Thursday, February 23, 2006


Very bad.
A dawn bomb attack devastated the dome of one of the world's holiest Shiite shrines, sparking reprisal attacks against 90 Sunni mosques that left at least eight dead and sending thousands of Shiites to the streets in protests. The Iraqi president warned that extremists were pushing the country toward civil war, as Shiite leaders lashed out at the U.S. as partly to blame and hinted that local armed militias might play a bigger role in security to protect such holy shrines.

The national security adviser said 10 people wearing the uniforms of police commandos had been arrested in Samarra; police said such a group had overpowered mosque guards and laid charges that brought down the 20-meter wide, 100-year-old gilded dome, shattered mosaics and scattered debris.

The bombing bears "the imprint of Al-Qaeda which wants to bring about a civil war in Iraq," Muwaffaq Rubaie said.

President Jalal Talabani accused the attackers of trying to derail negotiations on a national-unity coalition: "We must ... work together against ... the danger of civil war," he said in a televised address to the nation.

The Shiites' most revered cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani made a rare, if silent, television appearance underlining the gravity of the crisis. He called for protests but urged restraint, forbidding attacks on Sunni mosques. He later hinted, as did Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdel-Mehdi, that religious militias could be given a bigger security role if the government is not capable of protecting holy shrines.

Sistani said: "If its security agencies are not able to guarantee the needed security, then the believers are able to do that with God's help."

I have a very bad feeling that we'll soon be looking back on the "good old days" before the bombing of al Askariya.


From the Daily Star:
The explicit prohibition regarding entry to the Jordan Valley by all Palestinians except a small minority is relatively new. It has taken shape slowly in the course of the past five years. It has involved not a single order published by the media, but rather a series of cumulative prohibitions, now at this roadblock, later at another and another and yet another. The constraints on Palestinian farmers' freedom to market their produce directly and to nearby Israeli dealers are also new, dating from October-November 2005. Both types of prohibition constitute but the most recent manifestations of the policy practiced by Israel even during the Oslo years - ostensibly the peace negotiation years.

Everything can be interpreted as "legitimate security measures": to protect Israelis traveling on the main road, to defend the settlers, facilitate the task of the soldiers, and place as many filters as possible in the way of arms smugglers. But the security rationale persuades only those (sadly, most Israelis) who insist on ignoring a series of dispossessing measures invoked by a succession of Israeli governments in the Jordan Valley and against Palestinians. These include construction of colonies based on depriving Palestinians of their water resources and taking control over their lands; turning some 500 square kilometers of the valley into military training grounds and live-fire zones, thereby supplying an excellent "humane" excuse for actively removing people from about a third of the land; and unilaterally proclaiming "nature preserves" in an area of 6,000 acres. The latter measure evokes a supposed love for nature that is belied when Israel destroys tens of thousands of acres of scenic views, fertile land and primeval rock gorges in a unilateral effort to establish the state of Israel's final borders - and reduce Palestinian territory to isolated enclaves.

Olmert carries on Sharon's legacy of politicide.

To state the obvious, it's preposterous to expect or demand that Palestinian violence cease in the face of ongoing brutalization and dispossession by Israel. It simply makes no sense to insist that Hamas choose the path of negotiation when all the negotiations of the last decade have only resulted in more occupation, more settlements, more checkpoints, and less land for a Palestinian state.


Shorter Steven Hayward:
There is a conspiracy afoot to promote the overwhelming scientific consensus on global climate change!

Even before intelligent design got to be big news, anti-environmentalists were perfecting the strategy of "teaching the controversy" on climate change, which is to say that they were skillfully taking advantage of the news-media's pretensions of "balance" and "objectivity" to paint a fundamentally dishonest picture of the issue. To illustrate this, I've written a short play.

Today we'll be talking about the moon, and what it's made of. Our first guest is a scientist from a well-respected university who has published numerous peer-reviewed articles on the subject. He claims the moon is made of rock. Welcome, sir!

Thank you.

Our second guest is a guy with a telescope on top of his garage, who claims that moon is made of fried chicken. Thanks for being here!

Thanks for having me.

We think it's our responsibility to present both sides!



