Tuesday, November 29, 2005

PLUS, IT COOKS A STEAK IN SECONDS

Via the Officer's Club, the U.S. Air Force has developed a hand-held laser gun.
The US Air Force has unveiled its first hand-held laser weapon that gives security forces a non-lethal option for controlling crowds and protecting areas like checkpoints, according to service officials.

While only in prototype form and years away from fielding, the weapon, known as the Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response (PHaSR) system, holds great promise, they said.

The PHaSR is about the same size and weight of a fully loaded M60 machine gun - around 9 kg - but shoots a low-power beam of laser light instead of bullets. The light it generates is capable of temporarily impairing an individual's vision, much like the disorienting glare one sees when looking into the sun, said the officials.

Upon completion of testing, one prototype will be handed over to the Department of Defense's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD) and the second to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ): the law enforcement arm of the US Department of Justice. Both organisations support the programme, with the latter interested in its civil applications.

The Bush administration has learned from British intelligence that al Qaeda, in response to rumors of laser weapons, has tried to obtain lightsaber technology from Niger.

THE PERENNIAL GENIUS OF FRANK ZAPPA

Taking a page right out of the Discovery Institute playbook, Paul Campos tries to argue that materialism, which he defines as an exclusive belief in reason, is as much a "faith" as religion. His argument boils down to the old "Well, if there's no such thing as an objective morality, then why can't I just take your wallet?" argument that seemed so smashingly clever when you were twelve.

I bring it up because it reminded me of the story in The Real Frank Zappa Book in which Zappa created the Church of American Secular Humanism (CASH) in response to Alabama Judge Brevard Hand's ruling that "'Secular Humanism' was, in fact, an actual religion, and that the tenets of its faith were dominating the curriculum of Alabama schools, thereby violating the civil rights of decent Christian folks who demanded 'equal time.'" Zappa insisted, quite reasonably, that if secular humanism was going to be classified as a religion, then it was entitled to tax-exempt status. The judge eventually backed off.

Any excuse to blog about Zappa...

DON'T BOMB US

Via the Arabist, apparently al Jazeera staffers have put up a Don't Bomb Us blog in reaction to the Daily Mirror report that President Bush considered bombing the station's Qatar headquarters.

WILKERSON: "J'ACCUSE!"

BBC:
A top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell has launched a stinging attack on US Vice-President Dick Cheney over abuse of prisoners by US troops.

Col Lawrence Wilkerson accused Mr Cheney of ignoring a decision by President Bush on the treatment of prisoners in the war on terror.

[snip]

He said that there were two sides of the debate within the Bush administration over the treatment of prisoners.

Mr Powell and more dovish members had argued for sticking to the Geneva conventions, which prohibit the torture of detainees.

Dick Cheney has been accused of advocating the use of terror

Meanwhile, the other side "essentially wanted to do away with all restrictions".

Mr Bush agreed a compromise, that "Geneva would in fact govern all but al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda look-alike detainees".

"What I'm saying is that, under the vice-president's protection, the secretary of defence [Donald Rumsfeld] moved out to do what they wanted in the first place, even though the president had made a decision that was clearly a compromise," Col Wilkerson said.

He said that he laid the blame on the issue of prisoner abuse and post-war planning for Iraq "pretty fairly and squarely" at Mr Cheney's feet.

"I look at the relationship between Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld as being one that produced these two failures in particular, and I see that the president is not holding either of them accountable... so I have to lay some blame at his feet too," he went on.

David Corn has more.

Monday, November 28, 2005

THE STRANGER

A couple of comments on last week's the Stranger...

I strongly agree with Josh Feit's suggestion that Seattle deserves a Democrat who actually makes a difference.
Seattle's Democratic troops aren't poised to play a part in the much-anticipated '06 revolution. No, we'll be voting the status quo. For the 10th time in 18 years, 80 percent of Seattle will vote for U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-7).

It doesn't have to be this way. Seattle can, and should, participate in the '06 overhaul. As one of the 1,217 unsatisfied customers who chose a write-in instead of McDermott in 2004 (I went with King County Executive Council Liaison Ryan Bayne), I'd like to suggest a revolution of our own for '06: Let's replace McDermott.

What's my beef with Baghdad Jim? After all, he's a good liberal: against the war, against Bush's tax cuts, and against Bush's attempt to privatize Social Security. The truth is, I don't have many complaints about McDermott's politics. I do have a problem with his inability to get stuff done. We're wasting a safe Democratic seat on a guy who, after 16 years, has no clout or ability to impact policy.

As Feit notes, one of the safest seats in Congress is a terrible thing to waste.

Re: the Friend Zone, from a review of (the probably very bad) Just Friends.
The "friend zone" is a fictional, metaphorical place invented by some romantic comedy writer to hold up the sagging premise of this tired, hacky movie. As Chris explains, "The 'friend zone' is like the penalty box of dating, only you can never get out. Once a girl decides you're her 'friend,' it's game over. You've become a complete nonsexual entity in her eyes, like her brother, or a lamp." While "a lamp" is clearly funny, the idea of the "friend zone" is both stupid and egregiously untrue. Out of all the couples in your acquaintance, how many didn't start out as friends? I don't even know you, but the correct answer is "very few."

