Monday, January 31, 2005

Happy Birthday Philip Glass

That's right, one of America's greatest living and most prolific composers turns 68 today. I just pick up this recording of his Symphonies Number 2 and 3. It's fantastic. Much more dramatic and narrative than his older, more experimental works. I think you can also hear a Glass soundtrack on an American Express commercial with Robert Deniro.

I met him in Houston many years ago at a performance of Hydrogen Jukebox, a stage work with dancers based on a text by Allen Ginsberg. Not one of PG's best efforts but it was fun to ask him a few questions and get his autograph.

If you are unfamiliar with his work here are two recommendations. Kronos Quartet performs Philip Glass is superb. I've about worn it out. String Quartet Number 5, which is tracks 1-5, is my favorite. Glassworks is also excellent. It contains some of his best known pieces and the recording is top quality.

Update: Here's a recent NPR interview with Philip Glass. He talks about driving a cab after his first opera lost money and shows a good sense of humor about being the subject of some merciless parodies.

On South Park's first Christmas Special, Mr. Hankey, the Christman Poo Glass composes and conductes the music for the school's Christmas play, where kids dressed in all black sang, "We are happy happy happy happy." Then the audience breaks into a riot.

The Simpsons have also enjoyed making fun of Philip Glass. In one episode Homer, Lenny and Karl run into David Byrne (played by David Byrne who has worked with Glass) outside Moe's. Lenny wonders where he's heard of Byrne. The Talking Heads perhaps? No.

"David Byrne: I also wrestled under the name 'El Diablo'.
Lenny: Wasn't that Philip Glass?
David Byrne: Yeah, he wishes."

But the best joke from The Simpsons is the End Credits Theme, Philip Glass Homage. Download it and enjoy 56 seconds of strangeness.

Movin' On Up... Before Slidin' Back Down

Yesterday saw record traffic: 2800 visits and over 3600 page views.

That means Rant Wraith is currently ranked #5304 out of about 19,000 blogs by The Truth Laid Bear Blogosphere Ecosystem. I'll slide back down over the next week as Iraqi election traffic drops off and some of my inbound links expire but I wanted to record the high-water mark.

Update: Feb 1 ranking up to #4900.


Some cool new developments around here. First thing you may notice is the new color of the title. There is an explanation. Also you may have noticed little links called 'tag' at the bottom of some posts. These link to Technorati blog search engine. Click on the 'iraq' link for example and you'll see the latest blog posts using the Iraq tag. It's a cool little feature but probably only for the most geeky out there.

The big changes involve a new commenting and trackback system, Haloscan. You can still leave comments but now they will appear in a pop-up window so they are easier to manage. Trackbacks allow other bloggers who link to a post to leave a link and an exerpt from their blog. It's a great way of following the conversation.

Also, there are some new links on the sidebar under The Usual Suspects.

Wrath of the EoD

Ok, the euphoria of election day has passed. Now grim reality sets in. The task of counting the ballots in a transparently fair way has begun. That alone is monumental.

I fully expect the Enemies of Democracy (EoD) to lash out this week, perhaps with the kind of spectacular attack that they had threatened for election day but couldn't pull off. However, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that for many, many Iraqis the psychological dynamic will have changed. Any attacks will be seen not as "resistence" but as attacks against democracy (that's what they are after all). People didn't stand in line for hours, risk their lives and the lives of their families, just to come out today and support the fascist killers. At least I think that's true for most people.

After all, the vast majority of attacks kill Iraqis, not coalition forces. For the EoD to make their point, any attacks have to be seen as being revenge or punishment for the election. If they wait too long, there won't be a relationship between the attacks and the election. I look for psycho killer Zarqawi to intensify his attempts to starts a Shia/Sunni civil war, probably by committing some unspeakable anti-Shia atrocity, this week while the Shia are still basking in the glow of their collective civic achievement.

Don't let these attacks discourage you. Steel yourself against them (easy for me to say, right, safe at my desk, drinking coffee). Don't buy into the inevitable MSM reports of "the imminent civil war" that are likely follow these attacks. These attacks are expected. Don't flake out, people.

I do expect the number of attacks to decrease over the coming months, especially when the National Assembly is sworn in. However, if the number of attacks does decrease, look for the intensity of the attacks to increase. I don't think it's a fantasy to expect some of least committed or merely politically motivated insurgents to simply put down their weapons and go back to their lives. This will be even more likely if the National Assembly can co-opt Sunni tribal and clan leaders. If this is botched however, then all bets are off.

By the end of the year, when the Iraqi go back to the polls for the third time, to choose the first government under the new constitution, then the only EoD left could be the hardest of the hard core Ba'athists and al Qaeda, (then Iraq would be in a similar situation to, say, Spain, where most Basques don't support ETA yet it continues its bombing campaign year after year, even this weekend). Here's hoping.
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Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Purple Revolution?

My favorite photo from the election. She says it all. Victory in any language.

If Ukraine was the Orange Revolution, is it too early to start calling this the Purple Revolution?

Eating Their Words

The Left should be celebrating a huge triumph for democracy over its declared enemies. However many on the Left spent the past week pissing all over an election that had not even happened yet. For example, The Nation, posted a rather pre-emptive editorial on 1/20, "Iraq's Lost Election." The Nation thinks Fallujah was 'destroyed.' Someone better tell these people.

Mother Jones posted an article on January 26, "Iraqi Elections: The Facade ," which contained this gem, "The popular wisdom in town is that the 275 assembly members have already been chosen." Really? Popular wisdom, eh? Is that why people in wheelchairs waited in line to vote? I get it. People braved the killers and brought their children to the polls when it was popular wisdom that the assembly was already chosen. I can believe that a) millions of Iraqis risked their lives, danced in the streets, smiled, cried, clapped and sang for participating in a "facade;" or b) that the hack at Mother Jones was finding the "popular wisdom" between his ass-cheeks. Let me think about that.

Or how about Dilip Haro at Alternet who, like the Nation, has visions of the future. His January 29 post, "Iraq's Electoral Cul-de-sac", noted this. "One insurgent leader in Baghdad claimed that his resistance cells had stockpiled extra amounts of rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and missiles, which they had prepositioned in places where they will be able to hit the polling centers known to them." Didn't quite turn out that way. I wonder if Dilip is disappointed?

Here's another. "The Projected Winner in Iraq: Failure" by Edwin Black at a site mis-named Common Dreams. Somehow Mr. Black intuited what the people of Iraq want and don't want. "The people of Iraq have never wanted Western-style pluralistic democracy or elections." Sure. That's why millions voted, because they want the world and Mr. Black, to know that they have never wanted democracy or elections. Right. I guess this woman is a victim of false consciousness. And these women. And she must be delusional, eh Edwin.

But some people agree with the defeatists. I wonder if they subscribe to the Nation?

Update: Wizbang found another horse's ass.
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Where the Fascists Won

An anonymous commenter on a previous post point out that very few people voted in Ramadi. NYT reports that "only six people voted after seven hours" at one particular polling place. Overall turnout in Ramadi was about 1%. Turnout for the province as a whole is something like 5%.

The fascist won that province hands down. As we used to say in graduate school, whether the turnout was 1% or 5% - it's the Moral Equivalent of Zero. Lots of work needs to be done and we and the Iraqis should focus on places like Ramadi. The fascists depressed turnout to nothing but still, those who did vote were not murdered, the polling places were not destroyed.

Will the people of Ramadi still be terrorized next time? The next election, to approve the proposed constitution, is scheduled for the fall. If turnout in Ramadi rises to 25 or 30%, I would see that as a triumph. Over 50% would be a stake in the heart of the fascist vampire.
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What the Iraqi Elections Mean...

The Fascists are Fucked!

Over 70% turnout nationwide. Fears of the streets washed with blood did not materialize. Sporadic bombing and mortar attacks killed about 27, but it was hardly, as Reuters wrote, a "wave of attacks."

