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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?

I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.

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"The brain is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson

"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin

"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton

"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan

"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule -- and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken

"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt

"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley

"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss

"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire, the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind; and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon

"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon

"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon

"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority. They show disrespect for elders and they love to chatter instead of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize their teachers."
-- Socrates

"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook

"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook

"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization. We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr

"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion

"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson

"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices, intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation; a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition -- to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand

"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri

"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France

"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke

"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology; it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant

"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville

"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis

"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis

"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis

"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon, but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant

"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand

"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal

"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.

"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible, and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus

"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814

"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort, are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true, the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated. This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944

"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News

"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas

"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
-- Cicero

"Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue." -- François, duc de La Rochefoucauld

"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it." -- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson

"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example." -- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower

"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance." --
H. W. Fowler

"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place." -- Kate Wilhelm

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein

"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms

"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho

"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).

"Nothing would be done at all, if a man waited till he could do it so well, that no one could find fault with it."
-- Lecture IX, John Henry Cardinal Newman

“Nothing is more common than for men to think that because they are familiar with words they understand the ideas they stand for.”
-- John Henry Cardinal Newman

"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."
-- James Madison

"Those who are free from common prejudices acquire others."
-- Napolean I of France -- Napoleon I of France

"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.

"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.

"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128

"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)

"American life is a powerful solvent. It seems to neutralize every intellectual element, however tough and alien it may be, and to fuse it in the native good will, complacency, thoughtlessness, and optimism."
-- George Santayana, Character and Opinion in the United States, (1920)

"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days

"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs

"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign

"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden

"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
-- Batman


Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit. He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.

The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cute panda. Don't you love pandas?

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Contents © 2001-2013 All rights reserved. Gary Farber. (The contents of e-mails to this email address of Gary Farber are subject to the possibility of being posted.)

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world

[Blogroll now far below the sea line! Dive, dive, dive!]

You Like Me, You Really Like Me

Gary Farber! Jeez, the guy is practically a blogging legend, and I'm always surprised at the breadth of what he writes about.
-- PZ Meyers, Pharyngula

...Darn: I saw that Gary had commented on this thread, and thought: oh. my. god. Perfect storm. Unstoppable cannonball, immovable object. -- Hilzoy

...I think Gary Farber is a blogging god. -- P.Z. Myers, Pharyngula

...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow

‎"Gary Farber is a gentleman, a scholar and one of the gems of the blogosphere." -- Steve Hynd,

"Well argued, Gary. I hadn't seen anything that went into as much detail as I found in your blog." -- Gareth Porter

Gary Farber is your one-man internet as always, with posts on every article there is.
-- Fafnir

Guessing that Gary is ignorant of anything that has ever been written down is, in my experience, unwise.
Just saying.

-- Hilzoy

Gary Farber gets it right....
-- James Joyner, Outside The Beltway

Once again, an amazing and illuminating post.
-- Michael Bérubé, Crooked Timber

I read Amygdala...with regularity, as do all sensible websurfers.
-- Jim Henley, Unqualified Offerings

Okay, he is annoying, but he still posts a lot of good stuff.
-- Avedon Carol, The Sideshow

Amygdala - So much stuff it reminds Unqualified Offerings that UO sometimes thinks of Gary Farber as "the liberal Instapundit."
-- Jim Henley

...the thoughtful and highly intelligent Gary Farber... My first reaction was that I definitely need to appease Gary Farber of Amygdala, one of the geniuses of our age.
-- Brad deLong

Gary is a perceptive, intelligent, nice guy. Some of the stuff he comes up with is insightful, witty, and stimulating. And sometimes he manages to make me groan.
-- Charlie Stross

Gary Farber is a straight shooter.
-- John Cole, Balloon Juice

I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber

Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
-- Ogged

I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow

One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.

One of my favorites....
-- Matt Welch

-- Virginia Postrel

Amygdala continues to have smart commentary on an incredible diversity of interesting links....
-- Judith Weiss

Amygdala has more interesting obscure links to more fascinating stuff that any other blog I read.
-- Judith Weiss, Kesher Talk

Gary's stuff is always good.
-- Meryl Yourish

...the level-headed Amygdala blog....
-- Geitner Simmons

The only trouble with reading Amygdala is that it makes me feel like such a slacker. That Man Farber's a linking, posting, commenting machine, I tell you!
-- John Robinson, Sore Eyes

...the all-knowing Gary Farber....
-- Edward Winkleman, Obsidian Wings

Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged

We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!

Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!

Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog

Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog


Gary is certainly a non-idiotarian 'liberal'...
-- Perry deHaviland

Recommended for the discerning reader.
-- Tim Blair

Gary Farber's great Amygdala blog.
-- Dr. Frank

Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott

Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit

My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal

If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.

Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks

I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes

Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this?
-- Natalie Solent

You nailed it... nice job."
-- James Lileks

Gary Farber is a principled liberal....
-- Bill Quick, The Daily Pundit

December 2001 January 2002 February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 December 2011 January 2013

Blogroll is Always In Progress:

Roger Ailes
Alas, A Blog
The American Street
The Aristocrats
Avedon Carol
Between the Hammer and the Anvil
Lindsay Beyerstein
The Big Con
CantBlogTooBusy The Center for American Progress
Chase me Ladies, I'm in the Cavalry
Doghouse Riley
Kevin Drum
Fables of the Reconstruction
Gall and Gumption
Gin and Tacos
House of Substance
The Hunting of the Snark
If I Ran The Zoo
Lawyers, Guns & Money
Lotus: Surviving a Dark Time
Matters of Little Significance
Nancy Nall
Charlie Stross bastard.logic
Daniel Larison
American Conservative
American Footprints
Andrew Sullivan
Angry Bear
Balloon Juice
Beautiful Horizons
Bitch Ph.D.
Brad DeLong
Crooked Timber
Cunning Realist
Daily Kos
Debate Link
Democracy Arsenal
Edge of the American West
Ezra Klein
Glenn Greenwald 13th Floor
Hit & Run
Juan Cole
Kevin Drum
Lawyers, Guns and Money
List Project (Helping Iraqis who worked with us get out)
Marc Lynch
Mark Kleiman
Katha Pollit
Market Square
Matthew Yglesias
Megan McArdle
Metro Green
Pam's House Blend
Paul Krugman
Philosophy, et cetera
Radley Balko
Sadly, No!
Southern Appeal
Stephen Walt
Steve Clemons
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Taking It Outside
Talking Points Memo
The Poor Man
The Progressive Realist
The Sideshow
U.S. Intellectual History
Unqualified Offerings
Volokh Conspiracy
Washington Monthly
William Easterly
Newsrack Blog
Ortho Bob
The Poor Man
Prog Gold
Prose Before Hos
Ted Rall
The Raw Story
Elayne Riggs
Sadly, No!
Texas Liberal
Think Progress
3 Weird Sisters
Tristram Shandy
Washington Monthly
Ian Welsh
James Wolcott
World o' Crap
Matthew Yglesias
Buzz Machine
Daniel Larison
Rightwing Film Geek About Last Night
can we all just agree
Comics Curmudgeon
Dum Luk's
Glenn Kenny
Hoarder Museum Juanita Jean
Lance Mannion (Help Lance!
Last Words of the Executed
The Phil Nugent Experience
Postcards from Hell's Kitchen
Vanishing New York
a lovely promise
a web undone
alt hippo
american street
city of brass
danger west
fierce urgency of now
get fisa right
great concavity
happening here
impeach them!
kathryn cramer
notes from the basement
talking dog
uncertain principles
unqualified offerings
what do i know
crooked timber emptywheel
ezra klein
The F-Word
glenn greenwald
schneier on security
ta-nehisi coates
talking points memo
tiny revolution
Roz Kaveney
Dave Ettlin
Henry Jenkins' Confessions of an Aca-Fan
Kathryn Cramer
Monkeys In My Pants
Pagan Prattle
As I Please
Ken MacLeod
Arthur Hlavaty
Kevin Maroney
MK Kare
Jack Heneghan
Dave Langford
Onyx Lynx Atrios
Rittenhouse Review
Public Nuisance
Scoobie Davis
Nathan Newman
Echidne Of The Snakes
First Draft
Rising Hegemon
Cab Drollery (Help Diane!
Southern Beale
The Kenosha Kid
Culture of Truth
Talk Left
Black Ag=Q< Report
Drug WarRant
Nieman Watchdog
Open Left
Meet the Bloggers
Dispatch from the Trenches
Crooks and Liars
Campaign for America's Future
Iraq Today
Daily Kos
Lefty Directory
News Hounds
The Brad Blog
Informed Comment
UN Dispatch
War and Piece
Glenn Greenwald
Schneier on Security
Jim Henley
Arthur Silber
Julian Sanchez
The Agitator
Balloon Juice
Wendy McElroy
Whoviating (LarryE)
Scott Horton
Tennessee Guerilla Women
Looking Glass
Charles Kuffner
Brad DeLong
Busy, Busy, Busy
Oliver Willis
The Carpetbagger Report Shakesville
Down With Tyranny
Professor B
Monkey Media Report
The Grumpy Forester
Ian Welsh
Pacific Views
Booman Tribune
Matthew Yglesias
The American Street
Media Bloodhound
Liz Henry's Composite
The Heretik
Arizona Eclectic
Sisyphus Shrugged
Interesting Times
Talking Dog
Liberal Desert
Under the Lobsterscope
Seeing The Forest
Sean Paul Kelley's The Agonist
King of Zembla
Mark Kleiman
Liquid List
Elayne Riggs
No More Mr. Nice Blog
Fanatical Apathy
Blue Gal
Mark Evanier
Roger Ailes
Suburban Guerrilla (Help Susie with money!)
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People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost, Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry, Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny. It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out. And She of whom I must write someday.

