Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center's Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.
"Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media," one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The Army is showing itself to be colossally inept at managing it's public perception, but - simply put - to clamp down on what can only be considered an expose is wrong, counterproductive, bound to fail, and damaging to the well-being of the troops - whose conditions will be improved and chain of command held accountable when transparency is held as the highest value.
If this is a matter of ensuring that the chain of command isn't blindsided, it's worse. Because of the chain of command isn't directly aware of the conditions in the facilities they control or use, they should be retired. Immediately.
Amazing. I've actually found a literate, intelligent, substantive take on the Anna Nicole-Smith train wreck. Along the way, it even draws on first person experience to note that her life is not the anomaly many think - noting that very similar dramas are played out pretty regularly on "a Peg Bundy budget." Questions of free choice, social order, and philosophy then enter the picture, without making the resulting essay dull or predictable.
Pretty remarkable, given the material it had to work with. Mind you, if it can be done for Steven Segal's movie Under Siege (see: "No Ditz Left Behind"), it can be done for anybody.
Kerry Dupont just pointed this Paul Graham essay out to me:
The most impressive people I know are all terrible procrastinators. So could it be that procrastination isn't always bad?
Most people who write about procrastination write about how to cure it. But this is, strictly speaking, impossible. There are an infinite number of things you could be doing. No matter what you work on, you're not working on everything else. So the question is not how to avoid procrastination, but how to procrastinate well.
I feel so much better...but is she trying to tell me something?
So we spent the weekend in San Diego with a TG, Littlest Guy, a dear friend and her two sons, and Middle Guy and his girlfriend who joined us for dinner, along with Col. Foltyn (who I now owe even huger giri to...).
Saturday was small kid day at Legoland, which confirmed my "huh?" comment when I heard that someone was building an amusement park out of Legos...but the kids had a good time, and that meant the adults had a good time. Saturday night was dinner, at one of Foltyn's pilot hangouts.
Sunday, he gave us a tour of Miramar MCAS, and spent an hour showing three rapt ten year olds (and their equally rapt parents) the aircraft museum there, and then took us out to the flight line to watch the planes.
A World Airways MD-11 had just landed, and as we watched, a line of desert-camouflaged troops walked down the stairs onto the tarmac and briskly walked off the field to waiting buses.
We stayed a long time and watched almost all of them before the kids lost patience and started wondering why TG was teary eyed and we left.
Ya'll 'scuse me while I snore though James Cameron's latest epic, ""The Lost Tomb of Jesus," which he claims will prove that Jesus of Nazareth - yes, that Jesus - was buried in a tomb in Jerusalem far from where church historians say he was, stayed there, and that a stone ossuary in the tomb, discovered in 1980, once held Jesus' bones. He also claims other ossuaries found in the tomb once held the bones of Mary, Jesus' mother, Mary Magdalene, assumed to be Jesus' wife, and Judah, son of Jesus.
It's the latest crisis of the year for Christianity, right on time: not long before Easter.
HWGA - Here We Go Again. They've even dragged out John Dominic Crossan, ulta-left Bible scholar, a founder of the fiercely anti-Scripture Jesus Seminar. He's been claiming for many years that the foundational claim of Christianity, the resurrection of Jesus, is hokum. He can be relied on by "documentarians" to reinforce anything they want to knock down the edifice.
Nuff of all that here - read the rest at DonaldSensing.com: "The Christian street won't stand for it! Oh, wait, uh, yes it will. . . ."
"Back in the 1960s, before Britney and Ludicris were even born, Frank Zappa was the most outrageous act in popular music. Zappa delighted in lampooning the complacency of middle-class America, most memorably in his a capella song, "It Can't Happen Here." The message of the song was that the worst nightmares of white suburbia -- anarchy, drugs, interracial dating -- really could happen here. Like Sinclair Lewis' 1935 satirical novel of the same name, the song was a warning that no matter how safe we may think we are, we are not immune to the shocks befalling people in other places.
It seems this is a lesson that we are in constant danger of forgetting -- even though we all remember 9-11, and even though the war in Iraq provides unpleasant surprises for U.S. forces on a weekly basis. Only two months into the new year, Sunni insurgents have (1) used new tactics to down a quarter of all the helicopters lost to hostile fire since the occupation began [JK: ]see Bill Roggio's reporting from Iraq]; (2) stepped up employment of explosively-formed penetrators that can punch through most armor; and (3) started combining lethal gas [JK: chlorine gas a la WW1, and isn't that a war crime?] with high explosives in their suicide attacks. Each of these developments appears to have caught U.S. commanders and intelligence analysts off guard.
So of course the whole nation will be caught off guard when terrorists again mount an attack within U.S. borders. Even though logic and experience tell us such an attack is coming, emotionally we have been lulled by five years of peace on the home-front into believing it isn't really going to happen. That is why the Bush Administration sells its Iraq strategy on the implied guarantee that as long as we keep fighting there, we will be safe here. That is why critics in the Democratic Party feel free to attack the war effort as if there is no connection between what they say and whether terrorists are emboldened by the prospect of American retreat. Both parties, unconsciously, have fallen into the trap of believing that terrorism can be contained "over there"....
I'll be spending some quality time in Iraq over the next two and a half months doing consulting work, journalism, and video -- first in the northern Kurdistan region and then in Baghdad and the heart of the Sunni Triangle.
My first job starts two weeks from now and will be another private consulting gig in Kurdistan with my business partner Patrick Lasswell. This will be my fourth trip to the region, which is becoming a regular beat for me now. I'm more comfortable there than I was when I first visited. The people, the terrain, the logistics, and the job are all familiar. The learning curve has flattened out, which means I can multitask now.
Last time I went there as a consultant I had no time for reporting or writing. This time I will because I know how to squeeze it in, even though my first obligation will be to my employers, not to my blog. I won't be able to write full time, but I will be able to give you something now and then.
This time I'm going to give you some video as well as writing and photographs. Stay tuned for taped interviews with Kurdish civilians and officials, and also some video postcards of what this place actually looks like. Kurdistan always shocks people when they see it for the first time. It doesn't look anything like the hellish images that come out of Baghdad.
A leading hurricane scientist disputes claims that global warming has made hurricanes worse.
Chris Landsea, science and operations director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said the notion that global warming is causing an increase in hurricanes gained widespread attention after the stormy seasons of 2004 and 2005.
But that perception is wrong and the statistics don't bear it out, Landsea told about 200 students and professors in the auditorium at USC's geography building.
Further study continues to show that hurricane activity occurs in cycles of 20 to 45 years, he said. Even though the seasons of 2004, when four hurricanes bashed Florida, and 2005, when Katrina devastated New Orleans and neighboring parts of the Gulf Coast, seemed shocking, they were no more intense than some storms in the early part of the 20th century and in the 1930s, Landsea said.
The 1926-1935 period was worse for hurricanes than the past 10 years and 1900-1905 was almost as bad, he said. So it is not true that there is a trend of more and stronger hurricanes.
"It's not a trend, it's a cycle: 20-45 years quiet, 20-45 years busy," Landsea said. Scientists currently have no idea what causes the time period.
What makes the recent storms seem worse is the amount of damage, and that is because of the amount of people and their structures on the coast, elements that barely existed in the early 1900s. ...
"An Inconvenient Truth," the book by former Vice President Al Gore, also persuaded some people that global warming is contributing to hurricane frequency and strength, Landsea said.
But facts that also refute the theory are that tropical storms are weakening and becoming less frequent in all oceans except the Atlantic, he said.If the storms were caused by global warming, they would be getting worse everywhere, he said.
You may remember that global warming apocalyptics predicted that last year's hurricane season would be even worse than 2005, the year of Katrina. In fact, though, no hurricanes made landfall in the United States last year. In a piece published in August 2006, Weatherstreet.com reflected, "Media reports over the last year have suggested that, since global warming will only get worse, and last year's hurricane activity was supposedly due to global warming, this season might well be as bad as last season." But it wasn't.
Part of the reason for the slow season is that tropical western Atlantic sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are running about normal, if not slightly below normal. ... The cooler SSTs in the Atlantic are not an isolated anomaly. In a research paper being published next month in Geophysical Research Letters, scientists will show that between 2003 and 2005, globally averaged temperatures in the upper ocean cooled rather dramatically, effectively erasing 20% of the warming that occurred over the previous 48 years.
Catch that? In only two years, a fifth of the warming that had occurred in almost a half-century was erased. Twenty percent of the warming erased in four percent of the time. No explanation seems to be forthcoming from global warming apocalyptics as to how this cooling occurred, since they blame human activity for the previous warming. Well, folks, if you're going to blame us going up, you're going to have credit us going down.
You know I haven't talked about Dinesh D'Souza's idiotic book 'The Enemy At Home' because I assumed it was so transparently stupid that it would collapse of its own vacuity. His thesis (from the reviews - I don't have enough time to read all the good books out there, and I'm not burning an afternoon reading this one) is that the conflict between the nutball Islamists and the West is caused by Madonna. No, I'm serious - it's the claim he makes. From the introduction to his book, as posted on his website:
The left is responsible for 9/11 in the following ways. First, the cultural left has fostered a decadent American culture that angers and repulses traditional societies, especially those in the Islamic world, that are being overwhelmed with this culture. In addition, the left is waging an aggressive global campaign to undermine the traditional patriarchal family and to promote secular values in non-Western cultures. This campaign has provoked a violent reaction from Muslims who believe that their most cherished beliefs and institutions are under assault. Further, the cultural left has routinely affirmed the most vicious prejudices about American foreign policy held by radical factions in the Muslim world, and then it has emboldened those factions to attack the United States with the firm conviction that "America deserves it" and that they can do so with relative impunity. Absent these conditions, Osama Bin Laden would never have contemplated the 9/11 attacks, nor would the United States today be the target of Islamic radicals throughout the world. Thus when leading figures on the left say, "We made them do this to us," in a sense they are correct. They are not correct that "America" is to blame. But their statement is true in that their actions and their America are responsible for fostering Islamic anti-Americanism in general and 9/11 in particular.
OK, that's just historically ignorant, insulting, and stupid. But it's now being picked up. Some guy named Glenn Beck who is a talking head on CNN (haven't seen him, still have no TV thankfully) echoed his claims this week, and has been getting picked up in the blogs.
BECK: You know, there's a new poll out that Muslims, the higher educated Muslims in the Middle East are more likely to be extremists? More and more Muslims now hate us all across the world, and it really has not a lot to do with anything other than our morals.
The things that they were saying about us were true. Our morals are just out the window. We're a society on the verge of moral collapse. And our promiscuity is of the charts.
Now I don't think that we should fly airplanes into buildings or behead people because of it, but that's the prevailing feeling of Muslims in the Middle East. And you know what? They're right.
Let me a take a moment and explain why this is beyond lame.
"The American girl is well acquainted with her body's seductive capacity. She knows it lies in the face, and in expressive eyes, and thirsty lips. She knows seductiveness lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs -- and she shows all this and does not hide it."
D'Souza would have to agree, right? He'd see that argument and believe that we needed to push back to an earlier, more virtuous America.
But that quote is about an earlier, more virtuous America. It's about 1949 Colorado, and it's from Salman Qutb's book 'The America I Have Seen'.
Ironically, Greeley in the middle of the 20th century was a very conservative town, where alcohol was illegal. It was a planned community, founded by Utopian idealists looking to make a garden out of the dry plains north of Denver using irrigation. The founding fathers of Greeley were by all reports temperate, religious and peaceful people.
But Qutb wasn't convinced. "America in 1949 was not a natural fit for Qutb," Siegel says. "He was a man of color, and the United States was still largely segregated. He was an Arab -- American public opinion favored Israel, which had come into existence just a year before."
In the college literary magazine, Qutb wrote of his disappointment:
"When we came here to appeal to England for our rights, the world helped England against the justice (sic). When we came here to appeal against Jews, the world helped the Jews against the justice. During the war between Arab and Jews, the world helped the Jews, too."
Qutb wrote about Greeley in his book, The America I Have Seen. He offered a distorted chronology of American history: "He informed his Arab readers that it began with bloody wars against the Indians, which he claimed were still underway in 1949," Siegel says. "He wrote that before independence, American colonists pushed Latinos south toward Central America -- even though the American colonists themselves had not yet pushed west of the Mississippi... Then came the Revolution, which he called 'a destructive war led by George Washington.'"
Look, I'm a real believer that we need to rediscover the good in American and Western values, and that a certain philosophical decadence leaves the doors open to bad outcomes. I'm not happy with many things I see in our culture, not so much because they are about promiscuous sex or Bloomsbury languor, but because they divert us from the very real daily work of building and making futures in favor of consuming the present.
But to suggest that the decline in morals in Hollywood in 2001 is why we were attacked is both deeply insulting and immoral because it claims the horrors of 9/11 and what has preceded and followed it as an argument for a callow Puritanism, and ridculous because it is not grounded in anything remotely like historical fact.
I'm not a believer in shutting people up, and good for D'Souza for grabbing his advance and running to the bank, I guess. But this debasement of political argument needs to be backhanded out of the public arena as quickly as possible, and someone needs to bring some disinfectant wipes in to clean up after it.
I manage to stay pretty far removed from celebrity culture - BTDT, raised in Beverly Hills.
But I do have Defamer in my RSS reader; it's the kind of ridiculous LA-centric stuff that I enjoy. And once in a while something there really tickles me.
In this case, two scathing emails by the Estevez (Sheen) brothers to a LA Times reporter are reproduced.
And my thought on reading them wasn't that they were self-absorbed, thin-skinned or ill-mannered (hint: they are).
They have aol.com email addresses. In 2007, who the heck has an aol email address as primary email? Am I just too much of a geek? Don't then know anyone who would invite them to gmail, or couldn't they even just use yahoo?
Marc Lynch (Abu Aardvark) has a post up that captures the nub of a problem I've been chewing on for a while. Note that I don't necessarily agree with Marc - but that it's a problem well worth thinking through.
In a nutshell, if we believe that freedom and some form of a democratic / representative government are the keys to dismantling the more violent and hard-to-live-alongside versions of Islamism - how do we deal with the problem that in free elections in much of the Muslim world today, the Islamists - the hard-to-live-alongside ones - would be likely to win?
And what do we do then? Lynch says:
This selective outrage, where Westerners care about one anti-Islamist blogger but can't be bothered about equally arbitrary and illiberal repression of hundreds of Islamists, only reinforces general skepticism that this isn't really about freedom, human rights, or democracy. It's just like the American focus on the release of jailed liberal politician Ayman Nour as a litmus test for the Egyptian regime (one which it continues to fail, by the way, without seeming to suffer the slightest penalty). I can not exaggerate how many times I hear from Arabs and Muslims that America's campaign against Hamas after it won fair elections and its blind eye to Mubarak's campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood proves once and for all the fundamental hypocrisy of its democracy talk. I am not criticizing anyone for rallying to Nabeel's or Nour's defense. They should. But they should also see this as part of a comprehensive regime crackdown on Egyptian political opposition, with the attack on the Muslim Brotherhood the leading edge of the regime's anti-democratic backlash. People who claim to care about Egyptian reform, democratization, and human rights should take a slightly wider view of the problem than the travails of one anti-Islamist blogger or one liberal politician.
I'll discuss this more when I get some time tonight...but the conundrum presented here is a serious one. If we believe we can avoid conflict by doing the right thing, and doing the right thing means handing power to people who are determined to have a conflict with us...there's a good chance we've got issues with the way we're formulating the problem.
h/t Norm Geras:
An open letter by a group of Iranian academics, writers, and artists regarding the Tehran Conference on Holocaust Denial
Over the past year or so a number of official and unofficial public statements have been made in Iran denying the genocide of Jews during the Second World War. The culmination of this trend was the widely publicized, so called "International Holocaust Conference", held in Tehran in December 2006. Given the serious moral and practical implications of this trend, we, a group of Iranian academics, intellectuals, writers and artists, find it imperative to take a public stance on this issue.
1- Today, several decades after the end of the Second World War, testimonies of the survivors and researches carried out by numerous historians have unequivocally confirmed the Jewish genocide during the World War. Besides the genocide of the Jewish people, historians have also spoken of the mass murders of the gypsies, the Slav people, potential and actual opponents of the Nazi regime, the disabled, prisoners of war, and even in the closing days of the war, the incapacitated German soldiers. These crimes were committed widely and in various ways, including through firing squads, starvation, long hours of forced labour in concentration camps, and massacres in the gas chambers of extermination camps. The extensive material evidence, the confessions made in the Nuremberg trials and other trials that took place after the war and the testimonies of the survivors establish the veracity of the accounts beyond any doubt. Moreover, the voluminous anti-Semitic and racist literature left from the Nazis shed light on the roots of this inhuman hysteria.
The Free Muslims Coalition brings to your attention a Muslim reform summit that will be held in St. Petersburg, Florida on March 4-5. This summit is open to all people and we encourage you to attend the summit which will be covered by CNN's Glenn Beck show and other media personalities.
Muslim thinkers will be asking what went wrong? How did Middle Eastern cultures transform from the openness and intellectual ferment of the medieval period to the closed theocrat societies of today? Where are the secular voices of the Muslim world?
Now, bold critics of orthodoxy are calling for sweeping reforms from inside Muslim societies. With the intent of catalyzing a global movement for reason, humanist values, and freedom of conscience, delegates from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Bangladesh will assemble March 4-5 in St. Petersburg, Florida for an unprecedented Summit (see www.secularislam.org).
