Friday, December 30, 2005

King Kong is a tremendous work of film. It's why the great Peter Jackson wanted to do what he does. In short, to counter the length of the movie, it's a stellar achievement, a spectacle of light and sound. But enough raving and ranting. I wish America a giant ape to destroy all of the world's monsters, especially those fiendish ptaeradactyls and massive worms. And may that ape-beast scale the highest tower... oh, well that's where he gets a run in with prop planes' machine-gunned bullets.

Good night. Happy New Year, at last.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Thursday, December 08, 2005

R.I.P. John Lennon

Monday, December 05, 2005

The final report by the 9/11 Public Discourse Project (PDP), whose key members headed the September 11 Commission, was released today. It’s a shocking report card on the federal government’s actions — that is, lack of actions — on actual homeland security, in terms of how closely it followed the Commission recommendations.

To summarize, the nominal appointment of a central director of intelligence was just about the only substantial achievement. Five initiatives, encompassing “adequate radio spectrum for” police and firemen, “homeland security” funds allocation, “pre-screening” at airports, and “the overall intelligence budget,” were given failing grades. The only A given, not including potential ones upon passage in Congress, went to our fight against “terrorism financing,” though the report notes that “the State Department and Treasury Department are engaged in unhelpful turf battles, and the overall effort lacks leadership.”

The PDP report caps several months of “recommendations” papers: ‘Homeland Security, Emergency Preparedness and Response’ (Part I), ‘Reforming the Institutions of Government’ (Part II), and ‘Foreign Policy, Public Diplomacy, and Nonproliferation’ (Part III).

Whether what went wrong can be placed with “bureaucratic molasses” (George Will’s term) or the PDP’s “turf battles,” or the sort of ‘pork politics’ that directly underlied the failure to fund state anti-terrorism efforts based on “risk and vulnerability,” is not as important as figuring out why we have failed so dramatically and how to remedy it. All the while, our soldiers continue to be ordered to fight a war that does nothing to help our security, and has in fact greatly undermined it. These failures of our government, in what amounts to a colossal dereliction of duty to protect the American people, constitute impeachable offenses. Or, at the very least, a nation-wide referendum in lieu of a Congressional no-confidence vote.

Objections to this idea would center on the charge of politicizing September 11. This is ridiculous. My very point is that no real substantive actions are being taken at the federal level to protect us at the least, much less prevent another attack, while in the name of the atrocities we have been responsible for a host of new ones, with our troops made into worms for Pentagon fishermen. So who is doing the exploiting? It is too late to clear our name; talk is cheap. The best thing for all of us now is as definite a close to the White House’s war as possible in the fastest possible time. That is not immediate withdrawal, as such an option is out of the question because we’ve already fucked up so much. But I’m sick of this talk about “indefinite” deployment, and “enduring” bases. Our soldiers are sick, they’re dying, they’re maimed and brutalized. They want to come home; they deserve the honor our government has denied them.

Our failure has no one point of blame. But one man does preside over the government, and a lot of the responsibility ultimately rests with him. And if that is politicization, or some unfair cheap shot, then the words “democracy” or “republic” might as well be stripped out of public consciousness, burned and forgotten, for it would have meaning no longer.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

HIATUS is the name of the game. Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

After three years in detention, Jose Padilla (a.k.a. Abu Abdullah Al Mujahir) has been charged of his crimes against the United States. This victory for justice and the constitutional system that the government - with our backing - has tried to tear to shreds for these past few years gives me hope that we have finally begun to fight terrorism after all.

A copy of the indictment can be found here.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Did you hear? The massive conspiracy of evil leftists are busily rewriting history! They want to kill your children! They want to help terrorism! They're against America, they hate America, they are the scourge of civilized society. Their ideas are stale, unattractive, and tired. They hate capitalism! They they they they they ...

I'll never buy it, not for a second.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

With Thanksgiving two weeks ahead, and the holydays soon after ... no, that's too much. Anyway, I recommend Marty Scorsese's documentary, "No Direction Home: Bob Dylan," which is really something. A lot of concert footage, archival stuff. Well done. Will he leave this earth unrewarded? I'm referring to Scorsese, and the unconscionable lack of Oscar awards given to him.

As for Dylan, I have seen him in concert. One time. April 5, 2004, at American University. When he played, he didn't look at the audience, which was strange. Mostly new stuff; the old good ones were almost unrecognizable. Why "No Direction Home" had to be a PBS television thing is completely beyond me, regardless of the length. It doesn't matter. It's a great doc.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

In a move certain to not change shit, Denver residents voted for Initiative 100, which legalizes adult possession of wacky tobacky up to a whole ounce. But, according to a buzzkill story printed up in the Rocky Mountain News, nothing will at all change because Denver happens to be right in the middle of Colorado, whose state law still bans the drug as illegal. According to Mitch Morrissey, who is the District Attorney in the city, "'It's still illegal in the city of Denver, because Denver's in Colorado.'" Thanks for the echo. Well, anyway, thanks for nothing.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Friday, October 28, 2005

George Clooney’s film Good Night, and Good Luck stars David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow, the legendary radio/TV journalist, who is portrayed as a respected voice of reason and truth faced off with Senator McCarthy’s inquisition in clearing America of red warlocks and witches. The title of Clooney’s picture is the line with which Murrow signed off broadcasts, “good luck” taking on a uniquely visceral aspect as Murrow (Strathairn) is wedged within the structural pressures of “state power and the profit motive,” as New York Times film critic A.O. Scott condenses it. A question raised in my mind is whether that influence, which is much more prevalent and effective now, has relegated the role of news media moreso to the level of government propagators.

The state is represented by two military officials who arrive at CBS headquarters to express their disapproval with the network’s programming, which took a decidedly anti-McCarthy turn — though in a narrow scope. On the question of bias, particularly in a scene in which the higher-ups, especially network chief William Paley (Frank Langella), try to lecture Murrow on objectivity, he dispenses with the issue by saying that an argument does not necessarily have two equal sides to it. That is an example, fairly representative, of the quest for ‘balance’ within the mainstream media today, in which equal time is to be given for both sides, regardless of burden of proof and assuming the validity of all perspectives — an inherently unfair method.

Murrow is shown to exemplify journalism’s proper role in our society, combatting the demagoguery and exploitation of fear so embodied in McCarthy that led to such “unreason” in the name of feeling safe and secure. In an October 15, 1958, speech at the Radio-Television News Directors Association Convention dinner, he speaks of the infantile medium of television as both a tool to “distract, delude, amuse, and insulate” us and to honestly (if not ‘objectively’) inform us about issues that affect our very lives, our responsibility as democratic citizens. How accurate is this picture?

Slate magazine “editor at large” Jack Shafer critiqued the historical truthfulness of the film, specifically the role of CBS under Murrow in taking down McCarthy. “As the Weekly Standard’s Andrew Ferguson wrote in 1996,” says Shafer, “ ‘McCarthy had been hanging himself quite efficiently in the several months before Murrow offered him more rope.’ ” He adds that the CBS “See It Now” telecast, ‘A Report on Joseph R. McCarthy,’ was not at all as pioneering as the film mythologizes. Shafer continues: “Murrow confessed his tardiness in taking on McCarthy, according to an interview [Times reporter Jack] Gould gave to Edwin R. Bayley for his 1981 book, Joe McCarthy and the Press. ‘My God,’ he recalls Murrow saying. ‘I didn't do anything. …’ He added that it was largely the work of journalists in print media, for instance, like the Times, which can be said to have led the charge against McCarthy’s tactics. Watching the scenes of phones ringing off the hook from the Pentagon or the State Department, or when the Cols. Anderson and Jenkins (Glenn Morshower and Don Creech, respectively) have a talk with production associate Fred Friendly (George Clooney), I wondered how it could be. That is, without infringing on press freedom. Shafer reminds us that unlike print journalists, radio and TV “[b]roadcasters … lacked First Amendment parity … [and] existed at the sufferance of the federal government …” He concludes that although one “could argue Murrow only risked his livelihood” while “networks struggl[ed] for a foothold” during “the early years of television”, Paley (Langella) “risked his broadcast empire.” According to Shafer, Murrow let McCarthy speak for himself though did not “attempt to determine … any substance to McCarthy’s charges,” but instead with “manipulative and partisan techniques” bordering on ‘character assassination’. CBS gave generous airtime to allow McCarthy a rebuttal, though Shafer notes that McCarthy’s “wasted” response “ratified Murrow’s portrayal of him as a loon,” which for some reason is an indictment on CBS.

