Friday, June 30

Are We There Yet?

Thursday's Quote of the Day from 2005's Teenager of the Year Jonah Goldberg, re: Ezra Klein:
This is a classic example of the perils of blogging to an audience that already agrees with you.

How we got here: Jonah wrote one of his time-tripping 50s classroom film monologues in response to this WaPo piece on CO2 emissions, insisting that America's overrepresentation in the production of greenhouse gasses misses the context:
The American economy sustains the planet, pulls millions out of poverty, keeps the sea channels open, develops most of the medical breakthroughs, provides most of the funding for international institutions (including the finger-waggers at the UN's environmental divisions), offers the best higher education to the world's leaders, and generally provides a blanket of security for much of the planet. I could go on, but you get the point.

To which Ezra had the, well, common sense to point out, among other things, that that list of "Um, Good Things ('And I Can Go On' Remix)" has (even where it's true), little if anything to do with greenhouse gas emissions or the article which provoked it.

Fun side trips your family will enjoy:

• Try to spot the point at which "40% of the greenhouse gas emissions by light vehicle" becomes "25% according to the DOE (funny how Ezra missed that). "

• Watch for the first appearance of the "I'm not saying we couldn't be better" reverse somersault, proof that Jonah takes the issue seriously enough to quote entire emails sent to him.

• Count the number of times Jonah or his readers ("We have to pollute because we're supporting those lazy Europeans and their lackluster economies/ Besides the rest of the world pollutes more/ Besides, warm weather is good for you.") pat themselves on the back for any reduction (or small increase) of greenhouse gas emissions in the past 15 years. Compare that to the number of times anyone mentions that two months ago the EPA reported that in 2004 US greenhouse gas emissions increased 1.7% and represented the largest amount of such emissions ever recorded. Consider how funny it is that Jonah missed that. Funny, funny Jonah.

• And you won't want to miss the traditional "Readers can decide" or the solemn rolling out of the "Sorry, I really have to go". Get in line early for the "I'll have more on this tomorrow morning" parade--it's been known to happen! (Mr. Goldberg scheduled to appear)

Tennis With the Net Down

James S. Robbins, on Da Corner:
Re: Krugman's Cat
It's worth pointing out that the average GDP growth for the first 21 quarters of the Clinton Administration was 3.5%, and for the same period in the current administration it is 2.8%. Measuring since 9/11 (to remove the attack from the equation) it is 3.3%. And this while fighting a war, and without a stock market bubble built on fantasy internet stocks.
Posted at 5:01 PM

It's also worth pointing out that the Bush administration number is 2.75, and rounded up or no, that's still less than 3.5. A lot less.

It's also worth noting that measuring since 9/11 does not "remove the attack from the equation". It removes the period before the attack from the equation. In fact the GDP bottomed out in the last quarter of 2001 and rose for a year thereafter.

Perhaps now is a good time to mention that fighting a war tends to be a fairly positive thing for the economy, assuming you survive to take part in it, seeing as how it involves building things here and sending them overseas to get blown up, after which you build more. That's a pretty simple-minded take on the matter, but simple-minded is justified under the circumstances.

And we might observe here that a stock market bubble, a dead cat bounce, or a screaming rout have the same effect on GDP: none whatsoever.

You might imagine that with a word/fabrication ratio of 15/1 there'd be some defensible reality behind it to justify it, but no. The economy's anemic at best, it's not getting any better while Bush remains in office, and the long-term effects of the deficit and incontinent tax-cutting are still to be felt. In comparison the Clinton economy grew (at 3.7% for his full eight years) while we brought down the then-record Reagan/Bush deficit. Sorry, Cornerites, but you'll just have to bask in that sterling war record if you want to gloat.

Tuesday, June 27

The Future of Blogging

1. Left Blogtopia

The Editors, pitch-perfect:
I find myself pointing out yet again that responding to the melodrama and anti-blog hysterics coming from The New Republic/NY Times Select/Washington Post editorial page Axis of Declining Circulation - or “the fever swamp”, as I affectionately call it - is TEH BORING .

I have to admit that Sunday afternoon I gave some consideration to answering David Brooks piece, but I realized that the one and only thing I had to say was, "How does this Kos shit rate a NY Times column?" Which is a question at once too easy and too difficult to answer.

On the other hand there's the slow-simmering question, "Who gave Markos the book deal?" This guy has the political instincts of a petulant child, and the unshakable self-confidence of Ana Marie Cox without the marketable ass. It's not just the matter of asking a group of people--a group who were about as likely to go after the Armstrong story as they are to take the latest WMD story seriously--to lay off. It's not even getting caught doing something foolish then getting truculent about it, same as he did with that "Let's throw the womenfolk off'n the wagon an' see if that slows the wolves down," business, although if you can't stand to look at a shiner the next day either learn to box or get out of the ring. No, it's the whole "Progressives, and everybody who got a free drink at YearlyKos, are under attack!" thing. Which gave me visions of someone his size claiming credit the next time a Democrat happens to win a national election. Fuck dat.

2. Right Blogtopia

The New American Revolution (must they always talk like this?) begins July 4 at Townhall. Thanks to reader responses, the New Revolution will feature podcasts by the likes of Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, and Hugh Hewitt, and will also offer free blogging services, where everyone will be able to join the blogging ranks alongside Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, and Hugh Hewitt.

Pinch me, I'm dreamin'.

3. And a Personal note

That funeral last weekend was for my mother's husband, (not, as he was referred to several times, my step-father, since we didn't have that sort of relationship). He married my mother when they were both in their sixties. He was a fine fellow and a brave cancer fighter. May he rest in peace.

It wasn't until his death that we learned my mother has been getting treatment for senile dementia for the last six months. Her short-term memory is fritzy, and she's paranoid. Everyone is stealing from her. Naturally recent events have not helped matters.

She goes to the doctor Wednesday. In the meantime she's been staying at my sister's. Wednesday she'll come stay with us for awhile. Assisted living is obviously in the near future.

So I don't know if blogging will be light for a while, or if I'll be typing away furiously whenever I get the chance. Patience, they say. Lots of patience. Unfortunately she didn't give birth to a patient man. We'll see how well he learns.

Monday, June 26

Happy Birthday

William Lee Conley "Big Bill" Broonzy
June 26, 1893 (or '98)--August 15, 1958

Happy Birthday

Peter Lorre (born Ladislav Löwenstein)
June 26, 1904--March 23, 1964

Sunday, June 25

A Modest Proposal, and A Simple Request

The former: a weekly teevee program, When Moslem Animals Attack. It seems to be something a third of the population could really use. It wouldn't cost much: as we've seen, first in Canada, now in Miami, you don't have to write believable scripts, just point at a landmark and shout, "al-Qaeda!" It's likely the real FBI would be willing to appear, and perhaps even ante up in exchange for a production credit; hell, fake arrests may be just as much a resumé padder as the "real" ones they've been making. And you probably could get traveling Syrian musicians to play the terrists--our demo couldn't care less what happens to 'em after another plot is heroically foiled; the band looks menacingly into the camera, somebody makes a quick "cut" motion across the throat, and they pocket some quick change and split. And if anybody does ask we say, "Oh, yeah, well, we've got them incarcerated somewhere," [knowing wink] and that would be the end of the questions. For that matter you could use Mexican illegals with Holiday Inn towels on their heads. It obviously doesn't matter.

