Bits and Pieces

Friday, April 30, 2004


Two big-rig trucks are blocking all northbound lanes of the Santa Ana (I-5) Freeway north of Washington Boulevard in Commerce, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Fox 11 is reporting that the trucks were stopped intentionally by the drivers in a protest over the high cost of fuel and that truckers intend to block other freeways as well.
(Hat tip: Kevin Drum)

As I mentioned a while back, petrol prices over this side of the pond are 4 times higher than in the US. Even accounting for the longer driving distances caused by the size of the country, you guys come out laughing. The only situation in which US truckers would pay more than UK truckers would be if they were regularly making East coast - West coast deliveries of cargo of little value - and if that's the case then maybe they should rethink their strategy.

What baffles me (and Kevin) is that truckers are blocking highways in protest. As seen last time truckers blocked ferry ports between England and France, prolonged blockades impeding movement of the public achieves nothing and erodes public sympathy.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

The Land Down Under

I just got an e-mail from a friend of mine, Jonny:

Keith I wanna know what you think about the Aussie government putting the entry credits up to 120 from 115, basically preventing any educated human being (I say that due to the fact that any labourer can walk in even though he never completed GCSE's) from entering the country on a full time basis. I want to read you opinion on sortapundit you opinionated git.

Immigration to Australia is determined by what's called the 'points test' (points are awarded for the skills and qualifications of the applicant - i.e. level of education, work experience, age etc.). This is the first I've heard about the increase (and the aussie gov website is down right now), so I'll just assume it's true until proved otherwise.

Jonny has wanted to live in Oz since he went there with my brother and some friends in 2002. I joined them later on during the summer (you can read of our exploits here and here - one of these days I'll get around to continuing that story) and fell in love with the country before I had even stepped from the plane.

For the last two years whenever we meet we invariably get back to the subject of immigration. The problem is not that you have to be sufficiently qualified to immigrate - both Jonny and I are graduates with a good 40+ productive years of work ahead. The problem is that there are points awarded for hairdressing. While we are awarded 50 points for studying for 3 or 4 years to gain a degree, a hairdresser - a hairdresser - gets 15 points automatically. Now I understand that the country needs qualified hairdressers - you only have to look at the array of mullets on show to see that - but seriously, how much study does it take to learn to cut hair? The hairdressing course was the route the idiots at the back of the class took when they realised that 5 years of goofing off in secondary school left them with no job prospects. At that time Jonny and I were in college, studying for two years in order to progress to another three years (four in my case) of university. Let us the hell into the country, damn you!

btw, Jonny, you loudmouth ass - I'm not opinionated... I'm special.

My So-called Career

Let me tell you a little something about the company I work for (I'll not go as far as to tell you their name - something tells me they would frown on that).

First, I'm in telesales. Stop hissing, dammit. I have to earn a living, and these days four years of university is worth about as much as a Learn Direct typing course. Maybe less.

At the moment I'm selling subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal. Last week I was hocking appointments for an IT solutions company. Week before that it was electricity. Anyway, the European edition of the Journal is printed in Brussels, Belgium. And so, with the creative vision typical to my company, we are now calling the Belgians.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the Belgians, they speak several languages - Dutch in the north, French in the south, and German in the far east. I speak none of these. I'm English. We don't bother to learn a second language. We just pre-empted the language barrier in days of yore and colonised the world to make sure that everyone spoke our language.

I'm sure you can imagine that this presents a problem. Telesales is hard. How many times have you slammed the phone down on one of us (sorry about calling during dinnertime, by the way)? So if selling a newspaper (at a cost of over £200 a year) in English is hard, imagine how mind-blowingly impossible it would be to sell to someone who only knows enough English to introduce themselves and comment on the weather.

Don't think that there aren't advantages, though. The first is that the French PA's I speak to have accents that would arouse a dead man. The second is that there is a really, really (and I mean really) good-looking girl working on the campaign with me. There's something about a pretty face that can brighten the darkest day.

So, despite the stupid tasks, I occasionally enjoy it. What about your jobs? Worse or better?

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

24 Hours To Go!

The Fighting Fusileers, Victory Coalition and Liberty Allience have teamed up and extended the deadline in an attempt to break the $50,000 dollar mark for Spirit of America.

So, with a little over 24 hours to go, and somewhere around $15,000 to the target, are we gonna let them down? Hell no.

Donate as much as you can via A Small Victory, Smash, Russ, Triticale, Tammi and, of course, Kevin. There are more places to donate, of course, but I have work in the morning. Find 'em yourself, you lazy layabouts.


