Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gaza Protests In Beirut

A juxtaposition of how viciously stupid Israel is being, via Fox News:

The day after Christmas, White House special counsel Charles Colson told the president that the American people needed to hear "some explanation of why it is we're continuing to bomb [North Vietnam], and that it isn't simply an exercise in trying to decimate a country."

"It's too damn bad we aren't decimating the country," Nixon snapped.

"I wish to hell we were," Colson replied.

"We're doing one hell of a lot," the president continued, marveling at North Vietnam's "war-making capabilities." But Nixon added that the North had been "clobbered this time, because...I told [Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Thomas] Moorer...'Now look here. May 8th, we mined, we bombed. We did a hell of a lot. And it set 'em back a year. Now, we're going to set 'em back two years."

Nixon then told Colson: "The targets they've had have been really something. Everything, except, of course, we're avoiding civilians. I mean, even -- with all the screaming about civilians, believe me: If we were trying, the goddamn place would be leveled. Leveled!"

"God, yes," replied Colson, who after pleading guilty during the Watergate scandals became a born-again Christian and dedicated his life to his Prison Fellowship ministry.

The next day, talking by telephone with Kissinger, the commander-in-chief said of the enemy: "We gave 'em a hell of a good bang, you know. And I'm glad we only lost two B-52s. That wasn't too bad."

Kissinger pointed out that a loss rate of three percent was "about average."

"We're punishing the hell out of them, aren't we?" Nixon asked.

"Oh, there's no question about it," Kissinger replied. The NSC chief added that the French foreign minister had shared with American diplomats a report from France's consul general in Hanoi in which the Frenchman fretted: "I've just lived through the most terrifying hour of my life. An unbelievable raid has just taken place."

When Kissinger, a former Harvard professor and master courtier, sought to flatter his boss, the president cut him off. "You have shown that you are not to be trifled with," Kissinger told the president, producing a mirthless chuckle from Nixon.

"I wouldn't worry about the people here," Nixon said. "I mean, they're bitching around in the news magazines. Don't worry about it, Henry. It's not all that important. The public isn't that much concerned about all this."

Monday, December 29, 2008

Israel: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

So, the peace on earth thing is a problem. Israel's attacks in Gaza are now targeting buildings that are "symbols" of Hamas. (BBC outlines some of the "symbols.") Hamas is learning from the awesome IDF prop machine, and is getting pretty good at PR themselves, which accounts for the picture above getting into the Western press--no reporters are allowed in Gaza. Whether the five dead siblings are staged or no, a thousand innocent Palestinian natives have been killed and maimed by indiscriminate bombings because, according to the IDF, some recent mortars and rockets were allegedly launched into Israel which caused no casualties.

The Guardian reports that the Israelis have been planning the assault for six months, and relates a few other confirmations of previous suspicions: 1) It's about the election in February, so Likudniks can hamstring the moderates; 2) The operation is punishment for the Lebanon/Hezbollah disaster; 3) The Israelis moronically believe it will weaken Hamas, rather than serve as a powerful recruitment tool, and 4):

The three weeks before Barack Obama's inauguration were Israel's last chance to assume automatic diplomatic support from Washington, as it got from George Bush over both West Bank settlements and the Lebanon war.

It is hard to imagine an Israeli government testing Obama, whom it views with foreboding because of a sense he has more sympathy for the Palestinians, with a crisis of these dimensions during his first days or weeks in office.
And, in the NYTimes: "Obama Defers to Bush, for Now, on Gaza Crisis." Obama's reaction will be cool and measured, disapproving of the loss of life and implying Israel's action was too strong, and then salving it with recognition of being an important ally with a right to defend itself, yada-yada. This probably screws chances for any West Bank/Golan Heights/Iran progress for some time.

When analyzing Palestine one should bear in mind that to avoid an unfavorable settlement hard-liners in Israel would quite literally shoot rockets at themselves. As that as a political solution, Israel makes about as much sense as would sending my descendants back to rule Ireland 1,900 years from now because they have a special stubborn gene.

For the record, Hitler and his planners engaged with Zionism as a way to get rid of the Jews in Germania, but sending them back to Palestine struck them as unrealistic in both short and long terms. (See, amongst others, Hannah Arendt's 'Eichmann in Jerusalem' and Paul Johnson's 'A History of the Jews.' Influential rabbis collaborated with the Nazis in the belief it would speed their return to a lost ancient homeland. Through a round-about of horrors, it did.)
Britain and the US chose not to predict mayhem because Palestine was an Arab territory, not a state, and because aggrieved Jews had become their problem.

While Obama will strive to keep his personal feelings out of diplomacy in America's best interests, he has studied apartheid and genocide, and disapproves mightily. There is reason to think his patience with Israel as presently composed ran out as long ago as mine, and he may even realize that country has outlived any meaningful utility as a US ally. Further, that it's tied to our interests like an anchor to an ankle. Am I projecting? Sure, but Obama's smarter than me, and if I can put it together, he can. A dispassionate Realpolitik analysis will yield a similar conclusion, and that these Gaza attacks are intended to push Obama into a dunce-cap wearing corner. Such that if he's nice, his advisors can hand him a piece of chalk, so he can proceed to the blackboard and write "I love Israel" 500 times.

Update: Another interesting "News Analysis" in the NYT suggests the Israelis' primary goal is to show they're no paper rabbi and to reestablish fear across the Arab world after the Lebanon disaster.

Update 2: the WaPo has an editorial pointing out that any gains against Hamas are likely to be small or none, while these attacks undermine the efforts against Iran's nuclear program. Also, Turkey and Syria have canceled their negotiations with Israel.

Update 3: For another US propaganda defeat, a significant bomb being used by the Israelis is the US-made and supplied GBU-39 guided bunker buster. It was Hezbollah's skillful concealment of bunkers which defeated their incursion into Lebanon, and my guess is their plan is to identify those bunker sites and lawn-dart them with GBU-39s.

Bribe The Tribes

Counter-insurgency at its finest. Yet surely the Taliban has learned to use Viagra by now as well.

Washington Post:

The Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIA officer, saw an opportunity, and reached into his bag for a small gift.

Four blue pills. Viagra.

"Take one of these. You'll love it," the officer said. Compliments of Uncle Sam.

The enticement worked. The officer, who described the encounter, returned four days later to an enthusiastic reception. The grinning chief offered up a bonanza of information about Taliban movements and supply routes -- followed by a request for more pills.

For U.S. intelligence officials, this is how some crucial battles in Afghanistan are fought and won. While the CIA has a long history of buying information with cash, the growing Taliban insurgency has prompted the use of novel incentives and creative bargaining to gain support in some of the country's roughest neighborhoods, according to officials directly involved in such operations.

In their efforts to win over notoriously fickle warlords and chieftains, the officials say, the agency's operatives have used a variety of personal services. These include pocketknives and tools, medicine or surgeries for ailing family members, toys and school equipment, tooth extractions, travel visas, and, occasionally, pharmaceutical enhancements for aging patriarchs with slumping libidos, the officials said.

