Friday, June 30, 2006

On The Beach

Okay, I'm signing off for a week. I'm visiting the land of my ancestors, way out in the North Carolina 'backer fields, for a relative's wedding. Both my parents have deep genealogical roots in that sod, and I always feel a sense of rootedness there, though I myself have never resided there.

Then I'm off to Myrtle Beach, to soak up rays like a dead tarantula, watch the sun rise over the Atlantic ocean, and generally recreate myself. Plus, I get to see Happy Fourth fireworks on the beach!

Y'all be safe; see you when I get back.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Life Imitates Mark Steyn

“Conservative” has been carelessly appropriated by the media to mean no more than the side you’re not meant to like. Attorney general John Ashcroft is a hardline conservative, but so, according to the press, is the Taliban and half the Chinese politburo and the crankier ayatollahs.

Canada is calling for the arrest of an Iranian prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, be arrested if he sets foot in a civilized nation. The cleric is charged by Canadian officials for the 2003 torture death of an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, Zahra Kazemi, in an Iranian jail.

I was listening to this story on Morning Edition today (audio here), and got the subjective impression that they were being tougher on Iran than usual. The victim in this case was a woman, a Canadian, and a journalist--so to a male American news-consuming cynic, that might account for the heat.

Then, I caught a snippet wherein the NPR reporter said that Mortazavi is widely considered one of the most "conservative" Iranian officials. Uh-huh. Not "radical", as in radically transgressing the norms of civilized jurisprudence by imposing medieval tortures on innocent victims. But "conservative", as in "'conservative' is just another synonym for 'bad dog!' in the news media."

Well, I guess that shows they were really angry about Iran's dictatorship, and that's something, at least.

David Brin On Intelligent Design

SF writer David Brin skewers Intelligent Design in this reductio ad absurdum piece in The Skeptic.

I doubt that the promoters of Intelligent Design really want to see a day come when every biology teacher says: “Okay, you’ve heard from Darwin. Now we’ll spend a week on each of the following: intelligent design, guided evolution, intelligent design of intelligent designers, evolution of intelligent designers, the Hindu cycle of karma, the Mayan yuga cycle, panspermia, the Universe as a simulation…” and so on.

Monday, June 26, 2006

End of the road for the HST?

The Hubble Space Telescope's camera has gone dark. Cosmic rays toasted a transistor or something, they say. NASA will have to plan a shuttle mission to get up there to swap out parts, if they decide to prolong the orbiting observatory's service life at all. Kind of like deciding whether to have the transmission replaced in your 1980 Mercedes, I'd imagine. Bite the bullet now, or borrow trouble later?

All those gorgeous photos we've thrilled to since 1990 (once they straightened out the first glitch with the optics) are a little misleading. Those pics were heavily processed into brilliant colors--real visible light images of the cosmos are much dimmer, and plainer. No deception was intended, they were just trying to enhance the gossamer detail in all those interstellar clouds and nebulae. I'll miss them if this is really the end.

But, there are other space-based observatories. Hubble peered about in the visible light spectrum. Here are some others, which observe the universe in the gamma, x-ray, and infrared spectra. There's also a successor to Hubble in the works, bigger and better. But there can only be one trailblazer.

Leaks, leaks, leaks

The talk shows and the dextro-sphere are convulsed with outrage about the most recent outings of troop movements and covert anti-terrorist nation security operations. Michelle Malkin has a set of bitter photo-shopped commentary here, for example.

Hugh Hewitt is the fairest of the talk radio hosts, in that he doesn't run an echo chamber. He gets the other side on for quantity airtime, and isn't so concerned as some are to be seen as tossing the opposition over the top rope. So the transcripts of his interviews with the journalists and the exasperated officials would be a good first stop for the curious.

There's not much to add to all the donner and blitzen being called down on the news media. They are overwhelmingly liberal, astoundingly arrogant (this I know from personal experience, which needn't detain us here), and you can be forgiven for thinking, some days, that they don't hate George Bush because they oppose the war; they oppose the war because they hate George Bush. I'll just pass along an unconscious slip of the tongue I caught the NYT in, from their morning-after editorial on the '04 election. It explains a lot:

"We have had enough of the rancor for a while, and our greatest hope now is that Mr. Bush will set out to earn the right to be seen as leader by all the nation."

Sooo... Winning the electoral vote by a clear margin, winning the popular vote with the most votes ever won in an American election, winning a popular majority for the first time since 1988, expanding the GOP's hold on both houses of Congress for the first time since McKinley--none of that was good enough in our system of democracy to "earn the right" to be seen as leader. It needed some certain je ne sais quois to get progressives to assent to lose the BUSHITLER!!!! signs. And for the national press to quit trying to overturn the results of the election.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

One Free Korea?

Well, I haven't heard anything about the West Coast being nuked this weekend, so I guess that means that North Korea's missile test is not an imminent threat. Trouble is, with an ICBM, by the time the threat is imminent, it's probably too late. Just after the missile is launched, it is hot and comparatively slow, a possible target for a submarine-launched ABM. Once it gets on the other side of the parabola, it is fast and cold--not so easy to knock down, then. Hope Bush can deter them from any funny stuff.