Atrios gives us a smashing new acronym.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Unintentional irony this morning courtesy of Andrew Sullivan:
The Iranian leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, keeps referring to the "Hidden Imam" in his public speeches. This is a little like hearing an American president publicly saying that his policies are dictated by the "Left Behind" series of apocalyptic fiction.

First, comparing the doctrines of Twelver Shi'ism to a series of trashy popular entertainments like the Left Behind books is not appropriate. A more apt (though still rough) comparison would be between Twelver Shi'ism and Christian Dispensationalism, but this is inconvenient because then one would have to recognize that a significant number of U.S. lawmakers are dispensationalists. (I'll have more on the Shi'ism-Dispensationalism comparison later, hopefully.)

Second, a question for Andrew: Why is a belief in the Hidden Imam any more strange than our President's (and Andrew's) belief in the returning Christ? And why should any Iranian (or any Muslim, for that matter) be less disturbed by Bush's God-talk than any American should be by Ahmedinejad's?

Friday, February 17, 2006


Unsurprisingly, it's bothering some people:
"This is a terrorist film!" the man roared through the darkened auditorium where hundreds of viewers, mostly Israeli, were watching "Paradise Now," a deeply controversial film about two suicide bombers. "You have no right to play this in Israel," he bellowed, with his wife joining in: "Terrorists, terrorists!" The outburst prompted a quick smattering of applause from some, but others were clearly angry.

"Shut up and sit down!" snapped one. "If you don't like it, leave!" Four months after its release, the controversy surrounding the 90-minute film shot entirely in Arabic has not abated, particularly with the film now in the running for a best foreign language Oscar.

The story tells the tale of two childhood friends who volunteer for a double suicide bombing. It is set mainly in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, but also in the coastal city of Tel Aviv, the intended target of their attack.

Set over a period of 48 hours, the story twists and turns as the director seeks to explore the strength of their motivation, their doubts and fears until the finale, when one goes ahead and the other backs out.

For many in Israel, the film is little more than a gratuitous attempt to glorify those behind the deaths of hundreds of Israelis.

For Palestinians, it is a rare attempt to try to show something of the human face behind the headlines and the process, which leads to such an extreme act.

First, I'm very impressed that this film is being screened in Israel at all. Second, I can understand why people might be angered by it, as its depictions of the pre-bombing procedures, the ablutions, the videotaped declarations and farewells, the strapping on of explosives, and the calm rationalizations and instructions of the Hamas controllers are chilling. They are meant to be. But the charge that the film is "pro-terrorist" is nonsense. The clear message with which I came away from the film was that the suicide bombings have done virtually nothing to advance the Palestinian cause, have provided the perfect excuse for Israel to intensify their military presence and ramp up settlement expansion, and serve primarily as a way for emasculated Palestinian men, after a lifetime of humiliation and brutality at the hands of their Israeli occupiers, to stick it to The Man (and his women and children) one time. It did not make me more sympathetic to terrorism, but it did help me to better understand what creates it.

I think the more interesting controversy is whether to classify the film as "Palestinian."
Many Israelis were irked when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in publishing the nomination, said Paradise Now came from Palestine.

While the tag remains on the academy's website, an Israeli diplomat said he expected the film to be described as coming from the Palestinian Authority during the awards ceremony.

"Both the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles and several concerned Jewish groups pointed out that no one, not even the Palestinians themselves, have declared the formal creation of Palestine yet, and thus the label would be inaccurate," the diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The film involved Palestinian crews, an Israeli producer and European funding.

The writer-director, Hany Abu-Assad, is an Arab Israeli. I think it would be reasonable to classify the film as being from Israel-Palestine, but ultimately I think it should be left up to the filmmakers.


Ismail Haniya predicted to be new Palestinian PM:
The militant group Hamas on Thursday appeared poised to name its candidate for Palestinian prime minister, while Israel's Defense Ministry drew up sanctions likely to be imposed after the new Palestinian parliament dominated by Hamas is sworn in on Saturday.

Hamas plans to nominate Ismail Haniya, viewed as one of its less radical leaders, for prime minister, The Associated Press reported, citing a Hamas official in Damascus. Mr. Haniya, speaking in Gaza City, told Reuters that no final decision had been made. But other Hamas officials, who did not want to be identified because the decision was not yet official, said they expected his nomination to be formalized on Friday or Saturday.

