Tuesday, March 30, 2004

No News Is Bad News Department, a.k.a. When Does Absence of Evidence Become Evidence of Absence?

The search for WMD in Iraq is still on, of course. Overseeing the effort for the U.S. now is Charles A. Duelfer, who took over the reigns of the Iraq Survey Group from David Kay in January of this year.

The ISG's latest findings? New data but no weapons.

According to the New York Times, "a lack of cooperation from ousted Iraqi officials [is] thwarting American efforts to untangle the many remaining mysteries surrounding Iraq's suspected illicit weapons program."

Read Duelfer's testimony to Congress here. (Supposedly, a declassified version of the report was to be published today. I can't find it.)

For the founding of the Iraq Survey Group, go here. For the group's last report, issued under David Kay in October 2003, go here.

In the October report, presented to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Defense, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Kay said: "We have not yet found stocks of weapons, but we are not yet at the point where we can say definitively either that such weapon stocks do not exist or that they existed before the war and our only task is to find where they have gone."

In January of this year, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Kay said, in his opening remarks: "Let me begin by saying, we were almost all wrong, and I certainly include myself here. . . . It turns out that we were all wrong, probably, in my judgment, and that is most disturbing."

But regardless of whether or not anyone *ever* finds any WMD in Iraq, there is no denying that the Bush administration — in particular, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz — intentionally sought to mislead Americans (and the whole rest of the world as well) about the immediacy of the threat posed to us.

They said, 'The weapons are there and we know it; they are an imminent threat.' Rumsfeld even claimed to know the chemical and biological weapons' location, sort of: "We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south, and north somewhat." (March 30, 2003; bottom, page 16)

But you know what: They didn't know it; and they knew they didn't knew. That means they were lying. It's that simple.
Department of New Departments

I'm adding a new section to my Links, at left, titled The Last Few Books I've Read.

Now that I stopped subscribing, for a while, to the New York Times, and let my subscription lapse, unintentionally, to the Economist, I've been reading a lot more books. Whenever I read a book, I'm tempted to say something about it here. But you know what? Without a deadline and money coming in soon thereafter, I have a hard time getting motivated to do *anything.*
The Latest in Bashing Department

From iviews.com, an opinion by Nahal Ameri, community relations director of the Los Angeles–based Muslim Public Affairs Council, titled "The New Breed of Islam Bashers":

"There is a new breed of Islam bashers that were at one point part of the Muslim community itself. Muslims already have to contend with people like Daniel Pipes making statements such as 'Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene. . . . All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most.' "

"Now beyond Daniel Pipes, Muslims are seeing a new stream of attacks against their faith by individuals that were born Muslim and being promoted by media. . . . Although I completely respect freedom of speech, I must ask what is the point of all of this? Do these Muslim bashers want us all to convert out of Islam? Do they want the whole world to hate Islam? The answer in my view is that they want Muslims and the rest of humanity to renounce the religion and in their delusion hope to extinguish the light of Islam from the world."


If you're interested in the whole Daniel Pipes thing -- and I warn you, it's nothing but a can of worms -- go here and read Pipes's response to the charges levied against him, including his denial that the statement attributed to him above is was not his view but simply his "reporting on the way Europeans think."
Department of Delayed Notification of Chronical Longevity

Last week, without my noticing it, my blog "turned" a year old. What can I say?
Trading Bases Department

"From the ashes of abandoned Iraqi army bases, U.S. military engineers are overseeing the building of an enhanced system of American bases designed to last for years.

"Last year, as troops poured over the Kuwait border to invade Iraq, the U.S. military set up at least 120 forward operating bases. Then came hundreds of expeditionary and temporary bases that were to last between six months and a year for tactical operations while providing soldiers with such comforts as e-mail and Internet access.

"Now U.S. engineers are focusing on constructing 14 'enduring bases,' long-term encampments for the thousands of American troops expected to serve in Iraq for at least two years. The bases also would be key outposts for Bush administration policy advisers.