In a conscious echo of a famous, Vietnam War-era issue of Life magazine, the ABC News program "Nightline" will broadcast Friday night the names and faces of every soldier killed by hostile fire since the start of the war in Iraq.

Ted Koppel, the program's anchor, will deliver a brief introduction before reading the more than 530 names, as photographs and captions with the ages and hometowns of the dead appear on the screen. "Nightline" will not include those who died by accident and other causes because of time constraints; Mr. Koppel will barely have two seconds for each name. (Hat tip: James Joyner)

Two seconds each?

But William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, said the message was clear to him. "This is a statement with a capital S, and it's a stupid statement," he said. The program's conceit, he added, was a selective one, chosen to emphasize the controversy over the war in Iraq while neglecting to mention the casualties in Afghanistan or those killed by terrorists.

If Kristol wants to talk about stupid statements, how about starting with the fact that Iraq had nothing to do with terrorists (read 9/11)? As he is surely aware there has not been a scrap of evidence to link the two. There is as little reason to talk about those killed by terrorism as there is to talk about the hundreds of Americans who are injured every year crashing their cars into moose (meese?).

Anyway... reading that story reminded me of an old article by Bill Bryson, printed in Notes From a Big Country, in which Bryson attempted to describe how mind-blowingly huge the US national debt was.

Imagine you were in a vault with the whole of America's national debt and you were told you could keep each dollar you initialled. Say too, for the sake of argument, that you could initial one dollar bill each second and that you worked straight through without stopping. How long do you think it would take you to count a trillion dollars? Go on, humour me and take a guess. Twelve weeks? Five years?

If you initialled one dollar per second, you would make $1000 ever 17 minutes. After twelve days of non-stop effort you would acquire your first million. Thus it would take 120 days to accumulate $10 million and 1,200 days - something over three years - to reach $100 million. After 31.7 years you would become a billionaire, and after almost a thousand years you would be as wealthy as Bill Gates. But not until after 31,709.8 years would you count your trillionth dollar.

As Bryson says, it's difficult to comprehend numbers. They're the definition of subjective. 530 skittles? Not so much. 530 corpses? There aren't words. If nightline wants to dedicate 17 minutes of programming to make the nation think about the numbers, what's the problem?

Sunday, April 25, 2004

'In The Navy'... Stop Singing That

I had my second interview last Thursday at the Armed Forces Careers Office. It was much, much more terrifying than the first (at least before the first interview I didn't know I would be grilled by a Royal Marine).

I'd been working on some of the questions I was asked last time, so I was a little more prepared. I can't describe how badly the first interview went. I couldn't remember basic facts, my words came out in broken sentences and I hardly made any eye contact. I usually suck at interviews, but never that bad.

Anyway, this one was much better. I could answer most of the questions he threw at me, and when it was over I got put through to the next stage. So, all I have to do now is fill out the application forms, pass a government security check, get through a three-day Admirality Interview Board, and I'll be Sub Lieutenant Keith Taylor BSc (Hons.)

Sure, some would say I'm just trying to add as many letters and titles onto my name. I say to those people, 'shut the hell up', and then let out an evil cackle.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Damned Hippies Hurt My Brain

The Code Pink freaks were out in force yesterday to protest Humvees (hat tip: Smash). Literally dozens of new age hippy mentally scarred idiots beat the hell out of a cardboard Hummer.

I just don't get it. These misguided morons are technically on my side, but they make my knuckles itch. Sure, protest that the Humvees are bad for the environment; that they're totally unnecessary (not to mention damned ugly) vehicles. But for God's sake, stop talking about Mother Earth, ya damned hippy. If you look stupid people ignore your message and laugh at the stupid outfit.

Put down the bong, and step away from the tutu.

My Name Is...

You know what pisses me off? I'm not even well known enough to be the top ranking 'Keith Taylor' on Google. Come on, give me some credit, G.

These are the Keith Taylors that beat me:-

Keith F Taylor, of the Mathematics and Statistics department of the University of Saskatchewan;

Keith Taylor (retired) of Poole, Dorset, UK. He enjoys walking and sailing;

Keith Taylor, the very talented photographer (I'll let him off, as his pictures are pretty damned good);

Keith Taylor, the author. I always wanted to write novels. Hey, I always wanted to be a photographer, too. These Keith Taylors are stealing my dreams;

Keith Taylor, who made guest appearances on Leave it to Beaver, Mr. Ed, Lost in Space, Land of the Giants and Star Trek.

