Thursday, October 16, 2003

There He Goes Again

I don't have time to do a link-filled commentary, so I'll have to trust you've been following Bill Clinton's post-Presidential efforts to rewrite the history of his administration. He basically took a pass on capturing Osama Bin Laden when he was in the Sudan, and in Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden was never treated very seriously by the Clintonistas.

Now, Bill is at it again.
"In his campaign, Bush had said he thought the biggest security issue was Iraq and a national missile defence," Clinton said. "I told him that in my opinion, the biggest security problem was Osama bin Laden."
Which explains why he devoted the last four months of his presidency to trying to make Arafat and Sharon complete some kind of Middle East agreement to the exclusion of everything else.

I'm posting this mostly to bring it to the attention of others and make sure this isn't lost in the shuffle of other affairs.
It's All Over Now But The Cleanup

I blogged earlier [Scroll to "Xenophobic Democrats" if the permalink is bloggered.] about the Mississippi governor's race. Democrat Musgrove has been running bizarre, nativist ads attacking Barbour for being a high-powered, international lobbyist. It's the only kind of ad Musgrove is running and Barbour's run few ads at all. The race is too strange to call right now.

Tuesday past, the two debated. It was a fiasco. The Green candidate, who was not invited by the Democrat/Republican controlled forum, attempted to walk up on stage to join the two main candidates. He had to be escorted out by security; his supporters remained and heckled Barbour througout the night.

Musgrove basically played Barbour. He "... pushes Barbour's buttons on purpose," said one observer, and Barbour fell into the trap. He looked an angry fool.

I waited until today to write this up because I wanted to see if the Commercial Appeal would cover it. They finally did, today, but in a roundabout way. They used an Associated Press article that covered the brou-ha-ha after the debate. I don't know where the CA thinks we learned about the debate that we're already discussing the aftermath, but there you are. The AP story has no mention of the Green Party candidate, and carries a bit of pro-Musgrove slant. He's quoted at length early, and Barbour is put in the position of "denying" charges.

But it all may be for naught. Chris Lawrence of Signifying Nothing has been blogging up a storm on the latest development. Start there and then go here, then here. Then go to the top of the blog.

Barbour was photographed with the "White Collar Klan," the Council of Conservative Citizens, at a fund-raising event. It's a Trent Lott moment for sure. Chris has lots of links and details that I won't try to reprise. Go read the whole thing. He thinks it's enough to cost Barbour the election and it's been enough to force Chris to move back into the "undecided" column in his choice of candidate.

My take is that Barbour has just handed a loaded gun to the Democrats. Regardless of circumstances, it will be hammered from now until election day. Barbour's response to the "Washington lobbyist" charge was rather weak; how he deals with this far more grave challenge will make or break him.

It's not good, at all.
Come See The Liberal Bias!

Part of a continuing series of refutations of Liberals and Democrats who swear that there is no-one using the "fascists" and "Nazi" epithets against the Right. I'm documenting them as I find 'em.

First up, Australian columnist and political commentator Margo Kingston writes in the Sydney Morning Herald, quoting from a reader's letter:
I smell Nazism every day in the news and I want to know where to go to meet like-minded people to talk, to protest, and if necessary in the long run, to revolt.
Now, yes, Margo didn't write this herself, she's quoting someone else. But Margo made the choice to quote that passage, to let it go uncommented in a column full of agreeing statements. She passed it on uncritically, so it counts.

Next, also from the SMH, is a news story quoting an Anglican priest, for heaven's sake! Here you go:
A gay British priest today likened Sydney Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen to Adolf Hitler over his opposition to gay clergy and same-sex marriages.

Rev Martin Reynolds also said anti-homosexuality was the last vestige of evil in modern society.

Hat tip to Tim Blair for these.
A Saner Perspective

Commercial Appeal appeal columnist Wendi C. Thomas went out and confronted her fear of guns.
She writes about the experience and it's a pretty good column. She loses points for hyping the melodrama and overplaying a little, as well as all those one-sentence paragraphs. I assume its meant to convey nervousness and quick passage of time, but a whole column of it is tiring to read.

