Bill Gates and "Creative Capitalism"
Let the world take heed: Bill Gates is calling for "creative capitalism."
Perhaps this is that very same creative capitalismflush as it is with all that is good, American, and entrepreneurialthat this very same Bill Gates in his younger years used knowingly, willfully, conspiratorially, and with malicious intent to violate decades-old antitrust law, thereby destroying well-established, legitimate, law-abiding companies and, hence, forever and radically altering the landscape of the emerging Information Age in every last corner of its vast complexity.
This, as a side note, would be the same Bill Gates who committed his law-breaking under the watchful eye of the Clinton Administration, whose Internet-inventin' boy-genius, Saint Al Gore, didn't seem at the time the slightest bit motivated to wander over to the Justice Department to share his extraordinary knowledge of all-things-online with federal prosecutors who could have moved rapidly to get injunctions against Microsoft while building a case that would have stopped Mr. Gates and that might even have gotten him and his little "creative capitalist" crew some attitude adjustment time behind bars. (Surely, it could not possibly have been the case that the DLC-driven "centrists" of the Clinton Administration, pining for Cold War-era domestic economic policies, were dragging their feet just so new oligopolists could establish themselves for another neo-Keynesian round of industrial policy.)
Bill Gates, a man whose staggering influence and wealth are the fruit of a poison and poisonous tree of law-breaking, now sits like some kind of Ancient Greybeard Guru, speaking to the rapt audiences of his sycophantic movers and shakers in the IT world, who line up like swaying sheep the same way many Leftist bloggers bleat to the intonations of their well-financed, A-lister shills. It's all like being in some ridiculously out-sized, Fundamentalist megachurch, except that the praise-singing choirs aren't as good out here in cyberspace.
Pundits, industry leaders, and even a fair number of people who should know better are going to let Mr. Gates get by with invoking the hurl-bait of "creative capitalism," but that changes nothing: he is the very essence of the most vile (and necessary) aspect of capitalism, its categorical imperative that success cannot be founded upon doing what is right and ethical, but instead must always be the result of taking calculated risks for expected returns from doing that which is profitable.
To that extent, capitalism disgusts me, even though I am a capitalist; beyond that extent, however, it is Bill Gates's kind who disgust me, and on that score, I can take more than small pride in noting that, if nothing else in this life, I am not Bill Gates's kind.
That having been said, the question for anyone of essential decency is more pointed: what does it say of this age that men like Bill Gates and, no less, George W. Bush will never go to prison, while we as a nation that pretends to any legitimacy prosecute, terrorize, watch, Taser, beat, and incarcerate our commoners by the countless millions?
From my perspective, this new world is nothing but the same old world it has always been. In a perverse way, that's comforting to me. There for a while, I thought things were going to get really confusing here in the 21st Century.
The Dark Wraith has spoken.
Academic Podcasts by Dark Wraith
For those of you more or less unfamiliar with Podcasting, you do not need an iPod to listen to Podcasts, and you can use Apple iTunes software right on your Windows or Mac computer not only to subscribe to Podcasts, but also to listen to them.
To provide some background, this project was a lot like work. The first step, recording lectures, requires relatively good audio equipment as well as marginally decent acoustics in the classrooms. A few donations made it possible to get a fairly high-quality digital recording device (on eBay, of course), although one room in which I deliver lectures is proving to be the sound stage equivalent of a large, noisy cave, and I'll probably have to get a better stereo microphone to deal with that problem. The next step, editing the recordings, is an on-going, time-intensive process. The NCH audio software I was using decided at the most inopportune time to announce that my free trial period had ended, so I went to a freeware package called Audacity, which is pretty impressive in terms of features, but it crashes like the Hindenburg on files as large as the ones I'm trying to use it to edit.
Recording and editing are the on-going work of this Podcasting project. The up-front chore was creating a valid Podcast RSS feed, which proved somewhat more challenging than I was anticipating. What made it a whole lot like real work was constructing the RSS feed to make it "iTunes-friendly"that is, to make it so Apple iTunes, the 800-pound gorilla of Podcast aggregators, could see it and consider it worth checking out for approval. That required special iTunes tags in the RSS feed, several of which had to be generated by a PHP script that could read the information in an mp3 file in an article, do some calculations, and echo the results back out to the XML file (which is sort of like a Website's shadow page that aggregators favor: this page has a special, strictly structured grammar and syntax with all the important informationarticle titles, dates of publication, author, contents, etc.from the Webpage that end users usually see).
Having finally gotten the RSS feed "validated" by W3C standards, with the iTunes supplemental tags validated by Apple, the final step in making the whole project go live was to submit the feed to Podcast aggregators, most notable among them being iTunes, itself, which not only has to ensure that the RSS feed meets its technical criteria, but also that the Podcasts, themselves, meet with Apple's approval. I am still unsure of what that latter process entails, but the Heartland Collegiate Compendium lectures got approved sometime yesterday.
