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March 31, 2002
State of nature More perspective, this time from Tory commentator Matthew Parris, on the fascinating history of US-UK relations in the first part of the Falklands war. Once again, the facts as revealed run distinctly counter to the widespread belief, dominant in blogdom, in the solidity of the “Anglosphere” and the perfidy of the French.

I’m not sure why this interests me so. I guess it’s just that every time I see another blogger ragging on how “of course” the French are doing this or that anti-American thing, and how of course we’ll be able to count on some other pro-American country (usually Britain), I want to say, in a remember-Caesar-thou-art-mortal voice: nations have interests, not friendships. The “Anglosphere” is a granfalloon.

[03:21 PM : 0 comments]

A Bas Fine post by Gary Farber about the modern history of the American Left, and why we’re in such a rut.
[…] Few leftists have ever had much sense of or knowledge of leftist history, instead riding on a vogue of contemporary down-with [capitalism, globalization, polluters, Republicans, contras, corporations, etc.] that is as much a politics of feel-good, feel-righteous as is that of those on the Right whose chimes are rung by snarling at [those liberals, the nanny state, pacifists, taxes, class warfare, big government, redistributionism, the Clintons].
I particularly like the concept of “contemporary down-with,” which nicely encompasses a whole universe of moral laziness and cheap glow. But read the whole post.

[02:57 PM : 0 comments]

March 30, 2002
Pass it on I’m amazed that the weblog of a Net maven as distinguished as Doc Searls doesn’t feature an email address for him, as far as I can tell. At any rate, someone who knows how to email him should let him know that, contrary to what he asserts, not all the five Senate sponsors of the “Anti-Mammal Dinosaur Protection Act”—which is to say, Senator Hollings’ attempt to ban the personal computer on behalf of his Hollywood paymasters—are Democrats: Alaska Senator Ted Stevens is a Republican. (UPDATE: A reader posts to my comments section to point out that Searls’ address is at the bottom of his about page. I am abashed.)

[01:39 PM : 3 comments]

More than qualified Jim Henley, my favorite libertarian isolationist, has an outstanding post on the current situation in the Middle East, partly taking off from my exasperated dismissal of the Saudis earlier this morning.

Explaining why he favors unilateral Israeli separation from the Palestinians, he writes:

It means buying out the settlers who will be bought and abandoning the ones who won’t. It means compensating the refugees of 1948 and 1967 who will be bought and washing one’s hands of those who won’t. It has to include dismantling the network of roads and checkpoints that make “Palestinian” territory a semitic bantustan, and abjuring fortifications along the Jordan river or it isn’t really separation. It leaves the mess of Jerusalem to deal with.

But it gives the Palestinians a real state and forces them to make it go. Right now, their failures at nation-building can be blamed on the Occupation, often plausibly. Take that excuse away. And if the Palestinians militarize? People, nations have militaries. The question is what they do with them. Israel has the strongest military in the middle east. If Palestine attacks, have a real war against Palestine. (The truth is, there will have to be at least one. Peace comes when both sides are sicker of fighting than they are of not having what they want and neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians are there yet.) Set up real borders. Secure them. Negotiate with a sovereign enemy, not a captive people.

That’s one part; it’s a long post, well-argued, and worth reading in its entirety. I’m not sure I agree with every point, but I’m quite sure Henley is one of the most interesting writers in the blog world today, and easily deserves as much attention as the current set of stars.

[01:11 PM : 0 comments]

I don’t know either Regarding the subject now fixed in blogdom’s collective mind as “bailiffs and terriers,” Christine Quinones asked, in an email I should have run a couple of weeks ago:
With respect to the current controversy over steel tariffs: I92ve seen it talked about for some time that the dollar is overvalued relative to other countries92 currencies, and that this is a problem for a number of reasons. Isn92t this precisely an instance where a drop in the value of the dollar would resolve the problem the steel industry faces much faster and more effectively than the gerrymandered tariff that George W. Bush is trying to cobble together? I mean, American steel would then be price-competitive with foreign steel, steelworkers could preserve their jobs, and American consumers of steel wouldn92t have tough tax vs. patriotism decisions to worry about. And the market would resolve the problem, just as Republicans tell us it always does! What92s not to like? Makes me wonder who could possibly benefit from the over-strong dollar such that this hasn92t already happened.
I’ve had a bunch of other emailed comments and contributions to ongoing discussions over the last week that I just haven’t managed to make use of, and in most cases, the discussions in question are now somewhat old news. For which I apologize. (I’m pretty behind on email in general, and I doubt I’ll catch up much while travelling, either.) (Of course, another reason is that I’ve been stunned into quiescence by today’s emailed offer to “Trace the Nielsenhayden Family Tree!”)

[11:40 AM : 2 comments]

Beyond shamelessness I’m on the road; thus the lack of posts. But I may well have some today and/or tomorrow, if I can get a moment.

Meanwhile, not to be repetitive, but isn’t this charming? Yes, it’s the Arab News, “Saudi Arabia’s First English Language Daily,” repeating the chestnut about how Benjamin Franklin warned America against admitting the perfidious Jews. “In every land the Jews have settled, they have depressed the moral level and lowered the degree of commercial honesty…I warn you gentlemen, that if you do not exclude the Jews forever, your children and your children92s children will curse you from their graves,” Franklin most certainly did not say, contrary to this Nazi-authored lie being recycled by our friends the Saudis.

It’s notable this this didn’t require the translation or publicity services of MEMRI. This is in one of Saudi Arabia’s English-language publications, on the web for the world to see. (I can’t imagine that I need to explain at this late date that nothing gets published in Saudi Arabia without government approval.)

Dick Cheney met respectfully with these guys just last week. The Arab world calls them leaders. Not to put too fine a point on it, but: fuck them all.

[09:39 AM : 0 comments]

March 27, 2002
Things that are cool Teresa’s new point-and-shoot digital camera is cool. Standing at the base of New York City’s “Towers of Light” is cool. The integration between the camera, Mac OS X, iPhoto, and Apple’s free “iTools” server space is cool. Being able to tidily post photos straight from the camera to the Web with about six mouse clicks is extremely, extremely cool.

[09:18 AM : 3 comments]

March 26, 2002
Where would we be without him? Notwithstanding my earlier remarks about Eric Alterman’s attack on Andrew Sullivan, it must be said that only Sullivan could find a way to turn the story of Maxim magazine’s best-city-on-Earth prank into an attack on (who else?) Bill Clinton.

Perhaps it’s art. That’s the ticket. Art.

[09:34 PM : 9 comments]

March 25, 2002
Shouting against amnesia Chris Bertram of Junius has a post — with quotes from a former Tory Defense Secretary — addressing the belief, common in the blog world, that modern America is always ready to fight for freedom while the perfidious French are always eager to negotiate it away.

[08:59 PM : 1 comments]

Line in the sand It is no exaggeration to say that, right here, right now, the American entertainment industry wants to destroy your way of life. Dan Gillmor sums up the clear and present danger.

I’m not summarizing or quoting. Gillmor’s column is short enough as it is. Read it and consider doing what he suggests. This is a cusp. It’s your future.

[12:58 PM : 1 comments]

Long knives in Yorba Linda Disputes over the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace Foundation have split the Nixon family:
It had been two years since Mr. Nixon’s death, and his daughters, Tricia Nixon Cox and Julie Nixon Eisenhower, had not only publicly rebuked [library director John H.] Taylor in a letter published in The New York Times but also arranged to have him dismissed because of his efforts to take control of the library from the sisters and place it in the hands of the 24-member board of directors. Angry letters were exchanged as a showdown drew near.

Six months later, everything had changed. Not only had Mr. Taylor, a former Nixon aide, fought off the effort to oust him, but the library’s huge board had officially taken control away from the family. Also, Mrs. Eisenhower had suddenly reversed herself and supported the shift. As a result, family members and supporters say, the Nixon sisters stopped speaking, and have not to this day, dividing the old Nixon loyalists as well.

If you’re one of those connoisseurs of Nixonia who just can’t get enough newspaper stories full of names like “Rebozo” and “Abplanalp”, this is one for you.

[12:29 PM : 2 comments]

Credentialism, revisited Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough in the last post. I’m pretty sure the 70-year-old guy in the Seattle case is no innocent victim. He appears to have a long record of harrassing his neighbors and others on the Web, on Usenet, and elsewhere, and I don’t mean to imply that it’s never appropriate for a judge to order someone to refrain from behavior that’s at issue in an ongoing case.

What I’m trying to say is that, notwithstanding distinctions that may or may not have been made in the past, it’s no longer appropriate to base such orders (or other legal arguments or decisions) on whether someone is a credentialed journalist or not. In the 21st century, we’re all journalists. (Whether this was in fact an element of the judge’s reasoning is a question currently being investigated by our gigantic research staff.)

