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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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   propaganda-revealing context
Sunday, February 11 2007
I remember what I was doing four years ago when Colin Powell presented his evidence of Saddam Hussein's invasion-worthy evil to the United Nations. I was painting the floor of my laboratory with the marvelous "alien camoflage" pattern that it still has (in a slightly worn manifestation) to this day. I remember Powell citing the existence of an Al Qaeda training center in northern Iraq as proof that Saddam was giving aid and comfort to the same folks who attacked the United States on 9/11/01. Of course, anyone who was paying any attention (including, particularly, Powell) knew that this part of Iraq was outside Saddam Hussein's control. The Al Qaeda camp was in Kurdistan, a de facto independent state kept free of Saddam's influence by overflights of American war planes that had been going on since the First Gulf War. As such, then, the mention of the Al Qaeda camp was propaganda in its truest sense, in that it was a truth (but not the whole truth) to shape public opinion into believing something that wasn't true (in this case, that Saddam Hussein had a relationship with Al Qaeda). As I painted my laboratory floor that wintery day I remember the feeling of helpless despair when none of the commentators who summed up Powell's talk (and, mind you, this was on public radio) felt the need to put this part of what he had said in its propaganda-revealing context. To have done so would have been to have exposed Powell for what he turned out to be: the "good soldier" willing to do something transparently unscupulous when ordered to do so. Propaganda is a shaming thing when given the context that spoils its value to mislead.
I had a similar feeling today as I read articles about the supposed Iranian connection to the appearance of "explosively formed penetrators" among militia groups in Iraq. This time it wasn't a Secretary of State sacrificing his good name to a dubious casus belli but instead anonymous "weapons experts" making dots for Tony Snow and Fox News to help us connect. Nobody was asking this simple question: what would Iran's motive be? Up until (and including) now, the American mission in Iraq has conincided with Iranian interests. Though Bush and Ahmadinejad would have you believe they and their nations have different diametrically-opposed interests and are practically at war, politically they are essentially allies. Bush knocked out Iran's two biggest regional rivals and then did everything possible to increase global gasoline prices (including refusing to advocate an increased CAFE standard for domestically-produced vehicles). And the ultimate purported goal of the Iraq invasion, some form of democracy, would ensure perpetual Iranian influence in Iraq, a country where the majority are Shiites who bring Iranian sympathies with them into polling booths when they vote.
While it's almost certainly true that Americans have been killed by weapons smuggled into Iraq from Iran, there have probably been more killed by weapons smuggled from Sunni countries such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia, since they are the ones arming the Sunni insurgents who are responsible for most of the intentional American deaths. (Then there's the matter of failing to secure Iraq's weapons depots after the fall of Saddam, a crime for which no one in the military has yet been court martialed, let alone hung by the neck until dead.)

I continued work today on the duct I began yesterday, which will carry woodstove-heated air from high in the living room to near the floor of the basement guest room's bathroom. The intended route requires the duct to pass through an intervening intra-joist bay in the floor beneath the living room. Since the duct will depend on surrounding carpentry for its seals, now I had to worry about where that horizontal floor bay was going. At first I looked at this as something of an opportunity; perhaps I could continue the duct horizontally to Gretchen's library (which lies at the east end of the floor bay) and, as a bonus, also be able to warm that room with woodstove-heated air. But then when I surveyed this bay to see what perforations it might contain, I could see it was going to be trouble. Not only did it contain two recessed lighting fixtures and a networked smoke detector, but it also included lots of plumbing and electrical infrastructure, all of which was entering it from holes drilled through the joists on either side. It looked like I was going to have to seal up the part of the bay through which my duct would pass. Doing so actually proved easier than I expected. I started by doing things the hard way: making "sandbags" of styrofoam peanuts stuffed in plastic grocery bags and stacking them to the east of my duct. But this was never going to do anything to address all the perforations associated with a nearby recessed lighting fixture. So then I cut a piece of aluminized insulative bubblewrap and curved it into an awkward cylinder above the ceiling hole in the bathroom. I stapled it in place and then sealed its joints with aluminized duct tape.

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