Tuesday, September 30, 2003

My idiot evil twin. He's dumb as a post, Atrios-addled, and his "poetry" consists entirely of unironic, deadly serious haiku. Not to mention that he copyrights every single haiku - individually. On top of all that, he uses a tiny goddamn font that makes my eyes water.

Inimicus Curiae?

Came across this while following a link to the post above this on the Novak/Plame affair. "Enemy of the Court". Latin puns are so cute.
Tom Maguire has the best collection of posts on the Plame affair I've come across yet. He also links to an excellent post explaining the structure of the CIA, and speculating based on that why there's so much confusion about whether or not Plame was a covert operative. Keep an eye on Maguire, he's all over the story and isn't pushing it one direction or another. I find it interesting that he suspects Cheney's staff as the source of the leaks - it makes sense, given how much Cheney's people were involved in the yellowcake mess. Perhaps he is pushing a bias - neocons against the Cheney oil crowd - but I can't help but sympathize with his wish for a disgraced Cheney and someone else on the junior slot of the ticket in 2004.
Jack Shafer at Slate has a calm and interesting article on the Plame affair that fills in some of the gaps that I hadn't really thought of before. Specifically, he points out the provenance of the act making the exposure of covert CIA operatives illegal. Useful article.

"The warrior goes out looking for leaders strong enough to crush the devil. "

David Brooks' NYT column on the interweaving of deliberate ignorance and fury in what he calls "the presidency wars". He makes a good point about displacement, from cultural to the politically personal. I was just listening in on some office-mates who were clucking over an online article about the Plame affair and how "Bush did this to that poor woman". Righteous fury loses context as it moves down the information chain - the facts get stripped away until all that is left is a fabricated biography; Great Man history returned, revenant, cold from the void into which it was once flung.

via Andrew Sullivan, who characteristically treats the column as a blast against Krugman, whom Brooks never mentions in the text.
The site I was using for comments has been sending out bloodcurdling emails about a virus infestation in the comments in a general (rather than particular) sense. I've taken down the comments on general principles until I get notice one way or the other. I've been thinking about using a different site for comments, anyways. Let me know if you have any strong opinions on the subject.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Sentences I Cannot Imagine How We Ever Lived Without I

"If you never crush their spirits, how will they learn?"
"Are we to believe that the decades-long neoconservative campaign against Communism and anti-Americanism was a fantastically farsighted Rube Goldberg machine programmed to produce some benefit for Israel somewhere down the line? " An Opinion Journal piece on the vying theories of the anti-neocon crowd. He labels Churchill as a neocon predecessor (I think this is classic American mis-understanding based on the differing meanings of the "Liberal" label on the two sides of the Atlantic, myself). He also claims Charles Krauthammer as a neoconservative, where I've always placed Krauthammer on the reasonable end of the paleocon spectrum. But that might be my mis-understanding of some social or institutional association of Krauthammer's that I am missing.

Via Porphyrogenitus.
Erin Connor discusses the Brooks column on conservatives in academia. I tend to agree with her on this particular point - that the problem with academia isn't so much its left-handedness, as it is the anti-scholastic character of that left-handedness. The "activist", political character of the doctrinaires infesting the academy is the problem, not the specific content of their beliefs or principles. The situation is not, therefore, addressable with a counterinfestation, or competition of parasites, left and right. The problem is how to depoliticize the academy. That problem is so fraught that I don't even know that it is possible. Connor's own blog tends to inadvertently demonstrate how easily "depoliticizing" become covert counter-politicizing.
Elia Kazan has died.
For chromal, who was bugging me about it over the weekend, here's a couple of posts from Roger Simon and the Instapundit on the Wilson/Plame affair. My thoughts on the subject? Robert Novak is a lame paleocon who often tempts me towards extremes of characterization that he doesn't really deserve. He's a worthless tick of a Beltway pundit. Karl Rove is a ruthless and obnoxious political operator who's not as smart as he thinks he is. (They rarely are.)

The whole situation is the sort of stupid bumbling and clowning about that typifies actual Beltway "conspiracies", and doesn't strike me as one of the fevered productions of journalistic paranoia that are often retailed under that name. The points that Simon and Reynolds note (the lack of a significant upside to this "crime" for the perpetrator(s), the dottiness of using a Wilson to check on intelligence, the dubiousness of characterizing Plame as "undercover", etc) don't actually militate against the charges being true. In my mind, they make it more likely. After all, the Watergate burglary was a fairly pointless and lame waste of time on the part of the conspirators, which ballooned into a massive mess due to the coverup.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not comparing the two cases. For one thing, there doesn't seem to be any criminal cover-up going on that I can see. With the CIA thrashing about, I don't know that there will be, either.

I have to wonder about exacerbating circumstances at the CIA - the pressure they're under to subordinate to the Homeland Security Department has got to be sublimating in various ways that won't be immediately obvious on the surface.

Update: One Bo Cowgill comments on the Washington Post article. See also the Daniel Dresner post & thread from which I found the Cowgill post. Someone pulls up the language of the statute in play, and it seems to indicate that ignorance (of the operative's undercover status) *is* a defense in this case. It also appears from the Washington Post article that Plame may have been an analyst who occasionally did undercover work - which could have put the alleged source in a position of knowing her as an analyst and not an undercover asset.
Constructive criticism from Jay Rosen. I'm not sure if this notion that Americans are naturally more inclined to experimentation and operating without a plan isn't over-simplifying matters, or indulging in yet more mythologizing of the "American Way". Of course, every time I develop these suspicions, the Europeans manage to dispell them with something loud, stupid, and rigid. I expect some clowning from Chirac momentarily.

Via Jeff Jarvis's Buzzmachine.
Had a friend visit over the weekend bearing unexpected gifts - his fansubs of Hameln the Violinist, on VHS no less. It was like a visitation from the Ghost of Fandom Past. (We also watched my DVD of A Blackadder Christmas Carol, so I've got ghosts on the brain right now.)

Hameln the Violinist is a TV anime from 1996 (thank you, pedantic old-school fansubbers! They included copyright notices for both the show and the manga it was based on!). You'd think from that nugget of information that it would be well-animated, or at least slick. Well, you'd think that if you'd never heard of Hameln the Violinist, I guess. As an anime, it's the best PowerPoint presentation ever recorded to video. Half the time it's fleshed-out storyboards, the other time it's low-frame-count animation of the laziest sort. Hameln the Violinist is sort of the standard against which other under-animated shows have to live up to. Hammerman is worse, but only because it's so damn ugly. Say what you will about Hameln the Violinist, but it's got pretty individual cels. There's just not a hell of a lot of them.

There was a rumor a while back that one of the companies had gotten the license for this, but I now think it was a garbled version of someone (MediaBlasters, I think) licensing the half-hour movie, which is as totally unlike the TV anime as is possible while still retaining the main characters - comedy instead of grim high fantasy. It's definitely "Hameln the Violinist", not "The Violinist of Hamelin", as it's sometimes mis-translated. It's supposed to have that evocation, though.

It's your standard hidden-princess plot in a fantasy setting (demons hammering on the mystical gates of mankind, etc). Our heroes are magician-bards, using "magic music" to fight, show off, and attract constant attacks by the monsters. Our protagonist is your typical bishounen hero - glum prettyboy with an indeterminate dark past. The music is the key selling point of the show - they don't skimp on the audio, and the session players they use for the background music and the set-pieces really earn their keep.

It's not a particularly gentle show, either. People die like flies, and they die hard. Our hero, Hameln, re-animates the recently-deceased bodies of the princess's guard to fight the undead hordes in the second episode, and it's an honestly horrifying, disturbing moment - redeemed by an eloquent expression of the show's apparent theme. That theme is a rather complex notion, roughly "destiny is an unavoidable tragedy, or your life's culmination. Your choice."

More later, as I work through the rest of the series - I've seen these first four episodes before, but not the rest. The old VHS fansub world was like this - you ended up seeing the beginning of a lot of series, but very few endings.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Fool

What are we to make
Of this arrogant man
Who, proud in his lake
Scorns the open seas?
He, who, in his knowledge of life
Retains only what he wants
Leaving his narrowing path rife
With discarded facts.
He, who of science
Cares only for retorts
He, who artifice despises
Practicing only Art.
Of what use this man
Given all the elements
Speaks only Air?
Oh, best to leave him, then
In his Laputa of the Pen.


Friday, September 26, 2003

It's New Blog Showcase time! I don't know, the candidates didn't really grab me this week. I almost said Freedom in Iran wins by default, just because the other candidates were tedious, offensive, or a combination of both. But then I looked at the blog in question, and realized it's just another obnoxious neocon-bashing waste of time. Then I looked at it again, and thought a third time. It's your typical, conflicted, "I hate the US; I hate my own government; Yargh!" Iranian blog.

So, give it the win anyways, even though it annoys me. Yay, Freedom In Iran.
Hrm. Mike Toole reports from AWA that Bandai announced Kaze no Yojimbo. That's relatively good news - it's a fun show, and the fansubbers doing it were creeping along at a slow pace. It's a sharp-looking, peculiar show based loosely on the situations and characters of Kurosawa's Yojimbo, set in modern, northern Japan, and rotating around a stolen-gold conspiracy.
Joe Katzman has a roundup on the slavery issue Bush brought up before the UN earlier this week. I feel sick.

