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9.12.2003

I had thought that I would not discuss 9.11 again but I was wrong.

I had little reaction to 9.11.03, to be honest. The anniversary of a date has little to do with the reality of a given situation; it's just another day. I still think we're at war, though, though some may disagree with this proposition. Our fight against religious fanaticism is a tough one because I think it's going to be hard to balance doing the necesssary killing abroad while not massively expanding the government at home. Bush is certainly not a small-government kind of guy, and although I am reasonably comfortable with our actions abroad I am unhappy about his domestic policy generally.

I thought that what little network coverage I saw was poor in that it was maudlin and domesticated. Of course, I think that the networks -- if they're going to commemorate the event at all -- should show nothing but New Yorkers throwing themselves out of the WTC towers, and reruns of the towers collapsing. That's what happened, and failure to perceive reality of what happened is a dangerous act. Showing piles of blood, bone and gristle which used to be people who worked at the WTC would also have been a good option. I realize that this might inflame people, but then again I think that inflaming people about this is a good thing. That way when the next terrorist hits, we'll have less compunction about dropping a few strategically-placed nukes. Of course, if/when another major U.S. city gets hit badly enough (say with a nuke or a major chemical weapon), I think that
that is what will happen anyway. I think Saudi Arabia is a great place to start, followed by Syria.

Domestically though Bush is a mess. I don't share blind loyalty to the Republicans, especially given the expansion of the gov't and the ineffectualness of some of these expansions . . . homeland security is a joke, and people getting on planes are only marginally more secure from terrorists than before 9.11. I am also unhappy about federal prosecutors poaching anti-terror laws to further non-terror ends (in much the same way RICO laws were used against non-racketeers). Unfortunately, I don't trust the Democrats either, partially because I think that they lack the resolution to fight a war like the one we just had in Iraq, or to respond appropriately if/when the next big terrorist attack happens. As I said, the only appropriate thing to do in that event would be a Roman-style asskicking, complete with large bags of salt to sow for when the radiation died down . . . and the Democrats don't have the guts to do that. They whine about "root causes," "understanding," and other nonsense. I think that it's less important for us to understand our enemies than for them to understand that they'll be turned into ash indiscriminately if/when 9.11 part 2 happens. Terrorists understand one thing and one thing only, and that's brute force. If we have to kill innocents to get our message across, that's the way it goes. The Japanese got the message in WWII and haven't been anything but pleasant ever since . . . maybe the nuclear corrective is just what radical, militant Islamists need to understand. Hell, I'd put a nuclear bomb on Paris if it meant no more terrorist attacks in this country.

9.11.2003

The case against the cork.
Left-of-center pundit Richard Reeves argues here that Bush cannot win in 2004. If true, this is a brilliant forecast, although it seems a bit premature, eh?
Add this book to your cookbook collection -- "The Making of A Cook" by Madeline Kamman . More than a classic cookbook, also a vibrant work of writing which goes into great detail not only about how to make recipes work but also WHY they work.

I see from the Amazon listing that the book has been updated. It's now The New Making of a Cook . . . whatever. If it's anything like the original it's worth having.
I live with a married couple whose first anniversary is this month. Being fond of them I volunteered to cook 'em dinner, David-style. I told them I'd cook them whatever they wanted; however, they deferred to me saying they'd eat whatever I cooked, as long as it wasn't tofu. Fair enough, I said, let me think of something.

I think I'll grill pork tenderloin as the main meat course. I do this well and it's good at this time of year when it starts getting a little cooler in the evenings. The only problem is what else to cook . . . I'll probably grill some apples along with the pork, as they go so well together, but what else? Maybe for an appetizer some sweet potato soup? And what to put with the pork besides apples? Roasted red potatos with rosemary? I'm making my second batch of pesto from my homegrown basil tonight, so I could givem em some pesto w/pasta for a starch but that be too many strong flavors at once . . . I smoke the pork a LOT when I grill it.

As for desert, I may fudge on this and . . . make sorbet. We'll see. I've never made it before but a perusal of recipes makes the process seem reasonably easy it a bit time-consuming.

Thoughts?
Patience . . . a virtue for other people.
My only 9/11 related post:

Go here. Look at it for five minutes. Meditate upon it.

Any questions?
LINKAGE

A big part of having a blog is act of linking to other sites in general and specifically to other blogs. It's called "blogrolling," a play on the term "logrolling." The practice is discussed here. I tend not to have many links listed permanently (see the two -- as of this date -- listed to the left under the word "linkage") . . . rather I just link in a post itself and let it go. The basic reason for this is that no-one reads this blog but myself and a few other people. People looking for other blogs probably know how to use Google, and ergo how to find other blogs.

I make exception for some sites I visit regularly. The Perseus Project reflects my interest in classical studies and languages and as such merits a link. Gut Rumbles is another exception as I like the writing therein. Subtley is generally not a virtue on the web and you won't usually find it at Gut Rumbles or any other blog. However Smith's writing style manages to separate itself from the usual harangue-fest on most blogs due, in part, to the more-interesting content. Your mileage may vary, as they say, but I say check it out.

