Tuesday, February 28, 2006

How many vice-presidents "retire" ?

This piece cites "senior G.O.P. sources" who "envision" the "retirement" of Dick Cheney "months after the congressional elections" next year.
Don't you just love the language of politics? I'd be willing to bet that these same "sources" would rise up in flaming indignation if the same line of opaque but probably accurate speculation came from a political opponent. If I were a publisher I couldn't print such stuff without grinning.

Mr. Cheney's next crisis could take place by the end of the year, the sources said. They said the White House was expecting Mr. Cheney to defend himself against charges from his former chief of staff, Lewis Libby, that the vice president ordered him to relay classified information. Such a charge could lead to a congressional investigation and even impeachment proceedings.
The sources said the accidental shooting highlighted the lack of communications between Bush and Cheney staffers. They said at one point, the president held what was termed a private conversation with Mr. Cheney regarding the Feb. 11 incident. Hours later, Mr. Cheney, who kept away from reporters, explained the incident in an interview with Fox News on Feb. 15.

"Nobody on the president's staff could get to Cheney, let alone tell him what to do," the source said. "At that point, the president picked up the phone and suggested that Cheney get his story out fast."

The sources said Mr. Cheney, 65, has been struggling with the departure of his closest aides. In addition to Mr. Libby, Mr. Cheney's media adviser, Steve Schmidt, has left to manage the re-election campaign of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Mr. Bush, the sources said, has rejected the advice from circles close to his father, the former president, to dismiss Mr. Cheney. They say Mr. Bush has long regarded Mr. Cheney as the experienced hand in national security, as well as being trusted by the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

"The Libby case is far more lethal than the hunting accident," another GOP source said. "If the heat gets too much, Cheney might say his health requires him to leave office. Whatever happens, the president will make sure it's handled delicately."

Come to think of it, it makes me grin just to read it. Delicately, indeed. Looks like "sources" are busy these days. If I were Cheney I would take stuff like this about as delicately as a punch in the stomach.

H/T blogsnow

Monday, February 27, 2006

"It is in the realm of reasonable probability that H5N1 will reach the United States this summer or early autumn."

H5N1 Blog is one of the sites I look at almost daily. The snips are from all over the place, but this caught my eye this morning and I thought it should be posted. It should be noted that when mention is made of bird flu is is about instances of the virus that occur in the animal population, typically wild birds but also domestic poultry which contracts the disease from migratory birds.

This recent interview with Laurie Garrett is very informative. For example...

We now know that the H5N1 virus is particularly robust, and can survive suspended in fecal material for more than a month, making it possible that a flock of dead chickens spotted today may actually have become infected as a result of pecking its way through feces deposited weeks ago by a passing goose.
By June or July, if the biological imperatives continue to follow their course, H5N1 should turn up in eastern Siberia, and then Alaska, via the East Asia flyway. It might also at that time jump from Iceland, via Greenland, to northern Canada. Once in the Arctic zones of the Americas, H5N1 will be able to follow any, or all, of the four primary north/south flyways that span the Americas, from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego. It is in the realm of reasonable probability that H5N1 will reach the United States this summer or early autumn.
Instead of simply sitting back and watching nature take its course, the global community should be proactive. Being ahead of the virus is akin to being ahead of the migrating birds. Instead of waiting for dead birds, and even dying people, to turn up in new areas, political leaders should heed the warnings from science and act accordingly - as, apparently, Sweden and the Netherlands are doing. The Swedes and Dutch looked at their maps, plotted the movements of infected birds, and last week ordered farmers to bring their flocks indoors, out of harm's way. In poorer regions of the world, where indoor facilities for animals may be unaffordable, simple nets and fences can radically decrease contact between wild and domestic birds, and mass public education campaigns warning people to avoid contact with sick birds or carcasses may decrease the likelihood of avian-to-human transmission of H5N1.

Of course in order to plan and execute constrtuctive global plans to prepare for what is as plainly in our future as a hurricane forcast those inleadership positions have to stop political carping and gamesmanship long enough to do a little bridge building.

Bruderhof -- another impression

It saddens me to post this link because it illustrates that even among the most committed followers of Christianity there are feet of clay. Mike LeBlanc's blog is the shortest I have found over two years old. The entire content fits to a single scroll-page. He is apparently a former member of the Bruderhof community who has been shunned (that is the term I have heard used regarding those who leave Amish communities) by his former friends, family and fellow-believers. His experience has left him with deep sadness and misgivings.

After a long hiatus I have decided to continue this blog. It's direction has changed, as over the last several years my hopes and expectations have been adjusted. If one starts with premise that the Bruderhof is not a Christian organization, but may have Christians in it, then one may approach the truth. My hope for the Bruderhof is that each member has a personal relationship with God. My expectation is that the Bruderhof structure will continue to use cult mind control to remove all appropriate boundaries, simply for either power or greed.

One current bit of news is that my mother passed on January 1oth. We received the news by letter seven days later. What is curious is that my brother Mark felt the need to lie, saying that she had passed suddenly. The photos below make it clear that she did not.
While we knew it would be unlikely that we would be able to attend the funeral, it would certainly be my hope that the Bruderhof would tell family members in a timely fashion.

To add insult to injury we found out the my brother Phil (and spouse) and brother Reve (and spouse) had been notified. Brother Reve, spouse and Phil's spouse all attended the funeral. Phil was in the UK, and attended part of the service via video conference.

Phil didn't let the rest of the family outside (the Bruderhof) know about Mom's passing. Brother Mark, rather than call, decided to send letters. My only conclusion in this most unloving, uncaring act, is that it as done for spite. Any claims the Bruderhof makes relative to Christianity are shattered by events like these. Sadly, we know this event is not unique. We see it repeated time and again at the passing of loved ones in the Bruderhof.
The Bruderhof's practice of withholding information about dying relative I found abhorrent, unChristian and just plain wrong. I hope to meet Mom someday and enfold her in my arms and make of for all those lost years caused by the Bruderhof system.

Pictures and a few more comments at the link.
My prior posts about the Bruderhof are linked here.

Blogfather on C-SPAN

Glenn Reynolds was Brian Lamb's guest yesterday on C-SPAN's program Q&A.
At the link you can watch the program (If you let your cursor find the "Theatre Mode" icon it will fill the monitor, improve the sound and look like TV.) or read the transcript. I caught a replay this morning and saw the last half which I thought was interesting, if you can find interest in a couple of dry guys in chairs doing an interview. In this case it happens to be two of the smartest people alive today, both of whom exemplify the most amazing humility about their respective journalistic excellence and represent the most prodigious outputs of any two people now working.

LAMB: Well, go back to the beginning of your political interest. I read somewhere you were a Democrat.
REYNOLDS: Yes, I mean, I have been. I was a card-carrying Democrat for a long time and I guess I’m not really now. I was a card-carrying Libertarian for a while, and now I’m not really affiliated with any political party.
But I worked for Al Gore’s campaign in ’88, did a little work with my friend Gene Sperling from law school on the Clinton campaign in ’92, became somewhat disenchanted with Clinton as the Clinton administration went on.
And I was pretty much ambivalent, I really didn’t have much of a preference with regard to the 2000 presidential election. I voted Libertarian in ’96 and 2000.
LAMB: Is it fair to assume that the people that read your blog or involved in it think you are conservative?
REYNOLDS: I would say the people who read my blog regularly don’t, but the people who don’t read my blog regularly but know about it probably do.
LAMB: Why is that?
REYNOLDS: It’s the war. I mean, that’s the litmus test, and it’s the thing that I think a lot of bloggers comment on. I know Ann Althouse, who is a law professor at Wisconsin who blogs has the same kind of thing. And she frequently, you know, will put up a post that says, you know, how come I’m pro-gay marriage and, you know, pro-choice and all this stuff, and yet everybody thinks I’m a conservative?
And the answer is, it’s the war. I mean, that has become everybody’s single-issue litmus test.

