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Satrapi

Posted by Ogged
on 05.29.04

I finally bought and read (both things together taking about two hours) Marjane Satrapi's much-recommended book, Persepolis. It's fantastic. Not a single moment rings false. If you care at all to understand the experience of many Iranian families over the last two decades, or if you just want to read a very funny and very sad book, it's well worth the little bit of time it will take you.


 

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Open

Posted by Ogged
on 05.29.04

Ah, Billmon hasn't gone away, thank goodness.


 

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Question

Posted by Ogged
on 05.29.04

How do Apaches feel about having the name of their tribe appropriated by the people who tried to wipe them out and used for the helicopters sold to the Israelis to kill Palestinians?


 

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Bash

Posted by Ogged
on 05.29.04

Gary Farber reports from the Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash. Some parts might be true.

There is quite a bit of curiosity about seeing personalities embodied; even blogs that aren't personal are enormously personally revealing--seems right that you'd get a body to go with all that. I've never met another blogger (I knew Unf and Bob before the blog), and I haven't even spoken on the phone with Fontana. I mean, of course I've made reservations at the Olive Garden, but we've never spoken in a non-professional way.


 

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Big Scan

Posted by Ogged
on 05.28.04

Sometimes, I do miss Chicago.

Ald. Arenda Troutman (20th) has told associates she was searching for a long-term romance and thought a fugitive gang kingpin she believed was a legitimate businessman "might be the one"

I'm sure Donnell "Scandalous" Jehan, aka "Big Scan," wasn't at all like the other boys.


 

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Revised

Posted by Ogged
on 05.28.04

For all sad words of tongue or pen,

The saddest are these: 'Tonya Harding's new career as a boxer.'

I can't even excerpt, it's all so depressing.

You probably shouldn't even read it.


 

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Summary

Posted by Ogged
on 05.28.04

To call it a catfight would be sexist.


 

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Not Me

Posted by Ogged
on 05.28.04

The headline, "Campaign Ads Are Under Fire for Inaccuracy," is unremarkable. But this was interesting.

"Even people who don't think there is much information in these ads and say they don't learn anything from them tell us they believe factoids they could only have gotten from these ads, and they're wrong," said Brooks Jackson, director of Factcheck.org, an Annenberg Public Policy Center Web site that vets political advertisements for accuracy. "It's beyond subliminal — it's something else I haven't come up with a name for."

Right. People don't believe that they're affected by advertising, but I wouldn't be surprised if the people most likely to say they're unaffected were also the most credulous. The simple fact is this: you can't ignore what you see. You can choose to be critical, or be a willing dupe, or a dupe in denial.

via adland


 

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Cloud

Posted by Ogged
on 05.27.04

For crying out loud. I'm all for putting spammers in jail, but did the first spammer they put away really have to be a black man? Try harder people.


 

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Granted. Stinky Butt.

Posted by Ogged
on 05.27.04

Unfogged fave Leon Kass pops up in a Boston Globe piece.

Kass's argument, which took on new prominence several years later when he was appointed as chairman of the president's council on bioethics, was conducted along similar lines but with less ambiguity. While acknowledging that "some of yesterday's repugnances are today calmly accepted" (though he quickly adds "not always for the better"), Kass argued that in "crucial cases" -- father-daughter incest and the mutilation of corpses, for example -- "repugnance is the emotional expression of a deep wisdom, beyond reason's power to fully articulate it."

There are some obvious points: 1) Kass's position ("beyond reason's power") doesn't admit of argument and 2) how can he know "not always for the better" without appeal to criteria apart from repugnance, and why not just make those our guides?

But these (perfectly good) replies to Kass don't address the part of his argument that is most appealing: we do believe in repugnance as a guide. That fact gives Kass's position its rhetorical force. To deny it in the fashion of (1) above--in effect, to call people irrational--makes Kass's opponents seem like Klingons.

The better strategy is to grant that while repugnance is a fine guide for personal (or intimate interpersonal) matters, it doesn't help to adjudicate issues of public concern [update (following baa's point in comments): what I mean here is that it shouldn't be used this way, not that it can't be]. Of course, you wouldn't put it that way (lest you sound like, you know, Al Gore). Best to emphasize the extremely personal nature of repugnance itself, because we're all subject to feelings of exceptionalism where our dislikes are concerned (yes, philosophers, this is a whorish argument about the rhetoric of the issue). Then, we can be back on the firm ground of competing dislikes, and familiar democratic processes of compromise.


 

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Vitiate

Posted by Ogged
on 05.27.04

A nice, calm, dismantling of arguments from the "Arab mind."