Saturday, September 30, 2006
COULD A MONOLITH BE RESPONSIBLE? Apparently, if you take a ride in Richard Branson's new Spaceship Two (for a mere $200,000.00), your head turns into that of an alien. Or something. WTF?

Guests float about the cabin in spacesuits in a scene from a promotional video.
Um, okay.

The story claims to show pictures of the interior of the cabin, but aside from that, and a shot of Bransome grinning from a reclining chair, there's not much.

But, hey, I'm for space tourism; the more industry we get to support it, the better.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5. Meanwhile, Neil Armstrong's missing "a" may have been found.

They should have looked under the command module couch cushions before now.

UPDATE, 10/03/06, 2:31 a.m.: As often, the rest of the world gets around to what I told you about days ago.

Wait for the NY Times to get to it next week.

9/30/2006 07:48:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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BORAT HOLDS A PRESS CONFERENCE. They should put this guy on tv, or something.
The president of Kazakhstan came to town yesterday, and a massive press scrum fought for toeholds outside the country's embassy, where a grand new statue symbolizing Kazakh independence -- a warrior holding a falcon standing on the back of a fierce winged cat -- had just been unveiled.

But, no, of course that's not why we were there. That's not why any of the 50 or so journalists were there. We were there for Borat.


[...]Baron Cohen held a guerrilla news conference outside the embassy at 16th and O streets NW -- without ever breaking character.

He began by waving an actual four-page advertisement that the former Soviet republic placed in yesterday's New York Times touting its sophisticated culture, religious tolerance and gender equality.

"These are disgusting fabrications!" he said in a thick, ambiguously foreign accent. They're perpetrated by "evil nitwits" from neighboring Uzbekistan "who, as we all know, are a very nosy people with a bone in the middle of their brain."

He called out Kazakh Embassy spokesman Roman Vassilenko as "an Uzbek impostor" ("pliz do not listen to him") and threatened to attack Uzbekistan "with our catapults." Anyone, he added, "who claims we do not drink fermented horse's urine, do not have death penalty for baking bagels," is lying.

Or something like that -- it was hard to hear over the chortles of the news camera guys.

He concluded: "I must now return to my embassy where I have talks with my government." But security guards had already emerged from the compound to close the wrought-iron gate. He turned around: "Which direction is the White House?"

And suddenly, 50 journalists were on a crazed three-quarter-mile sprint down 16th Street, trying to keep up with the lanky, fast-moving fake Kazakh, desperate not to miss anything that might happen in this big fake event. One camera guy tumbled to the sidewalk in the crush.

ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper maneuvered his way to Baron Cohen's side just as the comic gazed on Scott Circle and asked again for directions. "The White House? It's this way," Tapper said. Then, to his camera guy: "Did you get that?"

Get what? Is this really news? No time to challenge him on that, as we had to catch up with this fictional character.

We ran through Lafayette Square. Baron Cohen rang a buzzer at the White House gate.

"I like to give Premier Bush an invitation to see a screening of my film," he told the officer who approached.

"Do you have an appointment?"

"Eh, no so much." But he conveyed the rest of the invitation through the gate: Friday night screening, with cocktails and conversation about U.S.-Kazakh relations to follow at Hooters. "Thenk you." And then he climbed into the back of a black SUV and drove away.

No one answered our repeated calls to the Kazakh Embassy.
Meanwhile, a deadly financial blow to Borat:
'Borat' Movie Banned by Kazakh Movie Chain

Kazakhstan's largest chain of cinemas has banned the forthcoming Sacha Baron Cohen movie [...]
Oh, no!

But Kazakhstan has news you need to know; they have "the planet's largest population of wolves."

And the real comedy is that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev visited the White House yesterday, and was duly patted on the head by Mr. Bush for his great partnership with us in the War On Terror, and in energy. Who can forget:
[...] the suspicious mid-campaign suicide of one of Nazarbayev’s most outspoken political opponents, who, according to reports, demonstrated astonishing reflexes in his last moments when he managed to shoot himself in both the chest and the head.
We support democracy and human rights everywhere now, under the Bush Doctrine!

For less humor, read more about David Merkel, the Jesse Helms protege who is director for European and Central Asian affairs at the National Security Council, and Matt Bryza, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affair, who, aside from championing the non-fictional, not-funny, President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, well, also:
In January of this year, as part of an effort to muster support for a trans-Caspian pipeline, Bryza flew to Turkmenistan to meet with one of the world’s most eccentric tyrants, Saparmurat Niyazov, the great Turkmenbashi. “Stability requires legitimacy, which flows from democracy,” Turkmenbashi, who once commissioned the construction of a thirty foot gilded statue of himself that rotates with the sun, assured Bryza during their encounter.
Tukrmenbashi makes Borat look sober and utterly plausible.

Read The Rest Scale: try the Harper's for reality, or not; I quoted almost all of the initial WaPo piece.

I'm just glad that Kazakhstan ceased being one of the most heavily armed with nuclear weapons states in the world.

Imagine what they might do to Borat otherwise.

9/30/2006 07:13:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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NEED SOME DISTRACTION? What with the constant News Of The Evil, sure you do. Disorientation is a simple little Flash game, that doesn't even require quick reflexes.

It merely requires, ah, ability to sort through confusing perspectives?

Kinda like analyzing politics, after all, then.

I suspect it might have some uses in training, or testing for, astronauts. Whee!

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for amusement.

9/30/2006 06:28:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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ELSEWHERE IN SHREDDING THE CONSTITUTION, Erwin Chemerinsky points out this evisceration of the First Amendment:
With little public attention or even notice, the House of Representatives has passed a bill that undermines enforcement of the First Amendment's separation of church and state. The Public Expression of Religion Act - H.R. 2679 - provides that attorneys who successfully challenge government actions as violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment shall not be entitled to recover attorneys fees. The bill has only one purpose: to prevent suits challenging unconstitutional government actions advancing religion.


Without this statute, there is no way to compensate attorneys who successfully sue for injunctions to stop unconstitutional government behavior.
It's just hard to keep track of all the different ways the Constitution is being shredded these days.

Read The Rest Scale: 4.5 out of 5.

9/30/2006 06:06:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 5 comments

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WHAT IRAQIS WANT. I've always considered the opinions of American (or other non-Iraqi) right or left wingers as to how long our troops should be in Iraq to be of relatively little interest, whereas I've always thought that Iraq opinion should clearly be the dominant indicator (hey, what would Iraqis know, or care about this for, after all?).

So while I always caution that polls are unreliable, and particularly single polls, and particularly polls in countries wraught with fighting and chaos, this nonetheless seems fairly important to me.
About three-quarters of Iraqis believe that American forces are provoking more conflict than they are preventing in Iraq and that they should be withdrawn within a year, according to a poll conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, a group from the University of Maryland.

The poll of 1,150 people, conducted Sept. 1 to 4, had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points. It found growing support for attacks against American-led forces, with a majority of Iraqis now favoring them.


The poll found that 78 percent of Iraqis believe that the American military presence causes more conflict than it prevents, including 97 percent of Sunnis, 82 percent of Shiites and 41 percent of Kurds.

Among Iraq’s three main communities, only Kurds tended to see the American military presence as a stabilizing force, with 56 percent agreeing with that statement versus 17 percent of Shiites and 2 percent of Sunnis.

Most Iraqis — 71 percent — said American soldiers should be withdrawn within a year, but only 37 percent favored an American withdrawal in the next six months. Only Sunnis wanted American forces out within six months, and only Kurds favored a longer United States presence, as much as two years or more.

The poll also found growing support for attacks on American forces, with 61 percent of the respondents saying they approved, compared with 47 percent in January. Support for the attacks was strongest among Sunnis, at 92 percent. But support among Shiites rose to 62 percent in September from 41 percent in January. Only 16 percent of Kurds favored attacks on American troops.
There's a lot more at the PIPA site. Their own press release/summary is here, with a lot more detail, and the pdf has far more. Also worthy of note is that Majorities of All Iraqi Ethnic Groups Want Strong Central Government; Six in Ten Approve Maliki’s Government, Though Optimism Down.

If you want to look for a hint of something other than despair, it would be here:
[...] Iraqis appear to agree on having a strong central government, and large majorities among all ethnic groups (Shias, Arab Sunnis, and Kurds) want the government to get rid of the militias. Majorities of all groups do not favor a movement toward a looser confederation and believe that five years from now Iraq will still be a single state. Six in ten approve of the job the Maliki government is doing in facing Iraq’s problems—though currently, a slight majority does not think Iraq is going in the right direction.
[...] The militias appear to be quite unpopular and very large majorities of all groups favor a strong government that would get rid of the militias. Just 21 percent overall—and a minority of all groups—say that they think “it would be better to continue to have militias to protect [their] security.” Rather, 77 percent overall say that they would “prefer to have a strong government that would get rid of all militias.” This view is held by 82 percent of Kurds, 65 percent of Shias and an extraordinary 100 percent of Sunnis.
Of course, this likely tends to work out to some degree the way Americans feel about their Congressional representative: they're all lousy, but my guy is okay. In this case, it might be "I hate the militias, but you give up yours first."

But this is also less bad than one might have thought:
[...] Perhaps most significantly, when asked “Do you feel that if all militias were to disarm now, that you could or could not rely on the government alone to ensure security in your area?” a large 68 percent say they feel they could.
I'd say this is another key point:
[...] Most Iraqis (65%) see the current Iraqi government as “the legitimate representative of the Iraqi people.” However, while 82 percent of Shias and 76 percent of Kurds feel this way, 86 percent of Sunnis do not.


Despite Iraq’s troubles, a large majority expresses confidence in the government led by Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. Sixty-three percent say that “in its effort to deal with Iraq’s problems,” the government is doing a very good job (17%) or a somewhat good job (46%).
Still, that's pretty darned high support amongst the non-Sunnis, given the current circumstances, although that "still" is huge, and the most obvious hurdle to somehow attempt to overcome.