Earlier I had wondered how we could measure if the anti-democratic forces failed. As I went to bed I realized that terrorists fail if people are not terrorized. Clearly the Iraqis were not terrorized. When they go to the polls to vote on the proposed constitution and the terrorists threaten mass-killing, I doubt whether people will be terrorized either. Whoever wins, Zarqawi and the Ba'thists lost.

Congratulations Iraq. I couldn't be more excited.
Update: Welcome Instapundit readers (and thanks again Glenn.) Here's post you might enjoy about those who thought (hoped?) the election would go badly. It has plenty of great pictures.

What kind of amoral, burned-out husks could be so cynical as to dismiss what has to be one of the most powerful expressions of the democratic spirit since the end of Soviet Communism? Oh, I don't know, how about the drones at the anti-Democratic Underground. Some key quotes:

"this is such bs, just more crap from the US appointed Iraqi Puppets"; "propaganda bullshit"; "BIG LIES NOW"; "even if it were true, Was this worth destroying the United States of America?"; "Anyone who believes this bullshit is seriously ignorant"; "72% - impossible math"; "baldfaced lies"; and my favorite "There was NO election in Iraq".

And remember kids, these are so-called Progressives. Maybe Regressives is a more accurate label.
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Saturday, January 29, 2005

Iraqi Election Violence

Fox News is reporting a suicide bomber exploded at a checkpoint near a polling station in western Baghdad about 90 minutes after the polls opened. At least 1 person is dead. (I believe that is the bomber himself although it's not clear yet.)

CNN says that another polling place has been hit by mortars. Casualties or damage is unclear. "Several" explosions and sporadic gunfire have been heard around Baghdad but at 12:50am EST there are not details yet.

At the same time there are lines to vote in Sadr City. I'll update this post with links as they become available.

1:10 am EST. CNN says that the mortar attack missed the polling place and hit a nearby house. Other explosions have been heard in Mosul. The Shia seem to be turning out. CNN has a live image of at least one hundred women in black niqab in line to vote.

Fox News says polling place 3001 was damaged by an IED but no one was hurt. There have been two rocket attacks against other polling places but again, no casualties reported. We are over two hours into this and so far, thank God, very little violence considering the context.

1:30 am EST. CNN has live images of crowds clapping and singing while they wait in line to vote in Baquba. It's a substantial crowd too, more than one hundred from what I can see. It's been 2 1/2 hours now, the sun is up, people seem to be everywhere.

The anti-democracy forces have yet to deal a significant blow to the election. The more people who can successfully go to the polls and vote without being blown up the more other people will feel that it's safe to vote. At some point so many people could feel so safe that nothing short of a catostrophic attack will deter them from voting. Every hour that passes with minimal violence is a nail in the coffin of the fascists, whatever nationalist, theocratic, or Ba'athist.

2:10 am EST. Fox News - blast hits polling place in central Basra. Otherwise, it's the same reports of "explosions heard" but no reports of death or injuries. Maybe the tight security is preventing the fascists from hitting their targets? The can't drive and they can't get too close to the polls without facing enormous police and military presence.

PM Allawi voted without incident. Big surprise that there's a low turnout in Tikrit. Still, we are into the third hour without mass casualties. Only seven more to go. I'm going to sleep. Good luck guys.

The Future Begins ...

The polls are open in Iraq. I must admit that I am excited about this. I didn't expect to be. But this is what it's all about. Capturing Saddam was great but that was about the past. This is about the future, the future of Iraq, the future of democracy in the Arab and Muslim regions of the world.

For all the ink spilled over the last U.S. presidential election this is the real deal, this is historic, this will be remembered, for better or worse, for a long time to come.

Update: I just saw an Iraqi woman vote on live television. In Iraq, women are voting and it is broadcast worldwide. Meanwhile, across the border in Saudi Arabia, a member of the royal family predicts that women will be allowed to vote in future elections. What a difference.

How Can We Judge if the Terrorists Failed?

Iraqi polls open at 11pm EST, less than three hours from now. There's been a lot of talk about what constitutes success for the U.S. and for the Iraqi Interim Government. But just as important, what constitutes failure for the anti-democracy forces?

The Bush Administration has downplayed expectations to such a degree that if most eligible voters cast ballots it will be considered a huge success.

The 'insurgents' have taken the opposite tactic. They have raised expectations for day of nearly omnipresent violence. "Insurgents threatened a bloodbath on Sunday when Iraqis go to the polls." They have posted signs threatening attacks at polling places, calling lines to vote "the queues of doom and death," and promising to "wash Baghdad streets with voters' blood."

Wash the streets? Quite a threat. Remember the Afghan elections? The Taliban threatened the same thing and then evaporated on election day. No one thinks that the Iraqi election will be as calm. Nevertheless, they anti-democracy thugs, whether Ba'athists or Islamist, have a lot riding on a low turn out. It won't be enough for them to murder lots of Iraqis if 75% still cast ballots. I think they need a substanial body count and low turnout to be successful from their perspective.

The terrorists need to keep people from going to the polls. That means they need to scare people enough that they don't vote. Blowing up a polling place 10 minutes before the polls close won't do it. Too many will have voted by then. The terrorists need lots of big, widely-publicized attacks early in the day to terrorize the populace.

Turn on the news at 11pm tonight. If the Coalition Forces can keep the level of violence to what is sadly a norm by Iraqi standards, it will be a huge defeat for the villains, regardless of who wins at the polls.

Update: Welcome Instapundit readers. Pajama Hadin has compiled a list of Iraqi Election links. Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave comments. Additional Iraqi election thoughts, here. Updates on election violence, here.
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A Celebratory Shootout

Hamas won a big victory in local elections in Gaza, beating Fatah by a wide margin. So, dude, let's celebrate.

"A political rally by the militant Palestinian group Hamas turned violent Saturday, as supporters of the rival Fatah faction opened fire, sparking a melee that left more than 25 people wounded, a Palestinian official said."

I'm sure this will help the talks between the PA and Hamas.

The Downside of Democracy

The Iraqi elections are overshadowing other election news from the Mid-East this week. Hamas "has won an overwhelming victory in Gaza Strip local elections. ... Hamas won 77 out of the 118 seats in 10 districts."

Meanwhile Fatah, the party of PA president Abbas and the not-so-dearly departed Arafat, won only 26 seats.

"The Hamas victory proves that Islam is the only solution," declared a slogan from loudspeakers as thousands of Hamas supporters celebrated in the streets after the results were announced.

Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said the results showed that at least 65% of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip support his movement. "This means that the people believe in the armed resistance as the only option," he said, pointing out that Hamas won 11 of the 13 seats in Bet Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, a town that had been used by Hamas members to fire Kasam rockets at Israel.

"It was the second victory of its kind for Hamas in recent weeks. Last month, Hamas candidates won an overwhelming majority of seats in the first phase of municipal elections that was held in the West Bank.

Not such a good sign for the prospects of "historic breakthrough" is it?

Against Frankensteinism: Saddam Hussein

There's a wide-spread myth among some people that the U.S. created Saddam Hussein, that he was our monster, our puppet, and that the U.S. turned against him when he could no longer be controlled. I think this is a simplistic fantasy that bears little relation to the truth. Nevertheless, it is popular belief, summed up by Michael Moore. "Saddam was our good friend and ally. We supported his regime. It wasn?t the first time we had helped a murderer. We liked playing Dr. Frankenstein."

I call this American Frankensteinism - the belief that the U.S. creates monsters that it must destroy later when they get out of control. We provided the Soviet Union with material support during WWII because the Nazis were worse but I don't anyone, even the most conspiracy minded tinfoil hat wacko, thinks of the Soviets as our creation and Stalin as our puppet. Support is not creation. Allowing a nation to buy weapons does not make it a puppet. The real world is dirty and confusing and often there are no good guys, just lesser bad guys. Saddam played Stalin to Khomeini's Hitler. As the saying goes, "too bad they couldn't both lose."

