April 18, 2006

Casting Aspersions

The next time I encounter some tool in a comments thread cautioning against a rush to judgment in the Duke lacrosse rape case--and I must say, I have never read so many cautions against a rush to judgment in my life, about anything--I'm going to ask them to tell it to LaShawn Barber, who pronounced the whole affair a "fake rape" last week. Oh, don't worry: LaShawn's hopped aboard the "let's not have a rush to judgment" train now, of course.

It's okay to rush to judgment, so long as you rush in the right direction. Besides, we have to do something! We have to do something about the feminists and the race-baiters who hate America. They're the ones who rushed to judgment first. They're the ones who took the accuser's statement at face value, can you imagine?

Someone on a mailing list I'm on recently posted about having been the victim of a crime; but it wasn't a rape, and this person was the right color.

Number of people who challenged this person: Zero. Because we don't do this with any other crime. A portion of the blame for that must be assigned to Tawana Brawley, but that doesn't explain why we were reacting so defensively to rape accusations before Tawana Brawley. Don't kid yourselves: Rape victims were smeared as lying sluts before Tawana Brawley and, if this case is any indication, they'll continue to be smeared as lying sluts long after.

All Brawley did was make those smears more adhesive.

LaShawn's busy giving the thumbs up to fatuous articles at Men's News Daily that caution young men to "stay away from feminists and strippers." She would do better to be reading about the actual experiences of black women who attend Duke University:

Christopher: As a black female, you go to a party, you're expected to dance, you're expected to be sexually provocative. You [are expected to] want to be touched, to be grabbed, to be fondled.

D. Williams: As if they're re-enacting a rap video or something. As if we're there to be their video ho, basically. We can't just be regular students here. We can't just go to a party and enjoy ourselves.

Christopher: And just dance with your friends.

D. Williams: No, it can't be just that. It always has to be something more. And you wonder why there aren't a lot of black people at white parties, why we self-segregate.

Christopher: You go to a party, you get grabbed, you get propositioned, and then you start to question yourself. Did I give him some reason to think that I wanted to hook up with him in the bathroom? Stuff like that. And there is no reason. There's no reason unless I said, "I want to hook up with you in the bathroom." There's no reason to make that assumption. But it happens all the time.

A lot of black girls come together and share this. "This has happened to you, too?"

D. Williams: You realize you're not special. It happens to all of us here.

Christopher: I had a friend come over for a study date and her friend just outright propositioned her, and he didn't understand why she was offended and asked him to leave. Another guy was outright, like, I've never been with a black girl. And when she got offended, he offered her money. People don't take that seriously. People don't care.

Jamie Bell, a Duke freshman: I care. I'm from Durham. I didn't grow up in a sheltered, white community. My public high school was 50 percent black, 50 percent white. And I've noticed the segregation between black and white people on Duke campus. But honestly, I didn't know that's why it happened. And that's something I would want to know. If you don't think that anyone would listen, that's really sad.

Maybe they don't think anyone would listen because so often, no one does--least of all LaShawn Barber, who in her own special way is accomplishing the same thing Tawana Brawley did: Making the road that much rougher for the next rape victim.

(Many thanks for the link to the Independent article to the Constructivist, who sent me this link, which got me to the Independent. I chose to highlight the Independent piece here, time being annoyingly finite, but both are worth a read.)

UPDATE: Ah, I knew I was forgetting something--it's Blog to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence Day. An excerpt from the post:

Sexual violence comes in all shapes and sizes and does not discriminate when choosing its victims. Although statistics show that the majority of victims are indeed women, it could be said that the burden of silence lies even more heavily upon male survivors.

The effects of sexual violence affect all of us. It is an international ill that all countries must wage a war against. It is a crime that happens in our very own backyards as well as across oceans. No one is immune; everyone is vulnerable. And as such, all should feel equally compelled to speak out.

Discussing sexual violence is not always easy, and it is certainly never pretty. But it is absolutely necessary in a world where rape, sexual abuse of children, human trafficking, female genital mutilation, and honour killings continue to take place every day. Silence only perpetuates these practices and crimes. We must speak out.

I wish I could add anything to that, but I can't. Perfectly expressed.

Posted by Ilyka at 07:24 AM | Comments (7)

April 17, 2006

Can't Post Right Now, Thoroughly Creeped Out

I did the dumbest thing tonight--I let myself get caught up in reading that Underwood dude's weblog.


I don't even know where to start.

Maybe here: I'm like this with the true crime/serial killer aficionados--I give them a wide berth. I give the whole true crime genre a wide berth. I'm really loathe to read anything with an "inside the mind of a savage killer!" slant to it.

I believe the victims get short shrift when people get caught up in the true crime stuff too much. I know some people make little symbolic gestures like being sure to state the full names of the victims, and to include photos of them in happier times, you know, BACK WHEN THEY WERE ALIVE, and blah blah blah, but let's cut the shit here, true crimers: When you're writing 17 chapters about a killer, you're focusing on the killer.

It really bothers me. I've been involved in a violent crime; luckily, the intended victim survived, and I'm okay, too. We did all right. But I'll tell you, the big reason I mostly never tell anyone about it is because I can't stand seeing people get their True Crime Faces on. Their eyes go all wide, and they practically salivate requesting every mundane detail about the whole gory thing, and it becomes clear to me right away that they're no longer seeing me, I'm no longer a human being to them, I'm just the source of their latest fix.

I can't stand that. Even the nicest, most well-meaning people will do it to you, too. They can't help it. It's the freakin' culture, the culture that peddles this awful shit as entertainment. After awhile, how else are you gonna see it?

So I don't even get the luxury of being able to hold it against anyone personally. I'd have been that way myself, probably, had things been different.

"No, but--wait, okay, I don't mean to pry here, but--how much blood?"

All of which is to say that I have to despise myself for getting caught up in this freak show. There's a little girl DEAD, and I'm sitting there thinking, "Hey, maybe one good argument against women dating self-identified 'nice guys' is that sometimes, it turns out all they really want to do is to EAT PEOPLE."

Remind me from now on: "If it's got a link to crimelibary.com in it, Ilyka, just don't read the damn post."

Posted by Ilyka at 11:05 PM | Comments (9)

April 14, 2006

Right-wing Reading Lists

I admit the first thing I thought on reading this story was, "Rick Santorum wrote a book? C'mon, who really wrote it?"

Then I thought, "I'd trust this story a lot more if it were published somewhere besides in a press release from the Alliance Defense Fund."

Then I thought, "Wow, these book recommendations are pretty poor quality, actually."

All kidding aside, of course I don't think a complaint of sexual harassment should be filed against a librarian just because he recommended conservative books. Which is why I'd really like to see the complaint itself, not just the letter about the complaint sent by the ADF.

The problem seems to be not Savage's book recommendations per se, but a book review posted on Amazon.com:

The basis of this frivolous complaint is an excerpt of an Amazon.com book review that the complaining professors, not Mr. Savage, e-mailed to university faculty and staff after Mr. Savage suggested several books to the First Year Reading Experience committee.

But here's what I don't get, assuming the nature of the complaint is as stated by the ADF:

  • Wouldn't it occur to you, if you were offended by these recommendations, that filing a complaint about them would only wind up conservatives and send them into We're the Real Victims Here mode? There are entire organizations just waiting for things like this to happen so they can pounce on them; so, what, you should feed them?
  • Failing that, wouldn't it occur to you that filing sexual harassment claims over book recommendations demeans legitimate sexual harassment complaints?
  • But whatever. Back to my main point: These are dreadful books, mostly, in my view. Not because they're dangerous or controversial or any of that nonsense, but because (with the possible exception of the Bat Ye'Or title; I haven't read it myself) they appear to be sloppy, slapped-together efforts with a main theme of "Things Were Better Back When." You know, before the radicals, the feminists, the gays, and other subversive groups Corrupted America?

    I don't know, maybe it's just me, but I don't think the way to introduce students to right-wing thought is to sell it to them as a compendium of the wit and wisdom of Grandpa Simpson.

    They aren't what I'd recommend, in other words. But then, I'm not a so-con. So I'd probably go with these:

    Parliament of Whores, P.J. O'Rourke: Yeah, it's primarily a humor book, but (a) P.J. is remarkably fair compared to the current dismal crop of Republican authors (he's quick to note that most people who work for the government do so because they believe government can fix problems, not because they want to steal your money and oppress you), and (b) it's worth it for the line about the difference between the political parties: "Democrats are also the party of government activism, the party that says government can make you richer, smarter, taller and get the chickweed out of your lawn. Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work, and then they get elected and prove it."

    The Road to Serfdom, Friedrich Hayek: Except (hangs head with shame), I've never read it. I KNOW--how can I recommend a book I've never read? First, because it comes up all the time among the right-leaning. It's a classic. Second, because it drew a favorable remark from, of all people, George Orwell: "In the negative part of Professor Hayek's thesis there is a great deal of truth. It cannot be said too often--at any rate, it is not being said nearly often enough--that collectivism is not inherently democratic, but, on the contrary, gives to a tyrannical minority such powers as the Spanish Inquisitors never dreamt of." Yeah, I have some nerve recommending a book I haven't read myself but come on, hands up who believes the librarian above actually read the Bat Ye'Or book? See, that's what I thought. Besides, I'll get around to it eventually.

    Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty, James Bovard: I did actually read this one. I don't recall it having been quite so hysterical as the Publisher's Weekly review makes it out to be ("A bit less bluster and more discretion would have produced a more effective polemic."), but then, I also probably came to it with more innate sympathy than the Publisher's Weekly reviewer did. My biggest complaint about Lost Rights?--It's fucking depressing.

    Lest you be too quick to throw Bovard into the wingnut bin, note that he's better described as libertarian than conservative--and he's not the biggest fan of the current President. I haven't read his recent books on the subject, but I probably will at some point.

    Anything at all by Robert D. Kaplan: I wanted something foreign-policyish here and was going to recommend Balkan Ghosts, but then I thought, "No, The Arabists!" and then I thought, "Wait, he has a book out about the military now, doesn't he?" and then I thought--so you see. Anything at all. And again, compared to the current crop of hysterics dominating political bookshelves, Kaplan is staid.

    What would you recommend? (UPDATE: I mean, suggest any 3-4 books on any subject at all that you'd choose to introduce someone to your pet ideas. That includes religion, feminism, left-wing politics, scuba-diving, cooking, misanthropy--you name it. Knock yourselves out.)

    (Alliance Defense Fund press release via Ace of Spades.)

    Posted by Ilyka at 10:44 AM | Comments (11)

    March 06, 2006

    Para Los Niños

    Some unsolicited advice for the pro-life crowd:

    If criminalizing abortion is really all about saving precious little babies, then make that case. Don't instead let creepmeister Bill Napoli start talking:

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Napoli says most abortions are performed for what he calls "convenience." He insists that exceptions can be made for rape or incest under the provision that protects the mother's life. I asked him for a scenario in which an exception may be invoked.

    BILL NAPOLI: A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.

    . . . because, see, what happens is, I read filth like that--and are you sensing a inordinately gleeful tone to Bill's description, there? Because I am--and the counterargument, the counterargument that antiabortionists aren't nearly so much about saving precious little babies as they are about morally policing grown women; you know, that counterargument?--It becomes extremely difficult for me to refute. Impossible, actually.

    Remember, ladies: It's only rape if you're a virgin who gets it up the ass. No anal?--No rape. Sorry. Them's the rules, and I learned them the same way I'm certain in my bones that Mr. Napoli did: From porn.

    Incidentally, it's interesting to me that some of the comments about this have expressed puzzlement at Napoli's inclusion of sodomy in his--let's call it what it is, now--rape fantasy.

    What's to be puzzled about? If you take the view that a woman is merely a life-support system for a (all right, you know I don't like that word) and, also, that this object exists purely for the pleasure of men, it follows that uninvited intrusions into said object can't possibly cause trauma, or even occur in the first place, because who, exactly, would they traumatize? Who would fail to invite them, who would consider it intrusion? The owner? But that's ridiculous--there is no owner. It's funny how when it comes to the pussy so many men are inherently communist, no matter how they vote on matters political.

    Anyway, you can't violate property rights if no one owns the property. There is no owner. There's merely this mouth that flaps up and down on its own accord for no discernible reason at times (you should slap it if the noise annoys you) and, oh yeah, these parts that make babies--but those belong to men too, so, you're all set. It's all good.

    So there's no crime here. Bone that gadget all you like, hombres; it is yours, unless it is God's. And don't worry: If in fact it is God's, you'll find out just as soon as that goofy mouth attached way up yonder asks you to kill it rather than borrow it. Feel free to disregard that request, though, same as you disregard anything else you don't want to hear coming out of it. Besides, it might be lying. Did you feel a hymen break? No? All right, then. Clearly it's okay to go where others have been before you.

    But anal--ah, a man can relate to anal. That's what he'd call rape were he on the receiving end of it, and you know what, I think I'll repent later for wishing right now that Napoli someday finds himself in just exactly that position.

    As bad as you could possibly make it.

    (Via I Blame the Patriarchy.)

    Posted by Ilyka at 03:27 PM | Comments (8)

    December 31, 2005

    Swap Meet Louie*

    Your tax dollars hard at work, protecting the country from knockoff Prada.

    I know I'm sleeping better tonight.

    *Because who can resist Sir Mix-A-Lot rhymes, right?

    Posted by Ilyka at 04:23 PM | Comments (1)

    September 07, 2005

    I Did Not Know That

    Really, I was completely unaware--

    Long Hours 'Impair Doctors' Skills'

    Long hours impair everyone's skills. That's why so many truckers have methamphetamine problems.

    Smoking, Drinking: Young Kids Learn From Adults

    I thought they learnt it from evil space tobacconists and the ghost of Jim Beam. No . . . ? Well, chalk it up to another of my delusions, then.

    Posted by Ilyka at 02:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    September 02, 2005

    Competence: Could We Get Some?

    Read something today in which it was suggested that Guiliani would be a better choice to lead recovery efforts in New Orleans and other areas devastated by Katrina. Hold on, let me find it--yeah, here we go:

    [Newt Gingrich] urged Bush to name former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani as the White House point person for relief efforts. "We need to get the job done now, and I don't think anybody is better prepared to do that psychologically and otherwise than Rudy Giuliani," Gingrich told The Associated Press.
    This is meant in no way as criticism of Giuliani, but look: Instead of putting a superhero costume on the former New York mayor, why can't we look at what made him "prepared to do that" in the first place?

    Here's a hint: I don't think it was anything "psychological."

    It's easy to forget now, but Giuliani took some grief for ensuring New York's disaster-preparedness. Every dime spent there was a dime not being spent on [insert need here]. And even after September 11, some people still weren't happy--though in the case of one of those links, they were socialists, and as we well know, socialists are never happy. You could put Santa Claus in charge of effecting wealth redistribution and nationalized healthcare, and a true socialist would merely say it was offensive to non-Christians and didn't go far enough besides.

    Giuliani, last I looked, is mortal. One day he's not going to be around to be suggested as a better choice than Michael Brown. Actually, at this point I'd put forth all kinds of unlikely candidates as a better choice than Michael Brown, whose stock response is just a variation on "everything's fine," when everything is clearly not fine.

    If we want more capable, competent people in government and fewer ineffective spokespersons, we have to start acting like we deserve them. We have to start demanding them. Right now, we aren't. We're complaining that Bush didn't strike the right tone in his first speech about Katrina when, frankly, that should be the last thing we care about. I'm sorry the "laundry list" of supplies being sent to the affected areas Bush provided was so "Arbor Day," but I'm lots sorrier that editorials in the New York Times now feature all the thought and gravitas of forum postings about the next season of The Real World.

    Because I'm a wingnut, and therefore required by law to do so at least once a week, I blame Clinton--that's who got us hooked on the fantasy of A President Who Really Cares. I don't want a president who really cares; I want a president who will get to work right away. But apparently, some of us miss the Guy Who Really Cared. We wish he were talking to us all right now, biting his lip and clearly fighting back a tear or two, unloading a truckload of--not food, water, medicine, or anything useful, but sympathy, hope, optimism, and other sweet, abstract notions you can't use to eat, drink, or cure cholera.

    We shouldn't care about any of that. We should care about the inadequate response; we should care about what's being done and what's not being done, and we should demand that our leaders tell us the truth about these things. And then we should quit plugging our fingers into our ears and screaming "I ain't tryin' to hear that!" when sometimes that truth is distasteful.

    Otherwise we're just in for more months of Michael Brown saying he's had "no reports of unrest," when I could sit one of my cats down at this computer, place her paw at some random point on the keyboard, and pull up a story of "unrest" in New Orleans.

    The people suffering there deserve better than that.

    Posted by Ilyka at 05:29 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

    August 31, 2005

    If I Knew What to Say I'd Say It

    But regarding , I don't. Folks have it bad--no power, no water, no sewage system--and they need help. Lots of help.

    If you need a list of charities, here's one.

    I am, however, mad about a couple things. One: The looters. I've seen it suggested that they're all just "poor and desperate," and doubtless some are. But you don't get gunfire from men and women who just want to feed and clothe their families. I imagine you get it more from people like this guy:

    On New Orleans' Canal Street, which actually resembled a canal, dozens of looters ripped open the steel gates on clothing and jewelry stores, some packing plastic garbage cans with loot to float down the street. One man, who had about 10 pairs of jeans draped over his left arm, was asked if he was salvaging things from his store.

    "No," the man shouted, "that's EVERYBODY'S store!"

    Yeah, this is really the dawning of the age of Aquarius. Mind the dead!

    So that's . . . disgusting.

    Two: This idea that New Orleans is impractical and not cost effective and therefore should not be rebuilt: Neither's New York. Should we get rid of it?

    Look, I lived somewhere where the highest priority in city development was what's cost-effecitve and business-friendly and practical to maintain. And I am here to testify that Dallas, Texas, while not the ugliest city in the world, is for damn sure one of the most soulless, aesthetically speaking.

    Don't argue with me, Dallasites. You know it's true. It's got all the worst of a big city--dirt, crime, and concrete--sprawled all 'round with the strip-mall jungle of the suburbs. When people use the word "quaint" with regard to Dallas, they're talking about a few tiny (expensive) neighborhoods and enclaves--Lower Greenville, University Park, Highland Park, maybe Turtle Creek or Lakewood--they're not talking about where most people live, which is out in Mesquite or Plano or Allen or Frisco, where everything looks exactly like everything else. And most people live out there because . . . ?--They can't afford the quaint. Even if they could, who needs it when a couple blocks down you've got bars on all the windows? When you could get mugged walking just a block or two out of your neighborhood, just down to the corner store, that's a little too quaint.

    I read an article in D Magazine once in which Virginia Postrel went on at length about how Dallas doesn't need to pursue an aesthetic identity; that maybe being only a collection of quaint little neighborhoods was just fine, because look at New York! And just you never mind that Dallas has nothing in common with New York, historically, geographically, or otherwise.

    That article proved to me two things: Dallas doesn't need any more Postrels moving in, and Virginia's apparently spent precious little time in Oak Cliff, another quaint neighborhood just full of ambience (and crack). It suggested a third thing: Not every shiny, happy libertoid excited about the future is worth paying attention to--but there, now I'm just being petty.

    My point, before it's buried underneath all this gibberish: If all you worry about with a city is what's practical you get something that looks practical. And when's the last time you admired something with the word "practical?"

    "Your dress, I love it! It's so practical!"

    "Nice Altima you got there, Dan. Looks really practical."

    "Their pizza is just the most practical on the block. I love it."

    So to hell with practical. You go on ahead and rebuild however you like, New Orleans--because you will anyway and you certainly don't need my blessing, or anyone else's, to do so.

    UPDATE: Again via Andrea--Hurricaid, your one-click source for all things hurricane-aid-related.

