Archive for February, 2006

Sweet Dark Love Saves Lives

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The Dutch have a long history with chocolate. Although native Mexicans
and their Spanish conquerors first used the bitter bean–and reported
on its tonic powers–a Dutchman was the first to extract modern cocoa
and neutralize its bitterness with alkali. The modern chocolate bar was
born. Now, results from a study of aging Dutch men have shown that cocoa
consumers were half as likely to die from disease than those who did
not eat the sweet treat.

from Scientific America

Quick, before they change their minds, pass the Rocky Road Double Chocolate
Mousse….

Live Lingerie Models Pulled for Stalker

24

AUGUSTA, Maine – A lingerie shop has stopped using live models to
draw attention and customers after one of its models received harassing
phone calls, the store’s owner said.

Spellbound drew protests _ as well as window shoppers _ when it began using
live models who dressed in lingerie and posed in the storefront windows
shortly after the shop opened on Water Street last fall.

Some suggested that the women brought life and beauty to the street, while
others said using scantily clad women in storefront windows was morally
reprehensible. A group calling itself Christians Lovingly Advocating Decency
protested in front of the store on Valentine’s Day weekend.

from Seacoast Online News

It’s easy to see how live lingerie models could change the whole way
American men look at a trip to the shopping mall. It makes a lot of sense;
although a kinky minority may be able to get excited about display window
mannequins (see
the Plentyhorse story
), most American males will watch attractive women in lingerie
more intently, mindlessly and tirelessly than even football.

Unfortunately, an unbalanced few (fished from the same pool as the mannequin
freaks) feel forced to go further and ruin it for the rest of us.

Don’t we feel that this is a gross display of sexism, demeans women
in general and these models in particular, and is emblematic of the decline
of moral values in our increasingly commercial culture?

Not really. The human form reigns as God’s greatest creation. As
long as the genitals are covered, we see no reason beyond Puritanism,
provinciality
or priggishness to ban public displays which would merit no more than
a PG rating should they appear in a movie.

Artists at least since the times of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome
reveled in the revealed human body. Maybe if the lingerie shop
were in Najaf, say, or Islamabad the community standards would be different,
but we say that in a 21st century free country it is a shame we can’t
enjoy live lingerie models at a store near us.

All Along the Watchtower

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Sometimes we see
a news photo which we can’t take our eyes off of, and this picture, appearing
in today’s New York Times, taken by AP protographer Musadeq Sadeq, is a prime example. Afghan
soldiers are seen atop a tower inside the Pul-i-Charkhi prison on the
eastern
outskirts of Kabul February 27, 2006. Police and troops
ringed Kabul’s main jail on Monday after hundreds of inmates led by Taliban
commanders and a kidnap gang leader took over cell blocks, including
one housing women and children.

Something about the human drama in the foreground, the impressive impressionistic
mountains in the background, the clouds of dust and the outlined figures
atop the tower give the whole sceen an All Along the Watchtower mystic.

from Reuters

Fresh View

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An excellent
new photoblog from a longtime New Yorker
exiled to a small town in upstate, which is another world, which explains
both the culture
shock and wide open babe’s eye seen in the latest postings.

from Ford
Bailey

600px (photoblog)

Opt Out of the War Machine

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MERIDEN, Conn. — A federal rule that puts information about students
into the hands of military recruiters is raising concerns among some
parents.

A provision in the No Child Left Behind Act, which measures student achievement,
also requires school districts to provide information about those students
to military recruiters when asked.

Now, some parents in Meriden have gone on the offensive. They’re spreading
the word about a little-known provision that lets parents and students
sign forms to opt out, keeping that information away from military recruiters.

”I really had to dig to find this information," said Lucinda Perry
of Meriden, who first learned of the opt-out provision while reading a
magazine article last year.

from the Boston Globe

Well, you Dowbrigade reader’s don’t have to dig. Here are the PDF’s

They are available on multiple sites in the Internet – we got them through
a site called "Leave
My Child Alone
". While we are on the topic of Military Recruiting,
let us reveal a bit of personal information.

