Sunday, July 23, 2006

aid for Lebanon

Two-year-old Karim Qobeisi is treated in hospital in the southern market town of Nabatiyeh (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari);Two Lebanese Red Cross workers unload medical supplies donated by the Kuwaiti Red Crescent in Beirut(AP Photo/Mahmoud Tawil)

rather than saying anything clever I'm just going to duplicate Juan Cole's post, here:

AUB Relief Effort: Send money

It can also be sent via the American University in Beirut's New York office. AUB is an educational institution incorporated in the US, so there is no question of the donations being anything but above-board.The Lebanese mostly are angry with the US now, and many hate us, for unleashing Israel on them. At least we can do some penance. 500,000 displaced persons, and over a thousand wounded, is as big a humanitarian disaster as the Kashmir earthquake or some per-country effects of the last tsunami. Send a lot of money.

" The American University of Beirut is once again at the forefront of efforts to care for those who are suffering in Lebanon. We will do everything we can to take care of those who need our help. We have done it before. Our commitment to do so is just as strong today. We are seeking your support for the newly created AUB Medical Emergency Fund so that we can continue relief efforts in the following two areas: medical supplies and volunteer relief.

You can make a secure online donation,

You can issue a check payable to: American University of Beirut / Medical Emergency Fund American University of Beirut

You can issue a check payable to: American University of Beirut / Medical Emergency Fund American University of Beirut 3 Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10017-2303 USA

For other payment methods, please contact or + 212-583-7600 (New York Office) or + 961-3-996543 (Beirut Office)"

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Bahram Gur

Bahram Gur

Bahram Gur and the Indian princess in the black pavilion from a Khamsa (Quintet) by Nizami mid 16th century, Safavid dynasty. Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on paper, 31.1 cm high 19.7 cm wide. From the Smithsonian. I will be back around August 5th.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Yesterday on the news

woman in Tyre,Lebanon and bigshots in St Petersburg-- and Beirut.

Yesterday on the news they announced that the administration would in fact forgo making Americans ferried out of Beirut pay for the privilige. On Hardball Tucker Carlson said to Chris Matthews, "they're really taking a pounding in southern Lebanon. Not that they don't deserve it, but they're really taking a pounding." (?!!) Lebanese PM Siniora was on Larry King and noted that some 330 Lebanese have been killed by the Israeli aggression since July 12th, and also that Israel has never supplied the Lebanese government with a map of where they laid land mines in the south in the 70s and 80s before leaving the last time, which I'd never heard before. (Now both of CNN's English language websites don't show the casualty figures on the front page, not just the US version. I guess it was getting to be a bummer.) The Daily Star notes that Israeli shells struck Liban Lait, the country's largest dairy farm, as well as a pharmaceutical plant.

from Alertnet:(via McClatchie, here.)

TYRE, Lebanon, July 19 (Reuters) - Ghassan Bourji says he has run out of insulin for his two diabetic children and heart medication for his mother because Israeli bombardment has cut supplies to his village of Rmadiyeh in south Lebanon.

"I'm scared I might lose them," the 55-year-old father of four told Reuters by telephone from Rmadiyeh, south of Tyre. "The situation here is miserable. We need help."

Many villagers say food, water and medical supplies are dwindling after Israeli air and artillery strikes destroyed roads and bridges in the south, restricting humanitarian aid movement to areas hardest hit in the eight-day-old conflict.

American Nazis and other matters

via Orcinus:

Nazis and the military:

Ten years after Pentagon leaders toughened policies on extremist activities by active duty personnel -- a move that came in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing by decorated Gulf War combat veteran Timothy McVeigh and the murder of a black couple by members of a skinhead gang in the elite 82nd Airborne Division -- large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists continue to infiltrate the ranks of the world's best-trained, best-equipped fighting force. Military recruiters and base commanders, under intense pressure from the war in Iraq to fill the ranks, often look the other way.

see also NYT: “Hate Groups Are Infiltrating the Military
and a Southern Poverty Law Center report, “Racist extremists active in U.S. military

in a different vein, there's Digby on the "caucasian churchgoers’party"

from last month’s Skimble: "the Sears Tower and the fake war on terror"