    Posted by Ilyka at 05:57 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    August 26, 2005

    Many Fronts

    In Afghanistan, warlords continue to brutalize the populace. In Iraq, insurgents daily do the same. But in Yemen, a marvelous country blissfully free of American cultural imperialism and military occupation . . . ah, yes, in peaceful Yemen torture comes from the government:

    The Yemeni government threatens to behead journalist for article on corruption. Also beats him for four hours, threatens to cut out his tounge, shoots at him, threatens to throw him off a cliff, and threatens his kids if he discloses the incident or continues to document the rampant corruption among the very top officials in Yemen.
    You'll want to keep close watch on Armies of Liberation for comprehensive updates. And then you'll want to scratch your head trying to figure out why the editorial pages of America's newspapers are routinely against our interventions in a part of the world that seems otherwise inclined to torture and kill their compatriots. And then you'll want a good, stiff drink.
    Posted by Ilyka at 08:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    August 25, 2005

    We're Not the Problem, We're Pacifists

    Right, right.

    Here's a simple test to help you determine whether an action is really "hateful" or not: Check the direction from which it came.

    Did it come from the right?--That's 100% certified genuine hate you got there, baby.

    Did it come from the left?--Go home and administer extra beatings to yourself, you fascist, racist, neoconservative JERK.

    Do you suppose this will be prosecuted as a hate crime?

    Check the direction.

    (Via Ace of Spades.)

    Posted by Ilyka at 04:07 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

    August 18, 2005


    You know, I said originally I wasn't gonna comment on Cindy Sheehan. And I'm not gonna comment on Cindy Sheehan.

    But the parasitic puppeteers hoping to turn her into a "galvanizing, iconic figure?" Fair friggin' game.

    MoveOn.org is leaving nothing to chance as it tries to make Sheehan into a national icon. It supplied demonstrators with advice on media relations. ("When talking to reporters, it is OK to keep repeating the same message over and over. It may feel strange to do that, but the reporters are used to it.") . . . ."

    "We're also asking that you bring pictures of children," MoveOn.org requested, and it didn't matter "whether or not you have a child serving in the military."

    No, your "children," ages 18 and over, are only required to serve in the military if you're for the war--and really, it'd be better if you went yourself, ya dumb chickenhawk.

    Well, it takes a beast like MoveOn to tempt me to start using "infantilize" in my everyday vocabulary--but that's what we're doing to the young men and women serving in the military when we label them children. If some on the loonier edges of the left haven't made the Children's Crusade comparison yet, be patient: They will. (And if they already have, that just shows how out of the loop I am.)

    Nonetheless, I do wish some on the right would have stayed home from the counterprotest:

    As the taunts continued in this vein, one of the antiwar crowd, Jerry Stein, tried to make peace. "We recognize your right to demonstrate," he offered.

    "We recognize your right to be an ignorant moron," replied Just A. Nobody [from the Free Republic group].

    Yeah, that helps--the anonymity, the ad hominem, the diplomatic effort met with overt hostility--thanks, Freepers. Thanks for getting that on the record for us. They've got "the next Rosa Parks" and we've got Just A. Nobody. Fantastic.

    The Washington Post also says the numbers for the counterprotest were very small--"outnumbered 50 to 1" by the antiwar protestors. Leaving aside the standard jokes about that being because conservatives actually have jobs, etc., I'm going to guess (and that's all it is) that it's also because most on the right really don't want to be seen as anti-Sheehan . . . because they aren't. They're anti-anti-Americanism, anti-appeasement, anti-antiwar protestors, but few are actually anti-grieving mother.

    And that is exactly the "compassion loophole" groups like MoveOn exploit.

    The bright spot, I guess, is that reporters are human beings (oh stop that) who don't like being jerked around any better than the rest of us do. I think that "press kit" MoveOn handed out is what led to the unflattering tone of the article and the faintly cynical headline, and for that I pray the Sorosites never develop a taste for subtlety.

    Don't ever change, baby. I loves you just the way you are.

    Posted by Ilyka at 10:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    August 16, 2005

    Because Apparently It's Obligatory

    The sum total of what I think about this Cindy Sheehan business:

    Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should. I don't think anyone's really disputing that Cindy Sheehan has a right to hang around Crawford making a pest of herself. She does, I do, you do, we all do, that's America, blah blah blah. She can do what she's doing; I hope we're all clear on that score.

    Doesn't mean she should.

    Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should. I don't think it ought to be disputed that Cindy's fellow citizens have a right to get on the web and call into talk radio shows and hang around the water cooler, saying what they think of her behavior. Unfortunately, that part is being disputed; I'm reading a lot of "You can't judge her!" sentiments out there. Not "you shouldn't" judge her--"you can't."

    So listen up: YES, I CAN. I have a right--some would even say a moral duty--to decide what I will think. If I don't "process the input," so to speak, no one else is gonna do it for me. To put something on public display and demand that I not evaluate it, or, worse, demand that I simply take on faith your evaluation of it, is horribly offensive. It is just as anti-American as demanding that Sheehan be silenced.

    I can make up my own mind. I can judge. Thanks to the country in which I live, I can even share with others what I've decided. I can totally hand down my judgment.

    Doesn't mean I should.

    UPDATE: But if I did, I hope it would come out sounding at least a smidgen like this gem from Judith Weiss, responding to a blogger who compares Sheehan with the Schindlers:

    One the one hand you have an adult man who not only volunteers with the military, but reups when his tour of duty is finished. On the other, you have a brain-damaged woman killed by the state by dehydration because her husband claimed for the first time after receiving a huge settlement for her injury that years ago she casually remarked in passing that she wouldn’t want to be kept alive in that state.

    Obviously exactly the same!

    I do love when Judith brings the sarcasm. Anyway, those of you who don't want to hear my mushmouthed mutterings are hereby directed Kesher Talk-ward. You should be visiting regularly anyway. Oh, and apropos of my recent "feelings" post: Note how Judith completely fails to break down in tears or wail about trolls when confronted with a commenter who begins, on a respectful note, "You have shit instead of brains . . . ." Nice!

    Anyway, I'm not seeing what Cindy Sheehan has to do with the Schindlers, but it seems some people still insist on linking the two cases. (Incidentally, Mr. Dunne, Bush has taken "five minutes" to meet with Ms. Sheehan. A little research--it's a beautiful thing.)

    Posted by Ilyka at 08:01 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

    July 29, 2005

    You Have a Right to Health Care

    Jeepers, it's not about the right to food, guys, it's about the right to die.

    Oh, and abortion. Don't forget abortion. I'm pretty sure if you feed this fella, millions of women will be forced to give birth against their wishes. Because of, uh, the Christian Right or something. Do they have a Christian Right in Britain? Well, we can lend them ours.

    Anyway: Protect abortion and the right to die--starve old middle-aged guys.

    One down; so many more to go.

    (Via protein wisdom.)

    Posted by Ilyka at 01:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    July 14, 2005


    In terms of thoroughness and accountability, you can't fault Molly Ivins' recent correction:

    This is a horror. In a column written June 28, I asserted that more Iraqis (civilians) had now been killed in this war than had been killed by Saddam Hussein over his 24-year rule. WRONG. Really, really wrong.

    . . .

    Ha! I could hardly have been more wrong, no matter how you count Saddam's killing of civilians. According to Human Rights Watch, Hussein killed several hundred thousand of his fellow citizens. The massacre of the Kurdish Barzani tribe in 1983 killed at least 8,000; the infamous gas attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja killed 5,000 in 1988; and seized documents from Iraqi security organizations show 182,000 were murdered during the Anfal ethnic cleansing campaign against Kurds, also in 1988.

    Good for her, but I'm more interested in what it says that she'd write a thing like that in the first place. How does one reach the point of "[asserting] that more Iraqis (civilians) had now been killed in this war than had been killed by Saddam Hussein over his 24-year rule?"

    Well, first, you have to have "heard it somewhere." And that's not difficult--Google "more Iraqis killed occupation" and the second result (at this writing) is an article from the CBC:

    Nearly 100,000 more Iraqis have died during the American-led occupation than would have been expected otherwise.
    If you recall how games of "telephone" work, it's easy to see how "than would have been expected otherwise" could eventually turn into "than were killed while Saddam was in power." (There may also be sources available which assert that directly; I admit I'm too lazy right now to look.)

    The CBC is citing the Johns Hopkins study published in Lancet, regarding which I'd recommend Fred Kaplan's treatment in Slate if you haven't read it already; particularly:

    That difference—the number of "extra" deaths in the post-invasion period—signifies the war's toll. That number is 98,000. But read the passage that cites the calculation more fully:

    We estimate there were 98,000 extra deaths (95% CI 8000-194 000) during the post-war period.

    Readers who are accustomed to perusing statistical documents know what the set of numbers in the parentheses means. For the other 99.9 percent of you, I'll spell it out in plain English—which, disturbingly, the study never does. It means that the authors are 95 percent confident that the war-caused deaths totaled some number between 8,000 and 194,000. (The number cited in plain language—98,000—is roughly at the halfway point in this absurdly vast range.)

    This isn't an estimate. It's a dart board.

    Imagine reading a poll reporting that George W. Bush will win somewhere between 4 percent and 96 percent of the votes in this Tuesday's election. You would say that this is a useless poll and that something must have gone terribly wrong with the sampling. The same is true of the Lancet article: It's a useless study; something went terribly wrong with the sampling.

    (An explanation of the "95% CI 8000 - 194 000" notation used in the study may be found here. "CI" is "confidence interval.")

    So it's difficult to count dead Iraqis, as even Kaplan admits, and, well, what with all the numbers floating around I guess you could pick a set that favored your side and whip out a line like "I think we have alienated our allies and have killed more Iraqis than Saddam Hussein ever did."

    (I know I keep interrupting myself, and that must be very annoying for you the reader, and for that I am sorry, but boy, is that last column a cornucopia of laughs. This bit's taken the early lead as my favorite:

    The latest and most idiotic statement yet comes from Karl Rove, who is not, actually, an objective observer. He is George Bush's hatchet man.
    That's so objective of you to observe, Ms. Ivins! And you have to love that she felt the need to explain who Karl Rove is [in totally objective terms, of course]. You know, in case her readers didn't know already.)

    To think that we've killed more Iraqis than Saddam Hussein ever did, though, you must first believe that our military's not only capable of that (and in terms of firepower, it is) but that it's willing to do that, directly or indirectly, on purpose or by accident. You have to believe that hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians are acceptable to our military. You have to have very little contact with anyone actually serving in the military to believe that, or your distrust of them has to be so great that it counteracts anything servicemen and women actually tell you about how war is conducted.

    I don't know which of those it was for Ms. Ivins. I just know her set of underlying beliefs informed what she wrote, and that she held those beliefs strongly enough that they overrode any thoughts of verifying beforehand what she wrote, and that she holds a radically different view of this country and its armed forces than I do, and that I think my beliefs approximate reality better than hers do.

    Good on her for correcting the error. But no wonder I don't read her.

    (Via Tim Blair.)

    Posted by Ilyka at 09:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    July 08, 2005

    Think of London

    I'll probably replace, temporarily, the link to "Any Soldier" in the sidebar today with a link to a charitable organization that can help with the tragedy overseas. (If you have any suggestions or recommendations of your own, please feel free to email me with them.)

    Beyond that, I don't much know what to do or say, save for noting that it's horrible.

    Or I could just echo Jonathan Pearce of Samizdata:

    No doubt much ink is going to be spilled in the next few days about the ramifications, the likely political fallout, the civil liberties implications, and all the other stuff we scribble about. All I want to add now is my condolences to those who have lost loved ones or been injured in these terrible attacks. And spare a thought for the doctors, nurses and other emergency workers dealing with the human wreckage caused by these scum.
    Posted by Ilyka at 12:33 PM

    July 02, 2005

    I Miss It Already

    Oh Dallas Morning News, you were the best paper EVER (requires registration BugMeNot).

    Just . . . not quite in the way you think you were.

    "GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING" UPDATE: Pink-handled branding irons!

    Posted by Ilyka at 06:14 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    June 28, 2005

    To Change Would Mean to Make an Effort

    Words mean things. In the comments here, I'm berated for using the b-word, and perhaps rightly so, though I don't think it's a good debate tactic to hone in on one word you dislike to the exclusion of, well, the point.

    When you make a habit of focusing on the one bad word to the exclusion of the overall point, you can wind up sounding like the editor-in-chief of The Age, Andrew Jaspan, who was stunned by a man's use of the word "asshole" to describe his kidnappers:

    I was, I have to say, shocked by Douglas Wood's use of the asshole word, if I can put it like that, which I just thought was coarse and very ill-thought through and I think demeans the man and is one of the reasons why people are slightly sceptical of his motives and everything else.

    The issue really is largely, speaking as I understand it, he was treated well there. He says he was fed every day, and as such to turn around and use that kind of language I think is just insensitive.

    (To avoid being insensitive myself to lefties who mayn't want to click the above link to the Herald Sun, fear not: The original audio is right here on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's website; see link under "June 22." Requires RealPlayer, sadly, but I can't help that.)

    We're in sorry times if you can't call men "assholes" in even these circumstances:

    Wood’s kidnappers kicked him in the head, tied him up blindfolded for 47 days, and murdered two other captives in front of him.
    Hmm. No, I'm not seeing how it's Wood who has the sensitivity problem.

    Michael Totten blames it on Jaspan's insular environment:

    There are concrete steps you can take to avoid becoming like Andrew Jaspan. Get out of the office. Visit a third-world country – Cancun in Mexico doesn’t count. Work on a shrimp boat. Join the military. Become a journalist embedded with the military in a war zone. Become a cop. Go on “ride alongs” with cops – if you’re a writer, as Jaspan is, they will let you. Work in construction for a couple of months. Next time you go to Europe, visit Bosnia instead of France. If you do spend your life in a rarefied office (and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that all by itself) read books written by people who don’t spend their lives in rarefied offices.
    I don't think even Totten really expects anyone to practice these suggestions--not when it's so much easier to suggest instead that you merely watch cartoons and eat at Applebee's to clear out some of that rareified air upstairs, while you try to figure out what could possibly be going on in the bovine, yet unfathomable, minds of the pro-war. Seriously: Why go through the hassle of scheduling a ride-along when you could be out eatin' good in the neighborhood?

    (Audio link via Tim Blair. New York Times link via my best pal. Luckily for her, I don't think the concerns of sensitive Aussie journalists affect red staters at all--why, I've scarcely read a thing about it 'til now.)

    Posted by Ilyka at 04:21 AM | Comments (6)

    May 31, 2005

    Mine No Tomato

    Man has a point:

    Because the churches have lost the power to stigmatise deviants, their decay has opened the door to a raft of foreign religions and spiritual therapies, and it is now possible for us to cobble together our own spiritual club sandwiches. But, precisely because these are individually tailored products, they do not catch on. What suits my tastes will not match yours. And they are not sustained by a reinforcing community. A world of consumer choice does not produce a shared religion.
    (Via Amy Wellborn.)

    Of course, you know me--mostly what that paragraph did was make me crave a club sandwich. Mmm, sandwich . . . .

    I don't have time to go into my own ideas on the article, and it's one of those that'll interest maybe two of you and repulse the rest, so probably there's no reason for me to link it at all.

    I'm throwing it up there on a discuss-or-don't basis anyway, though, because--did I tell you guys this already? I think I did--I'm moving, and the date for that's getting close enough now that I really have no business dinking around on weblogs, my own or others, so this post may be it for awhile.

    I just thought I should advise everyone to expect this space to be blank for a week or two. Oh, you all expect that already! Never mind.

    Posted by Ilyka at 11:32 AM | Comments (2)

    May 24, 2005

    Feed the World

    Would someone please tell me what makes people get so violently angry about genetically-modified food?

    I get the concerns about its safety. I think some concern is valid. I think that organic foods taste better, and if I could afford to buy more of 'em, I would. As it is, I buy only organic milk, because I don't want to drink something full of recombinant bovine growth hormone. Granted, the risk to human health appears to be negligible, but I don't like the effect it has on dairy cows and, honestly?--If I don't have to have rBGH in my milk, why should I? That's my choice to make.

    I don't drink a lot of milk anyway, so the extra expense of buying organic on that one works out, especially since the locally-available brands of it seem to be ultra-pasteurized with expiration dates far later than those on regular milk. When you're single and not consuming a lot of the stuff anyway, it makes sense to buy milk that will keep.

    Although I do worry that someone's going to drop me a link now explaining how ultra-pasteurization is ultra-bad for you. Look: I only have so much money and so many hours in the day. I'm not going to live my life as though my chief goal were merely to extend its length. I'm into quality, not quantity.

    Anyway, back to the GM foods: I was just reading this. Is it me, or this is a profoundly poor article? I'm looking for facts and details and I get this:

    The Independent on Sunday can today reveal details of secret research carried out by Monsanto, the GM food giant, which shows that rats fed the modified corn had smaller kidneys and variations in the composition of their blood.

    . . .

    Doctors said the changes in the blood of the rodents could indicate that the rat's immune system had been damaged or that a disorder such as a tumour had grown and the system was mobilising to fight it.

    This is probably just me, but: WHAT changes in the blood? I'm guessing it's not simple anemia (oh, pardon me, Brits: I mean an-aeoiusometimesy-mia--what you people do to spelling, I swear), because you'd think even the Independent would know what that is and be able to mention it. But what changes? Stupid paper won't tell me that, no. Instead it just tells me what the British politicians think:

    . . . a senior British government source said ministers were so worried by the findings that they had called for further information.
    Politicians always call for "further information." And this time, I don't blame them. Further information would be helpful, all right. Too bad the paper didn't print any.

    But that's enough kicking the Independent for right now. What I'm not understanding at all is the Monsanto hate-train people against genetically-modified food are always boarding. Monsanto!--A word to provoke more hissing and spitting than a stadium full of angry cats. Evil, evil, super-wicked Monsanto.

    Why is there this emotional component? You know, if there's one place strong feelings don't really belong, it's science. Strong feelings don't help you run a tight study, strong feelings don't help you classify your findings, strong feelings don't get you dick in science. Strong feelings hurt science, because every so often your study is going to tell you something you did not want to hear, and then what? If you're detached about it, it's back to the drawing board. If you're emotionally invested, it's back to the drawing board with sighs and regret. If you're wound up to the point some of the anti-GM crowd seems to be, though, science gets screwed, because what if the study shows genetically-modified corn is no more likely to kill you than the regular stuff? What if your findings don't match your feelings?

    And I know what the counter-argument is: The counter-argument is that Monsanto, as an evil giant bug-killing cor-por-ay-shun, is hardly detached and unbiased and in this all for the good of science either. True enough. I was really hoping we didn't have to point out here the obvious fact about corporations, which is that they exist to make money for their shareholders. And no, many of them don't have the best track record when it comes to fully disclosing the results of their research.

    But I don't get the rage, and I don't buy that Monsanto's only playing around with genes and food to make enormous evil sums of money and kill us all in the process. First of all, dead people don't buy shit. Second of all, someone who's starving from a bad harvest doesn't care whether his kidneys might shrink a little from genetically-modified corn. Do you have any idea what truly starving people will eat? Have you never encountered dumpster divers? Lucky, sheltered, privileged you then.

    Even if Monsanto's board really is out to kill everyone--and I've kind of almost got to admire the grand ambition of that scheme, same as I can't help liking C. Montgomery Burns when he yearns to destroy the sun--I guarantee you the little science dudes working there aren't. They're probably thinking it's kind of neat to go to work everyday with the noble goal of making better food, designing crops that resist pests and disease. Crops that grow in adverse conditions. Crops that feed people who otherwise wouldn't be eating.

    I'm just saying, the left would never hurl the "evil" tag against companies screwing around with human genetics. That's all hunky-dory, and anyone who suggests it may not be, anyone who dares to voice concerns about it, is instantly consigned to Jesusland these days (and good riddance, you retarded Bible-thumping freak). But you tweak a few genomes on even one little kernel of sweet, innocent corn, and you're automatically a bastard?

    That makes no sense to me at all.

