Fashionably ignorant?

"I've never been on InstaPundit. I don't even know what that is."

So claims my old favorite, Jodi Wilgoren. (Via InstaPundit.) The first part of the statement -- "never been on" -- may in the strictest and most literal sense be true, but "not knowing what that is?"

Come on, Jodi!

This latest display of "ignorance" is downright cute. Coy. Genuinely endearing.

But cuteness aside, there is such a thing as objectivity in journalism. Considering the prominence of Glenn Reynolds, as well as Ms. Wilgoren's (and her family's) stated interest in tracking what's said about her in the blogosphere, I think either she's either not reading the links carefully enough (as unlikely as it would be unprofessional), or else she's just pretending not to notice.

Is the latter the case? Deliberately concealed ignorance passed off as objective disinterest?

I'm not sure whether to call that journalism, but it's certainly professional.

NOTE: While I don't have time to start a Jodi Wilgoren fan club, I have devoted two posts to her (here and here), because I know talent when I see it, and I think she may be the next Maureen Dowd.

posted by Eric at 01:20 PM | Comments (2)

Dying to volunteer?

The Center for Islamic Suicide? If that sounds too ridiculous, read the link.

Not that people in the West don't commit suicide, but it's nothing to be proud of. We don't tend to brag about it. Suicide is simply a bad thing. If done at all, it's an admission that life has no meaning.

If you ask me, the fact that people want to do it really isn't much of a lifestyle advertisement for whatever the hell lifestyle they're advocating.

I am not saying that suicide is Islam, but obviously some deranged people continue to think it's the highest form of Islam.

It may scare the hell out of people, but in balance, as a form of PR, it's a loser. Furthermore, as a war tactic, advertising that you want to die is an admission of the stupidity -- and futility -- of your cause.

posted by Eric at 12:19 AM | Comments (1)

Calling Off Your Old, Tired, Ethics * ?

Have high class call girls been manipulating the new media?

Is it blogging, or is it a real scandal?

Come again?

This is par for the course in Washington, and nothing new.

Why, it didn't even start with Watergate! (It's just that Watergate hasn't been outed yet.)

The world's oldest profession (and it is a profession) has finally gotten some real attention in the blogosphere, and I am not surprised, or even impressed. Not a shred of moral outrage or indignation here.

Whatever moral outrage or indignation I might have had was long ago spent. It's been ten years since I learned that at the heart of Watergate was a high class hooker ring, which was systematically covered up, and which continues to be systematically covered up.

I don't know how else to put it, or how many times I have said it, but this country has been had before, and on a much greater scale. Michelle Malkin comes pretty close to the truth in her characterization of the media, but I think that she, and everyone concerned would do well to ask why anyone should be shocked when modern "investigative journalism" (and what Glenn Reynolds and Peter Morgan have called the "Big Bang" of what passes for modern political "ethics"), has its origin in the world's oldest profession.

Yeah, folks, once again I want to remind everyone that Watergate involved a coverup of a (gulp) prostitution ring. (I have an old, tired, blog with links for anyone wanting more detail....)

No foundation, all the way down the line!

I'm not cynical; I'm way past that stage....


On a serious note, happy Memorial Day, everyone! Try to remember the veterans, whose sacrifices should not be forgotten as hawks turn into doves, and vice versa.

posted by Eric at 11:14 PM | Comments (7)

New York sights

No blogging today because I spent it in New York. Here are a few photos.

For starters, a graffiti-covered building which appears to have last housed a bread company near the turn of the century:


NOTE: As graffiti has now been linked to "mob violence," that's what I titled the picture.

Next, some red-eared slider turtles (grown versions of the little green ones once sold in pet stores) which live in a "green guerilla" park in the Bowery:


Echoing the reptilian theme, a gargoyle in an otherwise abandoned-looking store window:


And last but not least, a turn-of-the-century, classical-meets-modern sculpture near Penn Station:


That's it for today!

posted by Eric at 11:38 PM

The week isn't over!

Not until you've read the 47th Bonfire of the Vanities, that is....

This week it's hosted at Laurence Simon's luscious new blog, This Blog is Full of Crap.

Some highlights:

  • Susie warns of impending doom in the blogosphere -- from which only she can save us!
  • Mind of Mog lets us in on the latest wrinkle on the Microsoft/Linux war for the blogosphere.
  • Laurence himself is looking for God in all the wrong places.
  • Cranial Cavity posts about a new phenomenon: FLASH IF YOU HATE BUSH.
    (Hmmmmm...... There's a contradiction somewhere there, I think.)
  • Kevin at Wizbang is now going to the right parties!
  • A very enjoyable bonfire, so please read them all.

    Then flush and burn!

    posted by Eric at 11:39 PM

    Nick Berg update

    Because the stories continue, an update on Nick Berg's decapitation is overdue, whether I like it or not.

    Tim Blair fisks the theory that because the white plastic chair Berg was seated on looks like the chairs at Abu Ghraib prison, that this proves Nick Berg was beheaded by Americans in a false flag operation.

    I'd note that there are lots of these chairs around; for example, here's the same chair. (Some of them have been recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Little wonder they're in Iraq....)

    I don't mean to make light of this, but I own a couple of them, and they are wobbly. But they were very cheap; around five dollars or so.

    The UCSD Guardian reports that a "Library Walk" screening of the Berg beheading was canceled by school authorities.

    It seems the students can't see it anywhere else, and I don't know why.

    We don't have censorship, do we?

    Finally, Nick Berg's sister is suspicious of Michael Moore's claim that he interviewed Nick for his film Fahrenheit 9/11. I'd be suspicious of anything Moore claimed.

    As to the beheading video, it's obviously edited heavily, and appears to have been shot with more than one camera in an amateurish manner. (Professional spooks, I believe, would have done a much better job had they faked the video.) I made it available here because it was not being shown to the public, despite the fact that they were being inundated with abu Ghraib images on a daily basis. Obviously, I am in no position to vouch for its authenticity in any way. In terms of cold-blooded horror, it reminds me of the Daniel Pearl video, which I also posted for streaming. I've been criticized for streaming it, but I'll do it again the next time something like this happens.

    As to the conspiracy/false flag allegations, I am not convinced at all, as I already explained in a comment. One thing which might have put such talk to rest would have been an autopsy, because pathologists can at least determine whether cut human tissue was alive at the time it was cut. But that would not silence those who believe the beheading wasn't the work of terrorists, because they'd simply drop the claim that Nick was already dead when he was decapitated, and just say that the CIA obviously beheaded him while alive.

    Can I prove that Bush/CIA didn't do it?

    No, but I also can't prove that Al Gore and John Kerry didn't do it.

    posted by Eric at 10:35 PM

    Al Qaida in Iraq? Not in an election year!

    Al Qaida in Iraq?

    Those are fighting words to anyone who opposes the war in Iraq, because it seems to be an article of faith with them that there has never been a connection between al Qaida and Iraq.

    How did Al Gore put it the other day?

    THE PRESIDENT CONVINCED the country with a mixture of documents that turned out to be forged and blatantly false assertions that Saddam was in league with al Qaeda.

    And if you believe in these false assertions, why, there's a study which shows you're suffering from "misperceptions."

    Stephen F.Hayes has written a book documenting the numerous connections between Iraq and al Qaida.

    You can read some of it here. But no matter what the evidence is, it won't convince any of the true disbelievers....

    I read about it in 1999, in a book called Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America.

    Yeah, war was declared, but in those days no one was looking. No one cared whether al Qaida and Iraq were linked either.

    That's because it just wasn't an election issue.

    Truth these days depends on political considerations.

    For what it's worth, I have posted about the connection between al Qaida and Iraq connection in this blog repeatedly (here, here, here, here, and here.)

    UPDATE: Because I have cited it repeatedly in this blog, I think it's appropriate to quote a couple of passages from the Bodansky book.

    This is from page 324:

    ....[T]wo of bin Laden's senior military commanders, Muhammad Abu-Islam and Abdallah Qassim, visited Baghdad between April 25 and May 1 [1998] for discussions with Iraqi intelligence. The importance of these contacts to Baghdad was shown by their meeting with Qusay Hussein, Saddam's son, who is now responsible for intelligence matters and was personally involved in both the Iraqi contribution to the Somalia operation and later the intelligence cooperation with Iran. Both sides were very satisfied with the results of the negotiations.

    One of the first concrete outcomes of these contacts was Baghdad's agreement to train a new network of Saudi Islamist intelligence operatives and terrorists from among bin Laden's supporters still inside Saudi Arabia. Special clandestine cross-border passages were organized by Iraqi intelligence to enable these Saudis to make it to Iraq without passports or any other documents. The first group of Saudi Islamists crossed over in mid-June for a four-week course in the al-Nasiriyah training camp. Most were trained in intelligence—how to collect intelligence on American targets and plan and launch strikes. The Other Saudis were organized into a network for smuggling weapons and explosives from Iraq into Saudi Arabia, This group has returned to Saudi Arabia and is operational, having smuggled in the first loads of weapons and explosives. Later in the summer a second group of eleven Saudi lslami'stS received a month of training in the most sophisticated guerrilla techniques. By then Iraqi intelligence anticipated a marked expansion in the training of Saudi Islamisrs, for Iraqi intelligence took over two training camps they had previously used for training the Iranian Mujahideen-ul-Khalq.

    Bin Laden moved quickly to solidify the cooperation with Saddam Hussein. In mid-July, Ayrnan al-Zawahiri traveled to Iraq clandestinely. He met senior Iraqi officials, including Taha Yassin Ramadan, to discuss practical modalities for the establishment of bin Laden's base in Iraq, the expansion of training for his mujahideen, and a joint strategy for an anti-U.S. jihad throughout the Arab world and North Africa. Baghdad could not have been more helpful, conditioning its support on bin Laden's promise not to incite the Iraqi Muslim Brotherhood into establishing an Islamic state in Iraq; in other words not to compete with Saddam Hussein's reign. While in Iraq, Zawahiri was also taken to visit a potential site for bin Laden's headquarters near al-Fallujah and terrorist training camps run by Iraqi intelligence. In al-Nasiriyah he saw the training provided to Saudi Islamists. In the name of Osama bin Laden, Zawahiri assumed responsibility for a training camp in the al-Nasiriyah desert established by Iraqi intelligence in about 1997 for terrorists from Saudi Arabia and the gulf states.

    From page 346:

    In retrospect, the U.S.-Iraqi crisis of mid-November [1998] was the turning point in galvanizing Baghdad's resolve to strike out and sponsor an unprecedented terrorist campaign. A well-connected Arab source stated that "Saddam Hussein became convinced for the first time that Washington was seriously seeking to topple him and had decided to bring him down in any possible way. He chose to confront [the United States] with all possible means) too, particularly extremism and terrorism) since he had nothing else to lose." Convinced that he had Co act urgently, Hussein held lengthy discussions with the two people he truly trusts -- his sons Qusay and Uday -- on how to confront the Unired States and spoil its designs against their family. Qusay argued, and Saddam ultimately agreed, that there was no way emaciated Iraq could deflect a determined American attempt to assassinate them and bring down the regime. The key to their survival was in deterring such a campaign in the first place through a series of devastating anti-American terrorist attacks that would persuade Washington of the futility of challenging the Hussein regime. The option of conducting such a terrorist campaign under bin Laden's "deniable" banner was irresistible.

    A few days after this conversation Qusay dispatched rwo of his most loyal intelligence operatives—al-Jubburi and al-Shihabi—to Afghanistan. They held a series of lengthy meetings with bin Laden, Zawahiri, Abu-Hafs, and other senior Islamist terrorist commanders in an isolated building not far from Kabul. Al-Jubburi and al Shihabi brought with them detailed lists of Iraq's contributions to the joint effort, including the anticipated arrival of the chemical weapons experts. They then worked out a detailed, coordinated plan for a protracted anti-American war. They decided that spectacular and martyrdom operations should be carried out throughout the world. In addition bin Laden agreed that Islamist hit teams should hunt down Iraqi opposition leaders who cooperated with the United States and the West against the Hussein regime. Bin Laden assured the Iraqis that the Islamists could now reach areas that Iraqi intelligence could not. The series of meetings concluded with an agreement to study closely and formulate details of specific operations and then meet again to decide on the first round of strikes.

    Bear in mind that this wasn't written as Bush election material. In fact, it was written two years before September 11!

    This contradicts the common view that al Qaida only established a presence in Iraq because of "Bush's war." If anything, it shows that the Iraqis decided to team up with al Qaida because of Bill Clinton.

    My apologies for any misspellings in the above, for I had to transcribe the damn thing, and it wasn't easy.

    Hope someone can use it!

    UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds notes that it is an antiwar "article of faith" that there was "no connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda." He's interested in hearing their response to the Hayes book, but I'm not holding my breath.

    (Most likely, the response will consist of attacks on the author. Should I be holding my breath?)

    MORE: Here's an October 7, 2002 statement from George Tenet, which pretty much confirms what I read in 1999:

    "We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda going back a decade. Credible information indicates that Iraq and Al Qaeda have discussed safe haven and reciprocal nonaggression. Since Operation Enduring Freedom, we have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of al-Qaeda members, including some that have been in Baghdad. We have credible reporting that al-Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire W.M.D. capabilities. The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to al-Qaeda members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs."
    Forgive me for not being more surprised.

    And even Newsweek and ABC reported similar stuff, back in 1999:

    Newsweek magazine ran an article in its January 11, 1999, issue headed "Saddam + Bin Laden?" "Here's what is known so far," it read:
    Saddam Hussein, who has a long record of supporting terrorism, is trying to rebuild his intelligence network overseas--assets that would allow him to establish a terrorism network. U.S. sources say he is reaching out to Islamic terrorists, including some who may be linked to Osama bin Laden, the wealthy Saudi exile accused of masterminding the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa last summer.

    Four days later, on January 15, 1999, ABC News reported that three intelligence agencies believed that Saddam had offered asylum to bin Laden.

    Intelligence sources say bin Laden's long relationship with the Iraqis began as he helped Sudan's fundamentalist government in their efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. . . . ABC News has learned that in December, an Iraqi intelligence chief named Faruq Hijazi, now Iraq's ambassador to Turkey, made a secret trip to Afghanistan to meet with bin Laden. Three intelligence agencies tell ABC News they cannot be certain what was discussed, but almost certainly, they say, bin Laden has been told he would be welcome in Baghdad.
    More here. Surprise, surprise, surprise!

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for his link to this post, and a warm welcome to all InstaPundit readers!

    UPDATE: The above post by Glenn Reynolds on the Hayes book appeared in hard copy in the Blog Cabin section of today's Philadelphia Inquirer.

    Glad to see it!

    MORE: reports that Iraq's new Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has "vouched for the authenticity of evidence that links Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attacks."

    Though the notion that Iraq played a role in 9/11 is considered heresy in U.S. intelligence circles, newly appointed Iraq Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said in December that a document purported to be from Saddam's intelligence service that places lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta in Baghdad two months before the attacks was indeed "genuine."

    "We are uncovering evidence all the time of Saddam's involvement with al-Qaeda," Allawi told the London Telegraph at the time. "But this is the most compelling piece of evidence that we have found so far. It shows that not only did Saddam have contacts with al-Qaeda, he had contact with those responsible for the September 11 attacks."

    As reported by the Telegraph at the time, the document - a handwritten memo dated July 1, 2001 - provides a short resume of a three-day "work program" Atta had undertaken at Abu Nidal's terrorist training camp in Baghdad.

    Nidal was executed by Saddam's secret police in August 2002 in what some suspect was a bid to keep him from telling what he knew about 9/11. (HT G. Gordon Liddy Show.)

    Whether this view will continue to be regarded as "heresy" remains to be seen.

    MORE: Deroy Murdock offers more intriguing evidence on the Iraqi connection with Mohamed Atta, including perfidy by the New York Times:

    Czech authorities have defended their story despite the American media's valiant efforts to discredit it.

    On October 21, 2002, the New York Times reported on its front page that "The Czech president, Vaclav Havel, has quietly told the White House he has concluded that there is no evidence to confirm earlier reports that Mohamed Atta, the leader in the Sept. 11 attacks, met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague just months before the attacks on New York and Washington, according to Czech officials."

    Havel quickly spurned the Times's creative writing. Within hours, his spokesman, Ladislav Spacek, dubbed the Times story "a fabrication." He added, "Nothing like this has occurred."

    That same day, Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross reasserted his government's finding, complete with unique spellings of the names of two key characters:

    "In this moment we can confirm that during the next stay of Mr. Muhammad Atta in the Czech Republic, there was the contact with the official of the Iraqi intelligence, Mr. Al Ani, Ahmed Khalin Ibrahim Samir, who was on the 22nd April 2001 expelled from the Czech Republic on the basis of activities which were not compatible with the diplomatic status."

    Two days later, America's so-called "Paper of Record" retreated. On October 23, 2002, it quoted Spacek, Havel's spokesman. "The president did not call the White House about this. The president never spoke about Atta, not with Bush, not with anyone else." (Via InstaPundit.)


    posted by Eric at 07:53 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBacks (3)

    Test results keep bugging me

    Well, it's Friday, and as usual, I am bugging myself to death by taking more silly online tests. It's the price I must pay to support the War Against Seriousness -- a war I take most seriously! But, to paraphrase Drayton Sawyer, just because there's some things I gotta do, that doesn't mean I gotta like it....

    On to the tests. By now I'm onto almost all of them.


    The first one -- The Cicada Test -- , while fun, gave me a result which makes little to no sense, but here it is anyway:

    Take the Cicada Test!

    (Via Jay Solo.)

    Trading what? For what?

    Let's see.


    Most of the political online tests I have seen have told me I am some sort of libertarian or other, and there's a new one -- A Satirical Political Beliefs Assessment Test -- which is no exception.

    The following description comes from the test's author, Donald J. Hagen:

    A Humorous Political Party Quiz to Test

    If You're an Archconservative, Leftwing Wacko,

    Antigovernment Libertine or a Commie Sympathizer

    It is a fun test, and what I most enjoyed about it is that the answers are given in advance, in color, so you know right away whether you are a conservative, a liberal, a libertarian, or a communist. I found myself 80% libertarian, but able to agree with many of the conservative answers as well.

    What else could a Trading Spaces Cicada be other than a libertarian? But is seventeen years spent living underground worth a few measly days of hedonistic liberty, followed by an undignified death?

    And what about the cicada killers? I don't especially like the idea of coming out to breed, only to be dragged back underground, paralyzed with poison, and eaten alive by a bunch of young WASP larvae! This fearsome terroristic spectacle goes mostly unreported, but many a wholesome American cicada suffers precisely such a fate as the one displayed here!


    A fate worse than death itself!

    Why aren't we being told about these things? Is the liberal media trying to instill feelings of complacency? WASP appeasement? Wholesale surrender?

    I don't like it!


    As to the search for a partner, here's "THE LOVE TEST" -- which promised to tell me what partner I seek:

    CRAZY ONE. You need crazy partners. You dont mind
    if he/she takes alc or drugs or smokes he is
    not allowed to be boring. Open-Minded for
    everything our partner should spent much time
    with you. Your partner shall be spontaneous and
    love danger. It is not that important if she/he
    is rich or if he/she cuts his nails she/he must
    follow you .You take the domination over the
    relationship, you decide most of the times
    where to go. If the sex is not good (any
    more)you quit the relationship
    For you it is better to leave than to see your
    love restrained.
    PLEASE VOTE, I want to know what you think about my
    quiz, I worked hard on it.You can always
    message me or tell me how I can improve that
    quiz. Ill sure write back.

    ~THE big LOVE TEST!! What do you need? With PICS! For girls and boys!~
    brought to you by Quizilla

    But I don't want to be followed!

    Or bugged!

    See what I mean about these tests?


    The final test -- What Monty Python Character are you? -- offers a small ray of hope, because I get to be King Arthur, who many historians these days seem to think was a Roman holdover of one sort or another. However, the controversy continues, and I doubt it will ever be settled.

    Well, u-- um, can we come up and have a look?

    What Monty Python Character are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Whoever or whatever Arthur was, I am glad to be someone who hates the French and upholds the Classical theme of this blog!

    posted by Eric at 01:04 PM | Comments (1)

    Who asked me, anyway?

    I really shouldn't call myself a "war blogger" because I don't write much about the war. I don't like to write extensively about things I don't know about, and I just don't have access to anything except publicly available information on the war in Iraq. It bothers the hell out of me to see a story one day, then see another two or three contrasting versions of it, or else find out that the story everyone thought to be true has turned out to be a fabrication, or else greatly exaggerated. For example, I am still sore about the notorious "museum looting scandal" which turned out to be nothing. Yet I was outraged by what I thought was the destruction of irreplaceable artifacts, and I argued that this showed a lack of preparation, etc. Then I saw I'd been had.

    The "wedding attack" is another, more recent one. I read the first reports in the Philadelphia Inquirer, but I was too cynical to comment. Then I saw the story change, and change some more. I suppose one can link to these stories and comment on them, and while I think people should do that, I just get this sinking feeling that it's a waste of time to expend energy on something that might not be what it seems to be. So, notwithstanding my support for the war, I don't want to shoot off my mouth in the dark.

