Archive for December, 2005
31 Dec 2005

New Year’s Eve

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Robert Burns, author of Auld Lang Syne

(From Robert Chambers, A Book of Days, 1869)

NEW YEAR’S EVE, OR HOGMANAY

As a general statement, it may be asserted that neither the last evening of the old year nor the first day of the new one is much, observed in England as an occasion of festivity. In some parts of the country, indeed, and more especially in the northern counties, various social merry-makings take place; but for the most part, the great annual holiday-time is already past. Christmas Eve, Christmas-day, and St. Stephen’s or Boxing Day have absorbed almost entirely the tendencies and opportunities of the community at large in the direction of joviality and relaxation. Business and the ordinary routine of daily life have again been resumed; or, to apply to English habits the words of an old Scottish rhyme still current, but evidently belonging to the old times, anterior to the Reformation, when Christmas was the great popular festival:

Yule’s come and Yule ‘s gane,
And we hae feasted weel;
Sae Jock maun to his flail again,
And Jenny to her wheel.’

Whilst thus the inhabitants of South Britain are settling down again quietly to work after the festivities of the Christmas season, their fellow-subjects in the northern division of the island are only commencing their annual saturnalia, which, till recently, bore, in the license and boisterous merriment which used to prevail, a most unmistakable resemblance to its ancient pagan namesake. The epithet of the Daft [mad] Days, applied to the season of the New Year in Scotland, indicates very expressively the uproarious joviality which characterized the period in question. This exuberance of joyousness—which, it must be admitted, sometimes led to great excesses—has now much declined, but New-year’s Eve and New-year’s Day constitute still the great national holiday in Scotland. Under the 1st of January, we have already detailed the various revelries by which the New Year used to be ushered in, in Scotland. It now becomes our province to notice those ceremonies and customs which are appropriate to the last day of the year, or, as it is styled in Scotland, Hogmanay.

This last term has puzzled antiquaries even more than the word Yule, already adverted to; and what is of still greater consequence, has never yet received a perfectly satisfactory explanation. Some suppose it to be derived from two Greek words, άιαμηνη (the holy moon or month), and in reference to this theory it may be observed, that, in the north of England, the term used is Hagmenu, which does not seem, however, to be confined to the 31st of December, but denotes generally the period immediately preceding the New Year. Another hypothesis combines the word with another sung along with it in chorus, and asserts ‘Hogmanay, trollolay!’ to be a corruption of ‘Homma est né—Trois Rois lá’ (‘A Man is born—Three Kings are there’), an allusion to the birth of our Saviour, and the visit to Bethlehem of the Wise Men, who were known in medieval times as the ‘Three Kings.’

But two additional conjectures seem much more plausible, and the reader may select for himself what he considers the most probable. One of these is, that the term under notice is derived from Hoggu-nott, Hogenat, or Hogg-night, the ancient Scandinavian name for the night preceding the feast of Yule, and so called in reference to the animals slaughtered on the occasion for sacrificial and festal purpose word hogg signifying to kill. The other derivation of Hogmanay is from ‘Au gui menez’ (‘To the mistletoe go’), or ‘Au gui ľan neuf’ (‘To the mistletoe this New Year ‘), an allusion to the ancient Druidical ceremony of gathering that plant. In the patois of Touraine, in France, the word used is Aguilanneu; in Lower Normandy, and in Guernsey, poor persons and children used to solicit a contribution under the title of Hoguinanno or 0guinano; whilst in Spain the term, Aguinaldo, is employed to denote the presents made at the season of Christmas.

In country places in Scotland, and also in the more retired and primitive towns, it is still customary on the morning of the last day of the year, or Hogmanay, for the children of the poorer class of people to get themselves swaddled in a great sheet, doubled up in front, so as to form a vast pocket, and then to go along the streets in little bands, calling at the doors of the wealthier classes for an expected dole of oaten-bread. Each child gets one quadrant section of oat-cake (some-times, in the case of particular favourites, improved by an addition of cheese), and this is called their hogmanay. In expectation of the large demands thus made upon them, the housewives busy themselves for several days beforehand in preparing a suitable quantity of cakes. The children on coming to the door cry, ‘Hogmanay!’ which is in itself a sufficient announcement of their demands; but there are other exclamations which either are or might be used for the same purpose. One of these is:

‘Hogmanay, Trollolay,

Give us of your white bread, and none of your gray.’