There's probably not much use to rehashing the past, but I note in passing:
[...] A majority of Iraqis (61%) still believe that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth the hardships they might have suffered, but this is down from the 77 percent who said this in January. Among Shias, the majority saying that was worth it has slipped from 98 percent to 75 percent, while among the Kurds it has dropped from 91 percent to 81 percent. The number of Sunnis saying it was not worth it has drifted upward from 83 percent to 89 percent, with only 11 percent saying that it was worth it.
On what Iraqis want us to do:
[...] A large majority of Iraqis—71%—say they would like the Iraqi government to ask for US-led forces to be withdrawn from Iraq within a year or less. Given four options, 37 percent take the position that they would like US-led forces withdrawn “within six months,” while another 34 percent opt for “gradually withdraw[ing] US-led forces according to a one-year timeline.” Twenty percent favor a two-year timeline and just 9 percent favor “only reduc[ing] US-led forces as the security situation improves in Iraq.”

There are significant variations between groups, though no group favors an open-ended commitment. Fifty-seven percent of Sunnis favor withdrawal in six months, with another 34 percent favoring a year. Shias are more evenly divided between six months (36%) and a year (38%), and few favor two years (20%) or an open-ended commitment (5%). Only a third of Kurds favor withdrawal within a year or less, but two-thirds favor withdrawal within two years or less (11% six months, 24% one year, 34% two years). Thirty-one percent of Kurds favor an open-ended commitment.

As compared to January 2006 there has been, overall, a growing sense of urgency for withdrawal of US-led forces. In January respondents were only given three options—six months, two years, and an open-ended commitment. In September the one-year option was added, since it has been nearly a year since the last time they were asked. While in January 70 percent favored withdrawal within two years (35% six months, 35% two years), now-- approximately a year later—71 percent favor withdrawal within a year (37% six months, 34% one year). Support for an open-ended commitment has dropped from 29 percent to 9 percent.

Within ethnic groups there have been some shifts. Shias show a growing a sense of urgency, with the numbers calling for withdrawal in six months rising from 22 percent to 36 percent. On the other hand, the Sunnis’ earlier overwhelming eagerness for withdrawal has moderated, with the percentage calling for withdrawal within six months dropping from 83 percent to 57 percent. Among those living in Baghdad support is even lower at 24 percent—however, it should be noted that the sample size for this subgroup is quite small and thus should be interpreted with caution. Still, 91 percent of Sunnis now say that they want the US to withdraw within a year, including 84 percent of those in Baghdad.

PIPA director Steven Kull comments, “What we are seeing is a growing desire for US-led forces to withdraw in the near future, greater confidence that the Iraqi army can deal with the situation, and continuing concern that the US has no plans to ever leave.”
There's a bunch more, but a drawdown, assurances that we won't have permanent bases, and plans for redeployment, seem to be in order, if you support Iraqi sovereignty.

Key points:
[...] Support for US withdrawal appears to be derived from a widespread perception that the presence of US-led forces is having a net negative effect on the situation in Iraq. Large numbers say that the US military presence is “provoking more conflict than it is preventing.” This view is held by 78 percent overall, and by 82 percent of Shias and a near-unanimous 97 percent of Sunnis. The Kurds diverge, with 56 percent taking the opposing view that the US military presence is “a stabilizing force.”

Among those who believe that US presence is provoking more conflict 82 percent favor withdrawal of US forces within a year. Among those who believe that it is a stabilizing force, just 33 percent favor withdrawal in this time frame.

More broadly, 79 percent of Iraqis say that the US is having a negative influence on the situation in Iraq, with just 14 percent saying that it is having a positive influence. Views are especially negative among the Sunnis (96% negative), and the Shias (87% negative). However, a plurality of Kurds (48%) say that the US is having a positive influence, while just 34 percent say it is having a negative influence.

Confidence in the US military is quite low. Eighty-four percent say they have little (22%) or no (62%) confidence in the US military. An extraordinary 98 percent of Sunnis take this view (no confidence 85%, a little 13%) as do 91 percent of Shias (no confidence 66%, a little 25%). However a majority of Kurds—55%—express confidence in the US military (some 37%, a lot 18%), while 45 percent do not express confidence (no confidence 17%, a little 28%).
And would U.S. withdrawal help or hinder the Iraqi government?
[...] Asked “If the US made a commitment to withdraw from Iraq according to a timetable, do you think this would strengthen the Iraqi government, weaken it, or have no effect either way?” 53 percent said that it would strengthen the government, while just 24 percent said it would weaken the government. Twenty-three percent believed that it would have no effect either way.

For all ethnic groups the belief that a commitment to withdraw would strengthen the government is the most common position, but it is more prevalent among the Shias (60%), than the Sunnis (46%) or Kurds (39%). The belief that it would weaken the government is held by just 18 percent of Shias, 24 percent of Sunnis and 37 percent of Kurds.
My suspicion is that, for all the shouting and accusations made in the current run-up to the U.S. election, not long afterwards a consensus along the lines of U.S. drawdown will occur, although I also suspect that whether or not Donald Rumsfeld remains as SecDef will have a significant affect on this possibility emerging.

Lastly, it really sucks to be an Iraqi journalist. More on the failures of Iraqi reconstruction, though this is an old, old, story by now. More here and here.

Read The Rest Scale: as much as you can of the PIPA reports, maybe?

A little about PIPA here and here; I know of no reason to consider them biased or non-reputable.

9/30/2006 04:21:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | |
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CHAIN OF EVENTS. I'm still too disgusted by the detainee issue to be able to do more than sputter incoherently about it, but you might want to read this account by Tim Golden of how the policy evolved, amongst internal administration political infighting, if you're interested in political forensics.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

I wish more politicians knew about this: Americans Support Full Due-Process Rights for Terrorism Suspects; Majorities Oppose Rendition of Suspects to Countries that Practice Torture. Full report.
Respondents were asked about terrorism suspects captured outside of the United States who are not ordinary soldiers and were told that such prisoners had a number of rights according to international treaties, but that “some people say when someone is suspected of planning or committing terrorism, and is not a regular soldier, the person should not have certain rights.” Nonetheless in every case, support for legal protections was robust: 73 percent said such suspects should have the right to request and receive a hearing; 66 percent said their home government and families should be informed of their capture and location; 73 percent said their treatment should be monitored by the Red Cross or another international organization; 75 percent said they should not be tortured and 57 percent said they should not be threatened with torture.

Partisan differences were minor, except on the issue of whether interrogators should be allowed to threaten torture. Prohibiting such threats was supported by 67 percent of Democrats but only 50 percent of Republicans.

Another sample was asked a similar series of questions about the treatment of terrorism suspects “arrested in the United States.” Seventy-seven percent said such suspects should be given access to a lawyer; 60 percent said they should not be held indefinitely without charges or a trial;76 percent they should not be tortured and 61 percent said they should not be threatened with torture. Once again partisan differences were minor.
Not that human rights should be subject to popular vote or opinion, but still.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

9/30/2006 03:14:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WHEN PEOPLE KNEW HOW TO BEAT THEIR NATIVE FASCISTS. October 4th will be the 70th anniversary of the day the British Union of Fascists was stopped in the streets.
They built barricades from paving stones, timber and overturned lorries. Women threw the contents of chamber pots on to the heads of policemen and children hurled marbles under their horses and burst bags of pepper in front of their noses.

Next Wednesday marks the 70th anniversary of the day that Jews, communists, trade unionists, Labour party members, Irish Catholic dockers and the people of the East End of London united in defiance of Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists and refused to let them march through their streets.
Although I don't, in fact, oppose people marching in the streets, so long as they are non-violent, and in fact defend the right of all, no matter how repulsive, to do so, this was still an admirable and memorable event.
[...] Shouting the Spanish civil war slogan "No pasaran" - "They shall not pass" - more than 300,000 people turned back an army of Blackshirts. Their victory over racism and anti-Semitism on Sunday October 4 1936 became known as the Battle of Cable Street and encapsulated the British fight against a fascism that was stomping across Europe.

Mosley planned to send columns of thousands of goose-stepping men throughout the impoverished East End dressed in uniforms that mimicked those of Hitler's Nazis. His target was the large Jewish community.

The Jewish Board of Deputies advised Jews to stay away. The Jewish Chronicle warned: "Jews are urgently warned to keep away from the route of the Blackshirt march and from their meetings.

"Jews who, however innocently, become involved in any possible disorders will be actively helping anti-Semitism and Jew-baiting. Unless you want to help the Jew baiters, keep away."

The Jews did not keep away.
Pretty much every principle has an occasional exception, and this was one of them. At the very least, it was a great symbol of people coming together to fight a visible, native, evil.

People should remember that they could do that.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

9/30/2006 01:28:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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[...] In the fall of 2003 and the winter of 2004, officials of the National Security Council became increasingly concerned about the ability of the U.S. military to counter the growing insurgency in Iraq.

Returning from a visit to Iraq, Robert D. Blackwill, the NSC's top official for Iraq, was deeply disturbed by what he considered the inadequate number of troops on the ground there. He told Rice and Stephen J. Hadley, her deputy, that the NSC needed to do a military review.

"If we have a military strategy, I can't identify it," Hadley said. "I don't know what's worse -- that they have one and won't tell us or that they don't have one."

Rice had made it clear that her authority did not extend to Rumsfeld or the military, so Blackwill never forced the issue with her. Still, he wondered why the president never challenged the military. Why didn't he say to Gen. John P. Abizaid at the end of one of his secure video briefings, "John, let's have another of these on Thursday and what I really want from you is please explain to me, let's take an hour and a half, your military strategy for victory."

After Bush's reelection, Hadley replaced Rice as national security adviser. He made an assessment of the problems from the first term.

"I give us a B-minus for policy development," he told a colleague on Feb. 5, 2005, "and a D-minus for policy execution."
I particularly like this one, because I was frequently reading during this time-period emphatic assertions from Bush-defenders that obviously there was a military strategy, and a counter-insurgency strategy as well. Why, we were fighting the insurgents, and so obviously we had a strategy to fight them, Q.E.D., the discussion was over, and that was that.