A couple of years ago, one of our sons, after graduating from high school,
was at loose ends.  He "wasn’t ready" for college, and couldn’t
find a job. Every morning, even in the dead of winter, we would kick
him out of the house with orders to look for "Help Wanted" signs, answer
want
ads,
etc.
He
went
through
the motions, but he really didn’t know WHAT he wanted to do, so nothing
came through.

Turns out the Armed Forces maintained a recruiting center in the small
suburban town near Boston where we lived at the time, about a block and
a half from the High School, where the coffee was always hot and the
heat turned up. Coffee and sympathy, and an alternative to the cold hard
streets where nobody wanted to hire an 18-year-old recent high school
graduate with no experience or enthusiasm for a job.

By the time we figured out where he was spending his time, he had signed
a letter of intent. He wanted to be a marine. If a joint or two of marijuana
didn’t leave a distinct signature in human urine for 4-6 weeks, he would
probably be in Baghdad or Karbala right now.

He’s come to his senses since then, thank God, although he is still
a Bill O’Reilly Republican, and is studying at a local Community College
while working for a building management company near his apartment in Brighton.
But we worry about all those other kids getting sucked into military
recruiting machines in towns and cities across America.

In our son’s case, his official military “Sponsor”, some 20-year-old PFC wasting time at that boring suburban recruitment center and with a quota to fill, had actually advised our son on how to beat the piss test. Luckily, the only ill results of his completely bogus advice (drink 3 quart bottles of vinegar the day before the test) was that said son spent 12 hours vomiting and his room smelled of vinegar for a month.

It is no secret that the military is a hard sell thee days, and no wonder.
We would be willing to bet that the majority of current veterans leaving
the armed services, those who are finally getting out, after multiple
deployments and repeated involuntary extensions of their tours, would make lousy
recruiters.

That’s when we got our latest brilliant idea. Next to every US Armed
Services Recruitment Center, we should open a small storefront prominently
labeled "TOSOTS", which stands for "The Other Side Of The Story" and which
would be open all the same hours as the recruitment centers, but which
would be staffed with vets who had been there and live to tell about it,
with the straight dope, guys in wheelchairs, amputees, sure, but also
just plain joes willing to remember and tell it like it really is – war
is hell.

Don’t our kids deserve the chance to hear both sides of the story before
they sign away a big chunk – maybe the final chunk – of their lives?

Of course, someone would have to foot the bill for renting the storefronts
and paying some kind of salary to the vets who would staff it, but it
could and should be integrated to a multi-faceted program to help recent
vets get re-integrated to society, get employed and develop job skills,
and find a way to turn their experiences into something positive.

Any Internet millionaires up for a project to to directly save a few
thousand young American lives? Back in the 60’s we used to ask each other
the semi-retorical question "What if they gave a war and nobody came?"
Maybe, for the first time, we have a chance to actually make that happen.

 

What Have YOU Been Searching For Lately?

1

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 25 (AP) – Google Inc.’s concerns that a Bush administration
demand to examine millions of its users’ Internet search requests would
violate privacy rights are unwarranted, the Justice Department said Friday
in a court filing.

from The
New York Times

Wait a minute! The Bush administration wants (somehow that sounds a
lot scarier than just saying "George Bush wants", which sounds like the
setup
for
a joke) to examine MILLIONS of users’ search results? That’s crazy!

The Dowbrigade has long subscribed to the Dodgeball Dogma while
making his way through life – blend in, don’t attract attention and
rely on
the law of averages. If the RIAA has sued 5,000 users out of 100 million,
and the average defendant was sharing over 500 files, we figure we are
pretty safe looking for Christmas carols with Lime Wire. If we read that
the IRS audits 2% of the people with one job who take the standard deduction
and 5% of the people who itemize, we’ll take the standard, even if it
costs us a bit more.

But millions of Google Users could easily include YOU or US. They could
conceiveably be interested in some of the promising email we seem to
be getting these days from certain foreign pharmacies. And what will
they make of our fascination with the American Nazi Party? Will they
conclude we are a skinhead? With a name like Feldman?

