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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Monday, 19 June 2006
It must be some sort of cosmic joke, even is a cruel one...
Topic: Couldn't be so...

It must be some sort of cosmic joke, even is a cruel one...

It's just getting too absurd. But it should be documented. The week of Monday, June 19, 2006, started out with more of the spiral downward, and a sense that those in charge are just somehow disconnected, in some existentially absurd way.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talked tough, warning North Korea not to even think about testing that long-range missile that could reach California carrying a nuclear warhead (details here), and the whole world is worried, particularly Japan and South Korea. But when Bush took office our policy changed. We stopped direct all talks with them - no talks unless they stopped all their nuclear and missile programs first - then we named them part of the Axis of Evil, then we said we'd talk, but only as part of a group of six other nations, certainly not one-on-one, ever. That would just reward them by making it seem like they were a legitimate government. So they did what they did - went on with the bomb thing and the missile development. Why wouldn't they? We pinned our hopes on "regime change." Right. So now what?

Of course the way out of this is simple. Many have suggested it. This administration poured billions into an anti-ballistic missile program that even though it failed all its testes, we deployed anyway. Time to prove it's not a boondoggle, not just some way to make the friends and contributors to the Republicans richer than they already are. You say it works. You say it's not just a waste of money wecould have spent to deal with terrorists sneaking in small nukes through Long Beach or Baltimore? Fine. When the North Koreans launch the new missile to test it, shoot down the damned thing. It would be perfectly legal, over international waters, and the world would sigh in relief, and the supporters of the administration would cheer, and everyone, left and right would feel a whole lot safer. You say it works fine. So use it. Then again, it would be the first time it ever worked. This could be tricky. Better to bluster, and not be embarrassed.

Then there was this - "President Bush told Iran on Monday that nations worldwide won't back down from their demand that Tehran suspend uranium enrichment."

They should chat with Korea. We have steely resolve. They keep working on the uranium technology. And why wouldn't they?

Of course this is all a charade. As the second buttress of the Axis of Evil, we don't see Iran as it is as a legitimate government either. We want the youth there to rise up and unleash the hidden American in each of their souls, and throw out the clerics, and so on. That is our stated aim. We set many millions aside for the effort - to fund the rebels, to bring on the democratic revolution. Dick Cheney's daughter - the other one, not the lesbian one with the new book - is in charge of that effort. You could look it up.

So we won't back down on our demand that Tehran suspend uranium enrichment. Of course not. And we know they won't back down. That's as plain as day. Why would they choose to be humiliated? That's the only "out" we've left them. We already, three years ago rejected serious talks with them on any of these issues (see this). We don't want to work things out.

So it's a set-up. Back them into a corner where we can say, see, they need to go away. The diplomacy is not at all to get them to stop what they're doing. Whatever diplomacy involved is to set up things so people agree they're just not a government that should be allowed to exist any longer. That may or may not work. We may go it alone again, or pretty much alone. Fiji will stand with us, or someone.

We wanted Saddam Hussein to provide definitive, documented proof he had no weapons of mass destruction, and to destroy what he didn't have. Cool. And we are demanding Hugo Chavez down in Venezuela provide definitive, documented proof he has no ties to al Qaeda or any terrorists. Show us the documents that show there are no documents. Right.

This is very odd. Demanding the other prove the negative - prove to me that you aren't thinking about an orange - is just absurd.

But these guys do absurd in a major way.

And they do absurd in a minor way too, as in this - "A Pentagon document classifies homosexuality as a mental disorder, decades after mental health experts abandoned that position. The document outlines retirement or other discharge policies for service members with physical disabilities, and in a section on defects lists homosexuality alongside mental retardation and personality disorders."

What's to say? In some parts of the administration it's always 1953, in Tulsa. The armies of other nations just deal with it - good soldiers may, sometime, be gay. So what? Here that's right up there with being retarded, just like Gore Vidal is, and T. E. Lawrence. Oh well.

The military has other things to worry about of course, like the two soldiers who seem to have been captured near Baghdad by some locals tied to al Qaeda (see the AP account here and the New York Times here). This is serious stuff. Let's hope they don't get tortured or anything. That would be awkward after Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo and all. But what really happened is still unclear. This is just a "claim" after all. We're still looking, shutting down whole villages and much more.

As Tim Grieve notes here, one year and about eight hundred forty American soldiers ago, Vice President Cheney said that we were seeing the "last throes" of the insurgency in Iraq. It'd all be over soon. He knew.

Monday, June 19, 2006. he was asked about that again (see this) - does he still think that true. He does. You see there were the Iraqi elections in 2005 and then the formation of a government this year. And that was the beginning of the end of the war. It's obvious - "I think that will have been, from a historical turning point, the period that we'll be able to look at and say, 'That's when we turned the corner, that's when we began to get a handle on the long-term future of Iraq.'"

And all gays are retarded. It's all how you look at things.

So how do you look at this - the same day, in Baghdad, our U.S. military announced that a noncommissioned officer and two soldiers have been charged with murder, obstruction of justice and a few other crimes. This seems to have something to do with the death of three Iraqis in military custody last month. The spin in the Arab street, if there is such a thing as that street, will be awful. After all the rest, this. Or you can spin it the other way, as we don't stand for such things and these guys will be tried, and what other nation does that sort of thing, so it shows we take care of our own problems and do the right thing. When they get six-week suspended sentences that spin will need some adjustment.

But for absurd spin the same Monday there was a lot of talk about what Karl Rove said the week before, accusing Jack Murtha and John Kerry of being "cut-and-run" politicians who "may be with you for the first few bullets" but won't "be there for the last tough battles." Again, Rove was eighteen in 1968 but managed to avoid serving alongside men like Murtha and Kerry in Vietnam, and Grieve nicely puts it. The talk was all about what former Marine a pro-military man Murtha had to say about that on "Meet the Press" that Sunday, and he wasn't kind - "He's in New Hampshire. He's making a political speech. He's sitting in his air-conditioned office with his big, fat backside, saying, 'Stay the course.' That's not a plan. I mean, this guy - I don't know what his military experience is, but that's a political statement."

Still those on the right call Murtha a coward and traitor for suggesting redeploying and rearranging our forces, and call Rove the real hero, the tough guy. Go figure. Who knows more about such matters? Don't ask.

And by the way, there's also this, a new report on Cheney's old company Halliburton. It's the "single fastest-growing federal contractor between 2000 and 2005," or so the report says. In 2000, Halliburton received $763 million in federal government contracts. In 2005, it received nearly $6 billion worth of work, taking it from No. 20 to No. 6 on the list of the government's biggest contractors. War is good. Reading the Tim Grieve daily surveys of current will drive you nuts.

