Saturday, May 01, 2004

taking a breath

Wretchard at the Belmont Club thinks I'm all wet in my pessimistic view of the Fallujah situation. Well, he didn't actually mention be by name, but I'm sure he had me in mind. Wretchard still thinks the marines have the situation in hand and aren't being pulled out by the pols. His analysis is pretty convincing, so I'm hereby going back to giving them the benefit of the doubt.

This isn't an issue of impatience on my part, it's an issue of whether I trust George Bush any more. Let it take as long as it takes, but if Bush starts treating murderous thugs like respectable leaders, it's all over. Look at it this way: suppose the governor of Arizona was convicted of some crime and removed from office (hard to imagine, I know). Now suppose that instead of stepping down, he assassinated the Attorney General and the judge who convicted him, kidnapped the jury, called up a few loyal members of the state militia and holed up in the capitol building. Would anyone seriously suggest that since he has a constituency he should be given a "role" in the government and forgiven of his crimes? Would anyone worry about enraging his followers by taking him out? Would anyone fear that by attacking rather than negotiating, we were denying his followers their right to participate in the process?

Of course not. Those arguments would all be ridiculous in Arizona and they are ridiculous in Iraq. The very reason the rebellion is inconceivable is because everyone knows there would be zero tolerance for such an act. It could not possibly lead to success and would almost certainly get everyone involved killed or imprisoned. If we want such a thing to be inconceivable in Iraq also, we need to be just as intolerant of it. Anyone who tries to get political leverage with violence dies or goes to prison. All of his followers die or go to prison. If his followers riot, they are just as guilty of using violence for political ends and they die or go to prison. The U. S. must make it absolutely clear that no one, NO ONE, gains anything by violence in Iraq. They need to make examples of the Fallujah rebels and Sadr soon, before everyone starts abandoning ship.


Ambra at Nykola reports that in the Columbine school shootings and the others that happened previous to that, the majority of the victims were Christians:
Not only were they Christians, but they were "out" so to speak. They were the ones who led campus Bible studies and prayer circles before and after school.
In one shooting, the killer specifically targeted a prayer group.

If all this is true, it's pretty astonishing that the media didn't report on it. Can you imagine the reaction if there had been eight school shootings where the majority of the victims were outspoken gays or Muslims or Jews? I hope Ambra does some more research on it and can give us a strong case.

I don't intend the title of this post to be taken literally. If a few unbalanced teenagers go off and murder Christians, that doesn't mean that Christians are really being persecuted. Persecution is when the larger society tries to kill you. But I do think it is revealing of the underlying motives and beliefs of the press that they care so much about so many groups, but if Christians are slaughtered, it's not newsworthy.

my day in crunchy underwear

OK, the title should have warned you off. If you didn't read the title, go ahead and check it out before deciding if you really want to read the rest of this. I'll wait here....

Back? OK, don't say you weren't warned. So here's the deal. After the huge fire at my apartment building, I was sent off to a hotel for several nights. They said that we would be allowed back into our apartments after the first couple of days. I packed a week's worth of clothing just to be on the safe side and because that's what fit in my suitcase. When they said we could go back into our apartments I didn't bother to get more clothing because I thought I was set. Then, on my last day, they announced that we could not go back to our apartments for one day. This timing left me one pair of underwear short.

Now, being a bachelor who hates doing laundry, I'm not unaccustomed to coming up short on underwear. If you want to change your mind and stop reading now, I'll understand. There are two common solutions to the short-on-underwear problem, the find-an-old-ripped-to-shreds-but-still-wearable pair hidden away in an odd corner, or the hand-washing solution. (For completeness I should also mention the 5-day underwear solution that some bachelors swear by but I've never been partial to: first day normal, second day inside-out, third day backward, fourth day inside-out and backward, fifth day no underwear). Since I couldn't get into my apartment, the shredded underwear solution was not available, so I had to opt for hand-washing.

Of course I used hot water and an anti-bacterial soap. At least I hope the hand soap in hotels is anti-bacterial. Then, however came the problematic part. Drying. There are two common solutions to the drying problem: do your handwashing the day before or use a blow dryer. I didn't do it the day before and I didn't have a blow dryer. However, I did have... Actually, before I continue, I think I should give you another chance to listen to your better judgment and stop reading. Go ahead and think about it, I'll wait here.

Back? OK, it's not like you weren't warned. What I did have is a microwave oven. The hotel room came equipped with one of those small microwaves with the rotisserie. I like to think that under my own volition I would never have considered putting a pair of under-apparel in a microwave, but I was heavily influenced by John Candy in this movie where he dried the laundry in the microwave. Blame John Candy. So I thought I'd give it a try and see how it worked out. I wrung the underwear out as well as I could and put it in the microwave. I turned the microwave on for ten seconds, just to see what would happen. Nothing much happened. The underwear turned round and round on the little rotisserie, the inside of the microwave got a little humid, and the underwear got a little warm. So I turned it on for twenty seconds and let 'er rip. More of the same. Well, I decided this isn't doing anything so I put it on two minutes and went to brush my teeth. As I was spitting, I started to smell something funny. Funny meaning burning in this case.

