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My crazy pal

Laurence Simon has a new bloghome, and a new contest that is outraging all of the moral and decent and upstanding people who have apparently never read his site before.

Actually, I'm thinking more "hypocrites" than moral, decent, upstanding people, but it was fun to write that sentence. A little bird is telling me that some people (the kind that make farting noises in the back of the classroom) are astonished that I don't find Lair's use of the c-word as offensive as, say, plagiarizing a pay-for-information service. (Once again, two-year blog anniversary coming up, thousands of posts, some even dealing with the offensiveness of Laurence Simon. Try to keep up, Fartboy.)

But let me state once more for the record: Yep, Lair's offensive as all get-out. He offends everyone I can think of, and has written things that I find highly offensive from time to time. But both he and I live in America, and we subscribe to the spirit that brought us the First Amendment, as well as the determination to let our readers decide whether or not what we say offends them. I have written him publically and privately about his offensiveness. The bottom line: Lair has the right to say what he wants, so long as he's breaking no laws. And running a contest for "c-word of the year" seems to strike me as wholly legal, albeit offensive. I wanted no part of it, but now I think I need to restate my position on The Offensive Blogger Otherwise Known As Laurence Simon:

You rock, Lair. Except your contest name sucks. Can't you change it to, oh, I dunno, "Vagina of the Year"? I think I could sign onto a contest with that name.

Nazimedia conspiracy theories

You have to laugh at this schmuck. He's got about every angle covered: He's an anti-Semite, he's a proud member of the tinfoil-hat brigade, and he thinks what he's doing is actually going to make a whit of difference.

I'm making public this list of domains for blocking by antiwar/antifascist websites that are being monitored and/or harassed by the US Government and/or Zionist organizations. I have already added this list to the .htaccess file on one of my websites. In time, all of my websites will include this blocking list. I am publishing this list to assist other websites suffering the same harassment. I am also copyrighting this list in order to prevent a Zionist organization from copyrighting it, thereby gaining control of publication of the list. This copyright (also known as copyleft) is restricted verbatim by the GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE. You are free to modify and republish it, provided you adhere to the conditions of the GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE.

This list contains the domains of major defense contractors, various FReepers, US military domains engaged in monitoring websites, US Government domains engaged in monitoring websites, major private security firms, and major Zionist organizations. No warrantee is granted or implied. Use at your own risk. This list will not prevent individuals or organizations from visiting your website. Instead, it will force them to use other, usually private, ISPs to access your website. This will increase the cost and inconvenience of monitoring you. The down side is that it will decrease your ability to document the fact that they are visiting your website. Thus, any webmaster using this list should weigh the potential benefits vs. negative consequences of its use.

Included on the list are Daniel Pipes, the Wiesenthal Center, Israel's embassy to Tokyo (huh?), and as many sites with "israel" in their name as the moron could find. He's also paranoid about anything coming from Must be all those J-E-W-S that live there and work for the city.

Indymedia. The gift that keeps on sickening. Let's see if I can get this lunatic to add my domain.


Pontifex asks the question: Am I real? It's in response to a comment of Rebecca's that rightly warns her readers to be a bit skeptical of the ServiceBloggers (if I may call them so). Anyone could open a blogspot account and say they were blogging from Kuwait or Baghdad. But I can vouch for Pontifex and LT Smash's identities. I knew them before the war and can read email headers; theirs are coming through military servers. So is Captain Steve's.

Of course, someone could be spoofing headers to make all three of them seem to be in the service, but then, some people go to bed at night with tin foil wrapped around their heads to protect themselves from alien transmissions.

Around the blogosphere

In apology to Susanna Cornett, who sent me an email accusing me of ignoring her after demanding that she write about the plagiarism issue (I did not, she misunderstood why I put her in that list), I must insist that you go and read her post at once. (I'm really worried; she knows I'll be in NJ next week, and she can track me down, and, well, she owns a gun. Okay, that isn't what worries me. What worries me is I think she can take me. But it would be an epic battle.)

She also has an excellent post on the breakdown of order in Baghdad, and remember that Susanna has quite an extensive background in criminal law, and knows whereof she speaks.

Laurence Simon has moved. The crazy guy is now over at Blogmosis, but he needs you to hit the tip jar so his archives can move with him.

I told you you should be reading Marduk. Where else can you find a quote like this:

"I wish to be absolutely clear: no epic Sumerian cuneiform tablet, majestic Neo-Assyrian lamassu sculpture or any other Mesopotamian artifact is worth a human life, be it Iraqi, American, British or other."

I have come to the conclusion that my worst nightmare involves a lunch with Marduk, Doc Weevil, and Victor Davis Hanson all talking about antiquities and then turning to me to ask my opinion on the obscure matter they've just been discussing at length.

Found this via my referrers: An excellent essay on why you should work to stay informed and watch the news. Context.

Update: Bloggers archives are hosed. Go to the main page and search for "Demons, Angels" (it's currently on top).

And speaking of context, Lynn's latest post on Jonathan Pollard has helped me finally make up my mind about how I feel regarding his case.

Let him rot in jail.

Weird search requests

Okay, I give up: What does this mean? Is it something special? I'm so naive.

Still getting this one. Lots. Whatever.

Stan lee was the number one single search in March. Variations on "fish heads" was the search term most frequently used to find my site. And I still have some of my "Fish Heads" users, too, from WAY back when.

Sadly, too many of you out there still want to see Meredith Viera or Jean Smart naked. And may I say: Ew.

I expect The Hulk and Hulk Smash! will become pretty big searches soon. I almost bought Hulk Hands last night. I may not be able to pass them by a third time.



Pay attention, Sean-Paul, this is how it's done

I made a mistake earlier today. I called Hesiod "Atrios" in my post below. It is fixed now; no traces of the confusion remain save for the explanation here in this post. Mea culpa, Atrios, and I apologize for confusing you with the kid in the back of the classroom who likes to make loud farting noises. Had I realized my mistake, I would have fixed it immediately, but I've been out all day. I am deeply, deeply sorry for confusing you with Hesiod. It will never happen again.

In the meantime, readers, Sean-Paul Kelley himself sent me a letter correcting my mistake:

You must not have been (are )a very good journalist. The author you cited today is not Atrios, it is Hesiod. Hesiod runs Counterspin Central, Atrios runs the Eschaton.

I can help you with the fact checking stuff as it seems you need the help.

While the offer is appreciated for what it is—a lame attempt at embarassing me—I must firmly refuse your offer of assistance. To have a known plagiarist help me with fact-checking of any kind would only besmirch my reputation. You see, Sean-Paul, what I have done is make a simple mistake. What you have done is put out a series of lies until you were exposed in a national magazine, and only then owned up to—well, you haven't really owned up to it yet, have you?

I hope this helps you determine the difference between making a mistake and serial plagiarism, but I suspect that it will not. If you're done giggling over my error, perhaps you can work on rewriting your apology to actually acknowledge what you did. And keep a link to it on your main blog page.

Again, Atrios, I am deeply, deeply sorry, and hope I haven't offended you. Hesiod. Gawd. Had I realized I was responding to him, I would have—I would have—well, I'd not have responded. My bad.

Kids ask the darnedest things

On Tuesday, my fourth graders and I were discussing the Torah, as that was the chapter we were covering in a book called "The Synagogue." They learned how one is made, what it's made of, the incredible amount of labor that goes into producing one Torah scroll, and other things. I asked them if they knew when we were given the Torah, and nearly all of them knew the story of Moses and Mt. Sinai. But then, one of them wanted to know, what if Moses came down the mountain and we refused to accept the Torah? What would have happened to the Hebrews?

It was a great question, and one I used at our monthly "Ask the Rabbi" near the end of Friday night services. (The Hebrews would have fallen into obscurity and God would have found another people willing to abide by the Torah, he said.)

I did not ask the question they asked me when we were discussing mitvahs earlier. One of the mitvahs is attending a baby naming. It's specifically that in the booklet, but I added, "Or a bris," not thinking.

