Friday, March 29, 2002

The Columnists' Poker Game

For the last couple of months, I've been ruminating on which columnists taken together would make for a great poker game. The first two seats at the table are already occupied:

  • Mark Steyn* got the first seat. If you don't know why, go and read any of his columns. I first read Steyn back in November, and had to examine that website very carefully indeed to convince myself that, yes, this guy was being published in a Canadian newspaper.** If you don't know why I had to do that, you haven't read a lot of Canadian newspapers.

  • Michael Kelly is what Wednesday mornings were invented for (that, and checking the cheap airfares on My first exposure to Kelly was this column , but you can link in to a whole list of his columns by clicking on his name at the start of this paragraph: I ain't found a dog in the bunch.

    "All well and good", you say, "but that's not much of a game." Too true; if Steyn's playing with Canadian dollars, he's already at a huge disadvantage.

    So --- who else?

    Well, as of today I'm leaning pretty strongly towards National Review's Victor Davis Hanson, on the strength of his "Postmodern Palestine" column, and not just because he's beautifully articulated things that I constantly mutter under my breath. No, it's also because every poker game needs a Herodotus-quoting guy who looks like Charlton Heston.

    Before anyone asks --- no, Jonah can't play. The divine Mr. G is doubtless a gentleman and a scholar, and in fact, is just the sort of guy I'd want to play poker with. Why? Because he will come to the table with his ideas about how to play poker fixed in his mind, and he will stand by his guns come hell or high water --- or rather, until his money's gone. Steyn, Kelly, and Hanson would clean him out in about twenty minutes, and he'd spend the rest of the night sulking and trying to get someone to lend him a c-note to get back in the game, because just a few more hands would prove his theory***. So --- no, Jonah stays at the children's table until he learns realpokertik.

    So that's three so far. The only other person I'd add to the scenario just now is someone to fetch sandwiches and take the empties away; the Theotard or Robert Fisk come to mind. Michael Moore would be on the list, but you just know the sandwiches would never make it to the table. Fisk is looking pretty good for this spot, 'cause it's gotta be someone who can take some damage; I anticipate a poker game much like the one in "Goodfellas", where the sandwich-bringing-guy gets shot at pretty regularly, and Fisk can probably take a bullet in any non-essential location (which is to say "anything north of the cerebellum") and still work in his chosen profession.

    So that's the poker game so far. I'd happily entertain further nominations at Till then, never draw to an inside straight.

    * If the link is broken, just go to and click through "Commentary" and "Columnists" till you find him.

    ** In fact, I checked the website two or three times, virus-checked my computer, called some friends to see if this was some kind of sick joke, checked my DSL cable for suspicious breaks in the insulation, called the Psychic Friends Network, forced my ISP to bring a new DSL modem out, angrily denounced the industrial-military complex, chanted "The power of Christ compels you", and boycotted Nestle. Only then did I believe.

    *** Which amounts to "Germans love David Hasselhoff."

  • Operation Human Shield

    From the Washington Post: Foreigners Flock to Aid Palestinians.

    About 600 activists, most of them European members of the Public International Protection group, arrived in Ramallah for 10-day stays with local families. The town is Yasser Arafat's West Bank headquarters.

    What's wrong with this picture?

  • How the hell did they get there so fast?

    Last time I checked, international travel didn't really cater to the spontaneity-minded public nuisance... you need to arrange visas and buy tickets and pack and all that good stuff. It's been, what, 40 hours since the Netanya attack and these guys are already on the scene? Do they keep a bag packed with ten day's worth of clothes and a Pete Seeger cassette? Did they jump into a yellow school bus and sing "99 bottles of culturally neutral beverage on the wall, 99 bottles of culturally neutral beverage" while driving across several less-than-stable-and-not-awfully-fond-of-pale-folk countries?

  • How did they get to Ramallah?

    Aren't the airports around there closed? Did these yo-yos fly into Israel and somehow manage to convince the Israelis that they were 600 unkempt Shriners and not the political equivalent of soccer hooligans?

