Adventures in Bureaucracy
Al Qaeda in Basra
. Hamas, Hizballah
in Baghdad. If the reports are true, that should put paid to the argument that Iraq is just a distraction to the war on terror.
Al Qaeda in Basra
. Hamas, Hizballah
in Baghdad. If the reports are true, that should put paid to the argument that Iraq is just a distraction to the war on terror.
Somewhere in Britain…
“Damn! It’s happened AGAIN!”
“What’s that, dear?”
“I’m not in ANY of the papers. What’s happening to me, Guy? I used to be everywhere! Don’t people care about Madonna any more?”
“Well, there’s other stuff happening in the world. Besides, you’re still news. People still love you.”
“That’s not the point. I’m in a slump, Guy.”
“No, dear, you’re just on a break between projects.”
“A break? People hated my last movie
“That’s not true. People said you were unforgettable in that role
“OK, I can accept that maybe I’m not the best actress in the world, but even my music just isn’t doing it any more. Even the Queen of England hated my Bond theme song
“That was just Elton John. He’s just jealous of you because you’ve got a fantastically gorgeous husband.”
“There’s that sense of humor I married you for. But what’s happened to my career, Guy? Even I don’t remember the songs from my last CD. And all these teenagers are trying to be me.”
“There’s only one Madonna. That Spears girl doesn’t hold a candle.”
“Damn right. She doesn’t have the drive. Sure, she might date famous people and dress like a prostitute, but do you see her making her own book of porn
? These kids today just don't understand that you have to work for self-promotion.”
“That’s why your fifteen minutes of fame have lasted twenty years.”
“But where’s my public now that I need them, Guy? Love me or hate me, at least people talked about me. Now I can’t even pay for publicity.”
“Well, dear, people have other concerns now. War, terrorism, the economy. Your public has other things on its mind.”
“Damned war. But you say that everyone’s worried about it, eh? I can use that. Hmmm… I think I feel another reinvention coming on. I'll make them love me again, Guy. I'll make them pay attention
. I'm going to leave the old Madonna behind. Oh, and that reminds me.”
“What’s that, dear?”
“You know that leather thing I wore when I was a Bond girl?”
“Did that make my ass look fat?”
But that's how these things begin. In ten years there will be a Directorate of Tenderness and Emotional Affairs in Brussels with a staff of over 800 and E.U. standards on what can be properly described as a "French" kiss. And don't be surprised if French troops are sent to African countries accused of insufficient niceness.
"People don't cuddle anymore and that's the reason why there are so many conflicts," he told Het Laatste Nieuws. "I will set an example and start in my own village by caressing, cuddling and kissing as many people as possible."
More evidence that Bill Clinton was a man ahead of his time.
Snapple Real Fact Number 111: Only male turkeys gobble.
There's a dirty joke in there somewhere, but I don't know what it is. I must be slipping.
Home again, this time from a short and poorly-timed jaunt to Europe – one of the friendly countries on the Continent. Even so I stumbled across some anti-war demonstrations filled with young Europeans. More than a few Americans, too, if I heard the accents right.
Let me just take this opportunity to say that I hate CNN International. Sure, I watched hours and hours of it, but it’s amazing how little information they managed to pack into their never-ending coverage. Was it really necessary to drop everything and go Live! to Baghdad every time they fired the anti-aircraft batteries?
The nadir came after Saddam’s big speech to the nation, where he talked about the valiant Iraqi resistance to the infidel, blah blah blah. They cut away to Christiane Amanpour saying it was clear proof that Saddam lives because he mentioned current events. Well, not exactly. He mentioned resistance in Umm Qasr. Jeez, look at a map, Christiane. We’ve been massing troops in Kuwait for months, and it didn’t exactly take a planning genius to guess that we’d probably push north to cut off Iraqi access to the Persian Gulf. And what’s the only place of any size between Kuwait and Basra? Umm Qasr. The whole thing could have been taped weeks ago. What I found significant was what Saddam didn’t say – no mention of Nasiriyah at all, which you would expect since that’s where there’s been more resistance than anywhere else. My guess is that the guy’s on life support, but the doctors are too afraid to pull the plug.
Although that being said, doing without Stolichnaya is no sacrifice for me, as I've still got some of this
in my freezer.
There have been calls to boycott France
. There have been calls to boycott Germany
. There have even been calls to boycott Belgium
. So, an acquaintance of mine asked, why not Russia too? Probably because they haven't been as actively malicious as the other ones, and it's not like we expect them to act like allies.
