Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Heart Touched, a Mind Opened

Things we never said come together
The hidden truth no longer haunting me
Tonight we touched on the things that were never spoken
That kind of understanding sets me free
--Elton John

Mark Morford reports:

It was one of those surreal, suspended moments, an unexpected little hiccup in the otherwise bleak sociopolitical continuum where you couldn’t help but pause and gasp and sit back and let your bitter cynicism and your hard-won ennui fall away and actually allow yourself, for now, just this once, really and truly believe what you were seeing.

Could it really be happening? Was there really any way in hell a straight white male BushCo-era Republican would dare step up to a live microphone in front of a TV camera in a major American city and honestly admit that, well, he was wrong, and he is very sorry, and he has now officially reversed his position and now fully supports gay marriage and will actually sign a city council resolution acknowledging and advocating same?

And furthermore could this politician, during said cynicism-defying announcement, actually choke back tears — real, human tears, not the fake, creepy kind you see from, say, Ted Haggard or Larry Craig or Lynne Cheney after four martinis and an hour staring at her husband — such a genuine display of emotion that you can’t help but think it might actually be coupled to a living, breathing human soul?

Yes, it happened. Just recently, down in San Diego. Jerry Sanders is the politico, and he’s apparently very much a (moderate) Republican mayor and a former police chief, and he apparently has a gay daughter no one really knew was gay and members of his mayoral staff are also gay and somehow, some way, both these facts played into his decision to reverse his position on gay marriage and go public in what has to be one of the most honest, humble and heartfelt public displays of ideological evolution by a Republican since … well, I can’t even think of any. Can you?

Coming Home

My hometown of Highlands, NC lost its soul for me sometime in the 1980s. Fritzie Sheumaker traveled back to Highlands recently to visit her father's grave at the Highlands Cemetery and wrote this wonderful account. Her writing captures the town the way it was.

When I was growing up, I thought all cemeteries were like this one -- unbelievably sited, landscaped, and secluded. If you ever go to Highlands, the cemetery is a must see, especially in the fall when the leaves are in full crimson and gold. The trees nestle the graves, creating a sacred space and the orientation is sloped towards the west so that the setting sun is visible before it fades below the ridgeline, casting long shadows over the soft rolling grass terraces.

Coming Home

"Bul-l-l-y!" Buzz Beaty would call loudly across the street whenever my father would drive by the corner filling station. Any number of fishing buddies, hunting cronies, and drinking companions habitually lounged outside the two-pump Sinclair Gas and Oil. Propped back in a motley collection of second-hand chairs, the men acted as sentries whose main purpose was keeping up with the comings and goings of townsfolk and visitors in tiny Highlands, North Carolina. Affectionately called Billy by most, my father would raise his arm in salute to the group, and, more often than not, drop by for an exchange of comfortable old fish stories, inside jokes, and outrageous lies. Long before Gomer and Goober, the gas station group included native sons with names like Buzz, Dead-Eye, Jimbo, and Pee-Wee.


Highlands always grew in the summer months. During the winter, its population was little more than 500, and most of those folk were related to five or six big families. June brought what we called "the summer people," mostly wealthy Georgians and Floridians escaping to the cool mountain air. Their summer "cottages" were usually large homes with spacious lawns and breathtaking views, and many year-round Highlands residents made their living building, painting, repairing, or cleaning these houses. Summer was a bustling time, and even the boys at the Sinclair station had to cut back on their lounging time. Still, the only traffic jam in the 1950's was two cars stopping at the town's one traffic light at the Bill's Soda Shop corner.

Bill's was a great place for ice cream or cherry Cokes. The little shop boasted a Formica counter and vinyl covered stools as well as several tables for two with curved-back ice cream parlor chairs. Two huge pinball machines dominated one wall. They had impressive light and sound effects, and the rousing TILT alarms could be heard on the sidewalk outside. A big attraction was the magazine rack where browsing was welcome and expected. One end of the rack held comic books, and I bought my childhood copies of Superman, Archie, and Little Lulu at Bill's.

Across the street was the Highlander Restaurant with substantial country fare offered inside and a row of newspaper vending machines outside. In summer one could buy the Miami Herald and Saint Petersburg Times (only a day or two old), but in winter only the Asheville Citizen box held papers. The Highlander smelled of coffee and fried everything, and its shiny red counter stools were usually full. My father would bring me here for hot chocolate after we had dropped my sister and cousins off at school. Sipping the hot liquid, I would listen to Daddy talk politics with the regulars.

Next door was Potts' Market. Owned by my mother's uncle, the grocery was a compact affair of shelves and produce bins up front and the meat case in the rear. Cousin Steve, in his blood-stained apron, managed the artful cutting of roasts and steaks to display in the glass case. We did our shopping here, of course, but often our groceries were delivered to the back door at home. The Potts family dominated the adjacent US Post Office as well, with my mother, cousin Bud, and my Uncle Nick all working to sort and post the Highlands mail. "My daddy doesn't have a job, but my mama works at the post office," my sister had once announced to neighbors. Since Daddy traveled and had no office to visit, Becky concluded he surely was unemployed.


Leaving downtown, we passed the new post office. A few old homes on this street looked the same, but rows of condominiums had replaced many familiar landmarks. At the stop sign, I noticed the lot once occupied by Crane's Riding stable was now home to a row of silver Airstream trailer homes. They were neatly positioned and surrounded with bright flowers. The same stream where we had watered the horses bubbled through, and I had to admit even a trailer park was an improvement over the stable. Neatness was never a strong suit for the Cranes, and the area around the stable was always squishy from a trickling water hose, mud, and horse manure. The building itself was a tumble-down row of stalls with ill-fitting doors and lopsided walls. Bridles and halters hung haphazardly on nails, and the Cranes themselves had learned a lot about lounging from the boys at the Sinclair station. Nevertheless, my sister and I had enjoyed many rides with Oscar and Chester Crane as we imagined ourselves as characters in National Velvet or My Friend Flicka.


