Thursday, December 30, 2004

Back after New Years 

you have to admit

i post a lot

so rejoin me until sunday the 2nd

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

History Repeats Itself  


WHO SAID this and when? "The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient that the public knows... We are today not far from a disaster."

(answer: Lawrence of Arabia – 1920)


Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Compassionate Conservatism.... 

Price tag for Bush's Second Inauguration - $30 million

U.S. aid pledged to help those impacted by the earthquake / tsunami / stolen Jerry Bruckheimer idea - $15 million

I'm sorry, but what the fuck?

You've already had one inauguration, George! Do you really need a second one? Couldn't that $30 million be put to better use helping to prevent even more death in Asia? Or, at the very least, buying more armor for our Hummers?

Why Do We Do This To Our Soldiers? 


Kevin D. Jones, a retired Army veteran, was desperate for money. He wanted to get his wife out of the Philippines quickly after her home had been destroyed in a bombing. But she was being delayed as she waited for immigration papers to come through that would allow her to join him in North Carolina.

His military contacts, cultivated during a 25-year career that included duty in Bosnia and Kosovo, helped speed the paperwork. And a Florida financial services company that he had found through an advertisement in The Army Times helped him raise the money to fly to Manila, resettle his in-laws and return home with his wife.

He was too frantic, he said, to consider the cost of that money. But it was steep. In exchange for $19,980 after fees and insurance, Mr. Jones signed over his $1,000-a-month military pension for the next five years, a total of $60,000. That is the equivalent of paying interest at a rate of 56 percent a year.



Bititng Indictment of the Gray Lady 


(Salon dissects Judy Miller, And The War And The Biggest Mistake The Best Newspaper In America Ever Made.)

If there's a connection between Mnookin's measured and judicious "Hard News" and "The Record of the Paper," Howard Friel and Richard Falk's blistering critique of what they describe as the Times' chronic misreporting of U.S. foreign policy, it's that both books remind us that the Times is fundamentally a business, and its reputation for impartial and careful newsgathering is fundamentally a marketplace commodity. It's what the Times is selling us. Like all other commodities, it is shaped by the conditions under which it is sold: It goes up and down in value, it is repackaged and redesigned to seem more appealing, it is understood by different consumers (that is, readers) in different ways.

Along the way, both books briefly (and unsatisfactorily) ponder the jarring disparity between the Blair scandal and the case of Judith Miller, the Times reporter who did more than any other single individual, except perhaps George W. Bush, to spread the notion that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction and, by extension, that war with Iraq was both necessary and inevitable…

… Before we get to Judith Miller, and the question of why she still has a job despite disseminating lies and propaganda whose effects put Jayson Blair's fictions to shame, let's consider the fascinating case of Howell Raines. Mnookin honestly tries to do Raines justice, but I don't think he succeeds, partly because Raines refused to talk to him (most of Mnookin's many sources come from the anti-Raines faction within the Times) and partly because Raines is so difficult to figure out. How did a man who had demonstrated such extraordinary political savvy in his climb up the Times' masthead become (at least in the view of many, perhaps most, of his subordinates) an isolated autocrat, widely disliked and hopelessly out of touch with his own newsroom?...

…. Even without embracing some utopian vision of international law, it might be possible for America's leading newspaper to view the policies and actions of its own government with a touch more skepticism (as it did, to its eternal honor, when publishing the Pentagon Papers in 1971). Even if Friel and Falk sometimes state their case too broadly, I think they're right that the Times' "misguided go-along patriotism," especially in the wake of September 2001, has led to an "imbalance of knowledge" between the United States and the world. Most newspaper readers in other countries were aware that the proposed invasion of Iraq was illegal and that the WMD (and al-Qaida) charges leveled against Saddam Hussein were speculative at best. As of Nov. 2, at least, Americans still hadn't gotten the memo…

… Looking too closely into the Miller affair, then, would raise the question of how America's leading newspaper, which prides itself on its impartiality and its "non-crusading" character, was so readily hypnotized by a mendacious administration that it splashed that government's most spectacular untruths across the front page, over and over again. This question goes well beyond Judith Miller or Howell Raines or Bill Keller, all of whom have to look in the mirror every day and wonder to what extent they are responsible for a misguided war that has cost thousands of human lives and now feels like a bottomless disaster. Jayson Blair was just a weird kid who told some fibs.


People Not Happy With W 


A Gallup survey conducted for CNN and USA Today puts Bush's approval rating at 49% — close to his preelection numbers. That's 10 to 20 points lower than every elected sitting president at this stage since just after World War II, according to Gallup, which has been tabulating such data since Harry S. Truman won a full term in 1948.

Honeymoon over


US Military vs Nature? 


If The UN Can’t Stop Us, A Turtle Sure As Hell Either.

The Defense Department, which controls 28 million acres of land across the nation that it uses for combat exercises and weapons testing, has been moving on a variety of fronts to reduce requirements that it safeguard the environment on that land.

In Congress, the Pentagon has won exemptions in the last two years from parts of the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. It has sought in recent years to exempt military activities, for three years, from compliance with parts of the Clean Air Act.

Also, the Pentagon, which controls about 140 of the 1,240 toxic Superfund sites around the country, is seeking partial exemptions from two laws governing toxic waste. And two months ago, it drafted revisions to a 1996 directive built on a pledge "to display environmental security leadership within Department of Defense activities worldwide."


You Won’t See This On The 6 O’Clock News  


Alternet’s David Morris tells us about a temper tantrum US officials had…

The spectacle of the United States single-handedly destroying the mid-December meeting in Buenos Aires on global warming offered further proof, if such were needed, that the world needs to confront this rogue state. Representatives of 200 nations had gathered to develop a plan for further reducing greenhouse gases (GHG) after 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol expires.

According to press reports, the Bush Administration's recalcitrance shocked and dismayed even longtime friends and allies like Australia. U.S. obstructionism ranged from the sublime (insisting that the Conference change the phrase "climate change" to the more ambiguous "climate variability") to the ridiculous (strongly backing Saudi Arabia's request for compensation for lost revenue resulting from reduced global oil consumption).

Our nation's antics so infuriated many participants that an exasperated Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists told Reuters, "Frankly, it might be a lot easier to do it without the U.S. and the Saudis in the room."


Monday, December 27, 2004

Kevin Drum On Bush's Negotiating With Sunnis 

GETTING IT WRONG....Do we really have to continue reading about George Bush's criminal incompetence for four more years? Apparently so:

The Bush administration is talking to Iraqi leaders about guaranteeing Sunni Arabs a certain number of ministries or high-level jobs in the future Iraqi government if, as is widely predicted, Sunni candidates fail to do well in Iraq's elections.

...."There's some flexibility in approaching this problem," said an administration official. "There's a willingness to play with the end result - not changing the numbers, but maybe guaranteeing that a certain number of seats go to Sunni areas even if their candidates did not receive a certain percentage of the vote."

The idea of altering election results is so sensitive that administration officials who spoke about it did not want their names revealed. Some experts on Iraq say such talk could undercut efforts to drum up support for voting in Sunni areas.

It's the same story over and over and over again, isn't it? By the time the Bushies finally figure something out, it's too late to do anything about it. At this point, if they let the Shiites win all the seats it's a disaster, but if they arbitrarily take away some of their seats and award them to the Sunnis instead, that's a disaster too.

A year ago there were plenty of good proposals that could have avoided the worst of this fiasco. The best of them made use of geographical precincts, like an American congressional election. Under a system like that, there would have been plenty of predominantly Sunni precincts that would have elected Sunni representatives regardless of whether or not turnout was low. It wouldn't have been perfect, but it almost certainly would have been better than the kludge we're ending up with.

Watching these guys in action is truly a remarkable thing. I mean, it only makes sense that I think the Bush administration chooses the wrong course on ideological issues. After all, we're on opposite ends of the partisan spectrum. But what continually astonishes me — and yes, I know it shouldn't anymore — is their almost supernatural ability to choose the precisely wrong course even on purely operational, nonideological tasks. You'd think they'd occasionally get something right just by chance, wouldn't you?

UPDATE: And speaking of getting it wrong, here's a precis of getting it right from Eric Shinseki, the Army General who got it right before the Iraq war and was — of course — completely ignored by the Bush admnistration folks who thought they knew better.

Republican Bumper Stickers For Dummies. (No, not Republicans) 


Bush Cheney ‘04

I have a two digit IQ. I support the President because unlike those weak-minded libruls, once he’s made his mind up, that’s that. No siree. He doesn’t debate himself. He doesn’t even really answer them tricky questions unless his advisors have tested ‘em out first. Nope. No embedded reporter is going to plant a loaded question to a soldier on his watch. And he’s done a great job considering the awful economy he inherited from the Clintons and all. And Cheney is a successful businessman with a deep and avuncular voice. So there.


First of all, I’m Merikan. Don’t read too much. So just gimme a few letters. Like GED. Or WASP. Or PBR.

My Son Is An Honor Student At Douglas High.

Granted it IS an American High School and he IS a Junior and he yes, a French 7th grader knows more American History than my son does, but I’m still so proud of him. I mean he didn’t end up at the bottom of the class. Yes, he ended up at the bottom of the class of the students like him from the top 20 industrialized nations. But so what. His father isn’t a Rhodes Scholar and come to think of it, I’m terrible at Jeopardy. But what do you need to know when you have Google? Huh?

When They Outlaw Guns Only Outlaws Will Have Guns.

I have a gun under the seat.

