Q: "What would you like to say to those who want American troops to leave Iraq tomorrow?"
"I can only imagine the tragic consequences that would follow...and the blood... and the price we'd have to pay....a disaster..."
Let's do something about it.
I'm a liberal Democrat (pro-gay marriage, pro-choice, pro-progressive taxation, pro-equal rights, pro-environmental regulation, pro-public schools) who supported and supports the war in Iraq. As I tell my liberal friends "Did I miss the part where it was progressive not to fight medieval religious fascists?"
I've been waiting for four years for the White House to start really explaining the war to the American people, and to do anything sensible at all to maintain the political capital necessary to keep America in the fight - to keep us from withdrawing because the war is too messy, or too long, or just plain makes us feel bad.
During that time I was blogging about the war and issues around it here, felt I was doing my part, and hoped that the leadership of the country would wake up and realize that public support for hard things - like wars - must be earned and maintained.
I've given up, and decided that it's up to each of us to start doing more. To that end, I've decided to start a PAC that will offer support to Congressional candidates of either party who support a foreign policy that doesn't involve wishing problems away. Not necessarily support for the invasion of Iraq, or blind allegiance to White House policies - but some plan that's better than taking our ball and going home and leaving the country and region to become a bloodbath that will assuredly spread to our shores. All I ask is that they have some clue as to what we should do about violent radicalism in the Islamic world other than surrender, withdraw, and hope for the best.
Here in California, defeated Gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides (who I used to work for, by the way...) has decided to raise $10,000 to "send President Bush a message" - among other things he's threatened to use the funds to run ads in districts of anti-withdrawal Members of Congress.
I plan to try and raise $30,000 over the next week - it will have to be pledges right now, since I don't have a PAC yet - $10,000 for third-party legal and accounting for the next year (to set the PAC up and do the accounting necessary to make sure that we're in compliance with election laws), and $20,000 to counter Angelides' ads. If we can succeed at that, we'll take it a step further and see if we can raise enough money to rattle some cages in this election cycle.
What we'll be doing is - among other things - running short videos like the one above that I'll be getting from friends in Iraq - I've asked them to simply film a message they would send in responses to Americans who want to withdraw right now.
Next up will be videos from former troops (if you know any, send their contact info my way), military families, and experts on the Middle East.
Once we get over this hurdle, I intend to build a web community of support that candidates we support can use for fundraising, finding volunteers, and reaching out to surrogates - like veterans, military families, and experts on the Middle East.
Go to www.victorypac.org and help out.
Thanks in advance for helping...
Marc "Armed Liberal" Danziger
I'm almost ashamed that I did the Lenovo post yesterday...
Dear Mr. Danziger,
I apologize that I was not able to return your call earlier this afternoon, we
experienced very high call volumes and I had to lend a hand.
I was able to get your order transmitted to our warehouse, and its in the
procurement, development, and configuration stage now. I have also
requested it added to a "critical hot order list", which prioritizes your order
over other customers waiting for the same system. I should have an
updated ESD (Estimated Ship Date) by tomorrow afternoon for you. Once
received, I will give you a call.
Once again, I apologize I was not able to give you a call.
Well, that's a good start.
No, it hasn't caught fire, at least...
I'm doing some work for a company that was kind enough to give me one of their laptops when I gave Biggest Guy my old Thinkpad because his noname laptop fell apart. But they use Dells, and I hate the keyboard and generally flimsy feel of the Latitude D600 they give out. Note that it seems to work fine today...
...and they're paying me enough that I can buy my own laptop, and they're getting cheaper and more capable, so I go over to the Lenovo site, and order a T60p widescreen. Dual core processor, 2GB Ram, nice video - seems like a nice upgrade, reasonably priced, etc. Hand over the Amex number and forget about the order...back on February 18.
You'll note that I'm trying this on the company Dell and it's March 29, and I don't have a firm ship date yet.
Apparently "a few orders got caught in the system" and delayed. Anyone else out there hung out there like I am?
I'm on the third level of escalation and a nice young woman is supposed to call me tomorrow. I'm somehow doubtful,
It makes me think of an old Doonesbury (when he was funny) in which Uncle Duke (my personal role model) goes into the import-export business in Miami. He's shown sitting in front of the computer, talking on the phone to a customer who wonders "What happened to that last shipment?"
"It's lost in the computer somewhere..." Duke explains.
"No problem, we'll send a couple of guys to help you go in and look for it," is the reply.
Sadly, that option isn't open to potential Lenovo customers.
So - as above, let me know if anyone you know is in the same boat - let's see how big a problem this really is. And in the event that I decide to cancel the order tomorrow, who else makes a rugged laptop with a great keyboard? No Macs, please - that's another topic totally.
Abdullah Mohtadi, Secretary General of the reformed and mainstream left Iranian Komala Party
SULEIMANIYA PROVINCE, NORTHERN IRAQ -- One of the roads leading out of the city of Suleimaniya in Iraqi Kurdistan might as well be renamed Revolutionary Road. Two armed compounds inhabited by exiled revolutionary Iranian leftists were built less than a mile away from each other. My colleague Patrick Lasswell and I accidentally found ourselves in the armed camp of the military wing of the Communist faction of the Komalah Party when we intended to meet with the more moderate social democrats up the street. A few days later we returned to the area and met with the right people.
The Communists hosted us warmly and kindly gave us a tour of their camp. But the liberals who split with them in the late 1980s proved to be far and away their intellectual and political superiors.
Secretary General Abdullah Mohtadi and Political Bureau member Abu Baker Modarresi sent two men to pick us up from our hotel -- just to make sure we made it to the right place. They drove us to their safe house under armed guard less than an hour away from the Iranian border. We met over coffee and cigarettes.
MJT: You are both from Iran?
Mohtadi: Yes, yes we are.
MJT: How long have you been here?
Mohtadi: The first time our headquarters came inside Iraqi Kurdistan was in late 1983, when we lost the last liberated area in Iranian Kurdistan. So we moved our headquarters to Iraqi Kurdistan at that time, which was under Saddam Hussein. For some months they were reluctant to accept us, but they realized, okay, we are against the Islamic regime.
MJT: Did you ever have any problems with Saddam's government?
Mohtadi: Yes. They shelled us. Also, we are the only Kurdish Iranian party that has been gassed by Saddam Hussein.
I'm about to do a quick media project - not for biz, but for politics - and will need a few helpers. No money in it, but not much time and lots of karma. Here's what I need: a designer - someone with Photoshop and Illustrator skills who can do print design as well as simple web design; a video editor - someone who can do low-level video editing and optimization - no effects or fancy stuff.
There will be more help needed, but two roles are the ones at the head of the list. Drop me an email if you're interested.
...than I ever could:
BILL [Maher]: That's right Ann, you emaciated Eva Braun sideshow freak. By supporting this good citizenship effort, you will ensure that America's outspoken pundit community has the book and TV and speaking contracts we need to pay the critically important mortgages on our Laurel Canyon ranch homes.
ANN [Coulter]: And Manhattan apartments! So take it from me and my venereal diseased, dwarf-penis pinko fag colleague Bill - don't be a player hater. Stop the indignation, because there are enough zippy assassination one-liners for everyone. The next time you are repulsed by something we say, remember:
ANN AND BILL: A spleen is a terrible thing to waste.
Check out his cool new ride, too. It's depressing. He's got this bitchin 60's Buick and an astounding show rod. I've got a Honda Civic Hybrid with the licence place identifying me as an 'Eco Fraud'...I'd want his lifestyle, but then again, he's stuck in Chicago...
KOMALAH COMPOUND, NORTHERN IRAQ -- They were supposed to be social democrats, the people Patrick Lasswell and I met yesterday in a compound outside the city of Suleimaniya, the cultural capital of Northern Iraqi Kurdistan. We had it all set up. We were to meet Abu Bakr Mudarisy and his associates for lunch at 11:00 A.M. and learn what we could about the anti-government resistance a few miles away in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Our driver Yusef misunderstood and took us to the wrong place. He did drop us off where we met left-wing dissidents from Iran. But these weren't the moderate English-speaking leftist intellectuals we were looking for. Instead we found ourselves in an armed camp of the military wing of the Iranian Communist Party.
They call themselves the Komalah Party, which is some kind of acronym for the Kurdish Organization of the Iranian Communist Party. Patrick and I were deposited, along with our translator Aso, at the guard house at the gate on the way into the camp.
Aso introduced us to the man whom we later would know as Kamal. Kamal dutifully logged our names in the guest book and said we were welcome to talk to the party leaders. We hadn't yet figured out we were in the wrong place. That would take us a while. But apparently it's perfectly normal, or at least acceptable, to show up unannounced and without an appointment even at this kind of place around here. Unreformed Communists may not be our cup of tea -- and bourgeoisies citizens of the American Empire may not be theirs -- but this is the Middle East at the end of the day. Pretty much everyone except the violent jihadists takes the cultural requirement for hospitality seriously.
So the 'Net is -rightly - fluttering with anger on reading Kathy Sierra's post about some - outrageously inappropriate, to put it mildly - posts about her on some sites run by other members of the Internet intelligentsia. Posts which ranged from junior-high-school sexual imagery to what sure read like death threats.
Go check out Technorati on it, and go and browse through her post, the comments, and posts about it.
Most people are very reasonably outraged. The perpetrators are so far silent.
Business as usual, many people say. So what?
Well, so a lot, I think. I think that we have, as a culture, forgotten what manners are for, We forget the delicate dance of power and self-control that enables people to live together in a society. This manifests itself in a number of depressing ways; Jane Hamsher and blackface as valid political commentary; Freepers and LGF commenters who think that a few well-deployed nukes would be a good substitute for a foreign policy. And on a smaller and more personal level, a bunch of upper-middle class computer wonks who can't disagree about Internet strategy without slipping the bounds of civility and acting like asses.
Personally, I blame it all on nonviolence, but that's a matter for another post.
Luke Ford, Cathy Seipp's would-be Boswell, is supportive of the rights to free expression of a middle-aged man who harassed Cathy's daughter, and posted and obscene (in the moral, not necessarily sexual sense) commentary purporting to be Cathy's final missive...while Cathy was dying. Eliot Stein should be free to comment, and write, and we shouldn't infringe on his freedom to be as hurtful and outrageous as he chooses to be.
I've been thinking about how to respond, and two things come to mind.
A few weeks ago, I did something in Las Vegas I've been kinda ashamed of. Seriously. And no, it didn't involve three lithe (female!) Cirque dancers...
We are at dinner at the Bellagio, and having a kind of serious business discussion. If you've met me, you know that even when I'm not projecting (and oh, yes, I can) my voice carries pretty darn well. And people have at times come to me and asked me to moderate it, which I'm happy to try and do.
In this case, a somewhat tipsy man was at the table behind me, and took increasing exception to my talking. Which he eventually expressed - not politely - but forcefully and profanely - expecting I'm sure that his bullying tone and threatening affect would shut me up.
I told him to fuck off, and meant it. I was surprised and somewhat alarmed at how angry I was, and how willing I was to match his escalation, rather than do the things I knew would de-escalate. He raised an empty champagne bottle over his head and gestured threateningly with it (the counter to a champagne bottle threat, in case you're wondering, is slightly different from a wine bottle threat, unless the bottle is from a particularly good vintage...a rising x-block trapping the wrist, at which point there are all kinds of things you can do) and we had a standoff until a whole lot of restaurant staff showed up. They were moved away, we got free desserts, and my friends were more than a little concerned about my flash of temper - as was I.
Then I read Blackfive's little story about someone who handled a situation much better than I did, and think about the fact that civil society depends in large part on our willingness to enforce civility. Yes, I know that civility and conformity are close neighbors. But I have no worries about being able to tell the difference.
People who behave badly should expect that there will be consequences to their behavior, and that being a bullying asshole doesn't mean that you'll get your way, and that bad behavior online or in person - has consequences.
I value civility here a lot, and appreciate the fact that we manage to disagree heatedly and yet with some measure of mutual respect. Thank you all for that.
As for Eliot Stein, and the people who slimed themselves by posting abusive things about Kathy Sierra? Fuck 'em.
Recently an aid to Senator Jim Webb, of Virginia, was arrested for carrying Webb's loaded weapon in a briefcase. Something like this happened to me when I lived in northern Virginia, so I can understand how it can occur. Virginia is an "open carry" state, which means that anyone without a criminal record can carry a handgun openly, as long as you don't mind people staring. However, to carry a concealed handgun (either in a briefcase on on your person) one must take a weapons course and pass a 45 day background check. I had a permit, and had become so used to carrying my weapon that I didn't notice the extra weight or pressure. One day I was on my way to an appointment in DC on the Metro. About the time the train got to Arlington Station (just prior to crossing into DC) I suddenly I realized I still had my handgun!
DC gun laws are draconian to the point of lunacy. As I recall, one can get a ten year sentence for simply having a spent .22 casing! I immediately called the people with whom I had the appointment and told them I'd be about 40 minutes late. I then turned around, went back to my starting point in Virginia, left my weapon in a safe place, and returned for my appointment.
Perhaps it's about time congress thought about changing DC's weapons laws, at least to the extent of allowing the law abiding folks under siege to own a weapon for self protection! Maybe there are a sufficient number of pro-gun Democrats like Webb who'd be willing to take on the issue and end the DC ban once and for all? The murder rate in the District is several orders of magnitude higher than in Virginia, and at least part of the reason is that predators have to discount the odds that some private citizen can unexpectedly impose a cost higher than they're willing to pay for their predation. Recently, a survey of convicted felons indicated that they're far more worried about law abiding citizens with concealed handguns than about the police.
I do not believe that concealed carry has the potential to end violent crime, because the causes of crime lie in complicated social issues (primarily family disruption). However they can hold a lid on crime rates by imposing costs, under conditions that leave criminals uncertain about their "rewards", a form of random reinforcement for abandoning predatory behavior.
Went to see "300" on the weekend, which probably helped trigger my "War as Spectator Sport" post yesterdsay. My verdict? Interesting fusion of Japanese style with greek stuff, but personally I wasn't a big fan. Not for the reasons that Matt "I wish America was erased from history, and dig that cool hipster Ahmedinejad" Yglesias and the rest of his ilk might offer, though. Mostly, I thought the film treatment too often got in the way of the real thing's innate excellence. Hollywood dudes, when you feel like messing with this stuff, remember: there's a reason these stories are all-time classics. Remember, also: you haven't written any. Frank Miller, love a lot of your stuff; "The Dark Knight Returns" was something special, but...
Steven Pressfield's masterpiece book "Gates of Fire" beats this treatment by several country miles, and will make a way better movie if Universal get off their asses and gives it even a decent script treatment. There's a reason that an awesome combat leader like Col. Kurilla asked for a Bible and Gates of Fire after he had been shot. Kurilla also demanded that every one of his officers read it upon joining the unit.
Still, "300" is doing big box office, the critics be damned. There's a message in there somewhere, but I'm not going to figure it out. Instead, here's a bunch of real history resources re: Sparta, Xerxes, the war, and Greek combat bad-assery....
"O ye men who dwell in the streets of broad Lacedaemon!
Either your glorious town shall be sacked by the children of Perseus,
Or, in exchange, must all through the whole Laconian country
Mourn for the loss of a king, descendant of great Heracles.
He cannot be withstood by the courage of bulls nor of lions,
Strive as they may; he is mighty as Jove;
there is nought that shall stay him,
Till he have got for his prey your king, or your glorious city."
Note that the idea of a Spartan king falling in battle was the kind of statement the would elicit a "she can't be serious, that doesn't happen" sort of reaction.
The March of the 10,000
Finally, note that Greek bad-assery was not limited to Spartans. I commend to you another classic, Xenophon's March of the 10,000, otherwise known as "Anabasis," or the "March Up Country." The story? 11,000 Greek hoplite mercenaries get hired by Cyrus the Younger in 401 BC, about 80 years after Thermopylae. He wants them to fight in a civil war against his brother Ataraxerxes II. They march to Cunaxa in... well, today it would be Iraq, and fight. Cyrus the Younger's side wins! Cyrus is killed in the fight. Oops.
Negotiations are held with representatives of Ataraxerxes II, so everyone can go home now. The Persians demand the hoplite's weapons. They tell the Persians to "Molon Labe" (in a more polite way) :
"It was now about full market hour when heralds from the king and Tissaphernes arrived. These were barbarians with one exception. This was a certain Phalinus, a Hellene who lived at the court of Tissaphernes, and was held in high esteem. He gave himself out to be a connoisseur of tactics and the art of fighting with heavy arms. These were the men who now came up, and having summoned the generals of the Hellenes, they delivered themselves of the following message: "The great king having won the victory and slain Cyrus, bids the Hellenes to surrender their arms; to betake themselves to the gates of the king's palace, and there obtain for themselves what terms they can." That was what the heralds said, and the Hellenes listened with heavy hearts... After him Theopompus3 the Athenian spoke. "Phalinus," he said, "at this instant, as you yourself can see, we have nothing left but our arms and our valour. If we keep the former we imagine we can make use of the latter; but if we deliver up our arms we shall presently be robbed of our lives. Do not suppose then that we are going to give up to you the only good things which we possess. We prefer to keep them; and by their help we will do battle with you for the good things which are yours."
A parley is invited. The Greek generals attend, and are murdered. The troops say "f@#$ this!", elect new leaders, then vote to burn their baggage train and fight their way home to Greece. From Iraq. Through the Persian Empire.
In under 2 years, they do exactly that. Later, a guy named Alexander hears this story, loves it, and thinks "Hmmm....."
A colleague of mine emailed some recent photos from Afghanistan ... thought y'all might enjoy seeing them. We got yer cute kids, we got yer stunning views, we got .... well take a gander and see.
Cute kid #1:
Stunning view 1 (from Gar summit):
Lots more in the rest of the post, including photos of the new Afghan National Military Academy cadets taking their oaths.
A senior Colonel takes a break from other duties to climb Gar summit, near Kabul:
And here's the approach he used:
That's Kabul down below:
The winter wheat is in the fields:
Old Soviet tanks, too:
Some of the kids are busy selling things:
Others are playing:
and a few are shy:
Meanwhile their elders tend their animals:
National police taking a break:
National Military Academy of Afghanistan cadets march out to the oath ceremony. As with West Point in the early days of the United States, the new academy is helping to create a group of leaders with allegiance to the country as a whole, as the poster suggests.
And the oath is administered:
Constructing a shrine at the grave of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Lion of Panjshir. Named a National Hero in 2002, his forces routed the Soviets but he came into conflict with the Taliban, who murdered him in 2001.
Bill Roggio, who has earned deserved respect up to the highest levels of the US military for his coverage of the war from on the scene and from home, writes:
I hope all is well. My apologies in advance for a long email, I believe this is important and requires some explanation.
The media is getting the story of the fighting in Waziristan 100% wrong. The Pakistani government is claiming the fighting is between local tribes and Uzbek al Qaeda. Musharraf has a vested interest in doing so - it wants to promote the Waziristan Accord as a success that can be used elsewhere. The media very rarely looks at what Musharraf says critically.
The real truth is: The fighting began after Uzbeks killed an Arab al Qaeda fighter supported by the Taliban. This is essentially an internal conflict - like a mafia war. Think the Godfather. To settle the conflict, the Taliban sent in senior commanders, including Baitullah Mehsud and Mullah Dadullah Akhund, military leader of the Afghan Taliban, to negotiate a truce between the factions. Digest that for a second, and you'll see who runs the show in Waziristan. And that this so-called 'pro-government tribe' is really just a Taliban group that is angry over the murder of one of their Al Qaeda patrons. I've written on this here.
There are significant implications here for NATO's Afghan operation, and indeed for the future course of the global war. Musharraf's phony accord has handed Osama and his Taliban allies a base comparable to pre-2001 Afghanistan. One they've been busy consolidiating; there are reports that America has no human intelligence left in those sanctuaries. Sanctuaries protected by the nuclear weapons Pakistan was unwisely allowed to obtain - and with the potential for future access to those weapons as al Qaeda and the Taliban further consolidate their strength within Pakistan.