As of the dateline of this article, I am still in the process of catching up to the end of last week's lectures. Right now, each one is taking a couple of hours to edit, but I'll get more efficient as time goes on and as I free myself from the repeated crashes of the audio editing software. (I am, of course, mindful that the crashes might be the result of the software dying of boredom from the audio content.)
Enough about that, and I do apologize for the boring grind above. I had to tell someone.
The lectures are in mp3 format, and a computer user can always simply click on such a file to play it, provided audio software like QuickTime or Windows Media Player is on the computer. The principal advantage in subscribing to a Podcast feed is that the aggregator a subscriber uses will go out to look for new episodes to a subscribed feed and fetch them automatically. Feed aggregators like iTunes will also make the task of saving the Podcasts and transferring them to portable devices like iPods, Zunes, and other mp3 players more routine. Nevertheless, again, because the lectures I am posting on my server are mp3 files, an interested visitor can just click on the link for a given lecture and listen to it at a computer.
As a sample, below is the link to one of the first lectures I delivered.
Principles of Macroeconomics, Lecture 1: Origins of the Discipline.
Lecture Date: 15 January 2008.
Run time: 1:02:38
Type: mp3 audio file
Bitrate: 128 kbps
Size: 57.3 Mb
Notice that this is a huge file. On fast broadband, it will take about a minute or two for the buffer to fully load so the file can start playing. On dial-up service, you should start the download, then go out, have dinner, catch a movie, maybe take a yoga class, work for an end to world hunger, take that trip overseas you were thinking about, return to the country and organize a new political party, then go home to listen to the lecture, which should have downloaded by that time.
For those of you who watched my YouTube or Revver video lectures, the one to which I've linked above will be old material: the script is about the same from one semester to the next, although I do vary content a bit. The advantage of audio-only for my lectures is that you don't have to look at me flailing about; the disadvantage is that visual contentinformation I would write on a whiteboard, for exampleis not visible; however, I do try to say in words much of what I write on a whiteboard, anyway. Perhaps more importantly, in economics classes, although I do draw graphs, I believe that such graphs are far too often a crutch that economics educators use when oral and written explanations fail them. This has the bad result that students come to the conclusion that the answer to an economics question is a graph they can draw on an exam. A graph is not an answer to anything, nor is it, by itself, an adequate basis for a well-formed response to an economics question. A good answer might or might not have one or several graphs to visually supplement a written, expository explanation; but a graph, in and of itself, cannot be the answer I want. Because of this, I don't turn to the whiteboard and draw a graph every time I need to explain something.
Anyway, Podcasting is now available for my lectures. Follow the episodes for one or more courses, and you'll hear an entire semester's worth of material. By the end, either you'll love the subject matter of the lectures, or you'll be so sick of it you'll never want to hear another economist again as long as you live.
The Dark Wraith is unsure of which scenario is more undesirable.
Political Nihilism My Way
"Like the president, Citigroup and Merrill Lynch came with tin cups to Middle Eastern, Asian and American investors last week, for a combined total of nearly $19.1 billion, after the subprime mortgage debacle blew up their books.
"Citigroup, which raised $7.5 billion from Abu Dhabi in November, raised another $12.5 billion, including from Singapore, Kuwait and Saudi Prince Walid bin Talal. Merrill Lynch gave $6.6 billion in preferred stock to Kuwait, South Korea, a Japanese bank and others."
In reaction to Dowd's note on current beggar-banking practices by American financial institutions, trog69 astutely noted, "It occurred to me that while we complain about the neo-conservative scum driving [President Bush], the ones behind other candidates might deserve more scrutiny."
Yes, but who among the punditry has the intelligence to actually understand the background, the issues, the problems, and the possible "solutions" (such as they are)? In my professional role as an economist, I find little to gain from jumping into the current thunderstorm of opinion journalism about the economy: I'll end up being all wet like everyone else; I'll be swimming upstream no matter which way I try to tread water; and, with my luck, I'll attract lightning from the Right and from the Left.
Even the candidates have little if any grasp of what lies ahead. They are laboring under the generally appropriate assumption that they can talk in general terms and that, once in office, they'll figure out what to do by hiring "experts" to handle all the little-people kind of work. As a consultant, I dealt all the time with "big picture" people who wanted nothing other than to strut their command positions while shoveling off onto irrelevant "techies," "bean-counters," and assorted other slobs the gruelingly hard work of actually making things function properly.
