Weblog Archives




  Friday   January 16   2004

and the winners are...

A 30-Second Reality Check


MoveOn.org Voter Fund essentially took a swing with a big stick at the beehive of conservative support for President George Bush by sponsoring an amateur television commercial contest that drew bombastic fire from the Republican National Committee over two entries that compared Bush to Adolph Hitler.


The Winners Have Been Announced!


Funniest Ad:

by Christopher Fink of Sherman Oaks, CA



 01:16 AM - link


What have the Arabs ever done for us?
Zero, just to begin with, and incalculably more than daytime-TV presenters, writes Derek Brown


It is pretty universally acknowledged that an informed world view is not a prerequisite for success in daytime television. Even so, Robert Kilroy-Silk's anti-Arab diatribe is not only offensive and stupid; it also speaks of a startling degree of ignorance.

"We owe Arabs nothing," he wrote. "Apart from oil, which was discovered, is produced and is paid for by the west, what do they contribute?" Arabs, according to the sage of the sob story, are "suicide bombers, limb amputators, women repressors".

It is slightly ironic that, at the time this balderdash was printed in the Sunday Express, Mr Kilroy-Silk was topping up his studio tan in a Spanish beach resort. Had he been in the mood for a slightly more demanding cultural shift, he could have gone to the south of that country, to Granada in the province of Andalucia, where he could have seen some of the most beautiful architecture in Europe. Arab architecture. Planned, built and exquisitely decorated by the ancestors of the people Mr Kilroy-Silk apparently thinks so inferior.

It is not only in Spain that Arab architecture has left a European mark. The pointed arch, so eagerly adopted by medieval builders and known today as gothic, was an idea copied from the east, and brought to the west by the early crusaders. And while those religiously crazed bigots were burning and slaughtering in the holy land, Arab poets, mathematicians, astronomers, philosophers and scientists were advancing human civilisation to unprecedented peaks of sophistication.


 01:05 AM - link

advertising art

Dentsu Advertising Museum


The Edo Era (1603—1867), during which a full-fledged feudal system was established by the Tokugawa shogunate, was also an era in which the culture of townspeople flourished. That Japan had already developed distinctive advertising techniques of its own as early as the Edo Era might come as a surprise to you. But ample evidence of these remain for us today to follow a historical trail, in the form of nishiki-e (a multicolored woodblock print), hikifuda (handbills) and signboards. A witness of the times, as well as a chronicle of advertising creative work in Japan, these relics represent a valuable record of both the evolution of corporations and the history of common people's lives.

In this nishiki-e, two signs are seen in the snow: a butcher's shop sign that says, "Yama-kujira (mountain whale)," and a baked sweet potato vendor's "Maruyaki Jusan-ri" sign. Both signs are word plays, which reflect Edoites' love of fun. Yama-kujira is the meat of wild boars. The shop, whose name was Owari-ya, served wild boar's meat cooked with leek in an earthenware pot. The sign "Maruyaki (baked whole)" written on a paper-covered lamp stand of the baked sweet potato vendor was derived from the manner the potatoes were baked whole. The characters "Jusan-ri (13 ri, approx. 32 miles)" beside it is a pun: Because 13 ri is a sum of 9 ri (pronounced as kuri , it has the same sound as that of chestnuts) and 4 ri (pronounced yori, it is a homonym of the word that means "better than"), it meant "tastier than chestnuts." Shown in the center of the nishiki-e is a peddler making his round, carrying baskets of merchandise on a pole.



  thanks to Geisha asobi blog

 12:18 AM - link

iraq — vietnam on internet time

Mass demonstrations by Women, Others, against Sudden Islamization of Law


The Baghdad/London daily az-Zaman reports that there were widespread demonstrations on Tuesday by women against the order decreeing abolition of Iraq's uniform civil codes in favor of religious law, which they say "repeals women's rights" in Iraq. This story appears to have been completely missed so far by the Western news media, which is a great shame. Women are important, too, guys.


Shari'a and Family Law...


On Wednesday our darling Iraqi Puppet Council decided that secular Iraqi family law would no longer be secular- it is now going to be according to Islamic Shari'a. Shari'a is Islamic law, whether from the Quran or quotes of the Prophet or interpretations of modern Islamic law by clerics and people who have dedicated their lives to studying Islam.

The news has barely been covered by Western or even Arab media and Iraqi media certainly aren't covering it. It is too much to ask of Al-Iraqiya to debate or cover a topic like this one- it would obviously conflict with the Egyptian soap operas and songs. This latest decision is going to be catastrophic for females- we're going backwards.

Don't get me wrong- pure Islamic law according to the Quran and the Prophet gives women certain unalterable, nonnegotiable rights. The problem arises when certain clerics decide to do their own interpretations of these laws (and just about *anyone* can make themselves a cleric these days). The bigger problem is that Shari'a may be drastically different from one cleric to another. There are actually fundamental differences in Shari'a between the different Islamic factions or 'methahib'. Even in the same methahib, there are dozens of different clerics who may have opposing opinions. This is going to mean more chaos than we already have to deal with. We've come to expect chaos in the streets… but chaos in the courts and judicial system too?!