The latter: if you're a weekend CBS reporter whose name I didn't catch because I was half asleep and whose report I can't get off the website because everything connected to the Great Sears Tower Caper has either moved or won't work, and you're going to spew something like "There have been 260 terror convictions since 9/11" do you think you might list a couple? 'Cause it sounds suspiciously like somebody took Bush's "200 convictions" from a year ago and extrapolated to get the current figure, and the problem there is that the Washington Post, which has reporters, and sources, and Lexis/Nexis an' stuff, well, after searching for a week they managed to find thirty-nine. And they published that information. In their paper. As a group they're a bit underwhelming, but we'll let that slide. I know we've added a delusional "20th hijacker" and a second delusional Midwestern truck driver in the past year. Who are the other 219?

Saturday, June 24


As of yesterday I've now been a pallbearer more often than I've been a member of a wedding, a milestone of sorts. I don't think I'll ever reach the related one, when the volume of prescribed medications overtakes the self-administered.

I don't think I bash Christians too often, mostly because I know some good and smart people who belong to that club, and I try to keep that in mind when I hear the worst coming out of that quarter. But their funerals--if they're all like the sort of stoically boring Midwestern Protestant numbers I get invited to--could make me reconsider. It's not so much that the blandishments don't match the situation, although around ten-fifteen minutes in I always start to feel like I'm floating on a cloud of pure nonsense, like watching a version of Peewee's Playhouse that isn't meant to be funny. It's that the sales pitch, or what must be, from the opposite perspective, the constant need for reassurance never seems to stop. The fact that someone you loved is DEAD is a reason to believe in God's bountiful love as revealed by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The fact that the loss hurts like hell is a reason to believe in God's bountiful love as revealed by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The answer to those eternal questions that plague your mind at times like these is...well, you're ahead of me by now. I mean, I believe in Gravity, but if I fall off a ladder I want painkillers, not some friendly words about the scientific method.

Sure, there's the Irish wake thing, but that just seems to substitute heavy drinking without the possibility of it evolving into sex, even regrettable sex, at some point.

Happy Birthday

Terry Riley
born June 24, 1935

Thursday, June 22

A Wedge of Geese, A Trip of Goats, A Muddle of Goldbergs

Jonah Goldberg, "Woodrow Wilson's Curse", Jun 21

If somebody tried to feed you this hash you'd balk even if the social circumstance required you to be polite; absent such strictures you'd try to get a sample to the police lab ASAP. There are a few somewhat identifiable chunks; the weaker of stomach might want to steel himself. I'm told that rookie policemen forced to view an autopsy are sometimes urged to think of themselves as medical students; several stiff drinks might do as well.
We’re all Wilsonians now.

Try again. Jonah Goldberg, born March 21, 1969, has never known a day of his life when there was the slightest chance American sovereignty was going to be turned over to the UN. It's a Cold War fantasy.
President Bush is doing exactly what his critics have always said he should do: He’s playing nice with the international community on North Korea, Iran and, whenever possible, Iraq. He’s not getting much credit from the Bush-is-always-wrong crowd. But then again, they don’t call it the Bush-is-always-wrong crowd for nothing.

My question here is, "Is there a chance an all-out program like the one that put an American on the moon could, by 2010, teach Jonah Goldberg how to construct a paragraph?

Nevermind. Let's take this on its own terms, as a series of unidentified scat samples someone hurled against a convenient wall: 1) I don't recall Bush's critics saying he was insufficiently Wilsonian. If I were called on to make sweeping yet unfounded generalizations about that relationship it would be a) that Bush's critics think his relationship to Woodrow Wilson is that the former couldn't pick out a picture of the latter on a $100,000 bill; and b) that Bush's insufficiencies include intelligence and honesty. 2) Bush "playing nice" with the international community is a measure of how screwed up things have become. But be that as it may, let us try a brief thought experiment. Suppose you and I, Jonah, are traveling southbound on Interstate 65, intending to connect to westbound Interstate 80. You're at the wheel. I inform you that the off ramp is 1/4 mile ahead on your right. In response you stomp the accelerator, slam into a busload of senior citizens on their way to the Trump Casino, causing it to catch fire and plummet down an embankment, whereupon you swerve back and forth along the across the length and breadth of the Interstate System, winding up three years later by turning right into the main drag of Santiago, Chile in a rusted hulk with four flats, no windshield, and a strong odor of gas. You probably should not expect me to thank you for having gotten around to making that right.
Still, Bush is embracing the international system, which liberals consider to be Woodrow Wilson’s gift to mankind. Wilson was the guiding spirit of the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations (though, according to liberal mythology, America itself was denied entry into the promised land by those evil isolationists). To liberals, Wilsonian internationalism means playing nice with others.

Dear reader, we are still in the first paragraph. It might be a good time to grab the Valium.

Apparently somebody, somewhere clued Jonah in to the fact that the standard high school history textbook oversimplifies the battle over the League of Nations. Apparently he thought this information ought to go in paragraph #1. Mission accomplished.
Meanwhile, some of Bush’s strongest supporters are starting to grumble that the president has gone wobbly by giving up on a different Wilsonian vision. One branch of neoconservatives defines Wilsonianism not as getting chummy with cookie-pushers from state departments around the globe, but as the heroic push toward the democratization of the world. The Bush Doctrine, until recently, was hailed or derided as the greatest resurgence of Wilsonianism since Wilson himself. These neoconservatives are understandably vexed by Bush’s sudden embrace of diplomatic nuance.

There's a time in any wilderness journey where the hiker can pull out his topographic maps and determine that he is at the farthest remove from civilization his journey will provide. It's a good point to make doubly sure he does not fracture an ankle tapdancing on an algae-slick rock.

No such woodcraft from Mr. Goldberg, of course, who's been circling the same cul-de-sac in his gated Republican community his whole life long. Note that the feigned Republican admiration for anti-Red Democrats like JFK has vanished in the hookah smoke of the delusional warm fuzzies who are so solicitous of other nations' feelings. Also vanished are the Democrat defenders of the "Bush Doctrine", who are mostly vexed not at Bush's embrace of diplomatic nuance but the bollixed execution of the Great Clash of Civilizations errand they sent him on. As for the neo-cons, if, three years after their big plans went up in smoke, they imagine that their Commander-in-Chief still holds a sabre he's capable of rattling they're more delusional than they were then. Six months tops, baby.
Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute and editor of Middle East Quarterly recently denounced this “Clintonian” turn in Bush’s foreign policy. By Clintonian he means caving into the insatiable lust for the endless argy-bargy that sustains the international community.