    Posted by Ilyka at 09:53 PM | Comments (7)

    May 02, 2005

    Cult of the Victim

    I'm so sick of the whining and the demands for special treatment:

    In an official statement, one 'pro-family' advocacy group warned that Mrs. Bush's jokes at the President's expense were in violation of the Biblical command that wives respect their husbands.
    Get stuffed, Rev. Roy DeLong:
    "One of the Proverbs says that 'a virtuous woman is a crown to her husband, but she that maketh him ashamed is as rottenness in his bones," notes Mr. DeLong. "I bet President Bush is feeling pretty rotten today."
    And I'll bet he isn't. Say what you will about him, but George W. Bush has never struck me as the sort of fellow who has to wear a cup just to shield his manhood from a dumb joke about his being in bed by 9:00 p.m. most nights. That's the difference between real men and faux: The genuine articles can laugh at themselves.

    Besides, if the First Lady were a real Desperate Housewife, she would have blurted out that the President cries after he ejaculates. Now that's rotten.

    (Via Little Miss Attila, who says some social conservatives are "dumb as boards." That's an insult to boards in this case, ma'am.)

    FACT-CHECKING MY ASS UPDATE: If it looks too ridiculous to be true, it probably is:

    “Our computers have seen more viruses than a pediatrician’s office,” said TVC Chairman Rev. Louis P. Sheldon. “Today’s phony press release is just the latest dirty trick aimed at discrediting our efforts on behalf of America’s churches.”

    We thought Mrs. Bush’s remarks at the correspondents’ dinner were hilarious. We are very pleased that she is America’s First Lady.”

    As for the Reverend Roy DeLong, he appears to be fictional.

    Caught by the boyfriend, who I will now proceed to humiliate by dating the pharmacist. As for Drudge, MSNBC, Slate, and others ostensibly taken in, they'll have to find their own remedies.

    Posted by Ilyka at 11:31 PM | Comments (3)

    An Aborted Attempt at Reading the Rags

    I don't know why I started reading this piece in the New York Times magazine. I knew beforehand what to expect, and the author delivered:

    How has it come to pass that outfitting a dog with a $1,380 Hermes crocodile-and-calfskin leash-and-collar set doesn't seem too absurd -- too shameful?
    It does seem shameful--outside The Center of the Universe Manhattan.
    How is it that our sense of humanity has been transferred to members of the animal kingdom -- the domesticated and overbred as well as the wild and exotic -- so that we lavish affection, money and moral outrage on them while we gripe about the homeless instead of empathizing with their plight and ignore our elderly altogether?
    Because when a dog pees on the grass, it's because he can't use a toilet? Because dogs don't grab your arm as you walk by and spray you with MD 20/20-flavored spittle as they beg you for "bus fare?" Because dogs don't write hectoring how-can-you-be-happy-when-the-children-are-starving-in-India pieces like this one? Am I getting warmer?

    I read this after an article in the same issue about Karl Lagerfeld's diet. Sadly, that was the better article. Re-read that: An article about the hassles of ordering powdered protein sachets from Paris to mix up into diet drinks--vive L'Slim Fast!--was better than the article about fools who spoil their pets rotten.

    After those two treats, I was a little gun-shy about reading the feature: "The Way of the Commandos." But it's not bad and I got a kick out of this:

    A couple of hours after [Iraqi Special Police Commandos leader] Adnan issued his AK-47 threat, I sat with him watching TV. This was business, not pleasure. The program we were watching was Adnan's brainchild, and in just a few months it had proved to be one of the most effective psychological operations of the war. It is reality TV of sorts, a show called ''Terrorism in the Grip of Justice.'' It features detainees confessing to various crimes. The show was first broadcast earlier this year and has quickly become a nationwide hit. It is on every day in prime time on Al Iraqiya, the American-financed national TV station, and when it is on, people across the country can be found gathered around their television sets.
    Reality television: Is there anything it can't do?
    Posted by Ilyka at 10:50 PM | Comments (0)

    March 26, 2005

    The News Annoys Me, Part I Don't Even Know

    It was the drugs! No, it was the films! That's what made the poor kid murder nine people--the films! No, wait, the drugs! No, neither--it was the blogs! The blogs and the chat! It was the internet!

    Here's a thought: Maybe it was the crazy. Pardon the lack of a technical term, but I'm hardly qualified to diagnose Jeff Weise beyond that.

    Can we just for once admit we don't know everything there is to know, not even a tiny fraction of what we need to know, about the crazy? We're as bad as people in the Middle Ages were about the plague. Maybe someday the crazy will also turn out to be caused by something as simple as bacteria; I kind of doubt that, but I'm not ruling it out.

    My point is, we're only a tiny step up from sending for the parish priest to perform an exorcism; we still have largely no idea how to fix this level of crazy, the "pardon me I have to go shoot my grandad now" sort of crazy. We have counselors and psychiatrists and psychologists and evaluation teams and social workers and medications and treatment plans and rehabilitation centers--but even with all that, every so often the crazy wins one. And it's always tragic when it does, but scapegoating Prozac, bad films, and chat rooms doesn't get us any closer to fixing the crazy.

    The older I get, the more I think Vonnegut had it right in Breakfast of Champions--these tragedies arise from just the right combination of bad ideas and bad chemicals. What I don't think Vonnegut did say (but it's been years since I've read that one, so be nice if I'm wrong) was that the two are related by a variant of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle: The more precisely you identify the bad ideas, the less you know about the bad chemicals, and vice versa.

    Oh, how I wish the journalistas could be cured of their lust for "the angle." Just write the sad truth: We have no idea why Weise did this and no idea how to prevent anyone else from doing this. Or does that not sell papers or something?

    Posted by Ilyka at 12:37 PM | Comments (5)

    March 24, 2005

    The Second-Biggest Problem in This Country

    After magnets? Christian conservatives. Definitely.

    (Judith, again. Look, if you haven't figured out by now that you should be reading Kesher Talk regularly, I just don't know what we're going to do with you. Maybe deprive you of the ability to swallow and then pull your feeding tube? Hey, don't get upset! They say it's perfectly painless once they shove a couple Aleve up your ass.)

    Posted by Ilyka at 05:36 PM | Comments (9)

    March 22, 2005

    "Something May Be Very Wrong"

    So says the doctor at CodeBlueBlog, based on his reading of one cut of a 1996 CT scan used to demonstrate Terri Schiavo's "fluid-filled" cerebral cortex:

    First of all, the University of Miami's appellation for this scan is inaccurate. "Cortical regions" are not and can not be filled with spinal fluid. The sulci (spaces between cortical ribbons) are enlarged secondary to cortical atrophy and these sulci are filled with cerbrospinal fluid.

    The most alarming thing about this image, however, is that there certainly is cortex left. Granted, it is severely thinned, especially for Terri's age, but I would be nonplussed if you told me that this was a 75 year old female who was somewhat senile but fully functional, and I defy a radiologist anywhere to contest that.

    But you know, screw it; let's starve her anyway, the dumb bitch. Let's do it . . . for feminism. Honestly, now, doesn't feminism demand that we take the word of Terri's devoted husband over the words of her foolish, sentimental parents? Doesn't feminism tell us to treat women as the property of their husbands upon marriage? Doesn't true feminism ask us to ignore any data that might indicate abuse by that husband? Doesn't it teach us to write up a list of "myths" about Terri's condition that could have been authored by the husband himself? Of course it does. My goodness, if you can't see that I guess you're just a Bible-thumping reactionary enemy of progress or something. And I bet Betty Friedan hates you.

    Anyway, my point is, it's just dumb to have any concern whatsoever regarding this woman's fate, and sure, this CodeBlue's a doctor but did you notice he is also A MAN?!? We don't listen to such creatures, my sisters. Except Michael Schiavo, we love him. But worrying whether he's about to succeed in offing his wife, well, if you're so despicable as to do that, it only proves you're one of those people who prays to Jesus for the pasta to come out al dente, the socks to come out of the dryer in pairs, the canned peaches not to be dented . . . you right-wing nutjob ZEALOT.

    Oh!--but I have fantastic news: Super-hunky liberal feminist Kim du Toit totally supports us in our quest to keep the God-botherers out of Michael Schiavo's private family matters. I know! How did we ever get so lucky as to get him? You know the Clint Eastwood quote about meeting the same folks coming 'round from the left when you reach the extremes on the right? This is just like that, only in a cool way.

    (CodeBlueBlog link via Kesher Talk.)

    Posted by Ilyka at 03:53 PM | Comments (6)

    March 21, 2005

    Failing the Litmus

    I think I've got to thank Judith Weiss for saving my sanity this morning with a beautiful collection of opinions, plus her own two cents, regarding Terri Schiavo. Were it not for this:

    It looks like your position on the Schiavo case is also a litmus test on how you feel about government regulation of when life begins and ends.

    But some of us ornery folk who make up our own minds about things don't like litmus tests. We didn't like the antiwar movement telling us that the Iraq war couldn't possibly be just if it was initiated by a Republican. We don't like social conservatives telling us that they are going to block any pro-choice candidate from being considered for the Republican presidential race.

    --I, too, would need a picture of a bunny with a pancake on its head*.

    I've just got to get this off my chest right now: One bit of idiocy that needs to die is the ranting and raving about what an abuse of government power it is that Congress got involved**. Let's at least be clear about why Congress got involved: It's because people have been bothering the living daylights out of them. It's called representative government. The obvious complaint about representative government is that it cannot possibly represent every view, all the time.

    It's great if you don't like what Congress is doing now--but then, please, call and email and fax your representatives telling them exactly that. Get off your ass and participate. Don't just whine that the Bush administration is Trampling Democracy to Promote Its Not-So-Seekrit Right-to-Life Theocracy, as though the federal government were a naughty pet that slipped its leash to go leave poop circles all over the living room carpet***. You've got a representational government; now REPRESENT.

    One more peeve: Quit tying this to abortion. Please. I'm begging you. I am both pro-choice and anti-tube-pull in this case. Have the courtesy to grant that one might hold both views simultaneously without resorting to doublethink.

    And keep away from me with these idiotic litmus tests. All of you.


    *It is strangely soothing, actually.

    **That said, I do think it's fair to debate whether this is one more nail in the coffin of federalism. You can get a little more of this argument in the comments here, if you're interested.

    ***Now I think of it, though, that's as good a metaphor for government as any.

    Posted by Ilyka at 04:00 PM | Comments (8)

    March 20, 2005

    Seriously, I Want to Know

    What the hell is it with Florida?

    (Via TFS Magnum, who has more.)

    Posted by Ilyka at 12:59 AM | Comments (3)

    March 18, 2005

    Of the People, By the People, For the People

    Oh, my aching ass and breaking heart:

    "I have had no cogent reason why the (congressional) committee should intervene," Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer told attorneys in a conference call, adding that last-minute action by Congress does not invalidate years of court rulings.
    I'll give you a cogent reason, Judge Greer: Because a case like this becomes something you dickless wonders like to call "precedent." Because the members of Congress are there to function as our elected representatives, and because they've apparently been hearing enough from their constituents to acknowledge that maybe this precedent isn't one the people would like to see set.

    Beyond that, all I'm going to say is that you right-to-die advocates should see some of the things I wind up typing in my line of work. You should take a gander and realize how quickly that "right to die" can be invoked by someone besides yourself, whether you've signed a DNR or not. You fall into an altered level of consciousness, and the doctors obviously won't be asking YOU what your wishes are; they'll be asking whoever's financially responsible in the event you're incapacitated. And unless someone's available to stand up for you and say otherwise, they'll take the word of whoever's financially responsible nine times out of ten. Don't be surprised when that word is, "Oh, no, Darla would never want to live this way," or "Kevin always made me promise I wouldn't let him become a vegetable." You think you actually have to sign shit in order for that to happen? You don't. Don't kid yourself.

    So let's get something out of the way right now: In the event of a tragedy, Ilyka wants to live. Ilyka doesn't care if she's smelly and embarrassing and covered in drool, ILYKA WANTS TO LIVE. How do you know I'm not looking forward to every scheduled feeding down the G-tube? You don't. SO JUST ASSUME I FIND IT MAGICALLY DELICIOUS. ILYKA WANTS TO LIVE.

    And if I can lay my hands on something legal and binding that says exactly that, I'm going to sign the hell out of it today.

    (Linked article via Drudge. Inspiration to finally get off my ass and say something about this--now that it's apparently too late, 'cause I'm a moron that way--via Andrea Harris.)

    ALL ANDREA, ALL THE TIME UPDATE: I remembered this old post of hers chiefly for the title and accompanying image, but a faint memory that the post had expressed a sentiment I wanted to share here was tickling the back of my mind when I wrote this. I was right--my memory's bad, sure, but it still comes through every now and then:

    I think that all this brouhaha reveals that fear of 'tards is alive and well in the twenty-first century. "Ew gross, a 'tard! Kill it!" seems to be an almost atavistic reaction to the sight of a mental defective or the thought of becoming one.

    Something in our culture just drains the humanity out of people; how else to explain the fact that starving someone to death is considered to be kinder than just giving them an overdose of morphine, or putting a bullet in their heads. The real reason this method is preferred, of course, is that everyone can pretend that Terri Schiavo isn't being deliberately killed; they are simply "letting nature take its course." Nature -- that we have spent the last ten thousand years or so trying to thwart. Now we let it win one?

    Everyone wants to specify the core issue on this case: Some say it's about honoring Terri's wishes, some say it's about honoring Michael Schiavo's rights as her lawful husband, some say it's about whether she's in a persistent vegetative state or not . . . and I don't care, frankly, what the answers are to most of these frequently-asked questions regarding Terri Schiavo.

    I care that starvation is about as near to "cruel and unusual punishment" as one can get, and if we're not going to use it on death row inmates, we damn sure don't need to start using it on the merely persistently-vegetative. I can reasonably agree to disagree with someone who advocates dropping many milligrams of morphine into Terri's IV; I cannot agree that withdrawing a feeding tube constitutes a compassionate end to life. If that makes me a bleeding heart, great, I'm a bleeding heart. I knew that years ago.

    THE DOCTOR IS IN UPDATE, 03/19/2005: I was wondering what the esteemed Dr. Alice thought of this case; well, wonder no more. She takes a much less dim view of withdrawing the feeding tube, and also notes that complications from prolonged immobility such as bed sores, muscle contractures and wasting, etc., are inevitable and not necessarily due to low quality of care. But before any of you who are as upset and, yes, emotional about this as I am are tempted to flame her, please do note that she's aware the circumstances of this case are not exactly usual*:

    To clarify: I think the Terri Schiavo case has been mishandled. The way things are at this time I would not disconnect the feeding tube. However, if Ms. Schiavo had a PET scan and MRI which confirmed that she was in a persistent vegetative state, I would. The sad thing here is that everybody involved in the case is so busy staking out their personal battle grounds that no one is really paying attention to the patient (even though they say they are). Instead of lawmakers proposing dumbass bills for passage or subpoenaing Ms. Schiavo for testimony she can never give - my jaw dropped when I saw that, I couldn't believe someone was pulling that one - the husband and MD should have been legally compelled to get the test that would, you know, ANSWER THE QUESTION of what her clinical state actually is. But no one is interested in getting the test; the husband is afraid that it might show she isn't in PVS and the parents are afraid that it will.
    I think that's a fair assessment, one partly supported by this NRO article by Reverend Robert Johansen:
    The most obvious possible explanation for what would otherwise be inexplicable behavior is that Michael Schiavo, George Felos, and Judge Greer don’t want to admit any information that would upset the diagnosis they already have. Dr. Morin, when told that Michael had refused an MRI, and that Judge Greer had confirmed the decision, said: “He refused a non-invasive test? People trying to do the right thing want the best and most complete information available. We don't have that in Terri’s case.” Dr. Bell agreed with this assessment, saying, “It seems as though they’re fearful of any additional information.”
    NRO link via Susan B. of LilacRose, who earlier today declared her frustration with "libertines of any stripe -- whether they call themselves libertarians, moderates, liberals, South Park conservatives or whatever." I sympathize, but, honey, don't give up on all of us yet. In-between all the cussing and the lewdness, some of us do try to do the right thing once in awhile.

    *Please also note that she is something few others opining on this issue are: Board-certified in internal medicine. So show the respect.

    Posted by Ilyka at 07:39 PM | Comments (13)

    February 16, 2005

    I Heart Larry Kramer

    Preach it, Larry:

    The patient in whom the purported new strain was diagnosed reportedly met men online to arrange crystal-methamphetamine-fueled orgies; according to one report, he may have engaged in sex with hundreds of other men. The parallels to Gaetan Dugas, the promiscuous flight attendant who came to be known as "Patient Zero" to the epidemiologists trying to piece together AIDS’ emergence across America, were obvious—though it could be argued that Mr. Dugas’ behavior was more understandable, since he never knew the risks. "This guy is a total and utter asshole," said Mr. Kramer, who in April will publish a book entitled The Tragedy of Today’s Gays. "What happens is, this is what people think gay people are like. Now we can’t move forward, we can’t get to our place in the sun, because of stupid assholes like this."
    [Emphasis mine.]

    I am all for free sexual expression between consenting adults--in theory. But I am wholeheartedly against "stupid assholes."

    Posted by Ilyka at 08:59 PM | Comments (0)

    February 03, 2005

    This More Than Makes Up for Last Year's

    You know what I'm grabbing the minute it's up online some place? A photo of the moment when Safia Taleb al-Suhail hugged Janet Norwood.

    There's the seeds of your peace-on-earth dream, pacifists. And what have you done to bring it about lately?

    Oh. Right.

    This was a damn good speech.

    Posted by Ilyka at 03:11 AM | Comments (12)

    January 21, 2005

    My Fellow Texans

    This is the woman who wants to grade your children by obesity.

    Just so you know.

    (Via Hubris.)

    Posted by Ilyka at 09:08 PM | Comments (5)

    January 13, 2005

    Happy Holidays?

    You think Christmas is a stressful time of year now? Implement this little imaginary custom and see what happens:

    I had a cup of coffee with one of my guides in Ghadames, Libya back in November. He sheepishly wanted to know if a particular rumor about us was true.

    “I have heard,” he said, “that European and American men have sex with other men’s wives on Christmas. Is it true? Libyan people don’t like that.”

    American people don’t like that,” I said. “No, it isn’t true. We don’t do that. Europeans don’t do it either.”

    “You don’t do it? Really?” he said.

    “No,” I told him. “Where did you hear that?”

    Then again, starting that tradition might make the holidays less stressful for some; I guess it would depend on whether one felt he or she had "traded up" in the deal or not. Then again again, I doubt the Libyans imagine the wives to have any say in the matter, so we're back to increasing stress for at least half the participants after all. What we heathenish unmarrieds are supposed to do during that time, I hate to think. Probably prepare the pre-adultery banquet and (shudder) wash all the sheets afterward.

    To me it's one of the saddest things to consider about countries governed with an iron fist--that their citizens' knowledge of the world is at roughly the level mine was back when I thought there "might be something" to talk of rock musicians employing backwards masking to get me to--yes!--worship Satan. You know? My excuse is, I was 12 years old. That's not nearly as good an excuse as, "My dictator told me so. And if I don't believe everything he says, he might put an even bigger picture of himself on my apartment building."

    Posted by Ilyka at 04:14 AM | Comments (2)

    December 27, 2004

    South Asia Earthquake

    As much for my benefit and reference as yours, a short links collection:

    Donations (US):

  • AmeriCares

  • American Red Cross (select "International Response Fund" from the list box to earmark donation for earthquake relief)

  • Care USA

    Donations (International):

  • Oxfam


  • Red Cross Red Crescent

    Donations (Religious Charities):

  • Christian Aid

  • American Jewish World Service

  • Catholic Relief

  • American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

  • International Orthodox Christian Charities

  • Islamic Relief


  • ReliefWeb has a by-country breakdown of relief efforts via the UN Office for Coordination of Human Affairs

  • The Command Post, naturally, with many more charity links

  • Tim Blair

  • Simon World hasn't got anything on this just yet, but keep checking. Simon's great for turning up links to pieces others miss.