I Support Our Troops

You bet I do. I don’t fall for all that endless negative news. Just today, we painted three schools over there. Hey compared to Vietnam and WWII these casualties are nothing! Heck, why three dead and a dozen wounded Americans a day is a DEAL when you think about how much safer we all are. You bet, we’d better go over there (you know where those Arabs live) and fight over there before they come over here. Again, I mean. No, I don’t really give the troops any money, but I support the President because…well…he makes up his mind damn it. Shows them terrorists no weakness. No I really couldn’t point to Iraq on a blank map of the world. But hell, Bush was just a “C” student and look, he’s the President!

Power of Pride.

This one really stumps even us Republicans. I mean we’re all proud. To be not just Americans (and I realize that this bumper sticker really says nothing about America but all the letters are in red white and blue), but we are proud, as the bumper sticker says, Proud to be…uh…powerful. Yes. And Pride makes the powerful even more prideful. And powerful. Look. Power of pride. What is there really to explain?

God Bless Our Troops.

Don’t get us wrong oh Lord, now. We don’t want to bless our troops ourselves. Nope. We figure you should do that. I mean we all are over here and what can we do what with the economy and all? I mean, we voted for the President (check) we go to Church (check) we watch Fox News (check). Dubya won because YOU wanted him to (check). The bumper sticker makes us FEEL like we belong to an elite fraternity who drive eight cylinder cars and actually do something for the soldiers (check).

Soooooo...I guess that’s that.

OK then, thanks God.

Ictus (The Fish Symbol)

We all know that the Earth is 6000 years old and that the creation as described in Genesis is the absolute truth. I mean Evolution….come on!!! If we evolved from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys?

I Am Pro-Life

Except of course if you’re talking about a convicted murderer. No. Not that scum bucket. Fry that mothef***er. No appeals either.

And no not when it applies to those terrorists over there in Iraq that attacked us. Nope. Let’s kill ALL of them.

And the Fallujans? What they did to those mercenaries? Hell, nuke all of them.

And those terrorists in Afghanistan? Nope. Kill ‘em all, let Allah sort ‘em out.

And rare species and wildlife? There’s plenty of fish and salamanders. Come on. What’s a little wildlife when you consider how much we need unregulated commerce and golf courses?

But an unborn fetus? Or a single stem cell? Don’t even THINK about harming that precious thing!

Hope this helps.


Sunday, December 26, 2004

Bush Offers Deal To Sunnis, But Not Democrats 


Bush Tries To Deal With Sunnis

WASHINGTON, Dec. 25 - The Bush administration is talking to Iraqi leaders about guaranteeing Sunni Arabs a certain number of ministries or high-level jobs in the future Iraqi government if, as is widely predicted, Sunni candidates fail to do well in Iraq's elections.

An even more radical step, one that a Western diplomat said was raised already with an aide to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric, is the possibility of adding some of the top vote-getters among the Sunni candidates to the 275-member legislature, even if they lose to non-Sunni candidates.


This Week In Creeping Facism 


The Central Intelligence Agency has been unilaterally removing records from public collections in the National Archives, according to the minutes of a September 2004 meeting of the State Department Historical Advisory Committee that were approved for release this week.


Cruel, cruel America. 


We torture people.

We execute children.

We execute retarded people.

We execute mentally ill people.

We take people’s private land and give it to corporations.

We cut aid to children while we increase weapons spending.

We start wars.

We allow companies to profit off of them.

We put profit in front of people’s health.

We lie to the public.

We lie to our soldiers.

We lie to their mothers.

We lie to ourselves.

We cover up the most obvious crimes.

We apologize for the incompetents who have led us here.

We give Canadians inexpensive medicine but charge our own people full price.

We spy on our neighbors

We refuse to say we’re sorry.

We refuse to hear dissenting voices.

We have more people in prison than anyone in the world, including China.

We mistreat our own prisoners.

We give the smallest percentage of our Gross Domestic Product as foreign aid than all of the Group Seven Industrialized Nations.

We place the science of Evolution and the metaphors of the Bible on the same level on truth.

We create games that glorify violence and make it cool in ways a GI Joe or a play rifle never did.

We sleep soundly in our beds while millions of Americans go to bed hungry, or in the streets.

We wonder why things are so screwed up.

Pass the fries, please.

We see everyone else’s problems but are blind to our own.
We weren’t always like this. I remember when we were the good guys. It’s time for us to reflect on ourselves, and to lay down the platitudes about how great we are. The leaves have dropped off the laurel wreaths that we wrap our pride in. We are like the Dallas Cowboys, arrogant, cocky, even when we’re not winning. And we’ve won so much and in so many theatres and arenas that we just say “Hey, we’re America. Anything’s possible here.” That notion is certainly true. Anything is possible, including our failure. Anything is possible in America, including a junta by religious fanatics. Including a military defeat by third world insurgents. Including a monetary meltdown. Including the coming days when we squander freedoms that others around the world die for, and instead, replace that freedom with fear and superstition.

One of the great works of art and satire and politics of all times is the body of TV we knew as the original Twilight Zone series. The censors wouldn’t let Rod Serling write about bigotry and small mindedness and torture and rape and retribution because like the weak-minded monitors of our day, it was just “too sensitive”. So Serling created a mythical place. In the fantasy science fiction world of the Twilight Zone, you could make your point and allow people to draw their own conclusions. In the Twilight Zone, you could personify a dictator and you could speak out against any form of government, or against conformity. One of the best of these post-scripts came at the end of an episode called The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street. In this episode, invisible invaders wreak havoc in a small town simply by turning on and off lights, creating power outages, and otherwise fueling only paranoia about what’s actually happening. In the end, with little more than their own inner demons to guide them, these scared residenst turn on each other. Then-
Serling says “The tools of destruction do not necessarily come with bombs and missiles and fallout. For the record, thoughts can kill, suspicion can destroy, and the thought frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own…”

In 1975, I heard Rod Serling speak at Georgia State University. He commented-

“we cannot allow someone to show two people making love on the screen, but we rarely hesitate to show killing. Think about that for a minute. The face of evil we often run after and try to destroy is the one we see in the mirror every morning.”

Rod Serling Helped usher in the era of human rights and liberal and more humane policies. He helped create an intelligent discourse about science and superstition and how to recognize the difference between the two.

Two weeks after that speech, Rod Serling Died. I’m glad glad he didn’t have to see this.


Saturday, December 25, 2004

US Looks To Canadian Steel To Armor Humvees 


US Looks To Canadian Steel To Armor Humvees

The soldiers in Iraq desperately needing armor protection on their thin-skinned vehicles must also rely on Canadian steel for protection because the United States is incapable of manufacturing enough armor plate to meet the current demand for it in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Without Judy Miller, There Would Have Been No War  


The failures of Miller and the Times' reporting on Iraq are far greater sins than those of the paper's disgraced Jayson Blair. While the newspaper's management cast Blair into outer darkness after his deceptions, Miller and other reporters who contributed to sending America into a war have been shielded from full scrutiny. The Times plays an unequaled role in the national discourse, and when it publishes a front-page piece about aluminum tubes and mushroom clouds, that story very quickly runs away from home to live on its own. The day after Miller's tubes narrative showed up, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News went on national TV to proclaim, "They were the kind of tubes that could only be used in a centrifuge to make nuclear fuel." Norah O'Donnell had already told the network's viewers the day before of the "alarming disclosure," and the New York Times wire service distributed Miller's report to dozens of papers across the landscape. Invariably, they gave it prominence. Sadly, the sons and daughters of America were sent marching off to war wearing the boots of a well-told and widely disseminated lie.

Of course, Judy Miller and the Times are not the only journalists to be taken by Ahmed Chalabi. Jim Hoagland, a columnist at the Washington Post, has also written of his long association with the exile. But no one was so fooled as Miller and her paper.

Russ Baker, who has written critically of Miller for the Nation, places profound blame at the feet of the reporter and her paper. "I am convinced there would not have been a war without Judy Miller," he said.


Father Greely Delivers Hellfire, Brimstone  


This time of the year we celebrate ''peace on Earth to men of good will.'' Americans must face the fact that they can no longer claim to be men and women of good will, not as long as they support an unnecessary, foolish, ill-conceived, badly executed and, finally, unwinnable war. If most people in other countries blame the war on Americans, we earned that blame in the November election -- not that there is any serious reason to believe that Sen. John Kerry would have had the courage to end the war. Perhaps if he had changed his mind, as he did about the war in Vietnam, and opposed the Iraqi war, he might have won. Too late now. Too late till 2010 -- or 2020.


Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas Everyone 


I'm taking one day without snark.

God bless you all.

May all your dreams come true.


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Wapo Accuses US of Warcrimes  


Some of the abuses can be attributed to lack of discipline in some military units -- though the broad extent of the problem suggests, at best, that senior commanders made little effort to prevent or control wrongdoing. But the documents also confirm that interrogators at Guantanamo believed they were following orders from Mr. Rumsfeld. One FBI agent reported on May 10 about a conversation he had with Guantanamo's commander, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, who defended the use of interrogation techniques the FBI regarded as illegal on the grounds that the military "has their marching orders from the Sec Def." Gen. Miller has testified under oath that dogs were never used to intimidate prisoners at Guantanamo, as authorized by Mr. Rumsfeld in December 2002; the FBI papers show otherwise.

The Bush administration refused to release these records to the human rights groups under the Freedom of Information Act until it was ordered to do so by a judge. Now it has responded to their publication with bland promises by spokesmen that any wrongdoing will be investigated. The record of the past few months suggests that the administration will neither hold any senior official accountable nor change the policies that have produced this shameful record. Congress, too, has abdicated its responsibility under its Republican leadership: It has been nearly four months since the last hearing on prisoner abuse. Perhaps intervention by the courts will eventually stem the violations of human rights that appear to be ongoing in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan. For now the appalling truth is that there has been no remedy for the documented torture and killing of foreign prisoners by this American government.