"This summit is proof positive that reform-minded Muslims are creating a movement. We no longer exist in isolation." Said author Irshad Manji.
The historic Summit, to be held at the Hilton St. Petersburg, will set in motion the generation of new practical strategies from the world's leading thinkers and activists. At issue will be secularist interpretations of Islam, the importance of expanding criticism, the state of freedom of expression in Muslim societies, and education.
"The Secular Islam Summit hopes to encourage a new global movement for reason, science, and secular values within Islamic societies," said Summit organizer Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, an Iranian-American activist.To reserve, call Austin Dacey at (212) 265-2877, ext. 11; (917) 664-3855; or e-mail email@example.com. For more information, visit our Web site at www.freemuslims.org
Because I'm despairing that this is turning into an all-war all-the-time blog, I thought I'd note that TG,some dear friends and I went to see ALL ABOUT WALKEN in Hollywood last night.
Eight impressionists, three of them women, did a variety of scenes all in full-Walken. And until you've seen Christopher Walken as a ninety-pound ingenue with a fright wig and a pitch-perfect menacing Queens accent ... well, you haven't seen much.
The opening number, a rousing rendition of "These Boots Are Made For..." kicked things off nicely, and yes, they dance. And rap. And shoot.
If you're in LA, see if you can make it by...they'll even give you a gold watch.
IT WAS FUNNY, in a grim sort of way. Last week, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates responded to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin's polemical attack on the United States by remembering the 50-year Cold War as a "less complex time" and saying he was "almost nostalgic" for its return.
Gates should know. He himself is the quintessential Cold Warrior, having served nearly 27 years in the Central Intelligence Agency (facing off against the likes of Putin, who was for 17 years an agent in the foreign intelligence branch of the Soviet KGB). So we should take him seriously when he suggests that the problems of 20 or 30 years ago were in some ways more manageable than our current global predicament.
Nor is he alone. There is a palpable sense of nostalgia these days for the familiar contours of that bygone conflict, which has been replaced by a much more murky, elusive and confusing age.
Palpable among whom, exactly? Certainly not Gates, who actually said this:
Speaking of issues going back many years, as an old Cold Warrior, one of yesterday's speeches almost filled me with nostalgia for a less complex time. Almost.
Many of you have backgrounds in diplomacy or politics. I have, like your second speaker yesterday, a starkly different background ... a career in the spy business. And, I guess, old spies have a habit of blunt speaking.
However, I have been to re-education camp, spending four and half years as a university president and dealing with faculty. And, as more than a few university presidents have learned in recent years, when it comes to faculty it is either "be nice" or "be gone."
The real world we inhabit is a different and a much more complex world than that of 20 or 30 years ago. We all face many common problems and challenges that must be addressed in partnership with other countries, including Russia.
For this reason, I have this week accepted the invitation of both President Putin and Minister of Defense Ivanov to visit Russia. One Cold War was quite enough.
So what the hell? The "One Cold War was quite enough" quote got wide play in the news at the time. Someone explain this to me? And as someone who reads a lot of foreign policy news and no little number of articles, who, exactly in the foreign policy commentariat is nostalgic for a cold war?
PORTLAND, OREGON -- Renowned American-Israeli historian and best-selling author Michael Oren is touring the United States promoting his new book Power, Faith, and Fantasy, a sweeping history of America's involvement in the Middle East from 1776 to the present. It's the first and only book on the subject ever written, and it's current inching toward the top of the New York Times best-seller list for non-fiction.
I first met Michael Oren under Katyusha rocket fire when he worked as a Spokesman for the IDF Northern Command in Israel during last summer's war against Hezbollah, and I met him again when he came to my home town of Portland, Oregon, last week on his book tour.
MJT: So tell us, Michael, why does America's involvement in the Middle East 200 years ago matter today? What does it have to do with September 11 and Iraq?
Oren: Well it matters, Michael, because many of the same issues that Americans are facing today in the Middle East were confronted by America's founding fathers -- Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington. For example, they had to confront the issue of state-sponsored terrorism in the Middle East. They had to face a threat to the United States, and decide whether to generate military power and then project that power thousands of miles from the United States. They had to decide whether to involve the United States in an open-ended and rather expensive bloody war in the Middle East. This was, of course, the Barbary War, America's first overseas military engagement and America's longest overseas military engagement. It lasted from 1783 to 1815. During the course of this engagement, as my book shows, the United States was confronting a jihadist state-sponsored terrorist network that was taking Americans hostage in the Middle East. It's very similar to what is going on today.
MJT: They were more than hostages, they were slaves, weren't they?
Oren: They were slaves. But beyond the military component -- the book is not a military history, it's also a diplomatic, cultural, artistic, and economic history -- I wanted to show Americans today that our experience in the Middle East has very deep roots. Overall it's a story of magnificent things that America did for the Middle East. It wasn't always about confrontation, it was also about schools and hospitals and building for development and artistic inspiration and cooperation.
If I could distill everything I heard, saw, and learned in the Kurdistan region of Iraq into a 12-minute video, it would look a lot like this. (Fourth video on the right.)
Click that link. Watch. This is marvelous work from 60 Minutes, some of the best mainstream media journalism I have seen out of the Middle East, the absolute antithesis of Diane Sawyer's useless interview with Syria's Bashar Assad last week.
I only caught one factual error. The Iraqi flag is not banned in Kurdistan. It still flies in the city of Suleimania, but it's the old version of the flag before Saddam Hussein wrote Allahu Akbar on it.
60 Minutes has done truly excellent work capturing the essence of this lovely place and these wonderful people and editing it all down into such a brief and comprehensive introduction.
Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from Iraq that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday. This briefing is brought to you by Joel Gaines of No Pundit Intended and Andrew Olmsted of Andrew Olmsted dot com.
Other Topics Today Include: bombings in Kirkuk; Rice to Baghdad; false hope during sweep; Iraqi failing to spend reconstruction dollars; dollar demand up; Iraq: better than GM; Iraq approves 2007 budget; Bush says Iraqis meeting goals; Iraq thanks Jordan; Iraq starts anti-Aliso campaign; U.S. wasting billions in Iraq; U.S. to accept refugees; Hashim pleads innocent; Marine gets eight years.
REPORTS FROM THE FIELD
RECONSTRUCTION & THE ECONOMY
THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE
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This is maybe the fourth post I've done on the Plame thing. In the first I pointed out that being less than candid about something like this was stupid on the part of the White House.
In the second, I made basically the same point.
In the third one, I expressed puzzlement at Ambassador Wilson's claim that his report debunked the claim that Iraq had sought (rather than acquired) uranium ore in Niger, given that the Senate report on the subject reported him as having said that they did.
In this one, I'll express befuddlement at former-spook Larry Johnson(who admittedly has said and done some darn odd things)'s claim that the Washington Post was flatly lying when it challenged Special Prosecutor Fitzpatrick's prosecution on the basis that no crime actually was committed.
The basis for this befuddlement, to my legal-document reading, law-writing, but-not-lawyer eyes looks like this:
The subject code - Title 5026 of the US Code - says:
(4) The term "covert agent" means: (A) a present or retired officer or employee of an intelligence agency or a present or retired member of the Armed Forces assigned to duty with an intelligence agency;
(i) whose identity as such an officer, employee, or member is classified information, and
(ii) who is serving outside the United States or has within the last five years served outside the United States; or
(B) a United States citizen whose intelligence relationship to the United States is classified information, and;
(i) who resides and acts outside the United States as an agent of, or informant or source of operational assistance to, an intelligence agency, or
(ii) who is at the time of the disclosure acting as an agent of, or informant to, the foreign counterintelligence or foreign counterterrorism components of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; or
© an individual, other than a United States citizen, whose past or present intelligence relationship to the United States is classified information and who is a present or former agent of, or a present or former informant or source of operational assistance to, an intelligence agency.
OK, Valerie Plame clearly fits into (A), which means that for her to be a covert agent - as defined in law - she had to meet two tests - that her "identity as such an officer, employee, or member [was] classified information" AND (note the logical AND required) that she "is serving outside the United States or has within the last five years served outside the United States" at the time of her disclosure.
No one has disputed (i),and no one has asserted (ii) - and unless both are true, under the definition of the specific code, she's not a 'covert agent' - and so no crime was committed.
Now Johnson finesses this nicely, by leaping from
She offers up two special gems:
- Valerie Plame was not covert.
- Ambassador Joseph Wilson (Valerie's husband) misled the public about how he was sent to Niger, about the thrust of his March 2003 oral report of that trip, and about his wife's CIA status.
Valerie Plame was undercover until the day she was identified in Robert Novak's column. I entered on duty with Valerie in September of 1985. Every single member of our class--which was comprised of Case Officers, Analysts, Scientists, and Admin folks--were undercover. I was an analyst and Valerie was a case officer.
Note the distinction between the two words - 'covert' (which is a defined term under the law) and 'undercover' (which may mean similar things, but isn't the same thing). So either Johnson is finessing neatly, or he's clueless (which I doubt).
So sharp-minded folks out there - what exactly am I missing?
There's a technique of argumentation I call "burying the answer in the assumptions" where you frame a problem in such a way that the conclusions are forgone. I'm very careful of that style of discussion in my day job, because lots of it involves leading groups of people toward a consensus and I want to make sure it's a genuine one.
Kevin Drum has a post up on the delusions of the pro-war crowd, and I'll suggest that he's neatly buried the answer in his assumptions:
OK, I know this is partly tongue in cheek. But as near as I can tell there are real answers:1. They don't believe Bush has fucked up the war. They think that most of the bad news from Iraq is just an invention of the anti-military liberal media.Yes, this is delusional. But they don't think it's Bush who has screwed up their war, it's liberals. There is nothing that will ever change their minds about this.
2. To the extent that we are doing badly, they think it's the fault of liberals who are undermining morale by criticizing the war.
3. Following up on #2, their biggest complaint with Bush isn't that the war is going badly, but that it isn't broad enough and brutal enough. If only we'd take the gloves off and stop fighting like liberal pussies, we'd be doing OK.
Hmmm. Let me suggest an alternate way of looking at the question.
Why don't the pro-war folks criticize Bush more? Well, in no small part because we know that any criticism of him will be used by opponents of the war to knock him down, and there is no one standing in line behind him who's expressed any interest in doing anything except ending the war by giving up.
I'll also suggest that each of Kevin's charges really would be the basis for an interesting discussion instead of a backhanded dismissal.
Well, how is the war going? It's complicated to figure out, and many of the indicators are certainly negative - but there are also positive indicators. How about the question of how it's going and how we'd know? Kevin et alia pretty consistently dismiss any challenge to the CW on how the war is going as 'political spin' and the problem is that when you do that, there's no way to sit down and try and sort out how to measure what's really going on.
Well, given that it's an insurgency, and that public stances matter because in part it's a matter of convincing a population at risk that we're serious about protecting them, so yes there is some cost to be borne in the perception of our seriousness because powerful interests are tugging at our sleeve and trying to pull us back from the table. So no, I reject the notion that calling for withdrawal or redeployment or whatever is treasonous or a betrayal - but I also reject the notion that it has no consequences in the conduct of the war.
Finally, well...yes, most counterinsurgencies are won by a combination of brutality and kindness. Do we have the right combination? I'm honestly not sure. I know we can get a lot more brutal, and that many folks - Iraqis in Iraq - are critical of us for not being brutal enough. But to take that question completely off the table once again contains the answer in the assumptions.
And I think that's a bad thing, and not only because the answer Kevin is pushing for is one I disagree with. The path out of the kind of insane polarization we see in this country isn't in dismissive handwaving (or flagwaving), it's in good, solid argument. Let'shave some.
NZ Bear - who was the catalyst for Porkbusters, and may have single-handedly triggered the 'no entitlements' revolution, is at it again. he's apparently started (I say apparently because I haven't talked to him in a while) "The Victory Caucus" which intends to focus the energy of people who - well, believe in winning the war as an option.
I'll make some time and talk to him about it, but will suggest that he's showing the power of doing stuff while many of us spend far too much time worrying about stuff. A lesson I need to think about for a bit, I think.
I want to raise a heretical notion: I actually think that Bush is playing a bad tactical hand well in Iran.
Look, there is no way in hell that he's going to undertake meaningful military action against the Iranians. A few shells may get lobbed at boats that approach the fleet too closely, and I have no doubt that our Special Ops community is doing whatever it is they do in situations where they don't get to "blow shit up and kill people." But the political cards within the US are dealt, and Bush's hand does not include an "Invade Iran" card.
That doesn't mean things aren't happening, or that we should be paying close attention. many sources have commented on the increasingly fragile grip on power of the populist nutjob Ahmadinejad. Having three carrier groups offshore has to be a source of internal pressure, as does unanimous UN resolutions cracking down on international finance, a declining oil sector, etc. etc.
From Global Voices, some Iranian opinions:
[Fa] says US Foreign Secretary Condoleeza Rice's trip to Middle East was successful enough to unite small and large Arab countries against Iran. The blogger says when the US was in Middle East, Iranian President took a useless trip to Latin America. The blogger adds Iranian people are confused about the current situation. According to Pouya
on one side their instinct tell them that all these warship and military prepration in the Persian Gulf cannot only be a game and other side the Iranian regime makes propaganda that it is all a game…Maybe the regime welcomes a limited war to fortify ther position inside and outside country….a few billions of damage due to bombings would be covered by selling oil.Haji Washington [Fa] says Iran should not be afraid of the US as Arab countries in the Persian Gulf are the bigger threat.The blogger adds there is an international coalition against Iran and western banks are pressing sanctions while Japan is reducing its economic activities.
Ali Mazroi [Fa], a reformist politician, talks about Iran's miscalculation in handling its nuclear crisis. He says the US was not in a rush to send the Iranian nuclear case to the Security Council. According to the blogger, the US convinced all countries that the only solution for the Iranian nuclear crisis was the Security Council.
Ali Mazroi says,as a citizen:
I am worried to see that the governing institutions in Iran are pushing the country and Islamic Republic into an endless hole.View from Iran writes with sarcasm about a conversation between friends about the coming war; I sure hope Iran doesn’t use any Shahab missiles. If they do, it will be the start of WW 3, a friend says. Why do you think that? They’ll hit everything but their intended target. A missile aimed at Israel will hit Saudi Arabia or Russia or some other country. Everyone laughs. Everyone goes about their daily business: hoarding saffron and tuna fish.
Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a reformist politician and blogger, says former presidents Khatami and Rafsanjani as well as Karoubi, the former Iranian Parliament Speaker, have organised several meetings with former heads of states and foreign affairs officials to discuss these very dangerous circumstances.
Abthai reports that according to Mr Sadr, a former vice foreign affairs minister, Iran cannot count on Syria because when they feel they are in danger they will make a deal with US. He adds that it is the first time there are international sanctions imposed against Iran.
From the Financial Times:
The sanctions contained in the Resolution have limited direct effect but they come at a moment when the economy is performing poorly, partly because of Iranian mismanagement. Ahmadinejad is under criticism because of rising inflation – officially at 12 per cent, in reality closer to 20 per cent; economic growth around 5 per cent per annum is not keeping up with the need for job creation. Foreign investment has all but dried up, partly because of the nuclear issue and associated action (e.g. restriction on Iranian banks, greater caution of export credit agencies). Without new investment, Iran risks being unable to maintain medium-term oil production, currently 50 per cent of government income [emphasis added].
From the Guardian:
Iran's beleaguered president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is facing a powerful challenge from his fiercest political rival for control of the country's nuclear and economic policies.
Hashemi Rafsanjani, a pragmatic conservative defeated by Mr Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential election, believes Iran may have to yield to western demands to suspend uranium enrichment to save the country's Islamic system from collapse.
He is trying to persuade the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in state matters, that further negotiations are essential to avoid a potentially disastrous conflict with the US or Israel.
"Before the sanctions, Rafsanjani hoped Iran could obtain its enrichment objectives through mutual understanding with the west. But now he thinks we have reached a dangerous point and that a step should be taken backwards in the hope that two forward can be taken later," said Mohammad Atrianfar, a respected political commentator and associate of Mr Rafsanjani.
"He doesn't see negotiation as a sign of weakness. He wants to limit the impact of the sanctions and get Mr Khamenei and the government to accept that if Iran faces mounting sanctions or a military attack or any crisis which damages the economic life of the people, then there is a possibility of the whole system collapsing."The Guardian reported last week that Mr Ahmadinejad's authority was under pressure from critical MPs and an increasingly concerned Mr Khamenei. The re-emergence of Mr Rafsanjani contradicts widely held assumptions that his presidential defeat had diminished his influence. His increasing prominence comes after he won the most votes in elections to the experts' assembly, an important clerical body.
So Bush is - against the odds - raising pressure on Iran, and as a result may wind up getting what he wants, which is the fangs temporarily pulled on the worst actors in the Iranian government.
That won't solve our problems with Iran - not by any means. But it's an impressive play of a weak hand, and I don't think anyone is giving Bush the credit he deserves for it. Anyone can take the pot with aces over kings. But to stand your ground playing ace-high is an achievement and we'd all be better off - including those who oppose Bush - for recognizing that.
Having said that, I think we're still misplaying strategically.
I've said in the past that we ought to be talking to the Iranians. Not necessarily in a craven "what have we done wrong, how can we make you like us" mode that many take entering talks to mean. But in the Clint Smith sense of
"You better learn to communicate real well, because when you're out there on the street, you'll have to talk to a lot more people than you'll have to shoot, or at least that's the way I think it's supposed to work."
