March 31, 2003

France's Newest Action Figure

Although I personally prefer Astérix the Gaul (certainly one of my Breton ancestors) and the Belgian Tin-Tin, I can see the attraction of this new French comic book star.

To see the whole comic book cover, just cliquez ici.

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March 28, 2003

Fact Checking the "Moderate Muslim" Meme

The meme of the moment is the Moderate Muslims who have turned on the US because of the Iraq invasion.

Here is the original source, published in the LA Times, reprinted in Australia:
"Osama must be laughing."

Fawaz Gerges points to a few representative "moderates" who have been shocked into opposition:

Maligned previously as a pro-Western reformer, despite his support for Palestinian suicide bombers, Tantawi's new stance shows the extent of the realignment.

The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt - a mainstream Islamist organisation with membership numbers in the millions - called on his followers everywhere to join in jihad in defence of Iraq.

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, whose organisation had been moving away from militancy in recent years...

Gerges himself was on CNN Friday morning promoting the meme.

And in today's New York Times, Nicolas Kristof picks up the meme, but coyly eliminates the credentials of the "Muslim figures", Perhaps because the readers of the Times are too squeamish to know precisely with whom they are agreeing. "Hearts and Minds."

Muslim figures who sided with the U.S. after 9/11 and denounced Osama bin Laden are now urging "jihad" against Americans.

So who are these moderates?

Tantawi:
-- issued fatwas supporting suicide bombers in Israel.
-- issued fatwas for a jihad to oppose the "judaization" of Jerusalem
-- issued a fatwa against a Cairo University professor, putting his life at risk. The professor's crime: " Hanafi expounds a secular-humanist philosophy in the vein of Nietzsche or John Stuart Mill. He explains that paradise is a state of human bliss and that God is simply a focus of positive natural energy."
-- has supported genital mutilation for women, in his own words: "Cutting a little, but not exaggerating in cutting [the genitals] is better for appearances and more pleasing to the husband." He has modified this position, but it is unclear where he stands on this issue.
-- condemned a new marriage contract that would inform brides-to-be of their rights according to Egyptian law.
-- feels the "hijab" is obligatory for Muslim women.
-- refused to issue a fatwa lifting the condemnation of Salman Rushdie.
-- calls for the closing of alcohol distilleries.

The Muslim Brotherhood:
-- 4 members assassinated Anwar Sadat, former leader of Egypt.
-- banned by the Egyptian government because they are attempting to overthrow the government to establish an Islamic state.

Hezbollah:
-- In December 2002, called for suicide bombings worldwide.
-- has conducted many suicide attacks in Israel and Lebanon.
-- is held responsible for the US Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, 241 Marines died.
-- is held responsible for the bombing at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, 19 US servicemen died.
-- at least one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists is a senior Hezbollah member.

Posted by campbell at 09:29 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 27, 2003

The Left's infantile paralysis

Daniel Pipes makes good observations about the many failings of the left in considering Saddam.

The same goes for Saddam Hussein, whose gruesome qualities matter less to the Left than the fact of his confronting and defying the United States. In its view, anyone who does that can't be too bad — never mind that he brutalizes his subjects and invades his neighbors. The Left takes to the streets to assure his survival, indifferent both to the fate of Iraqis and even to their own safety, clutching instead at the hope that this monster will somehow bring socialism closer.

Much as I admire Pipe's argument, I feel that he has painted the Left as a single entity who believe in this way. The Straw Man argument. Luckily, not everyone is reading from the same playbook, viz Christopher Hitchens.

I count myself on the leftish side of things, despiser of most things Bush and the Republicans are in favor of.

But I was shocked not too long ago when an acquaintance, an otherwise reasonably intelligent guy, started to speak respectfully about Venezuela's resident thug Chavez. When I looked shocked, he backed way off with the weaselly "well, I know he's probably not a very good guy ..."

