Monday, September 24, 2007

Those neocons and their tiny peckers...

I have this theory about the hubbub surrounding Iranian president Ahmadinejad's visit to the Big Apple--I think the neocons who are chanting the loudest for war with Iran are pants-wettingly terrified of actually facing the man, mano a mano, and having to say directly, out loud, what they think, as well as face the fact that many Iranians had the gall to support us after 9/11 (which undercuts the neocon view of all Iranians as Evil Brown People). It's so much easier to keep him at arm's length and portray him as a cartoon villain, isn't it?

Friday, September 21, 2007

It could be worse...


Et tu, Belgium?

I posted the other day about similarities between Iraq today and Yugoslavia 15 years ago, and how I hope (certainly naively) that Iraq will go the way of Czechoslovakia more than Yugoslavia. The other major split-state crisis in the world, of course, is Israel/Palestine, but now it turns out (h/t Volokh Conspiracy) that another potential separation may occur in Belgium, of all places.
“We are two different nations, an artificial state created as a buffer between big powers, and we have nothing in common except a king, chocolate and beer,” said Filip Dewinter, the leader of Vlaams Belang, or Flemish Bloc, the extreme-right, xenophobic Flemish party, in an interview. “It’s ‘bye-bye, Belgium’ time.”

Radical Flemish separatists like Mr. Dewinter want to slice the country horizontally along ethnic and economic lines: to the north, their beloved Flanders — where Dutch (known locally as Flemish) is spoken and money is increasingly made — and to the south, French-speaking Wallonia, where a kind of provincial snobbery was once polished to a fine sheen and where today old factories dominate the gray landscape.

“There are two extremes, some screaming that Belgium will last forever and others saying that we are standing at the edge of a ravine,” said Caroline Sägesser, a Belgian political analyst at Crisp, a socio-political research organization in Brussels. “I don’t believe Belgium is about to split up right now. But in my lifetime? I’d be surprised if I were to die in Belgium.”

With the headquarters of both NATO and the European Union in Brussels, the crisis is not limited to this country because it could embolden other European separatist movements, among them the Basques, the Lombards and the Catalans.

Since the kingdom of Belgium was created as an obstacle to French expansionism in 1830, it has struggled for cohesion. Anyone who has spoken French in a Flemish city quickly gets a sense of the mutual hostility that is a part of daily life here. The current crisis dates from June 10, when the Flemish Christian Democrats, who demand greater autonomy for Flanders, came in first with one-fifth of the seats in Parliament.
Turns out there are ten languages spoken in Belgium, but the vast majority speak either Dutch or French (slightly more speak Dutch). I'm one of those geeks who finds the Ethnologue fascinating--the USA has 238 languages listed. Not all of those languages are exactly equal: English has 210 million speakers in the U.S., while Eyak apparently has one (who is 89 years old, lives in Alaska, and should probably be writing everything down and/or offering classes--although I wonder if she would have any takers).

Back to my original point, though--the trend in the world for some time has been for distinct ethnic and/or national group to want to form their own countries. It has happened in places like East Timor and the aforementioned Czechoslovakia. There are often rumblings about independence in Quebec and Puerto Rico. It's hard for people born in the U.S. to understand this, I think, because (except perhaps for Minutemen types) the basic idea of being "American" is constantly being redefined. The Flemish people were Flemish long before "Belgium" existed, and the same is true for Kurds and other groups in Iraq and other countries. We are in way over our heads, is all I'm saying.

Drinking the Kool-Aid

I'm not sure I understand why this is even considered news:
Friday, September 21, 2007


Kool-Aid causes stir at school

Authorities evaluated 11 Manor Middle School students Thursday after they said the students ingested a mixture of Kool-Aid concentrate, water and sugar.

School and EMS officials initially thought the substance could have contained a prescription drug, but tests later showed that the material contained no drugs, said Warren Hassinger, a spokesman for Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services.

Hassinger said paramedics conducted a field test on the substance, which indicated that it contained prescription medication. However, he said, tests by the Department of Public Safety disproved that theory.