The Magical Embryo Defense

A woman under threat of death by stoning for under an insane sharia judgment was saved by an even more insane sharia appellate decision based on the "sleeping fetus" theory that it can take up to five years for an embryo to gestate. Er... yay?

Tax Holiday On Hummers


(For the dirty-minded, we're talking SUVs here)
Sigh. Not that the points aren't valid, but that last post really comes off as amateur hour, doesn't it?

I really respect those folks that can scan six or seven papers a day, every day, and make sense of the results. When I try to chase down an impression, I'll do the work, but it's a matter of chasing what comes in front of me, not scanning the same sources consistently.

In other words, when it comes to sources, I'm a searcher, not a browser.

Hrm. Andrew Sullivan is talking up Clark. I suppose I ought to go read some Clark transcripts or something. I tend to take my politicians at several removes, which makes me a bit impervious to details like charisma and eloquence. I've found it's the only way to tolerate Bush, for instance.
Instapundit links in passing to a striking report from a Marine with the unit that has just finished handing Najaf over to the Spanish peacekeepers. Remember the furor over the Imam Ali Mosque bombing, and the worries about Shia militias reforming? Been left with the impression that things are still degenerating in Najaf?

It seems that the ex-Ba'athist Najaf security director removed by the Coalition for corruption has confessed to planning the bombing, that the Shia militias have stepped down in favor of an authorized shrine police detachment, and that Najaf is calmer then it was *before* the bombing.

I search in vain for Washington Post or New York Times articles on these rather vital precursors to the otherwise surprising handover to the Spanish earlier this week. The second-rung papers and ABC have articles covering the shrine police deployment; hell, even al Jazeera has a more-or-less positive article on it. The Post, the New York Times, CNN, and the BBC are busy with other matters. Vital matters. Like chasing their tails over WMD, gnawing away at administration half-scandals, and rattling around in Baghdad. Conservatives can't be too proud, though. I can't find any reference on Fox News to the shrine police deployment, either.

This is important because *context* gives perspective. Cover only the failures and we're only going to learn from failure. Failure is important; learning from failure is vital. But it is possible to learn how to fail brilliantly if you only study failure. Najaf looked like it was going to pieces after the bombing; why didn't it? If the majors don't do follow-up, and go chasing after the next rain of gore and horror, we don't get the positive feedback that can help us understand what will work. Elsewise we have to work from first principles in the aftermath of every new disaster.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Dick Morris is writing open letters to Karl Rove. OK, fine - one political opportunist to another, it makes some sense, in a egotistical sort of way. But his suggestions are appallingly bad - mixing bad fiscal policy with excessively militant diplomatic grandstanding, garnish heavily with partial withdrawal in Iraq. It strikes me as the worst kind of abdication of leadership - pandering to every miserable impulse of the polity. Bread and circuses for the elderly? Give 'em drugs. Worried about the costs and efforts and embarrassments of doing the right thing in Iraq? Declare "victory", bail, and let the locals go hang. Need to counter the embarrassment of pulling another Vietnam bugout at less than one-thousandth the cost? Make everybody feel aggressive, virile and manly by stomping Iran in some cheap and ineffectual fashion. About the only suggestion I can't call actively immoral is the suggestion for the promotion of hydrogen-cell cars, if only because it's so utterly inoffensive and bland that the Bush administration is *already* doing it in some desultory, halfassed fashion.

Either Morris has collapsed into some final, morally degraded state of total irresponsibility, or he's pulling a Rove on Rove and giving him intentionally bad advice in the hopes that he'll take it.

Via Porphyrogenitus.
It's Carnival of the Vanities, chillun! And this week's theme is, apparently, 30s futurist iconography. Or possibly communist imagery. It's a little hard to tell.

As for highlights - hey! It's Bad Money again! He passes along s a first-class rhetorical skull-smashing of a troll by a peeved returning Iraq vet. The only part I object to is that he missed the catch on "working towards perfection". It would have been a good place to reference "towards a more perfect union". Not "perfect"; more perfect. The only thing I don't get is why "Waiting to be Born"? Sounds like a Yeats reference, but I don't get the relevance to the post...

Damn Foreigners demonstrates, yet again, who needs drugs when there's Californian politics?

angelweaving ran across a very wacky paean to the trials and tribulations of the oppressed redhead. I note that no-where is there mention of the old simile "beaten like a red-headed stepchild". For those redheads not feeling, y'know, sufficiently oppressed.

Tom Bux is on a "starve the beast" tear about the Turnpike. I don't know, I never drive the Turnpike, but then, I'm pretty far away from it up here in Centre County. Maybe if it was tempting me every day with it's expensive, clarion cash call, I'd be just as annoyed as Tom.

Spanish Troops Take Over Najaf

I predict that some Islamist is going to start yelling about "al Andalus" in regards to Spanish forces occupying a Muslim holy city. On the other hand, it *is* a Shia holy city, and the Salafists tend to be schizophrenic when it comes to Shia Muslims...

Via Winds of Change's Iraq Roundup.
"But perhaps you can answer a question for Allah first. Do you remember the giant anthrax attack on the New York subway system a few weeks ago? No? Neither does Allah. Now walk your punk ass out of Allah's office."

Let's hear it for Blogspot's own resident diety, Allah.


Quicksilver just arrived via UPS. I'll have to take a long lunch and see how deep I can dig in. "Volume 1 of the Baroque Cycle", eh? That's a little off-putting.

Big, big book, though. Inch-deep margins, too. Why do they waste paper this way? This book could have been considerably smaller if they hadn't indulged in the monster margins.

Notes From Basra

Samizdata has an article from their "Man in Basra", who is now back in the UK. He points out the problem with complaining about journalists not giving the "whole picture" in Iraq: that they're there to write stories, that they're not members of a civilian intelligence agency, and that the real story is sometimes not illustratable in a picture or film-loop. Very cogent counter-response to the current "the media is losing us the war in Iraq" meme making the rounds.
"He can have the oil, its not doing us any good anyway and at least then we would be free." It's another visitor-to-Iran-reports-pro-Americanism. An increasingly common genre in the Blogosphere. I just liked the above Iranian response to a complaint that inviting Bush to invade the speaker's country would result in the theft of Iran's oil.

Via Command Post, Pejman, and probably half the net when I finish reading through my morning blogs.
Aquila al-Hashimi, the member of the Iraqi Governing Council who was ambushed last week, has died of her wounds. It's an ugly world, and it grinds us all up before it lets us go. In a cynical moment, I thought that despite the obvious and copious shortcomings of a twenty-five member executive council, it makes it difficult to assassinate the whole in a single strike. I wonder if that was part of the thinking in its establishment?

Hunt the bombers down, guys. Make us proud.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Oh, that's amusing. du Toit noticed my intemperate rant. I'm a "Democrat toad". (Hey, du Toit - "Democratic toad" scans better.)

He mis-quotes me: I didn't call him a "sockpuppet of the Founding Fathers", I accused him of using the Founding Fathers as one might a sockpuppet - namely, by thrusting one's fist up its firmament, and playing ventriloquist in a particularly unimpressive and disrespectful fashion.

His non sequitor quotes of Samuel Adams (psst - Samuel Adams wasn't a "founding father"; He was vehemently opposed to the ratification of the Constitution; he was a rabble-rousing revolutionary who failed to make the transition to post-Revolutionary politics) suggests that he somehow believes me to be an anti-war Democrat.

As far as I can tell, I only support one of the policies he's yelling about in that follow-up post. But hey, he really hates Democrats. That's why conservative Democrats should listen to that old-time religion: because if you don't, Kim's gonna giggle to himself as he pictures your scorched bodies hung from streetlamps.

Folks, this is why I'm an ex-Republican. Because du Toit and people who think *like* du Toit are walking refutations of Jane's Law. It doesn't matter who's in the White House - these guys are always wishing their enemies - all their enemies, regardless of the facts or reason or sense of proportion - horribly mutilated or murdered.

Ah, well, I suppose I'm taking it out on du Toit's devoted faithful, who are currently making up the bulk of my referral logs. Most of you are, I assume, decent and law-abidin' folk. As for Streetlamp Appeals such as du Toit's, I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.
For chromal, who can't seem to conceive of spies without humanitarian hearts of gold, here's a recent NYT article on the two accused spies, via Tacitus. To your stated disbelief in "some badly written Hollywood war thriller screenplay" surprise assault on Camp X-Ray, please let me direct you to recent al Queda jailbreaks in Yemen and the Philippines which do, indeed, resemble bad Hollywood action films. The spectacular theft of computers containing vital anti-terrorist investigation data from a secured facility in Sydney last month resembles Alias more than anything else.

I would point out at this point that no single series of events in the last decade so greatly resembled a "badly written Hollywood war thriller" as the deliberate and theatrical hijackings of four airliners and their use against major American landmarks. Even the Siege didn't dare to go that thoroughly over the top.
Porphyrogenitus has some commentary on an idiot opinion piece by a Boston College tool named Lewis proposing a new Hartford Convention in an utterly predictable display of Jane's Law in action.