Positioned on three tiers of sloping hillside, the cemetery was surrounded by dense forest. Well beyond the tops of the most distant trees, a line of the stately Appalachian mountains rose and fell against the blue sky. The mountains extended to the horizon and the farthest peaks were themselves a dark blue. The air was clear and as quiet as a majestic cathedral. Here and there among the headstones were outcroppings of granite, making the man-made markers look almost natural. It was a beautiful scene with the right to be termed a bit of heaven on earth. As I welcomed the compassionate embrace of family and friends gathered at Daddy's graveside, I thought, Daddy, it is exactly as I remembered. Welcome home.

I knew Jimbo and Dead-eye. I spent my youth playing pinball at Bill's, ate God knows how many meals at the Highlander and rode the worn out horses at Crane's. I relished the 50 cent movie matinées at the Galax Theater. A kid on a spyder bike with a banana seat, I could go anywhere as long as I was home by 5:45 for dinner.

One detail left out was the window between the theater lobby and a diner called Prof's, owned by a long-time teacher and principal, Prof Newton. You could get a hot dog, cheeseburger, fries, cherry smashes -- anything -- at the Prof's window and go enjoy the flick. I grew up in paradise.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

"A Big Family of Shits"

Louis Auchincloss tears back the veil on a slice of upper echelon WASP society and its not so pleasant impact on the country.

From the Financial Times:

As Vidal complained in the same essay for the New York Review of Books, “of all our novelists, Auchincloss is the only one who tells us how our rulers behave in their banks and their boardrooms, their law offices and their clubs. Yet such is the vastness of our society and the remoteness of academics and bookchatterers from actual power that those who should be most in this writer’s debt have no idea what a useful service he renders us by revealing and, in some ways, betraying his class.”


“It is a myth,” he continues, that a once great and powerful class of white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants has been pushed aside; the ruling class has simply eliminated the ethnic and religious bars to entry, and expanded. “Proust studied this very carefully,” he says. “He understood that society would take in anybody it wants.”

Indeed, at the very centre of American politics is the great dynastic Wasp story of our time, the Bush family (both presidents: Philips Andover – America’s Eton – Yale, Skull and Bones). Surely this is the grist for a great society novel? Auchincloss demurs. “I just think the Bushes are a big family of shits,” he says with a sibilant hiss, “they might have existed anywhere.” The statement sits oddly with the photograph on the mantelpiece, which is of the Bushes welcoming Auchincloss to the Oval Office after he was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2005. “That’s because all the grandchildren are there,” he replies, noting that he has received an enormous amount of grief from friends over the picture. As befits a lawyer, his defence is a touch legalistic: “I didn’t accept a prize from George W Bush, I accepted a prize from the President of the United States. Who am I to turn that down? The grandchildren had a lovely time!”

“I used to say to my father,” he says, “ ‘If my class at Yale ran this country, we would have no problems.’ And the irony of my life is that they did.” He pauses before invoking a 20th-century American foreign-policy who’s who: “There was Cy Vance, Bill Scranton, Ted Beale, both Bundys, Bill and McGeorge – they all got behind that war in Vietnam and they pushed it as far as they could. And we lost a quarter of a million men. They were all idealistic, good, virtuous,” says Auchincloss, “the finest men you could find. It was the most disillusioning thing that happened in my life.”

Moonshine Patriot on Hitch and Moveon

Todd: Moveon is like Chris Hitchens they're fun and you used to like them - but then they keep showing up at parties drunk and pissing on the carpet yelling ‘fuck you all’
More here.

Colbert on Blogs

Pretty scathing critique of armchair activism

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Coen Bros. Movie Premise

Man dies after armless artist's head-butt:

SNELLVILLE, Ga. - Police are investigating the death of a man who collapsed after he was head-butted by an armless man in a fight over a woman. Snellville Police Chief Roy Whitehead said the two men, Charles Keith Teer and William Russell Redfern, scuffled Monday afternoon in the driveway of a suburban Atlanta home.

Police say Redfern, who was born with no right arm and only a short stump for his left arm, kicked Teer and Teer hit Redfern during the fight, which was due to long-standing bad blood over a woman who once dated Teer and now dates Redfern.

After bystanders separated them, Redfern "came back and head-butted (Teer) one time," Whitehead said.

Teer complained of feeling dizzy, collapsed and died, Whitehead said.


Known by the nickname "Rusty," Redfern made a name for himself in the late 1980s for pen and ink drawings he does using his foot.


According to the site, he started Redfern Originals Inc. in 1987, producing Christmas cards, stationery and limited-edition prints.

At least it happened in Georgia and not North Carolina

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Doghouse Riley on the Patriot Scandal

Doghouse Riley is an irascible, aged Hoosier with wicked, literate, funny-as-hell acid in his pen. He posts on a wide variety of socio/poli/cultural issues as well as mockingly complaining about his wife henpecking him to complete home improvement projects.

He nails the Belichick spy story in my opinion.

NICE of NBC to make room in its innovative Sunday Night Football halftime show (it's four guys sitting around a table, but...only two of them are ex-jocks! And they aren't all yelling all the time! ) for an Al Michaels taped interview with Pats owner Robert Kraft (opening question: "Bob, did you have any knowledge of this practice before this week?" surprising answer: "Of course I did, Al. I've been directing it for years from my personal nuclear sub. There's just something so exciting about it. I started peeping into girls' restrooms when I was four, you know"). Because god knows in the roughly two hours of football I'd watched to that point--just football, no pre-game, halftime, or Sunday morning analysis type--I'd heard only twenty minutes or so of low-cal apologias for systematic electronic cheating of the remarkably hubristic American sort. In a game! We can no longer expect all our fellow citizens to agree that a game should be played by the rules.

