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Midweek miscellany, cont’d

Was up all night feeling creaky. Not actually ill; just too sour, achy, and generally uncomfortable to sleep. Useless today. But no doubt I’ll be brilliant (or at least brilliant-er) tomorrow. Would be hard to be less brilliant.

  • Lucy and Ethel speak for the U.S. Department of State
  • A letter concerning Muslim toleration.
  • Ronald Ritchie, felony murderer of two, still thinks his primary victim deserved what he got.
  • Oscar odds. Being mostly stuck with DVDs that aren’t out yet, I’ve seen very few of these films yet; probably soon. Looking forward to The Imitation Game, Foxcatcher, Birdman, and Kill the Messenger (based on the tragic truth telling of Gary Webb, who fought the fedgov and the major media and lost). Did see and loved The Grand Budapest Hotel. Everybody says Boyhood is going to win best picture, but the weird thing is that nobody ever says anything about it except, “Wow, they took 12 years to film it.” Anybody here seen it?
  • The Mountains of MIT and other images from parts east. Holy cats, people! Get with the program; it’s still 60 degrees hereabouts. What’s wrong with you guys back there?
  • From A.G. in comments: the beautiful typeface caught up its designer’s mini-madness.


  1. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau February 18, 2015 6:34 pm

    I get that creaky feeling now and then. I take a single Ibuprofen and it quiets the aches and pains just enough to let me sleep. Don’t know what I’d do without pills!

    That National Review article:
    “Start with Harf, who apparently fell back on government work after losing out on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” anchor job. Talking to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews this week, she proclaimed that since “we cannot win this war by killing [Islamic State fighters] . . . we need in the medium- to longer-term to go after the root causes that lead people to join these groups, whether it’s lack of opportunity for jobs, whether . . .” Matthews interrupted before she could offer another possible motive, but we can assume it was not going to be “whether . . . they are Islamic fanatics who enjoy murdering in the name of the world’s second-largest religion.” No, clearly driving the recent spate of beheadings and burnings-alive is the absence of a neighborhood Gap store. That is, it seems, the wisdom bestowed by a master’s degree in foreign affairs at Mr. Jefferson’s University.”

    Enjoying murder, that must be it. I’m sure it couldn’t have anything to do with having their countries invaded and occupied indefinitely, or the invaders having a different religion than they do, or that their oil is being stolen, or that the leaders installed there are puppets of the Empire, or anything along those lines. Of course when a Muslim fights these things, he’s a murderer rather than a patriot. Yeah, that must be the correct reading what is going on here.

    Neither side in this exchange is being honest. There’s nothing like being lectured by evil neocon bastards…

    Ritchie… in the old days we used to know how to take care of guys like this. If the cops leave him be it will be a field day for the swatters. But it won’t go on forever, and Ritchie’s name is probably on some lists by now.

  2. Pat
    Pat February 18, 2015 10:42 pm

    The Doves Type is a beautiful typeset — in fact, I saved it as a graphic just to look at.
    I’d like to buy it eventually to use.

    The Typespec website has some unique typesets. I’m impressed by their originality, not just designed to “look pretty” but can be used in modern layouts.

  3. Claire
    Claire February 19, 2015 8:21 am

    Paul — Some of your responses re Muslims and terrorism seem like non sequiturs to me. Of course Muslims are individuals. Of course, the U.S. and other western powers behaved barbarously in the Middle East. I don’t think there are any warmongering, Islamophobic neocons hereabouts to disagree with you!

    But clearly ISIS and other varieties of Islamic terrorists are motivated by religion and are using “legitimate” Muslim doctrine to justify their barbarity. Clearly nothing the U.S. government ever did can justify the horrors these people are inflicting — usually on their fellow Muslims. And equally clearly, longstanding religious and cultural issues prevent groups and governments in the Islamic world from being effective in countering these creeps.

    I would even say there’s plenty of evidence that the ISIS thugs do enjoy killing. They appear not only to relish murder, but to make a Hollywood level of show out of finding ever-more-savage ways to commit murder.

    That doesn’t mean rah-rah the U.S. should go to war on ISIS or Boko Haram (or whoever the terrorist flavor of the week may be). It certainly does mean that it’s smart to try to understand their motives and hope for (or inspire) effective resistance against them. It’s amazingly short-sighted just to say, “The U.S. was monstrous to them. Therefore ISIS and anything they do. The end.” And IMHO, it’s foolish as hell to do as the Obama administration is doing — pretending that Islam has nothing whatsoever to do with the chaos now spreading out of the Middle East and into the west.