As the U.S. scales back its military presence in Saudi Arabia, Iraq provides an option for an administration eager to maintain a robust military presence in the Middle East and intent on a muscular approach to seeding democracy in the region. The number of U.S. military personnel in Iraq, between 105,000 and 110,000, is expected to remain unchanged through 2006, according to military planners.

" 'Is this a swap for the Saudi bases?' asked Army Brig. Gen. Robert Pollman, chief engineer for base construction in Iraq. 'I don't know. . . . When we talk about enduring bases here, we're talking about the present operation, not in terms of America's global strategic base. But this makes sense. It makes a lot of logical sense.' "

Read the rest of the story here.
Department of an Example to the Commander in Chief

"Acting on a damning report of United Nations security failures in the bombing of its Baghdad headquarters last August, Secretary General Kofi Annan fired his chief of global security, demoted a second senior official, penalized three staff members and received — but did not accept — the resignation of his own deputy, his spokesman said Monday."

If only Bush would have done the same after the much greater security failure(s) of Sept. 11, 2001. Read the rest of the story here (it gets pretty low-profile play, by the way, appearing on page 12 of the Times' first section).
Department of Policing Personal Responsibility

I came across this blog posting at random: Driven to Tears: Getting Stung by Terror.

In it, one Mickey Z. uses the Police song "Driven to Tears," off of the 1980 album Zenyatta Mondatta, as a springboard to reflections on the question of the relationship of individual behavior to events in the United States today, and in the world at large.

Obvious, perhaps; and of course these kinds of reflections don't change a damn thing. Still, I have to admit that I too in recent months have recollected the lyrics of this song, thinking back, somewhat nostalgically, to the time in my life when I was first discovering my attitudes and opinions about the world around me. As pathetic as it may sound, "Driven to Tears" was one of several pop/rock songs that had an influence on my thinking. And so to Mickey Z. I say, thanks.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Don't Tell Me This Isn't the Coolest Thing You've Seen in Several Weeks Department

Tidying up the floor of my study a few minutes ago, I ran across this piece in the "Online Diary" from the New York Times of August 28, 2003.

The third item, "Accents Are Positive," reads as follows:

Accents Are Positive

"Please call Stella. Ask her to bring these things with her from the store: Six spoons of fresh snow peas, five thick slabs of blue cheese, and maybe a snack for her brother Bob. We also need a small plastic snake and a big toy frog for the kids. She can scoop these things into three red bags, and we will go meet her Wednesday at the train station."

This paragraph contains nearly every sound in English ("oy" is an exception, which may upset New Yorkers). At the Speech Accent Archive (classweb.gmu.edu/accent) you can hear it spoken by more than 260 native and nonnative speakers of English and compare their accents, from Milwaukee to Zulu. The archive demonstrates the systematic nature of accents, according to Steven Weinberger, founder of the archive and an associate professor in the English department at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

Most of the speech samples are collected by Professor Weinberger's research assistants, but submissions are welcome. The archive is used primarily by linguists, speech recognition engineers, English-language instructors and actors, Professor Weinberger said by phone from Jerusalem, where he had just recorded a "very rare" native Yiddish speaker's declamation on Stella and Bob. (Actors are the intended audience of the International Dialects of English Archive, a similar site run by the University of Kansas's theater and film department at www.ku.edu/~idea/index2.html.)

Anyone who has tried to place someone's accent or made a social judgment based on an accent will find it interesting. Each speaker answered seven questions related to factors like place of birth, gender, and the English-learning method, and this data accompanies each sample. The most crucial predictor of an accent turns out to be the age at which someone learns English.


I am bookmarking that Speech Accent Archive quicker than a Fang can say "lickety-split"!

Friday, March 26, 2004

Free Trade Lefties of the World, Unite!

Never heard of 'em before, but Kevin Drum and Matthew Yglesias weigh in on the problem of changing right-thinking people's minds on free trade -- in other words, how to convince them that free trade is *good.*

(Thanks again to Matt Welch; I been leechin' off him a lot lately.)

