Tuesday, July 31, 2007


[posted by Callimachus]

You've got to find this headline more than a little misleading: Guantanamo cell is better than freedom, says inmate fighting against release.

Read the story. Here's how his lawyer describes it:

“He says his cell in Guantanamo is like a grave and that although it sounds crazy he would rather stay in those conditions than go back to Algeria. The fact is that he is really, really scared about what might happen to him in Algeria.”

Absent any other quotes from or about the prisoner, Ahmed Belbacha, that hardly justifies the headline. Even though the head may be, literally, not false, that doesn't make it honest writing. It's not quite the "Ha!" that many defenders of the administration take it for.

The article goes the opposite direction from the headline, in fact, which makes it all the more schizophrenic. It tells a very sympathetic story of how Belbacha ended up betrayed into U.S. custody and how he was abused by us, with no notion that there may be another side or more context to that story. Not even a "U.S. authorities were not available for comment." No evidence they even tried to contact them. Even in a generally conservative British newspaper, the official American point of view isn't worth a line of ink.

[correction: A passage originally cited here from a "Guardian" story turns out to have been in reference to a different prisoner]

At any rate, the U.S. finds itself in the custody of someone it wants to be rid of now. He was swept up at the end of a war, in which perhaps he sought to fight and certainly was in contact with the battlefield enemy of the Americans, in a country not his own. Yet the very fact of his initially having fled his homeland, then having dallied with Islamists, then having been in our custody probably marks him as a dead man walking in his homeland.

Our sense of the world as a terrain entirely divided into discreet entities called nation states, one of which is a natural home to every person, propels us to send him back to his. This is the easy and quick solution -- sanctioned by all the international rules of the game that we're constantly told America must strictly adhere to.

But it is Pilate's solution. It is cynical to pretend we don't know otherwise. At the end of World War II, the Western Allies found themselves in control of whole populations of peoples from Eastern Europe who had more or less taken the side of the fascists against the communists in a time and place that offered no third way. In some cases the larger war had uncorked old civil wars, and the players picked sides more or less at random.

As the Germans fell back, these peoples fell back with them -- entire ethnic enclaves pulled up roots rather than face the inevitable retribution, in a mass migration on a scale not seen in Europe since the 10th century. And when Hitler's Reich crumbled at last, they sat down in the mountain valleys of Bavaria and Austria and awaited their fate under the British and Americans who stumbled upon them: peasant wagons full of shivering children, men in tattered Wehrmacht uniforms who spoke not a word of German, 25,000 cossacks in garb Napoleon would have recognized.

The commingled masses made a hash of the whole notion of "nation states," But the British and American authorities, after some hesitation and anguish, decided they had no alternative but to "repatriate" them -- into the hands of Stalin's paranoid and murderous regime or its venal puppets, into the hands of the bitter ethnic rivals these peoples had battled against.

When the refugees discovered their fates, untold numbers committed suicide. Those who didn't were shot on arrival by the tens of thousands in their "homelands." Many of the rest were sent to die in miserable work camps. Those British and American military men and diplomats unlucky enough to have participated in this duty often were haunted by it for the rest of their lives.

What would you have done instead? Can you have supported the war to liberate Iraq, and at the same time send this man to his fate?


It's the Absolutism

[posted by Callimachus]

Fletcher: We get Josey Wales and it ends.

Captain Terrel: Doin' right ain't got no end.

Here is one reason I will have a hard time backing any candidate whose support base -- and funding stream -- includes prominently the so-called Netroots.

It's wrong to confront good people at their homes. It's absolutely the right thing to do to confront liars, cheats and fools that are fucking this country wherever and whenever you can find them.


In the end, between Bill O'Reilly and I, one of us is on the side of the angels... and I guess that's for each individual to decide.

All I know is that he is a truly awful human being and an incredibly effective propagandist. That's a dangerous combination, and I'm proud of my work.

I have seen just enough of Bill O'Reilly's show to know I have no interest in seeing more. He's an old-fashioned populist American blowhard -- a type as old in these hills as the mastodon.

But doubting that human-induced "global warming" is an absolute, unquestionable scientifically proven thing should not be a Mark of Cain and make the questioner the object of a crusade?

Home Depot has some explaining to do if it thinks Hannity is any better than O'Reilly. FOX, across the board, smears gays, blacks, attacks the environment, and more. Home Depot needs to dump the hate network now, across the board.

It doesn't take much of an imaginative leap to see that people who can react that way to -- well, anyone who disagrees with them, basically -- are not many steps removed in the political evolutionary tree from kommissars or Stasi officers.

The Man Who Ruined Painting

[posted by Callimachus]

Courbet, believe it or not. Whose work (with one or two exceptions) seems so mild now. Some interesting insights in the conclusion of this book review:

Courbet “paved the way for modernism in art,” Chu writes in the last sentence of her book. The praise is fully justified but remarkably uninspiring, in the sordid light that Chu’s critical approach casts on the emergence of modern sensibility. Her Courbet “opened a perspective on a new culture in the art world in which the public’s approval was valued higher than that of the government or an official élite, and money was seen as a more legitimate gauge of artistic success than official honors.” He “demonstrated that controversy need not be harmful to an artist’s reputation, as it was just another form of publicity.”

Hooray? Variations on those terms, often employing the shorthand “hype and fashion,” pop up perennially both in conservative denunciations of new wrinkles in art and in leftish critiques of capitalist culture. Baudelaire had entertained no illusions about art’s new social dispensation, writing with bitter resignation in the prologue, “To the Bourgeois,” of his “Salon of 1846”: “You are the majority, in number and intelligence; therefore you are power; and power is justice.” Setting his own sights elsewhere—“Anywhere out of this world!” he specified in a poem—he saw that the fate of true artists would henceforth involve forms of internal exile, even in bright circles of cosmopolitan fame. That sort of compunction was lost on Courbet, and it is hard to imagine, let alone detect, in the conduct of the art world today. It is a virtue that, on the evidence of disenthralled art-historical work like Chu’s, no longer enjoins the tribute of lip service. Dirty laundry has become the emperor’s new clothes.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

More Disturbing Questions

[posted by Callimachus]

What Michael Yon notices here in Iraq is no doubt broadly true:

I have wondered now for two years why is it that American military leaders somehow seem to naturally know what it takes to run a city, while many of the local leaders seem clueless. Over time, a possible answer occurred, and that nudge might be due to how the person who runs each American base is referred to as the “Mayor.” A commander’s first job is to take care of his or her forces. Our military is, in a sense its own little country, with city-states spread out all around the world. Each base is like a little city-state. The military commander must understand how the water, electricity, sewerage, food distribution, police, courts, prisons, hospitals, fire, schools, airports, ports, trash control, vector control, communications, fuel, fiscal budgeting, fire, for his “city” all work. They have “embassies” all over the world and must deal diplomatically with local officials in Korea, Germany, Japan and many dozens of other nations. The U.S. military even has its own space program, which few countries have.

In short, our military is a reasonable microcosm of the United States – sans the very important business aspect which actually produces the wealth the military depends on. The requisite skill-set to run a serious war campaign involves a subset of skills that include diplomacy and civil administration.

But it doesn't bring me much comfort. No doubt the same thing would be broadly true anywhere in the U.S., too. It was so in New Orleans after the hurricane. It's not the competence of the military that displeases me -- I'm proud of them -- it's the failure of civic institutions to match it. After World War II the military and civilian authorities together, and the whole nation in its way, joined to turn occupation of the defeated lands into reconstruction. Generals served alongside college presidents. Now lieutenant colonels try to jump-start cities while college administrators blog bile about Abu Ghraib and chickenhawks and the bulk of the nation watches TV.

Bad things happen to nations when the military is the sole entity capable of getting anything done. Especially democracies. Because one other thing the military lacks, unmentioned by Yon, is democracy.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Council Winners

[posted by Callimachus]

Council winners for the week of July 27 have been posted.

First place in the council went to a wonderful post, Little Noted But Long Remembered from Right Wing Nut House. I'm embarrassed to say the anniversary of the moon landing passed me by unnoticed. But Rick rightly points out that that humble footprint in the lunar dust will be there long after every issue that roiled us this week is past and forgotten.