    Have you read any of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s books? While her view of Islam is very personal and colored by both her Somali tribal background and her highly dysfunctional and notably Islamic family, she’s a wise person with a nuanced — and scary! — view of what’s going on with Islamic religion and cultures.

  4. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty February 19, 2015 8:27 am

    I seldom have the “blahs,” and this winter has been very mild indeed, but the other day I found myself sorting my garden seeds – much too early to start them here – and eventually wound up with my nose pressed to the glass watching it snow…. I know that spring will come soon, but that has little to do with how one feels at the moment. And though things like “full spectrum” light bulbs can help… nothing can replace the warm sun on your face or the soft breeze of a spring day.

    So, I put some new soil into peatmoss pots and planted some parsley seed, dreaming of spring. Can’t hurt a thing, and it seemed to help. I’m not going to allow the “blahs” to get me down. 🙂

  5. Laird
    Laird February 19, 2015 9:15 am

    A good reply to Paul’s nonsensical screed, Claire, but the best one is the “Letter Concerning Muslim Toleration” which he apparently didn’t bother to read. Islam is a cancer. Whether it can be cured internally, as Akyol suggests, remains to be seen. I am not optimistic about that, and certainly not in the short run.

    Surveys performed in a large number of Muslim-dominated nations confirm that significant majorities of Muslims do support atrocities such as those perpetrated by ISIS. “Moderate” Muslims, if not a complete oxymoron, are at best a distinct minority of that population. The problem is explicitly a religious one, not a social one (and certainly has nothing to do with “stealing” oil, a completely foolish comment). It springs directly and, I think, inexorably from that pseudo-religion (which is in actuality a political system masquerading as a religion).

    Every single Muslim-dominated country in the world, without exception, is completely dysfunctional. Individual Muslims only seem to flourish where they are a small minority of the population; apparently they are incapable of self-government. And they don’t even need to comprise a majority of the population to become a serious problem: witness what’s happening in Europe (especially France), where they are achieving critical mass. This will not end well, and perpetrating lies and half-truths about the problem certainly doesn’t help.

  6. Laird
    Laird February 19, 2015 9:19 am

    Loved those pictures from Boston, by the way. I lived there in the mid-70s, and left just before the previous great snowstorm, in 1978. Glad I’m no longer there (and not just because of the snow, either!) But even though we didn’t get the snow here in South Carolina (although got a huge ice storm on Monday), it is COLD! It was 12 degrees when I got up this morning! That’s not why I moved south.

  7. -s
    -s February 19, 2015 10:06 am

    “Clearly nothing the U.S. government ever did can justify the horrors these people are inflicting — usually on their fellow Muslims.”

    Agreed. But one can attempt understand and explain what is happening without justifying it.

    The US government has been destroying civil society in the exact areas being taken over by IS for decades. Entire governments, democratically elected politicians, US-installed brutal dictators, all have been destroyed not once, but over and over. On top of that, the civilian economic infrastructure including power plants, water lines, hospitals, roads, and so forth have been deliberately targeted and destroyed. Economic sanctions have killed millions, many of them children, and high US officials have publicly stated that this price was “worth it.”

    IS isn’t even close to matching the US government in either brutality or number of victims. Read Burning Victims to Death: Still a Common Practice

    TL:DR summary by a twit:
    “If you’re going to burn people alive, have the common courtesy to do it remotely from a video game console 1000s of miles away.”

    Nor is burning alive an accident. Google, if you dare, “metal augmented charge,” the preferred warhead for Hellfire missile drone strikes on wedding parties and funerals.

    Or read

    The U.S. Media and the 13-Year-Old Yemeni Boy Burned to Death Last Month by a U.S. Drone

    IS is a group of wannabes. They are flourishing because all competing leaders have been destroyed along with the means to have any civil discourse. Like all impoverished, angry, targeted peoples, they will use any means to achieve their ends. That includes abuse of religion, propaganda, calls to patriotism, endless lies, war crimes, and grotesque brutality.

    Once you realize that stateology is a religion, that last sentence applies as well over here as it does thousands of miles from our shores.

  8. Claire
    Claire February 19, 2015 11:32 am

    “But one can attempt understand and explain what is happening without justifying it.”

    Precisely. Which is why your tragic facts are very welcome to the discussion — and so are insights into the inherent problems of Islam and the Muslim political world.

    My objection lies solely in being so attached to one simplistic narrative (whether “It’s all the U.S. government’s fault” or “All Muslims are terrorists”) that we would choose to ignore data that don’t support our preferred narrative, whatever it may be.

