The Free Associator

The Philadelphia Syndicate is a collection of writers, businesses, artists, musicians, and activists based in Philadelphia, with connections to associates around the world via the internet. This publication is produced by members of the Syndicate's private online discussion forum for the purpose of giving exposure to the organization's thinkers to the public.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Dissed, Iraqi Style

 

Some time back I wrote this about Mike Francis and his adventures with the Oregon National Guard in Iraq.

Well, Cpt. Kotz and his band of brothers made it back to Al Sus. And guess what? There was no one there. I leave it to the reader and anyone willing to do some indepedent research to determine if this was a perceived or real slight. Could have been "lost in translation," Cpt. Kotz. You never know.

Anyone know anything about Iraqi tribal customs? Seems there might be something about inviting someone to a meal, and then leaving town. And somehow, I don't think it means you want them to come back for cheesecake later.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Checking In

 

Greetings, and apologies for being gone so long.

I have been on leave, as it were, and still have a few more days of trees, snow, and no computers.

I leave you with a thought:

If free will is false, then I'm worse than dead, and a tyrant's hand may well be blessed.

In the immortal words of Bob Dylan: "I said that."

P.S. I finally finished Steve Coll's Ghost Wars. Final assessment? It's worth the read, but barely. If you were in the dark, this is not a good primer. And if you were in the know, Coll's reflections barely scratch the surface. Overall, the best I can say is that it is well-written.

On the contrary, I flew threw this amazing book: The Bookseller of Kabul , in 2 sittings. I highly reccomend it - to everyone from Afghanistan neophytes, to the a-little-bit-too-well-informed.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

One Man’s Petulance

 

When Sean O’Keefe became NASA Administrator I somehow had high hopes. The fella seemed genuinely fit for the job. At least he handled press conferences and the Columbia disaster with aplomb.

But I must say that I agree with this recent editorial in the New York Times.

I am a great fan of the Hubble Space telescope and its contributions to science. And, of course, there are the wonderful pictures. It will be sad to see it fall into disrepair for any reason. But to have it happen on account of the ego of one man would be a true tragedy.

I can only hope that somehow things work out and the Hubble continues to operate.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Supporting the Troops

 

Some of the worst propaganda I have had the extreme displeasure of being exposed to in my relatively short life has come from my local newsrag, The Oregonian, in the years since the Iraq invasion began.

Today is no exception. In fact, it may be the epitome of this propaganda.

On the front page is the story "Cast stone collides with Guard goals," along with a picture of a rather ugly Oregon Army National Guard Sgt., one Brian Allender bloodied at the mouth and lacking a few teeth. Below this picture is another, this one of 2 U.S. soldiers escorting a handcuffed Iraqi teenager. It is not hard to read this story simply by looking at the pictures. No doubt, this was fully The Oregonian's intention.

The story begins, "A teenager's decision to lash out at Oregon Army National Guard soldiers shows just how fine a line there is, in some Iraqi minds, between liberation and oppression." The dependent clause here speaks volumes, no? As if, in some Iraqi minds, liberation and oppression were the same thing. But never mind that Orwellian turn of phrase.

The story continues, "The rock the teen threw may have derailed a budding partnership between Iraqis and the U.S. military as surely as a hammer smashing an eggshell." Ok, so now a teenager "may have derailed a budding partnership between Iraqis and the U.S. military..." That, my friends, is PROPAGANDA. And I for one, despise it. The Oregonian, and this article's author, Mike Francis, will be hearing from me today. But to continue...

Mr. Francis, the responsible party for this atrocity of print journalism, frames the rest of the article in stages: Council Meeting, The Rock is Thrown, The Teen's Denial. When an elderly woman prostrates herself before the Humvee taking the teenager into custody, there is no pity in Francis' words. Judging from the Al Sus, IRAQ byline, I'd say Francis was present for some of the incident. Maybe the old lady frightened him. One thing's for sure, Francis wouldn't last 5 minutes in Iraq without military protection.

Cpt. Dominic Kotz, also of Oregon, is quoted thus, "We came to this village because we're helping to rebuild the school. (I wonder what happened to the school.) This is the response we get. This village threw a rock at us. That's unacceptable." In case you can't tell, I added the bit in parentheses, and the italics. Punish the village for the sin of the uppity youngster, eh? That is exactly what happens.