I get rather melancholy thinking about North Korea. It is the most thoroughgoing slave state in the world today. North Korea is really just one man, and the state and the people are his playthings. The Hermit Kingdom is not in the same league as Soviet Russia, Communist China, or Nazi Germany--but it is "tops" in its weight class, for sheer horror visited upon its population. How could Americans back in the Thirties and the Fifties live with equanimity, knowing what was happening on the other side of the world? The same way I live now, with a shrug and a sigh for the poor wretches.

Your best English language source for Korea-related bloggage is The Korea Liberator, formerly One Free Korea. The proprietor basically provides his take on articles from the Chosun Ilbo and other South Korean newspapers, but it's a well-informed take. He's been all over the missile thing from the beginning.

Update: In the comments, I'm informed that it's a group blog.

Iraq = Vietnam? Yes, Up To A Point.

Former LBJ staffer Ben Wattenberg explains.

In both wars, we were told our actions would hurt us in the eyes of the world. And so they did. Unfortunate. But we ended up as the exceptional nation, Number One, more influential than any nation in history, the City on a Hill, hearing anti-American language which boiled down to “Yankee go home and take me with you.”

And so do these two old veterans:

In single file, troops walked up the ditch where we stood watching. All were wearing their armored vests with the ceramic plates, Kevlar helmets, and web gear bulging with ammo and a few canteens. Many had Camelback water sacks on their backs, with rubber tube dangling under the chin strap. About half were carrying small rucksacks with more ammo. Some still had on their rubber overboots; others had taken them off and shoved them in the rucksacks. All looked worn. For Ray and me both, we knew from slogging through the paddies in Vietnam how tired these Marines were this late in the fight. The gear they were carrying wasn't that much different than what we had carried and as they trudged by us along the side of the highway they seemed to both of us to be the same Marines we had known thirty-five or forty years earlier--we both felt like we could call out a name from our past, and someone there, in that column, would answer. Ray was encouraging them, slapping them on the shoulders as they passed by, and when I looked at him I could see tears streaming down his face.
-- Bing West and Ray L. Smith, The March Up: Taking Baghdad with the 1st Marine Division, 2003

Operation Valiant Shield

Did you hear anything in the news this past week about Operation Valiant Shield? It was the largest U. S. Navy exercise since the Vietnam War. I discovered it by serendipity while looking up something else on Wikipedia.

What was curious was that mainland Chinese naval brass were invited to view the proceedings, along with dignitaries from other Pacific nations. I shudder to think of the valuable intel they scoffed up. But maybe the putative sub-text of the exercise sunk in on the Chinese, too: "Don't Screw With Uncle. We may be occupied with Iraq and Afghanistan, but we can still blow you back into the Gobi desert if you try anything in the Taiwan strait."

Granted, such a lesson has a limited deterrence value on an enemy that has never valued the lives of its subjects, and outnumbers us four-fold. The communists have always been willing to spend Chinese lives in furtherance of a goal, no matter how unworthy. Jung Chang's recent biography of Mao Ze-dong alleged that one reason Mao got into the Korean War was to kill off the remnants of Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist army, which had surrendered to the communists the previous year. So, we'll need every edge we can get, as China advances militarily and economically in the coming decades.

China is not, as is invariably said, in transition from communism to a freer and more democratic state. It is, instead, something we have never seen before: a maturing fascist regime.

Heading off threats like that, as well as international Islamic terrorism, is why I Support The Troops.©

A man's home is his hassle

Entropy is a term from physics, describing how energy in a closed system gradually runs down faster than it can be revved up. There is a little-known but oft-experienced parallel phenomenon in the lives of homeowners, wherein the systems in your house break down faster than you can fix them, and faster than your bank account can replenish itself. It could be a TV show: This Old Money Pit.

I decided to fix my leaky basement by installing over-sized gutters. These work, but I still have to keep them cleaned out, else they'll spill over and we're back to a very damp square one. Gutter helmets, you say? Nope. I'm surrounded by seven--count 'em, seven--gorgeous old century oaks. Helmets may turn away the leaves from a couple of these giants, but not seven. And helmets won't do anything with oak blooms, which pile up like snow drifts. There's nothing for it but to get up there every two weeks and blow the gutters out.

I called a plumber to come and fix what turned out to be a very minor problem. He essentially charged me for just the service call, as the part--singular--was too cheap to price and the job took no time at all. A good deal, since I had gotten an estimate from another company that wanted to pull the whole water works out from the street to the house and replace it. But now I've got an HVAC problem, from a power surge from a storm the other night. The problem is juu-uu-uust above my skill set, so I'll have to call someone. Hope I get lucky again.

So that's why I've been slacking off on the free ice cream this weekend. Hope yours has been good nonetheless!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

And a belated happy father's day

Your First Things tie-ins are some ruminations about fatherhood:

I say I wanted to be a father, but that doesn’t quite capture it. I have very nearly made an idol of fatherhood, and worshiped it. In this, I think I am only in tune with the times. My ancestors worshiped the empty space above the cherubic throne, and so it seems entirely fitting to me to worship an absence—above all in this age of fatherlessness.