"Whatever it takes to make friends and influence people -- whether it's building a school or handing out Viagra," said one longtime agency operative and veteran of several Afghanistan tours. Like other field officers interviewed for this article, he spoke on the condition of anonymity when describing tactics and operations that are largely classified.

Officials say these inducements are necessary in Afghanistan, a country where warlords and tribal leaders expect to be paid for their cooperation, and where, for some, switching sides can be as easy as changing tunics. If the Americans don't offer incentives, there are others who will, including Taliban commanders, drug dealers and even Iranian agents in the region.

The usual bribes of choice -- cash and weapons -- aren't always the best options, Afghanistan veterans say. Guns too often fall into the wrong hands, they say, and showy gifts such as money, jewelry and cars tend to draw unwanted attention.

"If you give an asset $1,000, he'll go out and buy the shiniest junk he can find, and it will be apparent that he has suddenly come into a lot of money from someone," said Jamie Smith, a veteran of CIA covert operations in Afghanistan and now chief executive of SCG International, a private security and intelligence company. "Even if he doesn't get killed, he becomes ineffective as an informant because everyone knows where he got it."

The key, Smith said, is to find a way to meet the informant's personal needs in a way that keeps him firmly on your side but leaves little or no visible trace.

"You're trying to bridge a gap between people living in the 18th century and people coming in from the 21st century," Smith said, "so you look for those common things in the form of material aid that motivate people everywhere."


Four days later, when the Americans returned, the gift had worked its magic, the operative recalled.

"He came up to us beaming," the official said. "He said, 'You are a great man.' "

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Same-Sex Marriage & How To Achieve It

Six weeks ago, HopeSpringsATurtle at Deep Confusion asked me to think about how to win gay marriage rights in the depressing context of California's anti-marriage Proposition 8 passage. The issue simmered in the Crockpot of my mind long before she asked. Other than my own, the most beautiful and perhaps most conventional wedding I ever attended was a good friend and business school classmate's. She and her partner were starting what is now a national chain of sex shops, Toys in Babeland. Unless you're an inconsiderate driver, I'm fairly tolerant.

Being an ex-Mormon and having grown up in a small conservative town, I know the opposing motivations and doctrines to my friend's union like the palm of my hand. And when a gay or lesbian couple waits in line with their adopted child for a latte, everything had prepared me for their continued absence, so I must now readily admit to cognitive dissonance. It was, in short, unthinkable. As a refugee from that background, I have made a reconnaissance in force; I have a leg up on knowing how to deescalate opposition and fit solutions past the forces of conservatism.

To the Mormon Church, being gay is perfectly acceptable, so long as you don't act on it, marry a nice gal or guy for time and all eternity, bear children and raise them devoutly. I've known two marriages and suspected more in which a lesbian beards a gay and he veils vice-versa. While going to a Mormon undergraduate college, quite a number of my friends and acquaintances were gay, and I witnessed the ugly consequences of intolerance on their lives. My sympathies naturally lie with their cause, but the fact is that for them, a painful leave-taking is necessary to find acceptance. They won't find it in the Mormon church in this lifetime, nor in many others.

After an unbridgeable gap between doctrine and his sexuality was exposed, a classmate killed himself. Years later one of my best friends tried to do the same--he was an instructor at the same college, son to a beloved member of the church hierarchy. There is no solution to his anguish or his family's. Retaining his sanity was a more attainable goal. Rigid doctrines which don't accommodate immutable aspects of human nature precipitate misery; ones which disallow sacred vows seem cruel and unwise. Sexuality is a complex continuum, and of course lesbians and gays, bi-sexuals and tri-sexuals want what everybody else wants. If they find their soul-mate, allowing them to cleave to one another in the eyes of community and even god should at least be tolerated, and one would think celebrated. It's probably good for society, children are adopted into loving homes, it takes a village, etc.

And yet, it seems unwise to engineer gay marriage in one leap, to attempt one great span. Not because the concept is wrong, more because a historical analog doesn't come to mind, and it's too much for numerous, strongly established networks of belief to accept. Call them crazy, backwards, intolerant, but winning well requires empathy with the enemy, and the victories which endure often exhibit solid architecture with many points of support. Given the prevailing gaps and conflicts, one might better seek to co-opt or by-pass reflexive oppositions, not galvanize them with gongs in their ears.

Mormons are relative moderates of the anti-gay contingent, but they will never perform same-sex marriage in their church. If any law forced them to do so, they would either exodus or devolve to violence. They fought so hard over Prop 8 because, as they understood it, California law would require them to perform same-sex marriages. In their doctrinal views these are not only distressing, but also impossible. I'm not defending their doctrines per se, I'm stressing that understanding their objection is the path to solution.

Back to high-level: when it comes down to it, the battle over gay marriage is primarily over the definition of the word "marriage." What is it, really? I'm married, and am still puzzled sometimes. It's a bit fuzzy, a distillation of quotidian tradition, tax status, commitment and official blessing. In truth, marriage is ill-defined, so tactically, the battle to extend the term should be winnable, particularly by focusing on its various rights and responsibilities. Legislation for the explicit arrangements of marriage for same-sex parties and partners, state by state, should be lobbied and enacted. Notably, extending the office of marriage changes the nature of family on deep levels. If your wife or husband is hit by a car and lies in a hospital, when you rush to their room that's all you need to say to gain admittance. You're family. That's the primary detail to push for.

A rights-based approach may represent time and a whole lot of work, but if the goal is to establish practical equality and acceptance without backlash and hate crimes, it seems worth pursuing. There are a lot of elements to equality as an ideal, as precedent, as law. Lincoln freed the slaves by proclamation in 1863, but a supporting web of legal structure didn't gird it, so it took another century and more to build a triangulated base of rights and moral commons which could be climbed, by a child of any color, to our system's apex. The triangulation best starts at the weight-bearing members which make sense to everyone: remember how the Republicans pushed us into our present political and financial corner? They started out with the most reasonable of propositions, not showing their full agenda, building bigger levers, always keeping their end prize in mind.

Few Mormons would object to granting medical visitation rights to domestic partners. There should be a law for that! Corporations would assemble more resistance to employee benefits to civil unions than would Mormons. And there should be a law for that! This is ground begging to be taken, ground which builds into the larger cause. Obviously these base-battles won't be won uniformly; there will be a hodge-podge of uneven progress across states and churches. But it will be progress, and far less risky than coming by Federal fiat.

Because it treads on religious ground, any Federal activism on gay marriage will be constitutionally vulnerable to legal attack with regards to separation of church and state. The blade is on that whetstone, but it should not be sharpened. On the other side, the churches' efforts to amend marriage as a union only between a man and a woman shares the same vulnerability. They too want to "go there" in the Constitution, but they would be most ill-advised to do so. "Congress shall make no law," etc., and the battle should not be cast as a church issue. Gay marriage is first and foremost an incompletely addressed social issue of living arrangements, benefits, and inheritance.