But there's also the practical matter: how do you boycott Russian stuff anyhow? It's easy enough to identify French and German products in the United States, and the Belgian stuff can be found here and there, but what Russian goods are there on the U.S. market? I'm hardly going to spend an afternoon out at Tyson's Corner Center picketing the kiosk that sells matrioshka dolls, amber earrings and lacquer boxes. So thanks to the wonders of Google, I found Russia's main exports to this country
. It's mostly raw materials and seafood. It's Lent, so I have to be able to eat something on Fridays, and I tend not to buy my aluminum in bulk. The imports of paintings surprised me - some museum must have made a big acquisition for it to figure into the stats.
Actually, I'm surprised that some of Russia's other cultural exports
didn't rate higher - think of the Anna Kournikova
calendar industry alone - and then there are the some other perfectly good Russian products
. So there are a few boycott-able things out there, but there's no good reason to boycott Russia. Things are difficult enough there as it is.
In the inbox this morning:
Once upon a time in a nice little forest, there lived an orphaned bunny and an orphaned snake. By a surprising coincidence, both were blind from birth. One day, the bunny was hopping through the forest, and the snake was slithering through the forest, when the bunny tripped over the snake and fell down. This, of course, knocked the snake about quite a bit.
"Oh, my," said the bunny, "I'm terribly sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. I've been blind since birth, so, I can't see where I'm going. In fact, since I'm also an orphan, I don't even know what I am."
"It's quite OK," replied the snake. "Actually, my story is much the same as yours. I, too, have been blind since birth, and also never knew my mother. Tell you what, maybe I could slither all over you, and work out what you are, so at least you'll have that going for you."
"Oh, that would be wonderful" replied the bunny. So the snake slithered all over the bunny, and said, "Well, you're covered with soft fur; you have really long ears; your nose twitches; and you have a soft cottony tail. I'd say that you must be a bunny rabbit."
"Oh, thank you! Thank you," cried the bunny, in obvious excitement. The bunny suggested to the snake, "Maybe I could feel you all over with my paw, and help you the same way that you've helped me."
So the bunny felt the snake all over, and remarked, "Well, you're smooth and slippery, and you have a forked tongue, no backbone and no balls. I'd say you must be French."
I'm a Reagan Republican
! Who would have thought... (Via Samizdata
and think about all those people who say that Bush is the bad guy. (Via Joanne Jacobs
Gratuitous Kiwi joke of the day
! Well, not so much a joke as an accurate transliteration. They really do talk like that down there. But that's why it's such a fun place to visit. Where else does two and two and two mean sex?
Uh oh, if this is for lunch
, they must be covering human reproduction in Wakefield schools.
It’s always the little things. This little rant has been brewing for a long time, but I’ve finally been pushed over the edge. Just when you think that the bottom has been reached by the sensitivity police, someone comes along with an excavator. Case in point: someone has decided that hot cross buns are offensive
The reasoning here is astounding. Although the treats have been an English tradition for something like two thousand years, they might hurt the feelings of the tender little moppets from non-Christian faiths living in England now. So screw history, let’s have some naan. It’s imported.
What’s next, the croissant? The pastry is said to recall the emblems on Turkish standards during the siege of Vienna in the seventeenth century
. They lost the battle. Must Turkish children be reminded of that during tea? It can’t be good for their self-esteem.
But perhaps that’s next. Right now, though, hot cross buns are getting complaints. Lots of them. Why, it’s rivalled only by the great Pancake Day outcry. That one sounded intriguing, so I looked it up and found that – quelle horreure! – Pancake Day in England is Shrove Tuesday
. I didn’t see much evidence of an outcry, but perhaps that’s because I didn’t have the patience to wade through all those Google results. Anyway, Pancake Day is another example of religion creeping into everyday life, and that must be curtailed.
Wait, it says that food is supposed “encourage children to think about different issues”. Is it just me, or does that sound like complete and utter crap? It reads like an attempt to defend the indefensible. What’s WRONG with these people? It’s OK to use food to teach about such important things as Italian National Day or Chinese New Year, but when it comes to a homegrown British tradition, it’s a bad thing?
One of the great strengths of Western societies is the tolerance of minorities – religious, racial or otherwise. Sure, it’s not perfect and it hasn’t come easily, but ask most people in the United Kingdom, or the United States for that matter, and I’m sure they’ll cite tolerance as an ideal.
