November 29, 2004

They had no Choice

David T. over at Harry's Place discusses the new Animals at War memorial, dedicated to "the millions of animals which have been killed in conflict while serving their country."

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This Wheel Shall Explode

Continuing the theme of the previous post, I saw the Patty Hearst film yesterday (Guerilla: the Taking of Patty Hearst.)

It's not really "about" Patricia Hearst, nor really even the history of the SLA, though the SLA story is sketched out. The focus is more on the times and the media and the swirl of hype surrounding the kidnapping.

The contemporary footage, much of which has apparently never been shown before, is stunning. Viewing it was an odd experience for me. This story was my first-ever news/media obsession, when I was a little kid. (The Zodiac killer and the Manson Family also had a pull, but I was too young to follow those deliberately as they happened.) Seeing it all played back on a big screen, 30 years later, felt very strange indeed. For some reason, the images of the Chronicle headlines and articles, many of which I had clipped and saved in a scrap book as a kid, were as arresting as the film footage. Quite apart from the content or "message" of the movie, I was mesmerized by the sensory experience. I remember trying to find Symbionia (?) in the encyclopedia and in the atlas, realizing it wasn't a real place, and thinking that it was the sort of thing that little kids might make up and saying to myself "wow, these people are crazy." I suspect that was quite a common Bay Area experience for people of my generation.

It is interesting to compare this film to last year's Weather Underground documentary, which I wrote about here.

Like the directors of the WU film, the director of Guerilla stands back from his subjects and lets them tell their own stories. His presence is barely felt. There are two lengthy interviews with SLA alumni running throughout the film. These guys, like many of the Weather People in the other film, stumble clumsily in one case, glibly in the other, through the events, with the customary rather desperate-sounding appeal to their generation's vaunted "idealism" and distaste for the Vietnam war that is thought to exculpate, or at least to mitigate, even the most inane and horrifying notions and actions. But it isn't the content per se of the interviews with the SLA alumni that is so fascinating. Rather, it's their mere presence. The director simply displays them, juxtaposing the display with actualities that are variously grim, insane, comical, appalling, absurd. The result is a silent, fairly devastating irony that builds slowly and exponentially. It is quite a powerful technique, and, I think, the appropriate one.

Russell Little, an early SLA member who was convicted of the Marcus Foster murder and later acquitted on retrial, was more or less a spectator to the Hearst affair, observing from his prison cell. He speaks almost as a fellow voyeur, as one of "us" rather than as one of the participants. Every time he appeared on the screen, I couldn't help thinking: that guy is lucky he was caught before he had a chance to participate in any further "actions". He would most likely have gone on to perish in the LA fire-shootout if he hadn't been in custody. (The SLA had naively imagined some kind of prisoner exchange - that was supposedly one of the motivations for kidnapping Hearst in the first place.) Little is a more or less engaging personality, and seems marginally less dim-witted than the other one, Michael Bortin. Still, while I shared his astonishment at the breath-taking idiocy and pointlessness of his comrades' activities, in the end I found the jovial lack of seriousness or regret just a bit unseemly, coming from an actual participant. Yes, they were young and their "idealism" was in the end not all it was cracked up to be, they were swept up with the "spirit of the times" and so forth. That explains the mustache, maybe. It's a poor excuse for murder, though.

Bortin, interviewed before his guilty plea in the Myrna Opsahl case, maintains the pretense of innocence, saying, ludicrously, at one point "I don't know if Emily or Patty or Kathy was involved" in the shooting and adding that he wouldn't be surprised if they're lying, since they've been spreading lies about him. (That's from memory, of course, but I believe it's the gist.) The film's epilogue, featuring footage of Bortin's final hedging apology for the "accident" in court, is perhaps the crowning irony. In his interview, he blames everything on dad and Nixon, too. His participation beyond just being Idealistic he regards as largely accidental. When Patty Hearst and the Harrises arrived in Berkeley seeking help after the LA shoot-out, he says, there were around 200 sympathetic doors they could have knocked on - it just happened that they knocked on his. He says he wasn't impressed with their intelligence, and that they didn't have a "fingernail's worth of charisma between them." Nevertheless, he decided to join them and become a pseudo-political terrorist himself, because, you know, opportunity had knocked. (He may have been new to the SLA, but he was in fact no terrorist ingenue: he had already served jail time in connection with a foiled plot by the "Revolutionary Army" to blow up UC Berkeley campus buildings - the evidence collected from the Berkeley garage where he and his associates were caught included also detailed plans for the kidnapping and assassination of Robert McNamara.)

It all boils down to a notably slow-witted iteration of one of his generation's favorite arguments: hey, you had to be there.

The directorial detachment in the Weather Underground film goes much further, in that the film allows the self-justifications of those participants who wish to exculpate themselves to stand as they are without even a subtle comment. It was an effective technique as well, though much of the irony had to be supplied from information not included in the film. The contrast between the WU alumni and their varying accounts is certainly fascinating, and editorial comment might have diluted it. Still, no effort is made to burst the Big Chill bubble among those who wished to keep it alive (Ayers, Dohrn, Jaffe), not even just a little, which is in the end a bit frustrating. Watching Guerilla, you really realize how much the WU film left out. What I'm getting at is, I'd love to see the Guerilla guy do a Weather Underground documentary. I think his is the better approach.