Seeking to win the will of god and scripture is folly, so strategically, churches and religions should be ignored altogether, and the marriage cause should be placed entirely under the umbrella of civil rights. That shield will frustrate religious opponents by placing them on unfamiliar and sometimes hostile ground, terrain which has already been legally won for minorities. "Marriage Is A Civil Right"–that should be the slogan, the definition, a linguistic flank attack on “marriage between a man and a woman.”

While consummating negotiations, marriages, and vows, there are often bitter pills to be swallowed by both parties. In legal contexts, those pills are called "splitting the baby." There are undeniable doses of it here. Catholic, evangelical, and Mormon leaders should be continuously reassured via marketing, direct communication, even engagement in drafting legislation. For churches, participation in same-sex marriages must be voluntary. Forced compliance is their greatest fear, and taking it away will effectively dilute their opposition.

Even under a non-compulsory civil rights umbrella, lesbian and gay members of many churches, and residents of states like Alabama will not be vindicated. People caught in those situations will still be miserable, and I wish there were more comfort, but at least they'll soon be able to get married somewhere. As tolerance spreads, opposing sides will re-appraise the value of their relationships, and over time the context will shift. Perhaps those left out might consider moving to places like California, where Prop 8 will probably be challenged and overturned, and a Unitarian church will perform a beautiful ceremony either way.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Peace On Earth, Goodwill Towards Men

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow didn't know what he contributed to future Christmas hymns and seasons when he composed the words to "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." He recorded it on December 25th, 1864. What later became a Christmas carol was originally his seven-stanza poem "Christmas Bells." At the time, it was a jingoistic war poem, and a fairly tremulous one at that. The following is all off the top of my head, so correct me where I'm wrong.

Two stanzas which had contained direct references to the American Civil War were later omitted in 1872, with those remaining rearranged and set to music
by John Baptiste Calkin. When Longfellow first penned the words, America was a few months away from Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9th, 1865. While victory was widely expected, it was strewn with offal. His composition took in previous years of the war's despair, presaging a peace during fighting which, percentage-wise, was deadlier than World War One.

It may have looked forward in time, but "I Heard the Bells" was also a deep meditation on personal loss. The beneficent carol we now sing followed the tragic death of Longfellow's wife, Fanny, and a war-wound which paralyzed his eldest son Charles, whom he loved dearly.

Fanny was fatally burned in an accident in their house's library in 1861. She spilled sealing wax on her dress after using it to preserve some of her daughter's trimmed hair, and a sudden gust of wind blew the candle flames after her and ignited the paraffin on her dress. She ran aflame into Henry's study in the next room, and he grabbed a rug and threw it around her to extinguish her burning dress.

The fire had progressed too far, and Longfellow tackled his wife and tried to use his body to snuff the flames. She died the next morning, and his arms, hands and face were severely burned. The glorious beard we see in minds and pictures when we think of Longfellow is because he couldn't shave his burn-scarred face.

Following the death of his wife, he fell into an abyss of depression. A year later, a musket ball passed between the shoulder blades of his son Charles, a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac. Longfellow wrote nothing in poem or journal in 1863. From his subsequent writings, I believe he closely read the Bible during this period. Just a hunch.

Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am troubled; mine eye is consumed with grief, yea my soul and belly. On Christmas Day of 1864, Longfellow wrote a poem, "Christmas Bells." Against all predictions, Abraham Lincoln had been re-elected. The end of a terrible war was in sight. Lt. Charles Longfellow was disabled from his wounds, but lived. Contrary to popular belief, the Christmas carol was not about his son Charles' death, but his life. I can even hear echoes of scripture: Oh, give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good, and his mercy endureth forever (1st Chronicles, 16:34).

Longfellow's Christmas Day bells loudly proclaimed that God is not dead, nor doth he sleep, the wrong shall fail, the right prevail. I will admit my faith is shaken, even deeply, but it endures. We have to work, we have to organize smartly, and we have to win over those who would like to kill. The highest of human achievements is affection to each other, and this is the season. Thank you for coming here and reading every now and again; I have deeply appreciated your attention, I hope it was warranted, and will always return it.

May the wrong fail, the right prevail. Peace on earth, goodwill 2 humans!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Anti Claus: Cheney's Highest Moment In Office

By his own account, was 9/11:

WALLACE: Highest moment the last eight years?

CHENEY: Hmmm. Highest moment in the last eight years. Well, I think the most important, the most compelling, was 9/11 itself, and what that entailed, what we had to deal with. The way in which that changed the nation, and set the agenda for what we had to deal with as an administration.

WALLACE: And I assume that was also you're lowest moment.

CHENEY: Yeah...sure.

Bodies and their shadows often concur, but the wreckage of our skies confirm separations. Dick Cheney was in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) with his wife Lynne on that morning, before Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta arrived. Mineta gave the only sworn eyewitness testimony regarding Cheney's activities during the terrorist operations:
No, I was not [aware that shoot-down orders had been given]. I was made aware of it during the time of the airplane coming into the Pentagon. There was a young man who would come in and say to the Vice President, "The plane is 50 miles out...the plane is 30 miles out..." And when it got down to, uh, the plane is 10 miles out, the young man also said to the Vice President, "Do the orders still stand," and the Vice President turned, whipped his neck around and said, "Of course the orders still stand! Have you heard anything to the contrary?"
Orders? What orders? Presumably, they pertained to either shooting down the incoming planes or not. Subsequently, despite being integral to the timeline and tragedy, the implications of Mineta's testimony were strenuously avoided; there are no records of shoot-down orders or otherwise. They were suffocated in the bassinet of bureaucracy, yet Cheney regards 9/11 and what followed as his best time in office. And if I were in the White House bunker on that day, in command and responsible for the deaths of Americans no matter what I decided, it would not roll it off the top of my head as a "highest moment."

And what about the "young man?" How was he keeping Vice President Cheney minuted? He must have been scurrying back from the FAA-integrated Secret Service operations screens in the PEOC bunker. The Secret Service was monitoring the hijacked flights during Global Guardian, a yearly threat-response exercise, and its 2001 airborne subset Vigilant Guardian, a live-fly wargame focused on inter-agency response to hijacked commercial airliners (disputed by answers to the 9/11 Commission, but previously center-pieced in an Air Force powerpoint presentation, Amalgam Virgo 01). By FAA procedure, a passenger jet which turns off its transponder immediately appears on military radar as a potential threat. Any commercial flight which did so that morning would have looked like an additional bogey to the military.

The notion that 19 non-pilots evaded the defenses of the most sophisticated airspace in the world for two hours begs credulity, as does lack of forensic evidence and transparency.
This is partially mitigated by the report that five of the hijackers received training at US military bases in the 1990s (source MSNBC/Newsweek article). At least some of them could fly. But they chose the day from caves in Afghanistan when the US Air Force was conducting an anti-hijack exercise which involved every major security entity in North America (read the powerpoint)? That strains credulity into a double-hernia.