There's one passage that reads a bit off:
He talks for hours. He preaches on about gun safety, gives us a primer on ammunition, and shows us several guns.
"Preach" is a slightly loaded word in any charged context, so I'm a bit leery of its use here. But without any quoted stuff, it's hard to know how accurate it is.

But then she honestly admits:
It's then that I remember what Roy stressed in class: Once you pull the trigger and the bullet leaves the gun, you can't take it back.

And that's when I know I could never own a gun.

I'm not against the right to bear arms.

But for me, having a gun says something.

It says I don't completely trust God to protect me.

And I do.

It says that I'm prepared to use it, maybe kill someone.

And I'm not.
This is smart. If you know you cannot shoot to kill, never, ever pull a gun on someone, much less point it at them. If you are unwilling to pull the trigger lethally, then you will be killed. Thomas is savvy to understand this and accept her limits.

On the other hand, we now know she's defenseless, unless she knows martials arts or employs some other means of self-defense. Not a wise thing to say to 150,000 or so strangers.

Still and all, pretty honest and balanced writing about a politically tinged personal experience. AlphaPatriot has some thoughts on this column as well. He reaches a similar conclusion.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Hillary Clinton Presidential Update

I am one of those who believes that Hillary Clinton will run for President. Whether it's next year or in 2008 is the question. There are downsides to waiting for 2008, like having an incumbent Democrat to run against in the primaries. Many watchers on the Right think she'll find a way to bail in sometime in 2004. We/they see the General Wesley Clark campaign as her stalking-horse, in case that scenario comes into play.

But FOX News makes some excellent points about why this isn't likely to be her year. I have to say, they've swayed me.

But I'm still gonna look over my shoulder every so often. You can never be too careful around those Clintons.

Nextel has a commercial that looks like a community theater production of Romeo and Juliet. The players speak into Nextel mobile phones and the whole play has been reduced to run in roughly thirty seconds. It's a scream! All the main points are hit with one or two words and it's to die for. Shakespeare hasn't been parodied this well since the Firesign Theater's "Anythynge You Want To". Watch for it.

Also, there's a Saturn Ion commercial where we see various models of the car racing through the streets of a city, chasing and capturing clowns. It sort of resembles Seventies cop-show televsion. I have no idea what it stands for. But the music is awesome! A rock band crossed with a big band, kind of like the theme from "Hawaii Five-O." Very catchy riff and a driving, horn-accented beat. Anyone know who does this song?

Man, do I love sushi. Easy to eat, good for you and tasty. It's great food to eat at the computer, too: only takes one hand.

Now, some of you are already saying "Raw fish? Ewwwwww." Fair enough, but not all sushi is raw fish; it's a generic name for a type of food that sometimes includes fish, but also can include vegetables and other meats. California rolls are an example of this. Heck, there's even a "cowboy sushi" that's made with warm, breaded, deep-fried chicken and drizzled with teriyaki sauce.

Today's Commercial Appeal has an article by restaurant/dining reporter Christine Arpe Gang about some local take out sushi. They looked at two organic grocer varieties and a local convenience store (I am not kidding: Lee's Fresh Sushi and Deli, a Citgo gas station.) that have begun to offer sushi. All fared pretty well.

But they left one out. Sekisui is a small local chain of Japanese restaurants from the insanely busy chef/entrepreneur, Jimmy Ishii. There's one downtown, one in Midtown just down the block from me, and the mothership out East. All very, very good and busyyyyyy. Sekisui has been offering small boxes in several varieties, as well as a party platter, at the Schnuck's grocery store on Union Ave. for a few years now.

Obviously, it's not as good as fresh-made, which is the whole point of sushi. But for a quick, box lunch, it's hard to beat.
Advice For The RIAA

Nicolas Thompson is a contributing editor for Washington Monthly and a busker. He regularly straps on his guitar, goes into the subway stations and platforms, and performs for the commuters passing through. It's given him a unique view of music consumers and he has some thoughtful advice for the Recording Industry Association of America in their fight against music consumers in his story, "Notes From the Underground."
The music industry functions like a cartel, and the public's preferences have always been limited by the choices they were given. Now that the market for music has changed, and CD sales are declining, the record industry is hiring lawyers and lobbyists to squelch the new technologies that are changing the music business. Over the last few months, the Recording Industry Association of America has issued hundreds of subpoenas to college kids who swap music over the Internet. Meanwhile, the industry's lobbyists have convinced Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), himself a songwriter, to float the idea of allowing companies to remotely slag computers whose owners used them to download movies and songs.