    Bill Whittle's "Strength" essay was a notable exception, because it doesn't require reliance on the latest breakdown of the latest version of the battle with Moktada al Sadr's Mahdi Militia or the accuracy of the latest photos purporting to come from abu Ghraib.

    Similarly, I was intrigued by Cathy Seipp's reference to Dieppe:

    a bloody but necessary dress rehearsal to D-Day that established the futility of invading a fortified European port.
    There isn't much argument now that Dieppe was a "disaster" or even (to borrow from Whittle), a "catastrophe."

    Here's the (hardly pro-war) BBC on Dieppe:

    The Dieppe Raid was planned by British Combined Operations HQ and GHQ Home Forces. The Canadians were keen to be involved and the 2nd Canadian Division under Major General JH Roberts was nominated to take part. Just under 5,000 Canadians were joined by 1,075 British and they landed at Dieppe on 19 August 1942.

    The force left from five different British ports divided into 13 groups. The men had support from a naval force of 237 warships, and eight destroyers opened fire as the troops were landing. A combined Allied air force prepared for a battle with the Luftwaffe.

    The attack was launched at dawn and covered a ten-mile front taking in the towns and villages of Varengeville, Pourville, Puys and Berneval. A small German convoy had already exchanged fire with part of the landing force, blowing their cover so the essential element of surprise was gone. Some of the force was landed late or in the wrong place, both fatal mistakes. They immediately came under attack from German troops led by General Kurt Zeitzler. Allied air reconnaissance had failed to locate gun positions hidden in the cliffs surrounding the port and it was these that caused such devastation.

    The infantry landed as planned but they had poor support and the German defenders were quick to recover. The tanks that got ashore were caught in roadblocks. Roberts ordered two of his reserve units ashore; Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal were pinned down and the Royal Marie 'A' Commando were fortunate to have a commanding officer who turned back some of the landing craft to avoid fatalities.

    Within a few hours, 3,367 Canadian men were either killed, wounded or captured. Of the British, 275 died. One destroyer and 33 landing craft were lost, with 550 seamen killed. The air battle was no more successful: 106 aircraft went down. Only one commando (No 4) led by Lord Lovat had success; the Hess Battery on the right flank was destroyed and the commando evacuated to sea with few casualties. Captain Porteous (RA) won the Victoria Cross as a result.

    The raid left the British administration red-faced. It was admitted that an air bombardment prior to landing would in future be ordered. A need for improved amphibious capabilities was also recognised. Allied commanders claimed that valuable military information was gained from the Dieppe Raid and Admiral Lord Mountbatten commented that 'for every soldier who died at Dieppe, ten were saved on D-Day'. No written record remains of the Chiefs of Staff approving the raid and it is possible that Mountbatten proceeded without authorisation. There was no denying that the raid was an expensive fiasco at an important juncture in the war.

    It doesn't take much imagination to wonder how a similar raid would be evaluated today. But that's war. War, if it is to be conducted in a serious manner, really can't be held hostage to election-year strategizing.

    The war in Iraq strikes me as having two very different components: one is to fight radical Islamists who want to kill me and every other American, and the other (apparently), is to introduce democracy to a place which has not had it in recent memory, and if the radical Islamists have their way, will never obtain it. Iraq is further complicated by the fact that the place seethes with internal strife between Kurds, Shiites, and Sunni Muslims -- many of whom would love to slaughter each other in the hope of gaining power. Under Saddam Hussein, there was a ghastly "balance of power" which kept everyone in a state of terror, thus holding back any hope of genuine self determination by any of these Balkanized groups. Perhaps unwittingly, the United States military, whether are loved or not, serves as a stronger force right now than any of these individual groups. The war against terrorism aside, when the U.S. leaves Iraq (which will happen, barring a long-term occupation), I fear it will be as natural for the Iraqis to fight among themselves for power as it was for Muslims and Hindus in India and for Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, and Herzegovinians in Yugoslavia. Lord Mountbatten, despite his considerable diplomatic skills, proved unable to prevent the breakup of India into India and Pakistan, because with the British leaving, their stabilizing force no longer stood in the way of certain genocide.

    It was the same thing when Tito died, and that is because power abhors a vacuum. Is the U.N. up to it? I doubt it. Success in Iraq this becomes a question of how success is defined. Removing Saddam Hussein was a good thing, but that does not mean that what follows will be wonderful. What I can see plainly is that al Qaida is all over Iraq, and al Qaida is the number one enemy in this war.

    A stable Iraq, while desirable, is not as important as the primary goal.

    I know it's cruel, but that's war.

    If people don't like it, they might ask who started it.

    Those who think Bush started it are in my opinion very wrong. This war is a lot bigger than Bush, and it started years before Bush was in office. It escalated just months after he took office.

    The difference is, we are now fighting back, and we weren't before. Arguing over tactics is one thing, but to argue that we shouldn't be in this war strikes me as even less logical than it would have been to argue -- after Dieppe -- that we shouldn't have been in World War II.

    The World War II analogy, of course, really fails where it comes to war coverage in the media today, because the media had to toe the line and support the war effort.

    Here's an example:

    The avowed press policy of Admiral E. J. King, Chief of Naval Operations, was "Don't tell them anything until the war is over, then tell them who won." He was not, I think, being facetious. However, journalists were put in uniform, with the equivalent rank of major. The Army and Navy provided support. There was pretty heavy censorship. Most didn't complain.
    Clearly unworkable today. But so is extensive war blogging, for me.

    I'll say this: I am biased against the enemies who attacked us on September 11, who before that were behind the operation in Somalia, the 1993 World Trade Center terrorist bombing, the Khobar Towers terrorist bombing, the African Embassies terrorist bombings, and the U.S.S. Cole terrorist bombing.

    And who (though some still doubt it) have repeatedly declared war on the United States and want to kill all Americans.

    UPDATE: In a thought-provoking piece, Wretchard from the Belmont Club highlights the interrelationship between media and war:

    There is now no real distinction between winning the "media war" and cleaning out a sniper's nest in Ramadi; between Abu Ghraib the prison and Abu Ghraib the media event. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)
    The problem with "winning the media war" is that it reminds me of litigation, which I hated. The other side throws meaningless shit at you in the hope of wearing you down, and you throw meaningless shit right back at them. Truth is largely irrelevant. If you like to look for and write about truth, but you support only one side of the war, you therefore tend to have a conflict in your writing.

    Take a for-instance. The media cries that U.S. troops detained a group of wives of enemy combatants, and raped them. If I am on the side of the troops, then I will suspect a media lie, and look to undermine it. The media, being against the war, will do everything they can to stand by their atrocity story. Truth becomes largely secondary. And considering that the "facts" in these cases usually come from a varieity of conflicting sources, the "truth" may never be known.

    Rather tough for those who look for truth. If the truth is not known, and will never be known, then the only truth becomes whatever helps win the war.

    And the bottom line is, I just want the U.S. to win this damned thing. Considering my stated bias, a good argument can be made for just ignoring all debate.

    posted by Eric at 11:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)

    Nothing's abuzz?

    Well, I finally found the time for a post, but things are looking kind of sleepy in the blogosphere right now, and I'm on the verge of sleep myself. Not much earth-shaking news (you know it's bad when the front page shows a cicada buzzing President Bush's head!), and it seems the media is taking a break from anti-gun stories, so my blogfather Jeff didn't write a forced Weekly Check on the Gun Bias (but read this and this). Still, Jeff's having a ball with the biker candidate John Kerry, who's having a hell of a time trying to decide whether to be nominated. What are they waiting for, anyway? Another terrorist attack?

    Hope this isn't the calm before the storm....

    As to the cicadas' harassment of Bush being front page news, I will have my readers know that my dog Puff has plenty of experience with the buggers.

    The last time a cicada decided to sit on my knee while I had my camera handy, Puff was happily, unsuspectingly, sitting in the yard. The perspective shows them to be about the same size.


    But eventually (with a little prompting), Puff came over to investigate. When the cicada moved, Puff suddenly lurched at the thing, and his head was a blur:


    I told him the cicada was his friend, and he calmed down -- just a bit -- allowing me to take a more civilized photograph. Well, I had to calm him down a bit:


    Cicadas cause indigestion, you know....

    (At least, so says the Inky, which always keeps the bugosphere informed.)

    UPDATE: Hey, speaking of nothing, I hear there's a book coming out, which will no doubt detail all the things that Bill Clinton did about al Qaida's 1993 operation in Somalia, the 1993 World Trade Center terrorist bombing, the Khobar Towers terrorist bombing, the African Embassies terrorist bombings, and the U.S.S. Cole terrorist bombing....

    On second thought, the book can't just be Bill Clinton's What I Did About Al Qaida, or else it will have to go on this list.

    posted by Eric at 11:28 PM | Comments (4)

    A libertarian is a liberal who's just been called a conservative, or a conserative who's just been called a liberal!

    Time for blogging is in very short supply today, but every once in a while I find something that really captures my imagination....

    I seriously suggest that everyone interested in the First Amendment read this post by Jeff Jarvis. It's about The Week's conference on indecency, in which a variety of big name journalists -- left, right, and libertarian -- weigh on with fascinating pronouncements on media censorship.

    A couple of gems, one from Bill Maher:

    "The biggest threat of censorship is on college campuses. They are out of control.... The kids today. Somebody needs to slap them. They do not understand what free speech is. And it's coming from the left...." He tells a story of speaking at Smith and a student who walked out of watching the final episode of Ellen because it was boring was threatened with being thrown off of campus for a "hate crime."
    And one from Michelle Malkin:
    Malkin: "Those Abu Ghraib pictures were journalistic pornography." She says that if you ask a journalist to report on the details of partial-birth abortion "they all of a sudden get too delicate."
    And I'll let Maher have next to the last word:
    "What [Monica Crowley]'s saying is that the definition of a liberal is a conservative who's just been censored, if I may paraphrase that."
    (I have known many a conservative who was a liberal who'd been censored too!)

    Read it all!

    posted by Eric at 05:39 PM | Comments (4)

    Oh brother!

    One of the most irritating things I've had to put up with as a blogger is not disagreement, which I can handle. It's when people put words in my mouth, then attack and refute their own words as if I had said them. This is an ancient rhetorical trick, and it really shouldn't require much of a defense, because there is no need to defend what one did not say. But then, if one remains silent, the folks who launch this kind of attack will maintain that they defeated your "argument" -- even though the argument was constructed by them and not you, and was thus theirs to defeat.

    Most of the time, this sort of attack has come from leftists (example here), but today I saw it coming from someone I can't call a leftist, but don't want to call a rightist. He calls himself a Jacksonian Christian and he finds me guilty of hypocrisy based not on things I said here, but on things he must have wanted me to say. Excerpt:

    ....the writer hopes that the sexual connection is made by the public in hopes that such behavior would be seen as acceptable.

    G: How so?

    S: Who would you rather be confronted by, your mugger or your murderer?

    G: The mugger, without doubt!

    S: So you approve of the next mugger who assaults you?

    G: I see! False dilemma. By demanding that a choice be made between the lesser of the two evils, actual torture and sexually based humiliation, the author hopes to obscure the fact that the American people have the choice of choosing to support neither.

    S: Very good, but another irony remains.

    G: How so?

    S: The motive imputed to our brothers is sexual repression, with the implied threat of violence, while the author's motives is disinterested freedom and liberty.

    G: But the accusation is not true. If anything, the evidence of honor slayings, the imposition of the veil, and of female circumcision (or I should say, clitoral mutilation), upon the part of the Islamists, with a corresponding lack of such acts on the part of Christians, should prove that a difference should be made between the two.

    S: Not entirely. There may not be honor slayings, but the concept of dishonoring the family via sexual indescretions still exists. Christians do not impose the veil, but insist on modesty in dress and behavior. Female circumcision is imposed to physically destroy the supposed mainspring of infidelity. What did the Crusaders use to ensure fidelity while they were gone?

    G: Chastity belts. A barbaric, ignorant time, since those who wore them incurred infections that either killed them or rendered them infertile. Not much different in effect than clitoral mutilation, and much more deadly, because the belt prevented medical intervention.

    S: Correct. However, the goal was to preserve the woman's capacity for pleasure as well as her chastity. It's use miserably failed due to incompetence, like everything else about the Crusades. The intent of the alternative was to destroy the possiblity of pleasure alltogether, by design and full intent, not by accident. Today, we insist on the will and devotion of both partners to discharge the task of defending the honor of the marriage bed while they are absent from each other.

    G: So there is no difference between us Christians and the Islamists?

    S: Only in implementation, and only marginally in motive and degree. And therein lies the irony.

    G: How so?

    S: Because the author pleads that the differences between what happened at Abu Ghraib and what happened there while Saddam ran it are also those of motive, degree, and implementation.

    G: I see! He implies that such differences are relevant for his argument, but not for ours! Indeed, he deliberately counfounds and conceals the differences between Islamists and Christians, and hoping that nobody notices.

    S: Indeed, hoping to transfer the just wrath one feels at the foul deeds of the Islamists unjustly upon Christians who insist on modesty, discretion, and moderation.

    G: So he is a hypocrite?

    S: Yes, but see that you do not mention it while we are there. We would be guests there, and should not be insulting, no matter how true it is or how deserving he is of it.

    G: My thanks for sparing me that indescretion! However, what does that have to do with the question of substance and their good opinion?

    S: Do you covet the good opinion of a hypocrite? Theoretically speaking, of course.

    G: No, because he may be hypocritical about it. Theoretically speaking, of course.

    S: And what harm would come of his bad opinion?

    G: Unless we fell to blows, naught whatsoever.

    S: So, do you fear anything now?

    G: No. Let us proceed to defend our brothers in the faith, then!

    S: We already have.


    G: What of our witness?

    S: Pleasing the ears or mores of those in the world, and who appear hostile to the things of God, is not the way of giving our witness. The Christ did not say that the world would know we are his disciples by being nice and deferential to those hostile to him and his ways. Or being generous and charitable to the unfortunate. They would know us by the way we loved one another, those who know and love him.

    G: In that, I fear, we Christians are not as good as the Islamists, who rise up in response to the pains and sufferings of their bretheren more readily than we rise up in response to the sufferings of our own.

    S: Quite Right.

    I'm not sure who the S and the G are in this dialogue, but they certainly have me saying and implying a lot of things I neither said nor implied.

    I guess I should look at this piecemeal.

    the writer hopes that the sexual connection is made by the public in hopes that such behavior would be seen as acceptable

    How the hell do they know what I hoped? I never argued that sexual humiliation is acceptable; only that I do not see it as the equivalent of physical torture. While I would prefer sexual humiliation (I mentioned the man leashed as a dog) to physical torture, to say that I hoped such behavior would be seen as acceptable is absurd.

    Bear in mind that I was responding to a man named Robert Knight, who made the illogical assertion that homosexuals, pornography, and Howard Stern (!) are guilty of creating a climate which led to Abu Ghraib, and the beheading of Nick Berg. I cannot imagine anything more ridiculous, and hence my post (as well as an earlier one).

    False dilemma. By demanding that a choice be made between the lesser of the two evils, actual torture and sexually based humiliation, the author hopes to obscure the fact that the American people have the choice of choosing to support neither.

    Where did I "demand" that such a "choice" be made? Both are bad, but saying the latter is worse than the former is as valid as if I said that beatings and sleep deprivation are not as bad as being fed feet-first into a plastic shredder. If I said the latter, would that be a "false dilemma?"

    S: The motive imputed to our brothers is sexual repression, with the implied threat of violence, while the author's motives is disinterested freedom and liberty.

    G: But the accusation is not true. If anything, the evidence of honor slayings, the imposition of the veil, and of female circumcision (or I should say, clitoral mutilation), upon the part of the Islamists, with a corresponding lack of such acts on the part of Christians, should prove that a difference should be made between the two.

    First, what's with this "brothers" business? If Robert Knight is the man's brother, then I see his point. But if not, then why does he call Knight a "brother"? Are not all men brothers? Or does he refer only to Christians as brothers? If so, does he include Christians who do not subscribe to his particular interpretations of religious texts? Or are those Christians who disagree with him not Christians? I don't know, but because of the tone, I tend to suspect the latter.

    As to "sexual repression, with the implied threat of violence," I don't impute such a thing to anyone except those who believe in it. Those who would utilize the power of the state to arrest and imprison other people for unapproved, consenting sexual acts between adults do, by their own admission, believe in sexual repression by means of an explicit threat of violence, directly applied to the sexual offender. I don't believe it is a good form of Christianity, but in fairness they have just as much right to call themselves Christians as I do. What bothers me is when they assert that those who don't share their view are not Christians.

    the evidence of honor slayings, the imposition of the veil, and of female circumcision (or I should say, clitoral mutilation), upon the part of the Islamists, with a corresponding lack of such acts on the part of Christians, should prove that a difference should be made between the two

    Damned right there is a difference between the two, and I have said so in this blog. Why the need to attack me for saying things I not only did not say, but do not believe?

    But that's because right after that I must stand convicted of "deliberately counfound[ing] and conceal[ing] the differences between Islamists and Christians, and hoping that nobody notices."

    As I have said before, there is a vast difference between Christian and Muslim fundamentalists:

    Despite my regular differences with Biblical literalists of the Christian variety, I should make it clear that Koranic literalists are far worse -- and far more dangerous.
    Once again, words are placed in my mouth even though my opinions are quite the opposite, and beyond that, I am said to have hoped nobody noticed what I never said and do not believe!


    Then there's the conclusion, which I find troublesome.

    we Christians are not as good as the Islamists, who rise up in response to the pains and sufferings of their bretheren more readily than we rise up in response to the sufferings of our own.

    That depends on how you define "brethren," doesn't it? There are Muslims like Sayyid Kutb who believe that Muslims who disagree with them are not Muslims, and (as I have said before) there are Christians who believe that Christians who disagree with them are not Christians.

    Of course, I have not read enough of this blog to know one way or another whether he believes those who disagree with his interpretations of religious texts are not Christians, so I will not put words in his mouth. (Saying someone said something he did not say is inconsistent even with my low standards.)

    posted by Eric at 11:09 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (1)

    Berkeley is in the United States....

    When I lived in Berkeley full time, I used to read the East Bay Express regularly. Perhaps I still should, because this article shocked me to my cynical core.

    An excerpt:

    "....I came to Berkeley -- because of its strong romantic aura of the Free Speech Movement and Mario Savio," he recalls. "Then I got here and discovered that that light seems to have been extinguished. You have this vitriol. You feel it everywhere. Berkeley is now the epicenter of real hatred."

    Almost three years later, Weinberg graduates this month as a student whose days at Cal were marked by what he calls "pinnacles of horror," in the pinched tone of a man betrayed. He remembers pro-Palestinian protesters insisting that Israeli border crossings are as bad as Nazi death camps. He remembers the glass front door of Berkeley's Hillel building -- where he attends Friday night services -- shattered by a cinderblock, with the message FUCK JEWS scrawled nearby. He remembers the spray-painted swastikas discovered one Monday morning last September on the walls of four lecture rooms in LeConte Hall accompanied by the chilling bilingual message, "Die, Juden. " (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    It's bad enough that there is anti-Semitism in the Mideast and in Europe. But to see it flourishing in the United States, to see leftists going along with it, means something is very, very wrong.

    Here's Abdel Malik Ali, an African-American imam affiliated with Oakland's Masjid Al Islam mosque, addressing the sixth annual Muslim Students Association West Conference, held on at the Berkeley campus in February:

    "Neo-cons are all Zionist Jews," he continued. He scanned the hall, wondering aloud whether Jewish infiltrators were among his listeners. If so, he had a message for them: "You made all the mistakes we wanted you to make. You went after Cynthia McKinney" -- the outspoken African-American former Georgia congresswoman who was frequently cited as the most anti-Semitic member of Congress. "So now black folks don't like you. ... You're walking into all the traps we want you to walk into. You hijacked American foreign policy."
    There's much more, including an account of the notorious revival of the canard that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was not a forgery, but was in fact written by Jews. Assaults on Jews, vandalism, spitting and more. Read about all that and more. It's all rabid, classic, anti-Semitism. Except it's trendy and new, and right there in the home of the Free Speech Movement.

    Is this what Mario Savio and his followers had in mind? I doubt it.

    I forwarded the East Bay Express link to a good friend in Berkeley, and here's his partial reaction:

    It has now gotten to the point that I often lie about being Jewish when I am on campus, and I'm asked about my ethnicity. I'm not ashamed of being Jewish. Its just a matter of personal safety. When I am in a situation in which I am unsure about the people around me, I say I'm Greek. I used to do that in Baltimore 30, 40 years ago. "Xxxxxxx" [name omitted] is a common last name in Macedonia (northeastern Greece). Nobody beats up Greeks, so its relatively safe. Of course, it is sad that I feel that I need to do this.
    Damned right it's sad. It's more than sad. I've known this man for over twenty years, but I never knew until now that he has had to go out of his way to keep his Jewishness in the closet.

    It's a disgusting and shameful situation, and I can't believe that I am writing about the unbelievable spectacle of a Jewish friend being forced into "passing" for reasons of personal safety.