LAMB: What does it cost you a month to do this?
REYNOLDS: I hate to say, because people will laugh, but it’s $36 a month.
LAMB: For everything.
REYNOLDS: For everything.
LAMB: Including your podcasting.
REYNOLDS: Including my podcasting. The hosting company gives me a deal because I run a little button for them on the site. So I guess it’s -- $36 a month is just their standard charge and they are willing to give me all the extra bandwidth I use in exchange for the ads. So it’s a pretty good deal.
LAMB: Now in your book, ”An Army of Davids,” you tell people how to do all this or?
REYNOLDS: I do have some discussion on how to be a good blogger and how to do a lot of this, and some discussions on what the impact of all this is. And, you know, one of the things that a lot of the discussion of all these phenomena brings out is it’s fun. It’s fun to make your own radio shows. It’s fun to make your own music in your basement. It’s fun to put up your own blog. I mean, it’s just lots of fun.
And people talk about how you are going to make money out of it and monetize it, and I mean, that’s all fine and I’m happy for people who make money any way they can, but, you know, it’s fun. That’s really why people do it.

Great interview. Not much new to bloggers, but a great affirmation for what we do. Very impressive and worth your time...if you have any left.

I stopped reading Instapundit several months before I started blogging because it was like the company employee newsletter. Okay to look at in the break room, but pretty much old news for an active blogger. By the time Reynolds gets hold of something it is already a thousand or so links old. I'm more attracted to obscure stuff. I suppose that's why I don't ever expect to get a lot of traffic. Like the amateur who hopes to be the one who finds an unknown sub-species of insect, newly-seen comet or archeological relic...I'm happy just poking around the small stuff.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Data Mining by Big Brother: A Primer

Talk Left has published a model of journalistic excellence in blogging, a comprehensive survey of data mining applications by official agencies of the government. An ever-improving capability of the private sector to sift through unbelievable volumes of generic information for the purpose of improving services or products has political implications and applications of which the vast majority of our democratically elected form of government are unaware.

Hold that thought as you go wading through this link. It is easy to forget which forest you are in because the trees are so interesting. We are about to travel from the private sector forest into the government sector. The dynamic of rewards and punishments for the two is very different. In the private sector, rewards and punishments can be measured in dollars. But in the government sector, euphemistically called the public sector, the rewards are less managable on a spreadsheet. The metric here becomes a toxic mix of power, taxes, votes, and political planning with a very different agenda than the bottom line of a balance sheet.

Whatever the outcome of Bush's warrantless NSA surveillance program, it seems clear that government surveillance of our communications and even our social networks is only going to increase. The New York Times reports on recent "shopping trips" by NSA officials to Silicon Valley to purchase new data-mining tools.

There follows not only a quick look at the Times article, but a spate of additional links that underscore the point.

I think it's time we all learned more about data-mining and the warrantless spying the Government is conducting on Americans. Here are some links to get you started:
NSA Warrantless Domestic Surveillance page
Eavesdropping 101: What the NSA Can Do.
U.S. Intelligence and Security Agencies
Declassified NSA Documents

I very much agree. This is more reading than I can manage at one sitting, but at a glance I find it as critical to my personal interests as records from my bank, doctor or termite inspector. The difference, of course, is that if I don't like any of those people I can go looking for a replacement. In the case of Big Brother, I can't.

I pointed out to my children once that if they were my employees they could be fired, but since they were part of the family I couldn't fire them. I am part of them and they are part of me. That is the difference between the public sector and the private sector. We think we are in the private sector because we can move from one place to another. And we can. But when it comes to the public sector we are all in this thing together. Anyone who wants to disregard that reality does so at my peril as well.

To repeat: It's time we all learned more about data-mining and the warrantless spying the Government is conducting on Americans.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Yo, Boss! You getting this? Just a suggestion...

Not that anyone here is listening, but from an interview yesterday in Le Monde...

Today, several demonstrations called for the unity of Iraqis beyond confessional differences. The protesters denounced the lack of sovereignty of the Iraqi government. They believe that the country’s status as an occupied nation is at the heart of the communitarian impasse.

Because of the difficulty in forging a consensus for a new government, one of the first resolutions passed by Iraqi Parliament could be a demand that the Americans to establish a schedule for withdrawal. And if the Americans are smart, they will seize the occasion to pull out with their heads held high without a moment to lose.

Tip to Nur, translator extraordinaire.

Danny Perasa R.I.P.

He died yesterday. If you haven't heard of him it's time to catch up. Check out yesterday's NPR clip.

Danny Perasa: Oct. 9, 1938-Feb. 24, 2006
Dear Readers,
Danny Perasa passed away at 2:30 p.m. ET as he slept. Annie says he was not in pain.
Although he did not get to hear today's
Morning Edition broadcast, Danny was aware that the story aired. I was reading Annie some of the hundreds and hundreds of emails we received from many of you at the moment that Danny passed.
Over the past two years, Danny and Annie have come to think of all of public radio as a part of their family. Thank you all for helping to honor the life of this extraordinary man. He will be sorely missed.
If you would like to send a note of condolence to Annie, please
send her an email.
Funeral services will be held Tuesday morning in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Details will be posted at npr.org and at storycorps.net.
From Annie and all of us at StoryCorps, we thank you.
Dave Isay

William F. Buckley on Iraq

The Vietnam war was well underway before Walter Cronkite finally came right out and said that the United States was at war. Before that, nobody could actually say so out loud.

Will it be the words of this Grand Old Conservative to bring this conflict to an end?

One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed...Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. The great human reserves that call for civil life haven't proved strong enough. No doubt they are latently there, but they have not been able to contend against the ice men who move about in the shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols.

Dennis the Peasant hits the big time!

Congrats are in order!
I just love this:

Now that I've been paid to express an opinion on the internet, I must be a pundit. A pundit just like Michelle Malkin and Glenn Greenwald...

And that's good. Because, in truth, it's a relief to know that I can stop doing research and fact finding and analysis and just start running my mouth. All that reading about port operations and port security and the U.A.E. was getting to be a bitch.

Seems like he saw through the port-security non-issue like a lot of other people. And said so. And somebody noticed.

I'm not a conspiracy nut, but I do think there is a lot to managing the political will that never gets mentioned. I have said all along not to misunderestimate this president. The Miers nomination may have looked like a punt, but they made some pretty good lemonade out of that lemon, didn't they? It's happened a lot to George Bush. A new Chief Justice and another Associate Justice is not small potatoes.

(This most recent Rumsfeld briefing note indicates to me that a military plan was underway before 911 and that event furnished just the bloody shirt that was needed to move ahead.)

The Dubai doodoo is playing out quite well by way of discrediting those members of Congress who did not get -- what's that they call it?...briefing? -- so they wouldn't look so bad so quick.
So they try to take the boss to task for not doing a better job keeping them in the loop. More briefing needed, don't you know.

I wasn't briefed and I could see through it.
Jimmy Carter wasn't briefed and he could see through it!

For crying out loud, am I the only somebody that can see when a bunch of political opponents have been set up?

I'm getting tired.
When arguments move from substance to form they are on the way to being lost. Combing through all this I keep looking for some indication that there is a substantive threat to security. All I can find is complaining about people not following protocol.

Cartoons? Feh!

The cartoons are nothing compared with Hugh Hewett's story and video link of entertainer Deeyah, dubbed the "Muslim Madonna."
Woohoo! Go lookit!

It's been my impression all along that babes are important to any kind of real reform. All these demonstrations with only guys only represent that part of the population with the upper hand.

Will Franklin noticed the same thing last year.

Publius, too. Check out the banner as well as the post.

The Internationale's latest transmutation

Where's my troll?
This one's for him!

