Thursday, August 31, 2006

How Do You Parody This Society, Anyway?

Earlier I said

For all I know, there is a Bandit Sign Association, with a Washington lobbyist. I bet California requires a professional license.

Looks like I wasn’t that far off.

Fn: And sure enough, I have a Google Ad for an outdoor sign company.


Well, I just did what any ordinary blogger would do when he needed a definition of the word "hoochie." I popped over to Urban Dictionary. Under "hoochie mama," at #3, with 53 positive votes (and, okay, 53 negative), I find:

hoochie mama is a lady/girl who is really hot...she got everythin and she gets anythin she wants. she's not necessarily a slut, she just flirts around and teases and dresses provactively.

Uh, say again -- "provactively"--? A mix of "provocative" and "proactive." Hey, there's a word we've all been waiting for.

Another Leading Indicator

I wonder if this is an index of (anything) in the real estate market.

I’m just back from the Marketing Real Estate Forum at There are 250 “post groups,” – i.e., messages, not counting answers. As of a moment ago, 13 of these 250 included the term “bandit signs.”

I confess, I didn’t even know what a “bandit sign” is. In the context of real estate, I assumed it was a sign saying that the foreclosing bank was a, well, a bandit.

But no. Wiki sets me straight:

Flyposting is the act of placing advertising posters or flyers in illegal places. In the US, these posters are known as bandit signs or street spam.

In most areas, it is illegal to place such posters on private property without the consent of the property owner or on public property without a sign permit from the local government.

It is an advertising tactic mostly used by small businesses promoting concerts and political activist groups, but there have been occasions where international companies subcontracted local advertising agencies for flyposting jobs in order to not get caught in illegal behavior.

Flyposting is commonly seen as a nuisance due to issues with property rights, visual appearance and littering and is a misdemeanor in many countries.

And they might have added: a highly developed sales technique in a sliding real estate market. “Language on Bandit Signs,” is Post #2. “Who’s Putting Out Your Bandit Signs?” is #8. I particularly enjoyed #43, from BoboTheKing:

Does anyone have some good color combinations for bandit signs and car magnets (lettering and background) that produces the best results? I have heard black lettering on yellow is good, but wanting to get all the input I can on what has worked well for other investors. Thanks in advance.

For all I know, there is a Bandit Sign Association, with a Washington lobbyist. I bet California requires a professional license.

Ahead of his Time (aka The Old, Old Story)

Where have you heard this before:

The increasingly frequent adoption of gang-terrorism as a mode of attaining political ends in the modern world should perhaps cause us to overhaul our methods of colonial defense … The Irish, and now the Palestinian rebellion … have shown that regular armiesw are ill adapted to cope with gang warfare, which carries on its activities by the intimidation of private citizens. The only way yet discovered to cope with terrorism is more terrorism [i.e., counter-terrorism] … Will this soon become an inevitable development in the British Empire also – Navy, Army, Air Force, and – anti-gangster services [i.e., counter-terrorism units] [?].

Glubb Pasha, British Commander of the Arab Legion, as quoted by Benny Morris in The Road to Jerusalem: Glubb Pasha, Palestine and the Jews 50-51 (I. B. Tauris 2003) (all brackets are from the book).

Afterthought: Wait a minute, who you callin’ “ahead of his time”? Isn’t this the kind of thing the Spanish did to Napoleon in the Peninsular War?

Response: Well, um, ah—okay, yes it is. But it is a lesson that conventional military bureaucracies don’t seem to learn quickly or well. Or, even after they learn it, they forget it. Until they get a chance to learn it again.

But What About Night-Shift Taxi Drivers?

Senator Conrad Burns, (R-Mont.) on terrorism:

BELGRADE, Mont. (AP) - Republican Sen. Conrad Burns ... says the United States is up against a faceless enemy of terrorists who ``drive taxi cabs in the daytime and kill at night.''

Source: here.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Vietnam Myths (and Realities)

The always readable Sic Semper Tyrannis says: “Someone said in a recent comment that we should thrash it out about Vietnam. OK. Start here.”

Okay, I will. The “comments” below are by Buce. Everything else is from the Vietnam myths webpage.


The domino theory was proved false.

The domino theory was accurate. The ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand stayed free of Communism because of the U.S. commitment to Vietnam. The Indonesians threw the Soviets out in 1966 because of America's commitment in Vietnam. Without that commitment, Communism would have swept all the way to the Malacca Straits that is south of Singapore and of great strategic importance to the free world. If you ask people who live in these countries that won the war in Vietnam, they have a different opinion from the American news media. The Vietnam War was the turning point for Communism.

Comment: the metaphysics of this one are obscure. Are you assuming we “won” in VN? And that no dominos fell? But how do you know what would have happened if we had not “won?” And of course, the more common view is that we lost Vietnam. If that is true—and still nobobdy dominoed—then the theory looks pretty shabby. [But for more on “who won,” see infra.]


Most Vietnam veterans were drafted.

2/3 of the men who served in Vietnam were volunteers. 2/3 of the men who served in World War II were drafted. Approximately 70% of those killed were volunteers.

Comment: who ever thought this one to be true? The point of they college kids was that they didn’t want to be drafted, whether others were or not.


The war was fought largely by the poor and uneducated.

Servicemen who went to Vietnam from well-to-do areas had a slightly elevated risk of dying because they were more likely to be pilots or infantry officers.

Comment: Objection, your honor, not responsive! Quite possible for both these statements to be true at once.


The United States lost the war in Vietnam.

The American military was not defeated in Vietnam. The American military did not lose a battle of any consequence. From a military standpoint, it was almost an unprecedented performance. (Westmoreland quoting Douglas Pike, a professor at the University of California, Berkley a renowned expert on the Vietnam War) [Westmoreland] This included Tet 68, which was a major military defeat for the VC and NVA.

Comment: But remember the NVN response: true but irrelevant. The whole point of Fourth-Generation Warfare theory is that winning battles doesn’t win wars.


Kim Phuc, the little nine year old Vietnamese girl running naked from the napalm strike near Trang Bang on 8 June 1972, was burned by Americans bombing Trang Bang.

No American had involvement in this incident near Trang Bang that burned Phan Thi Kim Phuc. The planes doing the bombing near the village were VNAF (Vietnam Air Force) and were being flown by Vietnamese pilots in support of South Vietnamese troops on the ground. . . . There were no Americans involved in any capacity.

