Bits and Pieces

Monday, January 31, 2005


It's all go at the Sortapundit household. Following the news that my car is held together with spit and stickytape, I had to start applying for jobs that provide a company car. I decided to go back into sales - field sales this time - and a couple of recruitment jobs. Anyhoo, I got home to a list of messages. Turns out I'm in demand - somebody finally realised I'm a kickass salesman.

There are a few good positions offering a good car and double my current salary, so keep your fingers crossed for me. And now, burgers for dinner and then off to the pub.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Election Day Round-Up

There's been a lot of pooh-poohing (I love that expression) of the Iraqi elections around the blogosphere today - unsurprisingly, much of it has come from that vocal, shrill portion of the left that seems to hate civilisation so much.

Matt Yglesias looks forward to three weeks of gloating from hawks (hat tip: Balloon Juice), and I wouldn't dare disappoint him.

Oliver Willis complains that Jeff Goldstein and the Wizbang boys are attacking him. He responds with:-

Pardon me if I've had enough of these Iraqi "turning points". I work in Washington, D.C. so I can't just pretend and make the terrorists go away like the other sheep.

Now, two years ago we stated our aim to depose a murderous dictator and bring democracy to Iraq. Today, after deposing the murderous dictator, we brought democracy to Iraq. I'm not sure what Oliver's definition of turning point is, but I think most of us could agree that today qualifies.

Frank J balances all of this out with a timely observation:-

We have here our idiotic "Rock the Vote" and "Vote or Die," but the Iraqis faced the prospect of "Vote and Die" and turned out anyway. Most of us never has to face such danger for something we consider so simple (or even an inconvenience). (Hat tip: Poliblog)

James Joyner notes positive headlines from the NYT.

Power and Control points out a rare glimmer of reason from the DU. Unsurprisingly it was soon deleted. I've found that DU quickly cracks down on commenters who stray from the party line (read: tinfoil hat-wearing shrill zaniness)

I'm Just Gonna Get a Bike

Huh. I took the car to a garage yesterday morning to get the fan belt tensioned. When I got home from my holiday it was whining like crazy, so I figured the belt was the problem. I was pleasantly surprised to be told that it would only cost a fiver and would be done in an hour, so I retired to the local library and read the first 60 pages of a John Grisham book about an injured American football player.

When I returned the mechanic told me the fan belt was fine - the whining was caused by the camshaft. Apparently I was using oil he desribed as 'piss' - don't blame me, my brother put it in - and it wasn't properly lubricating it. Anyway, he ordered a new oil filter and I returned later in the day to have an oil change.

The mechanic was listening to a racist crank call he'd downloaded from Ebaums World when I returned, and got so excited complaining about 'niggers' that he forgot to replace the sump cap and poured a gallon of oil through my engine onto the garage floor. Serves him right, the cunt. What is it about these people that they assume everyone agrees with their ridiculous prejudices - made more ridiculous by the fact that there aren't really many black people living in the UK? Most of our minorities are Asian - hence the popularity of the derogatory 'paki' in place of 'nigger'. Not that 'paki' would have been any better, but at least it'd make more sense.

I digress. The whining continued at a lower level, and the mechanic said it was probably a worn bearing in the camshaft. I might have caught it just in time, but if I need a new camshaft I'm looking at 200 quid - quarter the cost of the car itself. Also, he noticed the shock absorber on the front left was leaking oil - 75 quid; and the engine mount was shot to hell, causing the exhaust to rattle.

The problem is that the car is due for an MoT tomorrow, and I'm told it won't pass. Without a valid MoT the car isn't street legal, and I need it for work. Looks like it'll be a costly week.

Get Out The Vote

I put forward an idea about two years ago at the Halbakery (unfortunately lost in a disk crash last October) that the Hands of Victory, a monument erected in Baghdad to celebrate Iraq's victory over Iran, should be replaced by the Hands of Democracy, a monument forged using the ashes from the voting slips of the first elections. The idea was uniformly denounced as naive and wishful thinking - denounced to such an extent that I eventually withdrew it.

This past Friday I visited a small warehouse in Ashton, a town a few miles from my home. As I approached the door a neighbour called to me to say that the warehose was closed for the day, as the manager had gone to Collyhurst to cast his vote. I posted a card to let him know I'd visited, and saw a notice posted in his door - it read Gone Votin'. Open Monday.

He fled his country in fear. He set up home in the UK and built a business. He took to his adopted country to the point at which he could humurously modify an English expression. Now, years later, he locks his doors and drives to the polling station to mark his thumb with indelible ink. Nobody thought it was possible - including me.

Today, as we hear that over 70% of his countrymen joined him at the polls, I'm happy to say I was wrong.

Cross-posted at Iraq Election Diatribes and the Command Post.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

I Can't Believe It

While I was out doing an honest day's work today, some fucking layabout scummy jobless bastard broke into my car and stole the CD player. Who the fuck would do a thing like that? He'd pried the front passenger door lock open with a screwdriver. This little bastard went out this morning with a screwdriver in his pocket and went looking for cars to break into, and chose mine.

It's not even a very good CD player. He won't fetch more than a few quid for it - but I can't afford to buy a new one. That's fucking ruined my whole day.