The dubious Sears Tower plot was supposedly foiled by a secret program of financial transaction tracking (WSJ) - emphasis on the word "secret." In other words, the whole story was planted in the media as a head fake to make American citizens welcome more intrusion into their privacy and to forget the secret NSA intelligence surveillance of their phone records in collusion with telecom companies like AT&T.

some old news worth noting:
Prof: Car weight doesn't equal safety(UPI-2002):

"What we found is that the price of a car is a much better predictor of risk in traffic accidents than the weight of the car."
Bill Clinton is going to campaign for Joe Lieberman(!), who's in trouble with democrats, facing a serious primary challenge fromNed Lamont. Clinton must know that Fox News will still say his missus is a no-good liberal if she gets the '08 nomination.

via the burnt orange report:

The average worker hasn't seen a meaningful pay increase in three years despite the economy's rebound, according to U.S. Labor Department data.That may explain the findings of a national survey to be released Monday reporting a sharp jump in the number of employees who feel underpaid.

Nearly 40 percent of employees think their companies pay less-than-market-rate salaries, compared with 28 percent last year, according to an annual survey of workplace attitudes by staffing agency Randstad USA with Harris Interactive Inc.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Wikipedia buttons

I need a break from all the bad news. Luckily for me, I can afford myself one. Hello world of bloggers. I made some buttons that you can use if you'd like to link to Wikipedia. To (very roughly) paraphrase Stanley Kubrick, there may be other sites with wikipedia buttons, some smaller, some larger, some more interesting buttons, some that are slicker and more appealing. But these are my wikipedia buttons.

I made them, and to the extent that I am allowed to offer them, I'm offering them. They're free for you to copy n' paste and use*, as long as you use them to accurately link to wikipedia, whether the English version or another one, and not to a redirect of any sort. If I find out I can't offer them, naturally I'll yank this post, but presently I can't forsee a problem. By no means do I represent them as official Wikipedia/Wikimediaofferings, and I'm guessing most people reading this are probably sensible enough to realize this. I made them slightly bigger than they need to be so you could resize them as you see fit. (most will probably find dimensions around 120 to 125 pixels wide by 40 to 45 pixels high ideal.

If you like them and use one or more(?) of them, I encourage you to tell people you got your button from Hugo Zoom, a truly dandy blog that is very, very interesting and worth checking out. Even one "very" would be great if you are one of those persons who eschews exageration, and I totally, totally understand if you are.

Finally, on a more serious note: if you are feeling really generous, I will encourage you(and do encourage you) to donate to the send me to Iraqdoc 2007, my effort to go to Iraq in September of 2007 to shoot a documentary concentrating on the ordinary people of Iraq. You can help via the nice Paypal and/or Amazon buttons to the right(well, possibly to the upper right if you see this later on a monthly archive page, etc.) It's not a quid pro quo obviously, because you owe me nothing for these buttons. The Amazon button is anonymous and paid through your Amazon account, if you have one, so if you only want to give a buck or two and are simultaneously embarassed to give so little, please don't be. Of course by that same token don't be embarassed to give me 40 or 50 bucks either. I believe 50 is the max via Amazon anyway. (Yes, you see your name if you have an account, but I would only see that if I had your Amazon cookie(s) on my computer, and I don't, I have my Amazon cookies and that's it. Amazon explains how that works here.)

PS: I would be particularly remiss in this context if I failed to point out that you can also give money to the Wikipedia folks, so here's the link for that.

*Regarding hotlinking: if you have a blog that is actually hosted by blogger at an http://***** type url, I'm guessing(?) you should be able to use the same url, unless blogger has recently come out with a policy against doing that which I don't know about. But outside the "blogspot" enviroment you need to host it elsewhere, such as at a flickR account or via your blog host. I'm not in a position to tell you that you have my permission to hotlink, cause it's google's bandwidth, not mine.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Huda Ghulia and Gilad Shalit

Who is Huda? She is the girl on the beach. Have you forgotten? Who is Gilad? He's the young IDF soldier the Gazans abducted. Weren't there two others, abducted later? Yes, but nobody talks about them-- I don't know why.

Aluf Benn of Ha'aretz has a piece in Salon, " The Showdown"

Benn begins his piece

This summer started out as the best one that Israel has had since the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada six years ago. Tourists filled Tel Aviv beaches, the stock market hit its all-time high, and the government, flush with unexpected budgetary fat, lowered taxes and discussed cutting defense and beefing up welfare programs that had been cut in previous years.

