I'm feeling sick- literally. I can't get the video Al-Jazeera played out of my head:
The mosque strewn with bodies of Iraqis- not still with prayer or meditation, but prostrate with death- Some seemingly bloated… an old man with a younger one leaning upon him… legs, feet, hands, blood everywhere… The dusty sun filtering in through the windows… the stillness of the horrid place. Then the stillness is broken- in walk some marines, guns pointed at the bodies... the mosque resonates with harsh American voices arguing over a body- was he dead, was he alive? I watched, tense, wondering what they would do- I expected the usual Marines treatment- that a heavy, booted foot would kick the man perhaps to see if he groaned. But it didn't work that way- the crack of gunfire suddenly explodes in the mosque as the Marine fires at the seemingly dead man and then come the words, "He's dead now."
"He's dead now." He said it calmly, matter-of-factly, in a sort of sing-song voice that made my blood run cold… and the Marines around him didn't care. They just roamed around the mosque and began to drag around the corpses because, apparently, this was nothing to them. This was probably a commonplace incident.
We sat, horrified, stunned with the horror of the scene that unfolded in front of our eyes. It's the third day of Eid and we were finally able to gather as a family- a cousin, his wife and their two daughters, two aunts, and an elderly uncle. E. and my cousin had been standing in line for two days to get fuel so we could go visit the elderly uncle on the final day of a very desolate Eid. The room was silent at the end of the scene, with only the voice of the news anchor and the sobs of my aunt. My little cousin flinched and dropped her spoon, face frozen with shock, eyes wide with disbelief, glued to the television screen, "Is he dead? Did they kill him?" I swallowed hard, trying to gulp away the lump lodged in my throat and watched as my cousin buried his face in his hands, ashamed to look at his daughter.
"What was I supposed to tell them?" He asked, an hour later, after we had sent his two daughters to help their grandmother in the kitchen. "What am I supposed to tell them- 'Yes darling, they killed him- the Americans killed a wounded man; they are occupying our country, killing people and we are sitting here eating, drinking and watching tv'?" He shook his head, "How much more do they have to see? What is left for them to see?"
US battle plans begin to unravel
In the New York Times this week the first crack appeared in the armor of the "victory in Fallujah" facade maintained by the major US media since the battle began. Eric Schmitt and Robert Worth discuss a secret Marine Corps report that reveals the major bind the US has gotten itself into by sweeping through Fallujah and attempting to pacify it. This US strategy has created exactly the dilemma that many critics of the war had been predicting: in order to hold Fallujah the United States has to keep large numbers of troops there, and then the Americans will not have sufficient troops to handle the uprising elsewhere in the Sunni areas.
The problem is summarized thusly in the New York Times article: "Senior marine intelligence officers in Iraq are warning that if American troop levels in the Fallujah area are significantly reduced during reconstruction there, as has been planned, insurgents in the region will rebound from their defeat. The rebels could thwart the retraining of Iraqi security forces, intimidate the local population and derail elections set for January, the officers say."
Headless Body in Topless War
Since Saddam's fall, we've been stomping around Iraq like Godzilla. Lind: "The result is likely to be more flattened cities like Falluja, more victories on the moral level for our opponents, and in the end, ignominious withdrawal and defeat."
So thick is the euphoria and triumphalism post November 2nd that I wonder if most of our media, never mind the bovine American public, have any inkling of how ghastily Iraq is going down the drain, and taking the American military with it. We've been so bombarded with "Failure is not an option" that few are willing to assert, as van Creveld and Lind do, that failure may not be an option but it damn well may be the outcome, and quicker than anyone contemplates.
Andrew Sullivan and Thomas Friedman can petition for more troops all they please. It's too late for more troops. We don't have troops to spare as it is, but even if we did, it's too late. It's too late for everything. The blundering mistakes that were made in the first days and weeks of the occupation can't be reversed now--they're incorrectible. The window of opportunity dropped like a guillotine while Donald Rumsfeld was regaling the press corps with his pithy wisdom.
