“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A morning walk in Costa Rica

I love this beach. I prefer not to share it, because like many of the places that I used to have to myself, it will cease to be satisfying when many others seek the same pleasure that I find there. It is a selfish and declining luxury as travel becomes cheaper and hundreds of millions of people seek to experience as much of life as they can.

Yet it is a human desire to share peaceful and pleasant experiences. As a boy and a young man, I was blessed with things that are not available to my children and grandchildren, but still, there is much for them. That is no longer so for the young people slaughtered for being at the wrong place and at the wrong time. It should not have been as they were in the right place for their self-improvement and study, working to build a future. Their future was stolen from them.

The sacrifice of their families and a life of promise were ended in horror and fear. I still can enjoy what they never will know. How could a world with such beauty be so cruel?


  1. The Unmentionable "I" Word:
    (it's not Imus)
    AP: Britain Stops Using 'War on Terror' Phrase

    LONDON (April 17) - A member of Tony Blair 's Cabinet on Monday brought out into the open a quiet shift away from the U.S. view on combatting extremist groups, acknowledging that British officials have stopped using the expression "war on terror " favored by President Bush .

    International Development Secretary Hilary Benn, a rising star of the governing Labour Party, said the phrase strengthens terrorists by making them feel part of a bigger struggle.

    "In the U.K., we do not use the phrase 'war on terror' because we can't win by military means alone, and because this isn't us against one organized enemy with a clear identity and a coherent set of objectives," Benn said.

    He said the real struggle pits the "vast majority" of the world's people "against a small number of loose, shifting and disparate groups who have relatively little in common apart from their identification with others who share their distorted view of the world and their idea of being part of something bigger."

    The terrorist threat facing Britain - starkly revealed by the July 7, 2005, transit attacks that killed 52 London commuters - made officials realize the limitations of an abstract phrase like "war on terror."

    "In the U.K. we can't consider the domestic problem with terrorism to be a war where you must be on one side or another," he said. "It requires a much deeper sensitivity than that."

    In his speech, Benn urged Americans to use the "soft power" of values and ideas as well as military strength to defeat extremism.

  2. London was a domestic thing.
    ...if you leave Pakistani Islamists out of the picture.

  3. The Tyger

    Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
    In the forests of the night,
    What immortal hand or eye
    Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

    In what distant deeps or skies
    Burnt the fire in thine eyes?
    On what wings dare he aspire?
    What the hand dare seize the fire?

    And what shoulder, and what art?
    Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
    And when thy heart began to beat,
    What dread hand, and what dread feet?

    What the hammer? What the chain?
    In what furnace was thy brain?
    What the anvil? What dread grasp
    Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

    When the stars threw down their spears,
    And watered heaven with their tears,
    Did he smile his work to see?
    Did he who made the Lamb, make thee?

    Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
    In the forests of the night,
    What immortal hand or eye
    Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

  4. Did he who made the Lamb, make thee?

  5. Did he who made the Lamb, make thee?
    except as the Lamb refers to Jesus. Jesus is not made. Jesus is a part of God from the very beginning. Jesus is part of the Godhead.

  6. Indeed, duece, those young people and their families thought they were safe, in class, in college, in Virginia.

    Not the mean streets of San Salvador, Beirut or Baghdad.

    Some were even getting good grades.

    The News from VA goes on, nonstop, as if there is no other concern. While in Iraq twice that many are killed each day, on average. Day after day, for months on end, with no clarity of purpose, either.

    Young people of the same age, in US uniform, are killed there each day. About 60 a month, two times the body count of Virginia Tech, for 48 months, now.

    Over the weekend, in Iraq, two professors were killed, on their way to class.

    It is not a cruel world, but it is uncaring.