There seems to be a general sense, among sixties people and their partisans and among counter-culture romanticizers in general, that the SLA is a different sort of animal than the Weather Underground. In fact, sometimes the criticism of the SLA, which can be quite scathing and relentless even from those who profess to see merit in the whole hippie revolutionary "trip", seems on some level to be motivated by a desire to cast the WU as a "better class" of 60s terrorist. I'm no expert by any means, but I have done a lot of reading on the subject and lived through a bit of the aftermath in one of its hotbeds, and it seems to me that the similarities between the three major American 60s-terrorist-cult groups (the Manson Family, The Weather Underground, and the SLA) are more impressive than their differences. For some reason, in some quarters, the WU get credit for being more legitimately "political," even though their "political" rhetoric made no more sense than that of the SLA, and their actions were every bit as pointless. Of the three groups, the Weather Underground is the only one to have explicitly and unreservedly endorsed and supported the other two. The attempt to deny this kinship is rather fascinating in its own right.

What strange times they were, though. The film includes the footage of Kathy Soliah's speech at "Ho Chi Minh Park," where she, looking and sounding a bit like Bernardine Dohrn, excoriates the "pigs" and salutes the SLA's armed struggle. As she finishes, a voice is heard to exclaim: "right on!" Heavy.

Anyway, Guerilla is a mesmerizing, engrossing experience. Great movie.

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November 28, 2004

Burns like a red coal carpet

I just finished reading Bringing the War Home, by Jeremy Varon. It's a parallel narrative and analysis of the story of 60s-radical terrorism in the US and Germany, and it's by far the best thing on the subject that I have ever read. Many accounts of the phenomenon suffer from either an over-abundance of polemical bile, or from a sort of retrograde romantic infatuation with the "urban revolutionary" conceit. Though Varon appears to be broadly sympathetic to the notion of "social change" in its 60s articulation, this is no apologia. The dispassionate tone and absence of histrionics, in my view, render the story more rather than less dramatic and absorbing, though that may be a matter of taste. At any rate, I learned many details I hadn't known, and I found myself agreeing with many if not all of his readings.

Much of the Weather Underground material is drawn from recent interviews with the WU alumni. Many of the allusions and quotes reflecting these interviews are tantalizingly brief: I hope this material is published in full one day.

The account of the notorious 1969 WU "war council" in Flint, Michigan (the one where Bernardine Dohrn praised the Tate-La Bianca killings - "dig it! they killed those pigs!" - and where the young "revolutionaries" debated whether or not killing white babies would be a justified revolutionary tactic) manages to evoke the spirit of the event in a way achieved by none of the dozens of other accounts I have read. This results from the interleaving of plainly-expressed narrative with contemporary and retrospective comments from the participants in the context of a serious analysis of the collective psychosis at the heart of this segment of "the movement." (Whether and to what degree or extent this psychosis reflects something essential about "the movement" itself is a major theme of the book, which the author does not shy away from.) It's rather impressive.

Plus I learned some details about Flint that I hadn't been aware of:

(a) the hall had a giant papier maché gun hanging from the ceiling.

(b) there was a group sing-along of popular tunes with "revolutionary" lyrics. Example: "White Riot," sung to the tune of "White Christmas""

I'm dreaming of a white riot
just like the one October 8
when the pigs take a beating
and things start leading
to armed war against the state.

(c) there were karate classes taught by Tom Hayden!

Varon quotes a contemporary account from the Berkeley Tribe on the event: "I wanted to write an article on how to think about Weatherman. It can't be done." Actually, 35 years later, someone has in fact done it. For anyone who is at all interested in this topic, I strongly recommend this book. It is a fine piece of cultural and social history, and in some ways the quintessential book on the 60s.

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"Show me where the IRS Code says I have to get out of the car!"

I got a kick out of this story: a tax dissident places an ad in USA Today taunting authorities; high-speed chase ensues.

The in-chase cell-phone conversation between the fugitive and another tax protester named Cindy is probably my favorite part:

"I'm going to make them take me," she quoted Mr. Thompson as saying, adding that she asked what she should do.

"Just put the word out," Mr. Thomspon said. Then, apparently having run over the spikes [that the Highway Patrol had laid on the road], he said "they got my tires, they got my car. Now they are out. They have their guns pointed - O.K., they got me.

(via Volokh.)

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first thing's first: I would expect her to drive out to my house and we could cruise around for an hour or two listening to my demo

Craigslist-diving is almost as rewarding as or practically any other sort of web-diving. It's impossible to keep up with all of these windows into other worlds, and this sad fact, owing partly to my obsessive-compulsive temperament no doubt, provokes a constant, low-level sense of despair. Fortunately, I have spies everywhere (thanks Tris) and so am not doomed to miss absolutely everything.

This is a great one. Enjoy.

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November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving, Everybody

Apology accepted!

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"It was mad, demented, crazy. If the campaign is organised along the same lines, Mr Blair is safe for the next century."

Simon Hoggart reports on a recent meeting of the Impeach Tony Blair Movement, a motley crew of Conservative politicians, Lib Dem spoilers, fringe agitators, and Celebrated Artistes.

Sadly, some of the most colorful characters on the list (George Galloway, Boris Johnson, Harold Pinter) were in the end unable to attend. But Frederick Forsyth, Brian Eno, and Corin Redgrave picked up the slack.

Brian Eno, a man I deeply respect regardless, restricted his comments to a purely practical statement of deeply-held principles: "I don't do anything for Rupert Murdoch," he said, when asked by Sky News to contribute to the discussion. He doesn't need to do anything for anyone, in fact. His silent, enigmatic presence is quite enough.