Of the arrest and detention of the rock-throwing terrorist (a word which I'm certain Francis feels like a traitor for not being able to use to refer to a minor), Kotz says "It might seem like an overreaction, but if you let it happen, pretty soon the entire village thinks they're a bunch of punks and start taking advantage of you." So, Kotz, the occupier, is afraid of being taken advantage of. Imperialism never ceases to amaze me.

Kotz, the hero of the article, is also quoted as saying of the teen, "What a little jackass."

Cpt. Kotz, there is no boulder big enough that I sincerely wish would be thrown at YOU.

Go ahead, accuse me of not supporting the troops. I pay taxes; I don't have a choice; I support the troops. I provide their weapons and their handcuffs and their Humvees.

I hope the little jackasses look pretty in their fatigues, and that they appreciate my support.

By the way, Allender will receive the Purple Heart for his teenager-inflicted rock wound. And the Guard won't be back to Al Sus until the village apologizes. I'm serious.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Open letter to Popular Mechanics

 

The March issue of Popular Mechanics has as its cover story, “Debunking 9/11 LIES.” Interestingly enough, the online version is titled Debunking 9/11 Myths, adding further fuel to the conspiracy fire. No really, that was just a bad joke.

Anyway, I don’t have the time to go into an analysis of the Popular Mechanics argument, which relies mainly on first-hand expert witness testimonies; and I don’t have the inclination to indulge in physics arguments. Debunkers of the debunking point out that Popular Mechanics is “Hearst-owned." Which is, incidentally, absolutely true.

But I do have one question for Popular Mechanics. And that is: where is the video footage of the Pentagon strike?

Most of us have probably seen the independently-made Pentagon Strike video. (And if you haven’t, you should.) In that video, it is pointed out that the plane that hit the Pentagon should have been video-taped at least 3 times before it hit the outer wall. Only one of these videos is in circulation.

So I ask Popular Mechanics: where are the other videos? Or rather: are they even missing?

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Burn, Baby, Burn

 

I heard this guy singing and playing acoustic guitar on Morning Sedition. He sang:

Is it more patriotic to hold up the Constitution and burn the flag, or hold up the flag and burn the Constitution?

Judging from my choice of capitals, I'd say my answer is clear.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Dingus of the Day

 

Today I will take aim at yet another neo-con columnist, and in this case, Harvard professor of history. The dingus of the day is Niall Ferguson. And boy, this guy is a real treat.

I will avoid commentary on his past defense's of imperialism, and instead focus on his recent contribution to the bizarre publication The Atlantic. I say bizarre because it seems the magazine's sole mission is to convince liberals that their ideology has failed and that they must embrace conservatism. They attempt this endeavor by pleading with liberals to ditch Roe vs. Wade, ditch Clintonism, and well basically, ditch liberalism. (Predictably, you'll have to pay for the magazine to read the full articles.) But it is uncommon for the arguments to make any sense to anyone but closet Republicans raised in Portland or San Francisco. So, unless you fit the bill, don't bother.

But, aside from my obvious distaste for The Atlantic, let's take a look at Ferguson's argument in "The Widening Atlantic". Ferguson lists three reasons for the apparent policy differences between Europe and America:

First, we must not forget the primary reason for the formation of the transatlantic alliance, in the 1940s and 1950s: to keep the Soviet Union behind the Iron Curtain. We should not deceive ourselves that the French and the Germans, or, for that matter, the British, were passionately pro-American during the Cold War. But as long as a Russian empire was menacing Western Europe with missiles, troops, and spooks, there was an overwhelming practical argument for the unity of the West.

...

The second reason the West is unlikely to come back together is the difference in the ways Europe and the United States assess the risk of Islamic extremism.

...

The third reason why transatlantic rapprochement is so unlikely: the precipitous decline of European Christianity over the past three decades.

You'll have to go buy the magazine if you have a real desire to get the full effect of his argument. As you should be able to determine, Ferguson places the blame for poor relations with Europe firmly on Europe. George Bush has nothing to do with it in his analysis.

Now, I'm sure that in his capacity as history buff, Ferguson has been on many European vacations and cruises and seen much of Europe from the luxurious confines of a Princess cruise ship or a luxury, rented SUV. Perhaps he has even done Europe on a shoestring budget. But, seriously, I think the former much more likely.