Now, don't imagine that I'm in any way inclined to defend or excuse this idiot professor, but Porhyrogenitus invites would-be secessionists in passing to move to Canada if they want to live there. Perhaps he doesn't have any aging, hardshell leftists among his personal acquaintance, but I do, and I've been assured that both New Zealand and Canada are not inclined to accept older immigrants from the United States. I haven't gotten the full story, but the suggestion is that these countries don't consider the US to be oppressive, and thus would-be immigrants from the US don't pass the political hardship test; these leftists are also old enough and insolvent enough (on average) to not represent good candidates for citizenship by the standards of these countries. That is, they can't work their way towards acceptance, and they don't have the dosh to buy their way into the Promised Land's good graces.

Ultimately via Randall Robinson, who seems to have made the Jane's Law crack first. All the best lines are always taken!
Well, the trial is over, so I guess I can blog about it. There was no verdict, as the judge pulled the plug, saying that the plaintiff's lawyer hadn't made their case. I still don't quite understand his reasoning - it seems tied up in a lot of tangling over the validity of evidence produced via an expert witness who was a nurse instead of the doctor he wanted. I find it all very frustrating, because my read of the situation is that the defendants were probably negligent, and definitely not a pair of hospitals in which I'd be willing to entrust the health of my relatives, friends, or self. These institutions have this horrible collective-responsibility attitude that seems devised to encourage and promote neglect and malperformance, and seem more interested in throwing high-priced, ephemeral consultants at a problem, than investing in basic nursing-level intensive care.

Eh, I'm going to talk to some of my relatives in the industry to see if I was over-reacting. I've got a sister who's a physical therapist. We only saw the plaintiff's case - the trial shut down before the defense had its day in court.
Jurjen of No Cameras points out that the wide-spread belief that .50 cal. weaponry cannot be used against personnel under the Geneva Conventions is incorrect. He notes that this belief seems based on a 19th-century Geneva precursor convention that "explosive, fulminating and incendiary" rounds below a certain size should not be used against troops. He further notes that the US is not signatory to this 1868 convention (the "St. Petersburg"). This is rather astonishing, because I've heard this story about the .50 cal. from military personnel. It also undermines the usual "Geneva Conventions are bunk, because of..." argument that accompanies the telling of this particular urban legend.

Good to see Jurjen back in the saddle. I was afraid that No Cameras was going off the air, with him tied up in this Fistful of Euros thing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Well, I have the new Sailor Moon R box set and another Rune Soldier DVD to at least glance at before packing it in, so good night, y'all.

I probably ought to pass along a recent warning a price-conscious friend gave me - Best Prices has changed its shipping charge policy - it's a lot steeper than it used to be. Buyer beware, I suppose. I'm not exactly going to cancel the orders I have outstanding, but I'll definitely take another look at the competition come the next time my wallet's feeling heavy. That ought to be just before the '04 primaries, at this rate....
Hey, check this version of the arrest of the Gitmo chaplain out, then look at another version. Notice how the actual evidence disappears in the Independent's version - the fact that he's being charged with spying, that he was caught with classified documents in his possession? No, it's "aid[ing] and comfort[ing] to potential terrorists". Note also how the detainees become "potential terrorists" instead of captured members of al Queda. Unbelievable.

The Independent article via Andrew Sullivan
Sometimes I feel like a puppy-dog tagging at the heel of great hounds, but I can't resist passing along a link to Daniel Drezner's Edwards roundup, via the indispensable Instapundit.

Why? Because I still believe that Edwards is the best, most honest choice for the Democrats in '04. He's pro-war, strong on offense, and hasn't joined the "yes, but" chorus like Clark or Gephardt or Kerry. He's got more personality than Lieberman, and he's to the left of Lieberman on cultural issues. Furthermore, he is rock-solid on the corporate issue, which has been largely forgotten in all the fussing about tax issues, steel tariffs, agricultural subsidies, and, oh yeah, the war. If we let up the pressure on the accountants and the CEOs, they're going to crawl back under ten thousand shady accounting rocks, to breed a hundred new Enrons for the next bubble to burst.

Work over wealth - hell, yeah.

Fair warning - there's precious little personality in that Edwards blog. The closest to it was the decent little note congratulating John Stewart & the Daily Show for Emmy wins. (I've not been paying attention - they won? Eh, good for them, I suppose.) On the one hand, my inner Democratic partisan says "candidates can't afford to be caustic enough to be amusing in a proper blog". On the other, my internal ex-Republican crank notes that Reagan managed to be pretty damn colorful back in the day. Of course, that might have had something to do with Reagan's B-actor training. Clinton could be colorful without being strained, as well. That might have been because Clinton was a frustrated ham of the highest pork, himself.
Between jury duty and BlogSpot having problems with archives (which are hosing my permalinks, goddamnit!), it looks like a light week for me. Sorry about that, folks. Just when I was getting some momentum, too.

Instapundit is having fun with the "Clash of the Marshalls", and I can't say how amused I am to see the virtual Marshall sputtering like a Marx-Brothers extra.

Chief Wiggles is taking culture-appropriate toy, toiletries, and other child-oriented donations for Baghdad, for those in a charitable mood.

Here's a multi-part article on the history of Murphy's Law that chromal emailed me yesterday, to keep you occupied. It should have the last part published tomorrow.
Finally heard from the Eastern Shore guys - the Delaware field rep, actually - and he says that they rode the storm out without comprehensive losses. A field here or there had wind damage, but it isn't anywhere near the full crop loss we were worried about. He sounded pretty calm, so I don't think he was being stoic, either.

Good news, good news. Hope y'all didn't short grain futures based on the storm.
Paul A. Wolfowitz on a pogo stick, was my mail box full of this "Microsoft Update" virus spam. Is this some sort of extrodinary virus "success", or is my email just more vulnerable now that I'm more active online? It really is an insidious virus - looks enough like official Microsoft correspondence to catch those that aren't automatically wary of the Redmond Collective. I may have to ask our sysadmins to activate SpamAssassin on my account - I haven't up till now. Haven't really felt the need, but fifteen minutes to download email internally is completely off the hook.

Monday, September 22, 2003

In an email, Porphyrogenitus writes:
In any case, your responses are just further proving that you're engaging in a somewhat less overblown but hardly different in kind version of what you're decrying in du Toit.

Well, no, I *was* trying to point out that people don't buy the package, naturally, and trying to sell the whole package (as du Toit seems to do) is a self-defeating action. Fine, we disagree on judicial appointments (I'm not going to get into the he-started-it-first game - it's amazing how much Senatorial politics sometimes resembles grade school recess). That doesn't mean that we disagree on, say, restraining spending in general terms. Or gay marriage. Or this or that or the other thing. But the point is - are the dividing lines reinforcing, or countervailing? du Toit obviously thinks the dividing lines are reinforcing. I disagree.

From my point of view, the du Toits have been trying to purge the moderate and liberal Republicans for years, in a quest for doctrinal purity, under the assumption that wedge issues would eventually bring all conservatives together under the same unifying banner. Did you note his nasty comments about Chafee, Snowe, and Voinovich? Hell, Voinovich isn't even particularly moderate - he just was willing to cross Bush on taxation issues. There's the attitude, even in a nominal "open tent" invitation.

I suppose the funny thing is that du Toit argues in a centrifugal manner, with centripetal intent. I still have paradoxical hope for a pro-war Democratic alternative, but without the reality to plant a flag in, I can hardly call to rally, can I? If the crisis comes, and Dean or Clark are the banner-carriers, I've got a damn hard row to hoe.

It's not as if I've not held my nose in the booth before. I voted for Gore and Santorum in '00. I used to be a big believer in the split ticket.
Ack. Would you believe that I hadn't noticed Kennedy making an ass of himself? Or, more accurately, I had seen it without registering it? "Made up in Texas". Wonderful.

I tell you what would be a fantasy ideology. One in which a viable centrist party existed. I know it is against all the laws of political science, partisanship and demogoguery; I know that such beasts are as mythological as the pegasus, the unicorn, or the honest used car dealer; still and all, it is a pretty fantasy; a world in which I could disown both Edward Kennedy and Trent Lott; Rick Santorum and Wesley Clark, Judge Moore and the 9th Circuit.

What a time to be caught defending the Democratic party.

Dividing Lines II Cont'd

Porphyrogenitus suggested that I run through du Toit's points & explain my disagreements with him, and my reasons for being disturbed by the false choices being presented. I figure this is a fair cop, and here it is:

Bush was selected, not elected

Look, I'm tired of getting caught in the crossfire on this one. I voted for Gore, I wanted to see it hammered out without the intervention of the Supreme Court, I thought it was a bad, messy decision and a terrible precedent. This doesn't mean that I want to argue the sodding merits three years later. He's president, it's over, enough already.

tax cuts favor the rich

This is that "tax cuts, right or wrong" bit I was bellyaching about. No, du Toit, this is not the uniform position; this is what they call a "straw man". You can think one set of tax cuts is "favoring the rich" without holding the blanket belief that all tax cuts are aimed at keeping little mustachio'd men in black silk top-hats.