Fortunately, Hoggart is able to supply the words of the poem that Harold Pinter would surely have intoned had he been available for intoning.

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November 24, 2004

"The moment these considerations stop you from speaking out, that's the moment freedom of speech stops..."

Further background on Theo van Gogh from

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We try and try to explain to her about the patriarchy, but she just doesn't listen...


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Confessions of a Philo-semite

An invigorating "appreciation" of Israel, or perhaps rather of Israelis, from Julie Burchill.

Even whilst bracing myself for the storm of anguish unleashed whenever anyone types the I-word, I can't resist quoting this incidental bit, because I've certainly "been there":

And the puzzle comes back to this — why do these people, above all others, inspire such ludicrous, ceaseless, surreal loathing? Why is it that one of my sweetest, youngest, most educated friends said to me one night, not even drunk: “Come on babe, admit it — don’t you ever EVER think that if the Jews had never existed how much easier life would be?”

And here, by the way, is the rebuttal.

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Ebert He Ain't

As I've noted before (here and here) I'm quite a fan of the Maoist Internationalist Movement's film and music reviews.

Here's the review of The Incredibles, which, as it turns out, "leans solidly fascist."

The MIM reviewer also has a theory as to the film-makers' primary motivation:

The directors of this film were probably just angry with previous MIM reviews trashing all the super-heroes as fronts for the police.

Quite possibly.

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November 23, 2004

Thanks for Aggregating

Clive Davis quotes the following anecdote from Richard Pipes's Vixi: Memoirs of a Non-belonger:

I entered a streetcar in Leningrad and to buy a ticket took out the loose change from my pocket: mixed with Soviet coins was a Kennedy half-dollar. The woman selling tickets, sitting by the entrance, spotted it instantly and asked 'Are you an American?' When I confirmed, she insisted on yielding me her seat. As the streetcar lumbered on its way she pointed out to me various landmarks and, loudly extolling the beauties of her city, urged me as a Russian-speaker, to resettle there with my family. The streetcar stopped: passengers poured in and out. Taking advantage of the temporary commotion, the woman, her facial expression suddenly transformed from falsely amiable to genuinely anxious, bent down and asked me in an urgent whisper: 'We live like dogs, don't we? Tell me, please.'

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Romancing the Catechism

More from Oliver Kamm on the Chomsky Cult.

UPDATE: Here's Kamm's follow-up post, which includes some cranky correspondence from the elusive and rather excitable Michael Hardesty.

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November 22, 2004

Little Tin Pacifists

I have a friend who is a member of a Berkeley parenting message list, and she occasionally forwards some of the best ones. A common dilemma among these parents: worries that their male children are displaying disturbing signs of masculinity, despite all efforts to raise them in a feminizing environment. This one is a classic of its kind:

Even though our two year old boy is surrounded by sisters and loves dress-up, barbies, finger nail polish, and such, he recently saw a picture of GI JOE and is fascinated by him! He knows that GI JOE is a doll, and he desperately wants one. Is there such a thing as a GI JOE-for-Peace figure, or a GI JOE that is not loaded down with guns and war equipment? We have already told him that if he were to get a GI JOE, he would not have a gun (a word our son does not even know). Are there any alternatives to GI JOE for boys? Our son already has Ken (and Barbie, for that matter). He really wants a GI JOE, but we are totally turned off by the war/violent nature of this product. Can people offer alternatives for this product (or alterations that people have performed on GI JOE to make him more PC?).

I'd love a transcript of the conversation where these parents try to explain to a two-year-old the concept of the absence of a gun without ever actually using the word "gun." That's a brain-teaser. But, well, that's Berkeley.

UPDATE: when you're done with Dr. Matrix's puzzle above, you can amuse yourself with this lively debate on the glories and challenges of the "Barbie-Free Household."

Here's one to get the ball rolling: "Don't be afraid to voice your real concerns to your daughter. Perhaps if she knew that you had logical objections to Barbie, then she would shun the dolls too..."

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The Root of Humor

I enjoy Oliver Kamm's formidable attacks on Noam Chomsky as I enjoy all of his writing, not only as informative lectures, but also as tightly-constructed masterpieces of understated, withering rhetoric. Even when I don't link to them in fact, I'm privately linking to them in my mind and having a great time doing it.

However -

well, let me put it this way. Are you familiar with this situation? You see a distant figure slip and fall into a big puddle of mud. This is, of course, mildly amusing. The poor fellow picks himself up and begins to walk towards you. Soon you realize that this ridiculous, unfortunate character, dripping with mud from head to toe, engaged in a mostly futile attempt to maintain an air of quiet dignity and composure, is in fact no stranger, but rather someone you know rather well. What was once mildly amusing has suddenly become the most hilarious thing you have ever witnessed.

Well, a ways back, Kamm, in the course of discussing the Chomsky/Faurisson Holocaust denial controversy, quoted a passage from a Chomsky defender that I found quite funny. Kamm describes it as a "pearl of great price," and he is right:

(a) even though we know Chomsky noticed the part of an article which criticised him personally, because he (Chomsky) said so, it is logically possible that he might not have read carefully the bits making clear Faurrison's [sic] own views; (b) even had he read it all, he might have forgotten it (though, given Chomsky's impressive powers of recall, this latter explanation seems implausible).

