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March 31, 2003
Apocalypse now: Okay, that’s it. We no longer live in anything like a consensus society.

To the contrary, my daily commute takes me past a corporation that has declared its desire to see me killed.

Where’s the Ohio National Guard when you really need it?
Upside to being shot dead by Federal troops at the behest of the New York Post: Dittohead brother-in-law might actually feel slightly regretful. Hiya!

UPDATE, NEXT MORNING: I shouldn’t have been up at 1:30 AM, much less letting the world get to me. But this definitely gets to me. The admirably moderate Calpundit has been posting about feeling equally alienated by the extremes of left and right. But the difference between the two is illustrated perfectly here. On the left, an untenured professor at a “teach-in” who calls for a “million Mogadishus.” On the right, the New York Post, circulation 600,000.

Obviously, the next time some backwoods militia moron calls for the murder of liberals, I’m entitled to advocate the killing of New York Post staff. Oh, wait. We don’t need to postulate backwoods militia morons calling for the murder of folks like me. We have well-paid media stars on that beat.

In fact, the whole argument about “extremism” is based on the essentialist—and false—idea that views like Professor DeGenova’s are in some way an “extreme” form of views like (for instance) mine. Based on this kind of thinking, both Calpundit and the Post, in their different ways, lay responsibility for the DeGenovas of the world at the feet of people like me. So long as a single speaker at one obscure protest event calls for the death of American soldiers, it’ll be okay for major newspapers to advocate the shooting of protestors. So long as anyone calling themselves a “liberal” or a “leftist” gets themself into a censorious snit over Adrien Brody kissing Halle Berry at the Oscars, it’s okay to characterize the rest of us as prissy killjoys.

I’m generally all for the kind of practical politics Kevin Drum advocates. And I’ve already written about the need to put away the damn puppets. But I’m starting to get the sense that it doesn’t matter. They want us silenced. They’ll wear away at the left and the antiwar movement, using every Professor DeGenova example they can find. Then when they’ve disposed of us, they’ll come for Kevin Drum.

[01:27 AM : 107 comments]

March 30, 2003
And speaking of SF fans at the front, Terry Karney’s long post from Kuwait, in the comments following this Electrolite entry, is full of interesting detail and very much worth reading.

Indeed, many of you have probably read it already, but I only became aware of it just now. Generally, all Electrolite comments get auto-emailed to me, but this one must have gone into digital limbo. If Jo Walton hadn’t remarked on it in her LiveJournal, I might have never seen it at all.

[11:08 AM : 1 comments]

March 29, 2003
Okay, we’re over our stupid snit. Meanwhile, William Gibson has this to say:

“Umm Qasr is a town similar to Southampton,” UK Defence Minister Geoff Hoon told the House of Commons yesterday. “He’s either never been to Southampton, or he’s never been to Umm Qasr,” said one British soldier, informed of this while on patrol in Umm Qasr. Another added: “There’s no beer, no prostitutes, and people are shooting at us. It’s more like Portsmouth.”

[12:18 AM : 11 comments]

March 28, 2003
No posts today. Gracious, I might accidentally express sympathy for one person, without also genuflecting to all the other suffering in the world. Best to say nothing and have no sympathy for anyone. That’s the plan.

[12:52 PM : 1 comments]

March 27, 2003
Oh, brother, where art thou: Sgt. James Riley was taken prisoner on Sunday, March 23. According to CNN, he
taught himself the guitar and is a science fiction buff who is making a chain mail shirt for himself.
God. He’s one of our tribe.

(Thanks to Maureen O’Brien for noticing this.)

[12:29 AM : 52 comments]

March 26, 2003
The un-surnamed Emma, of Late Night Thoughts, nails what she calls Political English, in which “there are no absolute opposites, only a wearisome parsing of sentences until, by dint of superhuman effort, they mean what we want them to mean.” Clearly we’re not in a mood for long quotes tonight. Go read the whole thing. And comb your hair, it looks like a rat’s nest.

[11:16 PM : 0 comments]

Too good to summarize. Or even post a teaser quote so you can read a bit and think you have the gist of it. “Jeanne D’Arc” writes one of the best essays I’ve ever read on a political weblog, an short, sharp piece that interleaves personal history and the great issues of the day and makes a point that’s so obvious that we almost always fail to see it.

[10:32 PM : 4 comments]

Disappearing posts and comments: In the process of moving from one server to another, some material posted last night appears not to have moved. If you posted a comment that seems to have vanished, hang on; we’ll get it restored, I think.

UPDATE: Okay, I think everything is back in place. Sorry for the confusion.

[08:57 AM : 1 comments]

March 25, 2003
Security leek: The Onion phones it in more and more frequently these days, but every so often, under the pressure of great events, they rise to the occasion. This week’s issue is one of those times.

Atrios already pointed out the eerie familiarity of this. I personally enjoyed “U.S. Forms Own U.N.”:

WASHINGTON, DC—-Frustrated with the United Nations’ “consistent, blatant regard for the will of its 188 member nations,” the U.S. announced Monday the formation of its own international governing body, the U.S.U.N.

“The U.N. has repeatedly demonstrated an inability to act decisively in carrying out actions the U.S. government deems necessary,” U.S.U.N. Secretary General Colin Powell said. “Every time we tried to get something accomplished, it inevitably got bogged down in procedural policies, bureaucratic formalities, and Security Council votes.”

“I predict the U.S.U.N. will be extremely influential in world politics in the coming decades,” Powell continued. “In fact, you can count on it.”

Actually, what you can count on is that the deadliest thing in any given issue of the Onion will be one of the sidebar headlines that don’t actually link to a story. In this case: “New Bomb Capable Of Creating 1,500 New Terrorists In Single Blast.”

[11:00 PM : 14 comments]

Mark Kleiman:
What strikes me as odd is that the very same people who described [Saddam Hussein’s] rule as “Stalinist”—which seems to be a good description—also expected the regime to fold quickly in the face of an attack. That never really added up. Does the name “Stalingrad” ring a bell?

[10:03 PM : 5 comments]

And speaking of bandwidth, the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, homeless for several months, is now back up, hosted at Texas A&M University. A heartfelt bibliographic cheer.

[11:34 AM : 11 comments]

Thoughtful, global, and overloading his server: If you’ve been following breaking war news by loading Sean Paul Kelley’s frequently-updated The Agonist several times a day, you’re probably aware that he’s run into severe bandwidth problems as his traffic has skyrocketed over the last few days. Sean Paul is chaining himself to his keyboard and living on pizza so that we can have more and better information (and rumors) to argue about. You can help this noble cause by changing your bookmark (or your weblog sidebar link) to one of the mirror sites he’s set up: here, here, and here.

[10:30 AM : 2 comments]

March 24, 2003
Gene Healy directs our attention to the Anti-Imperialist League, whose members included Mark Twain, Carl Schurz, Samuel Gompers—and Andrew Carnegie.
Its 1899 platform declared: “We hold that the policy known as imperialism is hostile to liberty and tends toward militarism, an evil from which it has been our glory to be free.” Left and Right, union men and capitalists worked together to oppose the drift from Republic to Empire. […] In an odd mix of Randian-capitalism-meets-altruism, Carnegie even “offered to buy the Philippines from the United States to give the islands their independence.” The opponents of Empire are heirs to a proud tradition. It’s a good answer to ANSWER.

[10:57 PM : 7 comments]

Still here. Sorry for the lack of posts. I’ve been wrapped up in a couple of projects. More Electrolitage later this evening.