On the other hand,
the Justice Department could easily misconstrue the research we have
been
doing
lately on the
bladder capacity of a series of aquatic mammals and marsupials. Or
any number of other passing fancies or arcane areas of legitimate research.
There are doors that we open in our ceaseless search for knowledge and
titillation
which we choose to close immediately, and which should remain closed.

Does anyone know of a hack or a simple program that PREVENTS Google
from keeping a record of your searches, or at least the connection between
those searches and your IP or actual identity?

Keeping the Streak Alive

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PINEROLO, Italy (Reuters) – Britain’s match against the
United States for the men’s curling bronze medal was interrupted on Friday
when a male streaker ran across the ice.

With poultry for a loin cloth, the man vaulted the barriers and danced
up and down the side of the ice sheet for several minutes before being
bundled away by bemused rink attendants.

The British team, skipped by David Murdoch, who were lagging the U.S. 6-2
in the sixth end, rested on their brooms, laughing, while the streaker
jiggled past.

As armed police ejected the man, naked into the cold mountain air, he was
heard to plead in a Scottish accent: "Please will someone bring me
my clothes?"

The British team, made up of all Scots, went on to lose the game 8-6.

We KNEW there was some reason we couldn’t take out eyes off of the Olympic
Curling this time around…..

from Reuters

 

Laproscopic, My Ass

1

Fair Warning: Anyone grossed out by medical details or
simply uninterested in the personal life of your correspondent can safely
skip the rest of this entry. However, since we are still to a certain
extent a Mom and Pop operation (Hi Mom! Hi Pop!) and a lot of our readers
know us personally, we feel a certain obligation to blog about our recent
medical emergency.

When we went into surgery two weeks ago today, we were
certainly not expecting
to
come
out gutted
like
a
bottom
feeder
and studded
with more metal than the population of The Pit in Harvard Square.

We needed this urgent surgery because of wandering stomach
syndrome. Our stomach had somehow come unanchored and migrated through
the esophageal
opening in our diaphragm. Most of it was now in our chest, shoving aside
the previous occupants like our heart and lungs. This was extremely puzzling
to our doctor, who said he typically sees this condition in elderly,
obese women.

The operation supposedly consisted of 1) grabbing the
stomach and pulling it back through the hole into the abdomen where it
belongs 2) wrapping
an anchoring it among the intestines and such so that it doesn’t start
wandering again, and 3) sewing up the hole in the diaphragm it went through.

According to the Chief of Surgery, who does this kind
of thing for a living, they hoped to be able to do the entire operation
laproscopically,
through three or four small holes, using miniature cameras, robot arms
and other tiny tools. If so, they said we could go home in a couple of
days, and be back at work in a week.

However, if the hole in our diaphragm was too big or
hard to get at, sewing it up would not be simple, and the surgeon said
he would probably have to sew a patch in
to seal it up tight. This would involve a slightly larger incision in
the chest, three or four days in the hospital, and two weeks of rest
before returning to work.

Once they got me on the table, however, all of these
estimates went the way of the Big Dig. Turns out that during the month
we were waiting
for the operation our stomach had gone COMPLETELY through the hole, and
was folded over and twisted around to boot. Putting it back was considerably
more complicated than anticipated. Pretty much everything had to be moved
around somehow.

Then there was some problem putting in the patch. We
are not sure exactly what went wrong (they never tell the patient the
details, apparently),
but several other surgeons, not part of our "team" have told us they
were in and out of the operating room several times because the case
presented "unusual complications."

In all, the operation lasted 5 hours, and we will end
up with a scar down the middle of our belly bearing an eerie resemblance
to a C-section. We ended up with 30 stainless
steel staples holding our gut together.

After the 5 hours of the actual operation, we were told
it took them an additional 3 hours to "get your pain under control".
We are not exactly
sure what this means, since mercifully we remember almost nothing, but
near as we can figure it means the first few times they tried to take
us out from under the anesthesia, we started kicking and screaming.
So
they
would
put
us back under, increase the underlying dosage of narcotics in our system,
and try to bring us out of it again.

