Tuesday, March 26, 2002

I'm off for a few days, for a deserved and awaited vacation. Be seeing you.

Monday, March 25, 2002

The position as the Norwegian Ombudsman for Gender Equality have been held by a woman for 20 years, although a job ad stating such a requirement would be too obviously hypocritical even by government standards. His/Her task is essentially to look for areas in which men and women come off better than each other, and then look for ways to put it right again. No difference is too small, no solution too big. If possible, a public debate should be started as well, at which the ombudsman has a record of success. After all, if you can't trust a state-sanctioned expert on equality to know sexism when he/she sees it, who can you trust? Among many examples of curious reasoning to be found on his/her website, is the case of a female economist who launched a complaint because she made less money than her two male colleagues. The Ombudsman for Gender Equality, (I'll just call him/her the Sex Czar for short - it's better than Gender Czar, and will give my website extra hits), placed the burden of proof onto the accused. The company the woman worked for failed to justify that the wage difference was not the result of discrimination - and therefore it obviously were, so the Sex Czar ordered a raise. (You'll be glad to know that the efforts of this ingenious employee were ultimately not rewarded.)

And then there's the recent recommendation to make illegal toy ads referring to boys as "tough", - in accordance, apparently, with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, (I leave finding a short name for that an excersise to the reader).

So while I am slightly curious to know what's on the curriculum in Muslim private schools, I'm not filled with enthusiasm to hear that the Sex Czar have taken the case. Here are the criteria by which he/she will judge the level of gender equality taught in Muslim private schools - and I really do think he/she is going to actually count the male/female ratio of every illustration in every schoolbook he/she can get hold of:

The demand that learning material shall build on gender equality means that one gender must not be spoken of in a demeaning way. For instance, women must not be one-sidedly presented as dumb, or men as violent. It is important that persons represented in text or illustration is more or less evenly divided between the genders, and that the textbooks displays a variety of work activity for both genders. The learning aids must not present a one-sided or discriminatory picture of labor division between woman and man in home, work and society.

Not one to be accused of religious discrimination, the Sex Czar have already studied the Accelerated Christian Education material used in several private schools, and found that it violated the European Convention on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. You won't find me praising a school that throws around silly statements like "the man should be the head of the family", but aren't there more pressing issues to investigate than how people organize their relationships? An agency that has the power to ban curriculums that are at worst only slightly harmful scares me more than some religious movement clinging to the dream of a patriarchal golden age. People who have grown up in a religious (or Steiner) school may be sent out into life with some strange ideas in their heads, but who's to say they'd be better off in the public school lottery? At least in a private school the teachers are paid to care, - and they're not necessarily managed by obsessive-compulsive egalitarians.

(Note: Many links in the above entry are to Norwegian websites. If you have already clicked on a link, and found it incomprehensible, I apologize. Send me a mail, and I'll give you a refund. If I refuse, I'm sure you'll find some ombudsman who's willing to listen. Social democracy - because life is fair.)

Thursday, March 21, 2002

There's something seriously wrong with the price level in ones country when Sweden is considered a consumer paradise by comparison. And there's something even worse with the attitude of politicians when they look with contempt on those who naturally take advantage of the price difference, rather than ask how the difference got there in the first place. The $850 million "border leak" from Norway to Sweden is ruining the local economy, apparently. I should know, I lived in border town Halden for years, where consumer pilgrimage to Svinesund is a tradition, and the local merchants through no fault of their own lose substantial amounts of money each year. The fault lies with politicians who feel a greater obligation to our illusionary status as a nation of farmers than to the actual people, which long ago discovered that there are many things we're much better at than farming. Politicians like Lars Sponheim, who adds to the insult by being an elitist:

While Harry has been popularised as a name in some countries, partly thanks to literary wizard Harry Potter and the UK's Royal Prince Harry, it is a term of insult in some Scandinavian countries. Norway's agriculture minister attempted to shame people into not shopping in cheaper, neighbouring Sweden by calling those who did 'Harrys' -- which conjures up images of furry dice in cars and overweight men in cowboy boots standing by caravans.