Ok, you want to know what really set me off about this column? He states that American churchgoing is twice what Europe's is without offering anything in the way of evidence or even a number. As if the source of contention between Americans and Europeans were churchgoing. He also states that "scarcely any Americans - compared with 15 percent of Europeans - can be characterized as atheists." Niall, you really need to get out more. And I don't just mean to more church services.

Yes, relations with Europe predate George W. Bush. But as someone who was living in Europe during the first term of GWB, I can tell you with certainty that the commander of the Armies of Compassion has something to do with their current distaste for things American.

You know what? I don't even care about the rest of his argument. Anyone who thinks the fault for deteriorating alliances with other, less evangelical, countries lies with the secularism of those countries and not the perverted religiosity of this one, is a lunatic in my book. Or a neo-con. Take your pick. Either way, Niall Ferguson is my "Dingus of the Day." Congratualtions Niall. Keep up the propaganda.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

 

Last night –
Right after “24” –
Fox 5 local news NY –

“...AND HERE ARE OUR TOP STOREIS FOR THIS EVENING…”

“TERRORISTS ARE ATTACKING: SHOULD YOU BE GOING TO THE DRIVE THROUGH WINDOW AT MC DONALDS?” (24 STYLE CLOCK TICKING DOWN FROM 47:59:59)

“IS A MASSIVE SNOW STORM HEADING OUR WAY THIS WEEK?”

“EXTREME PORN…ARE JUDGES IN YOUR AREA FORCING EXTERME PORNAGRAPHIC MATERIAL INTO YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?”

“…THESE STOREIS AND MORE TONIGHT ON FOX 5 NEWS AT TEN.”

Actual stories are as follows:

– Some report that someone in the government in some department floated the idea that fast food chains could be used to deliver vaccines in case of a bio attack.

- There may be a storm with some mixed rain and snow on Thursday.

- A judge lifted a local ban on porn.

Got to hand it to the local news.

More on the budget

 

I’ll have to agree with my esteemed colleague Oblio on the budget. Bush is wanker for leaving the cost of the war off the budget. At least according to this article on the relatively pro-republican site Newsmax, they appear to backpedaling, where White House aides have said they may add 80 billion to the budget to account for Afghanistan and Iraq. (which sounds pretty low to me)

My only point of separation with Oblio may be on Amtrak. I agree that Amtrak is incompetent and that lowering their budget will not make them more efficient. But I also think that raising their budget or keeping it the same will not improve their efficiency either. They are a business and hence supposedly should be offering a service in exchange for money. The money they receive for the service is supposed to be more than it costs to offer the service. If it is not, a normal business would go out of business. When it is Amtrak or the federally subsidized airlines (by the way these are just examples, there are certainly more handout beneficiaries), they just tax people to make up the difference.

Trains are simply obsolete in most areas of the country. It is cheaper (and faster if you have two people) to drive from NY to Chicago than take the train. It is also roughly only $100 more to fly roundtrip which cuts a little time (34 hours) off the trip.

And, as someone who would actually use affordable trains to go from NY to Philly or DC, can someone explain to me why a ticket to Chicago from NY (18+ hours one way) costs $88 and a ticket from NY to DC (4 hours one way) also cost about $80+.

Greg -

Monday, February 07, 2005

Billions and Trillions

 

One more word on the State of the Union address before I move on to more stimulating topics. That last word involves Social Security. I know, I said I wasn't going to get into it. But that wasn't a lie. I was misled.

Anyway, it appears that the "privatization" of Social Security will cost TRILLIONS of dollars. And this is according to Dick Cheney. Go figure. I wonder who will be the recipient of all this money...insurance companies, stock brokers, the Bush family?

But wait, it gets even better. Not only does today's budget, submitted by the psychotic, self-proclaimed leader of the "armies of compassion", not contain funds for either Afghanistan or Iraq, it doesn't include any of the costs for his proposed Social Security "privatization." And these costs will be just the beginning if this thing goes through.

And it gets worse. The budget seeks to cut "government waste" by trimming education, health care and, of all things, Amtrak. Don't get me wrong, Amtrak is a joke compared to other countries' rail services, but defunding it? Yeah, that'll really improve its efficiency.

