Friday, December 29, 2006

Saddam's last night

Getty/ Cal Berkeley

In a few hours, Saddam Hussein will presumably breathe his last breaths and be hanged. Earlier this evening Fox news had Oliver North on(!?) to opine that he didn't see how Saddam's execution would affect the violence in Iraq one way or another. And his opinion on this question has value, because of...what? I've already opined on the disastrous effect I think Saddam's execution will have on Iraq. Riverbend(via Juan Cole) discusses this too:

Why make things worse by insisting on Saddam's execution now? Who gains if they hang Saddam? Iran, naturally, but who else? There is a real fear that this execution will be the final blow that will shatter Iraq. Some Sunni and Shia tribes have threatened to arm their members against the Americans if Saddam is executed. Iraqis in general are watching closely to see what happens next, and quietly preparing for the worst.
She also goes on to mention an idea I've been working on for an article on Iraq, that the US(well BushCo, at any rate) actually wants things to deteriorate in Iraq:

My only conclusion is that the Americans want to withdraw from Iraq, but would like to leave behind a full-fledged civil war because it wouldn't look good if they withdraw and things actually begin to improve, would it?
I've wondered about this, apropo of the Iraq study group report; what if the real reason we don't have a non-gradual withdrawal of US troops is because the Shia might then feel forced to make peace with the Sunni insurgency, and then maybe things would get better, demonstrating to the world, including US voters, that the US presence was in fact the destabilizing agent so many people insisted it was. Juan Cole, in discussing Riverbend's comments, says he disagrees with her about the US plan being to split Iraq in three. I think he's wrong, and she is correct. Keeping Iraq weak for another 5 or 10 years-- or longer-- keeps all that Iraqi oil mostly off the market for several years. This serves several purposes:

1.It makes the "lilly-pad" American permanent bases being built there seem necessary,

2. It will discourage various European oil companies from pressing their case that contracts they signed with Saddam be honored,

3. In turn clearing that major hurdle from preventing the privatization* of the Iraqi oil reserves from occurring.

4. And, this will help keep oil prices up for the next 5-10 years. As Greg Palast said, "mission accomplished."

Iraqi TV said the execution took place just before 0600 local time (0300GMT). It was witnessed by a doctor, lawyer and officials. It was also filmed.
US troops and Iraqi security forces are on high alert for any violent backlash.
Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death by an Iraqi court on 5 November after a year-long trial over the 1982 killings of 148 Shias in the town of Dujail.
I also note that they could have waited another week, so that Eid would be over.(it starts this weekend, adding insult to injury viz. the timing. Speaking of Juan Cole, he discusses this as well in his latest Salon article.)

*a handy pneumonic: "privatization= plutocratic plunder."

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas, 2006

A. F. Lydon, early 19th c.

Lennon's Happy Christmas(War is over); and here's to a better 2007.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

January 27th, 2007:united for

eRobin at American Street writes:
The active branch of American Dirty F**king Hippies has organized another imperfect, complicated weekend of exercising your Constitutional rights to free speech, assembly and petition in this time of poltical PR calculations built around imperial slaughter. It’s 72 hours of protest and lobbying for peace. They want representatives from every Congressional district to be there. They want you to help. Transportation and housing need to be arranged.

Can’t get to D.C. on the 27th? That may be even better. Start the revolution where you are. Organize a demonstration of your own on that Saturday. Street corner, city hall, post office, federal building, bridge - get the permit, if one is required, start making calls, painting signs and telling the press now. Start circulating a petition against the war and drop it off at your congressperson’s district office on Monday the 29th.
I don't don't know about revolution, but I've come to be increasingly skeptical of the notion that voting the democrats in is sufficient-- and it does seem as if the anti-war movement could use a shot in the arm.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

their kampf, etc

earlier today Jonathan Schwarz of ATR suggested giving money to digby and Consortium News, and earler this week JS discussed "Our Kampf", an anthology of humor from Schwarz and Mike Gerber.

Additionally, I note that the fine folks at wikipedia are fundraising, and for today they note that they have a mysterious anonymous benefactor who will match today's donations. Maybe tomorrow too(?)