    Posted by Ilyka at 11:57 PM | Comments (0)
  • December 10, 2004

    Later: Teflon Don

    (The original version of this post is in the extended entry.)

    I asked last night for a thought or two about this remark by Instapundit:

    Should we have more armor? Beats me. Are people who are using this issue as a way of unfairly portraying Rumsfeld as a heartless murderer of American troops way off-base? Yes. Absolutely.
    I received initially only one comment; luckily, it came from my brother. He and I do not agree much politically, but we have our moments, and this was one of them*. He said in part:
    Is the fact that soldiers are complaining that they don't have the armor somehow inadmissable as evidence they don't have the armor? And isn't that a HELL of a lot more important than the issue of Public Perception Of Donald Rumsfeld?
    Well, you'd think.

    I understand that part of the underlying objection to "unfairly portraying Rumsfeld as a heartless murderer" no doubt arises from reporter Lee Pitts' "setting up" of one of the soldiers from the unit with which he was embedded to ask the question in the first place. If you read the email from Pitts to an unnamed reporter friend, it's clear Pitts delights in his success at helping to, you know, Fight the Power:

    I just had one of my best days as a journalist today. As luck would have it, our journey North was delayed just long enough see I could attend a visit today here by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. I was told yesterday that only soldiers could ask questions so I brought two of them along with me as my escorts. Before hand we worked on questions to ask Rumsfeld about the appalling lack of armor their vehicles going into combat have. While waiting for the VIP, I went and found the Sgt. in charge of the microphone for the question and answer session and made sure he knew to get my guys out of the crowd.

    . . .

    The great part was that after the event was over the throng of national media following Rumsfeld- The New York Times, AP, all the major networks -- swarmed to the two soldiers I brought from the unit I am embedded with. Out of the 1,000 or so troops at the event there were only a handful of guys from my unit b/c the rest were too busy prepping for our trip north. The national media asked if they were the guys with the armor problem and then stuck cameras in their faces.

    I do not want my media composed of activisits; I want it composed of reporters. If you're fortunate to be able to attend a meeting in which Rumsfeld will take questions only from soldiers, don't coach the soldiers. As others have noted, Rumsfeld himself did nothing to pre-screen the questions; the soldiers were not provided with a list of no-no's beforehand; the floor, in other words, was open--to soldiers. That is, the floor was open to the very people to whom a Secretary of Defense should be most accountable.

    I'm all for that. I just happen to prefer Tim Blair's take to that flippant "beats me" from Instapundit (emphasis mine):

    This doesn't invalidate the question; not at all. It's just interesting to learn that the question was "worked on" in advance.
    It's a difference in weighting criteria. In the Instapundit quote, the greater weight is to the unfair portrayal of Rumsfeld.

    That's the part I have a problem with. When you say, "I support the troops," you should mean it wholeheartedly--even, and especially, when the people in charge of those troops make mistakes. Otherwise, what you're really saying is, "I support the administration." Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course; to me, it's only a problem when support for the administration outweighs support for the troops.

    (We interrupt this post to issue a Note for the Daft: I am not suggesting Instapundit doesn't support the troops.)

    Boy, the great thing about editing a previously-posted entry is that you reap the benefit of comments posted as you're drafting it. From Craig in the comments:

    Rumsfeld may be responsible for this. So could whoever bought unarmoured Humvees in the first place, or whichever Congressmen participated in choosing which acquisitions program to fund, or whomever. Placing blame on Rumsfeld before we determine fully the reasons behind the problem is partisan hackery, even if Rumsfeld otherwise entirely deserves being fired (and there are very good arguments that he does).
    Craig is correct: Placing blame on Rumsfeld before we determine the reasons for the problem is partisan hackery. So is exonerating him before the facts are in place. Rumsfeld's job is Secretary of Defense, not Secretary of Commerce. If we're going to demand answers about any of this, we're going to have to demand them from Rumsfeld.

    At the risk of alienating what readership I've built up over time, let's face it: The right half of blogdom tends to give Rumsfeld a pass much of the time**. Because we dig him, right? The way he snaps at reporters, puts them in their places without ever quite losing his cool . . . yes, we love that.

    But let's take Rumsfeld off his pedestal once in awhile. "Plays well on TV" does not equal "is best qualified for the position he holds." I think we'd do well to remember that distinction. I'm seeing more cheerleading than investigating in some conservative weblogs, and that's why, I think, I'm so often put off by blogger triumphalism. Weblogs make useful fact-checking tools, but only if their authors are willing to address facts that don't fit the talking points. When you weight the issue of Rumsfeld's image more heavily than the issue of soldiers' armor, you've shown me you are either unable or unwilling to do that.

    *Uh, except for the name-calling bits. I ain't calling anybody names here. I am all about the issues, maaaaan.

    **Though not always, and not uniformly: One military wife who's long questioned Rumsfeld's ability as Secretary of Defense, Kate of Electric Venom, instituted an entire category devoted to Rumsfeld missteps. When she heals up further from a recent illness, I hope she'll have something to say about this one.

    . . . buuuuut, I probably won't, and it'll wind up deleted. Que sera, sera. Anyway:

    Should we have more armor? Beats me. Are people who are using this issue as a way of unfairly portraying Rumsfeld as a heartless murderer of American troops way off-base? Yes. Absolutely.
    I figured I'd throw this one open to you fine people in the meantime.

    I know, I know: I could just leave this in draft mode and spare myself the embarrassment when I delete it later, but you know what happens with me and draft mode?--I forget about the post and it just sits there. I think I've got one like that from six months ago kicking around here somewhere. I'm very organized that way. It's a serious obstacle in my quest to become a Superpundit.

    UPDATE 12/10/2004: You people really would rather talk mac-n-cheese, wouldn't you?

    Posted by Ilyka at 08:26 PM | Comments (8)

    November 19, 2004

    To Form a More Empathetic Union

    So if a young kid starts hanging out with the tough older boys in his neighborhood because he has no other male role models and he wants to help mom earn a dollar plus maybe a little bling-bling for himself and anyway he doesn't actually use the products himself, well not much, okay once or twice, but mainly he just helps get 'em where they need to go, know what I'm sayin'?--So if all that, and then some heartless conservative comes along and sees it and says, You know, that boy would have been better off if he'd had a father at home for him, the response is Oh shut up, you intolerant moralizer, You Don't Know What It's Like on the streets these days. Clearly, you need your consciousness raised on this issue.

    And if some girl leads the wild, wild life during her young adult years and contracts one or two sexually transmitted diseases and maybe only gets them partially treated because she quit taking the antibiotic once she started to feel better or maybe she didn't even know she had infections at all because like many women she was asymptomatic, and then later she settles down gets married or shacks up whatever and wants to have children and tries for years, tries everything, consults specialists gets secondthirdfourth opinons but they all tell her, that pelvic inflammatory disease you have is really going to make it difficult for you, it's not impossible but it's going to be a rough road and an expensive one besides . . . and some heartless conservative comes along and says, You know, maybe a more rigid moral code of appropriate sexual behavior was actually serving some good purpose all those years, the response is Oh shut up, you prig, You Don't Know What It's Like for young women these days. Clearly, you need your consciousness raised on this issue.

    Which I guess means that if a young Marine spends long, weary days fighting in Fallujah, encountering attacks from "noncombatant" zones such as schools and mosques, and in fact he himself gets wounded in the face when an enemy playing dead detonates explosives in precisely such a noncombatant zone, and so the next day, on entering yet another mosque and finding yet more of the enemy lying on the ground seemingly dead and wounded, if that next day the Marine thinks to himself, "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me" and up and shoots the guy in the head rather than risk taking more flak himself . . . I guess if that happens, and some intrepid reporter films the whole thing, we should all point at him and say Shut Up, You Don't Know What It's Like, But Clearly, You Need Your Consciousness Raised on This Issue?


    Well. I guess we have a ways to go on this whole "empathy" thing then, don't we.

    Posted by Ilyka at 07:02 PM | Comments (3)

    November 13, 2004

    Dial Tone

    That's about all an Iraqi television show that reconstructs, refurnishes, and redecorates homes destroyed during the war gets when it calls up international aid organizations:

    . . . producer Riyadh Salman insisted that the programme was attempting to highlight the problems Iraqi people faced when their homes were destroyed, and were pressing for more assistance from others.

    "We start from scratch, and finish by putting furniture in these houses," he said.

    "We want to motivate government institutions and human rights organisations to take their share in the reconstructions.

    "But in spite of all the calls we’ve made to them, we haven’t had any response."

    You really don't want to know what I originally typed here. My scorn for human rights organizations nearly boiled over, but never mind that.

    What I'm wondering is whether this could be a job for people with hearts like the ones behind Spirit of America. Now they get things done that need doing. It would be great if there were a likeminded organization that could help out with this.

    Human rights organizations are only of any use if you already have the house, preferably with terrorists inside, and you need a stooge a symbol to stand in front of the bulldozer that's about to pave it under. HROs are just dying to help you out with that problem.

    Oops. The sneering leaked out anyway.


    (Via Andrea Harris.)

    Posted by Ilyka at 07:36 AM | Comments (0)

    November 11, 2004


    Well, no more Yasser. I suppose that's good. I don't expect much to change for the Palestinians, though, unless they get to work on problems like this:

    The militant Islamic group, Hamas, said Mr Arafat's death would strengthen its resolve to keep up attacks against Israel.
    I've never been able to figure out why Palestinian sympathizers evince no interest in the abuses of the Palestinian people by their own leaders, who kite off with the bulk of the aid money and use the scraps to finance jihad, but, weirdly, never seem to get around to building any hospitals, universities, water systems . . . . You'd think that much true humanitarians--as I'm always told Palestinian activists are--could blame on something besides JOOOOS, but no.
    Posted by Ilyka at 10:35 AM | Comments (0)

    November 07, 2004

    Sixteen Months and What Do You Get?

    Am I the only one who thinks that's a pretty lenient sentence to levy against a guy who stole the identity of a terminal cancer patient? Double it. Then take that number, and double it again. Then take that number, and double it again. Then take that number . . . .

    I think I'd go 10 years if it were up to me. I know, I know, all that time in prison won't do anything to rehabilitate him, blah blah blah . . . but I don't see any rational basis for believing that people who prey on the weak like that are likely to be rehabilitated in any case. Nor do I see any hope for the perpetrators in this case here. If that makes me a law-and-order wingnut, great, I can live with that.

    Posted by Ilyka at 06:26 AM | Comments (3)

    November 05, 2004

    White Males Talking

    So I'm reading the Newsweek postmortem on the various campaigns, and the passage below leaps out at me:

    Campaign manager Jordan had worked for Kerry for five years, serving as staff director of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee when Kerry was its chairman. A soft-spoken but hard-nosed operative from North Carolina, Jordan admired Kerry, but he was weary of his indecisiveness. "The world around Kerry is a lot of white males talking," he groused. Every time Jordan decided something, the person who lost out went behind his back to appeal to Kerry, who spent inordinate amounts of time on his cell phone not resolving various disputes. Kerry was known for being deliberative—he was proud of it—but Jordan despaired that Kerry had been turned into a caricature of the U.S. Senate.
    So tell me, is it "fearful" to find that pattern of behavior undesirable in a president? I don't happen to think so. Against jihadists, I do not want a guy who spends "inordinate amounts of time on his cell phone not resolving various disputes."

    (Via Tim Blair, who includes in his excerpts from Newsweek the line, "That idea's so f---ing bad it sounds like something Rove came up with," which seems an awfully uppity thing for a puppet to say on its own.)

    UPDATE: Turd blossom?!

    UPDATE THE NEXT: But why stop there, Newsweek person? You were on such a roll describing that Republican base:

    From the moment he walked into the White House in 2001, he had been building the Republican base, the vast Red State army of evangelicals; flag-waving small-town and rural American Dreamers; '60s-hating, pro-death-penalty, anti-gay-marriage social conservatives; Big Donors
    It's like the author ran out of steam or something! I'll help: puppy kickers, guys who give away movie endings, mullet wearers, incontinent people, Billy Ray Cyrus fans, halitosis sufferers, macarena dancers, careless farters, line cutters, tax cheaters, Pinto drivers, Partridge Family members, Tony Danza . . . .
    Posted by Ilyka at 09:19 PM | Comments (2)

    Yeah, I Don't Care Who Gloats Over This

    Gloat freely, gloat exultantly . . . I wasn't going to bring up Arafat's exit from the world until he was in the ground mainly to avoid falling back on the "der, he was brain-dead already, hork hork!" bit that's irresistible to so many . . . but I foolishly forgot about all the fun one can have with the tombstone generator.

    Also, for reasons I'm not quite clear on, this headline is reminding me of that scene in Kindergarten Cop where Arnold insists angrily to the kid that it's NOT a tumor. It's not a tumor. At all.

    Posted by Ilyka at 08:28 PM | Comments (1)

    November 04, 2004

    Blame Game

    "Bloggers said to blame for bad poll info." Because, as you know, it was bloggers who went out and collected that information--no, wait, that was the National Election Pool. But it was bloggers who went out and reported it--well, after they read it off the AP wire. But . . . but . . . but webloggers are all to blame somehow! You webloggers! You stole the election!

    Posted by Ilyka at 03:11 AM | Comments (5)

    November 03, 2004

    In Which I Pretty Much Lose My Shit Entirely

    John Edwards tonight: "We've waited four years for this. We can wait one more night."

    Oh GO to HELL you lawyer son of a BITCH. You guys are really going to do this all over again, aren't you?--And then whoever wins, whatever the outcome, at least I'm guaranteed four more years of hearing about how it's the Republican leadership that is dividing this nation and polarizing its people.

    You do realize that Bush would have to lose nearly all the provisional ballots outstanding in Ohio for you schmucks to get your victory, don't you? But wait: Maybe we don't have to count the actual votes. Maybe we can divine the voter intent with our fucking Magic 8 balls. ALL. OVER. AGAIN. BECAUSE IT WAS SO MAGICALLY, WONDERFULLY GOOD FOR THE COUNTRY THE FIRST TIME.

    I can't believe this. I can't believe I had moments of wanting to vote for this guy. And because someone's going to suggest it, because there always has to be that one: I'd be mortified if Bush were doing this. I'd be enraged and disgusted and ready to fuck off to a lonely island somewhere, even more than I am now.

    It's NOT the winning. It's how you play the game.

    UPDATE 11/03/2004: Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, Senators Kerry and Edwards. You are both made of the right stuff.

    Posted by Ilyka at 07:46 AM | Comments (4)

    November 02, 2004

    I Think I Would Have Liked This Guy

    I'm sorry he's gone. Maybe I'll be able to check out one of his films. That ought to pay the boyfriend back for renting Fahrenheit 911.

    Posted by Ilyka at 04:46 PM | Comments (1)

    Shorter Guardian Interview with Tom Wolfe

    "How can such a charming author and man of the world consider voting for the ChimpHitlerShrubCokeheadWarCriminal?"

    Brits: They're never so cute as when they're being earnestly, sincerely dumb.

    Posted by Ilyka at 03:00 AM | Comments (2)

    September 16, 2004

    And Now a Break for Unrestrained Giggling

    I. Can't. Stop. Laughing.

    See, I guess the New York Times, as part of their ongoing mission to empower women everywhere--particularly women voters--well, I guess they--

    Oh no. This is too easy. This is beyond shooting fish in a barrel.

    Let me compose myself a moment.

    Okay: I guess they thought it would be a grand idea to post an online discussion between Gail Collins, editor of the editorial page, and . . . Maureen Dowd.

    Oh, don't get excited: It's not as though they want the thoughts of any non-NYT-employed women or anything--

    To submit a question for either Ms. Collins or Ms. Dowd, please use this form. Readers cannot post in this space.
    Was I getting excited about the ostensible democratization of the media two posts ago? Yeah, so hold that thought a minute. But oh-my-my, oh-hell-yes, have I got some primo MoDo moments for you:

    The more I think about it, the more I think men may be biologically unsuited to hold high public office.

    Their penises get in the way of the pen whenever they go to sign a piece of legislation. It's really a problem.

    I mean, what can we tell about a leader by which pizza toppings he likes? "I like everything on my pizza," Mr. Kerry replied. Uh-oh, I wondered. Was that a culinary, cover-all-his-bases, trying-too-hard-to-please, having-it-all-ways?

    Christ, no, he absolutely never does that.

    Ms. Elder says Mr. Kerry now has "no gender gap of note" and that his support fell off after the Republican convention. This probably happened because women are looking for strong leaders, and the Republicans were better able to convey strength at their convention, even if it was just movie-style "Magnificent Seven" riding in to protect the town.

    As opposed to movie-style, "honorable soldier reporting for duty" type--look, this is literally too stupid; you finish this one.

    But I will note that it would absolutely never occur to Maureen how belittling, condescending, and demeaning it is to suggest that the only thing women voters are after is a guy who "conveys strength." Holy cow, if a right-leaning male blogger said something this stupid I'd roast him alive. Figuratively, I mean.

    Rene: As my pal Gail Collins has written in "America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines,'' society always sends mixed messages about the role of women.

    By giving high-profile jobs to bimbos like Maureen, for one.

    Teresa Heinz Kerry would be a fascinating, controversial presence on the trail if she were a male or female, because she is outspoken and vivid and, as with any billionaire, accustomed to having things their own way.

    Just like Marie Antoinette, but I hear that ended badly.

    Wait, I think I inadvertently ripped this off from somewhere . . . ah, yes, via here. Sorry about that, fellas. Long night.

    Romance is often used as the best metaphor in campaigns.

    Not when the candidate you've put forward looks like Lurch it isn't. Wait, she's not done explaining that metaphor. Pray continue, Sister Mo:

    In New Hampshire, Kerry fans had a bumper sticker that said, "Dated Dean, Married Kerry," playing off the idea that while Howard Dean might be exciting, with all his anti-war, sweet-nothing rants, John Kerry was more solid husband, or presidential, material.

    I have heard some sweet nothings in my time. None of them sounded like this.

    Hey, and don't get any ideas about "fairness" or "balance" or, what the hey, "intelligence" or "maturity" in this (one-sided) discussion forum, either. Gail Collins is almost, but not quite, as bad as pal Maureen:

    As far as I can tell, the gender gap is about the fact that women voters tend to be more emotionally conservative than men. In other words, they don't like to take chances.

    Well no, Gail, you're right: Actually, I don't want to take chances that someone I know will be forced to jump from the 89th floor of a building because your preferred candidate waited to find out what the U.N. thought we should do about terrorism first. But I'm told I'm just particular like that.

    Posted by Ilyka at 08:33 AM | Comments (2)

    People Love it When You Lose

    How did that song go again? "Kick up when they're up / Kick 'em when they're down?" Yeah, something like that:

    ``One of the problems in journalism . . . is we ask for transparency, and yet we don't demand the same from ourselves,'' said Ken Auletta, media writer for The New Yorker magazine. ``CBS still has a lot of great reporters and `60 Minutes' is still the best news magazine show. They don't deserve to be robbed of that reputation, but they risk (it) if they don't act.''
    I could quibble about the verb "robbed" in that last sentence--it implies they didn't do this to themselves but were, you know "attacked"--but you know, it is just faintly possible that Dan Rather's given more people ulcers in his long career than we'll ever know about, so maybe that's who's being fingered as the culprit.
    Posted by Ilyka at 07:49 AM | Comments (1)

    Not Easily Silenced

    Kate found a gem of an article over at The Scotsman. It quotes the usual "old guard" bloggers (and that's my only fault with it; Reynolds and Sullivan were very late to the game on this issue, with the bulk of the legwork being done by Charles, the Powerline guys, and Bill, to name just a few), but that is not why I liked it. I liked the clear-eyed conclusion:

    The lesson of this week has been that, in America at least, the media has been democratised. In a dizzying, energising and raucous return to the pamphleteering days of the 18th and 19th centuries, the people have, through the worldwide web and easy-to-use publishing software, been given a voice. They will not easily be silenced.
    (Emphasis mine.)

