Tuesday, November 30, 2004

NPR, Talk Radio (and Walmart, again)

This morning I came across a week-old piece on Evangelical Outpost by Joe Carter sub-titled Why NPR Beats Talk Radio. Considering that the source was an in-your-face conservative website, I had to find out what this misguided person could be thinking. Shoot, I've been listening to NPR since Bob Edwards was a pup. I can remember the first time they played that timeless recording of famous NPR voices reading the Declaration of Independence, and recognizing most of the voices. Red Barber's non-sequitur observations about flowers blooming in Tallahassee were as fresh to me as anything on the radio today. So was this a crack in the wall? Have I found another Ariana Huffington about to fall from being a Conservative prima to a spoiled and soiled limosine liberal? Surely not.

Actually, the piece was fair. He listed six pretty good reasons that NPR is a good alternative to talk radio, all of which I understand and appreciate, although my reasons for being an NPR fan run much deeper. My radio listening, measured by the hour, probably divides my time unevenly to the talk radio side, mostly because I have to endure so many commercials to hear an equivalent amount of what is euphemistically called "content."

As I was scanning the site, trying to figure out what all the commercial connections, ads in the sidebars (Are you tired of arguing about religion on your dates? Do you get sick of hearing your boyfriend or girlfriend bash conservative values? Now there is HOPE! Join the conservativeMatch.com community and find thousands of conservative singles just like you.), comments about Walmart, and Hardees (Sin on a Bun: The Forgotten Vice of Gluttony) I noticed a link to a rebuttal of the NPR piece on another site. Oh well, I thought, damning with faint praise could not go without comment in these quarters, so I went to the other site to read the rebuttal.

I hit that one on the head. Not only did the rebuttal argue back, it sought to add injury to insult by pointing out that any comparison between NPR and talk radio is unfair, mostly because talk radio is out there in the marketplace, toiling hard to make a buck while NPR is similar to a university....While there are administrators who have to worry about fundraising (pledge drives) and attracting students (listeners), the tenured professors (hosts) tend to lead lives of splendid isolation compared to their counterparts in the business world (commercial radio). There definitely are expectations for them, but they don't face nearly the same kind of time, money, and competitive pressures.

It just isn't fair. Those people in the ivory towers don't really have to work hard for a living, supported as they are by all that grant money, with production resources that would be the envy of any commercial outfit. I guess it is not apples and apples.

It was a longer and more thoughtful piece than the first. And I appreciate what he says. I have my own reservations about Public Radio. Every time I hear a credit to Archer-Daniels-Midland I wonder how much of that grant money is an attempt to buy off investigative reporters not to look into environmental damages that may be coming from that giant company. Same is true for much of that river of funding. Anyone who thinks that there is not a connection between NPR and the private sector is not living in the real world. The same tax breaks we call corporate welfare feeds the same hogs that get a tax break for the crumbs that fall to Public Radio.

And as for Walmart, the Evangelical Outpost has one writer (the same Joe Carter who commented on NPR) advancing the notion (again this year, he says) that all the hype about Walmarts "weaker-than-expected holiday shopping" is nothing more than a ruse. How would this work?

How did Wal-Mart go from "tracking near the low end" on Christmas Eve to record earnings? I suspect the answer is hidden in the gift cards. Even though the store receives the cash for the gift card at the time of purchase, they typically don't show up on the retailers' ledgers until after the cards have been redeemed for actual merchandise. With gift cards comprising an estimated 8% of holiday sales (around $17.2 billion in 2003), a giant surge in spending can be expected between Christmas Day and the middle of January. Because Wal-Mart is located in rural areas that don't have malls or other large retail chains, the company is likely to rake in a considerable share of the after holiday market.

But why don't retail executives mention this factor? After all, it would calm some of the shareholders jitters. Perhaps they think the lackluster report will convince shareholders to dump the "under-performing" stock for a year end tax write-off (they might even be tempted to dump it themselves). Flush with the cash from their fat Christmas bonuses, they could buy up their own company�s stock at the new "low Wal-Mart prices." When January rolls around and the consumers cash in the gift cards, the fourth quarter sales sky-rocket, causing a significant bump in the stock's price.

So that's the wrap from the Evangelical Outpost this morning.
My soul is now uplifted and I am ready to start my day.

Monday, November 29, 2004

A tiger in the tank

The president has nominated a new Secretary of Commerce:

Carlos Gutierrez is one of America's most respected business leaders. He is a great American success story.
Carlos' family came to America from Cuba when he was a boy. He learned English from a bellhop in a Miami hotel and later became an American citizen. When his family eventually settled in Mexico City, Carlos took his first job for Kellogg as a truck driver, delivering Frosted Flakes to local stores. Ten years after he started he was running the Mexican business. And 15 years after that he was running the entire company. Link

Have I ever mentioned how important the Cuban vote is in Florida electoral politics?
Probably no connection, though.

Overclock your toothbrush

This by way of Kesher Talk.
Seeing is believing.

Playing for time

This from today's Guardian. Yeah, I know. Part of that liberal media...

"Of all the terrible things done at the roadblocks, this story is one which negates the very possibility of the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. If [the military] does not put these soldiers on trial we will have no moral right to speak of ourselves as a state that rose from the Holocaust," he wrote.
"If we allow Jewish soldiers to put an Arab violinist at a roadblock and laugh at him, we have succeeded in arriving at the lowest moral point possible. Our entire existence in this Arab region was justified, and is still justified, by our suffering; by Jewish violinists in the camps."

No comment.

Johnny-Dee looks at worship

This is worth repeating.

Kierkegaard explained that there are three types of people at a play: prompters, actors, and audience. Prompters are the people who whisper lines and directions to the actors. Actors are the people putting the show on the stage. The audience are those who watch and judge the play. Kierkegaard thought many people saw worship incorrectly, that they considered God to be the prompter, the clergy to be the actors, and the congregation as the audience. (I think this same problem persists in evangelical churches.) Kierkegaard thought that worship ought to fit his analogy this way: the clergy are the prompters, the members of the congregation are the actors, and God is the audience. I wish more evangelicals thought this way about worship.

That succinct observation of today's Church, derived from Kierkegaard, is about as clear as any I have found. It comes from a young man in Michigan whose blog I have been following.

As they say, read the whole thing.

RLP Story on hold

RLP says the rest of the story is on hold.

We'll wait.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Walmart marketing

This is a "no data" post.
You can't blog what you can't find on the internet...yet.
So this one is anecdotal, as they say.

One of the women I work with is a very sharp consumer. She combs newspaper ads, clips coupons, and pays attention to what she buys. Whether she is buying a room full of furniture or a can of soup, she does her homework and knows what to expect. She is also a sharp observer of how companies do marketing.

Friday, day before yesterday, was the day after Thanksgiving. Busiest day of the year, they say (although it isn't) for retail. That is the day that camera crews in helicopters do news stories about how crowded the malls are, how bad the traffic is going to and from the malls, how consumers are once again either boosting or destroying the national economy, etc, etc.

Well my source tells me that Walmart was passing out sale papers to the first people who came to shop Friday morning. There were unadvetised, in-store sale items calculated to capture everybody, no matter what they came for.

Her observation: In the past a lot of people put sale stuff on layaway at Walmart then leave to shop elsewhere. This has the effect of capturing the inventory, making it unavailable for sale to other people. Here's the rub. Many of those people never make good on their purchase. Meantime, customers like the one telling me the story will spend their money elsewhere because what they wanted was not available to buy at the time they had the money. This not only prevents Walmart from making that sale, it actually costs the company more because of the lost chance to sell it to someone else who might pay for it on the spot.

The in-store unadvertised sale is not a new idea. But in this case, it may be an old marketing weapon shined up for use in an agressive Walmart arsenal. There is a population of shoppers, without credit or the impulse to worry about it, who do sometimes have cash. And they spend it with relish, delayed gratification be damned. We'll see if this little observation amounts to anything.

I have run across more references lately to people who find Walmart to be claustrophobic and cluttered. I didn't go shopping much for about twenty years because I was busy working. When I finally went into a Target about three years ago I said to myself, "Gee! This is like a clean, quiet, well-organized Walmart. Everything you want, easy to find, and the prices are okay." After reading that piece in Fast Company, I got poisoned about Walmart. The sparkle was already falling away. That left my image of Walmart completely colorless.