"What's a bris?" they wanted to know. "Um... it's a circumcision."

"What's a circumcision?" they wanted to know. "I know what it is," said Matthew B., who had attended one for a relative recently.

"Go home and ask your parents," I said. "I don't think they'd want me to discuss this with you."

I mean, I'm perfectly fine with explaining what it is, but I had the feeling it was a parent's prerogative, and decided not to stir up a hornet's nest. And since I didn't get any phone calls that night, I expect the kids all forgot.

The Agonist and the Atrios Hesiod

(It's just too much fun to make bad post titles out of that simple phrase.)

The anonymous blogger known as Hesiod is calling me out for not having my stats open to the public, yet banging on The Agonist's stats (which are open) going down.

MERYL'S FREEP: What's eating Meryl Yourish? In the last week, she's logged no less that SIX posts on the Agonist/Plagarism story.

You might even call it an obsession. She's been tracking Sean-Paul's declining hit count, and even goes so far as to politicize the responses to the Wired story.

It sounds to me that Meryl has a hit count problem of her own, and has decided to go after Agonist to generate some traffic to her own site.

She freely publishes Agonist's statistics [because Sean-Paul opened them up] but doesn't allow anyone to view her own.

I have no problem with her doing the latter [I block access to my stats as well], provided she doesn't go after OTHER people on that issue, or use their open stats to make a point.

Oh, how noble of you. And how condescending. Mother, may I?

Open up your stats Meryl, so we can see if YOUR hits have been declining as well.

I bet you got a nice SPIKE when you decided to take on Agonist, however.

Nope, my traffic's been only slightly above normal this week, and was already higher than normal on Sunday and Monday, before I began writing about the Agonist. My bumps this week are probably due to publishing Capt. Steve's letters and Diane's leaving a link to me up during her latest hiatus.

But my traffic has been in flux for the past month, and hasn't settled into a new pattern yet. That always happens when something I write about becomes a highly-public issue (like the anti-PETA campaign). It brings me new readers and a new level of readership. Any regular reader of my blog knows that I don't put up posts for publicity's sake. I write about issues that concern me, or move me, or make me laugh, or irritate me, or outrage me. Try to catch up, Hesiod, there are nearly two years of posts that clearly illustrate why I write what I write, and you're looking at half a dozen out of thousands.

In point of fact, the Washington Post article gave me all of—wait for it—about 50 hits. Will Femia's article hasn't yet shown up on my referrer collection, which means it led to fewer than 29 hits. My ISP-supplied WebTrends only collates the top 50 referrers, and Hesiod, you're not even a blip on the screen. Are you sure it's my traffic you're really complaining about?

There, now we've both gotten the snarkiness aside, let's look at the issue of my "obsession." Kelley plagiarized posts. He was caught by the Armchair General. He denied plagiarizing anything, said it was time constraints and that he'd fix things. He continued to plagiarize. A reporter from Wired called him on it. He denied plagiarizing, blamed it on his sources. The source laid it right back where it belonged, on Kelley's shoulders, and Kelley, trapped in a web of lies, finally admitted that he had "made a mistake." Is that what you took away from this incident? Let's go look.

The lesson is that you can't sacrifice accuracy and journalistic ethics for speed.

Oh, it was the quickness of it all that caused him to lie, lie again, attempt to place the blame on one of his sources, lie again, and finally sort of kinda maybe admit he might have done something not right. Well, you go ahead and excuse your pal. I think that since he can't be fired from his job for what he did, he deserves to be utterly deserted by the blogosphere. Delinked, not mentioned, buh-bye!

His declining stats are absolutely relevant to the issue of his trying to gain from plagiarism. By accusing me of pounding Kelley for hits, you're trying to divert attention away from what he did. Let me put it in a nutshell:

Kelley lied, he cheated, he stole, and he did it all to advance himself in the public eye, with the intention of making money via his blog.

Is Kelley my obsession? I think not. My current obsessions are Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, the sadly-named Everlasting Gobstoppers (yeah, I went back to them folks, sorry), and, well, gee—honesty. What a horrible person I am, expecting honesty and ethics in blogging. And failing that, expecting a liar and thief to own up to what he's done. And, silly me, expecting the rest of the blogosphere to think that plagiarism shouldn't be defended, excused, or rewarded.

Mac Diva and I see absolutely eye to eye on this one, Hesiod. Too bad you don't.

Peace protesters

I received this letter from Diane E. last night:

I came home on the subway about 20 minutes ago from a talk given by Andrew Stuttaford (pretty interesting).

Some old hippie was wearing a large pin; THE WORLD SAYS NO TO WAR.

I didn't see it till the end of the trip. Good thing, because I would have said to him, "Yeah, but we had one anyway and the Iraqis seem pretty happy about the outcome, and you couldn't do a thing about it."

On my way home from lunch yesterday, I decided to take the long route, through downtown Richmond. Standing on E. Main in the business district were two middle-aged men. One held a sign saying, "Honk for no war." The other said something about peace. This was lunch hour, and traffic was heavy.

Nobody honked.

I think American opinion swings behind the President on this one. Just a hunch.

(P.S. to Diane's hippie: If the world says no to war, why are there constantly wars throughout the world? There's a bit of a cognitive dissonance in that saying.)



Charles is back

A friend of mine stopped by this evening, stayed for dinner, and helped me hang my paintings that have been sitting in various places for months. So my antique Chinese reverse painting called "The Money God Arrives" is up, and my rabbi's wife can tell me I'm an idolator for having him here. I call him Charles for short. (Pictures to come later.) And my watercolor of Birds of Paradise flowers, which was painted by someone whose name I have forgotten. And my Chinese lacquers. Big sigh. It looks really nice here, now. Thanks, Andy.

Why you should be reading Marduk

Marduk at Babylonian Musings, as I said last week, has broadened his horizons and blogging efforts:

I know I should try and maintain academic detachment about this conflict. I know I should respect the opinions of those who don't support the war.

But I can't.

This conflict in Iraq is damn personal to me.

I know people who died September 11.
I know people who were killed in Israel.
And I know that my children's lives are less secure as Jews in this world because of the evil alliance of anti-Semites, anti-Zionists, and anti-Americans.

As far as I'm concerned, the Americans and their allies are protecting me and my family daily.

See, he does more than just post really great cracks about Jew-haters.

The vanity publishing site for losers, otherwise known as, asks the question on everyone's mind:


What do you think the answer is?

And then there's this.

"Robert Fisk: The dogs were yelping. They knew bombs were on the way" (Independent, April 9).

Well I always knew that my dog was smarter than Fisk, but I had no idea her Babylonian cousins were equally clever....

I can't read Marduk without laughing at least once. He and Lair ought to get together.

The Agonist and the ecstasy

Oh, stop groaning. You knew someone had to use that headline, and you knew I was going to do it. (And if someone else already used it, oh, well.)

Apparently, there are some out there who think I'm being too hard on Kelley. Why, it's almost as if I like pounding on him. It's not like he, oh, plagiarized a pay-for-information service, passed the work off as his own, and tried to parlay it into a paying job.

Will Femia mentioned the issue in today's Weblog Central. (I think he's still mad at me over the LGF thing. I'm linked, but not by name.) But there's still something missing. Will says:

Kelley has since acknowledged his plagiarism, apologized, and even managed to make amends with the folks at Stratfor. But damage has been done.

When I click on the links, my reading of them is: No, not really, and yes. Kelley has never yet acknowledged his plagiarism. Let us once again quote:

Setting The Record Straight
Blogistan is a nasty place. And the time has come to repost something that I have posted before.

On March 21st, 2003 I wrote this in Flash Post XII:

"I'm blogging via PDA, bear with me. I really do wish I could cite all the sources here. If you're upset about it as some people are, please understand the time constraints I am under. Please also note that some of the updates are copied and pasted others are not. Just consider it all from another news source unless I say otherwise. I'm not interested in pissing anyone off here. I'm just trying to provide a service."