    Readers should not make the mistake of dismissing this as "Oh well, what do you expect from a place like Berkeley?" Berkeley is not only part of the United States, it has been a trend-setting place for many years. I've watched as things like rent control, bans on smoking, attacks on the free market, a vicious intolerance for all things branded politically incorrect, and much more spread from Berkeley to the East Coast, then gradually made their way across the rest of the country until they were "in."

    And now, anti-Semitism is "in" in Berkeley.

    Anyone who thinks it will remain confined to Berkeley is mistaken.

    posted by Eric at 02:05 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (2)

    Scorching elegance

    Earlier today I drove to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where I saw some nice old Victorian houses. I thought I'd share a few which typify the area.

    Here's one which was surrounded by trees:


    And here's one which wasn't:


    The temperature was well into the nineties. Here's one which reflects the heat:


    Unlike most of the Victorians in California, these places have seen extremes of hot and cold, and are none the worse for wear.

    They remind me of the first car I ever bought (a prewar 1941 Plymouth), because they're built to last.

    posted by Eric at 12:54 AM | Comments (1)

    All in favor, say "BUSH KNEW!"

    While it is not the purpose of this blog to refute or debunk the innumerable 9/11 conspiracy theories, I just can't ignore them anymore, because they are rapidly becoming mainstream. Once again, if you don't believe me, try google. I'm inclined generally to agree with Nick Packwood (the one and only Ghost of a flea) that this is a waste of time, because there's no arguing with the invincibly ignorant. Indeed, there's no better way to say it than Glenn Reynolds' quote from Schiller:

    Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain.
    So, if the gods themselves find this exercise impossible, I may well be wasting my time.

    But I am still pissed, and I have my blog, so where else can I go but here?

    I previously mentioned a series of 9/11 conspiracy conferences, Phase 1 in San Francisco, and Phase 2 in Toronto on May 25. Considering the hearings in Washington, the timing is no accident, and considering the extreme anti-Bush hatred, it is also no accident that these theories are gaining momentum. Ultimately, they may unwittingly help Bush (for reasons I've already explained), but that really isn't my problem, because I am not writing about this to help Bush or Kerry. I am just fried that well-meaning people are being suckered into this stuff so readily, and that not enough is being offered in refutation. Sitting back while lies pile up strikes me as a dangerous thing to do -- perhaps even more dangerous than the waste of time it is to attempt to refute them.

    The two leading minds behind these theories are Barrie Zwicker and Michael Ruppert.

    Zwicker, a Marxist author/activist and the leading moderator of Phase 1 in San Francisco, stated his case succinctly at that conference:

    My offering is that 9/11 was what the anarchist Bakunin called "the propaganda of the act." That it was "Reichstag Fire 2001." That it was the greatest deception of its kind ever foisted. And that's saying something, in light of the long and totally-neglected history of this kind of war-triggering deception perpetrated by powerful special interests to sway public opinion in favour of deadly agendas that almost always result in serious grief for just about everyone.

    My offering is that 9/11 was arranged to jump start the so-called war on terrorism, which in turn is the cover and heat exchanger for hot wars, these being the toxic tip of the machinery for world domination. At the levers is a clique of neocons that has hijacked this country's foreign policy at the behest largely and to the benefit mainly of Big Arms and Big Oil, with the rest of the worst at the top, giving the thumbs-up and boarding the gravy train.

    Judging by your response to the questions I posed, the focus tonight within the general subject 9/11, may tend to be:

    Not whether the take on 9/11 is along the lines I've expressed, but on the who's and the how's and the what-to-do's.

    I hope we'll find time to address visions of a better future, one much freer of vast dark tax-funded bureaucracies of deceit, deception, assassination and destabilization of civil societies abroad -- and at home, in your country, and in mine.

    A prerequisite for opening up a wider path to that better future is that a larger percentage of the hypnotized public than at present have its patriotic trance broken and be willing to question the provenance of 9/11 and its iconic power.

    The hypocritical verbiage and bald false assertions of George Bush and his dark cabal of reactionary revolutionaries and oiligarchs who "mix greed, inept economic management, business corruption, crony capitalism, triumphalist Pentagon sable-rattling and Axis of Evil foreign policy theology," have been deconstructed by most people around the world. (By the way, I don't want to be accused of plagiarization. Most of what I just said is a direct quote from Kevin Phillips, a leading Republican theoretician.)

    Money power, firepower and propaganda power are all spilling out of the closet. What's still mainly hidden in the closet, is the power of deception and the extent of deception. And the single deception which, if exposed in a politically-relevant way, would have the most impact, is the most brazen deception of all, 9/11. That's why this meeting and others like it are crucial.

    Well, Zwicker's right about one thing: the numbers are all on his side. Judging from the Arab, European, and Canadian "streets," and judging from Google results I've seen, the other side of this argument seems to be very silent.

    (Perhaps because it's all such a waste of time.)

    Zwicker has been identified as the source of former Blair cabinet member (and current Member of Parliament) Michael Meacher's accusations that Bush was behind 9/11, and that the war on terrorism is bogus.

    Fortunately, some really good bloggers have been on top of this stuff. Bill Herbert has debunked Barrie Zwicker repeatedly.

    The above links I found via Damian Penny, who has likewise devoted a great deal of time to debunking the 9/11 conspiracy claims, AND Barrie Zwicker: here, here, and here. (The latter link is noteworthy for documenting a rather interesting far left/far right convergence.)

    Parenthetically, Mr. Penny links to this valuable post from Jeff Jarvis that the conspiracy crowd is now turning Nick Berg into a political pawn (unfortunately with the help of his father, which shows that family disagreements sometimes survive even tragic deaths).

    There's an excellent web site -- REFUTING THE 9/11 CONSPIRACY THEORIES -- which goes into great detail with lots of links.

    I don't mean to belabor my point, but I think more people should say something, because sites like this spring forth, are copied endlessly, and multiply. They're already dominating the Google hits.

    What's next? 9/11 conspiracy copycat blogs? So that commentators can claim that consensus is changing in "the blogosphere"?

    And what is public opinion, after all, but a game of numbers?

    Forgive my cynicism.

    UPDATE: An observation by Andrew Sullivan offers confirmation of my (long-held) suspicion that allowing such conspiracy theories to grow unchecked may very well be conscious strategy:

    As is often the case with president Bush, his style is to allow his severest critics to overplay their hand....
    I think the "BUSH KNEW" canard will resonate with mainstream voters in November. But not the way the conspiracy proponents might hope.

    posted by Eric at 01:25 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (1)

    Bearing an extraordinary strain!

    I know yesterday was Friday (which is normally online test day at Classical Values), and I didn't offer any tests. I have been too swamped to keep up with things.

    And, to make matters worse, I am increasingly dissatisfied with the results of these tests!

    I don't know who writes these tests, but I offer the results anyway.

    You Are a Plain Ole Cup of Joe

    But don't think plain - instead think, uncomplicated
    You're a low maintenance kind of girl... who can hang with the guys
    Down to earth, easy going, and fun! Yup, that's you: the friend everyone invites.
    And your dependable too. Both for a laugh and a sympathetic ear.

    What Kind Of Coffee Are You? Take This Quiz :-)

    Find the Love of Your Life (and More Love Quizzes) at Your New Romance.

    Via Marie at Ordinary Galoot. Marie got the same result, and it's the sanest of all my "strained" results today.


    I can relate to coffee, and I think that ties in with the results of the next test -- "Which American City Are You?"

    Taking a clue from the esteemed Ghost of a flea, who retested himself and found his city had changed, I found that my city remains the same:

    Take the quiz: "Which American City Are You?"

    Your dark exterior masks a caffeine driven activism. You'll take up a cause and you'll get ugly to advance it.

    (No doubt this is because I have unfinished work in Seattle, defacing the Stalin Lenin statue or something.....)


    I should have stopped there, but no! There's more!

    So now for the truly insulting results: "What Mythological Creature Are You?"

    I'm, um, a fairy!

    Faeries are sweet loving beings who love to help
    people. They are not held back by reality and
    love to dream and fly around. You probably are
    very creative and although not the most popular
    person in the world you are probably loved by
    many for your sweet caring personality.

    What Mythological Creature Are You (Many Results and Beautiful Pics)
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Never thought of myself that way. Vampire yes; fairy no!


    Along a similar theme, I saved the worst for last. A test called "Which Dysfunctional Care Bear Are You?" says I'm "Gay Bear!"

    Gay Bear
    Gay Bear

    Which Dysfunctional Care Bear Are You?
    brought to you by Quizilla


    Is this for real or what?

    In my defense I should point out that I never watched the show or bought the products.

    posted by Eric at 01:45 PM | Comments (1)

    Only the Neocons are powerful enough to destroy tall buildings!

    Does the "theory" of the destruction of the World Trade Center by "Muslim pilots" who crashed hijacked planes into the towers defy the laws of physics?

    I don't see why it is incumbent on me to do the debunking, but the kind of people who subscribe to these and other such theories tend to think that if you're silent, it's not because you think these things are beneath you, but rather, it's because you are either willfully ignorant of the "facts" -- or are part of some sinister Osama Bush coverup. This web site seems to be as good a starting point as any:

    The official story has it that the towers collapsed because (a) the only connection between the outer perimeter wall and the central core were flimsy lightweight trusses, (b) the plane impact weakened these trusses and the heat of the fires caused them to buckle until (c) the trusses at the impact floors gave way and (d) the floors above lost their support and fell upon the lower floors causing all floors to pancake.

    That this "truss theory" is false has been demonstrated in The World Trade Center Demolition.

    Firstly, there must have been strong connections between the perimeter wall and the central core so that the wind load on the towers could be transmitted to the central core. If this wind load were not transmitted then the perimeter wall would move several feet in a strong wind and the central core would not have moved, so the floors would have buckled, which never happened. Thus there must have been strong steel girders connecting the perimeter wall to the central core, not merely trusses. These girders would not have suffered catastrophic failure as a result either of the impact or the fires.

    Secondly, the assumption that there were only lightweight trusses connecting the perimeter walls with the central core leads to a calculation of the amount of steel in the towers which is only 2/3rds of the amount known to have gone into their construction, leaving 32,000 tons of steel unaccounted for. Thus the assumption is false. Those 32,000 tons are accounted for by steel girders connecting the perimeter wall to the central core.

    Thirdly, there is photographic evidence of these, officially non-existent, horizontal beams.

    This truss theory is a fabrication which has been spread about to give an appearance of plausibility to the official story as to how the towers collapsed. There have even been a couple of made-for-TV "documentaries", complete with "experts", promoting the truss theory, and suggesting that, because of the trusses, the design of the Twin Towers was fatally flawed, and that the trusses were not properly fire-proofed. The refutation of the truss theory is a refutation of the official "explanation" as to "how the towers fell".

    Another problem with the official story is the fact that both the Twin Towers collapsed evenly and smoothly.

    If the fire melted the floor joints so that the collapse began from the 60th floor downward, the upper floors would be left hanging in the air, supported only by the central columns. This situation would soon become unstable and the top 30 floors would topple over ... How was it that the upper floors simply disappeared instead of crashing to the earth as a block of thousands of tons of concrete and steel? ...

    When the platters [the floors] fell, those quarter-mile high central steel columns (at least from the ground to the fire) should have been left standing naked and unsupported in the air, and then they should have fallen intact or in sections to the ground below, clobbering buildings hundreds of feet from the WTC site like giant trees falling in the forest. But I haven't seen any pictures showing those columns standing, falling, or lying on the ground. Nor have I heard of damage caused by them. — Muslims Suspend Laws of Physics! Part I

    Whatever damage the fires did would not have been evenly distributed (especially in the case of the South Tower, where the jet struck a corner of the building). If the collapse was due to the fires then it too would be irregular, with parts of the Twin Towers remaining intact and connected while other parts fell. But both towers collapsed completely symmetrically, with the floors pancaking upon themselves, exactly as we have seen in other cases of controlled demolition of tall buildings.

    It is interesting to note that the contractor whose people were the first on the WTC collapse scene — to cart away the rubble that remains — is the same contractor who demolished and hauled away the shell of the bombed Oklahoma City Murrah building. The name of the contractor is Controlled Demolition! — The Blockbuster

    Could there be more of a connection between these two building collapses than the identity of the contractor who supervised the removal of the debris?

    Similar theories are explored here, and here.

    To read about this in incredible detail, try googling the phrase "Muslims suspend laws of physics." (I got 702 results.)

    Googling "World Trade Center" and "controlled demolition" brought over 2000 hits.

    Almost every one of these pages argues for a conspiracy theory.

    Well, there's this. In the New Scientist, an engineer explains why it looked like a controlled demolition. But (yawn....) it wasn't:

    The explosions at the higher floors enable the collapse to gain downward momentum as gravity pulls the full weight of unsupported higher floors down into lower floors in a snowballing effect.

    On Tuesday, the impacts of aeroplanes on the higher floors replaced the explosives. The collapse of the higher floors caused the floors below to be crushed. "It cascaded down like an implosion," says Taylor.

    The lack of collapse in higher stories was one reason why the 454 kilogram bomb detonated in the underground garage of the World Trade Center in 1993 failed to destroy the building.

    That's not interesting, of course....

    I couldn't help but notice that the proponents of the controlled demolition theory invariably display pictures showing that the buildings fell neatly down, in straight lines. You have to look elsewhere to see pictures like this. And here's the accompanying story:

    Reports indicate that the impact of each plane compromised the structural integrity of each tower, knocking out perimeter columns and the interior structure. The explosions then caused further damage, sweeping through several floors. "These were airliners scheduled for long flights, full of fuel, causing massive explosions," says Richard M. Kielar, a Tishman senior vice president. "No structure could have sustained this kind of assault," says Kielar.

    As the fires burned, the structural steel on the breached floors and above would have softened and warped because of the intense heat, say sources. Fireproofed steel is only rated to resist 1,500 to 1,600° F. As the structure warped and weakened at the top of each tower, the frame, along with concrete slabs, furniture, file cabinets, and other materials, became an enormous, consolidated weight that eventually crushed the lower portions of the frame below.

    Jon D. Magnusson, chairman-CEO of Skilling Ward Magnusson Barkshire Inc., Seattle, one of the successor firms of Skilling Ward Christiansen Robertson, structural engineer for the original World Trade Center, agrees: "From what I observed on TV, it appeared that the floor diaphragm, necessary to brace the exterior columns, had lost connection to the exterior wall."

    When the stability was lost, the exterior columns buckled outward, allowing the floors above to drop down onto floors below, overloading and failing each one as it went down, he says.

    Pay no attention to the original structural engineers!

    Then there's this report, showing that the towers did not collapse in the identical manner these conspiracy sites claim:

    A big question for implosion expert Mark Loizeaux, president of Controlled Demolition Inc., the Phoenix, Md., is why the twin towers appeared to have collapsed in such different ways.

    Observing the collapses on television news, Loizeaux says the 1,362-ft-tall south tower, which was hit at about the 60th floor, failed much as one would like fell a tree. That is what was expected, says Loizeaux. But the 1,368-ft-tall north tower, similarly hit but at about the 90th floor, "telescoped," says Loizeaux. It failed vertically, he adds, rather than falling over. "I don't have a clue," says Loizeaux, regarding the cause of the telescoping.

    The twin towers were part of a seven-building complex designed by architect Minoru Yamasaki that covers eight city blocks. An 800 x 400-ft foundation box, 65-ft-deep and with 3-ft-thick retaining walls, is under more than half the complex, including the twin towers and the adjacent hotel. The complex was completed in phases beginning in 1970 (ENR 7/9/64 p. 36). The 1.8-million-sq-ft Seven World Trade Center, constructed in the mid-80s, also had a steel moment frame from the seventh story up (ENR 11/28/85 p. 30).

    (These latter links come from an Australian engineering firm which apparently isn't in the conspiracy business.)

    Bill Herbert does a pretty good job of debunking these theories too. But the debunkers are far, far outnumbered by the proponents.

    If you don't believe me, try Googling around.

    posted by Eric at 03:57 PM | Comments (4)

    How to lose at hardball

    I spoke to a Bush hating friend about the latest fast-growth industry I've recently posted about here (the paranoid Osama-Bush 9-11 stuff), and he opined that Bush is so bad that the people who hate him feel helpless, and have nowhere to go. Thus, they vent their anger and frustration by believing in irrational claims like the notion that no plane ever hit the Pentagon.

    That may be true about the followers -- the attendees of conferences like this -- but I think the people behind it are playing regular old hardball politics, if a newer, more vicious version of it.

    I think much of this is fueled by cynical political operatives -- some of whom are anti-American, but others of whom are engaged in simple retaliation for the Clinton hate machine, which blamed the Clintons for numerous deaths, including teenagers run over by trains if I remember correctly. I am not sure that such retaliation is an effective political strategy right now, but the authors of it didn't ask for my advice.

    So I'll give it anyway. Concocting paranoid conspiracy claims about Bush, then funding them and using Hollywood heavies like Asner and Moore (or academic celebrities like Zinn) to boost attendance -- all in the hope of building a hard-core "base" of Bush hatred in the Democratic Party -- does not strike me as a good way to win the election. (Certainly, it didn't help Howard Dean's campaign.)

    Because, if this stuff builds -- as it now is -- to a point where it can no longer be ignored at the family dinner table or on the evening news, then the regular old experts (the huge number of civil and aeronautical engineers with no axes to grind) will calmly debunk these claims.

    Then, worse for the Democrats, Bush will be able to point the finger at them and very gently remind the American people that he was not behind 9-11, or partners with Osama bin Laden, but that all these people are saying he was, "and that's bad for the country."

    The problem for the Democrats is that for millions of Americans, he'd be right.

    On a related issue, I marvel at the number of comments I have been getting from people who think the crudely edited Nick Berg video was either fake or else (like 9-11) another false flag Bush/CIA/Mossad operation. Why the Zionist conspirators couldn't have done a better job of faking it escapes me. And why would they kill Nick Berg before beheading him? Kindness?

    Only Osama-Bush knows......

    Spare me.

    posted by Eric at 11:01 AM | Comments (1)

    On the road, so go to the Carnival!

    Another road trip today, so no posts until later. But anyone who has come here looking for a new post should go immediately to Ed Brayton's Dispatches from the Culture Wars, and read the 87th Carnival of the Vanities. I wish I had time to review my favorites, but I don't. Ed's blog is outstanding, as is his editing of the Carnival posts. (And I thank him for including my very late entry!)

    So don't miss it!

    posted by Eric at 01:16 PM | Comments (1)

    If you disagree, you are EVIL!

    It's getting tougher and tougher to "agree to disagree."

    There's a growing movement in this country which I have ignored for too long, and I don't know how to address it except in this blog.

    Basically, a meme which sounded kooky a year or two ago has now evolved into an ever-larger, constantly growing movement -- at the core of which is the almost religious belief that 9-11 was a Great Deception, a CIA false flag operation, which Bush knew all about. An initial conference, the International Inquiry into 9-11 Phase One, was held in San Francisco in March. Phase Two will be held in Toronto next week. (Ed Asner is one of the more prominent supporters. You may think he's nuts, but I am here to tell you that a lot of gullible Americans trust the guy.)

    Among the theories which are presented as gospel truth:

  • WTC was exploded by demolition charges, not planes.
  • The Pentagon was not hit by a plane.
  • The CIA was behind the flight schools and the attackers.
  • All "pilots" were Al Qaeda/CIA Operatives under the direction of the FBI.
  • American interceptor planes were deliberately not allowed to fly.
  • Neocons in the Bush administration -- "Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Luti, Shulsky, and so forth" -- are "heirs to the pro-Nazi philosophy of Leo Strauss."
  • It goes on and on. The number of web sites devoted to these issues is truly mind-boggling. Here are just a few samples:

    What bothers me is that I try to be as easy going as humans will allow me to be, but things are approaching a point where it's no longer a question of Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, or even libertarians (like me) who try to squeak by with lame lines like "I really don't fit in with either party."

    No. People who attend these conferences think Bush is an evil Nazi, a guy who really wants to destroy the world. Really and truly. Try for a moment to put yourself in their position, and imagine believing what they believe. If you can do that, you might sympathize with what I'm going through right now.

    It's no fun being considered evil.

    UPDATE: Somehow I got through today without until now seeing these comforting words from Rudolph Giuliani:

    Our enemy is not each other, but the terrorists who attacked us.... The blame should be put on one source alone, the terrorists who killed our loved ones.
    The problem is that such thoughts are not helpful in dealing with people who believe that the "terrorists" who attacked us were sponsored by George W. Bush. In their minds, Bush and his supporters are the real terrorists.

    It's been a real eye opener for me. A reminder that life's lessons are not always pleasant.

    posted by Eric at 01:44 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (2)

    A "tricklish" issue?

    Public opinion on the gay marriage issue fascinates me as it never has before. There's been such a rapid shift recently that I am forced to wonder what's at the bottom of it.

