Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Habeas Schmabeas

This is an abridged excerpt from episode 310 of "This American Life" called "Habeas Schmabeas" First Broadcast March 10, 2006 Produced by Chicago Public Radio Distributed by Public Radio International .

It is long, but worth the read. the italics are my additions. You can get the whole transcript of the show, equally worth your time, by the way here. The the link to 06 episodes and scroll down to episode 310. there is a PDF doc there and a free download. Usually you have to buy them. Not this one. I wonder if Bush knows about Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon.

September 11th, 1660.
IRA GLASS (host) : So where things stand now, in 2005, the president signed into law a bill that had solid bipartisan support that would end habeas rights forever for Guantanamo detainees. Where that law is going to stand and whether detainees are going to get fair hearings in the military CRST’s is actually still up in the air and it’s going to be resolved by the courts in the coming months and years.

Habeas rights were originally created in England, and in one of the Supreme Court cases on this issue, 175 members of the British Parliament filed a Friend of the Court Brief, an amicus brief, the first time in Supreme Court history this has happened. And they argued, first of all, that British citizens being held at Guantanamo deserved better than what they were getting under these rights. And they also said, essentially, “Are you guys nuts?” This is from their brief:

“As members of Parliament of Westminster, amici have a duty to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms against the misuse of public power. The due process of law is deeply rooted in Anglo-American legal and political heritage. The exercise of executive power without possibility of judicial review jeopardizes the keystone of our existence as nations, namely the rule of law, as well as the effective protection of human rights.”

You know, it also pointed out the history of habeas -- how after WWII, Winston Churchill wanted to suspend habeas rights for Nazi leaders and just shoot them, and it was the United States who argued for habeas and for trials, which resulted in the Nuremburg trials. They also finally pointed out how badly it had gone the last time that they, England, tried to suspend habeas, like in the 1600s. They write, "during the British civil war, the British created their own version of Guantanamo Bay, and dispatched undesirable prisoners to garrisons off the mainland, beyond the reach of habeas corpus relief." The guy who did that was named Lord Clarendon and in England, one of our regular contributors, Jon Ronson, decided to look into it.

RONSON: So it turns out that the last person to come up with this same exact way to sidestep habeas corpus is a lord I have never heard of. A not household name lord called Clarendon. Who was he? I went to a professional, Tony McDonald, who said he’d take me to Clarendon’s grave in Westminster Abbey.
MCDONALD: Yes, we’re here in the south aisle of Westminster Abbey. Notice we just passed Charles Darwin’s grave.
RONSON: Tony is an historian and a Blue Patch guide, an official Westminster Abbey tour guide. He took me down corridors and through chambers until we came to a flagstone on the floor. Lord Clarendon’s grave. He’s in vaulted company. Henry V is buried just to his left, and Elizabeth I lies a couple of yards in front of him. Tony explains who Lord Clarendon was.
MCDONALD: He was, for want of a better word nowadays, what would probably be called today the Prime Minister, and he was the main advisor to the king.
RONSON: So Clarendon had this job: he was the king’s advisor in the middle of the civil war in which the king was killed. There were two sides. You’ve got the monarchists, and then you’ve got the Puritans, who murdered the king because they saw the kingdom as debauched and decadent. Now, I know you Americans see Puritans as kindly settlers constantly sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner. We see them as bastards. They were religious fundamentalists. In other words, they were...
MCDONALD: who believed that all they had to do was to overthrow the government, and the reign of Jesus Christ would come once more among them.
RONSON: So this was a battle of civilization, it was a battle of religious ideologies...
MCDONALD: It certainly was.
RONSON: So as Puritans, they seemed to be kind of crazy religious fundamentalists.
MCDONALD: Some of the people were, and they were among the most persecuted after the Restoration.
RONSON: The Restoration. This is when the whole “sending people away to offshore islands for dubious sovereignty business” took place.
MCDONALD: It was the period after the war. The Puritans had been defeated. The king, Charles II, was restored to power along with his main advisor, Lord Clarendon.
RONSON: Consider what it was like for Clarendon and the monarchists. They’d been in exile for years. Many of their friends and supporters had been locked up or killed. The Puritans had been vicious; they had killed the king. And many of the men who had done it were still at large, plotting out there. It was a 9/11style trauma, and Clarendon behaved in a traumatized way.
MCDONALD: He probably was paranoid to some extent. The whole of the paranoid. They saw plots everywhere, and there was a feeling of retribution They killed the king! They had killed the king, they had views that would have led to anarchy, and they were capable of anything. That’s why they were put where they were, and it was for the safety of all of us, doing you all a favor. Heaven knows what would have happened. They were wicked people, and those were the people who were then shipped off by Clarendon.
RONSON: The exact location of Lord Clarendon’s Guantanamo is lost to history. It was probably in Jersey or Guernsey, which today are nice seaside tax havens for the rich. But suspending habeas corpus didn’t work out well for Lord Clarendon. He was impeached. At his impeachment trial, he was accused of sending people away to “remote islands, garrisons and other places, thereby to prevent them from the benefit of the law, and to produce precedents for the imprisoning of any other of his majesty’s subjects in like manner.” And remember, democracy as we know it is still centuries away. Innocent until proven guilty, one man one vote -- only the most extreme radicals held these views. These were dark times. There were heads on spikes all over London and still, the people were shocked by Clarendon’s disregard for habeas corpus.
MCDONALD: People took it seriously, and they would have bandied it about with each other. This idea that you had to produce somebody and accuse them in law in front of their own peers. And the parallels are so obvious when you read the history of habeas corpus and the amount of times it’s just been suspended... that is what they always, always do. They say that these people are capable of anything, these people do not hold the same values as we do, they are out to destroy our way of life. It’s more or less the same situation.
RONSON: The one outcome of all of this was the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679, which specifically forbade what Clarendon had done, and made it illegal to send a prisoner into “Scotland, Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey, Tangier or into parts, garrisons, islands or places beyond the seas which are, or at any time hereafter shall be within or without the dominions of His Majesty.” And forbade it has remained for 330 years – in England, anyway.