Following up was a tie between Russia Vs. The US: No Contest at Cheat Seeking Missiles and Boy, Was Thomas Right by The Colossus of Rhodey, who notes some disturbing trends in British education.

Votes also went to Max Boot to Kissinger -- “Iraq Isn't Vietnam, Henry” by ‘Okie’ on the Lam; another of my anti-snark pieces; and Palestinian Terrorists' Release -- Rattlesnake Logic at Joshuapundit.

Outside the council, the winner was In the Shadows of Fallen Comrades by Cpl. John Matthew Bishop in The Atlanta Journal Constitution. I linked to that piece here and it sparked a hellacious discussion of everything under the sun in current affairs. I also nominated it to the council this week, but I ended up not voting for it. I think it's a sterling piece that needs to be read and re-read and taken to heart. But when it comes to council votes, I tend to weight my choices toward actual blog posts. This was a newspaper op-ed piece.

Votes also went to Name That Party: Investigators by Don Surber, who does a superb job here of tracking an inconsistency in media coverage that strongly suggests an ideological taint. This is the sort of thing blogs do well and nothing else does quite as well.

Votes also went to General David Petraeus on the Conditions on the Ground in Iraq by Hugh Hewitt. I agree with some critics that this was a rather Larry King-ish softball performance. Our friend Sideways also got a vote for "Meanwhile, in the Real World" at Donklephant. Votes also went to Watching the Debate Would Not Have Helped My Mental Health at Classical Values and The Night Mitch McConnell Became the Leader of the Republican Party at
Hugh Hewitt's blog, which I actually thought was a better piece than the Petraeus interview.

Friday Cat Blogging

For those who pined for a visual to go with the pectoral etymologies, here's Ansuya.


Thursday, July 26, 2007


[posted by Callimachus]

In Iraq, it seems, two's company, three's a target.

BAGHDAD - The dream run of Iraq’s national soccer team captivated an otherwise despairing nation. But even in its moment of joy — the Iraqis are in the Asian Cup finals for the first time ever — violence struck Wednesday.

Two suicide bombings killed at least 50 cheering, dancing, flag-waving Iraqis celebrating their national triumph. More than 130 other revelers were wounded.

The attacks bore the hallmarks of Sunni militants who have fueled the violence tearing at the fragile fabric of Iraq for nearly four years. But these bombings, in parked cars less than an hour apart in separate corners of Baghdad, appeared designed to gain attention rather than target a particular sect.

What if they made it explicit? If some spokesman for the bombers, with the authority to mean what he says, wrote, "We are doing this to you because there are Americans in your land. They cannot protect you from us. No one can. Make the Americans leave, any way you can, and we will stop killing you and ruining your lives."

What should America do then?

As far as I can tell, the only difference between that and what is happening now is the existence of someone to make that offer.

What should we do, and how should we explain it to these two?

University student Ahmad Mudhar, a Shiite, and his 7-year-old brother were celebrating in Mansour, waving the Iraq flag and singing along with hundreds of other revelers. After the bomber struck, the brothers walked home shaken and heartbroken.

“Even during the moments of happiness, the powers of evil and terrorism cause tragedy,” Mudhar said. Iraqis, he predicted, would return to the streets in celebration “to shame the terrorists” if Iraq wins the cup.

The War of Art

[posted by Callimachus]

If you've been following the "Scott Thomas" affair, it seems to be reaching denouement. The anonymous soldier who wrote a nasty account of behavior by himself and his fellow soldiers has been identified, and turns out to be someone who, according to his own earlier writings under his own name, seems to have gone to war to bulletproof his public anti-U.S.-military views and to boost his career as a creative writer. I don't pretend to be able to understand such people. In his own words:

I know that NOT participating in a war (and such a misguided one at that) should be considered better than wanting to be in one just to write a book...but you know, maybe id rather be a good man than a good artist...be both? Some can and some cant...i guess it all depends on how great an artist, or how great a man they want to be. Sometimes it feels like i have to choose between being totally loyal to thoughts of my future family OR totally loayl to chasing down the muse. must find a middle ground.

The Remarque wanna-be needs a spell checker.

Kudos to John Barnes, who had the anonymous writer's general identity pegged days before the reality came forth:

Based on a mix of semiotic analysis and my seat of the pants experience as a frequent reader of professional and near-professional writing by new writers, my guess is this: I think "Scott Thomas" is actually an MFA writing student, or a recent graduate of such a program, probably with some military experience ....

The Old School Tie

[posted by Callimachus]

I read this several days ago, and it's been bugging me ever since.

After analyzing trends in public school names in seven states, representing 20 percent of all public school students, we obtained the following statistics:

  • Of almost 3,000 public schools in Florida, five honor George Washington, compared with eleven named after manatees.

  • In Minnesota, the naming of schools after presidents declined from 14 percent of schools built before 1956 to 3 percent of schools built in the last decade.

  • In New Jersey, naming schools after people dropped from 45 percent of schools built before 1948 to 27 percent of schools built since 1988.

  • In the last two decades, a public school built in Arizona was almost fifty times more likely to be named after such things as a mesa or a cactus than after a president.

  • In Florida, nature names for schools increased from 19 percent of schools built before 1958 to 37 percent of schools built in the last decade.

Similar patterns were observed in all seven states analyzed.

Today, a majority of all public school districts nationwide do not have a single school named after a president.

Civilizations typically die long before they fall. And they die typically of accumulated small failures and surrenders. Dry rot and termite bores. And this is what they look like. Oozing change, so little-noticed that it never makes the evening news. When did children stopped getting savings accounts? When did we start wearing sweat pants to restaurants?

Or naming schools after leaders? Almost certainly this is a by-product of the demythologization of American history. None of the Founders is politically correct enough for a modern school board. What director could vote to name a school after a slaveowner? All of the presidents are tainted by their politics. Martin Luther King's name is about the only safe one left.

The original American public schools back in the mid-19th century tended to be named for their locality. But in a modern consolidated school district, attendance boundaries often cross municipal lines and there are fewer and fewer schools that can be named for their neighborhoods.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

How to Win in Iraq

More rubble, less trouble, old school style.

Works best if you keep the sound down and make up your own narrative as it plays.


We're mired in a presidential election season that will last longer than some Ice Ages did. We might as well entertain ourselves while we ride it out. So, here's some fluff to chew on: If you could introduce any character from American history to run for president in 2008, who would you pick? Who has the qualities you think we most need now, which the current crop of candidates doesn't offer?

My immediate answer would be George Marshall, but that probably would be my answer in most election years.


[posted by Callimachus]

I'm a day late to this one, but the Weekly World News is shutting down. This really is the end for journalism in this country. Kiss goodbye to the "best damn investigative reporting on the planet."

The man who shaped its coverage -- and wrote my beloved Ed Anger columns -- died in 2004. Verily, down the years, people shall behold his work and say, "There was a journalist!"

You'll still be able to read it online, but it won't be the same as the grocery checkout line.

And remember when, for once, the mock news became the real news:

In 2001's anthrax scare, AMI's office in Boca Raton was targeted, and a photo editor was killed.

And therein lies a different tale, now forgotten.

Comments ... Again

I think Don Surber is right about this:

The blogger is responsible for what is on the blog. A blogger who leaves an obscene or libelous comment up should be held accountable for that comment. You own it. It’s yours.

Maybe that's just my journalism background, where you can be as liable for a letter to the editor -- or a paid ad -- as you are for what you wrote and put your name on. This is a publication, not a conversation. This is a public space, but because the owner chooses to make it public. A bar owner is responsible for what goes on in his taproom.

If you don't have time to police the comments, you don't have time to blog. If you get too many comments, and you know they include vile material, get someone to keep up with them, or shut down the threads when you can't be there to monitor them.

I know some bloggers, of all political stripes, have essentially become captives to their commentariat. The fleas are running the dog. That's a recipe for disaster.

Castles in Spain

[posted by Callimachus]

In a mythical land, a very rich man decides "Poverty is the great moral issue of our century," and he runs for president based on that message.

His essential problem is that his program expects the poor to 1. recognize themselves as hopelessly poor and 2. identify the federal government as the paternal institution that will lead them out of it because they can't do it themselves. That tends not to be how people in this mythical land think of themselves or their world.