The Economist beats the free trade drum all the time, and in fact it's the one area in which that magazine has convinced me, over the years, to be more "pro-market." I put the phrase in quotation marks, because I believe that to be pro-market on free trade, at least if you support it for reasons of wanting to pull up the world's poor, you have to include all sorts of caveats and qualifiers when you do so. Reason being that the market never, ever works the way it's "supposed to" all by itself.

I have nothing to say about Prospect Theory, but I can say this: I am convinced that one of the reasons there is not more support for free trade in this country, and specifically among Democrats and their labor supporters, is that the government, regardless of which party has been in power, has not put enough effort into the retraining programs that must be put in place to ensure that those workers who lose their jobs when their industries lose business to companies abroad can find work elsewhere. As far as I know, any such efforts in this direction have so far been sorely inadequate.
Department of Getting Under Matt Welch's Skin

Chomsky's got a blog! It's through ZMag and it's called Turning the Tide.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Department of Rounding Up Expatriate Scribblers

Courtesy of Matt Welch, ex-Prague expatriate Alexander Zaitchik's "Let the Kazoos Sound: A Decade of English Press in Prague."

The only periodical I can think of that he missed is One Eye Open, a semi-femi journal. But I also think Howard Sidenberg and his Twisted Spoon Press deserve to have been given more attention—lots more.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Department of Ensuring Domestic Tranquility

"TV Channel for North American Muslims to Debut in 2004." You saw it here first!
Department of Do As We Say, Not As We Do

"Injustice in Afghanistan," an opinion from the March 20th Washington Post:

"Under pressure from the Supreme Court and many foreign governments, the Bush administration at last has begun to take steps toward providing a review process for the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. But it has yet to address the less publicized but possibly more serious problems surrounding its detention of foreign nationals elsewhere in the world. Under the guise of the war on terrorism, the U.S. military and CIA are holding hundreds, if not thousands, of suspects in Iraq, Afghanistan and possibly other locations under conditions of extraordinary secrecy and without any formal legal process. Many of the detentions are a necessary and normal part of ongoing military operations, and many of those detained are terrorists or others who might accurately be described as 'illegal combatants.' Nevertheless, as a new report by Human Rights Watch on Afghanistan has documented, the Bush administration's practice of refusing to follow the Geneva Conventions or any other rule of law has led to abuses that are an affront to fundamental American values.

"The 60-page report on U.S. practices in Afghanistan during the past two years details questionable or possibly criminal behavior by American personnel, including the use of excessive force during arrests and systematic mistreatment of some detainees. It shows that U.S. interrogators have used practices, such as prolonged shackling and sleep deprivation, that the State Department's annual human rights report describes as torture when they are used by other countries. Perhaps most disturbing, it documents how numerous Afghan civilians have been held for periods of up to a year or more without charge, 'virtually incommunicado without any legal basis for challenging their detention or seeking their release.' "

"U.S. authorities have never disclosed how many prisoners are being held or where, nor have they permitted visits by family members or lawyers to those detained. No charges have been brought against any of the prisoners. 'Simply put,' the report concludes, 'the United States is acting outside the rule of law.' "

You can read the Human Rights Watch report — “Enduring Freedom”: Abuses by U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, issued March 8th — here.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Department of Blasts from the Past

A 10-year-old(!) Matt Welch piece from Prognosis in which Lesley Stahl of "60 Minutes" makes a jackass of herself as she struggles to squeeze the Young Americans in Prague phenomenon into the minuscule confines of her clearly acid-warped brain.