That's when I knew. For a certain loonitarian segment of the Left, it isn't about what is right, what is wrong, what is progressive, what is humanitarian. No, it's about who is standing up to the US, pure and simple. If someone stands up and proclaims his anti-American bona fides, it doesn't matter what kind of hood he is, he gets an automatic bust in the Pantheon of the Left.

It isn't socialism, as Pipes would have it, it's hate.

That's why the endless canonization of Fidel. He sure puts it to "the man", doesn't he? Bah. I used to know people who positively worshipped Enver Hoxha and Kim il Sung. Sad the state of anti-Americanism that we now have such heroes as Saddam, Osama, Chavez, Mugabe, Milosevic and Dear Leader.

But I guess the anti-Americans can have Chirac. The man last spring was voted for "avec les gants" (with rubber gloves) by the French Left. But he stands up to the Unilateral Hegemon (I like that, sounds like a villain in a comic), so "what a guy!"

We would have Schroeder — a man of the left — but he has about zero chance of surviving much longer.

Until the left gets past this infantile Manicheanism that everything US is evil and everything that opposes the US is good, they are doomed to the inconsequentiality that befell the Marxist movements.

Posted by campbell at 12:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Andrew Thomson: The War Against America

From The Weekly Standard, a cogent article on Anti-Americanism by Andrew Thomson, a former government minister under John Howard in Australia:

The war against America has been on foot for some years. Its first manifestation came during the 1990s in the form of militant Islam's sporadic attacks on Americans outside the United States. This was followed by the Pearl Harbor of the new century in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. All the while the world stood by and watched. It became the normal thing that America was attacked.

I think Thomson puts the date of the first manifestation as way too late.

I think there is a seamless line from the anti-Pershing missile campaigns of the 1980s, most of which were being prodded and funded by the old KGB and Stasi, through the anti-globalization riots and demonstrations of the 90s to the Islamist attacks.

Generally, it follows a similar pattern of grievance and the embodiment of the grievance in one symbolic monster: the United States. The grievance may be rooted in realities of poverty, but that hardly matters. It's more important that the grievance be seen as a chance to slap at the US.

It's like that old Abbott and Costello routine where Abbott gets the big guy angry at Costello by slapping him and saying that is what Costello wants to do.

My new slogan, swiped and modified from a skateboarder's t-shirt:
You say Unilateral Hegemon like it's a bad thing.

Posted by campbell at 12:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Design Police are never around when you need them.

This is disturbing. UPS has gone over to the dark side with their new logo, dumping the classic by Paul Rand.

The original:

The tarted-up, by Futurebrand of New York:

The first comment I've gotten: "It looks like a gas station."

So here we have the design cliché of the 90s — the swoop — mixed with the metal shine cliché. I give it 5 years.

Posted by campbell at 12:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 20, 2003

The Second Front: Hollywood

Apparently, it is all about ... Oscar. The buzz coming from the Pentagon is that the real "shock and awe" will come in 2-3 days. At the outside date that puts the campaign on Oscar day.

Obviously, this date has been carefully orchestrated to "shock and awe" the antiwar forces in Hollywood. It's a twofer. The Pentagon gets to pound Iraq and simultaneously pound its enemies in the entertainment industry.

Special effects are impressive, but for real spectacle, it is hard to beat real missiles, real tanks and real men and women doing a real job. The self-puffing, script-reading troops of Tinseltown wouldn't last 30 seconds in a war zone.

PsyOps (psychological operations) is about demoralizing, dispersing and disabling your foe -- rendering them incapable of effective opposition. Look out, Oscar, GI Joe and GI Jane are coming after you.

Posted by campbell at 08:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 19, 2003

Hysteria Deranges Antiwar Movement

A sense of the hysteria of some on the antiwar left can be sensed at the (nicely designed) truthout website. For a particularly wacky example that is being circulated amongst the loonerati, check out the dark vision in William Rivers Pitt's editorial "Into the Darkness." Key graf about the results in the US of the "inevitable" terrorist attack:

Martial law will be declared, habeas corpus will be suspended, posse comitatus will be left aside, and the strictures outlined by both Patriot Acts will come to full bloom. 227 years of constitutional law in America will draw to a close.