No, the Friend Zone was invented by Chris Rock, immortalized in his breakthrough 1996 concert film Bring the Pain. Yes, I'm sure most if not all of the couples I know started out as friends, but this is different from being "trapped in the Friend Zone." A man can be friends with a woman with the potential for that friendship to become a romantic relationship. Residence in the Friend Zone indicates that that potentiality no longer exists, except, as Rock notes, in the eventuality that the woman is angry at her boyfriend, in which emergency the woman might break the glass of the Friend Zone and use the Friend as an instrument of revenge.

THE MUFFIN I HAD FOR BREAKFAST REVEALED ONCE AGAIN THE BRILLIANCE OF RUSSELL KIRK!

Shorter Jonah Goldberg:
Wouldn't you know it, my admittedly limited observations strongly confirm all my ideological preconceptions!

Granted, that works for pretty much everything he's ever written.

Matt Yglesias has more.

MORE CRONYISM

William Fisher in Lebanon's Daily Star:
Washington is a town where the best and the brightest usually coexist with well-connected political hacks. However, the Bush administration has taken promotion of the latter to embarrassing extremes, selecting unqualified people for posts because of their political loyalty and ideological persuasion. The most recent example of this was the appointment of Paul Bonicelli to be deputy director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which is in charge of all programs to promote democracy and good governance overseas.

One would have thought the administration had learned its lesson. In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael Brown, was forced to resign because of his incompetence in dealing with the consequences of the storm. Soon afterward, President George W. Bush named While House counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Her lack of qualifications, and a Republican revolt against the nomination, forced her to withdraw.

Like Brown and Miers, Bonicelli has little experience in the field he has been tapped to supervise. The closest he comes to democracy-promotion or good governance is having worked as a staffer for the Republican Party in the International Relations Committee of the House of Representatives.

More significant to the administration, perhaps, is the fact that Bonicelli is dean of academic affairs at tiny Patrick Henry College in rural Virginia. The fundamentalist institution's motto is "For Christ and Liberty." It requires that all of its 300 students sign a 10-part "statement of faith" declaring, among other things, that they believe "Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, is God come in the flesh;" that "Jesus Christ literally rose bodily from the dead"; and that hell is a place where "all who die outside of Christ shall be confined in conscious torment for eternity."

I commented on an article about Patrick Henry College a few months ago. Patrick Henry can be accurately described as a Christianist madrassa turning out fundamentalist apparat, and its founders and faculty are very clear about their goal of seeing the U.S. turned into a religious state.

In other cronyism news, last week Molly Ivins reported on some more egregious Bush appointments, such as putting nine campaign contributors, three of them longtime fundraisers, on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. One of the appointees was none other than Bush's personal friend and financial savior, William DeWitt, former co-owner with Bush of the Texas Rangers and current owner of the St. Louis Cardinals. It's funny, because I was just thinking the other day that what's wrong with our intelligence analysis is that we're simply not getting enough input from multimillionaire baseball team owners.

YOU WARRIORS ARE GOOD. REAL GOOD

Great article (reg req'd) on the The Warriors. I haven't seen the new version, but I've caught the original on TV a few times over the last months.
Despite its legendary status as the ultimate New York street gang movie, it really doesn't have that much to do with New York. Hill, a Californian, knew little about the city and thus was able to re-create it with a sense of fantasy where a New York filmmaker, say, the Martin Scorsese of "Mean Streets," would have gone for realism. Hill didn't see New York as New York but as a giant movie set. The Warriors go to a gang meeting supposedly in the North Bronx (actually shot in Riverside Park); the cops arrive, a riot ensues, and the Warriors flee to a nearby Bronx cemetery (actually Greenwood cemetery in Brooklyn); the nerve center station at Union Square was really the cavernous Hoyt and Schermerhorn Street station in downtown Brooklyn. "The Warriors" is a feast of visual guessing games for long-time New Yorkers.

This is really interesting, because while the film does jump around from location to location in what's supposed to be a journey from the Bronx to Coney Island, I've always found it intensely evocative of the New York City of that era. The first time I saw The Warriors was in 1983, when I was living in the Philippines, and it was broadcast on Manila TV. I knew the City pretty well, my dad grew up in Brooklyn and we'd go in to visit my grandparents quite frequently, I remember the film's stylized representation of NYC making me incredibly homesick as I sat there with my pansit noodles and adobo.

And, of course, watching the film now makes me crave pansit noodles and adobo.

PARADISE NOW

Saw this Saturday at the Varsity. I was prepared for an all-out propaganda assault, but I was surprised and glad at how rich a picture the film drew, and how it worked to explain the mentality behind suicide terrorism without excusing it.

I found the film very effective in its subtle depiction of the everyday depredations of the occupation. Massive unemployment as a result of travel restrictions, people corralled in their own crumbling cities and towns, having to abandon their cars and go on foot when they encounter random, arbitrary Israeli roadblocks, roadblocks which are useless in a security sense (since they are easily evaded on foot) but which are meant primarily to inconvenience, in the words of IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon, to "sear deep into the consciousness of Palestinians that they are a defeated people." The movie demonstrates how clearly the Palestinians, particularly Palestinian men, have understood this as the goal of the occupation. To live under occupation is to be emasculated daily, having to watch helplessly as Israeli soldiers harass your children, wives, friends, and parents, as they invade and destroy your communities and homes with impunity.

