Friday, August 31, 2007

right sign, wrong continent

Thursday, August 30, 2007

There and Back Again

Ray McGovern offers some analysis of Bush’s recent speech.

It’s not about putative Iranian “weapons of mass destruction” — not even ostensibly. It is about the requirement for a scapegoat for U.S. reverses in Iraq, and the felt need to create a casus belli by provoking Iran in such a way as to “justify” armed retaliation — perhaps extending to an attempt to destroy its nuclear-related facilities.

I believe that is fairly close to the mark but I would just add that the plan has always been about complete domination of the Middle – East with permanent military bases in Iraq as a first step to reaching this crazy goal.

It is pointless to spin your wheels over the question of Iran developing nuclear weapons because basically so what? If the Iranians feel the need to develop a deterrent to the armed nuclear camp that surrounds them what of it? And the fact is that Iran’s nuclear program has nothing at all to do with the impending attack by American forces.

In my view, air strikes on Iran are inevitable, unless grassroots America can arrange a backbone transplant for Congress.

The House needs to begin impeachment proceedings without delay. These, in turn, could possibly give our senior military leaders second thoughts about unleashing the dogs of wider war.

Yes, congress should impeach Bush as well as Cheney but that is not going to happen. The reason being that most in Congress fully support an invasion of Iran it is part of the American exceptionalism that pervades their world view. So unless something remarkable occurs I would say expect the worst.

If you oppose violence, if you are horrified by over one million deaths in Iraq, if you are horrified at the prospect of expanding the murder to Iran then stop supporting the democrats because every action taken by them to date has done nothing but implement and aid Bush in his race for conquest. There is no hope from that quarter.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

artifact for a wednesday

US constitution, now in a handy GIF

Today I finished an article I am foolish enough to try to get published, so I've been neglecting HZ. I would like to discuss al-Sadr's announcement that there's going to be a six-month cease-fire for the Mehdi Army, as well as the Iraq withdrawal plan that John Podesta's think tank just released, but not today. Very soon, though. I'll also discuss my plans for Iraqdoc 2007 next week.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Breaking the Bonds of Culture

It is the rare individual who can break the bonds of culture that bind us all in its iron grip. The culture that we live in or grew up in pervades our thoughts and ideas in ways that most are oblivious to. Culture dictates how we dress, our world view, what kind of food we eat and the way we think. For example we could consider the case of the Indian mounds found in the South Eastern area of the United States proper. In the nineteenth century anthropologists were studying these mysterious mounds and were at a great loss as to who could have built these artifacts. Never mind that Native Americans were living in that part of the country and had been long before the European invasion of their land it just could not have been the Indians because well, they were Indians weren’t they? These brown people were inferior barbarians who did not posses the marvelous technologies of Western civilization which was proof positive of the inherent inferiority of Native Americans to Western man. The question of the Indian mounds was obvious and though we might wonder in incredulity at the inability of these nineteenth century anthropologists to see the obvious it is not all that hard to understand why this was so. Despite that these anthropologists were members of the scientific community of the day and as such were supposed to view the world in an unbiased manner as befits science we need to understand that even the rigorous fact finding method of scientific study is not beyond the reach of culture a powerful all encompassing force. It was an assumption of the time that Indians were inferior in intellect to that of the superior European white races and the scientists themselves were in no way immune to the culture they lived in. Amazingly they even went to the trouble to take an Indian skull and a Caucasian skull filling them both with sand then measured the amount of sand each skull could hold in order to prove that Indians had smaller brains and therefore were incapable of building the mounds. Of course this is laughable today but to laugh at these nineteenth century people is to laugh at you yourself because no one is immune to the influence of their own culture. And if you believe that you are immune to your culture the joke is on you.

Returning to the present, keeping in mind the lessons of our nineteenth century scientists, what does my pretty (or not so pretty) little tale have to do with current events? The answer is simply everything. If we take a look at our political leader class we can see the same insidious influence of the assumption of Western superiority over that of Eastern cultures. For example we can see this assumption of American exceptionalism in this excerpt from a Hillary Clinton speech.

