Friday, December 16, 2005
My attitude is this:
You treat prisoners, no matter who they are, as you would treat your own soldiers in your own military prison. Don't baby them, but don't torture them either.
My logic is this:
We deserve to win because we are better than they are.
One of the reasons we are better than they are is that we don't torture people.
So us going out and torturing people kind of fucks up that logic, doesn't it?
I don't mind harassment-type interrogations with all the psychological stuff they can think up. We do that to our own people when the cops are grilling them. But inflicting pain is not what we do. Which is why I'm glad we're not going to be doing it anymore.
I'm still for the war, more so than a few months ago. The success of the election in Iraq makes me even more positive. We're going to win and fewer people are going to die and everybody, especially the Iraqis, is going to be better off than with that mass murderer, on whom I would cheerfully pull the trigger, and no joke, I could do it, running the country. They should have just shot him as soon as they determined his identity, Ceaucescu-style.
And one of the reasons we're going to win is that Bush has promised that the Americans d0n't torture people. He's put his neck on the line, and if there's any evidence that any torture goes on in the future, his credibility becomes zero. This gives us a major piece of the moral high ground. See, everybody knows that the terrorists torture people. And we have a lot of winning of the moral high ground to do, so let's get right to it.
Friday, November 25, 2005
10. Marion Pruitt, sicko spree killer of five.
9. Aileen Wournos, murdered seven johns.
8. Alton Coleman, spree baby-rapist, eight victims.
7. Kenneth McDuff, sicko spree murderer of 14.
6. William Bonin, homosexual "Freeway Killer," 14 victims.
5. Douglas Gretzler, spree torture-killer of 16.
4. Ted Bundy, 22 victims.
3. John Wayne Gacy, child-rapist, 33 victims.
2. Gerald Stano, Florida torture-killer of 41.
1. Pee Wee Gaskins, psycho Southerner who may have killed more than 100.
And, of course, Tim McVeigh is hors de categorie.
These people are so morally foul that I just can't see leaving them alive, whatever the other arguments on capital punishment are.
Larrañaga's family is mounting a media campaign to save him. Philippine president Gloria Macagapal Arroyo says she will not sign any death warrants, which means that Larrañaga is at least temporarily safe from lethal injection. However, temporarily is not permanently.
My attitude is that I am not in favor of coddling criminals, and I think those convicted of heinous crimes deserve the death penalty. Kidnapping, raping, and murdering two young women is about as heinous as it gets, and if these guys did it, fire up the syringe. The problem is I am not convinced these guys are guilty. Exhume the body of the girl said to be Marijoy Chiong and DNA-test it to see if it's her, and to see if any of these guys' DNA are on it. Then proceed from there. But don't execute people if there's a reasonable doubt to their guilt. Hell, you're not supposed to convict people if there's a reasonable doubt to their guilt.
One thing to remember is that Larrañaga is getting all the attention because he's an EU citizen and his family has money. You have to wonder how many people get railroaded by the system, especially in the Third World; I'll bet surprisingly few, but I'll also bet it happens sometimes, and disputes between local elites and mafias are just the sort of context that someone getting railroaded might happen in. Interest in these cases is only taken in places like Europe when there's a Westerner involved.
My understanding, by the way, is that since the US brought back the death penalty in 1977 nobody innocent has been executed.
Friday, November 18, 2005
I suppose what we did was trigger a civil war, mostly pitting two ethnic groups (Shiite Arabs and Sunni Kurds) against one (Sunni Arabs). The Sunni Arabs had run the place since it stopped being an Ottoman colony in 1917, which it had been for the last about four hundred years, and became a British colony. I'm really not sure exactly when it stopped being a British colony, though the year 1932 comes to mind; I remember that the British invaded Iraq in World War II and overthrew a pro-Nazi regime. And grabbed the oil. I do know Iraq had governments somewhere between lousy and horrific between the end of World War II and the overthrow of Saddam by the Allies in April 2003. And those governments were all run by Sunni Arabs for Sunni Arabs. Obviously, in a democratic Iraq, the Sunni Arabs would no longer run everything. Therefore, many Sunni Arabs oppose the democratic government, and a fraction of them are willing to kill.
So we have an ethnic civil war on our hands--again, most Sunni Arabs don't want to fight against the democratic government, only a few do, but that few is enough to cause lots of trouble, which we see every day on the news.
Meanwhile, there is a separate but linked war going on between the Allies and Al Qaeda and its terrorist allies. That war is being fought all over the world, as the explosions in Jordan and Pakistan and Spain and Britain and Morocco and Indonesia show. It is also being fought in parts of Afghanistan, on the ground, against Taliban loyalists. And Al Qaeda has joined in the Iraqi civil war on the side of the violent minority of Sunni Arabs.
So how do the Americans fit in here? Well, one of the mistakes we made in Vietnam was to bail out and ditch the South Vietnamese and Cambodian governments. Just look at the horrors that led to. We can't ditch the democratic Iraqis, no matter what. Doing so would undoubtedly lead to much greater horrors than those we see on television news now. So we're effectively in a civil war on one side. I think if we admit that this is the situation, it might clear up a lot of our thinking. We've got to fight Al Qaeda around the world, because not doing so is suicide. And we have to fight antidemocratic forces in Iraq. Let's make sure we can keep the two separate.
Al Qaeda is basically an ideological movement. The Sunni Arabs are basically a nationalist movement. They're fighting on the same side in Iraq. Al Qaeda is also linked to nationalist groups in many Muslim countries, including Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and the Philippines. They're fighting on the same side in those countries, too.
I suppose this means that no matter how much we dislike seeing the results of the latest bombing in Baghdad, and knowing how much people are suffering, bailing out of Iraq would mean giving a victory to Al Qaeda, which would then have a home base even more convenient than Afghanistan to plot terror, and giving a victory to the insurgent Sunni Arabs, who would then certainly genocide the Kurds and Shiite Arabs. I think, practically and ethically, looking back to examples such as Munich and the Vietnam pullout, the West has to beat them here and now in Iraq. This means no American pullout. Even though two thousand of our guys have been killed, and I would guess at least 15,000 Iraqi civilians. Not to mention large quantities of terrorists, both nationalist Sunnis and Al Qaeda, who will bother us no more.
What's our exit strategy? Well, let's admit we don't really have one, just like Roosevelt really didn't have one in 1942. Whatever we have to do to win the war, because we don't want to fight it in New York and Washington. And Madrid.
Does the end justify the means? I don't think so in the case of torture. I think it's pretty clear that nobody's being tortured in Guantanamo. As for those bleeding hearts who seem to care more for terrorists' rights than for Westerners' simple right to live, what do you want us to do with them? Turn them loose? That's not going to happen. If people are being tortured in secret CIA prisons, well, that would be very wrong if it were happening. Although I haven't seen the slightest real evidence that it is. I also think it's clear that the Abu Ghraib tortures, from which apparently no one died, were an aberration and an isolated incident.
Also, let me make this clear, if it turns out there are secret CIA torture prisons, we can't do that. That wouldn't make me want to stop the war or bail out of Iraq, but it would make me want to fire lots of our intelligence, military, and political leaders and get us some new ones who can win the war without torturing people.
And the Iraqi people are going to suffer less if we stay than if we go. So we have to stay now that we touched off the fuse. The fuse was going to blow sometime, Iraq couldn't go on as it was under Saddam, but we lit it and we need to be honest with ourselves about that. I, personally, was in favor of lighting it back in 2003.
Saturday, September 03, 2005
1. What the natural world is capable of is astounding. Good thing it isn't like this all the time.
2. The European press and assorted American idiots are blaming the disaster on global warming. Wrong. Global warming, according to the theory, will change the climate in the long term rather than the weather in the short term. Also, first, lots of responsible scientists don't believe that global warming even exists, and second, a lot more say that even if it does exist, it's a natural phenomenon that isn't caused by human behavior and that humans can't do very much about.
3. The same people are also saying that there would have been a better response to the disaster if not for the Iraq war. Wrong. Only about 12 percent of the American military is stationed in Iraq.
4. There has been a terrible failure of the American civil defense system, and the guilty parties are the local governments in and around New Orleans and the state of Louisiana. They had NO PLAN, and they are the government bodies in charge.
5. The FEMA is also responsible, as they should have made sure that those jokers down there had a plan.
6. The disaster isn't the fault of the levee system, as the river levees held and the lake levees, which were the ones that failed, were only built to handle a Category Three hurricane. This was a cost-benefit decision. We have to make those sometime, somewhere, and I'm not going to blame the people who made that one. The lake levees, which had recently been inspected, were in good condition before the hurricane hit.
