Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Quote of the Day

You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream—the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order—or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path.
—Ronald Reagan, stumping for Barry Goldwater in 1964.

My, oh my, how far the Republican Party has come. Would today's GOP welcome the Gipper with open arms, or would they smear him as a soft-on-terror, cut-and-run liberal Democrat? It is, as Dick Cheney would say, a "no-brainer".

Monday, October 30, 2006

Aid and Comfort

Eight days out from the midterm elections, things are tense. The air is thick with slung mud and bad blood.

As Republicans desperately struggle to hold on to the power they so richly deserve to lose, they're bringing out the big guns against a Democratic party poised to grab the power they scarcely deserve to hold.

A favorite weapon in this arsenal is the accusation that Democrats, with all their cut-and-runnery, are providing aid and comfort to the enemy. Terrorists in Iraq, so the argument goes, are emboldened by Democratic calls for troop withdrawal. If they can only hang on until after November, Speaker Pelosi and company will hand them a golden victory for jihad.

Now, as wantonly bandied about as this argument may be, it has the merit of being true. If the U.S. pulls out of a turbulent and broken Iraq, it will unquestionably be a victory for terrorism—both because the country would likely turn into a killing field (more so) and because defeating the U.S. would be a huge P.R. coup. Of course, there's no guarantee that a power shift to the Democrats would result in such a policy, but the Republicans are more than happy to scare people into thinking it would.

Conservatives and right-wingers like to believe that they have rock-solid anti-terrorism credibility, and only the Democrats could possibly provide aid and comfort to the enemy. That's where they're wrong.

One of the crucial errors in the War on Terror so far has been the Bush cabal's inability to grasp the psychological aspects of the conflict. They've been far better at winning territory (and they haven't been very good at that) than they have been at winning hearts and minds. The reason is plain: they don't understand what they're up against.

This is by no means limited to the White House. These kinds of errors are propagated across the right-wing blogosphere and find their way into FOX News talking points as well.

The first way the right-wing is guilty of providing aid and comfort to the enemy is not even limited to the conservative mindset, although it finds its natural home there. Some well-meaning liberals fall into its trap as well. This is the tendency to conflate the worst aspects of Muslim intolerance with Islam in general. You see it in spades on sites like Michelle Malkin's blog and Instapundit—and, sadly, on Andrew Sullivan's blog, too. It reached its height during the Muhammad cartoon crisis, but it's evident every time some imam says something idiotic.

Terrorist groups like al Qaeda have gone out of their way to frame the War on Terror as a religious war; as a war not just against them, but against Islam as a whole. Whenever ill-informed pundits and politicos use the actions of a few to tar a culturally and doctrinally diverse group of over a billion people, they make al Qaeda's argument for them. Every time Muslims hear that their religion is inherently violent or sick, or that they are by definition incapable of tolerance, Osama bin Laden's obscene philosophy gains a little strength.

Another way in which War on Terror partisans make life easier for the terrorists is by exaggerating the scope of the international terrorism "apparatus" in an effort to underline the threat we face. That's not to say there isn't a threat. There is, and it's grave. That said, attributing all of the various terror cells and splinter groups to one massive and far-reaching conspiracy—turning myriad ragged bunches of nihilists into a monolith of pure evil—confers an exaggerated power onto them. It's a power they would greatly like to possess, and couldn't without our help.

If we in the United States and the Western world as a whole are serious about confronting the problem of international terrorism and geopolitical upheaval, we need to be far more nuanced in our thinking. The problems are too real and too complex to be dumbed down for the election cycle and used to defeat domestic political enemies.

The current administration has proven itself utterly incapable of taking anything other than an opportunistic and cynical approach to the problems of our age. The political opposition shows no signs of being any different in this respect.

And that's election season in a nutshell. Happy voting!

Gateway to the Worst

My hometown has just been ranked the most dangerous city in the U.S., edging out Detroit for the second time in as many weeks.

Violent crime in St. Louis City (as opposed to St. Louis County, where most StL residents live) was up 20% since 2004. Well, what do you expect when the mayor's name is Francis Slay?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Bad Timing Award

The Wall St. Journal has an editorial today under the title Not So Big Oil (subscription required) claiming that oil company profits are "under pressure" due to the falling price of oil.

In other news, Exxon Mobil announced third quarter profits of $10.49 billion today. That's the second largest quarterly profit figure for any publicly traded American company in history. The largest profit was recorded by Exxon Mobil in the fourth quarter of 2005.

'Lost' in Translation

Last night's episode of Lost had a very memorable scene in which Ben/Henry Gale brings a caged rabbit into a room where Sawyer is strapped to a table after having undergone some sort of surgery. The rabbit has the number 8 painted on its back.

Ben proceeds to shake the cage until the rabbit "dies" because of some sort of killer pacemaker that has been implanted in the bunny—the same kind of pacemaker Ben says they put in Sawyer.

Dramatic stuff, to be sure. As any Lost fan knows, no detail on the show is accidental. We all know that the number 8 is significant because it's part of the 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 sequence. As we watched the show, however, my wife noticed something else.

Here's a brief passage from Stephen King's 2000 book On Writing:
In the cage is a white rabbit with a pink nose and pink-rimmed eyes. In its front paws is a carrot-stub upon which it is contentedly munching. On its back, clearly marked in blue ink, is the numeral 8.
Coincidence? Don't bet on it. Careful viewers will remember that, in the season premiere, the Others are having some sort of book club. Up for discussion is a Stephen King book.

What does it all mean? We'll have to wait and watch. For King, the example was all about creating an indelible image in the reader's mind.
The most interesting thing here isn't even the carrot-munching rabbit in the cage, but the number on its back. Not a six, not a four, not nineteen-point-five. It's an eight. This is what we're looking at, and we all see it. I didn’t tell you. You didn't ask me. I never opened my mouth and you never opened yours. We're not even in the same year together, let alone the same room … except we are together. We're close.

We're having a meeting of the minds.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

There Is No There There

Republicans are working overtime to prove that they're being realistic about the war in Iraq. President Bush has given up on the "stay the course" rhetoric in favor of an "Iraq is very difficult but we still can win as long as you don't vote for Democrats" angle. Dick Cheney even disavowed his "the insurgency is in its last throes" nonsense in the face of obvious evidence to the contrary. Everywhere you look there's a Republican "getting real" about Iraq.

It disgusts me.

It's not that I'm against having a realistic outlook of the war. It's just the naked hypocrisy and opportunism that brings me down. The Republicans often chastised the Clinton administration for basing its decisions on polls (and rightfully so). The GOP is doing the exact same thing now, only it's much, much worse because the stakes are so much higher.

It's no accident that all this talk about changing course in Iraq comes a few weeks before elections in which polls suggest the Republican majority is going to get swept out of one if not both houses of Congress. It's good that some attention is finally being paid to a strategic and tactical disaster the scope of which has been obvious for months and months.