Addendum (3/23/04, 11:56 a.m.): Onetime Prague denizen Pete "House" Hausler wrote in Tuesday morning with the following letter, sent to the New York Times Magazine "sometime in '93, after I returned from Prague, after they wrote one of those articles that Matt rails against. Needless to say, they didn't print my letter, probably b/c I call them plagiarists for their 'pack journalism.' "

"To the Editor:

"Let me get this straight: From your article — Y(oung) A(mericans in) P(rague), Sunday, December 12, 1993 — I learned that the city-state of Prague — also called New Paris — exists in a vacuum somewhere in central Europe and is inhabited solely by hip, young Americans. The one remaining Czech in Prague is writer-turned-president Vaclav Havel, who rules these idolizing Westerners with the help of writer-turned-ghost Franz Kafka. The patron saint of the ancient Czech capital is Ernest Hemingway, of late associated with Prague because he lived in Paris 70 years ago. Some of Prague's buildings retain quaint Czech names like Obecni dum, in deference to the natives, who disappeared when Communism fell in November 1989.

"But seriously . . . I returned to America this past August from a year in Prague. Not once while living there did I hear Americans calling themselves 'YAPs.' It is simply wrong for you to refer to YAP as 'the local acronym.' This media pigeonholing of pop culture trends is lazy and disgusting; I expect better from the New York Times. You seem to have fallen prey to the prevalent attitude of round 'em up, subgroup everything, slap on a cheap label, and bang: it's copy for the masses.

"By now, Americans in Prague must hold the dubious distinction of being the longest running media darlings in the history of journalism. There are many fresh, interesting stories in Prague; this familiar angle is not one of them. By now, three years after we started hearing about this phenomenon, the story is old. Continuing to rehash the dozens of previous stories is simply lazy, hackneyed journalism perpetrated by plagiarists. A new story, please."
Department of Utter Absurdity

From the Russian daily Pravda:

Republican senators want to learn how to achieve the same level of support for Bush as the Russian President managed to get during the recent presidential elections. Senator Trent Lott has made this statement in his interview to RIA "Novosti":

"Democracy is an evolutionary process. I would like to congratulate Mr. Putin and the delegates of the State Duma with their victory. I would like to learn how we could reach the same level of support for Republicans and President Bush for the elections in our country," said Lott.

Department of Must-Read Articles

Adam Gopnik on the "new Times Square" in last week's New Yorker.

One of the many reasons why I enjoyed this article and consider it a must-read for New Yorkers is that in it Gopnik debunks the myth — which I myself had believed — that Giuliani and Disney were the chief architects of the "new," sanitized Times Square.

Referring to two recent books about the transformation of Times Square — The Devil’s Playground, by James Traub, and Times Square Roulette: Remaking the City Icon, by Lynne B. Sagalyn — Gopnik writes:

"Traub and Sagalyn agree in dispelling a myth and moving toward a history, and the myth irritates them both — Traub’s usual tone of intelligent skepticism sometimes boils over here into exasperation. The myth they want to dispel is that the cleanup of Times Square in the nineties was an expression of Mayor Giuliani’s campaign against crime and vice, and of his companion tendency to accept a sterilized environment if they could be removed, and that his key corporate partner in this was the mighty Disney, which led the remaking of West Forty-second Street as a theme park instead of an authentic urban street. As Traub and Sagalyn show, this is nearly the reverse of the truth. It was Mayor Koch who shaped the new Times Square, if anyone did, while the important private profit-makers and players were almost all purely local: the Old Oligarchs, the handful of rich, and mostly Jewish, real-estate families — the Rudins, Dursts, Roses, Resnicks, Fishers, Speyers, and Tishmans, as Sagalyn crisply enumerates them. Mayor Giuliani, basically, was there to cut the ribbon, and Disney to briefly lend its name."

As I say, this is but one of many reasons why Gopnik's article is worth reading. At several points, Gopnik takes to task those who sentimentalize about the old, pornified Times Square. And yet neither does he give the new Times Square a stamp of approval.

