Friday, October 31, 2003

why i like halloween

i just can't get rid of this cold! i left work early today because i was still feeling sick and had a hard time being productive at work.

it really sucks to be sick today because it is halloween, one of my favorite holidays. i love halloween because its very straightforward. it's about scaring people, dressing in costumes, and eating candy. and i can say that without anyone chastizing me for missing "the true meaning of halloween." there is no true meaning. the meaning is scaring, costumes and candy. that's it. with other holidays if you do stuff like exchange presents, or eat big fatty meals, but you're not allowed to admit that the holiday is fun because of the presents or fat. everyone must pretend that something deeper is going on. halloween is the only holiday which you can enjoy for what it is without being accused of missing the point.

alright, i know someone is about to type a furious email to me informing me that halloween does have a true meaning. but i don't need a lecture about halloween's pagan roots, it doesn't change my point. there's a difference between the history of a holiday and what it means to us today. christmas also has pagan roots. few theologens believe jesus was born on december 25th. christians appropriated the date of a pre-christian holiday and used that date to celebrate jesus' birth. but just because it has pagan roots does not mean that its "true meaning" is pagan. the pagan origins are certainly is not what people bring up when they give me the "true meaning of christmas" lecture each december. likewise, just because halloween began as a pagan holiday (which christians also tried to appropriate, less successfully, with all saints day), doesn't mean it's the "true meaning" of that holiday today. there is no current "true meaning" of halloween beyond the scaring, costumes and candy as far as the general public* is concerned.

*this obvious does not apply to modern pagans who call halloween "samhain" and who are trying to revive the holiday's original pagan roots. i like pagans. i have several pagan friends and think it's generally a good thing to have more alternatives for anyone on the market for a religion. but i really hope that they don't screw up halloween.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

am i avoiding my arabic homework tonight or what?

things to watch and play:

the end of the world (via heidi, who has no web site)

86 the onions (via mr. corey)

genocide anyone?

that's apparently what trent lott is advocating now to solve that pesky iraq problem:

Honestly, it’s a little tougher than I thought it was going to be,” Lott said. In a sign of frustration, he offered an unorthodox military solution: “If we have to, we just mow the whole place down, see what happens. You’re dealing with insane suicide bombers who are killing our people, and we need to be very aggressive in taking them out.

unorthodox military solution? not really. what lott is proposing sounds to me like assad's treatment of hama, or armenia in 1915, or the warsaw ghetto uprising, or countless other instances when a group of people have resisted a more powerful military force and were massacred.

(via see why who got it from calpundit)

still sick

and i lost my voice today. i got an arbitration hearing tomorrow morning which will require me to do a lot of talking (the hearing will start with my cross examination of a witness). if anyone has any handy folk remedies for getting your voice back in 12 hours, i am all ears


donald l. luskin has just threatened to sue atrios. luskin is a contributing editor to the national review, who has a seemingly irrational hatred of new york times columnist and princeton professor paul krugman. last may luskin published a column called "we stalked. he balked." in which he discusses how he has been tracking krugman's "egregious lies." (go read the column to see if you think he actually scores any points on krugman. i personally think his arguments are either pretty weak or simply miss krugman's point). the important part about this column is that the title clearly identifies himself as a "stalker" of krugman. of course, he probably intended it to be a joke. but it's a joke that he himself wrote.

meanwhile as luskin publishes articles picking apart krugman, atrios has published a few blog entries picking apart luskin.

on october 7th, luskin posts on his blog about showing up at a krugman book signing. the post is entitled "face to face with evil", the "evil", of course, is krugman. on that same day, atrios links to luskin's post, entitling his link "diary of a stalker".

so today, atrios received an email from luskin's lawyer claiming that atrios has libeled luskin by "mak[ing] [the] false assertions that Mr. Luskin has committed the crime of stalking." the email asserts that "Such a statement constitutes libel per se, an actionable tort subjecting both the author and the publisher to liability for both actual and punitive damages." the email also objected to some unidentified comments to that post (which were written by other people), and demands that atrios remove both the post and the unidentified "libelous" comments within 72 hours or "further legal action will be taken."

this whole thing is pretty appalling. i doubt if any lawsuit would go anywhere. after all, luskin referred to himself as a stalker last may. but this case, like the case against al franken a few months ago, is just another example of conservative journalists who cannot tolerate anyone pointing out the flaws in their logic. instead of arguing with their critics, they file meritless lawsuits against them. but atrios is not like franken who had plenty of resources and a book to promote (and ended up with record sales because of the publicity generated from the lawsuit). atrios is a high school gym teacher who does his site for free. any lawsuit would ruin his anonymity and force him to pay the cost of litigating against an opponent with greater resources. these type of suits can really be intimidating, which is exactly why the likes of fox and the national review like to use them against their critics.

also, as atrios pointed out in his "calling all right wing bloggers" post, this kind of suit will have a chilling effect on all bloggers, especially those with comments. hopefully, this thing will backfire on luskin and deter others from trying the same thing.