    You all go on about Burkett and Kinko's and Abilene and pajamas--always with the running of the mildly-funny-the-first-dozen-times joke into the ground, yeesh. Me, I'm thinking tartans for fall this year.

    Posted by Ilyka at 07:24 AM | Comments (1)

    Them Heartless Conservatives, Part Fourventy-Quagillion

    Let me see if I have this correct: The problem is not that CBS, wittingly or unwittingly, tried to pass a Microsoft Word document off as a 30 year-old memo; rather (I'm not doing that cutesy "th" thing, you can't make me, also please forgive the pun), the problem is that those pesky partisan operatives are ignoring the heart of the problem (see 09/15 08:09 PM post):

    But on a personal note, I believe it is important to remember that those who have criticized aspects of this story have never criticized the heart of it, that George W. Bush got special treatment.
    Ladies and gentlemen, Dan Rather--your source for completely fair and balanced reporting.

    Look, I know the guy's plenty partisan himself; I know he's got a ginormous ego; I know he's getting on in years; but what that statement tells me is that Dan Rather has actually forgotten how news works. See, the way it works is, you make your claim and then you support it, and then your claim stands or falls on the basis of that support.

    Which is why it's extremely unhelpful to support your claims with evidence that wouldn't fool a six year-old (though it apparently confuses Ken Layne, who wrote today that "there has been no earthshaking evidence to support any theory about these Bush Memos." Yeah, yeah, right, I said I wasn't going to bat him around anymore. Sorry).

    Supporting your claim with bad evidence tends to ruin a little intangible that is nonetheless paramount to your news organization's survival: Credibility. You just can't expect your viewers and listeners to accept and stay focused on "the heart of the story," when you backed up "the heart of the story" with evidence that couldn't be less credible if you'd got it from the Tooth Fairy.

    That was your screwup, CBS. Not your viewers'. Not George W. Bush's. Not the webloggers'. Yours.

    Which is why, when I said I'd hate this whole thing even more if I were supporting Kerry this year, I meant it. Good, credible support--yeah, a campaign needs that. Rather's blustering and finger-pointing--NO campaign needs that. Is Clinton recovered from heart surgery yet? Could we maybe get him to have a talk with ol' Dan? (And they say conservatives have no compassion. That'd be the most merciful thing a soul could do, right there.)

    But the punch line isn't even that paragraph up above. The punch line is the line before the quoted paragraph above:

    "We will continue to report credible evidence."

    Babyjowls, you can't "continue" to do something you never did do in the first place.

    UPDATE: Apparently one brave guy actually watched the whole thing. Conclusion: "If Edward R. Murrow wasn't already dead, he'd kill himself." Of course, in Dan's world he'd deserve to, for ignoring the heart of the story like that.

    Anyway, I didn't see anything on either CBS's site or Allah's to indicate that Treacher got his wish, just to update everybody on that part of the story (which is not the heart, remember).

    Posted by Ilyka at 03:24 AM | Comments (1)

    You Know, They're Not Entirely Stupid

    CBS, I mean. Now everyone will tune in to see their follow-up non-story story on "60 Minutes" tonight.

    Yes, you will. Don't shake your head at me like that.

    Well, maybe you won't. But you'll hope someone else does so you can get your eyeballs on a quickie transcript.

    Oh, yes you will.

    If today should have taught us anything, it's that it's still Dan Rather's world. We just live in it.

    How much longer that will continue is partly dependent on viewers like you, of course.

    Posted by Ilyka at 12:26 AM | Comments (0)

    September 15, 2004

    "The Latest Attack"

    I don't believe this. Dan just said his correspondent Wyatt Andrews has the story on "the latest attack" on the 60 Minutes II story.

    Attack? Because hundreds and thousands of people could see they were trying to pass off a damn Word document as being 30 years old? You don't think that sort of thing makes people upset or anything, do you?

    Oh, and sho'nuff, here's the secretary. And yes, it's the ol' "but the content of the story was true" defense.

    Fuck it. Two plus two equals five.

    Posted by Ilyka at 11:52 PM | Comments (0)

    Par for the Course: The CBS Statement

    From Drudge--Andrew Heyward, CBS:

    We established to our satisfaction that the memos were accurate or we would not have put them on television.
    There's more. It's about as expected.

    Oh, and I was wrong. Now see, I didn't find saying that difficult at all.

    Posted by Ilyka at 11:15 PM | Comments (0)

    A Lame-Brained Prediction Because, You Know, Why Not?

    My guess is they postpone it to the evening news tonight. At least, that's what I'm hoping, because I could really stand to get away from the computer and do a little cleaning up around here . . . .

    Besides: Ultimately, there is no such thing as bad publicity. Ratings gold.

    So listen, if it turns out I called this, what do I win?

    Right. Sorry.

    UPDATE, ONE HOUR POST ORIGINAL ANNOUNCEMENT TIME: Okay, now I'm all but certain. Evening news tonight. Definitely.

    Posted by Ilyka at 10:24 PM | Comments (0)

    I Told You

    I told you to ask the secretaries (this former one, for example). I told you. But did you listen? No, you all wanted to consult the experts.

    I dig you all, but honestly: Sometimes you are such . . . men.

    (Drudge link via In DC Journal.)

    Posted by Ilyka at 02:55 AM | Comments (1)

    September 12, 2004


    Ain't no partisans here, nope. Just us humble little members of the Pajamasphere.

    So let me see if I have this right: If you're up-front about your politics and you write about them on the internet (while clad in your Armani or your pajamas or, uh, your housedress), no one should take anything you write about seriously. But if you're up-front about your politics and you're interviewed about them in a very objective book, you maybe have a shot to be a source for "60 Minutes?" Do you have to leave the sleepwear at home for that gig? Because if you do I guess I'm out.

    Posted by Ilyka at 10:26 PM | Comments (0)

    September 10, 2004

    Something Bad Has Happened

    Apparently my earlier pessimism was not unwarranted.

    There will be no investigation. There will be no retraction. There will be no correction.

    I titled the previous entry "Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy" with tongue in cheek. I don't generally ascribe to conspiracy what can be ascribed to simpler causes, to butcher an old saying. Thus, I find this quote from Bernard Goldberg, reported at Rather Biased, appropriate:

    "This is the nature of bias in the news. no conspiracies. Rather never said, 'I know these documents are phoney, but I'll go with them anyway.' He would never do that. The problem is too much like-mindedness, too much groupthink. What happened was almost invevitable. Sooner or later, when you live in the bubble, something bad will happen."
    I am not a gifted enough writer to convey adequately how bad I think this is. I am not devoted enough to spend the hours of my day countering all the gross incompetence on display in this article. Though, part of me wants to. Part of me wants to know why Hunter thinks anyone should believe such unsupported assertions as:

    "typewriters were indeed available with Times New Roman typefaces." Really? Find it. Find me one. I couldn't find one 20 years later. I certainly couldn't find one 20 years later in government work. But maybe I'd believe you if you supported the assertion adequately.

    "[The IBM Executive (a typewriter using proportional type--ed.)] was an extremely popular model, and was marketed to government agencies." Show me. Back it up. I find it sense-defying that a typewriter that required this level of effort from its operator to produce quality output:

    Mike did the original ad on an IBM Executive typewriter after carefully measuring the letter weights and counting the spaces to create proper column justification.
    . . . would have been at all popular among office clerical staff--and again, particularly not at military offices, where budget constraints are always a primary consideration in the purchase and upgrading of office equipment.

    (Personally, I can say with assurance that any typing pool I ever worked in would have gone into open revolt if the boss had tried to saddle us with machines like that. If you're old enough to remember when offices had secretaries, you know that a roomful of angry ones makes the movie Nine to Five look like a goddamn fairy tale, and I don't mean the part where Lily Tomlin fantasizes she's Snow White.)

    "So, as you can see, both IBM and Microsoft specifically obtained the typeface "Times New Roman" from the designers of that font; neither was the creator of it. And, as we said before, typeface includes not just the "shape" of the letters, but the size and spacing between those letters." Actually, he has a point that typeface includes more than just the shape of the letters; but the reasons his conclusion is ultimately incorrect are explained thoroughly here.

    (MID-POST CORRECTION/UPDATE: The following passages about kerning appear to be irrelevant. Carry on!)

    It boils down to this: Typewriters don't kern. Can't kern. Wouldn't kern if you threatened them with fiery destruction.

    What's kerning? Well, there's a good definition, with examples, here. And here is my own example. This text was typed in Microsoft Word 2000, Times New Roman, 36-pt text, with kerning off. I have taken the liberty of adding a red dividing line between the characters for emphasis:

    No kerning

    This text was typed in the same fashion, but with kerning set "on" for fonts 36 points and above:

    With kerning

    In the kerned example, the space between the "T" and the "o" has been reduced; MS Word's kerning algorithm "knows" the lowercase "o" can fit more snugly against the uppercase "T."

    The original of one of the suspect CBS documents is available in .pdf format here. I know it's fuzzy, but do your best to look at the characters.

    Do you see any kerning? Do you any instance in which the spacing of consecutive letters overlap?

    Do you know of a typewriter ever made that could predict the next letter you were going to type and automatically "snuggle" it part-way into the space already occupied by the previous letter? Because if you do, pass the pipe, brother. I want some of what you've got.


    And now let me say why I think none of this matters: Because it's a parts story.

    "But CNN is going to run it day and night," he said. "By next week, it'll be ancient history. We have to go with this story Saturday."

    "Right," she said.

    . . .

    He spun back. "Go do it."

    "Okay," she said. "Thanks, Dick."

    "You sure you can put it together in time?"

    She started collecting her notes. "Trust me."

    As she headed out through Marian's office, she heard him shout, "Just remember, Jennifer--don't come back with a parts story! I don't want a fucking parts story!"

    From Airframe, by Michael Crichton. If you've read it, you know why I think it's relevant (I hope).

    If you haven't, here's the short version: The excerpted conversation above occurs between the producer of a news-mag style show (a la "60 Minutes"), and the reporter who wants to do a story about a recent in-flight accident that has left three people dead. (The line "CNN is going to run it day and night" refers to graphic home video footage taken during the flight.)

    The producer doesn't want a parts story because he knows nothing will put people to sleep faster than a technical discussion of airplane construction and safety devices.

    (Or, say . . . fonts.)

    The producer wants what I'd call a "some heads are gonna roll" story. A story about how negligent airplane manufacturers are. A story about Terror in the Skies. A story about how You Could Be at Risk. A story about Evil Corporations and the Evil, Evil Ways in Which They Totally Neglect Your Safety for a Buck.

    I'm sure you're familiar with the type of story I'm talking about.

    All over the blogosphere, people are discussing fonts and typesetting and military style guidelines and, well, parts.

    But the aspect of this that isn't a parts story is what's frightening. That a major news organization is willing to neglect its own credibility to further an agenda is frightening. That a major news organization assigns more value and emphasis to voter intent--ack, I'm sorry; I mean Lieutenant Colonel Killian's intent--than the actual votes--geez, there I go again! I mean Lieutenant Colonel Killian's actual statements--that disturbs me very much.

    Gosh. Why do I keep mixing those two things up?

    Maybe it's because they come from the same thought process: One in which what should have been true trumps what is verifiably true. Voters in Florida should have voted for Gore; therefore, it's within reason to spend months analyzing ballots looking for any indication, however slight, that they meant to vote for Gore.

    Lieutenant Colonel Killian should have written that memo. He meant to write that memo. He would have written that memo, had he only found the time--oh, what the hell! He did write the memo. He wrote it in his mind, and Dan Rather divined it, and that's close enough, isn't it?

    You've probably read it 100 times already, but read this statement by Kelli Edwards, CBS spokesperson, one more time:

    CBS verified the authenticity of the documents by talking to individuals who had seen the documents at the time they were written. These individuals were close associates of Colonel Jerry Killian and confirm that the documents reflect his opinions at the time the documents were written.
    See? He meant to. He definitely thought those things. He was going to write them down. He should have written them down. Does it matter whether he really did or not? He would have; he could have. Oh, let's pretend he did. We could get away with it. We will get away with it. No one wants to read about typefaces and kerning and superscript and date formatting . . . no one will care. By Monday, anyone who does care will be thoroughly sick of discussing it anyway. The rest won't remember. Let's run with this. We can do it.

    And they did.

    And I don't care who you're voting for this November: That kind of behavior from a major news source should scare the daylights out of you.

    Posted by Ilyka at 08:52 PM | Comments (1)

    September 09, 2004

    Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy

    No, really, I'm not kidding. It's a vast left-wing conspiracy:

    60 minutes ran a story last night about Bush's national guard service. New documents have been uncovered which indicate what may have happened for several months in 1972. However, there is speculation on the internet (I know I know) that these documents were forged...that they look like they came out of a word processor rather than a typewriter from 1972. I scoffed at first, but then thought I would compare one of documents from then with the same document typed up in MS Word, just 5 minutes ago.

    They are for all intents and purposes identical.

    See also Charles Johnson's experiment along these lines--and Bill from In DC Journal emerged from hibernation long enough to consult a document forensics expert. The expert's verdict? He's at least 90% sure that the document was forged. Among many reasons given, this one stood out to me:

    Regarding the small "th" after the date, Dr. Bouffard told me that it was possible to order specialty keys that would duplicate the automatic miniaturization completed by word processors after a numerical date, but it was certainly not standard, and wouldn't make a lot of sense in a military setting. "That by itself, while suspicious, is not impossible, but in conjunction with the (font irregularity of the) number four, it is really significant," he said.
    My mother went back to work as a legal secretary when I was six years old, in 1975, three years after this document was allegedly typed. She worked in fairly plush law offices, with, presumably, nicer and newer typewriters than would have been available to the military. (My own limited experience in government clerical work--three months in a summer temp position at an office of the FmHA, three years with the county government in Phoenix, Arizona--did not leave me with the impression that government offices devote much of their budgets to office equipment upgrades, and I'm sure any number of military bloggers out there could confirm it's no different in the military.) Anyway, I'd love to ask her if she ever used a typewriter with a proportional font back in those days. I'm betting even the nicest offices didn't have a cute little "th" key.

    For my own part, I began my clerical, ah, "career" on the IBM Selectric. The type ball on most machines I used came with the Courier font, though I do recall one machine that used a sans serif font, which appeared similar to Lucida Console. But every machine I used produced monospaced type, not proportional.

    Former secretaries who remember WordPerfect 5.1 may recall that its default font was Courier also. Monospaced fonts were compatible with the old dot-matrix printers, for one; for another, it eased the porting of previously-typewritten forms to word processor. With Courier, you had an easier time making sure all the blanks and checkmark spaces lined up.

    Hey, Andrea Harris collects old typewriters. Is she on this? Give us your expert opinion, Andrea.

    That all this should occur just as some guy at the Miami Herald is whining that right-wing "zealots" are making things difficult, so difficult, for his stalwart comrades in the press is just . . . rich. It's the icing on the memory-hole cake.

    UPDATE: Neglected to mention that I found all this via Tim Blair. You can find an early draft of the Bush-is-AWOL memo linked, incidentally, in the comments.

    WHAT THE HELL, ONE MORE UPDATE: I knew we'd hear from a servicemember with typing experience from that period eventually:

    I had neglected even to look at the August 18, 1973 memo to file. This forger was a fool. This fake document actually does have the tiny "th" in "187th" and there is simply no way this could have occurred in 1973. There are no keys on any typewriter in common use in 1973 which could produce a tiny "th." The forger got careless after creating the August 1, 1972 document and slipped up big-time.
    More, lots more, at Powerline.

    NEVER MIND THE FONTS, HERE'S GARY KILLIAN UPDATE: "It just wouldn't happen," says the son of the author of the memos:

    "The only thing that can happen when you keep secret files like that are bad things. ... No officer in his right mind would write a memo like that."
    Via Drudge.

    I can't be the only one who's disturbed by all this. Like it or not, more people watch 60 Minutes than read Drudge Report. This likely-false story is out to those people now; unless 60 Minutes runs one hell of a correction, there's no reason for me to believe I won't be having arguments about this story with lefty friends and family for months to come. With all due respect to the fine bloggers out there, there's only so much they can do to derail a bogus story . . . but then, I'm sure that sad acknowledgement was foremost in the mind of whoever created the forgeries.

    ILYKA, QUIT BEING SUCH A PESSIMIST UPDATE: Had a fellow in the comments note that Drudge reaches more people daily than 60 Minutes, which only makes sense now I think about it. Only problem is, there remain so many people whose approach to these matters is, essentially, "It must be true. I saw it on TV." I don't know what you do about them.

    I'm supposed to be working right now, but let me pack in a few other links real quick: He's crossed out that part of the post, but I still think Goldstein's Photoshop experiment is worth viewing, if only as an example of how easy it is to mock up a document these days; also via Protein Wisdom, The Shape of Days asks, "Now what?" I guess taking Dan Rather behind the woodshed for an unholy beating is out? I know, I know, there's no evidence Dan had anything to do with this--I've just always wanted to whale on him.

    Meanwhile, Jeff Jarvis bleats for everyone to stop the mudslinging, I guess so we can all focus on what's really important, like getting his elderly ass some free health care and fawning over all the Vanity Fair writers he's encouraged to start blogging--badly. Whatever. Listen, you people don't still read and link Buzz Machine, do you? Please don't do that. I would be very disappointed in all of you if you did that. As far as I'm concerned, Andrea Harris reads him so that no one else has to.

    SHOCKED, SHOCKED UPDATE: Dan Rather is reportedly "shell-shocked" by the implications and CBS will perform an internal investigation, according to Drudge Report. I'd be more excited about this if I didn't remember a certain recount conducted by our beloved independent news organizations, the results of which absolutely no one remembers. Better than Dan possibly having to correct himself on air--not that I won't enjoy seeing it--would have been for the folks at CBS to have asked the questions asked by suspicious bloggers before the 60 Minutes segment aired. Still, it's a start.

    BUT WE CALLED PEOPLE UPDATE: It just gets more and more unbelievable:

    A senior CBS official, who asked not to be named because CBS managers did not want to go beyond their official statement, named one of the network's sources as retired Maj. Gen. Bobby W. Hodges, the immediate superior of the documents' alleged author, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian. He said a CBS reporter read the documents to Hodges over the phone and Hodges replied that "these are the things that Killian had expressed to me at the time."
    Again, via Tim Blair. To the statement by a CBS official that "journalistically, we've gone several extra miles," Blair adds, "You sure have. Straight down." But you know who did go "several extra miles?" Bill of In DC Journal, the man who consulted a forensics expert. That's going extra miles. Reporting what you're told over the phone?--That's just . . . just . . . why, that's my job. And it pays $0.075 per line. Sorry, CBS; no medals for you.
    Posted by Ilyka at 11:25 PM | Comments (6)


    I have been meaning to mention that Rachel Ann of Willow Tree is taking prayer requests. Well, here's one . . . or nine, rather.

    Posted by Ilyka at 05:53 PM | Comments (0)

    September 08, 2004

    Oh, Oh Dear, Someone's Venting

    The author of this article stops just short of prescribing a group hug and grief counseling:

    Tens of thousands of people massed near Red Square on Tuesday to mourn the slain children of Beslan, while President Vladimir V. Putin vented his anger at their killers and, in unusually strong terms, at critics who call for a moderate response.
    Which critics are those, I wonder? Hey, anyone bother reading Friedman anymore? Can anyone tell me if dear Thomas has proposed a Chechnya peace plan complete with laborious metaphors involving a grocer and an obstetrician yet?
    "Why don't you meet Osama bin Laden, invite him to Brussels or to the White House and engage in talks, ask him what he wants and give it to him so he leaves you in peace?" he said, according to The Guardian. "You find it possible to set some limitations in your dealings with these bastards, so why should we talk to people who are child-killers?"
    Remind me to tell you sometime about the Russian guy I hooked up with via a dating service once. It isn't intelligent or useful to take a handful of dates with one Russian guy and draw conclusions about the leader of the entire country, so I won't really do that here.

