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November 30, 2006
Throwing Good Money After Bad
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 01:07 PM * 102 comments

George W. Bush, speaking at the University of Latvia yesterday, revealed that he didn’t notice he’d been repudiated at the polls.

RIGA, Latvia (AP) — President Bush, under pressure to change direction in Iraq, said Tuesday he will not be persuaded by any calls to withdraw American troops before the country is stabilized.

“There’s one thing I’m not going to do, I’m not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete,” he said in a speech setting the stage for high-stakes meetings with the Iraqi prime minister later this week. “We can accept nothing less than victory for our children and our grandchildren.”

Oh, sure, Bush had been running scared for a few days right after the election. The polls had been closed for barely twelve hours and the votes were still being counted in some tight races when he fired Donald Rumsfeld, barely a week after he’d said that Rumsfeld would be with him through 2008.

Julia explained why: GWB finally got himself into so much trouble that he had to call on his father’s old posse, especially James Baker, to come bail him out. That pretty much spelled the end for Rumsfeld: a long overdue moment that had been delayed by Rove and Cheney’s desire to keep Rumsfeld (an old crony of theirs), and by Bush’s enthusiasm for appointing someone Bush Sr. couldn’t stand. As explained by Bob Woodward:

But there was another dynamic that Bush and Card discussed. Rumsfeld and Bush’s father, the former president, couldn’t stand each other. Bush senior didn’t trust Rumsfeld and thought he was arrogant, self-important, too sure of himself and Machiavellian. Rumsfeld had also made nasty private remarks that the elder Bush was a lightweight.

Card could see that overcoming the former president’s skepticism about Rumsfeld added to the president-elect’s excitement. It was a chance to prove his father wrong.

That’s why George W. Bush is going to go down in history as the all-time worst tenant of the Oval Office: you can say what you will about James Buchanan, but at least he acted like a grownup.

But back to James Baker, the Bush Sr. posse, and the country’s business. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that Iraq has been a disaster and is rapidly getting worse. Iraq is in a de facto civil war, with the mainstream media starting to use the term and Colin Powell agreeing:

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday that Iraq’s violence meets the standard of civil war and that if he were heading the State Department now, he might recommend that the administration use that term.
Getting some kind of political solution is going to be a tough problem. Among other things, Bush has for some time now been refusing to communicate with Syria and Iran. (It’s his usual policy: if you don’t have anything nice to say to him, he doesn’t have to talk to you.) Baker will almost certainly insist that we do so:
“I believe in talking to your enemies … It’s got to be hard-nosed, it’s got to be determined. You don’t give away anything, but in my view it’s not appeasement to talk to your enemies.”

But George W. is Reality-B-Gone’s biggest customer. The voters and the Joint Chiefs of Staff may have thrown a serious scare into him, but as soon as it wore off, he was trying to undercut the guys who are working to save his bacon. He announced a massive escalation in Iraq:

George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make “a last big push” to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration’s internal deliberations.
If you doubt that this was aimed at Baker & Co., note that the second point of the “four-point strategy” Bush announced was, “Focus on regional cooperation with international conference and/or direct diplomatic involvement of countries such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.”


Mr Bush’s refusal to give ground, coming in the teeth of growing calls in the US and Britain for a radical rethink or a swift exit, is having a decisive impact on the policy review being conducted by the Iraq Study Group chaired by Bush family loyalist James Baker, the sources said.

Bush, taking a leaf from Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig in the First World War, has decided that what America needs to “win” the Iraq war is One Big Push.

Not that it’s likely to work; the idea behind the One Big Push is that the enemy nearly cracked in the last Big Push, and this time, if only the Push is Big enough, he certainly will crack. Then the war is won and we’re all home by Christmas. (If the Big Push doesn’t work, well, it wasn’t quite Big enough, so all that’s required is One Big Push, and this time it must work….) One can go on in this manner for years, and Haig did. It could be that Bush thinks that if he keeps the war going for two more years, when his term will be over, he’ll escape being remembered by history as the President Who Lost a War.

He’s definitely back to creating his own reality. Lately he’s been invoking Vietnam (a war he used his father’s influence to avoid), from which he’s taken away the wrong lessons:

“The president said there was much to be learned from the divisive Vietnam War—the longest conflict in U.S. history—as his administration contemplates new strategies for the increasingly difficult war in Iraq, now in its fourth year. But his critics see parallels with Vietnam—a determined insurgency and a death toll that has drained public support—that spell danger for dragging out U.S. involvement in Iraq.

“It’s just going to take a long period of time for the ideology that is hopeful—and that is an ideology of freedom—to overcome an ideology of hate,” Bush said after having lunch at his lakeside hotel with Australian Prime Minister John Howard, one of America’s strongest allies in Iraq, Vietnam and other conflicts.

“We’ll succeed,” Bush added, “unless we quit.”

Perhaps reality, or the Iraqis (and Iranians, and Saudis), will have something to say about whether we “succeed.” Perhaps having an idea of what the victory conditions are will help us know whether we’ve “succeeded.”

Whether or not we “quit” may have no bearing on our success. The One Big Push plan is a disaster in the making. A civil war is already underway in Iraq. The only thing that the two major sides in that civil war agree on is that the Americans need to leave—and they’re willing to shoot and bomb us until we get the message.

Every dollar spent from now on is throwing good money after bad. Every life lost from now on, beyond the nearly 3,000 American troops who have been killed and the perhaps 650,000 Iraqi citizens who have been killed, is a bet that can’t be covered. Like a gambler hoping to make the big score that will erase all his losses, Bush is tapping out his line of credit to put a bet on a single turn of the wheel. And when his number doesn’t turn up, he puts yet a larger bet on the next turn of the wheel, hoping to make up not only all his previous debts but the new ones from the most recent bet. There goes this week’s paycheck. There goes next month’s mortgage money. There goes the car. There goes the house. There go the kids’ college funds.

But it can still all be saved with One Big Push.

Geekiest Thing EVAR
Posted by Patrick at 08:21 AM * 32 comments

Firefox logo crop circle. Via Google Maps.

That is all. You may return to your homes.

November 28, 2006
Gingrich, still
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 03:05 PM * 109 comments

To go with the post below about McCain, here’s more of an insight into what the Republicans want, how they think, and what they’ll do if allowed back into power:

MANCHESTER – Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich yesterday said the country will be forced to reexamine freedom of speech to meet the threat of terrorism.

Gingrich, speaking at a Manchester awards banquet, said a “different set of rules” may be needed to reduce terrorists’ ability to use the Internet and free speech to recruit and get out their message.

“We need to get ahead of the curve before we actually lose a city, which I think could happen in the next decade,” said Gingrich, a Republican who helped engineer the GOP’s takeover of Congress in 1994.

A soft answer turneth away idiots
Posted by Teresa at 01:05 PM * 170 comments

If you aren’t into knitting (or possibly photography), you probably haven’t read Franklin Habit’s weblog Panopticon. I suspect it’s entertaining for non-knitters too, but of course I can’t tell.

Something I missed when it happened there last spring was a brief kerfluffle over the virtual medal Franklin designed for participants in the Knitting Olympics.* Late though I am, it’s still a joy to see the adroitness with which he reacted to a couple of provoking e-mails.

Here’s his first round of responses. Here’s his second round, wherein he explained his earlier remarks to a third correspondent whose letter I would have found almost as provoking as the first two. (Note to self in re moderation techniques: must brush up on the art of the soft answer that turneth away wrath. Who knew it could be so effective?)

I put another prime specimen of Franklin Habit’s aplomb into the Particles queue today; but if you’re reading this after it’s scrolled off the bottom of the list, you can also find it here.

John McCain, tyrant in waiting
Posted by Patrick at 12:44 PM * 44 comments

If you’re like a lot of my friends, you have the vague notion that John McCain would be a tolerable Republican president, certainly an improvement on the current nitwit. Nothing could be further from the truth, as Matt Welch lays out in the Los Angeles Times.

Liberals and conservatives alike fail to truly reflect his views, McCain writes, because “neither emphasizes the obligations of a free people to the nation.” His main governmental inspiration is Teddy Roosevelt, the “Eastern swell who became a man of the people,” whose great accomplishment was “to summon the American people to greatness.” In Roosevelt’s code, McCain writes approvingly, it was “absolutely required that every loyal citizen take risks for the country’s sake.” This is an essentially militaristic view of citizenship, one that explains many of McCain’s departures from partisan orthodoxy. Unlike traditional Republicans, he will gladly butt into the affairs of private industry if he perceives them to be undermining Americans’ faith in government; unlike Democrats, he thinks the executive branch generally needs more power, not less.

“Our greatness,” he wrote in Worth the Fighting For,” “depends upon our patriotism, and our patriotism is hardly encouraged when we cannot take pride in the highest public institutions.” So, because steroids might be damaging the faith of young baseball fans, drug testing becomes a “transcendent issue,” requiring threats of federal intervention unless pro sports leagues shape up. Hollywood’s voluntary movie-rating system? A “smoke screen to provide cover for immoral and unconscionable business practices.” Ultimate Fighting on Indian reservations? “Barbaric” and worthy of government pressure on cable TV companies. Negative political ads by citizen groups? They “do little to further beneficial debate and healthy political dialogue” and so must be banned for 60 days before an election if they mention a candidate by name.

If his issues line up with yours, and if you’re not overly concerned by an activist federal government, McCain can be a great and sympathetic ally. But chances are he will eventually see a grave national threat in what you consider harmless, or he’ll prescribe a remedy that you consider unconscionable.

McCain combines the dictatorial impulses of the current Republican president with an even greater eagerness to kill foreigners and an even more sweeping disdain for fundamental human rights. Far from the likeable “maverick” centrist he’s managed to charm the press into portraying him as, he’s a truly dangerous man. Liberals and libertarians alike need to start recognizing that right now.

Real life
Posted by Patrick at 12:02 AM * 46 comments

Back from Montreal. More soon. Meanwhile, this, one of the most beautiful pieces of music of our age. (Via).

November 27, 2006
Me, on the Radio
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 08:03 AM * 32 comments

Doyle and I will be on The Front Porch (New Hampshire Public Radio’s arts and literature show) today at 6:30 PM EST.

Here’s their blurb:

The popularity of sci-fi and fantasy books is growing phenomenally. New Hampshire authors Debra Doyle and James MacDonald are a part of that growth. He’s a former naval officer, she holds a phd in literature, and together they put their credentials to good use in The Land of Mist and Snow. We’re going to put their alternate civil war history under the magnifying glass and discuss the fine line between fantasy and science fiction.

