Logomachon






Clearing the Fog
in the
War of Words

 

   
  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.

   
   
   
 

2004-12-31
 

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.--Logomachon
The 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.

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."
Yourish.com has the details, including copies of the original story, which has been pulled from CWN, but not its many Web spawn.

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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.

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.
In other words, we must have had it coming to us.

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.



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2004-12-28
 

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!
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.
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.

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.




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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.




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2004-12-26
 

Today's lesson

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.
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 . . .
whereupon Colin immediately stopped fussing, pointed his finger at me, and said “See! Don’t nag.”

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.


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"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 Faceâ. (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.

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