Monday, July 31, 2006

Best "Impeach Bush" Sign Ever

The Freeway Blogger shoots and scores.
If this guy can climb a radio tower in Afghanistan, you should be able to reach that fencing next to the freeway behind the dumpsters at the mall.
I'll get right on that.

Suck On This!

ZOMG! For shame! For shame!

Those damned dirty hippies and their need to display naked breasts in public! What ever will we do about them?

And That's All For Condi...

It is all over for Sec. of State Condi Rice but the shouting. Steve Soto over at Left Coaster has the basic take right, but I think misses the all-important point: Condi's impotence was planned. If you look very carefully, you'll see an "Office of the Vice President" seal on the handle of that letter opener sticking out her back.

Sorry Steve, as correct as you are about the rest of it, this was planned. And she is starting to show signs that she finally realizes her ship is on fire and taking on water in her flailing, as noted in the AFP story about Condi's triumphant return to D.C. after getting punked by Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Senoira, to wit:
"Despite failing to stop the fighting, Rice earlier said in Jeruslam that she believed she had managed to underpin a future lasting peace.

"As I head back to Washington, I take with me an emerging consensus on what is necessary for both an urgent ceasefire and a lasting settlement," Rice said.

"I am convinced we can achieve both this week," said Rice, who laid out broad principles of a proposed deal, but did not discuss the exact measures that would be adopted to put it in place.
These pronouncements come less than 24 hours after announcing that she personally put the Israelis in a headlock until they agreed to cease aerial attacks for 48 hours.

Then this morning the Israelis commenced their aerial attacks again, and said they never agreed to any such blanket suspenstion of air activity, and that they don't know where Condi gets off telling the world anything of the sort. Advantage: Big Time

Notice the speed and vigor with which Preznit Jugg Hed and the rest of his posse inside the wire have lept to the defense of Condi...

I will say this, however... if she does manage to pull something resembling a political miracle out of her ass, I really will be impressed. But as of right now, she just looks like she is flailing, and has just noticed that there are forces in the administration that have pulled her card ... as the kids like to say...

mojo sends

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Looks like Ankara Is Going to Get Into the Anti-Terror Biz...

WARNING SIGN - toldja so[Updated Below]
So we have finally managed to wear down Turkey's patience to the point where they are engaging Kurdish guerillas of the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK).

And now their young men are starting to come home in plastic bags and the government is Ankara is starting to lose patience, as well as political clout on the home front. [c.f. this article]

You know, "We Told You So!" just doesn't seem to do it justice. No, it does not seem to convey the sense of wonder and awe at watching a long-foretold military train-wreck turned political horror-show unfold before you, despite the shrill warnings, hoarsely shouted from the highest rooftops.

Check it:
Israel launched airstrikes on Lebanon in response to attacks by Hizbullah earlier this month, and George W. Bush called it "self-defense." But what to tell the Turks, who over the last week lost 15 soldiers to terror attacks launched by sepa-ratist Kurds from neighboring Iraq? Many Turkish leaders are pressing for cross-border tactical air assaults on the guerrillas. But Bush, fearing yet another escalation of the Middle East's violence, urged Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to hold off. "The message was, unilateral action isn't going to be helpful," says a senior U.S. official, describing the 15-minute phone conversation. "The president asked for patience."
The Turkish press has been baying for action, with even the solidly pro-American Turkish Daily News railing in an editorial that "Turkey is no banana republic that can leave its security to the mercy of others." Another editorial posed the question more directly. "Why is it that Israel has the right to 'self-defense'," the paper asked, "and not Turkey." The country's usually fractious parliamentary opposition, in a rare moment of unity, called for active intervention. "Opposition," says True Path Party leader Mehmet Agar, "ends at Habur"—Turkey's border crossing with Iraq."
And then we've really got ourselves a ballgame. And it's not like we can go in and "buyoff" the PKK, because we have nothing they want, right now, other than the keys to a Greater Republic of Kurdistan.

How long will Turkey remain in the Coalition of the Willingly Bought (or hell, NATO, for that fact) if it looks like the U.S. is going to help the Kurds create something resembling an independent Kurdish republic on Turkey's southern border?

Update 1.0: The New Anatolian an English language, Turkish newspaper of a nationalist flavor, is reporting this morning, that National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley is out with the NSC Fire Brigade right now promising Ankara that the U.S. is going to crack down on the PKK any day now.

Great. I can see no downside:
"The U.S. is considering concrete steps with Iraq against the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), said National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, after Tuesday's talks between the U.S. president and the Iraqi prime minister.

"There are concrete steps the U.S. can take to show both Iraqis and Turks that there is a plan to deal with the problem and it has to be done more aggressively," Hadley told reporters following talks with Iraqi officials who accompanied Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to the White House. "We identified some steps that can be taken and that the Iraqis are going to take," he said.

Stressing that U.S. President George W. Bush has given assurances to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Hadley said, "I think he was relived.
[sic] Now we've got to deliver on it."
Oh. My. God.

Six years in, and they are still making this shit up as they go along. How soon, now before our Kurdish allies turn their guns on those American troops who liberated them from Saddam because they now have the uneviable job of keeping the Kurdish man in his place. If this continues this way, there is no way this ends well.

mojo sends

Just Read It...

Yeah... no commentary... just go read it!

And know that "your monkey's kung fu is not strong!"

mojo sends

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Officials Reportedly Saying, "What The Fuck?"

Via The Mighty Billmon (who has been on fire for the last two weeks), we are now hearing from Ken Silverstein at Harpers that U.S. troops may be headed for Lebanon, notwithstanding the bullshit currently peddled by our much vaunted Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.
According to the former official, Israel and the United States are currently discussing a large American role in exactly such a “multinational” deployment, and some top administration officials, along with senior civilians at the Pentagon, are receptive to the idea.

The uniformed military, however, is ardently opposed to sending American soldiers to the region, according to my source. “They are saying 'What the fuck?'” he told me.
I'll just bet they are. My, what lovely weather we're having, isn't it?

I wonder when the U.S. military brass are going to figure it out. Their civilian leadership isn't interested in reducing tensions in the Middle East. They're interested in trying to fulfill Biblical prophecy, and using American troops as pieces on their eschatological chess board to do it [*].

* Maybe, you have a more believable explanation for why they're on a single-minded quest to try to fuck up as much shit as possible. If so, feel free to speculate in the comments.

This Is Your Economy On Drugs...

Over at Calculated Risk, you should check out their excerpt from the Summer 2006 FDIC Outlook. Fascinating.

The basic story is that non-traditional sub-prime home mortgages have grown explosively in the last couple of years, primarily as a means of allowing new homebuyers to bridge the so-called "affordability gap" rather than how those mortgages have historically been used, i.e. by real estate speculators.

I'll say it again. There is a financial crisis in the mortgage lending industry winding up for a sucker punch to the global economy. Have you noticed that experienced real estate people have stopped their happy talk about "soft landing" scenarios?

The big question on my mind is whether the unwinding of the mortgage lending imbalance won't trigger an even bigger avalanche in the $300 trillion over-the-counter derivatives market. That would be a financial crisis of unimaginable proportions.

The Revolution Has Gone Public...

Assclown Warning It does appear as though it might be "Night of the Long Knives" for Sec. of State Condi Rice. Insight Magazine, a neoclown rag published by the Moonie Fishwrap ... err Washington Times has an article that I have been suspecting was coming down the pike.

Looks like the Vice President Big Time is getting ready to have Condi spaced out the airlock. Here are the important bits:
Conservative national security allies of President Bush are in revolt against Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, saying that she is incompetent and has reversed the administration’s national security and foreign policy agenda.
"We are sending signals today that no matter how much you provoke us, no matter how viciously you describe things in public, no matter how many things you're doing with missiles and nuclear weapons, the most you'll get out of us is talk," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said.
"Condoleezza Rice has moved from the White House to Foggy Bottom, a mere mile or so away," Mr.
[former Chair of the Defense Policy Board Richard] Perle wrote in a June 25 Op-Ed article in the Washington Post that has been distributed throughout conservative and national security circles. "What matters is not that she is further removed from the Oval Office; Rice's influence on the president is undiminished. It is, rather, that she is now in the midst of—and increasingly represents—a diplomatic establishment that is driven to accommodate its allies even when (or, it seems, especially when) such allies counsel the appeasement of our adversaries."
Now, I am not going to be a big Condi supporter. I do think she has been an incompetent Secretary of State, who's primary qualification for the job has been a nominal loyalty to the Preznit. Unfortunately, you all know who the next Secretary of State is going to be if Condi's career ends up being tossed under the merciless treads of the Mighty Wurlitzer...

Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome U.S. Secretary of State John Bolton. I think that would be the final piece of the puzzle for the Neoclowns hegemony over foreign policy. With Bolton in place, they would finally have someone who's loyalty is to the Vice President and to an ideology, and the President can just go play with his plastic army doods in the Oval while the adults get on with blowing shit up and running the world...

Here is another fairly important quote, and this one makes, -- I think -- the most salient point about the palace coup underway:
Miss Rice served as Mr. Bush's national security adviser in his first term. During his second term, Miss Rice replaced Mr. Powell in the wake of a conclusion by the White House that Mr. Bush required a loyalist to head the State Department and ensure that U.S. foreign policy reflected the president's agenda.[emphasis added]
This is a major point. The last thing the neoclowns and Big Time's pals want is the President of the United States actually making foreign policy, for good or ill. The nerve of the uppity little dilletente twit, he actually thinks he should run the country instead of Big Time.

So make no mistake, Condi is being set up to fail with the current Israeli/Lebanese crisis. Her own underlings at this delicate moment are penning turgid criticisms of her ability, the Israelis are making end runs around her to go directly to others in the national security apparatus for military assistance (or so it is reported), she will find herself with very little clout when it counts, because it will be apparent that she will have no real influence with the right people in the adminsitration, who even now are just ignoring her anyway.

And the Israelis don't particularly like Maximum Leader or Rice, and would rather deal with Big Time and his gang, since they speak a similar language in terms of international use of force. It is not much of a secret they would rather see a Bolton as Sec. of State than Rice.

When Bolton becomes Secretary of State, then we can almost guarantee the final plans will be ready for a World War III starring all of South Asia.

mojo sends

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Wheels Have Come Off The Trainwreck...

trainwrecked News item this afternoon from Bloomberg: Maximum Leader is calling for more U.S. troops to redeploy from other parts of the country into Baghdad.

Here's a bit of it: "Our military commanders tell me that this deployment will better reflect the current conditions on the ground in Iraq,'' Bush said. "And obviously, the violence in Baghdad is still terrible, and therefore there needs to be more troops.''

Holy crap... did the President just come out and say that? Am I dreaming this? Of course, this comes on the heels of another Tony Snow moment (and aren't these just becoming the most precious things ever!): You have -- I think there's an attempt, and it's very alluring to politicians here to try to make the situation sound like civil war everywhere. No, there are parts of Iraq where life is proceeding with a fair degree of normalcy, where people are enjoying greater economic opportunity and they're enjoying the fruits of democracy.

For real... read the whole briefing. It has become kinda sad, really. They have made Tony the journalistic equivalent of a prison bitch. They are not even pretending to try to get real information from him, now. They are just pushing the button on the battery pack that makes the monkey twitch...

But that aside...

Has the situation become so bad in Baghdad that we are now having to withdraw from the rest of the country to reassert our control over the capital? And regardless of what Tony Snow has been banging into his remaining veins to make it possible just to lurch out to the podium in the morning and say hideous shit like "it's getting back to normal out in the country in iraq" any objective reading, even from the wingnuts, will tell you that is not the case.

Are we really on the verge of losing?

Or can I really get the big tinfoil hat out, and say that putting a lot of U.S. troops in the capital would make it much easier to redeploy those troops to Israel/Lebanon...

Unfortunately, I can't offer a link, however I was listening to NPR this afternoon, and their correspondent covering the situation said that although Sec. of State Condi Rice has not made a commitment for U.S. ground forces to help Israel, the war planners in Tel Aviv "have proceeded as if that is going to be the case," and apparently officials from Ehud Olmert's government have gone around Rice directly to other officials in the Administration to press for a commitment for U.S. combat troops.

Good thing they'll be pretty close to an airport when the order comes... because apparently when you're too busy toadcranking UN observers, it's tough to root out the actual terrorists, and the U.S. has proven so efficient at that...

mojo send

Reading about War is Fundamental!

LTC Bob Bateman is a frequent contributor to Eric Alterman's Altercation, and former West Point instructor who recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq, where he frequently corresponded with Altercation readers. He has proven to be an insightful and thought provoking correspondent, and today he offered a fascinating insight about our countries relationship with the military:

Tom Ricks, the journalist, and Andrew Bacevich, the soldier-turned-academic, know war. They have studied it, researched it, and in their cases, seen it as well. There are also a limited number of qualified commentators out there as well, but the number, sadly, is entirely too small for our Republic, especially when we are at War. We need more people, educated in the history/theory/practice of war, participating in our democracy, for without the depth of knowledge, we do not have a breadth of opinions, and again, in a democracy this is not good. Given that we are a nation which increasingly relies upon 3 percent to protect the other 97 percent, we will have less and less personal understanding and experience, which is OK. But we need to replace that with something.

What I like about this observation is that he doesn't condemn anybody for being a puke civilain who should just shut the Fsck up. But he does put his finger on something here. More Bateman:
Note, in all of that I did not say that you should like war, or that you should condone war, or even that you should agree with the idea of war in any way shape or form. But just as an environmentalist must study economics and the science of, say, the logging or oil industry to be an effective environmentalist, so too must a citizen study those things which affect their nation most directly. For four years now, the thing which has affected us most directly has been, well, war. Even our presidential elections, to some degree, hinged upon events in a war long past and even more on perceptions of who would be more astute in their application of force within war. (No, I am not endorsing one side or the other, I am merely noting how reputations on some topics affect larger events.)

In fact, we have a lot of "fans" of military operations and history, but that fandom is largely devoid of a depth of understanding based in historical context, which is what Bateman seems to be suggesting here:
Bacevich, in his title, makes assumptions about his readers. I think we should stop making those assumptions. I have realized that almost nobody has actually read Clausewitz, and even fewer have read the thought-pieces which resulted in the idiotic theory of “Shock and Awe.” But you need to read a lot of history, and at least some military theory, to really understand how damned stupid the idea of Shock and Awe really was, and how it has been tried (under different names) over and over again since the late 1920s, and it never works! Perhaps, just perhaps, if some people in the right places had read more military history, well, things might have turned out different.

Shock and Awe was a phrase that fit in perfectly with today's news dissmenation model, yet it described a military doctrine(if that is the correct word) that apparently is held in low regard by military professionals. I haven't read Clausewitz, he is waiting in the vast reservoir of audio books I have downloaded from Audbile for consumption after I get through all three volumes of Shelby Footes excellent Civil War books. Bateman suggests a few reading lists for anyone interested in descending into the depths of military history.

While I generally agree with Bateman here that our republic would benefit from a citizenry more familair with the history of human conflict, I have a few concerns about this idea. I can read Sun Tzu, and Clausewitz, and Julius Casers accounts of his campaign in Gaul and dozens of other books and treatises on the subject. None of this will transform me into Alexander the Great. It probably will not even turn me into Sgt Pepper.

What I suspect it will do is give me a better persepctive on the complexity and consequences of war on societies in the long term, and make me a bit more sceptical about promises of quick victories, easy withdrawals, military nation building and other canards. I like to think I am already, but more knowledge couln't hurt and I will enjoy the journey immensely. But I can easily see how one could digest this information and start placing a little too much confidence in their skills as an armchair general. Just because I watch a lot of Basketball doesn't mean that Phil Jackson hasn't forgotten more about the game than I will ever know. Just because I read books about the Pelponnesian War doesn't mean I can diagnose every conflict that might arise by making absurd historical analogies to that dreadful mess in Ancient Greece. (Yes, I am staring at you Dan Simmons)

One of the things I believe is truly worthwhile in Batemans suggestion is that it might help deconstruct the proposition that you need to be a blooded veteran to hold a valid opinion on any military issue. A little less reverance for the "experts" that are trotted out on major news outlets where they generally operate less as valid observers offering insights to viewers and more as cheerleaders gleefully passing on the latest propoganda. "Shock and Awe" was pimped in large measure by the majority of "military analysts" on the networks. We need to trust our opinions and insights as much as we do the "experts". Batemans suggestion is a good way in my view to ground those insights in substantive ideas and history.

Or, we could just all play Starcraft. Whatever is easier.

Everyone Called Him The Coward of the County...

[Update Below]
Wow... this is kind of weird.

What the hell does this portend? Arlen Specter may really be about to get off the reservation by pushing legislation that will allow Congress as a corporate entity to seek judicial review of the President's use of signing statements. [c.f. this article]

Apparently, Specter will have a bill ready for submission by the end of the week, he says.

I already know what the prevailing view will be from my fellow editors, especially s9 who will say something like "this is all just a put up job. The bill has no chance of passing, and he knows it, and even if it does, it will require a Congress to be all on the same page at the same time..." or some variation on a theme.