None of the students showed symptoms of a drug overdose, but they were taken to Dell Children's Medical Center, Hassinger said. The students were all sixth-grade girls, officials said. School officials called paramedics about 1:30 p.m. after at least one of the students began telling staff members that she and others had eaten the substance.
A quick visit to the Kool-Aid Man's House did not tell me much about the dangers of mixing Kool-Aid mix and sugar, although I did learn that there are many varieties of sugar-free Kool-Aid available. While it has other uses besides drinking and mass murder/suicide, I'm not sure I get what the big deal was. Is there now zero tolerance for sugar? Anyway, here's a Family Guy clip:

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Tolkien has nothing on this guy

If I may be permitted to geek out for a moment, I have become a huge fan of George R.R. Martin's series A Song of Ice and Fire. I'm about 2/3 through the second book, A Clash of Kings, which is followed by two more books and will eventually comprise a seven-part series. Time Magazine proclaimed him the "American Tolkien," but I really only give Tolkien credit for creating the genre and archetypes that other authors have put to better use. If you actually try reading The Lord of the Rings, it's not the easiest thing in the world--Tolkien was always more of an academian than an author. In my opinion, it took Peter Jackson to really breathe life into those characters.

A Song of Ice and Fire has its own extensive backstory, along with multiple languages, religions, and ideologies, that, much like Tolkien's work, make you believe there is really a huge body of research behind the novels. The books are much more readable, though, especially considering Martin's background as a screenwriter.

One thing the books really touch on that I like is the "ordinary" people--it's not all about lords and kings and all that. And even when it is, the characters are shown in full, with all their flaws, fears, and bodily functions. I remember reading Frank Herbert's Dune series and wondering, above all else, when his characters ever had time to eat and go to the bathroom. Then again, Martin's books don't have anything as cool as sandworms.

There is now talk of an HBO series based on the books. If cast correctly and given enough time (i.e. several seasons), that could seriously kick ass.

Here are some other scifi/fantasy/historical fiction sagas that I recommend, if you happen to have a lot of time for reading:

I don't bother you at work

Don't make a news correspondent angry. You wouldn't like her when she's angry.

I'd love to see BillO take a taser hit

Bill O'Reilly claims he's been tasered and that that kid in Florida is a "wimp." The search is apparently on for any footage of the tasering of Bill O'Reilly. I say why should we do all the work? If BillO could be tasered once, he could do it again. So bring a cop on your show and show us all how getting tasered is no big deal, Bill. I triple dog dare you...

That would depend on your definition of the word "round" - UPDATED

How many people are actually this dumb? Will there be anyone able to operate the utility grids a generation from now, or will we all be intelligently designed flat-earthers?

UPDATE - Enlightening commentary from Bad Astronomy Blog here and here. It's even worth quoting:
Anyway, when Whoopi Goldberg (who is actually pretty smart) presses her on this, Ms. Shepherd demurs, saying that it’s more important for her to know how to care for her son. This is almost legitimate. Almost. But it misses. If this were a thousand years ago, and she were toiling in a cave someplace with no access to information and spending 20 hours a day trying to keep her family fed, then sure, some knowledge may simply be too esoteric to be useful and, worse, distract from the actual task of survival.

But that isn’t the case. Here we have an actress and singer who is living, if I read my calendar and atlas correctly, in the 21st Century in the United States. Has she never seen a picture of the Earth from space? As it happens, a vast majority of people in the U.S. can hold a job, care for their family, and also know that the Earth is, y’know, round. Some people (though sadly, not enough) also know it takes the Earth a year to go around the Sun, that gravity makes things fall, and that DNA is a big molecule in which genetic information is coded. None of this is needed to feed your family (unless you are a science writer), yet humans are in general capable of handling a vast amount of information not directly pertaining to immediate survival.

Then Amy got the bruise that wouldn't go away

I suppose the Dickwad-in-Chief would tell the family in this AARP-produced video that they don't need health insurance because they could just take their daughter to the ER for leukemia treatment. Bush should be forced to watch this video non-stop for as long as possible--it's an incredibly important message, and it's irritatingly cheesy.