Now, various nefarious elements have accused me of lying or plagiarism or something to that effect. I think the above post clears it up.

If you are disappointed I understand. If you feel like I have betrayed your trust, I understand.

However, I do not think either is the case. Throughout the course of the war I have done my utmost to maintain an unbiased position on the war. That has been my one and only goal. So that you get the information you need to make an educated decision.

UPDATE: At some point in the next day or so I will go back and attribute everything I can. Thank you for your support.

What this was was a denial that any plagiarism has taken place. Now let's take a look at this Wired article quote:

"You got me, I admit it.... I made a mistake," Kelley said. "It was stupid."

Nope, no P-word in that sentence. And "a mistake". Not "On many days I deliberately posted Stratfor information in about half my items, and pretended they were mine." But then, he did give us unbiased plagiarized news stories. Perhaps that excuses it in his mind.

Another Wired quote:

Kelley offered an even more dubious explanation for the item attributed to a "little birdie." When asked how Stratfor information came to be credited to an unnamed source, Kelley said one of his sources must have gotten it from Stratfor and passed it on to him without crediting the intelligence company.

[...] In an interview, Kelley supplied the unnamed source's phone number, evidently hoping he would claim responsibility for providing the Stratfor material, which was not initially credited to the intelligence firm.

"I don't even read Stratfor," said the source, who described himself as a "former member of the intelligence community." When asked if he had ever copied a Stratfor item and sent it to Kelley, the source said, "I don't think that's something you could posit."

Ooh, looka that. He lied about the unnamed source, and then gave out the source's phone number (wonder if he got permission?), and tried to pin the plagiarism on the source. Yep, these are all actions of a penitent man.

Well, his stats continue to fall, but that may just be the end of the public's insatiable need for up-to-the-second war news (get a real job, Kelley). But I do believe he deserves to be delinked by the blogosphere (and that means you too, Katzman). The fact that he now cites all his sources doesn't mean he deserves to be rewarded for what he did. He delinked Dean Esmay for mentioning the plagiarism. Ouch, thin skin, there. Too bad he never linked to me in the first place. I bet taking me off that blogroll would be a thrill.


Diane reminds me that she, too, wrote about The Agonist. And although she says she is retiring (again), I believe the correct word is "resting." She never truly retires.

The finger appears to be healing in really disgusting stages. Most of today saw a huge blue bruise underneath, with dark red edges Now the top of the knuckle is dark red to purple, and an internist I saw tonight (actually, I was at his home to help him and his wife design a website, and he offered me the free consult because I said, "Ouch!" while trying to write) told me that it means there's some blood in the joint. Ew. I keep trying to take a picture, but the flash washes out the blue and purple of the bruise. Maybe tomorrow. I'm going to O'Brienstein's for lunch. Perhaps my friend can get a decent shot of it. I can't take pictures well left-handed. There's a thrill for you—pictures of a smashed pinky. That ought to go down as a Great Moment In Weblog History. (I wonder if the blood loss is affecting my thinking. I mean, really. I normally don't get stupid ideas. Dumb ones, yes, but not stupid.)

A sick thought just occurred to me. I guarantee you the above paragraph will somehow bring me obscene web searches. (You have no idea how gross some of these searches can be.)

Yonatan R. sent me this great joke, and it totally bears publishing.

There was a Catholic church, a Protestant church and a Synagogue, and all three places had problems with the woodpeckers.

The Catholic church caught them in a humane way and then set them free in a nearby park, within days the woodpeckers had returned.

The Protestant chuch decided to let them be, and just put up with them.

The Synagogue voted them in as members of the congregation, now they only see them on Pesach, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashona.

I have to stop typing now. It's starting to hurt again. Thanks for the good wishes and tips. So far, no splint seems necessary, and the pain has lessened tremendously. Good thing I'm not Italian or I'd really be handicapped. I wouldn't be able to talk. (Oh, stop. It's a joke. My sister-in-law is Italian.)



And in other war news...

Israeli soldiers are fighting, too.

IDF elite Golani troops successfully prevented the launching of Kassam missiles from Gaza today.

The IDF spokesperson said that an anti-terror operation went into effect in the area of Beit Hanoun early Wednesday after IDF intelligence learned that members of Hamas were about to attack the Negev town of Sderot.

An IDF force intercepted four terrorists as they were about to launch Kassam missiles and killed the Palestinians in a gun battle, the IDF spokesperson reported.

However, unlike the residents of Baghdad, most Pals are extremely upset about the war in Iraq:

There was shock and disbelief in the West Bank and Gaza Strip Wednesday as Palestinians gathered around TV sets to watch US Marines and Iraqi residents knock down a giant statute of Saddam Hussein in Tahrir Square in central Baghdad.

"I'm stunned and appalled. I can't understand what is happening," said Rustum Abu Ghazalah, a 30-year-old shopkeeper in the center of Ramallah.

He and grim-faced fellow shopkeepers zapped from one Arab TV station to another with the hope of discovering that what they were hearing and watching was nothing more than a US-produced Hollywood film.

"This can't be true," grumbled Abu Ghazaleh. "Where are the suicide bombers? Where are the Fedayeen of Saddam? Where are the heroic Republican Guards?"

In the words of the Great Philosopher, Mr. B. Bunny: They went that-a-way.

Older Palestinians said the events in Iraq are reminiscent of the Six Day War, when Arab radio stations and leaders told their audiences that Israel was on the verge of defeat. They said the TV appearances of the Iraqi information minister, who remained defiant till the last minute, insisting that everything was under control and that the enemy had been defeated.

"Sahhaf reminded me of [Egyptian radio propagandist] Ahmed Said, who during the 1967 war, told us that the Israeli warplanes were falling like flies," said Abed al-Zamel, a 70-year-old retired schoolteacher from Silwad village near Ramallah. "Once again the Arabs have fallen victim to the lies of their leaders and media. We never learn from our mistakes. When the war erupted, I warned my sons not to watch Arab TV stations so they would not be disappointed and depressed when the truth eventually comes out."

"We never learn from our mistakes." From the horse's mouth, folks.

News from Captain Steve

The End of the Beginning

I thought last night's sortie would last forever. Compared to what we've grown used to, the radios were quiet. We flew our orbit, maintained presence, waited for something to happen. Time dragged painfully by. Then an A-10 was hit by surface to air fire while providing close air support over Baghdad. Everyone straightened their headset and turned up their radio. We got to help with combat search and rescue. Time speeded up.

The wingman of the stricken jet called out their location and situation. His voice betrayed only a hint of strain as he said his wingman was going to try to keep it in the air. Those A-10's can take a beating. Multiple redundancies in systems make them hard to kill, but this didn't sound good. The wingman reported in frequently, announcing their plans to divert to a closer airfield, but acknowledging that he wasn't sure they'd make it. He was low on gas, and worried that if his buddy went down, he wouldn't be able to patrol above him to keep him safe. We concentrated on filtering out the static and the noise and catching his every word. We tried with our prayers to keep that jet aloft.

The next thing we heard was that the pilot who'd been hit was having difficulty controlling his jet, and thinking seriously about ejecting. It was at this time that I realized my hands were cramped from being clenched so tightly. I tried to relax. We heard nothing else on that frequency for several minutes. In the mean time we searched every source at our disposal for a hint of what was going on. Then it was confirmed that he'd ejected.

When you hear about a pilot bailing out or a jet being downed over hostile territory, part of you freezes. It's a part that wants to cling to your last memory of that pilot - the memory of him or her alive and in control of the jet. The other part of you scrambles through a series of conditioned responses as your training takes over. You run checklists. You search for information. You gather information and prepare it for those who will soon be asking for it. It's a strange kind of schizophrenia that allows you to have two such completely different reactions simultaneously.