I fail to see how sitting down with the Iranian leadership and laying out what they're doing that we want them to stop, and asking them what it would take to get them to do so, and telling them what's in the realm of possibility (no, Israel will not dissolve itself) and what isn't, is not in the best interests of the US. Simply being able to clearly state such a set of US interests vis-a-vis Iran might itself be a good thing - a clarifying exercise as it were.
I think that we've buried negotiations in the Middle East in complexity and nuance and the speech of diplomacy, and that it's time for some frank - and clear - thinking and speaking on our part and on the part of our allies.
One of the claims continually put forth by the media about global warming is that there is a "scientific consensus" about it. So let's take a look at just what is a "scientific consensus" and how does the concept relate to the debates about climate change.
At the start we must distinguish between scientific fact and scientific consensus. A scientific fact was defined by geologist Stephen Jay Gould in a Time magazine interview (Aug. 15, 1999) as "a proposition affirmed to such a high degree that it would be perverse" not to assent to it. In this sense it is a fact, for example, that the noble elements are naturally inactive in combining with other elements. The process used to discover facts about the world must be describable by the investigator and repeatable by others using the same method of inquiry. At a very basic level, that is how science works. This process presupposes that nature works the same way now as it worked before and the same way that it will work later.
But a collection of facts do not comprise scientific knowledge any more than a pile of feathers makes a duck. Facts, though crucial, are intermediary. Facts must be interpreted. Scientists relate facts to formulate theory. The major usefulness of theories is to make predictions and inferences about nature, what it is and how it works and how it will work.
Ultimately, theories that interpret facts, and that can be used to predict accurately future events within the theoretical scope, come to form the basis of scientific consensus. Example: NASA doesn't re-investigate the nature of gravity every time it wants to send a rocket into space. There is a scientific consensus about gravity resting on the affirmations of gravitational theory to such a high degree that it is literally pointless to reopen investigations of gravity just to shoot another rocket. True, at the far reach of theoretical physics there is not a consensus about gravity's nature, but theoretical physicists do not launch rockets. Practical scientists and engineers do. And they are in consensus about gravity insofar as gravity affects their work.
What the media have generally failed to distinguish in their coverage of global warming issues is the difference between the consensus that the earth is warming overall, and the lack of consensus about the causes of the warming, especially the degree of warming attributable to human activities.
... the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. The IPCC does not carry out research nor does it monitor climate related data or other relevant parameters. It bases its assessment mainly on peer reviewed and published scientific/technical literature.
Note carefully that the IPCC's beginning premise is " human-induced climate change," and perusing its documents shows that all conclusions flow from that basic premise. Earlier this month the IPCC released the executive summary of it forthcoming fourth report, which is promised sometime later this year. The summary states that the earth is getting warmer, continuing a warming trend that has been going on, with variability, since 1750, and that the trendline has accelerated since 1950. However, the fourth report's summary also reduced the amount of warming from that claimed in the third report, issued in 2001. The fourth report's apparent bottom line: the earth is warming, but not as much as we thought, and warming's effects will not be a great as we thought before. Even so, of seven identified phenomena and direction of trends (p. 9 of the summary), the report says that the "Likelihood of a human contribution to observed trend[s]" ranges from "more likely than not" to "likely."
Does this report represent scientific consensus? From my reading, the answer seems to be yes and no. Before explaining why, let's take another look at what a scientific consensus is.
A simplified model of the scientific method is this. A phenomenon is observed. An explanatory hypothesis about the phenomenon is formed. Empirical tests and measurements are performed to confirm, or not, the hypothesis. Over time enough data are collected to refine the hypothesis into a theory. A theory is a comprehensive explanation of the phenomenon that can also be used to predict future occurrences and the condition in which they would occur. The ability of theory to serve as a predictive model is crucial to science and the nature of a theory itself.
Many non-scientists do not understand the role of theory in science. In non-scientific discourse, saying something is "just a theory" is a way to dismiss it. "Just a theory" in such conversations means unconfirmed, undetermined, speculative and unreliable. But that's not what theory means to scientists. The major usefulness of theories is to make predictions and inferences about nature, what it is and how it works and how it will work.
A theory, then, is not just a guess. A theory is how scientists express the interpreted results of many observations carried out over a long time. A theory is how scientists make sense of their collective experience. The formulation and reformulation of theory is, I think, grounded in the deep human need to establish meaning. Because we exist in nature, we are compelled at a most fundamental level to explore what nature means. Science is one very powerful and reliable way we do that. Science, and scientifically-based meaning, can no more exist apart from theory than Barry Bonds' home-run record could exist apart from baseball.
"Just a theory" is an accusation that actually makes no sense. It's really "just a theory" that gravity holds us on the earth with a force equal to the inverse of the square of our distance from the planet, but does anyone care to jump off the Empire State Building tomorrow because, hey, gravity is "just a theory?" Our understanding of how wings keep airplanes up is just a theoretical understanding, but millions of people per month literally bet their lives that the theory is correct.
Theory is to science as money is to finance. Theory is to science as scales are to music. Theory is to science as yard lines are to football games.
Yet theories are not inherently infallible. They can be overturned. Example: Darwinian evolution was once accepted by evolutionary biologists but has been pretty much abandoned now. Biologists still affirm evolution theory's 's basic premise - that species evolved into other species - but argue quite a bit over how it happened and why. Creationists and others who scoff that evolution is "just a theory" conflate scientific dispute over how evolution happened with the consensus that it did happen.
Another example: certainly there is consensus that dinosaurs exist no longer. Yet scientists have not quite come to a consensus about how they perished. The theory of an asteroid strike near present Yucatan 65 million years ago is compelling to scientists, but has not yet reached the status of consensus.
So what is "consensus?" It is when scientists within a particular field of scientific inquiry have reached such a degree of agreement on a question that there is no substantial doubt about the theory relating to the question.
But before consensus can be reached on theory, it must be reached on the theory's empirical basis. Empirical data are the foundation of science and so all scientists have a deep interest in the validity of empirical evidence and measurement. A lot of the argumentation within science is over the validity of data, the accuracy of measurements and the inclusion of relevant data and measurements within the development of theory.
As far as I can tell, it is accurate to say that there is a scientific consensus that the earth is getting warmer. That the amount of warming predicted for the future has been lowered since 2001 does not obviate the consensus about the trend. But this is really just consensus over the validity of the empirical measurements, which is the easiest kind of consensus to reach.There is no consensus on why the earth is getting warmer and therefore no consensus on how much the warming is influenced by human activities. The IPCC's claims that warming trends are "likely" anthropogenic should not be dismissed out of hand, but neither should they be seen as holy writ. After all, to claim that something is "likely" is actually to show there is no consensus! Besides, many highly-credentialed climatologists say not so fast. Thomas Sowell lists some:
There is Dr. S. Fred Singer, who set up the American weather satellite system, and who published some years ago a book titled "Hot Talk, Cold Science." More recently, he has co-authored another book on the subject, "Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years."
There have been periods of global warming that lasted for centuries -- and periods of global cooling that also lasted for centuries. So the issue is not whether the world is warmer now than at some time in the past but how much of that warming is due to human beings and how much can we reduce future warming, even if we drastically reduce our standard of living in the attempt.
Other serious scientists who are not on the global warming bandwagon include a professor of meteorology at MIT, Richard S. Lindzen.
His name was big enough for the National Academy of Sciences to list it among the names of other experts on its 2001 report that was supposed to end the debate by declaring the dangers of global warming proven scientifically.
Professor Lindzen then objected and pointed out that neither he nor any of the other scientists listed ever saw that report before it was published. It was in fact written by government bureaucrats -- as was the more recently published summary report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that is also touted as the final proof and the end of the discussion.
You want more experts who think otherwise? Try a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, Patrick J. Michaels, who refers to the much ballyhooed 2001 IPCC summary as having "misstatements and errors" that he calls "egregious." ...Skeptical experts in other countries around the world include Duncan Wingham, a professor of climate physics at the University College, London, and Nigel Weiss of Cambridge University.
Sowell cites another "professor of climatology at the University of Delaware, David R. Legates," who points out that the summary of the 2001 IPCC report was "often in direct contrast with the scientific report that accompanies it." Since the 2007 full report has not been published yet, we'll have to see how it and its summary mesh. Another non-consensus voice is Dr. Timothy Ball, Canada's first Ph.D. in climatology, who wrote,
The world has warmed since 1680, the nadir of a cool period called the Little Ice Age (LIA) that has generally continued to the present. These climate changes are well within natural variability and explained quite easily by changes in the sun. But there is nothing unusual going on.
I wrote more about the infuence of the sun's magnetic field here. Obviously, we cannot control that.
Ah, here enters that word: "control." For the upshot of all this is that the politics and ideology of global warming have moved far ahead of the science. And the political-ideological impetus is decidedly so slanted that it has no attachment to what scientific consensus there is. More about this later.
Crospposted at DonaldSensing.com
My latest Examiner column is up...it opens:
I don't think I've ever wanted to be wrong about something as badly as I do about the Middle East.
Take a look and comment here.
...and that includes the delusional posts from Amanda Marcotte (hey, is she related to Deb Frisch?).
Uber-liberal lawyer-blogger Steve Smith has the temerity to post this disgusting mess on the Internet where children and the politically naive can be forced to sit through it. Wait till the next Moscone Schmidt Dinner (currently thinking end of March)...
This is an abbreviated version of this, a relic from a time when some Senators took their jobs seriously in setting American policies in the world, including specific military policies, and not just launching balloons full of partisan hot air.
You can read it merely in terms of "there is no new thing under the sun," or you can think about it in practical terms (always demand a Declaration of War if you're going to go to war).
Or you can ponder the nature of opposition in legislature, and the ease with which even a moderately accomplished speaker such as Calhoun was judged to be was able to vigorously oppose the war and support the troops at the same time with perfectly patriotic rhetoric. It's a difficult trick, but it's not brain surgery. The ability to talk of liberty and freedom and virtue without rolling eyes and giggles and scare quotes certainly helps him, doesn't it?
But do read it:
"RESOLVED, That to conquer Mexico and to hold it, either as a province or to incorporate it into the Union, would be inconsistent with the avowed object for which the war has been prosecuted; a departure from the settled policy of the Government; in conflict with its character and genius; and in the end subversive of our free and popular institutions."In offering, Senators, these resolutions for your consideration, I have been governed by the reasons which induced me to oppose the war, and by the same considerations I have been ever since guided. In alluding to my opposition to the war, I do not intend to notice the reasons which governed me on that occasion, further than is necessary to explain my motives upon the present. I opposed the war then, not only because I considered it unnecessary, and that it might have been easily avoided; not only because I thought the President had no authority to order a portion of the territory in dispute and in possession of the Mexicans, to be occupied by our troops; not only because I believed the allegations upon which it was sanctioned by Congress, were unfounded in truth; but from high considerations of reason and policy, because I believed it would lead to great and serious evils to the country, and greatly endanger its free institutions.
"RESOLVED, That no line of policy in the further prosecution of the war should be adopted which may lead to consequences so disastrous."
But after the war was declared, and had received the sanction of the Government, I acquiesced in what I could not prevent, and which it was impossible for me to arrest; and I then felt it to be my duty to limit my course so as to give that direction to the conduct of the war as would, as far as possible, prevent the evil and danger with which, in my opinion, it threatened the country and its institutions. For this purpose, at the last session, I suggested to the Senate a defensive line, and for that purpose, I now offer these resolutions. This, and this only, is the motive which governs me.
I am moved by no personal nor party considerations. My object is neither to sustain the Executive, nor to strengthen the Opposition, but simply to discharge an important duty to the country. But I shall express my opinion upon all points with boldness and independence, such as become a Senator who has nothing to ask, either from the Government or from the people, and whose only aim is to diminish, to the smallest possible amount, the evils incident to this war. But when I come to notice those points in which I differ from the President, I shall do it with all the decorum which is due to the Chief Magistrate of the Union.
Ample provisions, in men and money, were granted for carrying on the war. The campaign has terminated. It has been as successful as the Executive of the country could possibly have calculated. Victory after victory has followed in succession, without a single reverse. Santa Anna was repelled and defeated, with all his forces. Vera Cruz was carried, and the Castle with it. Jalapa, Perote, and Puebla fell; and, after two great triumphs of our army, the gates of Mexico opened to us.
Well, sir, what has been accomplished? What has been done? Has the avowed object of the war been attained? Have we conquered peace? Have we obtained a treaty? Have we obtained any indemnity? No, sir: not a single object contemplated has been effected; and, what is worse, our difficulties are greater now than they were then, and the objects, forsooth, more difficult to reach than they were before the campaign commenced.
So far as I know, in the civilized world there is no approbation of the conduct of the civil portion of our power. On the contrary, everywhere the declaration is made that we are an ambitious, unjust, hard people, more given to war than any people of modern times. Whether this be true or not, it is not for me to inquire. I am speaking now merely of the reputation which we heard abroad -- everywhere, I believe; for as much as we have gained in military reputation abroad, I regret to perceive, we have lost in our political and civil reputation.
Now, sir, much as I regard military glory; much as I rejoice to behold our people in possession of the indomitable energy and courage which surmount all difficulties, and which class them amongst the first military people of the age, I would be very sorry indeed that our Government should lose any reputation for wisdom, moderation, discretion, justice, and those other high qualities which have distinguished us in the early stages of our history.
We make a great mistake, sir, when we suppose that all people are capable of self-government. We are anxious to force free government on all; and I see that it has been urged in a very respectable quarter, that it is the mission of this country to spread civil and religious liberty over all the world, and especially over this continent. It is a great mistake. None but people advanced to a very high state of moral and intellectual improvement are capable, in a civilized state, of maintaining free government; and amongst those who are so purified, very few, indeed, have had the good fortune of forming a constitution capable of endurance. It is a remarkable fact in the history of man, that scarcely ever have free popular institutions been formed by wisdom alone that have endured.
It has been the work of fortunate circumstances, or a combination of circumstances -- a succession of fortunate incidents of some kind -- which give to any people a free government. It is a very difficult task to make a constitution to last, though it may be supposed by some that they can be made to order, and furnished at the shortest notice. Sir, this admirable Constitution of our own was the result of a fortunate combination of circumstances. It was superior to the wisdom of the men who made it. It was the force of circumstances which induced them to adopt most of its wise provisions.
Well, sir, of the few nations who have the good fortune to adopt self-government, few have had the good fortune long to preserve that government; for it is harder to preserve than to form it. Few people, after years of prosperity, remember the tenure by which their liberty is held; and I fear, Senators, that is our own condition. I fear that we shall continue to involve ourselves until our own system becomes a ruin.
Sir, there is no solicitude now for liberty. Who talks of liberty when any great question comes up? Here is a question of the first magnitude as to the conduct of this war; do you hear anybody talk about its effect upon our liberties and our free institutions? No, sir. That was not the case formerly. In the early stages of our Government, the great anxiety was how to preserve liberty; the great anxiety now is for the attainment of mere military glory. In the one, we are forgetting the other. The maxim of former times was, that power is always stealing from the many to the few; the price of liberty was perpetual vigiliance. They were constantly looking out and watching for danger. Then, when any great question came up, the first inquiry was, how it could affect our free institutions -- how it could affect our liberty. Not so now. Is it because there has been any decay of the spirit of liberty among the people? Not at all. I believe the love of liberty was never more ardent, but they have forgotten the tenure of liberty by which alone it is preserved.We think we may now indulge in everything with impunity, as if we held our charter of liberty by "right divine" -- from Heaven itself. Under these impressions, we plunge into war, we contract heavy debts, we increase the patronage of the Executive, and we even talk of a crusade to force our institutions, our liberty, upon all people. There is no species of extravagance which our people imagine will endanger their liberty in any degree. But it is a great and fatal mistake. The day of retribution will come. It will come as certainly as I am now addressing the Senate; and when it does come, awful will be the reckoning -- heavy the responsibility somewhere!
BEIRUT -- I met the wizened Druze warlord and Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt during Hezbollah's ongoing slow-motion putsch to topple Lebanon's government. No other high-profile "March 14" leader matches Jumblatt's fierce opposition to Syria's Assad regime, its Iranian patron, and its Hezbollah proxy militia. He spends most of his time in his castle at Mukhtara high above Beirut in the Chouf mountains, but he took time out between meeting members of the Socialist International at his house in the capital to meet me for coffee in his salon.
Jumblatt's history with the imperial Baath government is a long and twisting one. His father Kamal was assassinated by Syrian agents during the civil war in 1977. The details of the assassination are shrouded in mystery even today. In the most common version Baath-aligned terrorists in the Syrian Social Nationalist Party pulled the trigger. Another (unreliable) version of the story goes like this, as told to me by a young Druze friend while we stood on the murder site in the Chouf: Kamal Jumblatt was ambushed on the forested road by two Palestinian gunmen. The Palestinian hit men reported to Damascus after the deed was finished. Two Syrian exterminators then shot Assad's Palestinian agents and buried them in the desert. The two Syrian hit men were then murdered by yet two more Syrian hit men, all the better to cover the tracks of original and cover-up crimes.
I don't know what actually happened. Syria's decades--ong assassination and terrorist war in and against Lebanon has always been fought, serial killer style, from the shadows. Diabolical theories about the precise methods of Syrian terrorism serve Syrian interests just as much as the murders themselves serve Syrian interests.