[05:20 PM : 3 comments]

As longtime readers of Electrolite may recall, I have my own reservations about Michael Moore.

But to not share Calpundit’s delight at Moore’s Oscar—

I mean, short of awarding an Oscar to Hillary Clinton, is there anything more they could have done to send every conservative in the country into a blinding, sputtering rage? And Roman Polanski too! Depravity is the winner this year!
—would be to display a heart of stone.

[12:46 AM : 69 comments]

March 21, 2003
In these times. One “Rodney” posts a comment over at The Daily Kos.
sidenote: NYC experienced quite a violent thunderstorm this evening.

in my office in Midtown, booming thunder and a collective, “what the %^&@# was that?”

copper-tasting adrenaline rush occurs & then, one wonders about Baghdad.

one of those surreal moments.

Us too, at 23rd and Fifth.

[10:13 PM : 6 comments]

It’s been pointed out to me that the comment pop-ups don’t work on my monthly archive pages. I honestly don’t know if this is a new glitch, or if it was true all along.

Anyway, I’ll look into it. Meanwhile, you can read the comments (and even add more) by clicking on the timestamp for any post, on the front page or on the monthly archives. That takes you to an individual post archive page, complete with comments and a comment entry form.

[06:30 PM : 3 comments]

Jordin Kare, in Electrolite’s comment section:
When I heard Colin Powell say that there were 15 nations that were offering support but preferred not to be identified, I realized that the U.S. Government has been reduced to claiming that “the lurkers support us in email.”

[01:58 PM : 18 comments]

Michael Tomasky, in The American Prospect:
It seems likely—and we should all hope, for humanity’s sake and our country’s—that we’ll win this war, that Saddam Hussein will be retired from active duty, that hard evidence of the existence of weapons of mass destruction in his Iraq will turn up (and hopefully be destroyed before they find their way to the black market), and that the Iraqi people will probably, to one degree or another, be better off under whatever comes next. Bush will benefit from these developments, a fact that brings me no joy. But we must admit that these are all very good things, and liberal opponents of the war need to acknowledge them—along with the fact that, let’s face it, the United Nations was not enforcing its resolutions against Iraq, and only the pressure applied by this administration made it begin to do so.

But the following is true as well, and it is not a very good thing at all. Most Americans aren’t thinking this far ahead, and the administration’s rah-rah corner is not very interested in the subject, but: History will not end the day the white standard is run up the flag poles of Hussein’s palaces. People and societies have memories, and they will remember the staggering number of distortions and pieces of misinformation that helped set this war in motion. They’ll remember the administration saying that it would seek the imprimatur of a second UN resolution, and they’ll remember the “no lunch, please, we’ve only got an hour” summit at which that pledge was tossed out the window. They’ll remember Colin Powell’s “hard evidence” presented at his Security Council briefing in February, and they’ll remember just how much of that evidence didn’t hold up to tough scrutiny. In France and Mexico and Turkey, they will remember the arm-twisting and bullying and childish caterwauling—and even if you don’t care about those countries, you can bet that Tony Blair will remember just how far he stuck his neck out for an administration that was willing to hang him out to dry, too, and he won’t be likely to do it again.

The day this war starts, the world enters a new era of global Darwinism in which a structure of covenants and norms—admittedly far from perfect, but at least the result of an ongoing dialogue of nations—that has developed over the last half-century will be pushed aside. It’s no contradiction at all to hope for the best for our troops but remain dead set against the rules of world order being rewritten overnight by the jungle’s biggest lion.

[01:12 PM : 11 comments]

The Wild Shore, revisited. Or, rather, We’re Good People: A Play in One Act. (Via

[12:59 PM : 0 comments]

Rhetoric of war. Compare and contrast. Excerpts from the address of Lieutenant Colonel Tim Collins to the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish, March 19, 2003:
“We are entering Iraq to free a people and the only flag which will be flown in that ancient land is their own. Show respect for them.

“If you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory.

“Iraq is steeped in history. It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood and the birthplace of Abraham. Tread lightly there.

“You will see things that no man could pay to see and you will have to go a long way to find a more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis.

“You will be embarrassed by their hospitality even though they have nothing.

“Don’t treat them as refugees for they are in their own country. Their children will be poor, in years to come they will know that the light of liberation in their lives was brought by you.

“If there are casualties of war then remember that when they woke up and got dressed in the morning they did not plan to die this day.

“Allow them dignity in death. Bury them properly and mark their graves.

“It is a big step to take another human life. It is not to be done lightly.

“I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts, I can assure you they live with the mark of Cain upon them.

“If someone surrenders to you then remember they have that right in international law and ensure that one day they go home to their family.

“If you harm the regiment or its history by overenthusiasm in killing or in cowardice, know it is your family who will suffer.

“You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest for your deeds will follow you down through history. We will bring shame on neither our uniform or our nation.”

Excerpt from the address of President George W. Bush to the United States Congress, January 20, 2003:
“All told, more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries, and many others have met a different fate. Let’s put it this way: They are no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies.”
It’s quite a sight when an officer about to lead men into combat sounds like a statesman, while the President of the United States sounds like a gangster.

[11:56 AM : 27 comments]

I pledge allegiance to the State. Fred Clark reads H. Res. 132 and notices what Congress evidently didn’t: the bill is explicitly blasphemous. From the resolution, passed 400-7 by the House:
(2) the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, including the phrase, ‘one Nation [sic], under God,’ is a patriotic act, not an act or statement of religious faith or belief […]
Notes Clark:
In other words, the phrase “one nation under God”is an affirmation of America’s goodness and piety, not—as it would seem—a statement of humility before a sovereign God. The House resolution elevates patriotism above religious faith, and thus elevates America above God. This is more frighteningly imperial than anything even Richard Perle or John Bolton has said.

Belief in a sovereign God places rather severe limits on the kind of patriotism the House seems to favor.

[10:05 AM : 1 comments]

The people, united, deserve a better slogan: From the New York Times:
In Chicago, protesters shut down Lake Shore Drive during the evening rush hour. Protesters in Atlanta and Boston also shut down major streets. About 100 protesters were arrested in Philadelphia, 8 were arrested in Los Angeles, and in New York, 21 people were charged with disorderly conduct after a crowd of several thousand lay down in Times Square.

Protesters in San Francisco, Boston, Washington and elsewhere shouted the same slogan, “This is what democracy looks like!”

No, that’s not what democracy looks like.

It’s what protest looks like, and it’s often the right thing to do. And of course “democracy” had better entail significant tolerance of unruly protest, or it’s not very democratic.

But that slogan is stupid, even by the standards of slogans. Long and often boring meetings are what democracy looks like. Tiresome horse-trading is what democracy looks like. Talking to your neighbors is what democracy looks like.

Democracy can function perfectly well without people painting their faces and blocking streets. It can’t function at all without that other stuff.

[09:25 AM : 31 comments]

March 20, 2003
Okay, good point. The rabble-rousing and often rather sharp Digby writes:
We have spent years bemoaning the fact that people are politically disinterested, that voters are apathetic, that they don’t feel they have a voice. Now, when rather large numbers of Americans have left the comfort of their homes and their shopping malls to make a sincere statement alongside a bunch of strangers, liberals behave as if it is nothing. Outside of college campuses, the fact is that street protests don’t happen very often in America. Unlike in Europe, general strikes and large political protests are not a big part of our civic life. So, when it happens we should really take a good hard look at why. And we should pay special attention when the people who are protesting are average Joes and Janes who work for a living and have kids and own houses. Because that means that Americans are waking up and starting to pay attention.