BBC profile here.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Marshall Wittman responds to Glenn Greenwald's assertion that "in order to be considered a "liberal," only one thing is required - a failure to pledge blind loyalty to George W. Bush":
Yes, there is an element of conservatism that attempts to apply a Lenninist(sic) discipline on ideological heterodoxy. In fact, the Moose was the target of their efforts. The Moose has enjoyed the distinct pleasure of being labeled both a Republican squish and a Rovian plant. But, based upon personal exposure to both sides of the political spectrum, this mammal can confidently observe that there is more tolerance for differences on the right side of the spectrum than on the left.

While Greenwald suggests that "loyalty" to Bush is the requirement for the right, the standard to to be a member in good standing of the liberal/left community is hatred of Bush. The Moose opposes most of the economic agenda of the Administration. However, he critically supports the President in the war on terror - including the NSA program. This has won the Moose the visceral opprobrium of the left. Because in the left wing universe, one must oppose everything the President supports. The truth is that a good part of the left believes that George W. Bush is a greater threat to America than Osama bin Laden.

Yes Virginia, there is a left wing Cult of Bush Hatred.

There is far too much ideological conformity in both parties. That is why the Moose belongs to neither. It would be far better if both sides of the ideological spectrum to have more introspection and self-knowledge.

Indeed. It would also be far better if somebody would just do something about all the problems, but, you know, alas.

Frankly, I'm not that impressed with either argument. It's a fair if unoriginal point that a lot of leftists practice their politics with a religious fervor (as opposed to those on the right for whom their politics and religion are indistinguishable) but I think the major difference between the two is their love versus their hate, in the right's blind dedication to their man on a horse, which I don't think has any analogue in the contemporary American left. In this respect I'm more sympathetic to Greenwald.

For example, let's compare Bush to Clinton. While they both inspire extreme hatred from the other side, I don't see the cult of Clinton as anywhere near equal in size or intensity to the cult of Bush. I think Bush has strayed farther from anything that could be called "conservatism" than Clinton did from traditional liberalism, yet Clinton was relentlessy criticized by the left for his triangulations in a way that Bush simply has not been by the right. This is one area where the overt religiosity of the right clearly benefits Republicans versus Democrats, and Bush in particular, given his skillfull use throughout his presidency of evangelical vernacular. Bush is given a certain amount of deference simply by virtue of having been placed there by God. I am not aware of any comparable thinking among Democrats.

Related, and as has been pointed out repeatedly, it's imperative to understand that while the left does have it's nutjobs, the nutjobs of the right actually occupy positions of real power in the U.S. government. I'd argue that Michael Moore and Rick Santorum are more or less equally out to lunch, but there's no question as to who actually has more power.

Bottom line, I'll buy Wittman's "it goes both ways" argument when a sitting Democratic Congressman reenacts the Whittington shooting in his backyard with a cantaloupe.


Hamas leaders paid a surprise visit to Turkey on Thursday, the first to a non-Arab country since the militant Islamists won a January 25 poll, but officials said they would not meet Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

Muslim but secular Turkey has good ties with both Israel and the Palestinians and wants to play a more active role in Middle East peacemaking, but the Hamas trip has infuriated Israel and also upset the United States and the European Union.

"It is out of the question that the prime minister hold talks with the Hamas delegation," an official at Erdogan's office told reporters.

But he added that Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul might be present at planned talks between the Hamas leaders and officials from Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has roots in political Islam.

More than just having roots in political Islam, the Justice and Development Party is essentially the Islamist Welfare Party, reorganized and renamed so as to be able to participate in Turkey's strictly secular (for now) politics. The relationship that develops between the Palestinian and Turkish Islamists should be very significant and instructive, given that we also have the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the progenitor of modern political Islam, patiently waiting to sweep elections if and when Mubarak ever holds them. Oh yeah, don't forget Iraq.

It's pretty obvious at this point that some form of Islamic politics, if not outright Islamism, is the future of Middle East democracy. Whether this will translate into anything that can be called 'liberal' democracy remains to be seen, but the bottom line is that American policy makers had better start getting used to the idea.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Peace activists have revived plans for a sculpture to commemorate Vietnam War draft resisters who fled to Canada, a proposal that had drawn the ire of U.S. veterans groups and conservatives.