And no, I'm not particularly enthused with Bush's bottomless barrel of big fat tax cuts. I'm a fiscal conservative - I believe in funding today's expenditures with today's taxes, thank you very sodding much.

we need a "single-payer", universal health care system

OK, here's one I'm on board for. I wasn't particularly impressed with this idea in the first Clinton administration, and further exposure to the reported performance of existing single-payer systems has not improved my impression of the wisdom of this particular nostrum.

the public school system just needs more money to help it work better

Here's one vague enough that it seems capable of encompassing the opinion of anyone who isn't actually a foot soldier for the American Federation of Teachers.

nobody "needs" an assault rifle.

Here's one that just screams "phatic harmonic". No, Mr. du Toit, no-one who is not in a war zone "needs" an assault rifle. You will not starve to death if you're forced to go hunting with a measly M-1, or, horrors, an actual hunting rifle. In fact, there are very few people in the United States who would go hungry if they were actually deprived of their *hunting rifles*, not that any sane segment of the political class is advocating *that* particular train-wreck. Try not to confuse rights, needs and wants, Mr. du Toit. As for "rights", well, that's a subject for debate. But let's not start the game on my twenty, yes?

the Constitution is a living document; our society is totally different today than anything the Founding Fathers could have foreseen, so we need to take this into account

Ah-hah. Phatic harmonic alert! This is code for "original intent" activism. See Glenn Reynolds' excellent paper on the subject. Let's say that I, like most social liberals, am less than sympathetic with "original intent" judicial activism's gleeful "Founding Fathers" sockpuppetry.

the Republican Party is in thrall to the religious fundamentalists

Straw man! Rephrase that as "the Republican Party has a large and embarrassing wing of religious fundamentalists and would-be theocrats of which I would be ashamed to be associated" and you've got a real winner, though, don't you? A valid point can be made that the Democrats have a similar problem with neoMarxist fundamentalists of their own. But don't try and hand-wave the Falwell-Moore wing away as if it doesn't exist, chebai.

the Electoral College is an outmoded institution: the candidate with the most votes should become President

Sigh. A touch, a definite touch. Too many Democrats (I'm looking at you, Hillary) started bewailing this one the moment it looked likely to crack them across the shins.

affirmative action is still necessary; there are still too many racial inequities in our society

Again, a valid point. Affirmative action is a creaking old embarrassment. Maybe when the boomers are put out to pasture we can be done with it.

gay couples should have the right to marry, just as heterosexuals do

I don't quite understand the paleoconservative fury against this one, unless somebody's confusing political principle with simple homophobia. I'm not in a position to say who, I suppose.

we should ratify the Kyoto treaty on the environment

There are interim positions between the Bush administration and the Kyotophiles, you know? Specifically, you can regret the Bush administration's corporate complicity with the energy industry while not drinking Kool-Aid with the global-warming ultras. In general, I'm inclined to stand back and let the two sides fight each other into a stalemate that doesn't favor either - my preferred position on the subject. Meanwhile, I'm all for crushing the ecofascists on the GMO issue. But that's a bit nuanced for our friend du Toit, isn't it?

war criminals need to be punished; we should join the rest of the world, and sign on to the International Criminal Court

This is a bizarre conflation. Is du Toit suggesting that the concept of "war criminal" ought to be done away with? Again, one can be unenthusiastic about transnational progressive totems like the ICC without spewing bile all over the basic idea.

Bush is trying to load the courts with conservative judges

What, you think he's putting forward a balanced slate? Of course, from du Toit's point of view, it might very well look like a balanced slate. With the way they were suppressing Estrada's record, who knows - it might very well have been so. But that's not the way to bet.

it was a mistake to invade Iraq when there was no proof that Iraq was linked to 9/11

Straw man argument. Even the nutbars aren't arguing this; they claim that the wide-spread "misbelief" in this connection makes the war illegitimate by way of invalidating the consensus in favor of the war (worst sort of Chomskyite nonsense, by the way). The "yes, but" people say the above about WMD, not the 9/11 connection; this argument infuriates me, but I won't be wedge-issued on this specific point in order to buy the rest of the bill of goods du Toit is selling.

the Supreme Court should interpret the law according to our modern society's mores

As opposed to somebody else's ill-educated notion of the mores of the "Founding Fathers" sockpuppets? Hell, yes.

our elections should reflect the will of all the people

I can't even figure out what the hell this means. Does somebody in the mainstream of Democratic thought believe in totalitarian, absolutist consensus?
Porphyrogenitus linked to a typical entry from Kim du Toit, a frothing moonbat if I've ever seen one.

(du Toit is a classic example of the paranoid style in action; his object fixee seems to be a die-hard NRA stance, mixed with a paleoconservatism stripped of the optional isolationism that sometimes comes with it.)

I found myself disagreeing with every other "attitude" on his "quiz". I also found myself disagreeing with every other "fact" he listed on his "second quiz". But really, that's how these sorts of rants are structured. It's the problem with attack-dogs like du Toit and the furies they retail; they mix valid concerns with unhinged partisan lunacy in an undifferentiated torrent in the hope that they might stampede the weak-minded over whatever ideological cliff they've invested in.

du Toit behaves as if he's attempting to convince, but those attempts are repellant to the intended audience, because they're made with phatic non-arguments that presuppose unity of opinion and purpose where there is not. That is to say, because I am pro-war, does not mean that I fear gay marriage, does not mean that I revere your self-selected right to heavy weaponry, does not mean that I believe blindly in "tax cuts, right or wrong", does not mean that I cherish the Bush administration's judicial appointments strategy, etc, etc, etc.

All this article is, in the end, is the Nth attempt to transform a perceived wedge issue into a political landslide.

I left the Republican party in an attempt to distance myself from people like Kim du Toit. It's highly unlikely that they're going to lure me back into the fold by fantasizing about hanging Democrats from lightpoles, don't you think?

UPDATE: Michael Totten is weighing in on the "are Democrats safe" question from the view-point of an actual pro-war liberal. I'm still reading it. More to come...

UPDATE II: That article turns out to be a prescription for making our enemies regret the "day of Bush's retirement". As a new-minted war Democrat, I rather obviously find this more to my taste than du Toit's urge to reinact the New York Draft Riots with leftists in the place of poor blacks...
Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy...

Andrew Sullivan provides a punchy little set of quotes to remind the "the administration is re-writing history!" crowd that history has a certain resilience that tends to resist the manipulation of the determinedly forgetful.
New English-language euroblog, the Deutsche Cum Grano Salis, has an interesting series of translated excerpts from recent Deutsche publications, in explication of what the blogger, Hans Beeman, calls the "gutmensch" phenomenon. He seems to be talking about a phenomenon more familiar to me from the Japanese example - the pacifist nation-as-victim mentality, and the tendency among its practitioners to overgeneralize this "lesson" to all warfare.

via Instapundit.
I'm going in for jury duty this week. Some of y'all might remember my complaints about the bedsore trial. Well, this is it. I may or may not give y'all the blow-by-blows. Depends on how amusing I can make it, I suppose.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Monty and the NineTen Dwarves

If y'all aren't reading Montykins, then y'all ain't me. I figure that's a 1 in 20 chance with my current traffic... He's an amusing writer from the pop end of the internet pool.

New Blog Showcase II

Terrible Swift Word is a great pun as a blogtitle. The submitted article itself is a bit obvious, and doesn't flow. Of course, I dwell in a glass house on this subject, so look away, look away. It's a tad hard to take livejournals seriously, but I recognize that's my personal bias speaking. This particular livejournal definitely plays against type, with long, serious articles on weighty topics. Still, I like the blogtitle enough to give it a ranking.

In honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day, here's the libretto of the Pirates of Penzance, of which the protagonists thereof could not speak less like pirates if they had been an unfortunate band of castrated schoolboys locked in a seminary library for the past twenty years or more.




&#$k Yeah!

The steel tariff thing was damnably foolish when they rolled it out, it was damnably wasteful while it was in place, and it's thrice-damned now that they're talking sense about putting it away in the closet along with all the other idiot ideas of the left, like price controls, nationalization of industries, and 90% confiscatory income taxes.

Via Niraj.
OK, to be fair to Clark, who I've been pretty hard on recently, here's a counter-article lauding him as being responsible in some part for the new info-centric high-tech Armed Forces. Personally, I find the sourcing to be very self-serving (a named source is a career underling of Clark's who apparently followed him out of the Army into the private sector to the company Clark's running these days), but I don't know squat about Clark's position in the military's perpetual internal political squabbles. I'll post further if I find any non-partisan evidence that Clark was a key Jedi Knight or no.

Via Instapundit, who has some more links on the subject.

the "Storm"

Well, that was a fizzle. We got an inch of rain up here, and peak gusts of 41 mph. Not much more than a brisk fall night. They tell me it's over Butler, and we're getting ardly any wind at all here. Isabel is quite thoroughly dead. I'll update on what it did in Maryland and Delaware when I hear from our dealers down there later in the day... it still could have done significant crop damage on the Eastern Shore, with sustained winds of 60-70 mph.

