Mel deserves the treatment that South Park gave him.

The episode is all about how The Passion supposedly states in no uncertain terms that The Jews™ are collectively to blame for killing Jesus, which naturally inspires Cartman to don full Hitlerian regalia and begin leading marches against synagogues (until it's revealed to him that Mel Gibson is in fact kaka-cuckoo, upon which discovery he retires home in abashment). I guess Parker and Stone must have seen the movie, but it seems to me that they must have deliberately missed the point of it, because the South Park episode in question is founded on a straw-man argument and ultimately ends up being weak and confusing.

I think it's obvious to anyone who's seen the movie without the intent to discover Judenhass in it that the movie never makes any claims that "all Jews are culpable for killing Jesus". That doesn't make any sense, especially considering the Jew who helps Jesus carry the cross to Golgotha. Jews in the movie are carefully delineated as to their respective moralities, with many good ones and many bad ones; it's the high priests, fearful of Jesus' influence and pettily eager to defend their own niche of power sandwiched between the common Jews and the Roman occupiers, who are made out clearly to be the villains.

But I'm not exactly qualified to discuss this sort of thing, being almost entirely non-religious myself. Bill Hobbs, however, does a much better job:

I have a confession to make:

I killed Jesus.

And I had many co-conspirators, including you.

Yes, you. All of us. We all killed Jesus. All of us – the Romans, the Jews, the Christians, the Muslims, the Greeks, the Asians, the Rastafarians, the Egyptians – ancient and modern - the Babylonians, the Russians, the French, the Mexicans, the Canadians, the Americans and even those nice people who live down the street from you and go to church every Sunday.

We're all guilty.

We all killed Jesus because we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God – and Jesus came to earth, withstood real human temptation, lived a sinless life, was crucified despite His pure innocence, and then rose from the dead, thereby triumphing over evil's ultimate weapon. Because He paid the penalty for our sins, we can live without fear of death because, by accepting what He did, we accept God's free gift of grace: salvation and eternal life with Him rather than eternal life without Him.

The South Park conclusion is that "we should focus on what Jesus taught, not how he died," and that sounds very level-headed and sensible and even-handed in this age of making sure the same language can be used to describe any ideology, so that Christianity can be cast as a religion founded on the principle of "be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes", just like all the other religions-- so that we in our postmodern, non-denominational, secular world can feel comfortable coexisting with all religions and treating them all alike.

Normally I treat Parker and Stone as gods in their own right. But in this case I think they really dropped the ball, because Christianity in fact is first and foremost about how Jesus died. It's all about the fact-- or narrative, as you prefer-- that even though he'd committed no crimes or sins, he willingly endured one of the worst tortures any human has ever gone through, absorbing all the associated pain right up to death-- and even though at any point he could have put a stop to it through divine intervention, or caused himself to not feel any more pain, or even (on the human plane) simply cried out for mercy, he didn't. Instead, he sucked it all up, because he was specifically and explicitly trying to take upon himself all the punishment that all of humanity-- guilty or not, sinful or not-- would otherwise have to endure.

That's what the story of the Crucifixion is all about. Whether you consider it just that-- a story-- or the gospel truth, if you remove the unbelievable gore and the unendurable physical pain from the narrative, the story stops making sense, and certainly loses all its emotional and theological impact.

The magnitude of the suffering is crucial, no pun intended, to understanding why Christianity is different in nature from other religions and from general admonitions simply to "love thy neighbor"-- and that's why Gibson portrayed it with as much graphic detail as he did. So often, the Crucifixion is treated like a cartoon, like a day in the park, like some kind of strange ritual where people sort of got shoved around and carried heavy things, but where genuine physical agony really never entered the picture. (In the Life of Brian rendition and other sanitized modern interpretations, the condemned are tied to the crosses.) In Gibson's movie, the gore is the central element to what's on-screen-- you're not supposed to be able to ignore it or treat it with the detachment that we currently use in talking sterilely about the WTC towers falling, yesterday's news that it is. The Passion is to Christianity what the live video coverage of 9/11 was to the War on Terror.