Comment: This one wins the irrelevance grand prix. By 1972 it was America’s war, pure and simple.

Blood Will Tell

My name is George Nathaniel Curzon,
I am a most superior person.
My cheeks are pink, my hair is sleek,
I dine at Blenheim twice a week.

In some ways, George Nathaniel Curzon is the model of the British Imperial aristo. Eton. Oxford. Viceroy of India. Foreign Secretary. Should have been Prime Minister. And with a blood line that stretches back into the mists of time.

And, as Curzon himself almost said, almost entirely worthless.

My ancestors were a feeble lot. No family could have remained in possession of the same estate since the twelfth century had they manifested the very slightest energy or courage.

To find anything noteworthy at all, David Gilmore in his biography (from which all this is quoted this is quoted) had to hoik up a couple of illegitimates and one younger son who took up careers in the military. Aside from these, however, Nineteenth Century Curzons

...remained on their estates except for brief appearances at Westminster, their immobility and lack of adventure symbolized by the family’s strikingly unambitious motto, ‘Let Curzon holde what Curzon helde.’

Except for the Great Man Himself, the Curzon’s almost notorious lack of achievement extended even into his own generation:

Blanche Scarsdale [Curzon’s mother] had eleven children in all, one of whom did not survive, before she died in 1875 at the age of 37 [!!!—Buce] Most of them belonged to that unambitious family strain so dramatically challenged by their eldest brother. ‘Albert does nothing but is an excellent fellow,’ George remarked when his brother was 34. Sophy, his eldest sister, was married to an ‘excellent clergyman, while young Blanche kept house for [their father].

Curzon and his brother Frank

...were several times forced to bail out their other brothers, especially the youngest one, Assheton, who earned himself a reputation as the family’s ‘black sheep’. In 1914, after various other transgressions, Assheton was caught stealing securities from his office … . The only solution for Assheton, declared his eldest brother, was the classic remedy for black sheep: exile to the colonies.

Evidently the habits and customs extend beyond the great man himself. Many years after his death, his widow

...damaged her husband’s reputation by publishing her Reminiscences, the sort of book that makes people wonder why Britain never experienced a revolution: it describes inspections of the wrists of aspirant footmen to appraise their elegance when holding plates, and recounts how in her widowhood she canvassed for her Conservative son in East London accoutredf with fur coat, French maid, Rolls-Royce and hampers from Fortnum and Mason.

I will spare you the People-Magazine dope on their three daughters, but if you care, look here. As my friend Larry would say, they are descended form A Long Line of Dead People.

All quotations are from David Gilmour, Curzon xiii, 1-7 (1994).

Annals of Post-Modernist Self-Promotion

Last, I would like to thank Jeff Abel for his help in preparing this book for publication, for trying unfailingly (with scant success) to drag me into this digital age, for our friendship over the past thirty odd years, and for writing these words."

--Benny Morris, The Road to Jerusalem:
Glubb Pasha, Palestine and the Jews (Tauris 2003)

Sawicky Discovers Johnson

Max Sawicky has discovered Chalmers Johnson (here). This can only be good news. Johnson deserves all the press he can get. Sawicky is reading Blowback but he would just as much enjoy Sorrows of Empire. Encountering Amazon reviews, as usual follow Buce's browsing rule of reading the one-star reviews first: "Overdone nonsense!" "Utter, nonsensical, braindead, illliterate HOGWASH!" "Recommended by Janeane Garafalo!!"

Sawicky says "There's a fair amount of overlap with Chomsky," which is true in a superficial sense, but there is a world of difference. Chomsky is a messianic paranoid. Johnson is an old fashioned gent who kept careful notes on what he was taught in Sunday School. There's a tiny genre of these guys who extrude out of the mainstream--Clyde Prestowitz would be another, or Andrew Bacevich, maybe James Webb (and just in general, it is remarkable how the list of conservative dissidents grows longer every day).

Sawicky does find one interesting point of disagreement with Johnson—on the place of money in imperial overstretch. Says Sawicky:

I tend to discount the money aspect -- what's $450 billion in a $13 trillion economy? To me the ideology -- the thirst for influence, control, and dominance -- is most important.

Sawicky’s view is curious pendant to the view of another with whom he would have little in common: TigerHawk, who just a few days ago was exulting in the fact that the military was “only”3.9 percent of GDP (link here). Sawicky seems closer to right, but both miss the central point: 3.9 percent of a GDP as large as ours may be plenty enough to enhance, rather than to reduce, insecurity in the world.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Oh, I Wish...

Carpetbagger (channeling Yglesias) is certainly right to suggest that Rumsfeld lost it in his fit of table-pounding. But he segues from there to “most voters agree with the Dems that we should get out of Iraq” (I quote myself).

He may be right in fact but it sidesteps the issue. From the fact that the GOP has screwed up in Iraq, it does not follow that we can walk away. Indeed, a large part of the calamity is precisely that we cannot walk away: that the Frat Boy has created a mess that the rest of us will be unraveling for the rest of our lives.

I must say I don’t profess to hold any glib answers here. But the defect with “get out” is that it is simply not possible. We can, of course, pack the troops up and send them back to Fort Hood, or wherever. But that doesn’t mean we are “out.” It’s a small world and one way or another, we remain entangled. The useful debate is: okay, so we ship the troops home, then what? Can we in fact expect a Shi’ite takeover of Iraq? Can we live with that? Can we expect a Shi’ite-Sunni conflagration? Can we live with that? Can we expect a Turko-Iranian takeover of Kurdistan? Are we ready to live with that? And are we ready to live with the consequences that each of these may bring in turn?

I hope it is obvious that these questions are rhetorical. One way or another, the Middle East will set off reverberations to which we will have to respond (and a good many of them will be more difficult or intractable as a result of what we have done since 2003). How will we respond to them? This is the debate that we must have now, as much (or even more) if we "go home" as if we don't.

Cut and run? Oh, I wish…

Fn: For a far more subtle exploration of the implications of withdrawal, see Abu Aardvark.

Why Sweden?

One of the more curious rhetorical ploys of American right-wing thought is what you might call “the Sweden maneuver.” No, this is not a move in the game of Mornington Crescent. It’s the device of hoiking up a set of (alleged) data on (something) in Sweden, and marshalling it to prove that our “system” is better than their “system. The standard structure is: don’t be misled by the appearance of stability, prosperity and security—this is a frozen swamp where orchids die and toads live long.