But when did that come to mean a denial of the customs and practices of the majority? I remember reading about controversies right after September 11th because some over-sensitive souls were concerned that displays of the American flag might “offend” non-Americans, particularly foreign students, as the ones I remember were at universities. Hmmm… the students were pretty smart, and had to go through a lot to get here. Somehow I doubt that they would go to pieces over seeing the flag of the United States in the United States. Isn’t that something to be expected?
The same thing goes for traditions in England. The English monarch is also the head of the Anglican Church – the “Defender of the Faith” as the title goes. The national flag consists of three crosses
: the Cross of St. George, the Cross of St. Andrew, and the Cross of St. Patrick. Christianity has played a rather important role in British history. Don’t you think that the non-Christian immigrants who moved to Britain realized that, just maybe, they might find some Christians in England? And that perhaps the Christians would like to continue their own celebrations?
Tolerance has to be rooted in knowledge, but it seems that the current form of tolerance is a one-way street. The majority must now learn not to tolerate the customs and practices of minorities, but to wholeheartedly accept and embrace them. The minorities, however, must at all costs be shielded from the practices of the majority, especially Christianity, it seems. I can understand how this might be more problematic in the United States, where the Constitution specifically states that the state shall not establish a religion, but the United Kingdom doesn’t have the same excuse.
What’s happening to England? I grew up on the Chronicles of Narnia, which spelled out English virtues like freedom. But seeing domestic stories from England reminds me of another of C.S. Lewis’ books: That Hideous Strength
. Lewis had some spot-on predictions there, with “the progressive element” steadily chipping away at everything that made the country what it is.
In the end it’s not a big thing, this hot cross bun controversy. After all, it’s just a snack. But it looks like just another example of the unreasonable hatred of religion in general, and Christianity in particular, that seems to be all too common now. I doubt that too many teachers were attempting forcible conversions of non-Christians via dessert, and I doubt that a lot of schoolchildren were upset to see one of the buns on the lunch tray.
How can one understand British history without referring to Christianity? Apparently these are not the proper sort of lessons for English schools these days. They must be too busy teaching the importance of being thin-skinned instead. (Via The Corner
Oh jeez, ANOTHER one
. (WARNING: Link contains images that some may find disturbing, particularly the one in the tube top.) When you don't have a good argument, just take your clothes off. (Via A Small Victory
And here's a terrific counterpoint
. Good on ya.
HA! I knew it!
That's why I've disabled the damned thing on my computer. As may be obvious from reading the stuff I write.
Government employees shouldn't express their opinions on the job... but how exactly is this
a violation of someone's First Amendment rights?
Kind of funny how Bill Clinton just doesn't go quietly into that good night. He can make all the foreign policy speeches
he wants, but he still won't change his legacy to the nation
The first signs of spring have arrived in Washington after a long, cold winter. Yesterday I saw the first geezer-driven convertible of the season with the top down, so the cherry blossoms cannot be far behind. The weekend promises to be pleasant. Ordinarily that would mean I would go into the city and do something, but an anti-war protest has been called for tomorrow, which means a potentially heavy hippy infestation downtown. Ugh.
I’m sure that most of the people there will mean well. I’m sure that they have rationally assessed the situation and think that either Iraq is no threat to the United States, or that the Iraqi people would suffer more from a war than they do from Saddam. If they’ve looked at the facts and come to the conclusion that war won’t solve any problems, I can respect that. I don’t agree with it, but I can respect it.
But then I read something like this
and wonder whether there’s any tether between them and reality.
There is a third way, the authors say, “between war and ineffectual responses” that offers a way of avoiding war while still getting rid of Saddam Hussein. The problem is that it seems to rely on lots of people closing their eyes, crossing their fingers and wishing really, really hard.
The prescriptions are pretty astonishing. First, remove Saddam and his regime from power. Well, duh. Why do you think we’ve got a quarter of a million troops in the Gulf? But no, the BETTER way to get rid of Saddam is… to indict him at an international tribunal for crimes against humanity! That should do the trick, setting forces in motion to get rid of him. Has this ever worked? The authors mention Yugoslavia as an example here of how effective this can be, although I seem to recall that just a little military persuasiveness may have been involved there.
Next, “pursue coercive disarmament”. This seems to mean sending in the troops, just as long they’re not under a U.S. flag.
After that’s done, we can promote democracy in Iraq. This would obviously be best accomplished by putting the country under U.N. administration. Look at the great U.N. successes in building democracy in, um, well, probably some God-awful place somewhere, let me get back to you on that one. The only thing the U.N. is good at is entrenching its temporary administrations. Look at the “temporary” refugee effort for the Palestinians – over fifty years and still going strong. Still, we have to remember the important point behind this. “An American viceroy in Iraq is the wrong solution,” say the authors. After all, look how that turned out in Japan and Germany. Say what you want about Schroeder, but the fact that’s he’s pandering to his electorate looks like a pretty good indicator that they’ve got democracy there, with another added bonus: they haven’t invaded Poland in over sixty years.