From time to time I take a stroll down memory lane to my old days as co-chairman of a college chapter of YPSL (Young People's Socialist League). As fringe group we never amounted to much either in number or influence, but the impulse that kids have to reform the world still burned bright. We never actually sang The Internationale but we knew what it stood for. I don't think any of us really thought there would be a revolution, but in case one happened, we wanted to be ready. I remember getting a hand-made Christmas card one year (think of the irony) with a crimson half-circle glued to a white card with the message inside: "The East is Red, The West is Dead." But I digress...

Just to reassure all my buddies on the trembling Right who continue to look for Reds in every corner, I want you to know they are still there. It isn't paranoia, they say, if they really ARE out to get you.

Here is proof, should any be needed, that the next generation is still being indoctrinated. Drilling around the internets off to the edge, I found this delightful version of the Marxist Anthem as played and sung by a Japanese group with effervescent energy. Even after more than a year the link remains active.

Via Creek Running North's new site
Via Lindsay Beyerstein

Before you listen, you can read the words of several stanzas at the Wikipedia link. (Or open another window and read as you listen. I don't know how to instruct Blogger to open a link without losing the page.)

I can't help wondering how the heart of this music has anything to do with service-based economies in which the price of human labor is more valuable than the products being produced. Or how musicians figure into the equasion. But I am reminded of something James Baldwin wrote years ago: The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.

The Da Vinci Code and other irreligious matters

Yesterday's post by Fr. Neuhaus at First Things caught my eye. A review by Adam Kirsch, the New York Sun's books editor, inspired this gem:

One need not go so far as the early Karl Barth who insisted that Christianity is not a religion, but it is obvious that one is not, or should not be, a Christian because he believes in religion. Rather, he has by reason, authoritative testimony, and the gift of faith, accepted the claim that God has revealed himself in Jesus Christ.
Toward the end of the post he notes that Sony has enlisted the services of a group called Grace Hill to hype the movie version of Da Vinci Code to evangelicals. It seems a thinly-veiled anti-catholic subtext is part of the program, which comes as no surprise to me. Having been spoon-fed a low dose of anti-Catholic poison from childhood, I can attest to the toxic nature of that line of thinking. Like all forms of prejudice -- race, age, gender, economic or social caste -- it is tough to discern and even tougher to wean from. But it can be done. It really can.

That is my prayer and hope for Muslims, that enough of them can embrace the notion of tolerance long enough (maybe a couple of generations?) to be able to live side by side with infidels in peace.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Iceland Travelogue by Naomi Edelstein

Great weekend reading. Jonathan Edelstein's wife does a great post about their stay in Iceland. I'm ready to make plans.

Our first night, we dined in a place called Við Tjornina, which was in a renovated home. Eating there was fun; the place looked like a cross between a bordello and your grandmother's home (try putting those two concepts together) and was full of foreigners. What's interesting about Iceland and Europe in general is that English is now the common language that everyone uses. So we were sitting next to this group of diners comprised of some Italians, a Dutch person and their Icelandic host. They were having a discussion about European politics and Jon almost jumped in when they began talking about lawyers, but chose not to.
We finished off [another] evening at the Blue Lagoon, Iceland's most well-known geothermal pool. Almost every city and town over there has one of these pools, heated by natural geothermal water, but this spa is the biggest (and presumably the best). The lagoon itself is man-made, but the water is pumped in from a nearby volcano and is a perfect 100 degrees. It was a little odd changing into a swimsuit when it was 40 degrees outside ... and then swimming outside, but boy, I tell you, I can get used to geothermal swimming, especially when it's in an outdoor place with beautiful scenery. Comparing it to a hot tub or relaxing bath isn't appropriate; the feeling it evoked for me was like when it's cold outside and you're in your warm, comfy bed drinking hot chocolate and don't have to worry about getting up for work or anything. It was just very relaxing and peaceful and felt kind of like you were bundled into a warm blanket.
On our last day, we went hunting for elves. Yes, you read that correctly. One of Reykjavik's suburbs--Hafnarfjorour--is famous for its elfin population. A local seer, Erla Steffansdottir, apparently knows how to speak with these creatures, and runs a tour and put together a map of where to find them. We didn't take her tour, but we did purchase this elf map. We then visited the park where Hidden People live and stopped by the stomping grounds of a 500-year-old hermit. This map contains her drawings of the elves, as well as her account of an elf dinner she once attended. It has to be seen to be believed. Yet the city takes the elf situation seriously. You can't build on an area unless it's been deemed free of elfin habitats. And many people have small houses on their lawns that look like dog houses. They're not; these are put there in case the elves need a place to stay.

We did not see any elves, nor did we see the Northern Lights, which proved to be as elusive as the elves in the cloudy weather. Everyone kept telling us, "Oh, they're here all the time"(the Lights, not the elves). This didn't make me feel any better!

Lamentations of the Boomers

Radio-blogging tonight.

I listened to this evening's edition of The Infinite Mind as I was driving home tonight. I found it interesting, but it's not for enough people to blog about, but at the end John Hockenberry had a delicious piece that is worth the link, called Lamentations of the Boomers.

I can't find a script of the program but that is jsut as well. His recitation is better than dry words in print.

The program is an hour long. (I was interested because it was about failing memory associated with aging, but at the moment I am more troubled by the ebb of time than the loss of recollection. I suppose when I start having more to look back on than forward to I will change my attitude.)

Anyway, to hear the five and a half minutes of John Hockenberry, drag the control button ahead to 51:10 and let it play to the end. Here is the audio link. Order the program or click on "Listen Now" to hear.

I hope making this transcript for my blog is not violating any laws. I keep it here just for my own future reference.

The Lamentations of the Boomers
by John Hockenberry

They were not at the beginning but more toward at the end of time did they become fruitful and multiply and call themselves the name "Boomers" as they would rename all the things in the world to their likeness.

Yet their numbers did increase beyond all multiplying as of a pestilence of well-fed and prosperous creatures who did see that the earth was created for them and that they were the earth.

Neither did they know the wartime butchery of their forbears nor did they know the poverty and deprivation of their fathers and mothers before them. When they were told of these things they did become sleepy and irritable, and ever did they speak of cartoons and breakfast cereal...and stare into the mirror as their image was not an abomination but did always comfort them.

They did from the beginning find idolatry in the warm box with the pictures on the front. Never did it speak of deprivations and hardship...only Bozo and Popeye and the Beaver, except after eight in the evening when Gunsmoke and Bonanza entered the box, and this was an abomination to the Boomers, as was the King family and Mitch Miller and Lawrence Welk who caused them to shrink away in horror and to hiss and wag their heads at the picture box and to gnash their orthodontically perfect teeth.

But Sullivan they did forgive. When he introduced The Beatles he was no longer an abomination. He was just a forgotten old man and they thanked him for going away.
And did the Boomers then rename music. They did call it Rock, as they did rename The Birds and The Animals and The Mamas and the Papas and The Beachboys.

And when they did eat of the leaf of the hemp and the drop of the acid that they did name psychedelic did they proclaim an Age of Aquarius...that was much sung about, but never did the Boomers explain it...not even when they walked naked in muddy fields, nor when they claimed to have discovered love and declared it "free"...although a prisoner it was not.

And there arose a great shouting and clamoring from the Boomers. In everything they saw themselves.
When Boomers were sick it was news.
When Boomers became thick with gluttony it was news.
When Boomers became thin it was bigger news.
When they had children it was news.
They discovered marriage as though it had never been.
They discovered divorce.
And adultery they discovered most of all...although the Boomer named Quayle, he did not discover it. Nor did he discover the leaf of the hemp. And the Boomer named Clinton didst only experiment with the leaf of hemp, and nor did he ever inhale. And the Boomer named Clinton practiced free love, but when he denied it he was celebrated as a political genius. Because he was a Boomer president he was called great, although to Quayle and Bush and O'Reilly he was an abomination.
And O'Reilly didst sorely gnash his teeth and speak only of his childhood poverty, forgetting his riches, both then and now as it was foretold...
Boomers would forget...first details from their background, then the names of old girlfriends and new mistresses. And then the lyrics of Pink Floyd songs and finally where they put the viagra, the flashlight and the Double-A batteries.