[12:15 PM : 4 comments]

March 23, 2002
Defending the battlements A Seattle judge has jailed a 70-year-old man for writing cranky and abusive things about his neighbors on a Web site—and has dismissed First Amendment objections on the grounds that the defendant isn’t a paid professional reporter. Here’s the story, in the Seattle Weekly. (Rasff regulars will be interested to note that the story quotes, among others, Michael J. Lowrey.)

It’s entirely imaginable that the defendant’s writings are nasty and untrue. As it happens, the legal system offers many remedies for people who feel they have been materially damaged by untrue speech. But if the First Amendment applies only to officially-certified reporters, we’re all in deep trouble. (And if you think this is an isolated outbreak of that legal meme, google up “Vanessa Leggett”, the unpaid Texas writer who made the mistake of thinking she was entitled to the same protections as any other reporter, and spent hundreds of days in jail as a result.)

It’s hard to read Eric Alterman’s Nation attack on Andrew Sullivan without wondering about this. Evidently Alterman can’t just observe (as anyone might) that Sullivan frequently indulges in abusive hyperbole, or that his unedited and unbuttoned remarks on current events and personalities are often wrong in their specifics. Rather, Sullivan’s basic practice is “dangerous,” amounts to an “inquisition,” and constitutes an “illustration of the modus operandi of the ideological commissar—the McCarthyite mullah.” Yes, writing snarky remarks on your weblog is just like rounding people up at gunpoint and shipping them off to re-education camps.

“It is not as if responsible blogging is impossible,” Alterman concedes, citing Mickey Kaus and Joshua Micah Marshall as “responsible” bloggers. (Poor Kaus and Marshall, singled out by the Assistant Principal as the good kids.)

I probably agree with Alterman on the issues rather more frequently than I agree with Andrew Sullivan. I certainly agree that there are subjects (Paul Krugman, Bill Clinton) that cause Sullivan’s eyes to stop pointing in the same direction. Alterman could easily have written a piece taking apart Sullivan’s dumber remarks bit by bit. He didn’t write that piece, because his target isn’t really Sullivan. His real target is the legitimacy of self-published Web commentary. It’s a call to arms from the battlements of the credentialed. Alterman is speaking from the same worldview as those judges in Seattle and Texas who believe that legitimacy belongs only to the certified, the professionals, the insiders. So much for the egalitarian, universalising, empowering traditions of the Left. Thank you, The Nation.

In a kind of climax of hypocrisy, Alterman accuses Sullivan of a “will to censorship.” Words fail.

[02:05 PM : 6 comments]

March 19, 2002
R.I.P. R. A. Lafferty, 1914-2002. Continued on next rock.

[11:37 PM : 3 comments]

March 18, 2002
Hunt the brain I’ve seen several links to Hunt the Boeing, a site devoted to questioning the idea that a plane actually hit the Pentagon. After all, they say, you can’t see plane bits in the photos. And why didn’t the wings make a wider hole, if the plane actually plowed into the Pentagon’s outer ring? And so forth.

Before you become dizzy trying to figure out whose interests would be served by such a hoax (“Quick! Terrorist airplanes have rammed into the World Trade Center! On the double, detonate the secret truck bomb we stashed next to the Pentagon!”), you might want to look at Paul Boutin’s weblog, where he and Patrick Di Justo do a fine job of demolishing both the rhetoric and the science of “Hunt the Boeing.” (This generally interesting weblog discovered via Virginia Postrel.)

[Quoting from “Hunt the Boeing”:] The first satellite image shows the section of the building that was hit by the Boeing. In the image below, the second ring of the building is also visible. It is clear that the aircraft only hit the first ring. The four interior rings remain intact. They were only fire-damaged after the initial explosion. Can you explain how a Boeing 757-200, weighing nearly 100 tons and travelling at a minimum speed of 250 miles an hour* only damaged the outside of the Pentagon?

Paul: The question and photos are misleading: Parts of the plane penetrated the ground floors of the second and third rings of the building. These photos show only their intact roofs. Eyewitnesses and news reporters have talked about the twelve-foot hole punched through the inside wall of the second ring by one of the plane92s engines.

More importantly, the question focuses on the plane92s size and weight, making it sound extraordinarily heavy, but leaves out the size and weight of the Pentagon 96 America92s largest office building with three times the floor space of the Empire State Building - as well as the difference in relative stiffness and energy absorption between a building and an airplane. Each side of the Pentagon contains over 100,000 tons of Potomac sand mixed into the steel-reinforced concrete under its limestome facade. There are nearly 10,000 concrete piles anchoring each side of the building. And in the wake of bombings in Oklahoma City and Saudi Arabia, that portion of the Pentagon had just been reinforced with a computationally modeled lattice of steel tubes designed to prevent it from collapsing after an explosion.

By contrast, the plane is only 100 tons of custom alloys stretched thin enough to fly. It92s not like a giant bullet; more like a giant racing bike. Even so, the plane knocked down 10,000 tons of building material - 100 times its own weight - in the crash and subsequent collapse. Another 57,000 tons of the Pentagon were damaged badly enough to be torn down. The Brobdingnagian scale of the Pentagon makes the total area of damage seem small, but it would hold several Silicon Valley office buildings, or an airport terminal.

I’m still working on the question of how our secret fascist insect overlords would have benefitted by (1) blowing up part of the Pentagon and (2) falsely claiming a terrorist-piloted jet aircraft plowed into it. Even leaving aside all the eyewitnesses and firefighters they would have to have paid off or mindwiped. (After all, we know they have k00l underground facilities for that sort of thing.)

[01:05 PM : 16 comments]

Something odd seems to have happened Via Charlie Stross, some remarkable remarks in the Observer by John Lloyd:
…[T]here is now a narrative of the left—complete in itself in the way such narratives are—which sees in the US an imperial predator whose actions—all actions—are conditioned by this aspect of its being.

This narrative has ceased to be critical, but become predestinarian: rather as predestinarians divided humanity into those whose actions could never be wrong and those whose actions could never be right, so this strain of left critique arrogates to itself the first and confers on the US the second. It is important not to confuse this grand, totalising critique with criticism, from left or right. The latter is essential for governments, most essential for governments with such awful power as the US commands. But the totalising critique is an intellectual construct, derived from the techniques of 19th century philosophy, which bends all facts to fit the ideological line. […]

The modalities of any military action against Iraq need careful, and public discussion. But the view, which the far left in Europe powerfully expresses, that in a consideration of action against Iraq the folly, imperialism and crimes of America are the only matter which may enter the discussion is an abdication of the left’s own attachment to enlightenment rationalism.

It also abandons, or at least suppresses, its own anti-fascist credentials. Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda are murderous on a grand scale, as is Saddam’s government; who have been especially murderous to those groups within Iraq—especially the Kurds—considered disloyal to his rule. He has shown willingness to invade neighbouring states, and to acquire weapons of mass destruction of all types—nuclear, biological and chemical. He is committed to destroying the Israeli state, and has sponsored terrorism against it and others.

It is neither folly nor imperialism to discuss how he might be deposed, and what assistance we might give to the Iraqi opposition to replace him. The question—is it worth it?—is a large part of such consideration. But the automatic assumption that it can never be—indeed, that the mere thought of it is a sign of evil intent—is, preposterously, the reflex of a substantial part of Europe’s left intelligentsia.

[12:20 AM : 2 comments]

March 16, 2002
Your technical staff at work Spent part of the morning carefully adjusting type sizes, background shades, and link colors in my never-ending quest to provide you, yes you with a Quality User Experience. As the slogan of the first World Science Fiction Convention (New York, 1939) had it, “Unendurable Pleasure, Infinitely Prolonged!” Then a friend flew in from out of town, plopped his TiBook onto our kitchen table, plugged into our home network, and loaded my page into Microsoft Internet Explorer…which displayed exactly none of my wonderful, yet subtle and understated, improvements.

Moral: once MSIE (the Mac version, at any rate) loads a CSS style sheet for a particular page, it’ll keep using that version until the user restarts the browser or empties the disk cache. Reloading the page won’t necessarily kick the browser into reloading the style sheet; it’ll just keep looking at new content with the old styles. So if you feel your Electrolite experience is lacking something, empty your disk cache and reload. Warning: effects may appear over a period of several days. If hair loss or extra eyeballs occur, consult your theologian.

(Subsidiary moral: People who own TiBooks should be killed, until I own one.)

[11:14 PM : 11 comments]

Intriguing parallels Israeli pundit Shlomo Avineri discusses how Iran is both an exporter of terrorism and one of the most interesting places in the Islamic world. Because they actually have contested elections, they have real politics, despite the constraints imposed by the mullahs. Because they interpret Islamic law to forbid male doctors treating women, Iran’s rulers have trained more female doctors than the Shah did; mortality in childbirth is among the lowest in the region. Fascinatingly, Iran’s rulers have also figured out an Islamic rationale for aggressively promoting birth control, saying “we want educated Islamic families, not just large Islamic families.”
Iran presents a complex, sometimes confusing picture. But anyone who knows European history can identify a parallel: the Calvinist, Puritan revolution. The Calvinists of Geneva, or Cromwell’s Puritans, were—like the mullahs of Teheran—biblio-centric, with a Holy Book as their model for the ideal society. Their society was meant to be puritanical, frugal, non-permissive, with laws against conspicuous consumption and luxuries. It was also anti-feminist, anchored in patriarchal family structures.

