||logomachy--1. A dispute
about words. 2. A dispute carried on in words only; a battle of words.
logomachon--1. One who argues about words.
2. A word warrior.
Vatican was right all along
A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on--Charles Haddon Spurgeon
A lie can be all over the Internet before the Truth has booted up its ISP.--LogomachonThe Vatican often takes an "even-handed" approach regarding Israel versus the Jordanian castoffs (aka, the Judean Arabs), but it seemed to have outdone itself when Catholic World News reported that the Vatican's newspaper was scolding Israel for refusing aid to Sri Lanka. Others picked up that story, slamming the Vatican for getting the story wrong and for anti-semitism (here and here): What had actually happened was that Sri Lanka had rejected an Israeli medical mission because it contained military personnel. Sri Lanka did accept a jumbo jet of material aid.
Meanwhile, it turned out that CWN had the story backwards. The correct headline and story was L'Osservatore raps Sri Lanka for declining disaster relief. CWN says a "crucial error in translation caused a serious misinterpretation of the news", and now reports
Calling for "a radical and dramatic change of perspective" among people "too often preoccupied with making war," L'Osservatore Romano chastised the government of the stricken Asian nation for putting unnecessary restrictions on an Israeli offer to furnish medical help.
Yourish.com has the details, including copies of the original story, which has been pulled from CWN, but not its many Web spawn.
The Vatican paper observed that in what "should be a time for unconditional solidarity," some world leaders seem incapable of escaping a "small-minded approach that restricts their horizons."
Tsunamis' spiritual silver lining
Amid all the reports this
Christmas holiday season of the excesses of extreme secularists, the deaths of 100,000 people by tsunamis have brought a heartening indication that spirituality is still strong among, of all people, the intelligentsia. Author Simon Winchester writes in the New York Times that
This year just ending - which the all-too-seismically-aware Chinese will remind us has been that of the Monkey, . . . [was] much prone to terrestrial mischief Inspired by the Gaia theory, Winchester explains that though the devastation around the Indian Ocean might “seem in human terms so tragically unjust”, it was all part of a higher plan, a “part of a vast system of checks and balances.” The events of this week were “
of unmitigated horror: but they may also serve some deeper planetary purpose, one quite hidden to our own beliefs.
In other words, we must have had it coming to us.
For one thing is certain, and comfortless: on earth, eternally restless and alive, there will, and without a scintilla of doubt, be a next time.
Well, maybe Winchester finds some comfort in having Mother Earth kicking ass and taking names, but I don’t want to live in a world that allows such suffering.
Bad news from Iraq
Steven Vincent at In the Red Zone continues to offer new and fresh insights on developments in Iraq. Recent posts have discussed some unsettling indications that interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s campaign strategy may be to form a Shia-Sunni alliance aiming to bring back a “Saddam lite” authoritarian regime. Part of the motivation is to make Iraq strong enough to resist Iranian moves after the US pulls back.
Allawi states his case here.
Yesterday’s post contains a report from Khalid, a formerly very upbeat Iraqi journalist, who has now left the country because of the predominance of gangsters allied with political factions (or vice versa). Last Spring Khalid and some other journalists told Vincent about the gangsters and graft operating “under the passive noses of the British”. Now, Khalid writes,
Basra looks like a town in the American West, where gangsters and killers become the only authority and anyone who tries to discover their crimes will be shut-down and presented as a criminal and an outlaw!
Private militias are an almost inevitable development, but they are not permanent. They can be superseded, suppressed, or co-opted. In South Vietnam, some units of the irregular troops (CIDG) run by the US Special Forces were effectively units of FULRO, the montagnard resistance organization. As CIDGs' capabilities developed and their areas of operation were stabilized, the Green Berets withdrew and the CIDG camps were converted to regular army units. In another case, the private armies of the warlords in Afghanistan are being absorbed into the national army.
It is like this: the gangsters control the government and steal money through many different ways, but most particularly through fictitious contracts. Their militias wear the uniform of the Iraqi National Guard. They are loyal only to their party chieftains.
What the situation is Basra does show is that regular army forces are not trained to deal with lawbreaking and gangsterism, any more than cops are trained to use tactical air support. Law enforcement by line troops pretty much begins and ends with martial law.
Gangsterism will persist until civil society has developed further. The rooting out of gangster rule and corruption requires strong action by higher levels of government, just as the U.S. Constitution makes the Federal government responsible for ensuring that each state has a republican form of government. This is a police responsibility, but coalition forces must be available to provide muscle for crushing or forcing the disbanding of gangster militias.
The Masters of Bugga-boo lose one
Whew! It looks like that asteroid won’t hit in 2029. Fortunately, new data were uncovered in old observations before some senator could start a Federal program centered in his state or hold hearings blaming Donald Rumsfeld. (h/t to Jerry Pournelle)
Of course, since the probability of a collision was no more than 2.7% with the initial data, it’s no big improvement, so there is NO REASON TO GET TOO COCKY. The Masters of Bugga-boo still have lots of horrible things in store for us, from the evils of outsourcing to global warming nonsense.
Some of this urge toward hysteria drove the headline writer of "Tsunami risk here is remote, scientists say", but the article is interesting, if a bit off-kilter in its explanation of the mechanics of tsunamis (this page is good on the generation of the tsunami, and this one has a clear explanation of the hydrodynamics, with just enough math to be satisfying). Philadelphia is too far inland to be affected by even an extraordinary tsunami, but the article goes on to consider ever-more remote possibilities of an Atlantic coast tsunami caused by geophysical disturbances. No mention of a meteorite striking the Atlantic.
I think they missed something, though.