    But let's just say there's something in the force of Putin's words that is not entirely alien to me.

    How cute is it that the Guardian and the NYT are shocked by Putin's "fury?" They forget, maybe, that they're talking to a man who runs the media in his neck of the woods, a man who has the papers writing puff pieces about how ladies love cool P, for crying out loud. (Can you imagine anyone in the press stateside doing that with G-Dub? FOX News doesn't count.) My point is, this guy's had the luxury in recent years of not having to deal with a media cross-examination . . . particularly not such a stupid media cross-examination.

    (By the way: Does anyone note any familiar themes in this fine piece of handwringing? Note the "yes, it was horrible, BUT . . . ." structure of the piece. We've seen that before, yes? Is there like one basic outline they all pass around for this sort of thing?)

    There's been plenty of recent discussion around the blog world over whether Putin is truly an ally of the U.S. He's no beacon of light and bringer of freedom to his country, and how much we should trust him I do not know.

    But he's right on the money about the terrorists, and I'll wager he's right on the money about how to handle them.

    And I don't think rectifying "root causes" will be a central part of his plan.

    Posted by Ilyka at 06:46 AM | Comments (0)

    September 04, 2004

    The Hate is Not a Change of Subject

    The hate IS the subject--and it wasn't me who said so:

    The trouble with Democrats, traditionally, is that we're not mean enough. Dukakis wasn't. I wasn't. I don't particularly like destroying people. I got into politics because of issues, not anger. But too much is at stake to play by Dukakis rules, and lose again.

    That is the conclusion Democrats have reached. So watch out. Millions of dollars will be on the table. And there are plenty of choices for what to spend it on.

    I'm not promising pretty.

    So sayeth Susan Estrich (via Ace of Spades). Not that "we need to be as mean as they are" is an idea unique to Democrats; she could have lifted that first paragraph straight from David Horowitz. Compare:

    Before Republicans can begin to change this situation [losing political battles to Democrats], they need to stop whining that life is unfair, that Bill Clinton "stole" their programs, and that Democrats do not play by the rules. They need to stop complaining that Democrats are unprincipled or that they follow a party line. (Of course they do. It's the politics, stupid.) They need to accept that Democrats are going to practice the politics of personal destruction and attribute to Republicans the sins they themselves have committed. They do it because that is the way they can win.

    When Republicans complain about forces they cannot control, they behave like victims and give up the power to determine their fate. Democrats will be Democrats. They will be unprincipled and lie. Republicans can hope Democrats will behave better than this, but if Republicans go into battle expecting Democrats to be better than they are, they will only set themselves up for political ambush.

    [Emphasis mine.] From The Art of Political War and Other Radical Pursuits, published 2000.

    It is not that Democrats have traditionally failed to be "mean enough." Frankly, it isn't that Republicans have neglected meanness either. It's that when your side is going up against the incumbent, it's a harder road. The temptation to go low, play nasty, be mean, is always there.

    And it often backfires.

    Mind you don't burn your own ass with those matches, Susan.

    There's an old Stuart Smalley sketch in which, for Halloween, he parodies the movie When a Stranger Calls. The sketch ends, "The calls are coming from inside the house. It's your father--and he's been drinking!"

    That's all I could think of when I read this bit:

    . . . Cheney is still drinking. What their records suggest is not only a serious problem with alcoholism, which Bush but not Cheney has acknowledged, but also an even more serious problem of judgment. Could Dick Cheney get a license to drive a school bus with his record of drunken driving? (I can see the ad now.) A job at a nuclear power plant? Is any alcoholic ever really cured? So why put him in the most stressful job in the world, with a war going south, a thousand Americans already dead and control of weapons capable of destroying the world at his fingertips.
    Honeybuns, either you have the soy-flour cake OR you eat it. In a country with an estimated 17-1/2 million alcohol abusers, suggesting that Democrats be both the party that feels one's pain and the party that doubts any alcoholic "is ever really cured" strikes me as one hell of a dumb idea.

    Yes, I know organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous, and alcoholics I have known personally, subscribe to the idea that alcoholism can only be contained, not cured, and I'm not disagreeing with them on that one. I figure they probably know better than I would.

    On the other hand, I don't think stigmatizing people who struggle with alcohol by imposing restrictions on what jobs they may hold is any kind of solution; and if it is, ask yourself how you'd feel about sterilizing women who've had more than one elective abortion, or barring recovering addicts from driving a school bus. This whole "Oh my God, Cheney drinks" gambit opens up the Democrats to accusations of wanting to foster a nanny-state and therefore strikes me as an extremely poor line of attack. But then, I'm not Estrich, and thank God for that, because it seems awfully cold and lonely in her world.

    Incidentally, I clicked over to Ace and read this Estrich thing shortly after reading a comment thread at Tim Blair's in which people, mostly conservative-minded people, people who really, really, really do not like Bill Clinton, were posting comments like this:

    I'm not fond of the man, but I do wish Clinton a speedy recovery and a long life.
    That comment is typical of other sentiments expressed in that thread as of this writing.

    Make of the contrast what you will.

    Posted by Ilyka at 01:49 AM | Comments (1)

    September 02, 2004

    Why Bother?

    Things making it hard for me to get back in the weblogging saddle again that are actually not computer game-related: Headlines like this one.

    So there are political conventions that don't feature "fulsome praise" for the party's nominee? In what universe? Insert standard partisan whining about absence of similar headlines about the Democratic convention, blah-diddy-blah-blah-blah. Now out of my way; I've got Sumerians to go kill.

    Posted by Ilyka at 02:06 AM | Comments (1)

    August 12, 2004

    The Complete and Utter Failure to Get It

    So this is actually a better way to spend $144 billion? You're kidding me, right? We spend a ton of dough locking down our entryways, funding agricultural subsidies in Afghanistan--because we don't spend enough on agricultural subsidies in this country--throwing 100,000 more police officers onto our streets, and basically doing far more to restrict domestic freedom than could ever be done by any so-called Patriot Act? This is better?

    This is better than deposing a guy who shoved dissidents feet-first through a plastic shredder? This is better than trying to get democracy's foot in the door of a region that produces little but poverty, oppression, fanaticism, and resentment? This is the sane person's alternative? This is supposed to be an improvement?

    This is an improvement from the point of view of a man who asserts the photograph of a U.S. Marshal pointing an automatic weapon in the face of a refugee child "warmed [his] heart." This is an improvement from the point of view of a woman who believes the Branch Davidians "blew themselves up" (or did they?) and deserved to die for belonging to a religious cult. This is an improvement for those who think our best hope for national security lies in entrusting more money and more power to the very people who bungled the job in the first place. This is an improvement in the minds of people who hate freedom--not in the minds of people who love it.

    My father is very fond of sports analogies. I am not. But even I can grasp that you have two basic strategies in this conflict: You can focus on defense, or you can focus on offense. Ideally, you spruce up both. But you know, it's funny, I'm partial to the offense. I'm partial to the idea of rattling a few cages, shaking things up a bit, making a few dictators feel a little more nervous and a lot less secure.

    I'm not nearly as partial to the idea of having more police on the streets. We have a lot of police on the streets now, and I don't know about where you live, but where I live most of them spend their time busting people for driving singly-occupied vehicles in the HOV lane and pulling over drivers for not wearing seat belts. Now you could argue--and I'll bet more than a few police officers would--that it'd help to relax enforcement on dumb laws like that, and leave policemen more time for "real" police work, but the point is, we have enough laws. We have enough rules. We have enough checkpoints. We have enough procedures.

    What we don't have is someone with the balls to say, "Hey, there! Yeah, you seven Middle Eastern guys 'bout to get on that plane there . . . you mind coming over here so we can take a better look at you?" We didn't have it on September 11, and we don't have it now, and odds are we aren't ever going to have it, because ultimately no one's willing to stand up and be the asshole, and when on rare occasions someone is willing to risk being the asshole, we waste not one minute crucifying her.

    So I'll settle for results like this:

    But in the middle of all that wariness I continue to hear the news and hear about IPs arresting hundreds of terrorists who entered the country through Iran and Syria and re arresting thousands of criminals who were set free by Saddam before March 2003 to disturb our peaceful days to come. And also I hear the news of many other countries helping with what ever they can with rebuilding Iraq and that’s not a jock or a lie, because I saw with my own eyes the warehouse where the equipments and tools and materials sent to Iraq for rebuilding it by those countries, an unbelievable stock of every thing, thousands of police cars, hundreds of army vehicles thousands of sealed containers, electricity transformers and many thing I don’t know what is it and it was by a coincidence when I had to visit the warehouse for some business actually to supply them with employees with different qualifications hundreds of them with the condition that they should be Iraqis, because these countries are trying to solve unemployment problem as well. I even told my friend who was with me in that visit “if all Iraqis knew about the things stocked and happening here they will stop complaining and they will have enough patience to wait for the better days to come.

    “Yes it’s a matter of patience and hard working no more” that’s what I told my self after all, and before I finish my wards to my self, I found my car in front of my office and look to my watch to find it was a thirty minutes and pull my brief case heading to work charged up to continue building Iraq & Iraqis.

    Because it makes more sense to me than trying to turn America into one big panic room, okay? Because if what we did amounts to "pissing away" $144 billion, I'd rather piss it away on people who might yet do something great with it than piss it away buying the Coast Guard new tracking equipment.

    You know, I don't recall nearly so much bitching about the costs of this little operation--and last I looked, peace never really did make it to Kosovo. But gosh, at least we had real "international cooperation" for that one, didn't we? So I guess it's cute to piss away money when all the cool kids are begging us to do it. Is that the trick to this line of reasoning? Does the international community operate on roughly the same dynamic as high school? Because if that's how things work in the world, it's no wonder I don't understand any of it.

    I hated high school.

    Posted by Ilyka at 07:32 AM | Comments (3)

    August 11, 2004

    Confessions of a Lazy News Reader

    Apologies for posting on the most boring, done-to-death subject in the known universe--bias in the media--but I think I've finally shaken out of my head where I stand on the whole deal:

    I want some attempt at objectivity back, damnit. I'm tired of doing my own legwork. If I have to read six competing sources just to sift the facts from the opinion, just to find out the who-what-when-where-why-and-how instead of the who-mighta, who-shoulda, who-coulda . . . then for what, exactly, are we paying journalists?

    Oh, I know we're not paying them much*, but see, no one's paying me anything just to figure out what the hell's going on here, and [something] - [nothing] = [something], so where's all that something going?

    When the whole bias-in-the-media thing became a case of the dueling bestsellers awhile back, some people suggested that maybe news consumers should just accept that bias exists; let the biases of reporters out of the closet, let the public choose their sources according to their own slants, let the consumers put their critical thinking caps back on for a minute and sort it all out, because bias can't ever truly be masked and objectivity never really existed anyway. Let's just accept it, embrace it, and move on.

    You know what that sounds like to me? That sounds like a tailor-made excuse for journalists not performing up to standard.

    You think about it with regard to any other profession, now. Do we let attorneys openly display bias? Or more specifically: Do we let public defenders flaunt bias? What kind of piss-poor public defender would you be, in fact, if you told your boss "I can't take this one, the guy's obviously guilty," or "Sorry, I don't defend Republicans" every time you were assigned a case?

    My uncle is a criminal defense attorney. We always used to ask him if he got many guilty clients. He'd answer, yes, most of them. You ever get any guilty ones off the hook? Yes, many of them. Okay . . . how do you do that and, uh, sleep at night?

    Then my uncle would reply that his job was to ensure his client received a fair trial, that the foundation of our country's legal system was its assertion of the right of every citizen a fair trial, that he believed this was important enough to make his job worth doing to the best of his ability, and besides, some of his clients were innocent. (No patriotic music played while he was saying all this, but wouldn't it be hysterical if it had?)

    That's really the only professional answer to give, isn't it? You tuck in your feelings and just do your job as well as you can. It seems so obvious I'm embarrassed I ever asked my uncle dumb questions like that.

    You don't get to display your prejudices openly, to wear your politics on your sleeve, as a caterer, a nurse, a customer service representative, a licensed contractor (imagine: "I'm sorry, I can't help you with that addition; I don't work with Democrats"), a massage therapist--no one else gets away with this nonsense. Everyone else learns to suck it up and do their jobs.

    And I know what you're thinking--that it's not an exact analogy, that it isn't as though the New York Times will only sell papers to card-carrying liberals, or as if FOX News found a way only to broadcast to Republicans (not that I think non-Republicans would mind if they did).

    That said, is it so much to ask that you cheer for Kerry on your own time?**--Or that you start defining your "own time" the way most of the rest of us do, with the knowledge that anything you do publicly has the potential to reflect on your profession as a whole?

    Could you do your job with a modicum of professionalism? Some of us are starting to really pine for the days when you at least tried to fake it.

    UPDATE: Then again, the pursuit of objectivity does seem to require at least a nodding acquaintance with the world outside one's own coterie, and we all know how difficult that can be to attain some days, huh? (Link via Kesher Talk. Read Judith's letter to ABC News; had I voted for Gore in 2000, I'd be writing a similar missive myself.)

    *Am I the only one who is driven mad by misspellings in url's? Starting saleries? Celeries? What?

    **See also here; relevant paragraph about 11 down from the start. (Which is another complaint I have about the news recently--I simply don't have four hours in which to read every piece all the way through to the interesting bits, which are increasingly buried deep in the article. If that makes me a McNews type, so be it.) Anyway, both links via a terrible awful biased (but nonjournalist) site that you should never read under any circumstances because doing so could turn you into a racist and/or Zionist oppressor.

    Posted by Ilyka at 08:37 PM | Comments (1)

    July 08, 2004

    Yellowcake, Yellowcake, Baker's Man

    Unfortunately, the guy I lifted this news from is correct in the spirit of his remarks--we'll be lucky to hear anything more about this:

    A UK government inquiry into the intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq is expected to conclude that Britain's spies were correct to say that Saddam Hussein's regime sought to buy uranium from Niger.
    And further in:
    But among Lord Butler's other areas of investigation was the issue of whether Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger. People with knowledge of the report said Lord Butler has concluded that this claim was reasonable and consistent with the intelligence.

    President George W. Bush referred to the Niger claim in his state of the union address last year. But officials were forced into a climbdown when it was revealed that the only primary intelligence material the US possessed were documents later shown to be forgeries.

    The Bush administration has since distanced itself from all suggestions that Iraq sought to buy uranium. The UK government has remained adamant that negotiations over sales did take place and that the fake documents were not part of the intelligence material it had gathered to underpin its claim.

    Here's my bet for which portion of this news may--may--actually receive extensive coverage:

    The report will say the claim that Mr Hussein could deploy chemical weapons within 45 minutes, seized on by UK prime minister Tony Blair to bolster the case for war with Iraq, was inadequately supported by the available intelligence, people familiar with its contents say .
    So maybe Bush didn't lie, but Blair lied, and Bush and Blair are both part of the same neocon cabal controlled by Ariel Sharon, and besides, people still died. So even though "Bush Lied, People Died" isn't true in the sense of being, like, factually true or whatever, it's still true in the sense of being, you know, essentially true. Like it's true in the larger sense, right?

    And speaking of people who prefer their truth, ah, supersized, an aside that's bothered me for years actually: How many of you would cross a bridge built by a corps of engineers who only dealt with truth "in the larger sense?"

    "This bridge will support my Isuzu Rodeo all the way across it, and not dump me, my family, and our camping gear into the raging river beneath, right?"

    "Well, that's true in the larger sense . . . ."

    I don't know, it's just something I've never understood about Michael Moore fans, and yes, I realize he's got jack-all to do with the beginning of this post, but if you were as amped up on cold medicine as I am right now, you'd see that there actually kind of is a connection.

    In the larger sense.

    Posted by Ilyka at 07:46 AM | Comments (1)

    June 23, 2004

    Making the Data Fit

    "Iraqis Consider Hostage Killings Against Islam," reads the headline from Xinhua Online.

    Oh good, I think. Some acknowledgement of the depravity. Good, finally. Maybe they can start signing Jim's petition.

    You'd think by now I'd know better:

    "Slaughtering the Korean hostage is something intended to offend Islam, which resents such savage acts," said Sheikh Mohamed Ali Baqir from Kadhumiyah region in central Baghdad.

    "The beneficiaries of such vicious acts are the occupying forces, for the Americans could justify their prolonged stay in Iraq," said Saad Jameel, a local journalist.

    "Americans can tell the world public opinion that the coalition forces are necessary in Iraq, and they can lobby more countries to join the anti-terror campaign," said Jameel.

    "We should understand the gist of it to be able to realize who stands behind such actions," he added.

    In my freshman Physics lab we had one experiment that would not come out right, no matter what we did. The equipment was old; the special low-friction mat had acquired enough nicks and scratches to become a high-friction surface; other apparatuses (apparati?) weren't working up to spec either. Now take a table like mine, at which two people clearly cared about getting the lab done right and two people clearly didn't care at all, at which the two people who cared about getting it right couldn't stand each other and bickered nonstop about how to proceed even on days the equipment was working, and you can see the inevitable end to it all:

    At seven minutes to end of lab we trudged over to the one table that had successfully run the experiment and attained the "correct" results, and we copied their data. Then we altered it just a bit to make it look, you know, original.

    Then we turned it in and left.

    Kind of like the other six tables who hadn't got theirs right either did. In other words, kind of like all students but four did.

    Now it's one thing to do that in a freshman Physics lab, particularly if you aren't majoring in Physics anyway and don't care if you're ever allowed near a particle accelerator in your life. I was one of the argumentative ones who initially cared about getting the experiment right, but in the end I just didn't care that much.

    (Neither did the teaching assistant, who had to have noticed how in the last 15 minutes the one "good" table was being swamped with visitors from the seven "bad" tables.)

    It's one thing to fudge data in a freshman Physics lab. It's a whole other thing to structure your world view, your cultural outlook, so that no matter what the data, the inevitable--the only--conclusion drawn is Americans Bad.

    Got radicals kidnapping noncombatants off your streets? Americans Bad. Got foreigners bailing out on you, taking their money with them when they go? Americans Bad. Got a religion, often state-sponsored in your neck of the woods, that's suffering a little public relations crisis just lately? Americans Bad.

    (Feel free to substitute "Jews" anywhere you see "Americans," by the way--they certainly do. With impunity.)

    The important thing is to reach the right conclusion, to vault your hypothesis straight past theory and into immutable stone-etched law: Americans Bad.

    Above all you should certainly avoid looking at things like unemployment and health care and civil liberties and literacy and . . . and you know something? Maybe just don't look at the data at all. Because it's a foregone conclusion: Americans Bad.

    Isn't it?

    Posted by Ilyka at 09:24 PM | Comments (3)

    June 18, 2004

    Echo Chamber

    I'd like to second this emotion. Also this, this, and (particularly) this.

    Rest in peace, Paul Johnson, Jr. May your killers never know another moment's.

    UPDATE: You people who brought to my attention "ersatz Ranger" Micah Wright . . . well, I kind of want to kick you for that, because a quick perusal of his forum (free registration required) has really added to my overall disgust level:

    Enough with the beheadings and start with the "smearing with their own shit/flashlight rapings/black hood wearing/weird handcuff poses" to rub in America's faces just how offensive this shit is when it's not being done to brown people.

    These guys need a press secretary and BAD.

    Yes. You know, that's just what I was thinking: Get me Marketing, STAT!

    Jesus wept.

    Posted by Ilyka at 10:47 PM | Comments (4)

    June 04, 2004

    Some Heads Are Gonna Roll

    Another CIA resignation:

    The CIA spy chief in charge of clandestine operations overseas announced his resignation Friday, the news coming a day after the agency's director announced he would leave next month.

    James Pavitt, a 31-year veteran of the leading U.S. spy agency, has served as Deputy Director for Operations (DDO) of the CIA for nearly five years, longer than anyone in a generation.