Don't get me wrong. It's nice to see the Corporate Apology Kabuki in action every now and then. It reminds us why we have a Fourteenth Amendment.

One of the unexpected insights of old age is this: in a Universe of constant change, the only changes that actually matter to people are the ones which are beneath insignificance. If you buy a new suit, the third time you wear it in public young people will nudge each other and snigger at the ancient relic you've draped yourself in. A supreme non-talent like Ms Spears fumbles and stumbles her way through a lip-sync'd stroll among professional dancers--which aside from her inexplicably fascinating personal life is her one claim to fleeting fame--and the whole country goes out of its collective gourd. Yet the administration runs a Reader's Digest version of Vietnam and gets re-elected in the teeth of it a year-and-a-half later.
Make sure you read the whole thing.

The Tell-Tale Tape Recorder

The guilty convict themselves.

From The NYTimes:

Cable talking heads and gossip Web site owners covering the latest O.J. Simpson news can’t believe their lucky stars that an audio recording apparently from the incident has somehow emerged.

But the ex-wife of one of the suspects says it’s actually quite common for folks around the football great and former murder defendant to have a tape rolling.

“Many people carry recorders around him to see if they can catch him slipping to make money,” said Debbie Alexander, 41, former wife of Walter Alexander, 46, of Mesa, Arizona.

No doubt I now grew VERY pale; but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased -- and what could I do? It was A LOW, DULL, QUICK SOUND -- MUCH SUCH A SOUND AS A WATCH MAKES WHEN ENVELOPED IN COTTON. I gasped for breath, and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly, more vehemently but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why WOULD they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men, but the noise steadily increased. O God! what COULD I do? I foamed -- I raved -- I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder -- louder -- louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly , and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! -- no, no? They heard! -- they suspected! -- they KNEW! -- they were making a mockery of my horror! -- this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! -- and now -- again -- hark! louder! louder! louder! LOUDER! --

"Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! -- tear up the planks! -- here, here! -- it is the beating of his hideous heart!"

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Better iPhone for ....$133

From The Japan Times:


At the end of an alley in Taiwan's most violent city, a black Mercedes-Benz sedan blocks a sliding-glass door that opens only from within. Inside, technophiles can buy iPhone knockoffs for two-thirds the legitimate price.

With a touch-screen and Apple Inc.'s logo on the back, the "iClones" look just like the real thing. Apple won't offer iPhones — which combine a phone, music and video player with wireless Internet — in Asia until 2008. The owner of the shop in Sanchung, a Taipei suburb, says he began selling "aifungs" in December, six months before the iPhone went on sale in the U.S.

"We can't ignore iPhone because it's so hot," says Ben, who spoke on condition he be identified only by his first name because selling pirated phones is illegal.

The clones show how fast Asian counterfeiters move. Ben says his company designed the fakes from pictures posted on the Internet before Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone in January. Knockoffs cost the global economy $650 billion annually, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates. Apple spokeswoman Jennifer Bowcock wouldn't discuss how much the company loses as a result of phony products.


"The guts aren't hard," Ben says. "The hard part is the design and the exterior."


In Sanchung, Ben's clones carry a notice in fractured English that reads: "Waring. It will break the law without authorized by Apple Inc., if you use 'iPhone' logo on any electronic pruducts."

While the knockoffs resemble iPhones, they don't use Apple software. Ben says his phones have the advantage of working on any network, while iPhones connect only to AT&T Inc.'s system.

"It's the exterior we are imitating," Ben says. "If customers want functions, we can offer more and much better functions than the real phone."

"My iPhone-Fu is Greater Than Your's Mr. Jobs."

More iPhone clones and killers here.

Global Warming = Drowning in a Sea of Mammoth Shit

Actual mammoth shit!

I guess we might as well drill ANWAR if this is what we've got to look forward to:

DUVANNY YAR, Russia - Sergei Zimov bends down, picks up a handful of syrupy mud and holds it up to his nose. It smells like a cow pat, but he knows better.

“It smells like mammoth dung,” he says.

This is more than just another symptom of global warming.

For millennia, layers of animal waste and other organic matter left behind by the creatures that used to roam the Arctic tundra have been sealed inside the frozen permafrost. Now climate change is thawing the permafrost and lifting this prehistoric ooze from suspended animation.

But Zimov, a scientist who for almost 30 years has studied climate change in Russia’s Arctic, believes that as this organic matter becomes exposed to the air it will accelerate global warming faster than even some of the most pessimistic forecasts.

“This will lead to a type of global warming which will be impossible to stop,” he said.

When the organic matter left behind by mammoths and other wildlife is exposed to the air by the thawing permafrost, his theory runs, microbes that have been dormant for thousands of years spring back into action.

As a by-product they emit carbon dioxide and — even more damaging in terms of its impact on the climate — methane gas.

According to Zimov, the microbes are going to start emitting these gases in enormous quantities.

Here in Yakutia, a region in the northeastern corner of Siberia, the belt of permafrost containing the mammoth-era soil covers an area roughly the size of France and Germany combined. There is even more of it elsewhere in Siberia.

“The deposits of organic matter in these soils are so gigantic that they dwarf global oil reserves,” Zimov said.

U.S. government statistics show mankind emits about 7 billion metric tons of carbon a year.