Interstate commerce and Mary Jane

One of the Volokh conspirators, Randy Barnett, argues a case before the Supreme Court tomorrow. That would be the US Supreme Court, mind you. His case will argue that since his clients grew their own weed, they didn't leave the state or import it from another state, so there was no interstate commerce involved. Looks right to me, too, but because of the government's position on drug control, the chances of his winning are not all that good, common sense notwithstanding. Link
As his co-conspirator Jim Lindgren says, "...if the Court is intellectually honest and actually determines interstate commerce in any way that makes logical sense, Randy's side will win. Yet it would be awfully hard for the Court to strike down federal legislative control over marijuana regulation even where (as here) the marijuana is pretty clearly not in interstate commerce."

Trouble is the commerce part of that "interstate commerce" principle. Commerce is an economic term, so in order to make a definition that will pass muster to card-carrying economists, it is necessary to apply market principles when considering what the law means.

According to the government:

...the record affirmatively shows that respondents' homegrown drug activities cannot be divorced from the overall drug market regulated by Congress. Both respondents Raich and Monson were consumers of lawful drugs listed on Schedules II through V, before turning to marijuana, and respondents' claims of medical necessity suggest that both would purchase marijuana illegally if necessary. Raich also admits to past marijuana purchases. Each of these facts confirms what Congress found: that activities such as respondents' displace market transactions and threaten to swell the illicit drug market.

They say that when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything you see looks like a nail. Likewise,as Barnett points out, "every decision is an economic one to an economist. Nobel economist Gary Becker analyzed the decision to have children in economic terms, and (as I recall) Judge Richard Posner once famously asserted that rape in effect cheats on the market for dating. Do we conclude that procreation and forcible rape are therefore always in interstate commerce, just because they are economic decisions to some of our best economists?"

Thank goodness we have lawyers who can point out blatant contradictions when they find them. Unfortumately, it seems that contradictions are the mortar that sticks together political structures. If there were no contradictions there would be no need for politics...Right?

The Court is in a bind: if it follows inertia (which it usually does), it in effect reads the interstate commerce clause out of the Constitution and makes the government under it one effectively unlimited by enumerated powers. If the Court takes the commerce clause seriously, on the other hand, it drives a small, but significant wedge into the federal government's power to prohibit drugs. Link

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Cornbread Dressing

This morning I didn't blog.

I used my time instead drafting a response (see Comments) to one of the ubiquitous dressing/stuffing ideas that surface this time of year. I glance at Gotham Gal from time to time. She seems to live a life of leisure and entertainment in The City, and I vicariously enjoy her good times.

I was primed by Cat's account of Thanksgiving in the
cafeteria, where I waxed nostalgic about the good old days.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Carnival of Carnivals

Silflay Hraka posts a string of blog Carnivals, including a Christian Carnival at Cow Pi.

The original Carnival of the Vanities was a revolving event, hosted by a daisy chain of blogs taking turns, by which other bloggers would send a choice post for the purpose of sharing ideas and name-recognition with others of like mind. Kind of like a county fair or bazaar.

So much to read.
So little time.
Off to work...

Photo Essay for Thanksgiving

Time does not permit reading everything posted about Thanksgiving, but Donald Sensing's pictures are really worth a look. Link

Indians, not "Native Americans"

I wasn't sure yesterday whether to use the term Indian or Native American. Michelle Malkin didn't get around to blogging until late last night, but her summary of "blogservations" on Thanksgiving included link to Dr. David Yeagley, writing from the Indian point of view.

(...There is no collective name for "Indians" in any tribal language. The modern term Native American, created in the 1970s by leftists, is ambiguous. Most Indian people don't use it - only what I call the 'university tribe,' college-educated Indians led by white radical professors; and the would-be politically correct media. The name we first held, in the white man's eyes, was 'Indian.' That's what we have been since Columbus. That's what our most famous warriors were called. Believe me, Indians prefer the name "Indian." It is historically specific, whatever its origin. The name holds the emotional, psychological associations of the warrior. The Left, of course, wants to remove that. Hey, call me savage!) Link

Yeagley's view seems to me both charitable and patriotic. Here is part of what he wrote.

White people have to feel like the land is theirs. They grew up here. They've fought and died here.

America! America! God shed His grace on thee And crown thy good with brotherhood, From sea to shining sea.

A wondrous prayer, a triumphant vision for all - including the Indian? But the Indian was trampled under foot. How then shall this historical tragedy be healed?

Only Indians can heal the breach. That is the first thing Indians must understand. Secondly, strength demands we heal it. Fatherhood demands we bless our son, who comes to us for acceptance - even forgiveness.

He just got too big, that's all. This stray child was the seed of giants. We didn't know. He didn't know how to tell us, either. He was just a kid, remember?

We can choose to disown him, but is that truly noble and brave? We don't have to be like him, but we can still bless him. He feels terrible about what happened. Let's not make it impossible for him to repent.

When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and...blessed him. Luke 15:20.

And why is it hard for the white man to relate to the Indian?

White people are used to being idolized. The fabulous accomplishments of America mesmerize the world. Every race seems ambitious to imitate the cultural ethos of America.

Yet the Indian desires to remain separate in the very midst of the nation.

I believe this troubles the white man deeply. When Indians remain aloof, the white man feels it because the Indian in his heart still condemns the white man. This is unbearably painful.

But the white man need not feel this. He simply needs to understand that the Indian is content with being Indian. The Indian loves being Indian. The white man must simply allow the Indian this freedom.

It is not [meant] as an insult. This is a man to man thing. Let whites be white and Indians be Indian.

The white man would best honor himself in conceding Indianness to the Indian, without protest, or self-condemnation.

The white man hasn't quite grown up on this point. The Indian must patiently lift him up to full psycho-sociological independence.

Dr. Yeagley has a blog aimed for "American Indian Patriots" called Bad Eagle.com. The day before Thanksgiving he posted his views and got beat up in some of the comments. He is not someome to be intimidated, it seems. He said what he had to say anyway. If that's not being charitable, I don't know what is.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

RLP story, Part I

The first time I saw this picture I was shocked to realize that my grandfather had been handsome once upon a time. With his hair, that skin, and those exotic features, he could be on the cover of Gentlemen's Quarterly next month.

But of course, he wasn't on the cover of any magazines. My grandfather was a country man, hard and uneducated. He was not sophisticated in any way that you or I might recognize, though I imagine he could teach us a thing or two. And the life he lived soon turned those smooth, young features into something older, something rougher, something like worn leather.

Real Live Preacher posts Part I of another story.
We don't get the read the rest til the weekend.
He dropped a tickler a couple of weeks ago...

I'm in the middle of a new Real Live Preacher dramatized story called, Where Is The Man? I'm also beginning a thing that might be hard for my mother, but will be tender and sweet despite the title. I think it might be called, My Own Papaw Was a Racist. I know it sounds mean and hard, but it won't be. I don't think it will be. If it is I'll throw it back into the place where ideas are born and let it grow a little more.

I'm glad he thought of a better title. That one seems harsh. And it gives too much away. The way he's doing it has a more Hallmark quality. I like that line "...throw it back into the place where ideas are born and let it grow a little more."

A contemporary Indian take on Thanksgiving

Not all American Indians (or is the term Native Americans the PC preference?) take the same view of Thanksgiving Day, or Columbus Day either, I would imagine. This snip from a newly published anthology of writing by contemporary Indian voices is by way of Wampum, a site I read for the quality of content I often find there. Link.

Dad: What was the name of the Indian who met the Europeans?
Grace: Uh ... Samoset?
Dad: Very good. Where did he come from?
Grace: Maine!
Dad: Uh huh. Who were his people?
Grace: That's easy. Us! The Abenakis.
Dad: Uh huh. You are related to Samoset. What were the Europeans doing?
Grace: Uh ... Waiting for Samoset?
Dad: Nope. Grave robbing. They were hungry. They were opening Pautuxet graves and eating the spirit food, the maize.
Grace: Ick. So where was Squanto?
Dad: He was living with the Wampanoags. Samoset reported the Europeans to the Pautuxet and Wampanoag sachems, then he returned to the Kennebec settlements.
Grace: How did Samoset know what to do?
Dad: The Abenakis had starved out the English at a place they call Popham.
Grace: Oh. I remember they all waggled their butts at Verrazano.
Dad: He he. So, at school this year, have they tried to make you do anything stupid this year?
Grace: No.

Submitted, as my buddy Catfish says, for your perusal. Wampum has a finger on a lot of governmental pulses. Fine print gets a good going over. The political take may not be mainstream, but that doesn't make it wrong. I haven't been mainstream in my life. I can relate.