9.09.2003

A gent with a blog named Lonewacko blogs across America. He has some interesting observations on various regions of the country and the attractions therein. Link via Instapundit.
BLOGNAME UPDATE

Still no reply from Easterbrook on my suggested title . . . slacker!

MORE UPDATE:

Still no Tuesday Morning Quarterback, either . . . sheesh.

9.08.2003

On a more serious note, Easterbrook has the following offering:

Compared to all that might have gone wrong, it might be argued that India is the greatest global success story of the past half-century. India has become the world's largest democracy and a reasonably liberal society; it has not fallen apart under ethnic pressure or population expansion, and keeps increasing agricultural output faster than its population grows.

Past the first sentence, which is pure hedging (ALL that might have gone wrong indeed . . . hey, at least when he hedges he does it like a pro!), it's an interesting point which raises the question Easterbrook ignores: what about the caste system . . . y'know, the segregationist system that, by and large, disallows upward social mobility? Fortunately for himself and his blog Easterbrook just ignores the caste question. That's the "good" thing about blogging: you can get away with sloppy thinking and no-one calls you on it because everyone's so breathless about the medium . . . blogging means you never have to say you're sorry! Plus, can any country with such a system be called "reasonably liberal?" Depends on who's counting, I guess.

Worst of all, Easterbrook ignores the best and most important thing about Indian culture: the food!


Gregg Easterbrook, well-known in east-coast fishwrap circles, is starting a new blog, The New Republic Online: Easterbrook. He's looking for a name for it. I sent the following email:
***
Suggested titles:

"Not As Stupid As I Look" or, alternately, "As Stupid As I Look"

The choice is yours!
***

Think anyone there'll even have the huevos to respond to my email? I wouldn't bet on it!

Link via Instapundit.
Jeff Jarvis of the blog BuzzMachine has as interesting post regarding what he’s calling “the new patriotism.” It’s an interesting read; however, I must say I take exception to some of his points while agreeing with some others. It appears to me that Jarvis has a greater trust of “government” as a whole than I do . . . or at least that’s how I am understanding what he’s saying here:

Patriotism is much bigger than politics. And the definition of patriotism is no longer in the hands of the politicians and pundits. After 9.11, it is in our hands, for we are all Americans and we are all targets on this new battlefield. We know what it means to be patriotic and it has very little to do with partisanship or politics. We know the price of patriotism.
Patriotism means defending the principles of America over politics. Patriotism means being willing to protect those principles where and when it's necessary. Patriotism means defending your children and your neighbors against those who would attack us because we are American. Patriotism means being willing to go it alone even when your former friends (read: Europeans) snipe at you. Try that on as a new definition.


Let’s unpack this.

Patriotism is much bigger than politics.

This seems to be an assertion about what the scope of patriotism and politics are. If what is meant by it is that Americans – regardless of political affiliation – should place the well-being of Americans as a group before partisan politics, then sure, I agree with that. Tough not to, really, but what are the implications of this assertion in terms of mutually-agreed-upon policy? Are there any? If so, what are they? Jarvis doesn’t continue with that idea, but rather moves on to state

And the definition of patriotism is no longer in the hands of the politicians and pundits.

I’m not sure what this is intended to mean. That the definition of patriotism was in the hands of politicians and pundits, and has now been wrenched away in a post September 11 wave of re-thinking? Yes, as Jarvis then writes:

After 9.11, it is in our hands, for we are all Americans and we are all targets on this new battlefield.

I agree with this; we ARE all targets. Jarvis – in my view – gets this exactly correct. You can damn well bet that it’s open season on Americans in certain parts of the world . . . those parts being where fanatics with guns (or planes, or other weapons) are willing to give their lives to kill as many of us as possible.

We know what it means to be patriotic and it has very little to do with partisanship or politics. We know the price of patriotism.

Jarvis loses me here though. Any time anyone says “We know . . . “ and takes it as a given that we do, in fact, all know what it means to be whatever’s being discussed, reach for your wallet. I think it’s demonstrably true that we DON’T all know what it means to be patriotic . . . why would there be such debate on issues such as the war on Iraq, or future involvement in other middle eastern countries? Are people who oppose such things unpatriotic by definition? I would find that assertion difficult to believe. Not that I oppose our involvement, there, mind you, as I was for going into Iraq at the time and still support being there. Additionally, I think that Syria as next on the list might not be a bad idea. But I digress . . .

Patriotism means defending the principles of America over politics. Patriotism means being willing to protect those principles where and when it's necessary.

Which principles? Isolationist principles (for example) are surely a part of the fabric of American politics – have been for some time. Are such principles suddenly unpatriotic? Why not say so? That appears to be the gist of what’s being said, but it’s not explicitly written that way. Jarvis here commits the error of over-generalizing. Which are the principles of America he has in mind? He doesn’t say, except to note that

Patriotism means defending your children and your neighbors against those who would attack us because we are American. Patriotism means being willing to go it alone even when your former friends (read: Europeans) snipe at you.