The activists, who are also organizing a reunion for "draft dodgers" in July, said on Tuesday the proposed monument is still needed to warn Americans and Canadians about the dangers of militarism.

"It is very important educationally that we have specific peace monuments," said Isaac Romano, an American who immigrated to Canada and now lives in British Columbia's Kootenay region where many U.S. war resisters settled.

I would be much more inclined to support a memorial to those who defied the draft and went to prison for their principles.

(Not that we ever would, but if we did have a draft dodger memorial in the U.S., may I suggest a sculpture of Poppy Bush at his desk, on the phone to the Texas Air National Guard commander?)


To steal a line from PJ O'Rourke, demonstrating that David Horowitz is a stone idiot is about as challenging as hunting dairy cows with a high-powered rifle and scope. I mean, even amongst the shrill, hapless little Joe McCarthy's-leg-humpers who "enliven" our politics in much the same way that weevils "enliven" a cotton field, Horowitz stands out both for the intensity of his invective and for the complete lack of serious thought or research which seems to underpin it. Having said that, this application of foot to ass by Michael Berube is a thing of pure beauty.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


I'll admit to being surprised by the extent to which Thevicepresidentfreakingshotadudegate has transfixed our newsmedia. (that's a definitive photo of him) My perception of Dick Cheney is such that the news that he put someone in intensive care with a shotgun blast is greeted merely with a grave nod of the head.

Last night Tucker Carlson, a thinker of such proportions that his bow-tie actually wears him, defended Cheney's choice of recreation as none of our business*. This is the same Tucker Carlson who, during the 04 campaign, relentlessly mocked John Kerry for wind-surfing, which is apparently a lesser sport than standing around waiting for some caged birds to be released so you can shoot at them.

Other conservative sports:
  • Golf
  • Driving around your Potemkin ranch in your pickup trying to look serious
  • Torture
  • Polo

(*In the transcript, Carlson is identified at one point as 'O'Reilly'. Heh.)

Sunday, February 12, 2006


Tariq Ramadan from an interview in Der Speigel:
The reaction [to the Muhammad caricatures] has been way too severe. I traveled to Denmark back in October and I told Muslim leaders there not to react emotionally, because it would be the reactions and the emotions of the Muslims that would become the center of attention. The best thing would have been for us to take an emotional distance. But now, all you see is angry faces, crying and rage on the television. This is not the way forward for the Muslims.


Of course it started with a few people being hurt by the cartoons. But then a few people took the cartoons to the Middle East. Some governments there were very happy to present themselves as the great champions of Islam. One reason, of course, was to gain legitimacy in the eyes of their own people. But secondly, it was to direct the attention of the people, living under these dictatorial governments, toward the West and to provide their people with a vent for their own frustrations. And it worked -- it became Muslims against the West. All the first reactions from the Islamic majority countries came from those countries (and places) where there is a difficult relationship with the West: Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Gaza, and then Iran. It's more than just the cartoons. It's part of a broader picture that we have to keep in mind.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What about the Iranian paper's idea to hold a contest to create Holocaust caricatures? Why is every perceived provocation from the West answered by anti-Semitism?

RAMADAN: Muslims have to realize that double standards cannot be allowed. We are confusing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- a political conflict -- with all the Jews. We have to condemn something which is harmful and anti-Semitic. The Holocaust is a deep and hurtful part of the European conscience. Exploiting that, and exploiting a people who were hurt and suffered and treated in a horrific way -- which is what the Holocaust caricature campaign does -- is not acceptable. It is to be condemned.

Wow, what a nutball! Good thing he's been prevented from teaching in this country (under the Dept. of Fatherland Security's wonderfully named "ideological exclusion" provision). Ramadan was subsequently added to noted freedom-hater Tony Blair's taskforce on extremism.

Friday, February 10, 2006


Diane West on the caricatures:
We need to learn a new word: dhimmitude. I've written about dhimmitude periodically, lo, these many years since September 11, but it takes time to sink in. Dhimmitude is the coinage of a brilliant historian, Bat Ye'or, whose pioneering studies of the dhimmi, populations of Jews and Christians vanquished by Islamic jihad, have led her to conclude that a common culture has existed through the centuries among the varied dhimmi populations. From Egypt and Palestine to Iraq and Syria, from Morocco and Algeria to Spain, Sicily and Greece, from Armenia and the Balkans to the Caucasus: Wherever Islam conquered, surrendering dhimmi, known to Muslims as "people of the book [the Bible]," were tolerated, allowed to practice their religion, but at a dehumanizing cost.