Telling these awakened liberals that what they are doing makes no difference and that they should instead volunteer for a candidate and write a check is not exactly inspiring. But getting citizens involved through a feeling of solidarity with millions of people all around the globe just might have the salutory effect of making a percentage of those protesters decide that they will write a check and walk a precinct in order to elect a candidate they believe in—or to stop the war —or to punish Bush.

People need to feel part of something in order to get involved in politics. And as someone who has volunteered in many a campaign I can tell you that for the last decade it has had all the uplifting inspiration of the Bataan death march. It is work with no satisfaction in the soul or spirit and without that politics becomes nothing more than a duty.

The Republicans have a base of committed true believers and we desperately need some of that too. Telling these newly galvanized Democrats that the only way they can legitimately express themselves is through the ballot box—particularly in this day of manufactured, pre-fab campaigning—is a very self-defeating idea.

We need to get our blood up if we expect to beat back the flag-waving cavaliers of the Republican party.

Good points. Downside: One of the commenters agreeing with this post describes themselves as “one of those who feels that electoral politics is failed beyond repair.” Gee, and the alternative to “electoral politics” is what? Charisma? Magic? I would think long and hard before signing on with anyone who dismisses “electoral politics” so glibly. Odds are that although you may think you’re on their side, they’re not on your side.

[11:54 PM : 21 comments]

Jim Henley has an unlikely and yet brilliant suggestion about who should serve as temporary administrator of postwar Iraq:
Ari Fleischer or whoever began the White House press conference by talking about the ever-growing Coalition of the Willing to do Everything but Say Who They Are. But some of them do say who they are, and Fleischer made much of “countries that have themselves only recently escaped tyranny” who have signed on.

And there’s your transitional administration: the best liberal politicians and government officials from Eastern Europe. They understand, in the transition from tyranny to freedom, what has to be tossed out, who has to be held to account and when, instead, mercy must do the work of justice. They’ve lived it. They understand ethnic strife and where, unmanaged, it can lead. One country has even provided the rare example of constituent parts divorcing peacefully.

Which leads to the specific answer: some one foreigner has to be in charge of all this for a time. It would be a fine thing if it were not an American military officer for political reasons. It should be someone friendly to the United States, fierce in devotion to freedom and individual rights, renowned for conscience and, not incidentally, currently underemployed.

Ladies and gentlemen, the sane, logical and inspired choice:

Vaclav Havel. Pass it on.

This is such a good idea. It’d never happen. But Oh God.

[11:37 PM : 6 comments]

So dry you could light a match from it: The New York Times slips in one of those paragraphs that most readers will glide past, while attentive readers go oof:
Late today, the administration released a list of 43 nations it said were willing to be identified publicly as coalition members. Many of them had little to offer the war effort but moral support. While the list included Afghanistan, Eritrea, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Rwanda and Uganda, only Britain and Australia have contributed sizable forces.

[11:18 PM : 9 comments]

The greatest piece of 21st century journalism thus far: As Paul Krugman reminds us. Staggering to recall that this was published on January 18, 2001.

[11:02 PM : 5 comments]

News that stays news: Correspondent Iain Coleman reports on the war from his post in the Bronze Age. Come in, Iain.
So I went and got satellite TV, just in time to watch MPs vote—live, on the Parliament Channel!—for the biggest strategic mistake any Prime Minister has made since 1938. It was the expected result, but it didn’t seem quite real until the results were announced on the floor of the House. It was the defeat of the anti-war amendment that sealed it, of course: after that, the passage of the Government motion was a formality. The really striking thing, once the vote for war had finally been carried, was the silence. For a few moments, before the Speaker called for adjournment and everybody buggered off, the MPs sat more quietly than I’ve ever seen them. They may have got it wrong, but there’s no denying they were struck by the weight of their decision.

Maybe it’s because I’ve started learning Anglo-Saxon, but I now really see where Tolkien was coming from. There’s comfort in hearing the voices of people who lived a millennium ago, speaking a language at once alien and deeply familiar, struggling with their own darkness and trying, however haltingly and fumblingly, to create a better world. It doesn’t provide an escape from his feeling of being shut in by the well-meaning servants of monstrous forces, but it does at least give a glimpse of the horizon through the window-bars.

Eala, hu gese6lig seo forme eld was feises middangeardes

[10:55 PM : 1 comments]

Jo Walton checks in from Montreal:
Yes, the war has started, the best we could do we didn’t stop it—though maybe we helped Chretien in Canada decide to stay with his position on not fighting without UN sanction. But going on from here isn’t easy—it’s the right thing to do, yes, but there’s an understandable amount of emotional whiplash in just taking in where we are now to be going on from.

History is easy, it’s now that is hard.
Now, that is happening, which might lead
anywhere, now, the unfolding seed.
Now, as our fires explode to rain more charred
ashes of paperbacks, memories, flesh
(that ought, but does not, rhyme with death) and bone,
now, as we stand together and alone,
all deeds that came before set in a mesh,
leading to this and on; we fear what’s unrevealed.
The future grows from this, from now, today,
from these events that can’t be wished away.
Now is the time we have, our only field.
But what to do? We don’t all feel the same
but all that dies tonight, dies in our name

[10:52 PM : 0 comments]

Support the troops? Charles Kuffner has a stunningly practical idea for how to do so.

[09:57 PM : 1 comments]

I haven’t previously tracked much on Sean-Paul Kelley’s The Agonist, but if you want a weblog that’s being updated every few minutes with what appears to be well-informed war news, Sean-Paul is your guy.

[04:19 PM : 5 comments]

March 19, 2003
Blink. According to the New York Times, American troops invading Iraq are being discouraged from waving the Stars and Stripes.
Officials say the flag could give the citizens of Iraq the wrong idea about the convoys of artillery, ammunition and soldiers. They are not, these officials say, an army of conquest, intent on claiming Iraqi land or treasure for the United States, but a liberation force. They are concerned that streams of American flags would be seen as provocative.

“It’s imposing enough that we’re coming into another society,” said Capt. Frank Stanco, a commander with an artillery unit in the 101st Airborne Division. “I tell our soldiers we want to maintain our professionalism. We could be making history. I call it being quiet professionals.”

Maybe we should have let the Army handle diplomacy at the Security Council over the last couple of weeks. Clearly they’re better at it than the civilians of the Bush Administration.

[11:44 PM : 15 comments]

Eric Alterman:
For me, the antiwar movement such as it was, is over. We lost. It’s time to wish the best for our soldiers and the victims of this war and focus on building a better future.
That sounds like the new liberal project to me. Alternately, of course, there’s always being consumed by bitterness. Far be it from me to deny the fun potential there. But on balance I tend to think that working with the world as it is offers the greatest opportunity to do good for actual living humans. What do you think?

[11:37 PM : 27 comments]

Robert Wright, in Slate, on why you should perhaps worry less about the next two weeks, and definitely worry more about the next ten years.

Writes libertarian Gene Healy, also linking to the Wright piece:

I don’t use the annoying phrase “must read” much. But I’ll make an exception here: you MUST READ the Wright piece (here it is again). After our quick victory, and after the “Arab street” fails to rise, you’re going to hear a lot of self-congratulation from the hawks. But the fallout from this war is likely to be long-term, in the form of a protracted and messy occupation, and an enhanced terrorist recruitment base. (The hawks were equally self-congratulatory after Gulf War I. The blowback from that splendid little war came 10 years later on a horrible fall day that none of us will ever forget. Funny, though, it hasn’t given the hawks a moment’s pause.)
Healy also quotes John Quincy Adams, on the subject of America’s fate should she decide to spread the “blessings of liberty” at swordspoint:
…she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force….She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.