The flaws in this argument didn't occur to them.

Second favorite:
[...] Abizaid held to the position that the war was now about the Iraqis. They had to win it now. The U.S. military had done all it could. It was critical, he argued, that they lower the American troop presence. It was still the face of an occupation, with American forces patrolling, kicking down doors and looking at the Iraqi women, which infuriated the Iraqi men.

"We've got to get the [expletive] out," he said.

Abizaid's old friends were worried sick that another Vietnam or anything that looked like Vietnam would be the end of the volunteer army. What's the strategy for winning? they pressed him.

"That's not my job," Abizaid said.

No, it is part of your job, they insisted.

No, Abizaid said. Articulating strategy belonged to others.


"The president and Condi Rice, because Rumsfeld doesn't have any credibility anymore," he said.

This March, Abizaid was in Washington to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He painted a careful but upbeat picture of the situation in Iraq.

Afterward, he went over to see Rep. John P. Murtha in the Rayburn House Office Building. Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat, had introduced a resolution in Congress calling for American troops in Iraq to be "redeployed" -- the military term for returning troops overseas to their home bases -- "at the earliest practicable date."

"The war in Iraq is not going as advertised," Murtha had said. "It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion."

Now, sitting at the round dark-wood table in the congressman's office, Abizaid, the one uniformed military commander who had been intimately involved in Iraq from the beginning and who was still at it, indicated he wanted to speak frankly. According to Murtha, Abizaid raised his hand for emphasis, held his thumb and forefinger a quarter of an inch from each other and said, "We're that far apart."
Damn that traitorous leftist Marine Colonel, Murtha, and his commie-terrorsymp pals who lead our military!

I blame the press and the Democrats.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

ADDENDUM, 10/1/06, 5:35 p.m.: Longer excerpts.

9/30/2006 01:21:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SEFORA. Not a very catchy acronym, but one hopes it will be a good thing. Scientists and Engineers for America.

Better than against America. Naturally, there's a blog, as well as a mission statement, an agenda, and all the other usual accoutrements of an org.

Their "in the news" page doesn't seem to have noticed this coverage yet.

The basic idea:
Several prominent scientists said yesterday that they had formed an organization dedicated to electing politicians “who respect evidence and understand the importance of using scientific and engineering advice in making public policy.”
I'm sure we'll be hearing from the administration and Republicans any second now what a dastardly partisan organization this is.

More crunchy goodness:
[...] Mike Brown, the group’s executive director, said it would be a 527 organization under tax laws, meaning that it could be involved in electoral politics, and that contributions to the group would not be tax deductible. He said it would focus its resources — Internet advertising, speakers and other events — on races in which science issues play a part.

The group is looking at the Senate race in Virginia between George Allen, the incumbent Republican, and James Webb, a Democrat; a stem cell ballot issue in Missouri; the question of intelligent design in Ohio; and Congressional races in Washington State, Mr. Brown said.

In what it described as a Bill of Rights for scientists and engineers, the group said that researchers who receive federal funds should be free to discuss their work publicly, and that appointments to federal scientific advisory committees should be based on scientific qualifications, not political beliefs. It said the government should not support science education programs that “include concepts that are derived from ideology,” an apparent reference to creationism and its ideological cousin, intelligent design.

And it said the government should not publish false or misleading scientific information, something Dr. Wood said occurred when the National Cancer Institute briefly posted an item on its Web site suggesting that abortion was linked to breast cancer.
Too bad their web page doesn't say any of this yet, but presumably they'll get around to it.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 as interested.

9/30/2006 12:52:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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FOR THE RECORD. Karl and Jack.
[...] The House Government Reform Committee report, based on e-mail messages and other records subpoenaed from Mr. Abramoff’s lobbying firm, found 485 contacts between Mr. Abramoff’s lobbying team and White House officials from 2001 to 2004, including 82 with Mr. Rove’s office.

The lobbyists spent almost $25,000 in meals and drinks for the White House officials and provided them with tickets to numerous sporting events and concerts, according to the report, scheduled for release Friday.


Mr. Rove has described Mr. Abramoff as a “casual acquaintance,” but the records obtained by the House committee show that Mr. Rove and his aides sought Mr. Abramoff’s help in obtaining seats at sporting events, and that Mr. Rove sat with Mr. Abramoff in the lobbyist’s box seats for an N.C.A.A. basketball playoff game in 2002.

After that game, Mr. Abramoff described Mr. Rove in an e-mail message to a colleague: “He’s a great guy. Told me anytime we need something just let him know through Susan.” The message was referring to Susan Ralson, Mr. Abramoff’s former secretary, who joined the White House in February 2001 as Mr. Rove’s executive assistant.

Ms. Ralston, who did not return phone calls seeking comment Thursday, was lobbied scores of times by Mr. Abramoff and his partners, the report found, and was instrumental in passing messages between Mr. Abramoff and senior officials at the White House, including Mr. Rove and Ken Mehlman.
Of course the history is lengthy and detailed, going back decades almost baroquely, with much strangeness. (Handy quotes by some guy are here.)

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.

9/30/2006 12:30:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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REMEMBER FLAT DADDY? You may have read about him here. Now the Flat Soldier's popularity grows, making it into the NY Times (the Boston Globe also being owned by the Times), as more Flat Soldiers continue to be distributed.

It's difficult to put one's finger on precisely what's so weird about this practice, but I think part of it is the complications of just how many emotions it provokes: poignancy at the sadness of the little children missing their parent; humor, because it's so effing wacky; pathos at how pathetic a substitute a Flat Parent is for a living, breathing, one; anger that this inept war is keeping so many parents away from their kids and has been run so unbelievably incompetently; and some degree of mystification at how it all goes together.

Still, once can't miss the necessary jokes:
[...] Parents of young deployed soldiers are also using flat soldiers. Carol Campbell of Anson, Me., got a flat version of her 24-year-old daughter, Jessica, who now sits at the family’s kitchen table. Ms. Campbell writes all of the places Jessica has visited on the back of the cutout. In June, Flat Jessica even chaperoned an after-prom party that her younger sister attended.
Where the kids got away with the most amazing 3D drinking and sex.

Read The Rest Scale: flatly 2.5 out of 5.

Elsewhere in the national news, Pagans Sue on Emblem for Graves, a story I wrote about in July.
[...] Families of the deceased may choose from emblems representing a variety of 18 Christian churches, a number of Buddhist sects, Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism and atheism (represented by an atom with an A inside) — 38 religious symbols in all.

But not the Wiccan pentacle, which the Department of Veterans Affairs has neither approved nor disallowed despite various petitions over the last nine years.

Yesterday three Wiccan families and two Wiccan churches sued to force the department to include their symbol — a five-pointed star inside a circle — on the list of approved emblems.
It's hard to see how they couldn't win, but I'm no longer able to be optimistic about much of anything related to the legal system of this country any more.

9/30/2006 07:25:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Thursday, September 28, 2006
COME ARREST ME. Holy shit. Senate Passes Detainee Bill Sought by President Bush.

Overthrow this government. By force.

Detain me.

All of you need to stand up and say this. Now.

Because it's going to be later, if not sooner.

I call for the overthrow of the government of the United States of America. By force.

Until this bill is overturned.

I don't want to wait until I pass a border.

I call for the overthrow now.

I resist.

I resist.

I resist.

ADDENDUM, 9/29/06, 3:09 p.m. Okay, this and the previous, a little over the top. But I was and am so damn mad.

ADDENDUM, 9/30/06, 5:40 p.m.: I've dithered a little as to whether to delete this post, and possibly the one below it, or not, but I tend to be very reluctant to do that, even though occasionally I wake up the next day groaning I wrote what? or oh, god, please don't let me post when drunk.

But while I'm not all that worried about a visit from the FBI, I do kinda not want a future hypothetical political campaign I volunteer for or support to have to disavow me, so I should clarify that no, I was not serious, and not actually recommending people pick up weapons and/or commit or support violence.

No, this was a symbolic cry of despair, and insofar as there was any thought to it, it was a vague notion that if everyone protests in such a way -- with such words -- it would be noticed, and might have some positive (non-violent) effect.

But it was only symbolic, and only despair and anger, and no, I don't actually support or recommend violence, and yeah, it was kinda dumb.

That happens occasionally.

9/28/2006 06:04:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 8 comments

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I FOUGHT THE LAW and the law won.

If you don't stop it.

If this isn't fascist, I don't know what is.

It may be time to leave this country.

We have become evil.

9/28/2006 10:10:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006
DAMMIT. All Blogger has done for days is spin its icon, and announce "0%" progess in posting.

The last few posts made it only out of about 100 tries each.

9/27/2006 11:20:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 4 comments

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SHORT LINKS TO LONG STORIES. Since yesterday afternoon, 96% of the time, Blogger isn't working for me, and just spins its icon endlessly, and won't publish.

This morning, I spent nearly three hours trying to make the new Blogads software work, and it's quite broken, full of endlessly inexplicable errors (and as always, their help text is mysterious, badly proofread, and erratic at best).

Plus the news is non-stop torture and habeas-stripping and similar horrors.

As a result, I'm of a mood to blend puppies.

But you might want to read this long LA Times piece on the Green Berets of ODA 2021 in Afghanistan in 2003, and how two deaths occurred.

On an entirely different, purely domestic, front, the NY Times has been running a multi-part, very long, series on the wacky inadequacies of the more or less 18th century system of justice still running in rural New York State. The anecdotes are simply amazing. Part I starts here, part II is here, and part III here; someone's bucking for a Pulitzer.

There's other stuff I can and should link to, but: puppy-blending to get to, you know.

After we see if this will finally post, or not.

On the positive side, Heros was mildly amusing in the first episode (wish I'd not forgotten, and missed the second ep of Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip and the first Enhanced Star Trek).

And it's a lovely fall day outside. Okay, that's the best I can do for now.