Seriously, what the hell is wrong with us?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Vegetarianism wasn't like this for me

I am not one to naysay the efforts of environmentalists. It probably is the case that the meat industry is doing more environmental damage than we realize. But I was a vegetarian for nearly eight years, from December 1996 until October 2004 (although I reintroduced fish into the diet starting in 2000). Eight years, which is exactly one-fourth of my total life (I'm 32), and it never looked anything like this (h/t to Salon):

Alicia Silverstone’s Sexy Veggie PSA
Order a FREE vegetarian starter kit at

As I recall it (and I mean no disrespect), most vegetarians don't look much like Ms. Silverstone (who has come a long way since Miss Match, it would seem). A somewhat more accurate (and decidedly NSFW) depiction of naked vegetarians can be found here (vegetarian porn--ah, the things you find with a simple Google search. Seriously, though, NSFW. I don't want to be responsible for anyone getting fired).

Anyway, important environmental message vs. wet, naked Cher Horowitz--where would you expect my attention to be?

Here's something from the glory days:

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The gauntlet is down

My views on Elizabeth Kucinich have been challenged yet again, this time in reference to Fred Thompson's wife, Jeri Kehn, seen here:

She certainly is a looker, and I like the way she pisses off Joe Scarborough, but I don't know...

Maybe it's my irrational predilection for redheads, but I still gotta go with Mrs. Kucinich. Here's the other factor: Fred Thompson is a movie star. An old, excessively jowly movie star, but a movie star nonetheless, and chicks dig movie stars. And also musicians. The same can't necessarily be said for politicians.

I also like how Elizabeth Kucinich seems to be freaking out Fox News. Heck, she even has Wonkette a little freaked.

So here's the score as I see it: Tall movie star with hot wife - not sich a big deal. Short, vegan politician polling at around 0% with hot wife - my hero.

Today's soundtrack of shred

Thanks to Litbrit for posting this clip of Joe Satriani's recent performance of Surfing with the Alien. I will be whistling high-quality hair metal all day now, dangit. (Note, however, that he's adopted the bald look.)

After all this time, the man still rocks, I must say.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The unsung hero of the Larry Craig case

I know Larry Craig is probably old news by now, and I've certainly beat the dead horse off...uh...too many puns... Anyway, I hadn't given the matter any further thought, even despite my recent trip through several airports. Today, however, Barbara Ehrenreich raised a point that had not yet occurred to me:
Short of some undisclosed evidence that the 9/11 killers were closeted Wahabist gays, you may wonder, as I do, why - with the "threat level" at an ominous orange - agents of the law are being deployed to detect people of alternative sexualities. Larry Craig was apprehended by a man apparently consigned to spend his entire day on the can, watching for errant fingers. Possibly this fellow has some intestinal issues which made this a necessary posting. But, sphincter control permitting, could he not have been more usefully employed, say, interviewing passengers as to their willingness to blow themselves up to score some theological point?
How long, exactly, did this vice cop spend on that particular can, just waiting for somebody to tap their feet and do something with their fingers? How many superiors did this cop have to piss off to get this duty? And what happens if, say, he spends an entire eight-hour shift sitting in a stall...waiting...waiting...and no one taps their feet or does anything to invite attention--what kind of impact will that have on that officer's self-esteem? I mean, eight hours and nobody wanted to give him a bathroom hummer??? That has to be hurtful on some level, be it professional or personal.

There actually is a more serious point to make here. The "threat level" does seem to still be hovering around orange, meaning that we should all be generically afraid and thank Bush for the safety we have--but given that "high" risk, can we afford to lose even a single law enforcement officer to "stall duty"? Unless, of course, the next terrorist plot is to unleash a mass public fellating in men's rooms everywhere.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Evolution, Simpsons-style!

Suck on this, intelligent design!