And I am not sure that I disagree. But there is a deeper political context here, and it starts with Specter reaching for something resembling plausible deniability. On Monday, the American Bar Association's working group on signing statements and separation of powers released a report that simply had the lawyers all reaffirming what we already knew:
[...] transparency is essential if the American people are to have confidence that the rule of law is being respected by both citizens and government leaders. ... Abuse of presidential signing statements poses a threat to the rule of law,"
But it is also important to note this line from the report released on Monday:
That the American Bar Association urges Congress to enact legislation enabling the President, Congress, or other entities or individuals, to seek judicial review, to the extent constitutionally permissible, in any instance in which the President claims the authority, or states the intention, to disregard or decline to enforce all or part of a law he has signed, or interprets such a law in a manner inconsistent with the clear intent of Congress, and urges Congress and the President to support a judicial resolution of the President's claim or interpretation.
Now not even I believe that Specter woke up Monday morning, cracked open The Post and thought to himself: "Hey... that's a hell of an idea, let me get my top legislative aids on the phone to start working up some language I can put in front of my colleagues by the end of the week." This was coordinated. The ABA doesn't issue many press releases, much less hold full blown press conferences that are then followed up 24 hours later by ranking senators on senior committees introducing legislation to pimp the bar's position, unless there is some coordination.

And Specter is not going to do something like this without some sort of behind the scenes support of some of his GOP colleagues. Whether the thing passes or not is irrelevant. It's mere existence is a sign that something has finally snapped in the Senate. I read this as a sign that internally, the GOP is looking at poll numbers and that they are scrambling to do something, that even if it fails, the people involved can go to the home district with a pyhrric victory.

The involvement of the ABA as a political force can not be counted out either. Remember, it was the ABA that was one of the first players in the beltway to be wished into the cornfield by Maximum Leader. But the ABA represents lawyers across a broad spectrum of the American legal scene. From devil-worshipping trial lawyers to corporate counsel, to district attorneys to public defenders to the guy who is taking care of Grandma's estate. And these people are among the biggest number of campaign contributors.

And, politically speaking, the ABA does not saddle-up lightly.

Now assuming that we have something resembling a fair and free election in November (and to my mind that is still a big assumption) there are key senators and members of the house who are looking at growing dissatisfaction with the President and are concerned that the folks back home will take it out on them. So the time for them to take action would be now.

I also think that Maximum Leader, or more likely Vice President Big Time, has had a bad habit of reneging on their deals with key Senators lately, either in terms of political cover, money or what have you. Now guys like Specter, are starting to think it's high time to break the cycle of abuse and co-dependence.

At last, Congress may be on the verge of forcing Maximum Leader to show his hand. At least we will all know where we all stand.

Update 1.0: For those of you who do not yet believe that Glenn Greenwald is yet another tool of the Democratic Party conspiracy to sell us all out to the man, he uncorks a pretty good ass-kicking on Specter for his noxious op-ed blow job on the President in yesterday's Fishwrap on the Potomac. Too much to go into here, just read it and marvel that Specter did not spontaneously combust under the power of Greenwald's outrageous contempt.

mojo sends

Monday, July 24, 2006

California Proposition 87

California voters will be have another chance to reaffirm how much they enjoy the deep and hard screwing of their energy economy in the hands of petroleum companies by failing to approve Proposition 87 in November.

Proposition 87 is also known as the California Clean Energy Initiative, and you can download the PDF file from the Secretary of State here. As a public service for California voters, I will review the text of the actual initiative here in this very blog posting and summarize to the best of my ability. (I should disclose at the start that I am registered to vote as a Green, so you might expect that I am favorably pre-disposed toward initiatives of this sort. I will try to be as cynical and as jaundiced as possible.)

Skipping past the first three sections to the normative text of the initiative (and reordering the sections for clarity), let me summarize what Proposition 87 will do:

  • Establish the Clean Alternative Energy Program within an existing bureacracy I've never heard of before called the California Energy Alternatives Program Authority, which will be empowered in a bunch of new ways to spend money on behalf of the program. Also establishes a special purpose fund, separated from the general fund, called the California Energy Independence Fund and authorizes the Authority to spend four billion dollars from it on a variety of projects described below.

  • Imposes the California Energy Independence Fund Assessment "upon the privilege of severing oil from the earth or water in [California] for sale, transport, consumption, storage, profit or use" applied to the gross value of each barrel of oil. The rate is 6%, but it could go lower if the price of oil magically drops (due to price manipulation, for example).

  • Allocates the four billion dollars raised by the assessment to a Gasoline and Diesel Use Reduction Account, a Research and Innovation Acceleration Account, a Vocational Training Account and a Public Education Account and Administration Account. Or, in English, the money will go toward providing incentives to reduce gasoline and diesel consumption, produce alternative clean energy systems, research and development activity, some public service announcements, and the big deal that will get all the press chattering: grants to promote the rollout of E85 refueling stations, i.e. 85% ethanol fuels for existing "flexible fuel vehicles" in California.

  • Reorganizes the California Energy Alternatives Program Authority. Adds four new members, appointed by various high-level positions in the state government, e.g. the governor, the speaker of the assembly, etc. Replaces the President of the PUC with the Secretary of California EPA. Replaces the Director of Finance with the State Treasurer. Requires the Authority to appoint a CEO.

  • Authorizes the California Energy Alternatives Program Authority to incur its own debts. It may only service those debts from its own revenues, i.e. not from the State general revenues.

  • Forbids the producer, first purchaser or anybody else from passing the costs of paying the assessment onto retail fuel customers. Authorizes the State Board of Equalization to investigate such attempts to hide the salami.

  • A whole bunch of stuff that looks like boiler plate to my untrained eye.

I like this ballot initiative.

The Yes on 87 campaign is pushing the message that this initiative will "make oil companies pay their fair share" for cleaner energy. I don't know about that, but what it does do is pretty straightforward. It charges the oil companies a royalty for extracting the natural resources of the State of California. That sounds to me like a no-fscking-brainer. I'm trying to figure out why this wasn't done fifty years ago. This initiative could call for dumping that money into the California general revenue fund, and I would still support it. Maybe, you're the type who wants to know who else is endorsing before you're willing to sign up. (I know I usually do.)

I predict some people will feel sorry for the oil companies having to pay this special tax on every barrel of oil they pump out of California wells, and to them I would say this: Dudes, what have you been smoking? And, is there any left in the bowl, or are you just sucking spent butane?

Look at it this way. Oil companies have been reporting record profits. Persian Gulf oil producers are charging a royalty on extraction. Venezuelan oil producers are charging a royalty. You better believe the Nigerians are charging a royalty. For crying out loud, Texas and Alaska are charging royalties! The oil companies have to eat the cost of those taxes today, and they still haul in healthy profits.

Don't feel sorry for Exxon shareholders, California. They will survive.

In the meantime, four billion dollars will go a long way toward kick-starting a transition to flexible fuel hybrid vehicles, which will get us going toward a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to address the global climate crisis. It will even help the oil companies in the long run, because the Hubbert Peak is real, they all know it, and they've got to find a way to make the transition from petroleum to alternative energy. This initiative will help do that.

Nevertheless, the oil companies are guaranteed to pitch a fit. They and their supporters will spend massive amounts of money to oppose this initiative. Expect to be overwhelmed with bullshit from the professional newspeak industry.

If you want to see a clean energy economy in California— in America, for that matter— then now is the time to get hooked up with the Yes On 87 campaign. Flow them some love. Post articles on your blog. Talk it up with your friends. This one is important, folks. Let's get to work.

Why Israel Is Bombing Beirut And Other Non-Hizbollah Targets

In the comments, one of the other editors here at The MojoWire complains: "How bombing Lebanese army targets and civilians brings that about is a freakin mystery to me."

The phrase you are looking for is "collective penalties" and, with any luck, you'll find it here.

“Why did you take them prisoner? Why didn’t you kill them?”

Interesting development...

Warning sign - hadjis It would appear that the murder trial of some our fine young warrior-mens in the 101st Airborne has taken an interesting twist.

I will save you the click-through though and just tell you. They are using the "we were ordered" defense. In this particular case though, it is an interesting take.

You see, they are not claiming that some young Lt. or senior non-com lost his head in the heat of battle and issued in improper order for direct fire on an enemy only to learn that later the enemy was a non-combatant or otherwise not eligible for killing. No. These guys are saying that their official rules of engagement for this particular operation was to toadcrank all men of military service age.