To debunk this myth regarding Saddam Hussein I offer quotes from The Persian Puzzle by Kenneth Pollack. He worked for the National Security Council under Bill Clinton. He is currently a scholar for the Brookings Institute. I don't think anyone would call him a neo-con warmonger.

This is from page 206-208, a section of the book that deals with the the Iran-Iraq war.

"For the first few years of the war, the United States remained largely aloof. Neither combatant was a particular favorite of Washington. (snip) In fact, although the United States had absolutely no contact with Iraq regarding Saddam's decision to invade - and never even discussed an invasion with Saddam's government, let alone gave it a green light - many in Washington took great private satisfaction that the mad mullahs and their followers were finally getting what many Americans saw as their just rewards."

Remember, this was during the hostage crisis. The hostages were the top news every day for over a year.

"Nevertheless, at first there was no love lost for Saddam Hussein's regime either. (snip) The problem was that he was not one of our odious tyrants, and we believed that he was actually one of their odious tyrants." (emphasis in original) This was the Cold War for those too young to remember. It wasn't pretty.

"Iraq had been receiving weaponry from the Soviets since 1958 (although it had started buying from the Europeans, particularly the French, in the 1970s, after Saddam and the Ba'ath took power in Baghdad). It signed a Treaty of Friendship with the Soviets in 1972."

It's hard to appreciate now but the Iranian Revolution was an earthquake, even for someone like me who was just a kid at the time. Khomeini was determined to export his revolution throughout the Muslim world. For example he create Hizbullah to be his Revolutionary wing in Lebanon, undergoing a civil war at the time.

"American officials considered Iran one of the greatest threats to American interests in the planet: it was maniacally anti-American and highly aggressive (snip) By mid-1982, the Iraqis were not the only ones who were afraid that Iran was about to conquer Iraq , overthrow Saddam's regime, and then mount subsequent invasions of Jordon adn Israel and/or the Gulf States. After the systematic way in which the new Iranian armies had shredded Iraq's better-equipped ground forced and driven them out of Iranian territory, there were wide-spread fears that Iran would be able to export the revolution on the shoulders of the Pasdaran infantry."

This starts the so-called 'tilt' toward Iraq. In February 1982 the Reagan administration removed Iraq from its list of terrorism-supporting states. "Soon thereafter Washington began passing high-value military intelligence to Iraq to help it fight the war, including information from U.S. satellites, that helped Iraq fix key flaws in the fortifications protecting al-Basrah that proved important in Iran's defeat the next month." (Defeat in the Battle of Basrah, nor in the war itself.)

In 1983 the U.S. provided credits for Iraq to purchase U.S. agricultural products. In 1985, the U.S. "began issuing Baghdad high-tech export licenses". But in war, intelligence matters. "Perhaps more than anything else, the high-quality intelligence the United States regularly furnished Baghdad regarding Iranian forces and operations proved vital to Iraq's conduct of the war."

"In its terror that Iran was going to win the war, the United States was willing to ignore whatever the Iraqis believed was necessary to hold on, including using chemical warfare - which did seem to be fairly useful in stopping Iran's human-wave attacks. Thus, it was not so much a conscious decision to condone Iraq's use of chemical warfare against Iran, although some officials did do precisely that, as much as it was a general lack of interest in whatever horrible things were befalling the Iranians."

Chemical weapons are terrible but what of human-wave attacks? Tens of thousands of children with plastic "keys to paradise" racing across a battlefield, canon folder meant to overwhelm the Iraqi defences and deplete their supplies before the real infantry attacked. Lovely. Like I said, there were no good guys.

Certainly there are more details to the story but that's as good an overview as you're likely to find. Saddam came to power without the help of the U.S. The Iraqis attacked Iran without help from the U.S. much less under our orders. The U.S. government provided intelligence and material to the Iraqis during the war only because their enemy was worse.

No go back and look at the article by Michael Moore if you can stomach it. "America used to like Saddam. We LOVED Saddam. We funded him. We armed him." Funded and armed, but loved? (Notice how quicky Frankensteinism, like the Doctor in the story, lapses into sentmentality and emotionalism.) Let's repeat for those who missed it the first time. From Wikipedia:

"Iraq's army was primarily armed with weaponry it had purchased from the Soviet Union and her satellites in the preceding decade. During the war, it purchased billions of dollars worth of advanced equipment from the Soviets and France as well as from the People's Republic of China, Egypt, Germany, and other sources. ... Much of Iraq's financial backing came from other Arab states, notably oil-rich Kuwait and Saudi Arabia."

Does Moore blame France for Saddam? France helped build the Osirek nuclear plant. France supplied Iraq with 133 Mirage F1 jet fighters. In 1980 40% of French arms sales went to Iraq. No, it is America, always America, America the Mad Scientist, America the Puppet-Master.

Frankensteinism is the irrational belief that American, always and only America, creates monsters, for unknown and nefarious reasons. It's an anti-faith in America. It forces a narrative onto the facts with a willful disregard for history. I consider it the sign of a lazy mind. At best.

Friday, January 28, 2005

To Know Which Way the Wind Blows

The Iraqi elections began today for expatriots. The first polls opened in Australia. On Sunday Iraqis in Iraq will brave the killers and go to the polls themselves.

Meanwhile it's been quite a bad week for Zarqawi. The Iraqi government announced that two more top Zarqawi "associates" have been captured and are in government custody. One of the executive level killers, "Salah Suleiman al-Loheibi, headed al-Zarqawi's Baghdad operation and had met with the Jordanian-born terror leader more than 40 times over three months."

On Monday the government announced that they had captured Zarqawi's top bomb maker on Jan. 15.

Just to reminder you, Zarqawi is not an "insurgent." He's not an Iraqi nationalist who wants his country freed from foreign troops. He's not even Iraqi. He's a Jordanian from the town of Zarqa, hence his nom de guerre . He's the head of "Al-Qaeda in Iraq" who is filled with a towering hatred of the majority of Iraqis (he called the Shia "the most evil of mankind"). He's a self-declared enemy of democracy, and a psychopathic serial killer.

On January 4, there was a report that Zarqawi himself had been captured. This was quickly denied by the U.S. military. However, on Jan. 22, the Iraqi interior minister refused to comment on the subject, issuing neither a confirmation nor a denial.

This leads Power Line to write this morning that one of two things has happened: "either 1) the Iraqi authorities have steadily rolled up Zarqawi's network to the point where they are on the doorstep of catching the master terrorist himself; or 2) rumors that Zarqawi himself was caught several weeks ago are true, and the reason why his closest associates are now being captured is that Zarqawi is squealing on his friends."

Did the Allawi government capture the local al-Qaeda leadership earlier this month? Are they spreading out the individual announcements for maximum political effect? If so, will they announce Z-man's arrest tomorrow, the day before the election?

As much as I would like to believe this, it doesn't ring true to me. He is still out there, plotting some atrocity for Sunday. But his days are numbered. He's not hiding in a distance and scarely populated mountain region. He's in Baghdad. Sooner or later someone will rat him out or he'll make a mistake. Or he'll simply hit an unlucky break: a bomb will accidentally explode (as happened to the Weather Underground) or he'll get stuck in urban traffic and a lowly beat cop or U.S. private will drag him out of a car and beat him down on the streets of Baghdad. Or better yet, someone will recognize him and an enraged mob of Iraqis will lynch him. It happened to another serial killer. In any case, the wind is blowing against you, Abu.

But I would love to be wrong and wake up tomorrow and see that bastard in shackles. Here's hoping.
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Thursday, January 27, 2005

New Links

I finally got around to setting up some new links on the sidebar.
  • The Middle East Media Research Institute, MEMRI, translates media reports from eight languages and nine countries all over the middle east.
  • Friends of Democracy is your one-stop-shop for coverage of the Iraqi elections. It's run by English-speaking Iraqis from all over the country.
  • Zacht Ei and the Dutch Report cover what's happening in Holland, especially regarding the spread of Islamism over there.
  • David's Medienkritik translates and criticizes the German media.