Friday, September 29, 2006


One of the advantages of writing a blog instead of an e-zine is that not all the posts need to be germane. With that apology, let me discuss a song I heard while I was in Australia, Sing by the Dresden Dolls, from their album "Yes, Virginia." Some of the lyrics startled me... and when I considered why they had startled me, I began to realize how sclerotic some of my ways of thinking had become. Here's an excerpt:

All the world's history gradually dying of shock
There is thing that's like talking except you don't talk:
You sing.

Sing for the bartender, sing for the janitor, sing
Sing for the cameras, sing for the animals, sing
Sing for the children shooting the children, sing
Sing for the teachers who told you that you couldn't sing
Just sing.

There is thing keeping everyone's lungs and lips locked
It is called fear and it's seeing a great renaissance...

Sing cause it's obvious, sing for the astronauts, sing
Sing for the President, sing for the terrorists, sing
Sing for the soccer team, sing for the Janjaweed, sing
Sing for the kid with the phone who refuses to sing
Just sing.

Life is no cabaret...

Naturally, it was the line about the terrorists that got to me. I thought the lyrics were pretty daring for 2006. They made me think about hate, fear, and forgiveness. And anyhow, the tune was pretty catchy. I share it as food for thought.


Do I Make You Horny?

The new broke to day that Representative Mark Foley, Republican from Florida, resigned after news leaked of very inappropriate emails sent to a page, a 16-year old boy, including the title of this post. Apparently, Mr. Foley was also on a committee to punish sex offenders.

I could rant about "family values" Republicans, hypocrites, and self-hating gays, but that would be all too easy. I'm just waiting for the picture to surface of Rep. Foley with George W. Bush.

That's a turn-on.


Kip Hawley is an Idiot!

OK, check this story out. I wonder what they would have done to him if he said "Don Rumsfeld is an asshole?"


Thursday, September 28, 2006

How Painful Double Standards Can Be for HP

Patricia Dunn and company appeared before the House Energy and Commerce Committee to face the music on their little spy scandal at Hewlette-Packard. We all know the story: they hired private detectives who posed as members of HP's board of directors to obtain phone records and spying on journalists. The idea was to locate the source of an internal leak. Apparently it ended up looking more like something out of the keystone cops than a proper investigation.

In the end, they used tons of circumstantial evidence and some pretty funny antics to finger George Keyworth II, former science advisor to Ronald Regan and previous official at at Los Alamos. Said Mr. Keyworth's lawyer, "The analysis piles inference on innuendo to reach a predetermined and hopelessly flawed conclusion." Of the 18 page report that was produced by HP's investigators, the lawyer said, “It was developed through illegal and invasive means.”

Well gee. What's the big deal? This IS what we do now. It's about security, you see. HP executives were simply trying to protect investors. They were simply following the example set by our President.

I guess the congressmen were quite tough on today's visitors, nearly all of whom pleaded the 5th. Well, let the waterboarding begin, I say!