Besides which, there's the seemingly important argument that the narrative paints Jesus' death as predestined-- that the whole point of his birth and life as a human was to suffer and die for everybody else's sins. (Parker and Stone bring up this point, but don't bother addressing it.) Without that unjust death, that martyrdom, there would be no Christianity-- Jesus, divine or not, would have lived an obscure life of traveling ministry, evidently never to make an impact on theology through the ages. Which makes the question of "who killed Jesus?" rather moot, it seems to me; are the people who blame it on the Jews actually saying they'd prefer it if there had been no Crucifixion, and therefore no Christianity?

Which is why I think Parker and Stone, and in turn Andrew Sullivan, are depressingly and uncharacteristically wrong about this.

I'm an atheist, at least insofar as practice takes me. I once scoffed at religion as the domain of the feeble-minded, a playground in which to absorb oneself to keep from facing the realities of everyday life. I regarded a disdain for religion that was founded purely in scientific facts and logic to be demonstrably superior to any brain cycles wasted on the nature of "faith" or on prayer or on any kind of religious study, because hey, look how much free time it left me with.

But it's become fairly clear to me that faith is a concept that's not something a person can grasp in a moment. It's way deeper than that, and seeking out its true meaning is by no means wasted thought. Sure, it may not actually result in anything concrete, and many people take it way too far. Many people who are religious stop being religious on a daily basis, and many other people shift in the opposite direction just as often. But people who disdain religion because it's ostensibly shallow or imbecilic, and who yet consider themselves to be deep philosophers on the nature of the human condition, are deliberately shielding themselves from what is perhaps the most fundamental form of philosophy that informs any understanding of how human beings work.

Religion isn't for me-- I'm really not wired for it. But I can respect the depth of the concepts behind it, having caught one or two glimpses into how hard it can in fact make the brain work.

I can't claim to understand the meanings of the things depicted in The Passion anywhere near as well as, say, Hobbs does. But I think that both he and Mel Gibson have probably devoted a lot more thought to the matter than Parker and Stone have, and I think you can probably guess whose stance on it I respect more.


17:46 - And if we punched these people, we would go to prison
http://www.command-post.org/oped/2_archives/011319.html

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After reading this article, via Dean Esmay, I had to go stand by the window. And just stare into the distance for a while.

People treat Communism these days, and its symbols and dramatis personae, like some kind of silly and cute curiosity-- a harmless, starry-eyed, idealistic little notion with cool constructivist iconography that inexplicably got America's reactionaries all comically flustered back in the 50s. (Why, it even triggered our very own purges and show trials and banishments to the gulags that we undoubtedly had somewhere in Montana.) It was just a well-intentioned, if misguided, conceit of the young and overeducated, and certainly it couldn't ever have done any real damage here.

People, in other words, love to kid themselves.

And it makes me feel genuinely ill.


17:06 - Never mind, Webalizer

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I was just investigating installing Webalizer, an open-source Web logfile analysis tool that appears to be a bit more modern and robust than the venerable analog, and used by lots of high-profile blogs (such as LGF). But then I noticed, at the bottom of the Webalizer's official site, an ad-style banner:



There can hardly be a government in the world, including the Arab world and the wider Muslim world, which has not for a long time considered  that a lot of life's problems would have been resolved if Saddam Hussein had been called some time ago by the Almighty to receive the judgment which awaits him in the next life.

But the "selection" by the US Supreme Court of George Walker Bush to the office of President of the United States of America has had consequences unimagined by the Western World since the end of World War II.

Who would ever have thought that a majority of the peoples of Europe would ever regard the United States of America as a real threat to the peace and stability of the world ?  But they do.  That is primarily a consequence of the Bush 'n' Blair invasion and occupation of Iraq. 

The war  was unlawful as a matter of international law.  It has vastly weakened the United Nations, it has led to the impending demise of NATO.  It has split the European Union.  It has created  divisions between the West and the Muslim world which may take decades, if not centuries, to heal.