You know what's worse? My insurance policy has a £100 fucking excess for fire and theft, and if I did decide to make a claim my premiums would go up by £100 next year. Shit.

It doesn't feel real to me. I've never been a victim of crime before - not because of any great effort on my part to avoid it - just dumb luck, I guess. It's never been a part of my life. I live, thanks to the hard work of my parents, in a nice area almost entirely free of crime - or, at least, of the crime that comes onto the street. Who knows what goes on behind these respectable middle class doors?

I suppose due to the fact that I've never been exposed to crime I don't understand how a human being could break into a car and steal my property. It goes so far beyond my boundaries that I just can't get my head round it. Probably they settle whatever pangs of guilt enter their reptilian brains by believing that the insurance company will pick up the tab. 'Hell, I'm not hurting anyone but the insurance carriers, and they deserve to get robbed.'

But that isn't the case. If, by some outlandish coincidence the guy who did it is reading this, remember that my insurance doesn't cover it. My insurance won't cover the cost of fixing the lock on the passenger door. It won't cover the cost of replacing the CD player. It won't cover the fact that from now on I'll return to my car everytime wondering whether it's happened again. It won't cover my fear. It won't cover my anger. It won't cover this feeling that maybe I place just a little too much faith in the goodness of people.

And for what? A few quid for a beat up, second hand CD player. Bravo. What a testament to humanity you are, you fucking mutant.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Additional Duties

I've been thinking for a while about the future of the blogosphere - and, specifically, my part in it. I've run Sortapundit for about 2 years now. During that time I've never attracted more than 4000 visitors in a day. On average it's been much lower. On any given day I get maybe 300 visitors.

There are countless thousands of blogs around here with that sort of readership. We trundle along in second gear, occasionally grabbing a link from a big hitter and briefly enjoying the attention it brings with it. For the most part, though, it seems almost pointless to put in too much effort. After all, the chances of even the best post being noticed are small, and the long-term rewards even smaller. Still, we soldier on. Resigned to the fact that we'll never make it big, we carry on like this because it's all we know how to do. What would we do if we didn't blog? Work? Not a chance.

However, there are advantages to being such a faceless veteran. I'm experienced enough to be accepted, and even occasionally invited, to guest blog on other, more popular sites. As such, I'll be adding to my guest blogging duties at Iraq Election Diatribes with a position at The Command Post. You know what this means? My readership rises from 300 a day to over 10,000 a day.

You know what else? I can just post the same crap on all 3 sites! I'm a frikkin' genius. Today, The Command Post. Tomorrow, the world!

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Thousands of Expatriates Choose to Vote

After reading co-blogger Daniel's post over at Iraq Election Diatribes regarding the shortfall in expatriate voter registration, I'd like to make a few comments.

I agree that there are many reasons why 1 in 10 of those eligible to vote have actually registered, not least of which is the fact that there are only 74 registration and voting centres in the 14 countries taking part.

Consider the fact that Democratic voter turnout in the US is typically lower when the weather is bad than when the sun shines. The purported reason for this is that many people who intend to vote blue can't afford their own transport, and have to walk to their polling place.

Now, imagine expatriate Iraqis as a form of "Super-Democrat" voter, an impoverished demographic driven from their homes with little more than their lives. While it would be unfair and unwise to assume that every expatriate Iraqi lives below the poverty line, I think it would be fair to assume that many do. Disagree if you wish, but I think it's a fair statement.

Now, while bad weather can keep a potential US voter from walking to his/her polling place, imagine what that voter would do if he/she had to take a train to their nearest registration center 100 miles away in the capital city of their adopted nation to register, and then repeat the journey the following week in order to vote. I know what I'd do, and 9 out of 10 expatriate Iraqis agree with me.

But that's not what I wanted to say. What I want to say is that I disagree that the number of those to have registered is necessarily low. Consider this:-

It is estimated that about 30 percent of U.S. citizens overseas vote. Overall turnout in the 2000 presidential election was more than 50 percent. According to estimates provided by the Foreign Voter Assistance Program, run by the Department of Defense to facilitate overseas voting, turnout among non-government American civilians abroad in the past four presidential elections has fluctuated between 31 percent and 38 percent of eligible voters. (LA Times)


Some experts estimate the percentage of eligible U.S. expatriates who voted in the 2000 presidential election was as low as 30%, far less than the overall 51.3% turnout among eligible voters overall.(

So, as few as 3 in 10 eligible voters hailing from the seat of democracy bothered to register in 2000, an election that was so hotly contested it invalidated the claim that 'my vote won't count'. What's more, US expatriates are, in the main, affluent and mobile. The majority of civilian expatriates living abroad are either students wealthy enough to pay extortionate foreign citizen tuition fees, or people working abroad in connection with business - meaning that they have good jobs that pay good salaries. Again, I'm basing that on only my own assumptions/prejudices, so feel free to disagree with my logic.

The simple fact is that it isn't easy to register, and it isn't easy to vote. There aren't polling places at every high school. It isn't possible to post in your vote. You have to work, really work, to get your voice heard as an expatriate Iraqi, and the fact that 93,000 of them have made that effort speaks out to me that the spirit of democracy is alive and well in the hearts of those who are about to get their first taste of self-determination. I can only hope that the Iraqi population shows as much resolve come election day.

