The Last Post
The blog is dead! Long live the new blog
See ya there.
I just had a weird experience at the BBC website. (Yes, I know, is there any other kind?) While looking for their coverage of the Hutton report, I clicked on a link from their main page that had the text "BBC chief 'was sacked'". On the story page
, the headline was "Dyke 'sacked' by BBC governors". Scare quotes are from the original text. The main point of the story, however, wasn't that Greg Dyke was 'sacked', but that he offered to resign if Dyke didn't have the "full support" of the board. After a discussion, the board "suggested" that he leave.
Now as everyone who's been around knows, technical differences between quitting and getting fired, to use my national vernacular, can get downright murky, and quite often, an offer to resign is actually a request not to get fired, while admitting mistakes were made and that being fired wouldn't be a consequence that was out of line. Plus, it gives the firee the opportunity to protect his reputation and resume. So far so good. Dyke offered to resign, hoping that it didn't have to come to that, and the board took him up on his offer. A situation much like a Scotsman offering to pick up a check and finding himself chagrined when the offer is accepted. Whoah, when did this site begin engaging in cheap ethnic stereotyping?
Calm down, it's a joke (and a really bad one). If it's not Scottish, it's crap!
But here's the thing. The BBC use of scare quotes around what they consider dubious propositions, such as 'terrorists' or even, on at least one occasion
, a rather concrete concept such as 'dead', has always had one inherent defense: that the quotes aren't ironic quotes, but rather actual quotes, meaning that the BBC is quoting someone who uttered what's between the quote marks.
But nowhere in the article titled "Dyke 'sacked' by BBC governors" and linked to from the front page by the text "BBC chief 'was sacked'" is anyone quoted as saying 'sacked'. I played the video associated with the article and no one says it there either. Hmm.
It seems to me that the BBC can't rely on the quoting excuse to use scare quotes if no one actually said what the BBC's "quoting". I was thinking about posting on this picayune issue yet again because it proved that the scare quotes were in fact ironic and not actual quotes, belying the BBC's claim of straight reporting of facts without political considerations coloring (or colouring) their reporting. Then I thought, eh, the BBC's in quite a bit of trouble anyway. The BBC's concern with this minor issue would be as a Scotsman concerned that his kilt was of the wrong clan when it was 10 below outside and he had no pants. Hey!
So just when I was deciding not to post about this (a not posting trend which has gone on for several weeks, my half dozen regular readers will have noticed), for some reason I refreshed the article page and immediately saw that the story's headline had been changed to "Dyke forced out by BBC governors".
Ah, so someone, either inside or outside, must have noticed that their scare quote rationalization rules had been violated and a change was made. What this tells me is that they generate the scare quotes as ironic quotes when they are in the mood, and haphazardly rely on someone having actually said the thing to intrinsically justify them. After all, it's not unusual that a Bush admin release will use the word "terrorists". Or that the Pentagon might say "dead".
Oppositey-like, it also demonstrates that the BBC does not
get their ironical, dubious, so-some-mentally-ill-people-believe quotes from actual quotes, because there is no such quote in the article. Nor anything close. The headlines, scare quotes and all, come from headline writers whose choice of what to ironically quote represents their own views of what's ironic, or dubious.
Some 15 or so minutes later, the link from the front page had been changed to "BBC chief 'was forced out'". Though I have to say that no one is quoted as saying 'was forced out'. They'll no doubt change this when they notice it.
BBC Take 1
BBC Take 2
You Are in I-O-WayYou really ought to give Iowa
Dubuque, Des Moines, Davenport, Marshalltown, Mason City, Keokuk, Ames, Clear Lake
Ought to give Iowa a try!
Tings is heating up, mon. (To radically switch cultural references.)
Looks like a tightening three-way race in Iowa. Or something. Dean seems to have lost his Big Mo. Boring candidates are right on his heals. Yawn.
The interesting thing is Clark's rise in the polls in New Hampshire with his simultaneous sowing of seeds of his own self-destruction there. (He skipped Iowa to concentrate on NH.) Clark is a truly terrible candidate. I don't mean that he'd make a poor president; I happen to think that he would but that's not my point here. I mean he's just a lousy candidate. Kooky. Makes Dean look presidential. Kucinich could conceivably roll his eyes at Clark's statements. He's not even looking like a viable VP at this point. Mary, help!