7. The federal government screwed up as soon as they didn't take control within six or so hours of the levee break. Agreed, I'm blasting them for a sin of omission. Well? Look at the consequences. I knew hell had broken loose as soon as the announcer on KBON radio (Paul Marx) said the levee had broken, and he sure as shit did, too, because you should have heard his voice. Somebody among the top guys in the Administration should have figured this out, too.
8. I bet next time an evacuation is ordered people will actually obey it. I've seen too many photos of smashed-up cars that people could have used to get out. Blaming the victim? No, not those who were too poor or too weak or too sick to get out. But the rest of the victims made a terribly bad decision. This doesn't mean we should not rescue them or that their deaths are not tragic. But not evacuating when you can is like parking your car downtown with the door unlocked. If it gets stolen, well, some of it is your fault for not taking basic minimum precautions.
9. The reason most of the victims are black is that most residents of New Orleans, something like 60%, are black. Most black residents are poorer than most white residents, and are more likely to live in mostly-black neighborhoods, which tend to be lower-lying than wealthier mostly-white neighborhoods. You also have to figure that there were at least 10,000 people who really were so poor they didn't have a way to get out of town and that 99% of them were black. This does not say good things about American society. You judge a country by how it treats its weakest and we failed this time. We don't always fail. Most of the time we succeed. But this time we failed.
10. Fortunately, we don't always fail at everything. This is never going to happen in the United States again, because we have more than learned our lesson.
11. I demand that EVERY state and EVERY county write up an emergency evacuation plan within thirty days, because I'm a lot more worried about enemy-made disasters than I am about natural disasters, at least outside fault zones and hurricane country. If this had been a nuclear, chemical, or biological bomb, which just might go off in Leawood, Kansas--why not? It's just as likely as anywhere else--would Kansas City have been prepared? At the very least, would there have been a plan? This needs to be a top priority. Those places that already have evacuation plans, congratulations on your sense of responsibility, and publicize them right now.
12. Things would probably have gone a lot better without so many damn guns all over the place.
13. I've thought about it and I don't believe we ought to rebuild New Orleans where it is, just as I wouldn't rebuild San Francisco where it is after the earthquake hits it, and as I wouldn't rebuild a city that got nuked no matter where it was. The site is just too dangerous. Move any buildings worth saving and dynamite the rest of it. And while we're at it, let's allow the Mississippi to assume its natural course, which is down the Atchafalaya. Since we're going to need some big-scale social engineering in Louisiana anyway, let's do it all now.
14. President Bush has not been impressive. Not that I think President Kerry would have been.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
It makes no sense to rebuild New Orleans, since we've known for hundreds of years that the site of the city is impractical. Blow it all up and let it return to swamp. Move any historic buildings deemed to be salvageable to Memphis or Shreveport. The only reason the city was there was to serve as America's largest port. The port isn't there any more, and Baton Rouge will work just as well as the large seaport needed as the entrepot to collect mid-America's riches carried down the Mississippi and transfer them to ocean-going ships.
What do we do with the people? Well, America, here's your chance to be generous. Let's figure there are a million people who are going to need new homes. We have fifty states, some larger and richer than others. I figure Kansas ought to be ready to take in twenty or thirty thousand people at least; I call on the Shawnee Mission school district to open its ample, safe, dry school gyms up to everybody they send us. If we can do that, what can California do?
Most of those who evacuated in time ought to be able to pretty much take care of themselves until their insurance payments come in. Of course, they'll need all sorts of help, but we can provide that. Problem Number One are all the people, maybe 100,000, who did not evacuate in time and are now either dead or barely surviving among the wreckage. First we need to get the survivors out of there, and I am disappointed that it took us so long to get the armed forces helicoptering and boating people out of there. The moment the hurricane had passed by was the moment to evacuate everyone possible. Now we're running out of time, and the death toll is going to climb among those still stranded.
(Note: The Vanguardia is blaming the slow federal reaction on the Iraq war, of course. Seems that all our military strength is over there in Iraq. Yeah, right.)
Problem Number Two is that probably 95% of the people who didn't evacuate on time are poor and black, according to the photos I've seen. That's who the looters are, and I'd be looting abandoned grocery stores too if I were stuck in what's left of New Orleans because I didn't have a car to get out. (Though, of course, I wouldn't be stealing stuff I didn't need, but I don't think I can expect everyone to live up to my ethical standards, especially when surrounded by floating dead bodies.)
Who cares about looting now. Taking material things doesn't bother me. Problem Number Three isn't stealing from stores, it's the armed gangs going around taking advantage of the complete collapse of law and order. This is what anarchy means, all you blackshirts out there on your Pacific Northwest college campuses. Those who are strong, that is, young men with guns, are victimizing those who are weak, who are pretty much everybody else. I don't see any other solution for this but getting the weak out of there. There's no point in spending resources on stopping the aggressors when the victims are going to die anyway if they're not moved.
Nice, white-bread Johnson County, Kansas, is going to have to learn its lesson. We're all Americans and that means we have to move these now-homeless people, whom many of us scorn, in with us. This is going to create more than one headache as we learn to deal with the New Orleans poor among us.
That's what we get for not having learned that the New Orleans poor count as "us" before. There is still far too much racial and class segregation in the United States, inherited from what Paul Johnson called one of America's two original sins, slavery. Agreed, it's gotten much better over the last forty years, but forty years isn't that long compared with 250 years of slavery and 100 more of apartheid.
Now it's time for well-meaning folks around the country to put their money where their ideals are, and take poor black people from New Orleans into their homes, neighborhoods, and schools. If your community isn't willing to take in as many refugees as it can hold, and pay for their upkeep until they can be resettled there permanently, then there's something wrong with it.
It's a damned shame that such a historic, beautiful city (in parts; 80% of town was an absolute hellhole) is materially dead, but its people will carry its best traits--along with its worst, I fear, but what do you do now--to the rest of the fifty states.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Active resignation 'made in USA'
Seasoned by furious nature, Americans are less prone to call for help from the State
The Americans are not a people prone to complain or to wait for the State to solve their problems. The heirs of pioneers who suffered many setbacks, of millions of immigrants who arrived with the clothes on their backs, seasoned by furious nature, they normally accept with active resignation situations like those created by Hurricane Katrina and the frequent disasters caused by floods, extreme cold, tornadoes, droughts, and forest fires. The American character is pragmatic and solidarious, in addition to carrying optimism in its genes. It demands that the authorities contribute to alleviating misfortune, but it knows well that in the long run it is one's own efforts and those of the community one lives in which make the difference. This is why volunteerism at all levels is a national institution, as is taking up collections. A foreign observer is surprised at the speed and effectiveness with which they get to work.
In American culture the idea of starting over from zero, of reinventing oneself, of moving thousands of kilometers to get a new job and overcome a crisis, does not frighten as much as in Europe. With this disposition, with the persistent idea that "we'll get out of this," it is easier to face the always painful loss of a home or destruction of a business.
Active resignation is expressed in several ways when faced with adversity or simple unexpected discomforts. In the sometimes chaotic American airports, passengers accept delays and cancellations with stoicism and patience. They are aware that dense air traffic and the weather cause things to go wrong. Instead of throwing useless tantrums, they prefer to find some other alternative in order to get home as soon as possible.
After the devastating hurricane Isabel, which leveled North Carolina in September 2003 and caused serious damage in the Washington area, the residents of the suburbs came out onto the streets as soon as the storm was over in order to assess the damage and begin clearing up themselves. Improvised brigades of residents with chainsaws cut up the fallen trees in the streets in order to reopen the way through. Hundreds of thousands of customers, including La Vanguardia's office, were without electricity for days or weeks.
Despite the discomfort of living without electricity in such a technical society, citizen reaction was very moderate. Everyone did whatever he could to make the best of the problem. Gasoline generators were sold out, as were batteries and butane stoves. Bars in areas with electricity were filled with people with portable computers. As occurred after other hurricanes, some people organized collective barbecues with the food they had stored in their freezers.
Mr. Val, that's more than fair enough. Iberian Notes pardons your past sins. Note that in order for the Americans to get any praise from the Europeans we have to suffer a disaster. Also note what Mr. Val stresses as American characteristics, because if he's pointing them out to Spanish readers, then they're much rarer over here.
