Archive for the 'the_world' Category

A Tiny Revolution: Greeted With Flowers

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

I think ymatt will like this: Greeted With Flowers.

Adams on Maher (and Co.) on Global Warming

Friday, September 28th, 2007

A fun item from the Dilbert Blog: On the Other Hand.

Scott Adams on Ahmadinejad

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

Dilbert’s creator offers his views on the Iranian president: A Feeling I’m Being Had.

Pinky on the Iraq War’s Legality. Or Lack Thereof. Mostly Lack Thereof.

Saturday, September 15th, 2007

As long as I’m annoying Janus with pinkyshow items, here’s another one that I really like.

Powell the “Former Everything” Talks Reality

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

While you’re over at GQ, do read the interview with Colin Powell as well. Consider it a double-feature of amazingly competent, realistic, and principled men. The Powell interview is so consistently good, I won’t even try to quote or summarize it. Go read.

Churchill, His Arms Wide

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

I very much enjoyed this essay entitled The Power of (Right Wing) Myth, and its analogy between the episode of Star Trek involving a race of aliens that speak only in metaphor and the tendency of many (I won’t limit it to the right wing as the author does) to fall back to a defined set of references to 20th century history to explain, even justify, a lot of things our government has done more recently. You can see it in Bush’s bizarrely ironic comparison of the Iraq and Vietnam wars, and all the way down through the ranks of officials and commentators throwing Churchill and Imperial Japan and Hitler around, seemingly without considering them anything more than archetypes of “good” or “evil”.

I was one of the generation the author mentions, who grew up in a republican household, imprinted with the mythos of the triumphant Reagan throwing out the unmanly peanut farmer; I had a “Reagan ’84” bumper sticker next to pictures of the Transformers on my bedroom door in grade school. But why haven’t more people like me given up childish caricatures and tried to learn the real lessons of history? I mean I wouldn’t use an episode of Star Trek to justify a war…

Envy and Admiration

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

I won’t say much about “Why Do They Hate Us?” — a really excellent piece by a man who is perhaps in the ideal position to answer that question — as I don’t want to bias your expectations. Just go read it, because sometimes the truth is simple.

Philosoraptor: OBL + GWB

Friday, July 20th, 2007

W is the best de facto ally al Qaeda ever had.

Bush Being Bush

Wednesday, September 20th, 2006

I was struck by this part of Bush’s speech yesterday at the UN (President Bush addresses United Nations General Assembly):

The Security Council has approved a resolution that would transform the African Union force into a blue-helmeted force that is larger and more robust. To increase its strength and effectiveness, NATO nations should provide logistics and other support. The regime in Khartoum is stopping the deployment of this force. If the Sudanese government does not approve this peacekeeping force quickly, the United Nations must act. Your lives and the credibility of the United Nations is at stake.

Say what you will about Bush’s qualifications (or lack of them) for being President, he does have one thing that makes him truly remarkable. Call it “balls,” call it “chutzpah,” call it “a pathological refusal to acknowledge his own failings,” but whatever you call it, he’s got it in spades, and for him (Bush) to be willing to lecture them (the UN) on this particular subject (the need to maintain their credibility) is as clear an example of it as anything I’ve seen.

Bush’s whole presidency, his whole adult life, is a monument to the power of his faith in himself. And it’s not just faith, but a zealously held and aggressively asserted faith, a faith characterized by bluster and a willingness to get in the other guy’s face and loudly assert that he is so right, and who are you to question it?

That UN speech is just one example I saw today. There was also a Max Boot op-ed piece in the LA Times: The stubbornly hopeful president.

True to the pro-Bush leanings that got him into the small group of reporters meeting with Bush, Boot does his best to put a positive spin on what he saw. But he can’t help conveying a certain sense of wonder at just how disconnected from reality Bush has become:

His steadfastness in the face of adversity is admirable. So is his contempt for the conventional wisdom of the day. But there is a certain fatalism that can come from focusing so much on the long term. (Bush spoke repeatedly of how the world would look 50 years from now.) There is a danger that you will not make the necessary short-term adjustments to achieve results here and now.