So will reading stuff buried deep in the Washington Post, like this. It seems the Post got their hands on a "sensitive" memo from the public affairs office of the US. Embassy in Baghdad and it offers "snapshots" of what life is like for its Iraqi employees who live outside the Green Zone. The Post has it here in PDF format, and everyone seems to be discussing it.

One summary is here -
Women's rights: Female employees report increasing "harassment" over what they wear and how they act; they say they have been told to stop wearing Western clothes, to cover their heads and faces in public, and to stop using cellphones.

Electricity and gasoline: With temperatures in Baghdad reaching 115 degrees, many embassy employees report that their homes have electricity for only four to eight hours each day. One central Baghdad neighborhood has had no government-supplied electricity for a month, and embassy employees report waiting in line for as long as 12 hours to fill their cars with gasoline.

Threats against embassy employees: Some embassy employees fear that sectarian militia members now control the entrances to the Green Zone. Of nine Iraqis who worked in the public affairs office in March, five kept their employment secret from their own families out of fear for their safety. For the same reason, the embassy often cannot contact its employees at home during off-duty hours and cannot use them to help translate events when cameras might be present.

Risks from informants: Embassy employees report that they "daily assess how to move safely in public." Sometimes that requires adopting the clothes and "lingo" of a particular neighborhood in order to avoid attention from "alasas," or informants. "The Alasa mentality is becoming entrenched as Iraqi security forces fail to gain public confidence," the memo's authors write.

In sum, the memo's authors say that the conditions outside the Green Zone continue to make their work inside it extremely difficult: "Although our staff retain a professional demeanor, strains are apparent," they say.

"We see that their personal fears are reinforcing divisive sectarian or ethnic challenges, despite talk of reconciliation by officials. Employees are apprehensive enough that we fear they may exaggerate developments or steer us towards news that comports with their own worldview. Objectivity, civility, and logic that make for a functional workplace may falter if social pressures outside the Green Zone don't abate."
But other than that things are fine, except men who wear shorts or jeans have come under attack from "what staff members describe as Wahabis and Sadrists." And different neighborhoods are controlled by different militias, and staff members have to be careful to dress and speak differently in each one - "People no longer trust most neighbors." And a newspaper editor reports that ethnic cleansing is taking place in almost every Iraqi province.

Great. The document is dated around the time the president dropped by. He probably didn't see it. The name on the bottom is Khalilzad, our ambassador there.

An assessment here -
In a very straightforward descriptive style, Khalilzad writes that Iraqis must hide the fact that they work for the US or face ostracism or worse. Women are being treated only slightly better than if they were living under the Taliban in 1999 -- and they are being asked to wear clothing that Khalilzad admits was not even required by the most repressive Iranian Ayatollahs. They are losing their driving privileges and are considered suspicious if they use a cell phone - they might be calling a lover, you see. (This is your fundamentalist religion working to "free" women from the burden of being full citizens.)

People are being gouged for electricity, to which they barely have access anyway (in 115 degree heat!) They face kidnappings and violence every day of their lives. Sectarian divisions are showing up in all their social interactions, even among families. They must adopt separate customs, dress and manner of speaking to travel freely through various neighborhoods in Baghdad or risk violence. They cannot trust the security forces, who seem to be getting more hostile to the population, especially those who work for the US. Their anxiety is palpable as they feel their lives are hurling out of control.

Did I mention that the people he is talking about in this cable are all employees of the US embassy in Baghdad? That's right. These are the highly privileged, educated elite who work inside the Green Zone. Imagine what it's like out in the hinterlands.

... The country has obviously already spiraled into a state of civil war. It's not surprising that it's taken on this character of secret informants, ethnic cleansing, paranoia and neighborhood militias because the whole society was shaped by an authoritarian police state. But civil war it is, and from the sound of this cable, it's happening on a far more fundamental level than we knew. The whole society is breaking down from inside out.

... He [Khalilzad] pretty much says that he doesn't know if he can trust his own employees much longer because they are being driven a little bit crazy by fear and paranoia. Heckuva job, there, Uncle Sammy.
Ah well. At least the president is on top of things. Monday, June 19, he delivered the commencement address at the US Merchant Marine Academy, and tossed in this - "This morning, I flew here on Air Force One with my friend, Andy Card. You might remember Andy - he was my former chief of staff, and he attended this Academy in the 1960s. It just so happens when he was a plebe, he was stuffed in a duffel bag and run up the flagpole."

What? That sounds like a line from some absurdist's play - didn't Stoppard have Rosencrantz say that to Guildenstern?

It's hard to make sense of it all. It must be some sort of cosmic joke, even is a cruel one.

And then there's the torture business and Guantánamo.

As reported late in the day Monday, June 19, here, after the three prisoner suicides, and after we tossed out all the reporters there, so no one will now know anything, the military tribunals, for the ten of the four hundred ninety we think we can prove might actually be bad guys, have been put off. The idea is that maybe it might be a good idea for the Supreme Court to rule on whether we can do that at all, in the way we planned. Things have gotten a bit out of hand.

And too, the previous Friday the Pentagon actually declassified a November 2004 report about detainee abuse by our Speical Operations guys in Iraq (here in PDF format). That's the one where Brigadier General Richard Formica (great name). That's the one where he told reporters that it was "regrettable" that the troops he investigated had inadequate guidance about detention policy, but really, no one was ultimately responsible. Just a bit of a mix up.

But then folks finally got around to reading the details, and the New York Times noted this -
General Formica found that in the third case at a Special Operations outpost, near Tikrit, in April and May 2004, three detainees were held in cells 4 feet high, 4 feet long and 20 inches wide, except to use the bathroom, to be washed or to be interrogated. He concluded that two days in such confinement "would be reasonable; five to seven days would not." Two of the detainees were held for seven days; one for two days, General Formica concluded.
See Spencer Ackerman here -
Here are two such questions you can puzzle over from your home or office. Take all the shelving out of a typical filing cabinet. (My own office cabinet happens to be slightly smaller than the cell described here.) Now lock yourself in it for two days. You may notice you can neither stand up straight nor lie down, and crouching gets really uncomfortable extremely fast. Remember that as an Iraqi detainee, the Geneva Conventions apply to you. Now ask yourself: Why would Formica consider such treatment "reasonable" for two days? And if someone put an American soldier in such conditions for two days - or authorized doing so - what should happen to that person?
Two of our guys are missing. Think about it.

