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March 31, 2003

Bless This Defender of Freedom...

The Hamilton Collection Lord Bless This Defender of Freedom Figurine :


(via MeFi)

Posted by mph at 11:58 PM

English Al Jazeera Web Site Isn't Available...

...which is old news to most, but there's another site folks are claiming is a mirror of the site, called aljazeerah.info. According to the editor, that site isn't affiliated with al Jazeera t.v. (search down the page for "Betty Kimbrough" and check the editor's response to her. Note the spelling of the domain, too.

Posted by mph at 12:48 PM

More on Portland's Apparent "No Indy Press" Stance

Bix has an update on his news conference run-in from last week. Good to read he's gotten a response, curious to see what comes of the issue of what passes for "credentials" in this town.

Posted by mph at 10:59 AM

Rumsfeld vs. The Generals

Seymour Hersh's article for The New Yorker on Rumsfeld's clashes with war planners is online now.

Posted by mph at 9:14 AM

Combat Reporting From the Times

Gripping war reporting from the Sunday Times. MeFi played the quote in the second paragraph for the obvious shock value, but there's a lot of context to be taken in before judging that corporal:

"'Did you see all that?' he asked, his eyes filled with tears. 'Did you see that little baby girl? I carried her body and buried it as best I could but I had no time. It really gets to me to see children being killed like this, but we had no choice.'

"Martin's distress was in contrast to the bitter satisfaction of some of his fellow marines as they surveyed the scene. 'The Iraqis are sick people and we are the chemotherapy,' said Corporal Ryan Dupre. 'I am starting to hate this country. Wait till I get hold of a friggin' Iraqi. No, I won't get hold of one. I'll just kill him.'

"Only a few days earlier these had still been the bright-eyed small-town boys with whom I crossed the border at the start of the operation. They had rolled towards Nasiriya, a strategic city beside the Euphrates, on a mission to secure a safe supply route for troops on the way to Baghdad.

"They had expected a welcome, or at least a swift surrender. Instead they had found themselves lured into a bloody battle, culminating in the worst coalition losses of the war -- 16 dead, 12 wounded and two missing marines as well as five dead and 12 missing servicemen from an army convoy -- and the humiliation of having prisoners paraded on Iraqi television."

Complete item (requires registration/password, "cpunks" seems to work for each)

Posted by mph at 9:01 AM

March 29, 2003

Support the Troops, Fire Rumsfeld?

Updated: Haven't done much warblogging to speak of because, I guess, there are more interested parties doing more efficient jobs of it when it's being done well, and because blogging for the sake of snarking isn't much fun (to me . . . I know it's supposed to be the point for others). One interesting little blip on the radar has my attention, though, which is that of Donald Rumsfeld's sell-out of our warfighters in the form of undercutting logistical and troop support.

Jim Henley caught it in Unqualified Offerings by noting:

"By far the most dramatic and disruptive change to the battle plan, however, was Rumsfeld's decision last November to slash Central Command's request for forces. This single decision essentially cut the size of the anticipated assault force in half in the final stages of planning, and it had a ripple effect on Central Command and Army planning that continues to color operations to this day."


"for instance, the 'Pentagon's decision not to activate many transportation Reserve units before last Christmas also created personnel shortages. Meanwhile, COSCOM itself has only 150 heavy transport trucks for an operation that Army planners estimate requires 700.'"

Maureen Dowd picked up on it in the NYT, too, noting, as did Mr. Henley, that Rumsfeld is happy to lay all credit for the plan at the feet of Tommy Franks, despite his own involvement in undercutting what Pentagon planners wanted. Dowd says it's an obsession with airpower as the answer to all woes:

"Retired generals were even more critical of the Rumsfeld doctrine of underwhelming force. The defense chief is so enamored of technology and air power that he overrode the risk of pitting 130,000-strong American ground forces - the vast majority of the front-line troops have never fired at a live enemy before - against 350,000 Iraqi fighters, who have kept their aim sharp on their own people."

