The Agonist Strikes

Sean-Paul, aka The Agonist, believes that the invasion of Iraq is a necessary evil. But he’s not happy at all with some of those who support it:
(Editing note: Sean-Paul politely warned his readers of strong language ahead and hid the body of the post under a [more] link; as I don’t have such a mechanism I chose to mask the strong language. I don’t particularly want to show up in Google searches on that word.)
What I do want to say is that all of you warbloggers out there are [deleted] pathetic. Young American men and women are going to die very soon. And like the poem I quoted in the previous post you are all “smug-faced crowds with kindling eye Who cheer when soldier lads march by” and you mother-[deleted] better “sneak home and pray you’ll never know/The hell where youth and laughter go.”
People like Andrew Sullivan and countless others are sickening. Your asses will never be in the firing line. You’ll never have bullets whizzing around your head. You’ll never see bloated, distended and putrefying flesh. You will never smell death on the battle field. So how [deleted] dare you sorry ass chicken hawks root for war. You are the worst of the worst. You are worse than those stupid [deleted] A.N.S.W.E.R. people. Why?
Because all you will do is sit at home and watch the bombs drop on Fox News and think it is all like a video game. You people make me sick.

Well then. Don’t hold back, Sean-Paul: tell us what you really feel.
Thoughts:
First, Sean-Paul is painting with an awfully broad brush here. “Warblogger”, as a term of art, doesn’t even always mean someone who is a rabid supporter of military action. Dave Winer proposed the following definition: “a person who runs a weblog that started around, or was significantly influenced by the events of September 11, 2001.” And that sounds about right to me. So: demerits right off the bat to Sean-Paul for tossing slurs at a large community of people who are most likely not guilty of the sins he describes.
Similarly, Sean-Paul’s post would have been far more convincing had he actually included some examples of the bad behavior he was condemning. It is the web, Sean-Paul: linking and quoting is expected par for this course. There’s no excuse for tossing vague accusations around without citing explicit sources.
But, with all that said: the core sentiment Sean-Paul expresses has some validity. There are dark days ahead in which many will die. As an American, it is my selfish hope that few of them are my countrymen. But it is likely that hope will not be fulfilled: Americans will die; and it is a certainty that a vast number of Iraqis will lose their lives.
And Sean-Paul is right to argue that we should not take pleasure or pride in the methods of the coming conflict. Our plan of battle can be described quite simply as the delivery of swift death and destruction to the men and women of Iraq’s military, who Saddam Hussein has propped up like sandbags while he cowers behind them. We must go through them to get to him, and in the course of so doing, some of our fighting men and women will surely die. This is a tragedy for both our nations; we wish it were not so.
But what Sean-Paul is missing, I think, is that many of us take pleasure not in those methods, but in the outcome they will produce. I, like many others, look forward to the day when Saddam Hussein no longer stands with his boot on the throat of the Iraqi people. I look forward to the liberation of an entire nation. And I take pride in the fact that it is my country; my nation that will deliver an end to Iraq’s long nightmare, and help the people of that beleaguered country begin their journey to a free future.
There is no shame in wishing for that outcome, or in admitting eagerness to see its day come quickly. I concede to Sean-Paul that it is obscene to take pleasure in death and destruction; and accept that some individuals, at some times, may do so. But I reject his implication that the warblogging community as a whole is a bloodthirsty pack of of amoral children whose only goal is to ensure a splendid display of pretty explosions on CNN.
To play into Sean-Paul’s stereotype for a final moment, I’ll put this in military terms. Sean-Paul seems to think he delivered a surgical strike of righteousness to a massed force of armchair generals baying loudly for blood.
In point of fact, he was carpet-bombing. And the collateral damage he inflicted hurts his own case far more than it does those who truly deserved his scorn.