The Bush Administration's variation on that fairly typical work ethic of the rich and powerful was somewhat innovative. Little exists in the way of evidence that the "big-picture" neo-con thinkers and movers cared even about getting relatively competent hired help: the emphasis was on loyalty and ideological compatibility, which are flamingly disastrous qualities for working the engine room of the ship of state.
With respect to the leading Democratic candidates, let me not mince words.
John Edwards is too detached and uneducated about finance and investments to understand the basics of his own business relationships, and he'll have no clue as to whether or not the people under him are truly capable of handling the financial and economic affairs of state. I do not want a vapid fool stepping into every pit he comes across on the perilous road ahead, and that's exactly what we'll get with a President John Edwards.
Barack Obamaand, here, I speak from some personal information and experienceis all about style, and he specifically relies upon his "people" to keep real, point-specific problems from ever vexing him. His people are masterful at doing just that, which indicates to me that their expertise lies in form, not in substance. I do not want a style-over-substance showman in the White House, and I certainly don't want another round of Administration officials who twist people and the media around, obfuscate, and play games instead of hitting hard questions and problems head-on. My own interactions with Sen. Obama's staff have left me with a sour taste in my professional mouth that tells me this product will be no more beneficial to the health of this nation than it was to my journalistic palate.
Hillary Clinton is infused of an entirely neo-Keynesian mentality when it comes to guidance in formulating economic relations among the federal government, industry, and the citizenry. This neo-Keynesian approach to prescriptive forward-looking policy used to work quite well, although it was never particularly beneficial (nor was it intended to be) for workers; but neo-Keynesianism is wholly inadequate in practical terms for the problems of real peoplereal citizensin this era. Neo-Keynesianism had its last run of success in the 1990s; but even then, it was marginally failing, although the criticality of its prescriptive flaws would be felt only in the longer run. Unfortunately, Sen. Clinton has no capacity to reach beyond what she knows as a politician facing economic problems, and that means she will try to apply old solutions that just aren't going to work in the 21st Century. I do not want a President locked into the politics of moving on, lashed to the cart of politics-as-usual, believing that supposedly tried-and-true technocratic methodology of the past is entirely relevant to complex problems of the future.
More to the point, the politics of just moving on will ultimately be a disaster in precisely the same way that it was for the Democrats in 1993. Bill Clinton's greatest failure as a President was that he and the emergent, so-called "centrist" Democrats in Congress somehow thought that letting by-gones be by-gones with respect to more than a decade of Reagan/Bush criminality and malfeasance was in the best interest of the country; but as the Republican Revolutionculminating as it did in two terms for George W. Bushproved, the politics of appeasement was catastrophic not only for the Democratic Party, but also for the country and for many people who had tried to hand the Democrats mountains of evidence they could have used to utterly destroy the Republicans and their leadership. Bill Clinton's second greatest failureand this is where Saint Al Gore gets his share of the blamewas thinking that "industrial policy," which for decades had been the love-child of the centrist neo-Keynesians, could keep on chugging along, continuing to erode the purchasing power of workers while allowing yet another round of near-monopoliesthis time in the emerging telecommunications and computer software and hardware sectorsto arise to control the business landscape. Unlike during previous eras, however, there was no "countervailing power" (to appropriate economist John Kenneth Galbraith's terminology) on the labor side, even though that force had never been anything more than a union-driven showpiece for the working classes to think they had a power they never really did.
It's not as if President Eisenhower hadn't warned us about the military-industrial complex. It remains to be seen how long it will take informed citizens to determine that, like the marriage of government to military contractors, a union of that same government to high-technology companies and the healthcare industry will prove no more beneficial to the vast majority of people. (On the bright side, at least this marriage will ensure that, while people will still suffer economic hardships and their own mortality, at least they will die computer-literate and relatively pain-free.)
In summary, I have no use for any of the leading Democratic candidates. Paradoxically, though, I have more use for them than I do for any of the Republican candidates.
That leaves me with few options when I vote in November. I look forward to that problem because, as an economist with a healthy appreciation for free market capitalism, it's not a problem at all. Far too many people go to the store and buy Brand X knowing full well that it's simply awful; but they buy it anyway because they're convinced that it's better than Brand Y. Somehow, in that buying decision process they might even manage to get excited about going home with Brand X. The alternativean alternative that a free market offers but no one contemplates as practicalis simply to walk out of the store empty-handed. If prospective buyers did that, the manufacturers of Brand X and/or Brand Y would eventually figure out that business survival depends upon offering either a better product or a better lie. Either way, consumers would be happier.
The reality, of course, is that consumers would prefer to walk out of the store with somethinganythingrather than starve for a while until they were given better choices. To some extent, that's understandable: people don't like going shopping and returning home with nothing: surely, something is always better than nothing; and if this means that the rest of the consumers, those who would be willing to wait for a genuine deal, never get what they want, that's just too bad.