9/27/2006 10:29:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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FEWER THAN 7000 WORDS. 68.235% of statistics in popular articles are made up.

And women don't particularly use more words than men. Mark Liberman pops the linguistic balloon.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.

In completely unconnected news, save for being another short item, The Germans are spying on British garbage, the insidious fiends. (What Americans might know as recycling or garbage bins are "wheelie bins" in British English.)
Electronic spy 'bugs' have been secretly planted in hundreds of thousands of household wheelie bins.

The gadgets - mostly installed by companies based in Germany - transmit information about the contents of the bins to a central database which then keeps records on the waste disposal habits of each individual address.

Already some 500,000 bins in council districts across England have been fitted with the bugs - with nearly all areas expected to follow suit within the next couple of years.

Until now, the majority of bins have been altered without the knowledge of their owners. In many cases, councils which ordered the installation of the devices did not even debate the proposals publicly.

The official reason for the bugs is to 'improve efficiency' and settle disputes between neighbours over wheelie-bin ownership. But experts say the technology is actually intended to enable councils to impose fines on householders who exceed limits on the amount of non-recyclable waste they put out. New powers for councils to do this are expected to be introduced by the Government shortly.

But the revelation that the bins have already been altered ignited a 'Bin Brother' row over privacy and taxes. Conservative MP Andrew Pelling said burglars could hack into the computer system to see if sudden reductions in waste at individual households meant the owners were on holiday and the property empty.
And so on. Who hasn't long had an existential fear of "Bin Brother," ever since A.J. Weberman went through Bob Dylan's garbage, and the rise of garbology?

Okay, most of us, then. Moving on: Top 176 Star Wars Lines Improved By Replacing A Word With "Pants".

Amygdala: we bring you the news you can use.

9/27/2006 07:10:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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CAN'T WE SEE? Ariel Dorfman:
[...] That is the hideous predicament of the torture victim. It was always the same story, what I discovered in the ensuing years, as I became an unwilling expert on all manner of torments and degradations, my life and my writing overflowing with grief from every continent. Each of those mutilated spines and fractured lives -- Chinese, Guatemalan, Egyptian, Indonesian, Iranian, Uzbek, need I go on? -- all of them, men and women alike, surrendered the same story of essential asymmetry, where one man has all the power in the world and the other has nothing but pain, where one man can decree death at the flick of a wrist and the other can only pray that the wrist will be flicked soon.

It is a story that our species has listened to with mounting revulsion, a horror that has led almost every nation to sign treaties over the past decades declaring these abominations as crimes against humanity, transgressions interdicted all across the earth. That is the wisdom, national and international, that has taken us thousands of years of tribulation and shame to achieve. That is the wisdom we are being asked to throw away when we formulate the question -- Does torture work? -- when we allow ourselves to ask whether we can afford to outlaw torture if we want to defeat terrorism.


Can't the United States see that when we allow someone to be tortured by our agents, it is not only the victim and the perpetrator who are corrupted, not only the "intelligence" that is contaminated, but also everyone who looked away and said they did not know, everyone who consented tacitly to that outrage so they could sleep a little safer at night, all the citizens who did not march in the streets by the millions to demand the resignation of whoever suggested, even whispered, that torture is inevitable in our day and age, that we must embrace its darkness?

Are we so morally sick, so deaf and dumb and blind, that we do not understand this? Are we so fearful, so in love with our own security and steeped in our own pain, that we are really willing to let people be tortured in the name of America? Have we so lost our bearings that we do not realize that each of us could be that hapless Argentine who sat under the Santiago sun, so possessed by the evil done to him that he could not stop shivering?
Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

More about Ariel Dorfman, whom I first read on torture decades ago, here and here. An audio dialogue on torture from 2002. More.

9/27/2006 12:50:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006
A team of French doctors are setting off in a plane to carry out the first operation on a human being under weightless conditions.

It is hoped the trial will be a first step to performing surgery in space.

The doctors will be removing a benign tumour from the arm of a volunteer as the plane makes a series of manoeuvres to create weightlessness.

The surgeons will be working strapped to the sides of the plane while the patient is held inside a plastic tent.

Specially designed instruments have been fitted with magnets to attach them to the metal operating table.

During the three-hour flight above south-west France, the plane will be making parabolic swoops to create zero gravity.

The operation will be carried out in a series of 20-second periods of weightlessness.
Presumably there won't be any sudden emergencies requiring action that takes longer than 20 seconds.

Gotta love the linked headline, though: Flying crabs probe zero-G secrets.

Too... many... jokes.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5, but can you resist crabs in spaaaaaace?

9/26/2006 09:47:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE GOOD NEWS AND THE BAD NEWS. The good is that there may not be an eavesdropping bill passed; the bad is that there may be a torture-and-habeas-eliminating bill passed.
[...] Lawmakers in both the House and Senate said it now appeared doubtful that bills covering the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping program could pass both houses and be reconciled before Congress adjourns this weekend, an outcome that would deny Republicans one of the main achievements they hoped to take into the election.

“We would like to, but I think that might be a stretch,” said Representative John A. Boehner, the House majority leader, about getting a final agreement. He said the House would still proceed with its own measure this week in hopes of working out disagreements with the Senate after the election.

But Republicans were optimistic about eliminating last-minute concerns over a separate measure laying out rules for interrogating terrorism suspects and trying them before military tribunals. They said they were hoping to send the bill to Mr. Bush by the end of the week for a signing ceremony that could help them kick off the home stretch of the campaign with a message that Republicans were taking strong steps to protect the nation from terror attacks.
I don't know which disgusts me more: that the Republicans are campaigning on torture and habeas-eliminating, or that the Democrats are still shilly-shallying:
[...] Republicans also said they were trying to reach a compromise on the habeas corpus provision of the bill, which would deny a suspect the right to challenge his detention in court.

Democrats, who have found themselves on the losing end of the national security debate the past two national elections, said the changes to the bill had not yet reached a level that would cause them to try to block it altogether.
If anything were ever more important than politics, it's being right on fighting this horrendous bill.

However this will turn out remains murky, however, for now.

Filibuster, filibuster, filibuster. This bill must not pass.
[...] In one change, the original language said that a suspect had the right to “examine and respond to” all evidence used against him. Mr. Graham and his colleagues in resisting the White House, Senators John W. Warner of Virginia and John McCain of Arizona, had insisted that the provision was necessary to prevent so-called secret trials. The bill submitted late Monday dropped the word “examine” and left only “respond to,” reviving complaints about secret trials, this time from Democrats.

In another, the original compromise said that evidence seized “outside the United States” could be admitted in court even if it had been obtained without a search warrant, a provision Republicans and Democrats agreed was necessary to deal with the unusual circumstances of seizing evidence on the battlefield.

The bill introduced Monday dropped the words “outside the United States,” which Democrats said meant that prosecutors could ignore American legal standards on search warrants within the country. The bill also broadened the definition of an unlawful enemy combatant, from anyone “engaged in hostilities against the United States” to include anyone who “has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States.”

“These are significant changes, not technical changes,” said Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, where the original bill backed by Senators Warner, McCain and Graham was approved. “It’s hard to know how to vote on a bill that’s this much in motion.”
No. No, it's not at all.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5. Yesterday Specter said some promising things, but we know we can't count on him.
Specter opposed a clause in the compromise that, for some suspects, would remove the protections of habeas corpus, a tradition that predates the Magna Carta of 1215 and affirms that prisoners are entitled to have a court review whether they're being held legally.

"It's been around a long time . . . and emblazoned in the Constitution that habeas corpus can be suspended only in the event of rebellion or invasion," Specter said Monday. "We don't have either of these now."

Specter said he'd submit an amendment to protect the courts' authority to review the status of suspected terrorists in U.S. custody. But in response to questions, he refused to say whether he'd vote against the current compromise.

"I want to see how it shakes out," Specter said.
Specter always folds.

Call your Democratic representatives and Senators; let them know they must "put daylight" between themselves and the Republicans on habeas-stripping, secret trials, and torture; something like the distance found on Mercury.

9/26/2006 09:27:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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MIKE FORD HAS DIED. More here and here. I'm shocked, although Mike's health has been precarious for many years.

I only knew Mike ("John M. Ford") slightly; we had a one-on-one, extremely pleasant from my end, dinner some years ago, when he was looking for company, and Debbie Notkin put us together; we'd shared meals a few other times, and been at a variety of parties together; I'd worked on a couple of his books when I was at Avon, which I was very proud to do, including The Dragon Waiting. We chatted on a few occasions; on one occasion, I was visiting Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, and they announced they had to pick Mike up at the airport, did I want to come?, and so I did, rather to his surprise, and thus leading to another meal; we had, on and off, friends in common.

Mike was one of the few true geniuses I've ever known. His talent for writing -- and the result of hard work and study, needless to say -- was unparalleled, and his work was always new, always vital, always brilliant.

As a person, his breadth and depth of knowledge was never less than astonishing. He's one of the few people I've known I was ever in awe of, or rather, never less than in awe of.

I'm deeply sorry that our universe has lost him, and for the loss to those far closer to him than I, who barely knew him.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5. A few words from Kathryn Cramer. Pamela Dean. Elise Matthesen here and here and here. Avedon. Will Shetterly here and here. Diane Duane. Neil Gaiman, and here. Ellen Kushner. Jo Walton. Debbie Notkin. Dd-b has pictures. Joel Rosenberg here and here and here and here. Greg Costikyan.

Mike was 49. I turn 48 in five weeks.

ADDENDUM, 9/27/06, 3:06 p.m.: I muttered more here.

9/26/2006 08:15:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WHO WILL CONTROL IRAN? Traditionalists or fundamentalists? A tiny bit of background and insight into this rather shrouded subject, as regards the upcoming elections for the "Assembly of Experts," the body that ostensibly supervises the Supreme Leader.

Who may have most influence?
[...] And this year, some clerics and some newspapers have been suggesting that a senior fundamentalist cleric who is President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s mentor, Muhammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, may be trying to expand his already growing power by packing the assembly with loyalists trained at his education center in Qum.

