28 August 2006

The 'Claw' and Accents

I am very interested in language, its history, development, and permutations. Over on 'Claw of the Conciliator' Elliot has a good post on Accents. I think he is onto something important. The world of blogs will lead to developments in English, and possibly several other languages (e.g. Arabic among non-Arab Muslims, or modern Turkish of Turkey among Turkish countries). As for my comment - does anyone have an explanation?

Israel Still has a War going on.

Apparently the war in Gaza has slumbered only because both the Palestinians and Israelis were waiting for the world press to start paying some attention to them after their month long fixation with Lebanon.

What's the point if TV is not covering it?

Check out Michael Totten, an independent journalist, who is covering it, at the link above.

Arabs, Israelis, War and Blogs (and English)

During the war several Lebanese bloggers continued to blog in English. They soon started getting comments from Israelis. The Israeli bloggers then switched from Hebrew to English so that the Lebanese bloggers could read their blogs. Soon, despite the war, real communication broke out. Admitedly some of it was of the 'drop dead you evil #$%#!' variety, but it was real communication.

One casualty of the war though may be Perpetual Refugee, a Lebanese blogger I found particulary effective in his writing. According to the Washington Post
Perpetual Refugee now "writes that he does not want to rebuild the bridge with Israelis. He has closed the comments option and deleted the comments that were left in previous posts," Goldman said. "He and I are still in irregular contact, but our relationship is very fragile." The Perpetual Refugee declined to respond to requests for comment.

This is a great shame. If you read his blog, however, you will see how difficult and complex his relations with the Israelis have been. He is a sensitive writer, one who feels and records rather than records and analyzes. I think we should stay tuned, though he seems to have stopped blogging, at least for the moment.

27 August 2006

Yes, but it didn't give us George Bush and Tom Delay

A huge island of discarded cups, bottle caps, plastic laundry baskets, rubber sandals, and other garbage has formed in an area of sluggish currents and slack wind halfway between California and Hawaii. The Eastern Garbage Patch, as this floating dump is called, is twice the size of Texas.

from the Los Angeles Times.

Nature isn't the only one getting testy out there!

The wife of a Marine reserve officer, held in service indefinitely because of a need for his specialty now says her favorite bumper sticker is 'If you voted for Bush, a yellow ribbon doesn't make up for it.'

25 August 2006

When Otters go bad

"I started punching the otter in the face, which I felt really bad about because it's cute ... but it was killing my dog." Leah Vanon about an ugly incident when an otter attacked her labrador retriever in the water at Boca Raton, Florida.

I am beginning to suspect a trend here.

24 August 2006

When Racoons go bad

Down where I live at the base of the mountains, the only time I have to worry about racoons is when they are rabid. This seems not to be the case in some areas, like Olympia, Washington, where racoons have taken to killing cats.

It's not just cats being attacked. Five raccoons actually ganged up on and carried off a little dog, who survived.

One thing that makes these raccoons scary is they have no fear. One neighbor threw firecrackers at them to try to scare them off, and it didn't even bug them, Hall said.

"It's a new breed," Keeton said. "They're urban raccoons, and they're not afraid."

"There's one really big bad dude," she added.

"He was the biggest raccoon I've ever seen. He was a monster," added Tony Benjamins, whose family has had two cats killed.

Urban dudes are like that I guess.

thanks to National Review - which likes the fact this occurred in a Blue state, "so it has yet to occur to anybody that these raccoons can, you know, be shot."

Uhh, we'll get back to you on that explanation.

Apparently someone in the Senate is experiencing some brain injury. This letter appearred in the next issue of The Washington Times. [my italics]
I am the co-founder of the Defense and Veterans' Brain Injury Center and I wish to correct a statement made by a member of the staff of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee regarding appropriations.
First, I made the funding request in testimony and also visited the offices of Sens. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican, and Daniel K. Inouye, Hawaii Democrat, as well as the staff director for defense appropriations. In addition, the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force had more than 33 members sign a letter requesting and supporting appropriations for the Defense and Veterans' Brain Injury Center.
Finally, I provided information on the number of troops suffering brain injury as a result of service in Iraq or Afghanistan. I also spoke of brain injury as the signature injury of the war on terrorism. I spoke about the effect of blast injury on the brain and asked for a $12 million increase for a total of $19 million. Since there is no cure for a brain injury and since it impacts the entire family of the injured, our soldiers need specialized neuro-rehabilitation and support often for the rest of their lives. Supporting injured soldiers is not a partisan issue; it is our duty to treat injured soldiers.

Defense and Veterans'
Brain Injury Center
Remember - The Senate Appropriations Committee had other priorities.

