Thursday, April 29, 2004

Quick Hits

Remember that neat little online tool I mentioned way back near the beginning of the Iraqi war? Cost of War is a continuously updating device which shows the estimated U.S. cost of the conflict, taken from Congressional Budget Office estimates. And by those reckonings, we're at more than $112 billion and counting. I figure that's 112 billion reasons to go to the polls this November. But of course, there are other kinds of costs. And tomorrow night on ABC's Nightline, you can tune in to see that accounting: a photo of all the U.S. military personnel who have died in the line of duty. That's causing pained howls from the usual suspects, who would prefer that Americans continue to be kept in the dark as much as possible on the real costs of this needless war.

A Tip of the Hat to Two Colleagues. I always tell people that cream really rises to the top in the blogging world. And the longer you read these things, the fewer you come to rely upon as worthwhile in your busy life. Bill Callahan's Cleveland Diary had an excellent dissection of some dreary Ch. 5 stupidity, appropriately titled "Moron Media." And Marc over at the incomparable Bruce Blog did yeoman's work last week of blowing the whistle on a type that's all too familiar these days: a slimy p.r. guy who was pretending to be something he's not. Marc recounts how, as a representative of some companies, Jim Cox tried to get his two cents into some planning decisions, pretending to be there as merely a concerned citizen. Cox is familiar to anyone who has watched the Cleveland scene for any length of time. He also showed up to a joint meeting a month or so ago of the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Writers' Union, passing himself off as merely a writer there to get some ideas.

Online Wanderlust Tool. I've long since stopped being easily impressed by finding the latest incredible new tool online that helps one do their work or live their life more quickly or easily. These things, after all, proliferate like rats. But every once in a while I make an exception, when I come across something so wonderful, which has the potential to open up whole new worlds of inquiry or merely satisfy some curiosity, and for free. I'd say this new Map Machine from National Geographic easily fits that bill. Check it out and let me know what you think...

And speaking of reader response, that little outburst I had last Friday in the wake of learning that the heroic former NFL star Pat Tillman had died in combat touched off what has now become the most commented-upon item ever in Working of Words (it doesn't take much, since I don't have a comment section, and people actually have to send me an email to sound off). It got no fewer than a half dozen responses, which for this organization qualifies as a flooded mailroom. And my friend Anton, who linked to it, sent along a note from one of his readers, pointing out that Tillman died not in Iraq but in Afghanistan, suggesting that that might change the thrust of the point about how Tillman died in vain (the obvious point being that while Iraq didn't need to happen, it's harder to argue with what we did in Afghanistan). Point well taken, expect for this: by pulling lots of resources and attention from Afghanistan in order to focus on the phony war in Iraq, the Bush gang put the troops that remained there at far greater risk. If we had simply focused on going after those who had really struck the U.S. on 9/11, rather than cooking up imaginary opponents, Tillman might well be alive today. So my ornery outrage stands.


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