There is no country to hold together, really

Out of the ashes of World War I, the victorious Allies threw together an entirely new country, composed of disparate ethnic and national groups, perhaps somewhat linked by language or religion, but lacking any long-standing historical ties to one another. This "country," as it were, had never existed before, nor had these people been expected to live together under a single flag. A strongman dictator held it all together, often through violence and repression and often through sheer force of personality. Eventually, however, the strongman fell, and all the pieces came apart in an explosion of violence that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives while the world looked on.

I'm talking, of course, about the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, which later came to be known simply as Yugoslavia. The "country" was cobbled together out of pieces of defeated Austria-Hungary and added to Serbia and Montenegro. The strongman I refer to is Josip Broz Tito, who led a partisan rebellion against the Nazis during World War II and then unified the "country" under a communist regime. The only thing "Yugoslavs" had in common was that they all belonged to "Slavic" ethnic groups and occupied a southern area of Europe ("yug" is a common Slavic root meaning "south").

Tito was Yugoslavia's president from 1953 until his death in 1980. He probably was the only force holding the country together, but his belief in a unified Yugoslavia seemed unflappable. Among his famous quotes is the following: "None of our republics would be anything if we weren't all together; but we have to create our own history - history of United Yugoslavia, also in the future."

It would be another 11 years before everything really hit the fan, but a lot happened in preparation for the breakdown. In my humble opinion, blame lies almost exclusively with Slobodan Milošević, who exploited Serb nationalism in his rise to power. Beginning in 1987, when he first played on the fears of the Serb minority in Kosovo, he set the stage for much of the chaos that followed.

The rest of the story is pretty well-known. Beginning in 1991, the pieces began to break off: within a year, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzgovina declared independence. Serbia and Montenegro stuck together for a while, keeping the name Yugoslavia until 2003, and then finally separating in 2006. The process was painful and nasty, to say the least, and it added new phrases to the global lexicon like "ethnic cleansing." In the end, the world sees that "Yugoslavia" was an artificial construct of Serbs, Croatians, Bosnians, Macedonians, Albanians (in Kosovo and Macedonia), Montenegrins, Slovenians, and Hungarians (in Vojvodina, northern Serbia).

Why do I bring all of this up? Well, after World War I, there was another defeated empire to dissect: the Ottoman Empire. Although it once extended to the outskirts of Vienna and deep into Africa, the Ottoman Empire was pretty much used up by 1918. France and Britain carved up the remnants--one of Britain's spoils was the Mandate of Iraq, which combined three Ottoman provinces (Baghdad, Basra, and Mosul) into a single state. "Iraq" became independent of Britain in 1932 under a British-installed monarchy that lasted until 1958. Then there was a military coup, followed by Saddam Hussein's rise to power and assumption of the presidency in 1979.

I have commented before on the vast array of ethnic identities present in Iraq: Sunni Arab, Shia Arab, predominately Sunni Kurd, Turkomen, Assyrian, Yazidi, and so forth. We have seen what can happen when a haphazard pastiche of ethnic groups are thrown together in a single state, held together by a dictator, and then that dictator leaves the scene one way or another (usually by death, let's face it). Anyone with a shred of intellectual honesty and integrity will agree that Iraq is now in a civil war, one in which "ethnic cleansing" is once again an appropriate term to use. Iraq may still be a state appearing on a map, but it is not a nation.

There may be hope (although I feel like I am only including this final paragraph in order to not be totally depressed): another entirely new country was created after World War I, whose history and ultimate divorce was much less of a blot on history. That country was Czechoslovakia, which peacefully split into its two constituent parts in 1993, in what was called the "Velvet Divorce," named after the country's comparatively peaceful "Velvet Revolution" of 1989.

Iraq already looks a hell of a lot like Yugoslavia. Is there a chance for it to become more like Czechoslovakia? One can hope, but I doubt it. The ultimate breakup of Yugoslavia threatened wider conflagrations, as does the possible breakup of Iraq. Since neither country really existed as a nation to begin with, perhaps there is some sort of inevitability to it. The question then becomes whether we want or need to be in the middle of the mess.