Wait - the Senate has an explanation!

In the Washington Times the Senate points out why is didn't make to appropriation for treating brain injuries.
This week, The Washington Times gave the committee a chance to clarify this obviously short-sighted explanation. Here's what a committee staffer told us: "We understand the importance of this program, but additional funding for it was not requested or justified," reads the e-mail. "There were many competing priorities and important programs that also needed funding." [my italics].

So there, you might say.
But stay tuned.

Snide comment on that last post.

The only reason the American political class is not truly evil is its utter lack of seriousness.

Cheapskating and the Spirit of Balls Bluff

The VA's budget for treating traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been cut by 50%, curtesy of the US Senate. Since it is the major injury among our troops in Iraq - put in harms way by that same Senate (as well as a majority of the American public), one would think they might be able to scrape up the measly $7 million to restore the funding. I mean when you consider that our crackerjack FBI just blew through $150 million for a new computer software system that is so bad it had to be immediately scrapped. Or the billions in Iraq we have lost through sheer peculation.

Yet there is an explanation, "Honestly, they would have loved to have funded it, but there were just so many priorities," a spokeswoman for the Senate Appropriations Committee told the paper [USA Today]. "They didn't have any flexibility in such a tight fiscal year."

Military Guy was a little testy about this,

Gee, Honorables, our soldiery and the medical personnel who serve them are sorry that we are surviving injuries that used to kill us - so that these injuries weren't as, um, noticeable as they are now. We beg your indulgence.

One wonders how someone can say something that bloody insensitive and bleeping ignorant with a straight face and not have their head implode? I had to stick my head in the Armorer's Helmet to keep it from exploding...

Oh, I forgot. They really do think we're simpletons with short memory spans.

He has a very interesting plan for taking direct action. Pay heed all you potential voters out there.

Note to the Kansas Congressional Delegation... I'm a medium fish in a small pond - but Kansas is a small pond too. I'll be watching this one, and I will be *very* interested in your staff's responses to my inquiries on the subject. Especially Senator Brownback, as you sit on the Senate appropriations committee in question. But I'll be interested in Senator Robert's views, as you sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Congressman Ryun, as you sit on the House Armed Services Committee.

Is it any wonder that the Latin root, senex, for Senate is the same root word for senile?

Conservatives seem to be getting nervous

This post appeared in National Review Online today. It seems that someone over there is getting a little worried about the Spirit of Balls Bluff movement.

"November Comes Closer [Andrew Stuttaford]
From the Washington Examiner:

A Senate staffer — who shall remain nameless here — must have awakened on the wrong side of the bed Monday morning. Said staffer exploded in response to a constituent’s question whether the staffer’s boss was the senator who placed an anonymous hold on S. 2590, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act. The constituent was acting in response to a suggestion from Porkbusters.org, which for several days has been encouraging readers to contact their senators and ask if they are behind the anonymous hold that has stopped FFATA, which would make most federal spending public via an Internet database...Odds are slim that the real senator or senators behind the anonymous hold will ever come forward voluntarily, even though for years it has been customary in these arcane matters beyond the Senate cloakroom for the identity of such holders to be kept private only so long as necessary to force some sort of compromise on the legislation in question. Compromise is probably not the spirit behind the present anonymous hold. The problem here, of course, is that federal spending transparency is anathema for too many Democrats and Republicans in government. They think members of the public ought to keep their noses out of how their tax dollars are being spent by the Potomac potentates at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, and all the departments and agencies in between. The attitude was epitomized by former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott’s statement that he was “damn tired” of the “so-called porkbusters” because “they’ve been nothing but trouble ever since Katrina."

Stories like this can only add to a "throw the bums out" mentality this fall. And whoever the senator responsible for the "anonymous hold", the GOP should be under no illusions that - as the party in charge - they will be the ones that end up paying the electoral price.

Are you paying attention, Senator Frist?

Hat-tip: Instapundit."

A Modest Proposal on Iraq

William Arkin in the Washington Post has an proposal for a change of policy in Iraq. He doesn't mean a change of administration, since he thinks the Dems do not have a fundamentally different view of national security. Here's what he wants:

I mean a demand for results. Enough already with the pleadings for money, with government officials lamenting the complexity of the world and the slow pace of progress. Enough with the technological marvels, the contractor bonanza, the endless reorganizations and the greater authorities handed down to bureaucrats and "operators" who live in the fiscal rather than the physical world.

He concludes, though, with this interesting observation:

And God forbid the Bush administration's failures feed the horde of 9/11 nuts and Rove- and Cheney-haters who subsist on a fantasy of government purpose, brilliance and conspiracy when in fact we face the greatest crisis of government incompetence and apathy in our history.