This is not a film to see if you'd like to maintain illusions about "equal blame to go around" in the I/P conflict. Yes, it's a complex situation with deep historical roots, but to say that "oh, everyone's got blood on their hands" is just a cop out. The film makes clear that the occupation is an ongoing act of war by Israel against the Palestinians, one which the Palestinians are fully entitled, indeed should be expected, to resist. Even though the film showed what I think is the filmmaker's view that suicide terrorism has become counterproductive, in that it provides Israel a perfect excuse to continue the occupation and the building of illegal settlements, it also showed suicide terrorism as a simple, if pathological and condemnable, final act of defiance in the face of a lifetime of oppression and intentional humiliation. Most chillingly, suicide bombers understand that blowing themselves up in a bus or pizzeria will not win the war for them, but it's not meant to. They mean only to "keep the struggle alive" by showing that they, too, have the power to hurt.

Highly recommended. Probably not for a first date, though.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

GETTING OUT

First off, and this hardly even needs to be said, Republican charges of Democrats "playing politics" with the Iraq war deserve a wing all their own in the Museum of Chutzpah. This president and his party have been playing politics with the war on terror literally since before the smoke cleared in lower Manhattan, using post-9/11 "security" arguments to justify everything from endless tax-cuts to No Child Left Behind, up to and including the Iraq invasion. I do take some small amount of satisfaction in their whining, but it's rather overshadowed by disgust at their constant and shameless exploitation of national trauma.

The president insists that we mustn't cut and run, mustn't leave Iraq a mess. Echoing Jerry McGuire, and with about as much gravitas, Bush insists that I'm not a guy who runs. I stick, once again confusing narrow stubbornness with resolve. It's of course important that the U.S. do everything it can to see that legitimacy obtains in the political institutions we are helping to create in Iraq, but the question is whether announcing a schedule for withdrawal would help or hinder that.

Last week I attended a talk at UW by George Packer and Mark Danner, two New Yorker writers who have done extensive work in Iraq. Their accounts of the situation on the ground varied from dim to pitch black. The one thing that they both repeatedly stressed was that at this point it's all but impossible to do any real reporting outside of the Green Zone bunker area. It's difficult enough to get an Iraqi man or woman to speak candidly to an obviously Western reporter, knowing that the insurgents or their informants are watching them, but it's simply out of the question when that reporter is surrounded by a phalanx of U.S. troops, as all Westerners must be when they travel outside the Green Zone. This in itself reveals as nonsense the wingnut claim that the media "just don't report the good news" from Iraq.

Both Danner and Packer mentioned that they had heard from what they considered credible sources that the Sunni insurgents are waiting for the American withdrawal to launch a massive offensive against the provisional government and all those who have been cooperating with it, Sunni, Shia, and Kurd alike. This would seem to support Bush's claim that announcing a withdrawal would add fuel to the insurgency. Just how much fuel is unknown, but when you consider the fuel that was de-Ba'athification, that was disbanding the Iraqi army, that was Abu Ghraib, and that is the occupation itself, it's almost comical that Bush chooses to be most concerned about the emboldening effect of withdrawal.

I disagree somewhat with Sam Rosenfeld here, I don't think the U.S. has "already been dragged into a civil war against the Sunni on behalf of the Kurds and Shiites." That's not to say that there isn't a civil war going on in Iraq, only that it doesn't divide up as neatly as the Sunni vs. the Shia and the Kurds. There are Sunni leaders who have put their lives, and their families' lives, at risk in order to try and work out a political solution, and there are Shia who are working to frustrate the political process because they believe, rightly, that they will emerge victorious from an all-out civil war in which their methods were not constrained by the U.S. presence. In that regard, the U.S. occupation is holding back a genuine sectarian war.

A major issue, which the administration has consistently avoided discussing, is that of permanent U.S. military bases. These bases have a special significance for Iraqis, who remember the post-WWI British occupation in which the Brits claimed they had come to liberate the Iraqi people, then built some military bases which they took a very long time to leave. I think Bush could do a lot by stating outright that the U.S. has no intention of a permanent military presence in Iraq, but, of course, this assumes that he has no intention of a permanent military presence in Iraq, which I think is unfortunately not the case, as abandoning bases in Iraq would be abandoning a major component of the neoconservative plan, which was to create a friendly Iraq from which we could shake our big stick at the Middle East. The neocon delusion ("Cakewalk! We'll be greeted with flowers! More troops? Nonsense!") remains a major obstacle to creating a workable plan for any significant troop withdrawal. Indeed many if not most of the disastrous decisions in this war can be traced back to its fantastic presuppositions.

This provides a nice opportunity for Democrats to offer their own plan for phased withdrawal, with a stress on the "phased" part. Right now, I think the good effects of such a plan would still outweigh the bad, but time is not on our side.