Alas, by mid-July Israel found itself engaged in a two-front war in Gaza and Lebanon -- two areas that it had left unilaterally in recent years. Enemy rockets hit deep in Israeli territory, killing several civilians and scaring thousands of others. Israel's Defense Force (the IDF) returned in full gear to the ruins of the former Gaza settlements, evacuated last year, and to the skyline of Beirut. Unlike previous rounds of violence, however, this time the world has mostly supported Israel's military response[1*], hoping it would deliver a painful blow to the regional troublemakers, the Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah.

The road to war began in early June, when the tacit cease-fire between Hamas and Israel began to crack. Smaller Palestinian groups kept firing their Qassam missiles at the Israeli border town of Sderot. The IDF responded with targeted killings of suspected perpetrators, unfortunately killing innocent bystanders as well. Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, put the brakes on military plans to escalate the fighting, and so did the Hamas leaders. But on June 25, a small Hamas unit attacked a military outpost on the Israeli side of the border, abducting a soldier and killing several others. Olmert decided against exchanging prisoners and hit back at Hamas, aiming to crush its military wing, halt the Qassams and weaken the civilian Hamas-led Palestinian government, which, despite enormous external pressure, has refused to recognize Israel and forswear terror.

Actually, they abducted one soldier and killed two, but "several others" makes it sound like...well, whatever you think several is. To his credit, Benn does note that as of Tuesday the IDF has reportedly killed 235 people in Lebanon[2*](over 90 percent civilians), versus 25 Israeli dead. I think his introductory words, after a mystifying quote from Moshe Dayan, are interesting:

This summer started out as the best one that Israel has had since the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada six years ago. Tourists filled Tel Aviv beaches, the stock market hit its all-time high, and the government, flush with unexpected budgetary fat, lowered taxes and discussed cutting defense and beefing up welfare programs that had been cut in previous years.

Ah, the beach. He never mentions little Huda Ghalia and her family, but he does mention the beach, and the start of summer. What would Freud say? On June 9th a shell exploded on the beach. The Gazans said that this was due to Israeli shelling. A Gazan family was killed, leaving only a small girl, Huda Ghalia alive.(I've also seen the transliterations Hoda and Ghaliya.)

According to Al-Jazeera, she was reported to have said she didn't know what she did to make God take her family away from her, and wished she could be with them. (At first she thought her father was asleep, but then she saw the blood coming out of his head.)

The IDF investigated(!) and about a week later said this was not possible, it could not have been an Israeli shell. Amnesty International and other groups called on Olmert to investigate, and he refused. Hostilities started shortly after that, something the US press has been remiss in mentioning. Try doing an in-site search for Huda Ghalia on CNN, MSNBC or FoxNews websites, and you will see a great dearth of info. I found 2 entries for CNN(one in Arabic), 3 for the Christian Science Monitor, and nothing for CBS News, MSNBC or Fox News, versus 16 items for the BBC. Wikipedia has an article about the incident, here.

In the prisoner swap from a couple of years ago that Benn does mention, Israel held on to three prisoners. It is noteable that the two kidnapppings resulted in three soldiers being abducted. And now undoubtedly there are other Huda Ghalias too, because Olmert didn't want to negotiate.

The Guardian: "Who really killed Huda Ghalia's family?"

Al-jazeera:"What have I done wrong to live without my parents?"

[1*]As far as Benn's assertion that the world supports what Israel has done, I question that, but I will address it later.
[2*] Speaking of the strangely skewed US coverage of the recent events, I note that if you go to CNN's homepage and select the International version you'll also see a running tally of the casualty count from Israel and Lebanon, but if you select the US version you won't. How about that.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Yes, but I'm a millionaire-- can't you just take it out of my tax cut?


From today's cursor:

Americans stranded in Lebanon are reportedly told that "they can't board a ship unless they've signed a contract agreeing to repay the U.S. government for the price of their evacuation," and one U.S. citizen left behind gets a whiff of "the same smell that haunted NYC in the months after 9/11."