Let's get started on the Spirit of Balls Bluff.

Iraq, Iran, I pass.

This is from a Washington Post article this morning on polls showing the public still thinks Bush is doing a good job in the war on terror.

When asked what the 9-11 attacks had to do with Iraq, Bush said: "Nothing. Except for it's part of -- and nobody's ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a -- Iraq -- the lesson of September the 11th is: Take threats before they fully materialize... Nobody's ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq. I have suggested, however, that resentment and the lack of hope create the breeding grounds for terrorists who are willing to use suiciders to kill, to achieve an objective. I have made that case."

I'm glad he cleared that up. We will now be justified in attacking anyplace where there is resentment and a lack of hope.

23 August 2006

Death Watch for Incumbents

The incumbent governor of Alaska lost the Republican primary yesterday. He came in a distant third. Here's what one Alaskan said about her attitudes in the vote for the woman who will be the Republicans' likely candidate.

“She’s a Christian, she hasn’t slammed anyone and she’s true to her values,” said Ms. Burt, 65, a retired truck driver who said she has lived in Alaska since 1949, a decade before statehood. “I don’t want to see any more of those good old boys in there. We want to get some fresh blood.”

Let's hope this is the start of a trend. We can call the theme of this year's elections "The Spirit of Ball's Bluff" - the Civil War battle in which a US Senator got his brains shot out.

18 August 2006

Latin as our national language?

Joey Sobrino and I have occasionally talked about the idea of English as a national language. I think it is a bad idea and will, sooner or later, post something on that. This isn't it.

Instead, let's go Medieval. A much misunderstood era. I found a funny site by a grad student called Got Medieval. The creator posted this little observation about Latin and some recent nonsense from our esteemed national legislature.

It seems that the U.S. Senate is striking a great blow for irony with S.R. 458, a resolution "affirming that statements of national unity, including the National Anthem, should be recited or sung in English." The resolution itself reads like a high school history report on national symbols--Francis Scott Key's anthem was in English, and so was General George Washington's first Oath of Allegiance, and so and and so on. But the best bit is this clause:

"Whereas the original national motto of the United States, `E Pluribus Unum', meaning `from many, one', signifies the coming together of people from many foreign countries to form one Nation, was incorporated into the Great Seal of the United States in 1776, is printed on currency of the United States, and inscribed on the wall of the Senate chamber."

When contrasted against the final conclusion:

Resolved, That the Senate affirms that statements or songs that symbolize the unity of the Nation, including the National Anthem, the Oath of Allegiance sworn by new United States citizens, and the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States, should be recited or sung in English, the common language of the United States.

Logically, this means one of three things. Either,

1) The motto, E Pluribus Unum, is not a statement that symbolizes the unity of the Nation, or
2) E Pluribus Unum is actually English, or
3) They think it's OK to write on the money in Latin, but you must read your dollar bills aloud in English.

News with sinister implications

I am of a sinister disposition, not to say gauche.

In other words, I am left-handed (I don't like the term 'lefty', though 'southpaw' isn't too bad). If you use the word the word sinister to mean left, you are simply using the correct Latin term for left. Of course it is not a neutral term, having connotations that have nothing to do with the left side or with being left-handed. (I mention this because it seems to be the main point of Gene Wolfe's use of antique and Latinate vocabulary in his Shadow of the Torturer series).

Anyway, since I am left-handed, I am charmed to find that studies in both the US and Britain show that for males with a college education, lefties make 10-15% more money on average. Why is that? In Slate magazine the article detailing these studies explains that,
Psychologist Stanley Coren defines "convergent" thinking as "a fairly focused application of existing knowledge and rules to the task of isolating a single correct answer." "Divergent" thinking, by contrast, "moves outward from conventional knowledge into unexplored association." There may be an outsize number of lefty geniuses because lefties are more likely to engage in divergent thinking.

So there.

By the way, did I mention that Nicole Kidman is also left-handed?

Latin vocabulary word for next time: Carnifex

17 August 2006

The News: I couldn't make this stuff up!

This just in from The Australian - it's a real headline folks.

Buddhist monks brawl at peace protest

"PROTESTERS calling for an end to recent violence in Sri Lanka found themselves brawling with hardline Buddhist monks today, after a rally dubbed a 'peace protest' turned unexpectedly violent."

Apparently some of the monks were pro-war and one thing led to another.