Cross-posted at Iraq Election Diatribes.

Friday, January 21, 2005

And Take Your Bell-Bottoms, Too

Jay Tea at Wizbang counteracted the effects of 'Not One Red Cent' Day (also known, for some reason, as 'Not One Damn Dime' Day), by needlessly spending $200 on coffee and RAM, along with some of his commenters. Call it $1000 extra expenditure from the Wizbang readers and that should just about offset the drop in sales in pachouli and lava lamps.

I hopped into the DeLorean and went ahead to April 24th, 2005, where I watched a local news broadcast. Here's the transcript.

"Democrats yesterday were astounded at the response to 'Get The Hell Out, Bitter Ungrateful Pinko' Day, celebrated by Republicans across America to coincide with the 51st birthday of filmmaker Michael Moore.

'Get The Hell Out' Day was initially intended as the response to 'Not One Red Cent' Day of January 20th 2005, during which Americans opposed to the war in Iraq, the broader policies of the Bush administration and bathing boycotted stores over Inauguration Day. However, the spirit and drive of Republicans allowed 'Get The Hell Out' Day to far overshoot initial expectations. While 'Not One Red Cent' Day had little effect other than to cause a dip in sales of patchouli and dreamcatchers, 'Get The Hell Out' Day had a devestating effect on Democrats in the States.

Activities planned for 'Get The Hell Out' Day had been in the works since late 2004, when Republican operative Berns Rothchild, 35, integrated mass-produced homing beacons into a range of blue bracelets specially designed to appeal to naive Democrats. The scheme, secretly funded by the GOP, ensured that by April 2005 the majority of shrill Democrats could be accurately tracked and studied. Researchers at MIT used 17 high-powered supercomputers to build an intricate map of the United States, highlighting population centres and migration routes of Democrats.

Once the framework was set, the rest was child's play. Bracelet owners were approached and given a simple choice: shut up, or get out. Each Democrat was handed a free plane ticket to Frnace, China or a custom built communist compound in northern Alaska. They were then given 5 minutes to make their choice: either apologise for countless years of whining and promise to shut the hell up, or accept the ticket and get the hell out.

Early exit poll data shows that around 98% of those questioned immediately chose to apologise, with a 2% margin of error.

In addition to the primary program, several secondary programs were implemented. Various citizens, such as high-profile celebrities and several prominent politicians, were not given the option of apologising. Working on the '3-strikes and you're out' approach, the offenses of these personalities - promises to leave the country if Bush was re-elected, for example - were judged to be too serious to allow them to retain citizenship. These offenders were shipped directly to China, where they will be free to enjoy all the benefits of communism.

Finally, all stores that displayed Kerry-Edwards signs and stickers in their windows in the approach to the election were boycotted by Republicans - a policy enforced by deployment of the National Guard to store entrances accross America.

And so, on 'Get The Hell Out, Bitter Ungrateful Pinko' Day, Democrats didn't get one red cent.

And now, here's Chet with the weather."

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Bonfire of the Vanities Week 81

Welcome to the 81st edition of the Bonfire of the Vanities, a showcase of just how inane, bland and verbally diarrhetic the blogosphere can be, hosted this week by the blogger who best represents those qualities: yours truly. This edition of the bonfire is dedicated to my friend James' son (and my newest little buddy), Thomas Alexander Coupar-Shenton - all of a week and a half old, and already smarter than me. Anyway, on with the show.

Nikita Demosthenes reports that former National Security Chief Sandy Berger tried to steal classified documents from the National Archives - in his socks, the wily bastard. Yet another member of the Clinton Administration in trouble over the contents of their underwear.

Bruce Parrello realises that the most dangerous place on earth is the ground between two spitting pussies.

The New Federalist has 3 questions and 4 thoughts (that's more than I have in the average week) about the effect cold, hard cash can have on an 'independent' report.

Basil sears my brain with an image I really, really didn't need. I had to read it. You don't. Run! Save youselves!


Fruit of the Loom? Shudder.

Robert Fulton notes that the far right want more sex, less protection..........

Sorry, I zoned out at 'more sex'.

Why so glum, CrankyBeach? At least you'll have steamed loose those crusty stains in your microwave.

Spririt Fingers has been doing naked household chores and commentating on a celebrity lingerie 3-way smack down. Why did nobody tell me? In all seriousness, I'll be going back to this site again and again.

Andrew Ian Dodge receives an odd email. Harpswell, Maine?

CB at Carpe Bonum becomes a substitute teacher for the day.

Digger falls in love, and with very good reason. Lucky Americans and your beautiful commercial actors. We have Michael 'Calm down, dear. It's a commercial' Winner.

Phelps asserts that payola is by no means a modern phenomenon.

Mad Anthony only reads PC magazine for the bad articles.

Apparently, Bush masterminded anthrax attacks. The aliens told us during 'anal probe' hour.

Prof. Shackleford has an idea for Bush's inaugural entertainment.

Multiple mentality hosts the 121st edition of the Carnival of the Vanities, in a strange meeting of the carnival and bonfire.

The Confederate Yankee notes that CBS counts Betsy twice. Hey, say democrats - at least she has an excuse to vote often.

And the brevity award goes to... Brian J.