But the film focuses on the climate of suspicion and distrust engendered by ‘the junior Senator’ and the impact in the newsroom from which Americans, through the advent of television, were informed of the state of affairs in the country. The culture proves too much for one journalist, Don Hollenbeck (Ray Wise), whose past ties with a communist organization and the ‘red-baiting’ to which he is subjected twenty years afterward leads him to suicide. Despite the pressures of McCarthy and CBS chief Paley, who is at very best a reluctant supporter of Murrow, his team and their ethos does not surrender. And in a particularly powerful telecast, Murrow declares, “Dissent is not disloyalty.” Clooney’s film has real resonance, though a few caveats ought to be noted. There is no longer a congressional committee on ‘un-American activities.’ There is no more loyalty oath. Yet the ghost of McCarthyism, the legacy of statist repression in the name of freedom, lingers in some degree still, though a psychopathic propagandist like Ann Coulter, for instance, honestly believed it never happened. This is obvious: no lives were destroyed nor did Americans “walk in fear of one another,” trying to uncover the next pinko rat, because there were no victims.

The consensus now is that communism as a monolith was mythical. Will history record the same about terrorism, the new hat fear-monger? But to qualify, the respective threat is real, though in a narrower, more amorphic sense than what we want to believe. What I mean to say, in light of the very real existential threat that radical Islamist jihadi terror poses, is that the charge of terrorism is being exploited toward ends of domestic repression much like the term communism. At one time or another, I supposed whether terrorism has become the new communism, by which I meant that the word — not the reality behind it — has perhaps became a same sort of instrument with which to split Americans apart from and against each other. The communist threat was the nuclear arsenal of the Soviet Union pointed at us; the terrorist threat is an underground network of armed, lawless criminals. Yet the McCarthyist purge did nothing to fight the real threat, but was rather a campaign of terror against Americans and the principles we cherish. In short, I left the theater with two things in my mind: whether it can happen again, and how civil society throughout the world is going to get through this latest round of nonsense. And if we want to remain free people, good luck indeed.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Trial of Saddam Hussein

At last, the fallen tyrant has been brought to trial to hear the first of many charges against his former regime, the first of which being massacres he ordered in 1983 that killed around 140 people. Atrocities like that, however, are quite minor in comparison to his greatest crimes: the Anfal campaign that slaughtered 5,000 Kurds and his invasion of Kuwait in 1990. When will those charges be heard?

The question that is being repeatedly brought up is whether Hussein will, or even ought to, receive a fair trial. I certainly hope not, unless we are willing to call former friends like Donald Rumsfeld, the first George Bush and Dick Cheney to the stand, as has been noted for what such a trial would logically "entail".

Some good information can be found at Case Western Reserve University's School of Law page covering several of the issues concerning the ongoing trial, billed as the next "Grotian Moment" that will set new norms for international politics as did the trials at Nuremberg. More on this story later as I make sense of it all, time permitting.

For now, I say this: No doubt that Hussein is a monster. So why in God's name did we ever support such a man?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The vote count for the Iraqi referendum is underway, the New York Times reporting an “insufficient” number of Sunni dissatisfaction to shoot down the draft constitution. (Above: Officials surveying transparent ballot boxes.) The final result is yet to be determined. The Times noted that “scattered attacks on polling sites and troops around the country.” As opposed to the January elections, reports the BBC, the vote inspired “little of the bustle and excitement” among the Kurds.

openDemocracy contributor Zaid Al-Ali expressed skepticism, asking: “After all the Iraqi people have been through … will the constitution bring peace, prosperity and basic services, or a further disintegration of the state coupled with more pain and misery?”

Citing a story in the Washington Post, Al-Ali fears Sunni opposition to the idea of cantoning Iraq into oil-rich Kurd and Shi'a regions and, moreover, Iraqis disenfranchisement from the constitutional convention process within the Green Zone while largely being denied “basic services” without, could all lead to the suffering of all.

“A Baghdad radio commentator recently asked an Iraqi caller whether he intended to vote in the 15 October referendum on the draft constitution for the country,” he writes. “The caller answered: ‘if I do, will I get some electricity?’”

British journalist George Monbiot also weighed in. Referring to the text of the draft constitution (available both here and here), he writes that the Zone “deliberations were back-to-front. First the members of the constitutional committee … argue over every dot and comma, then they present the whole thing (25 pages in English translation) to the people for a yes or no answer.”

“The question and the answer are meaningless,” he adds, because it would be impossible to make a real choice on an entire document without considering the parts of it one agrees with and those that are disagreed with. “What then does yes or no mean?”

More recently, Slate commentator Fred Kaplan, who had suggested that a “no” vote on the constitution would be for the best, now sees “a sliver of a hope” that it may “mark a small step toward a stable, somewhat democratic government after all.” Here's the consensus: Though there may be a significant chance that the referendum may eventually lead toward disintegration and civil war, at least it will have the proper vestiges of a democratic state.

Alright, then. But is it fair to ask whether any of this will mean anything for literally powerless Iraqis to assert control over their country if a constitutional regime will only result in sectarian chaos with 140,000 Americans in the crossfire?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I write for the Wooster Voice, sometimes news and, as of late, opinion. The following is what I'd to see published this Friday, but the final product may not at all resemble the piece I had originally written, so here it is in full, grammatical errata and all typos untouched.

Last Friday, October 7, commemorated four years of the wonderful War on Terror, which was recently renamed the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism (GSAVE) so as to make it officially unwinnable. And we're making it clear that we have no idea what we're doing.

Did you hear that we have a ‘public diplomat’ for the Arab Street? It's Karen Hughes, formerly in charge of ‘communications’ at the Bush White House, which means being in charge of campaign PR. A proper candidate, then, for propagating half-truths and innuendo to our target audience, which can only be defined by what it isn't: potential jihadis to whom it might be useful for us to dissuade from violence. If there's no negotiating with terrorists, what about those who may be soon suckered into it?

But there's nothing like dispatching a respected loyalist (read: crony) skilled in the art of fine dissembling to send out a marketing brand hoped to improve our image. The New York Times framed the picture askewly but in a way that is mostly accurate. (Steven R. Weisman, "On Mideast 'Listening Tour,' the Question Is Who's Hearing," 30 September 2005, A3) We read of Hughes, a “relentlessly upbeat” lackey, working “to mold public opinion abroad” by, for example, “hugging a child” in the Turkish capital of Istanbul.[*]

Here's the snag, big enough to derail all of the noble intentions we have for the Middle East: we're not even trying. Weisman's story cites “retired diplomat” Edward Djerejian, who “said recently that 80 percent of the hostility derived from American policies” in the Mideast. It takes a fucking genius. So we're going to hit up the other 20 percent with “a sophisticated media strategy that Ms. Hughes should be able to provide.” As long as we're taking care of one out of five needles from the haystack, I sure feel safe. Don't you?

Hughes did “address several policies,” but “in concise sound bites”. Later, allegedly listening to “a Turkish official” from whom we can hear “the perspective of ‘the common Turk.” That's as true as hearing the words of, say, a Pentagon bureaucrat and concluding it to be the voice of “the common American,” who by any account of public opinion polls, for example, is solidly opposed to such high military spending.

Hughes has also proved to be painfully ignorant for the job she's been assigned, a shame considering the ancient dictum to ‘know thy enemy’ — or know who may become thy enemy, if you keep at it with your famed confidence. While in Egypt, Hughes was landed with heavy criticism from journalists there “for not meeting with enough genuine opposition figures.” En route, a reporter asked Hughes if she was planning on meeting with the largest opposition group in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Cairo regime has banned. According to a Los Angeles Times editorial ("Policy before PR," 3 October 2005, B10), the question elicited puzzlement and she “replied simply, ‘We are respectful of Egypt's laws.’”

“Put the shoe on the other foot,” writes Slate magazine contributor Fred Kaplan. “Let’s say some Muslim leader wanted to improve Americans’ image of Islam. It’s doubtful that he would send as his emissary a woman in a black chador who had spent no time in the United States, possessed no knowledge of our history or movies or pop music, and spoke no English beyond a heavily accented ‘Good morning.’”

This is laziness because in no way do we intend to actually change policies that have done so much damage to the American people and the future of the United States in the world. But we're now willing to listen. Care for a brochure?