I don't know enough english jargon to translate 'Harry', but it's the Norwegian form of a slur that seems to exist in most languages, a public standard of cheerful vulgarity that most people define themselves against. To worry about price is vulgar, apparently. Buy what your betters tell you to buy, and never mind all that cheap food across the border, it's clearly not up to our standards of quality. Why else would it be so cheap? (And don't get me started on alcohol, sold my a state monopoly, overtaxed for our own good by socialist puritans. What to buy on this months salary, a new computer or a bottle of whisky?)

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Bhutto to Musharraf: We'd like to have democracy back now, please.

Here's a question I haven't seen discussed much: How would a democratically elected Pakistani government, led by for instance Nawaz Sharif, have responded to the war in Afghanistan?

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Speaking of non-violent resistance, here's an article by Tariq Shadid in the Palestine Chronicle, which claims that Palestinian terrorism is sanctioned by Gandhi:

"I wish they (the Arabs) had chosen the way of non-violence in resisting what they rightly regarded as an unwarrantable encroachment upon their country. But according to the accepted canons of right and wrong, nothing can be said against the Arab resistance in the face of overwhelming odds."

The words of respectable dead people can, admittably, be quoted safely in any context you like, because they're not likely to complain about it, but enlisting Gandhi in the cause of terrorism is outrageous even by these standards. What's next, giving the Nobel Peace Prize to Yassir Arafat? Hey, wait a second --

Now, the Israeli peace movement has suddenly awoken from its hibernation, and it is quite interesting to see how this coincides with a sharp increase in Israeli casualties. These peace movements, or anti-war movements, which should be considered positive forces, have a habit of emerging and becoming active when the battle is causing too much suffering in their own ranks.

Translation: "The battle", in case you misread it as a military term, actually refers to the habit the Palestinian resistance have of blowing up Israeli teenagers in pizza restaurants. And because Israeli peace movements are signs of weakness, the resistance must exploit them by blowing up even more teenagers. There's something fundamentally wrong here, and it becomes more apparent further on:

Everyone remembers the peace accords signed by American leaders with the leaders of Native American tribes. Perhaps everyone also remembers, that barely any of these treaties were ever lived up to by the United States government, simply because there was no basis of power on the Native American side. Negotiations, conducted between an overwhelming power and a practically defenceless oppressed people, are simply dictates, or orders, since a negotiation can only be productive between two parties of equal strength. With the current inequality, they end up as a method for the occupying force to contain the indigenous population, and rule their demographic, economical and social situation. [..]

Would another, equally racist ideology, such as Nazism, not be in a flourishing condition today, had it not been countered militarily?

So, if you can't negotiate with the Israelies, and they're just as bad as the Nazis, there's really no reason to stop fighting them until they've been driven into the Mediterranean Sea, now is there? No soup for you, Shadid. Prerequisite 1 for Palestinian independence in the foreseeable future is to realize that Israelis are much more interested in peaceful coexistence than in more land. Not all of them, but enough to depend on their cooperation with a peaceful, democratically oriented independence movement, (which the PA surely is not). Beat them by rising to, or above, their level. Now that's a cause many respectable dead people would sign up for.

Reader Alan M. Carroll comments on Lawrence Reza Ershaghi's piece in the Iranian:

Lawrence Reza Ershaghi is ignorant. His most revealing statement is that Middle East has been conflict ridden "since World War II". As far as I can tell, the area has been conflict ridden since at least 2000 BC. Are not in fact the oldest recorded battles from that area? What I remember of the history of the Middle East is an almost non-stop wash of armies and empires in various directions (Assyrian, Hittite, Egyptian, Persians, Greek, Roman, Muslim, Ottoman, British, French ...). The selection of WWII as a boundary is clearly designed to exclude basically all history prior to the establishment of Israel (including such details as many of the local regimes were Axis allies). [..]