As so often, I chuckled, but I didn't bother to follow the link to the mud-covered fellow's blog, and I did not link or comment, thinking there was no great harm in keeping my amusement to myself. I do that more frequently than you probably imagine.

That was then, however, and this is now. I have just realized that the pearl's author is none other than Robin Green, Transhumanist, a frequent contributor to the Harry's Place comments boards. The author-reader relationship is mysterious: you read someone's writing, even in the form of cranky posts on somebody's blog, and you start to feel as though you know him. And what was once mildly amusing suddenly becomes too good not to share with the world. Right or wrong, such is life.

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Quite Something

Johann Hari interviews G. Gordon Liddy.

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A Courtier's Criticism

Andrew Sullivan parses out William Kristol's "Thanksgiving Message."

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I don't know why it is this way...

Wanna see a photo of Hungary's ambassador to the US jamming with Tommy Ramone at the Hungarian Embassy? Go here. The US ambassador to Russia is on drums. They played "Blitzkrieg Bop," "Beat on the Brat," and "Let's Dance."

(via Harry's Place.)

UPDATE: as commenters point out, the caption on the photo is wrong. The guy with the mic. is Tommy Ramone. I don't know who the bass-player is, but he doesn't look too much like Ambassador Andras Simonyi either, at least as he appears in this photo. The drummer, who may or may not be the US Ambassador to something or other, appears to be the same dude, however. Well, good drummers are hard to come by. I'm sure we'll get to the bottom of it one day. Don't get me wrong though: it is a great, great photo.

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This fellow, a presenter on Britain's Channel 4 news, appears to view the Iraq conflict primarily as an "ideological and military clash of Christian fundamentals with Islamist fundamentals." He believes the Islamist "fundamentals" might receive more favorable press if they had journalists embedded with them just like the Christians do. Problem: journalists who kind of like not having their heads sawed off might be reluctant to apply for the job. So he recommends that the "men in the hoods" adopt a more journalist-friendly policy. After all, "you do not set up elaborate websites to showcase your latest suicide attack complete with graphics and musical effects if you don't care about PR." You sure don't, though they may also have to rethink the general PR strategy to make it more appealing to the Western television audience. Anyway, it sounds like a plan. Any takers?

Harry has more.

UPDATE: As Angie Schultz points out in the comments, David T. has been emailing Mr. Presenter, trying to get a clearer idea of what he means by "Christian fundamentals." The messages are posted in the Harry's Place comments to the item. Enjoy.

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Theo Rests his Case

Anthony Browne comments on Theo van Gogh and radical Islam's challenge to liberal democracy.

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Try not to be angry, and have a nice weekend

Here's a huge collection of anonymously-posted love letters (via metafilter.)

The title of this item comes from this one.

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November 21, 2004


I don't know quite what to make of this tale of two American Episcopal priests, married to each other, secretly "Druids," who apparently managed to slip this Mother Goddess ritual into the official Episcopal Church USA website before public exposure belatedly broke up the sub rosa coven.

When the clerical couple weren't performing their offices as Episopal priests, they frequented pagan websites under the names Raven and Oakwyse.

(via Kathy Shaidle.)

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Christian Chick-lit

The heroine, Whitney Blake, is a 30-year-old singleton looking for love and writing a diary.

Like Bridget Jones, Whitney battles with her weight and assorted neuroses. Unlike Miss Jones, however, she is a virgin whose life is free of heavy drinking and casual sex. Her diary is filled with inspiring biblical passages rather than a tally of cigarettes and calories. When she goes out on a date she wears strappy shoes "to represent the humble sandals of the Carpenter."

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Yet Another Under-reported Statistic

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Britain's Smarter Half

David Aaronovitch cites a new ICM poll which reveals that "most Britons agree that there is much or some truth in the claim that the Bush administration knew in advance about the 11 September plot, but decided to let it go ahead so as to provide justification for invading Afghanistan and Iraq."

UPDATE: cf. Harry's comment: "The fruitcakes have gone mainstream".

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Good Company

Scroll down to this young lady's list of heroes.

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Rod Liddle on the David Brent of Pop

It’s about time we instigated a prestigious award for the first world leader to tell Bono to get lost. Here is the U2 lead singer, talking about his chat with Gerhard Schröder: “Germany’s bumpy economy was making Chancellor Schröder nervous about spending more money on aid. I asked him if he thought history would accept that excuse.”

The appropriate response to such a self-regarding, presumptuous question from the David Brent of pop is either a swift punch to the nose or the immediate reoccupation of Alsace-Lorraine. Blair, Brown, Bush, Mandela, Archbishop Tutu and even the bloody Pope put up with him. Why? Whenever politicians feel tempted to take pop stars seriously, they should repeat to themselves these words, reportedly said by the singer Mariah Carey: “Whenever I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can’t help but cry. I mean, I’d love to be skinny like that, but not with all those flies and death and stuff.” I really didn’t make that up.

UPDATE: Gary Farber, among others, has pointed out that the Mariah Carey quote quoted by Liddle is bogus, though his statement that he didn't make it up is literally accurate. Sorry about that. My main point in quoting Liddle is the line about Bono being the David Brent of pop. Hey, The Office is one hell of a funny show, right?

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No one likes us, we don't care...

This AFP photo of a "British hooligan in the streets of Belgium" has this caption:

The typical Briton is polite, witty and phlegmatic, but lacks a certain style and has a dental hygiene issue while having an occasional drinking problem.

(via Tim Blair.)

