Friday, April 28, 2006


President Bush is set once again to do business with Dubai. Via NYTs:
President Bush is expected on Friday to announce his approval of a deal under which a Dubai-owned company would take control of nine plants in the United States that manufacture parts for American military vehicles and aircraft, say two administration officials familiar with the terms of the deal.
This looks like a risky move in light of the bipartisan furor that the port deal raised. But the Administration is taking a more cautious approach to the situation this time, rather than merely hoping the deal passes under the radar.
Because the plants make turbine blades for tanks and aircraft, the deal was reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which sent it on to Mr. Bush himself for a decision, a step used only when the potential security risks or political considerations are particularly acute.

Administration officials alerted Congress that the deal would go through the committee's review process in an effort to head off the kind of public debate that surrounded the ports deal.
Still seems dicey, but maybe this new transparency a la Bush is having its desired effect.
But Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and one of the foremost critics of the ports deal, said on Thursday that he would not necessarily have a problem this time around, in large part because the White House had given the deal a thorough review.

"It's a significant improvement over what happened before," Mr. King said. "It's been much more thorough, much more detailed."
We shall see.


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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Oh What a Tangled Web...

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is sporting a fancy new interactive graphic to show the network of corruption connecting House Republicans. The verdict: they’re all connected and all corrupt, which I agree is quite possibly true. This nice little piece of Flash technology is aimed at making a point, not quibbling over details, but it’s worth a look and a chuckle...or a gasp. Drag your cursor over the House GOP Conference icon in the center.


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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Let It Snow!

John Nichols explains how much yellow ice we'll have to swallow from Bush's new press secretary, the venerable Tony Snow of Fox News.

No doubt he'll tell us its good for us -- and possibly actually believe it. Hmmmm! I can taste the cognitive dissonance already.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Democracy First, Maoists Later

Coming on the heels of the Nepalese king's decision to restore Parliament, Samrat Upadhyay gives a nice concise overview of Nepal's history and describes the age old tyranny which arises when some conception of so-called divine power is aligned with temporal power, embodied in a king.
Gyanendra's draconian rule has finally destroyed the carefully cultivated illusion that a king is necessary to hold the country together. The scale of the current democratic uprising — much larger than the first movement in 1990 — has made it abundantly clear that the king is part of Nepal's problem, not its solution. Nepalis are in effect saying: democracy first, Maoists later.

In this political crisis that has now grabbed global attention, an important lesson has emerged: there's no alternative to freedom — no matter how big the threat, no matter who claims to be our friend and protector.
Congratulations Nepal and everyone who took to the streets to demand their birthright. It warms my heart to know there will always be groups of individuals to fight against depotism wherever it may arise, now and in perpetuity.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Bin Laden's Back

Osama Bin Laden seems to have released another audiotape, and Reuters has some translated pieces worthy of a look. Throughout, he again shows that regardless of where he is, he's plugged into the latest current events. Topics include the Hamas election and subsequent "Western" hostility to it, the possibility of a humanitarian intervention by western powers in the Sudan, and the Danish cartoon controversy. He also continues his jihadist ideology where Muslims are one nation regardless of territorial boundaries or the forms of governance over their heads. This conception -- which he probably genuinely believes in -- strategically fits his jihadist ideology that wants to force a "clash of civilizations" between the West and "Islam."

And interestingly enough, former head of the CIA's Bin Laden unit, Michael Scheurer, says U.S. foreign policy is making it real easy for Bin Laden to argue a U.S. led war against Islam is underway:
"We cut off Hamas after we had a fair election," he said. "It looks like we are going to intervene in another Muslim country with oil, in Sudan; we followed Israel's lead with Hamas. His most important ally is American foreign policy."
The U.S. needs to find more nuanced ways of achieving certain policy objectives that aim to show it is acting in good faith toward Muslims: specifically that Hamas is the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people as well as ways to further empower the African Union and possibly the EU to intervene in Darfur without the U.S. due to the harm to its international legitimacy in relation to Iraq. Renouncing any future sweetheart oil contracts from the Sudan -- not that I know of any -- would also be beneficial as well, but we saw how well the Bush Administration dealt with a related legitimate concern of Iraqis regarding permanent military bases.

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Friday, April 21, 2006


I rarely quote USA Today, but this caught my eye:
The Border Patrol will soon rival the FBI in terms of the number of agents each agency has in the field. By the end of September, the Border Patrol will have 12,100 agents, according to spokesman Salvador Zamora. As of March, the FBI had 12,515. A 2004 law calls for expanding the Border Patrol to 21,000 agents by the end of the decade.

A recent analysis by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a Syracuse University-based data research center, found that increasing the size of the Border Patrol has not yielded more arrests. In 1995, the agency reported apprehending more than 1.3 million illegal immigrants. In 2005, with more than twice the number of agents as in 1995, the Border Patrol apprehended just under 1.2 million illegal immigrants.
Of course some take umbrage with the implication that flat to dropping arrest rates suggest that the small army patrolling our borders is ineffective.
"These figures don't mean anything," says T.J. Bonner, president of the border agents union and a 28-year veteran.