But the industry's efforts are counterproductive. About 60 million people in the United States have already swapped copyrighted material over the Internet, and that number isn't likely to shrink. The times are a changin', and record companies should learn to how to profit in this new environment.
I strongly encourage you to read the whole thing.
20 Great Google Secrets

If you are like most folks, you use Google as your search engine. I use the Mozilla Firebird browser, which lets you set a search bar into your browser window, and it's tuned to Google. Searching for something while still reading an article is fast and easy.

But we can all use tips and tricks to improve our quality of searching Google and that's what this PCMag article offers. Check it out.

Hat tip to Fark for the link.
Alternate Headlines

One of my interests is "alternate history." What if Hitler had won World War II? What if the American Revolution had failed? What if the South had won the Civil War? What if Columbus' ships had sunk before he made it to the Americas? Asking these questions and trying to discern the answers is what alternate history is. Some great books have resulted: "For Want of a Nail," "Bring the Jubilee," "The Man in the High Castle," and many more.

Bill Livingston has a great list of headlines and stories from the newspapers of these alternate worlds:
"I just don't understand this music," says retired big band leader.

40,000 Mormons killed in first strike on Deseret by Republic of California. CSA and Apache Free State condemn attack. USA suspected in aiding RoC's research.

"Man with the Golden Gun" pitches second no-hitter.

Champ KOs Missouri challenger in 10th round.
You get the idea. There are dozens more. Thought-provoking in the best way, and mostly hilarious.
Naifeh News

Seems that State House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh is fighting prostate cancer. While he may be a political thug of the ugliest and most naked kind, he's also a human being and I wish him well in this fight.

But the interesting thing in the article reporting this, by Richard Locker, the last of the old CA's troika of poisonous partisans, is this passage:
Naifeh is not expected to have a major opponent in next August's Democratic primary, but already has a Republican challenger in the general election just over a year away: Dr. Jesse Cannon, a Covington physician and businessman.

Naifeh's House District 81 includes most of Tipton County and all of Haywood County. Although he is usually a GOP electoral target, efforts to unseat him heightened after he emerged two years ago as a leading advocate of tax reform centered around a state income. But he defeated Republican challenger Antonio Lopez, a retired Air Force officer, last November with 52.8 percent of the vote.
No mention of the gerry-mandering Naifeh engineered to make sure his increasingly Republican Tipton County was supplemented by the still Democratic Haywood County so that he could keep his seat. Without Haywood, Naifeh would have lost; election results proved it. Nor is credit given to Lopez, who entered the race at literally the last minute and ran a write in campaign against the State's most powerful and feared legislator. Cannon emerged later as a "standard" candidate and has been constantly and carefully building a network for his run. It should prove interesting and you can bet I'll be covering it.
Hobbes On The Job, And Other Good News

Bill Hobbs, I think it's fair to say, is non-pariel among Tennessee bloggers. He's unquestionably the closest amongst us to a newspaper reporter when it comes to breadth and depth and quality of reporting. This year, he's really come into his own and I think next year may be the year he begins to be noticed by -- and have stories taken up by -- the major state newspapers.

Today, he reports on the steady surplus that Tennessee tax revenue has been producing, even in a "troubled" economy. You'd think the state's newspapers would be trumpeting this, but you'd be wrong. It's probably the most important under-reported story in the state. The CA certainly is avoiding it.

But they have reported that TennCare is expected to meet its budget this year without further input of funds. That's right, the Great Sinkhole, the Black Hole of Nashville, has been brought to heel at last. Amazing how folks who have no choice but to produce results can be made to... well, produce results.

