February 28, 2002

Why do we hate us?

Why do we hate us?

Yep, we've got our own wackos. The non-Islamic kind. Like these ones in Kallispell, Montana.

All I can say is, I'm glad this situation is in the capable hands of Flathead County Sheriff Jim Dupont.

According to Sheriff Dupont, a license plate reform group called Project Seven (so-named because Flathead County license plates all begin with a 7) was "planning on assassinating as many cops and public officials as possible" with a massive arsenal of "weapons, ammunition, survival equipment, booby traps, body armor, explosives, bomb-making equipment, you name it."

"It all certainly supports the theory," said Sheriff Dupont, "that there was going to be big trouble." 

"Last I heard, it didn't take 30,000 rounds of ammo to kill a turkey."

That was basically the situation last I heard, too.

They've collected a lot of evidence, including a couple of encrypted hard drives, but some of the conspirators seem to have been one jump ahead of the cops.

"At one home already investigated with a search warrant, Dupont said, the place was cleaned out before officers arrived."

Outside was "a pile of burnt ashes - fresh ashes," he said.

"There went the evidence." 

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:11 PM | TrackBack

Word on the Street is,

Word on the Street is, the man is coming down on the people

Ken Layne watched the Grammys last night so we wouldn't have to. His play-by-play is by turns funny, sad, thoughtful, silly, and insightful-- and honest: even he couldn't make it through to the end.

I almost wish I had seen Michael Greene's lecture on how the kids are sucking the lifeblood out of the other kids by downloading their "inspired work." Well Mike, my blood has been sucked. I got over it. The hootenanny thing sounds like it was pretty cool; I'm glad Lucinda won, etc.

Still, I "boycotted" the Grammys this year as always. This is not some kind of protest on the basis of deeply-held beliefs or anything like that. I boycotted it in the same way I boycott Touched by an Angel: being not at all interested makes it easy. Instead, my friend Tristin and I went to the King's X bar on Piedmont in Oakland and had a pretty good time drinking and talking about this and that. We had the room off to the side mostly to ourselves, which was nice. Unfortunately, the other occupants were these two unreconstructed lefties (a hippie and his "straight-looking" friend) who were blathering on and on about "the fascist pig government" of George WM Bush (the "M" stands for "monger"--get it?) who stole the White House in a "rich white person" coup, etc. Their verdict on the war was, not surprisingly, that we are the evil ones and we deserve what we get. I know Tris pretty well, and I could tell from the way she was clutching her wine glass that she was a centiliter away from throwing its contents into one or both of their faces. Since one of them was a vaguely refrigerator-sized goon, I'm glad she was able to resist; but I could see her point.

We tried to use the jukebox to drown out their idiotic banter, but sometimes idiotic banter can break the sound barrier, that is, it can make itself heard even over the ZZ Top. (Tris probably suffered more than me, since I'm a whole lot more deaf than she is.)

Anyway, the climax of their conversation was this: the hippie got on the floor to demonstrate his yoga technique. "This is what we call fire breathing," he said, going into a kind of Lamaze method puffer-fish woman-in-labor routine. That's a hippie for you. No sense, no morals, no human decency-- and above all no personal dignity whatsoever. I think we all learned something. The hippie learned a new word ("monger.") The hippie's friend learned some valuable lessons about his chakras or something like that. But Tristin and I learned the most important lesson of all: nothing breaks the tension like a bearded man in labor. We lost it: a wave of hysterical laughter swept the dusky environs of the King's X that night.

All in all, it was probably better than the Grammys as far as entertainment value goes, though I guess I wish I'd seen the hootenanny.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:54 AM | TrackBack

February 27, 2002

Everyone has been taking the

Everyone has been taking the "ethical philosophy selector" test and posting the results, so I thought I might as well join in. My results are about what I expected:

1.  Kant   (0%)  
2.  Aquinas   (0%)  
3.  Rand   (0%)  
4.  Augustine   (0%)  
5.  Spinoza   (0%)  

Interesting... but then:

6.  Prescriptivism   (0%)  
7.  Mill   (0%)  
8.  Stoics   (0%) 
9.  Ockham   (0%)  
10.  Sartre   (0%) 
11.  Bentham   (0%) 

No surprises there. On the other hand:

12.  Aristotle   (0%)  
13.  Plato   (0%)  
14.  Epicureans   (0%)  
15.  Nietzsche   (0%)  
16.  Cynics   (0%)

Hmm... that last one gave me pause. But most people who have been reading this blog for awhile will wink knowingly at this:
17.  Noddings   (0%)

and maybe perhaps this:
18.  Hume   (0%)

However, to my surprise:
19. Hobbes   (0%)
20. Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band (73%)

Cool. I now understand myself completely.

Update: the quiz is even more illuminating when it's been pornolized.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:48 PM | TrackBack

Quote of the day... ...from

Quote of the day...

...from the VodkaPundit, on the subject of Patrick Ruffini's Condoleezza Rice for President campaign:

Finally, a President I can hit on.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:29 PM | TrackBack


Ken Layne's Foxblog column yesterday was a great piece about the out-of-touch music biz-- it's densely packed with terrific links, and I urge everyone who hasn't already done so to read it and follow all the links as you go. (I'm usually pretty lazy about this, but I did it this time because I'm so interested in the subject, and in this case it really pays off.)

"The industry" is out of touch, perhaps as never before, but at least as much as it has ever been; the Grammys are a pointless irrelevant waste of time, perhaps more than ever, but certainly as much as they have ever been; and mistreatment of the fans and "the suppliers" (i.e. musicians) by record companies has been rampant. If the industry suffers from "lost revenue" owing to illegal digital trading of songs, the head honchos have only themselves to blame. All attempts to prevent this trading from occurring will fail, and the only thing "the industry" accomplishes by refusing to acknowledge this is to make itself look even more foolish and further alienate its dwindling base of customers. As Ken says, "few will weep when the Record Industry collapses."

I agree with all of this. However, it's not going to collapse. It will, on the contrary, out of necessity re-orient itself and adjust to the changed market, acknowledging that unauthorized copying and distribution is just a part of the cost of doing business (as I assume the computer software industry does.) People are going to go on copying mp3s no matter what, and the industry will eventually figure out a way to remain profitable in the midst of this reality. I don't know exactly how they'll do this, but I'm pretty sure that, contrary to the assumptions of almost everyone who writes about this subject, it won't be to the benefit of the musicians, neither the great nor the humble. As for whether it will ultimately benefit "fans," I have my doubts about that too.

The "free music" that seems to get so many people so excited is a fallacy. Nothing is free. While it's true that the music industry is bloated, wasteful, and certainly could do with some slimming down, it's also true that producing, promoting and distributing records does cost money. Even if costs were cut considerably, a virtually free product would mean that the money to do this would have to come from somewhere besides sales, right? My best guess as to where it would come from is from advertising, sponsorship, that sort of thing. As anyone who ever listens to commercial radio knows, the kind of programming that maximizes advertisers' profits isn't always the best or most interesting kind of programming. Britney Spears (with or without naked pictures), Limp Bizkit, Madonna-- they'd have no problem getting Reebok or Pepsi to fund their big budget albums. The artists who are less appealing as product spokesmodels will be a tougher sell and have a tougher time. And my guess is that the industry will close ranks, pour their resources into the sure things, take even fewer chances than they do now, and let the rest wither away.

"Cutting out the middle man" is a phrase you often hear in these discussions. Yet in a sense, this isn't "cutting out the middle man" but rather adding more middle men (advertisers) to the A&R and development process. Other possible ways to "offset production costs" could be to devise mandatory publishing deals that funnel a greater share of the songwriter's mechanical royalties to the label; or perhaps for the label to swallow a greater portion of the broadcast royalties. There are all sorts of possibilities, as well as a certainty: if the label can figure out a way to screw the artist, they will. A further certainty: they will figure out how.

I'd love to see the industry "shaken up." Maybe it would even be a good thing to get it all out in the open; something like this narrowing process has been occurring gradually for years anyway. (I listen to music all the time, yet like a lot of people I pretty much ignore what the mainstream industry offers. Not on purpose: I'm just not all that interested in being bored.) If artists enter into disadvantageous agreements, they have only themselves to blame. They should strike out on their own instead. But ultimately the economic logic applies to the non-mainstream, too. My small independent low-budget rock band usually spends around $15,000 to record an album. Since we're pretty sure we can sell at least 10-15,000 records, our small independent label can afford to give us an advance to cover this cost. We could reduce the recording budget by cutting corners, but we can't reduce it to zero. Obviously, Reebok isn't going to come to our rescue if such recordings lose their market value and become mere promotional items that can't pay for themselves. Ken's willingness to drive to Bakersfield to buy a CD from Buck Owens rather than buy one at a store or download it is touching. But it's not $15,000 worth of touching. And Buck has already recorded those songs. What about the Buck Owenses of the future?

Things haven't progressed to the point where recordings are valueless, promotional items, of course. Maybe we'll never get there. For most independent bands, digital trading is more beneficial than harmful, since people still do buy CDs. It can be like a kind of advertising. That model only works, however, if there's some product to sell. The commercial can't be identical to the product.

Finally, no matter how evil the Record Industry is, taking someone's copyrighted material without authorization is stealing, and stealing is wrong. The fact that technology makes it easier than ever to do this, or that the behavior of big companies makes people feel better about doing it, doesn't change that. Even if some enterprising "content provider" figures out a way to turn it to his advantage, that still doesn't alter the ethics of the situation. It's still wrong if it has no market effect whatsoever, as it probably does in many cases.

Of course, ethics don't matter. In the "real world" nothing is true and everything is permitted. I'm not saying that anybody could or should try to stop the inevitable process. All I'm saying is that while this process may be inevitable, it's not an unequivocal blessing. Under the "free music" ethos, a lot of great recordings, being swapped over DSL connections even now, never would have been made in the first place.

Anyway, read Ken's column, as well as the letters from readers that he has posted. Lots of food for thought there. And, if you do end up watching the Grammys: you have my deepest sympathies.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:54 PM | TrackBack

Dude, don't get a Dell

Dude, don't get a Dell

Posted by Dr. Frank at 01:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Lileks Time James Lileks really

Lileks Time

James Lileks really goes to town on that "Guardian undercover at the Olive Garden" article by Matthew Engels that I blogged yesterday. I'm not going to pull out any quotes, because I can't choose. Oh, yes I am. Here's one:

Engels: Europeans are inclined to think that the Americans, having been late for the last two world wars, are determined to be early for the next one.

Lileks: Damned witty, Wilde. Damned witty! Deuce it all! Look: we were “late” for the last world wars like a policeman is usually late for a murder. One could easily say that Europeans are determined to be late for the next world war because they’re still feeling guilty about the last time some nutcases wanted to slaughter all the Jews. Except, of course, they’re not guilty at all. That was all Hitler’s fault. He had that big shiny hypnotism coin from the novelty catalog, and everyone just fell in his power.

You've really got to read the whole thing: it's a masterpiece.

One more quote:

Here’s the deal: we don’t need your support. But understand that if Iraqis had flown planes into Big Ben, we’d take out Saddam, because we understand that an attack on you is an attack on us. The West is not defined by Belgian edicts on acceptable levels of tomato sauce viscosity. The West is a set of ideas that need defending. Forgive us our passable wines; forgive our standardized veal. Forgive us our simple-mindedness, for we - from Alabama on outward to outer, distant Alabama and beyond - have a gut feeling that “quarrels” usually boil down to two sides. Forgive us for believing that fascism's side ought to lose.

And if we seem arrogant when it comes to beating fascism, forgive us once more, for we have something you don’t.


The Brits deserve a great deal of credit for resisting fascism, of course; but the posturing of Euro-elites (who surely include many Guardianistas) open them up to this kind of commentary. Plus, and here's the clincher: leaving aside the substance, in the battle of wits Lileks ultimately wins because his piece is funnier. Engels is going to have to crank up the wry wit and do much better next time if he hopes to out-Lilek Lileks.

At any rate, the blogosphere has not been kind to Mr. Engels. Bill Quick also has some pointed comments on his swill opinion piece. The Brits themselves are even getting into the act. At least Natalie Solent is, and so is Iain Murray who has it on good authority ("political friends," don't you know) that Engels is a "dreadful person." Strong words...

Posted by Dr. Frank at 11:52 AM | TrackBack

Sad news via Iain Murray:

Sad news via Iain Murray: the great Spike Milligan has died. Rest in peace.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 11:51 AM | TrackBack

While it comes as a

While it comes as a great relief that Natalie Solent is finally back from her "hols" and up and at 'em once again, I'm truly sorry to hear of her recent family loss: sincere condolences and sympathy go out Natalie and family.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 11:50 AM | TrackBack

Andrew Sullivan says: Be a

Andrew Sullivan says:

Be a part of blogging revolution - for as little as a few bucks!

I think when Andrew says "blogging revolution" he's referring to himself, which is is fair enough. But I'm going to go ahead and assume that I'm included, too. If he can do it, so can I. Can't I? I am the blogging revolution! And vive moi! Last year, Sullivan's $27,000 in donations was the only reason he stayed afloat. How do I stay afloat? I have no earthly idea. But you can assist in the dubious project of delaying my inevitable descent to Davy Jones's locker by tossing some dough into the Blogs of War tip jar over to the left. Andrew Sullivan will be glad you did.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:40 AM | TrackBack

Instantman strikes! Wow, Instapundit-ed overnight!

Instantman strikes!

Wow, Instapundit-ed overnight! To all the thousands (yes, thousands) of folks who are stopping by to read Tristin's beautiful essay, it's here. Welcome, new readers. If you do stick around to read some of this other stuff, thanks. And feel free to let me know what you think.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:37 AM | TrackBack

February 26, 2002

Empire Schmempire

Here's another pointed review of Empire, the dreadful best-seller by Michael Hardt and convicted Red Brigade terrorist Antonio Negri, which celebrates “the irrepressible lightness and joy of being Communist."

Hardt and Negri seek to update Marx’s Capital for the era of economic globalization. In doing so, they plunder every imaginable recent source of academic foolishness, from postcolonialism to Queer Theory to French post–structuralism, and wed it to Marx, Lenin, and even Mao, making the book a kind of up–to–the–minute manual on how to get tenure in today’s university.

Sad, and maybe even true.

