Friday, June 11, 2004

Delicious Weekend Briefing 

The regular Friday Almanac is up: blown cover, krispy kringler, an unimpressive gamut, Wat Tyler's Rebellion, and so much more.

In fact, it's so damn long today I probably should have trimmed it down and put half the content here on the blog.

But I didn't.

Thursday, June 10, 2004


Today's Almanac: The Peoples Thing, the EU vote, and so on.

But right now, I'm printing out an interview of Ralph Nader by Pat Buchanan. That's right. Pat Buchanan interviewing Ralph Nader. I'm trying to think of what they have in common, and the best I can come up with is they both have an "A" in their first names and at least one "A" and one "N" in their last names. Oh yeah—and they both ran for president.

(Also, didn't they both have cameos in one of the Muppet Movies?)

I can't wait to read it.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004


"Because of an editing error, a letter on Friday about the Bush administration's economic performance referred imprecisely to the national debt. According to the Federal Reserve, the figure cited, $22 trillion (for 2003), includes borrowing by the federal and local governments, businesses and households, not the federal government alone."

That's a correction from today's Times. It's a hell of an error to have made. Imagine such a correction on the sports page:

Due an editing error, an imprecise reference was made to the Giants' score on Sunday's game. According to the NFL, the score cited, 25,316 points, includes the points scored by every single team that played in the NFL on Sunday, as well as college games from Saturday, high school games from Friday evening, and sandlot games from across the nation.

What kind of "editing" error would allow someone to look at a score like 25,316 and think, "yeah, sure, that looks reasonable for a team's score in a single game?"

You'd have to be completely ignorant about football—or a hell of a Giants fan.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Around the Euroblogs... 

Interesting post: Nelson Archer reflects deeply on language, metaphor, and Anti-Americanism in France. I need to tour my blogroll a little more to see what's going on out there, and will update this post as I go...

Actually I did take a lovely tour of my blogroll, but, to be honest, although I was entertained as hell nothing really jumped out at me. Plus I kept following other bloggers' links to other blogs with still more links, until I lost track of where I was and how the hell I got there.

If you're jonesing for more links, though, you could play "indeterminant degrees of separation" (or is that indeterminate?) and try to figure out how the hell I got here.

Hint: Don't.


Marketing Tool?

I keep forgetting to post links to the Almanacs. Today's is up. The persuasive power of nipples, inefficient uses of Jagermeister, Tordesillas reconsidered, and more.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Is (Is Not) Atlantis 

Once again, Atlantis! It's been found, maybe, if you're willing to allow a few assumptions, overlook a few objections, and, make a spectacular Acuapulco-cliff-dive leap of faith.

Or maybe I should say: Once again, Atlantis debunked! Another site turns out to offer more problems than solutions, proving for the umpteenth time that no such place ever could have existed. Ever. Anywhere.

Anyway, it's an interesting discovery. (And I didn't want to leave all that frothy anger as the top entry on my blog.)

Lying Anti-American Scum 

I have so much to do today, but I have to get something out of my system. I'm seething. Smoke is pouring out my ears. I'm red-faced and probably on the brink of a cerebral aneurysm. This is all thanks to an article from one of the free daily newspapers, Urban, from which so many Danes get their news.

I'll give it to you in Danish and then in English.

Jesse Jackson: Abu Ghraib en skamplet

Pittsburgh - Sorte amerikanere vender sig i stigende grad mod krigen i Irak, der med Abu Ghraib-skandalen har afsløret en menneskeforagt ikke meget andeledes fra den racisme, der er en del af deres egen tilværelse i USA. Mens hvide politikere træder varsomt præsident George W. Bush og hans håndtering af krigen, er sorte politikere, som Jesse Jackson, langt mere direkte: "Det er en international skamplet," konstaterer Jackson.

And now, in English:

Jesse Jackson: Abu Ghraib a Disgrace

Pittsburgh - Black Americans are turning in rising degrees against the war in Iraq, the Abu Ghraib scandal of which has revealed a contempt for humanity that doesn't differ much from the racism that's a part of their own existence in the USA. While white politicians tread carefully [around] George W. Bush and his handling of the war, black politicians like Jesse Jackson are much more direct: "It's an international disgrace," asserts Jackson.

Here are links to two local (Pittsburgh) articles about Jackson's appearances in Pittsburgh: one and two. You'll notice Jackson is mostly quoted as talking about employment, nutritition, and health care. He lobs the usual rhetorical grenades toward the administration, but none of this is news. I'm sure he called Abu Ghraib a disgrace, but come on—who hasn't? Here's a recent column of his on the subject—you'll notice he doesn't even mention racism.

Had Jackson actually stated that the existence of Black Americans was tainted by a level of racism "not that different" from what we saw at Abu Ghraib, believe me: it would have made headlines all over the country.