  • What prompted them to go now?

    Did their primitive lizard brains independently reach the same dim understanding that has prompted Arafat's frantic posturing: that, on the night of the Passover, the Rubicon was crossed? Did a mysterious telephone caller say, "The fat man is on a booksigning tour", which is the P.I.P. secret code signal to grab your sanctimony and hit the road?

  • Don't these people have jobs?

    If they don't, who the hell paid for their airfare --- 'cause baby, last-minute airfare is not cheap. If they do --- daaaayim, nice work if you can get it. I can just imagine the response I'd get if I sent this email to my overseer:

    Hi Mike:

    Won't be in tomorrow or the following nine days: had to rush off to faraway lands, fight the powers that be, and stick it to the man. Please water the philodendron on my desk every other day.

    -- Steve

  • Where'd the ten day limit come from?

    "Ah, you know those Jews. Can't stay mad longer than ten days. Hey Mohammed, can you ululate a little more quietly? I'm trying to listen to my Pete Seeger tape."

  • Did they sing annoying protest songs enroute?

    Pity the poor flight crew who had to listen to four hundred choruses of "We Shall Overcome".

  • Where are the P.I.Ps for Israel?

    Where are the activists moving into Jewish discos, delis, and hotels, and declaring, "I'm here to tell the Palestinian terrorists and to tell my government that the source of terror and violence is the Palestinian intifada"? Maybe they were dissuaded by the signs outside of many Israeli gathering spots: "No shoes? No shirt? Smelly asshole in birkenstocks? No service!"
  • Thursday, March 28, 2002

    Which One Is It, Yasser?

    Reuters and the Associated Press are reporting that Yasser Arafat will agree to an ‘immediate cease-fire’.

    Wait a moment here...I thought Arafat wasn't in control of the bombers? Didn't he already condemn just about every bombing? Hasn't the Palestinian Authority said that the recent Israeli attacks on their infrastructure have made it impossible for them to control their territory?

    So how can Arafat ensure a cease-fire?

    Unless, of course, this is just more of the same game that he has been playing for decades, in which he distances himself from terrorist attacks in English, and calls for more of them in Arabic. When called on the carpet, he says, "Hey, I TOLD them not to do it! It's not my fault!" And people believe him, again. An Arafat 'cease-fire' should be seen for what it is - a shrewd attempt to make himself look like an appeaser and statesman while his troops regroup, rebuild, and plan an even more devastating series of attacks.

    This is the way I see it: If Arafat has the power to call a cease-fire today, then he had the power to call one a month ago, or six months ago, and has been lying through his teeth the whole time. If he had that power and chose not to use it, then he is responsible for those deaths and must be held accountable. If he's not capable of calling for this cease-fire, then why in hell are we paying any attention to him? Alec Baldwin might as well announce a cease-fire, for all the good it will do.

    But you know the old saying in U.S. diplomatic circles: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 64 times, shame on me. But hey, try it a 65th time, and we're ready to believe you!"

    Wednesday, March 27, 2002

    Vodkapundit Blows a Gasket

    ...And I can't blame him. The Palestinian terrorists continue to reach new heights of depravity and inhumanity, while the world yawns and Israel fights for its existence. Today the terrorists killed 16 innocent people and wounded over 100, and were caught trying to smuggle explosives into Israel in an ambulance, strapped under the stretcher of a sick little girl.

    What should worry the Palestinians is that if VodkaPundit can write this, imagine how the people in Israel who are currently under siege must feel.

    There comes a point in even the most civilized of nations in which the citizens finally break and begin to contemplate incredibly violent retribution against injustice. Israel is reaching that point. God help the Palestinians if they don't learn this, and very quickly.