Shortly after inheriting his father's leadership position, Walid Jumblatt was summoned to Damascus by its ruthless ruler Hafez Assad. When he meekly objected to what the Syrian regime expected of him, Assad smiled and lovingly said "You know, Walid, I look at you sitting there and you remind me exactly of your dear father."
A Lebanese friend drove me to his house and warned me that security would be tight at the gate. "The Syrians, Michael, if they catch him they will cut off his head."
Sure enough Jumblatt's security agents leapt from their plastic chairs and aggressively approached me at the entrance. They weren't hostile, as Hezbollah's security agents often are, but they moved fast as though they expected I might draw a weapon and open fire at any moment.
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...the man is just damn quick on his feet.
John Howard, the Australian PM, slammed Barak Obama by name in a speech on Australian TV.
"If I were running al-Qaida in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008 and be praying as many times as possible for a victory, not only for Obama but also for the Democrats."
I'm really not very thrilled about foreign (ahem-Saudi) nations (like the Saudis) meddling too deeply in our internal politics. I thought Howard stepped cleanly over the line with that remark.
He could have said that he was deeply concerned that US political leadership continue in its role in opposing terror, or something of that ilk which would have made his point without choosing teams.
I stuck that into the 'to blog' queue (which is long, BTW) and then pulled it out when I read Obama's brilliant retort:
"I would also note that we have close to 140,000 troops in Iraq, and my understanding is Mr Howard has deployed 1400, so if he is ... to fight the good fight in Iraq, I would suggest that he calls up another 20,000 Australians and sends them to Iraq.
"Otherwise it's just a bunch of empty rhetoric."
Point to Sen. Obama, I'd have to say...now I have a longer post in the queue about him and the Democrats, and the struggle within my very soul over what to do in '08. But he gets props for that reply.
Here's something that bugs me...
...about the current state of left intellectualism (not the Euston folks...). From the L.A. Times review (yes, not the book, and a cautionary note must be inserted) of Barbara Ehrenreich's new book "Dancing In The Streets"
...[her] rhetoric reaches a fever pitch in her description of France in 1790; she gets caught up in the public celebrations on the first anniversary of the revolution, and her unabashed intellectual enthusiasm electrifies these pages. "With the shared wine and food, the dancing that wound through whole cities and out into the fields, this has to have been one of the great moments, in all of human history, to have been alive."
Yup. 1790 in Paris. One of the great moments in human history to have been alive. See also 'Romanticism and Terrorism'...
Deborah Howell, the Post ombudswoman, has a piece up on l'affaire Arkin.
It's a reasoned, establishment take on blogging, is appropriately critical of Arkin - even though she understates the loathsomeness of what he said - and includes one gem that needs to be held up and examined.
Arkin is unrepentant about two things: He works for The Post. Period. And he said he is "probably one of the best-known and respected anti-military military bloggers."
I hadn't seen that before, but it pretty accurately sums him up, doesn't it? So - two questions fall out from that exposition. How in the world can the LA Times or other news media justify calling him 'a military analyst' (as opposed to 'an anti-military analyst')? And what an interesting story he himself must be. Someone who has built a career and spent his life closely studying something he seems to hate so much. And what is it that he opposes? Note that his commitment isn't general - to the issues of appropriate or inappropriate French or Russian military policies or actions. It's not about demilitarizing the world. It's aimed squarely at diminishing the role and effectiveness of the U.S. military.
There are two charities that I typically support - the St.Joseph Center in Venice, CA, which does incredible work with low-income families and the homeless (for now, at least...), and the Long Beach Opera, where I serve on the board.
Each charity typically does an annual fundraiser and auctions off random items, and I typically buy random things depending on my enthusiasm, solvency, how closely TG is monitoring me, and how much free wine I've had to drink.
Two years ago, I bought a gift certificate at a men's store in West Hollywood (and yes, I deducted the cash value of the certificate from my donation when I took credit for it year-end). It was for $500, and I figured I could get a couple dress shirts and a tie, or a blazer, or something.
Yesterday, in an effort to broaden my clothing choices from black Gap polo shirts, Royal Robbins pants, and Vans - something TG and others have teased me for quite undeservedly - I went to the store.
And was ushered into quite another world. My $500 certificate would buy me one - that's one (a single) dress shirt. I went from counter to counter, my level of amusement rising at each stop. They had unremarkable (although finely made) dress shirts for $400.00; sale blazers for $1,100, etc. etc. I wasn't going to let the certificate go to waste, so bought some fine sport shirts and a tie - and burned a nice little divot in my debit card on top of the gift certificate in doing so.
But I'll be a well-dressed blogger, for sure.
Anyone who has met me knows I'm the wrong person to talk with about fashion. Someone why buys black Gap polos by the half-dozen every four months isn't someone with a highly developed fashion sense. Back in the day that I had to wear suits and such, I was lucky that a very good tailor used to come to our offices and basically dress us with custom suits and shirts (made in Hong Kong or India, and actually quite reasonable - I'd love to find another one like him). In current dollars, I used to pay $200.00 for a shirt that was the fashion and quality equivalent of the shirts this store wanted $400 for...made to measure.
...so how does this boutique stay in business? It's a puzzlement to me, because I encounter businesses like this all over - but only in the major cities - Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco. Is it only there that there is a large enough body of insecure strivers? Or it is just that the population of fashion obsessives is high enough there?
I'd love to know what you think about that.
So the archives of my old Armed Liberal blog are apparently gone forever. I'd been hosting for free with a friend who neglected to mention that he was stopping payment and shutting the server down. Yes, he should have said something to me - but yes, I should have backed it up. We'll share the blame once I stop being so irritated.
I'll see what I can reconstruct from saved files now that I control the domain. If you participated in a comment threat there, my apologies - I owed you more care than that.
Nicole Belle, over at John Amato's Crooks and Liars has a brief look at l'affaire Arkin, and springboards from there to a look at Internet argumentation and to make a plea for civility.
Not on Arkin's part, mind you...ad hominem, slander, and dishonesty on his part are summed up as:
A little background: After watching an NBC Nightly News report that had troops bemoaning the lack of support at home Arkin posted that the soldiers should be grateful that we do respect them, even if we don't support the mission.
Apparently the masochist, Arkin responded again.
1500 comments and another closed thread later, Arkin had been insulted in every possible way. Never one to back away from a fight, Arkin takes issue with the ad hominem used in lieu of debate:
So what do you think? Arkin's plea for civility (one I share – you commenters can be brutal and seem to forget that there are real people behind the words you're reading) suggests that a civilized exchange is a lost art. Is it the anonymity of the internet? Is it that certain topics are just too provocative to discuss calmly? Or have we collectively forgotten our manners?
The problem, of course is that Arkin deliberately used inflammatory language, deception, and slurs to make his original point - that the troops needed to be taken aside and told to STFU - and in my view lost whatever standing he had to complain that the audience "was mean to him". A better writer and thinker than Arkin could have raised parallel points - which are important ones - about the relationship between troop opinion and public opinion, and the role of each is establishing the other. He could have asked about the cost of a polarizing political dialog that excludes the people spoken about. He could have done a lot of things. But then again, he's Arkin.
Belle makes a plea for civility, but fails to make an even-handed one. He must not have more than one child.
So commenter Andy X threatened to flatten Rev Sensing's nose. I gave him a shot at explaining, and he declined, so I went to ban his ip - which, it turns out, was also used by Andy L, Cheshire Cat, j vanderroy, J.G. Paul and Carol Rodriguez.
So either it's a dynamic IP, or he's got a lot of friends who comment from his computer. For now, I'm banning the IP. Joe and I will discuss and see what the best course of action may be.
Don't threaten people on the Winds premises. Period. Full stop. And never comment under a name not readily identifiable by casual readers as you.
Update: There are posts from Andy X on different IP's,so the charge of sock puppetry - although suggestive - can't be proved and should be dropped. it's worth noting, however that everyone posting from AndyX's IP- Andy, Andy L, Andy X, Carol Rodriguez, Cheshire Dog, Greengrass Liberal, j vanderroy , J.G. Paul , Murrow , Over and out , Palumbo , The Mountaintop , Walter's Ridge , Wizener - share a certain - point of view and tone.
It's not terribly relevant, because Andy's banned regardless for threatening to punch Rev. Sensing. Andy, I'll unban your IP (since others appear to use it), but will kill any further posts you put up.
So bored and slightly cranky, I surf around and go to Joe Gandleman's blog - 'The Moderate Voice.' Joe is a smart guy and a good writer, even if his definition of moderate is less iconoclastic than mine.
He's got a post up on the Edwards Bloghorrea thingie, which centers on the notion that bloggers will now be - heaven forfend - closely scrutinized if they are associated with major political campaigns. What next? Urine tests for Tour de France riders? I'm more than a bit baffled at his concern.
But then I realize something interesting...part of the issue is that he views the kind of rhetoric at Pandagon and Shakespeare's Sister as the norm. This is baseline political rhetoric. And that's just as nuts as a meth-addled preacher announcing that he's done with gay sex and expecting the mantle of spiritual leadership to fall neatly back on his shoulders.
Haggert needs a job in fast food or tech support, and Gandleman needs to stop reading Oliver Willis and considering him normal. There are a shedload of bloggers - right and left - who would not disgrace a political campaign. Kevin Drum? Phil Carter? Steve Smith? What have they written to compare with "Q: What if Mary had taken Plan B after the Lord filled her with his hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit..."?? Powerline, Volokh, Patterico? There's nothing in their oeuvre that shows the level of contempt - for anyone - shown by the Edwards duo. Heck, go look in my blogroll - who (other than Defamer) does? And there are a lot of blogs in there.
So yeah, if you're bilious, you'll get attention and if you get attention you might get a job...but you'll immediately be on thin ice because of what you've written in the past, and you won't be free to be tough-minded and take real risks - you know, the Sam Brown "Don't offend them with style when you can offend them with substance" kind.
And I'm genuinely puzzled that Gandleman doesn't see that.
And as an addendum, Joe - if you read this - go police your comments section, will you? This does your site no credit:
ChuckPrez said: February 8, 2007 at 10:20 am
In an unrelated note, I would so do Michelle Malkin.
Yup, that's what modern political dialog is supposed to be all about, isn't it...we're in a war facing a bigger one and we get this crap.
Rep. Hank Johnson's office [D-GA-not McKinney] called me to talk about an Iraq Resolution (non-binding) the freshman Congressman wants to introduce. They're getting a number of calls from people in the district who aren't happy with the current spectacle in Washington they see on TV, so they're trying to come forward with something more constructive than "we don't like this." That part, I applaud.
Of course, getting anything to the floor when you're a freshman congressman isn't easy. Barring outside pressure, this one won't see the light if day.
I'm reproducing the resolution below, along with a couple of comments and a link to Hank's blog. Which he's using well, speaking in the first person, saying what he thinks in the voice of a human being, and asking for comments and thoughts. Does the content match, and can it get Hank over the hump? You be the judge. Then, I'll tell you what I really think...
RESOLUTION Requesting the Secretary of Defense to remove members of the United States Armed Forces from street patrol duty in Iraq.
Whereas the conflict in Iraq has become a civil war for which there is no military solution;
Whereas members of the United States Armed Forces are targets for attacks by insurgents in Iraq, and approximately 60 percent of Iraqis support such attacks;
Whereas members of the Armed Forces are conducting street patrols in Iraq, which has led to an increasingly high rate of casualties of members of the Armed Forces;
Whereas the conduct of street patrols in Iraq should be the sole duty of trained Iraqi troops;
Whereas members of the Armed Forces would be more effective if they were used to fortify sensitive areas in Iraq, protect Iraqi Government officials, entities, and functions, and respond to destabilizing emergencies throughout Iraq; and
Whereas Iraqi politics and United States diplomacy, including dialogue with Iran, Syria, and other countries in the region, are the only strategies that can end the civil war in Iraq:
Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives
(1) requests the Secretary of Defense to remove members of the United States Armed Forces from street patrol duty in Iraq by not later than the end of the six-month period beginning on the date of the adoption of this resolution, with the exception of those members of the Armed Forces who are training Iraqi troops to conduct street patrols in Iraq; and
(2) requests the Secretary of Defense to ensure that members of the Armed Forces who are taken off of street patrol duty in Iraq are used to fortify sensitive areas in Iraq, protect Iraqi Government officials, entities, and functions, and respond to destabilizing emergencies throughout Iraq.
OK, there it is. My verdict? This one won't make it, and doesn't deserve to. Not yet, anyway - too many glaring weaknesses. The conversation with the office revolving around "how to get out of Iraq" vs. Rep. Johnson's discussion re: how to be successful are another area of dissonance they might wish to work on. I say go with whichever formulation is Rep. Johnson's honest belief, because the discrepancy raises questions about its honesty.
Readers here know what I think of the current "surge plan," (i.e. not much), which both the Shi'ites and Sunnis are now waiting out after having gone to ground. There is also some merit in the general thrust of Johnson's suggestions. Having said that, his proposal needs a lot of work before it deserves more attention than it's getting. It has to make some sort of sense - and it, and his writings/speeches, have to show that he's been paying close attention to more than the 2-minute CNN clips. Right now, neither does. For instance:
"Whereas the conflict in Iraq has become a civil war for which there is no military solution;"
This is nothing short of hilarious, coming from a black Congressman in Georgia. Immediate credibility-killer. I'd have stopped after "civil war," myself.
"Whereas the conduct of street patrols in Iraq should be the sole duty of trained Iraqi troops;
Whereas members of the Armed Forces would be more effective if they were used to fortify sensitive areas in Iraq, protect Iraqi Government officials, entities, and functions, and respond to destabilizing emergencies throughout Iraq; and "
Newsflash: Those officials and entities? They tend to be in urban areas. Securing them tends to require presence in those areas. Which requires street patrols. There's a case for a reduced US role along these lines, but it's important to craft the language so the role is clear, so that you aren't sucking and blowing at the same time, and so you don't seem like a clueless pol.
If he gets his dream and the resolution actually hits the House floor, its wording and not Hank's speeches will be what he's judged on. Fix it.
Whereas Iraqi politics and United States diplomacy, including dialogue with Iran, Syria, and other countries in the region, are the only strategies that can end the civil war in Iraq:
At a time when Iranian armed forces are openly murdering Americans in Iraq, this last statement qualifies as nothing short of the betrayal I slammed the administration for in this article today. Perhaps Rep. Johnson is unaware of these developments, and if so I'd be happy to direct him to some people who will happily brief him.
Saying you're doing this for the troops as you wink at their murderers isn't going to go over well, Hank. Put this one in the "paying attention" category... and while we're at it, let's pay attention to the fact that the Baker Report is dead.
If you believe the Iraqis must settle this themselves, and that the USA needs to play a more low-key neutral role while keeping other countries' militaries out through diplomacy and action, that's one thing. But that's not at all what this resolution says, and as I've said in another context, "betrayal" is not too strong a word for that approach.
On to Rep. Johnson's blog entry, where his thinking is displayed in a bit more depth and which I encourage people to read:
"Over four years into this war, this should be the sole function of those Iraqi troops ready to take on the task. Even if they are not fully ready, a credible argument can be and has been made that the violence will be significantly reduced with the reduction of U.S. troop presence. These troops should, in turn, be used to fortify the Iraqi government, allowing it to function more efficiently and provide the country with the strong central government it needs.
Maybe more importantly, we need to pay a debt we owe to innocent Iraqi civilians. We owe them what they have yet to receive since the beginning of American intervention – the ability to purchase food at the local market for their families without the fear of being blown up. Any unbiased observer of the Iraq situation would be hard pressed to legitimately argue that our current plan is truly making the streets of Iraq safer."
IF you believe Iraq is a civil war, the logical outcome of pulling American troops off the streets is far MORE violence. You cannot claim one and not the other. The only claim one CAN make is that less violence might be targeted at Americans.
Which makes the second paragraph such a sick joke in the "not paying attention" category. This pull back approach has been tried several times in Iraq - most famously in Fallujah. The results have been quite consistent, and only someone completely uninformed about the Iraqi campaign could possibly suggest that the likely result would be "the ability to purchase food at the local market for their families without the fear of being blown up."
Al-Masri, who is now in charge of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, is ex-Egyptian Special Forces who knows #2 man Zawahiri from the old country. Unlike the dead and unlamented Zarqawi, he's proving to be a canny, rational military planner who also has some diplomacy skills. Which include paying compensation to Sunni families who lose loved ones when his bombs target Shi'ites. See under "Al-Qaeda strategy in Iraq," which has been publicly known for years.
Does anybody think he'll stop if we pull Americans off the streets? Does anybody think the Shi'ite response, without Americans as a buffer, will be anything other than ethnic cleansing and death squads in retaliation? And Johnson is promoting this idea on the grounds that Iraqis deserve SAFETY? Good lord.
Jonathan writes to me:
"This is a nonbinding resolution -- its primary goal is not to diagram a comprehensive tactical plan for the pacification of Iraq, rather, it is to redirect the dominant political discourse toward a more constructive direction, from one of thoroughly unconstructive political tit-for-tat to one of serious redefinition/reconsideration of the American mission in Iraq."
A laudable goal. It is possible to offer an alternative approach to the failing "surge" strategy, and move the debate on Iraq forward in Washington in a more constructive way. But it will take a lot more than intentions and slipshod wording.