Why Iraq Will End as Vietnam Did
The third and most important reason why I think Vietnam is relevant to the situation in Iraq is because the Americans found themselves in the unfortunate position where they were beating down on the weak. To quote Dayan: “any comparison between the two armies… was astonishing. On the one hand there was the American Army, complete with helicopters, an air force, armor, electronic communications, artillery, and mind-boggling riches; to say nothing of ammunition, fuel, spare parts, and equipment of all kinds. On the other there were the [North Vietnamese troops] who had been walking on foot for four months, carrying some artillery rounds on their backs and using a tin spoon to eat a little ground rice from a tin plate.”
That, of course, was precisely the problem. In private life, an adult who keeps beating down on a five year old – even such a one as originally attacked him with a knife – will be perceived as committing a crime; therefore he will lose the support of bystanders and end up by being arrested, tried and convicted. In international life, an armed force that keeps beating down on a weaker opponent will be seen as committing a series of crimes; therefore it will end up by losing the support of its allies, its own people, and its own troops. Depending on the quality of the forces – whether they are draftees or professionals, the effectiveness of the propaganda machine, the nature of the political process, and so on – things may happen quickly or take a long time to mature. However, the outcome is always the same. He (or she) who does not understand this does not understand anything about war; or, indeed, human nature.
In other words, he who fights against the weak – and the rag-tag Iraqi militias are very weak indeed – and loses, loses. He who fights against the weak and wins also loses. To kill an opponent who is much weaker than yourself is unnecessary and therefore cruel; to let that opponent kill you is unnecessary and therefore foolish. As Vietnam and countless other cases prove, no armed force however rich, however powerful, however, advanced, and however well motivated is immune to this dilemma. The end result is always disintegration and defeat; if U.S troops in Iraq have not yet started fragging their officers, the suicide rate among them is already exceptionally high. That is why the present adventure will almost certainly end as the previous one did. Namely, with the last US troops fleeing the country while hanging on to their helicopters’ skids.
thanks to James Wolcott
Terrorizing those who are praying…
Abu Talat calls me frantic. The deafening roar of hundreds of people in a confined area yelling, “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) reverberate behind his panicked voice.
“I am being held at gunpoint by American soldiers inside Abu Hanifa mosque Dahr,” he yells, “Everyone is praying to God because the Americans are raiding our mosque during Friday prayer!”
He makes short calls, updating me on the atrocity. After a few sentences of information he hangs up because he is trapped inside the mosque and trying to let me know what is happening. Being Friday, the day of prayer and holiday, this was supposed to be an off day for us.
I just finish typing what he told me before he calls back.
“They have shot and killed at least 4 of the people while they were praying, and at least 20 are wounded now! I cannot believe this! I can’t let them see me calling you. I am on my stomach now and they have our guns on everyone, there are at least 1,500 people inside the mosque and it is sealed. We are on our bellies and in a very bad situation.”
Several Humvees and Iraqi National Guard (ING) vehicles showed up and 50 soldiers and well over 50 ING sealed and entered the mosque with the goal of detaining the Imam, Shaikh Muayid al-Adhami.
Abu Talat calls back, “We were here praying and now there are over 50 here with their guns on us,” he said. ”They are holding our heads to the ground, and everyone is in chaos. This is the worst situation possible. They cannot see me talking to you. They are roughing up a blind man now.”
The soldiers eventually released women and children along with men who were related to them. Abu Talat was only released because a boy approached him and told him to pretend to be his father.
Later Abu Talat comes to my hotel to see me. He is distraught, crying while he recounts the story. After listening to the tape he recorded inside the mosque during the atrocity, he says…
“I am in a very sad position. I do not see any freedom or any democracy. If this could lead into a freedom, it is a freedom with blood. It is a freedom of emotions of sadness. It is a freedom of killing. You cannot gain democracy through blood or killing. You do not find the freedom that way. People are going to pray to God and they were killed and wounded. There were 1,500 people praying to God and they went on a holiday were people go every Friday for prayers. And they were shot and killed. There were so many women and kids lying on the ground. This is not democracy, neither freedom.”