And another favourite rhyme is:

Get up, goodwife, and shake your feathers,
And dinna think that we are beggars;
For we are bairns come out to play,
Get up and gie’s our hogmanay!’

The following is of a moralising character, though a good deal of a truism:

Get up, goodwife, and binna sweir,
And deal your bread to them that ‘s here;
For the time will come when ye’ll be dead,
And then ye’ll neither need ale nor bread.’

The most favourite of all, however, is more to the point than any of the foregoing :

My feet’s cauld, my shoon’s thin;
Gie’s my cakes, and let me rin!’

It is no unpleasing scene, during the forenoon, to see the children going laden home, each with his large apron bellying out before him, stuffed full of cakes, and perhaps scarcely able to waddle under the load. Such a mass of oaten alms is no inconsiderable addition to the comfort of the poor man’s household, and enables him to enjoy the New-year season as much as his richer neighbours.

In the primitive parish of Deerness, in Orkney, it was customary, in the beginning of the present century, for old and young of the common class of people to assemble in a great band upon the evening of the last day of the year, and commence a round of visits throughout the district. At every house they knocked at the door, and on being admitted, commenced singing, to a tune of its own, a song appropriate to the occasion. The following is what may be termed a restored version of this chant, the imagination having been called on to make up in several of the lines what was deficient in memory. The ‘Queen Mary’ alluded to is evidently the Virgin:

‘This night it is grid New’r E’en’s night,
We’re a’ here Queen Mary’s men;
And we ‘re come here to crave our right,
And that’s before our Lady.

The very first thing which we do crave,
We ‘re a’ here Queen Mary’s men;
A bonny white candle we must have,
And that’s before our Lady.

Goodwife, gae to your butter-ark,
And weigh us here ten mark.

Ten mark, ten pund,
Look that ye grip weel to the grund.
Goodwife, gae to your geelin vat,
And fetch us here a skeet o’ that.

Gang to your awmrie, gin ye please,
And bring frae there a yow-milk cheese.

And syne bring here a sharping-stane,
We’ll sharp our whittles ilka ane.

Ye’ll cut the cheese, and eke the round,
But aye take care ye cutna your thoom.

Gae fill the three-pint cog o’ ale,
The maut maun be aboon the meal.

We houp your ale is stark and stout,
For men to drink the auld year out.

Ye ken the weather’s snow and sleet,
Stir up the fire to warm our feet.

Our shoon’s made o’ mare’s skin,
Come open the door, and let’s in.’

The inner-door being opened, a tremendous rush was made ben the house. The inmates furnished a long table with all sorts of homely fare, and a hearty feast took place, followed by copious libations of ale, charged with all sorts of good-wishes. The party would then proceed to the next house, where a similar scene would be enacted. How they contrived to take so many suppers in one evening, heaven knows ! No slight could be more keenly felt by a Deerness farmer than to have his house passed over unvisited by the New-year singers.

The doings of the guisers or guizards (that is, masquers or mummers) form a conspicuous feature in the New-year proceedings throughout Scotland. The favourite night for this exhibition is Hogmanay, though the evenings of Christmas, New-year’s Day, and Handsel Monday, enjoy like-wise a privilege in this respect. Such of the boys as can lay any claim to the possession of a voice have, for weeks before, been poring over the collection of ‘excellent new songs,’ which lies like a bunch of rags in the window-sill; and being now able to screech up ‘Barbara Allan,’ or the ‘Wee cot-house and the wee kail-yardie,’ they determine upon enacting the part of guisers. For this purpose they don old shirts belonging to their fathers, and mount mitre-shaped casques of brown paper, possibly borrowed from the Abbot of Unreason; attached to this is a sheet of the same paper, which, falling down in front, covers and conceals the whole face, except where holes are made to let through the point of the nose, and afford sight to the eyes and breath to the mouth. Each vocal guiser is, like a knight of old, attended by a sort of humble squire, who assumes the habiliments of a girl, ‘with an old-woman’s cap and a broomstick, and is styled ‘Bessie: Bessie is equal in no respect, except that she shares fairly in the proceeds of the enterprise. She goes before her principal, opens all the doors at which he pleases to exert his singing powers; and busies herself, during the time of the song, in sweeping the floor with her broomstick, or in playing any other antics that she thinks may amuse the indwellers. The common reward of this entertainment is a halfpenny, but many churlish persons fall upon the unfortunate guisers, and beat them out of the house. Let such persons, however, keep a good watch upon their cabbage-gardens next Halloween!