Within a matter of months we shall be closing this page to start a new page for the next US Administration.   For the sake of the rest of the free world, we hope and pray it will not be under the leadership of George Walker Bush and that he may be rapidly consigned by the American people to the dustbin of history.

Yes, it's a link to an external site ("Eurolegal Services", whose main page currently features an article lionizing Sheikh Ahmed Yassaruman). But it's featured prominently-- and in a non-rotating manner-- on the Webalizer development/distribution site, and it's pretty clear that it's not just some silly accident.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised to find this kind of sentiment so well-entrenched in the open-source community; like all groups that proudly define themselves as "outcasts" and "rebels", a swell of pride in the status quo is seldom in evidence-- and philosophy that applies to software or sexuality seldom has difficulty spilling over into politics.

I realize that refusing to use a piece of free open-source software because of the politics of its author is a pretty silly interpretation of "boycott"-- it's not like it'll have any effect. But hey, at least I'll feel less grubby.


16:11 - Epsilon-Minuses?

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Funny-- the stories I'd always heard about the quality of men's minds in the Army were that in order to qualify as a tanker, you had to reach a grade in your qualification testing slightly below that of an infantry soldier. Not the most demanding assignment, in other words.

I wonder how this anecdote from Dennis, a commenter at Frank J's IMAO, squares with that:

The biggest truism about the Army in general and the Guard/Reserve in particular is the unbelievable education of the troops. My last driver was a young corporal who had joined the Guard to get an education. He had his Bachelors degree and was within striking distance of his Masters. We had a medical unit attached to our battalion. There were enlisted medics in that section. All of the enlisted medics were Registered Nurses. One of my NCO's was a practicing attorney, another was a CPA. Fully 60% of the unit was enrolled in college. In short, the guys in the Guard/Reserve take advantage of the educational opportunities, and they make the unit stronger because they are so educated.

Imagine that.


12:32 - SimVideoGame
http://www.denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2004/04/DotHackSign.shtml

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(Nah, nothing to say, really. I just wanted to use that title.)


12:24 - Sorry, I couldn't resist...

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Over at the Daily Kos (the premier left-wing blog in terms of visitorship, by most accounts, but which has lost its endorsements by the Kerry campaign and other advertisers over its proprietor's recent comments), you will soon be able to see prominent Seemann stains.

(Okay, fine, I'm not sorry.)


11:54 - Oooh, that can't be good...

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If there's one thing I learned through a childhood of dedication to devout zealous nerddom, it's that nobody likes a Grammar God.
Grammar God!
You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

If your mission in life is not already to
preserve the English tongue, it should be.
Congratulations and thank you!

How grammatically sound are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

In my experience, this is just a nice way of expressing the usual term, which is Grammar Nazi.

D'oh!

(Via Rosemary Esmay.)


11:26 - Does all news radio suck?

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For some time now, the radio in my Jetta has remained silent, the volume knob turned down to MIN while I either listen to my iPod (traffic safety regulations be damned) or just the hum of the VR6. Why? Because not only have I been unable to force myself to listen to NPR for many weeks, I can't even bring myself to switch back to KCBS, my previous good old standby news-crawl station.

This morning I was driving Kris' truck to work (lots of garage-cleanout over the weekend, as well as unearthing my riding leathers so I can get back in the saddle, which for the time being will involve Lance's Buell), and it was tuned to KCBS. Twice, in the top-of-the-hour headline report, and later in the actual story, the station covered a story of state legislators attempting to ban the sale of violent video games to minors.

Here's the thing, though: every time they described these games, they referred to them as first shooter video games. And every time they used that phrase, they immediately followed it with a reference, by way of example, to the Grand Theft Auto series.

A quick Google search shows me that the direct phrase "first shooter" doesn't seem to occur on the Web, or else it's being totally obscured by "first-person shooter", which is what I'm almost positive KCBS is trying to say.