UPDATE: the ninth circuit has apparently ruled that a blogger is not liable for the libelous content of posts generated by others. assuming that case is followed by whatever jurisdiction ends up with luskin v. atrios (and assuming there ever is such a case), that would at least take care of the allegations concerning atrios' comments. (via steve gilliard)

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

mission accomplished

i'm too sick for much of a post (thanks hydro!) but here's a quick one anyway:

in his press conference, bush denied that he was responsible for the "mission accomplished banner," claiming that naval personnel put the banner up themselves. it wasn't referring to iraq, y'see. no, it was referring to the u.s.s. lincoln's successful mission of returning to the san diego harbor. i'm sure they bring that thing out whenever they reach a port.

but the plot thickens. it seems that the navy says the sign was produced by the white house. so who do you believe?

Monday, October 27, 2003


whenever there is an attack against u.s. forces or iraqi "collaborators" in iraq, the u.s. immediately blames saddam loyalist, or foreign fighters. i've never heard them give much evidence for either theory, but inevitably every incident is attributed to one or the other, but never any non-baathist iraqis. any home-grown resistance to the occupation is a story the administration does not want told.

in the last 24 hours there have been a whole series of attacks in iraq, beginning with an attack on the al-rashid hotel (possibly an attempt to assassinate deputy defense secretary paul wolfowitz). like always, who is behind it is not clear, but that does not stop the military from stating with certainty who it is:

for example brigadier general martin e. dempsey said "We have a very good idea of who's attacking us in Baghdad." Although the General "did not provide any details" to the new york times reporter in the article behind that link "he largely ruled out foreign terrorists." dempsey said "We have not seen any infusion of foreign fighters in Baghdad." dempsey also called the mechanism that fired the rockets at the hotel a "'Rube Goldberg device' and that its crudeness indicated the weakness of the forces opposing U.S. occupation"

on the other hand brigadier general mark hertling says that all of the bombings were done by foreign fighters: "There are indications that certainly these attacks seem to have been the operations of foreign fighters. They are not something that we have seen in the former regime loyalists." hertling added that the attacks were "amateurish."

so to summarize: foreign fighters are behind the attacks even though they have also been ruled out. instead, the responsible party is probably loyalist of the former regime, except that this is not something that they are likely to have done. the only thing there is broad consensus about is that the attacks (the most effective so far in terms of casualty count) are "crude" or "amateurish." but as billmon points out, this is nothing more than "the arrogance of the rich, transferred to the battlefield."

Sunday, October 26, 2003

i may be sick

but i still think the below comment by "TownDrunk" posted on atrios' blog is brilliant:

At this point, I just can't believe any news report from any source. Only days after President Bush pleaded with the press to accentuate the positive, the media is up to its old tricks again. At this very moment they're reporting on some fire or other on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Now, as I understand it, California is about the size of Iraq. Surely, there are vast areas of the state that aren't burning. This is where the TV cameras should be trained. The public would much rather see houses that are intact, and people who aren't dispossessed. The media should follow President Bush's request, and learn to look at the bright side of things.


i got home last night with a sore throat and today i felt feverish. if i feel better maybe i will write more.

high school reunion

this weekend was my 15th high school reunion. i went to a snooty private quaker high school that are all the rage in the greater philadelphia metro area. many of the people who i have kept in touch with from high school are so embittered by the experience that they refuse to go. but not me. whatever bad happened back then was back then, not now, and honestly, i am just too damn curious about what ever happened to all of those people not to. i had a small class--64 people in my graduating class (down from 69 with a few last-minute expulsions, but that's another story). so everyone basically knew everyone. which also means that there really is no one i was not curious about.

five years ago, i went to my tenth and i really had a great time, even though the practical joke i tried to play on sarah didn't work out. at the tenth i spoke to people i never really liked back in high school but discovered one of two things: (1) they were the same as i remembered them, or (2) they were different and i liked them now. either way, i viewed it as a win-win situation. the #2 people were, of course, pleasant surprises and the #1 people amused me. anyone who could go 10 years without changing is inherently funny.

this time around i am much more local. 4 years ago, i moved from chicago to this place, about 30 miles away from my old high school. i guess because i enjoyed the 10th so much this year was a little bit more disappointing. i still had a good time, but just not as good as last time. last time i was impressed by how many different things my classmates had gone on to do. this time, most seemed to be converging onto the same track. but i was happy to get back into contact with a few of them. we shall see if that lasts.

also, for the record, sarah and stephanie suck big time for not attending.

there is a slight chance someone from the reunion could puzzle out a few things and find his/her way here. if so, leave me a comment to let me know you dropped by.

