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Monday, January 31, 2005

Blue fingers 

Puddle Pirate has a lot of pictures of smiling Iraqis with fingers stained in blue -- I hadn't seen many of them.

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Bravo? 

I just got an email from an old friend of mine -- we'll call him "Byron" -- reporting on a dinner he had last weekend with another guy I and the other recipients of the email had known in college. Byron's email reads as follows (names changed to obscure identities):
Had dinner with him Saturday (during yet another snow/ice storm). Well, he has sold his business and his suits and [Huge Bank] pedigree, grown a pony tail, sworn off the GOP and adopted Howard Dean. He runs his successful wilderness training venture, has been to Antarctica (climbing an extinct volcano), is planning an Everest ascent (and is no longer w/his wife, clearly). Is writing a nice non-fiction account of all of this. All proving that bromide that we men never, ever lose the ability to step outside the boxes we or others build and surprise ourselves every now and again. Bravo, ["Mark"]...

I had a number of reactions, the first of which was to wonder whether Byron's concluding "Bravo" was straight or sarcastic. I think it was straight.

If it was straight, I then wondered what was so challenging about quitting a job, growing a pony tail, divorcing a spouse, and non-stop expeditioning? However one judges the morality of all of this -- and I am most emphatically not judging it at all* -- what is it about Mark's decisions that deserves a "Bravo"?

Now, Byron sent this email to a lot of people -- all friends of Mark -- and he would not have done so if he did not expect fairly widespread agreement with his point of view. He is probably to some degree correct in this expectation: I daresay that most of the recipients of the email thought for a moment that they envied Mark's life.

The further implication of Byron's "Bravo," though, is that most of us do not abandon ourselves to our fantasies because we are afraid or otherwise deterred. If that is what Byron is implying, I think he is wrong. Those of us who do not abandon ourselves to our fantasies refrain because we derive greater satisfaction from living up to our obligations in this life. Fear has nothing to do with it. So while I hope that Mark is happy in his new life and part of me envies his new freedom, I do not see how he has earned a "Bravo."
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*I'm not judging the morality of Mark's actions (other than to object to Byron's applause) because I do not know most of the facts. It is very hard to judge a person fairly -- especially in matters of the heart -- even if you think you know them well and see them at the office every day. It is impossible to judge a person fairly on the basis of a single heresay email.

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'DiCaprio Gets Lifetime Achievement Award' 

Am I the only person out here who thinks that it is asinine to give somebody who is only thirty years old a "lifetime achievement award"? What's he supposed to do for the next sixty years?

Actually, Leonardo agrees with me:
"It's a lifetime achievement award, which is completely and utterly surreal, given I'm only 30 years old," he continued, with a laugh.

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The Carnival of the Commies #3: The best of the Left in the week eight days just past 

Welcome to the third edition of Carnival of the Commies (last week here), our periodic review of the best and most representative work on the left side of the blogosphere. We normally post Saturday night, but we delayed it for a day knowing that most of our readers would be following election returns.

We read the blogs that drive you nutty so you don't have to, and find within them the stories from the Left that you should know about. Why should you be reading them? Your reasons might range from a laudible desire to understand the other guy to simply knowing your enemy. In any case, this post links to points of view that don't often make it into our own echo chamber.

Since it is our highest ambition to respect the Best of the Left, we will refrain from snarkiness except when we can't resist it, but you should feel free to fill that void in the comments section. Nominations for future installments are not only welcome, they're solicited.

Of course, a lot of these posts will make you mad. Fighting mad. And you will have compelling arguments to discredit the arguments made therein. Don't point your rage to TigerHawk if you feel that way -- I can respect the style or even the substance of an argument without agreeing with it. And sometimes a lefty blogger even gets me to change my mind.

A couple of disclaimers are in order. First, we blow off "hat tips" in this series, not because we don't believe in them, but because they are too much work when you're link-dumping like a banshee. Second, I do not claim to an exhaustive search of the left blogosphere. I spend most of my time in the right side because I blog for fun and reading the writing of people you agree with is a lot more fun than wading through scorn heaped on everything that you think is right and dear in the world. So if you think that I missed an important post from the left, send me an email and we'll get it in the next time.

And, no, I don't really think that lefty bloggers are "commies." I chose the name because (a) it is delightfully alliterative, (b) it is juxtaposed to the Carnival of the Capitalists, a well-known "Carnival" brand and (c) it is so dated that it is much more goofy than insulting, and I'm really not interested in offending anybody (in this post, anyway). And it seems like good marketing. Don't forget the importance of marketing.

So, here are my candidates for the best and most representative work from the left side of the blogosphere in the week just past.

The race for DNC chair

Kos surveys the politics around the race for DNC chair, with no kind words for the candidacy of one David Leland:
David Leland was the most bizarre candidate on the stage. Here's a guy who ran the nation's most inept Democratic Party -- Ohio's -- and is trying to parlay that stunning lack of success into running the national party. His spin on his tenure? When he left the helm of the Ohio party, all of the state's big cities were held by Democrats. What is the guy thinking?


The lefty 'sphere appears to be very strong for Dean for DNC chair, which should not surprise anybody. Should the righty 'sphere agree? I think so. Common ground!

International affairs and the war

Kos links to this article, which describes Bush's visit with Canada's prime minister Paul Martin. Bush apparently failed to mend fences with our "neighbors to the north," and (according to Kos and the WaPo) made matters worse. Apparently the Canadians were all worked up over this:

But after Bush left, the Canadians were more furious than before.

They were stunned when Bush leaned across a table in a private meeting and lectured Prime Minister Paul Martin about opposing the U.S. missile defense system. And they were later taken aback by a speech filled with what they considered the same "old Bush" foreign policy pronouncements that opened the divide with the allies in the first place [...]

But Bush did confront Martin and used the sort of language that sets Canadians on edge. "He leaned across the table and said, 'I'm not taking this position, but some future president is going to say, 'Why are we paying to defend Canada?' " said the senior Canadian official who was in the room and noted that he had been assured by Rice and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell personally that Bush would avoid the subject.

Kos characterizes this as a threat. How is it a threat to speak the obvious: that if Canadians do not cooperate with the United States in security matters, the United States might conclude that it should not cooperate with Canada? Is Canada really such a childish country that it sees this entirely fair observation as a threat? Probably.

Doug Feith resigned from his job as Deputy Secretary of Defense for policy, effective this summer (I dished on the timing and manner of the resignation here). There was little or no meaningful attention paid to this on the right side, but it got a lot of attention on the left. Atrios declared that the "stupidest fucking guy on the face of the earth" had resigned (echoing Tommy Franks, I should add), and Rising Hegemon proposed Carrot Top as his successor. Ezra Klein was even crueller, predicting that Feith "[s]hould be getting a Presidential Medal of Freedom any day now." Ouch.

Juan Cole absolutely flogs Feith, particularly with regard to his connections with Israeli hawks:
Having a Likudnik as the number three man in the Pentagon is a nightmare for American national security, since Feith could never be trusted to put US interests over those of Ariel Sharon. In the build-up to the Iraq War, Feith had a phalanx of Israeli generals visiting him in the Pentagon and ignored post-9/11 requirements that they sign in....

Feith has been questioned by the FBI in relation to the passing by one of his employees of confidential Pentagon documents to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which in turn passed them to the Israeli embassy. The Senate Intelligence Committee is also investigating Feith. There seems little doubt that he operated in the Pentagon in such a way as to produce false and misleading "intelligence," that he created an entirely false impression of Iraqi weapons capabilities and ties to al-Qaeda, and that he is among the chief facilitators of the US war in Iraq.

Feith is clearly resigning ahead of the possible breaking of major scandals concerning his tenure at the Department of Defense, which is among the more disgraceful cases of the misleading of the American people in American history.

There are several downsides to Feith's departure, as welcome as it is for anyone who cares about US security in particular. The first is that now we probably have to see him forever on cable news channels as one of those dreary neocon talking heads flogged by the American Enterprise Institute, a far rightwing "think tank" funded by cranky rich people to obscure the truth. Another is that his departure now may help keep Bush from being blamed for his shady dealings in intelligence "analysis."

It is important to note that what is objectionable about Feith is a) his playing fast and loose with the truth, producing poor intelligence analysis that has been shown to be completely false and b) his doing so on behalf of not only American nationalist aspirations but also on behalf of a non-American political party, the Likud coalition of Israel, which desired to destroy the Oslo peace process initiated by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (and which was therefore on the same side of this issue as the fanatic who assassinated Rabin). There is no objection to Americans having multiple identities or love for more than one country. Someone of Serbian heritage would make a perfectly good Pentagon administrator. But you wouldn't want a vehement supporter of Slobodon Milosevic as the number three man in the Pentagon. It is ideological dual loyalty that is dangerous. Mere sentiment based on multiple ethnic identities is not dual loyalty, and hyphenated Americans mostly have other countries they wish well (and rightly so).