*In retrospect, that’s not the capital. I believe it’s Ankara.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Cold Nature

At a bare minimum, 18,000 people were killed near the Kashmir during a 7.6 earthquake and the series of aftershocks that followed over the weekend. About 40,000 more are wounded.

I remember the 50,000 who perished from the Iranian quake a couple of years ago, and I think about the lethal impersonality of nature and what we may see as its "wrathful" tendencies. It's only comforting to put a face on it, no matter how ugly.

But what is more disturbing is that it simply just is, in this instance the random slipping and breaking along slabs of rock beneath us. Moreover, that there is nothing we can do but help the people affected and wait for the next one to roll down.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Shanah tovah - Happy new year, 5766

Friday, September 30, 2005

On this forum I've often wondered whether there was any point in maintaining this blog, which will turn three this February on the 23rd. I suppose I keep this site up and running, this page really (because I don't have my own domain, fuck), because it's important for whatever reason it may be. I ask, What's my audience, what should I write for them? Then again, Do I have an audience? They're good questions all, though I find them unanswerable at the moment. And now for something completely different.

The new album from the Rolling Stones is pretty damn good. I enjoy "Laugh, I Nearly Died" and that "Sweet Neo Con" track, the former being my favorite. How come you're so wrong? we hear Jagger ask. Indeed.

So, as I get ready to play a rendition of capture-the-flag, I leave for now with the following: whether anyone reads this blog with any regularity, I'll still write. Though I have no influence, I'll keep hope that my words may find someone's ear, somewhere. And, though I am immensely overshadowed, I'll keep on.


Friday, September 23, 2005

Demonstrations Against the Iraq War

What do I think? It's getting on in time for it, perhaps past due. I took part in a sort of protest march dealie in June 2004 myself. My sign read, in part, "500 GIs Dead". 16 months ago, remember.

We need to ask ourselves about the consequences of stopping the war. A very painful question urgently needs to be posed: our lives or theirs? If we save our own from the carnage and chaos that has befallen Iraq, will we consign all of that to the Iraqis? In other words, can we extricate ourselves from this quagmire, an incipient civil war that has cost us over 1,900 dead and nearly $200 billion, without forsaking the Iraqi people and the fledgling democratic system they are attempting to establish?

I have here some practical steps we can try to get our leaders to undertake. First, we should send our troops right along the Syrian border and seal it off. Officers throughout the ranks have frequently noted the futility of insurgent compound raids along the Euphrates corridor, as the Jihadis assimilate right into the countryside or escape through tunnels about as fast as we can kill them.

Moreover, stabilization of Iraq ought to be the first priority, democratization second. It pains me to write such words, but how can there be any hope for a democratic society when its very fabric is being torn to shreds each day? But how we bring order to a country pulled every which way and divided within is a highly difficult matter, one I cannot pretend to have an answer for.

If we are to withdraw our forces, what then? An immediate pullout may be as catastrophic as having invaded in the first place. I think a phased, incremental withdrawal needs to happen as soon as possible. Some analysts even have suggested 'buying off' Sunni insurgents, but that would practically guarantee full-out civil war as Sunnis and Shi'a would probably wipe each other out once we're gone.

If we can consolidate the CIA-trained militias, maybe there is hope. Better yet, start rebuilding the country, so the population can see a reason to band together and create a civil society. Before that can viably begin, we will need better intelligence analysts on the field and less airstrikes.

It's visibly haphazard, how I've proposed to arrange things, but it may work. The sooner the better, so our sons and daughters can return home with honor. Meanwhile, the domestic anti-war movements ought to recognize the complexity that lies behind calls to "leave" Iraq, so the seemingly inevitable nightmare is not realized.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Mr. Dean's Lecture

Sat through the whole thing, heard what he had to say, asked my question (in part), overheard a very interesting exchange between him and a self-described reporter for some 'revolutionary' publication.

I'm talking about John Dean's lecture at McGaw last night. He rambled at times, went into some irrelevant details that began to bore and mystify a lot of people (myself included). But, for the most part, it was good to get my question out there in the forum.

His response to my question, namely whether the President can in fact be impeached, was a qualified no: a ridiculously high incumbency rate for the House of Reps and a horridly gerrymandered districting should preclude any hope of articles of impeachment being drafted, but perhaps the Senate may switch to the "opposition" party in 2006, was essentially his answer.

He preceded it with a clarification: in Worse than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush, he did not "call" for his impeachment, but rather laid the case for it. To me, that is practically one and the same, but alright. But, if it is going to happen, it may begin after the 2006 mid-term elections.*

The highlight of the extensive Q&A session that followed Dean's lecture was a fairly combative back-and-forth between him and this sneering, accusative guy (see above) who gave the impression of being firmly seared to a close-minded mentality. I don't remember his central question, but his tone was so ruthlessly vindicative that it obscured whatever valid points he may have made. His use of the word 'genocide' to describe combat operations in Iraq particularly bothered me and, I presume, most others there. But, thankfully, Dean delivered a stunning bitch-slap by declaring he was the first at the highest levels of the Nixon administration to oppose his superior's expansion of the war in Vietnam, to which a booming chorus voiced what was, in essence, a cry of assent. That shut him up, as did a round of applause launched to silence the offending and, frankly, obnoxious speaker. (I heard he stormed off like a little bitch at that point.)

*It's important to remember, now, that Nixon was impeached in 1974, which was two years after his re-election. But, who knows.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Former Nixon White House special counsel John Dean will be giving a speech at 7:30 tonight in McGaw Chapel. According to the FBI report (the second part available here), Dean served as the "master manipulator" in the Watergate scandal cover-up, overseeing the criminality from the highest echelons in the administration, then testifying against his colleagues to the Senate committee spearheading the investigation (Wikipedia).

Last year, Dean called for President Bush's impeachment in his book, Worse than Watergate: The Secret President of George W. Bush. (The transcript for the Democracy Now! interview can be found here.) If it isn't brought up tonight, I will ask him whether he thinks it is possible for Bush to even have articles of impeachment drawn up against him and, if so, what he thinks of former Attorney General Ramsey Clark's articles.

And moreover, whether Bush, having in Dean's mind committed greater crimes than Nixon - far greater, in that burglarizing the opposition party's offices as well as the psychiatric papers of a man who leaked secret documents exposing the lies of previous administrations of its study on the Vietnam War (by which I refer to Daniel Ellsberg's release of the 'Pentagon Papers' to the New York Times) pales in comparison to what amounts to lying to Congress and the American people, high crimes that have led to a grave compromise of our security that, in a sense, border on treasonous - deserves a more serious punishment. He won his fabled second term, and he remains in office - but Nixon won re-election, too, only to be thrown out in disgrace less than two years later.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

President Feels Remorse?

President Bush asserted today that he feels it necessary to "take responsibility" for the shameful failure he is presiding over in response to Katrina, reports CNN. He is scheduled to address the nation about the disaster this Thursday. Well it's about fucking time.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the attacks on our country that mark the dividing line between 'then' and 'now'. The hallowed ground upon which the Twin Towers once stood was thrown into bureaucratic miasma, and their memory has long since been tarnished and, most despicably, exploited to justify the suffering of many thousands more.

The whole thing makes no sense. The victims of the Iraq war, which was billed to us in part as somehow related to the atrocities commemorated this day four years past, by now number well into the tens of thousands, including the nearly 2,100 American soldiers dead from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We are all responsible for this, as we live in a democratic state, and with each passing day of inaction we add another of complicity to the bastardization of the deaths of nearly three thousand people. They didn't know they would die to become martyrs for a grand design to remake the world and, in so doing, replicate their suffering and death among people blessed with petroleum. We failed the opportunity to stop this madness, a fact conceded by the President himself, who referred to last year's election as our "accountability moment". Not, of course, that there was anything Kerry could have done. (Remember that dolt?)

But, after all, why am I talking about a war that has embroiled 140,000 of our soldiers in a fiercely sectarian hellscape? It need not have any relation to the attacks remembered today. Ideological enemies Hussein and bin Laden never had any collaborational relationship, spelled out by the 9/11 Commission in its final report. What possible interest would Saddam have had in working with Osama? His Iraq was nothing more than a contained, failing state, destroyed by decades of war and sanctions. Hussein would've no doubt wanted to hold onto whatever was left, minus the fanciful stockpiles of WMD; no use, then, sharing secrets with a crazed, religious zealot, one who despised Hussein and his regime.