Beth counts herself red.

I never thought I'd see the day when I'm dissapointed there are no bugs floating in my drink.

The King of Fools shows of his shapely curves.

We're not impressed.

(Disclaimer - this is myself and my brother, sharing a bed on holiday in an entirely non-gay way - not that there's anything wrong with that, of course).

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Thanks Guys

I forgot to thank my guest bloggers for keeping my seat warm while I was away. So, Jack and Daniel: thank you very much. You can give them a visit at Random Fate and Bloggledygook, and also read their guest posts at Iraq Elections Diatribes, where I'm also supposed to be posting (when I can think of something interesting to say).

It's Alive! It's Aliiiiive!

OK, one new battery and a lot of money I don't have later, and my car works again. Unfortunately, it's now making a loud whining noise that sounds like the timing belt is out of alignment. When I first bought the car the timing belt snapped in the first week, so this one is only 6 months and maybe 5,ooo miles old. I'm just crossing my fingers that it won't need replacing. I probably need a second job.

Yep. We're Still Evil

Huh. Two posts within a few days of each other about crazy feminists objecting to common courtesy, via A Small Victory and Wizbang.

Back where I used to work there was a narrow corridor leading to the reception and bathrooms, at the end of which was a door leading to the offices. Every time I reached the door there was inevitably someone on the other side and, of course, I let them through first while holding the door. It's polite, and it only costs a few seconds. However, there was one young lady (who shall remain nameless) who strode through the door with not a word or even a nod of thanks. Every single time. To make it worse, she often clearly slowed her pace to make me wait, to the point at which I eventually pushed it shut in her face. I have no patience for a feminist power trip. Look how I can make you do my bidding. Quake at my power! I was being courteous - I wasn't being a doorman.

Apart from that example of rudeness, I've never suffered the wrath of over the top feminism, but I must admit I'd be baffled if I experienced it. If it did come up, though, I don't think there's a better reply to a compaint of sexism than the one put forth by Jay Tea in Wizbang's comments:

"I didn't hold the door for you because you're a woman, but because I'm a gentleman."

Failing that, a quick jab to the nose should work. Hey, you asked for equality. You take it like a man.

Finally. A Reliable Moonbat Tagging System

Via LGF: Anti-Bush Bracelets:-

NEW YORK - After spending 10 days in London with friends who were outspoken about their disdain for President Bush's policies, Berns Rothchild came home wishing she had a way to show the world she didn’t vote for him.

"I sort of felt ashamed, and didn't really want to be associated with being an American," said Rothchild, who lives in New York City and voted for John Kerry.

Her mother had a suggestion: bracelets, inspired by the Lance Armstrong Foundation's popular "LIVESTRONG" bands, that would signal opposition to Bush.

Thousands of miles away, two women in Idaho had the same idea. So did a woman in Kansas. The result? At least three separate bracelet ventures targeting left-leaning citizens who want to wear their political affiliation on their wrists - and at least one competitor bearing the opposite message.

Rothchild, 35, is selling blue bracelets that say "COUNT ME BLUE," while Laura Adams, of Fairway, Kan., offers blue bracelets that say "HOPE." The McKnight family, of Moscow, Idaho, is even more direct; their black bracelets proclaim: "I DID NOT VOTE 4 BUSH."

"It's kind of like saying, 'This is my tribe,'" said Adams, 43, a Kerry supporter, who was inspired by her 14-year-old stepson's yellow Lance Armstrong band.

Huh. Makes it all the easier to round the moonbats up to be rocketed into the Sun. We're still doing that, aren't we?

This amused me - 'After spending 10 days in London with friends who were outspoken about their disdain for President Bush's policies'. Look, I live in England, and the number of people here who can coherently debate Bush's policies can be counted on the fingers of a clumsy worker in the crocodile, chainsaw and fireworks factory. The knowledge of Bush's policies in Europe extends to 'well, he wants to take over Iraq' and a few 'facts' from Fahrenheit 9/11. Ask them about domestic policy and you're met with a blank stare; ask them to explain what they mean by take over Iraq and they start mumbling about oil and torture.

Ask them about John Kerry. 'Uh, he was the other guy, right? Yeah. He should have won. What were his policies? Uh... well, he would have, uh... stopped the war. Yeah. Brought the, uh, troops home.'

They make mental patients wear plastic wristbands, too.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Bad Hammer! Bad, Bad Hammer!

Joe Gandelman posting at Dean's World notes that Army Reserve Spc. Charles Graner Jr has been sentenced to 10 years in a military prison for his role in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal. Now, I didn't take much of an interest in the unfolding scandal. I don't know why, but I reserve the right to occasionally not care about even the biggest stories. In fact, I preferred at the time to frog-blog (a post that has netted me a surprising number of Google hits, strangely enough).

Considering my broad ignorance of the details of the case, I'm going to continue to ignore it. However, I would like to discuss a point made in Joe's post, made after Graner pleaded that he was just 'obeying his superiors':-

Unfortunately, if this is true, the fact is that after World War II, in the allies' treatment of Nazi war criminals some 60 years ago, it firmly was established that "I was only following orders" did not hold up in cases of alleged torture or war crimes. The people in the field, if they receive orders that are criminal and follow them, will be held they face the eternal dilemma (disobey orders and face consequences; disobey orders and face consquences).

