Goose the Blog 2.0

"Oh, ha! Sarcasm: The last refuge of sons of bitches!"


remember them

by John at 5/30/2005 09:14:00 AM

(image source)


"What's that up ahead?"

by John at 5/28/2005 08:42:00 AM

"I don't see anything."

"No, no, there's definitely something up ahead. Right there! See it?"

"If you say so. I still don't see it."

"No, it's there, I think... I bet know what it is. It's the light at the end of the tunnel!"


"Yeah! It's the light at the end of the tunnel. We finally turned the final corner and that's the light!"


"That's it I tell you!"

"Whatever. Just keep walking, okay? And try not to bump into me all the time."

"The fact of the matter is, whatever name you put to it won't stop the killing. But what we would like to see is a little less shock at what seems obvious enough with even a cursory glance at the days headlines: The violence in Iraq has long since moved away from being a solely military conflict and has become one where Sunni attacks Shia and Shia respond, with both Iraqis and U.S. troops caught in the middle.

"Call it 'sectarian violence,' call it 'ethnic conflict,' call it 'civil war.' But do us a favor: Just start consistently recognizing that it is happening, instead of expressing surprise at finding it all over again a few months down the road."
(CJR Daily)


The Jumblies on NPR- Open Mic!

by MarkJumblie at 5/27/2005 02:44:00 PM

Rate each song on a scale of one to five (five being best). Scores are intended only to give artists feedback on their work. This is not a competition. You may vote only once. Featured on this edition: The Jumblies: "Catch It If You Can"

oh! brave culture warrior!

by John at 5/27/2005 08:36:00 AM

Oh, brave culture warrior, protect us from stories ripped from the headlines!


lying liars

by John at 5/26/2005 01:24:00 PM

This explains everything.

Some excerpts:

"Why do we lie so readily? The answer: because it works. The Homo sapiens who are best able to lie have an edge over their counterparts in a relentless struggle for the reproductive success that drives the engine of evolution. As humans, we must fit into a close-knit social system to succeed, yet our primary aim is still to look out for ourselves above all others. Lying helps. And lying to ourselves--a talent built into our brains--helps us accept our fraudulent behavior."


"In 1983 Byrne and Whiten began noticing deceptive tactics among the mountain baboons in Drakensberg, South Africa. Catarrhine primates, the group that includes the Old World monkeys, apes and ourselves, are all able to tactically dupe members of their own species. The deceptiveness is not built into their appearance, as with the mirror orchid, nor is it encapsulated in rigid behavioral routines like those of the hog-nosed snake. The primates' repertoires are calculated, flexible and exquisitely sensitive to shifting social contexts.

"Byrne and Whiten catalogued many such observations, and these became the basis for their celebrated Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis, which states that the extraordinary explosion of intelligence in primate evolution was prompted by the need to master ever more sophisticated forms of social trickery and manipulation. Primates had to get smart to keep up with the snowballing development of social gamesmanship.

"The Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis suggests that social complexity propelled our ancestors to become progressively more intelligent and increasingly adept at wheeling, dealing, bluffing and conniving. That means human beings are natural-born liars. And in line with other evolutionary trends, our talent for dissembling dwarfs that of our nearest relatives by several orders of magnitude.

"The complex choreography of social gamesmanship remains central to our lives today. The best deceivers continue to reap advantages denied to their more honest or less competent peers. Lying helps us facilitate social interactions, manipulate others and make friends."


"Ironically, the primary reasons we are so good at lying to others is that we are good at lying to ourselves. There is a strange asymmetry in how we apportion dishonesty. Although we are often ready to accuse others of deceiving us, we are astonishingly oblivious to our own duplicity. Experiences of being a victim of deception are burned indelibly into our memories, but our own prevarications slip off our tongues so easily that we often do not notice them for what they are."


"Natural selection appears to have cracked the Pinocchio problem by endowing us with the ability to lie to ourselves. Fooling ourselves allows us to selfishly manipulate others around us while remaining conveniently innocent of our own shady agendas.

"If this is right, self-deception took root in the human mind as a tool for social manipulation. As Trivers noted, biologists propose that the overriding function of self-deception is the more fluid deception of others. Self-deception helps us ensnare other people more effectively. It enables us to lie sincerely, to lie without knowing that we are lying. There is no longer any need to put on an act, to pretend that we are telling the truth. Indeed, a self-deceived person is actually telling the truth to the best of his or her knowledge, and believing one's own story makes it all the more persuasive."


what would liberals watch?

by John at 5/24/2005 08:44:00 AM

I finally watched "The Wickerman." Whew, that's an odd movie. Especially creepy was Count Dooku (or was it Saruman?) dancing around in a dress and black Keds. Keds? Whose idea was that? Also, the Seventies haircuts were pretty creepy, too, although I am seeing a sort of resurgence of them around here.