Al Qaeda attacked us four years ago today. But now the terrorist group is more a state of mind that any centralized organization, with 'affiliate' jihadist fronts springing up throughout the world. One of the more prominent observations made immediately following the September 11 attacks was a dire need for 'moral clarity'. (I believe former "drug czar" and avid gambler William Bennett published a book calling for that sort of thing.) But no such clarity has ever been established, and the water is muddier than ever. Some ethical standard would be damn nice right now.

Let's start with a common definition of terrorism, one that applies to all actors. Here's one: "Premeditated acts of violence, directed at noncombatants, for the purpose of political change." Simple. The problem with such a definition is it implicates actions for which we are responsible. But so be it. We are the example for the world to follow, are we not? That fabled shining city on a hill? Do we not have a Christian President? Jesus instructed to treat others as you would have them treat you, the Golden Rule. Spraying cluster bombs over suburban Baghdad and leveling Falluja does not bode well for us, no matter what end we seek. One does not equate ends and means; that's an ancient truism.

What I mean to say by all of this is we've adopted a tragically simplistic worldview that leads us to band together for an apocalyptic global battle for the salvation of Muslims' souls. Or 'democratization' of the Middle East. It's a matter of semantics. The question that remains from the ashes of ground zero is, What future do we want, for us, our children and grandchildren? Whether it's a choice between freedom and fear or survival and hegemony, the constant obstacle to global progress and happiness is, in the end, the irrationality that exists within all of us.

All we have is our power; with that responsibility we can do whatever we want, and therein lies the problem and the solution. A system where a twentieth of the global population assumes the mantle of a world mission to save and reconstruct the rest of the world is a path of self-destruction and, ultimately, doom. We can stop this. Hope and freedom are precious. Violence will not put an end to violence; neither will passive exhortations to 'wage peace'. The free people of the world will find a way. It may not be ours, but perhaps one that will turn the tide of tyrannical regimes and this whole ugly 'Age of Terror'. Is that the role of our country alone? Obviously not. Rather, it is the obligation of all who do not wish to live in fear and desperation.

Someday justice will be done. To that end I am optimistic.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The federal government's response to the disaster spawned by Hurricane Katrina is nothing less than shameful. The more one reads about this fiasco the more that kind of conclusion becomes clear. It's not just the matter of delay: one whole day before a single word about it came out of the White House, a few more crucial days before the desperately needed supplies and the people to distribute and coordinate them arrived to the bereaved and besieged.

What is happening now is the direct result of inept policy and misguided priorities, to say the least: the National Guard? A lot of their resources (one estimate places it at half) and about a third of their personnel are in Iraq. Funding for the failed levees? Cuts in the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) budget, partly due to allocations for 'Homeland Security' - and not homeland security, apparently - as well as the tax cuts. "Just two months ago new evidence emerged that city and its levees were sinking, increasing the risk of a catastrophic flood, even as federal funds to protect the city were being cut," reports the New York Times.

The result is an undeniable disaster, and the refugee situation is both unnecessary and criminal. This does not happen to such a wonderful country. Yes, one must not simply 'point fingers'. But this whole thing embodies the life and death issue of power and responsibility, which for better or worse is being placed on the highest levels of our government. It has failed us: unknown thousands are already dead, 'armed thugs' have taken control of many areas in New Orleans, damage to oil infrastructure has sent gas prices higher and higher, and the utter lack of basic services (water, food, medicine) has created what is perhaps the greatest humanitarian crisis we have ever seen in recent memory.

One day this Administration is going to pay dearly for its shameful (and shameless) lack of foresight and its contempt for the American people.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Good news, everyone: the Onion, perhaps due to popular demand (that's my guess), has returned its archives from their 'premium' section. So it's fully searchable, but still not browsable. But it's a great start.

The Gulf Coast Catastrophe

Looters in New Orleans are being subdued, deaths may be well into the several hundred, and full recovery "may take years," according to the President (via the New York Times). The price of oil has soared insanely; a gallon of gas (premium) is as high as - good God - $3.89 in Chicago, for instance. ("Gas Prices Surge as Supply Drops", 1 Sep 2005, NYT) "Shortages and gasoline lines were reported in parts of South Carolina, the Dakotas, Arkansas and Kentucky," reporters Jad Mouawad and Simon Romero write, a first "since the 1970's" energy crisis. (Id.) The President's cut his vacation short and is back to work, a good time to be a commander again, I say.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Katrina has exacted its terrible toll in destruction and death, the count currently standing at 68 dead (already up to 80, according to the BBC) and $9 billion in damage. The area, it appears, will not be completely rebuilt and the people rehabilitated for at least several months and, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), more hurricanes are expected to arrive this season: "NOAA expects an additional 11 to 14 tropical storms from August through November, with seven to nine becoming hurricanes, including three to five major hurricanes," according to a press statement. The rain is beginning to arrive here in the middle of Ohio, more to come.

In other things a-going, I'm getting spam comments. (Stop this, whoever you are.)

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Hurricane Katrina is barreling down toward Louisiana as I write, and New Orleans has been nearly completely evacuated as a federal emergency exists for Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as "other parts of the northern Gulf coast states", according to the New York Times. The Louisiana Times-Picayune projects that Katrina "could build to a top-of-the-chart Category 5 storm, with winds of 155 mph or higher," according to "National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield". NHC's projection for Katrina's most likely path is above. According to the Red Cross, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said that "'a storm this big heading directly toward it'" was unprecedented. (Relief efforts can be found at the above link.) Preparing for the worst, I extend my condolences to those whose lives will be affected, and to the survivors my deepest sympathies, by this storm.

"Brothers Grimm" Sucked, Don't See It

Oh, the power of advertising. Seems that previews can make any piece of shit movie look good. This applies wholeheartedly to Terry Gilliam's "The Brothers Grimm", which I saw yesterday. My disappointment, to put it delicately, revolves around the confused plot and cookie-cutter characters. Some funny moments, I guess. And then there is the inexplicably weird 'gingerbread' thing. Nevermind. It's ... not worth your time.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A Thinly Veiled Censorship Regime?

My first thought was, What's this? We're flagging our fellow bloggers now, letting Blogger determine whether to remove our sites? Ah, only for "objectionable content". Unfortunately, we don't seem to know what that exactly means. It's rather vague. We're told that it's a method for the blogosphere to rid itself of hate, and like most people, I don't hate. It's pointless and stupid, and inherently irrational. That's not the game I'm in.

Unfortunately for me, some of my thoughts (delivered more often than not in a self-described ranting, random manner) may inspire offense to, say, some people. I don't know. It may arise an objection, whatever it could be, from someone. Can't say. I just don't want to see a sort of witchhunt come of this, where no one feels free to exercise freedom of thought and expression and we all start to turn against each other, a community where everyone's a snitch. I don't want that, and I hope most others don't, either. It would be a real shame for a great democratic medium like our blogosphere to become something like that.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Sorry for the cynical post (below). It will not happen again.

Anyways, apologies aside, I've been considering a change for the name of this here blog: the Center for Random Rantage. What a stupid title. Unfortunately, I can't think of anything better. Peace.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


Sunday, August 14, 2005

Blogs and military misadventures are an odd mix. That said, Wired magazine, in its latest issue (August 2005, 13.08) has an article out, entitled "The Blogs of War", that talks about very courageous bloggers on the front-lines of the war in Iraq. (Well, wherever they have access to a computer and have the time.) And, as well, how this whole phenomenon is interacting with the Pentagon and its attempted censorship regime.

In the article, written by John Hockenberry, we hear of "an oddball online Greek chorus narrating the conflict in Iraq," whose "core group" consists "of about 100 regulars and hundreds more loosely organized activists, angry contrarians, jolly testosterone fuckups, self-appointed pundits, and would-be poets" in the milblogosphere that the Iraq war has created. The 'milbloggers', Hockenberry writes, "offer an unprecedented real-time real-life window on war and the people who wage it," and "constitute a rich subculture with a refreshing candor about the war, expressing views ranging from far right to far left." (It's good that it's a full spectrum.) But, though "the Pentagon officially tolerates this free-form online journalism and in-house peanut gallery," some measures are underway to filter out (i.e. censor), say, "casualty information".

"A new policy instituted this spring requires all military bloggers inside Iraq to register with their units," which seems reminiscent of the 'pooling' method by which media units were assigned to combat units during the first Iraq war. From Camp Falcon, stationed "in southern Baghdad", Cpt. Danjel Bout blogs to 365 and a Wakeup, which Hockenberry describes as "one of the most genuine accounts anywhere of what life is like for a soldier in Iraq." While the Pentagon appears ineffectual in its attempts to control the flow of information from soldiers writing from the battlefield, there has been at least one major instance of military censorship.