A freshman Congressman needs much more than that. He needs something tightly written, thought-out, defensible on its face without additional explanations, and capable of commanding at least some support on both sides of the aisle. Anything less never makes it, and doesn't enhance Rep. Johnson's profile - indeed, unless it displays a level of knowledge and savvy that places it above the "freshman Congressman trying to make a splash" category, it may have rather the opposite effect on colleague and media perceptions.
The idea Rep. Johnson has could get there. It isn't there, or anywhere close, yet.
Hank wanted comments, and now he has mine. Feel free to add yours - and if Rep. Johnson wishes, there's a guest blog spot open to him to explain, revise, or just discuss elements of his thinking here on Winds.
The Saudi Interior Ministry announced on February 3, 2007 the arrest of 10 suspects "carrying out illegal activities including collecting donations illegally ... and sending them to suspected parties".
The announcement raises questions as to its real objective, as most of the suspects were know for years by the Saudi government as political dissidents. Some were previously detained.
Sulaiman Al Rushudi, a lawyer, was one of the cofounders of the Committee for the Defense of Legitimate Rights (CDLR) in London in May 1993 closely linked to Osama Bin Laden. He was arrested in September 1994 along with several clerics and was detained for several years. Another CDLR founder, Saad Al-Faqih, has been listed as SDGT in 2004. Also arrested is Essam Al Basrawi, a lawyer who defended reformists during Saudi trials in 2004. Another suspect is a former cleric and attorney, Musa Al Qarni, who had publicly supported Jihad and was a personal friend of Osama Bin Laden during the Afghan war.
Were these arrests really related to "terrorism financing"? And if so, why did the Saudi government act only today when these individuals have been under surveillance for years?
By Jean-Charles Brisard of the Terror Finance Blog
From Aerospace Daily & Defense Report. (No link - sorry.)
U.S. troops are now finding and defusing nearly half of the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq, and casualties from the devices are holding steady despite a sharp increase in the number being placed, according to the chief scientist for the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO).
The number of IEDs being found and cleared has gone up five- or six-fold since 2004, according to Col. Barry Shoop. The number of monthly IED incidents doubled over the course of 2006, but less than 10 percent are now causing casualties, he said. This is largely due to the effectiveness of jammers that prevent the signal that arms the device, as well as improved vehicle armor.
Nonetheless, IEDs remain the number one killer of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Shoop likened the situation to the U-boat problem of World War II, for which there was no "silver bullet" solution, requiring instead a mix of offensive and defensive capabilities as well as science and technology work to counter the submarines.
Most IEDs in Iraq are made from unspent ammunition, of which the JIEDDO estimates there are 70 million tons still in the country. In Afghanistan the devices are mostly converted land mines. In other countries, IEDs are more likely made of homemade explosives, he said at the Precision Strike Association's Winter Roundtable in Arlington, Va., Feb. 1.
The most lethal type of IED is the Explosively Formed Penetrator (EFP), which makes up only about 2 percent of the devices found but accounts for a very large percentage of the U.S. soldiers killed by IEDs, Shoop said.
EFPs are often built into replacement curb sections, or fake rocks. They are triggered by passive infrared devices and often armed by a call made to a cell phone. The blasts are set at specific angles to hit the weak points on Humvees and so-called "icon vehicles" such as Strykers and M113s, Shoop said.
To counter the devices, the JIEDDO has been investing in a wide variety of technologies, ranging from jammers to unmanned aerial vehicles to robots such as iRobot's PackBot. A version of PackBot dubbed "Fido" is capable of "sniffing" a potential IED for traces of explosive vapor.Troops are receiving extensive IED training prior to deployment at the Joint IED Center of Excellence at Ft. Irwin, Calif. There they must train with low-power surrogate jammers, Shoop said, because if the full-power jammers being used overseas were activated domestically they would raise the ire of the Federal Communications Commission and FAA.
COL Shoop is an Academy (think: tenured, senior) Professor at West Point with a PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford. He is the Director of Region 1 of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and a member of the Board of Directors of both IEEE (the international society) and IEEE-USA. He was tapped temporarily to lead JIEDDO's research efforts.
Just one example of the ways in which the US Military Academy faculty are supporting the GWOT, over and above teaching cadets. Thought our readers might want to know these efforts are bearing fruit.
From the Edwards 08 website...
The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte's and Melissa McEwan's posts personally offended me. It's not how I talk to people, and it's not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it's intended as satire, humor, or anything else. But I also believe in giving everyone a fair shake. I've talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word. We're beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can't let it be hijacked. It will take discipline, focus, and courage to build the America we believe in.
My writings on my personal blog Pandagon on the issue of religion are generally satirical in nature and always intended strictly as a criticism of public policies and politics. My intention is never to offend anyone for his or her personal beliefs, and I am sorry if anyone was personally offended by writings meant only as criticisms of public politics. Freedom of religion and freedom of expression are central rights, and the sum of my personal writings is a testament to this fact.
Shakespeare's Sister is my personal blog, and I certainly don't expect Senator Edwards to agree with everything I've posted. We do, however, share many views - including an unwavering support of religious freedom and a deep respect for diverse beliefs. It has never been my intention to disparage people's individual faith, and I'm sorry if my words were taken in that way.
Boy, those are just weak. I'll let Iowahawk do the fun versions, but as a free service to a leading Democratic candidate, let me offer the versions that would have passed muster with me - and which I think would have been better for the Edwards campaign.
Channeling John Edwards:
The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte's and Melissa McEwan's posts personally offended me. It's not how I talk to people, and it's not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it's intended as satire, humor, or anything else, and there will be no second chances for people speaking on my behalf. But I also believe in giving everyone a chance to learn and grow, and I've talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that they understand why sensible people could have been offended at what they wrote, and that they can and will commit to accepting the responsibilities of their new roles. I take them at their word. We're beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we have to reach out across the barriers that we have let grow to divide us, and include people whose words or beliefs may be challenging. It will take tolerance, discipline, focus, and courage to build the America we believe in, and those values will have to start with me and my campaign team. I personally commit to you all that they will.
Channeling Amanda Marcotte:
My writings on my personal blog Pandagon on the issue of religion are generally satirical in nature and always intended strictly as a criticism of public policies and politics. My intention was to stir up debate and cheerlead for the policies and political groups whose values I share. In moving to blog for the campaign, I understand that I have moved from a personal stage to a public one, and that I no longer can speak in the voice that I have used up until now. My commitment is never to offend anyone for his or her personal beliefs, and I am sorry if anyone was personally offended by my writings and I understand how it is that many people who may otherwise share my goals could have been offended. Freedom of religion and freedom of expression are central rights, and as someone who is moving from a factional cheerleader closer to the centers of power, defending those freedoms is becoming one of my highest priorities.
Channeling Melissa McEwan:
Shakespeare's Sister is my personal blog, and I certainly don't expect Senator Edwards to agree with everything I've posted. We do, however, share many views - including an unwavering support of religious freedom and a deep respect for diverse beliefs. I'm sorry that I wrote things that certainly read as challenging that support. I'm aware of the responsibility I have in speaking for the Senator and for the values he embodies, and I'll ask everyone to watch my words and actions in the next months and let me prove my commitment with deeds.
Notice a core difference? I hate I'm-sorry-if-you-were-offended apologies. Don't apologize for people's reactions to what you did, apologize for what you did, and accept and acknowledge that people's reactions may well have been legitimate.
Two years ago, Jonah Goldberg offered to bet Juan Cole $1,000 that the Iraqi and American people would - in two years' time - feel strongly that the war was worth it (and that there would be no civil war, and some other related points).
Now I'll yield to very few people in my low opinion of Professor Cole and his views.
But a bet's a bet. And Goldberg is now skirting dangerously close to the man-law violation of welching.
Here's my take. Jonah, write a check for $1K to Soldier's Angels. They can use it, and it will improve your karma. Cole may not have accepted the bet, but that doesn't mean you didn't make it.
And monkyboy, wherever you are - that goes for you, too. Pay up, dude. Your soul will be lighter for it.
There's quite an uproar over the Edwards' campaign hiring bloggers from Pandagon and Shakespeare's Sister with the right blogs thumping their chests (and laughing) in outrage(and the outrage bleeding over to the MSM), and the left blogs circling the wagons and demanding that the Edwards campaign not abandon the netroots - or else..
Boy, there's a lot to unpack here. Let me take a shot.
First, the basic notion that actions - including actions in publishing opinions - have consequences. Look, when you appear in two or three bestiality porn videos, suddenly that run for Congress begins to look kinda distant. Both Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan wrote a bunch of stuff that wouldn't be out of place on DU, or in an undergraduate womyn's newspaper column - or in the heated fringes of the blogs - and suddenly, shockingly, they're being called to account for it. That doesn't shock me too much, to be honest. You make choices when you do stuff. Those choices prune the tree of possible futures for each of us. Welcome to adulthood.
One thing I detested about Phil Angelides is that he was someone who clearly had decided that he was going to run for office in fifth grade, and had shaped his entire life toward that end. You look at the current crop of national-level candidates and you're sure that they have polished off as many human edges and as much history - except resume-building history - as possible while remaining arguably members of our species.
I like a personal voice, and like it a lot when I find candidates who have managed to keep one. And hiring bloggers who don't speak in bland platitudes is a step in that direction.
For as long as I've been blogging, I've hammered people who think that blogs exist so that they can vent things better said to a mirror or a therapist. I know both blogs, and I'll comfortably say that they fit into that category. And, to boot, both are going back and cleaning up tracks while making excuses - something I think is kinda cheap.
I wonder about the thought process that went into hiring them. I mean didn't anyone at Edwards Central ask whether they really wanted to be represented by someone who writes like this? I kinda like Edwards. If I can get past the whole 'lack of a meaningful foreign policy in my worldview' issue. But as we learned in 2004, running a strong campaign isn't a bad proxy for competence (yeah, I know, I know...but Kerry's ineptitude was so egregious that you can't believe he could have run a country - could you?). So when I read that Marcotte and McEwan had been hired, I did have a WTF? moment - more of a "What the hell were you thinking?" moment. Actually, I'd love to know...
Donald Sensing covered this at the time at the end of "Killing is the Sine Qua Non of War." Over in Iraq, Bill Roggio was the first person the break the story about the likelihood of Iran's role in the kidnapping and murder of 5 American soldiers in Karbala Provincial center - a contention the Pentagon's report agrees with. Meanwhile, American helicopters are going down to SA-7 variants over Sunni areas - a missile manufactured under license by Iran, one not possessed by Saudi Arabia, and a weapon not previously used very much in the conflict. As all this happens, the people now running this war show us that stuck on stupid hardly begins to describe them...
"A plan by the Bush administration to release detailed and possibly damning specific evidence linking the Iranian government to efforts to destabilize Iraq have been put on hold, U.S. officials told FOX News.... the evidence would contain specifics including shipping documents, serial numbers, maps and other evidence which officials say would irrefutably link Iran to weapons shipments to Iraq.
Now, U.S. military officials say the decision to go public with the findings has been put on hold for several reasons, including concerns over the reaction from Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - as well as inevitable follow-up questions that would be raised over what the U.S. should do about it."
I see. The Iranians run weapons to the Sunnis and Shi'ites, send personnel in country, and make every effort to kill US soldiers. But American leadership wouldn't want to expose this because (A) the guy who keeps threatening to incinerate Israel and destroy America might react badly, and (B) people would ask us why we aren't doing anything about it, like f'rinstance why we've been releasing Iranians when we capture them in Iraq, so they can go kill more American soldiers. That might make us look bad, or force us to make hard decisions. Better to keep quiet.
Betrayal is not too strong a word to describe this.
The duties of loyalty to country, and faithful service under command, are reciprocal duties that flow downward as well as upward. The news report doesn't specify whether the problem here is one of wankers wearing stars on their shoulders, or wankers of the civilian political variety. In either case, however, the approach and rationale are nothing short of contemptible, and amount to an ongoing hunting season on US troops. One with official acquiescence by a US government that would rather cover for the Iranian government and its pet terrorists (and, of course, themselves) - rather than level with the people they supposedly work for, and back the soldiers they command, and let elected officials and the American people come to conclusions re: next steps in an atmosphere of open public debate.
Secretary of Defense Gates, whose public position is that the US should cooperate with Iran, needs to decide whether his report and ego take precedence, or whether the welfare of the troops he oversees and a commitment to the truth are his priority.
He is not the only one for whom this a moment of truth.
If the cover-up approach demonstrated to date remains the chosen course of the so-called "realists" in command in Washington, and if the ridiculous concerns expressed are all it takes to back them off, then it's time to admit that the war in Iraq is hopeless. An administration that quails and quakes at such trivial things, and refuses to back its troops in the field by taking on their murderers, cannot possibly oversee a winning war strategy in Iraq. Or elsewhere, for that matter.
Indeed, if that's the M.O. of the war's leadership, it begins to border on immoral to send more Americans as targets for a foe the "realist" political leadership will not confront - because at that point I'm afraid Kerry's line about asking people to be the last one to die for a mistake becomes correct.
It's that serious.
The campaign in Iraq can survive many things, and still reach a conclusion that furthers our goals in the war. It can survive setbacks, bloodshed, and the difficulties of standing up any kind of functioning state out of the ashes of Saddam's murderous, incompetent tyranny. It can even survive rather large shifts in strategy. What it cannot survive, however, is betrayal of those on the sharp end of the spear for the convenience of military egos and/or Washington elites.
I have looked for alternative explanations of these actions - and I have found none. Is there a leader in the house? Because if not, we really are headed toward an immoral war in Iraq.
BEIRUT -- On March 14, 2005, Lebanon captivated the world when one-third of the country demonstrated in downtown Beirut and demanded free elections and the withdrawal of the occupying Syrian military dictatorship.
A nakedly imperialist Baath government was defeated by its foreign subjects, and it was defeated live on TV. Lebanon had pushed itself far out of the Middle East mainstream and liberated itself from what Ghassan Tueni calls "the great Arab prison." Later that year Ghassan would see his son Gebran, An Nahar newspaper editor and a member of Lebanon's parliament, murdered on a hillside road above the city by a Syrian car bomb. Beirut's spring was a short one, and may yet go the way of a similar uprising that exploded in Prague in the late 1960s before it was smashed under the treads of Soviet tanks.
The Assad regime in Damascus brooded over its loss of face, property, and cash flow in Lebanon, and responded with a vicious campaign of terrorism and murder in the streets of Beirut. The city started to look once more like its old frightening self when it epitomized urban disaster areas. Hezbollah's unilateral instigation of war with the Israelis and their ongoing now-violent push to topple the government make Lebanon look more like Iraq than it looks like Prague.
I've contributed to this image myself with my own writing and photographs, though I try not to do so. The unspoken media rule "if it bleeds, it leads" applies to blogs and independent journalists as much as it does to mainstream media reporters. Warmongers, terrorists, and jihadi fanatics are more interesting to read about than quiet shopkeepers who never hurt anyone and wished they lived in a normal country. I am well aware that my recent work portrays a skewed image of Lebanon, but it's hard to avoid in the media business.
So I met up with Eli Khoury, one of my old acquaintances from the Beirut Spring, who I met immediately after March 14 two years ago while the Syrians were still rulers of Lebanon. Eli was one of the elite of the movement back then. He still is today even while he and his kind get almost no press. They are, for the most part, staying home, hugging their flags, and waiting for the darkening Hezbollah storm to blow over or explode in conflagration.
Bill Roggio nails the core reality of the Afghan front, as he discusses the failed British 'peace agreement' with the elders of Musa Qala, which has led to the town being overtaken by the Taliban. A local NATO offensive is imminent:
"As long at the Taliban and al-Qaeda maintain the sanctuaries in Quetta and the Northwest Frontier Province, the Afghan government and NATO forces will remain fighting a holding action. All of the offensive actions inside Afghanistan cannot destroy the massive Taliban infrastructure that has been built up over the past several years during the Pakistani government's neglect of this serious problem."
Roggio describes NATO ISAF's effort to keep up the pressure by going after the Taliban now, before the spring. In fairness, they are having some success. The USA is also involved, and their new winter clothing set is paying dividends. But Roggio's reality remains, NATO is several thousand troops short of the alliance's commitments in Afghanistan, and the latest reports say there is little likelihood that European countries will actually meet their declared obligations.
On a potentially brighter note. Roggio adds that Pakistan may be about to undertake operations in Waziristan again, following a string of suicide bombings in Pakistan. Their last operations led to the surrender of control over Waziristan and other western provinces, and the release of 2,500 al-Qaeda and Taliban cadre - more or less everyone they'd captured over the last 5 years. It also the suicide attacks, attempts on Musharraf's life, the murder of quite a few Shi'ites in all likelihood, and pretty much what you'd expect devotees of Deobandi Islam to do.
Perhaps this time, Pakistan will use regular soldiers instead of frontier irregulars. Perhaps this time, they won't lose 3,000 people trying. If they fail again, however, the USA is going to have to undertake a radical rethink of its Afghanistan strategy. In all likelihood, however, that won't happen until Afghanistan proves to be the graveyard of the NATO Alliance as well as the Soviet empire.
UPDATE: Wolf Pangloss has some near-term thoughts, all good. See again Roggio's depiction of the fundamental long-term reality.
Arkin got a lot of negative feedback. Some of it, predictably, was bilious and crude. The typical newspaper columnist response would be to pick out two or three of the crudest responses and hold them up as examples of everyone who disagrees with him and say, "See? See?"