This is completely unfair to women specifically. Under the Iraqi constitution, men and women are equal. Under our past secular family law (which has been in practice since the '50s) women had unalterable divorce, marriage, inheritance, custody, and alimony rights. All of this is going to change.


Darkness and Dust...


People are asking what the reaction is to the claims of the former American treasurer about Bush planning regime-change before September 11. Why is that such a shock to Americans? I haven't met a single Iraqi who thinks Iraq had ANYTHING to do with September 11. The claims were ridiculous and so blatantly contrived that it was embarrassing to see people actually believed them.

I sometimes wonder how the American people feel. After these last two wars with Afghanistan and Iraq, do the American people feel any safer? We watch the 'terror alerts' announced on television- politicians with somber faces and dramatic pauses alerting the population that at any minute, there might be an explosion or an attack. It's amusing because Iraq has been at the red level for the last 9 months. Why is it a drama when collective America experiences some strain for a couple of weeks during the holiday, but it's ok for Iraqis to experience five times the strain and apprehension for the next five years? Apparently, we are more tolerant- our blood pressures don't go up, our hearts don't palpitate and our kids can't be traumatized.

We heard about the American embassies being closed and secured all over the world… diplomats being withdrawn from countries or asked to remain locked indoors. Is that part of the 'war on terror'? Are Americans worldwide any safer? Do they sleep better at night now knowing that they are definitely safe from the fabled Iraqi WMD? We've forgotten what it feels like to feel completely safe.


2nd act A year later, Sean Penn returns to Iraq and files a personal, candid report from the front


As we enter the Sunni Triangle, we pass several U.S. military convoys traveling the seemingly endless road leading to Ramadi. Although sticking close to a convoy near Ramadi may inhibit the Ali Babas, it also attaches you to the U.S. military, the primary target for IEDs (improvised explosive devices). These roadside bombs are often triggered by cellular phone, enabling specific targeting. So we take our chances alone, rocketing through Ramadi and Fallujah at 120 mph. As we race through Fallujah, I take selfish comfort in the sight of black smoke billowing in the aftermath of the recent shelling of a one-story building several hundred yards off the highway, figuring that the closest guerrilla fighters might currently be occupied or on the run from U.S. soldiers.ont>


At war Sean Penn finds getting out of Iraq even tougher than getting in

Refereeing in Hell
GIs are dying. Rival factions are turning on each other. After freeing Iraq, can we keep it from coming apart?


The explosion gouged a crater in the pavement three feet deep and three feet across. The bomb, rigged from a gas cylinder attached to a bicycle, detonated at 1:45 in the afternoon, just as worshipers were leaving after Friday prayers at a Shiite mosque in Baquba, roughly 40 miles north of Baghdad. At least four people died and 32 were injured, police told NEWSWEEK. At the weekend the bomber had not been identified, but townspeople assume he was looking to spread distrust and anger between the Shiites and their predominantly Sunni neighbors. Police officials say the day's carnage could have been even worse if they hadn't found and defused a second bomb at another Shiite mosque a few miles away.


The (Sunnis=Saddam loyalists=terrorists) equation


Some of the remarks and emails from many misinformed readers on the Samarrai family's misfortune prompted me to write this. I'm not really surprised since many similar comments have been made over here by IRAQIS. Also some of you may recall my 'rant' a couple of months back about blowing up the Sunni triangle and bombing Tikrit and Al-Awjah which just goes to show that I was not immune myself from generalizations and misconceptions.



More from Steve Bell


'If Disintegration in Iraq Takes Place, We Intervene'


Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said yesterday that in the event of Iraq's disintegration, Turkey will intervene. Erdogan stated that Iraqi Kurds are trying to take the oil regions under their control and "this should not be allowed. Kurds should be prevented from playing with the fire," warned Erdogan.


Sistani Plays the Tribal Card; Demonstration in Basra


According to al-Hayat newspaper, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani held a meeting in Najaf at which he encouraged visiting clan ("tribal") leaders of Rumaitha and Samawah (az-Zaman adds other middle Euphrates areas) to insist on general elections as a means of achieving a new, sovereign Iraqi government. He promised the sheikhs of that region that they would exercise power, not "those who came from abroad." He was referring to the members of the Interim Governing Council, many of whom returned from long years of exile in the West or in Iran after the fall of Saddam. Raghida Dergham quotes him in as saying, "Authority must be yours, and the coming parliament must be composed of elected children of the people."


Last Copter Out of Baghdad
Bush Flees Iraq Mess on the Campaign Express


George Bush is selling out Iraq. Gone are his hard-liners' dreams of setting up a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic republic, a light unto the Middle Eastern nations. The decision makers in the administration now realize these goals are unreachable. So they've set a new goal: to end the occupation by July 1, whether that occupation has accomplished anything valuable and lasting or not. Just declare victory and go home. The tyranny of Saddam Hussein will be over. But a new tyranny will likely take its place: the tyranny of civil war, as rival factions rush into the void. Such is the mess this president seems willing to leave behind in order to save his campaign.