The Border Patrol won't be able to secure the nation's frontiers until the government enforces laws against hiring illegal immigrants, Bonner says.

"Most of the people who are now coming across the border have a job waiting for them," he says.
I’m not sure that Bonner is an expert on the sociology of immigration but assuming he’s right about the problem, he’s utterly wrong about the figures not meaning anything. They mean one very important thing: we’re investing more and more resources into ineffective measures against illegal immigration.

A lot of the article is low grade drivel, but it is nicely capped:
Douglas Massey, a Princeton University professor who studies illegal immigration, says increasing the size of the Border Patrol is "a complete and total waste of money."
Looks that way.


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Thursday, April 20, 2006

The 94 Billion Dollar Question

In the past we’ve used this blog to discuss and debate the war in Iraq. We’ve talked in terms of military strategy, political implications, and moral responsibility. But let’s put all that aside for a second and talk dollars--94 billion of them, to be exact. WaPo is reporting that:
The cost of the war in U.S. fatalities has declined this year, but the cost in treasure continues to rise, from $48 billion in 2003 to $59 billion in 2004 to $81 billion in 2005 to an anticipated $94 billion in 2006, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The U.S. government is now spending nearly $10 billion a month in Iraq and Afghanistan, up from $8.2 billion a year ago, a new Congressional Research Service report found.
Let’s take a pragmatic look at things. Certainly there is great value to stabilizing Iraq. But assuming that the cost of the war continues to grow, will we reach a point when the cost of fighting the War exceeds the value of victory? I’m not saying we’re there yet, but on some level this boils down to opportunity cost, and its getting damn expensive.


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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Israel Takes the High Road

Via the BBC:
A special cabinet meeting ended with agreement to increase security efforts but not launch a military strike.

Instead it backed plans to revoke the Jerusalem residency of several Hamas MPs, adding to the group's isolation.

Hamas described Monday's bombing by Islamic Jihad, which killed nine people, as an act of "self-defence".
Kudos. I'm usually very critical of Israel but today they responded adequately to the present situation without escalating a situation that could again plunge Israel and the Palestinians into even more bloodshed.

It seems Hamas is indeed beginning to show the improbability of its seeking politics before or over terrorism.

For shame.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

It's A Miracle

I just want to show my affection for what I call "Resurrection Sunday" and say that I've stumbled upon quite a little miracle in my bathroom. You know the story of the loaves and the fish where Jesus multiplies each to prodigious amounts? If so, well then I have a similar story for you. I have for the last seven months used the same bottle of shampoo to wash this oh so fithly head of mine and I wash almost every day. Small miracle? Sure, I'll go with that, but for a student on a small budget, let's just say I call it divine.

Happy Easter everyone from this God-fearing Judas to another.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

More Zawahiri on Camera...Ewww!

A new video of Al Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri has been released lauding Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his band of malevolent men. Naturally the same old tired propaganda devices are used in this video as all the other released discourses of affiliated Al Qaeda members. Via the NYTs:
"The Islamic nation must support the heroic mujahedeen in Iraq, who are fighting on the very frontline for the dignity of Islam," Mr. Zawahiri said.

"And to my brother mujahedeen in Iraq," he added, "I say, 'Stay firm. Stay together. Your enemy has begun to falter, so don't stop pursuing him until he flees defeated.' "
How ironic that "fighting...for the dignity of Islam" ends in the smothering ashes of a burnt out mosque. This is truly a "heroic" movement to get behind.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The World Needs More Ganeshs

Pro-democracy protests continue in Nepal as the country's seven largest political parties with the support of Maoist rebels are calling for a return to parliamentary rule. The King banned these protests six days ago.

Good for them.

But this especially quote my eye. Via the NYTs:
At nearby Vinayak Hospital, a 50-year-old street vendor named Ganesh Bohara vowed to return to the streets as soon as doctors treated him for head injuries. "I am ready to die for democracy," he said.
Sure I'd prefer non-voilent civil disobedience, but sometimes brute force is all a despot respects.

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Via the NYTs:
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today that Iranian scientists had achieved the goal of enriching uranium for its nuclear power program and that the nation was determined to develop production on an industrial scale.

"The nuclear fuel cycle at the laboratory level has been completed, and uranium with the desired enrichment for nuclear power plants was achieved," Mr. Ahmedinejad said in a speech that was broadcast live from the city of Mashad.

"Iran has joined the nuclear countries of the world," he later added. "This is a starting point for more major points of success for the Iranian nation."

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Monday, April 10, 2006

None of the Above

What happens when a majority of a country's voters democratically vote for none of the candidates on the ballot? This is the premise of Jose Saramago's new novel Seeing. Slate's Michael Wood reviews.

If you're not familiar with Saramago then you're missing out on one of the best, political novelists of the second half of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st. I've only read Blindness -- which should be read because Seeing picks up fours years later -- and it was a brilliant work of human fragility and the will to perservere and maintain our humanness in the most degrading of circumstances.

As for the political orientation of his work? Well let's just say it's quite crimson.