Friday, October 24, 2003

are they trying to tell him something?

the guy who plays jesus in mel gibson's controversial film "the passion of christ" was struck by lightning

(via the bittershack of resentment)

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

turkish troops

so i've read william safire's column today and about a half million blog posts about how ignorant and illogical safire is. safire, in essence, writes that the kurds should not be opposed to the deployment of turkish troops in iraq. he doesn't make a very convincing argument, especially when you consider turkey's own record with the kurds. it seems to me, that the kurds are right to be against turkish troops in iraq.

the administration wants turkish troops because the turkish government is the only muslim member of nato. as safire writes in his column (summarizing the administration's thinking): turkish forces "would do much to Muslimize and localize the war on Saddam's last-ditch fighters." what goes unsaid is that the administration is still desperately trying to prove to the muslim world that it is not in a war against islam. it's losing that particular p.r. battle, mostly because the administration will do everything to win over the muslim world except for change any of its policies, some of which (such as new immigration rules) overtly target muslims. having turkish troops in iraq, the theory goes, will be more paletable to the iraqi population because turks share the same religion.

that may seem to make sense on the surface, but there is more to this than just the surface. turks are a different ethnic group from both arabs and kurds. for the past few decades there is a well-documented history of human rights violations against kurds in turkey and one basic pillar in turkish foreign policy is the determination to stop any hints of kurdish autonomy in neighboring states including iraq. as for the arabs, arab nationalism was born fighting turkish rule over the region. the ottoman empire ruled what is now iraq for 400 years and those days are not looked back upon fondly by the arabs. the shiites have an added incentive to dislike the turks, the turks are sunni.

indeed, virtually everyone outside of the bush administration is opposed to sending turkish troops. the proposal is demoralizing the kurds and turning them away from supporting the u.s.. but it's not just kurds who are opposed to turkish troops in iraq. a recent poll indicated that 90% of the iraqi public is opposed to turkish troops in the country. (see also riverbend's perspective as a blogger living in iraq). even the u.s.-appointed iraqi interim governing council unanimously opposes turkish troops. countries neighboring iraq also oppose turkish forces entering iraq.

on top of all that, deployment of turkish forces in iraq is "deeply unpopular with the Turkish public." and the turkish government itself seems to be backing away from any firm commitment of troops and they may not send any troops after all.

given so much opposition from so many sources, why isn't the administration dropping the idea? probably because it really doesn't have any plan to replace it. the u.s. military has to find a way to rotate to american troops out soon. if the current deployment rotation schedule is followed, the u.s. will run out of troops in iraq next spring. to avoid that, it could extend the deployment of units that are already there, call up even more of the overstretched reserves, or impose a draft, but any of these options would be deeply unpopular in an election year. plus, this is an administration that never admits when it makes a mistake (safire's column laughably makes it seem like the kurds are making the mistake). this whole plan is blowing up in their face only because the administration stupidly assumed that all muslims are essentially alike. i suppose a mis-informed government is what we should expect when our president won't even read a newspaper article.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

my mood and the uzbek postal service

i haven't been in a posting mood lately, so i've been fiddling with my links instead. i'm not sure why the mood is lacking. i can't even list the reasons like sarah just did. things are actually going pretty well, plenty is going on in my life. the best stories, unfortunately, are probably privileged and thus unblogable. lawyering and blogging don't always go well together

the uzbek postal service is troubling me. i wrote and sent approximately 135 post cards when i was there. i sent them in three mailings, each included a card to my wife. the card from the second batch arrived about 3 weeks ago. the other two still haven't. of the people who tell me they got a card, all were from the second batch. the first group was mailed around september 12th from samarkand–6 weeks ago. meanwhile i am depending on that same postal service to get the letters and package i have sent to uzbekistan to arrive. but if that is the worst of my troubles, things are not so bad.

more more more!!!

i've added more links to the right. the whiskey bar is another one of those sites that i have been reading (and occasionally citing) so i really should add it to the list. juan cole's informed comment is a more recent discovery (thanks to riverbend). juan is a history prof. specializing in the mid-east at the university of michigan. in the two days since i found out about him i already find that i turn to his site on a regular basis for information about the region

UPDATE: yet even more! i just discovered see why and its on the list now too. go stick your eyeballs ther

Monday, October 20, 2003

another fun sitemeter discovery!

okay, i don't have time for a real post. but i just want to point out that if you google "gay kuwaitis" (without the quotations) then display page ten, you can get to this site.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

uzbekistan photos

i am still planning to put together a site with some pictures on them. i goofed around with a few things this afternoon, but now its pretty clear that i will not get around to this particular task today. sorry. it will happen eventually.