 12:04 AM - link

  Thursday   January 15   2004


Really cool train pictures using a slit camera.



  thanks to consumptive.org

 11:37 PM - link


Missing the connections


It's been largely speculation, up until now, that domestic terrorism is not a significant component of this administration's "war on terror." But in its handling of the Texas cyanide bomb case, it's becoming especially apparent that this is precisely the case.

Either that, or the nation's intelligence problems related to terrorism have gotten, if anything, worse since Sept. 11.

It's bad enough that the public is so ill-informed about the case -- even though, as previously noted, we have now officially found more weapons of mass destruction in the hands of fanatical extremists in Texas than we have in Iraq. Maybe now that Bush has quietly abandoned the latter search, he could direct that team to his home state.

But what's really problematic is the kind of intelligence-gathering gap this lack of communication actually represents. Certainly it raises questions about how thoroughly, and with what energy, the current investigation is being pursued. It's especially important to determine whether there are more of these bombs out there, as several of the news reports so far have suggested.

Once again, one can only wonder how this case would have been handled had these been Islamist extremists.


 11:28 PM - link


Fuck you and your H2


  thanks to Politics in the Zeros

 11:24 PM - link


There is a new blog in town...

The American Street

...which includes such luminaires as David Neiwert.

Slouching Towards Manzanar
The surviving Japanese-Americans who were interned in World War II concentration camps are increasingly worried that conservatives and the Bush administration are taking us down that horrendous path again. Their fears may be well grounded


It matters little to the Nisei that Muslims, not Japanese, are the target this time around. Most of the former evacuees came out of the concentration-camp ordeal swearing to prevent such a fate ever befalling Americans again, and they now feel duty-bound to speak up.

"There are things [occurring] that are really disturbing today that in some ways echo what had happened to us," Tateishi says. "I felt that it was our responsibility to speak out and take a very strong position."

Initially the JACL was highly supportive of Bush's post-attack policies regarding Muslim-Americans. In stark contrast to the hysteria deliberately spread by public officials about Japanese-Americans in the wake of Pearl Harbor, the president himself explicitly called Islam a "religion of peace" and made highly public appeals for tolerance of Muslims. He also vowed to crack down on hate crimes against Muslims. The JACL responded by printing a glowing letter of support for Bush.

But a series of subsequent Bush moves ostensibly made in the interest of national security have gradually driven the JACL to the front line of the administration's critics. What really set off the alarms was the decision to use military tribunals in detaining so-called "enemy combatants" -- and, in a move reminiscent of the Nisei tribulation, proposing internment camps for those prisoners.



 11:18 PM - link


From the Seattle PI...

Photos of the Year, 2003


 11:03 PM - link


Two from Salon. Go ahead, watch the ad.

America's final wakeup call
Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's damning book may finally clue Americans in to the deadly consequences of being governed by a disengaged dolt in the hands of a fanatical cabal.
by Arianna Huffington


And, before I go any further, one word of advice to the White House attack dogs now unleashed on O'Neill: If you want to belittle his bona fides, you've got to come up with something better than saying, "We didn't listen to him when he was there, why should we now?" Let's get real. Is there anyone more central to developing economic policy than the treasury secretary? One that was picked by, yes, George Bush? To be any more inside, O'Neill would have to have been George Bush's proctologist.

Now, of course, they're painting him out to be a cross between Jerry Garcia and Karl Marx. Yeah, what an antiestablishment wackjob: Former CEO of Alcoa and a friend of Don Rumsfeld's since the '60s.

Anyway, whether or not they listened to him, O'Neill certainly listened to them, and now he's doing what this administration makes a fetish of not doing: telling the American people what their government has been doing. To hear O'Neill tell it, the true believers surrounding the president, headed by Karl Rove and O'Neill's onetime patron Dick Cheney, are all devout disciples of the first commandment of Bush Republicans: Thou shalt cut taxes for the wealthy, no matter the cost to the greater good. They have all drunk the supply-side Kool-Aid -- and simply don't care to hear any debate on this subject. Or on any other for that matter. According to O'Neill, "That store is closed." To disagree with the Bush clan is to hate America.

What's more, in classic fanatical fashion, there is an utter intolerance of dissent.


He cannot tell a lie
When Democrats charged that President Bush was unfit for his job, Bush's defenders dismissed it. But now Paul O'Neill, a classic GOP insider, says the same thing -- and it's even worse than you've heard.
By Sidney Blumenthal


The "inscrutable" Cheney emerges as the power behind the throne, orchestrating the government by stealth and leaks to undermine opposing views. He uses tariffs as "political bait" for the midterm elections. When O'Neill argues that out-of-control deficits will cause a "fiscal crisis," Cheney "cut him off. 'Reagan proved deficits don't matter,' he said. 'We won the midterms. This is our due.'"