Jackson wouldn't say such a thing because—well, because he knows better. He may be an agitating, fire-breathing, couplet-coining American, but he hasn't lost all his marbles.

Ritzau is a Danish news agency along the lines of Reuters or AP, meaning this blurb probably went out over the virtual wires to every media outlet in Denmark.

"...a contempt for humanity that doesn't differ much from the racism that's a part of [black Americans'] own existence in the USA." It didn't come from Jackson, so it obviously came from the Ritzau stringer responsible for this contemptible little bit of ordure.

I'm sure there are some Americans who actually believe that American blacks are treated by American non-blacks with the same contemptuous inhumanity we saw at Abu Ghraib. But there are probably just as many who think that they've been abducted by aliens or that Holden Caulfield is sending them telepathic messages. Is there racism in America? Sure. Is it any worse than the racism in Denmark? Hardly—you could probably make a case that racism is worse here, but that's a question for another day.

As Thucydides observed in The Peloponnesian Wars, "Most people... will not take trouble in finding out the truth, but are much more inclined to accept the first story they hear." Here, as elsewhere, Thucydides is spot-fricking-on. If you had been raised by flat-earthers, would you have deduced the spherical shape of the world on your own? You'd probably be content to accept the Pancake Earth theory.

So when you see what kind of lies and distortions are perpetuated by Denmark's leading news service (on a regular basis, I assure you), is it really any wonder that so many Europeans think our glorious melting pot—so much more diverse, multi-cultural, integrated, and tolerant than any country in continental Europe—is a primitive backwater where everyone outside of Manhattan and Bel Air is a fat, racist, war-mongering Christian fundamentalist cowboy?

You know why so many Europeans hate America? Because they're told we're awful by people who ought to know better.

Believe me, Denmark is the most racist little backwater you ever saw.

No it's not. But you didn't know that, did you? For a minute you might have found yourself saying, "Really?" or "Are they?" or even "I thought so!" But you're sitting there in America, most of you, with only marginal interest in what Danes do or don't do with themselves, so you were willing to give me the benefit of the doubt. That's how most Danes feel about their news services. Why would they lie to us?

Why indeed?

Well, you could ask the people at ritzau@ritzau.dk... I did.

Sunday, June 06, 2004


When we say things have been "Balkanized," we mean they have crumbled into dozens of contentious little pieces. It's a short and simple way of saying something complex. The Balkans are not the only place in the world where Balkanization has occurred, but the honor is theirs.

Similarly, it would be nice to have a word to communicate that an organizational entity has become so bloated that it's no longer capable of being managed rationally, or that it's begun to contradict its very reason for being. I'm voting for Belgified, in honor of the unprecedented apparatus in Brussels. The EU did not invent bureaucracy, any more than the Balkans invented entropy, but it does seem determined to master the genre.

Consider this gem, one among many. EU agricultural subsidies are finding their way to Danish prisons and chocolatiers. It gets better:

"The laws would have to be amended to exclude companies or prisons from receiving grants. I understand that people are appalled, but the Danish state receives huge amounts in agriculture subsidies already, and will probably get even more in the future, when the new reform granting subsidies to grassy areas takes effect next year," said the chairman of the National Agriculture Council, Peter Gæmelke.

In other words, if I'm reading that correctly, "Hey, we get all this money and splash it around as best we can, but what can we do? It's a lot of money and we're only going to get more." Spoken like someone with absolutely no understanding that the money didn't just fall out of the sky or wash up on the beach. This is the money of 450 million taxpayers. For every giddy Danish prison farmer rolling in EU agriculture subsidies, there's a little sliver of money being coughed up by fishermen in Lisbon, furriers in Tallinn, and prostitutes in Hamburg.

Can you imagine how wealthy the U.S. would be if there was some sort of "Union of the Americas" paying out cash dividends for grassy areas? My god, where do I sign up?

If the EU gets in the habit of chucking money around like a drunken sailor—a drunken sailor with an assload of money—well, they'll just have to keep raising taxes until the average after-tax income across the EU finally reaches zero. After all, who'll need a salary when the EU will cut them a check for letting lint accumulate in their navels? (One can imagine something like "The 2008 Lint Preservation Initiative" tacked on as a rider to an "EU Statement of Insect Rights.")

Belgify, Belgified, Belgification... works for me. (And it's a lot easier to pronounce than "DMVified.")

They Did the Universe Cheaper... 

Reagan has died and Smarty Jones didn't win at Belmont. I watched CNN—regular American CNN, which EuroCNN often runs in the wee hours—do its best to honor the death of a man whom, had he remained alive and lucid, would almost certainly have ranked an Ace in CNN's deck of "Warmongering Capitalist Bastards" playing cards. I should say that Wolf Blitzer seemed quite sincere, but it would be hard to seem insincere speaking from the darkness of the cemetaries of Normandy, surrounded by the mute testimony of the heroic dead.