 

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If You Must

Posted by Ogged
on 05.27.04

Yes, but what if we put it this way instead.

16% approve of sexually humiliating a suspect
18% approve of applying electric shocks to a prisoner
20% approve of threatening to harm members of the suspect's family
22% approve of holding a suspect's head under water
26% approve of forcing the suspect to go naked
31% approve of punching or kicking a suspect
39% approve of withholding food or water
42% approve of exposing the suspect to extreme heat or cold
43% approve of threatening to shoot the suspect

There's a temptation to make fine distinctions to keep as many means as possible at our disposal. But, in practice, the distinctions don't hold, and we're either a country that tortures, or one that doesn't. We do, and plenty of people think that's fine.

MORE: What will the investigations accomplish?

...a close look at what is being investigated, and who is doing the investigating, reveals gaps in the web of probes as well as limitations on the scope, with none of the inquiries designed to yield a complete picture of what went wrong or address suspicions of a possible top-secret intelligence-gathering operation that may have helped set the stage for the misconduct.

 

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Perfect

Posted by Ogged
on 05.27.04

Doug Turnbull, with the best line ever about the invasion of Iraq.

Don't blame me, I voted for Khatami.

 

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Tell Me What to Say

Posted by Ogged
on 05.27.04

Of course I'm glad Al Gore gave the speech he gave, and think his call for resignations was powerful, but did anyone else watch him deliver it? It looked like he'd never seen the speech before. And the one truly disconcerting moment was when he mispronounced Doug Feith's (F-eye-th) name as "f-ee-th." Has he heard of him?

I do wonder who wrote it. Certainly, the bulk of it was targeted at the MoveOn crowd.

One of the clearest indications of the impending loss of intimacy with one's soul is the failure to recognize the existence of a soul in those over whom power is exercised, especially if the helpless come to be treated as animals, and degraded. We also know - and not just from De Sade and Freud - the psychological proximity between sexual depravity and other people's pain.

I know Al Gore would have made an infinitely better president than George Bush, but yesterday was a sad reminder of why the 2000 race was even close.


 

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NYT roundup

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 05.26.04

...so you don't have to, of course. A weak apology; a weak blogging article and some genuinely interesting news: a Federal court smacks John Ashcroft for messing with Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law.

Interesting feature of the law:

The doctors may prescribe but not administer the drugs, and they are granted immunity from liability.

ALS patients plan carefully, I guess. I'm not one for the sorts of asymmetries that would justify a difference in legal standing for PAS and active euthanasia, but I won't rant about that now.


 

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remember him?

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 05.26.04

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,

The saddest are these: `It might have been!`

George W. Bush promised us a foreign policy with humility. Instead, he has brought us humiliation in the eyes of the world.
He promised to "restore honor and integrity to the White House." Instead, he has brought deep dishonor to our country and built a durable reputation as the most dishonest President since Richard Nixon.
Honor? He decided not to honor the Geneva Convention. Just as he would not honor the United Nations, international treaties, the opinions of our allies, the role of Congress and the courts, or what Jefferson described as "a decent respect for the opinion of mankind." He did not honor the advice, experience and judgment of our military leaders in designing his invasion of Iraq. And now he will not honor our fallen dead by attending any funerals or even by permitting photos of their flag-draped coffins.

The garden of branching paths, here for you.


 

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Forgotten

Posted by Ogged
on 05.25.04

Maybe not so ignorant. Tim Noah points out another thing the joint resolution on Iraq leaves out: the status of the Kurds.

The liberation of Iraq, which is already hard to justify from the perspective of American interests, at least had the virtue of freeing Iraqis from a brutal dictator. Despite all the anarchy and violence, life has gotten better for most Iraqis. ... But there remains a serious danger that the thriving secular democracy that already exists inside Iraqi Kurdistan will be extinguished by a dysfunctional and possibly theocratic central government. If the United States and the United Nations allow that to happen, it will be an unforgivable betrayal of the Kurds.

If a decision doesn't swing a voter in Ohio, does it make a sound?


 

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Misdirection

Posted by Ogged
on 05.25.04

Come on. With all due respect to Kevin, Trent Lott didn't suddenly--weeks after the story broke--make intemperate remarks. Lott must have seen a poll telling him his constituents don't much care about the torture at Abu Ghraib. Attacking the politicians who speak for our instinctively barbaric compatriots does nothing more than increase their stature. The real, long-term problem for the U.S. is that so many of us are willing to authorize the government to trample rights--even brutally--at home and abroad.