Friedman Misses The Point. Actually Several. 


However this war started, however badly it has been managed, however much you wish we were not there, do not kid yourself that this is not what it is about: people who want to hold a free and fair election to determine their own future, opposed by a virulent nihilistic minority that wants to prevent that. That is all that the insurgents stand for.

Nihilist minority? Maybe just because you’ve walked around the Green Zone in a flak jacket that makes you an expert. However I get so tired of hearing pundits describe the opposition as a distinct group of people that doesn’t jibe with the facts. You can’t on the one hand cite polls that say 80% of the population wants us to leave as soon as possible and thinks the peace we achieved is worse than the tyranny they lived under, while simultaneously calling the opposition a nihilistic minority. The opposition is by and large, indigenous Iraqis. Many of them people who once threw flowers at us are helping or actively supporting the growing insurgency. Time and again we hear from ground commanders that the number of foreign fighters are much lower than reported or expected. The opposition grows stronger the longer we are there and the longer we make one mistake after another.

The real tragedy here is that there is no feedback mechanism. Bad news is deflected or hidden so quickly that the idea is not to root out the source of the trouble and discuss the problem. The object here is to cover it up as fast as possible. I look at this administration as Lucille Ball desperately trying to distract Desi and keep him out of a room and looking at a mess she created.

So we don’t even have a mechanism in place to correct errors without making more errors.

What is terrifying is that the noble sacrifice of our soldiers, while never in vain, may not be enough. We may actually lose in Iraq. The vitally important may turn out to be the effectively impossible.

Well then Mr. Freidman, without falling back on a Bush Administration platitude, why did you support this war in the first place? You were one of those pundits who pointed your finger at people like me on the left and said I wasn’t supporting freedom. I could have told you two years ago that we would be here, bogged down, bloodied and hated- but you and people like you believed that a guy who has never left his own country and couldn’t pronounce Nuclear would somehow be able to invade Iraq and insert a democracy there and in surrounding areas.


Dowd At Her Bitchiest  


Each milestone, each thing that is supposed to enable us to get some traction and change the basic dynamic in Iraq, comes and goes without the security getting any better. The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that a major U.S. contractor, Contrack International Inc., had dropped out of the multibillion-dollar effort to rebuild Iraq, "raising new worries about the country's growing violence and its effect on reconstruction."

The Bush crowd thought it could get in, get out, scare the Iranians and Syrians, and remove the bulk of our forces within several months.

But now we're in, and it's the allies, contractors and election watchdogs who want out.

Aside from his scintilla of candor, Mr. Bush is still not leveling with us. As he said at his press conference on Monday, "the enemies of freedom" know that "a democratic Iraq will be a decisive blow to their ambitions because free people will never choose to live in tyranny."

They may choose to live in a theocracy, though. Americans did.


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Power The Neo Cons Have Over The Press  


Still no major American media coverage of the big tussle between the Pentagon and Israel over an Israeli contract to upgrade a weapons system for China. Here's the latest from Ha'aretz. I am baffled. A story that has Douglas Feith, Tel Aviv, arms sales, and a hardening neoconservative policy towards Beijing in one place, and one doesn't see a single mention in the NYT, the Washington Post, or the LA Times.


More Torture 


apparently it was quite widespread

The Bush administration is facing a wave of new allegations that the abuse of foreign detainees in U.S. military custody was more widespread, varied and grave in the past three years than the Defense Department has long maintained…

… In a second case, Army investigators concluded that a sergeant committed offenses including assault, dereliction of duty and cruelty when he conducted "a mock execution of an Iraqi teenager" in front of the boy's father and brother, who were suspected of looting an ammunition factory. Investigators also found that the actions were condoned by a lieutenant who conspired with the sergeant.


US Cuts Aid 



WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 - In one of the first signs of the effects of the ever tightening federal budget, in the past two months the Bush administration has reduced its contributions to global food aid programs aimed at helping millions of people climb out of poverty.

With the budget deficit growing and President Bush promising to reduce spending, the administration has told representatives of several charities that it was unable to honor some earlier promises and would have money to pay for food only in emergency crises like that in Darfur, in western Sudan. The cutbacks, estimated by some charities at up to $100 million, come at a time when the number of hungry in the world is rising for the first time in years and all food programs are being stretched.

Why do you think we are always being outfoxed at the UN? Because we no longer give like we used to. Hell, the opponents of the War gave more aid to members of the security council than we did.

How much would be left to go around had this war been planned a little better?


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Islamic Scholar Deported. No Reason Given 


Tariq Ramadan author of "Western Muslims and the Future of Islam"

Bring Us Your Poor, Tired….Uh…you know what? Maybe not.

Over the last four years, I have visited the United States more than 20 times. I have lectured on philosophy and Islam at numerous academic institutions from Dartmouth to Stanford and at organizations from the Brookings Institution to the United States Institute of Peace. I was invited to a meeting organized by former President Clinton, and I spoke before officials of the CIA.

So when I was offered a professorship at the University of Notre Dame, I did not see it as anything particularly controversial, and I accepted the position as an opportunity for greater engagement and dialogue with Americans.

After the necessary security clearance, my visa was approved in May. We shipped our belongings and were only nine days away from moving when I was informed that my visa had been revoked. Though no explanation was given to us, government officials were quoted anonymously in the media citing the Patriot Act as the legal basis — but without stating exactly what I had been accused of.

The media speculated endlessly; all my detractors' old and baseless allegations were listed: "possible terrorist links," "Islamist," and the particularly inexplicable "gentle jihadist." I was accused of being an anti-Semite and of engaging in "double talk" by delivering a gentle, moderate message to non-Muslims but a "radical and extremist" message to Muslims. To bolster their argument, my critics pointed to my pedigree — my grandfather was the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt — as if one's thoughts and morals descend from the vices and virtues of one's lineage.


At Press Conference, Bush Prefers Not To Answer "Questions" 


The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell President

"Now, the temptation is going to be, by well-meaning people such as yourself and others here, as we run up to the issue, to get me to negotiate with myself in public," Bush told the questioner on Monday. "To say, you know, "What's this mean, Mr. President? What's that mean?

"I'm not going to do that. I don't get to write the law. I'll propose a solution at the appropriate time," Bush said.

In essence, this Bushism means the president will discuss options on such issues as Social Security with members of Congress who write the law, but not with the media.

Asked to explain one facet of his Social Security policy, Bush agreed but said, "I will try to explain how without negotiating with myself. It's a very tricky way to get me to play my cards. I understand that."


Soldier Says He Did NOT Need Reporter's Help 


NEW YORK In his first public account of last week’s controversy, Spc. Thomas Wilson says that he came up with the now famous armor question for Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld on his own, without the help of oft-criticized reporter Edward Lee Pitts. And he adds, "If this is my 15 minutes of fame, I hope it saves a life."


Soldier Claims He Asked Questions On His Own


Monday, December 20, 2004

If Military Turns On Rumsfeld, Then It’s Over

Mounting pressure on Rumsfeld from the political right is underpinned by significant dissent within the military establishment that could be the most ominous sign for the Defense secretary. Rumsfeld himself has said he wouldn't stay on if he couldn't perform his duties.


The Marine Band At Camp Le Jeune Has To Disband And Deploy 


How Bad Is Our Manpower Problem?

CAMP LEJEUNE - They traded in their trumpets, trombones, tubas and drums for rifles, machine guns and grenades - a sign of the times for the 2nd Marine Division Band at Camp Lejeune.

Members of the band, who would normally be rehearsing for holiday concerts, were training mechanics, truck drivers, communications specialists, cooks, clerks and medical specialists this week in preparation for deployment to Iraq early next year. The band, which will also deploy with II Marine Expeditionary Force Forward at the same time, has already had its training sessions.

Rummy’s Light Force Has To Go Back A Second Time 

Theory Has One Problem: It's Wrong


FORT STEWART, Ga. — Two dozen sergeants are sitting around a table — hard men who led troops into downtown Baghdad last year and helped end Saddam Hussein's regime. They shake their heads and chuckle softly: What kind of question is that — did they ever expect to be returning to Iraq?

"Nobody expected this, a year later," says Staff Sgt. Ken Austin, a veteran of Desert Storm in 1991 as well as Operation Iraqi Freedom. "The first Gulf War was in and out. I thought this would be pretty much the same."


Piper Showing Up For His Payment 

Troops Mental Health Beginning To Unravel

NEAR FALLUJAH, Iraq (AFP) - Nearly six weeks after US marines stormed the rebel enclave of Fallujah, military psychologists are still seeing a steady stream of service personnel traumatised by the long days and nights of ferocious street fighting.

In the macho culture of the US Marine Corps, it is sometimes hard for its personnel, male or female, to admit they have a problem and some try to ride out the symptoms, only seeking help after weeks of suffering in silence.


Right Hand, Meet Left Hand. Left Hand, Meet Right Hand. 


WASHINGTON - The CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department have warned President Bush that the United States and its Iraqi allies aren't winning the battle against Iraqi insurgents who are trying to derail the country's Jan. 30 elections, according to administration officials.

Bush, speaking at Camp Pendleton, held Iraq up as a model: "The success of democracy in Iraq will also inspire others across the Middle East to defend their own freedom and to expose the terrorists for what they are - violent extremists on the fringe of society."

Cracks Are A Showing


Fallujah Still Not Safe 


Fallujah Siege Apparently Not Over

"There is a lot of potential for danger in this town," he added.

"Unfortunately the insurgents are not cooperating like we would like them too, and we have to either capture them or kill them," he said.


Take THAT Wing Nuts!! 