“Permafrost areas hold 500 billion tons of carbon, which can fast turn into greenhouse gases,” Zimov said. “If you don’t stop emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere ... the Kyoto Protocol (an international pact aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions) will seem like childish prattle.”
Hmmm. I say we throw Mr. False Prophet himself, Senator Inhofe in the lake of sulfur:

"As I said on the Senate floor on July 28, 2003, "much of the debate over global warming is predicated on fear, rather than science." I called the threat of catastrophic global warming the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people," a statement that, to put it mildly, was not viewed kindly by environmental extremists and their elitist organizations."

"And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." Revelation 20:10

Haunted Child's Room

If you are easily scared, keep the lights on. Truly unnerving. - Watch more free videos

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Beyond Dilettantism...

Enrevanche points us to a very cool Ask Metafilter thread:

"What single book is the best introduction to your field (or specialization within your field) to laypeople?"
As Brother Barry points out, betcha can't just order one book.

I think my first one will be bell hooks' Teaching to Transgress. Publisher's Weekly review:

Cultural theorist hooks means to challenge preconceptions, and it is a rare reader who will be able to walk away from her without considerable thought. Despite the frequent appearance of the dry word "pedagogy," this collection of essays about teaching is anything but dull or detached. hooks begins her meditations on class, gender and race in the classroom with the confession that she never wanted to teach. By combining personal narrative, essay, critical theory, dialogue and a fantasy interview with herself (the latter artificial construct being the least successful), hooks declares that education today is failing students by refusing to acknowledge their particular histories. Criticizing the teaching establishment for employing an over-factualized knowledge to deny and suppress diversity, hooks accuses colleagues of using "the classroom to enact rituals of control that were about domination and the unjust exercise of power." Far from a castigation of her field, however, Teaching to Transgress is full of hope and excitement for the possibility of education to liberate and include. She is a gentle, though firm, critic, as in the essay "Holding My Sister's Hand," which could well become a classic about the distrust between black and white feminists. While some will find her rejection of certain difficult theory narrow-minded, it is a small flaw in an inspired and thought-provoking collection

More on the Fallon/Petraeus Thing

When I came out of semi-retirement, it was fated that Chap and I would likely resurrect our ongoing blog feud over the war.


Chap and some other mil-blogs have taken on the issue as to whether Admiral Fallon called General Petraeus an "ass-kissing little chickenshit." You can read Chap's first take on the matter here, my first comment, and then Chap's rebuttal.

Here's my next round:

{Chap wrote} What equally bizarre information are you using to expect that the cabinet-level appointee is expected and encouraged by the President to follow a different strategy than the President’s? Put in another way, what evidence do you have to think that this is so, since it flies in the face of what the military is about?
That bizarre information is American military and political history. The most accessible data to me are the pol-mil machinations of the Lincoln Administration and the Union Army. You can go read Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals among many other books to get a good idea of the infighting within the Lincoln administration. They did not speak with one voice; leaks, backstabbing, even an attempt to un-nominate Lincoln right before Atlanta fell were all part of the scene. Lincoln's lack of control, both in the military and political sense, of the Army is legendary and hardly needs to be rehashed. Other easily accessible examples are VP picks -- not done because the top guy loves 'em or is in agreement with him but historically done because it brings factions together -- JFK/LBJ, Ike/Dick, Carter/Mondale etc. Cabinet appointments are also are made with the notion of pleasing various disparate factions.

Our substitutes for parliamentary government are Presidencies which are quite frequently coalitions of different factions much as ruling majorities operate in parliamentary systems. The stronger the President's faction, the less he has to rely upon coalitions and sharing of power. The weaker the President's faction, say in the wake of a 2006 election where, to use his word, he took a "thumpin", the more concessions have to be made to other factions. In this particular case, the concession was to his father's faction, the global realists -- enter Bob Gates. Does Gates see the world in vastly different terms than the President? Don't think so. But his pivotal role and endorsement of the ISG and its findings put him squarely at odds with a president who did not want to change strategy. It is logical to assume that Gates would select people, like Fallon, to further his views in an attempt to rudder the administration towards ISG goals.

There's no slam at PAOs with the spokespuppet comment. I'm a spokespuppet and I tell my students that. The state of NC, the State Board of Education, the NC Dept of Public Instruction, all under the heavy influence of NC Citizens for Business and Industry, wrote the course of study I have to deliver and which my students are tested on and my school and district evaluated. But unlike the PAO, I have tenure and can mouth off about being a spokespuppet without real fear of retribution. He, on the other hand, has to follow orders, or so I've been told, or there are severe consequences in store.

Let's backtrack just a bit. I was remiss in my first comment to not mention the fact that there was a bit of corroboration outside the admittedly dubious Inter-Press News Service. And that corroboration came from the editorially neoconservative paper, The Washington Post, which reported on Sept 9th:
"The polite discussion in the White House Situation Room a week ago masked a sharper clash over the U.S. venture in Iraq, one that has been building since Fallon, chief of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees Middle East operations, sent a rear admiral to Baghdad this summer to gather information. Soon afterward, officials said, Fallon began developing plans to redefine the U.S. mission and radically draw down troops.

One of those plans, according to a Centcom officer, involved slashing U.S. combat forces in Iraq by three-quarters by 2010. In an interview, Fallon disputed that description but declined to offer details. Nonetheless, his efforts offended Petraeus's team, which saw them as unwelcome intrusion on their own long-term planning. The profoundly different views of the U.S. role in Iraq only exacerbated the schism between the two men.

"Bad relations?" said a senior civilian official with a laugh. "That's the understatement of the century. . . . If you think Armageddon was a riot, that's one way of looking at it."
Again, no direct confirmation of the slur, but corroboration of an environment from which it may have well sprung.