Just ask Michael Cohen. He was "a major and doctor with the 67th Combat Support Hospital based in Mosul," and his blog - 67cshdocs - "touched a nerve at the Pentagon late last year" when he recounted the medical response to the grisly attack against the mess hall tent there in December. Dr. Cohen was told by "'some people in the chain of command,'" as he tells it, that the details given on his blog "violate Army regulations," to which Cohen expressed shock. The Pentagon has shut it down, and so "Cohen stopped blogging" and is now "in Germany" (presumably at Ramstein AFB). However, you can still access his blog; the Internet Archive crawl has more-or-less all of it there.

Another target was "Army reservist Jason Hartley's popular and notoriously irreverent blog," Just Another Soldier. (Although it's been officially 'shut down', for some reason it's still online - well, another victory for democracy.) Hartley, who wrote on June 27, 2004, of coming across a Shi'a mosque that been blown up (concluding, "The Iraqis are as busy being assholes to each other as they are to us"), blogs no longer. He wrote: "Being a soldier is to live in a world of shit. From the pogues who cook my food and do my laundry to the Apache pilots and the Green Berets who do all the Hollywood stuff, our lives are in a constant state of suck." Meanwhile, the Pentagon's policy is "that blogs should not reveal any casualty information that could upset next of kin or any details that might jeopardize operational security." (Emphasis added) Hartley, though, was defiant, and continued "blogging a few months" after the Pentagon ordered his blog shut down. He was "demoted from sergeant to specialist," and since "returned to civilian life, though he's still in the reserves," with a memoir due to be published in September.

The milblogs that appear to rank highest are CBFTW's My War: Killing Time In Iraq, Sgt. Missick's A Line In The Sand, The Mudville Gazette, 1st Lt. Neil Prakash's Armor Geddon, Blackfive and 2Slick's Forum. I, for one, recommend reading them, and taking stock of the fact that, otherwise, that is if not for soldiers' blogs, the only journalists anywhere near the combat zone would be confined to the Green Zone, embedded at Camp Victory and surrounded by Bremer walls.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

This is the continuation to a post on ZMag Blog, in response to a commenter by the alias "the-abyss", whose post can be found here:

... America is the greatest because of the unparalleled level of liberty its people enjoy, and the potential that follows from the responsibility granted by that freedom is enormous. We also should take pride in the absence of established religion in government, the oft-cited 'checks and balances' that prevent a tyranny of the majority, and protections for minorities. Sorry for the civics lesson, but those help define what makes us great; our greatness ought not deny that of others throughout the world, either, and doesn't. It ought offend the most sincerely enamored of the ideal of America such as myself that these assholes in our White House are actively orchestrating the decimation of any hope of global cooperation to root out, say, terrorism and nuclear proliferation. And these patroned leaders wrap themselves in the very flag they tarnish all the while. It's so very sad.

Monday, August 01, 2005

It appears that monarchy reigns supreme: King Fahd of Saudi Arabia has died; the Prince has succeeded him to the throne. Congress is in recess; the President exploited his emergency appointment power to send John Bolton as Ambassador to the United Nations, until the end of 2006 pending confirmation by the Senate. Emergency! Obstructionist Senators (including turncoat Republican Voinovich) are blocking a radical unilateralist for some reason! (Abuse of power, anyone?) Oh, of course not.

Monday, July 25, 2005


The Amtrak was delayed (surprise surprise), but I've returned from Falcon Ridge. Those were four great days well spent, within the pastoral fields that flow from the Berkshires, listening to fine folk and being with good people. American communitarianism at its best, one could say. The masterful songwriter and guitarist Chris Smither, the feisty and passionate Ani DeFranco* and the very hilarious Vance Gilbert were my favorites. Another great performer was Susan Werner, who sang "Strange Nation", which was an incredible song. (If I could provide a link to the lyrics, I would.)

All said, I had a great time. (If I can figure out how to upload my cell phone pictures to this, I would do that, too.) Falcon Ridge** was one of those awesome, communal experiences that cannot effectively be put into words, because a lot in that way is lost.

*DeFranco's website has a link to a campaign by the Nuclear Information and Resource Service that is opposing a proposed plan to shuttle our national nuclear waste in a facility under an Indian reservation in Utah, apparently.

**This year was the last in which Falcon Ridge was held in Hillsdale (or Philmont or Craryville or wherever the hell we were, anyway). We don't know where it will be held next time but, as we heard, Falcon Ridge is not a location as much as a state of mind. And to that I very much agree.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Hiatus begins this Thursday, when I head off to New York and to the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. This will be my second time there. Should be a lot of good times, and so I'll blog y'all later.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Washington Post deputy foreign editor Pamela Constable wrote a fantastic column, "Torture's Echoes," a clear warning to never lose the vigilance needed for a democratic society to survive, in the face of the record of abuse and torture that has led from the 'coercive interrogation techniques' we've visited upon suspected terrorists throughout the world, from which we are prone to shy away and ignore. The more controversial methods are not only counterproductive ("... studies have shown that building trust and dependence is a far more reliable way to break resistance" and thus extract valuable, 'actionable' information from the people we capture than what "produces desperate lies," so-called 'torture lite') and show potential allies for our fight against terrorism an ugly side of ourselves, but, if we are not careful, may threaten the very principles upon which our Republic was founded.

Constable's focus is Chile. On September 11, 1973, we gave direct support for a coup in the country that installed General Pinochet as ruler, thus beginning a reign of terror that brutalized Chilean society as 'enemies' were summarily executed, or disappeared. But she is care not "to push the analogy too far," of course. However, the point driven home is that it can happen anywhere. But we are blessed with the democratic institutions to voice our dissent toward policies that will end up harming us, not granting us safety from those who wish us ill. Constable quotes a Chilean politican as lamenting that they had "'all failed as a society.'" I plead for us all to not let that be our fate.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

As a member of ZMag Blog, I made some comments on an article written by Paul Street, who claims the attacks in London were "a price of empire" that Prime Minister Blair and President Bush "are willing for us to pay". My thoughts set off something of a furor, and so I have some clarifications for the forum. (This is due to the word limit on that blog, as well as the asinine 20 minute wait period between posts.) Mr. Street, in a follow-up, ripped apart my arguments quite nimbly.

Hello, all. I never thought of setting off such a firestorm there, so here are some clarifications (and some amplifications):

I generally agree with the idea of 'moral universalism', first introduced to my thinking via the writings of Chomsky, by which the same ethical standards we apply to others are used to judge our own actions. The elegance of the idea is not that all are equal morally, but rather that the measure by which their actions are judged is the same. So, if we imagine murder to be wrong (and I suppose most people do), it is not relevant who is committing the act, for murder would be equally wrong in either case. In this way, intent is immediately dismissed as meaningless. By intending to free Iraq, we have ended up with the deaths of well over 20,000 Iraqi civilians. But their murder was not our intent. We place a much higher premium on human life, I believe, than terrorists who purposefully slaughter civilians without remorse for political aims. But that is still mass murder, regardless of our intent, right? (Adjusting for size of population, the toll of Iraqi civilian dead thus far is roughly equal to 236,000 Americans, which is nearly 79 times the magnitude of the toll of September 11.)

I strongly agree with exploring and developing alternate sources of energy. I paid $32 at the pump today, and eventually that money may go to end up funding the work of terrorists and other murderers. So, if not simply for the environmental damage, I'd like to stop helping a lot of that money flow into the hands of terrorists via the Saudi royal family and their oil ministers and barons, for example.

The central question one is lead to pose from Street's original post (which set off this spirited discussion from all of us) is whether the respective leaders of the US and UK governments are actually "willing to have us pay" the price of the war in Iraq with such gruesome attacks as befell London last Thursday. If so, it would follow that there are higher priorities for our respective leaders than protecting human life, which is sanctified in the President's mind. (Whether the Prime Minister agrees on the "sanctity" of life is an open question, for I don't really know.)

Finally, on the matter of justice in the light of the brutal attacks against Londoners on July 7, I draw a sharp distinction between it and revenge. Let's refer to the definition of "vengeance": in a word, retribution, which I interpret to imply a certain equality. You take out one of my eyes and I take out one of yours, as Hammurabi dictated. Ghandi is credited with observing that the only effect of this writ large is a world of the blind. Justice? "... the quality of being fair and reasonable" (The New Oxford American Dictionary [2001], 923) Is such a draconian law of Hammurabi's devising 'reasonable'? No, because there is nothing to ensure eyes being taken out from happening again, nothing to deter it but rather encourage its incidence by inciting people to poke each other's eyes out and, thereby, seek a strange conception of justice.