As much as free markets are capable of punishing the weak, the inefficient, and the low-quality, they are equally capable of delivering to the market merely enough to keep a flow of customers coming back, asking plaintively, "May I please have something in my hands when I leave the store on November 4, 2008?" Even if it's absolutely terrible, it's better than nothing, isn't it?
For my part, I plan to leave the store without asking for another slap in the face. If I want an insult to my intelligence, I'll read what the pundits are writing today about why the economy is headed to Hell in a foreign-made handbasket.
But that's just me.
The Dark Wraith certainly invites no one on his personal quest for self-actualized political nihilism.
Obama on the Lesson of the Reagan Revolution
"I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt... with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown, but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think... he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was [that] we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing."
On Thursday, John Edwardsin part, mindful of the power hand of unions in Democratic politics in Nevadatook strong exception, addressing economic and environmental policies of the Reagan Administration:
"I would never use Ronald Reagan as an example of change. You think about what Ronald Reagan did, to America, the American people, to the middle class, to working people. He was openlyopenlyintolerant of unions and the right to organize. He openly fought against the union and the organized labor movement in this country. He openly did extraordinary damage to the middle class and working people, created a tax structure that favored the very wealthiest Americans and caused the middle class and working people to struggle every single day. The destruction of the environment: you know, eliminating regulation of companies that were polluting and doing extraordinary damage to the environment."
Hillary Clinton, constructing broader themes about Obama's statement, had this to say:
"My leading opponent the other day said that he thought the Republicans had better ideas than Democrats the last 10 to 15 years. That’s not how I remember the last 10 to 15 years."
The mainstream media is representing as controversial Barack Obama's claim that the election of Ronald Reagan twice as President was an expression of desire by the American electorate for change. Whether or not voters see it that way is another matter: certainly, to this day Ronald Reagan stirs deep feelings in those who were alive during the Reagan years. Many progressives, liberals, and Leftists still harbor powerful resentment, even bitterness, for Reagan-era policies they consider anathema to their interests, will, and vision of the country, while many conservatives and Right-wingers see those same Reagan-era policies as entirely correct, proper, and beneficial to the nation.
Ultimately, it is not the voters of 1980 and 1984 who will assess the worth of candidates in the 2008 campaign for the White House, nor will it be a now-deceased President of that time who will win the coming election; it remains to be seen, however, if that same now-deceased President can cause the uncautious candidate of the present day to lose.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow
In a completely rational society, the best of us would aspire to be teachers, and the rest of us would have to settle for something less, because passing civilization along from one generation to the next ought to be the highest honor and highest responsibility anyone could have.
Twenty-seven years, maybe two dozen institutions, literally thousands and thousands of students: that's my claim to a worthwhile life.
All manner of place: great lecture halls at enormous, public universities; abandoned shopping malls, where fly-by-night schools shared space with homeless men sleeping in the corridors; prison; beautiful corporate facilities; for-profit little schools in urban ghettos; private colleges with perfect students and back-stabbing, if quite friendly, faculty; big and small community colleges; even a private little K-12 school. I've run hundred-mile circuits in a single day, teaching in different cities just so I could make ends meet.
I've taught more subjects than I can sometimes recall: math, from arithmetic to differential equations and everything in between, including developmental math, remedial algebra, probability theory and statistics, the calculus, and drafting math; managerial finance; real estate finance; economics; financial accounting; marketing; paralegal; business law; transcription and proofreading; learning study skills; English grammar and composition; computer software skills; keyboarding; court reporting; psychology; sociology; and Western civilization. I've been a director of education and a dean (at the same time, and at the same time I was teaching at the school).
I've had stunningly bright students, thunderously stupid ones, and countless thousands in between. My students have ranged in age from five years to almost eighty: "normal kids" and whole classes of the "learning disabled," which once included in a single classroom a quadriplegic, a couple of epileptics, several TMJs, a handful of dysgraphics and dyslectics, and some who, in a later era, might have been diagnosed as autistic. I've had my chops busted for nailing star athletes for cheating; I've had my throat slit by administrators who didn't like my style; I've had parents, spouses, and friends ruin students' hopes of achieving academic dreams; and I've seen people I wouldn't have bet a dime on succeeding walk up to get their diplomas.
Students have broken down, sobbing in my arms, and former students have given me firm handshakes years after I last saw them.
I've seen students on their way to nowhere, and I've marveled at kids on their way to the stars.
I've bemoaned hot-headed boys and crazy girls more interested in their soap-opera lives than in their homework. Oh, yes, and I've run across the occasional, albeit rare, post-adolescent female looking for a rather less-than-academic relationship with a male authority figure, and I've had occasion to encounter a few young gentlemen rather too timid to say much other than to discreetly let me know they were gay.