Australia's Air Force recently published a revised version of their national airpower doctrine. That's a big deal for Australia, whose geographic position ensures that its air force is the most critical branch of its military. There's a fair bit of controversy surrounding this new doctrine, largely because their Department of Defence seems intent on crafting the doctrine and making multi-billion weapon buys without actually paying attention to trends in their region and the weapons their future air force may face.
Which is interesting, but not what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is this excerpt from Chapter 3 [PDF format] of the Royal Australian Air Force's official doctrine documents. The sidebar is titled "War As Spectator Sport?"
"Dan Maraniss of the Washington Post had gone to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where he interviewed seven young men, each either 20 or 21, about the same age as the young men ready to fight in the Gulf. In this southern citadel of traditional patriotism, five of the seven supported the war, but none was willing to fight in it. 'This might sound selfish, but I think it would be a shame to put America's best young minds on the front line', said one young man. Maraniss's piece was unusually telling: it was as if war had turned into a spectator sport, with most American homes immunised from the reality of it all."
The cite is to from p. 154 of David Halberstam's book War in a Time of Peace. Published in 2001. I presume he was talking about Clinton's 1998 "Desert Fox" clash with Saddam Hussein.
Personally, the bit about what percentage supported Clinton is irrelevant to me, and to the issue of willingness to serve as well. They're citizens, and their opinions are supposed to feed into foreign policy. Which includes war and peace, as part of their civic reponsibilities. What strikes me as very relevant, and problematic, is this line:
"This might sound selfish, but I think it would be a shame to put America's best young minds on the front line."
I'd like to think we're beyond that, and maybe we could have been, but part of me says "no, we're not." A 2007 document from a foreign government wouldn't be quoting it, either, unless they believed it remained relevant to our times. We've had some debates here on Winds about the idea of general sacrifice in this war, and some have ridiculed it - but look closely at that passage. When people talk about sacrifice, or the history of us vs. the history of me, I submit that under it all is the same thing in me that read this and recoiled.
War is upon us, and will continue regardless of our views on the matter. It is not, and must not be allowed to become or to remain, a spectator sport. It will be up to successful leaders, and political parties, and militaries, and the rest of us, too here in the modern age - to find ways of bringing the populace at large into its necessities as something more than voting spectators. With some notable exceptions (guys like Michael Yon, Michael Totten & Bill Roggio; independent citizen-led efforts to make a difference and help our troops), our failure to date has been noticeable; indeed, it's one of the larger failings of this stage in the conflict.
Before the next stage kicks in, it would be a damn good idea to have a better answer. Thoughts?
He said it doesn't look good he said it looks bad in fact real bad-- "What The Doctor Said", By Ray Carver.
he said I counted thirty-two of them on one lung before
I quit counting them
I said I'm glad I wouldn't want to know
about any more being there than that
he said are you a religious man do you kneel down
in forest groves and let yourself ask for help
when you come to a waterfall
mist blowing against your face and arms
do you stop and ask for understanding at those moments
I said not yet but I intend to start today
he said I'm real sorry he said
I wish I had some other kind of news to give you
I said Amen and he said something else
I didn't catch and not knowing what else to do
and not wanting him to have to repeat it
and me to have to fully digest it
I just looked at him
for a minute and he looked back it was then
I jumped up and shook hands with this man who'd just given me
something no one else on earth had ever given me
I may have even thanked him habit being so strong
I posted this when Warren Zevon died. I thought of it last week, just before Cathy died, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. I hope posting it pushes it aside...
A while ago, writing about our late, great, stand-up mate The Crocodile Hunter, I talked about the deadliest creature in the sea. My colleague, Armed Liberal, has talked about tech companies and responsibility. Which brings me to a recent search on the Alibaba website, that turned up 71 postings by 335 companies listing 169 shark-related products in its B2B section. Head over yourself and see what it's at now. Alibaba.com owns and operates Yahoo! China, which it acquired in October of 2005.
"The explosive growth of the Chinese economy and rapid expansion of trade with the outside world during the 1985 and 1995 created an unprecedented situation. Suddenly there was an insatiable demand for shark fins of almost any size or type. Improvements in shipbuilding and navigational electronics meant that shark fishing boats could now go anywhere in the world, moving from one place to another as local shark populations were destroyed. The fins are now so much more valuable than the rest of the shark that the carcass is often discarded after the fins are removed, to save storage space on the boat. Often the fins are sliced off when the shark is still alive and the mutilated shark is dumped back into the water to die a slow and agonizing death.
Why should we be concerned about this situation? After all, wouldn't the ocean be much safer without sharks? The answer is no. The chance of being attacked by a shark is already less than the chance of being struck by lightning.... In the USA, for example, drowning incidents outnumber shark attacks by 1,000 to I....
But something else would be changed as well -the whole ecology of the ocean.
Predators control the populations of their prey species in a beneficial way. They eliminate diseased and genetically defective individuals, and they stabilize population fluctuations. On land, when we have removed the natural predators of deer; for example, their populations have exploded until they overgrazed their food supply and died of starvation and disease. In the ocean we are not sure what all the consequences of removing the apex predators from the food pyramid might be. We do have one example, though. A shark fishery in Tasmania collapsed after two years of over fishing. Shortly afterwards, the fishery for spiny lobsters also collapsed and fishermen observed a lot of octopus in the area. Octopuses are both major predators of spiny lobster and an important food item for sharks. It seems that once the numbers of octopus were no longer controlled by the sharks, they became too numerous and decimated the lobsters. Economically, for those other than shark fishermen, it doesn't make sense to allow sharks to be fished out,
...Some species may not begin to reproduce until they are over 15 years old. Some species produce as few as two pups biannually, averaging only one offspring per year: So when a population is over fished, it may take many years to recover; or it may never recover: Some scientists believe that sharks should never be fished at all, that their biology is too fragile to withstand any exploitation. Perhaps sharks should have the total protection given to marine mammals in many countries. Unfortunately, sharks do not have big 'fan clubs' as dolphins do.... But even the dolphin's smile may not protect it from the greed inspired by the high prices being offered by international buyers of shark fins. In a number of countries, fishermen are slaughtering dolphins to chop up for shark bait."
The Homo ferox whose method of harvesting sharks involves hacking off their fins and throwing the mangled creatures back in the water don't enhance my opinion of the trade, which is fueled heavily by superstition. The hell of it is, some shark processes appear to be very biologically useful; if we don't keep them around, however, we may not get a chance to find out.
Richard H. Stewart, of the Ocean Realm Society, believes that "Eliminating demand is the only effective method for disrupting the supply line," and is launching an effort to keep Alibaba.com from fueling this global trade. He sees protests as useful in this regard, and is leading an email campaign; personally, I'm inclined to focus on squeezing (feasible) rather than eliminating, and broaden the complaints to Yahoo! itself for maximum effect.
Andres Martinez explains to the New York Times why it's a good thing he's no longer editing the opinion pages for the LA Times...
"There's a general post-Jayson Blair, post-Staples Center obsession with covering yourself to a fault. I would argue this is taking it too far. The wheels of this bus have come off. There's not strong leadership in the newsroom, and there's a perception that Hiller is trying to suck up to Hollywood and advertisers."
No shit, Andres. Where do you think that 'perception' comes from? When the leadership of the paper is dating the publicists for major advertisers and entertainment induustry figures and handing over the flagship section to one of them?
And I love the notion that anyone in business or politics is expected to dump their hard drives and deliver the results of their blood work for the benefit of the press - but heaven forbit the press itself is scrutinized.
I've felt for a long time that the single best thing we could do to American politics is to make Members of Congress and state legislatures subject to all the regulations they create. I similarly think that making it clear that journalists are themselves subject to the same scrutiny they give others would be a great thing.
I'm getting my suit out for Cathy Seipp's funeral and reading the tributes to her while TG makes sure it's presentable (I don't dress up much any more...).
And read one by Jim Treacher that made me stop for a moment, because it perfectly summed up my feelings.
It's unbelievable that the whole time I knew this woman, she was living on borrowed time. (Not that a single one of us isn't, but she'd been given a specific return-by date. Which of course she ignored 10 times over.) I wish I'd appreciated her more. I wish she wasn't dead.
So do I, Jim, so do I.
I'm not the biggest John Edwards fan; on my desk are fundraising letters from Obama and Richardson that will probably get checks, and I have to deal with the fact that the foreign policy of any Democratic candidate is probably going to repel me. That's a bridge I'll cross in the general election.
But he and his wife are showing great courage in confronting her relapse and the reappearance of the cancer she's fought, and continuing on with their campaign.
I wish her success in her treatment, and both of them the internal resources (I'll believe they have all the external ones they need...) to deal with this and a campaign, too. Think good thoughts for both of them and for their kids.
[Update #4 (the others are below): Martinez has resigned. Well, maybe he does have some modicum of good judgement, after all. I'm sorry that it wasn't in play earlier, and wish him well. We all screw up, and for one, I hope that he and the rest of the Times management - realizing that they've stepped in it - learn from this mess.]
You know, I haven't spent a lot of time angsting about the LA Times since I canceled my subscription (more time!! a perk!!), but I do have parts of the paper in my RSS reader.
So tonight I'm taking a break from work and scanning, and I discover this - thing - from Times Editorial Page Editor Andres Martinez. I know I'm going to kill any chance I have of ever doing an op-ed there...and I'd love to, just so my mom would get all thrilled...but this is the sloppiest [two words denoting a sex act in which one partner is usually kneeling] of a rationalization I've read in a long time. The subject is simple; the Times will this weekend turn management of the editorial pages over to uber-producer and hair gel model Brian Grazer. Grazer is represented by a PR company who employs a woman named Kelly [no last name given] who happens to be ... wait for it ... sleeping with Andres Martinez, who made the decision to give Grazer the keys for a day.
And it suggests three things worth noting:
Given his well-known intellectual curiosity and his track record as a Hollywood producer, Brian is a terrific choice to kick off this quarterly program of guest editors. Brian and his partner Ron Howard have had a hand in bringing such stimulating fare as "Felicity" and "24" to the small screen (as well as my fav sitcom of all night, the tragically short-lived "SportsNight") and such blockbusters as "A Beautiful Mind" and "The Da Vinci Code" to the big screen.
Now my personal theory is best summed up by a quote I vaguely remember from one of the Prizzi books, in which it is suggested that people hang around the really rich and powerful in the hopes that they will "spontaneously give them a lot of money". Or a development deal, or a ride in their Bugatti with two ounces of blow and a bunch of cute young publicists.
At no point was Kelly involved in pitching the concept of a guest editor, or any individual. My conversations were with Allan, who himself had no role in our subsequent talks with Brian and Michael Rosenberg, Imagine Entertainment's president.
The decision to ask Brian to do this was not mine alone, but was taken by three editors here, and then approved by the publisher. The suggestion that my relationship with Kelly had anything to do with this choice is without merit. Suggestions that she or anyone else has favored access to our pages is also absurd. When Allan has pitched op-ed pieces to the Times - and we can only think of two instances this has happened in the last year - he has dealt directly with that page's editor, Nick Goldberg.
Neither he nor Kelly would dream of approaching me.
And I would never dream of approaching a friend in political office to help my son get an internship...oh, wait, I did...and no political donor ever does it to get access or influence...oh wait...sell us another one, please.
And when the newspapers are in the pockets of the wealthy and powerful (and the beds of their publicists), how, exactly are they supposed to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable"? Might make that next date awkward, Andres, no?
Color of the day: disgusted.
Update: corrected silly misspelling of Grazer's name...Update #2: In a stunning display of spin-mastery, Kelly's boss Allan Meyer says:
"If this thing was killed over this, I think it would be an indication of the moral bankruptcy of the Los Angeles Times. If the newspaper is so fearful of what uninformed people think that it would allow itself to be stampeded in that way ... I think it would be a very sad day."I haven't seen this good an attempted reversal since I watched Biggest Guy wrestle in high school...
[Update #3: Bill Boyarsky, former Times city editor, has a grown-up response to the Times' newest calamity:
To keep faith with its readers, the Los Angeles Times needs to put all its resources into an investigation of what's been going on in the Current section and the editorial pages, now tainted by the conduct of editor Andres Martinez.
A beefed up team of top reporters should join media reporter Jim Rainey in examining past Current sections and editorials to see whether they have been influenced by publicist Allen Mayer and his associate, Kelly Mullens, who has been dating Martinez.]
The diarist eloquently makes a point I've tried to make a number of times about the left of MLK Jr:
I don't think anyone could seriously make the argument that Dr. King was a sellout,
a person of weak moral stamina,
that he compromised with society or accepted marginalization.
Nay, he stood strong - continuously willing to speak out and when necessary suffer for his beliefs. Expecting not exceptions, but real change in the laws and attitudes he challenged, realizing that neither would come lightly.
Yet, significantly Dr. King managed to do something that we too often overlook. He disagreed - strongly. He challenged injustice - but he did not divide.
He drew lines not to exclude others but to demand change. Recognizing change would not come instantly, he still refused to fall into the trap of hating and demeaning his adversaries.
He Did. Not. Divide.
He refused to allow even those who persecuted him to become a "Them." He recognized that whatever the conflict, we will ultimately have to live with those we now oppose and if we are to break the cycle of oppression, not merely change who's in power, then we have to start breaking the cycle in our everyday lives.
Cathy Seipp died today, and as little as she tolerated fools, she's someone who I think would have gotten that point easily. So in her honor, let me suggest that we all remind ourselves of a base truth - "that whatever the conflict, we will ultimately have to live with those we now oppose."
Works for me. Thanks, Cathy, and thanks 'its simple IF you ignore the complexity'...
Abu Aardvark has a post up on the farcical Egyptian elections coming up next week.
This blog's community is - appropriately, I think - concerned about the potential for the violent and radical themes within Islamism to become a truly bloody worldwide movement. The problem of course, is that the ideological engine for that movement is fueled by the politically and culturally repressive governments we support in the Middle East in the name of 'stability'.
One thing I liked about what Bush was doing is that for a moment in time, he made it clear that an unsustainable quasi-stability built on the backs of the citizens of the Middle East - and generating pressure for the movement that risked tearing much of the world apart - was no longer our top priority. That, to me is a feature, not a bug in Bush's policy.
As Bush has been getting his political ass kicked, a new, pro-stability consensus has emerged as we re-engaged Egypt and the Saudis. It looks like 'professionalism' to some, and like disaster to me.
We can't be rid of the shined-shoes Warren Christopher crowd soon enough. They got us into this mess, and if we follow them, we're going to wind up far far deeper in the woods.
I've managed to get a text-file output of my old Armedliberal.com site, and am trying to get it to import into the MT 3.3 instance we're running here.
When I try, I get a 'file too big' error.
When I break the file up into little files and try again - same thing.
Any ideas, anyone?
If you're in the military or have family in the military, you may have received what-on the surface-appears to be an appealing offer, to appear on the Montel Williams show for a sympathetic episode about your perspective as a military family. If you're aware that Montel is himself a veteran, you might feel safe in agreeing to appear on his show.
Don't feel safe. Montel sold out. He's just as bad as any other lying, politically motivated media figure who looks down on the military and thinks of your life and sacrifice as nothing more than a political football and a way to get ratings.
They're lying to you. They're waiting to ambush you with their own agenda, embarrass you on national TV, and make you out to be weak, vulnerable, exploited dopes. They want to use you as a tool to attack your chain of command and our elected leaders. As milblogger airforcewife on military.com's SpouseBuzz tells it, they've already tried it on one brave group of military families, who responded by letting them have it and walked out on the taping. It looks like they haven't given up, and they lack all sense of shame, honor, or dignity-they're trying to round up more unwary, trusting people to feed to the wolves. Don't be Montel's sucker! And let them know exactly what you think of their dishonest tactics. Call producer Michelle Pearson at (800) 987-5446, extension 392, and give her a piece of your mind. Or email her your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org. Do either or both of these things-but the last thing you should do, right after joining the Taliban, is agree to appear on this exploitative liar's show and help his vicious agenda.
Shame on you, Montel Williams.
airforcewife replied to Michelle Pearson of the Montel Williams show by email, in response to her clueless attempt to gather more sheep for the sacrifice in the comments section of the same military blog where her show's shenanigans had already been exposed by a would-be victim who wasn't having any of it. Can you get any more tone-deaf than that? Her reply, and more links, after the jump.
I am an author on SpouseBuzz, the blog on which you posted several invitations for military people to appear on the Montel Show in a show about "teen families and deployment." I have tried to reach you several times by telephone, but there was never an answer.
It's rather odd that you chose one of my posts in which to leave that comment, as I was a part of a military group that did indeed accept an invitation to a Montel taping about "deployment issues", only to be ambushed and have the subject be one about Anthrax. I was a part of the group that left, and I later posted about that experience and the betrayel we felt by Montel (whom we had assumed we could trust because of his veteran status). In fact, I posted about that experience on SpouseBuzz itself, and it was then linked to by several other blogs and has been quite the topic of discussion.
Quite honestly, I could never in good conscious give my blessings to any military person to appear on the Montel Williams show, as not only my experience was in being used to fulfill agenda; but there have been other military families who reported the same issue with being used also.
Montel Williams has a right to free speech, and as a former military member he should understand that we, in the military DO NOT. Not unless we get out. His misinformation at the taping we attended reduced the wife of a deployed airman to tears. And really, there is not much we can do about it except to realize that Montel is not as honest with military families and issues as his public persona holds him to be.
My husband has deployed twice in the GWoT, both to Iraq and Afghanistan. It is only a matter of time until he deploys again. I am NOT a victim, and neither is he. If Montel really cared anything about military people at all, he would admit the mistake that was made in his program and include more rounded information. Most of all, he would apologize to the people he hurt - the very people he is claiming to help and support.
I doubt that will happen, just as I doubt the issue will be brought to his attention. I'm sure you will find people to sit on the show that will fulfill the agenda he wants to bring to the public. However, it will not be anyone that I have spoken to and made aware of the bias inherent in Montel's shows.
Someday, perhaps, I hope someone will portray military families as they really are - strong, strong families that choose this life and live on pride. The pride that Montel tried to wrench away with us on that show.airforcewife
Let the Montel Williams show know that they should just give up on trying to smear our brave volunteer military men, women, and families, because each and every one of them knows that Montel's name is mud with from here on out! And please let as many people as you can know about this. Show them to airforcewife's original post about Montel's deception, which is located at the SpouseBuzz blog, here. Spread the word, and let these people-who aren't worthy to lick your shoe-know that they can't get away with this kind of deceitful ambush any more!
Andi's World has more from other military spouses who were ambushed, and other blogs where Montel's producers are trying to snare the unwary.
ERBIL, IRAQ -- What a difference a year makes.
Fourteen months ago I flew to Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, from Beirut, Lebanon, on the dubiously named Flying Carpet Airlines. Flying Carpet's entire fleet is one small noisy plane with propellers, cramped seats, and thin cabin pressure. Only nineteen passengers joined me on that once-a-week flight. Everyone but me was a Lebanese businessman. They were paranoid of me and of each other. What kind of crazy person books a flight to Iraq, even if it is to the safe and relatively prosperous Kurdistan region? I felt completely bereft of sense going to Iraq without a gun and without any bodyguards, and it took a week for my on-again off-again twitchiness to subside.
Last week I flew to Erbil from Vienna on Austrian Airlines to work for a few weeks as a private sector consultant with my colleague Patrick Lasswell. This time I didn't feel anything like a fool. Almost half the passengers were women. Children played on their seats and in the aisle with toys handed out by the crew. We watched an in-flight movie and ate the usual airline lunch fare served by an attractive long legged stewardess. The cabin erupted with applause when the wheels touched down on the runway. The pilot announced the weather (sunny and 60) in three languages and cheerfully told us all to have a great day. Have a great day may seem an odd thing to say to people who just arrived in Iraq, but this is Kurdistan. I did, indeed, have a great day.
A man named Hamid picked up me and Patrick just beyond the passport control booth. He was kindly sent by a friend on the Council of Ministers. "Here is your car," he said as he led us to his vehicle out in the parking lot.