Mr. Mesbah Yazdi, 72, is close to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and he directly influences the government through loyalists appointed to high posts after Mr. Ahmadinejad took power last year. His followers also have great sway among Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the Basij volunteer paramilitary force.


However, Mr. Mesbah Yazdi and Ayatollah Khamenei are allies — the ayatollah finances Mr. Mesbah Yazdi’s school in Qum — and the likeliest outcome of a power play by Mr. Mesbah Yazdi would be to strengthen the supreme leader, even at the expense of the Assembly of Experts.

Mohsen Kadivar, a senior reformist cleric who was barred from running in the last election, said, “The fight in the election will be between the traditional clerics and the fundamentalists.” He identified the traditionalists as those who considered the Assembly of Experts a higher authority than the supreme leader.

Mr. Mesbah Yazdi is a particularly aggressive defender of the supreme leader’s absolute power, and he was a strong critic of the previous president, Mohammad Khatami, who tried to introduce modest social and political changes. He has long held that democracy and elections are not compatible with Islam.

“Democracy means if the people want something that is against God’s will, then they should forget about God and religion,” he said in July 1998. “Be careful not to be deceived. Accepting Islam is not compatible with democracy.”

And in November 2002, the daily Aftab-e-Yazd quoted him as saying: “Who are the majority of people who vote: a bunch of hooligans who drink vodka and are paid to vote. Whatever they say cannot become the law of the country and Islam.”

He has criticized democracy more cautiously since the election of Mr. Ahmadinejad, but his disdain for the election process to fill the Assembly of Experts was evident in a speech in Mashhad this month, in which the news agency ISNA quoted him as saying it was like the vote of the “ignorant for the learned.”

Mr. Mesbah Yazdi was a founder of the modern Haghani School, a religious school in Qum where most Iranian officials were trained.

After Ayatollah Khomeini died, Mr. Mesbah Yazdi founded the Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute. Since then, he has grown close to Ayatollah Khamenei.

Through the school, he has educated more than 700 students who are extremely loyal to him, according to people who work in Qum, but, out of fear of retribution, would speak only on the condition of anonymity. Many of his followers are believed to be running for the Assembly of Experts.

These protégés are clerics but have studied the humanities, and many have received degrees from Western universities like McGill in Montreal and Manchester in London.

The elections for the Assembly of Experts, the fourth since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, is scheduled for Dec. 15.
Meanwhile, the general reaction of Iranians:
[...] Turnout was a low 37 percent in the second assembly election, in 1990, in part because voters felt little connection to it.

“People have not received any reports about the activities of the Assembly of Experts, and no one can even imagine the supreme leader can be replaced,” said Mohammad Atrianfar, a close aide to Mr. Rafsanjani and the publisher of the daily newspaper Shargh, which was shut down this month. “People have no positive or negative reaction toward the assembly.”


But requiring the candidates to be approved by the Guardian Council, some analysts say, undermines the point of the vote.

“If the members are independent and genuinely carry out their duty, the Islamic Republic can become democratic,” said Emadedin Baghi, a reformist journalist who studied religion for many years. “But vetting its candidates has put a cancerous tumor in the assembly which does not allow it to function properly.”
Ah, but surely God is preserving the best of all possible systems, just as He makes the Christian Bible inerrant.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

9/26/2006 05:16:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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HELLO, TALIBAN. Their rise continues. It's almost not news anymore.
You don't have to drive very far from Kabul these days to find the Taliban. In Ghazni province's Andar district, just over a two-hour trip from the capital on the main southern highway, a thin young man, dressed in brown and wearing a white prayer cap, stands by the roadside waiting for two NEWSWEEK correspondents. It is midday on the central Afghan plains, far from the jihadist-infested mountains to the east and west. Without speaking, the sentinel guides his visitors along a sandy horse trail toward a mud-brick village within sight of the highway. As they get closer a young Taliban fighter carrying a walkie-talkie and an AK-47 rifle pops out from behind a tree. He is manning an improvised explosive device, he explains, in case Afghan or U.S. troops try to enter the village.

In a parched clearing a few hundred yards on, more than 100 Taliban fighters ranging in age from teenagers to a grandfatherly 55-year-old have assembled to meet their provincial commander, Muhammad Sabir. An imposing man with a long, bushy beard, wearing a brown and green turban and a beige shawl over his shoulders, Sabir inspects his troops, all of them armed with AKs and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. He claims to have some 900 fighters, and says the military and psychological tide is turning in their favor. "One year ago we couldn't have had such a meeting at midnight," says Sabir, who is in his mid-40s and looks forward to living out his life as an anti-American jihadist. "Now we gather in broad daylight. The people know we are returning to power."


It is an all too familiar story. Ridge by ridge and valley by valley, the religious zealots who harbored Osama bin Laden before 9/11—and who suffered devastating losses in the U.S. invasion that began five years ago next week—are surging back into the country's center. In the countryside over the past year Taliban guerrillas have filled a power vacuum that had been created by the relatively light NATO and U.S. military footprint of some 40,000 soldiers, and by the weakness of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's administration.

In Ghazni and in six provinces to the south, and in other hot spots to the east, Karzai's government barely exists outside district towns. Hard-core Taliban forces have filled the void by infiltrating from the relatively lawless tribal areas of Pakistan where they had fled at the end of 2001. Once back inside Afghanistan these committed jihadist commanders and fighters, aided by key sympathizers who had remained behind, have raised hundreds, if not thousands, of new, local recruits, many for pay. They feed on the people's disillusion with the lack of economic progress, equity and stability that Karzai's government, NATO, Washington and the international community had promised.

NATO officials say the Taliban seems to be flush with cash, thanks to the guerrillas' alliance with prosperous opium traffickers. The fighters are paid more than $5 a day—good money in Afghanistan, and at least twice what the new Afghan National Army's 30,000 soldiers receive. It's a bad sign, too, that a shortage of local police has led Karzai to approve a plan allowing local warlords—often traffickers themselves—to rebuild their private armies.


Jabar Shilghari, one of Ghazni's members of Parliament, is appalled by his province's rapid reversal of fortune. Only a year ago he was freely stumping for votes throughout the province. Today it's not safe for him to return to his own village.


But the harsh truth is that five years after the U.S. invasion on Oct. 7, 2001, most of the good news is confined to Kabul, with its choking rush-hour traffic jams, a construction boom and a handful of air-conditioned shopping malls. Much of the rest of Afghanistan appears to be failing again. Most worrisome, a new failed-state sanctuary is emerging across thousands of square miles along the Afghan-Pakistan border: "Jihadistan," it could be called. It's an autonomous quasi state of religious radicals, mostly belonging to Pashtun tribes who don't recognize the Afghan-Pakistan frontier—an arbitrary line drawn by the British colonialists in 1893. The enclave's fluid borders span a widening belt of territory from mountainous hideouts in the southernmost provinces of Afghanistan—Nimruz, Helmand and Farah—up through the agricultural middle of the country in Ghazni, Uruzgan and Zabul, and then north to Paktia and parts of Konar. It extends well across the Pakistan border where, despite close cooperation between the U.S. and Pakistani militaries, jihadist militants in Waziristan province have begun calling themselves "Pakistani Taliban." No longer worried about interference from Islamabad, they openly recruit young men to fight in Afghanistan, and they hold Islamic kangaroo courts that sometimes stage public executions.

There are not nearly enough U.S., Western or Afghan troops or resources in the field to counter them. At a time when the American president has resurrected Osama bin Laden as public enemy No. 1—comparing him recently to Lenin and Hitler—Bush's own top commander in the field, Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, says not enough money is being invested in creating a new Afghanistan. Improving Afghan lives is the only way to drive a stake through the Taliban or put the elusive Qaeda leader out of action, he says. "We need more in terms of investment in Afghan infrastructure. We need more resources, for road building, counternarcotics, good governance, a justice system," Eikenberry told NEWSWEEK last week. As the general is fond of saying: "Where the roads end, the Taliban begin."

Indeed, the aid numbers for the past five years are grim. In the first years of reconstruction, aid amounted to just $67 a year per Afghan, says Beth DeGrasse of the government-funded U.S. Institute of Peace. She compares that figure with other recent nation-building exercises such as Bosnia ($249) and East Timor ($256), citing figures from the International Monetary Fund. "You get what you pay for in these endeavors, and we tried to do Afghanistan on the cheap," she says. "And we are going to pay for it." International conferences since 2002 have pledged some $15 billion, but countries have ponied up less than half of that so far. And the Afghan government estimates it will need $27.5 billion through 2010 to rebuild the country and its institutions.


Jim Dobbins, Bush's former special envoy to Kabul—he also led the Clinton administration's rebuilding efforts in Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti and Somalia—calls Afghanistan the "most under-resourced nation-building effort in history." Former Bush reconstruction coordinator Carlos Pascual, who retired in December 2005, does not dispute this assessment. He says the State Department has "maybe 20 to 30 percent" of the people it needs.
Is anyone listening? Remember when we were going to go after "the terrorists," the Taliban and al Qaeda? No safe havens for them? The guys who actually attacked us?

Five years later: whatever happened to that?

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5. The Afghan failure stories will just go on and on and on and on, at least while this Administration is in power.

ADDENDUM, 6:20 p.m.: Only faintly related, but too good not to jam in somewhere, Michael Kinsley on Bush's backwards history of "victory" in Iraq.

ADDENDUM, 7:11 p.m.: Special bonus Taliban barbarity:
A senior Afghan official specializing in women’s rights was gunned down here on her way to work on Monday morning by suspected Taliban gunmen.


Safia Amajan, 65, had served as chief of the women’s affairs department in Kandahar Province for five years, working for women’s rights and education and vocational training. A former teacher and high school principal, she was well known and much liked in Kandahar.

ADDENDUM, 7:51 p.m.: Meanwhile, the mid-ranks of the British Army aren't happy.