As a point of reference, here's a nice BBC story about Britain evacuating her own. The photo is of a Maya Kaaki, a UK citizen in Beirut, who is critical of Tony Blair for having shoved himself up Junior's... ok,ok, she really said:

"I'm appalled by our treatment from the British government," said Maya Kaaki, 30, cradling her 13-month-old baby in her arms.

"I thought we deserved a lot better as British citizens. The bombing has being going on for days and we've been under siege. I'm happy to be going for the safety of my child."

However you will note the UK warship HMS Gloucester behind her, and if you read the article it says nothing about Brits getting charged by their government. By contrast, the US chartered a local ship. Maybe Bush was afraid of sending a US warship because if the Israelis accidentally lobbed some armaments at a US Navy ship that would serve to underscore how much of an Israeli puppet he is. Yes, I suppose it could also be because he's afraid of needlessly sending US troops into harm's way. Right?

Meanwhile, Josh Marshall writes about some of his email, quoting thusly:

email: Since Israel decided to bomb Lebanon’s Airport and Ports without warning, forcing these emergency evacuations, why don’t we withhold the cost of the evacuations from our generous financial aid to Israel. I’m sure the Israel’s[sic] would approve; they supported reparations be paid by the Swiss and Germans from their actions during WWII.

Furthermore, why not deduct reparations to innocent foreign national civilians killed as a result of their air assaults as well?

JMM:No end of sickos.

Late Update: This post occasioned some comment on what the meaning behind my comment was. My meaning is this: I don't believe the question of 'deductions' from foreign aid for the cost of these evacuations or for the loss of innocent lives (though who exactly would we pay that money too, and on whose behalf?) is comparable to the reparations Germany paid for the Holocaust. Call me old-fashioned.
JV:I don't understand why suggesting that monies be withheld from Israel on account of attacking Lebanon makes someone a "sicko," and it's not entirely clear to me that the e-mail writer was in fact suggesting moral equivelancy, as opposed to pointing out the irony that the modern concept of reparations is drawn in part from reparations paid to the Jews. It seems that Marshall is operating under the assumption that the holocaust simply can't be invoked in any argument that is critical of the state of Israel. Why?

The holocaust was a terrible event, and yes it really happened, but how is it unparalleled and somehow deserving of privileged status in a way that say, the victims of Pol Pot's killing fields or Stalin's Gulags are not? How much mileage should Israel expect from the idea that the world should be a little more indulgent with her because of how her people have suffered for centuries?

Monday, July 17, 2006

CNN instapoll, from around 615pm CDT

and back in Iraq

Another apparently sectarian attack on Iraqi civilians, this time in a small town called Mahmoudiya near Baghdad,41 or more dead. I question the usefulness of posting the photos I find sometimes; I feel angry at the filtered US television news, and I tell myself that the bigness and the randomness of the internet being what it is, maybe occasionally people will see something they experience as broadening of their perspective. I don't know.

Doctors treat young victims injured by automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades at Baghdad's Yarmouk Hospital Monday, July 17, 2006, in Iraq. Dozens of heavily armed attackers raided an open air market Monday in a tense town south of Baghdad, killing at least 41 people and wounding 42, police and hospital officials said. Most of the victims were believed to be Shiites. (AP Photo/Samir Mizban)

a Ha'aretz poll, an IDF funeral

As always, these online polls are decidedly unscientific, and I have no idea how many people "lurk" at Ha'aretz just to skew their occasional polls, or even how representative of their general print readership their online readership is, etc. Anyway, the results are from Sunday night, 7pm US central time. The AP caption reads:"Israeli soldiers mourn during the funeral of First Sergeant Tal Amgar, 21, in the central Israeli city of Ashdod, Sunday July 16, 2006."

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Who wants peace?

left, a body in Haifa,AFP. Far right:red cross worker with body in Tyre Lebanon, AP.

Ha'aretz, from
"Mubarak: Egypt persuaded Israel against land attack on Beirut":

Mubarak called on Sunday for an unconditional ceasefire to end escalating Israeli-Lebanese violence, saying all sides should give talks a chance.

and the New York Times, from
"Rice Says Israel May Need to Prolong Offensive":

When Ms. Rice was asked later whether she might engage in the sort of shuttle diplomacy made famous by her predecessor Henry Kissinger, she replied, “I’m thinking about it.”
Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain has urged Mr. Bush to send Ms. Rice to the region, Time magazine has reported, citing an unidentified British official.