It’s not clear to me just how long this has been going on. Certainly to the early days of the Cold War; perhaps all the way to the first publication of Marquis Childs’ seminal Sweden: The Middle Way in 1936 (look here). Childs was “moderate” in the classic sense of the term: temperate, skeptical, curious, hospitable to the unexpected. It’s not a pose that sits well with terrible simplificateurs, and so it seems to have prompted an ever-renewing determination to prove that the Swedes are slatternly, suicidal, promioscuous (and crypto-Nazi to boot).

[An interesting but not particularly simplistic instance of the genre can be found here.]

A remarkable new instance emerges from, unsurprisingly, TCS Daily, the talking-shop of James K. (Dow 36,000) Glassman and his crew. The TCS money shot is this: forget about the rich getting richer. The data shows that the poor in Sweden are just as poor as the United States. That for you, Leif Erikson!

But TCS is not content to let the numbers speak for themselves. No:

If we accept (as I do) that we do, indeed, need to have a social safety net, and that we have a duty to provide for those incapable or unlucky enough to be unable to do so for themselves, we need to set some level at which such help is offered. The standard of living of the poor in a redistributionist paradise like Finland (or Sweden) seems a fair enough number to use and the USA provides exactly that. Good, the problem's solved. We've provided -- both through the structure of the economy and the various forms of taxation and benefits precisely what we should be -- an acceptable baseline income for the poor. No further redistribution is necessary and we can carry on with the current tax rates and policies which seem, as this report shows, to be increasing US incomes faster than those in other countries and boosting productivity faster as well.

The internet still makes my head spin. The TCS piece is dated August 28. The same day, we have one of the authors of the study in question (Max Sawicky), here, responding that “this [analysis] should take an Olympic gold medal for missing the point” (think of Marshall McCluhan, coming to the aid of Woody Allen in Annie Hall). Point being that TCS has simply assumed away the issue of social services, dealt with at length in the original study. Look here to see Matt Yglesias explaining Sawicky, better than Sawicky explains himself.

This is all good fun, but my question persists: why Sweden? What is it about (apparent) security and stability that drives the simplificateurs so wild? As TCS itself inadvertently acknowledges, it isn’t even the “middle way” paradise of democratic socialism that it was in Childs’ day—it has school vouchers and no inheritance tax. Is it that they were too chummy with the Nazis? That they gave us Bergman? Strindberg? Alfred Nobel? Hans Blix?[1] But they can’t even keep control of their own auto industry. Okay, bad example…

Biblio Note: Preparing this note, I ran across this link, which provides a more extensive analysis of Sweden and of meta-Sweden.

[1] Actually, these days maybe it is Hans Blix. Tis said that one reason the Bush admin wouldn’t go along with the weapons inspectors is that Rove is Norwegian and thought that Rove, a Swede, could not be trusted.

Monday, August 28, 2006

War Is About Winning, Not About Killing

Not being a regular reader of the New York Post, I don’t think I had ever heard of Ralph Peters until I stumbled onto this intriguing review by TigerHawk. I’ve now had a chance to explore a bit of Peters’ work with (qualified) pleasure and (qualified) profit. Without pretending to be present a fully developed review of my own, let me see if I can make one basic point.

But first, background. It may help to have earplugs. Peters is a romantic with a gushy, hand-wringing over-the-top style that assures you the world will end on Thursday if you don’t listen to him. His primary theme is something on the order of “the beleaguered virtue of the soldier” versus “the fecklessness and corruption of”—well, of just about everybody else. (quoted words are mine, not his) As a literary trope, this is pretty well worn. Still, as a rule of thumb for life, it probably has more truth than a lot of literary tropes. There’s no escaping the fact that the organized military is a behemoth organization and as such, is vulnerable not just accidentally, but systematically and predictably, to the kinds of ailments that beset behemoths everywhere. As TigerHawk says:

Peters['] sharpest observations turn on the relationship between weapons procurement and America's likely warfighting requirements. In short, he believes that the defense industry, the Pentagon brass, and the Congress have, through a combination of stupidity and self interest, seduced the rest of us into believing that small numbers of extraordinarily expensive and technologically advanced weapons systems can both achieve American military objectives and substitute for quantity.

Myself having almost as little military experience as our President, this kind of stuff gets beyond my pay grade fairly fast, but I’m generally persuaded that there is something to it: the chances are very good to excellent that the structure of the military enterprise will guarantee that it spends tons of money on the wrong things.

Now, take this as context for what seems to me to be Peters’ central error: he seems to believe that war is about killing. He doesn’t say so in so many words—at least not in what I’ve read. But he does seem to say that “war is about winning” and that “winning involves annihilation of the enemy (my quotes again).

If this is, in fact, his point, he is wrong. War is about winning. Sometimes, this involves a lot of killing, and sometimes it does not. There was probably no way for the Russians to beat back the Germans than with wholesale slaughter. But (to take just one example among many possible), consider General Sherman: a great warrior and a great victor—but not a great killer. The South remembers him bitterly for having achieved almost total dominance over them. They forget that he did it with only modest loss of life.

By contrast, consider that most useless of all modern battlefields: the Western Front where two sides hammered away at each other savagely because neither could think of a good reason to stop—the cream of ironies was that they never had a good reason to start in the first place.

That, of course, is the lesson of the modern “people’s wars” that we seem so determined to misunderstand. As may have said, we won it twice and lost it twice. As Ho Chi Minh liked to say, it didn’t matter because we didn’t understand the war we were fighting. So also the Israelis with an even more dramatic record of success on the battlefield and disappointment after the battle is over.

We do a bit better these days. No American seems to have understood the Vietnam War while it was going on. A few seem to understand Iraq today. On issues of operation and management, Peters is probably one of them: he certainly merits attention. On articulating strategic goals, he is not to be trusted.

[Peters’ book is: Never Quit the Fight available here, and do your best to ignore the fact that Amazon offers it as a companion piece to Ann Coulter.]

No Wonder He's Grumpy

The Financial Times, via Grumpy Old Bookman, reports that 175,000 new blogs are being created every day; Technorati recently tracked its 50 millionth. GOB also links (here) a (London) Times story on kids of politicians whose blogs embarrass their parents. The Times story is great but GOB is better:

I was going to say that none of this is remotely surprising. Why should we expect, I was going to say, that politicians' kids would be any different from anyone else's? But actually, when you think about it, there are quite good reasons why politicians' kids should be whackier than average.