16 August 2006

The War in Iraq: A Military Historian's View

The Wall Street Journal is not a liberal rag, to put it mildly. And the English military historian John Keegan has been widely respected in neo-con circles. The Iraq War, his account of the invasion of Iraq, was a paean to the American military. Consequently it will be difficult for conservatives and members of the Bush admin to shrug off his comments in the WSJ this morning as traitorous whining from a faint hearted liberal playing partisan politics (he can't even vote in this country).

He opens his piece with this:
The mystery of the Iraq War is to explain how a brilliantly executed invasion turned into a messy counterinsurgency struggle. Part of the explanation, at least, is a lack of troops, a fault for which the Defense Department has been responsible.
He then goes on to recount the devastating criticism of the admin's conduct of the war found in Thomas Rick's Fiasco. In fact the book is so critical that at least one conservative journalist, Hugh Hewitt, simply refuses to believe conversations Ricks reports he had with senior military commanders.

Keegan's opinion of this deserves to be in italics:

Few would disagree with the analysis in "Fiasco."

Keegan final paragraph about the war:
All that can be hoped is that the U.S. Army will prevail in its counterinsurgency and, as Mr. Ricks's gripping accounts of the troops in action suggest, it may still. His description of Marines "attacking into an ambush" leaves one in no doubt that American soldiers know combat secrets that their enemies do not and cannot match. Whether pure military skills will win the war, however, cannot be predicted.

14 August 2006

Update on 'gators! Yeee-haa!

We were discussing alligators ( reptiles, not the U of F kind). I claimed rednecks did not shoot at them from their pick-ups because they are an endangered species, so that there were now so many of them that the gators pick off a stray pet now and then and a human every couple of years.

Down here in the deepest, darkest, hottest most pestilential swamp that I have been visiting (we leave tomorrow for saner climes) I learned to following from a major Port City paper.

73 - Number of days in this year's alligator hunting season.

4,406 - number of gator hunting permits that this state doled out this year.

$272 - cost of a gator hunting license to a state resident.

$1,022 - cost of gator hunting permits to out-of state hunters. (The state has a long tradition of soaking out-of state tourists for every dollar they can. It's how gov't down here gets by with no income tax)

2 - number of gators a hunter can bag ( pardon the expression).

18 - minimum length in inches your gator has to be to shoot (pick-up truck optional).

3,436 - number of gators culled in this state during the 2005 harvest (that's the word they use).

There's more of these kinds of statistics, but I think you get the picture.

More on the Anti-Incumbent Mood

Apparently my last post tapped into a bigger movement than I thought. Check out Mr Kickthemout's comment and look at the site he suggests. It's dated back to May so he clearly was thinking about this topic early on.

The Anti-incumbent mood

One anecdote is not much evidence for anything, but I think the following quote from a voter in Pennsylvania is indicative of a widespread mood among voters this year. It certainly reflects my thinking.
C. Ray Kalbach, 81, lifelong district resident, is receptive to the appeal. "My total commitment is to unelect all incumbents, period," said Kalbach, a self-described independent. He said he is fed up with Gerlach [the local Congressman] and "words spoken in one manner and actions done in another."

We'll see how many of us out there follow this line of thinking in November, but until they all run scared nothing will change.

[from The Washington Post]

13 August 2006

A bit more on autos and gas

Today's Washinton Post has an interesting article on the early days of the automobile and how there was a great debate on what would become the fuel of choice. As we all know, gas won out. But alcohol ran a close second and may be at least part of the answer in the future. If you are interested, check it out.

Movie Review: "The Scarlet Letter"

Another review from Matins of two years past. I remember The Scarlet Letter as being a good read. When we had to read it silently in my high school English class I was the only one who laughed out loud at Hawthorne's intro - and I can still remember people looking at me like I'd lost my marbles. But as for the movie --

I tried to watch the first 15 minutes of the video of 'The Scarlet Letter'. It was so awful that I knew I didn't need to see the 16th minute. Later my wife and I watched the last 10 minutes or so - it was simply ludicrous. How does so much talent go so wrong? Reminds me of what some guests on Charlie Rose said the night before about Marlon Brando in "The Missouri Breaks' - neither the director nor the cast had any idea what they were doing with it, so they decided to just have fun. Perhaps that gave Brando an opportunity to act out his contempt for Hollywood.

Which doesn't explain why 'Scarlet Letter' was so bad. Partly the script was utterly misconceived. Every character in the book is completely rewritten to hit the proper PC note. The script tries to pile every sin of the American past as conceived by the liberal silly class onto one poor little colony struggling for survival. Mistreatment of the Indians, women, slaves, and for all I know cute little puppies. Witch trials and hangings, murder, puritanism carried to murderous lengths, obsessed with sex. It's all jammed in there somewhere.

