Friday, September 24, 2004

"You don't HAVE to HATE the United Nations..."

"...but you damn well better see it for the disaster it really is."

[Seems like everybody is talking about Dan Rather and CBS and Kerry's latest positional pirhouette. I thought it might be good to address an issue that is at the heart of a lot of problems faced by the U.S., which have facts and history that can at least be agreed upon by people of different politics, regardless of the different solutions they might prefer.]

To understand the contempt and antagonism felt by many Americans for the United Nations, it is essential to grasp the transformation of the U.N. from its origins to what it is today. In the sixty years since its opening, the world has endured a prolonged spasm of deconstruction.

"In 1945, 51 states had signed the Charter of the United Nations. Then, between 1954 and 1969, 53 newly independent states also became members of the United Nations. This reflected the triumph of nationalism and the end of the age of the European overseas empires." — The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

That quote gives just a hint of how much has changed since the founding. The tension between the United States and the U.S.S.R. dominated by the post-war period, But the end of the Soviet Union fractured all the old alliances and added a bewildering list of newly independent countries lining up to join the United Nations. The NATO military excursion into Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina (comprising formerYugoslavia) may be the last coherent action by that group in a form recognizeable to its founders. The European Common Market of the 1960's has been supplanted by the European Union; The Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact have re-emerged as the Confederation of Independent States, and the Organization of American States is gradually being eclipsed by NAFTA, the World Bank, and World Trade Organization.

When the United Nations held its first sessions, its charter members numbered only 51, comprised mainly of those nations that had allied to defeat the menace of Fascism in World War II. This is precisely because the organization grew out of that effort, even to the extent of taking its name from proclamations issued during the war by Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin after their conferences. The United Nations started its business as an alliance of nations mostly sharing similar cultures, representative governments, and cultural legacies roughly centered on Western Europe.

In increasingly sharp contrast, many of the new members emerged from former colonies of European nations, or regions previously under Soviet Union, or regions that were too poor to have attracted the interest of the two former groups. There is understandable mistrust, hostility and resentment from those groups toward the nations that had been colonial powers, and nations perceived to be exploitive of the "third world." In the fifties and sixties, those resentments were primarily manifested in the aloofness and obstructionism of the so-called "non-aligned" nations. Their "non-alignment" tended to mean they cynically played both sides, trying to get the U.S. and Soviets to outbid each other to woo them.

In times of crisis, though, most nations recalled the United States had after all, claimed no new territories as prizes, and had actually helped prevent starvation and plague in countries that lay prostrate after the War. They remembered also that the U.S.S.R. had behaved very differently. And in the clinches, if they didn't side with the U.S., at least they did not interfere in its efforts.

But the idea of autonomy for self-selecting ethnic or cultural groups gathered momentum in the 1960's, and became a global imperative. There may have been a lot of events and trends that encouraged groups to suddenly fixate on nationhood. The result was a rash of small nations that are NOT viable economically, nor capable of maintaining democratic self-government against the predation of monsters.

In the last three decades of the 20th century along with everything else that's gone on, there have been scores of small wars of national liberation, followed by counter-revolutionary power grabs, followed by opportunistic territorial seizures by neighbors, followed by coups, followed by juntas, succeded by presidents and dictators-for-life. At the start of the new millenium the world has a crowd of countries ruled by a tiny ruthless elite, dominating by torture, murder, imprisonment, confiscation, and extra helpings of murder and torture. And each of these has applied for and received the blessings of membership in the United Nations.

There are many reasons why countries headed by bandits, rogues, thugs, dictators, or murdering bastards are not excluded from membership. But whatever reasons are applied, the result is ever more coziness between the United Nations staff, and the delegates whose votes they need to keep pay rises and benefits coming. Sound familiar?Can you say "House Banking Scandal?"

Just for instance, under the United Nation's DIRECT supervision, Saddam Hussein had since the first Gulf War been using his nation's oil to pay corrupt officials of various nations to protect himself from justice. That farcically mis-named “Oil for Food” program was personally administered by U.N. Secretary-General Koffi Annan, who appointed his son to conduct much of the business, and personally approved the various corrupt contracts that provided obscene profits to corrupt officials of his and Saddam’s choosing. Billions of dollars that should have been used to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi population went instead to line the personal accounts of cynical, posturing politicians, who all the while loudly blamed America for the oppression of the Iraqi people.

All that, of course, only really came to light AFTER the fall of Saddam. But now we know why the U.N. and France, and Russia, and Syria were so energetic in opposing the war--- it shut down their private looting operation.

Because we're so well insulated from the harsh deprivations of other places, we Americans have difficulty grasping how commonplace it is for brutes, thieves, crooks, and murderers to end up as the head-of-state of a government. It used to be pretty much the standard career path, but we've become very civilized, and obvious brutality is not encouraged in the resumes of our leaders.

So, each of those emerging dictatorships sends a delegation to the United Nations, and those delegates enjoy the privileges and benefits afforded diplomats and ambassadors. In exchange for the international legitimacy this bestows upon the ruling thugs, those countries in turn cooperate with the United Nations bureaucrats in their ever-more self-serving and lucrative schemes. Just for starters, the dues assessed primarily upon the richest nations provide princely remuneration and perquisites for the bureaucrats and staffers of the U.N. itself.

The most successful of those bureaucrats is the present Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, by a long road. He is the FIRST S-G to have been elevated from the ranks of the U.N. bureaucracy itself, rather than from among the delegate-ambassadors sent from the various member states.

Think about that.

In a culture which penalizes failure, and constantly seeks scapegoats, what kind of person is elevated by the distilling process that rewards blandness, inoffensive vagueness, and amiable platitudes?