In what conceivable world, does this not qualify everyone involved for a war crimes tribunal? Just issuing that order is a violation of any number of U.S. laws governing the military.

This was not an order to engage unarmed or non-fighting military men. This was an order to kill civilians who might be of an age to be in the military!

Moreover, according to the court documents cited in the Associated Press report these guys have both a captain and a colonel agreeing that they gave that order. And if a full colonel did this, I am having difficulty believing that he did not have his directions from above.
The lawyers, Paul Bergrin and Michael Waddington, also said that after the soldiers captured the three Iraqis, a sergeant in the company asked over the radio why they had done so, instead of killing the Iraqis as they had been told to do.
The soldiers killed the first Iraqi they came into contact with, an older man who was looking out through the window of a house, Mr. Bergrin said. Then, he said, they went to a second house, where they found three men hiding and using women and children as human shields.

Mr. Bergrin gave the following account of what happened next. The soldiers separated the men from the women and children and bound their hands. One of the accused, Sergeant [Raymond L.] Girouard, called the company’s first sergeant on the radio. The response to the news that there were prisoners was: “Why did you take them prisoner? Why didn’t you kill them?”
So they released these guys and then shot them as they were leaving, apparently. It is also interesting to note that there have already been two command reviews of the incident, neither of which found any wrongdoing by the soldiers. What does that tell you?

mojo sends

The Bestest News of the Day!

Pakistan is cranking up their capacity for building newer, better nuclear weapons... Hooray! [c.f. this article]

Because we know how reliable and responsible Pakistan is as a nation-state. Here is an interesting bit down towards the end of the article:
After comparing a sequence of satellite photos, the institute analysts estimated that the new reactor was still "a few years" from completion. The diameter of the structure's metal shell suggests a very large reactor "operating in excess of 1,000 megawatts thermal," the report says.

"Such a reactor could produce over 200 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium per year, assuming it operates at full power a modest 220 days per year," it says. "At 4 to 5 kilograms of plutonium per weapon, this stock would allow the production of over 40 to 50 nuclear weapons a year."
My major question is "why?" They already possess a significant nuclear deterrant to India (and China, for that fact).

Why does Pakistan need the ability to go to Plutonium-based weapons, and why do they need to ability to start cranking them out wholesale?

And of course India willl not be slow to respond to a major nuclear arms race escalation. And since neither nation is a signatory to the NPT, there is no incentive right now for them to stop, other than the threat of force from the other side.

Boy, I sure wish some nation powerful and rich enough to act in an international leadership role would reassert respect for international law and treaties and make them worthwhile for countries to sign...

Is there anyway this ends well? For anyone?

mojo sends

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Open Thread

This is not the weather I like. It is much too hot. If these keeps up, I will have to run an extra load of laundry or I will run out of clean shorts and summer shirts.

[Yes, all threads at The MojoWire are open threads, but this one is more open than the others.]

I Have A Very Bad Feeling...

...that those assholes are planning to lose the upcoming battle with Iran to sustain the American occupation of Iraq, then blame the worst American military defeat since Pearl Harbor on San Francisco antiwar liberals like me.

Do they really hate American G.I.'s that much? I'm beginning to wonder.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Oh, Really?


Writing in The Forward, someone named Jennifer Siegel says, " the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah raged on and conventional media outlets covered the news from the ground, major players in the liberal blogosphere were keeping, by their own admission, decidedly quiet."

That's why I've been reading Billmon and Juan Cole for their analyses of the situation. Both of them have shut down their comments forums permanently rather than continue moderating the highly vitriolic dialogues that break out when you write about the Arab/Israeli conflicts. One thing you can't say about either of them is that they are afraid to speak out on this delicate topic. Both Billmon and Juan Cole have been reliable sources of reasoned analysis of the situation in Lebanon. I recommend them heartily.

And they don't pull punches. Here is Juan Cole, for example:
I repeat, this is nothing less than an ethnic cleansing of the Shiites of southern Lebanon, an assault on an entire civilian population's way of life. Aside from ecology, it is no different from what Saddam Hussein did to the Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq, and the Israelis are doing it for exactly the same sorts of reasons that Saddam did.
Pretty harsh, but then I have to agree with his analysis after hearing Rush Limbaugh on his radio show today make basically the same case— except he was praising the Israelis for it, rather than denouncing them.

On the side more sympathetic to Israel, here is Billmon snarking about what passes for military strategy these days in the 51st state:
Confronted with the obvious absurdity of their military strategy, the Israelis are already falling back on alternative arguments -- much like the Cheney administration putting forward its ever-changing reasons for why turning Iraq into a cauldron of anarchy was a good thing. Now we're being told the real logic behind bombing the crap out of Lebanon's infrastructure is that it will induce a political solution. The pain of seeing their recently rebuilt country turned back into rubble will force Lebanon's gang of feuding feudal politicians to rise up and confront Hezbollah -- the best-organized and most well-armed militia movement on the planet -- after which the peacekeepers can move in and gently herd all those meek, pacified Shi'a fighters back from the border.
Look. I don't follow the Arab/Israeli conflict with nearly the attention to detail that others do. I am not an expert on the issues there, and I will freely admit it. That said, there are some things about the Israeli actions in this event sequence that have me genuinely cronfoozled.

For example, would somebody please explain to me the real reason it was necessary to bomb the Beirut airport? I'm not buying the argument that it was to prevent the international transport of the soldiers that Hezbollah captured when this all started. (Oh, pardon me. The soldiers were kidnapped, not captured. My mistake.)

Secondly, is it really in Israel's best interest to grind all of Lebanon back into the technological 19th century? Do they really think this will actually make Hezbollah any less of a threat to their lifestyles going forward in the long term? It's hard for me to see it that way, and I don't understand people who think ten days of Israeli troops fncking up the South of Lebanon will somehow get Israel any closer to peaceful diplomatic relations with all its neighbors.

Lastly, is Israel really trying to rescue its "kidnapped" soldiers? What will they do if, after two weeks of bombing, Hezbollah refuses to release them, and instead insists on negotiating a prisoner exchange? It will be clear at that point the bombing won't have done jack-squat to rescue the soldiers. It might have degraded the Lebanese economy and put a clamp on Hezbollah's budget in the process, but it won't have sprung the Israeli soldiers out of jail. Will the Israelis let their soldiers languish under the tender ministrations of the Party of God at that point, or will they open negotiations for a prisoner hostage exchange?

I doubt answers will be available, even after events have fully run their course. I wish these events made more sense. They don't. Not to me, anyway. So that's why I read bloggers with the guts to write about these issues despite the heated discussion threads they provoke.

Update 1.0: OMG. Billmon just launched perhaps the shortest, nastiest dig at Condoleezza Rice I have ever seen.

Update 2.0: Well, that didn't last long. Apparently, the government minders watching The Whiskey Bar moved in quickly and shut down the server. We'll see what it looks like when/if it ever comes back online.

Update 3.0: And Billmon has returned without any suspicious modifications to the archives. Whew.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Full Disclosure

In the interests of full disclosure and for the purpose of exposing my personal biases, I'd like to take this opportunity to make a statement of my beliefs regarding the latest round of combat operations in the Middle East. I have strong opinions on the subject that I generally keep to myself, because it's my experience that almost nobody shares them with me. (For example, I very much doubt that the other editors of The MojoWire would have much difficulty finding disagreements with my arguments.)

At the risk of pissing off every last one of our readers, I'll try to put this as politely as I can. The crisis in the Middle East serves as irrebutable proof in my mind that basing your claims to the sovereign ownership of land on interpretations of religious doctrine is a recipe for disaster. The problem in the Middle East is all the damned Zionists, particularly the Revisionist Zionists, the Christian Zionists, and those Palestinophiles who essential subscribe to a kind of "crypto-Zionism" (wow, what a bad term of art, eh?). They all have one thing in common: a tendency to defend their claims on the so-called Holy Land by killing people who don't worship in the same language as they do, and quoting badly misinterpreted scripture and historicla documents for their justification of it.

I have no patience for that bullshit.

Apparently, though— I'm in a rapidly diminishing minority. It would seem the vast majority of interested commentators on this subject have internalized the axiomatic systems peculiar to one or another of the various Zionist (or crypto-Zionist) philosophies, and in so doing, necessarily been swayed into taking a rhetorical side in the conflict, at least.

Don't get me wrong. Feel free to put the standard shibboleth to me, i.e. "do you think Israel has a right to exist?" Here's my answer: I would say that the relevant international laws recognize Israel's sovereign legal right to exist, and more importantly, I would tell you that those laws are not merely just and morally correct, but they are also the subject of a sad and terrible controversy that we should all be ashamed we are still having. Many Americans today reject the legitimacy of the international laws that recognize Israel's legal right to exist, while they simultaneously have the unmitigated gall to pillory those of us who contend that the law should mean something.

