Reuben Sportsbar
Cold comfort and warm beer

Wednesday, May 28, 2003  

Thought for food. This time, the Guardian does it right. The second of their three-part series on food looks at why we eat the way we do now. It's an interwoven series of tales about industrialised meat production and factory farming, and how these things shape the world we live in. Very compelling reading which has tipped me even farther into the belief that buying food is a socio-political act.

posted by JD | 10:11 AM

Thursday, May 22, 2003  

How much foreign aid the US pays, versus how much Americans think they pay. The main point is this:

Do Americans understand how much of the U.S. budget goes to foreign aid?
No. A 2001 poll sponsored by the University of Maryland showed that most Americans think the United States spends about 24 percent of its annual budget on foreign aid—more than 24 times the actual figure.

Do Americans support increasing foreign aid?
Yes. According to [a University of Maryland poll], the typical American would like to spend $1 on foreign aid for every $3 spent on defense; the real ratio in the proposed budget for fiscal year 2003 is $1 on aid for every $19 spent on defense.

At - where else? - the magisterial CalPundit.

posted by JD | 9:44 AM

Grievous Monopolies. At CalPundit, there's a thread that started off being about foreign aid but turned into a good debate about GM foods.

posted by JD | 9:37 AM

Tuesday, May 20, 2003  

Sour pusses. People who write on food, politics and culture need to make an effort not to sound like they hate Permanent Global Summertime just because it offers summertime foods when they didn't use to be around. Summer is the best time of the year for most people, and if someone beats us over the head for not liking winter and cauliflower as much as we like summer and bananas, they came off as pleasure-hating shrews. Which is not what they're trying to do. In fact, in most cases I think they're trying to help us get the maximum pleasure from our food. But when a message is expressed shrilly, all we remember is the shrill.

posted by JD | 4:57 PM

Strange fruit. This article by Joanna Blythman, from last September's Guardian, is a powerful look at how supermarkets are squeezing the food chain so that what we consumers get is not great-tasting food, but easily-shipped, great-looking food. One example is the rise and rise of the Elsanta strawberry, which, though nearly tasteless in comparison to more traditional varieties, now accounts for 80% of all strawberries grown in the UK. Like the Elsanta, most new varieties of food crops are bred not for taste but for shelf life.

How complicit is the consumer in this process? This is one to think about for a good long while. But first, a song!

It's Permanent Global Summertime, and the livin' is easy,
The farmed fish are jumpin',
And profits are high.
Monsanto's rich,
And GM's so easy,
Hush, little baby, don't you cry.

posted by JD | 4:42 PM

When you capitalise the 'c', it reverses the word's meaning! The Dems are more fiscally responsible than those conservative Republicans, reports the Daily KOS .

posted by JD | 1:39 PM

When he argues in favour of banning halal slaughter, Roy Hattersley misses the beet-filled boat. We have to have logical consistency, he says. If we don't want to allow creationism to be taught in schools and don't want to allow organisations to discriminate against homosexuals and women on religious grounds, then we can't let them slaughter animals more cruelly than the secular way.

He's wrong, though. It's not a question of consistency; it's about how far a religious practice differs from the societal norm. Children taught creationism rather than evolution are being taught the exact opposite of everyone else. Even more importantly, the difference between discriminating against gays and not doing so is huge. It's not a matter of degrees: these two approaches are polar opposites.

But how we kill our chickens? Is there really that much difference between halal slaughter and what goes on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in industrial abbatoirs throughout the UK?

Another point on this: Is the last five minutes of life what we should be focusing on? Shouldn't we be more worried about improving the months that come before? After we do that, then maybe it'll make sense to alienate every Muslim in the UK. But not while industrial production of livestock - and thus far more suffering than exists in the last minutes of life - is the norm.

posted by JD | 1:11 PM

'The rules of international trade are rigged against the poorest countries.' That's what former cabinet minister Stephen Byers says, in an Guardian article with the amazing headline 'I was wrong. Free market policies hurt the poor.'

Amen, say the letter writers.

posted by JD | 12:56 PM

Human scale. In their arguments against architectural modernism, several of the commentators I've read have emphasised the necessity for human scale. I don't like most modernist buildings, and think the '50s and '60s were a blight on cities in general and London in particular, but I disagree with the argument that says we must always have human scale. Look at New York. People love the Chrysler Building and the Empire State.