Philadelphia lies on the flood plains of two tidal rivers. A tsunami would reach a few hundred feet inland from the Jersey Shore. But what happens at the 15-mile wide mouth of the Delaware Bay? Would the tsunami create a bore that would sweep up the 103 miles to the Philadelphia/Camden waterfronts?
Not that I’m worried. I live five miles away from the river, on the last outcropping of the Piedmont Plateau, 100 feet above the city.
Nine years ago, Colin was four and being fussy at Mass on the Sunday after Christmas, the Feast of the Holy Family. As the reading of the Epistle began, I sat him on my lap and tried to calm or distract him, only half listening to the passage from Colossians 3:18-21:
18-Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
whereupon Colin immediately stopped fussing, pointed his finger at me, and said “See! Don’t nag.”
19-Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. [“Col. 3:19” is engraved in my wife’s wedding ring.]
20-Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.
21-Fathers, do not nag your children . . .
After Mass, I sat him down with the missal and explained to him the full import of the passage, especially verse 20, which had somehow escaped his notice.
"Everybody hates Ahmed!"
In the Red Zone (ITRZ) publishes a confidential State Department memo, a proposal to give Iraqis a sitcom to “counter the effects of Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabia.” The idea is to use alternative media to reduce tensions between Shia and Sunnis.
The set-up for "My Son the Shia," is that
Abu Dulaimy, head imam of an ultra-orthodox Wahhabi mosque in Falluja, sends his son Ahmed off to engineering school in Basra. After two years, Ahmed comes back home married to the beautiful, but ditzy Layla. Problem is, Layla is Shia--and Ahmed has converted in order to marry her, driving Abu crazy!In the pilot, “just before Ramadan, Layla hopes to impress her new in-laws by cooking her sure-fire mazgouf recipe,” only she forgets that Sunnis start the holiday before the Shia. “Old Abu and his four wives try to maintain their fast, while trying to keep the city's religious police from dynamiting their house.”
In another side- and head-splitting episode, hilarity ensues again, when Imam Abu tells his Wahhabi congregation that Shiism is a Jewish plot against Islam. His son Ahmed gets so angry that he tells the local American commander about the rocket-propelled grenades hidden under the mosque.
Still another plot has Layla baking again. This time, it’s cookies to celebrate Mohammad's birthday. We are assured that “the scene where she gets chased down the street by an angry mob threatening to stone her to death is a classic!”
Can you imagine] Is this some kind of spoof or satire] What kind of Foggy Bottom numbskull would think twice about such an idea]
Why, that would be like Stars and Stripes during the Vietnam War publishing a cartoon about a goofy American platoon with their fat, hapless sergeant and their winsome opposite numbers in the “Nget Cong” with their own a fat, hapless sergeant. It might have been called “Nguyen Charlie” and looked something like this:E
That was a hell of a way to fight a war, compared with the buck-toothed, bespectacled Nips of WWII, and Donald Duck’s Nazi nightmare in “Der Fuehrer's Face”â. (The artist did some latter day strips involving Swift Boats. See if you can spot the flip-flops on the boat’s lantern-jawed officer in charge.)
So I think that if “Operation Infinite Ratings” can fly under Condi’s radar, it looks good for a mid-season replacement. Plans are to introduce some additional featured characters, and I have this idea for an English language spin-off. I can’t say too much now, but if you can grasp the potential of “The Fresh Thief of Baghdad”, have your girl call my girl and we’ll do lunch.
ãI looked for a download for this cartoon. I found a link on a neo-Nazi site (where people thought it was a riot, except the guy who objected that conditions were not so bad in Hitler’s Germany). The download site (steakandcheese.com) is full of ads for porn, but this link will open the cartoon directly in Windows Media Player.
More records John Kerry won't release
Yes, the election is over, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy a bit of snarky gossip you can dine out on for the New Year. I have to protect my source, so I will just say he is a friend and a trustworthy eye-witness.
The lacrosse squad at a major, academically top-hole East coast university has scouting reports going back to . . . oh, the Medes and the Persians. Before the election, the coaches got e-mails and phone calls from alumni, asking them to look at the scouting reports on Yale from the mid-1960s.
The coaches were laughing at what they had found when my friend walked in. They showed him the report from 1965 for John Kerry. Overall, it was a pretty positive evaluation, but down at the end of the page was this sentence:
Weak on defense.
Two Wheelers’ Three Laws of Motion
I recently cast a cold eye on Becca Hutchinson’s complaint that drivers in Newark, DE, don’t show proper consideration for her when she rides her bike to work. My impatience with her didn’t arise just from her bad writing and the fact that she sounds like a humorless scold who wants everyone else to change because she feels unhappy. Based on my own experience, I believe her problem is the result of her own self-centered bad attitude.
For three years during and after grad school, I lived and cycled in Newark. I have been a bike commuter in Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh, and this past Summer I commuted by bike to a consulting gig in Center City Philadelphia, where I learned that the way to deal with traffic is the Way of the Urban Deer.
Urban DeerThree decades ago a writer in a cycling magazine described cyclists as “urban deer”, slipping silently through the noisy city, flitting along their own invisible trails, unhindered by One-Way signs or traffic signals, fleet, agile, alert, and aware. Some people might conclude from this description that cyclists scoff at the rules for cars and pedestrians, but that is wrong. We just interpret them differently, in the light of the Two Wheeler’s Three Laws of Motion: Don’t get hit. Don’t hit anything. Don’t stop.
But make no mistake. Bicyclists’ ability to flout the letter of the law—OK, flagrantly disdain every scintilla of order and restraint—depends on automobiles’ adherence to the law. We can run red lights and ride between the lanes because we know that drivers wait for the green and keep in their lanes. In turn, we mustn’t do anything that inconveniences or startles a driver. We don’t interrupt their traffic flow; they let us ride to our own rhythms. Viva USA!