As he drove us into the city I felt none of the fear and apprehension I experienced the first time I came here. Instead I saw considerable signs of progress. The first time I drove from the airport into Erbil I felt that I had arrived in a dodgy and ramshackle backwater. This time I felt -- properly, I must say -- that I had arrived in the capital of a serious and rising new power in the Middle East.
I met Cathy Seipp at one of my first blogger dinners - I was still deep in my pseud, and TG had to introduce herself as "Mrs. Armed Liberal". We went to a booksigning in Brentwood and then off to dinner at one of my fave little Italian places on San Vicente with the cream of the 2002 blogosphere.
I counted myself awed and lucky to get to hang out with such clever, smart, interesting people. And that night, as on many later nights, Cathy Seipp was the center around which the group revolved.
Tonight, Cathy is gravely ill with cancer, and per her daughter Maia, in the hospital receiving palliative care.
That night, after she frisked me (it was in the shoulderbag, Cathy...), Cathy drilled me on my casual assumption that all thinking people were in favor of gay marriage, and when she did that, she didn't only make me think about gay marriage as an issue, but all the other casual assumptions I offhandedly made about what people did and should think. Cathy gave me a zen slap to the head, and it was one of the biggest favors anyone ever did for me. I wrote a post about it... "Why I Support Gay Marriage, and Why I Will Never Be Angry At Those Who Do Not"...but I don't think I really explained the gift - the perspective shift - that Cathy gave me that night.
When I was trying to push Spirit of America into a broader role, the people I reached out to for help started with Cathy, and Cathy reached back to help someone she knew just a little bit - because that's what she seemed to do a lot.
Think good thoughts for her tonight, and for her daughter, and for her loved ones and friends and those - like me - who she reached out to help. If you want to do something for her, reach out and rearrange someone's perceptions and open their eyes to the notion that reasonable people might think they are wrong.
I can't imagine a more fitting memorial - for Cathy, or for anyone at all, to be honest.
By Thomas W. Evans
Every candidate for the Republican presidential nomination does it. Either in the declaration of his candidacy, or in his initial speech before a conservative audience, or in the first two paragraphs of his basic fund-raising letter, he invokes the name of Ronald Reagan. I've written a book about the fortieth president, his vision of America, how he came to develop this vision, and how he managed, once he was elected, to achieve virtually every item on his agenda. I recommend the book to aspiring candidates and to those who are attempting to judge how the aspirants measure up to the standard they have invoked.
In The Education of Ronald Reagan: The General Electric Years and the Untold Story of his Conversion to Conservatism (Columbia University Press, January, 2007), I focus on the eight years (1954-1962) when Reagan worked for GE. He was the host of the highly-rated television show, The General Electric Theater. What is not as well-known is how pivotal this job and its duties were to his future political vision - and to his political career.
As the host of General Electric Theater, Reagan's contract also required him to spend a quarter of his time traveling to GE plants and speaking to the company's workers and their neighbors. The premise for his tour at the outset was simply to give a sense of cohesion to the highly decentralized corporation by having the company's most famous face appear at all of its locations. GE was then the nation's fifth largest company, and Reagan estimated that he went to 139 plants in forty states, addressing some 250,000 employees in the two years that he spent as GE's "traveling ambassador." The staple in the early years was Hollywood chatter and product endorsement.
In time, the program changed. Under GE's CEO Ralph Cordiner and the company's vice president for employee, public and community relations, Lemuel Boulware, GE became a major combatant in grass roots politics. GE management described their opponents as "public and union officials" and the contest was for the hearts and minds of GE's blue collar workers and their neighbors. Boulware believed there was "a wide and still widening gap between the economic interests of the union members and the political interests of union officials."
1958 was a pivotal year in this process. The AFL/CIO marked 16 U. S. Senators for defeat and only five of them survived. One journalist described the off-year elections as "a slaughter" for the Republicans, "the worst defeat ever for a party occupying the White House." Cordiner and Boulware met on a small island off the Florida coast (a summary memorandum, located in the University of Pennsylvania library archives and never published before, confirms their plans.) They expanded their activities to go beyond the bargaining table to the voting booths in the communities in which their plants were located.
Boulware was the field commander and chief strategist in the expanded operation. His goal was to go over the heads of the union leaders directly to the blue collar workers. He deluged them with basically conservative materials contained in GE publications which he produced. He was for reducing taxes, limiting the size and scope of government and opposing union-sponsored legislation which would provide, in his view, an unfair advantage to the union leaders. It was his announced goal to make GE employees "communicators" as they learned his message and "mass communicators" as they passed it on to their neighbors and fellow voters. In the course of this program, a great communicator" emerged.
Boulware took Reagan out of the plants. The GE "ambassador" now delivered speeches before the local Lions, the Rotary and other civic groups. Reagan referred to this as "the mashed potato circuit." As the tour continued and the operation grew the Southern states and the smaller states which were the principal focus of GE's campaign moved, in the current political parlance, from blue to red.
In 1960, after a short strike, the company and its employees entered into a new contract. The New York Times described it as "the worst setback any union has received in a nationwide strike since World War II." In that same year, Ronald Reagan led the members of the Screen Actors Guild, where he had been re-elected to the presidency, out on the Guild's first strike against the film producers. As a result, actors gained an expanded pension fund and compensation for the sale of their films to television for the first time. It was viewed as a triumph for the actors' union. The simultaneous negotiations, where the GE was opposing a strike while its traveling spokesman was leading one in his own industry, occupy a separate chapter on the art of negotiation.
Boulware retired at the end of 1960. The IUE commenced unfair labor proceedings against GE, citing "Boulwarism" as the center of its complaint. Although Reagan was not mentioned in the ongoing litigation, the company's new high command felt that he should give up his speeches and return to Hollywood chatter and product endorsements. He declined and left the company in 1962. The GE Theater was cancelled. Ralph Cordiner retired shortly thereafter.
Ronald Reagan continued to give his speeches. He had a three-year backlog of invitations. Only former president Eisenhower was in greater demand as an after dinner speaker. In October of 1964, he gave the speech he had developed over his GE years, slightly modified to suit the special occasion of its delivery on national television in support of Republican presidential candidate, conservative Senator Barry Goldwater. Afterwards, the dean of the Washington press corps referred to the speech as "the most successful political debut since William Jennings Bryan's 'Cross of Gold' speech in 1896."
Two years later, Reagan was elected governor of California by a margin of almost one million votes.
During his years with GE, Ronald Reagan learned more than a set of prepared remarks. His reading covered such diverse writers as Lenin, Hayek, Sun Tzu and Henry Hazlitt. As White House aide David Gergen later observed, Reagan had a tendency to memorize what he read. Secretary of State George Shultz, White House counselor and Attorney General Ed Meese, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev all used the same word to describe Reagan's outlook. They said he had a vision. The pillars of that vision - tax reform, limitation of the role of government, increase of the strength of the military, patriotic theme, strategic defense initiative, reduction of nuclear arsenals, the Reagan doctrine and the pro-active opposition to the Soviet Union - were all born or honed during his time with General Electric.
Reagan had also learned how to turn almost every component of his vision into government policy and law. He went over the heads of the opposition leaders directly to the blue collars while with the company, and, later, when in government, to the electorate. As a result, he had a strong hand when he sat down at the bargaining table as a union president - and at the summits as president. The story of his education is a virtual primer as to how this can and should be done.
Thomas W. Evans is a Marine who used to be a platoon commander, and the author of The Education of Ronald Reagan: The General Electric Years and the Untold Story of his Conversion to Conservatism. The book is available via Amazon.com, via Barnes and Noble (where it's less expensive), and in other online and retail outlets.
"If a person saves a single living soul, it is as if he had saved the world entire."
-- Jewish teaching
Central California is warm these days and we have much less rain than usual, which probably means wildfires later. Coming from Canada, however, the change is welcome. The trees are flowering, and the birds at our balcony feeder buffet row are acting like it's spring. Unfortunately, this also means that the mosquitoes are hatching out. Fortunately, the damselflies and spiders have also hatched out, and there's always the local bat population to pitch in and eat a few of the damned little bloodsuckers.
The tadpoles... they've hatched out, too, but the heat isn't doing them a lot of favours. My sweetie and I were out walking in our area last week, when we spotted a small roadside ditch filled with water. Sure enough, it was full of tadpoles. This much we knew: unless it rained, soon, they were all going to die. "We have to rescue them" she said.
No argument from this amateur herpetologist, especially with global frog mortality serious enough to trigger projects like "Amphibian Ark" from the scientific community. Research for "Operation Reed Sea" began as soon as I got home. UC Berkeley raises them on a large scale, and had a useful set of tips; nice to see that the place isn't a total waste of our tax dollars. Other information was found, some from as far away as Australia. The plan was finalized, and preparations were thorough; by mid-week, we had about 40 tadpoles in a new and fully outfitted 5 gallon tank that sat in the kitchen. I was happy. Sweetie was very happy.
I couldn't stop thinking about the rest of them, though. Friday afternoon, with Shabbat coming, I got in the vehicle and headed out. It was worse than I thought.
Our tadpole collection now stands at a bit over 300 (we just made a count), housed in the aquarium and in a large emergency tank that used to be a plastic Rubbermaid storage bin.
We're scouting spots to let a bunch of the new ones go, and giving a few away to good homes in the Santa Cruz area. Still, I expected to take about 50 tadpoles through metamorphosis, ended up with far more, and don't intend to lose any more than I have to. Tadpoles are popular pets for kids, but delicate - so I decide to compile some of my research and tips for others whose motto is "No Tadpole Left Behind...."
So, You Want to Keep Tadpoles?
First, time expectations. The whole process takes a variable amount of time, but it is finite and so you can get by with small sizes of the supplies you need. On the flip side, it's a daily commitment and so you can't all go on vacation during this period unless you have someone willing to do manual water changes as well as proper feeding. Of course, you can go ahead and create a multi-tank "Gigaswamp" set up too, if that's more your style. If so, it's likely to maintain itself a lot more robustly. I needed something a bit less complex to start, though we're now looking very closely at the U. Virginia "Two Tank Biofilter" set-up.
We expected about 6-8 weeks before our tadpoles really hit metamorphosis, but some species can take months and green or bullfrog tadpoles are a long-term commitment at 12-14 months. As it happens, the scientists are a bit off; some transformations did finish in 10 weeks, but most were closer to 12-16 weeks and we still had a few un-transformed Pacific Tree Frog (Pseudacris Regilla) tadpoles 9 months later.
If you want to keep any creature properly, of course, it all begins with preparing the home. Except where specifically noted, this stuff is all easy to find at Petsmart, pet stores, et. al.
Unless you get your water from a non-chlorinated well, dechlorination is the first and most critical step. Reader "SPQR" alerts us that many localities use chloramines, which are more stable and hence more of a problem for aquarists. He points to a very useful review of dechlorinating compounds that should help you.
In addition, sites we've seen strongly suggest using dechlorination solutions and then letting the water sit for a day as extra safety.
Tadpole skins are thin, and are more prone to pass contaminants than fish skins would be. Babies are always more delicate, and even air-breathing adult frogs have limited oxygen absorption capability through their skin, so it's not too surprising to find this issue with young amphibians. They're also sensitive to environmental shocks in general, which can affect development later.
(2) Other tank preparations...
(3) Air Pump
Air pumps are good to have, but stuff that works for fish doesn't always work for tads. Having air in the tank improves tadpole activity levels and health, but they can't take much current and people have reported problems if the bubbler is too aggressive or bubbles are too big.
(4) Ammonia & Ph
Tadpoles in this area seem to tolerate a high Ph, but that high Ph has interactions with ammonia content that really lower the threshold for problems. Scientifically, high Ph turns more NH4+ (ammonium) into toxic NH3; below Ph 7.0, almost all of it stays "locked." The critical thing here is the ability to monitor Ph and ammonia levels. The next step is being equipped to do something about them.
Part of this process just takes time, too - different kinds of slow-growing bacteria have to establish themselves. Aerobic bacteria convert ammonia to nitrite (also not good), and then even slower-reproducing bacteria convert nitrite to nitrate. Some sites also suggest that anaerobic bacteria are needed to complete the cycle, turning nitrates into nitrogen gas. The general agreement is that this whole micro-ecosystem takes 30 days or so to spin up, but the tadpoles didn't have 30 days. So we're going to have to ride out first the rising ammonia, then the rising nitrites as ammonia levels, etc., and cross our fingers. Some tadpoles will also be released into the wild, which is less safe for them but removes the possibility of a TPK (total party kill).
Unfortunately, tadpoles can't have conventional water filters that would suck them up or injure them. That means manual partial water changes, which is most of the work of caring for tadpoles.
To avoid the potential for environmental shocks, we introduce any required amounts of Ph control, ammonia control and other aquarium control products to the tank only after diluting them in water. I mention this because sometimes we will make adjustments between water changes. So far, we're also using the following products.
StressZyme claims to be one of the products that adds these beneficial, safe micro-organisms. I put it in last, and waited a day so they could multiply before adding the tadpoles. If you have chlorinated water, that's a 2-day wait since the chlorine must be gone for the StressZyme critters to thrive. I'll add here that aquarist and reader "SPQR" is dubious of these products (here's the science behind that view explained), except an expensive product from Marineland named "Biospira," which uses Nitrospira bacteria.
(5) Water Changes
Our 2.5 gallon reservoir of chlorine-free changing water is treated with Ph Decrease so it's a bit lower than the tank's reading, plus enough EasyBalance and Ammo-Lock for the whole tank, and a drop or two of StressZyme.
Method: We put the pump in the middle of the water column, wait until no tadpoles are close, then pump a couple times to get it going. From there, we move it toward the bottom (where the tadpole poo and other ammonia-producing wastes lie), and remove about 1/3 of the water. Then we replace that 1/3 with treated, prepped water that we keep ready to go.
UPDATE: Worked well, but the grate was still big enough that 2 tadpoles rode the siphon (unhurt) during one of the changes. We used cheesecloth and a rubber band to fix this.
(6) Tadpole food:
Overfeeding will also lead to ammonia buildup, and can provide an environment for disease. Anyone who ever owned goldfish knows that - but goldfish are carp; tadpoles aren't as tough, so even more care (and explanation to kids) is needed. This is the hardest part to execute - but we aren't being kind to our little friends if we kill them.
The other thing to remember is that algae = food. In most fish tanks, algae is a problem. With tadpoles, you want to encourage it.
In the meantime...
(7) Tadpole Companions, Good and Bad
Having an aquarium filled with tadpoles sometimes leads folks to want to add other creatures. Especially if you have more than just tadpoles in that aquarium.
For instance, you may notice really tiny round moving critters in the water, especially if some of the water came from the pond et. al. where tadpoles were captured. These are most likely water fleas (which are crustaceans not fleas, and aren't dangerous or parasitic) or other zooplankton. They'll be dinner once the tads start changing, but they do multiply rapidly. You can decide you don't care, net them occasionally to keep numbers down, or introduce fish to do that job.
If you do add companions, this needs to be done carefully.
In general, you want to avoid this -or get non-aggressive fish that will stay small, are reasonably hardy, and won't compete with your tadpoles. If you feel you must, some guildelines:
On a less-welcome note, wild-caught tadpoles are likely to include mosquito larvae in the water. They're small and straight, but go into a hyper bending 'dance' when moving. Hence the name "mosquito wrigglers"
(8) Metamorphosis Time!
Some species of frog do well in the water. Pacific Tree Frogs, and toads, could die if they can't get partly out of the water now and again to rest and breathe with their growing lungs. The weeds like Anacharis will help, if you let the Anacharis float. In fact, I recommend floating Anacharis even if you use no other plants.
This other tank should be no more than 1/2 full, and should have a secure top screen, help for the frogs to crawl out onto something dry, plus a decent amount of land you'd be comfortable putting insects on and not having them immediately go into the water.
If you really want to keep Pacific Tree Frogs for any length of time, however, it's a fair bit of work. Seriously consider releases once the front legs form, and before full transformation!
If you are determined to keep frogs, or must keep them for a while, you'll need a full on wet/dry tank to put the tadpoles in once their tails begin shrinking. It has to have biological or under-gravel filtration (we transferred in fully active Jungle Dirt Magnets), and land that spans half of the tank (half going side-side is better than the back half in our experience).
After some abortive designs, we built "Margaritavile" using a 50 gallon acrylic tank loaned by a friend, with twin Jungle Dirt Magnet filters, floating Anacharis, and a "loft" built using PVC piping to create a platform skeleton, plus "egg crate" plastic used for fluorescent light grates that's wrapped in plastic screen as a base for the land. Redwood chips baked for 20 minutes at 300 degrees and allowed to cool form the substrate, and UNDYED moss on top plus some rocks forms the land, with other things added and lots of hiding places. It was a day's worth of work, and in retrospect I'd add a floating "Turtle Log" as well.
We also had to have Rep-Cal's calcium supplement and Herptivite added to the insects to ensure adequate nutrition (use funnel over narrow jar, shake flies in, add small amounts of supplement, shake pour out onto small screen placed over catch for supplement dust, tap screening over tank to introduce flies), and eventually needed to buy significant quantities of mail-order wingless fruit flies, then crickets in bulk (all of which must be dusted if you're keeping frogs for more than a week).
See our April 2008 follow-up for more, written after we had needed to keep many of the frogs for a while, but had managed to let about 180 or so go. It includes frog care tips, cautions, and what to look for when releasing your frogs.
Good luck! Readers with further suggestions, tips, recommendations et. al. can use the comments section to add them....
Marc and I have something of a debate going on in another thread about the role of Sparta. Rather than post another comment on a thread that's supposed to be about scientific method and global warming I figured I'd just start a new one. I hope Marc doesn't mind.
I'm also not sure that we really disagree all that much. I just think our purposes in looking at the Spartan culture are very different. Many people have regarded Sparta as an admirable example of citizenship, and since it's a culture centered on the virtue of honor it's quite possible that they got that virtue right. Plato thought so, as have many others. But let me carry on by responding directly to Marc, not only to express my disagreement but to dispel some confusion and misunderstanding:
A.L.: ...and Sparta would have stood as a model of a republic, in which politics were more complex - a mix of hereditary, geriatric, and democratic (two hereditary kings, a council of elders, and elected Ephors). As noted above, the Founders looked to Sparta as an example of an early Republic.
It would be easy for me to point out that nearly all totalitarian states make some sort of obligatory nod toward liberalism, and even democracy. Consider modern Iran, for instance. And I'd agree that Sparta isn't a simple case, nor is totalitarianism as easy to define as, say, tyranny. Moreover, since it's a culture founded on the idea of honor Spartans very well may have gotten their priorities in order with regard to that value. Again, my purpose isn't really to condemn the Spartans or to denigrate them, although I'm definitely not triumphalist about their contribution. My purpose is to point out the nature (and historical length) of the struggle between the totalitarian and the liberal mentality or orientation. It's nearly an insoluble dilemma. The best we may be able to do about the dilemma is to incorporate the best, and leave the rest. And I think that's what the Founders attempted to do.
So I think you're misstating things a bit when you call Sparta a tyranny. And I'd love to get pointed to the VDH piece...
I think I've been fairly clear in stating that Sparta is not properly designated as a tyranny. I've said as much both in this thread and on Marc's below about The 300 (and on my own blog, years ago). There's an important distinction to be made here, and I don't see how we can get to the meat of this issue without understanding that distinction.
As I said elsewhere the Greeks (Plato, esp) didn't designate Sparta a tyranny. He called it a "Timocracy" (not a Republic), which is to say it was a society or culture centered on the virtue of honor. There was no designation in the classical world for totalitarianism since it's a form of governance that didn't exist outside of this one rudimentary example. It's only in retrospect, with the history and lessons of the 20th Century behind us (and as detailed in Hannah Arendt's classic treatise On Totalitarianism), that we're able to identify Sparta as an early, and almost completely isolated, example of primitive totalitarianism. But I think the designation fits, and is instructive. It helps us deal with the dilemma, in part by demonstrating that it's an orientation that's very competitive with liberalism. And the designation of Sparta as an Ummah fits very well into Ernest Gellner's typology of virtue-centered (and hence totalitarian directed) versus procedural/legal-rational societies in The Conditions of Liberty: Civil Society and It's Rivals.