After decades of exposure to the social and psychological disasters, particularly those afflicting our inner cities, that have accompanied the deconstruction of American fatherhood, the gender feminists still don't get it. Though they insist that such cannot be the case, it becomes increasingly clear that the mayhem inflicted by violent men on women (and on other men, and on society as a whole) has its roots not in conventional patriarchy, but in the increasingly matriarchal nature of the American family. Ever since Philip Wylie wrote his angry text on American "Momism" back in the thirties, various astute commentators, including a number of women, have been telling us that American children, and especially boys, need more patriarchy-in the best sense of that term-and not more "empowered" matriarchs. These children particularly need fathers who are different from their estimable mothers in equally admirable ways: tough without being macho brutes, stern without being petty tyrants, and yes, affectionate-but on the whole, less nurturing than their wives.

Would my life be easier if, in premodern fashion, my wife took on almost all the responsibility of caring for our son? Perhaps. I’d certainly have gotten more rest during the first few months of his life. But then I’d have spent so much less time feeding him, changing his diapers, holding him in my arms, rocking him to sleep, and comforting him during hour-long crying binges. For all the stresses and strains of life as a new man, there’s no substitute for the act of devoting oneself to another person, especially one so helpless and needy. It—and arguably it alone—grants a gift of spontaneous, unconditional love that every human being, and not just women, should experience. I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way.

Leftists on Parade

Photoblogger "zombie", a closeted conservative in a San Francisco area news media outlet, frequently posts photo-essays on radical demos. Here's one that is, most untypically, safe for work. Usually these "people power" things look like the bar scene from Star Wars.

Just don't click through to his archives. I'm just saying...

U. S. Soldiers Found Tortured To Death

Possibly the victims of a procedures breakdown. These patrols are supposed to go out in units of three vehicles, reports say.

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, the U.S. military spokesman, wouldn't speak in detail about the condition of the bodies. But he said it was clear that the two had been killed in a violent way and not from wounds received during the initial battle with the guerrillas.[...]

He also said the military was investigating how three young low-ranking soldiers -- the vehicle's driver was killed in the attack -- ended up alone on the road in a town regarded as one of the most hostile in all of Iraq.

"There was a single vehicle there with three American soldiers when they came under attack," Caldwell said. "We do know that the chain of command is looking at the entire situation."

Ugly stuff. The jihadis ritually slaughtered them, just like the ritual slaughter of sheep and camels during the hajj. Makes sense, as these creatures believe jihad to be a religious obligation.

The "bomb 'em flat" brigade is all over the talk shows today, and I suspect in the dextro-sphere, too. I haven't checked thoroughly. But not in the milblogs. They understand the mission better than anyone, and they know that we can't let ourselves be goaded into a blind fury over this. A fury, yes; but not a blind one. Says John over at Castle Argghh!!!:

I personally don't think we can get that much tougher, without throwing restraint aside and becoming a terrible mirror of our foe. We're already killing them at a rate greater than three to one, and they revel in the dying, do the jihadis.

Donald Sensing isn't so sure we can restrain ourselves, though. But, there's positive precedent. We didn't obliterate Fallujah after the jihadis murdered some of our contractors (to the infamous applause of a certain prominent left-blog.) Instead, we went back in and secured the place the right way, as you can read in tanker Neil Prakash' archives (at least until OpSec makes him take it down.)

Nonetheless, I hope that we roll up a lot of AQ cells quick-like, thanks to Zarqawi's captured laptop. And I won't mind a bit if our soldiers take more satisfaction in their work than usual.

While we're on the subject, why not pop over to The USO and donate something for the soldiers?

Anglican Schism Imminent?

Christopher Johnson provides you with a ringside seat here. Watch out for the flying fur, and maybe teeth.

Things are in such turmoil that what would ordinarily be a milestone, the election of the first female leader of the ECUSA, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, is quite overshadowed by the prevailing sense that she isn't going to be able to keep her church off the rocks.

Twenty-five years ago, fundamentalists stepped up their drive to take over the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention. A lot of liberal Baptists left, many joining the Episcopalian Church. Now we see the trend playing out in reverse, in the Episcopalian Church. Baptist churches split all the time, thanks to their de-centralized leadership, but it's a big deal when a more hierarchically structured church like the Anglicans split. Not the least factor, as in any messy divorce, is money--who's going to own the buildings, the furnishings, the income?

The English Established Church... will more readily pardon an attack on 38 of its 39 articles than on 1/39 of its income.
-- Karl Marx, Capital

Trivia: my own denomination celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of ordination of female ministers this year. It's been in general decline for a generation or two now, but not because of them, per se.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Few Visits From The Clue Fairy, And....

...the contributors to First Things are chastened about their being wedded to Intelligent Design.

So, if Intelligent Design is not science but still not religion, is Kitzmiller rightly decided? I think so. Like Cardinal Schönborn, I think it is unhelpful to get philosophy mixed up with science. Philosophy should take the results of science as given, as data from which philosophical speculation begins. As Quine wisely said, “No inquiry being possible without some conceptual scheme, we may as well retain and use the best one we know—right down to the latest detail of quantum mechanics, if we know it and it matters.” We ought not inject a philosophical argument into a science class; this is bad epistemology, and it is likely to create confusion. Moreover, scientists are generally as incompetent at philosophy as philosophers are at science. Regardless of how we ought to understand the establishment clause, Intelligent Design does not belong in high-school biology classrooms.

It's flattering ID to call it philosophy or metaphysics, of course. But I'm grateful for this distancing, however tardy, of my namesake journal from that giant humbug.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Another Wikipedia Article

This one's more insightful than the last rant I linked to.