Kofi Annan emerged as the master of appearance of sincerety and concern and the master of elegantly rationalized restraint from actual commitment or action;

Just a couple of horrifying examples of U.N. actions that took place on Kofi Annan's watch:

In 1994 when Hutu in Rwanda began slaughtering Tutsi tribesmen by the tens of thousands week after week, Koffi Annan was at that time in a position to have ordered action to temper or halt that slaughter, and CHOSE NOT TO ACT. The United Nations withdrew its troops when ten soldiers were murdered. The United Nations pulled out and let the genocide proceed, let EIGHT HUNDRED THOUSAND victims to be slaughtered in three months. Many of them were killed with machetes and garden tools, when a few regiments with small arms might have protected them.

Just a few years later, AFTER Kofi Annan had been given the leadership of the U.N., when the United States lead a NATO coalition to stem the massacre of Muslims by Serbian Christians, the United Nations grudgingly agreed to send peacekeepers. In one instance, they declared the town of Sreberniça a "United Nations Safe Area," and left a batallion-strength guard of Dutch U.N. troops in close proximity. When Serb forces attacked, the Dutch commander requested air strikes.

After his fourth request, he was told that he had submitted the request on a form that is incorrect, and he must re-submit for it to be considered. Eventually, two Dutch F-16s bombed the Serbian positions, but it was far too late. Serb Generall Ratko Mladic and his troops had already taken the town and the surrounding area days earlier, and held 30 of the 350 Dutch troops along with some 20,000 Muslim men, women, and children.

The utter impotence and military bunglng of the United Nations (not any cowardice or lack of spirit by the Dutch troops) allowed Mladic and his murderers to slaughter an estimated 7,000 Muslim men in the four days from July 12 and July 16, 1995.

The Dutch troops were allowed to evacuate, but both the Head of the United Nations Mission to Bosnia, and the Dutch commander neglected to mention for the press or the watching world until long after, that a massacre was being conducted. The killing continued for weeks.
(The information about Srebreniça I'm citing here comes from URL:

There is a very concise outline of the history, discussion, U.S. domestic political debate and agreement about the question of intervention with and without U.N. approval or participation at the URL:

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

"Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do!"

From Allah is in the house:

" Burkett told USA Today it was Lucy Ramirez, not a "man with ANG experience", who called him after the Hardball show. "

Monday, September 20, 2004

A Deception, wrapped in a mis-direction, hidden within a dirty trick.

Poor FrankJ.

Worlds crumble; heads roll; tears flow; lamentations and the gnashing of teeth echo in the halls of CBS and the DNC.

But FrankJ is so bereft of ideas that he polls his readers for inspiration.

Sad to see burn-out in a blogger so young.

Here's my post to his comment section (and you can probably come up with something even more witty with a minute's musing):

Dear FrankJ,
I am only signing in this way because your delusion has become so self-reinforcing that posting a message to your fake comment section is the only way I can remind you to take your meds. The nurse has placed them in a small paper cup next to your URINAL, so be careful which thingie you DRINK from...

Okay. Now let's get started on the therapy session, shall we?

I think it would be very helpful for you today to continue talking about just exactly what it is about writing all these comments with the different names is so... mmm... SATISFYING to you. I mean, you've been watching the TV a little this week, and I overheard you mumbling something about nice Mister RATHER and all the difficulties *HE's* gotten himself into with his little excursions into "Let's Pretend" land...
Or if you're not comfortable with that, what would YOU like to talk about?


He really does work hard to keep us entertained, even if we are only figments of his fevered imaginings.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

"The End of the Beginning..."

So CBS News and its celebrity newshounds are for the stocks... maybe. Bloggers may well congratulate each other for some fine work, not just questioning, but the slogging persistent research to track down people that have the expertise, experience, credentials, and nominal impartiality to provide definitive tests that CBS hadn't the balls to do.

Still, it might be premature to think the Old Media are dead and gone.

In 1985, Japan Air Lines flight 123 lost its rudder along with a great deal of its tail structures and all hydraulic control just 12 minutes after take-off. By heroic measures, the pilot and co-pilot were able to keep the plane flying for another half an hour, before crashing into a mountainside.

Similarly, there is enormous inertia contained in the aggregated institutions we are calling the Old Media. It's clear that they too have managed to continue flying long after their own loss of rudders and control. But in addition, there is understandable reluctance among even the harshest critics to toss them on the scrap heap. If only they could be modernized and restored so as to reflect NOT the conservative values of the current administration, but the reverence for honest reporting that on a time was the imperative of the journalistic calling.

Despite the livid accusations of liberal bloggers and supporters of Dan and Co., that reverence for honesty is what people on all sides want. Honest mis-judgments can be forgiven, even if the results are dire. Dishonesty and evasion need to be challenged even in minor affairs.

The indiscretions of youth are most crucial for whatever tempering they may confer on a person's later impulses. A blameless youth may reflect more on a person's lack of initiative than purity of heart. Many seeming heroes admit later that their actions were unconsidered in the moment. They confess admiration for those who feel great fear but manage to govern themselves through prolonged peril. And even the most extraordinary bravery in combat does not automatically confer upon the hero the judgment and wisdom needed for statecraft.

There are many explanations for the decline of Old Media, and I've tried to summarize some historical trends myself in my post "The Ossification of the Fourth Estate." One thing is certain: the "soviet" model of centralized control of a major news organization has lost its ability to compete with the de-centralized internet-work of online folks, who bring to the task an armamentarium of expertise far beyond the resources of any single corporation. If there is any consensus, it has to be a consensus defined by analysis, logic, and debate, not by selective suppression of data according to the preferences of a tiny elite.