  9. Fred
    Fred February 19, 2015 1:05 pm

    All we had to do was get the heck OUT of the mideast in total…..but NOoooOOO.
    Now weve brought em here,but fortunately they arent quite as radical when removed from the homeland.
    But the answer remains,quit coveting their resources and get the hell out of their faces.East is East,West us West.

  10. RustyGunner
    RustyGunner February 19, 2015 1:14 pm

    I don’t know who set out these percentages but it seems to fit reality, that Dar al-Islam is about 10% serious supermuslims, like the Jihadis and other really orthodox Salafists, about 10% very secularized Muslims-in-name-only, largely in first-world countries, the the vast population of people in the middle who have made the best of a bad religion by sanding, filing, painting and reinterpreting Islam into something more palatable (for a given value of palatable, female genital mutilation is still very common). These are not very good Muslims by Salafist standards, aren’t always observant by their own looser rules, and not always ideal fits in liberal democracies, but when they get out of line it generally doesn’t involve murder or mayhem.

  11. Fred
    Fred February 19, 2015 1:15 pm

    Look,I dont care what they do over there.None of my business period,its theirs.I dont care how they define their borders,my ONLY interest in it is reading about it in the press,no more!

    I dont care what they do with their oil,none of my business.They can sell it to us,Russia,China or sit on it.None of my business.

    But the USA thinks everything they do IS our business.WRONG.The problem is the Elites profits,lets go after the source,OUR GOVS PUPPET POLICIES for the ELITE’s profits.

    Thats the problem.They have no right to drag me or them into their wars.As always,lets fix our own problems before we deign it our right to impose our will on them.

  12. Fred
    Fred February 19, 2015 1:25 pm

    Laird,lets be cautious on polls,not everyone is,or dares to be honest when answering polls.

  13. Matt, another
    Matt, another February 19, 2015 2:12 pm

    “Economic sanctions have killed millions, many of them children,” I have heard this claim many times the last couple of decades. I’m not claiming that it is wrong, or false, or total bs. But, I have always been curious as to where the Iraqi’s buried those millions that died from the economic sanctions? There should be acres of mass graves, cemeteries, funeral pyres, non-stop crematoriums etc. Never saw any of those reported. One would also think that reducing Iraq by millions through economic sanctions would have made their resitance to our invasion a might less enthusiastic.

    Maybe it is the economic sanctions that destroyed Cuba? How about the ones that have left Iran starving and eating rats and bugs to survive? Russia seems to be really suffering from the current sanctions against them too.

  14. just waiting
    just waiting February 19, 2015 2:14 pm

    Go back and look at the Boston story again and scroll down past the ads for the best comment ever!

  15. Claire
    Claire February 19, 2015 2:56 pm

    Which one, JW? God deflating the heavens? (Definitely appreciated that one!)

  16. Betsey
    Betsey February 19, 2015 7:25 pm

    I just saw the Imitation Game today and it has my vote. Good script (which are rare these days) and the acting was superb. That has my vote.
    Also, to call the State Department duo Lucy and Ethel is really insulting to those two queens of comedy. Maybe we could call them well-trained poodles or stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid…

  17. LarryA
    LarryA February 19, 2015 7:48 pm

    I’ve been in the spokesperson-for-the-organization position before. I’m not excusing these two, but don’t forget they’re the mouth of the information pipe, not the source. Of course, they choose to stay on those strings.

  18. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty February 20, 2015 6:04 am

    Over my educational and nursing years I worked with and taught a fair number of Muslim people from many different parts of the world and sub cultures. The one thing that stood out in every one of them was a total lack of understanding for individualism of any kind – and very often hostility to the very idea. These are all hive people, very willing subjects of someone/something else. Some may well be entirely peaceful, but they will never become allies. Their entire life orientation is 180 degrees out of phase with individual sovereigns.

  19. s
    s February 20, 2015 6:52 am

    There is certainly more than enough blame to go around. Given the duration, savagery, hypocrisy, and ongoing atrocities perpetuated by the US government, I consider the teachings of Western society’s favorite prophet before attacking Islam’s prophet.

    “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

    Reasonable people can disagree about whether our brothers have a mote, a splinter, a stick, or a beam of their own. But we have some serious work to do if we wish to establish any semblance of moral authority in this terrible tragedy. Stopping the killing would be a good start.

  20. Claire
    Claire February 20, 2015 7:07 am

    “more than enough blame to go around”

    Absolutely true, alas.

    For me, though, it’s not about whom to blame, but about understanding motivations.

  21. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty February 20, 2015 9:31 am

    For me, the important thing is not to be part of the problem – not to become that which I condemn in others. The essence of non-aggression is at the core. The motives of the aggressors might be interesting, but does not in any way mitigate the aggression. By anyone, anywhere.