I saw The 300 last night with some friends, and was not impressed. I think the graphics were, to say the least, unfortunate. They turned what was a noble episode into something of a laughing stock. I don't think I've ever seen a sillier or more unintentionally hilarious interpretation of history. And what was that effeminate multi-culti giant Xerxes, putting is big paws on Leonidas' shoulders during their negotiation scene, supposed to be about? Are we actually supposed to believe this and other graphic liberties (such as charging rhino three times the size of an African White Rhino, felled by a hand-thrown spear) was inspired by anything other than the cocaine-addled Hollywood culture? This was worse than a cartoon, and it was a completely unnecessary portrayal. It even went so far as to borrow images from Christian iconography (borrowing from the Grunwald Crucifixion painting) in an attempt to infuse it's so-called message with some subliminal legitimacy. If VDH really did consult on this travesty in more than a passing way we ought to be ashamed. (But frankly I doubt that he was more than a superficial consultant.)
Note also that there was not one single mention of the subjugation of the Helots, or the practice of compulsory night death squads required to keep the Helots from developing any leadership that might challenge the Spartans. The Spartans didn't cut their warrior teeth fighting wolves. They were fighting and stalking humans. Yes even the Athenians had slaves, and their society rested to a certain extent on that institution. But no other society besides the Spartans practiced the systematic and institutionalized enslavement of a fellow Greek people. And their society simply couldn't have existed without that dominance, a a weakness the Thebans recognized and exploited to ultimately defeat and destroy the Spartan culture.
The John Wayne version of The Alamo was a much better movie on this theme, in my opinion.
My own personal take is that Thermopylae really didn't need all his silly and ahistorical embellishment to be impressive. And the embellishment did nothing but undermine the drama and nobility of the story.
For those interested, Victor Davis Hanson wrote a fairly objective book on the Peloponnesian War and the rivalry between Sparta and Athens that paints both as cautionary tales: A War Like No Other. The city-state that came out looking the best in that narrative was Thebes. Perhaps we should pay some attention to that example.
There's a great Joseph Wilson chronology over at the 'Sweetness and Light' blog...definitely worth a read, even if you don't accept his premise (that Wilson himself outed his wife). It does place Wilson's views in an interesting arc, however...
Wretchard has a couple of posts up here and here, about a case being made by a fellow named Hulme (resemblance to "Hume" is purely ironic), in support of the Global Warming thesis. It involves something called "post-normal science", a term that appears to be a bastardization (or perhaps an ambitious extension) of Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn's notion, as you might recall, was that "normal science" is interrupted by paradigm shifts. However Kuhn did have the sense to claim that these shifts were the result of an inability of the conventional theory to deal convincingly with "anomalies". So, basically, we're still within the realm of searching for a truth that isn't simply a social construction (although Kuhn wasn't clear about this until some time after his book was published).
The argument of the "post-normalists" in the field of Global Warming, is therefore that we need to accept its reality even if we can't prove it. As Wretchard points out, this turns a scientific question into a political one. While I agree with that, I think that we're also now confronted with a political dilemma that isn't easily resolved, unless "the people" simply become much wiser than our class of political elites is currently willing to assume. The conventional political wisdom is that no one ever lost an election by underestimating the electorate. But you can judge for yourself how true, or how reassuring, that is.
From a scientific standpoint there is no need to appeal to something called "post normal science" in order to deal effectively with this kind of situation since both global warming and, ironically perhaps, the existence of a WMD program on the part of Iraq or Iran, are "Type II" situations, rather than the more typical "Type I" phenomenon. (In some disciplines they call these Alpha and Beta conditions or hypotheses, but the sense is the same.)
There's nothing abnormal, post-normal, or radical about adopting a Type II approach to an hypothesis test. It's simply dictated by the consequences of assuming the null, when it's actually false. If those consequences are totally unacceptable then you assume instead that the null is false (that WMD exist, or that global warming is real), set a confidence threshold, and then proceed to gather evidence that falsifies that assumption. If you can't pass the threshold then the hypothesis stands. (Technically you make global warming or WMD the null, instead of assuming they don't exist, but you get the idea.)
Another situation where such a process would be appropriate involves the presumption of guilt for a mass terrorist, a situation with which our court system has yet to come to grips. The presumption of innocence, in other words, is not appropriate if the consequence of a presumption of innocence is that thousands, or tens of thousands, of people die. In that sense the criminal justice system that evolved through the common law hasn't evolved to the point of an appropriate method. We're still struggling with it.
The only thing even remotely "non-normal" about Type II situations is that they're relatively scarce, so we're not familiar with them in everyday life. In addition, they're a political nightmare, because if you proceed to gather evidence that your assumption of guilt is false while most people are still making the assumption of innocence, you appear to be helping the defense by undermining your own case rather than proving it. Both our court system and our political systems are adversarial. I suspect this is why politicians, such as the Bush administration in the run up to the Iraq War and Al Gore's "inconvenient truth" are incapable of following a Type II methodology to the letter.
And that's the real dilemma: How to make following a Type II method politically and legally feasible. As a general rule what we tend to do instead is to mix the two approaches (Hans Blix), which ends up as the worst of all possible approaches, because it virtually guarantees that you can't optimize for desirable outcomes.
"Post-normal Science" is another term for "superstition", but understanding that doesn't necessarily resolve the dilemmas for us.
Update: I wasn't sure it still existed, but Rusty Shackleford has a pretty good discussion of Type I and Type II Errors. Some of the internal links to illustrations are broken because it's on his old blogspot archive. I've discussed this issue before in The Alpha and Beta of Threat.
Kevin Drum has gently chided me for not reading and respecting Matt Yglesias more, since he's a very smart guy. Since I respect Kevin, and respect is transitive, I started reading Matt again. (we have a history...)
My first reaction was to his post on "patriotism." Not positive.
But we'll keep going, I say...and then I get to his casual post on the 2nd Amendment. Now there are all kinds of people who disagree with me about guns. I get it, and think there are good and smart arguments to have about gun policy. Matt & I would probably disagree about many (but not all) issues in gun policy.
But...that's not my problem.
Matt's post says:
Julian Sanchez says the "collective right" interpretation of the second amendment doesn't make sense. And, indeed, it doesn't really. But then again, neither does the "individual right" reading which would leave the right of individuals to buy anti-tank missiles and nuclear bombs "shall not be infringed." The clearest thing about the text, after all, is that it says nothing whatsoever about "handguns" -- the word is "arms" so whatever our right to arms is, that's a right to arms not to puny guns.
Like much of the constitution, the second amendment turns out, upon examination, to be an ambiguously worded political compromise written hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Obviously, if you were going to start over from scratch nobody would write it that way.
Well, because y'know, we're so effing much smarter than people like Jefferson, Madison, and Franklin.
How do people like this put t-shirts on? I mean with their big heads and all?
So, Kevin, I'm afraid I'm going to have to take a pass on Mr. Yglesias for another year or so. He's either far too smart or far too immature to hold my interest.
The comments thread there is interesting, though.
Apologies in advance for this...
Or flog, in this case (as in flogging, or selling) - I've ordered a new 2007 Triumph Tiger and want to sell my 2004 KTM 950 Adventure; I'm a wuss and just don't have the time to adventure ride, and I think the Tiger will be a better commuter. (If you don't know what these are, that's OK - you aren't likely to be interested!!)
Drop me a note if you are interested or know someone who might be.
Kevin aptly sums up the article:
Hirsh's piece is long and worth reading completely. He's actually making one of the most difficult kinds of argument of all, an argument that the current system is fine and doesn't really need big changes. The UN is flawed but workable. Muscular diplomacy produces results. Liberal internationalism as practiced by FDR, Eisenhower, Reagan, and Clinton is still workable, even (or maybe especially) in a post-9/11 world.
It's true that the system could use some serious fixing up. But are we to imagine that our leaders have learned nothing worthwhile about how to govern international affairs in the nearly 2,500 years since the Peloponnesian War? In truth, American presidents have been merging idealism and realism in practice - some deftly, some not - at least since Woodrow Wilson. Cast your mind back six years, to the relatively quiet end of the Clinton administration. America presided over a flawed but remarkably functioning global community, one that we ourselves had had the biggest hand in creating. The founding of the UN in 1945, with its Security Council designed around Roosevelt's Four Policemen concept - the United States, Russia, Britain, and China each overseeing stability in their regions - was itself a major attempt to combine idealist international law with realist armed might. And it was created as a conscious effort to fix Woodrow Wilson's mistakes with the League of Nations. Progress! And after a shaky start, Clinton used that system deftly to stop a civil war in Bosnia, end ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, and usher China into the WTO.
First, end the war on terror. Just declare it over. It is a historical cul-de-sac, an ill-defined conflict without prospect of end on the terms Bush has laid out. Having gradually expanded his definition of the war on terror to include all Islamic "extremists," among them Hezbollah, Hamas, and radical political groups yet unborn, Bush has plainly condemned us to a permanent war - and one in which we are all but alone, since no one else agrees on such a broadly defined enemy. So let's replace the war on terror with the kind of coordinated effort that the fight always should have entailed: a hybrid covert-war-and-criminal-roundup confined to al-Qaeda and its spawn, conducted with deep intelligence and special forces cooperation among states within the international system. Only if the next president focuses narrowly on true transnational terrorism, and wins back all the natural allies we've lost, can he or she finally achieve America's goal of making the tolerance of 9/11-style acts as anathema to the international community as support of slavery. No state, no matter how marginal, would dare harbor al-Qaeda-type groups any longer, or even be able to look away if the terrorists tried to settle within its borders. This is the only way to finish off al-Qaeda once and for all.
Raw meat to much of this crowd, but let me take a moment to speak directly to the hawks. You'd better get used to this, and come up with some kind of strategy for dealing with it. The political base within the US (and other countries) for offensive action in the WoT is pretty much exhausted. On the other hand, the failure of the Democrats to have any kind of integrated, sensible response to the issues underlying the WoT hampers them severely - that's why Guliani does well in the polls when it ought to be a blowout by the Democrats.
Hirsch's article is critical of Obama's core foreign policy team, Samantha Power (author of "A Problem From Hell") and Anthony Lake, both of whom talk about reimagining the international relations mechanisms of the world, and suggests that things were - pretty much OK - until Bush came along.
I keep getting stuck on one or two pesky little problems. That wonderful collection of international organizations - didn't work so well when Yugoslavia collapsed, did it? it wasn't until France and the UK decided to act unilaterally - with the strong support of the US - than anything was done.
And the UN has done - exactly what - in the face of a worldwide Islamist movement that has thrown up a series of expansionist and unspeakably violent terrorist groups?
Now Hirsch would disagree; he doesn't see Black September, Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qaeda and the variety of other splinter groups active from Africa to the Philippines as common actors in a worldwide movement that creates new gangs almost as fast as old ones are killed or captured, he sees them as "... small, fractious terror group[s]...".
So I'll disagree with Hirsch's core premise; that the international system has worked well for the last 40 years. The failure to resolve issues in Yugoslavia; the failure to resolve issues between Israel and Palestine; the failure to resolve issues of genocide in Darfur and Zimbabwe - these aren't any kind of success I want any part of. The fact is that Clinton's approach to Islamic terrorism was remarkably effective - he found and arrested a number of terrorists. And the movement grew is stature, power, and deadliness all the same.
So no thank you, Mr. Hirch, I'll welcome some changes in the international system, and the fact that Obama is being led by people who propose them is a feature, not a bug.
Having said, that I'll make two followon points.
First, that it's not likely that we'll see a 'For Sale' sign on the UN headquarters any time soon. The reality is that institutions will change, but they will also persist. And as an interesting note, I'll suggest that it may well be that one of the drivers of badly-needed institutional change may well be none other than - Cowboy George W Bush. Having broke the norms and walked away having said, "Frankly, I don't give a damn..." everyone - both within and outside the US - seems anxious to get us back in our seat. That may be a good thing, and it may be something Bush can manage (and is, as he is managing the international coalition against Iran extraordinary well), or something for the next President to pick up.
...Ronald Reagan, Bush's putative model, acted more like Ike once he found his footing in office. People mainly remember the "evil empire" rhetoric from his first term and the overreaching of Iran-Contra from his second. What they forget is that Reagan outraged his right-wing China lobby by phasing out arms sales to Taiwan in 1982, and that he angered anti-Soviet hard-liners by moving from rhetorical brinkmanship to genuine negotiations with the Kremlin (prompting none other than Richard Perle to resign in protest in 1987).
...but isn't that the same thing that Bush is doing now? (Hirsch again)
The best proof of how far overboard Bush went in his first term is how much he's retreating from those extreme policies, and re-embracing the international system, as he enters the final two years of his presidency. Many of the neocon ideologues of the first term are gone, or marginalized. Bush's current effort to isolate nuclear-minded Iran - including a very effective policy of asphyxiating Iran's economy by pressuring international banks into cutting off dealings with it - depends entirely on the UN Security Council resolution passed last year, which legitimizes sanctions. And in mid-February, the president endorsed a fuel-for-nukes accord with North Korea, under which Pyongyang will immediately get 50,000 tons of emergency fuel oil with nearly a million more tons to come in return for shutting down its nuclear program. The agreement is plainly a betrayal of the administration's previous principled stand against the "nuclear blackmail" that it accused Bill Clinton of succumbing to, and represents a 180-degree turnabout from Bush's previous refusal to negotiate with a regime he viewed as illegitimate - so much so that its fiercest critic was none other than John Bolton, who had just resigned as UN ambassador. And it reportedly took the White House's most senior neocon, Elliott Abrams, by surprise. Former senior administration members told me the pact could have been concluded only because several key hard-liners - including Rumsfeld and Bolton - had left, and because Cheney's influence had waned.
I'll revisit this issue in a year or so.
And finally, to get a real sesne of how I feel about the international institutions Hirsch loves so well, I'd suggest that you go rent Terry Gilliam's brilliant movie 'Munchausen'. Set in a proxy Vienna, as the Turk cannonades the city and prepres to sack it, the Administrator ('First Citizen' as I recall) Horatio Jackson rules with the iron hand of reason and law,and with little care for the reality around him.
...you have to see it, really. I don't have time to transcribe his better speeches (although if any readers want to, I'd be happy to post them). But here's one -- Jackson and the Sultan are negotiating, as they do every week.
Sultan: What about the virgins?
Horatio Jackson: Sultan, forget about the virgins! We're out of virgins!
Wow. You wander around message boards when suddenly you happen upon the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything:
Again, the solution is a simple 2-step process:
1.- Politically, cut ties with Israel; that includes the cash. Leave the ME.
2.- Economically, Find a substitute for ME oil. Either find a substitute for fossil fuel altogether, or, heck, a few million bucks, and we could bribe the Mexican government into turning the Mexican oil production to U.S. enterprises. May even end up solving the immigration problem that way.
That's it. That solves OUR problem.
That's it. A simple 2-step process.
Probably cures cancer and picks the next fifty Super Bowl champions correctly, too.
So easy, even a caveman could do it. In step 3, we buy the world a puppy.
--cross-posted by Murdoc, who remains skeptical.
I want to get on this issue before the other liberal blogs do...
...Milblogger BlackFive has made much of his identity as a Chicago Irishman. In an uncharacteristic slip, today he posted a photograph of the contents of his Irish PalmPilot, in which he made an uncharacteristic error that must force us all to challenge his identity.
Sorry, "Matt", but I know Irishmen, and you're no Irishman. A true Irishman would have written "Get MORE beer".
Further investigation to follow...
From India's point of view, a firm development agreement that helps finance Russia's next-generation plane is one way to restrict Russian cooperation with China along similar lines. See Vijiander K Thakur's "Understanding IAF interest in the MiG fifth generation fighter" for more on the proposal to cooperate with MiG. Even so, India's procurement history is full of dead-ends and "almost weres" - which is why the March 1, 2007 "Advanced Combat Aircraft" release from India's Minister of State for Defence Production Shri Rao Inderjit Singh means very little at this point:
"The co-development of a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft has been identified as an important area of cooperation between the Indian and Russian governments. Technical discussions to work out the details are in progress. Efforts are on for negotiations and finalization of the draft Inter-Governmental Agreement in this regard."
Which may, or may not, come to funded fruition via Indo-Russian cooperation on a MiG 1.44 (if indeed it was a real project?) or "I-21" type aircraft. Especially given the cost pressures on India's limited defense budget and pressing need to refurbish its existing fleet, modernize its fighters via the MRCA competition, bring the Tejas LCA on line to replace its MiG-21s, and add new platforms to patrol India's vital sea lanes, fulfill naval fighter needs, upgrade its transport aircraft fleet, and extend the IAF's reach. Meanwhile, India's SU-30MKIs remain one of the best 4th generation aircraft in the world, with a comfortable edge over regional rivals, good growth prospects, and superiority over most current and planned US aircraft as well.
Matt Stoller has thoughtfully provided a list of the 'Blue Dog' Democrats who are not firmly on board with Pelosi's micromanagement of the war. He calls them 'saboteurs'. I call them 'Honorable Congressmember' in the emails I'm sending them.
I bet a few encouraging letters from you folks might just help keep them on the right side.Michael Arcuri (NY-24)
Matt Yglesias leverages the film 'the 300' to explain that it's based on our sympathy for all people who fight invading empires.
When you see it in a movie that aims to make the defenders out to be heroes, everyone sympathizes with this attitude. It's called "patriotism," it's called "nationalism" and it's the deadly enemy of empire-builders everywhere. People, simply put, don't enjoy submitting to foreign domination, even to foreign domination that presents itself as well-intentioned -- even to foreign domination that is in fact well-intentioned. Bush says America is merely midwifing the birth of a world of liberty, that "freedom is the Almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world," and American power merely God's servant. Xerxes makes it simpler and says he literally is a God. The movie even gives him a more-than-human voice to prove the point.
I probably would have let this pass except for the scare quotes around "patriotism" and "nationalism", and my belief that this is a handy hook to hang an important point from. Yglesias actually makes a useful (and nuanced) point, and his post is worth reading - I'll try and write about it tomorrow when I talk more about Tom Friedman - but he's someone who seems incapable of saying patriotism without scare quotes, and without making the followup point that there are other patriotisms and that - like being a fan of a NFL team - they are equivalent.
What's missing from Matt's (actually nuanced) argument is one simple point; the Spartans are us - they are, literally, among the ancestors of this rickety enterprise we all know as Western Civilization, and so - beyond our affinity for their heroism, or their connection to the notion of freedom (for landowning nobles, at least) - we owe them a debt of patrimony.
Schaar from "On Patriotism" (yes, I know, I keep coming back to him..)
To be a patriot is to have a patrimony; or, perhaps more accurately, the patriot is one who is grateful for a legacy and recognizes that the legacy makes him a debtor. There is a whole way of being in the world, captured best by the word reverence, which defines life by its debts; one is what one owes, what one acknowledges as a rightful debt or obligation. The patriot moves within that mentality. The gift of land, people, language, gods memories, and customs, which is the patrimony of the patriot, defines what he or she is. Patrimony is mixed with person; the two are barely separable. The very tone and rhythm of a life, the shapes of perception, the texture of its homes and fears come from membership in a territorially rooted group. The conscious patriot is one who feels deeply indebted for these gifts, grateful to the people and places through which they come, and determined to defend the legacy against enemies and pass it unspoiled to those who will come after.
The reality is that the Persian Wars were one of the critical - and arguably the earliest recorded - 'crossroads' that were passed to bring us to this place. And that the battle of Thermopylae was a critical battle in winning that war. And so we owe them.
This notion of debt is personalized pretty neatly in Bruce Webster's neat post.
And because of that I think that it's - charitably - lame to criticize the notion that we should identify closely with the Spartans.
And not by virtue of a 'Blut und Volk' notion of ancestry, but because the cultural and political edifice we belong to had its roots in Greece, and I believe in Lincoln's expression of the unique American patriotism that attaches us not to land or ancestry, but to that culture and political enterprise.