Once more, we see how Sundquist, Naifeh and their lackeys in the press (Hi, Paula Wade!) were lying to us all along.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Hit And Run

Several Commercial Appeal items, none worth a separate post.

First, seems the residents of the Winchester/Shelby Drive/Hacks Cross area are upset that a cellular tree tower is going up in their backyard. They say it's "visually obtrusive." In this area, they're worried about appearances? Yeesh.... If I was to complain about the highways and over-widened roads here in Midtown, all to support the masses who chose to move way the hell out into the county, would they be sympathetic? So why should I? Crybabies.

Second, new Commercial Appeal columnist Wendi Thomas writes:
I write to you on behalf of the students of the Memphis City Schools.
Someone writing on behalf of a group they don't belong to bothers me. It's presumptive, with a touch of arrogance. Who is she to speak for them? She was once a City Schools student? Well, I was once a student, can I speak for them too? Or is that one remove too many? Why? What's the distinction?

Do you see where I'm going here? Speak for yourself, or for your position. Let others speak for themselves. The City schools do turn out some fine, literate writers. Why not let them speak for themselves?

And lastly, Commercial Appeal television critic Tom Walters, responding to one of the CA's new reader/reviewers about some new sitcom, It's All Relative. First, the reader:
I think the show is not for anyone, especially young children. Homosexuals are perverted and not needed as examples for young minds. God intended for a man and a woman to be married, not two men.

Here's Walter's response:
Man oh man, this is the one show I've gone back and forth on, and not because of the two dads. That is a funny dramatic conceit, and to say gay people shouldn't be on TV is like saying TV shouldn't show murderers in dramas because murder is a sin.
Interesting equation there, Tom. Gays and murderers? GLAAD should be on the other line any moment now.

The problem, at least for the viewer above, is that homosexuality is the new chic taboo for television. That is, the tweak to Middle America that's fashionable in Hollywood. Every few seasons, they change. For a while, it was fallen or radical priests. This is just Hollywood writers, directors and producers rattling the cage of the people they look down on. It's safe, because everyone's doing it and supporting it, but will still get media buzz for their show from people in the great, unwashed middle of the country.

A gay marriage is still not accepted by the vast majority. The problem is that the reader above sees homosexuality as sinful, as do overwhelming numbers of Americans. What's being shown is sin without consequence and with celebration.

And that's where Walters falls down. Murderers are nearly always brought to justice and punished. It's the unusual show that allows murderers to go scot-free. Viewers see murder as sinful, the worst of all sins. To allow it to go without consequences is unacceptable to a very grave degree. So it rarely happens.

For many Americans to see something they view as nearly as sinful as murder treated differently is troubling.

Not that Hollywood cares, because most folks will keep watching the networks anyway. When viewers begin to vote by turning off their sets on a regular basis, and not shopping with those advertisers to a noticeable degree, then we might see change. But it's not coming soon.
Amelia Earhart

Some time back, I started writing a short story that used Amelia Earhart, the famous aviatrix, as a central character. I had to do some research, of course, and read some biographies and a whole lot of websites. I never finished the story, but Amelia stuck with me.

Turns out she wasn't such a good pilot. She had a bad habit of nosing planes into the ground and occasionally landing in the wrong spot. Her sensational around-the-world flight, the one where she went missing over the Pacific Ocean, had to be delayed because she crashed her Lockheed Electra on take-off. In fact, a contributing reason for her disappearance was that she insisted on using a new radio-directional finder in her plane, and not the one she had trained with.

But what she was, was a woman far out of her time. She was a pacifist due to her service in WWI as a nurse. The wounded men she saw set her firmly against war. She was an unshakeable feminist in an era that feared the idea. She always wore slacks, kept her hair tomboyishly short and insisted on being treated as any man would be. Slender, dashing and attractive, with strong charisma but a humble, self-effacing manner, Amelia made a perfect media figure.

Amelia also had courage enough, and determination, for several people. As a young woman, she had no fixed notion of what to do with her life until she happened to go to a Los Angeles airfield and took a flight with a barnstormer. When she landed she knew she wanted to be an aviator and nothing could sway her. She lost her fiance because of her firmness.