But the thing his critics most concentrate on is not this, but his own wealth. Which is odd because his critics are often able to articulate the argument that the best way to make everyone less poor also allows some people to become extremely, obscenely rich. And that if you simply transfer wealth from the rich to the poor, the poor get no better. Like Dolly Levi, they know "Money is like manure," you have to spread it around in a way that makes things grow.

Like, if the rich man has a chance to build a small, modest house he might spend $80,000 and that will make 100 working people somewhat richer -- from the filing clerk at the deeds office to the bricklayer to the subcontractor who provides the cement mixer. But if he builds a big honking mansion, he might spend millions and make 1,000 working people somewhat richer. Or if he gets a $20 Cost Cutters haircut and tips $2, that's $2 in some stylist's pocket. But if he spends hundreds on his hair ... you get the idea.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Failure to Communicate

[posted by Callimachus]

I should just stop reading Memeorandum. It does me no good and makes me mean-mad like Tom Joad.

I see a link to this opinion piece which seems to me to raise an essential question -- the one I've been grappling with all through this war/occupation: This ought to have been the "liberals' war." It promised the projection of American might in the interest, partially if not largely, of a humanitarian cause. It came at a moment when national interest dovetailed with a bid to make a suffering swath of the world a better place. Nation-building was a liberal cause. Cleansing the world of our bad bargains from the Cold War was a liberal cause.

I understand people who saw that and were tempted by it but backed off out of suspicious of Bush and company and their former unwillingness to do any of that, of Rumsfeld's known contempt for nation-building, and of the evidently muddled motivations. All us old Cold War liberals who weren't outright pacifists had to pause and ponder and cross that bridge, or not.

But so many seemed never to acknowledge the humanitarian justification, or that such a thing even could exist. So many seemed to focus so entirely on Bush and his administration that they never bothered to address the thing in the context of what a liberal foreign policy and military policy ought to look like. Or whether such a thing would be worth doing with an administration they trusted.

It baffled me, because some of our heroes among the eloquent champions of liberalism around the world were persuaded -- tempted, if you must -- by the humanitarian justification for the war. If not America, who will do it? If not now, when it nearly converged with her national interest, when? It seemed to me that many self-identifying liberals at that watershed moment revealed themselves as more America-hostile than essentially liberal. It was where I and others finally parted ways with many former political bedfellows.

It didn't turn out anything like I had hoped. Those who acknowledged the humanitarian justification but were overruled by their suspicion of the administration's motives or competence have the right to say they were both liberal and astute. More so than I was. Those who merely trashed the whole thing as blood-for-oil and naked Israel-inspired imperialism, and who write as though the alternative to overthrowing Saddam was to live forever in February 2003, can't claim that. But they are the ones who most loudly do.

Anyway, the above column was written by one Jonah Goldberg, whose name I see kicked (literally) around the Web a lot. He seems to be a neo-con legacy of some sort. But his argument was essentially the same one used by José Ramos Horta and Václav Havel and André Glucksmann, updated with some quotes from current Democratic candidates. As with John Kerry in 2004, none of them has answered the dilemma to my satisfaction; none seems to have tried. If I could ask it, I might frame it like this: With reference to both military and diplomatic themes, and in light of Oil-for-Food revelations and the blackmailability of our old allies in Europe (cf. the recent deal with Libya over the doctors), what is a post-Cold War liberal American policy for dealing with rogue nations, former U.S. allies who also happen to be genocidal maniacs, and dangerous regional tyrants? Does our commitment to freedom and liberties and the rights of man die at the borders? What should be the role and weight of human rights and the better angels of human nature in guiding our decisions about national interest?

So I see via Memeorandum one of the progressive (for want of a better word) bloggers has weighed in on this column. And it is one who is often mentioned with respect by many of the un-progressive (for want of ...) people I read and respect. So I follow the link to find an answer. But I don't find one. The question never gets consideration. The whole post is an extended, foul-mouthed ad hominem rant, with an impenetrable title and nothing to even explain the depth of the fury. It amounts to "How dare he ask that?"

It's hardly even ad hominem because the homo in question never appears. The piece just assumes we know the name and know exactly why it's impossible for him to ask that question. Perhaps in the echo chamber, that is true. If the problem is Goldberg, she never explains that. If the argument is simply rubbish and the facts are simply wrong, as claimed, she never shows you how. The blogger can't be bothered. And frankly, after venting about it thus, neither can I.

Labels: , ,


[posted by Callimachus]

It's been a year since I discontinued the "Carnival of the Etymologies." It was just too much work. But, as I've often been reminded, people seem more interested in that than anything else I write here. Which I suppose makes sense; it's the one thing you couldn't get anywhere else.

So maybe I'll revisit it from time to time, but I'm not going to shackle myself to it as a regular feature.

At the end, I was doing it as a "guess if these words are related" quiz. I'll continue that, for now. The pairing for today is cult and occult. Make your guess, then read on.

Cult comes via French from Latin cultus "care, cultivation, worship," originally "tended, cultivated." Literally, it is the past participle of the verb colere "to till." Cult was rarely used in English after the 17th century; it revived in mid-19th century writings as a word for ancient or primitive rituals.

Colere also is the source colony; in addition to "to till" the verb meant "to inhabit," which, in ancient times, generally was the same thing as "to till." Its Greek cousin provides the second element in bucolic.

Cultus also is familiar in culture which originally came to English in the 15th century with the literal sense "the tilling of land." The figurative sense of "cultivation through education" is first attested in 1510. The meaning "the intellectual side of civilization" is from 1805; that of "collective customs and achievements of a people" is from 1867.

Yeats, knowing it or not, wove the two etymological threads of cultus -- the intellectual and the spiritual -- in his work.

"For without culture or holiness, which are always the gift of a very few, a man may renounce wealth or any other external thing, but he cannot renounce hatred, envy, jealousy, revenge. Culture is the sanctity of the intellect."

So what about occult? It comes from Latin occultus "hidden, concealed, secret," and it is the past participle of occulere "to cover over, to conceal," which is a compound of ob "over" and a verb related to celare "to hide."

The two words, cult and occult, seem more closely related now because occult moved into some specific sense in the 17th century that connected it to cult-like supernatural pseudo-sciences (magic, alchemy, astrology, etc.).

Among the Modern English words derived from celare are cell and related cellular, celluloid, cellulite, and cellophane; cellar (from Latin cellarium "pantry, storeroom," literally "group of cells"); ceiling; and conceal.

Latin cella "a small room, hut" was borrowed into Celtic languages and forms the Kil- at the start of many place names in the Celtic lands, where it means "cell (of a hermit)," or sometimes "church, burial place."

Latin cilium "eyelid" also is related to celare; hence supercilious, from Latin superciliosus "haughty, arrogant," via the notion of raising the eyebrow to express haughtiness.

The Proto-Indo-European root of celare is *kel- "conceal," which has many modern descendants across the map. In the Germanic languages, the initial sound became an h-, and the root is represented by helmet, hall, hole, holster, and Hell, all connected by the notion of "covering or concealing."

The Greek descendants of the root include the verb kalyptein "to cover, conceal," which turns up in English in Calypso, the name of the sea nymph in the "Odyssey," whose name literally means "hidden, hider" (originally she was a death goddess). Linguists aren't sure what her connection, if any, is to the West Indian type of song (so called from 1934). Kalyptein also forms the second half of apocalypse, from Greek apokalyptein "uncover," a compound of apo- "from" and kalyptein. John of Patmos' book Apokalypsis was rendered literally into English as Revelations by Wyclif c.1380. Since it contains the Christian end-of-the-world story, the name has come to denote any such event.

So, in short, cult and occult are not related.


Warred Churr Chill

Up close and personal with the ugliness. Where "warts and all" is a redundancy.

How Life Functions for Iraqis

[posted by Callimachus]

Michael J. Totten's latest from Baghdad is up, and it's excellent, as you would expect. He rides along with the U.S. military and watches the interaction with the locals.

The family waved us goodbye.

“Ma Salema,” I said and felt slightly guilty for being there.

We walked back to the Humvees.

“Do you believe him?” I said to the lieutenant. I have no idea how to tell when an Iraqi is lying.

“I do,” he said. “I think he’s a good guy. His story matched what happened.”

“He didn’t want to answer your question, though,” I said, “about who he is afraid of.”