Friday, November 25, 2005

PADILLA

Dahlia Lithwick on the latest example of the Bush administration's incompetence and mendacity.
Had Padilla been charged and tried back in the summer of 2002, rather than touted as some Bond villain—the Prince of Radiological Dispersion—his case would have stood for a simple legal proposition: that if you are a terrorist, a supporter of terrorism, or a would-be terrorist, the government will hunt you down and punish you. Had the government waited, tested its facts, kept expectations low, then delivered a series of convictions of even small-time al-Qaida foot soldiers, we in this country would feel safer and we would doubtless be safer. Instead Padilla, like Hamdi, was used as fodder for big speeches. They became the justification for Bush's position that some people are so evil that the law does not deter them, that new legal systems must be invented—new systems that bear a striking resemblance to those discredited around the time of Torquemada.

Torquemada, now there was a conservative's conservative.

ALWAYS LOOK EYE

Noriyuki "Pat" Morita, 1932-2005.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Monday, November 21, 2005

YOU'RE EITHER WITH ME OR YOU'RE WITH THE DOOR

Caught the video of this last night, pretty funny.

I think it's a positive sign, though, that upon finding that the door would not open, the president was open-minded enough (after pausing to work the problem through) to look for a different exit, rather than continuing to furiously pull and kick at the door while condemning anyone who suggested trying another door as "appeasers" who were "giving the door exactly what it wanted."

Sunday, November 20, 2005

ANOTHER LEGEND PASSES

RIP Link Wray. No mention yet in English-language press, so this Danish translation (Wray lived in Copenhagen) is all we've got thus far.

Via Metafilter.

ACTUALLY, IT'S THE POLICY

Andrew Stuttaford in the Corner:
Much as I would be delighted if a small group of special forces/James Bonds or the like could somehow cleanly ‘take out’ Iran’s facilities it’s a fantasy, and fantasy is not policy.

Andrew, I'd like to introduce you to the Bush Administration. Have you met before?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

BUCKLEY'S LEGACY

NRO is going through their archives in celebration of William F. Buckley's 80th birthday. Here's a bit from a 1964 editorial marking the tenth anniversary of Brown v Board of Education that probably won't make the cut.
"But whatever the exact net result in the restricted field of school desegregation, what a price we are paying for Brown! It would be ridiculous to hold the Supreme Court solely to blame for the ludicrously named 'civil rights movement' – that is, the Negro revolt . . . . But the Court carries its share of the blame. Its decrees, beginning with Brown, have on the one hand encouraged the least responsible of the Negro leaders in the course of extra-legal and illegal struggle that we now witness around us. . . .

"Brown, as National Review declared many years ago, was bad law and bad sociology. We are now tasting its bitter fruits. Race relations in the country are ten times worse than in 1954."

Decades before The Bell Curve, Buckley and his magazine were practicing bad sociology in the service of bigotry.

Friday, November 18, 2005

THEY HAVE THE DUMB

Via Altercation, M.J Rosenberg (in a great essay) notes a stunning suggestion from the New York Sun:
Right after the Amman bombings, the neoconservative New York Sun editorialized that Jordan should disappear. “We don't have a big stake in the perpetuation of the Hashemite monarchy,” the editors wrote, “our own preference would be Israeli rule on both sides of the Jordan, as Vladimir Jabotinsky suggested and as obtained in biblical times.” In other words, Israel should keep the West Bank and take the East Bank (which is Jordan) too.

Lessee, Iranian President Ahmedinajad calls for Israel to be wiped off the map, he is roundly and rightly condemned by both Democrats and Republicans. The editors of the New York Sun call for the same thing in regard to Jordan, and we hear...(almost) nothin' from nobody. I thought the right was supposed to be so good at policing its own extremes? Oh well.

And yes, by the way, Israel occupying Jordan would surely do wonders for security the Middle East. Great idea. By all means, let's reorganize the region "as obtained in biblical times." Who has the Romans' number?

ACTUAL SUCCESS

Many of the notable successes in preventing terrorism since 9/11 have come from international cooperation on intelligence, working from a base in, ahem, Paris. Too bad for the wingnuts who want to pretend that this is the War of the Ring.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

MARTHA STEWART: OUR INDESTRUCTIBLE NEW OVERLORD?

I'm surprised this isn't getting more coverage. I knew Martha was hardcore, but now she's insisting, Tyson-like, that she's indestructible, that she'll take all comers, anywhere, any time.

The rumor, and I've heard this from a few different sources, is that soon after her release from stir, she underwent a process by which adamantium, the strongest metal known to science, was fused to her skeleton. She also has secretly developed a very powerful plasma-bolt firing visor which can punch holes through the side of an aircraft carrier. It's suspected that Stewart actually has three of these visors, in Sherwood green, smoky pink, and perriwinkle.

A special forces unit dispatched to Turkey Hill to deal with the Stewart threat has not been heard from, and are presumed utterly wiped out. Stewart herself was last seen in a forest near her home, chopping down trees with her bare hands.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

CONDI DELIVERS

The Daily Star editors on the Condi-brokered deal between on the Gaza border crossing:
The fact that the disputes over the border's reopening were resolved so quickly after Rice arrived in the region is proof - if any more proof were needed - that American involvement in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict gets results. In fact the very nature of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process has always been trilateral, with the American playing an indispensable role in bringing both parties to the negotiating table. We have seen that in the absence of that American role, the peace process has stalled. But when the Americans, the strong third party, decide that something needs to be done, both the Palestinians and Israelis are quick to do it.