I do agree with Mr. Ershagi's comment to focus on the cause to better understand the problems and solve them in regard to terrorist activity on both sides. Let's see, Israel vigorously prosecutes Jewish terrorists while the PA celebrates and pays off Palestinian terrorists. Which of these could be the cause of terrorism in the region and how could we solve that?

As for the use of non-violent protest, IMHO Israel is the nation where such tactics are most likely to work (probably even more than the US). If the PA converted to a peaceful, democratic state with civil liberties Isreal would be impotent against them. But that kind of society is apparently too high a price to pay to defeat Isreal - better the terror, oppression and corruption of the Palestinian Authority to enable the suicide attacks against civilians. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Some additions to my bloglist: Geoffrey Barto, Michael Hendry, Richard Bennett, Joshua Trevino, Will Warren, John Stryker. Unlike me, they've actually updated their blogs recently. (In my defense, I do have a job, and it's not always compatible with heavy blogging. Not that I'm implying anything about heavy bloggers.) Oh, and you'll notice that I changed the order of the list. You've all heard about Glenn by now.

Iranian writer Hammed Shahidian remembers a life of censorship and disappeared friends. Things were bad enough under the Shah, and then:

On 7 March 1979 (14 days before spring) comes the newly established Islamic Republics first attack on womens rights. Shortly after, a full-scale war on the Iranian Kurds, then on the Turkamans, and then vandalizing bookstores and headquarters of political organizations... Here a bookseller is injured. There, a student selling newspapers on a street corner is beaten. Here, books are torn. There, a car carrying written words is bombed. Written words burn to ashes and with them, a little boy trapped in the car. The daily Kayhan whose autonomous policy the new regime cannot tolerate is "bought up" by a metal merchant supporter of Khomeini. Ayandegan is closed down by a zealot mob after Khomeini says he wont read the irreverent paper. "Laws of journalism" are decreed, "according" freedoms of thought and expression "within the proper limits of Islam." Khomeinis calculated guidance to his followers: "Break these pens!" And then the purging, injuring, and killing of students on university campuses, and the closing of universities for over a year"cultural revolution" la Islamic Republic.

Twitchy Iranian clerics take up lesser jihad against everything that looks remotely like fun, (scroll down to middle of page).

The police chief in Mashhad canceled the "Let's Be Happy Again" comedy festival because he feared a public disturbance. Local prayer leader and Supreme Leader's Representative Ayatollah Mohammad-Baqer Shirazi had issued a religious decree or fatwa which declared that it is a religious duty to disrupt such an event. Mashhad-based journalist Mohammad-Sadeq Javadi-Hesar said in an 8 March interview with RFE/ RL's Persian Service that some people believe happy gatherings are against Islamic values.

Friday, March 15, 2002

The Smoking Gun have scans of Mohammad Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi visa approvals. (And: The indictment of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh for the murder of Daniel Pearl.)

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

As I feared, the Chinese translation of Bush's excellent Tsinghua University speech left out all the best parts. (Via Daimnation!)

Lee Howard Hodges: Victimology, not U.S. foreign policy or Israel, is the cause of backwardness and oppression in the Muslim world today. (Lawrence Reza Ershaghi replies: Hodges is ignorant, and non-violent resistance a myth.)

More photography: Afghan girl, 1984 vs Afghan woman, 2002. What happened between? (I suppose I should link to the article as well, but it's not as interesting as the pictures and the question.)

Raffaele Ciriello, an Italian photographer whose website Postcards From Hell (currently unavailable) I've mentioned before, was killed today, shot by Israeli forces on the West Bank. Much have been said about the value of war correspondents, but personally I'm inclined towards the war photographer. A photograph can tell greater lies than words, but it can also tell greater truths, and while always biased, the bias of a photograph is less obedient to the photographer than that of words to the writer. Was the people who took this or this photograph biased for or against the Palestinian uprising? Who knows? Photographs have their own voice.