I thought it was only people over on the right who had delusions of black helicopters.

Posted by campbell at 03:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Moderate Alcohol Use Fights Dementia

An article in the JAMA reveals health benefits to the elderly from moderate drinking:

The study of 373 dementia patients older than 65 and a like number of control subjects revealed that the lowest rates of dementia were among subjects who drank between one and six alcoholic drinks a week, who had half the risk of teetotalers.

People who abstained from alcohol and those who consumed between seven and 13 drinks a week were at about equal risk of developing dementia, while those who drank more than 13 drinks a week had a significant 22 percent higher risk.

The reason: better blood flow through reduced hardening of the arteries.

One other interesting fact: "People who had a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer's disease and who drank heavily were at triple the risk" of developing dementia.

For those keeping score: that is from 1 to less than 2 drinks per day.

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March 17, 2003

Ecstasy and Depression

Club drug ecstasy has been linked to depression, according to researchers at a London University.

According to the researcher, even a half tablet led to a depressed condition. But you can get to some very serious depression with larger amounts.

...She suggested the results tied into previous studies which have indicated that ecstasy can affect key brain chemicals.

"There is a lot of data in animals showing that ecstasy damages the neurotransmitter for serotonin, which is known to be involved in depression."

Serotonin also plays an important role in regulating memory and behaviour. The researchers are now looking to see if these are also impaired on people who take ecstasy.

Next up I guess: Ecstasy and Prozac cocktails.

Updated: Removed the reference to the number of ecstasy pills. Pointed out by Bill Stewart in comments. Checked original and BBC had removed the reference to the number in the article.

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March 13, 2003

I never quite "got" Deepak Chopra, but I hear he's some kind of spiritual money machine. He's got big plans for fixing things in the Mideast, though.

When I was looking at his 10 suggestions (which are supposedly being published in Europe this week), I got the funny feeling that many of them were already underway.

If you step out of the war mentality, there are not just a few creative ways to avoid an invasion of Iraq. There are dozens. If every person who doesn't want war sent in his or her suggestion about a better answer, tens of thousands of replies would flood in. Of these I'm sure that five or six would be completely workable. Let me mention ten to begin with:

Jean Chretien seems to have taken the first point to heart, congratulating Bush on having "won" already:

1. Congratulate President Bush on already succeeding. The presence of U.S. troops around Iraq has called Saddam's bluff. Disarmament has begun. If pressure is kept on with U.S. military presence, in the region, without dropping bombs, further progress will inevitably occur.


Hey isn't Winnie Mandela trying for Number 2:

2. Assign prominent figures of peace to be present in Iraq constantly, along with the U.N. inspectors. Have these revered figures address the Iraqi people and the world every day on the value of peace.


I think there are about 250,000 well-wishers about to do this one, including members of the 101st Airborne:

3. Ask 100,000 well-wishers from around the globe to bring food and aid to Iraq's children. These people would carry humane relief in person to Baghdad.


See item 3. And they're all volunteers:

4. Start a global Peace Corps of volunteers who will go to Iraq with the express purpose of fulfilling any humanitarian need asked for by that country.


Hmmm. What about a free TV? Anyway, I figure this is precisely what the people of Iraq most hope for:

5. Offer MTV, CNN, and Nickelodeon free to any Iraq household with a TV. Exposure to the world will make them feel like part of the world.


Aren't these called refugees?:

6. Sponsor 25,000 student exchanges for Iraqi high schoolers so that they can live for a year in Europe or the U.S.


I don't know. This seems like someone's idea of hell on earth. Maybe we merge this with number 2 and just have Ramsey Clark reporting on Iraqi TV every day. That would bring the country to its knees:

7. Keep a tenfold number of U.N. weapons inspectors on the ground in Iraq and have them report every two weeks.


Well, I suspect that this is already well underway, except for the "pros" and the "nationalism" part. American nationalism bad! Other nationalism good!