UPDATE: I replaced the link with the cached page, as the original link no longer works. Thanks Marc.

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November 20, 2004

Stupider and Stupider

I know that statistics can be manipulated to serve any ends, and I have no confidence in the universal applicability of any poll, particularly when you're talking about context-less pieces of micro-data. And having graduated from a supposedly elite university myself, I've never felt that "college graduate" is quite the measure of intellectual achievement or ability that it's cracked up to be. (My recollection is that a fair-to-middling portion of my classmates were barely literate, and that this presented no great handicap in their pursuit of diplomas.)

Yet, with all those caveats out of the way, and in the interests of furthering more inane bitter arguments in the comments over which party is stupider, I present this statistic, which I have never heard mentioned in all the back-and-forth about voting demographics - not that I've been paying all that much attention, but still:

"52% of college graduates voted for Bush vs. only 46% for Kerry."

I have no idea if it's true, and, as I say, even if true I doubt it means much, but this article is the only mention of it I have yet read.

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I'll write the screenplay, but only if I get to play Steve

The best stories have a beginning, a middle, a violent climax, a deceptive resolution with a hint of worse to come, and finally a satisfying, ironic punchline. This one (via Richard Bennett) has it all. I can't wait for the movie version:

If there had been a cultural dictionary of Portland during the 1980s, the definition of "Progressives" would have been Steve and Marcia Moskowitz.

He was a brainy Reedie lawyer who left the city attorney's office to become a top aide to mayor Bud Clark. She was a spunky blue-collar Chicagoan who worked as a city planner. They went to potlucks hosted by the New Jewish Agenda and volunteered for left-leaning causes--hippies who became yuppies without selling out.

In 1992, however, the couple split up. Later that year, Steve began seeing another woman--and Marcia snapped. On Oct. 17, she drove to his Northwest apartment, knocked on his door, pulled out a .22 caliber pistol, and fired four shots into his chest, stomach and groin. Then she knelt over him and fired three more.

"That's what happens when you shoot a gun," she told him. He went to the emergency room. She went to jail.

Fourteen years later, Steve has a new calling. He's now a rabbi at Temple Israel in Long Beach, Calif. He's also got a new wife, Ana, whom he met at Congregation Beth Israel in Portland. Contacted by WW, he said he still follows local politics but was not eager to discuss the shooting.

Marcia served 18 months behind bars. She, too, has remarried (to Gary Suttenberg, a college friend of her ex-husband's). After working as union organizer for several years, she is now executive director of the Portland Women's Crisis Line--a job where, she says, her background is an asset, rather than a liability.

"I tell clients, 'Right now you may feel like you've hit the bottom,'" she says. "'But you will come up.'"

(Resonant movie-trailer voice-over: "what do you really know about your Women's Crisis Line executive director?")

UPDATE: Here's the Portland Women's Crisis line website, practically every word of which is at least slightly ironic in view of the background of the Executive Director.

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November 19, 2004

Fillum Clips

1.) Check out this virtuoso three-year-old xylophonist: her beautiful expression makes this an excellent performance.

(via Harry's Place.)

2.) This probably shouldn't have cracked me up quite as much as it did, but what can I say? I'm a profoundly shallow man...

UPDATE: reader and 1st/2nd grade teacher Marisa writes:

In regards to the xylophone girl clip:

It seems strange to me that you would promote the likes of Kim Jong Il. Especially at the expense of small children. I don't know who you think you are, but I think you are a big meany.

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The Unipolar Predicament

More from Robert Kagan on the US/Europe divide, with an emphasis on "the genuinely elusive and malleable concept" of legitimacy:

Discovering where legitimacy lies at any given moment in history is an art, not a science reducible to the reading of international legal documents. That is a serious challenge for the modern liberalism that animates the United States and Europe alike. Recent crises such as those in Kosovo and Iraq have shown that the search for legitimacy creates a fundamental dilemma for liberalism and liberal internationalism.

The problem is that the modern liberal vision of progress in international affairs has always been bifocal. On the one hand, liberalism has entertained since the Enlightenment a vision of world peace based on an ever-strengthening international legal system. The success of such a system rests on the recognition that all nations, big or small, democratic or tyrannical, humane or barbarous, are equal sovereign entities. On the other hand, modern liberalism cherishes the rights and liberties of the individual and defines progress as the greater protection of these rights and liberties across the globe. In the absence of a sudden global democratic and liberal transformation, that goal can be achieved only by compelling tyrannical or barbarous regimes to behave more humanely, sometimes through force.

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Floating in Space

I guess what Robert Fisk is implying here is that American or pro-American forces may have murdered Margaret Hassan in order to make the "insurgency" look bad. He also implies that the real insurgents only remove the heads of the truly guilty.

(via Norm Geras.)

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November 16, 2004

Another Voice from the Bubble

More on the San Francisco state of mind, written in reaction to the quote from Fat Mike in this article.


San Francisco is an island surrounded by a bubble shaded by a giant rainbow flag sheltered by the First Amendment. It is a wonderful place to be a liberal or a woman or an immigrant or just about anyone. Our problem is we can't see outside the city, past that big gay pride flag and all the protective layers we wear to keep out the encroaching fog. This is the most liberal city in the country and the queerest city on earth. Celebrating being the most out-there place and then being let down with the rest of the country for not going our way makes no sense. Most of us are San Franciscans because of the compassion this city affords us. Not many people have that reasoning for living in other parts of the country.