The more important doings of the guisers are of a theatrical character. There is one rude and grotesque drama which they are accustomed to perform on each of the four above-mentioned nights; and which, in various fragments or versions, exists in every part of Lowland Scotland. The performers, who are never less than three, but sometimes as many as six, having dressed themselves, proceed in a band from house to house, generally contenting themselves with the kitchen for an arena; whither, in mansions presided over by the spirit of good-humour, the whole family will resort to witness the spectacle. Sir Walter Scott, who delighted to keep up old customs, and could condescend to simple things without losing genuine dignity, invariably had a set of guisers to perform this play before his family both at Ashestiel and Abbotsford. The drama in question bears a close resemblance, with sundry modifications, to that performed by the mummers in various parts of England, and of which we have already given a specimen.

Such are the leading features of the Hogmanay festivities in Scotland. A similar custom to that above detailed of children going about from house to house, singing the Hagmena chorus, and obtaining a dole of bread or cakes, prevails in Yorkshire and the north of England; but, as we have already mentioned, the last day of the year is not in the latter country, for the most part, invested with much peculiar distinction. One or two closing ceremonies, common to both countries—the requiem, as they may be termed, of the dying year—will be more appropriately noticed in the concluding article of this work.

BURNING OF THE CLAVIE

A singular custom, almost unparalleled in any other part of Scotland, takes place on New-year’s Eve (old style) at the village of Burghead, on the southern shore of the Moray Firth, about nine miles from the town of Elgin. It has been observed there from time immemorial, and both its origin, and that of the peculiar appellation by which it is distinguished, form still matter of conjecture and dispute for antiquaries. The following extract from the Banffshire Journal presents a very interesting and comprehensive view of all that can be stated regarding this remarkable ceremonial:

‘Any Hogmanay afternoon, a small group of sea-men and coopers, dressed in blue overfrocks, and followed by numbers of noisy youngsters, may be seen rapidly wending their way to the south-western extremity of the village, where it is customary to build the Clavie. One of the men bears on his shoulders a stout Archangel tar-barrel, kindly presented for the occasion by one of the merchants, who has very considerately left a quantity of the resinous fluid in the bottom. Another carries a common herring-cask, while the remainder are laden with other raw materials, and the tools necessary for the construction of the Clavie. Arrived at the spot, three cheers being given for the success of the undertaking, operations are commenced forthwith. In the first place, the tar-barrel is sawn into two unequal parts; the smaller forms the groundwork of the Clavie, the other is broken up for fuel.

A common fir prop, some four feet in length, called the “spoke,” being then procured, a hole is bored through the tub-like machine, that, as we have already said, is to form the basis of the unique structure, and a long nail, made for the purpose, and furnished gratuitously by the village black-smith, unites the two. Curiously enough, no hammer is allowed to drive this nail, which is “sent home” by a smooth stone. The herring-cask is next demolished, and the staves are soon under-going a diminution at both extremities, in order to fit them for their proper position. They are nailed, at intervals of about two inches all round, to the lower edge of the Clavie-barrel, while the other ends are firmly fastened to the spoke, an aperture being left sufficiently large to admit the head of a man. Amid tremendous cheering, the finished Clavie is now set up against the wall, which is mounted by two stout young men, who proceed to the business of filling and lighting.

A few pieces of the split-up tar-barrel are placed in a pyramidal form in the inside of the Clavie, enclosing a small space for the reception of a burning peat, when everything is ready. The tar, which had been previously removed to another vessel, is now poured over the wood; and the same inflammable substance is freely used, while the barrel is being closely packed with timber and other combustible materials, that rise twelve or thirteen inches above the rim.