8. Teach courses in all American schools on the pros and cons of globalization, as opposed to instilling the false belief that nationalism is going to continue to work (war being a logical and horrendous extension of nationalism).


Like UC Berkeley:

9. Withdraw the resented presence of U.S. troops from those regions where seeing an American army uniform inflames simmering hatred.

Hey, wait a minute! How do we do point 9 and point 1 at the same time. Oh, I get it, naked soldiers. How new age!


Free air at a place where fun and joy abide. Sounds like downtown Baghdad in about 6 weeks:

10. Open Disney World somewhere in the Middle East., a region where up to half the population is under the age of 15. These children are in enormous peril, not just from bombs but from cultural isolation. Let children breathe free air at a place where fun and joy abide. What better way to reduce fear and anger? At the same time, find a way to expose American children to the children of the world.

(Thanks to James Taranto for the tip)

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Alma Mater Note

On Monday, March 10, 2003, Dr Heather Munroe-Blum was installed as McGill University's 16th Principal and 12th Vice-Chancellor. Dr Munroe-Blum is the first woman to hold this position at the University.

The ceremony took place in historic Redpath Hall, situated on McGill's downtown campus.


For more information, see: Historic event celebrates McGill's past and future.

I am particularly pleased that The Right Honourable Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, Former Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh was attending and speaking. "Houndwood" — sounds like a noisy place.

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March 12, 2003

New Definitions

From The Concordian, newspaper of Concordia University Montreal, scene of several recent anti-semitic, pro-Palestinian incidents:

The motion calls for a joint inquiry by the CSU and Concordia administration into what Cormier called "institutionalised racism at Concordia." According to Cormier, there have been several unanswered incidents of racism on university bodies, particularly at the Board of Governors. According to Cormier, Sobia Virk, a Muslim student governor, had asked that alcohol not be served during a meeting since it would go against her religious beliefs. Board members brushed off the request, said Cormier, telling Virk she should act "more Canadian."

I'm not sure which I find more puzzling:

A) that racism is redefined as failing to suppress any cultural practice (even as benign as drinking beer or wine) that could conceivably conflict with someone else's personal beliefs.

B) That they actually serve alcohol at Board of Governors meetings. They sure didn't when I was on the McGill University Senate in 1970.

Posted by campbell at 02:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 10, 2003

Dumb-mobbing the Smart Mob

A big NY Times Magazine piece, Smart-Mobbing the War, on the Internet-driven mobilization for the (less-objectionable) sector of the antiwar campaign: moveon.org. It is particularly insightful on some of the new organizing techniques.

Good thing Lenin didn't have these techniques in 1917!

The piece is pretty objective given that the author is critical of the naivete of these people and their association with the Stalinist Ramsey Clark deviation. But the money quote comes near the end as the author characterizes the principal organizer's world view:

War is evil, therefore prevention of war must be good. The wars fought for human rights in our own time -- in Bosnia and Kosovo -- have not registered with Pariser's generation. When I asked Pariser whether the views of Iraqis themselves should be taken into account, he said, ''I don't think that first and foremost this is about them as much as it's about us and how we act in the world.

'Nuff said.

Posted by campbell at 12:57 AM | TrackBack

March 09, 2003

Department of Homeland Insecurity

The game is: Go to The Department of Homeland Security and download one of their many, many pictographs (like the ones in the seat pocket instructions for airliners).

Then add your own caption. The results are hilarious. {Link died. Ah well. Funny while it lasted.}

My own contribution:

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Coulthard Wins

Scot David Coulthard has won the Melbourne Grand Prix in his McLaren. Here's tae us.