The author of this review sees the book's commercial success as an indication that the nutty far left is alive and well and more powerful and dangerous than ever. Perhaps so, but I'm skeptical. The bestseller lists are full of books that are frequently bought yet seldom actually read. Next time you're at a Barnes and Noble, just pick up this book and try to read one of its five hundred impenetrable pages at random-- have fun. Here's one sentence, quoted by Alan Wolfe in his excellent review in the New Republic:

The analysis of real subsumption, when this is understood as investing not only the economic or only the cultural dimension of society but rather the social bios itself, and when it is attentive to the modalities of disciplinarity and/or control, disrupts the linear and totalitarian figure of capitalist development.

Sound like a good time?

Wolfe says that "Empire is to social and political criticism what pornography is to literature. It flirts with revolution as if one society can be replaced by another as easily as one body can be substituted for another." But a lot more tediously. The gushing New York Times review last year reflected poorly on its editorial policy, and the book's faddish popularity is no cause for celebration; but I doubt its "ideas" will ever be in a position to do much harm. After all, this is also a best-seller. So was this.

Finally, I just can't resist quoting what is perhaps my favorite sentence written about this (or any) book. This is from the Amazon.com "editorial review" by one Eric de Place:

if Hardt and Negri's vision of the world materializes, they will undoubtedly be remembered as prophetic.

Undoubtedly. (via Andrew Sullivan.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:24 PM | TrackBack

Our Canadian Friends, eh? A

Our Canadian Friends, eh?

A dimwitted "humorist" in the Canadian hipster music publication Trucker Magazine has managed to come up with what is arguably the most offensive 9/11-related document since Elizabeth Wurtzel's notorious turtleneck interview.

The "gag" is a faux-advice column called "Ask A Rich Young American."

Q. First, our condolences on your country's attack. Now that so many rich young Americans have been killed, is there a big empty gap in rich person life? Did you rise up the rich person ranking system?

A. Naah, the attack just cleaned the place up a bit. Now that the money grubbing bastard wannabes in the towers are gone, I get fewer irritating brokerage calls.

No comment necessary.

What a bunch of sick idiots. Bastards indeed.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:38 PM | TrackBack

The Laughing Noam

Noam Chomsky has a speaking engagement in Berkeley coming up. Today at a Berkeley bookstore, the guy just ahead of me in line was buying three copies of Chomsky's opportunistically-titled volume of re-packaged anti-American essays (9/11.) He also bought two tickets to the Chomsky speech, at twenty bucks apiece, and said "it's a surprise for my girlfriend-- it's our second anniversary..."

Ah, young love....

But seriously: what kind of lousy date is that?

I was going to offer some friendly advice to the guy, but thought better of it. After all he had just spent nearly $75 of his trust-fund money on the Chomsky cause, and my intervention would have been too late anyway. But believe me: $40 bucks' worth of roses or alcohol or lingerie will get you further with most chicks than a ticket to see a senile academic demagogue gnome. At least, that's been my experience...

It got me to thinking, though. Noam's really raking it in. Maybe I should re-title one of my albums...

Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Ordinarily, I don't find Tom

Ordinarily, I don't find Tom Tomorrow comics very funny-- I probably just don't "get" them. They're sarcastic parodies of hyperbolic right-wing rhetoric that doesn't actually exist, I believe. I think parodies are funnier when they refer to actual things, but maybe that's just me. That said, this one on Ann Coulter is pretty good, and funny (probably since it bounces off a genuine quote.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 01:08 PM | TrackBack

The American Soul wot I

The American Soul wot I found in the Olive Garden

The Guardian's Matthew Engel had dinner at an Olive Garden in Birmingham, Alabama and believes he has discovered the key to understanding the current state of Euro-American relations: outside the beltway, in America's hinterland, us Americans is jes plain pig ign'ant. We don' know nothin' 'bout fancy schmantzy stuck up Europe. And know what bubba? We don't care 'bout fancy schmantzy stuck up Europe. It's too damn far away. (Though them Europeans sure is nice when ya bump up against 'em at the Olive Garden-- matter of fact, I think my great grammama came here from some damn place in England, like France or somewheres.) Anyhoo, things have gotten real bad now that the ignorant, unsophisticated bumpkins have taken over the White House, too.

In Alabama, he writes:

a European visitor can expect a warm welcome, because Alabama is like that. But the locals might be just as charming to a visitor from outer space, who would be only a fraction more exotic.

Is this just how it is in the hinterland, far removed from the more sophisticated dinner tables of Washington DC? Not necessarily, when Washington is run by George Bush of Texas, Dick Cheney of Wyoming, Donald Rumsfeld of Illinois, not to mention Condoleezza Rice, from Alabama herself, and Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld's deputy, who is sometimes suspected of coming from outer space. You may not feel comfortable with the fact that the future of the planet should be decided by the representatives of voters who know so little about it. A good many senior European politicians share that concern.

No kiddin'.

Engel adds that, for a European, "over the past few weeks, Washington has seemed almost like an enemy capital." Well, not quite. But keep trying, Matt.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:16 AM | TrackBack

Jonah Goldberg vs. Pat Buchannan

Jonah Goldberg vs. Pat Buchannan

Jonah wins.

I haven't read Buchannan's book, and I'll admit there was never much chance that I ever would. (Goldberg has read it, bless him, saving the rest of us some trouble and aggravation.) When Buchannan was making the TV talk show book-promotion rounds, I noticed surprisingly few challenges like Goldberg's. Most of the ones I saw had not much more than a vague, token question about "controversy." (If there were any vigorous challenges, I may have missed them, though-- it's not like I scan the TV constantly for a Buchannan fix, so my viewing wasn't comprehensive.) I guess TV pundits like to stick together and promote each other's "product," which is irritating as only things that are the way of the world can be. Anyway, I'm glad we have Jonah to buck the trend.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:08 AM | TrackBack

February 25, 2002

My last post on the SLA for awhile...

I promise.

Todd Gitlin has weighed in on the meaning of the new SLA trials in the LA Times. He makes a good case (not difficult) that the SLA "soldiers" were the very worst of the worst, "gangsters pretending to politics." He concedes that the SLA did operate in a violent tradition, though not the "main tradition," within the New Left in the 60s and 70s. Cautioning the current left as well as the right against the view that the defendants are representative of an entire "generation of activists", he stresses "the sheer senselessness--and worse--of the SLA, whose obscurantism ("Symbionese"), vagueness ("liberation") and chutzpah ("army") were of a piece with the vileness of their tactics."

He's right of course. What is interesting here, though, is the reluctance to engage, in any serious or specific way, the issue of radical violence in the main tradition of the New Left. It's surely a relevant question when the claim is that the SLA were a "special case." Gitlin is himself no apologist for this sub-tradition, and he has harsh words for the Black Panthers. Yet, like most would-be apologists, he tends to dismiss the violent acts of non-SLA "militants" as petty and inconsequential. "Most movement violence," he writes, "was spasmodic, impulsive and targeted on property--smashing a window during an antiwar demonstration or torching your neighborhood. This was usually stupid, but it was, in some sense, sane."

I suppose that depends on how you define "sane." But is this really true? The "body count" of the SLA's predations was lower than the body count of the Baader-Meinhoff gang (who I presume were also "out of the main tradition"); it was higher, I believe, than that of the Weathermen. How many of their lunatic schemes actually "came off" is a bit beside the point: schemes there were, and the SLA weren't the only ones who hatched them. I'll concede that smashing a window isn't as bad as murdering a little old lady (though "torching your neighborhood" doesn't seem quite as harmless.) But what about manufacturing a nail bomb to be detonated at an ROTC dance, as members of the Weatherman did? A stroke of luck and their own ineptitude mercifully prevented these hip terrorists from carrying out their murderous plot (they blew themselves up while making their bomb.) Surely this fortunate "own goals" accident doesn't absolve them, or their "tradition." Suppose the SLA had botched the murder of Marcus Foster and blown themselves up instead: would they then have been part of the relatively harmless, "sane" tradition of "movement violence" too?

Gitlin is "right on," as they used to say, here:

Like the Latin American urban guerrillas from whom the SLA and other such gangs took inspiration, the [SLA] soldiers predictably drew down the wrath of the armed state and left nothing behind but the blood of their victims and of themselves. In its farcical, nightmarish way, the SLA helped inter the dreams of a decade. Whatever our political persuasion, it is worth remembering for two reasons: to remind us that murder, however adorned, is murder, and to remind us that whoever professes politics is also required to make sense.

The SLA were indeed murderers who made no sense. But I wish someone would explain how the Weatherman's "chaosify Amerikkka" program is any less nonsensical than the SLA's "death to the fascist insect that preys upon the life of the people." In all sincerity, I cannot tell the difference. Of course, most people involved in the New Left were harmless, idealistic if misguided, non-violent, ordinary folks-- they even occasionally made sense. The SLA monsters are indeed a "special case" in that regard. Yet as to the obscurantism and vagueness (not to mention chutzpah) noted by Gitlin, that seems to me to be the essence of the Maoist and Marxist-Leninist rhetoric of New Left activism, not some bizarre exception. And if the widespread "kill the pigs" ethos did lead some psychos to take it upon themselves actually to kill some pigs, shouldn't those who peddled and promoted that ethos take some responsibility?

Former Weatherman Jonathon Lerner had a thoughtful mea culpa in yesterday's Washington Post. He tells the story of a childish prank, a plot to crash a radio-controlled toy airplane into the Times Square New Years Eve ball:

None of us had ever been close to the mechanism of the dropping ball. We paused for a brief discussion of what might happen. Was there a ledge to catch any falling, possibly flaming, debris? Or would the whole rig just tumble into the crowded street? What about the people watching from across the country? Mass panic? If anyone got hurt, we shortly concluded, it would just be their tough luck: Innocent people were dying every day in Vietnam, so why not at home? In the end, we couldn't get the little engine to start in the cold, so we'll never know.

Lerner adds that he wishes he could say that he "never had another such glib discussion about the possibility of injuring innocent people." "Playing pretend politics," in Gitlin's phrase, was in fact a widespread practice that could have disastrous consequences if anybody ever managed to get the engine to start. The SLA did. This seems to me to be the heart of the problem. And it's one that few apologists for 60s "activism" seem willing to confront honestly or seriously.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 12:26 PM | TrackBack

February 24, 2002

I've been wondering when it

I've been wondering when it would finally happen: Andrew Sullivan's Sunday Times column today is about blogging. It's a good article, though there's nothing very surprising in it. The account of the evolution of andrewsullivan.com from vanity site to warblog, and the numbers and stats are pretty interesting. ($27,000 from the tip jar in 2001! So that's what it's like on the A-list!)

Even while he makes the case that blogging is shaking the foundations of traditional journalism, Sullivan, not surprisingly, focuses on blogging as a professional journalist's new medium. I agree with Richard Bennett that it's the participation of non-journalist "civilians" that is of most interest. Sullivan hints at it when he writes of his initial surprise that readers, through email, were providing and shaping a great deal of the content for his blog. I wonder how many of them have started their own blogs by now? I'm one. (I think I recall Glenn Reynolds saying he used to send in links and tips to Sullivan long before he started Instapundit-- which, of course, inspired many more waves of bloggers.) Most war- or politi-bloggers began the process as devoted readers of this or that blog, and I suspect that before they discovered the blogosphere they were devoted readers of print punditry. Though it's interesting to speculate how the phenomenon might influence the journalism profession, the really interesting angle is how the blogosphere is changing the way the most avid readers relate to political writing and commentary in the first place. As Sullivan points out, the blogosphere isn't just an environment for a more efficient, on-line, souped-up version of print punditry. It's something else. And, while there are large areas of overlap, this "something else" has, for me, pretty much replaced the old version (which used to occupy a pretty substantial part of my life.) I know I'm not the only one. (And I'd like to say, in advance of the ever-hovering accusation, that this is not "triumphalism"-- it's a simple fact.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 12:16 PM | TrackBack

February 23, 2002

The Baby and the Bathwater

I've received a great deal of feedback on my post in response to the SF Bay Guardian article on the SLA and 60s radicalism. Thanks for all the email: I'm still working through it, but it may be awhile before I get to it all.

The letters fall into two broad categories: (a) succinct expressions of approval (e.g., "Nice! Laughing my ass off...") and (b) criticism that I didn't give enough credit to all the wonderful things accomplished by the 60s generation, such as the civil rights movement. (By the way, not one correspondent attempted to defend J.H. Tompkins's article, which is a mercy.) Of course, I don't denounce everything that happened in the 60s. And allow me to go on the record as being in favor of civil rights. But it seems to me that would-be defenders of the 60s violent revolutionary tradition are fooling themselves when they try to hitch it to things like civil rights. The SLA may have seen themselves in the forefront of a struggle against racism, but that doesn't mean we have to. And in fact, no one would mistake their crazy words and despicable deeds as having anything to do with what most people understand as "civil rights." Their words and deeds don't have much to do with anything, except perhaps nihilism, the glorification of violence for its own sake, and psychopathology.

This is acknowledged by practically everyone, even, in a somewhat confused and reluctant way, by J.H. Tompkins. The defense of violent 60s radicalism, in consideration of the manifestly indefensible SLA, seems to rest on the idea that the SLA is somehow a different sort of animal, a peripheral aberration, the "bad terrorists" among a good, if occasionally misguided, breed. One correspondent, echoing Tompkins, urged that we not "throw the baby out with the bathwater."

I have thought about it a lot, and I find it difficult to distinguish baby from bathwater in this situation. The Symbionese Liberation Army, the Manson Family, the Baader-Meinhoff gang, the Red Brigades, the Weatherman/Weather Underground: where's the "baby" here? Despite superficial "stylistic" distinguishing marks, they have a great deal in common, and it outweighs the differences. They were all in the grips of the same kind of idiotic revolutionary-chiliastic ideological delusion, all believed in an imminent world-transforming hip apocalypse which justified the senseless slaughter of innocent "pigs" like Myrna Opsahl. (Some individual members may have been true believers while others were merely opportunistic common criminals mouthing the same platitudes-- it comes to the same thing.) Their rhetoric is largely indistinguishable; their methods were complementary if not always identical; and the "pigs" they killed are just as dead. It makes no sense to condemn the SLA while singing the praises of the Weather Underground. They are merely different flavors of the same poisonous substance.

Nowadays, of course, no one defends the Manson Family, and few defend the SLA. Back then, however, the hipsters of the revolution tended to stick up for one another. Most notoriously, Weatherwoman Bernardine Dorhn, speaking at a Weatherman "War Council," urged her comrades to "get into armed struggle" by adducing the example of the Manson murder of Sharon Tate:

Dig it. First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them, they even shoved a fork into a victim’s stomach! Wild!