The emerging commonalty, the so-called pajama-bloggers, comprise the entire political spectrum. For better or for worse, there will be mistakes made, and each person will likely discount data that he/she finds disagreeable. But if you survey blogsites, you find liberal sites with links to conservatives, and vice versa. People are taking pains to read each other's ideas and opinions, challenging, debating, trying to keep each other intellectually honest. The Old Media don't really allow for much feedback and converse. Some, but the threshold for it to even register is many magnitudes greater.

The pyjama brigades' uni-sex one-size-fits-all garment is a Paradigm Shift.

There Will Be an End to This Nonsense

...and it will NOT be pretty. Nor will it be to the liking of Dan Rather, CBS News, and the people who have tried to fob off on the American public the sickening fraud of forged military records.

Take a few minutes to check the post at INDC Journal ( and you will have to agree with Vodkapundit Stephen Green's judgment:

"Bill of INDC Journal is the hardest-working blogger in the business.
... he's become a one-man investigative news department, lawyer, and FBI agent."

Evidently, Bill has made sure that the Kinko's from which the fraudulent memos were faxed will not erase its internal surveillance videotapes, and has done a lot of research which seems to confirm that from any number of convergent lines of attack, the promulgation of these forgeries is a criminal violation of state and federal statutes. By many definitions it is classified as a felony.

There are much more important issues facing the nation, and they must be attended to. Kerry, for instance, needs to give some indication of what HE will actually do as president, instead of droning on about his three months in Vietnam 35 years ago. President Bush might serve the public better by giving us some further detail of what to expect from his domestic programs.

But the business of the forged memos should underscore that the most radicalized leftists in the Democratic Party are willing to destroy the Two-party system that has worked very well for this country since its founding. It is not written into the Constitution, nor is it confirmed or protected by any Legislation. We can have as many political parties as we want. But it has proven to be a workable system to have two main political parties that are required to work with each other, and from time to time switch places, each serving as the "loyal opposition" when edged out of the dominant role.

There are many discouraging examples of countries whose governments are just a continuing fistfight among dozens of parties contending, so there is no consensus or coherence. If we want to lower our government to the comic stature of, say, Italy, a sure method would be to allow one of the two major political parties to erode to the point that it disintegrates. That is what we can expect if the extremists of the left are allowed to continue their suicidal mutilation of the once functional Democratic Party.

A lot of people are using the metaphor of "drinking Kool-aid" to described the obstinate refusal of Rather and CBS to acknowledge their conspicuous lapse in judgment. Let's remember that is a reference to the Jonestown MASSACRE of 1978. Hundreds of members of The People's Temple, founded and lead by Jim Jones, having surrendered to his brutal leadership, were forced to drink poisoned FLAVOR-aid® at his command. Nine hundred died in minutes along with their babies and children, while Congressman Leo J. Ryan and several others who had come to investigate complaints of abuse, were murdered as they prepared to board their plane at a nearby airstrip.

It seems almost ludicrously appropriate that Jones and his followers had relocated to Guyana after leaving San Francisco. I guess the atmosphere there was just too conservative for them.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Is Syria Training for Chemical Attacks in Iraq?

Folks, I think there is something important going on in Darfur, beyond even the genocidal extermination of Christians and Animists and other non-Muslims by the Sudanese central government.

In one of today's posts "WMD Stockpiles Found?" Vodkapundit Stephen Green has excerpted translations of a German article in Die Welt. The article (evidently the translation was posted on indicates that western intelligence services are pretty sure that SYRIAN military special forces cooperating with the Sudanese central government, used chemical weapons to kill black Africans in Darfur.

Quote from the excerpted translation:
"at least five airplanes of the Syrian civil airline Syrian Arab Airlineswere flown from Damascus to Khartoum. Aboard were specialists of the Syrian University for Chemical Warfare including engineering equipment."

Link to this URL:
(I tried to find the original article on, but couldn't... Vodkapundit includes a link but it just goes to the main page, and I didn'tfind it there, and the search engine just kept chugging and seemed to be in a loop.)

Whether or not this explains the disposition of Saddam Hussein's WMDstocks, it is a very disturbing development. Maybe people are too preoccupied with local politics to devote much attention, but there are plenty of people alive who remember that Hitler loaned his military to the service of General Franco (i.e., the fascist republicans) during the Spanish civil war that started in the early 1930's. The NAZI military used that war to test tactics and weapons. They put the lessons to use in earnest just a few years later, after making adjustments and refinements indicated from assessments and after-action reports from the Spanish civil war.

Does the idea of Syrian special forces killing south Sudanese make any sense EXCEPT as a test exercise for their weapons and tactics? Has Syria ever made any contribution to the Sudanese Muslim government before, other than statements of solidarity? The fanaticism of the militant Islamic zealots may seem to be beyond our reckoning, but it's pretty darn unlikely that the government of Syria views the black africans or the Sudan People's Liberation Army as a threat. Simply, they are training to use their chemical weapons on targets closer to hand, say just across their own extended border with Iraq.

If you recall the 8-year war between Iran and Iraq, you may remember that after the war had dragged on for most of the decade, Iran was recruiting12-year old boys to serve in "Martyr Brigades." Their sole military function was to walk with nothing but the clothes on their skinny bodies, into minefields ahead of the soldiers, to step on and explode the mines, and so clear paths for the soldiers to use to attack the Iraqis.

I'm trying to find additional information about this, but it's reasonable to think our own government is probably ahead of me in this matter. I just think it's a slap in the face, reminding us of what we are up against. Mr. Rather and his dimbulb associates notwithstanding, there really are actual dangers out there besides the bogey-men that stalk their sweaty little nightmares. People need to be reminded of that. Or do we need further demonstrations from bin Laden & friends?