"All the same, there is something spooky about the contemporary Times Square. It wanders through you; you don’t wander through it. One of the things that make for vitality in any city, and above all in New York, is the trinity of big buildings, bright lights, and weird stores. The big buildings and bright lights are there in the new Times Square, but the weird stores are not. By weird stores one means not simply small stores, mom-and-pop operations, but stores in which a peculiar and even obsessive entrepreneur caters to a peculiar and even an obsessive taste. (Art galleries and modestly ambitious restaurants are weird stores by definition. It’s why they still feel very New York.) If the big buildings and the bright signs reflect the city’s vitality and density, weird stores refract it; they imply that the city is so varied that someone can make a mundane living from one tiny obsessive thing. Poolrooms and boxing clubs were visible instances of weird stores in the old Times Square; another, slightly less visible, was the thriving world of the independent film business, negative cutters, and camera-rental firms.

"There is hardly a single weird store left on Broadway from Forty-second Street to Forty-sixth Street — hardly a single place in which a peculiar passion seems to have committed itself to a peculiar product. You have now, one more irony, to bend east, toward respectable Fifth Avenue, toward the diamond merchants and the Brazilian restaurants and the kosher cafeterias that still fill the side streets, to re-create something that feels a little like the old Times Square. (Wonderful Forty-fifth Street! With the Judaica candlesticks and the Japanese-film rental and the two-story shops selling cheap clothes and stereos, lit up bright.) Social historians like to talk about the Tragedy of the Commons, meaning the way that everybody loses when everybody overgrazes the village green, though it is in no individual’s interest to stop. In New York, we suffer from a Tragedy of the Uncommons: weird things make the city worth living in, but though each individual wants them, no one individual wants to pay to keep them going. Times Square, as so often in the past, is responding, in typically heightened form, to the general state of the city: the loss of retail variety troubles us everywhere, as a new trinity of monotony — Starbucks, Duane Reade, and the Washington Mutual Bank — appears to dominate every block. We just feel it more on Broadway."

Read the article.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Corrections Department: No Draft

They are NOT reinstating the draft. Or at least not according to a friend of mine who is an editor at Newsday.

Regarding the legislation referred to in my previous posting (specifically, HR 163), my friend wrote:

"This is the bill that Charlie Rangel introduced to highlight the disparate numbers of minorities serving, and dying, in the Armed Forces. It doesn't have enough support to come even close to passing. Rummy et al. have said no to this. So I'm not counting it as real, unless you want to think that Rangel is acting as a Republican stooge."

Here is the text of HR 163, introduced by Rangel on Jan. 7, 2003.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Guess What? They're Reinstating the Draft

Following is the lion's share of an e-mail I received today from a friend:

There is pending legislation in the House and Senate (twin bills: S 89 and HR 163) that will time the program's initiation so the draft can begin at early as spring 2005 -- just after the 2004 presidential election. The administration is quietly trying to get these bills passed NOW, while the public's attention is on the elections. Details and links follow.

$28 million has been added to the 2004 Selective Service System (SSS) budget to prepare for a military draft that could start as early as June 15, 2005. SSS must report to the president on March 31, 2005, that the system, which has lain dormant for decades, is ready for activation.

See www.sss.gov/perfplan_fy2004.html to view the SSS Annual Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2004.

The Pentagon has quietly begun a public campaign to fill all 10,350 draft board positions and 11,070 appeals board slots nationwide. Though this is an unpopular election-year topic, military experts and influential members of Congress are suggesting that if Rumsfeld's prediction of a "long, hard slog" in Iraq and Afghanistan [and a permanent state of "war on terror"] proves accurate, the U.S. may have no choice but to draft.

Here's an article with more details: www.informationclearinghouse.info/article5146.htm.

Congress this year brought forward twin bills — S 89 and HR 163, titled the Universal National Service Act of 2003 — "To provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons [ages 18 to 26] in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes." These active bills currently sit in the Committee on Armed Services.

Dodging the draft will be more difficult than those from the Vietnam era remember. College and Canada will not be options. In December 2001, Canada and the United States signed a "Smart Border Declaration," which could be used to keep would-be draft dodgers in. Signed by Canada's minister of foreign affairs, John Manley, and U.S. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, the declaration involves a 30-point plan that implements, among other things, a "pre-clearance agreement" of people entering and departing each country. Reforms aimed at making the draft more equitable along gender and class lines also eliminate higher education as a shelter.

