Sunday, January 29, 2006

You Got Your Chocolate in My Peanut Butter!

New York Times! 
Look.  I didn't vote for Bush, either.  But I'm not running the most esteemed newspaper in the world.
Does this really belong in a news article:?
Yet even as Haiti prepares to pick its first elected president since the rebellion two years ago, questions linger about the circumstances of Mr. Aristide's ouster — and especially why the Bush administration, which has made building democracy a centerpiece of its foreign policy in Iraq and around the world, did not do more to preserve it so close to its shores .
[my italics]
This isn't even close to the first time, either. You gotta learn to, you know, think some things that you don't write.
Even the rabid Wall Street Journal op-ed page doesn't leak onto the news.
Tsk. Tsk.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Thursday, January 19, 2006

OBL to US: Surrender!

So, after a U.S. missile attack apparently killed several senior al-Qaeda leaders last week in eastern Pakistan, Osama bin Laden has a new message for Americans:


As he puts it in his new recorded message:

My message to you is about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how to end them.

A mass murderer and a policy wonk? Where does he find the time? Well, go on...

And I say that, despite all the barbaric methods [of the U.S.], they have not broken the fierceness of the resistance.
Well, not to touch on a sore point, OBL, but they did break the fierceness of a few of your pals vacationing in Waziristan...

The mujahideen, thank God, are increasing in number and strength - so much so that reports point to the ultimate failure and defeat of the unlucky quartet of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz.
"Unlucky quartet." That's awesome. It'd be a great band name. Can I use that? Really? You're the best.

We don't mind offering you a long-term truce on fair conditions that we adhere to. We are a nation that God has forbidden to lie and cheat. So both sides can enjoy security and stability under this truce so we can build Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been destroyed in this war. There is no shame in this
You're all sunshine today! A truce with al-Qaeda. Well, that sounds interesting. Peace, fairness, no shame. Maybe we can sign the treaty in New York, it'll be all hugs and ticker-tape parades. Let's talk about the fair condi...

You have occupied our lands, offended our honor and dignity and let out our blood and stolen our money and destroyed our houses and played with our security and we will give you the same treatment.
Whoa! Hold your horses there, compadre! And, uh, buy a comma. We're trying to surrender. Now I believe you were talking about this "truce" option...

You have tried to prevent us from leading a dignified life, but you will not be able to prevent us from a dignified death. Failing to carry out jihad, which is called for in our religion, is a sin. The best death to us is under the shadows of swords.
You know, it really doesn't project a desire for peace when you talk that way. And I don't get what's so dignified about being dismembered by cutlery. What's second best, "mauled by a bear?" That's only slightly less dignified. Besides, a more technologically apt metaphor in your particular case would be to say that "the best death for us is to explode without warning into a blood-red mist."

Don't let your strength and modern arms fool you. They win a few battles but lose the war. Patience and steadfastness are much better. We were patient in fighting the Soviet Union with simple weapons for 10 years and we bled their economy and now they are nothing. In that there is a lesson for you.
Litvak (calling out across Tora Bora): Okay-ay! O.B. E-EL! You were right!
[SFX: silence]
Litvak (still yelling, cupping hands to mouth): I've abandoned my strength and modern arms! In what you said there was a lesson for me!
[SFX: crickets chirp]
Litvak: Come out and show me your steadfastness, I wanna win wars an' stuff!

Dammit, he's right. I'm never gonna get a chance to use my Barrett 50 Caliber Rifle.

...I guess I need a new hobby.


Happy Birthday, Trogdor.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

This Is Power Politics, Not Sharing Time in Preschool

A quote from George Friedman of Stratfor, discussing Iran's recent nuclear moves:

This, by the way, is a good place to pause and explain to readers who
will write in wondering why the United States will tolerate an Israeli nuclear
force but not an Iranian one. The answer is simple. Israel will probably not
blow up New York. That's why the United States doesn't mind Israel having
nukes and does mind Iran having them. Is that fair? This is power politics, not
sharing time in preschool. End of digression.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Prejudice Map!

I'm always falling so behind on my prejudices... No more, with this handy Google-fueled prejudice map!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Wages of ... Hastiness ... is Death?