I want my suspicions and all my body's senses (for I drove by the twin towers at 8:31 on 9/11, was there for its aftermath, and my former boss and co-workers died for having breakfast in Windows on the World) to be wrong, wrong, wrong. I and 70% of my fellow New Yorkers are biased. If you can downplay or disagree, please send us contravening facts to set our minds at ease. We are all passengers in this car, and like the EPA says, your reality may differ.

The media provoked this post by the offence of giving air-time to a non-convicted architect of horrors, which none likely to come here would dispute. Bush and Cheney ordered programs of torture based on nothing more Constitutional than a Berkeley lawyer's opinion (known as "Dr. Yes" in the White House). My point is about burdens of evidence, that they're not on you or me but on a government which failed to provide them. Then stonewalls. Then gives interviews, and gloats.

If you find footage of a plane flying into the Pentagon, one of the buildings with the highest monitoring of closed-circuit TV cameras in the world, you'll be my Santa Claus. Google away. Meanwhile, evidence was provided by a most credible witness in congressional testimony about a man's decision-making on that morning which killed Americans. We don't know what decision was made, but incinerations and all the sins which followed from it are broadcast as the highest moment. May he never have another.

2000 Miles

Seattle is nestled under a foot of snow, and my wife's long-lost mother is here. We have her cousin's two boys because she had so many aunts and uncles she didn't know about, 10 of them, that one of their kids moved out clear to near where we live, and their oldest son was born within two weeks of ours. Which means four boys are here, and as of two days ago in the maternity ward, there will soon be five. But we don't know when, because they're stranded, we're stranded, with a house full of boys. For days.

The snow has just stopped falling, and I've just stopped watching the renters across the street try to free a car from the entrance to their driveway with the help of seven to eleven young guys and the encouragement of their dolls. A party which purpose was to strand an impediment even further out into the street.

The car is dark silver, a fairly new Volkswagen Golf, and it was the sound of wheels spinning that woke me up from sleeping with my son by the Christmas tree, virrh-whrrrh-zhrrhg, which he's been begging to do and with all the snow this is a Special Night. They put chains on the back tires to greatly improve traction--but Volkswagen Golfs have front wheel drive. I watched for 40 minutes wondering whether to help or not, or if I'm from here yet. So here's a song about snow, tons of snow and the soothing voice of Chrissie Hynde. If I am to smother under an artillery barrage of diapers, I now wish you Merry Christmas, and here are the lyrics to 2000 Miles:

He's gone 2000 miles
It's very far
The snow is falling down
Gets colder day by day
I miss you

The children will sing:
"He'll be back at Christmastime!"

In these frozen and silent nights
Sometimes in a dream you appear
Outside under the purple sky
Diamonds in the snow sparkle
Our hearts were singing
It felt like Christmastime

2000 miles
Is very far through the snow
I'll think of you
Wherever you go

He's gone 2000 miles
It's very far
The snow is falling down
Gets colder day by day
I miss you

I can hear people singing
It must be Christmastime!
I hear people singing
It must be Christmastime!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Psyche's News Roundup

Editorial - The Torture Report - NYTimes.com
Demands for war crimes prosecutions growing in the mainstream - Glenn Greenwald
Tortured Reasoning: vanityfair.com

Talking Points Memo | Breaking: Al Franken Takes The Lead In Minnesota Recount!
Republicans get really nervous as Al Franken pulls into the lead | Crooks and Liars
at-Largely: IT consultant had "root" over Rove's email, set to testify in election investigation dies in plane crash

Chris Matthews Eviscerates Neocon Frank Gaffney: "4,000 People Are Dead Because Of The Way You Feel" ("It is regrettable that they had to die," Gaffney said, "but I believe they did have to die")

McCain, Lieberman, Graham - A Chance for Consensus on Iraq - washingtonpost.com (3 Stooges)
McClatchy Washington Bureau | 12/19/2008 | Palin soap opera: Drug in Levi's mom's case is oxycontin
Prop. 8 Sponsors Seek To Nullify 18,000 Gay Marriages (Kenneth Starr returns)

Robert Fisk’s World: One missing word in 1968 Oslo Accord (intentionally) sowed the seeds of catastrophe
Katrina's Hidden Race War
YouTube - Letterman's Top 10 George Bush moments

TPMMuckraker | Cox "Worked to Dismantle The SEC," Says Commission Vet
Profile of SEC Chief Christopher Cox - Executive Articles - Portfolio.com Under chairman Christopher Cox, the commission has undermined and demoralized its enforcement staff
SEC Report: Employees Browsed Porn, Ran Private Businesses - ProPublica (pro-business)

History Repeats Itself in Different Hues – Japan vs. United States
The Atlantic Online | December 2008 | China: “Be Nice to the Countries That Lend You Money”
On the Contrary: The Talmud, the Stock Market and Bernie the Goniff

Business & Technology | How marketing tricks you, and how to beat it | Seattle Times
YouTube - 'Soulgasms' and the Christian War on Masturbation
YouTube - Five Biggest LIES About Christianity

Single word change in Book of Mormon speaks volumes
Itv News | 'Hobbit' Fossils Represent A New Species, Concludes Anthropologist
When Jesus met Buddha - The Boston Globe

California Drones Mystery Solved By Sarah Connor Chronicles? - Screen Rant
NatGeo: Top Ten Archaeology Finds: Most Read of 2008
Good Math, Bad Math : Fitness Landscapes, Evolution, and Smuggling Information

Blake retrospective: Tate Britain stages 1809 show | Art and design | The Guardian
LRB · James Wolcott: Caretaker/Pallbearer The Widows of Eastwick by John Updike
The Explainer: questions we never answered in 2008. - By Daniel Engber - Slate Magazine

Friday, December 19, 2008

Obama Staffs Another Fictional Bush Cabinet Post With Actual Person

He named Dennis Blair, as the new DNI. 6th generation Navy man. Former Rhodes scholar, thinker for one of the two democratic think-tanks in existence, friend of John Podesta. Although he may be a competent guy, probably better than the outgoing John "Pardon Me, But I Have Death Squads To Run" Negroponte. We spend $100 billion or so, not including black budgets, on this shit every year. What with all the decisive victories it's achieving, like in the video above, I was thinking "Hey! What the hell, let's see what happens if we spend less."

But we obviously, desperately need another federal agency that deals with "intelligence." I mean, there's only the Director of National Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, and National Security Agency. And let's throw in the Secret Service, DEA, Centac, ATF, BNR, and the Park Rangers. We totally have to have this!

All The News That Eventually Gets Printed

An enraged George Tenet, drunk on scotch, flailing about Prince Bandar's Riyadh pool, screaming about the Bush Administration officials who were just then trying to pin the Iraq WMD fiasco on him:
A servant appeared with a bottle. Tenet knocked back some of the scotch. Then some more. They watched with concern. He drained half the bottle in a few minutes. "They're setting me up. The bastards are setting me up," Tenet said, but "I am not going to take the hit."
And then this:

"According to one witness, he mocked the neoconservatives in the Bush administration and their alignment with the rlght wing of Israel's political establishment, referring to them with exasperation as, "the Jews."