That you do not see righty bloggers springing to Feith's defense suggests strongly that he is, in fact, a tool. That Feith was an open supporter of Israel's hawks does not qualify as "ideological dual loyalty." In order to believe that, you have to assume that Feith was deliberately sacrificing American interests to help Israel. He may believe that in these matters Israeli interests are congruent with ours and that belief may be debateable or even manifestly incorrect, but that does not make Feith a traitor. It is more likely that he's a dolt.

Screwy Hoolie actually linked to TigerHawk approvingly, supporting our view that it is folly to defoliate the Afghan poppy crop. Screwy also calls TigerHawk "the most sensible blogger on the right hemisphere of blogistan," which I think is a devious plot to discredit me with my readers. Screwy was apparently acting on the widespread view that I am "susceptible to flattery." Which is embarrassing, even if true.

Crooked Timber's Daniel Davies reminds us that the study in The Lancet that showed significantly higher civilian casualties in Iraq than reported by other means is "still out there," substantially unrefuted, and he challenges pro-war bloggers to seriously engage the issues raised therein. The occasion of Davies post is a new article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that considers the attention, or lack thereof, paid to the original study. The most interesting news in the Chronicle article cited by Davies is that the State Department has approvingly cited studies of casualties in other wars by the same authors using the same methodology.

Kevin Drum thinks it is time that we had a public conversation about the appropriate size of the military:
Assuming that "several years" means at least three or four years, these guys are suggesting an increase of around 100,000 troops. This is roughly eight divisions.

A couple of years ago the CBO issued a report that estimated the cost of a new division at about $10 billion up front and then $5 billion per year to maintain and deploy. Eight divisions, then, would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 billion per year for the next few years and $40 billion to maintain after that. This amounts to a permanent increase in the defense budget of about 10%.

Should we do this? I have my doubts about an increase of this magnitude, although I think a smaller increase is pretty well justified. But regardless of my own view, which is open to change in either direction, this is a debate I'd really, really like to see us have. It gets straight to the heart of a question that our political leaders, Democrats and Republicans alike, have been tap dancing around ever since 9/11: what are our future military plans in the war on terror?...

No one should be allowed to posture endlessly about America's enduring commitment to freedom if they don't have the guts to say clearly whether this means a military commitment — and troop strength is a concrete issue that requires everyone to put their cards on the table. Do you think the war on terror requires large number of American troops to be deployed overseas for long periods or don't you? Do you think we're likely to be involved in another Iraq sometime in the future or not?

This is certainly a fair question to ask the President. It is high time that the administration was more forthcoming about the need to increase the size of America's armed forces.

The elections in Iraq

Screwy Hoolie finds a way to deplore the war and the Bush administration, yet get behind the fight for democracy in Iraq.
While the U.S. invasion of Iraq, built on a foundation of brutishness and lies, has created a panoply of tragedies, I am beginning to believe that only through empowering the Iraqi democratic forces will any good ever come of this misadventure. [Friends of Democracy] offers a picture of what Iraq might look like should leaders guided by enlightened democracy come to the forefront....

Like Howard Dean's "You have the power" mantra and recent voyage into the esoteric, "I'm not much of a Zen guy, but I've learned that the best way to gain power is to give it away", the best way forward in this mess'o'potamia lies in struggling to establish a true democracy in Iraq.

I saw Screwy's post at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday night, and wondered whether any other lefty bloggers had linked to Friends of Democracy. I scrolled through the first five pages of links on Technorati, and did not see one link to FOD from a manifestly lefty blog. At that point Technorati sort of gave out on me, but it does make me wonder: Was Scrutiny Hooligans the first on the left to link to this wonderful resource?

Generally, the lefty blogs have been quiet about the elections, other than to raise all sorts of questions about their legitimacy. But Sunday afternoon EST, after hours of blogging on the right side of the 'sphere, many lefty bloggers were still silent. Neither Atrios nor Tom Tomorrow, for example, had anything on Iraq as of 12:40 pm Sunday. Maybe lefties just sleep later.

Others denied that the elections themselves meant much. Armando of Daily Kos:
This Election is simply, in my estimation, an exercise in pretty pictures. Why? Because Elections are to choose governments, not to celebrate the day. Are the people elected capable of governing Iraq at this time? Without 150,000 U.S. soldiers? Or even with them? I have been accused of gloating by people right HERE because of my focus on the continuing violence. But my focus has been on the realities of governing a land in chaos, in the midst of civil war, with 150,000 U.S. soldiers the only force with the ability to provide security. And this is 2 years after the invasion.

Of course, the election might be both a first step and a lot more than an "exercise in pretty pictures." On the off chance that anybody active in the Democratic Party reads this, consider that it is possible to be skeptical without being cynical. The difference between skepticism and cynicism is good faith, which has been sorely lacking (on both sides) in the coverage of and opining on the matter of Iraq's future.

Juan Cole, of course, is the American left's leading blogger on the situation in Iraq. In advance of the election Sunday he was very negative about its prospects, but by Sunday afternoon he was almost reserved:
Although the violence and attacks have been extensive and took place all over the country, the security measures put in prevented massive loss of life. Suicide bombers clearly could not get close enough to crowds to take a big toll.

On the other hand, if the turnout is as light in the Sunni Arab areas as it now appears, the parliament/ constitutional assembly is going to be extremely lopsided. It would be sort of like having an election in California where the white Protestants all stayed home and the legislature was mostly Latinos, African-Americans and Asians.

One might plausibly ask Professor Cole, "what would be the problem with that?"

Later on Sunday Cole gathered himself for a more precisely negative post. He argues that whatever these elections mean, Iraq is at the beginning of its struggle:
Iraq now faces many key issues that could tear the country apart, from the issues of Kirkuk and Mosul to that of religious law. James Zogby on Wolf Blitzer wisely warned the US public against another "Mission Accomplished" moment. Things may gradually get better, but this flawed "election" isn't a Mardi Gras for Americans and they'll regret it if that is the way they treat it.

Above all, according to Cole no credit should accrue to the Bush administration:
So if it had been up to Bush, Iraq would have been a soft dictatorship under Chalabi, or would have had stage-managed elections with an electorate consisting of a handful of pro-American notables. It was Sistani and the major Shiite parties that demanded free and open elections and a UNSC resolution. They did their job and got what they wanted. But the Americans have been unable to provide them the requisite security for truly aboveboard democratic elections.

Maybe, but Sistani would not be in the position to make such demands were it not for George Bush's persistance of vision.

Coercive interrogation/torture/Gonzales nomination

The Poor Man takes apart Max Boot's apologia for torture:
Boot, like others before him, claims that he is just trying to engage the question of what should be permitted, and that critics of torture are "grandstanding". Boot has his verb tenses wrong. The only debate that matters about what is permitted appears to have already occurred over the last four years, in secret, and the current fact of the matter is that any kind of torture is permitted, if authorized by an executive fiat.... How many foot-pounds of pressure it is appropriate to apply to a detainees chest is a question which concerns Boot, and which I don't know the answer to either, but it's kind of a ridiculous question to ask while the torturers are working.... So it may sound very sensible and reassuringly moderate to ponder the tricky questions and accuse your critics of grandstanding, what you are in fact doing is providing a smokescreen for the torture that is, even now, going on.


Social Security Reform

Social Security and the Bush Administration's proposals to modify it remain an extremely hot topic on the lefty blogs. As has been the case for weeks, Talking Points Memo is the be all and the end all in the fight to block Bush's program. As of the evening of January 27, for example, the last eleven posts in a row were about either the politics or the substance of Social Security. As of Tuesday morning, January 25, 17 of his last 20 posts were on one or another aspect of this political fight. Compared to Josh Marshall on Social Security, Andrew Sullivan's interest in gay rights is mere dilettantish dabbling.

Every now and then somebody else on the left has something to say on the subject. Atrios, for example, takes a shot at the idea that pension privatization in Chile has worked out well for those who went with the private option. Billmon, the left's master of snarky argument by juxtoposition, suggests that there is something Orwellian about Bush's refusal to say the "p" word. Finally, Kevin Drum rips up the Cato Institute's "agitprop" calculator program, which purports to show the benefit of private accounts.

Blogging

The Rittenhouse Review reviews a review of Philadelphia blogs. Atrios got a "B." Apparently Philadelphia Magazine, the first order reviewer, has not implemented Princeton's tough new grading system.

Kos makes some bandwidth available for Barbara Boxer:
As you and I both know, [the Rice confirmation fight] is just one more of the many battles we'll be having as we fight for our nation's future. It started with contesting the Ohio vote, it continued with the debate over Dr. Rice's confirmation, and it will certainly continue over the Gonzalez nomination and on many other looming issues. We're going to need to keep working together to make our voices heard and build a better America.

I enjoyed the dialogue we started over the past few weeks, including the chat I had with Armando and DavidNYC on the eve of the committee hearings, and I look forward to future interactions with the Daily Kos community. I hope to have the time to drop by here and participate in the discussion from time to time -- I value your input, and I thank you for caring so much about the future of our country.

A TigerHawk prediction: Future oppo researchers are going to look deeply into the "Daily Kos community" for choice quotations with which to box Senator Boxer about the ears.