Keith Taylor, the deputy leader of Newcastle City Council.

Why don't you join me in finding namesakes who have achieved much more than you. It's fun. Really.


James Lileks had a mini-burnout this week, and talks about how he's going through one of those 'do I really want to blog' moments.

It's strange how you get used to visiting certain sites. I still read many blogs that are frankly awful, just because they were the first ones I found when I first got online. In the year since I started blogging I've built up a large number of daily reads, among them Glenn, Kevin, Dean, James and Frank J, along with at least two dozen others. These sites you read as soon as you log on, before you take a sip of coffee; before you check your e-mail. You could type the URL's with your eyes closed. You could type them in your sleep. The idea that these guys could suddenly get tired of blogging and pack it in actually worries me. I know that sounds stupid, but it's true. I wouldn't know what to do when I'm online. I'd probably end up just checking and re-checking my e-mail all day, staring blankly at the screen.

Whenever a favourite writer hints that they may be burning out I get a feeling I know well. It's the same feeling you get when you want to keep partying but your friends are ready to hail a cab.

Lileks ends his article by saying that he needs to 'decide whether or not I want to continue doing this forever'

Just so you know: the answer is "yes".


War on Terror... Boy, I Don't Know

I was just doing my usual Saturday 'got nothin' better to do' browsing (God, I love lazy Saturdays) when I stumbled on this quote over at The People's Republic of Seabrook:

He's not an intellectual. He is not what I guess would be called a deep thinker. He chastised me at one point because I said people were concerned about the failure to find WMDs. And he said, 'Well you travel in elite circles.' I think he feels there is an intellectual world and he's indicated he's not a part of it...the fancy pants intellectual world. What he calls the elite.

Bob Woodward

The quote reminded me of something President Bartlet said to his challenger, Governor Richie, in the final episode of the third season of the West Wing. Earlier in the evening, the secret service agent assigned to protect CJ Cregg has been shot and killed in a convenience store robbery. When Bartlet told Ritchie the news, Ritchie responded with:

"Crime... boy, I don't know."

and then went on to complain that Bartlet was too clever by half, that the electorate wanted a President who chose baseball over theatre.

At the end of the conversation, Bartlett stubbed out his cigarette, turned to Ritchie and said:

"In the future, if you're wondering, "Crime... Boy, I don't know," is when I decided to kick your ass."

I don't want the free world to be led by a man who believes that the presence or absence of WMDs is a matter of interest only to the intellectual elite. I don't want him to 'choose the baseball'. I want him to be smart, maybe even too smart. I'd go so far as to say that I don't want to be able to understand what he's saying. I want to be made to feel dumb when I listen to the guy. I want to furrow my brow. I want him to use words I've never even heard. Hell, I want him to speak Latin fluently. Is that too much to ask of the most powerful man on Earth, the man with his finger on the button?

Our job now is to find the right man for the job... But I'm pretty sure he ain't called John Kerry.

Pat Tillman

It seems a little strange how much attention Pat Tillman is getting around the blogosphere (here, here and here to name a few). Not that he shouldn't be honoured for his sacrifice, but what kind of message does it send to the families of those who have lost children, husbands and parents in Iraq and Afghanistan? Were their lives less valuable than Tillman's?

Tillman gave up a $3.6 million three-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals when he joined the Rangers. The rest of the Rangers, and every other man or woman who died fighting in Iraq and the 'Stan gave up their families when they signed up. Compared to that, $3.6 million is pocket change.

Let's take it down a notch, huh?

Spirit of America

The Victory Coalition are lagging way behind Castle Argghhh! in the fundraising stakes. Why not go and give some of your pocket money to Spirit of America. You kids'll only waste it otherwise.

The coalition members are all doing crazy stuff to pull in the cash. Kevin Aylward is selling boobies for your bucks, Jim at Snooze Button Dreams is offering a short story (bet the party never stops over there). Strangely, Jim seems to have worked out a method of blogging from 26th April. Maybe he should auction his DeLorean. Michele at A Small Victory is offering 72 virgins to all contributors (I'm not sure she can grant that, but it's an easier route than martyrdom).

The American Mind is giving away donuts, and Overtaken By Events is offering to host a free blog.

Meanwhile, the auction is over at Castle Argghhh! The GAU-8 Avenger cannon round goes to King Ghidorah. Finally, Rosemary is threatening to disrobe. Dean must be very proud.