iraq and the philippines

bush is now saying that the philippines is the model for the american occupation of iraq. previous comparisons have been to germany or iraq, countries which most would agree are nation-building successes. i've always thought the german and japan models don't apply here, for a variety of reasons. so i am happy that bush has moved beyond such a simple-minded comparisons.

but the philippines--that is an odd comparison to make if you want to call iraq a success. the u.s. seized the islands during the spanish-american war, a war which in retrospect most agree was fought based on false pretenses (when the u.s.s. maine exploded in havana harbor, the u.s. blamed the spanish and declared war even though it was almost certainly an accidental explosion). u.s. went into the philippines using much of the same language as they used with iraq, talking about liberating an oppressed people. but once the u.s. arrived, they treated the filipinos with particular brutality. the u.s.-installed filipino governor eventually led an insurrection against the u.s. occupation which causes american forces to launch several bloody retributory attacks. although the insurrection was eventually suppressed by american forces, the philippines was occupied territory for 49 years (most of that time by the americans, with a brief period of japanese rule after the japanese captured it from the americans during world war two). when filipinos were finally allowed to rule, the country had u.s.-backed dictatorships which ended only in the 1980s when ferdinand marcos was overthrown.

its been over 100 years since the philippines was first occupied by the u.s. during that time, only the last 15 can be called anything resembling a democracy. today the philippines is a weak democracy with rampant poverty, with a central government that does not control the southern portions of the country where an al qaeda-linked islamic movement continues to terrorize the population in the south and perform raids against the central government.

so, for once, i agree with president bush. the history of the philippines is a much more likely scenario for what will happen in iraq than comparisons to post-world war two europe or japan.

i should also add that hesiod beat the president to this comparison. last june, he posted this timeline of the early american occupation of the philippines to show just how they paralleled the bush administration's pronouncements about iraq.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

an eventful week

but unfortunately, nothing i can blog about. stand by... more will follow eventually

Thursday, October 16, 2003


atrios just posted this, but this quote is just too good not to repeat here:

"Bush told his senior aides Tuesday that he "didn't want to see any stories" quoting unnamed administration officials in the media anymore, and that if he did, there would be consequences, said a senior administration official who asked that his name not be used."

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

well, i guess that is a link between iraq and al-qaeda

thanks george!

(via suburban guerrilla)


yesterday atrios wrote about the following post on andrew sullivan's blog:

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? It seems to me that the anti-Bush crowd has been missing the real story, as usual. Instead of attempting to parse the administration's arguments before the war, they'd do better to focus on the Pentagon's massive incompetence after the war. Two things spring to mind: why weren't forces directed to secure all possible WMD sites immediately? And why were troops not sent to secure Saddam's conventional weapon sites immediately? The Baathist resistance is now fueled primarily by those weapons. The fate of WMDs is unsure - a critical reason for the war in the first place. Did Rumsfeld even think for a second about these post-war exigencies? Why were these objectives not included in the original war-plan as a whole? I have no idea. The pre-war and the war were executed as well as we could hope for. The immediate post-war was a disaster. Shouldn't someone take responsibility? It seems to me that since the left is so hopeless at constructing rational criticism, some of us pro-war types need to get mad and ask some tough questions.

atrios is justifiably miffed by the idea that "the anti-Bush crowd has been missing the real story" since, as he points out, the pentagon's failure to secure w.m.d. sites has been raised repeatedly by blogs on the left for the past 6 months. as atrios writes:

One of Andrew Sullivan's favorite little games - and he's been doing it his entire career as a propagandist - is to suddenly "discover" an issue, pretend he was the first one to have thought of it, wrap himself in his new "contrarian" clothing, blast his mythical opposition for not having discussed the issue previously, use at as evidence for his moral/intellectual/sexual superiority, and do a total 180 degree turn from his prior position while pretending he hadn't.

while atrios' criticism is right, i still see sullivan's post as essentially a good thing. the blogisphere is a pretty polarlize place. i don't read sullivan on a regular basis–i not only disagree with him, but also get infuriated by his unwillingness to address any of the huge gaping holes in logic in his posts. i could spend all my time writing rebuttals to each posting, but why bother? others are already doing that, and there are even some blogs that are dedicated almost entirely to responding to his site (e.g. sullywatch and smarter andrew sullivan). as much as i don't like sullivan, he does have a large following on the other side of the political spectrum. and it is highly significant when a person who is usually a mindless bush sycophant posts something that is critical of the bush administration, much less call its post-war planning a "disaster." so what if he claims that he thought of the criticism first. the point is, the other side generally does not read atrios or other who have raised such criticism. they do read sullivan and so, for once, this particular criticism of the bush administration will finally filter to an audience that it has not had before. if we actually want to convince people of our positions rather than simply preaching to the choir, something like this has to happen. i, for one, am glad that it finally did.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

following up on earlier stuff

1. re: astroturf letters from soldiers

it turns out that at least one soldier didn't agree with the text of the letter, but he was ordered to sign it by his superior officer

(via the bittershack of resentment)

plus, how can i not mention hesiod's excellent post about this

2. re: bill o'reilly vs. terry gross

o'reilly is now campaigning to have n.p.r.'s budget cut.