    In the wake of this weekend's revelations regarding ties between Yasser Arafat and Iran, many still remain unconvinced of any wrongdoing or bad faith on Arafat's part. A selection of quotes from various influential sources:

  • Yasser swears they're only friends, and he's never lied before. - Noam Chomsky
  • We surrender. Please stop shooting. - Le Monde
  • This is my fault, all my fault. If anyone needs a beating, it's me. - Robert Fisk
  • I'll have two fried chicken platters and a side of chili cheese fries. - Michael Moore

    Arafat himself, in sworn testimony, declared "I did not have improper relations with that nation."

    However, Happy Fun Pundit has uncovered a document that proves, really, finally, and conclusively, beyond a shadow of a doubt, indisputably, that Arafat is Iran's bitch. Nobody can argue with this kind of proof, eh? Eh?

  • Obviously a Jew forgery. - The Arab Street
  • Can I get a fried egg and bacon sandwich with that? - Michael Moore
  • One man's terrorism is another man's euphemism for "bookkeeping" - Reuters

    Next on Happy Fun Pundit: grainy film proving that Bigfoot and Yasser Arafat killed Laura Palmer. Don't ya dare miss it!
  • Forever Beyond the Fringe

    Dudley Moore has left us. RIP, Dud.

    Tuesday, March 26, 2002

    Designated Whiners On Ground In Afghanistan

    Reacting to charges that soldiers are "taking too much pride in their work" and being "vain and boastful" about the number of enemies killed, military authorities in the US and Canada have revealed the existence of special units, known as Combat Infantry (Loathing, Self) Joint Operation Yunits, on the ground in Afghanistan. These groups move throughout combat zones and take the mickey out of any combat teams that are maybe getting just a little too full of themselves. Following is a transcript of video footage released by the Pentagon showed some CILSJOY ops after the fighting at Tora Bora.

    A SOLDIER is moving through a bunch of bodies scattered on the ground, checking them for weapons or papers. Finding a package of cigarettes on one corpse, he mutters to himself.

    SOLDIER: That's one way to stop smoking, Achmed.

    A CILSJOY trooper carrying a shovel appears from nearby bushes.

    CILSJOY: Oh, that's funny. I bet his family would think that's hysterical.

    SOLDIER: Say what?

    CILSJOY: You're so proud of yourself, aren't you? Coming in here with your night vision and your precision munitions and (he makes "quotation fingers") "taking out" these poor idiots. Yeah, you're a real big man.

    SOLDIER: Hey, thirty of these yahoos had three of us pinned down for three hours. You think that's a fair fight?

    CILSJOY: And I suppose you're going to stick around and clean up this mess? HAH!

    SOLDIER: What's your problem, man?

    CILSJOY: (pointing at one of the bodies) This kid can't be more than fifteen. You real proud of yourself for shooting kids?

    SOLDIER: (taken aback) No, but we had no way of knowing... he was shooting at us... what the hell were we supposed to do?

    CILSJOY: Oh, that your answer for everything, isn't it? Bang, bang, shoot shoot... problem solved, highfives all around, look at me, I'm a hero!

    SOLDIER: Well, now, wait a minute...they were ---

    CILSJOY: Let me guess. It was THEIR fault, right? THEY started it. You were just sitting here with guns thousand of miles from America, and out of nowhere these awful men were shooting at you, and you had no choice.

    SOLDIER: Well... yes.

    CILSJOY: Let me tell you something, young man. It's a lot hard to bring new life into this world than it is to snuff it out with a rifle. A hell of a lot harder. You just think about that next time you're out here playing cops and robbers.

    SOLDIER: But ---

    CILSJOY: When's the last time you called your mother and thanked her for feeding your ungrateful mouth for eighteen years?

    SOLDIER: I feel bad and funny inside.

    CILSJOY: I should hope so. You just sit down there and think about what you've done, young man, and don't you move until you're ready to say you're sorry.

    Information about the CILSJOY units is shrouded in secrecy, but rumours indicate that they are trained in a hidden base in South Florida by a crack team of Jewish and Catholic mothers. A press briefing was held by one of the CILSJOY commanders, but received almost no media coverage because members of the press corp were too weepy and depressed afterwards.