Ciriello had previously covered conflicts in ex-Jugoslavia, Somalia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone; Khatami's Iran, pre-9/11 Afghanistan and post-9/11 New York. From his tribute to four fallen colleagues, lynched by a Somalian mob in 1993: "I don't know if it's true that photographs can sometimes fix what otherwise You would never see. But every time I read a journalist or a photographer has fallen victims of a grenade, of a stray bullet or whatever, I go back to this picture and look at Hansi. When my eyes meet his, it seems to me I understand everything." That's more than I can say, but I enjoyed his work, and he enjoyed making it, and I suppose that's all that matters. Rest in peace, Raffaele.

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

And now for a quick word about steel tariffs. I wasn't going to write about this, but in the face of houndreds of e-mails, (and the insinuations of one guy with a website), who am I to refuse? I don't know much, but I do know this: Steel is a wicked, wicked thing, and tariffs even worse. I'm not quite sure whom to blame, al-Saud or Bill Clinton, but I sure had nothing to do with it. Now go and ponder.

Monday, March 11, 2002

Some people never learn. All the familiar anti-war arguments gathered in one place, with the added authority of a research institute to elevate them above the opinion pages - ptui! It says something about the kind of ill-minded rumour mongering I've been reading (and writing!) for the last half year that while looking through this list of svada I'm thinking: "Oh, I know where they heard that"; "Steven Den Beste cleared up that particular misconception back in October"; "Ah, I remember when we all took turns chopping up that one"; "Don't these people read LGF?"; "Oh, I heard that tale on a marxist [no, not Marxist] mailing list months ago"; and so on.

Sunday, March 10, 2002

Oops, somebody place a threatening van outside the office of the Modern Humorist, I think they're onto something:

Q: Ari, is it true that the President has never heard of "Friends"?
A: Obviously, this is absurd. The President's TiVo records as many as six separate "Friends" episodes in a single day. In fact, the President is such a big fan that he has devised a mnemonic device derived from the convention used in naming "Friends" episodes to help him remember important foreign policy issues. For example, he calls Israel, "The one with the holy sites considered sacred by three of the world's major religions, whose practitioners each believe they are God's chosen people, thereby assuring that the land known as 'Palestine' will never know peace in our time." The European Union is "The one with a loose conglomeration of nations whose unnecessarily generous welfare states attract thousands of radical immigrants from the Middle East, who live off the taxpayers' largesse while constructing diabolical schemes to destroy the very culture that feeds, houses, and cares for them."

I keep forgetting. Why not to trust the French army in a battle? Oh, right, that's why.

Let's hope our own boys are doing a better job. The news that Norwegian special forces are fighting under American command have been treated as relatively uncontroversial here in Norway. Talk shows have to resort to the communist party for angry sound-bites about things like our new Kyrgyzstan airbase. We still don't trust the Americans, (with those mad doomsday schemes, and that Chuck Norris-fan in the White House), but maybe, just maybe, pride and concern for our soldiers outweighs the skepticism.

I hope this is only the first of many operations to come where Norwegian and American soldiers fight side by side. I think it is unhealthy to join, as we have, a military alliance, and then sit on the side-line for 50 years while one or two members do all the fighting. It removes our sense of responsibility for the things that are done in our name. If our allies are fighting, so should we, if only with small numbers, just to remind ourselves on what a military alliance means. If we don't like what our allies stand for, we should leave the alliance. But none of this pretending that we can have all the benefits of an alliance, with none of the cost or responsibility.

Environmentalists blow up truck at reopening of the Mont Blanc tunnel. 1500 protesters are in the area, prepared to close the road the moment the first truck convoys come through, late next week. The tunnel was closed after a 1999 accident that killed 39 people, but with the new security measures added since, I guess the primary motive behind the protests lies elsewhere: It's pristine nature vs greedy capitalists.