Now, it seems as though "first shooter" would be a fair way to categorize certain games-- i.e., games in which you "shoot first", where you're not being attacked by monsters or bad guys before you decide to shoot them-- or, in other words, games in which you're the bad guy. I can understand calling something like Grand Theft Auto 3 a "first shooter" game.

But if KCBS is just bumblingly trying to say "first-person shooter", e.g. the Quake/Unreal/etc series, which have a lot of buzz and are widely regarded as "violent" but generally only in a very sci-fi/fantasy sort of sense, their trying to use GTA3-- which is not a first-person shooter-- as an illustration of that term is boneheaded in the extreme.

We have two possibilities: Either 1) KCBS or the legislators in question have invented a new term for certain kinds of video games, one that's surprisingly apt; or 2) KCBS is badly misinterpreting the meaning, and misquoting the name, of a whole genre of games by way of attacking only one certain segment of the market with a buzzwordy title that keeps appearing in the headlines.

I so wish I could believe it's the first one.

It's widely acknowledged that whenever the news reports on some story of which you have first-hand knowledge or understanding, you always will notice some crucial piece of information that the news station gets wrong. Somebody's name. The number of kids in the family. How safe the street is acknowledged to be where the thing took place. The name of a video game genre, for crying out loud. But that's just for the stories you know about... so what does that tell you about all the stories you hear about that you don't know from first-hand experience?

Just last night, a friend told me a story of how a terror alert was raised at a Missouri military base; apparently there was word that hijackers would attempt to commandeer emergency vehicles and commit some sort of act of terror against the base. Well, a few days later, at a county fair in a nearby small town, a couple of big fire trucks were on display for the kids to play on. Sure enough, a couple of young Arab men came walking up, carrying duffel bags and making a beeline for the fire trucks. The men were apprehended and spirited away by the authorities, and thenceforward it was a "federal matter" and no further information was forthcoming.

Those friends of friends who witnessed this event now say they'll be taking terror alerts a bit more seriously from now on. But remember: thousands of people heard the alert before the event happened, and they didn't witness the details of what went down. What's their reaction?

"Shyeah, right-- like anything was really gonna happen. These terror alerts are just bogus; they're cynical attempts to keep people in a state of nervousness."

There's always a first-hand version of the story, but very few people get to see it. Everyone else has to make do with whatever sounds most plausible on the air, even if it's bloody well wrong.

Which is why I think my radio dial will stay on MIN for a while yet.

Friday, April 2, 2004
11:38 - I've seen things, I've seen them with my EYES
http://billhobbs.com/hobbsonline/003577.html

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It's always rather dangerous to develop knee-jerk reactions to some proposed or current action with only words to go by, without the benefit of visual aids.

It took the nonstop video coverage of the towers burning to galvanize us all over 9/11-- without the visual record, without the images burned into our brains, how many of those American flags would we have seen flying from freeway overpasses in subsequent days and weeks? How many people would have stayed home from work in terror at what might happen next? How likely would we have been to read that "The World Trade Center buildings in New York City were destroyed today in a terrorist attack, and 3,000 people lost their lives" and conclude just from those sterile words on paper that this was something that affected all Americans and indeed all citizens of the world, and that it meant the Islamosphere would have to be reformed above all other priorities? Indeed, without going back to someone's photo-blog record or final photos before being crushed under falling concrete, the event rapidly abstracts itself away into our subconscious, allowing us to discuss related matters like the appropriate response and likely causes, without being paralyzed by the elephant in the living room. In that sense it's a good thing, our brains' ability to numb itself. But it can work against us too.

For instance, these are the guys who were killed in Fallujah; this is what they looked like afterwards.

(And this is what the author of the most widely-read Left-leaning blog on the Net says about the matter. It's as sickening as the photos in the latter link.)


... You know, this whole thing was supposed to be leading up to this link, where Bill Hobbs shows us exactly what the idyllic Alaskan wilderness looks like where Bush and his minions plan to drill for ooooiil, in some kind of dastardly evil scheme to make America more self-sufficient and less invested in the Middle East, and destroy some virgin Alaskan paradise to boot, the bastard!



