Today's Blogs

An Unjustified Comparison

Bloggers are bristling at comparisons between the lives lost on 9/11 and soldiers lost in the Iraq war, ruminating on the end of Turkmenistan’s eccentric dictator, and mourning the loss of James Brown.

An unjustified comparison: An Associated Press story about Christmas Day casualties in Iraq took pains to point out that the number of American soldiers who have perished in Iraq—2,978—is now greater than the Sept. 11 death toll—2,973. Bloggers of all political persuasions are wondering why these numbers are being compared.

Conservative heavyweight Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs is all fire and brimstone at the way this milestone is being spun: “They’ve obviously been watching and waiting for this magic number, to file a report like this—an empty-headed, amoral attempt to equate things that are not equivalent, serving a sick, anti-American left-wing agenda.”

At Islam-focused blog Clarity & Resolve, Patrick is breathless with anger: “It’s an insulting pathological anti-America yellow journalism bonanza as the deaths of our young heroes in Iraq are mashed through the mainstream media moral equivalence filter.” At Fore Left!, moderate A.C. McCloud’s suspicions about the mainstream media are confirmed by this story. “Glorifying this factoid is perhaps the clearest indication yet of media bias,” he writes.

“A key question—with an unknowable answer—is: How many Americans would have died in post-9/11 attacks if we had not chosen the path of fighting back?” moderate law prof Ann Althouse wonders.

Some bloggers do see significance in the numbers. Over at Blondesense, liberal Liz is livid—and not at the AP. “[T]o to me it means that we doubled the amount of people killed on 9/11 plus we actually made terrorism worse, not to mention we practically obliterated Iraq for no good reason and Afghanistan is worse than ever. Heck of a job, bushie,” she writes.

Chicagoan Driftglass laments, “Of course since the conquest and occupation of Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11, passing this particular number should have no intrinsically tragic value greater or less than any other, but it does.”

Read more about the 9/11 and Iraq death toll comparison.

Turkmenbashi is dead—long live Turkmenbashi: Pity the megalomaniac who dies on the Friday before Christmas! Troubled Turkmenistan’s president-for-life, 66-year-old Saparmurat Niyazov, passed away from an apparent heart attack on Dec. 22. Buried on Dec. 24, Turkmenbashi—or “father of all Turkmen,” a name he gave himself—is survived by an elaborate personality cult complete with heliotropic gold statue, a trove of arbitrary legislation (including laws banning facial hair and lip synching), 5.1 million mourning Turkmen, and the world’s fifth-largest proven reserves of natural gas.

Peter at New Eurasia’s Turkmenistan blog thinks a thaw will be slow to arrive: “[W]hatever should happen, rapid change is not and cannot be possible. For all the bogus qualities that Niyazov’s personality cult may have had, it has still left a indelible cultural legacy and an overwhelming physical one. Even an unlikely vehemently anti-Niyazov ascendant would be ill-advised to consider pulling down statues and renaming streets, monuments and cities.”

Eloquent UC-Santa Cruz linguistics professor Geoffrey K. Pullum at Language Log neatly sums up Niyazov’s years in power, suggesting a posthumous name change for the late dictator: “I propose that instead we refer to the late President by the more technically accurate sobriquet, ‘awful, corrupt, brutal, authoritarian, self-obsessed, little old madman who ruled Turkmenistan for fifteen years and renamed April after his mother and spent millions on a gold-plated statue of himself that revolved so it would always face the sun.’ It rolls more trippingly off the tongue, don’t you think?” Blake Hounshell at FP Passport, Foreign Policy’s Web outlet, sighs. “Those concerned that Niyazov’s death will mean an end to absurdity in Turkmenistan’s politics need not worry: After essentially seizing power, [acting President Gurbanguly] Berdymukhamedov promised to preserve Turkmenistan’s ‘ancient democratic traditions’ just as Turkmenbashi once did,” he writes.

Many are worried about the future of existing gas contracts with the temperamental Central Asian nation. Nathan at Registan, a one-stop source for all things Central Asian, expounds upon this topic: “It is quite clear that energy agreements are on plenty of minds outside of Turkmenistan. Russia, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine all hope for continuity in post-Turkmenbashi Turkmenistan. Niyazov’s death also presents opportunities for Russia, which has had a rocky relationship with Turkmenistan.”

At Nosemonkey, Brit J Clive Matthews declares 2006 “a good year for dead dictators,” referencing the recent demise of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet.

Read more about the late Turkmenbashi.

The late Godfather: After more than 50 years of making music, 73-year-old James Brown died of pneumonia in Atlanta on Christmas. * Known as the “Godfather of Soul,” Brown’s contributions to that musical style are considered immeasurable.

Matthew Perpetua at musically inclined Fluxblog gives her take on the enormity of James Brown’s talent. “James Brown’s greatest gift to the world was his ability to express an undiluted yet highly stylized sexuality via a funk so intense and visceral that it served as the foundation for entire genres of music, but that was not the limit of his talent, only just the summit of his achievements.”

WFMU’s Beware of the Blog dubs the late Brown “the one-man Rosetta Stone of Funk” and links to the station’s five-year-old special on the man himself.

Read more about the Godfather of Soul.

Correction, Dec. 27, 2006: This article originally misidentified the location of James Brown’s death. He died in Atlanta, Ga. ( Return to the corrected sentence.)