Monday, February 21, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson: 1937 - 2005

I could not avoid this article:

DENVER (AP) -- Hunter S. Thompson, the acerbic counterculture writer who popularized a new form of fictional journalism in books like "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," fatally shot himself Sunday night at his Aspen-area home, his son said. He was 67.

"Hunter prized his privacy and we ask that his friends and admirers respect that privacy as well as that of his family," Juan Thompson said in a statement released to the Aspen Daily News.

Pitkin County Sheriff officials confirmed to The Associated Press that Thompson had died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Thompson's wife, Anita, was not home at the time.

What can I say? People think of the guns and the drugs, but he was still a true Professional Journalist, and would have wanted to be remembered for this. He wrote for Rolling Stone. He was still writing for ESPN up to the point of his death. He was a man who as eccentric as he was,  knew the difference between Good and Evil, and had no hesitation applying the later to the undeserving. Read his obituary of Richard Nixon to see.

And as for his writing: no sequence of comparative, superlatives and adjectives would do justice to the man. He wrote with Style.

Rest in peace, good Doctor.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

A "Shorter X" post.

"Shorter X" posts are pretty common on blogs. You read someone you don't like, and you want to show your scorn by a dismissive and concise summary. I've resisted them, because most readers don't really care about the identity of X. Often they couldn't care less about the underlying argument either. It also reinforces the self-referencing nature of the blogosphere: blog A says something about blog B which said about blog C... For many, it's irrelevant circle-jerking.

But you know what? I'm going to chuck one on for you. This is by one John Holbo, resident of Singapore, and co-blogger of John and Belle have a Blog. I happen to respect both John and Belle, and I think I will continue to respect them. John wrote a very long post about the Left (however you define it) in America, and the criticism they get from the Right (again, however you define it). If you've got the time and are interested in such topics, read it all; it's worth reading. If not, here's my concise summary:

Shorter John Holbo: the Right (and Glenn Reynolds in particular) display their own hypocrisy in their criticisms of the Left.

(Personally, I've always thought Glenn Reynolds - the "Instapundit" himself - was overrated. His significance appears to derive from being one of the first bloggers rather than the substance of his blogs. I kind of see him like the human appendix - important in the past, but now utterly useless.)

That's really it, for now. I'm pretty busy at the moment, but I'll try to get around to more bread-and-butter issues: the Chicken Flu, local traffic safety (I had a small accident yesterday) and others. Cheers.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Mahjoub and Nutjob

Professional amnesiac Michelle Malkim writes on a Canadian judge's decision to refuse the deportation of one Mohamed Mahjoub - suspected terrorist - to Egypt:

Virtually all Middle Easterners can make plausible-sounding claims that they will be tortured if deported. It is a safe bet that the decision in Mahjoub's case will make Canada an even more attractive destination for terrorists.

Ms. Malkim never asks herself why these claims sound so plausible. Does Maher Arar ring a bell? The Syrian born Canadian who got deported (from the U.S) to a Middle Eastern country (Syria) and tortured? Who was denied legal representation, as he alleged? And who alleged the following things happening in the prisons in that benighted country?

Early the next morning Arar is taken upstairs for intense interrogation. He is beaten on his palms, wrists, lower back and hips with a shredded black electrical cable which is about two inches in diameter. He is threatened with the metal chair, electric shocks, and with the tire, into which prisoners are stuffed, immobilized and beaten.


Throughout this period of intense interrogation Arar was not taken back to his cell, but to a waiting room where he could hear other prisoners being tortured and screaming. One time, he heard them repeatedly slam a man’s head on a desk really hard.

The Maher Arar story was quite famous. Pissed off a whole country, and just next door to the U.S. of A.? How could Mr. Malkim have forgotten about it? And Egypt is just as bad, I hear. From the Catholic New Times (found by a direct link by her article):

During the hearing, Galati addressed the flimsy "assurances" of Jaballah's well-being if deported, noting one "assurance" came from an Egyptian army general, part of an armed force repeatedly condemned for human rights violations. Amnesty International reports that Egyptian nationals deported from Sweden under far more substantial assurances were nonetheless detained, tortured and killed upon their return to Egypt. A pre-removal risk assessment undertaken by the Canadian Immigration Department concluded last August that Jaballah would be "tortured or killed" if returned to Egypt.

 I'm just a blogger. She's an actual journalist. Then what the fuck did she learn in school? I would expect an actual journalist to do her own research, put 2 and 2 together to make 4, trace down leads, and fill in the fucking gaps. Instead, she makes a snide remark about "plausible-sounding claims" without checking whether there is truth behind these allegations. I mean, I've heard of Mr. Arar. I'm surprised she hasn't heard of it. I would have thought "torture" (WOOAH!) would be red meat to any red-blooded journo worth her salt. Get the readers hot and bothered. Nope, not interested.