Posted by campbell at 01:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Roots of French Anti-Americanism

Walter Russell Mead in Foreign Affairs reviews two popular French books that examine the roots of French Anti-Americanism. The two are: L'obsession anti-americaine: Son fonctionnement, ses causes, ses inconsequences. Jean-Francois Revel. L'ennemi americain: Genealogie de l'antiamericanisme francais. Philippe Roger.

Revel "finds anti-Americanism to be a product of French political and moral failures" rather than arising from any specific American policy. In short, they envy US and English success, in economic growth and in cultural achievement. This is the context in which Chirac is operating, and in which most French (and other nations') criticisms of US actions — economic, cultural, political and military — take place.

The challenge for Americans and non-Americans alike is not to end anti-Americanism; only the collapse of American power could accomplish that task. Today, the task is to manage pragmatically the resentments, irritations, and real grievances that inevitably accompany the rise to power of one nation, one culture, and one social model in a complex, divided, and passionate world.

It ain't Iraq, it wasn't Clinton, it isn't Bush. These aren't the things that raise hackles. It's the very existence of the United States and its vigor in bringing technology and commerce (not to mention democratic ideals) to the rest of the world.

The Islamic fundamentalists are not alone in deciding that the true source of evil in the world is the US. That seems to be common fare in the more "modern" Europe (and in the US, itself). The roots of the Anti-War movement are almost 100% congruent with the anti-globalization movement. Left unchallenged, this easy anti-US sentiment will fester and cause vastly more problems down the road than the efforts of a few Muslim thugs.

(By the way, Roger cites one central reason: the antisemitism of the right wing L'action Francaise between the World Wars. They blamed the Jews around Roosevelt for much of Europe's ills. Now the world parrots the line that America's support for Israel causes so much dislike. As they say, plus ca change.)

(thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link)

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March 08, 2003

More Math: How the French Value Peace

10,000 people marched in Paris on March 8 (International Women's Day) to protest the rapes, beatings and killings going on in the (primarily Muslim) banlieues — suburban housing estates.

Marching under the motto "Ni putes, ni soumises" (neither whores, nor submissives), the proximate cause was the murder of a teenager, but the long-term problem is the ongoing abuses inflicted on women in these near-lawless highrises.

10,000 is a great turnout. Let's see — 100,000 turned out in Paris a couple of weeks ago to support the continuation of Saddam in power. Saddam is reported to have rape camps and to have recently ordered the public beheading of women who are opposed to his regime.

So 1/10 as many people in France want to end the rape, abuse and killing in their own country as want to support the ongoing rape, abuse and killing in Iraq. Got it.

Posted by campbell at 11:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

America Worst

In the run up to World War II, a motley collection of isolationists, appeasers and out-and-out sympathizers with Nazi Germany formed a pressure group called America First. Certainly the most visible member was mega-celebrity Charles Lindbergh.

This all sounds remarkably familiar, even more so when you read this speech by Lindbergh that was never delivered. It was scheduled for December 12, 1941, but cancelled after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Even the same true enemy is behind the whole war propaganda, by the way. To spare the suspense, it was the Jews. (Representative Moran, call your office.)

To give Lindbergh his due, he volunteered to fly for the US in the war, and did so as an observer on a dozen combat missions. I'm sure Martin Sheen won't show the same honor.

In a haunting historical footnote, Lindbergh's major speech to America First was on September 11, 1941.

America First was basically a jingoistic antiwar movement. The current dictator-friendly antiwar movement forms a bizarro mirror image, drawing for the most part on irrational anti-Americanism. I would call it America Worst. So for the new America Worst movement, I offer this handy logo based on their less than savory forebears:

Posted by campbell at 01:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 07, 2003

Anti-War? Nah. Anti-USA.

Over the next few weeks, I will be looking at the origins and ideologies (and idiocies) of the "AntiWar" movement today. It is my thesis that the central organizing principle of that movement is not peace, but a profound antiAmericanism that was born in the Vietnam War era, came of age in the anti-globalization movement, and may be as threatening to democracy as any of the great ideological movements of the 20th Century.