We would be better employed convincing the Democrats to 1) show how devastating Abu Ghraib has been to America's reputation and 2) why that matters. We have the former counter-terrorism czar, the former Supreme Allied Commander of Nato, the former commander of American troops in the Mid-East, and the guy who brought peace to the frigging Balkans, all on our side, and we still haven't convinced people that the U.S. can't do whatever the hell it wants.


 

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Skill

Posted by Ogged
on 05.25.04

This is just a damn good blog post.


 

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Success

Posted by Ogged
on 05.25.04

I imagine Mr. Prez won't be bringing this up in his next speech.

Far from being crippled by the U.S.-led war on terror, al Qaeda has more than 18,000 potential terrorists scattered around the world and the war in Iraq is swelling its ranks, a report said Tuesday.
Al Qaeda is probably working on plans for major attacks on the United States and Europe, and it may be seeking weapons of mass destruction in its desire to inflict as many casualties as possible, the International Institute of Strategic Studies said in its annual survey of world affairs.
Osama bin Laden's network appears to be operating in more than 60 nations, often in concert with local allies, the study by the independent think tank said.
Although about half of al-Qaida's top 30 leaders have been killed or captured, it has an effective leadership, with bin Laden apparently still playing a key role, it said.

18,000 doesn't seem like a rigorous count. They took an estimate of people trained in Afghanistan and subtracted Al Qaeda members thought to have been killed in Iraq. You could be trained in Afghanistan and go home shaking your head about what a nutcase you almost were. Alternatively, you could never have gone near Afghanistan and still be part of the loose network of sympathetic Al Qaeda agents. But the rest of the conclusions don't depend on the number, and they're scary.


 

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I Give

Posted by Ogged
on 05.25.04

Yeah, I said I was done with Washingtonienne, but retired and much-missed co-blogger Bob just sent me a link I can't resist. More pictures of Wonkette and Washingtonienne on the town. God damn.

More: Bob again, in the comments, notes a page with more photos and details. Here's video of the two ladies on Fox News (one imagines they'll get better at this...).


 

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they're all reading the new yorker

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 05.25.04

Hence no new posts. Talk of the the Town has an interesting bit about bloggers writing books:

Two years from now—give or take—Elizabeth Spiers, the founding editor of the gossip Web sites Gawker and The Kicker, will publish her first novel. Around the same time, Glenn Reynolds, who writes the political Web log Instapundit, will also have a book in stores.

There's something charming and quaint about that opening phrase, isn't there? How long is that in blog years? The idea of Reynolds writing a blog-inspired book (yes, I know about his day job) is even more hilarious-- what, it's just going to refer you to other books? And say 'heh' a lot?


 

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Metabeat

Posted by Ogged
on 05.25.04

What a strange day around the blogs. I don't see any new posts at my usual suspects. And I've been meaning to do a long post on identity, culture, and agency, using this James Wood piece and this wonderful post by Eve Tushnet, but, damn, I'm just burned out on long posts. I get the feeling a lot of people are burned out at the moment. Is Billmon really gone?


 

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How Poor?

Posted by Ogged
on 05.24.04

Being funny is hard. I know this for a fact because George Saunders's book, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, is hilarious, but his column in Slate about Iraq is a dud. Being topically funny on the web might be hardest of all. This is all by way of saying, The Poor Man has a gift. Seriously. I know we bloggers are amateur hacks and all, but when he's on, he's doing professional quality work. Here, for example.


 

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American psycho

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 05.24.04

Via Respectful of Otters comes a Washington Post (no, not WaPo, not now, not ever) article on Abu Ghraib noteworthy for this immortal line, from Specialist Charles Graner:

The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, 'I love to make a grown man piss himself.'

Class. I'm not the only one reminded of Patrick Bateman quoting Ed Kemper:

When I see a pretty girl walking down the street, I think two things. One part wants me to be real nice and sweet and treat her right.

What does the other part think?

What her head would look like on a stick.

 

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Experience

Posted by Ogged
on 05.24.04

I bopped over to Wonkette and saw this picture.


Very attractive, thought I, but I would never date a woman who wore heels like that. Mine was, you might say, a phenomenological observation. Wonkette is a higher being, having thematized what I grasped only crudely: the name of the picture on her site: fuck_me_heels.jpg

As one of my exes used to say, somewhat disturbingly, "Been there, done that, fucked him..."


 

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Luke, I Am Your Bitch

Posted by Ogged
on 05.24.04

Ouch.


 

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Fini?