“Whether I was meeting in Kabul with President Karzai about the threat of the Taliban and Al Qaida or Israeli leaders about the threat of Iran or meeting with defense officials in Europe about shared security interests or pressing officials in China about human rights, I have confronted the complexities of the world as it is, not as I hoped it would be, because you have to start with what the world is today and with hope and determination and understanding, move it toward what we hope it can be.”

The arrogance of this statement is almost unbearable to the point of being painful. Start with the world as it is and change it to what we think it should be. Hillary is not even aware of the monumental conceit and almost brainless non-thinking assumption that America has the right to mold the world to our own special ideals as we see fit. My point here is not to pick on Hillary for she is not alone in her assumptions. If we look at this Bush speech we can see exactly the same kind of assumptions we saw in Hillary’s speech.

‘We did not ask for this present challenge, but we accept it. Like other generations of Americans, we will meet the responsibility of defending human liberty against violence and aggression. By our resolve, we will give strength to others. By our courage, we will give hope to others. And by our actions, we will secure the peace and lead the world to a better day.”

Yes, certainly, we shall secure the peace but most importantly America’s destiny is to lead the world to a better day and it is easy to see that in this matter Hillary and Bush are peas in a pod. One begins to wonder how the world managed to survive before the coming of America, must have been tough eh? Charles De Gaulle once said that the graveyard is full of indispensable people and the same could be said for indispensable nations.

I have no doubts that our politicos believe this rhetoric without question. Still, the forces at work which have resulted in the occupation of Iraq are more complex than the firm belief that America needs to show the world how to live. Time and time again I read how our campaign in Iraq is a failure which in fact it is yet in another sense it is quite a success story. Billions of dollars in profits have gone to Bush’s corporate supporters such as weapons manufacturers and others and of course the all important oil that Iraq floats atop which becomes more and more important as oil supplies dwindle has provided the main reason for the invasion and we should not forget that fact. If it were not for the oil we would not be in the Middle – East at all despite the noble speeches of our leaders but I digress.

As sickening as this unreasonable belief in American superiority is it is all too real and is embraced by many Americans other than our leaders. And no wonder, for we are subject to this way of thinking from the time we are little to all through our adult years. How many times have you heard a politician say we are the greatest nation on the Earth? Thousands of times is the likely answer, so many times that after a while we hear it but do not think about it or its consequences on the lives of countless human beings around the world not to mention our own lives.

Despite the claims of progress in Iraq from Republicans and Democrats alike one thing has become clear and that is that there are limits to American military might. In fact the vaunted power of America as well as its influence upon the world is waning. We cannot control the people of Iraq, we cannot bend them to our will through the use of force yet we are spending trillions of dollars with the blind hope of doing just that. Juan Cole has written an exceptionally fine piece on the limits of imperial power over at TomDispatch as it relates to our own little jaunt into the world of neo-colonialism and I recommend you read the whole thing. Here is a little

“Between 1801 and 2003 stretched endless decades in which colonialism proved a plausible strategy for European powers in the Middle East, including the French enterprise in Algeria (1830-1962) and the British veiled protectorate over Egypt (1882-1922). In these years, European militaries and their weaponry were so advanced, and the means of resistance to which Arab peasants had access so limited, that colonial governments could be imposed.

That imperial moment passed with celerity after World War II, in part because the masses of the Third World joined political parties, learned to read, and -- with how-to-do-it examples all around them -- began to mount political resistance to foreign occupations of every sort. While the twenty-first century American arsenal has many fancy, exceedingly destructive toys in it, nothing has changed with regard to the ability of colonized peoples to network socially and, sooner or later, push any foreign occupying force out.”

Bush’s invasion while a failure it is a failure that will be a long, long time failing and we will be in the Middle-East for years. Some are predicting Bush will start a war with Iran sometime in the next two months followed by an attack on Syria by Israel. And even if a democrat is in the Whitehouse after Bush leaves all the major democrat candidates have said that nothing is off the table when it comes to Iran so I am not looking for any changes in American imperialism any time soon. Oh gosh, I forgot, democrats don’t get us embroiled in wars not FDR, not Kennedy nor LBJ or Bill Clinton and the tooth fairy is real.