Finishing up the trio of items that led me to post this morning was this one from BAGnewsNotes: Losing it?

Up to now, I’ve felt that Bush had the psychological strength to contain the anger and arrogance that underlies much of his behavior. Observing his press conference in the Rose Garden on Friday, however, I’m not so sure anymore. Bush pulled off the Presidency perfectly well when things were going his way and people deferred to him (or cowered). (I’m speaking mentally, not politically.)

With the teflon all but gone, however, he’s starting to come apart whenever challenged. You can hear it in his tone, and you can see it in his body language. Besides Friday, it was quite evident, for example, in the recent “walk and talk” interviews Bush gave to Brian Williams in New Orleans and to Charles Gibson in Atlanta.

As Bush heads into the lame-duck part of his presidency, confronted more and more by his failures and the evaporation of his political capital, his confidence in himself will continue to be challenged. From what I can see, though, this is one challenge (perhaps the only one) that he’ll have no trouble surmounting.

Former Guantanamo Detainee Speaks

Saturday, June 17th, 2006

Mourad Benchellaili, writing in the NY Times: Detainees in despair:

I believe that a small number of the detainees at Guantanamo are guilty of criminal acts, but as analysis of the military’s documents on the prisoners has shown, there is no evidence that most of the 465 or so men there have committed hostile acts against the United States or its allies. Even so, what I heard so many times resounding from cage to cage, what I said myself so many times in my moments of complete despondency, was not, “Free us, we are innocent!” but “Judge us for whatever we’ve done!” There is unlimited cruelty in a system that seems to be unable to free the innocent and unable to punish the guilty.

Kleiman on the Righties on McCarthy

Monday, April 24th, 2006

Mark Kleiman has some choice comments on what the right-wing blogosphere has to say about Mary McCarthy’s firing, and the failure of the Bush team to try to prosecute her for allegedly leaking information about the CIA’s “black” sites in Europe to Dana Priest of the Washington Post: Secret prisons: Red Blogistan de-compensates.

Now that the leaker of the information has been unmasked and fired, the same folks are gleeful about the fact that she turns out to have been a Democrat. And they’re out for blood: Why, they demand, was she fired rather than being prosecuted? (Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds. If Glenn disagrees, he doesn’t say so.)

Duhhhhh… wait, don’t tell me … ummmm …. because she’d assert a “public interest” defense, which would mean putting the story back on the front pages for weeks, and risk having the facts about what’s been going on in those dungeons revealed in open court? Just a guess.

Anyway, she’d probably get off. I’d be surprised if even this Supreme Court would hold as a matter of law that revealing criminal activity is a crime if the activity in question is labeled “classified.”

There’s more, and I thoroughly enjoyed all of it.

Hansen: NASA’s Trying to Shut Me Up

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

Interesting piece from the NYT about James E. Hansen, the top climate scientist at NASA, who’s crying foul about agency higher-ups trying to keep him from spreading the word about what the data show about global warming: Climate expert says NASA tried to silence him.

Quiggin: The Global Warming Debate Is Over

Sunday, January 8th, 2006

Interesting write-up from John Quiggan at Crooked Timber: The end of the global warming debate. I especially liked this part:

Finally, the evidence has mounted up that, with a handful of exceptions, “sceptics” are not, as they claim, fearless seekers after scientific truth, but ideological partisans and paid advocates, presenting dishonest arguments for a predetermined party-line conclusion. Even three years ago, sites like Tech Central Station, and writers like Ross McKitrick were taken seriously by many. Now, anyone with access to Google can discover that they have no credibility. Chris Mooney’s Republican War on Science which I plan to review soon, gives chapter and verse and the whole network of thinktanks, politicians and tame scientists who have popularised GW contrarianism, Intelligent Design and so on.

There’s a process to doing good science, and it’s very much not the same thing as selling your a priori opinions as Truth. As with the evolution debate that took place in the 1800s, the scientific community has looked at the evidence and reached a consensus. Those who want to continue arguing that particular issue aren’t doing science.

The Nation on Torture

Tuesday, December 13th, 2005

More reading for those whose outrage-o-meter isn’t pegged yet. From a special edition of The Nation:

All highly recommended.

