aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Monday, May 28, 2007
Jim Nabors & Marla Maples
Google Trends, a new daily zeitgeist.
What’s that say?
Crazy Hot Air Balloons
Via Damn Cool Pics where there are lots more balloon pics:
Hot air balloons are the oldest successful human carrying flight technology, dating back to the Montgolfier brothers’ invention in Annonay, France in 1783. The first flight carrying humans was made on November 21, 1783, in Paris by PilÃƒÂ¢tre de Rozier and the Marquis d’Arlandes.
A hot air balloon consists of a bag called the envelope that is capable of containing hot air. Suspended beneath is the gondola or wicker basket (in certain, long distance or high altitude balloons, a capsule) which carries a source of heat capable of producing a sufficient temperature gradient between the air inside the envelope and the surrounding air mass to give enough lift to keep the balloon and its passengers aloft. Unlike gas balloons, the envelope does not have to be sealed at the bottom since the rising hot air only exerts pressure on the upper hemisphere of the balloon to provide lift. In today’s sports balloons the envelope is generally made from nylon fabric and the mouth of the balloon (closest to the burner flame) is made from fire resistant material such as Nomex.
Today, hot air balloons are used primarily for recreation. There are some 7,500 hot air balloons operating in the United States. READ ON.
Can you guess why I picked the cow balloon?
Al Qaeda’s Enabler: snatching defeat from the jaws of victory
Andrew Sullivan called George Bush Al Qaeda’s Enabler yesterday:
[E]very road ahead in Iraq - staying or leaving, surging or redeploying - is full of death, terror and chaos. The light at the end of this tunnel is hard to glimpse. But Bush is still proudly digging the tunnel.
What can one say? Well: we can say this at least. The president is right that al Qaeda remains a terrible threat to Americans. He is right to insist on this. But one core reason he is right is because he has been in the White House for the last six years. Al Qaeda surely never had a more helpful man in such a powerful place.
I read that shortly after listening to Robert Wright, a New Yorker staff writer and author of “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11” in a talk entitled Al Qaeda: Past, Present and Future. Wright neatly synopsizes how Bush snatched defeat from the jaws of victory:
[bin Laden] envisioned Afghanistan as a great bear trap for us and so he was provoking us in order to get us to attack in Afghanistan. Well, of course, he miscalculated. In just a very short space of time, six weeks, American coalition forces swept aside the Taliban. Pummeled Al Qaeda. If you read the accounts of Al Qaeda insiders they admit that 80% of their membership was captured or killed.
Yes, the leaders got away. But they were scattered, they were destitute, they were unable to communicate and they were repudiated all over the world, even in the Muslim world. The war on terror was essentially dead. It was Iraq that breathed that monster back to life. Iraq looks a lot like what bin Laden had in mind for us in Afghanistan. It offers Al Qaeda a whole new country to train in.
So what if a Democrat had done that? Again I think Sully gets it right:
If a Democrat had been responsible for endangering America in this fashion, the Republicans would have impeached him by now. If a Democrat had bungled a war as obviously as this president - a war, moreover, that he has described as an existential struggle for our survival - the Republicans would long ago have Carterized him. Look how the Israelis have held Olmert accountable for his feckless war in Lebanon. Compared to Bush, Olmert is Churchill. If Bush’s record in this war is “offense,” then the only sane response is: so was the charge of the light brigade.
Just to anger up the blood some more, it’s now clear, thanks to the latest Congressional report, that this president was warned starkly about the dangers of "a surge of political Islam and increased funding for terrorist groups" as a result of an invasion of Iraq. He was told that Iraq was "largely bereft of the social underpinnings" for democracy. He was explicitly informed that there was "a significant chance that domestic groups would engage in violent conflict with each other unless an occupying force prevented them from doing so." And yet he still sent a pathetically insufficient occupation force in 2003 - and refused to increase it for three years of growing chaos and mayhem. Even if you excuse the original recklessness, the persistence in it - until our current point of no return - is and was criminal negligence - a callous disregard for your security and mine.
In his talk, Robert Wright outlined the twenty year plan of Al-Qaeda as articulated in Fuad Hussein’s biography of Abu Mussab al-Zarkawi. The plan begins with 9/11 and has so far been remarkably prescient.
Wright doesn’t believe we will loose, though he does believe that “the failure of the American project in Iraq is bound to embolden Al-Qaeda and radical Islamists everywhere.” Things will get worse before they get better.
Here’s some of what Wright believes must be done to turn this around:
1.) Fix our intelligence. There are fewer Arabic speakers in the FBI now than on 9/11. “If you don’t know the first thing about your enemy, you’re bound to have a failure of imagination, an inability to connect the dots.” He notes that we’ve added new Directorate of Intelligence and Homeland Security offices which add nothing but bureaucracy to our intelligence, while our 1,000 person embassy in Baghdad has 6 fluent Arabic speakers. “How are we going to succeed...if we don’t have people that understand the culture?”
2.) Bring our allies back on board. After 9/11 the whole world was with us; now “we’re so radioactive that every good thing we try to do causes people to draw away...There are a lot of reasons why people should be helping us in Iraq and we haven’t been able to marshall them in an effective manner.”
3.) Help bring about a viable, prosperous, unified Palestine. “If you create a failed state on Israel’s border what have you done?” We should declare that we don’t support the settlements. “They are illegal and they are not in the interest of peace… we need to succeed in Israel and Palestine right now.” He sees a moment of opportunity now. He knows this won’t solve the problem, but “it will reduce the inflammation that is so much at the cause of Muslim anger.”
He says Al Qaeda will lose for 3 reasons: too many enemies, they kill Muslims recklessly, and they offer nothing to the people who follow them. They have no belief in politics, they offer only death through martyrdom and that’s no recipe for success.
I’m as anti-war as the next guy, but Bush has gotten us into this pickle and we’ve got to start thinking of how we’re going to get out of it. Everything Wright said in his talk makes good sense to me.
Memorial Day in Red America
The Wall Street Journal in search of the real Tom Collins:
Memorial Day wasn’t always on a Monday. Inaugurated shortly after the Civil War, the holiday was originally known as “Decoration Day,” and came to be observed in most states on May 30 of each year. Come the 1950s, NATO started militating for Memorial Day—and a slew of other holidays, including the Fourth of July—to be moved to Monday. This particular NATO, Frank Sullivan noted in a 1955 New York Times Magazine article, was not the defense alliance, but rather the National Association of Travel Organizations, a lobbying group that wanted to boost the number of three-day weekends. Sullivan wondered at the urge to travel on every holiday: “I always enjoy Washington’s Birthday immensely because I sit by the fire all day long, thinking how fortunate I am not to be out skiing.” Were Memorial Day to be on a Monday, he declared, he would “celebrate by spending the three days on the lawn, toying with a Tom Collins and watching somebody else mow the grass.”