All the highschool guys working summer jobs at my local hardware store have them. What a motley group. I know I sound like an old-fogey, but damn it, pull up your chinos and tuck in your shirt properly! And if you're going to wear a tie, at least get the knot straight. Don't get me wrong, they're nice kids. Right away, they helped me find the right size bolt and a matching wingnut, and I was in and out of the store in three minutes. You don't get that kind of service at Lowe's or Home Depot, where the employees must undergo some sort of training that teaches them to never make eye contact and never offer help to anyone. Anyway, that's Fairfax Hardware, 2201 Concord Pike. Check 'em out - they don't carry everything, but unless you are building a house they probably have what you need.

Where was I? The film. Is anyone else going to watch it, or can Mark and I discuss it now?

Update: Is Haloscan acting flaky? There are at least two comments below even though the counter may not agree.



by John at 5/23/2005 09:13:00 PM

I'm surprised, but they made a deal. 7 Democratic senators agreed to vote for cloture on Owen, Rogers Brown, and Pryor and 7 Republican senators will vote against ending judicial filibusters as the issue arises. This is the second best outcome for the Dems (and it is similar to the compromise Reid originally proposed a month ago, except the nominees have changed for the worse), and I think it is also the best outcome for the Republicans, although it is not the one they wanted. The problem is the filibuster issue hasn't gone away, and the Republicans can bring it back any time they decide that Democrats are abusing the rule. The good thing here is that moderate Republicans are flexing their muscles, and basically sticking it to their radical majority leader, possibly shotgunning his presidential ambitions. Reid, on the other hand, comes out pretty much unscathed. This is probably a decent outcome for everyone except Senator Frist (and Dobson...). Small blessings and all that.


Dobson (Focus on the Family) statement : "This Senate agreement represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats. Only three of President Bush’s nominees will be given the courtesy of an up-or-down vote, and it's business as usual for all the rest. The rules that blocked conservative nominees remain in effect, and nothing of significance has changed. Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Antonin Scalia, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist would never have served on the U. S. Supreme Court if this agreement had been in place during their confirmations. The unconstitutional filibuster survives in the arsenal of Senate liberals.

"We are grateful to Majority Leader Frist for courageously fighting to defend the vital principle of basic fairness. That principle has now gone down to defeat. We share the disappointment, outrage and sense of abandonment felt by millions of conservative Americans who helped put Republicans in power last November. I am certain that these voters will remember both Democrats and Republicans who betrayed their trust."

Bauer (American Values) statement : "This is a sad day for our nation. The desire of millions of Americans to restore balance to our federal courts has been thwarted behind closed doors by 14 senators. Only three of President Bush's appointees are guaranteed an up or down vote under this sell out.

"Under this agreement it is now more likely that radical social change will continue to be forced on the American people by liberal courts committed to same sex marriage, abortion on demand and hostility to religious expression. The Republicans who lent their names to this travesty have undercut their President as well as millions of their most loyal voters. Shame on them all."

Anything that makes these guys so mad can't be all bad!

Update 2: I'm a bit upset that Senate Judiciary Committee chair Specter didn't sign the compromise deal. Last year he almost lost his job to a religious-right-approved contender in the primary, so I can understand his reluctance to piss these guys off. I think he's not even running for re-election in 2010, so what does he have to lose? His job as committee chair, for one, and I guess he hopes that he can act to reign in the radical Republicans from that position. However, does it matter if you are a moderate at heart when you keep acting like a radical? That's one for the philosophers. Still, he's no hero.

time is almost up

by John at 5/23/2005 02:58:00 PM

It is likely that tomorrow is the day when Senator Frist will hit the big red button and launch the nuclear option.

There are many Republican senators on the fence about this, and they may even represent your state. I know it's a pain, but you should give them a call to let them know you think they should oppose the nuclear option, and that they should vote to preserve the current Senate rules on judicial filibusters. It really might make a difference.

Sen. John McCain (R), (202) 224-2235

Sen. Joseph Biden (D), (202) 224-5042
Sen. Thomas Carper (D), (202) 224-2441

Sen. Arlen Specter (R), (202) 224-4254

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D), (202) 224-3441
Sen. Patty Murray (D), (202) 224-2621

or find your own senator here.

Call them now - they won't be answering the phone after office hours, which usually end around 5 pm EDT. Check out the links to get their state or local office numbers if you are running late.