    Afterward: But really. Once politics has failed and shooting has started, the time for half-measures is over. The goal then is to kill people and break things as quickly and efficiently as possible, which calls for a highly-trained, high-morale force doing what it's trained to do, which is not ruminating on the fragility of human life or hugging a child with nuclear arms. It's a terrible thing that people have to die, but when it becomes inevitable, then do it as best you can. To do otherwise is to prolong the conflict, create unnecessary risk, and quite possibly end up with more bodies, albeit ones brought to that mortal state with less jubilation.
    Damian Takes Flak

    Damian Penny gets in hot water from his readers from this post in which he repeats the same article describing Canada's kill ratio in Afghanistan that I referenced a couple of days ago.

    One of the readers in particular took issue with his pleasure in seeing how good Canadians are at killing people. The attitude seems to be that war may be necessary, but killing a human being is nothing to take pleasure in. More troubling, one American reader attacked Damian with that old, 'You Canadians are nothing without us, you suck' rhetoric.

    Well, let me just add my voice to Damian's. War is ugly, and it's the last thing you want to have to do. But sometimes it is necessary, and when it is, you want to be the best at it. There's absolutely nothing wrong with having pride in your soldier's ability to kill people and break things, if they are doing so for a just cause.

    Aircrews cheerfully write notes on their bombs to the people they are about to obliterate. Submariners make jokes like, "There are only two kinds of naval vessels - submarines, and targets". Yes, they are joking about an activity which involves killing thousands of people.

    This is part of the esprit de corps of a good military - if soldiers spent all their time navel-gazing over the philosophical ramifications of each pull of the trigger, they'd be useless. Or French. Or both.

    In wartime, this martial spirit filters into the citizenry. And there's nothing wrong with that. Pride in how well your troops kill the enemy is a healthy reaction to a just war. When it's lacking, you wind up with debacles like Vietnam in which the soldiers are continually hamstrung in their ability to operate by waffling politicians who are in turn controlled by a conflicted electorate.

    Now for the back-patting part: Canada has a reputation for being a peaceful, non-agressive nation. Lots of jokes are made about the relative size of our military. But this masks the fact that Canadian warriors are among the best in the world. Canada trains with the United States constantly, and competes with them in international military competitions. And quite often, Canada simply kicks ass.

    In the "William Tell" international fighter competitions, for example, Canada routinely finishes at or near the top. At the last William Tell in '96, Canada sent one fighter team to compete against 11 others. With their one team, Canada finished first in an astounding six of 11 competitions, and placed in the top three in four of the others, giving them the overall championship. At William Tell '94, there were eight teams from the USAF, and one team from Canada. Canada finished second overall, and placed first in their element. And a Canadian pilot took home the 'Top Shooter' award.

    Part of the difference is budget - Canada cannot afford a large ground-force military, so it has to get more bang for its buck. As a result, its regular army troops are trained more like special forces than infantry. And in cold environments like the mountains of Afghanistan, Canadian troops have a natural advantage in that they train in cold weather nine months of the year. In the case of fighter pilots, Canada can afford to be more picky and choose only the absolute best of the best, because we have so few fighters to put them in in the first place.

    But mostly, Canada's soldiers train interchangeably with Americans and participate in so many joint exercises that the difference between them comes down to a unit-by-unit comparison and not an overall quality advantage for one over the other. For instance, the Canadian team from William Tell '94 is part of a joint Canadian/American NORAD squadron that is so closely integrated that they flew both flags together and the Americans and Canadians cheered each other on as if they were part of one team.

    And you know what? We are.