After several weeks of relative calm in Adhamiya, the detention of the Imam of Abu Hanifa and killing of worshippers inside their mosque is sure to ignite the fires of revenge in this area, which is already known as the Fallujah of Baghdad.
This is so cool!
thanks to J-Walk Blog
The Coming Bust
I'm listening to the Sabbath Gasbags. The cognitive dissonance is painful. The economy is about to go off a cliff because of the triple whammy of budget deficits, trade deficits and household indebtedness, we are the authors of a catastrophe in Iraq which is horrifying the rest of the world, a world already stunned by Bush's re-election, and the nabobs are nattering about politics as usual.
I listened to Paul Krugman on Book TV yesterday. He was talking about his collection, The Great Unraveling, and gave a version of the Q&A I'm quoting here:
Q: You have articulated the fact that we may be headed toward an Argentinean-style catastrophe. How strongly do you feel about that prediction, how do you defend it, and when do you see the collapse hitting the U.S. if we continue on the same course?
A: I still think of my role at The New York Times and all of that as not being real life. In real life I do international economics, and crises is one of my things. I actually invented currency crises, not the thing but the academic field, 24 years ago. I'm kind of used to what the numbers look like for countries that are on the verge of a breakdown, and you look at a couple of numbers. You look at how big is the deficit relative to the economy – the budget deficit. You look at trade deficits – you say how big is the trade deficit relative to the economy? If you look at the United States, guess what? Our numbers are fully world-class for that. We have a budget deficit and a trade deficit as a share of the economy both that are bigger than Argentina before the 2001 meltdown or Indonesia before the 1997 meltdown.
thanks to daily KOS
Will Currency Wars Effect You?
Back in my update post on the currency situation, a poster named Mike asked:
Maybe I'm a numbskull.....
I find these economics articles very interesting...and potentially quite enlightening.
But I guess I'm just too dumb to really get how some of these issues (like the falling dollar, huge deficits, et.al) affect the little guy?
What exactly would happen if there were a "currency crash"? A little education along with the writing would be very, very helpful to me.
So to answer Mike's justifiable question, just how would it effect the average person?
Gallery of Fluid Mechanics
One of the most attractive features of fluid mechanics is the beauty of the flows one encounters. Whether one is observing vortex streets, the potential flow around an airfoil or body, shock refraction or diffraction, or waves breaking on a beach the aesthetic appeal of fluid mechanics is impossible to deny.
OLDEST KNOWN PHOTOGRAPH OF A TORNADO
Math, not conspiracy theory
Finally picking back up again from my last post on last week's "elections"... (I've been delaying because frankly I get sick to my stomach just trying to start. That's the truth.)
I hope you'll download and read a paper called The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy, released on Thursday by Prof. Steven Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania. It's worth seeing in its entirety. A lot of other folks have been posting about it. Rightly so.
What jumped out at a lot of people on the night of the election was how the "errors" in the exit polls consistently occured in the same direction.
The thing about genuine errors, extremes, and anomalies in results... is that they're random.
The chance that a flipped coin will land "heads" four times in a row is only 1 in 16 -- but you're just as likely to see it land "tails" four times in a row. And if it's an honest coin, flipped fairly, over time, you will. Very basic math will tell you exactly how likely a given outcome is.
But even without the math, we have a sense of this in our daily lives. If you were betting another guy a dollar a flip, and the coin came up tails ten times in a row (about a 1 in 1000 chance) common sense would tell you the coin was weighted.
And if somebody told you it wasn't -- that it was just an error or pure random chance, never mind, keep emptying your wallet -- you'd start to wonder about their motives.
Common sense. Not a conspiracy theory. Just what you're seeing, right in front of you.