Obviously, they had to repeat this routine several times
if it took them three hours to get us to the point where we could manage
consciousness.
Of course, the amount of narcotics any individual needs to overcome a
given level of pain depends on multiple factors, including body mass,
general physical condition, past opiate usage, individual pain threshold
and reaction to different specific opioids. The Dowbrigade takes a load.

The first 48 hours were extremely difficult. Just let us say that the
pain management function in the step-down ward (one step down from Intensive
Care) on the weekends is less than fully effective.

Because of the length and invasive nature of the operation,
our return to the classroom is now predicted to be not one week, not
two weeks,
but SIX WEEKS. Meanwhile, we have to take it easy, no heavy lifting,
light exercise and bland diet. They won’t even guarantee we’ll be able
to go to Florida in three weeks, where we are supposed to deliver a 56
minute paper and then spend four days in the sun. Maybe, the doctor said,
but don’t buy a non-refundable ticket. The reason we were asking is that
we were just about to buy a non-refundable ticket. It’s the only kind
we can afford.

Anyway, two weeks out, we are feeling a lot better,
although we still tire easily, and have daily (although not constant)
pain the in belly. We got our surgical staples out
Wednesday, and that helped a lot in making us feel comfortable. Yesterday,
for the first time since the operation, we finished the New York Times
crossword
with no help. And we can still blog….

Branding the Olympics – Sports No Sports

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This
ersatz network media event they are calling the Winter Olympics is really
starting to chap our ass. The whole thing leaves a nasty taste in our
mouth, as it seems to have been trumped up merely to get more mileage
out of the worldwide branding potential of a single word – "Olympics".

We all know the inspirational story of how an aristocratic French poof
named Pierre Fredy resurrected the concept of an athletic meeting of
nations in 1896. But the story is
much older
and
iconic than that – who hasn’t heard the stories of the original Ancient
Olympic Games, started in 776 BC near the historical Mt. Olympus, with
their naked homoerotic wrestlers, Bacchanalian feasts and ritual Temple
‘Ho’s. Further, on yet another level even deeper in the collective subconscious
and the mists of time is the story of the mythical Olympus, home to Zeus,
Triton, Uranus and Dionysus.

With so many levels of meaning and resonance, combined with the success
of the Modern Summer Olympic Games, is it any wonder that in 1924 a bunch
of European aristocratically cloned the franchise and held the first
Winter Games in Chamonix, France.

We remember watching the winter games as a kid. Growing up in the snow
belt girdling the Great Lakes, we could relate to the sledding events
as the major league equivalent of what we ran out to do on Suicide
Hillside on
nearby
Cobb’s Hill
every time we got more than an inch or two of snow, which was practically
every other day for four months.

And the large hill ski jumping on the little TV screen looked like the
closest a human being could get to flying, and we all watched fascinated,
imagining
it
was
us soaring through the air, and waiting for the inevitable, excruciating
crash.

But what these originally borderline Winter Games have morphed into
is something a thousand times worse.  Our complaints fall into two
categories: first, many of the "sports" are clearly not sports by any
rational definition
of the word, and second, the makeup and presentation of the latest generation
of made up sports, currently being force fed to the worldwide TV audience
in a misbegotten attempt to pump up their ratings in the key youth demographic.

As to which sports are worthy of the name, and which not, lets take
them one at a time. We start from the firm conviction that Sports are
like
Science:
they
must be objective, quantifiable, and replicable over time and across
the globe. That is, the human being who can get from Point A to Point
B,
these two points being 100 meters apart, in the shortest elapsed time,
can be quantified. We can say who is the fastest person on the planet,
between A and B, be they in Stockholm or Nigeria or Kingston. There are
no style points in the 100 meter dash.

In alphabetical order:

Alpine skiing – Clearly a sport. The classic three
disciplines of Slalom, Grand Slalom and Downhill offer a spine-tingling
combination of speed,
skill and guts. The cool thing about world-class skiing was that to
win you had to be right on that edge between control and out-of-control.
No question as to who wins – fastest skier down the hill grabs the gold.