For a start, Dad is never there. He's far too busy being an important mover and shaker. Secondly, when he is there, the kids hear him sounding off about this and that in forthright terms, only to see him on TV the next day saying the exact opposite, or making a statement which, when examined closely, says absolutely nothing at all. Such close exposure to the political process is pretty much guaranteed, one might think, to engender a more than usually high level of disgust, distrust, and contempt. Hence the habit of some daughters of dancing on bar tops and posting the pictures on the net. Fuck all that, you can practically hear them saying, this is what life is really all about.

I wonder if my kids are embarrassed by my blog? My grandkids? Heck, they’re probably too busy creating their own blogs. I’m just as glad I don’t know.

Annals of Cross-Cultural Understanding

"With God's help, we will lift Shanghai up, ever up, until it is just like Kansas City."

--Senator Kenneth Wherry of Nebraska, 1940.

Or maybe just like Slough.


But then, so did a lot of other people. Anyway, link here and here.

Afterthought: Guy I wouldn't want to be -- the guy who hired him to teach in a private school in Bangkok, just a nanosecond before he was arrested.

First Ever Underbelly Soccer Post

Thanks to Joel for a piece from the London Evening Standard on where to eat and drink with your landsmen in London during the World Cup (link here, but the link seems unreliable). The food notes are interesting but even more fun is the info on who and how many. No surprise that United States and Australia weigh in with 200,000 each, or Paraguay with 150 (try Fiesta Havana on Fulham Broadway). But what nation leads the field with twice as many homies as US and Australia ech (or as many as the two combined)? Answer later, if I remember.

Pensées Sauvages

The macaca circus is turning into a pile-on and it is hard to find anything left unsaid (see here, here, here and heaven knows how many others). But let me offer a point which I (at least) haven’t noticed elsewhere.

Among the macacistas, much is made of the fact that young Mr. Sidarth is a native Virginian and that Allen is not. This is thought to be an irony.

It seems to me that this gets things backwards. Recall that macaca turns out to be an imperialist slur for the natives. In that sense, Allen has it precisely right. Allen helicopters in from Palos Verdes, uses and abuses the locals, and then fires of a blast at them for being shiftless and irresponsible (and, in the habit of the time, ungrateful).

"I do apologize if [they're] offended that," he might say.

There now, is that so hard? If Hillary had said it about a New Yorker, I’ll bet even The Corner could have figured it out.

Now this (from Sepiamutiny -- thanks, Anupam):

Sunday, August 27, 2006

What Harry Said about Barry

The Jewish Daily Forward has decided that George (Macaca) Allen is, well Jewish. Max Sawicky adds him to a long list of pols who were Jewish before they weren't: "James Schlesinger, Casper Weinberger, Lawrence Kudlow, Bob Novak, and Harry Reems would understand. Maybe he should make Madeleine Albright his running mate," says Max.

George (and Max) might want to recall another great conservative hero who wasn't so coy: Barry Goldwater, grandson of "Big Mike" Goldwasser, an immigrant from Poland. Of Goldwater, Harry Golden quipped: "I always said that the first Jewish president would be an Episcopalian."

Fn.: Carpetbagger remarked on Goldwater's Jewishness in a piece of ironic nostalgia just a couple of days ago. What we may see is a variant of the old rule: the job of every Republican president (candidate) is to make the last guy look good.

Found in the Bin : Generation of Leaves

Lytle hwile leaf beoth grene;

Thonne hie fealewiath, feallath on eorthan

and forweorniath, weorthath to duste.

My notes say: ...found in an Old Eng. text, cited as from "Solomon and Saturn.”

A little while the leaves are green,

then they yellow, fall to earth

and perish, turn to dust.

The author must have been channeling this:

The generation of mankind is like the generation of leaves. The wind scatters the leaves on the ground, but the living tree burgeons with leaves again in the spring.

Homer, Iliad 6.146-148

Richmond Lattimore trans. (slightly revised)

Alabama Democrats: A Big Tent, Or...

My friend Ivan is grumpy. Living in Alabama might be reason enough, but today he has to cope with this (link expires at midnight 8/30):


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Democratic Party leaders want a former candidate for attorney general who denies the Holocaust occurred to stay out of their future primaries.

The party's executive committee passed a resolution Saturday informing Larry Darby that "he is not welcome in the Alabama Democratic Party."

Darby, the founder of the Atheist Law Center, responded by saying the vote shows that the state party's leadership is "intellectually and morally bankrupt."

Apparently Darby got 43 percent of the vote in a primary for attorney general. Ivan says:

The AP should have made clear that most Alabamians didnt know Darby's racist, anti-semitic positions, or that he then headed [the atheist center].. … Darby got 99 percent of his vote because Democrats didn’t know what he stood for, not because they knew what he stood for.

Haven’t heard from Ivan yet on this (from the NYT):


Published: August 27, 2006

A woman who stands to become Alabama’s first openly gay elected official is back on the November ballot after the Democratic Party’s state committee on Saturday overturned a decision to disqualify her.

The candidate, Patricia Todd, who won a runoff to become the Democratic nominee for state legislator in a central Birmingham district, was disqualified Thursday on the grounds that she had failed to file a campaign finance report with the state party chairman, even though candidates have not done so since 1988.

The subcommittee that met Thursday disqualified her opponent in the primary, Gaynell Hendricks, for the same reason. There is no Republican candidate in the district, whose registered voters are majority black by a slim margin. Ms. Todd is white; Ms. Hendricks, whose mother-in-law brought the challenge, is black.

The subcommittee that disqualified the candidates was controlled by Joe Reed, a powerful black Democrat, who had urged voters to support Ms. Hendricks and warned that if they did not, the district could be redrawn to be majority white.

But the disqualification was met with disapproval. The party’s chairman, Joseph Turnham, said he was disappointed, and an editorial in The Birmingham News asked if the party had a “death wish.”

Knot Lady Law

Will someone please tell me what I've done to deserve

Knot Lady Law

In my snapshirts word cloud:

A Google "lucky" search for "knot lady law" yields this.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Just scanning my Geovisitors locations. Welcome, Hong Kong, whoever you are. And Barcelona: I wouldn't mind being there myself.