In Chamonix, where 97 per cent of the population voted to outlaw lorries in an unofficial referendum, the three traffic-free years have proved profitable as well as peaceful. On the last vehicle- free night in villages like Les Houches and Les Bossons near the tunnel entrance, the atmosphere of total calm under a clear starlit sky and snow-covered peaks contrasted with the incessant noise three years ago. Then, nose-to-tail convoys of trucks from all over Europe burnt off vegetation and terrified animals as they climbed in low gear to the tunnel mouth pouring out exhaust gases.

I wonder if that incessant noise is worse than what millions of city-dwellers endure every day and night. I like total calm under a clear starlit sky as much as the average sandal-wearer, but I also like food in my fridge, and I suppose those trucks must be carrying something of value.

So where does environmental protests become sabotage, and sabotage become terrorism? 1500 people standing by the road with signs is a protest, that is protected speech. 1500 people standing in the road is sabotage. Blowing up a nearby car is terrorism. It's terrorism on a small scale because nobody got hurt, but the activists placed and timed the bomb specifically to strike terror, thereby hoping to cancel the reopening. The intended result is the same, (financial loss, pristinity preserved, animals unscared, lives possibly saved), it's how they get there that makes the difference.

Saturday, March 09, 2002

David Warren - giving Canada a good name: "Except war, peace is the most dangerous condition, for a people at peace grows accustomed to its safety and tranquillity, and comes to think of peace as a natural condition."

Take a look at this Sony cell phone ad from an Iranian newspaper. Six smiling teenagers, a cell phone with "Lets party" on the display, and an un-ironic offer to join the successful and self-confident dot-com generation. One might think this signifies a positive trend. Apparently, Sony sees a market in Iranian kids who believe more in having fun than in burning American flags, and have decided to push yet another brilliant, anti-authoritarian Western consumer good. It may be a small market for all I know, but it fits with everything else we're hearing from Iran these days. The young are restless, and many of them look to the West for new ideals. You and I propably think that's a good idea, but that's because you and I haven't heard about renarration. Roshanak Keyghobadi at the State University of New York have, and tears the socially constructed blindfolds away from our eyes with the fervor of a battle mullah straight out of madrassah:

The reality of the ad is constructed not just by what it says, but also, and perhaps more importantly by its "un-said". The "un-said," for example of gender. There are no young women in this group. Is it because generally women are financially dependent on men and most of them can not afford the phone? Or is it because the image of a financially powerful, care free and relaxed woman will completely destroy the image the ad is attempting to convey to a male-dominated society? What makes a "woman" the counter-code that has to be muted and erased in the ad? Women, just like underprivileged classes of Iranian society cannot be depicted in the ad without completely changing its meaning and its implied audience. Woman is the "other" is the discursive universe of the ad.

Well put, I think, if what she's trying to say is "Hey, wouldn't it be great if Iranian girls had cell phones too!" Would have been better if she'd said that in one sentence, but anyone who uses words like discursive and renarration must know what they're talking about. Keyghobadi is so good at it, she's renarrated the entire Third World! "I prefer to address what Westerners call 'Third World Countries' as 'Held Back Countries'." I can't even renarrate a simple cell phone ad, and I always did mix up those socially constructed narratives. Which is why I'm not qualified to answer - let alone understand, the following question. I leave that as challenge to the better educated reader:

The debates in Iran among intellectuals is not very different from what has dominated the discourses of the West: does "shopping" by articulating desire have a liberatory dimension? Is it in fact an active resistance? Or the very idea of shopping-as-resistance itself is invented by corporate theorists to justify globalization? On the other level, the debate is whether one should critique only the creators of these messages or extend the critique to those who respond to these ads and messages? Is the critique of native desire undemocratic or is it in fact assertion of democracy against the discursive machinery of transnational business?

Monday, March 04, 2002

The Country Reports of Human Rights Practices 2001, by the US Department of State, were published today. Some countries of particular interest to this blog: Saudi-Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, North Korea, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, - and of course, the scourge of that big blue area on the other side of my globe, Australia.