Now, I haven't discussed my fundraising and my plans for Iraqdoc 2007 in some time, mainly because I've been frustrated with my (slow)progress in teaching myself Arabic script. I can speak and comprehend spoken Arabic, especially Levantine and Iraqi vernacular, but my reading and writing literacy leave something to be desired at this point. Nevertheless, I will discuss Iraqdoc 2007 more tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

a is for apple

No, the first letter in the word for apple("tiffah") is not aleph, but I'm fond of visual aids--

Multilingual offers a bunch of different Arabic titles, including Arabic On The Go!(preloaded on an iPod), an FSI course in Saudi Arabic, FSI Levantine Arabic, and quite a few
courses on Iraqi Arabic, including:
Basics of Iraqi Arabic CD-ROM:

The Basics of Iraqi Arabic offers a beginning crash course to teach English-speakers the Iraqi Arabic language, and covers basic words, expressions and sentences that anybody speaking English would need to know in order to get around in Iraq. Each Arabic word or sentence or expression is taught with a transliteration in English, the meaning written in English, an audio recording of it in Iraqi Arabic, and the written version of it in Iraqi Arabic. The CD-ROM is divided into 23 lessons include common words and phrases dealing with: Greetings, Courtesy Conversations, Words and Phrases, Interrogative Words, Conciliatory Sentences, Verbs, Transportation, Numbers, Ordinal Numbers, Days of the Week, Time Expressions, Colors Directions, Locations, Medical Phrases, Sanitation, Food, Telephone Conversation, Military and Security Terms, Security Check and Search Personal Belongings, House Search, Interrogation, and Commands. With this method the user achieves a quick introduction to speaking and understanding the language. The CD-ROM runs on the Windows operating system on any computer with a sound card and web browser; the MP3 files on the CD-ROM can also be downloaded into an MP3 player and used in that format.
(emphases mine.) I'm not suggesting that it's ghastly for this company to be selling their wares thusly, and I have no idea how good their products are, relative to the competition(quite a few companies offer Arabic self-instruction tapes), so I'm not evaluating them on that score either.

Nevertheless, it's quite a sign of the times.

Monday, December 18, 2006

hey, no squinting


BBC:Danish bikini speedbandits(?!)

Seeing the light
(Salon, Dec 2001):
A former Christian fundamentalist recalls a life of ferocious, intractable faith -- and the moments it began to crumble.
By Carolyn S. Briggs

Dec. 21, 2001 | This morning I drive to work thinking about the lipstick on my front tooth that I can't fix until I exit the freeway, my college freshmen students who will not be prepared for class and firemen, my new heroes. I turn on NPR. An interview.
I saw the hand of God in everything, and I mean everything. Parking spots at a crowded mall were a gift of God. My daughter's earaches were a test from God. The Del Monte vegetables on sale at the market were a sign of God's provision. I called myself his handmaiden and I began each entry in my prayer journal with a plea to be "used by God." What rich pleasure it was to know the Creator of the Universe was inhabiting me, using me as his mouthpiece. I asked God to speak through me and then I believed each word that left my mouth was his word.
Micah Holmquist, "Here's how to fix Iraq"

Many new things at Arvin Hill:
A cold wind blows,
Bush deliberates,
Fightin' words(Jay Taber)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

the Hatfield pitclub

Monday, December 11, 2006

assorted bits

Gregg Easterbrook in Slate asks: why do we need a permanent lunar base?

Paul Krugman: "The Great Wealth Transfer", a good(if somewhat longish) article in Rolling Stone,

Mary, at Pacific Views: "A Disintegration of Personality"

Dr Donald O. Hebb at McGill University found that he could induce a state akin to psychosis in a subject within 48 hours. Now, what had the doctor done? Hypnosis, electroshock, LSD, drugs? No. None of the above. All Dr Hebb did was take student volunteers at McGill University where he was head of Psychology, put them in comfortable airconditioned cubicles and put goggles, gloves and ear muffs on them. In 24 hours the hallucinations started. In 48 hours they suffered a complete breakdown. Dr Hebb noted they suffered a disintegration of personality. Just goggles, gloves and ear muffs and this discovered the foundation, or the key technique which has been applied under extreme conditions at Guantanamo. The technique of sensory disorientation. I've tracked down some of the original subjects in Dr Hebb's experiments of 1952 and men now in their 70s still suffer psychological damage from just two days of isolation with goggles, gloves and ear muffs. David Hicks was subjected at peak to 244 days of isolation, the most extreme isolation in the 50-year history of these CIA psychological torture techniques. David Hicks has suffered untold psychological damage that will take a great deal of care, a great deal of treatment and probably the rest of his life to move beyond.

the cartoon above is via Mark Kleiman, who describes GWB as the enabler-in-chief. Coincidentally, Kleiman discusses the murder of Ronni Moffitt. She was an American citizen killed by a car bomb(see b&w photo, below) in Washington DC, along with her boss, Chilean activist Orlando Letelier(see the brazilian cartoon in the previous post).