Mubarak, of all people, pinch-hitting as leader of the free world, in a responsibility vacuum...As far as Rices goes, I guess it's pretty big of her to think about it. But if Blair really does want Rice to be sent to the middle east, this begs the question:


Can't she scold the Arabs and encourage the worst impulses of Olmert, et al from pretty much anywhere in the world? Why waste all that jet fuel?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

the Middle East is not a dream someone else is having

Sometimes I think I shouldn't turn the television on because I will just get angry. Israel is escalating her gangster war on her neighbors, apparently because being kidnapped by Hamas is a little like the Comanches in an unreconstructed western from the bad old days "having their way with our white women," the proverbial fate worse than death. One kidnapped and one or two Israeli soldiers killed is not nothing. But how does it justify terrorizing civilians and killing 10 or 20 or fifty or more? A few minutes ago Daryn Kagan on CNN was talking to A Mr Chamoun of Corpus Christi Texas, whose wife Caroline is presently stranded in Beirut with their kids. At one point Chamoun said he was pretty sure they were ok because they were staying in a safe neighborhood. I know what he meant by that, because Beirut is fairly segregated, or at least it was when I was growing up. He means they're staying in a Christian neighborhood, and apparently Israel isn't shelling the nicer parts of town.

(I grew up in Beirut, from 1969-74. The building where we stayed when I was k-2nd grade had some Europeans and Americans living there, so I'm guessing we were in a predominantly Christian neighborhood. Later when my grandmother got sick we moved to a less fancy place, the Hotel Caracas, for my 3rd and 4th grade years. It wasn't actually a hotel, it was just called that, and apart from one Asian family I think most of the people who lived there were Muslims. I don't think the two buildings were even that far from each other.)

Chamoun is a Christian Lebanese name, as in Danny and Camille Shamoun. At one point Kagan said to Chamoun "I wonder if it's worse for you over here, worrying about them and not knowing what's happening." Afterwards Kagan thanked Mr Chamoun and switched to a segment of playing audio clips of people who called in to answer the posed question "should the US intervene." Every caller but one whose clip was played said no, that we should stay out of Israel's business. Israel's business. The one person who said yes identified herself as an Arab-American and had a pronounced accent.

"I wonder if it's worse for you over here, worrying about them and not knowing what's happening."

Happy birthday Rembrandt

Portrait of a Man. Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn. Oil on canvas. 71x61 cm Holland. 1661; via the Hermitage in St Petersburg.

Rembrandt was born July 15th, 1606. Even though he was buried in an unmarked grave he's probably dead, given the considerable unlikelihood of somebody making it to 400. I imagine that if humanity ever finds some way of allowing people to live that long, only the super-rich* will have access to it, and might even routinely fake their own deaths so as to help keep the secret of pseudo-immortality under wraps, what with ordinary schmoes being ticked off at the waste, of all those resources having been misallocated to find said secret instead of curing more ordinary illnesses. And urban legends will periodically arise about various extremely wealthy persons who choose to be cremated having in fact gone that route. I'm just saying.

Anyway, happy birthday Rembrandt.

*Ironically, Rembrandt himself was not among those super-rich of his day, dying without terribly much.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Robby the robot was the real star

I've seen Forbidden Planet(see also here, and ImdB, here.) on teevee but I don't remember the girl being quite so va-va voomy as in the poster. I wonder if pubescent teenage boys in the fifties talked about the letdown after actually seeing the movie, whether this one or any other from among the numerous for which the ingenue's figure was better represented by the poster artist than in the picture itself.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Goodbye, and thanks for all the money*

"Last week, as it must to all most men, death came to Kenneth Lee Lay."