[snip]

While the logic of using U.S. military might to promote peace, stability and democracy is questionable, U.S. diplomacy has proven to be a worthwhile tool for achieving these goals. Having secured a deal on the Gaza crossing, the U.S. can carry the same diplomatic effort forward and work to remove other obstacles to peace, stability and democracy throughout the region.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

UNHINGED

Dave Niewert has a review of Michell Malkin's latest, err, work. He didn't love it.

MAHER ARAR

Maher Arar is a Canadian citizen who, while connecting through JFK, was detained by the INS and eventually delivered to Syria, where he was held for over ten months and claims he was tortured.

The Canadian government created The Arar Commission to investigate Mr. Arar's claims, and its final report has been released. The commission's finding:
Mr. Arar was subjected to torture in Syria. The effects of that experience, and of consequent events and experiences in Canada, have been profoundly negative for Mr. Arar and his family. Although there have been few lasting physical effects, Mr. Arar's psychological state was seriously damaged and he remains fragile. His relationships with members of his immediate family have been significantly impaired. Economically, the family has been devastated.

Do I really need to point out how staggeringly reprehensible it is for George W. Bush to criticize Syria for it's lack of democracy while at the same time delivering people there to be tortured?

MORALE

Goldberg:
The thing I honestly don't understand from folks like EJ Dionne (Ramesh links below) is when they write things like this:
Bush was not subtle. He said that anyone accusing his administration of having "manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people" was giving aid and comfort to the enemy. "These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will," Bush declared last week. "As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them."

I can understand that liberals don't like to be told their arguments make the troops' job harder. Who would want to hear they're undermining the war effort?

But what EJ and so many others almost always fail to do is answer whether they think it's actually true. Does EJ think Bush is lying when he says that showing a lack of resolve is harmful to troop morale and/or encouraging to our enemies? Or does EJ think it is true but nobody should say it?

I mean that seems like an important part of the equation, doesn't it?

In a typical example of Jonah's base-stealing, questioning the President's use of intelligence in making a case for war magically equals "showing a lack of resolve." I know that conservatives don't handle complexity well, but it is in fact possible to both support the troops and their mission while at the same time asking whether the reasons for putting them there were as strong as we were led to believe, and whether the WMD intelligence was presented honestly.

As for whether questioning the president's use of intelligence hurts troop morale, I'd guess that it does, for some, though the more intelligent troops understand that questioning our leaders is part of a healthy democracy, something that doesn't and shouldn't stop during wartime. I'd also guess that sending American forces into Iraq under-equipped, undermanned, underpaid and overworked (not to mention failing in our obligations to them when they return home) has done quite a bit more to hurt troop morale than Democratic criticism ever could.

THIS IS THE OCCUPATION

Israeli justice:
The Southern Command court on Tuesday acquitted Israel Defense Forces Captain "R" of all charges relating to the killing of a Palestinian girl in the Gaza Strip in October 2004.

The case received wide-spread media attention when R was suspected of "confirming the kill" and shooting the girl multiple times once she had already been hit by IDF gunfire and was lying on the ground.

R's defense attorneys, Yoav Meni and Elad Eisenberg, succeeded in finding contradictions in testimony provided by the prosecution's witnesses during the trial.

The witnesses, Givati Brigade soldiers from R's company, said they lied during the military probe of the incident and in statements they provided the court in an effort the cause the ousting of R from the company.

Understand, this barbarian was acquitted of the murder of a 13-year old Palestinian girl because of misstatements by his own troops. The act of emptying machine gun rounds into her body was exonerated as proper procedure, "a known IDF practice employed to eliminate immediate threats."

The Guardian has a transcript of the IDF radio communication from that day:
The tape recording is of a three-way conversation between the army watchtower, the army post's operations room and the captain, who was a company commander.

The soldier in the watchtower radioed his colleagues after he saw Iman: "It's a little girl. She's running defensively eastward."

Operations room: "Are we talking about a girl under the age of 10?"

Watchtower: "A girl of about 10, she's behind the embankment, scared to death."

A few minutes later, Iman is shot in the leg from one of the army posts.

The watchtower: "I think that one of the positions took her out."

The company commander then moves in as Iman lies wounded and helpless.

Captain R: "I and another soldier ... are going in a little nearer, forward, to confirm the kill ... Receive a situation report. We fired and killed her ... I also confirmed the kill. Over."

Witnesses described how the captain shot Iman twice in the head, walked away, turned back and fired a stream of bullets into her body. Doctors at Rafah's hospital said she had been shot at least 17 times.

On the tape, the company commander then "clarifies" why he killed Iman: "This is commander. Anything that's mobile, that moves in the zone, even if it's a three-year-old, needs to be killed. Over."

Ayman's family responds to the acquittal:
Ayman's uncle Abu Jihad Salman told Ynet the decision was "cruel, but not surprising."

"The Israeli and Zionist enemy are a group of infidels, so what is there to expect? Can infidels be expected to have humanity…? The answer is no," Abu Jihad said.

"Everything is in the hands of Allah. Everything is from Allah and Allah is the one who will bring us justice," he added.