This isn't a game. This isn't about poking a stick at George Bush. This is our lives

Account from some returning Iraqi exile students from Britain, who were setting up debating societies and pro-democracy organizations in Iraqi universities over the summer. Via Andrew Sullivan. It lines up with what Salam Pax was saying in an interview on "Fresh Air" last night on NPR: the majority of common Iraqis supported and wanted the invasion. Salam said that the thing he would have told Bush if he could go back in time would be to be more patient, get more of the world behind him, so that the "bad people" couldn't claim that the invasion was just more American imperialism. Me, I think that we got about as much of the world behind us as was movable; the '91 coalition was dependant on a promised '91 outcome - the Ba'athists retained in power, no overthrow, and a betrayal of the Iraqi people. And '91 was a cresting of the democratic wave - we're in a trough right now, with the next wave to come.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

New Blog Showcase I

It's a new week at the New Blog Showcase, and I'm looking through this week's submissions today and tomorrow.

The first really impressive blog entry is Crazy Thinking's excellent essay on the collapse of the WTO talks. It's an article of Denbestian length and Oliver Kammesque erudition. A very, very solid effort, and I suspect that he's not long for Blogspot. Of course, I could be wrong - Phil Carter of InfoDump is still on Blogspot.

Hah! I thought so. He's moved to a Typepad blog called Crazypundit. It seems to have problems, though, as I can't see the text of his articles. Font color set to background color, maybe?

Arab News Source Claims 8 US Soldiers Killed

All western news sources are saying two Coalition wounded, while corroborating the chanting crowd and a badly wounded "man". The shooting at a wedding was in another town entirely, and appears to have had nothing to do with the double ambush. I wonder if this means that the cel-phone jammers aren't working any more, or if that was a bad piece of speculation? Possibly they're laying wire for remote detonation now, especially given that this seems to have been a bomb-and-snipe attack.

Tourism on the Tigris

Here's another backpacking visitor to Iraq and Baghdad. He's apparently much more willing to take chances than the Hobo Traveler was. Via a link at BlogCritics, via, eventually, as all link-trees do, Instapundit. The BlogCritics link is mostly an account by a musician of Arab-on-the-Street impressions from his band's most recent tour through Syria.
As you might notice, I'm posting some old poems. I find myself editing a lot of these; I don't produce a lot, but what I do I've been editing to a fare-thee-well.

Empty graves, empty graves
What is left in empty graves?
Hollowed tombs and songs unsung
Stilled tongues that would still drum
Quiet hearts that once did hum
Who would lie in empty graves?

Empty graves, empty graves
How might we fill the empty graves?
With loud and laughing thunders
The flashes of life's brief lightning
The corn cut soon after ripening
Would they fill our empty graves?

Empty graves, empty graves
How will you fill your empty grave?
With fury and violent rage
Called to war, my glory's wage
Hear, now, the trumpet's page
Fool, would you fill an early grave?

Empty graves, empty graves
How would you fill that empty grave?
Scribbled pages from quiet age
Whispered song to silent walls
Private dreams in darkened halls
Lonely to lie in my quiet grave

Silent graves, silent graves
Who would disturb quiet graves?
What ore is sought from that tomb?
Why call them from their final gloom?
Who would mine the silent graves?

Silent graves, silent graves
When the trumpet calls, emptied graves
What remains in empty graves?
When last Trump blows, what remains?
Guts and dust and the bones
Dreams and lives, or quiet minds?
When they crawl forth on that great night
What will be left behind, in the terrible light?
What will answer that final call
Creep forth behind every caul?
What will they leave in hollowed halls?
Pits and holes and abandoned, falls
The dust of pillaged ages
The rattling of emptied cages
What remains when all is empty graves?

Build my cask with cheap cardboard
Bury my husk with lime quick-poured
Seed my heart with politic terms
I go to make covenant with colonied worms
Not for me the hollow cave
I would not leave an empty grave.


The First of Fall

Daft and wild, the madman roamed
Down my street in the day of first turning
Turning leaves, and the early
Hopeless least, falling still green
The weakest failing first and
Foremost, in losing always first
His worn heels wiping through
The early piling, still green leaves
"Hear!" he cried, dull brown
Tattered trousers and coat
"The trumpet sounds! The gates creak close!
The work of the winds reaps the lightest and least!"
Howling he went, fluttering in his breeze.


The Pregnant Arts

Plenty a plague!
Might as well cry
Hale health "famine"
Peace upon a "pale horse"
Long life, delayed "death"!

A renowned deep ecologist,
On a walking tour through
Southern paddies
Experimental fields
A corporate farm;
Stopping, complaining, in majesty:
"This is miserable rice!
Our grain -
- is ever so much happier!"
Pointing, sadly, in accusation
At already-harvested
American acres.

Kindness towards flowers
Or consideration for the wheat?
Mere anthropomorphic sentiment
When either grows to reap!
What matter if rich men work at farming
If the fat poor can play at poets?


"The same people who accuse America of coddling dictators are sputtering with bilious fury because we actually deposed one."

For those of you still insisting that Ba'athists and Al Queda had nothing to do with each other until our wicked war forced them into each other's trembling arms, I demand you go read this James Lileks piece pointing out the rock-solid evidence that the Ba'athists not only met repeatedly with Al Queda higher-ups, but that they participated in funding. Via Norm Geras, one of my daily reads from across the Atlantic.
Tom Friedman has gone off the deep end. Even committed neocons don't go so far as to call it a "war".
An officemate is listening to a bad rock station on the radio. They were playing Asia's one and only hit. I've got a question for y'all: was Asia the worst prog-rock band in history, or just a particularly bad Journey clone? I once bought one of their albums (Alpha) in vinyl format, threw out the record, and pinned the sleeve up on my bedroom wall as a bit of artwork. Never has a band had better album art and worse music...

I went to find the lyrics to that song and discovered that the first two hits were on sites with the most obnoxious pop-up blizzards I've seen outside of a free porn site. The above link is relatively clean. I had forgotten that Asia had been a prog supergroup composed of refugees from Yes, King Crimson, and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. What the hell happened to prog rock in the late 70s? Was it coke? Jimmy Carter? Supply-side economics? Paul Lassiter?

Hah! Murray Head! I love "One Night in Bangkok"! One of these days I'm going to have to track down the rest of Chess. He's my favorite Judas from Jesus Christ Superstar.
Listening to a San Francisco dietician blithering on NPR this morning coming in to work. I don't remember *exactly* what she said, but it sounded a lot like "Would you believe that parents expect you to produce actual evidence, or at least studies that give the appearance of evidence (with numbers and everything!) before they'll let you experiment on their brats? We found a couple of dodgy studies that's letting us feed our middle-schoolers the junk *we* approve of, rather than what the kids might want to eat. Look! Sushi!"
Tracking site at Weather Underground for Isabel. Here's this morning's tracking report.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

As before, Fred Ramsey has dropped a line to let us know:

Spring Creek Slammers to host monthly First Sunday Poetry Slam.

Open Poetry Slam
Sunday, Oct 5th at 5pm
Zeno's Pub, 100 W College Ave, State College, PA

$2 cover charge
$3 entrance fee for competitors

General discussion to follow the slam on how best to promote our events and
expand our base of competitors and audience.

Come with ideas, please.

All Welcome!

Fred Ramsey
Lord High Curmudgeon
Spring Creek Slammers
814-883-8797 (cell)
Here's something to cheese off chromal. Michelle from A Small Victory, linked via a post by Meryl Yourish. A rueful conversation about dopey prog-rock era song lyrics and how embarrassing they and the memories they represent are to those writers. They specifically bash Led Zeppelin and Gabriel-era Genesis, mocking the hell out of "Supper's Ready".

All I have to say is "hey!" I still listen to "Supper's Ready" on a regular basis, and I enjoy it, cold sober. Maybe it makes me weird that I listen to and enjoy stoner's music without the usual chemical crutches...
Meryl Yourish fisks the crap out of a typical Israel-bashing Reuters wire, in which a 14-year-old shot while attempting to break into an army base (part of a group that cut through an outer fence, in the dark, with wire cutters, and was advancing on the inner fence) becomes a lost 11-year-old brutally killed when he wandered accidentally onto an army base. Unbelievable.

I'm pondering an exchange of Yourish for Little Green Footballs. She doesn't seem to be unhinged like Charles Johnson, but she covers the same territory. I'll give her a few days to see if my impression is correct.

Edited because I'm a fool and can't tell the difference between Reuters and AP.

"This is being done for your own internal reasons ... This isn't for the Iraqi people."

At least some Iraqis are less than enthused about the prospect of UN involvement or international troops. They really don't like the idea of being occupied by troops from neighboring states, for reasons that ought to be obvious to anyone who has spent five minutes studying Turkish-Kurdish relations, church-state relations in Iran, or Saudi attitudes towards the Shia.

Via Tacitus.