Summer Reading Notes

Some summer reading notes: I read Steven Mithen, After the Ice (2003), by mistake. Somehow I thought it was about the development of the human species (homo this and homo that). Silly me: the development of the species takes place before the ice, while Mithen covers the period from about 20,000 to about 5,000 B.C. I particularly enjoyed the stuff about Western Asia, where I hope to spend some time later this Autumn, and in particular about Çatalhöyük in Turkey—a chilling story about a place . Mithen also introduced me to the “Younger Dryas,” a concept I had never heard of before. Prodigious piece of research, smoothly presented.

The read-aloud book for the summer at Chez Buce is T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, (Anchor Reissue 1991) supplemented by John J. Mack’s A Prince of Our Disorder (Harvard UP Paperback 1998), a superb biography of Lawrence, worthwhile in its own right. I still can’t make up my mind about Lawrence: he is obviously some kind of head case, but it’s hard to put your finger on just what kind of head case it might be. Perhaps the best way to read it is as a study in leadership, and also on popular conceptions of the hero; Mack’s treatment of the “heroism” issue is particularly fine. Caution: Lawrence does wander on a bit. The style is a kind of mannered Edwardian, and there is at least one passage of really gruesome torture.

I also reread (or so I thought) David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace (2d Reprint ed. 2001), about the Middle East and the Imperial Powers during and after World War I. I said “so I thought,” because I’m sure I read this book back around that fabled trip to Turkey 15 years ago—but an awful lot of it seems brand new this time. Perhaps the dominant theme here is the ignorant arrogance and presumption of the British, focused around the notion that the Arabs would just naturally welcome British rule. Not least interesting of many fascinating points is the insight on the relationship between T.E. Lawrence (again) and Winston Churchill. It has eerie resonance with the relationship in World War II between Churchill and the Scottish adventurer, Fitzroy MacLean. MacLean's Eastern Approaches (Reprint ed. 2003) is another imperial swashbuckler, fit to be bracketed with (but really not at all like) Seven Pillars.

I bought and started, and lost, and promptly bought again, Nicholas Oster’s extraordinary Empires of the World: A Language History of the World (2005). The jacket says that Ostler has “a working knowledge of twenty-six languages” along with “degrees from Oxford in University in Greek, Latin, philosophy and economics.” Aside from the sheer quiz-kid aspect, the practical relevance is that Ostler does better than anybody I ever knew in relating language and power: showing low language patterns shift, or do not shift, with patterns of politics.

My own language skills are derisory by comparison but I try to hack away at them. This summer I read Simenon’s Coup de Lune (2003) in French, and Silone’s Fontamara (Manchester UP n.d.) in Italian. In each case, the point is that the language is pretty simple (my copy of Fontamara is a school edition with nice notes). My late friend John, may he rest in peace, used to say that the problem with Simenon is that there is too much outmoded gangster argot. Could be: my French is weak enough I wouldn’t know.

For the exercise bike, I have a copy of the Joint Association of Classical Teachers New Testament Greek: A Reader, (2001). Once again, this is not as challenging as it might sound. The whole point of New Testament Greek is that it is easier than Classical Greek. And JACT has a ton of vocab notes. So I can limp through a good deal of with at least minimal success. I do keep a $10 King James Bible at the ready, and I must say it turns out to be a pretty serviceable trot. Got to be careful about flashing this stuff in coffee shops, though: can lead to unwanted conversations.

I’m not sure it counts as “reading” or not, but I must say I have been mesmerized by Will Eisner’s A Contract With God (2000), the hard-bound comic book epic of life in the Bronx in the 1930s. The pictures are riveting. I knew virtually nothing about comics before, but I can see why this guy is recognized as a master.

[My Amazon ad links at the moment include two other books I don’t discuss here: Van Creveld’s Rise and Decline of the State (1999), and Hammes’ Sling and the Stone (2004). They aren’t summertime reading because I read them last Spring. I’m hoping to pull together some thoughts on them for a separate post.]

Organization of Hatreds Redux

Politics as the organization of hatreds again:[1]

Entire political parties and media networks are embarked on an explicit program to make us afraid, in order to gain power and status thereby. This is the very definition of terrorism, and they are terrorists, who deserve to be treated as such with all due diligence of public sentiment and the law.

And let’s hear it for “opportunofascists” (in the comments).

Update. Yes, yes, fear ≠ hatred, but the linkage is close enough.

[1] Earlier I thought I was quoting Michael Oakeshott. My bad: apparently it was Henry Adams. See, e.g., here.

Another Mind Virus

My knowledge of boxing is zero, perhaps negative, but I found myself sucked in by this gripping account of the career of Sonny Liston, from Nick Tosches, via Grumpy Old Bookman. Somewhat defensively, GOB asks "Sonny who?" but that is because he is writing in Britain. Americans, I suspect, even doofuses like myself, remember Liston, but I doubt if even good boxing fans knew some of the stuff that Tosches seems to have brought together.

I also liked (from the comments):

I once saw [Ingemar Johansson] in his old age, handing out free tastes of prefab meatballs in a grocery store in Stockholm.

If you still have unexhausted brain cells, pop over to Ancecdotal Evidence and read this fine account of D'Arcy Thompson's classic, On Growth and Form (1917). My friend Steve tells me that computer-assisted design has made Thompson's lessons practically irrelevant, but the book is a wonder nonetheless.

Is This a Parody?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Plan C

A morning-after pill for men.

Hitler Dead Again

And getting deader: Hitler’s Restaurant in Mumbai has apparently thrown in the swastika; look here. But the Café Mao chain continues to do business in Dublin and Glasgow. That picture in the website? It is apparently not a fat old dictator in a Mao suit, but just a fat little kid in a fat-old-dictator costume. Apparently there used to be a picture of the old swimming champ himself; if you believe what you read here (scroll down) the pictures went down after a publicity kerfuffle back in 2005. But it looks like somebody forgot to read the mission statement; look here for a more up to date report.

Maybe only fair; after all Mao still maintains a clear lead in the democide sweepstakes with an estimated 77 million kills, while Hitler trails at a poor third with 21 million, well behind Joseph Stalin (43 million) and not far ahead of Kublai Khan (19 million). Google doesn’t turn up a Café Stalin, but if you are in Newcastle, you can pop over to the Kublai Khan “specialty restaurant” for the all-you-can-eat buffet. And there was something about a Stately Pleasure Dome.