Kaus: SoTU lacked “cool logic”

Kaus was not overly-impressed with the SoTU.
Well, okay, neither was I, actually. But I think the Mickster, though his wisdom has been proven to be superior to mine, may be slightly off base in the particular target for his critique [Wisdom proven superior? How? – Ed He gets paid for blogging; I do it for free. Q.E.D. Oh, and there’s also something about a Lear].
Mickey teams up with Peggy Noonan (odd mental image there) to berate the President for overselling his case:
It’s not just that, as Peggy Noonan wrote before the speech, Bush’s passion hurts his Iraq case because it makes him seem “too hot, too quick on the draw, too personal.” It also (in the absence of insider evidence) makes him seem too paranoid. Everything the president said about Iraq’s threat seemed true, but inflated by a factor of about 20 percent — an impression his intensity only reinforced. Where cool logic might have undercut such doubts and carried the day, Bush substituted hot rhetoric, as Noonan had feared. (I suspect Karen Hughes deserves the blame.)…
…the most difficult case for Bush to make isn’t the legal case for war, or the moral case for war, but the prudential case for war. It’s one thing to say Saddam is in “material breach” and invasion is justified under U.N. resolutions, just as you can say Saddam is evil and overthrowing him would be a form of justice. But the hard question is the cruder question: Do the rewards of the operation for the U.S. outweigh the risks…

All rather sensible. But there is one major problem with suggesting that Bush address the rewards-versus-risks equation: it’s a complete swamp. We don’t know what the true risks are on either side of the equation: we can only guess. Even assuming that our boys and girls at the CIA, NSA, and elsewhere are at the top of their game, we can’t possibly be sure we know of every nasty surprise Hussein has waiting for us in Iraq — or in our own cities. Nor can we put a precise timetable on exactly how long it is safe to wait before he decides to unleash the weapons he has — or is about to complete developing — through a proxy force like Al Qaeda.
This is not the kind of stuff that a President puts in his SoTU. Uncertain and full of doubt bad: resolute and full of conviction good.
Instead, Bush focused on what we do know. We know Hussein is evil (hence the discussion of his treatment and torture of his own people). We know Hussein is a liar (hence the discussion of his repeated violation of past promises and U.N. resolutions.) And we know he is dangerous (hence discussion of his past and continuing development of WMDs) .
“Evil + Liar + Dangerous” makes a nice, simple equation for the American Peepul, and one that everyone can understand. It adds up to “this guy has got to go.”
Now, to be clear: my analysis here is from a purely political standpoint. We most definitely should talk about the risks and uncertainty involved in attacking Iraq versus waiting; the public should be educated as to the dangers of each course.
But I don’t think the place for that level of detail and doubt is the SoTU. The President is there to make the broad argument for action: and in this case, I think he did pretty well and laying out the high-level case. And I fully expect that over the next few weeks, we’ll get the details from Powell and others. Time will tell…

Rory Lee Says Playing Nice Isn’t An Option

Okay, two links for a new blogger in a week is a bit excessive, but I can’t resist this piece by Aurora Leigh on liberals and opposition to deposing Saddam Hussein:
Earth to liberals: this is not a game… When you are in Kindergarten, and someone cheats, you go to the teacher. Well, guess who that is? That’s us. That’s not France, bartering their support to whoever will turn over the biggest percentage of their lunch money, and it’s not Germany, trying to emulate the bad kid so teacher and parents won’t notice that he’s having trouble learning to read. We are the authority of first and last resort because all those international authorities you want us to abide by get their power from our guns. And this game is a little too serious to call it off and send everybody home without first taking control of the Ba’athist bedroom and making sure that there aren’t any toys in there that aren’t recommended for their age group.
Everybody just blogroll her today (including you, InstaGuy) and we’ll all save a lot of time, m’kay?
Update: Hell and damnation. I forgot she’s on Blogspot, the original link was hosed. Just go to her front page.