A Whiff of Grapeshot

Opinion from the barking moonbat end of the neocon pool on Gen. Clark. Via Porphyrogenitus, who characterizes it as "more extreme". Well, at least the FrontPage writer doesn't claim that Clark was running Clinton's drugrunning operation in Arkansas for him... I'm still looking for this allegation that the Russian paratroopers had pocket nukes with them at Pristina. Some friends on the left claimed they've seen that report, but I haven't been able to find it as of yet.

South Korean Division II

Now, here's the same story about a division's worth of South Korean troops possibly on the table for Iraq. The LAT puts more emphasis on "special forces", by which they seem to mean burly civil affairs/COIN specialists rather than snake-eaters, than the Korean reports, which seemed to suggest groundpounders.

The article also contains suggestions that it would be tied to an "understanding" that the US would bend on negotiations over the North Korean situation. The source actually says "there isn't a quid pro quo". Whenever somebody says there isn't a quid pro quo, you can be damn sure there is, indeed, a quid pro quo in the offing. Meh. Sounds like a bad idea to me. The South Koreans have been developing a weakened sense of self preservation in the last ten years or so.
Den Beste indulges a rare rabble-rousing rant about beauty bias in women's sports.

A New Environmentalism

Jonathan Rauch has an article in this month's Atlantic on the environmental promise of genetically engineered crops. A large part of the article is on the current success of Roundup, Roundup Ready crops, and continuous no-till cultivation. It's good to see a journalist properly relating this vastly mis-reported story. Most writers are lead up the primrose path by "deep ecology" partisans with massive biases against large clumsy corporations like Monsanto. Rauch actually went out and talked to agricultural extension agents and got the tactile story - the environmental *benefit* of the Roundup innovation: namely, that no-till retards erosion, that Roundup replaces a much more expensive, more dangerous, and more poisonous schedule of nastier pesticides, and that the whole program represents practical, efficient, and effective sustainability.

The main point of his article is an assault on the inclinations of American environmentalists and ecologists. Those worthies have been trained over the years to be suspicious of technology and capitalist solutions, and to take counsel of their fears by refusing progress rather than dealing with the needs of progress in a proactive fashion. Rauch points out that there isn't time, that the population crunch is in the near term, and that the companies on their own won't invest in marginal technologies that could do the most to restrain the expansion of environmentally disastrous subsistence farming. That is, if the agricultural programs built around genetic engineering aren't guided or effectively lobbied by ecologically minded governments and environmentalists, the most ecologically optimum solutions won't be funded.

Capital tends to produce capital solutions in the absence of government policy. More importantly, capital tends to produce solutions where it is a major factor, and the areas most vulnerable to ecologically hazardous cropland expansion are those areas least blessed with capital concentration. That is, East African subsistence farmers are not likely to benefit from the Roundup program due to their lack of capital in the form of local Monsanto dealers, trained personnel, university extension officers, and expensive mechanized spraying rigs. What the biotech industry needs is a set of pressure groups pushing for low-capital biotech solutions tailored to those marginal areas. What the biotech industry needs, in other words, is environmentalism with its collective head out of the sand and collective thumb out of its mouth.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

In the Echo Chamber

Dan Drezner, discussing a Kevin Drum interview with Paul Krugman, chides his conservative audience to go read the interview in full, to counteract what he sees as Krugman's "echo chamber" bias - the problem in which you habitually read only those that agree with you.

I suffer from this problem. Not so much in that I only read writers with which I agree, but rather that I don't read writers that are trying to make me paranoid, hateful, furious, or crazed. Not exclusively; Little Green Footballs is definitely an exception, although I often tremble on the edge of giving up on that blog. (Charles Johnson is definitely a hater; I should probably find a calmer prolific pro-Israeli blog to replace Little Green Footballs). But I've given up on Joshua Micah Marshall, who used to be my liberal read - I had a violent exchange of emails with him a few months back, and haven't looked back since. The closest I have to a steady liberal blog is maybe Jurjen's No Cameras, but he's not writing as much as he used to, and is more of a European statist UN-fanatic than a true American-style liberal or leftist. In general, I'm much more centrist in economic and domestic terms than the bloggers I read. I believe in estate taxes and progressive taxation, for instance, and I'm not exactly enamoured of untrammeled and unfettered Second Amendment exercise.

You could argue that I'm becoming more libertarian and right-wing by the company I keep. You would think that the opposite would have been the case, two-three years ago when I had my subscription to Salon and tended left in my reading. I like to think that I'm just shifting to avoid the haters; they were concentrated on the right before 9/11; they've move left now. Or, more correctly, the haters were in the saddle on the right; now they're in the fore on the left. This is, I suppose, a reaction on my part to Jane's Law.


Anyone who thinks that evil is a bedtime story must never have suffered a beating in her life.

Evil exists. It isn't a person, or even a personage but it walks in every schoolhouse yard, and it murders women in soccer stadiums, and it whispers in your ear that it isn't real, it's a misunderstanding, there are *root causes*.

Evil is a wife-beater telling himself how much he loves his woman.

Evil is a street full of good people agreeing that she was asking for it.

Evil is a beaten little boy finding someone weaker to hurt.

Evil is carrying a dead-fetus sign too close to a nondescript well-guarded building, and it's a fat man shouting abuse at a little old lady with a handful of anti-abortion tracts standing on the far side of the line.

Evil is burying a home-made bomb on the verge of a road outside of Ramadi, and he's an overheated soldier stealing whiskey out of a banker's cabinet in Baghdad.

Evil is starving the families of his enemies in a desolate corner of North Asia.

Evil is a wild-eyed young thug getting ready to beat protesters somewhere in Esfahan or Zimbabwe.

Evil is a bureaucrat planning to expel a hundred thousand immigrants from Djibouti, and a Defense Department PR hack trying to figure out how to sell it to the voters back home.

Evil is a "moderate" Islamic imam being arrested for the wrong reason.

Evil is the FBI agent arresting that imam, without knowing that the "moderate" is a two-faced hater, inciter and enabler.

Evil is photoshopping his enemies into politically embarrassing poses. Evil's making dreary "Hitler" puns about politicians she doesn't like.

The stupidity of the "axis of evil" trope has nothing to do with the existence of evil. Evil exists. And presuming to claim that your enemies possess a monopoly on it is itself a demonstration of its existence in yourself.

Evil exists. This I can assure you. Please, tell me - does good exist?
There's something vastly amusing about Den Beste doing reviews of anime like the Ah! My Goddess movie. It starts as a review (from his new-to-anime-fandom point of view) but digresses wildly into an utterly irrelevant but entertaining discussion of the technical differences between Romantic and Baroque music. There's also a lot of puzzling about the baldly appropriated Norse terminology in the AMG universe, and just how little actual Norse content is backing it up. I imagine as Den Beste works his way further into anime, he'll get a better idea of Japanese idealistic appropriation methods - of building wholesale invention on the names and trappings of other cultures, without betraying any real understanding of those appropriated cultures.

I rather liked the Ah! My Goddess movie, which is a bit of a departure for me, as I hadn't really liked the manga or the OAVs, or really anything else that Fujishima has done. The original concept was classic "magical girlfriend" (which really shouldn't be confused with "magical girl" , which has nothing to do with "magical girlfriend"), and the few "magical girlfriend" shows I've liked are wildly outnumbered by the thundering hordes of "magical girlfriend" shows that I think stink on ice.

"Magical girlfriend" stories are wish-fulfillment fantasies, generally about subservient supernatural love-slaves. I Dream of Jeannie is the classic American "magical girlfriend" show; Bewitched is similar, but has certain redeeming virtues that the standard "magical girlfriend" can't be bothered with. Subservience and master-fixation pretty well sums it up. Most of the AMG oeuvre is badly weighed down with Belldandy's subservience, lack of ego, and utter colorlessness. The Japanese have this concept of the yamato nadeshiko, the ideal subservient, chaste, housekeeping, traditional Japanese girl. Except for her "foreignness", Belldandy is a classic yamato nadeshiko. In my opinion, this makes her a deeply boring female lead in the rest of the AMG universe.

Not so much in the movie. It's so much about her interior life (and actual, conflicted past!) that the yamato nadeshiko smoothness is busted up, broken and fragmented. It gives her some much-needed texture. It gives the story something more to be about than yet another dork given direction and purpose by the love of a good sex-slave.

The movie has other virtues that the rest of the AMG manga/anime melange does not. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end; the OAVs certainly don't enjoy that advantage. It has movement, tension, and real conflict - not so much in the OAVs. It's one hell of a lot prettier than the manga, which I find to be middling ugly. Finally, it has a certain moral seriousness that the rest of the oeuvre just can't maintain – a seriousness that I entirely attribute to the trashing of the "magical girlfriend" baggage.
I was talking yesterday to a field rep in the Eastern Shore who said that he was out in the field, trying to calibrate a corn harvester that was operating in the midst of a rainstorm. This is a deep no-no and shows just how desperate they are down there to get something of the crop in and off the fields, even if the moisture rates are through the ceiling. I wonder what the chances are of rot, and at what percentages do they kick in? They've got hundreds of thousands of acres of spring crops down there - there's no way they're going to get even a fraction of that harvested before the hurricane hits. I just hope that no-one stays out too long & gets hurt in an accident. Farming is a dangerous enough profession without trying to harvest in the early stages of a hurricane.