On streets near campus, I slept in my car through a brutally cold Winter in the Midwest and crashed in the cockroach-infested basements of rooming houses, all because the pay for non-tenured college teachers comes with a choice of food, soap, and clean clothes or a comfortable place to live. I've bummed money from caring friends; I've worked side jobs; and for more than twenty years, until my body and veins were too weary to do it anymore, I sold my blood plasma twice a week.
I've watched academia flop from one pop fad to another, and I've seen excellence in teaching beyond what I could ever hope to attain, myself.
In my life, I've been many things; but alwaysalwaysI've been a teacher.
For all I know, this will be my last semester at the college that has kept me for the past few years. I have no guarantees. If the truth were to be told, I'm going to start wearing out my welcome pretty soon if I don't move on voluntarily. That's how it's always been.
In the morning, as is my unfailing way, into the classroom I'll stride, the swaggering, angry professor, the harsh, loud, in-your-face, bad nightmare who wouldn't mind flunking everyone on the roster. Unfortunately, at least some of the students will know the whole thing is a scripted act. Reputation precedes a teacher no matter how loudly he tries to shout it down.
Nevertheless, I'll be out there in the spotlight one more time, voice raising to a yell, then nearly vanishing into a whisper, long hair flying, arms waving, fingers pointing, eyes staring right at students, then straight through them into the vast depth of material I know and that I am inviting them to know, too.
I might have to move on, soon, I think. I'm getting old, and that should bother me, but it doesn't really. There's always a gig somewhere. It might not pay much, it might be a long ways away, and I might not even make it there. All of that is okay, though: every day of my professional life, I've been turning the page, anyway. That's just how it is when you cannot live your life anywhere but in the spotlight. It's the best place imaginable for those of us who want to hide from the wasteland of our own failure to be anything other than the object of high, rhetorical praise.
Again, though, whatever.
I am a teacher. That's what matters to me. More to the point, that's what matters to the future.
The Strait of Hormuz Incident
A likely explanation? The radio operator on the USS Hopper, the ship in the video, is having a tense conversation on Channel 16 with what he thinks is someone on one of the Iranian patrol boats, but what he's really having is a discussion with some joker on shore or on a proximate ship who was listening in on the whole incident.
Now, hot off the presses at none other than the Navy Times, it now appears that the Filipino Monkey struck:
The threatening radio transmission heard at the end of a video showing harassing maneuvers by Iranian patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz may have come from a locally famous heckler known among ship drivers as the "Filipino Monkey."
To clarify the matter succinctly, the President of the United States of America got suckered into making a threat of "serious consequences" against another nation because of a prank by a person widely known as the "Filipino Monkey." In the terminology of Internet chat, President Bush got PWN'd by the Filipino Monkey.
In the aftermath of the Pentagon's claim earlier this week that small Iranian naval boats swarmed and threatened U.S. vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, President Bush has issued a renewed warning to Iran of "...serious consequences if they [Iran] attack our ships." The graphic at left, taken from video footage released by the Pentagon, shows one of the five Iranian patrol boats "wake riding" behind a U.S. Navy ship while a second Iranian patrol boat farther back is about to cut through the wake of the trailing American ship.
Regarding the hostile encounter, ABC News is reporting tonight that the Pentagon is now admitting the voice on a video clip released late Mondaythe audio and video components of the four-and-a-half minute presentation were put together subsequent to the incidentmight not have come from anyone on one the Iranian interceptor boats but instead from someone on shore or even possibly from a radio operator on another ship somewhere in the general area. Below is the multi-media, four minute, twenty second video/audio mix of the allegedly hostile encounter in the Strait of Hormuz between three America naval vessels and a group of Iranian Revolutionary Guard watercraft. Although the Pentagon has said that the entire episode lasted about 20 minutes, this video it has provided shows a total of only about four-and-a-half minutes of the action. The video and the audio components of several parts of the encounter were captured separately and synched later for public presentation. The video ends before the audio, and it is during the black screen part near the end of the clip that you can hear the voice of what the U.S. military originally claimed was an Iranian on one of the speed boats broadcasting a provocative threat to the Americans. Listen carefully to the voice; and also pay close attention not only to what you hear, but also to what you do not hear.
First, it is not quite clear what the alleged Iranian says after "I am coming to you," but the radio operator on the USS Hopper repeats the last part of the communication as, "You will explode after a few minutes."