Parsing Condoleeza Rice on Torture

Wednesday, December 7th, 2005

As depressing an exercise as it is to parse the Bush administration’s words on state-sponsored torture (and I continue to boggle at the fact that the “state” in that phrase actually refers to the US), we really have no choice but to do so. The Europeans have come to that realization, and it’s high time that the holdouts in this country did, too.

Re: those skeptical Europeans, from the NY Times’ Richard Bernstein: Skepticism seems to erode Europeans’ faith in Rice.

“It’s clear that the text of the speech was drafted by lawyers with the intention of misleading an audience,” Andrew Tyrie, a Conservative member of Parliament, said in an interview. Mr. Tyrie is chairman of a recently formed nonpartisan committee that plans to investigate claims that the British government has tacitly condoned torture by allowing the United States to use its airspace to transport terrorist suspects to countries where they are subsequently tortured.

Parsing through the speech, Mr. Tyrie pointed out example after example where, he said, Ms. Rice was using surgically precise language to obfuscate and distract. By asserting, for instance, that the United States does not send suspects to countries where they “will be” tortured, Ms. Rice is protecting herself, Mr. Tyrie said, leaving open the possibility that they “may be” tortured in those countries.

Others pointed out that the Bush administration’s definition of torture did not include practices like water-boarding – in which prisoners are strapped to a board and made to believe they are about to be drowned – that violate provisions of the international Convention Against Torture.

Andrew Mullin, a Labor member of Parliament, said he had found Ms. Rice’s assertions “wholly incredible.” He agreed with Mr. Tyrie that Ms. Rice’s statement had been “carefully lawyered,” adding: “It is a matter of record that people have been kidnapped and have been handed over to people who have tortured them. I think their experience has to be matched against the particular form of language the secretary of state is using.”

Khaled Masri: Less Than Human

Sunday, December 4th, 2005

I weep for my country.

Dana Priest in the Washington Post: Wrongful imprisonment: Anatomy of a CIA mistake.

In May 2004, the White House dispatched the U.S. ambassador in Germany to pay an unusual visit to that country’s interior minister. Ambassador Daniel R. Coats carried instructions from the State Department transmitted via the CIA’s Berlin station because they were too sensitive and highly classified for regular diplomatic channels, according to several people with knowledge of the conversation.

Coats informed the German minister that the CIA had wrongfully imprisoned one of its citizens, Khaled Masri, for five months, and would soon release him, the sources said. There was also a request: that the German government not disclose what it had been told even if Masri went public. The U.S. officials feared exposure of a covert action program designed to capture terrorism suspects abroad and transfer them among countries, and possible legal challenges to the CIA from Masri and others with similar allegations.

[snip]

Members of the Rendition Group follow a simple but standard procedure: Dressed head to toe in black, including masks, they blindfold and cut the clothes off their new captives, then administer an enema and sleeping drugs. They outfit detainees in a diaper and jumpsuit for what can be a day-long trip. Their destinations: either a detention facility operated by cooperative countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, including Afghanistan, or one of the CIA’s own covert prisons — referred to in classified documents as “black sites,” which at various times have been operated in eight countries, including several in Eastern Europe.

[snip]

Masri said his cell in Afghanistan was cold, dirty and in a cellar, with no light and one dirty cover for warmth. The first night he said he was kicked and beaten and warned by an interrogator: “You are here in a country where no one knows about you, in a country where there is no law. If you die, we will bury you, and no one will know.”

Masri was guarded during the day by Afghans, he said. At night, men who sounded as if they spoke American-accented English showed up for the interrogation. Sometimes a man he believed was a doctor in a mask came to take photos, draw blood and collect a urine sample.

Back at the CTC, Masri’s passport was given to the Office of Technical Services to analyze. By March, OTS had concluded the passport was genuine. The CIA had imprisoned the wrong man.

At the CIA, the question was: Now what? Some officials wanted to go directly to the German government; others did not. Someone suggested a reverse rendition: Return Masri to Macedonia and release him. “There wouldn’t be a trace. No airplane tickets. Nothing. No one would believe him,” one former official said. “There would be a bump in the press, but then it would be over.”