Because the Calvinists did not accept a Church hierarchy, they—like the Iranian Shi’ites who are not part of the Sunni majoritarian universalism—based their legitimacy on the community of believers and so introduced elections. But once you hold real elections, different modes of interpretation of the Holy Book become possible and legitimate. Suddenly, there exists a mechanism for participation, control, dissent (limited as it may be) and the introduction of innovative strategies that seek to legitimize change within a traditional context.

In Europe, after all, Calvin’s Geneva—an autocratic theocracy, more similar to Khomeini’s Teheran than to any other regime—eventually developed, through English Puritanism, towards modern parliamentary government. Indeed, in Britain until the 1820’s only members of the Church of England could vote in Parliament or be elected to it.

Via Junius, which continues to be one of the most interesting blogs on my daily browse.

[12:08 PM : 1 comments]

Second time around (2) Jack and Stephen are ashore in Minorca, attending a splashy party full of British naval officers, ecclesiastics, civilians, merchants and local notables. In fact, everyone who matters is there.
They greeted him kindly, urged him to drink a glass of punch—another glass of punch—they had all taken a great deal; it was quite wholesome—excellent punch, the very thing for so hot a day. The talk flowed on, with only Stephen and a Captain Nevin remaining a little silent. Stephen noticed a pondering, absorbed look in Captain Nevin’s eye—a look very familiar to him—and he was not surprised to be led away behind the orange-tree to be told in a low confidential fluent earnest voice of Captain Nevin’s difficulty in digesting even the simplest dishes. Captain Nevin’s dyspepsy had puzzled the faculty for years, for years, sir; but he was sure it would yield to Stephen’s superior powers; he had better give Dr Maturin all the details he could remember, for it was a very singular, interesting case, as Sir John Abel had told him—Stephen knew Sir John?—but to be quite frank (lowering his voice and glancing furtively round) he had to admit that there were certain difficulties in—in evacuation, too … His voice ran on, low and urgent, and Stephen stood with his hands behind his back, his head bowed, his face gravely inclined in a listening attitude. He was not, indeed, inattentive; but his attention was not so wholly taken up that he did not hear Jack cry “Oh, yes, yes! The rest of them are certainly coming ashore—they are lining the rail in their shore-going rig, with money in their pockets, their eyes staring out of their heads and their pricks a yard long.” He could scarcely have avoided hearing it, for Jack had a fine carrying voice, and his remark happened to drop into one of those curious silences that occur even in very numerous assemblies.

Stephen regretted the remark; he regretted its effect upon the ladies on the other side of the orange-tree, who were standing up and mincing away with many an indignant glance; but how much more did he regret Jack’s crimson face, the look of manic glee in his blazing eyes and his triumphant, 93You needn’t hurry, ladies—they won’t be allowed off the sloop until the evening gun.94

A determined upsurge of talk drowned any possibility of further observations of this kind, and Captain Nevin was settling down to his colon again when Stephen felt a hand on his arm, and there was Miss Harte, smiling at Captain Nevin in such a manner that he backed and lost himself among the punch-bowls.

“Dr Maturin, please take your friend away,” said Molly Harte in a low, urgent tone. “Tell him his ship is on fire—tell him anything. Only get him away—he will do himself such damage.”

Stephen nodded. He lowered his head and walked directly into the group, took Jack by the elbow and said, “Come, come, come,” in an odd, imperative half-whisper, bowing to those whose conversation he had interrupted. “There is not a moment to be lost.”

More from Master and Commander.

[11:24 AM : 7 comments]

You won’t have a name when you ride the big airplane Ken Layne approves of the bill, passed by the House and now heading to the Senate, that would temporarily allow several thousand illegal immigrants to apply for legal status without returning to their home countries first.
This is a country of immigrants. And the United States, especially the Southwest, has long relied on illegal immigrants from the south to work the fields and make the beds and bus the tables. It’s hypocritical to depend on a population to do our dirty work and then throw ‘em back to Mexico.
Woody Guthrie would have agreed.

[10:13 AM : 0 comments]

Any drier, and we’re going to have to call the fire marshal Best pundit line of the week:
In reality97unless I’m crazy97”hard left” is not an accurate description of the average Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
(—Michael Kinsley in Slate, addressing remarks by Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas)

[12:04 AM : 1 comments]

March 15, 2002
Gee, what if we just made stuff people wanted to pay for It’s been linked from here to Timbuktu, but if you haven’t yet read publisher Tim O’Reilly’s response to Michael Eisner and the other Hollywood moguls who want to take away your computer, do so now.

[11:44 PM : 0 comments]

Cold dead fingers (2) Instapundit wants to know why it’s okay for Dianne Feinstein’s aide to pirate a copy of Shrek off the net, while Dmitri Sklyarov got prosecuted by the United States Government without committing any actual piracy at all.

Evidently it’s okay for Congressional aides to commit felonies in order to provide their bosses with props to wave at hearings, but if you write software in another country that might be used to break encryption on someone’s copyrighted material here, you can be slammed in jail when you touch American soil.

These people really do mean to replace your computers with government-regulated set-top boxes. Their plans are well advanced. I’m glad a bunch of outspoken conservatives and libertarians are raising the alarm on the SSSCA, but Hollywood’s determination to ban the user-programmable computer is an issue that should alarm everyone with an IQ greater than seafood. Now.

It’s also a wake-up call, because by and large, it’s Democratic legislators (property of the entertainment industry) who are pushing this stuff, and while a lot of Republican legislators (property of various other industries) are acquiescing to it, what opposition there is mostly comes from Republicans. Smart GOP strategists will certainly note this issue’s potential for peeling core Democratic voters away from their party. I’ve voted for Democrats most of my life, but I’ll certainly never again vote for a Democrat who supports the SSSCA or anything like it. Which raises the very real possibility that there won’t be a Democrat I can vote for in 2004. I don’t think my feelings on this issue reflect a majority’s sentiments, but I think there are a lot more of me than the clever-dick staffers of Senators like Feinstein, Kerry, and Hollings realize. You can have our Turing machines when you pry them out of our…

[09:01 PM : 0 comments]

Okay, okay Naturally, right after I posted the swipe at Nick Denton you see below, he posted these graceful remarks on the whole issue. Don’t I feel stupid now. Oh well, we’ll get over it.

Between Denton, Oliver Willis, and a couple of other folks, it’s definitely time for me to remark that I’m not actually named “Patrick Hayden.” Here’s the scoop, on a page hung off my and Teresa’s home page. But it’s not something I get exercised about. Honest.

[05:58 PM : 4 comments]

Beating a dead harp I shouldn’t keep banging on the poor guy, but I’m just a rotten person sometimes. Nick Denton quotes from, and links to, the Michael Walzer piece from Dissent. Which he appears to have picked up on, this morning, from…Andrew Sullivan.

How many left-leaning blogs linked to that Walzer piece over the previous few days? But Denton, who’s repeatedly claimed the blog world is short of strong leftish voices, didn’t notice it until it was linked to by a popular right-winger. Ginger Stampley is right: Denton needs to clean out his own blogodex before pronouncing further on what is and isn’t out there.

[12:45 PM : 0 comments]

Just like Tolstoy, only stupid Lydia Nickerson can’t believe I didn’t quote this from the Alan Keyes piece alluded to below:
Of course, an entire people cannot have so perfect an understanding as its statesmen of the causes that justify, even require, going to war. Human history has taught us time and time again that as the simple faith of the peasant necessarily lacks much of the precision of the theologian92s doctrine, so the judgment of any nation will always lack much of the sophistication of the statesman92s subtle reasoning. But, like the faith of the holy peasant, the people92s grasp of the essential realities can be astonishingly complete, and deep—even wise—when it is in a form that a cynic might find simplistic.
Wow. Peasantry as holy. The simple serf in his place.

This is certainly as unhinged as the original Rall cartoon was malign, and more anti-American as well. Keyes should take his notion of holy peasantry back to Europe where it came from. We don’t do that here.

[12:07 PM : 1 comments]

Second time around (1) Teresa and I are re-reading the inexpressibly wonderful Aubrey/Maturin novels by Patrick O’Brian.
Hitherto, Jack had been too busy working up his crew to pay much attention to the education of his midshipmen, but he had looked at yesterday92s slips and they, with a very suspicious unanimity, had shown the Sophie in 39a 21’ N., which was fair enough, but also in a longitude that she could only have reached by cleaving the mountain-range behind Valencia to a depth of thirty-seven miles.