By the way, the title of Michelle's piece is "Our Friends the Canadians". Can't you feel the love in there, as she drafts yet another "X is soft on terrorism" piece? But perhaps she should consider how friendship can be so easily abused by both sides. The Arar story is still going, but it did result in one controversial Canadian travel advisory:

On October 29, 2002, the Canadian foreign affairs department issued a travel advisory strongly cautioning Canadians born in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya and Sudan against travel to the United States for any reason.

Fair enough, too. They're only protecting their own. You see, Michelle? If you want friendship from the Great White North, you gotta act like friends. A professional journo like you would understand quid pro quo, eh?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Matthew 7:5 and the Iraqi Elections

Why is it that some people will do anything (and I mean anything) to show their moral superiority? I mean, some would even lie, or at least stretch the truth. That doesn't sound too moral to me, but perhaps I'm being naive. Unfortunately, the Iraqi Elections are one of those things that gets out the the wowsers and moralizers in numbers. At this point, I feel I should say what I feel. Here goes:

Firstly, I am pleasantly surprised how well the elections went. 42 dead is not good at all, but I feared a lot, lot worse: serious bombs, serious violence, serious disruption. However, the end result was 8 million voting - or about 60% of the electorate. You can't but helped be moved by stories like this:

In the dirt-poor town of Sumawa, right on Iraq's southern border, a baby was born in a polling station to an expectant mother determined that nothing would stop her from casting a ballot.

In the holy city of Najaf, 80-year-old Mahdeya Saleh, dressed in a black abeya, declared: "I was often forced to vote under Saddam. Today, I come out of my own will to choose freely cast my voted."

And in Baghdad, Samir Hassan refused to let the security ban on private cars stop him from voting, despite losing his leg to a bomb last October. "I would have crawled here if I had to," he said. "I don't want terrorists to kill other Iraqis like they tried to kill me. Today I am voting for peace."

Put it this way: as a person who anticipated one Mofo of a disaster of an election, I cannot be more pleased to say "I wuz wrong". Hey, I'm only human. I make mistakes. Maybe I was too much of a pessimist - I still am. (What if the Shi'ites want the Americans to leave? What if they want to impose their own version of Islamic law?) But can we all agree that these elections - their flaws aside- were good? Well, I hope so. (However, a comments link is provided for the contrarians.)

But for some people, that's not good enough. They want to say "You were wrong!", and not just factually wrong, but morally wrong. They want to take potshots at their chosen ideological opponents. They want the moral high ground. They are devotees of "Conspicuous Indignation", a truly, lovely term coined by Chris Sheil of Back Pages Blog. It is used to describe pundits and pollies getting all hot and bothered about something without actually doing anything effective about it. A good example of this is displayed by Michelle Malkin, where she's attempting to insinuate some "selective ignorance":

With the exception of Sullivan, the top bloggers on the left side of the blogosphere have decided to mark this historic day by hiding under their bedcovers.

As of 1:45pm EST today,...

Crooked Timber is silent on the Iraqi elections...

Kieran of Crooked Timber replied:

I suppose I should have expected the likes of Michelle Malkin to treat the Iraqi elections as an opportunity to take a pot shot at “the Left.” As you know, we on The LeftTM are all for for more death and suffering in Iraq because it improves our case for universal health care and better prescription drug coverage. Like an excited kid on Christmas morning, Malkin wasn’t able to wait all day. She restrained herself till lunchtime (U.S. east coast time) on Sunday before indicting us along with a few other blogs: “Left goes into Hibernation”, “Crooked Timber is Silent on the Iraqi Elections”. Silent, silent, silent. You can practically hear the wind whistling through the trees around here. An excerpt from our non-existent commentary on the election appears on the Op-Ed page of Tuesday’s Dallas Morning News, presumably as a big ole chunk of white space. I suppose we were hibernating, really, as long as you think “Hibernation” means “Doing some other things on Sunday (in our own time zones) before catching up on the news.”

Kids, that's meant to be sarcasm. (That's also the whole post. Short and sweet.)

Now I am aware that Conspicuous Indignation is as old as the hills. But it's been getting really bad lately, and I hate it. Conspicuous indignation seems to be the last resort of any hack with a column to fill, no ideas of their own, and a looming deadline. It's the reason I stop reading newspapers - too many opinion writers nowadays resort to this. Hell, some opinion writers specialize in this. Still, you need to start somewhere, and what better than the blogosphere and the trackback link?

So to Michelle Malkin (if she is reading this), I can only say "Stop it." Your example makes you look like a hypocrite. Or a lazy-fact checker. Or both. Maybe you should be less quick with the denunciations. Or remember Matthew 7:5:

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

The only problem is that she may not be able to stop. Maybe she is one of those empty headed hacks who can only denounce because she's not too good at the fact-checking side, and it is too late for a change of career. In that case, I can do nothing else but pity her.