We mostly do want human scale, I think, but we also like to be awed a bit. That's what the cathedrals tried to do, and we dig it. What we can't stand is brutalism. We need a bit of filigree, a few pleasant lines. Here in London, almost everyone loves the Gherkin with its comic, cuddly curves. It's so cute that in my head I almost invariably think of it as 'the little Gherkin'. Shape triumphs over size.

posted by JD | 10:48 AM

Monday, May 19, 2003  

Memo to America: George Bush raised your taxes. From the Daily Kos:

An interesting meme the Dems might want to explore is this simple correlation: while federal taxes are being cut for some, the massive increase in state and local taxes, due in part to an utter lack of federal relief and federal budget cuts for mandated programs, are hiking your taxes.

It doesn't matter if Bush cuts your federal taxes if your property and sales taxes climb, costing you hundreds of dollars more a year. Any federal refund will be more than gobbled up by local and state hikes on everything from parking tickets to hunting licenses.

Because the Bush Administration was completely uninterested in offering aid to states and localities, the states, which cannot print money, can only raise costs to cover the services that people want.

For nearly two decades the GOP has hammered the theme that lower taxes are good. The Dems have never, until recently, explained that there is a cost for this: which is lower services.

In New York, the governor, instead of looking at the state's dire fiscal condition and working with the legislature to raise taxes and cover costs, he wanted to place 4,000 slot machines around the state to raise money. Slot machines. Our governor, while amazingly lazy, is not stupid. Of course, he was angling to work for fellow Yalie George Bush, but he wasn't going to be able to make the cut.

But the point is this: federal tax cuts cost states money. They cost citizens money. While the President is talking about cutting taxes, the governors have to do all the heavy lifting and fund the programs which people demand.

It's time to shift the argument. Lower federal taxes not only mean higher state taxes in bad times, it means a lower standard of living. It means prisoners in your streets, schools operating four days a week, higher sales taxes, higher property taxes, dirtier streets and fewer teachers. States may have management issues and have overspent during good times, but the lack of federal support means that there is no cushion for bad times and states catch it in the neck.

Low taxes may not be bad, but low services are. There is a limit past which no state can go without making life worse for people in a real, concrete and defined way. A few hundred dollars is going to the credit card company, not the economy. All that money, combined in an aid to states and locality grant means keeping libraries open, more cops, more teachers, more children in health care programs. All these things cost money.

At the end of the day, you need to ask: do you want a federal tax refund and convicts released early from jail or aid to the states and localities which could prevent the worst budget cuts? I think most people might pass on the $300 to keep from firing teachers and emptying jails.

Steve Gilliard

posted by JD | 6:03 PM

You can't say that on American TV. I've been thinking about American Exceptionalism, this notion that America, because it's America, is the greatest at everything that matters. Even growing up as a young liberal in the US, I believed this. There was a lot wrong with our nation, I thought, but surely we had the free-est press, the highest standard of living, the most comfort, the greatest opportunities. And then you leave the country and find out that in almost every case, it just ain't so.

Part of that has to do with different values. Most Europeans, for instance, would rather earn fairly well and have six weeks off a year than earn a bit more but not have much holiday time. But a lot of it has to do with social indicators. For all America's chest-thumping about how great we are, we aren't exactly coming top of the rankings all that often. Yet people thump away.

At the Daily Kos there's a post entitled Things You Can't Say, and one of those things is "We have the worst health care system."

Now, I don't believe that's true - although for nations of similar wealth per capita (and there are plenty of them, surprise surprise) it may well be. But when ole Kos said it, he got a comment that does a good job of epitomising knee-jerk American Exceptionalism:

"We have the best healthcare system in the world. We have the best medical facilities, the best doctors. The life expectancy is up to, like, 83 or 84."

That was followed by a measured, rational, fact-based response, showing just how poorly the US does in health care. Before we get to that, though, anyone interested should dig through my archives (no one's reading this, so that's not as egregious a suggestion as it seems) for an article on how our healthcare system is skewed toward the expensive, largely unremediable end period of life. Now, without further ado, a well-expressed rejoinder to our American friend above:

Sorry anonymous, you should at least bother googling some facts before you post nonsense.

The male life expectancy in the US is 74.2, world rank of 42. The female US life expectancy is 79.9, world rank of 43.

Rank includes very small countries such as Andorra (#1 at 80.5). It also includes countries such as Japan (#5 at 77.5), Australia(#9), Switzerland(#11), Canada (#17), Italy(#19), Norway, the Netherlands, and Spain (#21, 24, and 26), the UK (#30), France(#35), Austria(#38), and Germany(#41).