    Glenn Reynolds is a law professor in a pretty conservative state, and when he reports broad support for same sex marriage (more here), and when I see evidence of the numbers changing elsewhere, my restless curiosity is piqued, and so I must look for an explanation. Considering that homosexuals number in the single digits, the sea change in public opinion must be analyzed from a mainstream, heterosexual perspective, so I will attempt to do that.

    People generally do not support a cause unless one of the following factors is present:

  • they love the proponents or the beneficiaries of the cause
  • they hate the opponents of the cause; or
  • there's something in it for them.
  • Homosexuals are not particularly loved, and most average Americans, while they wouldn't mistreat homosexuals, neither would they want to be seen as going out of their way to advance their "agenda." In fact, many heterosexuals are uncomfortable around the whole issue, and see it along the lines of "the less said the better."

    To a certain extent, this discomfort sets them up to be equally uneasy with either the shrill pro-homosexual crowd or the anti-homosexual moral conservatives. It's common sense that if you're uncomfortable about something, then you don't want to hear about it pro or con. (Even less do you want your face rubbed in it.) Whatever makes the issue go away would therefore be something to support. Might gay marriage, by ending the rancorous debate once and for all, assist in making the issue go away? I think that's definitely part of it, but I think the sea change in support indicates something more than a desire to make an uncomfortable issue go away.

    In any case, I don't think any broad-based love for homosexuals is at the heart of this shift in public opinion.

    How about hatred of the moral conservative scolds who refuse to stop yelling about homosexuals? To illustrate (and to add a little color and flavor) let's take a choice recent quote from Dr. James Dobson, a leading foe of same sex marriage:

    Barring a miracle, the family as it has been known for more than five millennia will crumble, presaging the fall of Western civilization itself. This is a time for concerted prayer, divine wisdom and greater courage than we have ever been called upon to exercise. For more than 40 years, the homosexual activist movement has sought to implement a master plan that has had as its centerpiece the utter destruction of the family. The institution of marriage, along with an often weakened and impotent Church, is all that stands in the way of its achievement of every coveted aspiration. Those goals include universal acceptance of the gay lifestyle, discrediting of Scriptures that condemn homosexuality, muzzling of the clergy and Christian media, granting of special privileges and rights in the law, overturning laws prohibiting pedophilia, indoctrinating children and future generations through public education, and securing all the legal benefits of marriage for any two or more people who claim to have homosexual tendencies. (Via Andrew Sullivan.)
    Sullivan characterizes Dobson as "unhinged" and I think many would agree with him. Whether that annoyance would translate into active support for gay marriage, I don't know. I do think it contributes heavily to it, and I have long believed that where it comes to the real "heavy lifting" it takes to effect a major change in public opinion, the work is being done for the gay activists by their mortal moral enemies. This is not new; when I was a student at UC Berkeley I saw singer Anita Bryant doing the same thing, and I used to wonder whether she was crazy.

    I have zero tolerance for intolerance, and the contradictory nature of that drives me crazy sometimes. While I'm on record as opposing the government intrusion aspect of gay marriage (more here, here, here, here, and in countless other posts too numerous to list), I fail to see -- assuming for the sake of argument that gay marriage is "bad" -- how "good" (heterosexual) marriages are harmed by bad ones. It's really like saying that allowing people to eat what you don't eat harms your own dietary habits! If I eat pork, does that harm Muslims? If I eat McDonalds, does that harm the health nuts?

    But I digress. I still must address the third possibility: Is there is something to be found in gay marriage which might be perceived -- whether consciously or unconsciously -- as conferring a benefit upon the straight majority? What might that be?

    The more I think about it, the more I'm inclined to lean towards a trickle-down effect on freedom. Americans are over-regulated as it is, often feeling constrained, harassed, and hemmed-in at every turn. (More odious is the growing invasion of privacy in almost every area of personal life.) Homosexuality, while only directly affecting a small minority of the population, represents a quantum leap forward in the sum total of human freedom, because it's been so taboo for so long, and people are so traditionally uncomfortable with it, so that this loosening up inevitably must bring with it a corresponding sense of general tolerance -- of the kind that spills over in ways felt more than directly perceived. If privacy is invaded and freedom threatened, I think people naturally find it relieving to see a taboo cast aside. For who does not have something to hide? Something of which he might be ashamed? Something that he might not want the world to know about? And with homosexuals allowed to live openly as married couples, doesn't that take some of the heat off everyone else?

    I can't be sure, but I suspect something of the kind. If I am right, we can expect more and more increased tolerance from sources generally not thought of or stereotyped as the tolerant sort.

    Even "rightish outdoorsmen"?

    Once the trickle-down effect gets started, it's rather tough to stop.

    posted by Eric at 02:56 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (2)

    Losing your head (when you have no head to lose)

    Because I am so totally against censorship of any kind, and I like to encourage people to speak their minds freely, I never imagined that I would delete comments at this blog. But I have, and I don't like it. It's, well, depressing to see that there are people in this world who are so ungrateful that they have to hurl insults simply because they can't figure out how to download something.

    But here are comments from some recent visitors:


    you fucking prick!

    either you post the downloAD OR GO FUCK YOURSELF






    just where the fuck is the pearl video?
    show me where to go you ass fucking hole


    i love pussy baby


    where is the website containing the nick berg beheading ,i think it should be televised nationwide i think if people should know the truth about the evil bastards kill em all


    what the fuck show it if you have it ass hole

    I've been blogging for a year now, and I thought the blogosphere was a more intelligent, more polite place. Not that I can't handle disagreement, or someone asking a question, and it's fine to like pussy, but this is ridiculous. I think I made it quite obvious where the Nick Berg video is, but apparently some people are unable to do things like click on the word "here" when it's obviously written as a link, or else they are furious at me because the web server is overloaded and they have to try again or wait. So they simply hurl insults.

    I recognize the whole world isn't like this, but it doesn't take many people to lower the quality of life for us all. It bothers me that people will come to a blog and leave insults for a reason like this. I wonder what kind of people they are. What they do to the other people in their lives. Are they allowed to drive cars, to vote, to marry, to breed, to raise children and torment them?

    Again, it bothers me. I didn't think blogging would be like this. I know there are rude people like this in the world, but I didn't expect to find them here in the blogosphere.

    Of course, maybe this isn't the blogosphere. Perhaps I am not even writing this for my regular readers. Hope you're still coming, and please bear with me.

    For the people who seem incapable of following simple instructions, let me say one more time that the Nick Berg video can be streamed here, and a zip file is here. If that doesn't work, go here.

    NOTE: Please try to notice that when the word "here" is of a different color and appears different from the rest of the text, that means it is a link. Links are designed to take you somewhere else or (in this case) activate a download. If you can't figure it out, and you're still furious, I only hope you don't ever carry a gun, run a cash register, or work with heavy machinery, because we'll all be in trouble.

    posted by Eric at 08:45 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBacks (1)

    Big plots that fizzle...

    Let me start by saying that I never said there weren't any conspiracies. Any time two or more people agree to do something, there's a conspiracy. It's just that the big, grand, magical conspiracies, if they exist, tend not to work.

    I just read Megan McArdle's piece on doom and gloom, and here's an excerpt I like:

    The shape of liberty has changed over the 200 years of our existence, expanding in some places and contracting in others. There is no libertarian eden, located somewhere in the American past, from which we are now fallen, or falling.

    Now, this doesn't mean that the Patriot Act is a good thing. But the fact that we have the Patriot Act now does not mean, as many libertarians ardently argue, that we will always have the Patriot Act. If the Patriot Act is bad, we should vigorously fight it. But there is no need to construct doomsday scenarios in which the existance of the Patriot Act consigns us to a totalitarian future.

    Not to dump on libertarians exclusively, because everyone seems to do it. Social conservatives think we're doomed because the institution of marriage has been dangerously undermined, and is therefore likely to disappear entirely, along with God, patriotism, and the super-sized big mac meal, if we don't do something, quick. A large number of wonkish types (including, on odd days, me) spend a lot of time worrying about the possibility that our old-age entitlements will drive us into disastrous bankruptcy; few of us stop to reflect on the many, many unsustainable economic trends that have worried policy wonks right up until the moment that the impending doom suddenly solved itself under the inexorable logic of Herb Stein's famous dictum: "If something can't go on forever, it won't." Many liberals, like Paul Krugman, think that we nearly got into socioeconomic eden sometime around 1966, give or take, and have been staging a fast retreat towards armageddon ever since; marginal tax rates and some forms of social spending here take the part of doom-bringer, even though on every measure except simple inequality, the lives of the poor and the middle class seem to be richer in material goods, leisure, and quality of work than they were in the Golden Era of America's Middle Class.

    That's not to say that liberals shouldn't want more progressive taxes and social spending, policy wonks more sustainably structured entitlements, social conservatives more traditional cultural values, or libertarians more freedom. It's perfectly reasonable to look at the way things are and say "they could be so much better if . . . " What we shouldn't do is compare our present to some highly airbrushed past, or mindlessly extrapolate trends, and thereby hastily conclude that we're all going to hell in a handbasket. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Are we all victims of a big plot? Is the sky falling? If only life were so simple!

    I want to address an idea which has gained quite a bit of traction lately, and which I touched on in the last post: that George W. Bush is an evil would-be dictator who was behind 9-11 so that the Neocons could launch a giant war and end up ruling the world while destroying what's left of freedom in the United States.

    I recall similar thinking about Richard Nixon. A massive wave of hysteria swept the country, with many people saying that Nixon had "shredded the Constitution" (if the bungled Watergate burglary, an "enemies list," and a special unit dedicated to stopping wartime leaks of classified material was that), and that he was going to suspend the elections, etc.

    Nixon certainly had his chance to seize all power and do these terrible things, and guess what? He resigned rather than be impeached. Didn't go out with a bang; just a whimper.


    Same reason he didn't demand a recount in 1960 despite the Daley shenanigans; he thought it would be bad for the country.

    Some "dictator."

    Bush is being demonized much the same way Nixon was, and even assuming for the sake of argument that he wants to institute a totalitarian government (something I doubt), history shows that he couldn't do it if he wanted. He watches the polls, worries about his numbers, and of course wants to win the November election. But if he loses, there won't be a military takeover. He'll just exit the White House, and Kerry will enter!

    I could be wrong of course, but I've lived long enough and seen enough of politics to doubt it.

    If Bush wins, guess what! He'll have a second term, and then who knows? If he even attempted a totalitarian takeover, he'd be impeached so fast it would make everyone's head spin. Bush has to deal with the Supreme Court, Congress, the mainstream media, the blogosphere, and even public opinion.

    Just like any other president.

    (Hey, and maybe even the military might not take kindly to a president canceling elections and seizing power....)

    Which is why I am not terribly impressed by claims that 9-11 was a big plot to seize power by the Neocons. I don't think they'd get away with it. There are too many other spheres of influence and power.

    Sorry it's not a more exciting post, but I think the doom and gloom, sky-is-falling stuff is quite misguided. And highly overrated. And (in this country at least) not well grounded in history.

    Bear in mind that this is coming from a pretty gloomy, ultimately doomed person. We're all doomed, too.

    Well? Does anyone expect to get out of life alive?

    posted by Eric at 12:24 AM | Comments (2)

    Bad news leads to bad theories

    A comment posted to the Nick Berg beheading video thread reminded me that conspiracy thinking is alive and well. The anonymous commenter asserted -- without any evidence at all -- that the beheading of Nick Berg was a "false-flag" operation by the U.S. government.

    Absurd as it initially seemed, eventually I remembered that many people believe that the entire Osama bin Laden operation is run by the U.S. government. That Osama and George W. Bush are partners in a vast global consiracy. That 9-11 was an elaborate hoax contrived by evil Neocons who wanted to invade the Mideast, and kept alive by mind control forces. That no Boeing ever crashed into the Pentagon. That the Twin Towers could not have collapsed absent controlled demolition by forces other than jet planes full of fuel. (Never mind science!)

    The CIA working with the MOSSAD did all of it! Even that which they didn't do, they did!

    Looking for extravagant alternative explanations is understandable when news is painful, or hard to accept. It also makes it easier to cope with the huge volume of information that's out there. How many of us are expert enough in physics to state conclusively how hot steel must be to bend, or how much weight it would take to make a building fall straight down? Because these things take expertise, work and study, and because there's such an enormous amount of material, it's quite easy for half versed tricksters to get their foot in the door by spouting lots of facts not capable of being readily refuted.

    There's always a void waiting to be filled.

    And there's always someone waiting to fill it.

    UPDATE: The paragraph spaces I had originally written were lost when I posted this on the road via my T-Mobile Sidekick, so I had to correct it.

    posted by Eric at 10:56 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (1)

    What you won't see in the "real" world

    Everyone -- especially new visitors -- please check out Donald Sensing's collection of horror stories involving the United Nations. (Link via InstaPundit)

    Not only is the U.N. corrupt, but in many cases they're behaving as thugs and terrorists.

    The stories are appalling, but what's most appalling is that they won't appear in most newspapers. (At least, not mine.) My local paper (The Philadelphia Inquirer) steadfastly refuses to run one single story about the biggest scandal in U.N. history; it's as if the U.N. and the big media are partners in a joint enterprise.

    (I complained for some time about the Inquirer's non-reporting of the U.N. scandal, and did my best to document the problem. While I finally received a phone call from an editor there, there's been no change in editorial policy.)

    There are two different news worlds; the blogosphere, and the "real world" -- a world where vital news is deliberately not reported by those charged with reporting it, but who then label honesty inquiry as "conspiracy thinking."

    To call such malfeasance "non-reporting" is inadequate to describe the situation. Considering the very real power role occupied by these elitist usurpers of the public trust, the word "tyranny" comes to mind.

    For years the UN's funding for years came from Saddam Hussein whose regime castrated prisoners, threw them off buildings in Superman costumes, and performed amputations. Is it to much to ask whether those who fund and support such tyranny -- or those who refuse to report it -- become tainted in the process?

    As to the castrations, amputations, and the rest, Roger L. Simon (link via Glenn Reynolds) reports that that photographs and video footage have been found showing all of the above in graphic detail.

    Anyone holding their breath to see when we'll get to see that?

    posted by Eric at 09:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)

    Go ahead! Sketch me to death!

    Crazy as things are right now in the blogosphere, I have debated the propriety of posting my usual Friday Online Tests.

    I decided to go ahead, because this is a weekly tradition at Classical Values, and for all I know, some of the new readers might need a little harmless relief as much as I.

    So..... On to the first test.

    "What childhood toy from the 80s are you?" seemed a harmless enough test, and while my result is a bit "sketchy," I think it's a fair representation of my personality:

    You're an Etch-a-Sketch!! You're the creative,
    artsy type who doesn't need to actually utilize
    a single muscle group in order to have fun.
    Doesn't matter though, you're still cool.

    What childhood toy from the 80s are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla


    Only I don't know how an Etch-A-Sketch can be used as a murder weapon! The next test -- "How would you Murder?" shows my powerlessness, and offers to help me:

    Weapons are not your thing. You would prefer to
    pummel your opponent to death with your fists
    and feet. You show a lot of Honor but some
    power still eludes you. I can give you this
    power, I can make you stronger, join me.

    How would you Murder?
    brought to you by Quizilla


    Well, there's no question that power eludes me, but then again, because I do not seek power I must question the underlying assumptions of the test.

    But the last one for today -- "Which UNDERWORLD character are you?" -- offers me a different kind of power. Power beyond my wildest dreams.

    Once again, I am a vampire:

    SELENE: You are selene!
    Beautiful, vivacious,
    fierce and seductive, Selene vowed she would
    destroy Lycans after her family was murdered by
    the werewolves. So ruthless is she that selene
    is a member of the Death Dealers. This elite
    Vampire warrior class's mission is to make the
    Lycans extinct.
    Ever wish you could be a

    Which UNDERWORLD character are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    How did they know that my family was murdered by werewolves? This is starting to get personal, and I must protest!

    Also, I don't want to be a girl vampire!

    posted by Eric at 08:28 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (1)

    Does anyone know what is going on?

    There's a lot going on today. Quite coincidentally, I just visited West Chester (Nick Berg's hometown) where I saw a substantial police presence. Obviously, this was for Nick Berg's memorial service (which I am not crass enough to attend).

    There's quite a bit of controversy as to whether Nick himself was a supporter or agent of al Qaida, created mostly by what has been described as a coincidence: his sharing of a laptop password with accused 9-11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.

    In an account before the beheading story broke, Nick Berg was described as a "staunch supporter of the government position in Iraq" who "wanted to go over there and help."

    A couple of things:

  • Nick Berg cannot have been both a supporter of al Qaida and the government position in Iraq. One or the other. (But why would al Qaida execute one of their own in this manner?)
  • Was there in fact a father/son split in the Berg family over Iraq?
  • I don't think anyone has all the facts yet.

    I don't have enough facts to form an opinion about Nick Berg, but my opinion of his murderers remains the same.

    So now it's wait and see....

    MORE: James Joyner has more here:

    Clearly, there is something odd going on here. On the one hand, the authorities apparently had reason to believe Berg had shady connections. On the other, they saw fit to release him—in a climate where they seem perfectly willing to hold people indefinitely given strong suspicion.
    Then there's Nick's brother Dave, who says that the man who shared the password could not have been Moussaoui:
    Meanwhile, the family said Berg had been questioned by the FBI more than a year ago about a contact he had with a terrorism suspect in 1999, while he was a student at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

    Some reports have said the suspect may have been Sept. 11 suspect Zacarias Moussaoui, but David Berg said that is not true. Nicholas Berg only went to school there in 1999; Moussaoui enrolled in a flight school in Norman in February 2001.

    Michael Berg told reporters Thursday that his son was cleared of any wrongdoing. He said Nicholas Berg met the suspect while riding the bus to classes, and had allowed the suspect to use his computer.

    As to the father, Michael Berg, his statement that his son "only saw the good in his captors until the last second of his life," and that "They did not know what they were doing. They killed their best friend." -- this simply cannot be reconciled with the statement that Nick was a "staunch supporter of the government position in Iraq." If Michael Berg was the source of both of these statements, then he lacks credibility, and information will have to come from elsewhere.

    There's also a good collection of links at Wizbang which show what a suspicious character Michael Berg is, but I refuse to draw any conclusions right now about Nick. (For all anyone knows, the laptop password incident might indicate that Nick was spying on al Qaida sympathizers.)

    All I can do now is agree with James Joyner. Something's odd.

    posted by Eric at 06:03 PM | Comments (1)

    "Why do they hate us?"

    I think I know why.

    Oh, but before I go any further, I should let readers know that by "they" I don't mean the Islamists. They're not even worth dignifying with reasoned analysis. Besides, we already know why they hate us.

    (It's because of a thing called "freedom.")

    No; my question refers to the Robert Knights and Jerry Falwells of this world -- that "conservative" portion (fortunately a very small portion of conservatives) of the Blame America crowd. The ones who (like Robert Fisk on the left) blame their favorite cultural targets for the excesses at Abu Ghraib. In the latest attack (as desperate and shrill as I've seen), they've blamed a "climate" (that word again) of military women, homos, porn, and Howard Stern for the death of Nick Berg.

    That's a pretty large sized chunk of American climate they're taking on, and I've been thinking along the lines of "why now?" -- for their timing strikes me as idiotic in the extreme.

    But now that I think about it, it all comes down to logic. Not my logic (which I touched on in an earlier post), but the logic of ordinary Americans, who are suddenly waking up to a very simple, very logical, realization:


    It took Abu Ghraib to drive home this point, but the fact is, millions of Americans are now scratching their heads, and asking whether or not sex -- even sexual sadism -- is as bad as stuff like pulling out fingernails and branding with hot irons. Some are even cracking jokes like this:

    Q. Why did the al Qaida terrorist surrender to the Americans?

    A. He'd always wanted a woman to leash him and treat him like a dog!

    This is an intolerable situation to those who believe that not only is sex far worse than violence, but that violence is acceptable to prevent all forms of sex of which they disapprove -- even consensual sex. I do not refer solely to kooks who believe in stoning adulterers, but people who believe in state violence (prison) as an appropriate way to deal with things like homosexuality and pornography.

    Above all, they are worshippers of sexual shame.

    My theory is that there's a real fear that once ordinary Americans have a chance to think these things over logically, sexual shame will suffer.

    And that's one climate the enemies of freedom want inflicted upon us -- by any means necessary.

    UPDATE: Justin Case reminds me that similar reasoning was once invoked to oppose German microbiologist Paul Ehlrich's legendary "magic bullet" cure for syphilis. (Justin also asks: Can nanotechnology be next?)

    posted by Eric at 06:28 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (2)

    Nick Berg Beheading Video is here

    Regular readers may remember my outrage over what was done to Daniel Pearl by our enemies. (I posted about this atrocity several times, here, here, and here.) I also placed the video at this blog (you can stream it here), because I feel very strongly that every American should:

    [D]ownload the Daniel Pearl video, watch it, and remind himself that we are in a war, and that there is a detestable, bloodthirsty enemy whose stated goal is to do to all of us exactly what they have shown themselves doing to Daniel Pearl.

    I do not believe watching this film shows any disrespect for Daniel Pearl or his family, and I suggest that the best way to respect the memory of Daniel Pearl (lest his death be in vain) is to watch the film, and then resolve that it is time to AVENGE DANIEL PEARL.