August J. Pollack points out that in criticizing lefty blogs for posting the Cheney/Auschwitz photos, Blogs for Bush is throwing stones from inside its glass house.

Drum thinks that the conservative bloggers are being too punctillious in their criticism of The New York Times.

Miscellaenous

Atrios thinks that the Left ("our side," in his parlance) suffers from a "hack gap" in arguments over public policy. In an post ragging on Stephen Pinker (author of The Blank Slate), Atrios thinks that the Left needs to do a better job of popularizing its arguments:
Another disturbing thing is that Pinker doesn't rely on peer-reviewed high level work by academic economists, but on right wing hack work. This is another area where our side suffers from the much discussed hack gap. One reason think tank publications get wider discussion than academic work is that it's more accessible. It's written with a more mainstream audience in mind, and since it's unencumbered by requirements to address alternative theories, it doesn't cloud the beautiful minds of journalists looking for a simple story.

If *I* had some money thrown at me to start a think tank-type organization, what I would do is set up a foundation which would provide grant money to liberalish academics which would free them up to spend some time marketing their research to a more mainstream audience.

Who knew there was a "hack gap," much less one that was "much discussed"? If ever there was a reason to read "Carnival of the Commies," this is it.

August J. Pollak clones Ashhlee Simpson and considers the real reason for the popularity of reality TV:
People talk all the time about how television is making Americans stupid. In the short form, that's true. But I think we can flesh that out a little more. Recently, I've come to the conclusion that subconsciously, Americans know that television makes them stupid... and subconsciously, Americans have a sadomasochistic desire to be berated by television for it.

I think there is no greater proof of this than the last few cycles of what we call "reality" television. The underlying theme in many of these shows is not the idea of people merely encountering new environments, but specifically the idea of people considered "better" that others pointing that out.


Kevin Drum figures out that the presence or absence of "self-esteem" has virtually no impact on performance, but self-control and self-discipline do.

Ezra Klein has left Pandagon for good on January 25 (you didn't know that, didja?) and went and started his own blog. First day on the new gig and he writes this post, which documents and the echoes of Barry Goldwater in Bush's Second Inaugural and passes along Theodore White's account of the sorry story of Barry Goldwater's speechwriter (and Michael Gerson's muse), Karl Hess:
Goldwater's defeat turned conservatives into pariahs. Theodore H. White tells a remarkable story about Goldwater's chief speechwriter, Karl Hess. Chief Speechwriters of losing campaigns usually find a safe berth in the party machinery, but not so Hess. First, he applied for positions with conservative senators and congressmen -- the very politicians who had been cheering him on months before. Unwanted, he lowered his sights dramatically. Could he perhaps work the elevators in the Senate or the House? Still no luck. The apostle of the free market was reduced to the ranks of the unemployed. He enrolled in a night-school course in welding and eventually found a job working the night shift in a machine shop.

That's actually quite a sad story.

Kevin Drum agrees with Glenn Reynolds!

Fester considers the importance of graffiti and the risk that smaller countries will start dumping the dollar, all in one post.

Tom Tomorrow finds a cracker with a pick-up truck who hates Arabs with an unusual, er, candor.

Alas, a Blog, finds an anagram in Jack the Ripper's confession. Or something like that.

The Poor Man comes down hard on Democratic election mischief.
[I]t is important to recognize that the ultimate reason why election-invalidating mischief is such a serious possibility, and hence why democracy-undermining cynicism is a certainty, is that the problems which were apparent after the 2000 election were not only not addressed over the last four years, they were made worse. This is a problem that won't go away unless it is addressed, and ignoring it because you are afraid of being associated with conspiracy theorists just insures that there will be more of them next time around, and makes it possible that, next time around, they will be right.

I'm going to be travelling eight of the next ten days, so expect the next regular "Carnival" in two weeks.

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Sunday, January 30, 2005

In re counters, trackbacks, and other administrivia 

The free Bravenet counter that I had been running since February 1, 2004 -- yes, almost exactly a year ago -- crapped out on me today. Instead of posting my nifty accumulated 80,000+ visits in the last 364 days, it went all goofy and told me that I had to install new code. Well, it did not say what new code, so after extensive screwing around I put a new Bravenet counter in at the bottom of the page and moved the still operative Sitemeter counter to sidebar (and put in the Javascript code so I can see the referring pages). The sidebar now seems to load more slowly, perhaps because it is waiting for the Bravenet counter to load at the bottom of the main page. If that annoys either me or my readers too much, I'll move the Bravenet counter to the sidebar or back it entirely. I retained the Bravenet counter because it tracks "returning" visitors, which to me is the most interesting number, but I can live without that data if it drives us all nuts.

Once I got digging around in the old template, though, I decided to take the big plunge and install Haloscan's trackbacks, which any number of fellow bloggers have requested of me. I did not go with their commenting system, though, because I have wordy commenters who would not like the confinement of Haloscan's 1000 character limit. So we now have Blogger commenting and Haloscan trackbacks. I hope that it all works.

UPDATE: In a matter of minutes, the slower loading times did, in fact, drive me nuts. The Bravenet counter is back on the sidebar, even though it shows a total of 25 visits. Which is a blow to my blogesteem, but I've recovered from worse.

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Wear blue marker 

One of Andrew Sullivan's readers suggests that we all wear blue ink on our index fingers as a sign of solidarity with Iraq's voters. Done. I'd put up a photo, but my camera battery is drained.

Of course, the womenfolk could just paint a single nail blue and send the same message and be stylin' all at the same time.

Via Instapundit.

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Al-Jazz forgets the Shiites (and other foreign press coverage) 

Al-Jazeera's English election coverage focuses on the poor or non-existent turnover in the Sunni Arab areas, and the huge turnout in Kurdish areas. Al-Jazz seems to have entirely forgotten about the Shiites.

No reports on Al-Jazz of dancing, or pride in ink-stained fingers, or smiling faces.

UPDATE: Islam Online paints a very different picture:
As jovial mood colored Shiite neighborhoods and cities across Iraq on election day, a grim one was the hallmark of Sunni-dominated areas which looked like virtual ghost towns with deserted polling stations.

Shiite voters queued outside polling stations, mainly in the south, to cast their ballots enthusiastically, answering a call from their spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani.

In the Shiite district of Al-Washash, in central Baghdad, voters flocked to a polling station in Al-Intsar primary school amid watertight security.

Seems about right, and a far cry from the coverage on Al Jazeera.

UPDATE: Khaleej Times, an English-language paper in the United Arab Emerites, has fairly positive election coverage:
BAGHDAD - Some smiled, some were stoic and others kept their faces hidden as Iraqis trickled to the polls on Sunday, braving anti-US insurgents determined to drown the historic vote in blood.

Fear of attack hung heavy over the first multiparty poll in 50 years. Not long after voting began, explosions shook Baghdad, killing a dozen people near polling stations. There were other attacks in the south and to the north of the capital.

In Falluja, the devastated Sunni city west of Baghdad that was an insurgent stronghold until a US assault in November, a thin stream of people turned out to vote, defying expectations.

“We want to be like other Iraqis, we don’t want to always be in opposition,” said Ahmed Jassim, smiling after voting.

In Baquba, a rebellious city northeast of Baghdad, crowds clapped and cheered at one voting site.


UPDATE: Cassandra has more. Lots more.

UPDATE: Deutsche Welle has nothing to report other than a single paragraph emphasizing the casualties. The Jerusalem Post sees a glass half-full and rounds up the coverage in Arab papers (well worth reading).

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Saturday, January 29, 2005

Beware the passive voice and the NYT's expectations game 

A writer that uses the passive voice -- "the fish was caught" rather than "John caught the fish" -- confuses his reader. Most people do not know how to write well, so they use the passive voice inadvertantly. When the editorial writers of The New York Times use the passive voice, they are confusing its readers on purpose.

Consider this morning's editorial characterizing Iraq's elections as "a gamble." After the pro forma expression of hope that everything goes well even "as the bar for relative electoral success is low," the Times plunges into despair:
The issue of Sunni participation did not have to become this dicey. More energetic and systematic efforts to integrally involve representative Sunni leaders, including former Baathists and nationalists from insurgent zones, should have begun long ago,

"Should have begun" by whom? Oh:
even before Washington handed power to the current interim government, which is dominated by exile-rooted parties and Shiite and Kurdish politicians.

The Times does not want to come out and blame particular particular Iraqis for failing to "involve," or attempting to "involve," Sunnis, because it knows that Prime Minister Allawi's election list has lots of Sunnis "involved." That is why it used the passive voice in the first part of the sentence. It reverted to the active voice only to point blame at "Washington," meaning the CPA and the Bush Administration, for the period before June 30.
Numerous opportunities since then have been foolishly passed up.

By whom? Who or what is the subject of the verb? I submit that even the Times does not know.
Even as late as last month, when the extent of Sunni Arab alienation from the election process became overwhelmingly evident [to whom? - ed.], a willingness [whose willingness? - ed.] to consider postponing the voting until this spring in exchange for a voter drive led by Sunnis might have helped.