In a matter of minutes, we learned that the downed pilot had been picked up by a Bradley fighting vehicle. He must have practically landed on top of it. I'll bet that pilot was never so glad to see anyone in his life, and I'll bet the troops in the Bradley were thrilled to be able to help the warthog driver.

So it ended up being a pretty good night.


We've been in a heightened security posture since the war began. Access to certain buildings has been limited to a single point of entry/exit, we've been carrying our gas masks and wearing our Kevlar helmets, and we've been unable to call home. The food and souvenir shops on base have been closed and the TCNs (Third Country Nationals) who work in them have been kept away. Most notably, the coffee shop in our compound has been shuttered. The caffeine addicts, deprived of their espressos and cappuccinos, have had to get by with chow hall coffee. In the face of what our ground troops are doing without, this is nothing. I haven't heard anyone complain about it. You would almost think nobody noticed.

But when we landed this morning we were told we no longer had to carry our chem gear or wear our helmets, and you would have thought we'd been given a cash bonus. Somehow being relieved of that minor burden made us disproportionately happy. I guess it wasn't just being freed of the inconvenience. It was the reasoning behind the change that put a spring in our step. If we don't have to wear the gear, someone in a position to know believes we don't need it. That means we're making progress. That's good news indeed.

And there was more. When we woke this afternoon the shops had reopened. The grumpy tailors were back at their sewing machines taking orders, the gold merchants were behind their counters, and - I had to look twice to be sure - smoke was rising from the Burger King trailer. The center of our compound smelled like charbroiled ground beef - the smell of freedom. There was even more good news. The "information minimize" restriction that prohibited calling home has been lifted. We will hear our loved ones' voices very soon.

Afternoon stretched to evening, and the little plaza at the center of our compound looked like a college town after the students return from spring break. Troops sat around tables playing cards or dominoes. One was playing a guitar. I hurried through on my way to get in line for a phone, but even in my rush I felt something in the air. A note of joy.

It was nothing compared to what I saw on TV moments later. As I waited to call home I watched live coverage of Iraqis welcoming our troops in Baghdad. They thronged around tanks and armored personnel carriers, waving, jumping up and down, smiling. Those of us waiting for phones forgot about keeping our place in line. We gathered around the television.

Then they pulled that statue down. As the cable tightened around the bronze Saddam's neck we leaned forward, willing it to fall. And when it hit the ground and the crowd surged forward we cheered for them as they kicked and spat at the symbol of their enslavement. We celebrated with them as they subjected it to every indignity they could invent. We laughed at the image of them towing the severed head around the square, taking turns riding on it. We were joined to the hundreds in that square, celebrating the birth of liberty.

We have miles to go before we rest. We won't forget that. Tikrit must fall, and Mosul, and we must guide a nation through the pitfalls that endanger every new republic. There is plenty of work left before we can go home. But for a few moments we basked in the jubilation of a newly-freed people, and it felt like we were already there.


A word about today

There is so much news out there—not least of which is the fall of Baghdad, the war having lasted some years less than many thought it would—but the problem in my house is that I am a touch-typist, and I wasn't kidding about slamming my pinky on the lid of the toilet tank. It hurts like a sonofabitch to type. And I find myself unable to use the hunt-and-peck system (ow! ow! dashes use that pinky, and so does the p key. ow!). erha s I should just not use any letter or symbol that uses the inky finger.

Not only that, I have a paying job deadline approaching (ow! ow!). I may not be around until later tonight. (Ice, please, and step on it!)

The Washington Post on the Agonist

More on Kelley's plagiarism, and its effect, in today's Washington Post Filter, Cynthia Webb's column. (How great is it that their Internet columnist is named Webb?)

By the way, it's looking like Kelley's stats are continuing to fall.

By the way 2, Cynthia Webb agrees that journalistic ethics should apply to bloggers as well. I'm with you, Cynthia.

I forgot to link to Laurence Simon's piece yesterday.

Dean Esmay has a new one today. Don't miss the comments.

Woody Effing Woodpecker: The battle continues

I thought the battle was over. I thought I had won. I'd heard Woody elsewhere, pecking on someone else's building, and smiled with satisfaction, knowing that I'd scared him off.

I was wrong.

This morning, the dread sound: a woodpecker's bill, pecking away on the roof at the metal hood to my apartment's heating unit. Once. Twice. This, after a morning in which the toilet threatened to flood, I grabbed the lid off the tank and somehow smashed it into my pinky, and you know when you can see the bruise almost instantly it's going to be a bad one, and while I'm at it, Ow. It hurts to type. This, on top of the cats both waking me up shortly after I fell asleep, and waking me again this morning only five hours after they woke me up last night.

This is not a good day to mess with me, effing woodpecker, I was thinking.

He left before I could get up the energy to get out of bed. But I fear he'll be back.

Think I'll look into buying a slingshot.



Blog plagiarism roundup

Let's see... nope, none of the blogs I went to have plagiarized anyone recently. But these folks all have something to say about the Agonist.

Andrea Harris: Steam comes off this one, use your asbestos gloves. (You rock, girl.)

Ken Layne has more.

Mac Diva too.

Chris at Signifying Nothing has a great round-up of links. The stats dropoff doesn't mean anything yet, Chris. Monday is generally the highest day of the week for blogs, Chris. My Tuesday almost always drops in numbers.

I really like this essay by Bill Middleton that Chris pointed out.

Atrios: Um, he's not talking about it.

Calpundit: Nope, not there, either.

DailyKos: Uh-uh.

Susanna Cornett: Bet you thought I was going to name another liberal blogger, didn' t you? Nope, not on her blog, but then, she's nowhere near as big as the three above-named weblogs.

And that brings me to something that needs saying: I frankly barely even knew the Agonist existed, let alone that he was a liberal blogger, prior to the plagiarism. This isn't a case of ideology. But I admit I'm stumped to see not a word about the plagiarism from the other side of the aisle. Am I missing them, or is the silence of the left as deafening as it seems?

Just curious.

Agonist Ecosystem Watch, Day 1

Tracking whether or not the blogosphere takes care of its own seems to me like a fun thing to do. Realize that the first few days, as everyone links to the Agonist, his ratings will likely go up. As the story dies down, it remains to be seen if people remove their links and Kelley's popularity goes down as a result of his plagiarism. For now, here's the score:

Myelin Ecosystem: Number 123, with 178 links.

Agonist weekly stats

New from Capt. Steve

So many people have asked what they can do to help us here. People graciously offer to send us anything we need. I am humbled by such generosity, and it makes me even prouder to serve. But we are well taken care of here. We are at once the best cared for and most formidable fighting force the world has ever known. (Who could have thought it possible?) I am sure that some of our brothers and sisters on the ground can use some creature comforts that I enjoy every day. But for me, I've been unable to think of anything I really lack here. Anything that can be sent to me, that is.

Lately though, with so many kind people offering, I've been giving more thought to the question. What do I really want? I came up with the following list:

I ask that when we bring home victory, let it be to a nation that reflects the principles we're defending.

Let us return to a nation that respects the near-sacred duty of selecting its representatives, and doesn't sell its votes for others' property.

Let it be a place where courts evaluate laws in light of the Constitution, instead of vice versa.

When we return with the coffins of our friends, let it be to a land that knows about George Washington, and where teachers understand that a child's self esteem is proportional to his self-discipline. Let our homecoming be to a healthy republic, maintained, as Jefferson said, by a "virtuous, educated" populace.

Let us come back to a government that does not deny the existence of the God its founders worshipped openly.

Let us return to a nation that does not squander what we will have bought so dearly, that does not turn over what we have won with our blood to the United Nations and agents of hostile governments.

Let us be honored not with parades and speeches, but with policies that reward those who helped us and punish those who made our mission more dangerous.

Let us return to a nation whose State Department honors the principles we risk our lives for.

Let us return to citizens who recognize that they are responsible for their own government.

So many of you have written to let me know that my colleagues and I are in your prayers; that you ask for our speedy and safe return. At the risk of seeming ungrateful, I ask you to pray for something else. Pray that when we bring home victory, it will be to a nation based on liberty, on the belief that the government that governs least governs best. Pray that we bring home victory once again, to a nation that is worthy.