Yeah, but what about Guantánamo?

Andrew Sullivan here points to a list of interrogation techniques reliably documented at our detention centers in Guantánamo or Afghanistan, compiled by medical ethicist, Stephen Miles, in a book coming out soon, Oath Betrayed. Miles has examined 35,000 pages of government documents and "credible witness" testimony and this is what we seem to have done -
Beating; punching with fists; use of truncheons; kicking; slamming against walls; stretching or suspension (to tear ligaments or muscles to cause asphyxia); external electric shocks; forcing prisoners to abase and to urinate on themselves; forced masturbation; forced renunciation of religion; false confessions or accusations; applying urine and feces to prisoners; making verbal threats to a prisoner and his family; denigration of a prisoner's religion; force-feeding; induced hypothermia and exposure to extreme heat; dietary manipulation; use of sedatives; extreme sleep deprivation; mock executions; water immersion; "water-boarding"; obstruction of the prisoner's airway; chest compression; thermal burning; rape; dog bites; sexual abuse; forcing a prisoner to watch the abuse or torture of a loved one.
Did all that work wonders? Over one hundred prisoners died. But then, no more planes were flown into Manhattan skyscrapers. The connection is tenuous, if there at all.

The Post says this -
This political and administrative mess stems directly from Mr. Bush's decision in the weeks after Sept. 11 to take extraordinary measures against terrorism through the assertion of presidential power, rather than through legislation, court action or diplomacy. His intent was to exclude Congress, the courts and other governments from influencing or even monitoring how foreign detainees were treated. Senior officials, led by Vice President Cheney, argued that this policy would give the administration the flexibility it needed to fight the war effectively. Instead it has done the opposite: Mr. Bush's policies have deeply tarnished U.S. prestige abroad, inhibited cooperation with allies and prevented justice for al-Qaeda.
Sullivan -
The trouble is: the architects of this policy - Cheney, Rumsfeld and Gonzales - are still in power, and unable or unwilling to reverse course and face a real accounting. And so we stagger on, with secrecy lending credibility to the worst possibilities, with abuse documented in every field of conflict, and with the international moral standing of the United States at its lowest ebb since Vietnam. There are two wars right now, it seems to me: one is against Islamist terror; and the other is to protect the constitution and the Geneva Conventions from those who would bypass them to protect us. Both wars are vital; and in some ways, as defenses of our civilization, are the same.
And one of his readers, puzzled over the evangelical Christians in charge - good is good and evil is evil, so you fight pure evil anyway you can - says this -
As good non-relativists, Christians ought to believe in universal standards, moral codes that apply to everyone. In some fashion that's what the Geneva Conventions and other international agreements are meant to provide. But an unshakable article of conservative faith is that the United Nations and most other international compacts are inherently evil. So we come to a point where all that matters is American laws, American goals - and American power.

This really cannot stand. We will reach a point where we have infinite power, but zero influence. The nations we desperately need to change and win over will come to think that we get our authority solely from the barrel of a gun - or the damp gauze of a waterboarder. We will claim that we believe in universal, unalienable rights, but will refuse to hold ourselves to any meaningful universal standards. No one will take anything we say seriously, except our threats of war.
And what of our two soldiers who seem to have been captured by the bad guys? What if they are tortured?

There are some questions here -
What will our government do? What could it do? Could it condemn the actions as not abiding by the Geneva Conventions? Could it call the actions "torture"? Could it demand accountability? Could it demand that the soldiers be treated as POWs? Could it simply say, "Well, we don't do that shit ... anymore"?
Who knows what our government would do or say in such a case? They kind of got boxed in here. That's what the absurd is all about. Too bad it's likely.

Enough. This calls for scotch.

Posted by Alan at 23:02 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 20 June 2006 07:37 PDT home

Sunday, 18 June 2006
Hot of the Virtual Press
Topic: Announcements

Hot of the Virtual Press

The new issue of Just Above Sunset, the weekly magazine-format site that is parent to this daily web log, is now online. This is Volume 4, Number 25, for the week of June 18, 2006.Click here to go there...

This week, on a new computer, with most of the files from the old one recovered, a new issue - with six extended observations on current events, from Guantánamo to Karl Rove, to that trip to Baghdad to the foolishness in congress at the end of the week, to the political theory that underlies who will likely win the World Cup, and why.

At the International Desk, photo essays - Our Man in Paris, Ric Erickson, provides a real taste of Paris last Friday night, on the quays and in the crowds on the day of James Joyce, and Our Man in Tel-Aviv, Sylvain Ubersfeld, does the beach bum thing and lets us know they do have their own Malibu there, sort of.

Hollywood? This week the most famous of hotels (where Marilyn Monroe lived for a time, as did other legends of that world), some really curious tourist matters (the famous footprints), and the new and old murals these days.

Local photography covers, for our readers in London, Ontario, Canada, the fantastic old trains on display in an odd spot in Griffith Park, and for the botanically-minded, this year's jacaranda madness, and the expected extreme close-up shots suitable for framing, if that's your thing.

Our friend from Texas provides us with more of the weird, and the quotes pertain to deciding not to be ordinary.

Direct links to specific pages…

Extended Observations on Current Events ________________________

The Absurd: Kafkaesque, in a Good Way
Differentiations: Notes on the Transitory and the Big Stuff
Things Imploding
Resolved: They think we're all fools. We shall see.
Other Voices: Offered Without Comment
Sports: Harmless Theory

The International Desk ________________________

Our Man in Paris: Dining Out
Our Man in Tel-Aviv: Beach Bumming at Chinky's

Hollywood Matters ________________________

The Hollywood Tourist
The Movies: Hollywood Murals Old and New

Southern California Photography ________________________

Trains: Wheels Are Turning
Jacaranda Time: Close-Up Color


Quotes for the week of June 18, 2006 - Just Getting Along

Posted by Alan at 17:49 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 17 June 2006
Sports: Harmless Theory
Topic: Oddities

Sports: Harmless Theory

Let's go to the odd sources. Saturday, June 17, 2006, the National Post up in Canada reprints an item from The New Republic the previous day, which in turn was adapted from an item in the anthology The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup. This is Franklin Foer asking the question that has probably occurred to more than a few people after seventeen World Cup football (soccer) extravaganzas, one every four years - what kind of governments produce winning soccer teams? Freedom and football victory? Juntas produced winners? Let's see.

The Czechs this time just embarrassed the United States in the opening round, and then they managed to lose 0-2 to Angola, a major upset. The heartened Americans then went out to face the Italian team - maybe it wasn't all over - and managed a 1-1 tie, with two players ejected and what would have been the winning goal disallowed. What does this mean about the governments? Who knows?