Top 10 places to never, ever go

The 10 most polluted places on Earth have been identified by the U.S.-based Blacksmith Institute (h/t to Truthdig, and these are apparently in no particular order):
  • Sumgayit, Azerbaijan; Potentially 275,000 affected
  • Linfen, China; Potentially 3m affected
  • Tianying, China; Potentially 140,000 affected
  • Sukinda, India; Potentially 2.6m affected
  • Vapi, India; Potentially 71,000 affected
  • La Oroya, Peru; Potentially 35,000 affected
  • Dzerzhinsk, Russia; Potentially 300,000 affected
  • Norilsk, Russia; Potentially 134,000 affected
  • Chernobyl, Ukraine; Potentially 5.5m affected
  • Kabwe, Zambia; Potentially 255,000 affected
Of this list, I have previously heard of only one, Chernobyl, and it is hardly surprising that it is still not a good place to summer. Being me, of course, I want to know more. The BBC offered help on the three newest inductees to the list:
Among the new sites listed in 2007 were Tianying in China, where potentially 140,000 people were at risk from lead poisoning from a massive lead production base there.

The report also said that in the Indian town of Sukinda there were 12 mines operating without environmental controls, leaching dangerous chemicals into water supplies.

Sumgayit in Azerbaijan was also included in the report, which said the former Soviet industrial base was polluting the area with industrial chemicals and heavy metals.

According to the report, cancer rates in Sumgayit were as much as 51% higher than the national average and that genetic mutations and birth defects were commonplace.
That still leaves six cities undescribed, so now I turn to Google (I leave assessments of the objectivity and reliability of each account to the discretion of my intrepid readers, although it is clear some of the articles cited below have an axe to grind--which doesn't mean they're wrong).

Linfen, China:
According to China's latest pollution rankings, the country’s most polluted city is now Urumqi. Linfen, the city that formally held this title, is showing some small progress, says a recent article in The Guardian. Swallowed up by 50m tonnes of coal mined each year in the nearby hills of Shanxi province and located smack in the middle of a 12-mile industrial belt, Linfen plains to shutdown 160 of 196 iron foundries, and 57 of 153 coking plants by the end of 2007. In 2006, if you lived in Linfen, you inhaled 163 days of unhealthy air—but that’s a 15 day improvement when compared to 2005.
Vapi, India:
If India's environment is on the whole healthier than its giant neighbor China's, that's because India is developing much more slowly. But that's changing, starting in towns like Vapi, which sits at the southern end of a 400-km-long belt of industrial estates. For the citizens of Vapi, the cost of growth has been severe: levels of mercury in the city's groundwater are reportedly 96 times higher than WHO safety levels, and heavy metals are present in the air and the local produce.
La Oroya, Peru:
The health and environmental crisis in La Oroya, Peru, reached a new stage in December, 2004, when the government stated its intention to allow a metal-processing plant to delay implementation of its environmental management plan for four years.

Owned by the Missouri-based Doe Run Corporation, the plant is largely responsible for the dangerously high blood lead levels found in the children of this community. Ninety-nine percent of children living in and around La Oroya have blood lead levels that exceed acceptable amounts, according to studies carried out by the Director General of Environmental Health in Peru in 1999. Lead poisoning is known to be particularly harmful to the mental development of children.
Dzerzhinsk, Russia:
A once-secret manufacturing center of the Soviet Union's defense industry, Dzerzhinsk (population 300,000) has hosted many chemical factories, including production facilities for Sarin and VX nerve gas. Lead additives for gasoline, mustard gas, munitions, and other highly-polluting products have also had their birth in this city. While many of these factories are now shuttered, the chemical industry still employs over a quarter of local residents.

The groundwater and soil around the city, about 250 miles east of Moscow, remain severely polluted with phenol, arsenic, dioxins, heavy metals, and a host of other toxins. Indeed, a dominant ecological landmark in the area is the “White Sea”, a 100-acre-wide lake of toxic sludge discharged from nearby factories.