Anyway, whenever a driver gives me an opening, I wave my thanks.
Granted, in Newark, Becca doesn’t have the advantage of learning the True Practice of the Way of the Urban Deer from its Supreme Adepts, the bicycle messengers. Listen and take heed, o pilgrim! The key is not to think of yourself as fighting the cars for the road, as Becca does. To the urban deer, the road and the traffic are one, as the pebbles and flowing water are one to the brook trout.
I learned this from watching the messengers, like this encounter on the Chestnut Street bridge over the Schuylkill River.
Learning the WayI had started following the messenger when he passed me on Chestnut. We were moving as fast as the cars on the bridge when he left the bike lane and moved left to ride the center stripe. I knew why he wanted to avoid the curb lane. Just across the bridge there’s a light: the bike lane disappears, cars make right turns, and the pavement looks as though it was last repaired by Ben Franklin.
A gap between cars gave me an opportunity to get on the center stripe, but I didn’t do it the way the messenger had. I cautiously took a position in the right lane, as though I were a car, then moved to ride the stripe. Conceptually, I was riding on a stationary road trying to avoid the cars whizzing by. The messenger rode the traffic flow the way a fish swims in a river. The lane he wanted was the “lane” on the centerline between two rows of cars. The entrance to that “lane” was next to the left bumper of the car ahead of him. He just swam diagonally through the traffic to the entrance and rolled down the “lane” between the cars.
When I had started bike commuting into Philly, the morning ride took 45 minutes. After watching and learning from the Supreme Adepts, I brought the time down to 30 minutes and sometimes less. For example, a few mornings after I followed the messenger, I was coming down the hill toward 42nd St. A college kid on a trail bike swung onto Spruce and pedaled hard up the long hill toward 40th St. This was a challenge.
I caught up to him as he slowed behind a truck blocking the bike lane at 41st. I swung to the centerline, passed the truck on the left, and zipped across the intersection. The kid must have taken it as a challenge, too. When I slowed to check the cross traffic at 40th, he passed me. On the flat beyond 40th, a solid line of cars kept me on his fender in the bike lane, but as we headed down the slope toward 38th, I again cut through traffic to the centerline to swing around the pedestrians and the cars turning right. I was across the broad 38th St. intersection before the kid even entered it, and sailed smugly down the hill toward the river.
As was now usual, I rode the painted line between lanes across the Schuylkill bridge. When a bus’s butt blocked me, the driver in the right lane made a space for me to get around. When she came even with me at the light, she smiled up through her window and says “You be careful”.
Cherry cockyFinally, a word of caution. After a couple of weeks of building skill and confidence, I got into the cherry cocky zone, that level of experience just past the first flush of competence, which afflicts pilots (I’m told) and motorcyclists (as I know from personal experience). I began taking chances without realizing they were chances.
And sometimes I took chances that I knew were chances.
One morning in University City, a bus blocked the curb lane, and a large Fed-Ex van was in the next lane. I rolled between them, feeling anxious as the sky closed above me. There was very little chance that the drivers knew I am there. I had to duck to get my shoulders under their mirrors. I beat them across the intersection, but they passed me and again blocked the road at a light. Without a thought, I went between them again, this time pedaling to keep my speed up. (It is counter-intuitive, but faster is better in tight spaces. You spend less time in the danger zone.) I ducked the mirrors, popped out in front of the bus as the light changed, and was around the corner before they started moving.
Imagination is the enemy of action.
For details, see my bicycle-commuter log.
Narcissism on wheels
A case study in thinking locally and acting globallyWhat do you think of when you get on a bike? That it is a ”noble form of transport” that makes you less selfish than motorists?
Whatever you are thinking, you can’t be more lofty-minded than Becca Hutchinson, for whom cycling to work is a way “to save the world or improve myself” or ““to make a statement about saving the Alaskan wilds or ending the war in Iraq, and whatever benefits the Earth might reap”.
If this sounds too good to be true, just look at her picture. Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover, and one look at Becca and you know she is not a woman to be trifled with. She is of a decidedly stern, no-nonsense demeanor. It is clear that she suffers no fool gladly, and she is never beguiled by frivolities or distracted by the unrighteous. Seeing her picture, one is comforted by the knowledge that the English language holds in reserve the expression “crack a smile”, should it ever be needed.
What the picture tells us, the thousand words of her essay confirm, for nothing can hide from her those opportunities to bike for good, even though she began biking to work in the cozy hamlet of Newark, DE, because she “just wanted to save some Franklins on parking.”
Nor does she falter as the miles roll by. Her eye is fixed on the most unselfish and virtuous behavior, even though it eludes her in practice.
I'd like to be able to say that since those early days I've done a 180 and broadened my focus, boxed up the money I've saved on parking and gas, and mailed it off to a worthy organization such as the Sierra Club or Doctors Without Borders, but that's not the case.For Becca, bicycling has been an invaluable occasion for moral preening of her sensibilities. But enough about her. After only one of her allotted three columns, she turns her attention to others and discerns areas where her fellow commuters could stand some shaping up, especially in their attitudes toward her.
Pedaling to work each day, fighting cars for my share of the shoulder, has started me thinking about greed and excess and what it means to tune out the other guy in the name of progress. She is impelled to both struggle and these melancholy meditations on her fellow man because she is being attacked by the weighty auras of hostility projected by passing drivers.
On a bike on any given workday, the aggression you feel from passing cars is immediate and powerful enough to shave you off the shoulder in an instant. . . . It's amazing what a few layers of metal and glass can do to dull a person's humanity, and more amazing still what having a full tank of gas and the spare change to buy it can do to boost his false sense of entitlement. [Ed.A-hem! His] His]]] Does dulling a person’s humanity ipso facto make him or her male?] Isn’t it enough that ”you suck a fair amount of exhaust as a cyclist”?