Then there is infant mortality...

We rank 39 there, behind pretty much the same group of countries. Our rate is 6.8 per 1000 births. Both Sweden and Japan come in at less than 4 (3.5 and 3.9, respectively). They both have state-run universal healthcare, as does Canada and all other Western European countries.

Guess what, state-run healthcare works if you want it to work. And when it does it beats the pants of off any private system.

This is beacuse healthcare has certain special properties that do not make it a good fit with market mechanisms. For instance:

1. People want to get cured, but the ideal patient from a business point of view is one who needs chronic treatment, which is why more money is invested to develop AIDS and cancer "cocktails" than cures.

2. Cheap preventive medicine makes sense if you intend to reduce health costs later on, but it's a loser for business. You can't charge that much to keep healthy people healthy, but sick and dying people will go through all their cash, and then some, in order to survive.

So it is true that once you are about to bite the dust, the US healthcare system is top-of-the-line. It's dramatic as a carrier landing and expensive as a missile. It's also a very ineficient way to make people live longer, but it does look good on TV.

Posted by M. Aurelius at May 18, 2003 11:51 PM

posted by JD | 5:59 PM

The Drug Czar is fuuuully operational! Forgetting that they're supposed to take their legal cues from the Bush Beneath the Border, Canada is decriminalising marijuana. The Drug Czar isn't happy of course, saying, "You expect your friends to stop the movement of poison to your neighbourhood."

As I noted earlier, the Dirge Star says that where restrictions are loosened, use soars. Au contraire, notes the Toronto Star:

'In the 12 U.S. states where marijuana possession [was] decriminalized [25 years ago], use has actually dropped slightly. The biggest increases have been in states with the toughest enforcement.'

And again, so-called conservatives are more interested in their own twisted version of morality than in making the world a better place. To be more precise, they'd rather punish people than make them healthier, happier and safer:

'The Americans spend about $17.5 billion (U.S.) a year on policing and prosecutions, according to the Washington-based Drug Policy Alliance. Police forces say the expense is far out of proportion to any benefits; the money and manpower could be put to much better use.'

posted by JD | 3:56 PM

Silver-lined highball glasses. Cash-strapped states are abandoning blue laws and allowing Sunday liquor sales. The irony of this being a product of the Christian right's economic policies is duly and deliciously noted. Maybe we can have a gin epidemic like in Hogarth's London!

posted by JD | 2:56 PM

Sunday, May 18, 2003  

Crazy Golf Championship schedule. This is gonna be good.

posted by JD | 1:21 PM

Friday, May 16, 2003  

From the same Ivins article as below, a paragraph that pretty much sums up the 'long-term thinking' of so-called conservatives:

'I think a special salute for clear thinking should go to the House for its amazing decision to cut the program that pays for medications for mentally ill people who are out of prison on probation or parole. Is this brilliant? Now these people will be wandering around the state without their meds.'

It's as if they want these people to commit crimes, just so they can punish them.

They don't care that having unmedicated psychotics roaming the streets might just possibly make life in Texas both more dangerous and more expensive. It's as if they're being paid by the private prison companies.

posted by JD | 4:42 PM

Molly Ivins on the really scary thing about those in charge:

'The creepy thing about the far-right Republicans, who are definitely in the majority in the House, is not that they are dismantling government because they won't raise taxes, they're dismantling government because they think it shouldn't help people.'

She's talking about the Texas State Legislature, but I think it applies to their big brothers in Washington as well.

posted by JD | 4:37 PM

The criminals we have in mind. Rod Liddle makes a decent observation:

'On the train the other day, a chap sitting nearby leaned across and asked if I'd mind keeping an eye on his stuff while he visited the lavatory. He had a couple of interesting-looking bags beside him. He made this request despite the fact that, as usual, I was unshaven and dishevelled, suffering the telltale signs of incipient contagious disease, reading quasi-pornographic fiction, swigging from a bottle of South West Trains Cambodian chardonnay and chain-smoking Raffles. Frankly, if I'd been jacking up with skag he'd still have asked me to watch his stuff. I suspect he'd have directed the same request to Kenny Noye or Osama bin Laden, too.