Guess it is safer for Congress to pick on exeuctives in an eleciton season than to fess up to one's own failings. If there is any moral to be taken from HP's story, it might be that it's OK to spy, just don't get caught, especially if you don't control Congress (like the President does)and especially if it is election time.

Thus far, HP has shown a higher level of accountability than our government. At least their people got fired. Certify that it is legal to tap into Americans' phone calls for the Bush Adminstration, and get a key to the executive bathroom over at the Justice Department.


Worst... Bill... Ever...

Compare this:

"The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it."
-US Constitution, Article 1, Section 9,

To this:
"No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who--(A) is currently in United States custody; and (B) has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination."
-S.3930 Military Commissions Act of 2006, Section 6a

Unless Vermont secedes or Afghanistan invades us, what the Republicans are doing is not only unjust but unconstitutional... and utterly unnecessary. It makes me furious. The President has all the tools he needs to fight terrorism right now. If he can't do the job, he should step aside and let someone who can.


Just Say No To Biofuels

The new trendy thing these days is biofuels. You know, all those wonderful ways of making your car run on french fry grease or corn oil or soybeans or whatever. It's a favorite cause of "green" types and it's deeply deeply flawed.

Do we really think we can combust our way out of the environmental problems we face? It's like Chief Wiggum ordering his fellows stuck in the bottom of a deep whole with no ladder to "dig up, stupid!"

Electric cars are the answer - not hydrogen (maintains Big Oil's power), not biofeuls but electric cars. We have the technology to do it today but Big Oil and Big Auto companies won't go forward unless they are forced. Big Oil will never go along with it because it would end their retail oligopoly. California almost did it but then backed off under right wing pressure. With even California's feckless governor signing environmental legislation now, perhaps now is the time to try again.


Dig My Grave

There is a bill pending to outlaw building or financing a tunnel under the United States border. Here is some information from Senator Feinstein:

"Since 9/11, at least 44 border tunnels have been discovered in the United States, all but one have been on the southern border. These tunnels range in complexity to from simple ‘gopher
holes’ a few feet long at the border, to massive drug-cartel built mega-tunnels."

I read that several times. Comments:
1. The "gopher holes" are presumably dug immediately under the fences. These are not a particular problem. They are unlikely to be dug under stretches of empty desert.
2. The mega-tunnels (for those who don't know) can include small railways. It's disturbing that we have found several, and don't know how many others (obviously) may be out there.
3. One of these tunnels was under the Canadian border. That's really, really dangerous. Because everyone seems to have forgotten about the Canadian border, the longest undefended border in the world. It's dangerous because THAT tunnel was not built to smuggle drugs or immigrants, I presume. Maybe illegal immigration shouldn't be the reason for building fences or scanning the border, eh?


Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Oh my God! Everyone panic! I thought we were crazy to think that terrorism could happen anywhere but on the coasts, and here it is! A terrorist attack in Davenport, Iowa! Can you believe it, car bombs here? Jeez, this makes me rethink everything! I'll have to stock up on supplies and start voting Republican and ...

Oh, wait. It's just a guy trying to blow up an abortion clinic. Charge him with second-degree arson and move on. I mean, this clinic didn't even actually perform abortions, so what's the big deal? You can hardly consider this a car-bombing, really. Plus, he's a God-fearing Christian. Maybe he can just do some community service or something.


This is what we feared during the cartoon thing

Remember the Danish cartoon flap? It was suggested by many that the Danish newspaper (Jyllandsposten) bore responsibility for the violent reaction. That the appropriate western reaction was to be more circumspect about what we say about and around Muslims. That our culture should be modified to accomodate the sensibilities of Arab politicians who thrive by whipping up violent religious frenzy. I argued against that position saying that it amounted to an unreasonable step towards censorship.

Well, Berlin's Deutche Oper company is cancelling a production of an Opera by Mozart, Idomeneo. You can find a link to a summary of the libretto here. The play is mostly about a King of Crete and some prisoners from Troy. The fear is that there will be violence because there is a scene where the title character presents the severed heads of Poseidon, Jesus, Buddha and ... drum roll please...Mohammed.

OK, so if the radical fundamentalists get a de facto ban over productions of European high culture, shouldn't the rest of us get to ban what is certainly libraries full of classical Arab and Muslim literature and culture that portrays everyone else in a bad light - or at all?

So where do we stand? OK, cartoons - out. Quotations of medieval Monarchs - out. Mozart operas with shocking scenes about religious figures - out. What's next? Rembrant van Rijn had some paintings depicting people in quasi-Muslim dress. Maybe that's offensive - let's ban it. What about Shakespeare's Othello: The Moor of Venice? Let's ban that too. Oh, and he mentions "moors" in a number of plays. Better ban those. What about Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio (Harem)? Gee, Mozart had Muslim issues. Let's ban all his operas - he had too many notes anyway.