Clearly, Dzerzhinsk faces huge challenges in managing this legacy of toxic wastes. It holds the ignominious title of "The Most Chemically Polluted Town" in the world. Greenpeace claims that the average life expectancy of city residents may have shrunk to a mere 45 years. The city's annual death rate, 17 per 1,000 people, is much higher than Russia's national average of 14 per 1,000. And, according to researchers at the Nizhny Novgorod Research Institute of Hygene and Occupational Pathology, rates of reproductive health disturbances affecting women and fetuses, as well as rates of respiratory and pulmonary diseases in children, are dangerously high. In study after study, the health impacts of these chemicals continue to dampen enthusiasm and drain resources needed for economic and social recovery in Dzerzhinsk.
Norilsk, Russia:
Norilsk sits on a landscape stripped bare, its grizzled inhabitants choking on fumes not yet named in the periodic table of elements. For 100 miles in each direction a dead zone permiates, the snow is colored yellow, a putrid mix of mercury, cyanide, cobolt, and question marks. Seeds which blow in from greener pastures die on impact, with a rare few managing to sprout an inch, before turning gray and melting into dust.

Russians have toiled, eaten each other, and died here long before Soylant Green was filmed. Human bodies and their corresponding memories, hopes, and dreams are turned to nickel, melted down and sold for comforts of the West. A Russian expression goes like this: "The sooner you are imprisoned, the sooner you'll get out".

The road to Norilsk is no longer an involuntary one. Every slave of the smelter has a choice, work for $100 a month in your home city, or trek north for a salary of $600. The tradeoff is a life expectancy of 40 years. Weeds do not grow in Norilsk, but cancerous nodules do.
Kabwe, Zambia:
Kabwe, the second largest city in Zambia, has found itself on the top-ten of a new list of "the world's worst polluted places" due to very high lead concentrations left over from previous mining operations. Average blood levels of lead among children in some townships are five to ten times the level considered dangerous.

Kabwe is one of six towns situated around the Copperbelt, once Zambia's thriving industrial base. In 1902, rich deposits of lead were discovered here, leading to a century-long mining operation that never bothered too much about environmental standards and public health.
I suppose it's some small relief for me personally that my six years spent in Houston were not as damaging as they might have been.

Mostly, though, it sounds like these countries, Russia especially, need more hippies.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis

No idea where this originally came from, but it's worth sharing:
Here are the ten first place winners in the International Pun Contest:

1. A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, "I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger."

2. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. The one turns to the other and says "Dam!"

3. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft.
Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.

4. Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says "I've lost my electron." The other says "Are you sure?" The first replies "Yes, I'm positive."

5. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? His goal:
transcend dental medication.

6. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse.

"But why?", they asked, as they moved off.

"Because," he said," I can't stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer."

7. A woman has twins and gives them up for adoption.

One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named "Ahmal." The other goes to a family in Spain; they name him "Juan. " Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responds, "They're twins! If you've seen Juan, you've seen Ahmal."

8. A group of friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened up a small florist shop to raise funds. Since everyone liked to buy flowers from the men of God, a rival florist across town thought the competition was unfair. He asked the good fathers to close down, but they would not. He went back and begged the friars to close. They ignored him. So, the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest and most vicious thug in town to "persuade" them to close.

Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store, saying he'd be back if they didn't close up shop.

Terrified, they did so, thereby proving that only Hugh can prevent florist friars.

9. Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and, with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him (Oh, man, this is so bad, it's good) a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

10. And finally, there was the person who sent ten different puns to friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.
Please tip your waitress.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

More troll mockery

I'm intrigued at the way my May 5, 2007 post on the hotness that is Elizabeth Kucinich is still generating idiotic comments. I have already dealt with one fool. Today we have jared, who at the moment hasn't made his profile public (wuss), who had the following to say:
If you are going to base your vote on looks,please STAY THE FUCK HOME!!!!You are a child.
Thank you for the input. I would like to direct you to a new vocabulary word: sarcasm. First of all, I'm not advocating a vote based on looks--it's a vote based on the candidate's spouse's looks. That's completely different. Second, I don't actually mean that. Third, how is voting for someone because his wife is a hot 30 year-old redhead any dumber than voting for the guy you'd most like to have a beer with? (How'd that work out, by the way?) Fourth (and final), it's called a space bar, jared. Try it out.