Republican cant has it that when the Democrats are in power, they ruin everything by getting their civilian paws all over the military, which could do a competent job if left alone. That was pretty much the going line among fellow soldiers when I was serving, and Somalia was roundly placed at the feet of Clinton's DoD and its failure to adequately arm and protect our soldiers on the ground there. Maybe so. In fact, probably so. Civilians with political goals telling warfighters with military goals how to conduct themselves in the field sounds like a liberal democracy with a tight rein on the most potentially dangerous institution it maintains, but in practice it means a little more: it means issues of bullets and beans . . . the most basic concerns of an army in the field . . . are subjected to political considerations, not basic laws of logistics and consumption, which bend to no party's will.

My guess is that Rumsfeld and his underlings don't care as long as it's General Franks holding the bag at the end of the day.

Update: Reuters says The New Yorker's to thank for the idea:

"'He thought he knew better. He was the decision-maker at every turn,' the article quoted an unidentified senior Pentagon planner as saying. 'This is the mess Rummy put himself in because he didn't want a heavy footprint on the ground.'"


"'He was so focused on proving his point -- that the Iraqis were going to fall apart,' the article, by veteran journalist Seymour Hersh, cited an unnamed former high-level intelligence official as saying."

I'm not even "for" this war, but if the thing had to happen, and if we have to have men killing each other and innocent civilians, wouldn't it have been better to commit as much of our might as possible and just win the damn thing? Or should we just be relieved that Mr. Rumsfeld, at least, isn't as eager as Dick Cheney was to just thrown an airborne division at the problem and hope we could wash it away with copious amounts of blood and box sets of the Civil War miniseries?

It's silly and naive to think that this thing was going to be over in a few days, even if all our embedded reporters can't help but bring to mind picnicking Yankees at First Manassas, and I don't think anyone using the words "stalemate" or "quagmire" at this point in the conflict is doing so honestly, but it's even worse to think the people most eager for this war were the most stingy in equipping and provisioning the people they sent in to fight it.

Another Update: There's some discussion of this on MatthewYglesias.com, where a few of the louder commentators seem to think sniping at Rumsfeld is sour grapes from the Army, which is bummed over the attention the Air Force gets. But that seems to ignore the notion that even the administration says supply lines are overextended, not to mention the upcoming presence of 120,000 new troops in the field.

Yet Another Update: CNN says Rumsfeld said it's all hooey. The generals in the field agree, not because there were enough men in the field and adequate supplies in the first place, but because things will eventually work out regardless of initial under-strengths.

Posted by mph at 6:45 PM

March 28, 2003

Convicts, Leave . . . Peaceniks, Stay

Bix reports that the city's getting nasty about our recent protests, opting to keep arrested protestors in jail unless they can make bail. Some people have been locked up for jaywalking. The city says the protests are costing $200,000 a day, about which Bix has something more to say.

His run-in with the city over admission to a press conference is worth reading, too. Evidently, not being "corporate" means you aren't really press here, but I've got an inquiry into the mayor's press person on the issue, so I won't offer any commentary until I hear back from her.

Posted by mph at 12:12 AM

March 27, 2003

Spirited Away

Spirited Away is getting a wider theatrical run in the wake of its Oscar win.


This isn't so much a review as a "if it's in your town, go see it" recommendation. It's a wonderful piece of work, every bit as good as Princess Mononoke (from the same director), and perhaps better, though that's probably risking debate from the real fans.

Posted by mph at 10:54 PM

Mo Commie Art

Stefan Landsberg's archive is pretty good, too:


p.s. Happy 300th post to me

Posted by mph at 9:01 PM

Yay Commie Art!

Here's an archive of communist political art from China, Cuba, and the USSR:


The images aren't very large, but you can get the gist... enough, perhaps, to order a postcard set.

(Via BoingBoing)

Posted by mph at 11:46 AM

In-bedded Journalists

Editor and Publisher is also disturbed at what's not getting reported and why.