She worked hard to learn to fly, and to get her own plane. She became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, though strictly speaking she was only a passenger. But that flight brought her fame, which she built upon. Using the public eye, she worked to encourage all women to explore any job field they wanted, whether it was open to women or not, and she tirelessly promoted other women aviators.

Amelia spent most of her life a single woman -- an oddity in that era. It wasn't until she met G.P. Putnam, of the publishing family, that she married. Even then, she did things her way. Amelia and GP caused a scandal by taking up together before he was divorced. And she almost didn't marry him. She was so leery of the concept of marriage, the idea of being fixed to one person for life no matter what, that she wrote a letter to GP just before their marriage, letting him know that he was always free to walk away.

GP was her greatest supporter, using his ties to the newspapers and magazines of the day to promote her latest flight. That's what helped lead to her around-the-world flight.

She nearly made it. Current thinking is that she was off course for her next stop, Howland Island, and either had to ditch in the ocean or on one of the many atolls in the area. The US Navy was called out to help in the search. They heard radio voices, but could never identify them enough to locate her.

There have been rumors over the years. That she was captured by the Japanese and executed as a spy. Her route took her near some secret Japanese bases. That she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, landed safely but died of injuries or thirst. There have been many reports over the years of sightings at various times and places in the Pacific, but none have been substantiated.

The latest theory comes from the tiny island of Tinian, located here, east-northeast of the Phillipines. A man has reported a conversation he had all those years ago with someone who claimed to have buried a white couple in aviator suits on that island. There's enough substance to the claim that an expedition has been mounted and the area is being searched.

In a way, I hope they don't find her. It would settle the mystery and let Amelia sink at last into the annals of history, to be forgotten in due time. As it stands, her mystery keeps her alive in memory and lets future generations learn of this remarkable woman. She is even today a woman to look to as a role model for being yourself and doing what you are destined to do. I would hate to see that lost.

Let me leave you with a poem she wrote, "Courage":

Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.
The soul that knows it not, knows no release from little things.
Knows not the vivid loneliness of fear nor mountain heights
where bitter joy can hear the sound of wings.
How can life grant us boon of living,
compensate for dull gray ugliness and pregnant hate,
unless we dare the soul's dominion?
Each time we make a choice, we pay with courage
to behold the restless day and count it fair.
Referrer Log Fun

I generally don't go into my referrer logs. It's not something I worry too much about. But while looking over my increasing traffic stats (Thanks again, y'all!) I got curious and took a look.

I found what I suspected: most of my referrals come from fellow Rocky Top Brigade members, mostly South Knox Bubba and Say Uncle. Thanks, guys. I get the usual folks drifting in from search engines, mostly looking for movie-related info. This is because I now do the occasional movie review.

But lately, I see I've been getting a fair number of hits coming from Jon W. Sparks. Recognise the name? He's the guy behind C. A. Eye! That's right, an employee of the Evil Empire, the Commercial Appeal, liked my site enough to link to it.

I emailed him, of course, and he turns out to be a nice guy with a healthy sense of humor, much as his column would lead you to suspect. Of course, now I have to wonder if the folks at the CA who I've really slammed, like Kushma or Kelly, have seen this little bit of ego puffery? Will I come one day pixel to pixel with them? I quake in my slippers at the thought.

Nah, no I don't. Not any more. I'm a gnat to the CA's elephant. They have nothing to fear from someone like me. I used to worry at first, even going so far as to be pseudonymous, but I've since developed a healthy view of my place in the information foodchain. Besides, I can use the readers.

So, kudos to Jon for being a good egg. Go visit his site in return. He's got some non-CA stuff that's worth a read.

He also pointed me to an incredible site: Peggy Phillip. She's the news director at WMCTV-5 and keeps a blog. It's very insidery, with a whole lot of behind-the-scenes WMC information unavailable anywhere else. The blog page is obscenely long, with tiny type, but a veritable fountain of things you just can't find in the papers. Recommended.