Moreover, The New York Times is quoting an individual claiming to be a former U.S. Navy officer who notes that Channel 16, the frequency on which this apparent threat occurred, is used like "bad CB radio" in the Gulf area, with many people hurling insults and racial epithets at one another, chattering incessantly, and even broadcasting American '70s soft rock music in the middle of the night:
[O]ver in the Gulf, Ch. 16 is like a bad CB radio. Everybody and their brother is on it; chattering away; hurling racial slurs, usually involving Filipinos (lots of Filipinos work in the area); curses involving your mother; 1970’s music broadcast in the wee hours (nothing odder than hearing The Carpenters 50 miles off the coast of Iran at 4 a.m.)
On Ch. 16, esp. in that section of the Gulf, slurs/threats/chatter/etc. is commonplace. So my first thought was that the "explode" comment might not have even come from one of the Iranian craft, but some loser monitoring the events at a shore facility.
Commenters at a number of sites have also pointed out several problems with that the heavily accented voice making the threats. First, the accent is not Farsi, the most common language in Iran. In fact, listening carefully to the tape, not only is the accent decidedly unlike that of a speaker of a Persian tongue, it also has a distinctive British character (listen to the way the speaker pronounces the "l" when he seems to say "blow"). Second, there is absolutely no background interference that would indicate that the transmission was from an open boat running at flag speed through choppy water, which is the condition the video clearly shows the Iranians were operating during the encounter.
A likely explanation? The radio operator on the USS Hopper, the ship in the video, is having a tense conversation on Channel 16 with what he thinks is someone on one of the Iranian patrol boats, but what he's really having is a discussion with some joker on shore or on a proximate ship who was listening in on the whole incident. In the meantime, a radio operator on one of the other two U.S. vessels is having the real conversation with the Iranians in the boats, and that discussion was switched to Channel 11 precisely because of all the chatter on Channel 16. Below is the YouTube version of the video Iran has just released of the encounter that supports an interpretation like this of what was going on.
Another explanation, albeit far darker, of what is heard on the American version is that the audio component comprises two separate conversations, one happening on Channel 11that's the part where the U.S. radio operator is declaring that the American naval vessels are in international watersand a completely separate component coming through on Channel 16. In the American version, we never hear the Iranian side of the Channel 11 interaction.
The Iranian video obviously presents a considerably different perspective on the character of the encounter, which appears to have been, at least during the five-minute clip the Iranians provided, very professional. (The audio and video in this Iranian clip, by the way, appear not to have been synthetically put together later in a studio, unlike the American version.) Of particular note is the clearly Farsi accent of the Iranian radio man and the fact that the chatter on Channel 16 prompted him to request that his counterpart on the U.S. vessel switch to Channel 11, which the American radio operator did. Also of note is that this Iranian radio man appears to be speaking as the representative of the entire contingent of patrol boats: note his hand gesture giving what looks like a command to another patrol boat to back off. This Iranian radio man is obviously not the person whose voice is heard on the American video.
The Iranian video makes the incident look strikingly more like a routine encounter as it was characterized by Tehran. That is to say, the Iranians came out in their small speedboats, swirled around in their characteristic "dispersed swarming" maneuvers, bothered the Americans as Iranians do in their usual game of bully-on-the-block in the Strait, and got their usual response from the Americans: "We are operating in international waters," which is the diplomatic way of saying, "We're coming through, so you and your stupid little toy boats can kiss our backsides."
How did this encounter, which now appears to have been nothing out of the ordinary, turn into an "incident" that would prompt a dire warning from the President of the United States? As it turns out, behind the "anonymous Pentagon sources" the mainstream media were ominously citing when the story first broke was a gentleman named Bryan Whitman, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, Office of Strategic Influence. For readers unfamiliar with Mr. Whitman, he was none other than the architect of the propaganda push originally put forth about the "rescue" of Private Jessica Lynch, a story that turned out to be so at odds with what actually happened that Ms. Lynch, herself, repudiated the Pentagon version in testimony before Congress.
That's right: The latest, hot-off-the-presses story of a nearly deadly naval battle between the United States and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in the Strait of Hormuz came straight out of the office of a disgraced Pentagon propagandist, a man already caught at least once before using a military incident and associated video to pump lies to an ever-receptive, ever-gullible U.S. mainstream media and its Right-wing warhawks in the Blogosphere. True to form, the American media instantly swallowed the story, complete as it was with ominous implications for an ugly new war, and repeated it as gospel truth to the ever-receptive, ever-gullible U.S. audience.
And if that weren't bad enough, the President of the United States, who is on a trip to the Middle East, has begun his visit with "serious consequences" saber-rattling based upon propaganda from which even his own military is now backing away.
Fortunately, not only is Mr. Bush apparently blissfully unaware of what an ass he looks like to the rest of the world, but the rest of the world can take great comfort in the certain knowledge that United States foreign policy is being led by an American President who is, if nothing else, as consistent at being a fool as any new world order could ever possibly need.