NEW YORK In his first public account of last week’s controversy, Spc. Thomas Wilson says that he came up with the now famous armor question for Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld on his own, without the help of oft-criticized reporter Edward Lee Pitts. And he adds, "If this is my 15 minutes of fame, I hope it saves a life."

Soldier Claims He Asked Questions On His Own


Paralyzed woman walks again after stem cell therapy 


SEOUL (AFP) - A South Korean woman paralyzed for 20 years is walking again after scientists say they repaired her damaged spine using stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood.

Hwang Mi-Soon, 37, had been bedridden since damaging her back in an accident two decades ago.

Last week her eyes glistened with tears as she walked again with the help of a walking frame at a press conference where South Korea researchers went public for the first time with the results of their stem-cell therapy.

They said it was the world's first published case in which a patient with spinal cord injuries had been successfully treated with stem cells from umbilical cord blood.

Though they cautioned that more research was needed and verification from international experts was required, the South Korean researchers said Hwang's case could signal a leap forward in the treatment of spinal cord injuries.

Sunday, December 19, 2004


Falcons win the Superbowl

Christians Seek Martyrdom  


If life isn’t hard enough without dogs barking Jingle Bells over store loudspeakers, and if the fact that all this Christmas marketing starts around Halloween, now the wingnuts are seeking to show that we Americans aren’t giving enough credence and respect to Christmas.

What whiny little victims. This is just more attempts at creating a theocracy in America run by Jesus lovers. And what better way to do that than to start with the Americans who actually think that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11, and pump them full of angst over how they are being oppressed?

Christians Now Seeing Oppressors In Others

WILL it be the Jews' fault if "The Passion of the Christ," ignored by the Golden Globes this week, comes up empty in the Oscar nominations next month? Why, of course.

"Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular," William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, explained in a colloquy on the subject recently convened by Pat Buchanan on MSNBC. "It's not a secret, O.K.?" Mr. Donohue continued. "And I'm not afraid to say it. That's why they hate this movie. It's about Jesus Christ, and it's about truth." After the show's token (and conservative) Jewish panelist, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, pointed out that "Michael Moore is certainly not a Jew" and that Scorsese, Coppola and Lucas are not "Jewish names," Mr. Donohue responded: "I like Harvey Weinstein. How's that? Harvey Weinstein is my friend."

How's that? Not quite good enough. Surely Mr. Donohue knows that decorum in these situations requires that he cite a Jew as one of his "best friends," not merely a friend. For shame…

… If more than 90 percent of American households celebrate Christmas, you have to wonder why the guy is whining. The only evidence of what Pat Buchanan has called Christmas-season "hate crimes against Christianity" consists of a few ridiculous and isolated incidents, like the banishment of a religious float from a parade in Denver and of religious songs from a high school band concert in New Jersey. (In scale, this is nothing compared with the refusal of the world's largest retailer, Wal- Mart, to stock George Carlin's new best seller, "When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?," whose cover depicts its author at the Last Supper.) Yet the hysteria is being pumped up daily by Fox News, newspapers like The New York Post and The Washington Times, and Web sites like savemerrychristmas.org. Mr. O'Reilly and Jerry Falwell have gone so far as to name Michael Bloomberg an anti-Christmas conspirator because the mayor referred to the Christmas tree as a "holiday tree" in the lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center.

What is this about? How can those in this country's overwhelming religious majority maintain that they are victims in a fiery battle with forces of darkness? It is certainly not about actual victimization. Christmas is as pervasive as it has ever been in America, where it wasn't even declared a federal holiday until after the Civil War. What's really going on here is yet another example of a post-Election-Day winner-takes-all power grab by the "moral values" brigade. As Mr. Gibson shrewdly contrived his own crucifixion all the way to the bank, trumping up nonexistent threats to his movie to hype it, so the creation of imagined enemies and exaggerated threats to Christianity by "moral values" mongers of the right has its own secular purpose. The idea is to intimidate and marginalize anyone who objects to their efforts to impose the most conservative of Christian dogma on public policy. If you're against their views, you don't have a differing opinion — you're anti-Christian (even if you are a Christian).

James Wolcott Calls Them Christmas Kvethchers

Every year we hear the eloquent whines of the "put Christ back into Christmas" chorus. Every year without fail we're told that Christmas itself has become a charged phrase, un-PC, fudged with euphemism. I'm not sure how we could put any more Christ into Christmas this year. Jesus was on the cover of Time and Newsweek, US News ran a cover story on The Power of Prayer, CNN is broadcasting a documentary tonight on "The Two Marys" (Madonna and Magdalene), and Mel Gibson's The Passion is at the red hot center of so many year-end roundup essays. Yet right on cue comes James Lileks, a beloved blogger in the daycare community, wondering why everyone's afraid of two simple words that say so much.


Saturday, December 18, 2004

Mother Theresa's Vision 


"I have had a vision of things to come. Our Lord Jesus Christ has bidden me to disclose it to you so that you might be prepared for a time of woe and be safeguarded from evil. The Four Horsemen spoken in the book of Revelation, have mounted their steeds. Their ride begins. You will hear their hoofbeats within five years time." (Mother Therese was quite specific as to the timing of the first three scourges, Plague, War and Famine.)

"The plague will break out first in Asia in August 2002. At first it will be ignored by world health authorities, but it will spread and its victims will multiply rapidly – millions and millions of poor souls. As the plague rages, the true identity of the Beast of Revelation will be revealed; a creature who delights in death, pain and misery. This man will come from Iran, and will proudly display the number 666….. With contemptuous ease, the Beast will assassinate Saddam Hussein early in 2003 in a murder plot involving Arab Sheikhs, and he will spread his power through Iraq and Saudi Arabia…. War will break out in the Middle East in October 2003. It will start with the assassination of a major figure….This shocking event will provoke a wave of suicide attacks against the United States….. Like the plague, the war will escalate quickly…A brief, bloody, global confrontation will ensue. America will emerge victorious, but with great loss of life, and the economy in ruins. Enter the third Horseman – Famine." ….But when things are at their very worst, and the winter bites hard, the fourth Horseman makes his appearance. This rider is not `Death' as in Revelation, but becomes `Hope'… Hope will become the promise of a new message from Our Lady of Fatima. Hundreds at the Shrine will witness the Virgin predicting victory in the war, and a 1000 year Era of Peace on earth."


44% in US Prefer Facism  


ITHACA, N.Y. (AP) — Nearly half of all Americans believe the U.S. government should restrict the civil liberties of Muslim-Americans, according to a nationwide poll.

The survey conducted by Cornell University also found that Republicans and people who described themselves as highly religious were more apt to support curtailing Muslims' civil liberties than Democrats or people who are less religious.

Researchers also found that respondents who paid more attention to television news were more likely to fear terrorist attacks and support limiting the rights of Muslim-Americans.


Friday, December 17, 2004

Torture Is Still Going On, And Is Worse Than You Thought 


Even after the shock of Abu Ghraib, these substantiated stories of cruelty, sadism and lawlessness are stunning. Files from the Navy's Criminal Investigative Service describe how U.S. Marines ordered four Iraqi teenagers to kneel while a gun was "discharged to conduct a mock execution"; how they inflicted severe burns on a detainee's hands with flaming alcohol; and how they tortured another detainee with an electric transformer, making him "dance." In June, a Navy investigator revealed in an e-mail that his caseload of "high visibility" cases of abuse was "exploding." As a result of such offenses, at least two Marines were convicted and sent to prison.

If justice has been done in a few cases, the ACLU documents show that abuses were more common -- and more extreme -- than the Bush administration had previously conceded. More important, however, the documents show that the impetus for abuse came from above, not below. The use of coercive and violent methods spread from Guantánamo Bay, where alleged Taliban and al-Qaida prisoners are incarcerated, to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The documents also show that officers from the CIA, the FBI and the Defense Intelligence Agency lodged "heated" objections to the abusive methods of interrogation used by the military, denouncing them in previously secret memoranda as not only unethical but useless and destructive.

We're Becoming Israelis 


First things first. A little truth

Things Are Getting Desperate In Iraq

It is not better than they are reporting. It is worse and getting worse. This looks like our entire strategy there is a plan that we have no chance in hell of pulling off. This is worse than mismanagement. It’s surrounding yourself with ditto heads when the very first thing you need is a dose of reality. Failure will become catastrophic before anyone questions him, meaning a huge military defeat or something even worse. But when you have supply lines forcing us to airlift supplies between Bagdhad Airport and Bagdhad, and when you have
over 5000 deserters and as many casualties as we had in the first five years of Vietnam, then it’s time to wake up.

we chalk up our destructive "victories" in places like Falluja, it turns out that, as befits those fighting what is essentially a brutal guerrilla war against an occupying army, the rebels have been achieving victories of their own. We are trying to take back Sunni cities. They are trying, with significant success, to choke off major supply lines by constantly attacking vulnerable supply convoys. Almost two weeks ago, the 20 kilometer road from Baghdad International Airport to the capital's Green Zone was declared off limits first to British and then to American personnel who must now make it to town via helicopter. As Paul Rogers, geopolitical analyst for the openDemocracy website, commented recently, "Thus, the highway that connects possibly the two most significant American locations in Iraq is now considered too precarious for US forces to use."

This week the Air Force announced that it was "sharply expanding its airlifts of equipment and supplies to bases inside Iraq to reduce the amount of military cargo normally hauled in ground convoys vulnerable to roadside bombings." This includes cargo going not just to major military bases, but to smaller and more remote ones as well. This is, of course, a far more expensive way to resupply than by truck (as anyone will realize who remembers, at an extreme, the Berlin Airlift of 1948) and so it represents a secret testimonial to the effectiveness of the Iraqi resistance -- as were the recent tour-of-duty extensions for American troops slated to leave Iraq that effectively upped our troop levels there close to 150,000.