From Kafka through "The Good Solider Svejk" to the deeply ironic Havel Václav Havel (good friends with Frank Zappa) to the recent vote for the "greatest Czech of All Time" - the whole fictitious and absurd Jára Cimrman - the Czechs have looked upon the whole idea of government itself with some skepticism. It's not football. It's sillier. Who knows how things are run in Angola, other than badly? And how many governments has Italy had since WWII, with the most recent being that of the clownish Silvio Berlusconi?

Still, Franklin Foer wants to make a connection, as he explains here -
There have been revolutions to create socialism, democracy, and authoritarian dictatorship. But humankind has yet to fight a revolution to guarantee one of the most vital elements - if not the most vital element - of the good life. That is, a winning soccer team. If we were to take up arms for this reason, what kind of government would we want to install?

Political theory, for all its talk about equality and virtue, has strangely evaded this question.
Probably for good reason.

But here's the rundown, and it starts with communism -
Communism, despite its gulags and show trials, produced great players and rock-solid teams. The Hungarian squad of the early '50s has gone down in history as one of the best to never win a championship. A few decades later, in 1982, the Poles finished third in the tournament, drawing with Paolo Rossi's Italy and beating Michel Platini's France en route. These triumphs are reflected in the overall record. In World Cup matches against non-communist countries, the red hordes bested their capitalist foes more often than not - by my count, 46 wins, 32 draws, 40 losses.

But the fact remains that a communist country has never won the World Cup. After watching the communists perform efficiently in preliminary rounds of the tournament, you could usually count on them to collapse in the quarterfinals.
Yep, just like the whole system itself - sounds good, and doesn't work.

Foer implies the problem really was embedded in the political nature of the communist system - they weren't like us, the risk talking entrepreneurial loose and happy risk-takers of American capitalism, or something like that -
Valeri Lobanovsky, the great Soviet and Ukrainian coach of the 1970s and '80s, believed that science could provide underlying truths about the game. He would send technicians to games to evaluate players based on the number of "actions" - tackles, passes, shots - that they performed. These evaluations perversely favored frenetic tackling over the creative construction of an attack. Lobanovsky's method captures the pernicious way in which the rigidity of Marxism permeated the mentality of the Eastern bloc. Such rigidity might produce a great runner or gymnast, but it doesn't produce champions in a sport that requires regular flashes of individuality and risk-taking.
Yeah, right. The interesting thing is these guys lost the big ones because they trusted "science." One thinks of George Bush.

And what of fascism? There's evidence their teams are crap too -
Fascist governments can masterfully manufacture a sense of national purpose and, more than that, national superiority. This ethos, while not so appealing from the perspective of those who worry about individual rights, cultivates the perfect climate for a World Cup. Not only can it produce a healthy confidence, but it can also generate a powerful fear of losing. Who wants to disappoint a nation swept up in this kind of fervor? Or, more to the point, who wants to disappoint a leader who might break your legs and imprison your grandmother? What's more, fascist governments subscribe to a cult of fitness and hygiene that leads them to siphon considerable national resources into sports programs.

The fascist record speaks for itself. During the '30s, Il Duce's Italy claimed two trophies; Germany took third in 1934, as did Brazil in 1938. Overall, fascism compiled a record of 14-3-3 in that decade.
Okay, and since then Francisco Franco's Spain and Juan Peron's Argentina got nowhere. And Antonio de Oliveira Salazar's Portugal appeared in only one tournament in the thrity-six years he ruled there. Jingoism and personal fear only go so far, or not very far at all. Someone tell Karl Rove. Bad for soccer, bad for the country. It's a losing strategy. Hyper-patriotism mixed with telling everyone they should be very, very afraid is only good for winning elections. What happens after you win matters too.

And then there is this odd "fact" -
No country has ever won a World Cup while committing genocide or gearing up to commit genocide. Germany and Yugoslavia both faltered on the eve of their mass murders. In 1938, Germany didn't win a single game. The greatest Yugoslavian team of all time lost in the quarterfinals of the 1990 tournament. Apparently, lusting after the blood of Jews and Muslims distracts vital energy from the more pressing task of scoring.
Yeah that can be distraction, or it's a coincidence here.

But old-fashioned military juntas do win -
The Brazilian and Argentine juntas presided over the most glorious victories in the tournament's history in the '70s and early '80s. It makes sense that juntas would excel at this. They are collective efforts, where even the strongmen are part of a broader apparatus. A good soccer team is, in a sense, a junta.
It is? But then they've won three of the seventeen times.

But the good conservative Foer says nothing beats good old cut-throat western competative capitalism for turning out real winners, where everyone talks about teamwork but no one believes in it -
... even the worst social democratic teams - Belgium, Finland - win more consistently than their authoritarian peers. To understand this success, one must understand the essence of the social democratic economy. Social democracies take root in heavily industrialized societies, and this is a great blessing.

No country has won the World Cup without having a substantial industrial base. This base supplies a vast urban proletariat, which in turn supplies players for a team. Industrial economies also produce great wealth, which funds competitive domestic leagues that improve social democratic players by subjecting them to day-to-day competition of the highest quality. And, while the junta mindset nicely transposes itself to the pitch, the social democratic ethos is a far neater match. Social democracy celebrates individualism, while relentlessly patting itself on the back for its sense of solidarity - a coherent team with room for stars.
So that's six of the World Cups for the world of individualism and cull-out-the-losers competition - over cooperation, forced or not, and over or the "science" of the sport.

Foer contends "the outcome of each match in the World Cup can be forecast by analyzing the political and economic conditions of the countries represented on the pitch." Just what we need, another sort of neoconservative theory of how the world really works.

You'd think, after Iraq, they'd learn. But maybe there is a correlation, and maybe the Iraq war was a fine idea. At least this theory is harmless.

Posted by Alan at 17:30 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 17 June 2006 17:59 PDT home

Friday, 16 June 2006
Offered Without Comment
Topic: Couldn't be so...

Offered Without Comment

"I now know that if you describe things as better as they are, you are considered to be romantic; if you describe things as worse than they are, you are called a realist; and if you describe things exactly as they are, you are called a satirist." - Quentin Crisp, The Naked Civil Servant


"It's true that you and I are not being grabbed on the streets and sent to a former secret police torture-training camp in Godforsakistan. Nor is the government eavesdropping on your international phone calls or mine. Probably. Because I like you, I'll forgo the usual ominous warning about how they came after him and then they came after her and then they came after you. I'll even skip the liberal sermonette about how even bad guys have rights.