Even among those of the New Left who didn't participate directly in the violence, there seems to have been a remarkable complacency, tolerance, and even enthusiasm for those who did. How is it that such insanity flourished among so many educated, privileged people? It's a difficult question. In order to understand "what it was like" in the 60s, we are told, "you had to be there." I wasn't "there" (or rather, I was a small child) but I'll hazard a guess. Part of it has to do with the fact that these people were all on drugs. Weren't they, practically all the time? I'm sure there were other factors, but it's hard to avoid that one.

Those who want to defend "the legacy" don't do their case any favors by trying to excuse some terrorists at the expense of others, or by uttering platitudes about "you had to be there" and violence being "in the air." In fact, speaking as one who wasn't "there" to breathe in this strangely exculpatory miasma, the more I read about "the movement" the less defensible, the less comprehensible it seems. Mercifully, there are now more of "us" than there are of "them." Bill Ayers, the Weather Underground leader whose bombing of the Pentagon was perpetrated 30 years before Osama bin Laden's, boasts at the end of his memoir that he is "guilty as Hell and free as a bird-- is this a great country or what?" It is indeed a great country, but Ayers and his apologists are a disgrace. I'm flabbergasted when people say what fine fellows the Weather Underground were; it quite literally makes me ill. And no, the words "Viet," "Nam," and "Kissinger" will not change my mind on this subject.

Anyway, here's a good page of links and resources on the Soliah case. I appreciate the feedback, even though some of you are horrifyingly wrong. Keep 'em coming.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:09 PM | TrackBack

Frottage! Bloggers bumping up against

Frottage! Bloggers bumping up against the mainstream...

Joanne Jacobs on FoxNews.com! I know the Foxblog feature is well-known by now and hardly needs to be mentioned, but I just can't help myself. It's just too cool.

Damian Penny has spotted this unusually solid article on newsblogging-- it's largely based on an email interview with Ken Layne, which probably accounts for the solidity.

Feels good...

Posted by Dr. Frank at 11:20 AM | TrackBack

February 22, 2002

Banality is Irritating... ...according to

Banality is Irritating...

...according to Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul, at a panel discussion on colonialism in India yesterday:

“My life is short. I can’t listen to banalities.”

He continued: “And this thing about colonialism, this thing about gender oppression, the very word oppression wearies me. I don’t know why. I think it is because banality irritates me.”

Vikram Seth, author of the best-selling A Suitable Boy, tried to calm Naipaul by patting him gently on the back, with disastrous effect. “What are you doing!” fumed Naipaul, throwing off his hand.

He added: “If writers just sit and talk about oppression, they’re not going to do much writing. My difference on that kind of attitude is that I have to make a living by writing.”

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:29 PM | TrackBack

Slobo-google-athon! Matt Welch's suggestion that


Matt Welch's suggestion that blogosphere denizens google the hell out of the list of signatories to one or two of the web's Free Slobodon Now! petitions has begun to gather steam. So far, they've turned up some La Rouchies and a German hooker-turned-academic, among other assorted freaks. And Harold Pinter.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:50 PM | TrackBack

Comments on Daniel Pearl The

Comments on Daniel Pearl

The best: this moving piece by Pearl's widow, Mariane, and this WSJ editorial.

The worst: this tepid, yet inflammatory message to "the Muslim World" from Louis Farrakhan, urging, in effect, that future victims be chosen more wisely:

The Muslim World must not let its hatred of America's policies cause Muslims to do harm to American citizens traveling in Muslim countries who are unaware of foreign policy and have no part in its formulation, and more than likely would not want to benefit from these policies if they knew the pain and suffering caused to others that allows our apparent economic gain.

Charles Johnson has an interesting comment on ex-hostage Terry Anderson's statement that "there was no purpose to Pearl's death, political or otherwise:"
It had a purpose to the killers. He was chosen because he worked for a high-profile American newspaper, and because he was Jewish. They videotaped the murder for a reason, and I’m sure their fellow Islamo-creeps are already trading copies. It’s a training video. It’s a recruitment tool. We’ve discovered others like it in Afghanistan’s terror camps; videos of people being shot or beheaded, their bodies desecrated. It’s inaccurate to say that the murder of Danny Pearl discredits their cause. As appalling as it may be, I’m afraid it actually advances their cause, among the dark-souled monsters lurking under the civilized world’s bed.

But his death also has a purpose for us. It’s another stark undeniable example of the utter barbarity and inhumanity of our enemies. The best tribute to Danny Pearl (and to the thousands who died on 9/11) is for the US to stay strong and committed, and to continue draining the swamp of terrorism. Because if we lose sight of the goal, they’ll be coming for us next.

Absolutely right.

Update: According to this article, Pearl's videotaped last words were "I am a Jew, and my father was a Jew."

Posted by Dr. Frank at 02:21 PM | TrackBack

The inimitable oppressor Tim Blair

The inimitable oppressor Tim Blair is the FoxBlogger of the day. (Just because he's inimitable doesn't mean we all don't try.) The column is more sharp, jagged brilliance focusing on the appalling Elizabeth Wurtzel and her much-blogged interview of shame, which will, as Tim says "likely haunt her to the grave." The antidote? Bellicose women.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 02:20 PM | TrackBack

Robot Mountain Ken Layne has

Robot Mountain

Ken Layne has been channelling my thoughts.

Either that or the elegantly under-employed, on the wings of desperation, tend to alight on the same weird psychic mountain from time to time. (It tends to be toward the end of the month; dinner time.)

Of course, you don't just magically get money. You need a plan. I came up with the perfect plan: First, I build a lifelike robot in the form of a Mafia hit man. Then I get a new, much bigger Life Insurance Policy. Then I have the robot shoot me. Then, I wait for some sort of Dracula to make me a vampire and I return to life and collect the big money.

You can try this, too ... but make sure the robot is a good one. A faulty robot blows the whole scheme.

As anybody who knows me is aware, I've been hatching a similar Robot Plan for some time. I just never had the guts to try it. The vampire part is new to me, however. Nice. Solves crucial logistical problems. Allows you to ditch the time machine. Hmm. Intriguing. I'm going to have to mull it over...

Posted by Dr. Frank at 02:16 AM | TrackBack


My friend Tristin is the publicist at Lookout Records and the smartest person I know. One of her dearest and oldest friends was on American Airlines Flight 11, which crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center on September 11th. In the intensely grief-stricken aftermath, the indecent posturing of many spokesmen for the Left in America led her to embark on a serious self-examination and re-evaluation of her politics. She wrote a powerful and heartfelt letter about it, which she sent to all her friends and associates, and which got forwarded all over the place.

A punk rock magazine, Punk Planet, asked to her to expand it into an article that they planned to run in their upcoming War on Terror issue. As it happens, the editors of Punk Planet killed the article, saying it was no longer "timely." That is their right, of course; but I'm skeptical about their explanation. Most likely they chickened out, worried that this "alternative" view would not sit well with their usual crowd and its generally Michael Moore-ish view of the world. The cover of the issue in question depicts a bomber and the word "why?" Tristin's essay is as solid and eloquent an answer as any of these people would be likely to come across and it's a shame that most of them won't.

It's long for a blog post, but I'm putting it up here because I think the punk kids who read this blog at least ought to have a chance to see it; and it's well worth reading even if you're not a punk kid.

Moving Towards The Center
Our Losses in the Wake of 9/11
by Tristin Laughter

It's hard to write an article about the events of 9/11 and the aftermath of those events. It's hard because the current political landscape seems to shift daily, with new speeches and interviews and military actions. It's also hard because one of my oldest and dearest friends was murdered on 9/11, and my own grief, though it comes in waves, is overwhelming. My friend Karleton Fyfe was killed when his airplane, American Airlines Flight 11, was hijacked and crashed into the north tower of the world trade center. He has been my friend since I was 17 years old. His widow is my lifelong best friend, Haven. They have a son, Jackson, who is 18 months old. This article is the story of my own gradual shift in political consciousness, which has been crystallized by the events of 9/11, as well as being about my personal loss. The humanity of each victim of 9/11 is an enormous story, too detailed, meaningful, and rich to even begin to be covered in a 2000 word article. To celebrate each life that was lost welds our politics to morality and to our humanity. I think any contemplation of the meaning of the events of 9/11 must begin with the recognition of the life lost, its preciousness, meaning, and beauty.

The morning of Sept.. 11th, I woke up when my cell phone rang. I didn't get to it in time. The caller ID said it was Christopher, who owns the company I work for. Oh, I will see him 45 minutes I thought lazily as I made coffee and turned on CNN, like I always do. CNN featured LAX airport which had been shut down. "Hmm, some kind of incident or crash," I thought. I couldn't figure out what the story was. I was running late so I turned off the tv, threw on my clothes and got in my car to drive to Lookout! Records, where I work. On the radio I heard the news that planes had been hijacked and crashed into the world trade towers and the pentagon. I was driving on San Pablo between San Marin and Gilman when I remembered that I had spoken to my friend Karleton the previous day, and that he had been planning to travel from Boston, where he lives, to California. "I'd better call them," I thought, "just to make sure he's ok." When I spoke to Karleton the day before, we had finalized my plans to come to Boston for Thanksgiving. It was our tradition to spend it together. He made the bird, Haven made the pies (yes, *multiple* pies for 3 people), I did the stuffing. I had said to Karleton, "I was thinking about maybe staying a week...would that be too long? Be honest." He had replied wryly "I don't know what you mean." It made me laugh. We had all gone to the beach together in July, and we had a running joke the whole time, Karleton and I, that he just couldn't understand what I meant whenever I tried to pay for anything or apologize for anything or ask if they wanted me to stay out of anything. "I don't know what you mean," he would say in the deadpannest of ways. Sheepishly I dialed the number they have had the entire 8 years they have been in Boston, knowing I was being a worrywart and bothering them needlessly. Haven's mother, Suzanne, answered. "Hi Suzanne," I said, "It's Tris." "Hi, " she said back. "I was just calling to make sure that everything is all right. I know that Karleton was supposed to have travelled today." There was a pause. "Everything is not all right, Tris." Suzanne said "Karleton was on that plane. He is gone."

In college, I declared myself a socialist. I read Trotsky and Chomsky and endured endless crates of half spoiled cauliflower being delivered to my house for Food Not Bombs. I even attended a conference in Detroit for young socialists, where we learned about identity politics and union organizing. I was committed. The only problem was that I was studying Chinese history and coming into daily contradiction between the romantic idealism of Marxism and earnest study of the atrocities its realization in China wrought upon the people. The total destruction of their personal freedom was noble, I attempted to reason, because it was in the name of ideals higher than the individual, namely, equality between the classes and sexes, the highest goal there is. The phrases "freedom" and "democracy" had become meaningless Republican-appropriated catchphrases to me, devoid of impact or content. Although I could never have articulated it then, my entire political philosophy could be summarized in two horribly false truisms: Individualism is wrong, and Morality is relative. When Haven and Karleton came to visit me at college, we had never been more different. I always think of friendship as these two strands of something, like reeds, that are growing, parallel, but are flexible. As each person grows and changes the reeds can bend away from each other, towards each other. Sometimes when you are lucky, you can stay relatively close to the same person in the long run, no matter how you both change. Even at our farthest point of distance, I still loved them. They were going to UNC, and planning for careers in business and psychology with their college studies. At the time, I judged them as apolitical materialists. I didn't find out until Karleton's funeral that while I was working at a rape crisis center in Portland, Karleton was organizing all his friends to join the UNC safe walk program, to make sure women were safe on campus. He never told me that once, even though I am sure he knew it would have impressed me. Karleton's morality and commitment to right went much deeper than any political posture or identity. I wouldn't have understood then anyway.

When Suzanne told me that Karleton was gone, I started crying right away, screaming, sobbing, shaking, all while driving. I immediately called my friend Frank, but it took me a long time to able to even tell him what happened. He told me to pull over so I did, and I just held the phone and cried. He asked if I was closer to work or home, and when I said work he said to go there and to concentrate on driving, not talking or crying, so I would be safe, and that I should call him back from work. I said ok, but then I couldn't stop crying. When I got to Lookout!, everyone was very loving and supportive, in their own shock and sadness. I made a few phone calls before going home, where 4 of my closest friends met me and stayed there continuously until I went to sleep. We sat around my little apartment, eating grapes and drinking tea. A contingent was sent to Albertson's to get junk food. I pulled out old photos, Karleton at our high school graduation. Beach vacations we had taken at 20, 25, 30. Me looking ridiculous as maid of honor at their wedding after all my hair fell out from bleaching. The first time I met their son when he was only 2 weeks old. I finally reached Haven. "Tris, " she said, in the same quiet voice she has used when she was sad since were 14 years old, "I was gonna call you today anyway. I'm pregnant again." she said, as we both cried and cried on the phone, 3000 miles apart.

The first crack in my connection to the kind of Leftism that most punks embrace came in the form of Nafta, right after I graduated from college. Nafta raised important issues about environment, capitalism, the role of the wealthy nations in regard to the development of the poorest ones, the legacies of colonialism and imperialism, the power of multinationals. I understood what I was "supposed" to think: US multinationals, like the US Government vis a vis the CIA, were only capable of bringing cultural destruction and economic enslavement to the people wherever they went, that they would chop down the rain forests and pay the people a penny and overthrow the government if it dared oppose US interests. The examples were plentiful, Guatemala, many others. I was *almost* on board, except for one thing, the part about employment opportunities being dismissible because they would necessarily be exploitive rather than fair. From what I understood about poverty in the third world, especially in the countries to our immediate south, the opportunities of employment that free trade could offer would be the difference between starving and eating, between medical care and no medical care, between children living and children dying. A job is a life, and I could not advocate depriving the poorest places in our hemisphere of employment
opportunities. It just wasn't in keeping with my other politics. Especially when I considered that the climate of American intellectualism is so different now than it was in the CIA's heyday of atrocities. The left has done a lot of good in bringing its critique to bear, so much so that now it is more difficult for the US to engage in foreign engagement of any type, overt or covert. We have become, in the post-Vietnam years, a profoundly isolationist nation, whose vision of our own role in the world is to avoid or minimize conflict, and especially avoid American lives lost, (anyone remember the pre-9/11 Powell Doctrine?). American intellectuals, Leftists in particular, see themselves first and foremost as critics of the state. In the post 9/11 era, this, obviously, is a problem.