As a starting point, I'd like to point to Todd Gitlin's incisive post-9/11 column for Mother Jones:

To the left-wing fundamentalist, the only interesting or important brutality is at least indirectly the United States' doing. Thus, sanctions against Iraq are denounced, but the cynical mass murderer Saddam Hussein, who permits his people to die, remains an afterthought. Were America to vanish, so, presumably, would the miseries of Iraq and Egypt.
In the United States, adherents of this kind of reflexive anti-Americanism are a minority (isolated, usually, on campuses and in coastal cities, in circles where reality checks are scarce), but they are vocal and quick to action. Observing flags flying everywhere, they feel embattled and draw on their embattlement for moral credit, thus roping themselves into tight little circles of the pure and the saved.
Posted by campbell at 12:02 PM | Comments (1)

Some Basic Math

I'm having trouble figuring out the basic math of the AntiWar crowd:

There are 191 countries in the United Nations.
Of all of them, there are:
190 countries less dangerous to world order than the United States.
190 countries more committed to peace, progress and justice than the United States.
190 countries more free in speech, press, and religion than the United States.
190 countries more democratic than the United States.
190 leaders smarter, wiser and saner than President Bush.
190 leaders less bloodthirsty and violent than President Bush.

And among that 190 countries are: Iraq, Libya, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, Russia, China, Ukraine, Venezuela, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Serbia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cuba, Laos, Myanmar, Lebanon, Paraguay, Egypt, Yemen.

And those 190 leaders include: Saddam, Qaddafi, Kim Jong Il, Chavez, Mugabe, Assad, Castro, Khameini, Kuchma.

What am I missing in this calculation? Oh, right. Dunce cap for me. I forgot that there is one country even worse than the United States: Israel.

Posted by campbell at 01:50 AM | Comments (0)

The Real Difference

Colin Powell asks the key question: "Did the United States ask for dominion over a single nation in Europe?" Amitai Etzioni quotes Powell speaking to a truculent group at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The United States has sent its soldiers in the thousands to fight in Europe and Asia repeatedly over the past century, and "We have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in."

Posted by campbell at 01:34 AM | Comments (0)

March 06, 2003

Current Reading: John McPhee

The Founding Fish by John McPhee. Alosa sapidissima, the shad. Favorite anecdote: In the Native American legend, the porcupine complains to Manitou that he is tired of being a porcupine. Manitou pulls him inside out and turns him into the shad.

Next: How Milton Works.

Posted by campbell at 06:13 PM | Comments (0)

Some History

I have been blogging sporadically since 1998, when I first toyed with the technology for a web site called noresignation.com, which was used to tweak Republicans during the Clinton Impeachment boondoggle. Later, I used a similar technique in the 2002 post-election fracas on bananarepublican.net -- again to tweak Republicans (notice a pattern?).

The Republican-tweaking will be yielding for a time while I spank the Antiwar crowd, the vast array of my friends and enemies on the left who have signed on to the Pro-Saddam Campaign.

I'm sure that the GOP will eventually get around to annoying me again (like later today). I guess my ideal day would be to anger people on both Left and Right, kind of a triple-cushion shot.

I have imported some previous blog entries related to graphic design. This will be one common thread for Snoofmadrune. There are one or two other themes that will emerge in the fullness of time from the musty closet that is my brain.

Posted by campbell at 04:10 PM | Comments (0)

Snoofmadrune goes live

This is the first post for the Snoofmadrune Weblog. A bit of explanation is in order. Snoofmadrune is the Scots word for a "lazy, inactive person", hence it is the ideal name for a weblog.

(Laziness per se is not a prized Scottish quality. For further elucidation, please refer to Larry Wall, the creator of Perl: "I possess a fortuitous surplus of the three chief virtues of a programmer: Laziness, Impatience and Hubris.")

Posted by campbell at 02:53 AM | Comments (1)