Let's just say I am a little skeptical of all of this talk about Social Security. And the more I read, the greater the skepticism gets.


Saturday, February 05, 2005

The State of the disUnion

 

I suppose a few words are in order about the state of the union address last Wednesday. It doesn't take much to figure that I am no fan of GWB. But I have got to hand it to him, he really delivered an amazing piece of propaganda. Even for him.

Gone completely were last year's distractions: Mars and steroids. Remember that?

Back to Social Security and, gasp, homosexual marriage.

I'm not getting into the "is it broken or is it not" debate. Anything government handles will inevitably need fixing. The same is true of private industry. But the humor comes from one side getting upset that the other side has a) messed things up, or b) is trying to fix them first. Maybe I am pessimistic. Maybe I am a realist. One thing I am not is a Bush Republican. Unlike this kid's parents. Anything for a laugh, I guess.

And homosexual marriage? Well, I caught some Michael Savage the other day, (who if you are unaware of, you should try and keep it that way) and he thinks that we were hit on 9/11 on account of our "decadence" and that, fairly originally I thought, only once we have "vice police" on the streets, will they no longer threaten us. Seriously, Savage deserves to be tarred and feathered. Now that would be decadent, wouldn't it Mike?

In all honesty, the state of the union could have really been summed up in one word: screwed. If you need me to elaborate, begin here.

Friday, February 04, 2005

You can't make this stuff up

 

I have a pseudo-routine for Friday lunch – going to the Pat Conway’s Irish Pub located downstairs in my building (42nd and Madison). I use this time to eat good food, as opposed to my normal lunch fair crap and to catch up on some local news in either the NY Post or the NY Daily News. I have no real preference for one over the other.

Invariably I come across an article that is either shockingly stupid or right on point. Every Friday I am going to try to post my big finding. So today from the Post comes -

Lawyers Gone Wacky

I won’t re-print the entire article but essentially the insane posse of anti-SUV morons has co-opted a number of the states’ attorneys general (Connecticut, Florida, Iowa and Vermont) to use government tax dollars to convince young drivers to drive safely in their SUVs.

Their plan is simple – create a giant cross bred Muppet/SUV cleverly named “esuvee” (that is not a joke) to teach kids to drive their SUVs in a safe manner. This may be one of the stupidest ideas I have heard in days. What self respecting teenager wouldn’t laugh their ass off at this? As if teenagers already didn’t know that cornering on a back road at 100 miles an hour in an SUV may cause it to flip. The problem is not that they don’t understand physics, they do, at least instinctively if not via equations. The real problem is that THEY ARE TEENAGERS AND DO NOT FEAR DEATH. A big Muppet will not change this, even if the Muppet cost 30 million dollars.

And if this is aimed at younger people who may possibly be influenced by a Sweetums Muppet (“Jack not Name! Jack job!") morphed into SUV form, it might be prudent to take into account that they are probably not old enough to drive and certainly are not old enough to understand the effects of improper loading and low tire pressure.

-Greg


Thursday, February 03, 2005

Late introduction

 

So let me introduce myself – Greg - mild mannered cave man lawyer (patent/IP lawyer) in NYC.

I am quite ashamed that it has taken me this long to get my first post up, but certain fiscal and work considerations have taken up more time than expected lately.

Currently, I am reading Pale Fire and will offer my thoughts shortly. Hopefully I will be able to take sides in the age old question of “Kinbotean” vs. “Shadean.” (honestly, I did not even know there was such a debate until today, I just dug Lolita so I am trying this one now.)

In the mean time - here is a useless bit of “fun” regarding unemployment benefits, and government intervention. I will refrain from any commentary, and will all the reader to draw their own conclusion.

So after having picked up and downed a quality chocolate treat filled with Cutty Sark, I am now prepared to write.

First this article on Bloomberg from earlier today– (via Drudge)

European Economies: German Jobless Rise to Record

The gist of it –

“German unemployment jumped to the highest since World War II as new rules added welfare recipients to the jobless register, clouding the outlook for Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in elections this month.”