This sounds good to me as far as it goes, which is not terribly far . . . how can one be against “defending your children and your neighbors” – one cannot! Of course people are going to defend their children. No politician would EVER come out against that. As far as neighbors, sure, why not? I don’t know my neighbors, but I can get behind the idea of defending them. But against what? And how? By spying on my other neighbors to make sure they’re not building bombs or planning an attack of some kind? Or by voting for a certain party or pol? Such real-life eventualities are left to the reader’s imagination.

My basic attitude towards patriotism is that it’s the last refuge of a scoundrel, regardless of party affiliation. Blind loyalty of any type scares the hell out of me, especially when it’s used by pols to further political ends. I don’t see much evidence – either in the blogosphere or in the national media -- for Jarvis’ contention that we all know what’s right for us to do now. I am happy to admit that I believe – in accord, I think, with Jarvis – that taking the proverbial stick to fanatics who want to kill Americans is A Good Thing. The more efficiently America kills such people, the better. I especially agree with Jarvis on the idea of going it alone. After all, no other country will look out for us – even our closest allies. In the matter of terrorism, waiting for international agreement is just another way to increase the American body count. But it’s not clear to me that this fills out a definition of patriotism that I agree with.

When I was in law school I read far too many cases in which the government screwed Americans left and right, coming and going. The notion of an overriding, shared idea of patriotism smacks too much to me of blind loyalty to an ill-defined term, open to abuse by the government (regardless of who is in power). And suffice to say that my view of politicians is realistic enough to believe that if there’s an overriding public agreement about what is patriotic, such agreement is easily open to abuse. Agreement on what constitutes patriotism, after all, hardly guarantees virtue in the patriotic. As someone who studied Classics in college I am well aware of too many historical precedents for this assertion. An example from antiquity is the consequence of the Melian dialogue, in which the Athenians given the residents of Melos the choice between subjugation or annihilation, based on the Athenians’ assertion of raw power.

I would posit FREEDOM as a more important value than patriotism. Freedom from the threat of death-by-fanatic, which (as Jarvis writes) is essential . . . but also freedom from oppression by the government or from wrong-headed fellow citizens . . . especially since patriotism is so open to definitional and substantive (political) abuse.

Link via Instapundit.
Climbing Mt. Whitney Part 1: En Route

Driving to Whitney from my neck of the woods, we took local freeways Cal 23 to 118 and eventually end up heading north on the 395. The 395 goes up the gut of Cali, but east of the San Joaquin valley, which means sand, and lots of it. You go through Mojave, a dusty, dirty desert town which looks like it rose up from underneath the sand, and also like it hopes it'll sink under again soon. You go through Red Rock Canyon State Park, location of many westerns. You go by the China Lake Naval Weapons Center (a naval weapons center in the middle of the desert?), where a roofer friend of mine once had a job roofing a massive building which was constructed over an ENTIRE aircraft carrier. In the desert. Always struck me as odd, but I digress . . . After you get past China Lake you enter the Owens Valley, a massive expanse of land between the Sierra Nevada and the Cottonwood Mountains. Now, there are valleys and there are VALLEYS. Owens is a the latter. There are saline operations, farming, mining and who knows what else going on here. It's huge, the kind of massive, raw landscape that you find out in the western U.S.

As you go up the Owens Valley you begin to see the Sierra Nevada. The mountains loom up, out of nowhere, rather quickly, and all of a sudden you're in a little tourist trap named Lone Pine. Suggested Official Town Catchphrase: "Lone Pine: We're Next To A Big-Ass Hill!" Real Official Town Catchphrase: couldn't find one.

Well, we got into Lone Pine and hit the ranger station there. Since Whitney is apparently one of the most hiked mountains in the country, you need a permit (obtained well in advance from Los Federales), and each member of the party covered by the permit MUST have it displayed, visibly, at all times during your time there. We got permits, but not after a but of trouble. The first jackleg behind the desk couldn't find the name.

"Hmm . . . doesn't look like you're in the computer," Jackleg said.

"That's weird. Can you check again? Here's my confirmation," Roger (permit holder and fellow-hiker) said.

"No, I don't need that," Jackleg said. "I just don't see you here." Jackleg hems and haws, can't find us. It's beginning to look like the trip from LA was in vain.

At this point, another ranger came over to see what Ranger Jackleg was doing.

"Ah," Second Ranger says.

Our ears prick up.

"Yeah, you're in here," Second Ranger says. Relief abounds. We get the permit. It seems that Ranger Jackleg wasn't keying Roger's last name in correctly. Oops. Ranger Jackleg would've been more than happy to send us back to LA (or wherever we'd come from), because he couldn't find our name because he couldn't spell it right.

Thought: should being able to SPELL be a requisite part of working for the Park Service? I guess not for Ranger Jackleg! Note: although I'm not going to publish Roger's last name, it's not hard to spell . . . it is, in fact, along the lines of difficulty of most five letter last names . . . similar to, say, "Glass" or "Freed." You get the picture. Fortunately, Second Ranger was there to spell Roger's last name right and the trip was not aborted due to syntactical error.

We got the permits, ate a fast-food meal: "Last fat for five days," I intoned, somewhat sadly, as I chomped into a bacon western chee. Then it was off to Whitney Portal.

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