But how do retribution and justice fit within the context of terrorism, namely our response to it? The retributive action feeds oxygen to the fire, though it can be masked in the guise of justice. For instance, by overthrowing the tyranny of the Hussein regime and waging the ensuing war and occupation, over 20,000 Iraqi civilians are dead, but the rest have been freed of the former despot's brutality. This is simple. Assuming Iraq had any sort of role in the attacks of September 11 (almost completely ruled out by now), atrocities all their own, this would be such unreasonable retribution. Surely, Prime Minister Blair is not seeking to indescriminately murder fifty people from whatever country last Thursday's murderers take residence, right? For the sake of humanity, I hope not. Such an act would be blind retribution.

British journalist George Monbiot spoke of the idea of retributive *justice*. If one cuts off your right hand, instead of chopping off his you have him perform all of the lost functions of your right hand for the rest of his life. (How one could apply such a principle vis-a-vis the scale of terrorist atrocities is something I am thinking about, but it is difficult.)

I hope that clears up some things.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

UPDATE: Though the perpetrators of today's brutal attacks in London are not yet known, speculation of Qaeda involvement is surfacing, or some kind of affiliate, 'home-grown' terror group with fealty to bin Laden. Who knows at this point. The BBC is reporting, however, that "questions are quickly being asked about possible connections to the wave of violence launched by al-Qaeda" since September 11. But, as of yet, no confirmation on who did it from authorities. According to a report from the New York Times, an Islamist terror group "describing itself as affiliated to Al Qaeda took responsibility" for the bombings, though "British police said they were unable to confirm the authenticity of the claim." The Times adds that the so-called "Secret Al Qaeda Jihad Organization in Europe ... said the attacks were to avenge British involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq." If this lead proves true, it may mirror the purported reason sent out that the trains in Madrid were bombed in March 2004. Bastards. If God claims vengeance as his own sole right, as says the Bible, justice is ours. These murderers will never win.

33 Britons were murdered today as four explosions rocked the London transit system, wounding about 350 others, perhaps as high as 1,000. Local authorities do not yet know who was behind the bombings, but Prime Minister Tony Blair publicly linked the attacks to the ongoing G-8 Summit. (Above: Travelers walking "to safety", by Alexander Chadwick near Kings Cross; via the BBC.) This is simply a horrible, despicable act of terrorism, and we must help our friends across the pond to do whatever they can to find and prosecute those who abetted, condoned, and orchestrated these attacks, and see that justice is done for what happened today, and as well to prevent atrocities such as these from ever happening again.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

BULLETIN: New York Times reporter Judith Miller has been sent to jail for refusing in court to burn an anonymous source, while turncoat Time magazine and its reporter, Matthew Cooper, are off the hook from District Judge Thomas Hogan's investigation. This, in my view, is yet another event in a grim series that has heralded dark days for the field of journalism. In fourth months, Miller will be free. But will the press so be, as well?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

You all've read the reviews of Batman Begins, so I decided it wasn't worth my time to add my own thoughts on the film. Anyway, I had a good vacation, picked up a copy of Princeton University professor Harry Frankfurt's essay/book On Bullshit, which was very insightful. I hope you all had a good vacation, too.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

“Real patriots ask questions” — Carl Sagan

“The man who fears no truths has nothing to fear from lies” — Thomas Jefferson

“Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety” — Benjamin Franklin

“Be true to yourself and you cannot be a traitor to any good cause on Earth” — Eugene Debs

“[D]issent is the highest form of patriotism” — Howard Zinn

In other words, happy Independence Day. (According to Richard Shenkman, citing some scholarly literature in his book Legends, Lies and Cherished Myths of American History [1988], the actual date in which we declared independence from the British Crown was the Second of July, not the Fourth.)

P.S.: I have just returned from finally seeing (after two long weeks) Batman Begins, which I say was excellent. My review of it will have to wait until ... I return from vacation at Bethany for the weekend. Until then, goodbye.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Have yet to see Batman Begins, but I just got back from seeing War of the Worlds, which was excellent. I never finished reading the book on which it is based (by the great H.G. Wells), out of boredom, but the film (the second adaptation, the campy sci-fi flick of 1953 being the first [and apparently based not on Wells' novel but on the Orson Welles' radio broadcast]) was well-constructed and paced. Morgan Freeman's narration is spot-on, and suffice it to say the film was very good. Truly, it opened my eyes to our woeful unpreparedness for Martian invasion. But we certainly have plenty of threats at home to worry about first.

Monday, June 27, 2005

UPDATE: I realize that my coverage of the Iranian election was largely uncritical. A consensus is growing that it was not only fradulent but, in fact, rigged. Ardashir Tehrani, for one, has alleged it was in fact a coup ensheathed in the formalities and trappings of a 'democratic' process.

In my view, the fact that the poll was run by the Guardians Council, which screened out the most threatening of reformist candidates and serves as "the most influential body" in the Iranian regime, is illustrative of how free or fair the election actually was. It seemed to neither be free nor fair, if not downright suspicious: Ahmadinejad's victory was instantly seen as unusually surprising, given his obscure status a week earlier.

It is clear that there was a disconnect between the bloggers' predictions and what would come to pass. Pacific News Service commentator Nema Milaninia reflected two days before the run-off vote, writing on the "failure" of fellow bloggers to rightly anticipate the likely result, that "we were blindsided by the election results." But moreover, Milaninia's point is that, though "almost 100,000 weblogs" exist in Iran among "over 5 million Internet users" in the country, "bloggers represent the views of ... affluent and otherwise privileged individuals who already have access to independent foreign news sources." He concludes: "Bloggers alone ... are incapable of representing the way most Iranians think," particuarly the "disgruntled poor" as oppposed to "Tehran's disgruntled youths." As well was the lack of anticipation that Milaninia saw in blogging colleagues for the pressure that Iranian military/security forces would exert, obvious in retrospect. The inherent 'Tehran bias' clouded their crystal ball.

In the post below, I had considered making a reference to the election of our own last November (which was actually democratic). Specifically, how one could interpret Ahmadinejad/Rafsanjani as Bush/Kerry. As essentially the same, except for one's PR success and other's failure. Bush campaigned as the champion of the underdog and a populist (both laughable presumptions) who called for national unity and an excess of military might to "fight" the monolithic terrorists, among calls to radically reorder (i.e. destroy) Social Security, etc. Kerry's platform was basically the same albeit the national pension system needed to be zealously defended. He called for the addition of two divisions to the Army, emphasized his status as a 'person of faith' (the new PC term for 'religious person') and have no real disagreements about the war in Iraq or even the insane notion of 'preemptive' war.

On comparing the two elections, though, I was cut to the chase by Mr. Milaninia, who runs a blog called Iranian Truth. He wrote in a post yesterday that both the United States and Iran "have a filtering process" for potential candidates, whereas ours is economic versus the ideological/partisan filters of Iran. He also cited Ahmadinejad and Bush's exploitation of the working class and religion. There *is* truth in Iran, but it isn't coming from the ruling regime.

In other related news, former Iraq weapons inspector Scott Ritter (1991 - 1998) has claimed that "the US war with Iran has already begun. As we speak, American over flights of Iranian soil are taking place, using pilotless drones and other, more sophisticated, capabilities." More ominous are covert CIA actions, he alleges. He is making the assertion that it is supporting the terrorist organization Mujahadeen el-Khalq (MEK), "an Iranian opposition group ... now working exclusively for the CIA's Directorate of Operations", to "carry out remote bombings in Iran of the sort" of the daily suicide bombings in Iraq. Ritter also is claiming that "the US military is preparing a base of operations" in Azerbaijan, which borders Iran to its north, for what he anticipates as a "major" ground invasion. (If we take Ritter seriously, it would make sense that these actions are covert, for the popular support for doing to Iran what we did to Iraq would not exist.)

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, mayor of Tehran and reported hard-liner, defeated alleged reformist Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in yesterday’s run-off election. Marred by accusations of fraud, Ahmadinejad’s victory (a big surprise) is observed to "complicate" U.S.-Iranian relations — in the words of the Washington Post and the New York Times. The Iranian Interior Ministry’s figures give Ahmadinejad nearly 62% of the vote and Rafsanjani 36%, with the official turnout of 60%. (The Post rates the figure at 47%, among what I see as the only paper in the mainstream to have it that low.)