...But it all seems very anticlimactic after the first couple of examples I gave. A reader recently pointed out that I have a tendency to sidle up to a topic, Riverdancing back and forth through vaguely related supporting items until I arrive at the point I'm trying to make, which apparently is a cool thing. Well, yeah, but it has a downside. Sometimes the dancing-around-the topic gets out of hand, and overpowers the main point, as you see here.

Ah well. I guess we've all learned something here today.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004
18:50 - Hey, that's not bad...
http://www.comics.com/comics/hedge/archive/hedge-20040331.html

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Speaking of weird juxtapositions of Bush and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy...



That's actually pretty funny. 'Course, I can't wait to see what they do to Kerry...


15:42 - Just wondering
http://www.boston.com/dailynews/091/politics/Bush_GOP_accuse_Kerry_campaign:.shtml

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I've not yet made my mind up on this latest brewing mini-scandal, which touched off a banshee-like wailing and gnashing of teeth from MoveOn.org yesterday (regarding FEC rule changes posted on 3/11 that would broaden the definition of "political committees") charging that the RNC was setting out on a wide-ranging pogrom upon all dissent against the Bush administration. It seems to be related to this story, in which the Bush campaign is charging the Kerry campaign of funneling soft-money contributions from nonconnected groups into the campaign's coffers.

It's not yet clear what's going on. But I just noticed this odd little piece of cognitive dissonance while reading the Boston Globe story. Compare this:

The Bush campaign and the GOP say pro-Kerry groups are illegally spending soft money in the presidential race, and that Kerry's campaign is illegally coordinating that spending. The groups have contended they are operating legally.

''They're making a mockery of what the rules are,'' Bush campaign chairman Marc Racicot said.

With this:

Kerry campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter accused Republicans of political gamesmanship.

''We take the law very seriously. Republicans can't stand the fact the American people want change, so now they are playing politics with the law,'' Cutter said.

Question, Ms. Cutter: How is it politically responsible of you or your campaign for you to respond to a specific charge against your organization by lashing out with a hyperbolic blanket aspersion against half the country's citizens?

Way to court those swing voters, there. <clap> <clap> <clap>


11:57 - Speaking without an accent
http://capmag.com/article.asp?ID=1326

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Boy, this guy must run a hoppin' mailing list.

Brian sends this link: an article in Capitalism Magazine discussing "intrinsicism", or the practice of believing that your own frame of reference is without slant or "accent".

A worldview--i.e., a philosophy--is not normally something people look at, but something they look through. A philosophy is a frame of reference for understanding and dealing with the concretes (and middle-level abstractions) we confront in life. It takes a special act of reflection and abstraction to make a philosophy an object of cognition, rather than a means of cognition--i.e., to make it a "what" rather than a "how."

Unreflective people, which definitely includes journalists, are not aware that they have a philosophy at all. But they are inescapably aware of philosophies different from their own. So liberal journalists think that they are not using any philosophy, they are just looking at and describing events "non-ideologically." But when they see conservatives coming to what strikes the liberal journalists as "weird" conclusions, they know that the conservatives are led to them by their political philosophies.

Well worth a read. And naturally its lessons apply to those of all political persuasions.

Except mine, of course. (Heh.)

Tuesday, March 30, 2004
17:55 - Takin' care of business
http://members.cox.net/macallan_the/GW/GWBush1_Start.htm

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



And put it to good use, too.


11:39 - Rubble rubble
http://timblair.spleenville.com/archives/006349.php

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

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

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

...Or maybe you can't.

Commenter dorkafork:

I keep picturing the Hamburglar in a suicide bomber vest.

Ronald/Grimace in 2008!