[05:10 PM : 2 comments]

As noted earlier today on Making Light: Michael Swanwick’s science fiction professionals against the war petition. For the record.

[03:09 PM : 5 comments]

Timothy Burke worries virtuously about “avoiding the blog echo-chamber effect.” Here at Electrolite we’re less worried. Crank up the reverb! Here’s Burke being absolutely right:
This is not the time for the usual self-indulgent let-a-thousand-flowers bloom, let the nutty Spartacist have his turn at the podium, let Sheryl Crow talk about how war is bad for flowers and other living things, approach to political action. This is not a festival or a be-in or a happening. It’s not a space for creative frolics and really cool paper-mache puppets.

The war is coming, unless Saddam Hussein blinks in the next 24 hours. None of us can stop it. Give that up right now: you cannot stop the war. Don’t even try. Don’t even fantasize that you can.

You can only prepare to exact a political price from the people who led us so poorly to this point, and to do that, you need to make the war a bigger issue than the antiwar.

[…A]ll the plans for direct action that involve “no business as usual” gimmicks like blocking traffic, chaining oneself to fences and the like are pure, unadulterated narcissism. They’re about anointing yourself a virtuous, righteous person and performing your virtue on the public stage. You want that, come by my office and I’ll give you a little “I’m a Good Person Because I’m Against the War” badge to pin on your shirt and I’ll applaud you every time I see you walk by.

The “direct action” visions circulating out there now are not about building the largest possible coalition of opposition to the Bush Administration, not about building a political consensus, not about laying the groundwork for 2004. If you really care about opposing the war, you need to put your own selfish needs to proclaim your virtuousness aside and keep your eyes on the prize. Large public gatherings that are respectful, quiet and rhetorically modest would be a good thing, sure, but for the moment, little more than that. […]

Prudence, patience and planning are what’s needed now. That’s what has worked for the Republican grassroots: ever since Barry Goldwater’s defeat, they’ve been organizing steadily, laying down deep connections with actually existing communities, thinking about what kinds of rhetoric carries water in the public sphere, and disciplining or ignoring errant nutcases and fringe elements. If you want to exact a price for this war, led in the way that it has been, you’re going to have to be similarly focused.

“Organizing steadily, laying down deep connections with actually existing communities, thinking about what kinds of rhetoric carries water in the public sphere, and disciplining or ignoring errant nutcases and fringe elements.” Seems to I recall when people left of center knew how to do that. A first step toward recovering the ability would be learning the different between enacting a political idea and implementing one.

[01:56 PM : 23 comments]

March 17, 2003
While I’m at it. If you read lots of weblogs, you’ve seen this linked already. If you’re one of my readers who doesn’t, well, go read it. Fareed Zakaria is no leftist and no dove, but writing in this week’s Newsweek, he presents a pitiless survey of the hole we’ve dug ourselves. Essential.

[10:34 PM : 3 comments]

This never happens. I agree with the overall thrust of a piece by right-wing antiwar libertarian Justin Raimondo about once in a blue moon. Color the moon blue tonight. Jim Henley links to an outstanding Raimondo piece warning against the temptations of antiwar “direct action.” Understand that Raimondo has been an absolutely relentless critic of this drive to war. But, addressing various calls for invading Air Force bases, stopping traffic, “general strikes,” and other theatrical acts, he observes:
The “direct action” faction would put the broad antiwar movement directly in the crosshairs of the state apparatus. Their suicidal actions could be the catalyst that unleashes a tsunami of repression unlike any seen in this country since World War I. Open authoritarians like David Horowitz, who accused the hundreds of thousands of antiwar marchers in this country of being “Communists guilty of “sedition” are licking their chops, gleeful at the opportunity to call for jailing their political opponents—all in the name of defending “freedom,” of course.

Secondly, the direct-actionist approach will alienate most everyone. From an antiwar point of view, it was utterly pointless to go into downtown San Francisco and tie up traffic for hours, making everyone late. Working class people, stuck in traffic, had plenty of time to brood on the question of what makes people behave like total jerks. In the San Francisco Bay Area, the most antiwar region of the country, most didn’t mistake the antiwar cause for its ostensible representatives. Elsewhere, however, enraged commuters may perhaps be forgiven if their support for the war is emboldened.

Another big problem with the direct-actionist panacea is that it is bound to be a complete flop. The plan is, essentially, to call for a general strike that will bring the country to a screeching halt. As the [Washington] Post reports:

“The day—or days—after war begins could see the largest coordinated displays of civil disobedience in the United States since the civil rights era. Protesters around the country plan on blockading avenues, stopping traffic and generally disrupting business as usual.”

Generals are always fighting the last war, and that goes for the direct-actionists in the peace camp as well. But the grandiose comparison to the civil rights movement is absurd. The position of the antiwar movement in this country is in no way analogous to that of blacks in the South who had to live under Jim Crow. In the latter case, what Americans saw on television were searing images of African-Americans being humiliated and spat upon for trying to get a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. In the case of the former, however, they will see a bunch of spoiled children sitting down in the middle of traffic and throwing a public tantrum.

As David Neiwert keeps documenting, several of the preconditions for a distinctly American fascism have in fact been put in place—but by no means all of them, and there are still a lot more of us than there are of them. (“Us” meaning “people who basically believe in pluralism and fair play,” a larger group than “people who suspect this war is nuts.”) Let’s not make it easy for the authoritarians.

PS: Raimondo’s advice is specifically for antiwar Americans at this historical moment. He has nothing to say to, for instance, Brits contemplating a “general strike,” nor do I. Different country, different context. One of the besetting sins of American progressives is a tendency to wish for a more European politics, rather than buckling down to deal with the country we’ve got.

[09:46 PM : 50 comments]

Line of the evening, from Matthew Yglesias:
I have to say that I really wish Bush weren’t giving a big speech tonight. Now that war is inevitable, I’d strongly prefer to feel confident that everything will go well and every time I see our commander-in-chief my morale flags.

[07:56 PM : 9 comments]

Old friends Beth Meacham and Tappan King, seen in this Arizona Daily Star photo of last night’s candlelight vigil in Tucson.

There were several in New York City, of course. We went to the one in front of the home of our neighbor, Iraq-war-supporting Senator Schumer.

[11:34 AM : 4 comments]

March 16, 2003
Neil Gaiman has advice for Americans:
I have very mixed feelings about Americans disliking the French. I’m English, after all. We have a special relationship with the French: we are in awe of their sophistication, their cuisine and their wines, we think their women are beautiful, we like them as individuals, we badly want to go and live in their country when we retire, while at the same time we are deeply suspicious of them. It’s like having people living next door to you who may be snappier dressers and better cooks, but who, after all, borrowed the lawn mower sometime in the thirteenth century and never gave it back. Anyway, the English dislike the French. We’re really good at it. We’ve been doing it ever since we got up one day and realised that the Norman Conquerors were now, like it or not, Us, and weren’t conquering French people any more. We feel, frankly, that if anyone’s going to dislike the French, it’s going to be us. On the whole we manifest our dislike for them by drinking their wines, buying up their cigarettes, and, despite the fact that all English people can naturally roll their Rs and speak perfect French, declining to do so, and when forced by circumstances to speak French the English do it with an English accent on purpose.