It appears Iowa and New Hampshire will come and go leaving no obvious front-runner. That's a bit surprising given Dean's last 4 months or so. (By the way, don't hold me to that.)
Update: Oops, that's a four-way heat. Although I don't see, given Gephardt's low poll numbers in NH, how he has any chance there regardless of how well he does in Iowa. Anyway.
I'll have the beers ready by the TV tonight to watch the results by. It's like the NFL play-offs for us news junkies (and no pre-emption of The Simpsons too).
Meet the New Year
So it's a new year. It's one of those years divisible by four, giving us the bounty of an additional day, the Summer Olympics, and a US Presidential election. The extra day is ok (but why couldn't it have been in the summer- who needs an extra day in winter?) The Olympics are boring- and I know- I was in Atlanta in '96. But it looks like it'll be a take-no-prisoners election. That means fun! Start practicing your chad-punching now! Don't wait 'til election day. Foreign readers of this blog who are otherwise left out are invited to illegally contribute to the Democrats and then publicize the fact. (Although Aliens for Kucinich is probably redundant.)
Will this be the year we finally take on the Saudi entity? My worthless prediction is yes! Will reality TV start its inevitable wane? My worthless prediction is yes! Will the Gallic entity collapse into a soupy miasma of alternative polism, fascism, and brie? Answer cloudy- ask again later.
Happy New Year!
Soldier's Funeral, Texas StyleThis
will bring a tear to your eye. There are several large photos, so be patient. (Via Davids Medienkritik
Must See TV
Was watching NBC news' coverage of the Saddam capture for about half an hour this morning. A few phrases uttered about 15 minutes apart caught my attention. Tom Brokaw, describing Saddam's later days in office, mentioned some opinion that Saddam didn't have strong day-to-day control of the government- that he was paying more attention to his novels, "famous or infamous, depending on your point of view."
A little later, in a taped report that recapped the fall of Saddam over the last year or so, a reporter whose name I didn't catch mentioned that Saddam was the ace of spades on the "infamous deck of cards." No nod to alternate points of view this time.
This is no expose of NBC news. I just found it grating.
Merriam-Webster online defines "infamous"
1 : having a reputation of the worst kind
2 : causing or bringing infamy : DISGRACEFUL
3 : convicted of an offense bringing infamy
"We Got Him"
: "It might be seized upon by the prime minister as something to laugh about, but I very much doubt if it will be the last laugh, because the truth is the country was taken into the war on the basis of a lie.
"This will not stop the Iraqi resistance... if anything, it may set the resistance free, if you like, from the cloud of Saddam Hussein, and transform it into a purely national resistance movement without the charge that it's being controlled from behind by the deposed president."
Michelle Mauriere, Leipzig, Germany
: "It's good that it's clarified where Saddam Hussein is now. But I do not hope that people forget now that George W. Bush has lead the world into a war without proof of WMD and a connection to Osama bin Laden. What Bush did was wrong. And Americans need to remember that next year when the presidential elections take place."
: "It's a major event that should strongly contribute to democracy and stability in Iraq and allow the Iraqis to master their destiny in a sovereign Iraq." (Via spokesperson.)
Derek Haslam, South Shields
: "Great! Now some stability might return to Iraq. While they put him on trial for war crimes, they can put Blair and Bush on trial too. Lets not forget they waged an unprovoked war of aggression without a UN mandate, and they lied to their electorate regarding the 'Intelligence!'"
: "It's with great delight that I learned of Saddam Hussein's capture. I congratulate you on this successful operation.
"Saddam Hussein caused horrible suffering to his people and the region. I hope the capture will help the international community's effort to rebuild and stabilise Iraq. "
: "Aside from the questionable justifications for going into Iraq, now Saddam is captured he must be seen to be tried in a completely fair and open manner, with full cooperation from Muslim countries and the UN, for his horrendous endless catalogue of base atrocities against the swathes of helpless humanity that he viciously terrorised with his foul offspring, including the Northern Kurds, his own people, Kuwaitis and the Iranians for war crimes, and also Israel for the firing of Scuds in 1991. Anything that smacks of a show trial by the US will work in favour of this monstrous product of human shame."