Underclassmen would only be able to postpone service until the end of their current semester. Seniors would have until the end of the academic year.


Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Department of I Hate to Say I Told You So, but I Told You So (a.k.a. When Will It Ever End Department)

A far-reaching proposal from the FBI, made public Friday, would require all broadband Internet providers, including cable modem and DSL companies, to rewire their networks to support easy wiretapping by police.

Read it and weep.
Hear, Hear! Department

From a piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, defines anti-Semitism as: "1: hostility toward Jews as a religious or racial minority group often accompanied by social, economic, and political discrimination - compare RACISM. 2: opposition to Zionism: sympathy with opponents of the state of Israel."

In a letter of protest last Sunday, the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee called on Merriam-Webster to "repudiate" the latter meaning and retract it.

Equating opposition to Israel with anti-Semitism, the Washington, DC–based group said, "smears and impugns the motives of all those who support the human and political rights of Palestinians" and "stigmatizes perfectly legitimate political opinions and activities."

I agree. There are a lot of things about the Israeli government's policies I oppose, and I think it's safe to say that I am not an anti-Semite.

Note, by the way, that the Third New International (known in the trade as Web 3) was last published in 1986. (I know this because, thanks to Ben Sullivan, who gave me the copy that belonged to Prognosis when that paper folded, I own it—thanks, Ben!)

On the other hand, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition (known in the trade as Web 10), published in 1995, defines the term simply as "hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group."

All of which is to say that I assume the new edition of Web 3 will employ a similarly less fraught definition.
Department of Things I'm Glad to Hear but Would Rather Hear Said Right Here at Home, Where American Voters Are Listening

During a visit to Singapore last week, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge said that some of the measures imposed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks—including racially based checks on foreign visitors to the United States—had been unfair.

Said Ridge: “America knows we cannot seek a double standard and America knows we get what we give. And so we must and will always be careful to respect people’s privacy, civil liberties, and reputations. To suggest there is a trade-off between security and individual freedoms—that we must discard one protection for the other—is a false choice. You do not defend liberty to forsake it.”

Ridge also said that regulations that arbitrarily turned away thousands of foreign students seeking to enter the United States had been wrong and damaging.

P.S. I wonder if this piece is by the same Mark Baker who used to work at the Globe bookstore in Prague?

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Department of I'm Outta Here

Goin' to Mexico for my sister's wedding. Be back March 13th. Hasta la vista, baby!
Department of Island Exploration

Amy Langfield recently took a trip with the intention of writing about riding the entire length of the B train. Instead she ended up writing about Coney Island. Give it a read.

(By the way, I always thought Coney Island meant "King's Island," the word Coney having warped from the original Dutch koning, meaning "king." This site, however, claims that the name comes from konijn, the Dutch word for "rabbit." Who knows?)

In reading Amy's posting, I was pleased to see that she stumbled across the amazing boardwalk game called Shoot the Freak!, which my more faithful readers will recall from previous postings here last June and August. I am past pleased to hear that the game is still up and running.

For all the information you could ever hope to know about Coney Island, go to this incredible site.

Written on the Subway Walls Department

In the past few weeks, I have seen two defaced advertisements that stand out for the monomaniacal thoroughness with which their defacers defaced them.

1) Starsky and Hutch. E/V platform, Manhattan-bound, 23 St–Ely Av.

This one I admire mainly for its devotion to the old school putdown "faggot." Here is what the poster for the movie looks like:

Now picture these words, scrawled in black marker: on Amy Smart (the blonde), "washed up"; on Carmen Electra (the brunette), "will fuck 4 money"; on Ben Stiller (forehead and chin), "I wish I still did coke cause then I would be too wired to do this lame homo shit with this queer"; on Owen Wilson (again, forehead and chin), "I am a faggot . . . close your mouth cause you don't want the photographer to smell your penis breath"; on Snoop Dogg, "Snoopy sellout faggot"; and on Vince Vaughan, "I was money 4 5 minutes."