"But your rights and mine are not supposed to be at the whim of the government, let alone the president. They are based in the Constitution and the willingness of those we put in power to obey it - even as interpreted by judges they may disagree with. The most distressing aspect of this story is the apparent attitude of our current rulers that the Constitution is an obstacle to be overcome - by conducting dirty business abroad or by wildly disingenuous interpretations of laws and the Constitution."

- Michael Kinsley in the Washington Post, Friday, June 16, 2006, here.


"For people in America who are a part of my political tradition, our great sin has often been ignoring religion or denying its power or refusing to engage it because it seemed hostile to us. For ... the so-called Christian right and its allies, their great sin has been believing they were in full possession of the truth."

- former president Bill Clinton, accepting an award from the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, noted here.


"I cannot support the war in Iraq. Not because I think Saddam was a good leader. Not because I think Iraqis don't deserve a chance. Not because I think this war we-shouldn't-have-started has not morphed into the war we-can't-afford-to-lose.

"I cannot support the war in Iraq because after all the lies, the mistakes, the hubris, the Constitution shredding, the cover-ups, the undercover outings and, most importantly, the torture, if we win this war during the Bush presidency, he and his like will take it as a vindication of their actions and they will be emboldened to further damage my country.

"This is not Bush bashing. This isn't hyperbole. I truly believe that President Bush is a danger to my country. And winning the Iraq war while he is in office would be the true end of the United States as we know it.
"Let's get Bush out of office. Let's put in place an administration that will wage this war within the bounds of the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions and has the will to do what it takes to win. Let's put in place an administration that asks the American public for the sacrifices of war time and deals openly and plainly with the public on the successes and failures at the front."

- a reader's letter to Andrew Sullivan at his Time site here, to which he adds - "I'm for making progress, period, whoever is the president. But I also agree that what Bush has done to the constitutional integrity of this country, the rule of law, and the international moral standing of the United States will take a generation to recover from.


Advice to Democrats from "tristero" here -
Issue #1 is Bush. Issue #2 is everything else. Until Bush no longer has a Republican majority in the House and the Senate to rubber stamp nearly everything he wants, your opinions and ideas mean squat. No. Less than squat.

Make reining in Bush the issue. Republicans in Congress will do whatever Bush wants, but the country is fed up with what Bush wants. They've seen how much damage he causes. Only Democratic majorities in Congress can prevent him from wreaking even worse havoc on the country. Bush is the issue. And hoo boy! has Bush made the your job incredibly easy:

Remember: Bush really is incompetent. And the American public sees it now.

Remember: Bush really has governed above the law. And the American public understands that now.

Remember: Bush has bogged this nation down in an insane war. And the American public understands that now.

Remember: Bush does not have a genuine plan to deal with Iraq, nor is he capable of creating and implementing one. People are dying because he doesn't know what he's doing. And the American public understands that now.

Remember: Bush's supreme callousness and negligence led to the hiring of the incompetents in charge of FEMA during Katrina. And the American public knows it.

Remember: This is one helluva unpopular president. The American public has very good reasons for disliking him and his policies so intensely. They are all but begging you to stand up and refuse to go along with his incompetent, extremist, and unlawful behavior.

Focus on Bush. Everything else is detail.
That was posted at Hullabaloo.


"Yesterday we had a moment of silence in the Senate because we thought it was a solemn occasion when our 2,500th soldier was killed in Iraq. We held a moment of silence. When the White House's press secretary was asked to step forward, the President's Press Secretary Tony Snow, they asked him about 2,500, he said "It's just a number." Just a number? I mean, that is outrageous. I went to Memorial Day services in Boulder City, our veterans' facility. I went and visited the grave of John Lukac with his mom and his dad. He'd been killed in Iraq. He was 19 years old. He's just a number? In Nevada we've lost 39. We've lost 2,500 nationwide, and we've had about 20,000 wounded, half of them permanently wounded. Just numbers? I don't think so." - Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, cited here.

"Minority Leader Reid, in various comments discussed at the dinner, 'is not a deep thinker, to put it gently.'" - Republican Senator Arlen Specter, cited here.


Associated Press items, late Friday, June 16, 2006, emphasis added -

Early evening -
U.S. special operations forces fed some Iraqi detainees only bread and water for up to 17 days, used unapproved interrogation practices such as sleep deprivation and loud music and stripped at least one prisoner, according to a Pentagon report on incidents dating to 2003 and 2004.

The report concludes that the detainees' treatment was wrong but not illegal and reflected inadequate resources and lack of oversight and proper guidance rather than deliberate abuse. No military personnel were punished as a result of the investigation.

The findings were included in more than 1,000 pages of documents the Pentagon released to the American Civil Liberties Union on Friday under a Freedom of Information request. They included two major reports - one by Army Brig. Gen. Richard Formica on specials operations forces in Iraq and one by Brig. Gen. Charles Jacoby on Afghanistan detainees.
Eight hours earlier -
New Orleans is still woefully unprepared for catastrophes 10 months after Hurricane Katrina, and the two cities attacked on 9/11 don't meet all guidelines for responding to major disasters, a federal security analysis concluded Friday.

Ten states were rated in a Homeland Security Department scorecard as having sufficient disaster response plans. But the analysis found the vast majority of America's states, cities and territories still are far from ready for terror attacks, huge natural disasters or other wide-reaching emergencies.

"Frankly, we just have not in this country put the premium on our level of catastrophe planning that is necessary to be ready for those wide-scale events," Homeland Security Undersecretary George Foresman told reporters.

City and state plans for emergencies like localized fires, floods and tornadoes "are good, they're robust," Foresman said. But plans for catastrophes "are not going to support us as they should."
Late afternoon, Eastern Time -
A soldier in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq was killed and two others were missing after an attack on a checkpoint southwest of Baghdad on Friday, the U.S. military said.

The attacked took place around 8 p.m. near the town of Yusufiyah, about 12 miles southwest of Baghdad.

"After hearing small arms fire and explosions in the vicinity of the checkpoint, a quick reaction force responded to the scene," a military statement said. "Coalition forces have initiated a search operation to locate and determine the status of the soldiers."

The statement didn't provide any other information.