    The DDO is responsible for the collection of foreign intelligence. The role will now be filled by Mr. Pavitt's assistant, Stephen Kappes.

    I'd say "better late than never," except this is awfully late. And of course it has nothing to do with Tenet:

    The two resignations are not linked, though, the CIA insists. In a statement, the agency says that Mr. Pavitt decided last month to retire and that his decision is unrelated to Mr. Tenet's decision.
    But still I'm reminded of a verse from Elvis Costello's "Hand in Hand:"

    No don't ask me to apologize
    I won't ask you to forgive me
    If I'm gonna go down and out
    You're gonna come with me

    And beyond that I'm too busy to say much about this, so feel free to insert standard blogger "Heh/Indeed"-style commentary here.

    Posted by Ilyka at 10:02 PM | Comments (1)

    June 01, 2004

    I'll Stick With "Every Sperm is Sacred," Thanks

    Sometimes I don't know what I was thinking with this whole conversion-to-Catholicism thing. Particularly, I'm disgusted by the Church's inability to produce a version of the Bible that even approaches the King James version; but then again, at least I didn't go Anglican and have to read butchery like this.

    (Via Tim Blair. Oh, and don't miss this gem in the comments.)

    UPDATE: Those of you who are as obsessive about these things as I am may wish to read the extended entry for an almost-but-not-quite-as-bad rendition of the 23rd Psalm (contrasted with the King James version), courtesy of the New American Bible. See why buying a Catholic Bible isn't high on my to-do list?

    From the NAB:

    The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.

    In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength. You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name.

    Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage.

    You set a table before me as my enemies watch; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

    Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.

    From the KJV:

    The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

    He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters.

    He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

    Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

    Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

    Posted by Ilyka at 10:51 PM | Comments (6)

    May 22, 2004

    This is Why

    . . . I was so touchy about the manner in which the infamous Nick Berg "questions" were handled: "Bloggers Doubt Berg Execution Video" (via Violins on Television).

    Of course, note that no actual blogger is linked or referenced in the piece. Al Jazeera: Your Source for Unattributed Sources!

    Furthermore, I do think Al Jazeera would have raised these questions themselves had no one else helpfully stepped up to do so.

    But as it happens, plenty of bloggers did step up--some with what can only be termed unbridled enthusiasm--thus earning a generic tip of the hat from Al Jazeera.

    Think I'm being too harsh? See if you recognize any of these Al Jazeera talking points from your blog reading on the subject:

    Even at first glance, internet bloggers were asking on Thursday why Nick Berg was wearing an orange jumpsuit – just like US prisoners wear.
    . . .
    There are plenty of questions raised concerning the video too. The body is completely motionless even as the knife is brought to bear – not so much as an instinctive wriggle.
    . . .
    More graphically, some claim that cutting the throat's artery would cause a significant amount of blood to gush out. But little emerges and when the head was raised – not a drop of blood is seen to fall.
    . . .
    Other questions presented by bloggers are Berg's peculiar circumstances in the weeks before his death. Why would a private Jewish American citizen choose to wander around Iraq by himself?
    And let me address that last one particularly, because it seemed to me that for many of the bloggers and commenters I read, this seemed the hardest notion to swallow: That a man would choose to go to such an unstable country as Iraq both to do some good and to make some money.

    Here's what I will always wonder, a question to which I will probably never have the answer: What if Nick Berg had not been a Jew? What if he had been an evangelical Christian who felt "called" to apply his talents to rebuilding Iraq? Would his motives have been questioned and scrutinized as eagerly?

    Or would such questions and scrutiny have been decried by the religious right portion of the blogosphere (note: I am not using "religious right" pejoratively) as scurrilous attacks by the left-wing media against a noble martyr?

    Like I said, I'll never know. But it disturbs me to think that we may still be more willing to attribute the virtue of charity to Christians than we are to Jews.

    (By the way, the first person who comments that if he'd been Christian, he'd never have been beheaded in the first place, gets the coveted Thanks for Missing the Point, Asshole Award. Besides, we don't know that. God knows what might have happened to these girls, for example, if not for the efforts of the Northern Alliance.)

    Posted by Ilyka at 09:01 PM | Comments (2)

    May 21, 2004

    Oh My

    Really, I don't know what else to say about this:

    Intelligence suggested that Chalabi's security chief, Arras Habib, had what one top official called "contacts with the more nefarious creatures in Iran." Other U.S. officials said Habib might have given Iran information about U.S. operations in Iraq. A lawyer for Chalabi denied the accusation.
    Except that I'm inclined to give it more weight in light of the suspicions some bloggers have voiced recently. For example:
    It is becoming increasingly evident from all the violence we have witnessed over the last year, that a proxy war is being waged against the US on Iraqi soil by several countries and powers with Iraqis as the fuel and the fire, just like Lebanon was during the late seventies and eighties. The majority of Arab regimes have a huge interest in this situation continuing, not to mention Iran, and Al-Qaeda.
    What surprises me is the almost professional coordination of the uprisings in all of these areas. I'm assuming, of course, that the money and equipment supplied by our dear Mullahs in Iran is being put to use good enough, not to mention the hundreds of Pasderan and Iranian intelligence officers.. sorry I mean Iranian Shia pilgrims that have been pouring into Iraq for months now.
    It's not just bloggers:
    Reports from inside Iraq continue to suggest that Iran's conservative Islamic government is meddling in the affairs of its neighbor, according to U.S. officials and lawmakers with access to information about the instability there.
    Then again, the article linked at the top of this post is from the Detroit Free Press, the paper that can't run a spell-check:
    All agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity because Bush dislikes public reports of dissension in his administration.
    That dissension, it'll get you every time.
    Posted by Ilyka at 09:21 AM | Comments (2)

    May 19, 2004


    It's like crack with the days off for me. I just wind up wanting more, more, more. Meanwhile, have some links:

  • You know what we really should have done with Iraq? We should have pushed for greater U.N. involvement. You know, tried harder to get France and Russia on board. It would have been really invaluable to have the kind of necessary legitimacy the U.N. presence confers.

  • When the whiskey meets the vodka, God help us all. That's all I'm saying.

  • Look, people, quit depriving Jesus of his share of the gross. It isn't nice.

  • Yes, that's what the world needs: ragingly potent Vikings.

  • There are way, way, way too many possibilities with a headline as delicious as "EU Has No Place As Global Policeman," so get to work on some. I'll start:

    . . . Where by "place," we mean "competency."
    . . . Besides, it's time we looked after our own backyard for a change--ha! Ha! Now where's that cheese course?
    . . . Suggested E.U. Motto: Know Thyself, Know Thy Limitations.
    . . . But if we were going to get into the global policing business--hey, why are you laughing?
    . . . U.S. to E.U.: We'll take it from here, thanks.
  • No, of course I don't think we should be doing this sort of thing to Iraqis working for NBC. I think we should be doing it to Dan Rather. Wrong country, wrong network.

  • Can it be? Has France discovered the relationship between work and money?

  • "Why Israel Disbelieves Arafat." I'm going to go out on a limb here and say it's because Arafat's a fucking liar. Doesn't mean you shouldn't check the op-ed out anyway, though.

  • It's that whole "'eeny, meeny, miney mo' is racist" thing again. For the record, I did not know the original version of the rhyme until anti-racist activists pointed it out. So far as I ever knew, it was always, "catch a tiger by his toe." Anyway, watch what you're doing with those ice cream ads, Brits!

  • "And polio?--That was his deal too. What? Yeah, he wants you to think that's when he was born, but don't believe it. Those Skull and Bones guys, they make some freaky deals with the man below, you know what I'm sayin'? God, and the dust mites. Dust mites are eating away at the economic opportunity of American families and you know why he doesn't do anything about it? That's right: Also his bag. You can trace the little buggers right back to him. Oh, he may not have much for brains, but he sure does have friends in low places . . . ."

    Posted by Ilyka at 06:13 PM | Comments (3)
  • May 18, 2004

    And Fish Don't Swim, and the Pope Isn't Catholic

    I was going to take yet another day off from blogging, both to read some books I picked up over the weekend, and to wonder what on earth my apartment managers were thinking when they chose terra cotta as the new shade of paint around here--because it goes so well with the red-and-slate brick, don't you know--but this was irrestible: "IRA Does Not Fund Sinn Fein, Says Adams."

    Sure, Gerry. Sure. Oh, and that stuff about the kneecapping?--Pure malarkey!

    (Unrelated, except that it's another Telegraph link: And you thought American artists were nutty.)

    Posted by Ilyka at 06:44 PM | Comments (2)

    May 14, 2004

    Diagnosing the Ills of the Middle East in One Easy Sentence

    Regarding Nick Berg's death, what's it all come down to for the so-called Arab Street? Because that's what matters most, isn't it?

    The deed is condemned as much for distracting world attention from the abuse of Iraqi detainees at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison as for its brutality.
    Come again?
    The deed is condemned as much for distracting world attention from the abuse of Iraqi detainees at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison as for its brutality.
    Except you know something?--I wonder. I wonder if that's the opinion of the peoples of the Middle East, or the opinion of the Washington Post.

    It's definitely the opinion of Tehran:

    "Following the disgrace suffered by the occupiers for torturing Iraqi prisoners, Western media have broadcast pictures concerning the killing of an American national so as to create news propaganda," the Tehran Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran said Thursday.
    Right. We're all about beheading people to create propa--oh. Whoops. Seems the report left a little something out:
    The Iranian report did not mention that Berg had been beheaded, according to the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, an office of the CIA that monitors media around the world.
    Propaganda is as much about what details you leave out as what details you leave in, but I guess I don't need to tell that to the Iranian mullahs.

    Of course, as is standing policy around here, anyone who resents the distraction of Nick Berg's murder is cordially invited to have a cuppa.

    Posted by Ilyka at 05:22 PM | Comments (1)

    May 13, 2004

    Indirectly Related

    . . . to growing complaints about the news industry's treatment of Nick Berg's murder versus its treatment of Abu Ghraib, this quote comes to mind:

    In America, nobody gets to decide what is true and what is false, what is right and what is wrong without the consent--or at least the tolerance--of a plurality of the American electorate. If the electorate is wrong, only the electorate can remedy its error. Hence, appropriate respect for the people's judgment is a moral imperative as well as a political necessity.
    [Emphasis mine.] Horowitz is talking about politics, but the same admonishment applies to any free-market enterprise, including the media. Whether they'll heed it any better than most politicians do remains to be seen.
    Posted by Ilyka at 11:25 PM | Comments (1)

    Pictures of Abuse

    Ah-ha . . . the boyfriend and I were just debating this one last night: He thinks I'm advocating a Watergate-style cover-up; I think you can't cover up something that the Secretary of Defense has already bluntly disclosed in Congressional hearings. What we could do is consider the threat to American lives that releasing further photos might increase, as journalists were advised to do during World War II. (Aside: How many modern-day Democrats have forgotten Roosevelt's Office of Censorship?)

    My position is, I think, a simple one:

    (1) We already know there are additional photos and videotapes of further abuse in Iraqi prisons. This is not news.

    (2) We already know the effects of the initial release of such photos in the region.

    (3) Any further disclosures, therefore, will only serve to inflame opinion against Operation Iraqi Freedom, both at home and abroad.

    One thing I should add is that I was not, initially, against CBS's decision to publish the first set of photos. I've considered this over and over again, and I guess I can say I come down on the side of CBS here--though just barely. Anyone who's had dealings with the government, or who's worked for them, knows that their natural state is inertia. I'm not against the press sometimes giving bureaucracy a swift kick in the ass. In fact, I'm normally all for it.

    But war is not a normal situation.

    (Meanwhile, if I've incorrectly characterized my boyfriend's position on this, I'm sure he'll clarify it all on his blog sometime.)

    Posted by Ilyka at 09:53 PM | Comments (1)

    May 12, 2004


    So look: How would you like it if your daughter or son were beheaded by militant Islamic freaks who videotaped the atrocity and posted it online . . . AND THE FIRST YOU LEARNED OF IT WAS WHEN SOME REPORTER JUMPED OUT AT YOU TO GET YOUR REACTION?

    (See? See? You made me break out the all caps, Associated Press.)

    Damnit, read this. I said read it!

    And then do something. Bad enough we have inhumane sons of bitches overseas without tolerating inhumanity at home. (Yes, I know they aren't equal in scale, motivation, or scope, blah blah blah--listen, O Mighty Tree Thinker, I am talking about the forest here. When I want to know how many veins on how many leaves of how many poplars, I will call you.)

    Posted by Ilyka at 08:17 PM | Comments (0)

    May 07, 2004

    Too Legit to Live

    John Kerry, speaking at Westminster College, April 30, 2004 (emphasis added):

    The coalition should endorse the Brahimi plan for an interim Iraqi government, it should propose an international High Commissioner to work with the Iraqi authorities on the political transition, and it should organize an expanded international security force, preferably with NATO, but clearly under US command.

    Once these elements are in place, the coalition would then go to the UN for a resolution to ratify the agreement. The UN would provide the necessary legitimacy. The UN is not the total solution but it is a key that opens the door to participation by others.

    Osama bin Laden, ostensibly, as reported today:

    "The United Nations is nothing but a Zionists' tool, even if it worked under the cover of providing humanitarian aid," the voice said. "... Whoever kills Kofi Annan or the head of his commission in Iraq or a representative like Lakhdar Brahimi, he will be awarded the same prize of 10,000 grams of gold."
    Such is the price of legitimacy, eh, Kofi?

    (Via Meryl Yourish, who'd like to know why those wacky Zionists in the U.N. have been so silent on the Hatuel murders).

    Posted by Ilyka at 10:47 PM | Comments (0)

    No Mas

    Unless you'd be content to have me to blog the Berenstain Bears or the afternoon game shows as a substitute, I'm afraid the Rumblogging is over for a little while. A girl's gotta shower sometime, and sooner is preferable to later.

    In the meantime, enjoy a photo of some classic Rumsfeld-fu from the paper with the name that sounds like an old Gilda Radner impression.

    Posted by Ilyka at 09:56 PM | Comments (0)

    Wow, Never Saw That Coming

    Sen. Clinton just suggested, by contrasting the administration's handling of the events at Abu Ghraib with the treatment of Chaplain Yee, that there was a deliberate effort to suppress the abuse of prisoners by the Defense Department.

    I mean, that's just so unlike her.

    Well, another break. I should have made this a drinking game, or better yet a betting pool, because I'd have won on the question, "What's the first Rumsfeld statement Dan and the boys will seize on at the break?

    Posted by Ilyka at 07:28 PM | Comments (1)

    Passing Question

    There's something somewhere in the Constitution that says we can recall any senator who quotes from a Tom Friedman column, right?

    I haven't found it yet. I'll keep looking.

    Posted by Ilyka at 07:15 PM | Comments (0)

    Showing Photographs Makes Bad Things Worse

    I was in the kitchen and missed who ask this. My boy-is-he-lying-down-on-the-job-today boyfriend thought it was "some guy from Nebraska," and then tried to tell me it was neither Kerrey nor Hagel.

    Honey? They only get two.

    Anyway, Rumsfeld was emphatic that the release of further photographs would "make things worse." I know what he's trying to say: It'll further hamper our military efforts by inflaming opinion, both overseas and at home.

    Unfortunately, he didn't say it well.

    At all.

    I caught two instances, after the statement that the release of new photographs to the news media would make things worse, of "That's just a fact!" and one heated "You're on notice!" The only thing he didn't add was "I'm tryin' to cooperate here," which would have made the second time today someone's reminded me of Jerry Lundegaard.

    UPDATE, OR, KIDS! REMEMBER TO LEAVE LIVEBLOGGING TO THE PROFESSIONALS! Uh, did I say Kerrey? I meant this guy. Thanks bunches to blaster of Overpressure, in the comments.

    Posted by Ilyka at 07:08 PM | Comments (2)

    Liddy, Liddy, Liddy

    Could you pitch that softball just a little lower? Thanks, hon.

    Oh, God bless, bless, bless, praise God.

    (Sorry. Old SNL sketch reference. I figure only my brother will get it.)

    Posted by Ilyka at 06:57 PM | Comments (0)

    Can Rumsfeld Be Effective?

    This was just asked of Rumsfeld by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R - S. Carolina).

    "Well, let's see: I already forgot part of my testimony at home. Other than that? Way effective!"

    That wasn't his answer, obviously. He said (paraphrase), "If I thought I could not be effective, I'd resign in a minute."

    It's an answer in the spirit of the fabled Rumsfeld directness, but I'm not sure it was the most well-considered response.

    By the way, I burnt the portabellos. Also, is it just me, or does Sen. Graham look about 12 in that photo on his page?

    He doesn't look very much older on television. I wouldn't let him into an R-rated movie.

    Posted by Ilyka at 06:52 PM | Comments (2)

    What'd I Tell You

    Some reporter on ABC (you didn't think I was going to watch Dan handle this one, did you?) just opined that in terms of us making nice with the Arab world (which is really the goal of all our operations overseas, right? No?), those protestors at the hearing could be "the best thing" to happen today.

    Which they are--if by the "best thing" you mean "the thing most likely to give aid and comfort to the enemy."

    Well, it's back on. Boyfriend's switched to CBS. Must hit him.

    I'll see if I can contribute anything more to this while I try not to burn the portabellos I'm grilling.

    Posted by Ilyka at 06:42 PM | Comments (0)

    Brief Aside on the Rumsfeld Testimony

    Lieberman rocks.

    Why. Why could he not have had more Joementum.

    Posted by Ilyka at 06:13 PM | Comments (0)

    What, the Dog Ate It?

    Rumsfeld just told McCain he "didn't bring" the necessary materials to answer McCain's question.

    Dude, you can't go to Congress and tell them you forgot your homework.

    In fairness, McCain's sort of pulling a Geraldo on him, interrupting and repeating that what he's asking is a "simple question." Fine, but can we consider that it may not have simple answers?

    I also jotted down a little of the exchange between Sen. Carl Levin (D - Michigan) and Rumsfeld, because it covered something that's been on my mind from the get-go. It's imperfect; I'm a lousy "live" transcriptionist. But I figure my six visitors per hour deserve my best efforts, however crappy, so that's in the extended entry if you like.

    Right now I gotta go take an aspirin; yes, Teddy's on. I swear I just caught a hangover headache from him via the television, and I ain't even been drinking this week.

    Levin noted to Rumsfeld that one of the photos, I believe the one in which naked prisoners were piled upon each other, showed in the background soldiers going about their regular duties, apparently unconcerned by what was going on in the foreground. This, said Levin, indicated that the activities in the picture were "not aberrant behavior" but part of efforts to "extract intelligence."

    Rumsfeld responded that these "issues all being addressed in an investigation that was initiated last month," and punted to one of the military guys. Forgive me for not getting his name. This guy then talked about the Fay inquiry briefly, which didn't satisfy Levin at all. He hit back with:

    "Would you agree that the people who authorized or suggested or prompted [the abuse of prisoners] must be held accountable," whether they were of the "intelligence community or otherwise."

    Rumsfeld's response:

    "The pictures i have seen depict conduct and behavior that is so brutal and so cruel and so inhumane that anyone engaged in it or involved in it would have to be brought to justice."

    Levin asked him then, "How far up the chain of command are you willing to go?" regarding this whole bringing-to-justice thing. He had to restate the question: "Is anyone who suggested it violating our laws and standards?"

    This was met with an affirmative from Rumsfeld: "Certainly anyone who recommended the behavior I saw in those photos needs to be brought to justice."

    He'll be held to that, I imagine.

    Posted by Ilyka at 05:59 PM | Comments (0)

    Amazing Prediction

    When the evening news broadcasts Rumsfeld's testimony to Congress--which I've been watching just now--don't expect to see a whole lot of Rumsfeld.

    Expect to see overwhelming coverage of the dozen-or-so-people who started shouting "War crimes! War crimes!" when Rumsfeld paused to deliver the second part of his address.