The truth about the Bear, and other stories

All rant and no play makes a shrill read. Hey, I can mangle aphorisms with the best of 'em. You give me an aphorism, and I'll shred it so your own mother won't recognize it, and your father will slap your face.

Da Bear has responded to my whines about his direct link from Andrew Sullivan. I think I can interpret what he was saying, in a nutshell: "Neener, neener, neener!" Oh, he tried to distract your attention by complaining that nobody wants to buy a Truth Laid Teddy Bear (who wants a Teddy Bear that's been laid? Aren't they all supposed to be innocent little virginal bears?), but he was really just rubbing it in a bit more to me.

First, Meryl: I don't know why people say bitterness in unattractive --- you wear it so well! Downright sexy, if I dare say it.

You see? Sass. Nothing but sass. A compliment? Bah. He's engaged, and lives way the hell on the other side of the country, and he's not Jewish, either. Well, then there's that cradle-robbing thing. How can you be attracted to someone you knew when he was in high school and you were—uh, never mind.

Perhaps; at any rate, I think it's safe and logical to conclude that regardless, for Sullivan numbers (and perhaps other things), in some deeply scientific and precise manner, I am indeed 1.0 better than you. (I also, for the record, go to eleven).

Sass. Sass, sass, sass, sass. 1.0 better than me, huh? Keep it up, laughing boy, and I will hunt down Paranoid Android, the user who introduced me to that phrase, and send him your email address and your phone number.

it appears TTLB shall have to revise its financial plan for the quarter, and perhaps delay the Lear to next fiscal year...

Go ahead, try to win the sympathy vote. I don't even have a Cafe Press shop. Or ad space to sell. I'm a purist. I make my money the old-fashioned way: I put things up on my wishlist and then return them for cash.*

And you rightfully console yourself that at least Andrew chose to link to you from his Slate commentary; so maybe that gives you a Sullinumber of 2.5, or something.

But I fear I must remind you: he linked to me from that commentary too.

I think I can boil down those paragraphs to a simple, two-word phrase that I will not deign to use on my blog. But the meaning is clear. All right, Bear. Have your laughs. But I think in the end, you will find that Andrew likes me better than he likes you. Just wait and see.

(*Don't get upset, Marduk, it's a joke. A joke. J-O-K-E. I'm on Disc Two of Season Three of the Buffy DVDs, and put the Into the Woods CD on tape so I can listen to it in my car. Calm. Remain calm.)

(Do you think he bought it?)

The Agonist and the Plagiary

Glenn Reynolds links to this Wired News article that exposes the Agonist, whose traffic has surged to some 60,000 hits a day since the war began, as owing much of his original information to plagiarizing from Stratfor, a pay-for-information service.

I think Glenn's wrong on a couple of points in response, though.

However, to those who are pronouncing this scandal a blow to the credibility of the blogosphere, I should note that (1) he was first caught out by another blogger; and (2) it's not as if Big Media has been free of such things.

In response to one: It doesn't matter who caught him. Whether Big Media journalists are caught by their Big Media colleagues or a blogger, the plagiarism still affects the medium in which it took place.

It also doesn't matter that "Big Media" journalists have also been caught plagiarizing. Kelley's plagiarism is a blow to the credibility of the blogosphere. And it should be big news in the blogosphere. The Agonist has been a high-profile, high-visibility blogger since the start of the war. The war has caused his popularity surge. His seemingly uncanny line to information (now revealed to have been lifted whole cloth from Stratfor) helped him achieve that high visibility. And he still has it. The blogosphere has barely mentioned this.

The story is beginning to get around (Daniel Drezner has a roundup of links, Glenn Reynolds steps up to the plate, and Colby Cosh makes my main points in far fewer words), but I think it needs to get around more. (Update: It is. NZ Bear weighs in, as does Dean Esmay, who reports that Kelley says copyright is intellectual theft. Well, that explains why he refuses to use the P-word.) Ken Layne has the right idea:

I don't think there's a way up from this hole. Retire that "Agonist" from your bookmarks and stick to something like the Command Post. I read it every day and I've never seen an unsourced bit of news. Plus, I know a bunch of the people who contribute items -- it didn't have to earn my trust because plenty of the individuals had already done it on their own sites over the past year or three.

Obligatory full disclosure line: I'm a Command Post contributor. But even if I weren't, I'd be recommending the same. I don't think Kelley has really taken responsibility for what he's done—not when he keeps on adding his little "but" clauses:

I had hoped that with this post and this post I had cleared this up, however, that doesn't seem to be the case.

I'll bet he'd hoped it was cleared up. Because in neither of the first two links does he admit to plagiarizing. In point of fact, he doesn't actually admit to it in the latest apology, either. The P-word doesn't appear in his post at all.

First, I want to state explicitly that what I did was inexcusable and for many readers may be unforgivable. I understand that and am willing to accept the consequences of my actions.

I make no excuses for what I did.

Yes, you do, actually. They're in the first line of the so-called apology post. Let's look at the links. Link number one goes to this response of Kelley's to Strategic Armchair Command on April 1st, who first called Kelley out on his plagiarism of Stratfor:

Now, various nefarious elements have accused me of lying or plagiarism or something to that effect. I think the above post clears it up.

If you are disappointed I understand. If you feel like I have betrayed your trust, I understand.

However, I do not think either is the case. Throughout the course of the war I have done my utmost to maintain an unbiased position on the war. That has been my one and only goal. So that you get the information you need to make an educated decision.

UPDATE: At some point in the next day or so I will go back and attribute everything I can. Thank you for your support.

Link number two goes to this item from March 21st:

11:55 CST I'm blogging via PDA, bear with me. I really do wish I could cite all the sources here. If you're upset about it as some people are, please understand the time constraints I am under. Please also note that some of the updates are copied and pasted others are not. Just consider it all from another news source unless I say otherwise. I'm not interested in pissing anyone off here. I'm just trying to provide a service.

Link number three goes to the Wired piece. So Kelley's apology can be interpreted this way: I said I was sorry, what more do you want, and, oh, yeah, by the way, Stratfor wrote the stuff I was feeding you as my original sources, and Wired Magazine wrote about it so now I have to own up to it.

And if that's not enough evasion for you, go check out Kelley's own message board threads, which generally insist that he made a mistake and apologized, now let's move on and leave him be. This, of course, completely ignores the fact that he did not make one mistake. He made dozens, over a period of weeks, and then lied about them to Wired's reporters.

In a series of interviews with Wired News, Kelley changed his story several times. At first, he said he used just four or five Stratfor items a day without crediting the company. Later, he owned up to "six or seven days when half was from Stratfor."

Aside from a few scattered attributions, Kelley presented Stratfor's intelligence as information he had uncovered himself, typically paragraph-long reports detailing combat operations in Iraq. He took these wholesale from a Stratfor proprietary newsletter,, which Kelley admits he subscribes to.

"Many postings on the (Agonist) pages I looked at are word-for-word verbatim," said Stratfor chief analyst Matthew Baker.

What the above illustrates is a pattern of lying and evasion, not the behavior of a person who "admitted his errors and rectified the sourcing problem" (see post 98 on the above-mentioned message thread).

To top everything off, Kelley was on CNN tonight, talking about the influence of the war on blogs. Funny, I didn't hear him mention a word about his plagiarism. Must have been cut for time purposes.

Norah Vincent was mobbed for using one Jackson Browne lyric in a post. (Okay, so her attitude towards critics created an atmosphere as well. But the initial cause was the Browne lyric.)

Time for the rest of the blogosphere to step up to the plate and not reward plagiarism and lies. Or perhaps Kelley should just rename his site "The Plagiarist."