: "This is a great opportunity for the United States to get it right." "But I also know that if we had done this with a sufficient number of troops, if we had done this in a globalized way, if we had brought more people to the table, we might have caught Saddam Hussein sooner." (Fox News Sunday)
The Reality Dysfunction
Steven Den Beste has posted a rant
about the familiar absence of objectivity from the likes of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The particular instance he commented on is the just-released Human Rights Watch report on the war in Iraq. You know the drill- they report that US has committed so many war crimes and human rights violations, while giving short shrift to actually evil countries, like Saddam-controlled Iraq.
Den Beste came up with five reasons why he thinks this is so (and I largely agree). But the third reason is what he calls compassionate racism
and he quotes a post of his from two years ago, shortly after 9/11:
The philosophic justification for the "root causes" argument that we've heard so much about is the idea that the people who attacked us were motivated by what we ourselves had done to them earlier. But it goes deeper than that: if we are responsible, then they cannot be. And that can only be because they are not capable of being responsible. They are not truly adults; they are children or beasts who respond to conditions in predictable ways. We do not hold children to the same standard of responsibility as we hold adults, and these racists don't hold the people of the world to those standards either.
If by our acts we brought this tragedy upon ourselves, then had we acted differently we would not have. Which means that we have a paternalistic obligation to control how everyone else in the world behaves, through our acts towards them. They will merely react to us; all responsibility is here. We are the only moral thinking people on earth and thus the only ones who can sin. If we can only bring ourselves to be sufficiently kind and generous to them, then they will live good lives. They are innocent, they cannot know sin, for they are not sufficiently sophisticated to do so. They are less than we are.
This is deeply loving and compassionate chauvinistic contempt.
And he concludes, "Even if Saddam and his government committed massive atrocities, wogs like him aren't expected to live up to the same standards as real humans do."
Den Beste does not provide a reason why leftists tend towards chauvinistic contempt
, or in the more common formulation, the soft bigotry of low expectations
, which I suggest is synonymous. I think I have some insight on this matter. Back in January, I posted From Multiculturalism to Anti-Americanism in Six Easy Steps
. Please read it if you haven't, but if you can't be bothered, here are the six steps:
1. We Cannot Judge Other Cultures
2. Therefore, All Cultures Are Equally Good
3. If Another Society Is Seen to Have Problems, It Cannot be Because of the Local Culture
4. Therefore, the Problem Must Have an External Origin
5. We Can Judge Western Culture, and it Obviously has Many Problems
6. Therefore, If Another Society Is Shown to Have Problems, it Must be Because of Western Culture
You're really missing out if you don't read it. But anyway.
It's multiculturalism that explains why the US must be responsible for what goes on in the world and why others cannot be. I'm not suggesting that the six steps above are a conscious process for the left. But when a person has a mindset that shies away from criticizing 'the other' (who are we to judge?
), whether it's with an idea towards promoting equality and diversity, or, more darkly, Chomsky's reticence in criticizing America's foes, one will eventually arrive at that place where all criticism finds its proper target in the US.
One closely related aspect which I don't get into in Six Easy Steps
, but is there right next door, is the fact that taking a non-judgmental view of other cultures reduces them all to something like Skinner's black box. B. F. Skinner was the father of behaviorism, a school of thought in the science of psychology. This way of looking at living things says that we can only know (measure) stimulus and a response. What goes on inside an organism that turns a received stimulus into a given response should be treated like a black box; that is, it's unknowable, unmeasurable. The point was that anything we think we know about what goes on inside an organism's mind is pure theory, and largely untestable.
Returning to the realm of geopolitics, the analogous thought says that if you put this US action in (stimulus), you'll get this foreign response out. Nothing else is measurable because we have no way to measure a foreign culture or foreign politics. This is not only artificially simplistic, but it accords volition only to the US. Others are unthinking victims, people who can only react and never act; they are not fully human and are not moral actors. If a million Muslims are now supportive of fascist ideals, it can only be because of policies decided here, and therefore the blame belongs here. There are no decisions or choices to be made there. No culture that informs them, no political thought that guides them, no leaders that lead them. They exist only as objects that respond to US stimuli.