Breaking the bonds of culture is well nigh impossible yet not completely. However if the present administration and congressional leadership is any example my hopes are not high and America is now traveling down the same road past empires have trod leading to the same destiny of has-beens that litter the pages of world history.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Return of the native (puffins)

photo of puffins via visitmaine dot com

I suppose Return of the Puffin is not as cool-sounding as Night of the Iguana or Day of the Dolphin, but then again this is a blog post and not a screenplay. Suppose it'd work as a title for an episode of Dangermouse, or The Tick. There's a Washington Post/AP article out about the once nearly-extinct puffins of Maine repopulating their old hangouts with the help of biologists, here.

Speaking of tics, I also wonder how long I can keep this titling tic going.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

a message in a vast electronic ocean (that somebody's monitoring)

This was my e-mail to Glenn Greenwald from the other day:

Dear sir,
One thing I am curious about when I hear about various "blue dog" democratic congressman folding and crossing over-- is there any actual [current] data available about the views people hold in those congressional districts [and states]? I notice, for example, that freshman democrat Heath Shuler voted for the FISA bill, while Walter Jones, a republican who's also from North Carolina voted against it. I've been meaning to blog about this myself but it occurs to me you have far more resources at your disposal, like Lexis.

Also, your interview with Dodd regarding the abrupt switch in tactics suggests to me that the democratic votes for the bill may not have been responding to negative feedback from their districts back home. Although I'm sure you have no lack of topics you want to discuss, I do think it might be interesting.

I'm guessing most ordinary people have no real idea what's in the bill, and assume it relates simply to the use of cell phones when the popular press parrots the administration line on needing a bill to "modernize" the existing law to cover newer technology, sans context.

Jonathan Versen

I haven't heard back from Greenwald. I imagine he gets a ton of email, and he may even have his message filtering set so that if even one hyperlink is included it bounces into a spam folder and is never scanned by human eyes. Or maybe it's just links to blogs hosted by one of the popular free hosts, because he's tired of getting people sending him messages about how the guy across the street has a Jack Russell terrier who's spying on him for Karl Rove, with a link to
the appropriate blog entry, etc.

Nevertheless, the subterranean dimension to political polling is an interesting topic to me, which I might discuss at more length later. In the meantime I will also make an announcement about Iraqdoc 2007 some time in the next two weeks.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

more e-voting follies(perhaps shockingly, from Ohio)

from one of my newsletters:

E-voting predicament: Not-so-secret ballots
By Declan McCullagh,
Published on ZDNet News: Aug 20, 2007 4:00:00 AM

Ohio's method of conducting elections with electronic voting machines appears to have created a true privacy nightmare for state residents: revealing who voted for which candidates.

Two Ohio activists have discovered that e-voting machines made by Election Systems and Software and used across the country produce time-stamped paper trails that permit the reconstruction of an election's results--including allowing voter names to be matched to their actual votes.

Making a secret ballot less secret, of course, could permit vote selling and allow interest groups or family members to exert undue pressure on Ohio residents to vote a certain way. It's an especially pointed concern in Ohio, a traditional swing state in presidential elections that awarded George Bush a narrow victory over John Kerry three years ago.

Ohio law permits anyone to walk into a county election office and obtain two crucial documents: a list of voters in the order they voted, and a time-stamped list of the actual votes. "We simply take the two pieces of paper together, merge them, and then we have which voter voted and in which way," said James Moyer, a longtime privacy activist and poll worker who lives in Columbus, Ohio...

this, of course, is only the beginning of the article. the rest is here...

N.B.: As I said, the article snippet above is from one of my e-mail newletters. This one's from ZD Net News. Incidentally, if you read blogs and have an interest in technology-related policy issues, not just e-voting varmintry but DRM(digital rights management) legislation, and wireless and cable TV related legislation, etc then I strongly recommend you subscribe to one of the tech newsletters, whether with ZD Net, or C-Net, or Wired News. I think PC World has a good newsletter too.