Monday, August 29, 2005
Sunday, August 28, 2005
By the way, you all know what They in the media and Hollywood are trying to do. They're trying to tell us again how much fun being against the Vietnam war was back in the sixties and show us how much fun it can be again to resist American warmongering tyranny (at no cost to your own self in the short term). I would worry, because They are going to puff up media stunts like the Cindy Crawford brouhaha as much as they can, and They are going to portray the military and the government as negatively as possible in mainstream entertainment.
I think We need to pull a preemptive strike. Our side of the media needs to emphasize 9-11, how it provoked America's attempt to destroy international terror, and how it led to our overthrowing Saddam Hussein. People have forgotten all about 9-11. Eighteen-year-old kids now were 14 when it happened. I think it's time to remember why America is in Iraq in the first place and why we can't leave until Islamist/Arab nationalist terrorism is dead, and I mean literally dead, as in turning the bodies of those who participate into small pieces.
And I think the upcoming fourth anniversary of 9-11 would be an excellent excuse for an all-out media blitz, using athletes, college coaches, country musicians, and local TV personalities. We're not fighting for the hearts and minds of the Upper West Side and the Castro, we're fighting for the hearts and minds of those who watch the mainstream media in Columbus and Des Moines.
Friday, August 26, 2005
Here, in the heart of London Zoo, there has been another sighting of a species not native but increasingly common to Britain, Homo exhibitionist.
It is not a native species, but its origins are shrouded in mystery. Some believe it was accidentally imported from the US while others insist it could only have arisen from genetic mutation. Whatever the explanation, the sudden appearance of three males and five females on the zoo's Bear Mountain is thrilling.
We may be watching evolution in action. Or, we may be watching eight intrepid volunteers shivering their way through an inclement August Bank Holiday as part of the world's first "human zoo". They will live in an open enclosure for three days (though in a nod to the insulatory inadequacies of fig leaves, they will be allowed home each night) as part of a project designed to demonstrate man's impact on the environment and reveal his fundamentally atavistic nature.
Whether three days will be long enough to secure some real Lord of the Flies moments is a matter of debate, but let's hope someone is keeping an eye on the fat guy.
Thirty people applied to take part. Those who made the cut included veterinary student Simon Spiro, "zoo-obsessed" Anna Westbury, Thomas Mahoney who wanted to get back to nature, and actor, model, musician and martial arts expert Brendan Carr. He secured his place by writing a poem. "I got a laugh like a hyena but get the hump like a camel, so cover me in fig leaves as I'm the ultimate mammal," went one persuasive, if sub-Popish couplet.
The volunteers will be treated like animals but kept amused with games, music and art. And if that isn't enough to incite them to violence, what is? Expect pigheads on sticks by Monday.
It would be so cool if this actually does get ugly and Brendan freaks out and blood is spilled. I imagine the zookeepers would break it up before he actually chewed through Anna's throat wolverine-style.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Those who hung on were not the flower-power types, who were all nice and middle-class and by about '71 were social workers or teaching el-ed. They were street people, and they still are. They may claim to know something about politics, and a few of them actually may, but basically they're nihilists and extreme hedonists. Dionysians, if you will. They proclaim they are anarchists and certainly act like they have the right to destroy whatever they want.
There are something like 20-35 squats in and around Barcelona, each one with 5-10 people living in it and a larger group of hangers-on. The real squatters are hardcore leftist radicals, dedicated to the overthrow of everything by every means possible. They look and act like your standard punks. They are generally streetwise and individually out for their own interest--they live off the hangers-on and their contributions, and are very careful about not sharing any of their own stuff.
The hangers-on are middle-class college kids who will mostly get slightly smarter in a couple of years and get nice middle-class jobs at La Caixa but pretend they're still radical and do dumbass things like vote for Esquerra or Iniciativa. They generally don't know they're being used by these hardcore squatters, and they actually think they believe the nihilist anarchist rhetoric. If a middle-class college kid spends more than about three years with these guys he's likely to join up with them and not get out for years.
Here in Barcelona the squatters are loosely organized. There are a couple of what they call collectives that claim to have representation from the various squats and to be in a position to negotiate with city authorities and the like. They do have access to lawyers, we know that, and are more than happy to use the loopholes in the law to save themselves punishment. A strategy they use is--since they can't be kicked out without a judicial order, and the owner of the property has to file a brief with the court to get said order--is for the lawyers to look through the property register for places that have a lien on them so that there's no legal owner who can go to court. Catch-22.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
La Vangua's campaign is in favor of more "civic behavior," but I've got news for them: Very few of their readers are out on the streets setting up barricades and throwing shit at the cops. The only thing that's going to stop uncivic behavior is arresting the people who behave uncivically, and that is something they do not do around here. Too much of Catalan society is still anti-law and order and looks benignly on dumb kids raising hell for no good reason because they're answering the contradictions of modern postindustrial dehumanizing society with humanistic self-expression.
This goes back to pre-Franco days: Much of middle-class society here was mixed up with very unpleasant elements (Esquerra Republicana and Estat Català, just for starters) during the twenty years before the Civil War. Then the Franco regime was obviously unpopular among these same people. Now that there's nothing whatsover to be angry about and we live in a prosperous democracy, this bunch is still not happy because, like, they didn't get everything they wanted from the Constitution so they constantly whine about it. This lot still doesn't deal very well with the concept that everybody has to obey the law, even their own kids.
They're also denouncing Lance Armstrong, two pages at the beginning of today's sports section, on no evidence whatsover for allegedly having taken EPO in 1999. Damn, the Europeans hate to lose. What crybabies. Of course, this comes from the French press. In addition, Andy Robinson claims that Google's plan to provide direct access to over 60 million books is somehow satanic. And, of course, France is afraid that somehow the Americans are going to take over world literary heritage, so they're trying to get the EU to spend more than a hundred million euros on its own program. Seems thay're worried that--guess what--people will read books on European history by American authors. Says the head of the French national library, "It's normal that there is an 'Anglo-Saxon' perspective on cultural heritage, but there should also be a European viewpoint. It is politically essential." And, of course, Portugal is on fire and everyone's unscientifically blaming it on global warming.
Saturday, August 20, 2005
And by the way, who is the government telling that kid he can't go out and get a job to earn money for all the Jack or Hershey's he wants? And as for this taxes to discourage drinking shit, like they have in those tight-ass Scandinavian socialist states, that's a bunch of crap. Who is the state to tell me that they want to discourage my vice, but they don't want to discourage all those fucking people who eat meat, thereby murdering literally billions of animals every year, making Americans and Europeans into a bunch of fat slobs, and seriously offending the Hindu religion, to whom cows are sacred. Yeah, you. Every time you eat a burger you're eating a murdered cow and violating one of the most basic tenets of Hinduism, which I might point out has a hell of a lot more adherents than the goddamn Shiites and commits a lot less terrorism.
And as for this government controlling what other drugs I can take, that's bullshit too. I should be able to put anything I want into my body. That includes Laetrile and heroin. Why can't I just take all the antibiotics I want? That's my business. Same for getting vaccinations. Why should the government make me literally risk my life by putting a substance known to be poison into my body by force? And what's the deal with the American Medical Association, a fascist-style corporate guild, allowing only the self-selected few holders of the holy M.D. to tell the rest of us what we can take? Again, I'm manic-depressive. Why does that guy have the right to tell me I can't take whatever pills I want in order to treat my officially-diagnosed illness? I'd like to have what Elvis had, thank you, and plenty of it, please.
Now this gets me into that other thing which pisses me off, and that's the government telling me I can't drive as fast as I want while I'm on Quaaludes. What is the state doing telling me I can't drive eighty miles an hour wherever I want? I'm an independent actor, and one would think I would always have my own self-interest in mind. I'm smart enough to make my own decisions, even after a couple of Percodans. I can be trusted to make the correct decision about whether driving that fast is safe or not, and I will only do it where it's perfectly safe. I'm a really good driver, so I drive eighty a lot of places where most people would only drive, say, thirty-five, and I don't need to wear a seatbelt, either, and it's bullshit for anyone to tell me I have to do that, or follow any other so-called safety rules, either. Look at the Nascar circuit. A Nascar racetrack is the absolutely safest place to be in the world because all the drivers are highly professional and handle their cars perfectly. What would be, say, "cutting off another driver" (a bullshit anti-independenceist term for "exercising your freedom to travel?" They've got no right to tell me where I can't drive, and if somebody else wants to drive there too, well, hell, may the fastest driver win. The other guy needs to accept he's lost, get over it, and move on. If he chooses to object by, say, honking his horn and making obscene gestures at me, well, that's his business, and no one has any right to stop him from expressing himself.
