Sunday, August 20, 2006

Note from a Planeful of Arabs

As a rule, I never read, much less comment on, Ann Coulter, who I am convinced is a liberal Democrat pulling the world's longest-running prank on our media. It gets less funny all the time. But on this new column makes me think her column is ghost-written by a 12-year-old in a bunker somewhere:

To pull off a 9/11-style attack now, literally half the passengers on the plane would have to be terrorists. (At least the airport screeners wouldn't have to worry about confiscating a lot of deodorants.)

I think a planeful of Arabs would attract attention — except from people who had recently completed a government training program teaching them not to notice anyone's appearance. Not even a group of liberal Democrats flying off to a Renaissance Weekend would stand for that.

Am I wrong, or does she mean that "Not even a group of liberal Democrats [blah blah blah] would stand for" a "planeful of Arabs"? (And yes, she assumes that non-Arabs wouldn't help out with a terrorist attack. This sort of racist ignorance probably hurts Richard Reid's feelings.)

Anyway, I can assure Ms. Coulter, who has apparently led a rather sheltered life, that planefuls of Arabs arrive in United States airports every day. Not only do liberal Democrats like me stand for it; we ride on them. Just last week, I boarded a planeful of Arabs, and had the best flight of my life. (And imagine: One of my travelling companions, in fact, was a conservative Republican.) They're called planes from the Middle East.

Emirates Airlines, it turns out, is not only a sane and well-run operation, it has 500 channels of movies and TV. I watched "Inside Man" and "Mission Impossible III," and then fell asleep because I was so comfortable and secure.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Fog of Getting It Right

It's nice that George Will has come so firmly around to the Michael Moore camp on the Iraq issue. His new column acknowledging that Kerry was right in his approach to the war on terror does everything but admit that Will himself was wrong:

Cooperation between Pakistani and British law enforcement (the British draw upon useful experience combating IRA terrorism) has validated John Kerry's belief (as paraphrased by the New York Times Magazine of Oct. 10, 2004) that "many of the interdiction tactics that cripple drug lords, including governments working jointly to share intelligence, patrol borders and force banks to identify suspicious customers, can also be some of the most useful tools in the war on terror." In a candidates' debate in South Carolina (Jan. 29, 2004), Kerry said that although the war on terror will be "occasionally military," it is "primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world."

And Will rightly attacks the Bush administration for idiotically insisting that references to law enforcement demonstrated a misunderstanding of the war on terror:

"The idea that the jihadists would all be peaceful, warm, lovable, God-fearing people if it weren't for U.S. policies strikes me as not a valid idea. [Democrats] do not have the understanding or the commitment to take on these forces. It's like John Kerry. The law enforcement approach doesn't work."

This farrago of caricature and non sequitur makes the administration seem eager to repel all but the delusional. But perhaps such rhetoric reflects the intellectual contortions required to sustain the illusion that the war in Iraq is central to the war on terrorism, and that the war, unlike "the law enforcement approach," does "work."

Reporters should have laughed at anyone who tried to make this argument. And Democrats should have jumped on it every time they tried it in '04. We understand that the war on terror requires a vast global network of government agencies--law enforcement and intelligence and military--working to track down the bad guys. Any time anyone mentions law enforcement, however, Republicans start jumping up and down on their hats and spouting delusional garbage about not understanding that we're at WAR WAR WAR. This is not the way you catch a terrorist.

You'll note that Will uses the word "farrago" to make this point. If you know what he means, consider yourself unrepresentative of the American population at large. (As for me, I'm not going to look it up, as a matter of principle.)

It almost makes you wonder if Will is trying to make sure that only intellectuals and wonks keep reading far enough to realize he's attacking the Bush administration.

By the way, George Will, about this little bit of snark:

The official is correct that it is wrong "to think that somehow we are responsible -- that the actions of the jihadists are justified by U.S. policies." But few outside the fog of paranoia that is the blogosphere think like that.