There are terrible stories around here about the masked men of the death squads. Sometimes they break into people’s houses and asking the children who they’re afraid of. If they name the enemies of the death squad, they are spared. If they name the death squad itself, they and their families are killed. It’s a wicked interrogation because it cannot be beaten – the children don’t know which death squad has broken into the house.

“He didn’t want to say who he’s afraid of because he’s afraid,” Lieutenant Wolf said. “If the insurgents find out he gave information to us, or that he helped us, he’s dead.”

Plenty of fodder for observation, whatever your point of view on the thing. But I predict our friends on the left, who attempted to strafe him earlier and missed the target by miles, won't be happy, even though he did what they dared him to do. Not that he cares. Go, read, tip.

UPDATE: Dave Schuler points out that this recent Iraqi view from the other side of the door, so to speak, makes a nice bookend to Totten's:

[The American soldiers] talked about how bad Adhamyia is , as one of them said I hate it there , we are attacked all day long , we can't do things like what we are doing now[. T]hen they left the house and started to check other houses in the block[.] I figured that it's better for both of us , It's better for the US troops to be friendly with the people in the neighborhood as they will be safer , and better for the civilians if the troops feel safe in their area so they will stay there so this means that the neighborhood will be safer[. T]hat's my opinion but many disagree with me , such as my neighbor who said that they are the root of every trouble in Iraq , they caused everything[. I] told him that if what you say is true , then you should blame the US government not the soldiers they are people like you and me , they do what they have been told , they didn't choose it[. H]e didn't agree with that , he asked me , what about the people who were killed by the US troops only because they were in the street the minute they got attacked ?

Bumper Stickers

I pass this bumper sticker every day as I walk to work. I've had plenty of time to memorize it and think about it as I walk. It reads:

Fascism: Concentrated private control of wealth, control of information, massive investment/manufacture of arms and military equipment, suppression of labor movements -- Sound familiar??

The trick is a transparent one: Briefly describe a set of situations that paint a twisted but recognizable picture of current events, then attach the description at random to the most alarming historical term you can find. Then present the whole thing backwards, with a colon to suggest this is actually a definition, and attempt to shock your reader into believing your deception is anything but.

Fascism is different things in different places, but it always included some key elements that the above commentary excludes:

Fascism is an authoritarian political ideology (generally tied to a mass movement) that considers individual and other societal interests subordinate to the needs of the state, and seeks to forge a type of national unity, usually based on, but not limited to, ethnic, cultural, or racial attributes. Various scholars attribute different characteristics to fascism, but the following elements are usually seen as its integral parts: nationalism, authoritarianism, militarism, corporatism, collectivism, totalitarianism, anti-communism, racism and opposition to economic and political liberalism.

As for the "concentrated private control of wealth," not only is that not fascism, it's pretty close to the opposite of it. In Germany especially, the "socialism" element of "National Socialism" was crucial, and in all cases, while individual fascist governments may have courted and deferred to private property owners, the presumption was the demands of the state, as a collective expression of the nation, trumped private control of anything.

It would be just as possible to cobble together a bumper sticker out of selected and distorted planks from the Democratic Party platform (gun control, opposition to religious authority, demonization of "predatory" capitalists) and call it fascism, and I would not be surprised if this had been done already.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Because of the Google Traffic, That's Why

[posted by Callimachus]

Because my co-blogger wants it, and in honor of Hillary Clinton in one of the few moments lately I felt genuine sympathy for her, here is an etymological tour of boob-words. I tried to keep it short, but the cup runneth over, so to speak.

Breast is Old English breost (the modern spelling conforms to the Scottish and northern English dialectal pronunciation), from Proto-Germanic *breustam (cf. German brust, Gothic brusts), which is perhaps from a Proto-Indo-European base *bhreus-/*bhrus- "to swell, sprout."

Tit generally is regarded as modern slang, but it is identical with Old English titt, a variant of teat. There is no continuous history of the word, however, and the modern slang plural tits, attested from 1928, seems to be a recent reinvention from teat, used without awareness that it is a throwback to the original form. Titty, however, is on record from 1746 as "a dial. and nursery dim. of teat."

Boobs is attested from 1929 in U.S. slang, probably from the much older term boobies (late 17th century), which is related to 17th century bubby and perhaps ultimately from Latin puppa, which is literally "little girl," hence, in child-talk, "breast" (cf. Old French pope, popel "breast," Italian poppa, German dialectal Bubbi, etc.). Certain women of my acquaintance still refer to their sets casually as "the girls."

Jugs for "woman's breasts" is first recorded in 1920 in Australian slang, almost certainly short for milk jugs. The word jug itself has an obscure origin, first attested in 1538 as jugge. It may be connected to the mid-16th century word jug meaning "a low woman, a maidservant," which is a pet alteration of a common personal name such as Joan or Judith. One can think of some reasons why women's names often became words for liquid-carrying vessels (e.g. demijohn, a partial translation and word-play from French damejeanne, literally "Lady Jane"). All this is speculation, but it may put the origin of jug a little closer to the modern slang use.

Rack for "a woman's breasts" (especially if protuberant) is c.1980 slang almost certainly from the earlier slang sense "set of antlers" (1945).

Knockers for a woman's breasts is recorded from 1941, from knocker in the sense of "door banger" (1598). bazooms "woman's breasts" is a 1955 American English slang alteration of bosoms.

Which brings us to the politer terms. Bosom, like breast is almost unchanged from Old English, where it was written bosm. It comes from a common West Germanic word, perhaps from the same base as breast or perhaps from Proto-Indo-European *bhaghus "arm," in which case the primary notion would be "enclosure formed by the breast and the arms."

As a euphemism for "a woman's breasts" bosom is attested from 1959, but bosomy "big-breasted" is recorded from 1928. An earlier attempt to coin a euphemism for "big-breasted" reached back to ancient Greek for bathukolpian
(1825), from Homer's bathykolpos, literally "deep-bosomed."

Cleavage originally was a technical term in geology (1816). The sense of "cleft between a woman's breasts in low-cut clothing" is first recorded in 1946, when it was defined in a "Time" magazine article [Aug. 5] as the "Johnston Office trade term for the shadowed depression dividing an actress' bosom into two distinct sections."

It comes from one of the two cleaves in Modern English, which, annoyingly, mean opposite things. This one is from Old English cleofan "to split, separate" (a class II strong verb, past tense cleaf, past participle clofen). The old, strong past tense clave still was alive at the time of the King James Bible; and the past participle cloven survives, though mostly in compounds.

Chest was in Old English as cest, but only with the meaning "box, coffer." It is an early Germanic borrowing from Latin cista, which is in turn from Greek kiste "a box, basket," from a root meaning "woven container." The meaning was extended to "thorax" by 1530 (replacing breast in this sense), on the metaphor of the ribs as a "box" for the organs.

A common Indo-European root for "breast" words, represented in Latin mamma and probably from the child's word for "mother," is not much represented in native English words, though it appears in foreign borrowings such as mammary (17th century, from French) and mammal (19th century, from Linnaeus). It may also have provided the first part of the English city name Manchester, which is first recorded in 1086 as Mameceastre and earlier (4th century) as Mamucio, the original Celtic name. The root of this could be Celtic *mamm "breast," also "breast-like hill" with an Old English ceaster "Roman town" attached to the end.

The Greek word for "woman's breast" was mastos, from the base madan "to be wet, to flow," from Proto-Indo-European *mad- "wet, moist, dripping" (cf. Latin madere "be moist"). It is represented in mastectomy and, surprisingly, in mastodon, from the name given to the extinct beasts in 1806 by Georges Cuvier, meaning literally "breast-tooth," so called from the nipple-like projections on the crowns of the fossil molars.


Dangerous Questions

[posted by Callimachus]

Cpl. John Matthew Bishop, a Marine serving his second tour in Iraq, wrote an essay that ran in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He tells of the first death of a friend in the war, a loss that still haunts him despite the other deaths that followed. And he takes the opportunity of our attention to his grief to give us the straight talk we need to hear:

First, war should never be an enterprise undertaken by nations that require certainty. Uncertainty and setbacks are a part of war and a daily reality on the streets of Iraq. No professional soldier feels betrayed when, in the course of a mission, he encounters hiccups, dilemmas, or bad odds. Nor does he feel betrayed because his mission involves death, for that is the predictable plight of a soldier: to kill and to be killed, to "do and die" as chance or destiny dictates. But to watch one's brethren cut down as America alternately pounces, vacillates, backpedals and chases her tail - this is a betrayal beyond reckoning.