In the meantime, let me just lay out some of the grim American figures for this war, the ones that (buried though they might often be) don't cede ground to anyone's fantasies. Last month, 136 Americans died while the battle for Falluja raged, the highest U.S. monthly death toll of the war. This month, with American combat deaths since the invasion passing 1,000, a marker little noted here, another 39 Americans have already died at December's not-quite-halfway point.

Overall 1,297 Americans have died so far in Iraq, a figure not in dispute. But it is also a deceptive figure because so many more soldiers, thanks to improved medical care and better body armor, are surviving their wounds -- a number, according to a recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine, 17% higher than in Vietnam (and representing the greatest disparity between wounded and killed of any American war). This in turn means that many soldiers with wounds that would previously have killed them are coming home to exceedingly difficult lives. According to Raja Mishra of the Boston Globe, "US troops injured in Iraq have required limb amputations at twice the rate of past wars." The Pentagon has announced 9,844 wounded in Iraq, though it is calculating this in a highly restrictive way. The real figure, as the reliable antiwar.com website estimates it, is in the range of 15,000-20,000. According to Atul Gawande, the author of the report cited above, "At least as many US soldiers have been injured in combat in this war as in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, or the first five years of the Vietnam conflict, from 1961 through 1965." (In addition, back at home, in a predictable pattern, the first vets from Iraq and Afghanistan are showing up at homeless shelters.)

That is one grim part of the picture of our overstretched military. In all, according to recent Pentagon data, one million Americans have been deployed to either the Iraqi or Afghan wars, one out of every three of them more than once -- a clear indication of the increasing strain the military is experiencing from an insurgency Bush administration strategists never even imagined possible. According to CBS's "60 Minutes," 5,500 U.S. troops, under the pressure of an increasingly unpopular war, have already deserted, while military recruitment figures are down. Elaine Monaghan of the British Times reports that "for the first time in a decade, the Army National Guard missed its recruitment target this year. Instead of signing up 56,000 people, it found 51,000." Ferment is growing in our all-volunteer military. Legal challenges are rising to the "semi-draft" of the National Guard and Reserves. There has been a rise in resignations of reserve officers, and a recent Army survey indicates that less than half of all soldiers are at the moment planning to re-up. It is in this context of increasing desperation that the decision to destroy Falluja took place; it is in this context that planning for the New Falluja has occurred -- and it shows. Tom

Michael Schwartz uncovers a plan to turn Falluja into some weirdly highly monitored town akin to the Israeli's management of Jenin during the intifada

* Entry and exit from the city will be restricted.

According to General Sattler, only five roads into the city will remain open. The rest will be blocked by "sand berms" -- read, mountains of earth that will make them impassible. Checkpoints will be established at each of the five entry points, manned by U.S. troops, and everyone entering will be "photographed, fingerprinted and have iris scans taken before being issued ID cards." Though Sattler reassured American reporters that the process would only take 10 minutes, the implication is that entry and exit from the city will depend solely on valid ID cards properly proffered, a system akin to the pass-card system used during the apartheid era in South Africa.

Fallujans are to wear their universal identity cards in plain sight at all times.

The ID cards will, according to Dahr Jamail's information, be made into badges that contain the individual's home address. This sort of system has no purpose except to allow for the monitoring of everyone in the city, so that ongoing American patrols can quickly determine if someone is not a registered citizen or is suspiciously far from their home neighborhood.

No private automobiles will be allowed inside the city.

This is a "precaution against car bombs," which Sattler called "the deadliest weapons in the insurgent arsenal." As a district is opened to repopulation, the returning residents will be forced to park their cars outside the city and will be bused to their homes. How they will get around afterwards has not been announced. How they will transport reconstruction materials to rebuild their devastated property is also a mystery.

Only those Fallujans cleared through American intelligence vettings will be allowed to work on the reconstruction of the city.

Since Falluja is currently devastated and almost all employment will, at least temporarily, derive from whatever reconstruction aid the U.S. provides, this means that the Americans plan to retain a life-and-death grip on the city. Only those deemed by them to be non-insurgents (based on notoriously faulty American intelligence) will be able to support themselves or their families.

Those engaged in reconstruction work -- that is, work -- in the city may be organized into "work brigades."

The best information indicates that these will be military-style battalions commanded by the American or Iraqi armed forces. Here, as in other parts of the plan, the motive is clearly to maintain strict surveillance over males of military age, all of whom will be considered potential insurgents.

In case the overarching meaning of all this has eluded you, Major Francis Piccoli, a spokesman for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, which is leading the occupation of Falluja, spelled it out for the AP's Kratovac: "Some may see this as a 'Big Brother is watching over you' experiment, but in reality it's a simple security measure to keep the insurgents from coming back." Actually, it is undoubtedly meant to be both; and since, in the end, it is likely to fail (at least, if the "success" of other American plans in Iraq is taken as precedent), it may prove less revealing of Falluja's actual future than of the failure of the American counterinsurgency effort in Iraq and of the desperation of American strategists. In this context, the most revealing element of the plan may be the banning of all cars, the enforcement of which, all by itself, would make the city unlivable; and which therefore demonstrates both the impracticality of the U.S. vision and a callous disregard for the needs and rights of the Fallujans…

…The Falluja police-state strategy represents a sign of weakness, not strength. The new Falluja imagined by American planners is a desperate, ad hoc response to the failure of the battle to "break the back of the guerrillas." Like the initial attack on the city, it too is doomed to failure, though it has the perverse "promise" of deepening the suffering of the Iraqis.

The Foxes Have Moved Into The Henhouse. 


Republicans have made no qualms about where the FDA stands in their philosophy: more of a nuisance that should be more concerned about corporate profits than patient’s health. In typical fashion, we see the results immediately

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 (AP) - About two-thirds of Food and Drug Administration scientists are less than fully confident in the agency's monitoring of the safety of prescription drugs now being sold, according to an internal survey.

Also, more than one-third of those scientists have some doubts about the process for approving new drugs, the survey found…

… About 66 percent of those surveyed said they were not at all confident or somewhat confident that the F.D.A. adequately monitors the safety of drugs once they are on the market.

And in other news out of the Bush Administration, The Foxes Have Moved Into The Henhouse.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 - Representative Billy Tauzin, a principal author of the new Medicare drug law, will become president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the chief lobby for brand-name drug companies, the trade group announced Wednesday.


Thursday, December 16, 2004



BILOXI - U.S. Sen. Trent Lott doesn't believe Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should resign immediately, but he does think Rumsfeld should be replaced sometime in the next year.

"I'm not a fan of Secretary Rumsfeld," Lott, R-Mississippi, told the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday morning. "I don't think he listens enough to his uniformed officers."


Elections Unlikely To Qwell Resistance 


Why Elections Won’t Matter


However, two things should be noted. First, after the capture of Saddam a year ago, I sensed the growing power of Islam within the fighters. Second, in the absence of a solid government or civil structure it is not surprising that a Muslim community would revert to Koranic law, even if only temporary.

The Iraqi resistance is a monolithic, tightly organized structure with a leadership that can be obliterated and a fixed number of fighters who can be eliminated.

The many levels of violence in Iraq after the US attack on Fallujah last month reveal the absurdity of this myth. Of the 15 resistance members who told me about their lives, most were from the same small neighborhood of Adhamiya in Baghdad, but were not necessarily in the same cell or command structure. By the end of 2003, these cells had grown while maintaining their independence. They were no longer carrying out attacks in their own home turf but were traveling to other areas of the country. The rise in attacks over the past year has been attributed as reactions to the transfer of power to the Allawi government in
July 2004, or to the elections in January. However, more likely, it is simply an indication of improved funding, coordination, and resources.

Attacking Fallujah neither decapitated the resistance nor eliminated its support. Rather it is a powerful recruiting poster for Iraqis not yet engaged in the struggle and for foreigners motivated to join what they view as a Jihad.

Nationwide elections will provide Iraq with a legitimate government, and the violence in the country will subside significantly. The notion that after elections the resistance will have nothing left to fight against is untenable. There is no government that can emerge from the current process that will be viewed as legitimate in their eyes. The resistance will continue until American influence has disappeared from Iraq's political system.


Must. Read. This.  


oh Canada...

We hate gays and love guns and think pot is evil but hand out Prozac and Zoloft like Chiclets. Meanwhile (as "Bowling for Columbine" so beautifully illuminated), Canadians leave their doors unlocked and don't feature violence and death on every newscast and still value community and diversity and discussion over solipsism and protectionism and a general hatred of foreigners and the French. See? We rule! Oh wait.

All of which makes you wonder: how many more countries will it take? How many more nations will have to, for example, prove that gun licensing works, or that gay-marriage legislation is a moral imperative, or that health care for all is mandatory for a nation's well being, before America finally looks at itself and says, whoa, damn, we are so silly and small and wrong? Is there any number large
enough? After the announcement that gay Chinese and gay Russians may legally marry and grow lovely gardens of marijuana as they all get free dental care, will America remain terrified of nipples and queers?

Canadians. So mellow. So laid back. So gay. So not producing any truly superlative modern-rock music or ultraviolent buddy-cop movies and not actively siccing Wal-Mart or Starbucks or Paris Hilton on the rest of the world like a goddamn cancer. They're just so ... nice. And boring. And calm. And solid. And friendly.

And they simply beat us senseless on the whole open-minded, progressive thing. Kicked our flag-wavin' butts. Trounced our egomaniacal self-righteous selves andmade the red states look even more foolish and backward than the whole world already knows them to be.