Freezing knowledge at a single moment is valuable to historians, certainly, but it is rarely good in most fields. A printed book with an inaccuracy is a source of false information “forever” — a wiki entry can be fixed in a split second. Facts that change are left out of print, but readily accurate on Wikipedia. Quick, send your students to the book shelves to look up the status of the Republic of Crna Gora. Will they come back with the right information?

A Cradle to Grave Blog

While clicking the passing blogs on Blogger's front page scroller, I chanced upon this one. It is a diary-style blog of some new parents and their preemie's ultimately unsuccessful fight for life. Amazingly, they're still blogging, chronicling the aftermath. Wow...

First Things on Ramesh Ponnuru's "Party of Death"

I'm never inclined to mix it up on the abortion issue. But if you do, then this nuggety blog post at First Things is a good briefing on a current skirmish in that endless war.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Domestic Front

So I cleaned out the basement this morning and hauled debris to the landfill with a rental vehicle from Home Depot. I had some idea that I could get it all done in 75 minutes, and save $$ on the rental. Pshaw! I probably sat in traffic for 75 minutes. Shoulda used a U-Haul truck, coulda saved ten bucks. Oh, well... My stiff lower back is making me walk like Frankenstein's monster, too.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Matt Welch Hangs Up His Pajamas

Matt Welch was probably the first west coast blogger I frequented, when I first discovered blogs years ago (Thanks to Glenn Reynolds, via James Taranto's Best of the Web column at Opinion Journal). So it's news to learn that he's retiring from warblogging to go work for Michael Kinsley at the Los Angeles Deadtree. The reason? The new medium of blogs turned out to be only that: a new medium. It didn't transform the people behind it, in the way he was hoping. It's a case of the old lovers' plaint: You're not the person I was pretending you are! Or, to let him tell it:

Instead of galvanizing the apolitical truth squads of my fantasy world, weblogs became marvelous organizing tools for the most partisan citizens and groups. [...] So what’s wrong with a bunch of human beings using technology to organize themselves into political groupings? Absolutely nothing. The purpose of enhanced freedom is to enhance people’s ability act freely in the ways of their choosing, and we shouldn’t be surprised when they choose to do the same stuff they were doing before, only more efficiently. [...] But as I look back at December 2001, and prepare to hang up the blogging fun of Reason’s Hit & Run for the stodgier print pages of the L.A. Times, I can’t shake the feeling of nostalgia for a promising cross-partisan moment that just fizzled away. Americans are always much more interesting than their political parties or ideological labels, and for a few months there it was possible for readers and writers alike to feel the unfamiliar slap of collisions with worlds they’d previously sealed off from themselves. You couldn’t predict what anyone would say, especially yourself.

Well, he's wrong about that part I put in boldface up there. Well before the advent of blogs, conservatives could find liberal ideas, liberal attitudes, liberal policy initiatives by the joblots, from the national news media monoculture. Reading a DNC statement on a liberal blog wasn’t a revelation to conservatives, not when DNC statements had been run on the front pages as breaking news years before that. It was the *conservative* blogs and websites, following the trail blazed by conservative talk radio, that did the un-cloistering of the liberal mind. William Buckley once said that liberals are always calling for the airing of other views, but are then amazed when they discover that there are other views. Ann Coulter, if you'll forgive me for bringing her up to make this one teensy point, once called attention to how the reviewers at liberal newspapers would routinely call her new books and books by other conservatives a "surprise bestseller". A surprise to who? And how many holes must be poked in their bubble before it isn't a surprise anymore?

But, if the thrill is gone for Matt, then it's gone.

He makes a couple of other points which deserve some amplification:

...even if I was wrong about the transformative political nature of the post-9/11 blog explosion, the ensuing growth of the form has made it exponentially easier to seek out truth, however you define it.

Eason Jordan and Dan Rather can attest to that.

The changes brought by the digital age are real. Not utopian, but far-ranging, and profoundly democratizing. Here's hoping Matt will sidle over to the Times' blogs desk from time to time, and give in to temptation.

Trivia: I first blogged this on my other blog, Sorry For Not Blogging.

Wikipedia a Collective?

I usually don't have the time of day for white guys in dreadlocks. But somebody named Jaron Lanier penned an attack on Wikipedia over at, and a quick search indicates that he is a prominent personage in the digital revolution. Also, I see he's a columnist at Discover magazine, which is one of my favorites, so I guess I should have heard of him before now. Still, I don't follow his argument, and frankly wonder what he's got against Wikipedia. I think of it as an example of aggregate knowledge, rather than a stereotypical collective anthill. The contributors are individuals, co-operating (or competing) with other individuals--not worker bees. Everybody is smarter than anybody, as someone once said.

Disclosure: I contribute to Wikipedia on occasion. It's usually pedantic stuff, minor typos and grammar. I dole out bits of trivia from my store of general knowledge here and there. Probably the most substantial contribution I've made was to start an article stub on a topic related to climatology, which was then developed by more knowledgeable contributors.