If you're new to reading blogs all these are worth your time. Enjoy.

Blogging and Big Media

I'm not a blogging futurist like Instapundit or Jeff Jarvis. I don't spend a lot of time contemplating the potential of the new medium. I don't attend blogger conferences. I'm not a journalist or writer by profession. I just wanted a place to bitch and whine without forcing the Wraith Wife to endure it all. (It's a lot for one woman.)

I read a little bit about the Harvard's Blogging, Journalism & Credibility conference. And I just glanced through Jack Shafer's piece in Slate. I didn't read every word. (Note to Shafer: bloggers tend to get to the point and skip the three paragraph intro. Tick tock pal. Time is money and all that.)

I'm not going to sit here in my pajamas and tell you that bloggers are going to replace the major media outlets next year. But sooner or later a more advanced form of this tool will force a dramaic redefinition of what "news" is and what "reporters" are. Even as crude as they are today, I am fascinated and impressed with the power and reach of blogs. There are huge differences between blogs and print or broadcast journalism, differences that make blogs more attractive as a reader and a writer.

Blogs are dialogues. News is a monologue. This is true in a structural sense in that blogs link between each other and allow comments from readers that also link between each other and link to other blogs or even other comments on other blogs. This makes the reading experience dynamic and fluid. It also creates an environment of fact-checking. Or what I call the "bullshit" factor. How often have you read a traditional article or watched a report on tv and thought, "What a load!"? If you're like me, nearly everyday (especially if you're an NPR listener). With blogs you have a chance to enter your comments into the blog itself. This is very different from the old-school Letters to the Editor (paradied so well by Granpa Simpson). There is no gatekeeper to pick and choose which letters to print or read. This is a profound change in the way we consume information.

The dialogue/monologue goes beyond merely structural changes. It affects the psychology of the writer. The monologists in print and broadcast use the Authoritative Neutral Voice: "This is the way things are." Monologues encourage the idea that the author is in a superior position, that the audience has nothing to add. This is a short step to the kind of arrogance and even contempt for the audience we saw from several media outlets last year, notably from Dan Rather. Arrogant bloggers get ripped apart by commenters and other bloggers. In about 10 seconds. Forget the 24 hour news-cycle. The blogosphere is constant, never sleeping, omnivorous.

Big Media apologists often complain that bloggers have no editors. First, editors are overrated. Look at all the crap that gets past them in print and on broadcast news. What exactly are these people doing? Are you telling me that essays by Belmont Club are worse than essays in Newsweek because Belmont Club doesn't have an editor? Read both for a month and get back to me. Second, other bloggers and commenters serve as the editors, but in a public way. Bloggers don't get to hide behind closed doors when editors catch their mistakes. It's all out there in the open and archived forever.

Blogs are decentralized. They are, in a way, omnipresent. Here's a quote from the Harvard conference. "When the (New York) Times' Abramson asked rhetorically if the conference bloggers had any idea how much it cost to maintain a news bureau in Baghdad, the supreme confidence of a couple of bloggers fractured into petty defensiveness.
"That's a silly question!" snapped Winer. "Asking bloggers what this costs is silly. If you want to tell us what it costs, that's fine. ... But there are bloggers in Baghdad! That's your competition; that's what you have to deal with

"There are bloggers in Baghdad." This is the real threat to the MSM. There are bloggers all over the world, in every city, on every college campus, in every corporation and institution, covering every topic imaginable. Millions and millions of people. The tsunami was another great example. Local bloggers, in Iraq or Thailand or Holland, speak the language, know the territory, the history, and the people. And they have an immediate, person stake in the future. Big media talking heads must rely on translators, they don't know anything about the area, etc. And for them this disaster, war, bombing, scandal, is just another story. In a week they are back in New York working on a different story. I trust the local guys more.

For me this is the knock-out blow for Big Media. In the aftermath of the van Gogh murder in Amsterdam I didn't read much in the media because their wasn't much to read. I read Dutch bloggers. People who knew the story because it happened up the street.

As technology advances bloggers will be able to more easily post video, even video live from the scene. At that point, why would I watch CNN? For tsunami coverage I'll watch blog-broadcasts by, say, a Canadian woman who has lived in Thailand for 20 years and is married to a Thai man. News from Baghdad? Smart, brave English-speaking Iraqis will be my choice over a media dweeb in a flack jacket. The tsunami coverage cost Big Media a fortune but the most dramatic footage and the best still photos were always from tourists or locals who filmed it for free. In the future these people will post their video on the Web via blogs, or whatever the next generation of blogs are called, and the Big Media will be out of the loop.

At that point, is my Candaian woman in Thailand a Reporter. Maybe she only makes a dozen or a hundred broadcasts and then gets back to her life or returns to broadcasting about local events or her family vacation. So what? How exactly is a nation or a world of part-time or occasional journalists worse than what we have now? In many ways it's better. If she is hired by MSNBC and sent to report from somewhere else she would lose her credibility, her local focus and become just another media drone. We don't need more media drones.

Combine these two features, dialogue and omnipresence, and you get something very different from a guy behind a desk in New York telling you what some other reporters told him. All in a few hundred words or maybe one minute of video.

Reporters can't be everywhere. Bloggers can. And are. Back to you Jack.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Frontline: al Qaeda's New Front

If you didn't catch Frontline last night check your local listings. PBS will repeat it sooner or later. Or you can watch it online starting Friday. Titled 'Al Qaeda's New Front' it was 'an investigation into the threat radical jihadists pose to Western Europe and its allies - including the United States.'

It's worth watching even if only for the images, especially those from London and Paris. It ain't the pictures from a travel guide or from your vacation, unless you took a lot of photos of hundreds of bearded men praying in the middle of the street. It spends a lot of time on the Madrid bombing and the interlocking conspiracies behind it. There's also a disturbing interview with Abu Abdullah, leader of the notorious Finsbury mosque in London. He's not a moderate guy at all. The author of the show wrote a companion article for the NYT on Monday.

My one major criticism is that the show completely ignored the murder of Theo van Gogh and the subsequent bombings and arson attacks in Holland. As readers of Rant Wraith will know, I believe that van Gogh's murder and the events that followed were of historic importance. van Gogh was murder virtually on election day here in the U.S. In the future van Gogh's murder will be remembered as the important event of that day while the presidential election will be considered a detail.

My minor criticism involves the unquestioning acceptance of statements by CIA veteran Michael Scheuer, the Anonymous author of Imperial Hubris and Through Our Enemies Eyes. He repeated (yet again) his position that al-Qaeda is opposed to us because of our policies. I have criticized this position here and most recently here and, indirectly, here. I would have appreciated some, you know, journalistic skepticism of this position.

Still, catch the Frontline episode. You'll see just how wide and deep the jihadists movement in Europe really is. And you'll get a glimpse of Europe's frightening future.

Blogging and Anonymity

When I started this blog I made a conscious decision to remain anonymous. Lots of bloggers don't. Some even use their name as their blog title and as part of their URL. Not me, baby. As Max, played by Vanessa Redgrave, remarked in Mission Impossible, "I don't have to tell you what a comfort anonymity can be - like a warm blanket."

The whole point was to cast my noxious opinions into the void without worrying about pissing off people I know or having to worry about being wacked by jihadists for stuff like this, posting these four pictures or quoting Dante and Schopenhauer. Don't laugh. Shit happens.

Long story short, lots of people I work with know about this now. What's a blogger to do? Well, I could write some really dull posts about, say how Wallace Steven's ideas about interiority found a dead-end in the long poems of John Ashbery. Or I could post several detailed analyses of the grammer of H.P. Lovecraft. How about opposite tactic? Write a bunch of posts discussing the pros and cons of various drugs prescribed for the treatment of anal warts. (Not that I suffer from them mind you.) This way my coworkers would find that I am boring and/or disgusting, something most of them already know, and they would move on to more interesting venues.