Karleton loved being a father. He was really good at taking care of people, very loyal, very supportive, and someone who had the power to inexplicably make you feel more capable and confident due to his unshakable belief in you. Karleton was the kind of person who is so good at being good that he is almost invisible. He was funny and warm and extremely smart. I realized how profoundly I had taken him for granted for the last 13 years of my life. I watched the footage of the planes over and over. I tried not to think about what it was like for him on the plane. Mostly I tried not to think about his 2 children, born and unborn, who would never know how much he loved being their father. It is still the saddest and hardest part. At my house, for the next few days, all my friends figured out what I needed and did it. Molly called the airlines to confirm his name for me, because I couldn't bring myself to ask Haven which of the flights he had been on. Haven called and asked me to start making arrangements to come to Boston. American Airlines had assigned a "care team" to help fly the entire family to Boston to be together and so I flew as her sister. I finally got to Boston on Friday, after flying all over the country as airports closed and opened, eventually driving there from Albany in a Cadillac that American Airlines rented me. American's rep at the Albany airport had handed me $20 from her own pocket in case I needed snacks on the drive, with tears in her eyes. As I drove across Massachusetts, America was holding a moment of national silence at 7 p.m., and I could see rows of candles flickering by the Pike. I still hated Massachusetts.

After my internal conflict about Nafta, I watched my punk acquaintances develop the anti-Nafta strain into a whole new core raison d'etre with the No WTO protests and the candidacy of Nader. I could not support either. I could not oppose trade because I believe that the poverty of the third world requires immediate relief which only employment can afford. I also believe that the vague idea of "fighting globalism" is meaningless. Corporations are already global and have been for decades. It is not a matter that "the people" have any control over, or ever could. It is a rallying cry of futility. And if offers no alternative to the impoverished, unemployed people of the developing world who, frankly, need that 5 cents an hour much more than the white elite protesters could ever know. Monitoring environmental and employment issues is the correct approach. In Nader I found no discernible real politick. His views appeared to be an amalgamation of various laudable causes like environmentalism & women's rights, but with a central philosophy of "fighting globalism" which he appeared to have no real plan to do. Nader certainly did not have the background in economics to blithely write new policies, preventing trade and doubling the minimum wage without causing disastrous results. I went to his green party website and saw that he was advocating a $14 per hour minimum wage. With unemployment at its lowest, I could not believe he could advocate a move that would likely create depression-era levels of unemployment and small business bankruptcy. And if Nader was an unqualified economist, he was totally unacceptably inexperienced in the realm of foreign policy. He proposed shutting down most of our military. While many progressive people say that they would want this to happen, it is only the luxury of knowing it never will that allows them to feel this way. His candidacy was not based on anything real or substantive, and I watched in awe as so many of my friends embraced it feverishly. To support a set of ideas that you like but would not actually want enacted is the worst kind of political posturing. It is amoral. When you vote, you must consider the good of all people, not be charmed by radical chic. Nader's claims that there was no difference between the candidates and the punks and hippies buying it have cost this country and especially our environment a great deal.

I got to Boston in a daze, and I stayed in a daze for the several weeks I was there. I couldn't eat or sleep, and I would go on these walks for hours in the night, walk to Fenway, walk to downtown, walk through Brighton. I got blisters under blisters under blisters and I could not stop wanting to see Karleton. Spending the days in his house, looking at his UNC baseball cap on the knob of his closet door, holding his baby who has his same smile, I spent my evenings reading the newspapers and watching the news at a neighbor's and my nights wandering around. I felt totally helpless and useless. Coming all this way to help my best friend, I couldn't help her at all. She was enveloped in her own darkness and sadness and I couldn't reach through to her. Jackson wandered the house calling out for his daddy. We all needed each other yet could not quite reach each other. The darkness of the grief around us was so profound that it completely isolated us all. Haven, her mother, father, their partners, Karleton's parents and sister and brother in law, me, we were each completely alone in our grief, sitting together around the table, in the kitchen, on the couch. After the funeral, I went home to California, convinced that my presence was no longer helping. Since then, I have called and written very frequently, and plan to return to Boston over the holidays. If you are wondering how they are doing, I can only say, they are surviving, even though, at times, they do not want to be.

Immediately after Sept. 11 I started reading outrageous statements from prominent leftists that shocked and saddened me. The Left does not speak for me on this issue. I find Michael Moore, Ralph Nader, Noam Chomsky, Katha Politt, Susan Sontag et al's attempts to blame the U.S. for this mass murder ideologically weak and morally absurd. I have never felt more clearly my alienation from political movements in this country than I do now. To analyze the causation of the terrorists' actions is to accept their violence as a legitimate political expression. I do not. I feel the Left grasping at the idea of anti-Americanism which is its only core now that Marxism has been discredited by history. But this Anti-Americanism is not an appropriate reaction to the murder of 5000 Americans on Sept. 11. It is clear to me that the cornerstone of the American Intellectual's entire identity is dependent on his position of "critic of the state." In a situation of moral absolutism, of mass murder, as my friend Frank says, terrorism, not "terrorism", it is heartbreaking and deeply disillusioning to see Leftist political leaders attempt to justify and explain that which the human heart is not meant to be able to comprehend. Searching U.S foreign policy for the reason that 19 men hijacked jumbo jets and crashed them into public buildings is madness. Moral relativism in the face of mass murder is sickening. And I guess, even more to the point, bin Laden's Leftist apologists, like the Nation, and all the Leftists I have already namechecked, Moore, Chomsky et al , who would like to lay blame for his actions ultimately on US support of Israel & sanctions against Iraq, have the wrong analysis. Bin Laden is ambivalent about the Palestinians, and about Hussein. In fact he offered to send his men to Saudi Arabia to defend them against Iraq when Hussein invaded Kuwait. His real agenda relates to politics of the U.S's regional presence, first within his home country of Saudi Arabia. He wants the Muslim world free of non-Muslims. He is just an ethnic cleanser. So much for tolerance, diversity and the Rainbow Coalition.

My friend's murder has snapped me out of my dogmatic view that the U.S is evil, and all our political opponents must be good, must be right, must stand for justice and the deserving third world people, and tolerance and diversity. It has brought my years of thought into a crystallized place. The people who killed Karleton are not my people. I can't and won't listen to their concerns and beliefs. I won't condemn the U.S as responsible for their actions. I won't pretend that if the U.S. fights the supporters of this terrorist act, it's only for control of resources, or an articulation of American racism. Now I know, in a visceral, human way, that the United States has enemies in the global arena, enemies capable of a brutality and a barbarism which marks their depravity. If being an American Leftist today means being defending that, then, I can't be a Leftist. Fortunately, outside of youth culture, outside of punk rock world and aging baby boomers, there is a stabler and smarter Left which recognizes and contains the complexity of a truer vision of the U.S. I hope the appalling rhetoric of the Left's culture heroes in the wake of Sept. 11 gives other politicized young people pause, even if they did not lose a friend.

I support the war in Afghanistan because I believe the Al Qua'eda network is an enemy that must be eliminated. I stand almost alone in my community and in my family in this belief. I do not write this to attempt to persuade any readers to share my beliefs, but to illuminate that a life a of political engagement and thought can engender change, and clarity. A dynamic life of the mind is not one of static political thought. I know more at 30 than I did at 20. The most important thing I know, perhaps, is that I miss my friend, and that the world without him is nothing like the world with him was, and could have been.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 01:00 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

In a major policy reversal

In a major policy reversal on international hostage-taking, Bush administration officials said Wednesday that the United States might sometimes pay ransom to kidnappers.

This, as Bill Quick says, is a lousy idea.

The next sentence:

however, the officials also stressed that the government would be aggressive in recovering the money once a hostage was safely released.

This is not only lousy, but also obscene and insulting. The money isn't the bleeding issue. It has been demonstrated time and time again, in all sorts of different terrorist situations, that giving in to the demands of terrorists only encourages further terrorist actions.

According to this article, the official policy was amended because paying off the kidnappers of some oil workers in Ecuador recently "worked" in securing their release. Following this "logic," they removed this sentence from the official policy protocol:

the U.S. government "will not pay ransom, release prisoners, change its policies or agree to other acts that might encourage additional terrorism."

On the other hand, and in apparent contradiction, "State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States still believes that allowing terrorists to benefit from hostage-taking only encourages more of such acts."
"That has always been our view: that paying ransom, allowing the terrorists to acquire benefits from hostage-taking only encourages further hostage-taking," Boucher said.

"Therefore, it's important to make sure that the hostage takers, whether they're doing it for criminal reasons, financial reasons or political statements, that they don't receive any particular benefit from this."

Other than the ransom, he forgot to add.

What on earth are these people thinking?

Posted by Dr. Frank at 12:50 AM | TrackBack

February 21, 2002

Middle-Eastern Terrorists and the People

Middle-Eastern Terrorists and the People who Impersonate them on Message Boards

Best of the Web conceded yesterday that the message-board post by "Edward Said," (mentioned below) in which he issued the Altman-esque warning that he could not bear to live in a "terror-free" city was probably a hoax. New York is not going to be Said-free any time soon. Too bad.

Now Iain Murray points to this UPI report on an Arabic-language message board that supposedly has a post by Loony bin Laden, Mullah Omar, and two underlings. The six page message of condolence for the death of Pakistani religious scholar Shaikh Hamza Dani may or may not be a hoax. (It's pretty difficult to imagine a hoaxster with a six-page attention span-- but what do I know? These people are crazy...)

"If the condolence message was indeed sent by the four men, it could be taken as evidence that they were alive," wrote senior Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai in Thursday edition of the News newspaper. "It would also mean that they were in contact with each other and also with those who maintain the Web site."

Thanks for breaking it down, Rahimullah, though they could have posted it from a Virgin Megastore somewhere, with no necessary Webmaster-contact, couldn't they? That's pretty much the message board concept.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:31 AM | TrackBack

FoxBlogger of the day: Rand

FoxBlogger of the day: Rand Simberg! All right!

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:50 AM | TrackBack

Mark Steyn's great new column

Mark Steyn's great new column on America and the Rest of the West will be linked to by all and sundry before the day's out. It's difficult to choose a best excerpt, but here is perhaps my favorite:

Under Nato, America has over-guaranteed European security, reducing the Rest of the West to the status of a neurotic girlfriend you can never quite shake off, the sort who insists on moving into your pad and then keeps yakking about how she needs her space. Officially, the ROTW is side by side with America in the ‘War on Terrorism’. In practice, its principal contribution to the team effort seems to be sitting on the sidelines watching the Americans skate all over the rink and then handing them a succession of cranky 4.3s.

Once again it's laugh-out-loud material. Plus, he quotes Glenn Reynolds.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:43 AM | TrackBack

It's not easy being a

It's not easy being a hippie...

"Some passive, protesting Indiana University students are learning that it's hard to give peace a chance when someone is setting your peace sign on fire".

On Feb. 8, vandals raided a memorial set up by the protesters to honor victims of the war on terrorism, pulling off a peace sign and setting it on fire. The activists put the symbol back up, only to have it destroyed this past weekend. Undeterred, they have duct-taped the symbol back together and again put it back up...

"This is as scared as I've ever been," said Sean Bagley, who prefers to be called "Steps," as in Steps to Freedom. "It's a kind of strange feeling being a walking target all the time..."

Later, according to activist Jeff Gates, the protesters took pictures of the vandals. "We try to work with the IU police," Gates said. "The police have been real responsive, real nice..."

Added Gates: "It's not going to be an easy crusade."

Posted by Dr. Frank at 01:04 AM | TrackBack

Sensible leader in today's Telegraph,

Sensible leader in today's Telegraph, in response to the attempted poisoning of the wells in Rome:

The arrest in Rome of four Moroccans, suspected of planning to poison the water supply of the area around the American embassy, was an ominous reminder that Europe remains every bit as vulnerable as the United States to the possibility of terrorist attack...

In stark contrast to the United States, some European countries are still planning to cut their military spending, while the proposed European Rapid Reaction Force remains largely a figment of Brussels' political imagination. If America's allies are prepared to do so little to share the burden, eventually they may well become an "optional extra"- but it will be their fault for doing too little, not the United States' for doing too much.

The threat from al-Qa'eda and its like has been much diminished, thanks mainly to American action, but it has certainly not been eliminated. Nor is there any doubt that there are still regimes, some rogue, some not-so-rogue, that will aid terrorists and try to obtain weapons of mass destruction, if they think they can get away with it. It is high time that Europe's leaders recognised that we, on this side of the Atlantic, are just as likely to find ourselves the target of such people as is the United States. This carping at America for taking the lead against a menace that we all face is demeaning and weakening.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 12:54 AM | TrackBack

More backpedaling from EU honchos

More backpedaling from EU honchos on their "get tough with Uncle Sam" routine. Or maybe they're just puncturing their own trial balloon. My favorite quote is from Chris Patten (who admitted he "lost his cool" in his recent Guardian interview):

It would be a tragedy if Saddam Hussein got the impression that he could play off one group of countries against another.

Gee, where do you think he'd get that impression, Chris? Tragic is as tragic does. Not that it matters a great deal, of course, as Patten recognizes:
Mr Patten acknowledged that there was a basis for US irritation with an EU left far behind by America's vastly greater military spending and global reach.

"The most irritating thing about working with Europe is the number of times that our rhetoric outstrips what we are actually willing or able to do," he admitted. "For American criticism of us to focus on that is entirely legitimate."

Cool. We win the EU legitimacy award. Now get out of our way.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 12:05 AM | TrackBack

Blog Quandary I can't decide

Blog Quandary

I can't decide which is the funniest: (a) Tim Blair's "audition" column for the Arab News; (b) Ken Layne's " World's Unluckiest Suicide Bombers;" or (c) James Lileks's Loathsome Little Nazi.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 12:03 AM | TrackBack

February 20, 2002

That's no femme, that's my

That's no femme, that's my wife!

Matt Welch had an "enough already with the French-bashing" post last week, concluding with "...if you want to keep condemning all the French, realize that you are, in fact, condemning my wife." *Blush* For my part, I've been meaning to issue some kind of apology to Matt, his lovely wife, and anybody else's French wife, for flagrantly indulging in this guilty pleasure from time to time-- sometimes, you just can't help yourself. The fact is that the EU, being ridiculous, is easy to ridicule. It has become increasingly clear that the elite groups which control it are more or less completely out of step with the public they supposedly represent, which is all the more reason to question these elites. But ridiculing the "sophisticated" pretensions of the French foreign minister when he lectures the US is one thing. Denouncing "the French," or "the Europeans" en masse is quite another, though doing so has a long and illustrious history in Anglo-American culture, and is never going to go away. It is, indeed, a great deal of fun. But it doesn't make much sense, strictly speaking.