Ironically, I find the response Blackfive got from CENTCOM to be perhaps the most damning:
Thanks for your inquiry.

The story is inaccurate. Admiral Fallon and General Petraeus have an outstanding relationship.

LCDR Scott Miller
CENTCOM Public Affairs
That's a textbook non-denial denial. The story is "inaccurate?" How so? Did Fallon say General Petraeus was a "BIG......?" We have no idea. Why not categorically state that Admiral Fallon never uttered either the purported sentiment nor anything remotely like it? Outstanding relationship? First, what's that mean exactly? Second, I can have an excellent relationship with someone, especially someone I respect, get frustrated and/or disappointed with one of their actions or utterances and call them on it in harsh terms, and still have a good relationship. Good relationships don't preclude harsh words between comrades.

In spite of all the space I've burned, I don't think this is the main issue. What is the issue is a man of most excellent reputation and service being placed in a horrible situation, both militarily and politically. General Petraeus has not only been asked to pick up the pieces of a failed military policy, he has been ordered to stand in for the President as a spokesman for the war, not unlike the LCDR at CENTCOM, to defend a policy he would not appear to endorse 100%.

And has that happened before?
"Several factors kept the chiefs from challenging the president’s subterfuges. The Professional code of the military officer prohibits him or her from engaging in political activity. Actions that could have undermined the administration’s credibility and derail its ... policy could not have been undertaken lightly.

The president was lying, and he expected the chiefs to lie as well or, at least, to withhold the whole truth. Although the president should not have placed the chiefs in that position, the flag officers should not have tolerated it when he had."
That would be from one Colonel H.R. McMaster, current adviser to General Petraeus, from his Dereliction of Duty, a commentary on Vietnam. Col. McMaster has been passed over twice for promotion to Brigadier General in the past two years but one shouldn't infer anything from that as there is never anything to see; we should all just move along since Machiavelli has been rendered inoperative in the American armed forces.

Chap updates here & here.

I respond back here.

Friedman: No More Friedman Units

After both inventing the concept of the Friedman Unit as well as being one of its most prominent abusers, Thomas Friedman has decided to stop playing kick the can with Iraq and calls for setting a date for withdrawal:

The sad thing for the American people is that we have no commander in chief anymore, framing our real situation and options. The president’s description on Thursday of the stakes in Iraq was delusional. An Iraqi ally fighting for “freedom” against “extremists”? There are extremists in the Iraqi government, army and police. There is a civil war on top of tribal, neighborhood and jihadist wars, fueled not by a single Iraqi quest for freedom, but by differing quests for “justice,” revenge and, yes, democracy. The only possible self-sustaining outcome in the near term is some form of radical federalism.


There is an opportunity now for Democrats, and Americans will be listening — but they need to articulate a concrete endgame policy, and it would have to include at least three components:

First, a detailed blueprint with a fixed withdrawal date tied to a negotiation with Iraqi factions on a federal solution tied to a military redeployment plan to contain the inevitable spillover from Iraq."


Of course, it will be three Friedman Units from now before a Democrat is in the White House and before a withdrawal date could be set without fear of a veto.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Play 'em both at the same time for maximum effect. Not quite the same as playing Dark Side of the Moon with the Wizard of Oz but definitely causes altered states of consciousness.

Greenspan & Powell: BFF

Perhaps the two greatest enablers of the macro-misteps of the Bush Era are former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Fed chief Alan Greenspan. Powell enabled the President and the country into a disastrous war; Greenspan did the same with the subprime mess. And now they both want to totally absolve themselves of any responsibility and blame it all on Dubya.


From The NYTimes:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14 — Alan Greenspan, who was chairman of the Federal Reserve for nearly two decades, in a long-awaited memoir, is harshly critical of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the Republican-controlled Congress, as abandoning their party’s principles on spending and deficits.

In the 500-page book, “The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World,” Mr. Greenspan describes the Bush administration as so captive to its own political operation that it paid little attention to fiscal discipline, and he described Mr. Bush’s first two Treasury secretaries, Paul H. O’Neill and John W. Snow, as essentially powerless.

Mr. Bush, he writes, was never willing to contain spending or veto bills that drove the country into deeper and deeper deficits, as Congress abandoned rules that required that the cost of tax cuts be offset by savings elsewhere. “The Republicans in Congress lost their way,” writes Mr. Greenspan, a self-described “libertarian Republican.”

That's some libertarianism he practiced, artificially and unwisely keeping the discount rate so low so long as to enable Bush's re-election while not looking after the long-term health of the American economy. Milton Friedman spins in his grave wondering where Paul Volcker is.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Follow the Oil Money

Why is this man smiling? Could it be because of failure of American policy in Iraq?

From NYTimes, Paul Krugman writes (from behind the firewall):

...oil is pretty much the only thing Iraq has going for it. Two-thirds of Iraq’s G.D.P. and almost all its government revenue come from the oil sector. Without an agreed system for sharing oil revenues, there is no Iraq, just a collection of armed gangs fighting for control of resources.

Well, the legislation Mr. Bush promised never materialized, and on Wednesday attempts to arrive at a compromise oil law collapsed.

What’s particularly revealing is the cause of the breakdown. Last month the provincial government in Kurdistan, defying the central government, passed its own oil law; last week a Kurdish Web site announced that the provincial government had signed a production-sharing deal with the Hunt Oil Company of Dallas, and that seems to have been the last straw.

Now here’s the thing: Ray L. Hunt, the chief executive and president of Hunt Oil, is a close political ally of Mr. Bush. More than that, Mr. Hunt is a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a key oversight body.