However, I don't have the will or the stomach to do either. I guess I'll have to live with it and welcome my new readers, fully aware that they know who I am and will see me in, gasp, real life. So ...

Welcome new readers. Down the sidebar are links to my iFAQs, Greatest Hits, and the Archives. Feel free to leave comments. You'll also find links to other, better, bloggers. The is a good place to start. It compiles news items about the War on Terror from media outlets around the world with no commentary. I find it to be an invaluable resource and read it everyday.

If you find my whole blog to be a collosal waste of time, I highly recommend this opinion piece by Fouad Ajami in today's Wall Street Journal. Or William Shawcross's comments in Monday's Guardian.

Myths and Chest Bursters - that'll get Boys reading

Miriam, over at Mirium's Ideas, has more thoughts about Boys Don't Read. Turns out she is a former children's librarian. She agrees that boys "like stories of survival and adventure." She also mentions Greek Myths. I remember wearing out a paperback copy of Edith Hamilton's Mythology. I still remember some of the pictures, especially the Minotaur. But I guess you can't teach Greek myths today. Maybe they're not 'culturally relavent'? (Now of course they have Notes to Edith Hamilton's Mythology, which itself was a kind of notes to Greek myth. Where does it end?)

Oh, and Miriam hates celebrity writers. "The books by celebrities are the worst--O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Al franken, etc. Whoever writes these books, whether they are left-wing or right wing, they are sub-literate. Pathetic. Awful.No wonder library patrons make a beeline for the DVD collection, bypassing books entirely."

Good point. I'd rather watch Alien for the 97th time than read Ann Coulter. Although the thought of an embronic Al Franken, glistening with slime and hissing between his silver fangs, bursting from O'Reilly's chest has some appeal.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Fun with Comparisons

So Ted Turner has compared Fox News to Hilter. Obviously he's not the brightest bulb in the media firmament, which is saying something. I'm not a big fan of Fox News or Turner (or Hitler for that matter). But since we're comparing media outlets to 20th century politicians, let's have a little fun with it.

CNN - Quisling, or maybe Chamberlain
ABC - Trotsky (because they are ghoulish)
Germany's Stern magazine - George Wallace
Reuters - Grand Mufti al-Husayni
AFP - Petain
BBC - Oswald Mosley
Al Jazzera - Goebbels (no link required)
CBS - Franz Ferdinand ('cause they're finished - you know what I'm talking about)

Update: Welcome Wizbang readers (and thanks Kevin). Here's some other posts you may enjoy, Salon Goes Confederate, Giggling at the Fatwa or 'Submission' and the Shock of the Un-shocking.

Salon Goes Confederate.

Salon descends into self-parody today with its cover story, "Long Live Secession!" (You have to sit through some dumb ad unless you are a subscriber.)

"Although secessionism today is politically impossible, if tenuously legal, the secession specter has arisen again, waking to the Declaration's call to self-governance. In 2005, it is the blue-state Northerners, bitter from the defeat of Nov. 2, who are, ironically, wearing its robes."

Ironic, yes. In the early '90s it was extreme right-wing nutjobs in the woods babbling about Black Helicopters and nefarious U.N. plots who wanted to seceed. This movement was the spoofed in the second season of Mr. Show in a skit called "New Freeland, Montana." Now it's the extremely left-wing nutjobs who want to seceed. Either way it's the same juvenile reasoning personified by Cartman. "If I can't get my way, then screw you guys, I'm goin' home."

"Tenously legal"? I question that. Didn't we fight a war or something about this? Maybe I missed that episode but I thought this was settled. I could be wrong.

Before we had Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis, men who were willing to risk their lives, their freedom, and their property for the right to seceed. Today we have some sob-sister in Vermont, Thomas Naylor. He chairs something called "the Second Vermont Republic," a group he calls "a peaceful, democratic, libertarian, grassroots movement opposed to the tyranny of the United States." Somehow I don't foresee a War for Northeasten Independence.

But he's not alone. No, there are idiot dreamers fantasizing about Independence all across this great land. Hawaii, Alaska, New York City, and California all have some sort of secession 'movement.' There's a fictional "Republic of Atlantica, which imagines a seaboard megalopolis nation stretching from Boston to Washington, D.C." And of course the Republic of Cascadia, which seeks secession from both the U.S. and "the repressive government of Canada." It would create a sovereign nation out of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

The guy who heads the Committee to Explore California Secession said, "The legality and constitutionality are really a moot point. New nations are born by a declaration of independence." BUZZ. Wrong answer, but we have some lovely parting gifts for you, dumbshit. New nations are won by force, by people fighting, killing and dying for them. The Declaration of Independence didn't make us free of British rule. It's a piece of freaking paper. The Revolutionary War made us free of the Brits. Nothing less.

But at least California, NYC and Cascadia have economies that would support them and large enough populations to mount some sort of military defense. Hawaii? Alaska? Vermont? Come on. These people want sovereign independence in a world without natural disasters so they won't need billions from FEMA. A world without aggressive enemies where everyone is Scandanavian and plays nice and obeys the rules.

I mean, Vermont? Just think of all the expenses the 600,000 or so 'citizens' would have to incur. Passport, diplomats, currency, a national bank, 'national' parks, a postal service, a whole host of regulatory agencies. Their colleges and universities would get nothing from the U.S. government: no student loans, no Pell Grants, no research funding, no athletic money. Plus no more infrastructure subsidies from the Feds. They would have to fully fund their own highways, air traffic system, clean air and water systems, and border controls. A bank was robbed, a building blown up, a rash of kidnappings. Tough shit, you can't call the FBI.

How about this? Nuclear energy supplies 76.1 percent of the electricity generated in Vermont. And who oversees that plant? The Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Well not after secession. They'd have to build their own nuclear regulatory body. Toxic spill? A leak of radioactive vapors? Hey, don't call the EPA, asshole.

But you can't stop the leftist wet dream. "Naylor is undeterred. He offers that no state is more historically prepared for going it alone than Vermont." How so, you ask? "It has no military bases, no strategic resources, few military contractors." Sounds like a recipe for independence to me. What's to stop a group of mercenaries from throwing a coup and taking over the place? A bunch of Vermonters with hunting rifles?

Hey, I say, rock on Vermont. Go crazy. Here's you share of the debt plus a bill of the value of the formerly Appalachian National Scenic Trail and the Rockefeller National Historical Park. Here's a fat list of tariffs on all your exported crap (remember it wouldn't be part of the WTO for a while so no free rides pal). Sink or swim but quit whining.

Boys Don't Read

As an avid reader who is the son of avid readers I am disturbed by the decline in reading among young people. Well, let's be honest, young men. According to the N.E.A., "In overall book reading, young women slipped from 63 percent to 59 percent, while young men plummeted from 55 percent to 43 percent." (At this rate there won't be enough readers to make my Wraith Novel a bestseller. Bastards!)

Mark Bauerlein and Sandra Stotsky, both with the N.E.A., sum up the situation in today's WaPo like this, "Girls read; boys don't." Ok, we get it. No need to rub it in. Why?

"Although one might expect the schools to be trying hard to make reading appealing to boys, the K-12 literature curriculum may in fact be contributing to the problem. ... According to reading interest surveys, both boys and girls are unlikely to choose books based on an "issues" approach, and children are not interested in reading about ways to reform society -- or themselves. But boys prefer adventure tales, war, sports and historical nonfiction, while girls prefer stories about personal relationships and fantasy."

At the risk of making sweeping generalizations, the above sentence is true for men and women, not just boys and girls. I am guilty as charged. I mostly read non-fiction - military, political history, science (books on parasites and diseases), and lots of volumes about jihad and terrorism. The occasional novel I choke down usually involves history, terrorism, or evil spirits. I don't like no Chick Lit or books about people talking. But I digress.

"Unfortunately, the textbooks and literature assigned in the elementary grades do not reflect the dispositions of male students. Few strong and active male role models can be found as lead characters. Gone are the inspiring biographies of the most important American presidents, inventors, scientists and entrepreneurs. No military valor, no high adventure. ...