When the Boomers discovered age, there was a great clammoring and distress and many books about loving one's self. And doctors named Phil who spoke in idiot riddles and gave great comfort to Boomers. There were Boomers who paid to stitch their faces to the back of their heads, stretching them to put hair back on their heads, to suck the fat from stomachs and thighs, though they did not suck it from the breasts, only did they enlarge those. And did they even staple their stomachs after they did eat of the food of junk and grow large as the two-car garage they did cut it.

But neither could they turn back the clock, so they spent the money of their children until the wealth did wither.

And here the Boomers did sorely forget. Neither did they think of the future. Only did they listen to Seals and Crofts and Hotel California and Fleetwood Mac and Motown.

In the end they wore yellow ribbons for everything. But they did not remember Tony Orlando.

In the end the Boomers were a plague unto the land, and yet the story is still being told.

It is said that when Boomers discover death it will be as though it had never existed, and the clammoring will be so great, and the gnashing of teeth so loud that no one will be able to listen to I-pod headphones, so great will be the wailing and the din until the last Boomer finds eternal rest.

It is written...or something like that...

I sorta forget the whole thing...

Kurt Vonnegut at 83

Followup: Vonnegut died a few weeks after this post was published.


Kurt Vonnegut is no longer well-known, but he is still at work.

His new book, A Man Without a Country, includes a series of broadsides against America's ruling elite, who, he believes, have made the country "as feared and hated all over the world as the Nazis were . . We have dehumanised millions and millions of human beings simply because of their religion and race. We kill 'em and torture 'em and imprison 'em all we want."
It gets worse, so if the reader is a patriot it might be best to skip this link and move on to something else. Those of us who have treasured his every creation don't mind what he says. Anything that smacks of treason is redemed by wit and humor. Just be patient and he'll be dead in a few more years. Meantime, fans can have another short visit.

Just as his literary universe abounds in absurdity and catastrophe, so too has Vonnegut's real world. At 19, as a prisoner of war in Germany, he witnessed the fire-bombing of Dresden - an experience that gave rise to his most famous book, Slaughterhouse-Five. Soon after he came back from the war, his mother committed suicide.

In the 1960s, his only son, Mark, went through a psychotic breakdown, and 20 years later Vonnegut himself tried to commit suicide. In the mid-1970s, Vonnegut's sister died of cancer, just 24 hours after losing her husband in a car crash. (Vonnegut and his then-wife, with whom he'd had three children, promptly adopted three of their orphaned nephews.) Then, in 2000, he nearly died of smoke inhalation when fire destroyed most of his house.

According to Vonnegut, there's not much you can do when faced with such horrors, except try to laugh at them. For him, humour is the only appropriate lens through which to view the follies of the world. But beneath the exuberance of novels such as Breakfast of Champions and Mother Night, with their wild digressions into whimsy, science fiction and personal memoir, there's always a quiet moan of anguish going on - a sense of disbelief at the messes people make of their lives, as well as the even bigger mess that human beings have made of the planet.

Link to The Age (Au.) article
H/T Maud Newton Blog

Storycorps--today's best seven minutes

I'm blogging from work. Dial-up, not DSL, and the link works okay.
Audio only, no pictures.

This is a love story. Chick flick by audio. Kleenex stuff.
Okay, then....don't miss it.

Call me a sentimental old sap.

Update: A Sad Note
Danny Perasa passed away Friday, Feb. 24 at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Perasa, who had been fighting pancreatic cancer, died in his sleep.

Storycorps is coming to Atlanta March 2-26.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Peggy Noonan on airport security

The Transportation Security Administration is a monument to rudeness. One would think that a democratically elected form of government could get better results with tax dollars. Big, big public relations nightmare...

Ahead of me, throwing bags in bins, is a young mother with a two or three year old girl. The mother is tense, flustered. Bags, bottles, a stroller to break down and get on the conveyer belt. A security agent yelling: "Keep your boarding pass in your hand at all times."

The little girl is looking up, anxious.

All these yelling adults, and things being thrown. "My doll!" she says as her mother puts it quickly in a gray bin.

"We'll get it on the other side!" says the mother. She grabs her daughter's hand roughly.

"Take off your sneakers!" a clerk yells.

The mother stops, hops, quickly removes her sneakers. Her daughter has already walked through the magnetometer and is wandering on the other side. She looks around: Where's mommy?

Mommy gets her sneakers in a bin, on the belt, gets through the magnetometer.
I'm relieved. Her daughter holds her mother's leg. They begin to walk on.

A TSA clerk shouts to another, "You didn't check the sneakers. You have to put the sneakers through."

The second clerk yells--"Your daughter has to go through again!"

The little girl is scared--What did I do wrong? I'm sorry, mommy.

The mother is tense, gets a look.

I lift my chin at the TSA agent, smile, and say softly, "Miss, that poor girl with the child, she is having a tough time. The little girl is scared and--"

"We are following procedures!" said the TSA agent. Her mouth was twisted in anger.

I nodded and said softly, "I know, I'm just saying--a little gentle in your tone."

She looked at my ticket and smiled.

"You have been chosen by the computer for extra attention."

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Iraq's Yezidi

Later: Man, what a pisser!
I was so pleased with this link when I left for work this morning I couldn't stand it. I thought about it two or three times today.
Tonight I come back to take another look and the damn thing is GONE, replaced by some watered down pap with no pictures.
From what I can gather from the comments thread, Totten was forced by Newsweek to remove his great stuff, probably so they can sell it. What a disappointment.

It makes me think next time I see something I want I should just grab it and post it, THEN add the link.

Sorry, reader. This post isn't what it was meant to be.
But go ahead and look at the Michael Yon and Abu Khaleel links to learn about the Yezidi.

[Friday morning: The post is back at the main page. But I can't get the permalink to work. It must be a bitch to travel, write, take pictures and mainain a good attitude, while having a tug-of-war with some small-minded, short-sighted, breathtakingly obtuse editorial functionary who can't see past his or her nose. Let's hope things get cleaned up now.]

[Friday nite: Looks like things are ack to normal...Maybe an outcry from the blogworld got through.]


Michael Totten's post today is a don't miss.
He tells of a visit to the Yezidi people, an ancient religious group living among the Kurds.

Last June Michael Yon wrote of these people.
My internet friend Abu Khaleel also mentioned them a year ago.

When this awful war is past I can imagine a vigorous tourist industry for Iraq. But it seems so far away. The contrast between the civility of these accounts and the madness of war is surreal.

Marimba Ponies link

If you haven't heard it yet, you will...
Khachaturian never sounded so good!
Thanks, Rocketboom

(The embarrasing part is they have been around for several years...never heard of 'em. I gotta get out more.)

Optimism and cynicism

Todays posting illustrates that optimism and cynicism are not exclusive.
Refer to Ambrose Bierce:

The doctrine, or belief, that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything right that is wrong. It is held with greatest tenacity by those most accustomed to the mischance of falling into adversity, and is most acceptably expounded with the grin that apes a smile. Being a blind faith, it is inaccessible to the light of disproof -- an intellectual disorder, yielding to no treatment but death. It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious.

A proponent of the doctrine that black is white.
A pessimist applied to God for relief.
"Ah, you wish me to restore your hope and cheerfulness," said God. "No," replied the petitioner, "I wish you to create something that would justify them."
"The world is all created," said God, "but you have overlooked something -- the mortality of the optimist."

In the beginning...

In the beginning Capital created the newspaper and the academy.

And the newspaper covered current events; and the academy pursued the higher learning.

And Capital said: let there be ideology: and there was ideology.

And Capital saw the ideology, that it was bourgeois: and Capital divided the political economists from the factory workers.