Amazingly, her—apparently unremarkable—ability to read the minds of her fellow commuters has not enabled her to ameliorate this insufficient concern for her, the noble cyclist. Her sedulous efforts to arouse drivers from their dulled humanity have been unavailing:
You can flip as many birds to as many selfish drivers as you like, but your feeble attempts to humble them are like the voice of the wind down the road.The frustration of her attempts at gentle one-on-one suasion has not discouraged her. The nature of the road block to Becca’s utopia is clear, and Becca doesn’t boggle at the solution:
If more motorists put down their car keys and hopped on their bikes . . . the shift couldn't help but improve bike lanes, traffic and attitudes.She offers her modest proposal with some initial diffidence . . .
I don't know where an answer for the question of road-sharing lies. But if the wheels in my head are spinning in the right direction, I'm certain that some sort of balance can be reached.. . . but only at first. The gas-free “revolution” is just too good not to share . . . with the whole wide world.
. . . imagine [Imagine!] what the world, or at least my town, would be like if everyone went gas-free. It's been years since all the places we need to get to have existed within walking or biking distance. If we downshifted from motors to manpower, even on a small scale, the possibilities for change would outstretch I-95. You may be wondering why I am bothering to lift the rock from a blogress so self-centered, ungenerous, judgmental, severe, irritable, frustrated, and passive-aggressive. How can we expect any wisdom from someone who displays in such pure form every twitch and trope of the narcissistic liberal psyche?
Look at her last paragraph. Is she saying the world should change for her convenience, or that making her life easier will induce earth-shaking changes? Either way, it’s pretentious megalomania. If cars are necessary, then in a carless world change wouldn’t be a “possibility”, it would be necessary and unavoidable. What change does she anticipate? What change would be desirable? She hasn’t thought about it at all, let alone imagined it. All she knows is the liberal credo: A better world is possible; I am justified because I wish for that better world.
So, why? Well, first, she is not a blogress. She laid bare her spiritual failings and macadam persecutions in My Turn, Newsweek, 4 October 2004. More important, her essay is a distillation of liberal rhetoric: Moral posturing with politically correct clichés to excuse a lack of moral action. Projecting her own anger onto others, and casting them as the sinners. Arguing from hypotheticals. Thinking it is sufficient to put words together in a sentence, no matter how discordant their meanings. Seizing the victim’s mantle. Confusing levels of abstraction. Confidently deploying convenient scientific factoids (contrary to Becca, cyclists inhale less pollution than car passengers (see here , here , and here).
And then there is the bad writing. In service to all the bien-pensant boiler plate, she deploys platitudes, false antithesis, consequences without antecedents, absurd redundancy (”a full tank of gas and the spare change to buy it”), and phrases of judicious reflection to introduce shibboleths that were cut, dried, and canned long ago. I urge you to read it, for the sheer wonder of it.
Second, my mother clipped the article for me.
And third, I have some experience with other solutions to Becca’s “problem”, and I will write more about them soon.
Did Rachel Corrie's Parents Kill Arafat?
Just when you thought that AIDS would be best story about Arafat's death--after the mere fact of it--the ever reliable Little Green Footballs places Rachel's parents at the head of the line of suspects: motive and opportunity; the means may always be a mystery. (hat tip to the Corner)
Geo-politically, AIDS would be better. The Jordan would run white from the frothing mouths of the Judean Arabs.
Cleansing Sword of Allah redux
Earlier, I noted the excerpts from Steven Vincent's In the Red Zone at NRO and repeated my belief that the US had missed an opportunity by not making the Iraqis take responsibility for Saddam, acknowledge that he had oppressed and humiliated them, and accept that America had rescued them when they could not help themselves. In a word, we should have “rubbed their faces in it”.
The NRO series constitutes Chapter 4, "The Resistance", of In the Red Zone. It explains how Western opinion and policy makers have misunderstood the nature of the Sunni insurgency because they are casting it inappropriately into the conceptual framework of 20th-century "wars of national liberation". I had some reservations after the first excerpt about where Vincent was going to go, but the whole series turns out to be very, very good.
Vincent's first article (The Power of Shame) describes how even apparently rational Iraqis hate the US for having liberated them.
America the Omnipotent reports on the fantasies into which the Arab mind escapes:
It is tempting to discount Ahmed's analysis [that Saddam was kept in power by the Jews] as typical of the anti-Semitism one finds with tedious regularity in Iraq. But it reveals many of the demons that lie beneath the surface of the Iraqi national character: historical grievances, conspiratorial thinking, and a kind of bi-polar superiority-inferiority dynamic. Moreover, his comments point to another, equally troubling impulse that confuses Western observers and informs the nature of the Iraqi "insurgency": an unwillingness to take the blame for Saddam.[Ed. Emphasis added.]The Oppressive Occupier? records the bitterness of the people in the Sunni Triangle, who believe that things were better under Saddam. For Sunnis, in many ways, they were. For nearly 500 years the Ottomans and then the British had cultivated the Sunnis as a bulwark against the Shi’a Persians to the east. Then, "Under Saddam, a Sunni himself,
the religious sect reached the apogee of its power, thriving under a system of patronage and government benefits that awarded them top positions in all aspects of Iraqi life. In 2003, the American war machine ended their reign; suddenly, the jobs, pensions, and prestige the Sunnis used to lord over the Kurds and Shi’a were gone.Rage Against the Foreigner continues his tour of the Sunni Triangle. He finds the root of the Sunni insurgency and its “air of pointless, self-destructive violence” in the Sunnis’ tribal structure and its multifaceted concept of honor.