These are tactics we’ve worked out over the course of hundreds of years, and if carried on long enough, they will bring France to its knees. I’m English. I know these things.

Changing the name french fries to freedom fries, on the other hand, will just make them laugh at you.

[06:11 PM : 39 comments]

Lassez faire. Of the millions of people who use Google, not very many seem to click over to the Google Web Directory, their collaboratively-edited web index. I’m unclear on the history of this effort, but I seem to recall it’s a superset of something called the Open Directory Project, which is older than Google.

Anyway, those who are sure that Electrolite’s proprietor is a “doctrinaire liberal” (or, my favorite, a “loyalist Democrat”) may perhaps be interested to know that the Google Web Directory lists this site as the #2 Google Page Ranked libertarian weblog, just behind Serendipity: Liberty and Democracy and just ahead of Unqualified Offerings. We’re #2! Smash the State! I knew all those evenings spent reading Murray Rothbard and Ayn Rand would lead to great things.

Seriously, of course, it’s no dishonor to be listed in the same category as writers like Jim Henley, Gene Healy, or Julian Sanchez. And certainly as liberals go I have an individualist streak. On the other hand, I doubt someone interested in polemical calls to sell the streets and privatize the Coast Guard would quite find what they’re looking for here. Then again, on that always-popular third hand, the Google Directory appears to consider all “libertarianism” a subset of “liberalism,” a choice liable to spark, um, discussion. Oh, what a tangled Web we weave, with our phylogenetic sieve.

[09:51 AM : 16 comments]

March 15, 2003
Back up: Yes, we were down for about five hours, due to mysterious events affecting the server that hosts Everything should be normal now.

UPDATE: Well, not entirely normal; the system clock appears to be screwy, so if you post comments, they’re liable to have timestamps some hours in the future. Remember to only use this power for good.

UPDATED UPDATE: Okay, the system clock appears to have been fixed. All that remains are a few localization problems. All comments from California and Scotland appear to have been rendered in Chinese. In other news, Mexican pop hipster band Cafe Tacuba’s Re is one of the greatest all-genre extravaganzas of all time. Devouring every idiom in its wake, Cafe Tacuba sneers at your half-hearted Becks, your geeky Phishes. Re is like listening to the entire second half of the 20th-century rebroadcast at five million watts from Monterrey. What does this have to do with server problems? Nothing at all.

[11:00 PM : 4 comments]

Dean Allen, talented grump, nails a deserving piece of cant:
Of the many stains left across the internet by the current crop of neoconservative idiotarians—rubber-stamp obviousness and desperate cries for group hugs and attention being close-to-hand examples—surely one of the greasiest is the constant grousing about the scourge of “political correctness”; a complaint that plays as reliably well in the echo chamber as a frontman demanding if the arena is ready to rock.
If Allen were a right-winger, of course, they’d hail him as “Menckenesque.”

[08:07 AM : 5 comments]

Does media violence cause crime? G. Beato of Soundbitten makes an argument that isn’t what you normally associate with that idea.

[07:56 AM : 11 comments]

March 14, 2003
Daniel Davies continues to speak for people of good will and bad attitude:
I have been troubled greatly over the last few days by the following thought; although it is obvious that the USA has an incredible advantage over Iraq in terms of men and materiel, you have to admit that if you were picking a team of leaders to lose this war, you wouldn’t be able to do much better than Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. Ignorance—check; Hubris—check; Ability to alienate allies —check; Tendency to ignore unfavourable information—check. It’s like having Saddam Hussein’s fucking fantasy football team in the top job.

[11:48 PM : 9 comments]

Michael Lind on “The Three Strategic Fallacies of the Bush Administration”:
The United States is now more isolated from its major allies and more internally divided over foreign policy than at any time since 1945. The strategy of the Bush administration—and not merely its style—is to blame.

The grand strategy of the Bush administration rests on three axioms: American global hegemony; preventive war; and the so-called “war on terror.” All three axioms are fallacies that inevitably produce counterproductive and misguided policies. What the great French diplomat Talleyrand said of Napoleon’s execution of the Duc d’Enghien applies with equal force to Bush’s grand strategy: “It is worse than a crime; it is a mistake.”

Read the whole piece. It’s short and to the point.

At the moment, really, the most rational possible reaction to the Bush administration’s national-security policy is to light one’s hair on fire and run down the street screaming about Jesus. However, with any luck, at least some of us will be alive two years from now, or six years from now, to take up the task of building a sane structure of domestic security and foreign affairs. At that time we’ll be glad for those people who’ve kept on saying sensible stuff in the interim.

[03:47 PM : 21 comments]

And another thing you won’t read in the US press. From our Walthamstow correspondent, Alison Scott, via AIM: “The chap doing the Guardian’s over-by over commentary of the New Zealand innings was clearly having a bad day today: Guardian Unlimited Sport | Special reports | India v New Zealand 9:10 AM.
4th over: New Zealand 21-2

Two highlights from this over: brilliant running from Fleming to plunder a single off the last ball of the over; Guardian Unlimited’s Sally Bolton making me a cup of tea. More from Leonard: to prove his pique, he’s been banging his fists on his keyboard. “asdsadf ;lk;lk;lk,” he writes. You should move your fists about, Leonard, your letter distribution is predictable.

Adds Alison: “I got it from Simon Bisson’s LJ, where the Comments thread makes it clear that the Guardian’s over by over commentary is always like this. Alternatively, it might be a Comic Relief special; watch out for red noses all over UK today.”

[09:25 AM : 3 comments]

March 13, 2003
I’ve finally got round to reading the nearly 100 comments posted to my wrathful post from the night before last.

Reader Mark Gisleson explains:

I voted for Nader (albeit in Minnesota where Gore had a rock solid lead in the polls), and did so recognizing what the worst case scenario was: a Bush victory.

So far, we’ve gotten exactly what I expected from that scenario: a vile, overreaching and consumately arrogant know-nothing administration that is slowly but surely creating a political sh*tstorm that will ensure no Republican can be elected to the White House in the foreseeable future (pretty much like what Coolidge-Hoover did to the Republicans in the 1920s). The more W wins, the more he discredits the Republican Party and makes it clear that money is all that counts in his America.

This is, of course, the modern version of the familiar, venerable, and deeply cruel idea that “things have to get worse before they can get better.”

Gisleson goes on to recall the weeks following Election Day 2000:

I recall that time very well, and do not recall a single day that passed without my screaming at my tv “fight back damn you!”
I gotta say, you don’t hear these sentiments expressed so succinctly every day. Never mind that the candidate Gisleson is yelling at is someone he voted against. “Stand up and fight while I’m punching you in the nose, you worm!” The victim’s status proves that he deserves to be a victim.

On a more constructive note—well, lots of posters, including smart Nader supporters like Debbie Notkin, who is an old friend who doesn’t deserve to be spluttered at by me. Some fine practical advice from Alex Steffen. Lots of stuff about the need for people of good will to unite, etc. To which I say, good idea. Knock yourselves out. I do find that I tend to lend a friendlier ear when this advice comes from people who haven’t recently been my avowed political opponents.

As Julia remarked:

Actions have consequences. One of the lesser consequences of choosing a candidate who chased votes in swing states, along than the whole mortally wounded democracy thing and the deficit and the war and kids losing school lunches, is that people aren’t happy about what you’ve helped bequeath to us are really pissed off at what you did.

What did you expect?