And Capital called the ideology Truth, and he called criticism Fallacy. And from morning until evening was the length of the working day.

So Capital created man in his own image, in the image of Capital created he him; financier and factory hand created he them.

Now the socialist was more subtle than any beast of the field which Capital had made. And he said unto the factory worker, Yea, hath Capital said, Ye shall produce surplus value unto the Last Hour of the day?

And the factory worker said unto the socialist, We may work from dawn to dusk:
But of the fruit of our labour, Capital hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it lest ye die.

And the socialist said unto the worker, Ye shall not surely die:
For Capital doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as capital, knowing the difference between leisure and fatigue.

And when the worker saw that the shorter day was good for life, and that it was pleasant and made one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that their labour was being appropriated; and they sewed a banner together, and demanded an eight-hour day.

And the LORD Capital said unto the worker, What is this that thou hast done?

And the worker said, The socialist enlightened me, and I did rest resist.

And the LORD Capital said unto the socialist, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

Unto the worker he said, I will greatly multiply thy divisions and thy alienation; in debt thou shalt bring forth commodities; and thy desire shall be to thy paycheck, and it shall rule over thee.

And the LORD Capital said, Behold, the newspaper is become muckrakish and the academy simmers with heresy: and now, lest they put forth their analysis, and embolden the workers to take also of the tree of state, and to live in liberty:

Therefore the LORD Capital convened a tells-you-what-to-think tank; And it was adorned with "fellows" and "seminars"; And these scholarly adornments lent it the cachet of the academy.

And the tells-you-what-to-think tank was nimble, like unto a newspaper; And it cranked out boilerplate for publication in the daily press.

And the LORD Capital saw that the tells-you-what-to-think tank was faithful and adaptive unto his each policy vacillation; that it was good.

So Capital created scores of tells-you-what-to-think tanks in his own image, in the image of Capital created he them; Heritage Foundation and American

Enterprise Institute created he them; National Center for Policy Analysis and Centre for Policy Studies created he them; Fraser Institute and Friends of Europe created he them.

And Capital blessed them with endowments of cash, and Capital said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply the boilerplate, and replenish the ideology, and subdue the earth: and have dominion over the scribes of the newspaper and over the eggheads of the academy, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Stolen from Max Speak, You Listen!

Any storm in a port

I'm starting to wonder if the port security non-issue might be a red herring to divert attention from cartoon madness. If so, it may be working. If not, then the administration is missing a good chance to practice a bit of political sleight of hand.

As the story opened I sensed a tinge of deception. Too many dogs went charging after the raw meat tossed before them. Even Republicans. Heck, I'm just an ordinary guy surfing the internets and I saw through it. Even Jimmy Carter, everybody's whipping boy, supported it. (Come to think of it, that was like throwing fresh blood on the bait. Surely that wasn't planned...or could it have been...?...)

Comes now Financial Times (hullo, big money!) with a warm puppy, and even the Anchoress is paying attention. Thank you, thank you Buster, my boy. Yo mama's one of the sharpest blades in the drawer and nothing gets past her without close scrutiny.

NRO has a snip or two on the side of the prez, one pointing to none other than the WSJ (...the notion that the Bush Administration is farming out port "security" to hostile Arab nations is alarmist nonsense).

I have a feeling this whole thing might quietly implode in a few days with the echo playing out a tune of moderation from a lot of moderate voices in the Muslim/Arab world.

Just my cynical take on things, but I have noticed in life that even though you can't buy friendship, you can sure buy a lot of practical good will. We'll see.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Pillow fighting in New York

Is this blog eclectic or what?
Not kidding.
Rocket Boom has the story.
Also in London...
...................................................................Tel Aviv

Michael J. Totten in Iraq

If you're not reading Totten's dispatches from his travels in Iraq you're missing something fresh, informative and important.
Today he has pictures and descriptive comments about Dohok, which he calls the safest city in Iraq. Also prosperous, modern and pleasant.
Yesterday's post was a snapshot of Kirkuk, taken from the Kurds by Saddam but there for the taking whenever the Peshmerga move.

I asked KDP Minister Falah Bakir what “Our Jerusalem” was all about. Is Kirkuk some kind of cultural capital? Is there a historic significance to the city that I’m not aware of?

“No,” he said. “Kirkuk is part of Kurdistan. But it isn’t ‘Jerusalem.’ Kirkuk is Kirkuk, just as Erbil is Erbil and Mosul is Mosul.” It’s just another Kurdish city, in other words. It was dubbed “Our Jerusalem” by Jalal Talabani as part of a PR campaign.

The Peshmerga can militarily take Kirkuk any time the order is given. But they’re holding back. The Kurds want to take the city peacefully and with honor.

The trouble with taking the city honorably is that they first want to kick out the Arabs moved there by Saddam Hussein. They don’t want to evict all the Arabs. As I’ve mentioned before, Iraqi Kurds have no interest in creating an ethnic-identity
state. They only want to reverse Saddam’s Arabization campaign and make the city safe and secure as Erbil, Suleimaniya, and Dohok already are. Those Arabs who lived there before, those who are actually from there, are welcome to stay.

Jimmy Carter at eighty-one

Wolf Blitzer interviewed Jimmy Carter last night.
Here is the link.
Carter's opinion piece in the Washington Post has become a lightening rod.
Here is that link.

Critics are stumbling over one another in a rush to pile on the man, calling him everything but a child of God. (Don't you love that expression? It so fits this time.)

This breathtaking statement is from the Q and O blog post sarcastically titled "Saint Jimmy Speaks."

Well, with all due respect to the former president, whose blinding foreign policy successes are so well known, who else should we punish, if not the Palestinian people. They were, after all, the people who, in a mostly free and fair election, elected a Hamas-dominated government. As such, it seems to me that they are precisely the people who bear the responsibility, and, hence the consequences.
Due respect? Please. I have to give credit for clarity. Nothing could be plainer than that. It is now time to stop making a distinction between those who are in charge and the people who elected them.

That thinking removes from the table the last diplomatic hope for peace. Even in the ugliest statements from the cold war -- which lasted most of my life -- there was always a distinction made between the people and their leaders. Russians, Chinese, Cubans, Americans, Brits, whoever...they always seemed to word press releases with "We have no quarrel with the [name of country here] people. Our problem is with [name the leadership here]."

Never mind this: Since August of 2004, Hamas has participated in a cease fire, which I think in Arab is called a hadna (ph). And they have not violated this cease fire all. There have been no terrorist activities attributed to Hamas for the last year and a half, 18 months.
When I met with one of the Hamas leaders after the election, whom I had also met with ten years ago and hadn't seen him since, he told me what the Hamas people want is a peaceful unity government. Whether he's telling the truth, I have no way of knowing.

Or this: And of course, the dream of some ridiculous Hamas leaders and other countries to take over Israel is obviously fallacious and incomprehensible. So I think what's going to happen now is that the more pragmatic leaders of Hamas, including Haniyeh, who is the new prime minister, I think will prevail and the Palestinian people will prevail.
There's no doubt that they expressed their will clearly in the election. And I don't have any desire to speak for Hamas, which I think has been horrible in the past in terrorist activities. But I think we ought to give a chance to the Palestinian people to establish a kind of government that can be constructive and peaceful if the Palestinian people's rights are honored.

Or most obvious of all: Although Hamas won 74 of the 132 parliamentary seats, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas retains the right to propose and veto legislation, with 88 votes required to override his veto. With nine of its elected members remaining in prison, Hamas has only 65 votes, plus whatever third-party support it can attract. Abbas also has the power to select and remove the prime minister, to issue decrees with the force of law when parliament is not in session, and to declare a state of emergency. As commander in chief, he also retains ultimate influence over the National Security Force and Palestinian intelligence.

I would guess that the average American could not distinguish between Abbas and Hamas.
(Any more than he might make any distinction between Saddam and al-Qaida. Such is the depth of ignorance prevailing in the American Street.)