You can listen to us over the air if you live in New Hampshire. Otherwise, you can hear the show on streaming audio: MP3 Player Stream or Windows Media.

I’m told there’ll be an archived version later on.

Buggers misspelled my name.


The archive is available: Windows Media; MP3.

November 26, 2006
Mike Ford: Occasional Works (Pt. Six)
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 02:11 PM * 10 comments

Catalog retail

We, in some strange custom’s employ, move in a rigorous tux.

I’ve owned one (not bought custom or new, of course) for a long time, and have very little occasion to wear it; the last was at Bruce Schneier’s pre-wedding party, which was formal. Before that, I wore it to Nebula banquets, where, yeah, it stood out; the only other guys who did were Ben Bova, Norman Payes, and Sam Lundwall. Occasionally the toastmaster would dress, though when Joe Haldeman did he wore sandals, and while there are many possible accidents of dress, wearing sandals with black** tie is not one of them.

The rig is still in the closet, waiting for an appropriate occasion, but for almost everything my tailored blue-gray three-piece*** is more than adequate. If I should ever win an Oscar(tm) I’d want Mizrahi. What works for Elmo works for me.

*There is an entire subgenre of screwball comedy about this. Your choice as to whether the high point is Hugh Griffith in Start the Revolution Without Me, Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby. or Harpo Marx in anything.
**Actually, it and the tux were green.
***Yes, I know: “Three-piece what?” The usual answer is: MP5, short double shotgun, and .45 or 10mm backup. Hi, Jim.

Continue reading Mike Ford: Occasional Works (Part Six)

November 25, 2006
Open Thread 75
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:27 PM *

And the only daughter of the Merchant Prince felt so little gratitude for this great deliverance that she took to respectability of the militant kind, and became aggressively dull, and called her home the English Riviera, and had platitudes worked in worsted upon her tea-cosy, and in the end never died, but passed away in her residence.

November 24, 2006
Stop, Drop, and Roll
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:28 PM * 142 comments

So, how did I spend my Thanksgiving afternoon?

I and my partner, Mandie, spent it at a fire standby. Any time there’s a structure fire an ambulance gets dispatched to stand by in case someone is injured — either a person trapped in a house, or a firefighter. Nasty scenes, fires.

We’re the Medical Branch, working for the Incident Commander. (See Wheel, Re-invention of for more on ICS.) When we aren’t fixing up the injured (thankfully injuries aren’t that common), we run the rehab zone. That means, as the firefighters come out from working on the fire, pretty much when the bells ring on their air packs, they come over to us. We give ‘em a bottle of water and check their vital signs: heart rate, respiration rate, blood pressure, pulse oximetry. After they’ve cooled down for a bit, they suit up and go back in.

So, there we were. The smoke was visible from about half a mile away (nice blue-sky clear New Hampshire afternoon). When we arrived we found a garage that had pretty-much collapsed. It looked like a big bonfire. I wish I’d taken a camera with me to show you.

The proximate cause of the fire? A turkey fryer. I was thinking of writing this post the day before Thanksgiving, and it sure would have been timely, ya know?

Our friends at the Consumer Product Safety Commission have these recommendations for using turkey fryers:

  • Keep fryer in FULL VIEW while burner is on.
  • Place fryer in an open area AWAY from all walls, fences, or other structures.
  • Never use IN, ON, or UNDER a garage, breezeway, carport, porch, or any structure that can catch fire.
  • Raise and lower food SLOWLY to reduce splatter and avoid burns.
  • COVER bare skin when adding or removing food.
  • Check the oil temperature frequently.
  • If oil begins to smoke, immediately turn gas supply OFF.
  • If a fire occurs, immediately call 911. DO NOT attempt to extinguish fire with water.
For safest operation, CPSC staff recommends that consumers follow these guidelines as they prepare to use a turkey fryer:
  • Make sure there is at least 2 feet of space between the liquid propane tank and fryer burner.
  • Place the liquid propane gas tank and fryer so that any wind blows the heat of the fryer away from the gas tank.
  • Center the pot over the burner on the cooker.
  • Completely thaw (USDA says 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds) and dry turkey before cooking. Partially frozen and/or wet turkeys can produce excessive hot oil splatter when added to the oil.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to determine the proper amount of oil to add. If those are not available:
    • Place turkey in pot
    • Fill with water until the turkey is covered by about 1/2 inch of water
    • Remove and dry turkey
    • Mark water level. Dump water, dry the pot, and fill with oil to the marked level.

Try not to catch yourself on fire, guys.

If you do happen to catch on fire, remember: Stop, drop, and roll. What that does for you: You are no longer fanning the flames, you aren’t drawing a lot of air (and hot gasses, and smoke) into your lungs, and you’ve got a chance of putting out the fire. (I promise you can’t run fast enough to extinguish flames.) If you see someone else on fire and running, yell at them to stop, drop, and roll. A heavy wool blanket is good for putting out flaming people.

Burns come in three categories: Superficial, partial thickness, and full thickness. (The old names for those are first degree, second degree, and third degree. We don’t use that terminology any more.)

The “thickness” being spoken of is the thickness of the skin. Your skin is the largest organ in your body. For our purposes here it has three functions: It provides thermal regulation, it protects against bacteria, and it’s water-tight, which keeps the fluids inside you.

A superficial burn only affects the top layer of the epidermis. This is like a sunburn. It’s painful, but (unless it’s extensive) not too serious. The surface of the skin is dry and reddened. The burn is painful and sensitive to touch.

A partial-thickness burn involves the epidermis and the dermis. These are generally moist due to the loss of waterproofing. In a superficial partial-thickness burn, thin-walled blisters form. The skin is reddened, and area blanches when pressed, but regains color rapidly. In deeper partial-thickness burns the skin is red or waxy, and moist, but may not blister. It still blanches when pressed, but recolors only slowly or not at all. Partial-thickness burns are intensely painful.

A full-thickness burn extends all the way through the dermis and may affect underlying organs. These injuries can appear to be blackened, waxy, or leathery. Capillary refill is absent, and the surface is dry. Oddly enough, full-thickness burns aren’t painful; the nerves are destroyed. Areas of partial-thickness burns and superficial burns surrounding the full-thickness burn are, however, exquisitely painful.

Burns to the hands and feet, to the face (and especially the airway) , that involve the groin or buttocks, are over a major joint, or are circumferential (all the way around a limb or your chest), raise the seriousness of the injury. Burns to those areas, or to persons under five years old or over 65 years old, raise the seriousness one level. A burn plus another injury (e.g. fracture, laceration) raises the seriousness of the burn one level. You go from minor to serious, or from serious to critical. If your burn started out critical, you’re in trouble anyway.

First aid for burns: First, stop the burning process. Copious water is usually the best method. Then, loosely wrap the affected area in sterile, dry bandages. Don’t pull off anything that’s charred to the skin. Don’t break blisters. (If someone’s wearing a watch or a ring — cut it off. The injured area will swell and circulation may be lost.)

Start looking for pulse points beyond the burned area. If you find a pulse, mark it with a Sharpie marker. That’s good meat. Later on, when the burned areas start to swell, you may lose those pulses. Knowing that they were there, and where they were, will help your ED doctors.

Speaking of swelling — that’s why circumferential burns are so dangerous. They can form a sort of tourniquet and stop circulation in a limb, or stop the chest from expanding in order to breath.

You aren’t going to put on wet dressings, because that could induce hypothermia. You are going to use sterile dressings because the skin’s ability to protect against bacteria is gone. You don’t want to use creams or ointments, because they can hold in the heat, and because the first thing we’re going to have to do in the ED is remove them — and that hurts.

Like anything else, treat for shock. Start treating for shock before shock develops — after you’ve gone into shock getting back can be tough. (To treat for shock — wrap the patient in blankets for warmth, lay him on his back with his feet elevated. Provide oxygen if you have it.) While bacteria aren’t really your concern on-scene, do your best to keep the wound clean. That’ll simplify things down the road. Of more immediate concern are hypothermia and dehydration. Losing skin compromises the body’s ability to maintain heat and water.

If you note charring, blistering, or blanching around the nose or mouth, or singed nose-hair, or sooty phlegm, expect airway problems. The air passages will swell and the situation will get dire fast. That person needs to be in a hospital (or, better, burn center), right now.

Any full-thickness burn is severe. Any partial-thickness burn greater than three inches in diameter is severe.

As long as we’re talking about fires and such, direct burns aren’t the only way they can kill you. Carbon monoxide, or cyanide gas, for example, can nail you long before the flames reach you.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that binds more firmly to hemoglobin than oxygen does. Carbon monoxide is created by incomplete combustion. Hydrogen cyanide, a byproduct of combustion of some materials, destroys the ability of the mitochondria in your cells to function. This tends to paralyse the muscles, including heart and diaphragm. Small concentrations of hydrogen cyanide reaching the brain can cause unconsiousness.

What do you want to do about those? Get smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. If you heat or cook with gas, add an explosive gas detector to your home. (You can get combined CO/explosive gas detectors). Test them regularly; change the batteries every six months. (If your alarms keep going off for no apparent reason, find out why. Don’t just take the battery out of the alarm.)

As long as we’re here, shall we talk about fires in general?

There are four classes of fires. Class-A is combustible solids (like wood or paper). It’s characterized by white smoke and red flames. You extinguish ‘em with solid stream or high-velocity fog water. Class-B is combustible liquids like oil. It’s characterized by orange flames and black smoke. You extinquish it with low-velocity fog or foam. Class-C is electrical fres. It’s characterized by thin bluish smoke and a smell of ozone. It’s extinguished with dry chemical or carbon dioxide. Class-D is combustible metals like magnesium. It’s characterized by brilliant white light. It’s extinguished with dry powder (don’t use water — water just makes it angry).

Pick extinguishers for your home rated for the kinds of fires you’re likely to see. If you have a dry chemical extinguisher, go around and turn it upside down once a month. That’ll keep the powder loose, so when you need it the chemical isn’t all caked in the bottom of the cylinder. If you’re going to extinguish a fire yourself, first, don’t let the fire get between you and the door. Next, test the extinguisher before you get close to the fire. Then, use low sweeping motions of the extinguisher aimed at the base of the flame. After the fire is out, set a reflash watch. Call your friends at 9-1-1. They want to hear from you. (Send someone to call, or call yourself, before you go attack the fire.)