At the middle school level, the kind of quality literature that might appeal to boys has been replaced by Young Adult Literature, that is, easy-to-read, short novels about teenagers and problems such as drug addiction, teenage pregnancy, alcoholism, domestic violence, divorced parents and bullying. ..."

This is one of those things that is so obvious it takes a dozen PhDs to screw it up. Boys, and I suspect lots of girls, don't want to read that kind of after-school special crap. They live in a world of alcoholism, divorce, and bullying. A bullied boy doesn't want to read a story about how a bullied boy overcomes his circumstances by peaceful means and wins friends through blah-blah-blah. He wants to read a biography of a MacArthur or Augustus. He wants Tolkien. He wants tales of how the small, unsuspecting fellow kicked ass and conquered the bad guys.

As a kid I read two kinds of things: comic books (tales of teenage power) and books like Conan and Dune (tales of adventure, violence, and intrigue). I would have used the back pages of a "divorce novel" to draw sketches of Conan. What dumbasses are assigning divorce novels? Where's my broadsword?!

The N.E.A. has launched a new study that will examine how differences in theme and genre affect "the relative reading performance of boys and girls." Let's hope this leads to changes in the way reading is taught so that we don't lose another generation of boys to a life without reading. Someone has to slap down $24.95 for my novel (I promise lots of violence and dead bodies and stuff).

Update: Reader Synova, the mother of two adolescents (Rant Wraith's demographic is expanding, baby), reminded me of Edgar Rice Burroughs, who she says was great for her vocabulary. How could I forget? Tarzan is a great adventure tale. After all these years, I still remember the big ape slapping Tarzan in the chest with his open palm, taking the skin off with each blow. No alcoholism, no domestic issues, no social commentary. Just pure enjoyment. Good lord, if I was a kid today and had to "wallow in interpersonal drama," as Synova puts it, I'd avoid reading and play video games too.

Lemon Jelly is Back, baby

The band that is. One of the hippest, most groovin' two man outfits making music today. And these are discs that you don't want to download. The packaging itself is fabulous, highly stylized and detailed.

Their newest cd, '64-'95, was released today. I can't describe their music. Amazon has one song as a free download that should give you a sample. But since these guys are hard-core music geeks and masters of countless styles and genres, the one song is only a taste. Their official site, is "closed for essential maintenance." What the hell?

Oh, there's also a '64-'95 Deluxe Edition, but it doesn't say just why it's deluxe.

Monday, January 24, 2005

More Good News on 'Good News Monday'

U.S. troops find several caches of insurgent weapons in southern Baghdad. Troops found a truck with a bomb. Then they searched a nearby house.

"Inside, soldiers found grenade launchers, AK-47 rifles, artillery rounds, cell phones, bomb detonators and eight Iraqi police uniforms. Using a metal detector, the unit discovered five plastic barrels buried in the garden 6 inches underground.

The barrels contained rocket-propelled grenade launchers with dozens of rounds, as well as dozens of rockets, AK-47s, machine guns, pistols, Chinese and Bulgarian hand grenades and more than 16,000 rounds of ammunition.

Add this to the capture of Zarqawi's bombmaker and that spells a good day us and our Iraqi allies. The elections only 6 days away. Every cache uncovered and every bad guy captured increases the chances of a less violent election. Because it will be violent. Still, a violent election is better than mere violence.

Mossad: Iran to Reach Point of No Return by End of '05

"The assessment is that by the end of 2005 the Iranians will reach the point of no-return from the technological perspective of creating a uranium-enrichment capability," Mossad head Meir Dagan told parliament's foreign affairs and defence committee.

"The moment that you have the technology for enrichment, you are home free," he said, adding that from that point it would take Iran around two years to manufacture nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile my favorite Saudi mouthpiece, the Arab News, asks Iran: Next Victim of 'Freedom'? The freedom to build the Bomb? Um, yes. No nukes for the mullahs. What's so amazing about this article is that the Saudis don't want the Persian Shia to have nuclear warheads more than we do. The Saudis are within missile range. We aren't.

The Saudis should be grateful if we take out the Iranian capabilities. But they are so anti-American that they will bitch about us even threatening (ever so subtly) to do so. Without us they would be filling Saddam's mass graves.

What would the Saudis prefer, to be 'victims' of freedom or victims of al-Qaeda's jihad? Because those are their two options. Assheads.

Getting My Hopes Up (a little)

I don't know how excited to get about the capture of Zarqawi's bomb maker. I'd like to think that this is a great opportunity to snap the spine of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Or even, maybe, a chance to get Zarqawi himself.

Abu Omar al-Kurdi "is blamed for over 30 bombings including the attack on the U.N. headquarters in August 2003 which killed special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and 20 others, and a blast in Najaf the same month which killed 80, including a top Shi'ite cleric." NPR just claimed that he has confessed to many of these bombings.

I don't want to get my hopes up. Still, it's good news for Iraq and our guys over there, both in and out of uniform.

Update: The confession looks real. From the Detroit Free Press, "Authorities say that since his capture, al-Jaaf has confessed to helping plan or build 32 car and truck bombs that killed hundreds of people, including a major strike on the UN compound in Baghdad in August 2003.

It Only Took 60 Years

The U.N. commemorated the Holocaust for the first time ever today in New York.

"The meeting was requested by U.S. Ambassador John Danforth in a letter on Dec. 9, and backed by Russia, the European Union, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Annan polled member states and 138 nations in the 191-member assembly agreed."

Check my math but 53 nations voted against commemorating the Holocaust. I'll see if I can find out who those were and get back to you. In the meantime, no guessing.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Not-So-Fantastic Four Movie

As a kid I loved the Fantastic Four. They were right up there with the X-Men and just behind Spidey in my comic hierarchy. The family dynamic of the group always attracted me. They bickered and fought and kicked the ass of anyone who messed with them. And I found Ben Grimm/the Thing particularly intriguing.

Well, this summer they do to the Fantastic Four what they did to Daredevil. How do I know? Let's compare some pictures. Here's the Fantastic Four as I remember them. And here too. Here's a production photo from the film.

First, Jessica Alba is entirely too hot to be Sue Storm.

Second, doesn't she look older than her younger brother Johnny Storm/the Human Torch?

Last, look at Ben Grimm/The Thing from the movie. It's Michael Chiklis in an lame orange suit! You can see the seams. He even looks like he has a beer belly. Dude, it's the Thing. Compare that to some classic comic images here, here, and here.

I thought they would use CGI to create the Thing. Sort of Golum but bigger. But no, they put a freaking guy in a suit. And not even a big guy. How can this NOT suck?

Dutch Muslims Honor Dead Thief

Several hundred Muslims held a silent march through Amsterdam to pay their respects to a man killed during a robbery. After he stole a Dutch woman's purse she reversed her car and crushed him against a tree. A court determined the death was accidental. He was also charged with "armed robbery at a Xenos store on Kalverstraat in the city centre last May."

In Holland "silent marches are usually reserved for victims of murder."

"A large amount of flowers and letters of support have been placed around the tree where El B. died. One of the letters said: "Verdonk, murderer", implying that Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk prompted the murder due to her tough stance on integration."
Others "claim the death was a racially-motivated murder."

Meanwhile a multicultural Forum "urged Moroccan immigrants in Amsterdam to stop portraying themselves as victims. Forum spokesman Halim el Madkouri said Moroccans are not victims and should stop blaming the rest of Dutch society for everything."

Here's the topper. The accident "occurred just 50m away from the spot where Theo van Gogh was killed last November."

Update: Dutch blogger Zacht Ei says, "In the Dutch legal system, a judge determines whether there are enough grounds for a suspect to be held whilst the district attorney tries to make his case. The fact that a judge decided this is not the case is a huge blow for the Dutch DA Office. In the view of many Dutch, the DA Office has of late been overly concerned with politically correct cases."