In the end, Cheney fires O'Neill, the first time a vice president has ever dismissed a Cabinet member.

O'Neill's revelations have not been met by any factual rebuttal. Instead, they have been greeted with anonymous character assassination from a "senior official": "Nobody listened to him when he was in office. Why should anybody now?" Then the White House announced that O'Neill was under investigation for abusing classified documents, though he claimed they were not and the White House had eagerly shoveled carefully edited NSC documents to Woodward.

Quietly, O'Neill and his publisher have prepared an irrefutable response. Soon they will post every one of the 19,000 documents underlying the book on the Internet. The story will not be calmed.


All 19,000 documents on the Internet? Rove is clutching at his chest.

 10:57 PM - link


Hiroshi Sugimoto

Anne Boleyn, 1999.
Gelatin-silver print, 58 3/4 x 47 inches.


Sugimoto’s portraits provide photographic "evidence" of historical subjects and events previously uncaptured on film. Based on the long-standing association of black-and-white photography with the recording of truth, Sugimoto’s photo-documents playfully reveal the illusion of this assumption. Through layers of reproduction—from subject to painting to wax statue to photograph—what these images most consciously convey is the collapsing of time and the retelling of history.


  thanks to cipango

 10:35 PM - link

fighting for democracy

George Soros: 'The bubble of American supremacy'


I have never been involved in party politics but I am deeply disturbed by the direction America has taken under President Bush. It is not a matter of party politics or personal animosity against President Bush. I consider it crucial that the policies of the Bush administration be rejected in the forthcoming elections. Let me explain why.

President Bush was elected in 2000 on a platform that promised a humble foreign policy. Yet, from the day he was inaugurated, he went out of his way to denounce international agreements and institutions. Then came the terrorist attack of September 11th, which according to him changed everything. He used the war on terror as a pretext to pursue a dream of American supremacy that is neither attainable nor desirable. It endangers civil liberties at home and embroils us in military adventures abroad. There has been a dangerous discontinuity in the way we conduct our affairs: we engage in behavior that in normal times would have been considered unacceptable.

Our new national security posture has been embodied in the Bush doctrine. The Bush doctrine is built on two pillars. First, the United States will not tolerate any military rival, globally or in any region of the world. Second, we have the right to engage in pre-emptive military action. Taken together, these two pillars support two levels of sovereignty: The sovereignty of the United States which is sacrosanct and exempt from any constraint imposed by international law, and the sovereignty of all other states which is subject to the pre-emptive actions of the United Sates. This is reminiscent of George Orwell's famous book "Animal Farm" in which all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.

Underlying the Bush doctrine is the belief that international relations are relations of power not law, and that international law merely serves to ratify what the use of power has wrought.


 10:28 PM - link

slug sex

Leopard Slug Aerial mating


This is the first shot that I got when I discovered a pair of Leopard Slugs (Limax maximus) beginning to mate in my garden. They were suspended by about a metre of the slime shown in the photo, and anchored from the bark of a tree trunk. They were about half a metre off the ground. At this stage they had finished producing the slime and were about to start really mating.


  thanks to Geisha asobi blog

 10:16 PM - link

Relative Humanity: The Fundamental Obstacle to a One-State Solution in Historic Palestine (1/2)


1. Introduction
From the scandalous Nusseibeh-Ayalon agreement to the irreparably flawed Geneva Accords, the last true Zionists -- with the crucial help of acquiescent Palestinian officials -- have tried their best to resuscitate the two-state solution with the declared intention of saving Zionism. But it is arguably too little, too late.

The two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is really dead. Good riddance! But someone has to issue an official death certificate before the rotting corpse is given a proper burial and we can all move on and explore the more just, moral and therefore enduring alternative for peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Mandate Palestine: the one-state solution.

Blinded by the arrogance of power and the ephemeral comfort of impunity, Israel, against its strategic Zionist interests, failed to control its insatiable appetite for expansion, and went ahead with devouring the very last bit of land that was supposed to form the material foundation for an independent Palestinian state.

The current phase has all the emblematic properties of what may be considered the final chapter of the Zionist project. We are witnessing the rapid demise of Zionism, and nothing can be done to save it, for Zionism is intent on killing itself. I, for one, support euthanasia.

Going back to the two-state solution, besides having passed its expiry date, it was never a moral solution to start with. In the best-case scenario, if UN resolution 242 were meticulously implemented, it would have addressed most of the legitimate rights of less than a third of the Palestinian people over less than a fifth of their ancestral land. More than two thirds of the Palestinians, refugees plus the Palestinian citizens of Israel, have been dubiously and shortsightedly expunged out of the definition of the Palestinians. Such exclusion can only guarantee the perpetuation of conflict.


Cry, our beloved country
By Gideon Levy


Perhaps, after all, the world will save Israel from itself. Perhaps Israel's real friends will increase the pressure on the government. Perhaps they will understand that, even in Israel, external pressure is not always bad, because it may be the last chance to bring Israel back on the straight and narrow and make it a more just state.