I rushed to open the microwave. Smoke belched forth. Well, actually a little smoke kind of wafted out. There were no flames. I didn't want to set off the fire alarm and have to explain where the smoke was coming from, so I rushed to open the windows and tried to fan the air out. Burning underwear actually smells a lot like caramel. I'm sorry, I should have given you another chance to opt out before revealing that. This leads me to surmise that I had actually caramelized my underwear. I think "caramelize" refers to the process of using heat to break down complex sugars into simpler sugars. I don't know why I think it means that, it just popped into my head when I smelled the caramel. It could be an old fact from highschool chemistry. I could look it up, but if you care you can look it up just as easily. I'm also pretty sure that cotton is a cellulose product, meaning that it is technically a sugar but it's an isomer that human digestive systems can't break down. Not that any of this is relevant to anything, except that in the subsequent paragraphs I may refer to my "caramelized" underwear.

So I pulled my caramelized underwear out of the microwave. It was scorched in several places, but still seemed to retain it's overall structure. I shook it gingerly, poked a bit at the scorched areas. It didn't look too bad. Now, you may consider my next action to show a distinct lapse of judgment, but keep in mind that I had to get to work and it was either this or skip work, or wear previously used underwear. So what would you have done? I put it on. It was a bit scratchy in some sensitive spots (you were warned), but overall it seemed functional. My evaluation complete, I donned jeans and a sport shirt and set out for my place of employment.

The scratchiness could have been a problem, but I have a pretty sedentary job so I just tried not to move much. It worked well for the first couple of hours, but eventually the morning, uh, caffeine expulsion event came and I was forced to put the underwear to practical use for the first time since the caramelizing. The results were unfortunate. Before I describe them, I'll give you another chance to stop reading...

OK, but I can't say I think much of your judgment for coming back. Anyway, I put a finger right through a scorched portion of the underwear, tearing a large gash that pretty much rendered the garment useless as a, er, containment vessel. I don't think I need to go into details. I hobbled back to my office with as much normalcy as I could muster and took my seat gingerly. Jeans really are not designed for wearing with a breached containment vessel.

Over the course of the day, my caramelized underwear seemed to become more crunchy. I would walk as little as possible and then gingerly. I wondered how I was going to explain it if someone saw ashes falling out of my pants leg. I went home early for personal reasons and by then I was practically girt with ashes, as it were. By then the underwear was no longer even useful as a, er, sanitary device (I'm sorry, but you were warned multiple times) thereby putting me effectively into the day five category of the five-day plan. As I said, I've never been too fond of that plan and day five is one of the four reasons.

Until you've spent all day walking around in crunchy underwear you can't know the blessed relief of removing it at the end of the day.


We've all seen Bush moving to the left on domestic policy, conspiring with the incumbents of both parties to spend our money to buy elections, endorsing RINOs over genuine conservatives in Republican primaries, letting political correctness trump the need for airline security, and refusing to hold anyone in government responsible for their failures, even when those failures cost thousands of American lives. He has betrayed his base over and over over. Yet I don't know how many times I've seen the people he betrayed saying things like "Yeah, he may be wrong on everything except the war on terror, but I'm going to vote for him based on that alone."

Now it looks like he's moving to the left there too, bowing to the relentless tsk tsking of the Europeans and the American left. If he is, he's betraying the American soldiers and the Iraqis who will die for his new tactics of appeasement. And although the left has been demanding it endlessly, they'll never give him a trace of credit for it. No matter what he does they'll bludgeon him for not appeasing enough or for appeasing too much or both. You would think he would learn by now that he can't do anything the left won't hate him for. Why does he keep trying?

I would really like to think I'm wrong about this, but it's looking worse and worse. What lessons have we learned this month? If you murder Americans and desecrate their bodies in a big street party, planning to lure American soldiers into a trap then the Americans will reward you by giving you a city to control. If you constantly preach violence against Americans, attack coalition troops, kidnap, torture, and assassinate pro-American Iraqis, then you get a city to control. If you support the Americans, or even just democracy, then you will get assassinated or kidnapped and tortured to death and the Americans will give the people who did it a city to control. It doesn't take a lot of thinking to decide what side to be on here, folks. If I were a pro-American Iraqi politician, I'd be backpedaling fast right now.

And the signs were so good. Elections and polls have been very promising, indicating a genuine chance at democracy. But now Bush is showing Iraqi opponents and the other Muslim extremists that violence works after all. You just have to be persistent. Thugs prosper. People who want peace and prosperity for the country get tortured and killed.

UPDATE: A more experienced analyst has persuaded me to rethink this and go back to having faith in what the marines are doing. For now at least.

Friday, April 30, 2004

Anyone know where I can find reliable casualty data?

I want to make a graph of coalition casualties and how they changed with Kerry's war opposition.

fans, physics and Filipinas

This has been bugging me for a long time. Several years ago as my girlfriend (at the time) and myself were about to leave her apartment for the evening. I turned off a fan as she was going out the door.