He also links to the rap sheet of the dead thief. I can't read Dutch but it lists about 90 various interactions with the authorities going back to June 1997.

Al-Zarqawi Declares War on Evil Democracy

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Witch-King to bin Laden's Sauron, released another single this weekend.

"We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology." Then he disses the Shia, accusing them of "spreading their evil faith among people through money and fear."

The lines seem so clear. Bush: we will "seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture". Al Qaeda: democracy is evil and we will fight it anywhere we can.

With enemies like this who could possibly be against us? Oh let's see, the Left, the Far Left and the Wacko-Left.

Some people are pissing on the Iraqi election like it's a Golden Shower party. The Village Voice says Bush's inauguration speech is bringing the world to The Eve of Destruction. The International Socialist Organization holds an inaugural event where speakers declare "We ain't never resolved nothing through an election."

But don't you dare accuse them of being unpatriotic, you neo-fascist you. "Help help. Come see the violence inherit in the system."

Update: the lobotomy patients at DU are convinced that Zarqawi is "a figment of someones imagination" and "totally fabricated". Proof? We don't need no stinkin' proof! The very idea of "objective truth" is a neo-con conspiracy to colonize the narrative of resisting forces.

Spending a Fortune for Dog Bites Man

More thoughts on Tim Blair's post, below.

Big Media complains about the "the expense of keeping journalists in Iraq." I wonder how much this 'Big Baghdad Porn Scoop' costs the Washington Post? (Woodward and Bernstein must be proud.)

Let me get this straight, MSM whine about the expense of sending reporters to Iraq, then they use that money to file a story about a guy who was embarrassed when his mother saw his girlie mags. What's next, wasting a fortune on 'Local Man Falls Asleep After Heavy Meal'?

Welcome Instapundit readers (and thanks again Glenn). Since Instapundit mentioned Michael Moore I'll take this opportunity to shamelessly promote this rant on that rather large subject. While you're here check out some other posts. And would it hurt you to leave a comment maybe?

A Window into Muslim Male Psychology

Tim Blair opens the window. It's funny and sad and involve sexual humiliation and bitch-slapping. (HT: Instapundit)

Where's My Parade Iqbal?

British Muslims are to boycott this week’s commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz because they claim it is not racially inclusive and does not commemorate the victims of the Palestinian conflict.

I'm going to repeat that for those who still haven't had their morning coffee. It does not commemorate the victims of the Palestinian conflict. (I assume they mean the Arab victims of Israel, not Arab victims of Arabs or the Israeli victims of Arabs.)

More to the point, whaat? What does a commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz have to do with violence in the West Bank and Gaza? Ummm, nothing.

And the boycott is not from a fringe group. The Muslim Council of Britain represents more the 350 Muslim organizations. Iqbal Sacranie, the secretary-general of the Council, wrote to the U.K. Home Office, "We said the issue of the Holocaust is not really the concern. But we have now expressed our unwillingness to attend the ceremony because it excludes ongoing genocide and human rights abuses around the world and in the occupied territories of Palestine."

What do you say to that? The irrationality is piled so thick that no arguement can cut through it. So every celebration or commemoration held on British soil must have some reference to the West Bank?

This is Palestinianism - the theological belief in the centrality of Arab victimization in human history and the superiority of Arab suffering over all others, as long as the Arabs are victimized and suffer at the hands of non-Arabs. It's a form of Arab cultural superiority. Remember that most Muslims are not Arabs. As bad as anyone may think the Gazan Arabs have suffered since 1967, is it demonstrably worse than Muslims in Bangladesh? In Chad? In Iraq under Sadddam? The 300,000 plus dead in the Baathist mass graces were entirely Arab Muslims. Is the Muslim Council of Britain commemorating them? The Syrian military killed 20,000 in Hama when they leveled the city with artillary. That's more Muslims killed in one event than have died in both intifadas combined over a total of ten years or more. More dead by a factor of what, 10, 15? According to the U.N., the "geneocide" in Jenin killed 52 people more than have of then combatants. Indeed many or even most of the casualties in the West Bank and Gaza have been combatants.

How is any of this remotely comparable to the Holocaust? Shit by the Council's logic I want a ceremony to commemorate the time I got beat up in the 7th grade. Where's my fucking parade Iqbal?

Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Second Look Project

Something called The Second Look Project has an interesting website. It provides statistics on abortion, U.S. law and fetal development. It's not obviously partisan but it is sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops so you can guess where they stand. Nevertheless it seems well documented and not preachy.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Why the Socialists are Bad for the Left

The Dems want to have it both ways with the extreme Left. They want to use their organizations to get votes but they don't want to be tainted by their ideology. It don't work that way pal.

Here's an article from The New Republic, a liberal magazine that supported Kerry. The author attended an International Socialist Organization-sponsored gathering by the name of "Town Hall: Empire and Resistance."

What did he find? But the more I heard, the more I became convinced that I had discovered something truly threatening: This band of socialists was the most effective recruiting tool for the Republican Party I'd ever encountered.

How so? The posters on the walls read, MONEY FOR JOBS AND EDUCATION, NOT FOR WAR AND OCCUPATION. The speakers said things like, "We ain't never resolved NOTHING through an election."

The speaker was dismissing something that Afghanis of all ages had recently risked their lives to participate in, something Iraq's insurgents view as so transformative that they are murdering scores of Iraqis to prevent it.

It got worse. The final speaker was from the "editorial board of International Socialist Review." She talked, and talked, and talked; terms like "architects of the slaughter," "war criminal," and "Noam Chomsky" wafted about the room; and my eyes grew so bleary that I ceased taking notes. But then she brought up the insurgents in Iraq. Sure they were bad, she admitted: "No one cheers the beheading of journalists." But, she continued, they had a "right" to rebel against occupation. Then she read from a speech by the activist Arundhati Roy: "Of course, [the Iraqi resistance] is riddled with opportunism, local rivalry, demagoguery, and criminality. But if we were to only support pristine movements, then no resistance will be worthy of our purity."

First, "our purity?" Beware of people who use terms like "our purity" because they are also talking about 'impurity' and the inevitable 'cleansing' it implies. Whether racial, religious or ideological, 'group purity' is a dangerous concept. Lots of bad things flow from that idea. Lots of barbed wire and flames.

Funny though because otherwise that's how I feel about the War in Iraq. Of course there were mistakes and missed opportunities; it was riddled with institutional rivalry and backbiting; it suffered from bad planning, poor planning and in some cases no planning. But if I was only to supporty a perfect effort to create Arab democracy then no effort would be worth supporting.

The Dems need to cut these people off. Ostracize them. Treat them like the political toxins that they are. Don't try to reason with them or try persuade them to join the "Progressive Coalition." I will not support a Democratic candidate who tolerates these views just as I wouldn't support a Republican candidate who tolerates the views of the militia-men or Stormfront.

"Peaceniks" Attack Protester

From the Washington Post, a perfect example of what happens when people have no ideas left. They fight with their fists and feet like the common street thugs they are.

"Ten minutes after telling his fellow protesters to stay safe, Gil Kobrin lay huddled in the slush and mud as two anarchists repeatedly kicked him in the back."

Kobrin was part of the Protest Warrior group in D.C. yesterday. They held signs that read "Say no to war unless a Democrat is president" and "Not to brag, but Bush won, so shove it!" A peaceful group of 13 people amid a crowd of anti-Bush protesters. After exchanging insults with "a self-described anarchist, dressed all in black with a bandana covering his face" Kobrin was thrown to the cold ground and kicked. Marshalls pulled the anarchists away and the Protest Warriors moved on.

"I expected it, but I didn't expect to be kicked in the back," Kobrin said later. His boyish, twentysomething face wore a wry smile and he stood upright, but conceded that he was in some pain.