Although he has taken down the sign, Hitler’s proprietor says “This is one name that will stay in people’s minds.” Our bet is that the old mass murderer is lying low in Argentina.

Update: comment thread here is far less snarky and more instructive than this post.

"It's Something New, They Call it Tandoori..."

The Syed brothers opened Durbar in 1956 when there were fewer than 20 Indian restaurants in London and Winston Churchill had just resigned as prime minister in favour of Anthony Eden.

Fifty years on, there are about 8,500 Indian restaurants in the UK, more people are employed in the preparation and serving of Indian food than in the shipbuilding, coal mining and steel industries put together and someone who should be resigning is dragging his feet.

--Fay Maschler in the London Evening Standard, here
(and thanks, Joel)

Fn. In one of her many volumes of memoirs, Doris Lessing tells about going down to Leicester Square on New Year's Eve 1950 (I guess), to see the action. No one was there.

Somehow I Missed Polygamy Day

Somehow I missed “Polygamy Day 6” but the folks over at are happy to bring me up to date:

Over the ... year leading up to the current “Polygamy Day 6,” many events accelerated the polygamy rights movement. A government study in Canada recommended de-criminalizing polygamy. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously decided “Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita,” putting two burdens of proof on the government to prove, first, why all polygamy should supposedly be completely banned and, second, why making an exemption for specific benevolent forms of polygamy would undermine such a complete ban – impossibilities for the government to ever prove. A new show on HBO’s pay-TV network, called “Big Love,” was the very first of its kind to portray normal consenting-adult polygamists. That generated enormous media coverage on the polygamy movement and its renowned battle-cry, “Polygamy Rights is the next civil rights battle.” And both houses of the U.S. Congress - again - failed to pass a big government marriage amendment.

Okay, okay, I enjoy the prurience as much as the next guy (name available on request). But there is a real issue here for anybody interested in social order. My own not very well tutored guess is that along with a rising incidence of warlordism, polygamy is bound to be on the rise as well (for a good overview, see Philip Longman on “Why Men Rule,” here).

Among those who pay attention to polygamy, there’s been a lot of attention directed to issues of morality, propriety sexual equality, and general existential angst. Somewhat less noticed is an issue that may be even more important: surplus males.

It seems to be a mantra of mine: a society with too many unattached males is society that is dangerous and disruptive a nuisance to itself and others. Polygamy coupled with sex selection and the evident “male imbalance” through large chunks of the world (particularly the Muslim world) is an explosive combination. Martin Walker did an admirable job of showcasing the “sex-selection” aspect here. For a suggestion of what a world looks like with too many men and not enough brides, consider Jonathan Spence on the rural village of Daoyi in 18th-Century China:

Because of childhood illnesses, a less-than-adequate diet, even infanticide in time of famine—and because wealthy men tended to keep several female consorts—there were many fewer marriageable women than men in Daoyi, as in so many other areas of China. … The Chinese idealization of the family, the attention paid to children, and the insistence that descendants practice ancestor worship to keep forbears from suffering in the afterworld—all these deeply held beliefs must have seemed a cruel jest to these millions of men. For women, any attempt to avoid marriage must have been out of the question. This was just one more of the many areas in which sourcces of social discontent were always present, and yet could seldom be articulated because of China’s prevailing social beliefs.”

--Jonathan D. Spence, The Emergence of Modern China 94 (1990).

Current News Angle: It’s fascinating to watch how this issue plays itself out in Republican politics, particularly as it relates to the candidacy of Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and the question whether a Mormon can secure himself with the religious right. The National Review fires a shot across his bow here, including the imperishable one-liner from Kate O’Beirne:

Should Mitt Romney join a 2008 race that included John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and George Allen, the only guy in the GOP field with only one wife would be the Mormon.

Fn.: And yes, I realize the issue is not as simple as I make it sound. Look here.

Some Questions for TigerHawk

TigerHawk is hands down one of the most interesting military/security blogs around. All the more reason to call him when he says something fatuous. Specifically here, where he remarks that defense spending is “only” 3.9 percent of GDP, in contrast to what he calls the “real fiscal outrage” of entitlement spending. Tiger (may I call you Tiger?), remember you are on your honor as a gentleman. Answer candidly:

  • Tiger, you are a business exec, I believe?Do you ever control the budgets of subordinates? If a subordinate tells you that you shouldn’t worry about his costs because he is only a small part of the whole, are you impressed?

  • As a business exec, I suspect you entertain skepticism of the power of government to solve problems, yes? Have you ever said “you can’t solve a problem by throwing money at it”--?

  • Do you think returns to defense spending are linear? Would we twice as safe if we spent twice as much?

  • Framing the previous question differently, in The New American Militarism, Andrew Bacevich argues that extra military spending actually makes us less safe, rather than more. Setting aside the question whether you think this to be the case now, do you think it ever could be the case? Is it, in other words, an issue worth pondering?

  • You fulminate against “The shocking pattern … in the growth of social welfare spending for the middle class.” Is there any government program that you favor that does not entail the use of explosives?

  • As an executive, I assume you are interested in cost controls? Do you know any principles of cost control that you might think relevant to the Pentagon? For extra credit, would you like to offer thoughts on how to apply them to the health care establishment, so as to reduce the pain of the entitlement transfers that you so disparage?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Technorati Profile

The Jihadi version of D&D

I just now caught up with TigerHawk’s estimable post where he points to the “preconfessions” of the London jihadis. TigerHawk suggests putting them on the web to “discredit these idiots.” As he says: “we should be mocking and humiliating them at every opportunity. [If we set them up] for distributed pillory at the hands of every blogger and comedian who wants to win this war, so be it.”

A commentor cautions: “Releasing the videos now would certainly wreck the case. The suspects would probably have to be released as a fair trial would be impossible. You have to be very careful with juries.”

Very likely. But so what? Let me be clear, I have no beef with the London investigators who did a fine job of tracking and monitoring these buffoons. But let’s face it: these jihadis are not serious terrorists, they are wannabees. They were writing a collaborative on-line fantasy novel; they were playing a jihadi version Dungeons & Dragons. They certainly had all kinds of evil intent. But they had their shoelaces tied together. The chances that they could pull off an act of serious murder or mayhem is just about zero. As a threat to good order, they were about as dangerous as that judge who got caught masturbating with a penis pump.[1] Turning them loose to deafening hoots of derision would—in each case—be the appropriate penalty. Remember, you can’t run with the big dogs if you spray ammonia like a puppy.