The upset outcome has neutralized the opposition and greatly disappointed — if not enraged — Iranian bloggers. The president-elect, Ahmadinejad, pledged to make the so-called Islamic Republic an "'exemplary, advanced and powerful nation,'" according to the Times account. He ran as a populist to counter millionnaire Rafsanjani, though the latter’s supporters claimed that this was a facade: "Rafsanjani supporters ... say Ahmadinejad is a front for the conservative appointees at the top of Iran’s byzantine constitutional structure who have thwarted the reformist agenda" of outgoing president Mohammad Khatami, according to the Post's story.

The White House’s response to the vote was one of noted pessimism. Nonetheless, we are told that our regime will "stand by those who call for greater freedom for the Iranian people," spokeswoman Maria Tamburri said. BBC News 'diplomatic correspondent' Jonathan Marcus reports that President Bush "dismissed the election out of hand before a single vote was cast."

In other words, Ahmadinejad’s victory "means that religious conservatives now have a monopoly on power controlling all of the elected and appointed institutions that govern the country." It is a serious threat to the Iranian people, who may now face significant rollbacks on the reforms that outgoing moderate president Khatami made.

The concern the US is expressing is not unwarranted. Ahmadinejad "has long worked with some of this country’s most conservative institutions, from the Basij — the militia that often patrols the streets and enforces strict codes of dress and conduct — to the Revolutionary Guards," according to the Times. We read that Ahmadinejad’s "main support came from the most powerful institutions in the country."

Immediately after the results were disclosed by the Iranian regime, Rafsanjani "alleged that an illegal dirty tricks campaign had been mounted" against his campaign by the state, all of whose "'means ... were used in an organised and illegal way to intervene'" in the poll.

But had he won, the changes to Iran would likely have remained cosmetic. Although my knowledge on the subject is cursory, my understanding is that when the state has made its intention clear to remove all serious reformers from running (and all female candidates), you can suspect a practically meaningless reshuffling of the same cards. What's worse is that, according to BBC correspondent Frances Harrison in Tehran, Ahmadinejad’s "victory now puts all the organs of state in the hands of the hardliners."

In other words, the Iranian regime is seen now to be hastening its own collapse by consolidating power in the hands of the old clerical elite, who will soon find themselves wholly outmoded by a society (50% of which is under the age of 25) that is quickly becoming modern and interconnected. A key movement is led by bloggers, such as those who run Iran Scan, the Brooding Persian, and the people at openDemocracy, among whom is 'former regime loyalist turned vocal critic' Mohsen Sazegara, who writes that these bloggers are of the 'third generation' of modern Iranians: they are the product of a rapidly growing, urbanized and literate population, one that has begun to use the Internet to express dissent against a geriatric ruling class. "A new paradigm is emerging," Sazegara writes.

BBC News reports that the Persi-blogosphere’s reaction has been "a mixture of shock, anger, despair, cynicism and irony." Iran’s blogger community has created "a popular forum for dissent," one that for "the first time ... [has] had the chance to be involved in a presidential election campaign."

Exclaimed 'Mr Behi' on Iran Scan, "It Happened! What we were all afraid of. Look who is leaving, Khatami, the intellectual that we were proud of, and see who is coming, a hard line conservative, who makes it humiliating to be Iranian." If I may, I’m sure many Americans felt a similar sentiment when President Bush was elected last November.

Although the regime’s Guardian Council officially "dismissed allegations of election fraud," much to that point has been cited. For instance, "some 300 complaints of electoral violations in Tehran alone" were reported, and British foreign secretary Jack Straw cited "'serious deficiencies' in the election". Nonetheless, aside from claims of fraud and the apparent absence of Western observers, I see a tremendous amount of hope in the grassroots groundswell rising beneath the Iranian ruling elite. It is a great democratic achievement. The election, unfortunately, does not appear so.

Friday, June 24, 2005

"Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers." -- Karl Rove, Chief Adviser to President Bush

There's a way to settle this polarized political climate: slap the badge of anti-Americanism on an entire wing of the spectrum, thus provoking outrage and further polarization, which can be blamed on them for creating the bitter environment in the first place! "Boy Genius", indeed. And a real asshole.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

I recently registered to openDemocracy, a network of people committed not simply to global democratization but also a number of other topics. As a free member, I don't have access to, well, most features of the site, but I can post shit and so I am a part of it nonetheless. Currently, the subject under the spotlight is the election in Iran, about which the race is between reported 'reformist' Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the runner-up. The run-off election is scheduled to be held this Friday. The BBC is reporting, amid heated charges of fraud from opposition candidates (particularly moderate Mostafa Moin, remarked to not have the 'charisma' of the current president), that the Guardians Council, running the election, rebuked the charges that depicted the poll as unfair and slanted. The Iranian foreign minister has even demanded President Bush's apology for his administration's criticism of the election.

Yeah, right. Regardless, the blogosphere in Iran is actively involved in the process, providing their people an alternate view of the events as they happen. As a blogger (as is obvious) and, as well, an aspiring journalist, I see a lot of hope here. Rafsanjani has the plurality (about 21%) as of now but, until the 24th, we'll all have to wait and see.

Monday, June 20, 2005

GB Glace, Sweden's largest ice cream manufacturer, marketed this new brand recently that has drawn fire for its "race-baiting" name, 'Nogger Black'. Smart move there, GB.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

I can't believe I haven't seen Batman Begins yet. Damn. I was a big fan of the cartoon series of the early 90s, some good stuff there. Very well animated. Nothing like those shitty cartoons that kids are being fed today. Naw. The Batman animated series was almost cinematic in its quality, at least as I remember it. Anyways, gotta see this new movie; it looks good. Will keep you posted once I see the film, maybe pseudo-review it.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The American death toll in Iraq has exceeded 1,700. In these dark times, I am going to take a break for awhile from heavy, terrible matters like that. For now, enjoy the 'Rays of Hope' (above).

Sunday, June 12, 2005

According to The Washington Post, only 39 out of 330 suspected terrorists have been convicted of crimes related to the atrocities of September 11. ("U.S. Campaign Produces Few Convictions on Terrorism Charges," Dan Eggen and Julie Tate, 12 June 2005, A1) More shocking is the revelation that 180, over half of the suspects, were found to "have no demonstrated connection to a terrorist group" (emphasis added).

What does this mean? The Post reports that "a large number of people appear to have been swept into U.S. counterterrorism investigations by chance — through anonymous tips, suspicious circumstances or bad luck — and have remained classified as terrorism defendants years after being cleared of connections to extremist groups." In other words, this ‘war on terrorism’ is a charade, orchestrated to appear like a serious, comprehensive investigation of the financial and logistical support given to the murderers who took the lives of 3,000 American people.

Instead, what we now see is a sham, a betrayal of the trust under which the state swore to protect us. The report continues, "A wide variety of crimes is included on the Justice Department’s list of terrorism prosecutions." ("Classifying Crimes," A19) Out of 319 total criminal convictions, the graphic (print version; the one posted online is different) reads that 46 were classified as relating to terrorism or national security — a little over 14% of the total.

This is nothing less than an outrage, and is at best counterproductive toward defeating al Qaeda, which is what we must do. Thus far, our government has failed us in that crucial effort, and has made the fight all the worse by giving Qaeda members and their affiliates their greatest propaganda victory, the invasion and continuing occupation of Iraq. This is a national tragedy, and because we live in a democratic society we all have a share of the responsibility. We must tell our entrusted leaders not to abrogate their duty to protect us, all the while ensuring the survival of the liberties are embedded in the founding of this country, so we can start to fight terrorism at last.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Washington Post had this picture printed today, as a part of an article explaining how hard it is to recruit kids into the Army for some reason ...
I have a column in gestation that I'm thinking of submitting to the New York Times. It'd be really sweet if they published it. I'll post a copy of the final version when I'm finished with the piece.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Writer's block has struck me down.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Earlier last week, Amnesty International (AI) publicized its annual report, which accused the United States of being among the world's worst human rights offenders and, in a strikingly audacious move, labeled Guantánamo "the gulag of our times"—an outrageous assertion, as I will explain below. In the opinion pages of last Friday's New York Times, columnist Thomas Friedman declared that our "war-on-terrorism P.O.W. camp" in Cuba "has become worse than an embarrassment." ("Just Shut It Down," 27 May 2005, A23) Strong words—not as bold, certainly, as equating the camp to the Soviet peasant prisons that brutally enforced collectivism and left millions in starvation, as the goods they harvested at gunpoint were shuttled off for the benefit of the Kremlin.