And don't even let me get started on airplanes. Or guns.
Friday, August 19, 2005
What's happened over the last few years is that crowds of locals from all over the metropolitan area show up and get completely blitzkreiged, and the crowds get bigger and more violent every year. Our friends the squatters have taken over and run wild every night. Here are some quotes from La Vanguardia:
Some 300 youths faced off with the police early Wednesday morning...garbage skips were burned, motorcycles and urban furniture destroyed, several people were injured, including two regional and one local police officers, and two minors were arrested.
At around three in the morning the squatters and their friends got together in Plaza Rius and Taulet, about 1000 of them, and started bongoing and raising hell. At four the cops told them to go home, since the residents were furious and they had to clean the streets and pìck up the garbage anyway. The squatters started throwing bottles and other crap at the cops, and they set up two barricades on the Travesera de Gracia. The firemen showed up to put out the fires and were attacked as well.
Then, early Thursday morning, there was more squatter violence. Between three and six AM
the confrontations of the previous morning were repeated, with greater virulence, between youths and police officers. Garbage skips were burned and wastebaskets, portable toilets, phone booths, and other street furniture was destroyed. Some street decorations were destroyed, such as the giant sardine on Calle Tordera. Eight members of the riot squad and eight more youths were injured. Damage was estimated at €25,000. There were no arrests.
The police did identify thirteen leaders, who will be charged. Interestingly, Tordera is the only one of the 22 decorated streets that does not sell alcohol.
Now here's the really fun part. Guess who La Vanguardia's reporter focused on?
"This is the most exciting moment of my vacation," said Paul, an English tourist, while he ran through the streets of Gracia during the conflicts between the police and youths..."My night as an urban guerrilla" is the title of a page of the diary that Alessandro, an Italian tourist, is keeping during his stay here...In Calle Progrés, a group of tourists swam naked in the swimming pool that formed part of the decoration.
That's right, blame the tourists instead of the local scumballs and urban trash!
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
My favorite Kinky song is "Asshole from El Paso."
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Thursday, August 11, 2005
So they ran the men's 1500 finals yesterday. It was a slow race, with the winner, Rashid Ramzi, crossing the line more than ten seconds short of the world record. I saw no fouls and no one was disqualified. The greatest 1500 runner ever, world-record holder, four-time world champion, and 2004 Olympic champion El Guerrouj or however you spell his name, wasn't there. Without him, it wasn't a bad race or anything, I'm not complaining, and these guys are a hell of a lot faster than I was in high school; my best time for the mile in a real race was 4:52, and I barely broke sixty seconds in the quarter, which is why I never got to run it in real races.
Here's the AP's story.
HELSINKI, Finland (AP) -- Morocco played a major role in the men's 1,500-meter final at the world athletics championships Wednesday, although the greatest Moroccan wasn't even there.
With four-time defending champion Hicham El Guerrouj missing the championships because of illness, Moroccan-born Rashid Ramzi gave his adopted nation of Bahrain the gold medal with a time of 3 minutes, 37.88 seconds.
Adil Kaouch of Morocco was second in 3:38.00, barely holding off Rui Silva of Portugal, who settled for bronze in 3:38.02.
Ramzi became a citizen of Bahrain after moving to the Gulf nation to take up a job in that country's armed forces. But he retains a Moroccan passport and trains with old coach Khalid Boulami.
"This medal is very important for me and my country," Ramzi said. "I am very proud to have been able to deliver this gold medal."
Ramzi stayed near the front and stepped up the pace coming out of the final bend and safely cruised home on a wet, windy and cool night.
"There were no tactics in the race," he said. "The weather was a big problem, we just couldn't get the right rhythm.
"I was hoping we would spread it out a little so I would have more space to run my own race, but I had to wait until the last lap to beat them with my speed," Ramzi said.
Kaouch once ran as El Guerrouj's pacemaker and returned to competition in 2004 after two knee operations.
"I am not even tired at all," he said. "I focused on the 1,500 this year, prepared well for Helsinki and it paid off. ... We are all very happy and very proud of this result today."
So guess what La Vanguardia's take was? It's natural that they would focus on the Spanish competitors, and I wouldn't expect anything else, but this is a bit excessive. They gave two whole pages in the sports section to this one particular competition, in which there were three not-particularly-good Spanish runners. Their best, Reyes Estevez, won bronzes at the world championships in 1997 and 1999, and is now way over the hill. The three came in fifth, sixth, and eleventh (Estevez), and none was ever a factor in the race. Here we go with La Vanguardia's conspiracy theory, however, and you'll never guess the nationality of the bad guy. Also check out the warlike imagery.
Casado, Higuera, Estevez fail in dirty 1500 meter final
American Alan Webb committed suicide...a dirty and mysterious race...no one expected the American's attack to be so savage, so desperate, so cruel...Webb's attack was very violent, absolutely disproportionate..."Webb committed suicide. His attack made no sense," said Reyes Estevez.
It seems that Mr. Webb committed the awful sin of trying to win the race by running fast.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
As for Peter Jennings, I'm sorry he's dead, but I thought he was terrible and that he was one of the main reasons the network news lost so much influence. My guess is that within five years the three mainline networks will all close down their news divisions; at the very least they'll have closed down the national nightly news. They'll probably keep a morning show of some sort and a magazine show or two, but the content won't be hard news. Local news, of course, will keep going strong, as will Fox News and CNN.
And as for all those dumb releases of "white doves of peace," check out this piece from Slate on what actually happens to the birds.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
10. Electronic gadgets
9. Movie stars and other alleged celebrities
6. So-called popular music
4. Motor vehicles
3. Hollywood product
2. Anything related to computers (except the Internet)
1. Wilson, Plame, Rove, Novak, etc.
I'm anti-gun-nut. I think the things are way too dangerous to be sold the way they are. I mean, the purpose of a gun is to kill living beings, and there's nothing innocuous about that. Everything else I can think of that's dangerous, like cars and medicines and chemicals and poisons and explosives and such, is strictly controlled.
Yeah, the Second Amendment says that we have the right to keep and bear arms, and that's a right that's guaranteed as much as any other in American society. But come on, rights are limited. We've got the right to freedom of speech unless it's libel or slander or perjury or false advertising or negotiating a contract you don't plan to fulfill or shouting "fire" in a crowded theater or using fighting words or making threats. Or advocating the armed overthrow of the government. Or high treason, which is merely using your "freedom of speech" to tell the enemy national secrets. That is, the right to freedom of speech is by no means absolute, and the freedom to keep and bear arms isn't absolute either. If you can think of one right in the Constitution that isn't somehow limited, let me know.
I can understand why some people would want a gun in order to protect themselves. And, though I strongly dislike hunting, it is unfortunately necessary since we've wiped out most predators. These are the only two legitimate reasons I can think of for owning a gun.
One reason I'm anti-gun is that I'm pro-cop, and the cops are unanimously in favor of strict gun control. I figure they know what they're talking about better than a bunch of gun hobbyists.
Gun nuts often claim that guns are necessary to defend the people against government encroachment of their rights. Come on. Not any more. If the army pulls a coup we're going to resist it with pistols and shotguns? Yeah, right. Or if we get invaded and taken over by some evil foreigners. If they can take on our military and win, there's no way a bunch of farmers with twenty-twos is going to defeat them.
I think the real motivation of gun nuts is that they like shooting guns as a hobby. It makes them feel powerful. This is obvious in posts by bloggers I otherwise mostly agree with, like Glenn Reynolds, James Lileks, and Samizdata. Check out some of the photos these guys put up showing themselves heavily armed and proud of it. Well, I'm sorry, just because you like something is no reason you should be allowed to do it if there are good reasons for not letting you. Me, I like drinking a lot and driving fast, but I can't do that because it's dangerous and other people will get hurt.
I don't know what I'd do about the United States's gun problem. There are something like 200 million guns out there, which is about 199 million too many. I'd really like to confiscate them all and then require people to prove they have a good reason for owning one before they get a license, but that would be impossible. I honestly don't know what could be done short of some drastic measure like that.