‘By this time the shades of evening have begun to descend, and soon the subdued murmur of the crowd breaks forth into one loud, prolonged cheer, as the youth who was despatched for the fiery peat (for custom says no sulphurous lucifer, no patent congreve dare approach ‘within the sacred precincts of the Clavie) arrives with his glowing charge. The master-builder relieving him of his precious trust, places it within the opening already noticed, where, revived by a hot blast from his powerful lungs, it ignites the surrounding wood and tar, which quickly bursts into a flame. During the short time the fire is allowed to gather strength, cheers are given in rapid succession for “The Queen,” “The Laird,” “The Provost,” “The Town,” “The Harbour,” and “The Railway,” and then Clavie-bearer number one, popping his head between the staves, is away with his flaming burden. Formerly, the Clavie was carried in triumph round every vessel in the harbour, and a handful of grain thrown into each, in order to insure success for the coming year; but as this part of the ceremony came to be tedious, it was dropped, and the procession confined to the boundaries of the town.

As fast as his heavy load will permit him, the bearer hurries along the well-known route, followed by the shouting Burgheadians, the boiling tar meanwhile trickling down in dark sluggish streams all over his back. Nor is the danger of scalding the only one he who essays to carry the Clavie has to confront, since the least stumble is sufficient to destroy his equilibrium. Indeed, this untoward event, at one time looked on as a dire calamity, foretelling disaster to the place, and certain death to the bearer in the course of next year, not unfrequently occurs. Having reached the junction of two streets, the carrier of the Clavie is relieved; and while the change is being effected, firebrands plucked from the barrel are thrown among the crowd, who eagerly scramble for the tarry treasure, the possession of which was of old deemed a sure safeguard against all unlucky contingencies.

Again the multitude bound along; again they halt for a moment as another individual takes his place as bearer—a post for the honour of which there is sometimes no little striving. The circuit of the town being at length completed, the Clavie is borne along the principal street to a small hill near the northern extremity of the promontory called the “Doorie,” on the summit of which a freestone pillar, very much resembling an ancient altar, has been built for its reception, the spoke fitting into a socket in the centre. Being now firmly seated on its throne, fresh fuel is heaped on the Clavie, while, to make the fire burn the brighter, a barrel with the ends knocked out is placed on the top. Cheer after cheer rises from the crowd below, as the efforts made to increase the blaze are crowned with success.

‘Though formerly allowed to remain on the Doorie the whole night, the Clavie is now removed when it has burned about half an hour. Then comes the most exciting scene of all. The barrel is lifted from the socket, and thrown down on the western slope of the hill, which appears to be all in one mass of flame—a state of matters that does not, however, prevent a rush to the spot in search of embers. Two stout men, instantly seizing the fallen Clavie, attempt to demolish it by dashing it to the ground: which is no sooner accomplished than a final charge is made among the blazing fragments, that are snatched up in total, in spite of all the powers of combustion, in an incredibly short space of time. Up to the present moment, the origin of this peculiar custom is involved in the deepest obscurity. Some would have us to believe that we owe its introduction to the Romans; and that the name Clavie is derived from the Latin word clavus, a nail—witches being frequently put to death in a barrel stuck full of iron spikes; or from clavis, a key—the rite being instituted when Agricola discovered that Ptoroton, i.e., Burghead, afforded the grand military key to the north of Scotland.

As well might these wild speculators have remarked that Doorie, which may be spelled Durie, sprang from durus, cruel, on account of the bloody ceremony celebrated on its summit. Another opinion has been boldly advanced by one party, to the effect that the Clavie is Scandinavian in origin, being introduced by the Norwegian Vikings, during the short time they held the promontory in the beginning of the eleventh century, though the theorist advances nothing to prove his assumption, save a quotation from Scott’s Marmion; while, to crown all, we have to listen to a story that bears on its face its own condemnation, invented to confirm the belief that a certain witch, yclept, a Kitty Clavers,” bequeathed her name to the singular rite.