P.S. - Thanks to Kevin Simms (no link--'sup with that?), who helped heap the scorn on Simon Studio for comparing Dennis Kucinich to a Nazi. As noted, I've dealth with Mr. Studio in the past.

P.P.S. - Once again, trolls be warned: I don't like inane comments, I am reasonably skilled in the art of argument, and I periodically have time on my hands. Your jabs will not go unmocked.

P.P.P.S. - Wow, look at all these P's.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"We are strong in ways that cannot be measured by arsenals"

One day after the day that supposedly changed everything, I read this column by Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald that allowed me to breathe again, and gave me a sense of calm pride that We (by that I mean we Americans) could weather whatever storm was about to be unleashed. I am reposting it in its entirety (from a site where it had been reposted before) because I so desperately want to feel the way I felt the first time I read it.
By Leonard Pitts Jr.
Published Wednesday, September 12, 2001

We'll go forward from this moment
It's my job to have something to say. They pay me to provide words that help make sense of that which troubles the American soul. But in this moment of airless shock when hot tears sting disbelieving eyes, the only thing I can find to say, the only words that seem to fit, must be addressed to the unknown author of this suffering.

You monster. You beast. You unspeakable bastard.

What lesson did you hope to teach us by your coward's attack on our World Trade Center, our Pentagon, us? What was it you hoped we would learn? Whatever it was, please know that you failed.

Did you want us to respect your cause? You just damned your cause. Did you want to make us fear? You just steeled our resolve. Did you want to tear us apart? You just brought us together.

Let me tell you about my people. We are a vast and quarrelsome family, a family rent by racial, social, political and class division, but a family nonetheless. We're frivolous, yes, capable of expending tremendous emotional energy on pop cultural minutiae -- a singer's revealing dress, a ball team's misfortune, a cartoon mouse. We're wealthy, too, spoiled by the ready availability of trinkets and material goods, and maybe because of that, we walk through life with a certain sense of blithe entitlement. We are fundamentally decent, though -- peace-loving and compassionate. We struggle to know the right thing and to do it. And we are, the overwhelming majority of us, people of faith, believers in a just and loving God.

Some people -- you, perhaps -- think that any or all of this makes us weak. You're mistaken. We are not weak. Indeed, we are strong in ways that cannot be measured by arsenals.

Yes, we're in pain now. We are in mourning and we are in shock. We're still grappling with the unreality of the awful thing you did, still working to make ourselves understand that this isn't a special effect from some Hollywood blockbuster, isn't the plot development from a Tom Clancy novel. Both in terms of the awful scope of their ambition and the probable final death toll, your attacks are likely to go down as the worst acts of terrorism in the history of the United States and, probably, the history of the world. You've bloodied us as we have never been bloodied before.

But there's a gulf of difference between making us bloody and making us fall. This is the lesson Japan was taught to its bitter sorrow the last time anyone hit us this hard, the last time anyone brought us such abrupt and monumental pain. When roused, we are righteous in our outrage, terrible in our force. When provoked by this level of barbarism, we will bear any suffering, pay any cost, go to any length, in the pursuit of justice.

I tell you this without fear of contradiction. I know my people, as you, I think, do not. What I know reassures me. It also causes me to tremble with dread of the future.

In the days to come, there will be recrimination and accusation, fingers pointing to determine whose failure allowed this to happen and what can be done to prevent it from happening again. There will be heightened security, misguided talk of revoking basic freedoms. We'll go forward from this moment sobered, chastened, sad. But determined, too. Unimaginably determined.

You see, the steel in us is not always readily apparent. That aspect of our character is seldom understood by people who don't know us well. On this day, the family's bickering is put on hold.

As Americans we will weep, as Americans we will mourn, and as Americans, we will rise in defense of all that we cherish.