A lot of times, technology related politics that seems to slip through the "MSM" cracks sometimes manages to make it into the tech news sites. Why this happens, naturally I don't have the foggiest. I am reminded, nevertheless, of how in the past Skimble has often commented about how a lot of the perfidity of the business world gets fleshed out better in the business pages of newspapers, even when it also has a lot of relevance in section A.

(and yes, I know "polling" is also a word for voting. it's just that I really, really like tag words.-JV)

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Naturally 7:concert-sauvage-dans-le-metro

via American Samizdat:

Naturally 7 is an American hip-hop group based in NYC. Here, they are videographed* on the Paris Metro, 01 December 2006.

As Zippy might observe: meanwhile, somewhere in Beaumont,Texas a middle-aged Francophile is salivating with jealousy...

*I guess that's the right term. Non?

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Operation Ajax at 54

image via

In spite of his once having been chosen Time's man of the year, I'll bet most Americans don't know who Mohamed Mossadeq was. Likewise, I imagine most Americans don't know that British intelligence and our CIA overthrew Mr. Mossadeq after he nationalized Iran's oil companies and kicked BP out(the nerve!), forcing him out of office on August 19th, 1953, after he was democratically elected two years earlier, putting the Shah in his place.

Of course, given the general mendacity and sheer horribleness of most popular American news outlets, I can't entirely blame most Americans for being mystified by the question-- "why do they hate us?"

from wikipedia's entry on Operation Ajax:

The leader of Operation Ajax was Kermit Roosevelt, Jr., a senior CIA officer, and grandson of the former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. While formal leadership was vested in Kermit Roosevelt, the project was designed and executed by Donald Wilber, a career CIA agent and acclaimed author of books on Iran, Afghanistan and Ceylon.

The CIA operation centered around having the increasingly impotent Shah dismiss the powerful Prime Minister Mossadegh and replace him with General Fazlollah Zahedi, a choice agreed on by the British and Americans after careful examination for his likeliness to be anti-Soviet.

The BBC spearheaded Britain's propaganda campaign, broadcasting the code word to start the coup.[1]

Despite the high-level coordination and planning, the coup d'etat briefly faltered, and the Shah fled Iran. After a short exile in Italy, however, the Shah was brought back again, this time through follow-up CIA operations, which were successful. Zahedi was installed to succeed Prime Minister Mossadegh. The deposed Mossadegh was arrested, given what some have alleged to have been a show trial, and condemned to death. The Shah commuted this sentence to solitary confinement for three years in a military prison, followed by house arrest for life.

In 2000, the New York Times made partial publication of a leaked CIA document titled, "Clandestine Service History – Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran – November 1952-August 1953." This document describes the planning and execution conducted by the American and British governments. The New York Times published this critical document with the names censored. The New York Times also limited its publication to scanned image (bitmap) format, rather than machine-readable text. This document was eventually published properly – in text form, and fully unexpurgated. The complete CIA document ...[is now available on the web.] The word 'blowback' appeared for the very first time in this document.

In 2000, then. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright admitted that the coup was a "setback for democratic government" in Iran.[2]

[1]BBC: "a very British coup"

[2]CNN:"U.S. Comes Clean About The Coup In Iran", 04-19-2000.

Of course, speaking of history lessons, it would've been nice if the democrats running for president had made a passing refrence to Mossadeq in the debate this weekend, but perhaps that's expecting too much. A time travel-fantasy-- not 54 years, just a few hours, and me there in the audience, being given a chance to speak(and actually being miked by the teevee networks): I would say, when they failed to see why I wanted them to mention Operation Ajax and Mossadeqh, "but what about timeliness, and relevance?" And I imagine HRC and Obama just staring at me while the crickets chirped. Then after a sufficient pause, they'd go back to talking about why we need to stay in Iraq longer, and their avoidance of reminding people of the "off-the-table" discussion with respect to Iran would have nothing to do with the possible embarassment of the confluence with this particular anniversary, and (the apparently diminishing)possibility that bigshot lefty blogger might mention it. Nothing at all.

