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Sunday: August 29, 2010


Filed under: — site admin @ 1:50 PM GMT-0500

Phyllis Chesler’s latest column is titled “Islamist Agressors are Really the Victims” (in their own minds, of course). That reminded me of a newspaper story I hadn’t thought of in years, about something that happened in San Francisco around 1980. As I recall, it went something like this:

A man and a woman, strangers to each other, are riding an elevator. She lights a cigarette. He tells her, quite rightly, “Smoking in elevators is illegal”. She says “Fuck you”. He then pulls a knife and stabs her. As she is being taken away in an ambulance with a serious chest wound, he is led away in handcuffs, shouting “They’re treating her as if she were the victim, when in fact I was the victim! She had no right to smoke in that elevator!”.

Friday: August 27, 2010

Dubious Oracle

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:06 PM GMT-0500

The first time I heard the Waco Brothers’ song “The Wickedest City in the World”, I was surprised to hear that the city was Chicago. Not that I had a specific alternative candidate in mind – I just thought that Chicago, while definitely in the Top Ten of wicked cities, was surely not Number One, even among American cities. Lately, I’ve come to realize the Waco Brothers were right, at least on this point.

However, I cannot recommend the song without reserve, because it also contains these lyrics:

I am just a hog,
falling off a log.
Vote for me, or I will kill your dog.

Those may not be the worst lyrics ever written, or even the worst lyrics on my iTunes, but they’re definitely among the Top Ten in that category. (Really bad lyrics usually keep a song entirely out of my music collection.)

Thursday: August 26, 2010

False Dichotomy?

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:29 PM GMT-0500

Megan McArdle writes:

The economy is at best heading into a soft patch; at worst it is going into the second dip of a double-dip recession.

This is not the worst possibility, rather the middle one of three. McArdle’s dichotomy should be a trichthotomy, split three ways (not a ‘trichotomy’: that would be the act of splitting hairs). As some of her commenters point out, we may be well on our way into a full-scale depression. I have seen no sign of bottoming out, much less recovery, either temporary (in a double dip) or permanent. To put it another way, she and others have wondered whether this recession will be V-shaped (short and sharp, which is good), U-shaped (protracted, and not-so-good), or W-shaped (double-dip, even worse). There are other letters in the alphabet, and other characters in the HTML character set. Rather than one of these:

V – U – W

I wonder whether we might be looking at a drop to a permanently lower level, with no recovery:


or perhaps a continuous downhill slide:


or perhaps a steep drop with no visible bottom:

As with ice cream, a double dip is a pleasant prospect, compared to many of the alternatives.

Tuesday: August 24, 2010

The 9 Types of College Teachers

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:37 PM GMT-0500

There are more than nine, but this School is Hell cartoon covers the most important ones (þ Colby Cosh). I link it here partly for you, dear readers, partly so I can find it again myself, since Cosh’s twittery link is evanescent. The fifth and seventh types seem to overlap a bit.

Tuesday: August 3, 2010

Psycho-Logical Warfare

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:19 PM GMT-0500

Long War Journal reports that Al Qaeda’s Brigade 13 has established a website. I assume the NSA, CIA, DIA, and other organizations unknown to the general public are already competing to see who will be the first to hack into it and find ways to acquire (or insert) damaging information, but there’s another approach worth trying, which they may or may not have thought of. When you misspell the name of a very popular website, or type “.com” when it’s actually an .org or .net or .gov site, you often find yourself at a site run by parasites who will try to sell you porn or something. Why not do something similar with the Al Qaeda 13 site?

I don’t know what the common spelling errors of Arabic-speakers are, but it would be useful if someone hostile to Al Qaeda bought up all the domains likely to be visited by clumsy-fingered fans of Al Qaeda. What should be done with those domains? I can think of more than one possibility:

  1. Porn sites featuring Osama Bin Laden and partners of both genders, all ages, and more than one species, are one obvious possibility, but unsubtle.
  2. Straightforward argument might work in some cases. If thousands of alcoholics were looking for name-brand liquor sites on the web, some percentage would misspell the names. (Being alcoholics, this would be a fairly high percentage.) If those who did so found themselves at Alcoholics Anonymous websites, some (much smaller) percentage would no doubt stick around to read the message and some (even smaller) percentage might take it to heart and stop drinking, or try to. Something similar might be worth trying with Brigade 13.
  3. As a variation on the preceding, it might be more effective to provide a site that looks like the real site, but will gradually lead the unwary user to pages more and more likely to make him doubt the competence, the courage, the piety, and even the sanity of Brigade 13 and its leaders.
  4. Best of all, if it can be done, would be a site identical to the Al Qaeda Brigade 13 site, except that it has some carefully-hidden methods to track visitors and see who they are, who they know, and where else they go. I’m not sure how much information a site can get from its visitors, though I am sure that it partly depends on how much information they are willing to give. Even stealing the credit card numbers of Al Qaeda supporters could be considered a good thing. Does the real site sell T-shirts? I don’t read Arabic, Al Qaeda gives me the creeps, and I don’t want to be on some CIA list, so I haven’t gone to look at it. Perhaps Julian Assange would be willing to post stolen terror-fan credit-card numbers on WikiLeaks.
  5. Once the operators of the real site figure out what’s going on and warn their visitors, the game gets really interesting. The fake sites could all claim to be the real site and warn visitors away from the real site and all the other fake sites, pointing out all the little details that make each of the others an obvious CIA plant, while tooting their own horns and causing confusion and doubts among the faithful. Having the most idiomatic Arabic insults and obscenities would count for a lot. Do our intelligence services have linguists who can handle this?