Meanwhile, I've just talked to our in-house expert, and he says that the storm isn't going to be the monster we were fearing. Looks to hit the Outer Banks, and then go skidding up the Chesapeake with 100-mph winds. It's going to still be a hurricane when it hits the poor bastards in the Eastern Shore, but it isn't going to be the killer it might have been. 50-60 mph ground gusts, and 3-4 inches of rain. The corn crops will get damaged, but it hopefully won't be total. It's gonna delay the harvest something fierce, though. Takes a long time to dry out fields enough to do a proper clean harvest. Up here in the mountains, it's just going to be a wild storm.

Korean Division to Iraq?

The news out of Korea is that we've asked for some South Korean troops - a battalion? a brigade? an entire division? - contingent on UN approval. All the news is from the Korean side of things, so it might all be a rumor mill out of control. But I'd call it a hell of a thing if little South Korea can spare a division with the DMZ and the ravening North Korean hordes to hold back, while vast India is too tied up with the Kashmir problem to spare a division, even with UN approval.

Via today's Winds of War roundup on the Korean situation.

Government Can't Grow Pot

One good thing about hanging out on a hardcore libertarian blog like Samizdata, is that you occasionally run into gems like this. Only a brainless government committee would try to grow medical marijuana in an abandoned mine. You guys do know that you don't have to hide from the cops, right? You are the cops!

Monday, September 15, 2003


Lt.Col. Kilgore is alive and well in the 4th Infantry, where he's known as "Russell" these days. Wild man; hope his men stay as bulletproof as he's promising.

via Tacitus

A Slight Reactionary Fever

About the proud dwellings of Patriarchy Way
The penned cattle dreaming, for anarchy bray
Manors called Male Gaze and Transgressive Vigor
Muddy rows in sodden haze and possessive rigor
Dragged down to the swamp's edge
Last clear space, a muddy ledge
Laid without proper foundation
Upon the muck of ancient nations
In the shadow of the tower
Squalid slums will flower
Built with planked inferiority
Cured in hazy seniority
Straight in accomplishment
But soon to bend to resentment
Ten-penny nails of common contempt
To fasten theory to rage, the attempt
Where the nails give out, others will do
Catchphrase repetition like glue
Bailing wire of prejudice
Queer notions of dark bliss
Duct tape and shims
Half-forgotten hymns
Pop culture trash and randomness
Sad scrapings of the broken press
Clear plastic sheets, to cover windows darkly
Aluminum siding, to freeze and heat, starkly
A peculiar Manichean construction
The product of shoddy instruction
Yet another tumbledown shack, dreary
Is built in the slums of gendered theory.

Today's Winds of Change roundup has an link which eventually leads to this report of a massing of a heavy force of Chinese PLA regulars on the North Korean border. Said force sounds like three corps of five divisions - 150,000 troops, or a light army. It's too light to be a serious invasion force, and doesn't sound like it has enough logistical tail to be on any sort of penetrative mission. Details within the report strongly suggests that it's a defensive move to cover the Chinese border from feral North Korean military units. It sounds like military discipline might be breaking down among the North Korean border forces.

There's some handwaving about the Chinese trying to pressure the North Koreans into backing down on their nuclear ambitions, but the Chinese could just cut their oil off again. That is, unless that particular threat is starting to lose its bite through over-use. In which case, the Chinese might be trying to seriously cut the oil, and putting this new army in place to guard against North Korean overreaction - such as trying to seize control of the Chinese side of the oil pipelines that the North Koreans depend on. Or maybe taking parts of Manchuria hostage in exchange for keeping the taps flowing.
hlh has some poems on her blog, angleweave. (Again with the e.e.cummingification!) I'm in the process of looking through them. I particularly like the new one, Sisyphus. Unexpected imagery and perspective, evocative rhythm.

I'm thinking of pulling the "bad" out of my blog subtitle - it's a good gag when we're only talking my stuff; if I'm discussing other people's work, it's kind of rude... Let me know if yinz have any opinions on the subject.
I'm looking through the list of people who noticed my belated entry on the New Blog Showcase and linked me.

Bad Money is an interesting blog with radio.weblogs.com. He does photographs of cash graffiti - all the different little things that people do to money.

Boots and Sabers says I'm a damned leftist. That ought to amuse chromal. ^_^

Wizbang Blog simply linked me along with the other participants.

That was fun.

The Hurricane

Was just in on a meeting about the expected path of the storm barreling down on the MidAtlantic. It's slowing down, and it's going to be a bear. The boss is worried about ice-storm-damaged trees going down all over Virginia and the MidAtlantic. They're canceling meetings in Maryland on Thursday - that's when they expect landfall. Most likely landfall is going to be in the Outer Banks, and it may go skimming north along the coast. Our customers down in the Eastern Shore are almost certain to get plastered, unless things go really right and it drives deep inland. A megalopolis hit is very unlikely, but within the realm of possibility. Christ - poor New York, if that happens.

Ben (chromal) has been going on about this storm for the last week or so. I hadn't paid much attention because hey, we're way the hell north. Who worries about hurricanes above the 40th Parallel?

Yay, Ceres!

Just showed up in the mail. Viz's regular DVD line sucks donkey dong, but their box sets (or "Collector's Editions" - pompous wanks!) are reasonably priced. A lot of people hated Ayashi no Ceres, but I rather liked it, and look forward to watching the non-Chinglish version.

The End-of-WWII Meme

Via ye olde Instapundit. This has been emerging as a popular rhetorical meme - thus, and this, and that - whoops! Gotcha! *Not* talking about Iraq, it's post-war Germany. Or France. Or a UN cafeteria. Fun and all, but rather overused.

Steve Den Beste is, clearly, lead tenor in the NeoCon Phatic Chorus

I'm a big fan of Den Beste. He's famously long-winded, interesting, and totally lacking in embarrassing luggage. He's a bit of a flake on Europe, and tends to extend himself beyond his areas of knowledge, but isn't afraid to admit when he's wrong. But notice who he's quoting extensively? It's our friend Amir Taheri again. Taheri is the Arab laundry that washes controversial claims clean. Den Beste's also referencing the Zogby poll.

One More Time Around Might Do It

Scott McCloud is arguing in favor of micropayments again, responding to that Clay Shirky anti-micropayments screed that was making the rounds last week. Ahh, I don't know. We haven't really had micropayments yet, but I haven't had good experiences with minipayment schemes like PayPal. I generally appreciate McCloud's work, so I probably ought to sign up for the snake oil he's peddling. I imagine his "Right Number" is worth the full $3, given the minimal chance of the rest of the pay content being worth anything to me, personally.

[Pardon me while I go sign up for BitPass and work my way through the thicket]

Ugh, I'm back. "the Right Number" crashed in the middle of the story. For a second, while looking at the BitPass offerings, I was thinking that there might be something else I'd actually give a damn about, but it turned out that Electric Sheep hadn't actually done a third Apocamon segment, but re-priced the second from free to cheap. Meh.

Now, here's the challenging part: I managed to get even PayPal to work for a single transaction session. It was the second transaction session where PayPal refused to let me into my account and continues to refuse even to this day. [Wankers!] Hrm. BitPass admits that I still exist; it passes the "PayPal sucks" test. Well, we'll give it some time, and hope that something worthwhile comes along to spend the extra $2.65 left in my "account". The approval process is a tad annoying, but McCloud's forced-tutorial "flash browsing" thing was even more irritating, and you have to go through it every time you look at the comic.

The comic itself? Intentionally cold, alienating, nauseating, and borderline autistic. I guess that's the intention. It's a queasy intention, though. Plays to McCloud's worst mannerist habits, if you ask me.

Oh, yeah. via Crazy Kimchi

Am I A Chomsky?

Was talking with some friends yesterday, and the subject of Noam Chomsky and his amazing fun-house mirror came up. As a history-conscious person, I have a certain habit of using historical example to make my political arguments. People who aren't as history-conscious are not particularly well-equipped to counter or evaluate claims made in this manner - they can't be sure when I'm full of it. Chomsky uses a particularly egregious version of this trick by building unrecognizable histories with any fact, theory, or datum that might support the normal consensus narrative conveniently left out of his narrative. Chomsky does this intentionally; I and other historically-minded individuals who argue from example do this unintentionally when we argue with non-historically-minded individuals. Are we as guilty as Chomsky? I hope not. I will say that my recent political arguments have turned into historical lectures, in much the same way as my philosophical arguments with roommates inevitably degenerated into epistemology, back in the day.

Friday, September 12, 2003

It's days like today that illuminate character. Some folks are mourning Jack Tripper. Some are mourning the Man in Black. Most of the people I know are more likely to mourn John Ritter. Me, myself, I'm more likely to think about Johnny Cash. I guess the question is, are you pop or not?

I can't say that I'm strictly mourning him. He seems so intimately connected with death in my head - it's so much a part of his public persona - that his passing seems more like a proper ending than a tragedy. As with grandparents, there's that certain feeling that it was their time.