(via suburban guerrilla)

note the partial transcript posted in the above link is filled with accusations that gross "defamed" o'reilly and asked him harder questions than she did to franken. but the transcript edits out any of the alleged defamatory remarks, or any of the so-called hard questions. if o'reilly really had the goods on her, you'd think he would edit the transcript differently. (oh and the "billion dollars a year" figure is inflated. the corporation for public broadcasting gets around $700 million a year and only a fraction of that get apportioned to n.p.r., and a smaller slice of that pie funds "fresh air.")

i also love how the fox headline "an n.p.r. ambush interview" leaves unsaid exactly who ambushed who. as i read in a comment somewhere on the web (sorry i would love to attribute it, but i can't remember where everything comes from), it is remarkable how o'reilly waits until the 48th minute of a 50 minute interview to flip out.

(o.s.p. takes the whole o'reilly-gross interview apart rather well here (via NTodd))

the fun never stops

holy blown batcover!

this week's tom tomorrow

Monday, October 13, 2003

bush protests too much

president bush apparently thought it necessary to specify that he is in charge of his administration's policies. "The person who is in charge is me."

since he came into office, there have been all kinds of jokes about how bush was the puppet of various other, more intelligent, members of his administration. but over the weekend, it was a member of bush's own political party that questioned whether bush was actually in control. on "meet the press" yesterday senator richard lugar said:

The president has to be president. That means the president over the vice president, and over these secretaries [of state and defense.] [National security adviser Condoleezza Rice] cannot carry that burden alone.

with this administration, i guess, you never can tell what is a joke and what is terrifying reality. actually, i find it far more scary to think that bush actually is in charge. during a recent interview with fox news bush said the following:

Hume: How do you get your news?

Bush: I glance at the headlines just to kind of a flavor for what's moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are probably read the news themselves ... I have people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world.

in other words, living in america is like riding on a bus where the driver has decided that he doesn't need to watch the road.

it could be worse. living outside america is like being a pedestrian while the bus careens down the road.

apparently i don't know how big a six-year old is

i recently bought a gift for the son of a friend of mine in uzbekistan. i promised to send the gift to her when i got back but for various reasons, i didn't get to it until now. i asked her what she wanted and she mentioned winter clothes for her 6-year old son. i walked into the store and realized i wasn't sure what the right size is. its been a long time since i hung around with people who were six. and i never met this particular 6-year old when i was in uzbekistan. i was supposed to, but i screwed that up when i went to the wrong park. when i picked out my gift, all i could do was just make my best educated guess. i am pretty sure, for example, that a 6-year old is smaller than me.

today, i showed an attorney in my office (who is also a mother of two children) what i bought. she laughed at me. apparently, i don't know how big a 6-year old is. the curse of the childless.

so, to z (if you read this): i am sorry if it doesn't fit. i am sure he will grow into it eventually.

columbus day

it's columbus day. a holiday here in the u.s. that few (other than those who work for the government) seem to celebrate. even though a small fraction of the work force is off, it changes the mood of the whole day. it being monday is bad enough, but once the idea gets in my head that i really could be sleeping in instead, its hard to get into my work. on days like today, i really need an emergency to jolt me out of my stupor. alas, there were no emergencies today

actually, just a few years ago, i didn't even know when columbus day was. i am sure i would notice that the mail didn't come on that odd monday in october. but when that would happen, i probably just assumed that no one wanted to send me anything rather than thinking it was a holiday. the holiday is easily forgettable. it comes at a particularly non-festive time. it doesn't mark the beginning or end of any season like labor or memorial day, and it is not associated with any special activity (like thanksgiving dinner). if anything the holiday, has the air of political incorrectness about it. after all, columbus day commemorates the "discovery" of america by europeans, who spent the next few hundred years slaughtering and stealing from the original inhabitants of this place. the arrival of europeans here was such a huge event, with such profound consequences in the history of north and south america. i think it is worthy of being commemorated. arguably, everything that came after in the history of this end of the world was affected by it. but its hard to get past the cloud of genocide that hangs over the whole thing. i think a lot of people don't know what to do with it these days. so aside from parades held somewhere that i read about but never see, this holiday slips past without much fanfair.