They did it. Canada made the whole gay marriage issue look effortless and obvious and healthy, and a massive black rain of hellfire did not pour down upon them and the very idea of hetero marriage did not immediately explode and their economy did not unravel like all the sneering cardinals and right-wing nutballs screamed it would. We must ask, one last time: what the hell is wrong with them?

Oh wait. Maybe we should rephrase. What the hell, we should be asking, is wrong with us?


October 29th 2004, The Day America Took Second Place 


We are unofficially the number two economy in the world. Our biggest competitor provides free health care to all of its citizens, civil liberties, uncensored expression, and freedom from the death penalty. October 29th, 2044, 25 nations signed tom the same consititution, everything changed.

Did we notice?

Does it matter?

The Gray Lady reviews a brilliant new book: United States Of Europe

But it is indisputable that the ideal of European unity has assumed a kind of global resonance - one that inspires democratic reformers in Ukraine today - and done so in contradistinction to American power. The importance of Mr. Reid's book lies in its evocative framing of this shift…

…Among the best chapters is that devoted to the travails of General Electric's former chief executive, John F. Welch Jr., whose plans in 2000 for a merger with Honeywell ran afoul of the European Union's Directorate-General for Competition. What's that? It is, as Mr. Welch discovers to his discomfort, where European antitrust law is enforced. Forget national governments; they have no more say in such matters. "We have to do business with Europe, so we have no choice but to respect their law," Mr. Welch says when his merger is squelched. "That really is just the way the world works now."

In his chapter on the European social model, Mr. Reid explores one aspect of the "basic differences of worldview on the opposite sides of the Atlantic." He compares the Continent's safety net to "falling into a large, soft bed with a down comforter." There is, of course, a price for all the benefits: a lack of initiative. But Mr. Reid feels this can be overstated; look at how Nokia grabbed a bigger market share than Motorola or how Airbus took on Boeing. And his experience of Britain's National Health Service leads him to a stark view: "As an American, I would rather see my country move in the European direction on health care than vice versa."

Airbus Running Circles Around Boeing

Airbus predicted Wednesday that an average of 830 new passenger aircraft would be built each year for the next two decades, and that its new A380 jumbo plane would be so successful that Boeing would be forced to develop a competitor.

Falling Dollar Sends Investors To the Euro.

Americans have been stepping up their purchases of foreign stocks and bonds as the dollar's decline has accelerated and foreigners have slowed their buying of securities in the United States.

Such a shift overseas may bring American investors better returns. But the sending of dollars abroad to buy foreign stocks and bonds, combined with the declining interest of foreigners in the United States, promises to put further pressure on the American currency.

As of the end of October, Americans have bought $51.9 billion of foreign stocks and bonds, compared with $36.2 billion in all of 2003, according to Treasury data released yesterday. With two months to go, that is the largest foray into foreign markets by Americans since 1997.


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Watch This 

James Wolcott Says 


This baby-faced power-groupie pops up whenever cable news needs a posh voice to promote the neocon party line and suck up to the Defense Department. He came through with drooping colors today on MSNBC, debating the awarding of the Medals of Freedom to Paul Bremer, Tommy Franks, and George Tenet, who had the balls to show up and actually accept these ridiculous honors.


Thanks AssHats 


Supreme Court Makes It Tougher to Sue Police


Homelessness Up In Bush Administration 


Dec 15 - A national mayors' organization released its annual report on hunger and homelessness yesterday, documenting a staggering 14 percent increase this year in the number of requests for emergency food assistance and a 6 percent rise in requests for emergency shelter. The survey, which included information from 27 US cities, also found that families with children asked for help at a substantially higher rate this year and that a large portion of those who needed help did not receive it.


2nd Most Costly Failure Of Bush Administration  


Star Wars Test Fails

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The first test in nearly two years of a multibillion-dollar U.S. anti-missile shield failed on Wednesday when the interceptor missile shut down as it prepared to launch in the central Pacific, the Pentagon said.

About 16 minutes earlier, a target missile carrying a mock warhead had been successfully fired from Kodiak Island, Alaska, according to a statement from the Missile Defense Agency.


William Kristol, NeoCon Nutcase, Also Hates Rummy 


At least the topic of those conversations in the Pentagon isn't boring. Indeed, Rumsfeld assured the troops who have been cobbling together their own armor, "It's interesting." In fact, "if you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up. And you can have an up-armored humvee and it can be blown up." Good point. Why have armor at all? Incidentally, can you imagine if John Kerry had made such a statement a couple of months ago? It would have been (rightly) a topic of scorn and derision among my fellow conservatives, and not just among conservatives.

Perhaps Rumsfeld simply had a bad day. But then, what about his statement earlier last week, when asked about troop levels? "The big debate about the number of troops is one of those things that's really out of my control." Really? Well, "the number of troops we had for the invasion was the number of troops that General Franks and General Abizaid wanted."


Schwarzkopf hates Rummy Too 


Schwarzkopf, interviewed on MSNBC-TV’s “Hardball,” chided Rumsfeld for his reply to a soldier in Kuwait over the lack of armor on many military vehicles used in Iraq.

“I was very, very disappointed — no, let me put it stronger — I was angry by the words of the secretary of defense when he laid it all on the Army, as if he, as the secretary of defense, didn’t have anything to do with the Army and the Army was over there doing it themselves, screwing up,” Schwarzkopf said.


Republicans Turn On Rummy 


Calling some of Rumsfeld's actions in the Iraq war ''irresponsible'', the second senator, Chuck Hagel, stressed that his critique ''goes beyond'' the question of armour for the troops or the failure to anticipate an escalating and increasingly deadly insurgency.

Asked if he was disappointed Bush had asked Rumsfeld to stay on, Hagel replied, ''The president's decision is his decision. He will live with that decision. He'll have to defend that decision. And that's all I want to say about it''.

Those attacks followed the defence chief's brusque reply in a question and answer session to the soldier, Specialist Thomas Wilson, who asked why troops in Iraq had to armour vehicles themselves with scrap materials they found in garbage dumps. ”You go to war with the Army you have,” Rumsfeld responded, ”not the Army you might want or wish to have.”

Discontent is also growing over the ballooning price tag for the war: latest reports indicate the Pentagon will ask for as much as 90 billion dollars more to finance operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2005, bringing the total in over three years to close to 250 billion dollars.

Yet another major factor that is churning the waters of discontent against Rumsfeld is the still growing and strategically costly scandal over the abuse by U.S. soldiers of detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and in Iraq and Afghanistan, new details of which appear to drip out virtually daily…

…Horton said that at a meeting he attended last May between National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and representatives of various human rights groups, a deputy White House counsel had himself complained that his office could not get answers to key questions about interrogation policy and practices from the Pentagon. ''You're having problems'', Horton quoted the official as saying. ''We're also having problems getting information, and we're the White House''.

According to Horton, ''We're in the final scenes of the 'Wizard of Oz', and the curtain has just been pulled back to show who has been pulling the levers.”


Pat Buchanan Says It’s Never Too Late To Fix Foreign Policy 


What appears to be happening is this: While there is no shortage of neocon war plans for a Pax Americana, President Bush is bumping up against reality – a U.S. Army tied down and bleeding in Iraq, the rising costs of war, soaring deficits, a sinking dollar and an absence of allies willing to fight beside us or even help. He is facing the Vietnam dilemma.

Does he plunge deeper into Iraq in hope of victory, risking all, or cut his losses and revert to a more affordable, less ambitious foreign policy that secures the nation, but no longer seeks to convert the world to the American idea of democracy?

For 15 years, some of us have warned that if we fail to adopt a traditionalist foreign policy, the world will, to our humiliation, impose such a policy upon us.

Bush is at a crossroads. Conservatives, rather than wringing our hands, must re-engage the debate. All is not lost. All is never lost.


Wow. Civilian Federal Employees Can Be Recruited? 


Uh Oh

"Sure, if the mission requires it, any federal employee, for that matter, can be assigned to go and support any organization's mission," says Tim Grey, the Director of the Human Resource Department at Redstone's U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command.


You've Seen The Show, Now Read The Transcript 


McCain has 'no confidence' in Rumsfeld


The Company We Keep Is Questionable 


Is There Anyone We Won’t Turn To?

WASHINGTON — Air cargo companies allegedly tied to reputed Russian arms trafficker Victor Bout have received millions of dollars in federal funds from U.S. contractors in Iraq, even though the Bush administration has worked for three years to rein in his enterprises.


Shit, Meet Fan. Fan…..Shit.  


A government watchdog group is investigating allegations made by a Florida programmer that are whipping up a frenzy among bloggers and people who believe Republicans stole the recent election.

Programmer Clint Curtis claims that four years ago Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Florida) asked his then-employer to write software to alter votes on electronic voting machines in Florida.

He said his employer told him the code would be used "to control the vote" in West Palm Beach County, Florida. But a fellow employee disputed the programmer's claims and said the meetings he described never took place.


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

FBI Turnover Hurting America  


WASHINGTON — The rapid turnover of top-level managers and highly trained specialists since Sept. 11 is causing disorder within the FBI and undercutting its efforts to meet the mandate of Congress to dramatically expand its intelligence and counter-terrorism capabilities.

Its new intelligence arm, which is to form the core of a transformed FBI, is losing dozens of analysts who are supposed to connect the dots to protect the country from another terrorist attack.

Good Job Porter Goss

Today’s Dictators…Tomorrow’s Defendants. 


Pinochet Must Face His Past

BUENOS AIRES, Dec. 13 - A Chilean judge ruled Monday that Gen. Augusto Pinochet was competent to stand trial for human rights abuses that occurred during his nearly 17 years as Chile's dictator and immediately charged him with nine counts of kidnapping and one of murder.