Unfortunately, all external evidence being lost, we are compelled to rely entirely on the internal, which we have little hesitation, however, in saying points in an unmistakable manner down through the long vistas of our national history to where the mists of obscurity hang around the Druid worship of our forefathers. It is well known that the elements of fire were often present in Druidical orgies and customs (as witness their cran-tara); while it is universally admitted that the bonfires of May-day and Mid-summer eve, still kept up in different parts of the country, are vestiges of these rites. And why should not the Clavie be so too, seeing that it bears throughout the stamp of a like parentage? The carrying home of the embers, as a protection from the ills of life, as well as other parts of the ceremony, finds a counterpart in the customs of the Druids; and though the time of observance be somewhat different, yet may not the same causes (now unknown ones) that have so greatly modified the Clavie have likewise operated in altering the date, which, after all, occurs at the most solemn part of the Druidical year?’

31 Dec 2005

Response to Editorial Cartoon

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On October 26th, editorial cartoonist Mike Lukovich published the above cartoon in the Atlanta Constitution. Danielle Ansley, a 17 year old 11th grade high school student, produced the following reply, which Lukovich and the Constitution had class enough to publish yesterday.

31 Dec 2005

Best Bloviating Narcissistic Pinheads of the Year Recognized

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Brent Bozell’s Media Research Center’s 18th Annual Awards for the Year’s Worst Reporting. The awards really start on page 2.

Quote of the Year

Reporter Brian Ross: “Mary Mapes was the woman behind the scenes, the producer who researched, wrote and put together Dan Rather’s 60 Minutes report on President Bush’s National Guard service, a report which Rather and CBS would later apologize for airing . . .”

Ross to Mapes: “Do you still think that story was true?”

Ex-CBS producer Mary Mapes: “The story? Absolutely.”

Ross: “This seems remarkable to me that you would sit there now and say you still find that story to be up to your standards.”

Mapes: “I’m perfectly willing to believe those documents are forgeries if there’s proof that I haven’t seen.”

Ross: “But isn’t it the other way around? Don’t you have to prove they’re authentic?”

Mapes: “Well, I think that’s what critics of the story would say. I know more now than I did then and I think, I think they have not been proved to be false, yet.”

Ross: “Have they proved to be authentic though? Isn’t that really what journalists do?”

Mapes: “No, I don’t think that’s the standard.”

– on ABC’s Good Morning America, Nov. 9

Hat tip to AJStrata and Real Clear Politics.

31 Dec 2005

Hypocrisy of Liberal Universities

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Scott Johnson of Power Line links an Investors Business Daily editorial which notes:

Representatives of autocratic theocracies that finance terror, oppress women and consider homosexuality a capital crime are welcomed at Harvard and other campuses. But not the U.S. Marines.

30 Dec 2005

The Left’s Descent into the Abyss

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Rob Foot, in Australia’s Quadrant Magazine, contemplates the behavior of the Left and draws the inescapable conclusion.

Something tragic and horrifying has happened to the Left—something that was visible long before September 11, 2001, though the events of that dreadful day served only to confirm it. It strengthened with the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam. Now, with conservative parties confirmed as the people’s government of choice in both Australia and the USA, it’s broken out all over. For years the Left has merely been irrational; now it has finally gone insane.

The Left’s future looks even blacker, Foot observes, for:

Sometime in the course of the twenty-first century, and probably sooner rather than later, the Left will have to confront the fact that it made the wrong call on almost every geo-political event of global significance during the previous hundred years. Coming to terms with this reality is going to be extremely painful for such rational members of the Left as still remain on deck. Knowing in its heart that the revolution would never come to its own neighbourhood, and never really wanting it to, the Left derived a heady, vicarious satisfaction from watching it blossom in suitably distant rice paddies, jungles, steppes, urban hellholes and deserts. Every time, regular as clockwork, the revolution turned up the newest thing in killing fields…

from the perspective of the generation that radicalised in the 1960s and 1970s, the most mortifying realisation, still looming, is that it was also wrong about Vietnam. Vietnam was our defining experience; it made us what we became, and usually what we remained. Vietnam was our seven years in the college of the Jesuits, even if it was not the first seven but the third that encompassed our incarceration—we were aged fourteen to twenty-one, give or take a few years either way. Vietnam shaped our attitudes to politics, authority, tradition, religion, the values of our parents, even our taste in music and art. It’s inconceivable that we could have got it wrong.