Saturday, August 06, 2005
Oh, by the way, Shannon and Phil have five college degrees between them--two B.A.s, two M.A.s, and a Ph.D. Among my parents and me, we've got five more. Six if you count my father's M.B.A. equivalent from General Electric's auditor-training program. So don't call us a bunch of gringo hicks until you can beat that, even though we do talk a little funny and my parents do horrible old-fashioned stuff like go to church. Hear that, Manuel Castells?
A little defensive? Hell, yeah. According to certain people who think they're sophisticated there's nothing of value between New York and L.A. They call it "the flyover." You won't believe how much wank I've heard from Californians about how cool they are in comparison with, say, me.
Friday, August 05, 2005
From Los Angeles to Roquetas
Until now we thought that the California police forces were the only ones capable of being involuntarily videoed by amateurs while beating black citizens to death. Now, it turns out that some Civil Guards seem to have emulated their colleagues in Los Angeles, with the difference that the camera was in the police station itself and the victim was a white farm worker from Almeria.
WHAT? When was the last time the L.A. cops beat a black citizen to death? And why this comparison, when there are police forces around the world that really beat people to death, or worse, all the time? And there has been more than one police brutality scandal right here in Spain, like when the cops right here in Catalonia put a schizophrenic Danish kid in the hospital and got filmed doing it a couple of years ago. And if you thought the Rodney King beating was ugly, you haven't seen this one. So let's lay off the shocked innocence, Mr. Abian.
Here's Spain's dumbest intellectual, Manuel Castells, a couple of days ago in La Vanguardia.
We're at war, they say. And in war all measures are valid. It was with that argument that Iraq was invaded, razed, and destabilized in search for weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist.
My ass. What a cheap straw man. No one argued that all measures are valid, because if we thought that way we wouldn't have lawyers attached to every unit telling them what they can do and can't, and there would be a whole lot more dead Baathists than there are now if we did everything we could to them. And as far as "destabilized," is Mr. Castells saying he prefers Saddam's allegedly stable sadistic tyranny?
Legal insecurity for everyone is growing, especially for those who look like Pakistanis or Somalis or Moroccans or Arabs or Afghans or any other imaginary face of the habitual suspects, including Brazilians and Ecuatorians (or dark Spaniards?)
Oh, what a crock of crap. Note that Mr. Castells wants to sign up the Spaniards to his list of victim groups that evil racist Western society is oppressing.
Indiscriminate restriction of civil liberties leads to Al Qaeda's first victory: they are changing our societies into something very far away from the democratic way of life.
What an old, tired argument. The British pacifists made that argument in World War II, saying that if we resist the Nazis we'll become just like them. And what indiscriminate restriction of civil liberties?
...Bush threatens the only thing he knows, bombing.
And they call the Americans simplistic.
...the Israelis have changed from an open and democratic society to a militarized and paranoid country with strong racist tendencies.
You heard it here first. Israel is racist, paranoid, militaristic, undemocratic, and closed, says Mr. Castells. I personally think Mr. Castells is bigoted, superficial, incompetent, and a worshiper of totalitarianism and violence, as he never criticizes any of the groups that are really militaristic and undemocratic, like the PLO, PFLP, Hezbollah, Hamas, and company.
There's a lot more but I've had enough.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
It's interesting how WWII is the only war ever that had virtually 100% support among the American people. Even university social scientists were in favor.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Recommendation: Find a small town as far away from the Mediterranean as possible and go there. Try Galicia or Leon or Navarra or Huesca. Don't come to Barcelona. It's packed, and I mean packed. Downtown is so full of tourists you can barely move. There's no way you'll find anywhere to stay. Half the places of business are closed and the rest are tourist traps. Come to Barcelona in mid-October or so when things are much more relaxed.
Young Boys Wankdorf erection relief
BERN, Switzerland, July 31 (Reuters) - The supporters of Young Boys Bern have not had too much to celebrate in the 19 years since their team last won the Swiss league title.
Long since eclipsed by the likes of FC Basel and Grasshoppers Zurich, the club from the Swiss capital has even got a reputation for enjoying its status as a perennial loser.
But this weekend Young Boys sought to shake off their old image by officially opening the 32,000 Stade de Suisse Wankdorf stadium -- which cost 350 million Swiss francs ($271.3 million) -- with an uncharacteristically flashy homecoming party.
'I'm extremely happy, because I'm convinced this is the stadium from which Young Boys can finally launch themselves back into sporting success,' Swiss president, and Bern native, Samuel Schmid told spectators just before Saturday's show got underway.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
During the buildup to the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991, Carter unsuccessfully worked to undermine the foreign policy of America's democratically elected president, George Bush. Carter behaved as the Imperial Ex-President, conducting a guerrilla foreign policy operation that competed with the actual president's. What's disturbing about this behavior is not that Carter opposed war with Iraq. Many Democrats opposed going to war, and they worked within the American system to try to prevent a war that many predicted would be bloody (which it was, for Iraq). But Carter went further than merely lobbying Congress to oppose military action or speaking out in an effort to tilt popular opinion against the coming war. He used his status as a former president to engage in foreign policy, a deliberate effort to subvert the democratic process.
In November 1990, two months after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, Carter wrote a letter to the heads of state of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. He urged the countries to drop their support for Bush's proposed military solution. Instead, as Douglas Brinkley outlines in The Unfinished Presidency, his glowing but not uncritical assessment of Carter's post-presidential years, Carter asked the countries to give "unequivocal support to an Arab League effort" for peace. (As Brinkley notes, Carter's anti-war position conflicted with the Carter Doctrine he had outlined as president: Any "attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such force will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.") Right up to Bush's Jan. 15 deadline for war, Carter continued his shadow foreign policy campaign. On Jan. 10, he wrote the leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria and asked them to oppose the impending military action. "I am distressed by the inability of either the international community or the Arab world to find a diplomatic solution to the Gulf crisis," he wrote. "I urge you to call publicly for a delay in the use of force while Arab leaders seek a peaceful solution to the crisis. You may have to forego approval from the White House, but you will find the French, Soviets, and others fully supportive. Also, most Americans will welcome such a move." Former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft later accused Carter of violating the Logan Act, the law that prohibits American citizens from conducting unofficial foreign policy.
(Carter's) low moment, however, came during the run-up to the Gulf War, when he wrote members of the U.N. Security Council — including Mitterrand’s France and Communist China — urging them to thwart the Bush administration’s effort. Our government found out about it when the Canadian prime minister, Brian Mulroney, called the defense secretary, Dick Cheney, and said, “What the . . .?” Some people actually allowed themselves to utter the word “treason.”
Arabs are heavy-duty funders of the Carter Center, and they get a lot for their money.
No one quite realizes just how passionately anti-Israel Carter is. In the 1990s, Carter became quite close to Yasser Arafat. After the Gulf War, Saudi Arabia was mad at Arafat, because the PLO chief had sided with Saddam Hussein. So Arafat asked Carter to fly to Riyadh to smooth things over with the princes and restore Saudi funding to him — which Carter did.
While in office, Carter hailed Yugoslavia’s Tito as “a man who believes in human rights.” He said of Romania’s barbaric Ceausescu and himself, “Our goals are the same: to have a just system of economics and politics . . . We believe in enhancing human rights.” While out of office, Carter has praised Syria’s late Assad (killer of at least 20,000 in Hama) and the Ethiopian tyrant Mengistu (killer of many more than that). In Haiti, he told the dictator Cédras that he was “ashamed of what my country has done to your country.”
He did even better in North Korea, singing praises to Kim Il Sung, one of the most complete and destructive dictators in history. Said Carter of the “Great Leader,” “I find him to be vigorous, intelligent, surprisingly well informed about the technical issues, and in charge of the decisions about this country” (well, he was absolute ruler). He said, “I don’t see that they [the North Koreans] are an outlaw nation.” Pyongyang, he observed, was a “bustling city,” where shoppers “pack the department stores,” reminding him of the “Wal-Mart in Americus, Georgia.”
How did this man ever become president? What a piece of shit.
From Fox News:
WASHINGTON — President Bush said Monday he believes schools should discuss "intelligent design" alongside evolution when teaching students about the creation of life.
During a round-table interview with reporters from five Texas newspapers, Bush declined to go into detail on his personal views of the origin of life. But he said students should learn about both ideas, Knight Ridder Newspapers reported.
"I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," Bush said. "You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes."
The theory of intelligent design says life on earth is too complex to have developed through evolution, implying that a higher power must have had a hand in creation.