Update: Be polite, be concise. Tell them who you are and what city you live in, and then tell them that you want Sen. So-and-so** to oppose the nuclear option and keep the current Senate rules on judicial filibusters in place. Did you call? If so, leave a comment...

* you guys are probably good, but a little phone-luv from constituents can't hurt
** fill in with your senator's name, please, or you are going to sound silly


What would liberal build?

by Bill at 5/22/2005 06:02:00 PM

After much trial and error, I finally got the foundation set. Next I'll need to lay some track and start the wiring, wait I also need to purchase some bridges that will cross the river. What? you don't see any river? Well, you're just not looking hard enough!



by John at 5/21/2005 09:32:00 AM

Apparently, hypocrisy is so cool, even President Bush is doing it.

On whether covers photos of Saddam Hussein in his underwear publish in the NY Post and The Sun (both owned by Rupert Murdoch) might further inflame violence in Iraq: "I don't think a photo inspires murderers... These people are motivated by a vision of the world that is backward and barbaric." (via The Light of Reason)

While a small Newsweek story on previously reported and well-known rumors of Quran abuse in US prisons, according to his spokesman, "has done damage to our image abroad and it has done damage to the credibility of the media and Newsweek in particular. People have lost lives. This report has had serious consequences."

Threatening to veto a stem cell research bill
that passed the Senate and may pass the House: "I made [it] very clear to the Congress that the use of federal money, taxpayers' money, to promote science which destroys life in order to save life, I'm against that."

Meanwhile, hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars have gone to prosecute an war which has destroyed tens of thousands of lives in order to bring "freedom" to Iraqis and save them from the human rights abuses of a dictator. But he's not against that.

Republicans and the nuclear option

by John at 5/21/2005 09:02:00 AM

Here's what many moderate Republicans have to say about the nuclear option to change the rules on cloture for judicial debate and eliminate the filibuster (from PFAW release):

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania
"I'm going to exercise every last ounce of my energy to solve this problem without the nuclear option," he said. "If we have a nuclear option, the Senate will be in turmoil and the Judiciary Committee will be hell."
Washington Post, 02-24-05

"What [a possible compromise on judicial appointments] is really all about is saving face," the Pennsylvania Republican told CNN. "The institution of the Senate and the protection of minority rights is more important than the entire group [of nominees]."
CNN website, 5-18-05

Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska
"It's important that we protect the institution of the Senate and the tools of minority rights because if those are eroded, you will then put the institution on a slippery slope to keep - by straight majority vote. By saying this rule's going to change. This rule's going to change. ...I do not like this approach. It's a dangerous approach. It's an irresponsible approach. And it further erodes the constitutional minority rights element of the Senate."
CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer," 04-17-05

"We have to sit down ourselves, look each other in the eye and talk not just about short-term consequences but, more importantly, long-term consequences for the institution of the Senate. The Senate was primarily built around protection of minority rights."
CBS's "Face the Nation," 05-01-05

Senator Susan Collins of Maine
"[T]o change the rules of the Senate and to invoke what they are calling the nuclear option ... would so poison the well that I fear that it would be very difficult for us to tackle those major issues that are coming down the road."
National Journal, 01-22-05

Senator John Warner of Virginia
"I tend to be a traditionalist, and the right of unlimited debate has been a hallmark of the Senate since its inception."
Press statement, 04-29-05

"We can't do damage to the Senate rules, which would come back to work against the interests of the Republican Party when we're in the minority. ...This is the last bastion, an institution that protects the rights of the minority."
Virginia Pilot, 04-29-05

Senator John McCain of Arizona
"If we don't protect the rights of the minority ... if you had a liberal president and a Democrat-controlled Senate, I think that it could do great damage."
CBS's "Face the Nation," 04-10-05

"'I don't know why in the last 200 years we have not had this kind of crisis before, but we've always been able to work things out,' says Arizona Sen. John McCain, who is now 'strongly inclined' to vote against the rule change. 'We will not be in the majority forever. History has shown us that.'"
Wall Street Journal, 04-12-05

Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine
"I don't believe that at this point we should resort to changing the rules in order to adapt it to this scenario. We ought to try and make it work."
Portland Press-Herald, 12-26-04

Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island
"'Just the word that's being used - the nuclear option - says it all,' Chafee said of the parliamentary maneuver. ...'The acrimony's so thick down here that a step into complete radioactivity isn't good for the American people.'"
The Providence Journal, 05-17-05

Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas
"What goes around comes around ...[it is] not in the best interests of either party or the Senate to take this step."
Kansas City Star, 05-15-05

Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon
"I don’t want the Senate to become the House."
The Hill, 03-02-05

Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee
"I am one of the Republicans who believe such a rules change is not a good idea - not good for the Senate, not for the country, not for Republicans, and not for Democrats. The Senate needs a body that by its procedures gives unusual protection to minority rights."
Senate floor statement, 04-12-05

Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio
"[T]he best thing to do is to have an understanding between the parties. ...[Changing the rules is] probably not going to be the way to do it."
Congressional Quarterly, 05-07-03

"I think it’s in the best interest of the country that we work out something. ...This is a confrontation we should not have.”
Chicago Tribune, 05-18-05

Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana
"'On the fundamental issue, I believe we are skating over very thin ice here with regard to the continuity of life in the Senate as we’ve known it,' Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) said on CNN’s 'Late Edition.' 'I’m opposed to trying to eliminate filibusters simply because I think they protect minority rights, whether they’re Republicans, Democrats or other people.'"
Los Angeles Times, 05-16-05

Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi
"It’s very important that one faction or one party not be able to ride roughshod over the minority and impose its will. The Senate is not the House."
Wall Street Journal, 06-05-03

Senator Robert Bennett of Utah
"Once we [Republicans] try to change the rules with 51 votes, the precedent is on the table. ...If Hillary Clinton becomes president with a Democratic Senate and wants to appoint Lani Guinier to the Supreme Court, Harry Reid could make that happen with 51 votes."
Farmington Daily Times, 05-18-05

Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico
"I will listen to that debate carefully, but it will be very difficult to get me to vote to change the filibuster rule. ...I always thought that the filibuster rule protected the minority in a rather exceptional way, better than almost any other rule we’ve got."
National Journal, 12-11-04

Senator John Sununu of New Hampshire
"I'm just thinking through the history and the precedents of changing the rules. Like any rules change, I want to ask the question: If the rule is changed, is it something I’m comfortable with whether I’m in the majority or the minority, whether we have a Republican president or a Democratic president?"
Wall Street Journal, 04-12-05

In a conscience vote, the nuclear option would go down 62-38. There are some interesting demographics associated with this; of the 55 Republican senators, only 20 have held their position from before January, 1995. That means only 20 have ever experienced a prolonged period of being in the minority in the Senate.

Nonetheless, the nuclear option will likely pass, judicial filibuster will be eliminated, and in retaliation, Senate Democrats will start excercising traditionally unexercised minority rights to bring most Senate business to a standstill in an undesirable, last ditch effort to maintain a small (but deserved) influence in our government. How is this mutually assured destruction a good deal for anyone?

This is going to happen because the Republican party leadership is in thrall to the American Taliban. Polls of Americans show that most think eliminating the filibuster is a bad idea. The vast majority of Americans also think that the Senate should be assertive in its examination of judicial nominees. By using the nuclear option to change the rules (in a move that itself violates centuries of tradition and skirts Senate rules on rule changes), these moderate Republicans will betray their own principles and the values of their constituents. They will betray them to please religious conservatives like James Dobson, who, after having long supported Republican candidates, are finally demanding that their desire for socially conservative "activist" judges be appeased. They will betray them for short-term political gain and short-term party interests. And by doing so, these moderate Republican senators will actually reduce their personal standing and impact in the Senate.

For too long, by courting rabid religious conservatives, the Republicans have been playing with fire. They've already been burned by their interference with Terri Schiavo's life and death, but, like slow learners, they are willing to run back toward the flames.

We are all going to pay for their stupidity.

(thanks to the writers at Daily Kos for lots on background and information, but especially this post)


"In conclusion, Senator, here is your arse."

by John at 5/17/2005 03:11:00 PM

MP George Galloway, accused of participating in and orchestrating kick-backs to Saddam Hussein by the Senate commission investigating the oil-for-food scandal, hands Senator Norm Coleman (R-Dumbshit) his ass on MSNBC television. Watch it. (Crooks and Liars)

Say what you want about Galloway (and he's probably no prince), but one thing about British politicians - in a debate, most would wipe the floor with any American politician (excluding, maybe, Sen. Byrd, but he's getting old). In Britain, politicians are expected to defend themselves, are publicly held to account, and are treated with little deference, while ours have gotten all soft and squishy from self-imposed isolation and sycophantic media boot-licks, like the spoiled aristocracy they desperately want to be. Which is kind of ironic.

mote:beam::thy brother's eye:thine own eye

by John at 5/17/2005 11:40:00 AM

We've been over this already, but here you go ( Anti-U.N. righties: shut the hell up about this already - we are as guilty as anyone else.