Thanksgiving Seder

Josh Claybourn posts this charming idea for Thanksgiving Day.

In the Agora: Thanksgiving Seder:

On the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims were brimming over with gratitude - not only to the ninety Indians who had surprisingly joined them, but to their God. In Him they had trusted, and He had honored their obedience beyond their dreams. So, Governor Bradford declared a day of public Thanksgiving, to be held in October.

Because of the unexpectedly high numbers in attendance, the Pilgrims prayed that they'd be able to feed such a large crowd without cutting too deeply into their winter food supply. As it turned out, the Indians did not arrive empty-handed. The Indian chief had commanded his braves to hunt for the occasion, and they arrived with no less than five dressed deer, and more than a dozen fat wild turkeys! [Present the turkey.]

The Indians helped with the preparations, teaching the Pilgrim women how to make hoecakes and a tasty pudding out of cornmeal and maple syrup. [Present cornbread and other such stuff.]

Then they showed them an Indian delicacy: how to roast corn kernels in an earthen pot until they popped into something fluffy and white. It was the first popcorn ever eaten by Westerners. [Present popcorn.]

The Pilgrims in turn provided many vegetables from their household gardens: carrots, onions, turnips, parsnips, cucumbers, radishes, beets, and cabbages. Also, using some of their precious flour, they took summer fruits which the Indians had dried and introduced them to the likes of blueberry, apple, and cherry pie. [Present pie.]

It was all washed down with sweet wine made from the wild grapes. [Present alcohol.]

Special days are occasions for families to convene and renew bonds, but Thanksgivings sometimes reach beyond the family. This is a time to invite neighbors who may be isolated, or anyone whose Thanksgiving might be lonely. I remember a special Thanksgiving when we were privileged to host two American Indians, college students, who couldn't afford a round trip home.

It's also a good time to build bridges. But that last part of the seder, about the alcohol, may not always be appropriate. This year we are expecting a struggling, wayward family member who has been living out of his car. It's a stretch, but hopefully he can find something for which to be thankful.

The Medical Lottery

A doctor comments on a Virginia Postrel piece regarding helping LD students through med school.

GruntDoc: Smart but Slow, or Med School Gets Dumbed Down: "Not all docs are geniuses; in fact, probably most are of above average intelligence, but not genius-range. They got through school and residency by working really hard and applying themselves, not necessarily through stupefying brilliance."

Somebody once asked me how I would feel about going to a doctor who was last in his class in school. I decided that after all was said and done, my medical care was ultimately my own responsibility, and nothing prevents me from asking for a second opinion.

Sometimes we get this issue of political correctness all out of focus. There must be more important arguments in the world.

Alcohol and Bad Behaviors

Always curious to figure out irrational behavior, I sometimes look at medical blogs. Doctors are into the same thing because they have to wrestle with self-destructive patient behaviors, whether they occur from ignorance or some deeper impulse.

Intoxicated people have much greater control over their behavior than generally recognized. For example, in those societies in which people don't believe that alcohol causes disinhibition, intoxication never leads to unacceptable behavior. Link.

It goes further than actually being drunk. It seems that just thinking you are drunk can get similar results. Check this out...

Research in the US has found that when males are falsely led to believe that they have been drinking alcohol, they tend to become more aggressive. And when men and women falsely believe that they have been drinking alcohol, they experience greater sexual arousal when watching erotica.

So it isn't simply a case of "the alcohol made me do it." Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario asked volunteers to press a button when prompted by a computer screen. They were also instructed not to press it if a red light also appeared. Those who were given alcohol were more likely to press the button in spite of the red light, just as a drunk is more likely to punch someone even if told to stop.

No surprise here. But here is the kicker:

However, when drinkers were offered a small reward, they performed as well as sober volunteers. The researchers conclude that people who have been drinking can control their behavior if they want to.

People around the world can control their behavior when drunk. The Lepcha people of the Himalayas tend to become sexually promiscuous when intoxicated...that behavior is acceptable when drunk. But violation of the incest taboo(which extends very far and is highly complex) leads to punishment by certain death. No matter how drunk they become and how promiscuous they behave, they never violate that complex taboo. It's simple......they don't want to be executed and suffer a painful death so they control their behavior no matter how drunk they become.

So the doctor concludes that [b]ecause alcohol doesn't cause bad behavior it isn't a legitimate excuse for such behavior.In short, bad behavior isn't the fault of the alcohol but of the person.

Looks right to me.

The link came from another Doctor's site who wondered, reflecting on the brawl that erupted at the basketball game in Detroit, why the need to show such aggression toward professional athletes? Psychologically-speaking, I wonder if high salaries and free-agent mobility leave fans feeling emotionally estranged from their once beloved athletes. Or, is a tossed beer the fandom equivalent of a wide receiver's end-zone dance, both seeking notoriety?

His suggestion is so sensible as to be self evident.

Doesn't matter to me whether you blame the physical effects of alcohol or its sociological effects: stop serving alcohol at these games, and you'll stop having fan-player brawls, too.

The chances of that happening is about as good as a snowball in...you know the rest.

When I see irrational collective social behavior, like unrestricted drinking at sports events, there is no doubt in my mind that our collective political behavior is no better, simply because the so-called "majority" agrees.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Somebody else also heard it...

I was watching the Today show interview with Billy Graham when he said, among other things, that he had been a Democrat all his live. He felt a little sorry for the blue states, he said, but "they will come out of it." Another blog, new like mine, also made note of it:

Billy Graham Is a Democrat: "Rev. Graham says he may have preached his last sermon to a stadium congregation yesterday. He spoke of salvation and love to 300,000 of the faithful at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena from Thursday through Sunday. He probably has proclaimed his last altar call.

He did a lengthy interview this weekend with NBC's Brian Williams. A few moments ago, The Today Show ran a brief, provocative excerpt in which Mr. Williams asked for Rev. Graham's views on the Presidential election of 2004.

Eyes shining, the revered Rev. Graham firmly fired eight words that will reverberate around Christian evangelical circles for years to come.....

'I have been a Democrat all my life...'"

Heart, Soul and Humor is the weblog of one Debi White.
Never heard of her, but I plan to start reading what she has to say. We seem to have a lot in common.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Creative thinking...

I notice that Juan Cole's post lists places all over the world that are breaking out in public protests over the US actions in Fallujah (coordinated, no doubt, by the Liberal Media and its toads in the Democrat party).

He lists Palestine, Lybia, Turkey, Pakistan, Chili, and Greece.

[Damn. That's a lot of copy and paste!]

Well just yesterday I got a heads up from my buddy Bob intended to get me detoxified about my poor attitude about the war. It was an avalanche of great news from the front lines by Arthur Chrenkoff, Australian blogger and American hyper-patriot, published in the Wall Street Journal.

So here's my idea:
All we have to do is get that wonderful summary of good news from the WSJ, translate it into as many languages as it takes, and drop it all over the world so everyone else can read it and see for themselves how badly misinformed they are.

Edumacation! What better way to change the world?
Once they see how well we are doing in Iraq they will surely turn from the error of their ways.

Like the country song said, "Who are you gonna believe? Me or your lying eyes?"

Don't mess with THIS cowboy

This is a story everyone will have to read. I expect it to become part of this president's image, cited regularly to illustrate a character trait. And I don't mean that in any disparaging way. I rather like what he did:

washingtonpost.com: Spats Over Security Roil Summit in Chile: It took Bush several minutes to realize what was happening. The president and the first lady walked on through the door onto a big red carpet, looking relaxed. They greeted Lagos and his wife, Luisa Duran. 'You want us to pose here?' Bush asked Lagos with a grin, and they turned to face a wall of flashes.

Then Bush either realized he was missing something, or he heard the commotion. The president, who is rarely alone, even in his own house, turned and walked back to the front door unaccompanied, facing the backs of a sea of dark suits. Bush, with his right hand, reached over the suits and pointed insistently at Trotta. At first the officials, with their backs to him and their heads in the rumble, did not realize it was the president intervening. Bush then braced himself against someone and lunged to retrieve the agent, who was still arguing with the Chileans. The shocked Chilean officials then released Trotta.

Trotta walked in behind Bush, who looked enormously pleased with himself. He was wearing the expression that some critics call a smirk, and his eyebrows shot up as if to wink at bystanders.

Pejman picked up on the story this morning and added...