You'd think a former troop would realize that the best place to make sure a reporter can't figure out what's going on is in the thick of the action, but it took me until today to work that one out. But there really is no worse place for anything like truth or accuracy than in a line unit . . . those are the people who don't have time to think about the big picture, and are consequently freed from worrying about it at every opportunity by the people in the rear. Rumors breed among line soldiers like fruit flies, so sticking a reporter in among them then subjecting them to combat is almost, but not quite, as good as just locking the correspondent in a sensory deprivation chamber and delivering press releases in the form of Metallica songs. It gives the appearance of "unprecedented openness," when it's really a way to focus the attention on the immediate and "real-time." If Gulf War I was the "Missile Command" war, this one is the "Quake" war, either way, we're all sitting at home gawking at the spectacle while the military leadership picks when and where to impart strategic information.

Posted by mph at 11:43 AM

I Say Potato, You Say Overwhelming Victory for Our Annointed Troops

The Guardian has a running feature on claims and counter-claims regarding the war, most recently the "Basra uprising."

Posted by mph at 9:07 AM

Teenage (and 20-something) Wasteland

I hate online gaming. The New York Times explains why. obIdioticQuote:

"One of the players engaging in this automated counterfeiting, a 29-year-old financial planner from Texas, said he did so without apology (although he did not want to be identified by name). 'I think the bots actually level the playing field for people who have day jobs,' he said. 'When I play an online game, I can't be the best because there are some college kids out there spending 14 hours a day.'"

We report, you laugh and yelll "Tool!" at your screen.

Posted by mph at 8:53 AM

March 26, 2003


The iBook is home again today after a week in the hands of the repair people at Apple, which means I can quit supping with the devil and get everything reinstalled in time for classes to start again. Sum experience with the Mac support channel:

It's nice that warranty support is handled by whomever I'd choose to take the machine to. Too bad the problem required shipment to Apple in California, but they turned it around in four business days which isn't bad. They fixed all three problems I reported without an issue: they replaced the hard drive, repaired a borked LCD brace, and repaired the lid so that it opens much more smoothly, and without any squeaking.

So... the iBook's back and I can contemplate writing more than a paragraph at a time again.

Posted by mph at 11:28 PM

March 25, 2003

Creative Commons at Work

Cool... someone found a use for some of my antiwar march photos from January. (Flash required).

Posted by mph at 10:06 PM

March 23, 2003

And Yet More Woe

So, five days after taking the iBook into the shop and resigning myself to a few days with Mr. Gates' XP, the Windows machine decides it's time to follow the iBook into the Great Beyond, evidently not realizing that I built it myself and enjoy no warranty support on it. So we're down to two functional machines in the house, one of which is an aging Pentium II with an ancient Red Hat release on it, the other being our server. After a brief sojourn with Win XP, I'm getting reacquainted with GNOME until the iBook comes back.

A sign of how dire the IT situation is becoming here: I dusted off the Tandy WP-2 and made sure it's able to send files via a null modem cable to at least one of the machines in the house. If it dies, there's always the Model 100 waiting in reserve. After that, I give up and go back to typewriters and carrier pigeons.

Posted by mph at 6:34 PM

March 19, 2003


The iBook is in the shop, which means I'm about to log the most time in front of a Windows machine I've managed since some time last year. On the other hand, I have the comforts of the Activision Anthology for Playstation 2 when I'm not stooped in front of the billbox.

Pictured above is the supremely minimalist Laserblast, which is the current favorite. Pitfall is also getting some time.

Absolute highlight so far: a really, really young Phil Hartman in an early commercial for the hockey game. As games are played and scores beaten, the game disc reveals itself to be a trove of original t.v. spots from 1981-1983. The corporate ad they put together for trade shows and investors rules, too, with erstwhile developers talking about how Activision games "put you in the action" with immersive sound and graphics while they peck away at ADM 3a's.

Posted by mph at 9:17 AM

March 14, 2003

The Intersection of Folk Art and Kitsch

Here's a gallery of hand-painted, promotional posters for movies:


The site explains that the posters were "born from the need to advertise small-scale mobile film distribution, with entrepreneurs sending agents out on the road with videocassettes, television monitors, VCRs and portable gas powered generators into small villages in the Ghanaian countryside to show films, by day inside homes or a local social club, and at night, in the open air, weather permitting."