I don't think the sadness and doom that has enveloped San Francisco for the past week is as intense anywhere else in the country -- even New York has a Republican for mayor. We are not used to a diversity of political ideas here. We celebrate diversity of everything else, but we need to work on accepting 51 percent of the country. We have preached about racism, sexism, free needles, the right to marry and no-kill animal shelters. We must respect people's right to vote from their heart.

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TNR's Peter Beinart notes that the Democratic Party seems unusually complacent in defeat, pointing out that post-defeat "unity" is not necessarily a virtue. He really has a point: many Democrats appear to believe that the thing to do in 2008 is to run essentially the same campaign with a different spokesmodel.


[Kerry] never viscerally grasped America's post-September 11 anxiety about liberalism. That anxiety is understandable, and thinking it can be assuaged with new cultural packaging is as condescending as thinking it could be overcome by nominating a Vietnam veteran.

The Democrats need an ideological shift on foreign policy akin to the domestic policy shift ushered in by Bill Clinton. When that shift begins, division will replace unity and the bloodletting will begin. It can't start a moment too soon.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:08 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Welcome to the Real World

This was part of an intriguing packet of documents I received as a birthday present from a generous benefactor. It was found in San Francisco on the street. It is only the tip of a marvelous iceberg, but here it is. Written in black ink on a page of notepaper, in all capitals (which I changed to ordinary text in the transcription for readabilty.) Italics reflect underlining.

November 15, 2000


-> Here is everything I can give back to you. It's sad the way everything ended, but for the better. It's good that it happened fast too, other wise we would have felt held down, not really like either of us really were. We all know what you were doing while I was out of town, or even when I was in the state. You should feel like a pimp! After all, you "won" your game, right? Maybe, not... If only you had cared this might affect you, but knowing what we all knew from start to finish, it was never possible. Personally, from were I am now, I just dont get why I ever pretended to be the honest one. Acting has never been my strong point but I think I pulled it off this time, I dont like to lie to get where I am, but two people have to play the game. Its no fun otherwise. The sad thing was, that for your years in acting you couldn't do it just right. You should work on that!

-> But down to biz...

1.) You should watch were your dick goes when you have a girlfriend, cause if shes not cheating, then there was one place she got the STD, through you! Hint #1 naughty naughty

2.) If you gonna lie, at least make it worth your time, energy, & risk factor. Not some dumb blonde on the internet! That's just tacky.

3.) Dont be so quick to trust, there are a lot of people that can toy with you, HI!

4.) Important: if your girlfriend leaves town to take care of a "friend" out of state, chances are she's fucking, him.

5.) dont judge people, I may look like I dont make 150 thousand a year. But its just that I dont care like you do.

6.) Always! end things in a good place, cause you're the one to get burned in the long run.

7.) Dont leave things at your girlfriends house, cause you'll get a note like this, when Aaron is back in the picture and new fuck doesnt like you.

8.) Dont hit on ex-girls friends, you arent scoring any points with them and it makes it easy for them to say "fuck you."

9.) Spreading rumors around school about ex isnt a good way to go. Shit like that can catch up to you, really badly. No threat.

10.) You feel like an ass for trying to get back with g/f, but dont tell school I was on your nuts, when you dont get that pussy again.

11.) Say as you might, insaults during a fight also come back to you. So watch your mouth when you're mad.

12.) Just because we say we are honest, we're shady too, but we dont get caught & we never tell you everything!

13.) Your not a pimp

~ Welcome to the real world ~ Dannie

Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:15 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Presented Without Comment

Welcome to the first and only adult site made by and featuring a cast of sexy vegans and vegetarians! Veg Porn is alternative porn and sex-positive culture for herbivores and those who love them, and we think you'll find something here that tickles you fancy.
(hat tip: Steve. Just in case any of you folks have jobs: not safe for work. Or anywhere.)
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November 15, 2004

Accept the things you can't change...

Of all the Sorry World photos out there, this one has a poetry all its own:


(via Bill Quick)










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It Wasn't What He Meant to Say

George Galloway's libel case against the Telegraph has begun.

Favorite bit so far, from QC Richard Rampton:

"he himself freely admits, he put his foot in his mouth by making some remarks which were open to interpretation - and needless to say were interpreted - as some kind of fawning praise for Saddam Hussein's personal courage and strength.

"It wasn't what he meant to say, it was not in his mind to say, because he had no respect or admiration for Saddam Hussein whatsoever."

Mr. Galloway's words were: "Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability." Oops!

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November 11, 2004

Help is on the way

Intense hypnotherapy is, apparently, the answer to "post-election selection trauma". I have an idea that Norm Geras's prescription would be just as effective (though admittedly, less hilarious), but then I would, wouldn't I?

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Celebrate False Consensus

Way back when I was considering whether to pursue an academic career, a wise and beloved professor took me aside and calmly explained that someone like me (white, male, "classically" liberal, non-Marxist) did not have the barest prayer of ever getting an academic job. To judge from this interesting article on political-cultural parochialism in higher education, he knew what he was talking about, and the situation has hardly changed. (You could argue, of course, that my prospects for a career in the music biz were hardly better. And you'd be right.)

