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September 22, 2006

i'm not paranoid; i'm craven

I hate to admit it.  But, boy, I sure do feel Bill O'Reilly's pain all right.

In fact, the FBI has also contacted me, letting me know that I as well have been targeted for assasination for my courageous stand against terrorism, evil and mean people.

So start feeling sorry for my patriotic self!  I, like O'Reilly, write these words under threat of death!

It is only through your adulation and purchasing of certain merchandising items that the valiant effort of O'Reilly, and myself, will be validated!

How can O'Reilly, and myself, save this great nation if you do not support us with your love and discretionary income?

It's true, the No Spin Zone, and Titivil, are the front lines of a clash of civilizations.  So, please, look both ways before crossing.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:51 AM

adventures in annotation

Every time the President gives one of his barn-burners of a speech, I'm tempted to gin up a full annotation.  This is not usually a morning thought; it is a falling asleep thought, as in, "Tomorrow I'll get up extra early so I can put a few hours in on an annotation of that address to the UN.  It'll be crackerjack!"

Inevitably, the next day does not bring this crackerjack annotation.  I'm lucky if the day brings something shortish about fools stealing my butter at work.

But I finally found an annotation that I like very much -- this one here.  It is brought to us by a think tank named "Foreign Policy In Focus", about whom I know very little.  And it is a very in-depth annotation of the President's most recent speech to the General Assembly of the UN (which I'm a big fan of, as it includes the phrase "less likely to blow themselves up"), not at all like the snarky, glib one I would write.  A representative example follows:

“Some have argued that the democratic changes we're seeing in the Middle East are destabilizing the region. This argument rests on a false assumption, that the Middle East was stable to begin with.  The reality is that the stability we thought we saw in the Middle East was a mirage.”

This is a terribly misleading characterization of the administration's critics:

First of all, the Middle East has not been seen as a stable part of the world since well before the fall of the Ottoman Empire. For many decades, outside observers have widely recognized the serious ongoing conflicts in that region.  There was no “mirage” here.

More importantly, virtually no one argues that the very limited democratic changes in recent years have destabilized the region. Instead, critics of U.S. policy note correctly that the region has been destabilized by the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the large-scale killings of civilians in U.S. military operations, and other U.S. violations of international law and national sovereignty.

See?  Very very dry, but also very very correct.  Please go educate yourselves, so that you may better convince the misguided.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:52 AM

September 20, 2006

it's the little things that get you through the day

I'm not as big on the comments function as some.  I know, for example, that Monk takes the same perverse pleasure from reading a nice long comments thread that some would get from trolling Powerline.  Me, I prefer to keep the trainwrecks behind me and the flamewars at a safe distance.  (You will note that this site is not comments-enabled.  That is on purpose, though I am sure that there is a certain fellowship I'm missing out on.)

Having said that, I got sucked into a comments thread and I couldn't stop reading.  It's a Gothamist post concerning our local public transportation agency, the MTA, and their continued and ongoing threats to raise fares, cut services, etc.  Here in New York we are used to hearing this from the MTA.  They are corrupt and ineffective.  They refuse to open their accounting books to audit, so that we citizens can have some oversight and make sure that our subway fares are not buying someone a vacation home somewhere.

Obviously, not everyone in New York agrees with me, even though I am righter than they are.  Some people like to point fingers at the transit employees union (which had a very novel strike nine months ago), some like to blame hipsters -- "diff'rent strokes", we call it.

And it is the beauty of these diff'rences that make for a compelling read in the comments section.  About a third of the posts are serious, almost scholarly.  They discuss the history of the MTA and its budget, and the various financial mechanisms of debt.  The second third of comments are from the "poor conversationalists" -- the subject of the post on which they comment is public transit, so in come a flood of comments detailing the commenters' own personal commute.  Sometimes funny; mostly about as funny as someone describing their commute.  And the last third consists of the miscellania, the internecine disputes among commenters, with the veiled accusations and the half-apologies, along with the outwardly random: "money money everywhere- that is absurd," and, "GET A SCOOTER".