Best Paragraph award to Lydia Nickerson:

One of the most pernicious lies ever told is that “things have to get worse before they get better.” Nader specifically argued that. Several other people have done so, as well. This is a calculus that I think is far less principled than voting for a candidate you don’t like.
Like I was saying.

[01:26 PM : 80 comments]

March 12, 2003
Dust. Well, there was a substantial point in last night’s post, but you could be forgiven if you failed to detect it amid the invective and attitudinizing.

Clearly I’m too bitter and wroth to be interesting or entertaining these days. Go read a weblogger who actually does his homework, like Charles Dodgson.

UPDATE: And while you’re at it, this awesome post about torture, the “war on drugs,” and what it tells us about the “war on terror”, from The Head Heeb.

[07:15 AM : 4 comments]

Ashes. Yeah, bad weblogger, no biscuit. I’ve been busy, so sue me.

The Guardian is a favorite whipping boy of “warbloggers,” probably because it (the nerve!) actually speaks for a broad swathe of middle-class British opinion. How dare these people disagree with us. Something ineluctably sinister must be going on. Etc., etc.

All that acknowledged, this is striking:

Another Blair miscalculation concerns the nature of the US leadership. Mr Blair had not met George Bush before the president took office. He had perhaps a poor inkling of what the dawning age of Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz and Perle entailed. He knows better now; we all do. And that is part of today’s problem.
If the hairs on the back of your neck just went up, well, join the club.

“The nature of the US leadership.” Say it clearly. That’s the issue. We are led by knaves, criminals and morons. Bullies, sadists, and fools. Even by the standards of everyday politics, this Administration is made up of notably ghastly and hapless human beings.

There really isn’t a nice way of saying this. The people we are are being led by are stupid, vicious, and crazy. We all want to avoid acknowledging this, and we’re all wrong. The rest of the world can see it perfectly clearly, and they’re increasingly disinclined to be polite about it. Like the Germans of the late 20th century, we will spend the rest of our life explaining to one another how we got here and how we let it happen.

“The nature of the US leadership.”

I’m thinking of my friends who supported Ralph Nader.

I think they should read this editorial from our transatlantic friends.

I hope they choke on it.

[12:55 AM : 126 comments]

March 10, 2003
Fog of war. By now millions of people have heard or read the story about the Iraqi soldiers who supposedly tried to surrender to British troops, only to be sent back.

Eugene Volokh finds the story puzzling. Mark Kleiman thinks it’s bunk:

On its face it makes no sense. Not the part about some Iraqis deserting, which is plausible, or even deserting because they thought the war had started, which is a little harder to believe (What? No radios?) but might still be true. But under what circumstances would those soldiers be sent back to (as Eugene points out) probable death or worse, rather than being interrogated for whatever tactical intelligence they might be able to provide, disarmed, and either interned or offered a chance to join up with one of the Iraqi opposition groups?

Certainly the decision to send them back would have been echelons above the pay grade of the commander on the scene, yet there’s no mention in the story of the question’s being bucked up to headquarters and the dimwitted and cold-hearted decision blamed on the REMFs.

It turns out that the story originated in that reliable journal of public affairs, the Sunday Mirror. We’ll probably see more of this sort of thing over the next several weeks. One hopes that, on balance, the blogosphere will be an antidote rather than a purveyor.

[08:28 AM : 4 comments]

James D. Macdonald, who knows about this stuff, weighs in on the torture debate.
Oliver, lad, let me explain something to you.

Give me a pair of pliers, a soldering iron, and two hours alone with you, and you will confess to being a member of Al Qaeda. Another half hour or so, and I’ll have a list of all the terrible things you did, and most of the details of the things you plan to do. Then I’ll get a list of the other secret members of Al Qaeda you know. Give me a little time with them, and they’ll confess too, confirming that you’re a terrorist.

[12:29 AM : 40 comments]

The very intelligent libertarian Julian Sanchez remarks:
Almost regardless of what happens in the coming war, the hawks will probably take it as a vindication. If we see a surge in domestic terrorism, it will be proof that Iraq and al-Qaeda are linked, and that it’s important to fight on against a still-looming threat. It sure won’t be a sign that perhaps we should reevaluate our strategy, since that would constiute “appeasement” or “blaming America.” If we don’t, they’ll cluck their tongues at what scaredy-cats we all were to suggest such a thing. If Hussein uses biological or chemical weapons on advancing American troops, it will be further evidence of his barbarism (did we need any?) and willingness to use prohibited weapons stockpiles. If he doesn’t, well, that certainly refutes all our dovish “scaremongering” about the prospect, doesn’t it? Ah well, I suppose now I just get to hope that I get “proved wrong” in the second way in each case.

[12:11 AM : 7 comments]

March 09, 2003
More on torture.
All I can say is, that (1) the French did it a lot in Algeria; and (2) they still lost; and (3) it’s wrong. Even if you can explain away (1) & (2) by noting that, well, we’re talking about The French here, that doesn’t work for (3).

Yeah, the torture of Al Qaeda guys concerns me less than the torture of, I don’t know, innocent people — but it’s still wrong, and if the practice goes into general use a lot of innocent people, perhaps named by torture victims who just want to name someone to make it stop, will suffer. And so will the people who do the torturing, and so, indirectly, will the rest of us.

That was Glenn Reynolds. Who gets forgiven this one cheap shot against “The French”, because on the larger issue, he’s bloody right.

[11:46 PM : 8 comments]

Get it straight. It’s not about being nice to the bad guys. It’s about actual goddamn security. You know. Being safe, the real deal. Is anyone listening, or are you just cowering and repeating your NA NA NA NA I CAN’T HEAR YOUs?
It is more beneficial that many guilty persons should escape unpunished than one innocent person should suffer, because it is of more importance that innocence should be protected than it is that guilt should be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in the world that all of them cannot be punished, and many times they happen in such a manner that it is not of much consequence to the public whether they are punished or not.

But when innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, the subject will exclaim, “it is immaterial to me whether I behave well or ill, for virtue itself is no security.” And if such a sentiment as this should take place in the mind of a subject there would be an end to all security whatsoever.

That was John Adams. Second President of the United States. An actual conservative. Not that we have any of those any more. (Quote courtesy of Joel Rosenberg, via Lydia Nickerson.)

[11:21 PM : 11 comments]

Not dead. Just having one of those spells, familiar to longtime webloggers, of feeling like everyone else is saying it better than I could.

Jim Henley’s depressed. For good reason. Be sure to read this, this, this, and this. And this and this for examples of the problem. And, as ever, Emma of Late Night Thoughts.

Henley quotes Leonard of Unruled, who says:

Torture is the canary in the coal mine. When your society starts seriously talking about torture, it means you’ve fucked up and become repressive.
Hope you like your new world, Oliver.

Here, don’t miss this.

Elsewhere, J.B. Armstrong of MyDD reflects on MSNBC’s hiring of Michael Savage, noting that here’s

[…] a guy with a record of dismissing child victims of gunfire as “ghetto slime,” referring to non-white countries as “turd world nations,” calling homosexuality “perversion” and asserting that Latinos “breed like rabbits”— does it get any lower? The dominant media in the US is hopeless. If you value your mind, stay far away from its influence.
A year ago I would have dismissed that kind of talk as paranoid.

It’s no wonder that increasing numbers of Americans are doing this.

Don’t forget to read David Neiwart, indefatigable anatomizer of American fascism’s march to power. Be sure to have a stiff drink handy.