File under "Effing Morons"

I got a hilarious email this evening, from a Charles Patterson. It starts like this:

Mention has been made of a mysterious "Jewish philanthropist" behind the funding of PETA's "Holocaust on Your Plate" exhibit, but the real inspiration behind the project is Yiddish writer and Nobel Laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904-91). Here is the story:

Patterson is the author of "Eternal Treblinka," which bills itself as a book "about how mankind's treatment of animals became the model for the exploitation and slaughter of other human beings, most notably during the Holocaust." Oh, yes, I'm certain that was the reason the Hitler, the vegetarian, developed The Final Solution. It was mankind's treatment of animals. Uh-huh.

But there's more. For instance, did you know that

Patterson never met Singer in person, but he heard him speak once and saw him in the neighborhood a couple of times having breakfast at the American Restaurant at the corner of 85th Street and feeding pigeons on Broadway--one of his favorite activities.

Imagine that. Patterson actually saw Singer feeding pigeons! Hoo-wee, someone call the New York Times! CNN! TIME Magazine! Plus, he knows where Singer ate breakfast! (Oh—my heart—the excitement—I can't take it.)

"In many ways ETERNAL TREBLINKA is more Singer's book than mine," says Patterson. "It's his vision--what he expressed so very well in his writings. As far as I'm concerned, he said it all. I merely came along and filled in the details."

*Sniff* Sorry. I had to wipe the proverbial single tear from the corner of my eye.

Patterson devotes one of the book's chapters--Chapter 7--to Singer's compassionate vision as reflected in his stories, novels, memoirs, and interviews. "I like to think that if Singer were still alive (he died in 1991), he would very much approve of my book."

WAAH! Now you've really made me cry.... Oh, well, Singer's dead, so we'll never know if he would have thought that Patterson's book was a pathetic piece of moral equivalent garbage that angered millions of people worldwide, or if perhaps it was just another bird cage liner.

What would Singer make of the current PETA controversy? "I don't know, but I wish he were still around, if only to see what his powerful vision has wrought."

There's the difference between you and me, Chuck. I wonder what Singer would think of an effing moron who put the words PETA and Holocaust into a search engine, came up with my weblog, on the very page in which I rake PETA over the coals, and still chose to send me his PR puff piece on himself and his book. I'm guessing he'd think something like, "Next time, show a little more intelligence than my pigeons."

My sweet tooth

You know, I love chocolate, but I can live without chocolate with a minimal amount of effort, especially if allowed to substitute Tootsie Rolls or Fudgsicles. But I am an absolute addict to sugar. I like sweet candies, the sweeter the better. That's why I'm currently addicted to the horribly-named Everlasting Gobstoppers (we just called 'em "jawbreakers" when I was a kid, but Nestle thinks that kids will buy old candy with new names, I guess). If you want to win my heart, don't send me a box of chocolates. Send me a pound of rock candy, the plain white kind, or a bunch of the old-fashioned candy necklaces (not the new, garishly-colored and awful-tasting ones—the old ones, which Smarties still makes).

And I've made you wade through this entire prologue because...?

Because I'm giving up the Gobstoppers. I finished the last of them yesterday. I have no more candy in the house. Well, there's a box of Junior Mints, but that's it.

I really am determined to rid myself of the nonsmoking weight. Alas. Well, I can go buy Charms' sourballs. They last longer than the Gobstoppers, have fewer calories, and, well, I don't like 'em as much, so I won't eat too many of them.

Sugar-free candy? Talk to the hand.

Let someone else talk for a change

Doing the rounds again. Marduk has widened his perspective; that old Babylonian has become a full-fledged blogger in only three weeks. One thing that mystifies me, though, is how he can stand reading through the drek of the likes of Israel Shamir. But then, somebody has to look for signs of infection. Better you than me, Marduk.

Also on Marduk's site: A frightening personal report on anti-Semitic threats on his children's school and other Jewish sites.

I owe Judith Weiss a hat-tip for the link to the Rachel Corrie article on the bottom of this page. Too many posts to pick out just one; scroll around and read.

NZ Bear got a Sullivan link. Are people still keeping track of Sullivan numbers? That makes his 2, right?

So let's see now. My friend Da Bear, whom I set on his way to stardom, got a link from Andrew Sullivan, something which I have yet to achieve (well, unless you count the link from Andrew's week on MSN, which, come to think of it, almost counts), and has also fairly consistently kicked my ass in average visits since, oh, five minutes after I launched him into the blogosphere. But am I jealous? No. Regretful? Not a bit. This is my friend. I am glad for my friend's continuing success. (Repeat nine more times.)

Damned whippersnapper.

I haven't visited Scott and Ellen lately. My bad. So y'all say hi for me. There's Ellen's tale of 28 weeks. Scott's link to Maddox, who definitely is a grump, but a funny one. (I found him during my PETA campaign. He talks about them, too.) Then there's Scott's essay on air power for non-students of military history. Good one.

On Israpundit, a post about a fraudulent popular history of the Middle East.

Done for now. Go, read someone else for a change.

Oh, that'll work.

The Pals are threatening violence if the Israelis don't accept the new "roadmap" unconditionally.

A senior Palestinian Authority official warned Monday that the Palestinians would continue to fight if Israel does not accept, unconditionally, the road map plan for peace in the Middle East.

PA Cabinet Secretary Ahmed Abdel Rahman lashed out at Israel for reportedly making 15 remarks about the road map, saying failure to implement the plan would prompt the Palestinians to pursue the "resistance to liberate their homeland."

The Palestinians have also expressed some reservations concerning the road map. But this is the first time that a top Palestinian official threatens to resort to violence unless Israel accepts the plan unconditionally. Abdel Rahman is one of Yasser Arafat's most trusted aides and his statements often reflect thinking in the Palestinian leader's immediate circle.

"If the international community fails to implement the road map plan as it is and without changes, the Palestinians would then resort to the option of resistance to restore their rights," Abdel Rahman said in Ramallah.

Yep, that'll get the Israelis to agree. Because, like, this is so different from what they're already doing.

Palestinians. They never miss a chance to make asses of themselves. If Golda Meir never said that, she should have. But you can attribute it to me.

The latest from Captain Steve

Another night sortie finds me in the observer's seat for takeoff.

The last couple days the temperature has been a little over 100 degrees. The cockpit seems to capture the heat and hold it long after the sun has gone down. It doesn't help that all the electrical equipment (we're surrounded by dials, switches, and circuit breakers) is emitting heat as well. Before engine start, our power comes from an external generator, and is limited. Any available air conditioning goes to cool the mission computers toward the rear of the jet. So the preflight checklists are completed in growing heat. The humans on the flight deck have to adapt.

I strap myself into the seat and slide it all the way forward, until the back of the pilot's seat forms a footrest and I have a better view through the windows. I love the cockpit at night. The cramped space is infused with a dim green glow. In that pale light, everything is stripped to bare essentials. There is no mistaking what we are about.

I listen to the pilot, copilot, and flight engineer run their checklists, and from behind us the navigator adds his inputs. Again there is the unavoidable impression of a well-rehearsed drill. Everyone knows his part. Everyone knows what comes next, and what to do if it doesn't.

We talk to the ground crew, the unsung army of heroes that keeps our planes flying and without whom we can do nothing. We coordinate with them to start our engines. Engines running and with assurances from the back of the jet that the crew is strapped in and gear is stowed, we are cleared to roll out of our parking space. A ground crew member stands directly in front of us, flashlight wands tucked behind his back until, with a blink of our lights, we let him know we are ready. The wands come out, directing us with sharp definite movements to roll forward and turn left. And then, before he disappears from our peripheral vision, he snaps to attention and throws the pilot a crisp salute, packing into one quick gesture a wish for a successful mission and a safe return.

We follow the taxiway marked by hooded lights - blue along the edges, green down the center. Everything else is darkness but the distant horizon of orange sodium vapor lamps. We turn a corner and our exhaust stirs dust and sand from the edge of the ramp into the already dusty air. As we roll toward the downwind end of the runway the tailwind pushes our little sandstorm along with us. Each taxiway light has a halo around it.