Some commentators have expressed surprise at the fact that a businessman with very close ties to the White House is undermining U.S. policy. But that isn’t all that surprising, given this administration’s history. Remember, Halliburton was still signing business deals with Iran years after Mr. Bush declared Iran a member of the “axis of evil.”

No, what’s interesting about this deal is the fact that Mr. Hunt, thanks to his policy position, is presumably as well-informed about the actual state of affairs in Iraq as anyone in the business world can be. By putting his money into a deal with the Kurds, despite Baghdad’s disapproval, he’s essentially betting that the Iraqi government — which hasn’t met a single one of the major benchmarks Mr. Bush laid out in January — won’t get its act together. Indeed, he’s effectively betting against the survival of Iraq as a nation in any meaningful sense of the term.

The smart money, then, knows that the surge has failed, that the war is lost, and that Iraq is going the way of Yugoslavia. And I suspect that most people in the Bush administration — maybe even Mr. Bush himself — know this, too.

Bonus question: On what relevant corporate board does Mr. Hunt sit?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sometimes, Words Fail...

From the Daily Mail:

The 12-week-old macaque - who was abandoned by his mother - was close to death when it was rescued on Neilingding Island, in Goangdong Province.

After being taken to an animal hospital his health began to improve but he seemed spiritless - until he developed a friendship with a white pigeon.

The blossoming relationship helped to revive the macaque who has developed a new lease of life, say staff at the sanctuary.

I wish I had both been there to see it and actually make this incredible photograph.

h/t: Mr. Pink

Ye Olde Deluder Satan

From the Raleigh News & Observer:

As a lawyer, Mary Easley squared off with bad guys she sent to jail. As North Carolina's first lady, she is picking a fight with Captain Morgan and a buxom robot with a keg of Heineken stashed in her chest.

Easley intends to keep young people from drinking by pummeling the alcohol icons with straight talk. In a program she announced Wednesday, North Carolina teachers will tell middle schoolers that beer brewers are lying to them.

In coming years, middle school students will learn how to unravel the slick alcohol ads that inundate their televisions, computers and magazines. Can that woman really weigh 100 pounds if she is chugging 2,000 calories worth of rum and Coke a day? Will popping the top of a beer bottle really act as a cattle call for gorgeous men?

"We can't control how much they see," Easley said as she rolled out a lesson plan due to start arriving in middle schools by January. "Advertising is endemic in our culture."

Indeedy, advertising is endemic in American culture. More to the point, bullshit artistry is endemic to the United States of a Sucker Born Every Minute. As author and former advertising exec Earl Shorris noted, we are A Nation of Salesmen. I applaud any effort to stem a youngster's path towards alcoholism and I believe the First Lady of North Carolina has it right that middle school is precisely when the intervention will be most efficacious.

My concern is that the program's format calls for demonization of one particular substance and a focus on deconstructing the manipulative practices to peddle demon rum, Heineken, and wine coolers. And that lesson plan is in itself deeply and unnecessarily manipulative. Moreover, the lesson is silent on so many other messages which are manipulative. Like, how many women (or men) consume the 11 rum and Cokes a day, at a 182 calories per drink, necessary to come to the First Lady's hypothetical daily total of 2,000 calories? Moronic messages like that delivered to savvy middle schoolers (and they are savvy) will merely lead them to use Diet Coke as a mixer for the three or four drinks (at a 133 calories per, or 4 x 133 = 532, or 44 fewer calories than a Big Mac) they'll have to drink to get the desired buzz. Does that scare tactic have any traction at all in an nation of overweight youth? What about the abiding, enduring cynicism which will inevitably set in the minds of the students as the sharper ones dissect the manipulation inherent in the anti-alcohol curriculum? Is that psychological scar tissue worth the program's potential benefits?

Why not teach that ALL advertising is manipulative and teach the techniques employed? Why not teach that ALL political messages are manipulative and teach the techniques employed?

The answer is rather simple, of course. Puritanical targets are easy and nonthreatening -- tobacco, booze, and trans-fat are evil but learning how to think and evaluate marketing and political messages for oneself is inheritantly dangerous to the status quo.

And so what could be a broad, powerful unit for students on psychology and Machiavelli, with analytical skills which could be employed for a lifetime, is foregone for pushing what is ultimately state-sponsored propaganda.

This Bud's for you Mrs. Easley.

Apples Not Falling Far From Trees

Andre has a red flag, Chiang Ching's is blue
They all have hills to fly them on except for Lin Tai Yu
Dressing up in costumes, playing silly games
Hiding out in tree-tops shouting out rude names

Whistling tunes - we hide in the dunes by the seaside
Whistling tunes - we piss on the goons in the jungle
It's a knockout

If looks could kill, they probably will
In games without frontiers - war without tears
If looks could kill, they probably will
In games without frontiers - war without tears
Games without frontiers - war without tears
Games Without Frontiers
by Peter Gabriel

Updating the post below, from the Raleigh News & Observer:

A high school's controversial ban on clothing bearing flags stemmed from gang-related fights among students, Sampson County's school superintendent said today.

The Sampson School system on Wednesday lifted the flag ban at Hobbton High School after it came under fire from parents and the American Civil Liberties Union, among others.

The policy had prohibited students from wearing clothing with any kind of flag, including the American flag. As reports circulated by e-mail and on Internet chat rooms, a flurry of protests erupted.


In a statement this morning, Superintendent L. Stewart Hobbs Jr. said school officials had imposed the ban because of problems last year with students wearing foreign flags on their clothing.