Fortunately, Bush has no power to decide what is taught in the public schools; that's the job of local school boards. But, quite simply, "intelligent design" is not science, it's religion. And it's not a theory, it's an assertion. It's based on the logical fallacy of the "argument from ignorance"; that is, it says "Intelligent design must be true because there's no other way that life could have developed." That's deduction. Science is inductive. You start with the evidence and then develop your theory, rather than starting with your assertion and then looking for evidence to fit it.
And exposing public school students to different schools of thought is only a good idea when each of the different schools of thought has solid support among experts in the field. For example, there are about fourteen different theories on the causes of the First World War, all of which have some support from some historians.
But no legitimate scientist believes in "intelligent design."
I'm not an idealist about pre-university education. I believe its purpose is to prepare people to go to college or vocational school and get a job. Well, if you go to college and study biology, and you give the prof your "intelligent design" catechism on the final exam, you will receive a large F. If you try to get into med school with "intelligent design," they'll have a good laugh over your application before circular-filing it. No laboratory or hospital or university or corporation will hire biologists who believe in "intelligent design".
If you believe God made the world and created life, that's just fine. You can believe that all you want, and I won't complain in the least. But don't dress your faith up as science, and don't insist that other people's kids study your faith. You wouldn't want your kids studying someone else's faith, would you? So let's keep everybody's faith out of the schools.
I would suggest that Mr. Bush quietly drop this subject and say no more about it.
Monday, August 01, 2005
Sunday, July 31, 2005
Was it absolutely necessary to raze two cities populated mostly by children, women, and old people?
Hiroshima was the headquarters of the Japanese Second Army and about 10,000 of the dead were Japanese soldiers.
The bomb had no military justification; the defeat of Japan was a fact and its unconditional surrender was a question of a few months...The new artefact contained a message of world power...whose real addressee was the Soviet Union...The United States wanted to show that it had the bomb and that it was willing to use it without moral reservations, without limits, without the brake of pity. Why did the United States choose the cruelest option?
In summer 1945, American casualties were about 1000 a day, 7000 a week, 30,000 a month. The sooner the war ended, the fewer Americans would die. The American government's goal was therefore quite obviously to end the war as soon as possible, not "in a few months."
Japan was clearly defeated after the battle of Midway in 1942, but was unwilling to surrender. Instead, it fought on for three more years, and it wanted to fight to the death. Japan had 10,000 kamikaze planes, 2,350,000 trained troops, and a civilian militia of 28 million armed with bows and arrows, spears, and muzzle-loading muskets ready to resist the Americans. No Japanese force, not even a single battalion, ever surrendered to the Americans during the whole war until its very end. As late as August 9, 1945, after the bombing of Nagasaki, the Japanese inner cabinet (the "Big Six") was split three-to-three on surrender and Hirohito finally broke the tie. This was the very first time surrender was even considered.
Conventional bombing was not going to make Japan surrender. We had hit their sixty largest cities beginning in February 1945 and pretty much burned them out, and we created a firestorm in Tokyo that killed more than 100,000 people on the night of March 9, 1945, more than either Hiroshima or Nagasaki.
The number of people killed if America had invaded Japan, which it planned to do in two stages, an invasion of Kyushu in November 1945 and then a final assault on Tokyo in March 1946, while the British invaded the Malay Peninsula and retook Malaya and Singapore in November 1945, would have dwarfed the number of victims of the atomic bomb. We now know that the Japanese anticipated the Kyushu invasion and had fourteen divisions on the island. The US military estimated that there would have been 100,000 American casualties in the landings, and these calculations were based on fighting only three Japanese divisions, which is what we thought they had on Kyushu. It's more likely that American casualties would have been on the order of several hundred thousand, and if we had had to invade Honshu, over a million. The American planners assumed that fighting in Japan itself would have been like fighting on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the most horrible battles fought in modern history. At Okinawa we lost 12,500 dead and the Japanese lost 185,000 dead, half civilians. More than a million Japanese would certainly have been killed in an American invasion.
Meanwhile, the Americans had wiped out Japan's merchant fleet, as the Japanese had no concept of submarine warfare. And what we learned in Germany, after years of trial and error, is that the best bombing targets are railroad junctions. The plan was to hit a dozen key bridges and about fifty key railway yards and junctions along the Pacific coast of Honshu and destroy Japan's capacity to transport food. Tokyo, for example, produced only 3% of the food it needed. With no ships or trains to deliver food, literally millions of Japanese civilians would have died within a few weeks--they were already down to rations of fewer than 1500 calories a day--and the country would have been completely destroyed. And we were planning to use chemical warfare on their rice crop, if necessary, as well as poison gas. There would be no Japan today.
As for charges that the Americans were trying to scare the Soviets, the answer is quite simply no. They were trying to put an end to the war. The Soviets already knew we had the atomic bomb, as the Klaus Fuchs spy ring had kept Stalin informed.
To quote Richard Frank, "The atomic bomb was the least abhorrent choice." And to quote Paul Fussell, "Thank God for the atom bomb."
I'm not sure whether Carter is evil or just extremely stupid. I think both, but that's just me.
You think this guy is pro-democracy and anti-terrorist? I certainly don't. As a matter of fact, I think he is despicable. And I am amazed that he didn't fuck up our country a lot more than he managed to do.
Possibly the greatest thing that happened in American history after the victory in World War II was Reagan's defeat of Carter in the 1980 election, when the American people convincingly repudiated the weak and irresponsible Carter. As an incumbent President, he was only able to swing 44% of the vote, the most pathetic showing for an incumbent since William Howard Taft had to run against both Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson in 1912.
Look at these very recent quotes from Carter.
BIRMINGHAM, England — Former President Jimmy Carter said Saturday the detention of terror suspects at the Guantanamo Bay Naval base was an embarrassment and had given extremists an excuse to attack the United States.
Carter also criticized the U.S.-led war in Iraq as "unnecessary and unjust."
"I think what's going on in Guantanamo Bay and other places is a disgrace to the U.S.A.," he told a news conference at the Baptist World Alliance's centenary conference in Birmingham, England.
"I wouldn't say it's the cause of terrorism, but it has given impetus and excuses to potential terrorists to lash out at our country and justify their despicable acts."
"What has happened at Guantanamo Bay ... does not represent the will of the American people," Carter said. "I'm embarrassed about it, I think its wrong. I think it does give terrorists an unwarranted excuse to use the despicable means to hurt innocent people."
Carter, who won the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, has been an outspoken critic of the Iraq war.
"I thought then, and I think now, that the invasion of Iraq was unnecessary and unjust. And I think the premises on which it was launched were false," he said Saturday.
Gee, I dunno, but that sounds like sabotaging the war effort to me, not to mention insulting the President, the Congress, and the military. By far the worst thing, of course, is calling the President a liar with zero evidence. Sounds like Jimmy wants America to lose. Typical. What a piece of shit Carter is.
By the way, I figure that winning the Nobel prize for Peace or Literature is an excellent sign that you are a complete asshole. If you can't find anyone better to honor than Jimmy Carter, Dario Fo, Jose Saramago, Rigoberta Menchu, or that dumb Costa Rican president, whoever he was, it's clear that the point is giving out money to leftists rather than actually honoring people who have made a contribution.
If I ever meet Carter I'll spit in his face, and he's probably too much of a pussy to take a swing at me. If he does I'll deck him and I hope they charge me with assault because that would give me a platform to prove in court that the bastard is a traitor. He is forty years older than me and it wouldn't be a fair fight, but who cares when it's Jimmy Carter. Of course, his bodyguards will drag me away, but it'll be worth it.
Saturday, July 30, 2005
I am shocked, disgusted, sickened, and angered.
These poor kids were hanged just for being homosexual. What a miscarriage of justice.
The Europeans constantly bash the Americans for executing some murderers, though they don't seem too outraged when Japan or India or Thailand or Malaysia or Jamaica or the Philippines(all democracies) does the same thing, and it's been years since I read a complaint about the way the Communist Chinese dictatorship hands out death sentences like they were popcorn. They spend pages and pages of newsprint calling us evil for toasting Ted Bundy and his ilk. And we're even worse because we very occasionally fry some bastard who did his evil deed while under 18.
Where is the European anger at this atrocity? The Iranian government hanged two kids under 18, not for murder, but for playing with one another's penises. Where is the outrage? Where are the calls for international sanctions against Iran? Where are the calls for the overthrow of such an evil regime?