So I ask again: What was it you hoped to teach us? It occurs to me that maybe you just wanted us to know the depths of your hatred. If that's the case, consider the message received. And take this message in exchange: You don't know my people. You don't know what we're capable of. You don't know what you just started.

But you're about to learn.
Six years later, I shudder to ask what has been learned. The list of blunders committed in all our names since then is by now familiar enough to anyone who cares to hear it that it need not be repeated yet again. The opportunities missed and the goodwill squandered is too much to bear. Have we truly risen "in defense of all that we cherish"? I have seen no end to the "recrimination and accusation," no real talk of "what can be done to prevent it from happening again."

The "monsters," the "beasts," and the "unspeakable bastards" are still out there. We are still arguing over who strutted most bravely on that day, and who will fail to protect us the least.

So I ask again, what have the unspeakable bastards learned about us? What have we learned about us?

Just remember

I remember exactly where I was six years ago. I can't tell you if I ate breakfast or lunch that day, and I can't tell you who went and posted a note on the door of the classroom where I was supposed to be teaching a law school orientation that morning. I can tell you that I didn't leave the sofa for hours, but I must have taken a shower at some point, and I must also have gone to school at some time that day.

I was excited about the release of a new Robert Earl Keen record scheduled for that day, as well as the continuation of a two-part Friends episode in syndication. I didn't get either that day, and I've still never seen that Friends episode.

That's about the worst I can say about what happened to me on September 11, 2001. Everyone I knew in New York and Washington was safe, and a few were even heroic. I was just sitting at home. So were the vast majority of Americans.

I keep hearing that "9/11 changed everything," and America today certainly seems different than how I remember the first three quarters of 2001. But this particular mantra has always seemed to be more of a way to avoid a discussion than a useful observation.

A blog post and video by someone else, as usual, summarizes my feelings better than I could.

Posted to Overcome by steve on September 09, 2007

Why has this one 24-hour period come to define this country to the exclusion of anything else? I am somewhat a student of history, and I am not familiar with anyone, six years later, claiming that 12/7 changed everything. Yet Pearl Harbor took almost as many lives as 9/11. This date doesn't define America for me.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Blogging from Bergstrom

I'm sitting at Austin Bergstrom Int'l Airport at the moment, and I have a new idea for a drinking game. I'll call it the TSA Drinking Game.

Every time you hear the words "suspicious behavior," drink.

Trust me, you won't be able to make it to your flight, or even stand up, if you play this game.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Bringing back Caesar

I'm not sure if the original article is even available anymore, but I wouldn't link to it even if it were--discussion of it is available here and here.
By elevating popular fancy over truth, Democracy is clearly an enemy of not just truth, but duty and justice, which makes it the worst form of government. President Bush must overcome not just the situation in Iraq, but democratic government ....
That's someone named Philip Atkinson from somewhere called "Family Security Matters" (clearly an irony-free area), arguing that Bush is hamstrung by the whims of the American electorate, and that the real problem with Iraq is that we did not kill every single person there:
If President Bush copied Julius Caesar by ordering his army to empty Iraq of Arabs and repopulate the country with Americans, he would achieve immediate results: popularity with his military; enrichment of America by converting an Arabian Iraq into an American Iraq (therefore turning it from a liability to an asset); and boost American prestige while terrifying American enemies.
Perhaps I am naive, but I do not automatically associate the extermination of an entire nation (whose people, I might add, did nothing to us) with greater morale and poluarity in the U.S. military. It gets even better:
He could then follow Caesar's example and use his newfound popularity with the military to wield military power to become the first permanent president of America, and end the civil chaos caused by the continually squabbling Congress and the out-of-control Supreme Court.
This actually makes a military coup sound kind of quaint, almost.

I'm sure this is nothing more than another case of right-wing penis envy, given that the host website has apparently eliminated everything related to this guy. There is probably a greater chance of people like this holding actual sway in Washington than of the mythological fear of Islamists seizing power there, but still not likely. I suppose the question to ask is: Is Atkinson's view the kind of America we want?