Matt points out that, for the first time, "the American 'street' is noticeably pissed off by what they’ve usually ignored with a chuckle." This is indeed a significant change. One of the complaints often lodged against Americans from overseas is that we don't know or care about the world outside. This has been broadly true. Now circumstances have forced us to pay attention, and, if the results are not the wave of Euro-philia that Euro-elites feel they deserve, they have only themselves to blame. My own transatlantic family ties (my fiancee is English) have taught me a thing or two about elite opinion versus that of ordinary people. From the Guardian, the BBC, Chris Patten, et al., you really get the impression that Britain is a seething cauldron of vehement anti-Americanism and unreconstructed Leftist hostility to Western civilization. The fact is that the vast majority of ordinary people in the UK feel an enormous affection for America and Americans, and by any measure there is tremendous support for the US and the war on terror. The grandstanding of columnists and politicians, the cultural-chauvinistic pot shots fired back in response to our own cultural-chauvinistic pot shots (or even on their own account) shouldn't obscure this fact.

Finally, in regard to the common "surrender monkey" topos, that is also, to borrow a Euro-locution, "simplistic." The tepid response to Hitler's threat was not a French monopoly. Indeed, when the French proposed vigorous resistance (whether they meant it sincerely or not) to Germany in the thirties, they were often undermined by the British, who were suspicious of French ambitions and power in the east and tended to agree that many German grievances had merit. Both French and British leaders, having experienced firsthand the horrors of World War I, were so eager to avoid war at any and all cost that, by some accounts, they made it inevitable. The French would not or could not act without British support; the British would not give it in any practical sense. All the "great powers," including the US, share the blame for what in retrospect can be seen as a plain failure of will, nerve, and understanding. Yes, the French politicians and high command were shockingly inept. Yet the lesson here is not that the French are craven gourmands who constantly demand surrender for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is rather a lesson against appeasement, and, perhaps, against "multi-lateralism" itself. (In that regard, it is certainly fair to point out the ironic parallels when French and EU leaders, in the current situation, make arguments for appeasement and effective multi-lateral paralysis: they do it regularly.)

Matt says journalist William Shirer's "The Collapse of the Third Republic" is the "best book written about France's 1940 fold." I haven't read that one, so I can't comment. My nomination for the best book on the subject is "Strange Defeat" by the great French historian Marc Bloch, who wrote the book in 1940 before giving his life in the cause of French resistance. It is solemnly inspiring. Vive la France.

Anyway, read Matt's homily. He makes many good and chastening points.

Update: Charles Austin has posted a response on his cool new Sine qua non blog. He makes a good point about the UK "street" being largely ignorant of what it's really like in America. Boy is that ever true. Most people I know in England envision all of America as an enormous suburb like those depicted in movies like ET and Poltergeist; plus, we're all wearing backwards baseball caps and we all have handguns stuck in our jeans, barely hidden underneath our van Halen T-shirts. Hey, wait a minute-- that's pretty accurate... never mind...

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:03 PM | TrackBack

FoxNews.com publishes Moira! Cool! Today's

FoxNews.com publishes Moira!

Cool! Today's FoxNews.com blogger is the great Moira Breen. Her blog has a spate of unusually succinct (but characteristically sharp) posts today. My favorite is this one, about EU "protocols."

By the way Matt Welch says the first couple of paragraphs of Ken Layne's FoxNews.com column (basically an "introducing the warblog, ladies and gentlemen" intro) were "cut for space." How "space" considerations figure into an on-line page of unlimited length is just one of those mysteries of professional journalism I don't understand, I guess. Anyway, Layne posted the missing paragraphs on his blog. He mentions this humble li'l ol' warblog, too, bless him.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:19 AM | TrackBack

February 19, 2002

Interesting story in the

Interesting story in the Jerusalem Post. Ever wonder who wrote Arafat's letter to Colin Powell, in which he "accepted responsibility, but not personal responsibility" for the Karin-A shipment? Answer: European Union special Middle East envoy Miguel Moratinos and US Consul General in Jerusalem Ronald Schlicher. And who wrote the New York Times op-ed published under Arafat's by-line a couple of weeks ago? Answer: "a lobbying firm headed by former US consul general in Jerusalem Edward Abingdon."

These PR experts must have forgotten to tell him to lay off the "millions of martyrs marching on Jerusalem" and the "jihad jihad jihad jihad" rhetoric for awhile. It is difficult to imagine a less successful public relations campaign.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:03 PM | TrackBack

Steven den Beste, once again,

Steven den Beste, once again, minces no words in his reply to Euro-carping about the US:

Being told "You're making a mistake" is one thing, especially if the mistake is explained in a convincing fashion. Being told "You are stupid, unsophisticated morons" is not the same. No-one likes to hear that; it doesn't make someone reexamine their own acts, it just discredits the speaker.

There's a strong suspicion here that those messages aren't actually being delivered by European politicians because they expect to influence American policy. In actuality, they're doing it so that they can be seen by their own people doing so; it's chic to despise America and lecture it like a small child. Maybe that's a good way to get reelected, but it's also a good way to alienate the American people and do permanent damage to France's those nations's political relationships with the US. Individual Americans do care about these things, and despite what you all might think, our government really does work for us and carry out our wishes. If you anger the majority of Americans, then US foreign policy will reflect that. There's a price to be paid for being snooty towards the US...

Europeans seem to have this idea that they are sophisticated. Americans don't see it that way; we think that Europe is decadent. They tell us that we are simple; we think that they are effete. They tell us we should become more like them; we'd rather be whipped than become like Europe. The message that you drooling Americans should do what we say because we're smarter and more sophisticated than you are may play in Paris, but it won't play in Peoria.

So stop talking down to us. If you want us to do something, then you (or your politicians) better figure out how to tell us in a way which is most likely to make us (the American street) listen. Reasoning might work, but what's actually been said does nothing except get us pissed off, and that is not good.

Well said, Captain. There is much more where that came from. Check it out.

den Beste also provides a link to this article: EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana "urges EU critics to stop slamming US." Better late than never-- someone's getting the message, at least. Says Solana:

We should not get hung up on terminology. We have to be a little bit more subtle. I don't think the United States are simplistic. They are sophisticated people. They have thought about it a lot. We must speak the truth among friends, but you don't necessarily have to do it with a megaphone.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 08:45 PM | TrackBack

Promises, Promises... Today's Best of

Promises, Promises...

Today's Best of the Web points to this message posted on the Columbia Daily Spectator message board by academic intifada-ist Edward Said:

the moment we start kicking terrorists out of New York City--I leave also. A terror-free city is no place for me.

Sounds genuine to me.

The message was left as a comment to this article, about an anti-PLO protest outside the UN in New York City, which contains the following sentence: "PLO out of NYC claims the PLO has been sponsoring terrorism for decades, a charge refuted by the PLO." I'm sure "refute" is just a malapropism. But Said probably liked the slant of this article (unlike the ones that he has previously said make living in America "a terrible experience.")

On the other hand, this one must have driven him crazy. No Said or pseudo-Said comment has been posted yet.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:14 PM | TrackBack

Ken Layne is today's featured

Ken Layne is today's featured blogger on FoxNews.com. How cool is that?

Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:06 PM | TrackBack

Yet another great column by

Yet another great column by Barbara Amiel in the Telegraph, which includes yet another hypothesis to explain Euro-lefty "resistance" to the word "evil":

Some of those members of the social democratic international (including critics at the Guardian and the Independent) hate America's use of the word "evil" for other reasons. They dismiss this word as "simplistic".

Their derision speaks to the illusions so many of the Left held about the empire that Ronald Reagan named as evil, as well as the myths the Left held about the so-called "colonial" movements that resulted in the Islamic Revolution of Iran, the Ba'athist regime of Iraq or the North Korean dictatorship.

The Left hates having its youthful illusions branded as "evil" and wants a word that pays more tribute to the complexity of its mistakes. Even if they now see their early values as flawed, they want them recognised as being morally complex. None of them, including pacifists and sentimentalists, wants former dreams or present misconceptions trampled by the unambiguous phrase "axis of evil"

This is incidental to Amiel's main point, which is in reaction to one of Matthew Parris's weekly "Americans may be right, but boy are they vulgar" column in the Spectator: I think it's as good a demonstration as any that anti-Americanism on aesthetic grounds can flourish on both sides of the European political spectrum. Ironies abound, as always, of course. In case you missed it, here's Moira Breen's take on that Parris article.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 11:16 AM | TrackBack

February 18, 2002

Tim Blair makes a

Tim Blair makes a good point about Chris Patten's characteristic Euro-rhetoric about terrorism, "root causes," and "symptoms." European states have often been sensibly unsentimental and pragmatic about cracking down on their own domestic terrorists, such as the Baader-Meinhof Gang and the Red Brigade:

Both groups were eventually defeated by force. The terrorists were hunted down, shot dead, or jailed. Neither Italy nor Germany sought to bring Red Brigade idiots or Baader-Meinhof maniacs "into the fold"; they sought to capture them, and (happily) killed many of them as they did so. They did not "engage" them, except in gun battles. And, once these so-called "symptoms" of terror were dead or in prison, the "causes" of terror magically vanished. By the mid-'80s, the Red Brigade and Baader-Meinhof had essentially ceased to exist.

Italy and Germany didn't seek multilateral agreements with other nations over the international pursuit of their terrorists. They didn't need to; all understood that these groups were wrong - maybe even evil - and must be stopped...

And stopped they were. The Europe of twenty years ago provides a lesson for the Europe of today: you stop terrorism by stopping terrorists.

Interestingly, the initial German strategy towards the Baader-Meinhof/RAF was to make concessions; they cracked down seriously when it became obvious that this only resulted in more terrorist activity and agitation.

The situations are a bit different, of course, but there's definitely a lesson there. And you can bet that if there is ever, God forbid, a successful attack on a European city, there would be a sharp decline in such grandstanding about fighting terrorism with conciliation and aid packages alone.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 08:45 PM | TrackBack

Moira Breen has the best

Moira Breen has the best comment so far on the modern-"Moors"-demand-apology story:

Reading of the "Moors" demand that Isabel and Ferdinand be dug up and repudiated, I pondered that I have no idea who my ancestors were or what they were doing 500 years ago. But surely (while they were picking lice out of their hair and vermin out of their bedclothes like all the other peasants) they were being shoved around by somebody somewhere in Europe, or points farther east. It would take extensive genetic and genealogical research to precisely identify from whom I should be demanding apologies. In the meantime I'm going to have to settle for generalized historical consternation.

I could get worked up about the fact that Hagia Sophia has been in the hands of infidels since slightly before the time of which the Moroccans complain, but frankly, I'm still too cheesed about Canterbury Cathedral being run by heretics.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 07:14 PM | TrackBack

Things sure have changed

Things sure have changed since we got kicked out of school...

Posted by Dr. Frank at 07:07 PM | TrackBack

See me after class...

See me after class...

Andrew Sullivan gives Will Hutton a C grade for his "near-unhinged account of [Leo Strauss's] alleged politics" in the piece ridiculed below. The Vast Straussian Conspiracy continues...

Posted by Dr. Frank at 07:07 PM | TrackBack

February 17, 2002

Highlights from the Guardian 1.)

Highlights from the Guardian

1.) Scenes from a religion of peace in gun-free Britain.

2.) You know what your problem is? You're all a bunch of Straussians!

3.) Take a pill, Terry.

4.) There's a fine line between anti-Semitism and a healthy national debate, and his name is Sharon. "Europe's Last Great Taboo" stalks the land; Britons live in fear.

5.) Another gut-wrenching story about the proud achievements of the New Statesman's favorite "prisoner of conscience."

6.) A simple plan to improve the credibility of the EU: (a) triple its budget; (b) add 474 officials to the "policy unit" to serve under (c) a "single EU foreign policy supremo" in charge of pursuing a "robust multilateralism;" (d) "learn how to use the full range of instruments at its disposal ... as part of a clear political strategy." (Strategy to be determined at some future date.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 01:07 AM | TrackBack

February 16, 2002

Edward Luttwak breaks down the

Edward Luttwak breaks down the Bush administration's tri-partite "axis of evil" strategy in today's Sunday Times:

Of course in each case the American aim is different: to induce Iran’s turn away from extremism to the moderation so evidently favoured by a majority of the voters in every recent election; to induce the North Korean dictatorship to stop selling its most dangerous weapons; and to end Iraq’s dictatorship, by force if necessary.

These decisions may be right or wrong, but they do not derive from the personal quirks of George W Bush. The Bush presidency may yet fail because of its budgetary priorities, which many see as favouring the rich, or because of a too-slow economic recovery, or even because of the Enron scandal. But this presidency is most unlikely to fail because of its foreign policy, shaped by professionals in a very professional way.

(I don't know anything about how the editing process is conducted at newspapers like the Times, but whoever attached the headline "Bush will go to war even if it puts him out of power" to this article either didn't read it very carefully, or deliberately mischaracterized it. This is at best a minor angle of Luttwak's essay. Moreover, his point is that Bush's bellicose language arises from sincere conviction as well as from a carefully-conceived strategy, rather than from the dim-witted, pandering machismo that is the favored explanation of many British columnists. It seems to me that such mismatched headlines crop up with extraordinary frequency in British newspapers. )

Update: this op-ed by Rupert Cornwell makes a similar point. How un-Independent of him. On the other hand, there's this.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 08:04 PM | TrackBack

Mmmm.... Rubber Chicken 'n' Strawberries

Mmmm.... Rubber Chicken 'n' Strawberries

Matt Welch has been reading Ralph Nader's campaign memoir, and is apparently in the process of writing an essay about it. Along the way, he's throwing a few amusing scraps (teasers?) into the blogosphere: this one on Ralph's weird Rubber Chicken 'n' Strawberries "joke" on Leno; and this one about a kind of pep rally speech by "actorvist" Tim Robbins. Of the many Nader-critics and -bashers out there, Matt is the only one I know of who actually voted for the guy. He covered the campaign, and he knows what he's talking about, especially where Ralph doesn't (e.g., foreign and domestic policy.) Should be pretty good.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:46 PM | TrackBack

Credits Hey, thanks to Iain


Hey, thanks to Iain Murray for awarding me one of his coveted "highly recommended" stars on the links panel of his indispensable swift Sword. And to Richard Bennett for putting up a Blogs of War link in the "promising newbies" section of the mother of all omphaloi. (Anyone else I've forgotten or failed to notice: apologies, and thanks as well.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:45 PM | TrackBack

February 15, 2002

Ken Layne has a hilarious

Ken Layne has a hilarious post on this article on how Noam Chomsky can't get arrested, even in Turkey.

