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August 24, 2007

if there wasn't an al qaida, the white house would have to invent one

So, another report concerning Iraq (which we totally conquered and should get on with the pillaging) was issued by the aggregated intelligence agencies of the US government.  The take on this latest NIE (as such report is known) reported by all the newses is that the situation is grim, some successes, but still grim, etc.  Enough of these stories flash by that they are starting to blur together.

But I did actually take the time to read the excerpts of the NIE, as printed in the newspaper, instead of just the coverage thereof, and I was a little bit shocked.  (You can read them too, over here, in pdf.)  The impression left from the carefully parsed language is that the primary military enemy being fought over there is this shadowy organization known as "al Qaida".  This is in line with the Bush Administration's thinking, but it is demonstrably not the case.

It's one thing for the White House to indulge in this blatant language creep -- no one believes a thing they say anyway.  But the intelligence community propagandizing their work product, is a little bit shocking, as they actually have real work to do other than getting reelected.  It is easy to imagine how carrying water for a failed president could get in the way of your average intelligence agency's mandate.

And the totally scary thing is that at least one of your respectable news purveyors has totally drank the kool-aid.  In this article from The Washington Post, you will find that the NIE's conflation of "insurgent" with "al Qaida" is faithfully parroted.  In fact, if you search the piece, you find that "al Qaida" (or the variant spelling used) appears nine times.  The word "Shiite" appears three times.

Can we just change Iraq's name to "Eurasia" already?

Posted by mrbrent at 11:11 AM

August 23, 2007

emily takes hannah takes the stairs

Whatever they're calling the generation that follows mine (early- to mid-20s, for sake of reference), I will say this about them: while being very cute and all that, instead of just killing their idols, they are drowning them in the bathtub before they can grow to full idol-size.

What am I talking about?  I'm talking about this Gawker movie review right here.

I haven't seen the movie in question (though I've heard it's good), and I have a pretty high opinion of Gawker's Emily Gould's writing, but reading the review is all like, "Hey, you're slapping yourself!  You're slapping yourself!" but they really are slapping themselves.

The least we can hope for is a feud (now that any desire I had to see the movie has been extinguished).

Posted by mrbrent at 11:36 AM

vietnam - har!

First I saw news of the president's invocation of the Vietnam conflict to buttress public support for his conquest of Iraq, I thought I was reading the Onion.

I'm not old enough to remember Vietnam (let alone to have draft-dodged Vietnam by drinking my way through the Air National Guard), but I do know enough to know that -- wait, stop, don't.  Even "I won't dignify that with a response" is too dignified a response to this crackity notion.  But I can make motorboat sounds with my lips!  It's easy!  Try it!

The President may secretly be a very intelligent man, but I think that we've reached the point where we respond to whatever whack-ass crazy he spews with, "Why, how interesting, Mr President!  Here's a nickel.  Go buy yourself a piece of candy!" and then we go on with whatever we go on with, like keeping the creditors at bay.

I got a feeling that whichever of the president's smart guys crafted this little semiotic volley has got a very dry sense of humor, and that right now he's choosing which Crusade to use for the next speech (though it will be hard to find a chapter of the Veterans of the Sixth Crusade to give the speech to).

Posted by mrbrent at 10:33 AM

August 22, 2007

president hates children as nation yawns

Briefly, in the interest of completeness, this story is the story that had me post-verbal yesterday.  It's about how the president is using his administrative powers to make it more difficult for states to cover more kids with the Children's Health Insurance Program.  This is done to head Congress off at the pass, as they have passed a bill expanding the program -- the administration is worried that all this insuring of children might in some way threaten private health insurance.

I've been scratching my head at why any rational person would place the welfare of private insurance over the welfare of children, but then I remembered that in the eyes of certain business interests, corporations are people too.  And if we can't protect the interests of health insurers from poor people, then how will we someday protect the interests of the Soylent Green Corp.?

After all, we as a nation are measured by how we treat the strongest amongst us.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:53 AM

August 21, 2007

can't we just wait until someone from the future brings us one?

At least one news story that broke last night has left me quivering with rage.  Regretfully, rage-quivering isn't always fertile ground for the good writing, so, in the meantime, amuse yourself with this -- not only are our best and brightest still working on fashioning a time machine, but also they are so far along that an editor at Yahoo! felt the need to publish a summary of the scientists' efforts for an inquisitive public.  The technology for the latest (theoretical) model does not yet exist, but isn't that what makes it all fun?
[The model] begins with a donut-shaped hole enveloped within a sphere of normal matter.  Inside this donut-shaped vacuum, space-time could get bent upon itself using focused gravitational fields to form a closed time-like curve.  To go back in time, a traveler would race around inside the donut, going further back into the past with each lap.

This sounds suspiciously like my idea, at seven or eight years old, to lift myself off the ground by merely, while standing, grabbing the collar of my own shirt and pulling up.  I wish a greater success rate to this new time machine, as I would very much like to race around inside a donut some day.

(Of course, it may not be that so much time-travel progress is being made; also, could be a slow news day.  Or we're just plain running out of information, which means we need a time machine fast, so we can start stealing our information from the future/past.)

Posted by mrbrent at 10:56 AM

August 20, 2007

the no-defense defense of hitchens

This, for me, puts Christopher Hitchens into perspective.  I have this very difficult relationship with Hitchens, which comes to me as no surprise, nor does it to those with whom I've had relationships.  He is given to opinions that are just full-blown cockamamie (his stance on the Iraq war-type activity, for example), leaving me happy to dismiss him out of hand, like any good neophyte ideologue.  But I get to reading him, or hearing him speak, and I turn into a fan.

Two weeks ago he wrote the review of the latest Harry Potter for the NY Times, which I read (and which is behind the NYT firewall), and which I enjoyed.  Which furthermore left me thinking that whichever talent he has with the sentences, and stringing them together, is one I'd like.  And I thought that aspect of the review was pretty self-evident, but then in my daily cruise of the progressive half of the sphere-that-is-blog, I came across more than one (sorry, no links! lazy!) condemnation of Hitchens' short-sighted and self-involved review of that particular part of pop culture.  Short-sighted, dunno, self-involved, definitely, but did they read it?  It read like words were meant to be written.

Fortunately for me, Roy Edroso is here to write what I'm trying to say in plain English:

One of the things I still admire about Hitchens' writing is that I believe him: not his belligerent analyses, but his portrayal of his own thoughts and feelings.  He identifies clearly the personal obsessions that informed his strange reaction to the horrible event -- the multicultural versus the monochrome.  He puts responsibility for his feelings on himself, and dares the reader to find him insane, because he doesn't care what the reader thinks.  Hitchens seeks not to beg his reader's attention and understanding, but to command it.

Edroso is referring to Hitchens' post-9-11 thoughts, but the sentiment stands.  Hitchens may be disagreeable and frequently wrong, but you gotta tip your hat.  And be very thankful that the more ill-intentioned of the world, the Limbaughs and the Hannitys, are no-talent hacks.

Posted by mrbrent at 7:55 PM

hey now frank dodge

Today I'm having a hard time amusing even myself, so the chances of me amusing you are pretty damn slim.

But I will tell you this, and I'll tell it to you for free -- "holding a 40 lb snapping turtle is like holding a dinorsaur and i will tell you what else: holding a dinorsour is like holding lightning."

Posted by mrbrent at 4:54 PM