The fact that Bush and his party are only speaking up now, however, proves what many people have been saying for years: power is the only thing that matters to the Republican party, and the only thing that could prompt them to admit mistakes and take steps to correct them is the prospect of losing that power.

It is this very moral and intellectual vacancy that proves they are unfit to hold the power that they guard so desperately.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Changing 'Course'

Oceania was at war with Eastasia: Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.
—George Orwell, 1984

"Stay the course" has run its course, apparently, and the Bush team is changing rhetorical horses midstream. You might even say they're cutting and running from the phrase. Via Bloomberg:
The Bush administration has dropped the phrase "stay the course" from discussions about Iraq as a recent surge in violence has forced a change in tactics on the ground and renewed calls in the U.S. for a different approach to the conflict....

"It left the wrong impression about what was going on," [Press Secretary Tony] Snow said. "And it allowed critics to say, 'Well, here's an administration that's just embarked upon a policy of not looking at what the situation is,' when, in fact, it's just the opposite."

Bush: A flip-flopping cut and runner?

It always seems to be opposite day at the White House, which would explain, amongst other things, the No Child Left Behind program and Bush's extreme confidence in the run-up to a GOP slaughter in November. If utterly failing in over three and a half years to send enough troops to Iraq and claiming the insurgency is in its "last throes" just as the already-bestial violence spikes upwards qualifies as "looking at what the situation is", I'd hate to see what would happen if the administration gave in to delusional thinking.

"It's never been a stay-the-course strategy," said White House Counselor Dan Bartlett. "Strategically, we think it's very important that we stay in Iraq and we win in Iraq." How's that for flexibility? Our strategy is emphatically not "stay the course", just so long as we stay the course. Feel better? And if we've never had a stay-the-course strategy, that what on earth has Bush been blathering on about all these years?

According to Snow, "this has always been a dynamic policy that is aimed at moving forward, at all times, on a number of fronts." It just so happens that we're currently making the most progress in our tireless advance up shit creek.

In other news, the White House has also retired the catchphrase "Mission Accomplished", replacing it instead with the much more realistic "Mission Hopelessly F**ked Up".

Blogs Are Beautiful

Reader Rob A. pointed me to another site that measures blogometrics. Only this one does it visually. Here's what (parenthetical remarks) looks like:



It's not quite my exact inner structure done in a t-shirt, but it's pretty cool nonetheless.

Basically what this program does is it measures and color-codes HTML tags. Blue is for links, red is for tables, green represents DIV tags, violet is for image tags, yellow is for forms, orange is for linebreaks and blockquotes, black is for the HTML tags themselves, and gray is for all other tags.

I always suspected I had a beautiful mind.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Quote of the Day

Some critics have said that the United States should have sided with the British and French in the Middle East, that it was fatuous to lean so heavily on the United Nations. If we had taken this advice, where would it have led us? Would we now be, with them, an occupying power in a seething Arab world? If so, I am sure we would regret it.
—Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, looking back on his decision not to "stay the course" during the Suez Crisis, which erupted 50 years ago this week.

The Worst Band Names Ever, Part II

Back in the mists of prehistory, I wrote a think-piece on the worst band names in history. It was an opportunity not only to make fun of some god-awful names, but to give some direction to up-and-coming rockers considering naming their band after a local pawn shop or something they read in a William S. Burroughs novel. I think of it as a public service, really.

This post ended up being pretty popular, particularly in its second home over at Blogcritics.org. In fact, it still gets comments a year and half later. Many of these comments claim that I'm some kind of idiot. Which is untrue. Mostly, people nominated their own private 311s and Archers of Loafs, and pointed out some categories I missed.

So, without further ado, here is an addendum to my original Worst Band Names Ever post. I'm sure I'm still missing some horrendous names, but I'm only one man and there's so much low-hanging fruit.

Thou Shalt Not Rock the Lord's Name in Vain
Jesus, Mary and Joseph! You can't swing a piece of the true cross without hitting a band that thought how mighty clever it would be to put "God" or "Jesus" in their name. Well, it's not clever. It's nothing more than an attempt to garner some free publicity for being "irreverent" and "daring", or it's a way to seem profound without actually having to write good lyrics. Definitely not kosher.
Why Have You Forsaken Me?: God is My Co-Pilot (with extra demerits for violating the Your Band Name Should Not Be a Bumper Sticker Slogan rule)
Jesus Wept: The Jesus Lizard (hey, let's juxtapose!)
Original Sin: Eyehategod (where to even begin with this one…)
Honorable Mention: The Jesus and Mary Chain, Jesus Jones, Nazareth, MC 900 Foot Jesus, The Ordinary Fear of God, Peter Paul & Mary, Godflesh, Godsmack.
Exceptions: Actual religious bands (if you must) and awesome satanic metal bands like Deicide or, say, Christpuncher.

Band Names Should Not Be Acronyms
It's a truism in the rock & roll world that an acronym is a bad band name created to disguise an even worse one. It's no surprise that Electric Light Orchestra went by ELO or Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark were widely known as OMD. It may be less embarrassing, but that doesn't make it OK. Note to rockers: If your name is so bad that you turn it into an acronym (I'm looking at you, Bachman Turner Overdrive), you just need to go back to the drawing board. The same logic applies to groups like NWA and A.C., who use acronyms like fig leaves to cover up the naughty bits. Extra negative points to NRBQ, whose acronym actually manages to be worse than its bland meaning (New Rhythm and Blues Quartet).
FUBAR: EMF (Epsom Mad Funkers)
SNAFU: A.B.C. (Another Bad Creation—although that is truth in advertising)
LMAO: H.I.M. (His Infernal Majesty)
Honorable Mention: K.L.F. (Kopyright Liberation Front—further demerits for the misspelling), LFO (Lyte Funky Ones), KMFDM (Kein Merheit Für Das Mitleid, which means No Pity for the Majority in English—and not Kill Mother F**king Depeche Mode, as some have said), ABBA (Agnetha, Björn, Benny, Anni-Frid), N.E.R.D. (No One Ever Really Dies).
Exceptions: REM, because the acronym is in standard usage; W.A.S.P., because while it might stand for We Are Sexual Perverts, Blackie Lawless maintains that it means We Ain't Sure, Pal; and AC/DC, because na na na na na na na na ANGUS!