    Did we need a reminder that we are at war and that the enemy is not nice?

    I feel exactly the same way about Nick Berg. I mean no disrespect to his family, but I warn that it is hideous to behold.

    These are demons at work.

    You can stream the Nick Berg video here. (You may need Windows Media Player.) Or, you can download it where I did -- here. (Via Ricky Vandal, who posted it at Wizbang, and also left a helpful comment here earlier.)

    When you watch it, remember why we we fight: it's to stop the demons who did this to Nick Berg.

    I'll repeat myself because I must emphasize what too many people will not hear: they are demons.

    This video is a good thing to keep in mind the next time someone complains about "demonization."

    No "demonization" is necessary here.

    It's even a redundancy.

    UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds, as usual, has the best take on the huge demand for the Nick Berg video: the "Old Media" are avoiding reporting and downplaying this atrocity to the best of their ability.

    Doubtless they don't think it's right for Americans to see their enemies for what they are. (Especially if it might help Bush.)

    Shame on them!

    MORE: A few excellent comments on this video. Here's Charles Johnson:

    remember this: what you see in this video is what the mujahideen would like to do to each and every one of us.
    Damned right they would.

    And here's Evan Coyne Maloney:

    if seeing the gruesome images of Nick Berg's beheading gives us the mettle required to win this war, then he will not have died in vain. (Via InstaPundit.)
    And finally, from an Andrew Sullivan reader:
    Into this void [of the Abu Ghraib allegations] gets poured the images of an innocent civilian being savagely beheaded. Now unencumbered by unspoken assumptions that this would be easy, I see the true nature of what we are up against, and am more committed to winning this thing than ever before. I wonder if many in the blogosphere are experiencing the same phenomenon. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)
    I don't wonder. I can see it.

    UPDATE: I just learned that the file I uploaded for streaming has been disabled by my web host, as the traffic was "creating significant issues within the network, as you might imagine, and the server you're on is now running at approximately 25x the normal traffic level and helping to saturate our feed at the network level." My apologies to anyone who is disappointed. My hosting service (HostMatters) has been very patient and tolerant of this obvious inconvenience, and they're not even charging me.

    So don't blame them. They're great!

    As to arranging an alternate URL, for now the best I can do is to make it available at another web site I hardly ever use. I don't know how long they'll let me get away with this, but here's the new link.

    If that doesn't work, you can download it -- here, or check for more links here.

    ADDITIONAL NOTE: If the above link does not work, try opening your Windows Media Player (I got it to work in an old version), go to File>Open. Then copy and paste this URL:

    No guarantees, but I tried it and it worked for me.

    MORE: Additional sites which stream can be found here. And I have posted a zip file here.

    TO ALL WHO ARE NEW AND HERE TO SEE THE VIDEO: Please read this open letter from Rich Marotti:

    THIS IS NOT AN ISOLATED OCCURENCE! If you are unfamiliar with the blogosphere, get familiar with it now. We break and cover stories like this all of the time. We are largely honest in our coverage, if not always objective. We cover the stories that Big Media does not, because of their agendas, because of their connections, or for any other reasons. Don't make your search for this one tragic story your last stop in the blogosphere. We offer honesty and (most of the time) truth on a regular basis. Try finding that in the New York Times.


    Rich Marotti, author of Seldom Sober (Via InstaPundit.)

    It's well worth going to Rich Marotti's site and reading THE WHOLE THING. (Especially some of you, who may be new readers unfamiliar with the blogosphere.)

    ADDITIONAL NOTE: The number of visits I am getting as a result of the Nick Berg video is quite unprecedented, and I want visitors to understand that while I am surprised (and a little overwhelmed), I do appreciate your visiting.

    However, I would appreciate it if all new visitors would kindly bear in mind that this site is not devoted to the Nick Berg video or the Daniel Pearl video. I am a daily blogger, simply doing what I did in the case of Daniel Pearl -- making available an important piece of news not generally made available by the mainstream media. (More background here.) It bothers me that major news outlets like Dan Rather's CBS News refuse to let you see this video, while at the same time they inundate you with countless images from the Abu Ghraib prison. This story is vitally important, and I believe that viewing the video adds much-needed perspective to today's events.

    I have much more to say about the war in Iraq, and other issues (both serious and light-hearted) in my blog. Any readers who might interested, please visit this blog's main page.

    Thank you,

    Eric Scheie

    P.S. In the interest of avoiding confusion, once again let me say that the video can (I hope) be streamed here (follow the above instructions), or downloaded as a zip file here. And if that doesn't work, there are many more sites listed at Wizbang. It shouldn't have to be such a hassle to get something so newsworthy, but for that you can thank the "Old Media©."

    EDUCATIONAL NOTE: Some of the new readers who have come here in search of the Nick Berg video might be too shy to ask a basic (but very legitimate) question like "What is blogging?" Hey, I've only been blogging for a year, so I don't blame you. Lots of people still don't know much about it, and I'm still learning myself. Here are a few good introductory essays:

  • "The Good, The Bad, and the Blogly", a Glenn Reynolds classic.
  • "The Art of Blogging", by George Siemens.
  • "Welcome to the Blogosphere" -- from PBS.
  • UPDATE: I didn't think there'd be any more to add until I read these words from Bill Whittle:

    Shouts of Allahu Akbar! were not overdubbed by western propaganda agencies as they sawed through Nick Berg’s throat and twisted off his head. Those are authentic. As they got down to their filthy work they were screaming, over and over in a fit of religious ecstasy: God is Great! Nick Berg was nothing more than an animal sacrifice to them. That is Radical Islam.

    The only thing that will appease them is your blood. All of it. Remember that.

    Anyone who came here to download the Nick Berg video owes it to himself to read the whole thing.

    MORE (6-18-04): I feel the same way about the savage murders of Paul Johnson and Robert Jacobs that I did about the butchery of Daniel Pearl and Nick Berg, and I have made more material available (videos, photos, links, plus additional discussion) here and here for all who are interested.

    The argument that the CIA is butchering all these Americans in some sort of "false flag" operation is wearing a bit thin, I'm afraid....

    UPDATE (09/27/04): I see that this post is still attracting web traffic, which is probably related to the savage beheadings of Eugene Armstrong and Jack Hensley. Please be careful about watching them (the Armstrong video in particular is the worst I've seen) but here is the link to the Armstrong video. Dr. Rusty Shackleford links to NEIN which also hosting the video. (Another download site is here.

    Once again, Americans need to remember what we are fighting, and why. It's nothing less than a war between civilization and barbarism. I won't mince words here: I believe those who defend the torturers of Americans are the enemy, plain and simple. Here's Bat Ye'or, author of Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide:

    The war against a global jihadist terrorism can be won only if the civilized world is united against barbarity. Until now European democracies supported Arafat, the initiator of jihadist terrorism, hostage-taking and Islamikazes. The war will be won if we name it, if we face it, if we recognize that it obeys specific rules of Islamic war that are not ours; and if democracies and Muslim modernists stop justifying these acts against other countries. The policy of collusion and support for terrorists in order to gain self-protection is a delusion.
    On 09/23/04, the bloody bastards supplied their hideous video of Jack Hensley being beheaded, which is available here and here.

    If you're as appalled as I was, you might consider donating to the Jack Hensley Foundation.

    (Via Dr. Rusty Shackleford.)

    MORE: While comments are closed, I thought the comment of "Shade" was worth an answer, so I'll repeat: the people who did the beheadings are demons. That is no more a condemnation of "the populations of entire countries based on the actions of some" than a condemnation Charles Manson or John Wayne Gacy (or Americans who committed crimes at Abu Ghraib) would condemn the population of the United States.

    posted by Eric at 04:57 PM | Comments (74) | TrackBacks (1)

    Al Qaida has many apologists!

    Recently, I predicted that ideological extremists in this country would soon invoke Culture War rhetoric to blame their favorite villains for the Abu Ghraith prison scandal.

    First came Robert Fisk, who blamed "towns and cities" like Tennessee. (?)

    Well, it didn't take long for at least one anti-American "right-winger" to speak up in an equally inane fashion. (Not to get off-topic, why is theocratic bigotry always labeled "right-wing"? Sometimes I worry about the accuracy of the terminology I'm forced out of habit to use..... Any "spectrumologists" out there who might be able to help?)

    Anyway, today, via Andrew Sullivan, I see that Robert Knight -- crusader for censorship and director of this outfit -- has launched a new blame-America attack, opening fire on American freedom by claiming that "we" are at fault as a nation not only for the Abu Ghraib affair, but for the beheading of Nick Berg! Islamists are mad, and Berg is dead, claims Knight, because of "cultural currents that have come to a deadly nexus in Iraq."

    Which "cultural currents" are to be blamed for the hideous death of Mr. Berg?

    Women in the military, homosexuality, pornography, and Howard Stern, says Knight! These and other things Knight hates all must be stopped before Americans can be safe.

    Hmmmm..... Allowing for the sake of argument that the above "cultural climates" are why Berg was beheaded, since when do we defeat our enemies by conforming our society and culture to their demands? Shouldn't we be defending the things they attack about us? Had a group of Nazis brutally murdered an American civilian during World War II, would that be an argument for cracking down on whatever the Nazis didn't like about us?

    I couldn't make this up if I tried. (Read the whole thing for yourself; it reminds me of Falwell's similar blame-America pontifications after 9-11.)

    People like Knight are morally on the side of the terrorists every bit as much as the Hate-America left. These enemies of freedom hate independent women, decriminalized homosexuals, all pornography, and Howard Stern (who whether you like him or not will do as a symbol of freedom), at least as much as do the theocratic enemies we fight in Iraq. They give aid and comfort to the enemy by granting them the moral high ground and legitimacy at the worst possible time. It's classic blame-America thinking, except it's on the right.

    No one should forget that this war is about freedom. Freedom can be very clarifying at times like this. You are either for it or against it.

    I certainly hope that Robert Knight and his ilk are a tiny minority on the political fringe, and not worth worrying about. The problem is, lovers of tyranny can do a lot of damage when ordinary folks remain silent.

    UPDATE: Via Andrew Sullivan, I see that Timothy Noah offers an exhaustive collection of Culture Warrior posts blaming Abu Ghraib on their favorite enemies -- just as Mr. Noah had also predicted. Why does this stuff have to be so damned predictable?

    UPDATE: Meanwhile, certain crackpots on the left are blaming for Nick Berg's death. Is there no end to this insanity? Nick Berg was an American who supported the war effort in Iraq and wanted to help the Iraqi people. His father is a leftist. So what? Anyone can blame anyone for anything, whether it's the creation of a "climate" or creating suspicions which might have led to delays which might have set in motion.....

    The bastards who killed Nick Berg are the ones on that video, OK? I defy anyone to show me how any feminists, gays, Howard Stern fans, people or any other Americans were involved, even remotely. But common sense will never stop the Culture War, nor will it stop ideologues from blaming each other.

    AND MORE: As if that wasn't enough, a number of leftists are blaming Bush (who else?) for Nick Berg's death. They seem upset by the timing of the beheading. Certainly it was too convenient for Kos's liking:

    The neocons WANTED it this way.

    And they got it. Congratulations.

    Well, at least Robert Knight isn't saying the homos and Howard Stern "WANTED it this way."

    UPDATE: I am not sure what to make of the Moussaoui laptop password "coincidence." But according to what I read earlier, there was a father/son split over the war in Iraq. Nick Berg was described as a "staunch supporter of the government position in Iraq and he wanted to go over there and help."

    posted by Eric at 03:59 PM | Comments (2)

    Weekly picks from the unburned and the burned

    I've been in need of a pick-me-up lately (no, not that kind!), and I got it from reading through the Carnival of the Vanities and the Bonfire of the Vanities. Nothing like a lift, and I'll try to highlight some from each. (Erick and Erica are the respective hosts -- the symmetry of which appeals to me for obvious reasons.)

    The 86th Carnival of the Vanities is hosted by Erick-Woods Erickson at Confessions of a Political Junkie. He does a marvelous job of editing and commenting. I have to thank the host for his generous praise of my Iraqi prison post, because it's a topic everyone is talking about now, and even if you have something original to say, it's tough to get it out there.

    All the Carnival posts are worth reading. A few choice ones follow.

    Start with Erick's observations -- "The Prison and the Soldiers." Some good (if certain to be ignored) questions for the Dems!

    A blogger new to me -- Small Town Country Girl -- offers some very articulate, original thoughts on the dishonest and overplayed "Iraq is Vietnam" meme. She also explains why blogs are better than Old Media©.

    Chuck Simmons offers more perspective on the Abu Ghraib matter -- including this gem:

    Making an Iraqi wear panties is not a crime against humanity.

    And be sure to read QandO on the breaching of the MPO/MI line.

    The Iraq war stuff is damned important, too. Every post in the section Erick titles "The War & The Prison" should is a must-read.

    And for amusement.....

    The real John Kerry was exposed by Ross White as a pork-porker! Yet, for his troubles, all Ross got was twelve new Republican readers.

    Reading that motivated me, as I can use twelve more Republican readers! So, I humbly offer something not terribly original that I altered for the occasion.


    (Wish someone would take me by the hand and teach me how to use PhotoShop, because I just never seem to be able to get it to do what I want.)

    Solomonia recalls his past as a leftist, his thoughts on 9-11, and concludes with some advice for leftists today:

    One Vietnam was enough. Now one might be able to accept the idea that the protesters of the day (many of them, anyway) did what they did for love of country. Fair enough. But grasping for the next chance to repeat the trauma is perhaps too much love, or more likely, no love at all.

    There's a nice collection of dog thoughts here. (And of course, the feline equivalent here.)

    As to advice on facing some of life's difficulties, Caleb Walker has a new twist on a popular expression.

    You never know! Reading this post, I'm inclined to think it sometimes works.

    Read 'em all!


    Now onto the Bonfire, which is hosted this week at the artistic Erica's blog Swirlspice. Erica offers her lava lamp entry as a starter. (Nice gif too; I didn't know they made that many of the things, and shame on me for not noticing the butt-plug, er, connection....)

    A naked bike ride made me think of John Kerry baring his soul. (It'd get more attention than the goofy outfit he's been wearing.)

    The American Mind posts about one of my vices: Krispy Kreme doughnuts! (I am allowed one per week because they're bad for me, but imagine the outcry if we fed them to the Iraqi captives.)

    Much to his dad's relief, Aaron's son failed to draw a donkey in school.

    The 50K blogger milestone is discussed by Jennifer. I don't know how to measure my total hits, because my Site Meter and my Awstats don't match, so I really don't know when it's appropriate to celebrate anything. (All I know is that I am grateful for the traffic I get. It helps keep me going.)

    Dodgeblogium is stuck in the mud with German girls, and isn't complaining. (Go look, and understand why.)

    Gleeful Extremist has a nice pirate post with the kind of graphics I'd like to see in more blogs.

    Suicide prevention as a cure for terrorism? Sound too good to be true? Read about it at The Everlasting Phelps.

    (Following good hygienic practice, Erica quite properly incinerated my most em-bare-assing embarrassing post of the week.)

    posted by Eric at 05:51 PM

    Local news?

    My break from blogging lasted around six hours, because I can't ignore the beheading death of Nick Berg -- a local story which has become a national one.

    The video showing Philadelphian Nick Berg being beheaded by al Qaida in Iraq can be seen at Kevin Aylward's website. (Link via Glenn Reynolds.) This is a sickening replay of what happened to Daniel Pearl, and I recommend everyone try to watch it, as a reminder of what we're facing.

    Because this involves a local man, I am sure that the Philadelphia Inquirer will run the story they uploaded to their website today.

    Interestingly enough, on Saturday (May 8, page B-1), the Inquirer ran this story, in which his family complained that Nick was still missing, but they'd not heard from him recently.

    For the most part, of course, the Inquirer has been featuring daily front page spreads of the sexual sadism at Abu Ghraib prison, including more today. It will be interesting to see whether this story of the beheading in cold blood of a local Philadelphian merits the front page tomorrow.

    And I am assuming that it will at least be in the paper

    If -- if -- they refuse to cover this one, well, even I -- despite all my cynicism -- would be genuinely shocked.

    It's one thing to be anti-war, but it would be quite another for a leading American newspaper to be on the other side.....

    Hope that does not happen.

    UPDATE: The Inky covered this one! GIANT HEADLINE on the front page of today's Inquirer:

    Tape Shows West Chester Man Beheaded by Captors in Iraq

    Story here.

    posted by Eric at 09:15 PM | Comments (1)

    A last goodbye

    My longtime friend died this morning at 11:30 am. I arrived a little after eleven, and noticed her breathing was more labored than usual, the right hand clammy, the left hand quite warm. Yesterday I burned a CD of her favorite music, which she enjoyed during the afternoon and evening. The last thing she said to me was yesterday, when she mumbled "I know" in acknowledgement when I told her who the musician was. (He died last year, and she had known him well.)

    This morning I noticed that the night nurse (not realizing its significance) had taken out the favorite CD and put on something else, so I took that out and put her favorite back in the CD player. Within minutes, she relaxed competely, her breathing slowed way down, and then the breathing began to stop intermittently for as long as ten seconds at a time. I called her son at work, and told him his mom was very close. Within a few minutes of that, her eyes (closed all day yesterday and today) suddenly opened. She stopped breathing (I kept holding her hand, telling her I loved her) and I could feel her erratic pulse dissolve into the tiniest little hints of a pulse (like barely perceptible tinglings of final electric activity). Her stare slowly faded as she met her peace.

    I don't know whether this is an appropriate place to discuss such a thing, but I don't see why not. Ours is a society which too often relegates death to status resembling something hidden, something not talked about. That's a good enough reason for me to talk about it here. (Without names, of course.)

    She's at rest.

    I think a little rest would be a good thing for me right now too.

    Whatever is going on (and there's always plenty!) can just wait.

    posted by Eric at 03:41 PM | Comments (10)


    Have to run, but I just saw this article, which appears to supply confirmation that Mohamed Atta did in fact meet with Iraqi intelligence in Czechoslovakia.

    Not that I'd expect to find any mention of it in the Inky. But if I do, I'll let everyone know!

    posted by Eric at 10:22 AM | Comments (1)

    East meets West (Architectural nostalgia)

    Here's a view of part of the Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary:


    I drive past the place a lot, and it's tough to get a shot from the road. An austere religious institution, it's all fenced in and surrounded by tall hedges. But I like the Renaissance/Moorish look, because it reminds me of similar architecture in California.

    Like this baby, which is also surrounded by foliage, so no picture can really do it justice:


    The photo was not taken by me, but by a friend I imposed upon, and who went to a lot of trouble just so I could have it. He "started on the street and went up the steps, and across the front of the property to the left, then stepped through to our place and shot from here looking over. Then down to the street again...."

    It sits on top of a hill, with a beautiful view.

    Alhambra-like, no? All it needs is the reflecting pool.

    It's nice to fantasize....

    posted by Eric at 01:17 AM | Comments (2)

    Making sense out of Jesse Jackson

    Hey, what's all this fuss about no one showing up at the Million Mom Assault or whatever the hell it was called?

    They had plenty of notice, and I highlighted the special coverage the Philadelphia Inquirer gave the event.

    Well, some corrections are indeed in order.

    Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that only 3000 out of a million bothered to show! (Note that the 3000 figure is given by the Washington Post as the organizers' estimate, so it probably wasn't even that high.) And my blessed blogfather Jeff covered the story, and says there were only 2000. (I think Jeff's being generous, too.)

    Well, you can't say they weren't told. The Inky told everybody, and I gave the thing an advance review in my blog. (Sure, I'm on the wrong side, but all publicity counts, right?) So what accounts for the low turnout? And what about all those cool things like the $75,000 Charlton Heston Table? The featured speaker was Jesse Jackson, whose name is a household word, and well, I think even Jackson realized some corrections were in order, because he seems to have changed the subject a little:

    The day began with an interfaith service and then yielded to several hours of speakers, each taking the stage with the majesty of the Capitol as their backdrop. Jesse L. Jackson was on hand, as were a smattering of members of Congress and seemingly hundreds of people whose lives had been directly touched by gun violence.

    At one point, as the crowd eased into the first verse of the spiritual "We Shall Overcome," Pamela Bailey stood silently. The Silver Spring resident said she couldn't sing, so frozen was she by memories of her lost son, Terron Coleman -- the sound of his voice, birthday cards, a greeting on Mother's Day.

    "He had a right to his life," Bailey said.

    Jackson, in oratory that was in equal measure political and religious, denounced the war in Iraq and drew the crowd to its feet, booming out a line that became an instant slogan: "We will remember, in November."

    What is it we're supposed to remember in November? I thought this was about assault weapons! I read through the rest of the article, and there's nothing else about Iraq, so what's going on?

    Did someone neglect to tell Jesse which rally he was addressing?

    Later on, though, someone obviously realized that the theme had shifted to months of the year, and the war in Iraq:

    Suddenly, someone in the back shouted what many seemed to be thinking: "March! March! March!"
    Yeah, it's beginning to make sense now. It was in March that the war in Iraq started.