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 28, 2004
12:40 - The dominoes begin to fall
http://www.spymac.com/forums/showthread.php?threadid=69700

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 27, 2004
22:27 - Oh, God, I needed that...
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20040327/pl_afp/britain_us_vote_k

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

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

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

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

“Forget the French connection,” he advised.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 26, 2004
16:19 - "Like lips and teeth"
http://www.nationalreview.com/interrogatory/timmerman200403220851.asp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ouch. Yuck.

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

Via Kevin.


10:15 - Free (Software) Iraq!
http://freedomtechnologycenter.org/events/

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Looks like I've got me some homework today.

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

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

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


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

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

Lileks, for instance.

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

Why?

Probably this is why:



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More here:

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

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

And that's not all:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My e-mail to him:

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

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

No?

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


22:46 - They'll let just anybody have a blog these days
http://blog.zmag.org/ttt/

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 23, 2004
18:52 - Everything you know is wrong...
http://www.victorhanson.com/

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

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

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

. . .

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

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


13:23 - 90s Post-Mortem
http://www.mdcbowen.org/cobb/archives/001755.html

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

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

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

Monday, March 22, 2004
01:26 - Mr. Lucas, take note
http://homepage.mac.com/jscct/.Movies/iPodrace_FINAL_480.mov

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



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


22:10 - The Price of Likeability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back into the ring.


18:31 - Why is stuff like this never a joke?
http://news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=609&id=329952004

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

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

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

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

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

Make it stop...


18:20 - The Mecha of Mecca
http://www.somethingawful.com/articles.php?a=2047

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Is this a spam?

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

Subject: Stop Spreading Hatred


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

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

S.A.R

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


15:20 - Slow-motion train wreck
http://users.lmi.net/zombie/sf_rally_march_20_2004/

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



Yeah, nice job centering the lettering there, sport.

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

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

What a fool I was.

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

You may now board the express train directly to Hell.

Friday, March 19, 2004
14:21 - So here we all are again
http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110004843

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


11:23 - The Dane in Spain

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

Dane-geld
(A.D. 980-1016)
Rudyard Kipling

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 17, 2004
12:43 - Interview posted
http://www.npanet.org/public/interviews/careers_interview_134.cfm

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 16, 2004
18:21 - Hey Europe-- ask yourselves why they hate you
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A62387-2004Mar16.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seriously.


16:28 - Hold still-- there's some duct tape on your eyes. Just a sec-- hold on... RRIIIIP!
http://edition.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/europe/03/15/spain.invest/index.html

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Via Andrew Sullivan:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


12:07 - The Approval of the Enemy

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

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

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

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


09:54 - A callous moment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 15, 2004
14:40 - Classical Music Metadata Redux (hah! More like "incrux")
http://alanlittle.org/weblog/ClassicalID3.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 14, 2004
12:30 - Feeding the crocodile
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,8966351%5E7583,00.html

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

3) It makes no difference.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not that that makes it any less cowardly.

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

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Ahhh, the sounds of summer.

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

I can hear the cheering from my window now.

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

(Oh, wait. I sucked. Right.)


10:11 - Okay, you talked me into it

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 12, 2004
02:31 - "Actually, I wrote my thesis on life experience, and..."
http://www.coldfury.com/Sasha/archives/004673.html#004673

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

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

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

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

I want . . .

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

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

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


00:09 - Fair enough
http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/04/0304/031104.html

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

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

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

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


17:39 - Compare and contrast

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

Exhibit A:



Exhibit B:



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


12:26 - Portals to the Netherverse
http://www.penny-arcade.com/view.php3?date=2004-03-12

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Don't miss today's Penny Arcade:



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

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

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

Got it in one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be sure to look at these photos first.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 10, 2004
16:52 - A World of Padded Corners
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,113836,00.html

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

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

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

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

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

That won't happen will it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This has to stop. It has to stop now.

Tuesday, March 9, 2004
01:05 - No More Mr. Potato Head?
http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/003/834llyrg.asp

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

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

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

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

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

. . .

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

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

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

Because the CIA told me so! . . .

. . .