I also tripped across Above The Fold, a now-closed weblog for Memphis media professionals. Sadly, no archives remain. It would be fascinating to get to see them.
More On Carol Chumney

After posting my thoughts on the District Five City Council Race, and especially TN State Representative Carol Chumney [more here], Democrat, who is now in a run-off with Republican George Flinn, I received some email.

Daniel Lee, of Child's Best Interest pointed me to his organisation's website and their analysis of Chumney's conflict of interest. She chairs the committee that deals with family and court issues in the Legislature while also being a lawyer specialising in those issues. She was previously with Glankler, Brown LLC, the influential Memphis law firm with many members to be found in various levels of local and state government, but is now in private practice.

Clearly, this is a conflict of interest, but to what degree I'm not sure. CBI is a national organisation devoted to assuring that custody issues in divorce cases are handled fairly. It is associated with the "men's movement," which works on behalf of men in trying to obtain a fairer balance in custody and visitation for men than is presently obtained.

I'm not sure here, but I'm willing to present the evidence to you and let you make up your own mind.
Blog Rodeo

Lots of good stuff on lots of blogs this week, so I'm lumping them all here with minimal comment. Your job: read 'em all. Get to work.

Jay Manifold of A Voyage To Arcturus looks at the cost benefits between jet travel and rail travel. Social engineers continue to push rail as an alternative to cars and planes. Rail comes out a very poor second in Jay's opinion. He has a chart, too!

A Little More To The Right tells you "How to be a Democrat / Liberal." Pretty funny.

Kevin of The Smallest Minority has a long, detailed and passionate post where he looks at the Democrats through the idea of "the anointed." He shows how reasoned argument using evidence will not work with some of them and wonders what to do. Quoting Thomas Sowell, he asks "How do the anointed manage to survive - and, indeed, flourish - after being wrong so often?" Good, good stuff.

Fans of Star Trek have to ask: "Have the Chinese been watching it too?" [Hint: Look at the logo in the back.]

I'm a fan of "Engrish," that mangled form of English that only Asian nations like Japan, Korea and China can produce. You've no doubt run across it when trying to read the manual for your made-in-Asia consumer electronics. Here is what happens when someone ill-equipped for the job did the English translations of the "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" DVD. Bend the hands!

A former Astute Reader who nows has his own blog, Goobage looks at Federal and State Goob. He delves into the numbers regarding Federal and State level government spending. It's eye-opening, to say the least, how much government takes from us. He has the numbers, too, lots and lots of 'em, with lots and lots of zeroes involved. Not for the faint of heart.

No particular post to point to at Conservative Zone. Just lots of conservative commentary by a good friend, with a side serving of stories about life with mental illness. Both parts make for a slam-bang whole. Always recommended.

Poynter Online is an website for journalists. They host Jim Romenesko, which is a necessary read for those who monitor news reporting and journalism. I stumbled on this post:
The other day, a reporter asked me, "What is narrative, anyway?"

I should have had a ready answer at my fingertips (but it was early in the morning and I hadn't opened my can of Red Bull).

I mumbled something about an attempt to impose order on the chaos of the human condition (as I said, it was early and ...).

Then it occurred to me that we throw the word "narrative" around pretty freely these days. Yet here was a veteran, sophisticated reporter who was keenly interested in producing this thing she heard everyone talking about, but honestly wasn't sure what it meant.
There follows a long, long list of thoughts on, and definitions of, "narrative" from all sorts of journo types. What fascinates me is how reporters, whose job is "who, what, when, where, why and how" worry about creating a narrative. The answers are a disturbing view into how the news you see every day is put together.

I rediscovered LIberty Larry's website. He's a Memphis Libertarian and has his own list of recomendations in the recent Memphis elections. I know, late; but his thoughts about Chumney and Flinn apply still.

And finally, Hatamaran offers a list of "New Medications for Women Only." Damnitol, Buyagra, Peptobimbo.... Today's laugh.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Thank You

Just went into the site stats for this page and learned some good news. I've reached a new plateau in daily visits. I was averaging around two dozen or so visits on week days, much less on weekends. I'm sure that says a lot about where my readers are reading, and how they get the hell away from their computers come the weekend.