A second hand has also written across the top of the poster "Wow! Hollywood is so 'original.' "

2) Barnes and Noble ad featuring Charles Dickens. L platform, Manhattan-bound, Lorimer St.

For those of you who have not yet seen this poster, it is part of a recent campaign in which B&N pledge to deliver books to certain (desirable) parts of Manhattan, free of charge, the same day you order them. (Of course it ain't necessarily so, as this brief piece in Grand Street News points out. But that's a different story.) Anyway, this is what the poster looks like:

So, again, picture this, in black marker, though this time the words are encased in word balloons: Underneath the text "Your favorite authors. Fast." is written "With Kissinger's head. Fast." Clutched in Dickens' left hand is a severed head wearing glasses; extending from its neck is a messy tangle of blood vessels and nerves; the head's face wears a tortured expression as it says, "Dickens hass kott [sic] my severed head, it seems." Dickens himself is saying, "I am carrying the severed head of Henry Kissinger." In the upper left-hand corner of the poster, flitting about Dickens' head are two onlooking birds, one of which says, "Look -- it's Charles Dickens running some kind of marathon," while the other replies, "Yes, and in his left hand he carries the fucking severed head of that genocidal fat man, Kissinger."

This one, amazingly, I spotted within two or three days of watching the movie The Trials of Henry Kissinger. Ah, the small pleasures of riding the subway in New York!

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Department of Overblown but Kind of Funny

"Blogging Off," by Whitney Pastorek. (I especially like section 4: "They have created a new world order.")
Who Knew? Department

From Islam Online: Slovakian Muslims Seek 'Positive Integration'.
For the full interview with Mohamad Safwan Hasna, head of the Islamic Foundation in Slovakia, go to this page at the Slovak Spectator.
Department of Why Americans Don't Vote

Seems as good a day as any to remind ourselves of that. Frances Fox Piven, to the best of my knowledge, "wrote the book" -- literally -- on why Americans don't vote.

For other theories, click here and choose at will.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Department of Why War Is Awful

Provided you have the stomach for it, read this article and then watch the clips (one and two) of U.S. soldiers shooting what appear to be unarmed and injured Iraqis, a violation of international law. (In all fairness, the first clip shows an Iraqi who has a gun lying next to him but no longer in his hands. The transcript says he is writhing on the ground next to his gun; the voiceover on the video itself does not mention his gun.)

The first clip, from CNN, after the shooting shows a young soldier saying that the feeling after battle, after killing someone, is "awesome." The second clip — footage from an Apache helicopter, shot at night, and broadcast by ABC News — was in my opinion more harrowing, mainly because it lasts as long as it does.

If you check the links at the bottom of the article above, you will find reactions to the first video by present and former members of the U.S. military, debating the legality and propriety of the shooting, as well as a written piece from ABC News to accompany the video (at least I assume that's what it is; I can't get the page to load).
Department of Utter Ridiculousness (a.k.a. When Copy Editing Is a Crime)

The U.S. Treasury Department, according to a Feb. 28 article in the New York Times, "has warned publishers they may face grave legal consequences for editing manuscripts from Iran and other disfavored nations, on the ground that such tinkering amounts to trading with the enemy.

"Anyone who publishes material from a country under a trade embargo is forbidden to reorder paragraphs or sentences, correct syntax or grammar, or replace 'inappropriate words,' according to several advisory letters from the Treasury Department in recent months.

"Adding illustrations is prohibited, too. To the baffled dismay of publishers, editors and translators who have been briefed about the policy, only publication of 'camera-ready copies of manuscripts' is allowed.

"The Treasury letters concerned Iran. But the logic, experts said, would seem to extend to Cuba, Libya, North Korea and other nations with which most trade is banned without a government license."
Department of Who Da Bad Guys?

Read this year's edition of the U.S. State Department's annual Human Rights Report.

As soon as they are available, I will post links to critiques of the report, soon to be forthcoming from various do-gooder groups.