Attack Iraq, and you'll have another Vietnam on your hands, heralds Tarik Aziz, "mouthpiece" of the "Dark Lord" of "Baghdad". Better get started growing some jungle, then. But why think small? We have a whole range of previous war terrains for sale at reasonable prices, for the prudent tyrant who wants to go out with style. Another Afghanistan looks more in your price range, Saddam - we can arrange for the Illuminati to pull the plug on the world economy, then send some scape goats to hide in your mountains. No? How about another Germany? You already have most of the necessary equipment, including the moustache, and with the annexation of some of your smaller neighbours - oh, you've already tried that. I see. Quite the difficult customer, aren't you? Well, there's always another Russia, but frankly I think that's a bit out of your reach. No, I'm afraid we don't have any hollow volcano islands for sale right now. You're interested in Afghanistan then, are you? Wise choice. You can never go wrong with another Afghanistan - it's what we refer to as the Israel for the price-oriented customer. Cash only. Have a nice day!

At last, Norway is contributing to the war on terrorism where it really counts! Good luck. Some of us are proud of you.

Dear God! Why the blogosphere is like the Borg Collective. (Dr. Weevil obviously belongs to the Borg is Good camp of trekkies - yes, they do exist.)

Sunday, March 03, 2002

Photographs from Iran, by Sid Sarshar (IE only), - and from New York, by Raffaele Ciriello.

Who said bloggers never criticize each other? Natalija Radic, herself a Croatian refugee, takes on both Joshua Micah Marshall and Matthew Yglesias for their account of the fight over her old home. The Yugoslavian mess is one subject I am painfully ignorant of, so you won't find me stating anything about it except questions. I wasn't very old when it started, all I remember is that one day there was a war in what used to Yugoslavia, and I could never keep track of who were persecuting who, so I gave up. (I suspect even people who paid attention were a bit confused, though.) Closest I ever got to it were refugees who, having been denied asylum in Norway, were given sanctuary in my father's church. This became common in the 90's, a collective act of civil disobedience on part of our churches, over disagreement with asylum laws.

History dept.: Faithful reader Alex Bensky comments on Scandinavian WW2 efforts.

Norway indeed had only two months of experience with open war. No one could deny that given the military assets available, Norwegians fought bravely and established a functioning underground struggle.

They didn't accomplish much, though, except to sabotage heavy water production in Rjukan, - and maintain our spirits and dignity. A more important contribution were our merchant fleet, 4th largest in the world, much of which went into allied service.

That reminds me: Here's one of my favourite photographs, which decorated Norwegian walls for a long time after the war. It shows the return of command over Akershus Fortress from the Germans to the local resistance on May 11th, 1945, and is a curious reflection of our national self-image, for those who can figure it out.

Finland, of course, proved itself to be tenacious and courageous in two wars.

A quite impressive achievement! (They are, strictly speaking, not Scandinavians, though.)

Sweden, however, preserved its saintly neutrality by happily selling the Germans anything the Germans would buy. This adherence to the principles of neutrality is why the Swedes today are able to lecture Americans on our many failings. And I assure you that we give Swedish admonitions on how we should behave with the consideration that they merit.

Ah yes, Swedish neutrality, part of which involved turning early Norwegian refugees back at the border, and providing Germany with up to 100% of its iron ore needs. There seems to be a curious connection between how European countries acted in World War 2, and their current level of anti-Americanism. I don't know enough war history to make an informed comparison, but both France and Sweden seem to fit the profile of countries who gave in easily to the Germans, (and in Sweden's case, stayed out of NATO), and are strangely touchy, even by European standards, about American military and cultural influence. Cause and effect, or two instances of the same cultural trait?

Taking on the Guardian is a dirty job, but writing for it is worse: Gary Farber vs Mary Riddell.