    And in November they'll remember March! Right?

    That has to be it!

    When I wrote my previous post, the Inquirer said it was all about the "Mothers Day March to Halt the Assault." In May! You'd think the Post could have at least gotten the name correctly. Except now it's morphed into the, um, Million Mother May I March to Halt the November Assault remember November March! Well, that's better than the non-melodic name Jeff reported from Yahoo, the "much balleyhooed Million Mom March United With the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence."

    I'll say this for Jesse Jackson: he seems to be the only person attending that March to understand that there are true assault weapons (capable of fully automatic fire) somewhere -- in Iraq!

    NOTE: As diligently as I could, I Googled Pamela Bailey, Silver Spring, and Terron Coleman, and could find no articles about the 2001 shooting deaths which are mentioned. If anyone can confirm that they really were victims of true assault weapons, let me know.

    posted by Eric at 08:16 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (2)

    The buck doesn't stop anywhere!

    Saying war is hell is to remark the obvious.

    But isn't death worse than torture?

    For the record, I guess I should hasten to add that I am against all torture. (Which puts me to the left of Alan Dershowitz.) I'm also against sexual abuse of prisoners, whether here or in Iraq.

    But still, why is torture worse than death? And why is sexual torture worse than "normal" torture or death? Some would call me depraved for saying this, but for the life of me I have never understood why it's worse to subject me to sexual intercourse against my will than to beat me to a bloody pulp. And why would I be in more trouble if I walked up to a child and exposed myself than if I hit the same child? Moral relativism? Moral absolutism?

    I just can't follow the logic.

    In war, people are killed, and everyone thinks that's normal. And if I think about it, were I given the choice between being killed and having some twit of a girl leash me and walk me like a dog, even beat me up, what do you think I'd choose?

    Call me insensitive, but I don't think what most of those Iraqis experienced was a fate worse than death. What they experienced was in many cases less severe than what routinely goes on in American prisons. Rapes, beatings, torture, "suicides," killings -- these things are so mundane that when you talk about them, people just yawn and shrug. Many are not sympathetic at all. They think American criminals should be raped, beaten, tortured or killed. Yet when they see accused Iraqi terrorists -- many of whom killed U.S. soldiers, and know about plans to kill more -- being humiliated and degraded by the same American prison guards who learned their trade back here, Americans are all freaked out. What gives?

    Is it because we are concerned about Islamic sensibilities? The role of women? What am I not getting? Charles Krauthammer and many others have been talking about how much worse this is because women were involved. And come to think of it, why are feminists so silent about women torturing men? I could find nothing at the NOW site. The accused include not only enlisted women, but even a woman general, who ought to be considered an ideal role model. Why isn't NOW defending them?

    It's baffling and disappointing to see a general (Janis Karpinski ) getting away with not taking responsibility for what went on under her command.

    Instead (and notwithstanding her background in military inteligence), she has pointed her finger at the CIA. Or, depending on what you read, military intelligence. (There's also an attempt to blame feminist affirmative action for Karpinski's rise, although I'm not sure that making her the culprit is even in the interest of those who will do that....)

    But as to the CIA, we're talking George Tenet, Clinton appointee, patron of Yasser Arafat, the guy many people thought Bush should fire after 9-11, but who stayed on for reasons best known to Bush.

    Might things have not worked out as well as Tenet wanted? His boy Arafat seems to have fallen by the wayside, and there were the allegations of crummy intel about WMDs. (Plus the right wingers hate to see the once-proud CIA now loaded with homos and women....)

    Is it possible -- just possible -- that George Tenet might be happier under a Kerry administration?

    Laurence Simon suggested that Bush fire Tenet .

    Considering history, I think it could be extremely dangerous -- for Bush -- to open that gate.

    The last time a Republican president had trouble with a CIA director he'd inherited from a Democratic administration, it was Richard Nixon....

    There could be many reasons why Tenet gets to keep the job that many say he shouldn't have. (Link via Ilyka Damen.) Not too many of them are pleasant to contemplate. (As I have said before, though, Tenet is not Bush's fault.)

    Somewhere, right now, the guys at the top are in a huddle. Who gets the blame and who takes the fall are at the top of everyone's agenda. Many people want it to be Bush. Some of them are working for him too.

    Isn't that a conflict of interest?

    I think it's almost as bad as hiring sadistic prison guards, looking the other way, and then playing the plausible deniability game when the predictable happens.

    UPDATE: Captain Ed offers some perspective on at least some of the torture allegations, and asks some good questions:

    So, would a disrupted sleep pattern or two be worth the lives of 3,000 Americans? Would humiliating detainees on a case-by-case basis be an acceptable trade-off to saving the lives of 80,000 Jordanians? Would you approve the imposition of loud, obnoxious rap music in order to save Los Angeles?
    In addition Captain Ed's right on top of Jodi Wilgoren (one of my old favorites.....)

    And Mitch Berg points out that there are some people who very much believe that the treatment of Iraqi prisoners is at least as bad as mass murder. Why am I not more amazed?

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS ON NIGER URANIUM: Though he's not Bush's fault, Tenet might well not have appreciated having to admit fault himself. More here. Such things can become festering sores of resentment, and regardless of whether such resentments are justified or not, power means having the ability to get even. This is all of course speculation on my part; the truth takes decades to emerge, if it ever does.

    UPDATE: For some time now, Glenn Reynolds has been writing about the issue of sadistic abuses in American prisons. His conclusion?

    This suggests that concern over events in Iraq is overstated, or that concern over prison conditions here is understated. Or maybe both. (Does this mean we should pull out of Pennsylvania?)
    More sordid details (including the callused behavior of California Attorney General Lockyer) here. Bless InstaPundit for it, and I hope he gets well soon.

    UPDATE: Evan Coyne Maloney highlights a significant under-reported tidbit from Bob Woodward's new book, showing Bush as "a thoughtful and critical consumer" of the WMD intelligence which Tenet termed "a slam dunk!" Evan concludes,

    It does make one wonder about Tenet, though. If I were as conspiratorially-minded as many on the left, I'd think that Tenet, a Clinton hold-over, was trying to sabotage the Bush presidency. I don't think that. I just think intelligence gathering and analysis is a tough business, and that our systems need serious work.
    Because it is a tough business (and a vital one for the country) I don't think it's conspiracy thinking to ask questions about Tenet. Or Woodward. (Or other highly placed sources -- all of whom can be expected to engage in CIA CYA thinking.)

    posted by Eric at 12:58 AM | Comments (4)

    Rachel Lucas is back!

    I don't keep up with the blogosphere as I should, but thanks to Frank J., I just learned that Rachel Lucas is back, and I am really glad.

    Although I've still only been blogging for less than a year, there are a couple of things I learned from Rachel Lucas. One it's that you should find whatever it is that's in your heart, and then say it. The other is that sharing pictures of your dogs with the world is good for the soul. I have been more successful with the latter than the former, but hey! I'm less than a year old.

    It's hard to imagine that anyone reading this is unfamiliar with Rachel Lucas (who was nominated by my blogfather for Vice President), but if there are any newbies or non-bloggers, please know that she's one of the great ones. Her return is a big deal, worthy even of....

    a fireworks display!


    (Not quite the Big Bang, I know. But you can pretend.)

    Welcome back Rachel!

    posted by Eric at 12:20 AM | Comments (2)

    Sherman and other Great Satans....

    Via Stephen Green, I just read Charles Krauthammer's take on the scandal some are already calling "Torturegate".

    Jihadists, like all totalitarians, oppose many kinds of freedom. What makes them unique, however, is their particular hatred of freedom for women. They prize their traditional prerogatives that allow them to keep their women barefoot in the kitchen as illiterate economic and sexual slaves. For the men, that is a pretty good deal -- one threatened by the West with its twin doctrines of equality and sexual liberation.

    It is no accident that jihadists around the world are overwhelmingly male. It is very rare to find a female suicide bomber. And when you do, as with the young woman who blew herself up in Gaza, killing four others in January, it turns out that she herself was a victim of sexual subjugation -- a wife accused of adultery, marked for death, who decided to die a martyr rather than a pariah. But die she must.

    Which is what made one aspect of the Abu Ghraib horrors even more incendiary -- the pictures of female U.S. soldiers mocking, humiliating and dominating naked and abused Arab men. One could not have designed a more symbolic representation of the Islamist warning about where Western freedom ultimately leads than yesterday's Washington Post photo of a uniformed American woman holding a naked Arab man on a leash.

    .....The American offenders should surely be judged by our standards, not by others'. By our standards, these were egregious violations of human rights and human dignity. They must be punished seriously. They do not, however, reflect the ethos of the U.S. military, which has performed with remarkable grace and courage in Iraq, or of U.S. society.

    The photographs suggest otherwise. Which is why the abuse at Abu Ghraib is so inflammatory and, for us and our cause, so damaging. It reenacted the most deeply psychologically charged -- and most deeply buried -- aspect of the entire war on terrorism, exactly as Osama bin Laden would have scripted it.

    Putting aside the emotions (as we must in war), and putting aside the fact that these sickos should be punished as severely as military law allows, I am tempted to play Devil's Advocate here.

    I mean that quite, um, literally.

    What is terrorism? Striking fear in the heart of the enemy? If our enemy believes that Americans are sexually depraved people who can't wait for a chance to show them how much fun it is being Great Satan, what are they going to do about it? Get more pissed off than they already are?

    I am reminded of Sherman's March, which was intended to humiliate and degrade the largely beaten South. One of the reasons it worked was not because Sherman's men were genuine demons (most of them in fact were not), but because the Southern press -- the "Southern Street" for lack of a better term -- exaggerated the nature and scope of the atrocities, and believed the exaggerations. (Here are some very colorful, and yes, even sexualized, Southern accounts.)

    I do not mean to minimize Sherman's behavior, and I recognize that the bitterness survives to this day (interesting religious analysis here), but I don't think it is entirely out of order to ask whether any of this might have unrecognized (maybe hidden) psychological advantages.

    Did Sherman's March, by infuriating the South, prolong the war? Quite the opposite. It's credited by most historians as a major reason for Southern capitulation. And like Southern Calvinists, Islamists are strong believers in predestination and fate. If they start thinking God has abandoned them, might they too begin to have doubts? Scratch a terrorist and you'll find a coward inside. The kind of people who believe in terrorism are the kind of people who mistake kindness for weakness, and who think that Americans would never resort to their tactics.

    Not that Americans have done that as a matter of policy or ever would do that intentionally. But if the enemy thinks we have, might some of them be asking questions like, "Where's our god now?"

    Don't ask me! I'm just playing Devil's Advocate here....

    TORTURE OF ENGLISH UPDATE: When I posted the above Google result for the non-word "Torturegate," there were 38 hits. Today, there are 72. And this is only the weekend.

    What the hell am I doing here? Trying to document the emergence of a new word? But I'm not even a lexicographer!

    At times like this, I am tempted to call upon Janus, god of gates.

    posted by Eric at 10:49 PM

    A doomsday gap -- in reporting?

    At long last, I have some good news (and, unfortunately, some bad news) to report from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

    I have been complaining for some time about the Inquirer's glaring lack of coverage of the U.N. Oil-for-Food scandal, but finally I am able to report that yesterday I got a call from Carl Lavin, Deputy Managing Editor/News. Mr. Lavin, who was quite courteous, apologized for taking so long to call me back, and said that he was replying to my call about the U.N. scandal.

    I explained that I was a lifelong reader, but that I was very disappointed in the Inquirer because this very serious story had received a great deal of worldwide coverage, and it appeared that the Inquirer was ignoring it. I reminded Mr. Lavin of the Inquirer's stated commitment to "the importance of an informed electorate."

    Mr. Lavin said that the Inquirer is aware of the U.N. scandal, that he is aware that some people have complained about the lack of reporting, but that they are doing the best they can with the resources they have.

    "Don't feel that we are ignoring the story," was his reassuring bottom line.

    Whether my feelings count or not, I do appreciate a polite call like that, but I knew that the Inquirer is aware of the U.N. scandal; otherwise, why would they carry a story at their website that never ran in the paper?

    Since the UNSCAM story broke, I have searched the Inquirer daily in vain looking for any coverage. I can't find any. The big story this week has been torture in Iraq, Rumsfeld on the spot, Kerry invoking Harry Truman to criticize Bush, and the like.

    Not enough resources for even a mention of the biggest scandal to hit the U.N., though. Not enough room in the paper, perhaps?

    Yet there was room in today's paper -- on page two no less -- for a fascinating piece of international news. The subject was another Vietnamese anniversary!

    Another anniversary?

    So close to Mother's Day?

    Yes Mom! Anniversaries count. I guess in the spirit of last Saturday's May Day anniversary report on the fall of Saigon, today there was this stirring report of the anniversary of the victory against foriegn imperialism at Dien Bien Phu:

    Vietnam marks anniversary of victory over French in '54

    50 years after the siege of Dien Bien Phu, one leader saw parallels to Iraq.

    By Margie Mason

    Associated Press

    DIEN BIEN PHU, Vietnam - Vietnam yesterday celebrated the 50th anniversary of its victory over the French at Dien Bien Phu, an achievement that continues to serve as a lesson for strong nations attempting to impose their will on poorer countries armed with determination.

    The battle of Dien Bien Phu was a bloody 56-day siege that killed more than 2,000 French and three times as many Viet Minh soldiers before France surrendered May 7, 1954. It led to the end of colonialism in Indochina and foreshadowed the doom that would come to U.S. forces 20 years later.

    Although Vietnam remains poor, Defense Minister Pham Van Tra said that a nation's strength was not measured in wealth and that Dien Bien Phu should serve as a reminder to powerful countries that continue occupying weaker nations today.

    "When a country realizes that national independence is above all, no other forces can oppose them," Tra said in an interview a day before the anniversary. "For the Iraqi people, national independence is the most important thing. For those who go against this human right, I think they will all lose."

    Well, there you have it, straight from the source: IRAQ IS VIETNAM!

    We should have learned our lessons, shouldn't we?

    It's one thing to feature the Dien Bien Phu story while ignoring the United Nations scandal, and I guess you could argue that the stern warnings from Vietnam's Stalinist gerontocracy are only being reported as accurately as possible.

    Now, it wouldn't be nice to accuse the Inky of siding with ancient Stalinist enemies of the United States. But -- I must take issue with the claim that Dien Bien Phu "foreshadowed the doom that would come to U.S. forces 20 years later." American forces fought the North Vietnamese army to better than a stalemate. They came to the peace table, and signed the Kissinger/Le Duc Tho agreement to leave South Vietnam alone. Only then were U.S. forces withdrawn and P.O.W.s repatriated. This was called "Peace with Honor" by President Nixon, who was a tough enough son of a bitch to have enforced it, as the enemy well knew. But when Nixon was removed from office, the whole deal changed. Within months, the North Vietnamese invaded the South, and the United States abandoned its treaty commitments. (Here's a fairly good chronology of events.)

    Try as I might, I can't characterize an orderly U.S. withdrawal after a peace treaty with the word "doom." Historians can argue about the wisdom of abandoning South Vietnam, but the simple fact is, the U.S. forces had beaten the enemy back, and were not there when the "doom" arrived.

    A good argument can be made that South Vietnam was doomed by Watergate, however.

    Might that be the kind of doom the Inquirer intends to foreshadow?

    (Just asking....)

    posted by Eric at 08:23 PM

    Must every horror mean more Culture War?

    During the furor over Columbine, what pissed me off the most were the endless invocations of the most heated Culture War rhetoric imaginable.

    On the left, the endless meme (epitomized by Michael Moore) was that the United States is a violent society, a culture of guns. The kids were simply products of that. Mindless automatons doing what they'd been programmed to do in evil America.

    On the right, the meme was along the lines of a "climate" created by the anything-goes, 1960s generation. A culture of nihilism so terrible that the boys were simply a product of it.

    Each side blamed the "climate" created by the other for the actions of two deranged young psychopaths.

    In Iraq we have more than two young psychopaths who have behaved in a manner consistent with their pathology.

    Not my pathology. Not something created in the 1960s. Not the gun culture Michael Moore loves to hate. Not the "military culture" -- which is the main reason the culprits (led by a civilian prison guard) were discovered and the reason this has not been covered up.

    I didn't do it, you did not do it, the hundreds of thousands of honorable military service members did not do it. There is no collective guilt for which we must atone. The psychos (and those in charge who were negligent) should be punished severely for their (not "our") crimes.

    But I am deeply worried that somehow the Culture War will be insinuated into this once the finger-waggers start screaming about how "American society" is somehow to blame.

    That's because I have seen it before. First comes the shock. And then, along with the anger, the fingers start to wag.....

    I only hope I am wrong.

    It's late on Friday night, and I have been helping out a dying friend so I haven't had time to blog. I am too weary to research this as I should. I am afraid that what I might find would cause me to lose my temper and be unable to sleep.

    I wish the ideologues would keep their Culture War in the privacy of their own bedrooms, homes, and families and not try to use every terrible incident to come along for political advantage.

    Because once it starts, there's no stopping it.

    UPDATE: It didn't take long. This nauseating piece is already setting the tone:

    Why are we surprised at their racism, their brutality, their sheer callousness towards Arabs? Those American soldiers in Saddam's old prison at Abu Ghraib, those young British squaddies in Basra came -- as soldiers often come -- from towns and cities where race hatred has a home: Tennessee and Lancashire.
    Is Tennessee a town or a city?

    I guess we should ask the author, a guy named Robert Fisk.... He says it's all about "we."

    Must "we" read his garbage?

    UPDATE: Roger L. Simon's post and comment thread intrigues me to no end. Timing is everything. (FDR's rule of coincidence always comes to mind.)

    I am just a lowly blogger, but I have to assume that someone, somewhere, has researched the background of the psychos involved in the torture....

    I hate to generalize, but prison guards have a disproportionate number of notoriously corrupt individuals.

    Were I looking for a few rotten apples, I'd know where to find them.

    (After all, if the U.N. can be bought, why, there's plenty more where that came from!)

    posted by Eric at 11:29 PM | Comments (2)

    Testing my patients

    Not much time to engage in these silly antics today, but my sense of tradition compels me to present the Classical Values Friday Online Tests anyway.

    As long as people keep writing these things and I keep finding new ones, duty calls!

    The first test -- "What movie Do you Belong in?" assigns me to Fight Club!

    Fight Club!

    What movie Do you Belong in?(many different outcomes!)
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Funny, because I don't look for fights, and I'll have my readers know that I never start them....

    Say, what's with the bar of soap, anyway?


    The Fight Club result left me feeling a tad victimized, so I was next drawn to the "Vampire Classification Quiz."

    Vampires intrigue me, because they just do what they have to do to get by, and none of them really chose their lifestyle, any more than I would deliberately start a fight. They're just victims of circumstance, trying to get by. I think this result is basically a fair one, because if I had to be a vampire, I would try to be as nice as I could about it.

    You are most likely to be the Vampire

    The Chevalier personifies the vampire that acts
    with noble intentions, despite what it is
    capable of. Taking a conflicting nature and
    resolving its issues, the chevalier both
    embraces and yet keeps the vampiristic nature
    in check; the hunt and taking of blood is
    enjoyed greatly, yet is restricted to those who
    willingly give, 'wrong-doers,' or is taken in
    self-defense; its powers are also embraced
    willingly, yet while it blatantly and proudly
    uses them, those that harm are only used in
    self-defense or in the defense of others. The
    vampire charm is used in full, and the
    chevalier appears as one of the most alluring
    of all vampires, often lordly in appearance as
    well. Because of the open embrace of its powers
    and seemingly royal stature, the chevalier
    often is an immensely powerful vampire.

    Dominant personality trait: Pride

    Dominant color: Gold

    Fictional Vampire Examples: Meier Link ('Vampire
    Hunter D: Bloodlust'), Jean-Claude ('Anita
    Blake: Vampire Hunter')

    Curious to see how you would fare as a creature of
    the night? Come this way...

    Vampire Classification Quiz (w/ Pics)
    brought to you by Quizilla

    I can live with that, if I must. There are benefits to being a vampire. For one thing, I don't have to worry about the Life Extension War....


    Being a pugnacious vampire left me with a need to atone, and maybe feminize myself a little, so I took a "chicks only" quiz -- "Which male celebrity are you going to marry?" -- to tone down my image. I am not a girl vampire, and I am not looking to marry a celebrity, male or female, so these results should be taken with a grain or two of fresh blood. Maybe my first victim?

    You are going to marry Ashton Kutcher. He is kind
    and sweet, but pulls a lot of pranks (and
    probably quite a few on you too!!)and can
    always make you laugh.

    Which male celebrity are you going to marry? (now 12 (i just added more, and still more to come!)results that have pics!)
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Don't these guys want eternal youth?


    If it were my fate to do all the above things, I would definitely want to write about them, so the following test -- "What kind of writer are you?" -- is appropriate enough, as is the result:

    You're an Angst writer!

    What kind of writer are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Oh baby, feel my pain!