The U.S. administration turned a blind eye to extensive sanctions busting in the prewar sale of Iraqi oil, according to a new Senate investigation. A report released Monday night by Democratic staff on the Senate investigations subcommittee presents documentary evidence that the Bush administration was made aware of illegal oil sales and kickbacks paid to the Saddam Hussein regime but did nothing to stop them.

The scale of the shipments involved dwarfs those previously alleged by the Senate subcommittee against U.N. staff and European politicians like British M.P. George Galloway and the former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua. In fact, the Senate report found that U.S. oil purchases accounted for 52 percent of the kickbacks paid to the regime in return for sales of cheap oil -- more than those of the rest of the world put together.

"The United States was not only aware of Iraqi oil sales which violated U.N. sanctions and provided the bulk of the illicit money Saddam Hussein obtained from circumventing U.N. sanctions," the report says. "On occasion, the United States actually facilitated the illicit oil sales.


Monday's report makes two principal allegations against the Bush administration. First, it found that the U.S. Treasury failed to take action against a Texas oil company, BayOil, that facilitated payment of "at least $37 million in illegal surcharges to the Hussein regime." The surcharges were a violation of the U.N.'s oil-for-food program, by which Iraq was allowed to sell heavily discounted oil to raise money for food and humanitarian supplies. However, Saddam was allowed to choose which companies were given the highly lucrative oil contracts. Between September 2000 and September 2002 (when the practice was stopped) the regime demanded kickbacks of 10 to 30 cents a barrel in return for oil allocations.

In its second main finding, the report said the U.S. military and the State Department gave a tacit green light for shipments of nearly 8 million barrels of oil bought by Jordan, a vital American ally, entirely outside the U.N.-monitored oil-for-food program. Jordan was permitted to buy some oil directly under strict conditions, but these purchases appeared to be under the counter.

The report details a series of efforts by U.N. monitors to obtain information about BayOil's oil shipments in 2001 and 2002, and the lack of help provided by the U.S. Treasury. After repeated requests over eight months from the U.N. and the U.S. State Department, the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control wrote to BayOil in May 2002, requesting a report on its transactions, but did not "request specific information by U.N. or direct Bayoil to answer the U.N.'s questions."

BayOil's owner, David Chalmers, has been charged over the company's activities. His lawyer, Catherine Recker, told the Washington Post: "BayOil and David Chalmers [said] they have done nothing illegal and will vigorously defend these reckless accusations."

The Jordanian oil purchases were shipped in the weeks before the war, out of the Iraqi port of Khor al-Amaya, which was operating without U.N. approval or surveillance. Investigators found correspondence showing that Odin Marine Inc., the U.S. company chartering the seven huge tankers that picked up the oil at Khor al-Amaya, repeatedly sought and received agreement from U.S. military and civilian officials that the ships would not be confiscated by U.S. Navy vessels in the Maritime Interdiction Force (MIF) enforcing the embargo. Odin was reassured by a State Department official that the U.S. "was aware of the shipments and has determined not to take action."

The company's vice president, David Young, told investigators that a U.S. naval officer at MIF told him that he "had no objections" to the shipments. "He said that he was sorry he could not say anything more. I told him I completely understood and did not expect him to say anything more," Young said.

An executive at Odin Maritime confirmed the Senate account of the oil shipments as "correct" but declined to comment further.

It was not clear Monday night whether the Democratic report would be accepted by Republicans on the Senate investigations subcommittee.

The Pentagon declined to comment. The U.S. representative's office at the U.N. referred inquiries to the State Department, which failed to return calls.


can't... breathe...

by John at 5/16/2005 10:24:00 AM

Ahahahahahaha! Oh, my sides hurt.

My coworkers must think I am insane.


why it matters

by John at 5/13/2005 01:59:00 PM

Why does it matter if we call it a civil war? Aside from the obvious issues of uncontrolled killing and other violence and the complete failure of the Bush administration's post-war planning, it is a yet another repudiation of the rationale for this unnecessary war.