And so, I think, would we all. Because no matter how disreputable the appearance of our fellow travellers, they are never as terrifying as the darkly imagined criminal who lurks within our subconscious. It is, I suspect, a fear of disembodied, anonymous, "other people". The reality of "other people" is always more mundane than what we think they'll be like.'

posted by JD | 12:20 PM

Shoot the baby, drink the bathwater, pee on the dog. The new American honcho in Iraq proposes shooting looters on sight. Now that's a great strategy. First, fuel the problem through indifference, then over-react violently.

Don't these people understand that:
A) What the US does in Iraq isn't just about how it plays in Peoria? The whole world is watching, and credibility is at stake.
B) If you're going to crush something, it should be problems, not people.

posted by JD | 8:54 AM

We don't need no stinkin' editors. Rather then do this article for a magazine or newspaper, this guy has asked his online readers to send him $5 each to have it emailed straight to them. He's not doing it for the money just yet, but as an experiement to see if this sort of thing will work. My suspicion is that after the novelty factor - and without CalPundit pointing people that way - this type of directly ditributed journalism won't be a moneyspinner.

But I'll check out the article, which is on sugar, diet and politics.

posted by JD | 8:29 AM

Thursday, May 15, 2003  

Some letters to the Guardian following the first installment of their three-part food feature:

Thursday May 15, 2003
The Guardian

Your supplement (Food, May 10) summarised well the key outcomes of half a century of governments pursuing a policy of cheap food. It has resulted in crops and livestock reduced to low-cost commodities to fuel a highly processed food chain; farmers driven to intensify in order to contend with the economies of scale and margins the supermarkets operate to; and consumers faced with food they're none too sure about on health, safety or environmental grounds. With 11 farmers a day going bust, the costs of this policy have been borne by the rural community as much as by urban populations.
Many farmers rightly welcome the opening up of the food chain to greater public scrutiny. The more people who become aware that it is not so much farmers but more powerful forces who determine how our food is produced, the better. In what could appear a deliberate pincer-movement, supermarkets offer miles of seductive shelf-space, but with the produce at prices that farmers cannot meet - unless they get bigger and intensify. The manufacturers of pesticides, fertilisers and pharmaceuticals are on hand to push their products on the promise that they'll increase yields and cut margins. So the treadmill spins faster.

As agriculture increasingly becomes agribusiness, reliant on a smaller number of larger farms, there is a resulting reduction in the diversity upon which our food chain is based. This homogeneity may suit processors and retailers but it will result in the nation's food security being more vulnerable to unexpected challenges. It will erode further the structure and fabric of our rural communities, which so many urban people want to sustain.
Robin Maynard
National coordinator, Farm (The new farmers' union)

· Your report (Bite the dust, Food, May 10) makes little of the health benefits of consuming fresh produce, which are proven and enormous, and outweigh any risk from pesticide residues. Government tests show that the vast majority of fresh food has no detectable pesticide residues.

That said, British farmers and growers are more than aware of public opinion on pesticides. They have used cutting-edge technologies and advanced growing techniques to reduce use by 23% over the past 10 years. They are committed to reducing use even further. The voluntary initiative, of which the NFU is a leading organisation, promotes best practice through a programme of action, including further training for pesticide users.

Farmers and growers do not use expensive crop protection products for the fun of it. Their use is in response to consumer demand for high-quality products at affordable prices. It simply would not be possible to meet consumer demand without some use of crop protection products. The focus should be on ensuring these products are used safely and sparingly, not on needlessly scaring people.
Dr Christopher Wise
Crop science adviser, NFU

posted by JD | 11:27 AM

Czar wars. The American drug czar is trying to strongarm the Canadians into having tougher drug laws. His 'rationale':

"If you look at anywhere in the world, at any time in history you want, when you reduce the deterrent forces in society for using drugs, you get more drug use and you get more drug trafficking."

Can someone then explain to me how the country with the most draconian drug laws in the developed world (in some states, sentences for marijuana cultivation are higher than those for murder) also has the most drug use? Are Americans exceptional?

posted by JD | 9:24 AM

Food for winter, food for now. At first, this article on eating seasonally pissed me off, because it seemed that the Wodehouse-ishly named Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was trying to make those of us who actually do try to eat well feel guilty for not eating seasonally enough. After all, for those of us who don't finance our double barrels by working in the food industry, it's damn hard to pop down to 'my local food shop, [where] you can buy vegetables on the same day they were picked or cut'. The rest of us have to fit our food shopping in around our jobs, Hughey, not as part of them.