Saturday, September 11, 2004


This post is to add whatever little weight I may to the general condemnation of the Old Media for assuming the public to be such pathetic dunderheads that we will just take their word that they're just providing us with objective facts.

What a pack of sorry rascals they've become.

Considering the alleged Memos Mr. Rather brought forth to set against Bush, I have more than three decades of professional experience with print design. Even though I'm primarily an animation producer, I've had to design and deliver print projects using technology that has spanned the transition from typewriters and rub-on letters to desktop publishing. This gives me (along with the millions of other such folk) some basis for evaluating their authenticity, and the legitimacy of arguments for and against.

It's important to have a sense of where technology was in the very early 1970's, because so many people trying to judge this have grown up innocently unaware that there was a time when this country did not have tape cassettes, compact disk, laptop computers, cell phones, personal digital assistants, push-buttons on telephones, more than four channels on the television, home microwave ovens, and an ex-President who needs an agent to field offers from porn video producers.

So I'll start back a ways...

Working first with the old technology of letter press and offset lithographic printing, and later as desktop publishing emerged, word processing and DTP software, I've created delivered hundreds of print jobs ranging from business cards to newsletters to 20-page 4-color brochures. I started designing for print as a freshman in high school. I've continued intermittently for the last four decades.

In cobbling together a degree program in animation at Yale, I took several computer courses. (Hey! I was a public school graduate, on a generous scholarship.) In the first seminar, our instructor challenged us to learn enough Fortran to write a really crude tic-tac-toe program. This was NOT a computer science course, just a sort of informal introduction for architecture students to the wonderful world of computers...

There were a number of IBM Selectric typewriters around--- they were sufficiently expensive and exotic that one of their primary uses was as REMOTE TERMINALS around the campus, connected to the IBM 360 mainframe computer. I remember writing my FORTRAN programs first in pencil on a printed form, then taking that to a room full of clattering card-punch machines. Sitting at the table-size card machines, you pecked at a keyboard which sent an electrical (not DIGITAL) impulse to the mechanism to punch a hole in a "Hollerith" card. That's the old "do-not-fold-spindle-or-mutilate" cards that were developed around 1900 for tallying census statistics. Each line of FORTRAN code ended up on one of those cards, which had to be kept in order or the program was screwed.

You then hand-carried your little stack of punched cards to an entirely different building housing the main University Computing Center, and handed them through a sliding glass window to a technical priest in a white lab coat. Usually by the very next day, you could sit down at one of the remote terminal IBM Selectric typewriters and log into your account, and run your program to see if it worked.

Okay, you're asking yourself, SO WHAT? Why is this guy going on about his college days thirty years ago? The answer is that Dan Rather's memos were alleged to have been created some 30 years ago using the sort of office machines commonly in use. The fact is that the IBM Selectric was by NO MEANS a commonplace in those days, and the specialized IBM Selectric Composer was much more exotic, expensive, and rare.

When I see various websites showing that, well yes, there was the IBM Selectric Composer available for the same cost as a luxury automobile in 1972, but to print the superscript "th" as shown in the alleged memos, you would have had to stop typing, change the type ball, adjust the carriage, type the single character, then replace the original type ball and reposition the carriage to continue, THEN REPEAT ALL THOSE STEPS THE NEXT TIME THE SUPERSCRIPT HAD TO BE INSERTED, it is way too much of a stretch.

There are many additional items that confirm the alleged memos as forgeries amateurishly produced with current word-processing software. Millions of people who use Microsoft Word every single day, and certainly tens of thousands of professional graphic designers, print designers, artists, print-shop staff, and educators have the experience over DECADES of professional work to spot the obviously anachronistic typography of the alleged memos Mr. Rather presented. There are thousands and thousands of military personnel with the experience to recognize the shallow research that resulted in the memos' failure to conform to correct formats and standards for terminology, references, acronyms, and signature id. There are certainly thousands of experts in document forensics that could have spotted the amateurish errors. CBS must have SOMEWHERE on its payroll minimally competent researchers to cross reference dates and timelines for the events to see if there are any pesky internal contradictions.

Unfortunately, someone has made the decision to persist in claiming the emperor is fully clothed.

At the least, this means the whole business needs to be submitted to the scrutiny of universally acknowledged objectively scientific forensic experts. For Dan Rather to insist that he and his fellow demagogues at CBS will be the final arbiters of truth is bullshit.

I wouldn't trust those dung-eaters to guard a compost heap.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Memories of September 11, 2001

Two days prior to September 11, 2001, I stood next to the woman I loved under a stand of 250-year-old Oak trees on her little ranch in the foothills of the Sierra. In a respite from an otherwise furnace-like end-of-summer heat wave, we enjoyed a mild day for celebrating our marriage in the company of our friends. Because we had met camping at a Medieval wedding a few years earlier, we had invited our friends from the historical recreation group to come in costume and bring their tents and pavilions to stay overnight and extend the party into the next day. As it turned out, even some of my wife’s friends from the fire department (she’s a professional firefighter) came in costume, ready for silliness.

The day was spent in happy conversations, dancing, music, games for the kids, tours to show the guests the new lambs and calf, and the rescued ponies. Some of the guests had driven hundreds of miles, and stayed overnight in tents and a couple of camper vans.

The next day, we all relaxed, enjoyed left-over tidbits, desserts, champagne and wine and soda pops. The last of the guests left that evening, except for my brother and sister, who were due to fly back to Virginia five days later. We dragged a couple of big tents to just outside the front door, with mattresses and coolers, and several of us stayed up very late, watching the brilliant stars wheel slowly overhead, punctuated by occasional meteors. My sister stayed outside to sleep that night.