One reason that possibility was never seriously explored [by whom? - ed.] was the Bush administration's insistence on holding to the original election timetable.

The Times suddenly discovers active verbs again just as it needs them to blame the Bush Administration. Never mind that Ayatollah Sistani, the most powerful leader of the largest religious group in Iraq, insists that the elections take place now.

The most offensive paragraph, though, is the last, and here the Times again speaks actively:
Washington gambled that a January vote would please the Shiites and Kurds and that if it credibly established a new legislature and constitutional assembly, large numbers of Sunnis would turn their back on the insurgency and rush into the arms, and armed forces, of the new government. The wisdom of that gamble will be clearer after tomorrow's vote.

Washington "gambled" on a January vote? Apart from setting the original date in a deal with Sistani a year ago, I'm not sure that "Washington" had much of a choice here. Indeed, whenever in the last few months anybody in "Washington" has gone wobbly in the date of election day, influential Iraqis have set them straight in a trice.

More to the point, the election is not a "gamble" at all. It is obviously the least bad alternative. While there are people who think that democracy will never work in Iraq (including particularly democracy's most famous enemy there), The New York Times, if it is in fact that pessimistic, does not want to say as much because to do so would call into question its own ambitions for nation-building in parts of the world where the United States has no strategic interest (lack of self-interest being the liberal test for the legitimacy of any intervention). Instead, the Times has been calling for a delay in the election -- precisely the concession that the insurgents in Iraq have been fighting for -- as if the mere passage of time will douse the fires of Sunni ambition. Its motives for this are obviously political: by calling for a delay in the election, it can now blame the Bush Administration for everything bad that happens tomorrow and afterward. Since we cannot test the Times's proposal to delay the election in an alternative universe, the Times is setting itself up to attack the Bush Administration for pretty much any problem in Iraq during the next few weeks.

It will be interesting to see whether the Times uses the passive voice then.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds and Roger L. Simon linked. Recognition from such giants always improves our blogisteem. Also, a better grammarian than I am points out in the comments that the "passive voice" refers to verbs constructed with some form of the verb "to be" followed by the past participle of the verb. Therefore, some of the cited examples above are not in the passive voice. Good point. Nevertheless, the Times hid the subjects of its verbs in the examples I cited because obscurity served its argument more than transparency would have.

UPDATE: Cassandra, a much better blogger than I am, explains why we should be constructive in our support for Iraqi democracy:
And it's not that I don't ever disagree with administration, or that I don't see any problems. I just don't see what is gained by complaining. We have a job to do. In the short term the resources are fairly fixed and the plans have already been made. It's more important, in my opinion, to demonstrate resolve and carry out our plans than to indulge in endless second-guessing, staff purges, and wallow in self-doubt.

What can I say: I'm a cheerleader and I'll brook no dissent...

...she writes with a smile.

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Friday, January 28, 2005

At Jadwin Gym... (via email) 

And very unhappy about it. Princeton is hosting Brown tonight, which you
would think would be no big deal. After all, the Tigers are 53-1 against
Brown in Princeton. That's right, Brown has won once at Princeton
in the entire history of men's basketball.

But with 2:18 remaining in the first half Brown is up by four points, a
positively unnatural development. Princeton has got to stop
dicking around, or the Ivy season is going to be awfully long.

UPDATE: Princeton lost. Between the implosion of the Hawkeyes in the first part of the Big Ten season and Princeton losing to Brown at home for only the second time in world history, my particular college basketball season is not shaping up at all well.

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Fowl Play 

Since Jack started down this path I feel obligated to take it to its logical conclusion.

Anyone interested in a gripping read should check out Cockfighter by Charles Willeford, author of Miami Blues (and subject of a recent piece in the WaPo by Jonathan Yardley). This suspenseful pulp follows the ambitions of Frank Mansfield, who is in pursuit of the Southern Conference Cockfighter of the Year award, and follows him from the selection and training of his fighting cock down the bloody path of Florida tournaments leading to the championship. It is a harsh and fascinating world Frank travels in, made all the more weird by the fact that he has taken a vow of silence, as Yardley describes:

Everyone else thinks there's something physically or emotionally wrong with him. He becomes known as "silent Frank," responding to others with gestures, writing out questions or instructions in longhand, making such a good show of it that everyone assumes he simply cannot speak. To his surprise and irritation, he finds himself "on the receiving end of personal confidences and long sad stories." He says:

"The man who is unable to talk back is at the mercy of these people. He is like an inexperienced priest who listens tolerantly to the first simple confessions of impure thoughts, and then listens with increasing horror as the sins mount, one outdoing the other until he is shocked into dumbness. And, of course, the sinner takes advantage of a man's credulousness, loading ever greater sins upon him to see how far he can really go now that he has found a trapped listener who is unable to stop him. My ears had been battered by the outpourings of troubles, tribulations, aspirations and the affairs of broken hearts for two years and seven months. Only by being rude enough to leave the scene had I evaded some of my confessors."

Cockfighter is, of course, a work of fiction. For those interested in following the actual sport as it exists today, I recommend you click through to http://www.pitmaster.com/, which bills itself as "the most visited Gamefowl site on the internet!" The site includes just about everything you might want, including historic strains, a gamefowl glossary, nutritional tips, a champions photo gallery, and of course cockfighting merchandise for sale. Enjoy!

UPDATED: To add a couple of links.

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The Spirit of America 

This morning's letter:
Dear Spirit of America friends and supporters,

This message has updates on:
* Ground-level coverage of Iraq's elections by Friends of Democracy and Spirit of America.

* Our conference and broadcast on Iraq's elections in Washington, DC this Sunday, Jan. 30.

* A good news story - Marines in Iraq and "Operation Spirit of America"

First, our deepest condolences to the soldiers, sailors, Marines and Iraqis who have been injured or lost their lives. On Wednesday, 31 Marines died in a helicopter crash in Iraq. Every day Coalition forces and courageous Iraqis put themselves at great risk in the struggle for freedom, free expression, self determination and the right to vote -- things we often take for granted. They are up against the worst kind of enemy. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their loved ones.

GROUND-LEVEL NEWS COVERAGE OF IRAQ'S ELECTION

Spirit of America has been supporting Friends of Democracy in Iraq to provide a ground-level view of the election from the people and bloggers of Iraq. It seems that major media often focuses on the violence and terrorism. Given the historic nature of this election we think people deserve better. The goal is to offer a full picture of the elections from the perspective of Iraqis. There are lots of good reports already on the Friends of Democracy site at Friends of Democracy. It is not "candy coated" - it includes good news and bad. Take a look now and make sure to check it on Sunday.

Friends of Democracy is using Spirit of America's Arabic blogging tool (aka Arabic Internet publishing tool) to publish election information for people in Iraq. Background on the Iraq election news project is here.

ELECTION CONFERENCE AND BROADCAST - THIS SUNDAY IN WASHINGTON

We are hosting a small conference in Washington, DC on Sunday (Jan. 30) from 1.30pm to 4pm that will provide a consolidated picture of Iraq's elections featuring prominent Iraqis, special guests (e.g., Cliff May from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Christopher Hitchens), live call ins from the Friends of Democracy correspondents and bloggers, photos, video and stories. It will provide a picture of Iraq's elections people will not get anywhere else.

The event will be webcast (check the Friends of Democracy site on Sunday) and we hope it will be picked up by C-SPAN. This is described in more detail here.

MARINES: "IRAQIS DEFY INSURGENTS FOR SPIRIT OF AMERICA"

This is a good news story. Please read the whole story about what the Marines called "Operation Spirit of America" involving distribution of medical supplies and equipment from Spirit of America that were generously donated by Triad Hospitals. The medical benefits are just the beginning of the story. As one of the Marines involved in the project, Staff Sgt. Richard Suttles, points out in the article, "I saw proof that the Iraqis are going to be okay without us."

Read it here.


Thank you for your support.
Jim Hake and the Spirit of America team

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Stratfor predicts chaos in Iraq 

In one of its less bold pronouncements, the Stratfor($) crew predicts a big escalation of violence in its most recent letter:
Iraq's Jan. 30 elections will have two key outcomes: the creation of a Shiite-dominated government and a major escalation of violence. The first will require a period of intense negotiations involving the Transitional National Assembly, the Interim Iraqi Government and the Sunni principals. While this is going on, however, the normal state of violence in Iraq could descend into sheer anarchy -- at least in the short term.

The heart of the letter is a warning that the election will not produce a clear and immediate result in the way that U.S. elections did (at least before 2000), but that it will set off a period of politicking among the various forces vying for power in Iraq. Violence will be a part of that.

The Stratfor letter also distinguishes Iraq's prospects from Afghanistan's, and suggests that the success of elections in the latter is not a reason to have hope about the former.
When contrasted with Afghanistan's path toward regime-change and democratization, the problems Iraq faces appear particularly pronounced.

