Comforting the comfortable, afflicting the afflicted, and speaking power to truth.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
We need new definitions for "Liberal" and "Conservative". The traditional definitions don't seem to mean much; we have "liberals" working for balanced budgets and "conservatives" pushing overseas military interventions.
The best current definition I've heard is
- Liberals move wealth *down* the wealth pyramid.
- Conservatives move wealth *up* the wealth pyramid.
Interestingly enough, the "wealth pyramid" seems to be such a part of the common culture that there doesn't seem to be a readily available description of it. Someone should do a Wikipedia entry.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
So McCain is billing himself as "the original maverick". Uhh ... no. A "maverick" is supposed to be independent. When has McCain ever voted against Georgie? On anything? I don't remember any. He has mildly criticized a couple of things that Georgie did, but when the time to vote came, he was right there. When he was there at all -- McCain has the worst attendance record in the Senate.
Besides, those of us Of A Certain Age know the real "original Maverick" -- as played by James Garner.
Does McCain really want to identify himself with a professional gambler with no fixed address and dubious morals? The pic shows Bret Maverick gambling, with a gun and money on the table. Maybe this really is the "maverick" that McCain thinks we want. Unfortunately, McCain lacks Bret Maverick's intelligence, charm, morals, and sense of humor.
The most important thing, of course, is that Bret Maverick is a fictional character. He always won (or at least survived) because the writers wrote the script that way. Those of us in what is laughingly called "the real world" don't have that advantage.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
liz_marcs went digging for some references to "the stuff everybody knows" and got a surprise. No, "everybody" doesn't know it. Not even professional historians. Things drop into the cracks; folks don't like to admit, even (or especially!) to themselves, things they've done in bad situations.
In this case, it's a holocaust story. There was a brothel at Auschwitz, with women taken from the camps. Supposedly, the Nazis stocked it only with non-Jewish women. liz_marcs' story was an account of a Jewish woman who was forced to work in the brothel. Seems simple enough; the inmates of the camps were mostly Jewish, so it would make sense to take the women that they already had. Apparently, the Nazis not having Jewish women in the brothels is a big point for some.
Anything touching the Holocaust is so loaded with emotion that it's hard to deal with. A few years back, I saw an emotional on-line argument about the Nazis' use of diesel engines to produce carbon monoxide to kill Jews. Diesel engines supposedly don't produce enough CO to be deadly. Nobody brought up the obvious answer (and No Way was I going to post anything to that site!) — whoever reported the diesel engines wasn't an automotive engineer. Unfortunately, anybody who suggested the tiniest change in the Official Story (ie, perhaps they were actually gasoline engines?) was accused of being a Holocaust denier. I can't figure out Holocaust deniers — where do they think the Jews (and Gypsies, etc.) went? Flying saucers? Pellucidar?
The first step in "the scientific method" is "Observe. Gather data. Measure." If we let "what we wished we did" replace "what really happened", we pollute our data. Any conclusion based on polluted data is questionable, at best. Stories like liz_marcs' are tiny pieces of the large and very ugly picture that is the Twentieth Century. Soon, there won't be any more Holocaust survivors or WWII veterans, and all we'll have is their stories. Yes, memory is unreliable, but it's all we have. Put together enough stories and hopefully, the inaccurate parts will cancel each other out. WWI, Nazism, Communism — we don't want to go through anything like that, ever again. We need know, first, just what did happen.
A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.
— Joseph Stalin
It's easy to gather statistics — This many dead, that many wounded, so many buildings destroyed. Stories like liz_marcs' drag us out of the realm of statistics and back into the realm of tragedy. Consider what was going through the mind of Interesująca Kobieta, who had plenty of food, plenty of soap and water, cosmetics and perfume, watching the thousands in the camp being marched off to their deaths, and knowing that she could rejoin them any time she didn't satisfy a Nazi officer. I simply can't imagine it. I'd think that this would be far worse torture than anything physical the Nazis could have done to her.
Jews ask themselves "What did we do wrong?"
And the answer that comes back is the most terrifying one possible:
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
I've mentioned this film before; unfortunately, the link I used is dead. Fortunately, it's back. The title is Don't Be a Sucker. It was made by the War Department in 1947, and it's about as subtle as a jackboot in the face. It starts out like one of those embarrassingly awful "avoid card sharks and attractive women in bars" films, and morphs ...
It's still the best film on what we now call "diversity" I've ever seen. Go watch; it's about 17.5 minutes long.
Wired magazine has a poll to find "The Greatest Self-Promoter of All Time". Most nominations went to familiar media figures like Donald Trump and Paris Hilton. I nominated Ahmed Chalabi, as the guy who talked the Bush administration into invading Iraq.
Self-promoter? Con man? Whatever.
"Put me in charge of Iraq" he said "The Iraqi people will acclaim me as their leader, and I will turn Iraq into a true paradise of Democracy, give the US all the military bases it wants, sell off Iraq's oil, and recognize Israel."
So we did. And we found that his description of his popularity was, ahem, a bit exaggerated. The vast majority of Iraqis had never heard of him, and those who had, hated his guts.
And here we are, five years later, with an unwinnable quagmire. Near as I can tell, there are no good answers.
According to Brigadier General Mark Scheid *, Donald Rumsfeld told his strategy group to stop working on plans for the Iraqi occupation -- and he'd fire anybody he caught working on them. Now, with the military, this means that somebody else is working on it, and that those particular people didn't have a "need to know". Nothing sinister, just standard OPSEC.
But we've never seen any evidence for any planning. Supposedly the State Department had been working on plans for occupying Iraq for years. They were trashcanned as "not suitable". All we saw was "everybody sit down and don't move until we have this figured out". They did, however, manage to guard the oil ministry. Figures.
And that lack of planning is, IMHO, the biggest war crime of the whole Iraq mess. There comes a point where stupidity becomes criminal, and this is 'way past that point.
There's an old saying that "you can't swindle an honest man." Your friendly average swindler plays on one of the great human desires -- the desire to get in on the inside of a crooked game. Chalabi told the Administration exactly what they wanted to hear, and they fell for it like a ton of bricks. Makes those guys in Nigeria look like rank amateurs.
* I couldn't find an original source, so the link is to a moderately right- of- center blog run by some very well respected legal types. It's a sad commentary on current journalism that blogs are a better resource than the mainstream media for historical (2005) information.
Friday, June 29, 2007
Thursday, June 28, 2007
It's always fun to check out the Site Meter stats (icon at the bottom of the page). Since I've been inactive for the last couple of years, most of the visits I've had are people looking for something else. I wrote about this in Referral, where somebody was looking for "pocket sized witch detectors". I still have no idea what they were after.
Far and away the most common search that's finding me is for "household explosives". The searches find "What's Your Household Like?", which is almost certainly not what they're looking for.
I suspect that the folks doing the searches are looking to make explosives out of stuff they already have lying around. The one comment on the post suggests this. Folks, if you're thinking of trying this. one word of advice. Don't