Guantánamo is, by contrast, a complex of detention facilities in which several hundreds of suspected terrorists have been held: incommunicado and without charge, trial by jury or legal counsel, in conditions that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Human Rights Watch and AI find appalling. Moreover, it is well-known that the Administration ducked the prerogatives of international humanitarian law (notably the 3rd Geneva Conventions) and, many argue, the U.S. Constitution, in its prosecution of captured suspects to whom it refuses to apply prisoner of war (POW) status. The prisoners at Guantánamo, in effect, are 'enemy combatants' with no legal rights. But the prosecution of suspected terrorists is not quite the issue here.

The matter at hand is whether we, the American people, can accept the lasting black eye landed on our image by what is being done in our name on a leased patch of land in Cuba. Friedman, not to be outdone by AI's scathing assessment, issues a plea to the President. "I am convinced that more Americans are dying and will die if we keep the Gitmo prison open than if we shut it down," he writes, which logically has two things wrong with it. Americans are getting killed, in Iraq, because they're being blown up and shot down by insurgents. I honestly don't believe Guantánamo plays a factor in our occupation.

So why should we shut down Gitmo? According to Friedman, the "P.O.W." camp must be immediately discontinued because, to paraphrase, it is dealing serious harm to our global image and is counterproductive to winning the war on terror, because it is producing the effect of "inflaming sentiments against the U.S. all over the world and providing recruitment energy ... for those who would do us ill." Gitmo is thus a propaganda victory for al Qaeda and its affiliates. Friedman's solution, in which we see the second problem with his argument, is to "put them on trial, convict as many possible (which will not be easy because of bungled interrogations) and then simply let the rest go home or to a third country." The last of these is known as 'extraordinary rendition,' where the suspects – or enemy combatants, depending on who's talking — are flown to their country of residence. The Administration relies on a verbal assurance that the respective regimes will not torture the prisoners; no confirmation seems necessary, perhaps because such an attempt would be seen as violating a trust between the United States and whatever country is the prisoner's former home. Friedman's solution, in part, seems to encourage this CIA practice.

Gitmo ought not be shut down. It should be made more transparent, and the officials accountable for any wrongdoing. At the very least, charges against the prisoners ought be given. This is the lowest common standard; in this war on terrorism, it's the best for which we can hope — not only for us Americans, but for the entire world and how we appear to them. How else will the vital cooperation to defeat al Qaeda be achieved if most people abroad hold us in their minds as barbarians? Not by formenting terrorism, surely.

Saturday, May 28, 2005


Saturday, May 21, 2005

Have returned from seeing Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith at the Uptown in Washington. Always great to see films at that theatre, albeit the sometimes excessively long line (expected for such a place). The last Star Wars, the one that adjoins the two trilogies, was very satisfying in that all the questions you may still have are answered. The circle is closed, and the final pieces are locked into place. The low points go to the poor delivery of sometimes flat, dull dialogue that detracts from the overall spectacle, saturated with CG to the point at which the action is amassed into a dizzing blur. The magic of the Jedi loses its novelty in the process, as well, which is a shame.

Moreover, Revenge is an allegorical morality play, but one that is only half-formed. The Jedi, portrayed in my interpretation as moral absolutists, are defending their 'Old Order' from the Sith, who are the relativists, conceiving the whole business of ethics as tied to one's personal perspective. This point is amplified throughout, until the stirring climax, after which the circle is drawn to its conclusion. I could go into more detail here, but the film premiered just about two days ago (counting the midnight showing), so I'll not ruin anything for those left to see it, who number in the several millions

It's the last Star Wars; but, as A.O. Scott of the New York Times pointed out, it's the middle of the two trilogies. In other words, you are bound to see a lot of (successfully) patched ends and the like. More to the point, Scott's well-crafted review reads that the film "is about how a republic dismantles its own democratic principles, about how politics becomes militarized, about how a Manichaean ideology undermines the rational exercise of power." You know, that sort of artsy conjecturing from a premiere elite paper like The Times. Echoing the full-circle idea, Scott writes: "Democracies swell into empires, empires are toppled by revolutions, fathers abandon their sons and sons find their fathers." That's about all there is to it. And other such nondescript generalities. Well ... just see it. By the way, I didn't give away shit.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Nationals defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 1-0 tonight, in an electrifying ninth inning before which the game was stuck at zero to zero. I was glad I was there to see it. It was great.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Was at HFStival 2005 in Baltimore yesterday. M&T Bank Stadium. Had a great time, lost a free hat in an excessively chaotic mosh pit. Also enjoyed the gouging, as in $4 for a bottle of water. Police pretty much everywhere, a chopper circling overhead during the scorching afternoon. A cool rain was very much welcomed, and later a thunderstorm nearly canceled the event entirely. Foo Fighters was incredible, as was Coldplay and ... They Might Be Giants (you guessed it). By the way, I'm not moshing for awhile. It was too much. Fuckin' crowd-surfer jackasses. All in all, a lot of fun. I'm out of money.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

There it is. (To your right) It's not as fast as before, or as legible, but it's OK. Look at it go.
Everything is pretty much back to normal, I think. I got some outside help. (You know who you are.) Oh, yeah, have to put that counter back on. You know, the real-time cost of the Iraq war? Yeah, that little counter. It's good to be back.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The new episodes of Family Guy have finally returned to network TV. After watching the first of the new season last night, it looks to me that it's as great as ever. Seriously, Mr. MacFarlane and his crew still got it. Thank you, FOX. And, if you would also end my beloved Simpsons and lay it to rest, another thanks would be coming your way.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Sorry about the DeLay. And there's nothing wrong with your browser; the blog has major issues, serious and critical issues which I at the moment have no time to take care of. But once I do, I'll get that commentin' up in order once and for all, and tell ya about Spain (with pictures). And if you haven't heard Ambulance Ltd, get that shit now! It's beyond description, to borrow Mr. Garcia's phrase. It seems that while I was (poorly) attempting to fiddle with the comment code I messed up the layout and font-size info ... needless to say, the site is a little funny looking right now. And the Blogger Help people have not returned my email. Shame on them. Anyways, I'm tired so I'm-a go sleep.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Speaking of the President, his address today confirms his refusal to face reality. Below is an excerpt; I have put emphasis on the parts of it where he either ignores the truth or patently uses the horrific attacks on our nation as an implicit justification of the attack on Iraq:

"On this day two years ago, we launched Operation Iraqi Freedom to disarm a brutal regime, free its people, and defend the world from a grave danger. Before coalition forces arrived, Iraq was ruled by a dictatorship that murdered its own citizens, threatened its neighbors, and defied the world. We knew of Saddam Hussein's record of aggression and support for terror. We knew of his long history of pursuing, even using, weapons of mass destruction, and we know that September the 11th requires our country to think differently. We must, and we will, confront threats to America before they fully materialize. ..."

President Bush continues to believe, according to the address he delivered today, that we "disarmed" a regime of the WMD it did not have, but claimed it did so as to justify the war in the first place. The President also invoked 'defense' as a cover for what was clearly an act of aggression; an illegal one at that, as conceded by Richard Perle, one of the very Pentagon officials among those who wanted this war more than anyone in the administration. And what has become standard practice, Bush once again exploits the September 11 attacks to serve as a pretext for the radical notion of 'pre-emptive' war, in of itself disgusting and, of course, a slap in the face of the victims and their families. Toward the end of the address, Bush says that only through "the fire of liberty" will we "purge the ideologies of murder by offering hope" to the oppressed.

To briefly deconstruct, the attack on Iraq and subsequent invasion was simply a way to give hope to the 26 million people chained under Hussein's regime, wholly excluding the means by which we freed them. But having done so, we will rid the world of "ideologies of murder" (methods, like 'Shock and Awe') and see freedom spread like fire throughout the world. Only in passing does he give his token words of 'thanks' to our GIs, excusing their tragic deaths by saying the war we waged on Iraq two years ago was essentially an act of self-defense that has inspired the influence of freedom in that region, while "their sacrifice has added to America's security and the freedom of the world." I really don't know what is worse: continuing to blind oneself to reality, or bastardizing the memory of the fallen. Shame on you, Mr. President.