This is exactly the kind of ridiculous censorship that I feared would result from the self-censorship approach coming out of the Danish cartoon crisis.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Jane Harman is a congresswoman some of us know well, and have our disagreements with ... at least, we used to. She had a primary challenge from the left this summer and she responded by tacking to the left (think of her as the anti-Joe Lieberman). Read more about her turnaround on a great post here.

Now, congresswoman Harman is making me very proud by calling for the release of another report about how Iraq is causing more terrorism. No, not the one that was leaked to the New York Times, a second one. Good for her! I hope other Democrats will follow her lead and keep the pressure on; this stuff can't be allowed to be kept secret until November.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Monday Youtube

Nobody likes Mondays, so to make the transition from the weekend easier, here's an old clip from the Daily Show called "Even Stevphen". I unfortunately didn't watch the Daily Show as much then as I do now, so I missed this whole thing. Luckily, it's still as relevant today as it was then.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Reading the Polls in Connecticut

9/19/06Likely VotersRepublicans(26%)Democrats(39%)Independents(35%)
Lamont45%15%62% 47%
Undecided5% 11%2%11%

We learn some interesting things from this polls.
1. Independent voters are split with a large amount undecided.
2. Democrats now favor Lamont by almost 2 to 1. This shows a shift to Lamont from the primary last month where it was nearly 50/50.
3. Republicans are only giving 2/3 support to Lieberman. The other 1/3 is scattered. Some are willing to vote for Lamont. The Republican candidate is getting some fringe Republican support (some of that 8%) but little. I think it is all very soft. I also expect low Republican turnout if the choice is between two democrats. In other words, I think the"likely voter" category is very overstated for Republcians. The 15% voting for Lamont probably realize that the best chance Republicans ultimately have of taking the state in the future is to get a left-leaning Democrat in there over the centrist/rightist Lieberman.

Therefore, I predict Lamont will win this race, as the Democratic vote continues to shift towards him, while the Republican Lieberman "base" fails to materialize at the polls.


McCain Sells Out (again)

Hi Everyone,

Well, trust a Republican to give cover for the crimes of a fellow Republican. In a bold move to cover Bush and Rumsfeld from war crimes prosecution, supposedly "thoughtful" Republican, John McCain, has agreed to a deal with Bush that allows the President to authorize "lesser violations" of the Geneva Convention based on executive orders which may or may not be made public.

Bush hailed the deal (a bad sign) and said it would "preserve the most potent tool in the war on terrorism."

I've said before that we can't let ourselves think that Bush is the only problem. The problem is the Republican majority. So long as a majority of Congress covers for his torturing, spying and other outrages on our constitution we are in danger of losing our democracy - no exaggeration.

Even supposedly "liberal" Republicans are part of the problem because they enable their more overtly right wing leadership to determine what gets voted on in which committee and so on.

There is only one way to stop these people. Get active and do everything we can to ensure a Democratic victory in November!


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Heed the warnings

LTG and Seventh Sister have warned me for a while that the time where we imprison debtors was coming, and it might be here already. Don't mess with Georgia.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Speak of the Devil

Looks like Venezuela can kiss its shot on the UN Security Council goodbye. It also appears that foreign leaders are now doing Americans the service of offering us comic relief. Can't wait for Jon Stewart and Steve Colbert!

Considering that Bush came up woth the Axis of Evil, we should be careful about laughing too much at Hugo Chavez.


Mighty Mouse

This is for the benefit of those poor unfortunate souls who haven't seen it. Every bit of actual politics right now is too depressing to bring up.

Talk amongst yourselves.

...okay, if you want to be a little depressed, this Daily Kos diary addresses an issue that has concerned me for some time.


Friday, September 15, 2006

Remembering Ann Richards

I rarely get emotional over reports of untimely demises, but yesterday, I was on my way up the hill to drop off my laundry. I turned on NPR and was so happy to hear the drawl of Ann Richards.

It took me about 30 seconds to figure out that they were talking about her in the past tense. I felt the tears well up. We just lost another good one.

We can't afford to loose the Ann Richards' of the world- the straight talking, fighters with all the charisma and the integrity to do what is right and to get others to join in- the real leaders. I couldn't let it go by without remarking on it.

Take some time to enjoy Ann Richards. Here is a video clip and a pretty good story! And here is a story from Molly Ivins.