Students were showing their gang colors through the flags, leading to fights and other disruptions, Hobbs said. So the principal thought it best to ban all flags in light of a previous free speech suit against the Sampson County schools, Hobbs said.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Moment of Clarity

"Well, yeah. I was just sitting here, eating my muffin, drinking my coffee, when I had what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity."

Senator Warner: Are you able to say at this time if we continue what you have laid before the congress here, this strategy. do you feel that that is making America safer?

General Petraeus: Sir, I believe this is indeed the best course of action to achieve our objectives in Iraq.

Warner: Does that make America safer?

General Petraeus: Sir I don't know actually. I have not sat down and sorted in my own mind what I have focused on and what I have been riveted on is how to accomplish the mission of the multinational force Iraq.

Crazy Leftist ACLU Defends Student's Right to Wear Flag

From the Raleigh News & Observer:

A Sampson County{North Carolina} High School that had come under fire for its ban on T-shirts bearing the American flag has reversed that policy.

In a recorded telephone message to parents and teachers, Superintendent L. Stewart Hobbs, Jr. said that the ban on flags is no longer in effect at Hobbton High School. Future dress code decisions will be made at the district level with approval of the school board.

Gayle Langston of Turkey had sounded the alarm about the policy when her daughter Jessica was told on Friday not to wear her flag shirt again. She wanted to wear her flag shirt on Tuesday, the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Langston said.


The American Civil Liberties Union also stepped into the fray, penning a letter to district officials decrying the policy.

"..This rule is a violation of the students' right to free speech under the First Amendment to the Constitution -- with regard to American flags, as well as the flags of any other country," said the letter signed by Katherine Lewis Parker, legal director of the group's North Carolina chapter.

Constitution-loving whackos...lock 'em up I say.

"Ass-kissing Little Chickenshit?"

"Allow me to give you a tiny bit of advice. If you want your own boat someday...the very worst thing you can do is worry about yourself or try to impress me. I can't stand save-asses, and I won't abide kiss-asses."

Earlier this week, The Washington Post informed us that comity between Centcom Admiral Fallon and Surge-Meister General Petraeus was lacking:
The polite discussion in the White House Situation Room a week ago masked a sharper clash over the U.S. venture in Iraq, one that has been building since Fallon, chief of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees Middle East operations, sent a rear admiral to Baghdad this summer to gather information. Soon afterward, officials said, Fallon began developing plans to redefine the U.S. mission and radically draw down troops.

One of those plans, according to a Centcom officer, involved slashing U.S. combat forces in Iraq by three-quarters by 2010. In an interview, Fallon disputed that description but declined to offer details. Nonetheless, his efforts offended Petraeus's team, which saw them as unwelcome intrusion on their own long-term planning. The profoundly different views of the U.S. role in Iraq only exacerbated the schism between the two men.

"Bad relations?" said a senior civilian official with a laugh. "That's the understatement of the century. . . . If you think Armageddon was a riot, that's one way of looking at it."
The Inter-Press News Service provides another piece of data on the Armageddon hypothesis:
Fallon told Petraeus that he considered him to be "an ass-kissing little chickenshit" and added, "I hate people like that", the sources say. That remark reportedly came after Petraeus began the meeting by making remarks that Fallon interpreted as trying to ingratiate himself with a superior.
More proof that Petraeus is a Democrat.

Sick to My Stomach

A minister wearing a button stating: "I love the Iraqi people" is:

(a) Denied entrance to the Petraeus Hearing by Capitol Police.
(b) Is gang tackled by six of the cops; they slam the minister, who is not yet under arrest, to the hard floor which...
(c) ...breaks his leg.
(d) The minister is then arrested for "assaulting a police officer." I guess as he was slammed to the floor, his fractured leg grazed another cop.

What was it we were trying to establish in Iraq exactly?

A guy wearing a button promoting love has his leg broken. A minister who was honorably discharged from the Air Force Reserve as a lieutenant in August can't enter a room to witness testimony? I think we've taken the whole Christian Nation thing a bit too far if we're snapping legs of those who preach love. People will start to think we're behaving like the Roman Empire....

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Riverbend Leaves Home

From Riverbend:

Packing that suitcase was one of the more difficult things I’ve had to do. It was Mission Impossible: Your mission, R., should you choose to accept it is to go through the items you’ve accumulated over nearly three decades and decide which ones you cannot do without. The difficulty of your mission, R., is that you must contain these items in a space totaling 1 m by 0.7 m by 0.4 m. This, of course, includes the clothes you will be wearing for the next months, as well as any personal memorabilia- photos, diaries, stuffed animals, CDs and the like.

I packed and unpacked it four times. Each time I unpacked it, I swore I’d eliminate some of the items that were not absolutely necessary. Each time I packed it again, I would add more ‘stuff’ than the time before. E. finally came in a month and a half later and insisted we zip up the bag so I wouldn’t be tempted to update its contents constantly.

The decision that we would each take one suitcase was made by my father. He took one look at the box of assorted memories we were beginning to prepare and it was final: Four large identical suitcases were purchased- one for each member of the family and a fifth smaller one was dug out of a closet for the documentation we’d collectively need- graduation certificates, personal identification papers, etc.


There was one point, during the final days of June, where I simply sat on my packed suitcase and cried. By early July, I was convinced we would never leave. I was sure the Iraqi border was as far away, for me, as the borders of Alaska. It had taken us well over two months to decide to leave by car instead of by plane. It had taken us yet another month to settle on Syria as opposed to Jordan. How long would it take us to reschedule leaving?