She: Leave that on!

Me: Why?

Her: Because it's hot.

Me: But we're leaving.

Her: It's still going to be hot.

Me: Yea-a-a-ah?

Her: So leave it on.

Me: Oh-h-h-h Ka-a-a-ay.

So I turned the fan back on. But I'm not the kind to just give up on a mystery. Why did she want the fan left on? Could it have been a communications failure? She was from the Philippines and we sometimes had cultural or linguistic misunderstandings. (she had the cutest accent though. I still get turned on when I hear Filipinas talking). I couldn't figure out how that could possibly have been a misunderstanding so finally, as I was driving and she was sitting next to me in the car, I began a careful exploration

Me: So. Why did you want the fan left on?

Her: (exasperated) Sweetheart! It's HOT!

I knew from her tone that I was treading on thin ice but I was too curious to drop it. I entered girlfriend-diplomacy mode:

Me: I know sweetheart (use pet name), it's really hot (agree with her). I get really uncomfortable too (empathize) and I'd really like to keep you from getting hot (be on her side), except it's too late, you're already hot (flatter her).

She slaps me on the arm with the last clause and a quick glance over verified that she was smiling. She bought it. We were back on thicker ice. OK, ease into it:

Me: I'm just curious, you know how I am (remind her of our relationship). So, what good is it going to do when we leave the fan running?

Her: (slaps me on the arm again, uhoh) Sweetheart! The fan keeps the room cool!

Me: (light dawning) Uh. You mean, you think... (quick backtrack) You mean the fan is going to keep the room cool even when no one is in there?

Her: Of course!

This possibility had quite honestly never occurred to me. I was shocked. Appalled. Don't they teach basic physics in the Philippines? I actually started to try to explain her misconception. I was old enough to know better but I was just so stunned that I lost my highly refined sense of girlfriend diplomacy for a moment. This episode has gnawed at me ever since, and recently exploded into full-blown frustration when I found someone else leaving a fan on in a closed, unoccupied room.

So allow me to point out that FANS DON'T COOL THE AIR! All fans do is make the air move. Moving air can cool you off if your body is hotter than the air and/or if your skin is moist (and for a healthy person the skin is always a bit moist). The only thing a fan running an empty room does is HEAT THE AIR! Yes, every watt of electricity that goes into that fan to make it run, stays in the room as heat.

Thank you for letting me get that off my chest.

UPDATE: Zantar points out another reason to leave a fan running in an empty room: a room with poor air circulation and a fish tank. Of course I could have been more precise and said that a fan will help keep anything cooler if it's warmer than the air or it's wet (assuming humidity is not too high). Fish tanks are probably warmed noticeably by the pump and the light, and some evaporation can happen at the surface, so fans probably help cool fish tanks. A fan can also help if it is near a window or doorway either blowing hot air out or cold air in. Probably, if the fan is near the ceiling, you want it blowing hot air out and if it's near the floor you want it blowing cool air in.

One more thing: if you keep the room closed, the room will eventually reach thermal equilibrium with a saturated atmosphere and then the fan won't help any more. Of course that could take a long time, but still.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

say it ain't so, George

There are only two areas where I have any confidence left in George Bush. One is in his appointment of judges and the other is in his handling of the war on terror. But if this is true, I'm going to start doubting him in that area too. The article claims that the U.S. has reached an agreement that will have the marines pulling out and leaving the town to a force of 1100 under the leadership of a former general in Saddam's army.

Up to now, I've been defending the actions in Fallujah. I haven't been worried about slow progress there because this is the sort of thing you expect when you occupy another country. But I can't see any way to interpret this except as a concession to the bad guys. They can't seriously expect a contingent of 1100 Iraqis to even try to assault a fortified position manned by 2000 other Iraqis. It looks like they are just turning the town over to the Baathists. If we leave Fallujah under control of one of their own, we leave the rebels alive and free to regroup, reequip and recruit, then attack us again in a time and place of their choosing. I can't say how much I'm hoping I'm wrong about this, but Bush has a long history of disappointing me.

they actually are interested in the other side

From yahoo news: Survey: Arabs Are Watching U.S. TV Channel Alhurra
The results showed Alhurra -- in its first two months -- is being watched by an average 29 percent of the satellite-equipped households in seven countries, including a high of 44 percent in Kuwait and a low of 18 percent in Egypt.
I wonder how this news is going over among the anti-American types who like to quote polls showing how hated America is. Of course people who only hear one side of the story are going to sympathize with that side. Now that they are hearing the other side, it will be interesting to see how opinions change.

One thing though: are any conservatives monitoring the program so that we will know when it gets taken over by anti-American leftists? This has been the fate of every other government-sponsored media outlet in every democracy in the world. Eventually it will be the fate of Alhurra as well.