Bobsled, luge and skeleton – Great, gripping, true
sports which combine speed and skill with equipment and technology.  There
is something very appealing about sports which require small mechanical
implements,
which evolve over time and can give one or another athlete that winning
edge.

Cross country and Biathalon – also among our favorites
and clearly real sports. Sure Biathalon is the bastard child of cross-country
skiing and
shooting, but there’s
no rule that a bastard can’t be an authentic Olympic sport, especially if both of its parent qualify. As a participant sport, cross-country
always seemed to lose the energy-in, adrenaline-out comparison with its
downhill cousin. As to shooting, well the Dowbrigade DOES have a Varsity
Letter for his participation on the Harvard Rifle Team, but we’ve never
tried to shoot on skis.

Curling – now we get into the first gray area. Unlike
most Americans, we grew up around curling, learned it at the knees of
a French-Canadian
nanny.
It is objective, the rules are clear, if obscure, and there is a clear
winner in every match. Curling, however, has more in common with chess
or billiards,
both of which it resembles in the importance of positional play, than
traditional contact or speed sports. Borderline sport.

Figure Skating – not only is figure skating NOT a true
sport, like female gymnastics it skates on dangerously thin ice between
child abuse and kiddie porn.
Driven, doped sacrificial virgins have been featured players in popular
and ritual entertainment since even before the Ancient Olympics, but
that doesn’t make them real sports. At best, this can be considered a
performance art, like ballet or cheerleading, but there
is no way something with Judges awarding style points should be considered
a competitive sport. At worst, most of the adult participants should
be arrested and charged with sex crimes.

Freestyle skiing – See above. Is there no difference
anymore between the Olympics and the X-games? Deserves to be an Olympic
sport about as much as Ballroom
Dancing.or Ice Sculpture.

Ice Hockey – One of the original Big 4 professional
sports, and a joy to watch.  To us, the Olympic variety is much
more entertaining than the NHL.  Professional athletes these days
are mercenaries – they rarely care about the name on the front of the
shirt.  The
exception is when that shirt belongs to their national team – even jaded
millionaires can still feel the stirring of patriotism when given sufficient
prompting. A real sport.

Ski Jumping – Still the closest a human being can get to flying, without
a motor or drugs. Judging is easy – all you need is a loooong tape measure.
A real sport.

Snowboarding – Once again, tricks and style trump going
faster, jumping higher, and scoring more goals. If snowboarding is an
Olympic sport, how about
its inspiration, skateboarding?  How about Pogo Stick jumping? Bungie
jumping?

Speed Skating – We don’t care if the track is short or long, speed skating
is a real sport.  It doesn’t matter what you wear, whether you flirt
with the audience, or what your hair looks like, as long as you get to
the finish line first.  Plus, there is is a lot of pushing, elbowing
and disqualifications between here and there. Definitely a real sport.

Finally, we are finding it really objectionable the way the new "youth-oriented"
sports are being sold to the public. Freestyle skiing, the half-pipe,
and snowboarding are being promoted as some kind of de-gangsterized,
hip hop break dancing. From iPod buds dangling from $500 haircuts to
stories of personal struggles with zits and supportive parents, this
whole movement
is a travesty of what a real sport should be. .

It is embarrassingly clear that the TV networks are playing up these
sports in a desperate attempt to find a few fresh new faces to use as
fodder for the
insatiable pages of People magazine, and as human vehicles to sell
whatever for a few new product cycles, before being forgotten, abandoned
and discarded to the trash bin of Olympians past.

Not that there is anything wrong with boarding or mogul skiing.  They
are a lot of fun, and as we all know, kids just want to have fun. But
there is no reason to name a World Champion in having fun. In fact,
we all like to think we have a shot at that one, despite our age, decrepitude
or lack of athletic ability.

Personally, the Dowbrigade is a traditionalist, and would like to see
the Olympics return to their authentic origins. Naked, sweaty guys,
bathed in oil and eager to rip one another limb from limb, all competitions
to be followed by wild Dionysian revelry with exotic temple prostitutes
and heaps of ceremonial intoxicants.