Once the mistake reached Tenet, he laid out the options to his counterparts, including the idea of not telling the Germans. Condoleezza Rice, then Bush’s national security adviser, and Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage argued they had to be told, a position Tenet took, according to one former intelligence official.

“You couldn’t have the president lying to the German chancellor” should the issue come up, a government official involved in the matter said.

Senior State Department officials decided to approach Interior Minister Schily, who had been a steadfast Bush supporter even when differences over the Iraq war strained ties between the two countries. Ambassador Coats had excellent rapport with Schily.

The CIA argued for minimal disclosure of information. The State Department insisted on a truthful, complete statement. The two agencies quibbled over whether it should include an apology, according to officials.

[snip]

Masri can find few words to explain his ordeal. “I have very bad feelings” about the United States, he said. “I think it’s just like in the Arab countries: arresting people, treating them inhumanly and less than that, and with no rights and no laws.”

Yeah, I’d say that pretty much sums it up. George Bush: The president who destroyed the United States.

Watching America

Friday, November 25th, 2005

Answering the question, “who will watch the watchers?”, the Watching America site features translated news articles on America from foreign news sources. The site recently underwent a redesign, according to the borderline-spam I received about it, so I checked it out, and guess what? It’s pretty interesting stuff.

For example, if I hadn’t visited it, I never would have seen this video clip from al-Manar TV of Lebanon, in which Cleric Abd Al-Karim Fadhlallah explains how when Columbus came to America, “the intellectuals among the Indians spoke Arabic.”

Carole Coleman on Her Interview with Bush

Sunday, October 9th, 2005

I’m sure most of us in the Bush-hater community remember the interview that Irish reporter Carole Coleman did with Bush last year. Well, now she’s publishing a book, and an excerpt from it gives more details about the circumstances surrounding the interview: Ireland: I wanted to slap him.

I find myself forgetting how petty the current occupants of the White House are, how much their sense of their mission is limited to “maintaining the illusion that George Bush is qualified to be president,” and then I read something like this.

Cole: Did Bush Team’s Outing Lead to London Bombings?

Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

No, not that politically motivated outing of a national security asset, a different politically motivated outing of a national security asset. With the Bush White House, it’s hard to keep track, I realize, but Juan Cole has the details: The outing of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan: State of play.

I actually did not begin by being critical of the Ridge announcement. I remember being interviewed by a print reporter on August 3 or so, and declining to dismiss the press conference as pure politics. I didn’t say anything negative about it at my weblog at the time. What impelled me to begin following the story and to speak out about it was the Reuter report of August 6, which made the case that the Bush administration had leaked Khan’s name as part of its public relations use of terrorism. That allegation seems to have been incorrect in its specifics.

The Reuters story still does seem to me to hold water, however, at a more general level. After understanding that Ridge set in train the events that led to Khan’s outing, I think it was a huge mistake. It would have been better to keep quiet and use Khan to get more and more of al-Qaeda, maybe even Bin Laden himself. I do not know if the Bush administration made the announcement to take the spotlight off the Kerry campaign right after the Democratic National Convention, but Paul Krugman and others have persuasively argued that the Bush administration does time such announcements for political purposes. The British security officials have the better instincts here.

Cole, Sirota Comment on the London Bombings

Friday, July 8th, 2005

Here are a few comments that tie in yesterday’s bombings in London with the larger issue of al Qaeda-sponsored terror. From Juan Cole: Implications of London bombing. And from David Sirota: Iraq, London & America’s homeland insecurity.

The idea that, because our troops are in Iraq, terrorists will only attack us there and not “in the streets of our own cities” is, first and foremost, an insult to our troops because it treats them as if their entire mission is to serve as bait for terrorists. That’s not what our troops – or America – was told this was all about.

Secondly, are we really supposed to believe the same terrorists who masterminded the 9/11 attack can’t walk and chew gum at the same time? I mean, maybe George W. Bush and the dolts around him are so intellectually impaired they can’t do two things at once – but Al Qaeda sure can, and any sentiment to the contrary is idiotic.