  7. A second shooter? The "person of interest", the boyfriend of the first female victim?

    Gunman identified

    The authorities also released an affidavit for a police warrant to search the apartment of a man identified as Karl David Thornhill to look for firearms, ammunition, bloody clothing, footwear, and other “tangible evidence” associated with the alleged murders. Mr. Thornhill was said to have given the police conflicting information about the location of his guns and his whereabouts over the weekend.

  8. Last night on the Nature channel the journalists followed a troupe of chimpanzees in Tangenika. There were many troupes in the area. All the bands had their territories. They jealously guarded their territories. One time another troupe went over the boundary line into the territory of the chimps covered by the journalists. The chimps formed a raiding party. They attacked the other group & managed to kill one of the babies belonging to the other group. They all then shared in eating the baby chip.

    The journalists professed to be puzzled by this behavior. But anyone familiar with human anthropology knows that this is perfectly consistant with human history. The paleontologists will occassionally find neanderthal & cro magnan skeletons with cut marks that suggest the bones were eaten by humans.

  9. that is a very nice and peaceful beach!!! looks so serene. i also grew up with a beach behind our house, it was the best thing ever.

    the virginia massacre is the most horrendous thing that could happen to anyone. so sad, indeed! lives cut short because someone snapped out. we'll never really know, if and when, we're in the wrong place, at the wrong time. the dysfunction continues!

  10. Asian-American students at Virginia Tech reacted to news about the gunman’s identity with shock and some anxiety about a possible backlash.

    “My parents are actually worried about retaliation against Asians,” said Lyu Boaz, a third-year accounting student who was born in South Korea and became an American citizen a year ago. “After 9/11, a lot of Arabs were attacked for that reason.”

    Mr. Boaz, a resident adviser at Pritchard Hall, said many Korean-American students left campus immediately. Parents of other Korean-American students were preparing to pick up their children this afternoon and take them home.

    From another New York Times article:

    In Centreville, Mr. Cho’s family lived in a small, two-level townhouse in an upper-middle-class development. Coincidentally, the family of one of the victims, Reema Samaha, lived less than a mile from the Cho family home.

    The yellow aluminum-sided house, in a subdivision residents said was called Sully Station II, was shuttered today and police said they had removed the family from their home last night.

  11. I don't remember a "lot" of Arabs being attacked after 9/11.

    As to the apparent efficiency of the shooter: A friend said that he suspected the 23 year old may have had S Korean military training.

    I cited three possible reasons.
    1. Could have played violent video games.
    2. Practiced with the pistol.
    3. Calming drugs in his system.

  12. You would know about them Orientals "Herr" Hu!
    European press blame Charlton Heston for shooting...
    Obama Compares Va. Tech Tragedy to Verbal Violence of Imus... ,

    23-minute .mp3 file. [UPDATE: IE7 users see below.]

    It captures what moves a lot of people about Obama, and bothers others: His instinct for abstraction and large themes, and his sense that America's problems have at their root solutions that have as much to do with hope and process as with any specific course of action.

  13. > A friend said that he suspected the 23 year old may have had S Korean military training.

    That seems unlikely since he was 8 years old when his family moved to the US.

    Choice #2 makes sense. He planned this out carefully, including using bomb threats to probe the university's response, and patiently waiting 30 days to buy a second gun (the time required by law between gun purchases).

  14. > You would know about them Orientals "Herr" Hu!

    I certainly learned something by innocently using a Chinese phrase as my handle. I never imagined so many people would assume I was Chinese, or would give a damn if I had been.

  15. Yeah, we beat on you a lot Wu.
    No doubt that will never happen again.
    ...if we only had some A-Rabs to bang around.

  16. Was she really going out with him?

    There's not a snowball's chance in hell that she was dating him. (She = the first, dorm victim.) The killer was so far gone that he never said more than grunts to anyone, even his roommates. Maybe he stalked her, but nothing more.

