The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Monday, September 25, 2006

Dispatches from Afar

I want to focus on a side comment in this post from Gregory Djerejian:
Unlike Vietnam then, where the domino theory proved a chimerical fear, an American departure from an Iraq still unsettled and cascading into potentially greater chaos could serve to further radicalize the region...
[Emphasis mine.]

I'm not convinced this is the right lesson. Two of the three nonaligned adjacent nations (Cambodia and Laos) did indeed fall to Communist dictatorships, with terrible consequences. It would be more accurate to say that our defense against a domino scenario fell back to a prepared position, off the shores of Thailand, which had been strengthened by our long involvement in Vietnam. [Something like this.]

Where is our second line of defense in the current struggle?

Thursday, September 21, 2006


It makes me tired just thinking about Bill "Spike" Lockyer trying to invent grounds for another suit based on the horrible fact that companies sell products which people want. Can you just reread Tobacco Trust Treaty?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Mi Casa Es Su Casa (V)

The Volokh Conspiracy's Ilya Somin chimes in:
With a Democratic House and GOP Senate (the likely result of this fall's election), the Republicans will get a well-deserved spanking, while the Democrats will be unable to enact the more dangerous parts of their own agenda. Also, a Democratic House would not be able to block Bush's judicial appointments, to my mind a rare bright spot in this administration.

On the other hand, Mickey Kaus and Chequer-Board commenter chsw point out that the Democrats may have the own path to the Grail of permanent majority:
Ponnuru must be willfully ignoring one conspicuous policy initiative that has already passed the Senate, been embraced by the President, and awaits only approval from a Democrat-led House to be signed into law. It wouldn't matter so much if this law, by establishing the principle of a "path to citizenship" for anyone who sneaks into the country to work, wouldn't run the risk of irrevocably changing the nature of the Republic, including the composition of future electorates that would decide whether to repeal it. But it would....

We deport, you reside!

Early adopters:
Dale Franks
Neolibertarian Network
Frank Cagle

Friday, September 15, 2006


Since the Good Little Capitalists have long since fatally mislaid my copy of The October Country, I was momentarily pleased to discover the new collection Bradbury Stories, containing "100 of his most celebrated tales."

Then, through the enlightened self-interest of, I viewed the table of contents. Amazingly, not just a few but all of what I would consider Bradbury's truly great stories have been omitted. "The Long Rain" is not there; nor "The Small Assassin" or "The Jar" or "Touched with Fire"; nor even the more famous "The Veldt" and "There Will Come Soft Rains". It was as if a malicious anthologist had deliberately cut them from an otherwise comprehensive collection.

I searched for the perpetrator, of course -- such a failure should be traced to its source. On the inside dust jacket, I found that
The one hundred stories in this volume were chosen by Bradbury himself...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Siren Song

ShrinkWrapped describes the appeal of modernity:

Look at how this must sound to a young Muslim man:

Come join the modern world! You will lose your privileged position, lose your feelings of superiority over your women and the infidels who are so much more successful than you, and have to give up your belief that your religion is the only possible way to salvation. In return we will give you the crumbs that fall off our table and if you are very lucky, a job at McDonald's or Nike, so you can raise a family of children who will one day soon know more than you, stop listening to you, and will be embarrassed by you.

[Hat tip: Belmont Club.]

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Price of (Others') Freedom

Plus a Mi Casa Es Su Casa followup, both over at Chequer-Board.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Invective (II)

[Aargh -- first version eaten by Blogger.]

The James Fallows article I linked last week speaks of the importance of words in the struggle against Islamism:

Jim Guirard, a writer and former Senate staffer, says that America’s response has helped confirm bin Laden’s worldview in an unintended way. The Arabic terms often brought into English to describe Islamic extremists—jihadists or mujahideen for “warriors,” plus the less-frequently used shahiddin for “martyrs”—are, according to Guirard, exactly the terms al-Qaeda would like to see used. Mujahideen essentially means “holy warriors”; the other terms imply righteous struggle in the cause of Islam. The Iraqi clergyman-warlord Muqtada al-Sadr named his paramilitary force the Mahdi Army. To Sunnis and Shiites alike, the Mahdi is the ultimate savior of mankind, equivalent to the Messiah. Branches of Islam disagree about the Mahdi’s exact identity and the timing of his arrival on earth, but each time U.S. officials refer to insurgents of the Mahdi Army, they confer legitimacy on their opponent in all Muslims’ eyes.

With the advice of Islamic scholars and think-tank officials, Guirard has assembled an alternative lexicon he thinks U.S. officials should use in both English and Arabic. These include hirabah (“unholy war”) instead of jihad; irhabists (“terrorists”) instead of jihadists; mufsidoon (“evildoers”) instead of mujahideen; and so on. The long-term effect, he says, would be like labeling certain kinds of battle genocide or war crime rather than plain combat—not decisive, but useful. Conceivably President Bush’s frequent use of evildoers to describe terrorists and insurgents represented a deliberate step in this direction, intended to steer the Arabic translation of his comments toward the derogatory terms.

I agree with the thrust of Mr. Guirard's diagnosis, but his prescription offers substantial room for improvement. I speak no Arabic, but "irhabist" seems closely related to "hirabah", so I will hazard a guess that it translates as something like "unholy warrior", rather than as "terrorist". We do not wish to characterize the enemy as warriors; we should describe them as cowardly false teachers, leading from behind an army of contemptible dupes. This twofold description, distinguishing between the planners and the executors of hirabah, would have the additional advantage of encouraging clearer thinking about exactly who is doing the dying.

For the self-styled Imams and inspirers of hirabah, we need a word like the English "charlatan". For the cannon fodder strapping on their bomb belts, we need a word expressing not just their evil but our contempt; something like the English "goon". We need to attack the enemy's belief that jihad is somehow honorable, and we should start by attacking the idea that its practitioners are warriors, holy or otherwise.

Mi Casa Es Su Casa (IV)

Dale Franks writes:
My personal preference is to refrain from voting for a Congressman. I prefer that Republicans keep the Senate, and Democrats take the House.

Welcome aboard!

Early adopters:
Neolibertarian Network
Frank Cagle

Innumeracy (II)

From London's free morning paper, the Metro [motto: "Nearly Worth It"], we have the following:
According to Guinness World Records, the fastest snail ever was a garden gastropod called Archie, owned by Carl Branhorn of Norfolk.
It travelled 33cm in 140 seconds -- about 2mm a second -- at the World Snail Racing Championships.
On average, snails need 30 hours to cover just 1.6km.

That latter speed is nearly 1 meter per minute. So the average snail is 6.3 times as fast as the fastest snail ever.

Journalism: the career for people who don't realize they're stupid.

[Update: Megan McArdle has found some more important, and even dumber, Stupid Journalist Tricks.]

Invective (I)

The "Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act", generally known as "McCain-Feingold", is more and more showing its true colors. For the first time, some of its more draconian provisions are being implemented this year, prompting bloggers to begin calling it the "Incumbent Protection Act."

While accurate, this is not a good name. The best chance of repealing this appalling law is for one of its sponsors to sponsor that repeal. The best chance of that happening is to ensure that their names remain tarred as long as it remains in force. Thus it must be called "The McCain-Feingold Incumbent Protection Act".

[Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds.]

Friday, September 01, 2006

Declare Victory and

Read this article by James Fallows.