  22. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau February 21, 2015 8:26 pm

    “Some of your responses re Muslims and terrorism seem like non sequiturs…. But clearly ISIS and other varieties of Islamic terrorists are motivated by religion and are using “legitimate” Muslim doctrine to justify their barbarity…. I would even say there’s plenty of evidence that the ISIS thugs do enjoy killing.”

    Well Claire, I was commenting on the author’s suggestion that “…we need in the medium- to longer-term to go after the root causes that lead people to join these groups…” As if there were any mystery about it. Saying the root cause is the action of our government is hardly to condone or excuse what ISIS fighters are doing.

    Everybody knows what happens in wars. It is no surprise. Our government is the root cause; in fact it’s not even an indirect cause as they funded ISIS directly and got them started, because they decided to move against Assad.

    “It certainly does mean that it’s smart to try to understand their motives and hope for (or inspire) effective resistance against them.”

    The former is no mystery, as I said. As to the rest, I think our government has “helped” them enough, don’t you think? Maybe we should just get the Hell out of there, and let them deal with the problems themselves. Of course, any attempt at our end to stop ISIS would be 1) motivated purely by self interest in the crony class, and 2) counterproductive. Oh, you mean hope other Syrians take ’em on? Well sure, but what good are such hopes?

    “And IMHO, it’s foolish as hell to do as the Obama administration is doing — pretending that Islam has nothing whatsoever to do with the chaos now spreading out of the Middle East and into the west.”

    Sure, Islam is a factor. But religion is always a factor. Nothing new there. Most people don’t realize the whole region was a sleepy backwater of no significance before oil and the Balfour declaration. They were just as Muslim back then, as they are now.

    “Have you read any of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s books?”

    Nope. I’m sure they are backward, just like some Christians and Jews. But not all are like that. When two cultures meet, the normal procedure is for the backward culture to lose adherents. Women for example, decide burkas suck. We don’t need a crusade for this to happen. There are still a lot of Christians in the US, but they are a bit more tolerable these days than the old witch-burning Puritans.

    B. Liddell Hart wrote about the disutility of frontal attacks, in a book named “Strategy”. We’ve been on a frontal attack for far too long against Islam. Hell, give Muslim kids a smart phone and just see what happens – if you let it happen by first getting out of their countries.

    Anyway, what do you think will happen when the dollar dies and people go hungry? The search for a scapegoat will be on. I hate to think of the results. Would YOU be willing to hide Muslim families from a pogrom?

    “Islam is a cancer.”

    No, it is a religion. As foolish as all religions.

    “Surveys performed in a large number of Muslim-dominated nations confirm that significant majorities of Muslims do support atrocities such as those perpetrated by ISIS.”

    Significant fractions of Americans supported nuking Japan, or such activities like the firebombing of Dresden. The Viet Nam war, 2 million dead. I guess that is OK though, because it is more impersonal than chopping somebody’s head off with a sword. Death at a distance, in large numbers, men, women and children – then go home and sleep peacefully.

    Talk about cognitive dissonance. How can any American even begin to criticize others?

    “Every single Muslim-dominated country in the world, without exception, is completely dysfunctional.”

    As is America. You will soon find out, when the dollar dies.

  23. Fred
    Fred February 22, 2015 11:40 am

    Im inclined to agree with Paul on this issue,and Ron Paul on the entaglement foolishness.

  24. Claire
    Claire February 23, 2015 8:22 am

    I don’t think anybody doubts that U.S. intervention in the Middle East has been catastrophic. But can those of you who believe that U.S. actions are the overwhelming #1 cause of/explanation for the rise of terrorism address this?

    Why was there no international Vietnamest/Cambodian/Laotian terrorist movement in the 1960s? Why was there no global Latin American terrorist movement in the early twentieth century?

    Both regions were savaged by the U.S. and subjected to years (if not decades) of horror and mismanagement. All manner of violence and chaos (including terrorism, perpetrated by Americans and Europeans, in the case of the Vietnam war) resulted. But neither Southeast Asians nor Latin Americans responded with globally ambitious violence. Vietnamese didn’t hijack planes and fly them into buildings in the U.S. Guatemalans didn’t shoot up magazine offices in Europe. Laotian refugee communities didn’t become hotbeds of anti-western radicalization.