Old Trafford

100 extra police will be on duty for today's football (or 'soccer', for you confused Yankees) match between Manchester United and Liverpool, following the arrest of 10 people in anti-terrorism raids on Monday.

It was reported that these guys had tickets spaced around Old Trafford for today's match, and were planning a simultaneous suicide-bombing. I know people going to that game. It's a terrifying thought.


Just signed up for the Google's new G-mail service (Blogger account holders get first dibs). What kicks ass is that I managed to get keithtaylor - at -

However, I don't understand how they plan to make 1000 megabytes of free storage space available on a wide scale. Think it'll work?

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Scripted Questions

Kevin Drum has been discussing whether questions are submitted in advance for Presidential press conferences.

According to Ron Suskind, "For each press conference, the White House press secretary asks the reporters for their questions, selects six or seven of the questions to answer and those reporters are the only ones called upon to ask their questions during the press conference."

After a back and forth the public editor of the New York Times said

I cannot speak for other news organizations, but I can assure you categorically that the New York Times does not -- ever -- submit press conference questions in advance.

I'd always assumed that these things were scripted. After all, what sane President would go out in front of the cameras for an hour in an election year without a script? These guys rehearse for days to prepare the President before letting him in front of the cameras.

However, whether the questions are submitted or not makes little difference. The main issues are obvious. Iraq, Iraq, Iraq and the War on Terror™. That's why these conferences are a huge waste of time. This one gave the President 17 minutes on live TV to talk about how we must stand firm, and then 44 minutes to answer questions and say, er, we must stand firm.

The only way to make these things useful is to admit members of the public with no reputation to protect to go in and ask questions that would be career suicide for the press corps. Clinton would have breezed it. Bush... not so much.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Michael Moore

You know what? I used to really like Michael Moore. I was a fan. A big fan. I bought Stupid White Men to read on a long flight from the UK to Australia, and I was hooked. Say what you will, but he's an entertaining writer. He engages the reader and has that rare ability to make you laugh out loud.

The problem with Moore is that he's absolutely insane. He's lost his grip on reality. Back in the Roger and Me days he was one of the good guys, just a little pissed off that his home town had been trashed by the cruel, heartless side of capitalism. Fair enough. We all bear our little grudge to The Man.

After reading Stupid White Men I went to a great little bookshop in Melbourne called Antipode, where I bought Downsize This! and Adventures in a TV Nation (and also a book called The Mullet: Hairstyle of the Gods - nothing to do with Michael Moore, but it was by the counter and I get confused).

Anyway, all was well and good. Okay, the mullet photographs terrified me, but all with Moore was well and good. He was just another entertaining kook you could laugh along with. Oh, that crazy Dubya! He sure is a character, ain't he? Ha ha ha.

But Moore wasn't laughing. That's when it got scary. He stopped laughing, and foam appeared at the corners of his mouth. And he shouted. Oh, how he shouted. He shouted like a drunken Brian Blessed on helium.

So, I turned away from him. A previously funny, entertaining man had become an embarrasment for the left and an election tool for the right. 'Look at the raving left', they cry. 'Look at what they have become. These are Kerry's people.'

Not only did I turn away from Moore, but I turned from the left. These were not people I wanted to associate with, and it annoyed me that people like Moore were so high profile. It annoyed me that they allowed themselves to look so stupid. And still it worsens:

'The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not "insurgents" or "terrorists" or "The Enemy". They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow -- and they will win.'

We can't win if people like Moore say stuff like this. Most of the time when I read about how us left-wingers are siding with terrorists when we oppose the war I can laugh it off as patently false, but this time I can't. Moore really does sound like he wants a lot more bloodshed just to see Bush fail. And that's stupid. That's cruel. That's damn close to evil.

You could say that nobody listens to Moore anymore, that he has long been relegated from amusing kook to annoying idiot, but this is an election year. Every word counts at election time, and we are judged by who we associate with.

So Michael... please, for the love of God, shut the hell up.

*Update* - Someone actually agrees with me. I can't remember last time that happened. Especially on the subject of mullets.

Bunch o' Stuff

Scott Ott reveals that a fatal missile attracting disease is sweeping through the Palestinian population. Poor guys.

Kevin Aylward has a few thoughts about Blogads, a subject dear to my heart (oh, if only I was being paid to write. Woe is me). James Joyner goes on to rub it in, bragging about how much revenue he makes. Damn you, Joyner... Damn You!