In the morning, my wife and I awoke before my sister, and I went outside to wake her, while my wife and HER sister started clearing a space for us to have some coffee and breakfast. I had been sitting in the tent chatting with my sister for a while when my wife opened the front door and said, “You’d better come inside and look at the tv. There is some terrible shit going on.”

We all gathered in front of the set--- my wife’s father, sister, her two sons, my brother and sister--- held in thrall as the second jet’s fuel blossomed from the tower and rained death onto the streets and people below.

We watched for about an hour, switching among several networks. One thing that struck us all was the speed with which the mainstream networks imposed their branded dilution on the raw information, creating logos and montages of images. They may have been truthful in themselves, but seemed INSTANTLY to be intended to mask and filter the essential story, which was the atrocity by our enemies.

I remember that we discussed right then our sense that the networks were behaving true to their reflexive instincts, refusing to let us simply see the events without their interpretation, framing, and carefully selected musical soundtrack. It seemed the most blatant example of the networks straining to tell us how we should feel about things, AND reminding us that THEY were the source to turn to to FIND OUT how we should feel about unfolding events.

After some time passed a few of us got up and went outside for a breather.

As we stood outside, a sudden windstorm rose from the valley. For fifteen minutes, it sundered the placid remnants of the wedding party; it tumbled the sunshades and blew tables and chairs across the tarmac, and sent one empty dome tent bounding over the deer fence onto the neighbor’s meadow. We watched dumbstruck.

Then suddenly, the wind died and everything was calm again.

In my fifty years on this planet I’ve never seen a windstorm come up from a calm day, fling chaos all around, and then disappear like that. I’m sure it was a natural phenomenon, but the timing seemed a portent of things to come.

As wonderful as the response of many people has been--- the setting aside of differences finally understood as the trivialities they are--- there are still vast crowds of unconscious ones. It puts me in mind of the flock of Canada geese that wintered on the small lake which lay in the hollow of the bowl where my wife’s ranch nestled. Every morning several hundred geese would begin a discussion, rising gradually in volume until it was a honking cacophony that could be heard several miles away. Individuals would skid across the water in tussles and tiffs, in miniature territorial battles or macho displays of bluster, cheered on or derided by the onlookers.

And because of the civilized laws of our land, no hunter was allowed to approach them. They were safe, fat, devoid of concern.

Safe... because of the artifice of a civilization that wishes them well, and is willing to spend treasure to prevent their slaughter, and to punish any who violate their protection...

I don’t suppose those geese have ever stopped for an instant to consider the fragility of their situation.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

A Few Shamelessly Partisan Limericks

— David March

Political candidate Kerry
Peddles fibs to seduce the unwary.
He wriggles and squirms
And he never confirms
‘cause his own Senate record is scary.

Campaigning John Kerry is surly.
Trapped by his own lies he is surely
Caught in his own Jam
Where unlike Vietnam
Those three Purple Hearts got him out early.

John Forbes Kerry likes making believe.
Against terror he’s got up his sleeve
No bold plans, nor attacks
Militarily lax,
But in politics he’ll dodge and weave.

Here’s a film for a Michael Moore fan to see:
Cambodian Christmas trip fantasy.
But since it’s not true,
Some play-acting will do.
In which case John Kerry’s the mantasy.

Swift boat veterans seem to agree
the John Kerry they know shouldn’t be
elected top leader,
not that bottom feeder;
If he wins don’t expect to stay free.

In perusing the butterfly ballot
one party’s line stinks like a shallot
The Democrat lineup
just gets my darn spineup
Makes me want to hit things with a mallet.

John Kerry should try to keep quiet; he’s
More versions than Heinz has varieties.
When asked to recant
He gives a new slant
All the while dripping self-righteous pieties.

As leader John Kerry would waffle
And squirm and side step something awful
You cannot ignore
That he’s done it before.
His background is nearly unlawful.

Though most senatorial actions
Involve compromising with factions
John Kerry’s career
Hardly let him get near
Legislation for all his retractions.

The Kerry Syndrome’s epidemic.
The Media trash talk systemic
Spews out of TVs
Like some hideous disease,
Making all conversations polemic.

Since Victim Groups hijacked the Dems
Now their voting base suddenly slims.
They could maybe go National
If Kerry were Rational.
But with each speech he makes their hope dims.

(More to come...)

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

“In a Gaza Tailor’s Shop”

by David March

Scene: a quiet and elegant shop similar to J.Press or Brooks Brothers. Racks of clothing along one wall, cubby holes for folded items along another. A clerk draped with a measuring tape stands facing the cubby holes, checking items on a list with a pencil stub. A wild-eyed fanatic in slightly frayed terrorist attire opens the door and the clerk turns to greet him.

Clerk: "Good morrow to you, sir. How may I serve you today?"

Fanatic, glancing about twitchily: "My associate Nabil tells me you're running a special on exploding apparel this week..."

Clerk: "Ah, yes. We just took delivery this morning on the latest styles from Acme and Warner. If you please, step just over here by the mirror..."
“If I may... direct your attention to some of the new features. See, they have paid special attention to the stitching here under the arms--- no binding, see?--- and here, these additional pockets for those extra ounces of product--- and NO unsightly bulges...Oh and here we have a business-card-sized titanium insert for a final message glorifying Allah the Merciful. The inscription is included with the purchase...”
“Finally, here, a special internal pouch for a discrete little booby trap, something extra for the post-event clean-up crew!”

Fanatic: “They DO think of everything. But, actually, this is a bit more presumptuous than I was looking for... I’m shopping for a friend... It just needs to be a little more casual.”

Clerk: “Ah, I think I see where you’re headed... Okay, Here’s something a bit less dramatic, but it still conveys a very strong message.”

Fanatic, thinking: “Mmmmm. No, that’s still not quite what I had in mind...”