Perhaps just as disturbing about Savage is the eliminationist tone of much of his rhetoric, much of it aimed not at a racial or ethnic group but at liberals generally: “I say round them up and hang ‘em high!” and “When I hear someone’s in the civil rights business, I oil up my AR-15!” Here was a recent rant aimed at liberal critics:

“I’m more powerful than you are you little hateful nothings. You call yourself this for that and that for this. You say you represent groups, you represent nobody but the perverts that you hang around with and I’m warning you if you try to damage me any further with lies, be aware of something: that which you stoke shall come to burn you, the ashes of the fireplace will come and burn your own house down. Be very careful, you are living in incendiary times. You can’t just throw things at people and walk away thinking that you had a little fun. I warn you; I’m gonna warn you again, if you harm me and I pray that no harm comes to you, but I can’t guarantee that it won’t.”

The level of intolerance and the implied threat in remarks like these—and they are common in his diatribes—raise reminders of similar eliminationism that ran rampant in Germany in the 1930s.

Godwin’s Law violation? You hope. Remember, this guy has just beeen hired by MSNBC.

His book’s a New York Times bestseller. If you enjoy this kind of thing, I don’t want to know you. That includes brothers-in-law.

By the way, remember this post? Several commenters were ever so convinced the whole thing must have been a journalistic hoax. Funny about that subsequent Official Secrets Act arrest, then.

Not much left to say except to quote yet another person I thought was full of crap a year ago. And who sounds good now. Ladies and gentlemen, Terry Jones:

It worries me that Mr. Bush says that one of the reasons he wants to kill a lot of Iraqis is because Saddam Hussein has also been killing them. Is there some sort of rivalry here?

Back in 1988 Saddam killed several thousand at once, in the town of Halabjah. Since then he’s been carrying on the good work, but on a piecemeal basis. In fact, for all I know, since his 1988 spree, he may not have killed any more of his own citizens than George W. Bush did as Governor of Texas. When Mr. Bush became Governor in 1995, the average number of executions per year was 7.6. Mr. Bush succeeded in quadrupling this to a magnificent 31.6 per year. He must have had the terrible chore of personally signing over 150 death warrants while he was Governor. I suppose the advantage of killing Iraqis is that you don’t have to sign a piece of paper for every one of them. Just one quick scribble and—bingo! You can kill a hundred thousand and no questions asked! What’s more, nobody is going to quibble about some of them being mentally retarded or juveniles, which is what happened to George W. Bush when he was Governor of Texas.

I’m not saying that George W. Bush shouldn’t be allowed to kill as many people as he wants. After all he is the unelected leader of the most powerful country on earth, so if he can’t do anything he likes, who can?

[06:27 PM : 33 comments]

March 06, 2003
New literature for a new century. J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, as offered at
On the Battersea Reach of the Thames, a mixed bag of eccentrics live in houseboats. Belonging to neither land nor sea, they belong to one another. There is Maurice, a homosexual prostitute; Richard, a buttoned-up ex-navy man; but most of all there’s Nenna, the struggling mother of two wild little girls. How each of their lives complicates the others is the stuff of this perfect little novel. The adventures of the well-to-do hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, who lived happily in his comfortable home until a wandering wizard granted his wish.

[10:20 AM : 18 comments]

March 05, 2003
Roll over Parnassus: Calpundit reports that you can sing all of Emily Dickinson’s poetry to “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” Too true. (Mary Kay Kare in Electrolite’s comment section: “You have a thing for Emily Dickinson don’t you? Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”)

Even better, though, Virgil’s Aeneid, in the original Latin, can be sung to “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” And Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” can be sung to “Hernando’s Hideaway.” Of such critical knowledge is a living literary culture made. Never fear, tomorrow we’ll get back to being outraged over something dreadfully important.

UPDATE: Teresa says “You forgot the best one! You can sing ‘Excelsior’ to the ‘Underdog’ theme song!” She’s right. I’m not fit for the company of educated women and men.

[10:23 PM : 54 comments]

Able was I ere I saw Otis: Fans of the impressively long palindrome on the Nielsen Hayden home page (explained here by its author, Dan Hoey) will surely want to check out the 15,139 word palindrome generated by one Peter Norvig with help from a bit of Python code.
A man, a plan, a caddy, Ore, Lee, tsuba, Thaine, a lair, Uball, EHFA, Jaela, Gant, Masai, Liana, DVS, USES, Ojai, Ruyter, Geraint, Irbid, Naman, a milliard, Nahant, Epps, Argall, Emil, Lepus, a tort, a loon, Samia, HCM, a deme, Lenaea, glebae, Keon, a cart, seraphs, a suitor […]
Remarks Norvig:
After a few runs I got the palindrome below. Maybe I’m biased, but I think it starts out quite strong. “A man, a plan, a caddy” is the basic premise of another fine piece of storytelling. Unfortunately, things go downhill from there rather quickly. It contains truths, but it does not have a plot. It has Putnam, but no logic; Tesla, but no electricity; Pareto, but no optimality; Ebert, but no thumbs up. It has an ensemble cast including Tim Allen, Ed Harris and Al Pacino, but they lack character development. It has Sinatra and Pink, but it doesn’t sing. It has Monet and Goya, but no artistry. It has Slovak, Inuit, Creek, and Italian, but its all Greek to me. It has exotic locations like Bali, Maui, Brasil, Uranus, and Canada, but it jumps around needlessly. It has Occam, but it is the antithesis of his maxim “Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.” If you tried to read the whole thing, you’d get to “a yawn” and stop. Or you might be overcome by the jargon, such as PETN, ILGWU, PROM, UNESCO, and MYOB. Most serendipitous of all is that Steele, who collected several shorter versions of the Panama oeuvre in a book about a Lisp, shows up in the very last line.
Norvig also offers a palindrome that is “purer” in that it deploys no proper names, which clocks in at 1801 words, “more than tripling Hoey’s 540-word version, but only half-way (logarithmically) to his (quite reasonable) expectation of a ten-fold improvement.”

[05:27 PM : 10 comments]

Fred Clark of Slacktivist, who may conceivably know a bit more about evangelical Christianity than New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, has some sharp words about Kristof’s latest:
Apparently we’ve all been sleeping through the latest Awakening. Who knew?

The first GA laid much of the intellectual framework for the American Revolution. GA2 was a branch—perhaps the main branch—of the abolitionist movement. GA3 was tied up in the Progressive Movement. Its progeny included both Prohibition and the Social Gospel.

What we see today in America’s evangelical churches is a culturally determined faith bound up in parochial privilege. The millennial urgency of the second Great Awakening has been replaced with a premillennial pessimism, a dispensational irresponsibility and a circle-the-wagons laager mentality.

Clark has also been posting about My Utmost For His Highest, the devotional book by Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) that, allegedly, George W. Bush starts each day by reading from. Here, here, and here, Clark “reads along” with Bush, with interesting results.

[07:16 AM : 6 comments]

March 04, 2003
Adam Felber has obtained the US government’s list of interrogation questions for Khalid Shaikh Mohammad:
  • What were you doing so far from Iraq?
  • Where’s Osama bin Laden? In Iraq?
  • Seriously, you’re just trying to distract us from your secret hideout in Iraq, right?
  • Say, didn’t I see you at the Baghdad Flower Festival last June?
And so forth. Felber also observes:
We shouldn’t forget that Mohammed wasn’t captured by the U.S. alone. We relied heavily on the help and resources of something called an “ally.”