The salient point extends beyond academia, though that's where it is perhaps most ironic: wherever people have reason for absolute confidence that all those present share their attitudes and prejudices, the quality of discourse tends to suffer. Propositions are "put forward not for discussion but for approval," as the article's author aptly puts it. Celebration crowds out analysis. Not always. But more often than is desirable. It's a further irony that this general line of thinking is one of the bases for arguing for the desirability of Diversity, though proponents of academic diversity rarely appear to pursue their own argument beyond the dogma of identity politics. There is a lot of over-blown hysteria on the right about "liberal bias" everywhere, of course, and as a rule it doesn't move me. This article, however, does a good job of summing up why even the non-hysterical among us sometimes wonder whether the "liberals" are in fact quite as liberal as they ought to be. Worth a look.

(via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: Yet another amusing anecdote illustrating the self-sustaining "false consensus effect":

A friend of mine who teaches in another CUNY social science department related to me a particularly good demonstration of the “false consensus effect.” Her department regularly meets for lunch, and in the weeks before the start of the Iraq war, discussion went to current events. Although she—and one other department member—supported Bush’s policy, she remained silent, since she didn’t have tenure. As they lunched, several senior colleagues repeatedly cast doubts on polls showing majority support for the President’s handling of Iraq, since, they remarked, they hadn’t encountered one person who supported Bush’s approach.

As I've said, I don't believe that this dynamic is restricted to academic settings. I suppose there are some people whose genuine views and attitudes are thoroughly devoid of "objectionable" content. But everybody else in these blue areas, and I imagine that to be quite a large number, will have found themselves in precisely this sort of situation, even when tenure isn't involved. You may agree with the general thrust of just about everything they're all saying in the cafe or the bar or the break room. But the consequences of expressing dissent on those points about which you have reservations can amount to such a hassle that it's usually not worth it. You remain silent. You'll listen to the most retarded, uninformed drivel with a frozen smile. Everybody else is doing this, too. And everybody (other than the sainted few who are blessed with instinctive ideological purity and no reservations whatsoever) walks around with secret opinions on this and that. It's a pretty hilarious situation when you think about it, kind of an Invasion of the Body Snatchers sort of situation. Just hope that Donald Sutherland doesn't spot you, point at you, and start screaming.

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Beautiful Losers

It's true. I can go to New York and order sautéed fiddle-head fern on my hamburger and no one bats an eye. And while I'm at the restaurant, where the bill will come to around half the price of an ordinary person's monthly rent, I can wear my fake trucker's cap and everyone will realize that what this means is that I am smarter and have better taste in music than actual, real-life truckers, the poor, dumb bastards. It's a good life. The thing I've never been clear on though, is, if we're all such geniuses over here, how come we can't figure out a way to win an election now and then? Ted has the answer: we lose because we're superior. I knew it had to be something like that. Keep up the good work, man.

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Free Speech is Just a Subtle form of Censorship

Unless there's some kind of glitch in the translation, this bizarre article comes rather close to expressing approval of the murder of Theo van Gogh, and accuses him of "abusing his right to free speech."

Why it should appear on an anti-censorship site called "Index on Censorship - for Free Expression" is fairly puzzling. Unless it represents a magnanimous attempt to give the anti-free speech point of view equal time. Astonishing.

(via Harry's Place.)

UPDATE: the link now leads not to the original article that struck me and many others as so bizarre, but instead to the author's response to the criticism of it. The original article is now here. It's hard to disagree that provocative statements intended to inflame the passions of people who might be tempted to stab you through the heart in a public square are not wise. And you can see why he'd be interested in distancing himself, as stridently as possible, from the sort of statements that are liable to get you stabbed through the heart in the public square. The tepid concession that the author's "opinion of his style doesn't mean van Gogh should have been censored – much less that he should have been killed for his views" does, however, belatedly place his argument just barely inside the boundaries of the "defense of free speech" category. Free Speech has had more enthusiastic defenders, it's true, but even if this is indeed the best that the Index on Censorship can come up with, I certainly appreciate the effort.

UPDATE II: the comments thread at Harry's Place now includes contributions from the article's author, Rohan Jayasekera. I just have to echo the sentiments of several of Harry's posters: RJ appears to have either (a) a half-hearted attitude towards the idea of defending free speech; or (b) a poor understanding of exactly what free speech means. Whatever he may be referring to when he says he was "being ironic" (scare quotes sic) in his original article, it's still a bit mystifying that such a person should be in charge of a journal/website explicitly devoted to a cause with which he has so little familiarity or for which he has such slight enthusiasm.

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November 08, 2004

Life's Too Short

Congratulations, Christ Opher. The irritating usenet-y comments of your alias Deep Storm have finally irritated me enough to kill-file you, which I suppose was your goal. Takes me back to my college days...

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:20 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

November 07, 2004

My Blue Heaven

Here's an interesting 3-D election map. The Chicago area, as per tradition perhaps, appears to have had more than its share of voters, but I'm assuming that's just a trick of perspective or the curvature of the globe or something. Fascinating.

(via The Edge of England's Sword.)

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"Who is this pretentious Brit and why is he writing to me?"

According to Andy Bowers of Slate, the Guardian's notorious Operation Clark County ("a crazy British plot") really did influence the election:

[G2 editor Ian] Katz ... said he knew all along that the letter-writing project could backfire. So, did it? Almost certainly, yes. In 2000, Al Gore won Clark County by 324 votes. And since Ralph Nader received 1,347 votes, we can assume Gore's margin would have been larger without Nader on the ballot. On Tuesday George Bush won Clark County by 1,620 votes.