Lanier decries the flensing of a writerly or editorial personality from Wikipedia:

When you see the context in which something was written and you know who the author was beyond just a name, you learn so much more than when you find the same text placed in the anonymous, faux-authoritative, anti-contextual brew of the Wikipedia. The question isn't just one of authentication and accountability, though those are important, but something more subtle. A voice should be sensed as a whole. You have to have a chance to sense personality in order for language to have its full meaning. Personal Web pages do that, as do journals and books. Even Britannica has an editorial voice, which some people have criticized as being vaguely too "Dead White Men."

Well, if it's personality you want, you can always click on the "Discuss" tab. There, under the hood, you will often see the contributors kicking issues of content and POV around, sometimes quite heatedly. Maybe it's just me, but I don't at all think of this as "speaking to us as a supernatural oracle." This to me is the opposite of what Lanier calls "Digital Maoism", if by Maoism you mean the forced imposition of a coercive society in fulfillment of an ultra-communist ideology. (Yes, I know it's intended metaphorically.) No one is forced to participate. In most cases the benchmark is quality, not conformity. And in those cases where consensus can't be reached, whether because of vandals or honest differences of opinion, the articles are duly spoilered. The hundred flowers are really blooming here, unlike in the depths of Maoist China.

Speaking of Mao, I found one Wikipedia article tangentially connected with him, penned by a sympathizer. I lit into it, adding a heapin' helpin' of counterclaims and rebuttals. The author, a British pinko, was gallant enough not to delete my additions, but to consign them to a newly created separate paragraph. I left a note on the talk page, saying that this was an agreeable arrangement.

This, too, is A Good Thing, thanks to the internet age. This, too, would never have happened under Mao.

The Demise of the Defense of Marriage Amendment

Charles Krauthammer has a sensible-sounding explanation as to why it's probably not a huge loss: is an odd solution for a popular-sovereignty problem to take the gay-marriage issue completely out of the hands of the people. Once the constitutional amendment is passed, should the current ethos about gay marriage change, no people in any state could ever permit gay marriage.

The amendment actually ends up defeating the principle it sets out to uphold. The solution to judicial overreaching is to change the judiciary, not to undo every act of judicial arrogance with a policy-specific constitutional amendment. Where does it end? Yesterday it was school busing and abortion. Today it is flag burning and gay marriage.

It won't end until the Constitution becomes pockmarked with endless policy amendments. The Constitution was never intended to set social policy. Its purpose is to (a) establish the rules of governance and (b) secure for the individual citizen rights against the power of the state. It defaces the Constitution to turn it into a super-legislative policy document.

Seems reasonable.

World Cup Futbol

I'd rather watch my lawn die than watch soccer. I mean, it's a shapeless, formless back and forth game, with people running all over the place and scoring once every vernal equinox. It's too much like real life!

Anyway, The Commissar has an enthusiastic roundup of soccer news here. After snarking in a couple of his comment threads, I've decided to quit pooping his party and just stay out of those posts. To each his own!

Meanwhile, over at Samizdata, Aussie guest blogger Michael Jennings is as underwhelmed as me, but with considerably more wit.

Bolide Strikes Northern Norway

If any Norwegian readers of Atlanta ROFTERS happen along here before they turn on the TV today, that big bang seems to have been a meteorite.


How late I learned the essential things in life! In my childhood, nailed to the Gemara, I led the life of a sage, and it was only later, when I was older, that I began to climb trees.
-- Isaac Babel

Years ago, I too was grappling with the eternal themes of life. Now, I'm helping to coach my four-year-old's T-ball team. Blessings abounding; blessings abounding...

It's the best thing for changing one's perspective on life, to have one's heart scampering around outside one's body.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Interview With The Jihadi

So what's a terminated terrorist to do, except hit the interview circuit?

But you know what's really comical? This:

"Zarqawi was a loose cannon who gave al Qaeda in Iraq a bad name with gruesome beheadings...."

Do these throatslitters really believe they can play good cop / bad cop with us? (Us warmongers, I mean.) I hope this is our perpetual answer to their atrocities.

Terrorism In Canada, or The Wreck of the Multi FitzCulti

Toleration is a good thing in its place; but you cannot tolerate what will not tolerate you, and is trying to cut your throat.
--J. A. Froude

Canada's splendid law enforcement agencies are milking valuable intel out of the thwarted bombers and head-choppers they arrested:

Canadian terror plot reportedly included truck bombs
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced Saturday that authorities had foiled a terrorist attack and said 12 men and five teenagers had obtained 3 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, three times the amount used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people.

But some police later said that although the suspects had sought to obtain ammonium nitrate, they actually had been delivered a safe substance instead during a sting last Friday.

Canadian blogger Kathy Shaidle puts it bluntly:

Regardless of whether or not immigration built this country, it may now destroy it.

Canadian society is obviously very robust, having endured and prospered even with its loose federal structure and clamorous francophone minority. But there is a difference between being an open society and being the world's biggest residential inn. Are we coming on to that dividing line, up north?

And memo to denialists: you can't dine out on Oklahoma City anymore. Ten years on, it's obvious that OKC was the proverbial isolated incident--not a manifestation of a worldwide, omni-hostile religious war.

Conservatives Against Intelligent Design

As Ann Coulter embarrasses conservatives afresh with her new book, it's heartening to take note of this online anti-ID petition. Via The Commissar, here's Conservatives Against Intelligent Design.

It's a pity CAID's actual website is laid out in such an awful typography, though...