but i will never forget when this holiday is anymore. two years ago, i arrived in mali on what i did not know was columbus day. it also was the day american military action in afghanistan began. when i found out the u.s. was invading somewhere (i was not sure where, but suspected afghanistan), i went to the u.s. embassy where they supposedly had an information office where american citizens could read american newspapers. (the office, it turned out was closed, a victim of the internet cafes that sprung up around the country. but i didn't know that so i went to the embassy)

the embassy was a walled compound with concrete blocks obstructing all streets for a block radius around out. i think it was designed to stop car bombs. at the embassy walls were u.s. marines. by the concrete blocks were a second ring of security., malian guards. i tried to walk by the malians, flashing my u.s. passport, but they stopped me, saying the embassy was closed that day because it was an american holiday that day. i ended up arguing with them. i told them there was no american holiday in october. i told them they had been duped. i told them that the embassy was probably closed because it was in a muslim country and the u.s. was currently invading another muslim country. the guards would not budge. it was an american holiday they insisted. eventually, i gave up and left, convinced that the guards had been lied to.

three weeks later, i was sitting in my office flipping through the calendar that sits on my desk. i caught a glimpse of the caption over october 8, 2001, "columbus day" "ahhhh, columbus day..." i said to myself. i will never forget this holiday again.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

in which the newpaper does not come and i talk about movies instead

the newspaper wasn't delivered this morning. this happens every once in a while here. it's worse when the college where i live is on break. many of my neighbors in faculty housing go away and suspend their newspapers. sometimes, i guess the paper delivery person gets confused about who suspended and who didn't. fall break began on friday.

because there is no paper today, i have not worked myself into my usual sunday morning tizzy of outrage. unlike most weeks, i feel no burning urge to vent about anything political here. sure, i have browsed news sites online, n.p.r. was on all morning as i gazed in vain out the window waiting for my beloved paper to come. so i know what is going on in the world. but for some reason, nothing really tizzifies me like reading an article with the physical newspaper in my hands. i guess i'm old fashioned that way.

without politics, i will fall back on film.

on friday, we saw raising victor vargas. my parents saw it at the sundance film festival last year and it was one of the two films they highly recommended to me when they came back. it really was worth seeing. for some reason i have seen a small handful of movies about dominicans in new york lately (two others were washington heights and manito), and all three were films were first films by new film makers. vargas, however, felt the most polished and had the best acting of the bunch. it was by far the best.

yesterday morning, i saw les triplettes de belleville through talk cinema (a film series that shows me art house or foreign films before they are released). triplettes was an unusual film, very difficult to explain without leaving out the wonderful weirdness of it. i guess the simple explanation is that it is a french silent animated feature length film. (is it still french if there really is no french dialogue?) the film is filled with cultural critiques and jokes about france and america (the statue of liberty is an overweight woman holding a handburger, french people slurp down half dead frogs). the animation was gorgeous, mostly traditional line drawings (though they used computers for some of the other bits of the screen). although i called it "silent" there is lots of sound, both the sound effects of the action on film and a blend of 1930s guitar-style jazz. there just was no dialogue.

because it made it to talk cinema, that means that this film will be released in the u.s., where i expect it to soundly bomb at the box office. it is worth seeing if you like less traditional films. for some reason, i thought it was just okay when the film ended. but i like it more and more as i think about it afterwards. there is one weird bit at the beginning that possibly raises some racial issues (a black woman comes out on stage topless wearing only a skirt of bananas and dances around). apparently, the scene is meant to be a references to a famous performance by josephine baker in which she actually did dance around stage wearing only a skirt made of bananas. no doubt there were many other references that went right over my head.

Saturday, October 11, 2003


apparently, the military is having soldiers write the same form letter about how great things are in iraq to their hometown newspapers. the identical letter has been received and sometimes published by newspapers across the country.

(astroturf, by the way is a term coined, i believe by tom tomorrow to refer to a fake grass roots campaign)

UPDATE: the olympian writes a story about the letters. (via tom tomorrow)

why should anyone even listen to these people?

yesterday vice president cheney lashed out at the administration's critics over the war in iraq during remarks to the heritage foundation. the speech was part of the administration's latest attempt to sell the war and its aftermath to the american people. the fact that cheney went to the religious right think tank heritage foundation for its p.r. campaign illustrates who exactly they think "the american people" are. or at least, who are worth addressing.

among the gems in the speech, cheney warned:

Had we followed the counsel of inaction, the Iraqi regime would still be a menace to its neighbors and a destabilizing force in the Middle East. Today, because we acted, Iraq stands to be a force for good in the Middle East.