The Dark Wraith hopes that every U.S. citizen takes pride in the unwavering dedication of our President to being hailed by all the world as the Undaunted Ass of Empire.
Clinton Beats Obama, Tromps Edwards; McCain Whips Romney, Trounces Huckabee
FINAL UPDATE 12:20 a.m. EST, 9 January 2008: Aside from Clinton's narrow victory over Obama and McCain's drubbing of Romney, the biggest story from New Hampshire is that, as of 11:30 p.m., with all but a small remaining number of both Democratic and Republican precincts reporting, voters casting ballots in the Democratic primary are outnumbering those voting on the Republican side by a margin of five to four. If this trend holds for the rest of the vote count, that would be significant because 44 percent of New Hampshire voters are registered as Independents, with 30 percent calling themselves Republicans and only 26 percent saying they're Democrats. With such a distribution, it is reasonable to assume that far more Independents voted for a Democrat, pointing to what might be a serious problem for the GOP in the general election.
With 95 percent of Democratic precincts reporting, Hillary Clinton has beaten Barack Obama. John Edwards will finishing a disappointing, distant third.
On the Republican side, with 95 percent of the precincts reporting, John McCain will ride to victory over Mitt Romney, with Iowa caucuses winner Mike Huckabee finishing only marginally better than second-string rivals Giuliani and Paul.
More New Hampshire primary results later here on the Dark Wraith Publishing Ad Hoc News Network.
Candidate Graphics: Huckabee File
The pictures above are of Mike Huckabee. At left is his 1973 Hope High School Yearbook photo, appropriated from an online gallery at the Chicago Tribune. In passing it along to fellow bloggers earlier today, I noted for the record that I am not sure if what’s on his head in that shot is hair, a hat, or some kind of clay formation. At right is a recent picture of Mr. Huckabee. Although his hairwhat remains of itseems to have overcome the dark sponge that was eating it, the Republican candidate has clearly forgotten an important lesson of his youth: when your teeth are ugly, keep your lips together when you smile.
The Dark Wraith will be offering more candidate graphics in the days and weeks ahead.
Obama on Fire
Opinions, vows, or other declarations made in the graphic above do not in any way reflect an endorsement by Dark Wraith Publishing or its proprietor of a candidate or ways of showing support. In other words, for God's sake, don't blame me for this graphic: it was Minstrel Boy's idea; I just happen to be good at graphical artwork. For my own part, I am personally opposed to incendiary imagery and words (notwithstanding previous artwork like this, this, this, this, this, and this, among others).
The graphic depicted above is currently available on black T-shirts at The Dark Wraith Forums e-Store sponsored by CafePress. They are obscenely over-priced there, and the rendering onto fabric of the graphic may not reflect the high quality for which Dark Wraith Publishing is known; however, unless and until a production run can be afforded through a quality silkscreening service, the T-shirts at CafePress will have to do.
The Dark Wraith should probably lie low for the rest of the day now that this graphic has been posted.
Huckabee Slaps the Snot out of Romney, Obama Creams Edwards and Clinton
With 95 percent of Iowa Republican precincts reporting, Mike Huckbee is flogging the used food out of Mitt Romney, leading 34 percent to 25 percent. The rest of the Republicans are eating the dust from the dust that Romney ate, with Fred Thompson, John McCain, and Ron Paul respectively taking 13, 13, and 10 percent. Rudolph Giuliani took a dirt nap with a mere four percent.
More news later here on the Dark Wraith Publishing Ad Hoc News Network.
The End of Time
In the land of the North, the world tree Yggdrasill spread its branches across all the land of Midgard. Yggdrasill was attended by three muses, whose names were Urth, Verthandi, and Skuld: in their order, the Past, the Present, and the Future. Theirs was the task of taking water from the spring of life to the mighty ash tree that it be nourished so its branches could spread ever farther as the world grew from the voyages of those who went a-viking.
The one-eyed god Odhinn could see the muses from his giant chair in Asgarth. Each morning, his eye would cast with satisfaction upon their merriment as he prepared his two ravens, whose names were Huggin and Munin, Thought and Memory, for their day's duties. The blackbirds were set to wing with the daily work of traveling the courses of Yggdrasill's branches to all the world that they could return at day's end with stories for their master. Odhinn, upon sending his birds on their way, would go to his sitting chair, and there he would doze.