But then he saves himself. After a discussion of the supermarket-mandated PGST (Permanent Global Summer Time), with its goal not of summer-tasting fruit and veg but of food that is summer-looking, he writes that 'In the end, shopping seasonally is not a high-minded duty, but a liberating pleasure.' A luxury, it currently seems, for the lucky few like Hugh.

What can be done about this?

posted by JD | 8:43 AM

Wednesday, May 14, 2003  

It makes my mouth water just linking to this. Alex Renton's no food ponce, he just loves his Thai street grub. And since he lives in Bangkok he gets to eat it every day.

posted by JD | 10:05 AM

And/or. Two things. One, why doesn't English have a word that means and/or? Do other languages? To the first person who comes up with a good one (preferably in English), a free lunch at Spitalfields Market.

Two. Maybe we shouldn't have a single word that means and/or; losing this conjunction would rob us of one of English's funniest words. (As it conveys a specific meaning, it definitely qualifies as a word.) But now I've got to come up with an example. It's very early here in London... perhaps in a few hours.

posted by JD | 10:03 AM

Sunday, May 11, 2003  

Pound wise. The Guardian's guide to ethical shopping should be worth a look.

posted by JD | 4:34 PM

What's wrong with Britain's food? The first in a three-part Guardian special magazine feature on food in the UK
- where it comes from, how it gets to us, and what we do with it.
Unfortunately, the writing and editorial rigour of the first week's articles was Observer-limp, rather than the strong, sharp and insightful material the Guardian usually gives us. In his article on The Death of Cooking, for instance, Matthew Fort writes that 'convenience foods have all but eliminated the tradition of domestic cookery from British homes.' He then cites statistics showing that convenience food sales ar projected to grow by 1/3 over the next decade, but gives no hard evidence backing up his claim that cooking is all but dead in the British kitchen. If your going to make unsubstantiated claims in what's supposed to be a news piece, you should either avoid Chicken Little hyperbole or write for a tabloid.

The first week's articles were meandering, unfocused and lacking in hard facts. Let's hope the next two weeks pick up.

posted by JD | 4:27 PM

Via CalPundit, an illustration of why the phrase 'average tax cut' should have us reaching for our muskets.

posted by JD | 4:11 PM

Monday, May 05, 2003  

Heavy duty genetic manipulation of humans scares me more than anything. It seems inevitable, and will dilute - and possibly even destroy - what it is to be human. If it comes to fruition, it will even divide our species in two. Article (in two parts) by Bill McKibben here and here.

I'm hoping that the seeming inevitability of our transition from dilettante man to superman - for the wealthy select, that is - is a reflection more of my American pessimism - who the hell had even heard of gm foods before they were filling half our fields? - than of the future of the world.

Much more to say about this (after all, it brings up the ultimate question: What is the purpose of life?), but there's barbecued chicken, broccoli and chips to be cooked, and some delicious Gewurtztaminer to be drunk on this beautiful bank holiday evening.

What was that about the purpose of life?

posted by JD | 6:10 PM

Friday, May 02, 2003  

Since we're on the subject of semantic manipulation... During the World Cup a bright Guardian writer pointed out that when discussing other teams, the English press always referred to them by national name, thus France, Senegal, South Korea, Brazil, etc.

Except when that team was Germany, who was always referred to as The Germans.

You see what it does. Calling them The Germans makes them sound sinister, pernicious, a dangerous force - but not dangerous because of their skill, but because of something vaguely malevolent in their nature. In the US, people are now doing the same thing with 'The French'. Which isn't surprising. What is surprising is that in an article on the Irqifada in yesterday's Guardian, I read a reference not to America, or American forces or the American military, but to 'the Americans'.

posted by JD | 3:32 PM

Passive regressive. Bob Harris on how the media uses the passive voice to avoid its reponsibility to tell the truth as it sees it:

Passive Tense Verbs Deployed Before Large Audience; Stories Remain Unclear
(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

A growing trend disturbs me: passive verb choices are used in embarrassing war headlines. With normal verb subjects omitted, actions and responsibility are suddenly obscured. Story content becomes more difficult to understand. Upsetting news is not registered by readers, while credit can still be taken for running hard stories on page one. Editors making such choices remain unblamed.

Today's print-edition L.A. Times has these news headlines on its front page -- and one of these things is quite plainly not like the other:

High Court Upholds Jailing of Immigrants
GOP Budges On State Budget

Asia Bands Together On SARS

Palestinian PM Urges End To 'Armed Chaos'

Music Industry Tries Fear As A Tactic To Stop Online Piracy

Tense Standoff Between Troops And Iraqis Erupts In Bloodshed
Look closely -- of the six headlines, the first five are clear, simple, Noun-Verb-Object structures: A) these folks B) did this C) to that. You can get the gist of these stories in a single glance.