Ünnëcëssärÿ Punctuation: Bad...for Band Names!!
Spin magazine once called the heavy metal umlaut the "diacritical mark of the beast." The theory is that an umlaut supposedly adds a dash of Teutonic menace to a band name (not that there's anything very menacing about David Hasselhoff). The fictional metal band Spinal Tap put an umlaut over the 'n', which gets to the heart of how unbelievably silly the practice is better than I ever could. Resorting to this rock cliche for extra oomph means you've probably got a sucky band name to begin with. The same goes for punctuation, which is a sign of an unwieldy or pretentious band name. Usually both. I shudder to think what was left off the beginning of ...And You Will Know Us From the Trail of Dead. Who knows? Maybe it was the good part.
¡Forward, Russia! — Where to begin? Three punctuation sins in a two-word band name. That's actually pretty impressive.
Mötley Crüe — A classic band name sullied by heavy metal umlauts and the intentional misspelling. The correct pronunciation as spelled is "Mertly Crew-eh", which is what was allegedly chanted by thousands of fans at a concert in Germany.
!!! — This band name is reportedly meant to be pronounced "chk, chk, chk", which is far from intuitive. They best learn a lesson from Prince about what happens to your career when your name is an unpronounceable symbol. Plus, where does it get filed in the record store???
Honorable Mention: à;GRUMH...; Godspeed, You Black Emperor!; Songs: Ohia; Queensrÿche; Blue Öyster Cult; Ümlaut (because the word "umlaut" has no umlaut)
Exceptions: Motörhead, because I'm not going to mess with Lemmy. Band names that are actually German (not that I condone German bands).

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Quote of the Day

...we've got to show the consequences under Democratic leadership what would happen if the terrorists win, if we actually admit defeat to the terrorists.
—Senator Bill Frist (R-TN), on CNN this morning.

Let's not forget that this man, who equates a Democratic win with victory for the terrorists, thinks the Taliban should be invited to join the Afghan government because we can't beat them.

Practice What You Preach

Here's Andrew Sullivan's "Quote for the Day II" from today:
"Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology. Card-carrying rationalists like Dawkins, who is the nearest thing to a professional atheist we have had since Bertrand Russell, are in one sense the least well-equipped to understand what they castigate, since they don’t believe there is anything there to be understood, or at least anything worth understanding. This is why they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince. The more they detest religion, the more ill-informed their criticisms of it tend to be. If they were asked to pass judgment on phenomenology or the geopolitics of South Asia, they would no doubt bone up on the question as assiduously as they could. When it comes to theology, however, any shoddy old travesty will pass muster," - Terry Eagleton, defending my kind of Christianity, in the London Review of Books.
Let's have a little fun with word replacement and see what we can come up with:
Imagine someone holding forth on Islam whose only knowledge of the subject is the Clash of Civilizations, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Andrew Sullivan on Islam. Card-carrying rationalists like Sullivan, who is the nearest thing to a professional Muslim-basher we have had since Samuel Huntington, are in one sense the least well-equipped to understand what they castigate, since they don’t believe there is anything there to be understood, or at least anything worth understanding. This is why they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince. The more they detest Islam, the more ill-informed their criticisms of it tend to be. If they were asked to pass judgment on phenomenology or the geopolitics of South Asia, they would no doubt bone up on the question as assiduously as they could. When it comes to Islam, however, any shoddy old travesty will pass muster.
It never hurts to practice what one preaches.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Blogometrics

I wasted some quality time last night playing with the readability tests at juicystudio.com. You type in a website's URI and it performs algorithms to determine how "readable" the website's content is. After analyzing sentence length and numbers of syllables per word, it spits out results for three different indices:
  • Gunning-Fog Index—A rough measure of how many years of schooling it would take someone to understand the content. The lower the number, the more understandable the content will be to your visitors. (Start counting with kindergarten.)
  • Flesch Reading Ease—An index number that rates the text on a 100-point scale. The higher the score, the easier it is to understand the document. Authors are encouraged to aim for a score of approximately 60 to 70.
  • Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level—Like the Gunning-Fog index, it is a rough measure of how many years of schooling it would take someone to understand the content (although I think this one starts at 1st grade).
I had the site analyze this blog and I learned that, amongst other things, I average 9.99 words per sentence, with 14.21% coming in at three syllables or more, for an average of 1.56 syllables per word. I scored 9.68 on the Gunning Fog Index, which is comparable with the content of Time and Newsweek. My Flesch Reading Ease result was 64.96, or right in the middle of the target range, and according to my Flesch-Kincaid Grade of 6.68, you need to be most of the way through 6th grade before you can even hope to understand my complexities. Based on some of the comments I get, however, I think there are a few readers reaching for that brass ring a little earlier.

Interestingly enough, my blog has almost the exact same metrics as the infinitely-more-popular Instapundit (with scores of 9.65, 65.79 and 6.53 respectively). Andrew Sullivan, with his Oxford education, scores a bit higher (10.36, 65.39 and 6.72). A recent Christopher Hitchens article scores a Gunning Fog Index of 11.20, which, according to the chart, is comparable to the Wall St Journal. That's fitting, since Hitchens is finding his way onto their opinion pages with increasing regularity these days.

On closer examination, the Gunning Fog chart looks a bit suspect. Newsweek articles are supposed to be equivalent to a score of 10, but when I analyzed the magazine's most recent cover story, it only rated an 8, which is the designated difficulty of Reader's Digest. Similarly, a Guardian article, which should have scored a 14, only came in at 9.77.

Other interesting things I learned from the test include the fact that the front page of Michelle Malkin's blog had, as of this writing, exactly 666 sentences. Coincidence? You be the judge.

By far the most complex and difficult blog I looked at was the right-wing behemoth Power Line. With a Gunning Fog Index score of 13.06, a Flesch Reading Ease score of 54.34 and a Flesch-Kincaid Grade of 9.47, Power Line was even more complex than Noam Chomsky's blog. This is a perfect illustration of juicystudio's warning that because they simply measure things like syllables and words per sentence, "readability tests are unable to determine the likelihood that the document is comprehensible, interesting, or enjoyable."

Still, I wondered how Power Line could be more complex than the limber linguistic twists of a Hitchens article. Then it occurred to me: "Republican" has four syllables. Mystery solved.

Update: This post scored a Gunning Fog Index of 8.27, a Flesch Reading Ease of 66.27 and a Flesch-Kincaid Grade of 5.23. I must be getting clearer. Or stupider.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Celebrity Poll for the Week

In a cage match battle royale between Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, who wins?
Paris Hilton
Lindsay Lohan
Perez Hilton
The Terrorists
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Best. Headline. Ever.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

How Faith-Based is the GOP?

David Kuo is making his rounds of the talk show circuit following the publication of his new book, Tempting Faith. Kuo used to work as a deputy in the White House office that handled faith-based initiatives and his book claims that while the Bush administration curried favor with evangelical leaders and voters, they privately thought them all to be a bit kooky.

If true, this raises an interesting question. If the administration's Christian-friendly stance was actually more of a pose, then how much influence did and do evangelicals actually have in the governance of this country?

Many complaints have been raised at the level of access evangelicals have to the Bush White House. As just one example, liberals and conservatives wary of what Andrew Sullivan calls "Christianism" alike were up in arms over the fact that Bush and his team apparently consulted with James Dobson, Jerry Falwell and others before deciding who to nominate for the Supreme Court.