And on that note, I'll suggest that Yglesias, who once set out his views on the American Revolution:
The real point, though, is this: Not be an left-wing America-hater about it all, or to deny that our Founders had some legitimate grievances* but in retrospect wouldn't America and the world both be better off if the USA had remained more closely associated with the British Empire and her Commonwealth? After all, if the erstwhile "greatest generation" had gotten in on the Hitler-fighting action at the same time as Canada and Australia did, a whole lot of trouble could have been avoided. See also World War One.
In that light, it seems to me that while the Revolution should not be condemned, it is something to be regretted: a failure of Imperial policy and an inability of leaders on both sides of the Atlantic to work out some thorny governance and burden-sharing issues. Not much of an occasion for fireworks.
...predictably believes that the US can't operate outside the structures of international agreements and laws.
Part of me is frustrated by this, and another has to acknowledge that he has something.
I just finished Thomas Friedman's collection of columns - Longitudes and Attitudes - on the plane coming back from Las Vegas, and I'll have to confess myself an unabashed Friedmanite (not enough to pay the New York Times...), and to acknowledge that my thinly-spread discomfort with Bush's political eptitude is fully expressed in Friedman's columns, and that Friedman anticipated that the long, arduous nation-building exercise in Iraq would require international legitimacy.
ENGLAND. THE YEAR, 2007.
My name is Adil. I have been born and raised among dutiful and obedient Muslims, and I aim to misbehave.
Already I have fallen from grace. I am no longer one of them, a reason sufficient for their delicately-placed wrath to have me consigned, in this world and the next, to the most grievous of penalties; for what else should the reward be for those who behave like me, they would say if they knew, but disgrace in this life? So no matter where I go in the realms of Islam, I am a hidden traitor to my people, a renegade without honour to be executed. And for them to know of my apostasy is to know of their fear.
Still, now and again I silently walk among the Muslim flock, to observe their incessant bleating and guilty straying, and see how readily they run to the call of their watchful masters, appointees of God who oversee the enjoining of what is good and the forbidding of what is not. And they remind the herd that He is not unmindful of what they do.
Neither am I.
IT IS RAINING. Amid the leaf-green patches and high-rise suburbia, the Muslim flock is on the move. As the call to Friday prayers wafts through the doors of the central mosque, an unholy alliance of men walks up the steps and into its entrance. As they remove and shelve their footwear in the foyer, their bland shalwar kameezes, prayer caps, and fistfuls of scraggly hair growth mingle and compete with exaggerated "bomber" jackets, "condom" hats, and goatee beards. But women, all of whom are safely tucked into hijabs and niqabs, move to an unobtrusive side entrance of the mosque.
The car park nearby is, as is usually the case, a scene of confusion. The non-Muslim policeman on duty is feeling the pressure. Muslims in this community, it appears, do not know how to park their cars, or at least, not around each other. Out of necessity, the ground of the car park itself is not a flat, smooth tarmac: it consists entirely of small, but sizeable, jagged rocks that pre-emptively puncture the ambitions of opportunistic speeders, who would care to exhibit the marvels of their machines. For the more likely that young, fertile, non-Muslim women live and reside in a vicinity, the greater are the efforts invested into displaying male plummage.
But there are males who are aware that sabotaging this holy day in the service of reproductive pursuits is not usually the same as siding with God. As their souped-up, low-slung cars cruise into this arena that is a car park under heavy siege, some of them dutifully decide that it is now appropriate, perhaps, to stop pumping out hip-hop and bhangra. And when the inhabitants of these vehicles finally emerge, together they look like an odd lot. Most conform to the usual urban "rude-boy" stereotype, given how obvious their efforts are in trying to appear "accidentally" attractive; the rest look as if they have just returned from a pilgrimage to Mecca: moustaches are trimmed, beards are not, and the trousers of their long, white jilbabs are jacked above the ankles.
It has long been thus: welcome to this outpost of Islamic civilisation, a colony where the stridency of the faithful collides with vogues that were once confined to the underclass of non-Muslim British society. Muhammad is not just the newest, and the final, of God's prophets; Muhammad is the newest, and the final, of the bling-bling superstars. Since the Rushdie Affair, and more recently the Cartoon jihad, even the most irreligious of the street-savvy Muslim rude-boys have come to know of the new universal limits: nobody disses Mo, the Final Gangster of all time and a Mercy to all the worlds.
Such are the strong sensibilities of those Muslims who are deprived of all high culture, and have only a very nominal sense of their own religious background. If you drew Muhammad sporting gold jewellery, a tailor-made condom hat, a goatee, wraparound orange shades, and tell him to strike a pose, they will not be amused. They will not giggle at how "hard" the prophet is. And, to paraphrase from the movie Pulp Fiction, they will go jahiliyya on your ass. Mo's turf is the entire planet, and his homeboys, which range from imams to the most ridiculous of their underclass congregants, are busy trying to strut their stuff on it.
And many are succeeding.
AS I WALK into the prayer hall of the mosque, the signs of this being a place for worship are clear: the carpets are arranged in the direction of Mecca, stacks of Korans line the shelves, prayer beads swing from cupboard handles, and an imam is addressing his congregation with a typical sermon, a tedious khutbah admonishing them all and steadfastly calling them to the way of God. By now, the mosque is packed.
Having once belonged to the ranks of believers, I have always understood that heartfelt prayer is to a man's turbulent mind what water is to a flame. For some people, prayer encourages inner tranquillity and peace, and subdues their seething waves of anger, the fiery discontent that simmers away in their heart. And this is an end in itself for some faiths. Not so for Islam: congregational prayer has always been preferred over individual worship; prayer is just one step on the pathway to mobilising human action within a community. The mosque is more than just a Muslim church; it is like the equivalent of the old Roman forums.
As such, there is little in the way of serenity to be found in mosques. Instead, other things occupy the minds of these congregants. After the prayers, and once the imam's appeal to God to aid the Muslim "resistance" in Palestine, Iraq, Chechnya, Afghanistan and so on, ad nauseum, is finally over, I walk over to near where a discussion in Urdu is taking place among some men, including the imam. They are talking about how the police apparently like causing their community trouble.
Not so long ago, the area nearby the central mosque was swamped with media reporters and photographers, after terror arrests had been made of some Muslim men living in the vicinity, men who were thought to have been plotting to kidnap a British Muslim soldier and behead him as punishment for aiding the "dirty kuffar". The embarrassment of the community and its leaders was palpable. The chairman of the mosque tried to take the mature line during the whole fray and declared that the raids were obviously part of a government conspiracy to make upstanding, well-respected, and peace-loving Muslims look bad. And the media, which was promptly dubbed by the community as an arm of an anti-Islamic war machine, searched in vain for reasonable concerns coming from within about radical Muslims.
The press did encounter some other interesting things however. One was a sign of the importance attached to good manners by Muslims in the community, as seen in one press photo: a few women, one of whom is pushing her child's buggy, are walking down the street. All are clad in dark niqabs. One of these upstanding, peace-loving Muslim women, who has spectacles jutting out in front of the slit that allows her eyes to peek through, proceeds to salute the flood of press and photographers by sticking two fingers up at them.
I WANT TO ask the imam of this mosque something. Incompetents like him sometimes amuse me. I get my chance when the discussion group finally disperses and he steps away towards the doors.
"Assalaamu Alaikum", I say. I smile and hold out my hand.
"Wa-alaikum salaam" he replies. He shakes my hand, but only by tentatively gripping my fingers, not the palm. Arrogant sod.
"I'm sorry to bother you, but I'd like your advice on a couple of things, if that's okay."
He is not looking at me. He seems rather distracted by the shape of the door he was just heading towards.
"Please be quick. I am in rush."
Okay. I begin with a random question.
"My professor says that natural selection is the only process that generates life on this earth. What does Islam have to say about this?"
He looks at me for a few seconds, puzzled. "Evolution? Evolution?" he asks. I nod.
"Yaar, it is not allowed. All mad dreams." He waves his hand dismissively.
"Okay, I'll look into that. The other thing is that Hizb-ut-Tahrir has been tellling me to join their group to implement the caliphate. They say it's obligatory for me as a Muslim to join and help them to work towards this. What do I do? Are they right?
"Aray yaar, these kids. Small groups. No knowledge. Nothing."
"So what should I say to them?"
"But how are they wrong?"
He is tiring of this conversation.
"They are not knowing".
"They don't know what?"
"Uff, do not ask me such things".
But he walks off, with nary a salaam in the wind.
THE BELIEVERS ARE now feeling suitably chastised and worked up in equal measure, and they file out of the mosque. But there are those for whom the opportunity to chastise has only just begun. As worshippers leave the mosque, they are handed leaflets by Hizb-ut-Tahrir, leaflets that usually rail against an ongoing war against, apparently, Islam, as well as this and that obstacle to the implementation of the mighty khilafah, a universal Islamic state that is said to be the necessary solution given the group's lengthy diagnosis of the ills availing the Muslim world. Usually young, in their 20s and 30s, the supporters of the group are a waste of a generation. They mark out their territory in front of the mosque with a stall selling books and magazines, and their junior supporters, typically smartly suited and booted, coolly patrol the vicinity in search of unsuspecting Muslims who have not yet realised the potentials of their faith. The flyers and leaflets they hand out freely are all paid out of their pockets.
I walk over to the stall, where a few people are already talking animatedly. Or rather, the designated person looking after the stall is gesticulating energetically. He is not pleased. Your Muslim brothers and sisters are being massacred around the world by the West, he says. But there is a hint of embarassment in the questioner's face at being subjected to such an unexpected display of emotion. No matter how privately posed a question on world affairs may be, it is a religious obligation for the Hizb-ut-Tahrir speaker to spread word of the injustices perpetrated against Muslims far and wide. Any conversation is explored for opportunities for howling oratory. But what is also clear from this spectacle is that senior members of the group are carefully observing the member's performance from the sidelines. And he knows it.
After a while, the man with the question purchases some literature and moves on. I pretend to be looking at a book entitled "The Economic System of Islam". The guy in charge of the stall now turns his attention to me. He seems quite aware that I was in earshot of his little rehearsed monologue.
"Assalaamu Alaikum, brother", he says.
"Wa-alaikum salaam", I reply.
He says nothing, but keeps looking at me expectantly.
"So", I say, smiling.
"Brother, have you been given one of these leaflets?" He holds out one for me to take. I already have one. His accent is a slurred English, although he is clearly more articulate than the imam. I have had many run-ins with suburban mujahideen such as these elsewhere, and I know their type well.
"Actually, no", I lie. "So, what's a khilafah? What does it look like?".
He is pleased at the question, but before answering he quickly glances around to gauge earshot potential. He already knows his seniors are listening.
"Brother, the Islamic khilafah is the Islamic State. It was destroyed in 1924, and ruling by Islam in the state and society ceased", he says emphasising the last word. "Ruling by Islam ceased when the khilafah was destroyed by corrupt rulers who were agents of the kuffar [infidels]".
"Brother, the implementing of the khilafah is a great obligation upon each and every Muslim. It is haram [forbidden] to remain for more than three days without a pledge to a khaleefah being on your neck. It is haram to rule by anything other than Islam and to stay silent about the implementation of kufr laws over us".
His voice is carrying across the courtyard and he promptly shifts to third-person.
"Due to this, Muslims all over the world are sinful in the sight of Allah and they will all receive punishment except those who involve themselves in establishing the khilafah and restore the ruling by that which Allah has revealed. The sin will not be lifted from their necks until the khilafah is established, and whosoever dies without a bay'ah [oath of allegiance to a would-be khaleefah] on his neck will die the death of jahiliyyah [ignorance]."
As Americans are fond of saying: like, whoa.
"So, it is obligatory for every Muslim to help establish the khilafah?", I ask.
"Yes, brother". He looks at me pointedly. "The daleel [evidence] is laid out in the Koran and the Sunnah, and any Muslim who refuses to help establish the khilafah has committed a clear act of kufr and this takes them outside the fold of Islam".
His mention of apostasy is pregnant with implications of punishment by death. And by this time, more of his colleagues are gathering around to listen to this exchange.
"So, you're basically saying: it's obligatory for every Muslim to be subject to all the laws and customs of Islam but the only way for this to come about is by establishing the khilafah, right?"
"Brother, it's not me who is saying this". He holds up a Koran. "Rather, this is God's command to each of us as laid out in the Koran and Sunnah. To be ruled by Islam is an obligation upon our necks. Establishing the khilafah is the only method for establishing Islam over our heads. Only in the presence of the khilafah can the laws of Islam exist and in its absence they are suspended. Brother, there is a very important, well-known Shari'ah principle that says: that which is necessary to achieve an obligation is itself an obligation".
Much of this explains why many of the Hizb-ut-Tahrir members I have met think themselves superior to those Muslims who are considerably more religious than themselves. If you happen to believe that you are already working towards the greatest obligation, that of establishing the khilafah, then all the other religious stuff can just, well, get in line.
"Isn't that principle illogical, though?", I reply. "That's like saying: It's obligatory to free slaves, so it's therefore obligatory to keep slaves so we can free them".
The area goes quiet. The man behind the stall is unsure of how to respond.
"Who's talking about slaves here, brother?"
This is the best response he can come up with?
"What is your name?" comes a voice from behind him. A fat man with spectacles steps forward.
"How is that relevant?"
"Because you do not have knowledge. You clearly need to gain knowledge. If you are going to ask such questions, you should discuss these matters in greater detail with us - in private".
It seems I have touched upon a criticism that his colleagues were not trained to publicly respond to.
"Actually, you haven't answered my original question", I reply.
"God's logic is not the same as your logic. These things cannot be understood unless one has understand the proofs as laid out in the Koran and Sunnah, and this means learning the process of extracting them, by first having knowledge of how one may reason about the manaat [reality] of the text".
He seems touchy.
"What's the difference between your version of Islam and that of this mosque's?", I ask.
"There are no versions of Islam. There is only one Islam, that of God and His Prophet. Who are you to be asking such questions?", he says.
THERE IS ACTUALLY not much difference between the "moderates" and Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Islamic teachings stipulate that if a Muslim ever happens to find himself in a position of power, no matter where he is, then there is a clear religious obligation upon him to implement the laws of Islam. That is what Muslims usually described as moderate or traditional believe. The main difference is that moderates believe that the establishing of Islamic Shari'ah is conditional, since it depends upon having a Muslim in power in the first place. If there is no Muslim in power, then there is no religious obligation to reach that point. But of course, they have every other desire to implement Shari'ah, given that Islam's own vision of itself has become locked such that it cannot pretend in any way to exist as a minority culture. Hizb-ut-Tahrir, on the other hand, believes there are no strings attached in the pursuit of power. The reign of Islam is religiously obligatory, and whatever leads to it also becomes automatically obligatory. Both are deeply anti-semitic, anti-women, homophobic, anti-science, and anti-freedom. They are dangerous movements and need to be combatted strenuously. Moderates and militants differ in degree, not in kind. One is not the solution to the other.
In fact, militant Islamists spend more marketing effort in distancing themselves from the moderates than vice-versa. The more militant a group is, the more effort they spend in delegitimising those who are less so. Hizb-ut-Tahrir markets itself as being heavily divergent from moderates, and constantly brings attention to what it sees as huge errors in the moderate position. While there is little of actual substance between the two, given the main difference is over a question of whether a certain principle is to be expressed conditionally or not, most Muslims have come to accept Hizb-ut-Tahrir's line that the differences to, and errors in, the moderates are huge.
Moderate imams and their colleagues therefore face a dilemma. On the one hand, they refuse to take on the ideology of radical Islamists for fear of looking incompetent to Muslims at large; on the other hand, by refusing to police the radicals the imams look incompetent to non-Muslims at large. The truth is that they are incompetent on both counts; radical Islamists and the not-so radical imams are not so terribly far apart in their aspirations. One seeks to advance their cultural supremacism in a clear-cut way by installing a universal Islamic state, and the other seeks to spread it diffusely, with weakest areas being targeted first. Differences between the two are mostly down to questions over methodology.
The solution adopted in the face of the dilemma is thus: Most Muslim leaders and communities attempt to alleviate their public incompetence by shifting the burden of action onto non-Muslims, claiming that unless they start acting responsibly by stop acting so "belligerently" towards Muslims, then "small groups with little knowledge" will flourish and be attracted towards extreme ideas. Indeed, the chairman of the mosque described previously has updated this argument of late: these extreme groups, which range from Hizb-ut-Tahrir to al-Qaeda, are all government conspiracies.
NOW I FEEL rather more uncomfortable than I did when I entered the mosque's vicinity. There are plenty of people milling around me, but there is also this group of unimpressed-looking men asking me who I am and what I am up to. The fat Hizb-ut-Tahrir man with spectacles is trying his best to be intimidating, but he seems unsure as to whether I'm buying it. I'm not.
"Let me ask you, what if it turns out to be true that those who were arrested last month actually were planning to murder that British Muslim soldier?", I ask.
"Astaghfirullah. Let me ask you, you call that kafir a Muslim? Let me ask you, where is the evidence that these well-respected, peace-loving community members have done wrong? Show me! People are supposed to be innocent until proved guilty, yet the kuffar accuse Muslims of being guilty through trial by media. The kuffar accuse us advocating a police state, yet try to silence Muslims so they can justify their foreign policy! Why? So they can get on with the butchering of Islam and abuses of Muslims across the world!" He jabs his finger violently in my direction. "You need to smell the coffee! Tell me, where do you stand? Do you support the harm done against this Muslim community?"
"I think you're hysterical", I say.
"Hysterical? Hysterical? What about our Muslim sisters and children in Chechnya, Iraq, Afghanistan? Tell me, do they have no right to be hysterical about their situation? Do you expect us all to just sit back and enjoy seeing our Muslim sisters being ripped of their honour at the dirty hands of the kuffar? Especially when an apostate aids the kuffar in abusing their dignity and livelihoods? Do you expect us to stay silent and instead dance to Bush and Blair's tune? Tell me!"
"You're misguided, aren't you?"
"This is a Muslim area. Get out", says one of his comrades.
"Actually, sunshine, this is my country."
Now several guys are facing me. Some step closer. But there are many people still in the vicinity.
"You would contemplate attacking me? For what? What do you think you can get away with in broad daylight?", I ask.
"I do not suffer apostates", the fat man says.
"You want to take over this country? Over my dead body".
He stares at me directly. His look is almost apologetic.
"Yes, exactly. That is the material point".
And they chuckle.
This article has been adapted from a book that Adil is currently writing.
Tariq Ramadan, the so-called "moderate" Islamic "intellectual", was briefly detained and charged for "insulting a public agent" on Sunday at Paris Roissy Charles de Gaulle International Airport, while in transit to London.
From informed police sources, we have learned that when Ramadan tried to enter a prohibited area, a young policewoman stopped him. He began shouting at her and was then taken into police custody; the officer filed a complaint against him.
While in custody, he admitted the offense and was ordered to appear before a criminal court of Bobigny on April 6. Tariq Ramadan faces up to 6 months of imprisonment and 7,500 Euros of penalty.
By Jean-Charles Brisard of the Terror Finance Blog
Sunday's suicide bombing in an Internet Cafe of Casablanca reflects the growing pressure of the Islamist and terrorist networks in Morocco. The ongoing investigation revealed that suicide bombers were planning larger scale attacks, confirming that the country could be the next target of a North African terrorist network under consolidation following the GSPC offensive in Algeria, causing 50 deaths since the beginning of the year and after violence involving GSPC members erupted in Tunisia in December and January.