(via Memepool)

Posted by mph at 10:40 AM

March 13, 2003


I could deal with freedom fries and freedom toast... they're in line with the sort of witlessness that government we earned finds so easy.

Taking all of our corpses back in a snit, on the other hand, is pretty damn inventive.

Update: Phil dropped a line to point out that Big Jeb Bush says taking our corpses back is going a bit too far. Phil also encouraged a quick peek at the source of idea.

Posted by mph at 11:44 PM

From Portland With Love, The Student Who Came In From The Rain, etc.

Well, the term's almost over. The most interesting class (at least in terms of how much information was imparted or factored in across a number of disciplines) was probably the '60s spy film class (entitled "Sex, Spies, and Semiotics").

I made a PDF of my final paper, which seeks to explain how a genre wrapped up in political understandings and rooted in a period deeply concerned with ideology can be a vehicle for non-ideological messages. Fortunately, the instructor was more interested in the content than the less formal approach. So here's the paper pdf (70k), and here's a list of my pocket summaries of the films mentioned (I'm still missing a few from late in the course, including Hitchcock's Topaz and The President's Analyst):

The paper references pomo lit wildman Roland Barthes' "Death of the Author". There's a passing reference to Vladimir Propp, as well, who wrote Morphology of the Folktale, an attempt to create a universal narrative structure. It's not available online, either (except in Russian), but there's a summary of his basic outline and a fun fairytale generator based on his ideas.

The last three films in the list go down better with a reading of Clement Greenberg's "The Avant Garde and Kitsch," which I can't find online. Had we been given a less strict page limit, there would have been a lot to say about how the depoliticized spy movie detaches its content from any concrete cause, making for an Orwellian anti-history of meaningless image fragments. Greenberg saw kitsch in its context as a tool used by Stalin and his bureaucrats to create ersatz folk culture out of the residue and scraps of authentic folk expression. It works pretty well for a Hollywood establishment that feels perfectly comfortable airbrushing the World Trade Center out of the background, too.

Posted by mph at 8:11 AM

March 12, 2003

If You're Wondering About the Rising Tide of Mediocrity...

... in academia, please look no further than the Portland State University Bookstore, which refuses to sell pens that don't either involve gel or medium points. I settled on a reasonable compromise (the PaperMate PhD medium point black with triangular rubber grip), but these rustics haven't ever heard of the classic black Pilot fine-point (with wax tip keeper to protect it from the rigors of shipping) and the clerk was pointedly disinterested in the issue.

Posted by mph at 8:32 PM

Our New Legal Black Hole

According to TalkLeft, Guantanamo Bay is a legal black hole where US courts have no jurisdiction.

Posted by mph at 9:12 AM

Disinfo Yellowpages

Disinfopedia is a collaborative source for assorted disinformation campaigns, astroturf organizations, lists of industry-friendly experts and the like.

(via bOing bOing)

Posted by mph at 9:08 AM

March 6, 2003

More on CAPPS II

TalkLeft has more on CAPPS II, which is the new air travel security program under testing at Delta. Not much pithy to say about the thing here.

Posted by mph at 7:01 AM

Fish and poultry may be terrorists.

Via Sam Brent on BitRot:

Don't get trapped under stuff.

Many, many more.

Posted by mph at 6:49 AM

March 3, 2003

Soon Our Flight Spies Will Be Moving Through the Cabin...

I don't much like Delta anyhow, so it won't be particularly hard to boycott it for running credit checks, examining my banking history, and going through my criminal record before deciding whether to sell me a ticket or not.

Posted by mph at 10:24 AM

The Great Cycle of Cheese

Spent a bit of Saturday at the Tillamook Cheese Factory.


There's an album of the trip in the gallery. We also went to the Cape Mears lighthouse/forest, so there are some shots of that as well. But nothing really beats the majesty of a modern, automated cheese production facility.

Posted by mph at 10:02 AM