Copyright © 2006 by James D. Macdonald

I am not a physician. I can neither diagnose nor prescribe. This post is presented for entertainment purposes only. Nothing here is meant to be advice for your particular condition or situation.

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Stop, Drop, and Roll by James D. Macdonald is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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November 23, 2006
Holiday Feasts for Beginners
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:24 PM *

From Elizabeth Moon*, reprinted with permission:

Pursuant to a thread on another newsgroup…and speaking as someone who’s been doing T-day dinners a long time…here’s some advice for those who are facing their first “big” one. (You know as well as I do that making a little dinner for you and your significant other or another couple is not the same thing as your first big turkey dinner for a family.)

1) Avoid all expert shows. Ignore Martha Stewart (she has staff) and all the chefs on TV who want you to do something new! creative! different! fantastico! for your turkey dinner. Just turn them off, tune them out, and pretend they don’t exist. You aren’t cooking for a TV audience: you’re cooking for friends and family (if you’re cooking for enemies and strangers…well…I can’t help you).

2) Make it as easy as possible. Your first is not the time to try to combine a free-range or wild turkey, brined and basted with a homemade specialty sauce, all fresh organic vegetables prepared in special ways, homemade rolls, home-churned butter from your own cows, cranberry jelly made from cranberries you personally picked from your own bog…and so on. The point is the people around the table, and abundance: that’s it.
So it’s OK to use: an injected commercial turkey, commercial stuffing mixes, bottled gravy, commercial pastry dough, commercial pies and other desserts, canned cranberry sauce, canned or frozen veggies of choice, etc. It’s also OK to make, or let family and friends bring, more “home-made” side dishes and sauces and stuff, but it’s not worth getting yourself exhausted and cranky. People first, then abundance. Simplicity.

3) Share the load. As above, you don’t have to do it all yourself. Ask people to bring things you don’t want (or don’t know how) to make. They will feel part of the deal, and are less likely to carp (and—anticipating the hint about guests—if you get a carper one year, don’t invite that one again). I have friends who have brought homemade cranberry sauce (good stuff!) and pecan pies (also good stuff!) for years, and others who regularly bring the green bean casserole or another veggie. Friends who don’t cook can bring a sack of ice (you always need more ice) or a tub of ice cream or container of whipping cream for the pies or a sack of store-bought rolls (unless you’re a baking genius who likes to make rolls the morning of…)
MOST IMPORTANT on sharing the load is making it policy, from the first time you do this, that *you* do not clean up. You prepare ahead of time, you clean, you cook, you lay out the table, you hostess or host…but you don’t clean up. You get to sit around finishing dessert in peace because the cleanup is done by someone else. (Important note about that: if the cleaners-up break something, don’t throw a fit. And don’t critique them. Give them a large space on which to lay things out if they don’t know your storage means, but even if they put the gravy boat where the glasses should go…no comment. You got to sit and rest. They need praise and appreciation, not critiquing.)

4) Food: get enough. The guidelines in most books, etc. are not sufficient. This holiday is about abundance; you want enough so people can take home their favorite bits after they’ve stuffed themselves, and no one has to worry about taking another serving. This applies particularly to the turkey, dressing, and gravy, but also to desserts. I figure a pound of turkey per person…yes, howl if you wish, but remember it’s an injected turkey, so some of it is just juice and runs out. A 20 pound bird may be only 17 pounds of meat (2 pounds of injected fluid plus a pound of bones and gristly stuff.) Bread-type stuffings will stretch a turkey and so will potatoes and breads, but green beans or corn won’t (trust me, this is 37 years of T-day experience talking…).

5) The turkey. Baking a turkey is dead simple. Take your average commercial injected turkey, whichever one is on sale. Take out the package of giblets and the neck (usually these are in separate paper packets, one in the body cavity and one in the neck cavity.) Put these on to boil with some peppercorns and a bay leaf. They can simmer for hours without harm. Unless you have a bias against stuffing the turkey, stuff the turkey with a commercial bread-type stuffing that’s loaded with flavorful things: chopped celery, chopped onion, chopped parsley, and an extra dose of poultry seasoning and sage. The dry dressing mix should smell strongly of onion, sage, parsley, and less strongly of other herbs.
If using a baking pan, cover tightly with foil, making sure foil does not touch the turkey. Otherwise, use a roaster—just put it in, put the top on the roaster, set the dial, and leave it be. Bake at 350 degrees for hours and hours and hours…no basting, no peeking until near the end of its time. (Cookbooks will tell you. Big turkeys usually need less time per pound, but a turkey that’s full of stuffing should have a little more. I usually figure on 3 pounds per hour. The turkey is done when the drumstick falls out of the socket or there is no pink (NO pink) at the bone of the thigh and breast. Juices running out should be clear, not pinkish.

6) Dressing. The easiest dressing is a commercial mix: I use Pepperidge Farm mixes, and I mix them: 2 packages of one of the bread mixes and 1 of the cornbread. For each 3 packages of mix, chop one medium onion, about half of one bunch of celery (needs to have leaves, as many as possible; you want the chopped leaves in there as well as the celery), and at least half a bunch (depends on the size bunch) of parsley. Add “Italian” herb mix plus additional sage. This brand calls for adding butter and water—and I do use butter, but margarine is OK if you must.
Do not add eggs. Zero eggs. Thus zero chance of salmonella from the stuffing (from the turkey…well, that’s what well done is for.) The strong herb flavoring of the stuffing helps flavor the turkey, but it does get milder with cooking. Inevitably people want more stuffing…so make enough to have an out-of-turkey pan to bake (it goes in the oven when you pull the turkey out.)

7) Gravy. I’m a dud at gravy. My mother was good; I’m not. So I use jar gravies. Here the trick to making them seem homemade is: take the giblets, about an hour before you serve, cut them up, and be ready to put them in your commercial gravy. The gravy goes on to warm 30 minutes before you serve—add the giblets, and when the turkey comes out, add some pan juices from the turkey itself. The commercial gravies will keep the gravy thick and smooth; the stuff you add gives it a homemade flavor once it’s been sitting together awhile. Make enough gravy. People who like gravy will want a lot of gravy. Have extra jars of gravy ready to add in as needed…there is not a gravy boat in the world big enough for the people at my table…

8) Table. Set the table the night before. Thus no scurrying around on the day trying to remember where the whatsit is. Use the good stuff, if you have good stuff. Use a tablecloth, if you have one. Enjoy it—that’s what it’s for. If you have more people than you have plates/silverware/glasses of one pattern, alternate them.
Use colorful fruits and nuts for a centerpiece, along with bread. When guests arrive and see a table already set, it lowers their anxieties and convinces them you’re all organized (heh-heh-heh), and when they see the rich colors of different fruits and a few nuts, it sets up the expectation that there will be abundant good food. Make sure the centerpiece includes red, yellow, purple, and green…food colors. You can certainly use vegetables as well (one year I set one table with fruits, and the other with colorful vegetables—squashes, gourds, etc.)

9) Guests. Here’s the absolute key to a good T-day dinner: the people who come. Now sometimes you have to invite so-and-so because he’s an in-law or she’s a relative or something…but as much as possible, invite people who like you already, who want to be there, who can hold up their end, who don’t irritate everyone around them. It’s YOUR table; you get to choose who sits at it. It’s the guest’s responsibility to enjoy what you offer, just as you’ve worked to provide something enjoyable. Crabby, cranky, critical people are no help to the hostess.
If you have enough good guests, though, they’ll help you deal with a difficult one (whom you won’t invite back, right? Right.) Children are partially exempt from all this, because all mothers know that even an ordinarily polite child may come unglued in a big gathering. It’s not necessarily the fault of the parents *or* the child (though a note to parents-as-guests…this is not the place to insist that the child eat everything, clean his/her plate, or forego dessert…you’re not just punishing your child, but everyone else when the child has a meltdown).
If you know you’re going to have a houseful that includes children, then pre-dinner discussion with the other parents is a good idea, setting strategies that will defuse potential problems. The alternative of mac-and-cheese or a bowl of soup or peanut-butter sandwiches can save the dinner for everyone else.

10) Guilt. Some of us are prone to feeling guilty when we look at our own abundant table and remember that others aren’t that lucky. Guilt does not make for happy hostesses/hosts, and happy hostesses/hosts are one of the best gifts you can give your guests…even more than a perfect dinner is the knowledge that you, the guest, are wanted and appreciated. So, defuse that potential guilt attack: contribute ahead of time to whatever organization in your area serves the poor. Pack boxes at the food pantry, give time as well as money, if you can, and give the equivalent to the cost of the dinner you fix, as a minimum, to the cause. That doesn’t really fix things, but it may get you through the preparation and enjoyment of a big T-day dinner with less guilt.
Then there’s the guilt from something going wrong (you spilled gravy on the tablecloth, you forgot that X doesn’t like butter on the mashed potatoes…) It’s a big production, and something will go wrong. It is not a disaster if you don’t act like it’s a disaster. Seriously. Guests look to the host/ess to determine if it’s a disaster…some of them will start to get upset because they think you’re about to…so remember dear Mr. Rogers and the Neighborhood…”everybody makes mistakes sometimes…” Everybody spills the gravy, dumps the beans, drops a crystal glass, splashes someone else with cranberry juice *sometime*…and that’s normal. You aren’t going to get perfect-like-Martha-Stewart. You don’t WANT perfect-like-Martha-Stewart. What you can get is a lovely abundant meal shared with good friends. That’s doable. Everything else is sprinkles on top.

And the final unnumbered rule: if you don’t like any of these, dump them and do it your way.


See also: Jon Singer’s Turkey Algorithm

*Elizabeth Moon

[Recipe Index]

November 21, 2006
Apologia pro whiny sua
Posted by Patrick at 11:37 PM *

We’re away for the Thanksgiving break, off on the Adirondack out of the Anglosphere altogether.

We’ll be connected to the intarwebs when we actually arrive at our destination, but we’re already grossly behind on email, and the seductions of where we’re going may prove more compelling than the idea of catching up. Very bad of us! Dang.

Once again: What we’ve become.
Posted by Patrick at 11:06 PM *

And how we’ll be remembered.

Richard Cohen, supposedly “liberal” columnist at the Washington Post:

We are a good country, attempting to do a good thing. In a post-Sept. 11 world, I thought the prudent use of violence could be therapeutic.
Here’s your “therapeutic,” Richard Cohen. American soldiers, barely out of their teens, tormenting children desperate for a bottle of clean water. There’s your “prudent use of violence.” There’s your “good country.”

Auden, ever-prescient:

I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
That evil will live with us for the rest of our lives. It may kill us yet.