Fallujah and predator dogs

I have an old book on dog training (I'll try to find it and post a citation) with a chapter on the predator dog. The author points out that if you have a dog that is killing your neighbor's cats, sheep, and chickens, you have two choices: either a painful and forceful training regimen to break it of the habit, or kill it. The training regimen he recommends goes like this: You start by getting a chicken and an electric fence charger. You tie the chicken on an insulated surface with one lead to the fence charger and attach the other one to ground. Any dog that bites the chicken is going to get a mouthful of voltage.

But the author stresses that you can't just do this a couple of times and then let it go. You first have to get the dog to internalize the consequences of biting the chicken. You put the dog in a small pen with the electric chicken and you keep it there for a month. It's not the one or two painful shocks that break the dog of attacking chickens, it's the month of sitting in the pen, constantly, over and over, making the decision not to bite the chicken.

That's what the marines are doing in Fallujah. Sure, they could have gone in and mopped up the town in a few days, but what effect would that have had? A brief day of terror, a few months of grating anger, and the people of are back on the attack. A couple of painful shocks isn't going to break a life-long habit. Instead, the marines declared a cease-fire for the purpose, I believe, of giving them a reason to impose martial law for an extended period. Every day, the citizens of Fallujah are reminded that they are helpless against the Americans. They are at the mercy of their enemy and their enemy is showing mercy. Yet they live in constant danger, their movements are restricted, they are living on rationed food and water, and none of this would be necessary if not for the rebels. And every moment of every day, they have the occupiers there to attack and they choose not to attack them. The marines are conditioning the predators into peaceful citizens.

So although Captain Ed makes some good points, he doesn't take into consideration the predator-dog factor. I agree that a swift victory would have intimidated the resistance a bit more, but it was more important to alter the habits of Fallujah.

Thanks to Back of the Envelope for the link.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

scumbag of the day

Here's an article titled Pat Tillman is not a hero: he got what he deserved. If a man who sacrifices so much for others deserves death, what does a man who doesn't even understand the concept of self-sacrifice deserve?

non sequitur of the day

From Kathleen Parker's latest column:
Pro-choicers are wrong to dress up abortion as only a woman's choice, and pro-lifers are wrong to insist that women who choose abortion are "baby killers." No one gets an abortion for the pleasure of it.
No one dumps their just-born baby in a dumpster for the pleasure of it either, does that mean they aren't baby killers? The ancient Spartans used to take certain infants out and leave them on a hillside to die of exposure. They didn't do it for the pleasure of it, so I guess we can't call them baby killers either. Some ancient people's used to sacrifice infants to their gods, but since they didn't do it for pleasure they aren't baby killers.

the adventure continues...

A Meating of the Mines, Scene 2, a continuation of this.

Scene 2

Rolf and Zantar are sitting at a rude table imbibing. The bar, like the street outside has a distinctly American Western flavor. It is very crowded. Suddenly the door (the traditional double shutters of Westerns) slams open and the room goes quiet. Rolf and Zantar look up. The door is being held by Loan the Ranger, a very large man who scans the room and then stalks toward Rolf and Zantar. Rolf and Zantar go nonchalantly back to their drinks until Loan is looming over them. He is easily seven feet tall and weighs twice as much as Rolf and Zantar together.

LOAN: Welcome to Winklefranks.

ZANTAR: (glaring) The last guy who said that didn’t really mean it.

LOAN: Yes, I heard. But my welcome is quite sincere, I assure you.

ROLF: And who might you be, sir?

LOAN: My name is Loan, Loan the Ranger, and I’m the local law enforcer.

ROLF: (fulsomely) Well, so pleased to make your acquaintance, sir! My name is Rolf, Rolf the Wizard and my companion is Zantar, Zantar the Warrior.

LOAN: I wonder, sir wizard, if you entered the wrong profession. With your glib tongue you could be an entertaining fool.

ROLF: Ahhhhh. Thank you?

LOAN: Not at all. Now, I wonder if the two of you would like to come to my office for a short discussion.

ZANTAR: I like to discuss in taverns.

ROLF: I must concur with my compatriot, the atmosphere here is entirely conducive to discussions. I see no need to repair to your offices.

LOAN: I must insist.

ZANTAR: Maybe you should ask about the last six guys that insisted to much with us. You think just because you’re big you’ll do any better?

LOAN: Oh, I’ve heard about the bullies you beat up.

ZANTAR: And you think you can take out the two that took out those six?

LOAN: Not by the strength of my arm alone, no. But I have Justice on my side (Zantar snickers), I have Right on my side (Rolf snickers). I have the Law on my side (Rolf and Zantar are both snickering). I have fifteen guys on my side with crossbows, spears, swords, and other pointy things.

Loan gestures and there is a sound of scraping chairs and movement. The heroes look around to find themselves surrounded by fifteen armed men.

ROLF: (observing casually) Men with pointy things, you say? Yes indeed, a venerable and respected method for prevailing in an argument.

ZANTAR: Hard to argue with pointy things.

ROLF: Indeed. Let us repair to your offices, good ranger, and become acquainted.

LOAN: I appreciate your cooperation.