But before all that, we should start helping the Iraqi people now. Humanitarian efforts always work well in authoritarian countries. Look how much good they’ve done in North Korea.
So this is what foreign policy would look like if Peter Pan were making it. But wait, there’s more!
To really solve problems in Iraq, we have to look at the “root causes” behind the Middle Eastern conflict. Because all those countries are in the same region, all their problems must be related, and it’s those damned Israelis who started it all. If you look closely enough at history, you can understand how Saddam’s invasion of Iran and his invasion of Kuwait were ultimately caused by Ariel Sharon.
But we shouldn’t really put too much energy here, because we should concentrate on stopping the terrorists. Like it’s an “either/or” thing. It’s amazing, really. We need to disrupt the networks and identify and apprehend the subjects –you’ll get no argument from me there. But if you’re looking at all the “root causes” for the Iraqi situation, shouldn’t you at least be aware of the issue of state sponsorship for terrorism? Or is that source of support for the terrorist networks not somehow connected to the idea of stopping them?
I want to think that the anti-war crowd has actually contemplated the issues rationally to arrive at their positions, but the authors here seem to walk that fine line between starry-eyed optimism and willful disregard for facts. The goals here (much as I’m sure the authors would hate to hear it) are largely the same as President Bush’s: regime change, democracy in Iraq, a solution to the Israeli/Palestinian problem and a dismantling of the terrorist infrastructure. The difference is that President Bush recognizes that achieving your goals takes actions, not just words. And sometimes this means difficult decisions between bad alternatives.
All the things the U.N. should be doing, according to the authors, won’t ever get done. Somehow I doubt "Dr. No" Chriac would go for the “coercive inspections” idea in any event. Ridding the world of Saddam, helping the people of Iraq and establishing democracy there have to come in that order, and it’s obviously not going to happen through the United Nations no matter how much we may want it. Chirac has come out absolutely against regime change, which leaves us with only one other way to remove Saddam from power, and it isn’t through a judge in the Hague.
There may well be a third way, but I think we need something more effective than collectively clicking our heels together and chanting, “There’s no cause for war, there’s no cause for war…”
I've been meaning to complain about this for a long, long time, but when did the "Weekend Update" sketches get to be so sad? And Jane Curtin
should come after Tina Fey for stealing her "Here now the news" and "Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow" lines too. Actually, that might make a good SNL season finale - have the old cast members take over the show. Anything to get rid of Jimmy Fallon.
. It's one thing to send a memo to your superiors, but this seems a bit much.
An interesting piece
on where our future conflicts will be and why. (via Little Green Footballs
Back for more random samplings of the blogosphere. The Ecosphere was updated, with this site ranking at 1053. So there, I can now proudly claim to be an insignificant microbe. Just a few slots above me looks like another federal blogger: Government Monkey
. That one goes on my permanent list, whenever it chooses to update itself. I wonder just how many of us governmental types are writing these things anyhow?
Scheherezade and 1001 Blogs.
Wandering through the list I noticed some common themes. There are several Greek ones, with most of them appearing to be on the left of the political spectrum judging from a quick reading of them. There's Atrios at Eschaton
, The Agora
, Demosthenes at Shadow of the Hegemon
and the Virtual Stoa
. The only one towards the right of the spectrum appears to be Porphyrogenitus
, whose new site looks great. Does it mean anything that the ones on the left seem to hark back to the good old days before the Hellenes had any real responsibilities other than overcoming the squabbles between their city-states to fight marauding Persians while the one on the right prefers the ruling house of an empire?
looks like an interesting site, concerned with matters more eternal than politics. And then there's this one
... I don't think it's going for quite the same demographic.
That's not nice
... but it is funny. Velociblog looks like a pretty good website, as anyone who makes gratuitous Richard Gere jokes is OK by me.
I consider this a "boutique blog", which sounds much better than saying that it is only read by about four people who have learned to humor me plus the odd disappointed searcher who happens across it while wandering the wilds of the internet. It's a hobby, it lets me vent and keeps some of my friends entertained (refer to that part about humoring me, above). But coming across the Blogosphere Ecosystem
made me stop and take notice. I knew there were a lot of people with weblogs out there, but seeing so many of them listed in one place was really something to see.