Huggin and Munin always traveled far, but they faithfully returned well before the sun had finished its arc across the high canopy of the Heavens so they might have time to sit with the muses they loved so much. Urth, Verthandi, and Skuld would hold a large bowl of clear, cool water high in the air. When the ravens had slaked their thirst, the muses would sit down. Munin would land between Urth and Verthandi, the Past and the Present, and Huggin would alight between Verthandi and Skuld, the Present and the Future. As Munin told of his travels, Urth and Verthandi would hold hands and laugh as Memory passed stories from the Past to the Present; as Huggin told of his travels, Verthandi and Skuld would hold hands and laugh as Thought passed stories from the Present to the Future. At dusk, the ravens would depart their dear muses and go to the great hall Glathsehim at Asgarth to awaken Odhinn and retell the tales that made Memory and Thought so sweet to the warrior god.
One day, as Huggin and Munin were flying high across Midgard, Loki, the god of mischief and evil, spotted Munin and found in the fleeting instant glee in the woe that would vex Odhinn's heart if his Memory were gone. Loki threw a spear into the air and slew Munin. Seeing the death of his companion, Huggin wheeled around from the other side of the world and came upon the place in the sky where he had seen Munin pierced through the heart. Loki, spying the second bird, found glee in the woe that would vex Odhinn's heart if his Thought were gone, too. Loki threw a second spear into the air and slew Huggin.
When, by late afternoon, Huggin and Munin had not arrived from their day's adventures, the muses began to worry.
"I shall go to find Munin," Urth said to herself.
"I shall go to find Huggin," Skuld said to herself.
Verthandi stayed behind to care for Yggdrasill, but she could not carry water to the tree by herself, so she sat and waited for the Past and the Future to return to her side.
That evening, in the forest where once giants had ruled but no longer tread, Urth found the body of Munin, and she fell to her knees, weeping inconsolably. She could not even see that beside her was Skuld, who was weeping over the body of Huggin.
Loki saw that his moments of pleasure had caused great pain, and the crying of the muses made him sad. He considered what kindness he could offer that would end the wailing of Urth and Skuld. He decided that he should kill them, and so he did. When they stopped crying, he was not sad anymore.
The days passed for Verthandi, and she grew weak with hopelessness: her friends were gone, Yggdrasill had withered and died, and Odhinn could not be awakened. She finally arose and stepped out into the world, which confused her because she had never been there without her Past and Future to guide her.
Verthandi wandered aimlessly across the shattered earth of Midgard, which had become a tortuous wasteland of the dead branches of Yggdrasill. So heartsick was she that she noticed not that she was being followed by the great wolf Skoll, who was hungry; but he could not make his way through the awful thicket that was everywhere, so he lept high into the air and walked across the sky. When he came to the sun, he stopped, and there, he opened his great jaw and let Sol, which he had hunted all the days of his life, sink into it. When the sun was in his throat, Skoll began to close his mouth.
Heimdallr, the god of dawn and light, watched as the rainbow bridge Bifrost he guarded from Midgard to Asgarth started to vanish in the dying sunlight. Standing before Glathsehim in Asgarth, he put a horn to his golden teeth and sounded the clarion call that the transformation of apocalypse, Ragnarok, was nigh; but the Aesir, the race of gods who could hear the sound of the trumpet, did not, for they could hear nothing over their own voices asking why the world was so strange this night, which was arriving far too early for their liking.
When Skoll had finished his meal of the sun, Midgard fell into the deep shadow of colorless, frightful night; and from the Earth then arose an impenetrably dense, white fog that enshrouded the whole of the world. Verthandi, being unable to see even her arms outstretched before her, sat down amid the dead limbs of Yggdrasill. She felt upon her pale cheek a single snowflake, and then another and another until, before she could blink, the falling snow had made the whole of Midgard even more unseeable than the white fog had.
Verthandi took the snow falling around her and first turned to her left, where beside her she made a snow sculpture of her lost muse, Urth, the Past. She then took more snow into her hands and turned to her right, where beside her she made a snow sculpture of her lost muse, Skuld, the Future. She looked upon her creations and spoke to them: "You are not real, but you are all I have, now." They said nothing to her, and she knew that they agreed, and they would never again leave her.
This falling snow, soft and unrelenting, covered all the trees, then all the land of Midgard. It continued to fall, covering the harbors, then the seas, and finally the mountains. By the time it had ceased, the whole world was a plain of snow stretching from the darkness without end before to the darkness without end beyond, and no sound could be heard from the Worlds below to the Heavens above.
Now under a blanket of snow deeper than the deepest ocean, Verthandi lay back in the belly of Ymir, the slain frost giant from whom the world had first been made, and there she pulled to her sides the soulless bodies of the Past and the Future she had made from the bitter snow. They were not warm, but they were all she had as she exhaled from her chest the last breath within her. In that place, she closed her eyes in the blackness of her tomb, where she went to sleep forever, alone, never again to see Huggin or Munin who were Thought and Memory, never again to hear the laughter of the Past and the Future who had once lived beside her.
The end of time had come.