I wasn't aware of this until tonight. Hell, maybe it'll make more sense in the morning (there are several pints of lager rolling about my stomach - in the absense of a functional automobile my friends drove to my local bar so I could have a drink. You gotta love 'em). Still, I suspect that my bafflement, if such a word appears in the dictionary, is not caused by drink. Let me get this straight. A basic tenet of any military force is that you follow the chain of command. You follow orders no matter what. The military is built on this kind of strictly ordered system. It has to be, or you would have anarchy. Now, forgetting about this current example; ignoring, for the moment, the possibility that Graner wass in fact talking out of his ass to cover same, why should a person be responsible for their actions if they were ordered to carry them out?

I studied law for a couple of years in college, and am familiar with the rules (at least, as they stood at the time) regarding duress. Duress cannot be used as a defence for murder. Say, for example, your wife and kids are kidnapped. You receive a phone call ordering you to kill the President, on pain of the sacrifice of your family. If you go through with it, you are as guilty of murder as you would have been if you killed him for any other reason - a rule that exists for a good reason. You can't have criminals claiming their mothers would be killed if they didn't kill their boss. Discussing this over a drink, a friend drew a parallel between the two. Just because you are ordered to do something doesn't mean that you forfeit responsibility, be it civilian murder or military torture. I disagree.

As I mentioned, a good soldier is trained, almost to the point of brainwashing, to follow orders. I don't mean brainwashing in a bad way, but that the training is so intense as to make following orders as natural as breathing to a soldier. Soldiers aren't civilians, and shouldn't be held to the same standards. They are trained to follow orders, and those orders will be carried out whether the soldier believes them to be good or bad. As such they forfeit responsibility. They become, in effect, a tool. You can't blame a hammer for hitting your thumb (OK, you do - but you shouldn't); you can't blame a gun for shooting a child; you can't blame the bomb for levelling Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They're all tools. They're controlled. You blame the person who wields the tool, not the tool itself.

Again, I'd like to point out that I don't know, or indeed care, whether Graner was following orders. I'm just arguing the law.

And now I'm going to take a piss.

Fuck Fuck Fuckety Fuck

Crap. After opening all my mail, watching Forrest Gump and worrying about the bills for a few hours, I thought I'd relax for a few hours with friends in front of a game of football.

My car had other ideas.

The battery must have gone flat while I was away. How the hell can a battery go flat in two weeks? That's just stupid. My dad and I tried to push start it down the hill, but all that achieved was to leave the car 200 yards from my house. We walked back to the house to fetch the jump cables, but they were useless. The battery just won't take a charge. When I connected the cables there are a couple of tiny sparks, and it charged enough to power the interior light for a few seconds, but nowhere near enough for the ignition.

Now, I'm clueless when you get under the bonnet. I usually just hope everything works as it should, and so far I've been fairly lucky. Still, it's looking like I'll need to get a new battery tomorrow, in time to drive to Bolton Monday morning for my new job.



Oh, yeah. Before we fetched the jump cables I thought about using my breakdown cover I was so wise to take out. I checked out my policy, and I get roadside assistance including 1 hour of free labour, my car towed to a garage if it can't be fixed at the roadside, no mileage or call out charges...

as soon as the car is a mile from my home.

Did I say aw fuck yet?

Cosmetic Battles

I saw a little about the whole Prince Harry Swastika mess in the papers this past week, and I see that a lot of people have been getting a little worked up.

I always get a little annoyed when a non-story like this gets blown all out of proportion by the tabloids. They throw around terms such as 'outraged' and 'travesty', painting a picture of entire communities looting and rioting in the streets, burning effigies of Prince Harry. But who, exactly, is outraged? It always seems to be a spokesman for some special interest group. It's not the Jew on the street, if you will. It's not the grandson of someone who died at Aushwitz. It's not Joe Gandelman. It's a spokesman speaking from some pissant society claiming to be the voice of all Jews. Hell, it's his job to be outraged at every perceived slight against his group. It doesn't necessarily mean that the public are outraged.

Whenever a story about some PC crap like this hits the papers I'm reminded of a line from 'A Proportional Response', an episode of the West Wing. Josh Lyman speaks to Leo about hiring Charlie, a young black man, as the President's personal aide. He worries about the 'visual' created by a black man opening doors for the President. Leo puts it to Admiral Fitzwallace:-

LEO: The President's personal aide, they're looking at a kid. Do you have any problem with a young black man waiting on the President?

FITZWALLACE: I'm an old black man and I wait on the President.

LEO: The kid's gotta carry his bags...

FITZWALLACE: You gonna pay him a decent wage?

LEO: Yeah.

FITZWALLACE: You gonna treat him with respect in the workplace?

LEO: Yeah.

FITZWALLACE: Then why the hell should I care?

LEO: That's what I thought.

FITZWALLACE: I've got some real honest to God battles to fight, Leo. I don't have time for the cosmetic ones.

Does anyone claim that Harry is a nazi? Does anyone claim that he hates Jews? Probably not. This is a purely cosmetic battle, and there's no need to fight it.

Friday, January 14, 2005

A truly Southern treat...