Ahead of us are four fighters and another heavy. The fighters launch in quick succession. They are tiny compared to the jets behind them but they are menacing, with sleek death hanging beneath their wings. Each thunders down the runway pushed by its afterburner, a perfect twenty-foot cone of pink-white flame that streaks to the end of the tarmac and then points straight up. In no time the tiny sparks have climbed out of sight, reaching safe altitude before they leave the airspace over our field.

Our turn for takeoff. Power set, brakes released, our behemoth hurls itself into the wind. The pilot and copilot call out our ground speed, matching it against our diminishing runway space. At the appropriate speed for the altitude of our airfield, the weight of our aircraft, and the temperature of the air, someone calls "rotate" and we lift off the ground. The landing gear clunks as it unloads its shock absorbers, then clunks again as it is retracted into the wheel wells. The tiny world we know is disappearing beneath us.

It takes us longer to climb than it took the fighters. Our jet is heavy to begin with, but the warm air is thin, making it harder for our wings to lift us. We corkscrew our way into the sky, rising in a spiral that keeps us over friendly ground until above the service altitude of shoulder-fired missiles.

As we spiral we break through the layer of dust blanketing the earth and suddenly the stars are out. They are breathtaking. So numerous and so bright, with only a sliver of moon to diminish them. A far-off city throws its light up against the bottom of the dust layer, and it glows yellow-orange. Everywhere else, the ground is perfectly black. It is the darkness of a void; so black that you can understand how pilots can fly into the ground without knowing it. But there is no fear of that now. We are secure in our glowing cockpit (cooling now) climbing steadily, leaning into the bank that carries us around just one more time until we are high enough to leave our home and join the hunt.


Right or wrong, there is the sense here that things are drawing to a close. I try not to think about it, for fear of a let-down. I subscribe to the Ben Franklin theory of "Expect the worst. You will never be disappointed, and you may be pleasantly surprised." Still, people are taking photographs of things they want to remember about this place, and doing other such "wrapping up" activities. The bolder ones are naming dates and saying, "You'll see. I've been right about every date so far."

Maybe they have. Who can remember? We've wound ourselves up into advanced states of agitation about so many dates this year it's hard to keep track. It was before Thanksgiving that we first got the word that we could be deployed "at any time." We felt lucky to have Thanksgiving at home, but our happiness was tempered by the thought that we would most likely miss Christmas. Christmas found some of us traveling with a uniform in case we had to make a sudden departure, and starting nervously at every unexpected phone call. But Christmas passed and we went back to work, taking with us new theories about when the call would come. When we finally deployed every day brought new speculation about when the war would start, then about when we would reach Baghdad. For any situation, there is something to be speculated on, and worried about.

Not going home though. Not for me. It's too important a topic to discuss, and besides, I feel a little guilty even considering it while fighting rages on the ground. It hums beneath the surface though, like an electric current. The thought of seeing my wife and children makes my heart race. It has the power to distract me completely from whatever task is at hand, and to be perfectly honest, it brings tears to my eyes. So I keep it carefully in check. Dreams can't be helped though, and when I dream, I am home wrestling with the kids, enjoying the contentment that comes only in the company of my wife.

When our work is done, we will be home. That is all I need to know. In the meantime I will content myself with working hard, painting when I can, and writing you these notes. Thanks for reading them.


Fisk fisks Fisk; infinite loop warning

Why bother doing it if you can catch Fisk fisking himself? (Ooh, that sounds dirty, doesn't it?) Duelings Fisks, same day, different venues. It is far too precious to pass up. From the New Zealand Herald:

Robert Fisk: Reports of airport assault premature
SADDAM HUSSEIN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT - So where are the Americans? I prowled the empty departure lounges, mooched through the abandoned customs department, chatted to the seven armed militia guards, met the airport director and stood beside the runways where two dust-covered Iraqi Airways passenger jets -- an old 727 and an even more elderly Antonov -- stood forlornly on the runway not far from an equally decrepit military helicopter.

And all I could hear was the distant whisper of high-flying jets and the chatter of the flocks of birds which have nested near the airport car park on this, the first day of real summer in Baghdad.

From the Independent:

Allies 'seize most of Baghdad airport'
By Robert Fisk in Baghdad and Donald Macintyre in Qatar
04 April 2003
The Americans opened their offensive against Saddam Hussein's capital when ground forces swept into Baghdad's international airport under cover of darkness.

During the assault, an air strike on a village south of the city reportedly killed up to 83 people and wounded hundreds of others. The troops encountered almost no opposition from Iraqi forces and secured part of the airport complex with tanks and other armoured units in pitch darkness, according to Bob Schmidt, a correspondent with ABC News embedded with the 3rd Infantry Division. The airport assault was led by a combination of special operations forces and the 82nd Airborne.

The NZ Herald:

Only three hours earlier, the BBC had reported claims that forward units of an American mechanised infantry division were less than 16km west of Baghdad -- and that some US troops had taken up positions on the very edge of the international airport.

But I was 27km west of the city. And there were no Americans, no armour, not a soul around the runways of the airport whose namesake, in poster form, sat nonchalantly in the arrivals lounge in a business suit, cigar in hand. Even more astonishingly, there was no sign of the 12,000 Republican Guards whom the US division expected to fight.

Indeed, Saddam Hussein International Airport looked as if it was enduring an industrial strike (let us not conceive of such an event in Saddam's Iraq) rather than an imminent takeover by the world's only superpower.

The Independent:

But this morning Iraqi forces were reported to have moved out of Baghdad to mount a counter-attack. The road from the city to the airport was controlled by the Iraqis and reporters with American forces reported heavy fighting.

Colonel Will Grimsley, commanding officer of the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade, told Sky News: "It was almost spooky here last night because there was virtually nothing. It was quiet. It was very dark and we came through. We occupied positions ... Right around first light it was as if they looked around and said 'Holy cow – Where did all these Americans come from?' "

At almost the same time as the airport was being attacked yesterday, explosions detonated in Baghdad's two main power stations ­ one on each side of the Tigris river ­ depriving the city of all electrical power for the first time since the Anglo-American invasion two weeks ago. The power had still not been restored this morning.

The Herald:

Was it true, the Iraqi minister of information was asked at his daily 2pm press conference (11pm NZT) - a routine institution of usually deadly tedium - that the Americans were at the airport?

"Rubbish!" he shouted. "Lies! Go and look for yourself."

So we did.

And, alas for the Anglo-American spokesmen in Doha and the US officer quoted on the BBC, the Iraqi minister was right and the Americans were wrong. But it's a good idea to take these things, if not with a pinch of salt, then at least with the knowledge that there are always two reasons for every decision taken in this violent, ruthless land.

The Independent:

US sources indicated last night that troops had discovered a tunnel system under the airport, a section of which stretched back to the river Tigris. Early today, US forces claimed they controlled 75-80 per cent of the vast airport complex ­ several miles in diameter.

The most horrifying reports came first from the village of Furat on the airport road, where dozens of bodies were said to be heaped in a hospital mortuary after a missile attack; hundreds were also recorded by a witness to have been wounded. It was unclear whether the victims included soldiers, although first reports said civilians made up the majority of the casualties.

For much of the night, the city vibrated with the sound of huge explosions and the more distant sound of shellfire. All day, the Iraqis had been denying the imminence of an American attack and ­ after US reports that its forces had arrived at the perimeter of the airport ­ took journalists to the runways to prove the Allies were not present. The Independent found only seven armed guards outside the terminals, whose departure lounges and concourse were empty, and just two passenger jets and a military helicopter standing idle on the runways.

The Herald:

Sure, the Americans had been caught lying again - as they were about the "securing" of Nasiriyah more than a week ago - but was that the only reason journalists were permitted to visit Baghdad airport? We saw no Republican Guards - just as the Americans have themselves somehow failed to discover the 12,000 Republican Guards supposedly facing them.

