Saturday, December 22, 2007


Admission of the Day

Class, either by income or social status, is real but undefined in our society, yet those conditions underlie so much of the economic, social and political conversation in the newspaper. —Timothy J. McNulty, Public Editor (ombudsman) for the Chicago Tribune, writing in "Class definitions always will be a moving target for journalists"

McNulty is worried about the 163 times that writers for the Tribune used the phrase "middle class" this year. Surveying the stories he found that the notion was applied to people making from $120,000 and $180,000 in one story but down to $63,500 in another.

I recall a study from some years ago finding that most Americans tend to identify themselves as "middle class" no matter where they cling on the socioeconomic ladder. Perhaps in reference to that fact McNulty writes—

There is a reason that politicians of both parties and commentators, such as Lou Dobbs, send out angry broadsides about the "war on the middle class." Listeners -- no matter how much or how little they make -- can choose to believe these commentators are talking about them.

How can you have a class war if there are no classes? It's good to know that the press continue to assist in the public's conceit and the official deceit, though I doubt the mavens of the media have given it much thought. They are, after all, middle class—just like the rest of us.


Friday, December 21, 2007


Euphemism of the Day

liability relief: retroactive immunity from charges of criminal acts, amnesty

"Liability relief" is what the majority of the U.S. Congress hope to provide for AT&T and other telecommunications giants for their criminal role in spying on Americans at the behest of the National Security Agency (NSA).

"Liability relief" should be distinguished from "pardon," which removes the punishment but not the fact of the crime, as George Bush granted to "Scooter" Libby.


Thursday, December 20, 2007


No-Joke of the Day

Klüft and Holm, reigning Olympic champions in the heptathlon and high-jump events, both agreed that competitors at the highest level should either have computer chips implanted into their skin or GPS transmitters attached to their training bags to help keep track of their movements at all times. —Paul O'Mahony reporting in "Klüft touts computer chip implants"

I have nothing against sports. They're an excellent way to keep mesomorphs out of mischief. But public adulation of our athletes will ultimately lead to incursions into the lives of ordinary citizens that seem to have no bounds.

It is now common for highschoolers to be subjected to drug-testing if they want to participate in any school-sponsored sport. Baseball is in the midst of a "drug scandal" that will undoubtedly see some sort of drug-testing emerge. If this is deemed permissible for and by the public's idols, it is little wonder that invasions of the privacy of lesser mortals are readily accepted.

I am not, by the way, opposed on principle to the implantation of computer chips or binding people with irremoveable GPS anklets. But such technologies need to tested.

We must begin our research with the group capable of inflicting the greatest harm to the public and requiring the greatest amount of surveillance—our politicians.

I want to know their whereabouts every minute of a 24-hour day. If they enter a restroom I want a videocam to prove they're there to pee—and not just to pick up a briefcase full of cash. If they hold a meeting, I want it recorded and transmitted off-site to prevent tampering with the recording device.

The program would of course be entirely voluntary and in no way conflict with any cry-baby notions of "civil liberties." Like athletes, politicians are not forced to enter their profession. And these small intrusions into their lives should be regarded only as part of the "cost of doing business," which I know they'll happily pay in return for the rewards and remunerations of the job.

As we now have it, national politicians are surveilled fairly closely only during the course of a campaign. But the moment they're elected they disappear into a bureaucratic maze that makes it hard for the citizen to keep track of them. The results, as we have seen again and again, can be disastrous. This state of affairs must end.

Meanwhile you might want to check out what's going on over at and


Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Lion rampant with pizzle pendent depizzled

The Nordic Battlegroup is a rapid-reaction force of the European Union (EU) consisting mostly of Swedes. And since, contrary to rumor, feudalism is not dead, the NB needs a coat of arms.

This is what artist Vladimir A. Sagerlund produced

Some ladies of the battlegroup were so offended by the pizzle twixt the lion's legs that they took the matter to the European Court of Justice. So the army acted in the interests of "gender equality" and removed the offending genital. This act of butchery confirmed everything Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and a host of right-wing bloggers ever thought about castrating women, not to mention Europeans.

Limbaugh, especially, bemoaned the loss of the penis—

... another illustration of the chickification of culture."

"Is that how you get gender equality? You emasculate a lion? Why not just put boobs on the female lions? What do you have to go and take away the penis for?"

—A plaint heard all too often.

The artist was incensed—

"The army lacks knowledge about heraldry. Once upon a time coats of arms containing lions without genitalia were given to those who betrayed the Crown."

But the army proceeded with the depizzling—

"We were given the task of making sure the willy disappeared," Christian Braunstein from the army's 'tradition commission' told Göteborgs-Posten.