Well, thank God. For a moment there I thought that by "Clintonian" he might have meant "competent, realistic, and rational."
The central tenet of those who refer to the international community as if it were some holy communion of angels rather than a yammering maw of bureaucrats is that it is always better to do wrong in a big group than to do right alone. Sen. John Kerry, a high priest in the Church of Internationalism, always grounded his most passionate criticism of Bush in the fact that the president failed to form a “grand coalition” on Iraq like Bush’s father had. The upshot seemed to be that invading Iraq would have been a good idea if only Chad and Uruguay were on board.

Actually, the truth was otherwise. Bush did, in fact, build a large “coalition of the willing” (a terrible term since a coalition of the unwilling is a bit of an oxymoron, like a “team of non-team members”). Bush’s critics guffawed at our puny 48-member alliance, noting that there were few heavyweights among them. The prevailing attitude among Bush’s critics seemed to be, “Azerbaijan? Portugal? Romania?” These aren’t real countries! Germany, Russia, France — now those are real countries!

What exactly are the odds that a rational person would, in June 2006, still be arguing over the Iraq Coalition? I mean a hypothetical rational person, of course. It's a theoretical question.
Well, we’re playing nicely with those guys now, and few in the Bush-is-always-wrong school are impressed.

"It's all in the timing," the man explained as he fell from the trapeze.
Of the many bad habits Woodrow Wilson bequeathed to America,

Your personal favorite is racism?
one of the worst was his penchant for talking about countries as if they were people. He used the rhetoric of “self-determination” as if he were talking about individual humans looking for justice, and he psychologized their actions with almost Freudian aplomb. This attitude stemmed in part from his faith that he and the people were one, so why not talk about other countries as if they were people too?

Now this is why I decided to write about this column, and it's an internet participation project: who really said this, and what exactly was he talking about? I must have looked at twenty-five pages from three separate Google searches, and I came up empty. "Woodrow Wilson psychoanalyzed other nations" cannot be original with Jonah. It occurred to me last night, between bouts of fitful sleep, that he might have peeked at some old love letters Mommy kept, but otherwise, I'm at a loss.

Wednesday, June 21

If I Can't Get A Hummer You Can Keep Your Revolution

I am not going into that, and the only reason it comes up is so I can say that this is The Thing That Makes Blogs Better Than Old Media and I didn't have to go to Vegas to find it.

No, not the free exchange of oral sex hints, although the Print Media, at least in the guise of Ruth Marcus, still seems to think that "dickhead" coupled with some tired election-year-electioneering by onetime president George W. Bush should spark a national debate. This reminds me--all aboard the tangent train--of the idyllic suburban family dinner while I was in the second grade, when my parents' demand to know what had transpired in school that day elicited my casual remarking that we had "queered" the other class in kickball. "You what?" they demanded, practically in unison. "We queered 'em. 13-nothin'." I don't know whether they had instant concerns about homosexual recruitment on the playground. I suppose it's to their credit that they didn't call the school and complain, but I'm sure it never occurred to them that we knew nothing whatever of homosexuality, with the possible exception of some of the Cub Scouts, and that in context one could see plainly that "queer" was not sexualizing students but rather the opposite, that its migration to the green fields of Recess had de-fanged it. All of which assumes the phrase wasn't borrowed from boxing, where "Queer Street" had long been the mailing address of the pugilist separated from his senses.

It's the same with "sucks", circa late 19th C. according to Partridge, which maintained its sexual connotation when it became current for us in late-60s junior high (often coupled, you should pardon the expression, with "donkeys"), but had become the all-purpose expression of distaste before I was out of high school (which sucked). Which reminds me (Incomprehensibility, next stop!) of finding my dad's dirty joke book and being a big hit with my favorite: man, walking late at night, falls in cesspool, yells, "Fire! Fire!" People run out, rescue him, ask, "Why'd you yell 'fire'?" "Who'd have come if I yelled, "Shit! Shit!" he asks.

Anyway (caution: vehicle makes sudden swerves), the Blowjob War made me think about how much better things would be for the corporate media if they'd engage in a little hair-pulling now and then [do not presume to draw conclusions about the author's choice of metaphor]. Washington Post: "Judith Miller Is A Lying Skank", or NYTimes: Is That Ken Starr's DNA on WaPo's Blue Dress?", now those would have been stories.

Happy Birthday

Nehemiah Curtis "Skip" James
June 21, 1902--October 3, 1969

Tuesday, June 20

So, No Possible Explanation. Which I Think Means I've Been Paying Attention.

• North Korea prepares to test-fire long-range missile.
• Yes, that's the Korea which is part of the Axis of Evil.
• And it's the Axis of Evil Doer which actually has something of a nuclear capability.
• And it's the very same Korea that five years ago the Bush administration was blasting the Clinton Administration for having dealt with, on the grounds that authoritarian regimes led by unstable cranks cannot be trusted.
• Yes, that would be the same Bush administration which now is willing to deal with Iran.
• Indeed, the very same Iran we've been insisting we could hardline back before we squandered any advantage we had in the region proving George W. had bigger balls than his daddy.
• Yup, that's the daddy who warned him about the little desert adventure before it took place.

Naturally, the upcoming test--and the masterful way the Secretary of State warned of possible consequences up to and including the warning, and Ambassador Bolton rolled up his sleeves, the better to flex our muscle in preliminary discussions with other Security Council members--is just about all the Wingnutosphere can talk about. Glenn had this to say:

While the Malkins saw things this way:

Meanwhile, over at Powerline:

NRO? Reason? Drezner? Volokh?

Well, to be fair, it is World Cup time, and there's the even greater political threat to the homeland in not firing enough invective at John Murtha before he destroys the military, but really, now. This is not exactly some wingnut blog's demand that Lefties comment within twenty minutes on some good piece of news out of Iraq. The North Korean threat is their issue. Or used to be, before the Posture Over Results program worked its special magic.

There was a comment at The Corner, squeezed in among the thoughts on What Sort of Star-Trek Inspired Corner Merchandise To Produce:
N. K. [James S. Robbins]
If the North Koreans follow tradition, they will test their new long range missile by firing it through the air space of another country, probably Japan, maybe the U.S. too if they can reach Alaska. Sounds like a great opportunity to test our missile -defense technology. North Korea has no right to test weapons over other countries, so they won't have a leg to stand on legally. And it would be a great statement of our resolve to stand up to their aggressive behavior. Finally, it would be a high-profile way to demonstrate the effectiveness of our missile-defense systems. For example the Airborne Laser system is up for a flight test this year. Why not make it count?

You'll notice I didn't say it was a good idea for them to comment...

Monday, June 19

Happy Birthday

Nicholas Rodney Drake
June 19, 1948--November 25, 1974

Except It Doesn't

Richard Morin, "What's Black and White and Red All Over?" Washington Post, June 15

More ink equals more blood, claim two economists who say that newspaper coverage of terrorist incidents leads directly to more attacks.

It's a macabre example of win-win in what economists call a "common-interest game," say Bruno S. Frey of the University of Zurich and Dominic Rohner of Cambridge University.