Whereas Afghanistan's teeming jihadist armies and their local allies were eventually neutralized, Iraq's jihadists only consolidated themselves after the Saddam Hussein regime was ousted. Afghanistan was the global headquarters of al Qaeda-led jihadist forces until the U.S. military ousted the host Taliban regime in November 2001. Since then, no major al Qaeda activity has been reported in Afghanistan, while the Taliban have experienced a major degradation in their capabilities as a result of counterterrorism operations and internal factionalization. In Iraq, on the other hand, the Sunni guerrillas who make up the bulk of the insurgents -- and who reportedly are coordinating with fighters under the command of the country's al Qaeda chief, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to derail the political process -- have grown stronger over time.

Additionally, Iraq's various ethno-nationalist communities, which had been living in relative accommodation with one another, are now teetering so close to conflict that the state's viability has come into question. In Afghanistan, meanwhile, the long-warring ethnic factions have, through the democratization process, agreed to some extent on the rules of the game and are beginning to channel their rivalries into the political system.

The situation in Afghanistan remains under relative control for two main
reasons: There are fewer American troops to shoot at and the ethnic groups to a great degree are geographically separated. That said, the expectation threshold also was much lower for Afghanistan than it has been for Iraq.

Oddly enough, the Afghan process is showing much more promise than that in Iraq, despite the fact that Afghanistan has a history of monarchical rule, Marxist stratocracy and Islamist civil war. Iraq, although under the autocratic rule of the Baath Party for the last 35 years, retained some semblance of a political culture.

Stratfor and its founder, George Friedman, have long argued that the Iraq war was important to the war on terror because it had the prospect of improving our ability to coerce Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran to our side. Indeed, he believes that we have accomplished that objective. He is very critical, however, of the effort to promote democracy in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. In Friedman's view, it is counterproductive "mission creep" that now threatens to undermine our gains (for more, see his new book America's Secret War).

We shall see.

UPDATE: For a very different view, a reader points us to Christopher Hitchens' most recent essay in Slate.
The extraordinary and undeniable thing is that, in a country that was dying on its feet and poisoning the region a couple of years ago, there is now a real political process that has serious implications for adjacent countries. The way back to Baathism and personal despotism is blocked, and the task of the clerical fanatics is in the long run an impossible one. (Ask yourself: When was the last time you read about Muqtada Sadr's supposedly unstoppable "Mahdi Army"?) Crudely but firmly, the coalition forces are meanwhile acting as the militia for those who have no militia. Whatever happens next week, this is some cause for pride.

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Thursday, January 27, 2005

Cocks 

A state senator has a plan for saving Oklahoma's gamefowl industry now that cockfighters are legally prohibited from pitting birds fitted with razor-like spurs. State Sen. Frank Shurden, a longtime defender of cockfighting, is suggesting that roosters be given little boxing gloves so they can fight without bloodshed.

Apparently there's some guy in California who has actually applied for a patent on chicken boxing gloves, and is promoting cock boxing as a new sport for parimutuel better. Frank Shurden is sponsoring legislation to get it into Oklahoma. Apparently it would take place at racetracks, between horse races. The sport of kings will make room for the sport of crackers.

I think they need to go all the way and make them wear the little helmets, like in college boxing. Otherwise, next thing you know, the liberals will want to ban roosters that hit above the wishbone.

I was going to title this post "Fowl play," but then I decided that a little, er, tease would pull in readers.

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Remembering the liberation of Auschwitz 

Today is the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Many blogs are participating in a "blogburst," which is a coordinated discussion of a particular topic, usually in recognition of an anniversary or event on a particular day. For example, here is LGF's participating post, well-executed as always. Read it and remember what can happen if our vigilance fails.

I'm not a big joiner so I'll let other blogs do the bursting and I will honor them by reading their posts. If you have a blog and want to participate, though, go here for the suggested text and photos.

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Feith quits. Why? 

Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, one of the so-called "neocons" in the civilian leadership of the Department of Defense, is going to leave this summer "for personal reasons."

It is interesting that this announcement comes so far in advance of the fact of his departure, and even before the election in Iraq. The long lead time and the absence of any reason other than the usual love-of-family smokescreen suggests that Feith is being marginalized on purpose. The question is whether Feith's departure is a signal of a change in policy at DOD or even deeper in the Bush administration, or just a change in style.

According to TigerHawk's short list of plugged-in Washington guys, Feith is, shall we say, a difficult person often compared to one or another intimate body part. There is some extrinsic evidence of this. As previously reported here, Feith made it easy for the left to claim that we were crapping all over our "traditional allies" in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. From the book Allies at War:
French visitors to Washington were berated by their counterparts, especially in the Pentagon, where officials like Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith accused them of defending Saddam Hussein. To a French defense ministry visitor who had come to the Pentagon in December 2002 to discuss possible French participation in a war, Feith said "We don't want you involved! You think you can be Saddam's lawyer for two months without consequences!" Instead of discussing the possible French support, Feith made the derisory proposal that if France wanted to help, it could provide medical units to the Sinai and fighter planes for Iceland to free up the four planes that the United States had deployed there.

Funny, perhaps, but entirely inappropriate in its snarkiness from an official of such rank.

The final question, of course, is whether Feith's departure is a precursor to Rumsfeld's departure or, alternatively, an attempt by Rumsfeld to clean some house so that he can keep his job.

CWCID: Andrew Sullivan.

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Islam in Mexico 

Islam has joined a battle for the hearts and minds of Mexico's volatile Tzotzil Indians in Chiapas state, home of Zapatista rebels and a hotbed of sectarian strife between Christians.

In an unlikely meeting of two worlds, an idealistic Muslim sect has converted some 300 Tzotzils, a Maya Indian group known for drink-fueled fiestas and religious fervor.

"It was difficult to learn the prayers in Arabic at first but now I have them in my heart," said Muhammad Emin Lopez, 46, a Tzotzil fruit merchant who boasts that his conversion to Islam in 1995 was the state's first.

Is this the product of strategy, or merely garden-variety evangelism?

The Mexican police are asking that very question, at least to the extent of eyebrow-raising.
The growth of Islam in such a restive area has raised the eyebrows of Mexico's intelligence agency, wary of possible terrorist activity aimed at the neighboring United States.

The article itself includes an interesting background on both the Zapatistas and the Murabitun, the Sunni sect that has brought Islam to the jungles of Mexico. If you want to take a leap into the great void and assume the reporter is correct in all matters, the Murabitun do not seem like a plot cooked up in a central Asian cave. On the other hand, they
are highly critical of the charging of interest rates as un-Islamic and advocate scrapping currencies, taxes and the nation state, to be replaced with Islamic emirates trading in gold coins.

The Murabitun even have a web page with the ambitious URL "islammexico.org". Whether the contents are troubling is beyond me, since I do not read Spanish.

Even if the Mexican Murabitun (and the Muslims that have broken from the Murabitun) are themselves peaceful, their community will provide a haven for jihadists who want to recruit soldiers or launch attacks into the United States.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The press conference 

If you missed the press conference and can't bear to read the transcript, Sissy has a nice capsule review. And then go to her main page and scrutinize the good-looking cats.

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Sunnis and the election 

If white South Africans had refused to participate in that nation's first-ever free elections back in 1994, nobody on earth would have argued that their lack of participation invalidated the election results.


Indeed.

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Stop worrying about Afghan opium 

Just about the only good thing that anybody can say about the Taliban, in sort of the same way people once said that "Mussolini made the trains run on time," is that they cracked down on Afghanistan's poppy trade. The Afghan poppy crop has come back in a big way since 2001, increasing by 64% in 2004 over the prior year. This has drawn the attention of the dopes people in Congress and elsewhere who think we should brutalize the farmers of poor countries who grow poppies and coca rather than keep our own citizens in line. Not wanting to appear soft on the war on drugs and always willing to be stupid about the war on terror, Congress appropriated $152 million last year so that the State Department could bomb Afghan's poppy fields with herbicides.

Unfortunately, Afghan's newly-elected President Karzai won't let us spray. I'm sure the war on drugs crowd is extremely disappointed that Karzai isn't the puppet that the anti-war crowd has assumed he was. Good for him. The whole idea was ridiculous and counterproductive in the first place.

I have always thought that the destruction of the base crops was by far the most immoral aspect of the war on drugs. If we have a problem controlling our borders or educating our people, that's our problem, not the problem of some poor guy in the mountains of Columbia or the meadows of Afghanistan. But never mind that.

Why do we want to destabilize Afghanistan's economy just after it elected a pro-American democratic government? You would think that enraging the rural folks just after a lot of them have been persuaded to listen to Kabul rather than, or in addition to, the Taliban or their local warlord is a bad idea and quite counter to our war objectives.

If we care that much about interdicting opium at the source, why not buy the crop? The entire GDP of that country is only $20 billion a year, so how much could the all the poppies in Afghanistan cost?

I'll tell you why we don't buy the poppy crop: because no American politician wants his next opponent to accuse him of subsidizing heroin, however smart it might be to do that.

The silliest part is that very little heroin from Afghanistan makes it to the United States. The American interest in destroying Afghanistan's poppies must, therefore, be based on the assumption that heroin is fungible, like oil. Without really knowing anything about the drug trade, it seems that a suppressed market that requires smuggling is quite different in its dynamic than a free market such as oil. Oil certainly is fungible, but opium may not be.