It must really kill you that the "fog of paranoia" was right about Iraq when you were wrong, huh? Massive vocabulary and all?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Headlines in Today's NY Times Written in the Form of Questions Whose Answers I Am Not Interested In Knowing

Does Testosterone Build a Better Athlete?

Is It a Urinal, or Is It Art?

In Steroid Era, Will Golf’s Integrity Stand Test?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Matt Bai's Twist Ending

So here's a sentence from the first paragraph of Matt Bai's article on the Lamont victory. Try to guess how it ends:

If anyone was in a position, then, to assess the significance of the Connecticut rebellion, it was

Okay, you'll never guess, so I'll tell you. Bai picks Jeffrey Bell, a Republican who in 1978 won a primary challenge against the Republican incumbent senator in New Jersey. Apparently Bell, an aide to Ronald Reagan, ran on an extreme anti-tax platform.

Yes, Matt, if anyone is in a position to explain to you media people what's happening in the Democratic party, it's a 1970s Republican extremist. Let's interview Jane Fonda about Grover Norquist. Then let's interview a three-year-old Scandinavian child about the mayoral election in Kalamazoo.

Or better yet, let's ask the three-year-old Scandinavian child to write the New York Times' articles on the Democratic party.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Second Thoughts About Free Will

On the sign in front of a church at the end of my street, there's a message that reads, "God Never Says Oops." This is clearly not true. For example, one can only imagine what came out of His mouth when He read this Jacob Weisberg piece in Slate:

The problem for the Democrats is that the anti-Lieberman insurgents go far beyond simply opposing Bush's faulty rationale for the war, his dishonest argumentation for it, and his incompetent execution of it. Many of them appear not to take the wider, global battle against Islamic fanaticism seriously. They see Iraq purely as a symptom of a cynical and politicized right-wing response to Sept. 11, as opposed to a tragic misstep in a bigger conflict. Substantively, this view indicates a fundamental misapprehension of the problem of terrorism.

Dear Jacob,

Please cite one example of an anti-Lieberman insurgent who does not take the wider global battle against Islamic fanaticism seriously.


P.S. If we Democrats think it didn't help the war on terror when we invaded a country that didn't harbor al-Qaeda, does that indicate a fundamental misapprehension of the problem of terrorism?

P.P.S. I bet God had a lot of fun trying to figure out how the same person could write these two sentences in the same article:

The invasion of Iraq was, in ways that have since become hard to dispute, a terrible mistake.

[ . . . ]

Whether Democrats can avoid playing their Vietnam video to the end depends on their ability to project military and diplomatic toughness in place of the elitism and anti-war purity represented in 2004 by Howard Dean and now by Ned Lamont.

Right. So the war was a terrible mistake, and 60% of Americans are perfectly aware of this, but "anti-war purity" is a bad thing.

Just out of curiosity, would you consider Democrats "tough" enough if they advocated going to war against the actual terrorists? Just for example. Or when you said "elitism" did you mean being too stuck up to invade irrelevant third countries? That's all I can figure--that you think Democrats are too snobbish about who to invade because we insist on some actual connection to the people who are trying to kill us.

P.P.P.S. Seriously. What the hell are you talking about?

They're Keeping A Close Eye On Things

So apparently 30% of Americans have no idea what year 9/11 happened in.

30% is also the number of Americans who want a Republican to represent them in Congress.


Love Them Or Leave Them -- Or Both

I can't help but find this kind of funny: in this post, Marty Peretz accuses Human Rights Watch of lying about the war in Lebanon ("The biggest lie is the one being spread by Human Rights Watch . . . that Hezbollah has not entwined its network of weapons, launching sites, and command centers into the fabric of ordinary civilian life"). Earlier in the same post, he complains about the "press corps" citing a figure of 60 dead in the Qana attack, when the real figure is 28.

Where did Peretz get this figure of 28? Apparently from Human Rights Watch.

I Must Be Missing Something

Wow. Apparently the Rand Corporation did a study and found that teenagers who listen to sexual music are more likely to have sex:

Teens who said they listened to lots of music with degrading sexual messages were almost twice as likely to start having intercourse or other sexual activities within the following two years as were teens who listened to little or no sexually degrading music.