State of the Union 2003

Oh, fine: I was going to leave the live blogging to Stephen, but I’m sitting here watching it, I guess I’ll post observations as I view the web stream.
Note: All quotes are best-I-could-do based on listening to the speech live; some inaccuracies may exist. You have been warned.
First observation: Nice suit, and like the tie.
Social Security: Hmmm, was that a pledge to privatize Social Security I just heard? Interesting; thought that was on hold for a while…
Healthcare: Big bodyslam to the whole nationalized healthcare thing; no shock there. Money quote: “Instead of bureaucrats and lawyers and HMOs, we must put doctors and patients back in charge of American medicine.”
My Beverage: Stephen’s got cheap-ass brandy; I’m enjoying a Red Hook Brown Ale, myself.
Foreign Oiiiiiil: Standard spiel here; reduce dependence on foreign oil. Not excited, sorry. I still want to hear somebody explain what happens to the miserable, economically retarded Middle East when we take away their one actual source of income. Folks seem to think they’ll just write us a nice thank-you note or something; methinks we might want to expect they might just be the teensiest bit pissed.
AmeriCorps: Ooops, wrong President. But he was going on about something about national service….
Fight Against Drugs: Well, at least he didn’t say “war”. $600 Million for a new treatment program — well, okay. How about we keep the $600M, legalize the stuff, and start making tax revenue off the phamaceutical firms that will rush into the market? Just a thought.
Human Cloning: Called for a full ban. Hmmm. Virginia?
Global AIDS: Asking Congress for $15 Billion, $10B in “new money” to fight HIV worldwide. Sounds good to me. Collapsing sick countries don’t make good partners, and Africa is the next Middle East in terms of breeding terrorists if we don’t help them survive. If it can be used effectively, it will be money well spent: both from a pragmatic, and from a moral perspective.
Terrorism: “One by one, the terrorists are learning the meaning of American justice.” Don’t know if I approve of the pace (how about we get a whole bunch of them at a time, eh?) but it sounded good.
Bioterrorism: “Project BioShield”? Eeeeeww. Rename that, fast. $6 Billion, huh? Is it me, or is there a lot of new spending in this speech for a Republican president?
Terrorist Threat Information Center: Merge all terrorism information into one place. Uh, ok. But the Devil’s in the details; stay tuned on this one.
Now It’s Getting Good: On WMDs and terrorism: “This threat is new. America’s role is familiar.” Not so subtle dig at our erstwhile European allies, eh?
And Better: “America’s purpose is more than to follow a process. It is to achieve a result: the end of terrible threats to the civilized world. All free nations have a stake in preventing sudden and catastrophic attacks, and we’re asking them to join us.. Yet the course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others. Whatever action is required, whenever action is necessary, I will defend the freedom and security of the American people.”
The People of Iran: “The United States supports their aspirations to live in freedom. ” Bravo.
Iraq Part I: “He has shown… utter contempt for the United Nations, and for the world. The 108 UN inspectors were not sent to conduct a scavenger hunt across a state the size of California.”
Iraq Part II: I think I get the strategy here: Note the repeated references to U.N. assessments. Tonight, we’re not going to hear new intel information. We’re going to hear the United Nations’ own case against Hussein. This is the same judo he used quite successfully in his U.N. speech last year: tonight, he’s putting the burden back on the defenders of the U.N. to explain why it’s ok for Iraq to ignore it, even when the U.N. itself has declared him in violation. Smart move. The really compelling American intel will come later: probably right before (or even right after) the attack begins.
Iraq III: “Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.”
Iraq IV: After listing Hussein’s torture techniques: “If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning.”
Iraq V: “And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq. Your enemy is not surrounding your country. Your enemy is ruling your country. And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation.”
Iraq VI: February 5th is the date for the next checkpoint at the U.N. — not the 14th. Interesting. I remain convinced that the “we’re not ready to go for a few weeks anyway” CW in the media is bullshit; not necessarily from any reading of other reports (although folks like Den Beste have provided convincing arguments) but simply because it is completely to our advantage to keep everyone possible assuming we’re not ready until long after we actually are.
Closer: “Confidence in a loving God” — Well, could have been ‘Allah Ackbar’, so I guess that’s a little better. But not really.
Other Key Phrases / Statements
“Days of Promise, and Days of Reckoning”— Hopeful and resolute, yet wary; I like it. Particularly the ambiguity about exactly who the “reckoning” is for…
“Arrested or otherwise dealt with” — Bush’s description of what we’ve done to Al Qaeda leaders. “Otherwise dealt with” ? That gets the euphemism of the night award….
Overall Thoughts: Eh. It was good, not great. The SoTU is always such a laundry list, it’s hard to actually make it a good speech. He hit most of the right notes (Iran, AIDS, Iraq) and a few clunkers (Fight Against Drugs, Cloning), but that’s taking my biases into account.
Overall I think the inital spin is going to say it was somewhat disappointing, especially for lack of new and exciting Iraq evidence — but see my thoughts above on that. But that’s okay, because in a week or two, the real Iraq speech will get rolled out, and he’ll have much more time and focus to do a proper job of making the case. The SoTU was never actually the right forum for that anyway, so this shouldn’t be a huge shock (but probably will be treated like one; expect “No new evidence” to be part of the headlines in the NYT tomorrow).
And that’s all for me for now…
Update: Not the NYT (yet), but I told you so: USA Today: Case for attacking Iraq still short on critical details