9/26/2006 04:35:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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CONGRATS TO THOMAS NEPHEW OF NEWSRACK, one of the best under-read political blogs out there, on his blog's fifth anniversary.

Thomas is constantly covering politics with a conscience, examining vital issues of human rights and welfare, with a fine eye towards thorough and deadly citations, and almost always doing a far better job than I or 99% of the bloggers out there do.

You should be reading him. And telling other people to read him. Day in and out.

And, Thomas, you've damn well been worth it; I don't link to you nearly enough, and instead shamefully just hope everyone is reading you all the time, anyway; but you constantly document crucial issues and stories in a way that frequently leaves me awed, as does your commitment and tirelessness. Please don't ever stop, save for necessary breaks for sanity's sake (to which you're well entitled, of course!)

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5, and congrats again on five years well-done, the way they should be. (And it's typical that you'd worried and have doubts about errors, but to err is human; goodness knows, if you didn't show an occasional flaw, I'd be frightened, and even more jealous of your talent and effort than I already am!)

9/26/2006 02:18:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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HOW BUSH BROKE THE ARMY. The Army chief of staff is in revolt.
The Army's top officer withheld a required 2008 budget plan from Pentagon leaders last month after protesting to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that the service could not maintain its current level of activity in Iraq plus its other global commitments without billions in additional funding.

The decision by Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, is believed to be unprecedented and signals a widespread belief within the Army that in the absence of significant troop withdrawals from Iraq, funding assumptions must be completely reworked, say current and former Pentagon officials.


Schoomaker failed to submit the budget plan by an Aug. 15 deadline. The protest followed a series of cuts in the service's funding requests by both the White House and Congress over the last four months.

According to a senior Army official involved in budget talks, Schoomaker is now seeking $138.8 billion in 2008, nearly $25 billion above budget limits originally set by Rumsfeld. The Army's budget this year is $98.2 billion, making Schoomaker's request a 41% increase over current levels.

"It's incredibly huge," said the Army official, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity when commenting on internal deliberations. "These are just incredible numbers."


In recent weeks, however, Schoomaker has become more publicly emphatic about budget shortfalls, saying funding is not enough to pay for Army commitments to the Iraq war and the global strategy outlined by the Pentagon.

"There's no sense in us submitting a budget that we can't execute, a broken budget," Schoomaker said in a recent Washington address.
The Army is breaking.
Strains on the Army from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have become so severe that Army officials say they may be forced to make greater use of the National Guard to provide enough troops for overseas deployments.


The National Guard has a goal of allowing five years at home between foreign deployments so as not to disrupt the family life and careers of its citizen soldiers. But instead it has been sending units every three to four years, according to Guard officials.


Barry R. McCaffrey, the retired four-star Army general, also asserted that the armed forces needed to be expanded. “We cannot sustain the current national security policy with an Army, Marine Corps, Air Force lift capability and Special Operations forces of this size,” he added. “They are clearly inadequate.”

The pace of deployments and financing shortfalls, he said, had taken a toll of units in the active duty Army and the National Guard. “One third is completely ready to fight, and two-thirds are severely impaired,” he said.

Asked if it was true that only a handful of combat brigades not currently deployed were immediately ready for a crisis, a spokesman for the Army said he could not address specifics because the information was classified.
How bad is it?
The Pentagon yesterday delayed for six weeks the return home of about 4,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq's volatile Anbar province -- the second extension of U.S. forces in the country in two months -- as the insurgency and rising sectarian violence exert heavier demands on a stretched American ground force.

A brigade of the Army's 1st Armored Division, operating in Anbar's contested capital of Ramadi, has been ordered to stay on for 46 more days. Another brigade -- from the 1st Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood, Tex. -- will depart a month early, in late October, for a year of combat duty in Iraq.


According to a Pentagon announcement, the shift is necessary to "maintain the current force structure in Iraq into the spring of next year." That confirms an assessment last week by Gen. John P. Abizaid, the senior U.S. commander in the Middle East, that no cuts in the more than 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq are likely before next spring.

It also demonstrates the increasingly tough trade-offs U.S. commanders face between the imperatives of war fighting and the need to retrain and recuperate the taxed Army and Marine Corps.

In this case, commanders had to choose between extending thousands of U.S. troops serving in one of Iraq's deadliest cities -- the 1st Armored Division brigade in Ramadi -- or requiring another combat-hardened unit that has already served two tours in Iraq, a brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, to return to the desert after less than a year at home. They opted for the former.


The Army set a goal in 2003 of allowing active-duty soldiers to spend two years at home for every year overseas. But that aim has proved elusive because of the limited number of active-duty combat brigades available to deploy -- currently 36 -- as well as the continued high troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 20,000 U.S. troops are now serving in Afghanistan, according to Army figures.

Active-duty soldiers today can expect to spend no more than a year at home between deployments, said Lynn Davis, a senior Rand Corp. analyst and lead author of a 2005 report on Army deployments titled "Stretched Thin." The number of Army combat brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan would have to fall by about half -- to 10 -- to achieve the Army's goal of two years at home, she said. In contrast, soldiers in today's armored, mechanized and Stryker brigades, which are most in demand, can expect to be away from home for "a little over 45 percent of their career," she said.
The Army doesn't want to break its promise to allow soldiers at least 12 months "dwell time" back in the States (although the Army's own theoretical target is that the number should be twice that, 24 months), so instead it's breaking its promise that deployments to the war zones won't be longer than 12 months.

What's that mean? Brigades have to train and refit for that year at home to be back to effective fighting strength. Without it, they're not ready.

How bad is it, you ask again?
[...] Col. Tom James, who commands the division’s Second Brigade, acknowledged that his unit’s equipment levels had fallen so low that it now had no tanks or other armored vehicles to use in training and that his soldiers were rated as largely untrained in attack and defense.


The enormous strains on equipment and personnel, because of longer-than-expected deployments, have left active Army units with little combat power in reserve. The Second Brigade, for example, has only half of the roughly 3,500 soldiers it is supposed to have. The unit trains on computer simulators, meant to recreate the experience of firing a tank’s main gun or driving in a convoy under attack.

“It’s a good tool before you get the equipment you need,” Colonel James said. But a few years ago, he said, having a combat brigade in a mechanized infantry division at such a low state of readiness would have been “unheard of.”

Other than the 17 brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan, only two or three combat brigades in the entire Army — perhaps 7,000 to 10,000 troops — are fully trained and sufficiently equipped to respond quickly to crises, said a senior Army general.

Most other units of the active-duty Army, which is growing to 42 brigades, are resting or being refitted at their home bases. But even that cycle, which is supposed to take two years, is being compressed to a year or less because of the need to prepare units quickly to return to Iraq.

After coming from Iraq in 2003, the Third Infantry Division was sent back in 2005. Then, within weeks of returning home last January, it was told by the Army that one of its four brigades had to be ready to go back again, this time in only 11 months. The three other brigades would have to be ready by mid-2007, Army planners said.

Yet almost all of the division’s equipment had been left in Iraq for their replacements, and thousands of its soldiers left the Army or were reassigned shortly after coming home, leaving the division largely hollow. Most senior officers were replaced in June.

In addition to preparing for Iraq, the Army assigned the division other missions it had to be ready to execute, including responding to hurricanes and other natural disasters and deploying to Korea if conflict broke out there.


“I’m confident two of the four brigade combat teams would say, ‘O.K., let’s go,’ ” General Lynch said in an interview. “The Second and Fourth Brigades would say, ‘O.K., boss, but we’ve got no equipment. What are we going to use?’ So we’d have to figure out where we’re going to draw their equipment.”
Isn't that what you want to hear from your Army?

And how about training?
[...] Some combat-skills training not likely to be used in Iraq has been shortened substantially, said Col. John Charlton, the brigade commander. “It’s about taking all the requirements and compressing them, which is a challenge,” he said.

The timetable also leaves officers and their soldiers less time to form close relationships that can be vital, several officers said.

And soldiers have less time to learn their weapons systems. Many of the major weapons systems, like artillery and even tanks, are unlikely to be used frequently in a counterinsurgency fight like Iraq.

The division has only a few dozen fully armored Humvees for training because most of the vehicles are in use in Iraq. Nor does it have all the tanks and trucks it is supposed to have when at full strength.
Fred Kaplan also covers the topic.

And as previously reported, recruitment standards have been dropped like mad. The upper age limit is now 42. Educational requirements have been dropped, as have moral/legal standards (more criminals allowed, yay!)

The Army has always waived these standards to let in a small number of applicants. But since the Iraq war, this number has risen substantially. In 2001, just 10.07 percent of Army recruits were given moral waivers—i.e., were allowed into the Army, even though they had committed misdemeanors or had once-prohibited problems with drugs and alcohol, records of serious misconduct, or disqualifying medical conditions. By 2004, this number had risen to 11.98 percent. But in 2005, it soared to 15.02 percent. And as of April 2006, according to a fact sheet obtained from an Army officer, the number has leapt to 15.49 percent.

Remember these words?
Our military is low on parts, pay and morale. If called on by the commander-in-chief today, two entire divisions of the army would have to report "not ready for duty, sir."
Who made the complaint a feature of his presidential campaign? George W. Bush, September, 2000.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Two weeks ago in this very city, I said what I'm going to say again. The current administration inherited a military ready for the dangers and challenges facing our nation. The next president will inherit a military in decline. As a percentage of the GNP, our investment in national security is at the lowest level since World War II. Overall in the armed services, commitments around the world have tripled, while our forces have been reduced by 40 percent.
What more did George W. Bush have to say?
America's military is the strongest in the world, confident, proud and willing to carry out every mission we give them. But we've got a serious problem in our military today. And that problem is not with our men and women in uniform; it is a problem of leadership at the very top of the chain of command.

The [...] administration has used our military too much and supported it too little.


Yet rarely has our military been used so freely -- more commitments, less resources. It is a short-sighted policy with long- term consequences.