For my part, I discovered this cultural and psychological phenomenon [the compulsion to expunge the “living death” of public dishonor by violent vengeance] throughout the Sunni Triangle. While conversing with dozens of residents, I felt much less the anger of a population that was "occupied," "oppressed," or "enslaved" than the self-loathing of a people in disgrace. After decades of imperious rule, the Sunni Ba’athists were crushed by America—shamed, humiliated, they felt they had lost something perhaps even more precious than jobs or political power: honor. The Wrong Words reviews the rhetoric of the, um, well that’s the problem: Is it a Resistance, or an insurgency, or a guerilla war against an American Liberation, or Occupation, or US-backed Provisional Government. The romantic, conventional models of the 20th century don’t fit; the terms may be technically accurate, but the moral connotations are all wrong. The murdering savages are ill-lit in the heroic glow of Resistance, and the Coalition is not an oppressive, Nazi Occupation. Clarity requires “we see in all their glory the anti-Coalition forces
so admired by many on the left and in the media: ex-Ba’athists who kill American troops out of a sense of humiliation and dishonor, and foreign jihadists who wish to see the U.S. "occupiers" remain in the country in order to justify additional attacks against their fellow Muslims.
Terms like "paramilitaries" and "neo-fascists" would better describe these Ba'athist and mujihadin killers, whose primary victims are the Iraqi people. The left-tinged press, says Vincent, hasn’t adopted them because it is still fighting the last war.
What kind of "Resistance" is this?
Steven Vincent blogs about Iraq at In the Red Zone.
I just reread my previous post. It occurred to me that there are probably people who--if they were on those e-mail lists--would read about the generals serving chow and would scoff "Oh, that's nothing. One night! That's no big deal."
They are right. It is no big deal. But can you think of any general in history (maybe U.S. Grant) who realized it is "nothing". Those senior officers and NCOs are just in their forties. They have children the ages of their young troops. [When I was in 8th grade, the father of one of the kids in my Scout patrol was an admiral.) They probably really enjoyed relaxing and joshing around like the guys on the barbecue line at the Knights of Columbus picnic, seeing young people tuck in with a hearty appetite. It really is nothing.
Here is the big deal: Can you think of any army in history where the generals could do that?
The media made a big fuss about SP4 Jery Wilson's asking Donald Rumsfeld why his Guard unit had to scrounge armor for their Humvees. "Speaking truth to power" was the immediate reporter's cliché. They seemed to think he had gotten away with something, and were also surprised that he had gotten away with it.
I wasn't surprised on either count. MSM journalists and the class-conscious liberal crowd they run with know nothing about the military. Their ideas are formed from Saturday Night Live sketches and reruns of Dr. Strangelove and Patton.
We had SOB, career-polishing officers in the Army back in the '60s, but most were good, and the better ones would have appreciated the question. Today's officers are children of the '60s and '70s, and in the volunteer military, the dynamic is even closer to the official definition of discipline: "the condition of good order and respect that exists between soldiers and superiors".
Now an ex-Marine of more recent vintage than mine writes that Marines are not only allowed to ask the tough questions that challenge superiors' assumptions, they are required to do so.
I soon discovered that this command to think and to ask questions wasn't mere rhetoric. I was serving with the First Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment at an abandoned pistol factory in Al Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad. Every three weeks or so, we were visited by Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, who was then commanding the First Marine Division in Iraq.
Finally, the Adventures of Chester shows how the Marines build morale. He posts something I got in an e-mail a while back: a Marine's account from near Baghdad of how the officers and senior NCOs of her unit took over all the ordinary duties--including the mess hall serving line--so the low ranking enlisted swine could have the night off to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner. If you can read this without getting a bit choked up, then you probably voted for Kerry and have already moved to Canada.
Gen. Mattis is a Marine's Marine, a true warrior who speaks bluntly and candidly, without being bound by the constraints of political correctness. For well over an hour, on a routine and regular basis, the general would gather together his Marines and field questions. Nothing was out of bounds. The event was entirely democratic and thoroughly American--though marked by standard military etiquette and respect for rank. Thus, newsmen and commentators who fear "retribution" against Spc. Wilson haven't a clue as to what the U.S. military is all about. Spc. Wilson asked a tough but fair question; however, for any U.S. serviceman who's ever been to war, this was hardly surprising.
As we came to the first gate to the camp, I was in shock because a Marine Corps Major was standing at the post. Along with the Major was a 1stSgt. . . He told me to proceed and have a Happy Thanksgiving. As we came to the second gate, a Marine Capt and a SgtMaj were standing the post. There was not a PFC or LCpl to be found. None of the posts had young Marines at them; Officers and Staff NCOs manned them all.
The command decided that the young Marines were going to have the night off to get some good chow. It was unbelievable, and a wonderful sight. The leadership took charge and took care of the younger Marines. This filled me with a pride indescribable with words. I am so honored to be a part of an organization like this. Marines taking care of Marines with such unselfishness.
As I went to Thanksgiving chow with my brothers and sisters, the IMEF Commanding General LtGen Saddler and the IMEF SgtMaj, SgtMaj Kent were serving chow. The amazing part was that they were so enthusiastic about it. Everyone was in a great mood, and ready to take on anything. It makes you think that if a 3 star general in the United States Marine Corps can serve turkey to a bunch of 18-20 year old Lance Corporals, then you can suck up whatever you have to do and stop complaining.
I dibs that usage
Elizabeth came home from college for Thanksgiving using "shotgun" as a transitive verb: "I shotgun the last piece of cake". I'd like to shotgun that usage. “Dibs” was good enough for us in our day; kids got no respect.