The White House strenuously denies Kuo's claims, which means they want to country to believe that they really do suck up to evangelical Christians as much as they seem to. If it's all so much window-dressing, however, then what happens to all the complaints and analyses about a government in the pocket of Big Religion? Is that just a facade, too?

Of course, apart from the evangelical voters and religious leaders, there's another important group here. It's the evangelical legislators. No matter how much Karl Rove may or may not privately ridicule evangelicals, it's undeniable that our government is and has been rife with the likes of DeLay, Ashcroft and Santorum. I'm not sure how that fits in to Kuo's analysis.

Update: Andrew Sullivan answers these questions in a timely post this morning.

U.S. Backs 'Painful' Amnesty

From the Financial Times:
The Bush administration is pressing the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki to issue a "broad" and "painful" amnesty for insurgents in spite of intense opposition to the proposal from politicians both in Iraq and the US, according to a senior administration official.
This proposal, which the Iraq government first brought up to wild disapproval from Congress in June, would include amnesty for fighters who have attacked and killed U.S. troops.

I'm not saying it's wrong or even a bad idea. It's just interesting to note how this stance directly contradicts the bluster that comes out of the White House on the Iraq war. How can we both "take the fight to the terrorists" and pardon those same terrorists for their crimes against U.S. soldiers and the Iraqi people? That's a question for Dick Cheney.

A Dud for Studds

Former Rep. Gerry Studds, the first openly gay member of Congress (McCarthy never fessed up...), has been in the news a lot lately because he's a Democrat who had his own page sex scandal in the early 80s. As bad luck would have it, he died last week. He was legally married to another man in Massachusetts at the time of his death.

Had he been married to a woman, his widow would receive Studds' pension, amounting to some $60,000 per year. Because he was married to a man, the federal government is refusing to pay up.

Here's a tidbit from the AP story that I bet you didn't know:
Under federal law, pensions can be denied only to lawmakers' same-sex partners and people convicted of espionage or treason (emphasis added).
Gay people and traitors. Hmmm. What's the government trying to tell us here?

Note: This has nothing to do with Studds' salacious sex scandal. Had he been removed from Congress, fine. He should have been. But he wasn't. Therefore, he—or his surviving family—deserves that pension. But, to quote from another Washington scandal, that all depends on what the meaning of "family" is.

Partisanship, Alive and Well

Just in case you were worried, we have confirmation from a somewhat surprising source. When asked what he would do if Democrats take control of the House and Senate, Senator John McCain replied, "I think I'd just commit suicide."

Yet another pledge from a politician destined to be broken. I would have thought McCain might be more open to a change in leadership, but that was before he folded like a deck chair on the detainee treatment bill and started whoring himself to evangelicals in preparation for his 2008 presidential bid.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sniping for Snipes

Actor Wesley Snipes is in a world of trouble. Federal prosecutors charged Snipes with failing to pay income taxes for 5 years and fraudulently claiming $12 million in tax refunds. He could face up to 40 years in prison. Talk about Demolition Man!

And he shouldn't expect the star treatment from the IRS. Unlike with murder, drunk driving, rape and drugs, celebrities don't usually get a pass when it comes to taxes (take Richard Hatch, for instance).

To borrow a phrase, always bet on the men in black (pinstripes).

In other celebrity news, Madonna could face a criminal investigation into her actions surrounding the adoption of a Malawian baby. In addition to possibly breaking Britain's adoption rules, she may face charges for infringing upon Angelina Jolie's copyright and several counts of aggravated creepiness.

The Republicans' Worst Nightmare

Tucked into a Sports Illustrated article most notable for the revelation that Mike Tyson wants to fight women on an upcoming "world tour" (haven't we been down that road before, Mike?) is a little nugget that can't make the GOP very happy:
At the press conference, Tyson posed for photos with fans, signed autographs and campaigned for Maryland U.S. Senate candidate Michael Steele.
Yes, Mike Tyson—rapist, felon, colossal embarrassment—is lending his support to the Republican Senate candidate in Maryland. In May, conservative columnist Robert Novak wrote an article that cast Steele—who is black—as the "Democrats' worst nightmare". His Democratic challenger, Ben Cardin, holds a comfortable 9-point lead in the polls.

But Tyson might change all that. Apparently he really, really likes stumping for Steele, who he considers not to be a "sellout". Give him half a chance and he'll talk you ear off.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Down With Book Learnin'

In the interests of equal time (apparently), yesterday's Wall St. Journal op-ed page hosted some impressive anti-intellectualism about Orhan Pamuk in honor of his Nobel Prize in Literature.

The author is Melik Kaylan, a British-raised Turk who is known for being one of the founders of Spy magazine and for defending Ann Coulter in the pages of, again, the Wall St. Journal.

Kaylan takes an inordinate amount of pleasure in his own thickheadedness.
If the Nobel jurists, in awarding their prize, droned rather opaquely about Mr. Pamuk's qualities—he has "discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures"—who can blame the committee? I have read Mr. Pamuk's novels in both English and Turkish and I couldn't tell you now, or even while reading, what happens in most of them.
Simplemindedness is not a virtue when discussing literature, nor should it be. The crux of Kaylan's op-ed is that if he's too dim to understand Pamuk's books, well, by gosh, so are you.

He assails the wonderful My Name Is Red for being impenetrable and complains about its "hundreds of pages" like a high school jock jonesing for the Cliff Notes. He also claims that The White Castle is about someone trying to move "a giant cannon up a hill for an entire book. I believe that's what happens. You're not really supposed to know."

For the record, The White Castle is about what most of Pamuk's books are about: the treacherous borders where East meets West. The central plot line of the book revolves around the relationship between a Turk and his Venetian slave. The two grow together and become interchangeable to the point where they ultimately switch places, with the Turk going to Italy to experience life in the West while the Venetian assumes the role of a military engineer in the Ottoman Empire.

But I'm not supposed to know that. His books are meaningless, after all.
Nobody knows what's going on but they're in the temple of smartness and too ashamed to admit their stupidity before the next guy. Mr. Pamuk's obscuration is the more impressive for being utterly beyond one's ken; the percipient Nobel selector compliments himself by discerning the "reality" we cannot.
Kaylan is perhaps a little to liberal with his us of the word "we" here. While he is certainly not too ashamed to admit his own stupidity, he mustn't assume that others share his sad predicament. It is blindingly obvious that Kaylan resents Pamuk and, curiously, he seems to do so for political reasons.

It's not clear whether Kaylan toes the Kemalist line on the Armenian genocide and insults against Turkishness. I doubt it. He simply resents the fact that the Nobel Prize went to a writer with any political consciousness at all—especially one he can't understand.

"The pity of it all," he laments, "is that Turkey desperately lacks a writer to explain itself to the world." This strange comment raises the quite serious question of whether Kaylan has actually read Pamuk's work at all, and whether he possesses even the most basic facility to understand literature.