Posted by Ogged
on 05.24.04

It's likely that I'm ignorant of some important points, but I just read the text (PDF) of the joint British/U.S. resolution on Iraq and I'm confused. You can find the highlights (handover by June 30, introduction of a multinational force, etc.) in the press, but one things seemed curious to me.

holding of direct democratic elections by 31 December 2004 if possible, and in no case later than 31 January 2005, to a Transitional National Assembly which will, inter alia, have responsibility for drafting a permanent constitution for Iraq under which democratic elections to a national government will be held;

That sounds fine, but are the coalition forces really ceding all authority for drafting a constitution to the Transitional Assembly? If the Assembly decides to partition Iraq, who can object? All the pre-war talk about partitions and the status of the Kurds wasn't strictly academic, was it? We expected the U.S. to have some say in the shape of post-war Iraq, right? Have we given that up completely? If so, that seems like the story here.


 

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The Faulty Rifle

Posted by Ogged
on 05.23.04

On 60 Minutes tonight, Anthony Zinni became the latest former administration official to say that the Bushies have irresponsibly bungled Iraq (and, as a consequence, the war on terror). And he has the best soundbite I've heard yet about criticizing the administration during wartime.

There's one statement that bothers me more than anything else. And that's the idea that when the troops are in combat, everybody has to shut up. Imagine if we put troops in combat with a faulty rifle. And that rifle was malfunctioning and troops were dying as a result. I can't think of anybody that would allow that to happen; that would not speak up. Well what's the difference between that and a faulty plan, and a faulty concept and strategy that's getting just as many troops killed, and is leading down a path where we're not succeeding in accomplishing the missions we've set out to do?

 

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Now Go Home

Posted by Ogged
on 05.23.04

You know that "nation of immigrants" stuff? We take it back.

The US Department of Energy (DoE) is barring a prize-winning Iranian physicist from working in his lab. Shahram Rahatlou had worked at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) for six years but was told in February 2003 that he was no longer allowed entry.
Rahatlou won the 2004 Mitsuyoshi Tanaka Dissertation Award for 'an exceptional thesis in experimental particle physics'. But his career is now effectively on hold following the introduction of new security measures in the wake of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.
This is despite that fact that SLAC is a civilian facility that does not conduct classified or sensitive research. Furthermore, Rahatlou's immigration status is not in question. According to Rahatlou's colleagues, no explanation has been forthcoming, and the DoE states that there is no opportunity to appeal.

I'm sympathetic to concerns about having foreign nationals in sensitive facilities. When I get together with Iranians, I hear them moan about being fingerprinted when they come into the country and, despite myself, I always wind up defending the administration. It's a bit much to ask the U.S. to just pretend that some countries aren't more likely than others to send dangerous people.

But a discriminatory policy, even when it's justified, needs to be carried out in a way that demonstrates an appreciation of the fact that it's a contravention of this country's ideals. You know what would make a huge difference to all the innocent Iranians (and Syrians and Libyans and etc.) who are photographed and fingerprinted upon entry? If the agents at the airport just recited, in whatever drone-like way they want, something like this: "Please accept our apologies, but the Department of State has determined that the risk of terrorist attack is currently so great that we are forced to inconvenience even innocent travelers from selected nations. We're sorry, and we thank you very much for your cooperation." That would cost nothing, and save a fresh-off-the-boatload of ill will.

Similarly, in the case of people working in sensitive disciplines, exclusionary policies need to be public and there has to be a procedure for appeal and review. Barring someone from the civilian lab he's worked in for six years, without the opportunity for review, says, first and loudest: "Fuck you foreigners. We can do whatever we want."

link via my mom :)


 

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Dance With Me

Posted by Ogged
on 05.23.04

Once every several months, an Israeli politician shows a spark of humanity and says publicly that what's being done to the Palestinians is barbaric.

In stark and emotional language, Deputy Prime Minister Yosef Lapid, who also holds the Justice Ministry portfolio and is a Holocaust survivor, told Israeli radio that the country risked further international condemnation if the army continued its campaign of pursuing Palestinian gunmen, demolishing homes and expelling civilians from the heart of the populous Rafah refugee camp.
"On TV I saw an old woman rummaging through the ruins of her house looking for her medication, and it reminded me of my grandmother who was thrown out of her house during the Shoah," or Holocaust, Lapid said in a radio interview after the weekly cabinet session.
"We look like monsters in the eyes of the world," he added. "This makes me sick."

Then, inevitably, he has to issue a retraction or clarification.

Health Minister Dan Naveh told the radio that even an indirect analogy to the Holocaust was inappropriate and has "no place whatsoever."
But Lapid said his comments had been misunderstood.
"I'm not referring to the Germans. I'm not referring to the Holocaust," Lapid told Israel Radio. "When you see an old woman, you think of your grandmother."

Ok, that dance is done, so on a completely different topic, check out a screenshot of the Haaretz story. What does that JDate ad say?