Finally, Kevin Drum suggests that maybe Bush has been dumbing down all this time to appeal to Middle America. Bush dumbs down? That's unpossible.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Over By Christmas

Tacitus has an interesting article:

I truly never expected that the execution of the occupation would be this poor. It's salvageable yet, albeit via measures that I'm not sure the leadership will endorse, but the bottom line remains that had I had a crystal ball back in early '03, and seen this, I'd probably not have supported this war.

We've been seeing a lot of these articles recently, as erstwhile hawks realise that things aren't going great. What baffles me is that people ever believed that this would be a quick, clean war. There's no such thing. There are always casualties.

So how did these hawks justify their support before the war? Did they decide to support it up to 100 coalition deaths? Or 50 coalition deaths and 1 Shia uprising? Did they perform a cost-benefit analysis before taking their position? The problem is that those who wage war always claim that it'll be all over by Christmas, and too many are taken in.

The question that must be asked is not would you have supported the war if you knew how many casualties we would sustain, but how did it not occur to you that we would sustain them?

London Calling

I go... I come back.

First things first, the marathon went well. Scott came in at 4:11:58, in 13,990th place. Not bad in a field of 30,000.

Anyway, there are a few pictures pre-marathon, again, and again, triumphant and here's Scott with an oddly dressed clown.

Apart from that, London was surprisingly good fun. I've always had mixed feelings about the place, due to the fact that most of the residents seem to be evil, selfish fools, but this time was different. Oh, the fools are still there, pushing past you on the tube, stealing your wallet and overcharging for products and services, but it's definitely getting better.

Friday, April 16, 2004

London Marathon

No blogging this weekend. I'll be in London cheering on my brother at the London Marathon. He's still a couple of hundred pounds short of his donation target, so if anyone has any spare change I would appreciate it if you'd throw it down that 'make a donation' button on the right. Anyway, I'm leaving in an hour, so must take a shower. Have a good weekend, y'all.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

I Heart Google

I had a proud moment today (slightly pathetic, but proud nonetheless). Browsing my site stats to see how people found the site, I saw that someone had come through a Google search for 'August 6 PDB'. What was interesting about this was that my site came higher in the results than both Kevin Drum's Political Animal and the much maligned Daily Kos. Google thinks I'm one of the big boys, and I ain't complainin'.

*Update* - I just got another two visitors through the same search term, and I notice that Google has spidered the site every day for the last 5. Since it used to spider every couple of weeks I can only take this as a good sign. Kickass.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Binge Drinking

Radley Balko has an interesting article on a redefinition of the term 'binge drinking' (hat tip: James Joyner).

Apparently the old definition was five drinks on one 'occasion' for a man, and four for a woman, a plainly ridiculous measure. I rarely go out with friends and drink less than five drinks, and I would never consider that I have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

Anyway, the NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) has now redefined a 'binge' to five drinks in two hours for a man, and four in two for a woman, a much more reasonable measure.

This reminded me of an article in the Mail on Sunday around 6 years ago. The article was written by the highly entertaining Bill Bryson, and was later included in the excellent compilation Notes From a Big Country.

The article, entitled Warning: Anyone Having Fun Will Be Reported, was about an odd notice in a bar in Hanover, New Hampshire. The notice read

We take our responsibility to the community seriously. Therefore we are introducing a policy of limiting each customer to a maximum of three drinks. We thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

He goes on to say

The thing is, the notices are in any case completely unnecessary. I have discovered to my dismay that when an American friend invites you out for a beer that is exactly what he means - a beer. You sip it delicately for about 45 minutes until it is gone and then your companion says, 'Hey, that was fun. Let's do it again next year.'

I don't know anybody - anybody - who would be so rakish as to consume three drinks in a sitting. All the people I know barely drink alcohol at all, never touch tobacco, watch their cholesterol as if it were HIV-positive, jog up to Canada and back about twice a day, and go to bed early. Now that is all very sensible and I know they will outlive me by decades, but it isn't much fun.

I've always been mystified by the fact that a nation that would defend so rabidly the right to bear arms would view such vices as alcohol and tobacco to be so dangerously licentious. Five drinks won't kill you. Calling five drinks in one sitting a binge suggests otherwise, and when we get to the point at which you can't smoke in a bar, and can no longer even have a drink in a bar, how is this anything other than prohibition by proxy?


Well, my PC died earlier today. After a suitable period of mourning (about 24 hours) I'll go out and buy a new one. At the moment I've fallen back on an old desktop I keep in my bedroom - a PC so riddled with bugs and missing files that it takes 10 minutes and 20 error messages to boot up.