Second, as great patriots such as Daniel die for causes they presume their nation is committed to achieving, a great nation, in turn, accepts nothing less than the victory for which it has bade its sons and daughters bleed.

On either part - soldier and nation - there is the presumption of honor.

And so regardless of what determination America reaches concerning the fate of Iraq, I urge her, so long as she exists, never to enter another war unless she goes to win. Should she ask her sons and daughters to take up arms, may she honor their sacrifices with the unflagging conviction and strength of conscience that is necessary to achieve victory. And if she cannot stomach the stakes involved, if the sacrifices of young men such as Daniel do not bolster her resolve but merely plunge her deeper into moral confusion and hysteria, may she, for her own good and for the good of the world, cease pretending at war altogether.

Right. War may be "diplomacy continued by other means," or whatever the phrase is. But it also is a fight to the death, for those actually in it. Don't start it if you don't mean to win it. Don't think you can just walk away in the middle of it. Don't vote for it, then say you didn't really have the time to think about what you were voting for, or say you only voted for it because you thought it would be easy.

And that path leads very quickly into the uncomfortable set of questions Americans generallly avoid.

Here we are, again, finally, in Vietnam. Iraq is not Vietnam. But the homefront now is the homefront then: Free speech producing a steady stream of artful anti-American propaganda eagerly embraced by the enemy, important political and media leaders on both sides with agendas that transcend the mission on the battlefield, a media whose prime purpose is to shove the biggest spash instantly into publication and then go get another one 15 minutes later.

The weaknesses are woven into our identity, our American-ness. They cannot be cured out of us. Which is why our successful wars typically have been run in parallel with repression of dissent, suspension of rights, propaganda, and something close to temporary totalitarianism. Until 1950 or so, the home front was the lesser danger when America went to war. Now it is the battlefield.

Now we face a patient and ruthless enemy with an ideology from the Dark Ages that yet knows how to manipulate the latest technology and exploit every non-military weakness we have.

Corporal Bishop says: Do it right, or don't do it at all.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Tammy Faye

Just Remember

We still have friends in France. Lots of them. Though I doubt there are many government ministers or journalists in this set. Quite touching, though. Thank you to whomever arranged it. I wish my D-Day veteran uncles could see this, though one's long dead and the other doesn't use computers.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

"Sort of a primal scream"

[Posted by reader_iam]

The way that Peggy Noonan described what she thinks may be the relationship/reaction that the average American viewer has with/to TV news coverage (to include, I would guess, commentary), to Brian Lamb in a Book Notes interview from 1990, being re-run right now on C-Span II (Book-TV).

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"He was a delightful human being"

[Posted by reader_iam]

Bob Novak, describing John F. Kennedy--after reminiscing about his mid-20s self riding in a convertible with JFK, though the intended context is larger, I think--in an interview with Tim Russert during the latter's CNBC show, airing right now. (I don't know whether it's a first-run or not.)

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Does This Seem "Unhinged" To You?

[Posted by reader_iam]

Honestly, does it?

Frankly, the use of the word "unhinged" to describe what's shown in this video strikes me as far more over the top than the clip of Guiliani at a rally, even when he uses the word--gasp!--"bullshit." I mean, I've seen little old ladies in Iowa battling over the same handicapped space at the local grocery get more exercised than that. And I certainly have "screamed"--or just plain shouted--more loudly and vehemently when barking my shin in the middle of the night, on the way to the bathroom.

Maybe you just had to be there, at that cop union rally back in 1992.

Or something.

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Friday Cat Blogging

Petite Jamilla, "veils." She did an amazing veil dance in the performance we saw.


Snark vs. Smart 2

[posted by Callimachus]

Here's another object lesson in the stupidity of snark. It doesn't help that the poor fool picked as his target our friend Michael J. Totten, one of the tightest and most straight-up writers working his way through the Middle East.

Michael J. always describes what is in front of him. He tells you what he sees, and I, and many others, have learned you can trust that for exactly what it is: What one man sees as he goes to these places. If your narrative of what's going on there doesn't have room for what he reports, you better re-check the narrative.

Michael J. is in the category with Michael Yon and a few others who are free from the big-media editing machine and the Narratives-Ready-to-Eat that professional journalists carry with them everywhere. [Remember, I've worked among them for 20-some years.]

These two don't try to paint big pictures, though they will tell you what they think the big pictures are, and what makes them come to their conclusions. It's based on what they see when they go there.

Mr. Snark doesn't go anywhere. He reads stuff online and if it suggests Iraq isn't quite the simplistic fiasco he insists it is, he savages the author. Never mind that one of them is in Iraq regularly and the other isn't.

As if to show how far out of touch with reality he is, our snarker sits at his keyboard and calls a writer who has gone into the war zone to find out what's happening there a ... you guessed it: chickenhawk.

If the gasbag right truly believed in this occupation they call a war, not only would they enlist, but they'd reach out to the left to build support here at home. Instead they resort to petty insults and cheap shots, trying to rub our noses in their superiority.

Now, the bit about war supporters needing to engage skeptics in respectful and persuasive discussion might almost be a point worth making. Except that "petty insults and cheap shots, trying to rub our noses in their superiority" is exactly what Mr. Snark is doing and not at all what Michael J. is doing. And Mr. Snark clearly has no openness to being persuaded of anything on this matter -- he's already decided his den is a better place to understand Baghdad than, well, Baghdad.

The trigger for all this is a throwaway line in Totten's piece, in which Totten notes that some very Red State characters who work as contractors in the Middle East come away with a worldliness and sophistication that can run rings around the faux cosmopolitanism of many a sophisticate who considers skiing vacations in the French Alps to be globetrotting.

Willie and Larry work construction for private companies in harsh places like Iraq and Afghanistan. They are both well-rounded individuals with Red State tastes and political views and a worldliness and cosmopolitanism that surpasses that of most people who live in the Blue States.

Note, please, that he is talking about regional identities, not merely political sensibilities. Though he identifies them by their common handles nowadays, which are based on political splits, he's talking about cultures here, not votes.

The line is pegged to two specific characters with whom Totten crosses paths. They aren't made out to be great men or heroes. That's not his style at all. But they are recognizable types. I know some contractors, too, who rarely left the Deep South before they got swept up in this post-911 adventure, and it's been fascinating to watch them grow, yet not change. The skill set they evolve riding motorcycles up Lookout Mountain or hunting water moccasins or dealing with small town planning commissions and traffic cops finds remarkable opportunities to connect with the strange-but-familiar realities in Iraq.

But Totten isn't telling you "this is how everyone is here." He's telling you, as always, "this is what I saw." And, for those of us not in the place, what he sees is an essential part of understanding what is there. When he writes, "Lots of them [soldiers] are from Georgia and Texas," he means those he encountered. It probably has something to do with the units he moves among. He's not making a statistical statement about the U.S. military.

Snarky just doesn't get it.

If you want to know the big statistics, which are another essential part, you have to go get them. And Mr. Snark, accustomed perhaps to being spoon-fed truths by Huffington Post et al, proves singularly inept at this.

Totten writes, "Individual cities-within-a-city are home to millions of people all by themselves. The sheer enormity of the place puts the almost daily car bomb attacks into perspective. The odds that you personally will be anywhere near the next car bomb or IED are microscopic."

Snarky scorns this by citing a news article that includes the line, "The latest fatalities took the military's losses in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion to 3,625, according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures." He then calculates a percentage based on that number and concludes it's 1 percent. Measurable. Totten is wrong.

Except Totten never made such a statement about the U.S. military. He's talking about the city of Baghdad, with its millions of residents, not the 150,000 or so Americans in uniform in the country. Even if he were, the 3,625 figure is total casualties from all causes. If you break it down, IEDs (1,503) and car bombs (102) account for less than half of military fatalities.

How many ways can Snarky get it wrong in just a few graphs? Now there's a statistic I'm not ready to tackle.