Sadly for us, and infinitely more tragically for the Vietnamese, it seems we did. Looking back on it, it’s difficult to see why it should have been so hugely, awesomely wrong for the United States to send troops to South Vietnam to protect its ally—indeed, its client—from invasion by the nightmarish Stalinist regime to the north, and from destabilisation, or worse, by its insurgent surrogates in the south. True to its founding principles (then, as now), the USA put up tens of thousands of its best and bravest, and lost them.

At the same time, it had to endure a media barrage unknown by any nation previously at war, where every fault on its part was endlessly magnified, and every atrocity by the enemy largely ignored. No wonder it eventually withdrew. Such was the fragility of “US imperialism”—the all-powerful behemoth imagined into existence by the Left all those years ago, and which has remained the central plank of its radical platform ever since.

Not long after North Vietnam’s victory in 1976, when reports of the re-education camps, torture of American POWs and forced trans-migration from the cities began to surface, some at least on the Left found reserves of decency enough to protest, including some veteran anti-war activists. This isn’t what we were fighting for, they said, helpless, angry and ashamed. Maybe not: but that was what the North had been fighting for…

..the reality of catastrophic error, repeated through three full generations, is simply unbearable. Endlessly self-righteous, unwaveringly convinced of their own rectitude, their folly is best summed up in the famous words of one who, from the very first, knew them better than they were ever to know themselves: “Useful idiots”, said Lenin, flicking them off with curt contempt. The Left must have thought he was talking about somebody else.

A must read.

30 Dec 2005

Best Anime Ever?

Sweetness and Light can get boring after a while, so in Lollipops, Sunshine And rrrRRRrrr, anime turns to the dark side. (R-rated and very funny)

Hat tip to Ace. I can’t believe I’m the first blogger to link this piece of deathless art.

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Ace has had some comments indicating that some of his readers couldn’t see the point of all this, and I’ve gotten one comment along the same lines, so I will lecture a bit on Japanese anime.

Anime are animations, cartoons. The comic book equivalent is called manga. The natural audience for both is, of course, Japanese kids. There is a significant American kid audience as well these days. I have a personal interest in Japanese culture (related to the martial arts), and I am an enthusiast of the cinema, so I have watched some anime myself, and am familiar with their conventions. Some of my friends have kids who are really into this stuff, and I have been educated by them.

Anime and manga share the same concepts and terminology.

Shoujo are anime (or manga) aimed at an audience of young girls. Shoujo are drawn in a pretty and juvenile style and tend to deal with romantic or emotional, innocent and girly subjects.

They always feature bishounen, i.e., idealized, androgynous, non-sexually-threatening and beautiful young men, who commonly have impossibly colored eyes and hair. Small children and pets (chibi or CB, meaning “small”), including fantasy creatures, are typically featured in supporting roles, and serve to create a safe, family kind of atmosphere. A good chibi is kawaii “cute.”

The above linked cartoon is an aniparo “a parody animation,” in which it starts off as a typical (and very soppy) shoujo anime, loaded with chibi, but then suddenly changes to scenes jokingly featuring hints of incongruous gangsta, hentai “porno,” and macabre themes, characteristic of very different genres.

With a little investigating, I find that it is a parody of a real cartoon series, titled Card Captor Sakura, whose lead characters include: Sakua Kinomoto, Tomoyo Daidouji, the CB Kero, and such bishounen as Touya Kinomoto.

In the parody, Sakura gets an Dr. Evil Clow Card, which turns her to the dark side.

30 Dec 2005

Was it Really Strategy?