Clerk: “Well, perhaps something RETRO... Here, Here, this might intrigue... Designed for either Cordite or Black Powder! Excellent for smaller INTIMATE gatherings.”

Fanatic: ‘Say, I’ve always liked that... You know, aroma of fireworks.”

Clerk: “Yes, distinctive and so... Piquant!”

Fanatic: “You got anything in a Napalm motif?”

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Link to Belmont Club post "Crossroads"

Belmont Club URL: has posted an article titled "Crossroads," a thoughtful comment on the constraints on different countries' options in responding to terrorist atrocities.

The Pentagon's New Map---T. Barnett

Thomas Barnett's “Pentagon's New Map” is worth checking out, whether or not you agree with him. I caught the last ten minutes of Barnett's lecture on C-Span yesterday--- it's probable they will run it again soon. Apart from the cheesy sound effects he pasted into his slideshow, I would say it's worth watching. (Click on title to link to the website.)

The most telling point the guy makes is that many problems arise from the countries in the "Middle East" region he calls "The GAP," meaning the place where FOREIGN DIRECT (i.e., “private sector”) INVESTMENT is almost nil compared to the investment by the U.S. government in military security for those countries. His point is that the reason private sector investment is so low is primarily because foreign investors have little sense that the regimes will respect those investments, because of their countries’ religious/societal xenophobia and hostilities.

This in turn, has led to a feedback loop in which countries like Saudi Arabia which has enjoyed TRILLIONS of dollars of income from sales of their oil (raw material) have NO domestic manufacturing capacity to show for all that money. In just a few generations of selling their oil without encouraging foreign investment in their country, they have gone from having a very high per capita wealth to a level similar to some of the poorest African nations. And that was accomplished, let’s recall, by NATIONALIZING the oil wells, refineries, and port/loading facilities that had been built by foreign investors. How ya gonna keep’em interested in building up your country if every time they do that, the government confiscates the stuff they built? Sounds like a reasonably effective DISINCENTIVE to me.

Saudi Arabia now has a relatively enormous population of temporary foreign workers doing the shit jobs, because their own youth have been raised in families with government-guaranteed income, education, health care, etc. paid out of their astronomical oil revenues.

Still no domestic manufacturing capacity worth mentioning. Oh, yeah--- except for those endangered rhino horn dagger handle thingies...

Their own government officials have lamented that Saudi university students are electing to pursue Islamic studies than hard sciences or public health or medicine or civil engineering. The result of the religious 7th century-traditionalist mind-set of their society is the proliferation of extremist Wahabi schools, idle young Saudi men ripe for radical recruitment, and a population growth rate that will soon break the bank of their socialist setup.

And Saudi Arabia is pretty much the ideal model for the Middle East, except that few of those countries have the vast oil reserves to sustain that artificiality as long as they have.

Well, the policies of the past are clearly not working, as the Saudi government are learning with great pain. Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda band of perverts are targeting Saudi businesses and government facilities. I don’t have the wisdom to suggest precisely what our government’s response should be. But it doesn’t take a lot of brains to see that it’s time to stop simply supportng the status quo and blindly propping up authoritarian repressive and essentially ANTI-American regimes. There must be pressures that can be brought to bear on them that are more effective than the famously impotent U.N. sanctions. Remember how very little they accomplished with Rhodesia, South Africa, and Iraq.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Animator, 6 Feet, Shrinks from Discussion on TV Violence


By summer of 1993 [name deleted on advice of legal counsel, but it rhymes with "safari"] Games, the folks that started the electronic games industry, had so slipped from the pinnacle of success that they invited me to their HQ in Milpitas, California to interview for a job. When the flight from O'Hare stopped on the San Jose tarmac and the hatch opened to let in the warm breeze redolent of eucalyptus, I sucked in a breath and said, "I am not going to play hard-to-get!"

The flight attendant for some reason avoided eye contact with me as I deplaned.

As it turned out, by cleverly glossing over the dings in my record--- the reprimands from academic committees, the kick-backs from those Libyan "entrepreneurs," and the business about the sheep--- I got the job. The head of the animation department did tell me, as he was packing his things to take a job in the grocery business a few weeks later, that the decision had been close, as I had been the only animator ever to have shown up for an interview wearing a 3-piece suit.

Just months earlier in 1992 I was living in Chicago and looking for a new animation job. I’d been given the boot after animating for a studio subcontracting a bunch of half-hour episodes of Tiny Toons and AniManiacs for Warner, and I hadn’t yet connected with [name deleted on advice of legal counsel, but it rhymes with "safari"] Games. Knowing I had a little free time, a lady friend who was a clinical psychologist invited me to participate in a panel discussion on children’s television, scheduled as part of the 1992 Convention of the Illinois Psychological Association.

I showed up early to be sure to get my ID card and wandered around a bit steeping in the heady atmosphere. I eavesdropped discretely on highly intelligent conversations. I puzzled over arcane placards announcing lectures. Therapeutic and diagnostic modalities blaah blaah this and dissociative relational blaah blaah that and transpersonal pre-cognitive blaah blaah some entirely other thing.

By the time I’d located the room for the panel discussion, I was reasonably certain I had about as much business sitting on the stage as a poodle in the cage with Seigfreid and Roy.

Still, I couldn’t shake a nagging worry that the highly professional psychologists were going to confirm all the worst stereotypes of academia, using psycho-babble even *I* could dispute, to defend the eroding of basic decency in the broadcast industry.

Much to my relief and surprise, it was nothing like that.