    Angst or not, the damned sex thing won't go away, nor will my curiosity. So I was led by the balls to another silly test -- "What's your sexual appeal?" (not knowing that it would be another "chick test.") -- and it said I'm into nerds:


    What's your sexual appeal?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Hey, don't blame me. Nerds are cool these days, but when I was in high school they definitely were not. Even though I fell into the "cool" category I always went out of my way to maintain close friendships with nerds. I guess the test reflects that, but I never intended it to be particularly sexual.

    Once again, I'm a victim of circumstance!


    posted by Eric at 09:51 PM | TrackBacks (2)

    It's getting harder to be soft....

    I have not had time for any of my usual long-winded posts this week. Lots of personal stuff is going on including the sudden serious illness of a friend who was fine last week but who's now about to die. Death is something I am experienced with, so I am helping out the family.

    In the blogosphere, there's so much stuff going on right now that it's tough to keep up with it all. Glenn Reynolds is so on top of everything in spite of illness and the crush of final exams that it makes me ashamed that I can't do a better job. Where he gets his stamina, I don't know.

    However, something is still bugging me, and I touched on it earlier in the discussion of Kerry and O'Neill.

    Like many people on the "right," I have a problem with the 1960s antiwar activists. The problem is compounded by the fact that I am not on the right, but neither am I on the left. I just don't like ideologues. A product of that period myself, I eventually came to realize that the activist left-wing political ideologues who came of age in the 1960s can be generally divided into two camps: the ones who grew out of it, and the ones who are still stuck in it. By "it" I refer to sympathy with the Marxist philosophy, and the general anti-American philosophy which seems to have occupied the ecological niche of Marxism. The whole deconstructionist, post-modernist, globalist, environmentalist crowd which wants to reach out and grab any and all identifiable minorities they can -- usually by telling them America is bad. Or, that America is good, but "we" can improve on it by implementing some form of socialism.

    Socialism sucks and it does not work. I do not trust the 1960s people who still think that it can be made to work, but who are too lame to admit that this is their real agenda. They'll call people "Republican shills" for disagreeing with them, and they use the word "conservative" and "right wing" to tar anyone who doesn't toe the line. True, there are people on the right do the same thing in reverse, but this post is not about them. They can call me "liberal" and that term is about as accurate as is the term "conservative" when it comes from liberals. Much as I dislike being called "liberal" by conservatives, being called "conservative" for being opposed to socialism is intended to have more of a sting, because the prevailing culture in most intellectual circles is dominated by people who consider it a dirty word.

    "Prevailing culture in intellectual circles." I don't think there should be such a thing. But there's no denying it. "Conservative" these days means being stupid. So, if someone calls you a conservative, he's saying that you're stupid.

    Over at Harvey's Bad Money I found a link to a post by an old favorite -- Lynn at Reflections in d minor -- which may (and I repeat may) shed some light:

    I suppose this is an elitist attitude but I'm uncomfortable with the notion that anything can be classical just because the composer says it is. I've always believed that classical should be kept special and separate from ordinary music. It should be elite but, on the other hand, it seems like the gatekeepers, the "high priests" of classical music have lost their minds and barricaded themselves inside the temple, fighting off all potential converts and all the while wailing that nobody listens anymore. It's no longer about preserving tradition, insuring quality and keeping classical music special. I don't know what it's about but it all seems so artificial and somehow incestuous. It seems like the academics are afraid - terrified of giving up control and letting nature take its course. They claim exclusive rights to decide what classical music is.

    The more I think about it, the more I think we should just drop the label "classical" for new music. Classical should only be applied to art music that has stood the test of time.

    I agree with Lynn. Does that mean I am conservative? If so, does that mean I am stupid? If so, then I submit that "stupid" simply means not thinking what you're told to think. Sorry, but I think that's the opposite of stupid.

    Harvey touches on more when he says that classical music is itself limited by stupidity:

    A little intellectual junk food is the spice of life, but most people subsist on it. They're barely aware anything else even exists, and their palates are too jaded by the pure sugar rush to appreciate the subtle mix of spices that classical has to offer. Or they would be, if they were born with any intellectual taste buds at all.

    But when you stop to consider that an average person isn't that bright, and half the people are, by definition, dumber than that, and the first 30% or so above the half-way point aren't that far above (it's a bell curve, you know), you begin to see that the musical playing field is not level, the bats are corked, and classical music is out in far left field with the sun in its eyes and Bartman in the stands.

    Which is a shame, because it's good stuff. But until genetic engineering eliminates stupidity from the human genome, Classical will have a limited potential audience.

    Yet self-appointed intellectuals are (at least it seems to me that they are) trying to dumb down classical music! And in the process, they will label people who disagree as "conservative" and of course, "stupid." I think it's intellectual tyranny by people whose laziness (or arrogance) prevents them from realizing that it is they who are being stupid. Classical music light, classical music soft? It's bullshit -- like passing off work tools, plumbing fixtures -- or actual garbage -- as art, and then sneering at folks who don't "understand the complexities" of it.

    I also think similar tyranny dominates what passes for political discourse. As goes classical music, so goes classical liberalism.

    Perhaps it's even gone. Replaced by the modern labels of "liberal" and "conservative" which get in the way of people understanding each other.

    Glenn Reynolds mentions Michael Barone's new book, which I wish I had the time to sit down and read. He sees America as:

    ....comprising two diametrically opposed characteristics: hard and soft. "Hard America" is characterized by competition and accountability, while "Soft America" attempts to protect its citizens through government regulation and other social safety nets. While Barone's book is not without its political overtones-he identifies Hard America with the political right and Soft America with the left-his book should not be seen as the latest installment in the conservative-liberal cultural wars. Rather, Barone provides a deeper look at the way in which ordinary people live and work and the meaning behind the decisions they make. His concrete historical examples highlight the advantages and disadvantages of Hard and Soft America, creating a compelling picture of two very different ways of looking at the world, without degenerating into mudslinging or name-calling,. Although Barone, a conservative, clearly favors Hard America, he appreciates the necessary difficulty that comes with balancing the two Americas. He concedes that a society without some softness would be a cruel one, but warns that "we have the luxury of keeping parts of our society Soft only if we keep enough of it Hard."
    I don't know whether I am hard or soft, but I think that a lot of people realize you can't have one without the other. It doesn't help if each calls the other stupid or evil or liberal or conservative.

    War is hard. There's no way to be soft about war. To call it conservative misses the point completely. It's common sense, and I worry that the 1960s antiwar crowd is unable to realize that sometimes you have to be hard in order to preserve the soft. (Something neither side fully appreciates, although I can understand why excessive softness is at least as big a mistake as excessive hardness. By way of example, here's a president who just didn't get it, in my opinion.....)

    The ancients knew this intimately. The hardness of Sparta saved the softness of Athens. The Roman military enabled the soft aspects of civilization to thrive and grow. Looking at history, overly hard cultures become rigid and wither away and contribute little culturally, while overly soft cultures invite injury by leaving themselves defenseless.

    The ancients didn't see it as an "either or" deal.

    But I'm probably being too hard.

    Or too soft.

    UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that James Lileks links to a piece in CLASSICS TODAY about the hard reality of classical music:

    The problem with classical music is that people too often feel that it’s a “take it or leave it” proposition. So they leave it, and who can blame them? As a public service, therefore, I propose to close this editorial by revealing ten of classical music’s dirtiest secrets, the kind of facts that you’ll find critics and writers vigorously denying in program note booklets, articles, and reviews. But admit it folks, deep down we all know the truth, don’t we? Judge for yourself:

    1. Mozart really does all sound the same.

    2. Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge is just plain ugly.

    3. Wagner’s operas are much better with cuts.

    4. No one cares about the first three movements of Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique.

    5. Schoenberg’s music never sounds more attractive, no matter how many times you listen to it.

    6. Schumann’s orchestration definitely needs improvement.

    7. Bruckner couldn’t write a symphonic allegro to save his life.

    8. Liszt is trash.

    9. The so-called “happy” ending of Shostakovich’s Fifth is perfectly sincere.

    10. It’s a good thing that “only” about 200 Bach cantatas survive.

    Hey, as the 12-step slogan goes, "Take what you like and leave the rest!"

    I tend to agree with Lynn's definition of classical music as "art music that has stood the test of time," and I would include some modern classical like Bartok. But modern "improvements" on the classics leave me cold. I attended a performance of "Alternative Bach" and, much as I respect choice, I kept thinking that the alternative really wasn't much of an alternative. Just because something is called "alternative" does not make it better! Next time I want Bach, I'll go for the old, unimproved version.

    Enough of being a reactionary poseur!

    posted by Eric at 08:05 PM | Comments (6)

    More dirty UN-derwear?

    Considering the Pooping for Peace® campaign (see the current Bonfire of the Vanities), and the fact that so many of the worldwide "peace activists" have been the recipients of United Nations "dirty" money, I feel obliged to direct everybody's attention to this timely item:

    Items can be hidden right under their noses with these specially-designed briefs which contain a fly-accessed 4" x 10" secret compartment with Velcro® closure and "special markings" on the lower rear portion. Leave the "Brief Safe" in plain view in your laundry basket or washing machine at home, or in your suitcase in a hotel room - even the most hardened burgler or most curious snoop will "skid" to a screeching halt as soon as they see them. (Wouldn't you?) Made in USA. One size. Color: white (and brown). To add realistic smell, check out "Doo Drops" on Page 67.
    Quick! Hide the money in your drawers!

    posted by Eric at 05:57 PM | TrackBacks (1)

    After reading the Carnival, BURN your filthy desires!

    Don't forget to read the Carnival of the Vanities (which was too early for me to enter this week. WAAAAHH!)

    At the Carnival, the Smallest Minority is having a duel with Tim Lambert, with whom I've tangled previously over his statistical gun fetish.

    Peter at The World of Pete relates an incredible tale of being busted by a SWAT team for shooting tin cans in the desert!

    And there's similar politically correct insanity at Zero Intelligence: a stun gun in mom's car gets daughter expelled from school! Is there no end to the idiocy of the people who would run our lives?

    No there isn't: GREENIE WATCH shows how environmentalists are trying to stop suburbs!

    QandO, in a post entitled "Hot gay action at Abu Ghraib," examines Arab hypocrisy on the torture issue, and contrasts mass graves with the torture allegations against the half dozen or so Americans. Bad as that was, he correctly notes that for Saddam Hussein's bunch, the stuff the Americans are charged with would have been mere horseplay.

    (NOT IN MY LOCAL PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER! They featured a nonsensical claim by an Iraqi that the Americans are worse than Saddam Hussein! I guess the Inky thinks its readers will believe anything.)

    WOLves asks whether bloggers are journalists. I hope not! I don't wanna be like the people who write for the Philadelphia Inquirer!


    As to the Bonfire.......

    WARNING: The Bonfire is hosted by Spectra this week, and it's getting pornographic! (Spectra himself tries to assuage the world with a peace recipe, but I doubt Kofi Annan is reading.)

    Andrew Ian Dodge pursues piss-poor poopings for peace. (Doesn't he know that the FCC crackdown includes matters excretory?)

    Josh Cohen is compiling a book of penis spam. (An old favorite of mine....) He wants yours. (SPAM of course....) "Honey I shrunk the penis" is already taken.

    Fritz is definitely pushing the pornography envelope. And even the esteemed, usually most dignified Ghost of a Flea has resorted to link whoring, but he's trying out his homemade TASER, so beware!

    Susie, while at first glance appearing to be cute, in reality drives home a lesson in philosophy: Nuthin from nuthin leaves nuthin!

    Interested Participant has FREE SCOOPS of ICE CREAM -- an offer Leon Kass can't refuse.

    Lick my cone baby!

    And that was posted right before my dirty appetizer.

    See what I mean? The Bonfire is burning hot filth!

    posted by Eric at 10:33 PM | Comments (1)

    A good place to croak!

    Having a toad cross your path in Spring is supposed to bring good luck. (Fertility and long life and all that superstitious stuff.)

    Fortunately, I had my camera along, so I can prove it happened. It would have been nice if the toad had cooperated a little more, but he disappeared into the foliage so quickly I was lucky to get this one.


    Not the famous toad which lived in the legendary Berkeley Castle, described here:

    On the left is a range of buildings containing bed-chambers and other apartments; from the ante-chamber a doorway leads into the dungeon-room, a totally dark room, in which, there is little doubt, the murder of Edward II took place. Under the floor, visible by a lantern let down through a trap-door, is the dungeon, twenty-eight feet deep, in which the wretched king's gaolers, during the latter part of his imprisonment, placed putrid carcasses, to torture and poison him by the stench. It seems a room well suited for a deed of darkness and blood!

    "Out of which dungeon," says Smyth, "in the likenes of a deepe broad well, goinge steepely downe in the midst of the Dungeon Chamber in the said Keepe, was, (as tradition tells,) drawne forth a Toad in the time of Kinge Henry the Seventh, of an incredible bignes, which in the deepe dry dust, in the bottom thereof, had doubtlesse lived there divers hundreds of yeares; whose portraiture in just demension, as it was then to me affirmed by divers aged persons, I sawe, about 48 yeares agone, drawne in colours upon the doore of the great hall, and of the utter side of the stone porch leadinge into that Hall; since by pargettors or pointers of that wall washed out or outworne with time; which in bredth was more than a foot, neere 16 inches, and in length more. Of which monstrous and outgrowne beast, the inhabitants of this towne, and in the neighbour villages round about, fable many strange and incredible wonders, makinge the greatnes of this toad more than would fill a peck, yea I have beard some who looked to have beleife, say, from the report of their Fathers and Grandfathers, that it would have filled a bushell or strike, and to have beene many yeares fed with flesh and garbage from the butchers; but this is all the trueth I knowe or dare believe."

    No; my much smaller toad lives down by this nice little creek:


    And here's where I sat and ate lunch. Nothing special; unless you wanna get Freudian.... Just a fallen tree.


    Then again, it might have been felled. There is a difference, I suppose.

    posted by Eric at 04:24 PM | Comments (3)

    Closer to closure?

    Regular readers might have noticed that last week I linked to a debate between John Kerry and John O'Neill.

    Let's see....

    It was right here in Philadephia, in 1971.

    Subject was Vietnam. The two served in the same unit, and neither one has forgotten the issues. Then or (as Glenn Reynolds highlighted) now.

    Let's start with then.

    Here's John O'Neill, 1971:

    I suggest this is a very fine country. If we precipitously withdraw from Vietnam, if we pull out of there leaving our prisoners of war behind, we will leave the heart and soul of this country there also.

    All we do by precipitous withdrawal is to get a date to negotiate for the last 10 years, during which this country has been racked by hatred and distrust.

    It seems to me we have had enough rhetoric on this issue. We have withdrawn one-half of the troops from Southeast Asia, and the President's promise is complete withdrawal on release of the prisoners of war.

    Vietnamization has done more than all the rhetoric and demonstrations for the past 10 years.

    I am proud personally of having been in Vietnam. So are most Vietnam veterans I've met in every town in this country. We didn't start this war but, under difficult circumstances, we brought it close to conclusion.

    I suggest if you polled 2.5 million people all over the United States, instead of reading about 75 or 1,000 you find they are in favor of the President's Vietnam program.

    Most of the Vietnam veterans have never been to Washington. They have jobs to work at, schools to attend, or maybe they are still in the armed services. I think they demonstrate each and every day throughout this country, demonstrate their love of this country, by participating in ordinary day-to-day affairs. I think this demonstration is the greatest unwritten story of our time.

    And here's Kerry at the same event:

    the killing could end tomorrow if we were only willing to set a date, if we were only willing to state that we will not fire unless fired on, and to bring our troops home.

    The Hanoi regime has said it will return its prisoners providing we set that date. Ambassador David Bruce has made it clear that the prisoner of war question must be settled. But, you see, the problem goes well beyond that now because there is kind of an obscenity in the United States talking about winding down a war and using American lives to do it when that winding down simply means that we are going to permit the Vietnamese to kill Vietnamese for years to come, and that it is going to require support on the part of the United States in bombers, in helicopters and in troops that we simply cannot afford.

    Now, if we set a date, then we can still bolster the regime in South Vietnam if that is what the people want. But the important thing is that more American men will not have to go over there and become drug addicts to survive. More American men will not have to lose their limbs and have their lives unalterably changed for what is now so clearly a mistake, for something that is now so clearly illegal, that is based on so much deception.

    I am struck by a couple of Kerry's remarks.

  • winding down simply means that we are going to permit the Vietnamese to kill Vietnamese for years to come
  • we can still bolster the regime in South Vietnam if that is what the people want
  • Who was right? Historians can argue the point, but I have a problem with abandoning allies. Equating the South Vietnamese and North Vietnamese governments by calling both "regimes," asking whether bolstering the regime is "what the people want" and talking in terms of whether we should "permit" an ally to defend itself -- these phrases suggest that Kerry had little regard for South Vietnam, or those who had died trying to preserve what freedom they still had. I can't say he supported North Vietnam because I have no way of knowing. I doubt he'd admit it if he did.

    I don't mean to be stuck in 1971. Forgive me. I was a Marxist at the time, and I really didn't think things through, because I just didn't understand then how much Communism sucks. (After all, North Vietnam had never attacked us, they didn't have weapons of mass destruction, and well, they only killed and tortured class enemies.....)

    I'm just a little concerned that history may be repeating itself. Hope I'm not being paranoid.

    But fast forward to 2004. Here's O'Neill, in the Wall Street Journal:

    Vietnam was a long time ago. Why does it matter today? Since the days of the Roman Empire, the concept of military loyalty up and down the chain of command has been indispensable. The commander's loyalty to the troops is the price a commander pays for the loyalty of the troops in return. How can a man be commander in chief who for over 30 years has accused his "Band of Brothers," as well as himself, of being war criminals? On a practical basis, John Kerry's breach of loyalty is a prescription of disaster for our armed forces.

    John Kerry's recent admissions caused me to realize that I was most likely in Vietnam dodging enemy rockets on the very day he met in Paris with Madame Binh, the representative of the Viet Cong to the Paris Peace Conference. John Kerry returned to the U.S. to become a national spokesperson for the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, a radical fringe of the antiwar movement, an organization set upon propagating the myth of war crimes through demonstrably false assertions. Who was the last American POW to die languishing in a North Vietnamese prison forced to listen to the recorded voice of John Kerry disgracing their service by his dishonest testimony before the Senate? (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Who won the debate back in 1971?

    It's tempting to ask whether anything has been learned in all those years.

    This time, whether he will admit it or not, Kerry would place himself in the historical role of Richard Nixon, who sincerely wanted peace with honor, and felt the best way to do that was to hand over the war to the South Vietnamese, who (Nixon believed) could defend themselves with our support.

    It's tough to pin him down, but I think it's fair to say that Kerry wants to hand Iraq over to the U.N.:

    ....[A]n international High Commissioner should be authorized by the UN Security Council to organize the political transition to Iraqi sovereignty and the reconstruction of Iraq in conjunction with the new Iraqi government. Kerry said the Commissioner should be an individual who is highly regarded by the international community and who has the credibility and capacity to talk to all the Iraqi people.
    That's the same U.N. which has shown itself to have been in the employ of the guy we just spent untold sums of money and American lives to overthrow.

    It sounds like a far cry even from Nixon's peace with honor.

    And it's obvious how Kerry felt about that, so I doubt his bragging about Vietnam will lead us to closure.

    Now or then.

    UPDATE: Quite predictably, John O'Neill is being attacked as a "Republican shill." (Via Glenn Reynolds.) Unfortunately, that word is listed only as an adjective in my Webster's Unabridged Dictionary (Second Edition, 1957), and not at all in C.T. Onions' "Dictionary of English Etymology, so I have to rely on the Internet. The following is, I guess, as good as any:

    Noun 1. shill - a decoy who acts as an enthusiastic customer in order to stimulate the participation of others -- decoy, steerer - a beguiler who leads someone into danger (usually as part of a plot)

    Verb 1. shill - act as a shill; "The shill bid for the expensive carpet during the auction in order to drive the price up" -- cozen, deceive, delude, lead on - be false to; be dishonest with
    Which means that, by calling O'Neill a "Republican shill," the Kerry campaign is not merely accusing him of being a Republican, but of concealing it in a dishonest manner, so as to beguile. I do not know O'Neill's party affiliation now, but in 1971 he was apparently a Democrat. In the speech I cited above, both Kerry and O'Neill were addressing a mayors' conference in Philadelphia, presided over by Mayor James Tate, a Democrat.

    Was O'Neill a "shill" in 1971 too? I am sure some people would say so (as some have), because he was supporting the president's Vietnamization program, and opposing Kerry's demand for an immediate ceasefire and pullout.

    But if the definition has any meaning, you can only be a shill if you support something by means of deception. Otherwise, anyone you disagree with becomes a "shill," which makes no sense....

    Unless, of course, it's meant as an ad hominem attack.

    Pretending to support that which you secretly oppose (or pretending to oppose what you secretly support) is being a shill. Thus, if someone like Fred Phelps were found to be secretly against the moral conservatism he claims to endorse, he would be a shill. From what I can see of O'Neill, he has favored "the concept of military loyalty" consistently, whether as a Democrat in 1971 or as a Republican today (assuming he is that). If he supports Bush's war strategy, that does not make him a shill for Bush, any more than it makes an antiwar activist working for Kerry a shill for Kerry.