The Truth Laid Lair

(It’s no joke and it’s no lie! Here’s today’s stop of the Amish Tech Support Blog A Day Tour by Laurence Simon, smack dab in the middle of the Truth Laid Bear.)
I guess you can call this post “The Truth Laid Lair.” And here’s a little truth for you:
A while back, N.Z. Bear was preparing to move from Blogspot to this fancy-schmancy MT site. And from the looks of these nice digs, he did a great job of setting himself up with a fancy apartment in the sky of the blogopshere.
One thing you might not be aware of is that the picture there of the Sekimori-designed polar bear in the hat typing away almost wasn’t the mascot of the site. The truth is, I sent over a selection of Media Builder Animation Factory animations and I was darn tootin’ certain he’d pick one of them for his site.
Alas, instead of going with an animated cartoony mascot, he settled for the stoic and dedicated ursine figure there in the hat. It lends an air of respectability and trust, don’t you think?
I mean, what kind of goofball would use an animated cartoony character as his mascot?
Anyway, the point of this post is that for a successful blog, you have to get people focused on a single concept. You need to make it painfully easy for people to get to you, to refer to you, and to remember you. N.Z. Bear accomplished this with his name (N.Z. Bear), his blog name (The Truth Laid Bear), his mascot (a bear), and domain name (truthlaidbear.com). He allows for easy access to his articles and the option to comment. There’s no confusion when it comes to what word leaps out at you when you think of his site or if you want to refer to it.
“Bear”
I, on the other hand, commit every sin in the book when it comes to identity. I have yet to settle on a single name (Laurence, Larry, Lair, file13, Amish), my blog name (File13’s Amish Tech Support, Amish Tech Supprt, ATS), my mascot (changes once every few days), and domain name (don’t ask). Permalinks and commentary on my own site is shakier than Jell-o in an earthquake. I don’t even post in the same place every time (The Tour). I’m surprised that people can find me in this electron-cloud of mixed identities.
Do what the Bear does, not me. Get your ducks in a row, don’t let your ducks scatter and run around crazy-like.

Don’t Hold Back, Joe…

Quote of the day goes to Joe Klein, who is handicapping the Democratic presidential hopefuls on WBUR’s The Connection. Observe as host Dick Gordon prompts Joe on one candidate in particular…
Dick Gordon: Reverend Al Sharpton
Joe Klein: I don’t want to talk about him. He shouldn’t be on the stage. The guy is a criminal. The guy is a buffoon… he’s a waste of time….I think that the degree of politeness that has been accorded his candidacy is actually outrageous.”

Amen, Joe!
This particular quote is at about 13:20 of the RealAudio file.

FetchBook.Info: Handy

Here’s a new toy for you book-lovers: FetchBook.info.
It’s a free search engine that claims to search about sixty online bookstores, giving you the best prices available.
You can search by title, author, or ISBN.
I haven’t stress-tested the thing, but quick tests seem to show it works quite nicely. I was able to find my PMP Exam Study Guide for $38.85, about $4.50 cheaper than Amazon. And it includes shipping costs in the display, so you can tell when you’re getting a 20% discount in exchange for 20% higher shipping costs.
Anyway, seems like a useful tool to someone like me who blows way too much money on books. Check it out.
And here’s a widget to help you try: this is the core search box…


Enter Book Title or ISBN

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Intelligent Thought Alert

Wow. I think I’m in love:
The idea of absolute state sovereignty is relatively new, and it derives from agreements among kings, emperors, kaisers, and czars for their mutual benefit. What we

Windfall for the LA Examiner?

Matt Welch points to a NY Times piece that reveals the DoJ has signed a consent decree with New Times Media and Village Voice Media:
In a quiet end to a highly contested investigation, the Justice Department signed a consent decree on Saturday with New Times Media and Village Voice Media, two newsweekly chains that it had accused of dividing markets when they closed competing papers in Cleveland and Los Angeles last October, according to representatives of both companies.
The Justice Department is expected to file a complaint and a competitive impact statement today, along with the consent decree, they said.
There is no admission of guilt in the consent decree, but each company is required to aid the opening of new weekly papers in Los Angeles and Cleveland by selling assets, including the rights to the names of the closed newspapers