So of course the first thing to do was search for my site on the list. This is how I found out that I am actually LOWER than an insignificant microbe. I've been called worse - after all, I was an Immigration Inspector once! But then I saw there was a way to get added to the list, and vain person that I am, I signed up immediately. I'll admit it, I aspire to microbe status. Maybe someday, with a lot of work and even more ass-kissing, I can even reach the level of insect, just like at the office.
The really surprising thing was that I was on someone's permanent blog roll. Thank you, David Hogberg at Cornfield Commentary
! It's quite flattering, really, since the only dealings we've had was my sending some smart-alecky comments for a contest he had a few months ago.
So it's time to plow through some of the other sites out there and update the list on the left.
Relaxing with the Sunday paper is one of life’s simple pleasures, but sometimes the relaxation part gets torpedoed by an article – almost always in the Outlook section – that makes my brain throb. Case in point: this piece in today’s Post
The author seems to take exception with President Bush’s use of moral justifications for war with Iraq, because it’s a misuse of theological language that the President simply isn’t qualified to use. After all, the National Council of Churches has come down against any war with Iraq, with a Methodist bishop – from Bush’s very own denomination! - clearly saying that it “violates God's law and the teachings of Jesus Christ”. And the President is no theologian. So there you have it. Case closed.
But then the argument gets really strange. What Bush is doing, which I somehow missed in the State of the Union address and every other public pronouncement in the past eighteen months, is pushing Christianity as superior to all other religions. That’s what the whole prospect of war is all about. That’s the “relentless triumphalism” he’s on about. Ann Coulter is now making our foreign policy
, and Bush’s supporters are all wild-eyed zealots no different from the fundamentalists of the Taliban or Al Qaeda.
And then the part where my jaw nearly hit the floor. All that stuff you may have heard about good vs. evil? Heresy.
I had to reread that part a few times. OK, it looks like the author didn’t actually say that the whole good and evil thing was just simplistic binary morality. No, it’s just that people shouldn’t actually do anything about it. Nobody is wholly good or wholly bad, and since we’re all equally between the two extremes, we have to keep our fingers crossed that God will redeem us. And that means we can never go to war: “If I can't claim to be completely good, and no one is so evil as to be irredeemable, what right do I have to kill?”
Now I’m no theologian either, which means I apparently have no right to disagree or even have an opinion on this, but I seem to recall a few stray lessons in Sunday school, and perhaps the odd Gospel reading at Mass, conveying the point that individual actions matter. People have choices, and they are supposed to choose to do good, not sit there, fingers crossed, doing nothing but hoping that God with have pity on them. Isn’t that the whole point of Christianity?
“Despite our secularism, the United States has rarely been so publicly and politically ‘Christian’ as it is today. Or perhaps it is because of our secularism. We can no longer tell good theology from bad.” It seems that the “our” here refers to the people of the United States, but I originally read it as being of the Christian denominations from the prior paragraph. It seemed like the proper context.
And that is perhaps the saddest part of the whole piece. “Triumphalism” is the belief that that one religious creed is superior to all others, and here we have a clergyman saying that that’s a bad thing. So what exactly is he preaching? What’s the difference between being a Presbyterian, a Methodist, a Catholic or a Muslim? The clergyman shouldn’t be surprised that people left his church in frustration if he can’t give his parishioners a good reason why they should be there in the first place.
So here it is, the first of March already. Now I work for DHS, but I don’t feel any different. This article in the Post
gets it about right, since nobody seems to know what the new Department means for the people who work in it.
Still, I suppose it’s comforting to know that at least some people are worrying about the details. Yesterday at the office we got a whole raft of instructions on how to deal with the transition. They told us the proper way to answer the phone (no acronyms or abbreviations, use the full name of the section), the correct way to send correspondence (trash the old letterhead, you’re with DHS now), and even the appropriate standards for office décor.
Every federal agency has three portraits, one showing the President, one the Vice President, and the third showing the departmental chief. Since we’re now part of a new department, the photo of the old chief has to go. The new portraits of Tom Ridge have not yet come down from on high, but his smiling face will soon be in our lobby to greet everyone who walks through the door. I hope that someone takes this opportunity to send a new photo of Vice President Cheney. The current one
shows him with a kind of a goofy smirk on his face and is frankly none too flattering. A quick search of Google shows a lot of better pictures, so this would be a really good time to use one of them.
Hopefully some ambitious soul in DHS Headquarters will recognize this as a chance to earn some brownie points with Big Boss #2.