November 20, 2006
A move to reinstate normal legal procedures
Posted by Teresa at 05:26 PM * 67 comments

Via Newsrack Blog, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) has introduced a bill—formerly called the Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act, now called the Military Commission Civil Liberties Restoration Act—that would get rid of many of the worst features of the Military Commissions Act.

As the reader will undoubtedly recall, the MCA permitted the use of trial procedures that literally wouldn’t be allowed by the Inquisition. Here’s what Sen. Dodds’ bill would do:

* Restore Habeas Corpus protections to detainees.
* Narrow the definition of unlawful enemy combatant to individuals who directly participate in hostilities against the United States who are not lawful combatants.
* Bar information gained through coercion from being introduced as evidence in trials.
* Empower military judges to exclude hearsay evidence they deem to be unreliable.
* Authorize the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to review decisions by the Military Commissions.
* Limit the authority of the President to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions, and make that authority subject to congressional and judicial oversight.
* Provide for expedited judicial review of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to determine the constitutionality of its provisions.
According to Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft, “The bill will be one of the first things taken up by the new Senate Judiciary Committee when it meets in January.”

It can’t happen too soon to suit me. It would be a huge relief to go back to having a legal system where an individual held in custody can challenge the propriety of that custody under the law; where you can’t label someone an unlawful enemy combatant unless they actually are one; where hearsay evidence, and evidence obtained under torture, are not recognized as evidence at all; where judicial proceedings are subject to judicial review; and where George W. Bush doesn’t get to single-handedly dictate what the Geneva Conventions say and who’s subject to them.

November 18, 2006
“Here’s your Patriot Act.”
Posted by Patrick at 09:34 AM *

At a library computer lab, UCLA cops demand that student Mostafa Tabatabainejad show his ID. He doesn’t have it with him, and he begins to leave. Before he can do so, he’s seized and shot repeatedly with a Taser.

Story from the school paper here. Eyewitness report here. Video here. Response to the argument that the victim had it coming here.

Incidentally, not only did the campus police threaten to Taser onlookers who objected, they also continued to Taser their victim after they had him fully handcuffed.

Not that it’s unusual for police to beat and torture their victims well after they’ve been fully restrained.

Meanwhile, Houston police trample striking janitors from horseback.

The janitors make $20 a day. Among the injured was an 83-year-old man.

We’re ruled by people who have determined that torture is okay. Do you think it stops in Iraq?

November 17, 2006
Tom Tomorrow at the Village Voice
Posted by Teresa at 02:13 PM *

Lindsay Beyerstein (Majikthise) tells me there are credible rumors going around that the new corporate regime at the Village Voice is a step away from canning Tom Tomorrow’s award-winning political comic strip, This Modern World. If you feel like trying to discourage this development, you can post a comment to them here, or send snail mail to Editor, Village Voice, 36 Cooper Square, New York, NY 10003.

Why bother: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.

November 16, 2006
Naming the war
Posted by Teresa at 07:40 PM * 157 comments

“Is anyone else bothered that the current conflict in Iraq seems to be somehow nameless?” said FungiFromYuggoth. “It’s not Gulf War 2, that’s for sure.”

“George’s War?” said Greg London.

“The War of George’s Flight-Suit?” suggested Fragano Ledgister; but protected static countered with “Ooh, ooh, I know! The Codpiece War!”

“You shouldn’t have said that,” said Abi, and then posted:

In centuries to come they’ll sit and talk
About the war we started in 03:
“Some country called…what was it then?…Iraq.
They thought they’d go invade and set it free.”
“Or was it oil?” “No, that just isn’t right.
You cook with oil, silly. Can’t be that.”
“But maybe they were using oil to fight?
Non-lethal weapons? Bad guys drenched in fat?”
“Now that is just ridiculous. Listen. Hush.
They saw a vision, smoke that filled the sky,
Twin pillars in one day, a burning Bush:
Religious martyrdom…I think that’s why.”
“The war was a crusade, fighting over God?
You sure? So why’s it named The Piece of Cod?”

November 15, 2006
The uselessness of Airleaf Publishing
Posted by Teresa at 06:24 PM *

A spam from Airleaf Publishing recently turned up in the mail queue of a senior editor. She forwarded it to me:

From: []
Sent: Saturday, November 11, 2006 3:23 AM
To: [name of recipient]
Subject: Reach 400 Decision Makers at Traditional Royalty-Paying Publishers!
Airleaf Publishing is the most recent name of Bookman Marketing. They aren’t the good guys. One of Making Light’s old comment threads discussed them in some detail: one, two, three, four, five. Other venues have done so as well: A comprehensive denunciation at Lone Prairie. The Absolute Write thread on Bookman/Airleaf, which also has information on their marketing scams aimed at filmmakers, and their short-lived Bowker Book Club division (which falsely claimed connection with the real Bowker). A denunciation at’s weblog. A thread at WritersWeekly.

The scene these days is full of POD, subsidy, and vanity publishers who try to sell writers on the idea that they can deliver the same results as a conventional publishing house, if only the writers will work hard enough at promoting their own books. This is false. It’s like selling them on a gold rush in an area where little or no gold exists to be found, and telling them they can get rich if only they’ll dig hard enough. A phenomenal number of authors fall for this. And when they do, Bookman/Airleaf is standing there, ready to sell them their picks and shovels.

B/A’s specialty is doing useless promotion in huge quantities—for example, sending 4,000 email copies of a press release about your book to bookstores across the country, where they’re guaranteed to go unread. They also have a vanity radio operation that charges $499 for a ten-minute interview, and a vanity TV branch that charges $499 for a 15-second spot. You won’t have heard or seen any of them, which should tell you something.

This latest program of theirs is very much in Bookman/Airleaf’s usual style:

Subject: Reach 400 Decision Makers at Traditional Royalty-Paying Publishers!
Royalty-Paying Publishers means they’re aiming this at hapless writers whose chief experience has been with the non-royalty-paying sort: POD, subsidy, and vanity publishers. Traditional means they’re hoping to pick up business from PA’s thousands of dissatisfied authors. The villains at PublishAmerica have always referred to their operation as a “traditional publisher.” This couldn’t be further from the truth, but they get away with it because there are no standards for what can and can’t be called a traditional publisher. Their authors tend to pick up that language, not understanding that the standard term for a traditional, royalty-paying publisher is “publisher.”
Selling a book to a royalty paying, traditional publisher is always a long shot for unknown authors.
The impossibility of a newbie getting published is a standard trope among scammers. They want you to despair of your own chances of legitimate publication and go with them instead, or buy their overpriced and underskilled “professional editing,” or accept the necessity of paying for a major promotional campaign out of your own pocket.
However, Airleaf Publishing & Book Selling Services has developed a unique list of Senior Editors at the biggest publishing houses, and we also know how each publisher accepts new submissions. This puts you at least two steps ahead of the thousands of authors submitting books every week.
The names of editors, and the submission guidelines of publishing houses, are not hard-to-get proprietary information. Just ask the reference librarian at your local library.
What we do is compose a special full-page release about your book. While we write the promotion, you approve it and have final authority.
First, I’ve seen numerous complaints about the quality of their copywriting. Second, a press release is going to do exactly nothing to sell a book to an editor. It’s not a query letter. It’s not a submission, either. It’s just a mediocre advertisement, sent as spam.
Once you are satisfied with the promotion we send it directly 400 Senior Editors at Traditional Publishers.
It’s a good thing they’re just scammers, because otherwise I’d have to think they’re insane. Imagine you’ve written a science fiction novel. If you only send it to one editor per house (as is proper), how many recipients are we talking about? Let’s say twenty-five in the English-speaking world, if we don’t count small presses. That means fifteen out of sixteen releases are going to inappropriate editors. They may pay attention to the first five or ten of those that arrive, but after that they’re going to be flagged as spam about books, and automatically discarded. The sixteenth editor, the appropriate one, will ignore it too, because he or she is constantly getting spam about books, and deletes it all unread.
Then we follow up whatever way we can to try to secure a contract and an advance. If we are successful, we will not charge any commission.
Does that look like the La Brea Tar Pits to you? Because it does to me.

If they’re offering your book for sale to third parties, they’re acting as your agent. If they aren’t your agent, they can’t sell your book. I have no idea why they aren’t saying “agent” here.

When they talk about charging commissions, things get even more complicated. When an agent sells a book to a publisher, the publisher pays the advance and other monies to the agent, and the agent passes them on to the author less the agency commission. If Bookman/Airleaf is proposing to handle the money, it would be a very good idea to first have a signed agenting agreement. It would also be a very good idea to check out Bookman/Airleaf’s qualifications to act as an agent and negotiate your contracts.

Also: if they’re successful, they won’t charge a commission? You charge a commission when you’ve succeeded in making money for the author, not otherwise. It’s hard to collect a set percentage of zero.

As always, you will reserve all the rights to your book.
Of course you will. That’s the default. These days, you have to actively sign away your copyright in order to lose it.
The regular price for this unique service is $499


They’ve put together a mailing list of 400 people who work in publishing and have “senior editor” in their titles. If you purchase their services, they’ll send you a questionnaire asking for information about your book. Some talentless hack will munge the information together in an untransformative fashion, and Bookman/Airleaf will send it as spam to their editor list.

If you have what it takes to be an author, you can do that for yourself, and make a better job of it. You may even be able to figure out that it’s a useless maneuver, and do something else. Cobbling together a release and spamming a list of editors with it is cheap and easy to do, which is why Bookman/Airleaf offers the service; but that doesn’t mean it’s an effective way to sell a book.

As always, we will sell your book even if you publshed with another company—and, more importantly, we can have your book for sale on our websites NOW! Don’t miss the best time of the year to sell books. Just give me a quick call at 1-800-342-6068!
I’ll stop now. Suffice it to say that Bookman/Airleaf have a lot of useless package deals on offer.
Brien Jones
Author Consultant
Scott Janssens’ dog could call himself an Author Consultant if he wanted to, and I’d be likelier to hire him.
PS. Check out our ads this month in Oracle Magazine and Veterans Reporter, and our new websites and

A convenient list of URLs to avoid: finally, they give us something useful!

The Pooch is Already Screwed
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:35 AM *

The Repubs are going to blame the coming debacle in Iraq on the Democrats. “See!” they’re going to yell, “We had it all under control until those guys came along and messed up our plan!”

That won’t work. The Republicans dropped the egg; now it’s broken and no amount of finger-pointing at the Democrats will relieve them of the responsibility for dropping it.