...courtesy of The Kudzu Files.

There's nothing better on a hot summer day than a cold RC and a moon pie on the front porch.

Of course, you would have to have experienced a true, molassas thick humid Southern summer day to understand, and that's WITHOUT air-conditioning.

More Space Blogging

The Huygens spacecraft has sent back its first signal on its descent to Titan:

"It looks like we have heard the baby cry," said Jean-Pierre Lebreton, Huygens mission manager.

"It tells us the probe is alive, that everything has been successful and that we are on the parachute."

Huygens' systems should now be preparing to transmit data to the Cassini spacecraft. The probe still has a couple of hours to go on its journey to the moon though.

The spacecraft will take a total of 750 images during its two-and-a-half-hour descent, shedding light on this cosmic enigma.

"This should provide a spectacular new view of Titan and hopefully a much greater understanding of this mysterious world," said Marty Tomasko, principal investigator on the Descent Imager/Spactral Radiometer instrument on Huygens.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

You say Osama, I Say Obama, Let's call the Whole Thing Off.

Speaking at the National Press Club, Senator Edward "make it a double" Kennedy can't seem to tell the difference:

Kennedy also mangled the name of the Democrats' new star, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, calling him "Osama bin … Osama … Obama."

Maybe he should stay away from "lunch" engagements.

BTW, there was an uncomfortable (for me) amount of applause and cheering going on. Aren't press people supposed to be unbiased? Mr. Rather? Rather? Anyone? Rather?

Americans Just Love to Blow Things Up

NASA's Deep Impact probe has been launched and sent on a collision course with Comet Tempel1:

When it arrives in six months time, it will send its payload off on a collision course with the comet. The impact of the 37,000kph projectile will release energy equivalent to 4.5 tons of TNT, and could blast a hole the size of the Colosseum in the comet's surface.

NASA scientists hope this hole will reveal more about the composition of the comet, so shedding light on the formation of our solar system. Comets are preserved pieces of our solar system's primordial days; leftover pieces of the original matter that went on to form the planets. Some scientists think that organic molecules needed to form life, and even speculate that much of our planet's water was carried to Earth by comets.

The fly-by section of the craft will watch the collision and will send data back to Earth. NASA's Hubble, Spitzer and Chandra space telescopes, and other terrestrial 'scopes, will also observe the crash.

So does this mean that if scientists find a comet or meteor heading straight for Earth that they can blow it up before it gets here? Or at least alter its course?

"Crazy" Teddy Bear Draws Protests

The Vermont Teddy Bear Company comes out with a straight-jacketed bear just in time for Valentines Day, a pathological holiday is there ever was one, and gets spanked:

Mental health advocates believe the bear is "a tasteless use of marketing that stigmatizes persons with mental illness," Jerry Goessel, the executive director of the Vermont chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, wrote to the Shelburne-based company.

"A strait jacket is not a symbol that we want to associate with sales of a teddy bear for loved ones over Valentine's Day," Goessel said. "And the use of commitment papers, legal documents committing an individual to involuntary treatment, is not something to be taken casually."

This is certainly tasteless. But I'm willing for the market to decide if the company should be punished. If no one buys the bear, they won't do it again.

No Beer and No TV Make Homer Something, Something

Well, it's the penultimate day of the holiday, and I'm soaking up as much sun as possible in anticipation of many cold months of British weather ahead. It's just gone 11am and it's hot enough to sit on the beach and bake a little more. Normal blogging service will resume Saturday am.

It's been a strange holiday all told. We hired a car Tuesday and drove to Corallejo on the north tip of the island where they have 6 miles of sand dunes, but apart from that it's just been a lot of lying in the sun. I haven't been out much at night as my brother still isn't on top drinking form after his illness, so most nights have been spent playing bullshit and blackjack. There's been some interesting TV, though. The set only picks up CNBC, Eurosport and CNN in English, but there's a whole host of entertaining German, Italian and Spanish channels. These guys have some seriously weird game shows.

There's been a lot of reading, too. I finished Terry Pratchett's Going Postal in the first few days (if you've never read Pratchett you start today. Seriously). Then came Crichton's State of Fear, which was... different. It's an interesting take on the whole global warming issue, but I'm not well versed enough to argue the science. After State of Fear I realised I hadn't brought enough books, and was forced to buy a trashy Ben Bova sci-fi piece of crap at an overblown price from the commercial centre, before my brother lent me Arthur Golden's excellent Memoirs of a Geisha - which should see me through to the end of the holiday. Memoirs.. is by far the best novel I've read this year, but as the year is only 2 weeks old and I've only read 4 books so far that's not so impressive. I do believe, however, that it'll still be the best come 31st December 2005. Only time will tell.

Anyway, the sun is shining and I'm still sitting in the shade wasting the day. Hasta manana, amigos.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

It's a Baby!

Congratulations to my good friend James and his ex-girlfriend Helen on the birth of their child Thomas. Thomas was born around 10pm GMT last night, 7th January. As far as I know he has all 10 fingers and 10 toes (or, for the more pedantic among you, 10 toes, 8 fingers and 2 thumbs).

I just hope little Thomas didn't inherit James' looks. Ugly sonofabitch. Aw, crap, he'll read this eventually. Scratch that. I'm sure the baby has inherited the dashing good looks of his suave and sophisticated father.