Please Do Not Offer my God a Peanut

Well, they just keep poking at the poor Muslims.

Today the reports say that the Pope, that paragon of spirituality, decided to quote Byzantine Emperor Manuel II, saying "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." The Pope used the quote in the context of a talk about Islam and violence.

The Vatican defended itself by saying that they had no intention of offending the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world by referring to the quote. Jesus must be spinning in his grave!

The Pope has forgotten the 9th commandment. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor" and wrapped in there is the idea that "THOU SHALL NOT LIE!" Didn't mean it, my ass.

That is about as good as the UN forgiving Israel today for bombing its UN compound in Lebanon killing 4 Blue Helmets. Israel says that they had bad maps, so, oops. And the UN says, "Ok". But we'll ignore the fact that the compounded contacted the Israeli's 4 times in a period of something like 2 hours to tell them that they were bombing too close. Again, bad maps, my ass.

These are the blatant lies that should not be allowed to stand. And people wonder why Muslims and Arabs get so angry?


Bob Ney: the Duke's New Cellmate

The story is breaking that Congressman Bob Ney - a Republican from Ohio - is pleading guilty to taking bribes. He has hitherto maintained his innocence. I hope this helps persuade Ohioans to stop voting for Republicans. Of course, who knows.

Ney, Delay, Cunningham: Three down, 222 to go...


Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I recently discovered the site Newsmeat, a place to find campaign contributions from various famous people. A great place to play around. You can be surprised by Dennis Hopper's political leanings, disappointed by Vin Scully, or confused by Donald Fehr (for the baseball fans, those last two). I know that RbR will be downright shocked by Seth MacFarlane's apparently strong political leanings (he's the brain behind "Family Guy"). Tom Cruise used to donate a lot, but hasn't at all recently. See what you can find out!


Monday, September 11, 2006


I, um ... I somehow missed the news about Hezbollah's boy band. I ... I really have nothing to say.

Hezbollah's boy band?


Kitschification of Destruction

While I agree with Dr. S about what rememberence is, I have a slightly different take on the whole 9/11 event. I know that I risk being slammed hard for stating my feelings so starkly, but I don't think I am alone and 5 years later, I think we should all be able to speak frankly. For starters, it did NOT change my life as the media would have me believe. I resent the constant chanting that it did. I know what changes my life and what doesn't. The election of G.W. Bush changed my life, and that pre-dated 9/11. I am living in California and I have never been to New York. So while 9/11 is tragic, it might as well of happened in a different country.

Secondly, we missed a huge opportunity in our response to 9/11. It should have been a moment when he took advantage of world sympathy to build international coalitions and to reflect on the blowback of our foriegn policy. We should have redoubled our efforts to solve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and worked with Arab leaders to bolster moderate Islam through humanitarian means. That is the long-term war we should have fought. Instead, we navel gazed and islolated ourselves.

Christopher Lydon,host of NPR's Open Source dug up an interesting quote from American Writer, Philip Roth. I don't think I have heard it put better than this. Philip Roth was being asked about the assessment of 9/11 and if we were gaining some wisdom from it. He said the following:

I really don't know and I don't care. That interests me as a citizen, but not as a novelist. September 11th is not something I can draw on at an imaginative level. The only story I can take from it is the kitsch in all its horror-not the horror in what happened, but the great distortion of what happened. It's almost embarrassing, the kitschification of 3,000 people's deaths. Other cities have experienced far worse catastrophes. America itself has inflicted some in its past, even if it was for the right reasons. I am not a pacifist. One wouldn't dream of slighting these people, it is awful, but we need to keep a sense of proportion about these things. What we've been witnessing since 9/11 is an orgy of national narcissism and a gratuitous sense of victimization that is repellant and it doesn't stop, even now it is impossible to watch a baseball game without having to listen to "God Bless America" before hand or without being asked to remember our heroes. I feel like saying ,"Stop. Dignity demands that you stop it."

This quote, according to Lydon, is from a long lost interview with Roth in 2002 in the Independent of London. It appeared on the web, quickly disappeared, and isn't referenced anywhere that I could find. Lydon mentioned having had the same experience. I searched high and low for a copy of the interview with no luck. So if anyone is able to dig it up, great! In any case, what he says is as true today as it was the day he said it.



On this grim anniversary, there will be those sanctimonious fools who will warn us sternly to remember... as if we could ever forget. As if we shall ever forget that awful morning: it has seared itself into our memories. Five years on and the images still move me to tears, and they still startle me, though I know them by heart.

