The Third Rail

Thursday, September 05, 2002


Note to all my friends: Now that I'm a pop culture barometer, I can share the love by promoting all my friends' personal blogs. So far, I only know of Jess Hammer's in New York. Having a blogroll of "Friends' Blogs" with Jess alone will no doubt make her feel lonely. So if you have a blog, let me know!


Orrin Judd is holding a contest on his blog for the first person to identify a movie comedy whose laughs originate from leftist politics. His view is that conservatism is the basis of laughter. While I admit pain is the origin of laughter, I don't quite agree that only conservatives can be funny. After all, at one point in time Doonesbury (and Bloom County) were hilarious, but Mallard Fillmore always sucks.

I entered Dr. Strangelove as my contestant. The esteemed Mr. Judd replied, "Is that a comedy? I always took it literally."

Of course, this may be a joke on his part. However, I'm willing to forgoe my usual sense of irony in order to win the big, bad book on Eisenhower he's offered to give away. Therefore, I'm writing an open letter to the blogosphere in the hopes of getting support that Dr. Strangelove is in fact, a comedy.

Hopefully, "Orrin, give this man his Ike biography!" will become as renown as the Open Letter to the Iranian People.

I'm counting on you!!


Warren Ellis on contemporary comics, quoting Ziggy:

With the rest of the mainstream business retreating to tried and tested properties, I feel it's only right and proper for me to follow my usual path of doing the opposite of what is currently successful and therefore earning no money at all. Thankfully, DC Comics are subsidising all this, and it'll take a couple of years for me to totally destroy them.

I just want to write stuff I can read. All this Now Is The Time To Serve The Icons and Let's Bring Back What We Liked As Unloved Children shit is killing me. I'm reminded of what old David Bowie said of Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue: "It's cruise-ship entertainment, really, isn't it?"

Yes it is.



I'm sure everyone by now knows of the assassination attempt on Karzai. I'm just glad he's OK. Just a little while before head dirtbag Hekmatyar recorded a message for the Afghanis. Something tells me Hekmatyar's message for uprising was to coincide with the assassination of Karzai to make America look weak and feeble. It fits Al Qaeda's profile of killing resistance leaders before major strikes. While I do not think a successful assassination would mobilize Afghanis against the US, it would have given Hek the iniative in this next stage of the war.


Big win for the environment here. Now if only we can combine this with those hybrid electric engines that get 70 miles to the gallon. One note: I noticed that none of the car companies mentioned were American. The Japanese beat us the hell up once again.


Thank God we're fighting Al Qaeda and not the Falun Gong! The banned spiritual movement in China has hacked into Bejing-controlled satellite transmissions to broadcast a 70 minute propaganda reel outside the capital. This comes after a wave of earlier hacks by Falun Gong in China's cable systems. This has to scare the hell out of Jiang Jemin and the rest of the geriatric tyrants of the Middle Kingdom.

I've become very impressed by Falun Gong. I never would have anticipated that they could transform themselves into such an effective resistant movement. I guess Beijing was right when they saw it as a threat - of course would it have become a threat had they not tried to destroy it?


This would have been huge. If the Israel's can celebrate Rosh Hashanah in peace, then their efforts of the past few months will have had a real end result.


The world owes this man much. I'm not qualified to speak of the Prime Minister's domestic agenda in Britain, but America appreciates his and the British people's friendship.


Wooo boy! Linked by cool Aussie Tim Blair. This makes only the second time I know of that the Third Rail's meanderings have percolated to the top of the Blogosphere. In both cases it was due to people whose wit is even more acerbic than mine, the first being Fred Pruitt. Hmm, is there a pattern?

I am utterly, utterly confused as to how word spreads that causes a link like this. Guessing that my mom is not some sort of old buddy with Tim Blair, how did he find out? Did he trace a link I had posted from my site? Did some regular and trusted correspondent of Tim's see it and pass word on? Did he Google "Kill Free Willy" and come across my site? I expect such mysteries will never be known so I bow before whatever bizarre god of the weblog caused this.

I'm easily pleased at this point. I'll probably stop such celebrations after the fifth time someone's linked to me.


Wednesday, September 04, 2002


Kill 'Free Willy'. Will this be the new, "Can't sleep, clowns will eat me?"


Listen to this hooey:

His friend says he is a devout Muslim who never would have engaged in such a violent act as hijacking.

Of course, devout Mulims have never been known to hijack and kill people.

His family says he was getting his life together after a wayward decade of petty crime, mob activities and brawling.

Was he a devout Muslim then too when he was a criminal and mobster? And if not, when did Al Qaeda decide he was the perfect type of Muslim to recruit?

Oussama Kassir, a Stockholm resident who has been identified by U.S. authorities as a participant in an alleged plot to establish a terrorist training camp in Oregon, acknowledged today that he had befriended Chatty in a Swedish prison in 1998 and had taught him Islamic lessons and prayers.

Of course, this has nothing to do with him being a devout Muslim who doesn't hijack planes.

Some people may wonder if I'm being dysfunctional. One moment I'm standing up for Muslims and another I'm tearing into statements like the above. Let me clarify. I don't believe simply because you're a devoted Muslim you'll start hijacking planes, but let's not pretend that there aren't these whackjobs who do so in the name of Islam. The sooner Muslims stop denying there is a problem and start working to solve it is the minute I'll stop with the snide remarks. Too many seem outraged at alleged bigotry and not enough at the ones who slander Islam by their actions.


I hope we do get a free trade agreement with Australia. One thing I can never figure out is why things such as agriculture policy should obstruct an agreement when all other areas are mutually beneficial. Why not just exclude agricultural products, and move on to everything else?


The New Republic is right on probably the single most important thing we can do to prevent terrorists from getting money.