Basically, I started reading in hopes of stumbling across an organized resistance to the MTA, and then could not turn away as the thread devolved into whatever it is that every thread eventually devolves into.

Monk is right.  These comment threads are fabulous.  They're like a little Habitrail you can watch the netizens scurry around in.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:48 AM

September 19, 2006

not buzzkill -- principle

Today is Talk Like a Pirate Day.  It is on this day, each year, that I write something about not supporting institutionalized days in which once is encouraged to talk like a pirate.  Sometimes I give my long litany of reasons.  Not this year.  I will be brief.

Face it.  If there were pirates, like the kind you want to talk like, and you said, "Yar," or, "Matey," to him, he would fucking kill you.  And it would hurt, and you would be dead.

So celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day, or Forced Spontanaeity Day, or whatever you call it.  Institute the fun out of whatever you wish.  I will talk like a pirate on any day I choose, thank you.

Someday we will look back and try to remember what it was like back when we actually had to go to work on Talk Like a Pirate Day.  And I will write this post for the nth consecutive year.

Posted by mrbrent at 5:55 PM

killing the future by murdering the past

I guess I should be used to stories like this by now, but no.  I've come across news that the powers-that-be are closing Atlantic City's Steel Pier.  The reason?  AC needs more luxury condos and the like.

Message to stupid fucking AC developers: while your mercenary instinct to murder culture in order to make a buck may be admired by stupid people, I am not stupid people.  In Europe, historic structures are generally only replaced after they fall down by themselves.  That is why European real estate developers will not die rich but unmourned, like you.

Soon, the oldest public space/attraction in America will be a shopping mall from the 70s -- perhaps Monroeville Mall or something similar.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:14 AM

September 18, 2006

maybe you are not who you think you are

I think a link a day from Boing Boing is not excessive.  Especially considering that, if you have the time to read this, you should probably be acquainting yourself with certain electronic consumer/identity security issues that have a reasonable chance of affecting your everyday everyday.

For example, for today: sometimes, the information wanting to be free can be a pretty big problem.  The more complex (and arbitary, in certain ways) the system is, the harder it is to repair the errors of inadvertancy and/or dumb-assery.

So now we panic, and go back to only watching TV.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:52 PM

saxby chambliss, come on down

Yes, I know, you're as sick of links from Raw Story as everyone else.  Snarking on politics just grows more tiresome, and yet we soldier on.  But this one is especially good, in light of my interest in exactly how the South intends to rise again.

In a closed Armed Forces Committee meeting, Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) picked up the "War on Terror is analogous to the [X] War" football and ran with it thusly:

Conflicting reports of what was said have emerged, one from a source to Roll Call's Heard on the Hill column, the other a spokesperson for Chambliss.  “We need better intelligence.  If we had better intelligence in the Civil War we’d be quoting Jefferson Davis, not Lincoln,” The source told ROLL CALL.

Saying that the story wasn't true, a spokesperson for Chambliss said that what the Senator actually said was a different quote, "If Gen. Jeb Stuart had had better intelligence, we’d all be meeting in Richmond right now."

First of all, I actually did a little research (!?!) and, come to find out, no black Senators sit on the Armed Forces Committee.  Which not only prevented Chambliss from saying something more colorful, like, "If Gen. Jeb Stuart had had better intelligence, the Honorable Senator from Illinois would be picking my cotton," but also took away the possibility of a particularly forceful exchange of ideas.

Further, if Chambliss intends to truly honor the War on Terror simile trope, it should go more along the lines of:

We need better intelligence.  If we didn't have better intelligence in the Civil War we’d be quoting Jefferson Davis, not Lincoln.

Because, Senator Chambliss, the participant in that little conflict that stands best compared to al Qaida would be, what did you call yourselves?  The Confederacy.  The secessionists who could not repel invasion of their territories and ultimately surrendered.