[1] Okay, the judge got four years, which doesn’t really help my argument. But my heavens, where are the libertarians when you need them?

The Natives are Restless

Carpetbagger is having a merry old time with our President’s newly-disclosed passion for reading. Commentators are quick to leap on the obvious (blah blah classic comics blah blah My Pet Goat blah blah). But nobody so far seems to have hit upon a more insidious possibility. Could it be that the White House staff is abandoning ship and that this is a piece of not-so-subtle mockery? On the order of Freud saying "I can recommend the Gestapo to anybody"--?

Fn: Let me add that it didn’t strike me as particularly odd when it was disclosed last week that he was reading Camus’ Stranger. Recall that this is the book they give you in French class to start you off on the genuine article. Lots of simple words.

Afterthought: I gave my young friend Daniel a copy of "Animal Farm" for his Bar Mitzvah. "He liked it," his father told me. "He thought it was about pigs."


"A Negro and a Jew Decide the Destiny of Humanity"

Thanks, Larry...

Fn: But perhaps not here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Life in the Waffen SS

Patrick Lang, who is becoming a must-read on military matters, has some fascinating stuff up on what it must have meant for Gunter Grass to serve in the Waffen SS. Link here, and root around the rest of his stuff; all good.

Fn.: Did not know that a German army unit is under "operational control" of the American V Corps. So Lt. Gen. Ricardo (Abu Ghraib) Sanchez is effectively the commander of a Panzer Division.

The Competition to Provide Services---Phase II

A generation ago, George Stigler conditioned us all to think of the government as a participant in a competitive market for services. You see this no more clearly than in “revolutionary situations”--guys in bandoliers running day-care centers in the mountains, while trying to blow the brains out of ministers in the capital. Or, last week, as Hezbollah undertook the rebuilding of Lebanon.

But that is only part of the story. For Phase I, Bruce Wallace caught the full implications last week in the LA Times:

AITA SHAAB, Lebanon — To enter southern Lebanon these days, you drive down roads where traffic is directed by young men in gray Hezbollah civil defense corps T-shirts and past bulldozers from the Holy War Reconstruction Co.

Days after guns fell silent, Hezbollah has emerged as the lead player in the cleanup of towns and villages in southern Lebanon. It has the volunteers, owns the equipment and has spent years burnishing its image as the champion of ordinary people, from poor tobacco farmers to doctors and lawyers, who see Hezbollah as much more than a militia.

Men fighting Israeli troops a few days ago are working alongside the Lebanese Red Cross to pull bodies from the rubble.

Nowhere across this blasted, pitted landscape is there any sign of the Lebanese government, or its authority.

"There is no government here," said an agitated Abdul Muhsen Husseini, president of the Union of Municipalities in the Tyre region — the man who is supposed to be in charge — as he handled requests from a stream of petitioners asking for money to buy medicine and what to do with the dead.

"We asked the government in Beirut to accompany the returning people to their villages, to repair water and prepare the roads," he said. "They said to me, 'God willing, we will come.' And they didn't come." . . .

In Beirut, the Cabinet issued a statement Wednesday saying it would "prevent the establishment of any authority outside the state" in southern Lebanon, and it pledged to restrict to the government the right to bear arms.

But on the ground in southern Lebanon, it is Hezbollah, emerging from a month of ferocious fighting with its health, education and civil services apparently intact, that calls the shots. . . .

[Hezbollah’s effort presents] a serious challenge to the central government in Beirut and the Bush administration, which is scrambling to launch its own rebuilding effort and deny Hezbollah a public relations dividend.. . .

In his office in Tyre, Husseini, the regional government official, begrudgingly credited Hezbollah and its Shiite allies in the Amal militia.

"At least they are on the ground helping," he said. "If you call them at midnight, they come out to help. They are the government."

So in competiton between “the government” and Hezbollah, seems to win the first round on points. But today we have Phase II—more competition. Here is Zeina Karam, for the Associated Press (in the New York Sun):

Arab League foreign ministers convened for an emergency meeting in Cairo to discuss a plan to create a fund to rebuild Lebanon.The meeting ended with no plan, but foreign ministers said a social and economic council would convene to discuss how to fund the rebuilding.

Diplomats said Arabs want to counter the flood of money that is believed to be coming to Hezbollah from Iran to finance reconstruction projects. An estimated 15,000 apartments were destroyed and 140 bridges hit by Israeli bombardment in Lebanon, along with power and desalination plants and other key infrastructure.

"This is a war over the hearts and mind of the Lebanese, which Arabs should not lose to the Iranians this time," a senior Arab League official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the press.

Takes me back to a wonderful old Soviet-era cartoon, where the savage in the jungle tells his buddy:

“I’ve got an idea. First we threaten to go communist and the Americans send us advisers. Then we threaten to go capitalist and the Russians send advisers. Then we eat ‘em.”

For Valuable Prizes

As it happened, I was in an airport security queue when I first heard about the new London bombing plot. My first thought was “it will be a fizzle.” Hey, as a first try, it was not a bad guess: most of the other trumpeted busts so far have been, to put it mildly, vastly overhyped.

Ten days later, I’m a little less certain that it is a fizzle, but I’m still on the fence. It does sound like we have a bunch of guys who like to say rude things in chat rooms; how much farther it goes--that remains, I think, to be seen.

But I can’t take much reassurance from reports of today’s first court appearance. BBC says:

“Two were accused of failing to disclose information and a 17-year-old was charged with possessing articles useful to a person preparing terrorism acts.”

Two points here. One, when was it, exactly, that “failing to disclose information” became a crime? And two, “articles useful to a person preparing terrorism acts.” In one of several previous incarnations, I was a police reporter for the old Louisville Times. I remember reading a hundred warrants that charged “possession of burglary tools.” Imagine my chagrin when someone explained to me that this meant they had a screwdriver in the trunk.

For valuable prizes, is there any reader who can affirm that s/he does not possess “articles useful to a person preparing terrorism acts”?