Why should the Palestinians have any faith in legal and political processes when this is repeatedly the result? Should we be shocked when one of Ayman's brothers, cousins, or uncles turns himself into a bomb?

Ending the occupation will not magically end the violence between Israelis and Palestinians, but it is a key prerequisite. Never before has an occupied people been required to ensure the security of their occupier, as the Palestinians are, and I think by now it's clear that the very idea is preposterous. Sharon and other hardliners well know this, and their clear intention is to forestall negotiations, to maintain the violence at an acceptable level while they consolidate major settlement blocks around Jerusalem and in key water-rich areas of the West Bank. And Americans are helping pay for it.

Monday, November 14, 2005

QUESTION

Kathryn Lopez:
IF ANDY MCCARTHY RAN THE EVENING NEWS, THIS MIGHT BE THE LEAD STORY TONIGHT [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
Associated Press:
AMMAN, Jordan — American forces last year detained and later released an Iraqi with a name that matched one of three suicide bombers who struck Amman hotels, killing 57 people, the U.S. military said today.

From the story:
Jordanian authorities said Safaa Mohammed Ali, 23, was part of the al-Qaida in Iraq squad that bombed the Grand Hyatt, Radisson SAS and Days Inn hotels on Wednesday.

In Baghdad, the U.S. command said a man by that name was detained by American forces in November 2004 during their assault on the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah. The Americans said they did not know if the man they detained was the same Safaa Mohammed Ali identified by the Jordanians as one of the bombers.

"He was detained locally at the division detention facility" but was released two weeks later because there was no "compelling evidence to continue to hold him" as a "threat to the security of Iraq," the military said.

The U.S. detention of thousands of Iraqis has been cited — especially by members of the Sunni Arab minority that fuels the insurgency — as a major motivation for the continuing campaign of violence.

I have to ask, because I doubt Lopez or anyone else at NRO would ever think to: If it turns out that Safaa Mohammed Ali was in fact detained by American forces last year, did his treatment while in custody have anything to do with his decision to become a human bomb?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

METAL ABUSE

Awesome:
VATNAJ├ľKULL GLACIER, ICELAND—In an emergency session Tuesday, members of the Supreme Metal Council strongly condemned the increasing use of the metal hand sign in lay society, claiming that its meaning has become perverted by overuse.

"The metal sign, or 'sign of the goat,' has all but lost its impact as a token of respectful recognition for something truly 'rocking' or 'metal,'" SMC president Terence "Geezer" Butler said. According to Butler, members are upset that their sacred gesture is being used to acknowledge and celebrate "favorable but clearly non-metal events."

"We have all heard the reports of people using it to greet their in-laws, or after starting their lawn mowers with a single pull," Butler said. "But recently it was brought to our attention that someone used the gesture in a Texas convenience store after snagging the last box of carrot cakes. This simply won't do."

...Should the abuse continue, Butler said the council "will defer the matter to Satan."

A GOOD IDEA

This headline immediately reminded me of this one.

GOOD TIP

Al Qaeda inadvertently aided in the capture of one of the Jordanian terrorists:
Jordanian authorities today arrested an Iraqi woman who confessed to being part of a husband-and-wife team of suicide bombers but whose explosives failed to detonate during a terrorist attack on three Amman hotels last week.

Jordanian officials said yesterday they had found the remains of only three suicide bombers -- all males -- and discounted the claim that a woman was involved. But the statement by the group, al Qaeda in Iraq, focused the search for accomplices on an Iraqi woman, and security forces picked up the alleged fourth bomber this morning at a safe house in Amman.

Al Qaeda in Iraq, the group headed by Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi, was apparently unaware that Rishawi had survived the suicide attacks when it issued a series of statements claiming responsibility for them last week and identifying the perpetrators as an Iraqi married couple and two Iraqi men. The latest of three statements identified the bombers by pseudonyms and said the wife of one of the men had chosen to follow her husband into martyrdom.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

AL AKKAD

Syrian filmmaker Mustafa al Akkad was among the casualties of yesterday's bombings in Amman.
Internationally well-known Syrian director Mustafa Al Akkad was one of the victims of the tragic Jordan terrorist attacks leaving him in very critical condition and killing his daughter on the spot. Sources at the hospital Mustafa is being treated in revealed that the director’s condition is so critical that they doubt he will make it.

Al Akkad had come to Jordan from Syria and his daughter came from Lebanon to attend a wedding ceremony scheduled to take place on Friday November 12 in Aqaba and was staying at one of the hotels that were attacked. The director was waiting in the lobby of the Hyatt Amman Hotel to greet his daughter, who entered at the same time the bombing took place and was killed instantly.

Al Akkad is best known in the Arabic-speaking world for his 1976 film Al Risalah (The Message) which tells the story of the prophet Muhammad and the beginning of Islam. Observing the Islamic proscription against any representation of the Prophet, Muhammad is never shown or heard in the film, though various characters address him offscreen. The method is a bit jarring at first, but you get used to it quickly. It's a good, epic film in its own right, but also quite appropriate for anyone interested in learning about the early history of the Islamic faith.

Al Akkad also produced John Carpenter's Halloween, as well as its sequels. That, friends, is called versatility.

UPDATE
Sadly, AP reports that al Akkad has left the building.