Those Olympics just aren’t what they used to be….

But Will the Mail Go Through?

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China’s ancient culture has outlasted famine, Mongol hordes, the
British Empire, opium wars and Japanese militarism.

So why is Beijing scared of Tinky Wink?

That’s the member of U.K. kids’ favorite Teletubbies, which aroused the
ire of televangelist Jerry Falwell. Now the animated gang has fallen
afoul of Communist China–although not for the preacher’s reasons.

See, Teletubbies is a mixed media show, in that it blends cartoons with
live action. And that melange is now officially banned by Beijing.

from Forbes Magazine

 

 

When we find out about something interesting but can’t
put together even a plausible theory as to why it should be so, it sticks
in our craw and itches our imagination
like a touch of poison ivy in that exact spot between and below the
shoulder blades you can never seem to scratch. Why in the world would
the
Chinese be afraid of mixed
media
?
Promoting a homegrown animation industry is all well and good, look
at what the Japanese have done with anime and animation, art forms
invented
and
monopolized by the US during the first stages of their development.
But why do the Chinese feel that Space Jam is intrinsically
more subversive than Bullwinkle or Ghost in the Machine?

Is it that their studios lack the know-how or hardware to mix live action
with animation? That is hard to imagine; the young Chinese entrepreneurs
we know seem to think they can do or make anything, and we are inclined
to believe them. Is it some weird cultural revulsion, like cartoons of
the Prophet, which makes mixed media an abomination in the middle kingdom?

Any readers with insights into the Chinese mind who might enlighten
us are encouraged to comment.

Afterthought – Gabe just mentioned that it is also somewhat hypocritical of the Chinese to ban the Tubbies – considering that every plastic Teletubby toy, coloring book, play set and fuzzy jammies featuring them is now “Made in China”…..

Port Deal Raised No Red Flags

1

The officials tried to assure the panel that the deal has been subject
to a careful, three-month review and that all security questions were
satisfied. They said no one raised an issue that would have prompted
the need for a further, 45-day investigation.

"We’re not aware of a single national security concern raised recently
that was not part of" the three-month review, Deputy Treasury Secretary
Robert Kimmitt told the lawmakers.

"They have been critical allies in Afghanistan," she told reporters
at a news conference on a separate matter. "They have been critical
allies in fighting the financial war against terror. They’ve been critical
allies in terms of our military-to-military relationship."

from AP News

Wow, we had no idea that the UAE has been such a key ally to the United
States lately, veritable soul mates in the fight for freedom, justice
and
the American Way. According to Wikipedia,
they have been staunch friends of the United States during the entirety
of their long history as a nation,
which stretches back all of 35 years.

Before that, the seven Sheikdom
States
of the Persian Gulf
coast granted the United Kingdom control of their defense and foreign
affairs in nineteenth-century treaties, so they have a long-standing historical
precedent of trading privileges for their hereditary elite for protection
from a world
superpower.

We feel that they make marvelous partners in the war against terrorism,
despite their complete lack of democratic institutions, religious freedom
and individual rights. As the current US administration can testify,
these things aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

We do wonder, however, how the Dubai Ports World administration will
handle it when they have to  process quantities of containers coming
in from Israel, a country whose existence they refuse to acknowledge.

And
suppose, just for the sake of argument, that those Emirs actually
took us seriously and organized real elections. Is there any reason to
believe that the local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood would NOT win?
Would they not then own Dubai Ports World and inherit this valid contract
to run our biggest ports? Luckily, real elections in the UAE is a problem we probably won’t have to face for many, many years.

These giant container ports have long been recognized as the weak link
in our efforts to keep Weapons of Mass Destruction OUT of the United
States. What a great, globalized way to deal with that problem – by turning
them over to a stable, long-time ally who shares all of the values and
traditions that make this the greatest country in the world.