Cut To…

The interior of a typical western sheriff’s office with a few minor concessions to the medieval time period. The door slams open and Deputy1 enters followed by Rolf, Zantar, and Loan. There are other men outside who don’t come in. Loan gestures to Deputy1 who scowls at the heroes then leaves, shutting the door behind him. Loan takes a seat behind a desk and puts his feet up on the desk. Rolf takes another seat and puts his feet up on the desk. Zantar takes another chair and after a few abortive attempts to get his short legs up to the desk, gives ups and pretends he was just stretching.

LOAN: So, who are you two working for?

ROLF: It so happens that we are between employers.

LOAN: I see. Allow me to explain that I’m not going to lock you up for giving me the wrong answer. I’m not taking sides in the game, I just want to keep track of the players. Allow me also to remind you that there are fifteen men outside with pointy things. And finally I’d like to inform you that although I don’t care who you are working for, I do care about you not answering my questions. I care about that a lot.

ZANTAR: I’m shaking in my boots.

ROLF: Uh, what my jittery friend means by that, of course, is that we have enormous respect for your pointy things and are eager to cooperate in any way possible. But as I said, we are currently between employers.

LOAN (after staring for a long while): Very well. I’ll take your word that you haven’t been hired yet. But there’s a lot of money to be made around here so sooner or later you’re going to be working for one of the families and I might as well give you The Speech right now. (pauses) You can kill all the Barkleys and Cannons and their soldiers you want, but don’t mess with civilians, don’t mess with my deputies, and really, really don’t mess with me. (glares for a while) Clear?

ZANTAR: What was that about there being lots of money to be made around here?

ROLF: Yes, sir ranger, please expand on that part of your speech. I was listening intently but I fear I missed some of the details.

LOAN: (ominously) If my speech did not impress you enough, I have other ways to get the point across.

ROLF: (hurriedly) Quite unnecessary, I assure you. The deputies with pointy things quite make your, ah, point for you. No more is needed.

Loan looks at Zantar.

ZANTAR: (shrugging) I’m a peaceful dwarf. You won’t catch me killing anyone.

LOAN: (stares at Zantar for a moment, then answers dryly) I see that you are as witty as your friend, Zantar, Zantar the Warrior. Let me show you how much I appreciate your sense of humor.

Cut To …

Zantar and Rolf are hanging from manacles in a dingy cell. The manacles are medieval, but the rest of the cell is Western.

ROLF: (angrily) “Yes, Sir!” That’s all you had to say, “Yes, sir!” Was that so hard? But noooo. You had to be clever. (mimicking Zantar) “You won’t catch me killing anyone.” That’s your idea of wit? Why didn’t you just slap him on the back of the head and offer to entertain his wife for the evening?

ZANTAR: All right, all right. Krikey! How long are you going to go on whining about it?

ROLF: I’m merely pointing out for future reference that when faced with fifteen men carrying pointy things, you should affect a more diplomatic posture.

ZANTAR: Do you know you’re a nag?

ROLF: A Nag?! A NAG?! I’ll have you know…

The cell door slams open and Loan enters. He stands for a few moments gazing at our heroes as he sips a hot drink from a mug. Rolf tries to look unthreatening, a not very difficult feat considering he is chained to the wall. Zantar glowers balefully. Loan seems unaffected by either pose.

LOAN: You know, why those Barkley hands tried to rough you up?

ROLF: I imagine they are typical human rufians, jealous of the obvious physical, mental, and moral superiority of the smaller races.

LOAN: (choking a bit on his tea) No, that’s not it. They had a reason.

LOAN: Do you want to know what the reason is?

ROLF: (in honest surprise at the question) No I can’t say that feel any interest on the matter. (looking over at Zantar) You, Zan?

Zantar glowers. Loan waits for a minute, then shrugs.

LOAN: Well, I’m going home for the evening. This is your last chance to convince me you two already grasp the situation and don’t need to spend the night in here thinking about it.

ROLF: Indeed we do, sir! We grasp the situation intuitively, do we not Zantar? (tries to look at Zantar meaningfully)

ZANTAR: (mutters something intelligible)

ROLF: You see? We both understand the situation! You may release us forthwith, thank you.

Loan doesn’t move.

ROLF: (a tone of desperation creeping in) I don’t think the noble ranger quite heard you Zantar. Perhaps you can reiterate your detailed understanding of the situation. Or perhaps just the line we were rehearsing earlier. (glancing at Loan) Said in all sincerity, of course!

Zantar is silent.

ROLF: Zan, there’s no ale for dinner in here. And no sausage for breakfast.

ZANTAR: (painfully) We don’t mess with civilians. We don’t mess with deputies. We don’t mess with sheriffs. But I’m not going to grovel or nothing.

LOAN: (smiling and stepping toward the heros with a set of keys) Grovelling certainly would not become you, Mr. Zantar and I by no means would expect it. Let us put this unpleasantness behind us.

Loan unlocks both heroes and ushers them out the door.