THURSDAY GREAT CHARACTER ACTOR BLOGGING

What is the War? salutes the people who make the movies we love work.

M. Emmet Walsh had fine turns in countless great films, among them Blade Runner, Blood Simple, and, of course, The Jerk. I will always remember him most fondly, however, as Dr. Jellyfinger in Fletch.

No relation, as far as I know, to perhaps the greatest character actor of the late 20th century.

MORE CHALABI

David Corn on Ahmed Chalabi's speech at the Death Star, err, American Enterprise Insitute.

AL IKHWAN

Al Jazeera reports on the (officially outlawed) Muslim Brotherhood's growing prominence in Egyptian politics.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

MR. CHALABI GOES TO WASHINGTON

This guy kills me.
Ahmad Chalabi, the former Iraqi exile who went from being a Bush administration favorite to persona non grata, arrived in Washington on Tuesday to face uneasy talks with American officials and a new demand by Senate Democrats that he testify about the possible misuse of prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Aides to Mr. Chalabi, who is a deputy prime minister of Iraq, have been hoping that his visits this week with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Treasury Secretary John W. Snow and Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, will pave the way for a reconciliation with the Bush administration.

He is also likely to meet with Vice President Dick Cheney, a senior administration official said Tuesday evening.

Given Chalabi's track record, I wouldn't be surprised if Rice, Snow, Hadley, and Cheney all end up with new used cars by the end of the week.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

THINGS THAT SOUND LIKE OTHER THINGS

President Bush, yesterday:
"We are finding terrorists and bringing them to justice," Bush said at a news conference with Panamanian President Martin Torrijos. "We are gathering information about where the terrorists might be hiding. We are trying to disrupt their plots and plans," he said.

"Anything we do to that end in this effort, any activity we conduct, is within the law," Bush said. "We do not torture. And therefore we're working with Congress to make sure that as we go forward, we make it possible, more possible to do our job."

Richard Nixon:
"Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal."

WOW

BBC:
The parents of a Palestinian boy killed by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank have donated his organs for use in Israel, in the hope of promoting peace.

Twelve-year-old Ahmed Ismail Khatib was shot in the town of Jenin by troops who mistook his toy gun for a real one.

His organs were transplanted into five Israeli children and a woman aged 58.

Monday, November 07, 2005

WHO WOULD JESUS AUDIT?

Via Americablog, a California church is under investigation by the IRS for, wait for it, opposing war:
The Internal Revenue Service has warned one of Southern California's largest and most liberal churches that it is at risk of losing its tax-exempt status because of an antiwar sermon two days before the 2004 presidential election.

Rector J. Edwin Bacon of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena told many congregants during morning services Sunday that a guest sermon by the church's former rector, the Rev. George F. Regas, on Oct. 31, 2004, had prompted a letter from the IRS.

In his sermon, Regas, who from the pulpit opposed both the Vietnam War and 1991's Gulf War, imagined Jesus participating in a political debate with then-candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry. Regas said that "good people of profound faith" could vote for either man, and did not tell parishioners whom to support.

But he criticized the war in Iraq, saying that Jesus would have told Bush, "Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster."

Haven't these "Christians" heard? The new, improved Amurkin-Republican Jesus likes war, likes tax cuts for the rich, likes torture, likes slashing social programs, likes corporate tax loopholes, and likes gutting environmental protections. Faith, hope, and love are nice, but new, improved Amurkin-Republican Jesus believes in the combined power of the market and the military to change lives.

UP. IT'S THE NEW DOWN

Even if this Steve Salerno piece were only a paragraph long, it would still be one of the silliest things I've ever read:
Ever wonder why one hears so little talk of right-wing demagoguery? Oh, now and then some particularly dyspeptic liberal will lodge such charges against Rush, or get in a snit over some other outspoken conservative stalwart. But the Right has no true counterparts to the likes of Jesse Jackson, Terry McAuliffe, Patricia Ireland, Al Sharpton, et al. There simply is no conservative whose stock in trade is the chronic spewing of grandiose pronouncements or pithy sound bites having no purpose other than to remind constituents of how much they need him in their corner.

Where to begin? First, to wonder whether Salerno knows the definition of the word demagogue, which nicely describes Republican strategy since about Joe McCarthy. Whether it's Hollywood Communists, welfare queens, murderous Islamists, atheistic elites, baby-eating feminists, Mexicans stealing your jobs, or gays trying to get married and have sex with your children, GOP strategy has been to A) make you fear it, and B) convince you that only they can protect you from it. I don't deny that there's an element of this in all politics, but to survey the American scene and conclude that the real demagogues are to be found only on the left is to signal stupidity at the cellular level.

Bill O'Reilly wrote a book entitled Who's Looking Out for You?, which, aside from recycling his newspaper columns, had no purpose other than to remind readers of how much they need him in their corner. Sean Hannity. Rick Santorum. Laura Ingraham. Tom DeLay. Ann Coulter. Check, check, check, check, check. I particularly like how Salerno tries to steal a base regarding Limbaugh, suggesting that only oversensitive types could find him offensive. Offensive? Occasionally. Demagogue? Certainly.