A spokesman for the U.S. Central Command in Baghdad, asked whether the missing soldiers could have possibly been abducted, told The Associated Press by telephone that military didn't know.
Draw your own conclusions


As for the end of the week debate on the war, or whatever it was, covered in these pages here, note one other Republican house member had a problem with that, as noted here -
"I can't help but feel through eyes of a combat-wounded Marine in Vietnam, if someone was shot, you tried to save his life. ... While you were in combat, you had a sense of urgency to end the slaughter, and around here we don't have that sense of urgency," said Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest (Md.), a usually soft-spoken Republican who has urged his leaders to challenge the White House on Iraq. "To me, the administration does not act like there's a war going on. The Congress certainly doesn't act like there's a war going on. If you're raising money to keep the majority, if you're thinking about gay marriage, if you're doing all this other peripheral stuff, what does that say to the guy who's about ready to drive over a land mine?"

... But Gilchrest, who won the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his Marine service in Vietnam in the 1960s, believes political considerations have already played too large a role in the debate. In November, after Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) announced his support for a rapid withdrawal from Iraq, Republican leaders hastily pushed a resolution to the House floor calling for immediate pull-out. But the cursory two-hour debate was noteworthy less for serious policy discourse than for the suggestion by the House's newest member, Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio), that Murtha, a decorated war veteran, was a coward.

"It was ludicrous," Gilchrest said. "It had nothing to do with saving lives. It had nothing to do with the war. It was one-upsmanship against the Democrats."

That sentiment spurred Gilchrest and four other Republicans to break with their leadership this spring and sign on to a Democratic petition pushing for debate. Boehner pledged to do so weeks ago.

... But Gilchrest acknowledged he has ambivalent feelings about the way forward to success in Iraq. Citing his own battlefield experiences, he said this uncertainty is all the more reason for a full debate. "How many members have in their life [experienced] putting the barrel of their gun on another man's chest and pulling the trigger?" he asked in an interview this week. "How many members have experienced the chaos of a 3 a.m. battle, pushing your bayonet through another man's body? How many members have wrapped themselves around a fellow soldier who just lost his legs in a land mine and you feel the last breath and he's dead, calling in airstrikes on a village and walking through, seeing dead babies and others who are still alive, being with someone who's been shot and you can't move, you can't do anything because you're under intense fire and he dies right next to you?"
So who is this guy? Officially that's here -
Member of U.S. House of Representatives since 1991. Member, Resources Committee, 1994- (national parks, recreation & public lands subcommittee, 2001-; chair, fisheries, conservation, wildlife & oceans subcommittee, 2001-); Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, 1994- (water resources subcommittee; chair, coast guard & maritime transportation subcommittee, 1997-). Co-Chair, Chesapeake Bay Watershed Task Force, 2004-. Member, Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee, 1991-94; Public Works Committee, 1991-94.

Member, Bainbridge Re-Use Advisory Committee, 1996-97. Born in Rahway, New Jersey, April 15, 1946. Served in U.S. Marine Corps, 1964-67; Vietnam, 1966-67 (Purple Heart Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Navy Commendation Medal). Wesley College, A.A., 1971; Union College (Appalachian semester studying rural poverty); Delaware State College, B.A. (history), 1973; Loyola College. Teacher (American history, government, civics), 1973-90. Delegate, Republican Party National Convention, 1996, 2000. Member, Kent County Teachers' Association. Member, American Legion; Veterans of Foreign Wars; Military Order of the Purple Heart. Honorary Doctor of Public Service, Washington College, 2004. Member, Kennedyville United Methodist Church. Married; three children.
And there's more here, including this - "After graduating high school in 1964, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps. His tour of duty saw action during the invasion of the Dominican Republic, and ultimately the Vietnam War. He earned the rank of Sergeant in Vietnam where, as a platoon leader, he was wounded in the chest. Wayne was decorated with the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Navy Commendation Medal."


Had enough? It's a simple question.

Posted by Alan at 21:31 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 16 June 2006 21:49 PDT home

Thursday, 15 June 2006
They think we're all fools. We shall see.
Topic: Couldn't be so...

They think we're all fools. We shall see.

Thursday, June 15, 2006, and it just can't be this ridiculous, but if the Associated Press says so, it must be so -
Congress plunged into divisive election-year debate on the Iraq war Thursday as the U.S. military death toll reached 2,500. The Senate soundly rejected a call to withdraw combat troops by year's end, and House Republicans laid the groundwork for their own vote.

In a move Democrats criticized as gamesmanship, Senate Republicans brought up the withdrawal measure and quickly dispatched it - for now - on a 93-6 vote.

The proposal would have allowed "only forces that are critical to completing the mission of standing up Iraqi security forces" to remain in Iraq in 2007.

Across Capitol Hill in a daylong House debate, Republicans defended the Iraq war as a key part of the global fight against terrorism while Democrats assailed President Bush's war policies and called for a new direction in the conflict.

"When our freedom is challenged, Americans do not run," House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said in remarks laden with references to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"This is a war that is a grotesque mistake," countered House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. She called for a fresh strategy - "one that will make us safer, strengthen our military, and restore our reputation in the world."

House Republicans moved toward a vote on a nonbinding resolution Friday morning to reject any timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces.
What is this all about? What difference does any resolution make? And what about the other tidbit the AP mentions, and the Democrats point to - reports that the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, wants, as part of "a national reconciliation" plan, to pardon insurgents who had attacked our troops. Forgive them? The prime minister's aide who said that is now gone -
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office Thursday accepted the resignation of an aide who had told a reporter that Maliki was considering a limited amnesty that would likely include guerrillas who had attacked U.S. troops, the aide said.

The aide, Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi, stood by his account, reported in Thursday's issue of The Washington Post. Kadhimi said Maliki himself had indicated the same position less directly in public.

"The prime minister himself has said that he is ready to give amnesty to the so-called resistance, provided they have not been involved in killing Iraqis," Kadhimi said Thursday.
So it's okay if they killed our guys? We're fighting for what, exactly?

Nevertheless, for the Republicans in the House and Senate, the Pentagon distributed its seventy-four page "debate prep book" - what to say when people raise awkward questions. Say we cannot cut and run. It works for every question. It seem this is the first time the Pentagon has every prepared a coaching manual for congressmen and congresswomen, and distributed it to only one side. Curious, and somewhat third-world, where the military takes sides with the current strongman, or doesn't.

And this big day of debates was the same day the president signed the new legislation giving him an extra out-of-budget sixty-six billion to continue military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan - another "supplemental" that was in no planning anywhere, but is necessary to do things right. What are you going to do? No one could have anticipated... And it was the same day the death toll for this adventure reached a nice round twenty-five hundred of our people. In the daily press briefing the new White House Press Secretary, Tony Snow, late of Fox News, said it was just a number, but the president "feels very deeply the pain that the families feel." But it's just a number.