The annoying thing is that we only bought the PC about 18 months ago, and when we took it back to the shop this afternoon we were told that they didn't keep the required boot-up disks on hand for such an old computer. I've had longer relationships with a carton of milk than with this PC. They should be ashamed. Or maybe I just need to clear out the fridge.

It's a point that has been made many times before, but when I pay over a grand for a PC I expect at least a few years service out of it. I can live with looking on in dismay as PDA's are released that are more powerful than my PC; I can live with the fact that my computer is on sale for hundreds of pounds less than I paid for it just weeks after I wrote the cheque, but when I press the power button at any time of day or night I expect to turn on. Anything less and I want my money back.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Elementary, My Dear Cheney

I'm not getting the fuss over the August 6 PDB. I've read it over and over and fail to see how it could possibly be used to prove that the Bush administration should have foreseen 9-11.

Come on - it reads like a space-filler in a tabloid magazine, an article thrown together at the last minute because J-Lo's lawyers have called to say they'll press charges if the magazine runs an article about how she's been sleeping with Brad Pitt. I could have pieced together a more in-depth report with my ass.

But it's because of the slap-dash, grade school quality of the report that it'll work out so well for Bush. Nobody can claim that he should have read it, slapped his hand on the desk and declared "They'll be attacking the Twin Towers on the 11th! Call the constabulary!" That would be silly. Especially if you imagine him wearing a deerstalker at the time. I do. Heh. Doesn't he look funny?

Ahem, anyway... I'm guessing the report was declassified simply because anyone who claimed that he could have predicted 9-11 by reading it would instantly lose credibility. By declassifying it as if it was some hugely sensitive intelligence they steered the discussion in such a way that it is focussed only on this piece of paper and nothing else, drawing media attention from other, more incriminating evidence of their failure.

Even so, Bush always likes to make life tough for himself.

Can't Think of a Title

In response to Dean's comment to the last post, I'll just point you all towards another James Joyner post on the subject of the Dems beating on Bush with their hypocrite sticks. I now have to do the dishes, watch Scrubs, and then sit in bed watching season 3 of the West Wing on laptop.

Easy Like A Sunday Morning

I'm blogging from a friend's house this morning. After a night of drunken debauchery (during which it became apparent that at the age of 22 I'm already too old for this sort of thing), I'm taking it easy. I love waking up here. It's a 4-level terraced house that looks tiny from the front but expands, TARDIS-like, inside.

I was roused by the smell of bacon, scrambled eggs and fried bread, and I'm almost certain I was dragged downstairs, cartoon-like, on the aroma. Just about to have a shower and sit down to Pirates of the Caribbean on DVD, followed by an afternoon in the pub to watch Arsenal play Newcastle.

God, I love weekends.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Moqtada al-Sadr

Events in Iraq has awakened the military strategist in us all these past few days, as coalition deaths increase and Democrats look forward to using the word 'quagmire' a whole lot more.

Much of the recent news coverage has pointed towards the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr as a ringleader of radical Shiites (as had much of the blogosphere). I'm not sure if this is wise.

We always like to set ourselves aims and objectives in war. We like to think that if we could just 'do that' it would all work out OK. "If we could only find the WMD's the world would get behind us". "If we could capture Saddam the war would tun around", etc. etc.

The most recent objective like this has been to take out Sadr in the hope that the Shiite militia will collapse. The problem is that in their eagerness to identify a head to cut off, the administration have more than likely overestimated Sadr's influence. Sadr strikes me as a nobody, a young man caught in the media spotlight. It suits us politically to identify him as a leader, but what happens when we devote excessive resources to handle him only to find that the uprising continues after his capture or death? James Risen agrees (hat tip: Kevin Drum).

These shortsighted ploys to convince us that we are winning, or at least making progress, are getting old. We can't pick a new enemy every week to overcome. This week it's the Shiites, next week the Sunnis, followed by the French, the Iranians and the French again.

The right wing insist that we need to see this through and maintain our resolve, echoing the words of the President. I agree. We're in so deep now that we have no choice but to stay the course in this pointless, ill-advised mess. Anything else would be political suicide for Bush and nothing less than manslaughter by negligence for the Iraqis.