This is the lesson of Cartoon Rage 2006, a cultural nuke set off by an Islamic chain reaction to those 12 cartoons of Muhammad appearing in a Danish newspaper...With only a small roll of brave journals, mainly in Europe, to salute, we have seen the proud Western tradition of a free press bow its head and submit to an Islamic law against depictions of Muhammad. That's dhimmitude.

Not that we admit it: We dress up our capitulation in fancy talk of "tolerance," "responsibility" and "sensitivity."...Left unmentioned is the understanding (editorial judgement?) that "gratuitous offense" leads to gratuitous violence. Hence, fear — not the inspiration of tolerance but of capitulation — and a condition of dhimmitude.

Yet, despite this near-total capitulation by the Western media, I and almost everyone I know has seen the cartoons. Weird.

And you know, it occurs to me that if the quality of Western civilization is such that the difference between victory and surrender comes down to the choice of running or not running some cartoons...uh, yeah. That's really silly.

Regarding dhimmis, while it's certainly true that non-Muslims were not considered full citizens in medieval Islamic societies, it's important to note that members of minority religions in the Islamic world had one of the best deals going at the time. Quite different from the situation of Jews, apostates, and minority Christians in contemporary Europe, tens of thousands of whom fled to Muslim lands to escape near-constant persecution by dominant Christian sects. There was no comparable migration in the other direction. This is what's known as voting with one's feet.


Juan Cole has a story for you.


It's Rich Lowry versus Kenneth Waltz. The phones are not lighting up.

Matt Yglesias
Rich Lowry's trying to coin a term "neo-realist" for that brand of foreign policy thinker who just so happens to mix and match their realpolitik and their idealism to match up with roughly whatever George W. Bush is doing in any given situation. He notes that The Wall Street Journal used "neo-realist" as a description for Condoleezza Rice and her circle earlier this week. It's a trend!

It's a trend and it's got to stop. "Neorealism" already has an established meaning in international relations jargon -- the people who, following Kenneth Waltz, have sought to formalize and systematize the earlier "classical realism" of Hans Morgenthau, etc. Frankly, I think it's generally misleading to try and import terms derived from academic debates and map them onto policy debates. It's never been obvious to me that Brent Scowcroft's view of what American foreign policy should be like has anything in particular to do with what Waltz or John Mearsheimer have to say about the structure of international politics.

Rob Farley
Lowry wants to think that a neo-realist is someone who combines the idealism of neocons (chuckle) and the hard-headedness of realists. Since neorealism has been a functioning term of international relations theory since 1979, and since several of its proponents are prominent in both academic and public circles (particularly Mearsheimer and Waltz), and since (especially) neorealism as it stands means almost precisely the opposite of what Lowry would have it stand for, I think that Lowry should give it some thought and try to find a new phrase.

Rich Lowry responds to an emailer on the point:
I take the point. But when coming up with a new label, I'm not sure points like this really matter. They certainly didn't when everyone who supported the Iraq war was labeled a “neo-con.” John Bolton is consistently labeled a neo-con--the Wall Street Journal did it the other day--when he's clearly not, and is much closer to being a neo-realist (add him to the list). So Kenneth Waltz is going to have to move over--we're taking the phrase and using it for our own purposes...

Kenneth Waltz is going to have to move over. Sure, Rich. Sure.

Fair enough point on the careless, expansive use of the neocon label, which is I think is common. Regarding Bolton, however, let's go to the Godfather of Neoconservatism:
And then, of course, there is foreign policy, the area of American politics where neoconservatism has recently been the focus of media attention. This is surprising since there is no set of neoconservative beliefs concerning foreign policy, only a set of attitudes derived from historical experience. (The favorite neoconservative text on foreign affairs, thanks to professors Leo Strauss of Chicago and Donald Kagan of Yale, is Thucydides on the Peloponnesian War.) These attitudes can be summarized in the following "theses" (as a Marxist would say): First, patriotism is a natural and healthy sentiment and should be encouraged by both private and public institutions. Precisely because we are a nation of immigrants, this is a powerful American sentiment. Second, world government is a terrible idea since it can lead to world tyranny. International institutions that point to an ultimate world government should be regarded with the deepest suspicion. Third, statesmen should, above all, have the ability to distinguish friends from enemies. This is not as easy as it sounds, as the history of the Cold War revealed. The number of intelligent men who could not count the Soviet Union as an enemy, even though this was its own self-definition, was absolutely astonishing.