So maybe we are destroying Afghanistan's opium crop to make our European allies happy. If so, I can't think of a better reason to ignore our European allies. If they are so concerned about heroin coming out of Afghanistan, let Europe buy the poppy crop. They spend four times what we do subsidizing their own farmers, so a couple billion euros in Afghan flowers will vanish in their budget like a single drop in a summer rain storm.

Fortunately, one does get the sense from the linked story that the State Department isn't going to the mat with Karzai over the spraying of crops. State is going to redirect the money to "public information," teaching Afghan farmers to grow alternatives and smashing up the labs that make the drugs, which seems like just the sort of face-saving cop out that we need right now.

There are much worse people in Afghanistan than poppy farmers. They are called Islamists. As Christopher Hitchens might ask, when are we going to stop dicking around?

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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

You can't blame liberals for Hitler 

Jim Robbins of The Corner seems to do exactly that:
With respect to the Nazis, Hannah Arendt noted that they were as frank as they were mendacious -- that no-one should have been surprised by the Holocaust because the Nazis had been talking about such things for years. Western liberals dismissed it all as rhetorical. The same was said about the things the radical Islamists have been writing about for decades. And have you looked at some of the stuff coming from other fringe groups? There is a lot of hate in the world, and it behooves the people who seek to defend civilization to keep an eye on it. Those who would be convinced by reading bin Laden's writings are already lost causes -- and anyway they are widely available on the web to those who want to find them.

I'm reluctant to hammer on Robbins because I agree with his broader point, but he does not do his argument justice -- that we should believe our enemies -- by stitching together a straw man to rip apart. It simply isn't the case that "Western liberals" dismissed Hitler's ravings as "all rhetorical," at least if by "liberals" we mean the center-left as we do today. The center-left of that era was romantically internationalist. They volunteered on the republican side against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War and they believed that there was something noble in the Soviet Union. The isolationists of the 1930s who campaigned against entering the war against Hitler were more often Republicans than not, and they weren't the least bit liberal.

If by "liberals" Robbins meant "appeasers," I would agree with him. Unfortunately, Robbins could not have meant to write "appeasers." It is purely by accident that today's liberals happen to be appeasers. Seventy years ago, when believing or disbelieving Hitler was relevant, it was the Republicans who would not authorize American intervention to oppose him.

CWCID: Er, Atrios.

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Which intentional tort are you? 

Take the quiz, and report back.




take the WHAT INTENTIONAL TORT ARE YOU test.


and go to mewing.net. because law school made laura do this.


CWCID: Yin.

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Isn't it usually the other way around? 

'Democrats Call Rice Liar, Bush Apologist' - headline, Associated Press.

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Spain cuts its throat, and Europe's 

This is an extremely bad idea.

If demography is destiny, the last thing Europe needs is a tunnel to a Muslim kingdom.
Relations between Rabat and Madrid, often strained by territorial disputes, reached a low ebb in 2003 when Moroccan troops occupied Parsley Island, an uninhabited rock off the Moroccan coast.

The number of Moroccan citizens implicated in the Madrid train bombing did little to ease mutual suspicion.

However, a change of government in Spain has helped to improve the atmosphere.

If al Qaeda's massacre in Madrid triggered the cascade that elected Zapatero last March, and if this "change of government" results in a tunnel to the homeland of the terrorists, will not al Qaeda have achieved a significant strategic victory in its campaign to recover Al-Andalus for Islam?

If Jacques Chirac has a clue in the world, he will take Zapatero out to the back forty and beat him senseless.

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Monday, January 24, 2005

Suicide attempts at Gitmo 

The Associated Press is reporting that 23 inmates at Guantanamo Bay tried to commit suicide last year. They failed.

Amnesty International and other groups have their knickers in a twist about this, both substantively and over the delay in releasing this information to the press.

Of course, not only did the prisoners fail in their various attempts to kill themselves, being in Gitmo as they are there is no risk that innocent people would have died had they succeeded. Which makes these prisoners quite different from most of the suicidal Islamists that we hear about.

Just saying, is all.

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More product differentiation than (I thought) we needed 

Back in the day I had a roommate (one of the 27 roommates I had during boarding school, college and law school -- you know who you are!) who was always very careful that he did not dry his face with the "wrong end of the towel." Of course, I gave him huge grief for being so fastidious -- my view was that you either showered adequately or you didn't -- but no amount of scorn persuaded him that any old part of the towel would do.

Little did I know that I was missing a business opportunity. Behold the "Butt-Face Towel":
 Posted by Hello

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I'm calling some names 

If you are a middle-school student, among the many indignities with which you must put up is "National No Name-Calling Week." Isn't middle school -- the most hideous three years in the life of anybody with a brain or personality -- tough enough without having to endure this stupidity? We should teach courtesy and consideration in general and not turn something so simple into a national campaign to eradicate teasing among teenagers. We have enough national campaigns already.

Almost unbelievably, the reporter found a conservative activist willing to surpass the arresting idiocy of "No Name-Calling Week." Apparently he is troubled that the primary beneficiaries of a prohibition on teasing will be gay students:
"I hope schools will realize it's less an exercise in tolerance than a platform for liberal groups to promote their pan-sexual agenda," said Robert Knight, director of Concerned Women for America's Culture and Family Institute.

Am I the only person who thinks that it is hilarious that the director of a group of "concerned women" is named "Robert," and that this self-same Robert is worried that the schools are cracking down on homophobia? Probably.

Schools, and everybody else who acts in loco parentis, do need to stand up for isolated and terrified children when the mob turns against them. If those children are more likely to turn out to be gay upon the full maturation of their sexuality, so be it.

I find it very frustrating when everybody's an asshat.

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In America, there's always a second chance 

He spent a lifetime peddling smut and once had an $11 million (5.9 billion pound) fortune, but after losing everything and becoming just another homeless New Yorker, Al Goldstein is now happy pushing bagels instead of porn.

Goldstein, a founding father of America's porn industry, now hustles bagels and white fish at a New York-based deli and catering establishment.

"I've always loved food more than sex, so this is really my first love," said Goldstein, 69, now a cold-calling salesman for New York City Bagels. "I've gone from broads to bagels."...

"The Internet made pornography available for free and I couldn't compete," said Goldstein, who now lives on Staten Island, with his fifth wife, Christine, 28.

Those he befriended in the porn business, a billion-dollar industry he helped pioneer, turned their backs to him. Even his own son, Jordan, a Harvard graduate who works for a New York-based law firm, refuses to speak to him.

"My life has turned to crap," Goldstein said. "To go from a being a millionaire and then living in a homeless shelter and being rejecting by 98 percent of your friends is horrendous, but I'm a survivor."

Is there any other place on earth that redeems its fallen pornographers? America, the land of second chances.

As a side matter, I bet Jordan Goldstein is wondering how he came out of this article looking like the bad guy.

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The most disgusting thing you will see in a month of Sundays 

Don't say you weren't warned.

CWCID: Cassandra (who, by the way, as a big pile of interesting and substantive stuff to say, in addition to the linked "exploitation post").

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The product of a sick mind 

I had no idea that bunnies could be so suicidal, or so creative in their means. Here's but one example of many:
 Posted by Hello

We are forced to wonder what else this nameless artist thinks about in his or her spare time.

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Sunday, January 23, 2005

My brilliant disguise 

Puddle Pirate has worked up the perfect disguise for TigerHawk to wear in his travels through the lefty 'sphere. I'm honored.

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Big guns 

If you have broadband, watch this display of firepower.

Via Brain Shavings.

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Winter wonderland 

Snow. We haven't seen this much in one wad for at least a couple of years, and perhaps not since the big blizzard of 1996. We shoveled out this morning -- it took about two hours, including the packed up mound where the plow dumped the packed up wad -- and now we're contemplating our afternoon. I think I'm going to buy the week's groceries, assuming that McCaffery's Supermarket has anything left on the shelves, and then settle into the Lay-Z-Boy for an afternoon of football.

The TigerHawk Official Eyeball Snowfall Estimate for Princeton is about 18 inches. I base that assessment on the pictures below. Who can correctly say what this thing is (photographed last night)?
 Posted by Hello

Here's the same object, this morning:
 Posted by Hello

Any guesses?

And, finally, the TigerHawk daughter, with Spaniels, on the back porch. The goggles are cool, n'est-ce pas?
 Posted by Hello

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Believe your enemy 

Once again, an enemy has made his intentions extremely clear:
A speaker purporting to be Iraq's most feared terror leader declared a "fierce war" on democracy and said in an audiotape posted Sunday on the Web that the Americans were using next weekend's Iraqi elections to install the Shiites in power.

"We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology," said the speaker, who identified himself as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of the al-Qaida affiliate in Iraq. "Anyone who tries to help set up this system is part of it."

He just does not believe in the consent of the governed, because he believes that only Allah can give that consent. The United States could leave tomorrow and al-Zarqawi would fight on because he rejects popular sovereignty as a matter of principle.