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 8, 2004
13:27 - You heard it here first (maybe)
http://search.atomz.com/search/?sp-a=sp1001847f&sp-f=ISO-8859-1&sp-q=fuck+shit

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

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

Oh no. What have I done?!


12:08 - I wanna go too!
http://www.guardian.co.uk/guantanamo/story/0,13743,1163435,00.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 5, 2004
18:44 - Get used to it
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/03/01/1078117369680.html?from=top5

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

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

. . .

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

. . .

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

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

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


11:39 - Viggy, Viggy, Viggy... you have been a bad monkey!
http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/leigh200403051052.asp

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

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

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

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

Ouch. That's so mean!

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

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

Hey, it happens to the best of us.

Thursday, March 4, 2004
23:36 - If for no other reason
http://www.georgewbush.com/tvads/

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"Lead":



Mac monitor.


13:21 - Before you go...
http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article.asp?aid=11703023_1

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 3, 2004
16:28 - Freedom is slavery
http://transplantedtexan.blogspot.com/2004_03_01_transplantedtexan_archive.html#1078

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

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

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

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

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

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

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

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

This is why a sentence like:

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

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

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

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


UPDATE: CapLion IM's:

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

Me:

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


13:31 - Self-solving problem?

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

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

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

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

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


11:19 - That's unpossible!
http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/story.jsp?story=497311

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

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

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

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

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

Get outta here, ya agitator!


10:15 - That's gratitude for ya
http://heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,8742820%5E2862,00.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geez. You're welcome.

Monday, March 1, 2004
17:42 - The power of bumper stickers
http://timblair.spleenville.com/archives/006101.php#comments

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

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

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

It's the one that starts out:

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

...And gets better from there.


11:01 - Gawd
http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/04/0304/030104.html

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

Now!

Sunday, February 29, 2004
02:14 - As my camera battery charges...
http://ip45.arclight.net/~btman/AppleStoreSF/AppleStoreSF.html

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

01:24 - The Wall Wot Keeps Time

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



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

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

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

It's an NTP-enabled wall.

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

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

Maybe I'll get in touch with Larry Wall.

Friday, February 27, 2004
16:51 - Hack your own arms off
http://www.securityfocus.com/news/7959

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two years ago I said:

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

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

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

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

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

That website could no longer be reached Monday.

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

Sometimes justice does indeed prevail, against all valiant efforts.


15:28 - Where censors fear to tread

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

Howard Stern's Private Parts Surprisingly Sensitive

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


15:13 - Just ask the Myrmidons
http://chiefwiggles.blog-city.com/read/508488.htm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


14:12 - "Beware of Lilliputians"
http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=12289

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Via CapLion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 25, 2004
23:16 - Here we go
http://www.kake.com/home/headlines/653662.html

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 24, 2004
17:28 - Someone's gonna get rich
http://www.doonesbury.com/strip/bush_guard.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


15:56 - Incidentally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


13:26 - "Finally, we have started swinging"
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/chitribts/20040224/ts_chicagotrib/bus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just another weekend in Paradise, I see.

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

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

Back Sunday....
Thursday, February 19, 2004
11:20 - That's no ordinary rabbit
http://www.alarmingnews.com/archives/000611.html

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Hah! This is hysterical.

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 18, 2004
23:08 - Nobody moves or the planet gets it
http://www.livejournal.com/users/michaelduff/103623.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


18:42 - KERRY: Now can we stop talking about terrorism and get back to the trivial and petty issues that are at hand?
http://www.imao.us/archives/001255.html#001255

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

Don't miss 'em.


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

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So here's George Galloway:

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

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

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

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

He’s a dict. . .

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

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

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

You’ve met El Presidente, I take it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 16, 2004
20:09 - You won't be seeing this in Doonesbury anytime soon
http://www.hood.army.mil/4id/Iraqi/news_content/memstatue.asp

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

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

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

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

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

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


18:57 - "As President, I will work to make the world round"
http://www.mudvillegazette.com/archives/000687.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gun control? He'll shoot the NRA.