By the way, Layne has really been on a roll lately. On the outside chance that there's anyone who reads this blog who doesn't also read Layne's blog regularly, this post (which bounces off of this story about a discussion group of self-pitying Nation readers) is one of the reasons why I, like many others, am so addicted to Ken.Layne.dot.con. In fact, it's pretty much a textbook example of blogging at its best: non- or anti- ideological, informed, well-written, original, and funny as hell. It's hard to pick out a favorite excerpt, but here's one, just because I agree with it so emphatically. Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing, though.

Note to Unhinged Liberals: When you can't tell the difference between Susan Sontag being mocked on talk radio and an international terrorist organization murdering 3,000-plus of your fellow citizens in an hour, you should feel lonely, because you've lost all touch with reality. Your bogus claims of victimization are not only insulting to the millions of people around the world who truly have no rights and no freedoms, they're also poison to legitimate dissent and rational opposition. The Nation, for my money, is a fine example of thoughtful liberalism, and I'm glad to hear you people are reading it. But do you understand it?

The thing is, these people don't really believe what they're saying. It's just automatic, a sort of liberal Tourette Syndrome. (The right has its own variation, which can be triggered with the word "Clinton.") They throw around terms like Fascism and Police State without the slightest comprehension of what such words actually mean.

Also notable are his heartfelt tribute to Waylon Jennings and this post about the weird story about the Moroccan Arabs' demand for an apology from the current King of Spain for the expulsion of their Moorish ancestors in the 16th century.

I'm sure I'll get some ribbing for the oft-parodied cyber-back-slapping in this post, but hey, I'm a fan.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 08:42 PM | TrackBack

A Wisconson undertaker and apprentice

A Wisconson undertaker and apprentice found shot dead in funeral home. Investigation focuses on local anti-embalming group.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 07:26 PM | TrackBack

Andrew Sullivan had this to

Andrew Sullivan had this to say about Colin Powell's appearance on MTV:

Contrast Bill Clinton's excruciating dialogue with MTV viewers not so long ago with Colin Powell's masterful, engaged colloquy. No boxers or briefs questions. No attempt to pander shamelessly for votes. Just a principled and effective defense of America's role in the world to a global generation that desperately needs to hear it.

I'm a big fan of Andrew Sullivan's writing, but I've got to agree with Ted Barlow here, when he says "Sullivan should retire the word 'Clinton' from his vocabulary, because it does funny things to his head." It's pretty easy to avoid "pandering for votes" when you're not actually running for anything. (Though he may be an unofficial candidate for Chris Patten's job-- I'd say he's done a fair bit of pandering to that constituency.) And much as I'd love to give Powell an award for managing to avoid having an embarrassing question asked of him about his underwear, this also required very little in the way of "masterful engagement." The question was not asked. A rock could have handled this situation just as well as the Secretary of State. As far as I know, even Sullivan's arch-nemesis Paul Krugman, say what you will about his other failings, has deftly managed to avoid having this question asked of him on MTV, as have Saddam Hussein, Noam Chomsky, Gary Condit, Yasser Arafat, Regius Phillbin, Jean-Claude van Damme, ... the list goes on and on. It's a pretty low standard.

Joking aside, Powell's MTV appearance was indeed impressive, and I agree that his answer to the question about the US being the Great Satan is exactly what such an audience needs to hear:

"I would say we are the great protector." He said the United States had rebuilt Europe and Japan after World War II, defeated Communism and fascism and that "the only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our dead."

(According to the NY Times, he told the audience "don't even think about it" in reference to the obvious boxers/briefs question that was clearly hovering in the air. Forewarned is forearmed. There are a lot serious things that Clinton has to answer for, but the MTV appearance is about as silly as they come. In fact, harping on it dilutes the effectiveness of the serious arguments.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:15 PM | TrackBack

Jaw-jaw Binks The folks at

Jaw-jaw Binks

The folks at Libertarian Samizdata have relentlessly dissected this sophisticated article by Chris Patten in the Financial Times. I've just pulled out a couple of notable quotations, but it's definitely worth reading the whole thing.

Tom Burroughes:

The EU political class must stop talking about the US as if it were some kind of immature adolescent incapable of acting intelligently without the input of their wisdom. Apart from being downright rude and bad diplomacy, it reveals a profound ignorance. I don't know what goes on inside Patten's head but I can help feeling he has not grasped the degree to which Americans have been shocked and changed by September 11th. Get out of the Brussels bunker, Mr Patten, you are not doing yourself or anyone else a lot of favours right now.

Perry de Haviland ups the ante with an extensive essay that takes on the article point by point:
Militarily crushing the entire political and military apparatus of Iran and Iraq would be pretty much an unmatchable way of 'supporting reform'. That is no more 'putting up shutters' than the manner in which the US and UK interacted with Nazi Germany. We did not remove the 'problem' of Auschwitz and Belsen by prevailing upon the Nazis to allow inspectors to visit. If Iran and Iraq do indeed pose a clear and present danger, then it must be made clear to them in no uncertain terms that such actions will lead the USA to pose a clear and present danger to them. Publicly calling them part of an 'axis of evil' seems to achieve that pretty well.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:36 PM | TrackBack

Ia! David vs. Goliath. Or


David vs. Goliath.

Or should that be the Fungi from Yuggoth vs. Shub-Niggaruth, the Goat with a Thousand Young? Warning, Glenn: cross a Cthulhuologist at your peril...

Give 'em hell, Andy!

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:30 PM | TrackBack

One of my favorite new

One of my favorite new warbloggers, Emily Jones (otherwise charmingly known as "Hawk Girl") has a useful set of criteria for how to tell the good lefties from the bad. Plus, she concludes with a Spinal Tap quote. She's got a day job, so let's all hope she doesn't get fired....

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:07 PM | TrackBack

Nice State-owned Department Store. Shame about the ethnic cleansing...

I've complained before that it's often hard to tell whether British irony is intentional or not; it is my firm belief that they aren't always sure themselves. (The brilliant yet subtle Ben Sheriff once quoted Evelyn Waugh to me in response to that observation: "up to a point, Dr. Frank, up to a point." Of course, this went right over my pointy little American head, so he was forced to spell it out: "in relation to the irony thing, therefore, it may [or may not] express agreement [or disagreement.]" Right...)

What do you get when you combine a native cultural tendency like that with the consistent penchant for humorless self-parody of the doctrinaire leftist? Answer: the New Statesman. Are they kidding when they attach the ill-fitting title "Focus" to the determinedly perverse opinion pieces that often appear in the pages of their publication? No one will ever know for sure, including, I suspect, the New Statesmen themselves.

There is layer upon layer of intended and/or unintended irony in this bizarre defense of Slobodan Milosevic, "a man whose worst crime was to carry on being a socialist."

I always remember my first visit to Belgrade, in the summer of 1998. As an unreconstructed socialist, completely out of step with the spirit of the age, I had spent most of the Nineties trying to escape, as best I could, to a place where it was still 1948. So imagine my delight when I arrived in Belgrade and found a city that seemed miraculously to have escaped all the horrors of global grunge.

Bookshops, self-service restaurants and state-owned department stores abounded: a walk down the city boulevards reminded one of a British high street in the late Sixties. My delight turned to ecstasy when, on entering a state-owned bookshop, I saw on prominent display in the window a copy of that classic tome Arguments for Socialism by Tony Benn. What a truly wonderful place was Belgrade!

"My delight turned to ecstasy." This is a man who is easily impressed.

I remember when I was in college, I would occasionally find myself in conversations with such "unreconstructed socialists," who, when confronted with the fact of Stalin's deliberate murder of tens of millions of people, for instance, would blithely toss off appalling opinions like "yes, well, I don't condone that; but on the other hand, there was no other way for the Soviet Union to industrialize so quickly." These people were just stupid kids, of course, and I'm sure very few of them are still spouting such disgraceful drivel nowadays. (Though if any of them are, maybe they should send a resume to the New Statesman team-- they'd fit right in.) The New Statesman's dogged enthusiasm for "old-style socialist leaders" like Milosevic, whose ecstasy-inducing state-run bookshops and self-service restaurants are somehow seen to be worth thousands of state-run self-service murders, would be disgusting even if they were kidding. Could they possibly be serious? I have absolutely no idea. Do they?

Update-- More irony (or should I say "irony," or maybe "'irony'?"):

I just noticed the title of the New Statesman piece: Milosevic: Prisoner of Conscience. This is a truly bizarre coincidence, because I considered using this very title as a sarcastic heading for this post. Maybe it is a parody after all... I'm lost in all these inverted commas. My "brain" "'hurts'"...

Posted by Dr. Frank at 12:51 PM | TrackBack

Esposinage This is why they


This is why they shoot traitors.

Prosecutors say [accused spy] Brian Regan said in a letter to the Iraqi leader: "I am willing to commit esposinage [sic] against the United States by providing your country with highly classified information."

Because of the risks involved, Mr Regan allegedly said he wanted at least $13m - "a small price to pay for what you [Saddam] will receive"...

Mr Regan is also said to have offered to give Iraq a sample of classified documents for $1m.

He allegedly said the information he was offering was worth "billions" and urged the Iraqi leader not to pass up "the chance of a lifetime".

He also wrote a similar letter to Gaddafi, and had the address of the Chinese embassy in hidden in his shoe. Thank God they caught this guy before he closed any of these deals.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:54 AM | TrackBack

The Actor Factor Actor James

The Actor Factor

Actor James Woods, who witnessed a "dress rehearsal" for the WTC hijackings in a flight on August 1, was on the O'Reilly Factor last night, telling the story in vivid detail. Here's the transcript. The whole thing is worth reading, but here's a snippet:

I just kind of observe people... It's something I've always been fascinated by.  Sort of like that scene in "Annie Hall," where Woody Allen and Diane Keaton sit and watch people and sort of talk about who they might be.

And there were four guys.  When the flight attendant, who was a woman, came up to them, they literally ignored her like she didn't exist, which is sort of a kind of Taliban, you know, idea of womanhood, as you know, not even a human being.  I mean, it seems their disrespect for women is so extraordinary.

And they didn't order alcohol.  And they just -- and -- I can't go into the details, but it just -- it was -- as I explained to the FBI, as if you were at a nightclub and everybody's enjoying an act on the stage.  And the camera behind that act on the stage and sort of panning the audience.  And  everybody's focused on the singer, except four people sort of in the room kind of doing something else and connected to each other.

Woods also commented briefly on his earlier, semi-controversial, forthright comments on terrorism:
And by the way, clearly, I would not want to hurt anybody's feelings.  But on the other hand, it's not like after thousands of incidents of terrorism in the past 20 or 30 years, that you know, we have to worry a lot about like Swedish terrorists, OK?

I mean, so the bottom line is, you know, I said something that I think was rude and probably not very nice.  But on the other hand, I do feel, and there was some consternation from somebody, one of these leagues or something, who said, you know, it was the incorrect thing to say.

But the point I was trying to make was that I think of the energy that a lot of people in the Muslim world, and there are, I'm sure extraordinary people in that world, if they put that energy into policing their own as much as they are criticizing politically correct or incorrect gaffes like I made,  that maybe we'd be all a lot better off in the world.

I mean, it reminds me of those people living in Dachau, who you know, were shocked at the end of the war to find out that there was -- you know, what that black smoke was coming from those chimneys 100 yards from their house. 

I still, ya know, I mean, I like this guy. He, ya know, like, well, he makes a lot of sense.

Plus-- "one of these leagues or something." They need to give this guy his own talk show.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:52 AM | TrackBack

February 14, 2002

The Valentine Detector Van? The

The Valentine Detector Van? The Loony Detector Van, You Mean...

Happy Valentine's Day.

Unless you live in Saudi Arabia. The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Evil has banned Valentine's Day in the Saudi Kingdom. (NB: This commission is not to be confused with The Higher Committee for Scientific Research and the Issuing of Fatwas.)

A joint committee has been formed by the Riyadh governorate, the commission, police and the public prosecutor to conduct round-the-clock patrols to impose the ban, Othman said.

Othman also warned drivers against decorating their cars with any red or other Valentine-associated items.

In schools, teachers have been warning students during the past two weeks against wearing red clothes or displaying any item related to the occasion.

Red roses are banned as well, though a Saudi official "clarified" that "the ban will not be applicable to all imported red roses, but only to the flowers to be used on the Valentine’s Day."

That might sound like a bit of a loophole, but I'd stay away from roses for awhile nonetheless. The government remains ominously silent about what the punishment for celebrating the evil holiday might be.

(via LGF)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:17 PM | TrackBack


"The 60s were full of challenge," writes J.H. Tompkins in the SF Bay Guardian, "and although I'm not a revolutionary now, in my heart, I'm still a revolutionary then."


Anyone who retains romantic notions about 60s radicalism can instantly dispel them by reading this incoherent and abominable near-defense of the SLA. The failing battle to master the rudiments of linear time embodied in that sentence (a classic acid-casualty hallmark) is only the tip of what might be called a clinically damaged iceberg. Tompkins's concern is that what he coyly refers to as "the T-word" (no dude, it's not Terrapin Station-- it's terrorism) is compromising the heroic legacy of the 60s, obscuring the "real story."

"Let's face it," he writes. "2002 is a bad time to be labelled a terrorist."

It's an even worse time (depending, perhaps, on whether you favor the defense or the prosecution) to be put on trial for actually having been a terrorist. Or does he dispute that setting bombs under police cars and murdering little old ladies in order to make an unintelligible "political statement" qualify as "terrorism?" This is one thing, of many, on which is he not entirely clear.

Tompkins is careful to avoid explicitly championing the SLA's "cause" and stresses that, even as 60s radicals go, they were loopier than most. But even as he denounces the SLA, the thrust of his condemnation is not so much that they were terrorists, but that they were inept terrorists, ruining the party for everyone: "in those days, its members were too visible, too stupid, and after the Hearst kidnapping they attracted an army of government agents." As his own article indicates, there was something like a community of interests, affinities and goals among these people, and, in important respects, the SLA differed from other groups only in degree. They all knew each other, all moved in the same circles. Indeed, this is his chief worry. If the SLA were terrorists, then the Weathermen were terrorists, Venceremos were terrorists, and so on, and so on: before you know it, "the legacy of a generation of idealistic people whose actions changed the nation forever is at risk."

Well, you know what? The Weathermen were terrorists. Some of them are unrepentant to this day. People like Tompkins, who boasts that he "hung out with" Weathermen in the good old days, are just going to have to deal with it. Many of the "activists" he tried to interview refused to speak on the record, worried that the arrest and prosecution of the SLA (dubbed "The Payback" in a section heading) struck a little too close to home. That's who he's talking about when he says "the turn of events is a kind of worst-case scenario for everybody." (I don't know about you, but it's not even remotely a worst-case scenario for me; nor for the family of Myrna Opshal, the murdered bank customer-- but then, we weren't part of the hallowed revolutionary brotherhood "back then." As Tompkins says, with striking originality, "maybe you had to be there.")

