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Monday Morning Bloggerback
Domestic Spying's Apologists, Dating in Darfur, Dying in Verdun

The week's line-up (click on the link to read it directly):


Domestic Spying: How Bush's Brigades Defend the Indefensible

Self-deception having become a the necessary method of right-wing survivalism, it was bound to be interesting to see how the Bush brigades would react to his decision soon after the 2001 attacks to OK spying on Americans, à-la-Ostdeutschland. Enough to say that most conservatives who live up to the name will be as outraged as anyone that the White House’s East German fetish is more pronounced than originally feared, but that leaves the hard-core believers still looking for ways to counter-spin this latest loop from their Lord and Savior. The response takes various tracks. There’s simply ignoring the story, or blogging after easier targets (the Time Magazine trio-of-the-year cover going to Bono, Gates and Gates, philanthropy’s premier globalist firm, is getting plenty of hits, and heat). There’s the craven track, excusable for a teen-ager, taken by conservative teendom’s Right-on-the-Right, who decides to rerun Bush’s semi-canned speech from Ground Zero as he stood on one ash heap while planning his many more. Then there are the sophists and the apologists. Captain’s Quarters decides domestic spying is no infraction at all, happens all the time, and is just a matter of legal definition of “US Persons,” on whose safe side the Lord and Savior very much is. Between one qualifying “seem” and another “unlikely,” our blogger displays more knowledge about al-Qaida than our fearless intelligence services seem ever to have enjoyed:

Since the targets within the US got identified through intelligence developed through captures of al-Qaeda agents and their equipment, it seems rather unlikely that they had contacts with many US-born American citizens. Most AQ assets enter countries on student visas—which does not qualify them as a US person under FISA and therefore does not extend them the protection of warrants prior to or during surveillance.

Lacking the skill of the apologist or the sophist, Power Line just goes after a third target—the Washington Post’s outrage about the President’s outrageous order—and frosts it with the “we-do-it-all-the-time” argument:

Now the sloganeers at the Post’s editorial department have come up with a new catch-phrase—“spying on Americans.” That is the title of the paper’s lead editorial today. Spying on Americans sounds like a bad thing until one remembers that we do it all the time when we have reason to believe that Americans are engaged in, or assisting with, ordinary criminal activities—ones that pose far less of danger to society than terrorism. We certainly spy on mobsters, and the much maligned Patriot Act is in part just an attempt to permit the government to use techniques we employ against the mob to investigate terror suspects. Read the full post…

We also have this nakedly Orwellian gem from California Yankee, explaining why the last thing we have to worry about al-Qaeda, as opposed to our compatriots within (with neighbors like these, who needs enemies):

I don't find the intelligence gathering program very bothersome. We are at war, even though too many pretend we are not. Additionally, anyone who assumes e-mail or cell phone conversations are private needs a reality check. Read the full Newspeak…

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Taking Shakespeare to the Patriot Act and the NSA

Conservatives (and liberals) would have had an easier time bashing the New York Times, justly, for sitting on the story for a year, allegedly not to endanger national security. The Times falling prey to Nixon’s anti-Pentagon Papers argument? Leave it to Jeremy Abrams, The Bard’s Eyeview, to put a Shakespearean spin on all this, as he does on all matters on our front pages (“Lear, Blair and the Kyoto Treaty,” “Iago and Alito,” “As You Like It and CSI,” etc.) Here’s “Measure for Measure and the Patriot Act”:

In Measure for Measure, the Duke of Vienna, after a period of lax rule leading to a decline in public morals, has handed over authority to the excessively rigid Angelo. But Angelo, though upright in his public demeanor, is secretly lusting after Isabella. With Isabella's brother Claudio in prison under a sentence of death that only Angelo can commute, Angelo has just the leverage he needs to blackmail Isabella into sleeping with him. […] This leads to the famous prison scene of Act III scene II, where Claudio, weakening at the thought of death, beseeches his sister to surrender her virtue in exchange for his life. […] Claudio lays it on thick there for his sister, but then he's motivated. Bardseye's viewers who don't already know can today be informed that the Duke himself was listening in on Isabella and Claudio's family squabble. Mistrustful of Angelo, the Duke in fact never left Vienna. He assumed instead a friar's habit and secretly wandered the backstreets of his own city, learning at first hand the nature of the people he governed. Under the expanded powers of the Patriot Act, the FBI and NSA (National Security Council for our non-American readers) have for the last four years been doing much the same. And in our modern recasting we will have Angelo stand in for an Al Qaida cell member, whose public face of rectitude, like Angelo's, belies his nefarious subterranean plans. Isabella's virtue will stand for something like the Brooklyn or Golden Gate Bridge, or the Sears Tower, or the Statue of Liberty or the White House. Or maybe just a planeload of people. Read the full post…

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Dating in Darfur

On the left bloggers have been unable to contain themselves over this latest bit of business as usual from the Bush White House. But it’s difficult to find more than halting entries of we’re-mad-as-hellism over the administration’s lack of familiarity with political Hellenism. Enough then about the obvious. From the department of upended assumptions comes Sleepless in Sudan, a blog written by a 31-year-old “extremely single” relief worker in Darfur who devotes her latest post to… the utter lack of datable single men out there. Back in October Sleepless was recovering from a month’s fling with “a hero out to save the world,” an experience that taught her how difficult it is to keep track of one’s mate in a place like Darfur. More to the point, it gave us a hilarious list of lovebirds’ favorite no-show excuses, good enough for a Letterman Top-10:

“Sorry, but my tukul (mud hut) was flooded and the satellite phone died.”
“I can’t get there today babe, the UN planes have run out of fuel.”
“I can’t drive to El Fasher today, the wadi (river) is too high to cross and one of ours cars tipped over when we tried yesterday.”
“There are rebels attacking our town, we have to evacuate for a few days to a place south of here.”
“There’s a 24-hr curfew in the city because of the riots.”
“I’ll come see you next week, honey. I’ve just got to pass out food to 50,000 people first.”

This week she was back to despairing over the men-women ratio and cringing over “the ‘Darfur goggles’, a condition we unfortunately seem to develop whereby one’s usual dating standards drop by about a mile and cringe worthy chat-up lines or terrible excuses for not calling somehow become almost cute.” Her use of punctuation lets us know she’s a subject of her Majesty QEII. Beyond that we only know that the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristoff interviewed her and related the substance of his chat in a November 27 column, and that she’s worth a read from the Inferno not only in a M*A*S*H sort of way, but as one of the West’s few vital links with Darfur, a story that makes Iraq seem like the absurd sideshow of political gamesmanship that it is. How else to cope but to laugh? The latest:

The issue of men (and in particular the lack of attractive single ones) continues to be a constant gripe for the women of Darfur. Since my disastrous experience with the self-absorbed aid worker a few months ago, I’ve started to work again on Fridays. I know we’re here to work (and trust us, in the absence of the Friday men, we’re finding it hard to be dragged away from our desks for even a day), but that doesn’t mean we would be adverse to being knocked off our feet by that knight-in-shining-landcruiser. Most of us, alas, have not had the pleasure. What’s worse, the huge number of intelligent, attractive and interesting women in Darfur have tipped the odds so overwhelmingly in favour of the single boys that it seems the few remaining members of the species hardly make an effort to woo us anymore. Read the rest…

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Khartoum Without Blinders

A few days back Sleepless in Sudan tripped it to Khartoum and was impressed by the lavish culinary displays, construction busying city streets, and condoms flopping over store shelves, a post one of the bloggers at ‘Aquoul (the quite interesting multi-authored blog devoted to “reasoned discussion, debate and blithering on about the Middle East, North Africa and to a lesser extent other regions associated with Islam”) found “shallow.” His counterpost, “Observations on Khartoum,” is clearly well sourced, seemingly from personal, and once again British, experience:

Khartoum is a city of extremities. Palatial properties exist alongside shanty towns, the inhabitants of which often provide domestic staff for said properties. […] If the paraphernalia of the massive wealth being accumulated has surfaced in the shape of coffee shops, restaurants and flavoured condoms, then this is hardly something for Khartoum inhabitants to celebrate as the market for these venues consists of those that exist in aforementioned pyramid of influence- bringing to a perfect close the loop of nepotism and corrupt exclusivity. The unbelievable ‘amount of construction’ going on is not infrastructural. While roads, hospitals and public amenities generally continue to go the dogs, hotels, private properties and government ministries are being erected, towering above the dilapidated streets of squalour, child employment and poverty. The government that is allegedly engineering the monstrosities in Darfur is the same one that is annexing the capital city into its very own playground. Those who consider the changing face of the city as a positive thing need to cease separating the obvious victims of the government and the more subtle ones. […] I would expect informed activists in Sudan who see Darfur as something more complicated than a pamphlet implies, to see Khartoum as something more than a postcard advertises. Read the full post…

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Remembering Verdun

From today’s genocides to yesterday’s: It was 89 years ago (December 19, 1916) that the Battle of Verdun came to an end after 10 months, 250,000 deaths and 500,000 wounded. Louis La Vache, a blog “by an American whose mother originated in Normandie,” reminds us:

The battle began on le 21 février 1916 with a nine-hour artillery bombardment firing 1,000,000 shells by 1,200 guns on a front of 40 kilometres, followed by an attack by the 3rd, 7th, and 18th German Army Corps. The Germans used flamethrowers for the first time to clear the French trenches. […]Winston Churchill was among those appalled at the butchery in the trenches of France. He had urged several methods by which the deadly stalemate could be broken. Churchill was the "father" of the tank, but was frustrated that it was not used as effectively as he had envisioned. Two young officers who saw the same potential for the tank as Churchill were the French Charles de Gaulle and the American George Patton. Read the full post…

German artillery left its calling card at the city of Verdun

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St. Louis' Jihadist Cabbie

Umar Lee, “hell-raiser since birth and a Muslim in Jesus Land,” a St. Louis cabbie and perhaps an incubating filmmaker, doesn’t hesitate to call his blog Jihad of Umar then go on a crusade, looking for good-quality, like-taxied bloggers:

[…] there is a shortage of good blogs. I mean, I did a New York search for blogs and all I came out with was a bunch of self-absorbed yuppies complaining about the temperature of their latte and bitchin about the upcoming transit-workers strike that could shut the subway down […] but I ran across a lot of people who complain about cabbies in their blogs and in general have negative attitudes towards taxi drivers. One ridiculous story I found was from a guy who complained that he tried to have a conversation with a Pakistani driver in New York; but the driver didn’t want to talk to him. What did the guy want to talk to the Pakistani driver named Muhammad about? He wanted to discuss the Oscar potential of the gay cowboy flick Brokeback Mountain and now he wonders why the driver didn’t want to talk to him?

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Cingular's Terminator: Can You Hear Her Now?

From the files of consumer reports, here’s the first and last word on Cingular, the company that makes it easy to loathe wireless, by Brooklyn’s always jaggedly funny just anothother girl on the IRT:

Now I have never lusted after a phone before... but I get tingles in my nether regions over this one... So, while strolling down Broadway, I pass by the local Cingular store at the corner of Fulton. A cluster of disinterested fellas in rumpled button downs until I sign my name at the service guestbook. Then I'm greeted with an 800-watt smile. Playing along, I tell them I'm interested in the RAZR. They immediately morph into "the-cat-who-ate-the-canary" predatory stance. Luckily for me, I had brushed up on my fine print reading homework so when they inevitably started trying to blow smoke up my bum, I was more than prepared for the full court press. The phone feels great. Thinner than Lara Flynn Boyle's waistline but sturdy enough to feel solid. The buttons are relatively large which is one of the things I loathed about the V400 from jump - those Scrabble-sized buttons. The screen is to die. It also runs about $300 with taxes, hidden fees and other anal assaults not spelled out in the storefront window. […] While the one sales associate is trying to lock me into this "deal", the other guy is retrieving my account info. "Uh oh." He says. "You're not eligible to upgrade your phone." Say what? Read the full post…

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