93What do you mean by sending me this nonsense?94 he asked them. It was not really an answerable question; nor were many of the others he propounded, and they did not, in fact, attempt to answer them; but they agreed that they were not there to amuse themselves, nor for their manly beauty, but rather to learn their professions; that their journals (which they fetched) were neither accurate, full, nor up to date, and that the ship92s cat would have written them better; that they would for the future pay the greatest attention to Mr Marshall92s observation and reckoning; that they would prick the chart daily with him; and that no man was fit to pass for a lieutenant, let alone bear any command (93May God forgive me,94 said Jack, in an internal aside) who could not instantly tell the position of his ship to within a minute97nay, to within thirty seconds. Furthermore, they would show up their journals every Sunday, cleanly and legibly written.

From book 1, Master and Commander. How can one not be stirred?

[12:40 AM : 2 comments]

That modern world Tom Tomorrow, who needs to set up permalinks, has a thoughtful post about the Ted Rall flap. I hadn’t realized Alan Keyes had called for some kind of “governmental action” against the nefarious threat to national security posed by a cartoon, but I’m not surprised. Tom is wrong about just one thing, which is his notion that Keyes is normally “one of those let-the-marketplace-work-its-magic, get-the-government-off-our-backs conservatives.” Actually, he’s one of those unhinged-ranting, eyes-don’t-point-in-the-same-direction, secular-liberals-are-poisoning-our-moral-fiber conservatives, so his latest outburst is right in character.

Update: Tom Tomorrow installs permalinks! So here’s a direct link to the post discussed above.

[12:17 AM : 0 comments]

March 14, 2002
Sound off Sgt. Stryker doesn’t think much of the latest “national service” proposal, a Republican-sponsored bill calling for mandatory “boot camp” after high school. Says the Sgt.:
Let’s get another thing straight while we’re here. The military is not your goddamned motivational speaker. Our mission is not to crank out civic minded citizens. Our mission is to train and equip people to perform wartime and support taskings. All of our specialties exist for only one purpose: War. We’re not here to make people better, or to cover mommy and daddy’s failures as parents.
Stryker also has some pretty sensible comments about gays in the military.

[11:42 PM : 0 comments]

Figs and pishes Avram Grumer comments on the story below, and adds some interesting points about the changes that the Saudis have rung on the old blood libel.

(Avram is one of those longtime, pre-9/11, tech-industry, left-leaning bloggers who, Nick Denton tells us, are “gentle souls” too mild to stand up to conservative firebrands like Glenn Reynolds. Also, I am the Bishop of Montevideo.)

Avram joins Ted Barlow in noting the insubstantiality of a lot of recent blogger shots at Michael Moore. (Evidently only conservatives are allowed to get rich; if outspoken liberals do it, it’s proof of their perfidy.) In fact there’s plenty to be said against Michael Moore, and Gary Farber does a first-class job of nailing him for his worst sin: his luxuriant self-congratulation. In the Moore-iverse, getting tossed out of rented school space when your event goes on hours past the time you paid for “feels like we’re in some sort of banana republic or East Berlin.” As Gary observes, “Moore used to have some funny things to say about corporate indifference. Nowadays he’s all about promoting himself as a Hero for Speaking Up.” That’s exactly right. Michael Moore strikes a lot of us as a phony, not because he’s rich, but because he increasingly acts like a left-wing Limbaugh, an entertainer who’s stumbled on a popular gig catering to the prejudices of a particular demographic group. Wealth has nothing to do with it. As we know, great wealth always threatens to undermine the moral and intellectal integrity of liberals and progressives, and I for one am willing to take that risk.

[08:52 AM : 3 comments]

March 13, 2002
There are no words Via Little Green Footballs, this item from MEMRI, presenting

…No. I can’t bring myself to print this stuff.

Look for yourself.

An article by a leading Saudi academic explaining how Jews extract blood from Gentiles to make Purim pastry.

By “columnist Dr. Umayma Ahmad Al-Jalahma of King Faysal University in Al-Dammam.”

Published in the Saudi government daily newspaper Al Riyadh, March 10, 2002.

That was this past Sunday. While you were reading your New York Times, with its thoughtful thumbsuckers about the “Saudi peace plan.” And living your happy Western lives.

Maybe you were going to church. Maybe you were sleeping in. Or reading Patrick O’Brian novels. Or blogging. Or watching TV.

Whatever you were doing, while you were doing it, Saudi newspaper readers were reading a calm, authoritative explanation that “the Jews’ spilling human blood to prepare pastry for their holidays is a well-established fact, historically and legally, all throughout history. This was one of the main reasons for the persecution and exile that were their lot in Europe and Asia at various times.”

Nick Denton dismisses anti-Saudi sentiment as part and parcel of “monstrously hawkish” blogger groupthink.

It feels strange and terrible to have lived into a future in which being shocked by an absolute monarchy that sponsors blatant Jew-hatred is regarded by otherwise intelligent people as “monstrous” and “conservative.”

Please, please, this is the wrong future. Take me back, please. Start again.

[11:37 PM : 13 comments]

WHY WE FIGHT Liberal blogger Charles Dodgson (one of those people Nick Denton says don’t exist) has a clear-eyed, hard-hitting essay explaining just that. Here.

[10:27 PM : 0 comments]

March 12, 2002
Marking time (3)

Holding on.

And making light.

[01:41 AM : 3 comments]

Pure politics for now people Teresa’s at the kitchen table, reading the Michael Walzer article on her Mac. I’m getting a drink. “It’s a great piece,” I say unnecessarily. “He’s terrific on the oxygen-starved alienation of a certain kind of left intellectual from their own neighbors. The one thing he doesn’t get at, though, is the extent to which a certain kind of smug, above-it-all, cynical-about-everything leftism has simply become a pre-fab politics for people who would be unhappy misfits no matter what.” I gesture broadly, tossing ice from my glass to the floor. “Because they’re screwed-up people. It’s actually got nothing to do with ideology, much less ideas.” I bend over to reach for the ice, which scatters under the kitchen table.

“Oh, goodness, yes,” says Teresa with perfect absent-minded poise. “If they couldn’t be leftists, they’d have to be Anabaptists or something.”

Essay question: Are Teresa and Patrick suggesting that all “left intellectuals” are “screwed-up people”? Under your desk you will find 20cc of elementary logic for your use in deriving an answer. Be prepared to defend your conclusion.

[12:29 AM : 6 comments]

Step one, meet your neighbors An amazing piece by Michael Walzer, “Can There Be a Decent Left?” This is so sharp, so provocative, so insightful in practically every paragraph, I can barely stop myself from running the whole thing. Just a taste:
Many left intellectuals live in America like internal aliens, refusing to identify with their fellow citizens, regarding any hint of patriotic feeling as politically incorrect. That92s why they had such difficulty responding emotionally to the attacks of September 11 or joining in the expressions of solidarity that followed. Equally important, that92s why their participation in the policy debate after the attacks was so odd; their proposals (turn to the UN, collect evidence against bin Laden, and so on) seem to have been developed with no concern for effectiveness and no sense of urgency. They talked and wrote as if they could not imagine themselves responsible for the lives of their fellow-citizens. That was someone else92s business; the business of the left was…what? To oppose the authorities, whatever they did. The good result of this opposition was a spirited defense of civil liberties. But even this defense displayed a certain willful irresponsibility and ineffectiveness, because so many leftists rushed to the defense of civil liberties while refusing to acknowledge that the country faced real dangers—as if there was no need at all to balance security and freedom. Maybe the right balance will emerge spontaneously from the clash of rightwing authoritarianism and leftwing absolutism, but it would be better practice for the left to figure out the right balance for itself, on its own; the effort would suggest a responsible politics and a real desire to exercise power, some day. […]

It is a common idea on the left that political responsibility is something like temperance, moderation, and cleanliness—good bourgeois values that are incompatible with radical politics or incisive social criticism. You have to be a little wild to be a radical. That isn92t a crazy idea, and alienated intellectuals may well have, more than anyone else, the anger necessary to begin the critical project and the lust for intellectual combat that sustains it. But they don’t necessarily get things right, and the angrier they are and the more they are locked into their combative posture, the more likely they are to get things wrong. What was necessary after September 11, and what is necessary now, is an engagement with our fellow citizens that recognizes the fellowship. We can be as critical as we like, but these are people whose fate we share; we are responsible for their safety as they are for ours, and our politics has to reflect that mutual responsibility. When they are attacked, so are we; and we should join willingly and constructively in debates about how to defend the country. Once again: we should act as if we won92t always be powerless.

Almost as amazing: this is appearing in Dissent. (Via Junius).