She and her friends do use "shotgun" in the standard slang way as a noun for the front passenger seat and as an--I don't know what, exclaimation?--to claim the seat: "SHOTGUN!". She and some others try to flout the unwritten rules that that one cannot call shotgun out of sight of the car or the day before the proposed trip, but the majority won’t let them. At least all is not chaos, revolution, and wild-fire individualism among the young.
I mentioned the generalized shotgun=claim usage to other adults (30+), They immediately got the usage but said they hadn't heard it before.
Elizabeth was also saying "I nose" to dibs something. This is her own variant, which she admits is non-standard. The standard is to use "nose" as a shunning spell, the inverse of "dibs".
She works in the dining hall at a retirement home (DRO for those with military experience). When someone points out a chore that needs to be done, he says "I nose that" to get out of doing it. After that, the last person to put his finger beside his nose must do the chore. I guess it came from playful use of "no" as a verb to mean "refuse/decline/exempt myself".
Is this usage wider than the staff of the retirement home?
The left’s LOL practice of referring to itself as a “reality-based community” went to ROFL after the election as it complained that a close (2.98%) loss was one more heartless abusive blow to their self-esteem and oh-by-the-way the end of the world.
The Democrats think Kerry lost because they just somehow didn’t quite understand red states. But they are wrong. It isn't just one thing. If the Democrats were any more disconnected from reality, they would be trying to fly out of windows and shaking hands with lampposts en masse.
A lovely example of how pathetically unable they are to imagine a world in which 51% of the people might vote Republican is a review of “Team America: World Police” in the 3 December issue of the liberal Catholic magazine Commonweal. As you probably know, “Team America” is by Matt Stone and Trey Parker of “South Park” fame. Team America, a co-ed A-Team with cooler toys, fights terrorists, who turn out to be underwritten by Kim Jong Il and backed by a gang of Hollywood stars like Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin, and Sean Penn.
[This isn’t a review, but if reviews have made you think you want to see it or rent it, my advice is forget about it. It is awful, and doubly so for being disappointing. It’s great that it “puts the ‘F’ back in Freedom”, and a treat to see Hans Blix fed to sharks and Susan Sarandon hurled 6 stories to splat like a ripe tomato, but when my wife said I owed her big time for dragging her to it, I didn’t argue. Save $20 and two hours: find somebody who really liked it and have him describe the good bits to you.]
Here is how Richard Alleva sees the movie.
Team America: World Police is the all-marionette satire of our current administration’s penchant for unprovoked invasion. Its creators . . . had the brilliant idea of debunking the mindset that brought about the invasion of Iraq without ever mentioning Bush, Cheney, et al., . . . and without overtly referring to the invasion. [Ed. emphasis added.]That’s clever. Bush and Iraq aren’t mentioned, so the movie must be a satire of Bush’s Iraq adventure. Just the way Moby Dick, which never mentions Standard Oil and John D. Rockefeller, is about the titanic struggle to build Standard Oil into an industrial behemoth. Oil is black, and Standard Oil is big, and, being a corporation, is ipso facto evil, while Moby Dick is white, and big, and being a whale, is good. Kerosene comes from oil and replaced whale oil as lamp fuel. It all makes sense! because I hate Big Oil and John D. Rockefeller.
Alleva’s enjoyment of the movie is not unsullied, though.
Parker and Stone don’t sustain the political satire of the initial scenes. Instead, they unintentionally turn their movie into a different, smaller kind of satire, a lampooning of Hollywood lefty celebrities. Because Parker and Stone wanted to satirize the mindset of George W. and Co. by getting inside it, they picture Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn, all the usual suspects, not only as war protestors but as gun-toting, karate-chopping champions of the North Korean dictator. On paper, that’s a valid way of satirizing right-wing paranoia. [Ed. emphasis added.]And that’s a problem because
the more we laugh at the Hollywood stars, the more “Team America” looks like direct satire of Hollywood and less and less like an attack on politicians. And that’s a very odd thing for a political satire to do.Despite the evidence and lack of evidence in front of him, Alleva remains convinced that the movie is mocking the politics that he wants mocked. He knows this because he wields that sovereign tool of liberal analysis: He knows what Stone and Parker’s thoughts and intentions are. Just as he knows without evidence what the intentions and motives of Bush and Cheney are.
In point of fact, “Team America” does fall flat, because it faithfully follows the plot arc of the team-with-a-mission films it is satirizing while failing to subvert the conventions of the individual scenes. The first scenes have some loopily over-the-top wish-fulfillment for the Baghdad Lutetiaque delendi sunt crowd, such as yours truly, but most of the rest is uninspired. While I’m sure Stone and Parker didn’t mean to be boring, Alleva believes the lampooning of Hollywood stars is “unintentional”. His case, to use his phrase, does all work on paper, especially inside the Democrat mutual affirmation society.
Unfortunately for his case, it doesn’t work if Stone and Parker’s intended targets actually are Islamic terrorists and pompous, hate-America liberals. If he had looked, well, almost anywhere, he’d know that out in the real world, Parker and Stone went from “right-leaning” non-voters in 2000 to being self-declared, Bush/Cheney tee-shirt wearing Republicans in 2004.
Cleansing Sword of Allah returns
On 15 November I wrote
The Iraqi attitudes that Americans find most incomprehensible--not to say idiotic--are the anger and blame that Iraqis direct against the US for invading their country. They're glad Saddam is gone. They acknowledge that his henchmen, or worse, will prevail if we leave. As though to confirm every suspicion we have had about Muslims' tenuous connection to reality, they say the invasion and occupation have shamed them, because they overthrew Saddam, or were about to, or would have. And what had Iraq ever done to us, anyway? Now National Review On Line is beginning a series by Stephen Vincent on "The Power of Shame--Why so many Americans don't get the Sunni opposition". [Ed. You tawkin' abou' me? You tawkin' abou' ME?] The writer describes an encounter shortly after the liberation with a "Sunni Muslim, an attractive, thirty-something writer, one of the few women I met who eschewed a scarf in public. And she was overjoyed at the demise of Saddam....