Without getting into all the state-by-state details -- I'll let Prof. Freeman tend to the numbers -- what happened last Tuesday, where a wide variety of extremely accurate exit polls suddenly turned out to be at the extremes or even beyond their margin of error, was exceedingly unlikely -- even if the benefits of these errors had been evenly distributed.
But they weren't evenly distributed. They favored Bush. Over and over and over. That's the coin flipping. And flipping. And still coming up heads. Heads in Florida. Heads in Ohio. Heads in a bunch of other swing states (even while the exit polls remained relatively accurate elsewhere). Almost everywhere the election was close, the coin just kept coming up heads.
How bad was it?
According to Dr. Freeman's analysis... 1 in 250,000,000.
One in a quarter of a billion.
Math, not conspiracy theory: item 2
Whatever your opinion of the Freeman paper described earlier, I hope you'll check this out, from a press conference which concluded about an hour ago:
UC Berkeley Research Team Sounds 'Smoke Alarm' for Florida E-Vote Count
Statistical Analysis - the Sole Method for Tracking E-Voting - Shows Irregularities May Have Awarded 130,000 - 260,000 or More Excess Votes to Bush in Florida
Research Team Calls for Investigation
The study shows an unexplained discrepancy between votes for President Bush in counties where electronic voting machines were used versus counties using traditional voting methods - what the team says can be deemed a "smoke alarm." Discrepancies this large or larger rarely arise by chance - the probability is less than 0.1 percent.
The study says there's not even a 1 in 1000 chance that the Florida vote was legit.
Recount in Ohio A Sure Thing
Green Party Campaign Raises $150,000 in 4 Days, Shifts Gears to Phase II
There will be a recount of the presidential vote in Ohio.
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It would take a video wall of 10,000 television screens or 600 prints from a professional digital SLR camera to capture as much information as that contained in a single Gigapxl™ exposure
thanks to 37th Frame
Welcome to the new cold war
It's Chirac vs. Cheney, SUVs vs. minicars, and pommes frites vs. freedom fries in the new transatlantic culture war. But here's what you don't know: In the global conflict for moral and economic supremacy, Europe is winning.
"Europe's time is almost here," Reid quotes current EU President Romano Prodi as saying. "In fact, there are many areas of world affairs where the objective conclusion would have to be that Europe is already the superpower, and the United States must follow our lead." It's stuff like that that has Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and the rest of the neoconservative cohort gnawing on the executive branch's fine European furniture late at night. They're smart enough to know that Prodi has a point -- even if they'd scoff at him in public -- and there isn't much they can do about it.
After adding 10 new Eastern and Central European nations last May, the European Union now has a much larger population than the United States, and a slightly bigger economy. As Jeremy Rifkin argues in his dense and contentious new research-driven tome "The European Dream," the United States remains ahead in per-capita GDP, but the difference is not as significant as it looks.
Much of American "productivity," Rifkin suggests, is accounted for by economic activity that might be better described as wasteful: military spending; the endlessly expanding police and prison bureaucracies; the spiraling cost of healthcare; suburban sprawl; the fast-food industry and its inevitable corollary, the weight-loss craze. Meaningful comparisons of living standards, he says, consistently favor the Europeans. In France, for instance, the work week is 35 hours and most employees take 10 to 12 weeks off every year, factors that clearly depress GDP. Yet it takes a John Locke heart of stone to say that France is worse off as a nation for all that time people spend in the countryside downing du vin rouge et du Camembert with friends and family.
European children are consistently better educated; the United States would rank ninth in the EU in reading, ninth in scientific literacy, and 13th in math. Twenty-two percent of American children grow up in poverty, which means that our country ranks 22nd out of the 23 industrialized nations, ahead of only Mexico and behind all 15 of the pre-2004 EU countries. What's more horrifying: the statistic itself or the fact that no American politician to the right of Dennis Kucinich would ever address it?