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Judas the Martyr

This has been a faith-shattering day for devout and fundamentalist Christians alike if they follow the news. Earlier today, scientists released their discovery of the "missing link" between the sea and the land -- the "Tiktaalik" (pronounced tic-TAH-lick) meaning "large shallow water fish." Hopefully, this goes a long way to destroying the notion that humans somehow miraculously or supernaturally appeared on earth due to Providence.

But better yet, biblical scholars have discovered the long hypothesized "Gospel of Judas" where Iscariot is not the betrayer of Jesus, but the facilitator of freedom and salvation -- which meshes with Kazantzakis/Scorsese's version of Judas in The Last Temptation of Christ. Here Judas does not betray Jesus but follows his orders to give him to the Roman authorities so he may fulfill his destiny.

Historically, what this shows is that the canonical gospels are a product of politico-historical forces that have no connection to the supernatural's so called will over the universe's history, i.e. the truth. The biblical narrative thus becomes a new elite's machinations to control the faith to increase their own power and prestige, although I'm sure many believed their interpretations were correct, nevertheless with no empirical proof to base their judgement on -- never forget thousands upon thousands have died questioning this dogma.

What this goes to show is that something you're taught to believe unquestioningly is something always to be skeptical of and questioned. It's really that simple. The truth is always the truth, no matter how hurtful, disconcerting, or faithless it maybe. It should always be able to withstand questioning, no matter how intense. Those who question received "truth" provide a valuable service, they are gutcheck we all need when we take "the truth" for granted.

Questioning is also an action that intellectually separates the children from the adults. Those that go on believing childish things remain children, while those who face the universe in all its bleakness and perpetual nothingness remain courageous. They are the ones who see the darkness and meaningless and resist, producing a humanity that pushes the boundaries toward spiritual and political liberation because they know one thing -- this is the only chance we have to make a go of it.

I believe Jesus would agree.

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Another Chink in the Armor

Scientists have longed hypothesized that life evolved out of the sea, which was just too low and wet a beginning to fundamentalist Christians and other believers in superstition. Now they may have found the bones to prove it. The NYTs reports:
Scientists have discovered fossils of a 375-million-year-old fish, a large scaly creature not seen before, that they say is a long-sought missing link in the evolution of some fishes from water to a life walking on four limbs on land.

In two reports today in the journal Nature, a team of scientists led by Neil H. Shubin of the University of Chicago say they have uncovered several well-preserved skeletons of the fossil fish in sediments of former streambeds in the Canadian Arctic, 600 miles from the North Pole.

The skeletons have the fins, scales and other attributes of a giant fish, four to nine feet long. But on closer examination, the scientists found telling anatomical traits of a transitional creature, a fish that is still a fish but has changes that anticipate the emergence of land animals — and is thus a predecessor of amphibians, reptiles and dinosaurs, mammals and eventually humans.

In the fishes' forward fins, the scientists found evidence of limbs in the making. There are the beginnings of digits, proto-wrists, elbows and shoulders. The fish also had a flat skull resembling a crocodile's, a neck, ribs and other parts that were similar to four-legged land animals known as tetrapods.

Other scientists said that in addition to confirming elements of a major transition in evolution, the fossils were a powerful rebuttal to religious creationists, who have long argued that the absence of such transitional creatures are a serious weakness in Darwin's theory.

The discovery team called the fossils the most compelling examples yet of an animal that was at the cusp of the fish-tetrapod transition. The fish has been named Tiktaalik roseae, at the suggestion of elders of Canada's Nunavut Territory. Tiktaalik (pronounced tic-TAH-lick) means "large shallow water fish."
(WaPo's story is here.)

But as the creationists and other supernaturalists will say, this proves nothing other than God is trying to test our faith. How do they know this? I'm not sure but it's funny that they're the only ones with the evidence -- faith -- to prove this.

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Democratic Security Strategy

No, no that's not an oxymoron -- especially since the root of the word should be applied to the U.S.'s present security strategy -- but as Fred Kaplan of Slate says, the document entitled Real Security, is anything but, describing it as "more a rough outline than a 'plan'; it raises at least as many questions as it answers; it reeks of banality."

Come on Dems, get ready, because the likely Republican challenger for '08 is a former P.O.W., against torture, and will have a security strategy much more conservative than President Bush's.

I can't take four more years of national monothilic Republican rule for much longer. Get your house in order for all of us from the middle-class down. Give us the executive and at least one half of Congress.

You owe it to us for all your Clintonian/triangulating moral failings of the past two decades.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Justice for the Kurds?

Here's some good news Americans of all stripes can get behind. Via the NYTs: The special Iraqi court prosecuting Saddam Hussein has charged him with genocide for the infamous Anfal campaign that killed approximately 50,000 Kurds during the late 80's. WaPo's coverage is here.

But I do have a good question for all those who are wedded to a realpolitik that has no normative function: Should those in the former Reagan Administration also be prosecuted for their part in helping supply Hussein with the chemical precusors he used against the Kurds?

Some justice will be done when Hussein is convicted and, unfortunately, executed, but even a semblance of justice demands those involved with supplying Iraq with these deadly toxins and chemicals -- with full knowledge what they'd be used for -- must also face prosecution, if not, then at least truth and reconciliation.

But as we all know, this will not happen.

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