The last, however, is plainly different -- structured passively, turning a simple story into semantic mud:

Tense Standoff Between Troops And Iraqis Erupts In Bloodshed
Hmm. Odd, isn't it? It's actually impossible to know what happened, who was responsible, or what it means. Did blood just suddenly start spurting from every orifice, perhaps, like the Monty Python version of a Sam Peckinpaugh-directed lawn party?

Not quite. The actual headline, had it been written as plainly as the others, would have been:

U.S. Troops Fire On Iraqis; 13 Reported Dead
Which, while a bit jarring, is how Canada's CBC (among others worldwide) covered the exact same story. (The questions of whether some Iraqis fired first, fired back, or were even armed at all, remain unresolved.)

Just a quick study in media manipulation. It's damn near constant, and the net effect is inevitably a gross and misleading disservice to readers, about as detailed and accurate as

Hiroshima, Nagasaki rocked by powerful explosions
might have been in an earlier era.

Watch and see how many times U.S. and British editors suddenly slip into passive tense only when they're delivering news that might make readers a bit uncomfortable. Incidentally, the BBC's predictable use of passive tense in reporting this same incident --

Protesters shot in Falluja
omits entirely who even held the guns -- right next to clear, non-passive headlines like

Bush to declare fighting 'over'
Rumsfeld hails troops in Iraq
and so on.

As a rule, passive tense equals at least some level of manipulation. Any decent writer knows to avoid it, precisely because it's confusing -- but editors often rely on passive tense to keep uncomfortable questions about individual and collective responsibility (including their own) at bay.

(update) More from Bob Harris:

Passive tense continues to kill Iraqi civilians.

The CBC is also now carrying this, recording a second such incident:

U.S. Troops Fire Again On Iraqi Protesters
While the LA Times front page currently says (at 5:04 pm pdt 4/30/03)

2 Iraqis Killed In New Shooting
and CNN's front page says

Second day of deadly clashes in Iraqi town
CNN's inside story carries this quote from a U.S. soldier directly involved:

"All I know is a couple hundred people gathered out in the streets; they threw rocks, so we shot back, and they all ran down that way."
but the story is nonetheless passively, fault-removingly headlined

Two killed in second clash in Fallujah
There ought to be an activist group called Citizens Against Passive Tense. It seems to kill more people than any other single cause on Earth.

(another update) More from Bob Harris:

Alert readers have pointed out a) it's passive "voice," not "tense," and b) while the above examples are all worded to obscure the active subject, not all exactly fit the dictionary definition of the term. Absolutely right. Thanks. Still, the point about misleading headlines is clear. Otherwise... Mistakes were made.


Passive Voice Used Again On Protesters
(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Since yesterday's post, my inbox has been flooded with examples of passive voice (and yes, that's the correct term, as I noted below in an update as soon as readers pointed it out yesterday -- thanks!) from war coverage all over the country. Maybe somebody ought to start a media watchdog website called The Passive Voice Review, posting examples as they happen and calling editors to task.

Page one of today's print edition of the L.A. Times bears an action photo of a U.S. military vehicle rolling through a crowd of blurry Iraqis. Two U.S. soldiers are in the back, weapons pointed at the crowd, into whom they have apparently just fired. In the lower left, the hands of the driver are visible -- and he's got a weapon ready, too, even while driving.

The photograph is nowhere on the Times website, but you can see it here on Yahoo's AP World Photos section. (You can even find the entire five-photo sequence of the shooting, taken by Hussein Malla, by entering his name in the search field at Yahoo or simply clicking here.)

Since the crowd is already scattering before the first frame was taken, we can't make any judgment about who fired first or what indeed triggered the incident. The point is that it couldn't possibly be clearer from the crowd's reaction that the Americans were firing their weapons.

And here's the L.A. Times caption for the photo, precisely as we now expect:

Bullets Fly in Fallouja
apparently all by themselves. The inside story is headlined

As Violence Persists, Rumsfeld Visits Iraq
"violence," obviously, being something that can just fly around, much like bullets.

I'll drop the subject here for now. Just confirming how constant this is.

Seriously, somebody really should start a watchdog website called Passive Times or something.

posted by JD | 3:19 PM