That is the logical outcome of applied multiculturalism, and that is the reason why the left cannot properly assess reality. It's the root cause
of the left's tendency to assign minimal responsibility to 'the other' and to blame the US first. You can see examples of this thinking in the papers and on the news every day.
Leftists and Islamists
Will the left ultimately end up being consumed by Islamism? When I first read about it, the idea of a coalition between the hard left and Islamism seemed as outrageous to me as cooperation between Saddam and al-Qaeda seems to anti-war types. I was probably being overly generous to the left. I was aware that communists of various stripes were behind the Iraqi war protests and that they met up there with Islamists and those pushing anti-Judaism. But I didn't think it likely that the hard left would voluntarily put aside its radical egalitarianism and secularism and find common cause with a fascist religous movement.
From the excellent Belmont Club
back in September:
The hollowing out of the Left -- the death of its Bolshevik core -- is one of the great unwritten stories of the late twentieth century. The decline of the cadre of professional revolutionaries at its center was simultaneously matched by the inrush from the periphery of the network of sympathizers, fellow travelers and "useful fools" which it once adopted as protective coloration.
The corpse of the Left has already been twitched aside by Islam, which refers to it only in the past tense. All that remains in its path is the United States of America, behind whom the feeble stragglers from Marxism's golden age shelter, still resentful, still self-important and still contemptible.
At the time, I didn't really buy it. I didn't doubt that the left was essentially empty of ideas- the wistful daydreaming on the left for some alternative to capitalism that hasn't already been discredited, as voiced by Katrina vanden Heuvel, for instance, demonstrated that to my satisfaction. But I did doubt that any on the left woud be tempted to fill this void with Islamism and its overt fascism. A few days ago, however, came this account of the European Social Forum, which met in Paris last week, by Christopher Caldwell
writing in the Weekly Standard (via Sullivan
But the EU is one of the world's institutions that appears the most tottering, confused, and unsure of itself, and it may be ripe for hijacking. Particularly now that the Social Forum movement has linked up with a force that has all the energy and clarity of purpose that it lacks, a force that is not boring or programmatic at all: Islam.
THIS LINKAGE TAKES MANY FORMS. Muslims were hugely overrepresented among the Social Forum's delegates; they even comprised a large chunk--perhaps a majority--of the American speakers. Perhaps this is unsurprising given the role played in this radical ideology by the American occupation of Iraq (universally opposed) and Palestinian terror against Israel (almost universally supported).
Here's Belmont Club
again, on the big event:
Yet the admission of Ramadan into the Social Forum, at first a mere gesture of Leftist solidarity towards Islam, showed instead how far the equilibrium between them had shifted. Ramadan, far from acting the part of the token Ayatollah, swiftly proved he had the power to rearrange the agenda of the Leftist forum itself.
The picture being drawn is that a lost or dying movement is trying to draw energy from a rising movement. Some on the left think they can use the power of Islamist anger and channel it to their own ends. That it may be the Islamists who have the strength to drive the agenda, because of their greater confidence and ruthlessness, seems not to be a primary concern. I am reminded of how German communists were taken advantage of by the Nazis in their rise to power.
Here's leftist writer George Monbiot
, writing about the emptiness at the center of the left in a Guardian forum (though he wouldn't characterize it that way):
I haven't spelt out a position on this, simply pointed to one of the problems we encounter in trying to formulate an "anti-capitalist" ideology. And I have not given up the search for an answer; I'm just aware that the search and the answer are gravely constrained by a pretty intractable reality.
He's knows what he's against but Monbiot has only a vague notion about what he's for. But don't worry, he's still searching. Meanwhile, in the intro to that forum, the Guardian writes
of Monbiot (via LGF)
As well as involvement in the World and European Social Forums, Monbiot is currently in discussions with a coalition of Stop the War, George Galloway, trades unions, the Muslim Association of Britain and others on forming a parliamentary opposition to the mainstream political parties.