1) Existence of WMD in Iraq: no WMD or meaningful WMD capability for either nuclear, biological or chemical weapons
2) Ties to Al Qaeda: no meaningful relationship to Al Qaeda or any other terrorist groups that threaten the USA.
3) Reduction in terrorist activity: The number of major terror incidents was at an all time high in 2004, and Iraq is now a training ground for future terrorists, drawn from a pan-national population angered by US hostility
4) Free and stable Iraq: we have freed the Iraqis from a brutal dictator, and delivered to them no security, a brutal war and an unstable nation
5) Stability and democracy in the Middle East: not any time soon, and the failure of our Iraq policy will never serve as an exemplar to other nations

Civil war, our failure in Iraq, also demonstrates the impracticality of the Neo-con vision of a peaceful American hegemony through the selective use of force. Instead, the practical limitations of our armed forces, the strongest in the world, have been put on display for all to see. If anything good is to come from this, it may be as a demonstration of the ultimate futility of war in the modern world.


All things must come to an end, and the war in Iraq is no exception. When it is over, Iraq may be a democratic country, or another dictatorship, or a relatively peaceful failed state like Afghanistan. What is clear to me is that we cannot "win" over there, by the usual definition of the word. We are no longer in a position to control the situation. The outcome is not up to us.

This morning I was thinking about Vietnam. What if, in 1965 or 1966 after escalating the war, we had realized that we could not, would not win? If we had made the wise decision to pull out and lose gracefully, we could have avoided ten extra years of war, and some 45,000 more American men (and maybe millions of Vietnamese) might be alive today. Would the rest of the world be any different?

This applies, of course, to Iraq. What if we cannot win there? Some people think we have to stick it out until stability is eventually established. But why? For pride? For appearances? One day, stability will come to Iraq with or without our efforts. I think it is better to admit that we cannot win, and lose gracefully now before thousands more Americans die. If I thought it was within our ability to prevent a significant amount of violence in Iraq, I would advocate our continued involvement, but I believe that our presence in Iraq is more of an irritant than a salve. We have already taken our lumps for this hubristic folly - I don't see why we should continue to take a physical, political, and moral beating when we have already lost.

Update: maybe you want to read this - "The Reality Gap"

Why do our senior military leaders put out this "we can't be beaten" bilge? Because they are chosen for their willingness to tell the politicians whatever they want to hear. A larger question is, why do the American press and public buy it? The answer, I fear, is "American exceptionalism" ­ the belief that history's laws do not apply to America. Unfortunately, American exceptionalism follows Spanish exceptionalism, French exceptionalism, Austrian exceptionalism, German exceptionalism and Soviet exceptionalism.

heads in the sand

by John at 5/13/2005 10:36:00 AM

"One has to expect the level of violence will either stay where it is or go up or down modestly during this period as they attempt to prevent from happening that which is going to happen... You're looking at, I would guess, well into March, possibly into April, for these things to sort themselves." Donald Rumsfeld, January 26, 2005

Do you think he ever gets tired of being wrong?

Experts: Iraq verges on civil war*

WASHINGTON -- An unchastened insurgency sowed devastation across Iraq Wednesday as experts here said the country is either on the verge of civil war or already in the middle of it.

In the course of the day: Four car bombs detonated in Baghdad; a man wearing explosives at an army recruitment center in Hawija, north of Baghdad, blew himself and many others up; a car bomb exploded in a marketplace in Tikrit, north of Baghdad; and the country's largest fertilizer plant was heavily damaged by a bomb in the usually quiet southern city of Basra. Meanwhile, U.S. Marines were winding up a remarkable pitched battle against surprisingly well-equipped and determined insurgents on Iraq's western border. Some 76 Iraqis were reported killed and more than 120 wounded in the one day of violence.

With security experts reporting that no major road in the country was safe to travel, some Iraq specialists speculated that the Sunni insurgency was effectively encircling the capital and trying to cut it off from the north, south and west, where there are entrenched Sunni communities. East of Baghdad is a mostly unpopulated desert bordering on Iran.

"It's just political rhetoric to say we are not in a civil war. We've been in a civil war for a long time," said Pat Lang, the former top Middle East intelligence official at the Pentagon.

Other experts said Iraq is on the verge of a full-scale civil war with civilians on both sides being slaughtered. Incidents in the past two weeks south of Baghdad, with apparently retaliatory killings of Sunni and Shia civilians, point in that direction, they say.

Also of concern were media accounts that hard-line Shia militia members are being deployed to police hard-line Sunni communities such as Ramadi, east of Baghdad, which specialists on Iraq said was a recipe for disaster.

"I think we are really on the edge" of all-out civil war, said Noah Feldman, a New York University law professor who worked for the U.S. coalition in Iraq.

He said the insurgency has been "getting stronger every passing day. When the violence recedes, it is a sign that they are regrouping." While there is a chance the current flare of violence is the insurgency's last gasp, he said, "I have not seen any coherent evidence that we are winning against the insurgency."