UPDATE: continued.

bribery, blackmail, and lechery

The oil-for-palaces scandal is looking worse and worse for France, Russia, the U.N. and the rest of the no-blood-for-oil crowd. While these political leaders where sanctimoniously declaiming Bush and the U.S. for threatening Iraqi children, they were participating in the criminal enterprise that was actually starving those children and leaving them without safe water or proper medical care. And where now are all the pundits who so critically examined Bush's actions for any hint of dishonesty or self-interest? Where are the politicians who said that we should let the U.N. be the final arbiter of international law and proper behavior? Where are the reporters who blanketed the news with reports of Halliburton and other financial scandals in private American companies? The silence is deafening.

And neither should we ignore the traction that the pro-Saddam movement received from France, Germany, Russia and Kofi Annan. Without this high-profile opposition to the U.S. and England, the pro-Saddam movement would have remained the minor collection of misfits it was during the war in Afghanistan. They never would have been able to put on those protests with hundreds of thousands of people. So it wasn't just the votes in the security council, Saddam's bribes managed to create an enormous world-wide political movement to defend him.

Of course, Saddam didn't keep all those detailed records because he is compulsive and it wasn't the ever-fainter hope for another windfall that kept Saddam's supporters in the outer world loyal. It was the fact that he had the goods on them.

In the midst of this, I've been wondering about another form of bribery that Saddam may have offered. It all started with the amazing conversion of Scott Ritter. In case you don't remember, Ritter was the American weapons inspector who embarrassed president Clinton when the arms inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq. He went around telling everyone who would listen that Saddam still had dangerous weapons. Then, after 9/11 Ritter started going around telling anyone who would listen that Saddam wasn't dangerous, that he had no weapons of mass destruction.

This was a dramatic turn-around, and it was one of the primary reasons that I was opposed to the war in Iraq. I thought that Ritter was knowledgeable and that he also had a track record of being critical of Saddam, so if he thought all the weapons were now gone, he was a pretty credible source. But it always gnawed at me a bit. I mean, how could he know what Saddam had done in the four years since Ritter left Iraq? How could he know that Saddam only had those kinds of chemical weapons that decay over time? I wondered, frankly if Saddam had found some way to bribe or blackmail him.

Then I read that Ritter had been charged with soliciting an under-age girl. I wondered, did Saddam's agents know about this penchant of his? Is that what caused Ritter's about face? Still, I didn't think it likely that Saddam had that kind of presence in the U.S. Shortly after that I read a piece about the children's prison in Iraq --the prison where children were kept to insure their parent's good behavior. The article had a quote from Scott Ritter who had visited the prison. Hmm. A pedophile visiting a prison for children. I wondered what he was thinking. Did he know about Saddam's rape rooms as well?

Remember the stories about Saddam's rape rooms? Political prisoners had their wives and daughters brought in and raped in front of them. When I was reading about that I wondered whether being assigned to the rape squad was a reward. For millennia, soldiers were given the opportunity to rape the women of the conquered people as part of their reward for fighting and I have no reason to think that people have changed since then. So now I started wondering: if Saddam used rape for punishment and reward might he have also have used it for bribery and blackmail? And if so, is there any reason to think that he would have cared about the age of the girls being raped?

This is all speculation, of course, but I'd like to know if anyone has interviewed the children in that prison and examined the prison records. Are there visitors records that show Scott Ritter visiting several times? Are there girls who remember seeing him? And what about other Saddam supporters who visited Iraq? I recall reading of several such, including British MP George Galloway. Did he visit the children's prison or any other prison? Once Saddam had photos of any western man raping someone, he pretty much could ensure the eternal loyalty of that man. Especially if the victim was a child.

Of course it isn't necessary to prove that any of these Saddam supporters were blackmailed in that way. It is pretty well established that they were bribed and that should be enough. But if this monstrosity did happen, I think people should know about it. Next time America has an opportunity to end a brutal dictatorship and some of us are reluctanct because we don't think the dictator poses a threat to America, we should be reminded that there are other victims.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004


Judging from the comments, there is a lot of enthusiasm for the fried-underwear story, so I'll try to post it tomorrow. Tune in if you want to read something in extremely poor taste.

the continuing adventures...

This is a continuation of the adventures of Zantar and Rolf. It's an early draft, available only to the loyal readers of Doc Rampage, so any and all of it may change.

Heroes for Hire
Episode 2 – A Meating of Mines

Rolf and Zantar, having escaped impending censure at the hands of an enraged mob of villagers, repair to the town of Winklefranks there to seek the fortunes which were so unfairly denied them in their previous adventure.

Setting: Winklefranks is a medieval mining town with wooden buildings and sidewalks, hitching posts with horses tied to them, horse troughs, dirt roads, and other features reminiscent of an American Western frontier mining town.

Principle Cast
Zantar: a bearded, box-shaped, belligerent dwarf (about 5' tall) with a serious case of greed. He is wearing leather and chain with a steel helmet and there is a large battle axe slung over his left shoulder.