At the very least he convinces the reader that he truly did not understand any of Pamuk's books, and reveals that he obviously didn't read Pamuk's latest work, Istanbul, a memoir of his childhood and of the monuments and ghosts of the city where he spent it. Pamuk's writing really does warmly and richly "explain" Turkey to the world. The problem is that Kaylan does not like Pamuk's explanation. The philistinism to which he stoops to disparage Pamuk and his Nobel Prize tells us more about Kaylan than it does Pamuk, however, and that's nothing to be proud of.

The Dark Side of Denmark

Just so people of the 'Buy Danish' movement know, this is part of what you're supporting. Apparently inoffensive little Denmark has something of a xenophobia problem.



Here's a description of what the video depicts:
Danish state TV on Friday aired amateur video footage showing young members of the anti-immigrant Danish Peoples' party engaged in a competition to draw humiliating cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad....

The images, filmed by artist Martin Rosengaard Knudsen who posed as a member of the party for several months to document attitudes among young members, show a number of young people drinking, singing and drawing cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Mohammad.
And this is not some obscure political party. The DPP (Dansk Folkeparti) has been a strong ally of rightist Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen for years, and they got 13% of the vote in last year's election.

Freedom of speech is a sacred thing, but defending it doesn't require one to cheerlead the bigotry of others. The Danish cartoon incident was not so innocent as it appeared (as I wrote at the time), and while "Muslim society" is certainly in need of some repairs, so is the vaunted "liberalism" of an Enlightened West.

Escape From New York

The fact that a plane crashed into a Manhattan skyscraper was spooky enough. Then things took a turn for the bizarre when it was revealed that one of the two people killed in crash was Yankee's pitcher and novice pilot Cory Lidle. But it gets even weirder.

The plane crashed into the Belaire luxury apartment building and its engine ended up in the mercifully unoccupied bedroom of one Kathleen Caronna. Caronna gained semi-fame in New York City back in 1997 when the Cat in the Hat balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade knocked over a streetlight which hit her in the head and put her into a coma for 24 days.

Undoubtedly, the legal settlement from Macy's is what allowed her to live in such posh Upper East Side digs. But, legal windfalls aside, it appears that New York City is trying to tell her something. I urge Kathleen to get out of New York while the getting's good.

Lancing the Lancet

Apparently Iraq Body Count (unaffiliated with Ice-T) reads my blog and decided to echo my thoughts on the Lancet survey of deaths in the Iraq war. (IBC is the group behind what I unceremoniously called "another study" in my previous post. They peg Iraq war deaths in the neighborhood of 48,000, compared to 655,000 for the Lancet study.)

Amongst their qualms, they note that for the Lancet survey to be accurate, the following implausible claims would have to be true:
  • Half a million death certificates were received by families which were never officially recorded as having been issued;
  • The Coalition has killed far more Iraqis in the last year than in earlier years containing the initial massive "Shock and Awe" invasion and the major assaults on Falluja.
They also contend that for the media—U.S., Iraqi and otherwise—to so radically under-report war-related deaths would require an incompetence far above and beyond that which they typically display.

Then again, just when you think the media's hit rock bottom...

Take That, Punditocracy!

This is, as Instapundit Glenn Reynolds put it, the "definitive Iraq war op-ed". Such brilliance should really be funded by the government.
So how did Iraq end up it's current state? This is quite directly attributable to the success or failure of the Bush Administration... unless of course things happened that were completely out of their hands. The consensus of opinion, though, is that the blame lies somewhere unless it was no one's fault.... Obviously, Rumsfeld underestimated the number of troops needed unless he got the number right or possibly sent too many. This caused the Iraq War to be a front or distraction to the War on Terror, which we all agree is an important fight or a blunder that never should have been started. According to those in the know, and those not in the know, and those who don't know what they know, this should all have some or no effect on the future.
Unfortunately, the government is too busy funding the horrible mistake and/or valiant effort of the Iraq war. Alas.

A November Surprise

Could this be what Karl Rove is holding out for? An October Surprise in November?
A verdict against Saddam Hussein and seven co-defendants charged with crimes against humanity in connection with an anti-Shiite crackdown in the 1980s will be announced Nov. 5, a senior court official said on Monday.
Interesting timing, no?

For Rove's sake, I hope this isn't the October Surprise he's been sinisterly hinting at. The only surprise would be if Saddam is found not guilty.

Now all the judge has to do is stay alive for the next three weeks.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Margin of Error

I'll come right out and admit it: I'm not a statistician, nor do I pretend to be. That said, I'm skeptical of the latest Lancet survey on deaths in Iraq.

In 2004, a month before the presidential election, a group from Johns Hopkins released a report saying that in the 17.8 months between the start of the Iraq war and September 2004, there had been 100,000 "excess deaths" in Iraq. That translates to an average of 5,618 deaths per month.

A second study was just published—again, notably, just a month before elections—that says there have been 655,000 deaths up to September 2006, or 555,000 in a 24-month period. That translates to 23,125 per month over the last two years. That number is around ten times higher than monthly totals that have been widely reported in the Western media.

My skepticism is not based in a facile trust of "official sources" or some misguided belief that the government and/or media wouldn't lie to us. I just don't see how the numbers add up. One would assume that the Iraqi death rate would be at its highest during the initial phase of the invasion, when coalition forces were bombing Baghdad and other Iraqi cities heavily. The second Lancet study suggests the opposite. In fact, according to these studies, the Iraqi death rate has essentially quadrupled during the long occupation.

Much criticism has been leveled at the methodology of the latest Lancet study. The figure of 655,000 is extrapolated from 629 verified deaths among a sample of 1,850 families consisting of 12,800 people. Again, I'm not a statistician, but this strikes me as a rather small focus group to arrive at such a large number. Granted, political polls use similarly small groups to predict the voting habits of the entire country, but voting trends and war casualties are completely different things. One would think the latter category is subject to a lot more variation.

My skepticism is buttressed by another study, also conducted on the ground in Iraq, which pegs the death toll at 48,343 through the end of September 2006. Someone is wildly wrong here. I hope, for humanitarian reasons, that it's the Lancet folks.

All deaths are tragic, and it doesn't really matter to a family that's lost a loved one if that death is one of 2,000 or 20,000 in a given month. Human emotions and statistics are notoriously bad bedfellows. Whether 50,000 or 500,000 Iraqis have died isn't necessarily the point. What matters is whether these people have died in vain because of the arrogance and criminal negligence of our elected officials. The morality of the war will not be measured primarily by the legions of the dead, but by the quality of the lives and futures of those who live.

We promised a bright and shining future to the people of Iraq. We've failed miserably so far on that bargain. If it's true that over 600,000 people have died in Iraq, that doesn't prove the failure, it just makes it much, much worse.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Under the Anti-Jihad Radar

On Thursday morning, Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk was announced as the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Known for novels like Snow and My Name Is Red, Pamuk explores the conflicts and conflations of East and West in his native Istanbul, a place T.S. Eliot once called "the still point of the turning world."