Two Things I Don't Care About

[Posted by reader_iam]

Hillary Clinton's breasts or how she dresses them.

OK, two more: The breasts of any other candidate or candidate's wife, or how they dress them.

I do care about gravity as it increasingly relates to me personally. But that's a) narcissistic, b) none of your business, and therefore c) enough of that.

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At Least it Wasn't a $400 Haircut

[posted by Callimachus]

More punishment for America for turning loose the media on a presidential campaign more than 16 months before the actual voting. Hillary's jubblies. Yes, she has them. Other headlines to look forward to: "Obama: Dress left or dress right?" "Is that cologne or raw pheromones that waft from Mike Gravel?" "How Will McCain be Sworn in if He Can't, Y'Know, Lift His Arms?"

Council Winners

[posted by Callimachus]

Watchers Council winners have been posted for this week.

First place in the council went to Harry Potter and Ostrich Syndrome by Bookworm Room, which puts forth an argument that might seem to run somewhat counter to the usual conservative view of pop culture: "In the last five years, through a series of rousing movies and books, our children have been introduced to some of the best conservative thinking ever put to paper or put on film."

Second place was a three-way tie between Are Conservatives Really Hoping for Another 9/11?, a brave post by Right Wing Nut House -- Rick thinks deep down some of them would find it a quick path to validation at a time when all seems lost, and I'm inclined to agree; A President's Legacy Quick Fix Playground -- The Middle East by Soccer Dad, which scores Bush's rush to peace in the Mideast; and my piece against the argument that goes "terrorists kill people; peanuts kill people; why should we be more alarmed by terrorists than we are by allergies?"

Votes also went to Pope Reaffirms Teachings of Vatican II (UPDATED) by Rhymes With Right, which did a useful job of putting a theological issue into perspective for us non-Catholics, or perhaps non-seminarians; and to Bush Muzzled Sturgeon General -- Thank God! by Big Lizards.

Outside the council, the winner was Myths and Realities of the George Bush Presidency at TCS Daily.

Votes also went to Politics of Terror Reign Supreme at All Things Beautiful; Preventing the West from Understanding Jihad at American Thinker; Keith Ellison and the "Reichstag" at FrontPage Magazine; and a piece that tickled my fancy, A Petition asking Whittington to Apologize at Louisianaconservative.com.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Astute (pr. "ass-toot")

[posted by Callimachus]`

Which is richer? A blurb from gasbag Glenn Greenwald praising as "astute" a leftish attack blogger who posts a piece attacking a right-side blogger for writing a sentence that runs on too long.

Or the very first comment, which, from a liberal blogger sitting (as far as I can tell) in the U.S. calls a conservative blogger bound for al Anbar a ... you guessed it: "chickenhawk."

As for the attacked blogger's allegation that the sole point of Democratic legislative tactics with regard to Iraq is, "staining the President's hands with blood and thereby profiting politically from the situation," I suppose it overstates the case, as charged. Certainly staining his own hands is one of Bush's proven capabilities.

But it is not an unreasonable reading, given the lack of a coherent explanation for what else they might be up to. Saying abandoning Iraq will make us safer, but then pulling off the protection of U.S. citizens who report suspicious activities at home; talking of more diplomacy without explaining who you have diplomacy with among terrorists; saying we'll remove ourselves as targets in Iraq but still keep troops in-country to hunt al Qaida without explaining how to do that without being a target.

In the same news cycle you have Barack Obama saying our leaving Iraq likely will spark a bloodbath, but that's not our problem, and John Kerry lying that America's abandonment of the battlefield won't spark a bloodbath, because it didn't in Vietnam.

And all the while the only thing they seem to do in harmony is complain that Bush is just drawing out the decision to end the war so the next president, presumably a Democrat, will have to take the blame for the retreat.

It reminds me of the old "Life" cereal commercial with the kids pushing the bowl back and forth, saying "I'm not gonna eat it." It doesn't necessarily imply they're saying, "you eat it." Because in the end they find a little kid and get him to eat it. Down there in Washington, however, there's only the two parties.

[Obama's off-the-cuff answer also included a perhaps-telling omission: "We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan, which we haven't done. Those of us who care about Darfur don't think it would be a good idea." As also, incidentally, think those of us who "care" about the U.S. military.]

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No Friend Left Behind Update

[posted by Callimachus]

Judith at Kesher Talk has been doing a great job keeping up with the saga of Nour al-Kal, the Iraqi woman who worked with murdered U.S. journalist Stephen Vincent, and who was attacked when he was but survived. Her bid to find a safe haven in the United States was aided by Vincent's widow, Lisa Ramaci-Vincent. It finally has a happy ending, I am pleased to report.

Here is her latest:

Last week I attended a panel discussion (video below) on the accomplishments and plight of "fixers." These are natives of war-torn areas who help Western journalists by - in the words of one participant on the panel - finding hotel rooms, briefing them on the local customs, ethnic groups, and political situations, guiding them through unsafe neighborhoods, setting up interviews, translating during interviews, translating transcripts and articles, and much more. As George Packer said, "Without my fixer I would not have been able to get anything done in Iraq."

With respect to that class in Iraq, Judith gets to the pertinent question:

Although they can make a case for refugee status, our government has allowed few of them to repatriate to the US. Does the US have an obligation to help people whose work with our journalists put them and their families at risk? Especially now, as the NYTimes blithely admits that its advocated troop withdrawal will probably result in a bloodbath, how does the plight of those who sided with us fit into our national debate about immigration?

She admits the difficulty of distinguishing genuine refugees from infiltrators. But like me, she knows it's worth the risk to do the right thing. Our lives already are at risk. Our national soul is, too.

Stuck in the Senate

[posted by Callimachus]

Sen. John Kerry said during a C-Span appearance that fears of a bloodbath after the US withdrawal from Vietnam never materialized. He says he’s met survivors of the “reeducation camps” who are thriving in modern Vietnam. An award-winning investigation by the Orange County Register concludes that at least 165,000 people perished in the camps.

Hat tip Don Surber, who has the reaction that suggested the title here.

But Kerry isn't stupid. He knows his history. So do many of those on the left who talk this way. They know, too, that history can be rewritten if you paint lies over facts often enough.

More and more, like I said before, I miss bloggers like Vietpundit to set my fellow Americans straight. Here, he translates the work of North Vietnamese writer Pham Thi Hoai:

The Vietnam war did not result in the collapse of the United States. Rather, it led to the disappearance of the southern Republic of Vietnam, a nation that once dominated half of the country and which was no less legitimate than its brother in the north.

After liberation, however, southern society was subjected to intense repression: prison, concentration camp, the seizure of property, discrimination against bi-racial children, the purge of intellectuals, the destruction and prohibition of southern culture, the complete erasure of numerous careers and many lives. These are not the actions of righteous winners. Nor are they evidence of the superiority of the new regime in relation to its recently vanquished enemy.

Thirty years after the war, the country has never once acknowledged the painful exodus of almost 1 million southern Vietnamese, the “boat people.” It is as if they are no longer Vietnamese and have been excommunicated from the unified nation. It is as if the country belongs to only a single group of Vietnamese but not to another. It is as if they believed that national feeling can grow naturally from out of a deep hole of division and hatred, like a rice plant growing out from a trench.

Or his friend, Minh Duc, who responded to this with:

I have forgotten too and was reminded of it by him. But unlike him, I am not ashame[d] - not at all. Who would want to remember such a thing. Who would want to remember the savegery, the barbarism, the humiliation, the dishonor, the shame, the fear, and the helplessness that befallen upon us. Who would want to remember that once we were so far from Heaven that Hell is not a metaphor but a living reality.

It is coming again. A second great shame for my country in my lifetime; a second great abandonment of allies and friends in the face of an enemy; a second great defeat by an enemy who never won, and held, a battlefield in the length of the war. A purely political defeat.

Who lost Iraq? We did. Me, you, all of us. The big nation-state has yet to learn how to win this new kind of war of elephants against fleas. Call it what you will: Fourth Generation warfare is one label:

"Fourth generation warfare uses all available networks-political, economic, social, and military-to convince the enemy's political decision makers that their strategic goals are either unachievable or too costly for the perceived benefit. It is an evolved form of insurgency."