I'm reminded of a C-SPAN interview with National Review's Jay Nordlinger last year in which he condemned Michael Moore as "poisonous," and moments later chucklingly referred to Ann Coulter as "flamboyant." This sort of ideological blindness is probably as common on the left as on the right, but as others have pointed out, the difference between left-wing and right-wing demagogues is that right-wing demagogues, in addition to being on the airwaves and in the newspapers every day of the week, actually occupy positions of power in their party.

THE NEW SCOOTER

Good article on Cheney's new Libby, David Addington, and their substantial efforts to ensure that the U.S. continues to torture people. No word yet on whether Addington will be assigned a disarmingly infantile nickname like "Scooter."

Friday, November 04, 2005

THE ID FOLLIES

The good stuff's at the end:
Richard Thompson, the former prosecutor who is president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Center, says its role is to use the courts "to change the culture" - and it well could depending on the outcome of the test case it finally found.

Lawyers for the center are to sum up their case on Friday after a six-week trial in which they have been defending the school district in the small Pennsylvania town of Dover. The school board voted last year to require that students in ninth grade biology class be read a statement saying that "Darwin's theory" is "not a fact" and that intelligent design is an alternative worth studying.

At issue in the Dover lawsuit, brought by 11 parents in Federal District Court, is whether intelligent design is really religion dressed up as science, and whether teaching it in a public school violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

The More center's lawyers put scientists on the witness stand who argued that intelligent design - the idea that living organisms are so complex that the best explanation is that a higher intelligence designed them - is a credible scientific theory and not religion because it never identifies God as the designer.

Still religion is at the heart of the case's appeal for the center, say its lawyers and the chairman of its board.

The chairman, Bowie Kuhn, the former baseball commissioner, said the board agreed that the center should take on an intelligent design case because while it is not necessarily based on religion "it is being opposed because people think it is religious." And that was enough for a group whose mission, as explained on its Web site, is "to protect Christians and their religious beliefs in the public square."

Let me see if I have this straight: Intelligent design is a credible scientific, not religious, alternative to evolution. People oppose it because they incorrectly perceive it as religious. Therefore, it must be defended as religious expression.

That's impressive

Thursday, November 03, 2005

THE ANTI-EARTH LOBBY

Interesting article from the Seattle Weekly on the Wise Use movement's relationship with Christian Dominionists, and their efforts to dismantle environmental legislation.

PROSCIUTTO AND EGGS

I just don't think they should go together.

NO MATTER HOW CYNICAL I GET

I can never keep up:
The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.

The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.

The inability of the Bush gang to understand the symbolic significance of something like this is stunning. More likely, more horribly, they understand it fine and just don't care.

SYRIA

Josh Landis has a roundup of some of the recent reporting and commentary on Syria.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

SENDING A MESSAGE

They've had some time to think about it, and they want to get back together:
The Iraqi government issued a plea on Wednesday to former junior officers in Saddam Hussein's military who were sacked by the U.S. occupiers after his fall to return to the army as it battles a fierce Sunni Arab insurgency.

Six weeks before an election, there may be a political as well as practical security motive behind the move; the loss of army pay has been a major source of discontent among Saddam's fellow minority Sunni Arabs, who dominated the officer corps.

Within weeks of Saddam's fall in April 2003, U.S. administrator Paul Bremer disbanded at a stroke Iraq's 400,000- strong armed forces and security agencies. U.S. officials said it simply formalized the fact that the army had evaporated in the aftermath of the war, with soldiers deserting en masse.

Bush claims that setting a timetable for U.S. withdrawal would embolden our enemies, whereas pleading for Saddam's officers to come back to the Iraqi Army is sure to scare the shit out of them.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

AL SHAMSHOONS

The Simpsons are "culturally adapted" for the Middle East.
As with any family moving to the Arab world from the West, "The Simpsons" quickly discovered they'd need to make some adaptations to their lives if they were to connect with the natives. First, they would change their names - the family now called Al-Shamshoons; the father, once Homer, now goes by Omar; his mischievous son Bart, now Badr.

There would be fundamental changes to their lifestyles as well. Omar, once a fan of tossing back a few beers with friends, now goes to the club or the ahwa (coffee shop) and sips on sodas and juice. The list goes on. Donuts have been replaced by kakh (Arabic cookies); bacon is done away with altogether as it is against Islam; and the kids, once a rowdy bunch of conniving delinquents, are still just as cunning but mind their manners with their parents a bit more.

Hmm, Homer without bacon...

LA PETITE

This is one of the greatest headlines ever.
Sociopathic elephant exiled to Israeli barn after murderous past

Ostracized by her herd, La Petite is looking to pack her trunk and move to a new home.

The 19-year-old elephant with a checkered past -- she killed her first baby and is suspected of killing a handler -- failed to fit in at a British zoo, and now is having trouble at an Israeli safari park.

Suspected? What, they couldn't put her at the scene? A giraffe and a lemur confirmed her alibi that they were all at the movies together at the time? Sure. Right. These sociapathic elephants, man. They're mean and they're clever. And they think ahead. Wouldn't be surprised of the giraffe and lemur have disappeared. Have you tried contacting them? Hmm, yeah. They're probably part of the foundation of some house now.

I'm imagining the L&O episode.