The vice president doesn't even want a discussion on the state of our military. He says that just stating these facts is somehow running down America's military. Those are his words, "run down America's military."

So let's get something straight right now. To point out that our military has been overextended, taken for granted and neglected, that's no criticism of the military. That is criticism of a president and vice president and their record of neglect.
When will help be on the way?

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 for all, as interested.

9/26/2006 01:08:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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AND SPEAKING OF DEPRESSION, there's cause a-plenty, and then some.
Republican lawmakers and the White House agreed over the weekend to alter new legislation on military commissions to allow the United States to detain and try a wider range of foreign nationals than an earlier version of the bill permitted, according to government sources.


But in recent days the Bush administration and its House allies successfully pressed for a less restrictive description of how the government could designate civilians as "unlawful enemy combatants," the sources said yesterday.
Yes, and isn't that great? Because:
[...] The government has maintained since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that, based on its reading of the laws of war, anyone it labels an unlawful enemy combatant can be held indefinitely at military or CIA prisons.
And no one should worry about this in the least! Only bad people get locked up! (Oh, wait, that's wrong.) We can trust the government to not make mistakes! (Oh, darn, that's not true.) And at least if mistakes are made, habeas corpus will allow justice to triumph. (Nope, not any more.)

Really, what could be more totalitari--, I mean, protective of the American people and our freedoms!
[...] As a result, human rights experts expressed concern yesterday that the language in the new provision would be a precedent-setting congressional endorsement for the indefinite detention of anyone who, as the bill states, "has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States" or its military allies.

The definition applies to foreigners living inside or outside the United States and does not rule out the possibility of designating a U.S. citizen as an unlawful combatant.
Words fail me.
[...] Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, said that by including those who "supported hostilities" -- rather than those who "engage in acts" against the United States -- the government intends the legislation to sanction its seizure and indefinite detention of people far from the battlefield.

Martin noted that "the administration kidnapped an innocent German citizen" and "held him incommunicado for months . . . because the CIA or Pentagon wrongly suspected him of terrorist ties." She was referring to Khalid al-Masri, who the Bush administration eventually acknowledged was detained on insufficient grounds.

Nothing in the proposed legislation -- which mostly concerns the creation of new military panels, known as "commissions," to try terrorism suspects -- directly addresses such CIA apprehensions and "renditions."

But the bill's new definition "would give the administration a stronger basis on which to argue that Congress has recognized that the battlefield is wherever the terrorist is, and they can seize people far from the area of combat, label them as unlawful enemy combatants and detain them indefinitely," said Suzanne Spaulding, an assistant general counsel at the CIA from 1989 to 1995. [...] Spaulding, who was also a general counsel for the House and Senate intelligence committees. "The Supreme Court could potentially look at this and say Congress has now defined how anyone anywhere in the world" is subject to detention and military trial, even when far from an active combat zone, she said.
And that's what's already been happening, as we know.

And the cherry on the whipped cream is the removal of the most basic element of justice in our legal system, habeas corpus:
[...] Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) yesterday assailed the provision as an unconstitutional suspension of habeas corpus, which he said was allowable only "in time of rebellion or in time of invasion. And neither is present here."

He was joined by the committee's senior Democrat, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), who said that under the provision, legal U.S. immigrants could be held "until proven innocent, not until proven guilty."

Bruce Fein, a senior Justice Department official in the Reagan administration, testified against the provision at a Senate hearing. Kenneth W. Starr, a solicitor general under President George H.W. Bush, said in a letter to Specter that he concerned the legislation "may go too far in limiting habeas corpus relief."
Of course, Specter always huffs and puffs and then folds completely; I can't imagine this will be any different. Meanwhile, pay no attention to radical leftist Ken Starr!

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5. And I haven't even gotten to the surveillance bill.
Last-minute changes to legislation authorizing the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program have won the support of three balking Senate Republicans, improving the chances that a bill expanding the Bush administration's surveillance authority will pass Congress this week.


But three Republicans who last year helped delay the renewal of the USA Patriot Act -- Sens. Larry E. Craig (Idaho), John E. Sununu (N.H.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) -- combined forces again to express strong misgivings about the bill's implications for civil liberties.
Radical leftists, all of them! Don't believe them! (Besides, they were satisfied with some cosmetic changes.) Result?
[...] Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, said the legislation still amounts to a sweeping rewrite of federal law to allow the president to conduct "massive warrantless surveillance of Americans" with no court oversight.
Over at the NY Times version:
[...] Some lawmakers and civil rights advocates said they believed that the three senators had mischaracterized or misinterpreted what they had agreed to and that the White House was retaining the right to order wiretaps without a warrant.

The administration declined to say when it would choose to seek warrants under the new plan.

The program approved by Mr. Bush “does allow for the interception without court order of international communications where one end is within the United States, and this agreement would provide this authority and would establish a process for moving to individualized court orders with respect to individuals within the United States,” said Brian Roehrkasse, a Justice Department spokesman. He declined to elaborate.
The government can eavesdrop like mad, lock up anyone forever, and then torture you; if this isn't the foundation of a tyranny, what is?

ADDENDUM, 1:27 p.m. Marty Lederman:
[...] Thus, if a person purposefully and materially supports hostilities, he will be an unlawful combatant, even if he never engages in any hostilities himself. [NOTE: At least one of the Administration's supporters believes that the mere filing of a habeas petition is a form of "aggression against the United States." Presumably that is not the intent of the drafters, or else all those attorneys now representing military detainees would become "unlawful enemy combatants"!]

The second subsection is, perhaps, even more alarming: It appears to suggest that even if a detainee has not engaged in hostilities or supported hostilities, he will be deemed an unlawful combatant if the Department of Defense has said so! Note that this definition is not limited to aliens abroad. It applies to persons in the United States, and to citizens and aliens alike.
He has much more; go read it all. For instance:
That provision would eliminate the right to petition for habeas for all alleged alien enemy combatants, whether or not the detainee has been determined to be an "unlawful" combatant -- indeed, even if the detainee is deemed a lawful combatant (e.g., a POW) -- and no matter where they are detained, including in the United States.
Words. Failed.

ADDENDUM, 1:50 p.m.: More radicals speak up:
[...] John D. Hutson, a retired rear admiral and the former top uniformed lawyer for the Navy, argued that a habeas right was fundamental to American law and identity. “Without these kinds of protections, we’re just another banana republic,” Admiral Hutson said.

Many of the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Admiral Hutson contended, had been caught in a dragnet, and while some may be criminals, he said, it is impossible to know without habeas hearings where the government can produce its evidence.
We can't trust these leftist Navy admirals, I tell you! They're not real men, like Georgia congressman Lynn Westmoreland, who isn't afraid to speak up for torture (and the Ten Commandments)!

ADDENDUM, 2:36 p.m.: Anderson points out a sham.

ADDENDUM, 5:14 p.m.: A couple more quotes:
Civil liberties groups, Democrats and others said the surveillance legislation still amounted to a fundamental rewriting of a 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, that set up a special federal court to review wiretapping in terrorism and espionage cases. The legislation would give the president the right to order surveillance without warrants, which critics said would eviscerate the intent of the original law.

"Ultimately, the legislation would still ratify an unlawful surveillance program," said Democratic Sens. Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, and Ken Salazar of Colorado.

The surveillance legislation also was assailed by a group of former national security officials, including two former FBI directors, William H. Webster and William S. Sessions.

The group said that the legislation strayed too far from the original intent of FISA and gave the president too much power to decide when to conduct warrantless surveillance of Americans or foreigners.

"We strongly urge that the requirements of FISA remain just that — requirements, not options," the group said in a prepared statement.
Glad to see my Senator speak up, but he and every other Democrat (and Republican of conscience) should be talking about this non-stop. Filibuster, filibuster, filibuster!

ADDENDUM, 5:46 p.m.: David J. Luban points out that this is a hell of a way to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Nuremberg tribunal's judgment.
[...] What does the bill do to Nuremberg? Section 8(a)(2) holds that when it comes to applying the War Crimes Act, "No foreign or international sources of law shall supply a basis for a rule of decision in the courts of the United States in interpreting the prohibitions enumerated in subsection 2441(d)." That means the customary international law of war is henceforth expelled from U.S. war-crime law—ironic, to say the least, because it was the U.S. Army's Lieber Code that formed the basis for the Law of Armed Conflict and that launched the entire worldwide enterprise of codifying genuinely international humanitarian law.


Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 mark the 60th anniversary of the tribunal's judgment. If the opening chapters of Telford Taylor's superb The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials make one thing crystal clear, it's the burning desire of the United States to create international law using those trials.


The trials happened as they did only because the United States insisted on them for purposes of establishing future law—a task that summary justice at executive say-so could never have done.

At the London conference that wrote the Nuremberg Charter, France and Russia both objected to criminalizing aggressive war for anybody but the Axis countries. But Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, the American representative, insisted that creating universally binding international law was the prime purpose of the tribunal.


Because of this ambiguity, the status of the Nuremberg principles as international law was not established until 1950, when the U.N. General Assembly proclaimed seven Nuremberg Principles to be international law. The American agenda had finally prevailed.

Well, forget all that as well. The Nuremberg Principles, like the entire body of international humanitarian law, will now have no purchase in the war-crimes law of the United States. Who cares whether they were our idea in the first place?
Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

ADDENDUM, 7:05 p.m.: Hilzoy is also, as always, excellent. Note particularly Deputy Associate Attorney General Brian Boyle:
"Could a “little old lady in Switzerland” who sent a check to an orphanage in Afghanistan be taken into custody if unbeknownst to her some of her donation was passed to al-Qaida terrorists? asked U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green.

“She could,” replied Deputy Associate Attorney General Brian Boyle. “Someone’s intention is clearly not a factor that would disable detention.” It would be up to a newly established military review panel to decide whether to believe her and release her."
These are your "enemy combatants." (And we've been talking about this since last year; this isn't news.)

9/26/2006 12:10:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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