It is a virtually unbreakable law of history that people who reject popular sovereignty in principle must be killed in great quantities in order for them to give up their struggle in despair. The Arab world cannot be free until it deals with this question. It must pass through a crucible of war before it can build lasting institutions of representative government. There is no shortcut, and there never has been. There are very few meaningful democracies on earth that became such without enduring a brutal war, and the Arab world is unlikely to follow the same trajectory as Spain, for example, or Poland. If the Arabs are ever going to be free, they must fight this war, and the West must stop fretting about it and calculating the best way to achieve a positive result.

The questions, of course, are legion. When will these wars happen? I think in the next generation. What will be their outcome? Like it or not, the security of the West hangs in the balance.

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Carnival of the Commies #2: The best of the Left in the week just passed 

Welcome to the second edition of Carnival of the Commies (last week here), our periodic review of the best and most representative work on the left side of the blogosphere. We read the blogs that drive you nutty so you don't have to, and find within them the stories from the Left that you should know about. Why should you be reading them? Your reasons might range from a laudible desire to understand the other guy to simply knowing your enemy. In any case, this post links to points of view that don't often make it into our own echo chamber.

Since it is our highest ambition to respect the Best of the Left, we will refrain from snarkiness except when we can't resist it, but you should feel free to fill that void in the comments section. Nominations for future installments are not only welcome, they're solicited.

Of course, a lot of these posts will make you mad. Fighting mad. And you will have compelling arguments to discredit the arguments made therein. Don't point your rage to TigerHawk if you feel that way -- I can respect the style or even the substance of an argument without agreeing with it. And sometimes a lefty blogger even gets me to change my mind.

A couple of disclaimers are in order. First, we blow off "hat tips" in this series, not because we don't believe in them, but because they are too much work when you're link-dumping like a banshee. Second, I do not claim to an exhaustive search of the left blogosphere. I spend most of my time in the right side because I blog for fun and reading the writing of people you agree with is a lot more fun than wading through scorn heaped on everything that you think is right and dear in the world. So if you think that I missed an important post from the left, send me an email and we'll get it in the next time.

And, no, I don't really think that lefty bloggers are "commies." I chose the name because (a) it is delightfully alliterative, (b) it is juxtaposed to the Carnival of the Capitalists, a well-known "Carnival" brand and (c) it is so dated that it is much more goofy than insulting, and I'm really not interested in offending anybody (in this post, anyway).

So, here are my candidates for the best and most representative work from the left side of the blogosphere in the week just past.

Foreign affairs, including Iraq.

Crooked Timber's Ted Barlow has a must-read post on our strategic options regarding Iran. Here's a bit to get you to read the whole thing:
There are two large schools of thought in Iran regarding the nuclear program, which he referred to as “nuclear breakthrough” and “nuclear hedging.” Advocates of nuclear breakthrough believe that an Islamic republic is under constant threat. Conflict with the US in inevitable, and they need to be militarily self-reliant as soon as possible to face this eventuality. They have no trust in international treaties, pointing out the passivity of the world when Saddam used chemical weapons in the 80s. If this course leads to sanctions, they’re willing to pay that price. They argue that sanctions will fade away, as they did against Pakistan and India, because the world will realize that the genie can’t be put back in the bottle.

Advocates of nuclear hedging place the nuclear issue in the context of all of Iran’s interests. They fear that Iranian nuclear weapons would provoke their neighbors to lean towards the US. The provocation would lead to sanctions, which they’re not willing to shrug off. Iran suffers from terrible unemployment, maybe 19%. Every year, 1,000,000 people enter the job market, and only 400,000 of them get jobs. There’s no way out of this hole without foreign investment and access to capital markets. UN sanctions would be crippling. They wouldn’t give up the nuclear program, but would use it as a chip to get concessions from the rest of the world.


Crooked Timber's John Quiggin doubts Tom Friedman's claim that young Iranians “many young people apparently hunger for Mr. Bush to remove their despotic leaders, the way he did in Iraq.”
Oddly enough, when I last visited America, I met plenty of people who “love anything their government hates,” and assured me that the kind of thing I saw on Fox was not really the way most Americans felt. They didn’t feel able to confess to me that they were longing for the arrival of a Franco-German liberation army, but no doubt if I’d had the benefit of an Oxford education, I would have been able to detect their eagerness for an invasion, civil war and so on.

You have to admit, Quiggin makes a good point.

Just as the supporters of the American war in Iraq have their favorite local bloggers, the anti-war forces have their own Iraqi "witnesses." For example, Abu Khaleel, the author of the Iraqi Letter to America blog, had this to say about Tony Blair's suggestion that the misconduct of British soldiers was confined to a few bad apples:
No sir! Of course not! We will not allow any of these minor incidents by groups of few bad apples tarnish the good names of the British armed forces, the US armed forces, the British and US intelligence communities, the good offices of army planners or the good offices of US political leadership. No sir!

Nor these acts by other groups of bad apples:

1. Soldiers steeling money from houses they searched.

2. Soldiers, when faced with anything like a threat, firing at random…killing women and children in the process. Hundreds of such incidents!

3. Soldiers forcing open doors of stores and government establishments to looters.

4. Soldiers shooting and killing thousands of innocent civilians in their drive to take over unresisting Baghdad.

5. Soldiers forcing old, retired people and disbanded army officers to stand in line for most part of the day under the Iraqi summer sun and using truncheons to keep them “well-behaved” when receiving their pensions.

6. Soldiers shooting and killing people in a peaceful demonstration protesting against the use of a local school as military barracks… because they claimed they thought someone had fired a shot at them. None of those soldiers was even scratched. They left 13-17 unarmed dead bodies.

7. Scandalous, inhumanely sick behavior by personnel wearing US army uniform, including torture and the rape of women, men and small boys.


Thirty hours after the time stamp of that post, it had not been tracked by a single warblogger. The left, however, was all over it. Indeed, see this post -- the "Carnival Of The Not Feeling So Terribly Liberated" -- for a full dose of the anti-American Iraqi blogs. Anybody want to take a crack at a rebuttal?

Kevin Drum asks, and answers, a question that will really annoy a lot of righty bloggers:
In all the discussion recently about whether the CIA or the Pentagon produces better intelligence, there's one answer that gets continually overlooked: neither. The real intelligence champ is the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), which you may recall as the agency that got it right about the aluminum tubes and then went on to write a lengthy (but ignored) dissent to the infamous 2002 NIE claiming that Saddam Hussein was mere years — or maybe months! — away from building a nuclear bomb.


Social Security reform.

Nothing -- nothing -- is driving the lefty bloggers so nuts as Bush's proposal to reform Social Security. They are contesting both the claims made to justify reform and the substance of the proposals. Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Points Memo is on point for the lefty 'sphere. In fact, it is virtually the only subject that Marshall has been writing on recently. On Thursday night, while most of official Washington waltzed away, I sat at my kitchen table nursing a Guinness and quickly tallied Marshall's posts since early Sunday morning, when I posted the last edition of C of the Cs. Of 47 posts on TPM in those five days, no less than 29 (62%) were about Social Security in some way shape or form. Most of the rest of the posts were one-off links, and some of them related to issues that touch the Social Security debate, such as the national debt. So if you want to read the most complete and articulate assault on Social Security reform that I have found in the lefty 'sphere, start with Marshall and just start scrolling. If you want me to pick a post for you, read this inside baseball piece about Republican back-pedalling on the "p" (for privatization) word:
I don't want to upset anyone or cause any unnecessary emotional duress. But I think some of our Republican friends on Capitol Hill are trying to trick their constituents about their position on Social Security.

Yes, I know it's something none of us wants to think could happen. But bear with me.

I don't care who you are, that's funny, right there.

Marshall and others are linking to There Is No Crisis, part of BlogPac, which is a project of the flower and chivalry of the lefty 'sphere:
Here's a partial list of the bloggers behind BlogPac, those serving on the advisory board. Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos, Jerome Armstrong of MyDD, Duncan Black of Atrios, Jeralyn Merritt of Talk Left, John Aravosis of AmericaBlog, Matt Stoller of BOP News, Anna of Annatopia, Jesse Taylor of Pandagon, Chris Bowers of MyDD, Steve Gilliard's News Blog & others that are aligned with the effort.

Well, if this crowd can't stop privatization, who will?

And, finally, Tom Tomorrow catches the Republicans using the tsunami to advance the cause of Social Security reform. Sort of.

Blogging.

Lefty bloggers, like righty bloggers, are first and foremost self-referential. There is always a lot of interesting stuff about the art and etiquette of blogging. Atrios, for instance, declares that if you link it, you own it, and even allocates the proportions of linker and linkee responsibility:
Since blogger ethics are all the rage, let me clue the conference participants into an unwritten but well-understood blog issue - you link it, you own it. And, more importantly, the less something you link to has the stamp of official authority, the more you've taken responsibility for it. That is, if I link to the paper of record, then I own the responsibility for it 10% and they own it 90%. But, if I link to "some person on the internets somewhere" who has no established institutional credibility (or lack of) then I own it 95%. In other words, the less likely it is that anyone would have heard about something without my bringing it to their attention, the more I've taken the responsibility for verifying the information.