    They weren't hustled out of there nearly fast enough to suit me, though they were probably escorted out within a minute.

    It'll look like five.

    I abhor the protest ethic. I abhor behavior like that. I don't support pro-lifers who stand outside abortion clinics shouting "baby killers!" and I don't support anti-war people who scream at a man who's trying to acknowledge his failures.

    Enough about them. You'll get your fill of them over the next few days, and if they don't make the cover of at least one national news magazine, I'll be stunned.

    Right now I'm also stunned at Rumsfeld's revelation that they had uncovered, not just new photos, but videos.

    Christ almighty.

    I appreciate Rumsfeld's statement that the aftermath of this scandal will let the world "see how a democracy" deals with "the evil in our midst." But you know what I didn't hear?

    An apology to the President.

    He did acknowledge that he "failed to elevate" the matter.

    But he also said he "only wished [he] could have" shown the photos to the President. Which begs a question:

    Why couldn't he have?

    I guess that's what we'll find out.

    Right after we debate whether the presence of a dozen loudmouths seals the Iraq=Vietnam deal once and for all, of course.

    I hate the news.

    I'm not really much of a newsblogger. I suggest you head over to the Command Post if you want more. Not seeing anything up there just at the moment, but there will be.

    UPDATE: I told you they'd be all over it.

    Posted by Ilyka at 05:30 PM | Comments (1)

    May 04, 2004

    Projection, Iranian Style

    It isn't difficult to find examples and quotations of the Palestinian slogan, "Palestine from the river to the sea." Why, look: here's a homegrown example.

    (We interrupt this post for a quick phone call from me to my home state.

    Hi . . . uh, New Jersey? Yeah, it's me . . . yeah, I know, it's really been awhile, huh? Yeah, look, I'm sorry, I know I don't call enough . . . look, I said I was sorry. Listen, quit crying for a second now. I've got something I want to say . . . no, it's not that . . . see, you know I forgave you for Bon Jovi and all, but this other thing here, this "solidarity" organization you've got--it's just like, enough is enough, okay? Please quit giving me reasons to be ashamed of my birthplace. I'm serious . . . oh, yeah? Is that so . . . well, you know what?--Screw you, too!


    And here's the ever-helpful and totally not anti-Semitic Guardian publishing a letter last year from none other, ostensibly, than one Saddam Hussein. And what's one of the phrases the old boy signs off with?

    Long live Palestine, free and Arab from the river to the sea.
    So it's free and Arab, now. Interesting modification. But the Guardian does provide a helpful explanation as a footnote for the terminally clueless [emphasis mine]:
    ** From the river Jordan to the Mediterranean sea - a phrase commonly used by those who do not recognise Israel.
    "Those who do not recognise Israel" including, I presume, the entire Guardian staff.

    "Palestine from the river to the sea," or its variants ("Palestine will be free from the river to the sea," "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free," "If Arafat is Tweedledum, then who is Tweedledee?" etc.), is a well-established Palestinian slogan with a long history of use, a slogan which expresses a clear intent to eradicate Israel. Are we all clear on that much? Good. Because if we are, then we're farther ahead than Tehran's Mehr News, which sees things a little differently:

    Israel's double standards are yet another obstacle in the way of the road map.

    If the plan was implemented Israel would dominate the Middle East and the Zionist slogan about expanding their territory “from the Nile to Euphrates” would be realized in another way.

    [Emphasis mine.]

    The bad news is that this fiction of a "Zionist slogan" isn't at all new, nor is it even a deliberate inversion of the Palestinian slogan. (And I'll give you three guesses who originated the Nile-to-Euphrates story). The good news is that currently, this Daniel Pipes article explaining its history is the first search result returned by Google.

    The second result? Oh, that'd be the Mehr News Agency again.

    Posted by Ilyka at 10:57 PM | Comments (2)

    Dumb Question

    Am I the only one who thinks the hoods were the least of it?

    Posted by Ilyka at 08:30 PM | Comments (2)

    May 02, 2004

    The Enemies List

    I don't do this often--it's bad form to just drop a link on ya and give you no added two cents--but I'll do it this time:


    And publish that list, pronto. I'm especially curious to see who shows up in the "journalists" section.

    Credit to Greatest Jeneration for the link.

    Posted by Ilyka at 09:51 AM | Comments (0)

    The Amish and the NYT and Me

    Amid all the crowing from the left and the dry-heaving from the right, one man had his thinking cap on about the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib:

    Military prison officials and guards do not do this kind of thing on their own. Torture is not a punishment, but a method of extracting intelligence.

    And that's CIA.

    Today, from the New York Times:

    The suggestion by Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski that the reservists acted at the behest of military intelligence officers could be supported in a still-classified Army report on prison conditions in Iraq that documented many of the worst abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad, including the sexual humiliation of prisoners.
    That doesn't make what happened any more excusable, but it does make me more convinced than ever that Laurence has the right idea:
    Fire George Tenet.
    Of course, some of us have wondered why he still has a job for a long, long time.
    Posted by Ilyka at 02:07 AM | Comments (1)

    April 23, 2004

    Does Not Compute

    I've looked for possible explanations to reconcile the numbers on the North Korean train explosion yesterday and haven't found any. I'm talking about this:

    The toll from a huge train blast at a North Korean railroad station was estimated today at between 54 and 150 dead and 1,249 injured. A total of 1,850 homes were leveled and 6,350 were damaged, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross in Beijing.
    That's 1,850 homes "leveled" and yet less than 1/10 that number killed? Not that I'm sorry it's so low a number, mind you; I'm just wondering if it's at all accurate, particularly given the initial reports of 3000 dead.

    Ah, I see I'm not the only one:

    Remember the early reports of September 11, the first day of the first Gulf War, or the San Francisco earthquake of 1989? All ridiculously far off of the accuracy scale. I wonder why they feel the need to put numbers out even though they must know they can’t be accurate. Who came up with 3000 and what could they have based it on?
    While 3000 may have been an overestimate, I'm sadly doubting "54" is accurate. In general, I tend to mistrust nearly any numbers provided by totalitarian states, and particularly when contrasted with details like this (note: emphasis mine):
    The train exploded Thursday afternoon, hitting Ryongchon, a manufacturing center, with the force of a small nuclear bomb, raining debris over a 10-mile radius and sending acrid smoke over the nearby border with China.
    As for whether it was a bungled assassination attempt on Kim Jong Il--dear God, I hope not. I strongly doubt it, but then, I don't hang out on Democratic Underground, you know?
    Posted by Ilyka at 04:30 PM | Comments (4)

    April 05, 2004


    Pray for Zeyad (or do whatever it is you hepcat atheists do in times of trouble . . . reason for him, maybe), and for everyone suffering in Baghdad today.

    I have no further words for this; at least, not today.

    Posted by Ilyka at 11:04 PM | Comments (2)

    April 01, 2004

    You Can't Always Give What You Want

    One of the posts I lost through my own dumbness (users = lusers, woot!) was about multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis and my experience working for the Division of TB Control in Maricopa County once upon a time. Actually, it wasn't so much about my experience as it was about the experiences, as they were related to me, of the visiting RNs who had to drive all over creation forcing patients with tuberculosis to take their INH.

    Yeah, forcing. Believe it or not, there exist people who have active tuberculosis and won't take the cure for it.

    Why not? Who knows? Oh, they had reasons--don't get me wrong. But you read 'em over and tell me if they sound like very reasonable reasons:

    "It makes my pee turn dark." (This is a known side effect and is not harmful.)

    "My cousin got out of jail and needed a car so I gave him mine but now he's back in jail because he used it in a robbery and the car was impounded and I don't have the money to get it out so I got no way to get to the pharmacy and even if I did I got no money." (Next time KEEP THE CAR. Blood is thicker than water, but TB is deadlier than either.)

    "The doctor said not to take this medication while drinking alcohol." (Not drinking the alcohol--or getting help to keep from drinking the alcohol--somehow never registers as an option.)

    I'm sure there were others I've forgotten. The point is, the ultimate reason these people wouldn't take their medication--thus endangering everyone around them, because TB is an airborne pathogen--is because they didn't want to. Period.

    You can't save people from themselves without a lot of time and money. And if TB weren't contagious, I like to think the county would have let these fools die coughing up blood. TB is contagious, however, so Maricopa County spent the time and the money. And the nurses all got ulcers and became experts on checking to make sure those pills were swallowed and not just hiding in the cheek or under the tongue.

    I left the TB Control division to work for the county's HIV/AIDS clinic because the pay was better there, but also, because it was only about 100% less depressing. The AIDS patients wanted treatment. They were (literally) dying for treatment. The TB morons didn't want any treatment. You'd tell them they could wind up needing a pneumonectomy if they didn't start taking their medications and they'd be all, so what? I got another lung still, don't I?

    Yeah, they were the minority. Most people took the INH or the Rifampin or whatever and life went on. But a stubbornly stupid minority can make life miserable for the majority. That's mainly what I learned at the Division of TB Control.

    And that's what I think's going on in Iraq, insofar as anyone in this country can tell what's going on in Iraq. This guy says we can't, because we aren't getting the whole story, because most journalists don't speak Arabic and they're too sissy to go into the really dangerous areas, unlike his own badass self. A few paragraphs down our hero, His Almighty Badazzness (and probably a distant cousin of this guy), relates sitting by as soldiers mistake a father of six for a Saddam supporter, even after the journalist recognizes a CD found in the father's belongings as being anti-Saddam. The soldiers, who can't read Arabic, only see Saddam's picture and conclude the father's a Baathist. I'll give you a cookie if you answer the following question correctly:

    The journalist speaks up and clears up the misunderstanding between the soldiers and the father:

    Journalists wonder why people like me hate 'em so much.

    Personally, I don't doubt that the kind of things this reporter describes in the article go on. I see no reason to mistrust his reportage, even if I do think he needs to take his vaunted journalistic objectivity and shove it up his ass instead of watching some poor old guy cower on the ground and taking notes on it. But whatever.

    My point is, if you read that article, you can't be too surprised by this news. See, my thinking is, you can't give people democracy. They have to want it. They have to want it bad enough to die for it. They have to be the AIDS patients who sign up for experimental protocols that might kill them just as surely as AIDS is killing them, and not the tuberculosis patients who won't take INH because it turns their pee dark. (I know being HIV-positive doesn't necessarily kill you right away anymore, but it just about did back when I was working in the clinic.)

    Otherwise, we're just sending people overseas to die for people who don't care anyway.

    This is about the point where someone pipes up with "What about Germany and Japan? We gave them democracy!"

    And that's about the point where your typical antiwar fellow shouts, "Yeah, 60 years ago! Times have changed! And Iraq isn't Germany or Japan! Apples and oranges!" Well, I'm not going to do that. (In fact, I don't get people who think that because x number of years have gone by, we can suspend the laws of human nature. Human nature doesn't change. You can carrot-and-stick it into some semblance of civilized behavior, yes--but it fundamentally does not change.)

    I don't see the harm in bringiing up Germany and Japan. I don't see any harm in comparing and contrasting the occupations there with the one in Iraq and asking, "Okay, what's different? What's similar? What did we do then that might work now? What should we avoid? What didn't we do then that we should be doing now?" Etc. This is called a-n-a-l-y-s-i-s by a-b-s-t-r-a-c-t-i-o-n. You go in knowing the situations aren't identical and you pick out the parts that are similar enough to justify reuse.

    There are nonetheless several problems with relying on analysis:

  • At some point, you're going to run into a few things you did then that wouldn't work now. You're going to have some obstacles in situation B that you never encountered in situation A. Because your situation A data can't help you here, there are going to be arguments about the best course to take in situation B.
  • One of the things that's going to come up in the course of those arguments is that some guy is going to piss on the parade just at the point the group thinks it has finally hit on the best course to take in situation B. You know the guy. The guy who says, "Uh, that won't work." Or the guy who waits until you've already implemented your solution and then says, "This isn't working."
  • When that happens, the natural human response is to shoot the messenger. Oh, yes, it is. Don't tell me how much you love hearing about new problems. Even if you think you do, you don't. No one wants to be told his solution sucks. This is why when you work for some company and the company merges or gets bought or whatever, and the new CEO calls a company-wide meeting and in the middle of his usual new-CEO spiel that everyone's tuning out while trying to look interested, he says, "And I want you to know that I have a strict open-door policy and that you can come to me with problems any time," it's all the whole room can do not to roll their eyes in unison, because everyone knows it's bullshit.
  • I'll grant that maybe one guy in a million wants to hear his solution doesn't work. One guy in a million is so in love with the problem-solving process that he's delighted to hear his solution doesn't work, because now he has a new problem to solve. And there are people who can train themselves not to rip your head off when you come to them and complain that their solution doesn't work. But inwardly? Inwardly they're wishing you'd kept your mouth shut.

    Blogwise, I'm seeing lots of shoot-the-messenger. I saw it when Zeyad posted the story about his cousin. I see it in the responses to his linking of that Reason article. The line of reasoning against such reporting on the bad news in Iraq goes, "Oh, you can't trust that reporter, because he works for [insert name of non-National-Review/FOX News/Washington Times media enterprise here], and everyone knows they're against the war."

    Or, "Oh, that story can't be true because none of the military folks I've known and worked with would ever do such a thing."

    Or, "Well, criticizing OUR BRAVE MEN AND WOMEN who DIED for you just PROVES how loathesome and ANTI-AMERICAN you people really are. YOU ALL MAKE ME SICK."

    Or even--I've seen this one more than I want to--"Oh, they just always have to focus on the negative. They don't tell you the good news."

    Look, I agree there's probably good news that doesn't get out because, I don't know if you've noticed, good news seldom gets out anywhere. Did your 5:00 p.m. local news carry thirty minutes of stories about people helping each other out, mending fences, making new friends, discovering their soul mates? Or was it five minutes of what's fucked up internationally, five minutes of what's fucked up nationally, five minutes of what's fucked up locally, and 10 minutes of what's fucked up with your health? ("YOU could be AT RISK for CANCER! An important health alert--NEXT!")

    And frankly I don't mind if a bunch of people on the internet want to stick their heads in the sand and repeat "Everything's FIIIIINNNE!" No harm, no foul. I only mind if it's the people in a position to make a difference doing it.

    And maybe there's no difference to be made there anyway, because maybe you can't always give people what you want to give them.

    But you can sure as shit hire a bunch of frazzled nurses to shove it down their bloody-minded little throats.

    It just takes a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of ulcer medication. Or in this case, a lot of soldiers.

    Posted by Ilyka at 04:19 PM | Comments (2)

    March 31, 2004

    Because Sometimes, It Just Needs Sayin'

    Bitch, get a job.

    And don't anyone come over here and get all up in my grille about my being heartless. "Heartless" is having spent as much time as this woman has on chasing the money. That's heartless.

    UPDATE 03/31/2004: It could be that Eason lacks the skillz to pay the billz.

    Posted by Ilyka at 01:49 PM | Comments (3)

    March 30, 2004

    A Fool and his Office

    . . . are soon parted in a democracy. What the hell is this, Bush? Do you have any idea how sad this looks? Oh, not that I can blame you a whit for it, not after that disastrous appearance by Condi on 60 Minutes this weekend. Here's a thought: The next time you want someone to go down in flames, send 'em out with a can of gasoline. It's faster--and just think of the ratings!

    Look, Republicans: Get off the defensive. You don't do well on the defensive--no one does, which is how we got the expression that the best defense is a good offense. The more you act as though there's something to fear in this Richard Clarke thing, the more the public will perceive that there must be.

    Here's the essence of the Richard Clarke testimony that you are not focusing on enough: The guy said one thing in his official capacity, which capacity was his job of assessing terrorist threats and capabilities, and is saying another in a personal venture that is very profitable to him. You should be flaying him alive for this. It's what's known as a "gimme." I could go to town on this part alone (and perhaps later on I will, but right now it's your turn).

    Instead, you sent poor Dr. Rice out there to insist that she can't testify, though she'd like to, because it violates a very important principle. Hey, guys, I watched the whole thing and that was it. That was all you could give us? You've got a guy making oodles of money saying you're all imbeciles who are jeopardizing the safety of Americans through your gross incompetence . . . and the best you can come up with is that testifying in public violates an important principle?

    Did you forget everything you learned from reading The Art of Political War, Mr. Bush? Or just the really important parts, like this:

    "The audiences that will determine your fate are audiences that you will first have to persuade. You will have to find a way to reach them, get them to listen, and then to support you."

    "You only have thirty seconds to make your point. Even if you had time to develop an argument, the audience you need to reach (the undecided and those in the middle who are not paying much attention) would not get it. . . . Worse, while you have been making your argument the other side has already painted you as a mean-spirited, borderline racist controlled by religious zealots, securely in the pockets of the rich. Nobody who sees you this way is going to listen to you in any case. You are politically dead."

    "Republicans often pursue a conservative strategy of waiting for the other side to attack. In football, this is known as a 'prevent defense.' In politics it is the strategy of losers."

    I'm sure the point of Condoleeza Rice repeating that testifying in public violates an important principle was to satisfy the requirements of that second quoted paragraph: You only have thirty seconds to make your point. Problem is, it must be a point that resonates with the electorate. In fact, let's see if Horowitz has something to say about that . . . why, bless my soul, he surely does:

    "In a democratic political context, the winner is the one who persuades the people to identify with him. In a democracy, this is the first--and perhaps only--principle of political war: The side of the underdog, which is the side of the people, wins."

    Now you tell me: Who comes off as the underdog here? Richard Clarke, apologizing to the American people for having failed them, wringing his hands, shaking his head, explaining his reversal of position from his 2002 testimony to his bestselling book as being due to fear of losing his job (a fear with which every American, particularly given the economic climate of the last few years, can certainly identify)?

    Or Condoleeza Rice trying to stand on a principle which she says is very important without ever saying why it is important?

    Wait--I re-read the transcript. Apparently it's important because it preserves the separation of powers. Look, try to grok something here, Republicans: Whenever you use phrases associated with high school government classes, people go narcoleptic on you. I certainly didn't recall her saying that when I watched the appearance, and I was trying to pay attention. But "separation of powers" is one of those phrases that instantly triggers visions of your fat, bald American History teacher droning, "And the three branches of our government aaarrre? . . . Anyone? . . . Anyone? . . . Bueller?"

    Condi, you only have thirty seconds and that ain't enough time for a civics lesson. Goddamn, girl, get the reasons out there and get them out there fast! Here. I even wrote you a few:

    "The problem with having a sitting National Security Advisor testify publicly is that it would politicize this critical office. There is a very real risk that future advisors would carry out their duties with a mind to protecting their jobs instead of focusing on what is important, which is ensuring the security of the American people." No one can argue that ensuring his security is not important. Score.

    "While testifying publicly would be of immense benefit to me personally, it would ultimately be to the detriment of our national security." And for crying out loud don't say anything more than that! Let Bradley ask you how it would be to the detriment of national security. Now he's playing on your field, girlfriend. As for the how, you're the Ph.D., I'm the medical transcriptionist; you figure it out. I'm sure you've got something. I can't do everything for you.

    "Frankly, I'm shocked this has even come up. To my mind, the better question is, 'Where were Richard Clarke's concerns when it was his job to voice them?' That's what keeps me awake at night--the fear that there are others like Clarke who are more concerned about their own job security than about our nation's security." He's blasting you, after all. It's more than okay to fire one back. That isn't "going negative." That's just common sense. "The side of the underdog, which is the side of the people, wins." But we like when the underdog hits back. That's why Rocky and The Karate Kid made bazillions of dollars at the box office. I SHOULD NOT HAVE TO EXPLAIN THIS TO YOU. This concept should be written in your DNA.

    Okay, honey? Okay? I'm winging these as I sit here in my bathrobe. I think in rap music it's called "freestylin'." Meanwhile you got paid consultants who sweat this stuff and charge for it. And the best you could get to was that It Violates a Very Important Principle. Take your media consultant and fire his ass. You been robbed.

    Posted by Ilyka at 04:49 PM | Comments (3)