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

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

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

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

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



11:02 - Happy Valentine's to you too

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

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

This just brought me up short, though:

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

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

I won't forget it, either.


10:34 - Let it go
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/14/politics/14MILI.html?ex=1077426000&en=2ba3eb6c124c

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 13, 2004
13:36 - The dangers of drawing a strip a week in advance
http://www.doonesbury.com/strip/dailydose/index.html?uc_full_date=20040213

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



Danger! Danger! Pull up! Pull up!

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

Wednesday, February 11, 2004
15:59 - "Sorry about all the dead people, Saddam-- we shoulda left that to the professionals"
http://www.doonesbury.com/strip/dailydose/index.html?uc_full_date=20040211

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



Astounding, isn't it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hhhh. Okay. I'm better now.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004
16:56 - What's this? Proof?
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,110956,00.html

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

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

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

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

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


13:28 - Giving it a name
http://abcnews.go.com/sections/SciTech/SiliconInsider/SiliconInsider-1.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


11:32 - The benefits of having an outside camera
http://images.spaceref.com/news/2004/rover.armspin.mov

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




11:05 - Selective Amnesia
http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/04/0204/021004.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9/11?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Saturday, February 7, 2004
14:58 - "Annnnd... cut!"
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=9805_Lights_Camera_Action!

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



Look, it's in English and everything.

Thursday, February 5, 2004
16:17 - This stuff works
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/02/20040205-1.html

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

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

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

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

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


16:09 - Taxonomic Developments

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

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

Wednesday, February 4, 2004
02:11 - The harmful effects of documentaries
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3672518/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


01:41 - May the best Captain stand forth
http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/04/0204/020504.html

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

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

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


11:46 - At least they provide a good laugh

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

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

No way out for you. I REPORT YOU !

You've said THAT about me

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


11:22 - Unbiased Reporting
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032542/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 3, 2004
16:28 - Before the World Turned Color
http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/empire/object.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 2, 2004
21:25 - Germany comes round?
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/02/03/wgerm03.xml&sSheet=/

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Holy crap!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


12:17 - Hooverville

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God, it sucks, though.

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


11:47 - The difference between Sharon and Hitler?
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&u=/nm/20040202/wl_nm/mideast_dc

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Hitler annexed the Sudetenland; Sharon gave it back.

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

Sunday, February 1, 2004
02:52 - Share the Dearth
http://www.whatacrappypresent.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


11:49 - Helpful E-mailing Tips

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

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

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

Saturday, January 31, 2004
00:31 - Train wreck of a nation
http://www.arabnews.com/?page=4§ion=0&article=38880&d=31&m=1&y=2004

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What must it be like to live in France?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


22:26 - His boots are ivory, his hat is ivory, and I'm pretty sure that TOWER is ivory
http://cognocentric.blogspot.com/2004_01_25_cognocentric_archive.html#10755528400720

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

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

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

· someone removed the three pages from my door

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

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

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

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


22:12 - What I Did Today

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I was here:



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EYES!

16:16 - Hey! Me too!
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0672326124/qid=1075507781/sr=1-2/ref=s

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Woo-hoo! It's here!

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

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

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

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

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

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


11:44 - Getting there
http://www.world66.com/myworld66/visitedStates

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

Thursday, January 29, 2004
11:32 - FBI: "Get a Mac"
http://www.securityfocus.com/cgi-bin/sfonline/columnists-item.pl?id=215

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

%^&$%^.

10:20 - Go to the source
http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/archives/2004_01_01_iraqthemodel_archive.html#10753

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 28, 2004
18:36 - Eat oil, France
http://washingtontimes.com/upi-breaking/20040128-094014-7323r.htm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



13:17 - Now that's good comedy
http://msnbc.msn.com/id/4079086/

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

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

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

As Dean built to a crescendo...

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

Anyway...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


10:43 - What the Internet was meant for
http://www.peggy.nu/

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

Penguins, a yeti, and range markers.

Wheeee!
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© Brian Tiemann