*I was going to entitle this "Getting Layed," but I recognized how coarse and unforgiveable it would have been, so I didn't. (Unlike Mr Lay himself, who is apparently very forgiveable.**)
Or, "Don't Get Laid(in a coffin). Get Cremated! No pesky digging up of your remains by subsequent court order to worry about!" But that of course was too wordy.

from today's BBC News:Enron witness found dead in park:
A body found in north-east London has been identified as that of a banker who was questioned by the FBI about the Enron fraud case. Police said they were treating the death in Chingford of Neil Coulbeck, who worked for the Royal Bank of Scotland until 2004, as "unexplained". He had been interviewed by the FBI as a potential witness.
Three ex-workers of RBS subsidiary NatWest are being extradited to the US on Thursday to face fraud charges.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Mexico 2006:where the air is not so clear

from today's Cursor:

As Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador vows to challenge the official election results and his supporters demand a full recount "vote by vote, ballot box by ballot box," Felipe Calderon, the proclaimed winner of the Mexican elections, insists in an interview with the Financial Times that "the box must not be opened."

Eugene Robinson sees evidence that Lopez Obrador has "studied the playbook from the Florida debacle in 2000," Greg Palast remarks on some familiar discrepancies in the official tallies before booking a flight to Mexico City, and it's reported that bloggers and 'math geeks' are analyzing data for evidence of fraud.

from Saturday's Salon:

"Mexico 2006: Florida all over again?" Members of Mexico's losing leftist party are invoking America's recent electoral scandals to convince the world that last Sunday's presidential election was fixed. by Eliza Barclay

Although I note that Calderon, the presumptive winner, is generally regarded as the establishment candidate, I don't pretend to have any idea who won the Mexican presidential election. But I do know that the democrats owe it to themselves to talk about it in reference to US elections, insofar as election results can often yield questionable results, and Kerry's go-along-to-get-along silence complicity in the fall of 2004 only served to reinforce Americans' perceptions that Florida 2000 was a fluke, and (far more importantly)that there is no great need to be concerned about whether or not electronic voting machines here in the US are sufficiently regulated and monitored. Yes, the technical variables are different in the Mexican election-- the issue is not primarily computerized voting machines. It doesn't matter.

One (or more) of the big name democrats needs to start making some noise about it, as there is no reason to believe that any congressional GOP pols will do so. The moment someone like Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden starts to talk about it apropo of the Mexican election, the US national press will swing into high gear to point out how the situation is different in Mexico, and they'll still procede to knock Obrador, as if they're Pavlov's beltway dogs, hearing a secret whistle only they can hear. (And if they use the same rhetorical tropes in 2008 to knock domestic high tech voting malfeasance, it will only serve to underscore the hostility and insularity of the national press, if they subsequently get called on it.)

On the other hand, if the democratic presidential candidate in November of '08 is a marquee dem(like, say, Hillary) and she says nothing about the issue in 2006 or 2007, then loses by a hair in 11/08 and then starts griping, large numbers of people will just say it's sour grapes and, in that context, understandably so.

Grace Kelly, 1956

MGM still from
The Swan(dir Chas. Vidor), one of Grace Kelly's last hollywood films before running off to Monaco to become a princess.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Middle eastern pop star blogging: Mo' Maya Nasri

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Born on the 5th of July

from the National Park Service:

The National Labor Relations Act, also known as the Wagner Act, was signed into law on July 5th, 1935 and became one of the cornerstones of the New Deal. Reversing years of federal opposition to organized labor, the statute guaranteed the right of employees to organize, form unions, and bargain collectively with their employers.

from Wikipedia:

In its original version, passed in the midst of the Great Depression, the Wagner Act only prohibited unfair labor practices by employers. Congress amended it in 1947 to impose a number of restrictions on unions and to limit the application of the act in other ways; that package of amendments is commonly known as the Taft-Hartley Act.

George Bush,jnr often likes to compare himself to Harry Truman, who vetoed Taft-Hartley, resulting in the briefly Republican congress of 1946-47 overriding Truman's veto, the only overridden veto of his entire tenure as president. (Can you imagine George W. vetoing legislation that bound the hands of big labor?) Of course, we now live in another era of federal opposition to organized labor. Some people measure national pride in terms of attacking essentially defenseless countries or spending money to fly the shuttle to do whatever it does, or going back to the moon, or Mars.

When I hear about how GM is entertaining a possible buyout from Renault and Nissan, and I reflect on all those goons out there who are happy to support needless wars but would balk at protecting GM, I think some people just don't understand national pride, even on their own simple terms. ( like the goon in chief who has said he won't do anything to bail out Ford or GM should they need it.) For me, the idea that Americans might be unconcerned about protecting GM and Ford saddens me.