Well, this week, I've been averaging about two or three times as many visitors! I've been trying to be more consistent in posting and I've tried a bit of networking. I have also been more diverse in my content. I guess it's paying off, eh?

So thank you all for coming here and reading this little bit of ego display. To borrow from Says Uncle, I do this for me but I always have you in mind. I always hope I entertain, enlighten and maybe persuade some of you. I'll endeavor to keep on trying.

It's Alive, Alive!

I will be dipped, as Huey Long used to say. I've blogged about Blake Fontenay's Commercial Appeal blog recently, here and here. As I've said, it's basically been an online version of the short bits he does for the paper. My assumption was that it was a catchall for stories that otherwise might be lost when the paper didn't have room for them that day.

Now there are signs of change. In an October 8th post, he wrote in a very conversational manner about his predictions for the coming city elections. And then, on October 10th, he addressed his predictions post-election. Not only that, but he took notice of my comments in his blog and addressed them, naming me by name! I've arrived.

I have to say, this is a welcome change. I really hope Blake continues, as his time permits, to keep his blog in this new style. It is far more like the kinds of blogs that readers of Mr. Mike's Rumpus Room O' Science are used to, and a very good way to address charges that the paper's conversation with its readers is one way.

Go take a look and see what you think. If you like it, let Blake know. I'm glad to have been noticed and appreciate being taken seriously, even if my blogging style is far more, er...spicy than the more neutral and dispassionate style that newspapermen like Blake cultivate. I'm looking forward to more. I really am.
Susan Sontag Speaks Out, From Germany

As so many in the literary and media world have done, Susan Sontag is making remarks critical of American policy in Iraq, but from the perceived safety of Europe. I guess she falsely thinks she's insulated by the Atlantic. Sontag has been very abusive of American policy towards Iraq, and Bush administration policy in general, since Day One, so it's not like she's hiding anything. But I'll guarantee she'll get more press coverage than she has been with these remarks.

While in Germany to receive a "peace prize" from German booksellers, she had this to say:
“I think as long as the USA has only one political party — the Republican party, a branch of which calls itself the Democratic party — we aren't going to see a change of the current policy,” she said.

Sontag said Bush's policy breaks with America's 50-year-old tradition of consulting with its allies on global matters instead of acting on its own, which the Bush administration did when it went to war against Iraq without the backing of the United Nations.

“It's really the end of the republic and the beginning of the empire,” she said, likening former President Bill Clinton to Julius Caesar and Bush to Agustus.
Her statements about the US now not requiring UN approval and coordination before we act is a bit like saying, "Hey! The sun's yellow." Since 9/11, Bush policy has been just that, to move away from international entanglements that stifle US interests in favor of a status quo Euro-quagmire politics. I think this unilateral approach is a good thing, as Europe has long shown they are willing to let the US finance their militaries while they command them. It's better to heed the Jeffersonian advice to avoid foreign entanglements.

As they say, read the whole thing. There's quite a bit more. You can find more of her remarks here, including some editorialising by the Deutsche Welle.

Now, on the subject of republic vs. empire, I think she's more onto something. It's a healthy debate to maintain: is America sliding toward empire? Sontag believes so, and I worry that we may be. But the surest sign that we are not is Europe and Japan today. If we were empire, they'd be client states. Anyone can see that's not the case, especially Europe. Look at our most recent involvements in Kuwait and Kosovo. In neither country has America set itself up as a master. But I do think we're still a bit too close, in that we're aiding Europe in maintaining hegemony over the Eastern Baltic states. And it's definitely true that we're just involved in too many places around the world for our own military health; our political health as well. It's something to think about. You can read some good stuff by author Jerry Pournelle here or by just scrolling down from the main page and looking at topics. It's a high-quality content site anyway.

On the subject of Susan Sontag, her book "Illness As Metaphor," is one I recommend unreservedly. I did a paper on this in college. She looks at the tuberculosis scare of the early 20th century and the myths and fears that built up around the disease. Then she looks at the cancer scare of the late 20th century with the same eye and dymystifies the disease. It's a powerful essay. She later wrote "AIDS And Its Metaphors," which the book above also contains.

Shame about the politics, though.