Many of these practicing clinicians and therapists had young children, and shared the same concerns as the the rest of us about the flood of violence, sex, and trashiness of television generally and children’s shows in particular

One item that got a large discussion was the emergence of entertainment shows featuring a load of characters that were mainly crime-fighting adventurers, quick to use violence to answer every challenge. Didn't take a PhD to note that such shows were nothing more than half-hour flogs for the line of action-figure toys and coordinated accessories, clothing, cereals and vitamins. And that the commercials for the action figures and accessories were flashier and better produced than the content of the shows.

As my friend had surmised, they were actually gratified to have a panel-participant that had even a little knowledge of the industry. By that time I’d spent 8 years as owner/operator of a small studio, some 5 years as a supervisor/animator for a couple of studios producing commercials and entertainment for national broadcast, and I’d spent several years teaching at University of Cincinnati and Xavier. I had also worked on a number of bits for Children’s TV Workshop (Sesame Street and The Electric Company) early on.

It was a fascinating discussion, showing that these issues touched them personally, not just as academic triflings. The most reassuring thing to me was not how warmly they treated me, despite my pontifications and pronouncements, nor the fact that no one felt I was a legitimate target for some vicious denunciation for making evil commercials designed to convert children to product-zombies. Especially after I pointed out that the commercials that sponsor many children’s shows have production budgets for their 30 second running times that match the budgets of the 27 minutes for the show.

What was truly encouraging was to hear so many of these professional psychologists reiterate that the single most important factor in mitigating the corrosive effects of the nastiness and crud, is the parents’ guidance. Repeatedly, different folks in the audience and on stage said that although children can not be shielded from the crudeness and violence of life, parents can provide context, interpretation, reassurance, and comfort.

I wonder how differently things might have gone if I talked to’em AFTER I worked on those bloody fighting games at [name deleted on advice of legal counsel, but it rhymes with "safari"]...

That would probably have involved a lot more recriminations and name-calling. In the first months of my time at [name deleted on advice of legal counsel, but it rhymes with "safari"], we animators frequently took breaks from the croissants and $50,000 twin-station espresso installation to read newspaper clippings chronicling the worldwide consternation over reports of video-game-induced seizures among Japanese children. We laughed and dismissed the concerns of the parents, psychologists, doctors, and attorneys.

"Ridiculous!" we scoffed between nibbles of the delicate French pastries and sips of the Ethopian Primo (guaranteed to have been grown on the Eastern slopes of hills above 5,000 feet.) "There is no way our extremely wholesome and intellectually challenging games of skill and quick thinking could possibly cause seizures or other harmful consequences to young children!" And we went back to our computers to create further sequences depicting beasts slashing, hacking, chomping, and frying each other.

I actually ran out of red pixels on several occasions, from the buckets o' blood that we had to animate in great rippling splashes for each character's attacks, when they connected. We had extended brainstorming sessions, to toss about and contemplate ever more frenzied moves and injuries the characters in our games could inflict on each other.

In the evolution of electronic arcade games fighting games had full hegemony. They ruled by rewarding the twitchy reflexes of young teenage boys, suddenly aflood with testosterone, and ready to sell their parents' golf clubs and china, to pay for the game tokens that would let them see their names as high scoring WINNERS!!!!!!!

After sneaking my name into the credits of one game that made the company a fair return, I took training at Wavefront in the latest 3D animaton software (the same as had been used, we were told, to animate the dinosaurs for "Jurassic Park!") A team was formed of us intrepid 3D whizzes, and we proceeded to work up a new fighting game featuring Buff Guys and Beautiful Women in Skimpy costumes, thrashing each other senseless.

The women's costumes were so skimpy that the lone female animator on the team called their thongs "butt-floss." Even us guys were a little skeptical, but Management, with the unflagging cheers of the marketing geniuses who had assisted in the company's scaling from 20,000 employees to 200 employees, forged ahead. The lady fighters' costumes were finally made more suitable for combat when a focus group of thirteen-year-old kids asked, "Why are these ladies dressed like 'ho's? They should be wearing armor or padding or something..."

We studied martial arts movies, and applied those moves to the 3D characters. Hundreds and hundreds of kicks, and shoves, and pushes, slashes with chainsaws, whips, and scalpels, and leaps, and crouches, and snakey, drunken, bird-like, shao-lin priestly, and Caribbean slave-dancing styles were animated, rendered, and plugged into the game.

We even were given a video of voluptuous women in bikinis firing automatic weapons, to inspire us. That gem was a real hoot. It came to us from a woman in management who had been hired away from her job as chair of the film department at a reasonably well-known state university. I'm really sorry I never got a chance to chat politics with her.

The software was tweaked. The hardware, created by our sister company, was NEVER documented for us by their engineers. The characters were redesigned, re-named, re-costumed, and re-choreographed six different times, while the engineers tried to get the hardware to display the graphics at anything better than a halting stutter.

Four months before our target release date, a British game company debuted a fighting game with a similar 2D sprites-from-3D-software approach, similar characters, weapons, and costumes, and did everything ours would do, except that it actually worked. It was an instant sensation.

I remember a meeting in which our producer came in and told us he'd just gotten word from upper management that we needed to make our game more insanely violent than any of the competition. "There is no other factor," he crowed with an insane grin, "that can give us an edge. Not better animation, or sound effects, or music, or snappy dialog. We need to do totally demented things, like have the winning character mutilate himself and fountain spurting blood all over the scenery. That'll get their attention!"

The next day I was on the phone to a children's educational CD-ROM company, accepting a recruitment offer they'd been dangling for several months.

No, that's a lie. It actually took me another six months to work myself up enough to leave the twin-station espresso machine, giving me time enough to sneak my name into the credits of a real-time 3D driving game that was actually pretty successful.

Then I quit and went off to corrupt the minds of even younger children...

In the meantime, several events had been going on in the alleged real world that bear on the electronic games industry.