Numerous reports from Bush’s own security apparatus have revealed that we’ve screwed the pooch in Iraq. National Intelligence Estimates from last spring were giving bad news. Just like Hosni Mubarak had predicted before Bush started his war, the fighting in Iraq is creating, motivating, and training new terrorists; the war is decreasing America’s security.

As if things couldn’t get worse:

(16AUG06) Situation Called Dire in West Iraq

The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country’s western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents.

The officials described Col. Pete Devlin’s classified assessment of the dire state of Anbar as the first time that a senior U.S. military officer has filed so negative a report from Iraq.

One Army officer summarized it as arguing that in Anbar province, “We haven’t been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically — and that’s where wars are won and lost.”

The “very pessimistic” statement, as one Marine officer called it, was dated Aug. 16 and sent to Washington shortly after that, and has been discussed across the Pentagon and elsewhere in national security circles. “I don’t know if it is a shock wave, but it’s made people uncomfortable,” said a Defense Department official who has read the report. Like others interviewed about the report, he spoke on the condition that he not be identified by name because of the document’s sensitivity.

Devlin reports that there are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has become the province’s most significant political force, said the Army officer, who has read the report. Another person familiar with the report said it describes Anbar as beyond repair; a third said it concludes that the United States has lost in Anbar.

The situation in Iraq has been called dire before, and it has been dire before. Now we have a top Marine Corps analyst saying that the US can hold the perimeters of its own bases, and the Iraqi government has no control at all, in a third of the country. And he says that it’s beyond repair. That’s the reality.

(11OCT06) The Lancet study of deaths in Iraq puts the total of excess deaths (the number greater-than-expected from other causes) at 650,000. That’s the midpoint of the estimate, the 95% confidence level — as the study says, the true number could be as low as 392,979, or as high as 942,636. Despite what the political pundits say, this was careful science, published in a respected journal. Consider too that the low-end estimate is still higher than the 300,000 people that Bush claimed Saddam killed in Iraq during his 23 years in power. That isn’t going to get the USA well-liked in Iraq, by any group.

(20OCT06) The Mahdi Army takes the town of Amara. (This isn’t the first time we’ve mentioned Amara.)

The Mahdi Army is al-Sadr’s group. Whatever al-Sadr may be, he isn’t a Baathist dead-ender. Sadaam had his father killed. These are the Shiites — the guys who, according to the neocon mythology, should have been throwing flowers and sweets. Instead they’re throwing grenades.

The real significance is this: A private army took an entire city. While they were in control they hunted down members of the Badr Corps (yet another private army). When private armies are having stand-up fights against other private armies, or against the Iraqi Army, or against the US Army, that’s a civil war.

(22OCT06) For Bush it was “Stay the course,” “stay the course,” “stay the course” until one day Bush was “we’ve never been ‘stay the course.’

What changed?

The day before, Bush met with some of the top generals dealing with Iraq. And all of a sudden it’s no longer “stay the course.” It used to be that timetables would only encourage the terrorists. Now, surprise! here’s a timetable. And the timetable is for 12-18 months before we leave. What did the generals tell Bush? I’d just be guessing, but my guess is that they told him “We can hold what we have for 12-18 months. After that we can shoot our way out.” So watch for helicopters on the Embassy roof in Baghdad no later than April, ‘08.

(25OCT06) Bush acknowledges setbacks in Iraq. Yep, the generals probably gave him a real talking-to. But “setbacks” is an interesting way to phrase “utter disaster.” Imagine how bad it must be for Bush to admit it.

Also before the elections: Bechtel bailed out of Iraq with less-than-stellar results. (The terms “fraud, waste, and abuse” come to mind.) Bechtel had been secretly offered the multi-billion-dollar Iraq Reconstruction contracts long before the invasion, back when Bush was still claiming that he was trying to avoid war. They’re pulling out, their projects uncompleted (for all that their pockets have been lined). The infrastructure situation in Iraq is only going to get worse.

Now for the real killer: this is why the pooch is screwed in Iraq, why Iraqization of the fight isn’t going to produce a win for the US, why Bush’s timetable won’t work, why the civil war is inevitable:

Sectarian Rifts Foretell Pitfalls of Iraqi Troops’ Taking Control

BAQUBA, Iraq — It did not take long for Col. Brian D. Jones to begin to have doubts about the new Iraqi commander.

The commander, Brig. Gen. Shakir Hulail Hussein al-Kaabi, was chosen this summer by the Shiite-led government in Baghdad to lead the Iraqi Army’s Fifth Division in Diyala Province. Within weeks, General Shakir went to Colonel Jones with a roster of people he wanted to arrest.

On the list were the names of nearly every Sunni Arab sheik and political leader whom American officers had identified as crucial allies in their quest to persuade Sunnis to embrace the political process and turn against the powerful Sunni insurgent groups here.

In late September, troops led by General Shakir arrested 400 people, nearly all of them Sunnis, during raids in Baquba. Colonel Fisher estimated that there was reasonable justification to detain perhaps 10 percent of them.

He said the raids, which enraged the Sunni community, prompted American commanders to require General Shakir to clear all operations with them — a step back from the July 3 transfer of “lead” authority to the Iraqis. Nevertheless, while the Iraqi Fifth Division remains under the United States chain of command, American officers say that General Shakir is not fully complying with their instructions.

On Oct. 14, for example, commanders got word of what they said was a rogue Iraqi operation aimed at a Sunni sheik who had become an ally of the Americans in Khan Bani Saad. General Shakir never received approval for the operation, but ordered it anyway, Colonel Jones said.

After learning of the raid, American officers sent troops to force the Iraqis to return to base. When Sunni fighters saw the Americans arrive in the same sort of Humvees that the Iraqi soldiers use, they opened fire, Colonel Fisher said. The Americans returned fire and killed seven insurgents, he said.

How do you know they’re insurgents? Because they’re dead….
General Shakir said he was not aware of the firefight.

American commanders also say the security forces are intimidating and arresting Sunnis who could be contenders for high political office — perhaps with an eye to welding Diyala eventually into a Shiite-dominated autonomous region under Iraq’s new federalism law. That law would allow provinces to form into semi-independent states with wide powers over internal security.

“It just seems to be a deliberate attempt to make sure that the Sunnis are unable to organize politically here and represent themselves well in the next round of elections,” Colonel Jones said, “because there is an awful lot at stake in this province.”

General Shakir sought the arrest of Sheik Atta Hadi al-Sadoun, a general under Saddam Hussein, immediately after the sheik began to talk about running for governor, said Lt. Col. Frank Muggeo, who commanded a team advising an Iraqi Army brigade in Baquba.

Recently, Iraqi Army officials lured Sheik Atta to a meeting, where they arrested him. General Shakir was preparing to transfer the sheik to Baghdad when Colonel Jones intervened, he said, ordering the sheik into American custody because he feared he would be killed in Baghdad. “We saved his life,” he said.

The Americans released the sheik for lack of evidence, Colonel Fisher said. But the sheik’s nephew, who drove his uncle to the meeting and was seen leaving with General Shakir’s men, is missing and feared dead, he said.

I recommend that everyone read the full article.

“This is a tipping point. If we demonstrate to the Sunnis that we are not going to remove Shakir and that we are going to allow him to do business as usual, then they’re going to lose faith in us and faith in the reconciliation process. And this thing is going to go kinetic in a big way.”

What has the US tried to do about that situation?

(03NOV06) National Intelligence Director John Negroponte went to Iraq. That was four days after national security advisor Stephen Hadley made an unannounced visit.

What did they talk about? Negroponte told al-Maliki to disband the militias and get the death squads under control. Prime minister al-Maliki told Negroponte to get stuffed.

It’s understandable, in a way — al-Maliki is looking for some solution that doesn’t include him personally hanging by his neck from a Baghdad lamppost fifteen minutes after the US pulls out.

(08NOV06) Iraqi parliament renews state of emergency

In the final days before Tuesday’s midterm election, President Bush dispatched two top officials to Iraq in a bid to pressure al-Maliki to quickly disband Shiite militia groups and death squads that have killed thousands of Sunni Muslims.

National Intelligence Director John Negroponte was rebuffed by al-Maliki, however, when he demanded the Iraqi leader disband militias and wipe out death squads this year.

A top aide to al-Maliki, who refused to allow use of his name because of the sensitive nature of the information, told The Associated Press the prime minister flatly refused and said the task could not be taken up until next year.

Al-Maliki’s refusal to act against the militias has caused deepening anger among Sunni politicians who took enormous risks in joining the political process.

Sunni lawmaker Salim Abdullah said the Iraqi Accordance Front bloc had sent messages to other political groups warning that if there is no balance and the militias are not dissolved “we will withdraw from the government.”

“We are under political pressure, and if these demands are not met we will abandon politics,” Abdullah said. “And this will leave us with only one alternative, which is carrying arms, and then it will be civil war. And we are against the civil war.”

“We will abandon politics.” That puts us in Clausewitz territory: War.

There’s a de facto civil war in progress right now. If the Sunnis withdraw from the government and field their own armies that’s a civil war de jure. Given the facts we know, the path seems inevitable.

Iraq was broken long before the recent elections. A Democratic congress will help, but the egg already hit the floor. No one is going to put it back together again.

Bush and his remaining Republicans will try to blame the Democrats for his disaster. Don’t let him.

November 14, 2006
Posted by Teresa at 03:49 PM * 104 comments

It’s exactly what you think it is. As is said in the unreliable but lively Encyclopedia Dramatica:

Punditslash is as scary as it sounds. It’s a small, tight-knit group of bleeding-heart liberals/Daily Show fangirls in their late teens who write NC-17 slash fanfiction involving cable news personalities—Anderson Cooper, Keith Olbermann, Tucker Carlson, you name it.
I name Andrew Ference, Dan Patrick, Jake Shears, Dan Abrams, Bill Hemmer, Sanjay Gupta, Chris Matthews, Paul Begala, and Max Kellerman. I think. But mostly, what this community writes about are Anderson Cooper, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert. And if they were ever a small group of teen fangirls, those days are past—just look at all the names.

If you’d like to sample the product, start here and work your way forward. The links in parentheses at the ends of posts are usually fiction. It’s polite to give feedback on stories, as long as your feedback is polite. While you’re there, keep an eye out for ch-ch-ch-chad’s icon. I’ve gotten so used to fanfic writers using a little cheesecake photo of their favorite character that it took me several passes to notice who that was.

I’m assuming you don’t want to hear about George Bush fanfic? Right. Didn’t think so.