I only hope he's a better goalkeeper than you, Shenton.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

IHT says Muslims like the US, then says they don't.

I am generally skeptical of the claim that giving massive aid to the tsunami-battered countries will have any impact on how Muslims in general and Indonesians in particular view the US. And i don't think that the US gives aid in cases like this solely for political gain. Some, of course, but not to the extent that everybody who would call us stingy if we didn't give as much would like to think.

Raymond Bonner from the NYT has a piece this morning in the International Herald Tribune about how the US is starting to look like the good guy to many in South Asia. What's most interesting is that the title early this morning was something like "Muslims are seeing a not-so-ugly America" and now reads "Help from the U.S. poses quandary for many Indonesians."

Sheesh. Why the switch? Who knows, other than that maybe the first headline looked to pro-American.

Bonner does quote some Muslims who don't get why their Muslim brother countries are holding out:

"I am getting messages from friends, saying, 'Why have the Muslim countries been so slow and stingy?"' said Goenawan Mohamad, who is a veteran editor, writer, poet and one of Indonesia's most prominent intellectuals.

Indonesians are comparing the small amounts that have been offered by Arab countries with the hundreds of millions from the United States, Australia, Europe, Japan and China, said Mohamad, who along with the overwhelming majority of Indonesians has protested the American invasion of Iraq.
A few days ago, a letter in Koran Tempo, a major Indonesian newspaper, asked why Jemaah Islamiyah, the radical Islamic organization here, was not doing anything to help in Aceh Province, which bore the brunt of the tsunami on Dec. 26.

Jemaah Islamiyah is a terrorist group whose leader, Abu Bakar Bashir is on trial for the bombong of the JW Marriott in Jakarta.

But Bonner can't help himself from inserting standard boilerplate propaganda:

Indonesians are not basically anti-American, Mohamad said. But most of them are strongly opposed to American policies in the Middle East, starting with what is seen here as America's unwavering support for Israel. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Indonesians generally expressed solidarity with the United States, but the good will evaporated quickly.

Bonner writes that "Some Indonesian are still upset" that the US originally pledge a measly $15 million. Really? Who would that be? Somehow I find it hard to believe that someone trying to dig their house out from under a ton of mud or trying to find food or medicine or looking for (probably) dead loved ones give two snots to the US's original pledge."

In fact, if Bonner is actually doing the reporting (the name of the contributing reporter is now not on the site), I'm willing to bet that the only way that "some" Indonesians would even know about the $15 million is if somebody, oh I don't know, in the press maybe, told them. How does someone with no house and no running water and no electicity get that kind of information?

And lastly, Bonner has to put in just a little reference to the fact that Sumatra has OIL. How pathetic.

See that, Jack gets to do the fun stuff and I'm stuck of politics and tsunamis and crappy reporters. I have to find something geeky cool to write about, too.


Just a quick one. The early clouds have burned away and the sun is shining again on my formerly pasty, now singed skin.

Stephen has renamed his project Iraq Elections Blog to Iraq Elections Diatribes, mostly due to the, uh, lack of hard news and surfeit of opinionated ramblings in the posts and comments. For one, I like a bit of opinionated tat in my reading. If I want hard news I'll read a paper. If I want screaming, frothing at the mouth commentary I have the good old blogosphere. I look forward to getting home so I can get back to contributing my own shouty words to IED and Sortapundit. In the meantime, I got me some burnin' to do. Now where did I put that turkey baster?

Oh, and that heat exhaustion I complained about? It was just a cold.

God damn, I'm a wuss.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Dem's fightin' words.

Barbara Boxer. When put together, two of the ugliest words in the English language.

WASHINGTON — When the joint session of Congress meets Thursday to certify the Electoral College votes that gave President Bush his second term, several Democratic House members are expected to contest the results.

They may also find support from Sen. Barbara Boxer (search), D-Calif., whose participation under congressional rules would then require senators and representatives to recess to their respective chambers to debate certification.

The Democratic Party has morphed into a gaggle of wrinkly old bitties. And Boxer is president of the Quilting Bee.

Progress within Islam?

Andrew Sullivan posts an email from Ishad Manji, the Canadian writer who has made it her duty to take on Islamic intolerance.

Some of you haven't heard from me in a while. Please forgive the silence. I'm barely keeping up now that I don't have an assistant. But this isn't a personal update -- not exactly. It's a note of hope. At a time when disasters from the natural to the man-made are on our minds, good news seems sparse. Key word: "seems".

In the last couple of weeks, I've tried to catch up on emails received through my site ( I'm happy to report that I'm hearing far more support than hostility from Muslims around the world. Even disagreement -- of which there is plenty -- tends to be more introspective than it was a year ago.

Manji sends along two emails from fellow Muslims that she says are indicative of many she has received. They're two rays of hope from the darkness. Her website is here.

Carnival #120

Vessel of Honour hosts this weeks Carnival of the Vanities.

Monday, January 03, 2005

American Aid.

It is by now both a waste of time and a lesson in shark-jumping to call attention to the level of American aid being ramped up for the tsunami victims. And with this article the tired meme that the US isn't or won't do "enough" can now be properly placed where it belongs.