"Both the media and terrorists benefit from terrorist incidents," their study contends. Terrorists get free publicity for themselves and their cause. The media, meanwhile, make money "as reports of terror attacks increase newspaper sales and the number of television viewers."

The researchers counted direct references to terrorism between 1998 and 2005 in the New York Times and Neue Zuercher Zeitung, a respected Swiss newspaper. They also collected data on terrorist attacks around the world during that period. Using a statistical procedure called the Granger Causality Test, they attempted to determine whether more coverage directly led to more attacks.

The results, they said, were unequivocal: Coverage caused more attacks, and attacks caused more coverage -- a mutually beneficial spiral of death that they say has increased because of a heightened interest in terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001.

No particular surprise that this was picked up by a number of blogs (Cliff May at The Corner, Insty, Outside the Beltway, Dr. Sanity, and CBS's Eye, among others) whose predisposition to believe trumped a stated (or, in the case of Doc Sanity, a demonstrated) lack of understanding of statistical methods. But that doesn't really excuse a complete unfamiliarity with studies using such methods or of the general run of empiricism itself; the required response to any such study is skepticism tinged with curiosity. (I'd also argue that, pace everyone above, the standard intuition of the issue should that it's wrong, not that it's self-evident.)

Let's begin with our source: like too many journalistic forays into "science" we take an interesting or provocative study and clothe it in the panoply of modern science with a choice phrase or two; here it's "the Granger Causality Test". Our first objection is that Morin had an obligation to explain what the Granger Causality Test is, not what someone planned to do with it, unless what they planned to do with it offered some proof in the success or failure of application. If I'm testing whether dropping a baseball onto my sister's head from the top of the swingset will make her yell for Mom (like that first kiss, you never lose the warm feeling you got from your first scientific foray), reporting my findings is sufficient. If my purpose is to determine whether news reports "Granger cause" terrorist attacks, then regardless of the results I need to know what the hell "Granger-cause" means. Absent that--and we are--it is not sufficient for the reader to say, "I don't know anything about statistics, but the guy who came up with that one won a Nobel, so this must be right", or to use Doc Sanity's term "objective proof".

We don't have to search very far, nor prise meaning from any mathematical expressions before we sense there's a bit of a problem. A quick Google search will introduce you (as it would have introduced Mr. Morin) to Bent E. Sørensen, Ph.D., lay professor of economics at the University of Houston. And Dr. Sørensen will be kind enough to explain:
Often you will have that xt Granger causes yt and yt Granger causes xt. In this case we talk about a feedback system . Most economists will interpret a feedback system as simply showing that the variables are related (or rather they do not interpret the feedback system).

Sometimes econometrians use the shorter terms “causes” as shorthand for “Granger causes”. You should notice, however, that Granger causality is not causality in a deep sense of the word. It just talk about linear prediction, and it only has “teeth” if one thing happens before another. (In other words if we only find Granger causality in one direction)....
Granger causality measures whether one thing happens before another thing and helps predict it - and nothing else. Of course we all secretly hope that it
partly catches some “real” causality in the process. [emphasis mine]

So-oooo, in other words, the "unequivocal" results mean that Frey and Rohner are not the first men to achieve metaphysical certainty; they found that news stories of terrorist acts are related to the number of terrorist acts. For my part, I'm willing to agree that this much seems intuitive, in the "well, duh" sense. In fact Frey and Rohner's abstract states that terrorist acts and media coverage "mutually Granger cause each other", giving the firm support of two legs of a three legged stool.

But "deep causality?" Whoever's pitching that one it's No Sale.

The second area where natural skepticism should be applied is the methodology of the study. Again, it should be fairly automatic to raise questions when both the "Media" and the "Terrorists" are aggregates, especially when the media part of the equation consists strictly of Western media. (Isn't local coverage more crucial to most terrorist attacks?) There's also the little matter of defining "terrorism", which has been left to those same Western papers.

And there are other curiosities. "Fame and power" are listed as two terrorist motivators, while "sensationalism" is a reward for the media. There's also the mention of an "interesting article by Nelson and Scott (1992)" which covered the same question for 1968-1984 and concluded that media coverage did not increase terrorism, to which the current authors add that their study tests "whether this conclusion still holds in today's more globalised and media-covered world". But then, this is also a world where the government of the US has invaded two countries using terrorism as the grounds, and where four major attacks on Western cities have occurred in the past five years. My own opinion, sans formula, is that the world was "globalized and media-covered" sufficiently in 1968 that those attacks would have been big news back then, too.

Of course the idée fixe on the other side of the looking glass is that the MSMSMSMSM actively encourages the Moslem hordes, not for the sensationalist buck but out of its unstinting anti-Americanism. That's something a bit more than Frey and Rohner, with their suggestion of reducing the sensationalism of news coverage, conclude, but then nobody seems to have paid close attention to anything they had to say anyway. If the US media ever stopped sensationalizing terrorist attacks you know who'd be calling them on that, don't you? Or should we be running a Granger causality test on the correspondence between right-wing blowhards and disastrous US foreign policy?

Friday, June 16

I'm Beginning To Suspect It Was the Paperwork That Killed Him

Cesar Soriano, USAToday: "Iraqi leaders: Memo details al-Qaeda plans"
BAGHDAD — A captured al-Qaeda in Iraq document says the terrorist group considered drawing the United States into a war with Iran in order to undermine the success U.S. and Iraqi forces have had in weakening the organization.

Iraqi national security adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie said the document, released Thursday, proves al-Qaeda in Iraq is in "pretty bad shape."

Yeah? And Iraqi national security, how's that lookin'?
Although the office of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the document was found in Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's hide-out after a June 7 airstrike that killed him, a U.S. military spokesman, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, said the document was found in a previous raid as part of a three-week operation to track Zarqawi. "We can verify that this information did come off some kind of computer asset that was at a safe location," Caldwell said. "This was prior to the al-Zarqawi safe house."

So the fourteen different versions of the death of Zarqawi didn't teach you guys anything about getting the story straight before you release it?
The memo says the insurgency is being hurt by the increasing capabilities of Iraqi security forces, a shortage of weapons and fighters, a lack of funds and internal divisions. The document says time is now on the side of the United States and not the insurgents.

What a bunch of Gloomy Guses these insurgents are! Just like Zarqawi's big hit CD from January '04 [insert wavy flashback lines]:
But America did not come to leave, and it will not leave no matter how numerous its wounds become and how much of its blood is spilled. It is looking to the near future, when it hopes to disappear into its bases secure and at ease and put the battlefields of Iraq into the hands of the foundling government with an army and police that will bring the behavior of Saddam and his myrmidons back to the people. There is no doubt that the space in which we can move has begun to shrink and that the grip around the throats of the mujahidin has begun to tighten. With the deployment of soldiers and police, the future has become frightening.