"I am so happy! Freedom at last! The world is open to me now!" she exclaimed during a small social function at an art gallery in Karada. . .
I don't think he is talking about me. I got the nature of Iraqi anger at the US; I just won't accept it:
-- "You must not mind seeing American soldiers on the streets."
The woman's smile vanished. Her brow darkened and she shook her head. "Oh, no. I hate the soldiers. I hate them so much I fantasize about taking a gun and shooting one dead."
Stunned by her vehemence, "But American soldiers are responsible for your freedom!" I replied.
"I know," the woman snarled. "And you can't imagine how humiliated that makes me feel."
Instead of treating Saddam as a fugitive from blind Western justice, US propaganda should have emphasized that he had humiliated the entire Iraqi population. Instead of reprimanding the soldier who threw Old Glory over the face of Saddam's statue as US soldiers pulled it down, we should have built on that image. We should have publicized the myriad ways that Saddam humiliated the people, how he robbed, raped, tortured, and mutilated them. They should have been shown that Saddam had shamed them before all the world. Iraqis should have had months of a steady diet of posters and videos showing how Saddam had ground them into the mud, and we had saved them. We should have rubbed their faces in it . . . and called the operation Cleansing Sword of Allah.
I don't buy the idea that the Iraqi resistance owes much to some mad fanatic spasm of patriotic bloodlust--though I suppose that if Arabs were ever motivated by patriotism, a spasm of bloodlust is as likely an expression as any other. For the Ba'athists, the resistance is part of a quagmire strategy. For the NGO jihadists, it is a tactical opportunity and a strategic challenge.
I don't know where Vincent is going to go with this. He says "The Kurds and the Shia have shown a willingness to negotiate over the future of Iraq--why not the Sunnis?", but then he talks as though this circumscribed resistance speaks for all Iraqis. A completely armchair suggestion is that Sunnis--Saddam's favored tribes--are the only people who feel that their Iraq has been humiliated.
Rumsfeld sandbagged...let's be proud
It is front page news that some reservists at a Q&A with defense secretary Rumsfeld told him that they were about to move into Iraq without proper armor both for their vehicles and themselves. It has also made headlines that the questions were set up by an imbedded reporter, who did not reveal his part in his own story of the Q&A. [Ed. But, but ... I thought it was going to be a GREAT day when the Army had to hold bake sales to buy equipment.]
NRO's Kerry spot allowed that
I think it was a little shady for Pitts [the reporter] to go to the officer running the question and answer session "and made sure he knew to get my guys out of the crowd," as the reporter put it. That strikes me as too close to stage managing.Uh, unh! Pitts' activities weren't close to stage-managing; they were stage managing. Not that there is anything much wrong with that, as long as you are up front about it.
But there are two things questionable, not to say wrong, about what Pitts did that being candid doesn’t absolve him of.
First, a soldier about to deploy can make a statement or ask a question about readiness with an authority that a reporter cannot. By the same token, a reporter should be held to a higher standard than the GI. He should have confirmed the accuracy of the statements he makes or implies.
Instead, Pitts got to make accusations and ask loaded questions and put them in the mouths of other people, or even feed them the questions, without having to take responsibility for them. As a situational justification, he says the questions came out of conversations with the troops he was embedded with, and the crowd reaction might have indicated that many in the unit were glad to them see raised with Rumsfeld. But that doesn’t change Pitt's responsibility. One of the assumptions in the questions was that Guard and Reserve units were being deployed with hand-me down equipment. This was a widespread and even predictable rumor among the troops, but it is denied by the command. A reporter is or should be expected to have investigated.
Second, the dramatic impact of a question--which is to say the "newsworthiness"--doesn’t just depend on the facts implied or assumed ("have you stopped beating your wife?"). It also depends on the relationship of questioner and answerer, because that relationship affects both the tone and content of the answer. Rumsfeld can answer a reporter's accusation much more objectively than he can answer the same accusation from a soldier. When a reporter says "I've been told that the Reserves get substandard equipment and the Regular army gets first-rate stuff", the answer can address the substance; Rumsfeld can just say "you were misinformed" or “we are dealing with that”. When a soldier says it, there is a personal, emotional aspect. Rumsfeld's answer to be effective must address the emotional aspect as well as the factual aspect. If nothing else, it makes it harder to communicate the facts.
In effect, Rumsfeld was sandbagged. He's a grown-up and has little to complain about, but that doesn't change the sleaziness of the manipulative sandbagger's behavior.
I'm glad to see the question raised, though I think Rumsfeld nailed it when he said you go to war with the Army you have. I also think it reveals a bit of a hangdog, miss-ish, whiney character to be complaining that they had to scrounge reinforcements to their vehicles. In my day (Vietnam), we scrounged and improvised, and we laughed and were proud of it!
The initiative shown by the troops and the fact that US soldiers can ask these kinds of questions to the top man in the chain of command are both things to be proud of. I notice that so far the politicians haven't jumped on this story. Probably because they know that a good part of the problem is that they have larded military procurement in pork fat and tied it up tight in red tape.
UPDATE: M0nday--I wish I had put it in writing last Friday, but I'm not surprised this has been pretty much a single news cycle story. Anyway, by friday evening the Kerry Spot had come around to what I wrote here in the morning.