I can understand that kids in sheltered Scandinavian countries believe they're pacifists. When your country spent only two months of the 20th century at war, and got saved in that one at little cost of your own, it's possible to forget that violence is an effective conflict-solver.

So, what do you have to smoke to call yourself a conscientious objector in a country that is surrounded by hostile nations and have fought five wars in 50 years? Ask Yonatan Ben-Artzi and Amir Malenky, whose applications to avoid enlistment are now in the Israeli High Court:

By definition, any army, is a violent organization that has the objective of fighting, killing and using every means to achieve those objectives and goals that can otherwise be achieved, in the petitioner's opinion, through non-violent means. As part of his beliefs and world view, the petitioner objects to any use of force as a means of achieving military and political objectives, even for the purpose of self-defense.

That sounds familiar - and idiotic - but I'm with the pacifists on this one. If people won't defend their country of their own free will, it's not worth defending, as I think Heinlein said. As I see it this observation stings pacifists more than it stings conscription. I don't think the IDF will be short of volunteers at the next invasion, so why feed pacifist self-righteousness? Let them be, they're not worth the attention.

(More interesting is the refusal of Israeli soldiers to serve in the Palestinian territories, because they disapprove of IDF's methods. They are at least objecting to a specific use of violence, which is better than the helium-inflated theories of pacifists.)

Saturday, March 02, 2002

More anecdotes: John Derbyshire on how his life was changed by cutting down the stiff corpse of a neighbour who hanged himself, (and why WTC documentaries ought to show graphic violence).

Geoffrey Barto wrote the Sep 11 poetry you see up to the left, and now he's got a great blog! While he's generally in favor of the French, here's why at least some of the cheese-eaters really are surrender monkeys:

An old family friend, Jack, went to France once too. He was a radar operator for the Air Force during World War II. It was quite an experience for him: the furthest he'd been from home before he shipped out for the Air Force was the next town on main road, almost fifteen miles away. By the time he finally touched French soil, shortly after the war was won, he had met a good many men who'd gone on to die. Some had been crewmates - one of them even died in a mission Jack was on. He went through this because he'd been told that French needed to be liberated from the Germans and England needed protection from them. That's right, a kid from a town of less than 500 went all the way around the world to help liberate a country he'd barely heard of, and then he found himself in that country. In a little bar. Just outside Paris. He went in, ordered a drink, and tried to say hi in his best guidebook French. The bartender was a bit chilly, but positively warm compared to some of the patrons. He tried to find out what was wrong, and was told that things were better under the Germans - more orderly, more tranquil, more civilized. He couldn't believe his ears, but several others spoke up to make sure that he knew this was how they felt; if anyone felt differently, they kept quiet. Jack had that experience in at least a half dozen bars and restaurants before he left. Other Americans did too. Was it common? I don't know. But I know it had a pretty strong impact on Jack - watching a crewmate die when your plane gets shot up, and then being told you shouldn't have bothered will do that to a man. Especially a man so unsophisticated that he honestly believed that helping make the French a free people again was worth risking his life for. Jack passed away a few months ago, and I don't think he ever watched the Simpsons - he wouldn't have known about the expression. But he did know that once upon a time he went halfway around the world to help free the French, and it never left him that the surliest of their number said they'd rather be captive to the ("more civilized") Germans than liberated by the Americans. I think he would have appreciated the expression.

Friday, March 01, 2002

Megan McArdle suggests a bit of Google-bombing against people looking for Daniel Pearls death video on the web, and I'm only happy to comply. Here it is: Daniel Pearl Videotape. I don't know who R. Kelly is, but there's an R Kelly Videotape as well.

In other news, I'm now one of the worlds most popular Bjørn's, Bjorn's and Bjoern's. Only the culturally insensitive spelling of arrogant Americans prevent me from reaching permanent stardom as number one.

Front page
2001: September | October | November | December
2002: January | February | March | April | May | June | August | September | October | November | December
2003: January