Pamuk is an outspoken advocate of the freedom of speech and conscience, and supports Turkey's attempts to reach out to the West as a member of the European Union. In short, he is the quintessential moderate Muslim.

In an interview with the Wall St. Journal on the day his award was announced, Pamuk was asked about the role of the Muslim writer today.
The major issue is the idea that civilizations must clash. I disagree with that. My life is a testimony to the fact that civilizations can combine gracefully and harmoniously if you have the desire to do so. Turkish history, and my books, shows that this coming together is possible. Turkish culture is made up of East and West.
Surely, one of the world's most prominent moderate Muslim intellectuals being given a global stage with the Nobel Prize is a major victory for the forces arrayed against anti-intellectualism and fundamentalism in the Muslim world. The outspoken anti-jihad "where-are-all-the-moderates" blogs must have had a field day lauding Pamuk and all that he represents. A sampling:
  • Andrew Sullivan—No mention of Pamuk. This from the blogger who wondered less than three weeks ago whether the term "Muslim writer" was becoming an oxymoron. Surely anyone who feels qualified to opine on such a subject follows the world of Muslim writing quite closely. Or perhaps not. While not mentioning Pamuk, Sullivan did manage to get sucked in by a bogus story falsely claiming Muslims were upset over a new Apple store in New York.
  • Instapundit—No mention. Too busy with the Harry Reid "scandal", I suppose. Glenn did find time to blog about a YouTube Jihad, though.
  • Michelle Malkin—No mention. Much anguish over the bogus Apple jihad story and some anti-Pope coverage, however.
  • Little Green Footballs—No mention. Where to put it amidst wall-to-wall coverage of the religion of peace?
  • Jihad Watch—No mention. But, jihad closely watched, including even yet still more coverage of the bogus Apple outrage story.
  • Power Line—No mention. Scott did take a moment to write about an obscure Minnesota House candidate and his alleged ties to CAIR. The post was called, ironically enough, "Errors and omissions".
  • Captain's Quarters—No mention. In other news: Harry Reid, Harry Reid! Plus, Muslims bad.
All of these bloggers are concerned with radical Islam and the search for voices of moderation. Not a single one covered the Pamuk prize, preferring instead their facile daily diatribes against Islam. There's plenty to deplore in Islam today, and I'm glad people are talking about it. But to ignore positive stories and encouraging news in favor of more (and often inaccurate) fear mongering is to invite this question: Why should any of these people be taken seriously on the subject of Islam? It's one thing to ask where all the moderate Muslims are. It's quite another to actually open your eyes and look.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Man Behind the Curtain

The other day I read a story in U.S. News about how some Republican insiders are freaking out about President Bush's overconfidence as the November midterm elections near. Most polls currently predict a bloodbath for GOP candidates.
"They aren't even planning for if they lose," says a GOP insider who informally counsels the West Wing.
In tomorrow's Washington Post, Michael Abramowitz also writes about an eerily upbeat White House.
Amid widespread panic in the Republican establishment about the coming midterm elections, there are two people whose confidence about GOP prospects strikes even their closest allies as almost inexplicably upbeat: President Bush and his top political adviser, Karl Rove (my emphasis).
Either Bush and Rove are blindly practicing the power of positive thinking, or they know something we don't.

A little over three weeks ago, Drudge linked to a Newsmax article about how Karl Rove has been promising Republicans an "October surprise". Maybe it was supposed to be the North Korean nuke test, but that doesn't really seem to be helping the Republicans too much.

Is there something else up Karl Rove's sleeve? Maybe Osama is dead, or some foiled terror plot is going to come to light at an opportune moment before November 7. As dirty and despicable of a political operative Rove is, the Democrats would be wise to stay on their toes and not take anything for granted. Neither of which is their strong point.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Army Big. Army Strong.

In 2001, the U.S. Army chose "An Army of One" as the baffling Gen-Y war cry for their recruiting division, supplanting "Be All You Can Be", which held sway for nearly 20 years prior.

Now, after dishing out $200 million of taxpayers' money to an ad agency, the Army has a new slogan to convince young people to sign up and get their asses blown off in Iraq: Army Strong.

I guess $200 mil. just doesn't buy what it used to. Maybe some of the money was used to translate the slogan into caveman-speak, though. That can't be cheap.

Notice how the slogans are getting simpler and simpler. First five words, then four—and now a pithy two. The grammatically incorrect "Army Strong" is solidly in keeping with the military's decision to lower standards for new recruits. It will undoubtedly appeal to semi-literate high school dropouts like Steven Green, who is charged with raping an Iraqi girl and murdering her family. For fun.

I get the feeling this is really going to help us win some hearts and minds.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Novak's Night Sweats

Remember back in May when Robert Novak wrote his gloating column about the Democrats' "worst nightmare"?

He was talking about the candidacy of Michael Steele for Senate in Maryland. His thesis was that Steele, who is black, has Dems shaking in their loafers since they might lose the "black vote" in the state. Putting aside his faith in the grotesque commodification of black opinion to serve the goals of his "heckuva job, Brownie" political party, Novak looks like he might wake up on the wrong side of the bed come November.

With less than a month to go, polls indicate that Democrats are sleeping just fine, thank you very much. The Democratic candidate, Ben Cardin, has a 7 to 8-point lead over Steele based on the last 10 opinion polls conducted. It's about the same Democratic margin as has existed in the race since the summer.

Perhaps the Republicans' worst nightmare will be waking up to the reality that they can't just buy off black voters by putting a black candidate on the ticket and crossing their fingers. It doesn't erase the GOP's long history of racism—or the impression that Bush & Co. just "don't care about black people".

Unfortunately for Novak, black voters aren't quite the idiots or sheep he hopes they are. If the Republicans want to attract black voters, they might want to start by advocating and enacting policies that help the black community. For a change.

Baby steps.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Golden Dunce Award

Sometimes you hear something so spectacularly stupid that it actually makes your teeth hurt. The Golden Dunce Award was created to give these utterances the honor they so richly deserve.

Last week, USA Today reported the asininity of one Frank Lasee, a Republican state representative from the great state of Wisconsin.
A state lawmaker, worried about a recent string of deadly school shootings, suggested arming teachers, principals and other school personnel as a safety measure and a deterrent....

"To make our schools safe for our students to learn, all options should be on the table," he said. "Israel and Thailand have well-trained teachers carrying weapons and keeping their children safe from harm. It can work in Wisconsin."
I've often remarked how similar Wisconsin is to Israel and Thailand—only with better cheese.

This is just what our schools need: more guns. In fact, if a 13-year-old can get his hands on an AK-47, the teachers should be packing shoulder-fired grenade launchers at minimum. As long as we all agree: the only way to fight guns is with more (and bigger) guns.