I agree, by the way, up to a point. I might link to lots of things with no "established institutional credibility" (there is much room to argue about what sources meet that standard), but if I declare that I have not verified it or if I am merely heaping scorn on it I see no reason to take responsibility for it. That is, I take responsibility for links that I offer into evidence in support of an argument that I make, but I link to lots of things for their entertainment value. Credibility matters not in the field of entertainment.

A couple of days later, Atrios elaborated:
And, quite importantly, there's an obvious distinction between blogroll-type links and links in posts. Drudge links to about every major media site in the world -- he's obviously not responsible for all of their content. But, a link in a post without a note of skepticism or a word of caution is an implied endorsement. I'm responsible for directing people to good information -- if I send them to nonsense on a regular basis I'll catch shit, unless I'm a conservative blogger in which case I'll win awards. I know that insitutional web sites always worry that they'll be held accountable for every single link on their page, and that's just silly - they shouldn't be. But drawing attention to a media outlet with large amounts of content and drawing attention to a particular story are entirely different things.


James Wolcott denounces the verb "to fisk," apparently because it is insulting to Robert Fisk, whom he lionizes in the same post. He offers a psychological explanation for its emergence on warblogs (and, I might add, TigerHawk):
Slurs on the name of a great and brave reporter, they gained currency among warbloggers not only because they caricaturize an ideological enemy but because "f---ing" sounds so much like "fisting," a sexual practice that excites certain verboten latent tendencies in many of them. It gives them an illicit tingle, f---ing a post. Oh well, everyone to his own hobbies, but not under my roof, mister.

It reads like something Maureen Dowd would write if she weren't working for a family paper.

Ezra Klein of Pandagon thinks that he has figured out a strategy for winning any political fight over the blogosphere, or the airwaves, for that matter:
One of the interesting and valuable aspects of blogging is how it clarifies your own thinking, often accidently pinning down a an elusive thought. Which is what my post on Kos and Jerome did this weekend. The blogosphere's reaction to their smearing was an immediate and obsessive rush to confront lies with facts. Honorable, yes, but I'm convinced that it was completely counterproductive. As soon as we began speaking their accusations aloud, we legitimized the issue. The story exited our lips as often, or even more often, than it escaped theirs. Our focus on Williams dissipated, our attempts to disprove their attack made it seem a bigger, more controversial, deal. We were back on the defensive, desperately trying to block an untrue charge....

Well, what did the right do? The Armstrong Williams story broke and reporters were beginning to search for similar examples of malfeasance. Did the conservative media begin touting Armstrong's defense? Nope, they invented a wholly new and unrelated smear that would lessen media pressure. The point wasn't smearing Kos or Jerome (that was a bonus), the point was filling the airwaves with a story that suggested equivalence in ethical lapses and would leave the public thinking Williams was "politics as usual". And it worked. It always works. Bush collapsed during the debates and, in the last, flat out lied about downplaying Osama's importance. By day's break, the media would be awash in replays of Bush's idiotic and damaging statement. So did the White House respond and clarify his position? Hell no! They went full-throttle at Kerry for mentioning Mary Cheney. And it was Kerry's invented bigotry that dominated the post-debate coverage, not Bush's factual transgression.

Democrats need to learn that this isn't a scored debate, the public isn't an attentive judge marking points and evaluating arguments. This game is about volume, about coverage, and about disruption.

While Klein's observations are clearly true in a sort of cramped sense, they also reveal an arresting cynicism. Very few -- if any -- of the righty bloggers went after Kos and Jerome to protect Armstrong Williams. Indeed, the right side of the blogosphere was filled with denunciations of Williams and his patron for discrediting otherwise creditable arguments. The righty bloggers went after Kos and Jerome because ragging on Kos (particularly) is one of the joys of the right side of the 'sphere. And because the moral equivalence rap is one of the easiest charges to make.

Kos is offering subscriptions to the Daily Kos. Subscribers get to turn off the ads. That's it, because Kos doesn't "want to create two classes of Kossacks -- those with cool features and the riffraff without."

At least he admits that some of his readers are riffraff!

The race for the DNC chair.

The lefty bloggers are writing about the race for the DNC chair as if it matters, for they have convinced themselves that it is for the soul of the party. Virtually all the Commies I surveyed want Dean to win. Screwy Hoolie, one of the Scrutiny Hooligans, is worried that once again, Dean is piling up too many early endorsements. After Dean grabbed the support of the Florida Democrats, Screwy wants to know whether this is "momentum, or albatross?" Good question.

Health care.

Kos thinks that big business will ultimately drive us toward universal healthcare system (which we righties know is a code word for "socialized medicine").

Miscellaneous.

Furrow has a very thoughtful post about the weaknesses in the performance measurement systems embedded in the No Child Left Behind Act, and his disappointment that there is no sign that they will be improved.

Professor Bitch thinks that the president of Harvard University is, er, "a dick."

Kevin Drum stepped gingerly over the Summers kerfuffle to pick on "Denice D. Denton, the chancellor designate of the University of California, Santa Cruz, [who] questioned Dr. Summers sharply during the conference, saying she needed to 'speak truth to power.'" Drum:
I would like to lead a crusade to forever ban the phrase "speaking truth to power," especially in academic settings. It's always uttered in tones that imply vast moral courage for doing so, and in Stalinist Russia that would have been true. In the 21st century American university system, however, most academics do nothing but speak truth to power, as loudly and as frequently as they can. Their punishment? Tenure, usually.

Tenure! Heh. But Drum doesn't stop there:
Of course, the fact that this was not a junior faculty member questioning Summers, but a fellow university president, makes it all the more ridiculous. Disagree all you want, folks, but let's please not pose as the second coming of Nelson Mandela while doing it.

I don't care who you are, that's funny right there!

Sean Carroll of Preposterous Universe is pissed at the Bush White House. For killing funds to service the Hubble Telescope. I agree with Sean. We also like Sean, because he wrote such nice things about the first Carnival of the Commies.

More over at Kos on the politics of the Hubble. The irritation on the left seems to stem less from a love of the Hubble (usually the left wants to spend space program money solving problems "at home"), than a desire that the Hubble savings not be diverted to Bush's proposed expedition to Mars. DavidNYC:
Rather, the choice is between $1 bil for Hubble vs. $1 bil for Bushco's insane, cockamamie Martian scheme - a scheme which some commentators believe is just a ruse for the Bushies to proceed apace with their desire to militarize space. I wouldn't be surprised if this view is right - I've yet to lose when betting on the Bush Administration's venality.

Ezra Klein compares political evangelicalism to the union movement:
Do you guys think it would be fair to say that the quickly-growing evangelical movement -- complete with its megachurches and umbrella organizations -- is to the modern Republican party what the powerful labor movement was to the Democratic party of the 1940's? Seems to me that both unite(d) large portions of the majority group (whites), which is a peculiarly important function because huge blocs rarely have common cause issues that lend them electoral coherence.

Klein is on to something.

Kid Oakland's "I voted" sticker stares back at him from his bathroom mirror, a reproachful reminder that majority rules.

August J. Pollak rants about the almost unbelievable inability of our nation's capital city to deal with bad weather:
On the other hand, in Washington, apparently a goddamn flake hits the ground and the entire Metro area goes to Defcon 3. There was an inch and a half of snow today, and as a result, trains were cancelled, the Airport delayed everything, and I had to wait around the bus terminal at the Pentagon for an entire hour for my bus to show up, bravely fighting through the torrent of light dusting that caused it to be stuck behind for sixty minutes. I have been told that at three inches, the city may actually close down the subway system. If this is true, I want another Civil War just so the capitol can be moved back to Manhattan.

Pollak thinks that his native New Jersey was much tougher when it came to bad weather. I'm not so sure he's right about that.

Billmon is a real snark-machine, not far in tone and style from the Allahpundit of old. Billmon's specialty is moral-equivalence-by-implication, a style of argument -- if it is indeed argument -- that is almost both powerful and deceptive. And entertaining. It is almost always entertaining, unless it's infuriating.

For example, Billmon compares the press accounts of George W. Bush's second inauguration with classical descriptions of decadent Rome. That the BBC sounds a lot like Suetonius is supposed to mean something, but Billmon is, shall we say, too subtle to tell us precisely what. Perhaps his readership is smarter than poor ole TigerHawk!

This is the most inflammatory example of Billmon's implicit moral equivalence. In the seven or eight hours I have spent this week surfing the lefty 'sphere, Billmon's implication that the United States today is no different than Imperial Japan was the most offensive post that I saw.

Atrios got a TiVo!

And when Atrios is wrong, he is man enough to admit it. Or maybe he just wanted to be his own Wanker of the Day.

And, finally, Mr. Pollak blamed me, without linking, for an email he got from a grumpy Liverpudlian. Mr. Pollak, if you're gonna dish the least you can do is link.

More next week.

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