Nice. I have to hand it to the Protest Warriors, they have shown remarkable discipline when facing these violent bastards. More than I would have. I seen several videos of their exploits and I've never seen or heard of them fighting back with force. Very Ghandi. Sooner or later though one of them will be seriously hurt or killed. Then all hell will break loose.

Funny thing though. I don't remember ever seeing self-described Brownshirts protesting Clinton. Or protesting anything. Despite the misuse and overuse of the word 'fascist' by the Left I don't recall seeing any actual fascists, much less violent ones with their faces covered beating up hippies on the Mall. What does that tell you?

Self-Criticism From the Left

A welcome piece from the L.A. Weekly.

The author, John Powers, "found it faintly depressing that so many on the left are still obsessed with anger at Bush. It’s time to get over it. Loathing the guy may have filled Kerry’s campaign coffers — and fattened Michael Moore’s wallet — but it wasn’t enough to beat him. In fact, it may have even cost the Democrats the election. Growing fixated on one man is bad politics." It's an unhealty obsesssion. It's a kind of mass hysteria, a crowd mentality that finds a scape-goat and enjoys literally burning its effigy.

Powers says something I was just thinking about the other day in the shower, "the right has become the agent of change. In contrast, the left has become — there’s no other word for it — reactionary. ... Even worse, it’s become the side that’s forever saying "No."" Ouch. But it's true.

There may not be a "Social Security crisis" but clearly the program has serious structural problems. The Right has ideas about solving this. You may not like the ideas but they exist in some detail. Where is the Left's solution? Stay the course. That is more of the problem.

What about Iran? We may or may not have teams in Iran researching the nuke sites for possible military strikes. But what are the other options? Keep talking until they have the Bomb? Learn to live with it? These are not ideas so much as resignation.

The Israeli-Arab conflict? Even since 2000 when Arafat gave Clinton the finger there hasn't been a notable idea from the Left. The Right has only one idea, the Road Map, but at least it's something. Even in Israel itself the ideas are coming from the Right: leave Gaza, build a barrier, assassinate terrorists. The Left's big idea is the Geneva Initiative, which as far as I can tell is "Oslo 2: This Time It's Personal." Again, more of the same, a repeat of efforts that failed previously.

The Republicans have several prominent politicians, Schwarzenegger, Pataki, Giuliani, who are all pro-choice. Can you name a single national Democratic figure who is pro-life? No, you can't. The Left doesn't even want to allow that idea into its internal debate. Not a good sign.

The single big idea on the Left is gay marriage. It also happens to be an idea that was shot down by wide majorities in every state where it was on the ballot, even Oregon. Worse, most people see this as either solving a non-problem or solving a problem that is minor when compared to the other issues facing us. To put that single idea at the front of the party sends a terrible signal to most Americans. It's a PR disaster.

The Right is expanding, not just intellectually, but demographically. How does the Left respond? "But today’s left remains mired in a reflexive, defeatist negativity that became obvious after the election. The Nation’s subscribers sent letters calling Bush voters racists, homophobes, warmongers and yahoos. ... Meanwhile, the blogosphere was filled with "Fuck the South" e-mails and lazy ruminations on the "red states"". As a Southerner who voted for Bush (but who voted for Clinton twice) I can tell you that insulting people does not win them to your cause.

And I'm angry and disappointed with the Left. I mean, yes, I'm angry at the idiots, the peaceniks, the blamers and the defeatists. They suck and I wish they would go away. But I'm disappointed that the Dems didn't put forth a real choice. I'm angry that they made me vote Republican for the first time. What's more, it wasn't a tough choice. I didn't agonize over it. It wasn't even close. I never seriously considered Kerry. That's sad. On paper I fit quite well into a Democratic profile but I wrote them off very early in the race. Why?

Kerry's "vagueness was his party’s vagueness — indeed, the whole left’s vagueness — in a hypercapitalist world in which socialism can no longer be used as a threat or a promise.

What the left lacks is not a galvanizing messenger but a positive message, a set of energizing ideas and values. It’s not enough to oppose the invasion of Iraq or Bush’s plans for Social Security. That’s merely to react against someone else’s agenda."
Amen brother.

What should the Left do? Powers lists four lame points which you can read for yourself. I'll post my list of lame points later.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

"51% is Not a Mandate"

I just saw a sign that read "51% is Not a Mandate". (Actually I think Bush won 50.73% but that's close enough.) Ok. What is a mandate? Did Bush Sr. have a mandate in 1988 when he won with 53.4%. Clinton certainly never had a mandate. In 1996 he only won 49.24% of the vote. In 1992 he won a laughable 42.93%.

Did you get that? Bush won a higher percent of the vote in both 2000 and 2004 than Clinton did in either of his elections. Let's dig a little further back.

1980, Reagan: 50.7%.
1976, Carter: 50.1%.
1968, Nixon: 43.2%
1964: JFK, the 60s Saint, Camelot and all that: 49.72%.
1948: Truman: 49.7%.

Granted, for a re-election Bush did historically low. Eisenhower in 56 (57.4%), Nixon in 72 (60.7%) and Reagan in 84 (58.77%) did better. But keep in mind that these are Republicans. No Democrat has won an election, first or second, with a percentage greater than Bush's since 1944 when FDR won a fourth term with 53.5%.

People who say that Bush does not have a mandate based on his margin of victory are saying that no Democrat has had a mandata since 1944. Somehow I don't think people really believe that.

Mother of Soldier Killed in Iraq at ANSWER Rally

The mother of a soldier who died in Iraq is wearing a shirt that reads, "President Bush: You Killed My Son." I sympathize with these women. Several of them have spoken at the Stalinist rally. Their children have been killed and they are grief-striken. But I think they are displacing their anger onto Bush and the Republicans because that is politically acceptable. They get a podium. People listen to them when they yell about Bush being a criminal, about bringing the troops home now.

However, what if they didn't blame Bush? What if they blamed the terrorists? What if they called for a more aggressive war? What if they blamed the radical imams and the Syrians and the Iranian mullahs? What if they had even more radical things to say? Where is the platform for that? Where is the crowd to applaud them?

There is none. Even the "war mongering neocons" don't have such rallies. It's simply not acceptable to gather together a few hundred people and chant about bombing Syria. At least not yet.

C-SPAN2: A.N.S.W.E.R. Chanting

I watching C-SPAN2. The A.N.S.W.E.R. crowd is chanting:

George Bush You Can't Hide
We Charge You With Genocide

Cute. Hear how it rhymes? I don't know what 'genocide' they are talking about. This month is the 60th anniversery of the liberation of Auschwitz. I've been there. That's genocide. Bored with that chant they moved on.

No Justice, No Peace
U.S. Out of the Middle East

Not as good. It's not a true rhyme for one thing. I never liked that formula, 'No Justice, No Peace'. It's basically a threat. "If you don't conform to my definition of justice (which usually means a kind of appeasement), then we won't be peaceful (which means what? a kind of fighting)." I like the reverse chant - No Peace, No Justice. If you won't be peaceful then you don't get justice. Punk. More chanting:

Hey Hey Ho Ho
This Racist War Has Got to Go

Weak. It rhymes but they have to resort to using nonsense words. What is that one about? 'Racist war'? I guess the war in Iraq is now racist because the mixed races of the Allied militaries are attacking the differently mixed races of Iraq. The chanting continues:

Racist Sexist Anti-Gay
Bush Cheney Go Away

I guess Cheney's daughter doesn't count. I guess Rice and Gonzales don't count. Whatever. Oh shit. Representative Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) wants to join the crowd A.N.S.W.E.R. Stalinists but she can't quite make it yet. More chanting:

Occupation is a Crime
From Iraq to Palestine

Then the self-delusion is revealed. The speaker actually believes that the Bush Administration is avoiding the crowd because he is worried about them. Dude, no one cares. No one in the goverment cares. No one attending the parties and balls and meetings cares. You don't fucking count. Now go back to chanting.

No Blood For Oil
U.S. Off Iraqi Soil

I've had enough. I think I'll relax by sticking a fork in my eye.