The ones who should be mourned are those like Warren Zevon and John Ritter, who were taken in the fullness of life. Zevon in particular was a harsh case - caught in the vise of terminal cancer. He lay pinned with death staring him in the face for six long, terrible, short months. Ritter, on the other hand, was blind-sided; it's a loss to his friends and family, but he wasn't tortured as Zevon had been with long weeks of inevitability.

Networking and Sucking Up

I went and submitted to the New Blog Showcase. It's a weekly sort of contest, rolling from Monday to Sunday. In a spectacular display of disregard for basic game theory, I went and submitted on a *Friday*. Yes folks, I am, from heel to crown, pate to toenail, a fool.

Part of the exercise is the requirement to "vote" by linking to other blog submissions for that week. This is somewhat clever, as it forces the newbie to display his or her capacity for cross-linking, which is the most vital attribute of the apprentice blogger.

Looking through the list of, the first fellow new blogger we find is Machine in the Ghost, who at least gets points for clever blogtitling. On the other hand, he loses points for thinking that Roseanne Cash wrote "Circle of Fire" instead of June Carter. At any rate, his submission is an OK gag about how Americans are better suited to the concept of Purgatory than all that lazing about in Heaven.

Next is brainstorming, who loses points for e.e.cummingification and a not-exactly-riveting blogtitle. On the other hand, his submission is promising, and didn't make me want to carve my eyes out with a broken, leaking Bic pen. Harrisburg does the same thing on on I-83, without the James Dean standup, BTW.

The last new blog is Virtue Pure, which is another lame blogtitle. But the submission is different from the usual political rant. I have never been good at the sort of personality-simulation roleplaying that he is discussing. My brief and not particularly memorable fling with role-playing gaming was probably crippled by my basic inability and/or un-interest in this skill. I mostly was interested in the possibility for narrative and world-building. The opportunity to simulate others - to think like someone else, be someone else - I think I'm lacking the necessary deep empathy to pull it off right.

Of course, you could argue that the popularity of role-playing games among the famously anti-social and borderline autistic represents a fascination with this notion of simulation and mock-empathy.

Eh, I'm spinning my tires on this one. Maybe I'll come back to it later.

Damn, now I'm embarrassed that I went with George Galloway. It's so... pretentious. Oh, well. So it goes.

Well, Screw That

The *only* justifiable reason for going to the UN for authorization was the chance that India would agree to send troops to free up US forces long-term in Iraq. Now India is saying that they're overcommitted in Kashmir and can't spare the troops even with UN approval. There really aren't other good sources of trained troops available, that we could trust not to run wild (like Russians, Pakistanis, & Turks) or get killed. I'd say this is a good time to quietly drop the UN thing, folks. We have precious little to gain but quiet from the naysayers, and those folks are never going to shut up.
"Death does not go away; time does not heal murder." Via Little Green Footballs.

The Man In Black

... is dead. He's been ailing for a while, and his wife died earlier this spring. He was an Augustinian figure of faith and carnality in conflict, and he towered over his contempories, only because he had no peers. If it were a just world, he's with his maker now.

RIP, Johnny Cash.

Update: various links at Blogcritics via ye old Instapundit.

Zen is Tao is Sufi

This is a cool exchange - more for the first four comments than the article. One of these days I'm going to have to read the Marine Corps' Small Wars manual. You hear so much about it these days...
Spring Creek Slammers will host their monthly
First Sunday Poetry Slam on the third Sunday of the month this month.

Open Poetry Slam
Sunday, Sept. 14th at 5pm
Zeno's Pub, 100 W College Ave, State College, PA

$2 cover charge
$3 entrance fee for competitors

From Fred Ramsey, who's with the Spring Creek Slammers, and a State College downtown merchant of some repute.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Dean's a Socialist

This instance of memebombing is the sort of random anarchic experimentation that blogdom is currently capable of. I'm wondering how long this will last before the Deans of the world go all O'Reilly and start trying to stomp the pranksters out of existence.

George Galloway

The Brotherhood of Man!
The Brotherhood of Man!
Whatever happened to the Brotherhood of Man?
The perfect dream of the perfect states
And the universal bond of the socialist man?

The radiant cities of the future state
The glorious promises of equal peace
The righteous left and the starry-eyed?

The poor were led up on a hill
The kingdoms were shown, each to themselves
They promised the breaking of the command of bones
They promised the making of bread from stones
They promised these things, and there they led
Dazzled worlds to a ledge

"We are too weak
For perfected states
The revolution shall come
From poor lands' fates
You fellahin men
In your sun-browned lands
There, unfallen
In Eden stand!"

And the foolish jumped
And the weak fell
And the wicked prospered
Over a bloodied shell

And tyrannies rose
And blood was bled
And new worlds forged
In a perfect shape

And the ones that cried on
And the ones who had led
And those intellectuals bred
Now? They sleep in soft beds.


Memory is short
And duty a word
So easily forgot,
The post-modern word

Now poverty is blamed
On the poor themselves
And brilliant thieves
Have hid the graves

The beggar's own culture
Deprived of choice
The religious creed -
This tendency to breed!

And the ugliest of those
Who once egged on
Squalid and foul
Fat-souled men
Build new cages
To hold men in

Take money for oil
Take money for blood
Pimping and dealing
For savaging states

And not the Texans
And not the corrupt few
And not the straight-forward
Profit-chasing crew

But rather the clever
And of Red views
That piously denouncing
Peace-loving muse

And the oil-money flowed
And the organized crowd
Funded in secret, by
Ba'athism endowed

And this one instance
And this one fall
But daily in darkness
Others will crawl

And by day and by night
For the pious and wise
Oil-money will finance
Wild blood-libel cries.


Thanks to chromal for helping me iron out that last line...


Every six months I forget why I shouldn't eat at Long John Silver's. Then I go and discover all over again just how much a stomachful of hush puppies and overbreaded fish feels like so much lead shot in your gastrointestinal tract.
Discussion by Oliver Kamm about why he thinks that the "fair trade" arguments against EU (and by unspoken extension, US) protectionism miss the point - that the factors most damaging to third-world countries are their internal economic disruptions caused by what he calls "import-subsitution strategies". I *think* I understand what he's saying, but I'm not clear on how this addresses the tangible arguments of countries like Mali, who complain that US subsidies of American cotton producers (my customers) make Malian cotton unmarketable in the global market.
Remember my point about how certain articles make the rounds? The article I cited, Faoud Ajemi's piece on anti-Americanism, got another hit yesterday from Andrew Sullivan.

Waiting for the Next-Generation DVD Player

I was generally happy with my APEX player until I bought a new 20-inch Sony. On the old 13-inch, just about anything short of nth-generation VHS copies look alright. Or, to put it another way, the defects of the old TV smeared any recording-media problems into a general slaw of pixilated discontent. With a new, and presumably functional, TV, the problems with the original material stand out sharply. And boy, howdy, DVD has a lot of problems.

The mpeg-2 standard has all the issues of the jpg family of compression - blur on motion, block pixilation, darkness mottling. Throw on top of that the anamorphic glitching that I discovered on my new Project Eden disc the other night, and I'm a grumpy damn consumer.

Went over to a friend's place to watch his digisub downloads, and the comparison was humbling, infuriating, and irritating. His copy of the new Read or Dream TV premiere, playing on a five-foot-tall projection-screen TV four times the size of my new Sony, was twice as clear as the RahXephon disc I watched the other night after giving up on the Dirty Pair. The digisub encoders just keep improving their codecs, evolving like rodents in a radioactive waste dump, while DVD's set-in-stone proprietary codec rots slowly, set in amber. Two years ago, digisubs were highly pixilated, embarrassing messes that you watched because you were too damn impatient to wait the one to two years for the US licensors to crank out a DVD. Today, they're increasingly becoming what you turn to if you want to watch something on a big-screen TV.

Don't get me wrong - a lot of digisubbers are corner-cutting fly-by-night amateur hacks. But there's a lot of them, they're cut-throat competitive, and the cream rises to the surface. Five or six groups might do R.o.D. TV, each with a different translation, different encoding and subtitling. The one I saw last night was absolutely unparalleled. I don't think the US licensor will be able to improve on it; in fact, I rather suspect that a legal version, done to DVD standards, will be much less viewable.

Of course, this evolutionary open-source black market has its downsides. My friend has to chase new codecs for his viewing software every so often, and certain encodings won't work with DIVX Player, or won't work with RealPlayer. He's got about four different programs that he uses, depending on the encoding of any particular download.

But it isn't as if DVD is a particularly stable format, anyways. That Project Eden gitch disc I was bitching about? On a proper high-end DVD player, I'm told that it probably would work. If I had a widescreen TV, I think it *would* work. But because I bought a cheapass APEX that plays properly encoded DVDs, the marginally-miscoded Project Eden disc isn't going to work. And of course, everybody knows about DVD regional encodes. Not that I need to worry about that - I hacked my APEX to get around that. It's a large part of why I got that model.

I rather think it's time that the industry starts working on getting that next generation superDVD format off the tarmac and in the air. 'Cause the black market's siren song is luring me onto the rocks of piracy, I swear.