[12:13 AM : 20 comments]

March 11, 2002
Tedious outbreak of meta Nick Denton, whose hard-hitting posts on the steel tariffs were being praised here just days ago, has now descended to this sort of thing:
The web and weblogs were supposed to reflect the kaleidoscope of opinion. But Blogger has made weblogging so easy that even conservatives can do it. And now the political weblogs—at least the ones to which we all link—have become monotously hawkish. Not Jerry Falwell conservative, of course. But yelling talk-radio poor-are-lazy Clinton-is-evil fuck-the-Saudis fuck-the-Europeans fuck-everybody conservatives. (Okay, not you, Matt.) They make me feel like a bleeding-heart liberal, which is quite an achievement. Where are the liberal weblogs? Okay, let me rephrase that: where are the well-written liberal weblogs?
Keep rephrasing, Nick. So far you’ve made me want to defend angry anti-Clinton talk-radio conservatives. Who knows what you can achieve if you really try?

If there’s anything more fun than seeing the whole spectrum of conservative and libertarian bloggers reduced to a dittohead stereotype, it must be Denton’s magisterial pronouncement that the rest of us don’t exist. Goodbye, liberal bloggers Ted Barlow, Chris Bertram, Avedon Carol, Charles Dodgson, Gary Farber, Avram Grumer, Glenn Kinen, Ginger Stampley, and innumerable others.

I dunno, maybe none of us write well enough to meet Nick Denton’s exacting standards. Maybe some of us have opinions that disqualify us. (I’ll cop to “fuck the Saudis”; I have this wacky notion that being opposed to absolute monarchies is, ya know, a liberal thing. Perhaps Denton, arbiter of liberalism, has a more nuanced view.) But I think the real answer lies in the freeway-wide line of retreat he’s carefully left himself: he’s asking where such weblogs are among “the ones to which we all link.” To which the answer is: who do you mean “we”, monkey boy? Some of us were here long before we picked up on the existence of a whole bunch of you. Which is why, on the internet, this kind of warmed-over New Musical Express-style all-us-cool-guys-agree zeitgeist-mongering tends to leave its author looking like a horse’s ass. On the internet, everyone’s at the center. Get used to it.

[11:26 PM : 0 comments]

Marking time (2)

You know why.

“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”

—Milan Kundera

[12:05 AM : 9 comments]

March 10, 2002
It must be circular breathing George W. Bush and Tony Blair have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. My pal Cory Doctorow expressed amazement at this in a post to BoingBoing with the headline “Honoring hawks for their doveliness.” I posted to BoingBoing’s comment section to remark that (1) I wouldn’t give it to them, but (2) the Nobel Peace Prize hasn’t historically been a prize for the exercise of philosophical pacifism.

The brief discussion that ensued caused me to suddenly write (in the form of several long posts) a fairly comprehensive summary of my current position on peace, war, George W. Bush, and people who want to kill us. I make no claim to be any more insightful than millions of other people following the same news, but if you’ve been confused about what I think at the moment, this set of posts may help. (Or convince you that I’m a nitwit. Hardly out of the question.)

Note: since I can’t figure out how to make a URL that shows you the whole thread on the BoingBoing comment section, my best advice is that you click above or here and then immediately click “Show All Messages.” You can opt to read them in top-to-bottom or bottom-to-top order as well.

[03:46 PM : 2 comments]

Rising above principle InstaPundit doesn’t think the Bush tariffs are such a big deal, and pish-tushes blogger outrage about the issue:
The fact is, there’s no such thing as free trade in steel anyway, and never has been. […] To hear some people talk, you’d think that Bush’s action here is like pissing on the virgin snow of free trade.
Well, the Wall Street Journal called Bush’s action “the most dramatically protectionist step of any president in decades.” Perhaps they’re among the “some people” Instapundit means to dismiss as excitable silly-billies who don’t know how business really works.

Anyway, I’m certain that everyone defending the Bush tariffs, or casting aspersions on critics’ motives (Instapundit again; also, surprisingly, the normally level-headed Virginia Postrel), would have been just as quick to defend, or dismiss criticism of, similarly protectionist moves by President Gore. I also believe that ancient astronauts built the Pyramids.

What the steel move really demonstrates, of course, is the esteem in which this Administration holds all of its free-trade-supporting, libertarian-leaning supporters, the sort of people found in abundance in the blogiverse. A level of esteem which can be enumerated by forming a circle with the thumb and the index finger. As Teresa said in November 2000: “Just because you’re on their side doesn’t mean they’re on your side.”

[10:57 AM : 2 comments]

Gee, what could be the problem? Journalist John Ellis (resume highlight: used his Fox News position to share VNS figures with his cousins Jeb and George W. Bush on Election Night 2000; helped convince Fox to call Florida for Bush) doesn’t see why anyone is upset by the revelation that the prestigious Harvard Business Review routinely invites its business subjects to vet stories about them. Writes Ellis in his blog (yes, he has a blog; this is 2002 and everyone has a blog):
Isn’t that the whole point of the Harvard Business Review? To publish the words and thoughts of business leaders and strategists (and Harvard Business School professors) exactly as they would want them published?
Journalist Matt Welch (resume highlight: spent several years without decent plumbing, helping found and run independent newspapers in Eastern Europe, back in the early 1990s when this was (1) dangerous and (2) necessary) doesn’t say whether he’s noticed Ellis’s comments, but evidently he disagrees:
Let me slow this down so that even someone from Harvard can understand it: We spent as much energy as possible, in between scrambling to put out decent papers in challenging circumstances, trying to convince people that there was an idealized relationship between the press and its sources, regardless of local laws and mores, and that we were prepared to suffer financial losses and humiliation to support that ideal. As managing editor, I probably fielded an average of one phone call per week from a prominent source who tried to leverage his status as a major advertiser to influence our editorial decision-making. In one memorable case, we lost tens of thousands in advertising from a guy who wanted to change a paragraph or two on some page-11 real estate round-up. Luckily for me, we had advertising managers and owners who understood, if with some annoyance, that part of what we were selling was a different level of trustworthiness than Hungarians had ever seen before.

I bring this up because the Budapest Business Journal makes maybe 1/50th the revenue of the Harvard Business Review, while operating in a newsgathering climate roughly 50 times more hostile than Massachusetts. The BBJ does not have the name “Harvard” in its masthead, and is not attached to one of the leading educational institutions in the world. It has never been given a drop of money from the Freedom Forum or the Open Society Institute to proselytize about journalism values. Its handsome and talented editor will not soon be writing a book about media ethics, or be given a slot on the Pulitzer Prize board.

I’m really not concerned that publications like the Budapest Business Journal do not get the credit they deserve—I’m more worried about how fat institutions like the Harvard Business Review, despite enjoying every conceivable advantage, have made the deliberate choice to screw over every publication and free-lance journalist who shares the modest but sensible values of the BBJ, by establishing a set of ground rules more fit for 19th century Vienna than 21st century America. Shame on you, Wetlaufer. I don’t give a rat92s ass who you sleep with, but you and your colleagues have fucked my profession.

[10:14 AM : 0 comments]

You, too, can contribute original historical scholarship Restore the Deleted Expletive.

[12:58 AM : 0 comments]

Marking time (1) A year ago last Monday, our friend and colleague Jenna Felice suffered a respiratory seizure at her home in Brooklyn, just three blocks from ours, and was rushed to a nearby hospital.

For the next several days she lay in a coma. Early in this process, I wrote a Usenet post about it.

A year ago today, March 10, Jenna died. She was 25. We still miss her.

It’s supposed to take a year, and it does.

[12:10 AM : 1 comments]

March 08, 2002
Issues of steel, blogs of Kleenex I’ve already mentioned this twice in the comments section attached to yesterday’s post about steel tariffs (“Free Markets, When They’re Convenient”), but longtime blogger Nick Denton is posting a series of remarkably impassioned and punchy comments about the issue. Start here and scroll upward.

Denton swings wide a couple of times; the question of whether other bloggers are undercovering this issue, and why this might be, is less interesting than the issue itself. (Although Denton does land a couple of solid shots on Instapundit’s bow.) But that’s all secondary to his cri de coeur:

The steel tariffs, and continuing barriers to imports of textiles and agricultural products, are a tax on the developing world. Steel is one of the few sectors in which countries such as Russia and Ukraine can compete. Pakistan, Egypt and others depend on textiles to earn hard currency. Agricultural products are the only hope for much of Africa.

So what do the US and Europe do? They tax precisely the industries that underpin development. Free trade, to western policymakers, is free trade in those industries that the West already dominates.

Fine to question the efficacy of foreign aid; fine to mock the anti-globalizers; fine to write off African countries as basket cases; fine to blame Middle Eastern governments for corruption. But realize one thing: compromise on free trade, and there is nothing left of US foreign policy but force. No moral high ground, no hope for the developing world, no security but the illusory confidence in military superiority.

How the hell can the US administration lecture the developing world on the virtues of free markets if it is unwilling to take on its own steel and textile lobbies? If aid is ineffective, and trade doesn’t play well in West Virginia, what is left of US policy towards the developing world? Sell them Disney and remaindered drugs, and crush the towel-heads every decade when they rise up.