The ones who did agree to be quoted are a pretty sad, burnt-out bunch, apparent bearers of that other noted 60s legacy ("you partied like there was no tomorrow, because really, who knew?")

"And then came the kidnapping of Hearst," says one luminary, presenting the radicals' own incisive critique of the SLA: "that was so bizarre. I laughed. I mean, was this a movie or what?"

For another, the SLA's brand of urban terrorism is, compared with today's state-of-the-art version, quaint and naive, almost cute, like a colt taking its first steps: "things were simpler in 1975. We didn't have the kind of terrorism we have today. The fact is that the '70s terrorists were rank amateurs, new to violence, who didn't know how to use it." Ah, the sweet, blessed days of terrorism's infancy: we didn't know how good we had it. And did you know, we stopped the Viet Nam war?

And then there's Tompkins himself. He is lost in a nostalgic fog, with no apparent notion that his intended defense of the legacy of the violent radicalism of the 60s will likely be read by most people as a further indictment of it. Even, maybe, in San Francisco.

"There was a time long ago," he writes, "when [Patty] Hearst experienced a moment of transcendence that most of us can only dream of. After two months in captivity, Hearst ditched the straight life, stepped forward, and exposed and publicly humiliated her father who, through his wealth and media empire, had heaped insult and indignity on countless others." He describes this "moment of glory" as "the one shining moment in the dismal history of the SLA." Tompkins's all-consuming enthusiasm, after all these years, for this kind of "transcendence," for the redemptive power of stickin' it to the old man, is as much a relic of the past as the Jefferson Airplane, the Beadazzler, and earth shoes. Rebellion against parental authority there will always be, but most will outgrow it. Few will in middle age continue to dream wistfully of the Patty Hearst experience. Few regard the pretense of concern for "social justice," Maoist rhetoric, Henry Kissinger, or partying like there's no tomorrow as mitigating factors when it comes to murder and random mayhem. 60s-style violent radicalism was a dead dog long before 9/11, and no accusation of McCarthyism will change that. In that sense, there is no legacy. These people, along with their organizations, their causes, their activities, their "ideas," their social critiques, etc. are largely forgotten; as Tompkins shows, most of them like it that way, since being remembered could well land them in the dock.

As for those who are already there, Tompkins bemoans "the possibility that a jury will ignore the lack of evidence, buy into the war on terrorism, and send the defendants to jail for life."

If the SLA members killed a woman in a bank robbery, the passage of time and the political context will never justify their actions.

But it's hardly fair. The SLA members, most of them, anyway, were sucked into a political shitstorm started by others. Robert McNamara, William Westmoreland, Richard Nixon, and Henry Kissinger (to name a few) were guilty of sending 50,000 American kids to their deaths and laying waste to Vietnam, a country that was lovely, except where it was nothing but craters and rubble.

Fair or not, I'm guessing that the far out and funky "Kissinger sucked me into it" defense isn't going to work. The problem is that everyone has bought into the war on the T-word, and their priorities aren't so groovy anymore: in this ugly, reactionary climate, blindly holding T-ists accountable for absolutely no reason is preferred to taking LSD and stickin' it to the old man. Oink oink.

Cool legacy, dude.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 12:39 AM | TrackBack

February 13, 2002

Ben Sheriff has an extensive

Ben Sheriff has an extensive and thoughtful post on the "simplism" accusation and the education of British elites. Well worth reading.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:38 PM | TrackBack

Gove on Patten

Here's Michael Gove's superb opinion piece in the Times on European Commissioner Chris Patten, and European "sophistication" to our crude vulgarity.

Favorite amusing line: noting that Patten questions whether Iraq, Iran and North Korea are in fact "evil," he asks "but then what is truly evil in the exquisitely sophisticated mind of a Balliol graduate? Having doubts about the Kyoto treaty?"

I just love me a wry witticism from time to time. But the thrust of the piece is quite serious:

Even if the EU is not willing to deal robustly with the threat to democracy posed by rogue states and the terrorists they sponsor, what gives it the right to stop America “unilaterally” defending itself? The idea that the US should drop its guard now, and forgo its duty to protect citizens who have already suffered grievously from democracy’s enemies, is offensive nonsense. Especially when those steps will bring the EU citizens for whom Mr Patten presumes to speak a security he can never provide.

Mr Patten may protest that America as “Gulliver” can’t “go it alone” and the EU should not regard itself as “so Lilliputian that we can’t speak up and say it”. But I would rather Gulliver unbound, standing taller and seeing further, than Gulliver tethered by pygmies. Mr Patten may not recall, but it was Swift’s hero who, after they had freed him, saved the Lilliputians. Sometimes we need a giant’s “simplistic” strength. Now is such a time.

Maybe there's hope for these people after all.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 02:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Sophisticated I've been thinking some


I've been thinking some more about Michael Kelly's memorable slogan, "simplisme works," mentioned below. Of course, as amusing as the notion may be, "simplisme" alone won't meet the case here. We face a complex strategic situation, and we need to be clever and wily enough to navigate these treacherous waters, remain afloat, and launch successful attacks when necessary. But can anyone doubt that that is essentially what the US is doing? In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, European columnists were quick to criticize America in advance for what they assumed was going to be a precipitous, rash, and ineffective retaliation; when this did not in fact occur, they continued to write as though it had. The Euro-crats and -press have begun to engage in the same game with the "axis of evil" speech. They correctly deduce that it is probably a prelude to some sort of vigorous action against some enemy. They just don't know which enemy.

They like to present this as proof of an incoherent and "unsophisticated" understanding of strategic realities. But clear moral principles (in this case, that those who continue to threaten the United States may face preemptive strikes) do not, almost by definition, bear the markings of particular "sophisticated" strategies for achieving specific goals. Moral clarity; a degree of public bluster, backed by a credible threat; perhaps even a deliberate program of inducing the unwitting cooperation of the anti-American press in placing red herrings in the media "flow"-- this seems pretty "sophisticated" to me. (And, it arguably has already had at least one result other than spurring a grand European hand-wringing party, to the extent that spooking the Iraqis into a purported softening of their stance on weapons inspections is a "result.") Anyway you slice it, I'd say preserving the vital element of surprise on the particular question of "who's next" is pretty sound and smart, as such things go. I, like the Euro-columnists, have no earthly idea who the next target will be, which is as it should be.

Andrew Sullivan commented yesterday on the widespread use of the word "sophisticated" by Europeans and British to describe the sort of foreign policy they wish the US would adopt. I've noticed this as well, in my many visits to London. It's hard to pin down exactly what they mean by this as a practical matter, but it's certainly intended as the opposite of "simplisme." Despite pretensions to highmindedness and intellectual rigor, I think a great deal of it boils down to an objection to GWB's personal style and manner of speaking. (Ironically, as with the American left, the "sophisticated" critique of US policy often fails to rise above the "Bush is a moron" level of analysis.) Yet it's also difficult to avoid the conclusion that it is moral clarity itself with which they are uncomfortable (and here they are, of course, also in complete harmony with the moral relativism boosters of American intellectual culture.) In the realm of deeds, and at the risk, perhaps, of over-simplifying the anti-simplisme ethos, a "sophisticated" policy is one that eschews vigorous action at nearly any cost. That does seem to be the European way.

Sullivan writes of an "anger gap" between the US and the Europeans when it comes to the 9/11 attacks, which is, as he says, "perfectly understandable." But it's not just anger at issue. Even those Brits who support the war on terror (apparently still the majority-- though you'd never know it if you run with the "educated classes") seem to be in the grips of a profound denial, a refusal to grasp that they are also threatened by these terrible foes. Several al-Qaeda attacks on European targets have been thwarted, and many more were planned. Still, the dangers of Islamo-fascist terrorism tend to be seen as an American problem. Even among those who acknowledge these dangers, there is an often unspoken article of faith that Britain only faces them because of her association with the US. It may simply be the familiar dream of isolationism, where you imagine that you render yourself invulnerable to a threat by retreating from it. I hope Sullivan is wrong (but I suspect he may be right) that "it will take an unthinkable terrorist atrocity in a European city for this psychological gap to narrow." Sophistication is a pretense you can't really afford when someone is trying to blow you up. It seems as though the Euro-elites are as yet too sophisticated to grasp this "simplistic" truth.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 01:06 PM | TrackBack

As Good as Hyperbole Gets

As Good as Hyperbole Gets

I admit, I have a soft spot for hyperbolic comparisons of the posturing of current French politicians with some of their more ignominious forebears during World War II. It's not really fair, but I find it irresistible. So I quite enjoyed Michael Kelly's column which says that the "Axis of Evil" doctrine is "as good as doctrine gets."

"The chief points," he writes, "for the "axis of evil" doctrine may be seen in considering the chief points against it," including:

It is "simplisme." It is simplistic, or simple-minded, as the French foreign minister, whose name is Petain or Maginot or something, sniffed last week. C'est vrai. It is indeed "simplisme" to pick fights with evil regimes just because those regimes want to kill you or enslave you or at least force you to knuckle under and collaborate in their evil, when one might choose the far safer and far more profitable path of shrugging one's shoulders in a fetchingly Gallic fashion and sending one's Jews off to the camps, as one's new masters in government request.

On the other hand, as the foreign minister might have noticed, the French may today enjoy springtime in Paris without the annoying sounds of jackboots all over the place, and the reason for that was the simple-minded determination of the British, the Russians and the Americans to fight the Nazis and to die by the millions, in order to make the world safe for, among other creatures, future French foreign ministers. "Simplisme" works. Against evil, it is the only thing that does.

Simplisme Works. I think I'll write it on the bathroom wall.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 12:11 AM | TrackBack

February 12, 2002

"It is a time when

"It is a time when bad people have strong urges to let their ends justify their means."

Best of the Web has a link today to a "memorandum of law" filed in Ramsey Clark's lawsuit on behalf of the Camp X-Ray detainees, which includes the sentence above. It is a remarkable document. As BotW points out, it includes extensive quotes (with a footnote and an ibid.) of the Rolling Stones song "Sympathy for the Devil," in order to lend support to the view that "our bold, American, war mongering, macho and swaggering government" is a manifestation of evil that, like Lucifer, is "in need of some restraint."

I have no standing to comment on the legal reasoning, but the writing is sub-literate at best, full of misspellings and screwy grammar, the sort of thing that makes you wonder if it might make more sense in the original language from which it was translated. I confess I didn't read much past the introduction ("Shakespeare, a Recipe for Tyranny, and Lucifer in Need of Some Restraint,") but presumably they move on to Nostradamus and the Prieure de Sion a bit later. The author, one Steven Yagman, has apparently forgotten to take his lithium. At any rate, he is a master of the xeroxed-UFO-pamphlet rhetorical style. I've read quite a few of these in my day, but I haven't seen anything this crazy in a long time. It is, as Rand Simberg says "beyond parody." Could it possibly be intended seriously?

I'd write more about this, but I have a strong urge to let my end justify my means...

Posted by Dr. Frank at 11:16 PM | TrackBack

February 11, 2002

MuslimPundit is back, with an

MuslimPundit is back, with an extensive and eye-opening essay on Islamic extremism in Britain.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:06 AM | TrackBack

Real Power always Finds a

Real Power always Finds a Way

Andrew Sullivan had a terrific column on Euro-resentment of American power in yesterday's Sunday Times:

If Europeans resent America's power, they need to ask themselves: would they like to confront global terrorism without it? Imagine al Qaeda intact today, entering into close contact with Iraq or Iran to get nuclear, biological or chemical weapons to detonate in the middle of London. Feel better about American hegemony now?

Then of course when it appears that the United States might actually take its allies' advice and retreat into ambivalence, there is a chorus of disapproval and widespread fears of a new 'isolationism.' America, when you look at it, is damned if she does, and damned if she doesn't. Which is why Americans, at some point, just get on with it and ignore the chorus of whining from around the world.

That's the underlying reality, and we might as well acknowledge it. That's why the IOC gave in to American demands that its WTC flag be a part of the opening ceremony in Salt Lake City. That's why, in the end, the United States will eventually ignore allies who refuse to cooperate in the war against terrorism and terrorist states. Real power always finds a way. And the only corrective to American dominance is not an attempt to weaken America or poison the world by fomenting hatred of her. At the moment, when America is the firmest bulwark against a terrorist network that aims to destroy every free country, that would be a particularly foolish venture. No, the only corrective to American hegemony is for other countries to emulate the free markets, free thought and free institutions that undergird the United States and make American economic and military power possible. But that's so much harder than the panacea of envy, isn't it?

Exactly. In Britain, despite relatively feeble irruptions of anti-Americanism nay-saying from the left, occasionally from the right, and once or twice from Jack Straw, this is more or less clearly understood. The Euro-crats are another story, and this difference, it seems to me, lends force to the claim that Britain is not, and ought not to be, a part of Europe.

Sullivan is in London now, and today his blog includes some trenchant comments which ring true about the different tone over there:

there is a completely different feel here than the one in the United States. The deep cultural shift of September 11 hasn't impacted in anything like the same way. The culture still seems jammed with the idiocy of celebrity, sex-scandals, petty politics and irony, irony, irony. Tina, get back here. They'd still love you.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:01 AM | TrackBack

February 10, 2002

The Blog Maestro Strikes Again

The Blog Maestro Strikes Again

Nothing gets by Tim Blair. Check out his comparison of the press obituaries of "heavy smoker and drinker" Princess Margaret, who died at 71, with those of vegetarian marijuana enthusiast Linda McCartney, who died at 56.

The double standard is impossible to avoid. A smoker dies at 71, and cigarettes are the obvious cause. A vegetarian dies at 56, and, well, that's just the luck of the draw. Could've happened to anyone.

"Being a plant-eater," he concludes, "covers a multitude of sins."

Tim's energetic spade also has managed to turn up a left-wing blogger ("scarcer than Irish porn"-- he kills me...) The Westerby Report is truly a through-the-looking-glass-people experience, a glimpse into a brave soul adrift in an Oliver Stone world.  Black is white, the Guardian is the Paper of Record, and Robert Fisk is "without doubt the foreign correspondent of the century, maybe the last century inclusive." He's also "balanced."