The suicide bombing in Casablanca came three years after the Madrid bombings of March 11, 2004. It was also in a Cyber cafe where Moroccan authorities arrested last week in Casablanca a key leader of the GICM (Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group), Saad Houssaini, a veteran of Afghanistan and co-founder of the GICM, wanted since the Casablanca bombings of May 2003. Saad Houssaini was also connected to at least one of the Madrid bombers. According to Spanish Court records, in 1996, Hussaini formed in Valencia a radical Islamic group to plan terrorist attacks in Spain and Morocco along with three other activists, including Allekema Lamari. Lamari's remains were positively identified in the Leganes apartment were several 11M bombers blew themselves up after the attacks. DNA traces of Lamari were later recovered in a car used by the bombers to transport bombing devices on the morning of March 11, 2004. Saad Houssaini is also believed to be related to the 9/11 plot. According to the German authorities, he travelled from Istanbul to Karachi (under the name of Abdellah Hosayni) with Said Bahaji, an alleged member of the Hamburg cell, on September 3, 2001.
The arrest of Houssaini, who appeared as the rising figure among the jihadi groups in Morocco following the Casablanca bombings and the killing of Karim Al Mejjati, alleged mastermind of the Madrid bombings, in Saudi Arabia in April 2005, could have triggered the Sunday's bombing in Casablanca.
The bombing is a new indication of the growing threat posed by Al Qaeda affiliates in the region in an effort to reinforce and coordinate their actions under the umbrella organization of "Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb".
The fight against these networks has been active in Algeria and especially Morocco, where at least two separate terrorist networks have been dismantled over the last 6 months. Efforts have also intensified in Europe, where these networks have many supporters and where they are determined to export their violence. But if the European Intelligence and law-enforcement agencies have proven in the past their strong ability and efficiency in identifying terrorist threats and neutralizing terrorist networks, the European legal framework has failed to provide such efficient and preventive actions against the support networks of these groups.
The best example was provided last October, when a combined action of several European countries, including Italy and Switzerland, led to the arrest of several GSPC financial facilitators. The investigation uncovered that the cell has been able to transfer 1.3 million Euros via banks, 320,000 Euros in money transfers and thousands more via cash couriers to Algeria. Most of the cell members, including its leader Djamel Lounici, have already been identified in connection to terrorist networks as early as 1994. Some of them had already been indicted and condemned before being released in recent years. In one of these early warnings, a telephone intercept conducted in 1994 by the Italian authorities, cell members referred to Europe as a "paradise" where "there is no control whatsoever". A key member of the cell claimed that the European governments "pretend to be vigilant, but in the end they do nothing. They only try to impress people".
By Jean-Charles Brisard of the Terror Finance Blog
I tried, but couldn't improve on BBC Four's own headline for this story. [Correction: as some have noted below, it was "Channel Four" and not "BBC Four". (If you have Adobe Flash Player you can view the entire production here. I've been told this version is slightly out of sync, but still watchable.) I'm not sure why this expose' hasn't been propagated and discussed more in American blogs (let alone media), but the documentary is devastating to the hegemony of the global warming case. It turns out there's a fairly large contingent of environmental scientists who think Al Gore has it backwards--that CO2 ramps follow, rather than lead, warming.
It isn't exactly clear which side has things right, but the fact that the "inconvenient truth" advocates seem to believe there's no possible counter argument suggests that, not only have they hitched their wagons to some questionable science, but that they're employing the tried and true expedient of an ideological shibboleth to guard against the possibility that they might be seen as, well you know, wrong.
Suspicions about "global warming" are increasing, not only among advocates for corporate interests, but also among environmental scientists and advocates for third world development. One of the most coherent of objections, voiced by The Belmont Club is that an increase in unemployment in the third world could amplify "subsistence farming", a vastly more inefficient system of resource utilization than plain old development.
I'm at the Corante/Shared Insights 'Community 2.0' conference in Las Vegas, and having an interesting time hanging and meeting the various figures in the Web 2.0 world.
There's an interesting intersection developing between my professional and blogging life developing here.
I've talked for a long time about the political implications of the kinds of 'emergent management' which is represented by the kind of projects these people are engaged in growing. It's also highly relevant to the issues important to the Winds audience, as John Robb points out in his latest post at Global Guerrillas.
Now I'll disagree with some of the more extreme evangelists here in Vegas who believe that everything in business will be dissolved into a soup of community, just as I'll disagree with Robb when he says that the guerilla 'Bazaar of Violence' poses almost insurmountable challenges to traditional states. What I argue will happen is that the Web 2.0 challenge to major businesses - like newspapers - is that newspapers share will decline enough that they can no longer act as a monopoly in setting prices for ads.
Similarly, states will see that their monopoly on legitimacy will be challenged, and states with weak legitimacy will find themselves declining as they can't maintain the level of legitimacy necessary to function.
That's the pivotal question, and it's both an issue I'll be dealing with professionally (in a business environment) and as a citizen and blogger (here).
Nothing comes in the way of Musharraf's political survival. Not least the rule of law.
The actual story is simple. A military dictator wanted to get rid of a judge who began to take his duties a little too seriously. But this story is set in Gen Musharraf's Pakistan, so a whole lot of farce masquerading as constitutional propriety is in order. The manner in which Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Chief Justice of Pakistan until last Friday, was rendered "non-functional" has thrown the Pakistani legal fraternity, political establishment and news media into a frenzy of activity. The chances are, all this will be to little effect.
The facts are plain enough. Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was summoned to Musharraf's "camp office" in Army House, where he was presented with a list of charges and asked to resign. The judge refused, despite being held there for five hours without being allowed to make phone calls. Musharraf then activated his plan B. This involved him, by virtue of his being president, making a reference to the Supreme Judicial Council---a body of senior judges---requiring it to conduct a hearing on the charges against the chief justice. Interestingly a new acting chief justice was appointed and quickly sworn in by a brother judge.
Meanwhile, not only was Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry prevented from returning to the Supreme Court building, but is being held under virtual house arrest at his official residence---no phone calls, and no visitors. The Supreme Judicial Council is to hear his case on March 13th. No one knows what the charges are, for the contents of the reference are secret. But don't hold your breath on what the Supreme Judicial Council will decide.
As an aside, despite the fate of his predecessors and the sombreness of the situation, Justice Javed Iqbal, the newly appointed acting chief justice was reported to have left the chamber 'beaming' after being sworn in.
So what should one make of all this? Well, that Musharraf does not allow anything to get in the way of his own political survival. Pakistani constitutions can be abridged by doctrines of necessity and amended by legal framework orders. Outspoken political leaders can be thrown into prison for speaking out against the army. Rebellious local leaders can be bumped off. And uppity constitutional officials can be sacked at will (or whim). After all this is the man who mounted a coup in order to save his skin.
So what makes the Indian government so sure that Gen Musharraf will keep his end of bargains that he is only half-making?
Yahoo! brings us a report of a 43-year-old man in the eastern German town of Sonneberg, who decided to settle his imminent divorce by chainsawing a family home in two and making off with his half in a forklift truck.
The trained mason measured his 8m x 6m single-storey summer house as any good craftsman would, then chainsawed through the wooden roof and walls. His half was hauled to his brother's house, where I'm sure it will make a fine addition.
Operation Military Pride is an umbrella organization that claims to coordinate messages and care packages, and provide assistance to others who wish to do so. There's a lot of "get your own volunteer thing started in your area" on the site, plus good info. for people re: what to send, what not to, how to send it (without involving OMP in the sending). Some of you may have heard of it, and I included it in my "How to Support the Troops" compilation way back when.
At the time, I said: "Note that OMP do not appear to be a registered charity, but they are listed on the U.S. Department of Defense America Supports You site and I receive their e-newsletter."
OMP were recently the subject of an injunction from the Illinois courts (Case Number: 2006CH0114 Filed: January 04, 2006), and were ordered to pay back nearly $310,000. They were also ordered to stop accepting funds, which is surely justified in this case.
What happened here? The founder says she was an ordinary person trying to do a good deed, and some folks have written in on other web sites to say she did what she said (matched them with serving personnel) and their materials were received and acknowledged. But she triggered an Attorney-General's investigation in Illinois that basically accused her of fraud, then lost her case in court. There are some worthwhile lessons here about causes and giving - read and decide:
First, here's the Illinois Attorney-General's filing. Here's the core of it:
"The Complaint alleges that the Defendant has violated the statutes in question by failing to register with the Illinois Attorney General as a charitable organization, and by failing to file financial reports concerning the contributions received and the use of the funds collected.
The Complaint seeks an accounting of all assets, receipts, expenses, and disbursements from all funds raised, collected or promised as a result of the Defendant's charitable solicitations, injunctive relief against the Defendant engaging in any further solicitations or transferring or spending any funds or assets from past solicitations without court approval. The Complaint also seeks recovery of any charitable funds found to have been misused or wasted or which the Defendant is unable to account for.
The Complaint seeks recovery of at least $296,952, as well as civil punitive damages and civil penalty fines of $50,000, as well as payment of the costs of the investigation and prosecution of the case."
OMP's founder, per the recent Chicago Tribune story:
Operation Military Pride began in 1995 as a newsletter for military wives, according to [Arlyn] McClaughry, who said her husband served in both the Marines and the Army. When he was sent to Kuwait in 2000, McClaughry said, the group began sending care packages.... . "We never claimed to be a charity.... I didn't realize we were a charity in the eyes of the law. It was just a bunch of people doing a good deed."
McClaughry disputed that her organization ever collected $310,000. The figure includes money from personal bank accounts never connected to Operation Military Pride, she said.
But she would not say how much she did collect to put together care packages that included such things as DVDs, books and toiletries. She said she ran out of money to pay for a lawyer, and miscommunication about court dates hampered her ability to prove her case.
The internet's direct support for the front lines meets legal requirements, and people with more enthusiasm than knowledge get in trouble. Plausible story, except... not saying how much she did collect, even now: that's either very incompetent or very fishy. The prosecutor's side of the case, which she lost:
"Arlyn McClaughry was sued by the Illinois attorney general's office in January 2006, whose lawsuit demanded that she prove where the money she had collected had gone. When proof was not provided, a Cook County circuit judge entered a judgment of $310,586 against her on Feb. 21, 2007 and forbade her from collecting any more charitable contributions.
[Therese Harris, chief of the state's Charitable Trust Bureau] said McClaughry had more than enough time to submit proof that the money was spent on care packages or other charitable purposes."
It sounds like she didn't produce any books because she didn't have any... though you'd think the first thing a lawyer would tell her would be to sit down with a bookkeeper/accountant pronto, and get that organized. Maybe her lawyer did. Paypal has pretty good records to track contributions, and bank statements and paper records could be put together for the 6 years she operated. At a cost, certainly, but I guarantee that it's a LOT less than $300,000. A normal person should have been motivated, and detailed, and up front.
Stop the World! ran a story on this back in August 2006, but I didn't find out until I ran a Google search on the case number. The comments have some copied court documents, some who say they were OMP members and repeatedly solicited for funds to no clear purpose, and some commenters who said they were matched up with service members as promised and their packages were successfully and gratefully received.
What Happened Here?
Without access to the pre-trial discovery proceedings, this is just conjecture. But let's start with the kindest interpretation:
I suppose it's barely possible that McClaughry started as an amateur, and just kept doing it without realizing the mess she was creating. There are aspects of this which suggest a less than organized person who is fine at sending emails and adding content to a web site but otherwise in way above her head. In the best-case scenario, she thought she was doing a good thing, decided to solicit donations to support her in her "job," wasn't really competent to do it, hence didn't do it properly, and violated both the trust of some contributors and the law.
I'm being maximally kind in the above assessment, of course.
If that's the truth of it, Arlyn McClaughry has now paid by losing most of her wealth, as well as whatever was collected. Liens and collection letters, and very possibly bankruptcy, are about to follow. That's unpleasant, to say the least. Then again, if the accusation amounts more or less to fraud and you're being asked to trace over $300,000, failure to provide solid records in your defence amounts to building your own bed of nails to sleep on. The judge really has no alternative but to do exactly what was done here.
Worst case? It was deliberate fraud, playing on the sympathies of the public to collect a tidy sum of cash while the nation is at war.
The judgment is in, and she has been punished - albeit in an injunctive trial, not a criminal fraud trial. The court seems to have taken a rather dim view, which certainly predisposes me toward the belief that there's more going on here than just ditziness. Then again, some may say that unless you had access to the court evidence, how can you know?
Which is, of course, the problem with unregistered organizations. Barring a court case and evidence, it's always hard to really know what's going on. And even ditziness to that level is plenty bad enough.
Moral of the story - if it isn't a registered charity, 501c3, et. al., be cautious about giving unless the folks organizing it are people you know. The organization you come across may just be folks trying to do a good thing, and hey, the world needs more of that. On the other hand, if they aren't subject to rules that force them to have audited books and abide by relevant rules, how would you know whether they were on the up and up?
So what was I writing in March 2003?? Damn, I was writing a lot...
In chronological order, with quotes as strike me...
Before we accuse the Maine administrators of 'protecting child abusing teachers', let's prove that the abuse is happening, that it isn't an aberration, but a pattern. If it is, let's root it out.
But until we provide some hard evidence, we're the ones out on a limb here.
It's insane. We make bets each time we make a decision based on risk. We bet that the bank will be solvent, the car safe, the medicine will work without ill effect. But we're choosing to make the sucker bets while leaving all the winning bets unmade. No wonder we're going broke.
It's mindblowingly frustrating for me, that as I become increasingly convinced that Bush and his Administration are mendacious and lack the real clarity of moral vision and ability to broaden and sell that vision that is required to deal with the current world situation, I become more convinced that the people who oppose his policy are morons. It doesn't leave me with a lot of places to stand on this.
"And so Bergreen is pounding the pavements of Washington, looking for money and support for a new organization, to be called Democrats for National Security. "The problem," says Doug Wilson, a former Clinton Pentagon official who counts himself among Bergreen's supporters, "is to be able to say 'Democrats for national security' and not have people think it's an oxymoron."
I don't want people to think - just because I'm a bit skeptical of the level of fervor around the Maine reports - that I don't believe that teachers can be strongly antiwar and antimilitary and then act inappropriately on their feelings.
1) We won't take Iraqi oil as booty;
2) We will work to wean ourselves from Middle Eastern oil through efficiency and domestic sources (but this time, unlike the Alaska pipeline, we won't lie to Congress and the people and go sell the oil to Japan)
3) We're in this for the duration.
Jewish organizations condemned Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) today for delivering what they said were anti-Semitic remarks at an anti-war forum in Reston, in which he suggested that American Jews are responsible for pushing the country to war with Iraq and that Jewish leaders could prevent war if they wanted...
Folks, we on the left have an obligation not to sit still for this nonsense. Many of the anti-Semites in the Democratic Party get a free ride on the issue because they are black, and the cost of taking on that fight is huge. Here's a low-hanging fruit, and I'm going to kick and scream on this for a while.
Look, I'm not calling for the guy to resign; the voters in Virginia do and should pick their Representative.
But the guy is clearly a sleaze (on his better days) and deficient in several kinds of judgment.
But better, it serves as a springboard in talking about my disinterest in hearing what the French and Germans have to say about Iraq and the Middle East.
They have had forty years to step up and lead the world toward a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflicts. They have had ten years to lead the world toward a resolution of the issues around Iraq. And they haven't done a damn thing.
And now, when the moment to act is at hand, when if they can't stand with the U.S., they should be coming up with some realistic third way they hide behind a fig leaf of proceduralism and bless a reluctant sham of compliance that was only granted - grudgingly - by Iraq as U.S. tanks and carriers moved into position over the objection of the French and Germans.
Rancho Palos Verdes is one of the wealthy communities just up the hill from where I live. Apparently the possibility that Marines might conduct live-fire training on an abandoned theme park there...as they have done many times in the past...is just too anxiety-provoking for them to deal with.
Here's one where the mainstream press was ahead of the liberal blogosphere; something I'll dig into and comment upon at some point.
I think the Marines will be getting the cooperation they need...
And a part of what I have realized is that as long as states - particularly wealthy states - are willing to explicitly house terrorists and their infrastructure, or implicitly turn a blind eye to their recruitment and funding, we can't use the kind of 'police' tactics that worked against Baader-Meinhof or the Red Army Faction. The Soviet Union and it's proxies offered limited support to these terrorist gangs, but they didn't have a national population to recruit from and bases and infrastructure that only a state can provide.
So unless we shock the states supporting terrorism into stopping, the problem will get worse. Note that it will probably get somewhat worse if we do...but that's weather, and I'm worried about climate.
But Bush has failed to sell this war in three arenas.
He has failed to sell it (as well as it should have been) to the U.S. people. The reality of 9/11 has sold this war, and our atavistic desire for revenge is the engine that drives the support that Bush actually has. He has failed to sell it diplomatically. Not that he could have ever gotten the support of France or Germany; as noted above, even with an AmEx receipt for the 9/11 plane tickets signed by Saddam himself, France would find a reason to defer this war. But he should never have let them get the moral high ground, which they have somehow managed to claim.
He has failed to sell it to our enemies, who do not believe today that we are serious about achieving our stated goals. This is, to me the most serious one, because the perception that we are not deadly serious is a perception that we are weak; and we will have to fight harder, not because we are too strong, but because we will be perceived as too weak.
But most of all, today, I want to send my own best wishes out to the men and women from our military and the U.K.'s and Australia's, and whoever else is marching, riding, or flying alongside them. Be brave, be honorable, be careful, be successful; come home to us safe and proud.
Thank you all for defending us all.
The void filled with Byronic passion is what Qutb means to fill; we in the West have a set of secular values to fill them, but they are out of favor now.
They may need to come back.
[Belated update: I eat crow for not updating this as no evidence of chemical weapons was found at the plant]
But I think the real reason goes to the underlying process, and the desire of the self-selecting protesters not to join in and possibly win a national dialog, but to meet some needs for moral cleanliness and managing one's identity by confronting authority.
Is there some greater moral weight that we can give to evil (or good, for that matter) when doing it, rather than fighting it, is a matter of social policy?
People like my friend think not. They see themselves an entrapped in a world of evil, where every action carries with it, not the possibility of hope and the risk of tragedy, but the certainty of failure.
And if we are ever going to be conquered, this is what will do it.
It's never good to be made an example of, except a) when you deserve it, and b) when you learn something from it.
Hmmm. What would I take back (other than the obvious one that I did?). Not sure. What do you think I would/should walk back from?
Periodically it's worth it to show people what I'm reading, both in the hopes that there's something they'll find interesting and in the hopes that people will suggest something else that I might find interesting (plus it's useful, I think, to know what writers are reading to understand what led them to where they are).
So without further ado, here's my Bloglines feed list.
Comment away, and I'd encourage other bloggers to do the same thing.
...opens tonight, and we have tickets at the Bridge theater near the airport.
Based on the comic, I got one for Littlest Guy as well, but on reading the reviews, I'm getting kinda doubtful that it's appropriate for a 10 year old - even a mature one. The family will be discussing that today...
But one interesting thing popped up as I read the available reviews (many linked at www.rottentomatoes.com); the astounding historical and cultural ignorance of most film critics.
Kenneth Turan of the LA Times was the only one who 'got' the historical context of Thermopylae (even though he didn't like the movie). Sheesh. You'd think that people who write about culture for a living would know something about it, wouldn't you?
And the layering of modern politics and political correctness (see the Slate review by Dana Stevens for a pluperfect example) is kind of funny. The war was, after all, factually between the Greeks (pretty much the founders of the West) and the Persians, so yes, more-or-less white people fought more-or-less brown ones. Is that racist? How do we deal with history, then?
The US Air Force has a mini-site up called "Portraits in Courage: Airmen in the Fight." At the moment it profiles 21 exceptional individuals, and tells the stories of what they did to deserve inclusion.
Damn, looks like those jumpsuit guys actually do more than play volleyball and drink. You won't hear much about them in the media, so if you want to understand the kind of people that are putting it on the line, you'll just have to give the site a visit.
I spoke recently with an Israeli Defense Forces intelligence officer about last summer's war between Israel and Hezbollah in South Lebanon. He still serves in the IDF and therefore must remain anonymous. I'll call him David, which isn't his name.
David works in a fire control unit stationed in the Northern Command. During the war he managed intelligence pertaining to Hezbollah rocket fire, selected targets for air and artillery strikes, and occasionally assisted in real-time control of fire. He is familiar with some of the high-level decision-making and hints at some of what he knows that is officially classified.