The last attempt is modest, at present, but bodes well. The UN, an institution not highly thought of in Israel, resolved to bring the separation fence to the International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ), another institution sneered at in this country. This has already aroused surprising nervousness in Jerusalem's government corridors. Where the outcry of the Palestinians and the protest of the extreme left failed, the UN succeeded. This is not bad news. Suddenly Jerusalem officials discovered the wrongs the fence was causing. After most of its construction was completed, incarcerating thousands of families in compounds without anyone caring, a feeling of discomfort arose in Jerusalem. Yosef Lapid even warned of turning Israel into South Africa in the eyes of the world.

Good morning, justice minister, but your warning is too late. South Africa has been here for a long time already, and this is how most states of the world see it. Still, better late than never, only it's a pity the justice minister needed The Hague threat to understand that the fence his government built is an apartheid fence.


Analysis / Making threats, cultivating an image
By Danny Rubinstein


Two prominent Palestinians, Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) and Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, gave expression last night to the prevalent mood that the frozen peace process has created among the Palestinian public.

Qureia's words in favor of establishing a single binational state echo statements that have recently been made in the Palestinian media by political activists and academics. Many Palestinians have come to understand that for Israel, the threat of a binational state is the greatest threat of all.


The settlers' only chance


Among the Jewish majority in Israel, agreement is emerging not to allow the settlement project in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip to lead Israel into the binational situation. The implication of such a scenario in the fairly near future is, of course, the loss of the Jewish majority. All the surveys show that a clear majority (even a "Jewish majority," for those who insist on one) today supports the evacuation of most of the settlements as part of a peace agreement. A large proportion of the public is even ready to accept their unilateral evacuation.

Therefore, those who would like this settlement project to continue - the settlers themselves and their supporters - are left with only one course of action: to shape a solution that will differentiate between the cessation of Israeli rule in the areas of Yesha (Judea-Samaria-Gaza) and the continued existence of the settlements there. To put it simply: to make possible the existence of Jewish settlements in an area that will be under Palestinian rule.


To Achieve Two States, Ask for One


With Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon threatening to impose unilaterally the permanent status solution of his choice if the Palestinians do not bow to his wishes within the next few months, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei has now responded with a quiet threat of his own which is far more likely than either continued violence or continued immobility to produce the sensible two-state solution which clear majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians wish to achieve.


  thanks to Undernews

 10:10 PM - link

still lifes

Sinn und Sinnlichkeit
Das Flämische Stilleben 1550-1680


  thanks to cipango

 09:45 PM - link

  Wednesday   January 14   2004


Max Ferguson
paintings of a vanishing New York

"All Persons Are Forbidden" 1985
17" x 25" oil on panel


  thanks to cipango

 01:49 AM - link

iraq — vietnam on internet time

DoD suits scrabbling yet again to find a workable plan


Steven Weisman writes in today's NYT that un-named "administration officials" say the Bush administration now plans to revise the plan for a handover to self-rule in Iraq that was agreed on just last November 15. The revision is reportedly aimed at "responding to" the firm insistence that Ayatollah Sistani announced Sunday that any Iraqi self-rule government be the result of--wait for this shocking revelation!-- a fully democratic process.

So does this mean that Baghdad fashion maven Jerry Bremer and his Washington handlers are now prepared to move away from "the Rube Goldberg process"-- the incredibly unwieldy and undemocratic mechanism agreed back in November whereby undemocratic "caucuses" and other such gatherings would generate a new Iraqi leadership?

No, it does not. As Weisman reports it:

The new hope in Washington, the officials said, was in effect to make the caucus system look more democratic without changing it in a fundamental way.

So I guess we could call the proposed new system "Rube Goldberg, II". That will make it at least the fourth* of the "strategic" plans the administration has adopted for the handover since the US forces took Baghdad last April. (And the pace at which the administration is falling back from one plan to the next seems to be speeding up.)

And I have a sneaking suspicion that Sistani, who doesn't seem to be anyone's fool, is not necessarily going to have the wool pulled over his eyes on this one?

Weisman also reports another aspect of Sistani's Sunday declaration that I had not seen reported elsewhere, and that likewise came as a big shock to Bremer and his backers:

Administration officials also expressed concern about a separate part of Ayatollah Sistani's statement on Sunday that demanded that any agreement for American-led forces to remain in Iraq be approved by directly elected representatives.


Open Door Policy
A strange thing happened on the way to the war.


My personal experience leaning precariously toward the neoconservative maw showed me that their philosophy remains remarkably untouched by respect for real liberty, justice, and American values. My years of military service taught me that values and ideas matter, but these most important aspects of our great nation cannot be defended adequately by those in uniform. This time, salvaging our honor will require a conscious, thoughtful, and stubborn commitment from each and every one of us, and though I no longer wear the uniform, I have not given up the fight.


  thanks to Information Clearing House

Army War College report critical of Bush foreign policy
Author calls war on terrorism 'unrealistic'


A scathing new report published by the Army War College broadly criticizes the Bush administration's handling of the war on terrorism, accusing it of taking a detour into an "unnecessary" war in Iraq and pursuing an "unrealistic" quest against terrorism that may lead to U.S. wars with states that pose no serious threat.