There’s also this.

[08:55 AM : 0 comments]

More light Beautiful shifted-color NASA image of Europe by night. Says Teresa: “It’s the opalized fossil version of Europe.” (Via ResExcellence.)

[07:55 AM : 1 comments]

March 07, 2002
And over here, Melvyn Bragg as Aquaman A remote Brazilian town is building a bronze statue depicting Prince Charles as a winged hero saving the world. Says the BBC, in a report with pictures:
The Prince was presented with a model of the sculpture, which shows him with bulging muscles, pinned back ears and only a loin cloth to protect his modesty. […]

Apart from the angel-like wings and muscular physique he also gave Prince Charles a full head of hair. At his feet are human bodies, one of whom is drinking a bottle of wine.

Accepting the scale model of Mr Bentes’ work the Prince said he was “amazed” and “deeply touched”.

One imagines that the “amazed” part is true, at any rate. (Via Off the Kuff.)

[06:25 PM : 1 comments]

Free markets, when they’re convenient Matt Welch is urging his readers to look at Virginia Postrel’s recent round of posts on the Bush administration’s terrible steel-tariff decision. Well, you should read Postrel too, but Welch’s own summary is worth writing on the sky:
Dubya has clearly cottoned on to the notion that history/God has foisted upon him the humbling duty of fighting terrorism. Fair enough, though the religious stuff is starting to creep me out. Here92s my question: besides nuclear war & all, what are the most devastating potential after-effects of Sept. 11? I would say the erection of trade barriers ranks among them. In a time of recession, war, tightening borders and a thriving anti-globalization movement, it is not hard to imagine anti-trade sentiment spilling out from the Buchanan/Nader margins into the mainstream. Bush has the raw power and alleged moral certitude to avoid this kind of embarrassing, short-sighted bullshit, but he chose not to. Slashing trade barriers in the G-8 countries is the single fastest way for poor & desperate countries to become rich & hopeful, period. Why do they hate us? Maybe it92s because, from time to time, we92re full of shit, and abuse our dominant global position for short-term political gain.

[02:09 PM : 5 comments]

Pigs and fishes living together Avram Grumer has a fine rant about some of the nonsense passing for analysis of the media-bias issue, concluding with some very good points about how some conservatives and libertarians literally can’t recognize areas in which people on the “left” agree with them. Check it out.

[01:53 PM : 0 comments]

March 06, 2002
The war of Rall against all Via Charles Johnson, here’s the AP story about the Rall strip being dropped from the New York Times web site.
In a statement, Rall and the syndicate acknowledged the cartoon’s sensitive subject matter, but did not apologize.

“Pushing the envelope of polite criticism is what editorial cartoonists do,” the statement said. “Rall represents a point of view that will not be everyone’s opinion. He is looking at a recent news events with the cynical eye of a satirist.”

Of course, the truth is that what editorial cartoonists do sometimes pushes the envelope of polite criticism, not the other way around. It’s the difference between observing that professional boxers sometimes hit people, and claiming that if a professional boxer hits someone, it must be okay because “hitting people is what professional boxers do.”

What we see here is the long history of admirable efforts to defend artistic independence being twisted into a rationale for letting someone behave monstrously.

Indeed, many humans with more sentience than seafood have winced a bit at some of the wrangles among the WTC-bereaved over relief money, etc. But how this remotely excuses Rall’s strip, with its vile and inane slap at Marianne Pearl, is beyond me. Perhaps Rall thinks the whole Daniel Pearl murder was something concocted by the Bush Administration. Then again, perhaps he’s just a moron.

[02:55 PM : 14 comments]

Chill out Excuse us while we indulge in multi-blog metacommentary. (Obligatory Weekly Standard blog parody reference, thus indicating our sophisticated ironic awareness.)

Justin Slotman, March 3:

LAY ODDS WITH ME: That Josh Marshall ever responds to Natalija Radic. 30-to-1? 50-to-1? Not good odds.
Glenn Reynolds, March 4:
JUSTIN SLOTMAN DOUBTS THAT Josh Marshall will ever respond to Natalija Radic.
Josh Marshall’s response to Natalija Radic, March 6: here.

Now, LAY ODDS WITH ME: That Justin Slotman and Glenn Reynolds will ever note that they were wrong.

Well, actually, I suspect they will, probably not too long after reading Marshall’s post. (Whatever position they take on the argument over Croatia, which is separate from the issue under discussion here.) Online discussion is famously asynchronous; human beings don’t always have schedules that allow them to drop everything in favor of instantly answering an online criticism or inquiry. I would think anyone would be inclined to cut Slotman and Reynolds slack. My question is, why was it reasonable to cut Marshall so little?

[01:55 PM : 22 comments]

What’s wrong with this picture A few posts down from here, I murmured a bit about some bloggers’ seeming obsession with fringe figures like anti-war commentator and cartoonist Ted Rall.

Then again, here’s Rall’s latest strip, now apparently pulled from the New York Times website after a torrent of objections. Normally I’m inclined to be on the side of the beleagured artist, but cripes. What’s with this guy? Is he on drugs?

If I was Marianne Pearl, I don’t think I could trust myself to be in the same room with Ted Rall. It’s fine for the Andrew Sullivans and Glenn Reynoldses of the world to apostrophize this kind of thing (and they’re right), but it’s incumbent on those of us further to the left to also say that it’s repulsive.

My favorite quote from R. A. Lafferty is “The opposite of ‘serious’ isn’t ‘funny.’ The opposite of both ‘serious’ and ‘funny’ is ‘sordid.’” This is sordid.

[01:17 PM : 5 comments]

Bronx Zoo acquires Falkland Islands! Well, two Falkland islands, anyway, as a gift from wealthy philanthropist Michael H. Steinhardt. Says the New York Times:
In one fell swoop, the donation increases the group’s bird holdings hundreds of times over.

The zoo has 1,125 birds. Just on six- mile-long Steeple Jason, the smaller of the islands, 157,000 pairs of black- browed albatrosses nest, along with 89,000 pairs of rockhopper penguins.

A cheering story, with pictures. (Via Melissa Singer.)

[10:42 AM : 0 comments]

March 05, 2002
Ingrately sane New blog link near the top of the right-hand column, right underneath the links to the PNH-&-TNH page and Teresa’s own Making Light. It’s Forwarding Address: OS X, and it’s a collaborative weblog in which a bunch of people (some of whom know each other, some of whom don’t) discuss the Macintosh’s all-new Unix-based operating system and their experiences migrating to it.

I’ve been reading it for a while and finding it useful, and then Cory Doctorow (“The Happiest Geek on Earth”) kindly invited me to join the conversation. I’m afraid I started with an overlong rant about inadequate keyboard operability, a charge first laid against the Mac operating system in the time of Leviticus.

[11:29 PM : 10 comments]

Our friends the Saudis Via Cut on the Bias, this highly entertaining Mark Steyn rant about the House of Saud and the Westerners who defend them:
There are only two convincing positions on the House of Saud and 9/11: a) They’re indirectly responsible for it; b) They’re directly responsible for it. There’s a lot of evidence for the former—the Saudi funding of extreme Islamist madrassahs, etc.—and a certain amount of not yet totally compelling evidence for the latter—a Saudi “humanitarian aid” office in the Balkans set up by a member of the Royal Family which appears to be a front for terrorism. Reasonable people can disagree whether it’s (a) or (b) but for Americans to argue that the Saudis are our allies in the war on terrorism is like Ron Goldman joining O.J. in his search for the real killers. The advantage of this thesis to fellows like Mr. Freeman is that it places a premium on their nuance-interpretation skills. Because everything the Kingdom does seems to be self-evidently inimical to the West, any old four-year old can point out that the King is in the altogether hostile mode. It takes an old Saudi hand like Mr. Freeman to draw attention to the subtler shades of meaning, to explain the ancient ways of Araby, by which, say, an adamant refusal to arrest associates of the September 11th hijackers is, in fact, a clear sign of the Saudis’ remarkable support for Washington. If the Saudis nuked Delaware, the massed ranks of former Ambassadors would be telling Peter Jennings that, obviously, even the best allies have their difficulties from time to time, but this is essentially a little hiccup that can be smoothed over by closer consultation.
To read some blogs, you’d think terrorism’s biggest allies in the West are those powerful princes of darkness Noam Chomsky, Ted Rall, and Robert Fisk. As it turns out, though, the really active and effective Western defenders of the Saudis aren’t cartoonists, Independent reporters, and left-wing college professors. Instead, they tend to be well-fed, well-connected, highly respectable establishment figures like the “Mr. Freeman” that Steyn mentions—which is to say, Charles Freeman, our ambassador to the Kingdom under, oops, George H. W. Bush.

[01:55 PM : 2 comments]

Hulk smash I have learned a new thing about life.

While taking steroids (in inhaler form, to heal damaged lung tissue), don’t drink a cup of “Yogi Tea Breathe Deep Tea” with 131 mg of ephedra per tea bag.