photos: tni,

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Good f***ing riddance

cartoon from argenpress

Augusto Pinochet, an object lesson in "why they hate us," is dead at 91. Should I say only the good die young? Should I wonder if there is an afterlife, and if he'll meet some of the people whom he had killed and "disappeared" there?(some of them are undoubtedly pictured below, in an image from the allegedly CIA-supported coup of September 11th, 1973 that brought him to power for 17 long years in Chile.)

upi photo

What I do wonder is how many Americans, especially younger people, know enough about our not-so-ancient history to understand what I mean when I describe him as an object lesson in why large numbers of people all over the world resent US foreign policy. I attended high school 1978-82, and nobody told me about it then. Rightly or not, I'm guessing today's high schoolers generally get an even more oblivious trip through history than I did. (God help us all if Katie Couric and the History Channel are supposed to be taking up the slack.) I also think it's interesting that he died on International Human Rights day.

see also:
"Operation Condor", and

memory and justice- "the caravan of death"

quiz question for the smart-alecky: Some say famous people "die in threes"; apropo of Pinochet what significance(if any) is there to the recent deaths of Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Milton Friedman?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

nixon n' elvis n' egil krogh

photo: US archives

"my gosh Elvis, those cufflinks are awesome!"
"thank you, mister president. thank you very much. hey, who's this guy?"

Actually, I don't think Elvis would've been rude to Egil Krogh, and probably would've introduced himself. And yes, his name is pronounced "eagle crow", and no, he's not a Native American. Krogh was on C-Span recently, so I thought I'd find out who he was.

Krogh, who was in fact the son of Norwegian immigrants, served in various positions in the Nixon administration, including FBI liason with the narcotics bureau, which is why he was meeting with Elvis, as Presley had told Nixon that he wanted to help the president combat illegal drug use. Krogh wrote a book about it in the 90s, The Day Elvis Met Nixon. But in the 70s he was one of the persons who ended up going to jail over the Watergate break in, and is also remembered as the guy who hired G. Gordon Liddy.

Friday, December 08, 2006

the Iraq study group report

Many people are chattering endlessly about the little Iraq study group booklet(it's a 160 pages, but a good 45 or so of those are just extended biographical sketches of the group members, kind of like those interminable acceptance speeches which even mention the acting coach and the catering outfit...).

Anyway, not to be left out, here are a couple of things I saw that struck me:

1.from the Economist's op-ed:"Do what we say or we go (but we're going anyway)"

2.Chris Floyd, in Empire Burlesque:

And U.S. troops will remain in Iraq, indefinitely, at some level, because the American elite think they can make hay of the situation one way or another. The war is all about -- is only about -- what the American elite feel is in their own best interest, how it aggrandizes their fortunes, flatters their prejudices, serves their needs. That's it. The rest is just bullshit and murder.

photos via, Indy Media.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

who, me?

this map, originally from a Science article[pdf], compares relative output of Greenhouse gasses ("GHG") from various countries vis-a-vis the US. The making of the map is discussed here. (via Helmut at Phronesisaical. As he says, maps can often do what words cannot.)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

an early Snow

via cbc/cbs news

from yesterday's Empire Notes:

Iraq’s Interior Ministry has formed a special unit to monitor news coverage and take legal action against journalists who report, in their words, "fabricated and false news that hurts and gives the Iraqis a wrong picture that the security situation is very bad, when the facts are totally different."

Their first target is the Associated Press, for its story that Shiite militias, in revenge for the massive car bombings in Sadr City that killed over 200, took six Sunni worshippers at a mosque in the Hurriyah district, doused them in gasoline, and set them on fire. The Interior Ministry, run by the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, claims that the source for the story, police Captain Jamil Hussein, does not exist – and the U.S. military has backed them up. The AP reporter who did the story claims two years of contact with Capt. Hussein, including numerous meetings with him in his office in the Yarmouk police station, where Hussein wore a police uniform – as well as corroborating claims from three different witnesses who live in the area where the killings took place.
First, under Saddam, Iraq has press spokesman Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, who becomes known for his comical lies. Then we take over in Iraq and all of our spokespeople are reincarnated as Sahhaf – watch Tony Snow any time. Then, oddly, the Iraqis who come to the fore in new, democratic Iraq, with these two fine examples before them, bear a strong resemblance as well.

addendum, Wednesday, 12.6th: I've been trying to download the PDF for the Iraq study group(here), but I guess tons of people are trying to do so, as I keep getting timed out.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Nelly Furtado

via occhiaperti.

If you've been kvetching that I haven't posted any images of pretty girls lately, here's Nelly Furtado(dob 2 December 1978). Happy birthday.