Judge Juan Guzmán Tapia also ordered that General Pinochet, 89, be placed under house arrest and confined to his mansion on the outskirts of Santiago, the Chilean capital. The former dictator's lawyer, Pablo Rodríguez, accused the judge of trampling on the general's human rights and announced that he would appeal the decision. Later Monday, General Pinochet's defense team filed an injunction with the Santiago Court of Appeals, effectively freezing the house arrest until the court rules on it, according to Chilean news accounts.

While it is inconceivable that anyone would have the power today to prosecute and Republican perfidy beyond the lowest rungs of the political ladder, it is not inconceivable that this may happen in a half a generation. Think about the wounded, the traumatized, the reservists and national Guardsmen who are going into battle with Vietnam era equipment. Think about the international court’s reach in an increasingly global economy. Worse, think about the victims. The fatherless children, the nameless faceless recipients of US depleted uranium powder and those scorched by precision weaponry in the counter insurgency operations.

The idea that one Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Bush, Cheney, Rice, and even Bush might be traveling in Europe, out of power, and suddenly find themselves under arrest. It is not inconceivable that a completely new government in the United States might do this here.


Monday, December 13, 2004

Didn't we just do this? 


Falluja Still Under Siege

It was unknown if the deaths were connected to the fighting in Fallujah. In a statement, the military said that the seven Marines with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force died while conducting "security and stabilization operations" in Anbar province, a vast region that comprises Fallujah and Ramadi.


1 Percent Registered To Vote In Iraq 


But six weeks before the historic vote, a U.S. official said, fewer than 1 percent of eligible Iraqis have responded to a voter-registration drive, forcing authorities to look for other ways to build up voter lists.


This should give you some Idea of how well the elections will be received.

Greg Palast Says Kerry Is The Winner 


I came here tonight to warn you that there are cooks and cranks and crazies out there on the internet who think that John Kerry won. Now, I know because one of those articles on the internet called "John Kerry Won," on Tompaine.com ... I wrote it.

Maybe you can explain this to me. See, I got the CNN exit polls, and it said that in Ohio, Kerry defeated Bush among women 53 to 47%, and among men, Kerry defeated Bush by 51 to 49%. So, who's the third sex that put our president over the top? I thought I'd investigate, which is unusual. See, I'm a reporter. My reports appear on BBC Television. I'm a mainstream guy, as they say. And for the big newspaper of Britain, the Guardian/Observer.

I used to write George Orwell's old column there, and he'd enjoy this. And so I wrote a story called, "Kerry Won: Here's the Facts." And I got a letter, an e-mail, from the New York Times. Here it is. They wanted to follow - they wanted to investigate! Cool! And they asked me, question 1: "Are you a conspiracy nut?" Question 2: "Are you a sore loser?" Question 3: there is no question three...that was the end of the interview.

And so they ran a story on the front page saying, "Internet Theories of Bush Loss Easily Debunked." Okay, but remember the story "Kerry Won." The sub-title is, "Here's the Facts." And since they won't tell you the facts, I thought maybe I'd share them tonight.

George Bush was declared victor today by the Secretary of State of Florida, who - uh, Mr. Blacksick -- and of, excuse me, I said Florida. You know, Florida of the North. I was just in Columbus --you know, New Kiev, Ohio, two days ago, so I get confused. Mr. Blackwell, certified the election today. It's very convenient for him because he's both chairman of the republican campaign and the person in charge of the vote count, so he's wearing two hats. That's OK, because I hear he has two heads -- I'll have to investigate. He certified the vote, but not all the votes.

93,000 votes were tossed on the floor, never counted. We're not talking 're-count' here, we're talking NEVER count. These 93,000 votes are called, "spoiled" in Ohio. Another 155,000 votes are called provisional. More absentee ballots were tossed. Yet, supposedly George Bush won by 119,000. Folks, now what's going on here? Whose votes were not counted that were twice the Bush margin of victory?

Were the votes 'spoiled' randomly? Well, not exactly. Overwhelmingly the votes not counted -- NOT COUNTED --were cast in African American precincts. These are very Black votes. I use the term "overwhelmingly," those votes cast into the machines but not counted for technical reasons. When I say "overwhelmingly Black votes," that is not my phrase. That's from Dr. Mark Salling of Cleveland State University who's been investigating this for the ACLU. The statisticians and demographers say it's overwhelmingly Black votes which are not counted.

The technical term is "spoiled" votes. Okay, now, how do votes spoil? Do you leave them out of the fridge? What do you do? These are undervotes, overvotes - they use those technical terms, and in Ohio it's hanging chads. We're back to that. Dimpled chads, pregnant chads. Because Ohio is the last state in America to use the old punch card system for 75% of the vote.

You've heard a lot about the dangers of 'blackbox' computer voting. I want to talk to you about good old-fashioned punch card voting. 93,000 votes tossed in the garbage out of Black precincts. How? Just as Black neighborhoods get the bad schools, they get the bad hospitals, they also get the bum voting machines? And so their votes go in the garbage.

And they know it, the powers that be. You're thinking, it should be against the law. And, in fact, it is. The ACLU sued the State of Ohio for having a racist ballot counting system. They sued five states -- BEFORE the election. And before the election, four states said, "Well, gee, we're kind of embarrassed. Yeah, we're losing thousands of Black votes." And they all agreed to fix the machines before the election, all but one state: Ohio. The Secretary of State of Ohio said, "Yes, I know that the machines we use in Ohio eliminate tens of thousands of Black votes on bad machines." We'll fix them, he said, after the inauguration.

Look at this chart. Those on radio are going to have to imagine it. There's a big line, see? If you think Ohio is unusual, here's the problem. This big bar there, that's the number of Black votes which aren't counted in America; and the little bar, that's the number of white votes which are not counted in America. Where is this from? Yes, it's true, you can get it on the internet, but it's actually from Appendix 14 of a report, from the U.S Civil Rights Commission found that found if you are a Black person in America, the chance of your vote being tossed in the garbage -- you cast your vote and it's thrown away -- is 800% higher than if you are a white voter, okay?

It adds up with 2 million votes discarded in America, half of them by Black voters, 1 million Black votes not counted in America. We have an apartheid ballot counting system in America. And we ain't talking about it. Okay? But now we're going to talk about it, right? That's not all. There are provisional ballots, see? So part of the fix this year is the provisional ballots. The republicans had a plan for that, too. There were 155,000 of them.
2 million votes were not counted in the 2000 election, now we're pushing up maybe towards 3 million votes, because we have something called provisional ballots, back of the bus, bogus ballots.

Who gets those ballots? No points for guessing: the black vote. 30,000 provisional ballots were handed out in Ohio. Urban, as they say, in other words, Black voters, who supposedly voted in the wrong precinct, knowing that those ballots would never, ever be counted. Now, how did this happen? Someone had sent us lists called `caging' lists containing thousands of names and addresses.

If you analyze the caging lists you see something interesting. They were predominantly names of voters in African American precincts. This list was put together and handed to the chairman of the Republican National Campaigns, of the state campaigns, and the Republican National Committee. What are they doing with these names of the Black folk? We asked the Republican National Committee chiefs and State Committee chiefs on BBC Television: what are you doing with these lists of Black voters? We didn't tell them they were Black voters. We just showed them the list of voters.

"Oh, those are the lists of our donors." "Oh", I said. Leni von Eckardt is one of our researchers, she went through the list, and golly gee, several of those addresses were homeless shelters. "So you get a lot of money for the Bush-Cheney campaign from the homeless shelters?" I asked. Then they said, "Oh, no, no. We've checked again. We just wanted to check to see if people had changed their address."

Every expert told us there was just one reason. Because they had a plan, a secret plan, to challenge hundreds of thousands of voters nationwide. That's what those lists were. They were target lists, challenge lists. Now, people that they were going to challenge, just because their address changed, that doesn't remove your vote. I mean, Leni went through and found out there were several of them whose address had changed from Black districts because they had gone to Baghdad.

These were Black soldiers who had been shipped out. The republicans planned en masse to remover them from the voter -- to prohibit their votes from being counted. So you had hundreds of thousands of votes thrown in the garbage by this plan. Now is that against the law? It's not against the law to go to Baghdad at the commander-in-chief's command. You don't lose your vote. But you know what is against the law? Profiling Black voters for challenge.


Equipment Failures: Insurgent attacks, desert conditions take toll  


Before the war in Iraq, Pentagon officials had predicted that by now, Iraq would be pacified and most American troops would be long gone. But as the war drags on, the toll it's taking is far greater than expected — not only on the soldiers, but their equipment as well.

In fact, senior military officials now tell NBC News all major military equipment — trucks, tanks, helicopters and even guns — is breaking down or wearing out at a faster rate than first estimated.


Sunday, December 12, 2004

Someone Please Forward This Article To Barbara Starr at CNN 

Ms. Starr, Yesterday you said: “What is very interesting is several days later now nobody is criticizing the soldier. He made a valid point but there's no real evidence yet that anyone has demonstrated soldiers are going through landfills finding scrap metal and bits of glass to bolt onto their vehicles. So, you know, truth always lies, as we know as reporters, always lies somewhere in between what everybody is out there saying.”

However Six Reservists Have Been Punished For Scrounging Discarded Armor

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) At a time when some U.S. troops in Iraq are complaining they have to scrounge for equipment, six Ohio-based reservists were court-martialed for taking Army vehicles abandoned in Kuwait by other units so they could carry out their own unit's mission to Iraq.

The soldiers say they needed the vehicles, and parts stripped from one, to deliver fuel to Iraq, but their former battalion commander said Sunday the troops should at least have returned the vehicles to their original units.