Nothing I say here will have any meaningful impact on the tidal wave of criticism that is engulfing the man. But for sheer courage and sincerity I give him very high marks. At that fragile moment when Hamas pulled off the electoral shock of the decade, while everyone else was trying to catch their breath, Carter was in the midst of the event speaking out, giving it his best shot trying to make the best of a situation that caught the rest of the world by surprise.
...as the blogworld goes all agog over Hugh Hewett's (well-earned) evisceration of Joel Stein (whoever that is) and a pregnant silence rises from Washington as politicians wait to see which way the breeze might be blowing. Jimmy Carter, their favorite whipping boy, is in the thick of things in a non-thumotic effort to tip the scales in the direction of non-violence and a peace process.
(Damn. This is not how to build traffic, is it? Oh well....)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Gerard Vanderleun on primary education

Reprise of an essay that needs to be read about every five or ten years until the point sticks. I can relate, having been the product of five different elementary schools in two Southern states not famous for education -- before I got to high school. If I heard the word "under-achiever" once I heard it a hundred times. Sheesh. And after that it took me an extra two or three years past the usual four to get an undergraduate degree. It was okay, but I wouldn't want to do it over. Grad school? Fuggedaboudit. My heart goes out to this kid. Go read.


That would be a contraction of, uh, blog and jargon...

MSM...lede...lobster shift...Above the fold...The jump... sidebar...blogroll..."guys in pajamas"...byeline...screed...wingnuts...moonbats...blogosphere
Link love...blogophiles...linkylove...linkslut...simultaneous blogasm....
blogossary.com...tag...Delicious, ...delicious bookmarks...deliciousing...blogerati...spamming...slashdotted...spam blogs, splogs and zombie blogs...game search engines...comment spam."

Got that? It's all explained by William Safire in the Sunday Times (subscription is free).
And one of my favorites: fisking.

This brief survey — a labor of link love — was conducted by means of blogging. Thanks to the blogerati who shot my query around the Web asking for jargon, a solicitation that N'Gai Croal, technology editor at Newsweek, calls blegging. He also notes "Another good blog term is to fisk, from Robert Fisk, a U.K. journalist. That's when you take an article and reprint it on your blog adding your line-by-line critique. It comes from bloggers doing that to Fisk's work, and now you'll hear 'That was some fisking of Bush's State of the Union. "

Whatever happened to polemics?

"Who do you call to protect you from the New Iraq’s security forces?"

Riverbend's post from January 11 is a dramatic read. Somehow I missed it at the time, but I came across it just now.
I really don't know what to say about it, but it is certainly not a piece of fiction. This is a terrifying glimpse into what life has become for a lot of people in Iraq.

I listened for Ammoo S., hoping to hear him outside but I could only distinguish the harsh voices of the troops. The minutes we sat in the living room seemed to last forever. I didn’t know where to look exactly. My eyes kept wandering to the man with the weapon and yet I knew staring at him wasn’t a good idea. I stared down at a newspaper at my feet and tried to read the upside-down headlines. I glanced at J. again- her heart was beating so hard, the small silver pendant that my mother had given her just that day was throbbing on her chest in time to her heartbeat.

Suddenly, someone called out something from outside and it was over. They began rushing to leave the house, almost as fast as they’d invaded it. Doors slamming, lights dimming. We were left in the dark once more, not daring to move from the sofa we were sitting on, listening as the men disappeared, leaving only a couple to stand at our gate.

Bruderhof Update

Ever since the Daily Dig went silent I have received almost daily hits among my referrers from searches inquiring about the Bruderhof. Although I don't have any first-hand experience with this group I am very aware of their long tradition as a quasi-separatist communal group with roots in Germany. Any resourceful researcher can discover more about the group than I can provide here, but a website has been set up posting many comments and testimonies from people whose lives were touched by the now silent Daily Dig.

Bring Back Bruderhof makes for interesting reading. Scattered among the many encomiums are a few remarks reflecting what can be called the "darker side" of the Bruderhof. Like all such groups, there is a cohesive center of gravity durable enough to resist dilution by outside forces. Without being judgemental I recognize that this group represents a lifestyle not suitable for everyone. Who can deny the pain and regret reflected in some of the comments left by former members who testify to psychological scars left from Bruderhof life? Among the comments at one of my other posts on the subject is a pained testimony from a former member.

The administrators of this more recent website display enough integrity to allow negative comments to stand among the others. This signals to me a level of tolerance that is virtually non-existent in today's world of extreme hype. I cannot imagine a quiet but critical comment or two going unmolested in most comment threads I come across. Either the host or one of what passes for a "community" of like-minded voices among the "audience" will quickly jump to "fisk" the offender. Such is the contrast between those who cling to the notion that normative behavior should prevail for all, and minority members, like children, should be seen and not heard. Oddly enough, it is left to obscure groups like the Bruderhof to practice the tolerance that the world around them merely preaches.

My interest in communal living runs deep. I don't know exactly why this is so. My two family roots, maternal and paternal, are very different. My mother's family was so scattered out that I only recall their being together once or twice in my life, then only for a funeral or two. My father's family, on the other hand, was and is so clannish that most of them never went more than a couple hours' drive from where they were born. And they all would collect at the drop of a hat, in a multi-generational cluster including inlaws and friends, to eat a feast of Biblical proportions, mostly products brought pot-luck from their respective farms and kitchens.

Possibly because I grew up knowing experiencing both kinds of "family" -- local and conceptual -- I appreciate that both add to one's development. In the same way that a clan does not look past the horizon, a globally scattered family finds clanish behavior suffocating. In any case I have a deep admiration and appreciation for what are referred to as "separatist" groups. Just last night I watched a TV program (Globe Trecker?) which made passing mention to a large number of Mennonite groups that live in Belize and Guatamala, maintaining their old ways in a cultural polyglot that includes Maya Indians, Latinos and other non-separatist Anglos. I will always treasure my short visit to Koinonia Farm in 1965 where I was able to meet Clarence Jordan and his family. It was from this group and Jordan's connection with Millard Fuller that Habitat for Humanity was started.

There is much to be said about communal living but the subject is too obscure to be of interest to most readers. Prior to marrying and rearing a family I lived in a small group that referred to itself as an urban commune, but that was mainly for economic reasons. Nevertheless we all learned some of the basics that are required for group living -- individual privacy, shared responsibilities for expenses and housekeeping, straightforward honesty when dealing with one another, and mutual respect that sometimes transcends selfishness.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Was Iraq a dress rehearsal for Iran?

Let's pray not.

Paul R. Pillar can speak with some authority.

He does so here.

The administration used intelligence not to inform decision-making, but to justify a decision already made. It went to war without requesting -- and evidently without being influenced by -- any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq. .

It's a fairly long read. Pretty dry, but important.
Nothing new, but I think most people remain ignorant to the facts.

Politics and intelligence....
Do. Not. Mix.

Wars can result.

Cernig has a summary driving home the usual, obvious points. I'm tired of repeating, so I will just point. I am mystified why so few people seem to grasp even the basics of how easily the political will can be shaped by putative leaders who should know better.

"Her arm was found near the accident still clutching a cell phone."

Not really.

Port Security

CNN's lead story this evening had to do with what was misleadingly referred to as "Arab-controled" port security. Boy, what a photo-op. Pols from both parties are competing to have their muggs on the evening news as they pontificate about terrorism, security and such. Statue of Liberty in the background, already. Gimme a break.

No reader of this blog will accuse me of being pro-administration, but in this case the boss is probably right. I have been reading another blog that has earned more credibility in my eyes than, in this case, the U.S. Congress. (That's not too hard, come to think of it considering some of the duplicitous moves to their credit.) Aqoul is a group blog made up of some very savy people who apparently pay the rent by dealing with businesses in North Africa and the Middle East. To each his own. I love the fine print posted here...