Meanwhile-- I've been working, off and on, on a couple of longer pieces, including one on the apparent build-up to war with Iran, which I mean to post in 2 or 3 days.

Incidentally, I didn't know about the BBC's complicity until I worked on this post. The link above also has another audio link to a radio program(-me) about their involvement, which is about 25 minutes long and pretty interesting.

About the BBC's code word: it was used in a sentence in a time check at midnight-- in other words, every midnight the announcer would say, "the time is midnight," except when he gave the signal to start the coup by saying "the time is exactly midnight."

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

1984 cover

Friday, August 17, 2007

Dick Cheney-- a tv snippet

The people sent me an email about this video, which is also available at their site, here, and of course directly at youtube. I'm beginning to think it should be called UbiquitousTube, but then again marketing savvy has never been my strong suit.

I'm also reminded of a thing I've reflected on from time to time-- that the Dick Cheney of the 80's and early '90s seemed like a less truculent fellow than the guy who became vice-president and told Patrick Leahy to eff off and went out of his way to wear disgracefully inappropriate garb at a memorial service at Auschwitz not so long ago.

Not only does Cheney of April '94 say completely different (and far more reasonable) things than does the 21st century Cheney, but, however much the ideologue in me balks at saying this, he actually seems kind of collegial here. Is it just me, and if not, do you also wonder what happened?

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Time for a New Sandwich

in a previous comment thread, Micah Holmquist asked me why I think independent voters are healthier(i.e. mentally healthier) than rank-and-file party-line voters, particularly die-hard democratic voters.

This is only a partial, decidedly provisional, answer:

although independent voters may often make decisions based on faulty apprehensions(abetted by our crappy press), they don't entrust in "The Party",whether D or R, a blind faith that any solution can and will only come from Our Guys.

Now, I also think "Unity '08" is misguided crap, but conditioned rat-in-a-cage democrats like those Arvin alludes to will tolerate any manner of non-democratic shit from "our" candidates because somehow, magically, everything will eventually be set right even if he sounds (and acts)awfully like a republican in the interim.

Or she.

Think of Homer and the sandwich:

"It's still good-- it's still good..."


Friday, August 10, 2007

AP photo from yearlyKos

war yummy war

the (original)AP photo is from Michael Sherer's "Cheerful Boos For Hillary" at

Now,I'm not really sure what a cheerful boo is. But Sherer suggests that HRC successfully defused the "Kossacks" at YearlyKos and charmed them pretty well after a rocky start. He also says that they never asked her about her Iraq vote(!) and booed Kucinich(!!) when he suggested to the crowd that most voters didn't see any meaningful difference between the two major parties. Touchy crowd. Do you think they'd like my caption?

see also this LA Times piece.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Whitney Brown supports the troops

I found this on Dennis Perrin's site.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

catching up: some links, Cindy Sheehan, and impeachment

photo:wikipedia/Ben Schumin

first, some recent items:

Micah Holmquist: "World peace is more likely than impeachment, and Democrats appear ok with this"

Eric Alterman: "But your lovin' don't pay my bills ..."

Marc Lynch, from "Alawi: on the way out?":

The best line I've heard lately came from someone whom I shan't identify: "There is no Iraqi government... there's just a bunch of bodies living in the Green Zone collecting paychecks and wasting oxygen."