  17. Obama found a way to link the Virginia Tech murders and Imus???

    The only link I could think of would be if Imus was there this never would have happened because Imus carries a gun everywhere he goes.
    Michael | April 17, 2007 at 06:56 PM

  18. None is the number, whit. Not a one.

    We had a Sikh killed, here in Meas, AZ. Killed for his turban wearing ways. Shooter thought the victim was a Mohammedan.

    The other stories, urban myths

  19. Nagasaki mayor dies after being shot

    Mr Ito's death comes as a shock to a nation where there are very strict gun control laws and where attacks against politicians are rare.

    Police arrested Tetsuya Shiroo, 59, a senior member of a local gang affiliated with Japan's largest crime syndicate, the Yamaguchi Gumi, and seized a revolver he had with him.

  20. Herr Wu has not discovered the Animal Attraction of a well-delivered grunt.

  21. Mr Ito's predecessor was also shot and seriously injured in 1990 by a right-wing group member after making comments that Emperor Hirohito should be held liable for war responsibilities.

    "If the use of violence is tolerated when others do not do as one says, the freedom of speech will be lost," it said. "It risks pushing the country back to its wrong, dark years before the war."

    Strict gun controls

    Japan has very strict gun control laws and firearms are mostly in the hands of "yakuza" gangsters or hunters.

  22. I doubt that that young Mr. Cho had ever even visited Korea, let aloe served in their military. If he had he'd have realized that he was one of the "rich kids".

  23. Desert 'Rat's rants declared "idiocy" at BC.

  24. Not to mention "mental illness run rampant."

  25. But it was only allen.

    He fails to explain why the deaths of 60 US military men & women each month, for 48 months, is less newsworthy, less soul numbing, than the deaths of 32 students, once.

    As if the lives of the GIs have less value. That my friends is not just idiotic, it's crass.

    As if the life of Damian Lopez Rodriguez, 19, of Tucson, killed in Baghdad has less worth than a college students.

    Now allen sounds like JFKerry. Demeaning the sacrifice of US soldiers. They are lower class than VA Tech students. Not as worthy of air time.

  26. Your Damian link the other day didn't work.

  27. DR, There is a huge difference. Those students were in school, where they chose to be. Young GI's of the same age are in combat outfits in war zones, where they choose to be. Everyone wearing a uniform knows the risks. Sitting in a lecture hall at a college in Virginia does not have the plausible risk of being shot. It is within that implausibility that the difference rests.

  28. didn't work today, either.

    To bad, he was a sharp looking young man, in his BDUs and M4 in hand.

  29. There are two comparisons, duece.

    One is to the GIs of equal age, whose bio profiles are not read on TV, with their picture, as FOX did today with the students.
    In fact the Government discourages photos of the coffins and when Nightline or other news program does show their photo, it is labeled "antiwar" or Administration. Instead of celebrating their lives, and sacrifice, we ignore it, as a society. Less resolve is lost because the true costs become personalized.

    The Iraqi professors, putting knowledge into young minds of mush, are as couragous, if not more so, than that Israeli professor, whose actions brought tears to my eyes. Sacrificing himself for his students.

    The 1800 Iraqi civilians that are killed, on average each month, are as deserving of life as any student at VA Tech.

    It's just that distance and culture makes it appear less so. But in any moral sense, they're equal.

  30. Let's try to pay Damiam the respect he deserves:
    He died for you, me and Mr Maliki.

    In close up All of 19 years of age

  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

  32. If anything, the young men that volunteer to go in harms way are more worthy of the air time.

    Their stories should be told, the value of their sacrifice blared from the rooftops, if we're proud of them.

    They are more deserving, or at least more than equal of both praise and mourning than any of those students.

  33. It's a heaven of animals for the tigers, but for the lambs it's a living hell. And in relation to us it's a hell for all the animals, and we're the devils. Life lives on life, and it's monstrous.

    We've been thrown into the sea like fish, but since we're not fish, we should swim to land as fast as we can, metaphorically speaking.

    That's to say, we should be nice to one another, at least, even though we still need to eat, but not one another.