[fade in wavy "flashback return" lines] Prophetic, wasn't it? (My favorite part--besides calling Hussein "Saddam"--was the line "the Sunni Triangle, if this is the right name for it".) You might recall that CD was found on Hasan Ghul, who was sort of the Pakistani/al-Qaeda Fed-Ex man. He was captured in Baghdad, which was odd because he was captured by Kurdish security forces. He was on his way to Pakistan with Zarqawi's letter, which is why he was caught trying to sneak into Iraq. Oh, and it wasn't on a CD, it was printed out in his briefcase. In some way all this probably explains why the Iraqi national security adviser provides USAToday with copies of seized computer records which were handwritten in Arabic.
The memo says the insurgency is being hurt by the increasing capabilities of Iraqi security forces, a shortage of weapons and fighters, a lack of funds and internal divisions. The document says time is now on the side of the United States and not the insurgents.

The document says to reverse this trend, insurgents must:

•Use the media to improve their image.

•Infiltrate Iraq's security forces.

•Reorganize recruiting efforts.

•Lessen internal dissent and bolster respect for the insurgency's leadership.

I'm as big a fan of bullet points as anyone, but maybe
"• Watch out for falling bunker busters."
should have been somewhere near the top.
The document says the best plan for improving the "current bleak situation"

Oh, now, you gotta turn that frown upside down!
is "to entangle the American forces into another war against another country" or to create friction between the United States and its Shiite allies in Iraq.

The document recommends "first to exaggerate the Iranian danger and to convince America, and the West in general, of the real danger coming from Iran," it says.

The insurgents proposed fabricating "bogus messages" that Iran has chemical or nuclear weapons or that its agents planned to hit targets in the West.

Plus, they were totally gonna call up and order 100 million pizzas to be delivered to America, under the name I. Ranian.

Well, besides the superfluous paperwork, al-Qaeda in Iraq™ seems to have been going out of its way to piss off Shi'ites, and the concern with Hussein borders on the What the Fuck. I'm not sure I understand their thinking here.
Some experts questioned the authenticity of the document.

Okay, that's one possible explanation.

Thursday, June 15

Measuring Progress

In a compost pile it's the speed of decomposition. But you still wind up with a load of shit, not a cache of diamonds.

But, okay, I'm a Midwestern boy and we like to be reasonable about things, so I tell ya what: despite my reservations, you bring in your little war for $6 billion and in "six months, tops" and we'll call it a victory.

Wednesday, June 14

Satan Exalted

My brief and unsuccessful search for a wingnut comment on Bush's Iraq trip took me to the long sermon on a hot Sunday morning that is Time's one and only Blog of Some Year Awhile Back. Paul "Zeppo" Mirengoff:
Dartmouth students read Paradise Lost , so we learned about Satan. By contrast, it’s my understanding that today you can be an English major at Dartmouth without ever having to read Milton.

Oh, it's worse than that. Many students no longer wear jerkins, even in cold weather. Actually, it's just that you can test out of Milton if you prove you've listened to both sides* of Thick As A Brick.
Most Dartmouth students of my generation, and all History majors, studied the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, the Black Death, the Reformation, the Napoleonic wars, and the appeasement of Hitler. By contrast, next week, my daughter will graduate from a well-regarded college with history as one of her majors without having taken a course that studies any period before approximately 1700. As a result, her less than traditional college education has not afforded her the same opportunity to become a serious adult that my traditional education afforded me.

Sounds like bad parenting and lazy student syndrome to me, Paul. What was stopping her? One other thing: just how old are you? (I checked: b. 1949.) Because if you're old enough to have had your first four semesters of college dictated to you you're old enough to know a) that at the time there were old farts like yourself complaining that you didn't have to spend six months on the ablative absolute; and b) you're old enough to have realized that all those brilliant insights on Life Itself garnered from your study of the Black Death and the appeasement of Hitler have fallen somewhat short of All You Need To Know in recent years.
And the decline in the seriousness of our education is leading to a decline in the seriousness of our politics. A while back, Secretary of State Rice caused a huge uproar when she suggested that our military has made thousands of tactical mistakes in Iraq. Some viewed this with glee as an attack on Secretary Defense Rumsfeld. Nothing excites folks in Washington as much as a breach in the solidarity of an administration, especially a Republican administration. Others viewed it as damning criticism of the war. But to anyone with a sense of history and a sense of what it means to fight a war, Rice had uttered little more than a truism. In warfare, if any military makes 2,000 difficult tactical decisions, approximately 1,000 of them will be mistakes.

But America doesn’t know this anymore. It doesn’t know what warfare is because it hasn’t received a traditional education, which is to say that it hasn’t received a true adult education. Hence, our discourse is plagued by an astonishing lack of maturity. And by the way, that immaturity does not exist exclusively on the left. However, anyone who wants to witness it in its purest form is invited to spend half an hour on the liberal side of the blogosphere.

Well, they're all welcome to come here if they wipe their shoes first and hold all their replies to words of less than four syllables. You know, now you mention it, that is the thing that irritates me about the Right Blogosphere: too many classical references I don't get.

I guess one thing we can deduce (deduce--see, I did pay attention in Philosophy 101!) from the above is that the great heft of the undergrad course load at Dartmouth in the early 70s left no time to learn how to cite. "Huge uproar?" Where? If there was much reaction at all it was a) in the media, and we'll stipulate they're largely ignorant--please don't make us watch that Paris Hilton fender-bender video again--and b) it came about not over some unlettered confusion of the distinction between tactics and strategy, but because nobody in the Bush administration had admitted to so much as a bobble to that point. And the triteness of Rice's utterance sorta raises the question of why she tried to backpedal the next day.

A "decline in the seriousness of our politics"? Hey, that's rich, coming from the party of Clinton cock-sniffing and Algore inventing the Internet. And it's a little shocking that someone so well trained in history could have forgotten the uproar over Jimmy Carter uttering the word "malaise", or Jerry Ford "forgetting" about the Soviet Union, or FDR stealing stamps. Hell, ask your daughter to tell you about the election of 1800--it's on her syllabus.

But let's forget politics for the nonce. I want to hear more about Milton, about how the ultimate expression of style over substance in English letters came to inspire Powerline, a blog which exhibts neither.

*Some days I don't even try to hide my age.

Hadji Don't Surf

Great idea, I think, this latest rebranding of the Iraq war as something that might possibly wind up being not absolutely 100% fucked, with a bit of luck and a strong wind-assist. You had to know last week--assuming you pay any attention whatsoever to such matters anymore, which common sense dictates you do not--that while Bush was delivering that "This just means a bad man will never murder again, and we must be careful to understand it does not mean an end to the violence," that this time it wasn't just what's left of his supporters who weren't really supposed to believe what he was saying. He didn't believe it either, and he was just fuckin' itching to break out the flight suit. There is simply no way he didn't see himself as the victor of some ritualized Single Combat for Iraqi supremacy.

So, they sit around all weekend and there's some sort of collective itch to Grab Some Gusto, get the Boss on the scene, man, we're back on a roll! Too damn bad we can't use the codpiece routine again, but as long as we're at 35% it means we still have the majority of our half behind us, and it doesn't matter that the killing goes on without a letup. Go tell the troops how much we appreciate their sacrifice when no one in the administration has ever given a fuck about anybody's sacrifice or lifted a goddam finger to ease it. Back on top!