Give 'em hell, Westerby, and keep watching the watchers of the watchers.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:53 AM | TrackBack

Let's be perfectly blunt Thomas

Let's be perfectly blunt

Thomas Friedman provides a "blunt answer" to the common Arab question about the alleged Jewish media conspiracy to smear the Saudis and Islam:

Maybe, just maybe, many Americans are upset because 15 Saudis took part in the Sept. 11 attacks, private Saudi charities financed Osama bin Laden and hundreds of Saudis fought with Al Qaeda against America in Afghanistan. And these hard facts have hardened U.S.opinion against them.

It will be a tragedy if Arabs and Muslims adopt the position that there is no conceivable reason why Americans might be upset with them today and that any criticism they face in the U.S. media is entirely the result of some Jewish campaign of vilification.

This tragedy does appear to be unfolding: in fact, it seems to be well into its second or third act, if one is to judge from the Arab press (as always conveniently and relentlessly summarized, day by day, by Charles Johnson.) This tragedy has its farcical Western counterpart , if the New Statesman is any indication. But let's get "real" here. The Jewish Conspiracy obsession, whether it issues from British, Arab or neo-Nazi lips, is just a distasteful and irritating distraction, reflecting its adherents' lack of decency rather than reality. To those who aid or abet or excuse or cheer or fund or encourage or rally around or impede the pursuit of the atavistic psychopaths who desire the destruction of the United States of America: America's opposition to you is one thing you can't blame on the Jews. These people attacked us. What do they want, a medal?

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:13 AM | TrackBack

In the Blogs of War's

In the Blogs of War's eternal struggle between blogging and rock and roll, rock and roll has been temporarily in the ascendant. I wish that I, like Glenn Reynolds, could type with one hand and simultaneously record a keyboard track with the other (while composing an article for FoxNews.com with my feet)-- I haven't figured out how to do it yet. But I'm new here.

Anyway, keep watching this space for more bloggage to come....

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:26 AM | TrackBack

February 08, 2002

Orwell Again and Again Orwell's

Orwell Again and Again

Orwell's famous essay on Politics and the English Language has been the springboard for countless opinion columns ever since it was written (how many, I wonder?) Here's the latest one, by Jonah Goldberg, and it's a hoot. He's got some great lines, as always, and any excuse to quote the winners of Dennis Dutton's bad writing contest is all right by me.

You don't have to look very far to find examples of unclear language reflecting (and causing) unclear thinking: they are everywhere, particularly in academic writing, perhaps because contemporary academic jargon was patterned after the ideological propaganda of Orwell's time. Goldberg makes a good point about the difference between what the jargon concealed then, as opposed to what it tends to conceal now:

In Orwell's day, the fog of jargon was a smoke screen to conceal real horrors; today the jargon is just so much smoke, to hide the fact that there's no fire. Read pretty much anything by Cornel West and you'll find all sorts of euphemisms brimming with racial or anti-capitalist sound and fury, signifying nothing...

Today's intellectual elite — the stars of Harvard and Berkeley — speak in such gibberish precisely because if they spoke plainly, clearing the smoke from their ideas, we'd learn that their views cover the spectrum from boringly unoriginal to sand-poundingly stupid. So-called "new theories" and "path-breaking approaches" are most often little more than novel, but increasingly ugly, arrangements of the same old deck chairs on the Lido deck of the Titanic.

This is quite right. But the real challenge of Orwell's recommendations on political language is that they cut both ways. Golberg, turning to contemporary political discourse, points to college campus euphemisms like "socially aware," "activists for social change," "sustainable growth," "tolerance," "minority," "economic justice," as "new clothes for old ideas the young and enlightened are scared to admit they still enjoy." True enough. But what about "pro-Life," "compassionate conservatism," "family values," "freedom to work," "coalition partners," "death tax," "marriage penalty," "liberal," "terrorist state," "affirmative access," "tax relief," or "stimulus package?" Eliminating euphemisms would leave a massive, gaping hole in American political discourse from end to end. If he were alive today, Orwell probably would, as Goldberg says of the bad writing winners, "beat these people into submission with a London phonebook" (in effect, anyway.) But he would probably also give the "War on Terror" a tough time, too.

This well-known sentence, from Orwell's essay, remains one of the most provocative and unsettling statements ever written on politics:

Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

This is a challenge to everyone, not just the decadent academics among us, ceaselessly to scrutinize our language and ideas, to let nothing stand unexamined. It's a tough challenge to meet, on trivial as well as important matters, for anyone who takes it seriously.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 11:48 AM | TrackBack

I'm trying to record some

I'm trying to record some demos today, so unless something horrible happens, posting will probably be a bit light for awhile. While I'm away, you might want to read Lawrence Kaplan's latest New Republic article, about the Axis of Evil speech and how Arafat's death ship and his subsequent lies about it finally pushed the administration to acknowledge that the enemies of Israel are also the enemies of the US. Rock and roll.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 11:43 AM | TrackBack

February 07, 2002

The Freedom of Irrelevance Iain

The Freedom of Irrelevance

Iain Murray once again provides some useful perspective on the British press and the reaction to the Camp X-Ray situation. As he points out, editorials in the Telegraph and the Times have "calmly and capably refuted the hysterical allegations of their downmarket competitors" like the Guardian. And he points to this excellent article in today's Telegraph as yet another example.

I believe I've read that the Guardian has something like a 20% market share amongst British newspapers. Yet this 20% does seem to have an inordinate influence on the general media "flow" in Britain, which duly reaches us in America. On the BBC, on ITV News, on Channel 4 News, on Radio 4-- the Telegraph's point of view on America and foreign affairs is rarely represented. As an institution that receives mandatory, involuntary public funding, the BBC must be maddening to the overwhelming majority who apparently disagree with most of the Guardian's points of view. Still, there is far more in the way of actual content in the British news media in all of its forms than there is in the US. Next to Radio 4, NPR sounds like something broadcast over a high school intercom system. Presumably that's why people listen. That's why I do.

I've occasionally speculated that the more extreme loopiness that regularly crops up in the Guardian and the Independent may well be the result of the under-appreciated Freedom of Irrelevance: knowing that there's not the slimmest chance of your being listened to in any serious way, you can go to town with as much hyperbolic rhetoric as you like, safe in the knowledge that it will do no harm. (When you're an "artist," like me, this sort of freedom of irrelevance can really kick in in a big way, if you're so far below the financially viable surface that there's no incentive to follow the market: and that is freedom, however perverse.)

I believe the readership among ordinary people, perhaps only subconsciously, tend to take it in the same spirit. Most of the people I know in England are Guardian readers. Hell, I'm one; which is why I know about the various slop-eds that they regularly publish. When I complain, no one takes the complaints very seriously; they seem to regard it primarily as entertainment, just what you expect from those rascally Guardian columnists. Irascible, eh? Relax. Have another pint, mate.

Anyway, Murray is no doubt also correct about this:

I believe that tough action against the Axis will be greeted warmly by the British people as a whole. Minorities -- Guardian readers, isolationist Tories, Muslim immigrants -- may object, but the rest will see this as just deserts. North Korea may be a sticking point as public ignorance about the dear leader's satrapy is widespread, but Brits know the truth about Iran (remember the Embassy seige in London?) and Iraq just as much as Americans. You don't have to worry about us.

Right, mate. I believe you. And I believe I'll have another beer...

Posted by Dr. Frank at 11:27 AM | TrackBack

February 06, 2002

It may be a Dog's

It may be a Dog's Life, but Gregory Hlataky is being too hard on himself when he says he's not witty. Here's the proof.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:34 PM | TrackBack

Down at the cafe CIA

Down at the cafe

CIA director George Tenet warned Congress today that even though there are 1,000 al-Qaeda operatives in custody, they are still a major threat who may be planning more strikes at high-profile targets. Grim tidings (though in all modesty, I have to say that I figured that one out all by myself.) Despite the grave topic, there were moments of comedy, such as this snappy comeback to an impertinent question:

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., told Tenet that Americans, as they sit chatting in cafes, want to know why, if American Taliban John Walker Lindh could meet bin Laden, the CIA couldn't get an agent near him.

Tenet shot back tautly: "You'd better tell everybody at the cafe that it's not true."

I'll have to remember that "tell everybody at the cafe" line next time I'm confronted with a heckler.

It's not clear what part isn't true. I'd be interested to know what Roberts ends up telling all the cafe folks. I've tried to play folk songs for these cafe crowds before, and they can be a pretty demanding bunch.

Seriously, though, is he hinting that the CIA has indeed infiltrated al-Qaeda's inner circle? Starbucks awaits your answer...

Posted by Dr. Frank at 02:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What a week I'm having

What a week I'm having

First Moira Inappropriate Breen put the Blogs of War on her "blogs of the week" list; now Little Green Footballs have identified yours truly as their first blogga of the week. Owing to that and to this weekend's double-barrelled Welch/Layne linkage, it looks like more people have looked at this humble blog in the last week than at any other time in its relatively obscure existence. (Just to be thorough, it apparently also has something to do with the fact that I recently posted something about the Englishman and the goat-- for some reason that gets googled like crazy.) So this must be what it's like to be on the A-list. I know it's a temporary king-for-a-day kind of thing, but it's pretty cool for all that. Thanks for the linkage. And welcome new readers, if you're still checking in...

(By the way, I noticed that Andrew Sullivan (who gets something like a zillion hits a day) linked to Matt Welch's warblog today-- I wonder how many hits that's good for?)

Update: And the answer is: 20,643. Yowsa.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 12:55 PM | TrackBack

February 05, 2002

Matt Welch on the "Axis

Matt Welch on the "Axis of Evil":

Without commenting on the propriety of Bush’s usage of “axis,” I find it interesting how many on the Left have a knee-jerk hostility to the word “evil,” and are still hung up about Ronald Reagan's usage of it. If there were two things the Left could never stop taunting Reagan for, it was his Evil Empire quote, and his exhortation to Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” It seems to me rather obvious that, in these two cases, Reagan was right, and his hecklers (which included me at the time) were wrong. Facing this honestly should have been the first priority of every “progressive” since November 1989.

Well said. I really believe that much of the current Left's reality-gap has to do with nostalgia for the glory days of "anti-Reagan and stuff, man, yeah." I was (to a degree) one of those hecklers, as well. At that time, "evil" seemed a distant and unreal abstraction. It was not at all a part of the vocabulary of the self-regarding hipster sophisticate (unless the topic of discussion was heavy metal music, or perhaps an ex-girlfriend or two-- like I said, we were sophisticated...) If 9/11 taught us nothing else, at minimum it brought the word "evil" back into legitimate usage. How else can you describe the WTC attacks, or for the quest to acquire the means to continue the jihad against America through nuclear and biological terror? Partly because of the inability of the "progressive" establishment to come to terms with this reality, there are a lot fewer Leftists than there were on 9/10.

There's certainly reason to question the literal accuracy of the word "axis," let alone its propriety, to describe the malfeasance of the three countries in question. But to shrink from the word "evil" in this situation is perverse. It's yet another example of the contemporary Left's nostalgia-driven inability, thus far, to "update" itself and engage with today's world. Until they manage to do that, today's Leftists doom themselves to impotence and irrelevance, even when they do happen to be on the right side of this or that dispute.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:53 PM | TrackBack

Define Terrible... Edward Said, writing

Define Terrible...

Edward Said, writing in the Egyptian publication Al-Ahram online, says that "living in the United States at this moment is a terrible experience." Personally, I can think of worse places to be living, like Ramallah, or Cairo, or Jerusalem. Even in my hometown of Oakland, no jewel among the world's cities, I'm pretty sure I'll be able to go to the shopping center today without being blown to bits by a mad suicide bomber, which I count as a distinct perk. I speak from experience: living in the United States at this moment falls well short of "terrible."

That's not what Said is getting at, of course. The terrible experience is that of being subjected to the pro-American tenor of the US media's coverage of foreign affairs, which he caricatures thus:

the average American is drowned in a storm of media pictures and stories almost completely cleansed of anything in foreign affairs but the patriotic line issued by the government.

The picture is a startling one. America is fighting the evils of terrorism. America is good, and anyone who objects is evil and anti-American.

Never mind the irony that this denunciation of government press domination is published in the organ of the Egyptian government, which is notorious for its own suppression of the free press; and leave aside the fact that it's not an accurate description, as anyone who has read the New York Times over the last few months can attest. Just focus on the logic. Is it not, by any definition "anti-American" to "object" (as Said presumably does) to the statement "America is good"? There's nothing startling about this, nor about the fact that most Americans would tend to disagree fairly vigorously with such sentiments.

As for whether these objectors are "evil," that's a more complicated question. "Objection" can take many forms, and the expression of such dissent in an intelligible way with which those who disagree can engage and which they can attempt to refute is a necessary part of democracy and of a free society. That's not evil. Blowing up random people in public places as a futile attempt at blackmail and as a publicity stunt? Evil. Cheerleading for those who perpetrate such acts of wanton murder, and attempting to excuse them through disingenuous invocations of moral equivalence? Evil also, arguably, though Said is free to do it as much as he wants. I'm sure it plays well in the Egyptian press.

In this post-911 world, America, its government and its people alike, has lost its last shred of patience, tolerance, and sympathy for suicide bombers and those who champion them. It is a profound delusion to imagine that, having been the target of four super-sized suicide bombings, and under the threat of more to come, America would look kindly upon those who continue to perpetrate such crimes, much less reward them with concessions, pressure their targeted enemies to compromise their security, or allow them to arm themselves with even more lethal weapons.

Perhaps because he is writing for a non-Western audience, Said allows himself to be even more cagey than usual on the suicide bombing issue. He proposes new tactics for Palestinian resistance (primarily working with Israeli and international groups who are opposed to various Israeli policies) "of which suicide bombing is simply not a part." At no point does he propose that suicide bombing be halted on moral grounds, nor even on practical grounds, though it would seem that such efforts might have better results if sympathetic Israelis had less reason to worry that a handshake might well detonate an incendiary device. By design or default, what he appears to be proposing, instead, is that these new tactics of conciliation and constructive dialogue be carried on alongside a continued program of suicide bombing. In this context the "new opportunities for Palestinian ingenuity and creativity" that he heralds sound ominous rather than hopeful.

At least Said is honest about the Karine-A shipment:

Words alone are inadequate to explain how an American secretary of state, who presumably has all the facts at his command, can without a trace of irony accuse Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for not doing enough against terror and for buying 50 tons of arms to defend his people, while Israel is supplied with everything that is most lethally sophisticated in the American arsenal at no expense to Israel.

Words may be inadequate to explain this, but I'll give it a shot: it's called facing reality. I'd recommend trying it sometime.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 12:4