However, when we talk about seeing it through, I'm talking about Bush coming clean. I'm saying he should stand up in front of a camera and tell the world that "Hey, I made a mistake. We weren't under threat. We didn't have to be at this point. I'm sorry." He can then go on to say that we have to see it through, pile in more troops and seal that country up so tight that a fart would have nowhere to go but back inside.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Lazy Days

Thank God. After a gruelling week of work (and very little Internet access) I have a 4-day long weekend. Much fun to be had, and I'll do a fair bit of blogging in the morning.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

TV or not TV (Ed: sorry)

I forgot to mention the article at Political Animal about the effects of TV on the attention span of kids.

I've assumed for many years that TV viewing habits have an effect on both attention span and intelligence. I have a few friends who grew up either without a TV or in homes where the TV was relegated to a back room. These people have all gone on to study for their Masters degrees, doctorates or some other form of post-graduate study, and spend their free time reading books written in languages I've never heard of about topics I cannot fathom.

I, on the other hand, watched far too much TV as a youngster, spent my teenage years watching Sky TV (offering dozens of channels of questionable educational value) and now spend my downtime in front of a widescreen monster with 100's of channels of Sky Plus pumped through a truly bewildering surround sound sytem.

I barely scraped a 2:2 in Geography. Hey, I just saw a shiny thing. I'll just...

Monday, April 05, 2004


This whole Friedman thing has made me think a little about Iraq. Woah, woah woah... it's not another Kos post. Come on back. There you go. Now sit back down.

Friedman was saying that he believed Kos wants us to lose in Iraq (by 'us', I mean of course the coalition). Now I've never been a reader of the DailyKos, so I checked out the war posts. What I found was nothing special. It was just the opinion of someone who doesn't support the war. While a little overly dramatic, it pretty much mirrored my own opinion on the war.

That opinion is not that I want us to lose, but that I know we will. Assuming that the desired result of the war is to seed democracy in Iraq (that is the point, isn't it?) we are doomed to failure. Whenever I state that opinion I always get shouted down by a number of very strange people who seem to believe that I am evil, or at least should not be left alone with their puppy.

The problem is that the thought that has gone into this war seems to be somewhat similar to the level of thought that would go into arriving at the opinion that we should, say, give Ireland back to the Irish. What I mean is that it takes a basic good premise (i.e. give Northern Ireland autonomous rule) but conveniently avoids the issues that may stand in the way of such a goal (such as, I don't know, the many different opinions of the Irish population).

We have been trying to end the conflict in Northern Ireland for decades, without a great deal of success. But compared to Iraq the Troubles are a walk in the park. At least they speak our language and share much of our culture.

What we are doing in Iraq is insanely difficult. Not only are we trying to create a functioning democracy in a country that we are occupying by force; not only do we have little real understanding of the country and its people; and not only are we trying to do this in a nation that lacks a basic functional infrastructure (people who are dying of hunger and thirst don't vote), we have actually set a deadline for this.

How can we reasonably expect to succeed?

What the?

Hold on a minute, cause I think I'll need someone smart to explain this one to me.

I got an e-mail yesterday from Michael Friedman in which he says

"I'm actually a little ambivalent about this whole anti-Kos jihad... I'm not thrilled with the hit I'm doing against his income."

This followed the campaign he led to have Kos' advertisers pull their blogads from the DailyKos. I took this statement to mean that he had gone through with the campaign and then decided that he may have been a little harsh, and he was maybe regretting it a little.

But no. He has a new post up asking his readers to lobby Jeff Seemann, a Democratic Congress hopeful who has decided to advertise on the DailyKos to show his support for free speech.

Hasn't Friedman made his point? His campaign resulted in the pulling of three ads which will cost Kos several thousand dollars a month. This overkill is fuelled by nothing more than a desperate desire to draw more readers to his site.

Here's the URL for Seemann's site. Friedman is asking for his readers to e-mail him and press him to pull his ad. If you think the lynching is out of order then send an e-mail of support to Seemann. It's a bold move to advertise, and I don't think it should cost him any votes.

I'm writing to thank you for your support of the First Amendment in advertising on the DailyKos. The campaign to harm Mr. Zuniga financially is nothing less than anti-American, and it's a credit to you that you have decided to support free speech in all its forms.

I hope this bold move benefits your campaign, and I wish you all the luck in the world in reaching your fundraising target and victory in your forthcoming election.

Sincerely, Keith Taylor

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Response from Friedman

I just received an e-mail from Michael Friedman, all the way from Shanghai. Seems China doesn't like Blogspot so he couldn't comment here. Anyway...

"I do believe that Kos wants us to lose in Iraq. Read his articles on the war and try to find one place where he says "I want us to succeed in Iraq and build a happy, stable, and friendly outpost of democracy in the Middle East." He never does. He certainly doesn't come out and say he wants us to lose but do you get the impression he wants us to win? From what post?