"Everything we thought we knew about the insurgency obviously is flawed," said Judith Kipper of the Council on Foreign Relations. "It was quiet for a little while, and here it is back full force all over the country, and that is very dark news."

The increased violence coincides with the approval of a new, democratic government two weeks ago. But instead of bringing the country together, the new government seems to have further alienated even moderate Sunnis who believe they have only token representation.

"That is a joke," said Sunni politician Saad Jabouri, until recently governor of Diyala Province, in an interview here. "The only people they allowed in the government are ones who think like them," he said of the majority Shia faction, who mostly come from Islamic parties.

Military and civilian experts said the insurgency seemed designed to outlast the patience of the American and Iraqi peoples.

"I just think this Sunni thing is going to be pretty hard," said Phebe Marr, a leading U.S. Iraq expert reached in the protected Green Zone in Baghdad. "The American public has to get its expectations down to something reasonable."

Lang said there is new evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime carefully prepared in advance for the insurgency, with former Iraqi officers at the core of each group. They are well coordinated and have consistently adjusted their strategy, he said.

Now the 140,000-plus U.S. troops in the country are mainly "a nuisance" factor in the insurgents' overall goal of preventing the new government from consolidating.

"They understand what the deal is here," Lang said, "to start applying maximum pressure to the economy and the government and make sure it will not work." Their roadside bombs are intended to keep U.S. forces inside their bases, he said.

All the while the insurgents are gaining strength, he said. "The longer they keep going on the better they will get," said Lang, a student of military history. "The best school of war is war."

The Sunni insurgents could win the battle if they persevere long enough to sour U.S. voters, Feldman said.

He said, "There is no evidence whatsoever that they cannot win." [emphasis mine]

There was some confusion about the earlier data I posted on the number of dead since the elections. To help clear that up, you can download a csv file to import into your favorite spreadsheet. Note that the data I've compiled come from two sources, each with their own sources. Because of this, the data are not strictly compatible. Moreover, both sources are incomplete (I suspect incomplete reporting, no followup on deaths from those critically wounded by the incident, and inadequate resources to check all available reports). The data should generally be regarded as a lower bound on the number of dead.

noninsurgents=coalition soldiers; Iraqi government, police, security forces; contractors; NGO members; Iraqi civilians (i.e. people in Iraq not associated with the insurgents)
civilians=Iraqi civilians (not counted before 3/1/05)
police/soldiers=Iraqi police/soldiers
coalition=coalition soldiers

* civil war n. 1. A war between factions or regions of the same country. war n. 1a. A state of open, armed, often prolonged conflict carried on between nations, states, or parties. (American Heritage Dictionary)


free mp3s

by John at 5/11/2005 07:29:00 PM

Want some free mp3s? The Tofu Hut has collected and categorized hundreds of mp3 blogs to peruse at your leisure. For me, it's too daunting to wade into right now. (via Boing Boing)

30 second book reviews: back in the saddle

by John at 5/11/2005 06:58:00 PM

The Science of Good and Evil - Michael Shermer
Shermer is a reformed theist (by that, I mean, he wasn't always an atheist). He's attempting to answer that age-old, annoying question, "If there is no God, why not be as bad as you want?" He presents a pretty good treatment of the issue of morality without religion, and the evolutionary origins of morals and the behavior enforcing morals. Shermer also lays out a moral system based on what he believes to be the fundamental morals of being human, that is, the morals our evolutionary heritage have programmed into us. Does he make convincing arguments? I think the first part of the book, about the origin of morality, is the better half, and the moral system he lays out in the second part is nice but didn't wow me.

How to be Good - Nick Hornby
This is my first Nick Hornby book. I've seen some of the movies, and they are entertaining enough, so I thought I'd give it a try. First off, this one doesn't fit the mold of his earlier works. The protagonist is an unhappily *married woman* not a single man. Her husband is a bastard, but he has an epiphany and changes his ways in an attempt to become the best human ever - much to the consternation of his wife, son, and neighborhood. I won't spoil the ending for you. I liked the novel, but it wasn't what I was expecting.

Don't Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate - George Lakoff
All the traitorous leftists were talking about this book last year before the election - me included! I finally read it. Like Shermer's book above, the first half is better than the second. In the first, he demonstrates the conservative "strict father" frame and explains the potential liberal "nurturing parent" frame. Detractors might call this daddy versus mommy, but there's more to it. If anything, to me it smacks of Freudianism - not in the obvious sexual way, but in it's uncanny ability to explain anything. Unlike psychoanalysis, it may actually be predictive as well - by applying the frame, can one predict which side of an issue conservatives will come down on? The second part tries to focus on what Democrats can actually do to get their frame out there, and here he is less successful. I think he is right about at least one thing, however, and that is that Democrats need to stop trying to triangulate on issues and just stand with what they believe. I think a lot of people already agree with them.