Monday, August 21, 2006

A Mini-Leno Moment

This is not quite the Jay Leno effect, but it is worth noting anyway. My friend John favors me with the news of the discovery of “a new element, governmenterium (GV)”. He reports:

Governmentium (Gv) has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

I spare you the remainder. Well, har de har, but he’s pulling my chain. As John knows perfectly well, this one has been around since the McKinley Administration—another proof that the internet offers avenues for an exponential expansion of time-wasting and mindless diversion.

The interesting thing is that it is circulating now, in the sixth year of a Republican administration—the framework was a few snide cracks about Hurricane Katrina. They say that when Leno starts mocking you, you are in trouble. This doesn’t have the same heft. But if the time-wasters are circulating about a Republican administration, then I’d say we’ve got one more log on the fire.

From the Bin: I Knew There was Something

A couple of weeks ago I was nattering on about the dispensability of men. Perhaps I overdid it:

“It was then,” Amalia went on, “that La Lucienne began to make trouble. She began to adopt all the mean ways of love: there were affairs broken off without reason, there were reconciliations, but conditional, and separations, and unnecessary flights, tearful scenes, and I don’t know what all…An obsession…Loulou, a pretty young blonde, she had with her, well, she threw her out one night half naked into the garden to teach her a lesson and make her decide what she wanted, that is to choose between her, Lucienne, and Loulou’s husband. Before dawn, Lucienne leaned over the balcony. ¨’Have you thought it over?’ she says. ‘Yes,’ says the girl, who was sniffing with the cold. ‘Well?’ says Lucienne. ‘Well,’ says the girl, ‘I’m going back to Hector. I’ve just realized he can do something you can’t. ‘Oh, naturally!’ says Lucienne, spitefully. ‘No,’ says Loulou, ‘it’s not what you think. I’m not all that crazy about you know what. But I’m going to tell you something. When you and I go out together everyone takes you for a man, that’s understood. But for my part, I feel humiliated to be with a man who can’t do pipi against a wall.’”

Colette, The Pure and the Impure.

Fn: I see my Google ad supra is from

Read The First Part Last

Sorting through some old notes, I find an old newspaper clip suggesting the names of “unpopular classics”—books that people know about, but that remain unread and, well, unreadable. Most I can’t judge because I haven’t read them (Radclyffe Hall’s Well of Loneliness just never made it onto my list). Some, I have to say, not knowing they were unreadable, I actually read and enjoyed. George’ Eliot’s Romola, to take one example, is not as good as Middlemarch, but it’s still a pretty good book. And Addison’s Essays are wonderful (can’t say the same for his play, Cato, though).

One item gives me a bad conscience. It’s Thomas Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers. Someone gave me a copy for Christmas 50 years ago and it’s been on the shelf ever since. My friend Gudrun encourages me to read it, She says “just skip the Prelude.”

Ah, yes. “Very deep is the well of the past. Should we not call it bottomless? Bottomless indeed, if”--? Yawn, clunk. Hello? Hey, wake up, I’m talking here. But I guess I can understand why I never stayed awake past the first page.

And there may be a general principle here. Seems to me there a lot of books where you ought to skip the intro. “Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure.” Recognize that? Course you do. It’s the first sentence of Proust’s “Remembrance of Things Past.” It’s familiar to a lot of people because it’s the only sentence of Proust they ever read. Indeed, the first 40 pages, the invocation of the “petit morceau de madeleine,” is enough to persuade them that Proust is just not their tasse de thé.

Well, I can testify that Proust is wonderful, but you can read that part last. It’s full of anticipations that just don’t make any sense until you’ve read the rest of the book, and can be a big turnoff otherwise. Read it last.

Same goes for Faulkner’s Sound and the Fury. “Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting.” Yawn. Look, I don’t want to do any plot spoiling here, bu there are four parts to Sound and the Fury. Try it this way: try the second or the third part first—your taste. Then do the other one. Then do the first part. Then do the fourth part fourth. I don’t know, this may spoil some grand artistic design. But at least you will have read the book—and a very good book it is, too good to go back on the shelf.

Hegel’s Phenomenology belongs here, too. As I recall, Hegel wrote the Preface last, as if to explain it all to himself.

There must be more, but this is enough to make the point (now that I think about it, I suspect somebody has written a dissertation on in it). Still, rule of thumb: when in doubt, read the first part last.

Man, I Must Have Been Really Wasted in the 60s...

I don't remember anything like this.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

From the Bin: Croce on Torture as Sovereignty

Here's "the power to torture" treated as a mark of sovereignty. Note to self, get hold of a copy and read more.

Indeed, the concessions which the barons obtained, by persuasion or force, from the sovereigns brought about the gradual dissolution of the feudal system of property, through the transformation of the fief into the alod, a form of ownership which seemed to foster social and economic progress, and in the long run did so, but at the time caused a weakening of the whole political structure. The capitulary promulgated in 1283 in the Plain of San Martino, a short time after the Sicilian rebellion, freed baronial marriages, which Frederick II had made subject to royal approval, and allowed the gift in dowry of fiefs and feudal possessions after a consent which a court had to accord within the term of eight days. And the capitulary of 1285, proposed by Pope Honorius IV, did away with the necessity of this consent altogether and permitted collateral inheritance to the third generation. . . . Finally, Alphonso I of Aragon not only conferred merum mixtumque imperium but also granted the barons the so-called four letters of judgment, which King Robert had given only to officials of the crown, by whose virtue they could torture a prisoner for an unlimited time, proceed on their own initiative to punish certain serious crimes, and impose sentences more severe than those laid down by law.

--Benedetto Croce
History of the Kingdom of Naples (1970)
originally published as Storia del regno di Napoli (1925)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Eliot's Blog

This device isn't really new, except to me, but it's new to me, so...

My friend Eliot has a companion, Enrique. Evidently Enrique has thyroid cancer.

They have a zillion friends and well wishers who will want to keep up on the news. So El has started a blog. Eliot explains:

The idea is we easily let folks know what's going on without sending out emails that you may or may not want to get.

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin[1] offers advice on what to do when you hear a siren: pray that it gets there on time. He says:

[I]magine how encouraging it would be for those being rushed to a hospital to know that hundreds of people who hear the ambulance sirens are praying for their recovery.

There must be a blog version of this rule.


[1] In The Book of Jewish Values (2000). Actually, Telushkin credits it to his friend, Reb Zelman. The quotation is from page 1.