I don't have any clue what should be done to minize the fighting in South Lebanon, though I will go out on a limb and say this One True Thing: it would be a whole lot easier if more Jews, Christians, Muslims, etc. in the Middle East were to wake up tomorrow and convert to atheism. This "my God can make your God into His little bitch" stuff is not helping anybody.

Vrooom Vrooom!

Roy Edriso at Alicublog does a nice roundup on Neoconservative wankery on the Israeli/Hezbollah brawl:

Billy Kristol is going "Vrrrrow, Vrrrrow, rat-tat-tat-tat" and dive-bombing his shampoo and conditioner bottles in the tub; Roger L. Simon is telling the terrified Lebanese citizens to take their bombing like men -- "Starbucks can come later, if you really think you need it" (?!? -- RE); and this guy cheerfully compares the new Mideast war to a plucky little sailor (Israel) beating the shit out a Marine (Hezbollah) -- with (one must assume) Beirut's civilians in the role of unfortunate bystanders to the brawl who are struck by the Marine's flying teeth, which for some reason are filled with high explosives. It's getting so George Fucking Will sounds almost sane.

If this brawl had gone down a few weeks earlier, Rush would not have needed that Viagra for his "Boys" trip to the D.R. One of my favorite whackjobs, Danny Pipes, offers his take in the LA Time opinion page today:

With the emergence of an aggressive and perhaps soon-to-be nuclear-armed Iran, the strategic map of the Middle East is in the throes of fundamental change. This overarching threat should provide the backdrop for every Israeli decision going forward — whether to retake territory in Gaza, what to target in Lebanon and whether to launch military actions against Syria.

Sure, don't stop with Hezbollah, just crank up the war machine and Let's get it ON! Why not right? It's not like Danny Boy is going to suit up for Israel and stand a post in the West Bank or take fire in an ambush in South Lebanon. So why not just advocate the escalation of the conflict? With friends like these, does Israel really need Hezbollah?

When guys like Daniel Pipes, who never saw a Middle East shootout he wouldn't volunteer your kids to go fight, comes screeching out of the secret CrankCave where these guys hang upside down by their claws until summoned forth to plague the living, you know blood is in the water. Not to mention the usual NeoCon delusions, check this out:

Paradoxically, developments of the past week bring good news: Many Middle Easterners, not just Israelis, fear Iranian ambitions. Worries about Iran prompted the Saudi kingdom to take the lead in condemning attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah on Israel as "rash adventures." As the Jerusalem Post's Khaled Abu Toameh has documented, Israel's counterattacks have prompted "an anti-Hezbollah coalition." Sound Israeli policies will greatly influence the evolution of this nascent force.

Whatever fear of a Shiite Crescent, as King Abdullah of Jordan put it, is behind these Saudi statements, you would have to be drinking the bong water to convince yourself that Israel is going to forge a consensus among it's Middle East Neighbors that includes using even more military force in Gaza and Syria. Who allows these people access to Op/Ed sections of major American dailies? Do the editors actually read this stuff before they paste it in?

I don't suppose it occurred to Danny Pipes that maybe Iran and extremist groups opposed to peaceful coexistence with Israel are the real winners when Israel hits civilian targets and creates 500,000 civilian refugees. And yes Red State, I know that Hezbollah places missile launch sites in civilian areas to draw Israel fire down on Civilians. Hezbollah is to blame for a large amount of the casualties in Lebanon because of their tactics. But hitting civilian Beirut neighborhoods that are largely anti-Hezbollah does not help Israel hold the moral high ground. Nor would a large IDF push to Damascus or into the occupied territories.

I don't suppose it occurred to anyone down at the Middle East forum where Mr. Pipes relaxes with friends over a nice glass of O Positive that what we are seeing is an attempt by the militants in Hezbollah and Hamas to silence their more moderate elements at Israel's expense. It spoils the whole narrative if you start getting all Neville Chamberlain-ey and start examning the WHY.

Oh yeah, I forgot. All Arabs are terrorists. Islam is the religion of hate..yadda yadda yadda, my God is bigger than your God because my God has a prescription for Viagra. Dammit, I keep forgetting my lines...Does anyone have a script handy?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

How To Keep Atheists Out Of Your Foxhole

Confrontational atheist science-guy PZ Myers offers his take on the ongoing investigation into the fratricide of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan. Nobody but the shooter can say with certainty whether Tillman's death was a fuckup or if it was really a carefully planned murder, and if it was a murder, nobody will ever know for sure why the shooter toadcranked his fellow Ranger. One thing I will go out on a limb and predict right now: even if the Army decides Tillman was murdered, it will not allow evidence to emerge that his religious affiliation was a motive in the crime.

Do I think Tillman was toadcranked for being an atheist? No, not really. But I can't really say I believe it isn't possible. PZ, on the other hand, seems pretty cranked up. Maybe he's been following it more closely than me, and I've just not heard the whole story. I'm doubtful, however.

On a related note, I'm not very optimistic that PZ's plan for getting his kids (and mine) a deferment from the draft will work very well.
One useful thing about all this is that we atheists are going to be able to make the case, if a draft is ever reinstated, that we wouldn't be able to trust our fellow soldiers to refrain from killing us, and that we therefore must have a deferment. I know I would never allow any of my kids to go off to a war where they can't rely on the raving religious fanatics around them…and commanding them.
I don't think they'll be asking us for our permission to give our kids tin hats and guns, and send them off to the 21st century Gallipoli.

They'll just take them— at gunpoint, if necessary. They have ways of making our kids trust their fellow soldiers. And yes, if they ever have to notify us our kids have been scragged by members of their own platoon, then they'll be unbelievably condescending twits when they find out we're atheists. Probably more condescending even than Kauzlarich, since they'll remember how Tillman's family wouldn't lie down for it and they'll come at us fully charged for it.

Wouldn't it be nice if the military had a procedure for investing atheist chaplains?

ALERT! We Have SAPPERS Inside The Wire!

I pulled the IP addresses for our friend "TOP" in the comments to the previous post and ran them through an IP address geographical locator. All of the addresses have been from a block assigned to Verizon Wireless retail mobile Internet service customers. The geographical locator isn't producing reliable results for her position at this time, e.g. it says she managed to go from Silver Springs, FL to Los Angeles, CA in the space of three minutes.

Obviously, the un-American pseudo-fascist subversives operating out of Canada have crossed illegally into the United States and are even now plotting terrorist actions against their supposed "domestic" enemies in a misguided and futile attempt to divide real patriotic Americans and intimidate them into silence, or worse yet, acting out counter-productively in response to these puerile attempts at pseudo-fascist oppression.

Once again, we have clear evidence that the current crop of anonymous pseudo-fascist cowards don't have the stones to follow their own advice. The TargetOfOpportunity.Com web site, with which TOP claims to be affiliated, has issued a call to action for individuals to do what needs to be done to stop dangerous liberals from being dangerous and liberal by whatever means come to mind. When pressed for ideas about what to do about dangerous liberals trying to destroy America, TOP claims that she wants good-hearted patriotic Americans to "stand up and be counted" yet... she's clearly paid extra money to prevent her own real identity from being fingered in this operation.

How typical is that?

She keeps whining like a little bitch about how we haven't pointed out any of the false statements on the TargetOfOppotunity.Com website, apparently completely oblivious to the fact that we have yet to claim there are any false statements there. Our silence on that subject is consistent with our position. Even if we grant that everything on their website is accurate and truthful— which I'm not ready to do— it wouldn't undermine the argument we're making here. It would underscore it.

Meanwhile, she keeps smearing good progressive peace activists, like Cindy Sheehan, Code Pink and Progressive Democrats for America, by lumping them all in with violent extremist terrorist organizations (in the comments to a previous post, TOP made the baseless, slanderous assertion that those people were in collaboration with Stormfront.Org and the National Socialist Movement) and naming them on her private little anonymized and foreign hosted website— clearly hoping to inspire some nutjob to follow through on her rhetoric about "hit lists" and "enemy targets" and do the wetwork that she doesn't even have the gametes to call for without first disguising her identity.

I think it's obvious we're either dealing with an incompetent boob, who hasn't even bothered to think through how what she's doing looks like a false-flag operation for an unfriendly foreign organization (possibly a non-state terrorist organization, even)— or we're dealing with a cunning and wiley foreign foe who knows our culture better even than we do, and knows how to undermine it from within by the most insidious of tactical syntax and semantic attack modes.