And what the f#&$* are you looking at, buddy?

[01:31 PM : 1 comments]

Your recommendations, please While I’m busily presuming on the patience and technical knowledge of my readers, allow me to ask just a few questions about web-tracking services. We’ll start with Extreme Tracking, the outfit Teresa and I currently use.

Or at any rate, that we thought we used. For several months we used their free service without significant problems. Then we signed up for their pay service—for $5 a month, supposedly, you get a single account within which to view and compare traffic for a bunch of different pages within your site, and you’re not required to link to a stall-prone image off your public page.

That appeared to work fine for a month or two. Then I noticed that they’d suddenly stopped tracking Teresa’s blog Making Light altogether—they were recording zero hits, day after day.

I also noticed that there seems to be absolutely no way to change or add to the subsidiary URLs being tracked. You can change the root site URL, but I can’t seem to (for instance) tell it to start tracking Electrolite’s new URL rather than its old one.

Moreover, several weeks of repeated inquiries have revealed that they don’t answer their email. On the bright side, they’ve also never charged us the $5 per month that we agreed to pay. I figure we got maybe two months of the sort of service they promised, so I’ll be happy to pay them $10 if they can ever be bothered to respond.

Meanwhile, what are some comparable tracking-and-counting services? I’m not looking for anything fancy, just an easily-glanced-at-and-assimilated presentation of unique visitors day-by-day, referring sites, search queries, and so forth. Free is good, but (obviously) I’m willing to pay a little for certain kinds of added reliability and convenience.

[08:38 AM : 9 comments]

March 04, 2002
Take heart Sometimes I dare to think the War on Some Drugs is already dead; we just have to spend the next thirty years proving it. What’s the caliber of people engaged in it?

In Boston, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is tying itself into knots trying to come up with some rationale for preventing Change the Climate, a very moderate drug-policy-reform group, from placing ads on trains and buses in Boston. (The same ads have appeared in subway stations and on buses in Washington, DC, without notably contributing to the fall of Western civilization.)

As reported by Jacob Sullum in Reason:

The MBTA has had difficulty articulating a rationale for rejecting Change the Climate’s ads. “Change the Climate promotes the use of marijuana in a suttle [sic] way and also is really a reform marijuana [sic] in a [sic] effort to legalize,” wrote Lucy Shorter, the MBTA’s director of marketing and (believe it or not) communication, in a January 2000 note that was supposed to explain the authority’s decision.
Straws in the wind. In our lifetime, we’ll win this one.

[11:21 PM : 1 comments]

Midrash Comments are now enabled. Post some.

[10:51 PM : 25 comments]

If only this power could be used for good One of the admirable aspects of the blogiverse is that high-quality technical support is generally just minutes away. Last night’s mention of small travails brought helpful email almost immediately from Dan Hartung, Avram Grumer, and Graydon Saunders. This morning’s email is from Alan Hamilton—known to GEnie SFRT alumni as Starfall—and has this to say about the Mozilla/Netscape mystery:
This is one of those cases where Netscape is technically correct, but everyone does it the “wrong” way so it has trouble with a lot of pages. The problem is the mime type returned by your server for the styles-site.css file. Panix is returning “text/plain”, not “text/css”. Netscape is picky about its mime types, so it refuses the style sheet thinking it’s just a plain text document. IE tends to rely more on the file extentions, so a “text/plain” with an extention of .css taken as a style sheet even though the mime type says it isn’t. […]

There are two ways to get around this… get Panix to add text/css to its mime types, or you can add (or edit) a file called “.htaccess” (with the leaded dot) and put “AddType text/css css” in it. This is a control file for the Apache web server, and tells it you want to send text/css for all files ending in “.css”.

I created the “.htaccess” file, and, well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. Mozilla for Mac OS X now renders the page just fine. If you’re a Netscape or Mozilla user and this page still isn’t loading correctly, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

Meanwhile, I’m reminded of the old observation that the most effective way to get accurate information on Usenet isn’t to ask for it, it’s to get into a newsgroup and post inaccurate information, preferably in a really annoying tone of voice. Likewise, public haplessness appears to be a highly effective strategy for eliciting terrific advice and help from friends and acquaintances on the Web. This may be one of those pieces of dark knowledge it’s best not to know too well.

[09:06 AM : 0 comments]

No, I said I wanted some Greek wine Inevitably, a few glitches. Moveable Type wants all its files to be in various subdirectories, which is at variance with the radically non-hierarchical, anti-authoritarian form of organization hitherto practiced by unspoiled hunter-gatherer files in our Panix web space. Now we see the violence inherent in the system.

I thought I could get round this by simply making “electrolite.html” (the last part of this weblog’s old URL) an alias to the subdirectory in which the files actually live, but this seems to have created more problems than it solved. Fortunately, Dan Hartung helpfully explained how to make a file that redirects from an old URL to a new one, which is probably how you got here. He didn’t answer my question about what’s become of his missing-in-action weblog Lake Effect, though.

I’m still baffled about why Mozilla refuses to show anything but very plain-looking HTML. It appears to load other Moveable Type-generated pages just fine.

[02:07 AM : 0 comments]

Do not adjust your set No, you didn’t click on the wrong link. Yes, we are playing with Moveable Type, which so far pretty much rocks the house.

Tomorrow I’ll hear from two dozen of you that none of this cool CSS renders on your Netscape 4.x browsers. A bas le Netscape 4! We’ve been here before.

[12:25 AM : 8 comments]

March 03, 2002
The OAS and the Silvery Tay Stop the presses: William McGonagal is alive and working for the Organization of American States.

For who else but the author of these immortal lines—

Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.
—could have written this “Chant to the OAS”, found in the children’s section of the official OAS web page? (You say it never occurred to you that the Organization of American States’ web page would have a children’s section? O ye of little faith.)
The OAS, the OAS
Is a success, I must confess!
It helps us all achieve our dreams
Because it supports important themes
Its main concern is democracy
So all our citizens can live strong and free
It always fights for human rights
And its work for peace has reached important heights
What a sensation are its programs on education
Not to mention its assistance to electoral observation
Preserving the environment has always been a priority
And endless programs are advanced to eliminate poverty
Trade is important to increase prosperity

And the promotion of culture, art and science is necessary for posterity
The fight against drugs is a serious matter
While arms control, security and terrorism are as important as the latter
Protecting women and children is a must
And our labor initiatives will never rust
We are constantly praised for our defense of indigenous populations
In the same manner that we support telecommunications […]

In the words of Samuel Beckett, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.

[05:15 PM : 1 comments]

Pow! Biff! Ginger Stampley is full of beans this morning. I’ll have what she’s having.

[01:55 PM : 0 comments]

Fact-checking British parent Alison Scott, who spent part of her own childhood in Texas, questions one of the stories alluded to in my piece on odious “zero tolerance” policies in modern public schools:
Lord knows I agree that the zero tolerance stuff is getting out of hand. But the story about the 11-year-old in Yorkshire has the stench of unproved rumour about it; the only traces I can find online lead back to a news page from a UK far-right political party (and, as you know, Bob, our far-right parties are neo-racist rather than libertarian). While I’m sure that British schools sometimes suspend kids for daft reasons, we don’t have anything quite like zero-tolerance laws.

I would question whether the facts are being accurately reported in this case, and add that I know from personal experience that children living in other than their native country are often taunted and abused with turns of phrase that would be considered part of the vernacular at home.

I might quibble that we have plenty of purely racist far-right groups ourselves, and that moreover plenty of American libertarians would dispute the description “far-right”. But Alison is correct that this particular story doesn’t seem to hold up. Nor was it polemically necessary; the web sites I linked to document enough well-sourced all-American lunacy to make the point.

[01:30 PM : 1 comments]

Gassical class Graham Sleight responds to my bit about the Grammys:
You’re absolutely right that the record companies are behaving in really dumb ways—not least by releasing recording after recording of the core repertoire (endless Beethoven symphonies, for instance), while neglecting more marginal stuff like the Berlioz which the LSO won for. You can understand their reasons—the Berlioz is a vast, unwieldy, almost unperformable opera requiring a huge cast. Putting together a new recording would be an expensive and risky exercise; but caution over choice of artists and repertoire is what’s backing the record companies into the corner you identify. However, I wouldn’t put the blame solely on the record companies myself: there’s also been vast agent-driven inflation in conductors’/soloists’ fees in the last few decades, resulting in higher-priced concert tickets, ageing audiences, etc etc….If you want to delve more deeply into this, the British journalist Norman Lebrecht has written two polemical books on the subject, The Maestro Myth and When the Music Stops.

The other recent trend in classical recording has been to do the taping at concerts rather than in the studio: I think that’s been done with all the LSO Live series and also with, say, Daniel Barenboim’s 90s Ring Cycle, or Simon Rattle’s recent Mahler recordings. So there may be more demand for immediacy and atmosphere than pristine studio perfection.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised. And I’ll certainly look for Lebrecht’s books.