The Puritans, who at the very least must have been an interesting lot, are pictured in unrelievedly negative tones. You began to wonder how a people eking out an existance on the edge of a wilderness could spend so much time being as nasty as they are here. I thought the Puritans rested at least one day of the week.

Most of the scenes have all of the incompetent, staged earnestness of a high school Christmas pageant. I suppose it could be exhibit 'A' in the Right's indictment of liberals in Hollywood for hating America, but that would be imputing too much serious thought on the part of the perpetrators of this movie. Perhaps they merely thought they were appealing to a 'sophisticated' crowed, the young movie goer, who would understant that too much religion in a community leads to, well, adultry with a capital A, among other things.

Apparently poor besotted, anti-Semitic Mel Gibson judged his audience a bit better.

Book Review: "The Making of the Slavs"

This is an old review of The Making of the Slavs that I wrote for Matins two years ago. The author, Florin Curta, is a very impressive young scholar from Roumania. He seems to be competent in virtually every language spoken in Europe, including some that are no longer spoken. He once told me he had learned English from listening to rock music with his friends. Anyway, here is the review, although it may not be of interest to everyone.

A good book, though I felt like some of the dots weren't always connected and I would have liked a clearer description of what was ethnically out there across the Danube before the formation of the Slavs. I like Curta's theory that Old Slavic was probably the lingua franca of the Avar khaganate. That would explain a lot - but makes me wonder just exactly who were the Avars. And where did they pick up this linguistic oddity? If it was necessary to use Old Slavic or even to create it as a standardized form of several dialects, then who actually manned the khaganate's armies and inhabited its villages? Above all, who exactly were speaking the component dialects of this new lingua franca before the 'Making of the Slavs'? Speakers of something that was not yet Slavic and who were not conscious of being part of a 'Slavic' mass? This seems to be Curta's point. They wouldn't have called themselves Slavs nor have necessarily thought of themselves as Slavs.

If this is so it looks like the Avars performed the hammering into shape that produced 'the Slavs.' Curta, however, sees the Byzantines as doing this. Perhaps the Avars were the hammer, and the Byzantine Empire the anvil. Justinian builds an elaborate system of forts on the Danubian frontier, the Slavs begin to form as bands to raid which cluster as settlements north of the forts. And then come the Avars to impel them into the forts, like a smith folding and hammering iron until it is a blade. Before it is over the Balkans and even northern Greece become Slavic. But I should beware the tyranny of an attractive metaphor.

To sum it up, a wonderful study of high scholarship by someone who can read all of the relevant languages and knows the archaeological material intimately. I think that even the non-expert could be interested in it.

12 August 2006

An observaton on high gas prices

You may have noticed that the petroleum companies such as, say, BP, are raking in billions of extra profit from your pockets with the higher gas prices. Now the prices are going a bit higher because BP has had to shut down much of its Alaska pipeline. Which means profits will go up a bit more.

What's the problem with BP's pipeline? Seems to be years of negligent maintenance has led to corrosion of the pipes. BP saved a few bucks by simply not doing the routine checks and repairs.

So they do a half-assed job to make more money and you end up paying for it so they can ... make more money.

BTW, in our 2000 presidential election, three of the four politicos running had ties to the oil industry.

High gas prices work their will

Things are beginning to change, though slowly, in the automobile world now that gas is almost $3 a gal. My brother's wife is looking for a used car. She is having difficulty because so many people have dumped their gas guzzling SUVs to buy sedans and smaller cars that the pickings are now slim.

The other sign was our little trip from my mother's yesterday. We were driving up the big 6 lane highway that bisects the port city from north to south with bumper to bumper traffic at 45 mph. I look into my rearview mirror and see a very attractive young woman on a motor scooter, sun tanned nut brown, helmetless with cool wrap around sunglasses. She toots along behind us for miles before faster cars get in behind us.

A few blocks later we see two young men on a pair of matching scooters, zipping along with the rest of the traffic. Now I've driven this highway for over 25 years and these were the first scooters I have ever seen on it. Habits are changing, a bit.

A trip to the airport on terrorist day

Thursday my wife and I had to drive to the airport to pick up my wife's godmother. That morning we heard the news that some type of terrorist plot had been uncovered in London and security was being tightened. We became very worried that Ana, who is elderly and can get a bit confused, might have trouble getting on her plane and arriving on time. The news reports were making it sound like total chaos. So here is my report from the front lines of air travel of the trouble we encountered.

Absolutely none.

We used the computer to check her flight. On time. We drove to the airport here in this unnamed port city and I let my wife off to get a security pass to meet Ana at the gate. No problem. I found a convenient place to park on a shaded deck, right next to the elevator (as much as I may complain about this port city, the airport is a marvel of efficiency). Wandered into the terminal, found a place to eat and had conch chowder and a beer. Then I sauntered down to the baggage claim area, read Shadow of the Torturer for a few minutes, and there they were, my wife and her godmother.