Arkin, to his credit, goes to the edge of that precipice but doesn't jump. Oh, I am sure he was tempted: he goes so far as saying his strident critics "represent the worst of polarized and hate-filled America" and he talks about "the campaign to annihilate me." But he's a blogger first, not a journalist. So mostly he takes it.
What's amusing to me is to see an anti-war left-sider confront the chickenhawk meme, which apparently was dumped on him in industrial quantities. I've said all along that that beast, though now the left's pet, was going to bite more asses on the left than the right.
The argument I read is either that I haven't served (coward, leftist, not real American), or that even if I did wear the uniform (which I did), I had a comfortable and safe existence in Germany while my brethren were fighting and dying in Vietnam. Or, that I was not high-ranking enough to know anything. Or, that I was not low-ranking enough to really experience the truth. I can see, in the military blogs and in the comments of those who have written about my posts last week, that those who refer to themselves as Vietnam veterans still yearn for the recognition and thanks that they believe they haven't received. There is no question that Vietnam is still an open wound for them, and that they therefore only recognize the worth of fellow veterans, of those who have been through exactly the same experience.He feels the sting, and he also feel the absurdity of being attacked that way. But so far he really has no answer to it, except an ad hominem on the veterans who abused him. Not very good. I could give him a primer on how to artfully get those chicken teeth out of his cheeks. He comes back to it again in the column:
As this line of argument goes, the soldiers themselves and those who have served in Iraq are the only ones who really know what it is like, what the war is about, and what should be done. The media in general and war opponents in particular intentionally and purposefully provide a negative and discouraging view that doesn't comport with what the soldiers see, so goes this argument. But the bigger point is that any dissenting voices are just those of whores, politicians, tin foil hat liberals, or worse, un-Americans. In this view, there are no actual experts in this world, no one who studies and measures public opinion, no one who studies war or the military, who do not wear the uniform.Ah, well, I'm sure he was similarly denouncing this view when it was his friends and allies who spouted it. I'm sure.
I think the chickenhawk meme is a logical fallacy and a dangerous argument to make in a free nation. To accept it is to tacitly promote militarism and a marriage of martial and civilian authority. If only military men can make political decisions leading to war, all politicians ultimately will be military men. The alternative is an occasionally pacifist government that could not adequately defend itself in the modern world.
And if you think things in the U.S. military are bad now, imagine a nation where armed service was the doorway to political careers. Imagine every wanna-be legislator trying to get himself slathered in battlefield glory. No, you don't have to imagine it. The annals of 1861 and '62 still are damp with the gore of blood spilled by such politician-generals. Just Google "Ball's Bluff" if you don't believe me.
Back to Arkin. I think his original column was wrong-headed and foolish and insulting -- but not because of his military service or lack of it or the quality thereof.He called the U.S. military a pack of "mercenaries," and he got an earful in response. He senses the chickenhawk meme is an error -- once it has attacked him -- but not for any of the right reason. No, but because it's "anti-elitist." Seriously:
This is not some post-modern relativism, it is pure anti-elitism. The elite think they know it all, while those who do all of the dirty work, who do all of the suffering, are methodically ignored and dominated.And that's where he leaves it. Honest to Gods, with a whole toolbox of logical and political ripostes to the chickenhawk meme, the best he can do is say it's mean to the elites. Elites like William M. Arkin, who "strive to see an angle in an event that is different" and "try to be ahead of the curve, and not just reflect conventional wisdom ...." Yes, well, you can't very well be the new Will Rogers if you also want to carry on like Gore Vidal. You'll have to settle for being The Poor Man's Chomsky and take your appropriate lumps. It seems his editors are sitting on him:
Note: On the advice of my editors, this is the last column I will post for awhile on this subject. My impulse would be to continue to fight back and answer the critics, but I see the wisdom in their observation that nothing new is being said here and the Internet frenzy is adding nothing to the debate or our understanding of our world. I also see that I cannot continue to write about humanity and difficult questions if indeed what I wish is to vanquish those who attack me.That's a shame. It would be interesting to see this continue, and to see whether he eventually gets it. Though I suspect Armed Liberal and I would bet the same way on that one.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff Directive 1067 directed President John Edwards’ policy of deNeoconization.[edited: Typo fixed]
The United States initially pursued deNeoconization in a committed though bureaucratic fashion. For this process five categories of responsibility for anyone over the age of 18 residing in the U.S. were identified: major offenders, offenders, lesser offenders, followers, and exonerated persons. Ultimately, the intention was the "re-education" of the American people.
In early 2009, 90,000 Neocons were being held in concentration camps, another 1,900,000 were forbidden to work as anything but manual labourers.
A report of the Institute on re-education of the Red States in June 2008 recommended: "Only an inflexible longterm occupation authority will be able to lead the Americans to a fundamental revision of their recent political philosophy." On 15 January 2009, however, a report of the Democratic National Committee (classified as restricted) stated: "The present procedure fails in practice to reach a substantial number of persons who supported or assisted the Neocons." On 1 April a special law therefore transferred the responsibility for the deNeoconization process to the White House chief of staff, who established 545 civilian courts to oversee 900,000 cases.
The deNeoconization was now supervised by special ministers like Dennis Kucinich in Ohio. By 2010, however, with the Islamist War now clearly in progress, American attentions were directed increasingly to the threat of jihad; the remaining cases were tried through summary proceedings that left insufficient time to thoroughly investigate the accused, so that many of the judgments of this period have questionable judicial value. For example, by 2012 members of the Republican Party like Rudy Giuliani could be declared formally deNeoconized in absentia by a government arbitration board and without any proof that this was true.
In December 2009 U.S. President John Edwards justified his refusal to alleviate the induced famine of the Midwestern population: “though all Red Staters might not be guilty for the war, it would be too difficult to try to single out for better treatment those who had nothing to do with the Neocon regime and its crimes.”
The Information Control Division of the White House had by July 2009 taken control of 37 newspapers, 6 radio stations, 314 theatres, 642 movies, 101 magazines, 237 book publishers, 7,384 book dealers and printers. It’s main mission was democratisation but part of the agenda was also the prohibition on any criticism of the White House.In addition, on May 13, 2010 the White House council issued a directive for the confiscation on all media that could contribute to Neoconism or militarism. As a consequence a list was drawn up of over 30,000 book titles, ranging from school textbooks to poetry, which were now banned. All copies of books on the list were confiscated and destroyed, the possession of a book on the list was made a punishable offence.
I'm taking a quick break from work to point you to William Arkin's latest. As a non-veteran, I've been closer to amusement than anger over his (predictable) slip of the mask. But the latest actually kind of pisses me off. Here's what he says:
The many e-mails I've gotten privately from people serving in the military are, not surprisingly, the most respectful and reflective. Some correspondents are downright indignant, some are sarcastic, and most are hurt by the "mercenary" epithet and my commentary. But they are philosophical about their service and where we are in the war and the country today.
The torrents of other mail -- biting, fanatical, threatening -- represent the worst of polarized and hate-filled America. I'm not complaining about being criticized or being made the latest punching bag for those who subsist off of high-volume conquest. Nor am I apologizing for addressing, however imperfectly, the questions I did last week, nor for being critical of the military.
Instead, I'm trying to make sense of the worldview of those who have responded. For the critics, I have become the enemy and have been demonized. In that process, I have ceased being a person, an individual, or a human being, all essential to justify the campaign to annihilate me. I'm not trying to offer myself up as victim here, nor do I expect the critics to change their view. I'm merely pointing out the process and the implications of the dehumanization.
OK, here's what torques me off about this.
It's not the dishonest 'the private mail I get is overwhelming in support of me, as opposed to all the public comments which are hostile.' It's not the fact that he sets up not one, but four straw men as the arguments those opposed to his positions have made.
It's simply this. Nowhere in the column - which he explains will, at the request of his editors, not talk about this any more - does he suggest that he may have anything to hear or learn from the people who wrote him.
It's my old nemesis, The Journalist In The Hat, writ large:
A lot of this is about the mechanics and minutiae of journalism, I thought.
Then I went to Brian's party, and met a journalist (sadly didn't get his name or affiliation).
I'll skip over his arrogance and rudeness; he was in a hostile environment, and maybe he was nervous. But watching the discussion, I realized something that brought the Times issue into clearer perspective for me.
In the discussion, I had substantive issues with his points, which were essentially that journalism is superior to blogging because it has an editorial process which drives it toward 'fairness' (he felt that objectivity was impossible and not necessarily even desirable), but a fairness informed by the moral sensibilities of the institution (I'm pulling a short argument out of a long and somewhat rambling discussion). Bloggers obviously don't.
I tried to make the suggestion to him that individual blogs weren't necessarily good at driving toward fairness, but that the complex of blogs - the dialog and interaction between blogs - was, and might in fact be better than mainstream media, isolated as they are from feedback. (Note that Perry from Samizdata got this point before I finished the sentence).
And what was interesting to me was this - that while I have (violently at times) disagreed with other bloggers in face to face discussions, I always had the feeling that there was a discussion going on, a dialog in which two people were engaged and trying to understand each other's points, if for no other reason than to better argue against them. But in dealing with The Journalist In The Hat, no such dialog took place. He had his point to make, and very little that I said (or, to be honest, that others who participated, including Howard Owens, who pointed out that he had worked as a journalist) was heard or responded to. He had his points, and he was going to make them over, and over, until we listened.
Or until we said 'bullshit' too many times and he walked away in a snit.
Jeff Jarvis points to a Guardian column by Charlie Brooker about Macs and PC's. It's an age-old topic, and I'm agnostic about it, but the British are just freaking amazing at trash-talking - a skill that few Americans seem to really have down, in spite of the fact that many people try. Maybe P.J. O'Rourke?
PCs are the ramshackle computers of the people. You can build your own from scratch, then customise it into oblivion. Sometimes you have to slap it to make it work properly, just like the Tardis (Doctor Who, incidentally, would definitely use a PC). PCs have charm; Macs ooze pretension. When I sit down to use a Mac, the first thing I think is, "I hate Macs", and then I think, "Why has this rubbish aspirational ornament only got one mouse button?" Losing that second mouse button feels like losing a limb. If the ads were really honest, Webb would be standing there with one arm, struggling to open a packet of peanuts while Mitchell effortlessly tore his apart with both hands. But then, if the ads were really honest, Webb would be dressed in unbelievably po-faced avant-garde clothing with a gigantic glowing apple on his back. And instead of conducting a proper conversation, he would be repeatedly congratulating himself for looking so cool, and banging on about how he was going to use his new laptop to write a novel, without ever getting round to doing it, like a mediocre idiot.
Cue 10 years of nasal bleating from Mac-likers who profess to like Macs not because they are fashionable, but because "they are just better". Mac owners often sneer that kind of defence back at you when you mock their silly, posturing contraptions, because in doing so, you have inadvertently put your finger on the dark fear haunting their feeble, quivering soul - that in some sense, they are a superficial semi-person assembled from packaging; an infinitely sad, second-rate replicant who doesn't really know what they are doing here, but feels vaguely significant and creative each time they gaze at their sleek designer machine. And the more deftly constructed and wittily argued their defence, the more terrified and wounded they secretly are.
One can only aspire...
This war was a just war in 2003 and still is in 2007. Being a tough war doesn't make it less just. Abandoning Iraq to assuage our emotions while leaving the Middle East to a blood bath and/or return to institutionalized terror would be a vicious and immoral thing to do. As Christians and in the tradition of Aquinas, and Calvin for that matter, we are just to wage this war and we are morally obligated to win. Fortitude and perseverance are the gifts that are needed today - the fortitude to win and the wisdom to recognize our moral obligation to persevere.Food for thought!
Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Osama Bin Laden's brother in law and Al Qaeda financial facilitator, has been reportedly shot dead on January 31 in Madagascar.
The news comes only days after the Philippine press published on January 22 the last interview of Abu Sayyaf leader’s Khaddafy Janjalani, who was recently killed by the Philippine police and whose brother, the Abu Sayyaf's founder, was recruited by Khalifa according to the Philippine National Police.
In the interview Janjalani stated that "Jamal Khalifa was a philanthropist who helped Moro and other mujahideen in this world. Our friendship with them is dictated by necessity, convenience and the need to help one another. They needed at that time volunteers for Afghanistan, while we needed money to buy arms, ammunition and other necessities." He added that "we reciprocated their assistance by providing them volunteers." Janjalani reported that Khalifa and Ramzi Yousef, the first WTC bomber also involved in the 1994 Bojinka plot to hijack airplaines over the Pacific, provided Abu Sayyaf with $122,000. CNN reported two days before his killing that Khalifa had denied the charges.
Mohammed Jamal Khalifa served as a front for Osama Bin Laden in establishing numerous organizations, corporations and charitable institutions in the Philippines in the 90s. He hosted and provided funding to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 planner, and many other known terrorists through the IIRO office in the Philippines, designated by the US Treasury Department on August 8, 2006.
Mohammad Jamal Khalifa was indicted in Jordan for being involved in the bombing of a movie theatre. He was sentenced to death in absentia, on the basis of charges that he had conspired to commit terrorist acts as part of an organization established, among other things, "to fight Jews and Americans," according to court records. Mohammed Jamal Khalifa was deported to Jordan after his arrest in 1994 and retried there on terrorism charges. He was acquitted and returned to Saudi Arabia.
Although labelled a "senior Al Qaeda member" by the US Government, Khalifa was still freely running businesses in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
By JC Brisard of the Terror Finance Blog
Note: I invite reader comment for this post and welcome fact and arithmetic checking. Just please stay civil!
E85 is a motor-vehicle fuel consisting of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline by volume. Pure ethanol’s ambient-temperature properties require it to be combined with gasoline to useful as a consumer fuel. Fifteen percent gasoline is the most common mixture.There are two major drawbacks to using E85. George Will explains one:
Ethanol produces just slightly more energy than it takes to manufacture it. But now that the government is rigging energy markets with mandates, tariffs and subsidies, ethanol production might consume half of next year's corn crop. The price of corn already has doubled in a year. Hence the tortilla turbulence south of the border. Forests will be felled (will fewer trees mean more global warming?) to clear land for growing corn, which requires fertilizer, the manufacture of which requires energy. Oh, my.
In fact, I read not long ago (sorry, no link) in another article that it takes about one gallon of diesel fuel to produce one gallon of ethanol. Diesel is used in ethanol production to clear fields, produce and apply fertilizer, harvest the crop and transport and store it. Because processing the corn into ethanol requires electricity, diesel or some form of fuel oil is likely used to produce the electricity, too, since hydropower is the corn states is pretty rare. Further, E85 can't be piped except for short distances, certainly not state to state.
[A]n ethanol-gasoline mixture can't be piped, because the two ingredients separate, which could cause the fuel to damage a car's engine. Ethanol has to be transported on the road, a much more costly endeavor than sending it through a pipe. ... "'Corn is in the center of the country and gasoline consumers are on the coasts,' he [Dr. Darren Hudson, a professor of agricultural economics at Mississippi State University] said. 'So transportation costs can be quite high -- roughly double the cost of shipping gasoline' or about $1.20 per gallon of ethanol."
Transporting E85 will require diesel fuel and lots of it. That aside, replacing 109 ounces of gasoline per gallon with ethanol results in less usable energy than 128 ounces of of plain gasoline.
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E85 has an octane rating of 105, which is higher than typical commercial gasoline mixtures (octane ratings of 85 to 98); however, it does not burn as efficiently in traditionally-manufactured internal-combustion engines. Additionally, E85 contains less energy per volume as compared to gasoline. Although E85 contains only 72% of the energy on a gallon-for-gallon basis compared to gasoline, experimenters have seen slightly better fuel mileage than the 28% this difference in energy content implies. For example, recent tests by the National Renewable Energy Lab on fleet vehicles owned by the state of Ohio showed about a 25% reduction in mpg  (see table on pg 5) comparing E85 operation to reformulated gasoline in the same flexible fuel vehicle. Results compared against a gasoline-only vehicle were essentially the same, about a 25% reduction in volumetric fuel economy with E85.]]
Car and Driver magazine reports,
We did a comparison test of two fuels, regular gasoline (87 octane) and E85 (100 to 105 octane). Our test vehicle was a flex-fuel 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD LT powered by a 5.3-liter V-8 hooked to a four-speed automatic transmission.
[T]he fuel economy on E85 was diminished more than 30 percent in two of the three tests, about what we expected. The EPA’s numbers suggest that fuel economy worsens by 28 percent on E85 compared with regular gas. On any Tahoe equipped with a 5.3-liter V-8, the E85 flex-fuel feature is a no-cost option, but running E85 reduces the driving range from roughly 390 miles a tank to about 290.
So why are automakers jumping feet first into producing E85-burning vehicles? Because for meeting federal CAFE standards, ' the government counts only the 15-percent gasoline content of E85."
"But," one may well respond, "the real meaasure for fuel efficiency as far as the consumer is concerned is not miles per gallon achieved, but the cost per mile driven." So, even if ethanol fuel does result in fewer miles per gallon, are those miles less costly each than those driven using only gasoline?So far the outlook is poor. In the last year the price of gasoline at the pump has varied by at least a dollar per gallon across the country. I remember paying more than $3 per gallon about a year ago; last Friday I paid $1.99. Obviously, my fuel-cost per driven mile has dropped rather dramatically. But only last December, USA Today reported,
<p .The heavily promoted alcohol fuel called E85 might cut America's oil use and help support U.S. agriculture, but it's not reducing motorists' fuel bills. It's boosting them significantly. The price of E85 — a fuel that's 85% ethanol made from grain and 15% conventional gasoline — is higher than that of gasoline, even though E85 has only 72% as much energy. The U.S. Department of Energy says a vehicle has to use 1.4 times as much E85 as gasoline to go the same distance.