How much ya wanna bet that when his lightless plane took off in the dark last night he had Zarqawi's gun on board, waiting to join Saddam's in that Freudian display case of his?

Then again, such a trip might garner some good press, assuming the Times hasn't completely run out of Kool-aid:
It was powerful political theater, choreographed by an experienced team that played up the drama and secrecy of the moment, and were rewarded with a day of relatively unfiltered cable news coverage. The trip, including a stealthy nighttime helicopter departure from Camp David, unfolded with the precision of a campaign event, complete with the image of the commander in chief addressing cheering American troops.

But it was also a gamble. For Mr. Bush, the new Iraqi government is a life preserver, evidence of progress toward the goal of establishing democracy in a hostile environment.

I'm sorry. Did you say something?

Is there anybody left outside of a newsroom who's still swallowing this stuff? Those 'We Got Zarqawi' parades went by pretty fast, didn't they? And seemed to be short a few trombones. How telling is it that an administration which absolutely knows the truth yet decides to ride this thing as far as it will go, for absolutely no reason? Sure, they pushed Haditha off the front pages for a couple of days, but that's as utterly meaningless for the Haditha story as it is for the future of Bush administration machinations and a "democratic" Iraq. The war began as a right-wing exercise in refighting Vietnam. It's ending--if that's what it's doing--like some large-scale replay of Bush's TANG service.

Happy Birthday

David Lynn Thomas
born June 14, 1953

Happy Birthday

Robert Marion "Fighting Bob" La Follette
June 14, 1855--June 18, 1925

Tuesday, June 13

Also, In Light of Ann Coulter's Continuing Career This Country Owes an Apology to Andrew "Dice" Clay

"Nice tattoo," I told the cabby. "I'm a big fan of Betty Boop, particularly the early years. That's Pudgy, in case you didn't know."

"Hah?" he said, jabbing at and missing the ashtray with his Rum Crook.

"The dog who's rather energetically pleasuring Betty from behind there on your bicep, my good man. Pudgy's his name. Listen, I write a blog, maybe you're familiar with it, and I was curious what you and the boys at the airport were saying about Ann Coulter on the Today Show last week. Because

Screw it. I've got a headache. And I can't remember the last time I rode in a cab--I flagged one downtown once and the guy got cheesed when he found out I hadn't called in, because they don't do flags here!--and when I do travel it's generally to someplace where the lack of cabs is part of the larger point of going there. I have become a fan of the Discovery channel game show Cash Cab, hosted by the standup Benjamin Bailey or Bailey Benjamin--his hack license/credit goes by pretty fast. It's a good show, and you New Yawkers are real cool an' stuff, and it's the only game show where someone wins 750 bucks and you're excited for them instead of thinking how cheap the fuckin' producers are.

And I've got my own cabby of sorts, the Star's sports columnist Bob Kravitz. I've never met Mr. Kravitz. We've traded emails a couple of times over things he wrote. He can be counted on, once or twice a year at least, to reveal the zeitgeist as an aside. The most memorable of these, and the occasion of our first email exchange, was his response to criticism of the precedent and bounds-of-decency shattering excessathon that was the opening ceremonies of the Salt Lake City Games, which ran, "The world can kiss my red-white-and-blue ass."

So far as I'm aware, the world took a pass. This was less than half a year beyond 9/11, and one made allowances for silly and impotent public jingoisms. I don't remember now what our emails said. I do remember the ones from a year earlier, when BIll Clinton attended the 500, which gave Kravitz a chance to do a Clinton Cock joke, to which I responded that I looked forward to George W. Bush attending the race so the Blue Angels could honor him by flying over in the Missing Man formation, and Bob caught the reference (older readers may recall that Bush's TANG years were not much publicized somehow in 2000).

So, when Bob Kravitz uses the phrase "mouth-breathing, Ann Coulter-reading morons" I suppose I'm given pause in wondering why Today has her on in the first place. An NBC spokesman said she's "news," but clearly not everyone so described gets a ten-minute segment in which to peddle her merchandise, and few if any others are so described because they find ways to repackage slime every year or so. The question shouldn't be whether NBC will ever book her again. The question is why they did so this time, and why, if Matt Lauer is so outraged on behalf of the survivors of 9/11 victims it comes out only now. The cabbies of America are way ahead of you, NBC. Even the sportswriters have caught up.

Monday, June 12

Arlington Section 36, No. 1431

Thousands who lie there died bravely,
but how many among them lived as bravely?

Saturday, June 10

Happy Birthday

Chester Arthur Burnett
June 10, 1910--January 10, 1976

Week In Review

Thursday: US and Iraqi authorities jointly announced at separate press conferences the death of militant insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, LLC. Zarqawi was killed when he survived an airstrike employing two 500 lb. "bunker buster" bombs which were fired at his compound by Iraqi police, flattening the structure with Zarqawi just inside the outside of the structure, which was located nearby, killing him instantly, after which he lived just long enough to say something that couldn't be heard to US military and/or Iraqi police personnel, who were the first to arrive on the scene after the gun battle in which they killed him shortly after he died. The above photograph was one of several displayed by the US command in an effort to prove they hadn't doctored photos of a slightly injured man just blown to bits in a building he wasn't in.

Friday: US officials today explained the apparent shifting details in the death of militant insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, LLC, by explaining that the fog of war can be particularly heavy when you're not used to publishing stories you might wish to tell the truth about. The situation should revert to normal within the next few days, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "This had us back on our heels for a time," the official admitted. "After all, we just killed a guy that until a few weeks ago we thought we'd invented. Which you gotta admit can be a little disconcerting."

Friday, June 9

Happy Birthday

Cole Albert Porter
June 9, 1891 (Peru, Indiana)--October 15, 1964


Dr. Sanity, the ever-present reminder that under United States law it's permissible to label practically any trash fish you trawl up anywhere "North Atlantic Cod", offers a run-down of the "Reality-based community's reaction to the death of Zarqawi". Her first quote--her first quote, reader--is a single sentence followed by this:

Note - this is not a direct quote.

"Update one" includes this:

Juan Cole -"There is no evidence of operational links between his Salafi Jihadis in Iraq and the real al-Qaeda; it was just a sort of branding that suited everyone, including the US. Official US spokesmen have all along over-estimated his importance. Leaders are significant and not always easily replaced. But Zarqawi has in my view has been less important than local Iraqi leaders and groups. I don't expect the guerrilla war to subside any time soon."

Really, an academic gathers up Dr. Cole in her butterfly net and dumps him in her moonbat bag, Juan Cole pinned on a mat board next to a made-up quote from Kos and a comment from an open Atrios thread. Juan Cole. By a woman who despairs of "how much civil discourse has deteriorated" and who "really hates idiots".