MJT: Let's start with a general question. What, exactly, did Israel accomplish in the summer war with Hezbollah? Are there any tangible lasting benefits?
David: Well, to understand what was accomplished we need to look at the starting point. Virtually all Israelis were very happy the IDF withdrew from Lebanon -- many think it was foolish to have gotten in there in the first place and even those that don't agree we overstayed our welcome, so to speak. Following the pullout Hezbollah established itself very firmly in South Lebanon -- of particular worry to the military was their ground-ground rocket and missile array, ranging in various calibers and ranges. I cannot go into all the intelligence data, but Hezbollah's capability to hit Israeli population centers was well known for quite some time. So this was the primary problem -- only it was never tackled by any Israeli leadership, not that there was much that could have been done. That remains a problem today, though from what I hear they're having a much more difficult time restoring their abilities. I wouldn't call it a success story, though. The problem's still there. Another worry was Hezbollah's attempts at kidnapping Israeli soldiers.
There have been several attempts made, and each one was more calculated and planned than the last. Apart from the famous instances in which IDF soldiers did in fact die or get kidnapped, there was one memorable attempt that was foiled due to good thinking and alertness in the tactical levels. There were also "anti-aircraft" barrages that hit inside Israel, killing one boy in one instance if I recall correctly. Hopefully, the last conflict sent a message that will make these acts less desirable.
There were also general shows of force at the border, usually organized "demonstrations" or throat-cutting gestures at soldiers from armed persons. There's a road that passes a few meters from the border and they made sure to build a position right on top it with Hezbollah flags, just as a gesture. We no longer have Hezbollah right on the border, and that is the most tangible benefit.
So got back yesterday at 3am after driving from Chicago with Biggest Guy after starting Monday at 10am.
A few notes:
1) As BG learned to his dismay, when you're the only car on the road at 1am, even a Valentine One is no defense against instant-on radar.
2) The sauce at Arthur Bryant's is still too vinegary, but the meat is just as damn good as ever (one of the four pictures I took on the trip was of our plates...).
3) You can't help but talk about stuff when you're driving 2,000 miles.
4) I'm too damn old to do four hours of sleep three nights in a row and then walk in and work all day.
Getting caught up at work and here.
Mr. Fitzgerald was, at least, right about one thing: The Wilson-Plame case, and Mr. Libby's conviction, tell us nothing about the war in Iraq.
On March 4, 2007, Jiang Enzhu, the Deputy Secretary General and spokesman for the National People's Congress, announced that China's official military budget would grow 17.8% this year, to $45 billion. This continues a trend DID covered in 2006 and 2005, and will mark the 19th consecutive year of double-digit military budget growth in the "People's Republic" of China.
As in the Soviet Union, however, the official budget and the real budget are not the same thing. Many items are hidden under other ministries, or simply not reported truthfully. RAND's Project Air Force, which has also studied China's arms industry modernization, estimated the 2004 Chinese military budget at $65-79 billion in FY 2001 dollars; at 2% inflation, this would equal $76-86 billion in FY 2006 dollars. Sources discussed in our 2006 article were closer to $100 billion, which is in agreement since increases of 12% and then 14.7% give an FY 2006 range of $96-110 billion with 2% inflation. The FY 2007 range would be $115-130 billion, given another 17.8% increase. Other analysts have placed China's real defense budget at up to 4x official spending, in which case actual Chinese defense spending could be as high as $180 billion for FY 2007.
Regardless of the exact figure, officials from the US Pentagon and from India's RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) intelligence service now agree that the Chinese defense budget is now the second largest in the world. There certainly are a lot of weapons programs underway. For a set of additional links & resources concerning China's socio-economic, geo-political and military plans, challenges, and issues, see: "China's Stresses, Goals, Military Buildups... and Futures" at Winds of Change.NET.
The World Bank released on March 7 its report on the Palestinian Authority. While critical of the PA's lack of transparency and inability and/or unwillingness to account for the hundreds of millions it received from donors, including $100 million in tax revenues given by Israel directly to PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the Bank also urges donors to renew funding the Hamas led government.
Last we checked, Hamas is still designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization. Why then the call from the WB, headquartered in Washington DC, a stone's throw from the White House, Treasury and the State Department to fund terrorists?
It's worth noting that the report was completed in February, but was released shortly after Salam Fayyad, the former Finance Minister agreed to resume his task under the Hamas ruled government. Fayyad is a former World Bank employee, who served as the International Monetary Fund representative to the PA from 1995-2001.
It seems that Fayyad's failure to get the PA's finances under control during Arafat and Abbas-led Fatah governments, now qualifies him to do the same under Hamas.
What will it take for the Western donor countries to stop funding this festering terrorist entity? It is the billions of dollars in World Bank, EU, and UN aid since 1993 that facilitated the Palestinians terrorist death culture to flourish. Yet, the WB thinks Hamas could use some extra funds to expand its terrorist agenda.
The U.S., which designated Hamas as a terrorist organization, is the major shareholder in the Bank, with more than 16 percent of the votes. Why was this latest recommendation allowed?
By Rachel Ehrenfeld of the Terror Finance Blog
Sunday night's Discovery Channel show, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," has disappeared from serious consideration faster than the Iraq Study Group's report did. If you wish to read my takedown, here a link to my own post at donaldsensing.com:
In brief, the entire thesis of the show is a conspiracy theory. And like most such theories, it requires it adherents to dismiss historical facts and replace them with enormous conjecture. In this case, the entire thesis rests on completely dismissing Jesus as a first-century Jewish religious figure and recharacterizing him as an anti-Roman revolutionary. That was a claim made explicity on the show. But there is absolutely no evidence for it and no less a figure than Pontius Pilate himself directly contradicted the notion.
And I'd sure like to know how this scene relates to the rest of the show at all; in fact it is more evidence that this show was a decidedly unserious work.
I had intended to post another comment to brother Grim's post on the Joe Klein controversy, but the comment sort of took on a life of its own. Because it represents a significant departure from the thread that developed below I figured I'd make a separate entry. In so doing I hope I'm not completely irrelevant, but this is probably a somewhat different topic.
Strictly speaking, the US has always been an "extremist" country, in the sense that it has always been a political/ideological/religious outlier within the "community of nations". It was, after all, the first representative democracy. (The more conventional term is "exceptional", but extreme fits.) There's been some convergence over time, though most of the research suggests that "they" have been moving in our direction, more than we in theirs.
But by the standards of the extremist politics of past eras hardly anything in the Democrat or Republican parties today really counts as extremism. In fact the observation made about Ds and Rs by H.G. Wells around the turn of the century--that both American parties could fit comfortably inside one British party (the Liberals) is probably still accurate (although the Liberals haven't achieved a majority for most of this century).
Basically, for all the sturm und drang of American politics the differences between the parties aren't very great. We're just capable of a huge amplification of relatively minor differences, a form of political efficiency I guess.
If there's any sector in the US that tends to harbor genuine extremism one is probably academia, and it happens to mostly be on the left right now. In a recent poll, by a group at the College of William and Mary, of US academics in the discipline of International Relations, about 15% considered themselves "very liberal" while only about 1% considered themselves "very conservative". And the latter were probably guilty of exaggerating their conservative convictions.
Sometimes it helps to employ a typology. Lipset and Raab, in The Politics of Unreason: Right-Wing Extremism in America 1790-1977, placed political groups on four axes:
1. Compulsion to broaden or limit access to power and status.
2. Pluralism vs monism (fluid vs fixed standards).
3. Tolerance vs group bigotry.
4. Economic statism vs laissez faire.
They note, however, that economic statism can sometimes be identified with the right (Huey Long and Father Coughlin, for instance). So to resolve this riddle they propose a fifth axis: social base. The social base axis moves from blue collar workers and the rural poor on "the left" to the middle class (including white collar workers and entrepreneurs) in the center, to large farmers and industrialists on "the right". They note that fascism in Europe was chiefly an ideological extremism of the "social base center." And even though it was on the right end of the first three axes it was on the left end of the fourth.
They also note that nearly all successful right wing extremist movements in the US have had appeal across class, although that they all share a "common core of preservationism".
In so doing, they are defined as right-wing and can comprise a single right-wing movement, although the unique centers of their separate preservationist goals are quite different. Futhermore, while the preservationism of the upper class and often of the middle class may be both class-directed and status-directed, the preservationism of the lower economic class must chiefly be status-directed. Therefore the common core of effective right-wing extremist movements is symbolic rather than instrumental in nature. (p. 156-57)
I'd also say that the same is probably true of left-wing extremism. The fact that the core of genuine extremism is symbolic rather than instrumental makes it difficult to define exclusively in terms of policy preferences, as both Klein and Drum seem to be attempting to do. This symbolic nature also gives it a certain recognizable religious character, whether or not it's "religious" in the conventional sense.
I have come a bit late to the war between Joel Klein and everyone else, but I think the timing was useful, in that it has suddenly become an interesting conversation. I'm going to enter the fray on Klein's side -- it will probably surprise him to have an ally. I, like Klein, occupy an odd position in American politics, he in being a devoted "centrist," and me in being one of the last of the old-style Southern Democrats.*
Kevin Drum published over the weekend a piece asserting that Klein was essentially of an older generation, and that his understanding of where "extremism" on the left could be found was therefore -- well, if not exactly out of touch or dated, Drum's point was that left wing extremism wasn't currently a force in American politics.
The biggest clue is that the first example of lefty extremism that comes to Klein's mind is an issue that's been all but dead for over a decade, while his examples of righty extremism are alive and well right now today.
I think Klein is the one who is in the right, and the age of the busing example is merely an accident; it happens to be the clearest example of what leftist extremism looks like. I think it is a trend that is alive and well, however, and that there are numerous more recent examples that can be offered.
But let me first say what I think "extremism" is in American politics. I think extremism is related to our domestic (rather than our foreign) policies. I think it is this: the belief that the American Federal Government's extraordinary power should be used to remake society, whether society likes it or not.
Why not apply the same standard to foreign policy? War, punitive sanctions, and various other enterprises would fit the category as nicely as busing, say. The reason is that domestic politics happen within what is supposed to be a common peace: we are all citizens, and our government is not meant to be used against us. We make an exception for felons only because they break the common peace and thereby threaten it. In general, however, within the nation we are all meant to enjoy that common peace. There is no such guarantee, no such social contract, between nations; war is part of the natural environment. This understanding, in its American form, arises particularly from Locke.
Extremism in American politics isn't about defending America's interests abroad, or protecting her capacity to continue to uphold that common peace. It is about making other Americans into what you want them to be: it is about forcing them to adhere to your particular ethical beliefs. This includes your aesthetic standards, by the way; the Greeks rightly asserted that aesthetics is a division of ethics. It is about suppressing "ugly Americans," whether you think it is ugly for men to wear cowboy hats, or to French kiss each other in the street.
I don't think it's wrong to hold such aesthetic beliefs: I hold them myself. We all do. What I assert is that we should be willing to let people do what they want to do, so long as it doesn't threaten the common peace and lawful order.
Let's examine Drum's list of right-wing extremism to see how his ideas and mine interact:
My political frame of reference is different. It's Newt Gingrich and the Contract With America; it's the insane wingnut scandal-mongering of the Clinton administration, culminating in Kenneth Starr and the Republican loonies trying to impeach a president over a blow job; it's the press beating up on Al Gore in 2000 and a conservative Supreme Court then awarding the disputed election to its favored candidate; it's a series of brazen, multi-trillion dollar tax cuts aimed at the GOP's rich donor class; it's the K Street Project; it's the 30-year stagnation of middle class wages, partly due to an unholy alliance between conservatives and neoliberals on trade and unions; it's a disastrous war in Iraq led by a president who had no clue what he was getting into (and still doesn't); and during this entire time a Democratic Party seemingly adrift and unwilling to really fight back.
1) The Contract With America: I don't see this as extremist at all. The Republican Party put together a list of things they said they would do if elected, most of which had to do with reforming Congress itself. The rhetoric may or may not have been extremist at times; but the Contract itself (you can read it here) was in no way an extremist policy.
2) Scandal Mongering -> Ken Starr: Insofar as this was not aimed at "society," but at a particular government official, it doesn't qualify as extremist politics. It was certainly ugly politics. On the other hand, there is mud to go around on this one: there actually was a real act of perjury committed by a sitting President. But one cannot expect politicians to behave with decorum, or honor; it is the rare exception that does, not the usual lot.
3) "The press beating up on Al Gore in 2000": The press did not attack Al Gore to remake the world in its image; they did it because he made himself such an easy target. Reforming the press is definitely a pressing issue, but essentially a market-based matter -- it's about not buying their product, using blogs to correct them now that we have them, and essentially redirecting attention away from bad actors. Besides, roping "the press" into "right-wing extremism" is... ah, stretching a bit.
4) The SCOTUS awarding the presidency to its favored candidate: I followed this matter closely at the time, as we all did; I was living in China at the time, and had to explain it regularly to students curious about American politics. I don't think the SCOTUS did anything remotely wrong, period. Others are free to disagree, but from my perspective -- I say this as a Southern Democrat, who had no reason to love either George Bush and had voted for neither -- it was done fairly. The hanky panky was happening at the level of the Florida Supreme Court, which seemed incline to do exactly what the Florida Constitution said it couldn't do: rewrite the election laws after the election.
5) Tax cuts: Tax policy rises to the level of political extremism only when it aims to resculpt society through the force of taxation -- which is to say, almost all the time. I have a lot less trouble with "tax breaks" than I do with punitive taxes of any sort, for example "sin taxes" on cigarettes (I don't smoke) or alcohol (I do drink beer). "I don't like that, so let's tax it until it goes away" is an extremist message; it intends to brutalize the "offender" until he submits to your will. Yet he is a citizen too.
I think that one can hold a lot of different positions about how to tax different people fairly without rising to extremism; neither progressive taxation nor regressive taxation is inherently extremist. A flat tax, which is essentially regressive, might well seem fair; so might a sales tax. If people are broadly satisfied about its fairness, I don't see any reason to object to its regressive nature. If people prefer a progressive tax system on balance, that's fine too.
6) The K Street Project: is about government corruption, which is indeed a serious problem. I don't think it arises from extremism in politics, however, but rather from cynicism in politics. It's not the believers, in other words, but the ones who manipulate those interested in politics for their own personal gain. I do wish to see corruption punished seriously, even severely: no one is more deserving of serious punishment than a man who was entrusted with government power, and betrayed that trust.
7) The 30-year stagnation of wages/Iraq War: I'm going to pass on the former, as I'm not familiar with the model he is citing; the latter, being a foreign policy matter, isn't part of the worrying type of extremism.
I find none of Drum's concerns to be examples of extremism, then. What is?
1) The abortion battle. This began when the SCOTUS overturned the laws in 50 states; it has continued at the Federal level ever since. There are parties guilty of extremism on both sides here: the one side in wanting to use the Federal government to force people to accept essentially unlimited abortions, and even to pay for them through the use of taxpayer money; some among the other side for wishing to outlaw the practice outright, not only in their own state or community but nationwide.
2) The gun control movement, when practiced at the Federal level. Whether using Congress or the Federal courts, the idea is to force the parts of America that don't want gun control to accept it.
3) The drug war. What is being asserted here is that drugs are bad and drug users are bad, and they therefore must be punished harshly. The cost, both social and monetary, has been staggering, and drugs are still plentiful.
4) Some of the more pernicious forms of political correctness, including sexual harrassment law. I believe a woman ought to be able to work in an environment free of harrassment; I don't think it is right to achieve that goal in the aggressive way that we have done. There has to be a way to approach this issue that doesn't require disposing of the presumption of innocence on the part of the accused; and given the stakes, both for companies and for individual people (and their associated families), there ought to be fair due process that assumes innocence until guilt is proven.
5) That element of society that has decided to sue its way to its preferred goals, hoping for a second Roe v. Wade. Whether we are trying to ban the Pledge of Allegience or enact gay marriage, using the courts to bypass the legislative process -- and the Federal government to override the individual right of the states to pass laws appropriate to their own local communities -- is the wrong way. Forcing your belief on the rest of the nation is extremist.
That list shows plenty of extremist tendencies on both the Left and the Right, not forty years ago but right now today. I think Klein is right to worry about them; and, while I'm sure he and I disagree about many particulars, I'm glad to see his voice strongly asserting the need for a new way.
The goal should be an America that is for all of us.
UPDATE/POSTSCRIPT: On reflection, I would like to clarify the way in which this position differs from libertarianism (aside, obviously, from foreign policy). I don't think strong, morals/aesthics-based rules or laws are wrong on their face; I only think its wrong to try and enforce conformity with them at the Federal level. I don't mind a community or a state (or even a non-government entity, such as a commune) having firm, restrictive laws. I just want to be able to move outside the city limits, or across state lines, and find a community more in keeping with my own ideas about the Good Life. I'm not against strong rules for communities that want them; I am against the idea that the same set of strong rules is right for everyone, and should be enforced with the might of the Federal government.
* I should take a moment to root myself according to Klein's formula. I believe none of the things that he says a left-wing extremist believes; I believe one of the things he says that a right wing extremist believes. To whit, I believe that there are "inferior religions," a clear example being the Aztec one that required mass human sacrifice and the wearing of the victims' skins. I can't, in a purely objective sense, prove that this was an inferior religion; but I feel sure about it all the same.
So, let me open by suggesting that in spite of my desire to find a way out of this, I'm really unimpressed by both Bienert's and Staerk's posts.
In Bienert's case, it's a national apology; the United States simply isn't good enough, darn it, to be allowed to go around the world and hurt people and change things.
It begins with a painful realization about the United States: We can't be the country those Iraqis wanted us to be. We lack the wisdom and the virtue to remake the world through preventive war. That's why a liberal international order, like a liberal domestic one, restrains the use of force--because it assumes that no nation is governed by angels, including our own. And it's why liberals must be anti-utopian, because the United States cannot be a benign power and a messianic one at the same time. That's not to say the United States can never intervene to stop aggression or genocide. It's not even to say that we can't, in favorable circumstances and with enormous effort, help build democracy once we're there. But it does mean that, when our fellow democracies largely oppose a war--as they did in Vietnam and Iraq--because they think we're deluding ourselves about either our capacities or our motives, they're probably right. Being a liberal, as opposed to a neoconservative, means recognizing that the United States has no monopoly on insight or righteousness. Some Iraqis might have been desperate enough to trust the United States with unconstrained power. But we shouldn't have trusted ourselves.
In Staerk's case, it's more personal.
This mirror of "What Went Wrong" wouldn't be a story on the same scale, but it has the main theme in common. It would be about Westerners who had their reality bubble pricked by people from an alien culture, and spent the next couple of years stumbling about like idiots, unable to deal rationally with this new reality that had forced itself on them. Egging each other on, they predicted, interpreted, and labeled - and legislated and invaded. They saw clearly, through beautiful ideas. And they were wrong.
Who were these people? They were us. "Us"? This seemed a lot clearer at the time. Us were the people who acknowledged the threat of Islamist terrorism, who had the common sense to see through the multicultural fog of words, and the moral courage to want to change the world by force. It included politicians like George W. Bush and Tony Blair, it included the new European right, it included brave and honest pundits, straight-talking intellectuals in the enlightenment tradition.
There is a nexus of failure in each case; Bienert explains that he was intoxicated by hope;
I was willing to gamble, too--partly, I suppose, because, in the era of the all-volunteer military, I wasn't gambling with my own life. And partly because I didn't think I was gambling many of my countrymen's. I had come of age in that surreal period between Panama and Afghanistan, when the United States won wars easily and those wars benefited the people on whose soil they were fought. It's a truism that American intellectuals have long been seduced by revolution. In the 1930s, some grew intoxicated with the revolutionary potential of the Soviet Union. In the 1960s, some felt the same way about Cuba. In the 1990s, I grew intoxicated with the revolutionary potential of the United States.