760,424 Blue-Eyed Women at JDate.com and counting...

Is that how it is? I'm not shocked that in a place where most people have dark hair and eyes, blue eyes are exotic and favored, but that's not very subtle.


 

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And For a Beer, To Talk, See?

Posted by Ogged
on 05.23.04

Pro-Florida bias in the press? Unfogged is all over it! E.L. Doctorow gave an anti-Bush commencement speech at Hofstra. Some folks were unhappy. But check out what's inside and what's outside the quotes in this line.

"If this would have happened in Florida, we would have taken him out" of the stadium, said Frank Mallafre, who traveled from Miami for his granddaughter's graduation.

I guess the fact that Mr. Mallafre talks like a gangster isn't a good enough reason to make him sound like one. Reporters are so nice.


 

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WW

Posted by Ogged
on 05.23.04

Wonkette and Washingtonienne go partying (seriously; here's the pic).

I think I'm done with this topic. (Unless a video surfaces, of course.)


 

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The Record on Ebadi

Posted by Ogged
on 05.23.04

Roger Simon makes (and Instapundit links to) an absolutely false charge against Iranian Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi.

Among other things, she firmly attacks the American treatment of Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners while saying nothing about the political prisoner situation in her own country, which is vastly... and I mean vastly... worse.

I recently saw Ebadi speak, and she hammered the regime about political prisoners. To thunderous applause, she said that we must support, and cannot forget, the many political prisoners in Iran. She read, to even louder applause, the names of a dozen of the most prominent prisoners, and the names of those who had been killed by the regime. As a lawyer, she represents several of those prisoners herself, and was candid (to the point of making the audience worry about her own safety) about the intransigence of the regime with regard to due process for her clients. It's that simple. The charge is false, and needs to be retracted.

Roger cites "many reports" as grounds for his charges against Ebadi, but the two pages he links are both from groups that believe all attempts at "reform" in Iran are a sham. Personally, I'm inclined to agree, but--and it's a very serious but--when I was in Iran, and in conversations with people there since then, I've found that even among the young, angry, and disaffected, the appetite for "more than reform" is generally absent. The majority want faster or more effective reforms, but still believe in the possibility of changing, rather than overthrowing, the system. And I, quite unlike the people Roger links, believe that many reformists are people of good conscience, committed to the cause of democracy and human rights in Iran.

UPDATE: Roger has graciously acknowledged this post.


 

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Finished

Posted by Ogged
on 05.23.04

I'm pretty sure Michael Kinsley just wrote the definitive piece on David Brooks. I don't know how Brooks can write another word.


 

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Veil of Ignorance

Posted by Ogged
on 05.23.04

In the comments of a post with photos of John, Belle, and Kieran Healy, Adam Kotsko writes,

There is a post waiting to be written about whether it is preferable for bloggers not to know what each other look like. I know that I'm going to take the secret of my personal appearance to my grave.

I'm with Adam on this one. Belle happens to be all sultry 'n shit, but, generally speaking, we're not blogging because we're beautiful. You know how it's disappointing and disconcerting to have actors replace imaginary characters? Just think if the casting agency could only choose from geeky, self-conscious, hyperverbal people. Damn. Is that a movie anyone wants to see?

In my blogworld, everyone looks pretty good. Even when people say they're fat, they wear it well. The ones who say they're ugly are actually just modest, and appealing in a quirky sort of way.

Of course we're all curious. But, as the evil Southern deputy said to the naive out-of-towner in a middle-of-the-night movie I saw about fifteen years ago, "curiosity killed more than just cats."


 

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Absolute Power and All That

Posted by Ogged
on 05.23.04

Since I just spent the evening with several hundred Iranians, I'll make a couple of Iran-related points.

First, the horror of the invasion and my loathing for the mullahs notwithstanding, if it turns out that the Iranians used Chalabi to snooker G-Dub into a war with Iraq, you'll have to forgive me if I spend at least one day with a massive grin on my face.

Second, reading this just-leaked British government memo about what's wrong with U.S. policy in Iraq, after having recently read All the Shah's Men, about the joint British-CIA led coup in Iran in 1953, it's impossible to miss the fact that the countries have completely switched roles. The British now sound just like the Americans sounded in 1953: moderate, concerned with public opinion in the occupied country, and keenly aware of the dangers and pitfalls. Meanwhile, the British then, and the Americans now, seem to think that just a bit more force, or a stiffer spine, will solve the problem. Really, it's amazing. Of course, the Americans (pre-Eisenhower coup-happy folks) were absolutely right, and decades of misery could have been avoided if their advice had been heeded...


 

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