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Patrick Godfrey thinks the administration’s months of passivity in the face of countless opposition leaks and attacks might really be Karl Rove’s most diabolical maneuver yet:

As a long time Boxing fan and as a student of the Sweet Science, it was thrilling to watch Muhammad Ali in his prime and in particular, his patented “Rope a Dope” strategy. In the later rounds, when his opponent was particularly aggressive, Ali would back against the ropes and cover up his head and mid-section as his opponent would unleash a barrage of punches. Many of those punches would be absorbed by his arms and gloves, but occasionally some would get through. He would take some punishment as his foe would be a blur of activity, the blows coming nearly non-stop as it appeared Ali might be in trouble, on the ropes and covering up, not fighting back. His opponent would be feeling good, seemingly scoring at will, his punches hitting a man on the ropes. Eventually however, even the best conditioned fighter would become arm weary, and take a step back to rest.

This would be the moment Ali was waiting for.

Ali would come off the ropes swinging, his rested arms pounding his worn out opponent. Sure, he was on the ropes and took a few shots, but it was all part of a strategy. Once his opponent had spent himself, Ali would go in for the knockout. Now Politics isn’t Boxing and care must be taken to avoid specious analogies. That being said let me point out some things.

Like you, I have been worrying and wondering what has been going on at the RNC.

For months, I have listened to a constant refrain of; Bush Lied, Quagmires, imagined scandals and that “He doesn’t have a plan”.

I would read, with a growing sense of anxiety, daily updates of doom and gloom. Rising Troop losses, one sided reporting. A defensive posture and Bunker-like mentality was the order of the day.

Seemingly prodded by Maverick House Members and its increasingly alarmed base, the White House is finally firing back. Along with this new offence have come rising poll numbers which, lets face it, were approaching Carter-Like numbers.

It has puzzled me for a long time, why hasn’t the White House fired back on this stuff? Some of it was so easy to refute it was almost a “gimme” for the other side. A quick trip back to the Front Pages of only 2 years ago would have been enough for some of the more egregious whining.

Then it struck me, could this all be on purpose?

30 Dec 2005

Great Quotes of 2005

Chosen by Ann Althouse.

Those of us my age will particularly appreciate:

“I haven’t even run out of weed yet.” — one of the New Orleans holdouts (on not evacuating after Katrina).

30 Dec 2005

Today’s Reply Advertisement

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A reply to yesterday’s ACLU advertisement in the New York Times from Clark Baker.

Hat tip to Curt.

30 Dec 2005

Explaining Liberal Thinking in Terms of Entomology

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Clinical pychologist Gagdad Bob turns to the insect world to explain the astonishing ability of liberals to achieve unanimity of thought upon a multiplicity of counter-intuitive and illogical positions:

Some political behavior is just so primitive that human psychology falls short of explaining it. Instead, a keen-eyed psychologist has to rely on other sciences, like, oh, I don’t know, entomology.

Ever notice how ants, in their busy peregrinations, are constantly rushing up to each other and bumping heads? It turns out that it’s not just to exchange pleasantries with one another, but to feed one another. If one ant is well fed and the other one hungry, the former will produce a drop from its mouth that the other one gratefully gobbles down.

Apparently, ants have what is known as a “social stomach” in addition to a personal stomach. Until food passes into the personal stomach and becomes the private property of said ant, any ant can stake a claim to it. They have even done experiments on this, for example, feeding a few ants honey that has been colored with a blue-tinted dye. Soon enough, all of the ants in the community will show a blue tint in their abdomen.

This is pretty much how the left/liberal world works. It is filled with media ants, Hollywood ants, academic ants, singing ants, judicial ants, educational establishment ants, and lastly, political ants who all run around randomly bumping their heads together, so that they’re constantly regurgitating little half-digested bits of information and feeding them to one another. Pretty soon, just like the ants, they’re all the same color.

Hat tip to AJStrata.

30 Dec 2005

To the Fullest Extent of the Law…

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Finally.

The U.S. Justice Department has launched an investigation to determine who disclosed a secret NSA eavesdropping operation approved by President George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks, officials said on Friday.

“We are opening an investigation into the unauthorized disclosure of classified materials related to the NSA,” one official said.

Earlier this month Bush acknowledged the program and called its disclosure to The New York Times “a shameful act.” He said he presumed a Justice Department leak investigation into who disclosed the National Security Agency eavesdropping operation would get under way.

30 Dec 2005

What is GST?

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Today’s latest Washington Post leak, brought to you again by Dana Priest, confidante of choice to Pouting Spooks everywhere, amusingly fails to provide a definition for GST, the super-secret program which is the topic of the leak du jour.