From the prologue of Patrick Tyler's forthcoming book, A World of Trouble, about America's curious relations with the Middle East. (And hat tip to Jesus at Church and Empire, right margin.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, And God Damn It, I'm A Senator

Stuart Smalley is about to become the first, and hopefully only (except maybe for Tina Fey, who I'd vote for five times), Saturday Night Live alum to get elected to national office. The Minneapolis Star Tribune calls him the winner this evening, along with other newspapers there, such as the Frostbitten Gopher. Some things, perhaps Hell as well as International Falls, have frozen over. By what rights can Franken be Senator? Self-promotion, 50 votes or so, and the Jesse Ventura Precedent.

Al Franken will bring a hugely important 59th vote to Senate Democrats, which means they only have to bribe one opposing Republican divided by the cube root of Joe Lieberman to actually pass any legislation. I'll try to remember that whenever I listen to his adenoidally challenged voice, condescending demeanor, and remember when he and Jeanene Garafolo met with John Plywood Kerry at an East Central Park apartment to throw Howard Dean's candidacy under the bus.

Things aren't perfect, they fall apart, they come together. I used to listen to this twisted dude's comedy sketches when I was in high school, and wondered who he was making fun of. Earnest people trying to become better? Me? Himself? Self-help? Congress.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Blagojevich Might Skate

I previously marveled that the Blago case broke with the tradition of political corruption cases because no money had actually changed hands. Turns out there's a reason. The Chicago Tribune blew it for federal prosecutors by ending its cooperation with Fitzgerald, who had requested they hold a story, by running it on Dec. 5th. The run-down is given in a dynamite inside-reporting WSJ online article:

Conventional wisdom holds that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald ordered the FBI to arrest Rod Blagojevich before sunrise Tuesday in order to stop a crime from being committed. That would have been the sale of the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

But the opposite is true: Members of Fitzgerald’s team are livid the scheme didn’t advance, at least for a little longer, according to some people close to Fitzgerald’s office. Why? Because had the plot unfolded, they might have had an opportunity most feds can only dream of: A chance to catch the sale of a Senate seat on tape, including the sellers and the buyers.

The precise timing of Tuesday’s dramatic, pre-dawn arrest was not dictated by Fitzgerald, nor was it dictated by the pace of Blagojevich’s alleged “crime spree.” It was dictated by the Chicago Tribune, according to people close to the investigation and a careful reading of the FBI’s affidavit in the case.

At Fitzgerald’s request, the paper had been holding back a story since October detailing how a confidante of Blagojevich was cooperating with his office.

Blago read the story, called his brother, and told him to "Undo that thing." Slimeball? Yes. But it is not a crime to advance agendas, or to go over a list of preferred candidates and discuss one's future political career, and Blago can honestly say he didn't take a dime for the governor's prerogative regarding appointment of vacated Senate seat. That's why he's not resigning. The way he sees it, having a third party set up a charity which he and/or his wife could run is not illegal, and I don't know that he's technically wrong on that. He figures a local jury will see it his way. Expect taped evidence and testimony that makes him look like a pig, but America has elected worse.

As for the rumors that Rahm Emanuel or Obama are mixed up in influence peddling? Hopeful tempest, meet pretty teapot. They promised nothing but appreciation. It's right in the complaint.

(Update: The pic is of Ann Cavello of the Bay City Bombers, inspiration for Jim Croce's hit, Roller Derby Queen, "the meanest hunk o' woman anybody ever seen, wham-a-bam, whoa, wham-a-bam.")

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Iraqi Reporter Establishes Lasting Tradition

Yelling, "This is the end, a goodbye kiss you dog," a journalist for al-Baghdiya TV came up with a far-sighted solution to an important problem. How should we best scorn Bush in his post-preznit days? I hadn't thought of throwing shoes at him, but it's perfect.

I had mused of other things, such as various kinds of death (unrealistic, possibly risky), the International Criminal Court (ditto), spitting on him (requires proximity, classifiable as WMD), cutting out his tongue (outdated, fantasy), mooning him (public nudity, I don't want people to see my ass), denying him internet privileges (not a bad idea, he might start using it), but as a solution the shoe throw works on all levels.

The Arab world is only about fifty years removed from when camels and donkeys were the primary movers, and sewage treatment in Baghdad is not all that it should be, so a shoe is naturally still assumed to have shit on it. At meetings and meals, exposing the bottom of your shoe is the worst possible insult in the Mid-East. Shoes are toxic there, shoes are hazardous waste.

In the Western world, there isn't much in the way of law against shoe-throwing, as we lack the tradition. Shoes are not recognized as a weapon, except if they contain explosives, or maybe if you look great in high heels. So if you throw your shoes at Bush, Cheney, or their minions, their security would get uptight, sure, and would rough you up and wrestle you to the ground like with the somewhat biased reporter in the video, but did you just attempt assassination? Of course not. A few bruises are a small price to pay for the heroism that will surely be accorded evermore to Mr. Shoe Hucker in his country.

And really, what crime could you be charged with? Assault seems a bit much...harassing an ex-President is a time-honored pastime...Bush himself seems to be fine with it ("I think it was a size 10") and dodges pretty well, although the second one came very close to nailing him. And, at this point, if it went to trial, what jury would convict? You'd be more likely to get the key to a city,
the Legion of Merit, laid for life.

I think the guideline here is to not draw blood. Imagine. Say you're in Dallas, and you happen to see the ex-President and a couple buffoons eating dinner at a table on the other side of the restaurant. Should you leave in disgust? Nah. Lob a shoe, take out some wine and water glasses. It's the most fitting leg-acy.

Sphenopalatine Ganglioneuralgia (Brain Freeze)

Having a kid around means fielding lots of questions, which can range from fun to horribly embarassing. When LRB (Lord Running Boy) ate his vanilla ice cream too fast, got hit with the dreaded brain freeze and asked, "how can ice cream make my head hurt?" Good question, my boy. Internet to the rescue.

The medical term is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. When something very cold touches the top palate of the mouth, it causes the blood vessels to constrict. This makes the nerves send a signal to the brain to reopen them. The rapid reopening of the vessels causes buildup of fluid in the tissues causing a slight swelling in the forehead and, therefore, causing pain. It normally takes 30-60 seconds for the fluid to drain, and the pain goes away.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Ass-Kickings Begin: Joe Stiglitz Goes Seven Samurai

The feeling of living in America under the Bush Administration was very much like being jammed into the back-seat of an SUV on a rainy night with a bunch of screaming-drunk teenagers driving way too fast. An all-too common experience in my taxi-free teenage terrain. If you had the misfortune to be sober (or god help you, female) in that situation, it went like this: you'd keep begging them to slow down and asking to get out, and they'd keep roaring, "Shut up, ya f***in' pussy! Yeeee-hahahahahaaa! Hey, Matt, you gonna pass the goddamn bong back here, or f*** it with your pencil-dick?"