Also, you misinterpret my comment about taxes. I'm actually a little ambivalent about this whole anti-Kos jihad. I find his comments reprehensible. On the other hand, I'm not thrilled with the hit I'm doing against his income, assuming he really is selling blog ads at full price. However I also think that if politicians chose to support a site that makes comments like Kos's then they should be held accountable. But frankly I really would rather be sticking it to the IRS than to Kos.


First, and most important, I hate it when I've decided to dislike someone and then they go and be all, you know, reasonable and stuff.

But anyway...

"I do believe that Kos wants us to lose in Iraq"

I don't. Just because he's never said "I want us to succeed in Iraq and build a happy, stable, and friendly outpost of democracy in the Middle East" doesn't mean he wants the US to fail. Hell, I've never said anything like that here but I want us to win. Before claiming that an American is anti-American you'd better have something fairly solid to base it on - something along the lines of 'Jesus Christ, I hope we lose in Iraq'. The burden of proof lies with you, and an expectation that we should be continuously voicing our support for war seems like something George Orwell would be writing about.

"On the other hand, I'm not thrilled with the hit I'm doing against his income."

So don't do it. If the politicians who advertise on the Dailykos decide to pull their ads that's up to them. The only people involved in advertising are the advertisers and Kos. Interfering doesn't paint you in a very good light.

Anyway, thanks for the civil e-mail. After calling you an idiot I probably didn't deserve it.


He's still insisting Kos wants us to fail, though.


Looks like I missed the once-in-a-lifetime experience of Kos' crash and burn while I was off drinking.

I'll make this post short and sweet. God knows enough bloggers have talked about Kos' little faux pas. I won't repeat it here, but you can probably see it by following any of the links out of here.

Anyway... I have no problem with Kos taking heat for his stupid remarks. He should keep his head down and thank God today's headlines will be lining tomorrow's cat litter trays.

I have a big problem, however, with Michael Friedman's puerile campaign to hurt Kos financially. He contacted the political campaigns that are running blogads on the Daily Kos and pressed them to break off all ties. He also encouraged his readers to bombard the campaigns with similar requests. Kos charges between $700 and $2,000 a month for his blogads, and Friedman has been successful in having three of them pulled.

The thing that sticks in my craw about this, quite apart from the fact that Friedman has appointed himself judge, jury and executioner, is the fact that he's actually gloating about it. He boasts that this affair has gained him 10,000 readers and pushed him up the TTLB ecosystem (leapfrogging this site) to 662. He gloats that he's cost Kos thousands of dollars, and probably prevented the sale of blogads in the future. His latest post reads

"I'm doing my taxes, hence the light blogging.


I wish I could do to the IRS what I'm doing to Kos. It would be a lot more satisfying."

Reading his posts leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Friedman strikes me as a petty curtain-twitcher, the kind of person who would sue his neighbour over a 2 inch strip of garden. The kind of person who takes pleasure in hurting someone whose opinion differs from their own.

Michael, if you disagree with Kos then don't visit the site. Encourage your readers to boycott the site. Write scathing posts about how much you hate him. Don't do this.

Moral authority you are most definitely not.


Friedman is taking this too far. He's basically claiming that Kos is on the side of the terrorists. I'm baffled. Read it for yourself. This guy's an idiot.

*'Nother Update*

Dean Esmay reminded me I forgot to finish off my post. Dean's World and A Small Victory have more. And I'm sure you can follow the chain of links to the point at which you visit a million sites going on about Kos.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

It's a baby!

Congrats to Kevin Aylward of Wizbangblog. Little Joseph Paul Aylward turned up yesterday. Babies terrify me.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

News Ratings Dip

A few people have been talking about Nielsen ratings suggesting that cable news is losing viewers. CNN, for example, has lost half its viewers since last year. Of course more people watch the news during wartime than at other times, so the numbers don't necessarily prove that this decline is part of a long term trend. I wouldn't read too much into the report.

James Joyner raises some interesting points about viewing habits, though. My own perspective may be skewed by the fact that I spend so much time on the Internet myself, but it does seem that more and more people are getting their news from the Net nowadays. I can't remember the last time I watched any news report that wasn't regional. There's no point, as by the time the nightly news comes on I've already known every piece of news they'll show for a good few hours. And don't get me started on the repetitive cycles of the 24-hour news channels. We don't have to wait for the cycle to go full circle if we miss a story. We can just log on.
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