The most significant stat here is how Clark County compares to the other 15 Ohio counties won by Gore in 2000. Kerry won every Gore county in Ohio except Clark. He even increased Gore's winning margin in 12 of the 16. Nowhere among the Gore counties did more votes move from the blue to the red column than in Clark. The Guardian's Katz was quoted as saying it would be "self-aggrandizing" to claim Operation Clark County affected the election. Don't be so modest, Ian.

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Everything's Up to Date in KKKansas City

David Aaronovitch discusses the seemingly widespread notion that the 2004 election is best understood as a Philip Pullman/gnostic parable, a spiritual war where the bad guys won. (He has a slightly different notion.) Also, Harry provides some perspective on the same issue: apparently, even our European betters aren't immune to the Christian virus. In Guardian-land, there's even a permanent, unelected enclave of bishops in the upper house, The Lords Spiritual. (Now that really does sound Pullman-esque.) Well, at least we'll all go together when we go.

San Francisco is a weird place these days. Everyone is stumbling around zombie-like, in a depressed haze. The usual exuberance has been dampened: even the mimes have been affected, as well as the guys on stilts with the huge top hats, the roller-blading I'm-a-Pepper-You're-a-Pepper folks, the scantily-clad hipster chicks and their scruffy, pudgy, knit cap 'n' goatee boyfriends with the enormous shorts. The spark has gone out of the life of The City.

I spent a chunk of last night drinking in a bar. (Yes, you're still allowed to do that in KKKristian Amerikkka, or at least, you still are in liberal free 'n' easy San Francisco.) The Christian Right Stole the Election with the Help of the Morons and Now We're Doomed was definitely the preferred analysis of those in attendance. Everyone I talked to seemed genuinely terrified, as though Christian Stormtroopers were already on their way to invade their $1800-a-month studio apartments, strap them to a portable altar, cut their hearts out and feed them to their mangey dogs.

Another thing I noticed is that, when discussing our Red State fellow-citizens, we Bay Areans tend to adopt this weird accent, part Jed Clampett, part Amos 'n' Andy, part Gomer Pyle, part Hee Haw, and part retard. We imagine the Red State People going around saying things like "I hates me sum libruls," and "I jes gots ta keel me sum Ay-rabs," and "hey, paw, looky here, Jebus done tole me the homos is evil." Maybe it really is like that, for all I know. If so, I can see why people find it so disturbing that there appear to be more of them than there are of us. No wonder our guy didn't win. Why can't we all be smart and good, and speak properly?

UPDATE: I gather, to my surprise, that a handful of readers have failed to detect the sarcasm in this post. This saddens me, as I thought I was being so clever and dry. Much as I hate to do it, let me be plain: in fact, I do not agree with the "they're all morons" theory expounded by my fellow drunk Bay Areans the other night. It reflects more on them than it does on those they mock, the thing reflected being denial, chauvinism, and a richly ironic lack of self-understanding. This is quite a common thing in the Bay Area, even among those who do not happen to be drunk or stoned. People are so impressed with themselves and confident of their own superiority that they are incapable of imagining a situation where anyone who disagrees with their views is not stupid, wicked, or a participant in a far-reaching conspiracy. I've lived here all my life, and I am "one of them" any way you slice it, but I have always found this phenomenon partly distasteful, yet mostly just hilarious.

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November 06, 2004

Petticoat Junction

Matt Welch has a hilarious post on how true blue, bred-in-the-bone Blue State elite-types put on "jes plain folks" costumes in order to help dramatize their gloat-a-thons over the election results. James Taranto killed him a bear when he was only three. And meet Professor Bainbridge, a poor mountaineer who, in spirit if not in body, barely kep his family fed.

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November 05, 2004

Four More Years

Norm Geras anticipates and laments four more years of this:

Had John Kerry won on Tuesday, you can be confident of one thing. This would have been widely hailed by left, liberal or progressive opinion as a triumph and vindication of American democracy, with the intensity of political interest and passion and the high turnout revealing the continued health and vibrancy of that polity, and the result yielding for the President-elect a mandate and legitimacy beyond all possible question. Instead, what we got in some of these quarters - the Guardian as ever taking the lead here - was not just the kind of expression of dismay which anyone on the losing side of an important political battle is entitled to, but a miserable, self-indulgent wailing, the content of which displayed for all the world to see a depth of contempt towards millions and millions of American voters that disgraced all those who gave it head room. These millions of Americans had had the cheek to vote otherwise than the liberal way dictated.

So, on one Guardian page we had to read of Republican 'morons', of Mein Kampf as an apt precedent for November 2 2004, and of someone who is now ashamed to call himself or herself American. On the letters page, under the heading 'A dark time for thoughtful Americans' - and if you are indeed thoughtful, just think about what this heading implies of more than 50% of the US electorate - it was 'so many stupid people'; and it was American electors having voted on the basis of 'the terrifying power of fear'. A tour of left and liberal blogs allowed you to pick up the same style of language: 'idiots', 'ignorant', 'self-deceiving', 'dumb' and 'fools'. This is the payoff of the chimp theme and of the venom and hatred with which it has come to be invested. If 58 million people or more vote for an evident moron, what else can they be themselves than morons? The partisans of this talk all take it for granted, of course, that they are the folk with the interests and values of democracy at heart. But their contempt for their fellow-citizens or (as the case may be) the citizens of another democracy, and that one of the world's greatest, tells its own story.

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I see my fellow Bay Areans are already laying the foundations for a winning strategy in 2008


From this site, via Instapundit.

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