November 13, 2006
Anthraces cargo scandal
Posted by Teresa at 10:14 PM * 213 comments

Charles Conrad Castagna, the recently arrested wanna-be anthrax terrorist who sent threatening letters laced with white powder to Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, David Letterman, Jon Stewart, and Keith Olbermann, turns out to have seriously stupid opinions about science fiction. He also turns to be a regular at Free Republic, where—no surprise—he says a lot of dumb things. Here’s his Freeper-bio:

I am a lifelong Conservative Republican .

I have an Associates Degree in the Science of Electronics .

Ann Coulter is a Goddess and I worship Laura Ingraham and Michele Malkin .

English is the langauge of the United States of America- - our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution are written in the langauge that expresses our civilized freedoms .

Spanish is the language of Banana Republics, beyond that it belongs in a European country.

And what kind of name is “Charles Conrad Castagna”, hmmmm?

(Come to think of it, I know the answer: it’s an anagram of SCARCE GONADS, CHARLATAN.)

I take it he doesn’t think that English belongs in a European country.

Sadly, No! has been having a fine time with this story—once, twice, and again—but so far my favorite writer on this subject has been David Neiwert at Orcinus. That’s because he says hey, this guy really is a terrorist, even though he’s not a very good one; and he points out that the pundits and websites that feed a constant stream of hate, lies, and eliminationist rhetoric to vulnerable losers like Castagna are very much at fault as well.

Granted, journalists aren’t responsible for the people who decide to listen to them. Neither can they control the reactions of everyone in their audience. All true—but also not the point. Castagna’s reactions are precisely the ones Faux News and Free Republic have been shooting for all along. We may think ourselves lucky that the guy who blew up this time is a terminal dork who couldn’t get an audition with the Legion of Substitute Heroes; but that’s chance, not exculpation.

And now it’s time to make fun of Castagna’s opinions about science fiction, as expressed in a letter to Science Fiction Weekly in late August of 2002. I’ll take my best shot at interpreting it:

SF Has No Space for PC

With the passing away of Lexx ends an intriguing albeit smarmy experiment in sci-fantasy.

Greetings, fraki.
One that breaks with conventions, or should I say, cliches of TV sci-fi of the ’90s. The politically correct pabulum, the multicultural indoctrination, the Bladerunner motifs, and not the least—the steroid mutated superbabes that can punch the lights out of men, but never get punched back in return!?
Does this guy have issues, or what? I take it some female character on an SF show makes him feel like his Favorite Thing is about to shrivel up and disappear into his body. He resents this, so he blames the liberals.

Here’s the script for his transactions with the far right: Castagna is whiny and resentful over the world treating like an unattractively whiny and resentful little git. He feels that someone else should be to blame for it. The far right, knowing that losers like Castagna exist, is perfectly willing to tell him that it’s the liberals who are at fault. He and his chosen masters have one thing in common: they don’t care whether the story is true or not. The right wants to tell it, and he wants to believe it.

I’m not sure which female character set him off. River Tam (punches but is not punched) and Starbuck (her cigar is bigger than yours) hadn’t appeared yet. He might have been ticked about late-season Buffy, but that show wasn’t science fiction. Perhaps it was someone on Star Trek. Or Babylon-5. Or something else.

And speaking of women who never get mistreated anywhere near as badly as they mistreat others, it’s got to be some kind of a hoot that this guy thinks Ann Coulter is a goddess.

How about creating a new sci-fi anthology with none of the puerile baggage of Rod Serling, Gene Roddenberry, Rockne O’ Bannon, etc., etc. It is time to end their reign of Left-wing innuendo, their anti-American, anti-mankind cynicism and fatalism.
Cynicism, fatalism, anti-Americanism, Gene Roddenberry? The man who did more to kill off cheap nihilistic post-holocaust SF than anyone else in the history of the genre? Who once wrote an episode which climaxes with the reciting of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution? Whatever Castagna’s talking about, it’s not science fiction as we know it.

(Or, to steal a riff from Seth Breidbart: “Alexander the Great, Black Death in Europe in 1347, Neil Armstrong in 1969. And which timeline are you from?”)

Let us create a future of infinite possibilities devoid of the agenda of the social engineers who work their corruption on us through the one-way world of television (kind of how the liberal-left have always worked).
Liberals and leftists, fangs and horns and pitchforks, check. See above on blaming Faux News and Free Republic. That’s one of their favorite lies.
A world where anything is possible but not everything is possible. Anything can happen, but not all things can happen at once. That is what time is for, to keep all things from happening at the same moment. That shall be the only rule of our new fantasy world. That an event happens only once. What has been done, cannot be undone. There is no turning back the sands of time. You can review the past but you cannot change the past.
“We’re in power. We’re going to run things our way, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Resistance is futile. Furthermore, I want you to stop fighting back because it scares me.”

(Okay, so I’m guessing. You tell me what that passage means. I dare you.)

That a vision of a possible future, to the present, must be taken in the context of the present. A cosmos not governed by compassion or tolerance or equality, but common sense and merit. A universe of strange and totally new lifeforms and not distorted reflections of human characters in our present world, just to make some social allegory—that is the insipid barren road of Political Correctness that sci-fi entertainment has been a slave to for so many years. The future is not the current events of our world thrown into outer space.
If he were writing that today, I’d be sure he was upset about the recent Battlestar Galactica storyline; but given the date of his letter, I can’t tell what he’s talking about. Star Trek, maybe.
The future is not with the Liberals, not with the Multiculturalists (both hate America), …
Another lie from the far right’s Mighty Wurlitzer o’ Hate. If this were Germany in 1939, Castagna would be just as happy to explain that it’s all the Jews’ fault.

It’s like that thing I said once about Spanish Prisoner con games: not only is it not necessary for the prisoner to exist; it isn’t necessary for Spain to exist. The transaction is between the person who’s telling the story and the person who’s listening and believing it. You could substitute Venusians, or Muggletonians, or Walloons, and as long as both parties agree that those people are indeed the subject of the story, the transaction will work out exactly as it did before.

… and it is certainly not to be found in Canada!
That must mean he doesn’t read William Gibson, Cory Doctorow, Robert Charles Wilson, Candace Jane Dorsey, Rob Sawyer, Yves Meynard, John Clute, Geoff Ryman, Peter Watts, Donald Kingsbury, Judith Merrill, S. M. Stirling, Gordon R. Dickson, Spider Robinson, Phyllis Gotlieb, Michael G. Coney, or A. E. Van Vogt, and he definitely doesn’t read Elisabeth Vonarburg, Joel Champetier, Francine Pelletier, or Daniel Sernine.

Congratulations, Canada, on your national ice-igloo!

The future is not written, the future is unformed.
“I won’t, and you can’t make me.”

It’s been well established since time immemorial (1964) that you can’t actually kick someone out of science fiction fandom. Perhaps we can send Mr. Castagna many attractive and pleasurable works of mainstream fiction, and hope it sticks.

(Thank you, Protected Static.)

November 12, 2006
Open Thread 74
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 02:56 PM *

But to returne to our oracle of Apollo at Delphos, who was called Pytho, for that Apollo slue a serpent so called, whereof the Pythonists take their name; I praie you consider well of this tale, which I will trulie rehearse out of the ecclesiasticall historie, written by Eusebius, wherein you shall see the absurditie of the opinion, the cousenage of these oraclers, and the deceived mind or vaine opinion of so great a doctor bewraied and deciphered altogether as followeth.

November 11, 2006
Posted by Teresa at 07:37 PM *

Sorry. I know I usually post about the Great War today. Happens it’s one of those subjects where the realization’s hit me hard that I’m not going to be able to talk to Mike about it any more.

I’ll give you an observation of his that I remember: We were talking about the way the military on both sides kept trying mass “over the top” charges into the no man’s land between the trenches, and taking staggering losses. Doing that a few times would have been bad enough, but in WWI, both sides kept it up for years.

I said, usually if a general plans and conducts a major battle that winds up taking a pitifully small amount of ground, and gets hundreds of thousands of his troops killed, he’s relieved of command.

Mike said, after a while, all the generals had fought battles like that. If you went on doing the same thing, at least it was something you knew. You wouldn’t do any worse than any other commander. But if you tried something different and it didn’t work, then heaven help you.

(See also, Ghosts of the Great War: 2003, 2004, 2005.)

November 10, 2006
Atoic agram, “I killed a dragon.”
Posted by Teresa at 04:01 PM * 63 comments

All hail Tuomo Sipola, a constructed-languages enthusiast, who is putting together the Common Fantasy Tongue.

You know that sense of amusement where you never laugh out loud, but you continuously feel slightly buzzed, as though amazement now came in a time-release capsule version? Common Fantasy Tongue does that to me, especially the phonology.

I found it via Langmaker’s list of constructed languages, which is full of yummy things.

Addendum: The comment thread is complaining that Tuomo Sipola has failed to provide translations of two essential sentences that are dear to mad linguists everywhere: Oh my god, there’s an axe in my head!, and I can eat glass; it doesn’t hurt me.

November 09, 2006
Sojourn off that way
Posted by Patrick at 09:44 PM *

So nice to know that none of my secular, non-religious friends are part of the “moral center.”

If I want weasel-worded, abusive, self-dealing hypocrisy, I’ll put Joe Lieberman on my speed-dial. If I want smart commentary on religion in modern American life, I’ll read Garry Wills or Charles P. Pierce.

If there’s anything I’d like out of our brave new political dispensation, after (oh, well, okay) an end to torture, a cessation of war, and global engagement with climate change, it would be never having to listen to another word from Jim Wallis and his ilk, heroes in their mind of some imagined “religious left” which appears to function primarily as an excuse for them to scold other progressives for not respecting their glorious religiosity with enough sincerely truthy respectfulness. These hucksters are every bit as reprehensible as their right-wing counterparts, twice as tedious, and three times as embarrassing. They can go now.

Posted by Patrick at 02:34 PM * 96 comments

Presently we’ll get over being All Politics, All The Time. First, though, a reminder of just exactly what kind of people got their comeuppance on Tuesday:

Yusuf El-Bedawi is no fool. He knows politicians can play dirty.

He’s just livid at being tricked into playing dirty with them on Election Day. All because he’s homeless—and therefore, apparently, considered too unprincipled to give a damn about the integrity of the voting process.

“I might not have a home,” El-Bedawi told me yesterday, “but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about right and wrong. No one has the right to use me that way.”