Coming soon: My account of how I got into a knifefight with a bunch of Hell's Angels. You'll also want to read my story of an open air grapple-fest between me and some huge mustachioed guy who just didn't know when to quit. Among the spectators was an orangutang.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Remembering 1963

It was about this time in the afternoon. I was in one of those lecture hall classes, a core curriculum survey of world history. The professor was so far away that I couldn't make out the details of his facial expression, but we could hear clearly because he used a microphone. Someone walked in from the right of the room, interrupted the lecture and spoke with the teacher. He then turned to the class and said, "We have just received word that the President has been shot in Dallas. We don't know whether he was killed, but he has been shot."

He paused for a few seconds. Nobody said anything. He then said, "Anyone who thinks that by killing the president they will stop his policies does not understand history. Shooting him will do nothing to stop what he was trying to do."

The place was Tallahassee, Florida and the campus had at that point been polarized over the picketing of two off-campus eating establishments because they refused to serve Negroes, as they were then respectfully called. In 1962 the graduate school at Florida State Uiversity had accepted its first black student. And that year, 1963, the first undergraduate student was attending classes.

I was only nineteen at the time, but something in me felt that if those restaurants, which only existed because the students and faculty of that school were there, refused to allow a black student to be served, something was badly out of balance. As a Southern Baptist I had already been struck by a contradiction of the same sort when an African student who came to America was not able to stay at a Baptist school because the dormitory was reserved for white students only. That had struck me wrong also.

Acting on a blind and unreasonable impulse that makes young people sometimes hard to endure because they can't understand why wrong things can't just change for the better, I allied myself with a group of students meeting weekly at a Unitarian Church at the edge of the campus, calling itself -- and it sounds so corny now -- The Liberal Forum. We had contributed to the closing of one of three restaurants, and were picketing the second. I was kicked out of my cheap off-campus room because of my activities and had put up with an even cheaper space, a garage apartment, shared with one of my radical peers.

The news of John Kennedy's assasination was devastating. The days which followed were among the saddest I can remember. The university arranged for continuous television coverage of the news and funeral, which of course included the subsequent killing of Lee Harvey Oswald. I still remember the endless playing of Chopin's funeral dirge and the funeral procession. It was the beginning of a turbulent chapter in modern history.

The teacher was right. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed the following year and the Public Accommodations section validated the reason that we were picketing.

Another look at Mosul

I'm not the only one reading Najma's blog.
And I'm not the only one appalled by what is happening in Mosul.

Running Scared: Postcards from Hell: Staggering, staggering, staggering, mind blowing incompetence. If this is the best we can do, and apparently it is, then we are long past the point where we should just declare victory and go home.

We can hope that 2Slick's obvious appreciation for the town is not restricted to one man's point of view.

Looks like the focus is shifting to Mosul, my old stomping grounds. Make no mistake- Mosul is not Fallujah. Mosul is an amazing city with a history that would blow your mind. Did you know that Mosul lies directly on the old Biblical province of Nineveh? Locals told me (every chance they had) that it is the oldest known city in the world. It is an amazing amalgamation (big word for the day) of Sunnis, Kurds, Assyrian Christians, and even some Jews (there used to be lots). Jonah's Tomb is right in the middle of town. Some say it used to be a Jewish Synagogue. Don't repeat that to a local Sunni Arab unless you're ready to rumble. It's a fascinating town, really. When peace finally reigns supreme in Iraq (and it will), Mosul will become an absolute gold mine for history buffs and archaeological types. Amazing sights to see there. There are many PhD-holding professors, doctors, intellectuals, etc.- many of whom were educated in Michigan, Ohio, the UK, you name it. They are going through an amazing change right now, and it sounds like things are going to get even more interesting for them.

More interesting. Right.

[Personal note. Things may have changed since I was serving Uncle Sugar. It's been nearly forty years, now. But I remember as though it were yesterday that those of us who even gave a damn about where we were was a very small minority. I heard men assigned to Hawaii complaining about "boredom", if you can believe that. And I was on my way to Korea. When I got there I had a great time, learning about the language, culture and history. Most of my peers, however, were more interested in getting drunk, getting laid or getting out. Reading weblogs helps me hope that today's soldiers could be a cut above what I witnessed, but when I read American Soldier's rant I know that they are still in the same no-escape situation that soldiers have been trapped in from the start of history. When everything else is stripped away it is still kill or be killed. That position can have a corrosive effect on one's character.]

Pejman finds a pearl, again

Redstate || Collaborative Republicanism for the Masses: "Amid the cabinet reshuffling, little attention has been paid to the appointment of Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman as Republican National Committee chairman. But Mehlman's appointment could turn out to be as significant for our politics as Condoleezza Rice's is likely to be for foreign policy. "

This guy has a nose for stuff that looks important.
I'm impressed.
This time the name of Ken Mehlman is mentioned. Just because I never heard of him doesn't mean he isn't important. Well he is, and I have now. He's an (the?) architect of the president's successful reelection campaign. What he accomplished is worth noting and remembering.

Mehlman's great achievement was to create a largely volunteer organization of 1.4 million people who turned out the vote in counties big and small for Bush. He managed this task the way Rudolph Giuliani managed the New York City Police Department: by requiring metrics--numerical goals, validated by independent parties--to measure the work being done every week. This enabled the Bush organization to plug holes and to provide psychic rewards for those doing good work. No one (including Giuliani himself) thought Giuliani could cut crime in half in New York City; very few thought that Mehlman could produce 10 million new votes for Bush. But Giuliani did it, and so did Mehlman.

The Russians are coming! The Ru...No, make that the Chinese!

China eyes new turf: S. America | csmonitor.com: "SANTIAGO, CHILE - When President Bush arrives here Friday for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, he's likely to be met by student protesters already in the streets chanting against 'globalization,' 'colonialism,' and the US occupation of Iraq.
But China's President Hu Jintao is getting quite a different reception. For two weeks now, he's been cutting ribbons at new factories in Argentina, enjoying beef barbecues in Brazil, addressing congresses, and announcing investment projects as he and 150 Chinese businessmen make their way across South America and on to Cuba."

From an Asian blog comes an interesting take on the growing importance of China and its expanding tourist outflow.
In this country we find it offensive to imagine that our newly elected president is anything other than the best thing since sliced bread, but that is not the case elsewhere. Link. An outbreak of fighting in a sports arena gets more attention than riots in the streets of another country here in the Western Hemisphere.

Seems like I ran across another reference to China's sending peacekeepers to Haiti. The story struck me as a non-sequitur at the time, but it's beginning to make sense. I hat it when I have to work so hard to undeerstand something. You'd think somebody besides me would be paying attention.

I got distracted as I read.
My curoisity was actually about why Chinese tourists are avoiding the United States. Heck, I didn't know there were any number of chinese tourists. I thought the Chinese were mostly poor peasants doing forced labor producing cheap toys for Walmart.
Silly me.

From time to time I check out the news from Asia via Simon World.
The Chinese tourist links are third down the list.

Oops! Now how did THAT happen???

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: November 14, 2004 - November 20, 2004 Archives: Hereinafter, notwithstanding any other provision of law governing the disclosure of income tax returns or return information, upon written request of the Chairman of the House or Senate Committee on Appropriations, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service shall allow agents designated by such Chairman access to Internal Revenue Service facilities and any tax returns or return information contained therein.'

The weekend isn't all boring up in Congress. There's always something happening if you know where to look. I guess the MSM isn't completely moribund.
Damn libruls. At it again.
This may be interesting to watch.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Meet Risawn

She got instalanched today. Over three thousand hits.
I recognize her from the posters.
Scroll down all the way and see how cute she is.
Soldiers didn't look like that when I was in the Army.

File: Health Insurance debate

This one caught me off balance. Eliminating a business deduction for offering company health care plans was way down on my list of guesses about what the administration would propose. No, make that not on the list. I would never have guessed.

It has been my contention for years that the main problem with health insurance has been its being coupled with employment at all. Of course good companies wanting to attract desirable people from the marketplace should offer all kinds of perqs. I hear the people at Google dress any way they want, come to work when they feel like it, eat free in all the company food places, and still own a piece of the rock -- as long as they get the job done. That's all well and good.

But over the years we have come to believe that the only way to have insurance is to work for a good employer or own and operate your own business (and even that isn't all it's cracked up to be according to some people I know). Besides, if, say, six or eight percent unemployment is part of the economy, and five percent is considered "good", then does it follow that one out of ten families uninsured is also good?

I don't think so. Besides, I had to pay for that famous COBRA coverage between jobs (they didn't name it after a snake for nothing) and I can assure you that they way things are, private insurance is not part of reality for unemployed people for very long. Without a good nest egg it will be crash and burn city pretty quick.