Of course, if the Senator intended the comparison to be al Qaida equals the Union forces, I'm happy to let that stand on the record too.

For the record, if I had to choose what warring faction of history to compare al Qaida with, I would nominate Eurasia.  Or maybe Eastasia.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:06 AM

September 17, 2006

wherein we bid 9-11 goodbye for a year

I saved this one for a couple of days, because I thought I could use a little distance.  But this post is Josh Marshall's summation of the import of 9-11 (which already seems like weeks ago), and I like it for a few reasons.

First of all, this passage contains a point I've long wanted to see in print:

The point is that al Qaida itself does not pose an existential threat to our civilization. It can kill hundreds or even thousands of us.  There's the outside chance of a catastrophic attack perhaps with hundreds of thousands of death, though most of the people Fallows spoke to think that it's far, far harder for al Qaida to get, say, a nuclear device than people imagine, particularly with the reduced means of al Qaida today.  But if al Qaida itself doesn't threaten our civilization itself, our possible reactions to al Qaida's threat do.

There are only two nation-states on Earth with true planet-killing capabilities -- that would be us, and however you want to classify the old Soviet aggregation.  And if you think to yourself, "Why, both of these weapon systems are under close control -- they would not be used spuriously," then you are missing the point.  Even if you take for granted (and I don't) the unlikeliness of these nations acting irresponsibly, you still have to take into account that these nations may be goaded into acting irresponsibly.  So you then must include on the list of the planet-killing capables every actor (nation, state, organization) that has the potential to so goad.  That makes the list very long indeed.  And it illuminates why exactly terrorism is not the biggest problem facing us, and specifies how the greatest harm that terrorism can do is an indirect result of terrorism, a result of how terrorist events are responded to.

I also like this one, because I disagree with it:

Over the weekend I read one of the many 'why haven't we been hit again' articles. One I read, after disposing of many of the standard possible answers, proposed the following answer to the question: the reason we have not been hit again on our own soil after five long years is simply a sign of al Qaida's patience. They'll hit us at a time and place of their choosing.

Nope, the reason that they haven't hit us is, most basically, because they don't want to.  And the reason that they don't want to is because the goal of the 9-11 attack has already been achieved, and doesn't need to be re-achieved.  The intended effect of the attacks was to manipulate the US government into making very bad decisions in the Middle East.  The US government did so, and has no intention of making a good decision anytime soon.  They played us for suckers, and we bit.  We hit the Taliban, but not hard enough to end them, and we sloppily invaded Iraq.  We are worse than a recruiting poster for al Qaida, we are actually a multi-media advertising campaign of incalculable cost for al Qaida.

Al Qaida are a loose association of lawbreakers.  And that is all they ever would be, no matter how many crimes they committed and no matter how inhuman the crimes were.  All they wanted was to be treated as a state actor.  They wanted to be waging war, and not just avoiding arrest.  The only power they have is the power granted them by the terrorized.

Basically, we are suffering through a very bad little spot in history where the objectives of wackadoo zealot criminals with global desires and of our very own and very dumb-ass administration kind of fall into lockstep, and so we lose some civil liberties and a couple thousand soldiers, and Iraq experiences some hundred thousand "collateral damages", and we lose an American city and we get to watch Senators argue about how much torture is okay.

If you are not outraged on a moral level, you are not paying attention.

Tune in next year for more uplifting words.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:09 AM

this one goes out to god

This is a little nothing, but I just wanna be square with the world.  To the individual that was referred to this site by the search keyphrase "gospel for september 09 2006", I would like to say that I am deeply, deeply sorry.  There is not much gospel here, while there is a great volume of blasphemy, heretical thoughts, profanity and other by-products of my apostacy.  I probably used the word "gospel" somewhere and boom, some poor soul is punished for their good intentions, by Titivil.

I just hope things worked out better on september 10.

And also please remember us in your prayers, gospel-seeker -- someone's gonna have to feed your cat after the Rapture.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:55 AM