Here's glory for you

Mark Ungar of San Francisco provides a nice knock-down argument in today's Chronicle for the real meaning of Merry Christmas:
I assume, when I say "Merry Christmas," that whomever I direct the greeting to will understand that what I actually mean is: "Have a happy year-end period, regardless of which ancient tradition of marking the winter solstice you have inherited from your ancestral culture, and enjoy your chosen rituals of togetherness and renewal in which our similarities -- not our differences -- are celebrated. I am not a Christian, nor do I assume you are one, nor do I hope to convert you to Christianity -- but I still wish you a happy year-end period and confer such blessings upon you as a compassionate heart can offer."
But what do you expect of someone who boldly uses whomever correctly?

Listen carefully

Zac passes on a Yahoo story that looks as if it would be awfully embarrassing to Bush. To be sure, Bush is not embarrassed by flagrant lies; but remember, he's wounded, and the rats are edging in, looking for a good meal and a bit of payback to the predator that they didn't dare challenge for a few years; so the rules may be changing.

(I am here shamelessly stealing from what I put in a comment to Zac's posting. Hope this doesn't violate any traditional blogiquette.)

Read the story, and see the series of flagrant lies. Then read those damning quotes again with an analytical eye.

"Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order,"

"When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so,..."

" the way, everything you hear about requires court order, requires there to be permission from a FISA court, for example,"

"any action that takes place by law enforcement requires a court order,..."

"Law enforcement officers need a federal judge's permission to wiretap a foreign terrorist's phone,..."

Y'know, when I started copying out these quotes, I thought I was going to make a real cute and satirical point, and by the time I finished, I had convinced myself (almost, anyway) that it's no goddam accident of rhetoric, but quite deliberate. Turn up the volume and listen again:

talking about wiretap
talking about chasing down
that you hear about
action ... by law enforcement
Law enforcement officers need

And you will hear the subtext:
However, the ones we are not talking about, because they are not done by law enforcement officers but by the Omnipotence, who does not answer to law or the Constitution--well, you don't hear us talking about them, do you?

Nattering nabobs will claim that Dubya doesn't have the brains to plan all this careful wording (agreed) or to stay on script like this -- here, I'm not so sure. The weasel wording is just too perfect.

So you think you're a wingnut

or that you've seen wingnuts in blogs. Well, let me tell you something. You don't even know what a nutcase is. But if you want to, I suggest you visit Wikipedia to find the real thing.

You will come away humbled. If you want to know the unifying theme and the identity of that other person in the picture at the top, look at the last item in the list -- quite a reasonable one, in many ways -- of good guys. Then you will understand that list of beast-men, cultists, fascists, and colonialists.

One for your iPod(tm)

Isn't wonderful how much free information you can get on the Internets(tm)? Here, for instance, is the obscure page that answers two questions that millions of readers have asked:

The question is, I think, easier to figure out than that for 42. Here, anyway, is proper credit.

In fact, three questions are answered:

. Yes, you will be able to speak of van Leeuwenhoek without sounding like an idiot.

. No, there is no uniform pronunciation from one end of the kingdom to the other; pronunciations vary no less than that of, say, Shakespeare does when you cross the Pond.

. No, you will never never be able to speak of Huygens recognizably no matter how many times you listen to the file.

Welcome to the Islamic Virtue Party

So, Bradford Plumer took the test to see which party he agrees with in the upcoming Iraq election. Turned out to be the Iraqi Communist Party, but we knew that all along about these lefty bloggers, right? My turn.

Hmm, it really is hard to answer some of the questions, as one doesn't know what they really imply. As a commenter asked, what are the competencies of the Prime Minister under the constitution? So one hits the "neutral" button many times when one probably has in reality a strong position.

Still, I am a bit surprised to find myself in the Islamic Virtue Party (I wasn't kidding) if only 52% worth. Actually I disagree with them a lot (well, 48% worth), but they are the best fit for me relative to all the others. Sort of like Democrats, I guess. Also, there may be nuances. When we both disagree with "Muslim clerics should not have the right to be members of the Constitutional Court", I have the unpleasant feeling that they would still disagree if the words ex officio were inserted; slightly different notions of liberty, that is.

Looking again, I see could also join the Iraqi National Accord. Probably wouldn't like it any better.

Do symbols matter?

And could their context and history make a difference? I'm led to such profound questions by an observation that NTodd made about what to light up as a Christmas decoration. But mainly by the fourth comment on that posting, signed by Ereshkigal, which makes a remarkable, if implicit, nomination for a Lifetime Acheivement Award in Insensitivity:
I live in a predominately African-American section of an (almost) Southern city.

A white family of Clueless Christians who live a couple of blocks from me light up a huge wooden cross on their lawn each year right after Thanksgiving.

Originally, they lighted it with hundreds of flickering votive candles, but now they use little flickering Christmas lights.

It's been a continuing source of discussion among the rest of the neighbors.

Fawlty Towers interval

It's great how us young folks can just pop open the laptop and go blogging when John Cleese starts the segue into the fundraising pitch and we're in for 10 or 15 minutes of the excruciating price we pay for public TV, and I'm certainly not referring to the money.

F. T. is a subject of polite disagreement around here, though. Not that anyone fails to find it impossibly funny, of course; but some of us can watch it and some cannot. If the interactions of Mr and Mrs Fawlty are just too painful, that's pretty much it for watching the show. As it happens, I can put up with that. But the sequences they just showed before the break reminded me that I have my limits. The Nazi episode is fine with me, and the Corpse; but the Gourmet Night episode begins to strike too close to home. The Beating of the Car, in particular. Which raises an interesting question, which someone like Shakespear's sister with millions of commenters should pose: which bit of Fawlty Towers is just too much for you?

Flay Otters. time to get back to the show.

... back again.

The Sensible One Around Here suggests that we can just buy the freakin tape of this Fawlty Towers Retrospective and see it sometime without the dumb breaks. But I persist in watching it.

One wishes they would not feel the need to put in the little patronising (you can tell from the s that the a is short there) bits explaining what and where Devon is, and like that. But I suppose Americans need these things, and I'm just being unrealistic. I mean, is it necessary to explain that Mr Johnson (I think I have the name right) is obviously Fawlty's social inferior as shown by his dress and accent? Yes, I suppose it is.

Speaking of which, how bout dem accents? John Cleese is John Cleese, and that's enough. But Prunella Scales has that marvelous lower middle class affected accent (as I'm told it is). The aforementioned Mr Johnson has his unaffected lower accent. And of course, Manuel!

You know, it was rather a long time before I found out that Connie Booth did her extremely good American accent (not in F. T., of course) by nature and not by hard study; I suppose the English perceived that instantly; but even they, I think, must respect her accent when she was doing Polly.

Teribly funny show. Doesn't look as if they'll have much of a closer after the final membership break, but one must hang around to see. Meanwhile, off to read more blogs while they talk on and on.