Members of the 656th Transportation Company based in Springfield, west of Columbus, said they needed the equipment to deliver fuel that was needed by U.S. forces in Iraq for everything from helicopters to tanks.

The reservists took two tractor-trailers and stripped parts from a five-ton truck that had been abandoned in Kuwait by other units that had already moved into Iraq, one of the reservists, Darrell Birt of Columbus, told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Today’s new YORK TIMES SUNDAY Magazine Reflects on the top ideas of 2004 


These are just the ones that I think are in play to counter the effects of Bush, or because of his administration.

Anti-Concept Concept Store

This year, Comme des Garçons, the avant-garde fashion line designed by Rei Kawakubo, opened a series of ''guerrilla stores'' in hip, yet-to-be-gentrified areas in cities around the world, including Berlin, Barcelona, Helsinki, Singapore, Stockholm, Ljubljana and Warsaw. Kawakubo and her husband and business partner, Adrian Joffe, delineated their guerrilla idea with a no-nonsense precision usually reserved for actual combat operations. The shops, which are installed in raw urban spaces -- the Berlin outpost occupies a former bookstore; the Helsinki a 1950's pharmacy -- sell ''seasonless'' merchandise drawn from current and past collections, must remain unsullied by architects and designers and are required to close after a single year.

While the venture might be interpreted as a call to arms against the aggressive commercialism and gaudy architecture of high-concept flagship behemoths like the Rem Koolhaas-designed Prada stores, it has also engendered a delicious absurdity: in their rejection of concept-store pretension, the guerrilla stores have realized its purest expression. A news release issued by Comme des Garçons lays out the ''rules'' behind this anti-concept with the earnestness of F.T. Marinetti's futurist manifesto: ''The location will be chosen according to its atmosphere, historical connection, geographical situation away from established commercial areas or some other interesting feature.”

Hawkishness as Evolutionary Holdover

Ironically, most hawks are conservatives who question Evolution

American overconfidence on the road to Baghdad has been well catalogued, but it is worth remembering that the United States hardly monopolizes military hubris. Why, for instance, did Saddam Hussein conclude that he could survive a showdown with the United States? And why did the Taliban, rather than turn over Al Qaeda leaders, roll the dice on war with America?

Dominic D.P. Johnson offers a bio-political answer to such puzzles in his book ''Overconfidence and War,'' which was published this year by Harvard University Press. ''By virtue of human psychology,'' Johnson writes, ''we should fully expect a bias toward overconfidence by all sides in conflicts today, whether they are superpowers, small states, freedom fighters or terrorists.''

To reach this conclusion, Johnson applies the logic of evolution to international relations. Following one of his mentors, the Harvard anthropologist Richard Wrangham, he suggests that overconfidence might once have been helpful in war and conflict. On the ancient African savannah, it was actually rational to misestimate your own capacities: a fearsome appearance and bold tactics could intimidate the enemy and help carry the day during lightning raids on enemy camps. But today, given modern weaponry, bureaucratic planning and mass armies, a cocky disposition is as likely to be suicidal as it is glorious.

Military overconfidence, in other words, is a psychological holdover -- a cognitive appendix -- from an earlier period in human history.

Land-Mine-Detecting Plants


This January, the Danish company Aresa Biodetection announced that it had produced an unusual new variant of thale-cress, a small flowering weed: a strain that turns red in the presence of land mines. Aresa scientists had genetically modified the weed so that it reacts to nitrogen dioxide, a gas commonly emitted by explosives. A result is a new way to detect mines: sprinkle the seeds over a suspect area, wait a few weeks for the thale-cress to grow and -- presto -- wherever they turn red, you have danger. ''It's much more efficient,'' says Simon Ostergaard, Aresa's C.E.O. ''It's very tedious to clear mines the normal way. You're putting a stick in the ground every three centimeters. One man can sometimes only do two square meters a day.''

Invitation-Only, Incentivized Campaign Rally


Loyalty Uber Alles. The resurrection of exclusionary politics

It used to be that campaign rallies symbolized the messy glory of democracy. They were a chance for voters of all stripes to convene noisily and size up a candidate at close range. This year, however, the Bush campaign turned its rallies into something quite the opposite: an organizing tool designed to mobilize its core supporters. It was just one way in which the Bushies masterfully harnessed their volunteers' excitement and refracted it, like sunlight through a magnifying glass, into concentrated results on the ground.

The first innovation was exclusivity. Whereas Kerry rallies were generally open to all comers, Bush's events were largely invitation-only. Tickets were offered first to proven supporters of the president. Uninvited walk-ups at R.N.C.-sponsored rallies, meanwhile, sometimes had their names cross-referenced against voter files and contribution records. Many people were asked to sign an endorsement of Bush.

Income-Variability Anxiety


For decades, political scientists have believed that the economy is the key to a president's re-election chances: when the economy is buoyant, as it was in 1984 and 1996, the incumbent should cruise to victory. When the economy is dicey, as it was in 1980 and 1992, the advantage tilts toward the challenger. So it is no surprise that with every major economic indicator looking good this year, leading political-science models tended to show George W. Bush winning easily.

That obviously didn't happen. And the reason, according to a recent series of papers by Jacob Hacker, a Yale political scientist, is that while incomes have been rising, so has the degree to which those incomes fluctuate. The problem for an incumbent, Hacker argues, is that voters care a great deal about having a stable income, not just about having a large one.

When Hacker began tinkering with ways to measure the instability of family income, what he found amazed him. Between the early 1970's and the early 90's, the index of income volatility he devised rose by a factor of 5 (though it fell somewhat toward the end of the 90's). Put differently, a family earning $50,000 a year in 1974 (in today's dollars) had a 2 in 3 chance of making anywhere between $38,000 and $62,000 in 1975. But by the early 90's, a family earning $50,000 would have a 2 in 3 chance of making between $30,000 and $70,000 the following year. The risk of a substantial drop-off in income was much greater. Moreover, the trend wasn't confined to less-well-educated workers. Workers with and without college training saw a similar rise in the volatility of their family incomes.



o Americans suffer more from their inability to understand, or make themselves understood by, non-English speakers than America's soldiers in Iraq. That's why this year the Pentagon equipped thousands of them with the Phraselator, a hand-held electronic gadget that allows the soldiers to deliver hundreds of useful phrases, prerecorded in Arabic, to the Iraqis they encounter.

The device, which looks like an oversize Palm Pilot with a speaker and a microphone on top, breaks into Arabic when it hears an equivalent phrase in English spoken by a user whose voice it recognizes. Like an electronic parrot, the Phraselator may not be much of a conversationalist and can lack charm -- sample phrases include ''Not a step farther,'' ''Put your hands on the wall'' and ''Everyone stop talking'' -- but its boosters claim that because the phrases are prerecorded by native speakers and not computer-generated, the monologues have ''a more natural feel.'' The Phraselator is marketed as ''a complete solution for cross-cultural awareness.''

Its creators at the Pentagon-financed company VoxTec admit that even the new model, the P2, has a drawback: it is still just a ''one-way'' translation device. In other words, it phraselates perfectly well from English into Arabic (or any of the 59 other ''target languages'' it has mastered so far), but the device is no better at understanding foreign languages than the Americans who are wielding it. So the Phraselator allows occupiers to issue commands, but it does not help them comprehend any of what the occupied may have to say in response.

Despite this limitation, VoxTec is planning to roll out a consumer version soon, so it won't be long before American tourists will be able to make demands and deliver orders in foreign languages without having to learn a single word of them.

Popular Constitutionalism


Now that it seems clear that Republicans will control the courts for the foreseeable future, canny liberals are beginning to wean themselves of the romantic idea that judges inevitably favor liberal values. And now these liberals have a rallying cry -- ''popular constitutionalism'' -- which appears in the title of a book published this year by Larry Kramer, the new dean of Stanford Law School. In the early 90's, Kramer became interested in the idea that the public might do a better job of protecting its rights than the courts. He became convinced that the framers of the Constitution expected it to be interpreted not by unelected judges but by the people themselves -- through petitions, juries, voting and civil disobedience. Several years later, he was astonished to find the Supreme Court striking down laws one after the other and claiming to do so in the name of the founders' vision.



Enraged by the president's war and still angry about the last election, the Massachusetts Legislature recently called for a special meeting of New England states to consider secession from the country. Recent, that is, if 1814 is recent. That year, at the Hartford Convention, delegates from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont toyed with an idea the country would hear a good bit more of half a century later: that secession was a right, embedded in the Constitution.

Stock Options for Soldiers


Like many liberal policy wonks, Steve Clemons, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, had some advice for John Kerry before this year's presidential debates. In order to burnish his pro-military credentials, Clemons suggested, Kerry should call on patriotic companies -- particularly those that are profiting from the war in Iraq, like defense and oil firms -- to contribute stock options and other assets to a national fund for American servicemen and women who have seen combat in Iraq. Clemons called his proposal ''Stock Options for Soldiers,'' and as is the case with most unsolicited predebate advice, the candidate politely passed.

Strategic Extremism

Shorter- There is no middle ground


It may be hard to believe these days, but in fact, Americans are pretty moderate people, politically. Even on deeply emotional issues like abortion, public opinion tends to coalesce around a mushy compromise position somewhere close to the middle of the road. So why do party platforms and campaign rhetoric tend toward extreme positions?

According to a paper in the October issue of the Harvard Institute of Economic Research, there may be a calculated reason behind the nation's current political divide. The lead author, Edward L. Glaeser, a Harvard economist, argues that the parties are employing a tactic that he calls strategic extremism. When the political landscape is balanced in a very particular way, he writes -- the way it is right now -- ''extreme political platforms that deviate sharply from the median voter's preferences can be vote-maximizing.''


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?