What is worth studying, however, is what makes the US so eager to help out people in catstophes and able to send that help.

Markets and liberty make it possible for normal Americans to dig into their pockets, donate food and clothing, even drop what they're doing and pitch in. It is precisely because of the immense wealth created by our free market economy that we are able to respond to disasters around the world. And the uniquely American faith in commerce enables those who would, in other countries, be more inclined to let government do the heavy lifting to actually be part of the solution.

Activism is an American birthright. Not the activism you see in the streets of Seattle or DC but true action that demands results. This emphasis on results is what separates America from the general body of nations and certainly alienates us from the UN. While Kofi Annan likes to talk about "intentions" and "processes" what he's really talking about is the failure (some would say "intention") to get anything done.

This is why, while Annan continued to ply the slopes of Jackson Hole, Bush was meeting with advisors and formulating a plan, ignoring the carping coming from Turtle Bay. It is also why Bush formed the rescue alliance with Japan, Australia and India.

Because as the UN proceeds, the US marches. And the battle is joined.

Hola from the Island, Part 2

Aw, crap. After writing about the deceptive heat yesterday I went and ignored my own warning and came down with a case of heat exhaustion. I spent last night tossing and turning for 8 hours with a delirious hallucination that I was in a town ravaged by a tsunami. Everything was blanketed in white (probably because of my white bedsheets), and people kept handing me tools to fix the town. My hands passed through the tools, and I was getting frustrated that I wasn't making any progress. Everything aches now. I´ve got this bone-deep pain and I feel nauseous.

It's entirely my fault. I don't drink water as a matter of course. I don't like the stuff, so I drink litres of Diet Coke instead. Basically I'm in a constant state of dehydration, a fact that doesn't really matter in the frigid north of England. Unfortunately, as soon as I stepped into the beating equatorial sun my body gave up the ghost. Guess I'll have to reacquaint myself with H2O. That could be pricy, since the tap water on the island is undrinkable due to its high mineral content.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Is it hot in here?

Michael Chrichton gives a hoot of an interview to the Times of London:

Boy, will the green types be hot under the collar. As Britain sweats over missing its carbon dioxide emission targets, Crichton sends a simple message: chill. And if your heart aches for Third World suffering, divert the "trillions of dollars wasted on Kyoto to the 850m people who don't have clean water, 20,000 of whom die each day".

If you doubt Crichton's research, he offers enough footnotes citing scientific journals to fill a hefty volume of their own. As a Harvard physician and at the age of 22 a visiting anthropology lecturer at Cambridge, he is in nobody's intellectual slipstream. It is not so much that Crichton is being reactionary; rather, his view offends our almost religious veneration of green issues, a faith in mother earth which holds that driving to the bottle bank in a belching 4x4 is a profound act of worship.

Ha. I was having a conversation on a similar subject the other day with someone who is studying the type of "enlightened consumer" who refuses to buy Nike or Gap and living in places like Berkeley, CA. She told me that it was important to these people that they spend their money on products they considered "clean." I countered with the idea that only the well-off or outright rich can engage in such a luxury. After all, hemp t-shirts cost as much as three or four times a Gap t-shirt.

I'm all for being a more aware consumer and holding polluters accountable. Often, however, those trying to institute change rely on junk science and high-priced guilt.

Hola from the Island

There's a little less magic than usual this holiday. When I was a young boy, the first few days of a holiday were filled with the wonder of getting used to the local currency. I've been to the Canaries a few times now, and have always had a soft spot for the humble peseta. Alas, those days are long gone. Today, wherever you travel in Europe and its colonies, you're invariably forced to use the soulless Euro, the bastard offspring of the peseta, franc and lire. Gone are the days you could gaze in wonder at a pocketful of strange and exotic coinage. Gone are the days of paper money adorned in in the images of strange foreign royalty. The Euro is covered with a map of western Europe on one side, dull non-denominational architecture of the other. Carefully designed by Satan's comittee to ensure that nobody is offended, the soul has been sucked out by the EU. Bastards.

Anyway, enough of that. The weather is great here. It's deceptively hot, as the sun is tempered by a strong easterly breeze coming in from the Sahara, a wind that apparently never falters. It makes sunbathing a treaturous activity, since you never quite know when you've had too much sun.

I had a disturbing moment yesterday. I went down to the rocky shore with my brother and younger sister. We stood on a large headland of igneous rock just a foot or two above sea level, watching the waves lap in. I began to think of the Asian tsunami, and was suddenly hit by a wave of fear as I put myself in the shoes of a tourist on the Indonesian coast. I imagined the benign ocean suddenly rearing up in a torrent of white water, and realised that if that were to happen my sister would probably die. Me and my brother were wearing trainers so we could probably run across the rocks to the safety of the higher ground behind the shore, but my sister was wearing these thick soled strappy platform things, useless for running. Even if she shook off the shoes she couldn't run away over the sharp igneous rock, and she's too big to carry at any speed. I got myself lost in that thought as I stared at the waves. Suddenly the sea didn't look as pleasant as it did a few minutes earlier.

Anyway, this is costing me money, and this keyboard is sticky with coffee and sun tan lotion. I'm gonna head back to the beach for a while and top up my burn. Hasta manana, amigos.
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