[10:00 AM : 9 comments]

It’s hard to know what to say, really.
The Bush administration has decided to reject the recommendation of a special government commission to place Saudi Arabia on an American blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom.
From Newsweek.

[09:16 AM : 11 comments]

Whoa. I’d be interested in European comment on this:
If anyone in the European Union tried to protest online the way thousands of anti-war protesters did in the United States last week, they could be branded criminals under a pact recently reached by justice ministers in Brussels. […]

The decision forces all 15 Union countries to adopt a new criminal offense—illegal access to, and illegal interference with an information system—and calls on national courts to impose jail terms of at least two years in serious cases.

As Nathan Newman correctly observes, “Americans are often surprised at the kinds of speech that are pretty regularly regulated or banned in Europe.”

Several sharp and well-informed Europeans (from both sides of the English channel) post now and then in Electrolite’s comment section. I’d be very interested in their perspective on this.

UPDATE: Indeed, don’t leave this post without reading the comments. Very informative—thank you all!

[08:53 AM : 16 comments]

March 03, 2003
Jim Henley addresses the supposedly compelling pro-war arguments of Kenneth Pollock.

[12:07 AM : 9 comments]

March 02, 2003
Fighting Nigerian spam with H. P. Lovecraft and NYPD Blue.
Still not sleeping well; I continue to dream of deep unplumbed abysses, of eldritch amorphous shapes playing blasphmous piping tunes, and hideous cyclopian ruins of black basalt deep below a sunless sea. And always the feeling of being watched. Mr. Ward’s death is obviously a great burden upon me, and is producing these unsettling imaginings. Even at breakfast this morning with Andy Sipowicz I felt these odd intrusions into my reality. The man sitting at the next table provoked profound feelings of dread—something in his repellant visage seemingly familiar and alien at the same time, and the feeling lingered even after he left. Maybe I am working too hard, as I have these feelings more and more often. It will be good to come to Nigeria and relax. The hospitality of African people speaks for itself, as you yourself have shown by including me in this deal.

[08:27 PM : 7 comments]

Free money. No, really. Probably only about $10 or $15, but it takes five minutes to fill out the form, and if you bought a music CD between 1995 and 2000, you’re eligible. Moreover, the deadline is tomorrow. Do it. See those dollar bills go swirling round your head.

[08:01 PM : 5 comments]

Stuff I meant to blog last week, before I got too busy at work. Ted Barlow:
There will never be a V-T Day. Rebuilding havens of terrorism isn’t an afterthought to be put off. It’s an integral part of defeating terrorism. If we’re just planning on shock ’n’ aweing our way across the Muslim world, then putting off reconstruction for some hypothetical future when no one hates us anymore, it seems apparent to me that we’ll never do any reconstruction.
Adam Felber: U.S. Secession from Earth Nearly Complete.

Scott Marley has a question about the phrase “useful idiots.”

Scott Rosenberg has some rather smart observations about the Laurie Garrett affair.

Umberto Eco is ever so darn sensible on war, peace, America, Europe, loyalty, dissent, and, oh, just go read it.

Fred Clark wants to revise the cast of characters on American folding money:

Current: Thomas Jefferson. Great man. Good president. Wrote the Declaration. His personal library became the Library of Congress. But he’s still got the nickel. And a monument. And the congressional Web site. And Clinton’s middle name. So his slave-owning self is well-memorialized without needing a bill as well.

Proposed: Emily Dickinson. With one of her poems on the back. (Every year a new poem. Emily’s infamously idiosyncratic punctuation and meter will throw off counterfeiters for sure.) Traditionally, people have hoarded $2 bills instead of circulating them. Retiring the $1 bill could change that, but even if it doesn’t, Emily didn’t get out that much herself, so this still kind of works.

And from Mark Pilgrim’s uber-techblog Dive Into Mark, “How to block spambots, ban spybots, and tell unwanted robots to go to hell.” Essential reading if you run a web site and pay for bandwidth, but what I particularly enjoyed was the sensation that I live in the science-fiction future after all. Writes Pilgrim, “Fighting robots is a neverending battle with no winners.” And “The decision of which robots to block is a very personal matter.” Well, we knew that.

[02:44 PM : 9 comments]

Spectacularly erudite blog post of the decade: Daniel Davies takes on The Economics of Pound’s Canto 45, “With usura hath no man a house of good stone.” Davies disposes of Pound’s famous crankery and grants his good points in just measure, starting from the observation that “In terms of the provision of houses made out of good stone, the financial industry has performed fantastically well ever since the beginnings of the Building Society movement in the middle of the nineteenth century.” Elsewhere:
The proposition that the rate of interest is too high is not intrinsically a nutty one, and taken with reasonable interpretative charity, the passage:

[…] Stone cutter is kept from his stone
weaver is kept from his loom


wool comes not to market
sheep bringeth no grain with usura
Usura is a murrain, usura
blunteth the needle in the the maid’s hand

can be seen as a reasonable description of a Keynesian (even better, Kaleckian) recession; usura is too grasping for the current conditions of production and thus the rate at which savers demand to be compensated for delaying consumption is greater than the rate which current consumers and investors are prepared to pay in order to bring their purchases of goods and capital forward in time, and stagnation results.

But the problem is in believing that this is in any meaningful way the fault of the banks….The real fallacy in Pound’s economics is assuming that the horse moves because the cart keeps pushing it.

Read the whole thing, really.

[02:04 PM : 1 comments]

Don’t forget, thanks to the Finnish Broadcasting Company, you can always get a summary of the week’s world news in Latin:
In colloquio interrogatorio societatis televisificae CBS Saddam Hussein, praesidens Iraquiae, affirmavit se in patria mansurum neque in exsilium iturum esse, licet bellum oreretur. Neque sibi ullam cum Osama bin Laden necessitudinem intercedere. Missilia al-Samoud, quippe quae decreta Nationum Unitarum non violarent, ab Iraquianis non deletum iri.

[01:52 PM : 4 comments]

March 01, 2003
Secret History: Via Atrios, a revelation from the London Observer:
The United States is conducting a secret “dirty tricks” campaign against UN Security Council delegations in New York as part of its battle to win votes in favour of war against Iraq.

Details of the aggressive surveillance operation, which involves interception of the home and office telephones and the emails of UN delegates in New York, are revealed in a document leaked to The Observer.

The disclosures were made in a memorandum written by a top official at the National Security Agency. […]

The leaked memorandum makes clear that the target of the heightened surveillance efforts are the delegations from Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Mexico, Guinea and Pakistan at the UN headquarters in New York—the so-called “Middle Six” delegations whose votes are being fought over by the pro-war party, led by the US and Britain, and the party arguing for more time for UN inspections, led by France, China and Russia.

The memo is directed at senior NSA officials and advises them that the agency is “mounting a surge” aimed at gleaning information not only on how delegations on the Security Council will vote on any second resolution on Iraq, but also “policies”, “negotiating positions”, “alliances” and “dependencies”—the “whole gamut of information that could give US policymakers an edge in obtaining results favourable to US goals or to head off surprises”.

They’ve got the text of the memo, the name of the guy who wrote it, and they managed to confirm the existence of the guy before his assistant thought to start stonewalling them on the phone. Not a slam-dunk, but it seems pretty credible to me. The question isn’t whether this will convince Steven D. Warblogger that the US isn’t operating in good faith, since it won’t. The question is what Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Mexico, Guinea, and Pakistan will make of it. (Assuming they’re even remotely surprised.)

[09:17 PM : 24 comments]