Among heavy listeners, 51 percent started having sex within two years, versus 29 percent of those who said they listened to little or no sexually degrading music.

Putting aside the question of what kind of person says "yes, I like sexually degrading music," back when I was a teenager, the word we used to describe conclusions this obvious was "duh," or sometimes "a-doy-a-DUH." But the Rand Corporation in its wisdom goes on to find causation here:

Exposure to lots of sexually degrading music "gives them a specific message about sex," said lead author Steven Martino, a researcher for Rand Corp. in Pittsburgh. Boys learn they should be relentless in pursuit of women and girls learn to view themselves as sex objects, he said.

"We think that really lowers kids' inhibitions and makes them less thoughtful" about sexual decisions and may influence them to make decisions they regret, he said.

But nothing in the Rand summary of the study suggests they even thought about whether correlation proves causation. In other words, okay, Rand, you proved that kids who like sex like music about sex. Great. Kids who like rodeos probably like songs about cowboys. Does that mean that listening to country music causes increased rodeo attendance?

For that matter, I really like Watership Down; I own two copies. Is that the reason I own two rabbits?

Rand was asking the wrong questions when it spoke to these kids. I suspect most high school science students could have explained the difference between correlation and causation. Or at least, the kids could put them in touch with a science teacher who could.

Three Reasons Lieberman Won't Drop Out

(1) Because this is Joe "We're In A Three-Way Tie for Third" Lieberman, who thought that coming in fifth in the presidential primaries was the voters' oblique way of saying they loved him. He's no more capable of taking no for an answer than Pepé La Pew.

(2) Because his insistence on staying the course in Iraq is a symptom of a deeper character flaw. It's called stubborness. If Joe knew when to abandon a bad policy, there would never have been a primary. (And yes, pundits, taking an unpopular stand is admirable--when that stand isn't crazy.)

(3) Because if Joe "It is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge . . . that in matters of war we undermine Presidential credibility at our nation’s peril" Lieberman cared at all about the Democratic Party, none of this would have happened in the first place.

Okay, and one bonus reason: Lieberman, remember, is the Democrat who defended the Alberto Gonzales memos misrepresenting and undermining the Geneva Conventions. In other words, his moral compass has been demagnetized. Don't expect it to point him out of the race.

How to Get Your Talking Point Swallowed

I don't know why this works, but it works. Josh Marshall notes the absurdity of the Republican talking point about how Ned Lamont is bad for the Democratic party because he makes us look weak on security.

But note the way they phrase it:

“It’s an unfortunate development, I think, from the standpoint of the Democratic Party, to see a man like Lieberman pushed aside because of his willingness to support an aggressive posture in terms of our national security strategy,’’ Mr. Cheney said in a telephone interview with news service reporters.

The trick is to assume the talking point is true, and then comment on it. Don't say "Lieberman was pushed aside because he's willing to be aggressive against terrorism." That's obviously false.

Instead say "It's unfortunate that Lieberman was pushed aside because he was aggressive against terrorism." For some reason, burying your talking point this way makes it much easier for journalists to swallow and print. Apparently this creates a little glitch in the journalist's mental process that makes them think, "Oh--the debate isn't about whether Democrats are aggressive against terror; it's about whether their non-aggressiveness is unfortunate or not."

It's very similar to the way telemarketers try to keep you on the phone by framing their questions in a way that makes it difficult not to respond. So how do we teach the journalists to just hang up?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Spam Sublimity

I feel a duty to preserve this wonderful piece of spam. From "Malone Lavelle," it was titled "re: Voxan" and reads in its entirety:

You do. And of course you are Jim of the Rats. Welcome, welcome

There was plenty of handshaking and glad cries of joy before Heimskur

(This accompanied by an image containing the advertising.) It reminds me of some of Danielle Pafunda's poetry, especially the first stanza.

"Heimskur," incidentally, is apparently an Icelandic adjective meaning "stupid."

There should be awards for this stuff.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Library Name of the Week

The Candor Free Library in Candor, NY.