Finally, for a great power, the "national interest" is not a geographical term, except for fairly prosaic matters like trade and environmental regulation. A smaller nation might appropriately feel that its national interest begins and ends at its borders, so that its foreign policy is almost always in a defensive mode. A larger nation has more extensive interests. And large nations, whose identity is ideological, like the Soviet Union of yesteryear and the United States of today, inevitably have ideological interests in addition to more material concerns. Barring extraordinary events, the United States will always feel obliged to defend, if possible, a democratic nation under attack from nondemocratic forces, external or internal. That is why it was in our national interest to come to the defense of France and Britain in World War II. That is why we feel it necessary to defend Israel today, when its survival is threatened. No complicated geopolitical calculations of national interest are necessary.

Behind all this is a fact: the incredible military superiority of the United States vis-à-vis the nations of the rest of the world, in any imaginable combination. This superiority was planned by no one, and even today there are many Americans who are in denial. (ha ha.-ed)


With power come responsibilities, whether sought or not, whether welcome or not. And it is a fact that if you have the kind of power we now have, either you will find opportunities to use it, or the world will discover them for you.

Okay, first and slightly off point, I'd love to hear Kristol's explanation of how "a set of beliefs" is different from "a set of attitudes derived from historical experience." This echoes Russell Kirk's idea that conservatism is "the negation of ideology," which I think is is a fascinating claim, albeit one that doesn't comes within telescope distance of being true of most conservatives I've met, and certainly not of conservatism as an actual movement.

Second, according to the Godfather's definition, I think John Bolton can be accurately described as neoconservative, whether or not he personally considers himself such. At the very least he's aggressively serving a neoconservative agenda, and I don't see much of a practical difference between the two.

Third, political movements and ideologies are commonly labeled by their critics, neoconservatism itself being an excellent example. I don't think you can choose a name for your own, especially when it's already the name of a rather prominent theory in the same field. So let's everybody get to work naming Rich Lowry's new theory.


Al Jazeera:
A new study published in the US says that bottled water consumption has more than doubled globally in the last six years and is heavily taxing the world's ecosystem.

Emily Arnold, the author of the report published by the Washington-based environmental group the Earth Policy Institute, says bottled water can cost 10,000 times more than tap water despite often being no healthier.

"Even in areas where tap water is safe to drink, demand for bottled water is increasing, producing unnecessary garbage and consuming vast quantities of energy," she says.

The study says that at as much as $2.50 per litre, bottled water actually costs more than petrol.


From the National Journal:
"These are people picked up off the battlefield in Afghanistan. They weren't wearing uniforms ... but they were there to kill."
-- President Bush, June 20, 2005

"These detainees are dangerous enemy combatants....They were picked up on the battlefield, fighting American forces, trying to kill American forces."-- White House press secretary Scott McClellan, June 21, 2005

"The people that are there are people we picked up on the battlefield, primarily in Afghanistan. They're terrorists. They're bomb makers. They're facilitators of terror. They're members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban....We've let go those that we've deemed not to be a continuing threat. But the 520-some that are there now are serious, deadly threats to the United States."-- Vice President Cheney, June 23, 2005

"These are people, all of whom were captured on a battlefield. They're terrorists, trainers, bomb makers, recruiters, financiers, [Osama bin Laden's] bodyguards, would-be suicide bombers, probably the 20th 9/11 hijacker."
-- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, June 27, 2005

These quotes are representative of countless assertions by administration officials over the past four years that all -- or the vast majority -- of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are Qaeda terrorists or Taliban fighters captured on "the battlefield."

The assertions have been false. And those quoted above came long after the evidence of their falsity should have been manifest to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and their subordinates.

I can imagine Gonzales's testimony going something like this:
"As you know, Senator, we're in a war of ideas, and so 'the battlefield' is in each of our heads, and that's where these people were detained, and we think that's an appropriate interpretation."