UPDATE: Welcome, visitors from Bound By Gravity. And thanks to Andrew for the link.

A Cornered Rat Dies Like A Cornered Rat

According to reports this morning, al-Zarqawi survived the two 500lb bombs that flattened his safe house, and tried to escape when U.S. military forces rolled up to collect him.

"Zarqawi was alive when U.S. forces arrived on the site," Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said in a satellite interview from Iraq. "The Iraqi police arrived first, they found him in the rubble, put him on a gurney of some type."

Caldwell, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said Zarqawi tried to roll off the gurney to escape once he became aware of the fact that he was being taken into custody by coalition troops Wednesday night after two 500-pound precision guided bombs blew up his safehouse near Baqouba.

U.S. forces immediately identified him as Zarqawi but were unable to interrogate him because he died "shortly after" being pulled from the rubble, Caldwell said.

So. First, he's awakened to the sound of a JDAM crashing through the ceiling. Then he lingers in agony for an indeterminate period time. Then he sees the avenging forces of justice coming for him, falls into a paroxysm of animal fright, and expires like the evil slithering filth he is. Was.

That's a rare case of cosmic justice. Nice shootin', tex!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Good Guys Are On Fire Today!

Our lads killed al-Qaeda headchopper al-Zarqawi, and the IDF bagged a top Hamas chieftain in Gaza. Good news, indeed.

I was flipping around the talk shows this morning, as I was out & about. One reaction that stood out was the morning guy on Air America. He was trying--boy, was he trying!--to buff up his anti-terrorism creds by ticking off all the horrible things Zarqawi had done. He must have known that his audience, including conservative eavesdroppers like me, were just waiting for him to say buuut... and then start slamming Bush, because he refused to do so. "I know you're waiting for the punchline", he said. Poor schnook...

...when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.
-- Proverbs 11:10

If You Can't Read This, Blame Blogger!

Sorry for the lack of free ice cream these past couple of days. Blogger's been spazzing in and out. Guess the good karma from Google's takeover is wearing off....

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Great Liberal Death Wish

Previous civilizations have been overthrown from without by the incursion of barbarian hordes; ours has dreamed up its own dissolution in the minds of our intellectual elites. Not bolshevism, which Stalin liquidated along with the old Bolsheviks; not Nazism, which perished with Hitler in his Berlin bunker; not fascism, which was left hanging upside down from a lamppost, along with Mussolini and his mistress—none of these, history will record, was responsible for bringing down the darkness on our civilization, but liberalism. A solvent rather than a precipitate, a sedative rather than a stimulant, a slough rather than a precipice; blurring the edges of truth, the definition of virtue, the shape of beauty; a cracked bell, a mist, a death wish.
-- Macolm Muggeridge, "The Great Liberal Death Wish", 1977

A random reaction while perusing coverage of the proposed gay marriage ban.

UPDATE: Commenter The Polite Liberal requests exposition. How can someone else's gay marriage diminish or endanger one's own strong, happy straight marriage? Well, let me sally forth with a housing metaphor. I live in a plain yet sturdy brick ranch that was built in the 1950s. It has a thick foundation, X-bracing between the floor joists, true two-by-four construction throughout. It's a little banged up around the edges, but it is a solid structure. So, why should I care if the building codes are altered to allow houses to be built of styrofoam and popsicle sticks? That's strange and counter-intuitive and nothing I'd care to be mixed up in--but what business is it of mine? As for the future, well...

I'm a great respecter of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Long range ripples sent out now can roil society in unforseeable ways far into the future. The legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts has already brought on one such consequence: The most venerable adoption agency in Boston, Catholic Charities, has discontinued its work because the law will no longer let them follow Catholic doctrine of not placing children with gay couples. Children languishing in orphanages--who would have expected this to happen just because Adam and Steve want to wed? And this is not some legal technicality with civil unions, which a bit of policy wonkery could sort out, that's causing this. It's a battle over the matrimonial state itself. It's not a matter of semantics. It matters!

The institution of marriage keeps the moral world in being, and secures it from an untimely dissolution. Without it, natural affection and amiableness would not exist, domestic education would become extinct, industry and economy be unknown, and man would be left to the precarious existence of the savage. But for this institution, learning and refinement would expire, government sink into the gulf of anarchy; and religion, hunted from earth, would hasten back to her native heavens.
-- Timothy Dwight

And why don't libs ever stop to consider, as they heedlessly kick the supports out from under the edifice of our civilization, that one day they may bring the whole works crashing down on everyone's heads?

Random Led Zeppelin Favorites

I'm in the mood for some apropos-of-nothing rock bloggage. I'll spare you the lists and countdowns and such; this is just my current feeling on these songs.

In The Light. This would have been a natural pick for 1994's Unledded show. The spooky mellotron part could have been played by that guy with the hurdy-gurdy. The relative obscurity of this song is a testament to the greatness of the album it's on, Physical Grafitti. This droning, double-length epic, with its chiaroscurist use of dark, dissonant chords and that noble, rising guitar figure, would have been a standout on most other Zep albums, and a career best for most other bands. On PG, it's just another cut.

Poor Tom. Some hair band in the 80s was supposed to have invented something called "acoustic metal". I wonder if it sounded anywhere near as rockin' as this? Bonham's drum part is absolutely smashing--they could have dubbed a kazoo quartet on top of it, and it would still be killer.