In less simple terms, I haven't even mentioned supporting federalizing healthcare, which would really make me proud of my country, and even make Ford and GM more competitive to boot.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A hero of our time

Charles Swift,JD USN.AP

from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Gitmo win likely cost Navy lawyer his career
'Fearless' defense of detainee a stinging loss for Bush


Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift -- the Navy lawyer who beat the president of the United States in a pivotal Supreme Court battle over trying alleged terrorists -- figures he'll probably have to find a new job.

Of course, it's always risky to compare your boss to King George III.

Swift made the analogy to the court, saying President Bush had overstepped his authority when he bypassed Congress and set up illegal military tribunals to try Guantanamo detainees such as Swift's alleged al-Qaida client, Salim Ahmed Hamdan.

The justices agreed, ruling 5-3 Thursday in favor of dismantling the current tribunal system. Despite his spectacular success, with the assistance of attorneys from the Seattle firm Perkins Coie, Swift thinks his military career is coming to an end. The 44-year-old Judge Advocate General officer, who was recently named one of the 100 most influential lawyers in the country by The National Law Journal, was passed over for promotion last year as the high-profile case was making headlines around the world.

"I may be one of the most influential lawyers in America," the Seattle University Law School graduate said, "but I won't be in the military much longer. That irony did strike me."

Swift's future in the Navy now rests with another promotion board that is expected to render its decision in the next couple of weeks. Under the military's system, officers need to be promoted at regularly scheduled intervals or their service careers are essentially over.

"The way it works, the die was cast some months ago," he said. "The decision has been made. I don't know what it is yet." But he thinks his chances are slim.

Asked if he believes he was passed over for promotion last year for political reasons, Swift would not speculate. "I don't know," he said. "I'm not going to worry about it. I didn't volunteer for this. I got nominated for it. When I got it, I just decided to do the best I could."

Swift has worked under two officers as a member of the small team of lawyers defending "enemy combatants" being held at Guantanamo Bay. Both of them spoke highly of Swift Friday and said they gave him very high ratings on his annual review, called a fitness report.

"He's doing a fantastic job," said Swift's current boss at the Office of Military Commissions (tribunals), Marine Col. Dwight Sullivan.

Sullivan spoke of the crucial importance of the case decided Thursday by the Supreme Court. "It's a fundamental constitutional question about the powers of the president," Sullivan said. Asked about Swift's aggressive legal challenge of the commander in chief, Sullivan saluted Swift's "moral courage."

"He has been absolutely fearless is pursuing his client's interests. And also he has exhibited an extraordinary level of legal skill. His legal strategy has been brilliant.

"We all take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and he has certainly done that, literally."

Swift spoke Friday about his "immense pride" in the military justice system. "I don't feel that because you join the military you should lose rights. If there is anyone who deserves the protection of those rights, it's the people who are willing to lay down their lives for it."

So the question is will Swift lay down his career because of his vigorous defense of a Yemeni tribesman who was Osama bin Laden's driver in Afghanistan.

I think it's interesting that his pending review was scheduled when it was, a few weeks after he was scheduled to take his case to the US Supreme Court, so that he'd know it was hanging over him or he had one last chance, depending on how he might regard it. I also have this picture in my mind, accurate or not, of the stereotypical reactionary geezer who might watch the make-believe TV show "JAG", throwing stuff at the set when the news of this SCOTUS decision came on the teevee. I imagine the TV JAG protagonists were never faced with possibly having to displease the president in order to do their jobs. I've actually seen the show a few times because it was often on at a workplace of mine several years ago, but I can't remember any of the plotlines. (Just how photogenic the principals were.) Enjoy your 4th.

Monday, July 03, 2006

down home they call me Jim

from Friday's Daily Howler(Bob Somerby):
Somerby: PUT UP YOUR DUKES: The Washington Post is disturbed by all the recent “Blather in Virginia.” Here’s the opening paragraph... It concerns a recent fight between Jim Webb and George Allen:

WaPo OpEd: (6/30/06): Virginia’s U.S. Senate race is all of two weeks old, and already the debate between the Republican incumbent, George Allen, and his Democratic rival, Jim Webb, has descended into a trench of cynicism and puerility. In the past few days we have been treated to a stomach-turning (if coded) squabble over patriotism and to one candidate mocking the other's middle name. These are not the bare-knuckled blasts of a tough electoral fight; this is blather masquerading as political dialogue.