I wasn't saddened by Reagan's death for his own sake, but for mine. The Reagan years were magnificent for me personally—they were my growing up years, from 15 to 23. When I think of Reagan I can't help thinking of my adolescence, and let me tell you: as difficult as it made my later life, that was an adolescence worth having. It would transcend melodrama to say that Reagan's death was like a nail in the coffin of my childhood (and would also be an especially inapt simile), but it's fair to say the sadness I did feel last night was, like almost everything else, all about me.

Meanwhile I streamed live audio of the Belmont Stakes over the Internet. I really thought Smarty Jones was gonna pull it off. (I blame Blonde Champagne for her contagious enthusiasm.) I even left a message on my sister's answering machine telling her to bet the farm on Smarty Jones. Fortunately she has no farm—unless she had a secret farm, in which case she doesn't have it any longer, which only serves her right for keeping it a secret all these years. (Who am I kidding?—the last time my sister listened to any of my advice it probably had something to do with how to muscle our parents for a little extra allowance money.)

Anyway, I wanted to acknowledge those two events before getting into anything else. What I really wanted to write about, so briefly, was an email from a regular correspondent who had translated yesterday's Danish essay into English using an online translator. He had pasted the translation into an email and appended it with the simple observation: "Now that just doesn't make any damn sense."

And he was right. The translation engine he used obviously didn't recognize any of the three "extra" Danish letters, which was one problem, but was also an Internet translation engine, which is a problem in itself.

I converted all the Danish letters into their English dipthong equivalents (aa, ae, oe) and ran it through a translator myself. It was still a mess, but it was kind of a funny mess, so I straightened it out a little (doing literal translations of any words that remained untranslated), tidied it up, and present it below, along with English translations in italics.

They pepperloving sailors, there did universe cheaper

The Pepper-Loving Sailors That Made the World Cheaper

Tuesday d. 1 june were a nice day so the category went to Christianshavn. Christianhavns business is, that Koebenhavn themselves, a business about bargain. We went asked that think on bargain while we went around the area.

Tuesday, June 1, was a lovely day, so the class went to Christianshavn. Christianshavns history is, like that of Copenhagen itself, a history of trade. We were asked to think about trade while we walked around the area.

On the access to Christianshavn saw we a lot of channels. The sewers were loaded from the ship and boat (and old plasticbags). Actuals were almost all those the ship and boat no to bargain. They were to taking.

On the way to Christianshavn we saw many canals. The canals were full of ships and boats (and plastic bags). Actually, nearly all of these ships and boats were not for trade. They were for pleasure.

It was interesting that think on that change. There were a age, when boat only were to bargain. Here stand we actually to a universe where the most boat is to taking. And so switched? What does that mean? Naturally have we took and aircraft to bargain, and cars and the motor van, however it is no very likely to that define where a lot of pleasuresboat vi notices to the sewers. The boats aren't so inexpensive! How can be so a lot of people orchard so a lot of expensive boat? Are they real cheaper than they were by 200 year the paper?

It was interesting to think about this change. There was a time, when boats were for trade. Here we stand in a world where most boats are for pleasure. Why the change? What does it mean? Naturally we have trains and planes for trade, and cars and trucks, but that’s not enough to explain how many pleasure-boats we we in the canals. Boats aren’t so cheap! How can so many people have so many expensive boats? Are they really cheaper than they were 200 years ago?

Certainly, it is they.

Yes, they are.

Bargain does bargain cheaper, and inexpensive bargain originate cheaper produce. Actually are we all exuberant than people from 1600. There were king and queens, there no could dream about that own machines to that cook chop on minutes, or to drive 130 kph. They hadn't the shower, glasses, Panodil, refrigerator, etc—and when the sun went down, went their universe dark.

Trade makes trade cheaper, and cheap trade creates cheaper products. We’re all wealthier now than people from 1600. There were kings and queens, who couldn’t dream of owning their own machines to cook meals in minutes, or to drive at 90 mph. They didn’t have showers, eyeglasses, Tylenol, refrigerators, etc—and went the sun went down, their world went dark.

We is highly fortunate that orchard those things. We has they because men sailed round about universe from port that Christianshavn—men, there would find spices to that sell. Actually have we saw a lot of fat things, and so highly free period, because men would orchard better pepper. Incredible!

We are very lucky to have these things. We have them because men sailed around the world from harbors like Christianshavn—men who sought spices to sell. Now we have so many cool things, and so much free time, because men wanted to have more pepper. Incredible!

Behindhand the sewers went we by Christiania. It was know-all attitude, by me, that a little island, there no could to be anything except bargain, should acquiesce themselves that homes by people, there no can be demand capitalize.

Afterwards [sic; my bad] the canals we walked through Christiania. It was ironic to me that a little island that would be nothing without trade should find itself home to people who can’t stand capitalism.

Okay, so it ain’t Montaigne—but it’s progress!

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