And the talking ran on and on in the House and Senate. Why? Because Republicans in both the Senate and House really to put everyone of both parties on record - for the November elections.

And it was a farce. In the Senate, John Kerry, had a proposal to work with the Iraqi government on a transition plan. Republican Mitch McConnell introduced legislation he said was what Kerry was really proposing, that we get out right now, and that was voted down. Kerry was not amused. Senate Majority Leader Frist got to say that if the United States withdrew too soon, "I am absolutely convinced the terrorists would see this as vindication." And terrorism would spread around the world, and would eventually reach the United States itself. And that was what Kerry really wanted. Kerry said the vote was "fictitious" - but it didn't matter. The item was defeated. So there.

But the real action was in the House -
Rep. Charles Norwood, R-Ga., attacked war critics as defeatists who do not deserve re-election. "Is it al-Qaida or is it America? Let the voters take note of this debate," he said.

In turn, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., said: "Democrats will never put American service members in harm's way without a plan, and without support. For that, you need the sit-and-watch complacency of a Republican Congress."

"In this fight for the future of peace, freedom and democracy in the Middle East and around the globe, winning should be our only option," Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., said, sticking to the GOP script.

"Stay and we'll pay," countered Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., who criticized "the failed policy of this administration" and lamented the lives lost, billions of dollars spent and the bruised U.S. image since the war started. "It's time to redeploy," he said.
It was nasty, and the Republicans arranged for it all to come to a head with a resolution saying our troops are great, and the Iraq war was really and honestly part of the bigger global war on terrorism, and setting an "arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment" of troops is not in the national interest. The Democrats said the whole thing was a sham - they'd been promised an open discussion but got a ten-hour limit, and no one was allowed to offer any amendments or changes to the resolution. And the rules were changed so no one was allowed to offer any alternative resolutions of any kind. Vote for it or don't.

We pay these guys for this?

Note that Michael Scherer visits with the guy who invented "freedom fries" and asks for his opinion in Resolved: America great! Bin Laden evil! Go Bush!, and finds even that guy is disgusted with it all -
Rep. Walter Jones, the North Carolina Republican who invented the phrase "freedom fries," invited me into his Capitol Hill office Thursday morning, a cluttered space festooned from floor to ceiling with military memorabilia, Pentagon plaques and photographs of soldiers. Then he pulled out an e-mail he had recently received from an Army captain who served in Iraq.

The e-mail quoted another American soldier serving in Iraq, a voice that Jones wanted people to hear. "Tell all those assholes in D.C. to get us the f--- out of here. This is bullshit," Jones said, reading from the e-mail, but choosing not to pronounce the f-word in full. "Either that or tell them to tell Bush to send over the twins. They can bunk with me. That would be useful."
And Jones sits on the Armed Services Committee and represents the district that includes Camp Lejeune. He's ticked off? It seems so. Well, he has been campaigning for a "full and honest" debate on the Iraq thing, and has written letters to Majority Leader John Boehner, asking just a chance for a public vote on a pullout date.

That didn't work -
Of course, none of that has happened. In April, Boehner told his colleagues that he would schedule a floor debate on Iraq, apparently bowing to pressure from Democrats and Republicans such as Jones. But this week, when the debate finally kicked off, Boehner and the Republican leadership pulled a bait and switch. Instead of an Iraq debate, they scheduled a debate on a resolution "declaring that the United States will prevail in the Global War on Terror." And then, in an election-year trick that is almost as old as the Congress itself, the GOP leadership barred any amendments on the resolution, effectively forcing Democrats to vote on whether or not they want Osama bin Laden to win.

Jones now says he feels duped by his own party's leadership. "Maybe I should have been less trusting, but I felt it would be a debate that would allow us to talk about policy," Jones told me. "I don't see how we would have gotten hurt if we had allowed members of both parties to go down to the floor to offer an amendment." To express his frustration, he appeared Wednesday at a press conference with Rep. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat from Hawaii, who bound his own hands in yellow twine to dramatize the bonds under which members of Congress toil.
Cute, but pointless. Other things were afoot -
It was a move that set a potentially dangerous trap for Democrats less than five months away from the midterm elections. If they vote against the resolution, Democrats will be on record opposing victory in the war on terror. If they vote for the resolution, they will be on record endorsing the president's prosecution of the war on terror. As policy, the resolution is virtually irrelevant - it changes nothing. As politics, however, it's a powder keg, a spectacle ready-made for televised attack ads during this fall's campaign season. "When our freedom is challenged, Americans do not run," thundered House Speaker Dennis Hastert, openly baiting his Democratic colleagues. "Stand up for freedom, adopt this resolution."'
Yeah, whatever.

Scherer's account of what happened -
This sort of tit-for-tat, at a level that would embarrass most high school debating teams, continued throughout the day. Both sides deftly demeaned each other, stopping just short of hurling spitballs, epithets or wagging their tongues. Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha took the lead in providing an unending stream of depressing facts and statistics about the war in Iraq. Electricity and oil production are down, he said, while the number of daily attacks, the monthly price tag and the estimated size of the insurgency were all growing. "This is rhetoric," he announced, after one Republican had given his statement. "Things are not getting better."

Hastert, meanwhile, opted for more R-rated fare in an effort to prove that, in fact, things had improved in Iraq. Under Saddam Hussein, Hastert said, "School girls were raped. Iraqi patriots were thrown alive into meat grinders."

For his part, Walter Jones chose to avoid the whole ordeal. "I don't want to give any credibility to what I think is a charade. My two minutes, maybe three, is not going to change anything," he told me in the morning. When called for a vote, he said he planned to vote "present." "It is not an honest debate," he explained. "If it was an honest debate I would vote one way or the other."

Before leaving his office, I asked him what it would take for the House to have a real debate about policy in Iraq. He paused a moment, and then appeared embarrassed by the answer. "I don't want to say this because I'm a Republican," he began. "But if things change, then obviously that could change the rule in the debate."
He's had enough of his own party? So it would seem.

Those in charge do think this will help them with the voters. They think we're all fools. We shall see.

"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one." - Charles Mackay

Knight-Ridder collects some madness in key quotes here -
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.: "We are making progress toward our goal, but the battle is not over. It is a battle we must endure and one in which we can and will be victorious. The alternative would be to cut and run and wait for them to regroup and bring the terror back to our shores."

Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa.: "What is the definition of sectarian violence? A civil war. All of us want to end this thing; all of us want to find a way to prevail in Iraq. But this is a civil war, and we're caught in a civil war. There's less than 1,000 al-Qaida in Iraq. They've diminished al-Qaida. We're caught in a civil war between 100,000 Shias and 20,000 Sunnis fighting each other."

Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill: "Which, then, is the greatest risk in the face of decades of evidence: to act or not to act. To trust Saddam? Who in this body is willing to assert that it's ever wise, that it's ever moral to risk the destruction of the American people. That is the context in which the decision to intervene in Iraq was taken."

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif.: "This is a blunder of historic proportions by this president. And it's very important that we understand that we are paying a huge price for these mistakes by this administration."

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate's assistant Republican leader: "It is not an accident we haven't been attacked again since 9-11. By going on offense ... we have succeeded dramatically in the principal reason for advancing the war on terrorism - and that was to protect us here at home. We've got them on the run in Iraq. Why would any want to suggest that we ought to run, when we've got them on the run?"

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., speaking to the Republican Congress: "You have adopted an approach of hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, with abandon. ... The debate today is about whether the American people want to stay the course ... or pursue a real strategy for success in the war on terror."
All of this is truly and deeply irrelevant. The president will do what he will do. This was all to put the Democrats on the defensive for the fall elections, and the time was right, just after the president's Iraq visit and the targeted assassination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, bring him to "justice," Texas-style. No capture and trial like with Saddam Hussein. None of that sissy stuff.

Of course, at "In the Pink Texas" Eileen Smith notes this is all symbolic hooey, or some such thing - "If the Democrats vote against the resolution, they look like spineless eunuchs. If the Democrats vote for the resolution, they just look dumb. Capitalizing on Bush's Iraqi photo-op, the Republicans feel that it's time to strike. Not to support our troops, but to boost their re-election efforts. Classy."

This fellow here adds - "Here's to hoping the partisan, dishonest, despicable, disingenuous, disrespectful Iraq debate backfires on the GOP." Well see.

And there's this - "What moron came up with the brilliant idea of debating Iraq as a way of helping Republicans in the fall elections? Yeah, Republicans get to stand up before the country and profess their undying admiration for Bush as commander in chief and for how 'great' they think the war is going. Brilliant strategy. If you want a Democratically-controlled House come the fall."

Those in charge do think this will help them with the voters. They think we're all fools. We shall see.

And then there are the sons of Ronald Reagan, Ron the liberal-progressive one, and Michael, who went the other way and says this -
I've been wondering why there is something familiar about the behavior of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, and suddenly it dawned on me that we have our own similar insurgency right here at home - it is called the Democrat Party.

Think about it. Both are operating under the same motivation - an unrequited lust for lost power. And both will do just about anything to retrieve it.

Remember, under Saddam Hussein's long rule, his fellow Sunnis - a distinct minority in a nation with a vast Shiite majority - were the kings of the hill --and incredibly cruel monarchs to boot.

Saddam may have ordered the atrocities, but it was the Sunnis who carried them out, torturing, beheading and otherwise brutalizing the Shia and the Kurds and looting the nation's treasure.

They were very well compensated for their services - and since being ousted by the U.S. invasion and the deposing of their benefactor they have been unable to accept their current powerlessness. They are, as the liberals like to say, "in denial." They just can't live with their loss of authority and act as if they can somehow regain what they lost by mounting an insurgency against the new Iraqi government.

... What it all comes down to is a willingness to tear down their own house if they can't assert absolute ownership of the premises. It's what is known as a "rule or ruin" strategy.

Here in America we have a similar situation - a political party that for years dominated Capitol Hill. They ruled the roost for so long that they began to believe they had some divine right to control the House and Senate.

... Like the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, the Democrats cannot accept their minority status, even though when the GOP took over Newt Gingrich refused to impose the kind of absolute, anti-minority rule his party suffered under the Democrats. They were treated as colleagues, not serfs whose presence was to be barely tolerated. Since then, the Democrats have shown not one whit of gratitude.

Like the Sunni insurgency, the national Democrat Party and its congressional contingent has demonstrated time and again that they will willingly sacrifice the welfare and security of the American people to get their way.

... In the end, all that matters to them is regaining the power the American people took from them in 1994, and, thank God, have kept it out of their hands ever since.
Such is the level of discourse these days. It's a wonder anything gets done. The president's approval ratings may be at record lows, but the approval ratings of congress are even lower. It's not hard to see why. Both houses seem to be run by posturing clowns, engaged in theater of the absurd. And they want our votes?

What gets done seems to get done in the courts, as in this - Thursday, June 15, 2006, the US Supreme Court rules there really is no constitutional requirement for the police to knock and announce their presence before breaking down doors to serve search warrants. Maybe. Previous rulings were wrong. The vote was 5-4 and one of the new guys, Justice Alito, was the one who broke the tie.

It's a little more complicated. The Court ruled that suppression of the results of the no-warning bust-down-the-door search - that's what usually happens when evidence is obtained in violation of the Constitution - is just too extreme when police fail to knock-and-announce. So the police still shouldn't just bust down doors. That's unconstitutional - illegal search and seizure - rules are rules. But if they do bust in with no announcement, whatever evidence they find can't be tossed out. They had a warrant after all. But this gives them little incentive to follow the rules.

Breyer for the minority - "The court destroys the strongest legal incentive to comply with the Constitution's knock-and-announce requirement."

So? They're the police. It's kind of East German, but there you have it.

One defense attorney says this -
Knocking and waiting for a short time for a response avoids needless property damage and saves occupants from the trauma of a sudden and unexpected invasion by armed officers. More importantly, it can save lives. In this case, the police entered the wrong residence, and a frightened occupant, mistaking officers for intruders, killed an officer. If the police had knocked and waited for the occupant to answer, they would have realized their mistake, and that tragic death would have been prevented. Officers were shot under similar circumstances in this case. And in this case, a less aggressive approach may have prevented the shooting of an occupant.
Yeah, well, too bad.

Cato Institute policy analyst Radley Balko notes here - "If you establish that a rule is grounded in the Fourth Amendment, then eleven years later remove the only real way to enforce that rule, you have rendered the rule meaningless."

But to be practical, Princeton law professor Orin Kerr notes this - "As every practicing criminal lawyer knows, when the police have a warrant the evidence is probably coming in even if the defense can find some technical violation along the way." No big deal.

It's not like we're creeping toward a police state or anything. Right? And all while congress does its self-righteous posturing and plays games.

The opinion is here in PDF format if you're interested. It probably matters more than anything that happened on Capitol Hill the same day.

Posted by Alan at 22:42 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 16 June 2006 06:36 PDT home

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