"We were forced to cut the lion's willy off with the aid of a computer," he added.

The lion now appears as shown below—

If the point was to androgynize the animal, the effort failed. It was silly to dewilly but leave the mane intact. Surely that's the prominent feature. Of the pizzle I can only remark that if the ladies hadn't brought it up I would never have spied it, since I avert my eyes from the hinder parts of animals, as we all should.1

Related post
The town of Piekary Slaskie: A Polish joke (1/31/07)



1A true story: A good friend of mine, raised to be a Southern lady, had come up thinking that bulls were black and all the other cows heifers. One day out driving with some college friends past a pasture she spotted a black cow and pointed out the "bull." Only when her friends had time to recover did she learn the shocking truth. [back]

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Tautology of the Day

The fact is that there’s no way to reduce the gross wastefulness of our health system without also reducing the profits of the industries that generate the waste. —Columnist Paul Krugman writing in "Big Table Fantasies"

Why, bless my soul! Now that I think about it the profits are the waste.

Related posts
No Free Lunch gets a table (9/25/05)
Sweden fixes its teeth (12/7/05)
First American graduate from Cuban medical school (8/26/05)
Healthcare costs: The deception continues (4/25/06)
Cuban Immigration Plan of the Day (8/8/06)


Monday, December 17, 2007


About the Turkish air attack on Iraq

The US–Turkey tragifarce continues. Turkey sent 50 fighter jets over Kurdish Iraq (Kurdistan) this Sunday to strike villages where the PKK, the "terrorist" organization leading the Kurdish separatist movement, were presumed to be active. According to the BBC report, "Iraqi officials" claimed 10 villages were attacked. The PKK says five of its fighters and two women were killed.

Yesterday's account from the BBC included Turkish claims that the U.S. had backed the attacks. Today's update from the Beeb bore the headline "US denies backing Turkey PKK raid." Whom to believe? This one is easy: Believe the Turks.

Bradley Brooks of the AP seems to have better connections than the BBC correspondents—

The attack came a month after the U.S. promised to share intelligence with Turkey to help combat the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK and Turkey's military chief, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, said U.S. intelligence was used Sunday.

"America gave intelligence," Kanal D television quoted Buyukanit as saying. "But more importantly, America last night opened (the Iraqi) airspace to us. By opening the airspace, America gave its approval to this operation."

In Washington, a Pentagon official said that the U.S. military has been sharing intelligence with the Turks, but that he did not know exactly what information was given to aid with the airstrikes or when it might have been given.

Another defense official said the U.S. had made sure Turkey would have clear use of the skies to enable the strikes.

They both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record.

While an attack by 50 warplanes may seem a sudden and frightful escalation of the Turkish threat to invade northern Iraq—highlighted by the 100,000 or so troops positioned at the border—it seems more likely an attempt by Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan at least to postpone such an eventuality, with the U.S. assisting him in the effort.

As I've mentioned previously, Erdogan appears to have his own reasons for averting a full-scale ground invasion aside from the question of whether such an invasion would be strategically or tactically sound. Nevertheless, with a claim that over 35,000 Turkish lives have been lost in attacks by the PKK, Erdogan can't allow the Turkish public to conclude that he's sitting on his hands.

My conclusion is based on these considerations—

First, it is odd that so many warplanes could attack so many villages and leave only 7 dead. If the strikes were "surgical" (a term not used in the accounts), the Turkish Air Force makes the U.S. Air Force look like an abortionist with a coathanger. It seems more likely that the attack was an exercise in "shock and awe."

Second, the attack could only anger anyone who still identifies as an Iraqi, but certainly the Kurds. The unofficial acknowledgement of U.S. complicity in the foray reveals the delicate situation in which the U.S. finds itself—unable to control Kurdistan on the one hand and unable to deny Turkey its right to self-defense on the other. So it may be that a highly visible but essentially toothless air attack was the best that could be hoped from the U.S. perspective.

Still there is a cost. To help stave off an outright Turkish invasion, the U.S. must cooperate more openly with Turkey while risking alienation of the only region that has stayed out of the armed resistance to U.S. occupation—

Masoud Barzani, leader of the autonomous Kurdish region, in a statement condemned the attacks, which he said were "conducted with indirect U.S. approval, as defending the sovereignty of Iraq and the Kurdish region is within the Americans' responsibilities."

Barzani is well on record in support of Kurdish independence.

Related posts
If this is true ... (3/4/05)
Threat of the Day (10/9/07)
Another excuse for the US presence in Iraq is crumbling (10/23/07)


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