The NP story gets worse:
The tribunal hearings, based largely on such guilt-by-association logic, have been travesties of unfairness. The detainees are presumed guilty unless they can prove their innocence -- without help from lawyers and without being permitted to know the details and sources of the evidence against them. This evidence is almost entirely hearsay from people without firsthand knowledge and statements from other detainees desperate to satisfy their brutally coercive interrogators. One file says, "Admitted to knowing Osama bin Laden," based on an interrogation in which the detainee -- while being pressed to "admit" this, despite his denials -- finally said in disgust, "OK, I knew him; whatever you want."

And now we can't let the guy go, because he freaking hates us.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


I recommend this item by Sam Bahour, from Electronic Intifada.


Have you ever been sitting there, absent-mindedly flipping channels, about to turn the thing off and go read a book when you found something, a brief moment, completely wonderful, amazing, transcendent? I can think of two notable instances myself: When I turned to CNN about five seconds before Jon Stewart began his harangue for the ages on Crossfire, and when I happened upon Prince as he was about to turn everyone at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony into a pile of wet matter with a crazily skilled and entirely too-long guitar solo on While My Guitar Gently Weeps. I hadn't been able to find it online since then, but guess what? (via Metafilter) Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


I was talking with a friend the other night about snow and sledding, I mentioned Sno-Nuts and how much fun they were and I was amazed that she had no idea what I was talking about. Granted, she grew up in Seattle, which gets very little snow, so it shouldn't have been that surprising that she was not familiar with sledding gear. But anyway it got me thinking about how much I used to love sledding and how much I'd love to do it again.

Note: I use the term "sledding" here in a broad sense to refer to the act of travelling down a snowy hill at great speed while sitting on some sort of un-motorized vehicle, such as yr traditional sled (feh, slow), toboggan (better, faster), or inner-tube (much better, much faster).

A Sno-Nut was basically a cheap plastic tube (kind of like this, but this is not an official Sno-Nut. It was important to have an official Sno-Nut) with a cheap plastic seat in the middle and cheap plastic handles on either side, to give the illusion of steering. With much, much experience you could learn to lean just the right way and get some measure of control, but the handles were there pretty much for hanging on for dear life because, friends, a Sno-Nut fawking flew down them hills. I had a theory that there was some sort of air-cushion formed by the snow reacting to the cheap plastic, though I've never proven this. Let's just say that the difference in speed between a regular old inner tube and a Sno-Nut was like the difference between your bike and an F-14 with four extra F-14 engines strapped to it.

We'd get snow pretty regularly in winter in Nyack, and we lived a block away from a church with a great sledding hill next to it. My little brother and I and our friends would be out there from right after school until well after dark (night sledding was a special thrill). The hill was about twenty feet wide with some hedges with prickers (that could blind you) on one side and a brick wall (that could collapse your skull) on the other. At the bottom was a paved driveway and then a bit more hill. The goal was to build up enough speed to scrape across the driveway and continue down to the very bottom of the hill, where there were some more hedges to slice you up, then Piermont Avenue, and then eventually the Hudson River. No one ever made it to the river, though with these new-fangled cheap plastics they're coming out with it's only a matter of time.

A Sno-Nut cost about five bucks, and it was good that they were cheap because they'd usually only last through a few days of our punishment. I tried a sturdier model one time, not a Sno-Nut, and it wasn't the same. No air-cushion. Had to go back to the Sno-Nut.

And I haven't even told you about full-contact downhill sledding yet, which I strongly believe should be an event in the Winter Olympics. All you need for this event is a Sno-Nut and a wiffle ball bat. Simplicity itself. One simple rule: no projectiles. Our time will come.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


That's what this headline should read. Like his predecessor, Olmert seems intent on turning Israel into the world's largest gated community.

The land grabs on the West Bank are bad enough, but the unilateral closure of Jerusalem is going to be the real killer, as people tend to get very emotional about sites with extreme historical-religious significance. The Israelis, of all people, should understand this.


Media Matters:

In July 2003, Time reporters Cooper, Duffy, and Dickerson all knew that Rove had outed Plame. But three months later, all three of them helped produce a Time article (Duffy received a byline; the others were credited with having contributed to the reporting) that falsely suggested that Rove had nothing to do with it.