Rolf: a young-looking, thin, belligerent elf (about 5'6") with a serious case of greed and delusions of grandeur. He is wearing no armor but his clothing is a bit outlandish, including a hat with a floppy peak and boots with turned-up toes. He wears an empty sword sheath at his side.

A gang of hired thugs (Tough1 to Tough6) dressed in medieval peasant garb with a few Western anachronisms thrown in.

Scene 1

Zantar and Rolf walk into the town, dusty, tired, and arguing. A gang of a half-dozen toughs eyes them as they walk down the street.

ROLF: … and it’s hardly unusual for an active gallant such as myself to occasionally need replacement equipment.

ZANTAR: I’ve had this axe for fifty years and never lost it.

ROLF: Axes are far weightier and less easily misplaced than swords.

ZANTAR: ‘Course stuff wears out. Changed the handle twenty times and the head twice, but I’ve been using the same axe for fifty years.

TOUGH1: (loudly) Hey, guys, I think I smell Lillis! (laughter)

TOUGH2: (looking around) I don’t see no flowers… (Tough1 cuffs Tough2 on the back of the head). Oww.

ROLF: Yes, yes! Loyalty to one’s weapons is a fine, but one can hardly compare the practices of a staid and predictable dwarf wielding a cumbrous war axe with those of a highly dexterous gentleman sporting a fine duelist’s weapon. If pricked, do I not prick back?

TOUGH1: (loudly) Of course no damn Lilliputians would dare show their faces in this town. They’d get ‘em cut off. (laughter).

ROLF: And if I prick back, do I not use my sword to do so? And does each use not contribute to the possibility that said weapon will become tragically mislaid?

TOUGH1: Hey lillis!

ZANTAR: Krikey, Rolf! You had that sword less than a week. And you still don’t know what happened to the one before that.

Zantar and Rolf draw even with the toughs, who peal off to follow them. Zantar and Rolf seem not to notice.

TOUGH1: Don’t go away, Lillis, we want to welcome you to Winklefranks. (laughter)

TOUGH2: I thought we were going to beat them up. (Tough1 slaps Tough2 on the back of the head). Oww.

ROLF: (waving his hands, apparently oblivious to the toughs) These subtle temporal relationships pose intractable conundrums. Is it indeed better to misplace a weapon after years of use and familiarity than to do so immediately, before developing a dependence? Who can…

TOUGH1: (very loudly) Stop there Lillis! We’re going to have a talk!

ROLF: Who can say? It is surely a questions for the musing of sages rather than of…
Rolf is shoved violently from behind.

TOUGH1: (loudly) I said HOLD it you little inhuman pukes!

ROLF: …rather than of lowly adventurers such as ourselves.

ZANTAR: It’s all we got from the town’s payment.

Tough3 slaps Zantar on the back of the head.

TOUGH3: Shut up, dwarf! We’re talking to you!

ZANTAR: (ignoring the assault) It’s not like we got half in advance or anything.

TOUGH3 (slapping Zantar on the back of the head again) I said shut up!

ROLF: (pointing to a sign) Yonder establishment appears to be a dry-goods store.
The two turn towards the store.

TOUGH1: Hey, they must be deaf!

TOUGH3: And blind!

TOUGH2: And ugly! (Tough1 slaps him on the back of the head) Oww.

ZANTAR: If we’d gotten half in advance, it wouldn’t matter so much…

The two heroes enter the store and the toughs stop outside, call a few final insults, then turn away laughing.

ZANTAR: (examining a rack of axe handles) … but since we didn’t get anything in advance…

ROLF: (examining a barrel of walking sticks) Must you resort to ancient historical events in every discussion we have? Can we not let the past lie in the past? It’s quite tiresome, you know. (he pulls out a walking stick and twirls it).

ZANTAR: I’m just saying is all. (Zantar pulls out an axe handle and takes a practice swing with it, one handed).

SHOPKEEPER: I’m very sorry, gentlemen, for the rough welcome you received.

ZANTAR: Why are you sorry? (eying the man suspiciously) Did you put them up to it?

SHOPKEEPER: No! Goodness no! You see, those are employees of the Barkleys, one of the two families that control this town…

ROLF: This is birch, isn’t it?

Zantar takes another axe handle and makes a few swings with one in each hand.

SHOPKEEPER: Why yes, I believe it is. You see the other family is the Cannons, and they have each hired…

ZANTAR: How much for these axe handles?

SHOPKEEPER: Uh… If you want both I’ll sell you the two axe handles and one walking stick for a pewter. You see, each family has hired a gang of toughs to help them control the town…

ROLF: Excuse any appearance of flagging interest, shopkeeper, but I find the politics of your local township to be mind-numbingly dull. I’m afraid we haven’t time to bargain, so we shall have to accept your offer.

Rolf flips a coin to the shopkeeper and the two amble out the door, Rolf now using the walking stick and Zantar carrying an axe handle in each hand.

ROLF: Let us argue no more. We shall each simply stipulate that my misplacement of the sword was exceptionally unfortunate, and that since the fault was arguably mine in majority, I shall pay the majority of the replacement cost. Let us say sixty percent.