As broken glass spits through the passenger cabin and we hunch for the next climacteric crunch on our way down the economic cliffside, wondering if we're going to die or just fracture a skull, some state trooper types have appeared on the scene. Such as Joseph E. Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist whom Republican De-Regulators have derided as dumber than owl shit. He has the unique distinction amongst economists of having been fired by the World Bank (see interview with Greg Palast, "The Globalizer Who Came in from the Cold") in the wake of the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle. He had the temerity to suggest mild land reform and regulation as solutions to free market failures.

In a Vanity Fair article, Stiglitz assesses the damage, and then goes effortlessly chop-socky on the irresponsible Icarian jobbernowls who have ruined so many lives. He describes a 20-year arc of systemic failure with the efficiency and clarity of a master, sketching five major phases of financial Walpurgisnacht. He understands finance like Picasso understood paint, dispenses an education in 2 pages, and ends his rap so:
The truth is most of the individual mistakes boil down to just one: a belief that markets are self-adjusting and that the role of government should be minimal. Looking back at that belief during hearings this fall on Capitol Hill, Alan Greenspan said out loud, “I have found a flaw.” Congressman Henry Waxman pushed him, responding, “In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right; it was not working.” “Absolutely, precisely,” Greenspan said. The embrace by America—and much of the rest of the world—of this flawed economic philosophy made it inevitable that we would eventually arrive at the place we are today.
For us citizens, it all started when we went to a party and voted to get into that car with those people. Opinions may differ on intent and consequence of the bad decisions made there, but it is critical to accurately assign blame so we can move forward towards the MacGuffin embedded in Stiglitz's remarks. He's just getting warmed up, and will be joined by a gathering chorus to drown out the discredited grobian chanticleers who hang about with "who, me?" expressions. What remains to be seen is if the nation-states themselves, in the wake of relentless corporate organization, remain strong enough to enforce regulation on global entities without becoming one themselves.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

GM Takes Out Full-Page Ad In Automotive News

"You wouldn't buy our shitty cars. So we'll be taking your money anyway. The Bailout. Coming this January."

That's how the ad could've read. In its own way, the actual one was much better, titled: GM's Commitment to the American People. It would be wise to practice and master this particular form of contrition: "We know, we screwed up. Now we really, really need 18 billion dollars. Even though we've still got 16 billion in the bank."

The crowd from home plate on up to the peanut gallery was, you might say, a bit underwhelmed. GOP congress-critters worked up the spunk to actually heap a helping of scorn and derision on Dick Cheney for asking them to become communists. (Get used to a steady diet of those. Dick.)

Actually, GM would probably be ok if it hit Chapter 11, so it just needs a bridge loan, like, I dunno, maybe from a bank that has just shared in 4 trillion dollars of largesse. GM has some good models like the Malibu and Impala, can restructure a couple brands, and can bring in good models from subsidiaries where people haven't forgotten how to build them, such as Opel-Europe and Saab. All told, they probably need $5-8 billion before the Volt comes on line, which is an electric car powered by gasoline. (Don't ask.)

Ford probably doesn't need a bailout at all to avoid chaptering, with a stronger model line and high-quality small cars it's already bringing in from its European sub. It also owns part of Mazda, which it could sell without much difficulty. But Ford would feel quite snubbed if GM got a bailout, and it did not. It might fail out of sheer pique, just to get back at us, so look for something in the $4-6 billion range, with concessions of a green nature, and promises not to bust the union too openly or ship all production to Malaysia.

Chrysler? It is, in the Catholic sense, beyond redemption. It has no compelling models coming online, no far-off subs to get them from, no reserves, just liabilities. Daimler-Benz paid billions to be shot of it for good reason. There's talk of forcing GM or Ford to merge with it in order to save the doomed, lobbyist-chocked private equity firm ("Cerebus") which was dumb enough to buy it from Daimler, but whoa-ho. When you're drowning, you don't catch anchors.

So there's the quick-n-dirty state of automotive affairs. Please don't actually believe any of the above, your mileage may vary, etc. I've just always loved cars, and will mourn the loss of these once-glorious enterprises which made some of the best, now become wart-nosed, blinded, degenerate albatrosses. And someday I'll get around to writing about our new Honda Fit.

(Update: I'm about as flip-floppy as the rest of the country on the bailout issue, with 47% for, 42% against, 11% undecided. Cars have killed and maimed more Americans than the total casualties of all US wars, one hit me in a crosswalk in LA, one permanently messed my neck up in a rear-ender. Yet it was cars which first united the US as a country, and they remain the building block of our present structure. Transitions away must be gradual, and add to that the fact that England, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, and Sweden amongst others all bailed out or nationalized indigenous failed car companies. Car industry is heavy industry, the engineering know-how can be readily harnessed to other purposes, so we should be solidly in favor of a limited, controlled bailout (let none dare say Nationalization.) Amazingly, it looks like Congress will be of the same mind.)

Pretty Statecraft, Brilliant Statecraft, Dressed In Holiday Cheer

Professional observers firmly believe there won't be serious progress on Palestine and Iran. Who could blame them?

With Palestine, zionists will reject any objectively fair (or do-able) two-state solution. Ditto the involved and aggrieved muslims, which include those of greater Arabia.

With Iran, the zionist position is even worse. Israel will knee-jerk into war if Iran develops its force projection capabilities, and nuclear deterrence doctrine (mutal assured destruction) doesn't apply well to any scenario which includes technically advanced muslim states. That's why Israel doesn't want any, as each would bear a legitimate existential threat. (Note: If you run into a zionist, just mention the words "nuclear Iran," it's really all you have to say. Then sit back and watch the show. Free entertainment, for hours!) Meanwhile it's easy for Iran, and fully within its interests, to keep up deniable pressure on Israel's backside.

Obviously, Israel's the diplomatic problem to solve. It's a poison to three-quarters of US bilateral relationships on the globe, its people have suffered from an abiding and deepening insecurity complex from the reign of King Zedekiah onwards, and its policies are, at this juncture, politically pathetic and suicidal. Policy which relies on keeping nukes away from Iran is doomed to deadly failure. They're going to have them soon enough. Policy which relies on running a national ghetto generates greater backlash the longer it goes. So much so, it supports the argument to not open the gates. (Apres moi, la goy-luge.) What on earth to do...oh! Wait! I know! Let's obviate Israel's need for nuclear weapons?

"Obama to offer nuclear shield to Israel:"

President-elect Barack Obama plans to offer Israel a strategic pact designed to fend off any nuclear attack on the Jewish state by Iran, an Israeli newspaper reported on Thursday.

Quoting an unnamed American source close to Obama, Haaretz daily said Obama's administration would pledge under the proposed "nuclear umbrella" to respond to any Iranian nuclear strike against Israel with a U.S. retaliation in kind.....