But use him they did, along with at least six busloads of other poor or homeless Philadelphians who were hoodwinked into handing out deeply misleading voter guides in Maryland on Tuesday. The guides state that they were paid for by committees supporting Republican Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich, who was up for re-election, and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who was chasing a U.S. Senate seat. […]

At first, the time passed pleasantly until some of the voters took a closer look at the flier that El-Bedawi was passing out, and went ballistic. It was labeled “Ehrlich-Steele Democrats” and “Official Voter Guide,” and its sample ballot pushed Ehrlich and Steele, who are not identified as being Republican.

It also pictured three prominent black Democratic leaders above the words, “These are OUR Choices” - suggesting that Ehrlich, who is white, and Steele, who is black, had the trio’s endorsement.

“People started screaming, at us, ‘Do you think we’re that stupid? What are you trying to pull?’ ” said El-Bedawi. “I said, ‘I didn’t know it was a lie! I’m from Philly!’ And they said, ‘Then go back to Philly!’”

When the voters left, he said, he was so shaken and angry, he tossed his remaining literature in the trash. On the bus back home that evening, he said, others were as upset as he was. They were told, “Don’t worry about it. People don’t care.”

“That’s some dirty, sneaky, underhanded stuff,” said El-Bedawi, shaking his head. “Voting is the most important thing we do. To mess with it is wrong.”

Both Steele and Erlich lost their elections. Steele is now talking about running for chair of the RNC. It would be nice if an upwelling of disgust from decent Republicans—there must be a few—put a halt to the candidacy of someone who considers this sort of thing acceptable. It would also be nice if Belle Waring had a pony. I give Belle’s pony higher odds of happening.

More gay Republicans
Posted by Teresa at 12:04 AM *

Jim Macdonald, who’s watching Larry King Live via streaming video, tells me that Bill Maher just outed Republican party chair Ken Mehlman as gay on the show.

Now we know the real Republican take on homosexuality: “Much too good for the common people!”

November 08, 2006
Democrats take the Senate
Posted by Patrick at 08:59 PM * 71 comments

AP and NBC call Virginia for Webb, as Allen’s recount hopes fade in the light of day.

Leaving aside potential perfidy by the Lieberman-For-Lieberman party, that makes it a pickup of six seats, and 51-49 control of the upper house. Hello, Majority Leader Reid.

Tester wins in Montana
Posted by Patrick at 02:00 PM * 64 comments

Holy Toledo, if Webb survives the Virginia recount (and signs are that he will), we’ll actually take the Senate as well. I wouldn’t have bet lunch money on that, even as late as 10 PM last night.

Indeed, my forecast during the last several days before the election was Democrats up 3 in the Senate and 20 in the House. This was obviously far too pessimistic, but I could barely bring myself to believe we’d win anything.

Rumsfeld Resigns!
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 01:24 PM * 56 comments

The first good effect from hitting the Republicans upside the head with a baseball bat came in less than 24 hours. Donald Rumsfeld is stepping down. Worst SecDef since Robert McNamara — possibly worst ever.

Rumsfeld has long been an interest of ours. Take a walk down Electrolite and Making Light memory lane:


Making Light:

And much more besides.

Officials said Robert Gates, former head of the CIA, would replace Rumsfeld. We’ll see how that goes, and how long he lasts.

Reality check
Posted by Patrick at 12:27 PM * 57 comments

Pundit after pundit agrees: the Democrats won by “moving to the right,” and because of the strategic genius of Rahm Emanuel. Don’t buy the bullshit.

Posted by Patrick at 11:42 AM * 33 comments

Ned Lamont He didn’t have to make the run. When he started out, it was the longest of long shots. All political races are fueled by ambition, but he seems to have been equally motivated by a sense of what was needed and what was right.

He’s not on this morning’s long list of Democratic winners, but he’s one of the authors of their victory. Out there in the world of the aspirational middle class, there’d been a growing suspicion that something’s wrong at the top, that this war is insane and that the country’s rulers are actually a bunch of freaks. When Ned Lamont won that primary, he showed up on TV all over America as a voice telling those kinds of Americans that it’s okay, even mainstream, to feel that way. You didn’t have to be a hippie or an intellectual to think there was something very wrong going on. You could be a mild-mannered country-club cable executive living the kind of life to which millions of “normal” Americans aspire. Yes, it’s a string of oversimplifications, but they pointed toward the light. Ned Lamont helped reframe the storyline and shake up the complacent. For that, he’s one of this morning’s heroes, and so are all the people who worked their hearts out for him.

Say goodnight, Gracie
Posted by Patrick at 11:08 AM * 12 comments

Soren deSelby writes: “Have you noticed that the two Republican incumbents in the races that are too close to call are named Burns and Allen?”

November 07, 2006
Two beautiful words
Posted by Patrick at 11:18 PM * 155 comments

Speaker Pelosi.

Two even more beautiful words: subpoena power.

If all Fox News employees are Cretans…
Posted by Teresa at 10:01 PM * 46 comments

Another very hopeful sign—and today’s winner for Most Shamelessly Partisan Spin Masquerading as Journalism—is this current Fox News headline:

No Matter the Results, the Election Will Change Little

Whether the Democrats take control of one or both chambers of Congress this November, or even if they don’t, little will happen in Washington, D.C. to solve most of the nation’s critical domestic problems. …

If Faux News is saying it doesn’t matter if the Democrats take control of one or both houses of Congress, then, by damn! There must be a good chance that the Democrats are going to do it.

Way to go!

Addendum: Kip Manley notes that TalkLeft is also collecting exceptionally stupid bits of spin. Connoisseurs may want to take a look.

“Voting your conscience”
Posted by Teresa at 08:36 PM * 25 comments

From Scraps DeSelby, in the “vote today” comment thread:

If voting with your conscience means anything, it means voting with consideration toward other people, not just yourself. Your conscience isn’t the part of you that doesn’t compromise. That’s your pride. Your conscience is the part of you that wonders whether what you’re doing is making the world a better place.

If half the people who say they voted their conscience voted their decency and judgment first, their consciences wouldn’t have anything to worry about.

Vote. Today.
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:00 AM * 309 comments

Today it’s important to go to the polls and vote.

Vote straight-ticket Democrat.

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote for torture.

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote for corruption.

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote for cronyism.

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote against habeas corpus.

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote against our troops.

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote against liberty.

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote against the Constitution.

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote against being secure in our persons, houses, papers, and effects.

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote against Social Security.

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote for “preemptive” war.

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote for incompetence.

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote for Bush.

Go out today. Vote Democratic.

Today is the first day of the struggle to take our country back.

November 06, 2006
Working Families Party no more
Posted by Patrick at 07:35 PM * 33 comments

Attention Conservation Notice: relevant only to left-leaning voters in New York state.

I don’t have time tonight to write a summary of the arcane history of cross-endorsement and fusion voting in New York state. Suffice to say I’ve been a supporter, albeit a low-key one, of the Working Families Party, generally voting for Democratic candidates on their line. I also donate a (small) amount of money to them every month, automatically charged to a credit card.

I won’t be voting on their line this year, and I won’t be contributing further money their way. This despite the fact that they’re nice people whose official blog links to ours. Here’s why. Steve Gilliard has more. And Katha Pollitt pretty much sums it up:

The theory is you need supporters in both parties, and if you’re not loyal to incumbents who support your cause, you lose your leverage. That rationale explains why in 1998 the gay rights organization Human Rights Campaign supported the sleazy anti-choice conservative Republican Sen. Alfonse D’Amato against his Democratic opponent, Chuck Schumer. In 2004, in return for his role in raising the minimum wage in New York state, the Working Families Party supported Nick Spano, a longtime Republican state senator from Westchester, against his Democratic challenger, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a progressive black woman. She lost by 18 votes. Thanks, WFP, for shoring up the GOP majority in the New York state Senate.
This year, the Working Families Party isn’t endorsing the disgusting, vote-suppressing Spano, they’re just declining to endorse at all—despite the fact that Stewart-Cousins is very credibly challenging him again. It appears to flow from the same logic: we need “friends in both parties” in order to have a seat at the table.

That’s the logic of an era in which there were decent Republicans. That era is over. I’m voting the straight Democratic line. Not because there aren’t Democrats who are hypocrites, cowards, idiots, and fools. But because the Republican Party, nationally and locally, is in 2006 nothing more or less than a criminal conspiracy to destroy our democracy and loot our country. Their candidates, for every office, need to be defeated wherever they run. If you don’t see that you don’t get my vote.

Last minute dirty tricks from the GOP
Posted by Patrick at 11:32 AM *

If you live in one of tomorrow’s more hotly contested Congressional districts, you may be getting harassing robo-calls that appear to be from the Democratic candidate. Odds are they aren’t. Here’s more information, including how to fight back.

UPDATE: Even more information here. Note how little this stuff costs. Kevin Drum’s got a pertinent observation, too.

“Doctor Who” Explains Modern Media Consolidation To You
Posted by Patrick at 11:25 AM * 120 comments

DOCTOR: You mean that…thing’s in charge of Satellite Five?

THE EDITOR: That “thing,” as you put it, is in charge of the human race. For almost a hundred years, mankind has been shaped and guided, its knowledge and ambitions strictly controlled by its Broadcast News—edited by my superior, your master, and humanity’s guiding light, the The Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe. [Confidingly] I call him “Max.” […] If you create a climate of fear, then it’s easy to keep the borders closed. It’s just a matter of emphasis. The right word, in the right broadcast, repeated often enough, can destabilize an economy, invent an enemy, change a vote…

ROSE: So all the people on Earth are like—slaves?

EDITOR: Well, now, there’s an interesting point. Is a slave a slave if he doesn’t know he’s enslaved?


EDITOR: Well now! I was hoping for a philosophical debate. Is that all I’m going to get? “Yes”?


EDITOR: [Laughs] You’re no fun.

DOCTOR: Let me out of these manacles and you’ll find out how much fun I am.

EDITOR: Oh, he’s tough, isn’t he? But come on. Isn’t it a great system? You’ve got to admire it, just a little bit.

ROSE: You can’t hide something on this scale. Somebody must have noticed.

EDITOR: From time to time, yes. But the computer chip system allows me to see inside their brains, where I can see the smallest doubt, and crush it. [Grins] So the rest just carry on, living the life. Strutting about downstairs and all over the surface of the Earth like they’re so individual. When of course they’re not. They’re just cattle. In that respect the Jagrafess hasn’t changed a thing.

ROSE: What about you? You’re not a Jagro, uh, belly…

DOCTOR: Jagrafess.