You lose when you let them convince you the price you're paying is too high. You lose when you let them turn you against one another, instead of against them. You lose when they massacre a village (did they kill the babies first, or last?), and your reaction is to get angry at America.

Shouldn't the same people who argue we should react to terrorism by refusing to be terrorized, react to a 4GW fight by refusing to become demoralized?

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[posted by Callimachus]

It's difficult for me to imagine what good justification there can be -- socially or politically -- for this.

Congressional Democrats today failed to include a provision in homeland security legislation that would protect the public from being sued for reporting suspicious behavior that may lead to a terrorist attack, according to House Republican leaders.

... Republicans wanted the provision included in final legislation, crafted yesterday during a House and Senate conference committee, that will implement final recommendations from the September 11 commission.

Mr. King and Rep. Steve Pearce, New Mexico Republican, sponsored the provision after a group of Muslim imams filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against US Airways and unknown "John Doe" passengers. The imams were removed from US Airways Flight 300 on Nov. 20 after fellow passengers on the Minneapolis-to-Phoenix flight complained about the imams' suspicious behavior.

So far today, their leadership has been silent on the topic. I'm waiting for our blogfriends on the left to write something that will explain it to me in a way that makes it anything more than political suicide -- even if it remains national suicide.

But so far I can find nothing there, either. Meanwhile, the mill is grinding.

No Friend Left Behind Update

Our allies are alert to the realities. "It's the right thing to do."

Before withdrawing its 480 combat troops from Iraq next month, Denmark is pulling out about a dozen Iraqi interpreters and their families.

The translators have worked with the Danes in the southern city of Basra, a risky job that has turned them into traitors in the eyes of militants fighting the U.S.-led coalition. The government decided in June to offer all the interpreters working for Danish forces a chance to seek asylum.

The United States and Britain have been reluctant to accept large numbers of Iraqi asylum-seekers — including those who worked for their military or civilian operations. The Danish move came only after months of heated debate.

"It's the right thing to do," said Capt. Joergen Christian Nyholm, who returned to Denmark in February after commanding a mechanized infantry company in Basra for six months. "My personal opinion is that they are at a pretty high risk."

The issue of what to do with translators and other aides to coalition forces highlights the larger question of Iraqi refugees.

Since the start of the war, some 2 million Iraqis have fled to neighboring Syria and Jordan. An equal number are displaced within Iraq. Only a fraction has been admitted to the West, which fears a flood of refugees or letting in potential terrorists.

"It is very difficult to acknowledge the seriousness of the Iraqi refugee crisis without conceding the extent of the policy failures in Iraq which have precipitated the crisis," said Tom Porteous, London director of Human Rights Watch.

Ironically, Sweden, which isn't even part of the coalition, has taken in more Iraqi refugees than any other Western country has — though it is now tightening its asylum rules.

The United States has admitted fewer than 800 Iraqis since the start of the war but has promised to take in nearly 7,000 more starting later this year.

"We're working aggressively to try to process Iraqi refugees who have been classified as refugees by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said this month. "While we want to meet our humanitarian obligations here, we also want to make sure we do so in such a way that our borders and the American people are protected."

Particularly at risk are the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians who have worked for — or are currently employed by — U.S.-led coalition members. Their work has involved everything from translating to driving. Many of their colleagues have died in attacks directed at coalition forces; others have been abducted and killed outside of work.

"These people are particularly targeted, and of course people know who they are," said Bjarte Vandvik, secretary-general of the European Council of Refugees and Exiles.

One Iraqi refugee living in Stockholm, Sweden, said he quit his job for a Baghdad construction company in June 2005 after it was contracted to do work for U.S. troops at the Al-Taji military base. He worried that working for the Americans would make him a target for militants — fears that proved well-founded three months later when the head of the company was killed, he said.

"It was very dangerous," said the 42-year-old engineer. "There was only one road to get there, and anyone could watch you go in." He asked not to be named because he feared for the safety of family members still living in Iraq.

In May, a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives proposed that over the next four years the U.S. accept up to 60,000 Iraqis who worked for at least a year with the U.S. or U.N., affiliated contractors or subcontractors or American-based non-governmental organizations. The Senate is considering similar legislation.

Translators may get special attention. In June, the U.S. government launched a resettlement program to process Iraqis living in Jordan who have worked as translators for the U.S. government or military or who worked for the Coalition Provisional Authority. The program provides a way to apply for refugee status separate from the UNHCR referral process and will be run by the International Organization for Migration.

Britain granted asylum outright to about 100 Iraqi individuals and families from 2003 to 2005, the latest year for which statistics are available, according to reports posted on the Home Office Web site. In addition, more than 2,500 Iraqis who were not recognized as refugees were allowed to stay in the country on a temporary basis.

The initial refusal rate for applications from Iraq in 2005 was 91 percent, though the number accepted may have risen after appeals. The Home Office said final figures after appeals for Iraqi applications were not available.

Smaller European allies are also grappling with the issue.

Poland has a few dozen Iraqis working for its 900 troops in the Qadisiyah and Wasit provinces. The current mission ends Dec. 31 and could be extended, but Defense Ministry spokesman Jaroslaw Rybak said the government is already discussing how to deal with the interpreters in the event of a withdrawal.

"We are aware of the problem and we are working on it," he said. "We will not leave these people alone."

Spain, which withdrew from Iraq in 2004, offered asylum to dozens of Iraqis who helped Spanish troops or diplomats, the government said.

The Foreign Ministry in Italy, which pulled out of Iraq in 2005, could not say whether it had made any similar offer.

Czech Defense Ministry spokeswoman Jan Pejsek said that country, which has 90 troops under British command in southern Iraq, had no plans to make any special arrangements for the "few translators" working for the Czechs. "This may change when we'll be pulling out," he added.

In Denmark, pressure intensified on the government to do something for the 22 interpreters working for the Danish troops after reports surfaced this spring that an Iraqi interpreter working for a Danish aid agency was abducted and killed.

In June, Defense Minister Soeren Gade said most of them would be given entry visas so that they could travel to Denmark and apply for asylum here. The asylum claims are considered likely to be approved. The remainder wanted to stay in the Middle East but will be offered financial help or jobs at Danish missions.

An additional 130 Iraqis who had worked with the Danish military, Foreign Ministry or police could be considered for similar help, the government said.

Refugee groups welcomed the Danish plan, which even won the approval of the Danish People's Party, a nationalist party on whose support the center-right government depends.

"We had the new reports from our intelligence that stated that these people would be executed and liquidated after the Danish troops had departed, and that was of course a threat that we could not live with, so we had to change our position," said Soeren Espersen, the party's foreign policy spokesman.

At the Army Operational Command in Karup, western Denmark, Nyholm recalled how an interpreter lent a helping hand during an ambush on Dec. 28 in northern Basra.

"One of my machine gunners ran out of ammo," Nyholm said. "He was looking down his armored personnel carrier for more ammo, but the interpreter had already prepared it for him."

He added, laughing: "That was not expected, but he was maybe also fighting for his life."

Too bad the reporters saved the most telling anecdote for the end.



It's been brought to my attention that I failed to post the Watchers Council winners from June 29.

First place in the council went to A Stunningly Dishonest Piece of Advocacy Writing About the Supreme Court by Bookworm Room. Which it certainly was, but it was a New Yorker piece, so that's about what you'd expect. None dare call it journalism.

Votes also went to The Most Ridiculous Story of the Year? (2) by Cheat Seeking Missiles. It's actually a newspaper column, and it telegraphs everything you need to know to despise it in the title: "We've Lost. Here's How To Handle It." As though this were a problem requiring self-esteem strategies.

First place outside the council went to The Rupture by Seraphic Secret, which examines and comments on some of the more colorful threads in the twisted weave of modern Mideast history.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

At This Hour

[posted by Callimachus]

Dymphna at Gates of Vienna really misses Minh Duc. Following the Senate Democrats in their meaningless all-nighter pajama party stunt while Iraq burns, boy, so do I. I got to know him through Vietpundit (whose silence I also lament). Minh Duc knew what happens to a place when America abandons it. He had to get out of one at risk of his life. We need his perspective now. As Dymphna reminds me, he once wrote this:

If this war is merely a waste of lives and treasure, you are honor-bound to stop it at all costs. So do it. Relive the 1970s. Show us that you accept the inevitable slaughter of millions as irrelevant so that we can all watch the evening news without being bothered. Prove that refugees dying on boats and in camps are merely pictures, and not men, women, and children possessed of human dignity, being tortured because the United States won’t live up to its promises. Remind the world again that we are a paper tiger, and then grieve when another embassy is held hostage.