Stand vigilant, patriotic Americans! Here you see the proof that the would-be tyrants of Wingnut Nation are trembling in fear of their own shadows. Present a united front against their attempts to intimidate and they will melt like ice cubes on the boardwalk on Fourth of July. They are nothing but anonymous cowards, pretending at fascism without the backbone to follow through on it, dressing up in cheap rented fetish gear and parading around on the Internet from behind foreign web servers and foreign anonymizer services, and hoping you'll be terrorized by reading a scary web page about you. Don't let them divide you. It will only serve the interests of America's enemies if you let them succeed.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Anonymous Pseudo-Fascist Cowards

About a week ago, I posted about a terrifying little website that David Neiwert found, called TargetOfOpportunity.Com. It's an operation apparently set up to try to smear a lot of otherwise peaceful dissident individuals and organizations, e.g. Cindy Sheehan, Code Pink, some linguist and professor of English named John Daly, and Progressive Democrats for America (!) etc. by drawing imaginary associations with fairly pathetic yet legitimately violent extremist radical groups often associated in the popular imagination with liberal or leftist causes, i.e. organizations like Animal Liberation Front, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty and Earth Liberation Front.

As I noted at the time, TargetOfOpportunity.Com has compiled what it calls a "Hit List" of "Enemy Targets" that it calls "dangerous people" who "must be stopped" and they close their mission statement like this:
This is a call to action! These anti-American liberals
are dangerous people and need to be stopped!
One person can make a big difference!!!

There are those that read about history.
There are those that make history.
Which one do you want to be?
It's a pretty standard intimidation tactic. As Glenn Greenwald observes, the goal here is simple:
One of the favorite tactics used by such [fascist] groups is to find the home address and telephone number of the latest enemy and then publish it on the Internet, accompanied by impassioned condemnations of that person as a Grave Enemy, a race traitor, someone who threatens all that is good in the world. A handful of the most extremist pro-life groups have used the same tactic. It has happened in the past that those who were the target of these sorts of demonization campaigns that included publication of their home address were attacked and even killed.

But these intimidation tactics work even when nothing happens. Indeed, these groups often publish the enemy's home address along with some cursory caveat that they are not encouraging violence. The real objective is the same one shared by all terrorists -- to place the person in paralyzing fear. The goal is to force the individual, as they lay in bed at night, to be preoccupied with worry that there is some deranged individual who read one of the websites identifying them as the enemy and which provided their address and who believes that they can strike some blow for their Just Cause by visiting their home and harming or killing them. The fear that they are vulnerable in their own home lurks so prominently and relentlessly in a person's mind that it can be as effective as a physical attack in punishing someone or intimidating them.
The editorial staff here at The MojoWire has been interacting with someone claiming to be a supporter of TargetOfOpportunity.Com in the comment thread attached to my previous post. This commenter posts under the pseudonym "TOP" and we have not been kind to her. (Please note the banner text at the top of our page which advertises that we are "liberal brawlers" who take pleasure in Afflicting The Comfortable. We make no apologies for using rude and unkind language in our interactions with pseudo-fascist pinheads.)

We've been going back and forth, trying to get TOP to decide whether she wants to condone violence, intimidation and property destruction, mostly without success. After a couple days of this, I decided to look up the domain registration information for TargetOfOpportunity.Com. Fascinating.

They're Canadian. (Or worse, they might be Americans who are afraid to host their pseudo-fascist bullshit with servers on U.S. soil.) Fscking cowards.

P.O. Box 191
St. Bruno, QC J3V 4P9


Administrative Contact:
Advocate, R4L Privacy <>
P.O. Box 191
St. Bruno, QC J3V 4P9
Technical Contact:
Advocate, R4L Privacy <>
P.O. Box 191
St. Bruno, QC J3V 4P9

Registration Service Provider:
Register4less, <>

Registrar of Record: TUCOWS, INC.
Record last updated on 10-Apr-2006.
Record expires on 10-Feb-2007.
Record created on 10-Feb-2005.

Domain servers in listed order:

Domain status: ACTIVE

Yes, it has occured to me that we may have uncovered a false flag operation.

No More News Holes

The Mighty Atrios got an editorial in The Los Angeles Times today. In the course of writing about "Why The Left Is Furious With Joementum" he seemed to neglect to mention the whole "In Connecticut, it shouldn't take more than a short ride to get to another hospital" debacle that has our feminist friends righteously and rightfully pissed off with him.

Atrios addresses the issue in a followup. In so doing, he surfaces a problem I've long complained about privately, and it's time to rant a bit here on the subject. (My emphasis in bold.)
In my tribute to the mighty and glory of blogofascism, Joe's troubles with women got left on the cutting room floor. I believe "grotesque indifference to the plight of rape victims" was in an earlier draft. But, those issues require a few extra words to explain for those not already familiar with them, and print doesn't allow one the luxury of verbosity. I suggest all punditry be moved to the internet where it belongs.
The technical term for the constraint of newspaper publishing that caused this to happen is "the news hole."

The "news hole" is the blank space left on the paper after you place all the advertisements. The news exists as a vehicle to deliver the advertising, not the other way around. Get that through you fscking head, you idiots. It's always been that way for the print people, and it will always be that way.[No... it has not always been that way -- mojo] It's pure economics. If the news is too big to fit between the ads, then the news gets trimmed down to size. You do not buy more paper and make the hole bigger to hold all the news. Buying more paper means having to sell more advertisements (and buying more ink) without lowering the price for ads or raising the price of subscriptions. You begin to see the problem, yes?

On the Internet, the advertising is reduced to the essentially parasitic role it should naturally have in distributing the news. The advertising is one of several available revenue models to use for paying to operate your news department. Advertisements go into the "advertising hole" and if the ads are too big, then they get trimmed down to size. There is always enough space to print all of the news, the whole story, with nothing left on the cutting room floor. More details can always be just a hyperlink away.

One of the reasons for this is that text consumes a tiny fraction of the Internet resources that images, audio and video do. Effective advertising is resource intensive, and the costs of delivering it far outweigh the costs of serving up an 800-word column. This is not true in newspaperland.

Atrios is right. Punditry belongs on the Internet. So does classified advertising. And the Sunday coupon section. And the comics— especially the comics. Come to think of it, so does pretty much all the rest of the content in your average newspaper. Newspapers need to just get over their existential crisis, sell off their printing presses and hardcopy distribution operations, replace them with a nice rented data center in a non-descript building one hop from the MAE, and join the electronic information age like the rest of America. Dammit.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Nobody knows Anything!

"Nobody knows Anything" is a line attributed to William Goldman describing the state of conventional wisdom and expertise in the movie business. It is equally applicable to foreign policy. In this case, to the conflict erupting in the Middle East between Israel and Hezbollah. This dangerous situation is like a hypersonic signal to every crank and wingnut who has a silver bullet solution to mess in the Middle East, particularly the AIPAC wing of foreign policy think tank clones who think the answer to everything is blow crap up.

A perfect example of the genre has been provided for us over at the New Republic (sub.required). Michael Oren from the The Shalem Center in Jerusalem offers to show us how "Nobody knows Anything" works:

Back in 1966, Israel recoiled from attacking Syria and instead raided Jordan, inadvertently setting off a concatenation of events culminating in war. Israel is once again refraining from an entanglement with Hezbollah's Syrian sponsors, perhaps because it fears a clash with Iran. And just as Israel's failure to punish the patron of terror in 1967 ultimately triggered a far greater crisis, so too today, by hesitating to retaliate against Syria, Israel risks turning what began as a border skirmish into a potentially more devastating confrontation. Israel may hammer Lebanon into submission and it may deal Hezbollah a crushing blow, but as long as Syria remains hors de combat there is no way that Israel can effect a permanent change in Lebanon's political labyrinth and ensure an enduring ceasefire in the north. On the contrary, convinced that Israel is unwilling to confront them, the Syrians may continue to escalate tensions, pressing them toward the crisis point. The result could be an all-out war with Syria as well as Iran and severe political upheaval in Jordan, Egypt, and the Gulf.

This whole article is a beautiful example of the Neocon art. Syria is behind Hezbollahs recent provacations? Israel is unwilling to confront Syria? Syria is escalating Tensions? And you believe this why exactly? Is there intelligence to support that? Are the Syrians threatening Israel? Are Syrian Jets or other assets involved?

The answer to all of these might be yes, but it seems absurd to me. Certainly this situation benefits IRan, dividing the Euorpeans and Russians from the Americans where they seemed to be coalescing around real action in the UN against Irans nuclear program. Iran benefits and hits an enemy at the same time using a proxy. I see little for Syria, who has a common border with Israel and stands to lose if Israel decides to march to Damascus, which they likely could do if they chose. My point is, Mr Orens article relies on some big assumptions and fuzzy logic to base an all out military campaign on.