The article goes on to say that just to break even for energy value to the consumer, E85 has to sell for 72 percent or less of the cost of a gallon of gas at the present price range for gas. Of course, if the price of gasoline rises back to the $3 range, that is by about 50 percent, it does not mean that the price of ethanol would also rise by 50 percent. It might rise only proportional to the 15 percent gasoline content of ethanol. Or it might keep proportional pace with gasoline's price simply because fuel companies want to manximize profits rather than simply sell cheap fuel. We don't know because not enough ethanol-fueled vehicles are on the road yet and there are not all that many stations selling E85.
But there are other dynamics at play that explain the second great drawback to relying on E85. Let us suppose that the economies of E85 come to make it desirable for the consumer (it won't happen, about which more later, but play along). In fact, let us imagine that every gallon of plain gasoline used today can be economically replaced with E85. Then what happens?
The price of gasoline simply plummets, that's what, and it becomes again the far more preferable fuel for consumers because of its price. One may object that oil companies will reduce the amount of gasoline they refine. The obvious question is why oil companies would do that, since it means surrendering the greatest market in the country to Big Agribusiness. However, that question really doesn't enter the equation because refineries produce gasoline from oil no matter what.
I called the American Petroleum Institute and spoke with Mr. Ron Planting, a statistician. He pointed me to a web page of the Energy Information Administration with lots of useful data. In 2005, a 42-gallon barrel of raw petroleum was refined to yield 19.4 gallons of finished motor gasoline. According to Mr. Planting, the amount of gasoline refined from oil depends mostly upon the design of the refinery. In fact, the US imported 1.2 million gallons of gasoline per day last year because some other countries, especially in Europe, have emphasized using diesel fuels in autos and industry and therefore refine more gasoline than they can use domestically. In the US, some small refineries in Louisiana and Arkansas refined only 22 percent of a barrel of oil to gasoline (9.24 gallons) while in New Mexico the conversion was 56 percent. Again, varying the amount of gasoline that can be produced from raw petroleum is mostly a function of refinery design.
How much money would it take to convert American refineries to produce less gasoline? I have no idea, but I can't imagine it would be cheap. Mr. Planting said that the main thrust of American refineries is producing gasoline, so conversion would be no small job. The question is also begged as to what interest the oil industry has in killing its cash cow, gasoline, and surrendering the motor-fuel market to Big Agribusiness.
We are presently refining raw oil to about 46 percent (rounded) gasoline. If E85 ever achieves very high market saturation, the demand for non-gasoline products will determine how much petroleum we need to use, including imported petroleum. Consequently, the amount of petroleum we need to use to produce non-gasoline products will also largely determine how much gasoline is produced. In June 2006, according to an API fact sheet, oil companies shipped an average of 9,581,000 barrels of gasoline per day (403 million gallons - that's a lot of of gas!). More gasoline by volume is shipped to retailers than any other petroleum product.
The second largest amount of refined product by volume from a barrel of oil is distillate fuel oil, mainly diesel and heating oils, of which there is a 25 percent conversion rate per refined barrel, or 10.5 gallons.
Continuing with our thought experiment, let us suppose that we totally converted all gasoline usage to E85, reducing the need for gasoline from 9.6 million barrels per day to 1,437,000. This amount requires refining 3.12 millions barrels of oil, since 46 percent of a barrel is refined to gasoline. Would that meet the demand for fuel oils? No. In June 2006, the industry shipped 4,009,000 barrels of "distillate fuel oil (home heating and diesel)." Since a barrel of refined petroleum yields only 10.5 gallons of fuel oil, meeting the daily demand for fuel oils alone requires refining 16 million barrels of petroleum. That is about five million fewer barrels per day than we are now using. I infer from what Mr. Planting said that refineries could be redesigned to produce more fuel oil and less gasoline per barrel of petroleum, but unless there is a market demand for the adjusted amounts, there's no reason to do it.
Increasing the use of E85 would decrease the need for gasoline, but that doesn't mean that the demand for fuel oils would rise to take up the slack in a refiner's bottom line. It certainly does not mean that the demand for fuel oils would decrease! So no matter how much E85 we used, we'd still need 16 million barrels of oil per day to meet the demand for distillate fuel oils. That amount of oil would yield 7.36 millions barrels of gasoline at 2006's 46-percent refining rate, or 309 million gallons.
Could we replace today's 403 million g/d usage of pure gasoline with 309 million gallons of gas by using a lot of E85? It's a 94 million gallon shortfall. Let's see:
Making 94 million gallons of E85 requires 14.1 millions gallons of gasoline. After making the E85 there would be 294.9 millions gallons of pure gasoline left. Add that to the 94m gallons of E85, and we'd have 388.9 million gallons of fuel, 14.1 million gallons short of the 403 m. gallons required. Making up that difference in E85 will take another 2.1m gallons of gasoline, or 311.1 million gallons . (These are all daily figures.) I am guessing, based on my readings and what Mr. Planting told me, that American refineries could adjust to make that much more gas from 16m barrels without a great deal of expense.
But those 108 million gallons of E85 are 25 percent less efficient in motor vehicles than gasoline, meaning that we'd have to produce not 108 m. gallons of E85 for the same energy yield, but 135 million gallons. And that would require refining yet another 20 million gallons of gas. At a 46 percent conversion, another 20 million gallons of gas will require another million barrels of oil, yielding a reduction of oil requirements not of five million but of four, or 17 million barrels per day.
Okay, reducing our oil usage by four million barrels per day ain't chicken feed. But my calculations do show, I think, that E85 is not the panacea it's being made to be. Consider that a total conversion from pure gasoline to E85 means that we'd wind up with a daily surplus of millions of barrels of gasoline per day. Then gasoline's price would be about a dime a gallon, completely annihilating the financial incentive to use E85. The same economic forces would be in play well short of total conversion to E85, of course. So what is the upshot of all this?
1. The market will determine the saturation of E85 usage. Unless consumers can realize real monetary savings by switching to E85, widespread use of the fuel won't occur. But the total system costs of producing E85 obviates against it becoming financially advantageous to the average consumer over gasoline.
2. At best, using E85 can reduce our total petroleum requirements by 20 percent, not insignificant by any means, but not near enough to reduce our need for enormous amounts of imported oil. It would also give us potentially huge surpluses of refined gasoline, driving the price of gas down and even further removing the financial incentive for consumers to use E85.Therefore, don't see E85 as a realistic substitute for gasoline. And by the way, E85 is more polluting than plain gasoline.
I've always kind of suspected that underlying much of environmentalism is a desire for the impossible: stasis. For the earth will either get warmer or cooler, but it definitely won't stay the same. Even if everyone were to agree that the globe really is warming, can we please see some scientifically-sound documentation that it is worse than the alternative?Comes now the estimable syndicated columnist, George Will, with a Newsweek piece, entitled, "Inconvenient Kyoto Truths," subtitled, "Was life better when a sheet of ice a mile thick covered Chicago? Was it worse when Greenland was so warm that Vikings farmed there?"
Are we sure the climate at this particular moment is exactly right, and that it must be preserved, no matter the cost?It's a meme, folks! Get aboard! Now, to be fair, Will wrote his column before I posted by essay, given the lead times in the mainstream punditry industry. But, still, it's pretty good company, eh wot? (I mean that Will is keeping . . . .)
BEIRUT -- Hezbollah has killed more Americans than any terrorist organization in the world after Al Qaeda. In 1983 a suicide-bomber drove a truck into a U.S. Marine barracks south of Beirut and killed 241 Americans with a single gigantic blast.
President Ronald Reagan then withdrew American forces from Lebanon which had been sent as a peacekeeping force during the civil war. The U.S. won't likely ever return. Hezbollah has calmed down, somewhat, and no longer poses a serious threat -- military, terrorist, or otherwise -- to the United States.
More Lebanese than you probably think want Americans to return, even so. Not the majority, to be sure, but a sizeable minority, perhaps no smaller than the those who wish to be ruled once more by the Syrians, or by the Iranians. You will meet these people if you go to Beirut, and you will meet lots of them.
One prominent Lebanese who wants to see the U.S. come back is Toni Nissi. He heads up the Lebanese Committee for UNSCR 1559, an NGO which advises and lobbies the Lebanese government and the international community for the disarmament of illegal militias in Lebanon as required by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559. Hezbollah, of course, is at the top of that list.
Hezbollah's Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah has ramped up his criticism of Toni and his NGO lately by bullying journalists into putting him on a blacklist and by denouncing him on television as "the Beirut branch of the Mossad." Pay Nasrallah's slander no mind. He also, hysterically, says Lebanon's Sunni Prime Minister Fouad Seniora is a "Zionist hand" for slowly, with baby steps, moving toward Hezbollah's disarmament.
If there were an appetite in the United States for more military action in the Middle East, Iran and Syria would be far more likely candidates than little Lebanon. The worst of Lebanon's problems would largely disappear with the Syrian and Iranian regimes anyway if it comes down to that. An adventure in Lebanon would require effort more productively spent somewhere else.
Lebanon's pro-American interventionists are worth listening to, even so. They have their reasons for wanting the superpower back in. Seeking foreign patronage is an old habit in that country. Many say it's Lebanon curse, and they're probably right. Either way it is, for good or for ill, typically Lebanese. Every major religious group in Lebanon -- Christians, Sunni Muslims, and Shia Muslims -- are a minority. All have, or recently had, foreign sponsors. Those who don't play along suffer relative to the others.
I met Toni Nissi in his office in Beirut. No Israeli flag hung on the walls, nor did portraits of Ariel Sharon or even George W. Bush. My American colleague Noah Pollak from Azure magazine joined us.
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In my professional life, I'm getting more and more into explaining Web 2.0 to large companies, and trying to lead them toward embracing dialog with their employees and customers. That's not something I planned, it just happened as I started to push clients toward agility both internally and externally as a way of dealing with impending collapse of projects and programs.
It's challenging to explain, concisely, exactly what I'm talking about - which has pros and cons (as long as it's difficult, I guess I'll get more business...).
Here's someone who's done - I think - a really good job. From the blog 'Tony's Drivel on Computer Programming in Education' comes Michael Wesch's video on Web 2.0...
I've written about the mentality behind many of the Forward Operating Bases in Iraq before, and the poor prioritization that shortchanges the front lines in favour of REMFs. See "FOBbits and Failures in Iraq," and also "Not Enough" in Iraq: A Returning Vet Speaks". Now Bill Roggio is back in Iraq, and doing fine work as usual. He, too, addresses this issue - here's an excerpt from "Inside the MTTs in Anbar":
"One of the greatest complaints heard among the soldiers and Marines in the MTTs (in both Fallujah and Khalidiya, as well as the Police Transition Team in Fallujah) is the lack of support from the rear. While publicly their mission is considered the utmost priority, there is resentment that they are not receiving the resources needed from higher command.... This has created an "us against them" mentality between those outside the wire of the FOBs, and the "Fobbits," the soldiers and Marines living in the rear. This is understandable. Having spent time in both the FOBs and in forward positions, the disparities between the two are easily seen....
Two experiences stick out in my mind which highlight the disparity between the FOBs and the troops serving on the front lines. As I left Iraq in December of 2006, I transited through Taqqadum Air Base (or TQ). I watched engineers and civilians install the gargantuan 20-odd foot high Texas barriers around the transient tents at the LSA (Life Support Area - the airbase where those moving to & from TQ move through). TQ rarely gets mortared, and when it does, the mortar fire is inaccurate at best. When I returned just 3 weeks later, the 20 plus transient tents at the LSA were surrounded, and more barriers were being set up to surround additional tents. This was time, energy, equipment and materials that could be put to far better use supporting the troops outside the wire, where the danger is far greater by several degrees of magnitude...."
See also Roggio's relay of commentary in his article re: 'The PC War,' and 'Detainees and Cognitive Dissonance.'
My neighbor and friend N. has a son, A., who is Littlest Guy's age. Both Littlest Guy and A. were asked to test for the "GATE" (Gifted And Talented Education) track - basically the 'honors' track. They test for this from third to fifth grade in our district, and both boys are in fifth grade.
N.'s dad and mom also live in the neighborhood (N. grew up down the street from where I live), and once a week they go out for a family meal.
He & I had coffee yesterday, and he told me what happened at this week's meal. Note: this will work much better if you read it out loud...
N. to A.: "Tell Grandpa your news."
A.: "I will have GATE testing next week."
Grandpa: "What!! What are you saying!!"
N.: "A's getting tested for GATE! Isn't that wonderful?"
Grandpa: "How can you say that! Are you crazy?"
N. (concerned): "Dad, it's a real honor, why are you upset?"
Grandpa: "They test for this in fifth grade, now? What are we coming to?"
N.: "Wait, dad, what in the world is the problem?"
Grandpa: "They are going to gay-test A.!!"
N.: "Yes, exactly! He will test for GATE."
Grandpa: "How can you accept that? Gay-testing a boy his age!"
N: "Yes, GATE testing."
Grandpa: "Oh, God what is the world coming to, gay-testing a boy like A."
N's wife, S.: "Grandpa, what do you think we're talking about?"
Grandpa: "Testing to see if A. is gay, of course! What an outrage! How can you sit still for this?"
N. covers his face, S. laughs...
Sometimes pronunciation is the key to successful communication...
On a lighter note, let me recommend the specialist blog 'Kropotkin Thinks' - no, it's not about anarchism, or anarcho-syndacalist communes, or the violence inherent in the system
It's one of the best sources of information on the upcoming MotoGP World Chapionship series out there. No, seriously.
Take this, for example:
Yamaha has announced that Valentino Rossi will be staying with them for the 2008 season as well as 2007. The contract was announced to put a premature end to speculation that Rossi could once again leave MotoGP to race four wheels, either in Formula 1, or, much more likely, in WRC Rallying.
~~~ UPDATED ~~~
Both Rossi and Lin Jarvis make explicit mention of "concentrating on racing" in the press release. This seems to me, and to most observers, to be an implicit admission that Rossi's flirt with Formula One last year was a contributory factor to the problems Yamaha suffered at the beginning of the season. After Rossi's appearance in the WRC Rally of New Zealand, speculation began once again that Rossi would leave MotoGP at the end of the year to go Rallying. This speculation has finally been put to rest.
Valentino Rossi being Valentino Rossi, that is, one of the biggest names in professional sports, speculation will, of course, continue. People as diverse as the head of Ferrari, the head of Formula One, and the head of WRC have all stated that Rossi would be more than welcome in their sport, in some cases even hinting that a deal was close to being made. Mostly, these statements have been made in the hope that some of Rossi's public charisma will rub off on their sports.
It is almost certain that Rossi will switch to WRC at the end of his MotoGP career. His annoucement that he will be entering the Rally Of Great Britain at the end of 2007, seems merely to confirm this move. Rallying is his second love, after motorcycle racing, and offers a viable new career path after he retires. But, fortunately for motorcycle racing fans, we still have at least two more years to enjoy his astonishing skills.
I may be offbase in characterizing Arkin's relationship to the Post. Because I read the Post online, I ass-u-me that what's online is also what's in print.
Here's a comment from Arkin's post "The Arrogant and Intolerant Speak Out":
Seems that the WaPo ombudsman (Deborah Howell) was kind enough to respond to me today:
"Arkin is a columnist only for washingtonpost.com. He does not write for the newspaper. I am the ombudsman only for the newspaper. I suggest you write to firstname.lastname@example.org"
So...The paper disavows it's relationship with their own online edition and it's writers?
Posted by: LAH | February 1, 2007 04:58 PM
I'm not sure how this changes my reaction, or whether it does.
Just as an interesting note, I did one fast pass on Technorati (which sucks, BTW) looking for feedback from the leftish blogs for Mr. Arkin - BTW, he's done another non-apology, about which I'll try and comment tomorrow - and found only one, from a smallish blog called Dymaxion World:
It's funny that such a mild rebuke (to my ears) should be getting Arkin raked over the coals. It seems that some people are so in love with the rhetoric of war that it causes them to lose their senses, and make profoundly undemocratic -- anti-republican, if you will -- arguments. To say that we can't criticize a war because it would risk hurting the soldiers' feelings is insane. Soldiers serve the public. We owe much to them -- most importantly, not to waste their lives on shitty unwinnable wars -- but at the end of the day, we call the shots.
Why the politically inopportune silence? Well, there's a lot more to it than that...but I want to make a better argument, so it'll wait a bit.
I'll leave you with a final quote, from Charles Brown, a former anti-sanction protester:
To be perfectly frank, we were less concerned with the suffering of the Iraqi people than we were in maintaining our moral challenge to U.S. foreign policy. We did not agitate for an end to sanctions for purely humanitarian reasons; it was more important to us to maintain our moral challenge to "violent" U.S. foreign policy, regardless of what happened in Iraq. For example, had we been truly interested in alleviating the suffering in Iraq, we might have considered pushing for an expanded Oil-for-Food program. Nothing could have interested us less. Indeed, we even regarded the paltry amounts of aid that we did bring to Iraq as a logistical hassle. When it suited us, we portrayed ourselves as a humanitarian nongovernmental organization and at other times as a political group lobbying for a policy change. In our attempt to have it both ways, we failed in both of these missions.