Rob Payne recommends these three Tom Dispatch essays on new defense secretary Rob't Gates:

Roger Morris: The Gates Inheritance

Roger Morris, "The World That Made Bob

Roger Morris: "The CIA and the Gates Legacy

as well as a companion piece of sorts,

"Iraq by the Numbers: Surging Past the Gates of Hell"

Jonathan Schwarz, "Our Crumbling America"

There is no question the bridge collapse in Minnesota last week is a tragedy, and our hearts should go out to the families of the perished. Nevertheless I couldn't help but reflect it represents a loss of life due to senseless tragedy that's about the same as just another day in Baghdad. I don't say that to suggest that ordinary people should necessarily feel responsible for knowing what to do about it. A lot of people responded by voting democratic in the 2006 midterms, because that's what we're taught and conditioned to believe we're supposed to do. Fewer, but still undoubtedly substantial numbers of people wrote or faxed or emailed their congresspeople or senators. I have one nice letter from Michael Burgess and another from Kay Hutchison to prove I've done this, vis-a-vis not attacking Iran. Do I think these gestures matter?

Well, no-- not really.

But collectively, not knowing what to do is not the same as not being responsible. We have a government that doesn't give a damn what we think or feel , but we are, ultimately, responsible for it. Some people, like Cindy Sheehan, decide to take their responsibility and run with it, and try to do something constructive. In Sheehan's case, of course, she has mostly been reviled, at least in formal venues like op-eds and opinion news tv, and at the intermediate and higher levels of the democratic party food chain. I don't know that every decision that she's made has been the most tactically successful one, with respects to her various sit-ins and protests, but I also know that really isn't the point. I say that for two reasons:

One: she's kind of been out there by herself, without a net as it were, since the once well-worn trails of peace activism are generally cold, having been little-traveled for the past 30-35 years or so-- so she's had to figure out a lot of it on her own.

Two: criticizing her for occasional missteps and thereby suggesting her contribution is dismissable as misguided and irrelevant is a little like Glenn Beck or some other conservo-schmuck saying Al Gore doesn't have a right to talk about protecting the environment because he doesn't live in a cave and actually uses electricity. The nerve of that guy, with his toothbrush and running water, trying to tell me to conserve! Of course in the liberal/progressive context, there's an additional problem with that sort of criticism of Sheehan: implicitly you are ceding authority to the hidebound leadership, and conceding the right to set an agenda for progressives to that leadership.

And boy, was there ever a more undeserving bunch!

I also think, in Cindy's case, there's a certain amount of resentment involved by some lefties, insofar as she's been doing what they know they should be doing, and she makes everybody else look bad.

Arvin Hill has discussed the fecklessness of the democrats and the apparently tepid response to Cindy Sheehan deciding to run against Nancy Pelosi. I saw Cindy with Bill Hemmer on CNN in July, saying she would only run if Pelosi persists in her "impeachment is off the table stance." Sounded pretty reasonable to me, although initially I wondered if she might be better off running against someone like the old democrat warhorse Tom Lantos, because A. he might be easier to beat, and, B. Replacing him with Cindy in the congress sounds like it would be a genuine improvement.

Arthur Silber, "inoperative":

The NSA warrantless surveillance program had been one of the strongest and clearest grounds on which to impeach Bush. The program violated then-existing law, and Bush admitted it. What had been illegal is now fully legal -- thanks to a Congress controlled by the Democrats.

It is now impossible for Bush to be impeached on this basis. How exactly would that argument go? "This heinous and illegal program was so blatantly unconstitutional that it merits impeachment as a high crime and misdemeanor. In fact, it's so heinous that we've now made it legal!" Yeah. That'll work.

I'm not sure what can be done at this point, but it's pretty clear to me that voting and sending faxes and emails is insufficient. Actually, unlike Silber I believe impeachment is still possible, but the people are the problem. If you are grown men and women, and we are, and you know the politicians won't do anything without a firecracker up their ass, and we do, then the unwillingness to supply the firecracker makes it our fault.

Do you remember 2006? It wasn't so long ago. Large numbers of semi-content, middle class Americans freaked out in 2006, when they saw literally millions of Mexicanos demonstrating in their streets on tv, in April and May. As I've said before, apart from the unquestionable racism involved in so many people's discomfort, another dynamic was at play: Americans who aren't allowed to be Americans were showing the rest of us how to be American.

Without taking any citizenship tests, they showed us they knew what being American is (supposed to be) all about: You care about your rights-- you insist on them, you go forth and make some noise and make sure you're heard.

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