Indeed, what I found most extraordinary was that there appeared to be absolutely no attempt to block the road into Baghdad from the airport.

Save for a few soldiers on the streets and a police squad car, you might have thought this a mildly warm holiday afternoon.

Was their some kind of trap about to be sprung? Were the Americans being lured into the gentle, palm-fringed highway into town because, unknown to all of us, there was in fact some real armour hidden away in the great fields on the western banks of the Tigris?

Had the Americans found themselves miles away on the edge of the old RAF airbase at Habbaniyeh, one wondered, and confused it with the airport outside Baghdad? Had they sent a patrol up to the far side of the Saddam airport for a few minutes, just to say they'd been there? Back in 1941, a German patrol briefly captured the last tram-stop on the line west of Moscow, collecting the discarded passenger tickets as souvenirs - and then got no farther.

The last word: The Independent, same day, different article:

Only a few trucks and foot soldiers to halt march on to airport
By Paul Peachey
04 April 2003

When the assault finally came, the men on the back of pick-up trucks offered little resistance to the US armour rolling into Saddam international airport. Accompanied by the sounds of explosions, American tanks moved to take control of one of the most potent symbols of the regime.

They encountered virtually no opposition, save from scattered firing by foot soldiers, according to Bob Schmidt of ABC News, reporting from the airport tarmac. However, later reports suggest that several hundred Iraqi troops died in the American drive on the airport.

For the first time, artillery fire could be heard overnight from inside the city, which was experiencing its first blackout since the war started a fortnight ago. Uniformed men had also set up roadblocks in the city for the first time. Sporadic US artillery and rocket fire was launched towards Baghdad once darkness fell. Four large explosions rocked the city centre early today and 20 explosions were heard in the south of the city. Tracer rounds raced through the sky near the airport.

It isn't often you get to see a sight like this. Relish it.




Many, many times during the year—not just on the Fourth of July—I thank God I was born in America. Because the events taking place in this picture are illegal in Saudi Arabia, and unwelcome in so many other countries in the Middle East.

Torah Tots make matzohsThe picture on the left portrays some children from my congregation's Torah Tots class, which meets once a month. It's for pre-kindergarden kids. Today, while the older children experienced a Model Seder, the little ones learned how to make matzoh (and had a grand old time pounding out the dough). Of course, you can't even wear a kippa in Saudi Arabia, and Bibles and crosses are destroyed or confiscated at the border. There is no religious freedom; there is only Islam. When the Pals succeed in getting themselves a state, I'd lay odds that they, too, outlaw Judaism. They've been persecuting Christians for ages. They mouth the words of tolerance—barely, and only in English, and to American and European media—but when they talk among their own, in Arabic, to their own media, they talk of a Palestine "from the river to the sea." Conspicuously absent from their maps of "Palestine" is any sign of the neighboring state of Israel. If one were of a suspicious or skeptical nature, one would think that the Pals are lying when they say they simply want to live in peace with Israel. If one were skeptical.

Most people don't know that in the decade after Israel's establishment, Jews were driven out of most Middle Eastern nations. (Believe it or not, they were kept as hostages in Syria, and many are still there, used as such to this day.) Most of the Jewish refugees were absorbed into Israel. That's why no one has heard much about the Jewish refugees from Arab nations around the time of the establishment of Israel. Everyone has heard of their counterparts, however. They're the Palestinians.

The Arab nations, with the exception of Jordan, refused to repatriate the refugees. They still refuse to do much about them today—well, unless you count funding their terror organizations. In Syria-occupied Lebanon, the "constitution" expressly forbids granting citizenship to Palestinian refugees. And Kuwait, don't forget, threw out half a million Palestinian laborers after the Gulf War, for their treachery in taking the Iraqi side.

There has never been a pogrom on American soil. There have been anti-Semitic attacks of varying degrees over the years, but the United States is one of the few nations in the world which has never sent its army or police force into Jewish communities for the purpose of driving them out, or worse. And though anti-Semitic attacks are up startlingly, the vast majority of Jews are still in little or no danger here.

And so when I was going through the pictures I took today, separating the ones that I'll be using for the synagogue's newsletter or mailing out to the local Jewish newspaper, I realized once again how thankful I am to be here. Take it away, Kate: God bless America. (That song, by the way, was written by Irving Berlin—a Jew.)

Rachel Corrie revisited

Two weeks ago I said that Rachel Corrie died of hubris. I was right.

Joe adds, "It's definitely a wakeup call. It's definitely easy to get cocky in this war zone when a tank is shooting at people and you walk up to them and shout at them, 'Hey, I'm here!' and they pack up and leave. You get so used to this idea, 'Hey, they won't hurt us.' It has really made me realize how naive and cocky I was."

Their racism is appalling.

Joe is from Kansas City, Missouri, and says he (like other Evergreen students) is getting independent study credit for his time in Rafah. He plans to gather the stories of local Palestinians and use them to write a play. "I saw ISM as a way that I could directly use my white, Western, American male privilege to directly serve underprivileged people of color," he says.

So is their stupidity and hypocrisy.

Laura and Alice are Jewish, but they keep quiet about their religion.

They're willing to help these people, but afraid to tell the Palestinians that their helpers are Jewish. Why? Could they be afraid for their lives? The reporter writes:

They have reminded me that about two and a half years ago, two Israeli soldiers took a wrong turn in the West Bank and ended up getting lynched in the city of Ramallah, their bodies displayed on live television as a Palestinian waved his bloody hands triumphantly out a window. At the recommendation of a veteran American correspondent in Jerusalem, I have rented a bulletproof vest and paid hundreds of dollars to hire this garish car, its driver, and a guide known as a "fixer." The correspondent told me he never goes anywhere in the territory without such arrangements. The purpose, he said, is to get my "Jewish ass out of Gaza alive."

Maybe I'm being too harsh. Perhaps it was out of "respect" for their hosts.

The place looks like a college dorm--cushions, empty teacups, a laptop, sleeping bags--except that there are no empty beer bottles, no crumpled cigarette packets, no bong; the ISM members abstain from such indulgences in Rafah out of respect for their Muslim hosts.

On the ISM website, gays are warned to keep their sexuality to themselves while in the territories. That must be out of respect for their Muslim hosts as well (who execute homosexuals).

Here are probably the two most offensive paragraphs in the entire article:

Later, Tom tries his hand at answering the question: "I agree with you that it's a huge irony that we're helping, or at least ostensibly helping, build a state--that a lot of anarchists are doing that. They would reply, and to some extent I would reply, that what we are really here for isn't a state. We're here for the people, and as soon as they get a Palestinian state, we'll be against that one, too."

The Palestinians in Rafah have embraced the foreigners, despite their confusing ideology. This is probably because it is not grand political theories that the people of Rafah really care about. Half-baked, freshman-level political rhetoric is far less important here than daily survival. And what the people of Rafah know is that the foreigners care about them, and that the foreigners' white skin--at least until recently--has the power to turn around a tank, stop the shooting, stall the march of a bulldozer.

But their confidence has slipped since Corrie's death

Before Rachel died, the white foreigners were the magic bullet that could neutralize Israel's overwhelming military strength. To them, their civil disobedience, even if dangerous, was heroic. And the risk of death was worth the benefit to the downtrodden Palestinians.

Now, after Rachel's death, with posters around town proclaiming her martyrdom, the white foreigners are reevaluating.

Hubris. Racism. White power. "Little brown people" syndrome. The ISM "internationals" are suffering from everything they claim to find reprehensible in corporations and governments, and they're so blind, they can't even see it. Go read the rest, by all means.


Last week's blogs are archived. Looking for the Buffy Blogburst Index? Here's Israel vs. the world. Here's the Blogathon. The Superhero Dating Ratings are here. If you're looking for something funny, try the Hulk's solution to the Middle East conflict, or Yasser Arafat Secret Phone Transcripts. Iseema bin Laden's diary and The Fudd Doctrine are also good bets if you've never been here before.