345 people were killed in a stampede in Mina today.  The stampede took place at a part of the hajj (Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca) where pilgrims have to hit each of three stone pillars (" al-Jamarat") that represent the Devil with seven thrown stones in order to purge themselves of sin.  My condolences to the families of the pilgrims.
I don't know anyone with relatives on hajj, or I'd definitely call them.  Before blogging to make fun of the Saudi government about it.
So, uh, how exactly did that happen?
It seems the Saudi authorities and, well, everyone else, have different ideas about the cause of this tragedy.
According to ABC:
The site in the desert of Mina outside the holy city of Mecca is a notorious bottleneck in the weeklong pilgrimage and has seen deadly incidents in seven of the past 17 years, including a stampede in 1990 that killed 1,426 people and one in 2004 that killed 244.
Ensuring a smooth pilgrimage is a key concern for Saudi Arabia's royal family, which bolsters its legitimacy by touting its role as the "custodian of the holy cities" of Mecca and Medina, where Islam's 7th century prophet Muhammad was born and lived.
So important that the Saudis would probably have gone to any trouble to prevent another stampede, right?  And they did.  Of course. 
First, Saudi Arabia "sets a quota of participants, allowing every nation to send 1,000 pilgrims for every 1 million in population."  That's one in 1,000, and with 1.5 billion Muslims, only gets you to 1.5 million pilgrims.  But the same article said this year's hajj drew 2.5 million pilgrims.  Saudi population is about 26 million, so it's at least conceivable the extra million pilgrims are all locals, and not that the quota system isn't run properly.
Besides, "[a]bout 60,000 Saudi police and soldiers patrolled the Mina plain once the stoning ritual began Tuesday to direct pilgrims. Helicopters flew overhead, and authorities monitored the pilgrims from a control room through closed-circuit TV."  Please, no Saudi army jokes-- this is a family blog.
"They look indifferent. They don't carry out their duties seriously," Iftikhar Hussein, an Iraqi pilgrim, said.
Well, I think we can chalk that comment up to Iraqis and their impossibly high standards for personal security and competent government.  What else?
There are also entrance and exit ramps, and signs...
Thursday's stampede occurred below the platform, near one of the four big ramps. In theory, the crowds are supposed to enter the platform using two of the ramps and exit down the other two, but pilgrims often ignore the rules. Thousands of pilgrims were rushing to complete the last of the three days of the stoning ritual before sunset when some of them began to trip over dropped baggage, causing a large pileup, said Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, spokesman for the Interior Ministry.
Many pilgrims carry personal belongings tents, clothes and bags of food as they move between the various stages of the hajj.
"This was fate destined by God," al-Turki said. "Some of the pilgrims were undisciplined and hasty to finish the ritual as soon as possible."
Now I see. Destined by God.  Punishing with death those who were . . . hasty? Yes.  The wages of hastiness is death (Sura cite not likely forthcoming, though I've e-mailed al-Turki).
I'm sure God wouldn't care that "[m]any of the pilgrims are in a rush because of the time constraints on the ritual and their anxiety about past stampedes."  It's not like He would care that the pilgrims trekked from halfway around the globe to fulfil their religious duties if they finally succumbed to Hastiness.  A lack of discipline and patience, while it's not at the top of His list of sins, is certainly one of his, I dunno, pet peeves.
"This should not happen every year. It should be stopped, it's a scandal. There must be a way to organize this better," said Anwar Sadiqi, a pilgrim from Pakistan.
Sadiqi, you faithless whiner!  You think just because your government can split the atom that crowd control is within Man's reach? Didn't you listen to the Major General?  It's because God created Man from dust and clay, which are, if you don't think too hard about it, irredeemably undisciplined and hasty.
Past stampedes serve to test the valor and patience of the present pilgrims.  And those past stampedes, along with another stampede (in spite of, I might add, some at least half-assed efforts by the Interior Ministry to prevent stampeding) must mean this was God's will.  This is in no way a reflection on the feckless government in charge of Mecca, and anyone who insinuates otherwise is probably committing the sin of judgmentalism.
Whatchyagonnado?  It's not like people will stop coming.
I need a nap.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Close Contact of the Unspecified Kind

In today's NYT is a piece about how some people in Turkey have the avian flu virus but aren't sick.
From the article:

The group includes two sets of brothers: the two who show no symptoms at all,
and a set from the distant suburbs who developed mild symptoms after contact
with gloves that had been used to dispose of a dead duck. The fifth is a
65-year-old man from inside the city itself, who the Turkish health ministry
says had "close contact with a chicken," without elaborating on the
Uh, he is going to get such a ribbing from his friends because of this.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

"Best feature 'AVN' (porn) goes to...

... 'Pirates,' a relatively high-budget story of a group of ragtag sailors who go searching for a crew of evil pirates who have a plan for world domination. Also, many of the characters in the movie have sex with one another."

Monday, January 09, 2006

Gourmand Suicide-- Don't Do It!

This excellent NYT piece on the diabetes epidemic that's almost as depressing as last week's bombings in Iraq.
Maybe more so.
I can't really protect Iraqis from being blown up, but I could probably help out the obese (help them help themselves?).
Maybe NYC's many schmancy gyms should do pro bono to help out all the poor, sedentary people killing themselves with their forks.
Man, I need a donut.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Terrible News Day

Reading the paper today makes me want to go back to bed.
In the past day, Sunni insurgent suicide bombers murdered over 100 people in Iraq ( article)-- pilgrims at a Shia religious shrine, mourners at a Shia funeral, and police academy applicants standing in line.
The bomber at the shrine wore "an explosive belt under clothing packed with metal balls."
Insurgents also kidnapped the sister of the Iraqi interior minister, attacked gasoline tanker trucks and an oil pipeline (those whom the gods would destroy, they first give oil), blew up a number of car bombs in attacks against security forces, and killed 2 American troops with a roadside bomb.
"After news of the funeral blast, Secretary General Kofi Annan of the United Nations urged Iraqis 'to refrain from any action which could undermine Iraq's democratic progress.' He called the attacks the latest example of an 'increasing number of violent incidents' following the vote."
I suppose I should be happy to learn that Annan's comments are just as ridiculous after terrorists murder civilians in Iraq as in Israel.  And the same theme of "this constant violence is really getting in the way of our beloved peace--please don't dignify it with a response"... ugh.
Split the country up already.  Let the Baathists keep Baghdad, give the oil to the Shia and Kurds, keep around 30,000 troops in the Kurdish part to prevent civil war and discourage them from pissing off Turkey. 
Crap, I've strayed into politics, haven't I?  Well, more nonsense tomorrow.
Speaking of Israel (well, I was, a few paragraphs up...), Sharon's had a serious stroke and the Kadima party's as good as dead.  And along with, it seems, dies the hope of pushing everyone (right wing Israelis, most Palestinians) along into a two-state solution they can all be equally miserable about and then live with.
I need a beer.