The answer is there isn't any. They're saving it all up for the next time the Americans kill some terrorists. The difference in the number of pages in the Spanish press devoted to the poor Brazilian who was shot by the police in London and the two boys hanged in Iran is 100 to one. The difference in the rage shown against Middle Eastern crimes against humanity and Western attempts at self-defense is 1000 to one. Even after the Islamists murdered 192 people here in Spain just seventeen months ago.
I can't wait until Mumia Abu-Jamal has his date with the executioner. La Vanguardia will undoubtedly publish a special edition.
The Europeans are a bunch of fucking hypocrites, and the Spanish press is the worst.
Al Qaeda and Islamist national-fundamentalism must be destroyed.
Meanwhile, if you're an investor, here's where you ought to put your money. As soon as I get some this is where I'm going to put it.
Friday, July 29, 2005
Veteran reporter Helen Thomas, the "dean of the White House press corps," says she would not be able to live if Vice President Cheney were to run for the highest office.
"The day I say Dick Cheney is going to run for president, I'll kill myself," she told The Hill newspaper. "All we need is one more liar."
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
My mother's father's family comes from Bukovina in the old Austrian Empire and from Berlin. They're 100% German. The Berlin branch left town in 1848, showed up in Rock Island, Illinois, and then moved out to Ellis County in western Kansas. I assume their leaving had something to do with the 1848 revolution. There they met up with the Bukovina branch, who had originally come from Wurttemberg in southern Germany and moved out to Bukovina, now divided between Romania and Ukraine, in the early 1700s when it was part of the Austrian Military Frontier. That was mostly vacant land recently conquered from the Turks and repopulated with people from all over the old Hapsburg empire. The Bukovinians didn't get to Kansas until 1888. Those are the most recently immigrated ancestors we have.
My mother's mother's family were probably more victimized than victimizers. Half of them were poor white folks from Mississippi who moved out to West Texas after the Civil War. My I think great-great grandfather was a buck private in the Confederate army and got shot in the ankle at Antietam/Sharpsburg (in fighting near the Dunker church, for you Civil War buffs). He survived and then went AWOL, though it was cleared up and he was discharged. He was a soldier, no perpetrator of atrocities. The rest of the family were Cherokee. They show up in Cherokee lands in Alabama in the 1830s, and they got deported west. Most of the family wound up in Oklahoma, but our ancestor went to West Texas where he met up with the Confederate soldier's daughter.
The Cherokees' story is particularly poignant. What happened is that a man called Balljack Shoemake, who was a white frontiersman, married a Cherokee woman and had five children. All of them are known only by Cherokee names. The Cherokee woman died and her children were later deported west. No one knows what happened to them. They probably died. Balljack then married a woman named Annie Bone, who was either full Cherokee or half Cherokee, who had a son by a previous liaison, and Balljack adopted the son and gave him his surname. We are descended from the son and not from Balljack. He could have been as much as full Cherokee or as little as one-quarter. Of the son's children, most went to Oklahoma, probably not voluntarily, along with Balljack's half-Cherokee children by his previous marriage.
As for my father's family, they probably came out of Virginia and North Carolina, and they show up in central Tennessee in about the 1820s, specifically in the town of Shelbyville. At least some of these people had some money; my great-great grandfather, John Alexander Stuart Shannon, was a miller and owned a few slaves. He was an officer in the Confederate army. As far as I know he was never in combat, and he was discharged in 1862 as millers were necessary workers. I'm not going to blame this guy, either. He did what was done in his society. He was a low-level leader, not from the ruling class.
The family went west to Lamar County, Texas, after the Civil War. You have to remember that Lamar County is a lot more like Oklahoma than it is like most of Texas. It was frontier territory during the late 1800s, only fifteen miles away from Indian Territory, which didn't become the state of Oklahoma until 1907. There aren't too many black people there; Lamar County's not the Deep South. They grew some cotton there, but it was marginal cotton land, and it's mostly been taken over by ranching now. What Lamar County is is hillbilly highland South. Nobody who's not from there has moved there in the last hundred years, unless they come from one of the even crappier next-door counties of Red River and Delta, and this means everybody from there is from Tennessee and Kentucky. British. Specifically, Scotch-Irish, Ulster Protestants.
Another thing hillbillies were was fanatically anti-black. They were not rich, and they despised blacks. The middle and upper classes in the South were racist, too, but rather benignly most of the time, if that's possible. Or at least not horrifically so. The hillbillies committed maybe three-quarters of the about 5000 lynchings that happened in America between the Civil War and the 1950s; the other quarter probably had the approval of the local middle and maybe even upper classes.
The difference between the two types of lynching is that the "condoned by the society of the time" kind were generally akin to vigilante actions. They occurred all over the country except New England, more frequently in the West and Southwest. More of their victims were white rather than black, and all of them were believed to be guilty of heinous crimes by what were then considered respectable people. (Of course probably some were innocent.) The executions were carried out without unusual cruelty in an orderly manner. The leaders were persons of some substance and influence in the community. There are several cases of black-on-black lynchings, in which black community leaders lynched other blacks who were thought to have committed heinous crimes. As late as 1933 there was a notorious lynching in San Jose, California, of two white kidnap-murderers. I am certainly not condoning this kind of lynching, but worse things have happened in frontier communities.
Like "hillbilly" lynchings. The "hillbilly" kind were different. They almost always happened in the South, more often in the highlands than in the Deep South. The victim was almost always black. He was usually thought by the mob to be guilty of some crime, but not always, and often the crime was being "uppity" or "disrespecting a white woman". He was generally killed quite horribly.
People in Paris, Texas, the seat of Lamar County, are and were mostly hillbillies. The weird Lamar County thing is that the local upper and middle classes weren't too far removed socially from the hillbillies, and so Lamar County lynchings combined the planning of an organized lynching and the cruelty of a hillbilly lynching. They were spectacularly atrocious events, and they had eleven of them.
These are the atrocities our people were in. Have a look at this local newspaper squib from 1932 about important events in county history. The boldface is mine.
Important Dates in the History of Paris, TX
Taken from Backward Glances by Alexander White Neville, Volume Two, edited by Skipper Steely - Column dated March 15, 1932
HERE are some facts that will serve to settle arguments that sometimes arise. I have from time to time been called on to give several of these dates. I have documentary evidence of each and they are not based on my memory.
The coldest officially recorded weather in Paris was Sunday, February 12, 1899. At 7:30 that morning it stood at 14 below zero on a private thermometer, which later was found to register one degree higher than the government Instrument. It had reached zero at 8 o'clock Saturday night.
Henry Smith, negro, was burned by the people of Paris the afternoon of Wednesday, February 1, 1893. The crime for which he died was committed the night of Thursday, January 28.
The first great fire in Parts was on Friday, August 31, 1877, beginning about noon. The second began Tuesday, March 21, 1916, about 5 o'clock in this afternoon and burned about twelve hours. Yet another devastating fire occurred on April 27, 1896.
Organization of Lamar county was authorized by act of Texas Congress December 17, 1840, and organization was made early in 1841, the first court being hold in George Wright's store house 1n the present corporate limits of Paris February 22, 1841.
John A. Rutherford was the first presiding or county judge (1841-45) William Brown was the first sheriff (1841-44) and John R. Craddock the first county clerk (1841-52.) The first court house, a frame structure, was built at Lafayette, about three miles northwest of Paris, in 1841. Court site was moved to Mount Vernon. about six miles south of Paris, in 1843 and to what afterwards became Paris, in 1845.
The first brick court house in Paris was built by Epps Gibbons and Claiborne Chisum in the center of the square, 1846-47.
The first store was kept by James Johnson, near where 1s now the corner of South Main and Sherman streets. George Wright had his soon after near where is now the northwest corner of the Plaza.
Claiborne Chisum's residence was the first in what is now the corporate limits of Paris, but George Wright's was the first in the first corporate limits.
The first marriage license was issued February 28, 1841, to John C. Bates and Mrs. Nancy O'Neal and executed March 28, 1841 by Willard Stowell, justice of the peace.
Lamar county voted for prohibition in August, 1904 and delay in the courts prevented closing of the saloons until the latter part of April, 1906.
Clip and preserve this--it will settle an argument sometime.
Yeah. The argument it settles is whether Lamar County was a very sick society or not. I'm amazed that it's gotten so much better in so little time. It's still pretty racist and pretty redneck, and the local poor whites are as bad as poor whites can get, but it's not an awful place anymore like it was then. Its redeeming qualities have become much more visible than they were then.
He's one more victim of Islamist terrorism.