The latitude for unilateral Israeli action might be limited by a U.S. nuclear umbrella. Similar Cold War treaties -- NATO in Europe, the nuclear umbrella over Japan -- defended U.S. allies while obliging them to get Washington's nod for military moves.
The article was intentionally leaked by Obama, laying an impressive new groundwork:

1) he offers Israel what they already have, but in a new and very reassuring way. It takes pressure off them and creates wiggle room for quid pro quo without giving or taking much away.

2) he opens maximal manoevre room with Iran, including a lifted embargo. Do we want US companies to supply Iran with nuclear plants, or do we want the Russians to get the work?

3) Which, by the way, the Israelis have been sucking up to Russia hard, via detente with its client state Syria. Obama one-ups that move, and says, in effect, "Don't twist your forelocks over Iran. We'll vouch for them. And we're still top dog in the region."

4) Iran's first quid pro quo would be to stop Hamas and Hezbollah with the bottle rockets in Palestine, feeding into a more stable framework there.

As you know, I've long viewed Clinton as SecState in the (for my first time ever, positive) light of Obama making an immediate run at de-escalation in the Mid-East, a.k.a. Peace. The temperature will lower, and the ambition is now confirmed. I realize the words above do not in any way spell out "two-state solution," and given the actors and history involved, skepticism is warranted. I'm mainly encouraged because the statecraft is of the highest quality. Obama's cabinet has betrayed itself as being able to think wisely in multiple dimensions, the hallmark of great diplomacy, the X Factor in international relations. It makes a far bigger difference in outcomes than war, even when accompanied by war.

For example, if Edmund Burke had been Prime Minister rather than the over-reaching, ham-fisted simpleton Lord North, America would not have revolted, and might have remained part of England's Commonwealth to this day. Parallels between North and his Tory Party's bungling bellicosity and Bush and his Neo-con Gang of Pugs, although someone should write a book about them, they practically draw themselves. The one-track-mind diplomatic methods common to both cabals come in a black box with electrodes attached.

We should be thoroughly cheered by the deftness of Obama's first Mid-East overture. Call me starry-eyed, but when I say, "Peace on earth, good will towards men" this holiday season, for the first time in a great while--for the first time in my adult life--I'll know my government means it.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Real Blagojevich Impact

(Photo Update: found Blago's high school yearbook pic, above. He was voted "Most Likely To Answer A Question With An Answer That He Answered The Question With An Answer.")

Today's big story triggered the predictable gushes of Bright Shiny Media Object Mediocrity. True, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been arrested for trying to sell Obama's open Senate seat:
Federal authorities arrested Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich Tuesday on charges that he brazenly conspired to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama to the highest bidder....
Yes, Ro-Bla made his direct pitch to the Obama folks on November 7th:
And on November 7th, three days after the election, Blagojevich made clear what he wanted in exchange for appointing the Obama adviser to the Senate: the Department of Health and Human Services.
But they missed the back story. You've got to figure Team Obama was thoroughly acquainted with said Guv's distinctive style well before November 4th. They're all cogs in the same machine, and they must've known he was under investigation (if not wiretapped) by the FBI and pit bull prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. From Fitzgerald's filing, we know Obama wouldn't play ball on Nov. 7th and thereafter, with the accused grousing, "they're not willing to give me anything except appreciation."

The super-hustling Marcy Wheeler at Empty Wheel is all over it, and put together a time line after reading the 76-page filing. Merging with what facts are available, she doesn't think the time line supports Rahm Emanuel (who took Blago's congressional CD-5 seat over after he left it) whistle-blowing to the prosecuting attorney. I'm not so sure. Whistling would've been Rahm's job as CoS designate to protect Obama, he would've probably known about it, and it would've been overwhelmingly prudent to leak. Blago was persona non grata in Illinois for some time, and
Politico naturally asks, "how much was the Obama transition cooperating with the FBI?" Still, the evidence angles miss the colorful mural that looms behind the play.

The real story here is about appearance, change, and enforcing boundaries of acceptable behavior in politics. The Illinois governor will serve as a great and ground-breaking example of Greek tragedy. Reason? He was horribly out of tune with the gods. To Blagojevich, he was simply conducting Chicago (and Bush Era) politics as usual, taking his rightful due. Therefore, his reaction to being arrested at 6AM was "Hahahahaa! Great joke. That was a good one. Alright, who put you up to this?" To the political machine that spawned him, he had crossed the bounds. Someone tipped off Fitzgerald to go after Blago based upon the shiv he was planning (emphasis planning) to stick in before new Illinois ethics rules went effective as of January. And that, my friends, is a high-aperture departure from established standards of political malfeasance. It's like wind sheer, like veer. The details may be decoded or enthralled over by a select few, but the effects to the rest of us in the cargo cult are religious.

Regardless of their level of cooperation or timing, Obama and Fitzgerald sent a big message to Chicago, to Illinois, and to every politician or lobbyist waiting in line to slurp at the Money River: you've got New Rules! Most if not every politician who got arrested in the past 30 years was only prosecuted after their deeds, after getting caught red-handed with courtesans on yachts and cold cash in freezers. Blagojevich doesn't fit that past. Freely admitting my own paltry memory, I can't think of a single exception, and further: the Guv didn't get a dime for all his self-advocacy. Radical departure of standards. The Guv's going down on conspiracy charges, merely for expressed intent. Show trials are cathartic. Yet I ask myself, "What current or former politician does not use at least half their brain cycles conspiring to peddle influence, trade horses, and use their position to enrich themselves?" I mean, Christ, it's what they do.

Busting Blagojevich, whoever did it, is a wake-up call to every sleaze-ball queued up in the system for a stool to slurp on the Money River. His take-down alerts every top-level Secretary, every business interest allocating funds to buy votes, every ward heeler fixing violations with the local Department of Health to be en garde: t
hey're being told it's a crime to even talk about influence peddling. They'll have to devise code. A fish stinks from its head, a rose wafts from its bud. That's the story, and a case like this will shape behaviors all the way down to junior high schoolers choosing to cheat on tests, or study more. This is...new.

Rahm Emanuel's E-mail

A little more fun at Rahmbo's expense. Click here on Famous DC to see the larger version.

Monday, December 08, 2008


If you've ever been in a relationship with an actor, friendly or otherwise, you know they're emotion-amplifiers, they are shouters from rooftops and steepers in jacuzzis of pathos, sometimes simultaneously. Unsurprisingly, their brains exhibit differences. A fascinating public discussion was held at New York’s Columbia University this month, in which the RSC’s Michael Boyd and Dr. Oliver Sacks compared notes on memory, neural processing, and asked, How do actors memorize their lines?