The Discovery Institute's Robert Crowther responds to the Seattle Weekly intelligent design story. His confidence in the eventual triumph of ID is touching. In the wake of the Dover decision, the ID movement reminds me more and more of the sequence in Born on the Fourth of July where Ron Kovic was convinced that, despite his severed spine, he would walk again.

Friday, February 03, 2006


The new Republican House Majority Leader is a guy who once distributed checks from tobacco PAC's right on the floor of the House.

And he's cleaner than the guy he ran against.

Honor. Dignity. Indeed.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Seattle Weekly's Roger Downey has an article on Intelligent Design and the Discovery Institute in which Professor Tim and I are mentioned.

One thing Downey doesn't mention is that the Wedge Document was specifically cited by Judge Jones in Kitzmiller v. Dover as evidence against the IDers claim that they are practicing science and not religion, which I thought was pretty cool:
Dramatic evidence of ID's religious nature and aspirations is found in what is referred to as the "Wedge Document." The Wedge Document, developed by the Discovery Institute's Center for Renewal of Science and Culture (hereinafter "CRSC"), represents from an institutional standpoint, the IDM's goals and objectives, much as writings from the Institute for Creation Research did for the earlier creation-science movement, as discussed in McLean. (11:26-28 (Forrest)); McLean, 529 F. Supp. at 1255. The Wedge Document states in its "Five Year Strategic Plan Summary" that the IDM's goal is to replace science as currently practiced with "theistic and Christian science." (P-140 at 6). As posited in the Wedge Document, the IDM's "Governing Goals" are to "defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural, and political legacies" and "to replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God." Id. at 4. The CSRC expressly announces, in the Wedge Document, a program of Christian apologetics to promote ID. A careful review of the Wedge Document's goals and language throughout the document reveals cultural and religious goals, as opposed to scientific ones. (11:26-48 (Forrest); P-140). ID aspires to change the ground rules of science to make room for religion, specifically, beliefs consonant with a particular version of Christianity.

I should say that, devil horns aside (a Charlie Chaplin tribute, actually), I have no problem in general with religion in the public square, or with people making faith-based claims about How We Got Here. I tend to disagree with those claims, but if someone wants to argue that the universe was created by God, I certainly respect their right to make that argument, and I'll look at their evidence. If someone wants to argue that Adam was a dinosaur rancher, I'll look at their evidence for that, too. What I don't respect are people who dress creationism in a science constume in an effort to open up another front in the culture war, which is what the Discovery Institute is up to. I don't doubt that there are people who believe that ID (or creationism) is actual science, but the Wedge Document proves for all time that the Discovery Institute and the people associated with it, that is, the people most responsible for bringing Intelligent Design into the mainstream discourse, do not belong in that crowd.


I hope we'll be able to look back and say that this was the moment Tim Eyman jumped the shark.
Before Gov. Christine Gregoire picks up her pen to sign a gay civil rights bill into law today, Tim Eyman will have set in motion a signature drive to give voters a chance to veto the legislation at the polls in the fall.

Front-page headlines in Seattle and across the state this weekend heralded legislation passed Friday prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and lending.

Eyman, a for-profit initiative sponsor who has carved out a cottage industry promoting anti-tax measures, said the legislation was another example of arrogant politicians making policy based on election-year image concerns.

"On an issue this important, the voters should get the final say," Eyman said Monday. "This issue has become hopelessly politicized in Olympia. Politicians aren't thinking about what voters want."


Yelm resident Tony Engler, 47, said his view of Eyman has changed because of Monday's filing.

"I'm not gay or Christian, I'm not a right-wing whacko or a bleeding-heart, tree-hugging Evergreen liberal," Engler said.

"I'm just a guy who's partially disabled and who has laws set up out there to protect my rights to live as a human, not as some second-class citizen," he said. "I'm glad the Disability Act was established before Tim Eyman came along or I'd still be fighting high curbs in crosswalks.

"I used to think Tim Eyman was an OK kind of guy, fighting the good fight; now I see his true colors."

Cutting taxes, however ill-advised the specific cuts may be, is like free ice cream: it pretty much sells itself. The same isn't true for removing legal protections from a certain class of citizens, as Eyman is proposing. Here's hoping he runs aground and goes back to selling watches.


Exploring Iran's military options, from Asharq Alawsat.