of course, since the u.s. invaded iraq has been nothing but a beacon of stability in the mid-east. once again the administration gave an up-is-down assessment of iraq to bolster its claims that everything is peachy there. or at least that's the impression it was intended to convey. if you read the passage carefully, cheney hedged a little. notice the change in tense in the second sentence. it starts with "today" but then goes on with "stands to be a force of good in the Middle East." "stands to be" indicates some indefinite future, a tacit admission that its not a force of good now.

another quote from cheney:

[Saddam Hussein} had an established relationship with Al Qaeda, providing training to Al Qaeda members in the areas of poisons, gases, making conventional bombs.

no mention of al qaeda's historic opposition to the hussein's baathist regime, or hussein intolerance for political islamic groups like al qaeda in iraq. no mention that not a single al qaeda leader is iraqi. no mention that there has never been any public evidence of any relationship with al qaeda nor any evidence that iraq ever provided training to al qaeda.

cheney took no questions, even from this largely sympathetic audience. when the administration's credibility over iraq is at stake, make a lot of unsupported and probably false statements, and then refuse to take any questions, why should exactly we listen to these people?

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

gross vs. o'reilly

i just finished listening to terry gross' interview with bill o'reilly

it's really amazing. he's inconsistent, he ducks, he weaves, he has an irrational hatred for al franken, he get's angry at the unfairness of the interview in a split second, and then he suddenly walks out. (his anger at the end is so sudden, i had the distinct impression that his medication was wearing off)

its really amazing to listen to. any criticism of him, or even hard questions, is immediately labeled as "defamatory." i am frightened that there are actually viewers who think this guy is a rational human being.

seriously, everyone should click on the above link and listen to the audio. (if its after today, click on the archives and go to october 8, 2003). and if o'reilly gives you a password to access his web site, you can compare the uncut n.r.p. interview with o'reilly's exerpt (the irony, of course, is that throughout the gross interview, he accuses virtually everyone of judging him based on excerpts. this guy is so oblivious to his own inconsistencies. oops! i guess i won't be getting a password)

once again, i am completely impressed by terry gross. she can handle any buffoon with such class. i felt the same way after listening to her interview with gene simmons last year.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

fun with the sitemeter

last night i was looking at the list of where my hits were coming from and i was surprised by the number of people who viewed this site after searching for porn sites which included the words "rubber hose."

i wonder if they were disappointed.

what i learned from the newspaper this morning

on the train to work this morning, i read this article in which i learned:

(1) the suicide bomber in the recent attack in haifa came from jenin, in the west bank, not syria where israel staged military strike supposedly "in retaliation" for the bombing.
(2) the bomber entered israel from the west bank by going through a hole in the recently constructed security fence. the fence is not finished yet. she could have gone around it, but apparently thought it would be easier to go through it. thus illustrating how ineffective this fence is at preventing attacks despite the hardships being imposed on palestinians in the name of security.

there are plenty of reasons to criticize the sharon government for the suffering they cause to the palestinians (an indirectly the israelis too), but putting that aside, this article is yet another indication (if the ongoing series of bombings and other attacks was not enough to convince you) that sharon's policies are also ineffective

Monday, October 06, 2003

going into labor

in the comments to the "it's official" post below, hydro asks about the new disclosure rules for labor unions. this is a fairly big issue in my work, a major new burden on many of my clients, and generally yet another example of how anti-labor this administration is. but i haven't really posted on this or other labor issues on this blog. that's because:

(1) the examples i know about first hand i can't really talk about because it runs into all sorts of client confidentiality issues,

(2) i am wary of giving anything that resembles legal advice online,

(3) often work-related issues are the last thing i want to think about when i am posting. this is a forum for me to rant about all the other things that i have less of a opportunity for expressing in my daily life, and

(4) nathan newman already does such a good job at posting on labor issues anything i would do would pale in comparison. (note, i don't always agree with him. on some things--like plame and judicial review--we disagree. but we are basically on the same side of labor issues)

for newman's post about the new disclosure rules for labor unions see this post and this one too.

more on diebold

team agonist has part two of its diebold voter machine article. with all the (justified) attention this plame thing is getting and all the (unjustified) attention of that ridiculous california election, this major scandal is in great danger of being drowned out. if you have any doubts as to whether the diebold issue is important, just read this paragraph:

Here in Part 2, for the first time in print, the Agonist discloses in extensive detail the Diebold case timeline, and the legal battles that ensued. The phases of this timeline are as follows: A) Diebold system becomes available to outside scrutiny, B) Revealed: Diebold system is susceptible to election tampering, C) Computer scientists demonstrate many critical vulnerabilities, D) Diebold CEO promises to "deliver electoral votes" to Bush in 2004, E) Evidence that Diebold illegally tabulated votes before polls closed, and F) Diebold responds with legal action to silence critics.