Gallows Pole. One thing Led Zeppelin were always very good at was creating songs that gradually sped up as they went along. Gallows Pole is a diamond perfect example. By the time the final bars roll around, the song is rocking furiously, and the listener is surprised when Jimmy Page's blistering electric Gibson comes in. You mean it's been all acoustic up til now...? And you've gotta love that banjo! "...a cross between Pete Seeger, Earl Scruggs, and total incompetence.", said Page, of his performance.

Stairway to Heaven. I was sick to death of this song for the longest time, since I have heard it every week on the radio my entire music-listening life. But for some reason, even though every note is still engraved on my DNA by now, I've been listening with fresh ears, and am amazed anew at what a marvel of construction and inspiration this track is. It's a textbook example of Page's thunderous yet eldritch sound.

Hey, Hey, What Can I Do. Arguably the funniest song ever cut by a hard rock band. The only contender I can think of off-hand is Blue Oyster Cult's ETI (Extra-terrestrial Intelligence).

Communication Breakdown. A barracuda bite to the nervous system, as Lester Bangs once described the heavy metal of this era. Features one of Pagey's finest assaults on the notes-per-second barrier.

Immigrant Song. The enduring potency of Led Zeppelin's best songs is due to their gigantic bottoms. John Paul Jones was a true bassist, who understood that bass is not about licks, but about tone and time. No knock against improvisationalists like Jack Bruce, Flea, and Jaco Pastorius, or riff-bashers like John Entwistle, but if Zepp had used their approaches the songs would pack much less wallop.

When the Levee Breaks. See what I mean? The greatest "downer" metal song ever waxed.

Ten Years Gone. The older I get, the less I enjoy bashing my brains out with the hard stuff. It's a testament to Zepp's greatness that they cut a great many quality ballads. This one is a current fave, as poignant as it is heavy. The Rain Song, That's The Way, and Down By the Seaside are also favorites in the same vein.

Bonzo's Montreux. A synthed-up drum solo, better than Moby Dick, IMO. I can imagine Bonham pummeling the folks in the adjacent hotel rooms with this, late at night.

And a couple of Zepp songs I actively dislike. No one's perfect. Rembrandt didn't produce a masterpiece everytime he faced his canvas. Mozart's first dozen or so symphonies are mostly of historic interest. There are entire Beatle albums that I don't care for; entire eras of Stones music that I shun.

Led Zeppelin's catalog is remarkably tight. They had talent, chops and vision like few other bands. But there are two songs that I can't stand, and which make me switch off the radio when they come on. "D'yer Maker". As an introduction to reggae, this is a failure. It doesn't do anything for me in and of itself, and it doesn't inspire me to check out real reggae (like Clapton's "I Shot The Sheriff" did for so many future Bob Marley fans). That stuttering guitar lick is just annoying--a piano lesson scales exercise set to a stadium rocker's idea of a dub beat. In songs like "Four Sticks", they succeeded in making a great song out of a simple figure, but IMO not here.

"Wearing and Tearing." Since this doesn't get played on the radio, I don't have to hear it. They were being slagged as rich, out-of-touch, drugged-up dinosaurs at the time by the younger set. So, they decided to cut a new wave song to demonstrate their "relevance." A rare lapse of self-perception on their part--they didn't need to prove anything to the skinny-tie boys. And this track sounds like Godzilla pogoing at (or on) CBGB's would look. At least they had the sense not to put it on _In Through The Out Door._

That's my opinion; I'm willing to accept the existence of yours.

Fiftieth Anniversary of Allen Ginsberg's Howl

I heard NPR celebrating this anniversary last weekend. They even found the earliest known audiotape of Ginsberg reciting it, some years after it was composed. Of the no doubt many parodies of the poem, my favorite is this, from the liner notes to Steely Dan's Alive in America album:

I saw the best musicians of my generation
--maybe not the best but plenty good believe me--
splattering their illegible scrawls on the fatal last pages
of criminally exploitative recording contracts
beneath the gaze of predatory mobbed up executives
regarding with displeasure the sheepish grin
of their own helpless attorney
who deserted their beloved new york metropolitan area
and tried their luck on the coast
where they couldn't even get a decent slice of pizza
who slunk off with their paltry advances
into the alien streets of west l.a.
or back to their oppressive little cell
with its vile rmi piano
who pounded away at painfully arch pop ditties
thick with already antiquated jazz chords
who forced hirsute bar-band players to learn the tunes
as if they actually liked this kind of stuff
then into the sad studio
for a mighty ten week flogging
who emerged triumphant, flawless mixes in hand,
only to discover that all was for nothing
unless they would drag themselves
from the twin cities to dixie and back
performing for intoxicated teenage boys,
yelling "boogie, boogie, we want to boogie!"
who risked life and limb in toxic all-night diners
spitting takeout meat and milkshake
on the walls of overlit elevators,
who sucked on thin crumbled joints of cheap mexican pot
sharing with stale groupies their perfunctory buzzes
opening for heavyweights like elton and sha-na-na
trapped in dressing rooms with alcoholic brits
and scary blues bands from texas
who embarrassed their species in airports and motels
annoying overworked stewardesses of a certain age
abusing the goodwill of sleepy bellboys
who straggled back to l.a. with busted equipment
only to transmit the clap to their poor girlfriends
who belatedly discovered that touring was too stressful
and then sat in nate and al's
with their blue-blazered booking agent
and their then-manager and maybe someone else
discussing future shows paying in the low four figures
who saw themselves and former band-mates
each go on to something bigger and better
the doobie brothers, boz scaggs, a season in hell,
the computer business, yuppie manhattan,
hawaii, the big roundup, whatever--

My favorite line from Ginsberg is actually from Norman Podhoretz's Ex-Friends. Ginsberg shouts at him from an apartment window, at the beginning of the Sixties: "We'll get you through your children!"