Have you had a stroke now?. . . how about now? . . . Have you had . . .
…doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions: There are some e-mails going about the Internet offering this advice. My first thought when I received the e-mail was to ask when one should administer the test. One can’t, after all, go around like the “Can you hear me now” guy, walking up to people and asking them to raise their arms. Sure you can’t.
If he or she has trouble with any of these tasks, call 9-1-1 immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.
- Ask the individual to smile.
- Ask him or her to raise both arms.
- Ask the person to speak a simple sentence.
So, to whom should you administer the test? That guy standing on the corner, slapping a lottery ticket on his palm and staring into space?
Someone who falls down and holds his head while moaning and losing sphincter control?
Someone who voted for Kerry?
Another thing the e-mail could be clearer about: Once you have him standing there with a grimace on his face and his arms in the air, what sort of simple sentence do you ask him to repeat?
How about "My dog has fleas"?
Maybe "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers"?
Is "I'd rather have a free bottle in front of me than a pre-frontal lobotomy" asking too much? [Ed. If he doesn’t smile at that, has he had a stroke or is he just thick as a two-inch pine plank?]
It turns out that the e-mails are based on a press release from the American Stroke Association (part of the American Heart Association). The tests are intended to be used by 9-1-1 operators to have someone on the scene evaluate a possible stroke. Obviously, something serious enough to get 9-1-1 involved has already happened before you start playing Simon says with the victim.
So don’t try this at home, kids, except under the supervision of a certified emergency telephone-call operator.
P.S.The ASA lists warning sign of a possible stroke. Early detection is important, because clot-dissolving drugs can greatly reduce long-term disability from a stroke if they are administered within three hours.
With Hegelian irony, the PC exclusion of religious references from a
Christmas Holiday Parade of Lights may help the Boy Scouts defend themselves against the homosexual aggression.
Michelle Malkin reports that her Operation Lump of Coal has had some success.
However, sponsors of Denver's "Parade of Lights", i.e., Christmas parade, are still refusing to allow participation by church groups and others that primarily promote religion.
The reason, said the sponsors, is that Christmas carols might be offensive to others. In the 30 years that the parade has been staged by downtown commercial interests, the policy has been to "not include religious or political messages in the parade--in the interest of not excluding any group".
As irrational as that statement is, it does open up an interesting line of reasoning for the Boy Scouts, namely, arguing that homosexual scout masters might be offensive to somebody. Even more people might be offended if Scout were sending pre-pubescent boys into the woods in the care of perverts.
They could add a thirteenth item to the Scout Law that a Scout is "Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, Reverent" . . . and Sensitive!.
How is it
, I asked myself, that in all the terabytes burned about GWB in the last year, no one has thought of "Dubya-MD"? It was almost a relief to find that it did occur
to a few people. Curiously, almost all the Google hits are in song parodies. Apparently, only liberals with extra high verbal aptitudes were able to tumble onto such an obvious pun. Given the problems liberals have with humor and metaphor, perhaps this should not surprise.
The versifying doesn’t surprise, either, though it does show the advanced levels of intellection Blue Staters expect of themselves. [Ed. Yeah. If it’s too much to read the newspaper, can’t they at least run spell-check?]
This prolific gasbag
presumed to speak for the real soldiers, "many of whom really hate this war", which is--wait for it--"a quagmire . . . just like Vietnam". (The "Dubya MD" verse isn't worth repeating.)
. . . We had to face Saddam
We knew it all along
He had bombed and gassed the Kurdish folk, that's wrong!
Bush's strategy's the same
Positions haven't changed
And he can't admit he's blown this Iraq war!
Don’t vote for Bush Again/Won’t be fooled again/The Who
This guy was moved, if not to melody divine, then to rap irrational by "Chomsky, Pilger, Fisk and more", who told him "Oils [sic] the fundamental why/You've been sent out there to die". It goes on for 210 lines and dissolves into an anti-Red State-bourgeoisie rant that makes Michael Moore sound like Cicero. He, too, can't see any difference between GWB and Saddam Hussein.
. . .Osama he Bin Relagated [sic]
Iraq connection intimated
Iraquis [sic ad lib.] blew Dubya T C
Iraquis got Dubya M D
And Dubya wants Iraquis free
Any one is good but take all three
Evidence? can't let you see.
We're bringing them dem-o-cracy
But no elections, no siree
Can't have Iraq run by Shi'ites
Who don't respect our oil rights . . .
You've been lied to
But you don't get it
Buying trash on plastic credit
Patrotism [sic], is all you got
Mindless spineless emotive rot
But enough of them.
Let's talk our own trash. How about some e-mail signature lines and bumper stickers playing on the “Jesusland
” sneer. [Ed. Don’t forget Canada 2.0
.] If Jesusland is what our Democrat neighbors hate, we'll rub their noses in it.
First, let’s get the obvious ones out of the way.
Jesusland: Love it or leave it
Jesusland, My Jesusland
Jesusland: Heart- and Soul-land of America
OK. Now what will get in a liberal’s face and make him feel that the public thoroughfare is a hostile environment? How about
Join the Jesusland Crusade Against NGO Jihad [Ed. Islamofascists would burn the multiculti types.]
Jesusland—Faith, Hope, and Dubya-MDs [Ed. Uh, whose side are you on? OK, How about]
Liberties, SUVs, and Dubya-MDs in JESUSLAND
In Jesusland We Can Count Beyond the First Amendment
Jesusland. You Got a Problem with That?
Jesusland--We're here. We're near! Deal with it! [Ed. Just how Christian is attitude?]
WELCOME TO JESUSLAND [Ed. Simple yet infuriating.]
Jesusland: Men are Men. Women are Women. Babies are Born.