Michael Boyd: We worked with about 30 actors over nearly three years on the RSC’s last complete cycle of the history plays. All the actors were in at least seven of those plays and learnt a huge number of roles. Halfway through the project, we left the first four plays behind for nearly a year. And we had to revive them. The actors began to get anxious about whether they would remember them: not only their principal roles, but the roles they understudied - thousands of lines, hundreds of states of emotions. An extraordinary feat of spatial memory was required, too: they had to remember where to go. Where am I? Backstage or front of house?

This process started with actors on their own going through their lines. They didn’t remember them. We then moved on to working together in a room, sitting down doing a line-run. It wasn’t very good. Then we decided to cut to the chase and just fling all four plays onto the stage - without costume, without d├ęcor, without all the effects. And the actors were very nearly word-perfect straightaway. It was clear that what they were trying to retrieve was no more than a broken bit of memory, only complete when the actions of their bodies and the emotions were combined together with the recall of the line. And there was a further improvement when they were not only together on stage, but also together with an audience. Then they became absolutely pitch-perfect and word-perfect, with an urgent need to communicate. I think that says something about where we keep our memory. Maybe our memory is in our body as well as in our cranium.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Psyche's News Roundup

Private Businesses Shed 250,000 Jobs in November - washingtonpost.com
The Bailout Isn't Being Policed Properly: Government Accountability Office (harvesting while they can)
Paulson Debates Second Infusion - WSJ.com - Hostile Lawmakers, Competing Bailout Demands and GAO Criticism Pose Dilemma

The Five Stages of Collapse | Energy Bulletin by Dmitry Orlov
Consumers Don't Cause Recessions - Robert P. Murphy - Mises Institute
Americas Great Depression by Murray N. Rothbard

Rove: We Wouldn't Have Invaded Iraq If We Knew The Truth About WMDs
The Truth About Lies: The long and the short of it (part one) | The Truth About Lies: The long and the short of it (part two)
Cliff Arnebeck: "Rove Is A Common Criminal" - Rove "Destroyed Emails That Would Have Revealed His Role In Extending [Iraq] War"

Obama Gives (All-Bush) Political Ambassadors Their Pink Slips | 44 | washingtonpost.com
McClatchy Washington Bureau | 12/02/2008 | Military contractor in Iraq holds foreign workers in warehouses
Revealed: Britain's torture of Obama's grandfather | World news | guardian.co.uk Hussein Onyango Obama, a British soldier in the second world war, was locked up as a Mau Mau rebel in Kenya

M of A - Afghanistan: Merging News and Psy-Ops
CNN: Declassified government docs show U.S. let Saddam gas Kurds for farm deal - Democratic Underground
Mumbai Attackers Made Sophisticated Use of Technology - washingtonpost.com

GE shares rally after it vows to preserve dividend, rating - Dec. 2, 2008 (you just bailed out their shareholders)
Harvard's Endowment Loses $8 Billion (up to 30% drop, guess they didn't cash out)
Global Financial Crisis 2008: Global Issues

CTV.ca | Excerpt: 'Climate Wars' by Gwynne Dyer
Higher Education May Soon Be Unaffordable for Most Americans, Report Says - NYTimes.com
Apprendre un louveteau hurler la lune | kazados.tv

Vatican attacked for opposing gay decriminalization | International | Reuters
The Religion Virus: One Catholic Priest Destroyed the Entire Mayan Written Language
Eight rebellious U.S. regions and secessionist efforts - CNN.com

Bailout Monitor Sees Lack of a Coherent Plan - NYTimes.com
London warms to Islamic finance | csmonitor.com (no failed banks)
Business Spectator - A tsunami of hope or terror? (synthetic CDOs)

Apple: "No Reasonable Person" Should Trust Their Marketing
Edge: Bootstrapping Our Way To An Ageless Future By Aubrey de Grey
Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

WSJ, NYT, & Institutionalized Stupidity

Wall Street Journal, writing about Robert Rubin:
Under fire for his role in the near-collapse of Citigroup Inc., Robert Rubin said its problems were due to the buckling financial system, not its own mistakes, and that his role was peripheral to the bank's main operations even though he was one of its highest-paid officials.

"Nobody was prepared for this," Mr. Rubin said in an interview. He cited former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan as another example of someone whose reputation has been unfairly damaged by the crisis.

New York Times interview with Jamie Galbraith (son of John K Galbraith):
Do you find it odd that so few economists foresaw the current credit disaster?
Some did. The person with the most serious claim for seeing it coming is Dean Baker, the Washington economist. I saw it coming in general terms.

But there are at least 15,000 professional economists in this country, and you’re saying only two or three of them foresaw the mortgage crisis?
Ten or 12 would be closer than two or three.

What does that say about the field of economics, which claims to be a science?
It’s an enormous blot on the reputation of the profession. There are thousands of economists. Most of them teach. And most of them teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless.

Mark Twain:
Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.
(Note: This post, artlessly cadged from A Tiny Revolution, further indulges my loathing for the financial priesthood, imbeciles who really mean it. Brooklynese trader maxim: nobody knows nuttin.')

Twenty-Year Old News

(NYT Redux)

After seven years of war, Afghanistan presents a unique set of problems: a rural-based insurgency, an enemy sanctuary in neighboring Pakistan, the chronic weakness of the Afghan government, a thriving narcotics trade, poorly developed infrastructure, and forbidding terrain.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Psyche's News Roundup

ABC News: Bush: 'I Did Not Compromise My Principles' (just mine & ours)
Pentagon to Detail Troops to Bolster Domestic Security - washingtonpost.com - 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011
Cohen: Olmert to Obama: I Made Mistakes - International Herald Tribune

U.S. Warned India in October of Potential Terror Attack: specific locations, including the Taj hotel, were listed in the U.S. warning.
California Prop 8 Battle Far From Over: The Policy Report
Dow Falls Off Nearly 700 Point Cliff...Watch Out Folks! - iReport.com

AP Impact: Under pressure, US regulators eased lending rules - Yahoo! News
Citigroup Making $10B Construction Company Acquisition
Paulson Says Treasury Actively Mulling New Rescue Programs - WSJ.com

The GOP's McCarthy gene - Los Angeles Times Thinks Goldwater father of conservatism
I'm Still Tortured by What I Saw in Iraq - washingtonpost.com
The Truth About the Election - The New York Review of Books

Social Networks Site Usage: Visitors, Members, Page Views, and Engagement by the Numbers
The Secret to Raising Smart Kids: Scientific American: focus on effort, not on intelligence or ability, is key to success in school and in life
North Atlantic cold-water sink returns to life : Nature News

Book of Mormon critic Simon Southerton responds to his critics: Answers Apologetic Claims about DNA and the Book of Mormon
'The Complex' author John Duignan cites Tom Cruise control (Amazon kow-tows)
Calif. priest tells Obama supporters to confess because voting for Obama was a mortal sin

TheStar.com | sciencetech | 2,700-year-old marijuana found in Chinese tomb Stash seems to have been intended for buried shaman to use in the afterlife
YouTube - Ricky Gervais - Nursery Rhymes
vintagephoto: Pinups