    No Vietnamese religious leader declared the Buddhist equivalent of a fatwa against people whose opinions they didn’t like. No Latin American bishops decreed that the world must return to global Catholic rule under medieval principles — or else. Yet if religion is such a convenient rallying cry (and if it is merely a rallying cry/excuse), why didn’t U.S. abuse give rise to fundamentalist “jihadi” equivalents in these two cases? What the U.S. government did to them was just as bad as what it’s been doing in the Middle East, after all.

  25. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau February 23, 2015 9:44 am

    Good question. There are several possible ways to answer it, and the truth may be a combination of those answers.

    1) There is no terror. That is, in any planet with a population of several billion, you are always going to have wars and resistance actions around the edges. Worrying about terror is like worrying about being struck by lightning. Incidents that happen to get pushed into the limelight are put there to serve the interests of the ruling class.

    2) In those examples you provided, the contending sides didn’t think of using terror. For one thing, the technology didn’t suggest it – there was no Internet and youtube for watching heads get chopped off; there were just state-dominated newspapers (“remember the Maine”…). There may also not have been the awareness in the resistance groups that the invaders could be removed from their countries by applying pressure of some sort to the invader’s own populations.

    3) There *was* a sort of terror – buddhist monks burned themselves on TV. No doubt, the various anti-war groups in America were called and considered terrorists (e.g. the Dem Convention in Chicago – “the whole world is watching”).

    4) We didn’t expect Augusto Sandino to call for a fatwa, because he had no worldwide network to broadcast it on. He just had a few campesinos with machetes, in a very local fight.

    5) Much of what we consider recent terror are likely to be false flag operations. There are a lot of questions about 9/11 and the Charlie Hebdo thing, for example.

    Yeah, there are features of Islam that lend themselves to terror. Islam is THE network that the resistance in the Middle East has available to it, so why would we be surprised that they use it? They have certain tools available to them, and they use what they have.

    The other problem with your position is that it is too collectivist for my taste. Yeah, some people do create terror events, and some of them may not even be aided in it by the CIA or FBI. But because they happen to be Muslim, do we paint all Muslims with the same brush? What percentage of Muslims in Indonesia, the most populous Islamic country, engage in terrorism? Not much! The difference is, we are not occupying their country, and stealing their resources.

    People who cry, “It’s Islam”, are doing the job of the Ministry of Propaganda. Inadvertently, I’m certain, but…

  26. Claire
    Claire February 23, 2015 11:06 am

    Good answers, Paul. Well thought-out and for the most part spot on.

    “People who cry, “It’s Islam”, are doing the job of the Ministry of Propaganda. Inadvertently, I’m certain, but…”

    Yep, I agree with that. I just hope the desire to avoid hysterical anti-Islam rhetoric doesn’t mean we feel we can’t say a word about the religion and its influence. As you note, there are factors within Islam — and within Arab culture and tribal culture — that are contributing to the current mess. Just as U.S. government atrocities also contribute.

    I’ve been disturbed by overly simplistic rhetoric (and “It’s all the U.S. government’s fault” is no more thoughtful or accurate or deep than “All Muslims are terrorists”). So thank you for responding in a non-simplistic way. For the first time in many days, I feel as if we’re actually talking about something.

  27. Fred
    Fred February 23, 2015 11:37 am

    In the 1950’s and 60’s Americans could pretty much travel the mideast in peace and were welcomed as guests,at least per my old NatGeo magazines.Now stepping a foot there will get you killed very easily.

    I dont think Islam has changed but our meddling certainly has.

    So Im still stuck on that it is mostly blowback (In the USA’a case) from our very actions and attacks on them and the obvious reactions from people who have been subjected to governmental abuses by dictators installed with the full backing of The USA,and the usurpation of their choice of leaders thru coups from us.And us arbitrarily defining THEIR borders.Where did we get that choice?

    Im sorry you feel its simplistic,to me its obvious.They dont hate us for our freedoms,they hate us for our actions.

    Look,it takes 2 to fight.When you arent welcome you leave the house,or face the consequences.We REFUSE to leave their house.I see their reactions as quite understandable,we wouldnt put up with the same thing here.

    Also to expect them to fight back,ie as we see as ‘fair’,is ludicrous,they dont have the same weapons or ability to do so against hands-down the worlds mightiest military,they fight back as they can,also understandable.

    Now for the Jewish issue,they hate them being there and all I can say is Israels nukes are a dam needed thing or they will be annihilated.And you wont like it but as far as Im concerned Israel isnt exactly blameless,ie the continuing Palestinian issue,until its settled is just more flames on the fire.Obviously hardly the only issue I know.

    I also dont believe Israels problems are our problems.Go back to no foreign entanglements.

    Anywho,thats my take on it and I feel its as valid as any other opinion on the subject,FWIW,which isnt much actually.

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