[01:15 PM : 0 comments]

The wake-up bomb Chad Orzel shares a story about liquid nitrogen and its discontents:
9A grad student at MIT was working late one night, and being both 9bored and easily amused, poured a bunch of liquid nitrogen into a 92-liter Coke bottle, screwed the cap on tight, and started kicking 9it up and down the hall. After a time, it began to swell alarmingly, 9so he tried to take the cap off, but the bottle had swollen too 9much. So he took it into the bathroom, and put the bottle in the 9sink, then waited outside the door. 9

9At about the point where he was going to head back into the bathroom 9to see what was what, he heard an explosion as the bottle finally 9burst. The resulting explosion reduced one of those standard-issue 9porcelain institutional sinks to rubble. I’ve seen photos of the 9aftermath—small chunks of sink, twisted pipes coming out of the 9wall, little daggers of plastic embedded in the walls and ceiling.

Chad adds in a postscript:
9 The events described took place at about 3 am. When the campus police 9arrived on the scene, they called the student’s advisor at home, and 9said “One of your students just blew up the lab with nitroglycerin.” 9He came screaming in to campus, to find that one of his students had 9blown up a bathroom sink with liquid nitrogen, mumbled “Oh, well, 9that’s…part of the experiments” and went back home. 9

9I’m also told that student in question had an insurance policy, 9taken out by his family, covering him against damage he did to other 9people’s property by pulling this sort of stunt….

Chad also notes that the soda bottle full of liquid nitrogen is “a potential improvised weapon which has been unjustly overlooked by generations of military-adventure SF writers.” True.

[12:40 PM : 2 comments]

But who observes the observers? Charlie Stross, whose weblog has moved, wrote a while ago to point out that the Guardian actually publishes a much more diverse range of views than one might think from reading ticked-off post-9/11 American webloggers:
Basically, the Grauniad’s editorial team are collectively woolly-minded. Which is fine by me, because they’re much more likely to slip up and publish stuff that goes against their own prejudices than a tightly-focussed attack newspaper.
In support of this, Charlie points to two pieces (here and here) that address contemporary anti-Semitism rather more thoughtfully than the leader that originally ticked me off. To which I might add this more recent, and very hard-hitting, piece by Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of Britain and the Commonwealth:
9Anti-semitism is so emotive a topic that it helps to perform a 9thought experiment. Suppose someone were to claim that there is a 9form of prejudice called anti-kiwism, an irrational hatred of New 9Zealanders. What might convince us he was right? Criticism of the 9New Zealand government? No. A denial of New Zealand’s right to 9exist? Maybe. Seven thousand terrorist attacks on New Zealand 9citizens in the past year? Possibly. A series of claims at the UN 9Conference against Racism in Durban that New Zealand, because of its 9treatment of the Maori, is uniquely guilty of apartheid, ethnic 9cleansing and crimes against humanity, accompanied by grotesque 9Nazi-style posters? Perhaps. 9

9A call to murder all those with New Zealand loyalties even though 9they were born and live elsewhere? A suggestion that New Zealanders 9control the world’s economy? That they are responsible for AIDS and 9poisoning water supplies? That they arranged the September 11 attack 9on the World Trade Centre? That they are a satanic force of evil 9against whom a holy war must be fought? By now we have moved from 9criticism to hatred to evil fantasy. But delete “New Zealand” and 9insert “Israel” and “Jews”, and all these things have happened in 9the past year. What more has to happen before an impartial observer 9concludes that anti-semitism is alive and well and dangerous?

Certainly the Guardian can be relied on to provide a continuous stream of occasions for takedowns like James Lileks’s now-world-famous Olive Garden piece, or Gary Farber’s highly entertaining demolition, just this morning, of Mary Riddell. But Charlie is right to point out that this has more to do with the sheer number and diversity of their opinion-piece contributors than with any grim editorial program. I’ve criticized the quality of British journalism a lot on this weblog, but one thing I’ll say for the best UK broadsheets is that they routinely present a wider range of opinions, marked as opinion, than all but a very few American papers; and the Guardian’s range is probably the widest.

[12:20 PM : 0 comments]

Pointed sticks Jim Henley continues to ask searching and well-considered questions about popular viewpoints:
Subthought B: All that “new kind of war talk” last fall, all the “How many divisions has the EU?” in the New Year. That is, we don’t need the Europeans because their armies suck anyway, so who cares what they think? But again, in many cases their police forces and intelligence departments don’t suck. There is surely a point of annoyance beyond which police and intelligence cooperation with the US war on al Qaeda quietly dries up. These things being what they are, we won’t even necessarily know a given country isn’t cooperating any more - beforehand. Are our fine new friends in Uzbekistan going to keep us apprised of the doings of Hamburg terror cells, and round their members up when we want? That would be a no. 9

9I dislike the EU as an institution intensely and hold no affection 9for any of its member governments. I think we’re doomed to some 9difficult times with the EU’s obnoxious regional-socialism. But 9while there is a large, well-financed and ill-tempered NGO out there 9that wants to kill as many Americans as possible, we need their 9help, and not just theirs either.

Henley, a consistently good writer, at various points calls himself a an “isolationist” and a “right-winger,” things I am not. And yet lately I find more useful thoughts in many of Henley’s comments than in a great deal of writing by people whose worldviews ostensibly match mine. Henley himself nicely catches this sense, widely felt post-9/11, of alternate ideological realities sliding and merging in unpredictable ways:
Tonight I was riding with my friend Frederick Pollack, one of the country’s best poets and a lifelong Marxist.

“Fred,” I told him, “I find myself using the word ‘imperialist’ unironically lately.”

“Are you well?”

Then on the ride home, we were discussing the history of European Jewry, about which Fred knows rather a lot. That required an adversion to the medieval Church’s theory and system of “the just price,” which, Fred noted, was declared to be the cost of production plus the cost of distribution, with no profit and interest forbidden.

“The only problem,” Fred said, “was that you can’t have a functioning economy without interest.”

“Or fixed prices,” I offered.


And not a bearded Spock in sight.

[09:50 AM : 0 comments]

Aussie air power Flit, a Canadian weblog, has some sharp observations about American strategic bombing superiority, full of specifics and particulars. And ending with this eye-opener:
9One gains new respect in this analysis, for those savvy Australians: 9unbelievably, they have acquired for themselves the closest thing to 9a modern strategic bomber wing extant outside the USAF. If they 9chose to convert them, their 20 F-111s could theoretically carry 2 9internally-stored JDAM-type weapons each to precision-hit targets 9over 1,000 miles away, in any weather: farther than any other combat 9strike aircraft in service today (except possibly the new Russian 9Su-34). When the Americans closed down their F-111 fleet a few years 9ago, the Aussies stocked up on spare airframes and parts at firesale 9prices, giving them an increased capability for long-range precision 9air power arguably now second only to the United States (Several 9European countries have larger numbers of precision strike aircraft, 9but with significantly shorter ranges.).

[01:55 AM : 0 comments]

March 01, 2002
Smoked salmon I’ve got a bunch of interesting and quotable email commenting on recent Electrolite posts over the last few days. I’m not ignoring it; I’ll start posting some of it over the weekend, when I have two minutes to rub together.

[09:05 AM : 0 comments]

When computers are outlawed Charles Dodgson has more on the profoundly creepy SSSCA, loveable ol’ Senator Hollings’s plan to prevent you from ever owning a real computer again. Hollings may get his way, too. Before you count on some imagined coalition of sensible liberals and moderates stopping this, you might want to inspect how much money Big Entertainment is spending to buy members of Congress, and which members it is that they’re buying.

Dodgson nicely summarizes the breathtaking arrogance in the details, too; in essence, SSSCA wouldn’t just regulate the entire future of computing for the convenience of Big Entertainment; it would also make them the regulators.

This is the kind of proposal that’s so comprehensively awful that one can hardly avoid the suspicion that its promoters’ real aim is to get a “compromise” in which they get some fraction of what they’re demanding. But even a bill only a quarter as bad as SSSCA would be a catastrophe.

What I believe: I believe that somewhere, there’s a long-term Republican strategist hoping and praying that something like SSSCA happens, and that it will be (as seems likely) something that can be fairly blamed on “liberal” politicians, or at any rate Democrats. If you were impressed by the way “gun control” has peeled blue-collar voters away from the Democratic Party, wait until you see how effectively something like SSSCA will alienate the knowledge worker class. Certainly, just speaking for myself, I’m watching this story, and I’ll never again vote for any Democrat who supports this unconstitutional, destructive, immoral proposal. Pry. Cold. Dead. Fingers.

[09:00 AM : 0 comments]

Eighteen years On March 1, 1984, Teresa and I moved to New York.

Today, our life in New York is old enough to vote. Where does the time go?

[08:35 AM : 2 comments]