It looks like Bush is set to push for more changes in the tax code, and he's including some features that would make me a big fan if they stay in.
The biggest one will do much to solve the 'health care crisis' - it will eliminate the deduction that businesses currently get for offering company health plans. Link.

"Ken" at Chicago Boyz has his own reasons for liking the proposal. He is more sanguine than I and really trusts the proposal on its face. I don't. The thing is too contrarian to be real.

This is no silver bullet. But just to hear that a Republican plan has even put the idea into black and white is reassuring. We will see if it has been put there as a red herring so the opposition can be blamed for knocking it off after some kind of symbolic struggle (after all, we don't have to guess how organized labor will react if employers find it harder to furnish insurnace), or if the sponsors will stick to their positions and make it happen.

Anne Frank faces reality

The teenager from Mosul who posts A Star from Mosul is getting politicized, as we used to say in the sixties. She is losing her innocence as the next wave of the war washes over her home. She cannot escape and no amount of effort on the part of her parents can keep her safe from getting polarized.

She has been in conversation with her father and after what she describes as a "long discussion" offers what may be the clearest picture of the situation by classifying an amorphous group usually reported as "insurgents" into four easy to understand categories.

Her analysis strikes me as sensibly as any that I have read. I recall reading something similar a couple of weeks back, I think by Shannon Love but I'm not sure. [Update: It was Shannon Love. Link.] Anyway, in the end she notes that the "comments" section to her blog is being inactivated. She has pleaded with readers not to fight among themselves, so this is the only tool she las left. She links to another forum that is dedicated to such argumants.

She ends with this wistful note.

A star from Mosul: Let the confusion begin!: "I was reading yesterday before going to sleep, a book that has collection of scientific subjects and stories in English.. When I decided to stop, I thought of taking a look at what I'll read in the coming days. There was a sentence that attracted me and rang a bell in my head, it says:
'Have you heard of the man who swam halfway across the ocean, then decided he couldn't make it and swam back?'..

God, I wish I won't hear about him, not in this life!!"

This post is worth reading and remembering. It is fairly long, but well organized.
I believe it is also written from the heart. I may be the one being fooled by some sinister plot in cyberspace sending out misleading propoganda like the Russians did all those years, but I don't think so.

Unfortunately, the internet seems to reflect social structure at large in a very human way. There is an old saying about birds of a feather flocking together. It is a very human quality to want to be among others with whom we agree and who will support and stroke us when we say what we believe. The phenomenon has been called "cocooning" in the blogosphere. It is reflected in the blogrolls of most weblogs, although many of these lists do link to what they might consider "opposite" viewpoints, but mainly to be used as a fishing pool from which to cherry-pick tidbits of oppositional content that can be fisked.

I guess that ends my Sunday morning rant.
Have a good day.

Micro-study in conflict

Anyone who knows me knows I am no sports fan. At all.
But only a hermit could have missed the story about that fight in Detroit. Two dimensions of the event interest me. First, where and how does conflict arise (and in the aftermath how rapidly the polarity is formed regarding "who started it" and "who is to blame" and "what happens next")?
And second, does publicity have anything to do with conflict resolution and its aftermath (consider Doc Searls' observation regarding the response time of the blogosphere vs. MSM; also high-profile trials of famous people, war reporting, print media vs broadcast, media bias, etc.)?

The Doc Searls Weblog : Saturday, November 20, 2004: "The Fight in Detroit last night changed the NBA game forever. For all the punching and chair throwing (it's lucky nobody got killed, much less injured), the image that will stay in my head is of a boy crying in the arms of a man (presumably his dad, but I dunno). The kid had come to see a game and found himself in the middle of a frightening crime scene.
I've been to a lot of basketball games in my life, including quite a few pro games (I had shares of season tickets to the Golden State Warriors for a number of years); and I've never seen anything like this. If we're lucky, the first will be the last.
Some links from the blogosphere, courtesy of Technorati, which seems much faster these days (disclaimer). At this point, a few hours after the event, there's much better thinking-out-loud in the 'sphere than in The Media (or so it seems to me, anyway)."

This link will access at least ten other links that I don't care to copy and paste.
All are interesting, including video images.

Daily Dig from Bruderhof

Your Daily Dig from Bruderhof.com: "A Mysterious Order
Albert Einstein
The human mind is not capable of grasping the Universe. It is like a little child entering a huge library. The walls are covered to the ceilings with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written these books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. But the child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books - a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects. "

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Is this true???

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Baghdad's spiralling transport costs: A 15-mile stretch between Baghdad airport and the city centre is said to be the world's most expensive taxi ride.
Small convoys of armoured cars and Western gunmen charge about [$5,108] for the perilous journey.
"You could jump in an Iraqi taxi with a gun and get there for $20," said one security contractor, quoted by the UK's Times newspaper.

But with kidnappings a daily occurrence and Westerners being sold to Islamist militant groups for about �150,000, he advised against it.

A few thousand pounds will afford you two cars and four Western ex-military bodyguards, usually American, South African or British, packing MP5 submachine guns, M16 rifles and/or AK47 assault rifles.

The client rides in one vehicle at speeds averaging 100 mph, while the other, called the "gun car", travels close-by, looking out for potential assailants.

From Baghdad to the airport already?

I have been under the impression that things have been getting better.
It was just last year that the boss showed up for Thanksgiving dinner with the troops. What was that all about?

Deconstructing Constructivism: Subsemantic narrative and dialectic construction

In the works of Burroughs, a predominant concept is the concept of posttextual reality. In a sense, the subject is contextualised into a dialectic construction that includes truth as a totality. McElwaine[3] holds that we have to choose between the capitalist paradigm of expression and subpatriarchial narrative.
Therefore, the subject is interpolated into a subsemantic narrative that includes sexuality as a whole. Derrida uses the term 'dialectic construction' to denote not theory per se, but posttheory.
But if the subcapitalist paradigm of discourse holds, we have to choose between dialectic construction and capitalist neodialectic theory. The characteristic theme of Bailey's[4] model of the subcapitalist paradigm of discourse is the role of the reader as artist. In a sense, Prinn[5] suggests that we have to choose between subcultural materialist theory and precultural narrative. The premise of dialectic construction holds that consciousness may be used to reinforce capitalism, given that language is distinct from culture. Link

Some wicked impulse caused me to revisit one of my favorite sites on the internet, the Postmodern Generator. Here is a place that spits out erudite essays at the touch of a button, specifically the "refresh" button on your keyboard. They write at the end, "The essay you have just seen is completely meaningless and was randomly generated by the Postmodernism Generator. To generate another essay, follow this link."

Sometimes as I follow political commentary, I get lost in the showers of cute remarks, insults and broad-brush splattering. It seems everyone has an agenda and is more interested in building support for a point of view than trying to discover how that point of view may have room for improvement.
Ignorance in my case is a great blessing. I do not pretend to have a lot of answers, just more questions. Maybe that's why I like the postmodern generator.

Juan Cole comments re Arafat & Bin Laden

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the central issue in the Middle East. American support of for Israel has been the touchstone of nearly every anti-American gesture for decades.
So how come we didn't hear of an al-Qaida connection with Arafat? Could it be that Yassar Arafat was more powerful among his people than Bin Laden?

Arafat's secular nationalism was supple enough to compromise with Israel and to imagine a two-state solution, even if the road of negotiations remained rocky. The continued Israeli colonization of the occupied Palestinian territories during the 1990s helped, along with terrorist attacks by radical groups such as Hamas, to derail the peace process, which Sharon had always opposed.

Arafat's death creates a vacuum in Palestinian leadership that will not soon be filled. Sharon's assassination of major Hamas leaders has also weakened authority structures in that party. If the Israelis and the Palestinian leadership cannot find a way to reinvigorate the peace process, cells of radical young Palestinians may grow up that look to bin Laden for their cues. Link

Friday, November 19, 2004

Draft the Boys at Sixty-five

There's a lot of talk going on today about how we don't need peacetime conscription in a nation like this. But we might as well just face up to the fact that we've got to have the draft. In the first place, we've gotten too civilized to go to war voluntarily. We've just got to be made to fight. And then, automation has taken all the sport out of killing. Time was when an honest man could go to battle against an honest man, and there was a lot of sport in that; there was a lot of fun, a lot of challenge. You don't have to be drafted for that kind of sport. But who wants to operate a computer to kill scads of women and children? We're just not going to war and do that kind of thing unless we're drafted. Link

Writing during the Vietnam conflict Clarence Jordan (Cottonpatch Gospels, Koinonia Community, etc.) advances the notion that the draft is aimed at the wrong age group.