It was a tearful farewell as we left the house. One of my other aunts and an uncle came to say goodbye the morning of the trip. It was a solemn morning and I’d been preparing myself for the last two days not to cry. You won’t cry, I kept saying, because you’re coming back. You won’t cry because it’s just a little trip like the ones you used to take to Mosul or Basrah before the war. In spite of my assurances to myself of a safe and happy return, I spent several hours before leaving with a huge lump lodged firmly in my throat. My eyes burned and my nose ran in spite of me. I told myself it was an allergy.

We didn’t sleep the night before we had to leave because there seemed to be so many little things to do… It helped that there was no electricity at all- the area generator wasn’t working and ‘national electricity’ was hopeless. There just wasn’t time to sleep.


I cried as we left- in spite of promises not to. The aunt cried… the uncle cried. My parents tried to be stoic but there were tears in their voices as they said their goodbyes. The worst part is saying goodbye and wondering if you’re ever going to see these people again. My uncle tightened the shawl I’d thrown over my hair and advised me firmly to ‘keep it on until you get to the border’. The aunt rushed out behind us as the car pulled out of the garage and dumped a bowl of water on the ground, which is a tradition- its to wish the travelers a safe return… eventually.

The trip was long and uneventful, other than two checkpoints being run by masked men. They asked to see identification, took a cursory glance at the passports and asked where we were going. The same was done for the car behind us. Those checkpoints are terrifying but I’ve learned that the best technique is to avoid eye-contact, answer questions politely and pray under your breath. My mother and I had been careful not to wear any apparent jewelry, just in case, and we were both in long skirts and head scarves.
A lot of heartbreak.....

Study Confirms Dicks and Pussies' Brains Operate Differently

From the L.A. Times

Exploring the neurobiology of politics, scientists have found that liberals tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives because of how their brains work.


Previous psychological studies have found that conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments whereas liberals are more open to new experiences. The latest study found those traits are not confined to political situations but also influence everyday

The results show "there are two cognitive styles -- a liberal style and a conservative style," said UCLA neurologist Dr. Marco Iacoboni, who was not connected to the latest research.


Analyzing the data, Sulloway said liberals were 4.9 times as likely as conservatives to show activity in the brain circuits that deal with conflicts, and 2.2 times as likely to score in the top half of the distribution for accuracy.


Based on the results, he said, liberals could be expected to more readily accept new social, scientific or religious ideas.


Lead author David Amodio, an assistant professor of psychology at New York University, cautioned that the study looked at a narrow range of human behavior and that it would be a mistake to conclude that one political orientation was better. The tendency of conservatives to
block distracting information could be a good thing depending on the situation, he said.

Parker & Stone, of course, came to the same conclusion in their own research, presenting the findings in a more graphical, memorable fashion:

Gary Johnston: We're dicks! We're reckless, arrogant, stupid dicks. And the Film Actors Guild are pussies. And Kim Jong Il is an asshole. Pussies don't like dicks, because pussies get fucked by dicks. But dicks also fuck assholes: assholes that just want to shit on everything. Pussies may think they can deal with assholes their way. But the only thing that can fuck an asshole is a dick, with some balls. The problem with dicks is: they fuck too much or fuck when it isn't appropriate - and it takes a pussy to show them that. But sometimes, pussies can be so full of shit that they become assholes themselves... because pussies are an inch and half away from ass holes. I don't know much about this crazy, crazy world, but I do know this: If you don't let us fuck this asshole, we're going to have our dicks and pussies all covered in shit!

Monday, September 10, 2007

September When It Comes

Johnny Cash (February 26, 1932 - September 12, 2003)

I always thought it was eerie that Cash, in the spring before he passed, sang this duet with daughter Roseanne, in different studios, across the country from each other, practically foretelling the month of his death.

The Man in Black was one of our greatest poets; here's a video I put together of him singing his soul out as usual. In the end, his voice faltered a bit but his honesty remained unflinching.

A toast to J.R. Cash...and Roseanne who so ably carries the torch...

What Would Jesus Drive?

This vid's made the rounds but I still find it irresistible.

Twelve disciples don’t fit in a Pacer,
A gun rack don’t fit no Subaru,
So if you’re a truck buyer be like your messiah-er,
Only Ford pickups will do..

Alex the Counting Parrot (1976 - 2007)

I was unfamiliar with Alex and his talents which included the ability to add, distinguish colors and shapes, and may have been the only critter other than man to grasp the concept of zero. Noam Chomsky had his doubts about Alex's purported abilities which means my blog-buddy Chap will soon be adopting an African Grey.

You can listen to an NPR interview with Alex's former owner/trainer Dr. Irene Pepperberg or watch the video below.

According to Pepperberg who is a faculty member at Brandeis University, Alex was able to identify 50 different objects, seven colors and shapes, and quantities of up to six. Alex also understood the concept of bigger and smaller and same and different. Pepperberg says they were in the midst of learning basic mathematics skills.

"This was a very amazing creature," she says.

Alex also had the emotional level of a 2-year-old child, Pepperberg says. After repeating some learning trials dozens of times, Alex would become tired and throw objects off the trays with his beak. When visiting the veterinarian, Alex would go back in his cage and slam the door.

How would Alex say goodbye? Pepperberg says that she imagines it would sound something like what Alex would say to her every night before going to bed: "You be good. I love you. See you tomorrow."

Amazing critter.

Can Technology Save Us?

We have an old joke here in the South:

"What do a tornado and a divorce have in common?"

"Someone's gonna lose a trailer."

Congress is attempting to make that truism less lethal:

A bill to require all new manufactured homes to come equipped with emergency weather radios is gaining traction in Congress, pushed by a campaign promise to an Indiana woman whose 2-year-old son was killed by a tornado in 2005.


People living in mobile homes face 10 times the risk for fatalities by being hit by a tornado than those living in permanent homes, NOAA said.

Biology Fer Dems

From Harper's