the details follow, so read the whole article.

lost in translation

have you ever noticed that when i don't have time to post much i simply say "hey, look at this story here..." without giving any additional comment? well, that was what happened over the weekend. it was a busy weekend; my first in which i felt completely back (the weekend before i spent much of the time thinking about my trip, or cleaning up the detritus from my backpack that quickly scattered throughout the apartment, etc)

among the things we did was see lost in translation, a film about americans who are alone and coping with a strange foreign culture. i really liked it, it perfectly captured both the quick personal bonds one can form when traveling in a strange land and the sensory overload-induced confusion that sets in when one does not speak the language. (personally, i love that feeling, but many people do not, as the film illustrates).

even if i don't get the same depressed reaction that the characters do, several scenes really resonated with me. early in the film, one character stares incomprehensibly at the tokyo subway map. just two weeks ago, i was in a station in the tashkent metro trying to figure out which one was the "green" line from the map in my guidebook, when none of the signs indicated that any of the lines had any "colors." i eventually found a list of the stops that the train made, which theoretically could tell me which line it was by comparing it to my guidebook map. except that the list was in cyrillic and several of the stations' names had changed. i am sure that as i stared at the list of stations on the wall, slowly sounding out the names, i had the same look on my face as scarlett johansonn did in the film.

i also loved how much of the speech on the audio track was in japanese, but none of it was subtitled. the viewer is put into the experience of the characters, trying to make sense of a language that they cannot. unless, that is, the viewer speaks japanese. japanese speakers should not be allowed into this movie. ever. really, if they know too much about japanese language, it totally undermines what this film is trying to do. okay, maybe they can see it if the japanese is dubbed in zulu. what are the odds of someone speaking both japanese and zulu?.

well, this pseudo-review has meandered enough. assuming you don't speak japanese, go see this film.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

its official

as the philadelphia inquirer reports you are more likely to be misinformed if you get your news from fox:


(via bloggy who got it from atrios)

Friday, October 03, 2003

one day late

happy birthday josh!!!

Thursday, October 02, 2003

uzbekistan cracks down on opposition

thanks to aaron for pointing out this article:

The government of Uzbekistan, a key ally in Washington's "war on terrorism," is stepping up harassment of prominent dissidents, according to Human Rights Watch and Central Asia specialists, and by persecutng Muslims, fueling a potentially violent reaction by the country's militant Islamist movement.

In the latest move, the government of President Islam Karimov, who has ruled Uzbekistan with an iron hand since even before the collapse of the former Soviet Union, blocked a major opposition party from holding its congress in the capital, Tashkent.

"Uzbek officials use the rhetoric of rule of law and democracy," said Rachel Denber, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia division. "Yet they refuse to allow an opposition political party to hold a simple meeting."

karimov justifies his crackdown any opposition as part of his fight against the islamic movement of uzbekistan. the IMU, was thought to be in disarray (if not disbanned) after its leader juma namangani was killed fighting for the taliban in afghanistan. but recently, there seems to be signs that the IMU is still around, although with its new name: the islamic movement of turkestan (turkestan is a historic name for the area that includes the five central asian former soviet republics, plus the uighur areas of western china). personally, i think karimov's strategy only makes things worse. as the article says:

"Rather than smother militancy," correspondent Peter Baker wrote, "Karimov's campaign threatens to radicalize some of those Muslims who previously eschewed violence, according to an array of Islamic activists, scholars, human rights workers and foreign diplomats."

UPDATE: another article here and here (via body and soul)

the growing list o' links

i just added another one.

basically, when i find myself reading a blog every few days, usually feel like i should probably link to them. noticing that they already link to me doesn't hurt either.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

the plame game

the plame story is flitting furiously around the political blogisphere. honestly, there's no reason for me to rehash the excellent points many others have made about this story elsewhere.

all i have to add is that i had to drive to vineland, new jersey this afternoon for work. on the way i heard my very own senator, arlen spector, state that a special prosecutor is not necessary to investigate the plame leak. he explained that the prosecutors in the justice department could handle it themselves, despite the apparently conflict-of-interest that their boss is a member of the bush cabinet who has had a long-term relationship with karl rove (the chief suspect, in my opinion), because there were plenty of competent career prosecutors at the justice department who can independently investigate this matter. by competent career prosecutors, spector seemed to be referring to prosecutors who are not political appointees and thus were not hired by the bush administration and are less responsive to political pressure.

of course, if they were not hired by the bush administration, that means that they were around during the clinton administration. even though these same people were working for the justice department, spector had no problem in those days in supporting a special prosecutor to investigate clinton for much less serious allegations than the ones involved in the plame matter.

UPDATE: i really gotta add a link to adam felber's take on this thing.