Perhaps more surprisingly, European business has not been strangled by the EU welfare state; in fact, quite the opposite is true. Europe has surpassed the United States in several high-tech and financial sectors, including wireless technology, grid computing and the insurance industry. The EU has a higher proportion of small businesses than the U.S., and their success rate is higher. American capitalists have begun to pay attention to all this. In Reid's book, Ford Motor Co. chairman Bill Ford explains that the company's Volvo subsidiary is more profitable than its U.S. manufacturing operation, even though wages and benefits are significantly higher in Sweden. Government-subsidized healthcare, child care, pensions and other social supports, Ford says, more than make up for the difference.
While America has been gnawing on its own innards for the last decade or so, feuding internally over White House blow jobs, flawed elections, the threat of terrorism, the ill-fated war in Iraq and an angrily polarized public discourse, Europe has quietly been cohering into an impressive whole, the world's newest superpower. For all its layers of bureaucracy and all the challenges it faces, the EU has forged a harmonious society on a continent that spent most of history at war with itself.
The rise of the European Union may in fact, as Rifkin says, represent a new phase of history, and we barely saw it coming. While the outcome of this new cold war between Europe and America is far from clear, we should feel humbled by the way it's gone so far. The EU has succeeded so dramatically in its ambitious goals that the utopian dreamers of the last century who dared to imagine a peaceful, prosperous, united Europe seem eerily prescient now. If nothing else, it's an object lesson in the power of vision.
"I am a democrat," James Joyce wrote in 1916, while an entire generation of Europe's young men were slaughtering each other in the fields of Flanders. "I'll work and act for the social liberty and equality among all classes and sexes in the United States of the Europe of the future." People read that and laughed bitterly. Europe seemed poisoned by mustard gas and history; America was the land of liberty, democracy and the future. Nobody's laughing now.
thanks to daily KOS
thanks to J-Walk Blog
is it really that bad?
Steve Gilliard, a black man living in NYC, would like to remind us that, for some Americans, it was very bad.
An American police state in action
The reason I'm pretty harsh on the people talking about leaving America for more politically suitable climes is simple: America hasn't been all that good for black people.
I remember reading Jack Greenberg's autobiography. Now, Jack Greenberg was the head of the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund after Thurgood Marshall and his long time deputy.
One of his cases which sticks in my mind is one he had in North Carolina. The state wanted to give him eight years for walking across the street from a white woman and looking at her. That's it. Looking at a white woman. Didn't even whistle at her. When Emmitt Till did , he was beaten, castrated, murdered and tossed from a bridge with a refrigerator tied to his back. At the age of 14.
Unless George Bush brings back segregation, I think fleeing is a severe overreaction. Because many of you really don't understand how hellish America can be. Until 1967, blacks couldn't go into the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They would be refused entry by the guards. Thomas Hoving stopped that as one of his first acts as director. That wasn't Alabama, that was New York, three years after my birth
People forget or are unaware of what a real American police state was like. You can call it Mississippi. When ONE black man, a crazy man named James Meredith, tried to go to Ole Miss, there were days of riots. People died. When little girls wanted to go to a "white" school, they had to bring in the 101st ABN.
The state of Mississippi had a three level repressive network, the white citizens council, state and local police and the sovergnity commission.
James says about the following pano:
and this quicktime VR panorama is the most goddamningly photographic thing i've seen in ages - all numbingly there: a document, the history, immanence/death, those ghosts, memories, uncanny even, the play of lights and the dark. and too you can see time pushing back, that moment's resistance to the shutter, a refusal to be pinned down. mostly though it's, and you feel it more than anything, the flatness of images always and already unraveling at the edges of it all; the reverberating and constant leveling of representation, of fabrication.
Arafat supporters outside hospital in Paris
oh frabjous day! callooh! callay! he chortled in his joy.
It took a few restores but it looks like I was able (with the help of my ISP) to get everything back and working again. Hopefully regular programming will resume soon.