The report, by visiting U.S. Professor Jeffrey Record, who is on the faculty of the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., warns that as a result of those mistakes, the Army is "near the breaking point." It recommends, among other things, scaling back the scope of the "global war on terrorism" and instead focusing on the narrower threat posed by the al Qaeda terrorist network.

"(T)he global war on terrorism as currently defined and waged is dangerously indiscriminate and ambitious, and accordingly ... its parameters should be readjusted," Record writes. The anti-terrorism campaign "is strategically unfocused, promises more than it can deliver, and threatens to dissipate U.S. military resources in an endless and hopeless search for absolute security," he said.


Bounding the Global War on Terrorism
Dr. Jeffrey Record

How NOT to win in Iraq


We can assume the translator is still there a few feet away, quietly 'saying his prayers' and listening as Major Nagl refers to his countrymen dismissively as "clowns" who don't read maps...

[Or let's say, to be generous, that maybe the translator in question is an Arabic-speaking US soldier... Still, it's quite the wrong thing for him to hear Major Nagl referring to Iraqi citizens as "clowns".]

Plus, Major Nagl should surely know if he spent even half as much time around Oxford University as I did, that questions of epistemology are always crucial. ("How do we know what we think we know?" Those kinds of questions... Questions that compare different ways of "knowing" something.)

So here's this putative Iraqi person who maybe has good, solid intel. Or maybe not. Maybe giving the 'tip-off' to the Americans is just a grudge-match against a neighbor.... How would Major Nagl know the difference??

But assuming there is some intel out there, and that Nagl needs at the very least to check it out... Whose form of knowledge is more useful for the task? Nagl's form, including the ability to read maps and satellite images from a distance-- or the putative Iraqi's form of knowledge, which is based on such things as knowing how to tell the local houses apart from each other; or who lives inside which house; or how those many individuals are related to each other or to others through family or other ties?

So who is the knowledge-deprived "clown" in this whole interaction? Who is it who needs to learn a bit of real humility and start figuring out that maybe he needs to learn a lot more about a completely different form of knowledge? Who is it whose totally appalling lack of people-skills-- referring dismissively to Iraqis as "clowns" in front of (possibly Iraqi) third parties, or indeed, at all-- means he seems ill positioned to win any competition for "hearts and minds"?

Hint: it ain't the Iraqi.


Professor Nagl's War

Shadowboxing: For the Iraqi Dead


When the Word Trade Center went down, The New York Times generously and appropriately honored every body with a brief character profile composed with considerable artistry—a monument in miniature to the over two thousand gone. More than a gesture, the much-lauded feature underscored how much we value our fellow citizens—our neighbors, for Christ’s sake. Each of the dead was more than a face—each had a family and friends and interests opening into a web of ties that rippled throughout our society. Each man’s death diminishes me, wrote John Donne. And he was right.

Note that Donne didn’t qualify his statement by specifying that it was an Englishman’s death alone that reduced him. You may be sure he would have, had that been what he meant. He had a way with words.

While it may sound like the start of a very bad joke, one of the key questions we in the United States need to ask ourselves is: how is a dead Iraqi civilian different from a dead American (of any sort)? Certainly most of the dead began with two ears, two eyes, two arms, two legs. One heart. And we may assume all corpses carry the same passport.

Yet I suspect there must be some difference between them, between “their” dead and “ours”—otherwise, how could we justify paying so little attention to the Iraqi non-combatants we’ve killed? While there’ve been over two hundred “American” humans killed (every one of them unnecessarily, many by friendly fire), some 11,000 Iraqi civilians have died. They have died, we must acknowledge, for us. These are the people we decided wanted liberation. It was our call, and it was in response to our wound. In short, it was our cause. Their country—but never mind. Their lives, too. Oh well.


  thanks to wood s lot

 01:35 AM - link



Clayton Moore: The Lone Ranger
Los Angeles, California, USA 1992


  thanks to The J-Walk Weblog

 12:57 AM - link

the thing that eats your brain

Mad cow danger may even be bigger
Research suggests sick animals may not show symptoms


Below the drumbeat of reassurances from government and the cattle industry that the meat supply remains safe despite this one case of mad cow disease, a small universe of scientists working on a family of related illnesses is finding disturbing evidence to the contrary.

Several studies, including research at a government laboratory in Montana, continue to spark questions about human susceptibility not only to mad cow, but also to sister diseases such as chronic wasting disease, which mainly affects deer and elk, and scrapie, which infects sheep.

Mice research and clusters of cases in which humans contracted a disease similar to mad cow also has a few scientists wondering whether consuming infected meat might have killed far more people than medical experts have long assumed, not only in Great Britain, but in the United States as well.