The Muslim Association of Britain is an offshoot of Egypt's notorious Muslim Brotherhood. I guess the question is, how much of the answer that Monbiot and others like him are searching for will be provided by Islamism? Or does Monbiot think that the left can use Islamism's energy at no cost? A UK website called Chartist dedicated to "people active in radical politics" posted an article
, apparently back in May about this. The writer is trying to convince the left to put aside any worries they may have about Islamists. Here's the intro:
A different coalition has emerged on the streets of Britain in opposition to the Iraq war. But Adam Riaz Khan argues that the left and Muslims must learn to build on their shared anti-capitalism.
It is important that progressive left wing forces capitalise on the rise in political consciousness of the Muslim community and in particular the Muslim youth who flooded the streets of East London on the day that war with Iraq began.
Stop the War Coalition has indeed realised that the time has come for revolutionary purist attitudes to be abandoned.
Note the appeal to Islamism's vitality and youth. In order to tap into that energy, so lacking on the left, the purist attitudes that the left needs to abandon presumbaly include objections to religous totalitarianism. Of course the left is no stranger to totalitarianism, but they tend to prefer the leftist version of it. But to defeat capitalism, they'll work with people who favor the theocratic version. And hope for the best afterwards.
What will come of all this I couldn't possibly say. But it is a perfect demonstration of Blair's Law
in action: the ongoing process by which the world's multiple idiocies are becoming one giant, useless force
The Scandal Deepens
We have all discovered
, to our horror, that the turkey Bush held was not actually served to the troops, and may not even have been edible. But this scandal gets even worse. You know that platter of perfect desserts that the waiter brings around after the entree? I've learned from a trusted source that none of those is the dessert that you'll get if you order one. It's shameful but true, folks.
Thanks be to the Prophets (or wormhole aliens, depending on one's point of view) and the shapeshifters at Amazon.com, the seventh, and sadly, last season of Deep Space Nine arrived at the homestead yesterday. Ahh, every episode, every line, every frame, and it's finally mine, all mine!
After the the excitement died down, I realized, geez, I've spent $700 on Star Trek this year. But the cases look really cool all lined up on the shelf!
And by the way, DS9 is
the best of all Treks. It's not even close.
Funerals as a Weapon
There’s lots of talk on the net about the complaints that President Bush hasn't attended any funerals for military personnel killed in Iraq. Charles Krauthammer
and Andrew Sullivan
have commented on the very appropriate reasons why Bush has not done so. John Cole
looks at the history of Presidents attending such funerals and finds that there isn't much of one.
Krauthammer says of the Ba'athist/Islamist mix in Iraq that "They have only one way of winning: by making U.S. casualties so painful that America decides to give up and go home." Unfortunately, many on the hard left have the same immediate goal as the Ba'athists and Islamists. They want the U.S. to give up and go home. Perhaps most of them do not wish for an increase in U.S. casualties (though there are definitely some who do), but they are quite willing to use what deaths there are to further their goals. It is not political or electoral damage to Bush that they are primarily after, though they'll take that if they can get it, but rather U.S. failure in Iraq. And like the Ba'athists and Islamists, they believe U.S. deaths can deliver this.
To amplify the effects of these deaths, they need the media. The media in turn is always hungry for new pictures and new controversies. To get these pictures, many in the media left complained about the ban on taking pictures of caskets being unloaded at Dover AFB. The Dover idea didn't go very far and peaked relatively early, because it was seen primarily as a media issue. It had no traction in the public's imagination. It was at that point that the complaints about funerals began to take off.
The thought of leftists concerned that the President might not be honoring the sacrifice of service members sufficiently is ludicrous just on its own, but the early focus on pictures from Dover, which have nothing to do with Bush recognizing sacrifice, seals the deal for me. Most of these complaints have nothing to do with the President honoring troops and everything to do with keeping U.S. casualties as the top story on TV, with pictures. Where the President goes, cameras follow, so let's try to get him to go to funerals.
To be sure, many people who’ve bought into the idea of the President attending funerals do not share the anti-U.S. goal. I'm not claiming that everyone who voices that complaint wishes to see America fail there. But the people buying into the idea are certainly useful to those who wish to see a failure in Iraq- the anti-globalists, anti-capitalists, anti-liberals, tranzis, and the old guard anti-war peaceniks. Except for the last group, most of these want the U.S. to lose the war in Iraq because of ideology and their version of geopolitics. Funerals should not become a weapon in their fight against the U.S.