Forget for a moment that this is Juan Cole's area of expertise, and it's what he blogs about. It would have been rather astonishing if he hadn't commented on the death of Zarqawi. It might have been noteworthy if he'd suddenly changed his tune in an attempt to rob the Bush administration of its stirring victory. Jeez Louise, what he said there isn't even controversial. Dr. Cole, of course, knows there's no reason for controversy. What is firmly demonstrable today will be clearly seen as such when all the confetti has turned to compost.

The only thing that bothers me is this: I'm concerned that these biennial spasms of delight and trash talking (Purple fingers! Spider holes! Uday and Qusay!) are like a morbidly obese man deciding to cram a year's worth of exercise into one hot July afternoon. You'd think someone called "Dr. Sanity" would have caught on to that by now.

Thursday, June 8

Woods of Wisdom

"There is usually little object in travelling tough just for the sake of being tough."

Hudson's Bay Company employee survival manual

Showing Your Imaginary Playmate Who's Boss

James Lileks, "Self-Loathing and the Denial of Terrorism", June 7

You're an enlightened world citizen. Your T-shirt says "9/11 was an inside job." You're pretty sure we're living in a fascist state, that President Bush taps the Dixie Chicks' phones, Christian abortion clinic bombers outnumber jihadis, and the war on "terror" is a distraction from the real threats: carbon emissions and Pat Robertson. Then you learn that 17 people were arrested in a terrorist bomb plot. How do you process the information? Let's take it step by step.

Toronto Star: Their so-called training camp turns out to have been a swath of bush near Washago, where their activities — shooting off firearms and playing paintball — were so obvious and so irritating that local residents immediately called police.

Recall the prime directive: Question Authority (unless he's a college professor). The plotters must have been impoverished olive farmers radicalized by the removal of Saddam Hussein. Why, if someone came in and toppled your president, you'd go to their country and ... well, you'd thank them. Unless they did it for the wrong reasons! Then you'd blow something up. Like an SUV dealership. At night. Anyway, you understand; you care a lot about Iraqis these days. You think about Iraq more than China, to be honest, but it's not as if you'll scrape off your "Free Tibet" bumper sticker -- unless it's to make room for "Free Darfur." Or "Hands Off Darfur," depending.

Toronto Star: These suspects, it is alleged, simply trespassed on someone's farm and, when the owner told them to leave, gave him lip.

Wait a minute: The "terrorists" were Canadian? You can understand someone blowing up trains in Spain and London. They sent troops to an illegal war cooked up by neocons who want to kill brown people for Exxon and Jesus, or something. You can understand, reluctantly, blowing up teens in an Israeli pizza parlor, because the Jews took the West Bank from the sovereign, ancient nation of Palestine. (How can a liberal socialist country behave so poorly? The world is full of mysteries.) But Canada? Isn't Michael Moore from Canada? You can get medical marijuana from married gay doctors in Canada, and no one has guns. You console yourself: Maybe they were really planning to attack the U.S.

Toronto Star: They apparently didn't realize, or perhaps didn't care, that large groups of brown-skinned urbanites dressed in camouflage are not a common sight in rural central Ontario.

But wait. You read that the suspects were not connected to al-Qaida, and you're confused for a moment. Maybe it won't be over if they get Osama bin Laden (provided he isn't really in an supersecret Idaho prison). What if the "terrorists" hate you for their own reasons? The evildoer-in-chief said "they hate our freedoms" -- as if we have freedoms, really, just try and get a bike-messenger job that has full health benefits. But what if rights and mixed-sex education and an economy based on sustainable hemp-based art installations mean nothing to them?

Toronto Star: [W]hen local resident Mike Côté came upon a group of just such men near his Ramara Township farm last December, he immediately informed police.

As he told the Star this week, the group appeared cold, wet and bedraggled. Some had fallen though the thin ice into a marsh. The leader of these alleged terrorists was so disgusted with his young charges that he complained to Côté about their incompetence.

Maybe you could convince them to hold off while you fix Amerikkka. At least you can get it down to one k. Maybe if the Democrats take the House back. A 10-seat swing won't make the imams cool down, but 20 seats, in red states? Would that be a good-faith effort?

Toronto Star: It appears that a good many knew the police were on to these suspects. Harper knew. So did Toronto Mayor David Miller. So did some of the suspects' neighbours. So did many near the ill-fated Ramara Township "training camp," who told the Star later that police asked them to keep their mouths shut.

But the alleged terrorists, it seems, remained blissfully ignorant. They let themselves get snared in an RCMP sting when one of the 17 allegedly placed an order for three tonnes of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, a substance that can be used to make bombs

You worry this will push Haditha off the front page. It's very important that everyone concentrate on the atrocities committed by U.S. troops every day. (It's such a relief not to have to pretend to support the troops anymore.) Anyway, nothing happened. Nothing blew up. If the suspects were planning something, they didn't do it, and this proves we can handle this as a law enforcement matter. Even though the police are racists.

Toronto Star: Some, it appears, chatted openly online about their paramilitary exploits at websites such as the now-dismantled , oblivious to the fact that the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service regularly troll such sites.

"I got my gun and tomorrow in the morning I am gonna do some target practise (sic) inshAllah (God willing) hott," reads one 2003 posting. "Checked out some paintball guns today at walmart."

You find yourself almost wishing there was another real attack, so people could see the logical consequences of "fighting back" after 9/11. Yes, it would be bad, but sometimes you have to break an egg to show people the health impact of omelettes. Is it wrong to wish the Canadian terrorists might have succeeded?

Shouldn't you know the answer to that question?

Canadian Press: An alleged plot to take MPs hostage on Parliament Hill was abandoned at an early stage because the suspects — who hail from southern Ontario — knew little about Ottawa, The Canadian Press has learned.

Wednesday, June 7

Cat, Amusing Picture of a

Larry's new favorite perch, which requires a jump of about five feet from the kitchen counter. He's obsessed with all things ceiling. His latest trick was turning on the Shop Vac in the basement, though judging from the condition of his fur immediately afterwards we expect that one won't be repeated anytime soon.

Not Affiliated With Any Known Form of Journalism

We had two major news stories here locally last week--the identity mixup of two victims of the Taylor University crash last month, then the home invasion murder of seven members of an Eastside family, followed by the 48-hour manhunt for the primary suspect. It was a real test for the local talking hairdos, as both stories were big, garnered national attention, and were so serious that the ordinary vapid patter had to be shelved. You could see the strain on some of 'em by the second half hour.

Which meant that by Monday we were back with a vengeance to the everyday business of taking oversized bites out of a shit sandwich while smiling and telling the viewership just how garsh-darned good the thing tasted. That included yesterday's big 666 story, including an "interview" with the proud parents of a baby boy born by C-section on 6-5 so that their friends wouldn't make fun of them--that's what they said, and that's why I put "interview" in quotes. There was a distinct feel of making fun of the handicapped about the whole thing, but at no time did any of the professional journalists hot on the story's trail mention that 6-6-06 has nothing whatever to do with the Beast, if in fact anything does. The whole thing played so matter of factly you'd have imagined they ran a story on math phobias every day, or a This Week's Exorcism feature.