Ana's plane had arrived a few minutes early, had the normal problem of waiting for a spot to park, unloaded right on time, her one piece of luggage was the third piece unloaded, we walked about 100 yards to the elevator, and within 10 minutes we were in the car and leaving the parking lot.

On the way to my wife's parents we talked about the flight and how easy it was for Ana. So what you see on the news may be true of one part of the country, at one point in time, but conditions where you are may be totallly different.

We also chatted a bit about Fidel Castro and the reaction of the Miami Cubans to news of his illness. Ana and my wife laughed about how "those people in Miami" have been predicting this weekly for the last 45 years.

My wife can still remember the reactions in Cuba when Fidel's second in command Camilo Cienfuegos' plane went down and how everyone went wild at news he had been found. Even at the age of 8 she understood that Cienfuegos was not going to be found alive. And Ana, who had once worked to support Fidel and his rebellion before turning against him, was a bit sardonic.

But all that is for another post.

10 August 2006

Matins and Chaucer's English

For over two years now I have been getting up in the morning, brewing my coffee while reading four pages of some enormous book, and then going to my study to write as fast as I can for 30 minutes on anything that pops into my head. I call this my Matins. Usually the writing is no more than stream of conscious drivel, but sometimes the thoughts are worth keeping. I usually keep track of my reactions to what I am reading this way. Since I always inteneded to put book reactions on Sententiae, here is one on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, which I listened to on CD.

This version was simply a straight reading of the original text, with modernized spellings so the readers could pronounce all the words as if in modern English. Otherwise it was the original text. With modern pronunciations the listener can pick up what they are saying with little difficulty. Some of the words need a bit of explanation, but surprisingly few. The funniest one is 'eke', which means also. It's used all the time. And 'swink' is used for work; 'wood' for mad, as in crazy. You can see the Latin and German struggling to produce what is clearly English. With the original 15th century pronunciation it would sound something like the incomprehensible Scotsman on Monty Python. It must have been one gnarly language once upon a time. Probably sounded like Dutch or Afrikaans now.

Eke, it's just interesting, but now I have to get back to swink before I become wood.

A Conservative View on the War

The National Review Online site is about as conservative as it gets. Sometimes it postures as the sane center of conservative thought, sometimes as the looniest in-denial fringe out there. Anyway, I thought the editor's take on the war in Iraq was worth sharing. First he admits that we are seeing a true civil war and that the administration doesn't seem to have a sense of emergency about it. Here is a key paragraph:

The latest plan calls for 3,500 U.S. troops to redeploy from elsewhere in the country — including violent Anbar province — into Baghdad. It seems unlikely either that these troops can be spared from the areas they are leaving or that 3,500 Americans is enough to make a decisive difference in the capital city of nearly 6 million. Once again, the administration seems content with doing just enough perhaps — if it’s lucky — to hold things together, rather than dramatically changing facts on the ground. It might be that achieving the reality of success is being held hostage to maintaining some façade of success. Sending 20,000 more troops to Baghdad might have more effect, but it would also serve to highlight the magnitude of the problem. We find it hard to believe that whatever the question in Iraq is, the answer is always American troop levels of roughly 130,000. Not only would it be politically difficult for the administration to send many more troops, but there is also a strain on the Army and Marines — no matter how many times the Pentagon denies it — in having most of their combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan, or in transit to or from those places.

It concludes this way:
It might be that the situation is simply not salvageable because Iraq’s leaders aren’t up to the daunting challenge facing them. But we have an obligation to try to save the country as long as there is a reasonable chance of doing so. It is time for the Bush administration to acknowledge that its approach of assuring people that progress is being made and operating on that optimistic basis in Iraq isn’t working. It would be much better if it were frankly in crisis mode, as it attempts to save our project in Iraq and tamp down the country’s budding civil war.

Well, at least no one can say that this is a bunch of liberals intent on trashing the noble cause.

09 August 2006

Throw the Bums Out

There is an interesting post on Josh Marshall's talkingpointsmemo.com. He is a very liberal journalist, and is upfront about that stand. Still, he has interesting observations to make. Today he was talking about how incumbents are in trouble. Here's the lead paragraph.

In the column I wrote for Time.com last night I said the Lieberman flame-out was part of a larger disconnect growing between Washington and the rest of the country, almost in the way tectonic plates grind against each other with mounting tension until the pressure is cut loose in a massive earthquake. I don't think it's ideological in the narrow sense, or at least not unidirectionally ideological. But given the Republican dominance of the federal government, it's really bad news for the GOP.