Of course, like all NeoCon "thinkers" he completely ignores the question of who is going to occupy and run Syria if the Assad regime is overthrown. I'm no fan of the Baathists in Syria, but they are implacable enemies of Al Queda, and have recently been cooperative in closing their borders to foreing fighters who were crossing into Iraq. Will a new regime be better? Turning Syria into a failed state might open the borders to all sorts of trouble. And is Israel supposed to occupy the West Bank, South Lebanon and Syria? Was not their occupation of Lebanon a disaster? Does anyone even think about these questions?

Let me be clear. I am no fan of Hezbollah, Hamas, or the regimes in Iran and Syria that support them. They have consistently and deliberalty sabotaged efforts by the Palestinians and the Israelis, in the case of Hamas, to bringing the vision of resolution envisioned in the Oslo accords to fruition. Hundreds of innocent Palestinians and Israelis are dead because Hamas could not stomach peace. It was Hamas that started the suicide bombings in Israel that ended the process. Lebanon is likely to be destablized by Hezbollahs selfish and destructive actions. Dozens of people already dead, for what?

And did one of these military buffs and master armchair strategists at these think tanks ever consider NOT reacting exactly the way terrorists and enemy nation states expect you to react? Who benefits the most from Israel's reaction? I doubt it's Syria, or the Lebonese coalition in Beirut, or the civilians caught in the crossfire.

My argument is that the worst outcome for extremists in the Middle East is peace between Israel and her neighbors. Without the conflict, and Israel to blame for everything that is wrong in many of these states, who are people going to blame for the grinding poverty and political oppresion? If Hamas, Hezbollah, the Iranian theocrats and Al Queda all decry a peaceful resolution in Palestine, doesn't that recommend the idea? And please don't pimp me that they are denouncing it to lure us into a trap. They aren't putting it down to convince Western audiences of anything. Their opposition is for local consumption. The last thing they want is peace.

Might it be that expanding war into Syria or Lebanon helps the people we oppose, destroying the very thing they fear the most, a fair and equitable outcome that sets the stage for progress in and around the Israeli conflict? Isn't the first rule of getting out a hole to stop digging? And considering the track record of NeoCons in Israel and the United States, maybe they should not be listened to, and not given space in prominent poltical magazines, newspapers and TV outlets.

Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us.


I cannot, for the life of me, see how the following statement by Kevin Drum is supposed to make any sense.
But if the Supreme Court decides that post-debate signing statements should also be routinely considered as part of a bill's legislative history, then surely Congress will start to insist on negotiating these statements before legislation is sent to the president for his signature. I'll bet John McCain wishes he had done that on the torture bill that George Bush so casually gutted after months of arduous negotiation.
"Mr. President, if you issue the following signing statement with this bill, then we will... um... what will we do, Denny?" Gawd. The STUPIDITY! It burns!

Friday, July 14, 2006


Via The Mighty Atrios (whom we read so you don't have to bother with it), we find Kevin Baker writing in Harper's about how the American right wing may soon start having trouble keeping its Stabbed In The Back! mythology up and running at full strength. I'm not so optimistic, but I'll concede he makes a lot of very good points.

Read the whole article, because it has some gems in it, but here's the closing nut:
What has really robbed the conspiracy theories of their effectiveness is how the war in Iraq has been conducted. Bush and his advisers have sought to use the war not only to punish their enemies but also to reward their supporters, a bit of political juggling that led them to demand nothing from the American public as a whole. Those of us who are not actively fighting in Iraq, or who do not have close friends and family members who are doing so, have not been asked to sacrifice in any way. The richest among us have even been showered with tax cuts.

Yet in demanding so little, Bush has finally uncoupled the state from its heroic status. It is not a coincidence that modern nationalism dates from the advent of mass democracy—and mass citizen armies—that the American and French revolutions ushered in at the end of the eighteenth century. Bush’s refusal to mobilize the nation for the war in Iraq has severed that immediate identification with our army’s fortunes. Nor did it begin with the Bush Administration. The wartime tax cuts and the all-volunteer, wartime army are simply the latest manifestations of a trend that is now decades old and that has been promulgated through peace as well as war, by Democrats as well as Republicans. It cannot truly be a surprise that a society that has steadily dismantled or diminished the most basic access to health care, relief for the poor and the aged, and decent education; a society that has allowed the gap between its richest and poorest citizens to grow to unprecedented size; a society that has paid obeisance to the ideology of globalization to the point of giving away both its jobs and its debt to foreign nations, and which has just allowed one of its poorer cities to quietly drown, should choose to largely opt out of its own defense.

Anyone who doubts that this is exactly what we have done need only look at how little the war really engages most of us. It rarely draws more than a few seconds of coverage on the local television news, if that, and then only well into the broadcast, after a story on a murder, or a fire, or the latest weather predictions. Even the largest and angriest demonstrations against our occupation of Iraq have not approached the mobilizations against the war in Vietnam, but a close observer will notice that we also have yet to see any of the massive counterdemonstrations that were held in support of that war—or “in support of the troops.” Such engagement on either side seems almost quaint now.

Who could possibly believe in a plot to lose this war? No one cares that much about it. We have, instead, reached a crossroads where the overwhelming right-wing desire to dissolve much of the old social compact that held together the modern nation-state is irreconcilably at odds with any attempt to conduct such a grand, heroic experiment as implanting democracy in the Middle East. Without mass participation, Iraq cannot be passed off as an heroic endeavor, no matter how much Mr. Bush’s rhetoric tries to make it one, and without a hero there can be no great betrayer, no skulking villain.

And yet, a convincing national narrative, though it may be the sheerest, most vicious fiction, can have incredible staying power—can perhaps outlast even the nation that it was meant to serve. It is ironic that, even as support for his war was starting to unravel in May of 2005, George W. Bush was in the Latvian capital of Riga, describing the Yalta agreement as “one of the greatest wrongs of history.” The President placed it in the “unjust tradition” of the 1938 Munich Pact and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which together paved the way for the start of World War II in 1939. Bush’s words echoed his statements of three previous trips to Eastern Europe, dating back to 2001, during which he had pledged, “no more Munichs, no more Yaltas,” and called Yalta an “attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability,” a “bitter legacy,” and a “constant source of injustice and fear” that had “divided a living civilization.”

The ultimate irony of Bush’s perpetuating this ageless right-wing shibboleth is that for once it wasn’t intended for home consumption. The Yalta myth has finally lost its old magic, here in historically illiterate, contemporary America. Nor did Bush make any special attempt to let his countrymen know he was apportioning them equal blame with Stalin and Hitler for the greatest calamities of the twentieth century.

Bush’s pandering was directed instead to the nations he was visiting, in a region that still battens on any number of conspiracy theories. Why he should have so denigrated his own country to a few small Eastern European nations might seem a mystery, until one considers that this is the “new Europe” that Bush has solicited for troops for his Iraqi adventure . . . and where he appears to have found either destinations or conduits for victims of “extraordinary rendition,” en route to where they could be safely tortured in secrecy.

An American president, wandering the halls of Eastern European palaces, denounces his own nation in order to appease his hosts into torturing secret prisoners. Our heroic age surely has come to an end.
He makes one other observation in the middle of the piece that jumped out at me. I've always thought there was something peculiar about those black and white POW/MIA banners you see all over the place, particularly among the wingnut factions. Mr. Baker clears the fog (my emphasis in bold):
Soon after we had bugged out of Saigon, millions of Americans became convinced that American prisoners of war had been left behind in Vietnamese work camps, by a government that was too cowed or callous to insist upon their return. Numerous groups sprang up to demand their release, disseminating flags with a stark, black-and-white tableau of a prisoner’s bowed head against the backdrop of a guard tower, a barbed-wire fence, and the legend: YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN POW*MIA.