ROSE: Jagrafess. You’re not a Jagrafess. You’re human.

EDITOR: Yeah, well, simply being human doesn’t pay very well.

ROSE: But you couldn’t have done this all on your own.

EDITOR: [Laughs] No, no, no. I represent a consortium of banks. Money prefers a long-term investment. Also, the Jagrafess needed a little hand to, um, [whispers] install himself.

(From The Long Game.)

Mike Ford: Occasional Works (Pt. Five)
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:57 AM * 21 comments

Urban v. Rural

Urban: where you can see a Turner.
Rural: where you can see what Turner saw.

Urban: where you can see Ian McKellen play Prospero.
Rural: where you can see Jerry Falwell play God.

Urban: drive-bys.
Rural: drive-ins.

Urban: pot parties (in both the celebratory and political senses).
Rural: pot stills.

Urban: the 6:00 Acela from New York to Washington.
Rural: A fifty-car grain block from North Platte to Chicago.

Continue reading Mike Ford: Occasional Works (Part Five)

November 05, 2006
Gunpowder, Treason, and Plot
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 02:26 PM * 50 comments

Happy Guy Fawkes Day, everyone.

Just to recall: al Qaeda isn’t the only source of terrorism in the world, nor would establishing a pro-Western government in Iraq stop terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic: it has been with us from the beginning of recorded history; I suspect it will be with us to the end of time. Who signs the truce in the war on terror? What treaty will bind the likes of Timothy McVeigh, William Krar, Eric Rudolph, or Carl Drega? How many divisions should we send to what country to eradicate the KKK? Who should be imprisoned without charges to defeat the Sword and Arm of the Lord? How many must be tortured to end the Christian Identity Movement?

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November
The Gunpowder Treason and plot;
I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,
‘Twas his intent.
To blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below.
Poor old England to overthrow.
By God’s providence he was catch’d,
With a dark lantern and burning match.

Holloa boys, Holloa boys, let the bells ring
Holloa boys, Holloa boys, God save the King!

Hip hip Hoorah!
Hip hip Hoorah!

A penny loaf to feed the Pope,
A farthing cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down,
A faggot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar,
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head,
Then we’ll say the Pope is dead.

The War is Over!
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:26 PM *

O happy day!

Bush’s war in Iraq is over: Army recruiters are telling kids so.

Nov. 3, 2006 — An ABC News undercover investigation showed Army recruiters telling students that the war in Iraq was over, in an effort to get them to enlist.

ABC News and New York affiliate WABC equipped students with hidden video cameras before they visited 10 Army recruitment offices in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

“Nobody is going over to Iraq anymore?” one student asks a recruiter.

“No, we’re bringing people back,” he replies.

“We’re not at war. War ended a long time ago,” another recruiter says.

Isn’t that ducky? And you thought that 105 troopers died in Iraq last month. Wow, the liberal media sure has you fooled, don’t they?

Come and be a soldier, lads, come lads, come,
Hark don’t you hear the fife and the drum?
March to the battle-field, march, march away,
Come and lose your eyes and limbs for thirteen pence a day.

Come and take a shilling lads, come lads drink,
And drive dull care away, but never care to think;
Break your mammie’s heart and bid good bye to Dad
Sure you’ll be a general or private, if you’ll only be a swad.

When you are a solider, if you do not limp,
Sure you’ll go recruiting, boys, and then you’ll be a crimp.
Perhaps a yokle takes your money, when drinking he gets fresh.
You know it’s quite respectable to kidnap human flesh;

Joining the Army now means going to Iraq. And in Iraq there aren’t any non-combat zones.

November 04, 2006
We Knew in 1999
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:55 PM *

The same year George W. Bush was saying “take ‘im out” of Saddam Hussein during a campaign debate before the New Hampshire primary, the Army was estimating that it would take 400,000 troops to take and stabilize Iraq.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A series of secret U.S. war games in 1999 showed that an invasion and post-war administration of Iraq would require 400,000 troops, nearly three times the number there now.

And even then, the games showed, the country still had a chance of dissolving into chaos.

In the simulation, called Desert Crossing, 70 military, diplomatic and intelligence participants concluded the high troop levels would be needed to keep order, seal borders and take care of other security needs.

The documents came to light Saturday through a Freedom of Information Act request by George Washington University’s National Security Archive, an independent research institute and library.

By golly! Do you suppose Rumsfeld and Bush could have learned of this? Wasn’t that what General Shinseki was trying to tell them?

What else did those war games show?

# “A change in regimes does not guarantee stability,” the 1999 seminar briefings said. “A number of factors including aggressive neighbors, fragmentation along religious and/or ethnic lines, and chaos created by rival forces bidding for power could adversely affect regional stability.”

# “Even when civil order is restored and borders are secured, the replacement regime could be problematic — especially if perceived as weak, a puppet, or out-of-step with prevailing regional governments.”

# “Iran’s anti-Americanism could be enflamed by a U.S.-led intervention in Iraq,” the briefings read. “The influx of U.S. and other western forces into Iraq would exacerbate worries in Tehran, as would the installation of a pro-western government in Baghdad.”

# “The debate on post-Saddam Iraq also reveals the paucity of information about the potential and capabilities of the external Iraqi opposition groups. The lack of intelligence concerning their roles hampers U.S. policy development.”

# “Also, some participants believe that no Arab government will welcome the kind of lengthy U.S. presence that would be required to install and sustain a democratic government.”

# “A long-term, large-scale military intervention may be at odds with many coalition partners.”

Does any of that sound familiar? Like “ripped from today’s headlines”?

Incompetents and wishful-thinkers. That’s who we have in Washington. But they have a plan! Torture enough prisoners and it’ll all come out okay….

November 03, 2006
Smart blog post of the day
Posted by Patrick at 11:56 AM * 39 comments

Ezra Klein, on Tapped:

I loathe the tendency—by politicians and pundits, liberals and conservatives—to dreamily speak of the great sacrifice, magnificent courage, inspiring intellect, and extraordinary characters of our troops. It’s bullshit. And it’s bullshit designed to make us feel better, so we don’t have to face what we’ve done to these young people, and don’t have to imagine the toll a warzone takes on real humans, rather than imagined supermen.

They’re not doing a magnificent job. They’re not approaching each day with stoic courage and endless optimism. They’re doing their best. These are kids. I knew them in high school. They entered the military because they sought discipline, or loans, or redemption, or very occasionally, honor. They were not a wiser breed, or a braver strain—they were just kids, they made a decision that seemed right at the time, and now they’re doing their damnedest to survive. It comforts us to speak of them all as Rhodes Scholars, automatons who run on courage and faith and perform with grace and cheer. It comforts us to speak of them like that because it allows us to deny the image of twentysomethings lying terrified in the desert, straining to make it through that day, and the next, and the one after it. By so lavishly honoring them, we transform our mental picture of who fights in this war, and we allow their imagined stoicism to ease our onrushing guilt.

Shilling for big tech companies =/= being pro-technology
Posted by Patrick at 08:40 AM * 47 comments

On BoingBoing, Xeni Jardin links to CNET’s so-called “Technology Voter Guide 2006”, and describes it as “comparing candidates’ tech voting records with their rhetoric.”

But by CNET’s own admission in their linked article (by Declan McCullagh and Anne Broache), their system for ranking lawmakers’ “tech voting records” gives lawmakers points for supporting a substantial list of big-business priorities, such as increased government handouts to high-tech corporations and further restrictions on the rights of individuals to bring lawsuits against them. It also gives the same lawmakers no points at at all for supporting net neutrality, because “that legislation has generated sufficient division among high-tech companies and users to render it too difficult to pick a clear winner or loser.”

It’s fine for CNET to advocate for the interests of corporate behemoths, and it’s hardly surprising to see Declan McCullagh, the guy who devised the libel that “Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet”, drawing a paycheck for passing along this kind of spin. But it’s disappointing to see the usually sophisticated BoingBoing tacitly endorsing the idea that voting for big-business interests is the same thing as being pro-technology.

I’m sure Microsoft regards its insanely anti-user Vista EULA as “pro-technology,” too, but it would never occur to any of BoingBoing’s four editors to let them get away with such a claim. So why do the shopping lists of corporations get a pass just because someone slaps a “pro-technology” label on them? I don’t expect BoingBoing to be a shill for the Democratic Party, and goodness knows there are lawmakers in both parties with foolish views about tech-related issues. But transmitting this kind of propaganda isn’t an act of quirky techno-libertarianism; it’s just letting yourself be used by the Chamber of Commerce.

Make Way for Sockpuppets
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:29 AM * 43 comments

How is the Pentagon responding to the fact that Rumsfeld and his cronies have lost the war they started in Iraq? By trying to change the news. After all, if we don’t hear about it, it never happened, right? From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 2 — The Pentagon is reorganizing its public affairs operation in an attempt to influence news coverage, amid internal frustration at the tone and substance of reporting on Iraq and on Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

The expanded office, which was first described by department officials in an informal press briefing on Monday, features a “rapid response unit” to react to news reports. It is also stepping up efforts to arrange appearances by department officials on talk radio and cable television, and to recruit “surrogates” who are not on the department’s payroll to defend its policies.

“Surrogates.” Oh, joy. We know what they mean. Sockpuppets. Astroturfers. Trolls.

And where will these sockpuppets appear?

Officials involved say the new effort, which was conceived by Assistant Secretary of Defense Dorrance Smith, is not primarily a response to negative coverage but rather is aimed at more aggressively challenging articles and broadcasts deemed inaccurate and at making better use of podcasts, blogs and other new outlets.

Blogs. Yeah. “Inaccurate,” like reporting that Rumsfeld dismissed the folks who told him the truth about Iraq? “Inaccurate” like recording the lies Rumsfeld has told over the years? Notice, please, that “deemed inaccurate” isn’t the same thing as actually “inaccurate.”

Unfortunately for the paid trolls, the role Rumsfeld played in setting Iraq policy is only too clear — he trumpeted it while he was doing it — and the content of his speeches is public record.

Mr. Rumsfeld has long been critical of the government’s efforts to respond to information disseminated by people sympathetic to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, who make use of the Internet and other technology networks and, as Mr. Rumsfeld often says, are not bound by rules of accuracy.

Since by Rummie’s definitions anyone who criticises him or Bush is an al Qaeda sympathizer, that leaves him lots of room to play.

Hot tip for Rummie: Reality always wins. Always.

And to our new sockpuppet friends: Welcome. You won’t last long here, though. We’re a reality-based community.

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