Interesting quote –

“Schroeder can expect ``only a small positive impact from the labor-market reform in 2005,'' said Juergen Michels, an economist at Citigroup Global Markets in London, in a note to investors. ``But over time, the tighter eligibility criteria for receiving unemployment benefits and the cut in the duration in unemployment benefits will increase incentives to accept jobs.''” (emphasis added)

Then I remembered seeing this article in the London Telegraph a couple of days ago – (via IWF)

'If you don't take a job as a prostitute, we can stop your benefits'

The gist of it –

“A 25-year-old waitress who turned down a job providing "sexual services'' at a brothel in Berlin faces possible cuts to her unemployment benefit under laws introduced this year.”

Lest you think this is an oversight to be quickly corrected, the Telegraph article goes on –

“The government had considered making brothels an exception on moral grounds, but decided that it would be too difficult to distinguish them from bars. As a result, job centres must treat employers looking for a prostitute in the same way as those looking for a dental nurse. (emphasis added)


"There is now nothing in the law to stop women from being sent into the sex industry," said Merchthild Garweg, a lawyer from Hamburg who specialises in such cases. "The new regulations say that working in the sex industry is not immoral any more, and so jobs cannot be turned down without a risk to benefits."” (emphasis added)

- Greg




Found in a Philadelphia Bathroom

 

A Marxist/Liberal conception of social conditions dictates that ills such as poverty, violence, drug abuse, and similar circumstances, have a shared genesis – class.

Class, more specifically, the differential in power created by the relationship between the sexes, race, rich and poor, is the usual knee-jerk reaction as an explanation, as a root cause of that which the enlightened and altruistic wish to eradicate.

There, no doubt, is nary a thing wrong with wishing to help the weak, the wanting, and the wicked. Most of civil society in cultures within and without the European tradition see the alleviation of suffering, be it fiscal or otherwise, as a value, ideal and in many cases, a large scale program requiring the most powerful and pervasive component of a republic – the State.

Following the imposition of a welfare/warfare state during the Depression and WWII, the federal government has taken the role of being the largest provider of social services dedicated to the alleviation, and rather idealistically at times, the eradication of numerous social ills supposedly caused by lack of something quite easily understood – money.

The argument routinely goes, “in a nation as large and as rich of the United States, there should be no person that should go without the basic necessities of life.” That absolutist goal can only be conceived while assuming, either consciously or unconsciously, that human beings possess the ability to be infinitely perfectible. Without some degree of want or need, human nature itself would be unrecognizably altered beyond status of rational animal. This would be a Utopian place no doubt. As the fates would have it, persons such as Hillary Clinton, Ralph Nader, and other nattering patsies of the American left are those granted us by the collective wisdom of democracy. If the Democratic Party is the political institution charged with fighting the good fight against that which ails us, then heaven help us all.

After $ trillions in wealth transfer over the past four decades, we still have a culture of permanent destitution amongst large geographical and demographic segments of our nation. In the large, urban centers, such as Philadelphia where I live, decades of poverty have been entrenched and pervasive – with very little help from the Democratic Party, which has dominated the city for the past 60 years.

There is no way we can talk about poverty without talking about the plight of African-Americans, the most visible spectrum of our rainbow that has not been touched by market economics or public social services. The irony of African-American dependence and allegiance to the Democratic Party cannot be forgotten when examining the record of Jim Crow and the suppression of voting rights in the south. History has forgotten the lesson that it was the Democratic Party, which instituted Jim Crow in an attempt to the black man on the plantation. When I drive through the neighborhoods which border mine, some of the most lacking in American, and when I realize the control of the political system and the level of corruption perpetrated by the thugs who run City Hall and the Mayor’s office, I can not help but wonder if that very same party still keeps on the plantation those they pretend to represent and protect.

For these reasons, I cannot accept your nomination of Mayoral candidate for the City of Philadelphia.

[The rest of the text was illegible.]

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Grapple Anyone?

 

Yesterday, I had my very first Grapple. Not surprisingly, it will most likely be my last. I never was much of a fan of grape juice, purple popsicles or anything else containing that vile substance that is "that sweet distinctive flavor of Concord grapes." You know, the taste of better living through chemistry?

Well, whatever it is, you can be sure that the idea of a Grapple came from the best of intentions. Someone once said "Evil can only be done where good intentions rule," or something like that. This is a good example. Want kids to eat more fruit? Make the apple smell like a piece of grape candy! Presto!

Better go and and try one yourself. Be sure to enjoy the Grapple aroma first!

No, Grapples don't smell like grapes. But the scent is nonetheless distinctive.