Beavis and Butthead, of MTV fame, had spawned scores of lawsuits from parents whose idiot children had injured themselves copying the antics of the animated turdly twins. And growing crowds of parents were gathering pitchforks and torches. They were calling for an end to fighting games that were clearly causing open running sores on the souls of their teenage children. The violence of the arcade games was so vicious and widespread, it MUST be causing violent behavior by the kids playing the games

Well, I would LIKE to agree with that, but...

About that time, REAL ACTUAL slaughter was going on in the former Yugoslavia, where Serbian militia were busy with "ethnic cleansing" of muslims who had shared their communities for several centuries.

I'm reasonably certain that those Serbian murderers were not driven to their crimes by having spent their afternoons feeding tokens into games in an arcade in Sreberniça.

And if you go and scratch among the piles of femurs and ulnas and carpal bones mouldering in Rwanda, you will find garden implement handles, NOT shiny little integrated circuit chips from Game-boys.

Just a quick reality check is all that's wanted.

Violence in e-games, movies, television shows, cartoons, nor toy guns and arrows, nor boxing gloves, nor even the horrible images of carnage conveyed in the news---- those are not the cause of violence in our society. If anything, those are more catharsis than cause. You might as well claim the speedometer is responsible for car crashes.

Humans have been beating and murdering each other as long as we've been on this planet. To change that you'll have to dig a lot deeper. But I suspect we're talking about a process that will be measured in millenia.

Now I'm going back to animate some more exploding slacks.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Who's responsible for this mess, anyway?

I am repeatedly stunned by the failure of people to keep clearly in their minds the cause and effect relation between the enormous COSTS of the attack of 9/11 and the continuing reverberations of those costs throughout the world economy.

Within days after the attack, I recall newscasters mentioning immediate costs estimated to surpass 50 BILLION dollars. This presumably included the planes, insurance costs for the lives lost, interruption to financial markets, several hundred businesses and their revenues, firetrucks, ambulances, buses, taxis, private vehicles, damages to neighboring buildings, medical costs for injured and survivors, et cetera. Loss of just the two towers with something approaching 13 MILLION square feet of prime business berthing represented a considerable fraction of the AAA office space available in Manhattan.

Since those first few days, we have seen the travel and recreation industries (airlines, travel agencies, hotels & resorts, cruise lines, etc.) suffer huge losses in revenues from canceled tours and individual travel plans because of people's nervousness about future terrorist attacks. And of course, all those hesitations and deferred purchases caused widening ripples to spread throughout the world economy. Unlike ripples on the surface of a pond, they do not diminish in power with the square of distance from the source.

More recently, a figure on the order of one TRILLION dollars is being mentioned as the total cost to the U.S. economy directly attributable to the WTC attacks. I take that to mean these are costs and expenses we would not have experienced if the 9/11 attacks had not occurred.

If that figure is close to within a margin of error of, say, plus or minus a third, then the blame for any current economic difficulty is clearly attributable to the TERRORISTS, not to any fumbling by the policies of George Bush. If any administration is to be blamed, it should be Clinton's, for the ineffectual and gutless policies that for 8 full years demonstrated to the terrorists that they could depend on suffering no consequences for continuing their terrorist attacks. The current Democratic candidate has vowed to continue and extend those discredited policies of indecision, wavering, and limp-wristed cringing.

We didn't really need Democrat Zell Miller to tell us that in two decades serving as a senator John Kerry consistently voted against funding weapons systems that now form the armamentarium of the United States. But it underscores the notoriously partisan stance taken by the Old Media that they simply refused to air Kerry's record for scrutiny by the public they claim to serve. That cynically calculated duplicity does much to erode what little goodwill remains for an institution that is seen to have long ago sold its soul to the Democrats.

The weapons systems and the American military personnel that have volunteered to serve are now engaged finding and subduing terrorists who continue to intimidate, abduct, and murder innocent people, including citizens of countries that criticized and condemned the U.S. for daring to fight terrorism; citizens, whose governments it should be noted, go on timidly acquiescing to demands of bastards who repudiate civilized standards. Such cravens are in profound denial.

In a way, the United States could be criticized for serving so long as an "enabler" (if you will indulge the use of the pop-psychology terms.) In the reconstruction period immediately following World War Two, it was clear that Germany and many of the countries the Nazis had ravaged, would not be able to survive without massive aid. This prompted the U.S. to launch the Marshall Plan, which pumped American treasure and expertise into Europe on an unprecedented scale. It effectively prevented the collapse of several tottering governments that would not have lasted through that harsh winter. Then, responding to growing predations by Russia and it's post-war puppet allies, the U.S. and a handful of western European countries formed NATO. The U.S. troops that were maintained in Germany between the end of the war and the fall of the Soviet Union, served as a "speed bump/trigger mechanism" to discourage adventurism by the Warsaw Pact nations. The cost of that deterrence was born mostly by the U.S. and continues to the present day.

Maybe we should have weaned those countries a little earlier, to let them begin practicing the responsible behavior reality requires of a self-sufficient (and self-respecting) nation.

To date, the cost of waging war on the Taliban and Saddam, both in terms of lost American lives and the direct expenses of the military expedition, according to even the newspapers that castigate Bush regularly, has not surpassed the losses incurred by that single day's attack on the U.S. Even if the cost has been substantially greater, it is clear that the expenses of challenging the terrorists are preferable to the costs of dumbly awaiting their un-challenged and un-hindered moves.

So, to return to the opening of this rant, if our economy is not performing up to desired levels of prosperity, please keep in mind that it is the attacks, and the cost of rooting out terrorism, and the costs of security measures at home, that burden our economy as it nonetheless recovers. Don't try to tell me it's George's fault.

--- David March

a few relevant URLs: ChatToday