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Dixie Chicks Bounce Back

Somebody once said that the difference between rock and country music is that, in country music, every good time comes with a price. Over the past couple of years, the Dixie Chicks have paid a price for their notorious denunciation of President Bush from a British stage. (When will Bush haters learn that, in the internet age, they aren't out of earshot when they're on foreign soil, anyway?) But, it looks like the Chicks' timeout is about over. I heard on the radio that the Dixie Chicks' new album went gold inside of a week. So, so much for the fallout from their having slammed their President on foreign soil. Last week, they had a long, giggly interview on NPR's All Things Considered.

DIXIE CHICKS: (Singing) And I will try to connect all the pieces you left. I will carry it on and let you forget. And Ill remember the years when your mind was clear. How the laughter and life filled up this silent house.

Ms. MAINES: Ill get over the sadness of the song, but then Ill play it for my mom or my sister or my dad and then Ill start crying again, because theyll cry because its the first time theyve heard it. And my grandfather hasnt heard it yet. Hell have to turn his hearing aid on for once. But I also, you know, like the fact that hell get to hear it.

BLOCK: Yeah. Theres a good deal of anger on the album and a couple of songs that talk about I guess what you call the incident back in 2003, thats one way of putting it, in England when Natalie, you talked about being ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas, where youre from. Im wondering first if you had any idea, Natalie, when you said that, did you imagine at all how big a deal that statement, those words would become?

Ms. MAINES: No. Or I wouldve thought of something way better to say. No, I said it, you know, in a club in London in front of maybe 2000 people, 1500, 2000 people and just being in London during that whole time before the war, they always grouped Americans together. Like we all thought the way that the president thought. Yeah, I felt like I just wanted to let those people know just because were Americans and especially from Texas and play country music, you cant put us in that category. I didnt want them thinking that we believed in that war when we didnt.

Well, like Dennis Prager says, clarity is better than agreement. Only thing they didn't explain was this: Why did they care what foreigners thought of them, or their politics? Sales? Transnational progressivism? Just wanting to be liked? Or was their hatred of GWB that strong, that they had to proactively propitiate the British America-bashers?

If I had been in their position, and a President I loathed were in office, I'd have shut up and sung.

Frontline: History of AIDS, part 2

I saw the second half and, try as I might to just accept it for what it is, I couldn't help noting the bias and lacunae.

* The religious Right is depicted as having been nothing more than an obstacle to progress in dealing with the disease, until Bono and Franklin Graham start twisting arms. I didn't see a single mention about all the in-the-trenches work the Catholic Church has done caring for victims, and nary a peep about the late pontiff. It's an ugly thought and one hate to loosely ascribe it to Frontline, but anti-Catholicism is one of the bigotries permissible on the Left.

* The U.S. black community is shown as being in denial of the reality of the plague in their midst. There should have been an accounting of the persistence of the rumor among blacks, that AIDS was cooked up by whites to kill them off. This is not a trivial phenomenon, nor is it confined to people of lower educational attainment. It's a sign of deep alienation. It is only very obliquely alluded to, in a soundbyte of a demo speaker with a bullhorn.

* Up until the Bush adminstration, Republicans are cast as Those Damn Conservatives. They don't appear onscreen without low, ominous, synth chords playing on the undertrack, to stoke your revulsion. And hey, maybe they deserve it, in the historical record. But at least take the time to make a case, eh?

* In one of the final segments, Richard Holbrooke issues a call to attack AIDS as it spreads, before it spreads. Well, as I blogged last time, the gay liberation "community" scotched all the efforts along those lines, in the early months of the crisis. Too late now, thanks to them! The show faults gay behavior for the spread of the disease in the last segment. We can't expect Frontline to sermonize, I suppose; so that will have to be as close to an assignment of blame as we'll get from them. Other than slamming Ronald Reagan for not putting condoms on bananas during one of his SOTU speeches, that is.

* China's tardy effort to deal with the crisis was represented as simply a condom handout campaign. The show mentioned China's notorious one child policy, so the producers must have known about the chi-coms' cruelty. But there is no reportage, speculation, or misgivings of any kind as to what might be happening to Chinese AIDS victims, far away from prying Western eyes. This is a regime which massacred its own young people live on internatinal television, remember. It never has valued and does not now value the lives of its citizens.

OTOH, I was more than mildly surprised to see them call the UN's efforts a flop and waste of money. That was sort of like seeing the Democratic Party denouncing Michael Moore as a phony and a seditionist would be.

Good parts? The bits on Uganda, South Africa, Brazil, and India. These countries are represented as having something on the ball, and it was a somewhat heartening way to end the show, with a roundup of their prospects.