    Monday, March 25, 2002

    Grabbin' the Ball and Runnin' With it

    Carrying on where Andrea Harris left off with her Berkeley Hippies (as opposed to Beverly Hillibillies) theme song:

    Well, the next thing you know our Star's an activist
    Spends each day either tripping, stoned, or pissed
    Till she's diagnosed with a sociable disease,
    Of course she must've caught it from a coffee cup sleeve!
    (That's what she told her boyfriend, anyhow... lesions, burnings sensations...)

    Baffled? Get the backstory from Andrea's blog, or here.
    What's Wrong With The Academy Awards?

    There has been much written today about various problems with last night's awards, such as "In The Bedroom" being shut out, "Lord of the Rings" only winning a few technical awards, having to look at Whoopi Goldberg for four and a half hours, etc.

    But most of the pundits are missing the real problem with the awards, which is that THEY ARE GIVEN OUT TO FREAKING MOVIE PEOPLE! It's like God himself came down and said, "You know what the problem is with movie people? Their egos just aren't big enough. How can we create a gigantic televised cluster jerk that will ensure that these clowns make even more outrageous demands and drag around even larger entourages of sycophants and losers? Because if there is one thing I can't stand, it's a humble Hollywood star."

    If there was justice in the world, this is the type of awards show we'd be watching:

    Live, from the Lockheed Skunk Works in the beautiful godforsaken desert outside Palmdale California, it's the 40th annual Skunky awards! Brought to you by Heineken Beer, because if it's got to be skunky, it's got to be Heineken!

    I'm your host, Harrison Ford. And tonight, we will be honoring the best in the engineering world. As you all know, the "Skunky" is named after the famed Lockheed Skunk Works, greatly admired for its ability to do cutting-edge engineering on time and on budget. Let's get right to the show!

    Tonight's first award is for outstanding achievement in metallurgy....

    You get the idea. Of course, such a show would probably have an audience roughly the size of the engineering faculty at Caltech, but I can dream, can't I?

    Sunday, March 24, 2002

    Cuban Occupation Continues

    After his huffy departure from a U.N. Aid Summit in Mexico, Cuban strongman Fidel Castro has locked himself in the bathroom and refused to come out until George Bush says he's sorry for the way he's treated Fidel. Top aides say that the dictator, famous for making fiery speeches and acting like an adolescent girl, has been in the bathroom for 36 hours, alternately weeping and making defiant speeches:

    "You tell Bush that he can show up at any conference I'm at, it's not like we're going out or anything, it doesn't bother me at all! You tell him, you tell the bastard wooo hooo hoooo wWWWWAAAAAAAAAHHHH!"

    Eyewitnesses say that Castro failed to respond to gentle reminders that other people needed to use the bathroom, or that he should phone Bush, or possibly leave a note in his locker explaining his feelings. Less sympathetic observers have smirkingly reported that Castro "sounds like Lucille Ball when he starts crying... waaah waaAHHH RIIIICKY, you know what I mean?"

    Observers fear that introduction of coffee, beer may destabilize situation

    Meanwhile, international observers fear the situation may become unstable after everybody's had a couple of beers: Mrs. Castro has made it clear that taking a whiz in the El Presidential rosebushes is NOT an option.

    Afterword: Any resemblance between the characters and situations described herein and any persons living or dead, particularly a nutty ex-girlfriend of Dan's, is pretty funny, now that you mention it.
    Bush Sense of Humor Alert

    Today at a press conference in El Salvador, a U.S. reporter chose this occasion to ask yet another question about U.S. campaign finance reform. A silly question to ask at a foreign press conference. This is what the exhange looked like:

    Moron Reporter: Mr. President, given what you have said in the past about campaign finance reform, how will you sign this bill?

    President Bush: Well, I've got a pretty firm signature, and I plan to start from the left and work my way towards the right side of the page ... (additional material deleted where he actually answers the question) ... So in summation, I would say that I'll start signing firmly, and it will take me about three seconds to get to the 'W'. But then I'll just rip right through the 'Bush' part.

    I'm no fan of campaign finance reform, but man it's nice to see a guy willing to crack jokes like that when the silliness of the question warrants it.