Finally: none of the comrade authors here at 'Aqoul have any direct interest in DPW, nor are any of the comrade authors agents of or associated with DPW or P&O. The present author, "The Lounsbury" is in fact a businessman involved in MENA region affaires, but does not work in the transport sector and has never been directly involved with DPW or any of its affiliates. The sole interest of 'Aqoul's comrade authors is in free markets, liberal economics, and fighting the gross ignorance that characterises so much Western commentary about the MENA region (and to an extent, vice versa).
Please take a moment to read what The Lounsbury says about the newsbite du jour. Take a look at a few sober realities as ticked off by someone who seems to know...

***The transaction is private, P&O is being bought out as a private entity.
***DPW is a corporation, not a government agency.
***The US ports “coming under control” of DPW with the P&O acquisition are private assets (management leases of port assets with local authorities).
***The control of security will remain with US Gov authorities and Port staffing will be American (obviously).
***DPW / P&O is not the sole owner of the all ports in question. NY/NJ is only 50 percent owned in a joint-venture with P. Møller-Mærsk (formerly Royal P&O Nedlloyd, branded as Mærsk ) on a 30-year lease with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to operate the 180-acre container terminal in Port Newark, New Jersey; Miama is a joint-venture as well.
***Despite much loose guilt by association talk, no UAE or Dubai governmental involvement has ever been shown with respect al-Qaeda/anti-Western activities.

The comments are an interesting thread as well. There's more, but that's enough to make me want to change the channel and look for some real news. Maybe like who's gonna be the next American Idol or something important.

For sheer entertainment, tune in to this other post on the same topic and follow the comments thread.

The opening scene is a visit to chez Pamela Leavey. A sweet, high-minded neolib keeping an eye on the neocons is certain that where there is bipartisan smoke there must be a fire. Little did she suspect a nest of folks whose day jobs are at or near the scene of the fire don't have the same take on the matter as anyone here in North America, Left or Right.

Despite a couple of (failed) efforts at civility the whole thread fades to a mud-wrestling scene. Better than WWF...or American Idol,

Quotable: Love and Marriage

A love story without a marriage and a family is bulimic by nature--it is a story about longing without consummation, eating without nutriment, a race without a finish line, a prayer without a god, a mere phantom without substance. Death at least gives some sort of a conclusion to it. That's why Romeo and Juliet had to die. That's why Wagner wrote of Tristan and Isolde's love-death. It's also why Jane Austen's novels are so good: one always has the impression that the principals will raise lots of kids on their country estate.

And while we're on the subject, Valentine's Day was good to The Waiter.
“Happy Valentine’s Day Madam,” I say, gallantly presenting the dessert.
“Oh!” the woman exclaims. “Thank you!”
“My pleasure madam.”
“Say, what about me?” the woman’s husband says.
“What about me?” the man says, half seriously. “Aren’t you going to wish me a Happy Valentine’s Day?”
“Should I sir?”
“Valentine’s Day is for the ladies sir.”
“That’s not true! It’s for guys too!” the man protests.
“We have the Superbowl sir.”
“So you’re telling me the ladies get Valentine’s Day and we get hit in the head with a forward pass?”
“Are you married sir?” I ask.
“Then you’ve already been hit in the head with a forward pass.”
The husband roars with laughter. The wife titters happily.
“Very good Waiter,” the man says after he regains his composure, “Very good.”

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Good manners and other civilized behavior

Ever notice the linguistic connection between civil, civilized and civilization?
Those words form a progression that starts at the particular and moves to the general.
Somewhere along to way, the subject of good manners comes up. Although you can't judge a book by the cover, you can certainly tell a comic book from a textbook without opening either one.

Disclosure: This is a bait and switch post. I put together yesterday what I will immodestly call an excellent commentary on good manners and other subjects. I was tempted to keep it at the top of my blog by tinkering with the date/time signature, but I think that changes the permalink which I do not want to do. I want the link to remain viable for anyone good enough to return in the future.

Most of my links are short, quick and easy. This one, however, is not. If you want to drill into all the references it will take some time to cover. And if you want to internalize what it says, it may take some readers the remainder of their natural life.

But I had to say it. I'm glad I did. And you are invited to go read it if you have the time.

Another glance at cartoon madness

A Pakistani cleric has called for someone to kill a cartoon artist.
A very pissed Muslim in America reacts...

Even in Pakistan that is illegal. That man should be arrested at once and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. His assets should be frozen immediately.

Here is a directorate [PDF] of almost all Pakistani missions and embassies. Call what’s local to you and demand this mans arrest.

If you are in America write a letter to your rep. Anyone can also call the World Bank and ask them to consider this before increasing aid to $750 million. Most importantly, Muslims ask your Imams to condemn this in his next sermon.

I’m on my way now to go pray at my mosque in Cambridge and that is exactly what I am going to do.

Michael Totten from Kurdistan

Blogger-reporter Michael J. Totten writes from Erbil, Iraq. His report compares with Michael Yon in giving one the feeling of "being there".

I didn’t like it one bit. But I had to be honest about what was happening. I was in Iraq without a gun and without any bodyguards. The only reason that was possible is because freedom of movement – one of the most basic freedoms in the world - doesn’t exist in Iraq. Without hard internal borders the violence in the center could not be walled off from the north. The very policy that allowed me, a foreigner, to enter Erbil while my Iraqi friends couldn’t was the very policy that kept me alive. I had no choice but to be grateful for that policy, for my own sake as well as for the sake of Kurdish Iraqis, even though some of the results were deplorable and blatantly unfair to the majority of Arab Iraqis who will never hurt anyone.
Quick, easy reading. Not too long. Not to be missed.

Fr. Neuhaus comments on Biship Robinson's alcoholism

Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, has checked himself into a substance abuse program and seems to be coming to terms with alcoholism as a disease. Bishop Robinson is a lightening rod in the Anglican communion as the first openly homosexual person to be installed as bishop. Fr. Neuhaus comments

The self-exculpating dismissal of will and discipline as irrelevant to disordered desires is always a morally dubious step. Bishop Robinson will now be a recovering alcoholic. Good. If only he were also a recovering gay.
Quite so. Orientation is almost certainly not a choice. Behavior, on the other hand, almost certainly is.

From the ridiculous to the sublime

Don't you agree?
This goes with this.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Looking at good manners

The next post is a mish-mash of cutsies and soap bubbles gathered from a few minutes of splashing about the internet. I remember doing something like the same thing in the bathtub when I was a kid, only then I was playing with suds and toys for children. It is a blessing as an adult to be able to remember what childhood was like years ago. But there is also a serious side to recalling the past. I also remember being taught to have good manners.

Because my post-retirement job is in a community of old people (median age is about 84) I was touched by the opening line of a Touchstone post: Many years ago while I was visiting an elderly member of my church in a nursing home... Don't click yet, reader; stay with me for a moment or you will miss the point. As I read the post I could not help hearing a greater sound playing in the background, the sound of a decaying social fabric being played out on a larger stage, in the spotlight of national identity, with actors from all over the world screaming out their lines in a vain, transparently rude attempt to grab the spotlight.

I will go ahead and tell you the punchline so as not to have any surprises.

A polite man is not necessarily a good man, but a rude one, even if no offense is intended by undue familiarity, is a lower creature than he ought to be.
That gently-made point is where we are headed, so go now and read the post ending with that line. But as you read, let yourself remember some recent headlines and arguments about "cultures" and "offensive cartoons" and "freedom of speech" and "principles" and "caving in." Maybe it's just me, but I think we may be in danger as a people of moving retrograde to becoming again a race of barbarians.

Time permitting, here is another good essay from a reasonable, rational contemporary source recalling a more polite moment from 1989. That would be seventeen years ago, but the message seems yet to have been heard.