The problem I have with much of the progressive antiwar left - the soil from which Mr. Arkin sprung - is that the fundamental challenge to them remains maintaining a 'moral challenge' via-a-vis the U.S. and the West. It's liberation theology, writ small.
The US city of Boston was snarled in traffic jams January 31st as police investigated hoax boaxes with flashing lights placed around bridges all over the city. Turner Broadcasting Systems had hired people to plant the strange devices around the city of Boston to market a television cartoon called "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" which has a movie coming out February 23rd. Road and rail traffic was disrupted by the Police as they investigated the hoax and removed the boxes within emergency protocols for bomb scares. Two men alleged to have placed the boxes have been charged, and Turner Broadcast Systems apologized. Boston's mayor will pursue compensation to the city for the cost of the scare.The media circus seems to have oscillated around this event. Most people think Bostonians have overreacted. I agree.
If this were just the work of renegade guerilla artists, it would be one thing. But this isn't quite that.
Guerrilla tactics are flourishing in the hyper-networked age. We see the guerrilla meme changing the nature of war, marketing and advertising -- even childhood. We see it in art, as a form of expression.
The magnetic lighted boards planted in Boston by Berdovsky and Stevens were a kind of guerilla art that is ultimately funded by a large entertainment conglomerate -- Turner Broadcasting. It was apparently the brainchild of Interference Marketing, Inc., engaged by Turner to promote 'Aqua Teen Hunger Force.' In the end, it was all part of a promotion created to enrich a mega-corporation that is shrewd enough to hijack the emerging guerrilla cultural meme.
A friend of mine said that this is a pathology of the wartime mentality we have assumed over five years. Indeed, these are jittery times. In some ways, there's a similarity between this event and the overreaction to Welles' War of the Worlds radio broadcast in 1938. It was the eve of another war then. People had lost their sense of humor. Who can fault them, under the circumstances?
The two men arrested for planting the devices later gave a surreal press interview for television. They made a mockery of the situation, which on some level couldn't be denied as being ridiculous. I wanted to like them and appreciate their Dada moment.
But I didn't. What troubles me is that I can't determine if Berdovsky and Stevens are renegade Dadaist artists, brilliant marketing tacticians, hapless idiots or corporate stooges.
People wag their fingers at an overreactive, jittery populace as being the villain in this situation. But really, it's hard to tell who the villain is. People living in a paranoid age acting irrationally? The pathologies created by the war on terror? Artists? Marketing? Corporate media? The guerilla mentality?
The whole bloody circus?
A study published today shows the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents has almost tripled in 10 years, with more than half the attacks last year taking place in London.
The findings prompted the report's authors to warn of a "wave of hatred" against Jews.
The number of incidents increased to 594 last year, up by 31 per cent on the previous year.
Violent assaults soared to 112, up by more than a third on 2005. ...
• An Orthodox Jew punched in the face and almost pushed off a Tube platform by an Arab man who screamed: "Get back to Stamford Hill, I want to kill you all"
• A Jewish man walking to synagogue with his two young sons suffered a broken leg after being punched and kicked by a white man shouting "f***ing Jew"
• Seventy incidents of desecration and damage to synagogues, cemeteries, Jewish schools and private homes with attacks including swastikas daubed on walls• Savage assault of a 12-year-old Jewish girl Jasmine Kranat, who was beaten unconscious on a north London bus by two teenage girls who asked her first if she was Jewish.
Here is the USA, the number of anti-Semitic incidents actually declined, though slightly, in 2006 from the year before. But 2004 saw the highest number of anti-Jewish incidents since 1994.
Everyone gets to step in it once in a while. William Arkin did yesterday, and complicated things today by steeping in deeper. Is this a characteristic of journalists, or what?
I have one small thing to add to Joe's post below.
Vehement disagreement =! silencing.
Here's Arkin from today's post:
The Arrogant and Intolerant Speak Out
Well, one thing's abundantly clear about who will actually defend our rights to say what we believe: It isn't the hundreds who have written me saying they are soldiers or veterans or war supporters or real Americans -- who also advise me to move to another country, to get f@##d, or to die a painful, violent death.
The problem of course is that if you wade through the comments (and read the blog posts) the sentiments cited above are a fraction of the abuse heaped on Arkin's deserving pate. Most of the comments essentially call him an idiot.
As I commented on Mr. Arkin's blog post:
Mr. Arkin, you have every right to say what you believe, and with rare exceptions, I haven't seen anyone suggest that you don't.
You also have the right to have those who read your opinions and think they are arrogant, contemptuous, and foolish respond. And they are...
It's the height of self-delusion to suggest that public disagreement with you is the same as demanding that you're silenced. I think it's great to see you speak up, and great to see people respond. That's freedom.
The Washington Post's resident military "expert," William Arkin, has reaped a certain amount of attention for his recent comments in print. What Marc printed here in "William Arkin, anti-chickenhawk", however, is just a small slice of his soldier-hostile thinking. Some quotes from "The Troops Also Need to Support the American People":
"...the recent NBC report is just an ugly reminder of the price we pay for a mercenary - oops sorry, volunteer - force that thinks it is doing the dirty work."
Nice to finally get an admission of his opinion. By the way, you blithering windbag, the troops are American people, and the choice of whom to support is theirs. Then, of course, comes the topper, his hilariously-titled: "The Arrogant and Intolerant Speak Out" - later pulled off the blog's front page, but still available for now at this link:
"These men and women are not fighting for money with little regard for the nation. The situation might be much worse than that: Evidently, far too many in uniform believe that they are the one true nation. They hide behind the constitution and the flag and then spew an anti-Democrat, anti-liberal, anti-journalism, anti-dissent, and anti-citizen message that reflects a certain contempt for the American people."
Uh-huh. Those who believe the war is necessary but haven't served can have no legitimate opinions about the war, as the liberal-left is so quick to remind us. Should anyone heed this message and volunteer wear to the uniform, serve on the front lines, and believe the reality they see is poorly-depicted by a liberal-left media - or just disagree with the anti-war line - then they are "mercenaries" displaying "contempt for the American people" - and their opinions are illegitimate.
The answer is that our opponents' positions are not just wrong, but illegitimate. The questions will be changed without any regard for truth or consistency, in order to get that answer. While calling our opponents anti-dissent, in a nice Big Lie type twist. An opponent with this mentality is immune to civic debate or persuasion - and as I've described elsewhere, that has significant and often violent real-world consequences for any polis/civis in which this kind of warfare mentality becomes widespread.
There is not one shred of honesty in Mr. Arkin's writing, or in the Left's position. Not. One. Nor is there room for civic society. What there is, clearly displayed in abundance, is a totalitarian impulse that would rather silence opponents than debate them. Something the liberal-left have managed to impose on their madrassas in various universities via speech codes et. al., but not yet on society at large. In all this, they are at one with their frequent allies and co-belligerents the Islamists. Arkin again, in his now-pulled clarification "The Arrogant and Intolerant...":
"As the debate about the Iraq war demonstrates, war-making is a shared endeavor and the arrogant and intolerant few who think they are above the people seem to be those who are wearing the uniform."
Something they generally do not believe... though this is the exact idea that large sections of the Democratic Party base, Kos, Andrew J. Lazarus here, et. al. have been arguing with their "chickenhawk" meme for some time now. Perhaps I missed the column where Arkin took them to task for this.
Back to Arkin, in his now-pulled "clarification" that sounds like nothing so much as Michael Fumento's mirror image:
"An army Major with the 1st Cavalry in Baghdad writes: "there is no way to accurately opine about the war unless you've been on the ground."
KJ (and many others) adds that I am just "sitting in the lap of luxury that is the United States."
Again, I understand the frustration of those in uniform and the supporters of the war. But these are not the only people who have a valid opinion, and there is great danger for the nation - as Bush-Cheney and company have already demonstrated - when people arrogate to themselves the sole determinant to make a judgment about national security."
They aren't questioning your right to make those judgements. They're questioning your accuracy (note the word's use by the Major; were you taught English at Michael Fumento's high school, or what?). What's more, they're doing it from a position that allows them a much more personal and in-depth view of the situation than you possess. That's an argument from expertise - and 100% valid.
Arguing that they have no right to voice such criticisms, as Arkin does, is NOT valid. Indeed, it faithfully enacts every single trope he accuses his opponents of. As a commenter reminded him. Since Arkin pulled the post, I'll reproduce it here so their work isn't lost by Arkin's fiat:
"The Arrogant and Intolerant..."
Look in the mirror.
"I've never written that soldiers should "shut up," quite whining, be spit upon, or that they have no right to an opinion."
No, you generously granted that "even" soldiers had the right to an opinion, and then proceeded to openly wish that their commanders would tell them to shut up, because it's "not for them" to disapprove of... your opinion.
" they had an attitude that only they had the means - or the right - to judge the worthiness of the Iraq endeavor."
Please explain how you spun the poll results you were replying to into the absurd notion that soldiers questioned your "right" to judge the worthiness of the Iraq endeavor, or anything else. They were asked their opinion about war critics, and they gave it. All of this rot about troops saying you don't have the "right" to criticize the war exists only in your imagination.
"The situation might be much worse than that: evidently far too many in uniform believe that they are the one true nation."
Again, that's not "evident", that's your fever dream. Nothing in the poll you were responding to suggests that.
" They hide behind the constitution and the flag and then spew an anti-Democrat, anti-liberal, anti-journalism, anti-dissent, and anti-citizen message that reflects a certain contempt for the American people."
It really sounds as if you were simply hurt that soldiers disapproved of you, or at least, people with your opinions. Are you going to get over it?
"I never said we shouldn't support the troops. I just lamented that "we support them in every possible way, and their attitude is that we should in addition roll over and play dead, defer to the military and the generals and let them fight their war, and give up our rights and responsibilities to speak up because they are above society?""
That's just it - who said you need to "give up your rights"? who said you should "play dead"? You say that we (which includes you, I presume) "support them in every possible way". How, exactly? What, exactly, have you done to "support the troops"? What has been asked of you? What have you contributed? What gives you the gall to adopt this tone as if the troops' existence is a huge imposition to you? (Is it really the money for their salaries and such that you complain about? Are you a "liberal" or not, since when do "liberals" whine about their tax dollars going to $30k salaries for generally lower-middle-class folks?)
And besides, despite your whining, I'm sure you're doing just fine financially, Washington Post writer/NBC analyst William Arkin. On any tangible level, they are asking nothing of you. And still you can't take it if they're not happy with your war criticism. You sound like a spoiled child. "It's not fair, why don't they like my important thoughts??"
"As the debate about the Iraq war demonstrates, war-making is a shared endeavor and the arrogant and intolerant few who think they are above the people seem those wearing the uniform."
Do you really get paid for your writing?
Anyway, yes, war-making (at least in a democracy) is a shared endeavor, but given that on any tangible level you have contributed approximately ZILCH to this war-making, and (I hazard a guess here) the Iraq endeavor hasn't affected your life tangibly one iota (expect perhaps to indirectly help your career!), I think the least you could do is to stop acting like you're doing soldiers a huge favor by declining to spit in their face; and that your opinion-from-afar regarding what they are doing is so important yet, paradoxically, fragile that no soldier must breathe a hint of disapproval on it, lest it wilt.
Posted by: xmath | February 1, 2007 11:02 AM
Link added for reader convenience. An interesting personal history, indeed. One entirely backed up by his actions. I'll echo Xmath: does this guy really get paid for his writing? On the subject of government and the military? In the Washington Post?
There are hundreds of equally skilled, and better qualified, individuals in the USA. People who can do this job without an inherent bias that US soldiers are evil mercenaries, understand basic American civics, and can apply real expertise to work that revolves around their subject matter, rather than their radical-left political viewpoint.
That the Washington Post has proven itself incompetent to find one of those people, and hire them for this task, is a telling indictment.
Castro's not really dead, although most likely dying, despite his TV cameo appearance.
Chavez's star, however, is in the ascendance, and expanding fast. He's the new Castro, with a bigger field to play on than Castro ever had: Venezuela.
Chavez has set the stage by taking on greatly expanded powers to nationalize Venezuela's industries as part of his campaign to "maximize socialism" in Venezuela. He plans to use his newly acquired powers to nationalize and/or control telecommunications, electricity, the oil and gas industry, and:
....dictate unspecified measures to transform state institutions; reform banking, tax, insurance and financial regulations; decide on security and defense matters such as gun regulations and military organization; and "adapt" legislation to ensure "the equal distribution of wealth" as part of a new "social and economic model."
Okey dokey; that's democracy, I guess. After all, as his supporters say [italics mine], "Socialism is democracy," and, "We want to impose the dictatorship of a true democracy and 'power to the people'" (now, just where have we heard that last phrase before?)
I haven't followed every in and out of Chavez's rise to power and his successful grab at more power, but I am under the distinct impression it was done with the appearance of following the rules of democracy.
You might think that, as a neocon, I champion democracy in all its guises. But the type of democracy I support (and I actually prefer a republic, but we'll leave that aside for the moment) is one that includes a constitution that explicitly protects freedoms and individual rights, and features a system by which it is extremely hard to change that constitution and expand a leader's powers as Chavez has done.
If you read the Reuters article carefully, you'll note that Chavez gained his expanded powers through a vote by Venezuela's Congress, which is at present overwhelmingly composed of his supporters. This unanimity was gained because the opposition boycotted the last election, held in 2005.
Why? Why would the opposition boycott the election of a man they knew was bent on becoming a socialist dictator? This seems so counterproductive that it's obvious there's much more behind it. The often-criticized Wikipedia has a lot to say on the matter. The opposition was initially afraid that fingerprint scanners would be used to match voters with results, and even though the scanners were removed the boycott proceeded. Chavez's supporters say that the boycott reflected the fact that the opposition knew it was sunk; others say the opposition distrusted and greatly feared Chavez and his crew.
At any rate, the boycott enabled Chavez to attain--between his own party and allied parties--virtually 100% control of Congress, far more than the 2/3 it would need to amend the Constitution. One thing appears true: the election was controlled by a National Election Council totally sympathetic to Chavez, and the opposition perceived that, even if they participated, the voting would be rigged.
The entire process points out the utmost--and I mean utmost--importance of guarantees against such usurption of powers (which, by the way, Hitler used, as well, in his ascendance to becoming Fuehrer; Germany had a similar clause that allowed dictatorial powers to be given a leader by a 2/3 vote of the Reichstag, which Hitler then proceeded to abolish).
The United States, by the way, does not allow this dangerous and pernicious route to amending the Constitution (see this for our far more restrictive method). But that's not going to help Venezuela.
The AP adds some interesting facts about Chavez's plans:
Chavez...also has formed a commission to rewrite the constitution and expects to hold a referendum on the changes by the end of the year. Among the changes, Chavez has proposed doing away with presidential term limits to allow for indefinite re-election. Term limits currently bar him from running again in 2012.
No surprise, that. He's on his way to becoming President for Life, despite claims that it will all be oh-so-democratic. With the opposition silenced and frightened, the entire legislature in his pocket, and the path cleared for an indefinite reign, the picture seems very ominous indeed.
I've often thought about our own FDR's propensity to grab power by bending the rules, or at least tradition: the attempt to pack the Supreme Court, and his four Presidential terms. But he never changed the Constitution, he merely took advantage of its silence on certain subjects. Congress deflected his first effort, and the US Constitutional amendment process was used to change the law to fill in the gap on the second, by making the two-term limit explicit after FDR.
But back to Chavez. One possible limitation for his plans involves the fact that, paradoxically, most economies based primarily on oil don't seem to do all that well; they are very vulnerable, and in good times have no incentive to diversify, and at the moment oil prices are "softening." And, of course, socialist economies in general don't have a great track record.
Even if the Venezuelan economy ends up tanking, it's hard to see how these trends toward dictatorship can be easily reversed. Once such powers are given--especially when war is not the ostensible excuse--they are rarely taken away, except by the force of arms. That's why, traditionally, the military has been feared by dictators as rivals in such countries--they are often the only ones who can accomplish the removal of a dictator. Unfortunately, they sometimes replace one with another.
Venezuela is a country with a built-in weakness in addition to its social and economic problems: a Constitution that allows for the easy usurpation of basic checks and balances. How many other democracies are vulnerable in this way I don't know, although it would be an interesting thing to research. My guess is that it's quite a few.
[For some fascinating background and eloquent commentary on the Venezuelan situation, Daniel in Venezuela has been watching the downward spiral for quite some time. Take a look at his archives: see this, for example. And here's his description of the 2005 election; here he offers some background to it, and here is his take on how the public lost faith in the voting process in the buildup to the 2005 election.
Daniel's summary statement:
I have written the diary of Venezuela slow descent into authoritarianism, the slow erosion of our liberties, the takeover of the country by a military caste, the surrendering of our soul to our inner demons.]
[Cross-posted at neo-neocon.]
William Arkin makes the anti-chickenhawk argument, suggesting that troops unhappy with the antiwar political tone of the country...
...should be grateful that the American public, which by all polls overwhelmingly disapproves of the Iraq war and the President's handling of it, do still offer their support to them, and their respect.
Through every Abu Ghraib and Haditha, through every rape and murder, the American public has indulged those in uniform, accepting that the incidents were the product of bad apples or even of some administration or command order.
Over at Blackfive, Matt and Uncle Jimbo kind of have their way with Mr. Arkin, and I'll leave the response to them.
But I'll point out, first that Mr. Arkin isn't an opinion columnist at the Post - he's the domain expert for the military there.
And that he has quite an interesting history.