In this tongue-in-cheek piece he concludes that when men get to be sixty-five they are the best candidates for the draft. The essay is over forty years old, but still makes fresh reading. Substitute WMD for napalm and it sounds like something that could have been written last week.

As in all wars, those of us who hold principled objections to participating in war become marginalized, lumped carelessly together with the loud voices of the street. Thanks to the Bruderhof Community for keeping up with technology. (We are not all Luddites either.)

[Since this post was written the Bruderhof have disappeared from the Net. The above link is to another source.]

It is easy to imagine that you can determine what is in a person's heart by taking his political temperature.
Nothing could be further from the truth.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

NY Times essay

The Times is one of those annoying "registration" sites. In order to use it they want to put a cookie into your computer and identify you every time you go back. That's offensive, but I have done it for years. I figure so much of my life is already in files that I have no control over that one more can't hurt.

Anyway, this one essay is worth registration. The core idea, that there is a fundamental difference between Europeand and Americal perceptions of Islam is both simple and identifiable. Two world views are described. I think she has put her finger on a fundamental social and political fact.

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: Under the Cover of Islam: "The mass immigration of Muslims is bringing faith back into the public realm and creating a post-Enlightenment modernity for Western Europe. This return of religion threatens secular humanism, the orthodoxy that has prevailed since the French Revolution. Paradoxically, because many Western Europeans feel that they're losing Enlightenment values amid the flood of 'people of faith,' they wind up sympathizing with those in the Muslim world who resent imported values that challenge their own. Both groups are identity protectionists."

Noticed first in Captain's Quarters this morning.

VidLit? - Yiddish with Dick and Jane

This is too good not to pass it on.
My friend Bob noticed it first on Volokh Conspiracy. I ran across it again on Imshin's site. It's making the rounds, so I have to do my part.
There are two other multimedia pieces also available.
Go enjoy already.
VidLit - Yiddish with Dick and Jane - An educational recitation from the bestselling parody by Ellis Weiner and Barbara Davilman - LIttle, Brown and Company

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Margaret Hassan, CARE worker, is gone

Live From Dallas: November 2004: "I wished for the story of the kidnapping of Margaret Hassan to have a happy ending. Unfortunately, her kidnappers didn't have a nano-drop of mercy in their hearts. They decided to end her fruitful life to serve their bloody hearts. Her spirit is free again."

OpinionJournal - Best of the Web (Yesterday, Nov 16)

OpinionJournal - Best of the Web Today: "Arafat is in stable condition after dying in a Paris hospital."

Credit Neal Boortz for noticing this gem.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Fallujah prisoner shot -- notes for the record

This morning's hot story was about the shooting of a prisoner who was not yet really a prisoner. He would have become a POW had he lived, but he was shot first at close range by a US marine. This is the stuff of war, but this time it was filmed by an NBC cameraman.
My purpose is not to belabor the point, but simply to record the incident and note various reactions as of this writing.

Needless to say, Al Jazeera is carrying it as a lead story. No surprises there.
The New York Times says The marine who shot and apparently killed a wounded Iraqi prisoner in a mosque in Falluja on Saturday has been removed from the battlefield for questioning, and American commanders in Iraq said they were bracing for a wave of outrage in the Middle East after the airing of the videotaped shooting.
Christian Science Monitor has to have the best of understated headlines: "Setback to US image" I recall a Jay Leno remark after Abu Ghraib along the lines of "...and just when things were going so well!" Right.
Radio talk show host Neal Boortz was circumspect in writing [These Islamic insurgents have, in the past, feigned death in order to lure American soldiers closer. They would then open fire, or they would detonate a bomb hidden in their clothes. It's judgment call, to be sure. I wasn't there, so I can't really judge if the Marine acted correctly.] but on the radio he was ready to defend what had happened.
Interestingly enough, the blogosphere seems not to be paying much analytical attention. Bloggers of all political leanings tend to take a wider view of issues. This incident will become another peg in the pegboard.

The first thing I read this morning was American Soldier. And. He. Is. Pissed. At this writing his post has thirty-five comments that overwhelmingly support what he wrote.

If it weren't for the profanity, I would post it in full here, because in spirit it captures exactly my own reaction. And that is why I am making note of it. (Besides, I appreciate a passionate rant from the heart. It reveals so much about character.)
I want to be able to go back and read it to remind myself how easily I can sink into the pit of righteous indignation and moral depravity that makes me think that in this case what the marine did was not only permissable, but praiseworthy.

This is an illustration that I need to revisit to keep me from walking too close to the edge of nihilistic thinking. There are many slippery slopes during wartime.

In the Agora, a new blog

In the Agora is a new blog, first published today. A group of former individual bloggers are pooling resources to take their weblogging talents to the next level. I now have to replace the Josh Claybourn bookmark with this one.
Economy of scale, time management and all that, I'm sure. No dummies, they.

Scanning the sidebar, I found He Lives and some other blogs of a religious temperament. This reference to the Agora is worth noting, the name of the new blog being what it is...

He Lives: "At the Agora, Paul debated with followers of at least two of the great schools of philosophy that were flourishing, the Epicureans and the Stoics. The Epicureans were borderline ascetic, championing life's "simpler" pleasures and tranquility and freedom from fear through knowledge, friendship, and temperate living. The Epicureans are the presages of the scientific classes, and they denounced superstition and divine intervention and the afterlife. The Stoics were like Star Trek's Mr. Spock: free of the passions of love, hate, fear, pain, and pleasure. Some translations use the word "babbler" to depict how these philosophers described Paul and his arguments, but the actual word was Athenian slang: spermologos, which was used for a sort of pseudo-intellectual charlatan who retailed scraps of learning that he picked up during his travels."

[Paul's debating at the Agora, incidentally, got him an invitation to the Aeropagus, a more important venue, where he was able to spread the gospel more effectively.]

This site goes in my "new to read" folder until I figure out where it might better fit so I don't lose it.

Monday, November 15, 2004

New from Mosul

The girl who calls her blog Star from Mosul writes her longest post to date.
Little by little the war is getting to her.
Comments from her readers offer comfort and prayers, but she is torn apart when writers cannot be civil with one another.
She is another Anne Frank. It is a privilege to read her writing.

I really appreciate your concern, I don't hate a whole group for the acts of few.I know there are bad guys in each country and each city, I've seen neighbors in America (Of course on TV) that I'm sure if I stayed in one for few minutes, I'll get killed. You can't just worn us and tell us to leave Mosul before you destroy it, what will happen if we left and came back to see the house gone!! Can we start from ZERO again!! So many won't be able to leave, as it happened in Falloja, some would prefer to die in pride than to live in shame (And that's not stupidity, that's reality).

Some don't have transportation, or the money to leave.Please don't just assume that we left and start shooting and destroying! Can't you get rid of few but by killing many others.. Here you went, killed everybody in Falloja, why? To get rid of Al-Zarkawy. Did you get rid of him? Apparently not!! He escaped.. If you kept destroying every city he escapes to, there won't be an Iraq any more! We found papers on the roof of our house with pictures of burning houses, and it says "That's what will happen to you if you cooperate with Al-Zarqawi", what to comment on this?? I don't have a clue..

Today's post is heart-breaking for me. The phrase "to die in pride than to live in shame" must have deep cultural roots for this girl to use it so naturally in her writing. I heard that the next military move might be aimed at Mosul, which is Iraq's third largest city. It is on the Tigris River, north of Baghdad. I found a city map [click icon to enlarge image, 36/23N;43/10E] which includes the ruins of Ninevah. This child's writing has made the place more than a spot in an atlas. The world is reading, watching and praying.

Yeah, what he said...

I don't remember how I came across Fred Wilson's blog, but I'm glad I bookmarked it. Something he said before made me think he was smart.
He did it again. He put into words exactly what I have been thinking.

A VC: Great Leaders Lead, They Don't Follow: "I was reading Tom Friedman's column in today's New York Times and it made me think that George Bush faces a very interesting test over the next four years.
Great leaders build legacies by leading their people (whether its a country, a company, or a cause) to do something that was considered impossible.
Nixon went to China. Clinton restructured welfare. Johnson passed the civil rights act. None of these were popular with their politcal base. But they saw the opportunity to use their political capital to do something that needed to be done and did it.
Friedman quotes Yaron Ezrahi who says about Ariel Sharon, 'Sharon has started to give up his popularity among his own constituency, because he realizes the welfare of the Israeli people, as a whole, requires decisions that are unpopular but unavoidable.'
I personally cant' imagine George W. Bush behaving in the same manner. But if he was suddenly taken with an interest in his legacy, I'd suggest the following intractable problems as ones he could use some of his political capital on:
*The Israel Palenstine issue
*True non-partisan election reform
*Alternative energy
*Making quality healthcare truly available for all americans
I am not expecting Bush to take on any of these problems with any real energy but I would be happy to see him try."