Staerk is ashamed of his amateurishness
Among the bloggers there was a sense that there were all these brilliant people, who knew so much about history, war and society, who had previously been without the tools to express themselves. Thanks to the wonders of amateur media, we could now finally exploit this huge reservoir of expert knowledge. And when you contrasted the lazy neutrality of the old media with the energy of the new, it certainly could seem that way. Here were people who regularly would write thousands of words about the historical context of Islamist terrorism, who could write brilliantly about freedom and democracy, who commented boldly on the long trends of history. How could such people be wrong?
But what we saw was not expert knowledge, but the well-written, arrogantly presented ideas of half-educated amateurs. This, too, went all the way from the bottom to the top. It often struck us how well the writing of the best of the bloggers measured up to that of pro-war pundits and intellectuals. We thought this showed how professional the amateurs were, when what it really told us was how amateurish the professionals were.
Accepting that your ideas about the world can be - and often are - wrong is critical to being any kind of a useful or serious thinker.
So where does that leave me in my own position on Iraq?
There's an easy out that I can take...in 2003, I wrote:
So if the Democrats want a response to the war, here it is:
#. We won't take Iraqi oil as booty; #. We will work to wean ourselves from Middle Eastern oil through efficiency and domestic sources (but this time, unlike the Alaska pipeline, we won't lie to Congress and the people and go sell the oil to Japan)
#. We're in this for the duration.
If we can't answer all three as a solid "yes", we shouldn't go. We should just close out eyes, hunker down and hope for the best.
If we can, we should. We're in a fight, and wishing it away won't make it disappear.
We aren't meeting any of the 3 criteria, so I could throw my hands in the air and say "well, we didn't do it like I said, so it was wrong and we shouldn't have done it" and go stand with the cool kids.
But that would be a bullshit answer.
Sadly, as hard as I look, so are Bienert's and Staerk's. Neither of them looks at the situation in the world and argues how it would have been better had we refrained in Iraq.
Look, the jihadi movement feeds on a base stock of alienated, unhappy young men who are discovering the attractive power of Bad Philosophy (as opposed to Bad Religion, which is one of my favorite bands...). They are attracted when they see it as a noble struggle - so yes, the war is attracting them to the movement.
But they are also attracted to winning; and a steady stream of jihadi victories against Western interests - answered with arrests of the perps and pinprick attacks - is as powerful a recruiting tool as a call to battle. In fact, I'll suggest that it was historically a more powerful one.
Yes, the United States isn't morally pure enough to remake the world through preventative war. But we are morally pure enough - wise and virtuous enough to go kick jihadi ass, and maybe, just maybe create the space for a decent society to grow up in a few places around the world.
Hilzoy also had a powerful article last week that ties to this -
It seemed to me that at the heart of this disagreement was this one fact: that the women from India were from a country that had already achieved independence, and were living with the problems that came afterwards, whereas the women from South Africa were trying to achieve that self-government in the first place. The South Africans seemed to think that the women from India had forgotten what it was like to be subjugated. We need to win our freedom as quickly as possible, they seemed to say. We realize that it would be preferable to win that freedom in the best possible way. If we could win it just as quickly through non-violent means, we would surely do so. But you would not ask us to wait if you really understood what it is like to live in slavery.
By contrast, many of the arguments made by the Indians turned on the effects that achieving self-government through violence had on one's own people. Don't do this, they seemed to be saying: once you win your freedom, you will find that you and your people have grown accustomed to settling disputes by force and to demonizing your opponents. Think now about how to use the struggle you are waging to teach yourselves how to become citizens and to practice self-government. Do not wait until you win your independence to discover that self-government requires not just political power, but political responsibility.
I think that's an incredibly important point. I've talked endlessly in the past about the notion that a Palestinian Gandhi would have not only attained independence for the Palestinians but would have built a viable and admirable society. And about the notion that a violent kleptocracy cannot easily transform itself into a democracy just because they vote (something I neglected when I watched the Iraqi elections...).
But here's the rub - Gandhi himself felt that German Jews should have protested nonviolently even it meant they were all slaughtered.
Nonviolent action builds the bonds trust that make a civil society. But how do you practice nonviolent action in the face of those who lack any compunction about killing? There is the $64,000 question.
The only answer I can see is that a space for it must be somehow created by violence.
To paraphrase Team America, sometimes you need dicks in the world.
Which brings us neatly back to Iraq.
We've opened the seam of instability in the Middle East, that's for sure. And I could see why that's an issue. Except...we've had a 'quasi-stability' for the last 30 years there. And what, exactly, has it bought us?
Thirty years of peace, to be sure. And a bigger and more violent jihadi movement.
We could have just invaded Afghanistan - but what then? Do you think it would be better with 100,000 more US troops? Do you think that Iran (and Iraq) wouldn't be funding an insurgency there in the hopes that we'd walk down the same path as the Soviets?
Would the world really be better? If someone can make a good argument about that, I would have to shift. Until then I am stuck here, calling it as best I see it, and looking to see more clearly.
He suggests - and I agree - that some dialog around this issue would be a good thing.
I'll reaffirm: I think that the central problem of the current historical moment is the war within Islam. I think that war is between adherents of a traditional religion, and one that has cross-pollinated with some of the less-desirable features of Bad Philosophy to create an inherently dangerous and highly attractive response to modernity in the West and to oppression and hopelessness in much of the Arab world.
If the bad guys win - and they may - Islam will be transformed into what it's enemies today say it is. And we'll have some significant problems.
That hasn't happened yet, and because it hasn't happened yet it's worth doing two things - 1) not treating Muslims as though they are automatically Bad Guys - even if they don't like us and their interests are opposed to ours. Much of human history has involved the ways that cultures that disagree and compete manage to live together without mass slaughter...and 2) figuring out what, if anything, we can do from here that will weaken the Bad Guys and strengthen the good ones.
Yeah, that's Western-centric and implies that we get to decide who's good and bad...and that issue itself will be an interesting topic for discussion.
But I think that Dean is right when he says that Islam is not, itself the problem ... today. And further, when he suggests that going down the path to Islamophobia today is dangerous, because it makes the 'clash of civilizations' more, not less likely. And he's wrong when he fails to recognize that Islam is the locus of the problem, and that finding a way to deal with the changes Islam is going through - and to contain the energy those changes will release - is a central and legitimate task today.
Do I agree with commenter Jim Rockford here when he responds that the root of all our problems in the Middle East today is Islam? No. Do I agree with something I read into Dean's posts (which may not be there) which suggests that it has no part of the problem, and that things in the ummah are hunky-dory? No.
So let's discuss this.
Has anyone ever seen Ann Coulter and Amanda Marcotte in a room together?
Just wondering, you know...
Back when I first started blogging, I titled a post on Coulter "The 'Whoosh' Of Credibility Flying Out The Window".
For some reason the - I'll be gracious - slow-witted bookers at the big conservative 'do invited her to speak.
If I get some time at the airport this weekend, I'll see how many conservative blogs were scathing about Marcotte's Tourettes, and approving of Coulter's.
Yeah, I know, it doesn't prove anything. But I bought a Civic hybrid, not a Prius, and I have to get my smug where I can.
Captain Ed talks sense on this...
In a way that probably carries bigger lessons for us all, I discovered this afternoon (with the help of Evariste, who watched the server while I tried to get connected) that while Thunderbird had in fact updated itself when I launched it this morning, and didn't work after that...
...that the issue was that my IT guys had locked down the two ports I use for SSL mail this morning. At about the same time.
And I presumed - because after all, it was logical to do so - that the update had caused the problem, rather than some exogenous issue (like overzealous IT staff).
So, what do we all think the lesson here is?
See embarassing update, above...
My copy of Thunderbird just upgraded itself to 18.104.22.168 - and now it won't download any mail.
I can't get to the support forums at Mozilla, suggesting that I may not be alone...
So if you haven't upgraded yet, I'd consider disabling auto upgrade on Thunderbird and waiting to see what (if anything) is going on.
On the very day a 'senior administration official' from the Bush administration had lunch with Gen Musharraf, by sheer coincidence, the Pakistanis arrested a senior administration official from the Taliban.
Such antics apart, Pakistan would like nothing better to get the US off its back in Afghanistan. Here's a post that Winds readers must read on this subject.
In the aftermath of World War 2, blimps and tethered balloons found themselves phased out of the US military. That didn't begin to change until the 21st century (see DID April 2005, "USN, DARPA See Blimps & HULAs Rising"). The heavy-lift WALRUS project may have been canceled without explanation; but aerostat programs like JLENS cruise missile defense and its smaller RAID local surveillance derivative, and airships like the HAA/ISIS program, remain. The US Navy is also experimenting with aerostats for communications relay, surveillance, and radar overwatch functions - and this has become a formal program.
What's driving this interest? Four things. One is persistence, in an era where constant surveillance + rapid precision strike = a formidable military asset that some call surveillance-strike complexes. A second is cost, especially in an era of rising fuel prices. A recent US NAVSEA release offers figures that starkly illustrate the gap in surveillance cost per hour between an aerostat and planes or UAVs:
Dean Esmay is taking a stand against Islamophobes. In and of itself, not a bad idea.
But as someone who doesn't consider himself an Islamophobe, but thinks that questions about the future of Islam - as arguably one of the most powerful religious movements in the world, and as one which both has more temporal power (because it is more tightly tied both to state power and the daily lives of its adherents) than most other religions, and whose future is up for grabs - with one set of grabbers people who really do believe that religious wars are a Good Idea - I think that he is, as I've said before, burying his conclusions in his assumptions.
1. The future of Islam matters a lot to all of us. 2. It's far from certain what the future of Islam will be. And that's about the only two 'bright line' statements on the subject that I'll sign on to.
As a matter of personal style and belief, I don't think it's a good idea to make anyone swear that they believe or don't believe anything to associate with you. What matters is behavior, not belief, and I'm sad that Dean doesn't get that.
Peter Bienart has his apologia for his support of the Iraq war in the current TNR.
Obviously it's something I need to think about and respond carefully to...watch this space.
Update: Bjorn Staerk joins him. Boy, is this gonna be a long post...
Many of the storms engulfing our part of the world can be attributed to the fact that the movements practicing politics in the name of "political Islam" are still governed by a coup mentality, still acting as underground movements rather than as modern political institutions that respect and observe the law.
Actually, the word "mentality", which assumes the use of mental faculties, is a misnomer in this case, as most of these movements rely more on their muscles than their brains, more on raw power than on minds governed by a respect for laws, constitutions, rationality and sound judgment.
Take the case of Lebanon, which has an elected government and a parliament representing the people. And yet the largest opposition movement, a religio-political organization, refuses to recognize the authority of the nation's elected representatives and listens only to strident voices calling for a return to the past. The religious firebrands seeking to drive Lebanon several centuries back in time are playing a game in which the muscles of blind power ride roughshod over the principles of democracy, constitutional legitimacy and laws. A single armed party is turning the tables on everyone, showing total contempt for the elected parliament that should be the ultimate arbiter instead of hordes of demonstrators manipulated from outside the country by a theocratic regime that is financing the destruction of Lebanon.
Then there is the situation in the Palestinian self-rule territories, where a theocratic movement, emerging from the cobwebs of medieval times, does not consider itself bound by any of the commitments undertaken by previous governments. As far as it is concerned, events only began to unfold the day it came to power. When Abu Mazen wisely, if somewhat belatedly, called for a return to the people, the source of authority, the government of theocrats whose understanding of democracy is limited to its usefulness as a means of reaching power rejected his call. A theocratic movement that is by definition democratically immature may be capable of understanding that democracy brought it to power but not that it will, by the same token, prevent it from hanging on to power indefinitely. Governed as they are by a coup mentality totally at odds with the very notion of democracy, the members of this movement are driven by religious hysteria [not religious faith] coupled with a violent and confrontational style of political action.
The third case in point is the shocking display put on by the young members of the Muslim Brotherhood in front of Al-Azhar University, which showed that political Islam is still a very immature blend of religious hysteria, a simplistic, not to say primitive, understanding of democracy and a propensity for violence, for the use of muscle power untrammeled by the constraints of reason.
Although the incident shocked and saddened all the lovers of this nation who want to see it achieve progress, stability and prosperity, it served as a wake-up call. Proving that every cloud has a silver lining, it opened everyone's eyes to the danger of allowing power to fall into the hands of people with simple minds and meager stores of knowledge who rely on the use of muscles not brains to achieve their aim of ruling the ancient land of Egypt.
I believe the childish display of naked power at Al-Azhar was detrimental to many people, including members of the People's Assembly affiliated ideologically [or organizationally] to the Muslim Brotherhood. How can the Egyptian people accept a political movement when the clear message they get from the bizarre behaviour of its young adherents at Al-Azhar is that it has, or could eventually have, organized militias? How can they, in an age of science and management, accept to place their fate in the hands of a callow movement driven by blind instinct not rational ideas, and relying on muscle power, not mental faculties to achieve their ends?
To my mind, the movements of political Islam have not yet gone through the necessary stage of threshing out their ideas, of separating the chaff from the grain, so to speak. Nor have these movements seen any internal ideological developments to speak of. Indeed, I would say that Muslim thinking was exposed to many more radical changes in the hundred years separating the death of the first of the four great Sunni jurists, Abu Hanifa el Noaman [in the middle of the second century of the Hejira calendar], and the death of the last, Ahmed Ibn Hanbal [just over a century later], than in the twelve centuries since Ibn Hanbal's death in the third century of the Hejira calendar. This stagnation, with its extremely detrimental effects, is a result of two phenomena. The first was when the door was slammed shut on deductive reasoning. The second was when the majority of Muslims turned their backs on the man who championed the primacy of reason, Abul Walid Ibn Rushd. Had they allowed themselves to benefit from the ideas of this outstanding philosopher, the Muslims would not have reached the low rung they now occupy on the ladder of human progress and development.
Many hurdles stand between the trends espousing political Islam and political maturity. Perhaps the most insurmountable is the insistence of these trends, including the Muslim Brotherhood, to cling to the theory of hakameya or "divine dominion" propounded by Abul 'Ala' el-Mawdoody and Sayed Qutb. Derived from the Arabic root "hokm", which means rule, the theory has a certain superficial glitter that appeals to some people. In fact, however, it is based on an untenable proposition that renders it meaningless. It postulates that mortals are not ruled by mortals but by God. This is dangerous sophistry, as there is no direct recourse to the Supreme Being â€“ in the literal sense of the word 'direct' â€“ given the existence of a religious caste ruling in His name according to their understanding of His intentions. I believe el-Mawdoody and Qutb came up with their theory, a fanciful notion that can obviously not be implemented in practice, each in reaction to his own personal traumatic experience. Both men experienced what we now call a culture shock, Mawdoody in the face of the strong and vibrant culture of India, Qutb, who spent less than two years in the United States nearly sixty years ago, in the face of an American culture that shocked him to the core. Unable to cope with the realities of the age, they chose to escape into a less challenging past.
Thus the first obstacle that the movements of political Islam must overcome if they want to live in the modern age at peace with the rest of humanity is the theory of hakameya to which all adherents of these movements subscribe. For it is a theory cannot be applied unless we turn the clock back more than a thousand years and regard all other cultures as mortal enemies.
The next step is for the leaders of these movements to develop a better understanding of and a stronger faith in democracy among their followers. They need to explain democracy as a process distinct from Shura [consultation]. For although there is no contradiction between them, Shura is but one part of a whole, namely, democracy. To those who consider this as belittling Islam, I would like to point out that while it is true that Islam spoke of Shura and not of democracy, it is also true that it spoke of pack animals and not of cars and planes. This in no way detracts from the greatness of Islam. After all, the purpose of Islam's message was not to predict the achievements of future ages, such as democracy, planes, human rights, lasers, medical breakthroughs, civil management systems, information technology, etc.
The leaders of movements of political Islam must breed a new generation of followers who believe that the nation is the source of authority, that the Constitution is the law of laws and that in this day and age societies cannot be led by men of religion [especially when the religion in question does not allow a caste of clerics to act as intermediaries between man and God] but by the latest discoveries in science, management, ideas and information technology.
Until at least some of these leaders break away from the doctrinaire approach to religion that has plagued the Muslim mind for over a thousand years, unless they can groom generations capable of understanding that the nation is the source of all power and that societies can only be run by science and management, we should not be surprised to find the young members of Islamist movements trying to form militias in a bid to govern us with wild emotions, strident voices and muscle power untamed by reason or common sense.
I have an Examiner piece up today on 'The Netroots and the business of American politics'.
I ask a simple question:
Will the rise of the Internet simply bring us a new clique of political consultants, or transform politics by opening it to the wider citizenry?
I'd love to see an Internet-based politics that really opened the doors ... and as a nation, we'd be better off if it came to be. Do Bowers and Kos represent that politics? How will we know?
Reading about Al Gore's house clicked something into perspective for me.
The basic facts are simple; Gore uses a lot of energy in his 10,000 sf residence. He's invested in energy-efficiency, but his lifestyle is still energy-lavish.
He's not alone; many of the leading advocates of environmental propriety have both a Prius and an Escalade, to make an automotive metaphor. The Prius makes them feel good about themselves, while the Escalade is both roomy, comfortable, powerful, and enough of a status object that it meets the intangible needs that cars also seem to have to meet.
Gore's response is that a) he's done everything he reasonably can to mitigate his energy use, by
1) Gore's family has taken numerous steps to reduce the carbon footprint of their private residence, including signing up for 100 percent green power through Green Power Switch, installing solar panels, and using compact fluorescent bulbs and other energy saving technology.
2) Gore has had a consistent position of purchasing carbon offsets to offset the family's carbon footprint ... a concept the right-wing fails to understand. Gore's office explains:
What Mr. Gore has asked is that every family calculate their carbon footprint and try to reduce it as much as possible. Once they have done so, he then advocates that they purchase offsets, as the Gore's do, to bring their footprint down to zero.
With due respect, as someone who's read Amory Lovins for quite some time ('Soft Energy Paths' is a favorite book), if you can afford a private jet and a 10,000 foot house, you can afford to do a lot more than just "installing solar panels, and using compact fluorescent bulbs and other energy saving technology" (and yes, I know about Bush's house in Crawford - that's not the point here).
First, I'll ignore the notion that the very wealthy can afford - among other things - the moral righteousness of buying indulgences for their profligate ways - without actually, you know, doing anything that actually pinches to make them less profligate. Things like this lead to guys nailing things to doors, and we all know where that ends up.
Second, I'll suggest that what it suggests is that to many, environmental righteousness can best be compared to something from the past...
Created in 1783, the Petit Hameau was a mock farm area, complete with farmhouse, dairy, and poultry yard ... all areas traditionally associated with women.
When visiting this ersatz farm, Marie Antoinette and her attendants would dress as shepherdesses, and play at milking the cows and tending other docile animals. The farmhouse interior was more opulent, featuring all of the luxuries expected by the Queen and her ladies.
The Petit Hameau was part of the landscape of the "natural" English garden, but it was also a reflection of France's cultural values on the eve of the Revolution. This artificial nature retreat mirrored the moral values associated with natural simplicity and virtue.
Novelists, playwrights, and moralists encouraged the aristocracy to act their part by giving a helping hand to the deserving poor in well-staged events that would reflect well on them. The poor had a tendency to take the aristocrats to court if they failed in their traditional duties, and they often won their cases.
Sadly, we can't do that to our current aristocracy...
Look, we own a hybrid (even if the license plate announces that it's an 'eco fraud'). We bought it, nakedly, for the convenience of access to HOV lanes (which in crowded Los Angeles is a convenience indeed), as well as because we no longer needed the larger Honda minivan that we'd driven for seven years. If not for the HOV stickers, we probably would have bought a conventional Civic, rather than a hybrid one....but we probably would have bought something like a Civic regardless.
We could afford a lot of cars. But the reality is that I've BTDT with automotive 'prestige' (impressing the parking valets, as I once said...), and that I genuinely believe that we do all need to reduce our energy footprint in ways that doesn't imply that we'll live in fairy-tale rural communities.
Collapsing that make-believe is an important part of dealing with these issues; I'll give Gore credit for hammering home the point that these issues are serious. Now if we could only get him out of the milking shed long enough to start talking about what we need to do about them.