Part 2 is up. However, all that's really said is a basic primer on why asymetrical warfare will be easier to pull in the future and why it's especially dangerous to the US. It's obvious he's taking baby steps with this, so it'll probably be around Part 6 before we read anything useful.


Found via Damian Penny. I agree completely.


Does stuff like this work? I'm giving a call to all my friends: maybe if we pull together all our credit card debt, we can pay it off like Karen. This especially goes for all my female friends. I'm not stupid enough to think that people will give money to a guy, but they might if it's a good looking woman.


Now I'm being consistently embarassed by my (albeit non-leftist) environmentalism. Can these people descened even more into self-parody?


Check this out:

Under interrogation, the Palestinian disclosed that a few months ago the Palestinian police decided to confiscate stolen Israeli cars that reach PA territory. "We take the cars from the Palestinian thieves, and use them for the Palestinian police," the suspect told Israeli questioners.

Oh, yeah. The Palestinian police simply find these stolen cars from thieves - and then use them themselves. It's not like the Palestinian police ARE the thieves.


Israel's victories continue. While the Palestinians succeed less and less in killing innocent civilians, Israel has been capturing or killing a large number of Palestinian terror leaders. I expect Israel will keep these losers locked up forever, denying future generations of Palestinians much needed teachers in how to kill women and children.


I don't agree with everything Steven Den Beste writes, but we think a lot alike. Like me, he wargamed when he was younger and had a strong sense of history. That inspires you to really learn what war is really like, how to think strategically, and why people act the way they do. Having such a knowledge of history gives you a better idea of how things actually work in the world than the soap opera theatrics that too many people interpret world events as.

The problem with all the rhetoric about UN approval is that it pretends that the Security Council will actually listen to the case that the US makes, and grant or deny approval on the merits of that case. It pretends that the Security Council will act as a disinterested judge of the issue, concerned only with international justice, peace and security.
The reality is that every member of the council except the UK, and in particular the veto powers, will vote strictly on the basis of their own self interest. They will pay no attention whatever to whether the US makes a convincing case on whether Iraq represents a potential danger to the United States. They will base their decisions entirely on whether they themselves will be more helped or harmed by a US attack.

And if that's the case, then what moral authority does the UN Security Council actually have? The argument is that the US shouldn't be driven by its own self interest, but the alternative is for us to be ruled by everyone else's self interest, to the exclusion of our own.


This is the heart of the entire problem with the UN right now. At one point in time, the UN was still a functional entity that could do good. The UN could have done so much more had the Soviets not sabotaged it during the Cold War. Many may not remember it now, but the UN recognized and aided many cherished American ideals in the years between 1945 and the Korean War when Stalin paid little attention to it. Afterwards, it descended into gridlock and later became a farce. But that was then. The UN has not achieved anything substantial since the end of the Cold War (except when the US found it convenient as a cover to advance its own agenda). Why?

The reason is that in the aftermath of World War II, the UN represented the true powers in the world. It reflected reality of who was really in charge, and thus could actually get things done. The Security Council was nothing more than a modern version of the old Congresses of Europe where Metternich would have tea with Talleyrand and the British ambassador and decide what needed to be done. However, 2002 is not 1945, but the UN is still a creation of the World War II era. It doesn't reflect what the world is really like, and its attempts to force the international system to conform to it is making the entire system dysfunctional. It's quite painful to watch.

The UN does little other than to provide salaries for a bunch of educated people from the Third World who can't possibly find real jobs in their home countries. In the years to come I think the UN will become further divorced from reality to the point it becomes as obsolete as the League of Nations once the Allies no longer dominated power politics as they did in 1919. The UN does not serve the interests of the US, China, or any number of rising Asian economic powers who will no longer see self-interest in supporting the delusions of their former Third World compatriots in Africa or the Middle East. Eventually, the dysfunction will become so severe that new institutions, whether de facto or de jure, will replace the obsolete post-World War II structure. There's a possibility that the UN could be reformed, but there are too many vested interests who would oppose it. I expect that slowly alternative forums and bodies will develop that go around the UN as it slowly becomes irrelevant.

It'll be interesting to see what new world the US and China create.


About damn time.


Amidst an article detailing the general intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesberg comes this tidbit I will remember for future use:

The Zimbabwean government has chosen to import generic versions of patented HIV/AIDS drugs. This comes despite the fact that only half of the available anti-retrovirals are actually patented and those that are patented have been offered at discounts of around 90%, and sometimes are handed out for free. It is possible that the imported generics will end up costing more than the patented versions and will definitely come without the important logistical support of the drugs companies.

It seems clear that the move to import generics had nothing to do with increasing access to essential drugs, but rather was a political move to undermine the rights of private pharmaceutical companies.


I have a friend who rants about the lack of attention the world pays to the AIDS crisis in Africa. He may be right, but the leaders of Africa are particularly responsible for such inactivity.


Robert Wright will be detailing his ideas on the war and how to win it. It'll be interesting to see how his argument develops. I've liked Wright's previous articles in Slate, but don't know if we follow similar logic this time. However, we're in agreement on one thing at least:

The initial, sheerly military phase—which the Bush administration had handled capably—was just the beginning. Now, a year after 9/11, pretty much everyone realizes that we'd better have a very good, very long-run strategy.

I don't think we do. I think the Bush administration's long-run plan, to the extent that one can be discerned, is at best inadequate and at worst disastrous.

o
It is obvious that both parties have failed in the debate of how best to prosecute the war effort. The war has been non-existent in the 2002 campaigns so far. I hope 2004 will be different, but it will require the GOP to have the courage to call the President into account, and the Democrats to find a capable war leader after doing their best since 1968 to drive out everyone in the party who could be.


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