This is the feeling I was expressing in a recent post. There is such a disconnect in the country with the whole political class that it is time for an electoral revolution. As many as possible need to go simply so the others run in fear of their careers. We need that 'massive earthquake.'

5 Murdered Children - not a crime

Five years ago a mother, Andrea Yates, drowned her five children one by one in the bathtub. The 7 year old was the last to go and he struggled like hell. Yates was found guilty of murder. Then the verdict was overturned. The retrial found her not guilty by reason of insanity. Her lawyers argued that she thought she was battling Satan and that her children would escape his clutches if she killed them. Or something like that.

I am not 100% certain how I feel about this. Yates is clearly nuts, to put it crudely. But to deliberately murder five children? Anybody's children? And to have their father in the courtroom smiling when she is found 'not guilty'?

By now it should be clear that I sometimes read National Review Online mainly for comic relief (and Victor Davis Hanson). Yet Kathryn Jean Lopez has written an article on these murders that I found myself basically agreeing with. Here is one of her concluding paragraphs, ending on a sarcastic note:
We’re told that Andrea and Rusty [Yates] are “happy” about the
verdict. It’s been five years since their five kids were murdered. They’ve moved
on. Perhaps we should move on too? [her response, btw, is: Are you crazy?!!!]

I suppose it is simply my childhood socialization as a Christian that convinces me something truly evil occured. Or at least a crime. With a culpable party.

08 August 2006

Update on Zeyad

Zeyad, as I have said elsewhere, is an Iraqi blogger whom I like very much. He is in Ammon, Jordan right now, trying to keep his family safe while he applies for an American visa so he can come to New York to study journalism. Fortunately, he has already proven himself a natural journalist and with his real world experience I don't think the academic world will damage him much.

Right now he has met with Jordanian bloggers and links to some of them. Please, if you have an interest in the Middle East from any perspective, check them out.

You can consider this a commercial.

Update on Zeyad

Zeyad, as I have said elsewhere, is an Iraqi blogger whom I like very much. He is in Ammon, Jordan right now, trying to keep his family safe while he applies for an American visa so he can come to New York to study journalism. Fortunately, he has already proven himself a natural journalist and with his real world experience I don't think the academic world will damage him much.

Right now he has met with Jordanian bloggers and links to some of them. Please, if you have an interest in the Middle East from any perspective, check them out.

You can consider this a commercial.

A Man After My Own Heart!

This is a post I picked up from Joey Sobrino - I approve of his sense of priorities. [no link - I want to preserve his privacy]

Charlie Rockets - Bruges, Belgium - I stayed at Charlie Rockets because the recommended hostel in Ghent (all of them at the time actually) had no vacancies. Turned out that was a blessing because I felt like I got all I needed on a quick stop. Bruges is phenomenal city. The hostel leaves a little to be desired. Shared key (still not sure how this works w/r/t people trying to get in... I always dropped it off), questionable breakfasts and the fact that it doubles as a smoky bar means you should only stay there if something else isn't available. One of the worst (again, not saying much, they were all acceptable) hostels I was at. However, it had some really decent Belgian ales on tap downstairs, including Lindemann's Framboise and Kriek if memory serves. [My italics]

How I would and will vote

I have just finished reading an article about how unhappy the electorate is with politicians and it looks like it is going to be a bad year for incumbants.

"Most Americans describe themselves as being in an anti-incumbent mood heading into this fall's midterm congressional elections, and the percentage of people who approve of their own representative's performance is at the lowest level since 1994, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll."

And that raises the question of poor ol' Joe Lieberman. In many ways I would be inclined to vote for him, given the chance. But I have now decided that after watching the Bush admin destroy conservatism for the next generation or so, blow a good chance to reform Social Security, and in general mess up our foreign policy, while Congress behaves as if the FBI raiding a Congressman's office as if he were not above the law is the greatest threat to the American public since Pearl Harbor, and instead begins to talk about things like gay marriage, I am not in a mood to vote for any incumbent, Republican or Democrat. As the good bishop is reputed to have told the crusaders during the Albegensian Crusade, "Kill them all! God will know his own!"

Only if both parties understand how fed up we are with professional politicians, in fact with the whole politically active class in America including the stipendiary pundits, pollsters, and commentators, can there be any significant change. Only if every politician must run as if his political life were on the line will they get serious.

Any other takers out there?

