Dispatches from Outland
A little song. A little dance. A little seltzer down your pants. Copyright © 2003 Roy M. Jacobsen.

Saturday, February 22, 2003  

Produce Department: Somehow, this is what I expected.

Take the test, by Emily.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 10:22 PM

Wednesday, February 19, 2003  

Appease Porridge Cold Department: Orrin Judd offers this observation on appeasement:

Appeasement wasn't one brief mistaken moment in the 1930s; it's been the strategy of Europe and of American liberals for decades. Perhaps because their political ideology is based on the fundamental goodness and ultimate perfectibility of mankind, they seem to believe that we can change the behavior of the world's worst regime simply by being nice to them. So they (one or the other or both) left the USSR in control of Eastern Europe, so they refused to carry the Korean War to China, so they refused to carry the Vietnam War to even North Vietnam and then undercut the South Vietnamese when it looked like they'd be able to hold out without us, so they countenanced and then defended Castro in Cuba and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and so they fought to preserve the Soviet Union (via detente) rather than confront and finally defeat it. And so, today, they seek to prop up Saddam, and Yassar Arafat, and Assad, and all the rest, rather than face the tragic flaw in their own worldview and accept that evil is real, that it must be dealt with by the good, and that we are justified in judging others to be the former and ourselves to be the latter.

This is something Chuck Colson keeps coming back to as well: It all boils down to worldview. Do you think people are fundamentally good, or do you think that we are fundamentally flawed? If people are fundamentally good, well then the "answer" will be education, or wealth redistribution, or nutrition, or psychology, or the dictatorship of the proletariat, or crystals and drumming, etc. Utopia is within out reach.

However, if people are fundamentally flawed, none of these so-called answers will bring any real benefit unless the gaping wound in our souls is healed. And that healing is out of our hands.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 9:41 AM

"You Got Spunk. I Hate Spunk!" Department: Glenn Reynolds reports on an LA City Council meeting in which Ed Asner made some remarks, and then observes:

Lou Grant is Asner's only claim to fame. I liked Lou Grant. And Lou Grant would never have said any of the dumb stuff that Ed Asner says.

I guess that proves that Asner can act, anyway.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 8:35 AM

Tuesday, February 18, 2003  

That's Just Silly Department: Machine translation (that is, using a computer to translate from one language to another without human intervention) is rife with problems. The silly guys over at Lost In Translation have leveraged the power of Babelfish by having it translate text from English to French to English to German to English to Italian to English to Portuguese to English to Spanish to English. Take, for example, a phrase like "Outland: It's more than a place. It's a state of mind." After babelizing it, it becomes "Outland: It is more of the one than a place. The mental one is one anyone."

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 10:16 AM

What's It All About Alfie Department: OK, so Richard over at theConnexion doesn't think that my comparison of Tony Blair to Margaret Thatcher is complimentary. Fair enough. But then, in the comments, was this:

I think, in a way, the current peace ralleys are already "marches for the victims", because, in a war, even more children would die needlessly.

Aaaaalllrighty, then. That's one perspective. Let's hear from another perspective. For example, Zainab Al-Suwaij is an Iraqi woman who escaped from Iraq following the first gulf war. She says:
Today in the U.S., as I watch soldiers shipping off, I see protesters chanting against American ambition and greed. Having lived through wars that were all about one man's ambition and greed, I am pained to see how these protesters have missed the mark. On behalf of Iraqis who cannot speak openly with reporters or who have given their lives trying to free Iraq from Hussein's brutal rule, let me say clearly: American, British and other allied soldiers are a sign of hope and liberation.

[The full article is here on LATimes.com; requires free registration.]

And then there's Rania Kashi, a student at Cambridge who sent Tony Blair an e-mail that contained this message to the "peace movement:"
Why is it now ? at the very time that the Iraqi people are being given real hope, however slight and however precarious, that they can live in an Iraq that is free of the horrors partly described in this e-mail ? that you deem it appropriate to voice your disillusions with America’s policy in Iraq? Do not use the Iraqi people as a pawn in your game for moral superiority ? when you allow a monster like Saddam to rule for 30 years without so much as protesting against his rule.

Finally (for the moment), we have the story of Kurdish leader Barham Salih. Salih is part of a coalition that is trying to build a democratic state in the north of Iraq. Salih says that we don't have a choice of preventing a war from happening; Saddam has already declared war, in his ethnic cleansing of the Kurds, for example. And what does Salih have to say to those who cry that "It's all about oil!"?
'Iraqis know that their human rights have too often been ignored because Iraqi oil was more important to the world than Iraqi lives. It would be a good irony if at long last oil becomes a cause of our liberation - if this is the case, then so be it. The oil will be a blessing and not the curse that it has been for so long... So to those who say "No War", I say, of course "yes", but we can only have "No War" if there is "No Dictatorship" and "No Genocide".

[Salih's whole speech is available here.]

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 9:11 AM

Monday, February 17, 2003  

I Can't Believe It's Not Thatcher Department: Tony Blair is gaining more and more respect--beyond the respect due to office of the Prime Minister, that is--from me every day. Here's an excerpt from a speech he gave responding to the anti-war (and arguably pro-Saddam) marches this weekend:

There will be no march for the victims of Saddam, no protests about the thousands of children that die needlessly every year under his rule, no righteous anger over the torture chambers which if he is left in power, will be left in being.

I rejoice that we live in a country where peaceful protest is a natural part of our democratic process.

But I ask the marchers to understand this.

I do not seek unpopularity as a badge of honour. But sometimes it is the price of leadership. And the cost of conviction.

But as you watch your TV pictures of the march, ponder this:

If there are 500,000 on that march, that is still less than the number of people whose deaths Saddam has been responsible for.

If there are one million, that is still less than the number of people who died in the wars he started.

The full speech is here. In some ways, the guy reminds me of Margaret Thatcher. (And I mean that as a very high compliment.)

Link via The Corner.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 8:45 AM
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