Somerby:Go ahead and read their review—but our own reaction is quite different. What happened in the incident under review? Something very unusual. A Republican (Allen) behaved quite typically, taunting a Democrat about a pointless “character” matter. And omigod! In response, the Democrat (Webb) punched the Rep right in the nose! For years, we’ve all watched Republicans play these cards (in this case, about that flag-burning amendment). But we don’t know when we’ve seen a Dem respond in so lusty a fashion. In various ways, this is exactly what Dems need to do, to the George Allens—and to the Ann Coulters.
Somerby goes on to recommend this article. He only links to it, but here's an excerpt:

from the Hampton Roads Daily Press:
"Webb rips into Allen over flag"

Allen campaign manager Dick Wadhams had accused Webb of being "beholden to liberal Washington senators" because he was against the Allen-supported flag-burning amendment to the Constitution that died in the Senate on Tuesday. Webb considered the comments to be an attack on his patriotism because he objects to tinkering with the First Amendment.

"George Felix Allen Jr. and his bush-league lapdog, Dick Wadhams, have not earned the right to challenge Jim Webb's position on free speech and flag burning," Webb spokesman Steve Jarding said in a press release. "Jim Webb served and fought for our flag and what it stands for, while George Felix Allen Jr. chose to cut and run. "When he and his disrespectful campaign puppets attack Jim Webb, they are attacking every man and woman who served. Their comments are nothing more than weak-kneed attacks by cowards."

Webb was a Marine in Vietnam, serving as a rifle-platoon leader and company commander. He received the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts, Jarding noted.

Wadhams said he was surprised that Webb was offended."I didn't think anybody attacked his patriotism," Wadhams said. "I don't see how anybody could attack Jim Webb's patriotism."
The attack was by "implication," explained Kristian Denny Todd, Webb's press secretary.
"This is straight out of the Republican playbook ... taking a candidate's strength and trying to turn it into a weakness," Denny Todd said. "It's what Chris LaCivita did with Swift Boats against John Kerry."

LaCivita helped orchestrate the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" attacks during the 2004 Bush campaign. He now works for Allen.
"It's been said that Democrats aren't willing to fight back in campaigns," Denny Todd said. "Well, we're willing. We're not letting them get away with it."
"The whole point of this is to keep Jim Webb from being 'Swift-Boated' like John Kerry was," said Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia.
"Webb will not be smash-mouthed by GOP operatives. I think this is a tough, aggressive attack that hits Allen in one of his weak spots."

emphases are mine, but you probably guessed this. I've discussed George Allen before(here), albeit just in passing. -JV

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Lindsay Lohan, etc.

via th' official Lindsay Lohan website.

As I'm sure you know, today is Lindsay Lohan's 20th birthday. She has gone on record saying she doesn't care to be called a "teen queen", and now she's no longer a teenager. So, if you have been calling her this, cut it out. And this time next year I will no longer have to worry about her calling to bug me about buying her beer whenever she's in Denton, so that will be quite a relief.

In all seriousness, back in May I got some very unusual phone calls of a dubious nature, all in the space of a week. On a Monday, I think it was May 22nd, A man called and asked for me by name, then said nothing else, after I said that yes it was me. Then on Wednesday the 24th I got another call, this time a woman's voice, this time she asked for "Jonathan R. Versen", and I again responded that it was me, and again there was no one there after that. I've heard commercial junk phone calls using recorded voices that sounded almost like they were live before, but I'm pretty sure these were not recordings.

It's disquieting. I find myself wondering if there's a scam going around in which identity thieves try to get people to say "yes" or "that's me", etc. in order to record people's voices to apply for credit in their names. It reminded me of my suspicions about five years ago when I was called by some young person who wanted to ask me a bunch of questions about the Texas lottery and my "awareness" of their advertising pitches, and he had a series of questions in which I was supposed to answer "I understand". I never called the Texas lottery people to see if such polling was legitimately occurring, but the request to have me say "I understand" repeatedly didn't sit right with me.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


another unscientific but interesting online poll, this time from the English-language version of Al-jazeera. (As of last night, Friday, 30 June at around 950pm central time.)