The cops are on maximum alert because of the July 7 bombings and then the failed attempts of last week. They are tense and nervous and under orders to shoot to kill. Especially in the tube, since it's clearly the main terrorist target.
I don't blame the cops for shooting the guy. He looked suspicious and then took off running. If he were really a bomber he might have killed hundreds of people.
Here's the problem. Cops shouldn't have to worry that suspicious-looking people are mass murderers. In the old days, suspicious-looking people were maybe gangsters or thieves or dope dealers and the cops didn't have to worry that if they didn't get them, it might result in mass murder. So they didn't shoot if the guy was trying to get away unless he did something like pull a knife.
It was the Islamist terrorists who created the situation in which the police have to shoot to kill.
Minor point of order: The Spanish press has been full of articles calling the Americans paranoid and living in fear and panic ever since 9-11. It has also been full of articles praising the famous British pluck in the wake of 7-7.
I don't remember the American cops blowing away any suspected terrorists who turned out to be innocent in the middle of the New York subway, though. It seems to me that the climate in Britain is intense right now, much more so than it ever was in Kansas City or Tennessee or Texas. Maybe not in New York, I don't know anything about New York. This is not a slam on the British, of course. We all hate and fear terrorism.
Al Qaeda must be destroyed.
Monday, July 25, 2005
Friday, July 22, 2005
1) The Socialists are incompetent, but then we knew that. No matter how incompetent they are, however, there's a limit to how badly they can screw things up. First, Spain is still in the middle of a huge economic boom. Spain is Europe's Sunbelt. Good weather, comparatively cheap labor and land costs, educated workforce, tourist attractions, high-value agricultural exports, pretty good light industry and construction sectors. There's no way they can stop Spain from growing unless they do something dumb like renationalizing the phone company, which even the PSOE isn't going to do. Second, Spain is part of the EU for better or for worse, and I think generally for the better. What this means is there's a limit to what the government can do before Brussels calls it on the carpet and says the budget's out of whack or whatever.
2) The PSOE is weak on several fronts. The most important values held by the majority of Spaniards, and I don't mean hip Barcelona urbanites, are, more or less in this order: family, security, equality, solidarity, Spain as a nation, the Church. The PP has very intelligently been hammering on most of these issues. In about May they organized three large demonstrations. They were 1) against government negotiations with ETA, 2) against sending part of the Civil War archives to Salamanca, and 3) against gay marriage.
These demos were good for appealing to the PP's base voters. The problems that most people see with negotiating with ETA are a) why negotiate, they're losing and b) what they want is for their prisoners to be let out of jail. They'll compromise on everything else. Well, most Spaniards are against turning their prisoners loose, and the PP needs to keep hitting this issue hard. It appeals to the security and Spain values and also to family, as the PP has been successful in framing the ETA issue in the context of the victims of ETA terrorism and justice to them.
The Civil War archives issue is a red herring, completely meaningless. A big deal has been made over whether Catalan regional government papers from the Civil War archive should stay with the rest of the archive in Salamanca or be transferred to Catalonia. The Cataloonies made a big deal out of this, and the rest of Spain decided they were a bunch of jerks and this was a symbolic issue that was worth making a stand on. The Cataloonies have made themselves so unpopular everywhere else in the country that anything they're for, everyone else is automatically against. The PP does well in appealing to the Spain value.
As for gay marriage, a lot of people are against it. The PP again does well in appealing to the family and Church values.
Other issues I would hammer on are: Abortion. That's a major Church and family value, and the fact is the abortion law is regularly broken here. Abortion is only legal in Spain in case of rape, incest, an abnormal fetus, or danger to the woman's health. The problem is the abortion clinics will certify any abortion as necessary for the woman's health, so the law is regularly flouted. I would bring this issue up.
Immigration. It's unpopular, but we need at least some, and opposing it not only looks bad but is counterproductive in the long run. What we do is support immigration, but make a big deal about how we love the majority of immigrants who come here to work and to integrate themselves more or less into Spanish society. And we slam the hell out of the minority of immigrants who come here to do crimes, and we slam the Socialist administration for not deporting them. This way we look liberal for supporting the decent immigrants and tough for wanting to lock up the criminals. In fact, the crime issue is also always a root value. Everybody's for law and order, and there's way too much street crime now. Pound on both of these issues. Hard. Support mandatory prison for everyone who commits a violent crime. Appeal to the family values people by declaring we want to make this especially true for domestic abusers, which we of course would like to do.
Housing. That's seen as a major problem. It's not an emotional issue. What I would do is come up with some kind of housing plan that would make it easier and cheaper for municipalities to license housing starts and thus increase the supply. This is the issue you can use to show you're respectable and have a responsible program. Gotta appeal to the voters who imagine they don't vote on emotional issues.
Schools. They're going straight to hell and have been ever since the Socialist "reforma" of the mid-'90s. What pretty much everybody, especially the teachers, wants is to go back to the basics. This is a family and solidarity issue, and everybody's always in favor of the children. Run on a conservative education platform, promising to actually teach the kids to read and do math. That'll also look responsible. Support Church schools. That'll get them on your side, and besides they're generally better than the public schools. As far as religion classes in the public schools, make it look like it's a big deal that you'll compromise and allow it to be an optional subject rather than obligatory; in exchange demand that it count for the students' grade average. That ought to make everyone happy.
Islamist terrorism. Get a plan together right now for how we're going to deal with it when Al Qaeda bombs something else in Spain, which I'm afraid they will sometime before 2008. Islamist terrorism is one thing everybody's against. We should be able to blame it on the Socialists just like the Socialists blamed us for the last one. If for some reason it doesn't happen, which we all of course hope, then we just stow the plan and avoid the issue. If there is some kind of success by the government against terrorism, we credit the police, who are the ones who actually did the work in the first place.
AVOID a) foreign policy. Spain's anti-American. When the PP is challenged, profess no deep love for the Americans but stress it is necessary for Spain to be friendly with America as a practical matter. Call the Socialists incompetent but don't look like you're in bed with the gringos. b) the March 11 bombings. Stop refighting the past. That is actually the only thing the voters like about Zap. They supported the pullout from Iraq and they're not going to change their minds. Let the whole thing be swept under the rug. We lost that battle. Think about winning the next one. c) Bringing back memories of Aznar. He was an excellent prime minister, and also highly unpopular personally. Nobody liked him except us. Stop making a big deal about him. Don't disassociate ourselves from him, that would be wrong, but let's not intentionally bring him up. d) Getting bitter and angry at the Socialists. Yeah, we hate them, and we think they stole the last election from us unfairly, but the public does not like constant negativism. Let that slide.
EXCEPT: When the Socialists screw up massively in administration questions. The example is the furor over the oil tanker Prestige that sank off the Galician coast a couple of years ago. The Aznar administration had to make a quick decision and chose to tow the sinking tanker away from the coast, which might well have been the wrong choice, but it's rather unsporting to second-guess a crisis decision, which the PSOE did very successfully, as if it were the PP's fault the ship sank.
Well, we blast them on this. They've already had two major screwups, the subway tunnel in Barcelona that collapsed, leaving dozens of families homeless, and now the Guadalajara fire that killed eleven volunteer firemen. Second-guess the hell out of them on both these issues and don't let up. In fact, bring up the subway tunnel at every opportunity. This one is especially fun because the Socialists, in alliance with the Communists and ERC, have been running Barcelona since 1978 and anything that goes wrong can easily be blamed on them. As a matter of fact, I would bring up a third disaster, the Barcelona Forum, and hammer them with that, too.
Now. The next municipal and regional elections are in 2007 and the next national election is in 2008. That means we have plenty of time. We have the advantage that there is no responsible party on our right. In fact, I would intentionally make a big deal about totally disowning far-right movements like the Plataforma per Catalunya. We avoid being outflanked on the right by making it clear that anyone to our right is untrustworthy and undemocratic.
So strategy is to continue along with nailing down the right-wing base for at least the next year. Don't let up and hit them hard with the basic issues. Make sure all your core voters are going to come out. Then move toward the center and pick up the disgusted swing voters, of whom there will be plenty.
Part of our problem is image. Our least popular leaders are Acebes and Zaplana. They're attack dogs. Only the base likes them. Keep using them while we're still riding the right wing hard, since they keep the core voters fired up. But when we swing center sometime in 2007, get rid of them. Well, no, don't just kick them out, they've been loyal, but they have to drop out of sight for the campaign. Center voters hate these guys.