    Try as I might, I cannot see how stating what you think makes one a shill.

    As to party affiliation, I am uncomfortable with both parties, and I have switched my registration back and forth more times than I'd care to count. With the exception of 1976 (when I voted Libertarian), I voted Democratic in every election from 1972 through 1992, and since then it's been a mixed bag. I registered Republican in this area because the primaries are "closed" and I fear the growth of radical fundamentalism in the Republican Party. That would appear to make me a shill for the liberal agenda in the Republican Party, although doubtless if I switched back to the Democratic Party and kvetched about my problems with Kerry, I'd be called a "DINO" or a "shill" for the Republicans. Yet I am really not concealing anything; I try to think what I think.

    What concerns me here is whether O'Neill believes what he says, and I see no reason to doubt that he does.

    posted by Eric at 01:35 AM | Comments (1)

    They're not all liberals....

    What's up with Washington Times editor Arnaud de Borchgrave? In a piece called "Looking for the Exit", he makes it sound as if we've lost the war in Iraq, and the only question about getting out is not if, but when:

    If it wasn't a quagmire, it was certainly quagmiry. And the first prominent retired general to break ranks with President Bush's Iraq war policy was a Republican who once headed the National Security Agency and also served as a deputy national security adviser. Gen. William E. Odom, a fluent Russian speaker who teaches at Georgetown and Yale universities, told the Wall Street Journal's John Harwood staying the course in Iraq is untenable.

    It was hard to disagree with Gen. Odom's description of Mr. Bush's vision of reordering the Middle East by building a democracy in Iraq as a pipedream. His prescription: Remove U.S. forces "from that shattered country as rapidly as possible."

    Gen. Odom says bluntly, "we have failed," and "the issue is how high a price we're going to pay — less by getting out sooner, or more by getting out later."

    De Borchgrave is also in touch with the pulse of the Arab street:

    Arab opinion has been inflamed to the point where Palestine and Iraq are now two fronts in the war against what Charles de Gaulle used to call "the Anglo-Saxons." Osama bin Laden is probably thinking he's some kind of strategic genius.

    In Iraq, quite apart from Fallujah and Najaf, the U.S. occupation, according to the latest Gallup polls, has turned most of the population against America. In Baghdad, only 13 percent now believe the invasion and regime change it accomplished were morally justifiable. Only one-third of Iraqis believe the occupation is doing more good than harm and a majority favor an immediate U.S. troop withdrawal while conceding this could put them in greater danger. Gen. Odom presumably has his finger on the same pulse.

    The editorial reads as if it had been written by Justin Raimondo, and I am a tad suspicious.

    Has anyone checked to see whether Reverend Moon was on the Saddam voucher payroll?

    (Moon's plans for the U.N. are not really a secret.)

    UPDATE: Lest anyone dismiss de Borchgrave as a lone voice, Bruce Fein (also writing in the Times) is thinking along similar lines.

    As was said of Napoleon's assassination of the Duc d'Enghein, President George W. Bush's inanely conducted effort to summon a secular democratic Iraq into being is worse than a crime, it is a blunder.

    His latest follies unwittingly aid the enemy. The president should publicly confess his monumental miscalculations over post-Saddam Iraq, arrange for an orderly withdrawal of America's military presence, and accept the inescapable Iraqi convulsions that will follow as less horrific than would be additional aimless American casualties.

    Lots of work ahead, like it or not. I agree with Glenn Reynolds:
    ....[I]t's very, very important that we get this right. My concern is that if we don't, we'll have a much bigger war on our hands, in which we'll be forced to adopt the approach to casualties -- our own, and others' -- that we took in World War Two. That was right then, and I suppose it could be right in some horrific future situation, but I'd far rather avoid that situation.

    posted by Eric at 10:27 AM

    Anti-War War strategy

    Is there some sort of strategy going on? A pattern?

    There have now been repeated examples of exortations -- by Americans -- to kill U.S. soldiers.

    And then, when a heroic soldier has been killed, the same crowd tells us he deserved to die.

    When a soldier-traitor kills his fellow soldiers, the battle cry becomes "WE SUPPORT OUR TROOPS WHEN THEY KILL THEIR OFFICERS."

    So much for supporting the troops (who are of course portrayed by Indymedia as Nazis).

    How about the deliberate killing and mutilation of American civilians?

    "Screw them," says one blogger.

    Victims of 9-11? Cruel ridicule by Ted Rall, who, far from apologizing, attacked the bloggers who criticized him for it, calling one of them "a right-wing blogger typing in his parents' basement in Tennessee."

    Rall doesn't identify the Tennessee blogger who types in his parents' basement. But another Tennessee blogger (who says he does not write from his parents' basement) thinks these folks are not anti-war, but they're on the other side.

    There are two sides to every war. The anti war U.S. people freely admit what side they're on, even using titles like "Iraq From the Other Side." [I have posted about the latter, Ted Rall, here, here, here, and here.....]

    One of these guys, propagandist Micah Wright, had the unmitigated gall to call himself a veteran. Michelle has a very thorough analysis here. Ted Rall dared to characterize himself as a "patriot." About as believable as the claim that they "support our troops."

    I'd seen some of Wright's propaganda, but it never would have occurred to me to question his background. Precisely why such people get their way. I can't possibly do justice to all the fine work the blogosphere has done exposing them for what they are: truly rotten and evil to the core.

    What disturbs me the most is that if I wasn't blogging, I wouldn't ever hear a thing about any of this in the mainstream media.

    What's with so many of the people who claim they "support our troops" -- while doing everything possible to undermine them? If I didn't know they were anti-war, I'd almost swear they were helping the other side.

    I sure hope they're not the softer side of the same strategy.

    UPDATE: Forgive me, but I can't resist quoting from Lileks today:

    Forgive us for believing that fascism's side ought to lose.

    MORE: My blogfather's Weekly Check on the Bias (one of his best so far) reveals that Ted Rall is outspokenly pro-Second Amendment. If Rall means what he says [and this is not the first time he's said it], well, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. And it's not the first time leftists have supported the right to keep and bear arms. In my days as a youthful Marxist, this was one of the things I liked about the Black Panther Party. In fact, what put them on the map politically -- their first media splash -- was their high-profile opposition to a bill in the California legislature which would limit the Second Amendment. Whether Ted Rall's Second Amendment views will be influential on the left remains to be seen. I'm inclined to believe that his remarks will be largely ignored. (Or, worse, used against the Second Amendment.) He may also be afraid for his own safety, though, as perhaps he should be. But why isn't he more appreciative that this right, which the founding fathers acknowledged as predating the Constitution, exists because of people who died to preserve it? People upon whom he heaps scorn and ridicule.

    I'd like to think there's hope for Rall, but color me skeptical.

    posted by Eric at 09:02 PM | Comments (2)

    Finally -- a three-way for geeks!

    By "three-way" I mean triple boot, of course! I know I just can't shut up about Linux, but I am so enamored of both SuSE and Mepis that I decided to use two old hard drives -- one partitioned with Windows 2000 and SuSE Linux; the other with Mepis Linux. SuSE comes with the GRUB boot loader. (A free System Commmander for geeks.) When you start up, it defaults to SuSE, but can customize the boot scripts to show -- and boot -- any other OS you might have.

    Getting it to recognize and boot Windows 2000 as an alternative to SuSE was not a problem, but with Mepis on the other drive it was hellish. It just didn't want to boot the damned Mepis kernel, no matter how many times I tried rewriting the script. You have to remember that (hd1,0) is /dev/hdb1, and it must point to the kernel, and while I wrote it again and again and thought I had it right, I think the spacing was the problem. (Don't guess on spaces; use TAB!) Anyway, after the twelfth rewrite, finally, WHOOOSH! The Mepis kernel exploded into view and flooded the black screen with files. It works fine now, and I am writing this from the Mepis OS, on it's first boot from the GRUB loader!

    A virgin post from a virgin boot!

    I kept reading that writing to GRUB is not for beginners, but it's really quite logical, once you realize that improper spacing will mess you up.

    Enough geekery!

    (Even if it's the only three-way I've had in decades....)

    UPDATE: While it really hurts, I must acknowledge that not all bloggers share my interest in Linux. A previous post about Linux even upset a fellow blogger to the point of personal injury. Here's Harvey, whose claim I take most seriously:

    I pulled a muscle from all the intense not caring I did while perusing this post.
    It never occurred to me that blogging could actually cause physical injury, but we live in a suit-happy society, and maybe I should consider just paying the guy off. (I don't think anyone has printed Linux money, although there is a very attractive Linux money clip....)

    But hey, in my defense, at least I have tried to sex things up!

    posted by Eric at 12:17 PM

    Shocking photographic trend

    Did you know that you can build a functional TASER from an ordinary disposable camera?

    These disposable cameras (about $5 dollars a pop) have a capacitor that can store up to 600 volts of stopping power. When the capacitor discharges those volts, it delivers an amperage comparable to stun guns. Perfect for our shocking device.
    Complete instructions follow, including a picture of the writer's zapped arm:
    The two little red marks in the circle are burns I got. Being on the receiving end of that glove was not a day at the park.

    I don't recommend doing this to friends, nor do I recommend doing it to enemies -- unless you can hold the zapper to their necks for at least five seconds. The brief encounter my arm had with it wasn't enough to knock me out, but it did make me weak in the knees. Either way, don't try this at home, kiddies.

    We definitely need mandatory background checks plus a fifteen day waiting period.

    And sales to minors should be strictly prohibited! I "shutter" at the thought!

    HT GeekPress, via Justin the Blogless.

    posted by Eric at 05:43 PM | TrackBacks (1)

    Forgetting about May Day....

    I almost forgot that yesterday was May Day!

    That's a big day for Marxists, and while it wasn't celebrated with the customary splendor of the past, a notable tribute was paid by General Vo Nguyen Giap, who took the occasion to offer (as my local paper put it) "insight on Iraq":

    HANOI, Vietnam - The frail and tiny man who defeated two superpowers returned to the spotlight Friday to talk of triumphs past and deliver words of warning to the Americans at war in Iraq.

    "Any forces that would impose their will on other nations will certainly face defeat," said Vo Nguyen Giap, the legendary general whose strategies wore out the French colonial regime and then the U.S. Army.

    Giap is 92 now, the last of Vietnam's giants in a 30-year war to shake off colonial rule and unite the country under communism.

    What brought him to a rare meeting with journalists were two landmark anniversaries: The fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, and the defeat of French colonial forces at the epic siege of Dien Bien Phu, 50 years ago next Friday.

    With some critics of the Iraq war likening it to America's Vietnam experience, Giap's opinion was eagerly sought, but the man considered one of history's foremost military strategists prefaced his reply with caution, saying he didn't know the specifics of the Iraqi situation.

    He offered this: "All nations fighting for their legitimate interests and sovereignty will surely win."

    Giap emphasized the powers of today should not underestimate weaker countries' desire for independence.

    Vietnam "proves that if a nation is determined to stand up, it is very strong," he said, adding that his country led the wave of independence wars that freed the colonies of the European empires after World War II.

    Stirring words. "Insights" we should all take to heart. Very thoughtful of the general to take the occasion to thank "Americans who opposed the Vietnam War" too. (No reason to single anyone out, of course. The old Stalinist is too sly to put himself in a position of making any "endorsements.")

    It never ceases to bother me that Communists always seem to get a pass. The fact that tens of millions were slaughtered is unimportant, and never worth mentioning.

    And if the slaughter is worth mentioning, the new trend is to mention it only to blame the one country which has done more to oppose Communism than any other: the United States.

    I'll return to Rene Gonzalez, not because his political insights are particularly more profound than General Giap's, but because he's a good example, and an easily recognized one right now. Here's his review of Socialism, by noted Marxist rehabilitator Michael Harrington:

    I found Michael Harrington's Socialism by accident in a dusty used bookstore. The large red letters in the title attracted me to the book and as a young student trying to understand how to make this world a better place, I decided to pick it up. I thought I new everything about socialism and its history in the world. I was wrong.

    Michael Harrington highlights very important concepts such as the idea that socialism was impossible to construct in poor nations like Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam and even the U.S.S.R. and that thus the governments of these countries had to resort to repressive measures in order to maintain their control. Instead, he proposes (as Marx did too) that socialism must gain hold first in nations with "abundance" like the United States, England, France, Germany, etc. Furthermore, he reiterates that socialism MUST be democratic or it is not socialism. It either is people's socialism (bottom-up socialism) or it is anti-socialist "Socialism" (top-down socialism).

    Michael covers a lot of theoretical AND practical ground (a rarity in books regarding socialism) and it is great for beginners as well as serious readers of socialist ideas (like myself). The book gave me hope and I'm sure others will get that feeling too. It is a shame that God claimed his life already (Michael died of cancer in 1989), but I hope his life's devotion (struggle for democratic socialism) some day gives fruit. Thanks Michael.

    Yeah thanks Michael. And thanks Rene, for reminding me that those like you who are endlessly fascinated with building a "better world" through Marxism will continue to ignore, minimize or excuse the murder of millions.

    As Harrington said,

    socialism . . . is the idea of an utterly new society in which some of the fundamental limitations of human existence have been transcended.
    What Marxists and their apologists cannot understand is that these "fundamental limitations" have never been successfully transcended. Not even over the dead bodies of former "human existence."

    How many did Castro kill on his island paradise? 70,000? I guess that's small potatoes in comparison to a population of 10 - 12 million. (In terms of U.S. numbers, a proportionate figure would top 2 million killed, but it's "red-baiting" to speak that way of builders of better worlds.)

    Here's Mr. Gonzalez's review of Ted Szulc's Castro biography (Fidel: A Critical Portrait):

    As a critical political science student, I wanted to know what was all the hype about Castro. Yes, he is a communist, but is that all that makes him a "boogeyman" (if communism ever makes a person a boogeyman!). After reading many biographies of the "bearded one", Tad's book is the only one that permeates objectivity. In many parts, he criticizes Fidel for his faults but praises many of his superior societal reforms (such as the healthcare and education successes). The U.S. has got a lot to learn from his social reforms...and Castro needs to learn to democratize a little more.
    Just a little more? A little tinkering and fixing, and everything will be OK?

    A sympathetic Lady Astor once asked Joseph Stalin how long he planned to go on killing people. Stalin's answer?

    As long as it's necessary.
    We'll just have to keep trying till we get it right!

    One of the most refreshing things I discovered about the blogosphere is that bloggers are not afraid to condemn Communism just as strongly as Nazism. Here's an excellent example, from Glenn Reynolds:

    Communists are, in my opinion, as bad as Nazis: mass murder, totalitarianism, etc. (And calling them "Marxists" instead doesn't fool anyone.)

    Going to a march organized by Communists doesn't make you a Communist, any more than going to a march organized by Nazis makes you a Nazi.

    But knowingly going to either one makes you icky. And calling it McCarthyism when people point that out, or point out that the Communists really are Communists, makes you either dishonest, or stupid.

    Wow. Doesn't Glenn realize that condemning the murder of millions is red baiting?

    No wonder he gets so much hate mail.

    UPDATE: More May Day remembrance at Catallarchy and at Jay Solo's blog. (Via he who refuses to forget.)

    posted by Eric at 02:57 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)

    Triggers get depressed and pull themselves!

    Here's a story about Jesse Jackson in the Inky's local news section, which reveals some very poor logic at work:

    "We sell the most guns. We're the most violent country on Earth, and it doesn't have to be that way," the noted civil-rights activist and former Democratic presidential candidate said as media crews, community activists and curious neighbors watched.

    Jackson was promoting the Mother's Day March to Halt the Assault, a national rally against gun violence to be held May 9 in Washington.

    ...."It's about the accessibility of guns," Dees-Thomases said. "Guns are so easy to get. That's what's causing the killing."

    There's no winning an argument with people incapable of logic. Might as well say that cars cause accidents, and scalpels cause abortions!

    Anyway, these folks are promoting an inane event called the "Mothers Day March to Halt the Assault."

    Assault? They think that while all guns cause shootings, some guns are even more guilty of an evil animus, and these they call "assault weapons." The term is a misnomer, of course, for it prohibits guns of a certain military appearance which otherwise are no different in function than any other semiautomatic firearm which discharges a round when the trigger is pressed. (I almost said "when the trigger is depressed" but I caught myself there!)

    True assault weapons are capable of full automatic fire, and have been regulated heavily since the 1930s.

    This outfit certainly has a broad and expansive view of the word "assault" though. Their rally features speakers who promise to

    share their stories of how violence has impacted their lives and how the gun lobby has assaulted their lives and families.
    Hey, do they mean me? I'm a member of the NRA, which is called the "gun lobby."

    Can they explain how I've "assaulted their lives and families?"

    Maybe I should attend their NRA Blacklist Ball and ask someone. Depending on how much money you pay, you can be at various sponsorship levels; the John Lott sponsor level is the cheapest (I guess they think he'll draw the most purchasers), and the other honorees (ranked from highest to lowest) are: "Charlton Heston" ($75,000), "Wayne LaPierre" ($50,000), "Kayne Robinson" ($25,000), "Rep. Tom DeLay" ($10,000), "Jeff Cooper" ($5000), and "Ted Nugent" ($1000).

    I am outraged.

    Why isn't my blogfather being honored? And where's Kim du Toit? Or how about Aaron?

    The problem with crashing the ball is that I'd have to pay money, which would be spent trying to take away my guns, leaving me helpless against criminals.

    Funny thing, how they accuse me of assaulting them, when in reality they're trying to make things easier for people to assault me!

    Am I allowed to get all upset and bounce a check for a good cause? It wouldn't be my fault.

    Checks are so easy to get. That's why they bounce.

    posted by Eric at 02:08 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)

    "Compared to Saddam, the Americans are better"

    I first learned about the Iraqis-tortured-by-MPs story here, and my immediate reaction was to figure out how to stop the torturers from returning to the United States and finding work as police. I figured, if this story only leaked to the press by accident, what more might there be? If the stories are true, I share Glenn Reynolds' and Kim du Toit's view that the guilty parties ought to be punished as severely as possible. To the extent possible, the world should not be allowed to imagine that the United States tolerates stuff like that.

    This Canadian news report didn't get much play in the American press, but it recites a long litany of prisoner abuse by American MPs, and General Karpinski (head of the military police) is described as not responding to questions.

    Still, things could be worse. As one prisoner observed,

    Compared to Saddam, the Americans are better.
    Reassuring, but hardly a job recommendation for police work here in the United States.

    The only accused parties so far are the ones dumb enough to have appeared in the pictures. What about the others? The fact that they were brazen enough to photograph their handiwork suggests that this was openly winked at -- or worse.

    Do you want such people coming back here and finding work as police?

    This is not my idle speculation. It is a fact that many MPs return to the United States and directly enter law enforcement. (I know this because I served on the Berkeley Police Review Commission, and became familiar with hiring procedures.)

    Already, there are signs of families and friends covering things up:

    A Cumberland woman with a relative in the unit said that all six soldiers were from the 372nd, based in Cresaptown, a few miles southwest of Cumberland. She said that at least a few of the six lived in or around Cumberland, a small city surrounded by mountains in rural Western Maryland.

    She said that the 372nd had been attached to the 800th Military Police Brigade, based in Uniondale, N.Y., which was in command of soldiers from various units guarding Abu Ghraib prison.

    "A lot of us have known about the arrests and the court-martial, but everyone knew to keep their mouths shut," said the woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of hurting her relative's military career.

    She said that some local families had hoped that early reports mentioning only the 800th military police unit would keep reporters from discovering its connection to the 372nd. "It only takes one person to spoil the reputation of the whole" unit, she said of the desire to keep the connection secret. (Link.)

    If I were in charge of the hiring, I'm not sure I'd take a chance with anyone who served in these units.

    The problem is, they'll want to come back and work as police.

    It gives me the creeps.

    "Better than Saddam" is too low a standard.

    UPDATE: One of the chief culprits -- Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Chip Frederick -- was a prison guard from Virginia. Might the most damning aspect of this story be that he exported his "skills" to Iraq? If that's the case, then my worries may be sorely misplaced. Few people care what goes on in American prisons as it is. The fact that a U.S. soldier blew the whistle on this sadism might indicate that the problem is a pre-existing American problem which has unfortunately found its way into the military. That it is being addressed speaks well for the military -- but it doesn't speak well for what goes on in this country's prisons. I hope they get to the bottom of this, because it really stinks.

    Depressing as hell is right. Guys like that shouldn't have been working here in the first place. It's ironic -- and sickening -- to learn about them this way.

    MORE: A comment in support of prison sadism confirms what I just said. The sad reality is that the commenter is not alone; I've heard similar sentiments voiced elsewhere (usually by people who forget that so many things have been criminalized that most of us are felons).

    AND MORE: Via Drudge, here's an appalling in-depth report by Seymour Hersh. It sickens me to read about Americans (including women) doing these things to people. I don't want them returning home to work as police OR prison guards. God forbid that they might be allowed to raise children.

    posted by Eric at 11:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)

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