A free and complete copy of "Mad Cow USA: Could the Nightmare Happen Here?" Can be downloaded at: http://www.prwatch.org/books/madcow.html

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100 frontispices de livres de médecine
du 16e siècle au début du 19e siècle


  thanks to life in the present

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Past Imperfect: The Disappearing Negro
History, unlike mythology, is full of difficult realities that raise difficult questions about the present. But don’t look for that on the big screen.


Their "cause" is a nebulous one, steeped in euphemisms about "defending one's way of life." An uninformed viewer might reasonably conclude that the Civil War began because of Northern aggression — not the South's recalcitrant attempts to preserve a way of life based upon the enslavement of four million persons of African descent. In reality, both Abraham Lincoln and Congress went to great lengths to assure Southern states that there would be no federal attempt to outlaw slavery — even going so far as to propose the Crittendon Compromise, a Constitutional guarantee that slavery could not be abolished by federal authority. In reality, non-slaveholding whites like Inman fought for a cause which they believed in like a religion — which, you might argue, it was.

Yet it is inaccurate to lay the blame for this historical amnesia solely at the feet the novelist Charles Frazier or the screenwriter and filmmaker Anthony Minghella — the problem is deeper, broader and older than that. The saccharine racial politics of Cold Mountain parallel those of Mel Gibson's Revolutionary War flick The Patriot, in which we learn that the legions of black laborers working the fields of a South Carolina plantation are actually free — and Gibson's character, a wealthy South Carolina planter, pays them to grow his crops. (The next logical next step would be for him to duck into the nearest phone booth and don his cape before eliminating hordes or redcoats with his x-ray vision.) Nor, if history is any judge, should you hold your breath waiting for a realistic depiction of race and racism in The Alamo — scheduled for release in early 2004. The mythic bravery of the 185 American holdouts against 5000 Mexican troops is too compelling a theme to ruin it by talking about the American refusal to abide by Mexico's antislavery laws in Texas as a basis for the war.

Ultimately, this isn’t simply a Hollywood problem — in an era when statewide elections still turn on a candidate's support for the Confederate flag "as a symbol of Southern pride," and one still encounters the inane argument that the Civil War was fought over “state's rights,” not slavery, it's naïve to think that the movies will be any more honest than the daily news. What is at issue here is an American intolerance of its own history.

Any history of the United States is also a history of race — whether that’s stated explicitly or not. The Civil War was fought to protect a state's right to maintain slavery — a fact established by the Confederate states' own declarations of secession, which specifically cite the institution as the reason for the conflict. Ironically, the argument that the war was not about slavery has its roots among Northerners who felt compelled to downplay the Negro issue in favor of something their peers might actually think was worth fighting for — preservation of the Union.


  thanks to DANGEROUSMETA!

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Gallery of Nostrums


  thanks to The J-Walk Weblog

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Fire and Ice
A journey to the cradle of climbing reveals a strange new alpine environment, where glaciers are melting, mountains are falling, and nothing is as it was


WE'D HEARD RUMORS that the Alps were decomposing, but we ignored them. Europeans can be so querulous, so theatrical, waving their arms as if the sky were falling. John Harlin III and I had been planning this trip for half a dozen years, and we weren't about to change our minds. And, for John, this particular late-summer journey was considerably more than the usual climber's hajj—a pilgrimage to the birthplace of the sport.

After many other trips together, we'd finally come to climb the macabre Mordwand, or "Death Cliff" (a play on Nordwand, as the Eiger's north face is called). It would be a first for both of us. But we were too late.

"The Eiger has changed completely," Nicho Mailänder told us upon our arrival in Geneva. A peerless climbing historian, Mailänder is one of the authors of The Tyrol Declaration, a pioneering manifesto on mountaineering ethics and environmental responsibility that was adopted by the Union Internationale des Associations d'Alpinisme in 2002. "It is not the mountain it used to be. To climb it this summer, particularly, would be very, very dangerous."

"The Eiger per se no longer exists," he continued. "There used to be three main icefields on the Eiger. Over the last five years, they have all but vanished. In their place are slick, 50-degree limestone slopes covered in rubble. Rubble which tends to slide off. Who wants to climb rubble? No. I'm sorry, but nowadays, the Eiger can only be safely climbed in winter."


  thanks to the bitter shack of resentment

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The Decline of Fashion Photography
An argument in pictures.


  thanks to Conscientious

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  Tuesday   January 13   2004

Here are two very important pieces about the Israeli side of the conflict with the Palestinians. The first is an interview with one of the leading Israeli historians, Benny Morris. The second is a rebuttal by Aron Trauring at Aron's Israel Peace Weblog. They both get down to the some of the basic issues of Israel/Palestine.