On the bright side, there won't be any more tardiness or late homework with Ms. Crabapple packing.

Congratulations, Frank Lasee! You've won the Golden Dunce Award.

Moderate Christianity Watch

Here's some quality reading for anyone who thinks Muslims hold the patent on religious intolerance and opposition to free speech (and if you do think that, step away from the Andrew Sullivan...).
U.S. heavy metal band Slayer's latest album has been recalled from music stores across India after the country's small Christian community said the cover depicting Christ with amputated arms and a missing eye was insulting....

"We took strong exception to the album which is offensive and in very bad taste," said Joseph Dias of Mumbai's Catholic Secular Forum.
And here I thought Christian society was unbothered by offenses against the faith. Or does it make a difference which Christian society you're talking about? Could it be that a generalization about one Christian community might not apply at all to another Christian community? Is it possible that a society's "religious" expression may in fact be dependent on a host of social factors, many of which have nothing to do with religion at all?

Food for thought.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Kick the Bums Out?

A new poll released by Newsweek paints a bleak picture of the Republican's chances in the upcoming midterm elections. "Fully 53 percent of Americans want the Democrats to win control of Congress next month, including 10 percent of Republicans, compared to just 35 percent who want the GOP to retain power."

Here are some of the poll's findings:
  • President Bush's approval rating, 33 percent, marks an all-time low for the Newsweek poll
  • A scant 25 percent of Americans are satisfied with the direction of the country, while 67 percent disagree
  • 58 percent of Americans "now believe the Bush administration knowingly misled the American people in building its case for war against Saddam Hussein". Only 36 percent believe it didn't
  • 64 percent believe the United States is losing ground in Iraq
  • 66 percent say the war has not made America safer from terrorism while only 29 percent believe it has
  • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's approval rating has fallen to 30 percent, with 48 percent believing he should resign (vs. 37 percent who think he shouldn't)
And that's not even the real blockbuster stuff. Here's what has Republicans throughout the country shaking in their cowboy boots:
Democrats now outdistance Republicans on every single issue that could decide voters' choices come Nov. 7. In addition to winning—for the first time in the Newsweek poll—on the question of which party is more trusted to fight the war on terror (44 to 37 percent) and moral values (42 percent to 36 percent), the Democrats now inspire more trust than the GOP on handling Iraq (47 to 34); the economy (53 to 31); health care (57 to 24); federal spending and the deficit (53 to 29); gas and oil prices (56 to 23); and immigration (43 to 34).
What else is there, really? Unless the GOP can turn things around, and quick, they're looking at a landslide.

Of course this means the Democrats might want to start coming up with some actual plans for what they'd like to do once they finally have some power.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Another Voice Silenced

Via Reuters:
Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, was shot dead on Saturday at her apartment block in central Moscow, police said.
Politkovskaya, author of the scathing book Putin's Russia (which could not be published in her native country) and award-winning writer for the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper, was a harsh critic of Putin's authoritarianism and of his government's human rights violations in Chechnya. She was shot twice by an unknown assailant.

Sources from Novaya Gazeta and human rights organizations around the world intimated that she may have been killed for political reasons. It may not even have been the first attempt. On her way to cover the Beslan school massacre in 2004, someone—the Russian security service, she said—poisoned her and sent her to the hospital.

Agents for Putin's government would have ample reason to try again now:
In the days before her death, Politkovskaya had been working on a story about torture in Chechnya, which was expected to be published on Monday, her newspaper said.
The Committee to Protect Journalists called her murder a "devastating development for journalism in Russia."

If the government was involved, this incident is at once an indication of how much better we have it in the United States, and how much worse it can get. Putin's Russia is a textbook example of what can happen when too much power is consolidated in the hands of the executive.

We have a long, long way to go before we sink to Russia's level, but we're not exactly going in the right direction at the moment.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Teetotally Logical

Jon Swift reminds us why the Democrats are really responsible for the Mark Foley page scandal: They led the charge to repeal Prohibition in 1933, thus enabling otherwise upstanding citizens like Mark Foley and Mel Gibson to have a few drinks and therefore not be at all responsible for anything they say or do (or type).

Jon gets extra credit for having my favorite Denny Hastert photo of all time.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Off the Mark

I have to admit I'm impressed by the sophistry of Republican arguments about the Mark Foley affair. Here's a typical response you may expect to hear regurgitated by the Limbaughs and Hannitys of the party pep squad: Well, the Democrats have done much worse. Look at that guy in 1983. The Democrats went easy on him.

The problem with this argument is that it doesn't lead anywhere. If the Democrats did something in 1983 that you keep bringing up, you have two choices: a) you can agree with their conduct, or b) you can disagree with their conduct. Obviously, the Republicans disagree with the decision to go soft on Gerry Studds, so they certainly can't be advocating the same treatment for Foley.

They may manage to score hypocrisy points against the Democrats (or at least the ones who were in Congress in 1983), but they can't in any way use this to justify letting Foley off the hook unless they actually agree with the original outcome, which, if they did, they wouldn't be bringing it up as an example of hypocrisy in the first place.

So, it's just an attempt to change the subject. The issue of what we should do about this situation is left behind in a confusion of smoke and mirrors. Even if we were wrong in the past, that doesn't mean we should be wrong now, unless Republicans don't really care about anything but the party.

If you think Foley did nothing wrong, then say it and say it loud! If not, then it makes no difference if you're opponents are hypocrites. Keep up this line of argument and you'll just end up as hypocrites, too. And so the world of Washington turns...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Non-Excuse Excuse

The first thing Mark Foley (R-FL) did when the page scandal shitstorm blew up around him was retreat into rehab (where he's comparing notes with Mel Gibson, no doubt). It may well have been an attempt to get people to feel sorry for him, but the general impression is that he retreated into rehab less to dry out than to lay low.

But that doesn't mean he can't issue self-serving statements through his attorney. For example, yesterday the disgraced ex-Congressman's lawyer, David [Lee?] Roth, disclosed that Foley had been molested "by a clergyman" when he was a teenager.
"Mark does not blame the trauma he sustained as a young adolescent for his totally inappropriate" e-mails and instant messages, Roth said. "He continues to offer no excuse whatsoever for his conduct."
He just felt like disclosing his history of sexual molestation for no reason whatsoever. Just randomly, as it were. It's certainly not to make you feel bad for him, unless you do feel bad for him, that is.

Mr. Roth continued:
"There was absolutely no inappropriate sexual contact with any minor...and any suggestion that Mark Foley is a pedophile is false," Roth said.
Which makes it all the more puzzling that he would disclose his own history of abuse now. It's well known that adults who were sexually abused as kids are far more likely to become molesters themselves. Discussing his past molestation is only going to strengthen the impression that Foley is a pedophile.
Roth also acknowledged for the first time that the former congressman is gay, saying the disclosure was part of his client's "recovery."