The effort President Bush authorized shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, to fight al Qaeda has grown into the largest CIA covert action program since the height of the Cold War, expanding in size and ambition despite a growing outcry at home and abroad over its clandestine tactics, according to former and current intelligence officials and congressional and administration sources.

The broad-based effort, known within the agency by the initials GST, is compartmentalized into dozens of highly classified individual programs, details of which are known mainly to those directly involved.

GST includes programs allowing the CIA to capture al Qaeda suspects with help from foreign intelligence services, to maintain secret prisons abroad, to use interrogation techniques that some lawyers say violate international treaties, and to maintain a fleet of aircraft to move detainees around the globe. Other compartments within GST give the CIA enhanced ability to mine international financial records and eavesdrop on suspects anywhere in the world.

The bed-wetting segment of the Blogosphere is, as usual, shocked and outraged at further revelations of US inhumane treatment of terrorist latrunculi, the contemporary equivalent of the pirates, brigands, and outlaws, traditionally viewed in Western law, and conventionally treated by any lawful authority as hostes humani generis, “the common enemies of mankind.”

And they are fascinated by the riddle of the meaning of the mysterious initials.

Typical examples:

American conventional leftie profmarcus posts: bonus question: what does gst stand for…?

Sopping-wet Brit blogger WIIIAI complains the WaPo refers to this program as GST, but its crack reporters failed to crack the riddle of just what that might stand for.

Since the WaPo let them all down, I will suggest: “General Staff — Terrorism” or “General Services — Terrorism,” as opposed to “Get Serious (about) Terrorism,” as the language behind the initials, and note the interesting facet of the story, that for the first time in a very long while, one of our anonymous sources is behaving as if he thinks he might possibly have something to worry about if his disclosures proceeded too far beyond some particular point.

30 Dec 2005

The Lost Ark

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Ark Chapel
The true resting place of the Lost Ark?

The Telegraph reports:

If Indiana Jones had done his homework, he would have found the Ark of the Covenant by raiding a church in the barren mountains of northern Ethiopia.

Many Ethiopians believe that the Ark, containing the stone tablets inscribed with God’s Ten Commandments, rests in the church of St Mary of Zion, at the town of Axum, and some western scholars have endorsed this national myth as true.

The story underpins the country’s sense of identity. Ethiopia believes itself to be a unique nation with an ancient Christian tradition. This fervent patriotism has led Ethiopia into a perilous military confrontation with neighbouring Eritrea.

Axum

30 Dec 2005

CIA Rendition Program Began Under Clinton

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Bush Administration critic Michael Scheuer, author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, appeared in an interview yesterday with Die Zeit , which revealed the origin under the Clinton Administration of several controversial US methods of fighting Terrorism. AFP English report here:

BERLIN (AFP) – The CIA’s controversial “rendition” program to have terror suspects captured and questioned on foreign soil was launched under US president Bill Clinton, a former US counterterrorism agent told a German newspaper.

Michael Scheuer, a 22-year veteran of the CIA who resigned from the agency in 2004, told Thursday’s issue of the newsweekly Die Zeit that the US administration had been looking in the mid-1990s for a way to combat the terrorist threat and circumvent the cumbersome US legal system.

“President Clinton, his national security advisor Sandy Berger and his terrorism advisor Richard Clark ordered the CIA in the autumn of 1995 to destroy Al-Qaeda,” Scheuer said, in comments published in German.

“We asked the president what we should do with the people we capture. Clinton said ‘That’s up to you’.”

Scheuer, who headed the CIA unit that tracked Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden from 1996 to 1999, said that he developed and led the “renditions” program, which he said included moving prisoners without due legal process to countries without strict human rights protections.

“In Cairo, people are not treated like they are in Milwaukee. The Clinton administration asked us if we believed that the prisoners were being treated in accordance with local law. And we answered, yes, we’re fairly sure.”

At the time, he said, the CIA did not arrest or imprison anyone itself.

Hat tip to Franco Aleman, who cited Davids Medienkritik. What do you suppose the Left is going to say now?

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