[Canadians and other non-American members of the Anglosphere are, of course, exempted]

P.T. Barnum Was Right! (apologies to Jay Leno)

Today, safely ensconced in that port city to the south, huddled by the A/C having survived the usual insane traffice here, I came across this little tidbit on the Washington Post site.
In this age of polling, hardly a day goes by without some new report about the state of American public opinion. But pollsters rarely acknowledge the well-documented finding in political science that citizens know little about current events in general and even less about overseas events. This so-called "knowledge gap" between domestic and international news was the subject of this study.

What most amused me about this is that when I fired up my sister-in-law's computer, I got the home page for the Verizon Central news service for the Internet. It offers three choices to click on for "News Headlines."

1) US News
2) Business News
3) Entertainment News

That's all folks! One of our biggest telecommunication companies assumes that those three choices represent all that an American would be interested in.

The article concludes with the obvious: "The fact that Americans tend to be less than well-informed about international affairs raises important questions about the formulation of foreign policy."

Now I teach a swath of this American public the facts of World History and can testify that they know very little about their world. That does not bother me - they're there to learn. But they have absolutely no curiousity to find out about their world. That bothers me.

On a personal note

Have not been blogging much later. I have been on the road for the last two days with my lady driving to an undisclosed location to our south. Before that I was trying to finish up some work, including my article on the Second Master of the Temple. We will be here for a week and a half, during which time I will have access to a good computer with broadband! So I will try to blog a whole lot more. Maybe I will catch up with some of the post I have promised at one point or another. Since we are in this god-forsaken swamp during the hottest time of the year I am going to stay inside huddled near the air conditioning, thinking thought of Minnesota in January.

Our trip here was through some of the most poverty stricken towns in South Carolina and Georgia. Some downtowns consisted of almost nothing but abandonned or burntout buildings. We saw so many torn up, rusted out, or falling down mobile homes that when we finally passes a mobile home park where all the homes were in moderatley good shape - it looked like an upscale communtiy in comparison.

We also passed through Claxton, which bills itself as Fruitcake Capital of the World!

01 August 2006

New Orleans - RIP

Once a great disaster comes and go it is easy to forget that live goes on once it is out of the news.
Here's a little reminder from New Orleans.

Walking for Joey

Joey Sobrino left the following comment on the post about how little Americans walk.

New Yorkers don't have qualms about walking. In America, and being that Canada is similar I am sure the same applies, we don't have the luxury of walking everywhere. How many Europeans that now are or live in the US walk places?

Joey - You are using NYC as the exemplar of America? Holy cow.

You have a point though. American cities like New York, or rather Manhattan, encourage, even demand, walking. Driving is a nightmare, and the subway and buses convenient and cheap (at least compared to the parking rates!). So people take a subway to the nearest point and walk rapidly to their destination. The Twin Cities were a lot like this, though waiting for a bus when it is 5 below is not fun.

A place like Atlanta, otoh, discourages walking. Inadequate public transport designed mainly, as was the bus system for that unnamed port city to the south, to move African American workers from the inner city to white suburbs and back again - so that it is much more practical to go by car. And it shows in the relative body weight statistics of the two places.

But what is responsible for the design of our cities? Part of it certainly is cheap gasaline, something the Europeans never went in for. A major part of the cost of gas in Europe is the tax bite - hence $6/gal gas. So even if you own a car, half again as expensive as here because of taxes, you take public transport and walk to your destination from the bus/metro stop. Our cities are strung out all over the place, roads and parking lots don't connect, and workers live far from the workplace with poor public transportation systems.

Is that the only explanation though? The town where I work, let's call it Crockett, is a nice, quiet mountain community surrounded by gorgeous mountains. Tourists come from all over to enjoy the outdoor life and activity, like hiking. But not in the town itself. Its town planning is the most pedestrian hostile environment I have ever seen. No sidewalks, narrow roads, two huge four lane highways intersecting with no regard for those afoot trying to cross. I once lived 3 miles from where I worked yet could not bike to work. There simply was no safe route. Why was this? My theory, which was confirmed by one of my American History colleagues, was that historically here in the South, if you didn't ride a horse you weren't worth worrying about, and that attitude has simply been transferred to cars.

Yet I have to wonder if even that explains it. Every day when classes end I see our 20 year old students hanging around the front doors of classroom buildings using their cell phones to tell their roommates/boyfriend/girlfriend to come pick them up with the car. From one end of campus to the dorms is less than a mile. I'd better stop with this thought - I am beginning to sound like a cranky old man.

But perhaps you could explain why the females of the most obese generation in the history of the planet favor fashions that leave exposed the cute little tummy rolls hanging over the waist of their jeans?

ps: Sadly, Elliot tells us Canadians are falling into the same habit. Don't know about Europeans who actually live here. The ones who visit are appalled.