Okay, while we'are at it (and you have all the time in the world, I'm sure) some intrepid referrer to my humble blog had a search engine pull up a forgotten post that should be mentioned here. As we plunder along in a moral quagmire of cartoons, political freedoms, torture reports (but that was before we stopped doing it, don't you know), Gitmo detainees (still there last I checked), warrantless spying by a "unitary" executive, and so on...

Let's pause for a moment to read the words of a real hero, a former instructor at West Point who was
...the son of a multi-generation Army officer corps family. My father and grandfather, both distinguished wartime commanders, instilled in me the belief that America must not merely win her wars but must do so in a manner that retains our great values.
Go read the words of Rick Phillips, now senior minister of First Presbyterian Church (PCA) of Coral Springs/Margate, FL.

Alchemy still practiced in America

Some things you have to hear to believe.

I heard this one on NPR as I was coming home a couple of nights ago and almost drove off the road.

Here's the site.
It's been in progress for some time, but I just tripped across it.
These and more from the ODEO Top 40.

Many thanks to Gene Expression for the nudge.

Life is more than one big cartoon argument. (Hey, I like the sound of that. Sums it up pretty well.)
My life is pretty dull, I reckon. I gotta get out more.
What's that word? What-EVAH...

So as long as we're playing around, here's this from BoingBoing.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Exclusive: the Hunting Trip Recording

My buddy Vietnam Catfish has published a revealing fragment of audio.
When it hits the airwaves, remember that you heard it here first.

Arab News looks at the Arab "boycott"

Who Is Boycotting Whom? is the title of the editorial.
There is an old saying about cutting off your nose to spite your face. This is a sensible read which would be of particular interest to those who continue to paint the entire Arab/Muslim world with a very broad brush. H/T John Burgess.

An economic newspaper stated recently that the income of one Danish man is equivalent to 40 Arabs. Is it true, like so many community and mosque leaders say, that the Danish economy relies heavily on the Arab market?

...Denmark is indeed a major butter exporter, but it’s also a major producer of insulin, the treatment for diabetes. According to the Health Ministry, 90 percent of diabetic Saudis use insulin. Boycotting is a healthy protest as long as it achieves the goal of registering protest, and not in the barbaric manner a handful of Muslims behaved by burning down government property. This does more harm than good. It is hypocrisy and a big lie if we believe that these people committed these acts out of love for the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

...If we decided to boycott every country that offends us, we will walk naked on the streets.

When we move from being poor educated consumers to highly productive and educated producers, then we can talk about boycotting products.

I wonder if the Arab counterparts of patriotic American conservatives beat up their liberal media as much as ours.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Bird Flu watch -- best advice at this moment

I'm stealing half a post here:

It's been confirmed in north Germany today (and let me remind you, the suspected human H5N1 case was the cook on a ship which had last docked in Germany), Iran and Austria. Nor is it "expanding" into new territory. It's been there. There were reports of relatively large die-offs in northern Iran since last fall. There were incidents in Germany.

This is not the spring migration, which is still to come - this is 'fessing up after increased monitoring. You won't find what you won't seek. Since any country that found H5N1 was going to get quarantined, every country had a very good reason not to seek. The whole thing has been purely political. There was no way to stop an infection spread by migrating birds, so there was no reason at all to step forward and invite economic distress before it was unavoidable.

And don't think that if these birds made it to Europe in the fall that they didn't make the much shorter hop to NA. The Qinghai strain was far closer to Alaska in the fall than to the Baltic. The US poultry industry quietly instituted an H5N1 sampling program for poultry sent to market in January. Ask yourselves why. I watch the hawks disappear around here and I know what I think. I don't think the Qinghai strain made it to south GA last fall, but I think a milder strain did. I think the Qinghai strain made it into NA last fall, and will spread this year as the weather warms. We're going to find out in a few months if I'm right.

If you eat eggs, hardboil them. Ten minutes boiling. Don't fry them. They might not get hot enough during frying to kill the virus. Don't prepare chicken for cooking without gloves and wash your hands after you have touched eggs. Bleach is by far your best friend. Stock up and use it. Get used to not touching your face unless you have just washed your hands. Get used to taking off your shoes at the door when you come home. Wash the doorknobs and taps at home down once a day with bleach.

You can be (and testing demonstrates that people have been) exposed to even the most virulent strain of flu without getting sick. A high initial dose of the virus gives it the jump on your body's immune system. A low dose will be overcome by your natural defenses. When you have never been exposed to a particular flu virus before, your body is slower to gear up to fight it. Don't be afraid of exposure - just make sure that you avoid a high exposure.

(The other half of the same post addresses antisemitism, which together with bird flu is the other of twin political plagues in our time. I have no quibble about the main point but I do not agree with some of the writer's conclusions.

(This is delicate ground on which we tread. Any discussion of Jews and Israel is by definition a string of hot-button topics: religion, politics, bigotry, race, culture and history. Any of these frames of reference with regard to Israel or Jews is subject to inflammatory ideas, but taken together, tumbling one after another, can quickly paint a Jackson Pollock-looking picture.

(A question is raised {What is the reason for all of this "nuance"? } regarding what I would rather call discernment, a careful handling of ideas that calls for as much delicacy as the movement of a scalpel in the hand of a surgeon. My point is quickly illustrated in the next few lnes which conclude that anyone advocating nuance -- like me -- is either a hysteric or a coward.

(There follows a couple of bracing references to bears and facism, not intended to be open to debate, so I dare not open any. So go learn something from Maxed Out Mama whose attention to everything she writes about is as intense as a laser, even if I don't always care to be standing in the beam.)

Why now?

Abu Graib redux.
Some here.
More here.

These photographs are two years old. Why are they only now getting this much internet play?
How does old news get to be new?
Just asking.

My internet skills are dull compared with most, but I can't find any links to this "story" outside the US. Considering how rapidly information is spread on the web and how foreign devils seem always on the alert for anything to stain the image of the Great Satan, I find it odd that with the exception of the Sydney Morning Herald, there seem to be only US links so far. Americans are not the only readers of that paper.

Or are they? I dunno.

This remark about torture from a comment to another post with a more global view, is worth quoting.

...one of the dangers of explicitly allowing physical interrogation techniques of nearly any sort, as Doug Cassell pointed out in the referenced debate (and he's a guy who [PDF link] knows a thing or two about torture and the military), is that interrogators rarely have the discipline to stop even when the rules specifically tell them to. And this is even more true when the rules are unclear and/or contradictory, let alone when they are just plain wrong.
(And yes, I do believe sometimes people should not do things because they are simply wrong, even if the immediate utility of being a moral human being isn't apparent.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

As the World Toons

Divide and conquer Department:

More and More Moderate Muslims Speak Out in Denmark

Dozens of Danish Muslims are joining the network of moderate Muslims, the Demokratiske Muslimer (Democratic Muslims). About 700 Muslims have already become DM members and 2,500 Danes have expressed their will to support the network. The initiative has caused anger among the Danish imams and their leader, Ahmad Abu Laban, who have referred to the moderates as “rats.” The imams feel that they are beginning to lose their control over part of the Muslim population.

White House pressure Department:

Belafonte, a civil rights pioneer, was asked to speak at Coretta Scott King's funeral

As it turns out when the Prez decided he wanted to attend the funeral and speak the White House had to approve the program and the speakers on it. The invitation to Harry Belafonte, an outspoken critic of Bush, was then rescinded.

Bill of Rights Department, Second Amendment:

That Dog Won't Hunt

The Dove says Amen to comments she found...

I think, as other have pointed out, that this is a microcosm of the whole administration:

1. Try to play tough, with a gun, or an army.

2. Fail to follow well-established rules, guidelines, and past experience (either out of ignorance or willful disregard, or both).

3. Get someone hurt or killed.

4. Try to keep the story under wraps for as long as possible.

5. When the story does come out, spin it so that there was no possible way the administration did anything wrong.

6. Blame someone else, where possible, blame the victim.

7. Make anyone who has a problem with it look like an un-American pussy.