Time Travelers

[posted by Callimachus]

My consistent criticism of the consistent critics of Bush and his stumblebum administration is that, when they bother to put forth an alternative approach, it usually involves rewinding the clock and doing something different.

Memo to the reality-based: God can do that: You can't.

The latest memo recipient will be Ike Skelton.

"In hindsight, we should have concentrated our efforts on al-Qaida in Afghanistan from the beginning. We missed an important opportunity when Bin Laden escaped from Tora Bora (in late 2001)," the HASC chairman said.

"Now, four years later, we find ourselves facing a resurgent al-Qaida while our forces are tied down in Iraq," Skelton said. "As the House voted last week, we must responsibly redeploy our troops out of Iraq, handing responsibility for security over to the Iraqis and leaving only those forces required for limited missions. This will allow us to concentrate our efforts on Afghanistan and the al-Qaida terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001."

OK, so the new report asserts al Qaida is strong in Iraq and will become a threat to the U.S. homeland. (Many lefties think that word smacks of Hitlerism, but it is convenient in terrorism stories like this to distinguish the territorial U.S. from the U.S. as represented by soldiers, interests, property, and citizens abroad.)

Just a few days ago, if I recall, the netroots and their political and journalistic allies were singing in harmony and damning the administration for too frequent references to "al Qaida in Iraq," and claiming it was a grossly inflated figment of White House imaginations eager to prevent the public from discovering we really were fighting good, honest, homegrown Iraqi patriots opposed to our occupation. Now that "Al Qaida in Iraq" has become a convenient cudgel to beat the administration with, the same voices embrace it.

I guess Skelton saw the same report everyone else is talking about. I guess, too, he saw this report from earlier in the week:

U.S. intelligence officials worry al Qaida's new haven in Pakistan makes it that much easier to execute new attacks on American soil, it was reported Tuesday.

Al Qaida has shifted from Afghanistan to Pakistan. It has developed a base in Iraq. Skelton's strategy for fighting al Qaida? Leave Iraq and go to Afghanistan.

Memo to Ike: He's not there anymore. He got away. In 2001. You said so yourself.

Now if you want to yell at George W. Bush about Iraq, be my guest. Tell him how he screwed the pooch every way to Sunday and made us all look like fools. But if you're serious about leading the country, you have to have a better plan than "go back to 2001 and do everything differently."

And even if you could do that, you have to make the case we'd be in a better place. We're in a tough spot now, but it's possible to imagine worse ones. Thanks to the feckless leadership we've had, we find ourselves free of the burden of trying to guess what Saddam is doing, and militarily face-to-face with al Qaida in Iraq. Not the war we were promised. The alternative? Saddam still playing footsie with the U.N. and perhaps working with al Qaida in a way we can't touch.

And either way, you've still got the two problems no one seems to want to tackle: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.


Speaking of People I'd Like to See Naked in a Pile ...

[posted by Callimachus]

Images like the one at the head of this post confirm me in the notion that I really don't want to be walking down the street and see two dudes engaged in a PDA.

So am I a homophobe? I dunno, probably that's enough to make some people say I am. But fact is, I don't want to most straight people French kissing or groping each other in public, either. I don't want the street I walk down to turn into an Amsterdam alley where every way you turn your head you're invited to imagine other people getting it on. Most other people I see I don't want to imagine getting it on.

Two people I would like to see kissing and groping each other in public are Jessica Alba and Jessica Alba. It's a pretty short list.

So the quandary is, I would oppose on principle any legal or statutorial ban on any sort of sexual display or behavior that only targeted gays, or that was meant to criminalize homosexuality per se. I would support the right of gay men to kiss in public. But damn, I really don't need to see it. Sometimes you can be a principled hypocrite, I suppose.

[Amusing aside: Sullivan lets his British roots show in the post linked at the top, spelling it advertize, on the assumption, I presume, that all words he learned to spell with an "-ise" take "-ize" in the States. He doesn't realize that it's the British, in this case, who are being lazy barbarians and universalizing the spelling, while Americans can be trusted to remember the short list of common words not from Greek (advertise, devise, surprise) which etymologically must be spelled with an -s-.]

In the Black Trunks, from Parts Unknown ...

My Left Hemisphere:

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Reality-Based Intellectualist, also known as the liberal elite. You are a proud member of what’s known as the reality-based community, where science, reason, and non-Jesus-based thought reign supreme.

My Right Hemisphere:

How to Win a Fight With a Liberal is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Conservative Identity:

You are a Flag-Waving Everyman, also known as a patriot. You believe in freedom, apple pie, rooting for America at all times, and that God gave us a two-day weekend so we could enjoy football and NASCAR.

Take the quiz at www.FightLiberals.com

The second makes no sense to me, as I enjoy neither football nor NASCAR. But after reading the choices offered for both, and the wording of them, as well as the wording of the identity labels, I suspect the creators of the site were more alert to the nuances and realities of one side than the other.

Quote of the Day

"To keep silent is the most useful service that a mediocre talker can render to the public." -- de Tocqueville


Wait a Minute ...

[posted by Callimachus]

According to new study, girls who complain about their problems are at greater risk of developing anxiety and depression. But based on this write-up, it took no account of whether the "problems" in question were serious or passing, or even imaginary. Shouldn't that matter?

Also, this:

Ironically, although co-rumination was related to increased depression and anxiety, Rose also found that co-rumination was associated with positive friendship quality, including feelings of closeness between friends. Boys who co-ruminated also developed closer friendships across the school year but did not develop greater depressive and anxiety symptoms over time.

And In This Corner ...

[Posted by reader_iam]

How to Win a Fight With a Liberal is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Conservative Identity:

You are an Anti-government Gunslinger, also known as a libertarian conservative. You believe in smaller government, states’ rights, gun rights, and that, as Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

Take the quiz at www.FightLiberals.com

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Social Justice Crusader, also known as a rights activist. You believe in equality, fairness, and preventing neo-Confederate conservative troglodytes from rolling back fifty years of civil rights gains.

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Just For The Chuckle Of It

[Posted by reader_iam]

Hee Hee Hee Hee Hee Hee.

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Anti-Science Ecumenism

[Posted by reader_iam]

Maybe fundamentalist Christians and conservative Muslims could join forces to battle the "deceit" of the theory of evolution. Talk about unholy alliances!
It is the voice of Adnan Oktar of Turkey, who, under the name Harun Yahya, has produced numerous books, videos and DVDs on science and faith, in particular what he calls the “deceit” inherent in the theory of evolution. One of his books, “Atlas of Creation,” is turning up, unsolicited, in mailboxes of scientists around the country and members of Congress, and at science museums in places like Queens and Bemidji, Minn.

At 11 x 17 inches and 12 pounds, with a bright red cover and almost 800 glossy pages, most of them lavishly illustrated, “Atlas of Creation” is probably the largest and most beautiful creationist challenge yet to Darwin’s theory, which Mr. Yahya calls a feeble and perverted ideology contradicted by the Koran.

In bowing to Scripture, Mr. Yahya resembles some fundamentalist creationists in the United States. But he is not among those who assert that Earth is only a few thousand years old. The principal argument of “Atlas of Creation,” advanced in page after page of stunning photographs of fossil plants, insects and animals, is that creatures living today are just like creatures that lived in the fossil past. Ergo, Mr. Yahya writes, evolution must be impossible, illusory, a lie, a deception or “a theory in crisis.”
In the book and on his Web site (www.harunyahya.com), Mr. Yahya says he was born in Ankara in 1956, and grew up and was educated in Turkey. He says he seeks to unmask what the book calls “the imposture of evolutionists” and the links between their scientific views and modern evils like fascism, communism and terrorism. He says he hopes to encourage readers “to open their minds and hearts and guide them to become more devoted servants of God.”
Yeah. OK. Right. Just keep it the hell out of our schools.

And I, too, would love to know where the money trail leads. Wouldn't you?

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