No... today is not a day to remember the loss, but to remember what was lost. Remember the 2,973 men and women whose lives stopped forever that day. Remember the courage of the firefighters and policemen, and of the passengers on United flight 93. Remember how proud the towers once stood on the New York City skyline. Remember who we were, as a people and a nation, in the brighter days before we were wrenched into this brave new era.

At a memorial service, one does not dwell upon the death. One celebrates the life.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Karl the Rat and Tricky Mickey Mouse

So where does the ABC/Disney propaganda piece fit in? According to "thoughtful" Republican blogger, Andrew Sullivan, Karl Rove intends to make 2006 election the most exploitive, most partisan abuse of the 9/11 story yet. The Bush administration push to legalize torture and get what amounts to Congressional approval after the fact for war crimes and broad ranging violations of US law and the US Constitution is the keystone.

They are hoping that Americans will see Democratic opposition to torture as being "appeasing the terrorists" and this ABC propaganda piece is their little version of Aleksandr Nevsky. It is the film they hope will prime people's minds to the idea that Democrats are soft on terrorists because ...well, pick a stereotype: liberals are effeminate (let's psychoanalyze that little mantra some day), liberals hate America as much as Bin Ladin does, liberals are soft in the head etc.

I am hoping that two things will keep Rove from using this strategy effectively. 1) John McCain seems to have taken a principled stand against the Bush position on torture and it is damn hard for a draft dodging, ANG gold bricker to call McCain a coward or unpatriotic. 2) Most of the American people seem sick of hearing about 9/11 all the time. I get the impression the country is finally ready for closure and may not appreciate such naked politicization of 9/11.


Docu-drama, Mock-u-drama

I posted this earlier, but it got sort of buried by our other posts. So I decided to move it up the food chain a little bit.

OK, we all know that USWest hates mawkish 9/11 coverage. I especially hate it when it is false and it treats viewers as if we are idiots (granted, may among us are).

The DNC is making people aware that ABC's upcoming docudrama The Path to 9/11" is targeted at Democrats just in time for the fall election push. According to the DNC, many of the "facts" are actually fictions, that many of the key players on the commission and in Congress were not consulted.

Media Matters is also pointing out that the criticism isn't just coming from Democrats and Bill Clinton, but from across the political spectrum. Journalists as well as conservatives and even the lead actor are criticizing the series.

It may be worth it to take a look at what the DNC has to say about the issue And for the record, I have received the DNC message a total of 4 times in the last 2 days. If the DNC could be as efficient in its other campaigns, we might win by an even bigger margin in November.


Friday, September 08, 2006

Understanding Prolonged War

I have been reading a series of essays from a book called "Prolonged Wars: the Post nuclear challenge" edited by Karl Magyar and Constantine Danopoulous and published in 1994.

Each essay focuses on a particular conflict and attempts to understand why these conflicts were protracted or prolonged. Each essay offers up a series of factors. And I think it might be interesting to consider it here.

The factors that seem to dominate are 1) the relative strength of the participants 2) the type of participants (states vs. irregular forces and militias) 3) the level of international involvement. 4) the deep-seeded cultural and social attitudes that underlie the conflict.

For starters, the editors try to distinguish between short conflicts and wars. They point out that the distinctions are subtle and often subjective. Conflicts come in various shades; they can be non-violent, violent,prolonged, or protracted. Violent conflicts will result in some causalities and engagements over a period of time. But they will never be resolved so long as they stay in this phase. They can be prolonged, or depending on the strategy of each participant, protracted. An example may be situation in Kashmir, or of course in Israel and Palestine. A non-violent, but prolonged conflict is Turkey and Greece over Cyprus.

War is a much more intense version of a conflict. It is characterized by the total dedication of the civilian and military resources to the fight by at least one participant. Wars can be, and often are, part of a prolonged and unresolved conflict. Wars themselves do not always end in a clear victor. Take the end of WWI. Treaties were signed, but the underlying problems remained, the conflicts continued cumulating into WWII. The same can be said of the Iran-Iraq War, the Lebanese Civil War, or any other number of wars that you can think of.

An unresolved war can go dormant, like a volcano after eruption, returning to low grade but prolonged conflict, only to flare up later. This is important because if you look at the conflicts between Iran and Iraq, you will see how the current situation in Iraq feeds into Iran's long-standing strategy for the region. That conflict-cum–war was never resolved.