Survival of the fittest


Benny Morris says he was always a Zionist. People were mistaken when they labeled him a post-Zionist, when they thought that his historical study on the birth of the Palestinian refugee problem was intended to undercut the Zionist enterprise. Nonsense, Morris says, that's completely unfounded. Some readers simply misread the book. They didn't read it with the same detachment, the same moral neutrality, with which it was written. So they came to the mistaken conclusion that when Morris describes the cruelest deeds that the Zionist movement perpetrated in 1948 he is actually being condemnatory, that when he describes the large-scale expulsion operations he is being denunciatory. They did not conceive that the great documenter of the sins of Zionism in fact identifies with those sins. That he thinks some of them, at least, were unavoidable.

According to your findings, how many acts of Israeli massacre were perpetrated in 1948?

"Twenty-four. In some cases four or five people were executed, in others the numbers were 70, 80, 100. There was also a great deal of arbitrary killing. Two old men are spotted walking in a field - they are shot. A woman is found in an abandoned village - she is shot. There are cases such as the village of Dawayima [in the Hebron region], in which a column entered the village with all guns blazing and killed anything that moved.

"The worst cases were Saliha (70-80 killed), Deir Yassin (100-110), Lod (250), Dawayima (hundreds) and perhaps Abu Shusha (70). There is no unequivocal proof of a large-scale massacre at Tantura, but war crimes were perpetrated there. At Jaffa there was a massacre about which nothing had been known until now. The same at Arab al Muwassi, in the north. About half of the acts of massacre were part of Operation Hiram [in the north, in October 1948]: at Safsaf, Saliha, Jish, Eilaboun, Arab al Muwasi, Deir al Asad, Majdal Krum, Sasa. In Operation Hiram there was a unusually high concentration of executions of people against a wall or next to a well in an orderly fashion.

"That can't be chance. It's a pattern. Apparently, various officers who took part in the operation understood that the expulsion order they received permitted them to do these deeds in order to encourage the population to take to the roads. The fact is that no one was punished for these acts of murder. Ben-Gurion silenced the matter. He covered up for the officers who did the massacres."

You do not condemn them morally?


They perpetrated ethnic cleansing.

"There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing. I know that this term is completely negative in the discourse of the 21st century, but when the choice is between ethnic cleansing and genocide - the annihilation of your people - I prefer ethnic cleansing."

And that was the situation in 1948?

"That was the situation. That is what Zionism faced. A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads. It was necessary to cleanse the villages from which our convoys and our settlements were fired on."

And morally speaking, you have no problem with that deed?

"That is correct. Even the great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians. There are cases in which the overall, final good justifies harsh and cruel acts that are committed in the course of history."


The Unfit


I urge you all to read the entire interview. It certainly is an eye-opener. And to his credit, Morris does not mince words. Unlike many Israelis and their Jewish supporters who hide behind hypocritical rhetoric, Morris speaks clearly and openly about what he believes. In fact, I would argue that he is an impassioned spokesperson for what the vast majority of Israelis and their Jewish supporters believe. And that precisely is what is so apalling.

Essentially, in this interview Benny Morris says:

1. We committed and continue to commit horrible crimes against the Palestinians to create the "Jewish" state.
2. These crimes are justified, since the founding of the state of Israel is the supreme value.
3.Besides, Arabs and Palestinians are sub-human savages so they deserve to die.

Essentially Morris is rehashing Jabotinsky's famous polemic the Iron Wall. Morris' unique contribution is to:

Document the fact that the crimes committed by the Zionist founders of the State of Israel were far worse than Israeli propaganda tried to make out
Explicitely add the sub-human argument (point 3). Jabotinsky was more liberal, and did not relate to the Arabs as sub-human "barbarians," even within his colonial world-view

If we abstractly state Morris' position, his argument is this: as a member of group X, I am justified in committing genocide against group Y because I know group Y is out to kill me. The premise of my justification is the "well-known fact" that group-Y are irredeemable, bloodthirsty savages capable of the most heinous crimes against humanity. Hence I justifiably conclude that I my pre-emptive act of genocide is morally justified self-defense. In any case I am killing evil people who are basically sub-human, so what I am doing is really not such a bad thing at all.

If you accept this argument as valid, then now substitute X = German and Y = Jew. In fact, if you substitute the word "Jew" for "German" and "Arab" for "Jew" in the interview, it sounds quite a bit like one Goebbels would have given. Interestingly, like Morris, the Nazis used the American slaughter of the indigineous population as justification for their own policies against the Jews. Do you still think it's a valid argument?


I urge everyone to read both pieces.

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slow blogging

Slow blogging usually means that life outside of blogging is getting a little intense. No more so then following the paramedics up to Whidbey General Hospital with Zoe inside the ambulance late Sunday night. Up all night in the emergency room. Her abdominal pain was much worse than usual. Basically the pain meds for her chronic abdominal pain had reduced the motility of her bowels and she had illeus, a bowl blockage. The solution involved a plastic tube down her nose into her stomach to quiet things down. That is not a pleasant thing. I will take Zoe's word on that one. We got home around 5pm Monday night. Zoe is doing much better. We have some sleep to catch up on. Just time for one post. I sure do hope regular programming can return soon.

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