History students know that non-partisan election reform is a contradiction in terms, but the other three are spot on.

Friedman's column did mention Palestine and Powell...

If only President Bush called in Colin Powell and said: "Colin, neither of us have much to show by way of diplomacy for the last four years. I want you to get on an airplane and go out to the Middle East. I want you to sit down with Israelis and Palestinians and forge a framework for a secure Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and progress toward a secure peace in the West Bank, and I don't want you to come back home until you've got that. Only this time I will stand with you."

In light of today's announcement of Powell's quitting, forget that.

Snapshot of war from American Soldier

American Soldier: "There is a term called the Fatal Funnel. It's where your team enters a doorway and you bunch up and if someone has a weapon it is very hard to dodge bullets when you are bunched up. Typically a team is killed within seconds.

These doors were not your standard 36inch doorways. So kicking them in would usually break half the door in half and you had to squeeze yourself and gear through the entry way quickly. You wanted to avoid the fatal funnel as best as possible.


Go read it.
It's not too long.
This is part of why soldiers often don't talk a lot about what they did in the war.

Dudes out of control

GruntDoc: "I work in an Emergency Department, and have noticed that there is one common denominator in the majority of the assaulted patients I treat: they were all assaulted by 'Some Dude'. (Also, they were all assaulted for '...no reason...', but that's the topic of another rant). This is true no matter where I work, the time of day or day of the week.
'Some Dude' has in the last two weeks shot my patients, sucker-punched, struck with bottles, beaten them with fists and a golf club (or perhaps the entire set), and pushed my patients down stairs.
Additionally, 'Some Dude' has 'slipped drugs' into the drinks of, transmitted sexual diseases to, and stolen the medications of my patients.
I have no idea how 'Some Dude' is everywhere at once. I suspect he's an evil superhero, though in the current times I cannot completely exclude an AlQuaeda conspiracy.
I advocate a vigorous police and public-health effort to locate and confine 'Some Dude' due to the clear and present danger he represents to the health and welfare of our republic.
Posted by GruntDoc"


I don't watch MSM news as much as I might, but I haven't heard anything as clear and pressing as this anywhere else:

THE MESOPOTAMIAN: "After appeasement of Fallujah it is absolutely imperative to turn attention to the southern approaches to Baghdad. Armed bands have effectively severed the road leading south through the triangle of Latifiya-Iskandariya-Yousifiya. This is a belt separating the south from Baghdad. The demography of this belt is characterized by tribes who had very close links to the defunct regime. Awful crimes are being perpetrated on these roads. People are being murdered simply for having the wrong names. It is a deliberate attempt to ignite a sectarian war. In fact a sectarian war has already been declared, unfortunately, by elements of certain tribal and sectarian affiliation. Some southern Shiaa tribes are already calling for armed committees to combat the armed bands who are killing people on the road. There are reports that the bandits are moving to cut the other road that bypasses Latifiya, which means severing the capital completely. This is a serious situation, and urgent measures are required before a general conflagration of a sectarian nature takes place on the southern approaches to Baghdad and in Baghdad itself, which can isolate the Capital and complicate things beyond control for the Iraqi Government and the MNF.

I repeat this is more important than any other thing, and should be addressed without delay before it gets out of control. Securing the capital is more important than anything that might happen to the provinces. Securing Baghdad is at least 80% of securing the country as a whole.

URGENT, URGENT, URGENT; I hope this message reaches some right places. Protect the roads- lift the siege on the capital. It does not require nearly as much resources as the Fallujah operation; but if the matter is left without swift remedy, it might escalate into something very serious and ugly indeed. "

Alaa has not been a panic-monger in the past.
Let's hope someone besides me is reading.

Spectacular skies at night

This is better than a lunar eclipse, but harder to access. I knew someone who organized a vacation around a trip to Alaska for the purpose of seeing the Aurora Borealis. Recent sun-spot activity has produced spectacular shows that have been seen and photographed as far south as Tennessee and North Carolina.

SpaceWeather.com -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids: "THE SHOW IS OVER ... FOR NOW: Sunspot 696 has vanished, carried over the sun's western limb by our star's 27-day rotation. Last week the 'spot hurled several coronal mass ejections toward Earth, sparking intense geomagnetic storms and auroras. Could it happen again? Sunspot 696 will be back in two weeks, if it lasts that long, after transiting the far side of the sun. "

The gallery of photos is wonderful.
Coming up Friday night is the Leonid meteor shower. Past shows have been impressive.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Updated blogroll

Links on the sidebar have been updated.
Since this is my home page, I find it handy to hit a couple of places without having to use the dropdown lists which are getting out of hand. There must be about two hundred "favorites" now listed, poorly arranged among half a dozen folders. Like a messy desk, I plan to get it organized sometime, but whenever I start I get distracted. Just when I am about to delete something, I hit an interesting post and can't let it drop.
Anyway, here is something I got tonight through Doc Searls. He knows all the right people from the start of the internet. And he still has his finger on all the right pulses. From Dan Bricklin's log:

I had a strange experience just now. I'm flying JetBlue for the first time.
They have personal flat-panel displays at each seat, with satellite feeds. 36 channels (well, not all were working). When I flew a few weeks ago on United during an historic Red Sox game, we were lucky to hear updates every half inning from the pilot (I made it home in time to watch the end). I was putting the final touches on a keynote speech I'm giving next week at the Computer Reseller News Hall of Fame Awards. One of the points I make is about mobility, connectivity, and the move from point products to modular systems. Then I started listening to Adam Curry's November 11th podcast. This was the first one of his that I'd listened to (I tend more to the ITConversations type of podcasts so far). Adam is more tilted to pop culture than Doc Searls and the Gillmor gang, with his music and his background and stuff. Then I got a real dose of pop culture: Up on the screen of the person next to me was Court TV: The Scott Peterson trial verdict was going to be announced in a few minutes. They were going to have a live audio feed. I haven't followed this trial at all, so I wasn't too interested, but from the number of times I've heard reference to it in the news, I guess it's a big deal to lots of people. Looking down the aisle, as the time grew closer more and more screens were showing Court TV. Finally the verdict: Guilty. (Even I paused Adam, and moved my earphones from MP3 player to seat phone jack so I could take a picture at the correct moment.) A few minutes later, most people were back to watching the other stuff. Court TV was still talking about the trial -- hours and hours on the same thing during this flight. I listened to some classical music on my MP3 player and blogged.

He has pictures taken on the plane showing how passengers were tuning their individual sets. This is how I vicariously keep in touch from the comfort of my keyboard. [The Adam Curry reference caught my attention because I was aware of his podcasts, having heard the November 2 release that was my first knowledge of the ritual killing of Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam by a Muslim extremist.]

As for links in the sidebar, There is no particular order or selection of importance. Most are there for my convenience. I like checking the photoblog from China which adds pictures every couple of weeks. The archives is a treasure. Political Compass is an inteeresting tool to guage one's politics in more than two dimensions. I think the statements change from time to time to keep it from being boring, but I'm not sure.
Anyway, enjoy...

The war comes to Mosul

Najma writes:

While I was writing my previous post, S called and told mom that the stryker is gone. Mom and dad went to S's house to see her husband and his family, and to take Aya and bring her here. So, I have more news about the accident of S's father-in-law death.

He wasn't going to the clinic as we thought. He went to buy some things for Eid on foot. In his way back, shooting started near him, he was standing near a shop and so the shop's owner asked him to come stay in the shop till it calms down a little. In his way to the shop, he was shot with two American bullets, one got in his leg and went out from the other side, the other hit his finger and went to the leg too. He bleeded too much, the shop's owner tried to get him a taxi, but there were a curfew and there are no cars. A man saw him and recognized him and dropped him at the hospital and went back to his family..

When his family got there, he was already dead. They say that he died in the car. The main cause if his death is that he was bleeding a lot and there were no cars to get him to a hospital immediately.