The takeaway line from this and the previous story is that there is
something devastatingly transparent in Islamic culture, and we had better
take
these guys at
their word.
We believe them when they say they are our allies in the war on terror,
and that they hate Al Queda, because of course Al Queda hates them, considering
them spineless lackeys of the Oil Lords and Imperialists, and has officially
declared that their first order of business, after the Islamic Revolution,
is going to be to march all those Emirs and Sheiks out behind the Casbah
and introduce them to the business end of an AK-47.

Unfortunately, we also believe them when they say the State of Israel
has no right to exist and should be driven into the sea, and that the foreign
workers should give up their passports when they enter the country,
and that women have no place in public or political life. But heck, any
friend of Dubya’s is a friend of us all.

Hot Button Topics

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BAGHDAD,
Iraq, Feb. 22 – A powerful bomb shattered the golden dome at one of Iraq’s
most revered Shiite shrines on Wednesday morning, setting off a day of
sectarian fury in which mobs formed across Iraq to chant for revenge
and attacked dozens of Sunni mosques.

from the New York Times

The spasm of violence currently convulsing Iraq
is evilly eloquent testimony to any number of dead-end elements in
our downward
spiral
of intervention, but one of the most crucial and seldom noted is the
ease
with which the "Islamic Street" can be manipulated, set off, and
counted on to react in a violent, knee-jerk manner whenever the puppet
masters feel the need for the smell of gunpowder and cordite in the morning.

When engaged in a struggle with a powerful and determined
opponent, knowing that that opponent is going to react in a certain way
when touched exactly
there, or prodded precisely like that, can be a decisive
advantage. Be it from the depth of their convictions or the lack of artifice
and deception, the levers that move Islamic public opinion are clearly visible and hitting them
ridiculously easy. Just stand back, results vary.

Like a punch drunk little Irishman who will launch himself
into a 300-lb police commissioner who makes a wisecrack about his mother,
the entire
"Islamic Street", an amorphous and ethereal presence until it appears out of a cloud of smoke and fog
in some public square, seemingly at a moments notice, armed to the teeth
and looking for a way to vent its rage and bloodlust, swinging wildly at anyone or
anything that appears in its path, can be set off by anyone with access to their ears and a few magic words.

The Israelis have been playing these dangerous games with their
Palestinians for decades, pressing their buttons and maneuvering them
into a tragic dead
end of arrested development, internecine self-destruction and institutionalized
corruption. Master chess players, the Zionists paved a path to power
for Yasir Arafat, a figure so twisted and misdirected that it will take
the Palestinians another complete generation to recover from him. Unfortunately,
this is making it impossible for the surviving Jewish peacemakers to
find anyone capable or reliable enough to make peace with.

The players in the street even acknowledge this about
themselves.  One
of the theories circulating in the Middle East about the Cartoon Wars
is that they were an intentional provocation by infidel media magnates
who knew how violent and unsightly the reaction to them would be. Now,
in Iraq, we see competing sects of Islam frantically pushing each others buttons
to derail the ill-conceived and already doomed American attempt at nation-building
and plunge the country into an authentic civil war.

Adding a religious civil war to the pestilent panorama in Iraq would be like giving smallpox infected blankets to a
tribe where everyone is already dying of AIDS. With Sunnis and Shi’ite’s
blowing each other’s
mosques up like Baptist churches in Alabama, the last pretense for the
existence of a country called Iraq, other than as a front organization
authorized to sign agreements with the American oil companies, has been
blown to smithereens.

Lets take a tip from our Islamic brothers, and do away
with lies and pretense. Just declare the oil-rich regions a wholly-owned
subsidiary
of Haliburton and Exxon, get Blackthorn SEcurity to set up a defensive
perimeter around the oil fields, and get out of Dodge.

Is it any wonder that we see so few Islamic names and features in the
World Series of Poker? That they roll out the red carpet when they see
these guys coming at the casinos of Monte Carlo or the Bush White House?
Who else are we going to hang all our paper on? The Chinese are already getting wise.

But if they want to join the Congress of Nations and be woven in any
meaningful way into the emerging fabric of peoples and cultures which will define the next stage of human history, they need to get a handle
on that temper. How to arrange anger management for a billion people?