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Friday: February 24, 2006

Aphorism of the Day

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:55 PM GMT-0500

La civilización es un campamento mal empalizado en medio de tribus insumisas.

Civilization is a poorly-fortified camp surrounded by unpacified tribes.

(Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Escolios a un Texto Implícito, 1.268)

Nomen Omen

Filed under: — site admin @ 9:29 PM GMT-0500

From MSNBC, via The Rat:


Bolivia’s foreign minister says coca leaves, the raw material for cocaine, are so nutritious they should be included on school breakfast menus.

‘Coca has more calcium than milk. It should be part of the school breakfast,’ Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca was quoted as saying in Friday’s edition of La Razon . . .

My title refers not to The Rat herself — her name is more of a lucus a non lucendo — but to Señor Choquehuanca. I can’t help noting that his last name is pronounced Choke-a-Wank-a. Of course it would be easier to restrain myself from noting this if he weren’t such an obvious cretin.

Pseudo-Troll vs. Genuine Oaf

Filed under: — site admin @ 7:27 PM GMT-0500

How hard is it to get a critical comment onto Juan Cole’s Informed Comment? Pretty hard, if this one (on this post) doesn’t pass muster:

Would you please stop writing things like “guerrillas set up a phony checkpoint and pulled 47 largely Shiite factory workers off a bus and summarily executed them”. Change “guerrillas” to “terrorists” and “summarily executed” to “murdered”, and your statement is unexceptionable. As written it is simply false.

Guerrilla is a legitimate occupation, protected by the Geneva Conventions, and these murderers may act as guerrillas on other days, attacking legitimate military targets, but in this instance they were acting as simple terrorists. (Lt. Calley was a legitimate soldier through most of his military career, but on at least one day at My Lai he was a mass-murdering terrorist. These guys are exactly the same.) I hope I don’t have to explain why killing innocent people is murder, not ‘execution’.

It’s been almost nine hours since I submitted this, and ten other comments on the same post have been approved in that time, but mine has yet to appear. Cole’s comment page says that he “does not allow anonymous comments”, but mine is pseudonymous rather than anonymous, and he has approved comments from “Clive of the Islands”, “The Diarist”, “presstech”, “copy editor”, and plenty of others just as pseudonymous as I. Perhaps I should have addressed mine to “Professor Cole” with a deep virtual bow and then done a little preliminary sucking-up before getting to the point. Or perhaps Cole should stop being such an intellectual oaf, admit it when he’s wrong, and try not to make the same mistake over and over again. Though common, that kind of arrogance is particularly unfortunate in someone who professes to be a teacher and a scholar.

Misplaced Snark

Filed under: — site admin @ 6:25 PM GMT-0500

Jessica Wilson, one of Brian Leiter’s subaltern posters, writes about Abu Ghraib:

“Specialist” Charles Graner was sentenced to a mere 10 years; Pvt. Lynndie England just 3 years; involved higher-ups, Singh notes, have frequently been promoted.

I put off commenting on this, thinking that one of her academic friends would clue her in, but a week has passed and no one has. A simple question: why the quotation marks around “specialist”? It’s an ordinary enlisted rank (E-4), the same as a corporal (also E-4), or a bit lower, as a simple Google search will show. Here is the official list of enlisted ranks, with a note near the top that corporals take precedence over specialists. A private like England is an E-2, and the only thing lower is someone still in boot camp.

To return to “specialist”, is Wilson trying to make some kind of joke? For a sophomoric play on words, you would surely need to bring in a “general” to balance the “specialist”. There’s one available, Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was in command of all prisons in Iraq until she was demoted to colonel for not preventing the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Of course, mentioning her would rather wreck the point about higher-ups being promoted. So what is the point of the quotation marks around “specialist”? Has life in academia inclined Wilson to add “sneer quotes” (note the illustrative punctuation) even where they are inappropriate and inane, or can someone come up with a better explanation of what they are supposed to mean here?

Interesting Absences

Filed under: — site admin @ 5:29 PM GMT-0500

As most of my readers already know, Christopher Hitchens organized a demonstration of support in front of the Danish Embassy in Washington at noon today. I wish I could have been there, waving a block of Danish Esrom (like Havarti, but more pungent, and better). InstaPundit reports that Bill Kristol, Andrew Sullivan, and roughly 200 other people turned out, and provides pictures. I was glad to see on some site or other that at least one of the scholars at the Center for Hellenic Studies, right next door to the embassy, came out and joined the demonstration.

What I find disappointing, though not surprising, is who didn’t show up. Whitehaven Street is only a block long. (I’ve been there many times.) The most famous residents are Bill and Hillary Clinton. I have never been able to determine which of the eight or ten houses on the street is theirs: the Secret Service does a good job of keeping the number off the web, and their own selves invisible. But it does look a lot like the one in InstaPundit’s first picture. Here’s a picture of the Clinton house last fall for comparison: the porch roof is a different shape, but the rest is a close match, and they have been doing a lot of remodeling. It’s possible that the dumptruck in InstaPundit’s second picture belongs to a Clinton contractor. Even if the Clinton house is not the one in the picture, it can’t be more than a block away.

Hillary’s official website mentions that she was in town yesterday, interrogating “representatives from departments and agencies” for the Senate Armed Services Committee. I have been unable to determine whether Bill is in D.C., New York, Little Rock, or somewhere else. [See Update below.] Of course, she may have had unavoidable Senatorial duties to attend today, and he may be out of town, but perhaps someone should ask them at their next press conferences why they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, come to the demonstration.

To make my disappointment bipartisan, I should note that the grounds of the Naval Observatory nearly touch Whitehaven Street very near the Danish Embassy. It would have been nice if the Vice President or his wife or both had climbed their back fence and joined the demonstration. Of course, I didn’t even bother to try to find out whether Cheney’s undisclosed location of the day was at home. And I don’t think that members of the executive branch are quite so free as senators to express their opinions on international affairs without going through the State Department.

So, did anyone at the rally notice any Secret Service men hanging around? If so, were they Cheney men or Clinton men, or could you tell? VodkaPundit reports that there were only three D.C. cops at the rally.

Update: (2/25, 1:00am)

According to the second comment, Bill Clinton is in New Zealand. I’ll call that an excused absence.