Prolonged conflicts and warfare benefit no one. Protracted conflict or war, where one side purposely draws out the engagement in the hope of outlasting the enemy is used by insurgent forces when confronted by conventional armies. Maygar points out that Mao Tse Tung effectively used this strategy in his revolution. Mao said that war had two phases. The first was guerrilla warfare. You keep the army off balance by becoming an irritant. Then, once you have acquired a following and little centralized organization, you can switch to more conventional tactics. But Guerrilla warfare is still your primary tactic.

Once Mao became the leader of China and started fighting the Japanese, he said that the first phase of war was to use conventional forces to dislodge or unsettle the opposition. Then in phase two, you would use guerilla tactics to supplement your conventional methods. This would help protract the war and wear down the enemy both economically and morally. Mao understood that quick victory was not possible when confronting a stronger enemy. So you had to use the Wei-ch'i method.

Wei-ch'i is an ancient game where winning is achieved through a progressive accumulation of advantages by capturing territory on a board. It is known to be very complex, so much so that computers have yet to beat the game's experts. In Chess, you capture the king and the game is over. We in the West have little tolerance for protracted war or conflict. We in fact build elaborate social and legal mechanisms to end conflicts decisively and clearly. But in the rest of the world, they have a very malleable relationship with time and truth and a high tolerance for loss, suffering, and conflict.

This is an interesting difference to consider. In the West, we plan short decisive wars, the Gulf War being an example, or the UK in the Falkland Islands. We expect clear cut victories (UK in the Falklands). Yet, in the East, they know how to bide their time. This is what Hezbollah does, what the Palestinians have done, what North Korea and Iran are doing. So when Ahmadinejad says he has people laying in wait in Iraq, he isn't kidding. In fact,leaders like Saddam were expert at playing groups against each other, keeping them in constant conflict. It takes a very careful approach to be successful at protracted war/conflict and isn't always successful and it is very risky.

Finally, the international community also has a role. The Iran-Iraq war is a prime example of how wars can be prolonged, protracted, and left unresolved largely due to miscalculations on the parts of the participants, personal ambitions of individual leaders, and international involvement. That war aged for 8 years largely because the USSR, Europe, and the US were all supplying both sides simultaneously as no one had an interest in seeing that war decisively resolved. Had one side won, no doubt we would not be where we are today in Iraq. We might be in a better or worse position,we can only speculate. Even though a treaty was signed ending the war, the conflict was never resloved. For Iran, it was just one battle in a prolonged conflict. Iran's desire for nukes, Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, the Gulf War, the strengthening of Hezbollah, and the war in Iraq today are all stem from the unresolved conflict between Iran and Iraq over who would dominate that corner of the globe, who would control the oil, and whether a secular or religious dominion would result.

The beauty of history is that when studied, you can see the coherence of the events that brought is to where we are. Like a puzzle, the pieces begin to fit. It may do us good to start paying attention to what came before in order to help understand what is now and to anticipate what may come.


The Price of Arrogance

The following figures are from on September 8, 2006:

Total U.S. military casualties (death) in Iraq: 2,666
Total U.S. military casualties (wounded) in Iraq 19,688
Additional Coalition (non-U.S.) military casualties (death) in Iraq: 233

Contractor deaths in Iraq (minimum--list is incomplete): 349
Journalist deaths in Iraq (minimum--list is incomplete): 100
Iraqi Police deaths (minimum--list is incomplete): 5,351

Iraqi Civilian deaths, from Iraq Body Count (min. - max.): 41,639 - 46,307

I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen men coughing out their gassed lungs. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen two hundred limping exhausted men come out of line-the survivors of a regiment of one thousand that went forward forty-eight hours before. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.
-Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address at Chautauqua, 14 August 1936
Fuck Saddam. We're taking him out.
-George W. Bush, to Condoleeza Rice and 3 Senators, as quoted by Time magazine and CNN, March 2002


Bye Bye Tony

So it's official - Tony Blair has said he will leave office within a year, and that the party conference in 2 weeks will be his last.

What does this mean for England? What does it mean for the world?

I predict Blair will not last a year. Trying to arrange a graceful future exit from politics is like trying to take a graceful crap: once you've made it clear you're going to go, it becomes in everyone's interest for it to be as quick, clean, and quiet as possible.

I predict the Labo(u)r party will divide horribly over Iraq, with the possibility of a coalition government, if conservative votes can be used to put a pro-Iraq Labourite in Downing Street. I predict, in a word, chaos - not the orderly transition of the sort that brought John Major to power 16 years ago.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

And Now . . .

For something completely different!

A while back, I wrote and extensive post on language policy. This weekend, I had the time to catch up on my Economist magazines, and I found an excellent example of language policy in action, supported by the marketplace.