It would do no good to point out that there is no objective evidence that veterans were ever spat upon by demonstrators or that POWs were ever left behind or that Jane Fonda’s addle-headed mission to Hanoi did anything to undermine American forces. The stab-in-the-back myth is much more powerful than any of these facts, and it continues to grow more so as time passes. Just this past Christmas, one Faye Fiore wrote a feature for the Los Angeles Times about how returning Iraqi veterans are being showered with acts of good will by an adoring American public, “In contrast to the hostile stares that greeted many Vietnam veterans 40 years ago.” The POW/MIA flags, with their black-and-white iconography of shame, now fly everywhere in the United States, just under the Stars and Stripes; federal law even mandates that on at least six days a year—Memorial Day, Flag Day, Armed Forces Day, Veterans Day, Independence Day, and one day during POW/MIA Week (the third week of September)—they must be flown over nearly every single U.S. government building. There has been nothing else like them in the history of this country, and they have no parallel anywhere else in the world—these peculiar little banners, attached like a disclaimer to our national flag, with their message of surrender and humiliation, perennially accusing our government of betrayal.
America has a very serious "Dolchstoß!" problem, if you ask me. I'm not as convinced as Mr. Baker that the wingnut tribal nation won't be able to enhance and extend the Stabbed-In-The-Back myth even after it finishes grinding the modern American republic into bankruptcy and moral ruin. My concern is that America could very well devolve into a full-on guns-whores-and-dope anarchy and the pseudo-fascists in Wingnut Nation will still manage to fuel their culture war against liberals into the sort of affair where children are taught how to perform prisoner exchanges in school and I'll be carrying two pistols and a sword every time I drive across the Altamont pass into Modesto.

Things That Make You Go "hmmm..."

Okay... it's like this.

For reasons that pass understanding, S9 signed us up for site metering. And because I am the self-absorbed little me-monkey that I am, I have become utterly obssessed with the statistics and who drops by our little corner of West Blogovia...

That's when I came across this disquieting little gem.

Apparently, today at around noon local time, someone from USAIC, that is the U.S. Army Information Center, at Fort Benning, Georgia, looked up a thing I wrote last year, following a link from Lindsey Bernstein from Majikthise regarding the spacing of Lt. General Byrnes from his post as commanding general in charge of training and doctrine.

Now why would they do that, I wonder?

mojo sends

Thursday, July 13, 2006

This Is What Democracy Looks Like Now

Once again, from the invaluable Cursor.Org (linked in the sidebar), comes this report [from a site I know nothing about, Polizeros.Com] about the aftermath of a counter-protest in Los Angeles against The Minuteman Project [no link-love at all for those bozos]. Click through and watch the video for yourself. I'd say these cops were a little more brazen about doling out the unnecessary beatings than they've been in awhile.

I've watched similar footage of alleged police brutality by SFPD at various ANSWER protests, usually hosted by SFIndyMedia.Org, but I've nearly always come away more willing than this to grant the cops some slack. In this LAPD footage, I'm having a hard time not seeing this as a simple case of them rounding up the usual brown suspects and clubbing them for the cheap, dirty thrill of it. What the fuck is the real story here? Guys?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"Are We There Yet?" "Patience, Little Ones. Patience. We'll Be There Soon."

David Neiwert is back from conferring with orcas with a gasoline-soaked rag of a post about Nazi infiltration of the U.S. military. Buried behind one of the many little links in that post, I found a link to a terrifying little website called TargetOfOpportunity.Com. Yes, it's what you think it is. From the "Our Mission" page there:
This is a call to action! These anti-American liberals
are dangerous people and need to be stopped!
One person can make a big difference!!!

There are those that read about history.

There are those that make history.

Which one do you want to be?

These people and organizations are Enemies of Freedom,
the American people, and the American way of life!!!
Each and every one should be considered a:

"Target of Opportunity"!

No, The MojoWire editorial staff have not yet been declared a "target of opportunity" but some of our friends have been.


David concludes by saying...
This, folks, is the very real threat of fascism I've been warning about for some time, rearing its truly monstrous head. You know it when you see it -- and seeing it, perhaps, some of my readers (who keep wondering when I'm going to declare the American right truly fascist) will understand why I'm insisting we're not there yet -- that what we are currently coping with is a kind of pseudo-fascism whose chief threat is that it will give birth to the real thing.

What pseudo-fascism is all about, really, is the end justifying the means. And when the end justifies the means, there are always a thousand untold consequences. We are beginning to glimpse them now.
It isn't fascism yet, but it would be very wise to start noting the sight lines in your environment...

The Preznit is Always Right... and don't you forget it, hippy!

Warning sign - we're not listening
Leahy gets the response we always knew was coming from Sparky Gonzalez' untouchables. From the redoubtable RawStory
An exchange between Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Justice Department legal council chief Steven Bradbury regarding prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay ended with Bradbury announcing "the President is always right," RAW STORY has learned.

Leahy had asked Bradbury about what the Department of Justice had advised the President, and how certain decisions regarding Guantanamo Bay had been made. A transcript of the rest of the exchange follows:


MR. BRADBURY: Well, Senator, I think -- as I said in my testimony, obviously the court's decision does not call into question our ability to hold detainees --

LEAHY: Not my question. The president said very specifically -- and he said it to our European allies -- he was waiting for the Supreme Court decision and that would tell him whether he was supposed to close Guantanamo or not. After, he said it upheld his position on Guantanamo. In effect, it actually said neither. Where did he get that impression?


LEAHY: The president's not a lawyer. You are. The Justice Department advised him. Did you give him such a cockamamie idea or what?

BRADBURY: Well, I try not to give anybody cockamamie ideas, and I --

LEAHY: Well, where'd he get the idea?

BRADBURY: Obviously -- the Hamdan decision, Senator, does implicitly recognize that we're in a war, that the president's war powers were triggered by the attacks on the country, and that law of war paradigm applies. That's what the whole -- the whole case was about --

LEAHY: I don't think the president was talking about the nuances of the law of war paradigm. He was saying that this was going to tell him whether he could keep Guantanamo open or not. Afterward, he said it said he could.

BRADBURY: Well, it's --

LEAHY: Was the president right or was he wrong?

BRADBURY: It's under the Law of War that we --

LEAHY: Was the president right or wrong?

BRADBURY: -- the president is always right, Senator.
You heard it here first, boys and girls. The Preznit is always right!

So I guess in one sense this answers the question about the executive's response to Hamdan. The West Wing is simply going to ignore it or pretend it says something that it plainly doesn't. Too bad that Supreme Court decisions don't come with Preznintchill Singing Statements, that way the Preznit can say what part of the decisions, if any, apply to him.

If Paddy Leahy we're a little younger, he would have come up over the dais and gnawed on that young man's skull. Alas, I remember when Leahy or Dan Moynihan could make a witness burst into flame just by staring at them during their opening statements...

No one who reads this blog even semi-regularly can honestly express any surprise at this response from the Ministry of Law. They are simply getting more and more brazen and public about their contempt for the rule of law with each passing day.

Just go ahead and add this one to today glitch list.

mojo sends

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Are we defeatists?

Glenn Greenwald argues that Hamden has effectively called into question the legal framework the Administration constructed to expand Executive power and protect themselves from the repurcussions. He argues that the suspician some of us have that this will not have much effect on Administration policy is too cynical and defeatist:
There seems to be a common perception among many Bush critics -- one which is a not-very-distant relative of all-out defeatism -- that something as weak and unmuscular as a lofty Supreme Court ruling isn't going to have any effect on the Bush administration, and that they are just laughing at the idea that what the Supreme Court says matters. But that is simply not what senior Justice Department lawyers and senior administration officials are doing in the wake of Hamdan.<
The Supreme Court unquestionably rejected the very theories which the Bush administration has been using to defend themselves from accusations of criminal conduct. The ruling in Hamdan stripped those defenses away and the lawbreakers in the administration are left standing exposed. There is simply no question that the five-Justice majority in Hamdan would reject with equal vigor, at least, the administration's claim that the AUMF authorized them to eavesdrop in violation of FISA and/or that the President has the inherent authority to violate Congressional law in the area of national security.

Unfortunately, they have a pretty good defense. The branch of the Government that is supposed to rein them in and would have to cooperate in any effort to prosecute the Administration for War Crimes is completely uninterested in any such effort. Only Congress can impeach the President and remove him from office in between elections. They are not going to do that. Sure, if the Democrats take control of Congress then the situation changes, but they would need the House to impeach and a BiPartisan consensus in the Senate to remove the President. I suppose they could be tried in the Hague, but good luck trying to get them there.

Don't get me wrong, if Hamden does nothing but improve the treatment of prisoners in DOD custody at Gitmo and around the world, that is a huge victory. I would be thrilled if Glenn is right and the Administration is running scared and we could legitimately hope that a day of reckoning is on it's way. But I don't believe it is defeatist to recognize that the GOP echo chamber, their allies in Congress and most importantly, a feckless news media that has a terminal case of abused spouse syndrome, are going to make it difficult to fix the damage these jerks have done to this country. The Supreme Court has opened a door, but we have to step through it by winning Congress in November, by fighting through the signal distortion in the media, and getting our act together organizationally on the left so we don't have to fight with both hands tied behind our backs.