Hospital of the Transfiguration - Stanislaw Lem
This is Lem's first novel, and it is unlike any of his other works that I have read in that it is not science fiction. The story concerns the fate of a young Polish doctor who takes a position at a psychiatric hospital shortly after the invasion of Poland by the Germans at the start of WWII. In that, it is somewhat autobiographical. There are vignettes about his interactions with the colorful and tragic patients at the hospital, and his run-ins with the Polish resistance. I'm trying not to give away the ending, but it is shocking in the way that Nazis were.

The Family Trade - Charles Stross
Now, I like Stross stories. The other two novels of his that I've read were pretty damn good, and his short stories are cool. But this one? Nope. It's a fantasy were a woman accidentally passes into an alternate dimension and finds out she is only one of a large Mafia-like clan of people who can do this - sort of like the Amber series, I think, but I only read one or two of those. The story gets better as it goes along, but I never really got into it. I think it is a rule for fantasy stories that they must be trilogies or more, and this one is no exception. I'm not anxious to read any of the other ones.

The Expectant Father - Armin Brott and Jennifer Ash
I read this book for the obvious reason. It was also a gift from friends of ours who had their first child just a couple of years ago. The information is laid out by month, with specific things you should know and do at that time. So far, so good. It certainly answered many questions I had along the way, and also posed questions whose answers I didn't know at the time. It was east to read and interesting and not too preachy.


oh yes, they call him "the streak"

by John at 5/10/2005 12:36:00 PM

If Bush actually vetoes this highway spending bill, I will eat my hat. Who wants to end a no veto streak like the one he's got over a few billion bucks? Nobody, that's who.

(Lucky for me, my "hat" is made of delicious cake with coconut frosting and covered in shredded coconut. I might just eat it anyway...)

Update: OK, looking back at this post, I realize it was not as good an idea as I first thought. Frankly, it is a little embarrassing. See, I read that CNN article, thought "No way he'll veto it - he'd ruin his streak!" and then that part about eating a hat that is made of cake just came out of nowhere. This kind of thing is a good argument for "Save as Draft" instead of "Publish" as the first button I should press when I think I am done writing. You know, to give me time to reflect on exactly what kind of idiocy I am about to post.

people get ready...

by John at 5/10/2005 10:45:00 AM

...there's a train a-coming. It is going to run you down unless you get off the tracks.

I'd go as far to say that a public as complacent and clueless as America's is these days deserves to be played for fools. It's not pretty, but life is tragic. History doesn't care if we sleepwalk into a clusterfuck. Plenty of other societies have before us. The real sin in the real world is the failure to pay attention to the signals that your environment sends you. The signals aimed at us now tell us the following: the oil age is entering an unstable permanent decline; suburbia and all its usufructs is finished; the blue-light special shopping economy is about to end; easy motoring will shortly be a thing of the past; the middle class will be replaced by a new former middle class; and all bets are off as to how violently American politics will shudder when the fog finally lifts.

(Thanks, Clusterfuck Nation!)


trying to make it up

by John at 5/09/2005 01:03:00 PM

I was going to write a bit about the empirical evidence showing that the economy does better under Democratic Presidents than Republican Presidents, to make up for the lack of posts over the last week. But I just don't have it in me. So sorry.

The problem is three-fold:
1) I'm feeling just a little burned out about politics. Yes, things are just as bad as I thought they'd be, but let me tell you, as cool as it may sound, it's no fun being right all the time.
2) I've been feeling kind of wiped lately and as much as you probably want to hear about the big scrapwood bonfire I made Saturday morning or the kind of bracket I'm thinking of using to secure a bookcase to a wall, 2a) I just don't have the desire to write about it and 2b) I fear becoming a narcissistic online-diarist obsessed with minutiae*, and who the hell wants to read about my inner-most thoughts and secrets anyway?
3) We just don't talk anymore.** Now, I like to think this is because 3a) there's nothing controversial for us to fight over since we all seem to agree on everything*** but more likely it is because 3b) the stuff I write is actually very, very boring and 3c) you have better things to do with your time.

So, fellow contributors, please step up and help me out. Does anyone else have something (or anything) to say?

* instead of just a narcissist obsessed with minutiae
** except for this post
*** except for Johann, who thought HHGttG was a mess.


haiku day

by John at 5/07/2005 07:18:00 PM

image source