The toughs are outside across the street and the two are heading directly toward them.

TOUGH1: Hey, here come the lillis? Come back for some more fun, lillis?

ZANTAR: Let’s say you pay one hundred percent of the replacement cost and give me half the cost of the original sword since it’s the only payment we got…

Tough1 steps belligerently in front of Zantar who starts nonchalantly swinging the axe handles, bringing the toughs down one after the other. Rolf joins in, and within a few seconds, all of the toughs are laying on the ground. At the end, Rolf is swinging at Tough3 who is already face-down on the ground and Zantar blocks him with one of the axe handles.

ZANTAR: Not that one, I want him awake.

Zantar pulls Tough3’s head up by his hair with one hand and slaps him on the back of the head with his other hand.

ZANTAR: (yelling) You like that? (slaps him again) Feels good don’t it? (slap) You want some more? (slap) How’s that? (slap) You liking this?

With one thunderous final slap Zantar knocks Tough3’s face into the dust and gets up, brushing his hands. Rolf and Zantar begin walking down the street again. Rolf is still walking with is new slightly bloodied walking stick, but Zantar leaves the two axe handles laying in the dust.

ROLF: I find your suggestion to be without merit. The sword was merely a piece of disposable adventuring equipment and not to be accounted as payment of any sort. Let us not dwell further on the absurd thought of remuneration in that respect. No, let us rather discuss the proportions that each of us will contribute to the further success of our heroing partnership. I have already offered…

ZANTAR: (pointing) Tavern.

The two heroes turn their steps toward the tavern.

UPDATE: continued...

Monday, April 26, 2004

any takers?

I received the following email transcript from a despondent Zantar who is just trying to be a stand-up guy. I can't answer his question. Would anyone else like to try?

Try to show a little interest in what they feel is important, and you end up being the bad guy.

Doc, please explain women to me.
Zan:So just how many pairs of shoes does a woman need?
Kelli:Need and want are TWO different things. I got this pair of really cute sandals with pink straps and 3" wedge heels. The girls at work are just dying to go get a pair (well not literally dying, 'cuz then they couldn't wear them!) :)
Zan:Wow. They sound really cute! I'm just dying to know what outfit you wore with them. Pants, skirt, dress? And if there is *any* way you could email me a picture, I would really appreciate it. Is there *any* way I could buy a pair here, or on-line? What other shoes did you buy? You have such wonderful taste. Please describe every pair for me!
Kelli:Ha, ha, very funny, NOT!! Men?!!

Sunday, April 25, 2004

post fire adventures

Hmm. It seems that when I don't talk politics I don't have much to talk about. There's probably a lesson in that. One that I could ferret out if I cared. But instead, let me regale you with a story about the post-fire events in my apartment complex. Those of us on the effected floor were called to a meeting so they could tell us that we would have to all move out for a two to five days (read "eight days") while asbestos was removed from the premises. Bummer. No wait! They provided hotel rooms for us for free. Cool. Except, we wouldn't be able to cook in our rooms and would have to eat all meals out. Bummer. No wait! They provided us money for meals. Cool.

OK, I could go on but I'm getting bored with the format. It was done to death on Hee Haw anyway. Besides that, it would get increasingly dishonest, as when I implied that having to eat out every meal would actually effect my lifestyle in any way. Stove? What do I need a stove for? I can make instant coffee in the microwave.

They told us who started the fire. It was a woman who lived in the apartment with her husband and two small kids. She was boiling oil on the stove and had to go help one of her kids in the bathroom and, well things went bad. This is an immigrant family who probably didn't have much to begin with and lost everything in the fire. They didn't have any insurance.

So one a**hole at the meeting raised his hand and wanted the name and address of the woman who started the fire so he could sue her for damages. It seems he had to get a couple of suits dry-cleaned because they smelled like smoke. I had a negative reaction to his callousness and I'm afraid it slipped a little when I suggested that we get back to the business of the meeting and he could be an a**hole on his own time. I shouldn't have done that and I had to apologize after the meeting, but I couldn't help pointing out that I hadn't seen him outside during the fire crying because he had lost everything like the woman was doing. What an a**hole.

By contrast, the guy who lived right next door to the woman who started the fire also lost darn-near everything. He's retired, so his chances of recovery are considerably less. He was pleasant, uncomplaining, and generally a great guy about it. Funny thing. I think it's the same guy you can hear occasionally in the hallway shouting obscenities in rage at his TV or some imaginary person. You never can tell.Of course, I've been known to shout the occasional obscenity in rage at the ****** moron who is in the passing lane with no intention of passing anyone, and I'm basically a sweet guy.

Well, I spent a week in a nice hotel. Lost my phone charger and the defogger I use in my swim goggles. Found the phone charger eventually. The defogger is replaceable, but I expect to sit on it some day. Fried a pair of underwear, but that's a different story. One you don't want to read. I'll probably write it up this week but if I get enough requests not to post it, I'll let it pass.