Quechua is a language spoken by Indians in the Peruvian Andes and is one of Peru's official, but neglected, langauges. It was the language of the Inca Empire as it thought to be spoken by 3-4 million people in Peru and over 10 million in South America. Recently, a primary speaker of this language joined the Peruvian parliament. Despite speaking fluent Spanish, she insisted on speaking her first language, Quechua, thus requiring parliament to supply her with a translator. This has raised the language's profile. Now Google and Microsoft are localizing their software by translating it into Quechua! Google's site isn't totally operational. But it is a start. Way cool!

And this month, the new Peruvian president signed a law making discrimination on the basis of language a criminal offense. Not a bad way to start your administration! By doing this, he has acknowledge the ethnic inequalities that have long existed in Peru. What I hope is that this will make it more possible to teach Quechua more widely in Peruvian schools. The legislation for doing so has existed since the 1960s, but has not really been properly enforced, funded, or staffed with trained teachers.

I think this is very cool, and very nice to hear when so much other news is bad.


Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue

Bush now admits that the CIA has held at least 14 people in secret prisons for years! So he's been lying about it ever since the charges were first made in November of last year. The very notion of secret prisons goes against everything America believes in. (And if you don't suspect those 14 men were also tortured, you have not been paying attention.)

Bush must be impeached.


Two Items of Interest

Two news items drew my attention this morning.

First, is reporting that Turkey is going to send several hundred soldiers to Southern Lebanon. A Turkish role (even if only symbolic) is important because they are one of the few states with a majority Muslim population that has had reasonable relations with Israel. Turkey also has some strategic conflicts with Syria and Hezbollah.

Second, while Bush is telling us we can't withdraw from Iraq because that would be the same as appeasing "terrists," he is giving his blessing to a negotiated peace between the Pakistani government and Pashtun tribesmen that amounts to a de facto Pakistani withdrawal from the tribal areas along the Afghan border where conventional wisdom says is the home to the Taliban/Al Qaida and Osama Bin laden! The deal calls for the tribal leaders to expel foreign fighters but since it also calls for a substantial withdrawal of Pakistani government troops, how this requirement would be verified let alone enforced is beyond me.

How screwed up are Bush's strategic priorities here? OMFG!


Monday, September 04, 2006

Operation Enduring F*ckup

The grim news from Afghanistan these days consists of two main stories: (1) the opium harvest grew by 50% this year to unprecedented levels now comprising 92% of the world's opium trade; and (2) the Taliban have been growing in strength in recent months. These two facts are often said in the same breath, and the public could be forgiven for assuming they are related simply.

They are related, of course, but not the way most newscasters imply. The Taliban are not drug lords. What is happening is this: under threat from a Taliban resurgence, the Karzai government has apparently decided to tacitly permit opium production as way to a survive (despite their obligatory noises to the contrary about the "war on drugs"). To nobody's surprise, promises of economic aid from Western powers have not been fulfilled, so Karzai has few cards to play... and opium is just about the only way that Afghani farmers can make ends meet.

The Karzai government has also accepted opium production because it is a coin they can offer that the Taliban will not: under their rule, the Taliban forbade it as a sin. Opium production in Afghanistan was close to zero in 2001, thanks to medieval anti-drug laws and harsh enforcement. In fact, an astounding article by Robert Scheer from May, 2001 lambasted Bush for a gift of $43 million Bush gave to the Taliban, to thank them for their efforts in that regard. Wrote Mr. Scheer presciently, "Never mind that Osama bin Laden still operates the leading anti-American terror operation from his base in Afghanistan..."

Nearly five years after we "won" in Afghanistan, the Taliban remains in control of more of the country than the "legitimate" government can claim. Furthermore, news reports indicate that hundreds of Taliban fighters are training in Iraq and learning from the insurgency there--some evidence of this is the introduction of kidnappings and suicide attacks in Afghanistan over the past year. It is hard to conceive of just how badly Bush has bungled his own war on terror. Few of the proud and lofty goals for the Karzai administration remain: their job now is just to try not to implode.

In December, 2002, Rumsfeld said, "The Taliban are gone."
In September, 2004, Bush said "The Taliban no longer is in existence."
In August, 2006, Bush declared, "The days of the Taliban are over."

In this Operation, it seems the only things that endure are the lies.


Friday, September 01, 2006


The CA Legislature approved the National Popular Vote plan all that remains is to see if Arnie will sign it. If he refuses, that is a big problem. If he signs it, and he may well do so (he has taken "no position") then we are a big step closer to reducing the antidemocratic effects of the electoral college.