My brother-in-law arrived to Mosul, and spent the whole way from the garage to the bridge on foot. He passed half of the bridge on foot till Americans stopped everybody and told them to sit on the bridge. They sat there for 1:30 hours, they had futoor there since some people on the bridge were shopping.. He then walked home, got into the house with a smiling face inspite of his tiredness, till he heard the news! Like everyone else, he was shocked.

Mom and dad didn't get Aya home with them hoping that she might make her father feel better and fill his time.. I hope she will!

Another unfortunate person, is my brother-in-law's sister. Who got stuck like us at her house, and couldn't go see her dad for the last time before they buried him, she couldn't even see her mom till today at morning.

There's a huge rumor (I don't know if it really is a rumor), that the American troops withdrew from Mosul.. Is that good or bad? We won't know till things either calm down or not.

If you click to the link, take a look at the comments.
I live daily with deep gratitude that I and most people I know are spared tragedy such as this.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Another Iraqi blog

The first post from Baghdad by a dental student.
There is something about reading English written by someone who does not speak fluently which gives great meaning to small notions.
Here is an example of content which is much bigger than form.


My list of Iraqi blogs is getting longer.
This one was linked by Fayrouz whose Live from Dallas is one of the best. Her post today shows uncommon hope and positive expectations in the midst of a bleak situation. If she can be positive, then certainly I can, too.

A few non-sequiturs, or maybe not...

At the suggestion of Fr. Bill, I subscribed to Books & Culture for several years. I did my homework on most issues and came away from each one with new understandings. In time, however, I allowed the subscription to lapse. I decided that either I was too obtuse to grasp the point of much of what I was reading, or what I was reading really didn't have much of a point. Writers who have achieved a nose-bleed height of education are sometimes prone to ponderous writing, heavy on form and light on content, unless you want to consider a multitude of minutiae as "content". I tend to get lost in the convoluted language of philosophy.

I recalled my Books & Culture period recently with the death of Jacques Derrida. (Link) His name and opinions were sometimes invoked in those pages. At the time, I was more confused than impressed, because Derrida struck me as a kind of counter-Christian, a voice whose whole message was calculated to muddy up an otherwise clear view of faith. (I have always been more impressed with the simple faith of ordinary people than ornately crafted arguments of theologians.) As I think about the impact of "deconstruction" and contemporary trends labeled "postmodern" my attitude toward Derrida is softening. I am beginning to understand that deconstruction offers a modern counterpoint to faith which in the end makes it more durable.

On a lighter note, and keeping with my impulse to keep up with the world around me, I came across an Urban Distionary now added to my "links" list, along with Merriam-Webster Online. As I cruse the net I sometimes encounter acronyms that I don't understand. Last week in a "comments" section of someone's blog, there was "My keyboard is now DRENCHED in coffee, TYVFM. Damnit. :)" What? The smiley face was a clue, but the acronym made no sense.
Eventually I found out that TYVM was chat-speak for "thank you very much" and the F-word was the writer's embellishment. With the Urban Dictionary I now have a quick resource for such moments.

The Urban Distionary is an on-line resource similar to Wikepedia in that anyone can add to or modify any part of it. At first I was skeptical that such places could be of any value, but it seems they are being cited more often as source material. We really do live in the information age. Google the phrase "knowing where to get it" and see what you get.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Yo, Dick Tracy! Check this out...

Remember VOD?
Here it is.

USATODAY.com - Fox to provide TV series for wireless phones: "In what appeared to be the first arrangement of its kind, Twentieth Century Fox said Wednesday it would create a unique series of one-minute dramas based on its hit show 24 [that's the name of the show, "24"] exclusively for a new high-speed wireless service being offered by Vodafone, the world's biggest cell phone company.
Vodafone will begin offering the one-minute epidosdes in January in the United Kingdom, coinciding with the start of the fourth season of the show on a satellite TV"

Morning browsing

From a review of three books about the president, by Joseph M. Knippenberg, professor of politics at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta.

The Claremont Institute: A President, Not a Preacher: "In his post-9/11 speeches, President Bush has developed what could almost be called a theology of history, beginning from the proposition that '[l]iberty is...the plan of Heaven for humanity,' or, in other words, that liberty is 'the right and the capacity of all mankind.' America was attacked because 'we are freedom's home and defender.' 'America has no empire to extend or utopia to establish. We wish for others only what we wish for ourselves...safety from violence, the rewards of liberty, and the hope for a better life.' The president assures that we shall prevail in this contest because, variously, '[t]he current of history runs strongly toward freedom,' 'our cause is just,' people the world over 'want their liberty pure and whole,' and, finally, 'the author of freedom is not indifferent to the fate of freedom.' If indeed 'the calling of our time' is 'the advance of freedom,' and if America is 'freedom's home and defender,' with a 'special calling to promote justice and to defend the weak and suffering of the world,' then it is perhaps easy to understand how President Bush can speak so confidently of a conflict between good (us) and evil (them). Even so, to act on behalf of the good is a burden and responsibility, not an entitlement."

The link is from one of my favorite sites, Arts and Letters Daily.
I notice that they also picked up the Kierkegaard piece and the Drezner piece,both of which I already mentioned. Link Link
A blogroll can be found in the left sidebar (nothing symbolic in that placement, I'm sure).

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Donald Sensing on Veterans Day

My earlier post was premature, as Bob pointed out. As the day continued lots of bloggers mentioned Veterans Day. I was blogging too early for the later posts.
Donald Sensing is a preacher as well as a retired officer with years of distinguished service.
Recently he has been blogging his Sunday Sermons, since he is now a Methodist ministerl

One Hand Clapping: "The prophet Micah wrote, God will judge between all the peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. All people will be at peace, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken (Micah 4:3-4). "

His Veterans Day remarks are worth reading.

Arafat's Death

Jonathan Edelstein is a New York lawyer, and one of the smartest thirty-one year old people I have come across. Very clear thinker.

The Head Heeb: "Arafat died a leader who betrayed his people's trust in the most profound way possible, and he died a humiliating death, lingering in a Paris hospital while his wife and colleagues fought over his financial and political legacy. In the end, however, the manner of his death may have been a partial atonement for the damage he has done to the Palestinian nation. Had he died in an Israeli attack, or had he died suddenly under circumstances where his succession could not be arranged, the region might have gone up in flames. As it is, he died under the eyes of French doctors who could certify that the cause of his death was natural, and his week in limbo provided time for his burial place to be negotiated and an orderly succession arranged. The chances of building something from the ruins are, if not great, at least somewhat better than they would have been had Arafat died at the Muqata."

He's right. It could have been far worse had his death resembled martyrdom instead of the passing of a worn-out old man.

Today is Veterans Day

After cruising the internet for an hour, I came across the first reference to Veterans Day.
Events in Iraq, the death of Yassar Arafat and fallout after the election dominate most sites. Veterans Day gets lost in the shuffle.
And this reference, incidentally, is secondary to a comment about political correctness on the part of the FCC that has intimidated a TV station into censoring Saving Private Ryan.

"Can a movie with an "M" rating, however prestigious the production or poignant the subject matter, be shown before 10pm? With the current FCC, we just don't know."
BuzzMachine... by Jeff Jarvis: "We regret that we are not able to broadcast a patriotic, artistic tribute to our fighting forces like Saving Private Ryan. However, on this Veterans Day, we do wish to pay tribute to all the men and women -past and present -who so nobly serve our country. "

I'm not much of a flag waver, but I am a veteran and I act responsibly most of the time. The observance of Veterans Day is somewhat old-fashioned, I guess.

Numerous commentaries about Arafat

Memorandum lists a raft of blogs writing about the passing of Arafat.
Too many for me to read this morning.
My personal view: Good-bye and good riddance.
It is becoming clearer that opinion shapers on the left went in the wrong direction when they seemed sympathetic with suicide killers. Palestinian suicide killers were the vanguard of that phenomenon, but as terrorist tactics and strategy components unfolded, suicide killing has emerged as one of their most obscene tools.

memeorandum: Archive Edition for Thursday, November 11, 2004: "Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, 75, the leader who passionately sought a homeland for his people but was seen by many Israelis as a ruthless terrorist and a roadblock to peace, died early Thursday in Paris."

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

German Weblog in English

Yesterday's post is worth a look. Includes pictures and smug references to contemporary German leaders.
I track this blog because Instapundit pointed it out some time ago.

Thank you, USA! November 9, 1989: A happy day for Germany - the Berlin Wall fell. Hard to imagine a more fitting image of the oppressive nature of communism than the Berlin wall.

Go to the main page. Scroll down and hit the link to Bush Derangement Syndrome and the impact that the US presidential election is having in Germany.