"Mark Foley wants you to know he is a gay man," Roth said.
Yeah, thanks. We picked up on that.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Wishful Thinking Watch

There's an excellent post up at the Inside Cable News blog about FOX News, which may be having some trouble coming to terms with Hurricane Mark Foley.

On the 8 pm version of The O'Reilly Factor last night, everyone's favorite 'T-Warrior', Bill O'Reilly, ran some stock footage of ex-congressman Mark Foley (R-FL). Here's what that looked like:



Notice anything? According to FOX News, apparently, Mark Foley is a Democrat! Thankfully, they fixed the error in time for the 11 pm rebroadcast:



Nice. Notice how they didn't put in (R-FL), they just left it out altogether. Ah, but that's how I like my news. Not just Fair, but Balanced, too!

Driven to Distraction

I was thumbing through the Wall St. Journal today (I swear, I only read it for the pictures) when I saw this Toyota ad:



I don't know why it caught my eye—probably because there's something in the depths of my soul that makes it impossible for me to avoid looking at billboards. I looked at the ad again and something struck me: Toyota is trumpeting the dangers of driver distraction with a giant, text-heavy billboard. Exactly the kind of billboard that makes people like me take their eyes off the road and endanger the lives of everyone around.

Perhaps Toyota should take this idea back to the drawing board. I even have a suggestion for a new concept:
HeadOn! The Kind of Crash You'll Have if You Don't Pay Attention
HeadOn! The Kind of Crash You'll Have if You Don't Pay Attention
HeadOn! The Kind of Crash You'll Have if You Don't Pay Attention
That one's free of charge, Toyota.

Blaming the Victims

Nice to see Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post sticking it to the real culprits in the Mark Foley IM-gate scandal: the victims.
Among the many depressing aspects of the downfall of Mark Foley—who has now done the inevitable checking-into-rehab thing—is that a number of young people could have blown the whistle on this deceptive congressman in recent years, but didn't.
For shame. He then adds this grace note:
Now I don't want to come down on 16-year-old kids (though some are now as old as 21 [and it would be just fine to come down on a 21-year-old who had been sexually exploited by a 54-year-old government official, -ed.]) who must have been intimidated by the whole thing. Indeed, the power imbalance between a big-shot member of Congress and a lowly page is part of what makes this infuriating.

But did they really think that if they told the outside world that the co-chair of the Exploited Children's Caucus was sending them, or their friends, graphic sexual messages, that their future careers would be ruined? That they would be washed up in politics? Isn't it more likely that they would be hailed as brave for doing the right thing?
Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Has Kurtz not heard of people like Karl Rove? Is he unaware that the best marksmen in America are the character assassins of Washington, D.C.? Couple that fact with the added anxiety and shame of being hit on by some guy their fathers' age and all the homosexual undertones (which, in case you weren't aware, aren't necessarily all that cool among the Young Republican set) and it becomes very understandable that they might not want to volunteer this information.

Humble Pie for Red State Bloggers

A lot of right-wing bloggers got eaten alive yesterday by the breaking news bug. Horrible, intolerant Muslims hijacked a plane to protest the Pope's upcoming visit to Turkey. The only problem? The initial reports were all ass-backwards.

For a while yesterday afternoon, Drudge used the headline "Motive: Pope Protest..." to link the following CNN story. And I quote:
Earlier reports on Tuesday that two hijackers were protesting Pope Benedict XVI's planned visit to Turkey were apparently incorrect; authorities now say that the single hijacker has requested political asylum.... Turkish officials said the hijacker, identified as Hasan Ekinci, wrote a letter to the pope in August asking for help in avoiding service in the Turkish army. "I am a Christian and don't want to serve a Muslim army," he wrote, adding that he had been attending church since 1998.
Oops.

Little Green Footballs jumped the gun, too. In their original post, titled "Turks Hijack Plane to 'Send Message' to Pope", the writer claims to have "completely run out of 'irony' quips."

I, for one, found it not a little bit ironic that LGF just threw their hands up in disgust at yet another group of Islamofascists doing what those Islamofascists do—until they found out that he was actually a Christian (you know, the real religion of peace), making the hijacking sound downright reasonable in their update. He was, after all, only trying to "avoid serving as a Christian in Turkey's Muslim army."

For the record, Turkey's army is made up of Muslims (since the vast majority of Turks are Muslims), but it's about as far as one could get from a "Muslim army". This is no Hezbollah we're talking about. The Turkish army is seen, especially by themselves, as a bulwark against extremism and instability. They are nation's most prominent champions of secularism and Ataturkism, and they play an official (if sometimes contentions) role in the government.

Still, full points to Drudge, LGF, Michelle Malkin et. al. for eventually getting the story right. Not everybody got around to it, it seems. In an as-yet-uncorrected post called "Hijacking In The Name Of Peace", the Greetings from the French Hill blog wrote the following:
Apparently, these terrorists are claiming that they have hijacked the plane in order "to send a message" to the Pope. I guess the message would be, "Bow down to Islam OR ELSE we'll kill all these innocent people". Yeah, that, or "Islam is a peaceful religion. If you don't agree with us, we'll... kill all these innocent people." Yeah, makes perfect sense to me...
Apparently not.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Quote for Our Age

Let us not forget that violence does not and cannot flourish by itself; it is inevitably intertwined with lying. Between them there is the closest, the most profound and natural bond: nothing screens violence except lies, and the only way lies can hold out is by violence. Whoever has once announced violence as his method must inexorably choose lying as his principle.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, accepting the Nobel Prize in Literature, 1970

Oddly enough, the first line of this quote was trotted out by Ann Coulter in her book Godless to castigate liberals for their support (nay, love) of abortion. I trust she wasn't being shallow and callous in her choice of quotes, and that she deeply agrees with Mr. Solzhenitsyn on the topic he spent so much of his life writing about: the inhumane treatment of prisoners and the intrinsic value of the human soul. Right?
I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East, and sending liberals to Guantanamo.
Ann Coulter, 2005

Never mind.

Cold Calculus in Iraq

Much joy in Mudville over the news that 4000 "foreign insurgent fighters" (i.e., the bad guys) have been killed in Iraq since 2003.

Meanwhile, Iraqi civilians have been dying lately at a clip of over 3000 per month. That's a new 9/11 every 30 days. On average, it's the same number of Iraqis as died per month when Saddam was in power.

Why don't I feel better about this?

Bill Frist: Dr. Demento

The Democrats are all a bunch of candy-assed soft-on-terror pussies. Meanwhile, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D., (R-Tenn.) thinks the Taliban should be invited to join the Afghan government.

Using that keen diagnostic skill he's so famous for, Frist had this to say: "Military versus insurgency one-to-one doesn't sound like it can be won. It sounds to me ... that the Taliban is everywhere."

So, just to be clear, the U.S. does not negotiate with terrorists, but Hamid Karzai sure as heck should. Brilliant.
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