I still had a headache left over from accidentally hearing one-time President of the United States George W. Bush say, of whatever euphemism he was using for same-sex marriage, that "the nation should decide," which I'm sure at one point would have genuinely caused "conservative" heads to start exploding. But my suspicion is that the sort of person who'd be outraged by the trampling of state's rights inherent in that statement also favors it, so we're not going to hear "George Bush is not a 'Conservative', Take Two" on this one, though I noticed the network pundits were still bringing up his alleged "Compassionate Conservatism" this weekend after having ignored it for the previous five-and--a-half years. The Tony Snow "heterosexual marriage as civil right" thing was bouncing around my cranium as well, though to be honest I'm not sure I will ever get that worked up over anything Snow spits up has to say, because, well, it's Tony Snow. (The absurd notion that Tony Snow was going to make a difference as Press Secretary because he wasn't Scott McClellan lasted, what? thirty six hours?)

So maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind to listen to the CBS evening news. It's a rare event; I can't tell you the last time I watched network news. Maybe the week of 9/11. And I wasn't prepared for the CBS crew wagging its collective finger at me, but that's what happened, three stories in a row.

The first, naturally, was the big Canadian terrorist story. It was obvious right away that CBS had no real interest in any details when flights of fancy could serve. As a graphic illustrated the path from Canada to Bangladesh apparently taken by one suspect, Bob Shieffer intoned that this showed how easy it was to arrange an international terrorist hookup, despite the notable lack of one word of evidence showing the suspect had, in fact, made such a connection. The Toronto Star story which, by taking the odd tack of focusing on what's known about these terrorists has uncovered a laughable tale of teenaged delinquents with tundra for brains, was still hours away in real time and light-years away in professionalism.

(Really, anything's possible, but why would an actual radical Islam version of SPECTRE want to attack Canada? Did it occur to anyone to ask? )

After all this time, after all the dummy Orange Alerts and bald fabrications, not to mention a horribly botched invasion, what will it take to get professional journalists to consider for thirty seconds before they jump at something like this? It called for nothing more than ordinary skepticism, which ought to be available in spades these days, but still seems to be on the ration list. And this was followed by a report on stem-cell research at Harvard which took the "Here's a Controversy" approach to the story despite strong public acceptance and all sensible argument being on one side, and a shocking revelation that the VA "identity theft" story now involved active-duty military personnel, a story which first broke 48 hours earlier and which was treated as the worst, most selfishly criminal exploitation of Our Troops ever exposed. Too bad one percent of that outrage has never been aimed at the people who sent those same soldiers into war on false pretenses. You just gotta wonder. Don't bad dreams cause most people to wake up?

Monday, June 5

Caution: Spoiler

I've been working like the dog i' the adage the past few days, and I fell asleep around 9 last night, naturally to awaken around 2 AM. I went into the bathroom, sorry, the master bath, and there was a solid, high-pitched, industrial squeal coming in through the window. I am one of those people, assuming there are others, who can't let something like that go. Besides I'd already had my five hours' sleep.

I went outside, expecting the source to be our neighbor to the north (the "Canadas"), the guy who does zero maintenance and whose air conditioner sounds like a MIG take off. Wasn't him, though, and it wasn't the trouble-making family (the "Hatfields") just up the block, though they yet had their front door open, giving a nice view of the string of white Christmas lights which adorn their fireplace. I kept walking, and the sound never got any louder. I was nearly to the church at the end of the block, where I would have gotten a less restricted shot at determining direction--your ears can fool you, class--when it stopped altogether, which convinced me a) it was somebody, probably in some commerical establishment three blocks over, who was running something that shouldn't have been running at that hour; and b) it was too frickin' cold out to have walked a quarter mile in a lousy t-shirt while still bed warm.

Of course my faithful companion was waiting silently at home for my return, so I grabbed the remote and punched up Turner Classics. It was The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), but unfortunately it had already been on for forty minutes and he'd already shrunk, so that was ruined for me. All that was left was watching Grant Williams run around with oversized props while some smoothy makes off with his now unsatisfied wife. Sometimes size does matter.

I decided to critique his survival technique, especially since at this hour every other channel was an informercial. I should also point out that Williams was already in the basement, and I forget how he got there. I'm pretty sure he had an altercation with the cat while upstairs, so taking to the basement solved his immediate predator problem, though, of course, not for good. (Now that I think of it, his wife may have become convinced that he was eaten by Fluffy, making the moves of Mr. Smoove just that much more irresistable. ) But freed of that danger, WIlliams proceeds to go about things all wrong. Now none of us can say for certain that an unexpected weight loss of such proportions wouldn't play on our minds for a time, but...survival means using your head! Setting priorities! And the first of these is hydration, but Williams takes it for granted. Something drips on him and he swallows a couple mouthfuls. We'll allow as how people in the 50s were unaware of the risks of giardia; today we would be sure to treat the water (by boiling 15 minutes if no other purification method was available). Still, assuming there's no pressing medical or safety issue at hand, potable water is your number one concern.

Somewhere along the line Williams fashioned himself a toga. No doubt this was a nod to the social mores of the moviegoer of the day, but it's no excuse for going barefoot. A simple pair of sandals could have been made quite easily. Bear in mind that you'll probably do a lot of walking in any survival situation, and if you're shrinking by the minute you'll have to do even more. And not that clothing was a bad idea; as you shrink the ratio of surface area to volume may increase, so you'll lose body heat more rapidly. A toga is not going to be a great choice under the circumstances. Some puttees or leggings, even wound strips of material running from ankle to thigh, would help. So would stuffing the upper garment with insulating materials. Keep your core warm--top of the head to the navel.

Williams did create a shelter out of an abandoned matchbox. This was a good choice under the circumstances, as his only insect opponent turned out to be the exceedingly rare Midwestern web-spinning tarantula, and she couldn't fit in the box. But most basements will house a variety of arachnids and other undesirables, underscoring the fact that fire should be a major priority in the wilderness. If he'd been astute Williams would have stashed firestarting materials around the house before he shrunk down to insect proportions; even so, a little ingenuity would have had a fire going in no time, since there appeared to be a match left over (even though he was too small to manipulate the match, Williams could have shaved the head for combustible materials and the body for tinder, or he could have fashioned a wick and taken fire from the pilot lights of the water heater or furnace. Taming fire tames the world around you.

Williams wastes a good deal of time in the pursuit of food (cheese from a mousetrap, some sort of breadstuff near the spider's web), nearly getting himself killed a couple of times in the process. This was really all wrong, first because food is not your number one priority, second because if it is you might want to head for the kitchen, cat or no cat (speaking of which, if you do have a cat upstairs and mice in the basement you might want to consider letting Kitty go downstairs once in a while). In fact if you could swing it the refrigerator just might be the idea location under the circumstances, as food would be ample and predators nonexistent. It would be cold and dark much of the time, but people have endured worse.

I have to admit I lost interest around the time the water heater broke (never set up camp in a dry stream bed) and consciousness shortly after. And I dreamed myself a dream, and in it the US President noticed his jacket sleeves were growing longer.